Wednesday, February 13, 2013

on food

I've been doing much thinking and reading on food lately. I was feeling less than healthy after the excesses of the holidays and the conveniences of being away.  In the space of a month I'd experienced a cold, a very sore wisdom tooth and swelling in one foot. I couldn't even wear my favourite sandals anymore. It had also been quite a stressful time with the fires, but I knew this was more than just stress. It is easy to get off track sometimes, and I'm noticing this far more in my 30's than in my 20's. It was so easy to bounce back then.

So I'd begun taking more care with our diet again. Lots of soups and salads on the menu. Homemade bread back on the menu. Within a week my gums were back to normal, though I was almost convinced the previous week that I would need to visit to the dentist.

I re-read Nourishing Traditions. Always a wonderful reminder of how our diet should be. For those that haven't read this book, it is full of traditional recipes using the ingredients that have nourished people for thousands of years. It is the complete opposite to everything we have been told about what we "should" eat. Grass-fed beef, animal fat, butter, vegetables, raw milk, eggs, fermented foods including dairy and grains that are soaked are all on the menu. There is also much information on what Sally Fallon describes as "new fangled" foods, the dangers in foods such as most vegetable seed oils (with the exception of extra virgin olive oil and some unrefined nut oils), sugar and white flour.

We watched Food Inc, after reading about it here on the Down to Earth blog. Though I thought I had read and watched a lot on food before, I really did find this shocking. I knew that cheap food came at a cost, but I was unaware as to just how far this goes. The animals, the farmers and ultimately the unaware consumer are all the victims in this billion dollar food industry. It is a very sad state of affairs.

While browsing through the Amazon reviews one night I stumbled upon Primal Body Primal Mind : Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life, of which people had some very positive things to say about. So I ordered myself a copy and once arrived, read it within a week. It advocates a similar diet to that outlined in Nourishing Traditions, but with less emphasis on grains. Grains are to only be eaten once soaked, and preferably not at all. Starchy food is also not recommended. This is a version of the the Paleo Diet, based on what our ancient ancestors would eaten. Being a hunter gatherer, there was meat, seafood, animal fat, vegetables, dairy and small portions of grains and fruit available. According to the book, our bodies were designed to burn fat (mostly saturated) as fuel rather than carbohydrates (anything made with flour, sugar and grains).

I read this with great interest. I am not one to say I follow a particular diet, as I don't like to label how I eat, nor do I believe in diets. I know I could never completely cut out grains. Or potatoes or beans. But we can eat less of them.  I did cut out sugar (again) a few weeks back and I've cut out white flour, although I'm still eating oats and other soaked grains once a day or every second day. I've been baking the kids spelt bread, leaving the dough out overnight for now. Though we do still sometimes sweeten with maple syrup or honey and we do eat fruit. We've been eating quite a lot of eggs, salads, yoghurt, nuts and local grassfed meat with lots of vegies. Often with liberal amounts of butter, coconut oil or olive oil. Unfortunately I've had no success with sourcing raw milk in our area of no dairy farms, short of buying a cow for ourselves one day. You never know.

I'll admit that the first week of no wheat and sugar had me falling asleep virtually every afternoon. But this week I've got my energy back and then some. I'm feeling less hungry, particularly in the late afternoon which is always a low energy time for me. Also less bloated, and in a consistently better mood.

I don't know how sustainable this is in the long term, but I am definitely hoping that it will be. It is a rather drastic change considering that for many years our diets revolved around white wheat products and sugar. How I used to love bread and sugar.

As a bonus I'm able to wear my favourite sandals again. After about six months of minor swelling,  it completely disappeared almost two weeks ago.

Did you see Food Inc?
Have you ever tried a Paleo or traditional way of eating?
Have you read any interesting books or blogs lately on the subject of food?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

sunshiney tea leaves

Some knits are just faster off the needles than others. This was not one of those projects, but rather, one of those ones that takes far longer than you first thought. Not for the fault of the pattern either, which is really very good, but more from a series of stops and starts. Firstly for forgetting where I was up to, and then another problem altogether.

I think I cast on for Violet's Tiny Tea Leaves way back in October last year. You may already know how much I love this pattern. Julia's Tea Leave's was worn constantly last Winter, and I thought it would be nice to have a matching one for Violet. In a non matching way of course.

I used a soft bright sunshiney coloured wool from Nundle Woollen Mill's online store. It was lovely to work with and had a fair bit of drape to it. Which was almost my undoing on this project.

