Monday, 13 April 2015

A polar bear and a little fish

Two new friends from grandy and baa. I think I am a bit obsessed with making them...

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

printing and making

I have had a long-time love affair with screen printing.  It started in school and I still have the silk screen I got in about year 9.  I confess I have never been very good at it but its something I have always wanted to do more of.  So recently I made a couple of simple designs and printed them onto some cotton fabric.

'Billy Buttons' is the design pictured here and is printed in a mid grey and an olive green (ish) colour.  I must confess I am bit smitten with how lovely they look, especially now that they are made into the Cat and Miss Chloé.

Monday, 6 April 2015


A portrait of my daughter. Joining Jodi in the ad hoc fashion that I occasionally do. This may be the only one for the year. But I will try.

Minnie: Helping 'model' my softies.  She has the eyes of a doe.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

How to...appliqué (part three)

After a delay of about 7 years (what on earth happened there?) I am finishing off the tutorial on how to appliqué! Part one is here and part two can be read here.  The most amazing thing of this all is that I still have the little singlet that I was using in this series!

In part two of this tutorial I showed you how to use iron-on Vliesofix (the stuff that makes your fabric stick to your base garment) and Fusible Tear-Away (the iron-on stabiliser that means you can appliqué on delicate or difficult fabrics without your machine chewing it all up - hooray for that!)  In this final part of the series I will show you how to stitch the design onto the base garment and how to finish it off super neatly!

Step 1: Setting your machine for appliqué
In this final part of the tutorial I will show you the 2 types of machine applique that I regularly use.  One is using a straight stitch and the other is with the zig-zag that I call 'appliqué' stitch.  The straight stitch is simple - just a normal straight stitch so need to adjust your machine too much. I do take the length down a little to about 1.8.

Setting the machine for the tight zig-zag (appliqué stitch) is the trickiest bit off all. You will need to experiment here with your machine.  Since starting this tutorial I have moved onto a newer machine.  My old machine was quite brilliant though and the appliqué work that I sold previously was done on that old machine. I stitched hundreds of appliquéd garments and it really was a work horse.  If your machine does straight and zig-zag stitches, you can appliqué.

Fancy machines are really not required.  You will have seen lots of those insanely expensive machines that do that super neat embroidery and appliqué - its looks very smooth and the stitches are all equal.  But personally, I don't like it.  I think that the end result looks a little too 'mass produced'.  I am not saying that I think that hand-made should look amateur but I think setting a machine and pressing go and coming back when its finished takes some of the hand-made out of hand-made.  But that's just me.

OK, back to it. Grab some practise fabric - preferably a similar type of cotton fabric that you are using to appliqué with.  Take your zig-zag setting width to a reasonably narrow sitting and the length super small - I on my Janome I set the width to 2.4 and the length to 0.4.  When you are happy with the settings, write down then down so you can set your machine when you need to.  You may need to adjust your tension too.  You can see my test strip below.

Once you are happy with the settings, you are ready to go!

Step 3: Sewing your appliqué
In this tutorial I am going to use straight stitch for the leaves and stem and appliqué stitch for the apple.  For this design I am going to colour match the thread for the apple but use a contrasting white for the stem and leaves (plus it means you can see where I am stitching). You can leave your bobbin cotton as white or off white as you will not see it from the front.  If you want, you can match the bobbin colours on the backside too (I used to do this but I went insane from filling bobbins).

Set your machine speed to slow (if you can).  Start stitching your leaves where they meet the apple like so, about 1-2mm in from the edge of the leaves.  Apologies for my photos...

Gently guide the machine around the curves, stopping and moving the garment as you need  If you have a setting that leaves the needle in the down position whenever you stop stitching, have this on -  its a life saver.

Keep stitching around the leaves and stem until you are back down to the apple!

Now you need to change out your thread to match your apple (or contrast with white or accent pink) and set your machine to the settings that you wrote down when you were setting up.

Start at the top of the apple, covering the start of the white stitching as you go - this will make it look neat and acts to secure the white stitching. You want to have the majority of the applique stitch on the apple and just the edge of the stitch going into the garment, as below.

