Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Keeping cool

Hmmm, your enthusiasm for the Barbie sheet is a little disturbing ;-) If it's still there next week I'll snaffle it and we'll see what happens ... no promises though!

Anyway, I finally finished Lucy's mini quilt and I know she's received it so I can put up some pictures both of that one and of the one I sent to Rachel, my official swap partner.

This was Rachel's, with lots of little embroidered creatures, and photographed on a horribly dull day:


And it evolved into this one for Lucy, photographed in the sun. I was happy with Rachel's but I must admit I had trouble sending Lucy's away - it was a very cheerful point in my living room for a while!



My little bees and butterflies seemed very happy whizzing about and I was rather pleased with myself that I managed a good few French knots.


It's been a hot and humid start to the summer, and on days like this the nicest thing I can find to eat is this:

Coffee granita (with apologies to Gordon Ramsay)

This is not meant to have the smooth texture of ice cream or sorbet, so you shouldn't use an ice cream maker.


100g sugar
150ml water
2 cardamom pods
500ml cooled strong coffee - I use an espresso machine but filter would probably work too. I might draw the line at Nescafe though.

Heat sugar and water slowly until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Lightly crush cardamom pods and leave to infuse in syrup until cool. Remove pods.

Add cooled coffee to syrup. Chill until cold, then pour into a freezer proof container.

Freeze 2-3 hours, then stir with a fork to break up ice crystals. Return to freezer and repeat the stirring twice more until frozen.

This is where I differ from Gordon, because I usually give up and go to bed before the final stirring, and I also keep it in the freezer for longer than the recommended day or two. You end up with a big block of coffee ice, but you can scrape off a refreshing little cupful with the tines of a fork and eat it quickly before it melts!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Repurposing

Lina sent out a repurposing challenge a week or two ago. These days I am frequently to be seen rummaging in the sheet section of Oxfam, and so I give you:


Yesterday this was a tablecloth. It's a bit lower cut for a tiddler than I would have hoped but she likes it and it cost me 99p so I can't really complain! This is part of Simplicity's Hannah Montana range - I know.

Now, the real question is, do you think I could get away with making myself a dress out of the Barbie sheet that's been languishing on the shop rail for the last three weeks?!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

It's a miracle

Two minutes dragging out old party cups from the cupboard. Five minutes sorting out pens and pencils from the jumble in the sideboard. Three minutes rooting out some paper and an unused storage box.


Ten minutes effort to create a "drawing station" has bought me *two whole hours* (count 'em) of peace and quiet, one last night, one this morning. And it's easy to clear up and takes little enough space that it can stay out full time.


I saw this idea on the Crafty Crow. I know it's not new, and it's what they do in schools, but it's new to us and long may it last! I wish I had a bright and sunny photo of this but that's just not what's happening here.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Queen of Hearts

... she made some tarts, and so did I:


Here's a recipe just in case you want to as well - it's basically Nigella's sweet shortcrust pastry with some jam in, but I lazily skip a couple of her steps.

Jam tarts

120g plain flour
30g icing sugar
80g butter
1 egg yolk
0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
Jam - strawberry, raspberry, whatever.

Process flour, icing sugar and butter until crumbly (or do it by hand if you have more energy than I do). Add vanilla and egg yolk and process until dough is formed. I never need to add water, but do so if you need to.

Store the dough in the fridge for half an hour to firm up.

Line the holes of a fairy cake /tart tray with the pastry - I don't roll it out, I just put a ball of pastry in each hole and squish it into place with a spoon or with my magic pastry pusher, a Lakeland purchase from years ago that I can no longer find. Humph.

Blind bake for about 8 mins - you can put in baking beans but that's one step too far for me so I just hoick the tins out and flatten the bases down with a spoon. Bake a couple more minutes, then spoon in a teaspoon of jam and return to the oven for a final 2-3 minutes. You may need to spread the jam out a little more.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and eat them while they are still warm. Or once they've gone cold. Or whenever you feel like it! I bet these would be good with unbaked lemon curd ...

And in other news, more sweet goodness arrived in the post, from Nicolette. She asked for our favourite words a while back; mine is 'discombobulated' as it describes my state of mind most of the time - and it turns out Nicolette understands that feeling too so I was one of the winners of her giveaway ;-)


I think I have dug my blogging and crafting inclinations into the allotment - anyone feel like coming and helping me to retrieve them? I have dug and dug, and planted out some tomatoes, and dug some more. And now the bindweed is coming back, so I am digging out more roots! I know we'll win in the end and it just takes time but I did come close to abandoning my organic principles this morning - what would Prince Charles say?!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Milk explosions

It's been far too long since I showed you my geeky side, so here is a fun little experiment to try with small people. I found it here and there are lots more to try! (Apologies in advance if I explain this badly. The original site undoubtedly does a far better job)

You will need:


A plate
Some milk (semi-skimmed or whole - skimmed won't work well, if at all)
Food colouring
A cotton bud (or tissue wrapped round a skewer worked for us)
Washing up liquid

First have your small helper pour some milk into the plate:


Now add food colouring - we found it works best if you use quite a lot:


Dip the tissue into the milk to get it wet, remove it, then drop some washing up liquid onto the tissue and carefully put it back into the milk - DON'T SWIRL IT!


The colours fly around the plate, making gorgeous swirling patterns as the detergent molecules desperately try to stick their fat-loving heads into the milk fat globules, and mess with the surface tension, churning everything up and shifting the molecules around. The food colouring gets taken along for the ride!


We kept adding drops of detergent to the tissue and placing it at different places in the milk until it stopped shifting. We had to do this three times before the novelty wore off ...

Monday, 7 July 2008

Visions in pink

Yesterday I joined a group of friends on Jesus Green in Cambridge to brave the elements and take part in the Race For Life for Cancer Research UK. I've intended to join this women-only 5K fundraiser before but somehow never did. The atmosphere was wonderful, emotional but joyous despite the threat of rain.


We all finished with respectable times and jammily dodged the showers (though I fear the afternoon race may have turned out to be a different story).


(Photo from Bron - I'm second from the right, so you'll recognise me should you ever be unfortunate enough to see me from behind)

I should add that while two of my colleagues ran the whole way, the rest of us stayed at an energetic walking pace, along with about half the other participants. Maybe next year we could field a Cambridge-area crafty bloggers team too ... anyone up for it?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

And the winners are ...

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my last post - and I'm sorry I've been inexcusably lax in responding to you all :-(

Anyway, according to the handy dandy integer generator at random.org (apparently relying on atmospheric noise to generate true randomness. Yes, quite), the winning comments were numbers 6 and 23, which by my reckoning are a pair of Trac(e)ys - Peppermint Patcher (pink spots) and Dragonfly(Ikea print - you may need sunglasses!) Ladies, if you email me with contact details I'll get them in the post with all due haste.

I'll leave you with a couple of terrifying pics of the allotment I am helping to cultivate.

Before:


After 90 minutes hard slog in blazing sunshine:


This patch is so full of roots and weeds it's going to take us weeks to get it anywhere near presentable - the bit I worked on has been dug in the past but the rest is near virgin territory and colonised by 4 foot nettles. Gulp.