Friday, May 30, 2008

Adding Some Colour into My Life

I am a stay-at-home mum and when I say that, I really do mean, I stay at home...a lot. But in all honesty, I actually love being home alone. Not that I am a loner of some sort. I simply enjoy the precious 'quiet time' when my four kids are in school. I am sure all the other homemakers out there feel the same. And contrary to what others may believe, a mum is pretty preoccupied around the house. The chores can be endless.

But being at home and alone most of the time has probably made my life less 'colourful' than it could potentially be. I practically do the same stuff every single day. Yeah, it's quite a humdrum plain just like black and white.
I've sought to learn new skills and hobbies (like sewing and blogging) in order to break the monotony of my life. And to a great degree, my days have been much less boring.

Adding some colour into my life...I mean that both figuratively and literally.

Here are some rainbow cupcakes I had just baked. These just made my day...

I found the great recipe here. The colours should have been one on top of the other but I forgot to flatten each layer before adding the next. Oh well, I will do that next time (I have a strong feeling that 'next time' will be very soon). The taste is very much like that of butter cake. To enjoy its absolute softness, I recommend that you eat it as soon as it cools down (that won't take long). I did change the recipe a bit - I used sponge cake self-raising flour instead of plain flour. I suppose this change had something to do with the wonderful softness of the cake. I can't wait for my kids to come home from school...they will love these.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Labour of Love

Each time I prick my finger with a pin, I tell myself this would be the last bag I would ever sew. Come to think of it, bag-making sort of reminds me of child easily forget about the pain of giving birth. Soon after the hardship, you start appreciating what you had just created....then you start making a bag again and experience the "labour" again and ask yourself...what have I gotten myself into again???? Does that make any sense?

Anyway, I had promised my two older sons I would make them a sports bag to carry their football boots in during their Sunday games. I drafted my own pattern and I knew exactly how I was going to go about the sewing, but it turned out harder than I thought. Yes, I abhor the pricking part! But it's now done...well, actually, maybe 99% done as I still want to put that padded thingy that holds the two handles together. So here it is, my so-called labour of love. My sons better use this or my heart will break...

The fabrics are black and camouflage polycotton (I think). I reinforced both outer bag and lining with stiff interfacing. The straps are fabric backed with nylon webbing. I also made a long strap with swivel clips. The following photos show some of the steps that went into making this bag.

Sewing the fabric strap to the webbing

Sewing the zip panel and strap to the main bag

Topstitching to reinforce

Main bag, now with handles and zip panels

Zipper attached to the zip panels

Stitching the side panel

Finished bag is 16" long with 9" diameter side (circle) panels.

Was that worth the effort? I hope so.

UPDATE (29 May, 12:55pm) : Yehey, I finally added the finishing touches (the handle pad and the long strap with swivel clips)! Now, I'm really done.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chargrilled Capsicums Take Two

I was rather busy today, desperately trying to finish the sports bag I promised my son that I nearly forgot about dinner. I did thaw a whole chicken and had some potatoes but I had no idea what to do with them. Then I remembered the bottle of chargrilled capsicums...and it was time to concoct a meal fast.

Chicken with Potatoes and Chargrilled Capsicums

1/4 cup cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced
1 medium whole chicken (about 1.2 kilos), cut into serving pieces
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 large potatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup chargrilled capsicums

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Saute garlic and onion. Add chicken pieces and cook until slightly brown. Season with soy sauce and pepper. Cover and let simmer. Chicken should cook in its own juice. If it seems dry, add about 1/4 cup of water. When chicken is tender, mix in tomato sauce. Add capsicums and potatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft but not mushy. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve with steamed rice and soup.


I will hopefully finish the bag tomorrow...will show it off here then.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Great Value Tuna Casserole

My youngest son only eats tuna when it comes with pasta. Hence, when I want to cook tuna, this dish has to be it. The original tuna casserole recipe came from a book on great value meals (Filipino Kitchen Library by Aileen Jaraza, Christina Aquino and Hector Jaraza). True enough, this dish is really easy on the budget.

The recipe in the book called for canned pimientos. Honestly, I don't know where to find that here in OZ so I've been using fresh red capsicums, up until I found this (refer to photo on left). Chargrilled capsicums marinated in olive oil and herbs! My capsicum experience has never been the same since...

