Saturday, 27 August 2011

Feet up..

Ha ha. I have a purple kitchen. Not quite sure how I got that one past Mr B, then again, he hasn't got home to see the end result yet, so maybe I haven't quite got away with it yet. Then again, at the moment, he's more interested in knocking another wall down and as long as he doesn't have to raise a paintbrush, he's a happy man! 
So I'm now putting my feet up and catching up with X Factor. Every year I think that I won't watch it this time, that I won't let my entire run of Saturday evenings up until Christmas get taken over by Mr Cowell's music production vehicle. Every year, it happens. Never mind. I do have a cuppa and piece of cake. Well I think I've deserved it. And it's a low fat cake. Still quite heavy on the sugar so the calories are still there - can't have everything. In it's original guise it was a spiced apple sauce cake, but on finding, yet again, a fruit bowl full of pears that have gone over, I came up with this version. Hope you like.

Pear and Ginger Cake
1kg pears
50ml sunflower oil
100g plain flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
225g caster sugar
100g raisins

  1. Peel, core and slice the pears and put in a saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook until softened and any excess moisture has cooked off.
  2. Pre heat the over to 160 c. Grease and line a 20cm spring form tin. Sift the flours, bicarb and spices into a mixing bowl, then stir in the sugar and raisins. Weigh out 550g of pear puree and stir into the dry ingredients along with the oil.
  3. Spoon into the tin, level the top and bake for 55-60 mins, until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean.
I was making again yesterday evening. I wanted a little coin purse to match my red manga bag and found this cute pattern in Issue 4 of Mollie Makes. Its a fiddly little thing to make, but I'm well chuffed with the end results.
I've still got just under half of my half metre left, so what next? Matching phone case? iPod cover? Camera case? Choices, choices....

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Keeping Things Cosy.

Two very simple makes, both fat quart friendly. I've just knocked both of them up in just over an hour and that included making a mistake and having to unpick something! Don't you just love it when that happens?
Tea Cosy
Cafetiere Cosy
Tea Cosy
  1. Hold your teapot over a piece of paper and draw a semi circle around it. add a couple of centimetres for seam allowance.
  2. Cut two pieces from your main fabric, two pieces of interlining if required and two pieces of lining material.
  3. Sew main pieces right sides together round curved edge and repeat with the lining pieces.
  4. Turn main piece right side out and iron.
  5. Cut two pieces of wadding the same size as the outside piece.
  6. Push the lining piece inside the main piece so the wrong sides are facing. On each side, slip a piece of wadding in between the main body and the lining.
  7. Iron a piece of bias binding in half, then pin around the bottom edge. Then just sew a running stitch around the binding and you're done!
Cafetiere Cosy
  1. Measure around your cafetiere from one side of the handle to the other, then the height. add two centimetres to each measurement for seam allowance. cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of wadding.
  2. Sew on two pieces of ribbon each side. Mine were a couple of centimetres down from the top and up from the bottom, but you'll need to check where your handle is.
  3. Place your two pieces of fabric right sides together making sure that the ribbons are gathered together in the middle. The first time I made one of these I managed to catch the ribbon several times when I sewed it together. 
  4. Place the wadding underneath and pin all three layers together.
  5. Find the top centre point  and draw a small downward curve. This is where the spout is. (See pick below- having a frustration moment with this program!)
  6. Sew all around the edge leaving a gap at the bottom for turning out.
  7. Trim the corners and snip indents into the curve.
  8. Turn right side out, slip stitch the gap closed and iron. That's it! 
All we need now is a piece of cake to go with these hot cosy beverages. My next post will be my low fat, yes low fat (guilt free) pear and ginger cake. Mmm...

Monday, 22 August 2011

A quiet afternoon

So what do I find myself doing, when left with only one child to look after? Well in amongst, playing catch, changing DVDs and trying to decipher the language of a two year old, quite obviously I'm sat at my laptop. There's a Selmer baritone saxophone that's lurking in my workshop in need of a little TLC and threatening to take over the weeks worth of evening time.
So, a quick catch up. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the process of spray painting a bed for Willow. Well its finished and in situ and she loves it.
Not bad for the price of a tin of paint and a couple of sheet of stickers off eBay.

