Friday, 31 December 2010


The blog has been sadly neglected in all the Christmas chaos this month. So I've posted a few pictures of the things that I've been busy making over the break.
Next year I'll get in early and add some "how to's" of some of the makes I did this year. I'm especially excited about sharing the gingerbread house recipe with you as my little boy had so much fun decorating it.

Christmas cards from my 3 year old.

The finished Christmas cake

 A present for a friends little girl.

 Not a good picture of the napkins and table runner but it's the only one I had. They were made from a single bed sheet from Ikea and decorated with stars in different sizes using silver fabric paint.

 The gingerbread house that my 3 year old lovingly decorated.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


I love sewing with felt, it's so simple and the strong colours make the finished article quite striking. I've done some plain gingham hearts for the Christmas tree but the felts ones are my favourite.

All you need is a simple heart template made from baking parchment. Pin  the template to the felt and cut out 2 hearts.

Take one of the hearts and sew on decoration of your choice, I chose 3 white buttons for mine to match the stitching but you can choose sequins, a single button or embroider your own pattern on.

On your second heart pin in place a ribbon to hang the decoration from and pin together the 2 hearts.

Then you need to sew around the heart in a running stitch (making sure you stitch through the ribbon as you go), until you have almost reached your starting point.

Use the gap to fill the heart with toy stuffing, you do need quite a bit but be careful not to over stuff it.

Once the heart has been filled you can finish off stitching the heart, finishing off when you reach the end and tucking the knot into the seam.

Monday, 6 December 2010


After sewing a lot of little gingerbread men I didn't need half of them to fill the garland!
Here's the finished article. Excuse the poor picture, hanging it above the mirror to take a photo wasn't the best thing to do!!
The garland was an artificial plant from TK Max, I didn't think it would work at first but after trimming off a few branches and tidying up each end, it has come together nicely.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


 Monday saw the soaking of the fruit for the Christmas Pudding, it smelt delicious sitting soaking in brandy overnight.
I used the recipe from the Nigella's Christmas book as we'd tried it out last year. Her recipe recommends using a certain type of sherry to soak the fruit in, I opted for brandy instead.
The next day all the ingredients were combined into the bowl, giving them a good stir.
Unfortunately the other members of the house were out so they didn't get a wish as they stirred this year!
Then the mixture goes into pudding basins and wrapped in foil (just incase of a lid poping incident!) and put in a pan of boiling water for 5 hours!!!

Yes my house did resemble a sauna by the end of the day and I had condensation dripping from every window. I'm sure it'll be worth it on Christmas day (although I'm not looking forward to another 3 hours of it steaming!).

Monday, 29 November 2010


After collecting an assortment of ribbons in red, green and white, I'd been looking forward to making a ribbon wreath for months. We had a trip to Hobbycrafts on Sunday so I managed to pick up a styrofoam ring which was the only part I needed to get started. Excuse the quality of the pictures, these were taken in the evening so they didn't come out very well!

I tied a long piece of gingham ribbon into a loop and looped it around the top of the ring so that the wreath can be hung up.
The next part was to cut 9 reels of ribbon into small lengths of about 3inches.

Each piece of ribbon is then made into a circle and a pin is fastened through the ends to hold it together. You can then pin the ribbon loops randomly over the ring. It takes a while and it does get to a point when you think it's not really going to work, but it will!
Just keep going and pinning loops over the ring, making sure that it is all covered.

(not quite there yet!!)

And here's the finished article:

Monday, 8 November 2010


I'm feeling quite prepared for Christmas this year and finished my 3rd Christmas cake today. It's wrapped up in foil cooling as I speak. I brushed the top with some brandy before wrapping in the tin so when it's cooled completely I'll take it out of the tin and rewrap ready to store and feed every week! That'll give it a good dose of alcohol before icing day.

The trick with fruit cakes being cooked over a long period of time is to wrap it well before putting in the oven. I used a double thickness of baking parchment in the tin before pouring (or dolloping more like) the cake mixture in. Then I wrapped the tin with a double thickness of brown paper, securing it with string. The paper needs to be at least double the height of the cake tin to protect it from getting scorched.

