Thursday 30 July 2015

Pattern Test: The Ileana Dress

Now I can finally share the other recent pattern test I've done, and that I've been teasing you with on Instagram and Facebook ... I had so much fun with this one, I actually ended up making 2 dresses ... I couldn't resist.  Introducing the Ileana Dress from Compagnie M.  Oh, and if you use the code ILEANA10 you'll get a discount on both the printed and digital patterns...just sayin'!
So for Bethany's size 8 dress I chose the following options ... Bow collar, half-circle skirt, classic bodice, cap-sleeve and drop-shaped pockets.
This pattern has soooooo many options.  I love it for that.  In one pattern you can make so many different dresses.  There is such variety that you wouldn't even know they were from the same pattern.  That's what I call value!  I absolutely think this will become one of my all time favourite staple patterns.  Let me list some of the options:  Firstly you can choose whether to do a full or half circle skirt, then you can choose the collar - a floral collar, a bow collar, a rounded peter-pan collar or a pointed peter pan.  You can also choose whether to do half collars or full collars.  And we haven't even spoken about the 3 faux placket options yet, not to mention the sleeve options, or sleeveless of course, and the option to do a raglan bodice, and the pockets, oh the pockets...  So as you can see, you can get just as creative as you like.
To be honest the number of options gave me a slight panic-attack at first, but I soon found that once I had picked my options, the dress came together so easily.  Once again Marte's instructions and pictures are fantastic, and I can claim that my zip-phobia is now well under control.  Marte taught me with this pattern to install my very first (and second) invisible zips.  I've never seen instructions quite so easy to follow for zips.  It completely dissipated my zip anxiety, and made me wonder why I've been so stressed out by zips to date.  I might be a little addicted to them now.  I've also used her instructions when making a couple of dresses with exposed zips too ... I'm on a zip roll.
Oh, and do you like this fabric?  I picked it up for $2 a metre at my local fabric store.  Couldn't leave it there for that.  It's totally not my usual colour pallet, but something drew me to it and I thought it was perfect for one of Marte's designs.  Bethany likes it too.  She says it makes her look like an adult ... I guess when you're 7, that's pretty much the best thing ever.  How things change, huh!  

Anyway, after watching the tester-group design and show their dresses during the testing period, I just HAD TO try the floral collar.  This time I chose a daisy print from my stash and made up a size 4 for Hannah.
This dress just screams spring, and being in the middle of a cold-snap in Sydney, spring is totally what I'm longing for.
So again, I chose the classic bodice with the cap sleeve, and the half-circle skirt.  And this time I added a full floral collar.  So cute!
So, for my next Ileana, I think I'll try a raglan option, with a half-raglan sleeve and a faux placket.  

And a big thanks to Marte for having me to test again on this one.  I had a blast!!

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Homemade Yoghurt, and some Yoghurt recipe ideas

Brought to you by Nuffnang and EasiYo.   All opinions are absolutely my own!
I love when I receive an email asking if I'd be interested in product testing something.  It's fun, but most of all it lets me try something out that I may otherwise have not known about, and give my opinion.  And today's product review is no different.

There's a new EasiYo in town.  Do you remember the old one?  Well, wait for it .... I have one, and here's how it compares to the new shiny red one....
The original was first developed about 20 years ago apparently ... boy that makes me feel old!  I'll admit that I bought the original EasiYo many years ago, and I've used it on and off over that time, but it has been a while I'll confess.   Why ... well, I don't really know.  I mean homemade yoghurt ... who can go wrong with that, huh!  And I'd forgotten how quick it really is to do.

