Thursday, May 28, 2015

Writing


This face of Chibi Maruko Chan describes the young me in front of composition homework. It was a weekly thing and I just dreaded writing those 300-500 words. It's like squeezing and pushing out the last bit of toothpaste from the tube. I usually left it till Sunday evening when I absolutely had no choice and even with that time pressure I would write a few lines, pause, count how many words I had done so far, work out a balance and then write and deduct as I carry on with my writing constipation.

Unlike the matter-of-factly maths, writing has never been my thing. My father used to tell me instead of documenting what's really happened, composition is more about making up a story. The young me didn't like the sound of that at all.  Once we got the title "My Family Holiday" as our writing assignment. My parents barely talked to each other during all my years with them, let alone a family holiday. So I honestly wrote on the page that I had never been on a holiday with my family and I had no idea what it was like, so I couldn't possibily finish this assignment. Guess what, my homework book was ruthlessly returned and I was to weave a holiday story and hand it back in the next day.

As I grew older, many of my friends started to write diaries. Those little cute notebooks with locks were very popular. I got one too and made an attempt to write whenever possible. Until one day my mom found out that I had been writing about a boy in the neighboring class who'd wait for me to walk me home, etc. (It was nothing serious but young innocent crush), she tore off all the written pages and left me the notebook half filled with blank pages. I didn't know where to put my anger, my mom or the lock that was way too easily picked. With that, I gave up the idea of keeping a diary at all.

I can't remember if my parents had ever read any stories to me when I was very young. Maybe not. I only started reading books (besides textbooks) volunteerily when I was in my early 20's. At that time, I started to envy those people who were able to bring their laptop and write from coffee shops. I realized all of a sudden people who use sophisticated words sound very knowledgable. I couldn't choke one perverb even if I tried to. I mean even if I had, it would've sounded very awkward and forceful coming out of my lips.

It's funny how we are guided by the path life has chosen for us (Or we've chosen for ourselves?). At the beginning stage of this blog, I had the ambition to make a ton of clothes, learn all the techniques and become a freelance pattern designer one day. Once I got it going, I realized I had very limited time each day to dedicate to sewing. To post something once in a blue moon seemed negligent to me. Perhaps I should add a little life stories in between sewing projects to fill the big gaps? So this is me today, exposing my shortcomings and imperfect but happy life, through my immature and flawed writing skills.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Self-Drafted Tee + Double Gauze Long Skirt

 
 

My forever plan is to make more pants or long skirts to cover my winter closet. Long skirts usually have the stamina to endure the crazy wind, and they leave enough coverage on the legs as warmth is super important to me. So I grabbed scissors and another precious piece of double gauze ....


This skirt, pattern from Kana's Standard, uses a ton of fabric, about 3 meters to be precise. The front is gathered, with elastic band only at the back. I've positively become an expert at sewing inseam pockets after one pair of pants I sewed up recently. They are in fact very easy to sew and I don't regret spending extra time to pocket a skirt because I know they do become handy when I go out without a bag.


The tee shirt is an experiment. I've always wanted to try drafting my own patterns and I'd say pattern drafting 101 starts from a basic tee? This is not rocket science. I basically grabbed one of my old tees (By the way, I'm almost running out of basic tees, however I'm resisting the urge to buy, thus the pattern drafting.), turned it inside out where you see the seam allowance and traced around it. But because I wanted to be adventurous and experimental of course, I added more room to the bodice and sleeves, lifted up the neckline a little, so it's more suitable for winter. The scarf in the picture is not to accessorize the whole outfit but rather to cover the wonky neck band, where I do need to make some adjustments.


And because C's home a lot due to various school breaks. I wanted to involve her in the whole process. I found a few tubs of Dala fabric paint in her "Mister Maker Box" where she keeps all her arts and crafts supplies and just started painting with her. The fabric paint felt very thick and slimy. I got the feeling that it's possibly made from dye + corn starch? Yuck!
I used freezer paper stencil method for C's portion, while I just freehanded them. How far out can you be with big dots like this? :D


As much as I enjoyed the whole pattern drafting and tee shirt DIY painting process, I changed to another top before I left the house. This not-so-handmade top and my new skirt do seem to be a better match.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Necessity Sewing + Turtle Neck Tutorial


After my turtle neck success earlier this month, I'm doing some necessity sewing this week.

