Restarting


We're past mid winter now but the chill is yet to leave my bones. It feels like a time of planning, or maybe that is just the coffee in next to me? This site was never meant to be a journal in any way, it was more of a record of project successes and fails. But things are about to get personal.

Classic wannabe blogger move: nothing in months and then coming in with an I've just been soooooo busy post. But actually, here's what has been going on in my world this last little while.

FAMILY
I mentioned in my social media rant that I had some sick family members. Both my Nana and Grandma had terminal cancer and it fucking sucked. I spent a lot of time really angry at the situation with no one I could take it out on cause it's no ones fault. It left me constantly exhausted. My family was amazing though, and we've all got through to the other side. Some days are still hard, but it is getting easier. Here's a really wonderful post about life with grief that I found during that time and thought was helpful.

SCHOOL
I've also finally finished my Bachelors of Arts. The past year has been hard with all this personal stuff going on and I somehow consistently got higher grades than I had in years previous. So I'm very pleased with myself, but sad that it is over. I'm working for the next 6 months or so and then (hopefully) starting post-grad next year. 

CRAFTS
I was reading a book last night on British Embroidery and realised that it is almost August and I have done hardly any embroidery all year??? I have been knitting like a madwoman instead. Knitting makes for a much better car activity and I have far surpassed my goal of knitting 12 baby beanies to donate at the end of the year. I've finally joined the local embroiderers guild so will hopefully be getting back on the horse.

HIPPY LIFE
My focus on environmentalism has been a bit weak. Partially cause I have just been so tired. We've developed a good packaging free shopping routine, but still go for convenience too often for my liking. I've made some zero-waste cleaners which are working pretty well and I've completely kicked any fast-fashion desires that were remaining. I've even convinced L that we could try composting at the community garden!

Now, I'm off to see a lady about a plant. 

Peanut Butter Brownie


Stress baking is both a pleasure and a further stress. First there is the release of beating batter by hand and letting the creativity flow with coming up with the new recipe. But then there is the oh I don't actually want to eat all of this. Followed by maybe I should invite someone over? No I daren't tidy the house

Either way, in the end the house smells delicious.

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE

PREP
175g butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
150g peanut butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
handful chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180°C
Line a slice tray

DO
Melt butter over a medium heat. Add in sugar and peanut butter and stir until it is all combined.
Beat in the eggs one at a time. The mixture should look quite glossy.
Add the flour and chocolate chips and beat until it is all combined.
Pour into your prepared tray and spread evenly.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. When you insert a skewer you want it to come out with just a little bit clinging to the stick.
Cool in the tray.

Knitting baby beanies


One of my friends at work is pregnant, like super pregnant by now. 

So I knitted a beanie for their soon to be newborn. The yarn is from Clementine and Thread and possibly the nicest wool I have ever used. I started with a 2x2 rib and then alternated knit and purl (I'm sure there is an official name for that).

I also learned that I am terrible at making pom poms! This was the second one I tried to make and even then I wasn't 100% happy with it. 

I sent these off with another goody and this cute card. I can't wait to see their inevitably gorgeous newborn in the coming days/weeks.

xo Isabel

No More Pizza Vouchers


I've been getting annoyed at the number of bloody pizza vouchers and other ridiculous things that turn up in our letter box. But I didn't want to go out and buy a no advertising sticker. So I made one.

Calico wrapped around some cereal box cardboard, magnets rescued for some xmas gift packaging, and some stitching to make it pretty.

And we haven't received any more advertising! :)

Low waste coffee habit


Regular caffeine is key to getting through uni papers and those early wake-ups for work. I do love a good cup of tea but when I want that extra spring in my step it’s gotta be coffee.

I’m purchasing my coffee from Allpress Coffee, which is direct trade coffee. I find them pretty transparent about the standards they have set for their growers. (you can read about why they chose Direct trade over fair trade here)

But what I love best about the Allpress store is that I can take my jar in and ask for how every many grams of coffee I think I’ll go through in a week. They’ll grind it for me no matter how small the amount it is - one time I spent all of $3 but they were totally cool with it. The first time I went in there with my jar I was nervous and sheepishly asked if it would be okay and their brilliant response was we love it when people bring their own containers.

At home I use a French press and I try to onlymake as many cups as I will drink. Afterwards I place the grounds into an old salsa jar and dry them out a little. This jar is being kept in the fridge to be delivered to my mum’s worm farm next time I visit. And this coffee is so good that I drink it black. No need for sugar or milk.

Hopefully soon I’ll have my own worms to feed it to.

Preserving tomatoes - puree


Every month or so I try to change one thing I am doing to live more intentionally. As ponsey as that sounds, it makes changing my habits to live more sustainably much easier.

