Applicable applique – a basic how to approach

I remember my friend’s faces when they opened their birthday presents – a basic facewasher with their name appliqued on in different colours.  Today, I still have my own lime green handtowel with floral letters.  It occasionally made it out to the gym with me, until I noticed some of the odd looks I got for it!  At least I knew where it was and knew that no one would ‘accidentally’ pick it up.

The good thing with applique is that you can have an image in your mind that you can then transfer onto fabric and display it in the open. All you need is a pen, some fabric, your trusty sewing machine, an iron (dust it off out of the cupboard) and some ‘magical’ visoflex.  Visoflex is an Australian paper-backed fusible web.

Step 1: Determine the fabric and image you wish to applique

Step 2: Iron some visoflex onto the fabric you wish to applique, ensuring you have enough fabric.  A good idea is to have an old tea towel or fabric underneath, just in case some sticky stuff doesn’t make it on to the fabric!

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Step 3: Trace or draw the image you wish to applique on to the paper and cut out.

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Step 4: Remove the paper backing from your applique piece and iron onto where you wish it to be sewn.  In this instance, a plain denim dress.

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Step 5: Using a blanket or zig-zag stitch, sew the pieces on so that they won’t move during use or washing.

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Step 6: Enjoy your new, unique, customized article!

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This was a little birth gift I gave to a friend who had two baby twin girls.  Anything is possible!

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Happy designing and creating wonders,

Freya x

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The garden that grew….

In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy.

~Robert Brault

Whilst enjoying a cool brew at our local Little Creatures Brewery, my husband and I noticed their vertical herb garden arrangement.  Both of us immediately thought ‘What a great idea!’

We have a herb garden, but it is at the back fence of our property and only has four herbs in it as all the plants have grown into their space (which is quite large).  It’d be much more accommodating if they were in smaller, individual pots, so they had their own space, and closer to our backdoor so we didn’t have to trudge across wet grass to pick a sprig for dinner.  We had a section of new fence we could use which faced East and some old concrete laundry troughs.  But what were the baskets at Little Creatures?  Grape dip tins.  Used in farms in rural Victoria, we hunted them down, and once acquired, realised how popular they had become – used on “The Block”, a renovation show, and available in many antique / retro shops throughout Melbourne (not to mention the fine price tag too!).  We sourced ours from an ebay trader, where they were originally from a farm near Mildura.  A friend told us they’d seen them available at swap meets in Ballarat too.

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Construction began.  We lined up the laundry troughs along the section of fence we wanted to use.  We didn’t want to put too much pressure on the structural integrity of the fence (the last thing we wanted was the fence to fall down!), and thankfully our fence was new.  Bolting L-brackets to the fence, my husband welded 20 x 20cm mesh to the brackets so that the mesh was sitting proud by about 3cm.   Our local hardware shop sold s-hooks for pots which after a quick drill modification to the tins, allowed them to hang.  Now to fill.

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Tip 1: If you are looking at keeping the weight our of your pots, use potting mix instead of soil.

Tip 2: To keep costs down and the soil rich, use 50:50 cheap potting mix to sheep manure.

Tip 3: If you can use cuttings from friends and family, do so, otherwise use herb seedlings from your local garden store.

I also found some inexpensive copper tags which attached to the tins, labelling which herb was inside  The last thing I wanted was to use Moroccan tea mint instead of common mint!

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In the troughs I chose to plant longer term ‘vegies’ such as rhubarb and garlic.  Whilst I still decide what to put in the other troughs, seasonal vegies have made themselves at home (we have another large vegie garden for seasonal vegies).  In the twenty tins hanging we have the following herbs:

  • rosemary
  • parsley
  • pizza thyme
  • common thyme
  • stevia
  • tarragon
  • common mint
  • peppermint
  • Moroccan mint
  • landcress
  • chervil
  • chives
  • sage
  • perennial basil
  • lemon balm
  • oregano
  • dill
  • coastal saltbush

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Whilst I’m still pondering what to plant in the remaining tins (maybe thai basil?) we can enjoy fresh herbs and fresh vegies, and only a stone’s throw from our back door.

 

 

Perfect Pasta (& Gluten free too!)

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
―Dr Seuss

A friend set me a challenge, to which I accepted – see if you can make pasta using chickpea flour. I set myself an additional challenge; that being that I was not to research how to make this pasta but only use my existing knowledge of making basic pasta dough with white flour.  You could grind your own chickpeas into flour if you wish.

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And so it began. With 500g of chickpea flour (Besan flour that I purchased from an Asian foodstore), I added 4 eggs, mixed with my hands and added cold water until I had a dough with a nice consistency.

