Saturday, 10 December 2011

A little Christmasy post

Well, first let me start with an apology: I am sorry I have been a useless blogger of late. I can assure you that this is entirely due to 'real world' happenings and that I have not gone off blogging at all! You see, Christmas is just around the corner, but before it arrives I am meant to have sold a house and bought another one. As you can imagine, this is making my life a little stressful at the moment. Well, that and the 'review' at my workplace, where business analysts are checking us over, looking for what they politely term 'efficiencies', which we all know means savings! Fingers crossed that I won't be one of those 'efficiencies'!

So, that is my apology and explanation out of the way. Now let's get down to Christmas!

I have always been a big fan of Christmas; the sparkly lights, the sharing time with friends and family, the food and the fun always make me really happy. But this year, I am having more fun than usual in preparing for the big day (house move aside). As we haven't been able to decorate our house this year, I decided to spend my time doing all manner of other Christmas things, starting with making little felt tree decorations.

My obsession with felt all began with a visit to the Fabric Rehab website, where I happened upon some lovely little kits for making decorations. I promptly ordered three, and this is what I made:

Aren't they adorable?! The kits come with everything you need (apart from the stuffing) to make two of each of the decorations and they really make me smile.

And then I got carried away! I took a trip to my favourite haberdashery, Millie Moon, who have recently opened a new store in Wells. Whilst it's not as big as the Frome shop, it is still filled to the brim with sewing magic. I bought a stack of beautiful, brightly coloured felt and set to work on making more decorations. This is what I have made so far:


For my next trick, I decided that this was the year to attempt to bake a Christmas cake. This is something of a surprise both to me and to my husband! We both know just how much I hate anything containing any form of dried fruit or peel, but as this year I am a goddess-in-training, it seemed only right that I attempt this staple Christmas treat. After consulting my friends on Twitter, I plumped for a classic Delia recipe and set about baking. I hadn't realised quite how much goes into a Christmas cake, either ingredients-wise or time-wise. You have to soak the fruit the night before, the cake has to bake for what turned out to be 5 hours and then you have to 'feed' it every few days in the weeks leading up to Christmas! And you don't even find out if it'll taste good until the big day! I really hope this is a good one and that my dad loves it - I made it for him really.

Here's a piccie of the cake when it had just come out of the oven. I shall endeavour to blog again once it is decorated.

And finally, yesterday was my Christmas Shopping Day. This is an annual event, where my husband and I each take the day off work and do all of our Christmas shopping in one go. This year we chose Bath and bought some utterly lovely things in some of the independent stores and little boutiques. Once we had managed to park, it was a lovely day. And when we got home, it was time to wrap the presents. 

Every year I try to make my presents prettier than the year before. I am a sucker for beautiful packaging and I like to make the gifts looks as appealing as possible under the tree. Two years ago I potato printed brown paper with sparkly red stars, last year it was brown paper and a rubber stamp, and this year it was Mollie Makes-inspired brown paper with white gel pen decorations! I posted a pic on Twitter and got so many complimentary comments that I thought I ought to show some more here. It took me three hours to decorate 10 presents. I really hope the family like them!



 
You've probably guessed already, but the gift tags are from Cath Kidston. I think they're super cute! If you like the paper designs, feel free to copy for your own gifts, but here's a little plea that you don't copy for profit. I've heard some nasty stories about that happening recently and it makes me sad. 

Anyways, I've probably kept you for quite long enough now, so will leave you to your cups of tea and slices of pre-Christmas cake. In case I don't get another chance to blog before Christmas I will sign off with a great big "Merry Christmas" to you all. I hope that you all enjoy yourselves, however you are planning to celebrate. 

Love and kisses! x










Sunday, 13 November 2011

My first cooking challenge disaster

On Friday I met up with a very good friend of mine, Fasting Foodie, and took a trip to London to attend the Masterchef Live event at Olympia. It was fantastic, a great day out full of fabulous food stalls, enthralling demonstrations and celeb chefs galore! We were lucky enough to meet Michel Roux Junior (who I can confirm is even more wonderful in real life than he is on the telly) and the the super-smiley Monica Galetti. We also watched demonstrations by John Torode and Greg Wallace, as well as by various previous Masterchef competitors, who all seem to have done remarkably well for themselves after finishing the show.

