Friday, 17 April 2015

Cushions | Tickled Pink Market

Last night I worked like a machine.  Honestly, I don't know what got into me, but the husband was out, the kids were in bed and I was on FIRE!  And four finished cushion covers are the result.

The cushion tops have been staring at me for a while now.  Pleading with me with their big, sad unfinished edges to "Puhlease!" be made into something useful.  But I had misplaced me 'sewjo' and was ignoring their unwelcome pleas.

But yesterday I found my sewjo again.  Surprise!  'Someone' had hidden it under that purple and chartreuse cushion top, so when I finally forced myself to look at the pile again I saw the edge of it peeking out.  Darn cheeky thing.  But I guess that'll learn me for leaving something unfinished for so long... (Probably not.)

I will at some point post a pattern for the purple and chartreuse cushion top.  I've been wanting to make one of these for a while (have seen them over in Pinterestland a fair bit).  I couldn't find any measurements on the net anywhere so I had to make my own up, which I'll happily share with you at some point.  I've called it my 'Mis-matched Matchsticks' Cushion.  So stay tuned for that!

I styled the cushion above around Heather Ross's Briar Rose range, which sadly I am starting to run out of. Not sure if I'll buy more of it... but I do love it so!  Very bright and cheery.  It also has a combination of modern and vintage fabrics - of course!

This next cushion was the result of me playing with bits and pieces.  I was originally going to make a traditional patchwork but then I started fiddling and decided to do a pinwheel.  The back is from the lovely Verna Mosquera Rosewater range.  Soft and pretty.

And then there's this one.  Modern vintage to a T.  A combination of vintage Sanderson upholstery fabric and a bright, modern pom-pom trim!

All waiting patiently to go to new homes :)

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

April | Caesarean Awareness Month

Daniel, Rosie and Lewis (aka. Bubby Boy)
Did you know that April is Caesarean Awareness Month?  I didn't until tonight - in fact, I'm still not even sure if this is just an American thing... Anyway, while my kids were tearing around the McDonalds playground (don't judge me) and I was making use of the free wifi I stumbled across a post on the website Cordmama called 'Three Truths about C-section Mamas', and being a so-called 'C-section Mama' I was intrigued - what were these truths this person knew about me, which they supposedly knew just because I didn't birth my children 'the way nature intended'?

I don't really have much to say about the three truths the author mentions.  Am I brave?  I know I was so terrified at the thought of having an epidural that my husband struggled to hold my sobbing, rocking body still so the poor anaesthetist could get the needle in safely.  How about strong?  Well, my poor husband also had to get up through the night to pass me the baby for the first few weeks after having my first ceasarean because I was so sore, and then he had to go to work for 12 hours each day.  Ok, let's try beautiful?  Love, ain't nobody's beautiful after being 10 days overdue, followed by 39 hours of labour and a c-section! 

Meeting my first, Rose.

But, as this article implies, there is, without a doubt, a stigma associated with c-sections.  At times, I have felt like less of a woman because my body didn't (or couldn't?) do what it was supposed to do.  I have felt like less of a mother.  I have felt like I failed.  I have felt disappointed.  I have felt sad.  And while I acknowledge it is completely valid to feel those emotions at missing out on what is undeniably an absolutely mind-blowing miracle, I now know that the thing that tries to tell me I am less of a mother and a woman and that I failed because I didn't have a natural birth, well, that thing is a lie.  It is a complete and utter untruth.  

I don't know why I couldn't birth my children naturally.  I don't know why my body took so long to progress.  I've wracked my brain trying to find the one reason that will let me put this to rest once and for all.  That one elusive reason that will finally be the death of that darn undermining question that pops into my head every now and then (mostly when I'm pregnant, which just happens to be now).  

Maybe it was that their round little heads just didn't fit my hips... Maybe the relaxin in my body wasn't enough to make my tendons stretch enough... Maybe I didn't do enough yoga beforehand... Maybe I should have read that birthing book just one more time...  Maybe it was this.  Maybe it was that.  

All I know for sure is that sometimes God has other plans...

