Autumn food and decorating

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Ah, felted wool.  I know nothing about crafts this-and-that and think people who sew those stuffed fabric owl door stoppers are geniuses.  I never knew of this felted wool stuff. Actually, I knew about felting but in my case it was more of an accident with woolens in the washing machine.  I just didn’t know there was a name for it. Or that people do it on purpose.

Savers had a half price sale on clothing a while back, so I picked up a few old pure wool jumpers (sweaters) to make some felted wool.  The jumpers weren’t in great condition and were quite cheap. I followed advice from a few felt-your-wool websites.  Step 1 was to put the wool garments in an old pillow case along with an old towel (for agitation), then tie up the pillowcase and throw it in to a hot wash with your regular washing.   The pillowcase is to stop the wool fibre bits from getting on your other washing and clogging up your machine:

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My Step 1 disaster: my old pillowcase was certainly old.  Old enough for the jumper to dig a hole and escape:

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My second Step 1 disaster: NOBODY SAID YOUR OTHER WASHING WOULD STINK OF WET DOG.  ‘They’ said the pillowcase could go in the wash with your other items. I had to wash that load all over again, then hang it outside overnight to get the smell out.

I put the pillowcase, with the big hole secured, in to the dryer on the hottest setting.  I didn’t let it dry completely, instead I took it out and spread the jumpers out to finish drying flat.  I read on one site that this helps you get a flatter finish.  I have no idea.  They did shrink considerably.

Other sites said that if you can still see the stitching being a bit stretchy, you should run it through the washing machine and dryer again.  So I did it a second time but this time with a better pillowcase, and I added a bit of washing powder (some sites use the powder in the pillowcase, others don’t):

wooljumpers

Okay, that’s the prep work out the way.  Wool garments with smaller stitching are apparently better than the sorts of jumpers I bought.

I decided to make some stuffed hearts from the felted wool.  I love autumn so the hearts seemed fitting! I used tapestry thread to stitch around the edges:

woolstuffedheart

I recently bought some fabric squares from Spotlight that were something like three for the price of two.  I went straight for the autumn colours:

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With this autumn fabric I made smaller stuffed hearts, this time with a sewing machine, right sides together then turned out and stuffed– the wool hearts were a bit too thick for this.  Because I am such a hack with this stuff, I didn’t realise that when I stitched up the holes, the shape of the heart top would change to look like a chunk had been cut off.  I sewed a ribbon loop on to the wool hearts and added a button (taken from one of the woolen garments) at the front for extra cuteness. I sewed the heart buttons on the fabric hearts before realising I’d forgotten to attach the ribbon loop.  So I just got some tapestry thread and threaded the fabric hearts on to it.  If you don’t get too close, it looks fine:

autumnhearts

I also made some tealight candle holders.  I had three old glasses and decided to glue twigs around them.  This involved gathering lots of twigs, cutting them to size with pruning shears and hot gluing them all around. ZOMG you guys, hot glue guns are the BOMB.  Seriously, it’s like the less daggy version of the Bedazzler. Anyway, due to my extreme impatience and superhuman ability to get bored really fast, I stopped at one twig-covered glass and decorated the other two glasses differently with, shall we say, the goal of not spending more than five minutes on them:

candleholders

Back to more felted wool.  I bought a bunch of 2cm and 1cm felted wool balls on eBay.  I had a collection of acorn caps from our local park, though finding the teeny caps (on the ground of course!) was a little challenging.  I had to roll the larger sized wool balls hard to make them oval shaped and make a better fit for the caps.  The little 1cm felt balls were a great size for the small acorn caps. Then I grabbed some fallen branches from our garden, unholstered my hot glue gun and went to town:

feltacorns

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I stuck the branches in a jug.  Leave a comment if you know where this jug comes from, they seem to be everywhere:

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I picked some vines off our tree, tied them in a wreath shape and hung them on the front door then promptly took a photo.  Except now, days later, they’re all limp and embarrassed looking:

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I looked up how to decorate with leaves but not have them go all dry and stuff.  I marvelled at web pages where people dipped leaves in wax then used them to decorate.  Genius!  I bought a soy wax that I thought gave off the impression that it would dry clear with no milkiness (I didn’t want beeswax). I melted the soy wax in an old pan over simmering water, dipped some grapevine leaves in the wax and let them dry on a sheet of baking paper.  I was most annoyed to see they dried with white blobs of wax everywhere.  Oh well, live and learn.  Hopefully people won’t see the white bits unless they’re right up close…

