Monday, November 26, 2012

Talking Turkey

On Sunday evening we had our American friends over for a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner. All I do is the turkey, everything else arrives from a range of traditions covering the US from West Coast to East.
Anyway, everyone was very enthusiastic about the turkey, and I realised that every time I cook turkey, it is always well received. Apparently this business of cooking a turkey so it is moist and tasty is quite elusive, but mine are always like that. So I figure I owe it to the world to explain what I do, in case it adds to the collected wisdom in some small way.
You need:
 A Turkey (free range preferably)In this case, a size 4 (smallest I could find, still enormous!)
Streaky bacon made from happy pigs, about 250g
500ml chicken stock

Make sure the turkey is completely defrosted if frozen. I bought mine on Tuesday and it was only just defrosted in the fridge by Sunday! Remove the neck and other bits from the cavity. Give it a rinse out and a good drain before putting in a roasting pan. Ease your hand into the space between the skin and the meat, between the leg and breast. Gently lift the skin away from the meat, and start stuffing into it. And the cavity. Give the outside a good grind of pepper.
Now, arrange the streaky bacon in a herring bone over the whole bird. You know, on an angle alternating one side then the other, until the turkey is covered.
Cover the whole thing in foil, tucking it around it but not too tight because you're going to have to remove it a few times.
Put in an oven heated to 200 C, turn it down to 160 C and cook for about 3 hours, basting about once an hour. Take the foil off, transfer the turkey to another ovenproof dish and cook for another 15 minutes to brown. (I have a fan bake oven and I suspect without it, it would take longer) I think I need to say that one year, I put the turkey in the oven at 4.30am on 120C, same prep, and when I came around woke up at 10am, it was perfectly cooked. So, I don't think the cooking time is a factor - but length of time and temperature combined is.
To make the gravy, during the cooking time I sauteed the neck and giblets in a pot, added the chicken stock and the tops of the spring onions. Simmer for about an hour, covered, then drain. Discard the solids.
Put the oven dish on the stove top and turn any elements it covers to a low setting. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup flour over the tray, give it a good stir and scrape, then add the hot stock. Keep stirring until it is smooth and thickens up. Add the juice of the half an orange, and some pepper. I also added a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Finally, I sieved it to get any bits out but really, the bits are rather nice!
Now, that stuffing. It needs to be moist and tasty too. This is the one I did on Sunday:
6-8 thick slices of wholemeal bread, ripped into small chunks
about 250g chorizo, chopped
2 bunches spring onions, chopped up.
200g mushrooms, chopped up
a big handful of parsley, finely chopped
grated rind of an orange, juice of remaining half
about a cup of roasted cashews, roughly chopped
a sprinkle of drained capers
Lots of butter (sorry!)
This is all the wrong way around, as you make the stuffing first, so I used the same pot I went on to make the gravy in. Melt about 50g butter, and saute the chorizo. Add chorizo and the butter to the bread in a big bowl. Add another 50g butter and saute the onions, then add them. Do the same with the mushrooms. Add the other ingredients to the bowl, add a big grind of pepper, and using your hands, get in there and mix it all together thoroughly. Add a slosh of the chicken stock to it too.
Since you're all covered in it, get stuffing straight away. :)
I also do a stuffing using rice, for the gluten free bods in my life.

So why does this work? I am not sure. I figure the bacon is an essential part of the flavour and moistness containment. And putting lots of moist stuffing in under the skin, not just in the cavity too. And the foil.
So, happy turkey cooking, when the moment comes in...eep, 28 sleeps? Something like that!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My TV Debut

