29 October 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes

These cupcakes are light and fluffy, and perfect for any occasion.


1 2/3 cups (240g) all purpose flour
1 cup (200g) sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup butter (170g), room temperature
2 eggs (3 egg whites if you want a perfectly white cake)
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk

* I also occasionally add 1/2 a banana, mashed to this recipe. It's delicious.

Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). 
In a mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add egg whites, or if using whole eggs, add 1 at a time, beating well in between.  In a small bowl, combine sour cream, milk and vanilla, in another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Alternate adding milk, then flour mixture, blending well, until all ingredients are combined.

Line muffin tins with cupcake papers and fill 2/3 full with batter. Bake 17 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden brown and spring back when touched. Cool. Frost with your favorite frosting.

28 October 2014

Around Wellington - Springtime at the Botanic Gardens

Taking advantage of a gorgeous spring day to see the tulips, play in the gardens and have a wee picnic. People always say, "You can't beat Wellington on a good day." They say that because it's true. 

Happy kids on school holidays


27 October 2014

Menu Plan Monday

This is one of those weeks - we have tons of things going on, from Halloween to birthday parties, teas with friends, house hunting, and Grandpa and Grandma arrive on Thursday. Our first visitors here in New Zealand and we are super excited! Got to have easy, low prep meals going for those busy days. I also kinda need to clear out the freezer. 




Taco night


Veggie Frittata


Baked potatoes


Fish n' Chips


Pizza (birthday party tea)
Salad for the grown-ups


Pizza Night (YSA potluck)

23 October 2014

Tween Fashionista Remakes - Maxi Dress into Maxi Skirt

A couple of weeks ago, the Tween Fashionista put on this adorable maxi dress and declared it too tight. It probably isn't literally too tight, but she doesn't like things that squeeze. It's too cute to give up, so we decided to turn it in to a maxi skirt. It's super easy to do. Here's how we did it.

Measure the length, either using another skirt that you like, or by determining the length you want and measuring it from the bottom. Don't forget to allow for casing or seam allowance at the top - for this skirt, we decided to do a yoga type waist band. I also made it a little shorter than the striped one in the photo above - easier to run and play in.

Measure from the hem up, and cut the skirt portion. For the yoga waist band, cut a strip of fabric from the leftover fabric. To know how wide to cut your strip, measure the waist and then subtract 2-5 inches depending on the stretch of your fabric (*Note that you want the stretch to go side to side around your waist, not up and down). For the height, determine how high of a waistband you want. The Tween Fashionista doesn't like things high on her belly, so for our purposes, we are cutting a band that is 25 inches wide and 9 inches tall for her 28 inch waist. This includes seam allowances.

Even up the sides if necessary. Because I cut mine from the top of an a-line dress, there was a bit of an angle. Sew the seam on the waist band. I use my serger, but a zig-zag stitch works great.

Fold the waistband in half and match seams. Run a gather stitch in the top of the skirt piece. Gather the skirt piece to fit the waistband and pin about every inch. Stitch (I love my serger for this, but a zig-zag stitch will work great).

Serge or zig-zag waistband - the zig-zag or serged seam allows for stretch without breaking threads when the fabric is stretched.

She's wearing it, no complaints about the waistband. It's all good. 

And off she goes.

Have you re-purposed anything lately? 
If you have any questions about technique or terminology, leave them in the comments and I'll get right back to you. 

22 October 2014

Savory Vegetable Fritatta

Savory Vegetable Fritatta

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
8-10 asparagus stalks cut in bite size pieces and blanched
(in summer we use sliced zucchini instead of asparagus)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, divided
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
12 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk

Heat oven to 190 C (375 F). Heat an oven-proof saute pan on the stove. Add olive oil and butter. When butter is melted, add onion, bell pepper and mushrooms. Saute until onions are translucent and mushrooms are softened. Add garlic and asparagus and saute a few more minutes.
Meanwhile, beat eggs and milk together until frothy. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan and the cheddar cheese. Pour over the cooked vegetables in the saute pan. Salt and pepper to taste, and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes on stove top. Transfer pan to oven.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until set and golden brown on top. Remove from oven, ,sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Let cool slightly, then serve. We like to have fruit on the side.

20 October 2014

Menu Plan Monday




Teriyaki Chicken (leftovers)




Citrus Chicken Kebabs






Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Corn Muffins

16 October 2014

Sewing for the Kids - Pajama Tutorial

I've been working on new PJ's for my kids for summer.  I asked her to try them on, and now she won't take them off... so while I work on that, here's a tutorial so you can make some for your critters.

This is the easiest way I know to make PJ's. No pattern is needed. All you need is a pair of PJ bottoms that fit well and some fabric for the new pair. To prepare the fabric, prewash it, iron it and lay it out on a flat surface. I use my kitchen table. Fold the fabric over so that when you cut around the pattern bottoms, you are cutting 2.

1. Fold the bottoms you are using for your pattern in half, matching up the legs and lay them out on the folded fabric. You will cut out the front leg pieces first.

