Monday, 15 October 2012

NZ Part 2!

Looking across to Auckland CBD from Mt Victoria in Devonport

The North Island! We had even less time to explore this part and really spent most of our time in Auckland with a day trip down to Rotorua. Unfortunately the weather wasn't in our favor and was wet for the first two days we were there, pretty much rain the whole time with low cloud, so we didn't see it as its best. We still managed to explore the CBD and caught the ferry across to Devonport, tried some fantastic chocolates at the famous Devonport Chocolate factory. We hired a car and drove down to Rotorua for a day trip to see the smelly thermal pools and to go Zorbing! Now that was awesome fun, sliding inside an inflatable ball to bounce and roll down the hill, shame its not in Australia otherwise I'd be keen to seek it out and have another go.

On our last full day in Auckland we went to Mt Eden crater, Auckland Zoo (cannot resist the temptation to see some cute animals if I have a chance) and went up the Auckland Skytower to finish the trip. Unfortunately I fell sick on the last two days of the trip with a bad viral infection and made the 4 1/2 hour flight home to Adelaide rather uncomfortable. Illness aside the trip was fantastic and given the chance tomorrow I wouldn't hesitate and do it all again!

Devonport Chocolates... YUM!

Smelly thermal pool, Rotorua

Me in the Zorb ball rolling down the "Zig Zag" track

Crater at Mt Eden, Auckland

Auckland Zoo
Clockwise from top left: Flamingos, never seen so many in one spot and boy were they noisy; cheeky Kea, NZ native bird; the elusive Kiwi (would not sit still for the camera) & Giraffes munching away on lunch.

Auckland at night from the viewing deck at Skytower

I could do many blog posts on my adventures to zoos alone, we always take so many pictures, which makes it very had to choose some to put up for one post without photo overload!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

NZ Part 1

New Zealand! Where do I begin. It is such a beautiful country, don't get me wrong, Australia has many beautiful places too but our Kiwi neighbour has plenty to boast about. I know two weeks was never going to be enough time to fully explore and enjoy the sights of this country but it gave us a good taster of where we want to come back to and new places to discover on another trip.

We started our adventure on the South Island; we flew over the snowy mountain ranges on approach to landing in Queenstown and what we saw was amazing. Staying in both Queenstown and Wanaka, we enjoyed 4 days of skiing on Mt Cardrona. Apparently all the mountain ski resorts in the Otago region had recorded some of the lowest July snowfalls in years, however there was still enough powder around for us to ski and we had a great time on the slopes. Both Queenstown and Wanaka are stunning, especially with the back drop of the snow capped mountain ranges completing the picture. We definitely would like to come back here as there is so much more to explore and do not to mention other ski resorts to try!

Besides skiing we went horse riding with Dart Stables down at the nearby little town of Glenorchy and rode through where they shot a lot of the scenes for the Lord of the Rings trilogy which was very cool, not to mention it was my first time riding a horse! :) This trip we didn't do any thrill seeking activities like a lot of people go there for, however on another trip I might consider some paragliding, it looked pretty awesome. I don't think I'm game enough to go bungee jumping, I'll leave that to the real thrill seekers!

We did a spot of bird watching and photography and found some quite pretty little things and some of the more unusual birds that are native to NZ. We spent 9 days in the region, nowhere near enough to fully appreciate everything that the South Island has to offer, one day we will go back and explore some more. We took hundreds of photos, too many to share on here but you get the idea how beautiful this part of the world was. In part 2 I'll talk about the North Island where we spent the rest of the trip!

 Queenstown, looking over Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown, looking down from top of the Skyline Gondola/lookout

 Lake Wanaka with Mt Alta in the background

 Skiing! Cardrona Alpine Resort, Mt Cardrona

 James and I on horseback on the Lord of the Rings trail

NZ Birds
Clockwise from top left: Tauhou (also known as White Eye, not native but I've never seen them before); Tui; Kereru (native pigeon) & Crested Glebe

Thursday, 27 September 2012

July to September...

OK, I know it has been 3 months since I last posted, but like always you get busy and time flies. Throw in some illness and ta-da, here is the end of September! So I thought I'd give a brief overview of what I have been up to.

Firstly we went to New Zealand for a couple of weeks in July. New Zealand is a beautiful place and would love to go back, especially to Queenstown/Wanaka where the snowy mountains and skiing was fantastic.

