Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas on Instagram wrap-up

It's been five days since the big day, but I feel like I've only just stopped today. Only, now I feel like I should be getting stuck into the pile of projects I want to get done before I go back to work in two weeks. I did have plans on trekking off to Bunnings today but instead I've spent the day eating chocolates and watching Youtube videos. Oh well.

I took many photos on the lead up to Christmas Day, but was too busy drinking on the day to take more (oops). We had a lovely lunch, I made a lovely rum punch and we laughed ourselves stupid - everything a Christmas should be.

I feel sad that I only get to wear this shirt for a couple of weeks every year.

Despite every intention of sleeping in on Christmas eve it wasn't to be. I was a awake at 4.30 to watch the sun rise which turned out to be worth the early rise.

Christmas Eve starting with a cup of tea and a book.

2 batches of Ginger cookies, a batch of rum balls, a batch of chocolate biscuits, 2 batches of mince pies, 2 cherries pies and 2 bottles of bubbly made for a great day of baking with mum

Mum's chocolate biscuits - she's been making these as long as I can remember

My Cherry Pie (deeeelicious)

Grandma's knitted Mrs and Santa Claus

The Pizza Oven gets fired up for the first time

Lamb Souvlaki ready to go in the oven

Our very Australian Christmas tree 

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas filled with family and laughter :) x Debbie

You can follow me on Instagram here. Post your feed below if you want to share

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas on Instagram

With only 3 more sleeps until Christmas my list of things to do appears to have gotten bigger. While I've got all the presents wrapped and the cards written, there's a long list of baking and cleaning to go before I can settle down with a glass of wine and know that everything is done.

I had planned on doing a couple of diy tutorials before Christmas but that is looking like an overly ambitious project that will result in me being stressed out. So instead I'm going to be documenting my Christmas preparations on Instagram.

Preparations for some last minute Christmas gifts

I made this Nightmare Before Christmas tree and Jack years ago. I keep saying I'm going to make the sleigh each year but have never got around to it... maybe next year

My favourite bauble taking pride of place on my kitchen dresser

Follow my Christmas on Instagram and share your Instagram details in the comments if you are posting your Christmas as well!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas DIY Overload

I think everybody gets stressed at Christmas time. Some people are stressed because they have all the family coming for lunch and spend the weeks leading up to the big day cleaning every surface and preparing menus and desserts. Some people stress about how much Christmas is going to cost - another gift to buy, all that petrol driving from one place to another. Everything adding up. Some people stress because of the time commitments that seem to be endless - work parties, friend get together's, your family, their family, the other relatives that couldn't make it the first date.

A very ambitious plan

My stress comes from too much DIY. I'm doing my best to live my life without buying so much stuff, and that includes gifts for others. I'm aiming to upcycle, recycle and create from eco friendly resources as many Christmas gifts as possible. We generate so much stuff in this life and after an experiment I did a couple of years ago that involved not buying a single item of new clothing I just don't feel comfortable buying more stuff any more.

I've got a list of all the gifts I want to make and have been doing my best to cross them off. But right now, I am getting a great big dose of reality that there just isn't enough time. There isn't enough time to bake what I want to bake, to sew what I want to sew, to make the wrapping paper I want to use.

I realised this morning that I'm not enjoying the process any more, so it's time to let go. I've taken a good hard look at my Christmas list and have crossed off the more ambitious gift ideas and instead am going to go to the Bris Style Markets tomorrow night. I figure if I can't do it myself, I'm more than happy to support other talented creators.

What's your biggest Christmas stress at the moment? Time for an offload.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Crochet Coathangers - a new Xmas Tradition

For as long as I can remember my grandmother has been crocheting coathangers for Christmas. Every lady in the family gets one of her special coathangers and a crochet hand towel.

I've been collecting these in my cupboard and in my 29 years on this planet have just about replaced all my tatty old coathangers with Grandma's.

But this year my grandmother's health has gone downhill. She's suffered a series of strokes and while she is still with us, the strokes have brought on the symptoms of dementia. This has made it really hard for Grandma to keep up her knitting and crocheting and sadly last years coathangers will be the last ones.

My mother and I were feeling upset by this. It's strange the things that throw mortality up in your face. Not the wrinkles or the greying hair, but the loss of something that was so fundamental to our family Christmases. We decided that these traditions were too strong to let go of so we have been taking over the making of Grandma's Christmas crochet's.

