Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Birds and Birdhouse Cross Stitch

I see plain objects as embelishment opportunities, so when I ventured into Tokuya many months ago and spotted these large bamboo flip top containers, I needed to do more cross stitch (like I need an excuse!) I bought smaller baskets last year which I also decorated with cross stitch motifs (see this entry) so now I have even more containers to store my random bits and pieces!

The pattern is from Rico Design's Belle Fleur which I bought from the Craft & Quilt Fair last year. For the past couple of years I've been treating myself to one...or two of the Rico series because their designs are lovely and the patterns can be personalise to suit any project. This cross stitch is a combination of 3 different patterns, and the limited colours used means that the designs are coordinated.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Womens' Weekly Passionfruit Madeira Cake

The Australian Womens' Weekly has a new Cakebaking book claiming to have 53 new recipes which is great because some of the recent publications have been a combination of recipes from their previous cookbooks.

I assumed that Madeira cake was from Madeira but it's actually English, so now it seems a little less exotic (but deeeelicious nonetheless!).

180g (5.5 ounces) butter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
3/4 cup (165g) castor sugar
3/4 cup (110g) self raising flour, sifted
1/3 cup (40g) ground almonds
1/3 cup (80ml) passionfruit pulp (3 large passionfruit)

Sour cream frosting
1 cup (240g) sour cream
1/2 cup (80g) icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180*C/350*F. Grease and line 20cm (8 inch) square cake pan with baking paper.

2. Cream butter, sugar and lemon rind until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in sifted flour, ground almonds and 1/4 cup of the passionfruit pulp. Did you know that you can buy canned passionfuit?

3. Spread batter into pan. Bake the cake for about 40 minutes. Stand cake 10 minutes before turning top-side up onto wire rack to cool.

4. To make the frosting, beat sour cream and sifted icing sugar with an electric mixer until combined. I decided to hand whisk it instead which takes longer but a great stress reliever. We bought a small tub of 200g and it was still too much for the cake so I suggest buying the smallest quantity you can get.

5. Spread frosting over the cake, drizzle with remaining passionfruit pulp.

The cake will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 days, or in the freezer (without frosting) for 2 months.

Picture of the cake from the book
Isn't my mini hand whisk cute?

This Passionfruit Madeira Cake was in the "Bake and Keep" section, but honestly how could one possibly have a cake and not eat it straight away? This is what remained after 10 minutes!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gasworks Farmers Market

Despite the cold and windy conditions, I went for a 15km walk with a Meet Up group on Saturday. We started the walk at Beacon Cove in Port Melbourne, and ventured to the Farmers Market at Gasworks Arts Park which operates on the third Saturday of each month.

Farmers Market, Gaswork Arts Park
Man, Dog, Boat by Henry Smith

I would have loved to have bought some of the fresh produce on offer, but I couldn't image carrying it with me for 15km (humm, weight training perhaps?). I did savour a gourmet hotdog and bought a bag of chestnuts since I'm incapable of not buying anything.

Albert Park Lake
Fresh is best!

The sun decided to take a peak when we reached Albert Park Lake and I noticed a swan that hadn't been tagged. Oohh, rebel!

James, our group leader had organised a discount at Chocolateria San Churros at Acland Street, St Kilda so we all enjoyed a chocolate treat. The churros with milk chocolate was heavenly and I need the energy to walk back to Port Melbourne!

Churros from Chocolateria San Churros
Birds at Port Melbourne - such symmetry!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Buddah's Day, Federation Square

Mum and I attended the annual Buddah's Day celebrations at Federation Square on Sunday so I have again prayed for world peace.

Vegetarian Zongzi
We had a vegetarian zongzi which is steamed glutinous rice stuffed with shitake mushroom, chestnuts and beancurd wrapped in lotus leaves. It was rather bland but it is in line with the Buddhist philosophy that the primary pupose of food is to fourish the body, which made me wonder why they invited Dalai Lama on Masterchef in 2011...

Snapdragons outside the Melbourne Town Hall
I love purple pansies!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Japanese Craft Books

New Japanese Craft Books
Stitch Idees Magazine
I am in awe when I read craft blogs as the ideas and creativity of crafters are truly inspirational. The images are such a feast for my eyes (I call it craft porn) and I can spend hours pouring over blogs as well as craft books and magazines.

Cotton Time Magazine
I was giddy with delight when I stumbled into a huge book store in Shibuya in November 2010...I was in craft book heaven! The range is extensive, and although the books and magazines are in Japanese, the instructions appear to be easy to follow, and cross stitch and embroidery patterns transcend language barriers (isn't that beautiful?). As I had been walking all day in the rain (which I later found out to be a typhoon), I was so tired that I sat cross legged on the floor (very unladylike I know) and savoured the beautiful images on the pages. I bought a few books...well maybe more than a few as the sales attendant asked whether she could organise for the books to be delivered to my hotel - I was bewildered as I'm use to carrying my own shopping!

Craft Books I bought from Shibuya

Books I keep under the bed because I've run out of shelf space

What is noteworthy about the experience is that it reminded me of simple pleasures in life. Although I loved visiting the 'must see' sites in Tokyo, I was content just doing something as simple as browsing in a bookstore. We are constantly seeking fulfilment through engaging in new activities and stepping out of our comfort zone. I applaud this and agree that we need to broaden our horizons by trying something new and different, but sometimes it's the simple things that remind us to just appreciate what we have.

