Monday, May 16, 2016

D.I.Y. ribbon sensory mobile...



I would love to share with you the most exquisite quilt I've sewn for Jessica. There's also the outdoor playmat, the cute little knitted jumper and all the sweet things I've painted and embroidered for the gallery wall above her cot. Let's not forget the cute cloud wall I've stamped to match the hot air balloon mobile which we obviously haven't left in it's box. I haven't even got started on all the lovely little dresses I've sewn.

In my mind Jess has the prettiest handmade wardrobe and bedroom but,in reality, the quilt fabric remains uncut, her bare wall is plain magnolia, her wardrobe is entirely shop bought and she has to make do with grass when sitting outside ;)

In fact the only things I've made for her so far is one knitted bootie and this rainbow ribbon mobile. Up until yesterday, this mobile hung from a coat hanger...hence why it hasn't been shared with you until now! Although, even when it was just on the hanger, it was still infinitely more usable than the lone bootie :)



I initially made it when Jess was about 5 months. She loved looking at it, feeling it on her skin and, as she grew and developed, reaching out to touch and grab the different textured ribbons (it also makes a great curtain for peekaboo!). When I made it I just thought she'd like it while she was little but she still loves it just as much today (she's 15 months now). She prefers to wave it around madly these days which was the main reason I hunted down a wooden hoop on which to transfer the ribbons!

Here's how I made it...


I used 12 strands of ribbon that were each approximately 1m in length. This was perfect for the size hoop I used (5" diameter). It took me ages to find a hoop - my google searches kept coming up with curtain rings and embroidery hoops :) If you search for macramé hoops then you'll be fine :) Although for young babies, a coat hanger is just fine as you'll be holding it.

1) Take one strand of ribbon and fold in half. Place it through the ring and feed the two ends through the folded middle. Pull tightly to secure the ribbon to the hoop. Repeat for the remaining strands of ribbon. Alternatively you could fold the ribbon over the hoop and sew it together just under the hoop.


2) Trim the ends with the scissors and then carefully run each end over a lit match. This seals the ribbon and prevents fraying. Be careful to not bring the ribbon too close to the flame or it could catch fire (easily blown out though!). Alternatively you could either cut the ribbon on a diagonal to minimise fraying or fold the end over twice and sew a hem.


And it's that simple! The only thing to say is to make sure you supervise your baby playing with this at all times as the strands of ribbon could be a strangulation risk if left unattended.

As well as providing great visual and tactile stimulation for the baby, it makes a lovely mobile to hang in a nursery, or flat against a wall as a wall hanging. A black and white version of this would also be perfect for newborns. The added bonus is that you can make this in less than 30 minutes - so perfect for busy parents!

Now please excuse me but I've got some quilt squares to cut Peppa Pig to be watched - Jess might get that quilt before she moves out :)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

This Easter...

Warning. A rather self indulgent and, to be honest, boring introduction coming up. But also a tasty cupcake recipe. Skip to the end ;)

Our Easter week kicked off with Jess getting a stomach bug. This was on top of about 6 weeks of illness in our household! But it was okay, the sun was shining so I escaped cabin fever by getting out into the garden and doing some serious pruning (you can just call me The Hacker...seriously, I just love chopping things down!). Then on Wednesday, for a reason unbeknownst to me, I decided that was the day I was going to get fit, so I dusted off my exercise dvds.

Why am I telling you this?

Because Jillian Michaels you are totally getting the blame for what happened next. Turns out, I really shouldn't have exerted myself.

Thursday came and I woke up. Feeling rough (and also pretty achy). Well on top of everything else that was going on at the time (the husband also wasn't very well) a phone call was made. "Mum? (help) What are your plans for Easter (help)? I'm not (help) feeling too good...how do you and Dad fancy coming (help) to cook/clean/get up with Jess spend Easter with us (heeeeeelllllllp!!!)?!"

Tulips that Jessica 'bought' for me. She was happy to show them to me - less keen about actually handing them over!

So what was initially looking to be a pretty downbeat weekend turned into a wonderful Easter with my parents. It was the most restful time that I've had in a long time - we were very spoilt. They did all the cooking and housework and plenty of playing with Jess (of course!). I napped, lay on my bed reading magazines, baked and the loveliest thing of all...spent time with my family.

Mum and Dad took Jess out for the afternoon on the Saturday. I had 3 hours to myself at home for the first time since Jess was born. The pressure was on to make the most of it...so naturally I tried to nap :) When sleep alluded me I decided to bake something I wouldn't normally be able to squeeze into a naptime. I dreamt up a spring bouquet of lemon cupcakes decorated with buttercream roses in pretty pastel colours. The lemon cupcake part went well however, while they were in the oven baking, I realised I had barely any icing sugar! So my 'spring bouquet' became a batch of pink icing and some stingy roses alternated with even stingier thin layers of icing spread on the remaining cupcakes!

