Grey elephant love

It’s no secret that I love Japanese elephant prints (made by a company called Daiwabo).  They are just adorable in an understated way, and they come in beautiful shades of pink, green and blue.

But of late I’ve been in love with the grey colorway.  Initially I ordered it for a custom-order daycare / nappy bag.  At first I thought it might be too gloomy for children’s accessories, but upon seeing its gorgeous color in person, it immediately become my favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the custom-order daycare / diaper bag.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t it look sophisticated with the light grey lining? I also made a matching set of zippered diaper cases for my custom-order client.

I had enough fabric left over to make my mother a tote bag in the same colorway.  She is a school teacher, and she wanted a bag to take to her school everyday.  I assumed she’d carry A4 folders, notebooks, and maybe her brand-shiny-new Macbook Air (in a matching grey color, too).  She also wanted lots of pockets (she’s a tough customer).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bag is basically in the same style as the daycare / nappy bag, but with a rectangle bottom instead of oval, is taller than is wider, and has two bag handles instead of one shoulder strap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The inside view – it has two large pockets for keys and other little things.  Combined with the two large outside pockets, I hope they satisfy all her pocket needs.

Sourcing the grey elephant fabric is a little bit of a pain…. But I think I’ll have to order some more, so I can make more bags for my shop.

Smock dress

I used to think that it was a sign of maternal love to make clothes for your child.  Like, wrapping your baby with love.

I don’t think that anymore.  For the past year, Miss M has rejected most of my creations because I can never seem to get anything right for her taste.  And the silliest thing about it?  Is that I am still making clothes for her, knowing the chances of rejection are pretty good.  Why?  Why stay up late at night sewing for an ungrateful child?  Don’t I have work to do?  Or at least watch some more Garden Girl episodes for my much-needed relaxation time?

Well, I now have no choice but to admit it — because I like it.  I love sewing little clothes for little people, using pretty fabrics I can never wear myself.  There is so much satisfaction in it that I (well, almost) don’t care that my daughter wears it or not.  It turns out I am just a selfish sewer.

And that is probably why Miss M doesn’t like my creations – because I am too selfish to choose fabrics she would like, as opposed to what I like.  Sigh.  I just can’t bring myself to sew with pink and purple…. Or maybe I’m hoping against hope that one day soon she’ll grow out of her pink phase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here is my latest selfish creation.  It is not pink or purple, but green, blue and white.  It’s a simple smock-style dress with elastic gathers around the neck and sleeves.  I put a patch pocket with a little green button.  The pattern is from one of my all-time favorite Japanese craft books:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The title translates to something like: Proper Clothes Even for Children.  The author, Yuji Ogata, is a designer at a New York children’s clothing store called Makie.  I just love all his designs because they are clean, simple (though not always easy to make), classic, and beautiful.  This book has patterns for 3- to 8-year olds.  He has another book for babies and younger children, and I’ve made quite a few things from that book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used a double gauze fabric by Heather Ross.  I love how comfortable and breezy the dress is – perfect for hot Australian summer.  I actually had made this dress before using a different Heather Ross fabric (also not pink).  Here’s Miss M wearing that dress a year ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To my surprise and joy, Miss M actually agreed to wear the new dress for the day.  She complained about having only one pocket (I promised to put on another one later), and said it was too long (she is right) but still decided to wear it, putting aside her usual preference for everything pink.

It was a sign of love, I think.  Not a sign of maternal love, but of my daughter’s love for me, or pity at least, for her recognition of my efforts.  Aw… it made my heart melt for a while.  But Miss M being the rebel she is, she made it clear that her love for mommy didn’t extend to letting me follow her around with a camera.  This is the last photo I managed, while she’s saying “I don’t want you taking photos of me!”

Oh well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach

We went to Manly yesterday for a family birthday lunch.  At first Mark and I were pretty grumpy about having to drive all the way to such a crowded area with two little kids, cutting their naptime short — never a good thing, I tell you.  But then it ended up a lot of fun.  Why?  The beach!  Being so far away from a beach, we hardly ever take our kids to beaches.  Beach play wasn’t planned yesterday, either, but when Miss M saw the beach, she really wanted to go down there and play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She proceeded to take off most of her clothes off, including her undies, and went right in the water.  This took me by surprise, because she has always been a cautious child, afraid of much of nature.  But could it be that she’s changing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then both children had great fun playing with the little fountains lining up the main shopping area.  Mr. A got soaking wet and took his pants and nappy off right there.  Others were mortally embarrassed but I didn’t care.  If not for the nagging inlaws hurrying us along, I’d have let them play there for much longer, bare bottomed and all.  Maybe I’m becoming one of those parents people would roll their eyes at for letting the kids run around like feral kittens?

