Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A bit nutty

Almond and apricot cookies - yummy!!

Quite squidgy on the inside, with a crunch on the outside - delicious. Really good with a hot cup of coffee from the espresso machine - perfect to warm you up on a winter's day.

Ideal for chomping on while panicking about what to get your loved ones for Christmas. I'm amazingly unprepared and lacking any creativity or imagination when it comes to gifts this year - I'm so worried about the house that Christmas has sadly taken a back seat. I will be making some yummy treats for everyone's parcels closer to the big day, but for main presents I normally have some fresh and different ideas. This year, socks all round....

To cheer us up for Christmas, the estate agents want an exorbitant amount of money just for doing a credit check. They want to charge the two of us about 150 times the cost of doing the check - even the bad men at the bank do it for free, but no, we have to wipe out our Christmas budget just for a bit of paper. Merry Bloomin' Christmas, Mr Estate Agent!

Oh, and because they don't know that Christmas is going on in the background, they didn't mind asking us yesterday if we could move into our potetial new home before the 25th December. Let me think.... That would be a no.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Big quilt

The day has come - I've finally finished the Big Quilt!

It's for my colleague's sister's 21st birthday. It's taken about 3 months to complete. She wanted detail of handbags, cherries, cupcakes, birds, and lots of colours. Quite feminine, hence lots of red and pink, without being too girly.

I used several different fabrics for the binding - mainly because I didn't have enough of one fabric to do it all the same. The cupcakes worked really well on the binding.

I found it challenging working on such a big quilt, having done so many small projects lately. The last big one I did was all by hand, and I was living in my flat which had lots of space to spread out. For this one, I had to use the spare room, and laid out flat the quilt took up all of the floor space!! It made pinning very tricky, and I'm sure the backing isn't as smooth as it could be for that reason.

I couldn't do any quilting through all the layers though, which I was disappointed about. The quilt was just too big for me to manoeuvre around my sewing machine - especially as the wadding I used was quick thick. I tried to quilt by hand but ditto the problems of thickness again. I bought a sewing loop hoop recently, but again, the wadding was too thick to use that with it! Lessons learned for next time however.

My colleague was really pleased with it, and has already asked me to make one for herself in the new year. She wants some castle fabric if possible, but I'm having trouble finding any.

I always get a little sad when I have to say goodbye to one of my quilts.... it was even sadder for such a large quilt. A lot of time and effort goes into making things for other people. Sometimes it would be nice if someone spent so much time and effort on me.

Monday, 5 December 2011

All I want for Christmas... is a KitchenAid mixer!

...and somewhere to live please!

Sorry I've been quiet for a while. Our landlord is having a baby, and subsequently he wants to sell our house - so we have to find somewhere new to live. We've got until March 1, 2012 - which was generous of him, as he could have just given us a month's notice. But with Christmas and all, timing isn't great.... To say I'm panicked is somewhat of an understatement.

We were getting really settled here so it's such a shame - we only just put some shelves and photos up, and it was really feeling like home. We knew it wasn't forever but it suited us for now.

Now I feel rushed and scared. I'm checking for new properties every day, but there's never much property movement during December - obviously, no one wants to be moving house at Christmas (ditto!). We viewed a lovely barn conversion last week, but it wasn't practical - the landlord wanted to keep all her furniture and belongings in there, so basically it would suit someone who's just left home, without any personal stuff to clutter up the space. We couldn't be further from that! Especially with all my quilting garb!

On top of asking Father Christmas for a new home, I'd also like a wooden chopping board, some socks, and a food mixer.

It's available here, Father Christmas, in case your elves can't quite manage it!!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Late biscuits

For Hallowe'en I made some spooky gingerbread biscuits - I know it's a bit late to post about them, but I'm forgetful, forgive me.

They were bat and ghost shaped. I wasn't sure how to ice them, however, so they ended up a bit random. But I really liked the red-coloured icing - really looked good and bloody!

Hallowe'en itself was somewhat disappointing. Only two trick or treaters appeared at our door, and in reality they seemed to just be two teenage goths looking for sugar, and not too happy about the idea anyway. They didn't appreciate me squealing "Oh, you look so scary!!" considering they probably hadn't got changed out of their normal attire... But the pumpkin looked good in our window nevertheless!!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Hallowe'en!

This year has been the first year I've ever really entered the Hallowe'en spirit. Never being allowed to as a youngster, I never knew how much fun it could be! I carved my first ever jack o' lantern and loved every second - it was so much fun and I really enjoyed it - we made him kinda spooky and kinda dopey at the same time.

