8

Autumn Food and Decorating

mantel1

Ah, felted (secondhand!) wool.  I know nothing about crafts this-and-that and think people who sew those stuffed fabric owl door stoppers are geniuses.  I never knew of this felted wool stuff. Actually, I knew about felting but in my case it was more of an accident with woolens in the washing machine.  I just didn’t know there was a name for it. Or that people do it on purpose.

Savers had a half price sale on clothing a while back, so I picked up a few old pure wool jumpers (sweaters) to make some felted wool.  The jumpers weren’t in great condition and were quite cheap. I only buy wool in op shops or secondhand, never new.  I followed advice from a few felt-your-wool websites.  Step 1 was to put the wool garments in an old pillow case along with an old towel (for agitation), then tie up the pillowcase and throw it in to a hot wash with your regular washing.   The pillowcase is to stop the wool fibre bits from getting on your other washing and clogging up your machine:

feltingpillowcase1

My Step 1 disaster: my old pillowcase was certainly old.  Old enough for the jumper to dig a hole and escape:

feltingpillowcase2

My second Step 1 disaster: NOBODY SAID YOUR OTHER WASHING WOULD STINK OF WET DOG.  ‘They’ said the pillowcase could go in the wash with your other items. I had to wash that load all over again, then hang it outside overnight to get the smell out.

I put the pillowcase, with the big hole secured, in to the dryer on the hottest setting.  I didn’t let it dry completely, instead I took it out and spread the jumpers out to finish drying flat.  I read on one site that this helps you get a flatter finish.  I have no idea.  They did shrink considerably.

Other sites said that if you can still see the stitching being a bit stretchy, you should run it through the washing machine and dryer again.  So I did it a second time but this time with a better pillowcase, and I added a bit of washing powder (some sites use the powder in the pillowcase, others don’t):

wooljumpers

Okay, that’s the prep work out the way.  Wool garments with smaller stitching are apparently better than the sorts of jumpers I bought.

I decided to make some stuffed hearts from the felted wool.  I love autumn so the hearts seemed fitting! I used tapestry thread to stitch around the edges:

woolstuffedheart

I recently bought some fabric squares from Spotlight that were something like three for the price of two.  I went straight for the autumn colours:

autumnfabric

With this autumn fabric I made smaller stuffed hearts, this time with a sewing machine, right sides together then turned out and stuffed– the wool hearts were a bit too thick for this.  Because I am such a hack with this stuff, I didn’t realise that when I stitched up the holes, the shape of the heart top would change to look like a chunk had been cut off.  I sewed a ribbon loop on to the wool hearts and added a button (taken from one of the woolen garments) at the front for extra cuteness. I sewed the heart buttons on the fabric hearts before realising I’d forgotten to attach the ribbon loop.  So I just got some tapestry thread and threaded the fabric hearts on to it.  If you don’t get too close, it looks fine:

autumnhearts

I also made some tealight candle holders.  I had three old glasses and decided to glue twigs around them.  This involved gathering lots of twigs, cutting them to size with pruning shears and hot gluing them all around. ZOMG you guys, hot glue guns are the BOMB.  Seriously, it’s like the less daggy version of the Bedazzler. Anyway, due to my extreme impatience and superhuman ability to get bored really fast, I stopped at one twig-covered glass and decorated the other two glasses differently with, shall we say, the goal of not spending more than five minutes on them:

candleholders

Back to more felted wool.  I bought a bunch of 2cm and 1cm felted wool balls secondhand on eBay.  I had a collection of acorn caps from our local park, though finding the teeny caps (on the ground of course!) was a little challenging.  I had to roll the larger sized wool balls hard to make them oval shaped and make a better fit for the caps.  The little 1cm felt balls were a great size for the small acorn caps. Then I grabbed some fallen branches from our garden, unholstered my hot glue gun and went to town:

feltacorns

acorntree1

I stuck the branches in a jug.  Leave a comment if you know where this jug comes from, they seem to be everywhere:

acorntree2

I picked some vines off our tree, tied them in a wreath shape and hung them on the front door then promptly took a photo.  Except now, days later, they’re all limp and embarrassed looking:

doorwreath

I looked up how to decorate with leaves but not have them go all dry and stuff.  I marvelled at web pages where people dipped leaves in wax then used them to decorate.  Genius!  I bought a soy wax that I thought gave off the impression that it would dry clear with no milkiness (I didn’t want beeswax). I melted the soy wax in an old pan over simmering water, dipped some grapevine leaves in the wax and let them dry on a sheet of baking paper.  I was most annoyed to see they dried with white blobs of wax everywhere.  Oh well, live and learn.  Hopefully people won’t see the white bits unless they’re right up close…

waxedleaves1

waxedleaves2

 

