Thursday, July 29, 2010

Coughing and Walnut Cake



My apologies for all those with hands up for leftover cake. Yesterday marked the last day of the mid-year celebratory season and the baking of the Mr’s requested coffee and walnut birthday concoction. The smallest is up to the eyeballs in some snotty lergy involving a long-range spluttering cough. By the time she was up to some preparatory mixing of icing, I’d increased the oven temperature to germ fumigation level and in resignation, composed an apparently hilarious ditty about a poor coughing, coffee cake.

So anyway, you’ve been warned and one or two leftover slices are still up for grabs. In the interests of complete disclosure, if you look closely enough, you can spot evidence of a little finger lickin’ taste testing...



PS. The recipe is from the The Goddess Kitchen and is scrummy (if you’re doing infectious, cough spluttering disease denial). It’s extra scrummy if the very last thing you want to eat is more birthday cake. The mascarpone cheese icing is blessed, not-too-sweet relief after all those kid cakes...

PPS. Happy birthday, oh halo-wearing, bloke who stole my heart.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to Craft a Gnome



Remember these critters? I promised a ‘How To’. This is the basic-est of basic How To’s, because honestly, the sky is the limit and if I covered limitless sky gnome making, we’d all still be here next week. Locate your ‘give it a whirl’ attitude, and craft up gnomey queens and woodcutters, wizards and children, old ladies who live in a shoe (and email me at myrtleandeunice@gmail.com with any queries)...

1. You can make your own bodies using beads and pipe cleaners, but that’s another tute and the gnome bodies, shown below, are FABULOUS. Bendy, sturdy, stand-up-able, positionable and available for as little as $1.70 for this, the 10cm variety, and a smidge more for the 15cm version. I bought mine from Little Sparrow, Winterwood also has them (also online) and I’ve even spotted ’em at Bunnings Hardware stores.

So anyway, take one gnome body and a scrap of wool fleece (fleece ‘grips’ easier than the polyester stuff, but you could use a scraplet of batting)...



2. And soften/fatten up your gnome. This fattening up bizzo really does make the world of difference. They feel so much more...er...real.



3. Dress your gnome in ‘long johns’ using any scrap yarn you have. I was generous with the craft glue down each of the arms and legs and then wound the continuous length of yarn to cover the fleece and generally bulk out the gnome with a nice solid midriff. Secure with a knot.



4. (Long johns):



5. Cut out two pieces of felt (I’m a sucker for the feel of the 100% wool stuff) for the shirt and two pieces for the trousers. Of course you could dress ’em in lederhosen or what have you – whatever takes your fancy. Below are a few indicative measurements, but these depend on how much your gnome has been fattened. Bear in mind that felt is very forgiving, and it’s not desperately necessary to be too precise (luckily).



6. Blanket stitch the corresponding clothes pieces together. Sew the waist of the trousers into the yarn and fleece body.
nb: I reckon these gnomes are a bit small and fiddly for small fingers to navigate changes of clothing, so all my gnomes are ‘permanently’ clothed (plus this provides the excuse for creating a whole cast of characters).



7. It’s often easier to stitch one side of the clothing pieces, then ‘dress’ the gnome, before stitching the other side.



8. Stitch the neckline to the gnome body.



9. What with an excited, lurking wee one breathing down my neck, I stuck to a few speedy french knot ‘button’ details. Plus I’m sticking to the basics here – embellish to your heart’s content!



10. As far as hats go, you can crochet sombreros and whatnot (yep, that’s the excited, lurking, breathing-down-neck, wee one). I used a 1.5mm hook with sock yarn, based on a single crochet stitch with a few increases thrown in when I wanted to broaden the brim. Again, you can use and do anything, but the tighter the stitch, the more structure there is to the hat.



11. Or you can do traditional gnome with pointy hat (if you’re adding hair stick this on to the head with glue before the hat)...



12. A generous swoosh of craft glue:



13. And whaddayaknow, we’re ready to play...



I'd love to see your gnomey creations!

Monday, July 26, 2010

In Case You Were Wondering...



