Saturday, 31 March 2012

Birthday cake x 2

I have made a start on the first of my birthday cakes by making this lovely chocolate cake.  Just in case the link doesn't work going forward here are the ingredients and the method.

200g of good quality chocolate minimum of 60% coco solids (I used a mixture of dark chocolate, and chocolate orange, with a little milk chocolate)
200g of unsalted butter
1tbs of instant coffee granules
85g of self raising flour
85g of plain flour
1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
200g of light muscovado sugar
200g of golden caster sugar
25g of coco powder (I left this out)
3 medium eggs
75m of buttermilk
(to enhance the orange flavour I grated the rind of two oranges into the mixture and doubled up on all the ingredients and baked mine in a large rectangle roasting tin so I can cut out the shape of the guitar.)


  1. Butter a 20cm round cake tin (7.5cm deep) and line the base.(I used brown paper to line my tin and it works very will - ensure that the shiny side is the side facing you when you line the tin) Preheat the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/ gas 3. Break 200g good quality dark chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-based pan. Cut 200g butter into pieces and tip in with the chocolate, then mix 1 tbsp instant coffee granules into 125ml cold water and pour into the pan. Warm through over a low heat just until everything is melted - don't overheat. Or melt in the microwave on Medium for about 5 minutes, stirring half way through.
  2. While the chocolate is melting, mix 85g self-raising flour, 85g plain flour, ¼ bicarbonate of soda, 200g light muscovado sugar, 200g golden caster sugar and 25g cocoa powder in a big bowl, mixing with your hands to get rid of any lumps. Beat 3 medium eggsin a bowl and stir in 75ml (5 tbsp) buttermilk.
  3. Now pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 25- 1 hour 30 minutes - if you push a skewer in the centre it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don't worry if it cracks a bit). Leave to cool in the tin (don't worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Continue with stages 4 - 5 is if you wish to make the cake as per the recipe, however I am making this into a birthday cake so am making some changes (see below). 
  4. When the cake is cold, cut it horizontally into three. Make the ganache: chop 200g good quality dark chocolate into small pieces and tip into a bowl. Pour a 284ml carton of double cream into a pan, add 2 tbsp golden caster sugar, and heat until it is about to boil. Take off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  5. Sandwich the layers together with just a little of the ganache. Pour the rest over the cake letting it fall down the sides and smoothing to cover with a palette knife. Decorate with grated chocolate or a pile of chocolate curls. The cake keeps moist and gooey for 3-4 days.

I have to say, I am not a huge fan of chocolate cake, but this is a wonderful cake (especially with the addition of the orange chocolate and the orange rind).  It is very very moist.

Once the cake was cool I cut it half to pop in my filling.  The filling was just a combination of 2 tbs butter, approx 4 tbs icing sugar, 2 tbs orange juice and 3 tbs Nutella spread.  Using a mixer combine all the ingredients together to get a nice fluffy cream filling. (taste and adjust as necessary).   Simply slice the cake into 2, spread the filling on one layer and then replace the other layer back.

Instructions for my guitar cake

To get the shape of the guitar, I drew out a sketch of the above guitar on some A4 paper and cut it out, I then traced around the sketch, making it a little larger on some brown paper to the size I wanted.

Lay the brown paper template on top of the cake and carefully cut around the shape (save the offcuts for project 2).

Place the cake on to a cake board, and then spread the cake with warm apricot jam (this helps the icing stick to the cake) and then cover the cake in white fondant icing, smoothing over the cake and trimming off excess.

Cut a 2nd template for inner dark layer of the guitar - I used a chocolate flavoured fondant icing, and used the 2nd template for my guide to cut round the icing.  Using a edible glue, stick on top of the white icing and this is what you will get.

For the volume knob (not sure of the correct term for these) I took some white icing, rolled it into a small sausage shape and cut to size and dusted with silver powder.  I did the same for the red button (without the silver powder).

As you can see there are a couple of rectangle pieces I needed, which I just shaped and cut, dusted with silver where necessary and glued to the cake.