I knitted up the size two and it is still quite big. Big enough to fully roll up the garter cuffs at this stage. But not to worry, as I am sure it will be fitting a little better in no time. I'm not quite sure as to what happened to the intended three quarter length in the pattern, but full length sleeves are more practical in these colder parts anyway.

The buttons were from my button collection. A leather pair picked up from an op shop in Wonthaggi. It's a pleasant reminder when you can incorporate little finds from past trips in projects.

I actually cast this off just after christmas. All was apparently fine and dandy, bar a few little decreases that I worked the wrong way. That was, until it came to the blocking part. At which point the neckline stretched like you wouldn't believe. And did not go back either.

So I googled, I gentle machine washed this time and I blocked again. With no luck. Then on a googling session I discovered this advice, from the Yarn Harlot, which essentially shows how to reinforce a loose edge with chain stitch crochet inside the neckline. Written in a most entertaining way, I will add.

Which worked. Thank goodness. It's good to learn these little tricks sometimes. Good for getting yourself out of a knitting pickle.

Of course all's well that ends well in the world of knitting.

(Ravelry notes here)

Monday, February 11, 2013


There are times when words don't flow so easily. When I feel that life has been so uneventful that I really don't have anything to say. But perhaps there is always something to say, even as mundane as life can be. Even on a Monday after an uneventful weekend. Even when forgot to take any new photos.

I woke to a misty grey morning. One that looks like it will bring needed rain. A relief after the relentless hot weather of the past week. Things have been far greener here lately, which is a very good thing for the old vegie patch and the grass. Not to mention those near empty water tanks. The temperature gauge tells me it is a fresh 14 degrees outside. Let's hope that rain holds off until I get those kids to school and back. It's a car free day today, and not by choice.

I've been trying to get up earlier lately. Getting up a little earlier I am able to pry myself off the littlest sleeping child, which is no easy feat, but somehow far easier at 6 than 7. I then have some breakfast, tidy, make a coffee and type a few things on the blog. Undisturbed child free time, when there is nothing I can hear but birds in the distance makes an earlier rise worth it. Even though I am not, and will never be a morning person.

Lunches are all packed in the fridge, and uniforms clean in cupboards. No doubt the start of another busy week. It feels like the holidays are a far distant thing already, and we are back in the predictable routine of school. The kids have settled right back in, and although things never stay the same, I know they are happy to be amongst their friends.

I guess there is a kind of comfort in the mundane afterall.

How was your weekend?
Is it raining where you are? A little greener than it has been?
Do you get up earlier for the peace and quiet?

Friday, February 8, 2013

summer wardrobe : the washi dress

You probably know those few days following christmas.  Days usually involving relaxing, getting over christmas and eating way too many leftovers. Well, this year my "relaxing" involved whipping up a dress. Of course I still ate way too many leftovers. But it is funny how the more you sew the more you enjoy the whole process, and not just the finished product. Yes, I enjoyed it enough to use my free time cooped up in my sewing room for two days.

As there was a definite gap in my wardrobe as far as dresses were concerned, I chose the Washi Dress pattern, from the blog Made By Rae for this holiday project, which I purchased locally here. The fabric was a cotton voile I had purchased from Darn Cheap Fabrics, and it was indeed cheap. But lovely and soft to touch with a colourful print.

I made a quick version out of an old sheet to test for sizing, which needed a little adjusting here and there in the side seams. It all came together fairly easily, with some fiddling involved with the neckline and facing. There was some frustration when I realized I had sewed on the facing the wrong way, but at the end of the day that is what an unpicker is for.

 There are several lines of shirring at the back (of which I forgot to take a photo of!) which eliminates the need for a zipper or buttons and gives you a nice snug, but comfortable fit. I was a little nervous using the elastic thread, as I hadn't used it before. But don't be scared, it really is very easy to sew with. The simple pleats came together easily, which is something I've struggled with in the past. I also took the hem up a bit.

The pattern instructions were clear and thorough, with several options to choose from for some of the steps. Though I didn't line this dress, there are instructions available for that, as well as the option of making this a tunic top or a maxi dress.

I was very happy with the end result and this has been a favourite pop on and go outfit all this Summer. The only thing I did end up altering was I later blind stitched the inner facing to the bodice, as I had issues with it staying down. Would I make it again? Yes, though I might try the plain scoop neck variation next time. Or possibly in a maxi style.

In the end though, the thing I like most about this dress is that it makes me feel happy whenever I put it on. It is my new "happy" dress.

Do you have a happy dress?
Have you been sewing or making lately?
Any projects to share?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

a birthday and a sponge cake

Last week we had a little low-key (as most of ours are) birthday. Julia's 8th. It is the last of our birthdays for the season, as all the kids birthdays fall in late Spring and Summer. Just a few friends and our immediate family.