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Autumn is also a time for those cold weather comfort foods.  I made the Pumpkin Pie Bites from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. The filling was great and I’d use it as a pie filling, but the base got way overcooked (the filling was not cooking in synch with the base so I had to leave it in the oven) and was very dry as a result. I wouldn’t blame the recipe, because the substitute gluten free flour I used was buckwheat (with more liquid added).  Perhaps I didn’t add enough liquid because it was still dry over the next couple of days.  I’d make this again though:

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I made these tasty Sweet Potato Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins from Ricki Heller‘s fab book Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free:

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I cook up a big batch of pumpkin and add it to Arthur’s smoothies along with spinach, broccoli and banana.  He won’t eat veggies so I stick them in his smoothies.  I also leave enough to add to my own meals.  Here I used some pumpkin in place of noodles with a lemongrass-garlic-ginger-chilli tofu dish I made:

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I really love the idea of decorating my home according to the seasons.  I drool over North American blogs, where people decorate for autumn with all those gorgeous colours.  The problem is I have zero skill or patience for it. But I WANT IT.  I even want all that white Christmas stuff in winter.  I tell myself who says Christmas has to be in stinky-hot December?

Okay, I’m off to look up more autumny recipes.  I can’t think of anything my family would eat apart from sweet stuff like pumpkin pie.  I’m loving the look of these sweet potato and kale balls. They might do the trick!

 

… aaaaaand I just noticed that in the photo below, I forgot to hang up one of the wool hearts.  Not only that, but the whole thing fell down right after I took the photo.  And you can see the milky-dried wax from a distance.  And I should consider using a tripod.

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Orange-Oat Muffins from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free

Ricki Heller’s Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free is one of my favourite cookbooks.  It’s quite dangerous too though, if like me you are in love with the marbled halva.  Because for me it is an extreme sport not to eat it all in one go.  Whenever I’ve made the marbled halva, it goes something like this: make mixture.  Eat a fair bit of it before refrigerating. Get it out of the fridge to “trim the edges juuust a little” long before it has set. Eat most of it. If you’ve made it for visitors, you have to make something else at the last minute because marbled halva has significantly shrunk.

I like to make baked treats for the family, especially to freeze and then use as snacks.  Usually we eat most of the stuff before I freeze it.  Anyway, when it comes to baking I really don’t like using wheat flour so much, instead preferring things like buckwheat and barley. I make the odd baked treat now and then with spelt or regular flour, depending on the recipe.

On to the muffins.  These were a hit with Arthur in particular.  I was surprised because for me, millet leaves an aftertaste in my mouth (which isn’t necessarily unpleasant) and DeeW won’t eat anything made with millet flour so I guess the aftertaste bothers her. I really liked the muffins too and will make them again as a snack for Arthur and myself.  The muffins are made with orange and oats (naaaatch), flax, prunes, sunflower oil, coconut sugar, blackstrap molasses, stevia, psyllium husks, plant milk, Ricki’s All Purpose GF Flour Mix, and other regular muffiny things.  Tasty muffins meet hideous photography:

orange gf muffins

I’m very much looking forward to trying more baked treats by Ricki.

Marbled Halva and the A-Z Bookish Survey

My parents visited this week to bring a bookcase over for Arthur’s bedroom.  Which meant lots of funtastic book sorting FOR ME, wheeee!  And dusting, boo.

My parents have always had the store bought halva, which is the grey variety made with tahini and sugar.  It’s popular around Lent as it is free of animal products.  A special treat when I was young was ‘halva sandwich’, which is as you may guess, a piece of halva between slices of bread.

‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’ by Ricki Heller contains a much better halva recipe so I made it for my parents.  By the way, have you ever eaten halva followed by a mouthful of soft drink (fizzy drink like Coke)?  Do it and tell me if the sensation in your mouth is completely weird.  I’ve only tried this with the grey store bought halva.  DO IT DO IT.

So in case you can’t tell, I am really in to this cookbook and marbled halva was one of the top three recipes I just had to try.  It’s very simple to make (food processor, woo!) though the really difficult part is two fold: 1) not eating the mixture from the bowl and 2) not going to the fridge to ‘trim the edges’ when you know you will be serving it to guests the next day.

My parents really liked it even though they never buy the chocolate swirl halva.  I want to make this as part of Christmas gifts for people but I have to be able to keep it cool, which might not be easy in an Australian Christmas!  Looks like some people will be getting ice bricks and miniature cooler bags for Christmas too:

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Now truthfully, I’ve made this twice.  The halva above was made with the runny tahini.  It was runny because I didn’t realise that at the bottom of this big tub was a solid ball of tahini.  Whoops.  So I made it a second time using the Tahini Blob, to see how it would go.  The first batch with the runny tahini came together in a ball in the food processor, as the recipe states.  The second recipe, made with the big solid blob of tahini, did not come together in a ball.  It was still okay enough to pat in to a rectangle shape for chilling, but it would crumble more than the runny tahini version when I picked it up.  No difference in the super taste though!

