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The Red Velvet Pancake experiment… a tasty (but cautionary) tale

12 Feb

Sprinkles – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

“It looks like a bad burger”.

We both stared at the forlorn lump of batter, burning gently at the edges. Brown bubbles simmered on its surface. Smoke began to rise from the pan.

“I don’t trust this frying pan.”

At some point, suspicion turned upon the frying pan… because you know if you can’t blame the implements, what can you blame. We swapped it for another pan. This did not improve things. Perhaps more red food dye was the answer…

“For a lot of red, we’ve created a lot of brown.”

I stirred the weird lumpy maroon batter mix, thoughtfully. With every stir, the mixture grew browner. Not a nice chocolatey brown, but an inedible shade of blurgh. My main thought: pancake batter and natural food colouring were not a good mix. Also, it smelled strange.

 ”This is going to look weird in the sewer after I flush it down the toilet.”

There was only one thing left to do with the mix – and it was not cook and eat it. So down the toilet it went. This was our second batch. (The first had not been nearly so disastrous, the third would be worse.)

“Are we just frying a cake now?” 
“Well, we are Scottish…” 
“We’re not deep frying it.”
“Not yet…”

By this point – the third attempt – we’d created some sort of pancake-cake-biscuit. And a high level of hysteria. Blame the food colouring, but now we just had a massive fit of the giggles. So much so, that I nearly choked on a mouthful of pancake-cake-biscuit. Which somehow seemed even funnier.

Sensible people would have given up… but oh no, not us.

•••••••••

So how did this misadventure involving a whole lot of red food colouring, batter and a potentially misbehaving frying pan come about?

Snowflakes and pancakes Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

Back in December, we’d stopped somewhere for breakfast. American breakfast. You know, the hearty, heart-stopping kind of breakfast that means you won’t have to eat again that day. And I spied on the menu… Red Velvet Pancakes.

Which seemed like a must order. I love red velvet cake so surely Red Velvet Pancakes were going to be AMAZING. (I was hungry, jet lagged and over-enthused.)

The very nice waiter informed us that their breakfast menu had finished for the day – but their lunch menu was now on. So I had mac ‘n’ cheese for breakfast. Which as your first meal of the day is a whole lot of wrong. (Yes, coming from the girl who wanted red velvet pancakes!)

Red Velvet Pancake – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So, we had to come back. The waiter (a different one) eyed us nervously – two Scots demanding, pre-coffee, that they wanted breakfast was obviously more than he’d expected to deal with first thing.

He did a sort of hop from one foot to another as he explained that the usual guy who did the pancakes wasn’t in today but he was sure the Thursday guy could give it a go.

The pancakes arrived. They looked beautiful. So red, so pretty, so Instagram friendly.

But they tasted of… nothing. Not bad, but not great. Just bland. And then I said the magic words…

“We should make these ourselves when we get home. But better.”

Red Mix – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

Now to be fair, our first batch wasn’t bad. (Which is Scottish/British for pretty darn good.)

We’d used two tubes of Dr. Oetker food colouring gel and had some red-pink batter.

We need another tube. Sod the E numbers.”

But we only had two… so red-pink would have to do.

Red Velvet Pancake Hearts – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So we ended up with swirly, heart-shaped pancakes… which super tasty and pretty much tasted like red velvet in a slightly chocolate-y, red-pink way.

Sensible-ish people would have stopped there. (Sensible people wouldn’t be adding food colouring and chocolate to pancake batter would they?)

Red icing – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So we decided that we’d make another batch another day. But better. (Ah that word again.)

Now as you now know… batch 2 and batch 3 were an unmitigated disaster of inedible proportions.

But batch 4… well, this time we were going to nail it. Or die trying.

Red Velvet Pancake Mix – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

However… batch 4 also coincided with a Sunday. And where we live, supermarkets close early on a Sunday. (Well, too early for people who suddenly want to make pancakes at 5pm.)

So, we went off to the local corner shop for eggs, flour and more food colouring.

And came home with eggs, flour, pink Nesquik milkshake powder and red colouring for curries. 

Now, let’s get this out of the way. Nesquik milkshake powder does something weird to pancake mix.

