Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Shout Out!

None of these images were done by me. This is a shout out to other talented people. First of all I am not the only baker in the family. The difference between my sister and I is that she is better at the decorating side than I am. Benefits of her art degree (she will kill me for saying that). These cupcakes were not only tasty but they looked good too. My sister does love her skulls and cross bones.

The second shout out is to a lovely lady from my knitting group, Jean. We always joke that she comes along and does more chatting than crafting. That aside she does a lot of card making at home. Knowing my love of camper vans she made me this lovely card for my birthday. So pretty!

In other news, after reading into it I decided to give Glipho a go. It's a social networking site for bloggers. You can hook up all your social media feeds and your blog to the one place. It's also quite good to see what others are blogging about. I am still getting my head around it. So if you are on there then look me up. You'll find me under karensi.

Monday, 23 September 2013


If you have been watching the Great British Bake Off you will have seen Beca's perfect macarons. This is my second attempt. Whilst they look nowhere as good as Beca's they are a lot better than my first. I followed the recipe to the T and they turned into blobs that wouldn't sandwich together even if I tried (although texture and taste were right).

So I went to you tube. I have recommended you tube so many times to people wanting to learn a new skill but very rarely does it enter my head to do so myself. I can thank my knitting group ladies for always being on hand to help out there.

Anyway, I watched a few videos but the best was by 'The Joy of Cooking'. I just felt that she went into more detail than some of the others and there were a lot of tips. Plus, since she is Canadian she used the same measurements as here in the UK (always a bonus).

So here are some of the tips that worked for me.

1. Use the blender to help mix the icing sugar and ground almonds. It helps to further grind down the almonds.

2. Place some of this into the mix at a time (maybe thirds). This ensures that the meringue is mixed more evenly without taking all the air out.

3. No matter what the recipe says, use a piping bag to place the mixture onto the tray. Using spoons as the recipe I have suggested resulted in my blobby mess.

4. Ensure you have the right nozzle attached to the piping bag (something I failed to do).

5. Don't just bang the tray down once. Do it several times. It not only rids the macarons with air bubbles but it helps to even out the shape of the macarons.

6. Half way through the bake swap the trays round to ensure an even bake.

Mine tasted good and had that crunch with chewy centre so I call it a win even if they are cracked. I've since picked up a few tips on how to help with that so we'll see how I get on with that. I've also decided to play about with flavours and will be practising some for Christmas. So watch this space.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Squinty and Wingless!

Another free kit from Cross Stitcher. It's an owl, how was I supposed to resist? He had been calling out to me when I saw him advertised in the previous issue. Therefore it would have been rude not to pick him up. I did make some changes to the design. A couple of them were intention and a couple were, erm, not so intentional.

It should be noted that I HATE stitching with soluble canvas. Until now I had yet to finish anything that required using it. It starts off fine but then the oils in your hands soften that canvas and cause it to distort. Therefore keeping your stitches even is not easy. There are only so many times that you can use anitbacterial gel.

I persevered though and did get all the stitching done. This is the first time I ever got to the seeping stage. Of course I would discover something else I don't like about the canvas. No matter how long I soaked it for it didn't feel like it had properly dissolved. The result of that was that the texture of the felt had changed making it stiffer.

So to the changes. First of all I decided I didn't want to stuff him. I still stitched both fabrics together but I wanted hanging on the wall and I thought that it would sit better without the stuffing. For that reason I also didn't attach the keyring to the ribbon. These were the deliberate changes.

I don't know if you notice but he is a little bit lopsided. This is what happens when you pay zero attention in lining up the canvas. The pattern clearly warns you of this but I was too impatient to get started and by the time I did notice I wasn't going to unpick it (I don't think the canvas would have held up to that). Then a few days ago I noticed some felt on my desk. Wondering where it came from I had a look. It was then that I noticed the shape and it dawned on me. My poor owl was supposed to have wings and I completely forgot. Oops! The poor thing had no chance really.

As for the soluble canvas. This months kit with Cross Stitcher also requires it. Since I want to make it I am giving it another chance. It's not felt this time so hopefully it won't have the same effect on the fabric.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Carrot Cake Muffins!

If you follow me on facebook you will have seen these carrot cake muffins a few weeks ago. Yep, I finally attempted them. The muffins themselves weren't that sweet. Compared to carrot cake I have had in the past they were more on the savoury side (I still enjoyed them).

