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

Banana Donuts

He wanted muffins and instead he got mini banana donuts with a chocolate glaze. I think that was an improvement.

Sometimes the days go by very fast and very full, and all of a sudden it's been weeks since I last baked. And those times, L quietly asks will you be doing any baking this weekend? He's so sure that baking should be a hobby of mine rather than a chore, that he doesn't want to ask for anything specific. But there is nothing more homely than the smell of freshly baked muffins.

I used this banana muffin recipe and just piped it into my donut tray. The baking time was reduced to ~9 minutes.

The chocolate icing is white sugar, hot water, butter, cocoa and a little flour. The flour was just to thicken it seeing as I didn't have any icing sugar in the cupboard.

These are tasty, and moist, and delightfully bite sized.

Let me know if you give them a go :)
xo Kirsten Isabel

Grey tee mending

Does anyone else get little tears in the front of their shirt? I'm so confused where they come from! I got some on a relatively new shirt (new this winter) and was devastated. The shirt looked crap leaving the holes there, but I had no clue how to mend it.

This shirt is modal fabric which is lovely and soft (and from a ethical brand) and supposedly well wearing. I was worried that mending would result in distortion of the fabric or just look poorly done.

I used a scrap of interfacing fabric leftover from a previous sewing project and pinned this behind the holes. I then embroidered on the interfacing and fabric to cover the holes. I then trimmed the excess interfacing away. The mending is very visible but decorative.

And I think it looks okay/not too noticeable :)

Ginger and lemon tea

I am sick again for what feels like the hundredth time this year. I've slept, and laid up in bed for 3 days now. On the positive side, I have got through most of Extra History which has kept me from boredom.

Lemon and ginger tea is one of the best things when you're sick. It's a little relief for the throat and the nose and the self. But getting up regularly to make the tea and chop the ginger can feel like a little too much when under the weather.

I boiled 4 cups of water with 2 1/2 inches of ginger (chopped) and the zest and juice of a lemon. After a few minutes simmering I turned the heat off and just let it sit. I then drained the tea into a jar and am keeping it in the fridge.

Just pour some into a mug and reheat with a bit of honey, and in the evenings a bit of brandy, and enjoy the soothing properties without wearing yourself out too much.

Or, guilt your partner/sibling/flatmate to make it for you :)

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.


Birthday Cake - 2016

Every year I ask L what he wants for his birthday cake. And every year it is something totally different that forces me to really think about how I'm going to actually make it.

His initial idea was a town street  made of lollies and chocolate alike a scene in the Simpson's. What resulted was a cabin made of cake and other baked goods.

Trees: meringue piped with a star tip and flavored with some green apple extract. I painted the inside of the piping bag to create variations in the coloring. 

Grass: colored shredded coconut

Path: lolly cake cut into squares and glued down with melted chocolate

Windows: crushed lollipop which I sprinkled into circular cookie cutters and melted in the oven. The different colours come from different flavored lollipops

Door: melted chocolate which I painted with  a mixture of cocoa and vodka (the vodka makes it dry quickly). More cocoa was used to make darker lines to give the impression of wood grains. And a droplet of melted chocolate for the door knob. 

Logs: a flake chocolate bar cut into three

House:  I made sheets of banana cake and mocha cake (chocolate cake with some espresso powder and then the cooked cake is brushed with  espresso). I cut each sheet into two squares and then stacked them, alternating flavors, with Caramel buttercream and Caramel sauce. I then chilled the cake for a few hours before cutting two sections off the top to create a roof shape. This was then crumb coated. 

Icing: I separated the icing into two bowls and colored one blue-gray and the other a purplish terracotta. I had some difficulties with the buttercream separating at this point and found that heating the mixture ever so slightly and then whipping it for five minutes fixed that up nicely. The pattern on the walls was made by dragging the tip of my spatula upwards. I tried to replicate tiles by piping balls of icing and them dragging a spoon through it, doing this row by row. I think it would have looked better if I used less buttercream for each tile. 

All up this cake took about 4-6 hours and it didn't seem so bad cause I spread it over about a week. All the decorations were able to be done in advance.

Jeans Repair #2

When my jeans ripped this time I was like darn! Cause it was a chance to try darning...

I used this page as reference.

I found it a bit difficult to with the weaving to start off with (cause I started in the middle). But I think I figured it out as I went on. It did take awhile! I had to sit in front of the window to get it all  finished before the sun went down.

It has held up so far but it's only been a few days. 

xo Kirsten Isabel

Vege Muffin Bites

Over the past few years I have developed a clear lunch time. It's a set break, to eat and read and reenergise. The days without it feel strange. Fridays this semester feel strange. I have no breaks between my classes and they are just spread out enough that dashing between them takes the whole break. So I made these for something to eat while I run across campus between classes. Or more accurately, while I wait at the traffic lights. I thought something small and veg filled would be good to keep that brain functioning and energy high.

I don't want to say that these were a success. But they weren't bad either... I should probably have cooked the onions a bit first. Their flavour is a bit strong and smells out whatever container I put them in.

I will experiment with this a bit but if you want to try in the meantime, this was what I used:

2 kumara, grated
4 carrots, grated
2 zucchini, grated
1 red onion, chopped
a handful basil, chopped
⅓ cup grated cheese

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground chilli
salt and pepper
1 egg
50g butter, melted
enough milk to bring it all together

They might be tasty with a quiche batter too.

xo Kirsten Isabel

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