To be fair, nowhere on the packaging does it indicate that you can make strawberry milk that you can add to batter.

So if you’ve ever wondered about this, wonder no more.

Heart Pancake Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So, food colouring for curries it was…

We used a teeny, tiny, ickle drop and made pink batter.

Pink not red but the pancakes were rising and smelt lovely. So pink is where we stopped.

Love Pancake Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

And they were good. Insanely good. 

We had made rose coloured velvet pancakes. (I was so over the idea of red by this point.) But that wasn’t why they were so tasty…

In fact, it had nothing to do with the colouring or the chocolate… and everything to do with just being darn good pancakes. And the sprinkles, icing and strawberries.

Now sensible people would have stopped there… and for once, just for once, we were those sensible people. With happy tummies and a whole lot of pancake making mess to clear up, we called it quits on the red velvet pancake experiment.

Strawberry Love – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So, on the off chance, you actually want to make some pancakes after reading this, here’s our tried and tested pancake recipe (cut out from New Woman magazine some years ago)… add chocolate and food colouring at your own peril!

Makes 6 large pancakes

Ingredients:

125g plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp baking powder
2 large eggs, separated at room temp
250ml full-fat milk (don’t add Nesquik)
6 tbsp melted butter, plus a little extra for cooking
Sprinkles/fruit/icing/maple syrup for serving

How to:

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks, melted butter and milk. Keep whisking to create a batter, but don’t overmix it (it’s OK if it’s a bit lumpy).

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold them into the batter with a spatula. Pour into a measuring jug and gently add blueberries (if you want blueberry pancakes of course!).

Heat a heavy non-stick pan. Add a tbsp of butter to coat the surface and pour in some of the batter. When bubbles form on one side, flip the pancake over with a spatula. Brown for 30 seconds or so and then continue with the remaining batter.

Serve as you please… though in my opinion, sprinkles are a necessity!

 

Roar… my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

6 Mar

photo 3 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

Up until the end of February, there was a deer doormat outside our door. More specifically, a reindeer doormat.

Now I knew we needed a new doormat. Knew it but still couldn’t bring myself to actually buy one.

Then I had an idea. I would make myself a doormat instead.

So far, so vaguely rational…

And it would say ‘ROAR’ on it.

Rationale: it’s an acronym for Right of Admission Reserved.

Real reason: I just like saying ‘roar’.

It’s become of those words I use which basically means being brave or forcing yourself to be brave.

I blame ‘cats let nothing darken their roar‘ for this.

photo 1 2 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

So task one, I got myself a plain doormat from B&Q. (Which cost around 5 quid I think.) Crazy socks were optional.

photo 2 2 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

Then some acrylic paint, which you can get from most art supply stores. Again, crazy socks optional.

photo 3 1 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

Macarons. Broken. Yes, totally optional. But they helped greatly when faced with the next bit of the DIY task…

image7 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

The printer. Oh my, how I loathe our printer. It’s a mechanical piece of evil. The Fox-Owl-Cat’s haunted expression only confirms this theory…

Anyhow, I printed out my letters, using this font – one on each A4 sheet. I won’t tell you how long it took our printer to print 4 sheets of paper. Bad words were said.

photo 1 3 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

Then placed the printed sheets on the mat to see how it would look… not too bad I thought!

photo 2 3 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

I’d originally planned to make the templates in cardboard but instead I just cut out the letters and taped round them. Not entirely sure if that is easier but it felt so at the time!

image5 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

Then it was a case of holding down the template and dabbing (not brushing) the paint onto the mat. Once the letters were on, I went over them twice just to give them some more staying power.

After leaving the mat to dry for a bit, it was time for the great unveiling… or placing… or something like that.

photo 1 1 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

On the way, I passed the tiger print in our hall… the one we see every day when we come through the door and suddenly wondered if that’s really where the idea for a ‘roar’ doormat came from. Hmmm…

photo 2 1 Roar... my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat DIY

And here he is… my super neon, super silly, darn cool doormat outside our very yellow door.

Rather cheerful huh? I’m betting even the postman can’t help but smile when he sees this… or at least wonder how crazy the people are who live at our address!

