Christmas craft project for your Christmas tree

Yes there has been a little bit of craft. I created two Christmas projects for Brother and decided a bit of paper piecing was just perfect for this busy time of year. A great excuse to put your feet up and do a bit of stitching on the couch first before taking it to your machine.

I had grand plans to make a few of these but ended up with one. I also have the 6 point star which would also look gorgeous. You can find the complete instructions with lots of photos here. Any questions just ask…………….

Little Christmas Puddings

It’s been a while since I’ve made these but already I have a few Bring a Plate events in the diary that I need to get to and I’m thinking these might be just the ticket!

Give these a go and tell me what you think! Or maybe you already make these and have a few variations you’d love to show! Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

little christmas puddings
 
perfect to give away as a little present - if you can bear to part with them.
Recipe type: Baking
Serves: 24
What you'll need
  • 1 Christmas pudding (about 700grams)
  • a good splosh of brandy/whisky (optional)
  • 200g dark chocolate, melted (optional)
  • 150g white chocolate, melted
  • small bag of glace cherries (red and green)
Instructions
  1. Break up the fruit pudding in a large bowl and add a good splosh of brandy or a spirit. This is optional..
  2. With damp hands roll about a tablespoonful of mixture into a ball and place on a lined baking tray or large plate.
  3. Pop in freezer for about 30 minutes until firm.
  4. Meanwhile cut your cherries into small pieces and assemble them on a plate to look like holly.
  5. If you'd like your puddings covered in dark chocolate then melt in the microwave. I pop mine in a big glass bowl and put it on medium for 2½ minutes and stir it a few times inbetween.
  6. Dip each ball in chocolate and set back on tray/plate. Repeat with all the balls and place back in freezer for another 20 minutes or so.
  7. Melt white chocolate and drizzle a little bit over the top of each ball and top with a tiny bit of red cherry and 2 bits of green cherry.
  8. Refrigerate until needed.

quick and satisfying quilt for a little friend

Whenever I sit down to make a quilt I remember why I love the process so much. And I say to myself I need to make more quilts. But life (and knitting) always gets in the way. It’s much easier for me to knit on the go or outside watching everyone play than lock myself away in my sewing room. Anyway, one of our little girl’s friends has been in hospital a few times this year and I decided he needed a quilt. Now of course the time that I sat down to start the quilt and when I actually finished the quilt was just a tad longer than I expected….because other things popped up and life gets in the way. But I found all of the charm squares from different packs and they go together nicely. I would say that 90% of my fabric stash is girly girl so I had to dig deep for boy colours and I’m happy with the mix. I also wanted some interesting fabrics in there so he could look at the little details.

I added the border and backing in dottie by moda and the binding I made from a Bonnie & Camille fabric. The quilting and binding I did in a few days and it feels great to get this quilt out of the room and off to its new home tomorrow.

And having a nice old gate to hang my quilts and blankets off never gets old. I always dreamed of having some old fences and gates and I’m a bit spoilt for choice here with gates and fences.

My favourite Christmas fruit cake

This is still my favourite Christmas fruit cake. Once upon a time I would buy all of the fruit and have it soaking for a few days then bake it in the oven for a few hours. But then I had lots of children and this cake is so great to make at the last minute. I do pour cointreau or brandy over the top of it while still hot for an adults version. I have also frozen the cake – just wrapped in foil and placed in a freezer bag or you could wrap then put in a container in the freezer. But it tasted great and is perfect for making ahead of time. Happy baking…….

