Saturday, 31 August 2013


So, the pattern for the ribbing on the Kobo Cover surprised me.  And I ended up frogging my first attempt, because it was out of proportion to the cover.  I'm onto my second attempt now, although I suspect that the variegation of the wool is going to make this look less impressing than it might otherwise.  I'm still not entirely convinced that I won't end up frogging the second attempt at the ribbing and doing it entirely differently with no ribbing at all.

We'll see.

ETA: Frogging for second time.  GF has given me a good idea for how to alter the pattern for a much nicer finish.  Always assuming I don't entirely ruin the yarn while frogging.

Friday, 30 August 2013

An in-the-middle project

Which, technically is an in-the-middle of an in-the-middle project.

Actually, I really should do a photo of the TARDIS, the Loriblankeet (whose recipient has now been born: his name is Eddy) and the Kobo cover, so that you can see the project within the project within the project :-)

But yes, my very-current project is a cover for Chez Stutters' new Kobo Touch, purchased because we both love our 2nd gen Kobo's, but said 2nd gens are getting old in Tech Time, and JB's had a really good sale on the Touch last weekend.  But the Touch is smaller than the 2nd Gen, by enough that our cases just didn't fit.  And I don't like my Kobo bouncing around in my handbag getting scratched.  So I started a cover, using the pattern that I first tried to use for my iPad cover but abandoned.  It's pretty much all in DC, and with the first iPad cover, that just annoyed the hell out of me.  With this one, I kind of love it.  It makes a very firm fabric and I think will make a great cover for the Kobo.  A fully DC fabric would be too much for most projects, but for this one it seems perfect.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

What I Am Up To Wednesday

My current big project is a TARDIS blanket.  (See here if you're a Ravelry member.)  It's based on a
picture I found on Pinterest, and is intended to be a Christmas gift for the son of a friend.

For the windows, I'm using a crappy, sale-price acrylic+sequins yarn that is a pain in the bloomin' neck to do anything with, and once this project is done, I'm never ever using it again. (Panda Mimosa, for the record.)  I've finished the first window, and will be putting off starting on the second window because I hate that yarn a LOT.

I'm working on the side pieces at the moment,  It's a lot of work.  My other half keeps telling me that various friends will be demanding their own TARDIS blankets once I finish the first:  Tell 'em they're dreamin'.

Meanwhile, I made a hat. I really rather love my hat.  And I'm proud of my hat.  And the pompom I added to the hat.

For project notes: I finished the hat.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Why I love Eurovision

On my Facebook, there were at least two people asking versions of "why on Earth would you watch Eurovision".

Here are a few reasons that I've been watching Eurovision every year since at least 2000, and probably longer than that:
  • The Politics.  What first captured me years ago the first year I watched Eurovision was undeniably the politics - the way in which certain countries will always vote for others, or against others.  The year that the UK got no points from anyone and I watched in horror because it was just a little humiliating.
  • The Awesome - it's just - fabulous.  I love it.  The special effects, the nutty, just the willingness to be awesome and fabulous.
  • The rare use of French - this year only France and Belgium gave their points in French.  I'm sure it used to be used more when I started watching.
  • The enthusiasm.  There's no self-consciousness, as there would be if this were Australia.
  • The sense of community.  Along with knowing that a lot of Europe is paying attention to this, there's the slight nuttiness of Australian fans, of getting #SBSEurovision trending globally, of knowing that around Australia  people are enjoying the craziness.
Basically, it's just really fabulous fun.  

The anatomy of an iPad cover

The finished product.

It is seriously awesome to have finished this project.  I've changed patterns once, tried multiple times not to create ouroboros with my foundation chain, and have discovered the vital importance of consistent ply.

When M came home with a work-supplied iPad, her existing iPad became kind-of-mine.  And I wanted a cover for it, because I was using an old IKEA cushion cover as a case (because we replaced the covers this year with new ones.)  And it seemed right to try to crochet a cover.

I started with a pattern in dc (all references in this blog to UK terminology unless otherwise stated) using my original Carnival acrylic yarn.  I tried, I really did, but once I didn't want an all pinkish-blueish-purplish cover and changed yarn, it turned into a disaster.  Plus, the DC just took far too long.  (I'm shallow, I know).