The next part was making the handle for the guitar (my D Mike cringes here and says its not a handle its called the neck..... looks nothing like a neck).  I decided that this was not going to be an edible part of the cake so using some white card I folded the shape of the neck and then for the top bit (the head) got my D Mike to draw this out and cut out the card.  The head and the neck were stuck together with tape and then the whole lot covered in a light brown fondant icing to get this.

For the tuning pegs on the side I just took some white icing rolled it into a ball in my hand, stuck half a cocktail stick into the ball and flattened it.  Dust with silver powder and stick along the side of the head.

For the other round bit (god know what they are called) just roll balls, flatten and then glue another smaller ball on the top - dust with silver again.

The frets were simply made but rolling very thing sausage shapes and gluing them along the neck (using the photo as a guide).

The little oblong box you see in the top photograph is just a small box covered in brown paper to use as a support for the arm of the guitar when we lay it out on the table.

For the guitar strings I simply took some of my embroidery thread and put 4 strands together for each string.  I tied a small knot on the top and bottom of the string and using a small silver pin attached them to the round things on the head (sorry for correct guitar technical terms).

Dave (the recipient of the 50th birthday cake) has a Fender guitar (the one in the picture) so needless to say we had to write Fender on the cake in the style used by the manufacturer.

This is the end result:-

Because I have to transport this in 2 pieces, the strings have not been attached to the bottom square, so these will look tighter when laid out at the party.

Lets hope he likes it.

Now what did I do with all those pieces of cake I had left over.  My D Mike's family all have their birthday's together (well quite a few of them do) - both Dave and Mike's Sister have their birthday in the same week, and the week before last it was Mike's mother's and other sister's birthday too so I thought I would do a little cake for them too and here it is.

I took the offcuts of cake.  Lined a 6" square cake tin with cling film and then packed the cake tin with the cake squashing it together (its moist) until the tin was just under half full.

Now put in a generous layer of the filling and then complete the process with the remainder of the cake.  As the kitchen was warm I decided to fold over the rest of the cling film on the top of the cake and then popped the whole lot in the freezer for about half an hour to firm up the cake.

Using the remainder of the white icing I covered the little square cake (using the same method as above).  I made up some Royal Icing with egg white and icing sugar, took some greaseproof paper made an icing bag and piped around the bottom of the cake.

To make the little frills you need sugar craft paste (this sets hard unlike the fondant icing). Take a small amount and roll it out as thin as you can, while still being able to pick it up and handle it without it breaking.  Take a pastry cutter and cut out three (for this cake) rounds, and then taking a smaller round cutter, cut out the centre of each disk.  Using a knife cut to open the circle into a straight strip.  Now to flute up those edges.  Take a cocktail stick and this is going to be your mini rolling pin.  Using the pointed edge roll each fluted section with your cocktail stick until it is double or even 3 times the size it was before, gently lift off your table and repeat this process along the length of the strip (if its sticking too much, rub a little bit of corn flour (not icing sugar) on your table).

To create the shaping of the frill on the cake, take some more cocktail sticks (I usually cut them in half) and put in the cake in the places you want to frill to be high or low.  Paint your line where you want to place your frill along your cake and then stick the un-fluted edge of the frill to the cake.  The cocktail sticks will support the frill until the sugar paste and the glue has set.  Use extra cocktail sticks where you want the frill to have more movement - these all get pulled out after the paste has set.  I have a small round ball tool that I use to press the frill to the cake.

Finish the cake with piping, flowers dots and anything else you want.  I normally make my own flowers, but this time, I purchased some little daisies for the cake, and I had some lemon ribbon which I tied into two bows and stuck to the cake with the Royal icing.  Finally I dusted the edge of the frill with some edible shimmer powder to make it even more pretty.

Phew, that was a lot of hard work, I finished around midnight last night, so hope they all like their cakes.

Catch you later.........

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

sewing plans for the weekend thwarted

I think any sewing plans for the weekend have been thwarted following receipt of an email request to make a 50th birthday cake for my D Mike’s brother in law.