So do you love fruit cake at Christmas and do you make your own? Maybe your fruit is already soaking in brandy or you’ve got a cake stashed away. Let me know what you’re doing…….

pineapple fruit cake
 
delicious and easy!
Author:
Recipe type: Baking
What you'll need
  • 500g mixed dried fruit
  • 50g glace cherries (optional)
  • 450g can crushed pineapple
  • 125g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 cup sugar (I used caster)
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup self raising flour
Instructions
  1. Place dried fruit, pineapple (don't drain it), butter, sugar and bicarb in a saucepan and bring to the boil on a medium heat.
  2. Remove from the stove and leave to cool. I like to transfer to a big bowl and leave it to cool
  3. Add in eggs and mix well. Sift in the flour and mix it in well. Make sure there is no flour left at the bottom of the bowl. Nothing worse than discovering this once you've put most of the mixture into a lined tin.
  4. Pour into a lined square or round tin and place in a preheated oven 180C/350F and bake for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  5. Now the cooking time will depend on your oven and the size of tin you use. Just check it with a knife or skewer at 45 minutes and if it comes out clean (don't stick it straight into a piece of fruit!) then you're done. If not put it back for another 10 minutes and test again.
  6. You can pour some brandy or alcohol over the top of your cake if you like but I soaked my fruit in brandy for 2 days before the cake was made.
  7. Leave to cool then slice and enjoy.

rum ball season has arrived

I started making these a few years before I got married and I still make them every Christmas. Super easy to make, double the recipe so you’ll have plenty to give away. Great for adults at Christmas parties and little gifts and soooo easy to make. And eat. I have to make some just for the adults in this house to enjoy. For a non-alcoholic/child friendly version just use juice (orange, pineapple, apple work well).

 

retro mummy's rum balls
 
delicious and easy! they make a gorgeous present at Christmas time
Recipe type: Chocolate
Serves: 20
What you'll need
  • loaf of madeira cake (mine was 450g)
  • 1 cup icing sugar sifted
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • rum – enough to make the mixture moist (or juice)
  • coconut or chocolate sprinkles to coat
Instructions
  1. Slice off the brown edges of your cake then crumble the rest of the cake into a large bowl. Let the kids eat the edges of the cake.They love it.
  2. Sift in cocoa and icing sugar and stir well as you want it all evenly distributed. I use the back of a spoon to squash out any bigger cake bits too.
  3. Pour in rum (about 2 good sploshes) until you have the right consistency and your mixture is coming together. Mix well.
  4. Roll tablespoons full of mixture into balls and coat in coconut or chocolate sprinkles. Don’t worry if you can see little bits of cake, the mixture all comes together and they turn chocolatey in no time.
  5. Keep them in the fridge or package them up to give away. They look so pretty in little glass jars.

Bonnie & Camille Basics and Christmas Fabrics

I met a friend for coffee (and some delicious scones) this morning and sure enough a delivery arrived when I wasn’t home and my dear husband was. Nearly every single time he works from home all of my online shopping decides to arrive on that one day. And so today a box of fabric arrived including these gorgeous jelly rolls by Bonnie & Camille. Basics has all the best ‘basics’ from several ranges from Bonnie & Camille. It’s going to be great for bright and bold quilts and such a pretty colour palette too. I’ve listed them in my etsy store here.

I also have some Christmas fabrics which I’m hoping to make into aprons. You can use a mixture of half metres or metres and just put in the comments in your purchase the combination you want. 3 of the fabrics are from the North Woods range by Kate Spain for Moda and the recipe fabric is from a different designer.

Christmas Fabric Bundle 4 x 0.5m

Happy sewing and quilting!

wow it’s really been one month

Well I intended to spend less time on the blog but I think a month between posts might be a new record. It’s been a busy time and also a really sad time.

We had a really lovely 6th birthday party for my littlest miss with all of her classmates and then the next day we learnt that a family at our school had died tragically. It was such a shock and sad time as the mother was one of the loveliest school mums I knew who always had time for everyone. The funeral was beautiful but just so sad. It was a hard few weeks to enjoy things when you felt so sad and confused but time (and being surrounded by lots of little people) does help you move forward and try to make peace with everything. They’ll always stay in my thoughts and prayers as well as their families and close friends.  And the school community has been so wonderful and the beautiful things that have been done by our surrounding schools and other schools is just so beautiful. We’ve had a little holy bracelet made by children at one school and another little card and dove from another school.

