Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Yummy, Yummy Tea Cake

I think it was Nigella Lawson, or Julia Child, or maybe both of them that raved about the joys of butter. I have to say, perhaps politically incorrectly, that I LOVE butter too. None of this unsalted healthy stuff. Good, traditional, buy in a massive block and smother all over your toast, butter. What's this got to do with Tea Cake I hear you ask?? I can't help but eat my slice of tea cake with a nice spreading of butter to help my cup of tea go down. I'm sure it's the way people have been taking their cake and tea for centuries and is something that will continue in my household.
This recipe is one I've been making for a while and is adapted from a cake recipe I originally found on taste.com.au. It has a lovely soft inside with a crispy edge - just perfect. It also keeps really well but never seems to last that long in my house!

Recipe 

Ingredients

Cake
180g softened butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup S.R. flour
1/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup of milk

Topping
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp castor sugar

Method

Pre-head oven to 170°C. Grease and line the bottom of an 18cm round cake tin. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Sift flours and cinnamon; add to mixture alternating with the milk until batter is smooth. Spread mixture evenly into pan and bake for about 45 - 50 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean. Rest in pan for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Mix topping ingredients together and pour over cake - I find a pastry brush comes in handy here. Enjoy with a cup of hot tea and a nice spread of butter!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Plane Travel with Babies - The Pain-free Way

There are not many people in the world who haven't experienced some form of air travel with a screaming baby keeping them from their sleep or in-flight entertainment. Having never taken five month old Jack further than a half hour drive from home, it was with great trepidation that I commenced the week that would contain three flights in six days.
The first part of our busy travels was to the wedding last weekend of a dear friend in Albany, Western Australia. For those of you not so familiar with Australian geography, to get there from Adelaide involved a 3+ hour flight followed directly by a 4+ hour drive. Fortunately for this trip I had my husband with me to carry porta-cots etc. We left Adelaide on the Friday and returned the following Monday as that week we were making the move to Canberra. The flight to Canberra on Wednesday was just Jack and I, but as it turns out, despite all my concerns, we had nothing to worry about.
Jack was simply an angel during this trip thanks to some excellent tips and because he's just such an awesome kid. The following are a few tips from my experiences and other friends' advice for pain-free travel with children.

  1. Learn how to equalise the air pressure on babies' and children's ears. It's super easy and luckily my chiropractor showed me how before we left. Stick your thumb into the child's ear and whilst holding fairly firmly, pull outwards and slightly up. Ideally feeding during take off and landing will take care of this, but as fate would have it, Jack didn't want to feed whilst coming in to land in Perth and anytime he was getting unhappy, we tugged on his ears and he was fine! Winner!
  2. Be prepared to carry baby around the airport after check-in. Despite what it says on the Qantas website, you cannot take prams to the gate at Australian airports. They do offer strollers for use to the gate but we found these were not appropriate for a five month old.
  3. Don't let baby fall asleep on the plane without the seatbelt on. If you hit turbulence or need to put  the seatbelt on for another reason, it's really difficult when baby is asleep!
  4. Take your own car-seat insert for hire car. We had booked a hire car and infant seat with a very reputable company, only to find once we got to the car that car seat had no infant insert to support baby's head, despite being installed in the rear-facing position. They were able to fine a small padded insert, but this still did not meet my high standards. Add to that, when we turned our first corner, the car seat slid on the back seat as they hadn't pulled the main seatbelt tight enough - something my husband and I were luckily able to quickly fix. Terrible! 
  5. Take a sleep toy/noise machine for familiarity. This was a great tip from a friend of mine and helped when Jack was sleeping in various hotels in his porta-cot. A bit of white noise and familiarity never goes astray. 
  6. Take only one carry-on bag. Anymore and you won't have enough hands for the baby. This is especially important when travelling alone with an infant/child and is when a larger nappy bag really comes in handy.
  7. Book child friendly accommodation. This sounds like common sense right? Wrong. We booked at a lovely Bed & Breakfast thinking it would be the best option as we wouldn't have to go out till all three of us were ready and could have a relaxing breakfast. Great in theory but in practice we were so worried about disturbing the other guests at the lovely hotel that it made life quite difficult. Having a baby whose body clock was 2 1/2 hours earlier than local time didn't help this either. 
  8. Let people help you. When travelling alone with a baby (especially a cute one like Jack) there are always people who want to help you. Flight attendants are always keen for a cuddle and if you're lucky, people around you on the flight will be happy to make funny faces and entertain your child. 
So spread the word people! The ear equalisation trick is the best thing ever. What other travel tips do you have to share??

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Raggedy Farmyard Quilt Part 2 - Machine Applique


Machine Appliqué is my new favourite thing. It's neat, invisible and with quilting, creates a beautiful 3D effect. This stage was a dream on my mew sewing machine (Bernina Aurora 440QE) and the first step was to stick my applique animals onto the centre of precut white background fabric with Elmer's washable school glue, iron to set and stitch around the appliqué pieces in a small zigzag.