The original attempt, just prior to frogging.
So I changed to a different pattern, one found on Pinterest, and that one finally worked - due in no small part to using yarn all of the same ply (all leftovers from the Annablanket).  I had initially thought to call it a "Bunheads inspired" project, but that disappeared with the Carnival yarn.  I bought an awesomely big button, sewed it on, and it's all done.  It took a little time away from the Annablanket (although that's finished now too (apart from blocking)) but given the protection the screen needs, the cover was necessary.  And I'm not entirely ruling out the idea of surface crochet or decorative flowers at some point in the future...

Friday, 3 May 2013

What I am up to Wednesday (on Friday)

My (vague) plan is to rotate WIAUTW posts between my three blogs.  Last week was the Book Blog, this week we're here at Chez Stutters, and next week it will be the Discernment Blog.


Crochet-wise, I'm on R43 of 56 for the Rainbow baby blanket and it actually feels like a blanket on my lap when I'm working on it.  I worked another two or three motifs of the Croydon Square blanket on the weekend.  Think I've still got at least three of each yet to do.  And as you would have seen, I finished my first crochet project ever, a beaded star tag for my gym bag, influenced by the TV show Smash (which thanked me by having an incredibly depressing episode on Sunday.)

I have also bought wool for three more projects: Christmas decorations for the end of this year, a Christmas present for the end of the year, and my first attempt at a crocheted stole.

Today my own personal copy of Jan Eaton's Encyclopaedia of Crochet arrived in the mail, along with my copy of the Just Bento cookbook.  M and I are trying trying trying to get back into being organised and I'm hoping part of that will be the reemergence of my bento habit.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Tea blending: Assam with T2 Spi Chai

I was poking around the T2 website in past days and found the suggestion of blending Assam with T2's Spi Chai.

Now, I happen to have been drinking more Assam of late, because over Christmas Twinings was selling 100 Assam Bold tea bags in a really nice tin, and Chez Stutters being Chez Stutters, naturally we bought it for the tin.  But I've been enjoying the tea, as well, and will probably keep getting it, perhaps in loose leaf form, once I've finished the tea bags.

Having read the suggestion of blending, however, I decided to give it a try - particularly because our Spi Chai has essentially gone unused since it got too hot for Chai.

The website says it's best without milk, but I don't believe that any tea is best without milk, not really.

That said, it's a beautiful blend, and I recently bought more Spi Chai so I could keep making my wonderful Assam/SpiChai blend.

My first finished crochet project.

It's the third project I've started but the first I've finished - a relatively simple little star for my gym bag, inspired by the TV show "Smash".

Some explanation - I recently joined a gym.  I joined at a point in time when a deal was offered with a gym bag, t-shirt, etc.  Which means that there's a lot of identical gym bags around these days.  I wanted something to distinguish mine, and given my new-found love of crochet, it seemed like the right medium for my identifying mark.

Meanwhile, I love the show "Smash".  It's almost certainly not going to get renewed for a third season, which really annoys me, as they're clearly getting things set up beautifully for said third season.  Red and gold are the obvious colours for Smash, but it's so bound up in the story of Marilyn Monroe that it clearly had to include white.  Meanwhile, my crochet mentor and general bad influence, Mel from Crochet of a Subversive Reader, mentioned beads, and I thought that beads would suit Smash perfectly.

And so here's my Smash-inspired "(Let me be your) Star".  In situ.

This particular pattern has gone onto my short list of patterns for Christmas decorations this year.  I want to put decorations in some of my cards this year.  Like this star.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What I am up to Wednesday

In the last few weeks, I've gotten hooked (no pun intended) on crochet.  I'm using a my Ravelry account (heidisews) in its proper way now, and currently have two projects on the go.  My friend Mel of Crochet of a Subversive Reader has begun "What I am up to Wednesday", and I'm going to try to do the same.

So, current projects -

Croydon Square Baby Blanket - I've finished fourteen motifs of twenty-four.  On Monday I blocked the first three. As well as another ten motifs, I have a lot of endings to weave in.  Even so, I'll admit that this project has mostly been put down, in favour of another - a gift for a baby born before the baby for whom this project is a gift.

Rainbow Square Baby Blanket - I'm currently at round 25 of 56 (slight alterations to the pattern occurred).  As each round grows by 24 stitches, r25 is nowhere near halfway, but at this point I'm really pleased with it and in fact rather love it.  (Since the second photo was taken I've finished three and a half more rounds.)

