Summer Baking

It really wouldn’t be a holiday from school without a spot of baking, and with the disappointment of not being ale to finish my dancing hippo, we needed some cake to cheer us up a bit!

We started off with some all-in-one vanilla sponge.  Alice was given a fabulous junior baking set for her birthday, all good quality utensils, not the usual kids plastic stuff.  It’s all silicon and stainless steel, just scaled down a bit for smaller hands – ideal for me too!  So we made some vanilla sponge mix, and made it into a victoria sandwich and 6 cupcakes.  The fun was definitely in the decorating (and licking the bowl).

The kit had an icing set with three different nozzles too, so we had a practice making some rosettes.

After the cake, we moved on to some cookies.  We’ve never really done cookies before, we’ve always stuck to pretty basic butter biscuits, but we fancied a change.  I had a look around the internet and found a couple of recipes that looked simple for us to have a go at.  We started with some peanut butter cookies, which were incredibly simple to make and very tasty too.

We finished with some chocolate chip cookies. This had a few more ingredients, but again it’s pretty simple to follow. We enjoyed making it, and it was great practice for Alice with measuring out. The really great part is not having to roll out a dough and use cutters, just taking a teaspoonful of the mixture and putting it on the baking paper means less washing up and it’s a lot simpler for smaller hands.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the finished cookies, but suffice it to say they tasted delicious and we had plenty to share with family and friends.

Happy baking
x

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End of Term

This year has absolutely flown by and I can’t believe that my little one is finishing Year 3 already. (No longer a little one)  It only seems like moments that she was starting school at all!

Anyway with the end of term comes all the regular craziness, mostly around the school fair, which was a little different this year as it was arranged by the parent group instead of the school staff.  As such it was mainly lots of games for the children to play and a barbecue.  I didn’t have a craft stall of goodies this year, but I did manage to bake some biscuits (my third bake of the weekend) for the cake stall.  Unfortunately the weather wasn’t too favourable, so most things had to be brought inside.

I was roped in to run the craft table and spent a good couple of hours with a steady stream of under 7s making bee deely boppers, flip-flop keyrings and decorating pencil cases (all from Baker Ross).  I’d recommend the bees, very cute and the kits include everything you need.  They are great for little ones, although they will need adult help in attaching the springs to the headband.  I also struggled removing the papers from the back of the googly eyes, but the kids didn’t seem to have any problem at all!

We also had the obligatory ‘pot goody’ stall and Alice made her’s this year filled with homemade paper windmills and decorated with paper grass, bees and butterflies.  She didn’t win her class prize, the winner made a sandcastle out of hers!

The school fair always signals the end of term, so after we had helped pack everything away, it was time for getting end of term cards and presents sorted out for the class teacher and teaching assistants.  This year we’ve had two teachers and two teaching assistants as they had swimming lessons and one of the TAs is a trained swimming instructor.  I’ve tried to stick to the same sort of thing each year for the teachers , so I made some new apple thank you cards, this time using a new die set I bought a few weeks ago.  It’s an apple from the Market Fresh collection by Spellbinders.  It’s certainly taken the hard work out of cutting out individual apples!  I think I will have some fun with these over the summer.

I also made four little knitted apple keyrings.  These are so cute and pretty simple to make too, just a ball with embroidered details, a crochet chain stem and a small knitted leaf.  

My daughter then made a little tag for each one with her teacher’s name and a personal message from her.  Very cute.

Well, it’s another year over and six weeks now to fill up with lots of activities, and I’m hoping for a lie-in or two!

Happy Summer crafting
x

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2017 is flying!

I can’t believe where this year has gone and it’s almost July already!  It’s been a rather odd year for me and I’ve been busy with all sorts of things that I haven’t had time to sit down and write anything.  So I’ve grabbed a few minutes and thought I’d have a catch up and see what’s been going on.

I had a rather rotten end to 2016 and start to 2017 as my back went and I was unable to stay in any position for long, so I was a bit grumpy (to say the least), well lack of sleep will do that to you!    So I’ve been trying to do some back strengthening exercises every day to help, but it still twinges every so often.  I also spent several weeks on physio and hospital check-ups following my broken foot last July.

