Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Emeralds come in many colours

Just when I thought I wouldn't be able to complete any more before the end of my first year working on this and I go and finish another lol  There isn't much to say at this point so I'll let the picture do the talking :-)

This is the 27th block and the 7th green one.
Next up: the eighth green one - dark greens

For more information see:  The insane hexagon quilt
To see all the quilt blocks together look here:  Insane Hexagon Project

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Greens of the Ocean Deep.

It's been a while since I have managed to do so many blocks in a single month. I have now completed 26 blocks for the project and still have another 4 greens to go and then the reds, yellows and oranges. I have been working on this project for almost a year now and am amazed that I managed to sew so much in such a short time. When I started I thought it would take me about 5 years to complete, now I'm pretty sure it's going to be a LOT less - how much less really depends on how the joining of the blocks goes.

This is the 26th block and the 6th green one.
Next up: the seventh green one - medium dark greens

For more information see:  The insane hexagon quilt
To see all the quilt blocks together look here:  Insane Hexagon Project

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Old favourites... Part 2 - Weiner schnitzels

Another old favourite of the kids is Weiner schnitzels. Not the huge bit of meat covered in breadcrumbs but smaller bits that you can have loads of. Why have one when you can have 8 instead? *wink*

What I do is I take the unbreaded schnitzel I buy at the supermarket and slice it lengthways to make it in to thinner slices of about 1 - 3 mm thick (no more than 1/8 ") and I sometimes cut them into smaller pieces as well. I then give them all a whack with the rolling pin (when I lived at my dad's still we'd use a washed, empty beer bottle instead so that works too if you don't  have a rolling pin handy). Then I introduce them to the eggy mix ( I put all liquid or soft herbs/spices/garlic into the egg and all the dry herbs and pepper into the breadcrumbs) and then carefully put the schnitzel into the breadcrumbs making sure to keep one hand "eggy" and one hand for the crumbs. I give it all a single layer of breadcrumbs. Once done I fry them all ( a few at a time)  in a large pan and put the ones that are fully cooked into a second pan to keep warm.

Simple to make as you can see but beware! Thinly slicing meat is tricky at best and knives slip easily and you don't really want to be eating YOU schnitzels!


Old favourites... Part 1 - Macaroni cheese

Today I made one of the kids favourites - mac cheese, not the yucky processed type but the really nice and gooey home made kind. Since they like a crunchy crust on top I put it in the oven after making it but it's also possible to just dig in straight away and skip the long wait before you can sink your teeth in *wink* This may seem complicated but both my kids (8 and 10 at the time of writing this) can make the cheese sauce alone so if they can do it so can you!

Ingredients (all rough estimates as I do this by eye)
  • 25 gr / 1 oz butter or margarine
  • 1/2 Table spoon of flour
  • 1/2 litre / 1 pint of milk
  • 100 grams 4 oz mature cheese - cheddar works - I use Gouda cos that's what I can get.
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard
  • Pasta (any pasta will do - even spaghetti)  - enough for about 3 people.
How to make:
  1. bring the water for the pasta to the boil and cook as per the instructions on the packet.
  2. Meanwhile in a small 1 litre/ 2 pint  pan melt the butter on a medium high heat - keep the heat at this level while you do the rest.
  3. Add the flour and stir, letting it bubble a little but not brown.
  4. Pour in a slosh of milk while still stirring
  5. When it's thick add more milk - about 1/4 of what you have left - Don't stop stirring!
  6. When it's thick add more milk - about 1/3 of what you have left - stir like your life depends on it *wink*
  7. When it's thick add more milk - about 1/2 of what you have left - and yes.. keep stirring.
  8. When it's thick add all the you have left and stir till thick.
  9. Turn the heat down low.
  10. Add the pepper and mustard and stir.
  11. Add the cheese a bit at a time still stirring to avoid it sticking and to make sure it mixes through properly.
  12. When it's all mixed through and melted turn the heat off.
  13. The pasta will be about ready now.
  14. Drain the pasta and putit back in the pan.
  15. Mix the cheese sauce through the pasta and you are done.
Optional: put the pasta in an oven dish and sprinkle with some more cheese and if you have it a small amount of breadcrumbs will make for a nice crunchy topping (not shown on my pic - I'd run out of breadcrumbs) and put in the oven on a high heat for 15 - 20 minutes.

