Friday, 30 March 2012

Toddler Jeans from Adult Jeans

Toddler Jeans Toddler Jeans Toddler Jeans

I'm not sure how all those other blogger Mums do it. Any time I try to take some photos of Roman wearing something I've made for him, 99% of the photos end up looking like this!

Maybe that's why there aren't many blogs with clothing for boys, because it's too hard to get any photos of the finished product being modelled!

These jeans are pretty straight forward to make and only have a few seams. The trick is to make use of the original jeans. Unfortunately, I didn't think to take any pictures as I made them to give you a proper tutorial, so you'll have to settle with a walk through instead. The elastic and ribbing waistband make them comfy for kids and easy to take off at change time. This same method would work for baby jeans or jeans for bigger kids, but if they're old enough to realise that the jeans don't have a proper waistband and fly and therefore don't look cool, then maybe this tutorial from cookcleancraft will work.

Toddler Jeans Toddler Jeans

Toddler Jeans from Adult Jeans

You'll need:
A pair of men's or women's jeans
Sewing supplies

Start by creating a pattern from an existing pair of pants. If you're not sure how to do this, Dana at MADE has a great tutorial here. I used a cereal box to make my pattern and I use it quite a bit. To make life easy, I made sure the long side of the pattern is straight, so the pattern can be used on a fold. This saves a bit of sewing, and for the jeans, lets you use the nice distressed seams already on the jeans for a more realistic finish. It also gives lots of room in the pants for a big cloth nappy butt! My pattern has a high enough waist to accommodate a fold down waistband, which is why it looks like I've missed a bit in the picture below.

Place the pattern on the fold of the leg of the jeans. You can choose whether to use the inside or outside seam. Make use of the hems on the bottom too. Even less work for your sewing machine! Cut out a piece from each leg.

Toddler Jeans

You'll also need to cut your waistband pieces:
 - Cut a piece of elastic using your child's exact waist measurement.
 - Cut your ribbing. The width will be: 2x (the width of your elastic + seam allowance). The length will be: (4x the top of the pattern piece) - 2 inches.

Now for some sewing. If you want to make use of one of the back pockets of the jeans, pick one off and sew it to the middle of one of your pieces. I used some orange topstitching thread. Now, put the 2 pieces right sides together, and sew the 2 crotch seams. Open the pants out, and match the legs up, then sew up the leg seam, going from the bottom of one leg, around the crotch and down the other leg.

Sew the short ends of the ribbing together and fold in half to enclose the seam. Sew the ends of your elastic together and put the elastic inside the ribbing. Pin the ribbing evenly around the waist and then sew it on.

That's it! Quick and easy! Smile :)

Toddler Jeans

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Rainbow Rice

Rainbow Rice

We don't have the space for a sand pit, so when I saw this rainbow rice popping up on Pinterest, I thought it was the perfect alternative. You can use the rice to teach colours and colour mixing (all though you only get one shot at the mixing), it is a great tactile learning tool too. You can also hide things in the rice for little toddlers to search for and dig up and it's even fun to just pour in and out of cups. Oh, and it feels lovely flowing through your hands...very therapeutic.

And because this batch is for boys, I went with bright colours rather than pastels. I even chucked in a batch of black to see how it would turn out. Most sites that I've seen do this have used rubbing alcohol, but I didn't have any so just used vinegar instead. It works fine for Easter Eggs, so why not rice? You can follow this method with pasta too!

Rainbow Rice Rainbow Rice

Rainbow Rice

Food colouring - gel or liquid
White vinegar

For each colour, I used about 1.5 cups rice with 2 tbsp vinegar and about 1 pea sized blob of gel food colouring.

Put 1.5 cups rice into a ziploc bag. In a bowl mix 2 tbsp white vinegar with a blob of gel colouring, or about 1 tsp of liquid colouring. You want the colour in the bowl to be pretty vibrant. I had to stir the gel colouring for a bit to make sure it was all dissolved, but the liquid colouring would only need a quick stir.