All-in-all, it was a brilliant day out, but the highlight was definitely watching Michel Roux Jnr cooking, and then meeting him at a book-signing afterwards. It is not often one gets that close to a two Michelin starred chef! In his demonstration, he cooked up a very delicious-looking dish of Parisian Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms. He made it look so simple and, as my newly signed cook book contained the recipe, today I decided to give it a go.

Interestingly, French gnocchi is made very differently to Italian gnocchi, which contains potato. The French version is made from choux pastry, made with water, rather than milk. I'm not going to write the recipe out here, as I intend to give this one another go, and will share it when I succeed! However, as I promised at the start of this blog that I would share my disasters as well as my triumphs, I have to admit that I had my first Cooking Challenge fail this week.

I'm not sure quite sure what happened, but the choux pastry I made just turned to a great big pile of mush when I boiled it in water. Michel's didn't do that; his were perfect little cylinders of deliciousness! I have a feeling I went wrong when beating the eggs into the pastry mix - I think I should have let the rest of the mixture cool a little before adding the eggs, as I think the first one may have cooked, rather than being combined into the mix. Either that, or I boiled the choux pastry cylinders for too long before draining them. One way or the other, they didn't work, and I was very disappointed.

Fish and chips for tea tonight!


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Mollie Makes and so do I (again)

I'm not sure there's a crafter out there who has not read at least one issue of Mollie Makes by now. I have written before about how much I love this magazine and its beautiful styling. There is not an issue that comes through my letter box that doesn't have at least one project that I want to try. Usually, I add them to my list of "Projects I Want to Try" and leave them there for a little while. However, when I saw in Issue 6 a patchwork blanket made from old wooly jumpers, there was no way I could wait to get stuck in.

The day after the magazine arrived, I could be found in my lunch break rummaging in the local charity shops looking for jumpers that I could use to make this fabulous blanket. I got lucky and found a number of very large jumpers in the local Clic Sergant shop, in colours that went beautifully together. I complimented these with the biggest cardigan I have ever seen from the local hospice shop. In total, I spent £11.50 on jumpers for this make. £11.50 for charity, one snuggly blanket for me!

Making the blanket could not have been simpler. It was a case of cutting up the jumpers into nice chunky squares and stitching them together on the sewing machine. Some of the crosses between my squares were not so neat as to be called perfect, but I put this down to the fact that the knitted patches were fairly stretchy and so were not as easy to work with as the fabric I have used to make baby quilts in the past.

I took a small diversion from the instructions in Mollie Makes when it came to finishing my blanket. The instructions suggested edging the blanket with bias binding and leaving the back as it was. I thought that, whilst this looked nice from the front, the back of my blanket was looking a little scruffy and I wanted to finish it off a little more neatly. So, a little trip to the local fabric shop was in order. I bought some cream winceyette just larger than my quilt to finish it off. This fabric is so soft and snuggly that it seemed the perfect choice to complete my already very cosy project.

To finish my blanket, I put the patchwork and the winceyette together, right sides facing and ran the sewing machine around the edge, leaving a gap to turn the blanket the right way out. After doing so, I hand stitched the gap and then put small stitches at each cross where the patches met, through to the backing to hold the whole lot together. The result? A super snuggly blanket that is just perfect for curling up under on chilly autumn evenings.


The Mollie Makes blanket looked like this:

And my blanket looks like this:

I actually don't think this photo does the finished blanket justice, but I think you can see how cosy it is!

This really was an easy make. Thanks Mollie Makes for a fabulous idea!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Seven - Toad in the Hole

I start this post with a confession: Week Seven of my cooking challenge was delayed for a week. Naughty I know, but I had a birthday and all sorts of eating out fun last week, which made it rather difficult to sneak in a new recipe. Perhaps I ought to try to get two new recipes into Week 8 to make up for this?

To make up for the lateness of Week Seven, I decided to attempt something that I have wanted to try for ages: Toad in the Hole. It is one of my all-time-favourite dishes and when the very lovely Emma Lemonade offered to send me a tried and tested recipe, I had no choice but to give it a go. Emma got the recipe from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book and I couldn't believe how simple it appeared. Essentially, it was a case of cook sausages, make batter, add batter to sausages and roast!

More specifically, it went like this:

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil
450g (1 lb) good quality pork sausages. (I used Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Pork and Caramelised Red Onion Sausages and they were flipping delicious!)

