Sunday night project: top and skirt toddler set

I had a productive weekend for once (amazing what you can accomplish when you stop wasting all your time on facebook, pinterest & co!), I’ve started sewing again at last and I’m so engrossed in it I have to make a huge effort not to buy tons of fabric! So many pretty things out there… but I’m being good and only buying a little bit at a time, and try to stick to only one or two projects at a time.

A friend mentioned Craftsy, I had heard of it before but didn’t think much of it. How wrong was I! It’s awesome, I’ve been on it for a week and I’m already addicted. Classes, patterns, other people’s projects to look at… I only wish there was a forum too (or maybe there is one and I’ve missed it?). This is my page/profile, though there’s nothing yet as I haven’t had the time to add anything. Will do soon.

I got an email shortly after joining with a hefty discount on my next purchase so I took the plunge and enrolled in a Beginner Serging class, or overlocker for us living across the pond. I will report later on how it’s going, I really look forward to learning to use my overlocker a bit better!

Back to yesterday’s project. I made a top with the Fishsticks Designs Charlie Tee & Hoodie pattern, it’s a great easy pattern which I’ve used a lot both for hoodies and tops.
Lillestoff Vikings blue fabricI haven’t used a pattern for the skirt, it was simply two rectangles around 20″x9″, sewn up the sides and gathered the top (it needed quite a bit of gathering!), while the waistband was a 19″x5″ strip of ribbing – I measured this to fit my 2.5 year old, her waist is about 20″ – folded over and stitched on.

The main fabric is an oldish Lillestoff print, the stripey one is some jersey I picked up in the sale from a local fabric shop over the weekend. I looove Lillestoff, if only it was a bit less expensive! But it’s soft, good quality and the prettiest designs, I will probably get more soon, I especially like the Vikings print…

Without further ado, here’s the set!

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I hope to get a better action shot when we’re out this afternoon! So so pleased with it – which is unlike me as I’m usually very picky and unhappy about things I make just after I’ve finished them.

Raw breakfast banana choco tarts

Happy Sunday everyone. Mine has been rather sluggish so far, both my little ones were very restless last night so I had little sleep and my little guy seems still rather grumpy this morning, deciding that he wants to be glued to me at all times.

Why do I tell you all this? Apart from the fact that I love having a good old moan, I wanted a bit of a pick me up for breakfast so I combined the  raw chocolate brownies and this breakfast banana pie  from Raw on $10 or less (such a great blog, it’s great to show that eating raw needn’t be prohibitively expensive!) and ended up with these breakfast banana choco tarts.

Ingredients for 2 tarts:

– 1/2 cup nuts (I particularly like a mix of pecans and cashews)
– 1/2 cup dates
– 1tbsp shredded coconut
– 1tbsp honey
– 1tbsp cocoa
– 1 banana

Put all the ingredients apart from the banana in a blender and whizz together, put the mix in a small tart pan and press down, creating the raised edges with your fingers. Put in the fridge to set for 10/15 minutes (or enough to wash the blender, make the filling, wash it again and get a plate ready!).

Next blend the banana, saving a few slices as topping if you wish. If your bananas are small you might need 2. Put the filling in the base, top with bananas (or anything else you wish) and sprinkle some cinnamon or cocoa on top and voila’, breakfast is served!

Raw banana choco tartsRaw banana choco tarts

Minion dress attempt

I love love love sewing but I can’t do it during the day (apparently kids, needles and scissors don’t mix) and by the time evening comes I’m usually too tired to do anything.

I made a bit of an effort last night because I wanted to make a minion (from Despicable Me) dress for a friend’s little girl. I decided to modify a pillowcase dress, so first off I needed a tutorial for that! I use this one for Sew like my mum. Also, I wanted to make a little bit girly so instead of plain blue for the ‘body’ I got a fabric with a floral pattern, and the yellow is a kona cotton but I totally forgot which yellow it is.

I know my pictures are never great but they’re especially bad as they were all taken in the evening, apologies for that!

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It was all pretty simple: I made the panels with yellow on the top and blue flowery fabric on the bottom. On one of the panels (before sewing them together), I stitched a black strip of fabric, around 2″ wide, along the length of the panel, then made two circles with felt, one grey and one white, for the eye, and a much smaller one with black cotton fabric.

 

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I then did the rest of the dress following the tutorial. Hint: if you’re doing curved armhole as suggested by other tutorials, use bias tape. Don’t try to turn it over and over again. Trust me on this. Then of course, just as I was hemming the bottom edge and I had about 3″ to go before the dress was all finished, this happened. Then it happened again. It was getting late and I was tired, I swear the machine knew!