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And now for something fun, thanks to Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe who dobbed me in on her blog for the A-Z Bookish Survey (of course I don’t mind as this was fun thinking about and I got to take photos of books so it’s all super).  Oh, ‘dob’ is Australian slang isn’t it?  To dob on someone is to tattle.  You know how Cindy Brady was called a tattle tale?  In Australia she’d be called a dobber.  If you want to tell your parents that your big brother has made a face at you (heaven forbid) you’d say to him “I’m dobbing on you”.  Okay cool, now you’re all Aussies.

Survey time!

Author you’ve read the most books from: Enid Blyton, both as a child and to my children.  And I know this isn’t one author but as a kid I read all the Choose Your Own Adventure books and the Trixie Beldens.  Does that count?  Is this where I admit to having read all those Sweet Dreams books and trying to work out which cover was the most insipid?  Jeepers! That honour goes to Laurie’s Song:

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Best Sequel Ever: The Harry Potters!

Currently Reading: Nothing apart from cookbooks, which I like to read cover to cover when I first get them. A new cookbook means I find some quiet time and lie on the couch.  Though I’ve just been sorting out all the bookcases today and found stuff I want to read.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Nothing, I don’t want to risk spilling something on my book.

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical.

Physical

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: I don’t know about high school but boy that Julian from ‘The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor’ books sure made an impression when I was a youngster. I wonder if he’s the reason I always ended up attracted to the brainiacs?

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman.  A long time ago it seemed everyone I knew was telling me to read Neil Gaiman and I was all yeahhh whateverrr your hero worshipness is FREAKING ME OUT.  So I never bothered.  Then one day I picked up American Gods cheap and really enjoyed it and other Neil titles since.  See, we’re on a first name basis now.

Hidden Gem Book: ‘The Potato’ by Larry Zuckerman.  Yay for potatoes!

Important Moment in your Reading Life: Reading ‘The Snow Queen’ when I was a child. It made me wonder how many people had slivers of glass in their eyes and hearts.  When I was older, I read ‘The Bell Jar’ and it really affected me.  Negatively, ha ha…

Just Finished: I recently finished ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion.  I found this so moving and was astounded at reviews saying Joan Didion writes in a cold, clinical way and doesn’t show emotion.  I was shocked that these reviewers couldn’t see and feel the emotion, particularly grief, flying off the pages and smacking the reader in the face.  I’ve read a little of Joan Didion’s work and love the way she writes.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Romance novels, detective/CSI style books, goth horror type stuff, vampire stuff (I won’t watch those vampire tv shows either, I just got so sick of the whole Twilight vampire cashing in thing), books about war/war experience (too sad) or celebrities who consider themselves experts on parenting and publish a book after having their first child.

Longest Book You’ve Read:  Not sure, probably the Lord of the  Rings books one after the other 🙂

Major book hangover because of: probably Harry Potter. I loved the interviews with JK where she spoke about the feelings of loss she felt when she finally finished and I thought lady, I feel like that as the reader!

Number of Bookcases You Own: Quite a few: a bookcase that holds all my educational stuff (photo shows half of it as I’m moving furniture around):

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One small bookcase in DeeW’s room:

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I have a book display rack, as I’m moving books and games around this surface is all messy like:

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Then there are two large ones in Arthur’s room.  We started off with one, then my parents decided they didn’t need the matching one dad had made yeeeears ago (hence the colour, grey would not be up there (or down there) in my choice of bookcase colour).  So this week we got the matching case and I had to move books around the house to fill it:

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Arthur’s shelves contain a lot of my books from when I was young.  Only a few of the Trixie Beldens are mine, I always borrowed them repeatedly from the library.  Years ago I found an almost complete set on eBay.  That was a fine day, let me tell you:

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Then a big wall length lot of book cases we had built.  I’ve been going through these books in the last few days working out what to keep and what to move to Arthur’s bedroom.Please forgive the mess, I’m still sorting all these shelves:

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Then there are the cookbooks in my kitchen dresser.  My sister has a few of my vegan cookbooks so I’m missing some:

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Four mini bundt tins I found for a few bucks at Savers recently.  Did I need to buy them?  Of course not!

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One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: Oh this one’s easy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Years go by and then I’ll read it and laugh all over again.  Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is another I enjoy.