Yesterday, I also achieved a quiet afternoon in without any children what so ever. Usually this would be an opportunity for a workout, but as I had put all of my kit in the wash that morning (shame!), I had chance to finish off the bag I had been working on the previous evening. It had taken me a little longer to complete because I was also nosing round the door, half watching X Factor as well. This one I had been plotting for a while. Its a pattern taken from Lisa Lam's The Bag Making Bible. It should have piping around it, but I don't have the right foot for my machine (and it did look a little complicated). I also, not that I'm making excuses or anything, suspected my machine may have had a nervous breakdown at having to sew through any more layers.
I absolutely love this bag and will be keeping it. Husband pointed out that I am supposed to be making the bags to sell them, but that never was the plan with this one..

A little while later...

Quiet afternoon interrupted. As is so often the case. Never mind. And now my work space looks like this.
Proper work. Now I know for a fact that there is enough room to swing a baritone in my workshop! And when it comes to saxophones, as far as I'm concerned, bigger is most definitely better. Off to work I go then...xx

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Microwave Chocolate Pudding

Everything about this recipe is right. Its quick, easy to prepare and the perfect portion size for two, lovely with a scoop of ice cream, creme fraiche of custard. A friend passed this on to me a couple of years ago and my copy of it is getting a bit worn and cake mix splattered now.

4tbsp self raising flour
4tbsp caster sugar
2tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg
3tbsp oil
3tbsp milk
dash of vanilla extract

Put all ingredients into a mug and mix well. Place your mug into to microwave and cook on full power for 3 minutes (1000w microwave). Leave to cool for a couple of minutes then tip out onto a plate to serve.

Variations on a theme. (although these do require two mugs!)
Omit the cocoa powder and increase the amount of flour to 6tbsp, then add a pinch of ground ginger to the mix. put a large spoon of golden syrup in the bottom of another mug and pour the pudding mix on top. You could alternatively put jam in the bottom. Or add chocolate chips. the choice is yours, so if you haven't had your pudding yet..!

I have been crafting this week, and they are projects that are fat quart friendly. The only reason I haven't written them up yet is that they're for a friend of mine who's just had a baby and I haven't seen her yet. It's been a bit of a manic week anyway and chances to sit down at the computer have been few and far between, I'm sure you know how it is!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Bag or Jam.....(Cake or Death?)

(Obviously the cake or death reference only makes sense if you've seen Eddie Izzard.)
Any how, back to it. Now that most of the heavy duty work around the house is very nearly done, the baton has been passed to me. The baton is in the shape of a paint roller. The husband hates painting. Fortunately, I don't mind it. However, the combination of emulsion, or worse still, gloss; and two small children is not a good one, so once again my evening time starts disappearing.
Today, I think is a day for two things. For the bag pattern I promised last week and a couple of quick jam recipes. Which one first... we'll go for the bag I think.

Cute pink manga fabric and a hoop handle purse frame.
The frame I used is 51/2" and I bought in on eBay. This bag is an absolute doddle to make, probably took about an hour in total including making up the pattern.
(My apologies for the lack of photos in this one). This is the pattern:

  • Cut two main pieces, two lining pieces and two interfacing pieces from the pattern.
  • Iron on the interfacing to the main pieces.
  • Put main pieces right sides facing and sew from the * on the pattern to the point parallel with it.
  • Box the corners using a line three centimetres from the point. (For details on boxed corners see the previous bag pattern.) Turn the right way round.
  • Repeat with the lining pieces but leave a 10cm gap at the bottom for turning.
  • Place the main bag inside the lining. Pin along the open edges and stitch. 
  • Trim the corners. Turn the right side out through the hole in the lining the slip stitch close. Iron.
  • Measure down from the top and mark two lines at 4cm and 5cm. Sew a channel then use a seam ripper to open the side edge. Repeat on the other side. You then thread the rod from the frame through the channel and screw the nut on to the end making sure that the material is on the inside of the hoop.
  • Job done!
And so onto the jam which is considerably more messy. I can always remember my mum making jam, a few trips to the pick your own and a great big jam pot on the stove. My husband and girls love the stuff so I do try my best from time to time and right now is the best time because the fruit is in season making it cheap and I'm all for cheap!