2. Cut about 5/8" away from the edge of the pattern bottoms, as shown by the blue string in picture 2 above. Remember that elastic pulls the waist in, and you will need to cut straight up from the curve at the crotch line, again, as shown in the photo. 

Allow an additional inch and a half at the top and an inch at the bottom for waistband and hem.

3. This is roughly what your cut-out piece should look like. 

4.  Fold over the fabric again and fold the pattern bottoms the other way and lay out on the fabric again. Now you are cutting the back leg pieces. 

5. I lay out the front leg pieces next to the backs as I cut to be sure that I am cutting the length the same. 

6. Match up one front piece with one back piece and lay right sides together. 

7. Sew up both sides of each leg. I used the serger, but if you don't have a serger, you can finish the edges with a zig-zag stitch and then straight stitch the seams. And oh, look! The sun came out just as I took that photo.

8. Turn one leg right side out.

9. Stuff the right side out leg into the other leg, right sides together, matching center seam.

10. Sew the crotch seam

11. Measure and press the casing for the elastic waist band. Press 1 1/4" then turn under 1/4" at the bottom. Stitch, leaving an opening at the back for inserting the elastic. You should end up with a 1 inch casing. Measure your child's waist and cut a length of 3/4" elastic to that measurement. Using a safety pin, insert elastic into the casing. For a tutorial on how to make a casing look here

12. Finish off opening, and if you like, insert a scrap of fabric as a tag. 


Just so you know, the boy didn't get left out. I also forgot to mention - I always pick up inexpensive t-shirts to use for the PJ tops. I got these for around $4. My kids like to have some kind of applique added so they know which top goes with which pants. It's easy! Are you going to make some?

15 October 2014

Chewy Molasses Cookies - Lunchbox Series

This is a family favorite that we haven't had for awhile. It's a little tricky finding regular molasses here in New Zealand, but I finally managed it. And no, black strap is not a substitute. Not even diluted. I don't want to talk about it.

Molasses Cookies

1 1/2 butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 1/2 cups flour
4 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ginger

(1/3 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies in)

Mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and mix well. Add dry ingredients all together and mix well.

Make 1" balls of dough and roll in a bowl of granulated sugar. Place on a cookie sheet and press balls with a fork (see below).

Bake 8 minutes at 180 C (350 F)

13 October 2014

Menu Plan Monday






Teriyaki Chicken
Rice Noodles


French Toast
Orange slices


Pizza Night





09 October 2014

Introducing the New Line from Lavender Ave!

If your little lady needs freedom to run and jump and play, but you still want her to look like a princess, then we have the perfect solution. This sweet ruffly set is loose and comfortable but totally girly. 

Made from high quality 100 percent cotton that just gets softer with every wash. Seams are serged for a professional finish. 

The top is designed to go on and off easily so even the littlest princess can dress herself. 
The pantaloons are custom made to the waist and length you desire.

Find this and more at Lavender Ave on Etsy.

08 October 2014

Chicken Falafels

Chicken Falafels 

1 lb. (800 g) chicken mince
2 cups grated carrot
4 Tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 (400 g) cans lentils, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
2 eggs
2 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste


1 cup plain low-fat yoghurt
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ clove garlic, chopped (optional)

Combine all falafel ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together well. Form into patties.

Heat a pan to medium heat. Spray with oil. Add patties and cook until golden and cooked through. About 8 minutes each side. Serve with salad or in pita with tomato and lettuce and a spoonful of dressing.

Makes 15 burger sized falafels

06 October 2014

Menu Plan Monday


Baked Potatoes


Pork Carnitas
corn tortillas
beans and rice


Hamburger Stew


Veggie Samosas


Fruit Salad




Potato Salad

03 October 2014

Sewing Inspiration - Tween Style

For today's tween sewing inspiration I bring you an outfit created by the tween fashionista. Don't you just love the daisies on that t-shirt? Personally, I would add a bright yellow cardi to this mix. What do you think?


daisy tee - JCrew - $32.50
ankle toothpick jean - JCrew - $49.50
glitter toe flats - JCrew (no longer available)
there is a similar flat at Zara for $29.90
daisy headband - can't remember

I won't lie, I am very tempted by the shoes. We already have a great pair of skinny cropped jeans, but I am on the lookout for some fun daisy fabric. This one at funkalicious fabrics on Etsy is pretty cute.I will be using a pattern I love - the Signature Dress pattern from Go To Patterns - just modified into a t-shirt. I love the sleeve, and it's an easy pattern with good fit. 

That's my sewing inspiration for this week. What inspires you to sew?

01 October 2014

Tuna Salad With ATwist - Lunchbox Series

This is a lunchtime favorite for me. Just enough crunch and zing to be interesting, but quick and easy to make and very satisfying. 

Tuna Salad With A Twist

1 425g can tuna fish in water
1/2 red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup dry cranberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp. dill
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup garlic aioli
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve over lettuce or on toasted bread with tomatoes and lettuce or cheese.

Makes 6 sandwiches

How do you like your tuna salad?