Saturday, 31 December 2011

Handmade Christmas - Part 3

It is always difficult to find presents for men, even more so when trying to make them so I was particularly pleased with these:

Boy balm and leather food

Made this for my sister's fella who works outside a lot in the wet and gets very dry chapped hands.  I found the idea on charmed goals blog and loved it.

I used 1:1 beeswax to olive oil as suggested but added a slug of almond oil for added moisturising and to keep the mix a little softer.  I melted the beeswax, then added the olive oil and reheated until liquid, added my almond oil and essential oils I used lime and cedarwood which gave a really nice fresh but manly scent.  I poured the liquid into clean Lush tubs and let it set, then found it to be a little hard, so scoped it into a clean bowl and whipped it up - like creaming butter and sugar, then put it back in the tubs.

It seems to be a big hit!

Personalised Haynes Manual notebooks

Arthur came up with these and I just love them! One for his brother-in-law and one for my sisters partner.

Haynes Owners Workshop Manual Wife/Baby - We've no idea, you figure it out yourself

Friday, 30 December 2011

Handmade Christmas - part 2

Another Button based project!

This was for my sister-in-law to be who had said how much she liked the button bouquets I had made for the wedding and that she would like something similar as a centrepiece.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Handmade Christmas - part 1

I try to make all my Christmas presents to give to friends and family as it feels much more personal and for me makes me think more about the people I care about and why we celebrate Christmas rather than if I just went out and bought things.  A few years ago I realised I was buying gifts just for the sake of it and not because I thought it was something the person would really like but just so I had something to give them, which I think is entirely the wrong way to go about things.  As a result, since then I have made an effort to make Christmas gifts each year, with some turning out much better than others! But all made with love and care for the recipient.

Now that Christmas is past and people have seen their gifts I thought I'd share with you a few of my favourites that I have been making over the last few months.  This one is for my friend and her husband who married in October and I made some button bouquets for their wedding.

I used the left over buttons from the bouquets and strung them on jewellery wire then wrapped them round the wire frame of a lamp shade, then glued a picture of the happy couple onto the base and edged this in buttons.

I really like how this turned out, I have very much enjoyed working with buttons on a number of projects recently and have a good stash should inspiration hit me in future!

The list of 30 cakes!

I have had a couple of people ask me what the 30 different types of cake were that I made for Arthur's birthday so here is the full list if you want to know!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Merry Christmas and a Discworld game

I hope you have all had a lovely Christmas time, as we have.  Many wonderful and thoughtful gifts shared, Christmas dinner with family, lots of meetings with friends and far too much edible delights!  We have been very busy over the last few days and it has been fantastic, but it is nice tonight to stay in by ourselves, so we are having a nice tea and playing my new Christmas present from Arthur, the boardgame 'Ankh-Morpork' (of Discworld fame) by Treefrog games.

We played a first round on Boxing Day and I am very much looking forward to a re-match.  The game is really nicely presented with lovely drawings of characters and nice solid feeling wooden pieces, plastic just doesn't feel as real!

The gameplay is good too, nice and simple to understand making it quick to pick up but enough going on to make it interesting. You play as one of several Ankh Morpork personalities and have to compete to control areas of the city by placing 'minions' in them, any game involving the use of the word minion gets an automatic 10 points as far as I'm concerned!  Actions happen through character cards which each have a wonderful picture on of the character and let you do certain things associated with them e.g. Lord Downey - head of the Assassins Guild, lets you assassinate an opponents minion and get paid.  Each personality has a slightly different win condition and you don't know who your opponents are playing so have to counter all angles which keeps you on your toes.  All in all it is a great game that I look forward to playing many more times.

Arthur also bought me a second Discworld game 'Guards Guards' because he 'didn't know which one you'd like best' - got to love that kind of indecisiveness! Which is just as nicely presented but there is a lot more to understand, need to spend some time with the rules on that one!

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Garden Gang

I love books.  It's best to get that established early on.  I love to read, to find myself in new worlds, and learn new things, but more than that I love books.  I love the the smell of books, I love how they look, all together in a library (not just the building, the general collective noun!).