The square is looking a little skewed when you look closely.  It will definitely need blocking when its done.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Tea blogging again - Lemongrass and Ginger

I bet you thought I'd forgotten about the tea-blogging.  After all, I only did it once.

But thanks to someone randomly leaving a T2 sample of Lemongrass and Ginger in our tearoom at work, I'm back again.

Description from the T2 website:
Bright lemongrass joined by ginger's spice creates a harmonious blend of freshness and warmth in a deliciously well-balanced fashion. Cool lemongrass brings a zesty zing which is followed by the warming spice of ginger.

No milk - because there wasn't any at work (plus ginger and milk just doesn't seem to work. Oddly, because ginger and milk are part of the basis of pumpkin pie, which is awesome.) On the other hand, lemongrass mitigates against milk.

There are very few teas that I'm happy to drink hot, without milk.  This is one of them, and it's magnificent.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tuesday Bento

By the way - I'm sure I'll get over my obsession eventually.  Even if I keep taking photos, I'll likely end up with a weekly bento post instead of daily, and maybe only those that look particularly interesting.  So if you're getting bored, just hold up for a week or so more and then I'll stop bombarding you the way I am at the moment.

A bit of a change!  Here's Tuesday's bento box:-

(From the top: Cottage cheese with spring onions, raw snow peas, steamed brocolli, pepper confit, marinated cauliflower (a Moosewood recipe).  Hidden beneath the cauliflower is a brocolli and cauliflower stem kinpira.)
 No carbs at all - I kind of forgot to plan any.  Also no fruit, and I did miss my daily grapes!  Other notes from today - the kinpira is delicious, but got hidden under the cauliflower and thus a lot of it is still uneaten because I'd filled up on the rest of it.  And I have to say that I thought more about individual recipes than about flavours that go well together.  Think I need to spend more time on my planning!

New week - new bento box

I mentioned last week that my purple box, much as I loved the colour and shape, was too big.  If I filled it properly I had more food than I could eat, and if I didn't fill it up the food moved around annoyingly.  Especially the grapes.

So I got a new, smaller box.  It's 500ml, and it also fits far better in my lunch sack than the previous one did.  So there's two points of yayness.

What I put in it was a little less original - the last of the quinoa/ham/peas from last week, plus some Moroccan quinoa salad that was made for Sunday dinner.  (Quinoa is both carbohydrate and protein, or I wouldn't have put so much in.)  Fresh raw snowpeas (they make great walls!), chargrilled zuchinni (not a success - it was mushy and rather awful), two cherry tomatoes, and then a mix of grapes, raspberries and blueberries.

For the record: the zuchinni and cherry tomatoes were from our own garden, while the snow peas, raspberries and blueberries were from the Farmers' Market.  We also got grapes from the market this week, but the ones I had for lunch were last week's, which were from the supermarket.

Monday, 18 February 2013

End of the first week of Bento

A confession:
My Friday Bento didn't look exactly like this. 
But mostly like this.
This is not (quite) my bento from Friday.

It almost was, but the cheese (the diamond shapes, cut from a Milawa red cheddar) smelled a bit squiffy, so I decided not to risk it, and replaced the cheese with red onion instead.  It's still a very green bento, mostly because I ran out of carrot kinpira on Thursday and the pepper and onion confit on Wednesday.

Again, no cooking in the morning, just assembling.

I have plans for next week's boxes.  Nothing set in stone, yet (other than marinated cauliflower - definitely doing that), plus trying to get the amounts a little better and to definitely cut the celery shorter if I do another celery kinpira.

Bento #3

I hope I'm not boring you with the endless bento posts.  It's just that I'm all enthused right now and the pictures look pretty - right?

Anyway, third day of bento.  The night before's dinner included mini Angus patties, so I got M to cook two extra for me to take to work the next day.  Everything else had been pre-prepared, and there was no cooking to do in the morning.  Other than that, pretty much the same as previous days:

Bento day 3: Mini Angus patties, quinoa with peas and ham, carrot kinpira, celery kinpira,
sesame beans for decoration, plus grapes.
Didn't fill the container (because that would have been too much food) so there was a lot of shifting in transit etc, and it didn't look nearly as pretty by the time I went to eat it.  But it still tasted good.  Although I could have used a sauce of some kind for the patties.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Bento #2 - lunch for two

Tuesday evening and it was time to get thinking bento again.  M was scheduled to work the next day so I knew I was going to be doing lunch for her as well as for me.  My plan (based on what was in the fridge and needed to be used up) was for a mixture of tuna and feta for the protein portion of the meal.  Thankfully I ran this past M, who pointed out that tuna in a staffroom of people she didn't know was probably a bad idea.

