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A Christmas dress

IMG_20121207_142029Mince pies

p20121202-145124And blingin’ Egyptian biscats

IMG_20121209_140556(and snow white chicken doves)


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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.


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(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.

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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.

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So, at long last I have ‘documented’ this dress. More recently I made the deer hunting dress with the same pattern, and for a more detailed explanation of my experiences with Butterick 5605 go here and then here.

But when I said I’ve ‘documented’ it, you knew it was just going to be a couple of photos, right? I didn’t get your hopes up now, did I?

The bumps on the hips are the pocket openings. They work better on the fuller version of the dress, but in order to sew them up I would have to take apart the dress. So for now they are going to stay. I like pockets, and also I like the little peek of polka dot lining.

The back is pretty super and fits better than the deer hunting dress (but I also spent a LOT of time on the fit so that’s hardly surprising).

The best thing of all is that I can get away with wearing it to work with boots and tights and a cardigan. And it may currently be my favourite work dress, though it has a fair amount of competition. This afternoon I am going to put my bout of Extreme Productivity to use in making my “chips dress”. And go to a clothes swap in the hope that I might find something warm to wear.

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(May 1st, me-made skirt)

I have signed myself up for the rigorous challenge of Me-Made-May ’12, the brainchild of the marvellous Zoe where one seeks to wear self-stitched clothes for the month of May but defines their own challenge. My pledge went a little something like this:

‘I, Lotte, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’12. I endeavour to wear at least one article of me-made clothing and the rest New Zealand-made each day for the duration of May 2012’.

In reality the last few days have been freezing cold and I have had to do without my merino long sleeve tops from Glassons, which are – yes – made in China. Basically I knew as much about this gaping hole in my me-made/NZ-made wardrobe, I just wasn’t expecting it to get so cold. My bottom-half is sorted though: undies made by my neighbour, Columbine tights and Minnie Cooper shoes.

I will admit though that already I have cheated. Or rather, added another ‘genre’ of clothing: op-shopped items that are not made in China. While not gifting me any get-out-of-jail layers of merino, there are a few warm British-made things I own that I hope to bust out. This is certainly a learning curve! I’m not beating myself up about already bending the rules, but perhaps with more preparation I can be a little closer to my ideal by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, back to the outfit photos…

May 3rd – a plush me-made dress and a me-made wool coat.

This is my newest creation: a pattern from my Built By Wendy Dresses book sewn up in a wool/angora blend with super-super cuddliness. I made the shift dress pattern up for Clementine for her birthday (more on that when I’ve adjusted the shoulders to fit her) and this is the dirndl pattern. I was a bit sneaky and just cut out the pattern pieces on the Large line, then stitched on the Medium line, effectively giving it a 5mm seam allowance. It fits, it works, sort of. The important thing is that the dress is made, instead of my waiting for a spare moment in which to draft a pattern. The lace was from the Salvation Army and I sat in the kitchen at Playcentre tacking it on last Friday, finishing it in Rata’s room that afternoon.

(Julie will notice the wombat, commonly known as “the Daddy one” sometimes “the fluffy one”)

What I love about the Built By Wendy patterns is that they are so quick to sew up. I need to make the bodice of the dirndl dress a little longer as the waist is too high and my belt just won’t stay up there (for this dress I will make some loops to hold it up there). I intend to whip up my “chips dress” this weekend, and I think the dirndl will work well with the cotton knit, though the skirt will be something more robust.

Despite the woolly nature of the dress, I was actually quite cold all day, possibly because the sleeves are short, and the neckline low. Getting booted off the train a station early and having to wait for the bus replacement in the bitterly cold frosty air was not pleasant. I need some goodly sourced merino, or at the very least the internal thermostat of a preschooler…

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Aunty Chris brought feijoas with her when she came to visit! So many feijoas. I ate a tonne of them and now we are going to bottle a tonne of them.

This is my other conquest – Alfajores, a South American treat. The dough is pretty crumbly, but boiling a can of condensed milk for three and a half hours is thoroughly worth it. There’s also more than I needed to sandwich all the biscuits, so there’s plenty of opportunity for spoon-licking. Unfortunately this photo is of the second round of biscuits and some of the chocolate in the bowl was melted twice, hence the cloudy appearance. I went to a party on Saturday night and placed them on the table in front of a pregnant lady. She was pretty happy about that.

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