His wife has asked if I can make a cake in the shape of his base guitar so the first thing I had to do was ask for a photograph as I had no idea what a base guitar looked like.

I do enjoy baking – I believe that it is just an extension of any other craft, and have made quite a few cakes over the years and enjoyed the process, and I hope I will enjoy making this one too.

We have two birthday's this weekend, so I will probably make a little cake to take to the restaurant with us on Sunday for my D Mike's son's 30th birthday lunch.

Dave's base guitar
My D Mike has said that he will take me to Walthamstow market on Saturday on route to the party - so that will be good as I need to collect a few bits and bobs that I normally buy from there - but I will not have long, so this will be what we both call a smash and grab visit - no we are not doing a masked raid on the stores but Mike parks the car around the corner from the shops that I go into (thankfully close together) and I dash in, get what I need and then back to the car - usually about 15-20 minute shop.

Sew Direct had a special offer on all their patterns last weekend for their members, buy one pattern and get two free.  I used this opportunity to buy some of the more expensive Vogue patterns that I  have coveted after seeing some fabulous reviews on Pattern Review and Stitcher's Guild Sewing Forum , but couldn't justify buying them, due an already large pattern stash. This was a great opportunity to get these patterns at a 1/3rd of their normal price so I took the plunge.

Oh well, best get on with some work - will post a photo of my cake once done.

Catch you later………

Monday, 26 March 2012

Weight loss Monday's

Oh dear no change this week, which is certainly better than putting weight on, but not good either.  I guess working from home I didn't do much walking and the one day I went to the office I drove so I guess its once again the lack of exercise other than Friday at the expo when I was on my feet all day.

Its 4 weeks today since my surgery - my post op check up is in a couple of weeks, so hopefully I will be able to start riding my bike again.  My biggest problem is lifting the bike and office bag up and down the stairs at the various train stations.

Oh well back to the treadmill.......  Catch you later......

Sunday, 25 March 2012

2nd Baby memento pillow

I managed to finish the 2nd baby memento pillow this evening for my neighbour's daughter  who gave birth to a little baby boy on the 13th March.

I loved the little pink pillow I made for my friend's daughter when she gave birth to her first little baby which you can see here.

I am quite pleased with what I have managed to do between Friday and tonight, but I still have so much more that is sitting in the queue waiting to be done lol, oh to have more time.......

Time to shut up the sewing room now for tonight, but in order to keep busy, I will start knitting that ball of yarn that I bought at the sewing show to make another scarf, different from the others I have made recently.

Have a great day/evening whatever you may be done today.  Catch you later...........

Knitting is Trendy & I finished my chunky jacket.

Its official, knitting is trendy again, and no longer considered a pastime for grannies.  Famous names such as SJP and Russel Crow, are all doing it, so despite being a grandmother myself, I am knitting too so I guess can now consider myself trendy ha ha.

Well I think I have broken my all time record and knitted a chunky jacket in 2 days and here is the end result.

 I confess that I was attracted to the texture of the yarn, however because its a big chunky jacket, it looks big and chunky, so not the most slimming garment I have knitted lol.

Still it will be cosy when I want to snuggle up in something warm, so not all is lost.

I have quite a bit of wool left over because this came as a pack to cater for sizes small (the size I knitted ) to large so I will have to think of something to knit.  At the moment cushions came to mind - as I said with the combination of the feather wool and the other two mixed together, its quite a tactile fabric.

Ok, knitting finished, my D Mike just left to catch a flight to Germany so I now need to start my next project - another memento cushion for my other friend's baby.

Catch you later......................

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Chunky Stocking Stitch Jacket progress

Dear Readers I can't tell you how quick it is to knit this jacket up.

As you know I purchased the wool at the exhibition yesterday, and I started knitting the back section yesterday evening after dinner around 8:45pm and finished its by 11am this morning (no I wasn't knitting through the night) but I think the back took me approximately 4 hours to knit.