8 ideas on living (relatively) cheaply on organic food

So I’ve been getting weekly boxes of organic fruit and veggies, cooking healthy meals pretty much every day, and even making my own yoghurt and baking bread on a regular basis. Naturally I’ve been giving myself a big pat on the shoulder! How long will this eco/hippy/domestic goddess-dom last? Hard to tell… Actually, now that the dreaded school holiday is upon us again, I can see myself completely dropping the ball at some point over the next three weeks.

Whenever I enthuse about organic food, however, the number one response I get from people — even like-minded people — is that organic produce is too expensive. Well, that’s fair enough. It is more expensive. But in my recent bout of reading, I came across two compelling arguments about it that I wanted to share:

One – organic produce may be expensive up front, but conventional produce has a lot higher “hidden” cost you pay with your tax dollars. For instance, the cost of treating people falling illl from pesticide use, including a lot of farmers who become sick from being in contact with all that poison. (From  Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe)  Two – when you pay higher price for organic produce, you are using your voting power, with your money, to support sustainable, ethical farming over conventional. Much like donating money to your favourite charity, each time you buy local and organic, you are supporting that local farmer who might otherwise be taken over by a huge agricultural corporation who values profit over food safety. (From No Impact Man by Colin Beavan)

I think these are quite convincing arguments for shelling out money for local, organic produce. Don’t you?

But if you are still not persuaded, here are some of my suggestions for eating organic on the cheap side (in no particular order). What I mean is, eating organic food does not have to be expensive at all.

(1) Give up meat. We used to buy organic chicken, which is ridiculously expensive. After we gave up meat and became semi-vegetarian (we eat occasional seafood), our grocery bill got much more bearable. And you know what, fresh organic vegetables taste so much better than conventional ones, I bet you won’t miss meat all that much. A simple meal of vegetable stew like ratatouille tastes divine, full-flavoured, and it makes you swoon in happiness rather than poke around the dish in search of “point of interest” (as Mark would say, referring to meat or cheese).

I nearly shed tears when I saw my son eating organic broccoli for the first time, and asking for more – It was just plain, steamed broccoli with no sauce or salt. This is the boy who used to meticulously remove anything green from his dinner plate. Really, organic broccoli tastes that good.

(2) Use all vegetable scraps – With cheap conventional food, it is easy to forget about what you have in your fridge, buy more than you need, and let some food spoil. When you buy more expensive organic food, you’ll naturally cherish every bit of it like gold, so you’ll waste less food. No need to peel those carrots, too, because it’s pesticide-free. You can use the green parts of leek for making delicious vegetable stock. If you use up everything, you’ll naturally have to buy less to begin with.

(3) Bake your own bread – Organic bread is expensive. I used to spend $8 for a small loaf of organic bread that came in a plastic bag, and sometimes it wasn’t even fresh. Ouch. So now I make an effort to bake bread every 2-3 days. It’s quite easy once you get in the habit of it. It is nice to have a stand mixer or food processor (which can also knead bread for you), but you can knead by hand. Or there are “no-knead” bread recipes if you look around, which involves the dough sitting around for a long time, developing flavour. I posted a simple wholemeal bread recipe before, but investing in a good bread book or two (and maybe even a Kitchenaid mixer!) is a good idea. Now, with organic bread flour bought in bulk, a large loaf of organic bread costs me less than $2.

(4) Buy in bulk – By bulk, I don’t mean Costco-like gigantic portions. Even in smaller amounts, “bulk” is cheaper. I buy organic bread flour in a 12kg bag, which reduces the cost to about $2.5/kg — whereas if you buy a 1kg plain organic flour in supermarkets, it costs like $4/kg.

