Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Kick Baby, Kick!

Any mother will describe to you the wonderful feeling of having a romping, kicking baby in her tummy. Those initial flutters are accompanied by great excitement that there has finally been a 'quickening' of the womb. Flutters soon develop into decent kicks and the fun and games of trying to identify body parts is on. I loved all manner of kicks during my first pregnancy. They were just a nice reminder that I really was going to get a baby at the end of all this. Now that I'm 27 weeks, the baby is getting lovely and strong. 

In complete contrast to my first pregnancy, this little girl's kicking has actually been disturbing my sleep. I can't understand how that is given I had no trouble at all sleeping when pregnant with my boy.  Over the weekend I found myself awake and 4:00am and 4:30am respectively, unable to get back to sleep due to the severity of the kicks. Is this normal? Shouldn't I just be able to sleep through them since last time? I really am not complaining. How could I? I have a teeny tiny little girl in my tummy who is growing and getting stronger ready to join our family. It's heaven. 

What do you think people? Any tips for calming a tossing tot in the middle of the night?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Egg Allergy Update

Those of you who have been following this blog will remember that just over a year ago, we had quite the scare when trying scrambled eggs on our son for the first time, which ended with a rushed trip to the emergency department (view original article here). We have had a couple of mild exposures since then but generally speaking, our family adapted well to living in an egg free zone. What I am most thankful for is that Jack's allergy was relatively mild and could be treated with antihistamine drops. Following the instructions of the paediatric immunologist, at the end of last year we commenced a program of controlled egg exposure as luckily, egg allergies are something that children often grow out of. 

My husband was quite happy with the controlled egg exposure program, as it involved eating lots of chocolate cake. We started with a chocolate cake containing one egg and gave jack a small portion. Having had no reaction, we increased his portion size on subsequent days until he was happy eating a normal toddler sized piece of cake. The following week we did the same with a two-egg cake, then a mud cake with five eggs. Jack was fine on all the cakes and despite my paranoia at any red mark that may or may not have actually appeared on his face, it all went well. The doctor had then advised us to try hard boiled egg, first the yolk, then the white. We kinda skipped this phase and went straight to a baked quiche. He's had quiche a bunch of times now and been fine. Yippee!!

Enjoying some egg-free cake.
Most children with an egg allergy are allergic to the proteins in the raw egg white. Once eggs have been cooked for a certain period of time the proteins change and no longer cause the same reactions. I haven't been brave enough to try scrambled eggs again given their short cooking time, but it's wonderful not having to keep Jack away from anything that may have egg in it. He loves sampling whatever I'm eating and it's great that we've been able to work on his cake appreciation. 

As someone who loves to bake, I tried a range of egg replacement products with varying degrees of success. Most egg replacements achieved the raising element but I found the binding element was missing. After much trial and error (and many cakes that broke apart coming out of the tin), I found Psyllium Husk to be the best as it helped bind the cakes together. It's available in most health food stores and health food sections in the larger super markets. 1 tablespoon of psyllium husk mixed with 2 tablespoons of water makes the equivalent of one egg. A word of warning though, mix it up immediately before use as the paste becomes like glue if left for too long. 

Whilst my allergy story has a nice happy ending, I'm constantly reminded of other parents dealing with dangerous allergies on a daily basis. Know the children in your circle, playgroup etc, and remember that exposure to the wrong foods is a very serious health issue for many people. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Noah's Ark Crochet Blanket

The internet is a wonderful resource for so many things, especially patterns. I can't see myself ever buying another crochet or knitting pattern in the store. So many wonderful designs are available free or for a small fee. The pattern for this lovely blanket was my first online pattern purchase and I have now made it twice, once for a friend and again for my unborn baby. I bought the pattern from www.anniescatalog.com after finding the picture on a website somewhere. I loved the whimsical unisex design immediately and eventually tracked down the pattern. The blanket itself is a quite simple wave pattern but the embellishments are more complicated and really did require specific instructions. 

