Sunday, 31 July 2011

Pink Drink...

One of my favourite summer time drinks is a watermelon smoothie. It's cold, healthy and (almost) non fattning so it can't really get much better than that :) Best of all it's easy to make too - even if you don't have a blender or kitchen machine!

All you need is for about 3 large glasses:
  • About a pint/half a litre of natural low fat yoghurt
  • 1/4 small or 1/8th watermelon cut into chunks.
  • Sugar to taste (or sweetening if you can deal with the artificial taste it adds)
  • For the decoration 2 straws and 2 slices of watermelon about 1/2 inch / 1.25 cm thick per glass
If you are using a kitchen machine or blender just put all the ingredients into the machine and turn it on till smooth.
If you are doing it by hand chop up the watermelon into small 1/4 inch / 1 cm cubes and press through a sieve before mixing it through the yoghurt.

Pour into glasses and slide the slices of watermelon onto the glass - I put the front slice in with the rind in the glass first - then put the second slice pointing the other way second making sure I didn't push it down as far. then add straws and serve

Friday, 29 July 2011

Dolly bags..

With the kids going with my ex on holiday to Turkey for a fortnight they wanted a way to take their "Can't live without dollies" with them on the aeroplane as they haven't flown since they were very small and are a bit nervous. They waited till the last moment to tell me this (of course), so I made them a dolly carrier each - with fabrics they chose of course as they were allowed to choose anything from my stash that was big enough for the project.

I kept it simple and used a 20" x 9" rectangle of fabric each for the inner and outer cover placed right sides together and placed some super strong cut away stabiliser from Madeira (that I happened to have lying around) on top and sewed most of the way around. I then turned it right side out and sewed the seam shut.  Then I added some Velcro and the strap before sewing the side seams closed and turning it right sides out. This makes the flap a little bigger than the sides but I was doing it the fast and dirty way as I didn't have much time to do this in.

To make the straps I used a strip of 3" x WOF (that's Width Of Fabric for the non quilters reading this) folded in half right sides together - sewed the seam and tuened it before sewing a line 1/4 away from each side to keep it flat.

It took me 2 1/2 hours to make both bags and I finished about 5 minutes before my ex showed up to collect the kids.

Sewing charms...

Last week when we were in Tilburg (The Netherlands) I was at a lovely little quilt shop - Quilt-it it's housed in an old Dutch house and the shop itself is in the parlour, with the class room being in the room across the hallway - it had lovely tiles on the floor in the hall that were original to the house. They specialise in old style fabrics - muted reds/brown/blues etc. not really my taste but certainly lovely fabrics so I got myself a couple of FQ's (that's a piece of fabric that's around 20 x 18 inches for the non quilters reading this) in some red tones, some needles and some lovely sewing related charms.

Today while in town with the kids I got the coloured leather laces, closure and other bits and pieces for making a necklace and made myself this in about 20 minutes.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Cookies.... On-a-stick!

Last Thursday when we were in Utrecht we not only visited the Railway Museum but also the Utrecht University Museum after which we did a bit of shopping - the kids love going shopping with me as we always go to fun shops. Although admittedly they don't like it when I disappear into a quilt shop they are very well behaved there and I always let them go into a shop of choice after (comic or toy shop usually lol) one thing we did after the quilt shop was go into this lovely baking shop Cute Cakes where I got my hands on a star cookie tin that allows you to make cookies-on-a-stick.

Today was the day to finally try it out. and I made it recipe included on the back of the wrapper - it was too dry so I added a second egg to the mix and it was enough to make over double the amount they said it was for. The 6 in the photo are from the first batch made - at the time of writing I have the 3rd batch in the oven with enough dough left to make at least another 6, though I'm not putting sticks in any more as I don't want to run out of sticks on the first day of using the tin.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Giant beanbags!

Last winter I got my hands on this MASSIVE bag of beanbag beans with the plan of making a couple of old fashioned beanbags, however the curved shapes needed and the sheer size of them daunted me too much to I kind of stalled on making them. Yesterday I made the decision to stop procrastinating and just make them - not circular but the newfangled rectangle shapes instead, something I could easily do. I don't have the final outer fabric bought for these yet so they are just 2 layers of muslin sewn shut which will make the beanbags more childproof than a single layer would be. When I have a spare bit of money I'm going to raid the fabric shop and buy some nice soft fleece to use as the outer covers, oldest wants blue while youngest wants green on one side and blue on the other. The photo has a standard sized paperback book tucked between the beanbags so you can see how huge they really are.

