Monday, 28 July 2014

a sunny garden update

I promised a daytime update from the balcony in the previous gardening post, so here is a little report from the sunny side of our modestly sized outdoor space.

It's not been too difficult to take sunny pictures at all - it's been super hot ever since! It's great to see the plants enjoying the weather, sometimes in the company of laundry put out to air dry. But when the heat gets too much, the watering can is their best friend.

There are a few things that have started flowering which makes me very happy, even if the flowers are just little specks of white almost lost in a lot of greenery. The umbrellas of the coriander are so dainty, and it's great to see lots of flowers under the canopy of the bush beans.

In fact, the beans caught up so well that two days after feeding them with a little liquid organic fertilizer they started turning their blossoms into tiny pods. It looks like we are going to have something edible there soon!

The chards on the other hand are not doing so well... They are trying to catch up, having been transplanted into big pots from their eggbox seedbeds, but something is eating them...

After taking the photo, I have nipped off all the suffering leaves in hope that the new ones in the middle might do better. I have to admit I'm a tad pessimistic about them providing smoothie-worthy greens any time soon, but let's see what happens.

According to the forecast the summer weather is continuing, which is great news. However, the often promised spots of thunder and rain seems to avoid us. It'd be nice if the looming, rumbling clouds rained down to relieve the heatwave, but so far they've just been teasing us both - people and thirsty plants.

The green and white life on the balcony will soon be joined by pretty yellow petals - the sedum is to open its starlets any day now, and the sunflowers are looking to be next.

Linking up to Manneskjur's garden party.

Friday, 25 July 2014

flea friday: cottage rose Pyrex and a jadeite bowl

I had something else lined up for this Friday's post, but because a thrifting trip a couple of days ago yielded some excellent finds, I've been itching to show them off first.

It feels like I haven't added to our Pyrex collection for quite a while - not counting the little French bowl. Good Pyrex dishes don't seem to turn up on the shelves in such numbers and as often as they used to.

To my surprise this very handsome tall Pyrex casserole in superb condition was right there for me to have. Out of all the rose patterns this one is the one I like most, because of the colours. And as soon as I saw it, I was thinking beef bourguignon! Not now in this heatwave though, but in the winter of course...

I'd love to find a lid for it next.

There was also something placed inside the big casserole dish, made of pale green milk glass, that made me first frown then smile in disbelief. I thought to myself: could it be? and turned the bowl to see the bottom. And yes it was! A Fire King jadeite bowl!

I've been reading about Fire King finds and seeing jadeite bowls on American blogs for a long time now, and I can't tell you how many times I commented that Fire King seems so rare in this part of the world, and I've never come across any... Well, now I can say that despite it being seemingly rare here I caught one too, and it only cost a single euro to boot.

There's something very elegant and beautiful about it - I can see how it became so lusted after over the pond. It really looks stunning on a sunny day with strawberries in it, I'll need to photograph it sometime.

I'm linking up with:
Sir Thrift a Lot
A Living Space
We Call It Junking
Thrifter Maker Fixer Farm

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Hungarian toasted pasta soup

This recipe is straight from the cuisine of the nomadic Hungarian puszta, and also from my dad's down-to-earth cookery repertoire.

It was one of our family's weekend lunch staple - in Hungary lunch is the main meal with two courses, usually a soup followed by a meat dish. The toasted pasta soup or lebbencs is one of those peasant dishes that is easy to knock together, requires simple ingredients while being tasty and filling. This soup is also fully vegan and quite skinny being cooked with a few vegetables, a little oil, some pasta and Hungary's red gold - paprika.

I decided to cook it on a hot summer's day - so the half an hour cooking time was a big bonus. I made it out of what I found around the larder and in the back of the fridge, which included stem of broccoli (I saved the florets for our dinner), but you can of course replace that with kohlrabi, swede or if you like the idea of using up throw-away but otherwise perfectly good parts of veg then even cauliflower stem.

Fancy a spoonful?

Hungarian Toasted Pasta Soup
the way I make it, based on my dad's Lebbencs recipe

4 sheets of dry lasagne pasta, broken into pieces
a glug of oil (2-3 tablespoons)
a smallish onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of sweet red paprika powder
1 heaped tablespoon of white flour
2 stock cubes
1.5 - 2 litres of water
3 tablespoons of tomato passata or half a glass of tomato juice
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
5-6 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
a small swede or a head of kohlrabi (or a broccoli stem), peeled and cubed
black pepper
optional: hot chilly flakes to taste

