Scrappy Skirt

I love saving scraps. I pretty much keep any scrap of material that is bigger than a $5 note, maybe a 20c piece if it’s a real favourite ;-). At the moment these scraps are all piled into a large plastic storage tub, I seem to spend countless hours digging through it finding pieces that might be useful. It could really do with a big overhaul, hmmm perhaps Pinterest may help me?

I love using scraps even more than saving them. I love using them for several reasons. It means that I can make something now! I am terribly impatient and if I decide I want something done, I want it done now! NOT after I have had a chance to get to the shops. It also means I can avoid a trip out. I used to love spending hours perusing fabric shops. This was before children. Perusing isle upon isle of fabric bolts with with three children in tow is not really what you would call relaxing! It tends to turn into more of an incredibly stressful, rushed venture resulting in tears all round and a bag full of completely random useless fabric. Having a good stash of scraps also saves money, you know I like that 😉

Last night I decided that my girls needed some new ‘out’ clothes. We seem to have ‘home’ clothes coming out our ears. So I rummaged through the scraps tub and found some useful contenters.

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Luckily these were useful sized scraps so I played around and decided I had enough for a skirt. A very simple elastic top A line skirt, nice and quick. Using some pajama shorts from the washing basket to get an idea for size I cut a basic pattern and had it sewn in no time and I love it! Bonus, I only had to unpick a couple of seams

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I had a plan…and then I got sucked in.

So I think I have cracked it. I am an organiser. I am not organised, I am an organisER. I write lists upon lists, sometimes I stick to them. I meal plan only to feel like something completely different on the day. As I sit here and write I am printing out a planner for next year in a bid to help me get on top of birthdays and other gifts so that I can avoid the last minute, ‘arrrr I need a present for tomorrow!!’ We shall see how long it will last into the new year.

So keeping with this theme, I have been furiously writing lists for Christmas for some time now. Gifts, shops, websites, meals, recipes, to do lists for each day and of course, the shopping list.

Yesterday I had a great plan. After the children went to bed I would go to the supermarket and do ‘the big shop’ and I would be set. My husband got home from work early, great I thought, I can finally get something done. All I had done all day was follow the toddler around with a sponge washing artwork off walls and starting (not finishing!) each thing on my Monday list. It was 4.25 and he suggests that why don’t I go to the supermarket now and then I could relax In the evening. Yes. Great idea. So I rushed out the door, list and bags in hand with ‘just be quick’ (50 minutes until tea time!) ringing in the back of my head. Ha!

So I am happily filling my trolley, quite enjoying the fact that no children were talking to me, crossing things of my list. Then I check the time, ok stress levels increasing now. Our usually peaceful country Supermarket was brimming with crazed shoppers and over flowing trolleys because all of a sudden, the Supermarket is going to be closed for one whole day and no one has any food in the house that they could possibly eat on Christmas Day. I am one of them of course…and you have seen my freezer…we have plenty of food in the house! Yep stress levels on the rise.

By the time I reaching the baking isle my calm stroll around the supermarket has morphed into a mad Christmas rush. I get to the check out with 10 minutes to spare, great! And then I realise that it is the day BEFORE payday. Yep, really organised! Stress levels rapidly increasing. So I know we have plenty of money, the only problem is that is it divided between three accounts, (I am not quite sure why) and I don’t have a clue how much is in each account. Thank goodness the same thing happened to the lady in front of me so I didn’t feel quite so embarrassed when third time lucky my card was not declined.

So never again do I rush out the door three days before Christmas to go to the Supermarket 50 minutes before tea time. Sure we all want nice food for Christmas, but all I really needed was a few extra veggies and some chocolate bars to mix into cheesecakes. Why did I do it? I got sucked in! So if you feel the need to do ‘the big shop’ today or tomorrow, can I suggest very very early in the morning or very very late at night. Probably steer clear of the 5pm rush 😉

Muuuuummmm! I’m hungry!

Children can be hungry little beggars! As in hungry now…right now! Not in half an hour when you have had time to prepare something. Now!

