Saturday, 29 March 2014

Crunchy Granola Not Too Sweet

Hi all, like my little play on words, think Neil Diamond. I'm a bit of a fan, maybe daggy to some but true. I think his song "Crunchy Granola Suite" pops into my head every time I make my delicious muesli. Why, because the recipe it is based on is called crunchy granola, from Delicious Quick Smart Cook. I discovered this recipe about 12 months ago and now it's the only muesli I eat. It is easy to make, has very little sugar and no added fat, so healthy, healthy, healthy and yummy, yummy, yum.

This was my situation this morning.
An empty muesli jar. Time to make some more and I thought I would share the recipe with you.
This is for a single batch but I usually make double so it lasts longer, particularly when I have my youngest daughter home, cos she loves it too.

3 cups rolled oats (I use slow cooking)
1/2 cup raw almonds (chopped, or nut of choice, hazelnuts are yummy  )
1/2 cup flaked coconut (chopped, I wouldn't recommend desiccated, it might burn)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup buckwheat (optional)
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp maple syrup (I have also used golden syrup, agave or rice syrup)

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and warm the honey and maple syrup in a saucepan (or in a microwave).
Pour honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix really well. It might not seem like enough but it will give everything a light coating. Spread the mixture out on a tray and place in a moderate oven.

Check every 5 minutes and mix around on the tray. This helps it to cook evenly and prevents it from burning around the edges. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool before putting in an air tight jar or container.
This is a very forgiving recipe, you might like to change the quantities and ingredients a bit or you can add dried fruit when it has cooled. If you're gluten intolerant then substitute a gluten free option for the oats.
I love to sprinkle it on fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. I have also sprinkled it on porridge & on top of muffins before baking. It would make yummy topping for apple or fruit crumble or add some crunch to a smoothy, he he, I suppose that would make it a roughy, wouldn't it.


Hope you give this a try and let me know what you think. I'm off to listen to some Neil Diamond, "Hot August Night" I think.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Easy Hexagons & More

Hi everyone. I hope you're sitting there with a cuppa and biccy or even a cut lunch cos this post is a long one.
I love to quilt. I also love to make it as easy and as quick as possible. How do I do that? I strip piece when I can, chain piece, use starters/stoppers and I looooove to use tools; sewing machine(of course), rotary cutter & mat(of course) and specialist rulers & templates.

The ruler I have been using a bit lately is the one you can just see on the top, the Hex N More ruler. This ruler has been developed by Julie Herman of Jaybird Quilts. It is designed so you can easily cut hexagons and other shapes from 2.5, 4.5, 6.5 or 8.5 inch strips and sew them together on the sewing machine. Machine pieced hexagons, yes. I bought one before Christmas and it sat in my quilting  accessories drawer until I could decide what to do with it.

This year I have decided to use my stash particularly the older fabrics as much as possible. I have been quilting on and off for about 13 years so I have collected quite a lot of fabric. When I started the colours were vintage & muted; reds were maroon, yellows were mustard, greens were olive, blues were greyish, and checks/plaids were very popular too. I want to use up some of these older fabrics to make way for some of today's new vibrant colours and designs.
A fraction of the stash
 So what to make with Hex N More? Firstly I thought I would try hexagons with a heap of floral scraps about 5"x8" that I bought years ago as a scrap bag.

Floral Hexagons - 59"x51"
I tried to alternate darks and lights with each round of hexagons. It is more obvious in the inner rows than the outer but overall I'm happy with it. One knee quilt made without having to buy anything. The fabric for the triangles, borders and backing also came from my stash. I even joined two off cuts for the batting.
Next I thought I would try the trapezium shape with checks. I have a drawer full of checks and stripes that I bought mainly for doll dresses in my doll making faze. So let me introduce you to "Spin Your Partner & Let Go"
Spin Your Partner & Let Go - 63"x46"
Some of my quilts get more creative names than others. This one was telling me two names. The original design from Jaybird Quilts is called "Tiny Dancer" so with that in mind and the checks, I thought of a country or bush dance. The two different checks in each block look like they're spinning so the quilt was named "Spin Your Partner" very early on. The bush dance idea also influenced the choice of green for the background triangles to represent a paddock. The second part of the name came to me when I was quilting. I was trying free motion quilting for the first time and found I had to "Let Go" of my need for perfection. Another good name for the quilt. I debated over the two names until I realised they actually made sense together.
Wonky quilting
I wasn't loving this quilt when I first put it together. I think that was because it didn't turn out as I had expected. The individual blocks are not defined enough and its not as ordered as most of my quilts. Anyway I grew to love it while I was doing the quilting. I have recently bought a walking foot which has made quilting easier and quicker so "Spin Your Partner & Let Go" has more quilting than I have ever done on a quilt before. I now love this quilt; the checks, the busyness, the wonky quilting, the feel, even the backing which is preloved sheet, that I bought at the op shop ages ago. 