1.) Break the sheets of dry lasagne into largish (about inch/two inch-sized) pieces. Don't have to worry about the shape or the exact size of the pieces at all.
2.) Heat a generous glug of oil in a soup pot and toast the dry pasta pieces for a few minutes until they get a little colour - some may even start blistering up around the edges. Not all the pasta has to become brown.
3.) Add the finely chopped onion and fry together stirring for a minute or so.
4.) Have some water ready at hand at this point, then add in the flour and then the paprika and toast for a few seconds stirring making sure the paprika is not burning. Dilute with a glass or two of water and stir to avoid lumps.
5.) Now add in the rest of the water and the stock cubes, passata or tomato juice and all your chopped vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and with some hot chilli flakes if you like. Add in a little more water if it looks like it needs it. This soup is meant to have a thickish, cloudy consistency so don't add too much water, but make sure it has enough to cook the veg and pasta without catching.
6.) Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about half an hour or until all the vegetables are tender. The pasta will be floppy and well cooked by the time the soup is done - that's what it's meant to be like!

Enjoy! The brave can add more hot sauce, or more tomato juice when serving - just like my granddad used to do.

PS. The little embroidered linens in my picture are very close to my heart, and of course they are from Hungary. The one under the bowl of soup is my dad's auntie's handwork, the little one more visible in the corner was thrifted for me by my lovely sister. The motifs are typical to the style of embroidery in the region where I'm from.

Sharing this recipe via the Sweet and Savoury Sunday link-up.

Monday, 21 July 2014

mama dress untangled - and wrapped up

Not every project can and will go the way you think it will, not every time. As a 'sewist' and a crafter, and an average human being, I know this.

This mama dress was one of those projects, that no matter what, it just seemed destined not to work out.

It had an ominous looking start to begin with, that pattern was crazy. I just didn't want to see it that way. Even my generally supportive boyfriend seemed to be questioning my sanity upon my determination about unscrambling that pattern from the magazine...I know some of you were quite surprised at me too.

So what went wrong?

Well, as soon as I could try it on with shoulders and sides stitched together, it was very obvious that this dress was never going to make me a happy person. I still went on hoping that eventually it will, changing the pattern a bit, leaving off the collar, then the sleeves...but it just didn't want to happen.

Despite how it looks on the hanger, it's billowy and sack-like and makes my body appear like a fat ghost. Now when I look again at the magazine's version of it, even the other model seems to know this. She is obviously cracking up about the pregnant model's barrel-in-a-sack look... I just didn't wan't to see it before.

I've made this dress up in the wrong colour. What was I thinking when I thrifted a white Ikea duvet cover for it - white makes everything seem bigger, be it tiny rooms or no-more-waist pregnant torsos.

This dress just mercilessly swamps me and makes me feel 30 years older. The accessory that would complete it would be a tie-under-the-chin headscarf, and I could go around town looking like this singing Babooshka...

So with a shrug of the shoulders, I wrapped up the project unfinished and put it into the bin. I feel so much better now!

I'm already doing other projects that are promising a good result... and in the meantime, if I found myself yearning for a sack-like swampy dress, I'm sure the junk store round the corner would have at least one for me...

Friday, 18 July 2014

flea friday: mr & mrs eggcup

Maybe about a year ago I saw dashing Mister Pepper and dainty Mrs Salt Eggcup somewhere online, quite possibly on an American thrifty blog. I remember having a heart-throb moment then too - just like when I spotted them in my local Red Cross store the other day.  I love the quirky idea of them but most of all the style of illustration and the colours.

They are from the 1960s, they were made in Japan and all I had to part with for my pair was seventy-five cents. I didn't realize before getting to the checkout but there was a 50% off sale on all kitchenware and bric-a-brac that day. Half off is always double the thrifty luck!

I'm sharing my bargainous finds on my favourite link-ups:

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

quilt in progress # 4

Having completed sewing together all of the patchwork I can now show you what the quilt is going to look like. Pinning it on the wall was the best way to show it off. The more I looked at it the more convinced I was about calling it a kaleidoscope quilt!

After a little more gazing, I thought it was best to get on with the next step of sewing. Namely, to cut the backing, sandwich the wadding, and then roll up the sleeves for stitching in the ditch! 

For the wadding I chose a 100g thickness - not too thick, not too thin. For the backing I thrifted an Ikea hippo fabric (child's duvet cover). It had a small stained area, and it was a little short for the quilt's size, so I cut it up to exclude the stains and extend the length with a strip at each end. Some of the hippos ended up with two butts and too many legs, but it still works.

After giving some thought to how the quilting should be done, I got out my big box of pins and got pinning. If you can get specific pins with stoppers meant for quilting, I recommend you to do so - you won't end up with cat scratches all over your arms like I did.

Mind you, during my three years of fashion university I developed a detached immunity to pinpricks and a sixth sense for loose or dropping pins. It's highly advisable not to have any cups of teas or coffees knocking around at this pins-in sewing stage - pins can end up everywhere when you are busy, including your drink, your slippers or even your bra. I'm talking from experience!

