Friday, 28 September 2012

Guest Posting on Craftstorming

Saucepan Handle Cozy

Today you can find me posting on Craftstorming as part of Laura's series Sew Yummy. Head on over and take a look at some sewing inspired by baking and some baking inspired by sewing.

I've got a tutorial showing you how to make Saucepan handle cozys. I'm always burning myself on these skillets, but no more!

Click on the Sew Yummy button to take a look at the delicious offerings in the rest of the series.

Thanks for having me Laura!


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are used in a lot of Middle Eastern recipes. If you've ever tried buying them, they can be tricky to find and then when you do find them, the price can give you a shock! I'm not sure why they're expensive because they're very easy to make and keep for at least a year. Just make sure you remember that they need to be made about a month in advance.

I think it's best to use home grown lemons, because they're usually organic and not waxed. Either way, give them a good scrub before using to remove and grit or wax. I love to slice the rind into tagines and lamb salads. You can find links to some recipes using Preserved Lemon at the bottom of the post.

Preserved Lemons

5 medium sized lemons
1/2 cup coarse salt (kosher salt or coarse kitchen salt)
extra freshly squeezed lemon juice
A few coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick - Optional
1L/1qt sterilised jar

Cut lemons lengthwise into quarters without cutting all the way through. Leave a little bit at the end uncut so that the pieces stay together. It sometimes helps to cut a little bit off the bottom so that it will sit flat before cutting the quarters.

Open up the lemons and sprinkle a handful of salt inside. Fill each lemon with as much salt as possible. The salt will extract the juice from the lemons, softening the rind. Sprinkle a bit of salt in the bottom of the jar and push the lemons into the jar. Sprinkle over remaining salt. I sometimes break up the lemon into its quarters to get it to all fit nicely in the jar. Add the spices or any combination of them if you wish. I usually just add a bay leaf.

Pour over enough lemon juice to completely cover lemons. Seal and store in a cool place, away from direct sunlight, for at least 4 weeks. 

The lemons may develop a white mould on them if some of them are above the juice. The mould is completely harmless, so just scoop it off with a spoon. 

To use, remove a lemon from the briny juice. Separate off as many pieces as you need. Rinse under running water and use your fingers to separate the flesh from the rind. Pat dry with paper towel. Finely slice and add to your recipe.

Preserved Lemons Preserved Lemons

Recipes using Preserved Lemon:
Moroccan Chicken with Olives - Simply Recipes
Couscous Salad - Jamie Oliver
Grilled Salmon - Simply Recipes
- Lamb and Apricot Tagine
- When making hommus, a piece of preserved lemon can be added to make Lemon Hommus.
- I also think a curl of the rind would go great in a Martini, but I haven't tried it yet.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Summer Scarf

Sunflower Scarf

When I did my big Spoonflower order of everything Sunflowers, I also ordered a yard of cotton voile with the sunflower print at half size. I'm always cold, so I wanted to make a lightweight scarf to help keep me warm. The cotton voile was perfect! I was originally going to make both sides of the scarf with the sunflower print, but when the two layers are together it looked quite dark, so instead I backed it with white.

I used this tutorial by Anna Maria Horner to make up the infinity scarf, although I changed the width to 30cm (12") and the length to 1.8m (70").

Sunflower Scarf Sunflower Scarf

For the back, I used a super soft old bed sheet and painted yellow polka dots on it. I didn't have a big paintbrush, so I wrapped a strip of felt around the end of a knitting needle and used some sticky tape to secure it. This makeshift paintbrush worked perfectly! I dipped it straight into the paint and then wiped the excess off on the side of the pot. I printed out a grid to place under the fabric so that my spots lined up. I think next time I would water down the paint a little, but I'm still really happy with it. I got the idea for the spots from gorgeous scarf by Kelli at True Bias.

Sunflower Scarf

The scarf is about 70" long, and can be worn double or triple wrapped around my neck, depending on how snug I feel like wearing it.

Sunflower Scarf

While we're talking sunflowers, my new order of fabric arrived for my bag! This time the sunflowers printed out the correct size (shown on the left). You can see how much bigger they were on the right! Luckily, the big flowers were perfect for the floor cushion. Hopefully I can get my bag made in the next week, ready to show you all soon!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

A trip to the Zoo

Zoo trip

Ros from Sew Delicious and I have met up in real life once before at a kids play centre and this time Ros suggested we take the kids to the Zoo. Roman hadn't been to the Zoo before and I was a bit unsure whether he'd enjoy it or not, but he had a great time!