But, at last, the dress was done! A bit of a late night but I’m pretty pleased with it, despite a few hiccups which tend to happen when I first try out new patterns/styles anyway (does that happen just to me?). The only thing I’d change is to make it much less wide, I tried it on my 2.5 year old little girl and it was rather big, but I guess that’ll make it last longer, as a shorter dress then tunic – they’d better release a Despicable Me 3 next  year!)

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Excuse the blurry pictures. She wanted to try the dress on right away (hence her head peeking in the first pic) and then decided she wanted to climb up the kitchen door. 
I’m planning to make another pillowcase dress soon for her, while at the fabric shop picking fabrics for this one she got very excited so I think it’s only fair that she gets one too!

 

Spelt bread and raw strawberry jam

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about my diet and how far I’ve come in the past few months. I changed the way I eat a lot but more for health purposes, of course I was hoping that eating better would also mean losing a bit of weight but I didn’t really expect to.

The biggest change was that I cut out all processed/refine sugar, as I’ve already mentioned, and that has benefited me in many ways. First of all, I feel more in control of what I eat, both in terms of portion sizes and cravings, my mood are better and I have more energy. I’ve also almost entirely cut out meat, this wasn’t intentional but it just happened, though I still tend to eat fish once or twice a week and dairy and eggs fairly often. I made a conscious effort to substitute all these things with vegetables, so I’m eating a bit less grains (pasta, bread, rice etc) too.

I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to be gluten free for a couple of weeks or so to see if I could notice any difference and yesterday, while at a health food store, I had a spur of the moment decision to buy some spelt flour and have a go at making spelt bread. One tiny little detail: spelt isn’t gluten free (I only realised this many hours after buying it).

Nevermind! I shall blame this on the extended sleep deprivation and all that. I gave it a go anyway and used the recipe that was on the packet. It was quite quick and fairly mess free and didn’t need as much work as wheat bread; unfortunately I don’t own a bread tin yet (must get one!) so the poor thing went all flat instead of rising in a lovely loaf shape, but let me tell you, it’s actually rather nice! It will be quite amazing with some soup once the weather goes colder again.

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I wanted something to put on it and couldn’t quite think of something that was a bit special, just like the bread itself, until I remembered about this easy recipe for raw strawberry chia jam.

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It’s all pretty straight forward: mix 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, 3 tablespoons of honey (or agave nectar or maple syrup) and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (one large lemon should be enough) together in a little bowl – as you can see in the photo, it’s that odd brownish mess!

Mash the strawberries – 1lb according to the recipe, I used a 400g pack – with a fork or pulse in the food processor, combine with the chia seeds mixture and pour in a container (you may want to use one that is big enough…) then simply put in the fridge and leave it to set for at least half an hour. Done!

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You can now enjoy your lovely super healthy jam on your not-gluten-free spelt bread 😉

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I’m fighting with all my might not to go and eat the rest of the bread and jam right now. Must…. resist…. temptation…..

A different Sunday dinner

Today I was feeling a little adventurous, I really wanted something nice but different from the usual things (pasta mostly!) I end up cooking.

The solution, as always, came from Pinterest (if you’re not on it yet, you really ought to, though it can be quite addictive and time consuming!). I have a few recipes pinned on my food board that I really like but rarely make, or have never tried, so it’s always a nice source of inspiration.

Tonight I ended up making a very odd combination of jacket potatoes with cheese and a lentil bolognese sauce (low fat, healthy and cheap, what else could a girl want?), with a side of baked courgette chips (purely so that I didn’t have to put the oven on just for the potatoes, it feels like a bit of a waste) and a superhealthy raw carrot cake, from the same lovely lady who introduced me to the wonderful world of raw chocolate brownies.

Unfortunately, as it was quite a hands-on dinner to make and the children were keeping me on my toes (you try to stop a fight while your fingers are coated in a messy eggy breadcrumb mixture!) I didn’t get round to taking any pictures of the work in progress, but just the finished result. The cake looks much better than in the photo and I’m secretly quite pleased that my daughter wasn’t too keen on it – more for me tomorrow! And I’m also very happy that for once everything went according to plan, often when I try out new recipes or ones I’m not familiar with I end up doing something wrong and mess it up.

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Have you made any adventurous meal lately? How did it turn out? Or do you prefer to stick to a good old roast on a Sunday, be it homemade or eaten out?

Ode to vinegar

Apple cider vinegarI love cider vinegar. If you’d told me a few years ago that I would have bottles of vinegar scattered throughout my house (4 different types nonetheless) I would have told you you were barking mad. But here I am, hardcore vinegar lover, I guess I’m getting quite ‘crunchy’.