As this is invisible machine appliqué, you don't need the super close together zigzag used in traditional appliqué as there should be no raw edges that need to be sewn in. My stitch length was about 1mm by 1mm, but this varies from machine to machine. I used 100% nylon Wonder Invisible Thread on top (CAREFUL, some nylon thread can be unreliable) and bobbinfil on the bottom. If you haven't used nylon thread before, you need to adjust your tension as the thread has a bit of stretch. Loosening the top tension a little seems to do the trick, you just need to ensure that none of the bobbin thread comes through to the top.
To do the detailing on each animal, I tried to use triple straight stitch on the machine, but found it very difficult to manoeuvre around the small features. I ended up doing most of it back stitch by hand using a thicker black buttonhole thread. I used a fabric pen to colour in the eyes.  
The thing that makes this quilt really pop is the use of bold fabrics to frame each animal. I used remnants from the nicest fabrics in the applique animals and it took much switching around until I got all the fabrics spread evenly around the quilt. Once I had everything where I wanted, I used a ¼ inch seam to sew them on. 
Lastly, I made sadwiches of my completed animal sections with the backing fabric (a lovely red fabric you'll see later) and 100% Bamboo batting. Once the sections were together I ditch-stiched around all the animal limbs, giving them real definition. 
Picture was right way up on my computer!

Next Step - Free motion quilting - best get practicing! 


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Raggedy Farmyard Quilt - Part 1 Applique

At the Adelaide Quilting and Craft Fair in November 2011, I fell in love with the Raggedy Farmyard quilt pattern, as I was newly pregnant and thought it would be a wonderful thing for me to make for my then unborn child. Just over a year later - the project is well under way. The lovely Bev from The Craft Cubby in Victoria sold me the pattern http://www.craftcubby.com.au/raggedy_farmyard and I love it so much that I bought the matching Jungle Animal quilt pattern this year. However, when I purchased the pattern, I didn't quite realise the level of work involved. I have been a sewer since I was a child, but making simple garments is nothing compared to the detail and skill required to do justice to such a lovely quilt. Never one to do things by halves, I jumped right in at the deep end.

Step 1 - Applique. Big Mama came over one day in October and gave me a crash course in Invisible Machine Applique and kept baby Jack company whilst I worked at the animals. It's basically like standard applique using applifix, but instead I used Floriani Stitch N Wash fusible. http://www.florianiaustralia.com/floriani-stabilizers/tear-away-stabilizers/stitch-n-wash.html
Once all pieces are ironed on to the fabric, I cut about 1/8 inch around the shapes and used a normal glue stick to fold over the edges and pushed them down nice and sharp with a cuticle stick.

Once all pieces of an animal were completed, with a bit of help from a light-box and some Elmer's school glue, I put the shapes together to make some very cute looking, yet faceless, farm animals.
As this quilt has nine panels, this first stage took ages. The bigger pieces were quite easy, but the smaller ones were really tedious and my fingers would get covered in glue. It's really important to iron, between two ironing sheets, each individual applique piece and again once they're been put together to seal any glue. What makes this technique quite easy, is a bit of forward planning to ensure you DON'T fold over the edge when a piece will be under another. It only took one animal for me to get into the swing of things and I was on a roll after that.

Next step: Sewing it all together. Stand by!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Can I be an Eco-Mum?? Modern Cloth Nappy Discussion

I knew even before I was pregnant with Jack that I wanted to use cloth nappies. I must have come across a webpage or maybe an article in a magazine about the concept of 'modern cloth nappies'. A little further research and I was hooked. Gone are the days of pins and huge squares of terry-towling. Modern cloth nappies are user friendly and oh so trendy. I was also very interested to learn that with today's water efficient washing machines, washing a cloth nappy for the two or so years a baby will wear them, still uses less water than is used in the fabrication of one disposable nappy.

I would never call myself a 'greenie', but I do like to do what I can to be environmentally friendly. I always recycle and having grown up in Australia, I have a good appreciation of water conservation. Having said that, the thought of nappies buckets and having to soak smelly nappies everyday in smelly bleaches gets a massive thumbs down. So, with a bit of help from my mum, we hit the forums and internet sites and came up with a great pattern, some excellent fabric and ultimately - a really great product. Also, by sewing them ourselves, the price worked out to be about $5.50 per nappy - a lot cheaper than some of the commercial brands. The patterns are available free on the net and with a bit of hunting, you can get a good deal on the materials and notions.

Here is the pattern and instructions:
http://www.thenappynetwork.org.nz/images/Wee%20Weka%20SML%20Fitted%20SM%20Pocket.pdf

We used velcro rather than press studs as we thought it would be quicker. We got fabric and other supplies from a few sites. These two were the best in Australia.
http://nappiescovered.com.au
http://gbau.com.au

How they work
The outside shell is made of PUL which is a coated, water tight fabric that comes in all sorts of awesome designs.
The inside shell is microsuede which doesn't hold liquid so there is no moisture touching the baby's skin, preventing nappy rash.
We made the absorbent inserts from Bamboo/organic cotton. The bamboo has natural anti-bacterial properties and washes up really well.
You need to use environmentally friendly washing liquid and NO FABRIC SOFTENER.