With my first, complications arose towards the end of the pregnancy.  My fluid levels were low due to a failing and calcifying placenta and my baby's growth rate was declining instead of the usual growth explosion they go through just before birth.  So, fully aware that things might not go as hoped during labour my Obstetrician decided he didn't want me to go more than four days over, and as first babies don't often come on time, I was induced.  After 18 hours, with many of those spent attached to a drip pumping me full of what is commonly called Syntocinon (but which I have henceforth renamed 'the torture drug'), my baby's heart rate dropped.  I have never seen nurses move so fast (except when I fainted post-caesarean, boy did that nurse move fast!).  There was no mucking around.  The decision was made.  Emergency caesarean.

My favourite post-birth photo of me and Rosie.

With my second, I went into labour spontaneously, which is what I had hoped for.  I woke up at 6am on a Wednesday morning feeling uncomfortable and achey (remembering I didn't experience spontaneous labour for the first one, this was all knew to me!).  After a couple of hours of timing contractions, I called the hospital to see what they thought and after speaking with my Obstetrician the midwife told me to come straight in.  As I was attempting a VBAC there were certain precautions that needed to be taken, so off I waddled to the hospital where I spent the next 35 or so hours working very hard to have a natural birth.  

The week leading up to the birth my daughter had been quite ill with a virus, and I remember lying in bed one night holding a feverish child and wondering what would happen if I got sick during labour.  Little did I know, I was about to find out.  

The morning of the second day of labour I knew I didn't feel right.  I hadn't eaten properly for a while because I'd been vomiting (not unusual during labour), but I also felt fluey.  And then, after taking my temperature, my Obstetrician started to quiz me on whether I felt ok because my temperature was up.  Determined to have the baby naturally, I told him I felt fine (I do not recommend doing this by the way - labour makes you do stupid things).  By about 1pm that afternoon I asked for an epidural because I was completely spent.  I felt absolutely horrendous.  But being as stubborn as I am, I was still keen to keep trying, so once the epidural was in, the midwife turned the Syntocinon up to 'Ludicrous Speed' and I slept, letting the drugs do their thing.  At about 5pm that night I attempted to push, until it was decided I needed another hour or so to be really ready.  Halfway through that hour I told my Obstetrician I couldn't do anymore.  I had had enough.  There was nothing left in me.  I felt so, so sick and I knew there was no way I was going to be able to find the strength to push this baby out.  So, it was another caesarean.  Not emergency, but definitely not elective.  Unfortunately, this was only the start of a two month stint in hospital with a very, very ill baby that I never ever want to repeat again.  But that's another story.

My boy, Lewis.

At times, when I have thought back to my second labour I have questioned my decision to end it.  Did I give up too quickly? (If you can call 39 hours too quick!)  Maybe I could have pushed him out if I'd only given it another half hour...?  Because that would mean that I'd be able to have another natural birth this time, instead of bizarrely knowing already when I will most likely be meeting this new member of our family.  In the end though, I just have to trust the decision that past Xanthe made (that Xanthe knew fully what was going on back then, unlike present Xanthe who struggles to remember).  I also have to trust that wonderful, knowledgeable and very experienced midwife (whose name escapes me right now!) who was there at the end, and who, when asked if I'd made the right decision, told me very matter-of-factly and without a flicker of doubt that there was no way I was going to push that baby out.  And finally, I have to trust my Obstetrician (who I do still trust implicitly, by the way!), who could obviously see how sick I was, because he didn't try to talk me into giving it a bit more time.  

And I'm realising more and more that it just doesn't matter.  It is what it is.  

I have two healthy kids and another on the way.  Hallelujah!  Just because they didn't leave my body the way its been done for thousands of years doesn't mean anything.  In fact, thank God I had the choice.  Thank God me and my children didn't become statistics of death in childbirth.  And thank God I had a wonderful and attentive Obstetrician and team of midwives who were with me the whole time, were completely on the ball and didn't let anything slip.  For this I am forever thankful and eternally grateful.

(Gold Coast mums-to-be, if you want to know the name of a great obstetrician and private hospital, send me an email!).

