Apple Sauce.

I bought some apples recently and while they looked and smelled apple-y and wonderful, when I bit into one it was soft and squishy and just the wrong texture. There’s nothing worse than a Disappointment Apple. Well, as far as apples go, anyway. So I decided to cook the apples up, because they still had such a wonderful flavour and aroma. I peeled them because the internet recommended it, but actually I think next time I wouldn’t. I’m lazy, and anyway there’s tons of goodness in the peel.

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So I chopped up the peeled, cored apples (I used three), put them in a saucepan and added a little water, maybe 5mm in the bottom of the pan. It’s better to add less and top it up than to make it too watery. The recipe goes something like this:

3 apples, cored and peeled (optional)

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon maple syrup (or sugar)

a good few shakes of cinnamon

about half as much nutmeg

a little dash of salt

Put everything in a saucepan, cover and heat on low to medium, so the water gently simmers. Don’t let it dry out too much, add more water as needed but only a little at a time. Stir regularly and when the apples squish when pressed lightly with the back of a spoon, you’re done. Mash with a fork, masher, back of spoon, whatever. Taste and enjoy! I ate some of it with greek yogurt as a snack, and some more with the roast pork I made. Yum. 

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I love simple warming winter recipes! Do you have any favourites?

Cheers,

Luci

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Summer Dress Part 2.

Well, it’s the coldest part of winter, what better time to make a summer dress…?

This is a follow on from the first instalment,which was little more than a teaser. But I got my bum in gear and actually managed to put together a functional item of clothing, woo hoo! But first things first:

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I plan to use this pattern again so I had to fold in all the larger sizes and longer version options on the pieces of pattern, after cutting them out (I am so slow at this stuff). Laying the pieces out seemed to take a long time – I must find out what the trick is to this step. But eventually I got to the nerve-wracking step of cutting the fabric and managed to not mess it up! Yay! Then I had to work out the instructions. Thankfully they had pictures, as the German instructions were pretty hard to translate. The first few steps had me make this, which didn’t look like much:

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But the next steps helped me turn that into this:

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Big n’ shapeless, but a recognisable part of a dress. So far, so good! I didn’t get any of the skirt-making in photos, but once I had that attached I got very excited as I had a dress-shaped thing! Putting in the zipper was a bit tricky and I think I could have done it a bit better, but I know that for next time.

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Then I put on the dress, zipped it up (the zipper works!) and discovered it looked like this…

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Shapeless and unflattering, and just the wrong length. I’d followed the instructions which said for sizing, go by the bust measurement, but apparently I’m an unusual shape because none of the rest of the dress fit properly anywhere. Luckily I’m much more experienced with taking in clothes, so after some quick pinning and some sewing, shape was re-discovered. I took it up a little to make it look a bit less 1950s, and this is the result:

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(not pictured: ugg boots. It’s bloody cold here!).

So that’s my first attempt at a grown-up sewing project, and I’m looking forward to wearing it in the summertime! Only 5 more months to go…

What do you think? Do you have any tips to make sewing from a pattern easier? Leave a comment below!

Cheers,

Luci

P.S. I actually finished this last week but delayed blogging about it in order to visit Prague for the weekend. So that’s where my priorities lie. 🙂

A Simple Wallet.

I’ve been trying to find small projects to use up some of my scraps of fabric – waste not, want not, and all that! So I had some plain black cotton that I thought, at first, could become a little handbag. Then I looked more closely at how much was there (not so much!) and decided a wallet was a better idea.

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I didn’t take measurements, but rather got the largest note in my wallet and used that as a template. Euros aren’t particularly big notes, or at least I’m pretty sure that Australian notes are bigger, so it’s probably better not to just use arbitrary sizes anyway. 

So I got my note, added a centimetre border on all sides, and made that my size for the finished wallet when closed. The wallet itself consists of: two interfaced pieces of cloth twice the size of my note (plus border, plus seam allowance).These I sewed together right-sides in, leaving a few inches gap to turn it inside out. This became the back and flap of the wallet. Note: I also, at the end, decided to add a coin pocket. This would have been best sewed in to the upper half of the inside piece before attaching it to the outside piece here. It would have been neater. Oh well.

Anyway… Another interfaced piece of cloth, also 2x note-plus-border size, was folded in half and put with raw edges facing down, on the larger piece, to become the cash holder. I then hemmed on all sides a third, note-plus-border sized piece of cloth and added that in front of the cash pocket, to become the front, and the card holder. 

