Plans and goals for 2013 – A Review

Do you remember Karen started the sewlution jar in January? Well I threw my name into the jar with this main goal: I am going to make less but what I make will be better. Lets see how I did…

couture couture jacket liberty hawthorn Floral Cambie

I learnt some more couture techniques from reading and online tutorials, which I used to make my turquoise couture jacket; The majority of this was finished by hand, which took lots of time, but was to a finish I’m really proud of. I took my time making dresses this year, using higher quality fabrics, and spending much more time on the muslin process and using better pressing techniques to get a better finished garment. I’m not sure if I have really made less, but most of what I have made will be worn for years to come. I’ve made more classic quality pieces and less impulsive fast fashion garments, so I think I can say my Sewlution was achieved, oh Mistress of the Jar!

Other goals I set were:

  • I will not need to be so sentimental and protective of my creations.
    Did you see the giant bag of clothes I took to the charity shops at the end of Me-Made-May? It included many me-made garments that just weren’t getting worn. A couple of garments were kept for recycling, but these are still in the to-sew pile.
  • donationsI will finish what I have started (or get rid of it/recycle it). Errr… not as much success for this. When I moved house I did get rid of loads of scraps and pieces, but I also had to buy more storage for my stash :-S oops.
  • I will do some of the Craftsy courses I have signed up for! I have used the Block of the Month and Free Motion Quilting courses to make my Black and White and Red All Over quilt,  and I’ve been watching knitting classes to learn how to get a better fit in knitting garments (finished cardigan is still drying, must turn heating up!).
  • I really want to make bunting! I made some bunting for the Crafty magazine fox competition, but sadly I didn’t win (I think my tutorial was much too long for a magazine). But that means that I can now share my super cute tutorial with you all instead!
  • I am going to learn to take better pictures. I have a tripod and a remote control, and have been taking hundreds of pictures to get 5 decent ones for the blog. I set up a proper background to take photos of my girly cupcakes.
  • girly cupcakesI am going to be a better blog-reader. I am better at commenting using twitter, but there is still the issue of getting past comment validation systems on a phone. Still a point to work on as I have loved all the great comments I’ve recieved this week.

retro recipes

  • I am going to explore new recipes. I only made 5 recipes as part of my retro recipe plan, but they were all great dishes that I know I will return to. I will carry on trying the classic recipes, but found it tricky this year with my wrists bandaged up.

I think I had a pretty good go at those plans, but the main change has been my attitude to my crafting; more planning and precision has led to more successes. If you want to read my plans for 2014 you can see them here.

Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and commenting this year 🙂 Hope you have a fantastic new year and I’ll see you in 2014!


Retro recipe #5 – Chocolate Slices and Crispy Crunch

It has been a long, long time since I posted a Retro Recipe from my Grandma’s binder, partly due to trying to be healthy. However if there is ever a time to eat yummy snacks it is on your birthday! This recipe is definitely not healthy, so stop reading now if you don’t think you can avoid the temptation…

retro recipes

I wanted something easy to make and that wouldn’t have the oven on for hours on a hot day, when I found recipes for different types of Fridge-Cakes. I couldn’t decide which recipe to use, so I made both.

The first was a classic Rice-Crispies-Square recipe, made with toffees and squidgy marshmallows. I decided to add some Rolos to half the mixture, and this variation proved most popular.

crispies 3

The second recipe was a chocolatey Rice-Crispies-Square made using Mars bars, instead of melted chocolate for a rich caramel flavour. It was yummy as it was, but again I mixed things up and added some Smarties to the basic mixture. I also made some of the squares with cornflakes instead of crispies.

crispies 2

All five varieties were sampled by a range of people; from my brother, to my colleagues, from friends to the bar staff who saw us eating the goodies. There were two clear winners: Cornflakes “as I just always prefer cornflake cakes” and the extra chewy Rice-Crispies-with-Rolos.

crispies 4

Here are the two winning recipes:

For both recipes: Prepare brownie tin or cake tin by lining with foil. When filling with mixture, tin may not be completely full so fold foil up to make divider.

Chocolate Slices

75g or 3oz margarine or butter
3 Mars bars, chopped
Approx 75g or 3oz cornflakes

Melt butter and Mars bars in a saucepan, stirring until all melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Add cornflakes until you get desired consistency. Press into tin and leave to set in fridge, before cutting into squares.

Crispy Crunch

50g or 2oz toffee
50g or 2oz marshmallows
50g or 2oz margarine or butter
Rice Crispies (approx 2-3 cups)
1/2 pack Rolos, chopped in half

Heat toffee, marshmallows and butter in pan until everything has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in enough Rice Crispies until mixture is fairly stiff. Stir in Rolo pieces and press mixture into tin. Chill in fridge and then cut into squares.

