Monday, June 27, 2011

The Four Seasons

For one of my classes my exam revision involved listening to a lot of podcasts, ones that I'd listened to and taken notes on before, so I needed something to keep my hands busy while I was listening but wasn't difficult enough that I'd concentrate more on it then the podcast. I also mentioned in a recent post that I was thinking about trying blackwork. . . .

This is what I came out with. A (fairly) simple blackwork band sampler of the four seasons. The many many many rhodes squares were just what I needed when studying. But I don't want to see another one again for a while! 

 'Four Seasons Blackwork Band Sampler,' by Kincavel Krosses. Free Pattern found here
Completed using 18 count white aida and DMC 310.
 
I think the whole thing just lends itself to being a bookmark, even if it's a bit longer than the usual. If I can find a nice backing fabric sometime I'll make it up and keep it on hand. I didn't stitch it with anyone in mind, which is unusual for me, but it's a nice one to keep for when you need a gift for someone at short notice. Here's a close up of Spring and Summer. 


I think if I did it again I'd use one strand of black instead of two. I like the bolder lines but it meant some of the intricacies of the detail is pretty much invisible. Here's Autumn and Winter. 

 

Today I'm busy getting ready to head off on holiday. Tomorrow at approximately 3 o clock I get to pick up my man from the airport. FINALLY! We've been doing long distance for a long time, but it's been a longer wait than usual between seeing each other this time around, the longest we've ever had. So long that I'm not really even that excited yet, because my heart doesn't believe yet that he's on a plane somewhere between London and Dubai and I'll get to see him tomorrow! I don't think I'll believe it until he walks through the arrivals gate.

Have a great week everyone, see you all when I get back!

That's all for now,

*Sarah*

Find me linking up here and there

Friday, June 24, 2011

Finished and Done


I'm finally finished for the semester! I submitted my last take home exam (due to the quake) this morning. Phew, it's a relief to have that over with. Bring on the holidays, even if it is only two weeks.

Last night when I was having a break I also made a stitchy finish, the V&A cross stitch I've been working on. It's been nice having two stitchy works in progress. This one had so many half stitches, which are awful to do on 14 count. Whenever I got sick of them I switched to the other WIP for a while!

 'Vase Mini Cushion' by the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection for DMC
Stitched with threads and aida provided in kit

I love how it's turned out. It was worth all the unpicking, I think the most I've ever had to do for any stitch. When I took it out of the hoop and laid it out I was immediately struck with inspiration for finishing it too, so watch this space.


 
In other nice news I seem to be having a lucky streak at the moment, because I won another blog giveaway! This one was hosted by Amber at What to Make Next. I actually think the yarn is some of the most gorgeous I've ever owned, I love the feel of it. 


The yarn is to complete this lovely pattern. I'll have to find a wee girl in the right age group to knit it for first though! A worthy addition to the stash for now. Thank you Amber!

That's all for now,

*Sarah*

Find me linking up here

 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Recipe Review: HEAL Chicken and Corn Soup


My occasional column is back for a second installment. As I learn to cook you can journey along with me! I'm staying underneath a pile of books with exams this week, but updates on stitching in progress will be coming soon.

HEAL Chicken and Corn Soup

 Apologies for the awful photo. My camera does not like taking photos at night.

You can find the recipe at: http://www.heal.org.nz/default.aspx?ci=119
Why I chose this recipe: I randomly picked up some chicken carcasses at the Butchers the other day when buying other meat, just because they were so cheap!
What changes did I make: Omitted spring onions, shalots and sesame oil (though I did chuck in some sesame seeds), because I didn't have any. Substituted crushed ginger for fresh. Used two small carcasses instead of one medium-large.

Expense/Ease of finding Ingredients: Relatively easy, though note some ingredients were listed but never used, while others were used in the recipe but unlisted. Finding chicken carcasses may be difficult for some, but most butchers would stock them. For me this wasn't a problem, as the fact I had chicken carcasses was the entire basis of the dish. Everything else I had in the cupboard and could be simply sourced by anyone planning a meal.
Putting it together: Instructions are brief, but clear and relatively easy to follow. My only note is really do add the egg whites in a thin stream while stirring well. I tried, but the egg all came out of the glass at once and I ended up with bits of poached egg throughout.
Cooking: A soup from scratch is never going to be a toss it together kind of meal, it's always a labour of love. I thought the cooking time was quite reasonable considering that you're making your own stock. I started preparation at 5 and had it ready to go by just after 7. I found it's best if you keep an eye on it, just to prevent over boiling, but I got plenty of other bits and pieces done in the mean time (dishes, vacumming, bladebla).
Taste: Not as flavourful as I would have expected considering the number and quality of ingredients, especially flavour enhancers, that went in the pot. Around half of the quantity I made has been refrigerated, so it will be interesting to see if this changes over the coming days once the flavours have had time to settle. But apart from this it was pretty good, just what you'd expect from a winter warmer.
Extras: I served it up with homemade flatbread (find the recipe for that here). Some sort of dipper is a must. If you're like me, toast is just as good as anything!