The idea about this many pins is that you catch all three layers of your quilt together - patchwork, wadding and backing - and pin down both sides along your planned sewing path. 

My plan for a sewing path was decided over a few days, by doodling ideas onto an envelope: the one I went with is the little scribble in the lower right corner.

I sewed with plain white cotton at the front, but for the bobbin I picked a thread in a very pale yellow hue. It blended better with both white and lime green bits.

I found stitching in the ditch quite tricky and demanding. I tried machining in short controlled bursts, tried slow and steady, tried holding and guiding the fabric in different ways - I still ended up with more of a stitch in-and-out of the ditch look instead of a very pro one. 

It went a little easier near the end, but I don't feel like I figured it out at all. The result looks good enough though, the padding puffs out nicely as it's meant to, so i'm not disappointed in my effort.

I have one more post about the progress of my first-ever quilt, about attaching the binding - and then it's ready!

Sharing on Michelle's link party Let's Make Baby Quilts.

Monday, 14 July 2014

why do i make & write - my process, and a blog hop

With the blog turning two years old I've been reading old posts, mulling over why and how this little space started out... So when Bee invited me to take part in a blog hop to share about my creative process, it felt very timely.

Bee writes her blog The Linen Cloud from Northern Ireland - I started following her to have a little bit of countryside living in my small towner life. The title of her blog makes me think of fresh laundry billowing in the wind like big clouds of linen. Pay her a visit and take a virtual stroll in her beautiful garden!

As part of the blog hop, I was asked to answer some questions about how I create. I hope you'll enjoy a little insight into how my creative cogs work.

What am I working on?

Right now I'm working through my year's to-do list, while counting down the weeks to the birth of our first baby. I'm halfway through sewing a maternity dress and next on the list is a hanging organizer for baby's tiny wardrobe. I'm leaning towards buying that one instead of making my own from scratch - the list is long and time feels short before it's all about breastfeeding and nappy laundering...

How does my work differ from others' in its genre?

Idle Needle is mainly a personal blog with a crafting, thrifting and home-making interest. A sort-of flexible journal of what I'm into and what I do, and it's my little corner of the world wide web.

In terms of what I make with my hands - I do so many different 'genres' of crafting and making, maybe it all differs from others' because I haven't found my focus yet. I'm still trying to feel out what I should do with the creative itch in me, searching for my true direction. Everything I make is part of that search.

Why do I create what I do?

My creative outlets - taking pictures, writing, sewing - have been with me on and off since childhood. There are drawings, diaries, out-of-focus black&white photos, fancy dress costumes and the like from when I was a kid; and if I didn't throw most of it out in a pith of teenage angst there'd be journals and poems and more drawings from my teen years. And some DIY goth outfits too, lest I forget...

I write my blog to follow my various interests. For one, I write about junk-store finds - their beauty or quirkiness, their researchable or imagined history excites me. It's nice to have a place to share the passion with others.

I also feel the need to record my crafty endeavors. Keeping a blog motivates me to organize and simplify my ideas to get to the finished stage. I used to be terrible with finishing projects, always procrastinating and over-complicating. The blog really helps me to rise beyond that tendency.

How does my creative process work?

My creative process is like a crazy scribble that buzzes all the time and needs calming, sorting and straightening out into a focal point. I guess it could be called a process of simplifying chaos. It's true of both my craft projects and my blog writing.

I write drafts of blog posts as I think - rambling, with too many words and too many tangents. I press save, then edit everything down later. Sometimes I ask my boyfriend to proofread - he's a huge help by being honest but kind.

For my making I get inspired by childhood memories, art, thrifty resourcefulness and what I see around myself... Ideas spring up in my mind every day, stemming and sprouting new ones, better ones, distracting ones, filling various notebooks, lists and scraps of paper. The blog being a good discipliner, it forces me to think in a short time bracket and buckle down to making.

Considering the big picture, I'd love to commit to the one craft and really apply myself to that!

So that's about me - let's pass the baton on to two creative ladies who make and also blog.

Evdokia lives in beautiful Greece and posts about her craft and inspirations on her blog have a ko(o)kie. She makes gorgeous little brooches of ceramics and wood, but her latest creation was in textile -a bunny with dangly ears and legs. Her yard is always full of kittens and she has good movie recommendations!

Lisa from Big Little gives a new lease of life to thrifted wool blankets as pixie hats, coats and booties - recently she had a new boot design that made me swoon. Her embroidery is delicate and nature inspired. She lives in a many-tiered tree house in the rain forest in New Zealand.

Do hop over to say hello to both girls and spy what they are up to! In a week's time it's Evdokia's and Lisa's turn to share about their creative process.

Thanks again Bee for inviting me to blog hop - it's been fun!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Idle Needle is two today

Today is the marked day when two years ago this blog of mine started out.