We’ve been very busy with homeschooling and I can’t believe we’ll be finishing up the year in a month’s time. It’s not without its challenges as I have 2 very different personalities to teach but they are becoming more independent and we’ve all settled into our routine. I still think people assume you need to be standing in front of them all day long teaching them but they have a list of work they need to get through each day and we do a few things together and the rest is independent work. I’m also now used to cashiers or people asking if they are home sick or don’t have school today and you have to give a mini talk on homeschooling. But it’s definitely made life at home 100 times more peaceful and relaxed. I’ve also relaxed (a little) and accepted that there are days that never go to plan.

Craftwise I’ve been knitting a kina in a 5 ply which is taking me forever, I still haven’t cast off the sleeves (I’ll stick to 8 ply next time). And I’ve been doing some paper piecing of hexagons for some little Christmas projects. I even picked up some diamonds and am paper piecing stars which I’m hoping will turn out. I took my girls to the shop to buy the paper pieces, I was so sure we’d emerge with just the paper pieces but there we were at the checkout with palace pets and tsum tsum fabric for the girls.

I’ve discovered Outlander (on the recommendation of my readers) and I am totally hooked but I do have to confess it is not as civilised as Lark Rise and I don’t do blood and guts or the sex scenes because I just don’t watch tv or that many movies (that aren’t kids movies). So I’ve had to fast forward a few times or look away but then I’m so hooked by the story and finding out what happens. And I’ve decided just to skip the last episode of series 1 entirely to avoid it all after reading a review of it and a warning from 2 readers (thank you!). I’ve also ordered the book so hopefully that will arrive soon and I’ll get stuck into that.

And that’s about that. The beautiful flowers in these photos have been sent to my by the lovely Carli from Urban Flower. They do the most amazing arrangements, as you can see. I’ve had a different grandma here each time they have arrived and they have both oohhed and ahhed over them. I catch myself walking past the dining table and stopping to do a double take.

Well that’s my little update. I hope to be back with a few Christmas food and craft ideas and not wait a month between posts! I hope you’ve been well and don’t get too caught up in the end of year craziness that seems to start in november and last until Christmas.

Help! My cake didn’t turn out like the recipe……

Have you ever made a cake and you’ve followed the recipe perfectly but it didn’t work out? It happens to the best of us but sometimes there can be very simple things that you don’t think much of that can have a big impact on how your cake or baked good turned out. I thought I’d share a few because over the years I’ve answered readers questions and comments and offered suggestions on why things haven’t turned out.

buttermilk scones

All ovens are different

We’ve lived in a few houses with different ovens but most of them have been old kitchens and old ovens. That got hot quickly. Make a note of how long things take compared to the recipe so that you can adjust the cooking time when you are baking. Keep a close eye on baked goodies when they are in the oven which will also help. This was my favourite oven, my Esse which had a few different sections to cook in. Another thing to consider is if you have a fan forced oven. You can lower the temperature slightly if you are using a fan forced oven or adjust the cooking time or opt not to use the fan while baking a cake.

Position in the oven

The best place for a cake is in the centre of your oven. In fact one of my cookbooks says to have the top of the cake in the middle of the oven for best results. Too close to the top of the oven and it will cook too quickly as the heat rises. Too low down in the oven and it’s going to take too long to bake.

One little change makes a big difference. I’m reading one of the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbooks and she talks about how you should make a recipe first and then once you’ve got it down pat then you can play around with it. Perhaps you tried something different, used a different tin, added a bit extra? All of these things can have a big impact on the end result. So make a recipe first and then play around with it but always be careful with cakes because of the right balance needed with ingredients.

