Sunday, 25 November 2012

Operation Tree-Playhouse is go go go!!

Operation Tree-Playhouse has begun.  I'm pretty sure it won't be done by Christmas but I'm starting to think that that might not be a bad thing and might be a nice thing for me to work on over the Christmas break and something new to pull out in February (well that's my excuse anyway! :P ) 

So far I have dyed these lovely old blue sheets to brown.  Hard to believe but they were both put in the same machine with the same dye at the same time?! Obviously the fabric type has made a big difference to the end result but the lighter one has some lovely flecks in it that make it look very bark like.   

 I then cut these into 5 squares - well four squares and am having to make another square out of two off cuts and pinned these together to make sure the overall idea will work - and I think from these pictures it looks like it might.

I am going to do each piece separately and then sew them together at the end.  Am currently working on the top part :)

 I can now show a couple of things that I've been working on that were given as presents recently.  Firstly were these two lovely knitted bears made for my two friends little babies - that are sooooooooo cute and cuddly! (the babies that is - although the bears are too - a perfect match!! hehe)

And then this lovely red patchwork pillow for my mums birthday which will go with her newly decorated living room as long as she doesn't change her mind about the colour!!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

mmmmmmmmm chocolate!!

We had the family over for lunch on Sunday as it was my mums birthday and we had a very lovely time.  Isaac and my nephew Bobby enjoyed playing together AKA getting all the toys out and covering every inch of the carpet.

We had Roast Pork with all the trimmings for our main course with a nut roast for the veges.

Recipe for the nut roast

 Carrot and nut roast

100g onion, finely chopped
450g carrot, grated
225g mushrooms, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
80g fresh breadcrumbs
50g ground almonds
30g pinenuts, finely chopped
60g hard cheese, grated
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
25g butter
fresh chopped herbs – 2tsp each of oregano, rosemary, thyme (or choose your own savoury combo)

1. Saute the onions and garlic in the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook to soften them and remove moisture.
2. Add carrot, celery and herbs and cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Add ground almonds and pinenuts, stir well and remove from heat.
4. Mix together the grated cheese and breadcrumbs.
5. Allow the loaf mix to cool slightly before stirring in half of the grated cheese and breadcrumbs mix, and then the eggs (save the other half of the cheese and breadcrumbs for a topping). Mix well.
6. Place in a silicon, or buttered, 2lb loaf tin. Top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumb mix.
7. Cook in a pre-heated oven (180C/160C fan) for about 60 minutes. Check it about 45 minutes in and if the topping is getting too brown cover with a piece of tin foil. Test it’s cooked with a skewer, which should come out clean


However I forgot to take a picture so can't show you what it looks like but there is half in the freezer for Christmas day so will try and remember to take a pic then! (not like there will be much else going on is there?!?!)

I did remember to take a picture of our desert - Chocolate Torte

Now ridiculously I couldn't eat this as I am intolerant to dairy (yep someone somewhere is having a good laugh!) but from the mmmmm's and ahhhh's around the table I am assuming this was lovely!!  

The recipe is as follows:

  • Grease a 23cm springform tin and line the base.
  • Sift 3oz of self raising flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and 1.5 oz of cocoa powder into a bowl. Add 4oz unsalted butter (although I used Stork), 4oz caster sugar and 2 eggs and whisk it all until smooth and creamy.
  • Turn the mixture into the prepared tine, level and bake at 180oC for 20 - 25 mins.  This is what the recipe says but I'm not sure it's my new oven but it was done much faster than this for me so keep an eye on it
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then drizzle with 4 tbsps of orange liquer or orange juice (I will let you draw your own conclusions as to which one I used!! LOL)
I did this bit on Friday evening so that the base was cool and ready for decorating on Saturday afternoon but no reason why you couldn't do it all in one day.