Today I have managed to finish the two front sections and one sleeve.  I haven't just been knitting all day today in case you I thought I was.  I had a stack of ironing to do, I also had to bite the bullet and tidy my sewing room and clean the floor.  I also turned the spare embroidery square of Pooh and Tigger into a large floor cushion for my DGD Alana when she comes to visit.

Chunky stocking stitch jacket progress

floor cushion.

I may or may not get this jacket finished tomorrow, if I do, it will be great and a first for me to knit something so quickly.

Lets see how I get on tomorrow.  Catch you later..........

Sewing Expo - Linton Tweed, wool and bra fabric

Yesterday I attended the Sewing Expo at Birmingham's NEC and my co-partner browsing the stands with me was my lovely friend Viv who I met at a speed tailoring course, and is now a great friend.

Both of us had our shopping list, mine included new tweezers for use with my overlocker/serger (I bent the others), some more quilting accessories, fabric from the Linton Tweed stand and anything else that may grab my attention.

Here is some of what I bagged:-

Firstly my Linton Tweed fabric - boy is this stuff fabulous and sadly I haven't had the courage to put scissors to cloth from last year's purchased - but I have a wedding in a few weeks so will have to bite the bullet.

These were both hanging together and were just irresistible.  The colour is almost a duck-egg blue with silver and cream and beige running through it.
I will use my hat that I wore for my son's wedding which is pale blue and I have some fabulous shoes and a bag (also used for my son's wedding) that will match perfectly.

This pretty turquoise boucle  

I Loved this fabric on the right, and is more in keeping with our friend Chanel as its a boucle.  The colour just screamed, fresh, clean and buy me now so I did ha ha.  Then I saw the blue, black and white mix below - yes I know they are all variations of blue but I just loved them.  My other Linton fabric is pink with black and silver and the other black and white so I have a good mix.
Not quite turquoise, more of a blue woven mix

I saw this cardigan hanging on the wall of a stall selling wool and accessories and just loved the texture of the knitted fabric.  Three strands of wool are knitted together on 15mm needles to create the look.  Beige, cream and a feather effect strand.  I started the back last night and finished it this morning (approximately 4 hours, and am already 1/3rd of the way through the first front section so watch this space..

cardigan sample at show
close up of knitted fabric
Spurred on by my recent scarf knitting, I really wanted to make another scarf but using a different texture of yarn.  This stall had loads of beautiful yarn including the one you see below - one ball should make a skinny scarf with tassels.  This too is knitted on very large needles so should be an evening project.

 Lastly, and on my to-do this year list, I purchased a kit to make a bra.  I need to purchase the pattern, and will probably purchase the Kwick Sew
3300 to make this up - wish me luck.

That's all for now - I have ironing and a sewing room to tidy and make space for my new fabric.

Catch you later......................
Kwick Sew 3300

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Noises in the middle of the night

For the past few weeks when I go to bed at the cottage I keep hearing the pitter patter of tiny feet in the middle of the night.  No this isn't a new baby but I fear and suspect either mice or rates in the flat roof of my bedroom, furthermore, they are definitely wearing hob-nailed boots!

I have a real hatred/phobia of rates, I am not too keen on mice either but can't bear the thought of them residing in my home, albeit out of sight.  I am sure that they must sleep during the day and then have a party in the early hours of the morning because it is always between 12-3am that I hear them clomping around on the ceiling of my bedroom having their own little party.

I was hoping that the warmer weather would drive these critters out into the woods and fields we have surrounding us, but that doesn't seem to be the case.  I am petrified that they will chew through electrical wires creating an even bigger problem so I have called in "Pest Control".

One further complication is access to my flat roof.  I have walked around the house and can't see anywhere obvious that they are getting into the roof.  Even if it is a small entry point, this doesn't help the rat man to put poison or traps down so I was informed that if necessary, I would have to create an access point in the ceiling for them to be able to do this..................Sometimes life is just not simple is it.

Catch you later..................

