Debbie's Doings

When two people sing together, they're in love; when two people dance together, they make love.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Crafting for Christmas: Advent Calendar Stockings

Let's talk about all things Christmas-y. I love Christmas. The music, the ridiculously sweet snacks I only make one time a year (hello fudge and divinity!), the decorations and the advent calendar. I was raised in a Christian home and so counting down to Christmas has always been a part of our daily routine when Thanksgiving is over with. When I was much younger we would make a paper chain to count down each day because getting those chocolate calendars was too expensive when there were 10 kids! When I was in South Korea, I made a paper version with pictures having to do with Christmas behind the doors (I had a lot of time on my hands some days).

This year though, I am making a stocking version to sell (and eventually one for myself to keep when we have kids) and let me tell you what, it's fun to make! I have 24 small stockings cut. The last few days I have managed to get 12 of them all sewn up and last night I spent some time doing some hand embroidery on them. I still need to find numbers to attach as well as pegs to hang them from their ribbon. Looks like I'm going shopping this week. The picture below is some inspiration:

The current set I'm making is of all Christmas print fabrics on the front and various felts and soft fabrics for the backing. Here's a picture of three of the six fabrics I'm using.

I have a small obsession with nutcrackers...

I am planning a second set of these stockings for a friend and I will be using alternate fabric instead of Christmas printed fabric. With the huge stash of fabric I have, I think I can sort something out. :)

Lastly, I stumbled upon another blog with a post about alternate fillers for advent calendars. Since chocolate would melt in the summer heat here (well, maybe) and not everyone likes to have a chocolate every single day (I know I don't), here is the link for some other ideas to fill your advent stockings.

Read it at: 20 Ways to Fill
Most of all, remember to celebrate the season with those you love. I love Christmas. Now if I can just make it to November 15th and then I can set up for the holidays!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Healthy Living: Chicken Tikka Salad

This recipe originated in the New Zealand "Recipes" magazine from a few months ago. I tweaked it and this has become a favorite in our house.

If you like chicken tikka masala as much as I do, you're going to love this healthier version of it!

Chicken Tikka Salad
serves 4

500 grams shredded chicken (I used leftover chicken from our Sunday roast)
2 TBS tikka masala paste
1/3 cup of light sour cream
juice of one lemon
small head of lettuce, chopped
1 red pepper, cored and chopped
1 carrot, sliced (I use a vegetable peeler to slice my carrots, but do what you want)
1 onion, sliced
1 red apple, diced
100 grams of raisins (or just a handful of them, that's about what it is)
1 cup of basmati rice, cooked
Handful of cilantro, chopped

Cook the rice and set aside. In a frying pan, brown the onion over medium heat. Add the shredded chicken and warm. Mix in all but a half teaspoon of the masala paste. Stir to coat the chicken evenly and then remove from the heat. In a small bowl mix the sour cream, lemon juice and remaining masala paste to make a dressing for the salad. Mix all the veggies and fruit in a big serving bowl or dish. Add the rice and distribute evenly. Pour the dressing over it and mix well to coat. Top with the chicken and serve with naan.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Building a Happy Home: Garden Edition

It's spring here and everything is in full bloom (nearly) and that means I have been spending more time in my garden. Last year Jeff and I decided to divide the vegetable garden into quarters by making a stone path and allowing me better access to the garden center without stepping on things I've planted. The second reason for this division is that our vege patch is just too big for the two of us. There were sections of it I didn't even use last year. Ridiculous.

So the plan is to use 3 quarters and let one quarter rest every year. If I get to the point where I need all 4 quarters, then I can just do that, but that wouldn't be for awhile in any case.

our garden
So this is our garden currently. It looks a bit disheveled as I really need to get out and weed, but it is what it is. Below is a layout of the garden I made in Word. Aren't I so clever?

 So what we have here are my four quarters. Top left quarter has potato sacks in it currently. I decided to try something different this year with potatoes since I hated having to mound up and mulch around them and fight the weeds that love the mulch. They usually take up entirely too much space in my garden, but I have them confined pretty well. We used old hop sacks from Jeff's winter job to plant potatoes. That section is my summer veggies section: it's going to get tomatoes, peppers, corn and beans in it by the end of this month. I'm just waiting on the frosts to pass. I think we're probably in the clear, but I don't want to risk it before the end of the month.

early picture of our spuds
recent spuds: settling and expanding the bag

The top right quarter is the first bed that I did this year. It has my onions and garlic. This is the one that really needs weeding. That's next on my chore list. I'm also going to finish out the space with more dwarf bean plants. We can never have too many green bean plants, in my opinion.