I went to a Hallowe'en party yesterday, for my godson. All the children were dressed up - George was dressed as a pumpkin (SO cute), and two others had the cutest vampire outfits on. I dressed up like a witch, sort of - big red wig, scary makeup... None of the other adults were in fancy dress!! Typical!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

What a lovely pear

Last night's pudding was poached pears, spicey chocolate custard, and crumble baked separately.

To poach the pears, peel and place in a saucepan of water, with:
1tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Bit of orange zest
Poach for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crumble mix:
1oz butter
1oz sugar
2oz plain flour
Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until golden and crunchy.

Make the custard as normal (Bird's powder, I'm afraid, one of my guilty pleasures) and then while it's thickening place about 20g of Green & Black's dark chocolate with orange and delicate spices, and stir briskly to melt.

Serve in a large teacup.

One of my favourite puddings. The poach is lightly spiced, the chocolate has a lovely warmth and delicate kick, and the crumble adds more comfort and texture. A brilliant pudding for chilly nights in. Comforting for the soul when you need it most, when you feel let down and disillusioned with the world and those around you - there's nothing quite like custard to heal.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Big quilt on the way

I've been asked to make a friend a large quilt for her sister's 21st birthday / Christmas present. It's a variety of colours, with cupcakes, cherries, and handbags as special fabric. I decided it was easiest to put together as 6 blocks of 42 squares (252 altogether - if my maths is correct!).

Today I had the day off work and I've got the first 42-square block done. I love seeing it all come together! It's taken ages to cut all the squares out - the most laborious part, and my least favourite. But once the sewing machine kicks in, and it all starts to make sense... I don't want to do anything else.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Kirsty Allsopp said "lovely"

I was mentioned on the actual radio this afternoon. Crafter, baker, and maker on the telly Kirsty Allsopp (also of 'Location, location, location' fame) was on the BBC Radio 2 Simon Mayo show, talking about her attempts at local craft fayres and crafty stuff in general. After hearing him mention said upcoming interview, and the selection of quilting-related songs on the playlist, I emailed in with the vague hope that I might be mentioned.


He read out my email about my quilting, and Kirsty bloomin Allsopp said "lovely" in reference to the pic of my quilt I attached to the email. So proud and impressed - I know it's quit ridiculous to be so pleased at a little mention on the radio but it really made my day.

Here's a link to the radio show, although I'm not sure how long it'll last - you need to go to about 1 hour 8 mins in and listen from here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00p2dfq

Quilts, on the radio... whatever next. I'll be hosting my own patchwork show!!

This was the pic that I send Simon Mayo off the radio: 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Peaches & cream - not a dream

I made peaches & cream cupcakes. They weren't great! They certainly didn't look good when they came out of the oven.

I was meant to use paper cases, but I didn't have any - I didn't think it would matter, but as the fresh peaches nestled at the bottom, they didn't really do well. Taking them out of the tray was a bit of a challenge, and I realised this batch wasn't going to win any awards on the attractive scale...

I made a lovely buttercream frosting, and that helped to cover up some of the ugliness, but I really ought to go on a cake decorating course.

Some of the peaches went a bit funny in the oven (and turned a bit purple), so I decided this was a batch my discering boyfriend could eat. As he's called the Human Dustbin he has no quarrels with eating dodgy purple peach cupcakes and thought they were lovely.
Back to the drawing board on these. I think tinned peaches might be a better idea. And definitely paper cases.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Crabs and Cornwall

My latest baby quilt!

Commissioned for a friend's friend who lives in Cornwall, near the beach - hence the squares of sandy fabric, and crab/fish/turtle fabric.

A simple quilting round the large blocks:

Cute! My next project starts straight away - a bigger quilt, throw size, for a grown-up this time, not a baby. The cutting out starts here...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Spider torture

Tonight I had my first panic attack in a long time. It was all over a spider. Possibly more irrational than some of my previous attacks, although possibly more understandable than the breakdown in the supermarket over which brand of toothpaste to buy.

This was a monster. I'm home alone, and I just panicked. I videoed the thing! Then he disappeared underneath the sofa, leaving me stranded - I couldn't bear to stand up in case he ran over my bare feet. I had to ring my mum and ask her advice. I tried moving the sofa, prone with salad bowl in hand to trap him under, but he didn't appear, and still hasn't.

I'm now quite worried about going to bed in case he appears in the bedroom. I fear I may not sleep too well tonight.

See, I told you it was completely irrational.

I was meant to be working on my latest quilt tonight, but I've been too afraid to go anywhere or do anything! So, these lovely squares are all waiting for me...unsewn...while I wait for the spider to climb aboard and eat me.