Anyway, I seem to be hospital free for the time being (fingers crossed) and I’m back to my weekly tap class which is great fun.  I’m also back crafting again and have spent the last few weeks and months busy making all sorts of items for orders and for our own use at home.

I ended last year making loads of legwarmers for the girls at dancing, and this year has continued the trend.  Since Easter I’ve been knitting frantically, furry wrist cuffs and legwarmers for some the girls taking part in a ‘Cats’ number both for the annual dance show and for competitions.

These feel lovely when knitted up, but depending on the yarn used I found them quite difficult to make.  The white ones were made with Eskimo yarn and that knitted up quite nicely, but I used some eyelash yarn that was really difficult to keep count of my stitches.  They did all look lovely on the girls though and made the outfits.  Alice has also asked for some now as she’s obsessed with white!

So I’ve beenknitting quite a lot over the months, and managed to get in a bit for my family.  I always make the children something to play with at the end of the egg hunt we do at Easter, and this year was no exception.

This year the three children found a knitted egg cosy character with a chocolate egg inside.  These are made from a free pattern of Jean Greenhowe that I’ve ad for ages and never got round to making up before.  They are easy to do and they were very popular, so I introduce you to Holly, Eggy and Steven!  They certainly has plenty of adventures on Easter Sunday, poor Steven was lost several times, but he was eventually found and went home with his new best friend!!

Easter also involved quite a bit of baking which was shared with family, friends and neighbours.

Mother’s and Father’s Day meant a lot of card crafting and my large owl cards were very popular.

I made these in a variety of papers and love the different effects they create.  I also enjoyed making the triangular backgrounds and took this further making some cards for men.

I love the monochrome set of card and toppers and when matched with the Hunkydory rainbow mirri card they really shine.

For Father’s Day I made a collection of cards for Hearts for Homes in Ramsbottom.

I fancied doing some more origami and made these using an old Papermania set of men’s papers, but I had to do some owls too and loved using these old maps.

Well it’s time to head off to work now, but I’ll be back soon with some more ramblings of a middle-aged crafter!  Have a great day.

Happy crafting

x

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School Holiday Baking

Well it’s been a tough first week or so of the school holidays.  It’s not much fun hobbling around with an equaliser boot when you have an active seven year old wanting to get out and do things.  Fortunately we’ve had some mixed weather here so we’ve had to stay in and concentrate on indoor activities.

I felt quiet good today so decided we could spend some time in the kitchen making some yummy treats to share with friends and family.  So we started with our trusted all-in-one sponge recipe from Delia Smith, to which we added some raisins, chocolate chips, cocoa powder and mini marshmallows.

P1250130We didn’t have any golden syrup or chocolate digestives so we couldn’t make any rocky road tray bake, so these mini cakes made up for it and are our version of a rocky road style muffin!  They certainly tasted chocolatey and went very nicely with a cup of tea.

Wile these were cooling we decided to make some scones and biscuits.  The simple Easter biscuit recipe was brought out and modified slightly as I didn’t have any lemons to zest.  I rolled out the dough a bit thicker than normal, so it made a few less biscuits than usual, but they tasted great straight from the oven and only took nine minutes!

P1250127I thought it would be nice to make some chocolate chip scones too as they didn’t take very long and could be ready to go in the oven by the time the biscuits had baked.  Not a big batch, only eight this time, but again lovely with some butter and a cup of tea.

All-in-all a good afternoon’s work and very tasty.  Time for a cuppa and a cake with a rest with my foot up now I think.

Happy crafting
x

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Wanderings

Once again I am waiting for Alice – this time at her tuition class.  But this time I opted for wandering around town for a bit before going for a drink in Costa!  I headed over to TK Maxx, as I love it in there and I haven’t been in for ages.  It’s always good for a browse and they have recently been stocking a few (often rather random) craft items.  I decided to give the clothes a miss and headed straight for the home décor, kitchen and gardening sections.  I was hoping to be spoilt for choice with papers, kits and accessories, but I was disappointed.  There were plenty of gorgeous notebooks, gift bags and painting tings, but nothing I could really justify So I browsed round the clearance aisles and found myself a complete bargain – right at the back of the bottom shelf – an A3 glass cutting mat for only £5 (RRP £19.99).  I’m so glad I went.  I’ve wanted one for ages and always forget when I’m out and about.  It proves it’s always worth routing  in the clearance items too!

