Friday, 30 April 2010

May Day Mayday

"To sleep, perchance to dream." See, I'm going all Shakespearian on you.  Well, hardly, but that has truly been the motto for today. The Little Miss has been sleeping so badly, waking up multiple times a night, that on top of my other already existing sleep issues I am now starting to resemble a panda eyed zombie. And the only 'designer bags' ever to be found in this household are indeed under my eyes. But enough whining. Tomorrow we're heading for the May Day celebration at the local Waldorf Steiner School and Kindergarten where Little Miss will be going for a couple of hours a week next autumn. Here is also a nice article on the Guardian website about the Steiner schools. Will be posting more about that later. Today though, I was hoping to get some pattern drawing done. The Little Miss also loves drawing patterns. And on the patterns. Whoops. Never mind. Makes for some truly interesting designs, that does.

I'm still waiting for the 1950's dress pattern to arrive, and meanwhile I've been lucky enough to find somebody who is willing to draw me a copy of this Advance 1940's pattern. I doubt though that the size will fit me, since even though there is the ruching and quite a lot of ease in the bodice, I'm pretty sure I will have to do a full bust adjustment on it. And maybe a, ahem, full waist adjustment as well. Should probably do a toile first and not just jump in head first as is my unfortunate habit when doing my own clothing. But I just can't wait. Patience is a virtue I sorely lack.

So, two lovely patterns are on their way now. Fantastic. It's actually been a while since I've been sewing anything for myself. I believe it's been almost a year. So, seriously time to blow the dust off the sewing machine and get going. The first sewing machine I owned was 1980's Singer of my mother's, which I still love. It's a very sturdy machine and as I was sewing a lot in the 1990's I know from experience that there is no fabric that machine couldn't handle. It still works too, if you don't consider a screwdriver stuck in the tension assembly a hindrance. :)

Then about five years ago I decided to upgrade (or so I thought) and bought a shiny new Brother machine. Now, I have nothing against Brother as a brand in general, but the machine I ended up purchasing is just flimsy, flimsy, flimsy. It's just so plastic. It shakes. It shivers. It has let me down a countless of times. And so, the search for the perfect replacement of the Screwdriver Singer continues. About a year or so ago the Husband bought me a genuinely old Singer that undoubtedly has it's flaws but is certainly not plastic. This thing weighs a ton. Am still getting to grips with it, but so far it would seem like this one just might be The One. 

 See, no plastic here. None. And it came with a bunch of different feet and all sorts of other stuff that I am now trying to identify. But the point is, this machine was made for making the kind of garments I now want to make. Sure, a serger has it's place, but don't you just love the idea of sewing with a machine like this?
So, tomorrow is May Day which is a holiday here. Today we're going to the nearby Grandparents to enjoy some home made traditional mead and doughnuts. My contribution to today's sugarfest (you have no idea how much sugar there is in the mead), are these. 

Jammy Doughnut Muffins found at the lovely Baking Cakes Galore . As you can see, mine don't quite look like the originals. No surprises there, huh. But I think they more than make up for it in the taste department. The dough is quite different from what I'm used to dealing with and I think I might have left it a bit too soft since the jam decided to descend to the bottom. But you can't really see that until you're halfway through the muffin anyway and I'm counting on the taste having wooed the folks by then. They were such a sweet, jammy treat when warm that I am sure they will be appreciated even after having cooled down.

And yes, I hear you. Mead? What is that? Is she going all Shakespearian on us again? Well, no, not really. What we're talking about is a traditional May Day drink around here. And though it might have been quite a potent alcoholic beverage in the time of Taliesin, the modern version is completely non-alcoholic and therefore safe for children and pregnant women alike. Here is the Grandmother's tried and tested way of making it.

Take half a kilo (or around 1 pound) of fine, white sugar and the same amount of brown sugar. Pour in a big, plastic bucket. Then take around 0.2 cup of treacle syrup and pour on top of the sugar. Peel two lemons. Be careful to remove all of the white 'rim' both from the peel and from the top of the actual lemon. If any of the white part ends up in the drink, it will add a bitter taste. Add the peel and chopped up lemons on the sugar mixture. Boil about 8 liters of water and pour in the bucket. Let cool until it reaches a hand-temperature, and drop in about a pea-sized nugget of live yeast. Or even slightly less than that. Keep in a room temperature for 7-8 hours. Sieve and bottle. Add some raisins in each bottle and store in the fridge or other cool place for two to three days or until the raisins have risen to the top. That means the mead is ready to drink. It doesn't keep well for long though, around day 5 or 6 it will start developing a yeasty smell and taste, which is a sign for you that it is starting to get 'overcooked'. This is a really sweet yet, thanks to the lemons, very refreshing drink that is best served cold. Goes fantastically with warm doughnuts.

