Easter is such a lovely time of year. It brings hope and promise – oh and did I mention chocolate? Yes indeedy it is time to get your choccie fix egg-shaped and end that Lent in a fantastic celebration – and what better to way to announce the arrival of this wonderful time of year, but with a lovely wreath for your door.
- some bendy twigs and undergrowth from your garden or nearby wood
- florists (or thin) wire
- a small oasis block
- cut greenery (raid the garden for anything glossy and green)
- embellishments (I used polystyrene eggs on wooden skewers, decoupaged to look like chocolate, and some white feathers – but you could use wee Easter chicks, bunnies or flowers)
How we did it:
Firstly I took my polystyrene eggs (very cheap, only pence to buy from a craft shop) and decoupaged them with paper that looked like brown and white chocolate, and stuck it one with PVC. I then pushed a wooden skewer in one end so that I had something to push into the oasis block. Put to one side to dry.
Now to the wreath. This was a two-person job and so with Georgia at the ready we tackled it between us. You can use any twigs to make this but they must be bendy otherwise they will snap. Dogwood is great but there are many other varieties that would work just as well. Basically I twisted the sticks around into a ring whilst Georgia wound around the circle with thin wire – just to hold it into shape.
Tip: don’t get too worried about the wire showing, you can cover it with the ribbon or any other embellishments such as fairy lights.
This is our ring and you can see that there is a natural bottom to it. Shape it as a circle in your hands and cut off any odd bits that are sticking out. The great thing about spending time on this bit is that you can strip the ring after you have finished and use it again for any other occasion.
Now add your ribbon. I chose a thin, glittery yellow ribbon. Wind it around your wreath and glue the ends in. Decide on the top and the bottom. From the top add a strip of ribbon to hang it from, and from the bottom I added two longer curls of ribbon to hang down.
Now cut a small piece of oasis and soak it in water. It needs to be no larger than 4″x 2″ and you will need to secure this by wiring it firmly onto the bottom of the ring (so that it covers your ‘tails’ of ribbon). When you are sure that it is secure, push in your foliage and green leaves until it is covered. Finally add your embellishments. I have used the eggs we made earlier with some added feathers, but you could let your imagination run wild – bunnies, roses – you name it. The oasis will keep the foliage fresh for around a week and if you water it, it will last for at least two weeks. Enough to see you through the Easter season with style.
For a long time, I’ve admired the work of Dottie Angel. She has a great blog and her pieces are cute, kitsh and so totally her. I admire her clear sense of style and general stylishness. A while ago I wanted to make a piece inspired by her designs for my mum’s birthday and I came up with this wall piece.
- Vintage napkin (I got mine from an antiques shop)
- Fabric pen
- embroidery thread in chosen colour(s)
- embroidery needle
- small plank of wood
The actual “making” part of this project is very easy – choose a quote (I went for a Gone With The Wind favourite since my mum and I love both the book and movie) and practice writing it out on a piece of scrap paper first so that you get a design you’re pleased with. I wanted all of the words to join up and flow into each other in a continuous piece.
Next, use the fabric pen to draw your design onto the napkin and then take your needle and start sewing. This is the fun and easy part!
Once finished, you don’t have to leave the thread hanging, but I love that look and it’s something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time so I purposely made sure that I had lots of thread left over.
Lastly, you need a way of displaying your wall hanging. Some people pin it onto the wall and although I love the look of this, I was worried about damaging the wall so I opted not to go for this one. Instead, I drilled two holes in a small plank of wood that I found lying around unused in the garage and simply tied my napkin on, before hanging it from a nail.
I really like this effect – it makes it very homemade. And I think my was pleased with her present too!
One of my year long projects is nearing completion – and just as well because we are coming into summer now and this baby is so big and lovely that it will soon be too warm to handle (she says optimistically!)
I am so proud of myself with this one, so forgive the over excitement. The reason for my pride is that not only is this the biggest crocheting project I have ever done (and I mean EVER done), but I was also so meticulous with it. What I mean by that is that, even through I was part way through, it was too wide and so I made the decision to undo the whole project and re-start it. I have never done that before. In the past I have worn my ‘never mind’ face and battled on. After all, hey no one ever looks at the detail – but not this time. I wanted this to be perfect, so start again I did, right from the chain stitch. That is why the ball of wool here is wrapped in a ball, and not in the usual bought-skein type of ball.
I love the colours in this blanket so much. We used to go on holiday to Carnac in Brittany every year and the colours here remind me of the seaside. Deep lavender, stone grey, blue skies and sandy beaches. My mother thinks I am mad but I can see all the colours of Carnac in this blanket. Even the pattern is that of undulating waves – so calming and so reminiscent of the seaside. Also I must mention that the pattern comes from the wonderful Nicki Trench who gave it me at her workshop. She truly is the doyenne of crocheting and you can find her fab new crocheting club here.