Now, not all vinegar is the same. I like to use apple cider vinegar for health and beauty and cheap white distilled vinegar for cleaning, it’s by far my favourite household cleaning product. What’s the main advantage of using vinegar? For a start, it’s a natural product made by fermenting apple juice into cider which is then fermented again into vinegar, so using it cuts down on the amount of other chemicals that you’d reach for otherwise. It’s also cheaper than many commercial cleaning products yet works just as well and it’s so versatile it feels there’s nothing it can’t be used for!  Here are some of my favourite uses.

Hair rinse
Say what? Putting vinegar on my hair? But I don’t want to smell like a fish and chips shop! – fret not, it’s not as bad as it sounds, and I promise your hair won’t smell funny. Put about one or two tablespoons of vinegar in an old bottle and fill half of it with water, then pour over your hair either after shampooing or after using your conditioner. It gives hair a lovely shine, more volume and really helps detangle it.

Multi purpose cleaner 
I have a couple of spray bottles that I use for this, one is straight vinegar and one is about a third vinegar and two thirds water, I tend to use the diluted one more and save the straight one for really tougher jobs. Vinegar kills bacteria, mould and germs, and it’s great in the kitchen – no need to worry about nasty chemicals coming in contact with food. Again, I know the smell can be off putting for some people so here’s a quick tip: soak lemon and orange peels with vinegar in a jar for a week or two, then strain into a spray bottle and add sweet orange essential oil to it (I just always have a jar soaking ready for when I finish the vinegar I’m using). The smell gets quite pleasant that way. Also, this is THE best thing to use glass, great for windows too, wipe off with newspaper and you’ll never go back! There is really no end to the uses for this.

Drink it!
Ok, I haven’t actually tried this yet, but apparently drinking small amount (a tablespoon or so) every day has numerous health benefits. It can help lower the risk of thrush, as it contains small amounts of probiotics, aid weight loss (for example, look at this study!), improve skin blemishes and tone and some studies show that it may help reduce the rate of growth of cancer cells. It’s worth a try, right? You can either take it straight, if you’re brave, or mix it it in water with some honey or fruit juice. I shall try it from tomorrow and see what happens!

Apparently it can also help with digestion, heartburn (yes, really), wind and constipation, I don’t suffer badly from any of these but it will be interesting to see if there’s a change. One word of caution though: it could interact with certain medications so do check first if you are taking anything.

Do you use vinegar? What are your favourite uses? Do you or would you any of these? Or do you, like my husband, absolutely hate anything that remotely smells like vinegar?

 

 

Raw chocolate brownies – you MUST try these!

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m not trying to completely avoid any added refined sugar – and by that I mean sugar that has been extracted or processed and that isn’t in its natural form anymore.

I’ve been sugar-free for almost 3 months now and I feel much better for it, my moods have improved, I have far more energy and the weight has been slowly but surely coming off, and trust me when I say that I’m in no way controlling my portions, I always end up finishing my daughter’s dinners and putting lashings of oil or butter on anything! We’re a fat friendly house and I most certainly don’t count calories.

Ingredients readyBut I didn’t know all this when I first started, all I knew was that I really, really liked chocolate and I wasn’t quite ready to face a chocolate-free life. And this is when I found The Rawtarian’s website and so so glad I did. She has many raw vegan recipes, including an amazing raw cheesecake recipe, raw chocolate truffles for when I’m in need of a quick fix and, above, the awesome raw chocolate brownies. I swear, every single person who’s tried them has loved them and I’ve been asked for the recipe many times, so if you’re trying to go sugar-free or just have a healthier alternative to regular brownies, you should really add these to your to-do list.

The recipe is as easy as it gets:
– one cup of pecans (I added some cashews too)
– one cup of dates
– 5 tablespoons of raw cacao (I use regular cocoa powder)
– 4 tablespoons of dessicated coconut
– 2 tablespoons of honey
– pinch of sea salt

I throw it all in the blender at once though Laura-Jane @ the Rawtarian suggests blending the pecans first, then the dates, then adding the rest of the ingredients. Blend until it’s fluffy, but don’t overblend it or the natural oils will separate, I talk from experience!

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Press down into a pan (she says with clean hands, which makes me giggle – of course you’d use clean hands! And if you didn’t you’re probably the kind of person who doesn’t really care anyway) and put in the fridge for a few hours to set, unless you’re greedy and impatient like us and end up eating it almost immediately. Then cut into squares just like you would with regular brownies and stuff your face serve.

Raw chocolate brownies

I really recommend topping them with her raw chocolate icing too, it’s delicious and you wonder how they only have healthy ingredients, they taste too naughty to be so good. I only make it on special occasions, purely because my toddler is crazy about these and the icing can get quite messy in small clumsy hands.