If you have read my freezer post here
https://mummaplusthree.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/the-world-inside-my-freezer/
you would know that having the freezer well stocked is how I try and combat this dilemma. So I have compiled a list of snacks and meals that can be frozen in child sized portions, just especially for these starving moments 🙂

Snacks first.
Freeze all these things flat in ziplock bags so they don’t stick together.
Pikelets
Banana Bread
Mini muffins
Cheese and veg muffins
Cakes and slices

Fruit or Milo icy poles (use a small container and poke in a wooden stick when partially frozen if you don’t have moulds)

Stewed puréed fruit frozen in small containers or reusable pouches.

Balls. We love balls! These Apricot Balls are the most popular thing ever in this house and I love making them because these ones are healthy, not full of condensed milk.

https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/better-homes-gardens/tv-and-video/video/watch/17973050/fast-ed-apricot-coconut-balls-ep-24-12-07-2013/

Any dried fruit could be used in this recipe and google will find you days worth of different recipes.

Another favorite is these Banana Oat Balls. Any food processor will work for these 🙂

http://www.recipecommunity.com.au/desserts-sweets-recipes/healthy-raw-cookie-dough-bites-back-school/137912

Lunch and Dinners
The easiest way to build up supply of frozen kiddy dinners is to freeze a portion or two each time you have extra when dishing up a meal. Freeze it straight away though, don’t wait until you have finished eating because those leftovers have a miraculous way of disappearing!

Pasta
Most pasta dishes freeze quite well, some may go a tad mushy when defrosted but my kids don’t seem to mind if this happens. You can also freeze plain cooked pasta and defrost and heat by covering with boiling water for a few minutes. I know it only takes 10 minutes to boil pasta but this is handy when you only want a few pieces. Small portions of Lasagne can be wrapped in glad wrap once cool and frozen, these do take a bit longer to defrost though.

Rice
Fired rice freezes well and defrosts nice and quickly without mushing too much. Risotto and other rice dishes seem to go fairly sticky but it is worth experimenting to see what works for you.

Mini Cheese and Spinach Pies (don’t ask me for a recipe, I can not ever get them right but my Mother dear always makes a batch for my freezer when she visits and the girls love them!)

Soup in small containers or reusable pouches.

Tuna Patties of course! If you haven’t seen the recipe for these on my Facebook page you really need to find it and try them 🙂

Cooked sausages in ziplock bags.

Poached shredded chicken. This is great to put in rolls and sandwiches, mix through a salad, pasta or for a kids tasting plate. The Organised Housewife has a great recipe here

http://theorganisedhousewife.com.au/lunchbox-ideas/homemade-shredded-chicken-breast-for-school-lunchboxes/

Sandwiches. Yes sandwiches!
I only recently discovered this, but sandwiches freeze very well! Use fresh bread and fillings that will not go soggy on defrosting. So far I have tried
Cheese and Vegimite
Cheese and chicken
Cheese and ham
And they have all worked very well. Just be sure to wrap well with Glad Wrap so they are air tight. They only take a few hours to defrost, perfect for lunch boxes.

Mostly it’s down to trial and error, if you are not sure if something will freeze well, just freeze one piece overnight and then see how it defrosts.

Also a food safety note on freezing food. Wherever possible food should be defrosted in the fridge or quickly in the microwave, not left out at room temperature. Once something is defrosted it should be consumed straight away and not reheated again or refrozen. However, if something is frozen raw, defrosted and then cooked it can be frozen again.

So there you go, I hope you now have some new ideas, or some inspiration to add to or create a stash of kiddy quick fixes in your freezer.