Batter:

125g (4oz) plain flour
2 eggs
300ml (half a pint) milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or thyme (I used thyme)

Method:

1.  Heat the oil in a small roasting tin on the hob, tilting the tin to oil the sides.  Add the sausages and place in the oven at 220°C (gas mark 7) for 10 minutes, or until the sausages are browned and the fat is very hot.

2.  Meanwhile, make the batter.  Sift the flour into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre and add the eggs with a little of the milk.  Whisk the eggs and the milk together, gradually incorporating the flour to make a paste.  Beat in the remaining milk and herbs to make a smooth batter.  (On Emma's advice I did this bit using a handheld electric blender, which I think saved a lot of arm-ache!)

3.  Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C (gas mark 6).  Pour the batter into the roasting tin around the sausages and cook for a further 30-35 minutes, or until the batter is well risen, golden and crisp.

Because it is just hubby and me here, I halved all the ingredients to make my Toad in the Hole and used a small roasting tray. I served it up with two of my favourite veggies - carrots and broccoli - and lashings of gravy.

Here's the obligatory piccie:



 Unfortunately, after this picture was taken, the batter sunk a bit around the sausages. If anyone has any tips on stopping this from happening, please let me know.

Even after the sinking, this recipe gets a massive thumbs up from me. It was simple to make, delicious and perfect for the autumn. This is reflected in the scores:

8/10 from Hubby - he was more disappointed than I was by the sinking, but still loved this recipe. The choice of sausage went down well too.
9/10 from me. I just love Toad in the Hole!

I'd like to say a big thank you to Emma Lemonade for sharing this recipe with me. If you have any fabulous autumnal recipes you think I should try, I'd love to hear from you too!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Six - Minted Shepherd's Pie

Week Six of my little cooking challenge saw me attempting a recipe without...a recipe! Last weekend was the first really autumnal one we have had this year. The weather was chilly and drizzly and really called out for some proper comfort food. And what better comfort food is there than a great big plate of Shepherd's Pie? Mmm..yummy!

I didn't use a recipe for my attempt at Shepherd's Pie as I felt that it was something I should be able to work out for myself. So, I set about thinking what would go into the perfect Shepherd's Pie, and this is what I came up with:

Ingredients (serves 4):

500g lamb mince
1 large onion (chopped)
3 carrots (sliced)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Some stock (enough to keep everything moist whilst cooking)
Some dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper
5 white potatoes
Frozen peas
Splash of milk
Knob of butter
Sprinkling of cheddar cheese
And the best secret ingredient I have ever thought of.....2 teaspoons of mint sauce

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 190°.
2. Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan - add the onion and carrots and fry on a medium heat until softened.
3. Add the mince and brown.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and some stock - enough to keep everything nice and moist as it cooks.
5. Season with herbs and salt and pepper.
6. Add the mint sauce!
7. Simmer for 25 - 30 mins

8. Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Boil for 15 - 20 mins (until soft).
9. Drain the potatoes and put back in the pan.
10. Add a splash of milk and a small knob of butter and salt and pepper to taste.
11. Mash!

12.  Mix the frozen peas into the mince mixture.
13. Pour the mince mixture into an ovenproof dish.
14. Cover with mashed potato and fluff up using a fork.
15. Sprinkle cheddar over the top.
16. Put it all in the oven and cook for about 30 mins or until the top is golden.
17. Serve with a smile!

Here's what mine turned out like:


 The scores:

10/10 from my husband. Apparently the mint sauce was a 'genuis idea' and made this the best Shepherd's Pie he has ever tried.

10/10 from me! Well, I couldn't disagree with a word he said!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week 5 - Apple and Blackberry Crumble

Week 5 of my cooking challenge saw me cooking something I have wanted to make for ages, and which I truly believe all Domestic Goddesses should be able to make, especially as autumn looms. It is something I always thought would be oh-so-difficult, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Apple and Blackberry Crumble was...well...simple!!

I used a Rachel Allen recipe and, as usual with Rachel, this was a good choice. The recipe is easy to follow and doesn't use any silly techniques. It's a case of chopping, heating, sieving, rubbing, and baking. And that is all. It did involve getting my hands dirty, but that's half the fun of baking, isn't it?! I am pleased I remembered to take off my shiny rings before getting stuck in though...