Stitch Idees magazine is always filled with fantastic cross stitch and embroidery patterns (can be purchased for around A$30 from Pomadour24 on Ebay), and Cotton Time (Kanga Kanga sells them for around A$35) consists of fun zakka sewing projects.

My friend Andrew bought me a stack of Japanese craft books to feed my craft obsession! Nothing like a healthy dose of new craft books to get the inspiration flowing.

My shelf devoted to craft books

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grandmother's Garden Patchwork Quilt

I started this Grandmother's Garden patchwork quilt way back in February 2004 and I'm nowhere near completing this very ambitious project! I had planned ten rows of ten "flowers" and after eight years, I'm only half way through the fifth row. I aim to finish the fifth row this year, so since I've blogged about it, I have "witnesses" so I need to do it! I was considering six rows but I need to be realistic about my goals, why kid myself?!

I chose this pattern in memory of my paternal grandmother who made a hexagon quilt for me. I don't remember much about her as she passed away from cervical cancer when I was five, but I have vague memories of her making this quilt using newspaper as templates. Despite the flimsiness of newspaper, my grandmother still maintained the hexagon shape which is really amazing to me. I use drawing paper as it is firmer and can be re-used; if I use newspaper, my hexagons will probably turn out looking like Suffolk/yoyo puffs!

It would have been wonderful if she had lived longer so I would know her, and I'm sure she would help me finish this quilt! I think of her when I'm sewing the hexagons together, so in a way, she is making this quilt with me.

I'm working on row five...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Japanese Washi Tape

For the past few months I've read many blogs about Japanese washi tape which are decorative paper adhesive tape that comes in an array of beautiful designs and colours.

MT brand washi tape
Washi tape from Typo
I have resisted the urge to buy the tape because I have too many (un-used and still in its packaging) craft supplies and shouldn't add to my overflowing containers, but I had to buy ONE to satisfy my curiosity. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t stop at ONE so I bought a few more, hiding them (another quirk to my list of eccentricities), and then taking them out when I have a sudden need to tape things...which doesn't happen that often.

Magnation on Elizabeth Street, Melbourne stocks the MT brand ($4.95 per roll), and Typo also has a small selection (they have recently been selling bundles of 2 for $7.95). Mel Stampz has created a collage of tape ideas which are just a feast for my eyes. Humm, what shall I tape?

Washi tape from Typo

Monday, May 7, 2012

Raspberry and Rose Cupcakes

It was Mum's birthday on Sunday so I made raspberry and rose cupcakes from a free mini cookbook called The Little Book of Cupcakes and Cookies from the now defunct Notebook magazine. It's another throw-everything-in-the-bowl-and-mix recipe which means it is quick and easy.

For the cake, you will need:

125g unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 (165g) cup castor sugar
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1 1/2  (225g) cups self-raising flour
1/2 (125ml) cup milk
15 frozen raspberries

For the butter cream icing, you will need:

125g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 (135g) cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon milk
A dash of rosewater

1. Preheat oven to 180*C. Line 15 1/2 cup (80ml) muffin pans with patty cases. Combine butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour and milk in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes until mixture is smooth and pale in colour.

2. Spoon mixture into cases and press a frozen raspberry in the centre of each with a tip of a skewer. If you are not so dainty, press raspberry to batter with clean fingers!

3. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove from pans and cool completely on a cake rack, and resist the temptation to eat one.

4. To make the icing, beat butter in an electric mixer for 10-15 minutes until creamy and very pale in colour. Beat in half the icing sugar for 2 minutes until well mixed. Add milk with a dash of rose water (I bought mine by Pariya from David Jones) and beat for a further 2 minutes. Beat in remaining icing sugar for a further 2 minutes until fluffy and smooth.

This is easier said than done when the weather is cold as no matter how long I beat the butter was still firm. I was planning to pipe the icing but the bag burst so I spread the cupcakes with a palette knife instead.

5. Cupcakes look pretty decorate with sugar roses by Queens which can be purchased from the supermarket.

Our local baby magpie came for a special birthday visit, he/she is a lot bigger now, which is to be expected as his/her diet consist of freshly baked bread!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Knitted Beanies for KOGO

In anticipation of my annual beanie knitting season, I bought four balls of Panda’s multi-coloured Magnum yarn from Clegs during the sale last year, and at A$1.95 per ball, it was great value! The cooler weather is always a stark reminder that there are members of our community who need support especially during the colder months, and since I like to knit, I might as well do something worthwhile when I’m watching TV.

I have been knitting children size beanies for the past month, eager to see how the beanies turn out using the colourful yarn. I have been following the easy 8 ply stocking stitch beanie pattern from KOGO, mainly because it is the only pattern I can understand as my knitting skills are pretty rudimentary. I can knit 2 beanies from a 100gm ball of yarn, with a little left over which can be knitted into squares to form a blanket. KOGO supports over 100 organisations, and according to their April newsletter which I subscribe to, they have already distributed over 10,000 hand knitted items this year (compared to 4,700 for the same time period in 2011). So if you can knit or crochet, contribute to this worthy cause!