Sunday 29 July 2012

Healthy Mummy, Happy Kids

Although Hannah has generally been a much easier little bub to date (translate that as "Mummy and Daddy knew what to expect this time round") I have definitely found this stage of sleep deprivation more difficult to manage.  I think that is simply because I don't have the chance to nap or rest when Hannah does.  Between pre-school runs, swimming lessons, trips to the park, some part time work from home, and general housework all in addition to the demands of a new bub, this Mummy is definitely feeling burnt out.  I also realised that in my rush to make the mad dash out the door on those busy mornings, I would often arrive at our morning activity to find that I had fed everyone else, but totally forgot breakfast for Mummy.  And so began the horrible cycle of a hungry and tired Mummy reaching for snack food or anything to tie me over until proper food could be found.

So, I decided I'd try to commit to having a healthy, nutritious breakfast, figuring that a good start to the day would put me in good stead.  I had a look at "health" cereals at the supermarket, but was shocked at just how expensive they are, and how little nutritional value a lot of them seem to have.  I also noticed that most supermarket muesli's have those small round balls of evil (commonly known as sultanas or raisins) that I simply cannot stand the taste of.  So I decided to try out my own concoction.

Amazingly, this is really simple to make, super-yummy, very nutritious, and I have found that I feel so much better generally.  I'm still not getting much sleep, but this brekkie seems to have given me a kick of energy to get through the day better.  It also keeps me fuller for a lot longer, and therefore stops me from reaching for those snackfoods.  The pay off for my munchkins is that they have a Mummy who has lots more energy, and is much more tolerant with them, and is therefore generally much more fun to be around.  I have found that I get my brekkie ready, and pour the milk on before I go to get Hannah up, then once she's had her morning breast-feed and is in her highchair, I spoon Hannah's food into her mouth, alternating with spooning mine into my mouth, and voila....multi-tasking at it's best, and Mummy has time to eat before the craziness of the day.

Here's what you need to try Wen's Homemade Toasted Muesli:

- 2 cups Rolled Oats (you can use quick-cook oats, but I personally like the whole ones)
- 2 cups processed bran / All-bran
- 1/2 cup dried apricots
- 1/2 cup whole raw almonds (with skin on)
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff is always the best)
- 1/2 cup fruit juice (I have tried it with apple, orange and apple black-currant so far, and all worked great)

Ok, so I realise that with the maple syrup, it's not totally guilt-free, but if you divide the 1/4 cup of maple syrup between the approx 10 servings or so of muesli, it's really not too bad, and the toasted maple flavour is awesome!

You could play around with some other ingredients too ... I think dried cranberries and coconut would work brilliantly!! And if you're not at all like me and actually somehow like the taste of sultanas I guess I'd forgive you for adding them in too!

Now, I found that if you buy the no frills brand of these ingredients, and you buy them in large packets, it's really A LOT cheaper than the supermarket muesli's.

Here's how to make it:

Roughly chop your apricots and almonds.  You still want biggish chunks, but just want to have some edges to get nicely toasted in the oven.
In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients together (or get your very keen little 4-year old to mix it for you).

Add the maple syrup and mix really well to ensure it's well-combined.  Then add the juice and mix it well too.

Spread the whole mixture over a large oven tray - I used a lamington / slice tin.

Put it in the oven at about 180 degrees celcius (I think that works out to be about 360 farenheit).  Leave for about 10 minutes, then check it, give it a bit of a mix around, and put it back in for another 10 minutes.  Continue this process until your mixture is totally dried don't want any moisture left or it won't be crunchy.  Also, it's really important to keep checking it and mixing it every 10 minutes or so, because the top bits can burn very easily and quickly.  This whole process should take about 45-50 minutes.  Wait for it to cool, then store in an airtight jar or container.  It should last at least a couple of weeks.  I serve 1 cup of muesli with 1 cup of cold skim milk, and of course that compulsory morning coffee!
Oh, and I've also found that a handful of this muesli as a snack when that dreaded 3pm tiredness kicks in is a fantastic pick-me-up (kinda like trail-mix) and a wonderful alternative to a chocolate biscuit to tie me over 'til dinner time!!

Now I have to admit that I'm definitely not all the way there yet in terms of being the healthiest Mummy I could be (definitely a chocoholic), but this is a great start and I have loved how much better I feel.  What an incentive to keep the health-kick going!