Jam Making Tutorial

Jam is a lovely handmade gift to give as a Thank You, it is also great to make a big batch when fruits are cheap as it will last ages in the cupboard if bottled correctly. When I say ages, I mean years!  I would say that it should be right for 12 months for sure but I recently found some I the back of the cupboard from !2011! and it was still perfectly fine with no signs of mould or discoloration. Having said that I would always store it in the fridge once opened. For this tutorial I have made Blackberry Jam but the method is pretty much at the same for any Jam. I always check a recipe that has similar fruit to what I am using as some require lemon juice or water to be added. Most recipes call for equal parts sugar and fruit. I only ever use 75% sugar to fruit (because this is what my Mum does), this is sweet enough for sure. So for 1kg of fruit I use 750g sugar.

So here goes 🙂

Before you do anything else, put a small plate in the freezer.

First you need to prepare your jars. You can use any glass jars with metal lids that seal well (avoid lids that have any rust or dents). Wash your jars in hot soapy water, rinse and place on a tray.  Also wash, rinse and place on the tray a jug that you will use to pour the jam.  Place the tray in the oven at 100*c to sterilize everything.

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Measure your ingredients. You can measure the fruit straight in to pan but the sugar needs to be separate.

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Put the fruit in the pan on medium-high heat until it is simmering and cook the fruit down until it  is all softened.  I use a spoon to squash the fruit a little so that the jam doesn’t have big lumps of fruit, that’s personal choice 🙂    Remove from the heat and add the sugar.  Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, it will feel gritty until it is dissolved fully.

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Once all the sugar has dissolved return to the heat and bring to the boil.  You want a slow boil, not too rapid.  Stir regularly for as long as your recipe states.  This 500g batch of Blackberry needed 9 minutes.  1kg of mixed berry usually takes around 15 minutes but all fruits are different so find a recipe to use as a guide.

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After the suggested cooking time you need to test the Jam to see if it has set.  This is why you put a plate in the freezer earlier 🙂  Grab the plate, put a small blob of jam on it and put it back in the freezer.  After a couple of minutes take out the plate and use your finger to push the jam gently from one side of the blob towards the centre.  Watch the jam just in front of your finger, you want to see the jam wrinkle instead of just push away smoothly.  If you can see a wrinkle then your jam has set, if not put another blob of jam on the other side of the plate and repeat.  Sometimes it just does not seem to wrinkle at all, I usually give it a few more goes and then give up and bottle anyway, the jam always does seem to set once cooled, just one of those mystery things I guess…

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When your jam has reached its set point you are ready to bottle it.  You need to work quickly now, you want to pour hot jam into hot jars and then seal with hot lids.  Either pour your jam into the jug you have sterilized or dip the jug into the pot if you are making a bigger quantity, remember everything is very hot, wear oven mitts!!  If you dip the jug in hold a plate under it to catch the drips.  Fill the jars to about 1cm from the top and tighten lids quickly.  When all jars are filled check all lids are on tightly and leave to cool.  As they cool the lids will vacume on, you might hear them pop down and you will notice they concave.  That’s it, you have made Jam 🙂

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Any leftover jam can be stored in an unsterilized jar or container in the fridge, it wont last long because you will eat it!!

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So there you go, next time you come across some cheap berries give it a go, there is nothing better than home made jam.

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Making in the kitchen

There are many ways you can save on your grocery bill.  I go through fits and bursts of meal planning, only buying what we need for that week or buying in bulk, all of which can save you money if done with some forward planning.

The thing that saves us most at the supermarket though, is cooking from scratch. This means different things for different people, for me it simply means buying whole ingredients instead of packets. This works for me because I enjoy cooking and I was brought up this way so I have a general idea about how to cook most things, and the confidence to have a go. Don’t get me wrong, you will find packets of things in my pantry and fridge, some things just aren’t the same when they are home made. Take Tomato Sauce for example. I LOVE bought Tomato Sauce and would choose it over home made any day!

Three things that I make religiously that save us big money are Bread, Butter and Yoghurt. This works for me as I am home a lot, I enjoy it and…I’m a tight ass, as you would know from previous posts ;-). So here are my tips in case you feel inspired to have a go.