Pros

  • The cost of disposable nappies can be quite substantial over the life of a baby. To make enough nappies to get me through two children cost about $350.
  • No soaking - it ruins the integrity of the fabrics. Nappies come straight off baby and go into the washing machine (with some rinsing if a particularly dirty nappy). I thought they may stain, but even really yucky baby poos wash out, especially if you can rinse them relatively quickly.
  • Much nicer on Jack's skin, especially as he is prone to eczema. 
  • Not smelly - I hate, hate, hate how disposable nappies smell - even if they're just wet.
  • Makes me feel good that I'm doing something to stop putting hundreds of disposable nappies into land fill. 


Cons

  • Leakage - up until the 8 week mark, Jack was just a bit too small for the nappies. We worked out different ways of folding the insert to fix any leakage and have made booster panels for nighttime etc. 
  • You have to be disciplined with doing washing every day. I have no problem with this, especially with all the other things that need washing with a baby. It became routine very quickly.


All in all, I'm very happy with my decision to go down the modern cloth nappy route and am happy to offer any advice to people considering the same. There's a great picture of Jack in a bright red nappy taken the other day during his very active play session in my Happy Baby blog.

So all that's left is to ask the questions: Can I be an Eco-Mum? What else can I be doing in my day to day house keeping to help the environment? Let me know your ideas!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A happy baby???

I don't know what other mothers think, but from my perspective Jack has undergone the most profound developments in the last week or so. He's just over 4 1/2 months old and it's like he has found his voice. He giggles and talks like never before. I could have died with laughter last night listening to him having the most animated of conversations with Adam, Myf and Alan on the TV - or maybe it was the Spicks and Specks music that got him going.

Jack is not rolling over yet (we have not had a repeat appearance since the first roll three weeks ago) but since Monday, he has figured out how to move around. Whilst I was busy working on my last uni assignment for the semester (yay!), Jack was on his play mat by my desk. I turn around after a few minutes work to see him practically off his mat and onto the floor! Thank goodness it was so hot and there was no way he could get cold, but doesn't he just look so happy with himself!



On Monday night, I went into his room at about 9:30 to put his blanket on, only to find is head where his feet should have been. When did this happen? My baby has NEVER moved in his cot before. Then last night, after putting him to bed, I could hear on the baby monitor that he was at it again. What a cheeky monkey!! I think he has now found his new favourite bedtime game.

This morning has just been the icing on the cake though. At 6:30am, the beeper on the baby alarm goes off (I keep it on silent so as to only wake up when Jack really needs me). I jump out of bed, rush to Jacks room, then am stopped dead in my tracks at his door. He is laughing. Not just giggling but actually screeching with laughter. What a happy boy. Surely that means that this mama is doing an ok job???

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Mama's New Toy

My role as a self proclaimed Domestic Goddess has recently received a creative boost with the purchase of my new Bernina aurora 440QE sewing machine. This little beauty has 98 programmed stitches and most importantly, comes with the stitch regulator attachment that ensures perfect stitch length when doing free motion quilting.
My first project was to make a quilted cover for the machine to keep any moisture away from the mechanical parts. This will be especially useful with my upcoming move to cold Canberra. I just love this fabric and I used the stitch regulator to quilt around the various shapes. I still need some practice with the free motion aspects but look forward to learning more stippling patterns. I love this website;  http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com.au Leah Day does amazing tutorials and makes even the most complicated design look simple.


For my next project, I'll be making baby Jack a patchwork appliqué farm animal quilt. I've already started the appliqué but won't have time to work on it again until after the move to Canberra. As for now - I really must get back to finishing my last uni assignment for the semester. Why does everything fall at the one time? Uni, moving house, etc etc etc...

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Friday, 2 November 2012

Mummy Cuddles

Often, one of the most difficult adjustments for a new mum, is night feeds. A newborn can wake several times in the night and it can take many months for babies to learn to sleep through. To quote my husband, I 'don't handle being tired well'. So, the immense fatigue of early parenthood was something that hit me hard. Now, after just over four months, Jack is down to one night feed (two on a bad night or after an immunisation) and I have surprised even myself and have grown to really love that quiet time with my baby.

I call it 'Mummy Cuddles' and for me its one of the most special parts of my new life. During a night feed Jack will inevitably fall asleep, which can make trying to burp him quite difficult. So when I move him to my shoulder and he snuggles into my neck in a milk-drunk-middle-of-the-night-sleep, I am in heaven.



No matter what time it is, or how I'm feeling, one look at that sweet face, that never fails to be excited to see his mama, and my heart melts.

Tell me about your favourite Mummy Moment.