Make the chocolate collar to go around the cake as follows:

  • Measure the circumference of the sponge and cut a piece of greaseproof paper 1cm longer and 6cm deep (I wasn't that accurate here!).  
  • melt 3oz of plain chocolate and then spoon along the paper strip, spreading it right to the edge along one side and a slightly wavy line on the other edge.  Leave 1cm free at the end.  Leave to set for 15 mins until the chocolate has thickened slightly and does not run when lifted.  Carefully lift the strip and secure it around the cake with the flat side at the bottom on the place.  Chill while filling.  (I thought I had to take the paper off at this point and that is why my cake is a tad bit flat sided in places!!) 
Make the filling

  • Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of powdered gelatine into a bowl of 2 tablespoons of cold water (I used vege gel as my mum is a vegetarian and the same quantities seemed to work well) and leave to soften
  • Beat 3 egg yolks in a bowl with 2oz caster sugar, 1 teaspoon of cornflour and a little milk.  Put half a pint of milk in a saucepan and bring just to the boil.  Pour the milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking well.  Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook gently, stirring, until thickened but don't let it boil.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatine.  Add 7oz of dark chocolate and stir until melted.  Leave on the side covered to cool until just beginning to thicken.
  • Whip half a pint of cream and fold into the chocolate mixture
  • Pour onto of the sponge and level the surface.  Chill for 1 - 2 hours until set and then remove the greaseproof paper.
  • Then decorate - in the book I got this from (Simply Cadburys Chocolate) this is an Easter Nest Torte with chocolate shards as a nest and chocolate eggs in the middle.  I used shards of milk chocolate (although they were more like chunks!) and put some truffles in the middle but the world is your oyster really!
Other makes since my last post:

Some little chocolate buns

My epic Toad in the Hole - I must post the recipe of this 

Rice pudding 

My floral arrangement in the kitchen using the jugs and bird cages from my wedding 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

My biggest project to date!

I have been struck by inspiration and am going to make Isaac a play house for Christmas - possibly birthday or somewhere inbetween!!!!

I saw some playhouses on pinterest that were fabric made and slotted over a card table which got me thinking that I could create something similar over our square dining room table.  I have some old bed sheets kicking about that no longer go with our bedroom so am going to use them as a base.  I'm going to make it in the theme of a tree house and it's going to have interactive panels on all sides, plus a puppet theatre and a place for books and secret things inside.

I was awake the other night thinking about it and planning it and am all over pinterest looking for ideas. It's going to be bloody awesome if I can pull it off and will chart my progress on here but won't give all my ideas away just yet......

Am currently in the process of making a patchwork curtain for the kitchen, some Xmas bunting and a little bag for my niece for Xmas.  Once that's all done it will be full steam many sewing days left till Christmas?!?!?

Friday, 9 November 2012

Nearly Happy Birthday

Well my little blog has been going for nearly a year - wow where did the time go?!  I've not written as much as I wanted to and probably have done as much crafting as I wanted to either but we are still here and I've got a massive update to show you all so I'm clearly doing something right!!

As I move into my second year I am going to try and update more frequently and expand the blog to cover makes I do with Isaac as I have some great things planned for him for Christmas and he seems to enjoy a bit of crafting (and he has two cupboards of the stuff to get going on - in addition to my three cupboards - think we will be ok if we get snowed in this year!! lol! ) so I thought it would be nice to keep a record of his makes as well.

I'm also baking and cooking like crazy following our extension and being a proud owner of a new mahoosive kitchen!!!  I LOVE IT!!  And it's so lovely to be able to use all my equipment and ingredients without having to play the krypton factor to get everything out!

So what have I been up goes!

This was the last meal in my old kitchen - a lovely homecooked lasagne that was enjoyed by all before our old plates were chucked in the skip and all hell broke loose in the kitchen!!!

And as you can see it was definitely worth the wait!! :)  Love love love my new kitchen and 'new' house!!!  It's made such a difference to our lives and we all feel we have a bit more space to breathe and be.  Also we have a new dining room which seems to be doubling up as my craft room - yipee!!!!!  Ooo and we also have a new camera which means I can have the old one to take pics of things to put on here with no problems. 