Here's to all the Mummy's who are trying desperately to stay sane whilst getting very little sleep!  Happy Muesli-ing to you!!

Sunday 15 July 2012

Matching Scraps

We love Matching Games.  I have to admit that Bethany is a little too good at these games these days, and Mummy definitely doesn't have to let her win anymore...she just does it on her own.  I blame baby brain ... I wonder how long I can continue to use that excuse?

I first saw this idea of a fabric matching game on a stall at the craft market ,"Wheel 'n Weft", that's run a couple of times a year in Thornleigh, Sydney.  They were completed by some very talented twin sister crafters known as The Twin Thing.  I loved the idea, and thought it would make a great project to use up some scrap fabrics.  It's also really cute!! The game by The Twin Thing had small circles of fabric appliqued onto plain colour backgrounds, and a little matching draw-string bag to hold all of the pieces.

Now, I'm very new to applique, and the thought of sewing carefully around 20 little circles kinda freaked me out, but I did like the idea of having some applique practice.  So I decided I'd do squares instead.  I searched the net for some more inspiration, and looked at a few blogs and tutorials I found online like this and this, but in the end this is what I came up with ...

UPDATE - If you'd like a set of these, but don't have the time to make them, I've now added a couple of sets to my Etsy shop for sale.  Head over and take a look!!  Otherwise feel free to use my tutorial below to make your own!

I used:
- 10 different scraps of quilting fabric
- Fat quarter of white background fabric
- Fat quarter of backing fabric (I used pink gingham ... you can never have too much gingham!!)
- 1 Button
- White thread
- Sewing Machine
- Iron
- Time Taken: About 3-4 hours - cutting all the pieces is a little time-consuming, but kinda therapeutic!

Tip: I used a rotary cutter, quilter's ruler and mat to cut all the pieces.

- Cut 20 squares (3.5 inches x 3.5 inches) from the white background fabric
- Cut 20 squares (3.5 inches x 3.5 inches) from the backing fabric (pink gingham)
- Cut 2 squares (2 inches by 2 inches) from each of the fabric scraps (ie 20 squares in total)

- Pin the small squares onto the middle of the white background fabric, then using a small zig-zag stitch sew around each, trying to sew right at the edge of the square to make it look nice and neat.  I lower the needle, then lift the machine foot to pivot at each corner, so that you have to stop less times, and have less threads to trim off.
- Place the white background squares and backing fabric squares right side together, and sew around the edges using a 1/4 inch seam.  Leave a small opening (about an inch) in the side of each square for turning through.
- Turn the squares through the right way (using the little hole you left in the seam).
- Iron each square, being careful to fold in a 1/4 inch seam at each of the openings left from turning them through.

- Topstitch around the edge (about 2-3mm from the edge) all around the squares.  This just makes them sit better.

Ta-da ... you have a matching game.  Mine is definitely not perfect, but I think that's part of the charm!  Now of course, any cute matching game needs a matching bag!! Mine is kinda like an envelope.

- Cut 2 rectangles (6.5 inches by 14 inches) from a matching fabric (what was it I said about never having enough gingham?!?)
- Cut diagonal lines at one end of both rectangles to make a point (this is easiest if you lay both pieces on top of each other and cut both together)
- Put the two pieces right side together and sew using a 1/4 inch seam around 3 sides, leaving the bottom (straight) edge open for turning.
- Turn through to bring the right sides out.
- Iron the whole thing flat, then turn under and iron a 1/4 inch seam across the bottom that you left open for turning.
- Top-stitch along the bottom.
- Fold the bottom up to about 3 inches from the top point, then pin the sides to hold it together.
- Start at the bottom on one side and top stitch 1/4 inch in from the edge.  Go up the side, across the top via the point, and down the other side.  This holds it all together in an envelope shape.

- Use the machine button-hole function and foot to make a button hole just below the point (make sure you measure it against your button to make sure it fits .... I'm speaking from experience there!!)
- Sew the button on the front.
- Do up the button, then topstitch along the top edge, about 2mm in from the edge to help it sit better.

I think it's gorgeous, and I reckon it's a fabulous gift idea for a kiddy friend!  Mine is very girly looking with all that pink gingham, but I'm sure you could make an amazing boy version!

Let me know if you have a go at making it...I'd love to see your pics!!

