Monday, 30 May 2011

Cherry Bakewell Eggless Cupcakes

I was thoroughly determined that I was going to bake today. It's a Bank Holiday, and I got some silicone cupcake cases for my birthday, which I have not had the opportunity to use yet. However, as usual when I come to bake I found that at least one vital ingredient was missing. Today it was eggs. I looked around the internet for a while at a huge range of eggless sponge and cupcake recipes and eventually realised that they were all slightly different and, not having any oil in either, I didn't generally have the right ingredients in for anything.
It was time to completely blag a recipe, as I got bored of googling but not actually baking. So, I used about 150g of self raising flour, about 100g of marg, 100g sugar, a pinch of baking powder for good measure, a good dollop of plain yoghurt and enough milk to make a cupcake batter. As I have jam in and I was determined to use it, I decided on a whim to recreate one of my favourite baked treats, the Cherry Bakewell, in cupcake form. Therefore I also added a good dash of almond essence to the batter.When filling the cases, I put a spoonful of the mixture in first, then added a dollop of jam, then topped with another spoonful of cake batter. In the spirit of pure guesswork, I put them in the oven at about 184'C for about 17 and three quarter minutes. Pretty much a hot oven, until they were cooked.

And there you have it. As usual, I was far too impatient to eat them to wait for them to cool properly before I iced them, so the icing melted in a bit. However, I can confirm they are nommy. Yum. One to remember.

Tasty Innards

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Ban The Bomb: Weekend Crafting

John Lewis Wooden Peace Symbol - £15
I nearly had a moment of weakness the other week in John Lewis. I was on the verge of buying a lovely wooden CND symbol ornament for £15. I carried it around the shop for quite a considerable amount of time, stroking it, but after a while I realised that I'd just feel bad if I spent £15 on an ornament. By that time I'd had it for long enough in my hands that the shiny new feeling had worn off so I was quite able to put it back on the shelf without purchasing it.

I occasionally get pangs, thinking I might go back and get it (it would look lovely on my fireplace) but even just seeking out the picture and putting it on my blog now seems to have helped. Anyway, this whole incident made me wonder why I have not been doing my own home crafty decor using the CND symbol.

And now I have made my own little piece of Art-Attacky Crafty Goodness in my house, to replace the hole where a CND symbol shaped ornament should be. Hooray!

N.B It really is proper Art Attack. Neil Buchanan would be proud of the papier mache on newspaper, finished with acrylic paint type action that I have been engaged in.

Draw the desired outline onto a large piece of cardboard.


Cut that shape out, carefully, using a completely inappropriate tool like a Leathermann,
because that's what's to hand and it make take years to find your craft knife.
Cover the outline with screwed up newspaper, masking taped into place.
Stick bits of loo roll all over the newspaper 
using slightly watered down PVA glue, or something similar.
When that's all dry, paint it up using acrylic paints, for a nice shiny finish.
Ta da!


Silent Sunday

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Repurposing an old picture frame

The Boy has a lovely tendancy to bring home things that he finds, out and about, that other people have chucked away. Our first BBQ was one that someone had left out for the binmen to collect. This time, he brought me home a picture frame which had no glass and no backing. I've been pondering for a little while what I was going to do with it and today I've had the time and the brain space to come up with an idea.

I was in the kitchen when I noticed the little tub of magnetic fridge letters on the table. My mother in law brought them up as part of the final job lot of our crap that she's had cluttering up her attic for years. We haven't got a fridge door anymore (we've got a built in one that looks like a cupboard) and so I'd left them out to force me to do something with them, i.e. probably freecycle them.

But 'Eureka!' I thought, I can make some funky, crazy piece of art tat for the house now!

Warning - if you are of a nervous disposition, are easily offended by bright colours or don't have a psychedelically sympathetic bone in your body, you will not like this piece of home decoration.

I ran off to look for a suitably horrific background for the letters and came across this old piece of wrapping paper. Wallpaper, an offcut of fabric, or even newspaper would have been equally suitable. Luckily, we've just had an Approved Foods delivery, so I also have lots of lovely cardboard at my disposal.

With all my materials to hand, I started to create something tacky, gaudy and truly awesome...

Cut a piece of cardboard to fit inside the frame.

Cut out your backing paper/fabric to the right size and stick it to the cardboard.
Et voila - even that's a good start. 
Obviously, this would look better if my wrapping paper didn't have folds in.
But that's what I had, I like the pattern, so that's what I've used.
Stick on your chosen phrase, constructed of fridge magnet letters and glue.
Remember, the sensitive should shield their eyes now!