(5) Make your own yoghurt (and fresh cheese, etc) – I know, it sounds suspiciously like a hippy thing to do, but home-made yoghurt is wonderful. Just buy a small container of commercial yoghurt with live culture. Heat up a litre of organic milk till it nearly boils, then let it cool down to about 45 degrees (so it’s not too hot to stick your finger in). Mix in a tablespoon of yoghurt in it and stir (but don’t worry about little chunks of yoghurt undissolved), pour it in a clean jar with a tight lid, and keep it warm for about 6-10 hours. I wrap my yoghurt jar in a blanket and keep in in a warm spot in our house. And it costs… a mere $2.5 per a litre of organic yoghurt, as opposed to $6.50 or more that I used to buy in plastic containers!

(6) Avoid takeaways – Needless to say, eating out or takeaway is expensive. If you reduce these expenses, you’ll naturally have more budget to spend on organic produce. Again, home-cooked meal doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple recipes are really the best if you have fresh organic produce.

(7) Use inexpensive ingredients – Not all organic produce is expensive. Potatoes, pumpkins and carrots are relatively affordable. Dried beans are very affordable, even though sadly for me, organic rice is too expensive to buy. You can buy organic pasta in major Australian supermarkets, and they are quite affordable. Using these ingredients, you can make delicious and filling soups, dips, etc, that do not hurt your wallet.

(8) Grow your own vegetables – I can’t say my backyard farming is anything to be proud of… yet… but it does save a lot of money just having a few spring onions, lettuce, and herbs growing out there. Instead of buying a head of lettuce, using half and throwing the rest away when it gets too old in the fridge, you can pluck a few leaves at a time from your kitchen garden as you need it. Same with herbs. They may not be certified organic, but when you use organic potting mix and fertilizers, you know it’s safe. You can buy organic seedlings or seeds as well.

Well, I was going to try to make it to number 10 but I ran out of ideas. I’ll add more later if I think of anything else. I think I will also write a separate post on cooking vegetarian meals for your kids. Meanwhile, happy organic eating!

 

It’s nice to have a backyard

It’s been nearly six months since we moved to this house. But now that Spring is truly here to stay in Sydney, I am feeling a renewed sense of gratitude that we live in a house with a big backyard. Today was particularly a beautiful day, so the kids and I spent most of our day outside, going back inside only for meals and a nap.

I made an obstacle course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We flew giant bubbles using “bubble wands” that we bought at a local school fare last weekend.

In the afternoon, I was suddenly in the mood to dig a hole for a sand pit. I found a spot under a mango tree, which remains shady for many hours a day. And dug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digging was the easiest part. Removing the soil from the pit required a lot more thought and energy. I filled all the spare pots we had (in the hopes of using the rich soil for planting more things) with soil, and still the hole is only about 5cm deep… What do we do with the rest of the soil?

Anyway, Miss M and Mr. A didn’t seem to mind that we don’t have white beach sand or anything yet. They had so much fun playing with the dirt… until they freaked out about the worms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course the best part about all this outside play is that the house remains relatively tidy at the end of the day. Win-win all around!

Oh, and if you are wondering why my children are not wearing those pretty hats I make for my shop… well, here’s a proof that Miss M did wear one for… a few minutes… before she took it off. I can’t get a hat on Mr. A even for a minute. Children are so unreasonable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


Sleep

Sleep is such a big, controversial issue in parenting. While parents are divided – often fiercely – on issues like sleep school or co-sleeping, most parents seem pretty united in their desire to have their children go to bed without a fuss at a decent bedtime and sleep through the night. Failure to reach this goal can cause untold misery and mental breakdowns to many parents, and ruin their joy of parenting. To make matters worse, healthcare professionals (at least the ones here in Australia) excel at making you feel like a big failure if your children don’t sleep though the night on their own.

Seriously, the issue of sleep resembles warfare: parents vs. children.

Well, I  just want to share with everyone here that in our household, we have officially lost this battle. The children have won, and we (well, mostly just me) have been defeated. Believe me, we’ve tried.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So this is how our kids sleep all the time… (oh, please ignore the sad sticky tape holding Mark’s poor broken glasses together). I don’t have a photo of myself sleeping with the children, but it’s mostly me who sleeps with the kids. Just imagine another child, a 3-year-old, occupying my other arm, pinning me down completely.