Well! Remember me scrubbing the floors last time I had great news I couldn't share? No time for that this time, I had to get stuck straight in!
I have been busting to tell you all my news, but really until it happened, I didn't want to tempt fate.
I, MrsC aka Maryanne aka The Crafty Lady, have a weekly spot on Choice TV's Brunch programme, demonstrating DIY craft ideas.
Choice TV is a national channel, and my segment is going out on Monday NZ time, between 10-11am some time. I have it on good authority that once the technical issues are sorted, my segment will be on YouTube.
And it was the best fun ever! I spent a happy 15 minutes in the green room talking to the world's first transgender politician, Georgina Beyer, a women I admire enormously, and who is absolutely hilarious!  Georgina is the political profiler for the programme.
So, you are probably wondering how this came about. I got a call a few weeks ago from Samantha Hannah, one of my all time favourite people, who is a presenter on the show. She asked me if I was interested and I said, probably not....kidding! I said yes please! Great publicity for my business, and great fun too.
and hard work. Oh my gosh, simplifying a project so much it can be demoed in 6 minutes, making 'here's one I prepared earlier' stages to whip out, all while talking flat out.
Anyway, I must dash. I took the camera out there to take photos of the green room and studio but really I didn't have time. I will add some links to our Facebook page etc when they are done.
Such fun! :)

Awesome pics

I am a terrible photographer. I own a camera with enough smarts to join Mensa, but I don't know how to drive it. One day I will learn how to do a better job. In the mean time, if I REALLY need good photos, I turn to my wonderful friend Sarah, aka Diana Villiers. She is an amazing photographer, and her work has featured here before (including my profile photo).
So, I thought it would be fun to share some photos she has taken of my makes recently, for Pinteresting purposes.
 Pillowcase dresses on the line.
 Close up of details.Such a crisp photo, makes me so happy!
 Felt rose as previously blogged about.
 Neat setting on the sewing machine!
 Happy tea cosy! All tea cosies are happy aren't they?
Oh that is such a great pic. 
I swear my stuff looks much better in a good photo! And I am SO grateful to Sarah/Diana for being the Goddess of the Lens!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Mother Daughter Project

 This is what The Embroidenator and I created together. She did the smocking, I did the construction. We have a smocking contraption in the shop, but because of its pattern, you need to 'pick up' gingham the hard way, following the squares. That was part of HER job, thank goodness!
 Little blue dress has yellow roses and bumble bees. Sorry about the slightly out of focus photos. Note to self, learn to use the fancy camera!
 Mauve dress has heart and flowers. Awww...
Matching hats - mauve is from a modern pattern, blue from a vintage pattern.

Why? A lovely customer asked if I could make these. I said yes and it took 7 months to finish them. YES. More work in these two outfits than the last wedding dress I made. They fought me all the way, just like a stroppy toddler. Partly because I was winging it with a mash up of a vintage pattern that had an unsmocked central panel, and whose sizing had me suspicious, and a modern christening gown. Partly because I was so busy I tried to do bits and pieces of it, which means no continuity. Hopeless with a make requiring focus.

Each dress had two rounds of sleeves, and at least three unpickings of sleeves, two collar remakes, and endless other problems. But we got there in the end and thank goodness gingham is cheap and plentiful!
I wish I had thought to photograph the insides before handing these over! Not a single raw edge anywhere - french seams, yokes and bias binding finished them all off.
I am proud of them but immensely relieved to have them off my table.  Class samples and some new clothes for myself are now able to flow more freely. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christmas Cake already!

Goodness me, how organised am I?! As I type, I am breathing in the gorgeous smell of cooking Christmas cakes. Last year's efforts were such a diasaster - I made nine at once, put several in my neighbour's oven, had the temperature up too high and forgot about them - resulting in burned outsides. A classic example of getting too cocky.
So, this year, I am experimenting. A month ago, I put over 2kg of cake fruit in to macerate with a can of Guiness. A week later, I added another can. I was concerned that using beer would cause the fruit to go mouldy or ferment or something. It turned out to be a huge success however. The liquor I drained off it today is thick and unctious, not too alcoholly, and not too sweet, which is what I was hoping for.
The fruit made two square cakes - usually I make round ones because I have so many round tins, but now I have access to all those cake tins for hire, why not! (We hire all kinds of cake tins out).
Anyway, once the cakes are cooked, a couple of hours to go I suspect, and cooled, I will prick them with a skewer and pour the liquor back into the cake. Yum.
Next up, the 'real' Christmas cakes, which instead of being entirely done with (top quality) fruit cake mix, include figs, dates, apricots, ginger and dried cherries. It doesn't need such a long soaking, which is just as well. Time is flying towards Christmas, and with the shop side of it as well as family and friends, I am needing to be a bit more organised.
Thank Goodness for MrC, who is holding the fort at the shop so I can escape and bake, and then go and sew. Happiness Aplenty!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My New URL

