A Christmas dress

IMG_20121207_142029Mince pies

p20121202-145124And blingin’ Egyptian biscats

IMG_20121209_140556(and snow white chicken doves)


Jaffa Cake

This cake is based on the Quarg Fruit Cake from Ladies, A Plate, but is all chocolate orange syrupy goodness instead of dried fruit and fennel seed. You can use fromage frais or ricotta if you can’t source quarg (I find it at Commonsense Organics and always buy the tub at 50% off on its use by date).

185g butter, softened

300g sugar

250g quarg

3 teaspoons orange zest, grated finely

4 eggs

125g dark chocolate, chopped finely

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 150C and grease a 20cm cake tin. Cream butter and sugar until soft and light, then beat in the quarg and orange zest. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the chocolate chips. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then gently fold in. Put mixture into tin and gently level the top. Bake for approximately 2 hours, rotating after one hour. Check with a skewer after 90 minutes and remove from oven when skewer comes out clean.

For the syrup topping, combine the juice of two oranges, their zest and three tablespoons of icing sugar in a pot. Heat gently. When you remove the cake from the oven, prick the top all over with a skewer and then pour the syrup evenly over the cake (strain it through a sieve as you pour). Leave to soak in, then carefully turn the cake out of the tin and cool on a rack.


These shirts

After a massive lull in general creative tasks, some minor garden-related distractions and a fair amount of procrastination, I am busy sewing again and recording creations on this here space! First up, two new shirts. I had never made a shirt before but found this pattern on TradeMe for a fair price considering I was quite likely to make both the shirt and the culottes. By ‘fair’ I mean about $5 as opposed to 20c at an op-shop but considering that most of my op-shopping comprises of whipping things off the shelf while chasing a small child around, not sitting on the floor going through boxes… well I am quite happy to pay someone to op-shop for patterns for me.

My search paid off because the shirt pattern fits me nicely, though I may lengthen it next time as the sides come a bit high on me. It’s pretty simple and comes together quickly, and I do like having a pattern do the thinking for me sometimes.

I practiced making the pattern with a $3 curtain. The fabric reminds me of various textiles of my mum’s from the 70s. It’s going to look very nice with a navy blue skirt (it might even have braces) and my green shoes.

I also took it upon myself to make buttons for the shirt, and went a bit wild on the stripes since I knew they’d fall on a solid block of dark pink. It’s a fiddly task when you suspect you may need glasses (and at the very least a desk lamp) but I was happy with how they turned out.

THEN! I cut out my real fabric (after the loan of an overlocker, thank you Flo!) and got to work. The sleeves on my first shirt were too long and tight, so although I didn’t cut any extra I simply folded the cuffs to be bigger. It worked perfectly (and I can go back and do it to the other shirt easily). The collar sat neater this time and my button holes are better. Did I mention I just inherited my nana’s sewing machine, with the step-by-step button holer? I don’t have the foot for it yet but it was easy enough to keep track of how far to go. Proper button holes, YAY!

I REALLY like that fabric. I saw it in in Frankie magazine a while back on Kimbra, a Karen Walker dress, and wanted it quite badly. I can’t find any record of that dress on the internets, but while killing time before work one morning I stumbled upon the fabric in Arthur Toye. Quite an exciting moment, I have to say.

Like any shirt, it looks better on. Even in a crappy bathroom shot, complete with dusty mirror. Sigh. I will never be cool.

Knock knock! Who’s there? A cake! A cake who? A birthday cake for Rata-Roo!

Ho ho ho.

This is Rata’s cake (it was delicious). It’s meant to be the ‘R’ from the movie ‘Rio’, so it is also all feathered. But I also think it looks a bit like a koala.

The icing a joint effort between Louis and I – he watched me do a row of it and could see that it was a two person job. We followed this tutorial. Well, I did. There were a few skirmishes about how best to proceed and a few cries of “why are you doing them so far apart?” and “I don’t understand what you want!” but we managed, as you can see. The best thing about this kind of icing is that if you muck it up you can just spread it all out and start again.



“Candyman can”

Rata has been watching the 1973 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Secretly I think it’s a bit scary for a (nearly) three year old but since she watches it with her dad all negative side effects cannot be traced back to me so that’s ok.

Last Friday we went on a little trip to Levin and THIS TIME I knew where the fabric shop was. I bought a bit of pink and white striped merino, some marvellous golden sunshine coloured cotton knit and this candy-striped remnant fabric. When I discovered it was a two-way stretch I decided to make leggings with it, cut on the bias so they really would be like candy canes. Of course, I don’t have a pattern so ‘cutting things on the bias’ involves a lot of winging it, and of the legs not having stripes on the same angle. But who cares when Rata isn’t going to wear them unless bribed?

But in the hour or so today when Rata DID wear them… I heard her on more than one occasion singing “the candyman can” quietly to herself, so obviously calling them her “candy cane pants” is having some effect. The problem seems to be that Rata only wants to wear tights at the moment, not leggings and socks. I’m not sure that I would be able to make tights with comfortable feet, so for now I think I’ll stick to the current mode of self-punishment, thank you…


(Note that the pockets very neatly fit a Peter Rabbit – it may have something to do with it).

This jacket now has the peanut butter badge of proof of wear.

Rata’s Black Wool Coat

I had already learned my lesson, really, with the zigzag pants, the tweed pants and the bat costume. Now I have this little coat to add to my list of Rata-rejects, AKA “Rata is her own person now, stop trying to smother her with your own style.” The catch was that I had cut this pattern out over a year ago when I had the loan of an overlocker, and realizing that the pattern is a size 3 and it was now or never, I spent last Sunday sewing it up.

This is View 3, and although I had no idea what I was doing with those pocket welts (hence the dodgy one on the right) I think I coped okay with the vintage pattern instructions. The lining fabric is probably from the 80s, the wool with silver lurex from the 60s, the buttons came from Rata’s great-grandmother’s button jar.

Now I’d like one in my size, please. It’s actually quite big ¬†on her anyway so there’s plenty of time for her to suddenly want to wear it as often as the strawberry dress. Given the perverse nature of children and their whack internal thermostat, this will be in the height of summer. So long as I get a picture of it I’m okay with that.

But as for the aforementioned tweed pants:

And bat costume:

A furry little hat went with it too, and the dress was another vintage pattern with the collar from the coat pattern tacked on (and the dress worn with the zip at the front). She was the cutest 60s Mod bat in the history of the world. I’m sure she will thank me later.