I’m not sure if you can tell from the photos, but I cut tiny squares. These recipes are both very rich and sweet and delicious, so small portions were needed! I am not normally a big advocate of small puddings, but with these less is more!

crispies 1

Retro recipe #4 – Quick and Easy Fruit Cake

retro recipes

It has been a while since I tried any “new” recipes so yesterday, since the oven was on cooking lunch, I had a look through my Grandma’s folder for a recipe to try. I picked the Quick and Easy Fruit Cake recipe as it contained ingredients I had lying around and the recipe claimed it wouldn’t take too much effort.

The process was easy as described (but not quite so quick as there was a bit of standing around and waiting).

1. Weigh ingredients.

quick and easy cake 1

2. Simmer and let the sugar turn caramel brown.

quick and easy cake 2


3. Admire juicy plump fruit (and ponder possibilities of using fruit juice instead of water)

quick and easy cake 3


4. Mix.

quick and easy cake 4

5. Bake, leave to cool then eat.

quick and easy cake 5


This was another recipe with minimal instructions, so I used my standard 8″ (20cm) loose-based cake tin. The resulting cake was rather flat, so next time I’d use a smaller cake tin to get a bit more height. This also meant that the cake cooked much more quickly than the 90 minutes the recipe instructed – I smelt yummy smells after about 50 minutes.

Here is my slightly more detailed version of the recipe:

Quick and Easy Fruit Cake

4oz margarine
4oz sugar (I used soft brown)
12oz dried fruit (I used currants, sultanas and cherries, but you could use anything)
1/4 pint of water
1 egg, lightly beaten
8oz self-raising flour

Grease and line a 6″ (15cm) round cake tin and pre-heat oven to 150ºC (gas mark 2)

Put margarine, sugar, fruit and water into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on. Remove from the heat and let the pan cool for approx 5 minutes. Add the beaten egg and flour and mix well until combined. Put mixture in tin and bake at 150ºC for approx 50-60 minutes (depending on size of tin) until top is golden and skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a little while, before cooling on a wire rack.


As I was simmering the fruit I wonder what liquid could be used instead of water – how about soaking the fruits in apple or orange juice? Or what fruits would you choose to use – dried apricots and dates, raisins and sultanas, or even dried apple pieces? Not many of the recipes in the folder contain spices (due to post war availability?) and the cake tasted nice as it was, but you could easily add a few teaspoons of mixed spice or cinnamon.

If you make this recipe (or make any changes) let me know how you get on. I’d love to see pictures of other (quick and) easy fruit cakes!

Retro Recipe #3 – Scone Base Pizza



retro recipes

I thought it was time for another Retro Recipe but couldn’t think of a good enough excuse for cake so flicked through my Grandma’s binder looking for something savoury. Most of the recipes she collected were cakes and puddings and sweets (is that where I get my sweet tooth from?) and I was about to give up when I found this…



I made this exactly as written, although with a little less cheese (3oz looked like plenty to me). It was a very simple recipe (only used a bowl, a chopping board, a frying pan and a baking tray so simple washing up too) so there is not much for me to add.

pizza dough

The most time-consuming prep was frying the onions.



I went for classic “Herbs de Provence” and salt and black pepper for seasoning.



I did change the recipe slightly and added the end of a jar of red pesto to half of the base before adding the toppings.



Cooked at 190ºC fan oven for approx 20 minutes.



Due to all the moisture from the onions I couldn’t tell if the scone base was done, but turning it over revealed a well cooked bottom.

crispy bottom


dinner time

This was really quick and simple to make, and used ingredients I had already in the house. I kept the recipe simple with cheese, onion and tomato but I think it would work well with a variety of other toppings (or flavoured scone bases) or maybe as mini-pizzas. The half with pesto had a bit more flavour, but both sides were pretty yummy and satisfying straight from the oven. I will try and remember this when I have no food in the fridge and need a quick supper – why don’t you try it for Sunday afternoon teatime?






Retro recipe #2 – Lemon Bakewell tart

Last weekend I had a lovely Sunday lunch and afternoon watching football/cooing over a friend’s 3 and 19 month old boys. Lots of energy was spent playing peek-a-boo with the toddler and running after him so it was a good job we had a hearty lunch.

