Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rare Birds

As you may be able to tell from my designs, I'm a total bird nerd.... Apparently I'm not alone; there are a lot of other bird lovers out there.   Below is my birds-of-a-feather showcase -- some avian favorites from Felt, featuring Black Swan, In My Backyard, SuperVery, Boo Craft, Peg Baby, Hjrd Design, Bird in a Bunny, Piou Piou Kids, Poetry Cloth, and Maisie Moo.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I concede....

Lest anyone suspect that I'm one of those do-it-all mamas, it looks as though rag-rug braiding has been shunted back down to the bottom of the list.   I didn't really put up much of a fight.....  The deep crimson, hand-woven rug I've had my eye on for weeks went on sale.   It's lovely.  What can I say?  I'm not immune to a good sale.  Or the reality of a very full life.  Perhaps a rag-bathmat will be in our future, but for now, I'm going easy on myself.

What is life full with at the moment?  I'm very happy to be working on a collaboration with the excellent New Zealand company behind the organic baby clothing I use for my prints.....In the near future, Seedling Clothing prints will be available from the My Baby and Me website as well as sold on my behalf at various craft markets in the North Island.  This is a wonderful and very exciting development.....I've been burning the midnight oil getting the first collection together -- so far so good.  I've put together a few new designs, and all in all, it's been pleasurable and satisfying work.

Updates to come when everything is completed.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Our Daily Bread (Part 2)

It's fair to say that the bread recipe I posted a few weeks ago has become a bit of a fixation.  We've stopped buying bread altogether now; I sat down and figured out that we can save about $500.00 a year just by baking our own (factoring in the cost of ingredients and power to run the oven.)  With the added benefits of knowing exactly what goes into our loaves and the pleasure of hot, fresh bread, it seems well worth it.  As with almost everything, this recipe seems to get easier and better the more I experience I have with it......I've figured out a few shortcuts like using the warm sink bath for rising (keeping the dough in the original mixing bowl and separating afterward) and then later using the same water to rinse my baking equipment.  I've begun to double or even triple the recipe -- I usually make one regular loaf and put the rest of the dough into our large silicone cake pan, resulting in the gorgeous loaf above (baking time remains the same.) 

Recently, when we've visited friends, I've brought a loaf with me for the kids to snack on and to leave with our host.  This morning I made a breakfast bread by adding cinnamon, chopped dates, and sunflower and flax seeds -- I imagine that the recipe will lend itself to other combinations as well.  To top it all off, miracle of miracles, my toddler will actually eat the crust of this bread, protesting if I try to take it away.... Yes, my relationship with the No-Knead Wholemeal Loaf has advanced from crush to full-blown romance.    I can't help it; I'm in love.

Monday, April 12, 2010

This Week: Clutter and Floor Coverings

Let me say first, we absolutely love our home.... it is, however, what one might euphemistically describe as "petite."  A real-estate agent might call it cozy.  We've sussed out some good space-savers (a fold-away kitchen table, for example) but the single most important thing we've found that keeps "cozy" from feeling claustrophobic is continual de-cluttering.  We de-clutter daily, weekly, and in bigger ways, half-yearly.  Every six months, we comb the house to clear out any unused or unneeded items....often things that were hard to part with during the previous cleanse seem truly extraneous by the next.  So, each spring and fall, we rise early to host our own stall at the local flea-market.  We always share our stall with a friend, which has multiple benefits: splitting the stall-rental fee, better filling our space if we only have a few boxes of stuff to get rid of, and most important, companionship.  Companionship to while away the early hours, to lend moral support when haggling goes awry, and to buy one another a warming cup of coffee or watch the stall during a much-needed break.  Hooray for companionship!

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be sharing our stall with a wonderful friend and fellow-crafter who just happened to be doing her own massive cleanse of fabrics and scraps.  I had the privilege of scouring her stash first and squirreling away some lovely pieces.  As we were packing to leave, there were still several large bags of scraps unsold, which were destined for the recycling center.    I grabbed them and tucked them away in our backseat.