And you know what, once I admit failure and give up all ambition that our children would ever sleep on their own… it’s not so bad. I actually enjoy cuddling up with them at night, reading books together and talking, until we all fall asleep pretty much at the same time around 7:30, including myself. No crying, no drama. Most nights I manage to wake up in the middle of the night, sneak out for a couple of hours to do some work and enjoy some kid-free time…. until one or both children wake up to realise I’m gone, and start crying.

It may not be ideal, and Super Nanny would most certainly send us all back to sleep school, but my kids are not going to be little forever, and maybe sleep doesn’t have to be such a blood-shedding warfare after all, if we only lower our expectations a little, and embrace “failure” as a way of life.

 

Pattern-making exercise

So I’ve been secretly itching to make children’s clothes again, now that things are going pretty well with Piggledee. I used to make a lot of things for Miss M to wear when she was a baby, using commercial patterns (mostly from Japanese sewing books). But when she turned about two and a half, she began to be choosy about what to wear — flatly rejecting several of my lovingly-made outfits. Never mind it took me hours, or that I splurged on precious fabric like Liberty of London. She was unkind and ungrateful. I didn’t take those rejections very well, and I stopped making her clothes.

But now I want to try again, for several reasons. First, ready-to-wear clothes don’t fit Miss M properly. She has a stocky body with no bottom. Pants just fall off her butt. Dresses that fit her chest have sleeves that are too long. And so on. It makes sense to make it myself so things will fit her better. Second, I want to try my hand at pattern making. Not that I don’t like commercial patterns – I do, there are so many cute designs out there. But I’ve always wanted to know the logic behind those patterns, so I would understand better how to modify those pattens properly. Third, and most importantly, I am a huge Project Runway fan.

I used this book as a reference. Metric Pattern Cutting for Children’s Wear and Babywear, by Winifred Aldrich.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made a basic body block using a combination of Miss M’s measurements and the standard measurements for 3-4 year-olds. This was a bit confusing at first, and I had to read and re-read the instructions several times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my first project, I wanted to make something rearlly simple. Also something that doesn’t require button holes because my sewing machine is broken in that regard. I decided to make an apron, like this one my mother had bought in Japan a while ago… and which is now a little too small for Miss M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cute, isn’t it? I totally ignored all the good design features like pin tucks, lace trim, the button closure, and even pocket. I copied the basic body block onto another sheet of paper, and drew over it to make it look like an apron.  The square neckline looked tricky to sew, so I made it round. I also made the yoke longer so I wouldn’t have to factor the armhole curve into the bodice pattern. The back will be closed by two sets of ties.  Simple, simple, simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love that children’s patterns are so tiny each piece fits onto a regular A4 printer paper.  The bodice part doesn’t have a pattern – it’s just rectangles (about 1.3 times wider than the yoke) to be shortened with a gather to fit the yoke. Can’t get any simpler. I used a home decor fabric I had in my stash, and sewed up a trial version this afternoon. Here it is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to disclose that I had made aprons like this before, using a modified commercial pattern. So I knew how to put it together already. But the point of the exercise was to make the pattern from scratch.

I think it looks decent and wearable… if somewhat wider than I had imagined. Does a girl really need 12cm of ease around the chest? Hmm. Maybe for something like an apron, which may be worn over a sweater. But for a dress, maybe that’s a bit too much?

The yoke should have been a little longer as well, because around the armhole, it got a bit too bulky and unsightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to try it on Miss M when she comes back from visiting her grandmother. Then I’ll adjust the pattern and make a proper version – this time maybe with pin tucks and a pocket.

Then my next project will be… a jumper skirt. Not sure how to do it without a button hole but I’ll find a way.

So much fun.

——

Later: I did try the apron on Miss M. At first she was in a rejection mood, but when I pleaded “But Mommy made this for you! Can you please try it on?” – she brightened up and decided to wear it. The difference between 2 and a half and 3 and a half may be that she now has a budding sense of compassion. Or appreciation for other people’s efforts. Maybe.

Anyway the apron was a perfect size for her over winter clothing. It could be a little longer though.

Introducing…. a perfect bib

It took me a long time to make bibs for my shop — because, aside from the fact that everyone else was making it, I am not a big fan of bibs. Bibs basically look all the same, they cost about the same, and frankly, they all look silly and undignified on kids no matter how you dress them up with pretty fabric. In fact, the prettier the fabric, the sadder it looked to me. And plastic bibs? Total abomination.