You can make this in advance if you like but if you leave it for more than a day you should add a slosh of milk to the dish to avoid the pasta drying out.


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Home Grown...

In April the kids wanted to see what would happen if we planted one of the potatoes that had gone to seed. So they both planted a potato and we waited.. and waited.. and waited.. till they really couldn't wait any longer. So today we dug them up to see what our harvest would be. As you can see in the picture (AA battery included for scale) they are not big and there are not many but then that's to be expected from supermarket potatoes that have been chucked into a hole in the ground and left to look after themselves.

Of course we cooked them for dinner - the bigger ones went in first, then 5 minutes later the medium ones and 5 minutes after that the marble sized ones. Served with butter and a bit of salt and pepper they were out of this world!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Grassy Greens...

I'm had fun making this one as well - it too has travelled around the country on trains and in museums while I made it  causing more than a few people to wonder what on earth I was doing on the train and what I was making. Always good for a nice chat in a train to pass the time and people never cease to be amazed that I'd undertake such a large project by hand.

This is the 25th block and the 5th green one.
Next up: the sixth green one - Dark teals

For more information see:  The insane hexagon quilt
To see all the quilt blocks together look here:  Insane Hexagon Project

Friday, 12 August 2011

Bring on the browns!

When I dyed the sofa covers I had one wash that wasn't as full as the rest and because I wanted to make sure the covers were about the same colour I added a large piece of muslin to the wash to fill it to the same amount. I was planning on using that to make the backing of a quilt but when I looked at the dining room chairs I got another idea for the fabric: re-cover the chairs. I've never upholstered anything before but didn't think that it would be too hard so I took the first seat off the chair and had a look at how they had done it. It was just fabric stretched over the seat and staple gunned down and since I have one I decided it would be easy enough.

After ironing the fabric to make it nice and flat I cut a rough square from the fabric that was large enough to wrap around and a bit more so I could fold over the edges and tuck the raw edges in. I then put a staple in the middle of each edge to stop the fabric being pulled off in the wrong direction and then worked my way from the middle to the corners, doing first the sides, then the front and last of all the back.

The corners were of course the most fiddly but I think I didn't do a too bad a job of it for a first effort. In the image you can see one of the other dining room chairs that is in about the same shape as the newly re-upholstered chair was before I did it, so you an see that they really did need a bit of TLC.

I CAN do magic!

 As you can see in the image above the sofa was looking pretty tired and grubby - even after washing the covers they still looked dirty so I decided to bite the bullet and do something about it. Since making new covers would have been too expensive I decided to dye the covers instead and chose a dark brown dye and hoped it would work out ok on the green covers. It took me two days to do this as for each of the 4 loads i had to do a wash, dye wash and rinse wash so that was a total of 12 washes. Then I had to wrestle the covers back on, which wasn't an easy task and I broke 4 nails and took off a fair bit of skin from my knuckles in the process. My hands look like I've been in a bar fight!

Below is the resulting colour - it looks a bit greenish brown from some angles but I do like how it came out :) It's certainly not as dark as the dye packet promised but on the other hand it now looks nice and clean and has made the whole room look different. 

So yes I CAN do magic! With the help of a couple of packets of dye and some salt *wink*

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Creamy Chicken...

One of the kids favourite things is creamy chicken with rice. With the kids still away I decided to make a more grown up version of it for myself: Creamy chicken with spring onion in a creamy sauce with rice cooked with carrots.