We had great luck on the day. First off, the weather forecast said it was going to rain all day, but it was nice and sunny for the morning and didn't start to rain until we got into the car to leave. Roman loved watching the seals from under the water swim and loop around.

Zoo trip

We also managed to walk past most of the animals at the perfect time. We got to see the Mum and baby elephants parading and playing. We also stood right in front of a tiger as it paced along the glass. Roman thought it was quite funny. I was glad the glass was there.

Zoo trip

We also caught the lions roaring loudly for their lunch. This one was pretty tired and yawned a bit. It's a tough life sun baking all day, isn't it?!

Zoo trip

I just love the kids peeking through the fence to see the elephants.

Thanks Ros and girls, we had a lovely day out!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Great thrifting!

Op Shopping

I've had some great luck at my local op shops lately. First, I found this great vintage pattern for a skirt. It's my first vintage pattern, so fingers crossed that when I get around to making it, that it turns out well. I also managed to find the wool check fabric on the same trip. It's perfect for the skirt and there's plenty there. Not bad for $5.

On my latest trip I picked up this sweater. It's a Pringle cotton knit and in really good condition. It's a little big for me though, so it will need a bit of a makeover!

What's your greatest thrift find?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Featherlight Sponge Cake

Featherlight Sponge Cake

My Father-in-law turned 60 last week and had a party on the weekend. I asked him if he would like a birthday cake and he said he wanted a 'layered sponge filled with fresh whipped cream and strawberries, covered with some chocolate with strawberries' or something like that.

Sure! No problem. Then I realised I'd never made a sponge before and had a little freak out. Then I figured that beginners luck would shine down upon me and it would all turn out great! I used the excuse of making the sponge to finally get around to getting 2 x 8" plain old cake tins. Would you believe I didn't have any? I had a 9" springform, and a plain old 6", but no 8" tins...weird!

Anyway, as luck would have it, the Sponge Cake gods were in a good mood and the cakes did turn out fantastically. The recipe is adapted from Stephanie Alexander's recipe for 'Jackie's Mum's Sponge Cake'. Here's the recipe:

Featherlight Sponge Cake
makes 2 x 8" cakes

120g cornflour
4 teaspoons custard powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup caster sugar
600ml thickened cream
2 punnets strawberries
100g dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F). Grease and flour 2 x 8" cake tins. Sift the cornflour, custard powder, cream of tartar and bi-carb soda together. To ensure a lovely light result, stir this mix to make sure it's all evenly combined, then sift twice more.

Beat egg whites in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and keep beating until a meringue is formed. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Gently fold through the dry ingredients with a metal spoon or spatula.

Divide the mixture among the tins and place in the oven so that the top of the tin is in the centre of the oven. If your tins don't fit on the same shelf, then make sure you swap them halfway. If they do fit on one shelf, then make sure the tins aren't touching each other.

Bake for about 20 minutes until cake feels light and springy when gently pushed in the centre. One of my cakes took 20 mins, the other took 25 (not sure why). The cake will shrink away from the edges of the tin when it is ready.

Place a tea towel on top of a baking rack. Take the cakes from the oven and turn out onto your hand covered with another clean tea towel and then place right way up on the baking rack. Allow to cool. If you're in a hurry they can be cooled outside or in the fridge (I have not tried the fridge, but I did put mine outside to cool quickly).

Pick out the 12 prettiest strawberries. Make sure your toddler doesn't eat them.

Whip the cream until fairly stiff. Sweeten it with some icing sugar if that's how you like it. Spread some of the cream onto the top of one cake. If one of your cakes is taller than the other, use the tall one on the bottom. Slice enough strawberries to layer over the cream. Take the other cake and place on top. Then cover the top with a layer of cream, spreading it to the edges. Pipe 12 swirls of cream around the edge of the cake. Top each one with a pretty strawberry.

To make the chocolate flakes, use a vegetable peeler to peel the side of the chocolate block over a large plate. Use a spoon to sprinkle the flakes into the middle of the top of the cake.

This is best made of the day of eating.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Featherlight Sponge Cake

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Sunflower Floor Cushion

Sunflower floor cushion

I pinned the tutorial for this floor cushion by Living with Punks a long time ago and had a sudden realisation that the Sunflowers fabric I had printed that was too big, would be perfect for one of these! My new fabric should arrive any day now, then I can get on to making my bag!

The 54" width of the Spoonflower canvas let me cut the side panel in one piece which was great! I was hoping to use some pom pom trim around the edge, but couldn't find any in yellow or black, so went for the old school twisted braid instead. I used about 750g of hobby fill to stuff it, which I got for free thanks to a coupon! :) I would say the background of the fabric looks a little more blue in these pictures than in real life. In the flesh, it's more of a teal colour. The fabric is available here on Spoonflower.