And what was the result?

A most scrumptious pudding that was eaten with giant grins over two days! Thumbs up!


The scores for Week 5:

Hubby: 10/10
Me: 10/10

Job's a good'n!





Thursday, 22 September 2011

A little stitching update

It's been a while since this little goddess-in-training has posted about any sewing exploits. This is because I have been pretty busy in other aspects of life and have, unfortunately, not taken enough time to keep up with the stitching. That said, my fingers have not been totally restless, as I do have a few little snippets to share with you.

My hexie cushion (which I am making using one of Kandi Pandi's kits) is progressing...slowly. I have completed the sewing-the-hexies-together stage, but have not quite made it to the turning-it-into-a-cushion-cover stage just yet. This is a project that I have really enjoyed working on, as it has forced me to practice doing neat little stitches by hand. It was very satisfying seeing those stitches getting neater and neater as the rows built up.

And it's a good job I've been practicing those neat little stitches - they came in handy when I spotted a dress in Dorothy Perkins recently, which would have been just lovely, if only the manufacturer hadn't left a hole in one side! The bias binding and the fabric didn't quite meet on one arm hole, and it seems that this is an excellent bargaining chip for getting a pretty dress at a reduced price! My new sewing skills came in very handy stitching this one up:


I have also discovered a new love in recent times. This is a love that some of my non-goddess friends have smirked at, but is one that I will hold my head up high and admit to: I have fallen in love with cross stitch. I have to hold CrossStitcher magazine responsible for this one, tempting me in with a super cute cover gift a couple of months back and then holding my attention through page-after-page of inspiring, modern projects. And this is where it's got me:



And finally...remember that patchwork baby quilt I was commissioned to make a little while back? Well, the customer requested that I make a little label pointing out that this was indeed a special, handmade gift, so I used an alphabet page in the back of CrossStitcher and put this little one together. Cute, me thinks!


 What stitching have you been doing lately?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Four - Killer Jerk Chicken

It's been a little while since Week Three of my cooking challenge! I had a hectic week at work in the lead up to a week away in Portugal, so I lost a couple of weeks of new recipes. I made up for it in the new Week Four though, with another Jamie Oliver Special.

This time the recipe came from Jamie's 30 Minute Meals, a book packed full of excellent recipes that take about 40 minutes to cook! To be fair to Jamie, I don't have a liquidiser or electric blender, so I do have to do the chopping myself and I think this is probably where the extra minutes creep in.

I chose the Jerk Chicken recipe for Week Four of my challenge, after being inspired by a lovely chicken and rice dish we ate in Portugal. It looked fairly straight forward, but like it would taste great, so I thought I'd give it a go.

It was a fairly easy recipe, but without any form of liquidiser you would struggle. I have a small electric hand-held thingymijig with blades on the bottom and this was definitely needed for making the jerk sauce. I have to admit, I chickened out slightly on the sauce and used a normal chilli rather than the Scotch Bonnet Chilli recommended in the recipe. I did add in a little extra rum though, to make up for it!!

Here is the finished dish:


I'm pretty certain any real chefs, or indeed domestic goddesses, out there would tell me I need to work on my presentation. But I'm learning, ok? :o)

And now for the scores. Jamie's Killer Jerk Chicken recieves:

8/10 from my husband (needed more sauce)
8/10 from me (same comment)

All in all, I consider this one a success.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Apple Tree Yurt, Portugal

I know, I know, this isn't supposed to be a blog about holidays, but sometimes you go on a holiday that is just so bloomin' brilliant that you have to share it with as many people as possible. And that is the sort of holiday I went on last week.

The hubby and I enjoyed our April holiday in a gypsy caravan in West Wales so much that we decided to pick a similar style of trip for our main summer break. After a bit of internet searching, we came across the truly wonderful Apple Tree Yurt in rural Portugal and thought we would give it a try. Neither of us had been to Portugal before and neither of us had stayed in a yurt before, so there was a certain sense of adventure about this trip.

And it couldn't have been better. The yurt was truly magnificent and definitely lived up to the 'glamourous' part of 'glamping'. It was decorated beautifully and felt so romantic. The hosts - Derek and Hannah - are some of the loveliest people you can hope to meet and made us feel so welcome. We opted to eat our meals at the yurt, and the food was truly delicious. We had everything from Pork and Prune Casserole to a Beef Tagine and every dish was absolutely scrummy. The breakfasts were also delicious and the optional-extra picnics were generous and well thought out. Happy tummies!

