30 June 2014

Menu Plan Monday


Beef Stew
Biscuits (Scones)


Shredded Chicken Burritos


Pumpkin Soup (leftovers from last week)


Beef Stroganof






Make your own Pizza Party

27 June 2014

Friday Favorites

Have you read The Cheap Chica's Guide to Style? I found it here in the library in Wellington, New Zealand, and read it cover to cover in a day. I want to bring Lilliana Vazquez to New Zealand and have her work her magic for us here - find all the places to shop great deals and take me with her! I am not by any stretch a fashionista, but I do want to look good. I love that her tips work for all budgets and all body shapes. All of us girls have different challenges. Mine happens to be that I seem to fit in between straight and plus sizes. I'm too curvy for the straight sizes and not curvy enough for plus. So frustrating, right? The Cheap Chica's solution? Find the things you like that will flatter your shape, get them for a steal, and then take them to the tailor and have them altered to fit you. She also lists some basics that every wardrobe should have and recommends that if you don't have those items, make a list and start looking.  

Inspired by the book, I dropped in to the local Salvation Army and instead of giving the clothing racks a miss and heading for the books like usual, I took a quick browse. For $5 I found a fully lined, tailored little black dress in great condition. $20 for dry cleaning and I've got a new dress! 

You can find the book HERE, and her website HERE

I was not asked to promote this website or the book and have not been compensated in any way for this post.

25 June 2014

Works in Progress

Typically, I have more projects going than I really have time for, but at least I can't complain of boredom.

A blue corduroy jacket for my youngest - the blue is really not that purple btw

Another dress from GoTo Patterns - this one will be interesting. 
I realized while I was cutting that the knit fabric is a bit see through.
I will be fully lining this dress with a lightweight knit lining. We'll see how it goes.

Got to fill an order in my SHOP

A hat for my daughter - the curl up under a blanket on the couch project

And some finish work to do on this little cardi, also for my daughter.

Look for some new posts from the Tween Fashionista and possibly her brother soon!

Lemon-Lime Yoghurt Cake - Gluten Free

We like to do things wheat free around here sometimes. This is a cake that is very moist and custardy and has a great lemon/lime zing to it.

Lemon-Lime Yoghurt Cake

3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 lemon and 1 lime, juiced
2 tsp. lemon and lime zest
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup corn flour
1 cup Greek-style yoghurt (plain, lemon or vanilla)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Lemon-lime syrup

1 lime and 1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon and lime juice
2 Tbsp. water

Beat egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy. Add lemon/lime juices and zest and blend well. Mix in flours, yoghurt and oil. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold egg whites into batter. Pour into greased 8x8 baking pan or 9" cake pan. Bake at 180 C or 350 F for 40-45 minutes. Test with a cake tester to make sure it is done before removing from oven.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, pour hot tap water over the lime/lemon zest and let sit. Combine sugar, water and lemon/lime juice in a small sauce pan and heat to a boil, Simmer, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens (3-5 minutes).

Using a skewer, poke 15 -20 holes in the top of the cake and pour about half of the hot syrup over, letting it soak in before pouring the other half. Let the cake cool completely. Serve with yoghurt or cream.

23 June 2014

Menu Plan Monday

This week it's looking like a clean out the fridge/freezer week. Not only did I go a little over budget last week, but the freezer is getting pretty full and it's not so big that we can really get away with that. So here's a menu made up of what we have on hand with the addition of fresh produce.


Ham, white bean and kale soup
Corn muffins


Meat loaf
Mashed potatoes


Citrus chicken 
Roasted Vege


Pumpkin Soup




BBQ Chicken
Fruit Salad


Chicken Parmesan (Crock pot)

20 June 2014

Friday Favorites

1. There's a little peanut butter company called Fix and Fogg. They operate here in Wellington, NZ. It is the absolutely best peanut butter I have ever had. As in eat it with a spoon from the jar just like in the picture. I don't know if they want to go international, but if you have a favorite shop that looks to import high quality goods, this is one to tell them about.

2.  Gorgeous stationery by Avie Designs. Unique and detailed and maybe in a shop near you!

3. A great, easy to follow skirt tutorial by Angry Chicken. The best part? Anyone can make this skirt to their own measurements. 

18 June 2014

Gluten Free and Almost Sugar Free Apple Crisp

We all know I am not the queen of fancy pictures, but I think this is especially sad. This is halfway through dessert when I realized I forgot to take a picture and was too lazy to get up and had my 10 year old daughter do it instead. So I really can't complain. But trust me. This was worthy of a much better photo.

