Monday, 31 October 2011

Godfrey, a Doberman's best friend

Meet Godfrey. 

 He's a happy little monster and a doberman's best friend!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

The Making of a Monster!

The 10yr old and I had our last day off today and so we decided to set ourselves a challenge: we would make a dobe-proof toy for Megs.  I have some coutil left over from the corset, a stash of felt and the remainder of Dolly's stuffing.  Teddies and puppies and "lambikins" (!) were all discussed, but in the spirit of the day, a Halloween monster was decided upon.

We sketched a Godfrey onto the wrong side of a piece of coutil with tailor's chalk.
I may draw up a pattern for him later, but this morning was all about keeping it simple.

A felt mouth, teeth, eyes, pupils and nose were cut out based roughly on our chalk sketch.

And Godfrey was mocked together.

I pinned two pieces of coutil together, right side to right side and cut out the body.  I only needed a few pins, one of the joys of working with coutil, it really behaves itself when you are cutting it out.

And started sewing.  All the shaped were zigzag stitched onto one piece of the coutil.  Each shape was stitched twice round to make sure it was secure.  As this was a one person job, the 10yr old became my photographer for the hour... it was the closest I'll become to being papped!

Eyes and pupils done, I pinned the mouth into place and first sewed the outline of each tooth twice, before then sewing around the mouth.

And Godfrey started to take shape. 

A nose followed... I rather like the reverse, it's given me some ideas for another day!

And then Godfrey got blue-spotti-itus... a good compromise following a last minute ponder/debate on the worthiness of a blue, not orange, nose!

I sewed a double seam around the outline (can't be too careful, I want him to last till November!), leaving a 4" gap to turn and stuff him through.

We turned him inside out, eventually.  I forgot that coutil is stubborn!

And the stuffing began...

even Megan joined in.

Finally, I handstitched the seam, two rows of slip stitch in a thick cotton.

And we have a Godfrey :o) and a happy dog, who can't yet quite believe that this is a toy she is actually allowed to shake and chew and fall asleep on the sofa with!

The only question... how long will he last?

Two Vegan Lasagne Recipes and Cashew Nut Ricotta

For Halloween I made a Vegan Lasagne based primarily on this lovely recipe.  One of the lasagne layers was this lovely Cashew Nut Ricotta, which I have adapted slightly to work with English weights and volumes.

Cashew Nut Ricotta

250gms soaked raw Cashews, soaked overnight and drained
1 1/2 tbsp EVOO
4 tbsp (60ml) plain Soy Creamer
3 tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tbsp Agave Syrup
3 fresh Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tbsp equal amounts of dried Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Rosemary and Parsley (or a pre-mixed Italian Herb blend)
Good handful fresh chives, chopped
1 tsp Black Pepper
Salt to taste (about 1/4 tsp minimum)

Soak the nuts overnight and drain; add to a blender with lemon juice, creamer, agave and EVOO - blend till smooth. If it looks a little dry add more creamer, 5ml at a time. Add the chives (reserving some for later), herbs, garlic, pepper and salt and pulse till mixed. Serve topped with the remaining chives and a little pepper.

The original recipe called for 1 tbsp of Agave, the ricotta lovely but I found it a little too sweet.  This was not an issue as it was going in the lasagne, but to serve on it's own I have amended the recipe to 1/2 tbsp.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Since then, I have craved lasagne...  I loved the various layers of the one from Halloween and so had a play for dinner tonight, taking some of my favourite parts of the original recipe.  Sadly I'm out of cashews, otherwise they'd be more ricotta on the go!

Lucy's Vegan Lasagne with Spinach Cannelloni

500gms Vegan Mince
2 large jars Vegan Bolognaise Sauce (yes, I was cheating!)
160gms Silken Tofu
200gms Spinach
Egg Free Lasagne sheets
1 Garlic Clove, minced
4-5 Chestnut Mushrooms, chopped
1 Large Beef Tomato
Approx 50gms Grated Vegan Cheese
Chopped Chives, good handful
Salt and Pepper to taste

Blend the tofu until smooth, season lightly and transfer to a bowl.  Lightly fry the minced garlic, add the spinach and season, cook till wilted and add to the tofu, mix together and set aside.