The bottom left quarter has my hot house, my strawberry hanging buckets and my rainbow silverbeet. I have already planted out peas here and soon to follow are carrots, lettuce, zucchini, cucumber and a few pepper plants. My hot house is going to raise more peppers, tomatoes and my eggplants. I love eggplant and discovered last year that I can't grow them outside, it must be in the hothouse. 

The last quarter (bottom right) is the one that will be resting this year. I've got cardboard in the shed to pull out and cover it with, wet it down and then put pea straw over it. I'll let it sit until next spring when I'll use that plot.

My husband is a handy guy and he decided the best way to divide the garden was by building me a stone pathway. So here's what he has been working on.

river stones we have collected

he uses gravel, foil bags and river stones

foil bags came from the hops place as well

it looks great!

So he's been working hard on this in between other jobs around the house. After he lays the foil and gravel, he works with the river stones like fitting pieces to a puzzle. Pounding them in, watering it all down, filling the cracks with ash from the fireplace, sweeping it, and doing it all over and over again until it's settled into place. They look great and if we change our mind about them (doubtful) then we can just pull it all up.

So what are you big plans for the garden?

ps- here's the updated picture on the wall Jeff's been building as well. Doesn't it look great?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Shop Days: I have a business card...

I'm 30 years old and I have my first business card. It's not a boring one related to my day job. I didn't get one while I was a teacher or when I worked in various offices...nope. My first business card is for my own business. That's pretty awesome.

I had a talk with Laura a couple weeks back about what I should be doing to help my business grow (she's a pretty smart cookie, what with her MA in arts management and knowledge of marketing) and after that talk I went online to see what could be done for a business card. I stuck with the name and motto I use in my shop and worked up this little design. They are still being printed, but I managed to get a great deal on them and should have them next week sometime (hopefully!). Pretty exciting! I also get a free cardholder (the metal ones that hold only a few cards so they don't get bent in your bag...yeah, one of those) with the order, so that's quite business-like.

I also had my first commissioned pieces done recently and they were pretty cute. I only managed to take a picture of the dress I made. I also made a pair of overall shorts for a little newborn boy. Also adorable.

3-6 months old dress. All the trim was hand sewn on by me.
Flowers from an old linen tablecloth. 

Next up on the list is preparing for the market day in November that I will be setting up a stall for. I can't do October's market day because it's this weekend and I'm working, but I should be off work for the next one and I will be there! Maybe I'll make a weekend of it and do the Saturday market in Wakefield and the Sunday market in Nelson. Yeah, let's do that. So I have to locate a folding table and organize a display plan for my things. Internet research, here I come!

I'm still waiting on my first online purchase from the shop, but I'm feeling really good about business right now. It'll happen online when it happens.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Healthy Living: Spring Rolls Recipe

I've grown to love Asian food over the last few years. I was really picky as a child when it came to food and figured it was going to continue into adulthood, but I reckon it was my 3.5 years in South Korea that really opened me up to other cuisines and flavors. Now that I live in the country in New Zealand, takeaway food is pretty limited and if I want decent Asian food, I have to cook it myself (or travel a great distance). Twice now I have made spring rolls at home. Both times have I had problems.

The problem I have is locating spring roll wrappers in the supermarket. The first time I got some which turned out to be impossible to fry. They were the thin rice paper ones which dissolved in the oil. The second time I found wonton wrappers and thought that would work, but the size caused me to be making mini spring rolls (not really a big issue, but still a pain). So I'm still on the lookout for the proper sized wrappers for this recipe otherwise I might not make them again. But here you go-

Spring Rolls

one onion, sliced
one red pepper, sliced
one carrot, sliced (I used a mandolin cutter to get it tiny)
large handful of mung bean sprouts
1/4 head of cabbage, shredded
400 grams ground pork
100 grams of rice vermicelli noodles
2 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS white rice vinegar
1 tspn salt
wonton wrappers (or spring roll wrappers if you can find them!)