Saturday 7 July 2012

Lovely Lunches!

Well, little Hannah is now 6 months old (wow, that's flown), and is well and truly into her solid food - OK, to be totally truthful most of it is very-mushed-up-food so far. Fun that it is, it does mean that Mummy now needs to be organised enough to pack snacks and meals to take out with us to each day's activities. 

I initially used Bethany's little butterfly lunch pack that Nanna bought for her when she was a bub, but she very quickly made it clear that Hannah could "borrow" her butterfly bag, but definitely needed one of her own very soon. So off I went in search of a cute lunch bag for Hannah. This was harder than I thought. Being that school has been back for two terms so far this year, there didn't seem to be much in the way of cute lunch bags left at the shops. I was beginning to think I would just have to convince Bethany to share hers, when the thought of maybe trying to make one popped into my head. I had thoughts of a square box-shaped soft bag with a zipper right round the edge, and thoughts of paper-bag style fabric bags with folded tops and velcro, but I didn't love either of those ideas, and I really wanted it to be waterproof. 

I went to spotlight to see what fabrics I could find. They didn't have a whole lot, but I did find this red gingham vinyl table-cloth fabric, and bought half a meter in case I could work out how to use it, then went home to my computer and google to get the creative juices flowing. Eventually I found this pattern, and I loved it. It's exactly the style I wanted, uses cute fabric as well as water-proof oilcloth to line it, and has handles so I can loop it over the pram to carry it around. Love it. 

Here's what Hannah ended up with ...

I did tweak this pattern a little to better suit me...of course, it  wouldn't be a Wen-Craft without some tweaking (I never can manage to finish a project exactly as the pattern says).  So, this is what I changed:

- I used a piece of fleece instead of the batting mentioned.  It's not as insulated this way, but I still think it works, and was easier to sew.
- My fabric is not canvas, but just general quilters cotton ('cause it's what I had on hand, it was cute and it matched my red gingham table-cloth fabric).
- I used a piece of velcro along the top edge to keep it closed, instead of a's what I had on hand.
- Instead of using cotton webbing for the handles, I just made handles out of my off-cuts (Cut strips, fold in half and tuck the edges in, then top-stitch both sides)
- Also, when assembling it, the pattern says to sew the inside and outside together, then turn it through so you have right sides out.  I couldn't see how I was going to manage this with the thickness of the vinyl table-cloth fabric, so I simply sewed the outside, then the inside, then slid the inside into the outside with the right sides out, folded the top edges in and top-stitched all around.  It was a little fiddly to catch all the layers, and get the handles in the right places, but was so much easier than trying to turn that fabric through.

Then of course, being me, I couldn't stop at 1 lunch-bag, and had to make another for Bethany.  I asked her what she wanted and she said "Pink".  So I had a look through the fabrics I already had at home, and found a fat-quarter of this Babushka fabric....and off to spotlight we went to find some Oilcloth.  This time, the sales assistant did direct me to some new oilcloths that had come in.  There were lots of different colours and patterns, but none that I loved, none that were pink enough, and none that matched my Babushka fabric.  But I did find this cute pink and white spotted raincoat fabric.  Well that's kinda similar, isn't it?

I sewed up Bethany's lunch bag, using the raincoat fabric, and it looked fine, but was a little soft and droopy, 'cause the raincoat fabric isn't at all stiff like the vinyl I used on Hannah's.  So I pondered, and pondered.  Then, on a trip to Daiso, I found some foil backed insulating stuff (like the cold-bags at Coles and Woolies are made of).  It was a little roll, and of course it was $2.80.  Perfect!!  All I did was unpick the stitching around the top of the bag, unpick and dismantle the lining, then reassemble with this insulating stuff joined on to each piece of the lining.  Awesome, and now it's insulated and stands up much nicer.

Now of course, you can't have a new lunch bag without some cute little boxes and utensils to use in them, so I picked up these ones at Daiso (did I mention I love that place?).

Sunday 1 July 2012

When you've got no hair, you really need a hat!

So Bethany, when she was born, had a massive shock of thick black hair, which stuck straight up in the air and couldn't be tamed, but at least it kept her head warm!  It didn't fall out, or thin out.  It just eventually grew to what is now a much more acceptable hair-style.  As a baby, headbands just looked a bit silly, 'cause her hair would stick out either side of the headband.  Hannah, on the other hand has been a very different story so far.  She was born with a fair bit of hair, but it quickly fell out and now she is bald!!  I see this as a super fun chance to play with cute head-gear that I couldn't play with last time round.