Sunflower Floor Cushion Sunflower Floor Cushion

Roman loves the cushion and calls it 'Mama's flower cushion'. His little legs are a bit too short to sit on it comfortably, but that doesn't seem to bother him. He loves rolling it down the hall and using it as a coffee table.

Want to make your own? Find the tutorial here.

Sunflower floor cushion

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Modern Monogramming for Kids

Modern Monogram Tee

This is a post I originally wrote for Boys Own Style Month over at Cook Clean Craft.

Monograms are a fun way to personalise clothes and they don't need to look like they belong on the corner of a handkerchief. My modern take is based on Stencil Graffiti and uses a big oversized monogram to really make a point!

You don't need to be super crafty or have a lot of tools to put this together. You will probably have most things on hand. I bought the ink pad on eBay for a few dollars.

I used Rae's Flashback Skinny Tee for my pattern. Stamp the design onto the cut out pieces before you sew them up. If you don't have the sewing skills to make a top, just buy a plain one to decorate. Put a piece of card in the middle of the top to catch any ink that might run through.

If you're lucky enough to own a Cricut or Silhouette, then making the stencil will be very quick. I don't have one, so I'll show you the old school way to make it. 

Stencil Graffiti Monogram

You'll need:
A top
Fabric suitable Ink Pad - I use VersaCraft cubes
Letter stamps or other design to decorate your monogram*
Craft supplies

First off, your fabric or tee should be pre-washed. This will remove any sizing to make sure the ink sets really well. Iron your dry fabric or top so it is nice and flat.

I made up my Monogram in Word. You want to pick a fairly plain font and play around with the size until you're happy with it. You can print it out and hold it over your top to make sure.

Paste Special

Mirroring the first letter looks great, particularly if your little one has double initials. If you want to reverse one of the letters then here's how:
- When you're happy with the look and size, highlight the letter and copy it (Ctrl C). 
- Next you need to paste it as an image. Go to 'Paste Special' (from the Paste Menu) and choose 'Picture (Enhanced Metafile)'. This will paste the letter as an image.
- Use the 'Crop' function from the 'Format Menu' to remove any extra white space around your letter.
- Use the 'Rotate' function to mirror the letter.
You many find that you need to paste both letters as images to get them to line up vertically.

Monogram - s1

When you're done designing, print it out. Regular paper is fine. Then, cut out the letters using a craft knife. Use a ruler as a guide on any straight lines. If you're letters have 'holes' in them, cut them out too.

Monogram - s2

Position the letters on your t shirt and decide on where you want them.

monoram - s3

Put your stencil over the top of the letters. Take the letters out and then use sticky tape to attach the stencil to the t shirt.

Monogram - s4.1 Monogram - s4.2

If your letters have holes, apply double sided tape or a loop of sticky tape to the back of the holes. Put the cut out letter in the stencil and then stick the 'hole' down where it needs to go. Carefully remove the letters.

Monogram - s5.1 Monogram - s5.2

Use several light taps to ink your stamp rather than one big push. Test out the ink on a scrap of the fabric or a piece of paper.

Now get stamping! For my design, I lightly stamped the ink pad directly onto the fabric to darken the background and distress it a bit. I wasn't worried that it looked  a bit uneven. You can see in the picture above right that it has added a little colour to the fabric. Put extra paper around the sides if you think you might go off the outside edges of the stencil.

Monogram - s6

I then used my alphabet stamps to stamp 'roman' all over the monogram. Keep going and have fun!

Monogram - s7.1 Monogram - s7.2

When you're finished, carefully remove any 'holes' and then your stencil. To set the ink permanently, heat set with an iron on dry, using a pressing cloth. I find that the pressing cloth does get a bit of transfer on it. Use hottest iron setting that is recommended for the fabric and press for about 2 minutes, moving the iron around.  For best results, iron on both sides. To prevent fading, allow the ink to set for a week or two before washing.

If you've done this on a completed top, then you're finished! If not, get over to your sewing machine and put your top together!

*You don't need to use letters to decorate the monogram. Any fun stamp will look great. Even the rubber end of a pencil could be used to add polka dots.

Modern Monogram Tee Monogram - up close

If you like this tutorial then please take a moment to like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter to keep up to date with thingsforboys.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Chocolate Amaretto Crepe Cake

Chocolate Amaretto Crepe Cake

I promised hubby I'd make one of these for his birthday. That was in March...Oops! So, I made it for Father's Day.