I have been also very busy on the creative front, designing and making various things which I'll discuss in more detail in a later posts. There have been sightings of double rainbows, birthday celebrations and a trip to Melbourne thrown in for good measure (not to mention we couldn't resist the temptation and saw all the cute animals at Melbourne Zoo).

So basically that's where the last 3 months of my life has disappeared to and the speed that this year is going it will be Christmas before we know it! Eek!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Potato & Bacon Frittata

While we're already nearly half way through winter, comfort food makes its appearance to cheer one's cold body up. For the last week I have been rather busy in the kitchen cooking some of these winter warmers and decided to share with you one of my favourites of the moment. It is basically a good recipe for left overs but can be made from scratch. The potato and bacon frittata is a good one I have cooked a number of times now and I tend to tweak the recipe with what I have at hand in the fridge and pantry. When I made this one, it was a perfect opportunity to try out the new camera too. I cannot remember where I got the original base recipe for this from, but seeing as I change it slightly each time, I'll call this my recipe.

- 3 medium potatoes peeled and roughly chopped (you can use left-over roast potatoes)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 2 bacon rashers, cooked and finely chopped
- 1/2 large capsicum, de-seeded and chopped
- 1 large bok choy, stalks chopped and leaves torn (alternatively you can use baby spinach, but I didn't have any on hand)
- 4 eggs, lightly whisked
- 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup finely grated colby cheese (or a cheese that has a good melt)
- a few sprigs of finely chopped parsley (I didn't have any growing at the moment so I used a teaspoon of dried parsley)

1. Pre-heat a fan forced oven to 200°C.
2. If not using left over roast potatoes, partly cook potatoes in water for 5-8 minutes in the microwave (or about 10 minutes in a pot on the stove), drained and put aside.
3. Heat a frying pan with oil, once hot add the onions and garlic and fry until lightly golden brown.
4. Add the potatoes and toss and stir until the outside edges are beginning to brown.
5. Grease a rectangular flan pan (approximately 15cm x 30cm) and tip the potato and onions in and evenly distribute around the pan.
6. Sprinkle over the finely chopped bacon, chopped capsicum and bok choy.
7. Whisk the eggs lightly with paprika, salt and pepper, pour over the potatoes and the other things in the flan.
8. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and parsley and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until egg is cooked through and potatoes are tender with the cheese browning on top.
9. Remove from the oven, slice and serve while hot.

This can serve four people as a side dish or two people for a main. It was delicious and the perfect food for the rainy weather we have been having recently.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Collection of Crafty Card Creations

We finally bought a new camera over the weekend and I am really looking forward to taking better photos, but first I have to learn how to use it properly :). While I'm doing that I thought I'd share with you some of my previous card creations I have made over the years. Seeing as it was my Mum's birthday a couple of weeks ago I thought I'd continue the theme with some more birthday cards I have made. I have made plenty of others but I'll save them for another time.

As you can see, some of these are rather detailed and they did take thought and time to make, but each and every one I enjoyed making and the reaction of the people who received them is even better! I have already shown a few cards I have made on here in previous posts which can be found here, here, here, here and here.

 Papercraft puppies

Watercolour daisy

Papercraft garden

 The card up the top was sketched from a photo in which I coloured with pencils (Derwent Studio and Derwent Artists) on black card and carefully cut out. The card below was a 3D caterpillar which unfolded (as shown) could stand by itself. This was a fun one to make although cutting the circles out was a little tiring on the hands with the scissors (if a hole punch that large existed, it would have made it easier).

 This was another fun one, I love using shiny silvery card and glitter, it makes the card pop!

 I love making character cards as they provide a challenge in getting all the details close, if not spot on with the real thing, but I only make them for those close to me, for obvious reasons. (Copyright infringements etc.)

This one is one of my favourites, classic Optimus Prime. Not only did I make this for my husband a few years back but I got to use up many card scraps I had around (I prefer not to waste any off cuts) and it came out great! And he got to relive some of his childhood memories upon receiving it :)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Mini Gromit

These are a few photos of a present I made for my mum's birthday. I finished it over a week ago but couldn't  publish any photos until after her birthday otherwise the surprise would have been ruined. I have been a huge Wallace and Gromit fan for years and I bought a big Gromit softie about 7-8 years ago. Mum has always eyed him off and when we moved to Adelaide she offered to "babysit" but my reply was sorry but he is coming with me :).