Those three cheeky, nudey elephants...



are now clothed, birthday gifted (one of them, six months in advance)...



raising havoc, running riot...



and wilfully ignoring the trampoline Only Two at a Time rule.



In other news, I survived the two party weekend unscathed (apart from the too much cake thing). For the first time ever, we opted out of the homespun kid party approach and worked hard to justify the cost of Dinosaur Diggers entertainment.



While I’ll be strictly upholding the Kid Party Every Two Years (also for reasons of sanity) rule, this sort of fossilised entertainment was worth every penny.



Sandra (very much not a fossil), had seventeen budding paleontologists (fifteen kids, plus the Mr, plus myself) EATING FROM THE PALM OF HER HAND. We love Sandra.

In case you were wondering, the kid emerged entirely undigested...



and the unsuspecting Mr O’Saurus suffered only superficial bite wounds...



Now...who’s for leftover cake?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Creative Space: Doing the Limbo



Knitted limbo, that is. I reckon it took three good years for me to get to the point where I could KNIT WITHOUT LOOKING. In the last few months I’ve been able to do veritable minutes with nary a glance, relying on ‘feel’ to keep stitchery on sticks.

Which is why a certain TAMARA has a lot to answer for. At Tam’s encouragement and some amount of cheerleading, I have entered the world of continental knitting and have come over all sixes and sevens:

• I can no longer knit and not look

• Knitting in public is embarrassing (tongue sticks out when concentrating)

• I haven’t a clue about increases or decreases or tricksy stuff and when I give ’em a whirl, I dribble (intense periods of tongue-stuck-out concentration)



Thing is, even though I had the ‘English’ approach (‘throwing’ the yarn over) down to a practised art, I can’t believe how speedy the continental version is. I reckon, if you’re a crochet type and you were about to step into the world of knittery, you might want to take a look at this method (which ‘picks’ each stitch, much like a hook does), before you take the great leap.



The Soulful Hues Girls Cap-Sleeved Top is a fab pattern for beginners of all kinds (including those re-learning to knit) and my eldest loves to wear ’em (the youngest doesn’t love to wear anything). This one used two and a half balls of Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed and my girl has her jaw on the floor at how continentally-quick-given-lack-of-co-ordination her mother was, at coming up with the goods.

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You can learn how to do the continental knit thing with this excellent tute (Lorilee takes things s.l.o.w.l.y) – then pop by Kirsty’s place and see what the rest of the bloggy, crafty world is up to...

Oh and One More Thing: I received quite a few ‘How to’ queries regarding gnomes. Let me survive the birthday party weekend (yikes!) and I’ll put a step-by-step something together for early next week.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another Birthday (And a Reminder That Terrible Twos* Are a Mere Walk in the Park Compared to the Next Bit)



Hooley Cadooley. You’d reckon third time ’round I’d have the parenting of small peeps vaguely sussed – at least in a generalised sort of fashion? Nup. Today a birthdaying (no longer two and eleven twelfths and a bit) kid, turned three with gusto. A tantrumming gusto that peaked and troughed and then soared – possibly beyond the Everest-esque heights set by the eldest, who, in her hey day, could hissy fit into a faint.



Now that the day is done and the house quiet, all I can do is thank goodness for the liberal use of craft glue. The birthday kid scored a wooden treehouse and over the weekend I had crafted up a family of Steiner-style gnomes who remarkably survived the day.



Steiner dolls generally sport quite neutral facial expressions – or go entirely without. The theory behind this, is that it allows a kid their own freedom of expression. A grumpy child (just as an example, plucked from, er, thin air) is free to express the ‘grump’ and not have their mood imposed through a shiny, smily faced doll. Regardless of whether one holds stock in this theory, I can confirm that all five gnomes stood up to doting attention as well as episodes of hell hath no fury (two of them were cooked).



Time to put the feet up and breathe in some calm, ready for a new day. A non-birthday day. A normal sort of day with routine and rhythm and AN AFTERNOON SNOOZE...



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* In my limited experience

PS. For local readers interested in the treehouse – it was purchased for a most excellent bargain from Honey Bee toys. Apparently there are two or three remaining where there is a minor fault with a few of the handcarved wooden pieces, (so the treehouse is purchased already constructed) and the price tag is greatly reduced...