Pour the colour mix into the bag, seal the bag up and poke it and squish it around to mix the colour through. Little ones can help with this too, just make sure you're using good quality bags so you don't spring a leak. Leave the bags to sit for an hour or 2 to make sure the rice absorbs all the colour.

Pour the rice out onto a tray (with a rim) and spread out the rice thinly. Leave it to air dry in a nice sunny spot. If you're in a hurry, you can also put it in a low oven for about 15 minutes.

Store the rice in a shallow plastic tub.

*I used about 4kg of rice all up and made 8 colours, making a double portion of each colour (3 cups rice, 4 tbsp vinegar, 2 blobs colour). I'm pretty sure I'll be making more.

After flicking the rice around the room, Roman decided to tear up the play mat. Today is a day for destruction. I'd suggest using a drop sheet underneath the rice.

Rainbow Rice Making a mess Making a mess Making a mess

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Thank You!

thank you

Would you believe this is my 100th post? Boy how time flies! I wanted to take this moment to say thank you. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for leaving a comment or sending me an email. It's still exciting when I get a new comment or email and I read them all! I have lots of fun making this blog and I like to think that it helps you all, even just a little bit. Whether you read the blog for advice, ideas, inspiration or just a laugh...thank you!

We all have friends that we turn to for advice. A cooking friend who knows how to cook everything, a baby friend, a relationship friend, a fashion friend... So take a moment and say thank you to your friends, because who knows what we'd do without them?! And while I'm in such a gracious mood, I want to say a special thank you to my lovely friend Kyelie. You always have great advice and I always know you're there, even if you're about 3000kms away! Looking forward to seeing you in July. xx

In my next post, I'll explain what the background in the picture above is all about.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns

I am usually greeted with a look of confusion when I tell people that I don't like Hot Cross Buns. There's something about the smell, I think it's the cinnamon, that just turns me off. I have the same problem with Raisin Toast. But I thought it was about time to suck it up and I figured if I made them myself then I'd be more inclined to enjoy them.

It's raining and dark outside today, so it was a perfect day for baking. I thought I'd ease myself into the world of Hot Cross Buns by making them less than traditional, so I've left out the extra cinnamon and added some choc chips. I've adapted this recipe from Donna Hay's Modern Classics recipe.

I must say I was impressed with the results. They looked just like the ones in the cookbook, and the smell was lovely, but not too Hot Cross Bun-like. The crunch you get from biting into the crust is fantastic. I think I'm a convert! Hubby, who is a seasoned Hot Cross Bun connoisseur, said they're in his top 3 buns of all time!

Hot Cross Buns
makes 12

1 tbsp dried yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
600g plain flour, sifted
3 tsp mixed spice
50g butter, melted
1 egg
3/4 cup sultanas
3/4 cup choc chips

3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp water

2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp water

Place the yeast, 2 tsp of the sugar and the milk into a bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to let the yeast activate and foam.

Sift the flour, mixed spice and remaining sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir to combine. If you don't have a stand mixer, just use a regular mixing bowl and a wooden spoon to combine the mixture. Add the yeast mixture, butter, egg, sultanas and choc chips and mix on low for about 5 minutes, or knead by hand for about 10 until it all comes together and is smooth and elastic.

Place in an oiled bowl and cover with cling wrap. Leave for about 1hr until doubled in size. Roll the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and shape the dough into a log. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. If you like you weigh your pieces, then make them about 125g each.

Grease and flour a 9 inch square cake tin*. Shape the pieces into balls and place them in the tin. Cover with a tea towel or cling wrap for about 30 minutes or until they have risen.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). To make the paste, combine the flour and water and then transfer to a ziploc bag (or a piping bag). Snip the corner off the bag and pipe lines across the buns to make the crosses. There will be more paste than you need.