Bread
For this you need a bread machine, well unless you feel like kneading by hand…not my idea of fun! It does not need to be anything fancy but something with a timer is very useful if you tend to be like me and always realise that you are out of bread at 10pm. A machine with a timer means that you can set it to come on in the wee hours of the morning so you can have toast for breakfast without getting up in the middle of the night to put the bread on, or take it out.

I usually have white, wholemeal and multigrain bread mix so we don’t get sick of the one type. You can mix any combinations of flours and also add extra seeds and grains as you like. It will take you a few goes to get the perfect loaf and every brand of bread mix will require a slightly different recipe but I find that 330ml water, a glug (probably a tablespoon) olive oil, 3cups bread mix and 2tsp yeast is perfect. I use Lauke Bread Mix and I have worked out that a loaf costs around $1.30 🙂

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Butter
I make this in my Thermomix. Before I had it I used my food processor, that worked but wasn’t quite as easy so I didn’t make it very often. I am lucky enough to be able to buy 2L of cream locally for $7. This makes around 1.4kg of butter and around 600ml of buttermilk, this changes with the cream depending on the amount of butterfat in it.

Once I have made butter I mix in a good pinch of salt and 2 glugs of Rice Bran Oil (which has no flavor). This makes nice spreadable butter (when kept in the cupboard). Homemade butter will go rancid much faster than store bought so I freeze into either 250g blocks for baking or small containers for everyday use. I also freeze the buttermilk in 100/200ml containers or ice cubes so it can be used easily in baking.

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Yoghurt
I have tried making yoghurt using just milk and a starter culture and sometimes it works but I just couldn’t get it to work every time (some people can) so I use EasiYo. It is not quite as cheap as using milk and culture but still much better than buying ready made. I stock up when the sachets are in special, they are often $3 each or less and this makes 1L of yoghurt. I always buy the natural mix and we add jam or lemon butter when we eat it or I mix in 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1tsp of vanilla paste at the beginning.

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I am by no means an expert at any of this but if you have a go and something doesn’t work for you let me know, I am happy to trouble shoot with you 🙂

 

Shush little baby

Shush little baby, if only it was that easy!

This post was requested by my wonderful sister how has just recently become the Mumma to two amazingly perfect little bubbas.  I would like to point out before I start that what follows is purely my option based on my experience and conversations with friends.

I have been lucky enough to have three relatively good sleepers, touch wood that continues.  The first was fabulous from day dot, sleeping for hours at a time during the day and sleeping through the night from 3months.  She was and still is the best sleeper of them all.  The middle child was fabulous until 4months (and slept through at 4weeks!!) and then she decided to become a little more difficult and number three is the best at putting herself to sleep but is only occasionally sleeping through at 4months old.  She has had some terrible days lately and has taken up cat napping, grr.

I really think whether or not a baby is a good sleeper is mostly to do with the individual child as well as the mothers stress levels both during pregnancy and after birth.  I am often told that I am a relaxed Mum but I am really quite a Drill Sergent when it comes to child/baby sleep, sometimes I get quite stressed about it all and have to just remember that it is only really an issue for a few years while they are tiny.

However, these are some of the things that we have done, maybe they have made a difference?

Routine.  This is terribly important in all aspects of a child’s life.  It is reassuring and helps them feel secure and safe.  It also seems to really help with the whole bedtime thing.  For as long as I can remember we have had a 5pm tea time, 6pm bath and 6.30 bedtime for the littlies.  This changes here and there and varies as new family members come along but generally that’s it and I think it helps.  Josie our littlest one has been the best evening sleeper (why do babies hate evenings?!) of the lot and I’m sure this is mostly because she had had this routine since birth.

White noise.  How many times have you just got the baby to sleep only for the phone to ring or someone to knock unbelievably loud at the door (like our Postie does!) I discovered white noise when our first baby was a few weeks old, I spent about $60 on a CD after some desperate googling.  Radio static does the same thing and is much cheaper 😉 It’s also reassuring and calming for small babies, can you imagine how noisy it is before they are born?