Keep stitching all the way around the apple until you are back to the top. Run slightly over the start.  The photo below, with the purple arrow (I am so technical) shows the stitching - I really need to work on my photos.  Please let me know if you would like so super close-ups (and I will then call in my husband).

Well done!  Almost there.

Step : Finishing your appliqué
 A lot of people take a short cut here.  But I don't.  I hand tie and sew in all the ends of my appliqué work.  On some of my more detailed designs I used 4 or 5 colours and perhaps had up to 20 or so ends to tie and sew in. Multiply that by 25 garments and it took time. A lot of time. But finishing an appliqué well is important to me.  I wanted it to be as neat and secure as it could be. 

Before you start this, you will need to turn the garment in-side out and remove the Fusible-Tear-Away - it comes off pretty easily.  You may need a large blunt darning needle or similar to remove little bits if your design is very detailed.

Once this is done I turn the garment back the right way and using a fine needle, I sew the threads through to the back (or you can pull them through from the back).  When they are all on back side, I turn the garment inside out again and then tie each pair of threads three times, trim the ends and sew them through, as below.

Once you have sewn them all in, it will look this from the inside;

I think it is worth it as the garment will look neat and tidy on the inside and all the stitches will be super secure.  Then give the garment a quick iron and you are done. Simple!

Thank you all for waiting the 7 years for the end of this tutorial.  I can only hope it was worth the wait.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

two papas, the sisters and a bandit crocodile...

A few more friends for the re-launched grandy and baa

The two papas are very sweet.  Families come in many ways; all shapes, all sizes and all combinations.  Our family is a wonderful thing - an enormous example of all that is great in the world.  Some of these little dolls will reflect the absolute loveliness of families and the two papas are and the sisters are the beginning.  The sisters are sweet and soft and perfect for holding tight.

The bandit crocodile is just plain trouble.  But who doesn't love a little bit of trouble?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Back with sweet friends...

After many years away from my little etsy store, I am re-opening grandy and baa on 28 November 2014.  But its a tiny bit different.  There are no tee-shirts or dresses or twirly skirts, for now at least...

This time there are sweet little friends for small people.  Something to hug tight or to sleep resting on.  A doll made of soft velvet to whisper to. Little bears and cats of soft woolens and silks to hold close.  An ear to chew and a tail to grasp. A bandit crocodile to plot with or a whale to journey the seas with.

I hope you like them.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Minnie - growing into an even more beautiful girl every single day

Louis - he makes my heart sing

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Penelope Violet...

The new addition.  The substitute baby.  We are all in love with her.

Sunday, 19 May 2013


"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013."

I am joining this group very late but as they say, better late than....

Louis: Feet that have just turned 3 with the newest member of our family, Miss Penelope Violet
Minnie: I can see her adult face under her crazy hat - a beautiful face 


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

grow: our garden

Living in the city means there are lots of great things right on our doorstop.  We live close enough to easily walk to the "down town" but we are in a lovely area on a quite street with a wonderful park just around the corner.  As I have mentioned before, school is around the corner and day care is only up the road a bit so it really is perfect.  The only downside is that our garden space is small.  But this hasn't stopped us when it comes to growing our own food.

Pots: We have a range of tubs in the garden that are a combination of traditional plant pots, hand made timber planters and IKEA storage tubs, simply with drain holes drilled in the bottom.  The red IKEA tubs are much cheaper than traditional planters and although they may fail after a few seasons of sunlight, they are also recyclable.

Soil:  I try and buy good quality organic potting mix and manure to feed the soil.  Good soil it the key to growing good food!  CERES in Brunswick is a great place for potting mix (and plants)

Plants:  Over the summer we grew cherry tomatoes, large tomatoes, strawberries (tiny and sweet), cucumbers, rocket, basil (and a wide range of other herbs), peas, dwarf beans, swish chard, and beetroots.  We did not use any sprays or powders or chemicals of any sort and we had great success with hardly any loss to insects.  Now, heading into winter, we have in carrots (purple and 'bunny balls'), broccolini, mini cabbages, more Swiss chard (its has not stopped growing), kale and kohlrabi plus the herb garden.