Flour

Did the recipe call for self raising and you used plain? Did you use bicarb instead of baking powder? Too much bicarb makes a cake taste funny so be careful. If you want to use gluten free look for a good quality, cup for cup substitute. I also recommend leaving the cake in the tin for longer and to cool before cutting when using gluten free flours. Something else to think about is the brand of flour, not all flours are the same so I tend to stick to the same brand all the time so you can get used to the results and adjust if necessary.

christmas blondie

Cake tin size

If you use a cake tin that’s too big you’ll have a flatter cake or a thinner baked slice. I have a few round cake tins and if the batter doesn’t look that big then I’ll use the smaller 20cm tin but if it’s a lot of batter and a big cake then I’ll do bigger. A square cake tin is also wonderful for cakes, fruit cakes and slices. Well worth grabbing one. Something else to think about is if you use silicone forms. I’ve found that slices can be a bit hit or miss if I use a silicone tray so be careful. Slices that pop in the refrigerator aren’t the problem but because the sides aren’t sturdy and you can bend them you can find filling comes out so be careful especially when making slices with 2 or more layers.

Baking Paper

Out of habit I use baking paper for all of my cookies, slices and cakes. When I’ve run out then I’ll grease and then flour (tip in some flour and then tip it out once the entire inner surface is covered). But baking paper can easily be lifted out and nothing sticks. I can’t live without a roll of it in my kitchen drawer.

Temperature

Temperature of your ingredients and the temperature of your kitchen can affect your baking. Check to see if your recipe says that the butter should be softened or the eggs should be cold. Little things can affect the finished product.

pastry

Measurements

If you are using an american recipe then be careful with cup measurements as there is a difference between australian and american cup measures. A good online converter can be a great help if you are trying to work out the correct quantities for a recipe. I like to use traditional oven for my conversions. Using measurements in grams can be easier if you have accurate scales or a thermomix. I also have a mug that is pretty accurate that I use when a cup is required and I will never throw out that little mug as it comes in very handy. Remember to flatten off the top of flour with a knife, check measurements and check the recipe to make sure you have read the measurements correctly. Also think about egg size, has the recipe mentioned the egg size? Try to avoid the jumbo eggs in your cake recipes if you can. Save them for frittatas or your egg dishes.

apricots are on

Be careful with substitutes

When a recipe has been made it has been made with the exact ingredients mentioned and measurements. Perhaps you don’t have the right type of flour or milk or you can’t eat a particular food. Google to see if there is a good substitute but remember that you might need to adjust another quantities in the recipe and this will affect the finished product.

Well I hope that helps. I also recommend a really good book on cakes can be such a help to have in your kitchen. I love the Australian Women’s Weekly Cake books because they have great advice, tips and photos and I always find their cakes contain lots of photos to help you. It’s handy to have a good reference book in your kitchen to help you.

Happy baking!!!!!!!!

blueberry cake + lemon glaze

One of the best things about holidays is that you have more time to get into the kitchen and bake. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s one way I love to spend my time. I spent a lot of time in there making toast and dinners but baking a cake is much more satisfying and enjoyable…with a sweet reward at the end. I found a recipe for blueberry cake in my CWA trusty cookbook and decided to have a play with it.

I am also in the midst of 2 weekends cooking for other people. So I set aside half the cake and divided into 2 containers and froze. I’ve been making dinners to freeze for a few local families and this way have dinner and dessert sorted. Yesterday I did my pineapple fruit cake and it is also a great way to avoid eating the whole cake. Not that it really happens around here because I have helpers that finish everything off. You can find some of my favourite recipes to make for other people here.

Enjoy…………

4.0 from 1 reviews
blueberry cake + lemon glaze
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 8
What you'll need
  • 60g (1/4 cup) butter
  • 150g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lemon - zest and juice
  • 100g (1/3 cup) natural yoghurt
  • 200g (1½ cups) self raising flour
  • 1½ cups blueberries (I used frozen)
  • Lemon Glaze
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp butter/margarine
  • 50g (1/4 cup) sugar
Instructions
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg and combine. Then add in yoghurt, lemon juice, zest and gently combine. Mix in the flour and gently stir. Then add blueberries. Be careful not to break them up.
  2. Pour into a lined round cake tin (I used a 20cm tin) and bake in a preheated 180C oven for at least 40-45 minutes.
  3. When the cake is nearly finished cooking combine the lemon juice, butter and sugar and heat on a low heat until sugar is disolved. Set aside.
  4. When cake is cooked in the centre remove from the oven, pour over the glaze and serve. This would be delicious as a dessert with ice cream or cream or just as an afternoon treat.

