Dec 27, 2014

D335: Not true

Today is not when my day-335-of-creativity happened.

Besides writing things, I've made all sorts of meals and dishes.  Hub reminded me to do a little more for the blog today while I was making cherry pie filling. So here's the story...

We stayed with the in-laws in the week before Christmas, in central Victoria.  Hub and his brother both fruit picked in their high school summers and we heard of a cherry farm who needed some fruit off the trees after recent rain.  So off we went, resident expert to lead us and buckets in tow, to collect 25kg (yes) of cherries!!!

The orchard - it was big.
 They were excellent, and we had a lovely Christmas Eve-eve morning in Strathbogie, picking all the fruit we wanted.

One for my mouth, one for my tummy...
Yep, cherry picking is good.
So with five A4-sized 4" tall boxes in the boot we came home (only $1 a kilo!!), delivered one dutifully collected for a friend, and got through maaaaybe two by the end of Christmas Day.

Our box has a handfull still going.  I've about two cups in the freezer and have cooked up five cups for a pie filling.  I've used this recipe (, which has instructions for different base and top pastries (yyyyes!) and the filling goes like this:

Pit 5 cups of cherries into a saucepan, add 1.25 cups of sugar.
Warm to release the juices and bring to the boil.
Keep at a low boil for 7-8 minutes.
Add 4 tbsp of flour - sprinkle in small batches and stir in - and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, until thickened.
Stir in 1 tsp of vanilla and remove from the heat.

Be sure to sprinkle in the flour.  I accidentally dropped little clumps and the weight of it plopped it straight into the syrup and it instantly cooked  it into little globs of flour that were too strong to smear against the wall of the pan.  If I'm lucky, they'll present like raspberry seeds.

Hopefully I'll report on the pastry and pie tomorrow...

D334: Home Baked Oven

This was done back in October.  Yes. I've been absent.

I haven't been idle, however. It's just that the stuff I've been doing - writing - is something I'd like to keep separate to this.  That said, life hasn't been completely devoid of craft and such.  Here is an example of one project that seems to have been a winner.

Here is Bub, fresh from her nap, and its the first thing she did at the new oven - wash her hands!
I love that Bub knew exactly what was going on when she discovered this.  It took maybe an hour.  Use packing tape if you have it, not electrical tape like lazy me.

So, for this I used 
  • A box of suitable size and shape;
  • 4 pipe-cleaners;
  • An empty egg carton;
  • cello or sticky tape;
  • scissors;
  • Stanley knife (box cutter);
  • two paper or plastic plates;
  • one plastic bowl; and
  • aluminium foil.

I recommend not taped the box closed.  Using the lid for the stove top worked really well as its easy access to anything that needs repairing.

These are the pipe-cleaners being stuck to the "taps".  This is not the best tape to use :(
Bub cooking an egg in the oven, on the 'biscuit tray'.
The pipe-cleaners threaded through the box lid with a twisted loop used to secure it.
The 'taps', made from egg carton cups, and the 'spout'.
The loop of tape on the back of the foil-covered paper plates ('hot plates').
Foil covered plates, attached with a loop of tape, for 'hot plates.
Folded cardboard cut into shape and attached with pipe-cleaners and tape.
I traced around the edge of the bowl and used the box-cutter to cut inside that about a centimetre.  The bowl is taped in.
I used a box-cutter to cut between holes made with a pencil.  The fold points are reinforced and a partially folded piece of tape is the handle, which has worked really well.
Reinforced oven door "hinge".
A piece of tape partially folded to make a handle.
The oven tray, secured to a quick oats box (also taped to the base), and the fire in the background (triangles of paper!).

Aug 17, 2014

D322: Ah! Bees!!

There's a buzz, buzz, buzz at the partyyyy...

So I committed to making our new little 2-year old a cake she would recognise and enjoy.  She loves Buzzbee and I'm very glad I chose this option.  It's a character that doesn't change much and I can't very a lot.  He has very few features and only two colours, and is based on a simple shape common to cakes.  He doesn't even have limbs.  Why I deliberated for so long over other options is a mystery.