Cook all the veggies on a medium heat until soft (about 5-7 minutes). Add the pork mince and cook all together until finished. Boil water and then add the rice noodles to it. Boil for 3 minutes and then drain the noodles and rinse with cold water and let sit until the meat is done. While the noodles are sitting, add the soy sauce, vinegar and salt in a small dish. Mix well and then add to the finished meat and veggies. Reduce the heat on the meat and add the noodles to the pan. Turn off and remove from heat. Stir well. Take your wonton wrappers and wet three edges of the wrapper. Take a small spoonful of the filling and place it near the dry edge. roll and tuck and roll until the wonton wrapper completely encloses the filling. This was impossible to photograph, but you know what a spring roll is supposed to look like, so keep going until you get it. :) Place the roll on a greased baking sheet and continue to make spring rolls until you run out of filling or run out of wrappers. Spray the rolls with some grease and then bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celcius for 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

all set up

I lived on these in SK when I went off gluten

cooking noodles, so much fun

this stoneware skillet is great- nothing sticks to it!

look at all those veggies, Mom would be proud!

added the pork

Sauce time

the filling is all done

ready to wrap

all done

Served with sweet chili sauce

These were healthier because of the veggies in them and the fact that they weren't fried. I only cooked these for 15 minutes, but I should have gone an extra five minutes so I adjusted the recipe above. The filling was enough for 50 spring rolls using the wonton wrappers, but I only made 24 and put the rest of the filling in a container for Jeff's lunch the next day. Still tasted pretty darn good if you asked him. Well, there's always room for improvement, especially when I am cooking asian cuisine. There really are no shortcuts or cheats when it comes to this kind of cooking. All the work really is worth it though, when you get to sit down and eat something new you made at home. :)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Building a Happy Home: A retaining wall

Well, the weekend is halfway over with here and I'm sitting in our lounge thinking about all the things I still need to do tomorrow. This is what my life is most of the time...oh well! But our project to share right now is one my husband has been pondering for quite awhile. Here's the deal, we live in a valley and when we get a really bad rain, well, our property floods.

Since the bad floods in December 2011, Jeff has been figuring out what kind of wall he wants to put up around the property. Recently he got started on it.

 Our current fence around the property. It does a pretty good job keeping the dog in the property, but the water finds it's own way on.
 First Jeff dug down to even out the land.
 He then used plastic sheeting to create a water barrier and large foil bags filled with gravel to build the wall.
 Stacking the bags like bricks creates a pretty solid wall.
 Today Jeff went and got a load of rocks from the quarry today so he could face the wall.
 Building the stone part of the wall is going to take awhile. Compost is on top so we can grow wildflowers on top.
 Jeff is building a wooden fence to go on top of the wall in order to keep the dog on the property.

 All of these bricks were buried under the dirt by the compost bins. We have no idea why.
My clever husband working hard to improve our house. The wall is going to look great when it is done, but it's going to take a long time! I'll update again when we have some more of the wall done.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shop Days: What's New?

A new series on here will be coming to you every Thursday. I will be showcasing something new in my online shop or possibly talking about an aspect of the business of selling my own creations. 

This week I'll be sharing some of the items I have for sale and sharing a bit about my creative process when it comes to designing children's clothing.

My shop can be found at Doodlebug Designs. I really like because it has a really simple process set up for creating listings and has a flat fee for listing items. It's a pretty website too and I like that it's a community of creative people in New Zealand. 

Apples and Pears 
embroidery highlighted
 When I first started making children's clothes, I always felt that I needed to add a little something extra. I thought about it a bit and decided to give embroidery a go. This pair of hearts is machine stitched on with my standard sewing machine.
 I am a big fan of vintage fashion and love the simplicity of children's clothes from days gone by. I tend to mix fabrics and patterns when I make clothes and I have a pretty big collection of vintage fabrics to work into my designs.
 I currently exclusively use buttons as closures for my clothes, but I am going to experiment with snaps and master that technique for more options.
Bears and Daisies
 This one is just a big reminder to me of autumn. The colors and pattern lends itself to a little girl with a bright personality.
It's a little hard to see here, but this dress has the double hearts embroidered on it in a rainbow thread. That reminds me, I need to find some more of this awesome thread. 

I like clothes to be simple and cotton fabrics have always been a go-to of mine. I also don't usually buy fabric with an idea of what I'm going to make. So I have a collection of fabrics just waiting to find a purpose. What will I come up with next? Tune in next week to find out.