Gluten and Almost sugar Free Apple Crisp

Slice about 8 apples nice and thin and dump in an 8x8 pan. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the apples and stir it in. Top with Almond Crisp topping.

Almond Crisp Topping
disclaimer: I just sort of throw this together by feel. It needs to look and feel a little like cookie dough when done.

100 g butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup quick oats
3/4 cup almond flour - or more or less, depending on the consistency

Mix together and spread over the apples. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is browned and crisp. 

My kids like a little more sugar, so they eat this with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. I'm good with it just as it is, warm from the oven. 

17 June 2014

Around Wellington - Earthquake Park

If there is a geotechnical engineer in your life, at some point, you will go on an earthquake field trip. Well, probably more than once. Depending on how nerdy you are, you might find this additional information interesting. I believe that clicking on the link will allow you to download the pdf. If you do this, we will know you are super-nerdy. If you don't do this, you won't know that four major Active faults run through the Wellington region. 

One of the cool things about Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt, is that you can see the offset terraces where one of those major Active faults cuts across the river.

There was also a really cool dead tree,

And pretty much all the parks have a flying fox. Or two. 
Eventually, we all had enough of earthquakes and flying foxes, and we headed over to check out some other areas of geotechnical interest - old railway lines and tunnels in the Pakuratahi Forest.

 We had a flashlight, and we were prepared to head in, and then my daughter saw this sign:

 and said, "No thanks." So we took a few photos and headed back to the car. A good day.

16 June 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Summer memories

Ever have a week when you just don't really want to cook?


Panini - Variety
I want Tuna Salad, but I'll be the only one.


Black Bean and Kumara Burritos - because I want them again
Just plain black bean burritos for the kids...





Sausages and Chips





13 June 2014

Friday Favorites

1.  White flippered penguins
2.  Poetry on the boardwalk 
3. Lampwork beads by Meital
4. Underwater hockey. It's a thing. I may be the only person who thought it was a joke. It's not a joke. It's a thing. I wonder if I would feel short of breath just watching?

12 June 2014

Little Fashionista and the Infinity Scarf

Every girl needs one of these. I used the tutorial over at Spoonflower Blog. It's clear and easy to follow, and other than matching up my stripes (a huge pain) this was a quick and fun project. She loves it!

11 June 2014

Black Bean and Kumara over Rice

Generally speaking, I can get most of the usual ingredients I need here in New Zealand. Except when I can't. I can get black beans in cans, but in my local supermarket, they are usually in a chili sauce. Not sure why. So, I bought me a big back of black beans to make my own. They are from Canada. Turns out it was pretty inexpensive, and we like black beans anyway. Also it gives my kitchen some style.

I can get jalapenos, and other kinds of chile peppers. They are consistently hotter than I am used to. Is it because they are more fresh? Is it the soil? The air? I wish I knew. But even the ones marked mild deserve to be treated with some caution. So far, my experience is that the chile powder is not Mexican. Is it Indian? Thai? I don't know. What I do know is it is HOT.

Sweet potatoes I can get, or the next closest thing to a sweet potato, the kumara.Which is basically a sweet potato. It comes in purple, orange and red (white inside).

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos is the recipe, over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Just substitute Kumara for the Sweet Potato, coriander for cumin, capsicum for bell pepper (all different names for the same thing) and go easy on those "mild" chiles.
Good luck with the chipotle chile powder. I brought mine in my suitcase... I used Colby and Tasty cheese for the sharp and jack, and we served ours over rice instead of in a tortilla, but either way, it's fabulous. Go make some of this now. You won't be sorry.

10 June 2014

Around Wellington - Mt. Victoria

It's a pretty nice view from up here. Mt. Victoria, or Mt. Vic as they say locally, is the best place to go if you want a panoramic view of Wellington. We visited just before sunset. 

This brass cannon was hauled up the mountain in the 1870's by the AC Airforce and volunteers. They would haul it as far as they could, anchor it for the night and come back the next day to haul it up a little higher. It was used to sound the noon signal until 1900.
Fig. 127.—The Gun on Mt. Victoria. This gun was hauled up by the A.C. Force and Volunteers in the seventies. Major W. S. Moorhouse states that all hands would haul it up a certain distance and anchor it for the night, and the same performance was carried out until the gun was placed in the position it now occupies (1929). The Basin Reserve is in a line (a few hundred feet below) with the cannon's mouth. The Wellington College is on the left of it.