Answer being very of course. Roar!

 

Happy New Cheer… or how I’m almost sort of maybe possibly accepting it’s January

15 Jan

image23 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

I am usually a chipper sort of soul. In fact, fellow blogger a safe mooring once described me as ‘sunshine on toast’… but oh January, well, let’s say it’s not my favourite month.

It’s just so January.

So at the start of this year, I was dreading taking down the Christmas tree, sparkly lights, huge paper snow globes and waited until the last day/hour/minute/second to do it.

But once the decorations were down, I decided it was time for a bit of Happy New Cheer.

image25 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

Which meant hanging up my ‘new’ vintage map from the lovely Lauren McGlynn (she’s a peach that one!) next to my car boot sale version… and finally saying something with my ‘make your own’ banner kit…

(‘Home is wherever I’m with you‘ seemed map-appropriate and we signed our wedding register to that song too. I might have been singing this daily since I put the banner up!)

image18 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

But being me, I just had to customise the banner kit a bit… with gold spray paint, natch.

Above is my ‘spray station’ – a large Zara box that stops me turning the floor gold!

image17 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

My favourite craft thing in the world right now. Yes, it’s even better than washi tape!

image27 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

Of course, when I said I’d taken down the Christmas decorations I may have somewhat slightly exaggerated…

I took some things down. The tree went, the snowflakes too, but the deer with fairy lights wrapped round his antlers? Yes, very much still here…

image20 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

And the big paper honeycomb balls? Yup, still there. They’re winter themed rather Christmas themed right?

image12 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

And eh… yes, I may have kept the teeny terrariums too. They may be staying until it’s Spring!

image26 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

Which might be on the way pretty soon considering daffodils are back in season. Love daffies but does anyone else think it’s a bit early for them to be out? A bit like all the Creme Eggs!

image14 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

So with Spring perhaps on its way, I did make some concessions to it being a new year… by breaking out my ‘embossing label maker’ the other half got me as a random Tuesday present last year.

(I thought ‘Happy All Year’ was a better sentiment than ‘Happy New Year’).

image13 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

This little baby is totally clicktastic… though, I’m not going to make a hand model any time soon. That pinky patch on my thumb? A hand meets curling tong incident.

image16 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

And it comes in neon colours (the tape that is, not my burned thumb!). A total essential in gloomy January. It also came with black tape but, you know, trying to be cheery here.

image15 Happy New Cheer... or how Im almost sort of maybe possibly accepting its January

So 2013… everything is going to be AWESOME. February to December, I’m looking at you here.

And by then I might have properly taken down my Christmas decorations. Maybe.

Happy All Year everyone. May all your months be more cheery than January! xxx

Christmas is coming… my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

21 Dec

Conversation Pieces Christmas 1  Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

So, Christmas… this year, I’m all about the snow. Since it seemed unlikely there’d be actual snow (*shakes fist at the sky*), I wanted to create my own little snowy scenes. Guaranteed snow if you will!

Add in a new obsession with terrariums – even the word is fun to say – and I knew I wanted to make some sort of mini magical display. Not having an actual terrarium (I did find one in a junk shop but it was (a) expensive and (b) larger than you’d expect), I decided to use a few large jars that we had in the flat.

photo 26 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And yes, there may have been a Game of Thrones inspired theme going on (you know Scotland is Winterfell right?).

photo 34 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Then I added sugar, glitter, a plastic wolf and some tiny trees (most of which came from Homebase, the others from a train model shop!).

photo 46 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And not to give up my obsession with foxes completely, I added an arctic fox into the mix too.

photo 221 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Now you if follow me on instagram, you might have already seen the above picture… this is the cautionary bit of making a teeny terrarium. I managed to drop some of the sugar on the floor and before I could clear it up, the fox-owl-cat gleefully rolled around it, purring like crazy, until she was one very sugar-covered cat! While all I could do was laugh…

photo 14 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Anyway…  as well as the tiny terrariums, I thought it would be good to turn our living room window area into a sort of terrarium too. (I’m not sure if that makes any sense but it did in my head when I thought of it!)