I forgot to take photos but the recipe I used is the one from Nigella's How to Be a Domestic Goddess. It hasn't failed me yet although with one of the cakes I did go a bit over the top with almond essence. Never mind, I'm saving that one for us as hubby likes marzipan so I'm sure he won't notice!!

Time to restock the fruit cupboard before stir up Sunday!

Thursday, 4 November 2010


See full size imageA reliable source (my dad!!) told me it was a good year for Sloes, so we had a productive picking session around some country lanes not too far away on Friday.
I must admit I'd never have noticed the berries growing on the blackthorn bushes by the side of the road if they hadn't been pointed out. They seem very well disguised! But once you're up close they are very distinctive.
There's only one thing to do with these berries and that's to add them to gin. It's been a long time since I tasted this and I can't quite remember what it was like so I'll have a couple of months to wait before I can remind myself!


450g sloes
350g sugar
750ml gin

If the sloes haven't been out in a frost I have read a good recommendation to pop them in the freezer overnight to start releasing the juices. I didn't have to do this for mine but it's a useful tip and saves time pricking each berry with a fork.Once you've done this you can start adding the sloes to the jars, a layer of sloes to a layer of sugar (I have seen recipes for both brown and caster sugar). Once the conatiner is full you can top it up with gin (this doesn't have to be any special brand of gin). You'll need to turn the jar once a week and it'll need to be left for about 2 -3 months in a cool dark place.


With the Hindu of festival of light upon us I decided to make some Diwali sweets to mark the occasion.
They went down a treat last year and as they are called sweets it means I can get the little man to eat dates without a second thought!!

250g dried dates
68g ground almonds
1/4 tin of condensed milk
desicated coconut

Roughly chop the dates up and put them into a heavy pan.
Add the condensed milk and ground almonds.
Heat gently and stir so that they don't catch on the bottom of the pan.

It doesn't take long before it forms a soft ball.

Take off the heat and leave to cool.
Once they are cool you can take out a spoonful at a time, roll into a ball and coat with coconut by rolling them in a dish.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


A few pics from Halloween weekend.

Bread fingers

                                                                    Witches Brew

Thursday, 28 October 2010


I found a great tutiorial on an American blog called purl bee. It was for a wreath made from felt in a pale cream/off white colour. They had used luminous embroidery thread to add detail to their flowers but I'm not sure that'd look right in my house so I have decided to use silvery thread and a few coloured beads instead.

So far I've cut out most of the flowers, just a few more centres to do and then I can get assembling.
I've got no idea where I can hang it yet!
for some reason I can't link to the site at the moment so I've posted the address below if you want to take a look.

Here's the wreath before it's assembled:


I can't remember ever cooking a savoury scone before but I think it's a recipe I'll definitely try again.
This one came from the November edition of the Sainsbury's magazine. There is a page dedicated to different versions of the delightful scone (although not one for the purists!) and this is the first one I had a go at.
I had one with some leek and potato soup for lunch and I'm hooked, I can see these taking the place of ham and cheese muffins in my freezer this winter.

275g natural yoghurt
25ml double cream
25g caster sugar
400g plain flour
2tsp creme of tartar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g cold butter, diced
100g cold shredded fried bacon
4 spring onions, sliced finely
handful of chopped parsley
a handful of grate cheese
beaten egg (or yoghurt) to brush the top with

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C, or 200 for a fan assisted oven.
Stir together the yoghurt, cream and sugar and leave for a few minutes so the sugar can dissolve.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, creme of tartar and 1/2 tsp salt into a large mixing bowl and lightly rub in the butter.
Add the cooked bacon, parsley and spring onions to the flour and mix.
Add the toghurt mixture to the flour and stir using a blunt knife until it's all mixed together. Work it together until if forms a sticky douhg (it's easier to use hands at this stage).
Scoop out the dough onto a floured surface and pat it out to a thickness of about 2.5cm.
Cut out the scones with a 6cm cutter (remembering not to twist it as this stops the scone rising so well) and place on a tray covered in baking parchement.
Brush the tops with beated egg and add a bit of grated cheese to the top.
Cook for 12-14mins until it's turning golden ontop.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