Ingredients for 2 portions:
  • 2 - 3 small carrots, grated.
  • 2 cups uncooked rice (any kind works - I use long grain).
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch - 2 1/2 cm cubes.
  • 3 - 4 spring onions cut into 1/4 inch - 3/4 cm slices.
  • 2 small onions, one skinned and cut into 4 the other finely diced.
  • Milk
  • Pepper
  • 2 small bay leaves (fresh if possible)
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 table spoon of flour
  • 1/2 chicken stock cube
How to make it:
  1. Put the rice in a pan and add water till it reaches the first knuckle on your index finger with the tip gently resting on but not in the rice.
  2. Add the grated carrots and stir.
  3. Put the lid on the an and bring to the boil.
  4. Meanwhile put the chicken in a pan with the bay leaves, some pepper and onion that was cut into 4.
  5. Pour in enough milk to cover and bring to the boil, allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. When the rice boils turn it down and let it finish cooking.
  7. Strain the chicken, catching the milk in a bowl.
  8. In a clean pan melt a knob of butter, add the spring onion and the remaining onion.
  9. Lightly brown them on a high heat and then add the flour stirring all the time.
  10. Pour in some of the milk and stir till thickened, keep adding the milk till it's all gone, making sure that you don't stop stirring.
  11. Turn the heat down low.
  12. Check the rice to see if it's done and turn off the heat if it is., keeping the lid on the pan.
  13. Add the stock cube to the sauce and additional pepper to taste.
  14. Add the chicken and your dinner is ready to serve:)

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Lovely lamb...

One of the things my kids really don't like is lamb - I have no idea why but they don't - a shame really as it's really lovely so I save eating it as a special treat when they aren't around (like now while they are away with ex) I made this on Friday but am a bit behind in adding this. This time I decided to roast it after cutting some slits to put fresh garden herbs in (I have thyme, bay and rosemary growing in the garden that I used for this) and some slices of fresh garlic.I placed the meat in a buttered oven dish and put a knob of butter on top to help avoid it drying out and roasted it in the oven for about an hour on gas 6 - 200 C - 390 F. In another dish I had put unpeeled parboiled potatoes, red bell peppers and onions and a bit of butter to roast them in which I put in the oven at the same time. Then i took the lamb out and put the oven on high to brown the potatoes a bit more before taking them out. Serve the lamb sliced on a plate with the roast veg and mint sauce or gravy to taste.

The image shows the whole piece of meat as I am so bad at carving I decided I'd get a nicer picture if I made it before carving the meat.

The leftovers I had on Saturday night, done the simple way:  I placed the slices of leftover lamb in a small pan and added a little water - just enough for the couscous I was going to cook. I then brought it all to the boil, added the couscous and turned the heat off, leaving the lid on the pan.  All I had to do after that was pour it all onto a plate.



I adore redcurrants almost as much as I adore peaches and nectarines. redcurrants have a short season so I like to pig out a bit when they are around however they are so sour they need a bit of work to make them taste nice. One of my favourite things is to eat them with yoghurt in some way - like in the image above - with finely grated apple (that in this image admittedly looks a bit like worms lol) Making the redcurrants ready to eat takes a lot of time as I like to leave them in the fridge overnight to "sweeten" a little.


  • a pound of redcurrants
  • 2 - 3 oz - 50 - 75 grams of castor sugar
  • 1 oz - 25 grams of brown sugar
  • pint - 500 ml of yoghurt
  • small apple, finely grated or chopped

To prepare redcurrant "goo":

  1. Wash and take the berries from the stalks, making sure to take out any bad ones.
  2. Put the redcurrants and castor sugar (not the brown sugar yet) in a largish bowl squish them with a fork.
  3. When you can see no more whole berries cover the bowl with cling film and put in the fridge over night.
  4. Just before serving add the brown sugar and stir - this makes it darker but also sweetens it a bit more
This goo can be used for all kinds of things :)

To prepare the yoghurt drink:
  1. Put the grated apple into the bottom of a a really large glass or bowl.
  2. Add a good 10 - 15 table spoons of the goo till the glass or bowl is half full.
  3. Pour yoghurt over the top.
Even though if you taste the goo it's pretty sour still the yoghurt seems to stop the sourness and makes it almost sweet.


Chocolate Orange cake...

