Thursday, August 5, 2010

With love from me to you

Good evening folks. It is a special day today, one which you will always look back upon with fondness. Today, I shall be sharing with you my most favourite recipe, for raspberry chocolate brownies. And for this, you will either love me or hate me, but either way you'll love the brownies! I didn't get a chance to photograph today's version, so here's one that I made earlier!

So, are you ready? Here goes...

(from Donna Hay "Chocolate")

plain flour, sifted
200g dark chocolate, chopped

250g butter

205g brown sugar

4 eggs (I usually use medium)

1/4 tspn baking powder

40g cocoa powder, sifted

1.5 cups raspberries fresh or frozen (I reckon frozen is better, not worth wasting the fresh on this, better to make cranachan...)
Oven preheated to 180C. Put choc and butter into a small pan over a low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Put in a bowl together with the sugar and eggs (I usually mix the latter two first). Sift over the flour, baking powder and cocoa and mix to combine. Pour into a 23cm/9 inch square, greased cake tin lined with greaseproof paper, top with the raspberries and bake for 45 mins/until set. No need to defrost the raspberries.

I make half this mixture, and use a loaf tin to bake it in. It takes a little less time to cook though. It also freezes very well, though may not get a chance depending on how many people are about!
And why am I sharing this with you? Well, it's my birthday, and it seems to be the tradition that on your birthday, people expect you to give them cake. I've almost managed it :) Enjoy x

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More baked goods!

Today, I've been mostly eating cake. So, I'll post a couple of healthy breakfast muffin recipes that have been developed in an attempt to make me feel less guilty about needing said cakey things to fuel my baby bump (which, just in case you're wondering, is rather large and starting to be uncomfortable at 25 weeks/6 months). They both stemmed from the fact that I didn't have certain ingredients for a recipe that I'd found on-line, and I improvised with what I had in the cupboard/fridge. The basic recipe was this:

  • 300g plain wholemeal flour
  • 50g rolled porridge oats, plus extra for decoration
  • 3 heaped tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g raisins
  • 50g pecans, chopped
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 150ml natural yogurt
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 2 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 small apples, grated
  • 1 medium carrot (100g peeled weight), coarsely grated
To Decorate
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds


Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Lightly oil a non-stick muffin pan with 12 large cups (or two six-cup pans) (Or use muffin cases, like I did!)

Sprinkle with oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds (or not), and bake for 20 minutes or till a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then cool on a rack. Eat when still warm.

You can prepare the dry and wet ingredients the night before. Combine the two in the morning and you'll have a fresh-baked breakfast."

The ingredients are many, but I love the fact that you just sling them all together and give them a bit of a stir. The first time, I didn't have apples, so I put pears in, and substituted the raisins and apricots for dried dates and figs, chopped into tiny pieces. I didn't have pecans and didn't want the seeds on top, so I just put pine nuts into the mix. I also left a bit of the sugar out. Ta da!

These were really lovely, and inspired me to think of what else I could put in to up the "healthiness" factor. Have a guess. Go on....

Change the carrot for beetroot, and keep the apple. Swap the raisins and apricots for figs and dates again, and all the seeds and nuts for the pine nuts, and you get these:

Even more delish. I promise! If these are a bit too healthy for you, just wait two ticks, and read on...

August is a manic birthday month for me, with 10 all in the first two week, and four of those are in my direct family! As well as the birthday party for the first-born next weekend, Mr Love_Crafts has also requested various chocolatey treats in order to celebrate his birthday, which is this weekend.
So, after my little cupcake adventure a couple of weeks ago, I found a buttercream recipe that fitted my concept of icing much better than the cream cheese abomination that curdled (see here if you have no idea what I am on about). I perked this and the cake base up with a bit of fairtrade cocoa, and le voila as they say.

I also made jams and rocky road, but seeing as those are neither baked nor as pretty, I shall leave them out!

So tell me, if you're still here... does the thought of beetroot muffins appeal to you?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Let them eat cake!

Well, cupcakes, to be precise. It's fast approaching the day where I sweat and toil to make my darling daughter's 3rd birthday most memorable. It's also the first birthday party I have ever organised. It may only be 6 toddlers and their respective parents (hopefully just one half of the full set), but I am a bit concerned.