To celebrate my readers, the new friendships and the nice conversations we've been having through this space, I'm going to have a little giveaway soon - it's to follow in a few weeks!

Until then, I will put the kettle on for a celebratory cuppa and say a little toast to you all who've been reading and following and commenting: THANK YOU, it's so very nice to have you along!

Happy anniversary Idle Needle!

Friday, 11 July 2014

flea friday: surprise Soviet hand-me-downs

Sometimes it happens that you don't even need to go out there to roam among shelves filled with other people's junk, looking for treasure - the finds come to you, falling into your lap instead.

It happened to be that a friend of a friend's friend had a bagful of baby stuff to hand down, and I was the lucky recipient of the free goodies.

There were some nice outfits in there from current brands, but what I'd really want to show you here on the blog is the retro Russian prints that I pulled out of the same bag.

I'm not sure how old these hand-me-down items are, but the prints are definitely have a nostalgic Soviet kiddy kitsch look.

There was a cute newborn's jacket to be found with some critters in rainboots and umbrellas, as well as a little romper, and that pair of pants above complete with original shop labels.

And I was delighted about these muslins too! Baby shall find a lot of comfort in these as they are big enough for swaddling.

I picked up the yellow birdy child's coat hangers from the Red Cross shop when I went to drop off the rest off the freebies bag with the stuff we didn't want to keep. Donating is just as nice as getting things for free or for cheap!

Sharing my Soviet hand-me-downs on my favourite thrifty link-ups over at:
We Call It Junking
Sir Thrift a Lot
Me and My Shadow
A Living Space
Thrifter Maker Fixer Farm

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

mini bunting for a penpal

It fills me with so much good feeling when I find a quick useful way to use up the bits and bobs around the craft table and the home that otherwise would need to go to the bin. It's painful to throw out pieces of nice vintage fabric or good bits of paper - even if in the name of clutter- and hoarding-prevention...

So when I found out that a penpal was also having a baby, I thought I'd make her a little bunting out of the surplus charms and off-cuts of the vintage fabrics that were left over from my baby quilt. I made the little pennants double sided, so she can hang the bunting up not just on the wall but in a window or in a door frame too.

It will be sent on its way soon - in an envelope fashioned from the nice thick pages of a graphic design magazine we didn't want knocking around anymore...

Snail mailing and crafty upcycling - a very happy combination in my book!

Monday, 7 July 2014

gardening under the midnight sun - an update from the balcony

I've been wanting to update on the balcony garden for a while now, because May has been a long time ago and we've been just waiting for the good weather to start and for our little seedlings to respond with growth.

This summer's been quite cold so far with a couple of sudden hot days thrown in, when temperatures rose into more summery heights. This Sunday - that's just finished on me with a headache from the heat and high pressure in the skies - was one of those sudden hot days. 

About an hour ago (it's a bit past midnight now) I've been standing barefooted on the cool concrete of the balcony to get away from the day's heat stuck inside the apartment. I watered the plants while trying to cool down myself - and wondered how strange it feels still, after two years of living here, not to have a dark night until about sometime in mid-August. 

The summer sun just dips below the horizon and hovers there for a couple of hours, glow visible, then rises again. Do the plants know that it's nighttime? How do they know? I barely know it, with all this light around. While testing if it was enough light for my flashless cameraphone, I decided to accompany my garden update with nighttime pictures of what we've managed to grow so far under this rather Nordic summer climate.

In the May post I had an exciting bunch of heirloom tomatoes starting life in little peat pots, soaking up as much springtime sun on the kitchen bench as was possible. They did so well, right up until we moved them outside mid-May. In a matter of a few days they went from perky little seedlings to pale shadows of themselves, lying down, fallen over. I think some kind of a microscopic beast found them and consumed them faster than we could think of how to help. So sadly, no tomatoes this year...

We planted out the roots of shop-bought living salads and herbs that we got for our lunches and dinners, like we did last year. The lettuces and parsley as expected have a good come-back rate, and this year the coriander does too.

Radish was sown into a big black pot this time, learning from last year's see-through pot experience - but still no radish bulbs produced! Just the lush green forest of huge radish leaves. Does the soil has the wrong nutrition content? Was I late with the sowing? No idea. But it looks like I'm going to make some radish leaf pesto again...

After last year's good experience with french green beans and chards, we sowed them again. They are doing okay, although still small and stunted by weeks of barely there 15 degrees and the cold rains. There is still a chance that they'll catch up and will make some dinner-worthy produce for us. 

I also planted up a big pot with sunflower seeds. They look to be affected by the weather too, but they should get to bloom still. We'll see.

In a month or so - or as soon as some real growth and blossoming is happening - I'm hoping to be back with sunny daytime pictures, showing off plants that look like it is summer here too. Fingers (and toes) crossed...!

Linking up to a really nice garden-themed link party over at Manneskjur.

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