Ta da! 

See, I did warn you! But I think it's awesome. It's gonna look crazy as when it dries and I hang it above the stairs. I shall add another photo of it in situ if I remember. 

So don't try it at home kids, that was yet another dose of the extreme housewife's guide to hippy crafting. Good night and yahweh bless.

Most complicated thing I've ever crocheted!

I've just finished crocheting myself a new jumper! It's one of the most complicated things I've made in the few short years since I first learned to crochet, so I'm quite proud of myself and thought I'd share!

The pattern came from  Crochet Me: Designs to fuel the Crochet Revolution by Kim Werker. This is a lovely little book that I've had for a few years, bought for me as a gift originally. I find the patterns really easy to follow and there are lots of useful information panels in there that help with trickier processes like pattern blocking.

I made the top using a 4mm hook and some lovely soft Bergere Tweedine yarn in Cassis, that I won from one of the knitting magazines. Still got two balls left as well, so there's another project in the making!

Admittedly it'll look better when I'm not wearing a maxi underneath
Still, it has taken me a few months, but mainly because there were long periods of weeks where I put it down to do other things, like making Kay, of Brink of Bedlam a strawberry shaped mooncup holder and a number of other small gifts for various people.

So now I am free of the never-ending purple jumper saga. It fits, it's comfortable and a bit different so I am happy. What next? Well, some of our best friends will be having there first child in September. I feel the urge to crochet tiny things!


Silent Sunday

Sunday, 15 May 2011

REVIEW: Sol Solis Imprint Jewellery

I wanted to write a review of the beautiful necklace that I was lucky enough to receive recently. It's taken me a week to get around to writing it because I literally haven't taken it off since I received it! Well, I took it off at bedtime, bath time and when I was at the gym, but you catch my drift.

Clever inkless wipe prints!
I won my imprint necklace in a competition on the Sol Solis Jewellery facebook page earlier in the year. They are quite a unique little company, who have harnessed some clever jiggery pokery to produce silver and copper jewellery with personalised patterns in. You can get footprints, handprints, or even doodles reproduced in any number of cute designed pieces.

One of the main reasons I wanted to blog about my necklace was because the process is so clever. Sol Solis send you a special piece of sensitized paper and a chemical free inkless wipe kit to create your prints. The inkless wipes are apparently what they use in hospitals to take prints from premature babies, so you can be assured that they are uber safe to use. The wipe itself is sort of like a face wipe - no mess or fuss, just a rinse with soap and water after use. After you've wiped whatever you're printing with the 'face wipe' type thing, you apply it to the special paper and hey presto! within seconds, the print appears, as if you'd used an ink pad! As you can see from our piece of paper, it was so much fun that when we'd done with the cat, we had a go with our own thumbprints!

So, foolishly, I decided that I wanted Morrighan's footprint on the necklace I had won. Transpires that it is possible to take a young cat's footprints, but they probably won't thank you for it and you'll have to run around for a while afterwards trying to catch them to give their foot a good rinse. Do have treats to hand. I would imagine a small human might be slightly more compliant.

Nonetheless, I got some prints, slightly unsure of how they'd turn out in jewellery form and sent them off. And here's the result!

My lovely necklace!
 I'm really pleased with it! You can get a name added on to your jewellery if you like. They showed me the design with 'Morrighan' written on, but I much preferred the simplicity of just the paw print on its own. The really incredible thing is that the way they transfer the design to be made, sort of takes information from the print about the pressure on each point of the footprint and therefore gives your print in realistic relief! Very clever and a very lovely talking piece. I for one could not be happier!!

NB - Sol Solis did not ask me to write this post, however they were kind enough to run the competition which I was lucky enough to win. I have written this post because I wanted to share, end of. :)


Silent Sunday

Thursday, 5 May 2011

REVIEW: Homemade orecchiette with SACLA sun-dried tomato pesto

After chatting to the nice peeps at @SaclaUK and discussing my lovely to trip Matera, they offered to send me some lovely products to review. Given that I'm a bit of an Italian Food Lover I decided that I wanted to have a go at making my own orecchiette, one of my favourite regional pastas that I tried in Matera.

Orecchiette is a 'little ear' shaped pasta, from the Puglia region originally I think. It's an eggless pasta, so it's really simple to make and you can freeze the dough before cooking if you like - or maybe dry it.