For starters we had a very thick tomato, pepper and chorizo soup* with garlic and rosemary focaccia bread. Next we had a lovely chicken, ham and leek pie with a puff pastry top with piles of roast potatoes and veg. After a short interlude was dessert, made by my fair hands.

retro recipes

Flicking through the Radiation Cookbook yesterday the recipe that jumped out was Bakewell Tart. Lots of the recipes in the book are quite different from what I/we eat nowadays so it felt safe to start with a recognisable dish.

lemon bakewell pastry

The recipe suggested using jam or lemon curd, and also gave a choice of ground almonds or cake crumbs. I chose lemon curd** and so decided to use cake crumbs so the flavours wouldn’t be in competition with each other. It was pretty straightforward to make and was a resounding success – we did the Great British Bake Off pastry test and the base was perfectly cooked. When I asked my friends for a quote, M said something along the lines of “I don’t really like eating puddings, but I think I’m going to have thirds.”

lemon bakewell success

Radiation Cookbook Lemon Bakewell Tart

8oz short crust pastry (made with 8oz flour, 4oz marg,

pinch, 1 tsp sugar and 1/4 tsp baking powder)
Lemon curd (maybe a generous 1/3 of a jar)
1/4 lb marg
1/4 lb caster sugar
1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks
2-3 drops of lemon extract
2oz cake crumbs

Line a 8 1/2 inch pastry tin with the pastry, press into the fluted edges and spread lemon curd all over the pastry case.
Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the lemon extract and unbeaten eggs, one at a time. Beat well then add the cake crumbs. Spread this mixture over the lemon curd to three-quarters fill the pie. Bake on a hot baking tray in the oven for 40 minutes at 180ºC

To decorate like a traditional Bakewell tart (when cooled) cover with a thin layer of water icing (icing sugar and enough water to get a good consistency). Immediately drizzle with lines of melted dark chocolate, then run a skewer through to create the traditional feathered effect.

lemon bakewell

*Hello daddy, yes I did eat my first ever full bowl of soup because it was very thick and chunky. For people who don’t know me in real life, I should explain I have a real aversion to liquid foods – I don’t eat custard or gravy because the consistency freaks me out. But I tried it because I ate sushi in December and so was feeling brave!
** another food I have only recently appreciated after avoiding it due to memories of my big brother taunting me we lemon curd when we were younger.

Retro Recipe #1 – Apple Cake

retro recipesThe first recipe in my recipe challenge was an apple cake from my Grandma’s recipe binder as I had lots of apples that hadn’t got eaten in the holidays.

recipe I had all the ingredients in my kitchen except for the lemon so I substituted a few drops of  lemon essence. Three regular eating apples came to approx 8oz after they were peeled and cored. The recipe seemed a little odd at first – making a breadcrumb texture with the flour, sugar and marg felt more like I was making biscuits or pastry – but when the egg was added it came together really nicely and made a good thick batter.

apple cake mixThe recipe didn’t give instructions for tin size and after some trial and error the best fit I had was an 8inch round tin. I lined it with foil as my greaseproof paper got used up making Christmas gingerbread, which allowed me to pick up the cake mix to put it in another cake mmmm

The recipe sai to cook for 60-90 mins at gas mark 4. According to my conversion magnets this is 180ºC, however after about 45 minutes I could smell cake, it looked golden brown and the skewer test showed the cake was cooked. The cake was a little bit shorter than it probably should have been, which could have explained why it cooked faster.

This cake was a great Sunday afternoon cake (yup, back-to-school has left me too exhausted to blog this until today). Normally I would automatically add some cinnamon or spices to an apple dish so it was refreshing to have a tang of lemon in this cake and it added a nice depth to an otherwise fairly simple cake. The apple stayed in chunks and the sultanas were well distributed around through the cake (helped by the method of mixing perhaps?). This cake doesn’t have the wow factor of some cakes, but I would definitely make this again for an afternoon tea.

apple cakeHere is the recipe:

Apple Cake
8oz self-raising flour
4oz margarine
4oz sugar (I used a mix of caster and light brown)
pinch of salt
3oz sultanas
8oz chopped apple (cut into approx 1cm cubes)
Grated rind and juice of 1 small lemon OR 3 or 4 drops of lemon essence
2 medium/large eggs

Rub the margarine into the sifted flour until it forms breadcrumbs. Add the salt, sugar, sultanas, apple and lemon rind and mix well. Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add to mixture with the lemon juice/essence. Using a knife mix the egg into the cake mixture and fold in gently until all ingredients are combined. Grease and line a 7 inch round cake tin and place mixture into tin. Place in middle of oven at 180ºC and cook for 45 to 50 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack – tastes good slightly warm or cooled the next day!

If you make this recipe please link back to this post or get in touch so I can see your pictures!