I want to be more aware of seasons and cook with them mind. Fresh produce is more sustainable (you can read about that here) and it just tastes better. Much to L’s dismay, fresh vegetables taste more like vegetables and less like cardboard, but I love it. Seasonal produce is also much friendlier to my student budget.

Seeing as tomatoes are in season I thought I would preserve some to use when they go out of season.

I wanted my tomato puree to be pretty versatile so that I can add it to pasta, soup, or risotto, or whatever else may take my fancy in the winter.

I took a few kilos of fresh tomatoes and roasted them with some olive oil and salt. About half way through I added two onions which had been quartered. After they were squishy and smelling delicious I transferred them into a big bowl (juice and all) and pureed them with my stick mixer. Be careful not to splash yourself ‘cause it burns.

I sterilized some old jars and lids by placing them in a pot of boiling water and whilst they were hot, adding the hot pureed tomatoes and then sealing. As the glass and tomatoes cooled down, the lids sealed.

These are now sitting up in the back of the cupboard ready for the colder months. Now what to do with the left over jars I collected from my mum...

UPDATE: this didn't work :( It went off inside the jars even though they had sealed. I will put them in the freezer next time

Handmade Christmas Gifts 2016

Christmas is upon us and I have been doing some making but of course couldn’t share it until they had all been gifted.

This year my family reduced the numbers of gifts we each gave and received. For my immediate family (siblings and parents) we broke it down into four categories: handmade, books, charity donation and other. This was very handy otherwise I would have tried to make everyone’s gifts.

There was one gift that I was most excited to see opened. My eco conscious sister has been reducing her use of plastic and gave up grocery bags a few years ago so for her handmade gift, I made her some vege/bulk bags. These were made with old pillow cases that were worn thin so they would be light. It’s important for it to be light when you are paying for the additional weight. She is also a major beyonce fan so I stitched them with food puns and her lyrics. I overlocked the edges so that she could just throw them into the wash and not worry about any fraying. That was an experience and a half. I used L's mum's machine and managed to snap a few threads somehow which took awhile to fix. my sister definitely liked them and they were well worth the effort :)

For L’s family I did a gift basket of food goodies. I made them plum chutney and hokey pokey (and hokey pokey chocolate bark). Oh and I made them crackers, and then the next day read the recipe and realized I had made them about 6 days too early... So I took those into work. Making Chutney was pretty exciting and scary at the same time. When I heard the jars seal I did a victory dance around the kitchen. I had been staring at them just waiting, waiting for the pop. The hokey pokey is just the classic Edmonds recipe. These were bundled up with some wine and beer. I also had this idea in my head that I wanted to make a Christmas tree decoration to go with it all because it wasn’t feeling particularly Christmas-sy. I made these with some felt scraps and embroidery thread. It’s just French knots and back stitch for the design and then blanket stitch to hold it all together. I wanted this to be a relatively low-waste gift, so the basket is one that can be reused for storage or again as a gift basket, the drinks were in glass, the food was packaged plastic free and the stuffing in the decorations was fluffed up fabric scraps from projects over the year. 

I baked some gifts for the ladies at work. I made a double batch of my shortbread and gave them each a stack. I finished them at about 11.30pm the night before so I didn’t take any pictures. I assure you it looked pretty yummy. I wrapped the stacks in a piece of crepe paper and cut out red and gold triangles which I stuck on like Christmas bunting. They liked the shortbread enough that I was then asked to email out my recipe so they could all make it at home.

That is all that I made for Christmas specifically, but I have also been working on some owl brooches. I’m trying to find the best order of doing things because the light thread disappears into the fabric and is very hard for me to see, especially when stitching in the car or in front of the tv.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

xo Kirsten Isabel

Social Media Realness

Today is one of those days that I have something on my mind and I just need to write it out. Mostly this is just rambling in a word document and deleted when I am finished. But for reasons that will be clear shortly, I wanted to post this one publicly.

Social media is a funny thing. I love it in that I can keep in touch with friends and family wherever they are, and I can join communities of people that span the whole world. Instagram is my favourite of the various platforms but I am increasingly having a concerns with the lifestyle side of it.

I've been following a woman for awhile who went through a major life change and was constantly saying "this is so easy, this is so wonderful, life is perfect" for weeks. Especially about things a lot of people have difficulty with (breastfeeding, labour etc). And I was thinking to myself hey, that is great for them that they are having an easy ride. Then she revealed that actually, that entire time, it had been difficult and painful and not this pristine image she had been presenting. I understand that, especially when your income is involved, it would be difficult to go off brand. But pretending that everything is perfect just maintains this ridiculous notion that if your life is ever shit, you need to try harder, say some more motivational quotes and buy some more marble tabletops.