You just grab your 1 kg jar that comes with the yoghurt maker, (the one on the left is the old version ... how much prettier is the new one!!), fill it half full with room temperature water, add your yoghurt sachet, then put the lid on and shake.  Then you fill the jar the rest of the way to the top, another little shake and pop it in the yoghurt maker that's been filled to the level marked inside with boiling water.  You put the lid on, and in 8 hours ... fresh yoghurt, ready to go.  And apparently the longer you leave the yoghurt in the maker, the thicker it becomes and it's safe to leave it in there for up to 24 hours.  I have done mine overnight each time, and the yoghurt is a beautiful consistency... oh, and I've been told that the probiotics in yoghurt are at their most potent when it's freshly made, so there's another reason to make it at home.
So, the flavours ... I was lucky enough to be able to sample a bunch of the flavours.  So far we've tried the Passionfruit (definitely the favourite all-round so far), the coconut (which I absolutely loved) and the plain, which I've used in cooking and if I get my act together soon, I might even had a go with using the rest of it to make some Labna.  We'll see ... I'll keep you posted!!
And one other thing that I like about this new EasiYo and the red-shiny-ness of it is that it absolutely matches my kitchen colour-scheme.  That's definitely an incentive to keep it out on the bench for regular yoghurt making ... it's just so darn pretty!
So, with all this yoghurt in the house, I thought I'd find a couple of recipes.  The first was this amazing Lemon Yoghurt cake ... I posted this teaser on Instagram ... It's one of those drizzle-the-hot-lemon-syrup-over-the-hot-cake-and-watch-it-soak-in kind of cakes ... Yum.  This one uses plain yoghurt!
And it was a great excuse to get out my Gran's vintage cup and saucer for a slice of cake and a cuppa on a cold winter's afternoon.
I just love a cup of tea in a real teacup ... don't you!
Next, Hannah and I decided to make some frozen yoghurt treats.  She recently watched an episode of PlaySchool where they mixed yoghurt with berries, froze it and ate it.  She's been trying to convince me since then that we needed to give this a try, but Hannah hates berries, so I wasn't really sure what to do.  But when everyone loved this EasiYo Passionfruit yoghurt so much, I figured this was my chance.  Here's how Hannah and I made these Passionfruit Banana Frozen Yoghurt treats:
- 500g passionfruit (or whatever flavour you want) yoghurt
- 1 banana

You'll also need some ice-block moulds ... we used these funky-shaped ones.  Hannah told me immediately that she would be having the "love heart icecream".
To make them, just dice your banana up into 1cm-ish sized pieces, then mix together with the yoghurt.  Can't be much simpler, really!
Spoon the mixture into the ice-block moulds and freeze!
 Oh, and don't forget to lick the spoon!
These are really tasty (I ate the pink one!).  The frozen banana almost disappears and the passionfruit yoghurt has such an amazing passion-fruity flavour ... makes me long for summer!
So, we've had a ball product testing the new EasiYo maker.  I really would recommend it.  It's quick and easy.  The yoghurt is thick, creamy, and tasty, not to mention it is free from artificial ingredients, gluten-free, and suitable for vegetarians.  The new EasioYo is available in Australia from Big W, Woolworths, IGA and online for $24.99 (RRP) and the yoghurt sachets for 1kg fresh yoghurt are available from $4.50.  So, it's not expensive either.  I also think these would make a great gift!

Thursday 23 July 2015

Pattern Test: The Cecily Rose Dress

I've been enjoying a bit of pattern-testing lately.  I love the idea of a new pattern, and being part of the  the process and watching any glitches being ironed out during the test, getting inspiration from other testers, and making some new crafty friends along the way.  I also think it's a great way to pick up new sewing techniques and to learn about the pattern design process.

Anyway, when the call-out for testers for this one popped up on Facebook one day, it caught my attention.  This is the new pattern called the Cecily Rose dress by Heidi of Pollywoggles Patterns.  

This dress is reversible .... yep, so effectively you get 2 outfits in 1 sew ...
Same, same ... but different!  For this dress, I raided the discount fabric table at my local spotlight (any excuse for a trip to the fabric store really!).  I picked up the pink floral for $3 per metre, and the metallic silver and blue for $4 per metre.  I liked that both fabrics are very different, but that I could match the blue in both fabrics to give a contrasting waist-band for each side of the dress.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Heidi has also included instructions and a photo tutorial for making this dress non-reversible, so this pattern is great even if you want to save a bit on fabric.
Anyway, which side do you like best?  I was sure I'd like the floral side best, but the blue turned out so well, and is very striking.  I think it's my favourite now.

