Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Fusion Dress

I want to say this is the most successful project so far, but I feel the urge to say that after almost every single one is made. I need some control, even though I'm crazy about the fabric, the style and the details.

The fabric is Coral Tree collection from De Gama Textiles. 100% cotton quilting from a local manufacturer. The quality makes it a dream to work with.

Can I talk about details now? Like most Japanese styles, this dress has a simple construction but the details under the neckline, the pockets, and the cuffs deserve some thumb-ups. If I had walked into a shop seeing a dress like this before the sewing days, I would have only looked at the fabric and shape. Now I'm totally into the details, who I believe are the true soldiers behind a garment.

The pattern is from Cotton Friend.  I have however altered the sleeves to full length. I personally don't get the idea of 3/4 sleeves. They look good but really they're a little cold for spring/autumn. Maybe it's because my hands are always cold if the sleeves don't have enough coverage till the wrists and I don't like the feeling.

 C put it on and that was it. She wore it the entire time when she's drawing with kokies and eating a chocolate ice cream.... I felt like taking some anxiety pills to calm myself down, oh wait, I don't even have a pill like that. OK.... just please don't spill on that dress....

Monday, September 29, 2014

Less Is More --- Medicine Talk

Whenever I got sick as a child, my parents always made sure that I had plenty of pills to swallow. Before I even showed a proper sign of fever, I would be swallowing pills already. My mom, especially, was on a pill-watch duty. Luckily I could manage 5 capsules in one go of water. That was my proud record. Nowadays even one pill takes a good swim in my mouth before I can position it nicely to be flushed away. I guess this is one of those "skills" that you lose without constant practice.

Once in high school, I was on a 3-day course of some sort of Paracetamol tablets, that have day pills and night pills. My mom had run out of day pills, so I took a night pill one morning before I left for school. The moment I arrived at school, I started to get sleepy. I slept through the morning classes. That afternoon I had a Chinese exam and guess what, I fell asleep during the exam!! The teacher woke me up when she came to collect my paper. (Why hadn't she woken me up earlier??)  I felt terrible that I didn't get to finish the paper, but the side effect of the medicine was still strong, I was asleep again on way home sitting on a bus. How I woke up at the right stop to get off the bus, I didn't know. But thank God I did wake up at the right time.

Somehow in adulthood, I don't bother to get tablets anymore. And of course my parents are not there to monitor me. I've been cold pills sober for more than 10 years. Once in a long while, when I do have a cold, I drink ginger tea which works like a charm.
  • a few slices of ginger
  • 400ml water
  • honey
Put the ginger and water in a milk pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or so, and add honey to your taste. It soothes throat and chases away the cold. Best part yet --- it doesn't make you fall asleep.

As a parent, I have a totally different approach compared to my parents. I sit and watch the symptoms develop and disappear, without the intervention of medicine.  Trust me, they all take the same amount of time to leave your system. We have an embarrassingly empty medicine cupboard in the house. Don't get me wrong. I'm not against medicine or anything. But common cold/flu/tummy bug doesn't qualify for a pill call.

This post is powered by C's fussiness about food. I wouldn't have been so relaxed if C hadn't gagged on some flu syrup on my first attempts years ago.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

So-Many-Things-Have-Gone-Wrong Jacket

 This pattern is from a Cotton Friend magazine and it's my first encounter with their pattern pieces. Confused is an understatement. I laid out the pattern sheets and stared at them for a good ten minutes, from table to floor, aiming for a bird view to locate the pieces for this cross-over jacket. I failed. It's stated on the magazine page that there should be pattern pieces for both adults and kids on the sheets, but I found pieces missing from either one. Hopeless. I was determined to make it, but I made it like a blind cat chasing her mice.
I traced a combination of kids' and adults' sizes from the pattern sheets and made a mental note to lay the chest pieces following the lines on the fabric, so that the lines are vertical, like the rest of the jacket. Fatal mistake --- I wrongfully took the bodice side seams as shoulder seams. It was too late to cut new pieces as I had run out of fabric...
I extended the sleeve to a full-length for C, and traced a kids length.  In spite of every single intention to make it for C, the jacket just turned out gigantic for her and a teensy weensy tight for me. I had to squeeze myself into the sleeves, which are 3/4 length on my arms. It's an adult size medium with a shorter skirt. At least I know what I will have to do if I'm ever going to make it again, which is quite likely.