09 June 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Our favorite pathway to school


Chicken Noodle Soup


Fish - Tarakihi probably cooked like this


Stir Fry
Rice noodles


Fettucine Alfredo






Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

06 June 2014

Friday Favorites

You probably think I eat a lot of candy. It seems like I always have a favorite that's a treat. I don't actually like gummies all that much, but I am impressed. Absolutely impressed at the sheer variety of gummies available in New Zealand. In the top left square (obviously) are the gummie boa constrictors I bought the kids the other day. They are huge. And kind of creepy. 

In the top right, some butter spreaders from a fun Etsy shop called Wooden Hive. If you can imagine it on a piece of old silverware, she will probably put it there for you. I have her garden markers made from old spoons, and I love them. Her bridal forks can be found at Anthropologie. 

It's winter now, and while it's not as cold as Colorado temperature-wise, it can be pretty chilly. I don't find I need a puffy ski jacket like I see a lot of people wearing, but I sure want a scarf and mittens. It's the wind people. The Wind. And sometimes the rain and The Wind. So, in the bottom left photo, I am featuring a unique blend of merino wool and possum fur that is amazingly warm and soft. The production of this yarn blend is also a part of an ongoing effort to save New Zealand native bush and bird species by reducing the number of brushtail possum. Possum Merino. Try it out.

In the bottom right is the infinity scarf. My favorite. It can be worn for style, or warmth and if you click over to the Spoonflower blog, there's a tutorial on how to make one yourself. 

Happy Weekend!

05 June 2014

Little Fashionista and the Tunic Dress

I am probably going to need to re-name this post. She's not all that little anymore. 

I found this fabulous sweater knit fabric at The Fabric Warehouse in Wellington. I was lost in that shop for longer than I meant to be, but I've never seen so many fabulous knits in one place in my life. Also the bargain bins were fantastic. Anyway, I wanted something that would have a little weight to it and be a little warmer for winter weather. I also love this color of blue on my daughter. 

I used a pattern for this, McCalls 6785, and only made a few adjustments. The pattern was good, overall, but it could use some work in the instructions for the cowl neck. One of the very common failings of commercial patterns is the occasional (or not so occasional) omission of clear instructions for attaching collars to garments. A more experienced sewist can work it out, mostly because we've all unpicked a collar or two that was sewn on wrong sided due to poor instructions, but in a pattern labelled "EASY" there should be more detailed instructions. 


1. I chose to make size 12 for the length, but adjusted the body to her measurements so that it wouldn't look like a sack.
2. I used a casing instead of the seam allowance for the drawstrings on the sides. It didn't add too much bulk to the seam, and it allowed me to serge the entire side seam. Sturdy side seams are very important for this kid.
3. I made the cowl just slightly wider than the pattern for a better drape, and because my daughter really doesn't like things up against her neck. 

Overall, I recommend this pattern for brave beginners and more experienced sewists. I think the end product is current and comfortable. So does the tween fashionista. 

04 June 2014

Cooking Mexican in New Zealand - Homemade Black Beans

This is an incredibly simple and delicious dish. It can be served over rice with a little coriander (cilantro), or used in other dishes, like burritos, or as a side with a meat dish.

*Please note - I make a LOT. I like to freeze some for easy meals later, so it is possible to cut this recipe in half and have plenty for dinner.
*Also note - If you don't like chunks of onion, etc. just chop the pieces big and remove them before serving. The onions and garlic are very important to the final flavor, so you don't want to leave them out.

Crock Pot Black Beans

1 kg dry black beans, rinsed and sorted
2 onions, diced
1 large jalapeno, sliced open and seeded (unless your whole family likes it hot)
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. salt

Place the beans in a large bowl. Cover with water and stir around in the bowl with your hand to remove any dirt. Drain in a colander and pick out any small rocks, small stones or wrinkled beans. Rinse again and drain. Cover beans with water and soak overnight. In the morning, drain and rinse the beans and pour into slow cooker.
Add the chopped onion, jalapeno, whole garlic and bay leaves and cover with water. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. If all the water has been absorbed, add more. Test the beans after 3 hours to see if they are done. When the beans are done, add the salt and let cook about half an hour more. Remove the bay leaves and garlic cloves, large onion chunks and jalapeno.
Serve immediately, or allow to cool and store in Ziploc bags in the freezer. Frozen beans will keep up to 3 months. You can also mash them up a bit and use like refried beans.

03 June 2014

Menu Plan... Tuesday

Beautiful winter morning in Wellington

We just had the Queen's birthday weekend, and it was lovely to have Monday off. Maybe the rest of my week will be a little off, but it's worth it. 


Black Bean and Kumara Burritos


BBQ Chicken drumsticks
Potato Salad


Beef Stew


Pizza Bread