The location is wonderful too - set in the mountains of central Portugal, the yurt is surrounded by trees and there are numerous swimming spots nearby, for those who enjoy a dip in a fresh, clean river.

If you are looking for a holiday with a bit of a difference, or like the idea of eco-living, I would definitely recommend this place. Go on - give it a go!

Here are a few piccies from our trip:




 



Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Three - Pappardelle wtih ragu of tiny meatballs

Week three of my cooking challenge saw a return to savoury, as I wanted to shake things up a bit with our evening meals, rather than always plumping for the tried and tested. I am a big fan of Jamie Oliver's cook books for simple, effective meals that I actually would make at home. So when looking for a tasty new evening meal, one of his books was my first stop.

I went for the Papardelle with ragu of tiny meatballs recipe in his book Cook with Jamie (which happens to be on special offer for a tenner on Amazon at the mo). It looked fairly simple, especially as he makes clear that you don't have to make the pasta from scratch (a lesson for another time..!), and the ingredients were all easy to get hold of. The meatballs are made from beef mince, combined with some chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, egg, parmesan cheese and lemon zest. I wasn't too keen on the part that involved scrunching and mushing all the ingredients together with my hands, as it felt a touch icky, but the delicious aromas coming from the ingredients spurred me on.

The meatballs are shallow fried and served with a fairly simple tomato sauce with pasta and a sprinkling of basil leaves and mine looked like this:




And the verdict? Tasty, but I overdid the meatballs slightly, by putting them on a higher heat than I should have done to start with. This meant that the outsides cooked too quickly and I had to leave them on the heat to get the middles to cook too...you live and learn (which is what this challenge is all about, afterall). Also, I was not too sure about the inclusion of lemon zest in the meatballs. I think this was everso slightly overpowering and when I make them again I may well leave this out.

The Scores:

9/10 from hubby, who loved them but would have been happier had I not overcooked them.
8/10 from me, but to be tried again without lemon zest in an attempt to raise the score!

I am now taking a short interlude from my cooking challenge, as I will be going on holiday shortly. But, rest assured, when I am back I will be cooking away like a good little Goddess-in-Training! xx

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week Two - Rasberry Ripple Pavlova

Sorry for the late write up for Week Two of my cooking challenge. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long - it's just been one of those weeks where time seems to disappear. Oh well, I'm here now!

Week Two was a fun week, as my 'try-a-recipe' day was the day that two good friends came over for dinner. The main course almost counted as a new recipe - I made Jamie Oliver's mushroom risotto - but as I have done a mushroom risotto from another book before, I decided it probably shouldn't count.

Dessert, on the other hand, was a brand new, very fun challenge! I wanted something that I could make in advance so that I wouldn't need to worry about timing and burning whilst my friends were here, especially as I knew I would have had a couple of glasses of wine by pudding time!

I wasn't sure what to make, so I turned to Twitter for some advice. My followers are a very helpful bunch and made a number of excellent suggestions, but the one I settled on was pavlova. Having never made meringue before, I was fairly nervous. But I found a lovely looking recipe on BBC Good Food and decided to press ahead. On the advice of my mum, I got up super early to prepare the meringue. The longer you can leave the meringue in the oven to cool, the less likely it is to crack when you go to serve it, apparently.

Meringue, I discovered, is incredibly easy to make. Whisk egg whites, add sugar, bake. As simple as that. Or, almost as simple as that. I did actually have to make the meringue twice, because where the recipe says to add the sugar slowly, it doesn't mean put your electric whisk onto the slow speed - it means add the sugar slowly! If you do it too fast, your eggs will lose the beautiful stiff peaks you've just spent ages creating and you'll end up with a bowl of slimy goop, like I did.

Attempt two went very well though and produced a beautiful, un-cracked meringue. The semi-freddo topping in the recipe was so easy too. It involves smushing some raspberries and whisking together mascarpone and cream, before freezing for a couple of hours.

And the result? A truly delicious dessert that will leave your friends with very big smiles on their faces.

I didn't do too well on the photo taking front this time. The pavolva was gone too quickly, but here's a shot of what was left at the end of the evening:


And the scores?