I thought the ideal present this year was to make her a Mini Gromit! Her reaction? She LOVED it! Mum said she had an inkling of what her present was when it arrived in the post and she couldn't resist the temptation and opened it up the night before her birthday, but I had no doubt that it was something she was going to love.

I didn't have a pattern to go off to make Mini Gromit, so he was basically a game of trial and error, I crocheted parts and tried my best to keep things in fair proportion. As you might notice in the second photo, Mini Gromit's face is a tad oddly sized, ideally his face should have been larger at the jaw and smaller at the brow but until you start stuffing it with fill, it is hard to really gauge what the finished product will look like. Some bits I had to start over as they looked totally out of whack, but I got there in the end. Having big Gromit sitting close by to look at helped a lot as I didn't need to keep referring to pictures on my DVD cases and books.

To go with Mini Gromit, I wanted to make an appropriate birthday card. So I decided to go with another favourite; Shaun the Sheep! This was a spin off from Wallace and Gromit and I love the animation in both! I created the card with Shaun and his little friend Timmy on the front. I really want to crochet a Timmy, Shaun or perhaps even both for myself sometime in the future, they are too cute.

The last photo is what I call my "family album" shot, every time I make a new softie I have to take I photo of it with my other ones before giving/sending the finished toy to its new home. Ducky (the first duckling I made, starred in my second ever blog post seen here), Lil' Robot and Froggy were my first Amigurumi toys I made last year and they live on my husband's desk and come out for family photo shoots like this one! :)

P.S. Sorry for the poor colouring in the photos, our little compact camera is having "colour issues" and we are hoping to buy a new DSLR very soon, so stay tuned! Can't wait to start playing with it and taking proper photos!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

DIY Yarn Dispenser

I thought I'd show you my quick 3 step DIY for stopping yarn from escaping when crocheting and knitting. The ball always rolls away from me, unravels and then picks up fluff and hair off the carpet which is a bit annoying let alone light coloured yarn getting grub marks on it, also handy in stopping pets taking off and playing with it. It is very simple, all you need is an empty tissue box (or a box large enough for your yarn to fit in if the ball is larger than a tissue box) and paper clip or dog clip.

Step 1: Take one used tissue box and carefully open one end. If you want to glam up your box, decorate it in what ever you like, pretty wrapping paper, fabric, paint etc. I was lucky and had an appropriately patterned box! :)

Step 2: Put ball of yarn in and thread through the opening on top and fold the end back down and clip with paper clip or dog clip.

Step 3: Pull yarn through and start/continue crochet or knitting!

TIP: Due to yarn ball being a little on the large side initially, sometimes it won't spin around in the box properly and the yarn gets a little snagged. I solved this by taking out the ball and unravelling a bit and then loosely winding around the ball, put it back in a its good to go again.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Miss Husqvarna

Meet the one of the newest, but conversely oldest, members of my crafting equipment family; my beloved late Ma-ma Sue's sewing machine. Miss Husqvarna has been sitting at my parent's house in Tasmania all boxed up for the past few years waiting for me to bring her home. Even though I have made multiple trips back "home" since moving to Adelaide 5 1/2 years ago, it wasn't until we took the car over last Christmas that I was able to bring her back with me (bit difficult to carry something like this on a plane so it had to patiently wait).

I haven't got a permanent spot to leave her out and set up and the last few days I have been pottering with making my light box and needed to stitch some fabric for it, so out she came! She did the job well and while she maybe very basic compared to the many computerised ones available these days, she is perfect for a novice like me!

I'll fill you in on a little bit of Miss H's history. My grandparents were known to keep most of their possessions in their old house in immaculate condition and she was no exception. Ma-ma kept her set up in her sewing room on the sewing machine cabinet ready for what seemed like daily use. When Mum and I got it out to check everything was still working in January we discovered that Ma-ma had not only kept ALL the original packaging, but she had kept the purchase receipts to even the A4 glossy brochures she must have picked up prior to purchasing the dear old thing back in 1982! Yes Miss H is 30 years old and doesn't look like she has aged one bit!

