29 September 2014

Menu Plan Monday


Chicken and Veg Falafels
Yoghurt Dressing


Roasted Veg Frittata


Chicken Satay


Taco Night


Pizza Night





25 September 2014

Tween Fashionista Opts for a Quick Pair of Shorts - Tutorial

Just a quick and easy tutorial today. This is mostly geared to those who are just getting started with the upcycling/recycling of clothing and op-shop fashion finding. 

I found a great pair of pants at Mary Potter Hospice in Kilburnie the other day. They are in beautiful condition, sturdy but soft twill, and a good basic color. And the pockets on the back are so cool. They were a perfect fit on my daughter, except the legs were about 4 inches too long. 

I asked our Tween Fashionista if she would like pants or shorts and she opted for long shorts. Huh. Not what I expected. No big deal though. If she decides she wants them shorter, that's an easy fix. 

Here's how to make shorts out of pants:

You can use a pair of shorts that fit well and you like the length, or put on the pants and mark where you want to cut them off. Don't forget to allow for hem. Alternatively, you can finish them like these shorts. I always measure the finished length from the inseam. It's the easiest way to be sure you're going to end up with the length you planned on.

I cut each leg separately so that I can be sure both legs will end up the same length. Line up the hem with the lines on your cutting mat, measure to the inseam length plus hem allowance. Measure twice, then cut. If you don't have a cutting mat and rotary cutter, you can measure and draw a line on the pants and cut along the line. 

At this juncture, it's a good idea to try on the pants/shorts and make sure you're happy with the length. It's also a good time to mark the hem. At this juncture, I still thought they were too long... but she didn't.

Measure and press the hem and stitch. I put a 1 1/4" hem on these. Sorry there's no photo, but just in case you've never done the hem before: measure and fold over (to the wrong side) 1 1/4 inches. Press. Fold under 1/4" and press. Stitch close to the edge to catch the folded fabric underneath. Press again. If you want your hem to match the seams on the pants, lengthen your stitches a bit.


I was right about the pockets. She might be right about the length.

24 September 2014

Energy Bars

These no-bake energy bars are delicious and completely free of any processed sugars or flours. They are also dairy free, gluten free, and vegan.

Nutty and Sweet Energy Bars
from Gutbliss

1 cup nuts (walnuts, cashews, or almonds, or a blend)
1 1/2 cup dates, pitted
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. cinnamon or 1/2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. vanilla

Place ingredients in order in a food processor. Process until the dates and nuts are finely ground and the mixture is damp and slightly sticky. Press into an 8x8 baking dish. Cut into slices and store in the fridge for up to a week. 

22 September 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Doing our September version of "April showers" 


Enchiladas (made by a friend)


Pork Schnitzel (from last Sunday)
Mashed potatoes




Breakfast for dinner


Pizza night


Crock pot - French Dips?



19 September 2014

More Sewing for the Boys - Sewing Inspiration

The last time I posted about sewing for the boys, it was all about the dress clothes. That's great, because there's not much cuter than a boy in a blazer. Most of the time though, boys like comfy clothes. Clothes for running and playing and getting dirty. Here's a collection of items that I am going to get working on soon. Well, relatively soon. After I finalize the patterns for Lavender Avenue's new summer line. It is important to note that all of these items were selected by the boy. Especially the camo sweatshirt. That's his favorite.

I have grey sweatshirt fleece for the pants. I have assorted knits and thrifted tees for the baseball tee. I am still working on finding the right camo fleece for that sweatshirt. Good times.

What do your boys like to wear?

17 September 2014

Quinoa and Spinach Salad with Lemon and Cumin Dressing

Quinoa fun facts:
  • Quinoa is in the same family as spinach, Swiss chard, and beets
  • Quinoa has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Quinoa is not a cereal and is a good alternative to wheat and barley in a gluten-free diet

Quinoa can have a slightly bitter taste, but if you rinse it well with cold water before cooking, that problem is solved. 