After shopping for the Christmas cake ingredients this morning, I got home and had a desire to bake something Christmassy. The biscuit tin was empty and calling out for cookies so I turned to Nigella!
I have made a couple of changes to her cookie recipe as I had no pecan nuts and didn't want to use the dark brown sugar so I opted for just caster sugar for a lighter biscuit.

150g plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
75g rolled oats
125g soft butter
175g caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
100g dried cranberries
175g white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Weigh out the flour, baking powder, salt and oats in one bowl and in another bowl put the softened butter in. Add the sugar to the bowl with the butter beat until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract.
Put the dry ingredients into the bowl with the butter and beat together, then fold in the cranberries and choc chips.
Roll a tbsp full of dough into a ball and put onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and squash the cookie slightly using a fork.

Cook for 15mins.
Leave the cookies to harden for a couple of minutes on the baking tray before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


These are the gingerbread men I've been making recently. They are based on the template in the Tone Finnanger book Crafting Christmas Gifts. Although I have used a different fabric that the one she recommended as I couldn't get hold of any linen.
The gingerbread men are the same style as her Tilda characters with rosy cheeks and pin prick eyes.
I have a few more to make so that I can string them together in a garland ready to hang over the fireplace at Christmas.


Yesterday evening was spent making up a batch of plum jam.

1.8kg plums
1.8kg sugar
1 pint water

First you need to give the plums a rinse and then wipe them. Chop them in half and put into a preserving (or large) pan with the water.

Simmer gently until the fruit becomes soft and pulpy.

Next you need to add the sugar to the pan.

Bring to the boil and remove the stones as they rise to the top. Boil rapidly until you have reached setting point.
I find the easiest way is to put a plate in the fridge/freezer and once it has been boiling for 10mins or so take the plate out, put a small blob onto the plate and if it has reached setting point then the jam will wrinkle when you push it.
You can also test by lifting some liquid on the spoon and tip it off so the liquid runs down the back of the spoon. If it has reached the right temperature the liquid doesn't drip off in several drips but rather coagulates into one clot as it runs off.
This batch of jam seemed to take forever to reach setting point, more like 20mins.

 Skim any scum off the top of the jam.

 Pot your jam into clean and sterilised jars and seal with wax discs or tight fitting lids.

I had a small amount left over which I put in the fridge to test out this morning, we all ate it for breakfast and it tasted lovely, can't wait until toast time tomorrow!

Monday, 25 October 2010


A few weeks ago I got this idea from the MSE forum. Elf clogs - how cute!! Straight away I found out my stash of felt and made up a pair in green with red embroidery silk for the blanket stitch around the edges.
I raided the button tin to find some tiny red buttons to sew onto the front, but they were still missing something.
After a quick search on ebay I found the perfect little bells in silver and gold which I'm going to sew on the end of the shoe.
I want to make a few pairs in a variety of Christmassy colours so I've been busy on some white and green ones (which I love!).
I can't believe I'm already making Christmas decorations but I suppose it'll be here before we know it.
Here's the link to the elf shoe pattern if you fancy having a go

Here they are, I still haven't got around to sewing the bells on yet though!


Tuesday, 19 October 2010


Hubby got the pumpkins in from the garden yesterday in preperation for Halloween, unfortunately one had been eaten away on the bottom so I'm left with one. Not to worry though as the one we have is HUGE!! I'll get a couple more at the local farm shop this week, but the most important thing is deciding what to go on them!
These are the pumpkins I've done in previous years:

I started off very basic with the first pumpkin I did a couple of years ago. Last years spider web was the trickiest but I loved it. I'd like to do a haunted house this year but other than that I'm stumped!