With only a tiny space and a lot of love, we are producing some delicious vegetables, herbs and fruit.  And the benefit for the children?  I am sure you all know how wonderful the experience it is for them.  There is nothing quite like walking out the front door and picking your dinner.

 Do you grown plants or herbs?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Cook: Chicken Schnitzel Or 'Around the World with Crumbed Chicken...'

For those of you that eat meat I am sure you are already familiar with the wonders of a delicious free range chicken breast crumbed and pan fried.  Any of you with children will know that great adage - 'crumb it and they will come (to the table and eat it.')   Some thing wonderful happens when a plain old bit of chicken is floured, egg dipped, crumbed and fried.  I am sure there are chemical equations that describe this particular process and all its glory.

I don't need to tell you how to crumb 2 chicken breasts but if I do, the fast and dirty version is as follows;

- Remove the tenderloins (these become the mini schnitzels for the children) and then slice the breast through into 2 thin breasts.  Bash then if you like to flatten them a little.
- Dust in seasoned flour (flour with salt and pepper).
- Shake off excess and the dip in egg (2-3 eggs whisked with a little milk).  Let the excess drip off.  - Then to the crumbs.  If you want to be fancy use Panko bread crumbs - the Japanese crumbs are delicious.  However the average 3 year old will not really care so you can happily use crumbs you make at home by whizzing the crusts and stale bread you find on top of the fridge...
- Dip the floured eggy chicken into the crumbs and make sure you cover it all.  For a super crumby outside, repeat the egg wash and crumbing again.  You don't have to.  2 breasts done this way will get you 4 thin breast sized schnitzels and the 2 mini tenderloin schnitzels.
- Cook - add oil  (I like rice bran as an all purpose cooking oil) to heavy based (non-stick if you have it) pan and cook over medium until brow and crunchy on the outside. 5 minutes or so on each side (depending on hob and pan so you will be much better at knowing when they are cooked).

These are out top 5 ways that we enjoy a chicken schnitzel.*

1. German Style - cook your schnitzel as above and serve with sauerkraut (the Edgell's can variety is very good and is in the canned good section at your local store), potatoes (either creamy mash or a German potato salad), a dill gherkin and some mustard perhaps?  Stella will not eat the sauerkraut but Louis will.  I serve Stella's with a corn cob- one of the only veggies that she will willingly eat. 

2. Tonkatsu Style -this is one of own favourites and super simple.  All you need to get hold of is Tonkatsu sauce from a Japanese supermarket/Asian grocer.  Its a spicy fruity BBQ sauce.  Once you have cooked the schnitzel, you simply serve will some rice, some very, very finely shredded raw cabbage (use normal old cabbage, shred and then place in iced water - keeps it really crispy).  Drain your cabbage and serve.  The sauce is the key.  If you can't get it, any spicy BBQ type sauce will be good.

3. Parmigiana - this is the simple no frills version.  Next time you make a thick tomato based pasta sauce, keep some and freeze it to use here.  Once you have cooked your schnitzels (as above) place them on a baking try.  Turn on your grill. Warm the defrosted pasta sauce a little and spoon same sauce on each schnitzel, sprinkle on some grated cheese and (tasty or mozzarella) place under the pre-heated grill.  Remember to watch it as this is the bit when I forget and go off to remove a small Lego part from a child's body...  When the cheese is melted, you are done!  Serve with chips and salad or just salad (but we all really want chips too so please, have the chips).

4. Curry Style - Japanese curry sauce served over a pork schnitzel becomes a Katsu Karre and becomes even more delicious.  I use chicken schnitzel here as well.  Bill Granger does a Japanese Pork Curry that is perfect - just don't use meat when you make the curry - just veggies.  There are lots of simple Keens Curry based vegetable curries that you could make to use (just Google it)! 