Lightly fry the mushrooms to soften, set aside.

Brown the vegan mince in a little EVOO and add half a jar of sauce, set aside.

Build the lasagne in the following layers: sauce (for each sauce layer use 3-4 tbsps depending on size of dish, you want a good coverage), pasta, tofu and spinach, sauce, pasta, mince layer, mushrooms, pasta, sauce, grated cheese, tomatoes, chives, pepper.

Cover with tinfoil and bake for 40-50mins in the oven at 180-200C.

Given the chance, I double bake my lasagne, the second time for 30mins in a 150-180C oven.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween.. it was spookily good!

The 28th October finally came, and Grahame & Green did Halloween!

The drinks
The condiments
The broom... sorry, breadsticks!

Arthur (And(y)i for the evening) was our best starter yet!
He had only one request...
The full buffet menu was: Andi-Pasti, assorted condiments and breads, Spicy Guacamole, Mozzarella Balls in a Pesto dressing, Marchengo-stuffed Red Peppers, Sweet & Sour Chorizo, Vegan Lasagne, Sweet Potato mashed with Soy Sauce, Mango Chutney, Coriander and Chilli, Salad, Butternut Squash & Cranberry Soup and Chilli, Fruit and Nut Rocky Road for dessert.

Butternut Squash soup served in lab beakers, and served in vintage spice jars with a straw
Giant Snotballs... blame the 10yr old! Or mozzarella in a homemade pesto dressing
Orge's Toes, or stuffed red peppers
Vegan Lasagne

Cooking and serving in a Victorian jacket (it was the two layers of boning!) was not an option, so I essentially spent the evening in my underwear (on the top half at least!)... and I particularly loved the contrast with my Naked Cowboys Temptapron ;o)

Finally, fully decked out in my Victorian finery!  I never got my wig (customs... bah humbug!) but a last minute panic of feathers and a headband did the trick.  Not the Halloween "costume" I had in mind, but suitably Victorian at least - thanks to the 10yr old and her best friend, H.

Who also "put their hand" to the boyf's costume... clever girls!

Megs did so well... she was the perfect Bat-Dobe and didn't even chew her wings!

Everyone looked amazing, the drink flowed and the food went down a treat.  A grand night was had by all, and then we all went to the pub...!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Victorian Costume.... finished, complete, done!

Done, finished, complete... No more stitching to be done!  There's probably lots I could say, but it was a late night and an early morning, I have so much to do for Halloween that I am just finally glad to pack my sewing machine away for a couple of days!  Even have a little, last minute fascinator to put in the wig.... now just REALLY DO NEED my wig...

Monday, 24 October 2011

Halloween Bottle Labels

I can't give too much away, I want our Halloween party to still be a surprise for the folk that read my blog!, but I have been having great fun sourcing bottles and labels for various edibles and drinkables.  

I planned to make my own but there are so many great free labels on the interweb that I have had far more fun mixing and matching instead.  My favourites thus far: Love Manor, Spookshows and these lovely stamps.

I've been collecting jars and bottles for months, I wanted a good and interesting mix.  I'm starting to fill them and am particularly pleased with how pretty my Oven-Dried Tomatoes look...

though they're no longer mere tomatoes, but 100yr old Goblin Brains!

More finishing details...

The nearer to completion that my costume gets, the more I wonder about my choice of fabrics.  My initial thoughts on fabric for this project were to steer clear of the "traditional" interpretations and go for a cleaner, perhaps more modern, look.  However, the more involved that I have become, the more I question my initial choices.  Perhaps it is the two fabrics I chose?  There was too much going on in Mood, and not enough time to hand, to concentrate properly.  Perhaps I have just found my inner Victorian, and she's crying out for frills and furbelows!   All this said, however, I am very happy with both my fabrics and my costume, I guess what I am trying to say is that I would be less cautious next time.