How I did it!

Stick some plain flour in the food processor. 
Add a pinch of salt and slowly dribble in warm water until a soft ball of dough comes together. 
I just used a mug to measure it out - it was about 2 mugs of flour to about 1/2 mug of water.
 Cut your dough into manageable chunks and roll each chunk into a sausage.
I found my orecchiette were a little big, so I'd recommend a 1.5cm diameter sausage!
Cut your sausage into little chunks.
 This is the fun bit. Use your thumb to press down each chunk.
It's a sort of press, then drag motion.

Ta da! Little Ears!
I found the more I made the easier and quicker I got.
Practice makes perfect!
Meanwhile, we fried up some onions, garlic, bacon, courgette and sausage meat in a frying pan.
As orechiette are concave, they suit a nice chunky sauce and we wanted something tasty to bulk out our lovely Sacla Sun Dried Tomato Pesto.  The pesto was a lovely deep red and a tantalising smell arose when I opened the jar. I do love pesto!
I put the orecchiette into water at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes. 
When it was cooked it all rose to the top of the pan.
After draining the cooked pasta I added about half the jar of pesto and all my tasty fried bits.
Et voila! Random pasta complete! The orecchiette was really tasty. It had a satisfying amount of bit to it and picked the sauce up really well. The pesto had a really tasty flavour - not too strong a tomato flavour, but punchy enough to hold its own, even with a smidge of smoked bacon thrown in there.

The texture of the pesto was perfect for this recipe too. It really coated all the pasta with a decent layer, so every piece of pasta had flavour to it. And it wasn't too salty which I was really pleased about. With the bacon and the pesto I didn't add any salt elsewhere and the flavour was just right. Well, after a twist of black pepper of course!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Boot sale gardening

Boot sale bargains
We had a little mosey around the boot sale this morning and I picked myself up a few bargains for the princely sum of £1.60. I'm a sucker for bright bangles, so I couldn't resist these blighters.

The other stuff is intended for the garden, although I've not quite come up with a use for the little wooden bowl with a stand, but it was 10p so I just couldn't resist. Something will turn up that I can use it for!

The other wooden bowl has already been put to good use on the garden table as a little holder for the cactuses. They look very cute! It's nice to find little wooden vessels for a few pence, they look so lovely. The garden is starting to take shape for the year now and with all the beautiful weather we're having it's a real pleasurable place to sit out in. I like finding all these bits of junk to contain my plants, it adds real character to the space. We shall have to start looking at the weather forecast and planning when we can get a few people over for a BBQ.

In other gardening news, I got a new grow bag today, so half of my little courgette plants have been planted out to make their way in the world. If they're anything like the potatoes I shall be posting next week, boasting of the incredible size to which they've grown! They're nice strong little seedlings so I am hoping they will take quickly, but we'll see.

All the bits and bobs in the mini greenhouse are growing nicely too, except one of my two melon babies dried out while we were away in Italy. I need another growbag really to put the melon in, but I'm not sure it's worth it just for one plant, so I might just put it in a big planter in the greenhouse. That was the last of my seeds so if I don't manage to get a melon of my very own this year I may give it up as a bad job!! Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't. Last years melon plants were very leggy but I think the tomatoes were stealing some of their light, so I shall endeavour to avoid repeating the error.

My quick cut and come again lettuces have sprung up well over the last fortnight in the mini greenhouse, so we can start harvesting those now, as and when we need them. As all the other veg seedlings have been planting out I have a spare seed tray, so I'm tempted to start off a new lot that will keep us going in about three week when we've ravaged this lot.

All the veg is having moderate success. I have sprouts, onions, swedes and sweetcorn coming along relatively well in the border. As usual carrots are faring with mixed success - this seems to be another veg that doesn't really like me, but that's ok - they're pretty cheap anyway!

French beans bottom left
We've got some really strong french bean and broad bean seedlings so one of my jobs for this week hopefully is to make some nets that I can attach round the place for them to climb up. I'm hoping to train the French beans to climb up the crates and then on up the fence which will look really cool if it works out!

And finally, for those of you who have been following my springtime gardening posts, here are the epic potatoes. They continue to grow out of all reasonable proportion and the potato bag is a constant devourer of any spare compost. There's still a good 2 inches to fill at the top and then really we should start mounding it up, but our compost bin simply cannot keep up!!


Silent Sunday
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