My mother has been busily creating hand towels and I have taken on the duty of the crochet coathanger. This was no light burden. My aunts adore my grandmothers coathangers, and it is the first thing they look for in the Christmas goody bag they receive.

It was a difficult decision as to whether I should replicate Grandma's coathanger or if I should adapt it to be my own. This year I went with a new adapted version as I didn't want Grandma to think I was replacing her (her illness has made her particularly sensitive to these things). But I think it's going to be an ongoing development of ideas until I find the perfect coathanger to carry on the tradition.

So I've spent my nights (and mornings, and lunch breaks) busily crocheting away and have a handful ready for Christmas. And while I've been doing this on my own in my own apartment away from my Grandma I've spent the time reflecting back on the memories I have with her - this strong capable woman who most definitely has been the Matriarch of our family. Funny how a coathanger can have so much meaning stitched into it.

Mollie Makes - Crochet Coathanger pattern
Crochet with Raymond

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pinterest Road Test - DIY Clay Decorations

Clay Christmas Decorations from The Woodside Kitchen

The Woodside Kitchen's
original clay decorations
I've been looking for a good bake at home clay recipe for a while. The last time I made salt clay, my dog ate the decorations right off the tree. So finding one that didn't appear edible was a good thing, and corn flour and bicarb soda does not sound appealing to me. 

So first things first ingredients...

The Woodside Kitchen gave the ingredients as Cornstarch, Baking Soda and Water, but there was a lot of discussion in the comments about the decorations cracking or staying rubbery which comes down to some different names for ingredients depending on where you are. What you want to use is:

1/2 cup of Corn Flour
1 cup of Bicarb Soda (or Baking Soda - basically needs to be sodium bicarbinate)
3/4 cup of water

Ensure you are using the correct ingredients otherwise you will not get a hard clay decoration or you may get cracking.

 The mixing together is very easy. Just put it all in a saucepan, stir together then heat over low-medium heat.

There were some questions about whether you could do this in the microwave... I did not test this, but if you are going to give it a go only heat it in small increments (20-30 seconds) at a time, and stir in between. If you try this, please let me know.

It's done when it becomes stiff and silky (like smooth mash potatoes to borrow The Woodside Kitchen's term)

Scoop it out into a clean bowl and cover with a damp cloth until it cools slightly so you can knead it.

I left it for about 15 minutes and it was still warm when I kneaded it (I was impatient) but you can wait longer, especially if you are giving it to your kids to knead and want to make sure they don't burn themselves. The damp cloth will stop it from drying out in the meantime.

Sprinkle some more cornflour on the bench or breadboard (easier cleanup) and knead out as you would any dough. Mine was quite sticky so used more cornflour to keep it doughy. The kneading and rolling out is lots of fun (and cleanup is very easy) so feel free to let your kids have fun.


Roll out to 1cm high then cut with cookie cutters, or mould into whatever shape you want. I also did coin size disks that I intend to paint up and stick magnets on the back. I'm also replacing my tree star that my dog ate ;) which I moulded by hand.

Lay your decorations out on a tray with some baking paper. I skipped putting corn flour on the paper and regretted it - they all stuck and I had to sand the paper off, so don't forget that!

If you are planning to hang these on your tree, remember to poke a hole in them for your ribbon (I used a chopstick). I also pressed little circles around the edges, but you could do anything to decorate, or keep them plain for painting.

Pop them in the oven to bake. Here's another point that comes up when sourcing recipes the world over... The Woodfire Kitchen says 1 hour at 175', but I suspect this is Fahrenheit (which would be 80'c) As I cooked mine for only 1/2 hour at 175' and they were rock hard I suspect this is the case. I'll test again at 80'c and see how they go. If you beat me to it, please post in the comments!

The Woodfire Kitchen recommends flipping them over half way and this would stop any bubbling or cracking - and give a nice even finish. As I said, mine were rock hard 1/2 hour in so I just took them out. I had some bubbles and a few small cracks, but nothing worth worrying about.

One thing I did do was give them all a quick sand to clean up the edges and take off any imperfections, which I think made all the difference.

Now time for painting!

I gave them 2 coats of white acrylic then painted some lovely Scandinavian designs in red. You could also finish them all off with a coat of lacquer to give them a nice gloss finish.

Overall a pretty easy project, but I'm glad I did a quick Google search to confirm ingredients before I started as they could have gone very wrong without that clarification.