 

first dress for spring/summer

You might remember last year I made this little dress. It is definitely one of the most popular in her wardrobe and so I decided to make another one. That and I wanted to work on my zipper skills. If I can avoid sewing a pattern with a zipper in it then I will but I do need to face my fears.

The pattern is Ellie Mae Designs K143 which I picked up on eBay. I made the size xs (again) and it’s a perfect fit for my little size 5/6. The fabric I used this time was from the Handmade range by Bonnie & Camille and the red spotty fabric is from another range by Bonnie & Camille.

I followed the pattern exactly but just used a shorter zip (because that’s all I had and I had a little girl busting to wear the dress today).

I hung up the dress to put on her later and then she came into the room. ‘Oh—–my—–gawd, you made it for me’. We do prefer to say ‘oh my gosh’ in this house and she was clearly excited (and has been watching a tv show with my big girls). This is someone who has come so far with her speech in her first year at school. I overheard her playing earlier in the week and she was saying ‘I sorry, I don’t love you anymore’. Not sure where she heard it but it made me laugh.

Anyway if you’re looking for a little summer dress I really think this is a great pattern as it’s not fiddly. The pockets are a big hit and it’s a great dress for wearing on any occasion. This took me 3 sessions in my sewing room (mainly because it’s so hard to get an hour in there on my own). One to cut it, one to piece bodice and skirt and then I finished the rest early one morning before most of the house got up.

when kids have other ideas

Yesterday I finally finished this quilt (I’ll do another blog post on it with all the details and the ladies who made blocks). I thought I’d use the washing line to photograph it. It’s a big quilt. So I hung it up and my littlest man decided it was put up just for him to run under.

And so he’d go back and forth under the quilt having a great time.

I finished photographing and went to take it down and that’s when he thought it was also great for squirting water on. I put an end to that fun and put the quilt away.

So it was made for 2 boys and 2 of my boys had quite a fun time playing under it.

And how good are the school holidays? I have just loved the easy mornings, one big girl cooking for me, time to get on the treadmill (more walk than jog), bacon and eggs for breakfast and doing things that we like doing. I hear that there is a big weekend of sports on this weekend and I’m already planning some girl time at the shops with my girls and some sewing time.

 

he’s still a big puppy!

Well my not so little puppy is about to turn 8 months old on Monday….and he’s as big as they come. We did think he’d be medium size but there’s nothing medium about him. But there’s just more of him to love. My littlest miss loves to lie on his tummy and there is plenty of room for that and he loves it. He really has a sense for people. He’s so gentle with her and my grandma. He just knows to tone it down with them.

We enjoy dog training once a week and are learning lots of new things. We don’t always listen, well he doesn’t always listen, I do. And I went from someone who said I will never get a bum bag for my dog treats but wouldn’t you know it…there I am each week with my doggy bum bag full of chicken and a bit of cheese which he likes.

We’re back to the groomers this week for another wash and tidy up and hopefully a clip all over. He came back to me last time smelling so beautiful and fluffed up like a big fluff ball.

We had to buy an XXL crate for him at night as the L one I bought he quickly outgrew. But to tell you the truth I didn’t use crate training but now have him in the crate overnight which is a great thing and he loves it. Nice and cosy in there and still big enough for him.

The kids love him. He obeys my hubby who is the boss. I’m just the one who does all the care and picks up the poo poos but he knows who his is master is. And you’ll notice he’s on his lead in this photo. That’s because it’s a run for freedom once he’s outside! He really is the perfect addition for our family.