Oh, and if you'd like to see the video of said scary spider, click here.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Key Lime Pie

A post in honour of my boyfriend. He went AWOL last week (turned out, he'd gone fishing, just didn't think to let me know). To make up for it, he made me a lovely meal at the weekend, complete with key lime pie. YUMMY!

It was a Jamie Oliver recipe and was delish. The pie filling was like a lime mousse and just divine. The base was a bit comedy mind you. The recipe said 12 digestive biscuits to 135g of butter. Had I been making it I would have instinctively known that was a bit ridiculous, but lovely Boyf trusted the recipe. Needless to say, it was like a lake of melted butter with a few breadcrumbs floating in it. We had to try to mop up some of the butter with kitchen towels!

After baking in the oven, and then chilling in the fridge, it looked OK. It was very very hard, and quite chewy like butterscotch, but it was nice all the same. But, I will be emailing the Jamie Oliver magazine from which the recipe came to tell them not to be so ridiculous with their pie crust butter/biscuit ratio in future. Poor Boyf felt distraught but I said it wasn't his fault - and it was yummy all the same.

(By the way, the pic is from the Jamie Magazine website - we ate all of the pie before I could take a photo!)

Monday, 15 August 2011

My favourite baby quilt so far

My latest baby quilt - lovely orange binding.

I hand sewed the binding for the first time, and I'm really pleased with the result - very neat, and I have to admit that the process was very calming. Sitting in front of a film doing some sewing.... some things the sewing machine can't make up for!!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Festival of quilts

I spent the day at The Festival of Quilts at the Birmingham NEC today. I'm worn out but happy - it was so enjoyable and calming, even though it tires you out. I saw so many beautiful quilts, I was so inspired - it was more like an art gallery than a show of quilts. I loved it. It's hard to choose a few pics to share!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Whoopie pies mark 2

Welcome to the whoopie pies part deux! Much more success this time. I used the same recipe, but I mixed it for a little longer and it became a bit looser, and I didn't refridgerate it (unlike the recipe's instructions) - it was a lot easier to handle unlike last time when it was almost solid.

I used a piping bag to squeeze the mixture on to the baking trays, rather than just spooning it out. This allowed a lot more control over the shape - even though it looked like 30 small dog poos...

I'm a lot happier with the final result. Much more control, much more uniform shapes, and they didn't fall all over the place.

For the 'whoopie' filling, I ignored the recipe's amounts and just made buttercream by eye as I normally would, and then added marshmallow fluff at the end. Again I didn't refridgerate it, there didn't seem any benefit from doing this. Much better - not sloppy or gloopy, just enough, and they didn't collapse like last time. And, crucially, they taste brilliant!!

Baking makes me happy, and cheers me up. I was feeling very down in the dumps yesteday, but this batch of whoopie pies really upped my spirits.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Lots of cakes

I made lots of cakes at the weekend. A chocolate sponge with chocolate buttercream featuring marshmallow fluff, a Victoria sponge with buttercream and raspberry jam, and chocolate brownies. Sadly, they were for various friends' celebrations (two graduations and a birthday); I managed a couple of squares of brownies (delicious) and a slice of choc sponge (brilliant).

I was really pleased with the sponges - nice and light, fluffy, and moist. Yum. The brownies, my new favourite thing to bake at the moment, were amazing - so gooey and brilliant in the middle, while good and crunchy on the top. I had some happy recipients of cakes that day.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

All boxed up

I have a new sewing box! It's a brilliant old-fashioned consertina-type that opens out with three sections either side... I love it. My mother used to have one when I was little, but I don't know what she did with it - I think perhaps it got disposed of during the house move. It's now full of bobbins, threads, and scraps of fabric. I'm organised at last.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Going nannas

Today I made a chocolate and banana loaf. It's yummy. A few chunks of chocolate make a boring 'ol banana loaf go down a lot better. My loaf tin is a bit small for the recipe, but I just shoved it all in anyway and hoped for the best.

Now, it's a bit of a quandry, because I really like banana bread with a bit of butter on top. But with the chocolate, it doesn't work like that... and it's a bit of a shame. Not that I won't eat it all readily.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Another one

The next quilt is on the way... Another baby quilt, jolly colours, we don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet so it's just very colourful. The cutting out is all done, and I've laid the pattern out, so now it's just the sewing to do. Planning to sew in blocks this time, rather than strips like last time, so hopefully it'll be a bit less wonky.