This was set off though by the cream cheese filling. All it contained was cream cheese, orange zest and sugar but it tasted amazing. I'm not going to lie. If the bowl had been bigger I would have licked it (only when finished with it of course). I think if I make them again I would add slightly more of the filling to the muffins.

I did learn some valuable lessons from this. First of all that I needed to invest in a lemon zester (which I have since done). Secondly that grating carrots hurts. Lastly that if you let go of the carrot you are trying to peal it will do a somersault across the room and straight into the bin. Luckily I had more carrots.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Mosaic Socks (and learning something new)!

I know you have seen these socks before. I promise the images below are new. Or at least new to the blog. I have a tendency the last year or so to find a pattern that I like and want to knit again and again. The result is that everyone gets a pair for their Christmas. Last year it was the spiral sock pattern. A very easy pattern which was perfect considering I had placement then. But also one that changed when using different sock wools. This year it's the mosaic sock pattern. It's actually called "Tea Time" and was designed by Adrienne Fang found in "Sock Club". The first pair I knitted for my knitting group challenge which I have already talked about a month or so ago. I may not have worn them yet but they are my pride and joy and I love them.

The green sock yarn was actually a birthday gift from my sister and it came with instructions to make something with myself. I had a ball left over and decided to use them on my sister. As most people know my arty sister likes the strangest colour combinations which always seem to work. I had seen a pair of socks knitted up in green and pink (different pattern) and I decided to give that a go. I think they worked well together and my sister loves them. The colour combination suits her to a T.

My friend Helen is a sock knitter too. She actually picked up the sock needles before I did. Helen is always working on different things so knits a pair of plain socks when she wants something she doesn't need to think about. Seeing my mosaic socks though made her decided to try something with a pattern for the first time. So I decided I would knit a pair at the same time. It's one of those patterns I find is easier to talk through with someone if you are knitting them together. The end result was this pair done in shades of purple for my gran. I think they are probably my favourite.

Apologies for this photo. These socks are now planked away. I normally declutter the area before taking photo's. Anyway, my friend Isabel then wanted to learn so I knitted up this pair for my mum. She was on holiday at the time so I could knit them up without her seeing them.

My dad was next. I chose different shades of grey. Isabel had experimented with different needle sizes to get the right size of sock and so I did the same. The pattern can knit up quite tight and although I knitted the larger size I felt that it might be too tight. Using a bigger needle size worked out perfectly.

More importantly my friends finished their socks too. Isabel did the bigger size (which explains the size difference). Helen did the pink and white ones for a friend but she has another pair on the pins for herself. Isabel also has another pair started but I'm not sure who they are for.

Clearly both ladies like a challenge. Helen had never done anything beyond the basic sock and chose a difficult pattern for her first one. Isabel was very familiar with colour work. However, she knitted a pair of toe-up baby socks once about 5 years ago and that's it. So I was teaching her how to knit an actual sock rather than the mosaic pattern. At one point she also had a sock going from each end of the balls of yarn (too impatient to wait for the next lesson). I honestly don't know how she didn't end up in a fankle.

As I was teaching her the kitchener stitch she mentioned that it was invented by Kitchener himself. He designed it because the feet of his soldiers were being damaged by the seems of their socks. All these years of knitting socks and I didn't know that.

I still have Christmas socks to knit for my sister and my gran as they now have their mosaic socks. Will have to hunt out a pattern for them. However, I don't think this will be the last time I knit this pattern.

(all of these socks were knitted using regia solid sock yarn).

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Flower Power!

These coasters were actually supposed to be cards. That is according to the free kit that came with crossstitcher a few months back. I loved the colours and the retro style of the flowers but didn't fancy doing the cards. So I turned them into coasters instead.

I had to leave out the stems and leaves in order for them to fit but I actually prefer them without. I like the circular pattern of them. The cards that came with the kit didn't go to waste as I used them to back the coasters so that the threads didn't show. It seemed a shame to see the stripey card go to waste otherwise. These became a wee extra birthday gift for my gran who now has them sitting on her coffee table.

I liked the pattern so much I decided to do them again. This time in green and blue to match the new colour scheme of my sister's living room. I tried to pick out fairly bright colours. However, I think that the blue overpowers the green a little. Might have been better if I had used a lighter shade of blue.

This one is my favourite. My lovely friend, Eve, did point out that it reminds her quite a bit of Monsters Inc. It does have very Monsters Inc colours.

See the resemblance?

I plan on doing them again in the future. This time in red and pale blue for myself.