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Sewing Expo plans for Friday

Plans are underway to attend the Sewing for pleasure show at the NEC at Birmingham.  Lucky for me, my friend Vivien has also purchased tickets for the same day so we have agreed to meet up and wander around together.

As I have mentioned before I have purchased various things from this show - firstly my lovely Janome 350e embroidery machine, Linton Tweed fabrics (they are there again), my embellishing machine, and lots of other bits and bobs.

I have been looking forward to this event for quite a while now, predominately because we don't have one large store that sells everything under one roof like this.

I would like to get some more patch working/quilting templates.  Some spare blades for my rotary cutter.  I am sure Linton Tweed may have some fabrics to entice me.  I saw a gathering foot on You Tube for my Bernina sewing machine which looked interesting (that too might be on the list).

I will report back after the event.  Catch you later..................

Monday, 19 March 2012

Glasses case for my American friend

I wanted to make my friend a small gift so she had something to take back with her from me.  I decided on an embroidered glasses case which wouldn't take too much time to complete.  Here is the finished article.

I lined the inside with some lovely soft brushed cotton to make sure that the glasses didn't get scratched.  I think she liked it.  In case you can't read the writing it says BARI MARCH 2012

Catch you later.............

Babies = pillow mementoes

There have been two new babies this week so I had to get the embroidery machines busy again.

First at the finishing post was a new grandson for my neighbour who lives across the road - little Jay was born on the 13th of March and closely followed by my best friend's first granddaughter Isabelle who was born on the 16th March.

When my neighbour's first granddaughter arrived I made this little pillow as a momento of the birth of the baby who is called Poppy.  Now just under 2 years later she has a baby brother so I have made another pillow.

As you know I have made the Winnie the Pooh quillow for my friend's baby so that was the main gift done, but I wanted to make a little memento for little Isabelle to record the time, date, weight and name of the new baby, the same as I did for Poppy and this is what I came up with.

I decided to make a little round frilled cushion to which I attached a pink ribbon to so it can be hung from a hook/nail in the baby's room.

I embroidered this using my Janome 350E embroidery machine and designed the layout using my Janome Digitzer MB software and imported the pre digitized Pooh bear into my design.

Once the embroidery was completed I attached the embroidered fabric to some wadding and stitched  a circle following the shape of the embroidery.

For the frill, I used my Babylock serger/overlocker and reduced the stitch length to .5 to give a good tight edge.  I then gathered the fabric strip by setting the differential feed as high as it would go, increased the stitch length to 4 and this created the frill, which I then attached to the cushion.

Right-sides together I sewed back and front cushion pieces together leaving a gap large enough to turn it right-sides out and fill with wadding.  I then sewed the opening together and finished with the self-made bow.

Here is beautiful little Isabelle, Nana Anne and Mum Naomi.

Weight Loss Monday's

Yippee I have lost 1lb giving me a total of 11lbs to date.  Not ground breaking results, but considering the lack of exercise and eating out Thursday, Friday, Saturday and a big roast dinner for Sunday I am very pleased with the result.

I have a target of 11lbs by the 18th of May which is the date of my sister's wedding so that means an average of 1.22lbs per week so I really do need to be good.

Wish me luck.  Catch you later...........

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Saint Paul's Cathedral - the tour

As mentioned in my previous blog my friend from Houston arrived today and I had to come up with some things for her do while in London.

Our flat has the most wonderful views including one from the kitchen window of Saint Paul's Cathedral, so I decided a walk to this fantastic church would be ideal.

We joined one of the tour guides and learned some fascinating facts for example Nelson and the Duke of Wellington is buried there.  We sat in some the same pews that the Royal family would have sat in during the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  We had a lovely time.

Here is a better picture.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Not my day for sewing!

I have a friend coming to visit from Houston on Friday so she is staying for 1 night in the flat in London and 3 nights in the cottage.  As you know I haven't been actively mobile over the past few weeks and my housework has rather gone to pot, so Monday I decided I needed to catch up on some much needed housework, but felt like I was doing this on my knees with one hand behind my back.

