Saturday, 29 October 2011

Experiments in chocolate

After a few hectic weekends - wedding, ds's ninth birthday celebrations, Yorkshire to stay with my parents during half term - I was pleased to get back to routines at the end of this week.

Ds wanted to do some cooking, so we spent a very pleasant afternoon in the kitchen yesterday. We made a chocolate fudge cake, using one of the American cake mixes I bought from the Stateside Candy Co. and a packet of ready-made icing from Lakeland.

The result is not quite up to proper home-made standard, but is still pretty nice, and ds loves the fact that he did all the mixing and icing himself. My job was to grease tins and deal with the hot oven.

We also made some home-made chocolates:

This was very easy - melted chocolate, in spoonfuls onto a  baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and then decorated with what we could find in the cupboard - silver balls, sugar strands, dried cherries and pieces of crystallized ginger. Then just leave to set before peeling off the paper.

Ds says we could make more of these for christmas presents. Glad to see he is already thinking handmade!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Leafy mittens

I finished making some very pretty green mittens with a textured leaves design. I feel it's the yarn that really makes this project, which is Lang Jawoll magic degrade sock yarn, in a shade sold as "parakeet".

It was worked on quite small needles and rather fiddly as a pattern, but I like the results. The texture is achieved with knit, purl, and slipped stitches. Very leafy.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Vodka in the jar

I made some blackberry vodka today, following a recipe in Nigella's Kitchen.

It's very easy to prepare it. All you do is tip sugar and blackberries into the vodka, in a sterilised jar, seal it and keep shaking it till the sugar dissolves.

Apparently I'm supposed to shake it every day for two weeks, then every week for 6 weeks. I already put a sticky label on top warning family members not to unseal it. Some are too young to drink alcohol, but dh and visiting step-daughter might be tempted.

The result is described as a liqueur, and I should think the addition of sugar and blackberries will do that to the vodka, after the requisite steeping time. The timetable means it should be ready for Christmas, and I'm hoping to have enough to give a small bottle away. That's if it's good enough, of course. I shall have to sample it first!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Pumpkin Pie

A while ago I expressed a wish in an international Internet forum to make a pumpkin pie. Americans present kindly informed me I would first need a tin of pumpkin - something I've never seen for sale in a British supermarket.

I went online to look for a UK supplier, and found The Stateside Candy Co.  Into my cart went tinned pumpkin, and also, because I could not resist the temptation, two packets of American cake-mix (including one for red velvet cupcakes. Wow!), American frosting, mellowcremes, saltwater taffy and Reese's peanut butter cups. Most of these I had never tried before and all of them are Awesome!

About the pumpkin pie, should you wish to make one, a can of tinned pumpkin and an 8-in deep pie dish are the base requirements. The recipe is on the Libby's can label.

Here are the pie ingredients:

And here is a slice of the finished item, which I was also instructed to serve with whipped cream. Great idea!

I did have a bit of a pastry fail (mine shrunk during the blind baking step, so the pastry does not come up to the top) but the pie itself was delicious - like a variation on an egg-custard, with added spiciness and pumpkin, of course.

I would like to make it clear the Stateside Candy Co has not paid me to write this blog entry, or even asked me to!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Baby hatted-ness

I do seem to produce an insane amount of baby hats; I just like knitting them. Here are some I recently finished:

#1 The candy cane elf-style hat, ideal for Christmas baby:

This is from Susan B. Anderson's Itty Bitty Hats book, which I recommend for any other fan of knitting baby hats. Contains lots of lovely ideas; so far I have knitted four hats out of there and I have plans for another two.

#2 The baby berry hat, which has a lovely leaf and stalk effect:

Knitted from free pattern available online at randomstitches. I used Debbie Bliss cashmerino dk and 4.5mm needles.

These two I made with actual due babies in mind. I'm knitting another baby hat now though, and it has no destination at all. Unless I send a baby two hats. Can I do that?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Interim report

Three quarters of the year gone. It seems like a good time to consider how I'm getting along in meeting my objectives for the year. Here's a quick summary.
  • Staying employed - still working, on a permanent contract, but still much uncertainty in the UK public sector.
  • Learning to crochet - starting from a base of crochet chains, I have made various bags, purses, scarves, amigurumi, scrubbies and potholders. I can now make clusters, granny squares and filet mesh, and work from written and charted crochet patterns. Much better than I hoped!
  • Getting my languishing list down - exceeded expectations by finishing two out of the three items languishing as of 1 January 2011. (The embroidery project still on my languishing list is a very long term WIP and I can't see its status changing any time soon.)
  • Reading more books - I have done more reading this year than I did last, although not as much as I would like.
I didn't write this in my list of planned objectives, but I have also successfully supported dd through her GCSE examinations, and taken ds on some cultural outings.

Things I haven't done: been on a proper holiday, or achieved a better knitting / sewing balance. To achieve that last one now I'd have to sew 16 things before 31 December, and not knit anything else at all, and that seems rather unlikely! Maybe these two will have to feature again on my resolutions list for 2012.