After watching lots of YouTube videos of people making buttercream, and colouring, rolling and laying down fondant, I decided to dive in.

Two 12" cakes layered with bought ganache.

The cake is one I've previously used and quite like.  Well, love, actually - it's so quick!  I made up a chocolate variation for this cake.
Take one Nigella Lawson Awesome Vanilla Cake recipe; add 3 tbsp of cocoa to the dry ingredients and 1 tspn of instant coffee, dissolved in just enough water, to the liquids.
I used a lined 12" round tin and baked it at 350F for 50-55mins.  See the lighter spots on the top? It's done when those finally appear in the centre.

So I baked one cake during nap, had a shop (of course!) and then baked the second before dinner.

The face was put down first, on a thin layer of buttercream icing.
The features were placed on top afterward.
I did all the decorating and arranging after dinner, which took about 4 hours.

I prepared the buttercream first (a double helping: 800g pure icing sugar to 250g of whipped butter), but didn't colour it.
Then I put the buttercream aside and tackled the construction.

I put down a thin layer of buttercream to help the cake stick to the board, and placed the first cake down.  I took about half a cm off the top of this bottom layer to level it a little.  To flatten it completely would've taken a third of the bulk, which felt like a terrible waste, even though my hovering Hub and MIL felt it would've been very, very worthwhile.  So, while the bottom layer wasn't completely flat, the 500g of ganache did a great job levelling the difference between the layers, and the bottom of the upper layer barely curved at all.

I decided to do the face next, while my brain was still pretty good.  This face used about 750g of fondant and I used gel food colouring for both the fondant and the buttercream.

My post from a few days ago shows the templates I used for this cake.  They were made with a dinner plate for the face and some food containers for the eyes.  I used a Math-o-mat and trial-and-error for the mouth.

I also made a strip of paper that fits inside the top half of the face to help place the eyes.  The strip was a wide as the distance from the edge to the eye (about 15mm) and marked where the top of the eyes should align.

With the yellow band of 'fuzz' on the base.  I patted it with the prongs of a fork
to make it look fuzzy.   The fondant yellow is a richer colour than the bright stripe.

With the black buttercream.  Look at the widdle hand...
I wish I'd made the face features much thinner, instead of the 1/4" of the face.

I asked Hub to stay up with me by this stage, for company and moral support.  He was the one who looked up how to adhere fondant to fondant: with a paste made from melting a bit of fondant in hot water.

Making the black was so much fun.  Doing the two yellows was a careful task, adding a little bit at a time. (Two dips of Lemon yellow plus a little dab of Tulip red.) But with the black... well, you can hardly make it too dark.  That was fun.

The hands and feet were cut without a template.  I flipped the first hand and made the second by cutting around that; ditto with the feet.  I also chickened out of fingers, which Buzzbee normally has.  Midnight brain said no.

...and the widdle feet. 
Hard to see, but the hand on the right side is waving.
We added the antennae on the day - just some 12mm x 30cm black pipe-cleaners curled as you like, stuck into the ganache layer at an angle.

On Sunday morning Bub saw the cake in the kitchen and exclaimed "Wow! Big cake! That's amazing!"  It was a success already!

Aug 15, 2014

D321: Mmaaaadness!

As well sa the Lemon yellow and black, I also bought Tulip red and Sky blue...
Why? Just in case I felt inclined to do something silly...

You know, like breaking a biscuit recipe into six (100g each for this recipe), colouring them differently, rolling them into 30cm long strips, overlapping them by about a third and rolling them up.  The uuuuusual shenanigans...

It's tricky to get something this layered perfectly flat, and then perfectly round!

Slightly reshaped with my fingers.

Yep, oven still dirty, but bikkies going well.
I used this good old recipe, basing my idea on the pinwheel version.

They turned out quite well and are headed for some short guests via some goodie bags.

Hypnotic yumminess

Aug 13, 2014

D320: Guess what's coming?