For those of you here in Australia, you will understand my pain when I say I couldn't find pure cotton 8 ply ANYWHERE! It was terribly frustrating. I found a few websites that sold cotton but not in the colour range I required and it was going to cost a fortune. Enter my new favourite website for buying wool, www.loveknitting.com. This UK based company has regular sales, an amazing range and postage is free to Australia with any purchase of $80 or more. They also put out a great newsletter that always includes a free PDF pattern - my collection is now extensive. 
I first learnt to crochet thanks to a lovely friend I had in early high school. Bernadette was such a clever crafter, she gave me something to emulate. I learnt all the major stitches and found crochet so much more satisfying than knitting due to the speed at which you make progress. I started making the first blanket after a rather long time of having not picked up a hook and was shocked that the instructions just didn't make any sense at all. It took a bit of internet searching and watching a few youtube clips to work out - the pattern uses American abbreviations and of course I learnt the Australian/british way. After much frustration I found a conversion chart that finally explained everything to me and now I would have to say I am bi-lingual. A tip for young players getting your patterns on the internet though - check where your pattern comes from! 

All in all, I enjoyed this blanket the first time around much more than the second. The animals got a bit fiddly and I'm always impatient to start the next project. I'm happy with the results and my friend loved the one I sent her last year. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Mama's Moist Banana Cake

I LOVE banana cake and have been making the same recipe since I was a child. I have no idea where the recipe originates from, but it was neatly penned in my mother's hand written recipe book and now resides similarly in mine. It's quick and easy to make and the outcome is a deliciously moist centre with crispy edge.

Ingredients

85 grams butter
1 cup brown sugar (small)
1 egg
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup milk

Method

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, then banana. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with the milk. Make sure all ingredients are mixed together well. Place batter in a lined loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven for 45 - 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I love my slice of banana cake with a scraping of butter, naughty I know. If you wanted to be really naughty, throw in a handful of chopped dark chocolate right at the end. Enjoy!


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

World Map Family Quilt


Living in Canberra I feel we can never have enough quilts. Even during the summer it's often nice to snuggle in the morning or evenings when hanging out on the couch. I spend so much time making quilts for other people, it was refreshing to make a family quilt for us recently and I took my inspiration from some wonderful coordinating fabric. It's called 'What a world' by Jill McDonald for P & B Textiles, which I found at my favourite Canberra fabric store Rosemont the Patchwork Shop, during a 20% off sale. Being a language and geography teacher, how could we go wrong with a world map panel, capital cities, and various languages saying 'hello'. Perfect. 

I spent quite a while cutting out the various pieces and working out how to make them all fit. This is where some sort of graph paper is a must. Even for you Australian quilters you really need to work in inches as working out seam allowances etc just doesn't work in centimetres. I also recommend taking pictures of proposed layouts. You can then get a 'big picture' perspective on how the quilt will look and if you've got any colours too close etc. I also like to have a picture as a reference when putting together patchwork just in case things get moved around. To give the quilt some lift I decided on a 1" red border which I also used for the binding. It really brought the various pictures together and looked smashing. 
The fun part was then to get quilting! I did a fairly large stipple over the central panel and five different free motion quilting designs for the patchwork. These ranged from spiral designs to swirls and waves. I kept it pretty simple as I didn't want to detract from the beautiful fabric design. 

This quilt is now a favourite play object for my son who likes to hide his father or the dog underneath. Whilst he's a bit too young to start learning the various countries of the world, he is very quick to point to the different cars that feature in the patchwork. This is by no means the most difficult quilt I've ever made but it's important sometimes to do fun projects that suit your family.

What's your favourite family project?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Roast Chicken Pasta Bake

Before going in the oven.
Who doesn't love a roast? Easy to to prepare and oh so tasty. But I hate wasting leftovers and in a house of two adults and 1 ½ children, we couldn't possibly eat an entire roast in one sitting. Last night I cooked butterflied Moroccan chicken (thank you Aldi) but we only ate the thighs, drumsticks and one wing which we let Jack gnaw on. What to do with those beautifully roasted breasts sitting in my fridge? My answer was to adapt my mum's tuna casserole recipe and add a few extra veggies for the little tacker. The result was an easy to prepare meal that feeds the whole family a balanced meal from the one dish. 