I know that most people don’t like to weave in the ends but I am going to be so proud to do that this time because it means that this wonderful blanket will be finished. I have also decided to display it on my bed to add a little warmth to those spring and autumn nights. I will let you know how I go….
This trifle recipe has been in the family for years and who doesn’t like a properly made trifle? The trick of layering is one that my mother learned from a top London chef, and so I always use it. I made this one dark, using chocolate sponge and darker-coloured fruits for a richer taste but you could easily use lighter, paler fruits for a more spring-like look.
- sponge cake (I used chocolate but you could use vanilla sponge)
- a mixture of fruits (I used plums and fruits of the forest but you could try peaches)
- jelly mix (I chose a dark red strawberry but you could choose peach for a paler trifle)
- custard powder
- 3/4 pint of milk
- one large carton of double (or whipping) cream
- sugar (2 tbsp. for the custard, 2 tbsp. for the cream and 2 tbsp. if you need to boil your fruit)
How I did it:
Place the sponge into a dish and sprinkle liberally with sherry. Try not to make the sponge too soggy. Put to one side.
Now prepare your fruits. You can cook your plums in the sugar and some water, open tins of fruit or use frozen berries – or any combination. There are lots of combinations you can try. Drain any liquid from your fruits before you place them on top of the sponge. This is so that you do not add more liquid to the sponge underneath. You want to try to keep the sponge as fresh and delicately dry as you can. Pop the bowl into the fridge while you make the jelly.
Make up your jelly to less than it says on the packet. This is because you want a very firm jelly so that you can almost carve through it when you serve. I usually use a jelly mix that makes one pint – but only use 3/4 pint of water to make it. Stir the jelly into the water and set a timer for about 30 minutes. After that, keep checking and stirring your jelly every 10-15 minutes. Here is the trick – you need your jelly to be ‘on the turn’ and just starting to set before you add it to the fruit. This way the jelly holds the fruit together but does not slide down and wet all the sponge. You are cleverly building up layers of flavours this way. Do not try to rush this by putting it into the fridge. You will add steam to your fridge and the jelly might set too quickly and you miss the turning point. Left out on the counter-top, jelly does not set that quickly and you will not have this problem if you keep looking at it every 10-15 mins. You will see it turn ‘gloopy’ and that is when it is ready to be spooned onto the fruit.
Spoon it over the fruit and place the bowl back into the fridge because now we want it to finish setting very fast. Make up your custard in the same way as the jelly – using the custard powder allowed to make one pint, 2 tbsp. sugar but only 2/3 pint of milk. We are going to do the same thing, make it very thick and then stir it (this time every 5 mins) until it cools down. (If it is too hot it will melt the jelly and mix in with it, and if you don’t keep stirring it, it will form a skin. When the custard is cool, take your bowl from the fridge, pour it over the top and return it straight to the fridge again.
Now for the topping. Take one large carton of double (or whipping) cream and pour it into a mixer, and set on fast speed. Keep watching until the cream becomes fairly thick. Add your remaining 2 tbsp. sugar and continue the whipping until the cream forms soft peaks. Turn off and lavishly spread on top of your trifle. Return to the fridge until needed. You can decorate the top in any way you like including adding cherries or nuts.
This method of layering takes longer but you can see how the layers are all individual when it is prepared in this way, and you can slice into the trifle so that everyone has a portion of every layer.
For those of you who have been crafting along with me since the new year, you will know that my big project for 2014 has been my mood blanket.
Now I cannot claim this idea for myself; Georgia suggested it to me and I thought it was great. Basically the idea was that I used different colours to represent my different moods and when I reflected on the week past, I would then be able to crochet up a square that reflected my mood for that particular week. At the end of the year, I should have a blanket that reflects my entire year, and I can see where life has taken me. See the last post on this here.
Well I have stuck to the schedule so far. I think that having to only crochet one granny square per week has been the key to this because I can crochet this up whilst watching TV in about 30 mins. Not too time consuming – just the way I like it. I guess the downside is having the basket of wools forever in my lounge. I move them here, I move them there – but because this is an ongoing project, they never get put away.
(Did I ever tell you that I have a real ‘problem’ with putting things away? I think that they are finished – and forget about them! I do the same with emails – the ones relating to projects that I am working on stay in my inbox. Good job that I never put my four-legged and two-legged children in a cupboard don’t you think?)
Anyway, I digress. I started off with the usual type of Granny square, as you can see here, but soon progressed onto a fancier design (which you can just see in the top photo – pink and cream). I may even go into other designs, I will have to see. The challenge is that they all must be about the same size for when I sew them all together at the end (wow, now there’s a job waiting for December).
So far one of the greatest surprises for me is that because I am following my moods, I am being forced into using what is, for me, unusual colour combinations. My delight has been palpable when I have used several colours in one square that I would never have put together – and it worked. I am, therefore, learning colour combination on the go.