Due to this bibliophilia we have a fair sized collection of books, and often buy more.  I tend to buy most of my books second hand in part due to cost and a re-use philosophy but also as I tend to like older bindings and authors, particularly when it comes to children's books.

These gems I found on ebay from Thames Hospice Care making them not only a great buy but money for a good cause too.  I remember the garden gang from when I was little and it is one of the only sets of books from my childhood that I haven't had any copies of, until now.  So you can imagine I was very pleased with this set of four, especially as I didn't expect to receive them until after Christmas.

Jayne Fisher is Ladybird's youngest ever published author at the age of 9, and she wrote and illustrated these books, pretty impressive!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Banoffee Cheesecake

In downloading pictures from my camera to free it up for Christmas, I found this photographic record of my banoffee cheesecake so I thought I'd share.

I like bananas, I like toffee and as far as I'm concerned banoffee is a match made in heaven (even if I am never sure how to spell it!).  Arthur really likes cheesecake, so a while ago I decided the banoffee cheesecake was the way to go.

I didn't follow any recipe, just made it up as I went, which is why most ingredients aren't measured.  Also I like a lot of base to a cheesecake and Arthur likes a lot of cheesecake so that is why the quantities are maybe a little overboard!  You could easily make this with less of each, but then where would be the fun?

So, you need:

Two bananas, a pack of hobnobs, 300g tub of phili, tub of mascarpone, ready made toffee sauce, some double cream, and a bag of fudge, also lemon juice and caster sugar (they missed out on the photo as you only use a tiny bit!).

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Festive tarts!

We had a lot of jam in the cupboard from the preserving season and I wanted to give a little gift to my colleagues so I thought I's make some jam tarts, here they are, made somewhat festive by the addition of a wafer snowflake (an impulse buy from Lakeland).

Here they are all wrapped up individually for gifting.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mince pies and carols

Last night was carols by candlelight at chapel, and afterwards we had mince pies and fruit juice in the schoolroom.  I made up a load of mince pies to take along.  I used an idea from Angela over on Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me and topped some of the pies with ready to roll icing, or marzipan instead of pastry.  I don't have any fancy lustre spray though so mine don't look as fancy!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!

It is most definitely that time of year once again, the lights are up in the square, Christmas songs are playing on the radio and although the snow has yet to appear in earnest the temperature has dived, the winter coat has come out and the fire is lit every evening.  All the signs were there and with the afore mentioned December birthday over, I was free to start Christmas with the raising of the tree.

I love putting up the Christmas tree it's I always remember magically from childhood.  It was always a family event, we'd layer up in our winter warmth, pile into the car and head out.  We'd spend ages picking the perfect tree, my sister wanting the perfect shape, me wanting the biggest tree possible and always with a soft spot for slightly odd shaped ones!  My mum wanting a smaller tree this year "we could put it on the table and it would look just as big" and my dad inspecting price labels of ones we picked out and quietly replacing them!  Always visiting several places to make sure we were getting the absolute best tree.  In my very early years I remember going to pick our tree from the ranks of the still growing and my dad would chop it down/dig it up to take home.  No matter the size/shape/cost of the tree we ended up with one thing was sure, it was a real tree, we never had plastic.  The smell and feel of a real Christmas tree is incomparable and a huge part of Christmas to me.

Friday, 16 December 2011

A 30th birthday

This week was Arthur's 30th birthday and I wanted to make sure it was duly noted and celebrated in some sort of style!  When his sister turned 30 last year we bought her 30 presents (an idea I shamelessly stole from a friend celebrating her husband's 40th) and wrapped them all in different papers.  It worked really well but I didn't particularly want to repeat it, I wanted something new.

So, I decided it would be a great idea to bake 30 individual cakes in 30 different flavours. I started writing a list of flavours to do and got pretty stuck around number 20, but with a little help from my friends and my mum I finally had a list of 30 that I thought Arthur would like and were different enough to be interesting.

I found some lovely sized ramekins in Wilikinsons (about 3inches diameter) to bake them in which was great as I only had muffin/cupcake moulds (too small) and full size cake tins (too big) so that was a relief.  My mum also very kindly offered to make some of them as 30 different cakes is quite an undertaking, especially when trying to keep it a secret from someone living in the same house!