10/10 from all four of us! One friend even said that it was a far better pavlova than she had ever tasted in a restaurant. Thanks BBC Good Food - you did me proud!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Cooking Challenge: Week One - Warm Vegetable Medley

This week was the first week of my cooking challenge, a challenge in which I promised to try a new recipe each week for six months in order to brush up on my cooking skills.

So, what happened in Week One?

I decided to keep it simple for my first week, so made a one pot dish for an evening meal. Whilst the dish I made was simple, it included ingredients I never usually cook with - namely celery and aubergine. I've always been a little bit nervous of aubergine, but it is so easy and tasty I'm pleased I've introduced it to my repertoire.

The recipe I chose was a Warm Vegetable Medley from the brilliant Frame by Frame Italian cookbook that my sister bought my husband for Christmas last year. This book is really very good. Essentially it is a picture recipe book, which - along with written instructions - shows photos of every step of a recipe. It has proved very useful in getting my husband into the kitchen this year.

The Warm Vegetable Medley seemed a good choice this week, as the days are starting to feel autumnal and something hearty and warm was needed (yes, I really am writing this post in August!!). The recipe basically consisted of cooking together onions, celery, aubergine, plum tomatoes and olives, with three tablespoons of red wine vinegar and some sugar. It is served with ciabatta bread. 

And how did it go? Well, I'm not sure I will be making it again, although I think this would be to my husband's disappointment. He described it as 'very good for a bowl of vegetables', but I thought it was a touch too vinegary to be really tasty. Perhaps I will make it again, but reducing the amount of vinegar used. It was definitely easy and a good way to get a lot of veggies into my tummy!

Here's a piccy of the finished dish:



And now, time for the scores. This week's new recipe receives:

8/10 from my husband
6/10 from me

Oh well...onwards and upwards!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Challenge: Cooking!

Last weekend I watched the film Julie and Julia and I loved it. It is based on a true story about a woman who feels lost in her own life finding a way to make herself feel alive again. And the way she did it? By cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, and blogging about it as she went. The film cuts between the life of Julie - the blogger - and Julia - the cook. The Julia bits are set in Paris, and there is nowhere on earth that I am more obsessed with than Paris!

I'm telling you about this film because it really inspired me. I already feel that blogging has lifted me, and the days I sew and blog are the ones when I am happiest. I am really surprised by how much I get out of writing a post and knowing that somewhere out there someone might be enjoying reading it. And I am definitely loving learning new skills and 'meeting' people out there in cyberland who share the same passions I have.

But I feel I have wavered a touch from the original aim of this blog: to chronicle my journey to becoming a domestic goddess. I have focused a lot on sewing and less on the cooking side of things. Unless I better my cooking skills, there is no way I will ever be able to wear the label 'Domestic Goddess' and truly believe it belongs to me. So, armed with the inspiration I took from Julie and Julia, I am going to set myself a challenge. My challenge will be on a smaller scale than the one Julie set herself, but it will be a challenge nonetheless.

And what is that challenege?

For the next 6 months I will cook one recipe a week that I have never cooked before. 

For some, this may not seem like much of a challenge, but for someone like me, who tends to fall into a rut and cook the same things over and over, it really is. To make sure I follow through on this challenge and don't give up, I am going to blog about each and every recipe I try.  So, you'll be able to cheer me on from the sidelines...and perhaps some of you might join in too?

Don't worry - I'm still going to blog about my sewing adventures as well. I just felt I needed a little kick up the bum to improve my cooking skills and I think this might just do it.

My challenge will run from today, Saturday 13th August 2011, to Saturday 11th February 2012 and the weeks will run from Saturday to Friday. The recipes don't have to be main courses, but could be starters, desserts, cakes or any other culinary delight that tickles my fancy.

So, wish me luck! And perhaps, if I need your help, you might be able to suggest some recipes along the way...

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Baby quilt commission

When I started out on my journey to become a domestic goddess, I was not expecting that just seven months into my project I would be commissioned to make a baby quilt. But that is exactly what has happened! Who would have thought it?!

I am still a long, long way from domestic goddess status (have you noticed the lack of cooking-related posts recently?!), but it seems my sewing skills are now good enough to enable me to sell something that I have made.