Ingredients

150 - 200 grams dry pasta (just see what you've got in the cupboard)
85 grams butter
1 onion
½ cup plain flour
1 tsp salt (optional)
½ tsp pepper
600 mls milk
¾ cup grated cheese
1 tbsp parmesan, heaped
1 large carrot - grated with excess moisture squeezed out
1 large zucchini - grated with excess moisture squeezed out
leftover roast chicken pieces, shredded
bread crumbs for topping

Method

Cook dry pasta following packet instructions and drain. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onion and simmer for a few minutes to soften. Add flour, stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Add milk, stir constantly until sauce thickens. Remove sauce from heat. Stir through cheeses, followed by chicken, vegetables and pasta. Once all ingredients are combined, spread in a lightly greased casserole dish and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Bake at 180° for approximately 45 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden.

Whilst this dish is a relatively new addition to our family's menu, I think it's here to stay. Top reviews from both my little and big man. What's your favourite thing to do with leftover roast chicken?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Dummies : Do they really pacify?

I recently visited a cousin with a gorgeous two week old baby girl. She was just precious and I was reminded of all the joy a new baby brings to a household. This darling girl uses a dummy (pacifier for my American readers) to help sooth at different times and I just couldn't let the opportunity go by without opening the can of worms here on the blog. Do dummies really work or are they more trouble than they are worth?

We used a dummy with Jack when he was a baby. To be fair I wish he had used one longer but when I changed to the bigger size at 6 months - we got rejection. We used orthodontic shapes (which I think they all claim to be these days) and enjoyed the easier sleep we achieved from the dummy's use. I also don't like the idea of babies sucking on their fingers and hands. I've become quite a 'whatever works now' type mother so dummies fit with my ethos. And as for worrying about trying to get rid or them later, why worry about something that might not even be a problem? Do you know any school children who still cart a dummy around? 

So let it rip on this controversial issue. Should I be stocking up on dummies for my new baby or just let this one go it alone??

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Pocket problems

I've always hated sewing pockets and quite frankly, avoided them wherever possible. Hidden ones aren't so bad, as any mistakes are usually well contained inside the garment, but my perfectionist self cannot have errors - even if they're on the inside. I also really love the look of external pockets, particularly on dresses. So how do you make the perfect pocket? I think a lot of it has to do with what fabric you're using. I've come unstuck with fabrics that stretch but seem to do well when using quilting fabrics. 

Last year I made my son a polar fleece vest for a bit of extra warmth in the Canberra winter. I have rediscovered the virtues of this versatile fabric now I live in such a cold climate where tracksuits and hoodies are a real necessity. The vest itself was simple enough to sew, but I had a terrible problem with the blessed pockets. The pattern said they should have binding around the edges, but due to their tiny size, I was never happy with two pockets that weren't both exactly the same and perfectly square. I think I made two sets before changing tact.

Seeing as I was using polar fleece I decided to go for an un-hemmed version, stitched on with a simple zigzag. Great in theory, but the reality was - they stretched when stitching on! I couldn't win. The finished product looks great though and unless I pointed it out, no-one would probably notice my dodgy pockets. Its has also proven to be the most versatile little garment. 

Last week I made myself an oversized top/very short dress to add to my maternity wardrobe. This dress had pockets on the front and I am happy to report - they turned out perfectly! This was a light stretch denim with binding across the top. I think the thinner fabric meant they stretched less but also the turned under seam allowance made them sit nicely. The tip I learnt from these pockets in particular, was to do an easing stitch on the corners to make them sit flat. It worked perfectly and I just LOVE this garment. Shame it's a bit too short to wear without leggings underneath - especially with my expanding belly.

So what are your pocket sewing tips? There are so many types of pockets I guess there are specific tips for each one. Let me know!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Big Mama: An Inspiration.