Preferred Place To Read: In bed or on the couch with complete quiet, so I either have to be home alone or the kids have to be asleep.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: I don’t often remember the actual quotes but I remember how I felt and for this I don’t think I can go past Anne of Green Gables for so many things but this is the stand out: “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it’s difficult.”  I was often told to stop talking so much when I was little, and I do have the kind of name where I have to say “with an E”.  So I’m like “Anne with an E” and would have loved a kindred spirit bosom friend like her!

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Reading Regret: I read the first few pages of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.  ONLY because some friends were forcing me to see just how bad it was.  It was worse than I imagined and I feel robbed of those ten minutes I’ll never get back.

Series You Started And Need To Finish: Probably the rest of ‘The Eyre Affair’ by Jasper Fforde.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: The Hobbit, Stig of the Dump (Arthur loved both of these when I read them to him) and HHGTTG.

Stig

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Vegan cookbook authors!

Very Excited For This Release: MORE HARRY POTTER.  Please?

Worst Bookish Habit: borrowing stuff I never end up reading.

X Marks The Spot: (go to a bookcase and select the 24th book across) My cookbooks shelf is the closest to me right now so I’ve selected ‘Vegan on the Cheap’ by Robin Robertson.  From Arthur’s bookcases I randomly chose a starting point then ended up on ‘Thimble Summer’ by Elizabeth Enright.

Your latest book purchase: Some sewing and craft books for DeeW’s birthday present.  My latest cookbook purchases are Ricki Heller’s ‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’ and ‘Vegan Food Gifts’ by Joni-Marie Newman.  I always order from Book Depository.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): Oh man… that would have to be *cough* ‘The Da Vinci Code’.  It was a case of “just one more chapter… just one chapter more…”

Thanks again to Johanna, it’s been fun reading other responses too.  It seems Harry Potter is a popular response!

Best Bean Brownies from Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free

So lately I’m on a baking roll with Ricki Heller’s ‘Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free’.  I’m really enjoying these recipes and seeing how Arthur and DeeW react.  Their reactions, and this book, are proof enough that you don’t need to bake with refined flours and sugars.

A recipe I marked was the Best Bean Brownies.  I’ve made brownies with beans before from different websites and cookbooks and they’ve all been blah.  You can either taste beans, or the final result was just moosh inside, or you were left feeling like “I may as well have poured a heap of sugar on a bowl of beans and eaten that”.  If I’m going to be baking something like bean brownies, they better be damn good!

And so it came to pass that I, not a lover of brownies, now consider these one of my favourite treats to bake.  First of all, things are thrown in the blender.  BRILLIANT.  Secondly, the recipe contains tahini and I loooove tahini and chocolate (I used my raw cacao powder).  Thirdly, I finally got to use the packet of teff flour I bought a while ago and it has been sitting in the freezer doing nothing.    I used canned cannellini beans so it really was so very easy.  Mix your wet ingredients with your sifted dry ingredients (which include psyllium husks), bake for about an hour, walk around the house Hoovering up the amazing baking-brownie smell and then sit down to stuff your face with THIS (yeah, I cut a big piece as soon as they were out of the oven, stuck it in the freezer and hopped around impatiently for it to cool down enough):

bestbeanbrownies

I love this recipe (the white choc chips made an appearance again) and Arthur loved it too.  I did use slightly less coconut sugar and they were great.  You absolutely can not pick up the flavour of beans.  I could taste the sunflower oil so if you don’t like that taste, perhaps another neutral flavoured oil would suit you.  I didn’t mind it at all, which is why I polished off most of the finished product.

I will definitely make this again and perhaps add some pecans or walnuts.  I’m planning on baking for Christmas gifts this year so if it’s not too hot to use the oven, these brownies will be a main feature  😀

Spiced Sweet Potato Blondies: second attempt ROCKS

So the other day I made the Spiced Sweet Potato Blondies from ‘Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar’, which is Arthur’s favourite cookbook.  I wonder why… Anyway, as I mentioned in that blog post, they turned out way too sweet for me, though my using different sugars may have contributed to that.  I have just started baking with coconut sugar and need to read up on it a little more.

Yesterday I made the recipe again, however this time I halved the amount of sugar and used only coconut sugar.  I also made the blondies gluten free by using Ricki Heller’s all purpose gluten free flour mix (as in, you make this mix up yourself based on Ricki’s recipe).  This time I added in some white choc chips.

These were really very good.  To quote Arthur, “these get a 100% satisfaction rating, even 110%”.  I am so pleased because now I have another treat I can bake,with ingredients like sweet potato and flours like millet and chickpea. I used the exact same amounts of flavourings (vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg) listed in the recipe though I slightly increased the baking powder. They did seem a little drier the next day and more cake like but still very good 🙂

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