Besides all the confusions with the pattern pieces, the construction was a breeze to sew.  Right now, I'm filtering lots of data in my head, thinking who I can give this to. I hardly know anybody that has less volumn than me....
Sewing-project-gone-wrong reject, anyone?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shutting Down

I must be carrying some workaholic genes, since the only time I take a break is when I'm sick or C is sick. In this case, C is.

She came from school last Friday, not well. A fever spiked high that night with some complaints of a sore chest and a sore tummy. She spent the weekend in a blur, burning up like a hot water bottle. Things were getting better yesterday. Fever's gone but it still left her all lethargic. She's had one touch of tummy bug before and went foodless for a week, so this time I feel more experienced and relaxed. All I do everyday is lying next to her, meanwhile being pushed to the very edge of the bed with my head almost hanging in the air, days spent more horizontally than vertically, not being able to/not being allowed to do anything else. She still hasn't had any solids yet, but with a liquid interval every 5 minutes or so, I'm not too worried.

As a matter of fact, I am allowing myself to take a break, not having to worry if she's getting enough veggie or fruit because she's getting none. Kitchen is not happening at all. I'm on a museli diet. Luckily I just made a batch befire C got sick. M's got bread and sausages and is eating with the fridge leftovers. Sewing table has no action and a thin layer of dust is starting to form.

I tried working on iPad when her nap schedule is on, but the bedroom doesn't receive any internet reception, which is probably a good thing. I switched the iPad to airplane mode and gave it a good clean. I also practiced joining pictures on instagram --- way easier to use than photoshop. These are about the only things I have done. Other times, I am simply ordered to close my eyes and sleep as well. I swear C sets up a mental alarm clock every 5 minutes to check up on me.  The cries and moans caused by my slight movements --- even from turning a book page --- give me more headaches than her discomfort, or so it seems. So we've synchronized ourselves and are shutting down altogether....

Till we both function again. :D

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Random Thoughts

My ideal day would go like this:
  • Dropping C off at school
  • Going pass gym
  • Grocery shopping
  • Working on a sewing project or try a new recipe
  • Having enough time to blog
  • Fetching C
  • Playing
  • Supper
  • Spending time with M
  • Reading
  • Shutting off
wheatgrass happening in the garden
The reality does its job to prevent my ideal day from happening. There are tons of things happening in between, of which house chores and playing with C take up a big part.

Often I find myself:
  • Skipping gym
  • Cooking supper in the morning so I can avoid the nagging in the evening
  • Sewing at night as if I was in a sweatshop
  • Writing a blog and making pancakes at the same time, both happening 11pm at night
  • Yawning while making pretend fairy friends with C's dolls
  • Skipping spending time with M at all

I always have a long to-do list and frankly I might go into a panic state if the list was getting any shorter. I would appreciate some extra hours a day to finish things up, but unfortunately, I'm not one of those who can function on a 5-hours' sleep day. I still need to work around my schedule to fit everything in more nicely, because I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

To those SAHMs who spend a big amount of time on beauty salons weekly and still phone the teacher to say that they're stuck at salon having the eye brows shaped, you live some totally different lives......

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What Will You Like To Be When You Grow Up?

What will you like to be when you grow up?

Who hasn't been asked this question? I doubt it. When I was a kid, I loved playing bus scene games. I'd arrange chairs in a line like the ones on a bus, then get my parents to sit down and pretend they're taking the bus and come to me to buy the ticket. So, whenever I was asked this question, I would proudly announce that I wanted to be bus conductor. I loved the ticket clipping with passion and I guess I loved the bossiness of the job as well. I never got to become a bus conductor though.

C drawing some macaws and a man being spied
The other day I threw the question to little C. She gave me a straight "fashion designer" answer --- a much more promising career then I had dreamed of when I was 4. It must've been from all the sewing and pattern tracing that are happening in the house lately. We even watch Project Runway together now.