PPS.
Wintry look (scarf) courtesy of House of Christie

Monday, July 19, 2010

Whoooosh...



The middle kid woke this morning and was suddenly (whoooosh) seven and guess what? This year, I wished him HAPPY BIRTHDAY with twenty kazillion bear hugs (poor kid) and entirely without guilt.

This time, last year, I wrote the tale of his birth and feeling all the anger and frustration and sad and guilt, hit ‘publish’ anyway. Nothing like a cathartic blog post to cleanse a few still-raw wounds. Nothing like coming clean to a kid how his entry into the world wasn’t at all the way you hoped and how you weren’t there for a while and for apologising and for having your jaw on the floor at how amazing said kid is for listening, understanding, saying ‘That’s ok, Mum’, jumping into Mum arms for a speedy, squishy hug, before dashing off to construct an insect zoo. Nothing like that sort of coming clean, for drawing a line in the sand.

So, most excellent kid, who can thrash me, Ye Household Champion, at Connect Four, who is master maker of potions, who oozes creativity and mischief, who does a generally excellent line in hugs, who never forgets to spray the stick insects and who I sometimes absolutely and entirely ‘know’ but who can still surprise the socks off me...happy birthday.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Weekend Wrap-ette



I’ve been off kicking up my heels with excellent, crafty, weekending companions (thanks girls), involving dangerously good caprioska, 3ply wool, mismatched knitting needles and the slowest crocheted hexagonal output you’re ever likely to witness over a 48 hour timeframe. Those kokeshi dolls above represent marked restraint, because OH MY GIDDY AUNT, after a simultaneous introduction to the world that is Kyo, I could quite happily purchase an entire nook of that particularly vast warehouse, if not cut to the chase and set up residence.

There were other purchasings earmarked for gifting: this fabric to be morphed into a scarf for a friend and generally bedazzled by and bewondered at:



And serendipitous, funky chopsticks for the, (upon arrival home), still pyjama-ed, popcorn-eating, Karate Kid-watching ankebiters. I’m talking original Karate Kid here; in all it’s 80s hairdo, shoulder-padded glory. My clan had their utensils at the ready in time for Mr Miyagi’s failed chopsticked, fly-catching scene:



Beginner’s luck...



[The End]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Elephants on (Nudey) Parade



When I woke in the wee small hours to watch that footy final yesterday, highly secretive crafting for the pending birthdays of smalls was also on the cards. Possibly more on the cards. This morning I awoke to the bellowing of the middle kid: ‘SIX SLEEPS!’ Then the yell of the small: ‘EIGHTY SLEEPS!’ (seven, actually – but who am I to refuse the extension of a deadline?). Then the eldest, whispering, a millimetre from my face: ‘How many sleeps ’til December?’

Three elephants have been hanging around my place in various states of unstuffed detachment since craft camp. One footy match later, here are Parsley, Beet and...um...Lebanese Cucumber(?) in all their limb-attached elephantness...

(HOORAY!)



Next on the agenda: tackling issues of modesty...



You can buy your own Parsley and Beet (and...um...Lebanese Cucumber?) pattern over at the home of the Softie Goddess.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hello Again



The unexpected break in transmission was prompted by sudden fatigue at the sound of my own voice. I probably talk as I write (though I’m reliably informed I’m ‘more boring’ in real life), so I thought I’d show quiet restraint here as well. But school’s back today and two out of three children are wearing clean underwear and the kid that isn’t is wearing his bathers underneath his clothes and given he has a swimming lesson straight after school, I’m feeling suitably organised and ready to get back into the crafty, bloggy, swing of things. Tomorrow.

Today is only about four small items of some significance (or non-significance, depending if you are me or not).

1. The middle, (not undie, but bathers-wearing) kid, lost a tooth last week which was promptly swallowed. A note of explanation was dutifully written to the Tooth Fairy. The Tooth Fairy was promptly distracted by other, more pressing school-holiday-stay-in-pyjama-style concerns and only remembered to pay up last night. Bad fairy.