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Leaving it to rest for half an hour, I prepared my working space in the hopes of creating some delicious pasta sheets and spaghetti.  The dough was very similar to normal flour, however, I know that the besan flour I used was of the fine grain.  A courser one would have probably struggled through the pasta machine.

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The pasta sheets needed more flour thrown on them through the process as the dough was a lot wetter than normal flour.  The end result, thankfully, looked and tasted just as nice as fresh pasta should.  The texture was smooth, the pasta light and the kids had no idea that it was made out of ground chickpeas – an added bonus to fill them up!  For all of you who are celiac or gluten intolerant – here’s a solution to pasta rather than using gluten free flour.  A win for all 🙂

China Then to China Now (Shanghai)

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.

Confucius

I vaguely remember Shanghai as being busy with traffic and roads everywhere, and many, many street vendors and shop fronts cooking dumplings in front of you as you side-stepped running water and spit balls.  Now it’s an international city with massive department stores selling Nike, Prada and Cartier and forcing you to hunt for the local shop front dumplings.

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A sesame seed paste bun

Bicycles have been replaced with electric scooters making the challenge of crossing the road that little more dangerous.  They weave through traffic, drive when they want to and mount the footpath wherever they deem necessary.  As a pedestrian, you are not truly safe either crossing when the green man says you can, or even when you’re simply walking along on the footpath.  You wouldn’t be in Shanghai if the sounds of car horns didn’t permeate through your thoughts.

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A bicycle on the side of the path in the French Concession

The Chinese show no inhibitions as they go about their daily lives.  Dancing, singing, playing music and wearing, what many may say, ridiculous combinations of colours, patterns and style in their attire, are commonplace.  They don’t deem it at all rude by making comments on the size of your nose (sometimes I wish I hadn’t learnt Chinese!) and yet they are judged at restaurant service by their smile.  They’re very welcoming and don’t find it intrusive if you peer into their homes or walk down their ‘driveways’ (this is in the traditional housing sector where driveways don’t really exist, they are roads off which doors to houses are positioned and washing is done in the wall mounted troughs outside).

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Shoes drying in the sun on the window ledge of a home

13 years ago, as a young single backpacker, it was a rarity to find a local who could speak fluent English.  They instead would follow you to have a conversation with you so that they could practice their English.  Eyes would pierce the air and follow your every move as you were ‘different’.  Nowadays, whilst speaking Chinese certainly helps as you explore the city, it is more commonplace to find English-speaking locals for the basic things such as numbers and if you need someone to help you take a photo.  The art of waving one’s hands in gestures certainly helps whether you can speak the language or not.  However, taxis, nannies (Ayi), hidden ‘local’ restaurants, and many older generations still do not know the basics when you get out of the big eateries and department stores.  This is the same for their writing.  Street signs and menus are in English, or pictorial, which has reduced the chance of ordering a random pork floss dish when you thought it’d be chicken.  The ‘Chinglish’ (Chinese to English translation) can certainly give you a giggle.

Everyone uses mobile phones and takes photos here and there without relying on cameras.  I was startled to see that when we went to a noodle, hot-pot restaurant (one that is very popular with the locals and I felt like Alice entering the rabbit hole as you had to go down an alley through steel doors, up an elevator before finding it without any signage), their ordering system was through an iPad.  Each dish had a photographic display for you to choose from and could select quantities for.  I’m sure if you travelled out of the major cities and into more regional area, the lack of English would be so much more prominent.

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Local Hot-Pot

As with the Westernisation of facilities.  Last time I travelled, I remember pit toilets being commonplace.  As new buildings rise, so do the sanitary standards with flushing toilets.  Carrying tissues is a still a must, which are disposed of in the bins on the side.  I had forgotten the ‘stench’ of the sewage system until having to use a porcelain bowl set into the floor with serrated edges for you to steady your feet on.  Wearing sandals when traveling through China is risky!  Many young children (pre-school) are cared for by their Grandparents and move about with their bottoms showing through their bottomless pants.  I can only imagine how cold they’d get through winter.  More are taking up the disposable nappies option which poke out of the pants, making the scene look like a comedy prop.

Pollution and food safety has become a major cause for concern.  During my stay in Shanghai, there was no blue sky and no stars at night.  PM2.5 ratings (fine particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter that are produced from combustible processes and can be lodged in the lungs) are monitored and if levels reach a certain point, time outside is deemed hazardous to your health.  Food produced and packaged in China is questionable in relation to the amount that has been genetically modified, has been saturated with water that is undrinkable, or from crops that have been sprayed with pesticides.  Whilst travellers and ex-pats can limit their ‘outside time’ and make use of internet deliveries from reliable food sources, I feel concerned for the locals who still need to work to live and eat what they can afford.  The flow on effect could be less production within China and the effects on farmers.  It will be interesting and sad to see the ramifications of man’s influence on the environment and within the human body in the future; deformed offspring, health issues, reduced life expectancy, increased poverty.