Autumn is also a time for those cold weather comfort foods.  I made the Pumpkin Pie Bites from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. The filling was great and I’d use it as a pie filling, but the base got way overcooked (the filling was not cooking in synch with the base so I had to leave it in the oven) and was very dry as a result. I wouldn’t blame the recipe, because the substitute gluten free flour I used was buckwheat (with more liquid added).  Perhaps I didn’t add enough liquid because it was still dry over the next couple of days.  I’d make this again though:

pumpkinpiebites

I made these tasty Sweet Potato Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins from Ricki Heller‘s fab book Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free:

minichocsweetpotatomuffins

I cook up a big batch of pumpkin and add it to Arthur’s smoothies along with spinach, broccoli and banana.  He won’t eat veggies so I stick them in his smoothies.  I also leave enough to add to my own meals.  Here I used some pumpkin in place of noodles with a lemongrass-garlic-ginger-chilli tofu dish I made:

lemongrasstofu

I really love the idea of decorating my home according to the seasons.  I drool over North American blogs, where people decorate for autumn with all those gorgeous colours.  The problem is I have zero skill or patience for it. But I WANT IT.  I even want all that white Christmas stuff in winter.  I tell myself who says Christmas has to be in stinky-hot December?

Okay, I’m off to look up more autumny recipes.  I can’t think of anything my family would eat apart from sweet stuff like pumpkin pie.  I’m loving the look of these sweet potato and kale balls. They might do the trick!

 

… aaaaaand I just noticed that in the photo below, I forgot to hang up one of the wool hearts.  Not only that, but the whole thing fell down right after I took the photo.  And you can see the milky-dried wax from a distance.  And I should consider using a tripod.

autumnmantlepiece

As mentioned, all wool used here is secondhand. I don’t buy new wool and when looking for things I can use in crafts, I prefer stuff that can be upcycled or re-used somehow.

8

It’s Officially Autumn! Which Means Baked Treats and Decoratey Things

Yay! It’s the first day of autumn here.  My favourite time of year, where our grapevine starts sporting those beautiful autumn colours.  When our grapevine gets too long I just trim it all back but, genius of all genius, I’ve realised I can make wreaths from the vines.  I feel proud that in this area I am quite literally millennia behind the times.

I’ve always wanted to decorate my house with seasonal crafts, mostly nature crafts.  The problem is I lack the creativity gene.  My sewing is as basic as you can get.  I lack patience too when I’m learning a new skill because I want to know it all NOW.  I want the autumn colours NOW but everything is still green.  And it makes me hop around all annoyed like and thinking chlorophyll is totally overrated.

DeeW was feeling a little bummed out because Arthur was off at a birthday party, so we made some gingerbread in autumn shapes.  I used the gingerbread cut-outs recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I love my leaf cutter shapes but some of them are rather small and better suited to things like dough craft or cutting out pastry shapes for a pie:

making gingerbread

I have other larger cutters so now we have acorns, apples, teddy bears and a squirrel from an Ikea set.  No icing, there’s enough sugar as it is:

gingerbread autumn shapes

So many north American blogs I read feature autumn and woodland crafts.  People decorate their homes inside and out with autumnal displays and I sit there reading the blogs all happy like.  I love it and wish things were the same here.  Because autumn ROCKS and I love acorns, though I lack patience to do something lovely like this.  I don’t know about you guys but I just wanna wear this as a sash when I walk down to the shops:

Source: http://www.craftsunleashed.com/seasonal/acorn-fall-wreath/

Source: http://www.craftsunleashed.com/seasonal/acorn-fall-wreath/

The park near us has some oak trees so DeeW and I went and looked for acorns on the ground, along with other treasures.  Argh, flash!

autumn treasures

I googled for autumn nature crafts and was all stunned at the cute stuff one can make with leaves and acorns.  Remember folks, MILLENNIA behind the times here at ziggurat Veganopoulous.  Look at this sweet little fairy tea set!  I used air drying clay for the saucers, handles and spouts, then used a hot glue gun to stick all the bits together… badly, as the coffee pot will attest:

acorn fairy tea set

I have some more autumn crafts coming up (I hope).  Check back and see how someone totally useless at crafts and sewing fares. And I foresee some apple pies in my near future with pastry leaf cutouts!  And lots of crafty disasters.