This cake is straightforward to make, but does take time. I'll tell you now, that the crepes take ages to make! My batch took me about 1.5 hours. I cleaned up around the house at the same time, so it's not like you're chained to the stove and you do get the chef's perks of eating a couple of crepes on the way.

The crepes can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge, or they can be frozen. Just defrost them before putting the cake together. You can also make up the crepe batter the night before and leave it in the fridge to rest. Bring it to room temperature before using and give it a stir.

The whole cake can be made 2 days ahead and kept in the fridge until ready to serve.

This recipe is inspired by the Chocolate Amaretto Crepe Cake on Sprinkle Bakes, although I've changed it quite a bit from the original. The crepe recipe below is from Stephanie Alexander.

If almond is not your thing, simply substitute the Amaretto for your favourite liqueur and substitute or leave out the almond extract.

Chocolate Amaretto Crepe Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake

For the crepes:
300g (2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
4 large eggs
60g butter
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups milk

This recipe makes about 20 8-inch crepes. Enough for you to throw the first one out (why is the first one always like rubber?) and eat one...or two. 

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre with a whisk and crack in the eggs.

Warm butter, salt and about one cup of the milk together gently over low heat until the butter has melted. Add the rest of the milk. 

With the whisk, work some of the flour into the eggs. Add the warm milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. If leaving overnight, cover with cling wrap.

The batter should be the consistency of thin cream. If it's a bit thick, add a splash of milk to thin. 

Heat a non-stick frying pan (preferably one meant for crepes as they make flipping easy) over medium heat. Wipe the pan with a piece of buttered paper and pour 1/4 cup of batter into the pan, swirling the pan as you pour in the batter to coat the pan evenly. Put the pan back on the heat. After a minute, lift a side of the crepe to check the bottom. When it's just golden, flip the crepe and cook for a further 30 seconds. Move the crepe to a plate and repeat with the rest of the mixture. 

Stack the crepes on top of one another as you go. Allow the crepes to cool completely. Try not to eat too many. ;)

Crepe Cake

Chocolate-Amaretto Filling:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp Amaretto liqueur
1/2 tsp almond extract

The quantity of filling given here is more than what I used, but I think it needed a little bit more, so your cream layers would look more generous than you can see in my photo.

Whip cream in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or using a hand mixer on medium-high speed. As the cream starts to thicken, add the sifted icing sugar. Once the sugar has been incorporated, add the sifted cocoa and beat until smooth. Fold in the Amaretto and then taste. If you think it could have a bit more almond, add the extract. The mixture should be fairly stiff. Set aside and make the ganache.

Chocolate-Amaretto Ganache:
140g dark chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp Amaretto liqueur

Roughly chop the chocolate and place in a medium sized mixing bowl. Heat the cream over medium heat in a small saucepan until it's just about to boil and little bubbles start coming to the surface. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and stir gently until the chocolate has all melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Stir in the Amaretto. Give it a little taste and add a tiny bit more Amaretto if you think it needs it. Now, get straight to constructing the cake.

To make up the Crepe Cake: 
Put a crepe in the centre of your serving plate. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the crepe with the warm chocolate ganache. If the ganache begins to harden, reheat gently in the microwave for 15 seconds or over a double boiler. 

Next, spread a thin layer of the whipped cream filling over the top of the ganache. Top with another crepe and repeat the ganache, whipped filling and crepe stacking until you finish with one crepe on the top. 

You should have just enough ganache to cover the top of the cake. Run a spatula around the side of the cake to smooth out the filling and give it a more even look. Chill until ready to serve.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Sad boy Happy boy

It's Father's Day here in Australia, so Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there!

Roman loves his Dad a lot. I'm sure he loves hubby more than me, and I'm ok with that. These photos are from Christmas and were taken about a minute apart. Roman was completely happy to have a photo with hubby, but not with me. Oh well!

I love seeing them together and every night when hubby comes home from work, Roman runs to the door. He's not sure what to do when he gets there, so he just runs back, but it's pretty cute.

Cuff links

I wanted to make hubby something that was from both Roman and I, so I came up with a way to use the fabric I had printed with Roman's crayon scribbles. I put the fabric on some fabric covered buttons and then glued them with some E6000 onto some blank cufflinks. I tried using Tiger Grip, but it didn't bond very well. I bought the cufflinks on eBay. I think they're a neat little gift that has a bit of both of us in them.

Happy Father's Day Hubby!

What are your go-to Father's Day gifts?
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