Plum Jam
1kg Plums, which at the time of writing were a £1 a punnet at Tescos.
1kg sugar.
Wash your jam jars in hot water then put in an oven. I turn the oven on at that point, heat it up to 150 then turn it off and leave them for half an hour.
Stone your plums if you can. This isn't always possible, it depends on the plums, but if you don't you will have to count them out at some point, which is tedious.
Heat the fruit in a deep pan with a little bit of water until softened. At this point I go in with the stick blender. This is mainly because I have a husband and children who treat bits in jam as foreign objects and I end up with a lot of jars on the shelf with a load of skins in the bottom.
Add the sugar. You don't need to spend the extra money on jam sugar, there's enough pectin in plums to achieve a set. Heat through slowly. This is where it starts needing a bit more attention. I have ruined many a saucepan burning sugar to the bottom of the pan. Once the sugar has dissolved you can ramp up the heat and bring it to a boil. Keep stirring! Test for a set after ten minutes which is all this batch took. The easiest way to test is to put a saucer in the freezer, drop a bit of jam onto it, let it cool slightly and if the skin wrinkles when you push your finger through it the you have a set. As soon as that happens then you're done. you can pour it into jars and leave it to cool. For about £2.50 I got five jars of jam. Nice!
Summer Fruit Jam

500g Frozen summer fruits
500g sugar.
This is obviously a recipe for all year round and a nice easy one. There's none of the de-stoning malarkey, just put the packet of fruit in a pan and follow the instructions above. Couple of jars, couple of quid.

Right, that's me done for today. Not posted for a few days and it all kind of  rushes out. Hope you are all keeping safe and well.
Lots of love, Caroline. xx

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Back in the days before children I used to make all of my own sauces and curry pastes. Needless to say, that rarely happens now, I tend to find that a three year old and a pile of chillies are a bad combination. But there is one thing that I do make from time to time and that's tomato ketchup. This recipe is one I have been making for years and is a combination of a few different recipes. Its also one of the only recipes I have found that uses a tin of tomatoes rather than a pile of fresh ones.
1 tbsp oil
1 onion
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp water
400g tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
small pinch of allspice
1/2 tsp English mustard powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt and pepper

All you need to do is fry the onion in the oil until softened, about five minutes; then add everything else. Simmer for about forty five minutes then blitz until smooth. Pour into a sterilized jar and keep it in the fridge once its cooled. Lovely on sausage sandwiches... now that's a thought!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Waste not...

I hate throwing food away. I must admit I'm slightly obsessive about it, to the point that the day before the weekly shop there is very little left in the fridge. Any usable leftovers go in the freezer, although more often than not in unmarked containers. The excitement of mystery food!
Bananas are one of the worst contenders in this house for being found well past their best, left looking a little brown and sad in the fruit bowl, so step forward Banana Cake.
This version does tend to change very slightly every time I make it, but its nice and light and, as cakes go, pretty good for you.
75g low fat spread
100g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 ripe bananas
100g sultanas
50g oats
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the spread and sugar together. Add the eggs. Stir in the flour and baking powder, then add the mashed bananas, sultanas, oats and vanilla. If it needs it you can add a tablespoon of milk too. Spoon into a greased 450g (1lb) loaf tin then bake  at 180/ fan 160, for an hour.
Easy as that!

I got some new material over the weekend and sad though it is I'm really excited with it. Check it out!
I totally love it (thanks very much so much so that I've already made this with some of it.
That's about a fat quarts worth so I'll stick the instructions on soon. I say it so often, but this bag is a definite keeper!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Saturday already? Really?