Bub turns two on Saturday. I'm predicting Sunday's party will be bigger than I expected...

It was a close call between this and a colourful rocket.  But I haven't worked with fondant before so I thought I should take it easy and choose something with just two colours.  It's going to be a 12" cake, sandwiched with ganache. 

Thinking of and choosing cake designs, planning and checking party stuff.  That's how I've spent my creative energy since the Junebug dress. 

Wish me luck.

Aug 2, 2014

D319: complete - Junebug Dress

It's done!

I took an inch off the hem and turned it up 1" then 1.5". I'm thinking of adding a red ribbon near the hem too, but undecided... Still, pretty happy with it!

Pattern: Junebug dress by Jess at her blog Craftiness is Not Optional 
FabricA walk in the dark woods by Zesti, via Spoonflower on poplin

Aug 1, 2014

D316-8: Pins finished, dress coming

I finally stuffed and closed the ball and pins. The bells inside are much more rattley than dingly, but it doesn't matter.  I intend them to be a "Congratulations on becoming a big brother" gift so won't send them off until the event confirms it! I'm not superstitious, but it feels jinxy to congratulate about babies before they're born.

Aren't they special? Getting them to stand will be as challenging as knocking them down!

And the dress! Buttons machine sewn on, sleeve elastic inserted and cased, skirt side seams done, and skirt attached! Only the hem is left to be figured out once I can check it against Bub's height. It seems like this has just popped up, but I've really nibbled at this over a few days.

I used a top stitched neat-finish style to finish the skirt seams.  I probably should've tried a French seam, but don't regret my choice.

 Hub and I both agree it looks huge, but I feel that way about a lot of her clothes. Also, this isn't stretchy like nearly everything else she wears, and it's a bit roomy with the gathering, so it'll be the biggest dress she's ever worn anyway! 

In other news, I still have my cold. It's as strong as ever, at a month old, and keeping me up although I think I have a bit more energy in this last fortnight. I'm beginning to thinking it's a sinus infection but I'm hesitant to see a doctor coz, well, I'm still breastfeeding. Everything other than a nasal flushing thing isn't something I can have. Blergh! Blergh everywhere! :)

Jul 22, 2014

D314&5: A little dress

I've begun this little dress for Bub.  I'm hoping it will be good for one of her birthday celebrations.
This will be the Junebug Dress by Craftiness is not Optional blogger (  I've pinned quite a few of her gems. They're just gorgeous.

See how that panel is going to go on the front bodice?  
The print is "A walk in the dark woods" by Zesti, at Spoonflower (, on poplin. This was the first print I favourited in Spoonflower and I love it's subtle Red Riding-hood story.  I'm surprised at how little red there is compared to my memory of it.  Nevertheless, red buttons are destined for the font panel.

Hub and I are still sick.  The cold is barely marginally better in the last few days.  I don't recall ever having a cold that's be this bad for this long.  Blergh. 

Jul 14, 2014

Bits and Pieces

There are a few other things I've chipped away at in the past fortnight.

I went to a friend's fortieth and made some little cakes to share.  Turns out the Awesome Vanilla cake will convert to about 40 mini cupcakes.  I made up an orange glaze with some vanilla-orange sugar gifted to me.

I also bit the bullet and bought some capsules for my toy projects.  This is one of the few less-than-a-hundred-items I could find and thoughts I'd give it a bash.  Fingers crossed.

This means I've held off finishing the bowling pins and ball.  I'm still thinking of sending them OS to my nephew.  He's about to get a new sibling, but the baby's gift is still only on paper.  How much does my butt need to get in gear over that?!  I'm hoping, once this lurgy passes, I'll be able to spend a few hot hours over the machine and punch out this single-bed quilt in a few nights.  Bam, mothergoosers.

Jul 12, 2014

D312-3: Regulating my stitches!

I've spent these days getting used to the BSR (Bernina stitch regulator) attachment.  It's a foot with a mouse device built in, which detects how fast you are moving your fabric and adjusts the speed so that stitches are the same length.
There are two modes: 1 is stitch while the sewing pedal/button is pressed, 2 is stitch only when the fabric moves.  You can also detach the cord and use it as a regular darning foot.