"Next time?" I hear you say.  "Yes, indeedy!"  There will be a next time... :o)

In the meantime, I am finding that not only do my finishing details need to complement each piece and its fabric, they also need to work that bit harder to pull the outfit together.  I have a few ideas but will work on completing the individual pieces first.  I am also finding out just how time-consuming they can be; at the rate that I am currently going (which I know is far too slow and cautious) the snaps closures for the jacket will take 8-12 hours!  Last night I took a break from the snaps and concentrated on finishing the ruching and hemming of the overskirt. 

 I also found myself handstitching the ribbon trim to the fantail skirt, over 8 yards in total... I grabbed a glass of wine, curled myself up on the sofa and "watched" a movie with the boyf - not quite his idea of a cuddle on the sofa, I know... sorry honey!

Although the fantail skirt and the jacket/overskirt need to be "pulled together" more, I am starting to see progress.  I have found a very cool wig - this is afterall a Halloween costume as well as an exercise in sewing - now I just need it to arrive in good time for Friday and I can put my last ideas into place.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

It's Halloween week and preparations have begun!  This year I intend to cook not only dinner, but as many condiments as I can too.  Starting with Sun-Dried - in this case Oven-Dried - Tomatoes.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

For one jar:
3 x 220g packs of small tomatoes; this time I have used Golden Beauty, Sweet Aromatico and Baby Plum
Caster sugar
Fresh Thyme
Olive Oil

Halve the tomatoes and lay them face down on a wire rack for 30+ minutes to drain, smaller tomatoes may not drain but juices will be released.

Heat oven to 60C (fan assisted, 80C if not).

Turn the tomatoes over and sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and twice that of sugar.  Pull the leaves off 5-6 stalks of fresh thyme and sprinkle over the tomatoes, I like to be generous.

Put in the oven for 6-8hrs, prop the oven door ajar ever so slightly to let it air as it cooks.  Luckily for me, in our wonky old kitchen, the oven door catches on the adjacent cupboard, perfect for this!

Once cooked, put the tomatoes in sterilised jars with a bayleaf and a sprig of thyme and cover with olive oil.  Keep in a cool dark place and eat within the month.

For softer tomatoes, reduce the cooking time by an hour and the storage time by two weeks.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

380 inches...

of ruching takes far longer than I thought!  The Overskirt and Dinner Jacket need to be detailed and finished; looking through some other examples online, I decided to stick with my "keep it simple" approach, Victorian-style.  

The jacket closures will be 13 hidden snap fastners with 7 decorative mother of pearl buttons on the front panel.  I am also toying with the idea of putting buttons on the back panel too; currently they are pinned onto the seams to prevent damage, they should sit higher and in the centre of the panels I think, I will play some more.

The sleeves and the front panels of the overskirt will have a ruched detailing in the same fabric.  I measured to ruche the hem of the overskirt as well, but the poplin is so fine that my initial doubling of the measurements was off by half!  It was a lucky error though, just ruching the front panel is perfect.

I will need to rehem the overskirt though, as it has a visible seam.  I will handstitch a hidden hem instead.

The only problem with all of this... my feet hurt!  I trust none of this sewing off Miss G, particularly with the snap fasteners which need to be accurate.  I like to keep the jacket as static as possible to avoid any mistakes.  I do enjoy the quiet of handsewing, it's very satisfying.

So proud of the Little Miss

I am so proud of the 10yr old, she got a glowing report at school, is Maid Marion in the school play and finished her Halloween dress!  For a first sewing project she did really well, I'd say 40% she did herself, 40% with me steering and the 20% difficult stuff I did for her.  It's a nice pattern, straightforward but with enough detail that she was able to learn about pleats and gathering, matching notches, insets and (once I've bought it) zippers.  She did so good, and I think the smile says it all!

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