I wonder what the next month will bring?
Mother’s Day is right around the corner and maybe you’ve been planning out a project since Christmas, carefully crafting a gift for your loved-one or maybe you’re so busy diving from one thing to the next that you haven’t really given mother’s day much thought… hmm. If you’re the latter then – handmade peppermint creams are the answer! They make a wonderful gift and they taste great.
They also work if children are a little too young to start planning gifts by themselves. An afternoon making these child-friendly treats accompanied by mum makes for a lovely bonding sesh. We used peppermint extract in our version, but you could easily switch up the flavours to suit, maybe including violet or orange.
- one pack of ready-roll icing
- peppermint extract
- 100g chocolate (I chose dark)
- icing sugar for rolling out
- any embellishments if you have them – just make sure they are edible!
How I did it:
Remove the icing from its pack and knead between your hands to make it soft and more malleable. Make a well in the middle and add a few drops of peppermint extract. Knead again and then add a few more drops. (You can actually add as much peppermint extract as you like but you will be adding liquid to the icing and so bear in mind that the more you add the stickier it will get). If you are unsure that you have added enough, pull off a small piece and pop it into your mouth (cook’s privilege!)
Now spread some icing sugar onto your work surface and roll out the icing using a rolling pin. You do not want the icing to be too thin. It needs to be the depth of around 0.5 cm at least.
Use a cutter to cut out circles the size you would like the creams to be (there will not be any shrinkage). A tip here is that if you don’t have a cutter, use an upturned shot glass or an egg cup.
Gently move your peppermint cream onto a baking liner or greaseproof paper. If you damage one, just throw it back into the mix and roll out another sheet. Keep kneading and rolling until you have used up all your icing. Place the sheets in a cool but dry place to harden overnight. The next morning turn them over to give the other side a chance to dry out too.
When you are ready to add the chocolate, melt your chocolate in a double pan or bowl on a saucepan, with simmering water under the top pan/bowl. Do not let the water touch the top bowl, it must only be heated by the steam otherwise your chocolate will crystallise. Break your chocolate into chunks and add it to the top pan/bowl and stir until melted.
Dip each peppermint cream in the chocolate so that it covers half of each sweet. Place immediately back onto the paper to dry. You can add any embellishments you like such as edible flowers or dust with gold and silver edible shimmer powder.
Box and give.
You may remember that way back in my 2014 Intentions, I mentioned that I was going to do a feature this year called 20 Brilliant Biscuits? Well, it’s only taken me until March to get going on this project, but never mind – we still have the rest of the year to share delicious biscuity goodness.
Today I’m kicking this feature off with Brown Butter Cookies and they are seriously good. Before Joy the Baker came into my life, I had never heard of such things. Cookies were cookies. But Joy has brought well… joy into my life with these delicious things. These are fancy cookies. Not my normal slap it all in a bowl and shove it on a baking trap (although, you know, those are good too). These cookies take a little more time but, boy, is it worth it.
I took the recipe for these cookies from Joy’s amazing cookbook: Joy the Baker Cookbook, which I received for Christmas. Since I don’t want to emulate her recipe right here (I think that could get me into trouble) here is a free online recipe that creates the same brown buttery goodness.
And oh my, would I recommend that you make these beauties! The trick comes in the browning of the butter (something that I had never even heard of, let alone attempted, before I read the book). It involves heating the butter in a pan until it is simmering and golden brown with a nutty smell. Delicious.
These cookies are the first that I have made that really hold their shape. My normal cookies spread into splodges, which taste lovely, but aren’t about to win any beauty contests. These, on the other hand, look rounded and fancy. A great present for someone.
If you end up making any brown butter cookies then we would love to see them!
Loving… spending quality time with people. Since I’ve had a lot of work to do (which involves shutting myself off in a room by myself for hours) I’ve come to really appreciate the time I get to chat and hang out with friends and family.
Watching… still nothing, sadly. Although when I last went home Karen and I marathoned a few episodes of The British Sewing Bee – we love that show so much! Can’t wait to see more.
Reading… lots of literary criticism (boo). But also Game of Thrones Book Two on the sly.
Thinking… that the seasons really effect my mood! I’m so much happier in the sunlight.
Eating… mini eggs! It’s getting close to that time of the year guys ;).
Making… essays? Do they count? Sadly nothing crafty right now, but when I went home, Karen and I spent an intensive day preparing and photographing upcoming crafts and recipes, which was exciting.
Dreaming… of summer and wearing sandals again.
Hoping… that all the effort I’m putting into my last year at uni pays off.
Using… all my organisational skills to make sure that I stay on top of things.
Feeling… happy to have captured the moment with the photo below. We don’t have many photos of our pooches so I was so pleased to nab this one of Delilah and Karen.