Read these from right to left...

At least I got better...

Most recent effort, with notes
The notes show the BSR mode and stitch length, and then the last one was using the foot as a darning foot (detached BSR cord, feed dog dropped, regular straight stitch, length 3.0 I think).  The lines are where the lower thread has been pulled up to the surface.

I have a set of long margins and borders to quilt, and I thought this design would be a good beginner pattern.  This one below is also terribly pretty, very complimentary to the quilt, and I think it will cope with 'close enough for a beginning' quite well ;)

From Christina at A Few Scraps
There's no point me considering any of them, though, if I can't get my curves smooth.  And I've only been practising on a square foot of space - nice and light and easy to move - how am I going to go with a single-bed sized pieces! :S

The thread pulling seems to be a common problem with quilting.  I imagine it means I need to go slower around the corners.  It may also be that my upper tension is too high, but its' only at 4, so I'm not too sure about that...  I will be quilting this pattern on the back of the quilt though, so I'm not very worried about it because the stitches look fine on the front.

The reason I'm quilting "upside-down" for this part is that I need to draw the pattern onto the fabric.  However, I don't really have any spare fabric from the front design, so I can't test the pen and see how well it disappears.  Rather than take the risk, I'll draw it on the back, where I already know it will fade thanks to my practise pieces.  I can also manage the bulk I'm getting with the backing fabric having a lot of stretch.

Can I also add how rubbish it is to be sick?  It's only a passing sickness, but it's still no fun.  I have a terrible cold, just short of a flu.  My head is well full of clay, with achy teeth, cracked lips, watery eyes and a crackly chest.  I even have acne.  You know it's bad when your body tries to push it out via your skin. :(  I had gastro just a fortnight ago too.  Both these illnesses came via Bub and she coped with them well.  Her gastro was rubbish for a day, and the cold presented as three days of croup plus a few of misery, but my body's taken them on with full nerdy force and done both bugs with a thoroughness any librarian would envy.  Maybe that's why my blogging and craft have been so slack.  Anything I can't accomplish in front of the telly is a big deal at the mo.  Please get better body, for the start of term three!  I want to want to do things again!

Jul 10, 2014

D309-11: Stitching in the ditch...

... is all done for my gifted quilt.

Loving my walking foot with the ditch guide.  Not so loving the give on the backing and how it stretches to create bulk at meeting points.  Oh well.

Jun 21, 2014

D308: Recipe - Easy Strawberry icing

This is an easy recipe for a lightly flavoured strawberry icing.  It's enough for a tray cake of about 23x30cm.

200g pure icing sugar
3-4 tbsp spoons of recently boiled water
2 tbsp strawberry jam (preferably a conserve, chunk free)
Red or pink food dye (optional)

This is made the way most glazes are made but with added jam.  It's that simple. But just in case it's new to you, it goes like this: 

Boil the water.
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl.
Add 3 tbsp of water to the sugar, one at a time. Stop when it's still quite thick and hard to stir.  
Add the jam and stir well.
Add one more tspn of water if required.
Add a drop of food colouring if you like.

Jun 18, 2014

D297-307: Back in a tick...

Sorry... sorry.  I know.

I finished the ring stacking toy.  It's not perfect but meh good enough.  I did not enjoy doing the base.  Bub does enjoy playing with it though.

I haven't gotten any further with the bell capsules, although the toys that they're to go in are sewn and awaiting this.  My sister suggested I buy a heap of Kinder Surprises and keep the toy container... very sensible and tempting.  I could also buy a pack of 30 for a bit over $30, which is a comparable price against the chocolates, per capsule, and also save me having to faff around with teeny toys.  Something about the website puts me off though.  I'm not sure what... it just took a long time to find a supplier who sold them in batches smaller than "500pc" or "3kg" and they're unfamiliar...  I'm so precious.