After making a couple of changes, I do believe that this tuna casserole is an improved version of the one in the book. The photo of the dish below shows its cross-section. I really did not intend to present it this way...only, I remembered to get the camera after my whole family had already served themselves! Ate this with garlic and parmesan foccacia bread. Yumm!

Tuna Casserole

500 grams elbow macaroni
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 425-gram can tuna in brine, drained and flaked
1/2 cup chargrilled capsicums, diced or in strips
dash of salt and pepper

1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 cups fresh milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 eggyolks, beaten
1/2 cup grated cheese
extra grated cheese for topping

Cook macaroni as per package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a medium pan. Saute garlic and onion. Add in tuna flakes and capsicums. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until heated through. Set aside.
In a large non-stick pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and combine well with the butter. Slowly pour in milk while stirring continuously to prevent lumps from forming. Continue cooking until mixture starts to boil and thicken. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from fire and slowly beat in egg yolks. Mix in grated cheese.

Combine tuna mixture with the white sauce, then mix in the macaroni. Transfer mixture to a large baking dish. Top generously with grated cheese. Bake in a pre-heated 180 degree oven for 30 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serve while hot.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Afternoon Tea ... the Filipino Way

Wikipedia defines afternoon tea as a light meal typically eaten between 3 and 5 o'clock. It is a term that was first introduced to us when we arrived Australia many years ago. BUT Filipinos are definitely no strangers to afternoon tea...or morning tea...or evening tea...for that matter. We actually snack all the time. And it's not necessarily a light meal at that.

The following recipe is for a typical afternoon tea 'meal' for us. I wouldn't consider it light because it has rice, coconut milk and corn. Pretty heavy on the tummy actually and not for the calorie-conscious but what the kids love it and it's good to indulge once in a while. My daughter, in particular, requests this constantly. And so, to cut the long story short, we had this for afternoon tea yesterday. I don't know if the photo below looks appealing enough, but I can assure you, you'll have a lovely time snacking...the Filipino way!

Rice Porridge with Corn (Guinataang Mais)

1 cup glutinous rice
1 can coconut cream (approx 2 cups)
3 cups water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 425 can sweet corn kernels

In a medium saucepan, combine rice, coconut cream and water. Bring to a boil, then mix in sugar and salt. Simmer until rice is soft and mixture is thick. Mix once in a while to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Pour in contents of corn kernel can, including the liquid. Mix and return to boiling. Simmer for an additional minute.

Serve while hot. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Where Did All These Come From??

Oh, but of course I know where all of these came from! These beads were slowly accumulated over several years of my rosary-making. Although I knew I had so much stashed, I did not realize how much I had as they were scattered in different containers, boxes, drawers and cabinets around my room. Recently, I just thought of giving my rosary-making a rest, even for a while. Although I still enjoy making and selling rosaries, it is just too difficult to compete with big-time sellers (especially those who get their stock directly from Italy).

And so I have decided to sort my beads out for reselling. It took me a few days to put similar beads in separate bags. It was truly a daunting task. While majority of the beads were unused, some of them were on wires as part of unfinished projects and I had to cut the wires off one by one. Truly painful on my poor hands!

I can only imagine how much I've spent buying all these! There must be more than 5000 pieces in all. The lot includes extra special Swarovski crystals and semi-precious gemstones, freshwater pearls, high quality Czech glass, the less expensive Chinese glass, metal beads and spacers, plus acrylic and wooden beads. The next step now is to figure out how much to sell them for. I am listing these on eBay Australia soon. How lucky will the auction winner be!

I am not giving it all up...just slowing myself down. I could certainly use the extra money. And it's quite a relief that my things are starting to get organized.

I hope my fabric stash doesn't follow the same route and start to get out hand...Got to control myself this time!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Doesn't this bag remind you of Mary Poppin's bottomless carpet bag? It isn't a bag of endless tricks but it's my very own old fashioned Overnighter. I proudly made it and I can't wait to use it.

Made from heavyweight upholstery tapestry fabric, this bag is sturdy and totally unique. My fingers are still sore from slip-stitching the lining to the main bag!