Tag Archives: hand made

Bread Maker vs The Baker

I was given a bread maker for my birthday. I am torn as to whether I like this or not.

However, having a machine do it for me defies the whole point of baking, which for me, is a recreational activity. I like the tangible feeling of the bread rising and being kneaded, dough being rolled, and peaking into a hot oven. My dad, who gave me the bread-maker, doesn’t understand this concept. But then, my dad also doesn’t understand why I wouldn’t never get an electric piano.

I read the instruction book for about an hour. It didn’t make any sense to me. According to the book, I throw all the bread-mix in on top of the water in one go and it will make it for me. But what about letting the yeast froth up beforehand? Where’s about the butter? Where’s the milk? Does it rise, knead and prove or just rise it once? Which setting to I choose for normal bread? My anxiety was compounded by the clear fact that the instructions were written by someone whose first language was not English. The descriptions of the process made no sense whatsoever. Do they even know how to make bread the old fashioned way in the country this machine was manufactured? Or have they just taken a motorbike engine and such a bread pan in it?? (I am assured they have not, as it is one of the most reputable bread-makers on the market).

I left it for a few days before going back.

I put in my first loaf yesterday. With the machine, I was given a bread mix. First of all, I have no idea what sort of ingredients are in these packets. Being it is designed to bake perfectly every time, I can only hazard a guess as to what enhancements this flour has. I put it in, and it got half way through the process, which was great. However, as is my habit, as I switched off the toaster at the wall I switched off the bread-maker as well. After flicking it back on it appeared to still be on the half-way setting, however I couldn’t get it to start again. I also didn’t know what stage it was in. It looked kneaded and risen, but do they do a second kneading and leave it to prove like real baking? I had no idea, so I put it on rapid bake, which did the whole process again, but quicker. Goodness knows how the mechanism felt about that.

The bread did come out fully cooked and soft looking in the end. It is an odd shape though; short and high. It has to be toasted in the grill, so it seems what effort I’ve saved in baking the bread, I have lost in toasting it.

I will use the machine again on days when I don’t have time to bake myself. I will experiment with my own recipe (which has butter and milk) over the weekend, to see if the machine likes non-pre-prepared mixes, and report back to you.

I also was given a pasta maker, much more a step back to basics, than away from it. I will leave that experimentation for when I have plenty of time to vacuum afterwards.

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Sugar Plum Jam

Fairy; fruit or lolly?

A few weeks ago I came across sugar plums at the markets. You must understand that until two years ago I didn’t eat fruit or vegetables. I did not frequent green grocers. Consequently, I didn’t know that sugar plums (different from regular plums) were a real thing outside of the nutcracker. Though after some google’ing, I believe the fairy related more to the lolly, which is a delicacy of the same name.

As they are in season, and I was curious about this myth come to life, I picked up 12 of these little fruits, which look like large grapes. Because these aren’t the best eating fruit, I made them into jam. 12 made one Doritos salsa sized jar.

Going on the principle of the fig and Rosella jam, I chopped them up, added about half the volume of water, and boiled them. I kept the seeds in the water to extract the pectin, then fished them out just prior to blending. I added about half the weight after blending in castor sugar and boiled to setting point.


It turned out to be a traditionally sweet-tasting jam, though easier on the tooth than strawberry. I used it in baking jam pastries, and with Devonshire tea (on scones with cream).

Side note: my sister’s new house mate eats a jar of Doritos every week, so I now have a steady stream of jars. However they do have to be boiled extra long to remove the strong taste of salsa, and I find the seal on the lid retains the smell for quite a while.

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I don’t have any projects to share this weekend for two reasons; I have a post-grad assignment due Monday and have been completing some mending tasks I’ve been putting off for a while.

I think mending has become a forgotten task in today’s world where everything is cheap and interchangeable.


I tend to spend a bit of extra money on fewer unique items, instead of many cheap trendy ones. So when something become worn and torn, I’ll fix rather then toss it. It saves money in the long run and the environment, so even if you could replace that black T with another, why would you?

Mending I do includes: redying – expecally faded black, replacing buttons to brighten up old cardigans and dresses, tossing stretched items into a hot dryer, shaving ‘pilling’ sweaters, re-heeling or dying shoes, and good ol’ stiching.