That paragraph may have got a little bitchy because I am angry at myself as much as her. I am a hypocrite. I've been doing the exact same for the past 2 months.

My Grandmother passed away last week after 2 months in hospice. Terminal cancer. Fuck cancer. This time has been hard. We all rushed to her side when she was first diagnosed and given a very very short prognosis. I've tried to balance finishing my exams, visiting as much as I could, working and trying to avoid burning out. My Nana has also had ill health and a terminal diagnosis. My family is having a shitty year. Not that you would know this if you read here or follow me on instagram.

In many ways, her story is not mine to tell, and I am very aware that there are much worse things going on for many people. Some days I would take a photo and not post it because I couldn't bring myself to be honest about what was going on. There's a world of difference in my sphere on Instagram and the woman's I was complaining about just before. But who am I to judge when I was doing exactly the same thing.

Writing this has me near tears just trying to think about how damn much I hate these last few months. How many others are going through the same thing now, or have, or will be soon?

We can find a way to be real on social media. If I wish to see change, I must start with myself.

Much love to everyone going through a horrid time.

Kirsten

Sustainable Purchasing - Update


Awhile back I was on the hunt for a new pair of shoes. I had a pair of boots that I wore everyday but they were so broken that my knees where beginning to hurt whenever I walked in them. And I had re-glued the sole down a few too many times.

I was on the hunt for a pair of shoes that I could wear all the time, and met my personal convictions of sustainability and ethical production. The easiest way to do this would have been to go op shopping (I think it's called thrifting overseas?) but you need time to do that. And I had run out of it!

I ended up with these clogs by the brand Funkis. I liked that they were low enough in the heel I could wear them pretty comfortably to uni or work. And they have a great sustainable outlook which they disclose upfront on their website. Fantastic! I was also able to get them shipped from Australia which is so much closer than Europe and I have saved the shipping bag they came in to reuse for sending gifts in the holiday season.

They were expensive for me though, so any shoe purchases in the near-future are going to be thrifted. I've learned my lesson to not leave it until I am in a dire need, and I'm sure my wallet thanks me for that.

xo Kirsten Isabel

Jeans Repair #3


I had said to myself that I would work with my jeans for a year and just mend them as needed. However, I tore a ligament in my ankle falling down the stairs. Being on crutches led to those jeans being a bit tight. They're still in my cupboard as I am sure I will go back to them at some point. But in the meantime, I bought a pair of jeans so that I would have something I could actually wear comfortably.

And after almost daily wear for five months this new pair needed some mending.

I decided to go for a sashiko style mend. I watched and read as much as I could about it before I started. I was greatly disappointed by the lack of academic writings on the subject. I did only search for english papers which may have been the downfall, and textiles is a still-growing area of study thanks to the old hierarchy of art. I got to the point where I felt comfortable to start stitching. I chose sashiko mending as it is very durable. There is an additional layer of fabric and then running stitches of thick thread bind this to the clothing. It is also pretty in it's decoration and follows the idea of Kintsugi (being more beautiful having been broken as it is part of the history of the object).

I used a piece of thicker calico that I already had in my stash for embroidery. I did not have any sashiko thread so instead used 4 strands of embroidery cotton. I highly recommend that you use a thimble otherwise you will ruin your fingertips trying to pull the threads through. (There is a particular thimble for sashiko which I do not own, instead I used my normal one on the ring finger of my stitching hand.) I did not prewash my threads so I've left the tails in the jeans in-case they shrink in the first wash. They're in the washing machine right now. Fingers crossed my plan works...
In my first lines the stitches are very uneven and in the last lines, they are too big. It really is something that needs some practice! There is a little puckering which I had expected. You are mending them when they are not on your body so it will not match exactly. But it isn't uncomfortable or too tight.

I found it quite an enjoyable process, as I could just sit there with my stitching and an audiobook or doco on in the background. I was very nervous to wear these out because I had this silly notion that people would judge me for it, or might ask me question, when I am terrible at talking to strangers. Which was, of course, absolutely ridiculous. The only people that have commented have been my grandma and the friends/family that know about my mending projects.

I did have a small worn patch on the other side so I mended that with my machine with this process that I did on my last pair. It is definitely much quicker but less decorative.

Resources I found helpful:
gazing at this instagram
this youtube channel
these tutorials which will be brilliant for more decorative mending in the future
a cloth in the Auckland Museum's collection

And for those with access through school or work:
Japan Knowledge Library has a good definition by requires login
Mottainai: The Fabric of Life, Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan by Sasha Rabin Wallinger from Textile: Cloth and Culture, 2012

xo Kirsten Isabel