Bethany?  Well, she loves either side for twirling, and with the full circle-skirt, twirling is really the best thing to be doing!
The other interesting feature in this new pattern is the tie up bodice.  I wasn't sure if I would like that feature at first, but it works really nicely, and is a fun way to give a sneak peek at your contrasting fabric.  I think it will also mean that this dress will survive a growth-spurt or two, and it's great to think a handmade goodie will go the distance, huh!
The final version of this pattern has eradicated the little bit of bunching-up you can see at the back of the bodice in the pic above.  The fit was pretty close to start with, but Heidi has tweaked along the way, and now it's perfect.   I have even made a new bodice to check, and I can vouch for it!
Now Heidi has arranged this pattern beautifully, with a very clear guided tutorial complete with photos and line-drawing references along the way.  

And as an added bonus, the pattern and tutorial for this cute headband has also been included.  I really love this, and have made 3 already.  I can see more to come.  Bethany has recently had her hair cut (*sobs uncontrollably*) and this headband looks great, and holds those short little bits of hair back from falling in her face.  It's also elasticated at the back, and Bethany thinks its the most comfortable headband she's ever worn.  Winner, I'd say!   
So, do you want to pick this pattern up, brand spanking new on the market, and with a discount?  Well, as a special celebration of the Cecily Rose pattern release, there is a discount for a short time if you're quick, so head over and check it out.

And a big thanks to Heidi for having me to test this one.  What a lovely group of ladies there were in the test group, and what a fun ride it was!
Had to put this pic in too ... just 'cause I love her pose!!  Funny girl!

Monday 20 July 2015

I finished my first crochet blanket!

We all know I love to crochet.  I started off about 5 or 6 years ago by googling "how to crochet" then doing some basic Amigurumi and toys for my girls and some of their little friends (a great way to learn crochet by the way), then I moved on to hats ... lots and lots of hats, and some booties and slippers.  I have also made a couple of little crochet vests for the girls, a poncho or two, and some scarves.  But small, quick projects like that are where my crochet love has stopped .... until now.  It's time for some bigger projects.

So, at the start of winter this year, I decided that I was going to make a crochet lap rug for each of my girls for them to snuggle under while they read a book in their rooms, or when cuddling on the couch.  But, well, a-hem it hasn't happened.  I got stuck.  I couldn't decide on a design, or a yarn.   I wanted to use some beautiful Bendigo Cotton which is just lovely (I bought a couple of balls to play with, and it's gorgeous!), but it's also a little more expensive than I usually spend because it is such lovely quality.  I hated the thought of buying up big, then deciding I didn't like the design, or getting bored half-way through or something.  So, I decided I needed a trial run.  And a new little baby seemed like the perfect excuse.

A friend that I first met at playgroup when Bethany was little, and who's kids now go to school and pre-school with mine has just had her 4th baby.  And after 3 beautiful little boys, this time she's had a girl.  I really wanted to make her something girly to celebrate this new little one, and this felt like the perfect time to try my hand at a bigger crochet project.

I found this pattern and used some super soft 8-ply acrylic that I picked up in Big W.  It's really soft, and perfect for a baby gift as it will wash and wear well.  I used 5 balls for this rug, which measures just under 1 metre in diameter.  This is a bit smaller than the pattern suggests, but I thought this size was better for a new little baby, and that's the beauty of a pattern like this.  Once you get going you can make it whatever size you like really.  Hopefully it'll be perfect as a little floor-play rug, or as a warm snuggly blanket in the pram or car.

So, I started crocheting around and around and loved watching this one grow.  It's actually a really fun and easy crochet once you get going and it grows really quickly, though by the end it was taking over an hour for each round, simply due to the size.  An absolutely perfect way to spend this cosy winter-nights on the couch.