Bake for 35 minutes, until well browned and the bun springs back if you push on it. While the buns are baking, prepare the glaze by heating the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar has melted. When the buns are cooked, remove from the oven and brush with the glaze. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and rest on a wire rack.

Best served warm with butter.

*I didn't have a 9 inch tin, so I used an 8 inch tin for 9 of the buns and a loaf tin for the rest.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Vegan Chocolate Cakes
(These are the berry version - mini cupcakes with raspberries, and raspberry glaze)

I actually use this recipe quite a bit, and not because it's vegan, but just because it's yum! The recipe gets a good workout during Lent, and is a great last minute recipe because I always have everything in the pantry. It's also a great recipe for anyone with an egg or dairy allergy.

To change it up, you can add a cup of fresh or frozen berries and choose between the choc fudge icing, or the berry glaze. I actually think next time, I'll use both.

Vegan Chocolate Cake
makes 20cm (8") cake, 12 regular cupcakes, or about 4 dozen mini cupcakes

300g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
7 tsp baking powder (yes, seven)
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sunflower oil (or vegetable oil)
350ml water (if you're using scales, this is 350g)
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (optional)

Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F). Grease a 20cm round cake tin. Line the bottom with baking paper.

Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and stir everything so it's evenly mixed. Stir the vanilla, oil and water together and gradually beat into the flour mix to make a smooth batter. Gently stir in the berries, if using.  Pour mix into the tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 45 - 50 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in tin for 5 mins, then turn out onto wire rack, peel off the paper and leave to cool. If making cupcakes, regular ones will take about 25 mins to bake, and mini ones about 15 mins.

When cool, cover with choc fudge, or berry glaze.

Choc Fudge Icing - this makes enough to cover top and sides, or top and middle of 20cm cake.
50g margarine*
3 tbsp water
250g icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 - 2 tbsp hot water, extra

Place margarine and water in a pan and heat gently until the margarine has melted. Remove from heat and add the sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder, beating until smooth and shiny. Allow to cool until firm enough to spread. If it's too thick, add a little more water.

Cut the cake in half (if you want) and spread just over half the icing on top. I sometimes put a layer of jam on first. Put the top of the cake on and cover with the rest of the icing.

*If you want to make this vegan, check that the margarine you're using is milk free. I use Nuttelex.

Berry Glaze
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp strained fruit puree

Sift icing sugar into a bowl. To make the fruit puree, squash some berries in a sieve and collect the juice. Push the berries against the sieve with a spoon to get as much of the juice as you can. Gradually add the juice to the icing sugar, stirring to a thick paste. Spread over cake.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Too much Basil

Basil Leaves

My basil has gone crazy this year. Hubby doesn't eat cheese, so I couldn't make a huge batch of pesto to use it up, which left me to think about what I could do with it. Well I decided to cop out and let future Abby worry about that, so I froze it.

Did you know you can freeze basil and it's almost as good as new when you come to use it? It's much better than dried basil and easy to do, and should sort out your basil supply for the Winter. Here's how you do it.

Freezing Basil

Pick your basil and wash off the bugs and dirt. Dry it off in a salad spinner or gently with some paper towel. Cover a tray in cling wrap (I used a cake cooling rack) and lay the basil leaves on it in a single layer. Put it in the freezer for about 4 hours. The basil will be snap frozen. You don't want to forget about it and freeze it overnight, because the basil will get freezer burn and go a bit black. It'll probably still be fine to put in pasta sauce though. My freezer has a little 2 inch gap above the top shelf that I put the rack in to freeze the basil. It's like it was made for that rack.

After 4 hours, take the tray out and quickly pack the basil leaves into zip lock bags. Squeeze out the air and seal them up and then put it back in the freezer. Take out the leaves as you need them. They defrost in seconds, and you can chuck them straight into sauce or the blender.

While this isn't as good as fresh, it's the closest I've come and I feel like it's much less effort than getting out the food processor.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Fun with Stop Motion Animation

Hubby is between jobs at the moment, so we've been having fun making a stop motion animation with some Lego over the last few days. To make the stop motion, we took a heap of pictures with the digital camera and then put them all together into a video using Windows Live Movie Maker.