Size of each beanbag: 1,5 meters x 1 meter ( 4,9 foot x 3.2 foot)
Cost per beanbag: 16 Euro's (approx 23 USD / 14 GBP)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

New cupcake tin...

Monday we were in town so the kids could spend their pocket money and while we were there they wanted to go into the sweetshop which happens to also sell baking stuff so I splurged and got a new cupcake tin - one for 24 mini cupcakes. Since we were in Tilburg yesterday I couldn't test it out till today and have found that I need a bit more than 1/2 a normal batch of cake batter to make 24 well filled cupcakes so I'll probably just stick to making 18 unless I'm making more than just one batch.

The white cupcakes are vanilla and the pink ones are raspberry and as you can see I didn't ice them as I had run out of icing sugar.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sea is green too...

Not always the most obvious choices of fabrics to group together but green is a fickle colour and doesn't always like to be nice together so I grouped these teal/sea greens together even though some are more than a bit darker/lighter than the rest. 

This is the 23nd block of 40 and the third green one.
Next up: Lime green

For more information see:  The insane hexagon quilt
To see all the quilt blocks together look here:  Insane Hexagon Project

Something new...

Every now and then the Lidl surprises me with something new and interesting in the food department - this time it was Kumato's brownish green tomatoes that look like they have gone bad but taste wonderful. - far sweeter than your average supermarket tomato and  perfect for in a salad or on a sandwich. I used mine on a seasame bagel with fresh picked lettuce and rocket from my garden and some sliced cooked chicken and enjoyed every bite.

It does remind me that I really need to get the huge tree situation sorted out in my garden - I've an overgrown Leyland cypress taking over my tiny garden that I inherited from the previous owners when it still looked like an innocent tiny conifer, it's blocking out the light and making it impossible for me to grow much in my veg plot any more which is a shame as I love growing my own veg and eating it within minutes of picking. I also have a cherry tree in my garden that has grown a lot bigger than expected - the man at the nursery said it would stay small but it's not my idea of small - and my neighbours agree with me on that score as they are getting sick and tired of cleaning up the mess every year made by the birds as they eat every cherry before it's ripe, so the cherry tree also has to go.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The delights of fresh fruit...

Having grumbled about horrid cake earlier today I'm going to wax lyrical about how good fresh fruit is at this time of year. Since the Evil Resident Blackbirds ate all my cherries off the massive cherry tree before I'd even had a single cherry and as they are so expensive here (6 Euros a kg - about 4 more than I'm willing to pay) I won't be having any cherries this year - which saddens me but they are just way too much.. However while at the green grocers I did get (going clockwise) Flat "wild" peaches (the white ones at the top) peaches, red and yellow plums, apricots, flat nectarines and nectarines.

I'd never had a flat nectarine before and when I took a bite the flavour hit me WOW it was so good! I just stopped doing everything for a moment to savour the taste. I can't believe that these are cheaper than the cherries! In fact all the fruit I got was just 1 Euro more than a kg of cherries - really good value if you ask me :)

So head on over to your local greengrocers and find out what's in season - it's amazing what's available at this time of year!

The horrors of cake mix packets...

It was the birthday of my youngest son's favourite can't live without cuddly thing (better know as Dilly) last Wednesday and, as I was still sore from our day trip to Leiden the day before I wasn't up to baking a cake for him as I'd promised, I decided to finally use up that packet of ready made add water only cake mix ("Home Made" brand)  that someone had given me a while ago and was close to going out of date. I rather wish I hadn't - it was horrible and as the image shows we didn't even finish more than one or two bites before we decided it was just too horrible to eat - we threw it away in the end.

The moral of this story - it's nicer to make real cake made from real ingredients, and tbh it's not as hard as people make it out to be - even my kids can make a cake on their own with a bit of help with weighing out the ingredients first.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Birthday cake...

Yesterday was youngest's 8th birthday and he was allowed to choose what type of cake I baked for him. He chose a cinnamon cake with apple and as that is best eaten warm I baked it shortly before I expected people to arrive.  Of course everyone arrived earlier. The cake when done was perfect though and it was mostly gone before I was able to make a photo of the whole 8' square cake I'd made.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

What to do when the painters show up...

Today the landlord inflicted me with painters to paint the outside window frames and doors which meant that I had to be ready to jump up in an instant if they needed something. So I did some sewing. First I made the pockets and pocket flaps for the inner bag, then I made this scissor holder by hand. I didn't decide until after I'd made it that I was going to put some Velcro on the back or I'd have sewn that on by machine before sewing the front seam, it wasn't easy doing that by hand. I have no idea who originally created the pattern for this - I made one a long time ago and just worked from memory to re-create it in different fabrics. It closes with Velcro and the button was added as decoration.