Sewing all these layers together caused a few arguments between my sewing machine and I but we got there in the end. Then I added a button and a loop of fabric to the front middle of the flap, as seen above.

I decided then, though, to add a coin pocket. This is where I learned that things work out better if you think them through properly at the start. I made a top flap and a main piece for the purse, interfacing and hemming some green fabric I had. I also had some velcro so I used that to keep the pocket closed. The coin pocket worked out quite nicely actually, but the stitching is kind of visible from the front, which isn’t so good. Now I know for next time!

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I think next time I’d make it a little wider, so three cards can fit side by side, as well.

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(Oh, I sewed a little line of stitches down the middle of the front flap to keep the cards separated).

Overall, though, I’m happy with it. What do you think?I’ll be giving it as a gift so I hope the recipient is happy too 🙂

Cheers,

Luci

Summer Dress Part 1.

It’s winter here in Germany and the summer in Australia looks unimaginably hot from my 3 degree days, but I know it will be warm again one day and so I’m making a summer dress! I got given the pattern and cloth as a birthday present from my soon-to-be mother-in-law, and since I’ve never worked from a proper pattern before and it was written in German, it is a challenge. So this is just an intro – it’s about half done and I will hopefully finish it in the next week or so. Until then, this is the pattern:

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And this is the cloth I’m using:

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So check back in soon to see the finished product – wish me luck!

Cheers,

Luci

New Life for an Old Band T-Shirt.

I’ve always suspected that men’s T-shirts are made of a nicer fabric than women’s. Men’s T’s just feel nicer. So I don’r let Dom throw out any of his old shirts. They come into my sewing room and I see what I can make of them. This particular T is one I couldn’t resist – what self-respecting Aussie girl living in Germany (with a Heavy Metal freak of a man, no less) does’t have an ACDC T-shirt?

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Not me, that’s for sure! Not now, anyway. But I had to turn it from acres of soft shapeless fabric into something I would actually wear out in public. It looked like this, to start with:

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And I look like a girl wearing a man’s T-shirt. Comfy, but it’s indoor-only wear. So I got a-cutting and a-sewing. I took it in on the sides first, making it girl-shaped. This worked pretty well but the sleeves were then a sensible elbow-length. Not very rock’n’roll. So off came the sleeves. I gave it a slightly lower neckline, sewed up all the raw edges, tried it on and lo and behold – a cool new shirt for me! Woo hoo! I forgot to take progress photos (this is rapidly becoming a trademark of mine, sorry! Will strive for more progress pics from here on. Belated new years resolution…). What do you think of the finished product?

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Cheers,

Luci

Natural Shampoo.

I’ve been trying, over the last few months, to remove sodium laureth sulphate from my life. This was actually surprisingly easy – toothpaste, body wash and face cleanser were all replaced with natural options, without any real fuss. Shampoo, however, was a problem. I had tried baking soda as an option for deodorant but it burned my skin, so i didn’t want to try it as a shampoo. Honey made my already-thick hair too voluminous to handle. Then I read this post, and decided to give the castile soap mixture a go. This is a soap made from olive oil. I’m too cautious to try to make soap myself (lye and me would not be friends, i can just tell) but this stuff seems pretty natural. How’s that for endorsement? Anyway there’s no SLS in it so that’s a big step in the right direction. 

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I took an old soap pump bottle that I’d saved from the rubbish bin, filled it as shown above with a centimetre or two of liquid castile soap, with about 20 drops of ylang ylang essential oil and 10 of sandalwood oil, a half teaspoon of olive oil (you could use apricot, avocado, almond or sunflower oil instead). I filled it the rest of the way with water and gave it a mix (don’t shake too hard, it will foam up out of the spout!). So I’m testing it out – so far so good. A pump or two directly into my hair in the shower and it lathers up like store-bought shampoos. Oh and i tried to hand-letter the label but it turns out I need to work out how to print labels properly.

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I’ll follow with a photo of my hair in the not-too-distant future, if it works out well! OK, if it doesn’t, too… maybe… At the very least, i love having scented hair!

Do you have any DIY hair care tips? Any advice for me? I’d love to hear from you!

Cheers,

Luci

Pho Bo – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup.

AKA completing my New Year’s Resolution on January 4th! Maybe I should have set a larger resolution, but this one sure was tasty.