I have also basted the gifted quilt mentioned here.  I ended up getting some rather thing cotton batting and a plain mid dusty green fabric.  It's quite a heavy fabric with an open weave (I can't even remember what its called, for shame) but it matches the greens in the front quite well.  So far I've done about two thirds of the ditch stitching.  It took some adjusting of the tension before the lower thread stopped breaking when sewing at speed, even with a new needle and the bobbin case freshly oiled.

I also mended some pants for a friend, including using the blind-hem foot.  It wasn't quite as hidden as I'd have liked, but time and suspecting it wouldn't actually be better without pressing, re pressing, and possibly leaving a ridge there anyway.... I just didn't want to over engineer the whole thing and make it worse.  such the optimist.

In other news, Bub has slept through three times now.  THREE!  (Not in a row.)  And I don't mean one of those ridiculous 5-hours-is-a-technical-sleep-through but an actual 8pm-7am sleep.  She's 22mo this week and she's slept through the night three times in her life.  I'm hoping it's a trend.

D296: Toy bells!

No, not bells that are toys, but bells that go into toys.  I need cases to put around my bells so that they're not muffled by the stuffing.  A friend of mine has them - they're like big pill capsule cases. I went to my local spotlight this morning after having called to get something like these...

They were there, apparently, but after looking and looking their local craft lady said they didn't have them.  They had squeakers, but not bell casings.  Humph.  So I bought some cheap plastic shot glasses instead and thought maybe I could get some sticky tape or glue involved...

Poxy, I know, but desperate times... 

D295: Stuffed and stuffed

Today I learned that when a pattern says it 'uses' a 3/8" seam allowance it means that it's included that allowance in the pattern pieces. Sad face.  Had to chop some bottom off all my pin covers.  I'm not sure it's going to fix the problem but I'll make it work somehow.

Here is a different but related example.  Sewing the rings on the ring stacking toy are clearly explained in the text, but lots of pictures, but not in the pattern.  The sewing vs cutting lines in the four base pieces are less clear.  I think dotted and dashed lines could've been used more consistently and it would've been a great help.

So, a general request to pattern makers, please be as consistent as possible across pattern pieces. Note things on the pattern pieces: "6mm SA included" for instance, or even the name of the pattern! As it is, when it dig up this very simple pattern in the future, I'll still have to go back and scour the instructions to be sure I get it right and I'm sure pattern pieces can be more helpful on their own.  

May 17, 2014

D294: Today's sewing prowess

The green ring turned out, the blue ring and stand sewn up too, all ready for stuffing and batting. Three pin tops sewn, three more prepared (awaiting bases and stuffing) and a ball shell. 

May 13, 2014

D293: A brownie by any other name...

There must be as many brownie recipes as there are types of chocolate.  This one is quite simple and from CTAW.  I didn't have walnuts so chucked in some choc chips.

It's meant for a 18cm pan, and mine is larger, but I'm pretty sure that the shorter cake, plus 25°F less on the dial, helped this be nicely done.

Last piece... Almost missed it...

D292: Empty rings

For a toy ring stacker...

The inner and outer circles of the red right were done with a regular zigzag foot. The orange and yellow with the BSR foot.  But the green had the outer with the zigzag and the inner with the BSR as a darning foot.  I thought I might be able to use the circles to practise some freemotion sewing. However the BSR foot really needs the thickness of a quilt to work properly.  It was better as a darning foot (with the cable disconnected) because I could use the steady rhythm to map the needles around a steady curve. But even then, the thinness and  and my clumsiness wasn't satisfactory.  I didn't want to have the curve ruined by poor practise.

The other thing that made me think of the BSR foot was the joining seam, which is very tight.  See the green one partially turned out? It needs a seam 3/4 of the way around the circumference - that pinned raw edge - and it barely fits comfortably around a regular zigzag foot. It's certainly fiddly while sewing and very hard to maneuver the inner edge of it without catching the bulk.  The BSR as a darning foot has been worthwhile in that front, but...

Longer story shorter: I'm about to hand sew the green ring's joining seam :|