Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Craft yourself happy

Do you ever have days when you wake up and wish you hadn't? Where every little thing just feels like Too Much Effort?

Today was such a day. I didn't help myself by skimming Country Homes and Interiors at breakfast. I tried walking with friends from the playground after school dropoff. I tried looking at flowers. I tried halfheartedly shifting piles of stuff around the living room in an attempt to start sorting it out (let's face it, what it needs is a giant skip and for no one to actually live in it for a while).

And then I thought, "This is not working. I am feeling worse."

And THEN I thought "I need to make something. Now."

And so I found some beads and some silver wire and I did.

And I felt about a million times better and I am going to wear it all day and probably all day tomorrow too. And smile to myself.

The inspiration came from this lovely book. And now I need more wire.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Have your cake and eat it

We're not hugely into Valentine's Day here, though I do make an effort to eat as much chocolate as I can on that day. Most of my efforts go into making little gifts for the girls, or indeed cajoling the girls into making presents for Mr DC. And in that spirit, when I saw these little cakes (via NotMartha) I knew that 1. I had to have a go and 2. I could never muster the dexterity required for that level of perfection.

So, instead, I give you the cackhanded cook's alternative to produce a cute but very definitely homemade (and therefore achievable) lunchbox treat.

Valentine's loaf cake

(All measurements are standard UK ones - sorry, I'm no good with cups or degrees F but I think a pound cake is the US equivalent)

This is based on a simple madeira cake - Nigella has one that calls for:

240g soft butter, creamed with
200g caster sugar
3 eggs - beaten in
90g plain flour and 210g SR flour beaten in

and it works very well but I suspect any basic cake recipe would be worth a try.

You'll need a lined square tin, about 20cm square, plus a 1lb loaf tin, also lined.

So, preheat the oven to 170C/150 fan/gas mark 3, then:

1. Take about 1/3 of the mixture (or, preferably, mix it up in 2 batches) and beat in a teaspoonful of vanilla extract, a capful of rosewater (optional) and a good squirt of bright pink food colouring.

If you have mixed only one batch, you'll need to keep the rest in the fridge till later, and you may then need to loosen it with a little milk.

You want this violently pink and well mixed. You'll see from the picture at the top that I managed to achieve neither of these.

2. Spread the mixture into a small square tin - mine's about 20cm square. This doesn't need to be done neatly or perfectly. Bake for about 25 minutes till just cooked through.

3. Find a heart shaped cutter that fits well into your loaf tin, as shown.

Use it to stamp hearts out of the pink sheet cake.

4. To the remaining 2/3 of cake mixture add about a tablespoon of cocoa powder and mix it all up. Put a layer of this chocolate mixture into the bottom of the loaf tin. The first time I made this I made this layer too thick, and the hearts floated up to the top of the loaf; and this second time I made it too thin so the hearts are right at the bottom. It probably needs to be about a third of your chocolate batter.

5. Stack up your pink cake hearts and cram them in to the loaf tin - and I do mean cram. I thought 6 slices would be enough, but I managed to fit in a seventh and I am glad I did.

6. Blob cake mixture down the sides of the hearts - you may need to used your fingers but remember the mixture will spread in the oven so don't worry too much.

7. Spread the remaining mixture on top of the hearts. Bake until it's done - for me this took about 50 minutes and I think I may have been a little bit impatient.

Remove from the oven, slice it up and feel very happy. I sliced mine when it was hot which was silly. You won't make that mistake!

Just to prove the hearts go all the way through. Yes, it's wonky, but it's made with love and it tastes yummy!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Still here ... sort of

Hmmmm, that was a longer than planned break. Having proclaimed that winter doesn't affect me, I promptly went and hid under the duvet for most of January. Ah well, let's put that behind us.

While I wasn't blogging, I was making lots of woolly things, and I present to you the most recent, and my contribution for Emma's last Splash of Colour. It made me smile, and made me laugh, and I can't quite make up my mind whether it's cute or as horrendous as those crocheted toilet roll covering dollies that were all the rage in the 70s ...

Anyway, take one beloved teapot:

Some exaggeratedly springlike wool:

And some pretty buttons:

Add an obsession with bees and a few evenings knitting for the first time on a circular needle, a cute amigurumi pattern, and you end up with this:

Anyway, time for me to indulge my latest guilty pleasure - the third series of Being Human on BBC3. It's not everyone's cup of tea (Mrs Pebble, I'm looking at you) but for me it rounds off the week very nicely thank you.