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Thrilled with my bargain I felt quite cheery and browsed around the other aisles looking for some ideas and maybe a bit of inspiration.  I saw some lovely knitted cushion covers which made me want to completely redecorate the living room.  I will have to shelve that idea for the time being as the kittens are still doing a decent job of wrecking the joint, so I think we’ll leave that one for a little while.  I also saw an owl doorstop which reminded me of the pattern from an early issue of Craftseller magazine that I was going to crochet.  I really could do with a doorstop for my bedroom, I’m currently using my dance shoe bag which is not ideal – I’m forever tripping over the handles!  So that’s risen to the top of my to-do list – after my current order list and school teacher gifts that is!

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I also picked up a set of cupcake cases and little flags which I think will be great for some Summer baking in the holidays.  They were only £2 and are covered in little flowers, butterflies and ladybirds – what more could a seven year old want for her cakes?!

Time to collect Alice now, so

Happy crafting
x

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Fudge

I’ve been thinking about what I could make with the rest of the can of condensed milk after making the marzipan hearts. Eventually I just looked at the can and there was a recipe on it to make chocolate fudge.

It was a pretty easy make – condensed milk, chocolate, and icing sugar! I wasn’t hopeful though, it looked a bit odd while I was making it, but the suggestion was to add some nuts and then leave it in the fridge to set.

I decided to add some marshmallows and raisins as well as some almonds and this is the result!

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It was a nightmare to get out of the tray and to cut up, but it tasted fabulous. It is pretty rich though so only a little piece at a time for me!

I will definitely make it again, though I will have to find a better tray to put it in.

Happy crafting
x

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Making Marzipan

My daughter, Alice, was given a lovely baking set and set of recipe cards for her birthday and we have been looking longingly at all the lovely things we could make. So with the weather being so miserable this weekend, we got everything out and decided to have a go at making almond hearts. Now we could have done this very easily and just bought some almond paste / marzipan, but we thought we’d do it properly and use the whole recipe. Having quickly looked in the baking cupboard I thought we had everything we needed, so it was with great dismay I discovered we had no ground almonds at all!

This meant a much lengthier than planned walk round the neighbourhood shops looking for ground almonds. Eventually after 4 local shops and over an hour of walking we found some and head back home for a cup of tea and to get making.

The recipe is very simple but involved quite a lot of kneading. We split the paste in half and coloured one half with red food colouring. Then left it in the fridge for a while to harden up a bit and make it easier to roll out.

We were both quite impatient to make the hearts, so I did the rolling out and Alice cut out the shapes.  We did think about making some stars too, but the hearts looked so lovely in the different colours we thought we’d stick with them.  They’ve really got us in the mood for Valentine’s Day too, although I don’t think they will last that long to give out to all her friends!!

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This is definitely a recipe we will try again.  It’s fairly simple although it has left me with most of a tin of condensed milk.  I shall have to get my thinking cap on and see what I can make with the rest of it, it’s far too good an ingredient to waste.

Happy crafting
x

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Christmas Cake

This year I tried to be really organised and managed to make my Christmas cake in early October. And as I should I have been feeding it with some brandy every week since, that is until I ran out last week! So today was the day to take the plunge and decorate it.

I haven’t had much time between finishing Christmas orders and Alice’s dance classes and shows to really even think about a design this year, so it was a bit of let’s see what we’ve got and do something spontaneous! I cheated and used some ready-to-roll icing and I used some strawberry jam to stick the marzipan to the cake. I didn’t have a great deal of the icing, so I rolled it quite thinly – my husband isn’t a big fan of icing anyway so that’s a bonus. Having a root round by baking cupboard I found some little roses and silver balls, so I decided to have a red / white theme on the cake, with some little silver balls between each rose.