Anyhow she is in mint condition considering her age and consistent use over the years. Ma-ma used to sew a lot of her own clothes (and some of mine when I was little) and not to mention the numerous pillow cases, cushion covers, napkins, tissue box covers, soft toys and even Christmas decorations.

I sincerely regret not taking more of an interest in sewing when Ma-ma was still with us, I'm sure she would have loved it. I partially blame my teenage years when at the time "sewing was sooo not cool" and obviously life's other distractions, but I won't dwell on it now. So in her memory I'm going to make an honest attempt to continue her crafty legacy.

Enough of the emotional 'wish I could turn back time stuff' and tell you more about Miss Husqvarna! While she doesn't any of the mod cons of today's machines, she still has a number of features to talk about. She is the 5310 model, and as you can see in the photos she is cream and brown in colour. Her frame/outer body is all metal - no flimsy plastic here - so she is rather solid, but surprisingly not as heavy as one might expect.  Bobbin winding, double spool pins for two threads/double needle.  For the time I'm sure a lot of the little features were new and even revolutionary, but commonplace on machines today, what really stands out is the sense of durability, quality and solidness all wrapped up in a neat little package; every part is nicely crafted and well thought out and I think she sews just as smoothly and efficiently as the day she was bought.

She was cleverly designed to come with an extension table that slots around the arm as well as an accessories tray (with 10 bobbins along with various bits and pieces). All this along with the foot control pedal, everything slots/folds up within the machine so when the case slides over and on, everything is kept together as one package! Neat huh?

Well for now she is back into the box again, after performing brilliantly for my little sewing projects. I'm still just starting out but I plan on getting another 30 years worth of life out of this beautiful and well crafted little machine; I know she will continue to make more great work in the years to come as I learn to use her the way she is meant to be.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Winter Warmers

One of my most challenging crochet projects to date I finally finished on Friday. I must say I am proud of my achievement as I only picked up a crochet hook and taught myself how to crochet a year ago. I was delighted when I found the February issue of Mollie Makes at the newsagents a couple of months back (it is UK magazine so the newsagents here a little behind getting them - if at all). I had stumbled across this delightful read after finding out about it from Katia on her Plushka's Craft blog.

Upon seeing the cover I was in love with the wrist warmers that graced it, and was even more excited to discover that the issue had included the pattern for them. After reading it I couldn't resist and decided I would definitely have to give it a go at making these.

I already have a couple of pairs of knitted fingerless/wrist warmers, I practically live in them during the winter months as my fingers and wrists ache from being cold, and I couldn't resist adding another to the collection. These are slightly different to most of my crochet projects, made using a fine mercerised cotton with a soft satin sheen. Its made entirely using the same tiny hook as the bookmarks, no small challenge!

While crocheting the bookmarks were a challenge as well, these wrist warmers are the first that I've actually followed a pattern. Yes, OK I have followed patterns before (notably the Amigurumi toys I've blogged about here and here) - but I have always tweaked them to a degree and they were fairly straight-forward in comparison. The sleeves of the wrist warmers were fairly easy to do, it was the lace detail up the top at the cuff that tested my skills and patience. I had to give myself several breaks for my hands and fingers as I gripped/squeezed too hard at times trying to keep the cotton at the right tension as I chained, but I got there in the end and couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I'm looking forward to wearing them out and about this winter! :)

Monday, 14 May 2012

Made with Love

Now Mother's Day is officially over, I now can share with you some photos of what I made for the mums. I wanted to make a small gift to send to each (as they both live in Tasmania), so I crocheted a couple of bookmarks. They were fiddly as I decided to venture beyond my skills in wool into mercerised cotton. The cotton I used was really fine (ticket weight 40 for anyone out there who wanted to know the type I used), so it was a bit of a challenge to keep it on the hook (size 1.25mm) while trying to chain. I designed these myself and tweaked it as I went along. To go with these I made them each a custom card.

This last photo I had to share, these two cute little swallows have been visiting each day lately, early morning, then disappearing during the day to go about their business and then returning at dusk to perch for half hour or so before flying off to where ever their nest is for the night. They love sitting on the clothes line with their little heads constantly turning, watching the other birds fly about. Also the clothes line is out of reach from the cats so I think they think its a bit of a safe haven to have a break from zooming about the place. Too cute! :)