So I've been practicing. DD has requested cupcakes. And I've never made them before. Plenty of muffins, pies, quiches, cakes, blah de blah, but never cupcakes. And seeing as the only bit she ever eats is the icing, then I need to get that right! So here is our joint effort:

I thought I'd get the guests to decorate their own cupcakes with sprinkles etc. This might give the 3 boys a chance to escape the pink-fest that the party shows signs of becoming. I swear I have been as non-girly, colour-neutral as I am myself with DD, but she still professes that pink is her favourite colour. I blame society. And Peppa Pig.

And the taste test?

Believe it or not, that's a happy grin. She just had a mouthful of the icing and didn't want to swallow it too quickly!

But my favourite one is this (perhaps because it looks most like pictures of other ones I've seen):

The close-up shows that the cheese/butter icing thing has curdled a little, not sure what I did wrong. It did taste lovely though. But I'd like to get it smoother, so any tips would be gratefully received.

What did you get up to today? Do tell ;)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Yes, yet another project...

...but this one was planned before. I just could not resist when I found this yarn at £1.99 a ball, half price. £1.99, for cashmere/merino/silk!! (and I rarely use two exclamation points).

I have decided to make the DD a bedspread for those oh so chilly nights that will no doubt be upon us by the time I've finished it (though having said that, it is coming together rather quickly). I just couldn't resist these colours:

and Iz was pleased too, when she saw them. She said she liked the colours, and then, without prompting, she said "and I like the pattern too". (Warning: Proud parent alert) And she's not even 3 yet.

It is a wonderful ripple/zigzag/wave that I found here. It only took me two nights to crochet 6 inches of about 5 foot width. I figured if I crocheted a cover for a single bed, then it'd last her a long while. Even though the yarn was cheap, it still cost £56 to purchase. She's worth it :)

I've nearly finished the new pastel cotton baby blanket of granny squares, I've been commissioned to make a scarf for a blog reader (you know who you are, I've got the yarn and will start it soon!), and THAT bedspread is still lurking. I've discovered a new way to sew the squares together, and I'll blog about that in the next few days or so. Promise!

But what's made me smile much more than yarny loveliness is that Iz wanted to crochet with me. I can see I'm going to have to let her have her own hook to pretend with, until she gets to the stage where she'll let me show her how to do it the proper way. And then I really will be smiling!

What makes you smile? Do tell :)

What did you do last weekend?

I made this:

A real, honest-to-goodness book. With a ribbon bookmark and everything:

Totally from scratch. Well, from fabric, greyboard, paper, ribbon, thread, glue, and a few specific book-bindy bits. Including the stripey bit that protects the book when you pull it off the shelf...

Can you see it there? That's how you know it's a proper book. That, and the fact that I STITCHED the pages together, and glued them too, so that they fan out like this:

In a word, "amazing". It was the best £25 I've ever spent. 6 hours of a bookbinding course, and I can guarantee that this will be the first of many books that I make, in varying sizes, patterns, paper types and so on. And what will I do with them all, I hear you ask?

Why, line them up on shelves and look at the oh so pretty patterns on the covers.

I may even give a couple away. May.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Crochet stripes

At the moment, my most favourite thing to crochet apart from granny squares, is a scarf. Not just an ordinary scarf though, a soft bamboo loveliness that is a joy to make, and from the reactions I've got so far, a joy to touch and receive. This is the third one I've made, and it's so simple.

I know it's odd making scarves in this weather, but needs must (birthday presents for boss-type men).

Just in case you're wondering how to make it, I used a yarn that's mostly bamboo, as this is light and silky (for example, Rowan Bamboo Soft or Sirdar Flirt), 2 x 50g balls of the main colour, then one of each of the other complimentary colours. I then chained as many stitches as I needed for the length, then double crochet for one row, then switched to treble. Switch as many colours, and treble crochet as many rows as you want, then finish with a row of doubles.

I have my eye on a wave pattern (See here for a gorgeous example). I just need to get one more lacy scarf for a present out the way... and maybe do some more of those 384 granny squares for that bedspread. Oh and the cotton baby blanket I started, and the amigurumi book i've borrowed from my friend...

DId I hear someone say "UFO"?

Friday, May 14, 2010

So, the reason for the long absence was...


It's due on or around the 5th November. So for the last 3 months, I've mostly been sleeping, when I've not been working that is!