That’s why I hardly ever used bibs for Miss M when she was little. I made her a few bibs for her mealtime mess, but even then, I preferred to dress her in aprons instead, or I just resigned to washing her clothes more often. It didn’t bother me.

Then Mr. A turned up, and he was a natural-born drooler and spit-upper. As a breastfeeding baby, you could count on him to spit up every single time, staining not only his clothes but also mine, the feeding pillow, and the bedding below. In between feedings he drooled buckets, especially once he started teething. I was amazed how fast his clothes got soaked wet, and poor thing, if I didn’t change him fast enough he would develop rashes. So for Mr. A, a bib was a sheer necessity. A survival item even.

Now, while I still think bibs look silly, at least I understand why parents need them. So, with that in mind, I strove to make a perfect bib for my shop. A perfect bib would be:

  • comfortable for little ones to wear – must be lightweight and extremely soft around the neck.
  • absorbent! A bib is no good if a stream of drool rolls right past the surface to soak the tummy area.
  • offer good coverage without making your little one look like a frill necked lizard.
  • cute but in an understated way.
  • closed by a snap: easy to put on and off, but difficult for little hands to yank it off.
  • versatile – from newborn to toddler, and for messy eaters and well as droolers (or both).

And here it is — a perfect bib!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know this is the softest, lightest, and super absorbent 100% cotton double gauze from Japan. For the backing, I used organic cotton jersey, which is not only light and incredibly soft, but also absorbent. It has a beautiful white colour. If you wore this around your neck, you wouldn’t want to take it off because it’s so warm and cozy. The adorable elephants print is just sweet enough for little ones without being a try-hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is pretty large for babies, offering great coverable. And you can use it all the way through toddlerhood and beyond (if you wish) — here is Miss M loving the pink elephants bib.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does wearing matching bibs foster sibling love? Or wait, is Miss M saying “go away, it’s my photo shoot”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which colour is your favourite? The bibs are now available in my shop.

Rainy day (mini) pizza

It’s been raining like mad here for days. Now I like rain. I used to love it in fact – there is nothing better than curling up inside your home on a cold rainy day with a good book and a hot cup of tea. But that was before I had children.

Children – well, my 3 and 1 year olds at least – just can’t seem to sit back on a sofa, relax, sip their babychinos and browse picture books for hours. Why not, is beyond my comprehension. The destruction that goes on inside my house when the kids are cooped up on a rainy day? It’s too painful for me to describe.

So I need to think of activities. Activities that would pin the kids to the table so that they don’t go destroy my sewing machines or spill milk on my precious fabrics. It’s not easy, but I found a good one yesterday just when I was on the verge of losing sanity.

 

Mini pizzas! Which you can make with your children!

It’s an extension of the bread-making idea really, but it is more elaborate than just play dough, and thus keeps the kids busy for a longer period of time. First there is the usual play dough (this time with rolling pins!), then there is “helping mommy” shred cheese in a food processor, then decorating the dough with tomato sauce, the toppings, and then cheese. You can really stretch the activity time if you are a little creative. And even after the pizza-making is over and the children are reverting back to their natural destructive / whiney state, you can effectively distract them with: “Oh hey, do you want to come see how those pizzas are doing in the oven?” etc.

Then, when the horror hours of the evening descends on you, and your sanity is really being tested, you can pull out your final card: “let’s sit down and eat the pizza you made for dinner!” I guarantee, your bewitched children will turn into angels of compliance. My children adore eating what they made. Even Miss M, who is normally finicky with food and doesn’t eat much at all, devoured the pizza, vegetables and all.

You might think pizza isn’t healthy. But I disagree completely. Here’s a basic recipe that is very healthy, wholesome, and unbelievably tasty as well. And if you have never made a pizza dough from scratch, it’s really the easiest thing.

Wholemeal Pizza (from scratch)

Pizza dough
Adapted from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking

  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • about 1 cup water (you may need a bit more or less)

Put all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add olive oil and most but not all of the water. Start mixing on low speed with a dough hook. If you see dry stuff left at the bottom of the bowl, gradually add a little more water, until all the dry stuff is absorbed. Again you are looking for the consistency of play dough. Knead at low speed for 7-8 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can mix and knead on a table top. When done, cover the dough with a little olive oil, cover the bowl with a plastic wrap, and let it sit somewhere warm for a couple of hours (or more) till it roughly doubles in size.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce (for the pizza base).