 

kids cooking day

Well to celebrate the end of term we have a cooking day here today! I asked the kids what they would like to make and they settled on sushi and cake. Great for a friday night dinner. For sushi I have 2 recipes that we like to use – the first one is when I have time up my sleeve to roast the capsicum. You’ll find the recipe here.

sushi

And we have a quick sushi recipe which is our midweek – get it on the table – recipe, you’ll find it here 

And for the cake we are using one of my favourites….never lets me down…..and always so buttery.   I use white wings gluten free flour for the most perfect gluten free version. Recipe is here

apricot after

If you’re about to start school holidays then enjoy the lazy mornings and a rest from uniforms, school lunches and routine! I know we’re looking forward to some pyjama mornings around here and a break from the school run! Happy holidays……………

one term of homeschooling under our belt

Well tomorrow is the last day of term. That has gone so fast. The days and weeks have just flown by. How have we gone? Well. Pretty well I think considering I’ve had my L plates on. There have been some hard days and lots of really good days.

I started out just planning each week rather than daily but now I sit down and plan out the week and then each day. I put the day’s work on a little note card for each of the twins so they know what they need to work through.

Next term we’ll be using a set curriculum for year 3 from the US but adapt a few things like history and geography and maths. This was a big decision but I think this will reassure me that we’re getting through enough work and also provide a bit more structure for them rather than me telling them what they need to do. Fingers crossed on that one. We’re also picking up Latin which should be fun since I’ve never learnt it but I have the answer book so we can all learn together.

We’ve been to the theatre with home schoolers, done an athletics carnival, a first aid morning, attended weekday Mass twice (so much for going weekly!) and most of the time we stick to our plans.

We’ve discovered ArtVenture and art videos on youtube. We read in the car and do spelling bees as well. We have the tv off most days just to keep everyone on task, we play and we’re relaxed. One of the goals of homeschool was to take out the stress of school for one little person and we’ve succeeded. Somedays I think to myself I’m sure they would have covered more work during a school day but some days we get through so much and research things and are doing our own research projects and assignments and are working on different things. We are back to learning piano which is fun and a learning curve for me but one that they are enjoying. And we love going to the library when it’s nice and quiet and sometimes we’re the only ones there. We see our friends at parties, playdates, rugby, when we’re visiting school and making new friends at homeschool activities.

It is exhausting, I won’t lie, but it is also a great way to let your kids learn at their pace and focus on what they want to do. We don’t fight over putting on uniforms or getting out the door in the morning. Each has their own strengths and it’s great to let them work ahead of where they would be in a classroom but also take the time to sit with them and help them where they need it.

Bring on our 2nd term! Well bring on the holidays first. I’m hoping to finally get the veggie patch started.

one finished granny stripe

Well this has been my craft project for a few months now. Taking it everywhere I go – waiting for speech, watching swimming and gymnastics, kangaroo valley, the school run. You name it this blanket has been there. It’s taken me a while too even though it’s cot size. So I’m just glad it’s finished as it does feel like it’s been the never-ending blanket.

I used mostly Bendigo 8 ply with the exception of the dark grey which is from Adagio and is the softest of the yarns in the blanket. But after I did the first set of colours I realised it might be a bit too dark for the blanket so I left it out until the last repeat of colours. I did have a few trips to spotlight to match up some cream and dusty pink but apart from that everything was from the stash.

I used the pattern instructions here for a smaller size (I think someone put it on ravelry for cot size) and the edging I just love. Weaving in 50 million ends I did not love but I knew the end was in sight so I did 2 big long sessions on the couch with a needle and scissors. I haven’t blocked this yet but might just do a little bit of blocking to get the corners to sit flat.

I’m so happy with how it turned out and also happy that I can start other projects and get back to some quilt projects too. With all my good intentions this was to go to the family BEFORE the baby was born but the sweet little girl is here now and I need to get this off in the post ASAP!

If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll know I’ve been sharing progress shots and I’ve also got a video on there of how I crochet. Thanks to my girls who filmed it for me one day at swimming.