Darlings, possibly you may notice that I have changed the url of this blog. The reasons behind the original one are documented here, but it was a bit hard to remember, type and just wasn't thrilling me as a url.
My new url is very 'me'. I am resistant to technological trends, and when I started getting emails at work with the tagline "Sent from my iPhone", I started sending ones back saying Sent from my iRon, as it is the only i appliance I own!
And of course, we all know that pressing is a huge part of good sewing, so you will find me at the ironing board as often as at the sewing machine!
So, methinks a new photo is in order!

Purple flowers - and bears!

I have been teaching a beginner patchwork class over the past month. What an interesting class! Such amazing, diverse people, who have made different and gorgeous quilts for friends and family.
The project was a baby sized quilt, 30 x 40 inches, made from 6x8 blocks of a design called Puss in the Corner. It's a good one to learn on, as it is simple enough to tackle but complex enough to challenge. I like my students to learn as much as possible from their classes, so always go for something not absolutely basic as a starting point.
As it was a patchwork class, the quilts went off to Sue B for long arm quilting between class 3 and 4. In class 4, we bound them, but it is quite time consuming and so they all went home with their mitred corners pinned, to slip stitch the binding. And yesterday, Steve's quilt came to visit me, all finished, before it gets taken to the US as a gift to a friend today. So, I got out the camera to immortalise it!

As Steve doesn't have any babies to make quilts for, we decided to increase the size of the pieces by an inch, and make a lap size quilt, so it is 42x54. I thought he would choose all batiks but nooo, he fell hard for the purple flowers and came up with this surprising combination!
It's interesting how a photo affects a quilt - the lilac floral "reads as a plain" in the photo, so the white background forget me not fabric seems to form the background of a strange figure 8 formation made by the other three fabrics. If you can refocus on it, you can see the pairs of squares meeting (kissing) corner to corner, each hugged by a floral, and arranged back to back. Perhaps we should rename the pattern Hugs and Kisses!
When it came to choosing a quilting pattern, Steve went with Bears in Woods. I rather boringly suggested petunias, but the bears and fir trees won.

Maybe you can make out the cool quilting pattern?
I love this quilt for its mad, quirky combination of fabrics and patterns that really works in the end. It just goes to show there are no hard and fast rules as far as quilts are concerned!
Bon Voyage Steve and Tommy,  we miss you already!

Monday, November 5, 2012


The most fabulous Karen at didyoumakethat? has been leading an Apronalong (sounds like a town in Australia, or Fourecks if you are a Pratchett fan) and there must be some Apron shaped international vibe going on because way down here on the opposite side of the world, I've been teaching apron making by student request!
So, here I am modelling my two most recent aprons. It was at my first Monday of the month stitching group, and in the interests of full disclosure, I didn't bake the biscuits, and I didn't eat all the cake! But that is me licking the passion fruit icing off the plate. There are no depths to which I will not stoop for things passion fruit flavoured.
 Cathy's deeelicious cookies. My delicious apron, complete with giant red ric rac and hot pink bias trim. Pocket also has flower buttons.
 My lovely friend Karen (another lovely Karen!!) took the photos.
 The diabetic coma apron of sweetness. SO impractical mind you, being this light and plain!
 Mmmm, passion fruit icing. Who needs cake when there is frosting!
Goodness knows! I look like one of those cats that sit on the counters of Asian restaurants. Bump me and my left fist will start bobbing up and down!
For the record, I am wearing my favourite skirt. It is the top of a pair of black jeans that died, turned into a yoke, with layers of embroidered and figured denim added. It has cute decals on it that we cannot see on account of the darn aprons!
Thanks Karen in Walthamstowe for spreading the Apron love internationally :)