Monday, 6 April 2015

Recipe | Oozey Salmon Scotch Eggs

I apologise in advance for the obvious lack of 'pretty' in the photography for this recipe.  But I hope to redeem myself with the abundant amount of 'yummy' that the recipe provides (even if I do say so myself!).

Salmon Scotch Eggs.  I remember eating these as a kid.  They were a real treat that my Mum made every so often, which I do remember thinking wasn't often enough.  Over the last little while I've thought often and fondly of them, and eventually I just had to bite the bullet and make a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, grain-free version.  Because I need to eat them.

This recipe has been adapted from the recipe my Mum gave me, and I have no idea where it came from.  Maybe Grandma Brownlow?  Maybe an old Day To Day Cookery Book?  Anyway, I don't know where the recipe comes from originally, but I've changed it to accommodate my current diet preferences so I can eat them without the side of guilt.  In saying that, I still chose to use potatoes in my version, but I'm sure these would be just as nice made with sweet potato for any avid paleo followers.  I would probably let the sweet potato cool fully and you may need to add some arrowroot or another binder to the salmon and sweet potato mix as sweet potato can be a bit softer than plain old white potatoes.  My Mum also made them hard-boiled, which are great for kids, but my more grown-up self now prefers a softer centre.

I had a minor hiccup in the cooking of these little babies, solely due to my lack of patience and wanting to eat them now, already.  I didn't really think it through well enough - so I really would recommend chilling them for half an hour or so before deep frying.  Shallow frying isn't really advised - as you will notice from Exhibit A (ie. the photo above) they were a little soft and didn't really like being turned.

But they still tasted darned good!


Oozey Salmon Scotch Eggs

Serves: 6 - 8

415g can good quality red or pink salmon
3 cups mashed, cooled potato
2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
juice of 1 small lemon
10 eggs
salt and pepper
1 cup arrowroot
2 cups almond meal
coconut oil, or your preferred oil, for deep frying

Place 8 eggs in a generously sized saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil, and as soon as the water starts to boil, cook for 2.5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and empty out the boiling water.  Immediately cover with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Set aside until cooled and then peel.

Mix the potato, salmon, herbs and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl until well combined.  Season well to taste.

Place the arrowroot and almond meal on separate plates and beat the two remaining eggs in a bowl.

Divide the salmon mixture to match the number of eggs you have boiled.  Taking a boiled egg, carefully mould the salmon mixture around the egg and form it into a nice round ball.  Roll it in the arrowroot, then the egg and finally the almond meal, making sure that the balls are well-covered at each step.  Place on a plate and leave in the fridge to cool and set for half an hour or so.

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan and fry each scotch egg until golden brown and warmed through.  Don't overfill the saucepan, just do one or two at a time depending on the size of the saucepan you are using.  You will have to adjust the temperature of the oil to make sure you don't burn the outside before the inside is warmed.  Drain on absorbent paper.

Serve immediately with a green salad.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A Wife-made How To | Scrappy Easter Bunny Head Tie

This little bunny is definitely late for a very important date!  That date being hitting publish on an Easter-related tutorial before Easter gets here...

Phew, I made it.  Just.  And if you've got a spare hour or two, you might be able to squeeze in a pair of these ultra cute bunny ears before the real bunny arrives!  Here's how!

What you'll need:

Quilting fabric
1/2" wide elastic
Heavy fuseable interfacing (I used No.16 weight)
Poly batting or any other type of quilting batting you might have (I like the poly batting for this project because its a bit stiffer than the natural fibre battings.)
Cotton chenille, or something else fluffy for the ears
A pile of fabrics scraps of all different sizes to make fabric flowers


  1. Two (2) headband fabric pieces measuring 11" x 3" (this is the Pam Kitty floral you can see in the pic above)
  2. One (1) piece of poly batting measuring 2.5" x 10" (for the headband)
  3. Two (2) pieces of heavy interfacing measuring 11" x 2.5" (for the headband)
  4. Two (2) pieces of heavy interfacing measuring 8.5" x 3.5" (for the ears)
  5. Two (2) pieces of poly batting measuring 8.5" x 3.5" (for the ears)
  6. Two (2) pieces of elastic measuring 3.5" long
  7. Two (2) pieces of bunny ears backing fabric measuring 8.5" x 3.5" (this can match the headband fabric if you like)
  8. Two (2) pieces of cotton chenille measuring 8.5" x 3.5" (for the ears)
  9. Two (2) long strips of fabric for the ties measuring 2.25" x WOF (width of fabric)

How to:
Step 1: Fuse the headband interfacing to the wrong side of the headband fabric pieces as shown in the image above, leaving 1/2" of fabric bare on one long side of each piece and both short ends.