So I bought a few paper balls from a budget-friendly party supplies website

Except my ‘a few’ turned out to equal a lot. And they were bigger than I’d expected…

photo 22 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Which is why some are on the floor as ‘fallen’ snow…

(Also this year’s tree is squint. I’d love to say it’s a deliberate thing but it’s just how he likes to rock!)

photo 23 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And the others are suspended from the ceiling as ‘falling’ snow…

photo 17 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

The main reason for the on the ceiling/on the floor thing is that putting up paper snow balls – using fishing wire which is pretty much invisible – is somewhat trickier than we’d anticipated. Especially when you have a really shaky ladder. (Why are they always so shaky?) And one of you wants to take photos instead of holding the ladder. Ahem.

photo 43 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And on the tree? (Who’s called Eric Nordman – after True Blood’s Eric Northman – and because he’s a Nordman fir. Last year’s was Bruce, the Blue Spruce!) Well, the army men made a comeback

photo 12 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

So along with a whole lot of ceramic stars that we made, there’s a troop of golden army men, guarding our tree!

photo 45 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

photo 33 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Or intent on destroying things on the tree… I can’t quite decide!

Conversation Pieces Blog Christmas 2 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And on our mantlepiece this year, my favourite thing is our Instax photos bunting…

photo 24 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Which is just some little golden pegs, a golden bit of string and a few pics from our travels this year. Simple but possibly one of my favourite crafty things ever.

Conversation Pieces Blog Christmas 4 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And a bit more snow (paper snowflakes this time) above the couch… I did mention I was on a snow theme right?

photo 44 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

And our wedding deer looking a bit festive too… since why not!

photo 31 Christmas is coming... my tiny terrariums and giant paper snow balls

Hope you all have a sugar sweet Christmas! 

And I wanted to say thanks for all your lovely comments, tweets and emails in 2012, you wonderful, brilliant, funny, amazing people. You really are what makes blogging such fun – and why I keep coming back here to share some random little pieces of my life. So, a huge thank you for always putting a smile on my face!

Here’s to an amazing 2013 xxx

Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

8 Dec

photo 2 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

Last Christmas, I mentioned in a blog post that I was working on a book project… and Handmade Christmas it was!

It’s a festive crafty book published by Penguin in the States and Australia. (The downside is that it’s not published – yet – in the UK so I don’t get to hang out in book stores next to a pile of them going “I did that” at random people!)

Anyway, when they got in touch to ask if I would like to contribute to (and get paid for!) the book, I was like hells and yeah!

Then I realised that the deadline for all the crafty projects I would have to create/write about would be just after Christmas… which you know is not the quietest time of year. So in the run-up to last year’s Christmas, I spent lots of time making lots of things that I couldn’t blog about… until now.

They asked me to create, write-up and make the prototypes for 4 Christmas projects… my brief was that they should be fun and funky.

So here… drum roll please… are my 4 projects.
A UK exclusive if you will!

1. A Ho Ho Ho Vintage Plate Wall

IMG 8716 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

I’d had the idea of doing this pre-Christmas – having a plate wall that spelled out ‘Hello’ but never got round to it. Basically this brings together two of my favourite things: vintage plates and washi tape.

photo 11 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

I made two sets. One for me to keep and one for the book (as I didn’t know if I would get them back).

IMG 8715 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

The ones I made for me are actually a bit better than the ones I made for the book – suppose that’s always what happens with your second go!

Instructions:

You need: 6 plates, 2 rolls of washi tape, scissors, a scalpel and something to hang your plates up with.
1. For H’s, cut 6 x 6cm pieces and 3 x 4.5cm pieces of washi tape.
2. Place one 4.5cm section in the middle of plate, then two 6cm pieces on either side to make your ‘H’. Repeat.
3. For O’s, use other colour of washi tape and cut 6 x 5.5cm pieces and 6 x 5cm pieces.
4. Place one 5.5cm piece to the left of the centre of your chosen plate. Then use your 5cm pieces to make a ‘C’ shape. Then use the second 5.5cm piece to turn the C into an O. Repeat.
5. Use a scalpel to trim any edges and tidy up your letters.
6. Attach wall hanging to the back of your plates.

