Monday, January 3, 2011

What I've Been Up To - Sewing!

I have never been a sewer.  I am almost 30 years old and I am never quite sure if I actually know how to sew on a button correctly.  However, my new-found love of trying new things in the past year has started to change that.  I think I can now add "sewer" to my list of new self-descriptors, along with "runner", "swimmer", and "artist", even  if they all come with "amateur" in front of them :)

I took a couple of great classes at The Urban Craft Center in Santa Monica last year, where I learned to make a pillow and a clutch purse.  I don't own a sewing machine, so hadn't done much since then, until in a sudden rush of blood to the head, my mother decided to buy one.  My sewing skills are inherited, if that explains anything...

In my unemployment (and with the ridiculous price of books in New Zealand, I can't understand why they cost so much!), I also have a great appreciation for the library, which is where I got my hands on Wee Wonderfuls by Hillary Lang.

This is a really good instructional book, especially for new sewers like myself.  There are clear explanations of all the kinds of machine and hand stitches and embroidery techniques.  I am in love with ladder stitch!

Here is my first project from the book.  In the book, she is called "Patchwork Penny", as she has a patchwork strip on the front of her dress that matches a little quilt.  I wasn't feeling that ambitious (or keen to buy multiple pieces of fabric to make the patchwork and quilt), so I just gave her a plain dress.

I learned a lot making this doll.  She could use a little more stuffing in the neck to make her head sit up a bit better, and her hair is a little thin (because I used 8-ply wool instead of worsted weight which I think is 10-ply, and didn't think to increase the number of strands).  But still, she is cute and I'm very proud of her!

It's been pretty hot here at night, so I was in need of some more summer-weight pajamas.  So I bought a pattern (after first trying to construct my own pattern from a pair I own, total disaster), and first made these 3/4-length pajama pants:

Recognize this material?  

The same material as the doll's dress!  I just love the pattern and the color.  I think that gentle teal color is probably my most favorite color in the world.

And then I found this very lightweight cotton in quite a loud print, but it has birds on it (love!) and the shapes remind me of the work of Flora Bowley, my favorite artist (who I just found out is holding a painting workshop in Sydney, Australia in March!  I HAVE to go).

LOUD colors and pattern, suitable only for pajamas.  Or maybe a shower curtain.

Flora Bowley-esque bird shapes.

MUCH fun.  I hope to tackle more adventurous projects over time too.  Three more weeks of unemployment to go!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Xmas Feast Recipes

Sorry to re-use a photo...

 I got most of the recipes for our Xmas Feast from my mother's old issues of Cuisine magazine -- and wouldn't you know it, they're online too!  The oysters came from the lifestyle section of the newspaper, and they are also online, you're in luck :)

Oysters, crispy bacon, avocado, and champagne vinegar (I couldn't find champagne vinegar so used a tiny bit of white wine vinegar).

Salmon and mushroom tart

Grilled asparagus, tomato, and feta bruschetta

Prawns, avocado, and pink grapefruit with rocket and dill aioli

Roasted potatoes, capsicum (bell pepper) and baby carrots with rosemary

Go forth and cook!  The best thing is that all these recipes are very easy -- I love to cook for a crowd, but I'm also kinda lazy...

The Holstee Manifesto - Words To Live By


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Reflection

Some of 2010's highlights
I've seen a few bloggers summarizing their experiences of 2010 and intentions for 2011 in a word (or five). Here are mine, good and bad, with brief explanations:

1.  Friendship - DAMN I have some amazing friends.  Seriously.  The kind that I can really say are "my people."  Most of them are scattered around California, though I have reconnected with a couple of wonderful friends back in Auckland.  And of course the fabulous women I met through the Flying Lessons e-course and through blogland in general.
2.  Creativity - it's been quite a year of it.  I've made jewelry, painted, taken classes in sewing and needle-felting and soap-making (I think I did them all this year at least), knitted a scarf, made cards, baked and decorated cakes, taken photos...
3.  Activity - I trained for and completed a half-marathon with two of the aforementioned amazing friends.  I also feel like I can finally say , age 29, that I can swim (albeit only 25 yards at a time). 
4.  Discovery - Through training for the half-marathon, I discovered discipline I didn't know I had but have always wanted.  I also discovered new interests and enjoyment in all the crafts I tried. 
5.  Fun - all of the above!  I also saw some fantastic concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, had some great nights out dancing, and a hundred other days and moments of fun throughout 2010.