Overall thoughts: It's sometimes hard to find soup-from-complete-scratch recipes, so I'll probably use this one again. That being said, the lack of flavour really did disappoint me considering the amount of effort put in. I think it was more of a hit with my flatmates, who didn't have to make it, then it was with me!
Score: 3/5

That's all for now,

*Sarah*

Find me linking to the usual places in my linky tab above!

*Disclaimer* I am not paid to write these reviews and I have no affiliation with the websites mentioned, they are simply my own opinions for your enjoyment!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Home Comforts


We're still having around 5 significant earthquakes a day, last night I was woken up 3 times (although I find the fact that I'm now sleeping through anything below about a 3.7 quite scary). In trying times, sometimes you need home comforts.

This pasta salad is my turn-to meal when I can't be bothered cooking, but still need something that's filling and colourful and relatively good for me. It's basically tuna, tomato and avocado. 


Followed off with a berry self saucing pudding. I love self saucing puddings, but this was my first attempt at this recipe (from Allyson Gofton's “Bake”). It was pretty good. I think it would have been better with frozen berries, even though the recipe recommended whatever. I used thawed, which meant the whole thing took on a rather strange colour! 



I think you have to accompany good food with either good company, a good book or good TV (which has to be British). As I was the only one home at the time, I turned to 'Would I Lie to You?' David Mitchell very rarely fails to make me laugh!  



Speaking of things that brought a smile to my face. . . I love this Top 10 Reasons to Stay in Christchurch list.

That's all for now,

*Sarah*

(I may be linking up to the lovelies in my link party tab above)

 
 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Slouchy Hat


On Monday there was another quake. 5.7, then a 6.3. I'm ok, my house is fine. One of my best friends has effectively lost his home. At least this time only one lost their life. At the moment we're playing the waiting game while the Uni decides what to do about exams . . . I've been trying to study, but not much luck so far, it's hard to concentrate without knowing what's going to happen and in constant aftershocks. But we're ok.

Anyways, after that slightly gloomy beginning, I did finish my slouchy hat! My second crochet project. It really is so slouchy, even after I took out a couple of rows. But I love it, especially the colour. 


The pattern is Brooke's Slouchy Hat on Ravelry. I used two and a bit balls of Naturally Loyal Aran 10 ply (100% wool).

I think my crochet is coming along. I admit I frogged on my first attempt, but I wasn't that far in and I got back to where I'd been up to within an hour. 


I can crochet!! I still can't believe how easy it was to learn. It's the first craft I've truly taught myself from scratch without a physical person to guide me along. I guess I should be thankful that we live in a world of youtube videos. I have an old needlework book that I picked up at a second hand book sale that had pictures, but I don't think I ever would have got it if I'd just tried to follow them. Now I can already single, double and treble crochet without even thinking about it. Wow! 

 
So what's the next project on the list? Exams, if we still have them. Though I was in the bookstore today and picked up a book on blackwork embroidery. . . so stunning and so simple! I have a couple of free patterns I downloaded a while ago, maybe I should give them a try. I also want to knit a cable scarf soonish as a present for someone. We shall see.

I may be linking up to these lovely ladies!

That's all for now,

*Sarah*
 
 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Back on Track


Yesterday I handed in my last assignment for the semester! This semester has been a long and hard one for everyone here at Canterbury, I think everyone is breathing a sigh of relief now it's over. I have exams in a week, but I'm still feeling more relaxed. My only aim for the day is to finish my book (and it's not even a textbook!). Bring on the holidays, it's only 17 days until my man comes home!

So last night I picked up my WIP's for the first time in over a week. I'm working on this crochet hat 


And this V&A Collection stitch 


With the high Kiwi dollar at the moment and as an end of semester reward, my flatmate and I took the opportunity to put in an order at 123stitch (I'd highly recommend them, super fast great service). I picked up this Country Cottage Needleworks pattern, which I've been drooling over for a while after seeing it done on some of the other stitchy blogs I follow. I can't wait to start it! 


I also borrowed a few cable needles from my mum today. Cable knits seem to be really in at the moment! I've never tried one before, but it's been on my list of techniques to learn for a while. So maybe something along those lines should be added to the project list.

Hope you're all enjoying your weekend! I know I am.

That's all for now,


*Sarah*

I may be linking up to these link parties. Check them out!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Study Break Bread Rolls


Crafting has really taken a back seat this week, as it's the last week of the semester I have far to many assignments due! But I get a week free before exams, so bring on Friday.