This is an old make that I made a very long time ago whilst I was still living at home with mum and when I was into cross stitch in a big way - I can't seem to find the energy or the inclination for it now which is a shame as I have quite a few lovely patterns to do plus I'm in the middle of a big tiger picture.  Maybe the urge will take me again someday.  Anyway little did I know when I made this cushion that I would eventually have a little boy to give it to for his chair....although he doesn't like sitting on it! 

This is a patchwork cushion I made for my auntie for her 60th birthday.  It uses the same pattern as the one I made for my mother in law for her birthday in May.  This was quite a feat to complete as I left it till the last minute - as usual - and ended up having to do it by lamplight as the electrician had turned all the lights off in our existing living room and the new dining room was still unplastered!!  aw well I got there in the end.  

My auntie had a busy September with her birthday at the start of the month and then at the end of the month it was her and my uncles 40th wedding anniversary.  I bought some plain white crockery and personalised it with some red porcelain paint.  I tried to trace the letters on there from a pattern booklet but it was much easier to do it free hand.  I then gave the crockery in a bag with some lovely tea and biscuits as I figured they would get enough champagne and I'm told that sometimes only a cuppa will do.  

This is bunnykins number 4!  She was a birthday present for my niece at the start of October - it's the first time I've made a dress for her but might not be the last!! 

My biggest project recently has been this pushchair cover.  I designed it myself and used the colours of the pushchair as my inspiration. OMG I love patchwork and have so many ideas that I want to make!!  Really enjoy cutting out the pieces and it's amazing how quickly the little bits all come together.

So as well as crafting I've been baking and cooking up a storm in our new kitchen - I am going to try and log more of what I cook and hopefully if I get the time add the recipes too.

 My mum has been supplying me with lots of windfall apples and the above left is the BEST apple cake you can make so much so that they generally don't last much longer than three days if that in this house and are especially nice still warm from the oven.  The pies on the left were made with my new piemaker from lakeland which I'm not 100% sure about.  I thought it would be great for making little pies to put in the freezer but I'm worried about heating up meat more than twice and it's also a bit of a faff.  I've put in the back of the cupboard for the moment and I'm hoping that's not where it will stay.

Here is a slightly more successful pie that we had on Wednesday night - ham (leftovers from a big piece of gammon done in the slow cooker), leek and mushroom pie.  It was gorgeous and served up with potato wedges from leftover jacket spuds and beans.  Perfect for an autumnal night.  Isaac really enjoyed this! 

I also made some spiced apple chutney - again from windfall apples.  This is a Nigella recipe and it smelled lovely but I've not tried it yet as have put it away in the cupboard as I think they get better over time.  I was hoping that it would make more than two jars though!!  Might make a bit more as I have the spices now. 

And I've been baking bread again!!!!!  Having been inspired by the sexy Paul Hollywood off Great British Bake off - (not just to make bread but to bake full stop - it's really not good for the waistline!!) and I've fallen out with my breadmaker which kept producing housebricks rather than loaves of bread!!!!!  The top one is a Nigella white loaf (gotta love How to be  Domestic Goddess - everytime I get it out I find something new to cook from it - and I forgot how amazing her carrot cupcakes are - think I ate them too quickly to have taken a pic!!! oops!!)  Anyway I digress!  I made the Split Tin loaf twice and although a bit more of a faff than the Nigella loaf I think I preferred it to taste as the Nigella loaf was a bit drier but I will give it another go cos it might just be I made it wrong!!  The plait I was quite chuffed with as it's an enriched dough with egg in it and it tasted lovely.  It's very satisfying making such amazing things from such basic ingredients. In the bottom pic along with the loaf is a chocolate sponge cake - already started!! hehe!! and some rock buns - mmm lovely! 

And here is my budding baker!!!  Start them young and hopefully they will make you cake when you cba!!!  These are some banana muffins he made - he enjoyed mashing the banana - although a big chunk went missing into his mouth!!  He also enjoyed giving it a stir, putting the muffin cases in the tin and as you can see getting covered in flour!