2. On the same day that the tooth went the way of two of its predecessors, the smallest mastered the art of nodding a yes. The kind of nod that does not involve a gross motor skill, whole body, sort of movement. A nod that involves but a tilt of the head. There you have it, the kid ain’t no baby anymore.

3. At the very beginning of the World Cup, a close Dutch friend and I were conversing on the phone and vowed, that in the extraordinarily unlikely event that the Aussies, or more feasibly, the Oranjes, made it to the final, that the other would stay up to barrack. In the Dutch friend’s case this meant a leisurely slump in front of early evening TV. In my case, this meant setting an alarm for four this morning and pretending to come over orange enthusiastic, while the almost oblivious Dutch friend holidayed somewhere in Italy. All I have to show for this is yet another drastic case of eyebags, further confusion over the offside rule, a sneaking suspicion that the Spaniards deserved their victory and certifiable proof that I am a woman of my word.

4. That fish up there is Imposter Eunice* and she is my penance for all kinds of parenting evil. Thou shalt never again, replace a karked** fish in favour of burying and mourning a beloved pet in a rightful fashion. Even if beloved pet is only noticed once karked. Imposter Eunice ate every fish in the tank and grew from 3cm in diameter (not including fin bits) to 10cm in diameter (still not including fin bits). Pets with cannibalistic tendencies are unnerving. Last week there was alarm at the discovery of an extra stick insect and subsequent appalled panic when Camouflaged Twig (that’s his name) proceeded to chew on said extra. Turns out stick insects shed their skins. Then eat ’em. Except for the leg bits which looked a bit on the dry side. Here is Camouflaged Twig in his brand new suit:



And that’s about it for today.

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* Before there was the blog, there were the fish, Myrtle and Eunice. Way before there were the fish, there were those two lovely ladies, Myrtle and (Nana) Eunice.

** Dead as a doornail. Pushing up daisies. Or in this instance feeding the worm farm.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Zzzzzzzz...



Any First-Market-Prepared-At-Late-Notice wrap I have for you, features the veritable skill with which I have crafted myself a whole new timezone. What with the manic rush and a default setting for ‘night owl’, I’ve adopted the wide awake at 3am, crash and burn at 1pm, approach to school holidays. A timezone with parental limitation.

Luckily Daylesford is always mighty gorgeous, as is this lovely local, as are all the excellent bloggy types who popped by and others who sent sweet wishes, as is this talented fellow-stallholder. A generally fabulous time was had on Saturday – with the possible exception between 1.45pm and 3pm, whereupon Gina arrived and spruiked tea towels, while the loo was located in an entirely urgent fashion.



Somewhere in those pre-Market wee small hours, I’d concocted a new range of greeting cards which are based on entire randomness and whatever seemed a good idea in the pre-dawn, I-think-I’m-hallucinating-now, time. Because we all know of my penchant for the bracket (right?), you will be unsurprised to learn that this extends to fronts of greeting cards...

Happy birthday (you Spring Chicken, you):



Like a bull in a china shop (I’m sorry):



You’re fabulous (For you, I’d walk 500 miles. Then I would walk 500 more):

(And yes, that bracketed bit is best sung Proclaimers* style, with a la-dada-da! or two to top it off).



I am no salesperson worthy of a hard sell, so if you want to see all six, best you meander over to the shop. As far as this better at being a buyer than a seller goes, when this translates to markets, you’ll find I am more likely to be singing renditions of ‘Daisy, Daisy...’ and discussing the finer points of granny square end-weaving-in with customers, rather than actively flogging stuff. In my last (wincing) effort to convince you that I am indeed related to an extended family filled with car salespersons, you can buy any five Myrtle and Eunice cards and I’ll lovingly package ’em for you and won’t charge you a cent in postage.

Enough.

Finally, just to prove that I haven’t given up on these suckers, aforementioned granny square end-weaving offcuts:



The most boring bit of market craft, ever conceived. Over the course of eight hours, I achieved the grand sum of twelve, ready to join, granny squares. One hundred and forty-two (and possibly a lot of markets), to go.

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* You so know you should click that link.