In order to justify this massive re-gaining of clutter, I explained that I've had a scrap-project in mind for a while - -which is true, I do!  I saw this rag rug project a few years ago and then again in Amanda Soule's book "Handmade Home" and it has been on my massive projects-to-do list for some time - - unfortunately, always destined to stay at the bottom due to it's project-time estimation of "a season."  A season!  Eeep.   Our white (Yes, white. What were we thinking?) living-room rug has been on it's way out for a while, and from time to time, I find worthy replacements but can't justify the cost.  A rag rug is perfect.....I love that it uses up material that already exists (as opposed to buying new) and that it will display so much fabric from this friend, as well as cloth from our old napkins, clothes, tablecloths etc.  A wonderful extension of life for these objects.  Plus, with it's blend of colors and materials, I imagine it might hide our household wear and tear a bit better than, ahem, white.

So, the project begins -- the kids and I have spent the morning sorting our bags and and I've begun cutting and tearing material into strips.  I've been trying to focus on greens, blues, reds, and browns -- for the most part leaving out the pinks and purples.  Both toddler and baby love playing with all of the colors and this has been a good part of the project to share with them.  Wish me luck with this ambitious endeavour!  I'll let you know how it goes in a season or so......

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hooray! My first Felt showcase!

I'm so happy to have figured out this application...there is so much amazing talent on Felt, and it was a pleasure to browse through the pages to find these gorgeous items.  I'll try to put together a showcase every few weeks; this week features work from mousehouse, julihunter, inmybackyard, coolcrib, apricot, swanwear, relique, boocraft, minu and ihakarawools.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Our Daily Bread

Once in a while, when an unexpected expense pops up, or just to boost our savings, we drastically trim our budget where we spend the most: groceries.  For us, going down to about a third of what we would normally spend can free up quite a bit of extra cash.  Believe it or not, I've found that we actually eat better during these "lean" weeks.  I spend more time menu-planning and put more thought and effort into preparing meals.  The result is fresh, made-from-scratch foods that I think actually win in both taste and nutrition over our often hastily-cobbled-together meals.  Also, there's an inherent sort of gritty-pioneer satisfaction in making it through the week with only what we have in our pantry and freezer plus the most basic of grocery items  -- which for us includes milk, cheese, eggs, a big bag of flour and a ton of seasonal fruits and vegetables from the farmers' market.

Because our family can easily go through a loaf of bread every day, making our own is an easy way to meet our budgetary goals., fresh bread -- what could be better?   We certainly don't feel as though we're depriving ourselves when we serve up a slab of crusty toast with butter, cheese, and salted tomatoes.

I'm a busy mama however, and also one who likes to minimize messes and clean-up.  So, kneading? Not for me.  Not now anyway.  Fortunately, I've found two quick and delicious bread recipes that are completely knead-free and work beautifully with wholemeal flour, which we prefer.  One, which we've used now for a few years requires 10 minutes of work, tops - -the only caveat being that you need to plan about a day ahead because it requires overnight sitting.   It ran in the New York Times a few years ago and can be found here.  It yields a gorgeous loaf -- perfectly crusty on the outside with a moist crumb on the inside.  Great for impressing your friends, to give as a gift, or for eating any time, any day of the week.....

Recently, I found another recipe which is similarly low-effort, but more quickly gratifying (also, incredibly easy to double)....

No-Knead Wholemeal Loaf

1.  Stir 1 1/2 tsp yeast, 1 Tbs sugar (or golden syrup, honey etc.) and 2 cups lukewarm water in a large bowl.  Allow to sit in a sink full of warm water for 20 minutes until yeast begins to bubble.
2. With wooden spoon, stir in 2 Tbs of olive oil, followed by 4 cups whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt.
3.  Tip into prepared loaf pan (I use silicone, but buttered if a metal or glass dish) allow to rise in a warm sunny spot until doubled (about 30 min.)
4.  Bake in preheated 200 C (about 400 F) oven for 30 minutes.  Turn down to 180 C (350 F) if top is browning well and bake 15 minutes more (45 minutes total.)
5. Tip out to cool.

6. Ta-da!  Bread so easy, I can make it daily.