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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Birthday Fun!

I can’t believe just how quickly the years are flying by these days. It doesn’t seem that long ago when my birthday always seemed ages away, now it comes round far too fast! Anyway, it’s here again and I think I’m probably now officially middle-aged, although most of the time I still feel about ten!

This year I discovered a lovely local lady at the school Summer Fair. She makes pictures and decorative frames to order and I thought her button head picture of a cyclist was the ideal surprise gift for my husband – him being in training for the Tour de ……(somewhere).

He really loved his frame, so much so, I have been given one for my birthday too. I love it, although it will always remind me of my broken foot misadventure. I think they look rather good together and I have the perfect location for them in mind too.

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I have also been blessed this year with a homebaked chocolate cake from one of my dearest friends. I can’t wait to tuck into it after tea.

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Thank you to all my firends and family for the lovely cards and gifts.

Happy birthdays
x

Do check out the lovely Artysan Gifts for her range of frames.

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Birthday Crafting

Today is my husband’s birthday so we can finally give him all the things we’ve been making this week.

Alice made him a card in her own special style! I think he’ll love it when he gets home from work later. The envelope is a complete delight and makes absolutely no sense to anyone that hasn’t read ‘Danger in Everywhere’.

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And later it will be time for cake too! I made this sponge sandwich yesterday. It’s a simple all-in-one sponge mix with cocoa powder and Alice and I filled it with peanut butter! We then topped it with chocolate spread and flaked almonds (we’ll put a candle on it after tea tonight).

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I don’t think it’s my best ever cake and I’m really not sure about the peanut butter. I think this could end up very dry, so we might be eating it with ice cream.

I’ve also made a batch of biscuits which he’s already got and taken to work. I hope they go down well amongst his colleagues.

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And here’s my card. It took me ages to find some inspitation for this one. I’ve done so many bike racing cards over the last few years I wanted to do something different. I struggled to find a picture of a camera, so went with his other interest – red wine!

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So Happy Birthday Mr B.

Have a great day
x

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Visit to Bristol

This weekend we had a family visit down to my husband’s family in Bristol. We were visiting the family as we haven’t been down since Christmas and one of our nephews was playing at the Totterdown music festival.

The trip down was pretty uneventful, a bit of rain and fortunately it was cooler than it has been of late. Our air-con in the car stopped working a while ago and we didn’t want to be stuck in a boiling car for over three hours! Anyway, we had a good trip and I even managed to get some knitting done on the way!

On Sunday we were taken to a lovely new craft café on Wells Road, called Craftisan.

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We were told it was a craft shop and café, so it’s the ideal location to visit for me. Who can resist crafting goodies and cake?! I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a lovely shop, loads of natural light and lovely bright displays of craft materials, tools and some hand crafted items too. And the cake is delicious. Between us we sampled most of the selection on offer. I can totally recommend the millionaires shortbread and the chocolate, cookies and cream cake.

As we were off to watch the festival, we couldn’t stay too long, but I think we will be visiting again. They also have a lovely craft table for kids and run some craft workshops. So I reckon it would be a great place to visit with Alice, she could do some messy craft while I eat cake, drink tea and knit / crochet.

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Do visit if you get the chance, it’s laid back and very comfortable. The sofas are enormous!

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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Holiday Baking

This weekend we were invited to a friend’s annual summer barbecue party. As usual they were providing all the food, so I suggested I would take something for dessert as they hadn’t decided on anything yet! So it was an early start and out with the baking things.

I thought about scones, but settled on a Victoria Sandwich and some biscuits. I didn’t know how many people would be there so I needed something easy to divide up.

As I was going to be pushed for time, I decided on the all-in-one sponge mix from my Delia Smith book. I started with the basic vanilla sponge, splitting the mixture across two cake tins.

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As I still had plenty of ingredients left, I thought I ‘d make another sponge, chocolate this time. I also added some extra chocolate chips to the mixture. I have watched quite a few baking shows recently (being a fan of cake is great with the GBBO back again for another series), and have picked up the tip of rolling fruit in flour before adding it to a mixture so that it doesn’t sink when baking. So I rolled the chocolate chips in flour before adding them to the mixture. It certainly seemed to work as they were pretty evenly distributed in the sponge. Again I decided to make this into a sandwich cake and split the mixture across two tins.

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While the four sponges were baking I started on some raisin biscuits, using the Easter biscuit recipe we all love. I didn’t have a lemon, so they were minus lemon zest, but they are equally as tasty.

So here’s the baking after everything came out of the oven.

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Next it was time to prepare the fillings for the sandwich cakes. My vanilla one was to have raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream, while I decided on chocolate spread and vanilla buttercream for the chocolate chip cake. I thought I had split the buttercream in half, but I obviously wasn’t paying attention as the chocolate cake ended up with twice the amount of the vanilla cake!

Anyway, I finished them both off with a dusting icing sugar, and here’s how they turned out.

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They might not win any prizes on Bake Off, but they are most definitely the best sandwich cakes I have made. And I am pleased to say they went down pretty well at the barbecue too. I managed to get sixteen slices out of each cake. Just the right size! I did manage to snaffle a piece of each and they tasted pretty good too. My daughter loved the Victoria Sandwich and Hubby loved the Chocolate Chip Sandwich – I liked them both, but then I love cake!! As it’s my husband’s birthday next week, I can see another baking session coming on, it will save on buying a cake covered in icing which he hates!