Step 2: Press the 1/2" of bare fabric on each long side of headband fabric so that the wrong sides of the fabric and interfacing are touching, as shown above.S

Step 3: Place the headband batting on the wrong side of one of the headband pieces so that it sits under the folded edge, then place the other headband piece underneath so that right sides of the fabric are facing.  Pin as shown, and set aside.

Step 4: Take the fabric for the ties and fold them in half lengthways, with right sides together.  Pin and stitch 1/4" from the raw edge the full length of the ties, enclosing one short end.  Turn the tube out the right way (I use a chopstick for this).  Press.

Step 5: Insert the elastic in the open ends of the ties until the open end of the ties and the other end of the elastic are even.  Pin to prevent the elastic from going further into the tube.  It should be sitting in the first 3.5" of the tube.

Step 6: Gather the tie fabric around the elastic to create a comfortable stretchy section of the head ties.  Pin at the other end of the elastic, to hold the gathers in place, and stitch about 1/4" from the end of the elastic.  See the image below if this is unclear.

Step 7: Pin the open ends of the ties in between the two headband pieces on the short ends as shown.  Stitch 1/2" from the edge of the short and long ends of the headband (not the folded side).  On the short ends, stitch the folded sections down.

Step 8:  Trim the seam allowances using pinking shears or normal scissors, being careful not to cut the stitching.  Turn the head band the right way out and press.  Set aside.

Step 9: On the back of one of the 3.5" x 8.5" pieces of interfacing draw a bunny ear shape.  Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the ear backing fabric.  Fuse the other piece of interfacing to the other piece of ear backing fabric.  Lay the the fused pieces on top of each other, with the outline of the bunny ear facing up and cut through both pieces at one time to ensure both ears are the same.

 Step 10: Place the poly batting between the backing fabric and cotton chenille, making sure that the right sides of the backing and chenille are facing out.

Step 11: Using a straight stitch, stitch 1/8" from the edge of the backing fabric to join the three layers.  Trim the excess fabric around the bunny ears shape, then zig-zag stitch around the edge to finish.  I used a 2.5 width and a 1.5 length for my zig-zag stitch.

Step 12: Using a pink or contrasting thread, stitch the centres of the bunny ears.  I like to use a messy free-motion style to do this and go over it a few times to make it really stand out, but you could applique a piece of fabric on for the inside of the ears.  Do whatever takes your fancy!

Step 13: Place the ears inside the open folded edge of the headband and pin in place, making sure they are nicely centred and angled outwards slightly.  Topstitch the opening closed and continue to topstitch around the edges of the entire headband.

And your headband is nearly finished!

Now you just need to embellish it with some lovely scrappy fabric flowers.  I used this method to make my scrappy flowers and I pulled a pile of scraps of all different lengths and widths from my fabric scrap bin to make a few different colours, shapes and sizes!  I used a hot glue gun to make the flowers and attach them to the headband - it was a lot faster than handsewing, which wasn't an option for me the night before Rosie's kindy Easter bonnet parade!  Nothing like last minute to get the creative juices flowing ;)

The little concertina fan-shaped flowers I made by folding a rectangular piece of fabric on itself over and over again, stitching through all the layers and then putting a dab of hot glue on the top and squeezing the top pieces together to create a little fan shape.

If I'd had more time I would have loved to add a little fabric butterfly, and maybe some colourful buttons in the middle of the flowers.  I can even see a version of this headband made from lovely vintage fabrics!  So many options!

All that really mattered though, was the smile on this little face.  She was happy, and so was I.