I won't go into detail about how I made the quilt, as I used the same techniques I used and blogged about previously, but I will share with you some pictures of the finished item. All the fabrics (except for the backing) are Cath Kidston designs, and I think they work beautifully together. Aren't the little aeroplanes just adorable?!




 I really hope you like it!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

What a lovely Saturday

Well, today has been a wonderful day.

As my husband had plans for the weekend, I decided to make the most and enjoy a truly girly day. So, I spent the day with one of my favourite people and we car-booted, ate scones and stitched hexies. It was fabulous.

I have never been terribly interested in car boot sales - not since I was about 11 anyway - but I felt inspired by the lovely Jodi from OhSewBeautiful, who collected herself quite a stash a few weeks back. So, when the sun came out this morning, it seemed silly not to take advantage of the local sale. I was relatively restrained and only made 3 purchases, totaling a whopping £1.80, but I am very pleased with what I bought:





This was a skirt, which I have now chopped up into panels. I imagine it will soon be used for my next sprocket cushion. I'm not sure it really worked as a skirt, but as a cushion it will be just fabulous!


I've had my eye on this book for a little while now, as I loved Mark Haddon's previous work, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Paying 30p for it, rather than £7.99, will surely help me to enjoy it even more.

My final little purchase is just perfect. As my Twitter followers may know, I am a fan of hot chocolate in the evenings. And what would make a better mug for a hot chocolate than this little gem? Is it not just wonderful?


And for 50p, there was no way I was going to pass it up!

My friend made some super purchases too, including a floral dress that will probably become a cushion, and a beautiful porcelain jug. The jug will look gorgeous with a bunch of fresh flowers in it.

On returning from the car boot sale, we munched on scones and sipped tea. Then we spent the afternoon sewing hexies for our Kandi Pandi cushions. I'm getting close to completing the hexie part of mine and this is how it is looking:


I'm really enjoying this make, as it's giving me a chance to practice my hand-stitching. It is amazing how addictive stitching hexies is too!

So, all-in-all, today has been just lovely. If only I didn't have a big pile of ironing to tackle this evening...

Friday, 8 July 2011

Sprocket cushion and a veritable bargain

This is just a little post for me to show off the very funky sprocket cushion I recently made using the wonderful Cluck Cluck Sew's tutorial. If you've never popped by her blog, you really ought to, as she makes some rather wonderful patchwork quilts and her tutorials are ace!

I was a little nervous making my cushion as I have never done anything round on a sewing machine before, but I actually found it a lot easier than I had expected. AND....I didn't always tack prior to setting off with Holly, my sewing machine! I would definitely recommend making these cushions as they are simple, but look very funky and can add a splash of colour to an otherwise boring sofa. I will definitely be making another to sit at the other end of mine. Here's a little piccie of sprocket cushion #1. I think you'll agree that any goddess-in-training would be proud of it!


I am actually going to unpick it slightly to add a touch more stuffing, but that is the only change I would make. I really enjoyed playing with fabric-covered buttons for the first time too. And they're so easy to make!

On a completely different note, I thought I'd share with you a little bargain I picked up at lunchtime today from The Works. It is a dictionary of stitches! How cool is that?! And it only cost me £2.99. A bargain? I think so!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Patchwork baby quilt - the perfect gift

As you may recall from my post about my visit to Millie Moon, I have been making a patchwork baby quilt as a gift for a very special friend of mine. She is having her first baby this summer and I just had to make a special gift to welcome the little one into the world. And here that gift is:


I actually finished the quilt a little while ago, but didn't want to blog about it until I had passed it to my friend - spoilers just wouldn't have worked. Last night, the handover took place and I was very happy with the reaction the quilt received: smiles and hugs. Perfect.

So now I am able to blog about the quilt, that is exactly what I am doing. Here is my little guide to making a patchwork quilt, and specifically a patchwork quilt for a little baby! The quilt I made ended up at about 102cm long and 84cm wide, which is a great size for a little one to hang out on with his little baby pals, whilst the mummies drink tea and nibble cake.

Method:

1. Choose some funky fabrics to use for the patches. I used 2 contrasting patterns, which I alternated, but you can use as many colours and patterns as you like.

2. Cut these fabrics into 20cm x 20cm squares. You'll need 20 in total, to make a quilt with 4 squares across and 5 down.

3. Using a 1cm seam allowance, sew these squares into rows:

(The red stitching you see here is just my tacking - I am still a nervous sewer so tend to tack things first to make sure I get them right on the sewing machine).