She has two books that she's (we are) busy working on. Each one comes with 2 stencils, some stickers, fabric printed paper and loads of blank sheets with an outline of a model. I help her cut out the garments from the paper and she arranges them on the models. It's saving me from all the consuming talking games and she really likes the dress-up. What's not to love about this activity?


Whether she becomes a fashion designer is not important. I'm happy enough to see that she's enjoying, learning and experiencing every single day. Maybe she will engage in something totally different. :D

Monday, September 15, 2014

Violet Blouse For Me

We are having C's granny and grandpa here with us for 10 days. C has attached to them like parasites since day one. And I was lucky enough to get a little sewing time for me, besides the cooking and family entertaining....


Necklace borrowed from C's piggy bank. Pattern is from Sew Chic. Fabric from a shop called Lowry's Fabric, 2 doors away from Fabric City. The guy at the shop is very helpful. He diligently burnt fabric from a few rolls to show me whether they are cotton or polyester.

I am attracted to the sleeve frills, the front gather, the color, just about everything. I guess I just had to put on these pants that I made two weeks ago. Love this combination and it's going to be one of my favorites for this summer.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Robot and Shoes

C came from school one day,
C: Mom, do you know that an ambulance can drive through red traffic light?
Me: Yes, if the siren is on.
C: I think it must stop when the light is green.....

She just finished two weeks of theme "opposite". Can you blame her?

She's not a big fan of practical shoes, like most girly girls. We got her this pair of enduro shoes and attempted to bribe her to wear them, but failed miserably. So the shoes were on the stairs for 2 weeks, like introducing a new kind of food theory. The exposure strategy didn't work for her and the shoes were becoming a piece of furniture. I had to do something.

Me: Do you know these shoes make you run super fast? You put them on and I'll put my running shoes on then we have a race.

C was immediately sold and we ran up and down until she's convinced the shoes gave her superhero speed. She wore those shoes happily to school the next day.

After school.

C: Mom, these shoes are not as fast as O's boots.....

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Granola with Milk Power

I grew up having breakfast like fried dumplings, steamed bun with meat or finely chopped poy choy inside, fried bread sticks, savory soy milk. They are something you can easily get from the street shops serving breakfast since 5am. If there was sufficient time in the morning, my parents would make plain rice porridge served with numerous side dishes such as salted duck eggs, pickled vegetables, and during the weekend, minced pork congee with preserved egg was our usual. All this food talking is making my mouth and mind water, even though I just had two bowls of rice with broccoli and beef strips tonight. Good old days....

fried dumplings from a popular breakfast street restaurant in Shanghai

So I've got this recipe in my book forever and it's a regular in our cereal cupboard. My taste buds have successfully adapted to a morning bowl of granola and two Weet-Bix, with lots of milk.... You have to eat it super fast though. It's like a competition between you and the Weet-Bix, see who can drink up the milk first.

granola with milk overload
The difference compared to the shop bought version? Uncomparable. This one is so Whole-Some, and tastes like a real deal. The recipe calls for 1 cup of milk power and altogether 1.5 cups of oil and honey. I think that gives the granola a chewy texture. Is it your fancy as well?

After you've made a batch, you can store them in pre-painted jars with a little figurine on top. Some activity to keep your kids busy while you're baking. Isn't that Belt from The Croods?

What you will need:
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped nuts of your choice
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2t vanilla extract
  • 1t ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup dry milk power
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1 cup raisons
What you need to do:
  • Preheat the oven to 160C. Oil a baking sheet nicely. (I actually use a big casserole dish everytime. Easy to stir the granola during baking.)
  • In a large bowl, mix the oats, oat bran, and nuts together.
  • In another bowl, mix the oil, honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon, milk power and salt. Or pour everything in a food processor.
  • Pour the gooey wet mixture into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir and coat nicely.
  • Transfer it onto a baking tray or dish in an even layer.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. Give it a stir and rotate the tray/dish. Cook for another 15 minutes. Stir and rotate again and cook for a further 5 minutes. The granola should look golden brown now.
  • Take it out of the oven and give it a light stir and leave to cool. Add the raisons when it's completely cool.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Black Pepper V-neck Dress

M got me 4 pieces of fabric from his recent trip to Bellville. They are so delicious and I want to kiss and sleep with me. From the name on the selvedge I found out that the fabric are from a local manufacturer called Da Gama Textiles. Pure quality cotton. I was so excited that I didn't even bother to wash the fabric and quickly traced a v-neck dress from Sew Chic Kids.