gingerbread2

 

6

Halloween Presents Veganopoulous, the Complete Amateur Who Comes Up a Winner

I hope my readers that celebrate Halloween had a fabulous one!  Or have a fabulous one, given the timezones and stuff.  Unfortunately Husband and I did not get invited to any Halloween sci fi themed parties this year so I miss out on my dream of the two of us heading out like this:

twikigary

This is the first year Arthur and DeeW took part in a neighbourhood trick or treating.  That may sound bizarre to my overseas readers, but Halloween is not really considered an Australian ‘thing’.  Sure, some families do it and the supermarkets stock Halloween stuff, but there are plennnty of doors that get knocked on where the residents have no idea what is going on and kids go away empty handed.  Kids that door knock here are often told “sorry, we don’t celebrate Halloween”.

In my neighbourhood (well, the surrounding four streets) a group of parents drop notes in all the letterboxes advising people that kids will be going around on Halloween and if you’d like to participate, leave your porch light on and perhaps have a decoration.  The children will not door knock when a house does not have a light on.  Although I admit to having been a bit uncomfy with it all (the trick or treating/general Halloween stuff considered more of a North American thing here, though I would have no problem participating if we were holidaying overseas), I saw that this year Arthur and DeeW really wanted to dress up and go along with their friends.  And we can’t exactly keep the curtains closed and insist the kids stay away from the windows for another year:

fitacover

Now as someone who has never participated in Halloween, ever, let me explain my thought processes:

– how many treats do I buy? (I thought I bought waaaay too much and was quite alarmed by it, but I was left with a handful of stuff at the end).

– do I give the treats out or do the kids choose?

– if I give them out, how many does each child get?  If they choose, do I set a limit?

– will anyone take the cheap chocolate coins?

– do I insist the little kids get first dibs on the Tiny Teddies?

– do I buy individually wrapped treats in case some kids are snotty and grubby? (the answer was YESSSSS).

Finding vegan stuff that wouldn’t have cost a fortune was close to impossible so in the end I went for the standard non-vegan treats.  I had considered making caramel popcorn and putting it in mini cardboard Chinese food containers but ran out of time to make a trial batch and then I couldn’t find the smaller containers.  I think I’ll do that next year as I want to give out vegan treats.  Next year I also hope to be more organised.  I might have popcorn in some of the containers and other vegan treats and the kids choose randomly from a table or something.

I usually have some kind of Halloweeny food or decorations in our house, just for us.  This year, as we were joining in the neighbourhood opt-in doorknocking, I made these… let’s face it, pissweak attempts at decorating the front of the house:

housedec4
housedec1

housedec2

housedec3

I made jelly for our dessert in oranges:

jellyweenoranges

I made some gingerbread folks using a Dreena Burton recipe, unfortunately I kinda forgot about them and took them out four minutes over time.  I wanted to give these to our lovely neighbours so I’ll have to make another batch and blog about it, because this was a really good recipe:

gingerbread1

That’s a My Little Pony next to a Super Mario Toad:

gingerbread2

My hat wearing readers will be pleased to know I received many compliments on my choice of head wear.  The secret to my success?  An Ikea hand puppet and bobby pins:

hat

DeeW was a witch and Arthur was the Emperor from Star Wars. Witches were a very popular theme.  I saw lots of little ghoulish characters, scary masks, some teenagers who just wore black (that’s not a costume in my books!) but my favourite costume of the night belonged to a girl who looked around 14 who was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz complete with sparkly red shoes.  Husband took the kids out and said there was a man dressed as Darth Maul (Arthur thought that was way cool) and another guy in a pumpkin suit.

The highlight was when a group of eight kids said mine was the best house EVER (as in, quote, “oh my Gorrrrrrrrrd this is the best house evahhh!”) because apparently I had the best selection of treats and I let them take three things each.  I demanded they all show me a double thumbs up as proof.  Then when they went around the block and I saw them on the other side of the street, they yelled out to me and gave me two thumbs up AGAIN.  I am SO GOOD at doing Halloween.

And that was our Halloween.  The kids declared it one of the best days ever and I’m looking forward to scrubbing their teeth for the next few weeks 😉