I don't have a serger but the overlocking stitches on my machine work like magic. Because knit fabric doesn't fray, that cutting feature on the serger doesn't seem to be essential here.

These 3 tops didn't take much time at all.  They are perfect for wearing underneath school uniforms, or as is. Tee shirt pattern is from this book, and I've added a little turtle neck tutorial, for any type of tees.


1. Cut a piece of rectangle fabric. Measure around the neckline, that should be the length of your rectangle. Depends on how tall you want your turtle neck to be, double it (because you are going to fold the fabric in half). Mine happens to be 45 x 11cm.


2. Fold the fabric in half,  as shown in the picture above, with right sides facing sew up the side.


3. Open up the seam.


4. Fold it again, this time lengthwise, so the open seams are facing each other.


5. Pin or use clips to attach to the neckline. Sew all three layers together, using stretch stitches.

 
6. Finished. Woof woof.

I often find adding a turtle neck or a slimmer neck band a much quicker method compared to neck binding (aka the bias tape style). It's a fast sew so I suppose I should sew one up for our "Marley" too?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Very Happy and Belated Anniversary


I've been blogging for more than a year. That should've called for some kind of celebration, except that I'm not all that good with special dates, so I missed the anniversary, somewhere last month.

This blog was born from my deepest fear and absolute need to reach out and do things, besides child caring. Why would I say "fear"? I've always felt insecure being a stay-at-home mom. I have that "what if" question at the back of my head that I don't have an answer to. What if one day M's income is not enough to cover our expense and I'm in my 40's or 50's who hasn't worked professionally for a good or two decades. Where do I start from? What do I do?

So one day I made 700 Mandarin teaching pamphlets and gave it to the senior department of C's school. At the same time, I approached another classroom space and see if I could spend my mornings teaching, while still have the whole afternoon free for C, who only went to school half day at the time. Very surprisingly, I got no reply from all those 700 handouts, and that classroom outside school didn't happen either because the very limited advertisement I did brought me zero student. It was a mixed feeling. I was a little disappointed that my plan didn't work out, but mostly, I felt relieved. I am not the teacher type of a person and that idea came out of desperation to just start something somewhere.


Being the wonder woman that my mother-in-law is, she only started her career as an real estate agent in her 60's. That brought me the idea to follow her footsteps, maybe I should become one too? Besides the worry about my more of an introvert personality,  taking clients to houses in after hours was also inevitable. Evenings are the crucial humming hours in our house. So that's that and I didn't pursue any further.

Meanwhile, my old boss gave me an opportunity to work part-time in the office and bring home whatever I couldn't finish. Unfortunately that also didn't work out because I didn't have anybody to look after C during school holidays and to hire a well educated au pair in order to compensate my hours was not worth it. Leaving C to the hands of a domestic cleaner or nanny (like some people would call it here) was never an option.

So, I was back to square one. What could I possibly do with flexible hours and still be able to be with C? I went back to my Mandarin teaching idea. This time I thought about posting free videos on Youtube and either I would earn some Ads fee eventually, or I'd prepare additional homework for a small fee. Due to the growing unstablility of South African Rand, I've always had this if-I-was-ever-going-to-have-an-income-it-has-to-be-based-on-a-strong-foreign-currency thing going on in my head.  I prepared materials for four lessons and called a halt. It's just not what my heart was telling me to do. If I had to carry on for the sake of doing it, it would be like carrying a heavy thing that weighs me down all the time, let alone producing quality educational videos.


Sewing was really an accident. It's more like following the housewife line but reaching out with a blog space. M had this old domestic machine in his old office that he was cleaning up one day and I took it home. I had never touched a sewing machine before but the idea of making things was exciting. I took a beginners' class and got a new low-end machine (OK the old machine wasn't really working even after a full service) and my journey began.

One year later, C's got an almost fully handmade closet and I'm working on mine too. What seemed impossible before is now a piece of cake. What was never my thing like documenting and writing has become my thing. This little space is a witness of my growth. It has become a part of me. It sparks positivity in me and I must add -- it beats any therapy. :D

Till next time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

This Week....


Our past 7 days were spent on between bed and couch, just as shown in the picture.