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An Eastern view across Shanghai in the morning mid-week

My return to Shanghai reminded me of a book by Graeme Base ‘Uno’s Garden’.  A man builds a house in a forest, the house turns into a village, a town and then a city, forcing the reduction of flora and fauna.  The humans realise they are living in a concrete jungle and so go about resurrecting the flora and fauna so that they can all live in perfect balance.

In another 10-15 years, will China find a balance or will the industrialisation and commercialisation create an unliveable environment for all?

Easter creations

Camping with an open fire, cold, crisp mornings and hunting for easter eggs around the campsite, remind me of Easter. Every year our family would pack the car and trailer and set off for a grassy knoll to pitch a couple of tents, blow up air mattresses and build a campfire.  A green plastic wash tub, a big brown plastic picnic hamper and a two burner stove and lantern were packed too.

How times have changed.  Now, with my own family, we haven’t yet ventured into the easter camping event, but rather an indoor camping event at my parent’s farm.  The car and trailer is still packed but with a motorbike, gumboots and good food and drink that can be safely refrigerated and kept away from possums and wombats. The only thing that really remains the same is the easter egg hunt for the kids.

This year, I decided to create some Easter magic at home.  The kids and I blew some eggs (what a crazy, brain blowing experience, and one who deals with lightheadedness should not do!), made some homemade hot cross buns, and I created some easter bunnies for the young at heart.

Meet Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail:

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I wish you all a Happy Easter and don’t indulge on too much chocolate.

Freya 🙂
PS I would be honoured to custom make any rabbits for you – please contact me for details.

Sauce that is Oh so Tomatoey!

A good upbringing means not that  you won’t spill sauce on the tablecloth, but that you won’t notice it when  someone else does.

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I remember my mother’s tomato sauce as a great additional flavour to homemade cottage pies, sausage rolls and chips.  I’ve always wanted to create a similar sauce which evoked such familial feelings to embrace with my kids and yet I have failed to do so over the years.  (Hopefully it won’t also include the memory of an exploded bottle splashed around the white kitchen).  But not anymore!  I share with you my own tomato sauce recipe and method to create a delicious concoction to go with any food that requires that extra pizzazz.

Our local grocer had boxes of tomatoes out for sale for the purpose of sauce, chutney, relish and the likes.  After purchasing one I then went ahead and began my creation.  In one pot I cooked (at a simmer for about an hour) the following:

  • 2.5kg tomatoes – roughly chopped
  • 400g onions – roughly chopped (I was even lazy enough to throw them through my food processor)
  • 10g whole cloves
  • 10g pimento (whole allspice)
  • 10g sweet paprika
  • 1 clove of garlic – outer skin removed and bruised
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 50g salt

Tomato mix

In a separate pot, I mixed the following ingredients until the sugar was dissolved and had thickened slightly:

  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

Sugar and vinegar mix

Apparently, this is how you make a gastrique – a French term for “gastric,” referring culinarily to a syrupy reduction of caramelized sugar and vinegar. Don’t I sound la-dee-dah!  I didn’t let the syrup be completely reduced as I wanted the tomato mixture to absorb the syrup flavours.
After pureeing the tomato mixture, I then added the two and simmered for another couple of hours until I was happy with the sauce consistency.

Mix pureed Puree only

Sterilisation of the jars and voila! my sauce was bottled, sealed and ‘dressed up’ for a gift.

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A gift

Good luck with your sauce creation.  Time to eat a meat pie!

Freya 🙂

A new beginning

My mother once told me that ‘you can do anything you wish to do if you put your mind to it’.  And so another chapter in the My mother once told me label begins.  Having launched a facebook page to test the waters out in cyber world, I’ve now decided to expand and launch a blog which supports my facebook page.  And so here it is.  Its aim is to give you tips and tricks in regards to the garden, kitchen and crafts.  Whilst I don’t have a particularly green thumb, nor the vision sometimes of good looking dishes (my sister can attest to that), I do enjoy sitting at the sewing machine, coming up with good relishes and preserves and trialling new designs and wonders.

A bit about myself: I am a mother of three gorgeous children (a wee bit biased there) and was once a professional woman working in the depths of engineering.  Having tried the working mother approach, I have taken a side step and am now a stay at home mother, dabbling in my hobbies when I have the time.

I look forward to you following my posts, joining in the joy of trialling new and ambitious things and watching things grow, cook and be created.

Thanks!

Freya 🙂