Though she would swear black and blue it's not true - my mum is the most creative person around. If you'd asked me five years ago whether I was into quilting I would've laughed at you. Yet now it has become one of my greatest passions and I owe everything I know to Big Mama and her passion for perfecting new techniques.



Whilst I feel I have appliqué skills down pat, hand embroidery is something I still need to master. Mum made this little girls cot quilt years ago and I'm hoping to finally be able to use it this year. It's been carefully stored in my linen cupboard and taken out for a loving perusal every now and then. It's a bit hard to see the detail on the picture, but the complexity of embroidery is impressive. I love the little duck in the second frame which is all fluffy with hundreds french knots. Amazing.
Jack and the Beanstalk Growth Chart

It really is very difficult for me to choose a favourite piece of mums work. But one of my favourites is the personalised growth chart she made for Jack. With a name like Jack, nursery rhymes abound from which to choose an appropriate theme. Jack and the Beanstalk seemed like the perfect choice and she designed this entire chart herself. The details in the quilting really enhance the story being told in the appliqué and I just LOVE it. Jack also loves playing 'Where's the cow?' and quickly showing Mama where his cow is on the bottom of the chart.

The last Big Mama project I wish to feature is something quite remarkable. Whilst attending the Adelaide Craft and Quilting Fair in 2012, we were both taken by the amazing Gollyville 2 design from the Craft Cubby and with a rush of blood, bought the last kit they had onsite. Well if only Big Mama had known what she was getting herself in for. The detailed appliqué in this quilt really is amazing. The hours and hours she spent working on the quilt makes this piece priceless and a real family heirloom. The finished quilt hangs in my son's room and he loves picking out the various animals etc depicted in the vast landscape. Whilst I do feel my life could be in danger if I ever suggested she attempt a similarly enormous project, she did such an amazing job, it's a real complement to her dedication and amazing skills.
Gollyville 2

So as you can see - I have a high standard before me when I attempt my various quilting projects. However, this has only served to make me into a better quilter as I have gained an appreciation for attention to detail and love the challenge of perfecting new techniques along the way. My biggest problem, is that I just don't see how I will ever complete all the projects I have lined up in my lifetime. Too many quilts, not enough time. Happy Sewing Blog Readers and get that inspiration flowing!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

...and one makes four!

Pregnancy Announcement
That's right blog world, Mama is back and she's expecting again. Baby number two is 20 weeks in the oven and I'm very happy to be past that half way mark, though if my past pregnancy is anything to go by, this little one will come early too.

It shocks me that I have not written a post since Mother's day last year. How on earth could so much time have passed? Well I guess I was busy finishing off ½ a Masters degree and once that was done, I was so sick with being pregnant, every day revolved around looking after my now very busy toddler and not being sick on him. This meant not much creative cooking has been happening and my darling husband has been excellent at taking up my slack. Nevertheless, I have still found lots of time for sewing and other crafty pursuits. I made all my Christmas cards again this year and have been making the most of the summer uni recess to crack into some sewing. Here are some pants I made Jack last week and just yesterday I finished a cute maternity top/dress out of the same stretch denim fabric. We've also been having a very successful testing of Jack's egg allergy and he seems to be able to handle cooked egg. We've had lots of chocolate cake and he has even had quiche a few times. Very exciting. 

Hubby and I are very excited that we will soon be a family of four. But honestly, this pregnancy feels  like it couldn't be more different from my first. First of all I didn't think I was pregnant whereas last time I knew straight away from how I felt. Then once things got going, I was much sicker than last time. I never even vomited with Jack but during this first trimester, I could barely keep down my prenatal vitamins until my Doctor introduced me to my new friend maxolon. My body has also hit the changes hard, unlike last time. I already have enormous breasts and my tummy popped out within the first 10 weeks - at least my body knows what its getting itself into. 

So I have loads of pictures of my various craft projects waiting to be turned into blog posts. I hope to write them up over the coming weeks as I doubt I will have much time once the semester starts on the 6th March. It shall be interesting trying to fit an entire masters subject in before baby arrives early June! Shout out if you have any questions for little Mama and I hope 2014 finds everybody well.