When making the mini cupcakes the other day I had gotten a bit carried away with making chocolate orange batter so had quite a bit leftover (about half a batch) so I decided to make a cake out of it using 2 of the 4 inch cake tins. After letting it cool (and after a trip to the shops for marmalade) I did the following:
  1. Split the 2 cakes in half.
  2. Filled each cake with marmalade - I used thick cut for this as i like finding chunks of orange peel.
  3. I then covered the lower cake top with Nutella (you know you like it *wink*)
  4. I placed the second cake on top and added a thin layer of Nutella on the top too (don't do the sides with Nutella - i know it's yummy but... it's overpowering too, especially on a little cake like this.)
  5. I added some chocolate sprinkles.
You can also do this with a bought normal chocolate cake - or swap the marmalade for cherry jam (if you don't have orange chocolate batter that is *wink* )


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Loving music..

I've had the G clef charm (the musical note charm)  for a long time and not really found a way to use it but the sewing charm necklace inspired me to see if there was a way to use it and with a bit of leather I had lying around (yes I AM that type of person - I keep al kinds of small bits and pieces in case I'll need them for one of my many projects) and beads and "findings" from my bead stash and what you see above is what the result is <grin>

Not much to tell really so I'll let the picture speak for itself .

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


With the kids away on holiday I can make cupcakes in flavours I prefer. My main challenge today was making do with what I had in the house - no additional shopping allowed. This was a bit of a problem as the milk had gone off and smelled of cauliflower for some weird reason (I have no cauliflower in the house and haven't had it while that pack was in the fridge either) so I really couldn't use that. As a result I used freshly squeezed orange juice instead and that in itself made my choice of what type of cupcake I could make fairly limited. Since I was making mini cupcakes I didn't want just the one flavour so I challenged myself even more and looked for more flavours I could make.

The first flavour was obvious - plain orange.  The second flavour was inspired by Terry's Chocolate Orange
which I adore - only problem being that I don't have any cocoa in the house. I did have chocolate though so I melted that and let it cool a bit before adding that to the batter. The third flavour I decided to make was caramel orange, I used some of my caramel coffee syrup to make the batter taste of orange with more than a hint of caramel. As you can see in the image I'm still getting used to my mini cupcake tin so they aren't all the same size.

I'm listing the ingredients for a full batch of cupcakes for each flavour as it's easier than converting to the 1/3 batches I made by first making the orange cupcake batter and then adding flavours to 2 x 1/3 of it.

Ingredients for orange cupcakes:
  • One batch of My favourite cake batter made with:
    • Orange juice instead of milk
    • Omit the vanilla flavouring (you might need to add some additional orange juice to replace this).
  • Orange glaze made with: 
    • 125 gr / 1 cup icing sugar
    • 1 - 2 tablespoons of orange juice
    • Orange colouring.

Ingredients for chocolate orange cupcakes:
  • One batch of My favourite cake batter made with: 
    • Orange juice instead of milk 
    • 50 gram / 2 oz chocolate slowly melted in a bowl over a pan of hot water, then set aside to cool while you make the batter - you add this last of all.
    • Omit the vanilla flavouring (you might need to add some additional orange juice to replace this). 
  • Orange glaze made with: 
    • 125 gr / 1 cup icing sugar
    • 1  - 2 tablespoons of orange juice 
    • Orange colouring.
  • Some chocolate decoration - I used doughnut shaped chocolate covered crunchy things. 
 Ingredients for caramel orange cupcakes:
  • One batch of My favourite cake batter made with:
    •   1 - 2 tablespoon of caramel coffee syrup mixed with 3 tablespoons of orange juice instead of milk
    • Omit the vanilla flavouring (you might need to add some additional orange juice to replace this).
  • Caramel glaze made with: 
    • 125 gr / 1 cup icing sugar
    • 1 - 2 tablespoons of caramel coffee syrup

My favourite cake batter

Everyone has their own favourite batter for making cakes with and this is mine - I use it for cakes and cupcakes and adjust ingredients as needed for the different flavours I want. Since I make a lot of cakes I decided to put the basic recipe here and then refer to adjustments in the posts with my cakes. To convert my recipes to USA measuring standards I used this site: traditional oven Although they don't show it linked on their home page they do have some great converters that I found were accurate.

