Christmas Baking

Since most of my current craft projects are top-secret at the moment, I thought I would share some festive baking I have been doing today (with decorating entertainment courtesy of the awesome film Elf). I’m going to take most of them into work tomorrow, but I will save a few for a festive fun day-off on Tuesday.Baking

The recipe is my tried-and-tested gingerbread recipe, with a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon added for extra winter-warming. I tried to make reindeer biscuits, but the legs and antlers didn’t make the journey to the baking tray. Disappointing since I spent earlier in the afternoon sorting packets of Smarties to find the red ones (and an interesting lesson in random probability – some packets contained only 2 red sweets, others contained 8). I suppose they might not have got on with the penguins.

Christmas biscuits

I still have lots of knitting and sewing to do (I decided one of the things I made wasn’t up-to-scratch when I put the elements together, so I am re-making another version). How are your festive plans going?

Magic moments

I went to a bbq this evening and the invite said “bring meat.” Hmm.. knowing that some people marinade their meat for days, I didn’t think I had much to contribute there so I made some Melting Moments from the Aussie women’s weekly biscuit book. Things didn’t go totally to plan and my piping bag sprung a leak (the set is only a couple of years old and wishes me a lifetime of happy baking, so I’m wondering if I can send it back) so some didn’t look that pretty. The recipe has a lemon filling, but I had some raspberries that needed eating so made classic vanilla buttercream. It turns out the raspberries needed eating yesterday so I had to buy more en route and assemble them on site, so this picture is of them after the plate had been attacked.

image

They were even yummier than I expected, and straight forward to make (until the piping bag disaster) so definitely a new summer favourite. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I am flogging this from the bus stop. I have my completed Miette cardigan in my bag, but I’m worried it will smell like bbq and chimnea smoke if I put it on, so I’m hoping the bus comes soon!

Work in progress: Birthday Butterflies

As much as I loved the amazing weather yesterday (feeling hot sitting on the “beach” at 9am was lovely) I am rather pleased the sky is looking a bit overcast today as it means I can actually get on and do something!

My plans for today include, in no particular order:

  • paying in a check from school to reimburse me for a shopping trip months ago.
  • going to the market to get some nice fresh fruit and veg. The market is actually on the way to the supermarket, but is only open during school hours.
  • browsing the sales. I have stood at the bus stop a few times this week after hours (or in yesterday’s case, before hours) and looked through a shoe shop window. I hate shoes, but they looked like there were some good sandals on sale (although they will probably be in the wrong size for me)
  • baking some Olympic themed snacks for a gathering tonight. Then crocheting some more squares for my blanket while watching the opening ceremony.
  • Making this… I’ve spend breakfast with my sketch book and french curves, to adapt a trusty pattern and am ready to chop up this stunning fabric I bought last time the weather was nice (that was the Easter holidays) and forgot about while the weather was cold and gloomy.
  • reliving my childhood on youtube. An online discussion about Neighbours (potential spoilers) has led me down a long path of link-clicking, featuring some classic videos of Byker Grove and PJ and Duncan. Psyche!

That is quite a lot for a day, better get started. Do you have any exciting plans for today or the weekend?

Miscellaneous musings

I had a couple of posts planned to write this weekend, but I still haven’t learned the lesson of leaving all my school work until the last day of the holidays. So instead of taking photos of my new self-drafted jeans, I spent most of the day sorting out my plans for next term. However there are a few little random musings I have time to share..

Baking – its as easy as 1, 2, 3

It was my cousin’s 30th surprise party on Saturday and I had promised to bring some “manly” biscuits. I always make gingerbread and wanted a change so I googled “biscuit recipe that keeps its shape” (hoorah for the internet!). There were lots of variations of a shortbread-type recipe using 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour – I added vanilla to one batch and replaced some flour with cocoa powder in batch two, but the possibilities seem endless. Mix all the ingredients, chill in the fridge, roll and cut out shapes, then cook for about 15 minutes until golden. Easy peasy!
They all got eaten, so no photos, but there will definitely be another batch of dino-fossil biscuits soon.

It’s a small world.

At my cousin’s party I was showing off my new jeans and talking about sewing, when someone on the other side of the kitchen overheard the crafty conversation. I was introduced to Vixie who blogs at Matin Lapin and had been selling super glittery creations at a craft fair earlier that day. We spent hours discussing how to store button collections (in real life and in a fantasy world), strangers talking to us about knitting in public, the blogs we both read, and other cool house-party topics. I started looking at her blog but had to stop because there were so many great links – I had to have a mini internet break so I could get on with work – but it is definitely on the top of my Google Reader reading list.

Inspiring the public.

One of the things Vixie and I were chatting about, was crafting in public and starting up conversations on public transport. So it was a bit eerie when I sat down on the bus this morning (on my way home from an early morning outdoor swim *polishes halo*), got out my crochet and immediately caught the attention of two small girls (approx 4 and 6)

4 year old: I can do knitting (mimes knitting) I’m knitting a dress for my dog
6 year old: Yeah, well I’m gonna knit a jumper.
4 year old: Well I’m gonna knit a rainbow.

A rainbow? Of course I had to do a bit of browsing for inspiration on ravelry…

Pattern by Helen Free

Rainbow Scarf With Clouds by Pam Gabriel

Sunshine and Rainbows by Melissa Mall

I’ve got a few posts lined up, when I have some sunshine to take pictures, so keep your eyes peeled for an update on my crafty crochet revolution, sewing my jeans, and a review of my new favourite book.

Home is where the craft is

I recently moved house so things have been a bit quiet on the blogging/sewing front while life got in the way, but, with only two and a half boxes left to unpack I decided it was time for some crafting 🙂

I bought a second-hand sofa for my new living room that is a lovely burgundy-pinky colour, almost the same colour as some cushions I made from a felted jumper years ago. Notice the word almost – time to make some new cushion covers!

Cushion no.1 - patchwork

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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