I did find some time yesterday to make some bread rolls. Bread is my thing of the moment I think, I've never really baked bread from scratch before, but it's like I've discovered yeast and woosh I'm away! The great thing about it is the rising, it means I can do one step, go away and work on an essay for 2 hours, then do the next step in my next break.

I used this recipe on the Jamie Oliver Forums, with the substitution of half a cup of wholemeal flour to add a bit of texture and colour. 

 
I may have left them in the oven just 3 minutes too long, they're a bit brown on the top. But still tasty! And just the smell makes the whole thing worth it.

Back to real craft sometime next week, I promise.

That's all for now,

*Sarah*

Linking up to some of these great parties!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Recipe Review: Joy of Baking Carrot Muffins


I bake fairly regularly, especially this year now that I have a lovely open kitchen in my flat, unlike last year. I'm a bit of a stress relief, spur of the moment baker though, so I quite regularly find myself baking at 9.30-10pm at night with whatever I can find in the cupboard. Which means quite often I find myself scouring the web for recipes that only use whatever I have in the cupboard!

With that in mind welcome to my new column, Recipe Reviews. It won't be regular, just whenever I try a recipe I found online. I haven't been paid or asked to write a review, it's really just for my own memory and for you! So my first Recipe Review is . . . .

Joy of Baking Carrot Muffins

The photo here doesn't really do justice to what they actually look like, the colour is more similar to the one on the website.

Why I chose this recipe: I had some cream cheese that really needed using up, so wanted something that would work with cream cheese icing.
What changes did I make: I left out the cinnamon because at the time didn't have any, reduced the amount of nuts slightly for the same reason (and didn't toast them), used plain cooking oil and followed my own recipe for the cream cheese icing instead of theirs. I did include the optional coconut.

Expense/Ease of finding Ingredients: Easy. Every good baker would have a vast majority of the ingredients in the cupboard already, nothing fancy and nothing overly expensive. The ingredients I skipped because I didn't have them at the time were easily expendable, so it's a pretty adaptable recipe.
Putting it together: I had trouble combining the wet and dry ingredients without over mixing, but that was at least half because I was using a deep bowl. That being said, there are A LOT of wet ingredients. Apart from that, easy!
Baking: I'm a take-it-out-when-it's-cooked baker rather than one that follows the recommended time exactly, but for this the recommended time was almost spot on. However, I took them out at the last possible point before they would start to burn and there was still a tiny uncooked patch in the middle of each one. Not enough to make a difference to the taste, but I think the muffins would have cooked better if there had been slightly less moisture in the mixture. On the same note, the muffin trays need to be very well greased if you are baking without paper liners like I was. They do cool quickly, which is great for inpatient icers (like me)!
Taste: Fantastic! The best homemade carrot muffins I have ever had by far. Just the right density, carrot tasting without being overwhelmingly so (the nuts and the coconut are a nice touch here) and all round delicious.
Extras: Cream cheese icing was a definite must on the top, as it is with almost any carrot baking. Because I was trying to use as much cream cheese as possible, I just beat the cream cheese gently with plenty of vanilla essence and a little lemon juice.

Overall thoughts: A fantastic recipe that combines ready-to-hand ingredients to make a carrot muffin that is truly spectacular. The only change I would make is to halve the oil just to reduce moisture slightly. Will definitely make again and this recipe will make it into my recipe file so I don't lose it.
Score: 4.5/5

That's all for now,
*Sarah*

I may be linking up to these parties, check them out!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Parcels, yayay!


Today I got several parcels in the mail from Australia and the UK. . . I would show you a photo of their wonderfulness before I open them but I couldn't blur the address very well.

Anways, what was in them?! I was lucky enough to win a couple of giveaways in the Sew Mama Sew giveaway days lately. I felt so lucky, I was just having fun looking at all the pretty blogs, I didn't really expect to win anything! 

 
I won these beautiful fat quarters from Chrissy at Stitched Together.


I love the underlying purple tones! I've had so many ideas for what I'll do with them, but haven't settled on anything yet. While I decide they'll make a worthy addition to my stash. Thank you so much Chrissy! 
  
I also won this STUNNING quilted cushion cover from Amelia at Stitch'n'Bits. I couldn't really get photos that did it justice, but I tried. 



Isn't it amazing? I know nothing about quilting really, but this pattern is apparently called a Dresden plate. At the moment I haven't got a cushion to fit in it, but I'll have to track one down soon. Thank you so much Amelia! 

 
Chrissy and Amelia's blogs are both wonderful, so you should check them out if you haven't already. And I highly recommended joining in with Sew Mama Sew's giveaway days . . . the next one should be in December.

I may be linking up to these link parties.

That's all for now,

*Sarah*