But it was fun. And really relaxing. And, most importantly, the cupcakes still tasted great! Lemon cupcakes just feel right for spring time. The fresh flavour matches the freshness of the flowers and greenery springing up around us.

Just out of shot is the lonely cupcake that didn't get any icing...I helped it feel loved by eating it.
Lemon cupcakes - makes 10 cupcakes
adapted from Bake by Rachel Allen

Cake ingredients:
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 eggs, beaten
150g self raising flour

Lemon butter icing ingredients (the original quantities so you'll have plenty for decorating!):
75g unsalted butter, softened
175g icing sugar, sifted
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Milk (optional)

1) Line a muffin tray and preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2) Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy.

3) Gradually add in the beaten eggs, mixing in a little flour if the mixture starts to curdle.

4) Fold in the flour until just combined.

5) Divide the mixture between 10 cases and bake for 15-20 minutes (until lightly golden brown, the cupcakes should be slightly springy to touch)

For the icing:
Cream the butter until very soft. Add the icing sugar and zest, mixing until combined. Add lemon juice to taste and to soften the icing consistency. If the icing remains too stiff for piping then add a little milk.

The lemon icing is really what makes these cupcakes work so don't hold back! I talk about piping roses here if you're not sure how to do this. Roses are such a simple but pretty way to decorate cakes, it's a favourite of mine!

So, here's the real reason for this post. It isn't really to blame Jillian Michaels (but seriously, that's your beginner 30 day shred?!)...or even to share this delicious cupcake recipe. It's to say a massive thanks to my mum and dad for your love and support. You are wonderful and we loved seeing you. Thanks for giving me time to bake and ice cupcakes leisurely!

Monday, March 14, 2016

My week according to food #1

If you read my new year post then you may remember one of my goals was to be more intentional about planning our meals. Since the new year I've been meaning to occasionally share our weekly meal plan - so often when it comes to planning meals, I leave it to the last minute so am always on the lookout for inspiration. During those times I wish I could just be given a meal plan for the week (and maybe a shopping fairy who'll get my food and put it all away for me...and, while I'm at it, why not a cooking fairy and washing up fairy too?). Anyway, in case I'm not alone in having these annoying moments of total mind blanks, I thought I'd share our meal plan (and my opinion of the meals) for the week. Shopping fairy services not included ;)


I think you tend to either be a recipe follower or you don't. Some people just can't seem to stick to a recipe no matter how hard they try...I am not one of those people! I love trying new recipes and find it really relaxing just following the instructions. I mean, I can throw a meal together with various bits we have in the house, but, for me, the enjoyable part of cooking is finding and following new recipes. Plus, if you follow the recipe then you can always shift the blame if the meals turns out to be horrible :)


Inspiration for the week:

- Good Housekeeping Cook's Collection
- GoodFood magazine March 2016
- The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen (although I didn't end up using the recipe from here!)
- BBC Goodfood website
- Pinch of Yum

SO this is what this week's plan looks like:

Sunday

Meal - Chicken roast dinner
Verdict - What's not to love about a roast dinner?!

Monday

Meal - Chicken, leek and mushroom pie  from BBC good food (uses up left over chicken from the roast.)

Verdict - This has been my go-to pie recipe for the last few years...it's simple but so delicious. The flavour is improved massively if you can make the filling up in advance and leave it to cool before making up the pie. I'll often add a pinch of dried herbs to up the flavour further (dried thyme goes well).

Tuesday

Meal - Vegetable lasagne (I was going to use  the recipe from Erin Alderson's The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen but I'm going to contradict what I said up above because I ended up just making it up!)

Verdict - This was so delicious! I used a plain white sauce instead of ricotta and made up a tomato sauce with tinned tomatoes, red onion, balsamic vinegar, basil and a pinch of sugar. I layered these with roasted courgette, aubergine, pepper, onion and mushroom. It's a keeper for us!

Wednesday

Meal - Crockpot carnitas with sweet potato chips, salsa and coleslaw (recipe from Pinch of Yum)

Verdict - The best pulled pork and best slow cooker recipe I've tried to date! I often find both pulled pork and slow cooker meals disappointing (pulled pork often just seems to taste of...pork and slow cooker meals seem to turn out bland). But this had a really great flavour! I don't have a broiler so just popped in the oven for a little while (well I actually forgot about it and left it in too long!) but I'm thinking I won't bother with that next time.

