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. 

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.

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

Izzy's Doll


I made a decision early on that every year, my goddaughter Izzy would get one handmade gift, at least one book and one costume. So for her first birthday it was high time I made her something.

This doll was lovely and soft and has spent most of it's time in her mouth!

The limbs and body are cotton, the hair is felt, the dress is some scraps of patchwork fabric and the features done with DMC embroidery thread. I used the same process as the mini moopy soft toy where the limbs are folded in and then the body is stitched around. Things came out a little wonky but that was okay. Once she was dressed you couldn't really notice it.

I had great expectations of myself and spent an evening trying to do plaited rag doll hair with embroidery thread but it got to midnight and I hadn't even completed one line! I will have to try that again another time when I haven't left finishing the doll to the day before. The felt hair worked out quite well in that it is super soft and I don't have to worry about it falling out if there's some rough play.

Izzy had open heart surgery very young so I decided to stitch the chest scars onto the doll like she has. So there is the main center scar and two drainage scars. I may add the kidney ones later on but they are currently quite faded.

I had definitely overestimated my skills in make a soft toy. There was a fair bit of swearing when things just wouldn't quite go as I had planned and it definitely is not as detailed as I planned for it to be when I first started. But that's okay :)

let me know what you think!

xo Kirsten Isabel

Sustainable purchasing is hard?


I'm having a hard time determining the best way to go about purchasing sustainable products.

I need to replace my shoes. The soles are destroyed and at this point it's causing one of my ankles to constantly be at a funny angle. Along with a host of other issues that show they are about to fall apart.

So I'm looking for a new pair. And I want them to meet all of these requirements:
- workers paid a fair wage
- long wearing
- repairable
- sustainable materials
- workers of the materials paid a fair wage and not in a situation that may be bad for their health
- locally made
- affordable, I am a student after all

One of the biggest problems I am having is that most long wearing and repairable shoes are leather. I'm not vegan so that itself is not an issue of me. But most leather is no longer a by-product of the meat industry and the dying of leather can cause huge health issues for the workers.

I'm going to have to compromise, but where do I draw the line? Is it more environmentally friendly to get a pair of leather shoes if I can have them repaired for twenty years? 

I've spent hours this week searching for something to meet my requirements and so far no luck. Sometimes trying to be live sustainably is hard.
 

 

Freestyle Baking (aka throw everything into a bowl and hope it turns out okay)


Baking freestyle is freeing. It's a chance to be creative in the kitchen. And is the cornerstone for developing your own recipes.

I've really been enjoying this sort of baking lately. I melt some butter and then just add things to it. Everything comes out edible and at its worst, tasty. 

You'll notice that recipes are similar because baking is all based around ratios.
Fat: sugar: flour : whatever else.
Overtime these ratios will stick in your head. I can remember the first cookie recipe I learnt, it is almost muscle memory now. 

So I thought I would give some things that I do to make sure everything comes out edible:
- start with an idea in mind, cookies, brownie, whatever. 
- always have some sort of sweetener, but err on the side of caution. No-one wants cookies that are straight sugar!
- add your flour in a bit at a time.  
- remember your leavener. Baking powder is the easiest.
- have the oven on a lower temp, ~165C. Burnt baking is not good baking.
- test the doneness by feel rather than time. Can the cookies be nudged without breaking, does a skewer come out clean, that sort of thing.
- ask your taste testers what they do and don't like so you can make something even better next time

These brownies were freestyle, and they turned out alright. Should have baked them a little longer but that's okay :) L still enjoyed them.

Happy baking!

xo Kirsten Isabel

 

Cookies and Cream Layer Cake


Three years doesn't seem like a very long time. At risk of sounding terribly soppy, it has been a wonderful three years. L and I had our anniversary recently. Neither of us could remember the exact date he first called me his girlfriend so at year one we rolled a 20 sided die to pick the date.

This year it went by pretty uneventfully. We were both in the midst of getting ready for exams so we picked up some Chinese takeout and watched a movie. He'd never seen Anastasia

Anyway, I decided I wanted to some baking for it. His favourite ice cream flavour is cookies and cream so I made a cookies and cream cake with layers of vanilla cake, chocolate chunks, vanilla meringue buttercream and oreo cookie crumbs.

We shared it with a big group of friends on the weekend and had to send everyone home with an extra slice to get rid of it all! It seriously is enough cake for twenty servings...

I used Bakerella's vanilla cake to make three layers. I sprinkled chunks of dark chocolate on top just before baking.  I left them sitting upside down overnight to try to flatten the small mound each had.

I made up some of Yo's Italian Meringue Buttercream. It was my first time trying this recipe and I don't think I ever want to go back to the crap made with icing sugar. it is so silky and smooth and delicious! It was pretty nerve wracking making it - everything has to happen at the exact right time to work. But it worked!

I layered the cake in this order:
Vanilla Cake
Buttercream
Oreo cookie crumbs
Repeat!

And then covered the entire thing in a layer of buttercream and cookie crumbs. 

Pressing the cookie crumbs into it made a HUGE mess. But it was totally worth it.

This cake went down really well, and the chocolate chunks added a nice touch.

Happy anniversary my love.

xo Kirsten Isabel

Ugly Duckling Mocha Muffins

I've started back at uni this week after almost 2 years of working full time. The prospect of walking into a lecture theatre filled with other students made me very very nervous. But it all went well despite me being a nervous nellie.

I'm really excited about my papers. And about not getting up quite so early!

Things I have been loving this week:
- homemade salad dressing: some water, oil, mustard, salt n pepper, and a spice like paprika. I just put it all in a jar and shake it up to make it like a runny dressing. Singing Shake it Off while you do this is optional.
- cute backpacks that fit a surprisingly large amount so I can drag unnecessary bits around all day
- Less than live with Kate or die podcast. This podcast is all about comics and the comic book world, with a focus on awesome female characters. I've been listening to it whenever I walk anywhere and it has been making that transport time more enjoyable.

I made some muffins this week for back to study and all that jazz. They are chocolate (necessary) and coffee (which I already feel like I need on an IV), and perfectly moist.

I wanted to try a new thing I saw on a Bon Appetit video. They grease and sugar the cake pan to give the cake a lovely crispy edge. This didn't work on my muffins... The sugar dissolved into the muffin in some sections, and bunched in others. I think I needed to have the oven a little hotter so I would up it to 180-185°C if I were to make these with the sugar again.

I have made this recipe twice before with varying additions (like coffee grounds) and never had them come out this ugly. But we accept ugly dogs so I think I can accept my ugly muffins!

MOCHA MUFFINS

PREP
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
100g butter, melted
2 eggs
100 ml strong coffee, cooled
1/2 cup yoghurt
1 cup chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 175°C
Grease or line a muffin tray
 

DO
Place all dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine (flour, sugar and cocoa)
Sprinkle over the chopped chocolate.
Whisk together wet ingredients (butter, eggs, coffee and yoghurt). Try to get these to a similar temperature before combining.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and fold until just combined.
Spoon into your prepared muffin tray.
Bake at 175°C for 16-19 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.
llow to cool on a wire rack

xo Kirsten Isabel