Tired signs. I had never heard of this before our first Child Health led Mothers Group meeting.  If you can read your babies tired signs it can save your sanity.  Generally, loosing eye contact, flapping arms and legs around and searching for something to suck on seem to be what I notice in our bubs, but they are all different and there many many other signs (google!).  If you get to the crying stage you may have almost missed it, and then you’re in for…

Over tired baby.  It can be remarkably hard to pick an over tired baby.  They can almost seem not tired at all.  They will look wide awake, not sleepy at all, but don’t be fooled! They may be restless, seem uncomfortable, be generally grumpy and not want to be put down…or picked up.  Or, they may be quite happy…until you try to get them to sleep. Vigorous rocking combined with patting, bouncing and feeding for at least half an hour seems to work. Fun! An over tired baby will also have trouble re-settling when they stir so may only sleep for a short burst.

Sleep makes sleep.  I have very much noticed this with Josie recently.  If her first nap of the day is put off too long she will only have a short nap and then be grumpy and not sleep well for the rest of the day.

Beds are for sleeping.  As I said earlier, Drill Sergent here.  My girls know what their beds are for and generally go to sleep well when they get there.  Although they haven’t been great at sleeping in the car or out and about, but hey, you can’t win them all!

Thinking about it there are many many other things that seem to affect sleep in babies and children.  I think overall, being consistent, being aware of your babies cues and needs and looking for patterns is the best thing you can do to help your baby’s sleep.

So at the end of the day, when baby won’t go to sleep, try and remember it isn’t for ever and you are doing a fabulous job!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It may have taken me a week of 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there, and a few days of ‘I’m really not in the mood to sew’ but my girls christmas stockings are done!

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I saw a picture of some beautifully quilted stockings in bright non traditional colours and loved them, bonus that I could use up some of my scrappy bits 🙂

Any quilters out there please don’t look to closely, actually just have a very quick glance and then look away! This is my first attempt at quilting and I have to say I really enjoyed it! I had avoided it in the past because I imagined it to be impossibly fiddly and time consuming. I was wrong. They were enjoyably fiddly and really not that time consuming at all. I experimented with the different styles, I love the spiral. I found a great tutorial for it here

http://sewlux.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/scrappy-spiral-stocking-tutorial.html

and then used a similar method but without the paper for the other stockings (I am sure there is a name for this?).

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I completely winged it with the quilting on the backing.

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So I think I’m hooked and already busting to check out Pinterest for my next quilting project! Maybe something that can double as a Christmas pressie??   Stay tuned 🙂

Now let’s be honest…

I was at playgroup with the girlies yesterday when I got talking to a lovely Mumma friend about various blogs and the perception of the ‘Super Mumma’.  She pointed out that you really need to keep it in perceptive and remember that the things that people write about in a blog, Facebook post or mention in passing are just a snippet of their day.  It is easy to make it look like you’ve got it all together when you are only sharing a few minutes out of many hundreds of minutes in a day or week.

Of course it is natural for us to want to share the wonderful things that we do, it make us feel good.  And there is nothing wrong with that at all as long as we all keep it in perspective.  My kids watch their fair share (and maybe the neighbours share also) of TV.  While I love cooking and crafting I rarely do it with the kids, I just can’t stand the mess, the same goes for Playdoh and painting and I have the attention span of a…well newborn, when playing with the kids.  But I am realistic and know that there are some great things that I do with the kids as well.

We are all normal and have good days, average days and then just plain old awful days that you just can’t wait to end!  Yesterday I had a great day, we were busy out and about, everyone was happy and one was in daycare for the afternoon which helped ;-).  Today is going pretty well so far but Sunday on the other hand (enter sigh here!!!) was TERRIBLE!  I was onto my 7th day without Daddy being here, I was distracted by my new found love of blogging so I was missing the girls cues so they were cranky, I was just over being a Mum.  Bet you didn’t know that when you were reading my blog or Facebook uploads?

So whether you are having a good day or a bad day, tomorrow will be different and that’s ok!  Just don’t over think it too much. Everyone has their own Super Mumma qualities, I don’t think it is possible to nail it completely.