Thursday

Meal - Cod and spinach yellow curry (from March edition of Good Food magazine, although we used haddock)

Verdict - This was great for Jess because it was really mild. It's flavour was nice but a bit subtle for our liking. I would definitely recommend it though for those who are firmly on the mild side of curry :)

Friday - We ate out ;)

Saturday

Meal - Herb crusted cod with warm new potato salad and greens (Cod recipe from Good Housekeeping Cook's Collection)

Verdict - A delicious classic dish and is easy to make in advance.

Now having shared my wonderful week of home cooking I'm off to buy a pizza for tonight, having forgotten to get the meat out to defrost for tonight (and I'm sticking to that excuse!).

Have a great week!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Minimal-sew bunting...

I whipped out my sewing machine for the first time in ages to make some bunting for Jess' birthday. She had no idea but I enjoyed making a little effort to decorate...especially since she had a meltdown when she saw the balloons being blown up (she was scared for all of a day and now loves them).


 
Bunting was my first project when I bought my sewing machine 6 years ago. I made some double sided bunting for my niece's bedroom. I would have loved to do the same again but I'm learning to be realistic about how much can be achieved during naptimes so I settled for single sided bunting...the bonus was that I got to use the pinking shears that Santa gave to me at Christmas :) another bonus was that it was all completed within a couple of days.


The only sewing I did was to sew the bunting into the bias binding and then to create loops at the end of the binding. Both the fabric and bias binding was from The Homemakery . I initially bought the fabric to make a quilt but since I'm still cutting out squares for a different quilt I figured that, by using it for the bunting, it wouldn't sit sadly in the back of my cupboard for years ;)


I love The Homemakery and could easily spend far more money than I should! I've bought a few fabric bundles from there, I had a quick look and couldn't find this particular bundle (and have no recollection of it's name, sorry!) but there are plenty of other beautiful fabrics on there!


To make this bunting all you need is fabric, sewing machine, bias binding, pinking shears, pins, ruler and fabric pen. Cut out the bunting to your desired size (don't forget you'll lose some height from the triangle when you insert it into the bias binding). Secure the bunting into the bias binding with pins and sew along slowly, making sure each triangle is completely enclosed by the binding. Then just fold the ends of the binding over and sew to secure.

I probably didn't even need to explain how I made it as it is such a simple diy. I'm not a massive bunting person (despite having just written a post on it) but I think I'll be using it to brighten up our dumping ground conservatory. Now to just replace the carpet, find chairs (actually find all furniture for it) and restore my old toy box that is in there...but hey, at least it looks pretty!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cat cake

Jessica turned 1 earlier this month. Ummm...aaaaargh how has that happened?!! But panic aside, something I was both looking forward to and slightly dreading regarding Jessica turning 1 was making my first birthday cake - all I could picture in my head were all the cake fails that made it onto GBBO An Extra Slice. Now I love seeing those cakes but I didn't want to be creating one in my kitchen. So to Pinterest I went. Of course. The cake I went with was one I had actually saved a couple of years ago...because who knows when you're going to need a super amazing cat cake? Maybe when you're trying to turn your kid into a cat lover from an early age?! The original is by Coco Cake Land and can be seen here. This ended up being finished literally minutes before our family arrived...our house was a mess but we had cake, so I guess I had my priorities right :)
 



My only other attempt at icing a cake with any panache made me realise that a lot could be achieved with the right piping tip, even with very (very) little experience. This has just reaffirmed that for me...this was seriously easy! I made a four layer victoria sponge cake, sugar biscuits for the ears, butter icing to decorate and ready made fondant icing for the details
 
 
I wasn't able to exactly recreate the fur effect in the original but got a great result using a grass effect tip. I also may have splashed out on a whole set of food colouring gels in order to make cream icing a little creamier ;) But this Wilton set was great for achieving that (it did also make a great pink nose).
 
 
What I learnt -
 
1) Last time I tried decorating a cake the icing was far too soft to stick to the sides. My sister is a fab cake decorator and she recommended using a 2:1 ratio of icing sugar to butter, and then adding a little more icing sugar to achieve a firmer consistency. It worked great although I could have probably gone a little softer (maybe just the 2:1 ratio) and saved some hand ache from pushing the icing through the tiny holes of the icing tip. I think it would have worked fine with any other tip though. I used a regular buttercream icing for the crumb crust which gave the icing a good base to stick to.
 
2) You can do a lot with a regular shaped cake! I think Jess may be having a lot of different animal cakes for her birthdays (this one looks great if I'm brave enough to tackle fondant icing!). However to get a balanced effect I did need to use more layers than normal. Something I didn't take into account when choosing the size of cake tin...so I ended up making a cake that was far too big (Jess looks tiny in comparison in our photos)!! So if you're going high...don't go as wide ;)
 
I was really happy with how this turned out and actually really enjoyed the process...as much as I'm probably going to freak out when Jess turns 2, at least I'll be looking forward to doing her cake!
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