2. A Christmas Pudding Pinata

IMG 8717 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

This is probably my favourite Christmas crafty thing I’ve ever made. As well as the one for the book, I made some for my little cousins for Christmas. Getting the videos of them, smashing them open on Christmas morning, had me in peels of laughter.

IMG 8706 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

It was also one of the craziest projects I’ve made (and I’ve made a whole heap of tiny gingerbread houses before!)… it’s actually the cutting and the sticking down of the tissue paper that takes the most time.

It was worth it though. One of those stick on a Christmas movie, have some mulled wine and get glueing activities!

The only downside is that I was in such a rush to finish these in time for Christmas and the deadline that I didn’t take many photos (what kind of blogger am I?). So I’m tempted to make another this year for that reason alone!

photo 21 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

You need: 40cm round balloon (you can use other sizes); 1 x old newspaper; 20 sheets printer paper (approx); Wallpaper powder paste (from a hardware store); 2 packs of brown crepe paper; 1 pack of white crepe paper; 2 sheets of green crepe paper; 1 sheet of red crepe paper; String (white); Chocolate coins

Tools: Scissors; Paintbrush; Knitting needle or slim screwdriver; Balloon pump (optional); Large cooking or plant pot (optional); Wooden spoon (for breaking your piñata!)

Instructions:
1. Inflate the large balloon, either using a balloon pump or a lot of your own breath!
2. Cut the strips of newspaper to into 3cm wide strips.
3. To keep your balloon from moving about, place it in a large cooking or plant pot.
4. Using a paintbrush, brush the paste onto your strips before applying them to your balloon. Important: Remember to leave a hole at the top of your balloon so you can put your chocolate coins in.
5. Once you’ve completed your first layer, leave to dry. And then repeat until you have three layers.
6. For the fourth layer, use printer paper (it will give you piñata the firmness it needs for getting whacked!)
7. Once your piñata has dried, it should feel rigid. Pop your balloon – keep hold of it so you can pull it out easily.
8. Put the chocolate coins into your piñata.
9. Using the knitting needle, create two holes near the top on either side and put the string through these.
10. Cut some circles of printer paper and use these to seal up the top of your piñata.
11. Cut your brown crepe paper into 4cm strips, fold in half longways and cut into them to make fringing.
12. Starting at the bottom, cover your piñata in fringing.
13. To make the ‘cream’ of your pudding, make some white fringing, extend it down your piñata for a ‘dripping’ cream effect.
14. Cut out holly leaves and stick to your piñata. Cut some circles of red crepe for the berries.

3. Gingerbread Moustaches

IMG 8707 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

So I love moustaches… and I love gingerbread cookies… so this one was a given! The ‘hairy’ ones are my favourite. Also I have no idea why they photographed them upside down for the book. Maybe it’s more arty that way!

You need: 140g unsalted butter; 100g dark muscovado sugar; 6 soup-spoons of golden syrup; 350g plain flour; 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda; 2 teaspoons ground ginger; 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon; Icing sugar (optional); Chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Tools: Scissors; Thin cardboard (best from a cereal box); Tin foil; Rolling pin; Baking trays; Baking paper; Cling film; Scalpel (or butter knife); Saucepan; Spoon or teaspoon

Instructions:

1. Draw moustaches onto thin cardboard. Then cut out. You now have your templates.
2. Wrap in a thin layer of tin foil – so you end up with some silver moustaches. The foil stops your template from sticking to the dough.
3. Put your moustaches to the side and make up your gingerbread mix.
4. Melt your butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. Then in a bowl, mix together your flour, bicarbonate of soda, and spices. Add your melted butter mix to your flour mix, and knead together to make a firm dough.
5. Roll out the dough until it’s about 5mm flat.
6. Press one of your moustache templates into the dough and then cut around your template using either your scalpel or butter knife.
7. Gently lift your moustache from the rest of the dough and place onto the baking paper-lined trays.
8. Bake your moustaches for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Leave your moustaches to cool.
10. To decorate them, mix icing sugar with a little water until you get a smooth consistency. Then with the back of a spoon, apply the icing sugar onto your moustache. Add some chocolate sprinkles on top to give a ‘stubble’ effect!

