Sunday, 30 September 2012

Channelling my inner Mary Berry....

Puddings....mmmmm....I want puddings....

Ever since the pudding episode of  the 'Great British Bake Off' I have been craving puddings. Not fancy, delicate or fine puddings.... I want big fat, sweet & stodgy, puddings - the sort you got dished up as a child and sploshed with gallons of yummy yellow custard!

I wanted to make one last weekend and played with the idea of Sticky Toffee pudding....then I dreamt about Jam roly-poly.... but in the end decided it simply had to be Treacle tart!  I went shopping to get all the ingredients and deliberatly walked past the 'ready-made-just-heat-in-the-oven' pie determined to channel my inner Mary Berry and make one from scratch myself! I even googled her recipe here.

I got everything home and checked through, trying hard to resist sticking my finger in the golden syrup,  only to discover that the bottom of my *special* (not used very often) fluted flan tin had gone missing!  I hunted high & low and thought I had found an alternative china pie dish - only to discover that it had a huge hairline crack running through it -disaster!  I didn't have anything else suitable or that was not already being used for the Sunday roast so that was that. I could have cried and, having told the kids we were going to have a totally fab pudding-fest, felt really rather bad about the whole thing!

Anyway, by this weekend I'd pretty much forgotten about it and pushed my cravings back in the craving spot (or wherever it is they live when you are not thinking about them) and consoled myself that puddings are just really bad for you anyway. Then this morning, out of the blue,  Super-Huzb brought me home a new fluted flan dish!  Treacle tart here I come....

Back to googling Mary Berry's recipe and not long after the new flan dish got duly covered in pastry and the extra little strips for the top were prepared.  Breadcrumbs were whizzed in the whizzer and a pan of sticky golden syrup was set to warm gently on the hob.  A large un-waxed lemon was zested & squeezed and the kitchen smells were mmmmm..delicious!

I'm not sure Mary would approve but I decided to use only 1 lemon, not 2, because in our house we all have a rather sweet tooth and I just know that our youngest would 'yuk' at too lemony a flavour.  I guess Mary isn't here to try it (or Paul Hollywood to grimace at it) so it didn't really matter.

I also didn't exactly work the classic 'lattice' look either, preferring instead to embellish (aka cheat..) with a few un-woven, twisted pastry strands instead (sorry Mary).  I did brush everything with egg so it baked nicely from anaemic to golden brown in the alloted 25-30mins and I managed to stop it from getting burnt by popping some tin foil over the top for the last 10mins- that way it could also go on cooking and I could try to avoid the dreaded 'soggy bottom'.

The last thing you are instructed to do, and probably the most difficult, is to leave it in the tin to settle a while - which when it's all golden sweet, fresh out the oven is pretty hard!  It is necessary though otherwise the middle would be too gooey to cut properly.

treacle tart

So here's my finished Treacle Tart!  Maybe not the best looker in town but it sure did taste mighty fine and there was very little evidence of a soggy bottom.  Of course, it was most definately best served with some yellow stuff too...

I just need to sit with the papers and a bit of Downton now to round off the day nicely!

Happy Sunday :-)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Yarnstorm in a teacup....

For the last year or so I have been helping to set up and co-ordinate a small, local support group for people affected by psoriatic arthritis ('PsAZZ' in Bath) and this week in particular I have been helping them to organise a yarnstorm event taking place in December.  

Apart from the paperworky things, I've also been making a few examples to take along to the next meeting, and last night I made this batch of funky crochet flowers..

yarnstorm doodles

Personally, I believe there is a whole lot of therapeutic value in crafting (or any other such distraction that absorbs you and takes you away from your troubles!) but the nature of this particular arthritis is that it quite often it affects the hands with swollen knuckles, bent finger joints and achey wrists so it can make any kind of crafting difficult. Holding a crafting event such as this is testament to the sheer willpower of those affected!

We have a fairly small area to decorate (hence the 'teacup' bit in the title ;-) and apart from sorting out event details, I have been putting together some ideas for those who feel they might not be able to take part because they either can't knit/crochet or have sore hands that don't lend themselves to crafting very easily. 

The plan is that it will all be on display outside the Bath Institute for Rheumatic Diseases who have been very supportive to the group.  First of all there is a large door to cover which should be easy enough to sort by asking for small patchwork squares from those who can knit or crochet.  Then, the rest of the area to fill will largely comprise of garlands and I've been thinking of all sort of easy-to-make woolly 'things' that could be strung onto them (in addition to knits & crochets) such as....

 .....pom poms & tassels (see the tutorials page for the easy peasy step-by-steps for these)

.....french knitting tubes & shapes

.....plastic canvas shapes sewn with colourful yarns...

.....examples of how uneven, imperfect but brightly coloured shapes can be fun (and made with big easy-to-grip knitting needles of course!) and not forgetting, good old fashioned wrapped lolly sticks!

So, here's the event poster in case you are interested in taking part...

I'm nagging all my family members to join in - big ones & small ones alike (taking no excuses with all these examples of what to make!).  I am sure the other group members will do the same and the best result will be if it raises awareness for the cause and, in addition, it inspires people back into the possibilities of crafting even with their disabilities!