C was hit by some serious bug last week and for days she was feverish, for days she acted as if she had flopitis, flopping from place to place. But besides that, we had some really wonderful time together. We read stories, did arts, games, watched movies (lots of them). I didn't hear myself yelling once "Hurry up", or "We're going to be late!" We played her games, and she allowed sometime for me to do my own things. Everything we did felt spontaneous, but of course we didn't have a routine to follow and we didn't have to rush anywhere. I joked with my mother-in-law that I stayed at home with C for an entire week and I never felt the urge to kill myself this time.

We had such a great week that I even looked up homeschooling (crazy, I know). Often when things are easier, I tend to idealize everything, until reality hits.  I'm sure I can't handle being a full-time teacher and mom at the same time. Besides, C loves school and she already misses her friends.

We went grocery shopping together this afternoon. With C, every single stop we made she could spot something she liked and then asked/begged you whether she could have it. I immediately transformed into this lady that overuses her NOs. (sigh)

She's ready to go to school tomorrow and I shall get my shopping sanity back in no time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Double Gauze Purple Sherbet Dress


Double Gauze! I've finally met you.

This piece of fabric is one of the many that I brought back from our trip. It's solid purple as C chants lately "My favorite color is purple." She's got this sudden transition from pink to purple. It might be both girly colors still, but how many female adults tell you their favorite color is pink? Purple sounds definitely more mature, no?

 

The dress pattern is from Girly Style Wardrobe. The fabric, probably due to its softness, gives me more of a autumn feel which is perfect as our warm days are slowly slipping away. Who doesn't like pom pom trimmings? Not only are they little girls' favorite, I'm a big fan too. As a matter of fact, I've got so much in the stash now that I'll be using some soon on my own clothes.


The back calls for a snap fastner closure. They are really quick and easy to sew on and from the outside, it's almost invisible compared to buttons. By the way, my fastners are teeny weeny in size and those were the only ones I had on hand.


As I was saying earlier, our autumn/winter is approaching. C has outgrown so many of her clothes. As a sewing mama, I resist the urge to buy her new tees. I used the tee shirt pattern that's been tried and approved numerous times from this book, and then I added a turtle neck for the cooling weather. It's my first attempt to fiddle with a pattern besides lengthening sleeves. I shall call it "easy job nicely done".

 


Excuse the dog. I get a feeling this won't be his last appearance.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kitchen Time

 

I stink at multi-tasking.
I'm so hooked up sewing lately to only realize my last cooking post was 8 months ago (?!), unless my archives are not being truthful...

Cooking,  has been an inevitable part of everyday life. One of my aunts volunteerily cooks dinner for four people every evening, that's herself and husband, their son and daughter-in-law. And with a typical Chinese meal, it involves a lot more than Western dishes. On an average day, she allows herself two hours for dinner service. This is everyday, excluding washing up time. I certainly don't have that kind of stamina when it comes to cooking. Our daily meals are quite simple which consist of one starch, one veg and one protein. No more no less. And even with that kind of simplicity, I often call for extra time.


I often bypass that "bulk/great value" section at the supermarket. We are a small family. How much food can we possibly consume without going to waste? Buying more echos wasting more. I had plenty experience telling me rather buy less and more often. Until last week, something clicked. While M was out of town for a few days,  a grand cooking plan was born. I did a mega shopping and spent two mornings in the kitchen. I was determined to freeze everything so we should have our meals covered for at least a week or two.

This is what happened:
I also cooked some veggies too as fridge staples. Two things I have to mention, one being this finger licking good broccoli that I ended up snacking on; and the other Chinese style aubergine.


To prepare the aubergine dish you need:

4 T peanut oil, or whatever vegetable oil you have
1 large aubergine (or extra large), cut into big chunks
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons sugar

Heat the oil in a big wok and fry the garlic until fragrant. Throw in the aubergine pieces and quickly stir fry them so each piece gets coated with a little oil. When it looks it's almost getting dry, splash the soy sauce and sugar. Carry on stirring and coating. The soy sauce should be enough to keep the pieces moist. However it looks dry to you and to prevent burning, add tiny amount of water, which is going to be evaporated later anyway. Serve with rice.

I feel great about having food ready in the fridge and freezer. The cooking marathon is a commitment but it's worth it if the meals can stretch to two weeks, with some quick fix pan fry meals in between. Plus buying bulk means saving money in the long run. Win win!