This would be a fun weekend activity to involve older kids in. Keep in mind, that it can take a while to put it all together and take all the pictures, so younger kids with a short attention span might get bored before you're finished. I'd say this is for kids about 8+.

Stop Motion - Cooking with Lego

Tips for Stop Motion

1. Map out your scenes before you begin, with a basic story board. Making a movie frame-by-frame is a slow process, the story board will help you break up the photography into manageable chunks of time.

2. Run through each scene before you photograph it. This will make sure that you know the boundaries of your photo and when things come in and out of frame.

3. Set your camera to Manual and lock as many settings as possible (exposure, white balance, ISO). This will ensure that each photo (or frame) has a consistent look. Make note of the settings if you are shooting over a number of days. Don't worry if you are using a point-and-shoot and can't do this.

4. Stabilise your camera using a tripod, or if you don't have one try and temporarily fix it to something. A small amount of movement is OK though, as the 'jerkiness' of stop motion is part of its charm.

5. Some scenes are easier to shoot backwards and then reverse them when building the animation later. You don't need to shoot the scenes in order either. They can be sorted later in the editing software.

6. Try to keep the movement smooth by moving objects (or yourself) the same amount every time. If you want to make the movement look faster, move more between each shot.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Low-down on Hand-Me-Downs

Spiderman Shoes

There is a lot of stigma around hand-me-downs, and I know a lot of people that curl their top lip up at the idea of them, but I'm not sure why. Especially, when it comes to kids clothes.  Babies and children grow so quickly that things usually only fit for one season, so it seems a waste to see all your hard earned cash being spent on clothes that may only get worn a few times. I personally think of hand-me-downs as little treasure chests, you never know what's inside that bag!

I'll never say no to something for nothing and as my Dad always says 'you don't get rich by spending money' so why wouldn't you take some clothes if someone is offering? Having said that, I make sure Roman doesn't look like he lives in hand-me-downs and choose clothes that are at least from this decade. I know they're not for everyone, so if you aren't rolling your eyes in disgust, then read on...

First off, know the rules. Make sure you know whether you need to give the clothes back, or if they're yours for keeps. If they're yours to keep, then you've got free reign to re-design them, so let your imagination go wild! If you do need to give them back, are you still able to make some modifications? If they do need to be given back, I believe it's the owner's responsibility to know which things are theirs. Get them to initial the tags or write up a list of the items. I tend to remember which things are mine and which things I've been given by particular people, but not everyone may remember. If you're the one passing on hand-me-downs, I think it's best to assume you'll never get them back, that way you can't be disappointed. If you have some treasured items, keep them in the back of your cupboard.

So now you've got some clothes, what do you do with them all. They've usually been stuffed in a bag for a while and always look a little sad and wrinkled up when they first come out. It's not really fair for the clothes because I think this always makes them look a little worse than they are. Stains can appear over time, so chuck it all in the wash and don't immediately dismiss anything with a few marks on it. Once it has all been laundered, you can now go through it with a fine toothed comb.

Fluffy Jumper
(I've de-fluffed the right half of this jumper by shaving it with a disposable razor. Good as new!)

If anything is too small, put it in a pile. Also make a pile for anything you don't like and know you wont use. No one says you have to like it all. Make another pile for anything that is still stained and needs further treating/soaking. And another pile for items that need a little mending, alterations or tidying, such as de-fluffing. And lastly, make a pile for the items that look great and are ready to go straight into the cupboard.

Because Roman is taller than average, I have turned a lot of pants that aren't long enough into shorts. Also, tops seem to be more slim fitting these days, so I have taken a lot of tops in along the side seams. Pyjama onesies with sad looking feet can easily be made footless, and because they're usually knits you don't always need to hem them, just cut the feet off. Long sleeve tops that have very sad looking cuffs can be made into t-shirts and the list of quick alterations goes on...