4. Ceramic Letter Banners

photo 42 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

And finally… I love these. This is one of those ideas you have and then panic about whether it will actually work.

I pitched this to the editor before I’d even done a trial version. Of course it would be easy to make tiny little ceramic letters and then string them together…

IMG 8704 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

Actually it was pretty easy… which as you can imagine was a big relief!

IMG 3783 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

You need: Half a pack of ceramic modeling clay (available at all good art stores); 2m of baker’s twine

Tools: Alphabet metal cookie cutters (available from baking departments); Cling film: Chopping board or cutting mat; Rolling pin: Cocktail stick: Needle: Baking tray

Instructions:
1. Roll out your clay – onto your chopping board – between two layers of cling film until 2mm thick (approx).
2. Peel back the top layer of cling film and you’re ready to start.
3. Select the cutters you want to use… I chose letters that spelt out ‘let it snow’, ‘santa baby’ and ‘merry xmas’.
4. Press your chosen cutters into the clay – just as you would with cookie dough.
5. Remove each letter from the clay and place on a baking tray.
6. Before baking, use a cocktail stick to make holes in your letters. For L’s, I’s and other ‘narrow’ letters, poke the cocktail stick through the side of the letter to make one hole. For bigger letters, like M’s, X’s and S’s, poke the cocktail stick through the front of the letter to create two holes. (This is what you will thread your baker’s twine through.)
7. Bake at high heat for 15 minutes or time/temp specified on clay’s packaging. Allow to cool and set overnight.
8. Taking a needle, thread your baker’s twine through the front of your letters.
9. Leave enough baker’s twine on each side to create a slipknot. (Having a slipknot means you can adjust the loop so it fits on fiddly branches!)

IMG 8703 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

I’d originally planned to put ours on the tree but then remembered I couldn’t blog about them until the book was out (and yeah I pretty much always blog about my Christmas tree, even back in 2009!)… so instead I strung the ones I made for me and put them in our letterpress tray instead.

IMG 40051 e1354971035209 Christmas pudding pinata and other crafty projects by me that are in an actual book!

Which in the end, I loved more than the banner itself!

Anyway, so that’s it. That’s what I was up to last Christmas, every night after work, with Elf on in the background… This year, all my crafty projects are just for us, which is kind of relaxing because if they go wrong (like this one did) then it’s not like there’s a deadline to worry about!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I’m now off to decorate this year’s tree, while watching Elf… some things never change!

A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket-sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

26 Oct

halloween squash  A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

This week, I fell in love… with a sea green squash and some tiny pumpkins.

Now you can probably guess my general tiredness (and sanity) levels lately… by the fact that I went to buy lunch and came back with a ‘slightly (ok, very) more expensive than a pumpkin’ squash. Yes, I was vaguely delirious about the whole purchase – in the way you should only ever be about an expensive pair of shoes or a new camera (please feel free to insert your own item there).

Even carrying it home (it’s not exactly light) didn’t deter me from my new-found obsession…

P1010173 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Thing is… I couldn’t bring myself to carve it! Yes, you know you’ve reached a new level of weirdo when you (a) buy a funny looking squash to carve up and then (b) get too emotionally attached to said squash to actually carve it!

P1010205 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

I mean really it’s the perfect shade of Where The Wild Things Are green! It just seemed mean to do anything to it. Ahem…

P1010239 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Thankfully, we’d bought some pumpkins that I could carve (though does anyone else feel that emptying out pumpkins feels serial killer dark?!) We do take the carving quite seriously – see on the table behind me? There’s a mallet, a power drill, hacksaw etc. Um, yes, that might explain why it seems so dark!

P1010223 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

As well as getting some normal sized pumpkins (and the squash), we also picked up some munchkin pumpkins… possibly the best thing ever (second to the squash of course). Now they’re quite teeny for carving…

P1010291 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

But oh boy are they brilliant! Carve out the middle, stick in a pair of vampire teeth (10p from Asda!), then simply poke two holes in for the eyes (I put the ends of match sticks in so they had a bit more definition here). So easy and how much fun do they do look? Love them!