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This is a recipe I made once, years ago, when I was living with someone who only ate cheese and bread and fried potato. This meant I was the only one who tasted it and so I wasn’t sure if it was any good. Being that I used beef broth from a packet, it wasn’t as authentic as this version, that’s for sure. This time I made the broth myself, boiling bones and all that fun stuff. I worked using a combination of the recipe I had stored in my head from last time, and this recipe I found through my trusty friend Google. 

There are two main stages to this recipe: making the broth and assembling the soup. I say assembling because once you have your broth there’s no cooking to speak of, just adding all the fresh items to the bowls (OK, you have to cook the noodles first, unless you’ve bought them fresh), and pouring the broth over. Then adding a few fresh items on top and yumming it up with a combination of chopsticks and a spoon.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the ingredients. If you’re making this please scroll all the way down to get the other ingredients sections so you don’t have to go to the shops twice!

Broth Ingredients:
2 large brown onions

10cm piece ginger

2.5kg beef soup bones (including marrow, that’s where most of the flavour comes from!)

5 whole star anise

6 cloves

1 cinnamon stick, ~10cm

500g beef chuck steak

1.5 tablespoons salt

4 tablespoons fish sauce

Palm sugar – I used 2x 2cm cubes

Making the Broth:

Put the bones in a large pot (I used my largest pot which is about 6 litres, but if you’ve got bigger use that! I had to add extra water at the end to get the concentration right).

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Cover with water and bring to the boil. Allow to boil only a minute or two then dump all into the sink, scrub the pot clean and return the bones to it. This step removes impurities from the bones.

While water is heating in the above step, cut the onion and ginger in half (lengthways for ginger). Put under the grill on the highest setting and as close to the heat as possible without touching it. Let roast for 15 minutes then pull out, remove blackened parts under cool running water, skin the ginger carefully and set aside. 

Add 6 litres of water to the bones (I could only add 4 so I put two litres in later once the bones were removed). Bring to the boil them reduce heat and simmer. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Add other broth ingredients and simmer for 1.5 hours.

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(assembled broth ingredients)

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(scum on surface. Skim off with a spoon and discard, being careful not to scoop up any cloves or star anise when you do!)

After 1.5 hours, remove the chuck steak pieces, put in a bowl of cool water for 10 minutes, drain and put in fridge. This will go into out soup at the end and the cooling with water stops the meat drying out and becoming discoloured.

Let remaining soup simmer for a further 1.5 hours (3 hours total cooking time). 

Strain the pho broth through fine strainer. If desired, remove any bits of gelatinous tendon from bones to add to your pho bowl. Store tendon with cooked beef. Discard bones and other solids. At this point I added the two extra litres of water that didn’t fit in the pot at the start.

Use ladle to skim as much fat from top of the pho broth as you like – I removed some but by no means all – fat is where the flavour is! (Cool it and refrigerate it overnight to make this task easier; reheat befofe continuing.) Taste and adjust flavor with additional salt, fish sauce and yellow rock sugar. The pho broth should taste slightly too strong because the noodles and other ingredients are not salted. 

You will end up with about 4-5 litres of soup stock. 

Bowls Ingredients:

(this was to make enough for two hungry people, not to use up all the broth. Adjust quantities as needed!)

About half a pack of rice stick noodles, fresh or dried.

100g raw beef filet. I used sirloin. Use anything good enough quality that it will taste good when served very rare.

Spring onions, white and green sections, cut very thinly. I used about two whole stalks.

Sliced fresh bok choy.

A handful of fresh coriander leaves.

Ground black pepper to taste.

Preparing the bowls:

The key is to be organized and have everything ready to go.

Cook noodles if using dried. Set aside and keep warm while preparing the other ingredients. 

Slice the filet very thinly. Slice cooked beef and tendons (if using), also thinly. 

Add a scoop of noodles to each bowl. Add slices spring onions and bok choy. Arrange a mixture of cooked and raw beef and tendons on top of the greens. Pour boiling hot broth over the top, carefully. It is important that the broth is boiling hot at this stage as it slightly cooks the raw beef. This looks cool as it’s happening, by the way. Sprinkle coriander leaves and black pepper over the top. 

Optional ingredients, to be arranged on a plate and placed at the table:

(I used all of these!)

Sprigs of spearmint and/or Thai basil 

Bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)

Red hot chillies, thinly sliced

Lime wedges

Serving and eating:

Add as much of the above optional items as desired. The chillies we bought were pretty fiery so we didn’t need too much! Squeeze the lime wedges over the top and enjoy. Dom was super-impressed with this one and I think it will be oft-requested 🙂

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and have also had a successful start to the new year, or at least a happy start!

Cheers,

Luci