For the third quilt I used Hex N More to basically fussy cut triangles for a kaleidoscope quilt. I have had the sunflower fabric put aside for this purpose for a while and I knew I had a stripe that would go with it but I couldn't find it until recently.

This is the second kaleidoscope quilt I've made and I enjoy the mystery of them. You're never sure what pattern you're going to get until you've sewn the triangles together.  Aren't all the patterns pretty and in some of hexagons you can hardly tell that the original fabric was sunflowers.

Sunflower Kaleidoscope - 40"x28"
Generally I don't like to over quilt my quilts as I think it takes away their warmth but as this is a wall quilt I took the opportunity to do quite a bit of quilting on it.

Hex N More is certainly very versatile. Three totally different quilts using one ruler/template, that's good value. All three were made without having to buy any extra fabric so that's good too. And these aren't the only stash busting quilts I've made this year but the others can wait for another day.

Next time will be something different so I hope you join me then. Toodles


Friday, 21 March 2014

Starters & Stoppers

Hi I'm back and so are you, if you're reading this, or maybe you're a first time visitor, either way, yay. I mentioned last time patchwork is my current crafting passion. I like doing lots of crafty things, knitting, crochet, cross stitch, papercrafts and the list goes on, but patchwork is it at moment.

For a while now, probably about a year or maybe two I've been using starters or stoppers(I think that's what they're called).
"What are they?" you ask.
They are little scraps of material that you sew through the machine at the end of a sewing run so you don't have to lift the presser foot to pull out the fabric and cut the thread. It also means you don't have to hold and fiddle with threads before you start the next line of sewing.
If you haven't tried it, do. It saves time; no up and down with the presser foot, no pulling fabric out so you can cut threads, no fiddling around with the thread before you can sew. It also saves thread, which doesn't seem like much but given that you have to pull out about 7cm(3") out each time you cut threads this can add up when making a quilt, even when you chain piece. It does mean though that you need to keep a pair of scissors or snippers near the machine to cut thread instead of using the thread cutter on the machine. I very rarely use it anyway.

Well, the other day I had a revelation while I was sewing together my latest quilt, instead of using a scrap of material why not use these.

I have several containers of various size scraps that I  have saved from my previous quilts. When I finish a quilt I cut the scraps into convenient sizes 1.25" to 3.5"+ of either strips or squares. My 2.5" container is by far the fullest so I decided to use them. Each time I needed a stopper I paired a light and dark square and sewed them together. Brilliant, yes? By the time I finished the quilt I had quite a nice little pile.

At some stage I will pair these together and make 4 patch squares to use in a quilt. I don't know about you but I find sewing individual squares together, particularly when there's a lot them, a bit monotonous. Now I have saved a bit time and boredom next time I make a scrappy quilt.

There you go a time saving tip for when you're patchworking. I don't suppose I'm the first person to think of this idea but I thought I would share it with you.

Where is the quilt I was working on. Well I'm not ready to reveal that yet but here is a little teaser. It is a stash buster involving my red fabrics and it has a modern twist.

 Has that got you curious? Til next time, toodles.


Friday, 14 March 2014

Taking the Plunge

For some time now I have been debating with myself about whether or not to start a blog. As you can see the affirmative side has won so here we go. We will be fairly basic to start of with until I get the hang of things but it's better to do something than nothing perfectly.
You can expect a sharing of anything that interests me and my interests are many and varied. I love to do lots of different crafts and like to look at & appreciate many more. I enjoy gardening in my extensive garden & looking at other people's gardens, cooking (particularly baking) & trying new recipes. I am also interested in nutrition & exercise, art & photography, spirituality & alternative therapies and anything quirky, even though I'm not quirky myself.
Hmmm where to start. Maybe with now and later on I'll do some catching up(which could take a while).
On the weekend, while I was Youtube surfing, I discovered zentangles or rather I discovered the name zentangles. My second daughter used to spend hours doing something similar, but I didn't know it had a name. You have probably seen them yourself, and like me, thought they were pretty/interesting but not something you could do. The Youtube clip made it seem simple, so I ordered a couple of books via the internet, but I couldn't wait for them to arrive so I grabbed a scrap of paper, a pencil, a uni ball pen & an eraser.

This is the result. I was pleased with how it turned out and really enjoyed the process. So then I googled some images for reference, found a fine liner(more control over the ink and doesn't tend to bleed through the paper) and a special "leather" bound book with blank pages and I was off and running.

It is very relaxing, easy and in a way exciting, yes maybe I need to get a life but that's the way I tick. I could "waste" hours doing this but is it wasting time when creating something so lovely. Those that know me would say I can be a little bit of a perfectionist so I find this quite freeing, no planning, just go with the flow. It is also so portable and you only need basic supplies. I think I may be hooked.

When I was Youtube surfing I was actually looking at patchwork clips so, that being my current crafting passion, I'm now planning to make an abstract quilt from one of the designs, but that will be a little way down the track and for another post. 

Well there you go, the first step taken, they say it's always the hardest. Hope you enjoyed and you come back to visit.