P1010271 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

So this is our entire pumpkin (and squash) family… a rather handsome set even if I do say so!

P1010191 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

(Um, yeah, this mask has nothing to do with this post… but hey, it’s here anyway. Just in case, you need a small break from pumpkin shaped objects!)

P1010247 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

And oh yes, the dinos… well, that meant we had to have a dino carved into a pumpkin right?

P1010262 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Stegosaurus pumpkin meets plastic Stegosaurus…

P1010264 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

And oh yeah a Polaroid pumpkin… mainly as this seemed an easier shape than carving another dinosaur!

P1010266 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Oh and a New York skyline – partly as it gave me an excuse to use the drill to do all those windows!

P1010268 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Does anyone else see that the Polaroid totally has a face?!

P1010281 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

Ok, this is pretty much the same picture as before – but how cool are the pocket-sized pumpkins? If I had a free day/weekend soon, I would so want to take these guys round town and do a mini photo shoot. (See the soliders/Easter chicks post for what happens to my brain during a ‘holiday’!)

wild thing mini pumpkin 2 A teeny bit Halloweeny (pocket sized pumpkins and a sea green squash)

And just because… doesn’t the munchkin pumpkin make a good Wild Thing?!

I hope you all a lovely/scary/spooky Halloween! (As some of you probably know, Halloween is also pretty much my birthday so I’m taking some time out to do some celebrating/chilling/costuming!)

See you all in November xx (Arrgh! Now that is terrifying!)

 

Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet… the most sugary sweet thing ever)

11 Sep

IMG 7143 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Life lately has been pretty sweet… and not just because I made the biggest batch of tablet ever.

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I have a shiny new exciting job. (And that’s on top of lovely things like the Mollie Makes Japan feature, winning an award for my old job and oh yes my mister getting an ace new job too.)

Anyhoo, all that said, what I really want to share with you is how to make Scottish tablet.

Last time I mentioned tablet on this blog I got a mixture of people craving a fix and people being entirely confused as to what on earth I was talking about.

If you don’t know what tablet is, it looks like fudge but is creamier and more crumbly. (And better.)

Oh yes and it’s made with sugar, condensed milk and butter. (I’m not claiming that this is a healthy treat here.)

Tablet was also my Nana’s favourite sweet. One of my last memories of her is us having sweet tea and some tablet together. And for that alone it will always have an extremely special place in my heart.

IMG 7137 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

So how do you make it? Well, first thing first, most people will tell you that it’s super hard to make.

The first time I made it, it was so easy that I was baffled by that. Then I tried to make a second batch, using a different recipe, and it went so badly wrong that it never even set. (Yes, sad times!)

So for the third batch, we went back to this recipe. That bit that says “Remove all children, pets and clumsy people from the room. They tend not to mix well with vats of boiling sugar”? Wise words!

Also don’t accidentally touch the wooden spoon that you’ve just the mixture with. (Yes I did that. Yes I may have said some very bad words. Yes I had a horrible white numb bit on my finger for a week!)

IMG 7151 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

We did change the recipe a bit so here’s what we did:

2lbs granulated sugar
1/4lb butter
1 cup of soy milk (because we never drink normal milk)
400g tin of condensed milk
Two teaspoons of vanilla essence

Melt the sugar, milk and butter together.
Add the condensed milk when that mixture starts to boil.
Then start stirring…

Now once this starts to boil again,
turn down the heat and keep stirring.
And stirring. And stirring.
And oh yes, more stirring.

We stirred this batch for a full-on 20 minutes until it went a yummy caramel colour.

IMG 7154 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Then you take it off the heat… and guess what?

You stir it some more! (Like the ‘keep swimming’ motto in Finding Nemo but with stirring.)

IMG 7153 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

(Concentrating very hard on the stirring here!
Can you tell I wanted this batch to work?!)

Once the mixture was ready, we poured it – very carefully – into a tray to set. Except that wasn’t enough for me…

Back before our wedding, I’d watched to make tablet hearts for the day. I never got round to it so I was determined to try it now.