As Hannah was born in summer, I started with some headbands.  I was initially planning on just buying some gorgeous headbands I found on ebay that someone else had made.  But, having just dropped to 1 income these kind of purchases really didn't seem to be the top of the priority list, so I decided I'd chance an internet search to see if anyone in the world had ever made crochet headbands ... ha ha ha ... there are like a million sites and patterns out there, and lots and lots of free ones ... here's a bunch of headbands I've made! Oh, and Bethany looks great in headbands now too, so she's had her fair share of them as well! In fact, they are so quick and easy, I often just whip them up to match an outfit the night before a special occasion or party.

I started by using this pattern, then played with different flower designs which I either found by googling "free crochet flower patterns" or by simply making them up (once you've done a few flowers it's not hard to do).

I then got a bit braver, and the weather got a bit colder, and I decided my poor bald little girl needed hats....and you can never have too many hats right!  Here's what we have to date...
These hats are actually the same pattern, but look quite different as I only used 8 ply for the pink one, but a thicker (12 ply I think) for the white one.  These were my first hat attempts ... The pink one is smaller (for Hannah) and the white one (which actually came out better) is Bethany's.  I can't tell you how many comments and compliments we've had from people when the girls are out and about in these really is a gorgeous pattern.  Here's where to find it!

This is the next hat I made...for Hannah this time.  I was feeling brave enough to try a trickier stitch, and it was well worth it.  It's one of my favourites.  I got the pattern here, and just added a flower to jazz it up a little.  Also, I don't love pom-poms so decided to leave it off!

I've been a fan of the granny-stitch from the very first time I crocheted my first article of clothing...a poncho for Bethany 2 winters ago.  When I found a pattern for a hat using granny-stitch, I couldn't resist.  This time Hannah got a white one with a little bow on it using some leftover yarn from a gorgeous cardigan my mum knitted for her.  Yay for a matching hat!  Bethany got a pink one from this pattern, as she was very jealous that Hannah was getting all the pink hats, so I promised she could have a pink one too.  Here's the pattern for this one.  I found that with the yarn I used and my gauge, I actually added quite a few extra rows to get the hat long enough.  In fact Bethany's could have done with a couple more rows I think.  If I'm motivated one day, I'll undo the shell edge and add the rows in! ... And that's a big "IF", 'cause knowing me I'll just find a different hat pattern I want to try instead!

Now this one only just made it into the blog ... I made it just a couple of days ago.  I've been wanting to try a more lace-like look, and love the layered flowers too, which I've never tried before.  I'm really happy with how this one for Hannah turned out.  It's a 10 ply pattern, but I only had 12 ply on hand, so just went with that.  With the thicker yarn, it's a bit warmer, and it's fantastic that there are a good variety of sizes in the pattern... big sister has already put in an order for one ... this time she wants purple, with a "purple and pink flower"!  

Once again, I added a few extra rows to make it longer, and I think Hannah may even get next year out of it too, 'cause it's a great size.  I also loved how the flower was going after completing 2 layers, so I added a 3rd and 4th.  Oh, to stop the flower layers from scrunching up and looking messy, I sewed them together from the back, through all the layers before sewing it to the hat.  Really makes a difference to how the flower sits.  Cute!  Here's where I found this one!

I just love hats on little girls (or boys).  The best part of making hats is that they're really quick, and cheap....not even half a ball of yarn usually, and only a 1-evening favourite kind of craft.

Oh, and if you're super observant and noticed that I haven't mentioned the cream-coloured hat with the purple flower, that's 'cause it's not one of mine.  My Mum knitted this woollen hat for Bethany when she was a baby.  I love it's shape...a cute little pixie / gum-nut shape.  Unfortunately while it was in storage between munchkins, a moth got to it and made a rude!!  I was so sad, until I realised the hole is exactly in the right spot for a little flower.  So I sewed together the hole, found some purple wool and made a flower then covered up that hole.  No-one would ever know!

Hmmmm ... what to blog about next? ... it sure is getting addictive.  Thanks to all those who have read my waffle so far!!  Oh, and if anyone knows of any other cute hat patterns you've had success with, I'd love to know about them!