This salad is perfect as a side, or as the main for a light meal. All the flavors blend into a tangy, nutty deliciousness that is completely guilt free. 

Quinoa and Spinach Salad with Lemon and Cumin Dressing
from Gutbliss

1 cup Quinoa
2 cups water
2 cups baby spinach, washed
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted *
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup olive oil

Rinse quinoa and cook according to package directions. Let cool 5 minutes. Wash and drain spinach and place in a bowl. Stir in the cooked quinoa and let the warm quinoa wilt the spinach leaves a little. Toss in the pine nuts and raisins. Wisk the lemon juice and cumin together and gradually add the olive oil to make a dressing. Pour over the quinoa/spinach mixture and mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*To toast the pine nuts, I just toss them in a skillet on the stove over medium heat and stir them around a bit until they are light brown and smell great. 

15 September 2014

Menu Plan Monday



Subway sandwiches (AND McDonalds for the kid who refused to eat at Subway)


Slow cooker Chinese Pork Noodles - This actually got made on Wednesday. Forgot to get the meat out of the freezer, planned something else, went to cook dinner and my oven was broken. Fish N Chips happened.

Kebab - Had the meal planned for Tuesday


Chili Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Kumara andSpinach
based on this recipe - Not too thrilled with the veg side. Pork was good


Fish n Chips - Kebab from Wednesday


leftovers - Cooked all day for something else. Got Indian Takeaways


Schnitzel  - discovered that my kids were infested with lice. Didn't actually cook dinner. Some people ate cereal.
Mashed potatoes

Is every week like this? Kind of. Minus the lice infestation. That was special.

12 September 2014

Friday Favorites

Not being big tea drinkers, the vast usefulness of an electric teakettle had never occurred to us. Then we moved to New Zealand, and someone loaned us a kettle along with some dishes to tide us over until our container came. I will never be able to live without one again. Aside from being able to produce hot water for a cup of tea or Milo in an instant, it also turns out to be perfect for those recipes that call for boiling water. 

The electric tea kettle has scootched right in alongside the KitchenAid mixer and the Cuisinart - one of the necessary kitchen appliances. 

I might be the last person on earth to figure this out, and if so, that's OK. I'm there now.

Do you have a favorite kitchen appliance?

11 September 2014

Tween Fashionista and the Recycled T-shirts

If the vibe you're getting off the photo above is the eye-rolling-do-we-seriously-have-to-do-this-right-now-Mom vibe, then you're definitely getting the right vibe. Also somewhat justified, we were late for school. But when she's wearing the thing you need a photo of, sometimes you take the photo. Late or not. 

Last week, we collected a selection of women's t-shirts from various Op Shops and we made skirts out of them. This is an ideal project for a beginning sewist because all there really is to do is put in a casing, run the elastic through and sew it up. Ta-da! Easy and quick, and very rewarding. Which is what you need when you're working with a tween.

We collected 4 shirts. They are all size medium or large except the grey tie-dye one. It's a maternity top. More about that later. The beautiful thing about this project is that the hem and side seams are done already. Nice!

 Here are the basic steps:

1. Measure the length of a skirt that you like the length of, or measure from the waist to where you would like the hem to fall on the leg.

2. Lay the shirt out flat on a cutting mat and make sure that it is smooth and flat. Line up the bottom edge with the lines on the mat. Double check everything, then cut with a rotary cutter.

3. Make the casing. I had 3/4" elastic, so I made my casing about 1" or 3 cm. If you don't have one of those nifty measuring tools pictured below, get one. It's one of the best investments I've ever made. I think it cost about $3.

4. Sew the casing, leaving a 4 cm opening for inserting the elastic. Measure your child's waist and cut the elastic to that measurement. Insert the elastic. Making sure it is not twisted, overlap the edges of the elastic and stitch. I use a zigzag stitch on the elastic as it allows for a little more movement than the straight stitch. 