I picked out a very simple v-neck dress with just 4 pieces of patterns --- I wanted it to be quick, and got some black elastic and lace braids from stash. Just enough length to coat the armholes and neck with the combination. It's a lot more than the 106cm suggested on the book. (?!)

I had made the dress the night before and hid it in C's cupboard. She went to choose her own outfit this morning and went straight to the dress. As happy as I was, I convinced her to wait just one more day till grandparents are here on Thursday.

I'll have to carefully choose her snack for tomorrow. No mess on this dress please~~~

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cotton Friend Magazines

I've just received these four freshly shipped magazines that I ordered from Amazon China last month. And I'm deeply in love with them already. Is there an English version? I've never seen it. They are mostly in Japanese and I can probably handle a sewing book with pictures and my hard-working one year which was spent with blood and sweat on learning Japanese in high school, but magazines are little too much. I'm soooo happy to find out some of them are translated into Chinese. Hooray! The strange thing is I'm not so sure of some words/sewing terms in Chinese compared to the ones that I use everyday (at least in my head) in English. Gotta work on my Chinese to sew nowadays.

I've always been a huge fan of Japanese style clothing, long before this sewing hobby kicked in. They are mostly simple shapes with design in details, nice soft fabric with beautiful prints, loose fit, comfortable and lots of linen. It was pretty easy to get them from little boutiques in Shanghai. M also got a ton of them for me from his various trips to Tokyo. Big love. Can you even imagine how excited I am now that I can actually sew up these clothes all by myself? Clearly sewing as a hobby is not dying down.

Some styles that have caught my eye instantly and I'm so looking forward to getting started.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Broccoli with Peanut Butter and Barbecue Sauce

I'm addicted to broccoli lately. I'm calling it "addicted" because I can eat it for lunch and supper and still snack on it.  My parents cooked a lot of cauli flower and I was never a fan --- even till this day I can't handle its taste. I was always suspicious of broccoli --- cauli flower's cousin and never wanted to try.

It was one day having a late supper with a friend at a restaurant in Shanghai. My friend had gone ahead and ordered for both of us before I arrived. There, he ordered broccoli. No other green vegetables. I was starving and couldn't bother to order something else and wait for the kitchen to cook. Luckily he also ordered tea, so if I didn't like it, I would have at least something to wash it down. The broccoli was cooked with a touch of garlic and I tried one piece, then another and another. I fell in love with it.

I'm steaming and boilding vegetables a lot lately, rather than stirfry. This way it preserves more nutrients but doesn't add a lot of taste. I sincerely worship those ones who can munch raw broccoli or raw muchroom, or raw poy choy leaves.... My vegetables have to be cooked at least and then seasoned, preferably with more than just salt and pepper. I started to fiddle with the sauce, and I'm quite happy to report this one reminds me of the Chinese style hotpot.

Get 3 big heap tablespoons of smooth peanut butter. Gradually add lukewam water a little at a time and stir until light and smooth, like yoghurt consistency. Add 2t of barbecue sauce and mix it all in. You have your sauce.

I spotted this giant broccoli at the supermarket and carried it home like some prize. It's merely preventing me from eating all of the broccoli while cooking and having nothing left to serve for supper.

You see some kids put ketchup on almost everything they eat. With this sauce, I could ... er... most probably ... eat a book......

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Weekend Things

As far as a weekend goes, this one's quite productive. Although we spent the whole Saturday at home playing pretend games and I felt totally mentally drained. The talking games consumes me. It never cease to amaze me that whenever it's M's turn to take over, he starts complaining about being dizzy or sleepy or suggests us watch a movie or let C play on iPad.  I don't think I can live with myself if I were to let the TV or iPad babysit. Maybe that's a mother thing. Moms today are tend to be a lot stricter than dads.