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Unexpected Gifts

Vintage Gifts

I was lucky enough to be given a box of original vintage dress pattern, spanning from the 50s to 80s by a colleague of my sister. The thing about vintage patterns is the original owner would have cut them to their size, and only kept the bits they want. So while originally patterns come with variations and size options, these won’t be included in most second-hand packets. I am lucky to be short, and thus naturally petite, so this wasn’t such an issue, but it’s something to be aware of.

I made the above 1950 top for work out of one of these patterns using a quilting fabric. While they can seem stiff in the store, after a wash they soften up, and certainly even more so after it is worn and washed several times. They work well for older patterns which are tailored and structured, but probably not good for flowing, or very tight outfits, as they have no give.

I make a lot of clothes out of pretty quilting fabric

I have issues with side zips, and getting them to merge into the shape of the piece. This top I wear with a waist-hight skirt so it’s not such an issue. I like using buttons to break up necklines, as you would have seen on my Delftware dress.

Another vintage pattern

I have to say, I used to be one of those people who would throw out the bits of pattern I don’t use, rather than try and fit them back into the packet. However, since becoming an owner and user of second hand patterns, I have tried not to do this. You never know who might have a use for them down the track. I would like to make this 1954 pattern to the right next, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to see if it’s all in there!


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My most recent excursion to Archives bookstore on Charlotte Street, Brisbane, was delightful. It was pouring today, and as I jumped onto the front stoop, I could feel the warmth emanating from the store. They are the only retailer in Brisbane that realises that we are having an unseasonably cold Summer and do not need the air-conditioning cranked up. I first visited this store 10 years ago, and still love visiting, as they have the right balance between mustiness and organisation. Located in what used to be a publishing house, it has lovely high shelves, a huge variety, and clunky wooden floors. Picked up and am now reading A Passage to India.


 I have also attempted the book covering that was featured here. It was such a brilliant, simple idea, but one which I have only ever used on notebooks. I do have an issue with larger books as the scrap-booking paper won’t cover it, but I suppose I could find a nice wrapping paper or some old wallpaper.This has added to the consistent aesthetics of my bookshelf immensely, as I like to organise my books by colour and size, rather than alphabetically. I also arrange my wardrobe by colour. Is that bizarre? Fear not, my kitchen is by logical category.


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When all you own is a hammer…

When all you own is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail. Abraham Maslow

After the floods I had some pine furniture which had become discoloured. I headed off to the local hardware, only to remember they were completely under, so I travelled another two suburbs over, same luck. How anyone was supposed to repair their houses without hardware, I’ll never know. After finally driving for 45 minutes, I found one which was operational. I stocked up on furniture oil, and sand paper.

My first experiment was with an old chest my mother had tried to throw out many times, for whatever reason. I open the lid, half of which promptly fell off. After precariously balancing it back on the nails, I sanded it down and applied the first coat. I resisted the urge to apply the second coat too soon, and followed the instructions on the tin by waiting 8 hours, giving it a light sand and then applying another thin coat. I was very pleased with the results and thought, ‘I have ¾ of a tin left, what else can I slap some oil on?’

Furniture Oil

I thought, ‘I’ll strip the paint off my pine chair and stain that’. Of course, it turned out this chair had been repainted numerous times and I’m still trying to get all the layers off.

too many layers of paint

I decided to restore a wardrobe that was left by previous owners in out house. The surface of this wardrobe was covered in asbestos-flavoured veneer, which came off in such as fine mist that I regretted not having a face mask. I covered a broken front panel with some pretty fabric and lined the draws with vintage 1960s and 1970s wall paper. I felt it looked quite spiffy, and was a fraction of the cost and weight of an Ikea flat-pack.

1960s & 1970s wallpaper

Hint: The idea of dousing paint thinner on yourself to clean off the oil sound too dangerous? Try some anti-dandruff shampoo.

Still a waterline but looks better


Filed under Creating


Figs are present in the stories and iconography of every major religion, but I adore them for their sweet sweet jam.

Figs are in season here in Australia, so I picked up a few to experiment with. I quickly realised that this jam tasted so good and was so simple that it would be a definite repeat this season, and my first batch may not make it to the jars.


Fig Jam

1. Combine 6 coarsely chopped ripe figs and ½ cup water in a saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes until tender. Cool slightly.

Chopped Figs

2. Blend in food processor until smooth.

3. Combine purée and sugar in heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat. (same weight sugar as purée). Cook, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours until mixture is thick.

4. Cool off heat for 30 minutes before refrigerating.

Fresh Fig Jam

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