Here is a photo of all 30 (plus candles, presents and 81 chocolate crispie bites) on birthday morning, they went down pretty well, and he finally understood why he'd been banned from the kitchen for 3 nights!  It was also nice as when people came round, or when we went out later with friends we gave everybody their own cake.

I won't bore you with the full list but some of my favourites are below; honey cake with rose cream icing, malt cake, and toffee sponge (I didn't have the foresight to take individual pictures before we started eating!)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A green dress

I haven't posted in a while due to other life events getting in the way!  So I though I would share with you a post I've had in draft for a while.  Here is a green dress I made this year, I am very pleased with it and have started making a follow up with sleeves in a wonderful orange and blue octopus print I got at the quilt show last year.

Thanks to my cousin Rob for the photo

I designed and made the dress for my grandma's funeral at the start of September.  She was always insistent that her funeral should not be an occasion for mourning but should be a celebration of her life, she had even written her own words to hymns that we should sing including 'come and join the celebration'.  With all of this in mind I did not want to wear black, I wanted to wear something special, a real 'party dress' to remember her as she wanted.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Vintage patterns

A few weeks ago I bought some dress making patterns from a charity shop in town and what with one thing and another they remained tucked away in their bag by my sewing table and I have just found them.  They were a bargain price of 25p each and are probably both too small for me so will need a little adjustment, but I think they are lovely designs.

At the same time I bought a pair of fully lined curtains with a green and white flower pattern and I think I will use the fabric from these to make the button down dress on the left.  The curtains cost me £6 and being fully lined mean I have fabric for a dress lining too, a fully lined dress for six pounds can't be bad.

Curtain fabric and lining

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Buttons for a bride

This weekend gone one of my closest friends got married, and I was a bridesmaid which was very exciting as I have never done it before.  Early on in planning her wedding she had seen some button bouquets online and thought they were lovely and asked me if I could recreate some for the bridesmaids.  Buttons also featured on the invitations and the cake.  Everything looked fantastic and the day went off wonderfully.

Button cake topper made by groom's sister-in-law
Button Cake made by groom's mother

 Here are the three bouquets I made, two for adult bridesmaids (me and her sister) and one smaller one for her husband's 6 year old niece.

I'm quite pleased with how they looked (and fortunately so was the bride!) and enjoyed making them so may be doing some more in future for other occasions.  I will put together a 'how I made' post later in the week.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

Centerpieces, flowers grown by bride's mother displayed in enamel tea pots and china cups

Friday, 21 October 2011

Yellow rose of Telford

Last year, shortly after we had moved into our new house and were attacking the garden with gusto, a friend gave me a yellow rose for my birthday.  It is a Charles Darwin rose from David Austin Roses and it is beautiful.

It resided in its pot last year as we still weren't sure how the garden was going and where it would best fit, so last year there were two small but wonderfully coloured roses.  Early in the spring I planted it into its new home and it has rewarded me with a constant supply of blooms.  There are not just flowers still on the plant but more buds yet to come.  A wonderful rose.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

White bread

There is something incredibly self satisfying about making your own bread, and when it comes to indulgent (savoury) snacking I don't think anything can beat white bread still warm from the oven and layered in butter.  This is my favorite standard white bread recipe I make both loaves and rolls from this.  Please give it a try, dont be scared off, bread is really not that difficult and isn't even particularly time consuming if you have a mixer with dough hooks.  Give it a go, you know you want to!

You will need:
500g strong white bread flour
1tsp quick yeast
1/2tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp lemon juice (helps keep the bread light and fluffy)
1 tbsp butter
1tsp vanilla essence (stops an overly strong taste of yeast)
400ml warm water

1. Add everything except the water to your mixer bowl, put in dough hooks and adding the water slowley start to mix.
2. Keep adding the water until the mix forms a soft dough, you may not need all 400ml, you may need a little more, depends on your flour.
3. Once a dough has formed leave the machine 'kneading' for a as long as it takes for the dough to be smooth and elastic looking.

4. Drizzle oil over the dough and turn it to coat, then cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave it somewhere warm until the dough doubles in size.
5. Punch down the dough, knead lightly then shape into rolls or loaf tin, cover with cloth and leave 30min-hour until the dough is risen and puffy. I like to use Yorkshire pudding trays as it makes a nice size roll, and this mix does and nice bakers dozen of them.