Have you tried this project? Let me know how you went.

Road Test Results

Ease - I'd put this as low-medium difficulty. There was some confusion about the ingredients but with a quick Google search I got to the bottom of these
Time - A bit time consuming. All up about 6 hours as you have to wait for baking time and drying time between each coat of paint. But this is up to you as to how much effort you put in.
Ability - Beginners can do this project quite easily. However if you aren't used to painting details keep this to a minimum. Try block colours or even use stamps.
Cost - Cheap as free. I had cornflour and bicarb in my cupboard. But even if you had to buy the supplies you could get away with this project for around $5.
Cleanup - easy, the uncooked clay dissolves in water so can easily be cleaned up. I would tip any extra on a patch of garden you don't mind much about though as it may clog up your sink.


Original Inspiration - The Woodside Kitchen
Pinterest Inspiration Pin - Cornstarch & Baking Soda Clay Christmas Decorations

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Next Stage of Pizza Ovening

I was going to hold out posting this until it was fired up, but I couldn't wait.

Last weekend my dad and I finished the dome on the long awaited Pizza Oven. And while it is not yet finished (the dome will be covered by an outer wall, then we have to render and tile), it has now reached the stage where it can be used as a functional oven.

Needless to say we are all pretty excited - Mum actually bought some bubbly for the occasion.

The last steps of the dome...

As I said last time, the top of the dome is very fiddly as you have to cut all the bricks to fit and they need to hold their own weight against each other so they don't fall in when you take the inside structure down. It's a whole lot of physics that I don't really understand, but I was very glad that my dad works in engineering and has a better grip on these things.

All the bricks fit, now we can  get the mortar in

Just because you're working doesn't mean you can't have nice nails.

The last bit of mortar!

We let the dome dry overnight before removing the inside structure as we wanted to make sure it was well and truly dry and wasn't about to crack

The next day...

We got the inside structure out and the dome didn't fall down! I was pretty tense at this point so was thrilled that it worked. 

You may notice a hole above the arch though. There was one brick that wasn't quite set when we put the inside structure in and it fell out. I had every intention of patching it back up once the dome was finished. This was an INSANE decision - I did it, but with a lot of swearing and mortar in my hair. 

How stoked are we that it worked!

Inside the dome, doesn't that brickwork look professional...

Dad doing one more layer of mortar to neaten it up. We ran out not long after this, but he assures me that he has finished this rendering since then so the oven will look nice for Christmas.

It looks almost professional (I'm very proud) :D

Next update on the Pizza Oven will be the first firing!

Leave your suggestions on what to cook in it below...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy December | Snowflake Curtain DIY

Happy December everyone!

We are now officially on the count-down to Christmas. I can tell because Pinterest is full of Christmas cookies and elf on the shelf ideas, the shops are starting to go mental and the temperature in Brisbane has gone through the roof.

With only four weeks until Christmas I'm on a mad rush to get all my presents in order and because I love handmade and am a poor uni student there is a lot of crafting going on in my house at the moment. So I'm going to share some of my projects over the coming weeks. I'm also introducing a new section called 'Pinterest Road Test' where I take some of the most popular Pinterest DIYs and put them under my DIY scrutiny... should be fun!

So to kick things off I'm starting with one of the decorating idea I found on the pinning site...

Snowflake Curtain

This project was inspired by Bugs and Fishes. This pin is going crazy at the moment, and was too beautiful not to use, even though snowflakes are about the furthest thing away from Christmas in Brisbane.

I'm sure you remember making snowflakes as a kid. I never seemed to got the hang of it so they always fell apart. Luckily I have a bit more manual dexterity these days, so cutting out snowflakes wasn't as traumatic as I remember it.

I started by following some design patterns I found online (here), but after a about a dozen I just went for it with my own designs. 

This project is a little time consuming but it was something that could be done easily while watching TV so didn't feel like a major time commitment. I think I might make this a regular Christmas task and add more every year, as I can imagine that the more you have the better the effect.

Road Test Results

Ease - This is a super easy project that can be easily replicated. 
Ability - You don't need any special skills or ability, this is a child friendly Pin!
Cost - Dirt cheap. I didn't spend any money, just used some paper I had lying around the house


Original Inspiration - Bugs & Fishes
Snowflake Patterns - Marcel's Kids Crafts
Pinterest Inspiration Pin - Easy peasy snowflake curtain