Well, I'm off to sort out more yarns and then possibly venture out to get some more.  I'll be taking my umbrella though...there has been so much rain this week that the title of this post seems even more appropriate than I first thought!

Happy crafting :-)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Tropical autumn...

I usually enjoy the changing of the seasons and this morning I took my coffee outside in the garden so I could make the most of the flowers that are still out doing their best to thrive in the last golden rays of autumnal sunshine!  I took a few photos for two reasons - first to be able to look at next spring when I will forget what we planted and second, because the colours are simply inspirational....

yellow flower

The warmth and colours are almost tropical and several friends have mentioned that they are off in search of warmer climates in the next month which reminded me that I had a necklace tutorial for just such an occasion!  I've been working on it some more this week and put it into a new mini-magazine style format that I am thinking of using for other projects in future and I'd love to know what you think?  

Here's the link:


And of course, if tropical colours aren't really your thing you can easily swap colour schemes to suit.....

Enjoy Making :-)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Return to Downton...

Sundays just aren't Sundays without a roast dinner, the papers and a good old TV costume drama to settle down to so I admit to being quite excited at the return of Downton Abbey series tonight.  I know the stories can sometimes be a little bit... hmmm shall we say 'twee' (?) but to be honest who cares - mostly I just want Sunday evening to be nice & easy before the real world starts all over again the next day.

The thing I love most is looking at the sets, from the furniture and household paraphernalia to the fabulous costumes & jewellery (all faithful reproductions of the era aka eye candy for the vintage lover) It always seems so much more of a romantic time too with all that gentlemanly chilvary, polite conversation and stifled passion! *Sigh*

OK, I know that's a bit rose-tinted and it wasn't really all that good back in the day but it definitely cast it's influence on my choice of crafting today...

As you can see, this afternoons project was indeed a little bit 'Downton' but it is also something that is well on trend this season so I may get to wear it without looking like I'm half dressed for a costume party.  I've not made a crochet collar before so had a play with some sizing and stitches first to find my way (whilst sipping on a cup of fine english tea!)  and then had the perfect excuse to rummage through my box of vintage buttons to find just the right little pearly beauty to finish it off.

I used a 3.5mm crochet hook and some silky cotton/acrylic mix DK wool. It didn't take as long as I thought to complete the whole collar in the end and am quite pleased with the result.  I am going to try wearing it over various tops to see how it works best.

crochet collar

It wasn't a difficult pattern either and I am aiming to write it up properly later (if I can read my scribbled notes!) but before I do that I think I may just have to try it out again and maybe make a couple up for Christmas presents.

Happy Sunday crafting :-)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Girly crafting moments...

This weekend my son had a friend and his little sister around to play - after they had finished charging around the garden and playing with the marble run the boys asked if they could play DS together but little miss wasn't quite so interested in that and asked if we could do some 'making'.  She had spotted some mini knitted bunting flags that I was working on but had not yet learnt to knit (she is only 6) so we settled on doing some sewing.

After a quick rummage I found an old school shirt of G's and we cut out a couple of heart shapes.  I got little miss to write her name on the front in pencil and then choose what colour embroidery thread to use and away she went, sewing carefully around the lines.  As the only stitch she knew was basic running stitch we decided to go back around and fill in the gaps with a second colour and then she got very excited choosing a seed bead to 'dot' the i and the pretty daisy flower buttons to decorate the space underneath.  We added a few stitched stems and leaves, topped it off with a few more seed beads then stuffed it.  I helped sew up the side and add some ribbon of her choosing and she was pleased as pleased can be!  

handmade heart

I'd say she did the majority of the sewing herself (with a bit of guidence) and I'd forgotten what great students little girls make... their attention to detail and ability to listen & learn is so focussed - it was a real pleasure and I've promised we will make something else another time...

She tells me she is going to hang it in her bedroom- how great is that!

Happy Making :-)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Playing with ribbons...

I recently designed a group of 3 projects for 'Creative Beads & Jewellery' Magazine (issue 24) that were created specifically to help demonstrate ways of using the free cover gift of  organza ribbons. The ribbons were in gorgeous summery shades of hot pink, aqua & purple so there was no shortage of inspiration colourwise!  

I really wanted to test how the ribbons would work used in lots of different ways and actually ended up making twice the number of projects needed (which can occasionally happen in the design process when my creative mojo gets carried away!)  I also didn't want the final projects to be too complicated or fiddly because that might simply result in wasting the ribbon but it was still hard to choose just three (a necklace, earrings & bracelet made it into the magazine).

One that didn't get sent through was this little project which would be great for a flower girl or summer party!

The hair band was first wrapped with some of the organza ribbon then I made a couple of pink ribbon roses to compliment the central fabric flower shape & nested pearl.   All the flowers were then attached to the band before being wire wrapped with tiny pink & purple glass pearls.

I hope it's inspired you to play with ribbons - there are so many ways to use them across so many crafts!  I have the band sitting here in my projects drawer now and just wondering who I could give it too...

Happy Making!