Easy tomato sauce

  • 1 large onion, or 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3-5 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cans of diced tomato
  • a handful of (preferably) fresh mixed herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves are great), finely chopped (leave bay leaves whole, and remove after cooking)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a pot on medium heat. When hot, toss the onion and garlic, and stir for a few minutes until they are transparent but not burned. Add the tomato and the herbs. Add some salt. Cover, bring to the boil, and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens up nicely. Leave it to cool.

The key to this recipe is fresh herbs. Please use a lot of them, like a good handful. It makes such a big difference. But if you don’t have fresh herbs, dried ones are okay, too.

Note this recipe makes a lot of tomato sauce. You only need half of it for making pizza, but the leftover is delicious, and you can use it the next day to make lasagne or other pasta dish.

Toppings

The beautiful thing about pizza is that you can pretty much use any topping you can think of, or whatever you have left in the pantry and fridge. The only essential thing is cheese. Yesterday for example, I only used vegetarian sausages, chopped mushrooms and red capsicum.

Assembly

When the pizza dough has risen, bring the children in and have them sit at a table. Sprinkle a bit of flour in front of them, give them a handful of the dough, and show them how to roll them thin with a rolling pin. My children completely ignored my instructions and did their own thing (which, for Mr. A, involved a lot of eating and licking the dough – I know, yucky, but do you know the most useful thing I learned at cooking school? That bacteria dies at about 80 degrees Celsius.). The main thing is they had fun. In the end I made sure all the dough pieces were more or less flat and round, and placed them on a baking tray.

At this point, turn the oven on to preheat at 220 degrees Celsius (to kill off that bacteria!).

Now into the second activity phase – topping the pizza. Let your children spoon the sauce on the dough, put toppings on, and sprinkle the cheese over each pizza. Again the mantra is, “if it’s messy, it doesn’t matter.”

When it’s done, you can put it in the oven straight away. Unlike proper bread, pizza dough doesn’t need a second proofing. Bake until the dough is golden around the edges and the cheese is bubbling.

Another great thing about homemade pizza is that, you can turn leftover veggies, a block of cheese, and basic pantry staples into a most delicious, home-cooked meal. Perfect for rainy days when you really don’t want to go out there grocery shopping.

Good luck surviving the rainy spell, everyone.

A lampshade hat

Every now and then, a friend or family member asks me to make something specific for them, something that is not in my normal line of child-friendly products. I love these challenges because they give me a refreshing change of scenery.

Last week I made a sun hat for a relative in Japan (yes, it is getting towards summer over there). I sent her a few photos from one of my favourite Japanese craft books, called “Stylish Cloche,” by Ohko Ishida. I love this book not only because of the gorgeous hat patterns, but because the photos are styled exquisitely, sometimes featuring an older model, which is unusual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My “client” chose this last hat for me to make. She picked this design because of the large, bucket-shaped brim to avoid evil UV as much as possible. She requested a cotton linen canvas fabric in a beige or off-white polka dot print. She also added: “please make it look good!” I’m sure she didn’t mean to give me any pressure or anything. Lucky for her, I’m the kind of arrogant crafter who thinks she can make anything – especially if there is already a book with a pattern to trace. Easy peasy, I thought.

This is the hat I made:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I call this the lampshade hat, because the moment Mark saw it, he said “lampshade!”

I know, I look cool and breezy in those photos, but in truth, I was sweating as I made the hat over one long afternoon. It wasn’t as easy to make as I thought it would be. I didn’t examine the pattern closely before I offered it up to my relative (further proof of my arrogance) – but it turned out the top of the hat had four tiny darts to give it a rounded shape. Fiddly! I also had trouble getting the right interfacing – I ended up using heavy-duty interfacing for the brim lining (so it won’t cover your eyes blind), while using no interfacing at all for the crown of the hat (so it won’t be too hot to wear in Tokyo’s sweltering summer). With all this cutting and re-cutting, I nearly ran out of my lining fabric, causing me to panic because I could not have sourced more of it easily.

In the end, I’m 95% happy with the result. In fact I love this hat, and I might make one for myself next summer; I’m sure I can sew it more easily the second time around. But the real jury is still out, because I had just shipped the hat off to Japan… I hope she will like it, too!