6. Bake in a preheated oven (gas mark 6) for  until golden brown, the bread is done when a tap on the base gives a hollow sound.
7. See how long you can resist cutting open and serving with a slab of butter, it never lasts long!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Chocolate star biscuits

These delicious biscuits are also quite decorative so good for an occasion, I tend to make them around Christmas time as the decorated stars seem quite festive.

You will need:
175g plain flour
25g cocoa
100g caster sugar (I use golden as I prefer the taste)
100g unsalted butter
50g dark chocolate
50g milk chocolate
50ml double cream
100g icing sugar

1. Measure flour, cocoa, sugar and butter into food processor and pulse until combined.

2. Add 4-6 tablespoons of cold water and pulse again to form a soft dough
3. Form the dough into two discs, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30mins

4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to desired thickness and cut out star (or alternative) shapes.
5. Place shapes on a greasproof papered baking tray and bake in the oven at gas mark 5 for 10-15 mins (I like to cook mine for just 10 mins to leave then quite soft in the middle) then allow to cool

6. Melt chocolate then remove from heat and gently stir in cream until smooth
7. Put a generous blob of the chocolate cream on half the stars and top with another star to make a sandwich.  Allow these to set.

8. Mix the icing sugar with 1-2 tsp of cold water and pipe in zigzags across the stars
9. Repeat this piping with the chocolate filling.

10. Eat and enjoy!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

National Baking Week

Starting tomorrow it is national baking week, with the theme this year of bake and share.  Share you recipies, share your baking time and share the goodies you produce!  There is lots more information on the national baking week website, including recipes and competitions.

With that in mind I shall be sharing some of my favourite baking recipes here over the next week, and sharing the results with my friends, family and colleagues.  In preparation for this and to mark the beginning of national baking week I sorted out my baking cupboard this afternoon, a task that has been needed for a very long time!

Three hours later!

Due to the scale of the task it took ages, but it did give me a good opportunity to start listening to Terry Pratchett's latest Vimes adventure 'Snuff' which I downloaded from audible this weekend.  I am a big fan of Pratchett's writing, in particular the Discworld with Sam Vimes being one of my favourite characters and so far (three hours in, yes the cupboard was that messy!) it does not disappoint, I cant wait to listen to the rest, perhaps I will sort out the airing cupboard this week!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bath bombs away!

The Rangers are hoping to go on a joint scout and guide camp next year being held at Shrewsbury, so we are planning in lots of fundraising activities for them to do to help with costs.  One of these is having a stall at the Christmas fayre of the church where we meet.

We are trying out a number of crafts to make Christmas gifts for the stall and this week we made bath bombs.  There are lots of different recipes for these out there online and in books, but this is the method we used, which had been put together from several sources with the key factor being that ingredients were easy to find and relatively cheap.

You need:
4 parts Bicarbonate of soda
1 part cream of tartar
Essential oil in fragrance of choice
Food colouring if desired
Vegetable oil
Decorations if wanted
Metal or ceramic bowl - you can use plastic but it will absorb the fragrance so will be no good for food use afterwards.
Metal spoon - again you can use plastic or wooden but it will absorb the fragrance.

  • Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the cream of tartar, this needs to be mixed really well so it is even throughout.
  • Add the food colouring if you are using some, we used powdered and paste colorants as I had some in the cupboard and it keeps the mix dry which stops it fizzing before you want, but many of the recipes around use liquid colouring, I just wouldn’t add too much!
  • Add your fragrance, we used lavender essence for one 'flavour' and we have tried a 'winter spice' fragrance by using ground ginger and ground cinnamon.
  • Stir the mix thoroughly to make sure colour and fragrance are even throughout.
  • Add the vegetable oil a little at a time and mix in completely until the mix begins to stick together
  • spoon the mix into biscuit cutter shapes and press down firmly to compact, add some decoration to the top if you like, we used purple sugar glitter on the lavender bombs and a star anise on the winter spice.
  • Leave on a tray until completely dry (this took ours a couple of days but the mix was a little too damp!) 