You're done! Wasn't that great? Now you can add embellishments if you wish. On this particular skirt, I unpicked the pocket from the chest and sewed it onto the skirt, just for fun. 

Okay. About the maternity top. When I went to cut it, I realized that the front was longer than the back (duh, maternity shirt) and there wasn't really anything I could do about it. Well, nothing I wanted to do about it, to be precise. So I looked at it for a bit and thought about it and then I put the casing in and made the shirt front the skirt back. So what we ended up with was a high/low skirt. The Tween Fashionista approves, so it's all good. 

10 September 2014

Enchiladas In the Crockpot - Cooking Mexican in New Zealand

I believe I've mentioned before that there are a few things that I either can't get here, or won't get because they are too expensive. Enchilada sauce and corn tortillas are two of those things. I haven't seen enchilada sauce yet, and corn tortillas? Phew! Expensive. I can make my own, and I do, but that's another post. 
Anyway, we had a craving for enchiladas and we also had a busy week. I decided why not try cooking them in the crock pot? We think they turned out alright. More of a casserole than an enchilada, but the flavor was right, so no complaints there.

Enchiladas in the Crockpot

1 lb ground beef 
1 onion, chopped
6-8 flour tortillas (or a bunch of corn tortillas if you have them)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Make the enchilada sauce according to the directions. Cook the ground beef with the onions until nicely browned. Drain. Mix about 3/4 cup enchilada sauce into the ground beef and onions. Spread a thin layer of the ground beef mixture in the bottom of your crock pot. Layer on the tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Add another layer of ground beef mixture and so on, until you have used up all the ground beef. Top with a layer of tortilla and cheese and pour the remaining enchilada sauce over everything. Add more or less, depending on how you like it. Cook on low, 5 hours. Serve with rice and salad and your favorite accompaniments. 

09 September 2014

Around Wellington - Otari-Wilton's Bush

Oh how lovely is the morning. The kids are at school and I am taking myself for a walk. I am sure I will post more adventures about the Otari-Wilton's Bush because it's huge, but for now, here is a look at early spring in the bush.

 A brief lecture on podocarp forests: Podocarps are coniferous trees native to the southern hemisphere. A podocarp forest can be luxuriant with a dense undergrowth of shrubs, ferns and tree-ferns. The few precious remnants of forest which survive often contain the highest diversity of plants and animals in the region. Otari-Wilton's bush is one of those precious places. 

Rimu is one of the species of tree commonly found in a podocarp forest. They can reach a height of 60 m or nearly 200 feet. Isn't the bark (above) amazing? This tree is about 400 years old. It is a host to many plants called epiphytes - plants that use another plant for support. It's not the best photo (below) but you can see the air roots of the rata wound around the rimu trunk and dangling down toward the ground, and the other plants growing up in the branches. 

 Tree ferns and other types of ferns are plentiful here, creating a rich undergrowth. I can hear birds everywhere, but I can't see them.

What a lovely start to my day. I will be back again, there are trails that lead to all kinds of places that I am eager to explore.

08 September 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Learning about tivaevae, or traditional Pacifica quilting techniques

A couple of things going on this week. The husband will be out of town, and I am gearing up to launch my spring/summer 2015 line in my etsy shop.  So lots of sewing this week. Lots of salad for me and lots of easy, kid pleasing meals. 

What are your best kid pleasing meals?


Macaroni Cheese




Potato Cheese soup


Sandwiches and Salad


Pizza Night





05 September 2014

Sewing Inspiration - Girl Style

I love sewing for my daughter. She loves being a part of the whole process, and truth be told, she needs to be. She needs time to accept and assimilate new garments into her wardrobe. Sometimes things have to hang in her closet for weeks before making the cut to be worn out of the house. She's also fun to sew for because she loves modeling her new things, which is very nice for taking photos. 