The cake was Nigella's Birthday Custard Sponge from the book Feast (but the recipe is also online here).  I gave Julia a whole stack of cookbooks to look through and this was her choice. Though there was three steps and lots of washing up involved, it was still fairly quick and easy. Though I didn't use a food processor as stated in the recipe, just some old electric handbeaters, but it turned out fine. I think we could say this sponge is pretty foolproof.

Of course, for a very long time Julia was the baby of the family. Quite hard to believe my "baby" is now 8. How time does fly.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Like so many things to do with babies and toddlers, the time is fleeting. They grow so very fast, and before you know it you have a young child on your hands. Just this Summer we have started to see this transition. The daily new words, the slightly less dependence on us and an increasing understanding. I really love this age! Which brings me to a sewing project I'd always wanted to make. Bloomers. So I thought I'd better squeeze them into the projects list for this summer, while we are still in the stage of nappies and little chubby legs.

I used the pattern Ruby's Bloomers from the book Weekend Sewing, which was one of the first sewing books I ever bought. It was a simple pattern of four pieces, elastic thread to gather the leg and a waist elastic casing. Definitely a quick, done in a day, satisfying type of project. I like that. So I thought I would make four. Production line style. Done in two small sewing sessions.

Fortunately there was no need to alter this pattern for cloth nappies, as it was definitely accommodating enough. I made the largest size, which I think went up to size 2.

I used fabric I had on hand. An old embroidered tablecloth (those who collect vintage linens will know how hard it was to cut into this, but I reasoned that it was better out and about that in a cupboard), two pillowcases and some quilting cotton I had.

I think they are the sweetest thing on a slightly chubby toddler. Pop on a t-shirt or singlet for hot weather or under a dress to cover a nappy. Perhaps I can squeeze another season out of these.

Which reminds me I never did get around to making that toddler sun suit. Perhaps there is still time?

Monday, February 4, 2013


We had a most welcome dip in the weather temperature for the weekend. Quite unbelievable that a few weeks ago there were fires amid the hottest weather we have experienced, and yet on Saturday we were out in our woolen jumpers. There were even a few fireplaces on. Though the Summers are harsh and the Winters long and cold here, I do look forward to the change in Autumn every year. It was nice to get a little preview of sorts. That feeling of freshness that makes you feel alive. But then, I am a cold weather person.

My in-laws were visiting and we enjoyed a simple meal of meatball and vegetable soup with sour cream and homemade bread. I had put some roses from the garden in various "vases", because it is nice to have some colour when there are extra people are around. My vegetable garden may be in a fairly sad state, but my roses have thrived despite the weather.

I brought home an interesting patchwork quilt from the op shop and tucked it into the lounge. The bright colours are cheering and it reminds me how refreshing simple changes in the home can be. I wonder who made it and why it appears to have never been used.

How was your weekend?
I'm hoping your week will be a pleasant one.

Friday, February 1, 2013

summer wardrobe : alma

I remember my mother making me the prettiest dress when I was 6 or 7. It had cute little puffed sleeves, bluebird fabric and best of all, a Peter Pan collar. So although, sadly, there will be no bluebirds and puffed sleeves today, a Peter Pan collar there will be.

It was a windy day!

I had purchased Sewaholic's Alma pattern some months ago, and thought the christmas holidays would be the perfect time to sew this for. I had never sewn a blouse type of pattern before, let alone a collar, but this one had the advantage of no fiddly buttons, just an invisible side zipper of which I have sewn with a few times.

The fabric, a Liberty print, was not cheap, but was a little christmas splurge (at least that is my excuse). It was beautiful to work with though, is comfortable to wear, and I don't think I will ever tire of the print. I would like to think that this is something I could wear for years, and perhaps one day when it becomes too worn to wear, could be cut up for patchwork.

I can't quite recall which size I cut out for, only that there was a mixture of sizes involved in the final cut, and there was some altering along the way. I think in my intentions of not making it sack-like it ended up a little too fitted, with tucks instead of darts. I did lengthen it slightly.

The pattern was easy to follow and the steps do-able if you have made a few things before. I would definitely make this again, perhaps one of the other Alma versions next time. I have been wearing it with slim fitting jeans, but I would like to try it tucked in with a skirt at some stage.

My own Mum decided to trace the same pattern too, and the next time I saw her there she was in her very own Alma. She didn't even need the instructions. Unfortunately though I did not manage to get matching Alma photos!

Have you been sewing or making lately?
What have you been making or planning?