So, I hit the website and searched for something I could cook with what we had in the house, that would be a sufficient source of protein.  And what I found was quinoa with green peas and dried sausage.  I subsituted frozen peas for fresh (because that's what we had) and ham for the dried sausage (ditto).  And I note that the recipe made far too much and I'll be eating it for a week.)

I cooked the quinoa up on Tuesday night, so Wednesday morning all I had to do was assemble the two boxes.

An odd-looking photo of day two's two bento boxes.
I have a smaller appetite than M.
The menu was the quinoa (decorated with snow peas), sweet pepper and onion confit, sesame green beans, raw snow peas as the divider, and grapes.  (We have some really, really good grapes at the moment!)  Putting together both boxes, including washing up afterwards, took no more than fifteen minutes, and was probably closer to ten.  (Cooking the quinoa the night before was 40 minutes at most, start to finish, mise en place to all dishes washed.)

Neither box is full to the brim, which does mean there's room for shifting in transit (which is not optimal).  M's box is 900ml, but I probably only filled about 700ml.  My box is 650ml (filled to 450/500), and I probably really could do with a smaller one.  I will probably look around for a smaller one with a decent seal in the future.

M's verdict was "awesome!" and apparently some of her friends who saw her photo on Facebook were similarly impressed.  I'll certainly keep going with this bento plan for the rest of the week and into next...

Bento #1 - the verdict

Tuesday I got to eat my first Bento lunch (having forgotten to bring it Monday -  see my previous posts for why *that* was ironic.)  My conclusions:

* Yum!
* My box is actually a little big.  I was on desk shift until 1.30, so I didn't get to eat lunch until lateish.  So I was reasonably hungry.  Even so, I couldn't finish all the rice. I thought about changing to a smaller box for the future (I think this one is 650ml).  However, it is also the box I own with the best seal on it.  So for the moment I'm thinking about not packing my box to the top. 

* The celery kinpira could use being chopped a little finer and shorter.
* Grapes.  Yum!

And once more: the photo -
Bento box #1: brown rice, sesame/soy green beans on top of celery kinpira, salmon cubes, carrot kinpira, sweet pepper and onion confit, and fresh grapes
Bento box #1: brown rice, sesame/soy green beans on top of celery kinpira,
salmon cubes, carrot kinpira, sweet pepper and onion confit, and fresh grapes

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Adventures in bento - the first morning

Previously on Adventures in Bento - I discovered a website and cooked lots of vegetables.

Sunday night after cleaning up from my pre-cooking, I set out what I would need in order to prepare my first bento box on Monday morning.  This being the internet age (or is that the Instagram age?  Not that I actually use that app,) I took a photo for this 'ere blog.
Ah, tupperware rice cooker, I hardly knew you.
Brown rice, the rice cooker and my new box-for-bento with a lovely seal.
So, Monday morning, I got home after a morning walk (M and I are both trying to be healthier, exercise more and eat better, which is part of the impetus towards bento lunches, by the way).  I made my morning coffee and I put the brown rice into the tupperware microwave rice cooker to cook. 

At this point I need to make something clear: I know how to cook rice!  I have been cooking rice since I was... eight years old, I think.  I know brown rice is more complicated to cook than white rice, but see above re being healthier.  And it's not like this was my first time cooking brown rice, either.  Nor was it my first time using the tupperware microwave rice cooker.  We've had that gadget for a good two and a half years and used it countless times.  And tupperware is supposed to have a lifetime guarantee.

I clearly got the proportions wrong somehow.  Because as the clock counted down the minutes, the smell of the rice in the microwave began to seem - rather more than just cooked.  And when I checked it... well, disaster.  The rice was burned black.  The tupperware had melted and was sticking to the microwave plate.  The smell in the room was absolutely dreadful.

Handy hint: if you ever accidentally melt tupperware in the microwave, it comes off surprisingly quickly if you get it into a sinkful of hot water fairly soon after it's cooled down enough to get it out of there.

