Monday, 20 October 2014

Cake Off and One Last Drawing.

It has been a while and a lot has happened in the last few weeks. Well, not really, just in the last week. Everything I needed to start working has come through and my first shift as a staff nurse is tomorrow (NEED to remember not to answer the phone student nurse). Other than that I have been a lazy bum. Each day I have the days programming all planned out. This is not healthy! Thank goodness I start working tomorrow.

One of the things that happened over the last few weeks is that I made it back to my knitting group. My sister started her creative writing classes which clashes with the life drawing (and I certainly wasn't going myself). On the plus side I got to see some of my crafting friends and caught up with what they were up to before I disappear into the wards.

One of the things we did was celebrate the end of Bake Off by having our own Cake Off event. We baked and raised £80 for the Beatson while we were at it. Not too shabby and the cake was tasty. You can read more about the evening on the knitting group blog.

I planned on making my banana bread which went down well.  I wasn't going to add anything to it this time. I thought plain old banana bread would make a nice change. However, a few packs of chocolate chips fell out the cupboard and I decided to try it with that. I think it could have used a wee bit more of the chips otherwise I was pleasantly surprised.

My attempt at a jaffa cake style Swiss roll didn't quite work as I thought it would. It tasted good but you couldn't tell that there was orange curd in there. It just tasted like the chocolate butter icing was orangey. I maybe spread the chocolate on too thickly.

Do you think Mary Berry would have approved of the swirl? I'm not so sure. To be honest I wasn't thinking when I rolled this and once I did it it was too late. Next time I might attempt a basic Swiss roll and pay attention to the swirl.

Speaking of Bake Off, I loved it this year. I was very happy with the end result. I feel bad for Nancy that there are many people out there who claim she didn't deserve it. In my humble opinion they all deserved it. This years talent far surpassed last years AND they were all nice to each other. Nancy did better on the day and congrats to her.

I have also been working on this. I had so many other plans. Like getting started on my Christmas makes. Attempting to make bread. Have a gut out (I at least started that one). Oh and I had a few blog post ideas too. Instead I have been plonked in front of the tv making these square. But look how pretty they are.

I also made this which sadly doesn't count as preparing for Christmas. It came free with this months Cross Stitcher magazine. It's supposed to be a broach but it is much too large for that so I attached ribbon instead and then handed it over to my mum.

Now though I am off to chill before tomorrow and I may start my sister's birthday socks.

For not though I leave you with my last sketch from the life drawing club. I did this in charcoal and it has become one of my favourites.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Great British Bake Off Everyday by Linda Collister - Book Review

Two book reviews in one week. I know, I'm spoiling you. My book reviews are like buses. With my bakery books (of which they are all Bake Off related) I like to have at least made a few things from it before I review it. This book was released during last years British Bake off. It's more complex than the first one and the bakes are more intricate. There are a few simpler ones in there but if I am honest it's the big ones that caught my eye.

The whipped chocolate layer cake that I made a few weeks ago came from this book.  While they may be more complex the instructions are still simple and easy to follow. Any terms you don't understand are explained in there. The book is split into sections such as cakes, bread and so it should be fairly easy to find what you are looking for.

Failing that the index is rather good. Everything chocolate is listed under chocolate. Or if you are looking for a good butter cream you will also find a section for that with different flavours. If you go to the vanilla butter cream it will even tell you what to substitute to make it chocolate.

Yep, it even has these little sections within it to show how to make little things such as the butter cream, royal icing or this orange curd which I made last week. I like that aspect of it because you can then bring together different recipes as I did this week (which I will show you in another post soon).

I should also point out that at the end of each section there are some weekend bakes. These aren't quick bakes as the title would suggest. Instead these are sections where some of the recipes Paul, Mary and last years bakers are shown. So you will recognise some of the images if you watched it last year.

My only criticism is that not all of the recipes come with images. Most of them do but I like an image so that I can compare my bake to see if it looks right. Especially since decorating is not one of my strengths. Other than that I have a fair few recipes earmarked to try.. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

200 Crochet Blocks by Jan Eaton - Book Review!

I have had this book on my shelf for a few years now. I bought it when I first decided to learn crochet. I think I picked it up a few times to look at all the pretty squares I was going to make but never had the confidence in my skills to use them. It's only been recently that I have been able to confidently read a crochet pattern. The lovely lady who taught me how to crochet my first granny square also had this book and I know that she has used it and created some lovely squares with it.

I have been using this book on and off this month so I thought it was about time that I reviewed it (it's still available). I don't have many squares to show you but a number of squares that I have made in the past are in the book.

Of course, I also tend to make the squares bigger than they intended to be because I quite like them like that. This goes for the basic granny square (or plain granny as it's called in the book).

Same goes with the solid granny (or square target as the book calls it). There are a total of 212 sqaures in the book. The downside is that it includes variations in colour schemes as a new square. For example, Coral Seas square is listed as four different squares for each colour scheme. A tiny part of me sees that as cheating. However, it can also have a positive as it can show people who maybe aren't as confident at playing with colour that changing colours can change the look of a design.

It has some basic squares like the ones the plain granny and the target square and also more difficult squares such as the willow square (which you can see above). Each square is given a difficulty rating which will allow you to assess which ones require more skill and concentration. Unless of course you are like me where you just go for the pretty and hope for the best. At the bottom each pattern it also give suggestions for other squares that you can mix and match with along with their page number. Handy if you are making a blanket or cushion and want to try out different techniques.

There is a handy section at the back with diagrams on how to carry out different techniques including suggestions for joining your squares together. It even has some pretty edging designs and shows you how to work out the size of the square based on the yarn you use. All very handy. The front also shows you examples of different squares all together to make a blanket. So if you are coming up blank you could always pick one of these to follow.

The patterns themselves are all in written form rather than graphs. I can understand this as these instructions take up less room and therefore making way for more squares. Although it does show you the different stitches and what they mean I think if you are new to reading patterns then it might prove more difficult for you. That's not to say you shouldn't use it if you are learning. I used it to teach my friend and she got a perfect granny square out of it. I think that maybe you might need it along with other forms of help such as youtube (just be aware of the British and American differences - this book uses British terminology).

All in all a good book for all skill sets. I think it's one that I will use again and again.