Gingerbread penguins at the zoo

I haven’t actually written any baking-related posts yet, so it is definitely time I did. I went to Zoo Lates at London Zoo for my birthday yesterday, and so had to rustle up my fail-safe recipe – gingerbread animals! To quote my housemate “it is the best gingerbread recipe I’ve used, it always work really well” so I’m going to share it with everyone.

This is a recipe I have used for years, originally from The Australian Women’s Weekly Beautiful Biscuits book, changing it slightly as the recipe calls for cups which I don’t have. This version is really old (probably as old as me) but there are lots of new Australian Women’s Weekly books, although I don’t know if they have the same recipes.

Gingerbread men/animals/birds/etc

Ingredients:

4oz butter
3oz brown sugar
1 egg yolk (save the egg white for icing or meringues)
12oz plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tbsp golden syrup

Method:

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg yolk. Sift all the dry ingredients together and slowly add to the mix, then add the syrup (sometimes you need more syrup or less flour, depending on how much mixture has been “tested”). Knead the mixture lightly until you have a good firm dough. You can put the dough in the fridge to firm up for an hour or overnight to make it easier to roll.

Take a lump of dough (maybe a quarter of the mix) and roll it between two sheets of greaseproof paper. This makes it easier to roll as nothing gets stuck to the rolling pin. Roll the dough to 1/2cm or so thick, and cut out your shapes.

Place shapes on a greased tray and cook in a moderate oven (180oC is usually pretty good) for about 10 minutes until the biscuits are golden but not too crunchy – they will harden up as they cool, so make sure you don’t over-cook them. Remove them from the tray and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

To serve:

Depending on the cutters you use, you can decorate with melted chocolate (melt tiny pieces in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave) or icing, sprinkles, chocolates, sweeties, etc.

To make royal icing take the egg white and add icing sugar. Keep beating and adding more icing sugar until you have a good consistency. I never measure the sugar, I just do it by eye as it changes if you are using liquid or paste colouring. If you are using a piping bag the icing needs to be pretty thick so that the shapes hold.

My new cake-stand (not sure it is quite right for large gingerbread animals)

Penguins, bears, foxes/red pandas and a T-Rex

Gingerbread elephant

Photography in the park

Today I had a lazy morning and then popped into town to meet a friend for lunch (I am super jealous of the friends who can just pop out for lunch – its an achievement for me if I can pop out of my classroom at lunchtime!) and then went for a wander through St James’ Park with my new camera.

Lots of the photos were awful (“lets see what happens if we change this setting to the maximum number…”) but there are a few promising images hidden amongst them… Continue reading

A new camera means two things…

… time to sew a camera bag and test out the camera with some blog photos!

My trusty camera broke a couple of weeks ago (the sensor or something has died so it only takes black photos) and yesterday I got a replacement, courtesy of my dad’s pile of reject cameras. His rejects are still pretty good, so I am now the owner of a new (to me) Canon SLR EOS 20D. And what does a new camera need? A nice hand-sewn bag to carry it in. And what better way to test out how it works, than by taking some photos to make a tutorial… (sadly the pictures of the camera in the case had to be taken on my phone)

Finished camera bag

Camera in finished camera bag Continue reading

Cute as a button

Today’s post was going to be all about trousers – I went to the first sewing group arranged by some lovely people on The Sewing Forum and got lots of help with fitting the tissue pattern for my first ever pair of trousers, and was all ready to try them out in calico (or whatever it was I got in IKEA) when I may or may not have accidently sent my button box flying, scattering the contents everywhere. Ooops! However the upside is that I have an excuse to write about buttons!

Continue reading

Super-cool cross-stitch

I saw this post on the Guardian’s craft section a few weeks ago and was really impressed http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2011/jun/15/cross-stitch-craft-qr-code?picture=375759941 I held up my phone to the screen and the photos of the cross-stitch actually worked! Go on, try it…

After a month or so of solid machining, I felt like I needed a watch-tv-and-craft project to do, and so was inspired to do some cross-stitch.

I created a QR code using a website I googled, and then edited the size of it to make the grid using instructions I found here. Sewing was nice and easy, using just one colour, but needs frequent checking to make sure it is right – don’t want a mistake and the code to not work properly! (I wrote this post at the beginning of the month, but due to technical problems I had to change the pattern and re-do a section of the design for it to work…)

I love that this project combined geeky ICT, sewing and my other passion that is revealed if you scan the code. I am working on another, more colourful cross-stitch on a different geeky theme, which will be a gift for someone (I wonder if they will be able to work out what it is…)

June 30th 2011 – the end of Me-Made-June and a rather special day [part1]

Thursday was the end of Me-Made-June and a day I had been looking forward to for a very long time. Not because it was the end of the challenge (although it was so much easier getting dressed on Friday and not having to think too hard about my outfit), not because I was on strike about my pension, but because it was a day I had dreamed of since I was 8 or 9 years old.

To quote a certain Mr Robbie Williams, for me Thursday had been “20 years in the making, 15 years in the waiting, and 5 years in the deliberating.” Yes, Thursday was the day I saw Take That perform as a group of five!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5! Count them! Five members of Take That singing together!

Continue reading

Me-Made-June – the end of the month

June is over and so I have come to the end of my Me-Made-June challenge.

I was initially not sure if I could manage a whole month in home-made but I have managed it and have worn something home-made for 29 days (1 day of staying in bed in my pjs). This was a total of 22 homemade items including accessories and bags. There are still some handmade items that did not get worn this month (heavy winter clothes and super-summery clothes) due to the weird weather we had, and some items that got quite a few appearances (hello new favourite stripey top!)

I had really wanted to end the month with a bang, wearing head-to-toe homemade, but I had other more important matters to think about when dressing on Thursday… What could possibly be more important than sewing?! …Find out soon!