I do hope you'll forgive me, now you know the reason. And I promise faithfully this won't turn into a baby blog *holds fingers in Brownie promise style salute thingy*. We're selling our house too so it's all a bit manic, yet depressingly craft-clutter-free in here.

Hopefully, I'll be back soon, with more tales from the crochet basket, or perhaps the sewing machine.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Late to the party

Ok, so get all the usual comments about how long it's been out of the way. It's been a long and tiring 3 months, more will be explained over the weekend. However, for those of you who spotted the references to the stay at the Hilton on my tweet feed a few weeks ago this photo shows you just how glam it was:

I was teaching my wonderful friend H how to crochet. And very therapeutic it was too. We did do glam things like bask in the pool, and nibble lovely things in the Executive Lounge, but we mostly caught up on each other's lives, since we haven't seen each other in nearly 2 and a half years. So I haven't been totally lazy, honest!

But mostly, I thought I'd get this quickie post in before the next one, just to let you know about the blog inspiration party over at Copy & Paste last weekend. I haven't had a chance to fully explore all the guest posts, but I can tell you there is some seriously amazing talent over there. Go see!

One of the party posts that has stirred my blogging bone is the "confessional" type list. If you're a reader of my blog, you'll have already seen the previous two layouts I've done on confessionals here, but I thought I'd answer the well-thought out questions.

  1. Everyone knows that I .am a crafter.. , but you'd never guess that ...I am actually a scientist too.
  2. I'm proud to admit that I like ....keeping busy... but my guilty pleasure is .... just sitting still, reading
  3. I'm inspired by ...nature.....and it surprises me when ..I realise just how much!
  4. I'm always ..wanting to learn new things.. but I'm never ..totally satisfied..
  5. I've got lots of ..crafting stuff... but I've always wanted .....more crafting stuff :).......
  6. I tried to ...stop buying more stuff on the internet.. and it ..has mostly worked so far....
  7. If I never .. learn to make patchwork quilts.. it will be own fault....
  8. I didn't ...cut out cakes after I had my daughter.. and now ....I wish I had!
  9. It's not that I ..don't like going out with people but I'd really rather ..stay at home with my family..
  10. Doing .things with yarn. makes me ..relax...
  11. Someone once told me ..every cloud has a silver lining..and then ...I kept looking for them 'til I found them.
  12. I'm happy to say that ..I enjoy "meeting" new friends on-line.. and even .. if I don't comment all the time, I'm still reading and appreciating the sharing of lives....
Please let me know if you blog your confessions, I'm a nosy beggar!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I know, I know. I'm sorry.

Bad blogger. January! That's got to be the longest I've gone without a post since I started this blog. In my defence, it's been a kerazy few months with new job, passing my degree, DD starting pre-school and generally struggling to keep on top of all the everyday mundane stuff that goes on.

However, I have been taking photos. January brought snow. And I practiced my skills with the macro setting:

Then came February. More snow. Or rather, the snow that never went away. We finally bought a sledge of sorts and had some fun in the sun:

Then March, and rain. But the best thing to do when it rains is....

dress up. Oops, no sorry. I meant:

run through all the puddles. But seeing as I don't have any wellies, I just took photos. Lots of them!

But then I've also been crocheting a bit, and I've finally finished sewing together the first block of 24 squares for THAT bedspread that I've started on. And bought another 16 (Eek) balls of silver, as I decided to add another row of the silver around the edge to stop my eyeballs vibrating with the bright colours.

(The above photo is with the bumpy seams. The one below is with smooth seams)

And I love it. It might take me the next two years to finish it, but I know that when I do, I'm going to want to pat it smooth each morning over my bed, which might even encourage me to make it each day.

So what have you been up to? I know I've been bad at visiting people these last few months too, but I aim to catch up soon! Oh, and please have a guess at who my darling man was dressed up as...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Design Your LIfe layouts week 1-2

So, as well as crocheting my little hands off, I also signed up for Cathy Zielske's Design Your Life class over at Bigpicturescrapbooking. I like her teaching style, she's really quite amusing, and her simple style of linear scrapbooking does appeal to me. I'm doing it digi though - I've packed away my paper scrapbooking stuff 'til we sell the house, and the class comes with all the digi templates needed to complete the assignments (3 a week). And let's face it. I barely manage one layout a week normally, so 3 would be most definitely pushing it!