I can't believe it has taken me 3 whole days to clean one bedroom, bathroom, office, lounge and kitchen - I haven't even stepped upstairs into my sewing room, so I think this will have to be out of bounds to my visitor.  I am feeling better each day, but jobs that I would normally take in my stride are taking me so much longer because I need to take little breaks between each task.

I did wander upstairs to pick up on my jewel neck Jalie top and made a complete hash of the neck edges - annoyed and frustrated, I decided that perhaps I would take a fresh look at my problem in the morning, when hopefully I don't feel so tired.  Just to add insult to injury, many of my fellow sewing bloggers are knocking out garments like they are on a production line - yes I am just a little jealous because I may get a couple of hours sewing in tomorrow and then nothing until the middle of next week  grrrrrrrrrrr.

Catch you later.......................

Monday, 12 March 2012

Weight loss/gain Monday's

I would love to lie on my blog and say I have lost more weight but I have actually put on 2 lbs yikes.  There is a saying "there is no such thing as a free lunch" and when on a diet this is so very true.

What can I say - I went off the wagon - steak, chips, cake, chocolate big roast dinner all in the space of 3 days so I only have myself to blame.

I have a target of 12lbs to lose by the 18th May, the date for my sister's wedding (ironically the same date as mine next year) and I am also making my outfit for that wedding too (see my blog on my Chanel jacket making journey). The skirt will not be made until a week before the wedding as hopefully I will be slimmer.

Wish me luck.

Catch you later.....................

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Chanel Jacket - P's journey (2 tissue and muslin fitting)

Front view
 The first stage of my Chanel journey was to cut out the pattern pieces, iron them with a warm (non-steam) iron and then pin the front, back and side pieces together to tissue fit on me and Edna seen here in these photos.
Back view

Once I was satisfied with the tissue fit, I then cut out the main pattern pieces in some muslin (purchased from Ikea).  I sewed the pieces together using a long stitch so that if I need to unpick any of the seams it can be done easily.

As you can see here there is a little gap at the bottom front of the muslin which indicates that I need to amend the front of the jacket so that the front edges hang down straight without the gap.

I am tempted to put in an FBA (which I normally do), so I need to experiment with this before I cut my fashion fabric.

More later, bye for now.

children, puppies and quilts and knitting.

Babies and puppies

Alana and Bentley both came to visit today and they decided they wanted to play outside in the beautiful sunshine we had today, giving us a promise of spring days to come.  This photograph of them really reminds me once again when my children were little and we had our great danes.

Alana is getting more confident when she is around Bentley now - and she even laughs at him when he is bouncing around playing.


Last night I finished another of the netted scarves.  I purchased a couple of balls of wool for my D Mike's mother as a little birthday gift, as she had admired a friend's scarf recently and expressed a desire to knit one, so I also purchased mysel some more for myself and knitted this lemon one last night.  Here are both scarves I knitted together.

Embroidered quilts

Friday and Saturday I finished the quilt I am making for my friend's daughter for her baby due next Friday.  This was an opportunity for me to try out my walking foot on my Bernina and it certainly did make stitching through 3 layers of fabric much easier.

The last quilt I made I used the BSR foot to create the pattern for my quilting, but this time I just used the walking foot to stitch around each of the squares.

This is the end result and the quilt has been finished with a black bias-binding.

The last part of this quilt is to attach the cushion to the back of the quilt to turn this into a quillow.  To create the pillow part I made another embroidered square, added the lemon, black and white boarder to it.  I then cut a 14" square to back the quilt which I sewed right-sides together and then turned it right-side out.  I inserted some wadding inside the cushion, and quilted it.

To attach to the quilt, put the cushion square right-side down to the wrong side of the quilt and sew to the back of the quilt using invisible stitches so it doesn't show on the right-side of the quilt.

This is what you get:-
The quillow

first part of quilt pulled out

whole quilt pulled out 

I didn't actually use these instructions, but found a downloadable pdf  document giving instructions on making a quillow if you want to convert an existing quilt into a quillow or make your own one

Catch you later...................