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Easter Holidays

Easter holidays are tough for me this year as I love chocolate and cake and I just can’t have any!  But baking is also one of the best activities for the school holidays.  So with my daughter eager to make something for her friends and family, I helped her out with her idea of making chocolate nests.

This has got to be the easiest ‘baking’ ever!  I let her be in charge and tell me what I needed to do.  So she broke up shredded wheat into a bowl.  I was tasked with melting the chocolate over a pan of hot water and once melted I poured it into the shredded wheat bowl.  She then mixed it all together.  I had bought some Easter themed cake cases and little sticks from a local pound shop and they set the cakes off a treat.  The little nests were then made in each case and some chocolate eggs added to complete the nest effect.

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They looked great once they had set and I believe they tasted pretty good too.  We were certainly popular amongst the neighbours on Easter Sunday!

Now just another 2 weeks of holidays to fill!

Happy crafting
x

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Half Term Baking

This half term holiday has been a real whirlwind, from a funeral and birthdays to swimming lessons, hospital visit, Chinese New Year and a couple of family days out.  So there hasn’t been a huge amount of time for crafting.

But we did manage a little bit of baking for Mum’s birthday.  My daughter, now 6, loves to help and she really wanted to make something for her Grandma.  So on the way home from a funeral , we stopped at a Lakeland shop, which only sold kitchen accessories.  It was a great shop and lovely to browse around.  I could have spent a small fortune but was sensible!  We bought some chocolate cupcake frosting, pink wafer flowers and small chocolate beans.

Once home we decided that some cupcakes would be the perfect gift.  I chose the simple, all-in-one sponge recipe and we made two different flavours – vanilla with cherry, and double chocolate!  The smell in the kitchen was delicious.

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Once cooked and cooled. we had great fun decorating them. I used some ready-to-roll icing and an imprinted roller and then cut them into circles to top the vanilla cakes, my daughter then finished them off with the pink wafer flowers. The chocolate ones I topped with the chocolate cupcake frosting, which came in a tube with a piping nozzle! Of course they had to have small chocolate beans added. I think they looked great. We chose the four best and presented them in a lovely cupcake box.

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Mum enjoyed them too and we shared the remaining cakes around. A lovely little crafting session.

Happy crafting
x

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Winter Baking

I made my Christmas cake several weeks ago now and it smells amazing whenever I open the tin to feed it it’s weekly slug of brandy. But every time I open the tin it makes me want to sneak a nibble! So I decided to get out the Paul Hollywood book that hubby gave me for our wedding anniversary. Wow what a fabulous choice of cakes in there.

I’ve made 2 Ripon Spice cakes so far. They are a great alternative to the full fruit cake with a lot less fruit and light sugar. But it smells divine when it’s cooking filling the whole house with a spicy aroma. It’s a fabulous tea loaf and Hubby likes to spread it with butter. I’m quite happy just with the cake a brew!

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We’ve also had a go at some of the bread. Here’s my husbands’ first go at the Crusty Swansea.

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I can thoroughly recommend this book. The recipes are easy to follow and the tips for kneading are great.

I’m making myself hungry again now seeing these pictures. I was going to start crocheting a snowman but I might have to bake another cake instead!

Happy baking
x

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Half Term Baking

Half Term is upon us again. We have an extra day due to staff training, so we decided to put it to good use and do some baking. My 5 year-old loves being in the kitchen, although she does lose interest after a while.

So today we did some Mum and daughter Halloween cakes and biscuits, some paw-print biscuits and I made my Christmas cake!!

We started off with a very simple all-in-one sponge mix with added cocoa powder. My daughter chose to also add chocolate buttons and mini marshmallows to the mix for extra goo! She loved measuring everything out and adding the ingredients. I have to say she’s much better at cracking eggs than I am!!

Chocolate cakes

We let them bake for about 15 minutes then put them on the side to cool on a rack while we started on the Halloween biscuits to take to a Halloween party tomorrow. These are a really simple butter biscuit recipe. Instead of using castor sugar I used a bag of spiced sugar from a spiced apple juice kit that I’d been given (there was no way I would ever make 2 gallons of spiced apple juice, so what better way to use up the sugar!) The dough needed to rest in the fridge for around 20 minutes before rolling, so to keep her attention, out came the rich tea biscuits. I made a small amount of white water icing to top each biscuit and she added giant and ordinary sized chocolate buttons to make a paw-print on each one. I think they are lovely. So effective and they taste fantastic.

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When the biscuit dough had rested, I rolled it out and my daughter had great fun choosing the spooky shapes to use. She settled on bats, cats, stars (large and small) men and Mickey Mouse! A fun half hour of rolling and cutting followed, with me on a bungee between the table and the oven!. Here’s a peek at the first batch once they had cooked.

Halloween spiced biscuits

They have a very subtle spicy flavour to them from the sugar. Very moreish. I think they will go down well at the Halloween party.

Once all the biscuits were cooling, it was time to decorate the chocolate cakes. Buttercream was the choice, so I made a batch, splitting it in half and adding orange food colouring to one half and green colouring to the other. Very spooky! Then it was little one’s turn to get creative with the decorations, and for her, more is most definitely more!

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The overall effect is great though. Very spooky and just right for Halloween.

Happy Halloween fun
x

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