5. Kiev - Deconstructed Style - everyone loves a Kiev, no?  But everyone knows that the garlic butter melts out and ends up all over the oven try.  This is a solution you will love.  In a small pot add about 125g butter, 2 garlic gloves (finely chopped or grated), a small handful of parsley, finely chopped and a small handful of chives, finely chopped.  Warm over low heat until butter is melted.  The add a bit of lemon zest to zest things up!  Serve your schnitzel (which you cooked as above) with mash and some green beans and drizzle the garlicky herb butter 'sauce' over the schnitzel. You will love it.  Thanks to Gourmet Traveller for this amazing idea.

*Pork is more traditional for the Tonkatsu Style and veal would be more authentic for the German Style.  However, chicken is much easier to chew when you are 2 or 82 so I am happy to use chicken!  We buy Lilydale free-Range or RSPCA approved.  I know that they are more expensive but eating meat that had a happy life is important to us.  
**Image is a photo from  Australian Gourmet Traveller. June 2010

Monday, 22 April 2013

Organisation (the one where I seem a whole lot more organised than I am...)

In order to try and balance our crazy busy working weeks, we have had to become organised on a whole new level.  At times our house runs like a well oiled machine, other times its struggling to start but for the most part, we are pretty good at this!  The still time in the evenings has become the time to fold washing, sort washing, do washing, hang out washing... When I used to read, I now vacuum.  No time for loafing about - all those tiny Lego bits need to be picked up for the 10000th time this week! I am sure you all know what its like.

And time for just the two together as adults of us is minimal - sometimes we do the dishes together!  And sometimes he takes out the cat poop at the same time I am out dealing with the dog poo - romantic times here.

But you know, you have to keep organised and in control of the mess or it will take over.  And no one is happy in a messy house.  So here are a few things that have helped me and  may help you a little in managing your busy weeks.

1. Plans meals and menus for the week
Every weekend I sit in front of the my entire shelf of cook book and plan the menu for the week.  It's part of my Saturday morning ritual - one of the children brings the paper in, Steve makes the coffees and I check out what Neil Perry is cooking that week.  This often becomes our Saturday night dinner too (thanks Neil - the taco's were fantastic).  Then I flip through my cook books finding things to cook.  I have to take into consideration that Stella is a fussy eater, which, I might add is the most stressful part of the whole process.

I try and include one pasta dish, one rice dish, one soup/stew, one meat free dish and one baked beans dinner (everyone needs a bakes beans dinner and its often our Tuesday night fare).  As we get in at around 6:00pm our week night meals needs to be fast and simple.  No time for fancy plated up drool worthy dishes.  If they are not fed by 6:30pm the children will be (more ) feral.

Weekends are when I get the chance to spend more time in the kitchen cooking up a feast, which I love doing.  On Sunday nights I also cook Mondays dinner, like a lasagne, that I can easily re-heat when we get in on Monday night.  Wednesday is my day 'off' so cook a more involved meal and I also cook an extra dinner to have on Thursday night. There will be another post soon on the recipes and the way I balance the cooking for the week.

2. Have a wall planner
It doesn't have to be fancy and I say the simpler the better. After trying desperately hard to remember when piano lessons where, due dates for school notices and when appointment were (and eventually failing at it) I got hold of this wall planner from Kikki K.  Its plain - no cute puppies or Scottish castles.  Its just an A2 pad with 30 tear off pages, one month to a page.  I just write in the month (with my Kikki K stamps of course) and add the dates and off I go. As Stella can read, its useful for her to keep a check on when her events are on. (This is not an advertisement but the Monthly Planner here from Kikki K is on sale at the moment). 

3. Buy in bulk
There are stores, a large American one in particular, where you can buy things in huge bulk quantities.  I admit that the store and its " in your face crazed frantic consumerism" makes me feel ill but I concede that when you are on a budget there are savings to be had.  Much of the criticism surrounding a store like this is that its American owned however for the most we only buy Australian products there.  We usually buy flour, toilet roll, cat litter, canned tomatoes and cleaning products.  We sometimes buy their Australian free range chicken and organic pork.  Other good places for bulk buys are local Continental supermarkets (for canned tomatoes) and the German supermarket (you know what I mean).  Buying some things in bulk is about savings but also about having plenty on hand.

What tips do you have for being organised? I would love to hear them.