Roman is all set for this coming Winter with my latest acquisition of hand-me-downs. Perfect timing as the cold weather seems to be here to stay. And he is in love with his little Spiderman Slippers I picked up for $2 at the Op-Shop. These are the first shoes he's actually kept on his feet, so it was $2 very well spent.

What are your thoughts on hand-me-downs?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti


I like my biscotti pretty thin, that way I don't need to worry about chipping a tooth when I bite into one. This recipe is great for gifts and can be done in several stages if you don't have the time to do it all at once.

Because the recipe doesn't use any butter, these keep really well and stay nice and crispy.

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti
makes about 70

3/4 cup (150g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (340g) plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
2/3 cup shelled pistachios

Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Place sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with electric beaters until pale and thick.

Fold in sifted flour, baking powder and almonds, then use your hands to lightly knead dough on a floured work surface until the dough is smooth.

Dough can be left at this stage in the fridge for a few days.

Divide the mixture in half. Form 2 long logs about 25cm long x 5cm wide and place on prepared baking tray, leaving space between logs. The dough can be pretty sticky, so don't over handle it. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the dough is firm to the touch and slightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely (about an hour).


Logs can be wrapped in foil and stored in the fridge for a few days, or frozen for a month or so. Defrost before starting the next step.

Preheat the oven to 140°C (285°F).

Use a serrated knife to cut each log on the diagonal in 0.5cm (1/4 inch) slices.

Lay slices flat on a baking tray and return to oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until completely dried out. You will need to do this in batches. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

These will keep in an airtight container for quite a while. I've never been able to keep them around long enough to find out. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Baked Beans from Scratch

Baked Beans

Baked beans are Man food. Every boy I know loves them! Girls, not so much. And think I know why. We are all subject to canned baked beans as kids. They're horrible, overly sweet mush, with nondescript flavour. This can put a person off for life! Make them yourself however, and they're a treat!

Full of fibre and protein, this is a good meal for babies too. Under 12 months, I would leave out the ham or bacon so that it isn't too salty, but after then it's fine. Roman couldn't get enough of these for lunch today.

The plain beans and ham can be cooked and drained in advance to sit in the fridge for a few days and the entire thing can be done ahead. I actually think it's nicer reheated the next day. I prefer to cook my own beans, because I don't love the tinned ones (a bit too soft for me) but you can use canned ones if you prefer. 

The red wine is completely optional, I just happened to have a little bit left in a bottle and it was too early in the day to drink it.

Baked Beans
serves 8 - 10 good sized portions

500g white beans*, soaked overnight
1 smoked ham hock or 6 rashers bacon**
1 Bay leaf
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium brown onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
700ml tomato passata or 2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp maple syrup (or brown sugar or treacle)

Drain beans and place in a large saucepan. Nestle the ham hock, if using, in the middle and chuck in a bay leaf. Cover well with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer until the beans are cooked, about 1 hour. Drain beans, reserving liquid. If using the ham hock, trim away the fat and dice the meat.

Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F.

Heat olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add onion, garlic, and bacon if using, and cook gently until soft, about 15 minutes. Add wine, and allow to reduce for about 5 minutes. Add tomato passata/canned tomatoes, mustard, vinegar and maple syrup. Stir to combine. Add beans and diced ham, if using. Top up with reserved cooking liquid until the beans are covered and nice and saucy. Taste for seasoning and adjust with maple syrup, vinegar or salt as needed. Cover with a lid and bake in the oven for 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Take the lid off and return to the oven for another 30 minutes to thicken the sauce if you think it needs it.

*There are many varieties of white beans to pick from. Navy, Haricot, Great Northern or Cannelini beans are perfect. You can also substitute with 4 cans cooked beans if you don't want to cook them yourself. Start at step 2, using bacon rather than the ham hock.

**The ham or bacon can be left out to make this vegetarian or if cooking for babies under 12 months. 
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