The other kind:
1.  Clusterf*ck - the year started off with a clusterf*ck of epic proportions on the work front.  Somehow, I survived what felt unsurvivable.  Enough said.
2.  Upheaval - the move back to NZ.  I have had several years in a row of upheaval, I guess generally of my own creating.  I'm ready for that to stop.
3.  Frustration - again mostly with the move back here, the difficulties in getting jewelry supplies, pulling out of the craft show, and then my feelings on the jewelry I made this year also.
4.  Boredom (periodically) - this cropped up throughout the year, despite all the fun and activity.  It looms overhead now too during this period of unemployment, but I've been keeping it at bay this last week by sewing.  More on that to come...
5.  Stress - the move again.  Since that took many months of planning and consideration, I felt like much of 2010 was overshadowed by this.

What I want for 2011:
1.  Discipline - I loved experiencing this during my half-marathon training this year.  I have always thought of myself as quite an undisciplined person that can't finish anything.  I love that that's changing.  I've signed up to start a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Management via extramural study, so I'm going to need discipline to juggle that and the new job with everything else I want to do in 2011.
2.  Peace - more tea-drinking, more yoga, more meditation.  More mindfulness and pausing and calm.  More acceptance and letting-go of those things that really need to be let go of already!
3.  Fun - again!  In 2010 I think I gained a better sense of what I find fun -- physical challenges, creativity, learning new skills, the occasional night out -- and a better sense of what I don't -- going to events out of obligation, spending time with people that I don't really connect with.  I'd love to improve my swimming enough to complete a mini-triathlon.  I also want to do the Tough Guy/Gal Challenge (extreme mud-run!) and am contemplating the full Auckland Marathon.  I have this strong urge to try Stand-Up Paddling.  I also want to keep learning, and keep taking art/craft classes and workshops.  Last but definitely not least, I want to continue to meet more of "my people" who will join me in all these adventures.
4.  Comfort - hopefully around May 2011, I'll be in a position to find Kenzo and I a new (rented) home to call our own.  I have to pretty much start over with acquiring all new household furniture and items, so I want to really create a comfortable haven for us.
5.  And now, I need your suggestions.  I can't think of a fifth that doesn't fit in with one of the others.  What would you suggest?

Xmas Feast

My Xmas plate

As promised, here are the photos of the Xmas lunch I cooked for my family.  Err yes, there were only five of us...

Oysters with bacon, avocado, and chives

Sourdough bruschetta with basil, tomatoes, asparagus, and feta

Shrimp, grapefruit, and avocado salad
Salmon and portobello mushroom tart

Roasted potatoes, red bell peppers, and baby carrots with rosemary

Fruit mince tarts, and chocolate-dipped strawberries (forgot to take a photo of the pecan pie)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

It's Christmas Eve here... we are not of any particular religious persuasion in my immediate family but we have always done Christmas with a tree and presents and good food.  There's just my parents, my brother and I in our little satellite family unit in this corner of the world.  My brother's girlfriend will be joining us also, bringing our total to 5 plus little dog and big dog.

Since I am unemployed this year, my gift to everyone is doing all the cooking and baking for our get-together.  Today I made pecan pie, fruit mince tarts, and chocolate-dipped strawberries in white chocolate (to cater for the caffeine-sensitive) and dark chocolate (for the lactose-intolerant)...  Tomorrow's menu has been compiled from five separate issues of Cuisine magazine and is anything but traditional.  I'll take pictures and post them.  Let's hope I can pull it off!

Happy Chrismakwaanzakuh to you and yours from me and mine :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rolled Fabric Flower Bib Necklace

Here's another flower bib necklace I made, using strips of fabric rolled into rosettes and glued onto a felt backing.  I already had all the materials for this one in my stash, it's so satisfying not having to buy anything!

I googled "rolled fabric rosettes tutorial" and found a variety of instructions.  Most tutorials produce rosettes that show the raw fabric edge, like this from mama monster:

Very cute too but I prefer them without frayed edges, so I was just extra careful when folding my fabric stripes to keep them tucked under.

I love how it turned out!

Another bathroom mirror/iPhone photo

If you'd like to make one, here's a tutorial from Tortoise and the Hare.  Enjoy!