The world inside my freezer

Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE my freezer. I would honestly be very lost without it. I have most definitely inherited this love from my Mum and Grandma, although not quite to the extend of my dear Grandma who freezes every last scrap of vegetable steaming water in old margarine tubs to be used later in soup. She does make delicious soup!

You know the way that small children can be completely happy and content one minute and then absolutely starving the next, well this is why I love my freezer. It is also handy for the times when I manage to get totally carried away with something and then realize that I am the one who is absolutely starving or that it’s only 15 minutes until tea time.  Also for when guests pop in at meal times and I was planning to have Weetbix or toast 😉 Also for lunch boxes…and the list goes on.

For all this to work you really do need some kind of system for organising your freezer. Searching through the back of your freezer for something that you were sure was there last month, is really not fun, it’s just far too darn cold in there. You need to have a general idea of where to look. Mine works like this.

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My husband just saw me taking a photo of the freezer and he thinks I need to get a life, lol 😉

anyway…
Top shelf – leftovers frozen in small portions for the girls

Middle shelf – bread, rolls, sorbet, ice cream, anything else that is bulky

Bottom shelf – meals in portions enough for 1-2 adults
Casseroles, curries, pasta sauces (with or without pasta), fried rice, cooked meat and veggie pie fillings, lasagne, roast meat in gravy (this freezes very well which surprised me and I think now it’s a favorite) and the list goes on!

Top Drawer – all sorts of random stuff generally in zip lock bags (I think this drawer could warrant a whole post for itself!)

2nd drawer – raw meat, bacon frozen in bags of 4/6 rashers.

3rd drawer – dairy and fruit, odd combination yes. I like to have grated cheddar and Parmesan, whipped cream and cream cheese, these all freeze very well and can save precious time and effort, or a trip to the shops, while cooking. I make butter and freeze it in 250g blocks and freeze the buttermilk in either ice cubes or 100/200ml lots.

4th drawer – sweets and savouries for lunch boxes. These live in zip lock bags, I love those things! Muffins, cakes cut into pieces, sliced Banana Bread, pickets, scones will all defrost in a couple of hours in a lunch box and make for easy packing in the morning. And not only for kids lunches, making your lunch is one of the easiest ways to save LOTS of money. I make my husbands lunch almost everyday purely and simply because I’m a tight ass and can’t bear the thought of him buying lunch everyday lol!

I think I sense a few upcoming posts about freezer cooking, if you don’t cook for the freezer already I can highly recommend it! It has saved us many dinners of Weetbix in the last few months since number three has come along 🙂

Have I inspired you to clean out your freezer?  Or cook double tonight to add to your frozen collection?

I found a sewing room

I love our house. We have been here for four and a half years now and have done lots of renos to make it ours. It’s not big though, not by any stretch of the imagination and three children and three bedrooms means no sewing room for me, a first world problem yes. I had previously sewn in our bedroom as a room with a closing door is an absolute must as anyone who has ever encountered a toddler would understand. However after the major bedroom shuffle of the last few weeks we now have the smallest bedroom, to allow the two biggest girls some play space in their room, and therefore…no room for a sewing machine let alone an ironing board and all the mess I manage to create while sewing. Then I had a brainwave! Our laundry would surely fit a small table and ironing board. It’s a squish but it works, YAY!!!

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Please excuse the mountainous piles of…very important sewing equipment and supplies 😉 I may be an organiser but once I decide I want something done that all goes out the window and it’s all in now or never. Christmas stockings for the girls was that something. The poor middle child didn’t have one last Christmas and I was never really happy with the one I made for our first baby, so new stockings it was. I can thank dear Erin at Once upon a Donkey for the #operationchristmasstocking inspiration.
And here they are, two down one to go.

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Any quilters out their please don’t look too closely. This is my first attempt at quilting, I have to say I am quite liking it though. Now start thinking about which project I will attempt next, perhaps I should start by searching through my material collection!