My pages are very simple, I intend to gussy them up before I get them printed all at once, here: 12x12 LOs printed at 75p - bargain! I'll let you know what they're like once I've sent off the order.

First 2 weeks are all about balance and symmetry. All layouts use templates from the class by Cathy Zielske, and all paper is either from the freebies or the shop area of Shabby Princess.

What do you reckon to digiscrap? DO you want to try it/have you tried it? Do tell :)

Oh, and for those of you watching for more crochet squares from my gorgeous yarn... here you go. I'm planning on sewing them up as I go.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How much?

So last night, I thought I'd better get realistic with this entire-crocheted-bedspread idea, and work out how many balls I'd need. I'm not working from a pattern, just making lots and lots of granny squares then sewing them together.

Here is where you discover my second love: numbers. I think I must have been an accountant in another life. Close your eyes if calculations scare you.

I measured my bed (80 inches) and then measured a granny (just under 4 inches), so that makes 80 divided by 4 is 20 squares wide. I added a couple extra for the "just under" , so my bedspread will be 22 squares by 22 squares. 22 squared is 484. (What? How many?? 484 squares at a rate of 3 a night, so that's 162 days give or take. Blimey. Then another week or so sewing them together. Sheesh.)

Anyway. Back to the amount of yarn needed. I weighed 6 grannies, then divided the weight of my ball of yarn by the weight of the 6 grannies. It worked out that 1 x 50g ball makes about 12 grannies. So divide the number of squares you need by the number of grannies per ball (484 divided by 12) makes 40.3 balls. I had 20. Then I'd need about 8 more of the silver to stitch them all together (this is a total guess). Eek. This yarn is £3.85 a ball. You can see that my original £200 estimate for using the yarn when it wasn't split was waaaay out. It'll cost me £200 with splitting the yarn!

But I've committed to the idea in my head, because it looks just stunning. Just look at those six squares up there with all the combinations with teal in the centre. There's another 6 for chocolate, 6 more with purple, and 6 more with green. Yum. I cannot wait. Luckily, half an hour of searching on the net located somewhere selling them at 20% discount. Even with £5 postage, I still saved £15.

What is the most expensive thing you've ever made/started on? Do tell :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Granny Delightful

Finally managed to take some photos of the finished baby blanket. I went with sewing up the seams, and it came together over a couple of evenings. I'm so pleased with it, I don't think I've ever been so chuffed with anything I've made for a long time.

The sewing method produced two different sides of the blanket, one with a little raised border round each square, the other is more or less smooth:

I like both. That's obviously a good thing! And after all the build-up about the wonderful yarn that I've bought for my highly-ambitious-second-crochet-project of an entire bedspread, I have made three squares:

Aren't they just gorgeous? The only pain is having to sew all the bloody ends in. When I was doing the one-colour squares, I could churn out one every 20 mins or so. These little beauties took me around half an hour each, and I spent a good hour beforehand splitting the yarn in two so I can make it go further. If I used it as is (10 ply cotton), I reckon the bedspread would cost around £200 and would weigh a good few kilograms. Warm though!

Just one more gratuitous close-up for those droolers. I know you're there :)

So I showed you mine, will you show me yours?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another "thing"

I'm hoping that I'm not alone in this, but I love learning. And I'm always up for learning new crafts. My latest thing is crochet; I had an old needlecraft book and some really useful videos from mikeyssmail on Youtube. With these tools in hand I picked it up quite quickly, though I'm already a knitter. After a few practice granny squares in dishcloth cotton, I got cracking with some remnant wool from my baby clothes projects.

And here is the work in progress. I am in the process of sewing the 48 squares together; I tried to crochet them, but it was too fiddly for my liking, so I "cheated". I'm hoping to finish it this weekend, so will post finished pics then.

I am enjoying this new craft so much that I've inadvertently spent my Christmas money on some really funky yarn for an entire bedspread. I think I've lost my mind. Though really, with these colours, could you resist?

Glorious aren't they? Once I start on the squares, I'll post some pictures. There are something like 24 different square combinations with the main colours being leaf, teal, purple and chocolate. I'm going to make all the outer rows silver, to pull them all together, and hopefully make your eyes go kerazy :) If it looks half as fab in real life as it does in my imagination, I'll be very pleased.

What other crafts do you do? And which is your current favourite? Do tell ;)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Merry New Year!

May all you desire be realised through just the right amount of hard work to make it feel worthwhile!