As far as a daughter goes, ours still cannot have herself entertained. Even with coloring-in, or jigsaw puzzles, we just have to sit and work with her. Is this an Only Child Syndrome I wonder? Ok maybe when the days really come when she decides to read books all by herself I will miss all of these....

the cats are very determined to show their faces

There's this pair of leggings that are squashing my insides badly. They're one size too small. Their time with me was long over but when C found them in the deep end of my closet and she started to say how much she liked the fabric and color. A weekend leggings upcycle project?

It's the second time I've used Go To Leggings pattern. They're so easy to sew that I can probably finish up a pair while making pancakes. C decided to wear them to the beach on Sunday.

We found this bluebottle and built something from the scrapes we found on the beach. Chilly in the wind, but what a relaxing way to end the weekend.

Oh we also baked these oatmeal cookies which surprisingly turned out not to be a big hit to C.... "I much prefer the old chocolate chip cookies" she says.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

3D Double-decker Bus from CubicFun

I love building models. Maybe that's the reason I'm addicted to sewing nowadays. Same concept, wouldn't you say? I brought some model toy sets in my suitcase when I moved to Cape Town years ago. They are from a company called CubicFun. At the time the products were still quite fresh in the market. Now, they are widely sourceable from toys or hobby shops. The ones I brought all the way from Shanghai lived on my shelf for 2 years before I got rid of them. Sold them on bidorbuy and they were gone within a week. I had never opened one box but judging from the packaging, they look quite decent and of good quality.

C has lately developed an affection for building blocks and can sniff Lego sets at a toy shop isles away. I thought, hmm, it's time to get some easy model building addition to her toy corner. So I went shopping. Saw some good old CubicFun sets like the Eiffel Tower, Saint Paul's Cathedral, Colosseum, etc etc. Some state age 4+, 5+, 6+, 7+. They all look quite complicated for a 4-year-old and I wasn't sure what it's like inside the box and did't want to waste the money on something that could be too advanced for her age. This little box stuck at the corner caught my eye, a 66-piece double-decker red bus for age 3+. C loves vehicles and it's the simpliest it can get. Sold!

She was super excited to build with me. But only a short while later, we both realized it's way too difficult for her little hands to handle. So she's in charge of breaking off pieces from the sheet while I folded and put things in their places. The problem? There's no glue involved and the pieces are not stuck together tightly. I was so afraid just by me breathing a little heavily, the whole thing might fall apart.

30 minutes in and I was still hold my breath and gingerly adding pieces. By this stage, I really felt like throwing a major tantrum and smashing it with a rolling pin. Ok, the bus's done, with some pieces missing, the ones I really couldn't slot them in tightly. We took out other toys cars and set up a street scene with this bus, tiptoeing around it because during the play, I had to fix it up twice and I was very close to my meltdown point. 3D puzzles, I need a big break from you. The whole time I was thinking, maybe it's designed for age 3+ brutally trained Chinese kids only?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Homemade Hummus

My first homemade hummus attempt was dated in late 2009. Why do I remember that? C was just born and she slept a lot, while I stayed at home, super bored. During the hummus making, I knocked over the olive oil bottle and flooded the kitchen. I spent more time cleaning up the mess. It yielded an amount equal to a 2L tub ice cream and that became my supper for a few days. Unforgettable.

Obviously I needed more than 4 years to get over those suppers. I do buy hummus in small tubs from supermarkets but have never made them again. Homemade hummus --- a touchy subject. Until recently, I've developed this emotional/psycological allergy to perservatives. The more I can get away with it, the better.

I have this recipe in my book for years. I forgot where I had seen it originally. My second attempt was accidents free and it makes just enough for us to snack for 2 days.

What you need:
  • 125 dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, then cooked
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 2T tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 120 olive oil
  • salt to taste
Basically I just threw everything in the food processor and let it do the job. Add some if necessary, to make it smoother. I'm so glad it doesn't call for canned chickpeas. Remember the "end of the world" saying going on back in 2012? M got tons of chickpeas for us, just in case. We've still got loads in the cupboard --- clearly we don't eat chickpeas often enough. I'm soaking the chickpeas again tonight to make more. Wouldn't you want some healthy snack like this?

A lot of hummus refill available.