I finished my 5th ball of white, and decided I would girly this one up with just a couple of rows of pink, from the same super-soft acrylic.  I think it works well.  

I'm really happy with how this one turned out, and it's definitely whet my appetite for crocheting some more rugs.  Maybe my girls will get theirs by next winter ... 

Sunday 5 July 2015

We've been playing Scientist ...

It's our mid-year school break for 2 weeks at the moment.  I love school holidays ... the not-rushing-around in the mornings, seeing movies and enjoying lunch dates with my girls, catching up with little friends (and their Mummies) and of course some craft and playing.  Well, these holidays I decided to make it a kind of science-theme.  Hannah has been doing a few science-type activities at pre-school this term (like making slime and they had a professional scientist come in and show the kids some experiments).  Well, she has absolutely loved this stuff.  I was terrible at science in school, but you're never too old for an experiment or two, hey, so I thought we'd have a go ourselves.

I went to old-faithful Pinterest, and found a squillion different science ideas for kids, lots of which I've pinned in my Kid's Activities board.  I decided to do one experiment each day.  So, here's what we've done for week 1 (you can find the source of each of these on my Pinterest board).

1. Using paper towel and 2 glasses with different coloured water.  Place an empty 3rd glass in between and watch the water soak up the towel, drip into the middle glass and change colour.  This one took longer than we expected, so we didn't actually see the result until the next day, but the girls were very excited with what they found.

2.  Celery dying - Place sticks of celery (with leaves on) in a glass of brightly coloured water....

...wait a few hours and you get this ...

 The red and the blue were our 2 best results.  The pink went a kind of brown colour, and the green was interesting, but not as exciting as the others.

My favourite part of this experiment was when we chopped the ends off the celery sticks and looked to see the channels where the liquid soaks in.  Hannah's been asking lots of questions lately, including "Mummy, how do plants drink?", and this was a great way to show her.

3.  Our next experiment was a tornado in a jar.  This was really a favourite, but is much more impressive in real-life ... it's hard to snap a shot of the tornado before it stops.  Basically, you fill a jar with water, add a tablespoon or so of dishwashing liquid, put the lid on and give the jar a vigorous shake.  Can you see the little tornado? 
We found this one works best if you shake back and forth rather than up and down.  We also added some sparkles to one of our jars so we could watch them fly around the tornado, and imagine it was the wicked witch on her broomstick next to Dorothy's house ... it took me hours to get that wicked witch themed music out of my head!!

4.  Thursday's experiment was Jellyfish in a bottle.  You use a plastic bag, fill a corner with water and tie it off.  Then cut the rest of the bad into long thin strips for the tentacles and push it into a bottle full of water.  If you turn the bottle upside-down you can watch the head slowly float the the top, with the tentacles following, and with a bit of imagination you could believe it's really a jellyfish.    If your bottle isn't coloured like this one, you could also add a spot of blue colouring to make it look more ocean-like!

The girls have refused to part with their "little guys" so far!  I think they'll be part of the family for a while yet.

5. And for day 5 .... drum-roll - Homemade Gak.  Now I looked a tonnes of different recipes for this, mostly using glue and Borax, but in the end I couldn't find Borax anywhere, so I searched Pinterest again and found this one.  Just 2 ingredients ... cornflour and hair-conditioner (plus the optional colouring of course).  
It has a tenancy to be a little messy, and we all had a blue tinge to our hands for the rest of the day, but the girls had an absolute ball with this one.  And yes ... ahem ... we were still in our PJs.  What are holidays for if not the odd PJ day!?!  Do you remember Hannah's PJs from here
 This gak had a great fall and stretch consistency, but then it was interesting to watch it kind of dry out and crumble a little.  It easily balled up again though, and we even managed some shape-cutting with it too.  Such a quick and inexpensive one.

Anyway, so I haven't figured what science goodness we'll sink our teeth into this coming week. Does anyone have any good ideas for me?