You can choose to either make this by hand, with a mixer or just in a kitchen machine.
For a 7" round cake tin or 12 cupcakes you need:
  • 125 grams / 1 1/10  stick of butter of butter or margarine at room temperature
  • 170 grams / 3/4 cup of sugar this can be castor sugar or demerara sugar etc.
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 ml / 1 teaspoon of vanilla flavouring
  • 35 - 60 ml / 2 - 4 tablespoons of milk
  • 225 grams / 1 4/5 cup of self raising flour
Instructions to make by hand or using a mixer:
  1. Preheat the oven to gas 4 / 350 F / 180 C
  2. Prepare your cake tin by spraying it with baking spray, carefully covering the sides with butter or putting cupcake liners into the cupcake tin.
  3. Put the butter in a mixing bowl and mix till creamy.
  4. Add the sugar and mix well.
  5. Add the eggs and mix well - if you did steps 1 and 2 correctly you will see little lumps of butter/sugar mix floating around - if not mix a bit more till it is smaller.
  6. Add the vanilla flavouring and  half the milk and stir.
  7. Add the flour and mix well - if it gets hard to mix add more milk.
  8. Fill the cake tin/cupcake cases
  9. If you are making a cake it will take about 55 minutes - if making cupcakes it will take about 35 minutes till baked - use a skewer or wooden toothpick to poke the cake down to the bottom and see if it's done - if it's clean when you pull it out it's done, if not give it 5 more minutes.
  10. Leave it/them to cool a few minutes in the tin - then take it/them out and leave to cool on a cake rack (or just the counter top/plate if you don't have one)
  11. Wait with icing till they are cold or it will get too messy
If you want to use a kitchen machine to make the batter do it like this:
  1. Put the butter and sugar in the kitchen machine and mix till smooth.
  2. Add the eggs and all liquids and mix.
  3. Add the flour and mix for 5 minutes.
  4. Continue with step 8 above.

Oodles of noodles...

My kids call anything made with noodles "oodles of noodles" , I think because they like the sound of it.
Last night I made this version of it - with chicken and whatever veg I had in the house at the time. I'll give the recipe for what you see in the image however you can use any meat/veg combination you prefer for this.

For 2 people (or one person with a large appetite):
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots - thinly sliced
  • 1 thin or 1/2 - 3/4 thick leek sliced really thinly
  • 1 small onion - diced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper - sliced into thin strips (you can use another colour of course and you can add chilli pepper too if you like it spicy)
  • 300 gr chicken - in strips
  • Chinese noodles (the packs I buy have 3 "sheets" and I used one of them)
  • Sweet soy sauce
  • Garlic
  • Pepper, 5 spice
  • 1 tbp cornflour or normal flour (I will say cornflour in the instructions but use flour if that's what you have - both work well)
  1. Make a marinade of some soy sauce, pepper, garlic and 5 spice in a bowl and add the chicken to it and leave to marinade while you chop the veg.
  2. Put the carrot slices into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil - allow to simmer for a max. of 5 minutes
  3. Meanwhile melt a knob of butter/marg or pour some oil in a frying pan (skillet) or wok and heat.
  4. Add the chicken to the pan, making sure to squeeze out any excess marinade back into the bowl (you will need this later) and make sure all the sides are sealed. 
  5. Put all your remaining veg into the frying pan and stir fry till cooked. 
  6. Turn the heat off the pan with the carrots once the 5 minutes has passed and add the Chinese noodles - leave for 4 minutes
  7. Meanwhile make the sauce:  pour the marinade into the pan, add a bit more soy sauce and enough water so you have about 1 cm (1/4 inch) of liquid in the pan and bring to the boil
  8. Put the cornflour into a glass and add some water - mix to a paste with no lumps (this is important)
  9. While stirring the contents of the frying pan slowly add the cornflour paste and allow to thicken.
  10. Turn the heat low.
  11. Strain the carrots/noodles and add them to the frying pan.
  12. Mix thoroughly and serve.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Luscious limes...

It's the first week of the month and another block is done! Lime is a colour that is really in your face bright and cheerful and speaks of springtime and good days ahead, so it was really fun to be sewing these while out and about taking my kids to museums the past few weeks.

This is the 24th block and the 4th green one.
Next up: the fifth green one - Grassy greens

For more information see:  The insane hexagon quilt
To see all the quilt blocks together look here:  Insane Hexagon Project