All I need to do now to complete the inner bag is sew on the Velcro for the thread holder and scissor holder and sew on the mini pincushion I'd already made.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Almond, Mocha and Chocolate cake

 With the kids at ex's I decided to bake a cake that was a little more grown up than usual an in flavours the kids mostly don't like so I made a batch of  plain cake batter, split it into 3 bowls and flavoured it with almond essence,  extra strong espresso and cocoa and put the flavours side by side in the long thin rectangular cake tine. In hindsight I think I should have done long thin stripes of it lengthwise or even one layer on top of the other to make sure that you can have all three flavours at the same time however I also wanted to save some of the cake for the kids (the chocolate bit) and did it like this. I won't be eating it *all* today - just a bit and freezing the rest in slices for a later date. I like how you can see which bit is which with the different shades of brown and think that if I did it the way I mentioned above it would make for an even better look. I won't be icing this cake - it looks fine as is :)

Friday, 1 July 2011

Travel sewing bag

This summer me and the kids are going on a bunch of day trips to cities and museums to explore the country we live in and learn stuff - the kids choice as it happens as they really wanted to go to a couple of museums and would rather go to them than a theme park. Works for me - it's cheaper :) Since I don't own a car this will involve public transport, mostly in the shape of trains. Most single way trips will be over an hour so I want to take my hexagon project with me to keep my hands busy.

Enter the new plan - make myself a handy bag to take with me on my travels as the Yazii bag I have isn't too handy for on the go stuff but is more suited for going to sew at a friends house and it doesn't have a shoulder strap so I'd have to carry it in my hand all day - not handy at all.

I'm making stuff up as a go as I think of things that would be useful to have in my bag. Using patterns I find on the internet in addition to what I think up myself. The main idea is to have a bag that completely opens out to reveal the sewing stuff and that can be closed in a few seconds when it's time to get off the train. It has to be quilting related and I decided to finally use the blue and yellow floral I've been hoarding for a long time cos I wanted to make something special with it.

The insane hexagon quilt

To help with understanding of what I'm talking about with the hexagon quilt here is the background story:
Some years ago in a bout of total insanity I decided I wanted to make a huge king sized hexagon quilt for my bed - insane as I'm doing this all by hand and wanted to have as many fabrics in this as was physically possible. So I went to my usual quilting communities and asked for help - which resulted in many envelopes arriving with 2 1/2 inch squares and larger scraps from all over the world.

Since some fabrics were washed and others not I decided to just wash them all and so make sure that they had all been pre-shrunk before use (and that also washed out some fabric softener/starches some people had used which were setting off my allergies) This was pretty time consuming as the squares are too small for the dryer and if dried in a net they came out creased so I ended up having to press a couple of thousand squares/scraps of fabric. then came the process of making sure that they were indeed large enough and if required trimming down to a 2 1/2 inch square, sorting to colour and bagging it all up. This was a pretty boring process so a couple of times it just got put aside for more fun things. This summer (2010) I finally finished washing & pressing the fabrics and could get cutting and sewing 

Cutting of the whites and browns started in the first week of September 2010 with me basting as I cut then playing with the layout till I was happy with the result

The plan: make a king sized quilt
The Units: hexagons basted around a paper form (known as paper piece patchwork or English paper piecing)
The blocks: 91 units of a similar shade hand sewn together
Size Units: 1 inch sides
Size blocks: 14 1/2 inch sides | 19 inches corner to corner | 16 inches side to side
Required blocks: 56 as whole, half and corner blocks
Border: a gazillion 1/2 " hexagons and 1/2 " 60 degree diamonds.
Required units: approx 5096 <gulp>
Insanity level for this project: Off the scale
Expected time line: 5 years (leaving time for a life, kids and other projects )
 At the time of writing I'm basting the units for block #23 - sea green.
To see all the quilt blocks together look here:  Insane Hexagon Project

The first post

As with everything new there is always that first post, first stitch or first thing in the mixing bowl that needs to be done in order to make a start on things. This is that first post and hopefully things will only improve after this post as it's probably boring you already lol. I'm not going to spam this blog with all the things I've done previously but instead I'll just link you to the photo's of my work/baking that I've uploaded elsewhere. Previous baking and quilting images and let them speak for themselves - you can of course always ask what something is and I'll explain :)

And with that I think I'll stop <grin>