Here are some things I've been looking at for spring:

Embroidered tunic tee - J Crew $39.50
Cowgirl shorts - J Crew $49.50
Sunglasses - River Island £ 6.00
Converse - Nordstrom $39.95

Unlike last Friday, when I showed you the Boy Style, I haven't made any part of this outfit. I do want to try making a tunic top soon, and there is probably a pair of jeans in the closet that can be cut off and rolled like the shorts above. I need to work on my pants/shorts making skills. 

Meanwhile, I will be sharing our latest upcycled and refashioned project next week. After that it will be all about getting our new line ready to launch at Lavender Avenue

What inspires you to sew?

04 September 2014

Sweater Refashion

Once upon a time, there was a sweater that was really great. It was soft, a lovely green color, and the sleeves were extra long. All things to love. But, there was one major thing not too love. That sweater was too big in weird places. Not cool. The sweater went into the donation bin for a while, but one day, just for fun, it was brought out to play. 

For ages, I've been wanting to try making a sweater into a cardigan. I thought this would be the perfect thing to experiment on. Being a curvy girl, I don't need any extra bagginess in the tummy or the chest, or anywhere, really. I need clothes that fit properly. Since all the extra bagginess was in the front of this particular sweater, cutting it right up the front seemed like a great idea.

Here's a brief tutorial on how I made my sweater into a cardigan:

Step one: Find the front center line and draw a line using tailors chalk or a pencil.

Next: cut along that line, right up the center. It is probably a good idea to make sure that the fabric is not going to fray. If it is loosely woven, then sew a 1/4 inch seam on either side of the line you drew. This will prevent fraying of the fabric. 

Choose some coordinating fabric, probably a knit or woven cotton is best. I chose one of my stash favorites, a lovely cotton gauze by Anna Maria Horner. Cut two strips, 1 1/2 inches wide by the length of the raw edge plus a little extra for the hem. This will be sewn as a binding or button placket, depending on how you want to finish the edge. 

Fold over a 1/4 inch to the wrong side along a long side of each strip and iron. Pin the un-ironed edge to the raw edge of the sweater. Sew the raw edges, right sides together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance, turn and iron the seam flat. 

Here is where you get to choose whether you would like the fabric to show, like a binding tape, or whether you want it to be completely hidden. I decided to hide mine. I folded the fabric to the back and pinned, sewing another seam along the free edge to finish. 

I particularly like how the color of my sweater is completely different in each of these photos, taken in the same light at the same time and place... I can't be bothered to re-do it. I promise, it's the same sweater. 

The next step is to decide if you want buttons or some other kind of closure. Because the sweater fabric I was working with is really lightweight, and I didn't want buttons to weigh it down, I chose to use a brooch to pull the top together. I haven't really found the exact right brooch, but I will eventually. I'm pretty happy with it.

Have you recycled or refashioned anything lately?

03 September 2014

Kasha Salad with Apricots and Cashews

I was inspired to experiment with kasha  (roasted buckwheat groats) in an effort to find a substitute for couscous. Kasha is great for a gluten free diet, or just avoiding over-use of wheat. Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. It is related to rhubarb. This salad is hearty and filling and makes a great side dish or a full meal, depending on how hungry you are. 

Kasha Salad with Apricots and Cashews

1 cup kasha
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/3 cup currants
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup toasted cashews
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. orange juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
freshly ground sea salt to taste

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Pour in 1 cup kasha and reduce heat. Simmer gently 12-15 minutes or until kasha is cooked. Let cool.

While kasha is cooking, soak apricots and currants in 1 cup hot orange juice. After about 15 minutes, drain juice into a bowl. You can use the reserved juice in the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. orange juice, salt and pepper.

Combine apricots, currants, kasha and cashews in a large bowl.  Stir in dressing. Serve warm or cold, plain, or over a bed of spinach.

01 September 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Otari-Wilton's Bush


Pasta with marinara


Fruit (maybe pineapple?)


Baked Potato Bar


Orange slices


Pizza and Movie Night