Monday, 18 October 2010


As promised a basic recipe for chocolate truffles.
50g unsalted butter
100ml cream
200g milk chocolate broken into pieces.
140g dark (or milk) chocolate
cocoa powder
100g white chocolate, melted
2tbsp alcohol of your choice (optional)

Put the butter and the cream in a pan and put over the heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbling. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk choclate pieces.Stir until the chocolate has melted.
(If you want to make liquors then now is the time to add 2tbsp of alcohol, something like Grand Marnier would be lovely!!).
Put the bowl into the fridge and leave until it has set and is firm (takes about 3hours).
Once it has firmed up you can get a spoon full of the mixture and roll it into a ball using the palms of your hands. This can get quite messy so it's useful to have a cloth to hand!
Next you need to roll each of the balls in some cocoa powder to give it a light dusting.
Put the truffles back into the fridge to firm up again (if you need to do these quickly you can put them into the freezer for a short time).
Melt the dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water.
You can now dip the truffles into the melted chocolate using a cocktail stick. Let the excess chocolate drip off and then leave to set on a plate or tray covered with baking parchment.
Allow the truffles to set again in the fridge and then using some melted white chocolate and a disposable piping bag, pipe over 3 or 4 lines on each truffle.
If you don't have a piping bag you can drizzle some melted white chocolate over using a spoon.


Well now the family birthdays are done for this year, thoughts turn to Christmas. I love this time of year and always look forward to Halloween and Bonfire Night celebrations in the run up to December.
I have a few Halloween bits and pieces to be getting on with but other than that most of my up and coming makes will be all things festive.

Things I need to do:
Christmas cakes
Christmas puddings
Pickled onions (not really a make or a bake but I need to write it down to motivate myself into spending hours peeling those pesky onions!)
Stocking for the Little Man
Gingerbread Men garland
Elf shoes/clogs
Christmas Wreath

Things I'd like to do:
Teacup candles
Penguin family from Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle - so cute!!
Reindeer hobby horse

That should get me started but I'm sure I'll be adding to the list as I find some more gorgeous things in my Christmas sewing books.

Saturday, 16 October 2010


It's been a baking week again in the house as I've been planning a birthday cake for my dad.
It wasn't too complex but took a little time to make the truffles to go ontop of the cake as they had to set at each stage.
The cake is just a chocolate sponge (from Rachel Allen's bake) sandwiched with chocolate buttercream and coated in the same cream to allow the fingers to be stuck around the edge. The top was decorated with the handmade truffles and a ribbon around the edge kept all the fingers in place and finished off the cake nicely. I wouldn't recommend a lot of this cake at once, it's very rich, saying that though my husband managed to polish off a large piece with no trouble but then he's more of a chocaholic than me!
I'll post the recipe for the truffles later on.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Well it's been a while since my last post and the reason for this is I've been so busy with the Little Man's birthday cake. He'd requested a fire engine cake and having never made a cake using sugarpaste before I had a lot of research to do. I learnt a lot along the way and it was well worth it in the end.
I chose to use a maderia cake as it's quite a dense sponge which can support the stacking of the loaves and the decoration ontop. It also tastes better after a day or two which meant I could get ahead by baking the loaves on the Thursday.
After the loaves had cooled I levelled them off and cut one loaf and stacked these pieces end on to make the cab of the engine.
Later that night the next stage was to crumb coat the cake, which sounded very complicated but just meant covering it in buttercream. I used a red paste to colour the cream rather than a liquid food colouring and a small amount of this gave the right shade of red. I have to say that I would have been lost without my new pallet knife at this point!
The day after I rolled out the icing (I cheated a little here and had bought pre coloured red icing) and after the third attempt managed to cover the cake and smooth down the sides.
Then came the best bit!! I was really good fun to add all the little bits of detail on the cake and I mixed up lots of different colours using food colouring and white icing to make the lights, hose, water etc.
The real test came on the Saturday and I'm pleased to say that my son loved his cake, he wouldn't let us cut it until the next day as he wanted to look at it. But after he found ot you could eat the oreo cookie wheels the cake was devoured!