I don't have a clue where this week has disappeared to. I've come to the conclusion that there just isn't enough usable time in a day. For me, my usable time is after the children have gone to bed, because its generally pointless trying to achieve anything until said time. This week has disappeared with impromptu entertaining (of friends and family, not anything more elaborate!) numerous trips to the playground and train rides. Evenings have vanished with listing my bags on Etsy which does seem to take forever, and cramming in a couple of workouts (it would seem it is me that's eating all the cake!)
So now I've tucked myself away in my workshop, put on my iPod tuned to Orlando 96 Rock (reliving my teenage metal years) brewed a strong cup of coffee and I'm not leaving until I get something done.
I have got my next fat quart creation completed:
The Pleated Bag
For this one, you need one fat quart of something gorgeous and a fat quart of whatever you fancy to line it with. In this instance I just went for something neutral, an off cut of calico; and some interfacing.
To begin with, cut two 2 1/2" strips from one edge of each material.
Iron on interfacing to your main fabric. I used heavy interfacing for this one.
Make the strap
Place one strap piece and one lining piece RSF (right sides facing). Mark a curve on one end. Sew with a 1/4" seam allowance leaving the non curved end open for turning.
Trim the excess material away from the curved edge and cut notches in so it lies flat once its turned.
Turn right side out using something long and pointy. I use a flute rod which is perfect for the job but a chopstick or similar will work just as well. Iron, then top stitch around the edges.
Main body
Cut the large rectangle of material in half.
Mark the placement of the pleats. Firstly mark the centre point, then two points 1 1/2" either side, then mark intervals of 2" then 1", then 2" then 1". Match up the marks either side of the central point and pin in place.
Bring the next two points together and pin, then the next. Both pleats should face towards the centre.
Iron the pleats in place, then machine stitch 2" down each pleat.
Repeat on the second piece, then pin both pieces RSF and sew around the sides and the bottom of the bag. Box the corners by taking the corner and matching the side and bottom seam lines, pin in place, then measure from the tip of the triangle 1 1/2" and mark a line across.
Sew along this line, then cut off any excess about 1/2" from the line of stitches.
Pin the straps in place then baste to hold.
Turn the bag the right way round.

Make the lining.
Pleat the lining in the same way as the outer but this time just baste in place with a running stitch along the top edge. With RSF stitch around the sides and bottom but be sure to leave a 3" gap for turning. Box the corners in the same way as the main body.

Home straight now! Place the bag inside the lining with RSF. Match up side seams and central pleats, then pin around the rest of the edge. Sew around the top with a 1/2" seam allowance. Turn right side out through the hole in the lining. Slip stitch the hole in the seam then iron. Finally, top stitch around the top of the bag.
Its at this point that I have to keep my fingers crossed. My machine has been sounding decidedly clunky for a little while now and doesn't really seem to like sewing-well anything in general actually, but particularly not several layers of fabric in one go. But we survive this one. And minimal bad language and name calling too!
So there it is, the finished article.
Tie your handles together and you have a handbag which is the perfect size for your day to day needs and all for the cost of a few pounds and an hour at the machine!
Feet up time now, me thinks! Another cuppa and a great bit of acoustic Stone Temple Pilots. Nice..

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Fat Quart Project

Yesterday, I took to one of my favorite places, one of the local fabric shops. I'm very lucky in that in the near vicinity, there are several fabric shops that stock a fantastic array of materials. Invariably, I return from such a jaunt with a handful of fat quarts and yesterday was no exception.
Lovely, lovely. I think fat quarts are fantastic. There's so much that you can do with that small piece of material which costs not usually much more than £3. So I'm going to set about a project. to make as many things as I can using these little gems. Initially I was going to do it over the month of August, but then I sat down and wrote a list of what I could make off the top of my head and came up with far too much. Which can only be a good thing.
So my first make was a binder cover. Anyone who knows me, knows I write like a demon, have done since I was in my teens. I have got folders and folders full of unfinished novel length stories which have never met any ones eyes but my own and probably never will. My husband jokes that maybe one day I'll make my fortune from it. I have a one word answer to that. No!

Anyway, I digress. I wanted something pretty so step forward a piece of Tilda fabric. These are also great in that they are a little bigger than your standard quart so therefore will cover an A4 binder. At this point I should also add that in this project I will be using extra scraps of material. Cheap calico is fantastic. My latest find is a duvet cover set from Ikea for a bargain £1.99. There's masses of material there. I scour the local charity shops for sheets and duvets which are an absolute goldmine.
I used this binder cover pattern with a few slight alterations. Not using a heavy fabric like denim, I interfaced the outer cover and the pockets. I used a piece of gingham for the inner sleeves. And best of all, it took me less than an hour to make from start to finish which is always good.
Its already in use and it has pockets to keep my pad and pens safe too.

For the next make I will have to go with a purse or a bag. I'll post that in a few days time.