After that I cooked a second lot of brown rice, on the stove, while I scrubbed out the microwave.

And then I put together my very first bento.

So: brown rice, green beans in sesame layered on top of celery kinpara, sweet pepper and onion confit and carrot kinpara in the bottom right hand corner.  Maple baked salmon (put aside from dinner), and grapes.  (Photo could be lit better.)

I had it packed and ready to go.

And then, after two lots of rice, a ruined rice-cooker, singed fingers, and a newly clean microwave... I forgot my lunch at home.  Argh!!!

(Thankfully, M was home and could put it in the fridge to save it for Tuesday.  But really, world?)

Coming soon: Bento - the verdict.

Adventures in bento lunches

(Likely to be a new series/type of posts.  By H.)

On Friday I discovered and Maki's Bento 101 course, which was fortunately just starting.  I also read through a substantial portion of Maki's site and absolutely loved what I found there.

By Sunday evening I was thoroughly inspired, and I cooked up four lots of vegetables to use in my bento boxes for the week.  I made:
sweet pepper and onion confit
- carrot kinpira
- celery kinpira (scroll down to the third of the three recipes), and
- green beans in soy and sesame, a combination of a recipe my mother used to make and the carrot kinpira.

From left: carrot kinpira; pepper and onion confit; green beans; celery kinpira.
Note for those who know me well: those oranges are M's.  Not mine.  Ever.

From the way M was squeeing at the scents coming from the kitchen (and the way the carrot kinpira was disappearing) I think I'll be making bentos for M, soon, too.

Further adventures in bento...

An update

Yes, I know - there have been no posts since New Year's Day.

One definite element of that is the current state of the garden.  Which is not great.  And since we had such fun posting photos of our lush, green garden for you to see, I feel bad now that the garden is no longer lush or green.

We've been having some very hot weather - starting back in December, right around the time of M's graduation and a visit from her parents.  A time when we were very busy, and watering the garden wasn't exactly at the top of our to-do list.  Oops.

Minty and Coloniser (with random flower
in foreground) in happier (and younger) days.
While that one is our fault, the state of the garden since is mostly not.  The weather has been unpredictable, and far hotter than recent years.  Plants that have sailed through previous summers are visibly burned this year, just from the sun and the heat.  Remus Lupin may not have made it through (although Teddy is still struggling along, surrounded by the Coloniser.  For all that we laugh about the Coloniser, it seems to have provided Teddy with sufficient cover from the heat that he will survive where the far stronger Remus is struggling.)

Our zuchinni plants are producing at a great rate - possibly too great a rate - and there are lots of cherry tomatoes around the place.  Other than that, though, it's a very non-productive garden right now.

My plan is to wait until mid-late March (either Labour Day or Easter weekends, depending on the weather) to cover pretty much the whole garden with compost from our bin, then newspaper and zuchinni leaves (a hint from the One Magic Square book), water it well for three weeks, and then start on the winter planting, hopefully with some vaugely recovered and partly healthy soil involved.  I think it's going to be a complete restart on everything from Minty and Coloniser onwards - if Minty makes it through summer.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

T2 reviews: Vanilla Slice (iced)

2012 was the year my taste in drinks expanded.  2012 was the year I discovered T2, and chai, and iced tea.  All of a sudden, there was a whole new world to explore.

So I'm taking a break from writing up Australian Women Writers book reviews to review the glass of iced tea I am currently drinking.

It's called Vanilla Slice, which admittedly sounds a little odd for a tea.  But the smell is heavenly (and very vanilla).  The description on T2's website (link above) says:
 Velvety vanilla with summer fruit is a heavenly indulgence. Crisp apple and elderberry combined with the sweetness of vanilla spice and a squeeze of citrus to provide a crisp, tangy finish. A medium-bodied, gorgeously pink infusion that is a sweet treat and a decadent delight.
We made it up for New Year's Eve with fresh blueberries and strawberries in the jug, but I made a jug previously without the berries and it was just as nice - with the berries added it tends to mute the vanilla scent a little, which is worth keeping in mind if you find the scent a little strong.  I'm not sure I can taste the citrus that the description mentions, but as I don't exactly like some citruses, that's not a bad thing.

I'm not sure our current stock will last us until it gets cold enough to try it as a hot tea, but if it does run out I may have to buy some more so that I can try it.