4. Press the seams. 

5. Once you have 5 rows of squares, it is time to sew them all together. When you do this, try to line up the seams, so that you have good little crosses in the corners:

6. Press the seams again, to keep everything nice and tidy. Now take a look at your handy work at this stage:
7. Next it is time to sew on the borders. Choose a lovely contrasting fabric and cut 8cm wide strips off it, long enough to run the length of the quilt, with 8cms extra on either end. Sew these onto your quilt, using a 1cm seam allowance.

8. Now comes the trickiest bit: the corners! I wanted lovely diagonal seams on my corners and it took me a while to figure out how to do this (I'm not good a geometry!). Here is a series of photos to show you how to do it:







9. Trim the excess and press your seams.

10. Now it's time to put your quilt together. Choose a lovely soft fabric to use as backing - brushed cotton works well. And you'll need some wadding. Both of these should be cut slightly larger than your quilt.

11. Lay out your wadding piece flat on the floor, then lay your backing fabric on to it - face up. On top of them both, lay your patchwork piece - face down. You need to be sure that your backing fabric and your patchwork are facing each other, so that they are in the right place when turned the right way out.

12. Sew the 3 pieces together, using a 1cm seam allowance, but leave a gap of a few inches on one side so that you can turn the quilt the right way out. Trim the excess.

13. Turn your quilt the right way out and sew up the gap by hand. 

14. To hold everything nicely in place and to add that 'quilty' look, machine a line of stitches all the way around the edge of the patchwork, like this: 




And that's it: your baby quilt is now complete! All you have to do now is wrap it up into a pretty parcel and give it to a special friend and watch that friend grin.


I think I may now have to make a much bigger version of this quilt to snuggle up in myself. In fact, I bought some lovely fabric today...!   :o)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Fabric swap

I'm excited today, as I have just signed up to my first "swap". It's a fabric swap being organised by Kandi Pandi, a blogger and tweeter who makes some beautiful handmade things.

When I started this little blog in February, I didn't realise just how much fun I would have on my journey to becoming a domestic goddess. I am only a few months in and I have already learnt so many new skills and have discovered some fabulous crafters out there in cyberland. I am a long way from my domestic goddess goal, but I am having a ball along the way!

If you want to get involved in Kandi Pandi's fabric swap visit her blog and sign up before Wednesday 22nd June. You never know what treats might come winging their way to you...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Afternoon tea - the perfect welcome party

As you may know, my sister recently gave birth to my first nephew. He is the most perfect little thing I have ever seen, and to celebrate this fact we decided to throw him a party! Now, a 4 week old baby is not really up for a big night out, so it seemed obvious that the best sort of party to throw would be an afternoon tea party. I am quite the connoisseur of afternoon tea (there is nowhere quite like The Dorchester in London), and so took control of the arrangements.

On Saturday, we all descended on my childhood home and put ourselves to work in the kitchen. The day before, I had baked a Lemon Drizzle Cake and a Victoria Sponge, using recipes from The Great British Book of Baking, and now it was time to make the sandwiches. We had a bit of a production line going and made 16 rounds of sandwiches - Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese, Cucumber and Cream Cheese, Ham and Mustard, and Cheese and Tomato - which had their crusts removed and were cut into cute little fingers. I have two top tips for you when it comes to making these dainty little sandwiches:

1. Remove the skin of the cucumber before slicing it into little slithers, rather than spending aaaaages cutting all the edges of afterwards...
2. Use a normal kitchen knife, rather than a bread knife, to slice the sandwiches into fingers, as this prevents a lot of distortion and odd shaped sarnies.

For the second course of our afternoon tea we had scones. I have to admit to cheating here: as my baking skills are not quite up to scones just yet, we went to the local bakers and came back with the biggest pile of fresh scones I have ever seen...mmmmmm they were good. These were, of course, served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Clotted cream on the scone, jam on top - the only way!

The scones were then followed buy the cake course. My Lemon Drizzle and Victoria Sponge were joined by some Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes, baked by my little sister, and a Fruit Cake baked by my mum. Yum yum!

All of this was washed down with Pimms, tea, joy and laughter - a proper welcome to the world for my little nephew!

Here are a few piccies of all the food. I think you will agree that it was a bloomin' good spread!