A selection of the finished product

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A waistcoat for a bear

At the beginning of term we took the Brownies to Build-a-Bear as a special treat.  It was a great evening, lots of fun and the staff were fantastic at keeping the girls happy and entertained.  For anyone not familiar with the build a bear concept they have lots of different 'skins' of cuddly toys; bears, dogs, rabbits. cats etc. you pick a skin and take it to the the filling machine where it gets filled with stuffing, more or less stuffing depending on how soft or rigid you want the finished bear to be.  Then you pick a cloth heart from a jar, give it a kiss and make a wish and that goes inside your bear which is then sewn up and ready for brushing and to choose clothes for if you want too.  We each made a bear (or dog, or cat...) and some chose clothes and accessories as extras.

My 'bear' - Baden Pawell
We have then planned in lots of 'bear themed' activities for this term to make the most out of the build-a-bear experience, finishing up with a teddy bears picnic where some of the girls will take their promise.  The most recent of these bear activities was making waistcoats for our bears.  After our last experience of sewing with the Brownies (very difficult) we decided to make the waistcoats as simple as possible.  One piece of felt cut to shape and blanket stitched round the edge, it worked really well.  All of the girls managed the blanket stitch and some were really really good!

Baden Pawell in his new waistcoat
The build-a-bears are all a standard size which made making the waistcoats easy as we didn't have to worry about dogs being different to bears, being different to cats.  The template we made for the waistcoat is below (one half, cut on the fold), if you print it full size on A4 it will be the right size.  It's a nice simple craft to do with children for their bear.  Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Rosehip syrup

We moved into our house last year and in the garden was a wonderful old rambling rose with a scary arsenal of thorns. The flowers are very pretty but I was particularly excited when later in the year it displayed a huge amount of brilliantly scarlet hips. Great, thought I, I'll make rosehip syrup. However instead of actually making the syrup, I just thought about it every time I looked at the plant, and before long the hips had gone.

I was determined that this year I would not make the same mistake and although I really have left it a little too late and half the rosehips are wrinkled and split, today I finally picked the lovely red hips and made rosehip syrup for the first time.

I used a recipe from 'Wild garlic, gooseberries .. and me' by Dennis Cotter, although the premise is simple, boil the hips in water, strain, repeat and then boil the juice with sugar, but I love this book. It has wonderful stories to accompany tasty recipes and the photos make everything look divine, it also has a great chapter on 'wild pickings' for whence the rosehip syrup came.

So I blitzed the rosehips in the blender, boiled up the resulting mush;

strained through some muslin, added my sugar and I was done!

I was quite surprised by the taste, not sure what I was expecting but it is so similar to quince jelly with a bit more of a flowery taste. Now just have to figure out some nice ways of eating it!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Apples and More

Today my mum and I went to the Apple Day at the Green Wood Trust in Ironbridge, there was apple juice freshly pressed from a big hand press, apple varieties to try and buy trees, bird feeders made from apples, hog roast (with apple sauce, obviously), locally made cider, and lots more apple themed and other.  It was a nice afternoon out in lovely surroundings and I bought home some amazing apple juice, mum says they have a press in the garage that my dad made years ago so we may have a go at pressing some juice of our own.

I am very interested in apples at the moment.  There are a couple of apple trees in my Grandma's garden that have been there years (no idea what variety they are), the apples are nice enough to eat but nothing particularly special, until you cook them.  My Grampy used to make the most amazing apple pie, I have never tasted anything like it, the taste was sweet and warm and vanillary and the apples were very slightly pink.  I always thought it was some secret ingredient or cookery tip, until last year.  There was a heavy crop of apples on the trees, Grandma was giving lots away and I had a bag full so I made some pies.  It was just like grampy used to make, pink tint and all, not a secret ingredient after all but a magic apple!  So this year I am sending some of the apples off to Brogdale farm home of the national fruit collection to try and get them identified, in the hope of finding out just what the magic apple is.  I am also planning to try some grafting from the trees so I can have them in my garden.

I have never done any grafting before so have been reading any guides/tutorials I can find, but if anyone has any practical experience or tips for beginners to share I would appreciate it.  From everything I've read I need to wait until the trees are completely dormant to take cuttings to graft so I will let you know how that goes later in the year!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...