Alice then found my little snowman and Christmas tree so they were also added before we finished off the little scene with some sifted icing sugar ‘snow’ and a large handtied ribbon bow.

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I normally don’t get round to eating the cake until mid-January, but in the meantime it looks nice on the pre-Christmas table!

Happy crafting
x

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Early Christmas Baking

Now that the Christmas holidays have started it’s time to get into the spirit of things and do a spot of festive baking. It’s very therapeutic to get out the mincemeat and make up some tasty treats. I decided to begin with a batch of my mincemeat parcels. They are so tasty and make a lovely alternative to a mince pie. I have a number of packs of frozen filo pastry in the freezer that need to be used, so this was an ideal quick bake.

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After the parcels were finished, I enlisted Alice to make some festive ginger biscuits that we could share with friends and family over the holidays. The recipe we have is in a little Hello Kitty Christmas book that we bought for Alice a few years ago. It’s a really simple recipe and makes absolutely loads of biscuit dough. We chose some different Christmassy cutters and set about making the biscuits.

It was a good job there was loads of dough because I had a minor moment with my oven and completely burned the first two batches! I forgot just how fast my oven is when I’m baking. Anyway, we still managed to make about 60 or so biscuits for sharing. Alice’s favourite part of the baking process is the decorating, and we used plenty of icing pens, hundreds and thousands, and other little Christmassy bits from my cupboard.

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Once finished we took some round to the neighbours, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Happy crafting
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Season of Mellow Fruitfulness

Last weekend the weather here was glorious, so we decided to head out for a family walk and forage around Holcombe Hill.  It was lovely to get out in what’s probably going to be the last of the really warm weather up here.

The hill was popular with other walkers and foragers too.  We met quite a few people filling bags with the abundance of blackberries.

P1240393I decided to see if we could collect any of the late whimberries as well – I must have been affected by the heat!

This has to have been the longest walk up Holcombe Hill ever!  It took us over 2 hours to get to the top.  Mind you we were laden down with quite a lot of fruit.  I just about managed to fill a small pot with the last of this years whimberries, but the blackberry box was ridiculously heavy!  I think it’s been a great year for blackberries.  There were loads and they were big too, not the usual little ones.

We stopped for a quick snack at Peel Tower then went back down the hill in record time – we were all starving and we hadn’t thought ahead enough to bring a picnic!

Here’s a picture of some of the fruit before it was washed and sorted out.  We had over 3kg in the end, so it was no wonder we were struggling with the boxes!!

P1240403I decided on an apple and blackberry crumble to go with Sunday dinner.  Which was delicious – a great dessert to follow our traditional roast beef and Yorkshire pudding main course.  But it left me with a very large crop of blackberries, so it was time to get the thinking cap on and decide what to do with the rest.

As I hadn’t had a practice at my shortcrust pastry for a while I thought I’d risk it and have another go!  I didn’t really have enough whimberries for a large pie and my lack of a large pie plate somewhat limited what I was going to be able to make.  So it was time for some individual fruit pies.

I remembered my Mum teaching me the ‘half fat to flour’ rule for pastry, but I still got out my Delia book as an extra support for the pastry process.  The last time I tried pastry I made jam tarts and the pastry was too think, so I tried to roll it out much thinner this time.  The first batch of pastry managed to make a dozen pie cases and 10 lids!  I rather stuffed the whimberries into 10 cases.

So I had to make another batch of pastry to cope with at least some of the blackberries left waiting in the fridge!   They all looked good in the tins and I did remember to add some caster sugar to the top of the second batch of pies!

Unfortunately I learnt the hard way not to overfill the whimberry pies, as they all burst through the lids and stuck to the sides of the tins.  But they still tasted nice with some ice cream.  The blackberry pies though were lovely and I will have to make more in the future.

P1240404As we had rather a lot of pies, we took them round to a couple of the neighbours to share, a perfect excuse to pop round for a chat!

I’ve frozen a few small bags of the blackberries to use in crumbles later in the year, and I’ve shared some with Mum too.  Now I just have to decide what to do with the rest of them…..

Happy crafting
x

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