So if you want to make shaped tablet…

Basically you have to wait until the mixture has slightly set. If it’s fully set, you won’t be able to cut into it. Ours was just right after watching one episode of New Girl (though you can use your own timing method!).

IMG 7156 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Tip your now set-ish tablet onto a chopping board, choose your cutter and get making hearts…

It should feel almost doughy – like a grainy, warm play-doh!

IMG 7130 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Oh yeah and I made some tablet bunnies too. Just because! (Anything bunny shaped always makes me think of Peonies and Polaroids now. I guess in the same way that people see foxes and think of me!)

IMG 7136 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Next you leave it to set… and then comes the fun bit, trying not to eat it all yourself!

I’d originally meant to make this batch when our friends were over from Norway and my sister was back from London, but yes we left it too late and ended up making it just for us!

So that’s my final tip: wait until you have a reason to make this, or you’ll soon realise you’ve just eaten 1lb granulated sugar, 1/8 butter and 200g of condensed milk in hardly any time at all.

IMG 7141 Life is sweet (or how to make Scottish tablet... the most sugary sweet thing ever)

Maybe I need to start blogging healthy, veggie recipes instead?

(I promise I don’t just eat sugar!)

 

It’s nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)

26 Jun

Zoe Conversation Piece Nice Biscuits Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)
So… I have so much to blog about right now
that I’m managing not to blog about anything!

(Yup, that’s Zoë logic for you!)

So to get me back in the swing of things,
how about some baking?

******

When we were in Japan, I got lots
of nice baking and ‘cooking’ stuff.

One of those things was a wordy biscuit kit.
(I’m sure that the exact translation!)

Zoe Conversation Pieces Biscuit CakeLand Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)

Since we got home, I’ve been waiting
for an excuse to actually use it…

(Does anyone else ever do that?
Buy themselves something nice
and then not allow themselves to use it?)

So on Sunday I thought wouldn’t it be nice
to bake some biscuits… for us. For no reason at all.

Zoe Conversation Pieces 011 Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)

The biscuit on the front of the pack reminded me
of Nice biscuits.. which reminded me of
my recently re-found ‘It’s Nice To Be Nice’
print by Hazel Nicholls

And so I made ‘It’s Nice To Be Nice’ biscuits!

(See all those letters… they had to be individually
taken apart. My thumbs were really raw afterwards!)

Zoe Conversation Pieces 009 Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things) By the time I finished, I kept reading
this as “It’s nice to be mice”!

(Also it’s much harder to put letters backwards
into a holder to stamp on dough than I realised…
there were a few outtakes where the words
are round the wrong way!)

Zoe Conversation Pieces Nice Print NIce Biscuit Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)

If you fancy making NICE biscuits,
the recipe we went with was:

100gm flour
40gm butter
1/4 tsp baking powder
50gm powder sugar
40gm desiccated coconut
8 teaspoons of water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 almond extract
sugar to sprinkle on top

Mix everything together to make a dough.
Roll out dough onto baking paper.
Put in the fridge for a few hours to firm up.
Then use a cutter to make biscuit shapes.
Bake until golden brown. Then add sugar on top.
Wait patiently to cool a bit before eating!

*******

So I said we also bought ‘cooking’ stuff?
That means sushi kits and some other random things…

Remember the perfect little pocket sandwiches
we ate in Japan? (They were number ’10 in my
10 things I love about Tokyo’!)
Well, we got a kit to make those too.

Zoe Conversation Pieces Japan Pressed Sandwich Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)

My other half has been making peanut butter and jam ones so far.
I may need to conduct some more ‘research’ into other
combinations soon… chocolate and banana maybe?

Zoe Conversation Pieces Japan Pressed Sandwich 1 Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)

Oh and perhaps the craziest kitchen item we bought?

A bunny mould for boiled eggs!

Zoe Conversation Pieces Bunny Egg Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things) I can never quite decide if these are cute
or just completely freaky… they’re
good fun to make though!

*******

Until next time… which hopefully won’t be
as long this time! (If you follow me on twitter
or instagram, you probably already know
there’s a future Barcelona post brewing!)

pixel Its nice to be nice biscuits (and other nice things)
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