I've been commissioned to do another baby quilt (white and yellow colour scheme, quite limited but I like a challenge!) and a big quilt ready for Christmas, that'll have a few colours in plus lipsticks, cupcakes, and handbags designs. Then I'm going to make two of my pregnant friends one each as well. So a busy time ahead - I might have to start a spreadsheet to figure it all out!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The first whoopie pies

Yesterday I made whoopie pies for the first time. I wasn't sure what to expect - although I've read a lot about them, I hadn't actually eaten one. I followed a Hummingbird Bakery recipe which was quite different to making a normal sponge; it included yoghurt, and involved chilling the mixture in the fridge before baking.

I found it hard to get the mixture to look round on the baking trays, as the chilling had made it very stiff. I've read that you can use a piping bag to get the shape right, but I think it was far too stiff to have tried that. So when they came out the oven, they didn't look anything like they were meant to! Not very round, smooth, or orderly at all!

The filling (the whoopie, as I consider it, to the cake pie) is made with a normal butter and icing mix, plus marshmallow fluff, which is basically runny marshmallow (so sugary that tasting it made my eyes hurt). I made half the amount the recipe had suggested as previous attempts at Hummingbir Bakery recipes meant I knew there'd be too much. The filling needed chilling for 30 minutes in the fridge, which I did, but when composing the pies it just went EVERYWHERE!

They looked hilarious, and I don't think I've laughed so much making any other type of cake. They look NOTHING like they're supposed to!

But, they are very yummy.

How they're supposed to look:

How mine look:

Friday, 24 June 2011


Where do you stand on the subject of eggs in meatballs? I made meatballs tonight, cracked the egg, then squidged it together and realised it didn't need the egg. So I risked it without, and they were fine. So maybe eggs are superfluous in meatballs after all. What do you think?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Oooh potty!

Would you look at this lovely teapot!

I found it on Etsy. I love that site!

Losing my marbles...or, gaining them.

Today I made a vanilla and chocolate marble loaf cake, with a thick layer of chocolate on top. My loaf tin is too small for regular loaf cake recipes, so I also get some cupcakes out of the mixture too.

Quite enjoyed plopping the mixture into the tin and swirling it, not knowing what it's going to look like until you cut into it.

However, I'm not sold on the particular recipe. I think the butter ratio must be higher than I'm used too, as it seemed everso greasy. I have to admit it was a Mary Berry recipe! Seems like sacrilege to say I didn't like it! I'll try the marbling with a different recipe in future though as I think the overall effect is lovely.

The topping, which was just melted dark chocolate with a splash of water and a knob of butter, was yummy. Not too much, just enough, and perfect for a chocoholic.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Greeny baby quilt done

I've finished my colour-themed baby quilt. It's to go with the Next Ziggy nursery set and I'm really pleased with how well the colours go together.

I used a turquoise flowery fabric for the binding and I think it goes with the apple green backing really well.

There were a few 'deliberate mistakes' but then it wouldn't be a handmade quilt if it was completely perfect - you have to know it's home-made.

I love it and hope new mum and baby do too!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Won't be buying this

Here's something that no one needs in their kitchen! A cake slicer (that costs a ridiculous amount of money), for people who can't slice a cake properly. Or perhaps use two cake tins. 

I think one of the most endearing things about home cooking is that it looks home cooked, not bought from a shop. Yes, you might need one of these if you make cakes professionally, but I'll stick to my wonky layers thank you.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Oh pears!

So, it doesn't look exactly like it's supposed to... And, it didn't taste that great either. Too soggy, and the ground up hazelnuts made the texture odd. Not a complete disaster (like the plum pudding), but not a recipe I'll be making again any time soon.

Off to eat cheese, biscuits, grapes, and chutney, and drink wine. That can't go wrong!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Oh plums!

I made a plum pudding last night. It seemed a simple recipe - soak plums in sherry, pour a sugary batter over them in a dish, bake until golden brown, sprinkle with icing sugar. Ugh! It was horrid! It was just a battery stodge. I don't know if that was how it's meant to be, or if something went wrong, but either way it was nasty. What a disappointment!

Tonight I'm going to attempted a flourless pear and chocolate cake. I hope it's more successful (and edible).

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Three stages to baby quilt

This is my latest baby quilt, with a specific colour scheme - my first quilt that's not been allowed to be random!

Step one: laying out the blocks.

There are two types of white fabric: one plain, and one with a paisley pattern that's very subtle and cute. I love the random patches of gingham, flowers, and the baby letters.

Step two: all the strips sewn together:

Although I think I got a bit gung-ho with the strips, and perhaps in the future I'll stick to making blocks up. I found that doing strips meant there was more chance of the width being slightly out in places. Not a lot, and I'm sure the receiver won't notice, but I do....

Step 3: the finished quilt top:

I think it looks lovely! A great time spent in my newly-painted sewing room which is getting more comfortable by the day - there'll be shelves going up soon.