And here he is crafting and a peek at his crafting cupboard which I'm ashamed to say has even more stuff in it since I had another delivery from crafty crocodiles!!!!  The pic of him is our first painting session at home although he wasn't that fussed and didn't like the mess on his hands!  Although that hasn't been a problem since we got the felt tips out and he actually prefers colouring his hands to the paper.  The little place names are for my mums birthday lunch next week - thought this was a good way of introducing letters to him.

We've been working on a few other bits and pieces but as they are gifts and surprises I can't show you them all now but give me time.....and I will try to update more often - promise! :)

Monday, 30 July 2012

A bit of an update is well overdue!

Hmmm I'm not doing so well with keeping up with my blog but I am still making and keeping a record - just not updating it on here!!! 

So here goes:

I made a lovely Pimms Trifle for my nephews birthday party in June - it looks so lovely with lots of fruit, little Italian biscuits whose name totally escapes me at the moment and cover the lot in Pimms and some mint leaves.

Then top with cream whisked to thickness with some icing sugar and sweet wine - mmmm!! Sprinkle with toasted almonds and more mint leaves.  I am told it was very lovely but being dairy intolerant I couldn't have any - pffftt!!!

This one wasn't totally made by me - Isaac had a hand in this!! It was a painted mug for his daddy for fathers day.  I wrote 'Daddy' on it with ceramic pens and then let him colour in the rest.  Think it worked quite well. I also made one for my dad but forgot to take a picture.  Ooops!

June was a busy month ending with my mums wedding on the 30th June.  We all had a very lovely day and I made this for her and Peter from cross stitch. I actually finished this in December last year but only managed to get round to framing it a couple of weeks before - isn't that always the way!!!

The food for the evening reception was made by all the family and here are my little chocolate muffins which were my contribution - mmmmmmm! 

So one rainy Friday I decided that I would get my little boy in the kitchen and teach him the very important life skill of baking a cake! :)   However I then realised why we have a stair gate on our kitchen door frame - its very child unfriendly!!!!!!  So I popped him in his high chair so he could watch and play with the spoons!  He would have been too close to the hot oven otherwise.  He did watch with a lot of enthusiasm and helped to stir in the lemon juice for this lovely Madeira cake which was yummy

Here is bunnykins number 3.  A present for my friends little girl.  Bunnykins number 1 lives in Isaac's toybox and number 2 is with my nephew.  I might be working on number 4 but I can't possibly tell you anything about it!! ;) 

I made some playdough - non cook play dough using this recipe (fantastic website BTW).  I split the dough into three and dyed it green, yellow and red.  Here's Isaac playing with it

And here he is eating it!!

I've been reading this blog -  Which has totally inspired me with reworking clothes that I would otherwise throw out or disregard.  It's also made me obsessed with our monthly jumble sales where they sell clothes for 25p an item!!  I've found some real treasures that I've been able to wear as they are but also have a pile of clothes to refashion when I next get my sewing machine out.  One other thing I've thought about doing is dying clothes.

I found this shirt in the jumble sale and loved the shape of it and the detail of the front but not the colour so much.

So I popped it in the washing machine with some chocolate dye and this is the result.  It's more a khaki green than brown but the detailing is green too and contrasts really nicely.  It's definitely more wearable now.

Isaac has this white (!) linen trousers for my mums wedding and they were quite pricey but likely to never be worn again - I mean really white?!?!  So I put them in the machine with the above top and they came out really well - properly chocolate brown although the stitching stayed white but that proved a nice contrast.  Shame I don't have a pic to prove it!!!! 

So that's me up to date! :)

We are currently working on our biggest project to date - an extension to our house.  We are knocking through the living room and current dining room and building a new dining room and extending the kitchen, installing a new kitchen and decorating through out.  It's very exciting but it's taking all my creativity for now but I do have a few ideas on the back burner for when I have a moment.