As you can see, the timeline on this post is, ahem, slightly strange. I have been unable to upload pictures for days thanks to some mishap in the Blogger system which they said was ' affecting a small subset of users' and of course I just had to be one of those said users. I hope they've now gotten this annoying problem fixed for good.

Ah well, as Emily Dickinson said: 
        " A little madness in the spring is wholesome even for a queen." 


Monday, 26 April 2010

My oh My, It's My Birthday

At what point are we supposed to start not wanting to grow older anymore? Twenty? Forty? Sixty? I couldn't answer that, since I've honestly never really given my age that much thought. Sure, I am not actually delighted at the inevitability of the toll the gravity is taking on my body. I notice that scars take longer to heal, which means that I no longer have the supple, quickly self-renewing skin of the young. Note to my dear dermatologist. The biopsy sites you said would leave no scars? Well there are now two huge craters on my cheek to top off the ongoing butterfly rash. Cute. I have wrinkles. Of course I do. Show me a person nearing forty with none and I'll show you a person with a close personal relationship with Botox and Restylane. But should I be having a major crisis because of this? Because of a set of numbers? Because of some grooves that have found their way on my face?

On the contrary. The older I get the more free I feel. I used to actually actively want to be forty or fifty, or seventy for that matter. And while I no longer actually wish I was older, simply because of the health issues it now implies for me, I am also certainly not bothered by my ever increasing number of years. I also don't think I look younger than I am. And I don't feel that I should. I haven't been asked for my ID when buying alcohol since, well, when I actually should not have been doing that in the first place. I know of some contemporaries of mine who still get 'carded'. Good for them, I guess. I, on the other hand, would absolutely adore to be more like the truly old grannies who just do as they please, dress as they see fit and don't give a hoot about what anyone might think of them. And yes, maybe to some these lovely ladies don't even really exist, they're invisible. Flying just too low on the radar. After all, you hear about it all the time now. How women say that when they get older they start feeling more 'invisible'. Well now. How I feel about that depends wholly on what kind of attention we are talking about being invisible from. Don't really necessarily see the problem there.

And of course, there's always the rest of my life to spend arranging flowers. 

So, it's my birthday. My 37th birthday. And because it's a birthday it would call for a cake. I wanted to make an MMF covered daisy cake. Just as I wanted to make MMF covered cupcakes. So I went hunting for white marshmallows. Mission failed. They are nowhere to be found. You see, this really is a veeeery small town. And as I'm not a big fan of marzipan I am postponing my future dalliances with MMF and other rolled fondant type cake coverings until I can get my hands on some white fluffies. But something had to be done surely. The sun was shining. The lemons were beckoning from the kitchen table, and there was some whipping cream waiting to go sour in the fridge. So, Sunny Lemon Cupcakes it was.

I used this Lemon Cupcake Recipe to make the base. When the cakes were done, I carved out a dome shaped portion from the top, and poured some vanilla custard in the hollow. You can either make the custard from scratch like here or cheat as I did and mix it from custard powder. You might have to try a few powdered forms first, though, as some have a decidedly horrendous metallic taste to them. Then back go the tops and some whipped cream on top of everything. Add some candy sprinkles and you're done. These were t-r-u-l-y delicious. I took some to my Sister who lives nearby, as well as the Grandparents near here, and they were a unanimous success. As for my Brother who wasn't home to receive his, you don't know what you were missing.Yay. 


So, to finally end this birthday musing, I go with a not-so-high-literature poem. And though it talks about old age not being kind, I think it is still a fitting way to end this post. After all, if you think about it, what age is, kind I mean. Waste your days doing the things you love. Being with the people you love. In the flesh or in the spirit. It's really all that matters. And this way, in the end, you can say that it was a life spent well living. See, I'm getting all mushy here. Love you all. :)

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
to paint a picture, or write a letter,
bake a cake, or plant a seed.
Ponder the difference between want and need.

Dust if you must, but there is not much time,
with rivers to swim and mountains to climb!
Music to hear, and books to read,
friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there
with the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
a flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
this day will not come round again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go, and go you must,
you, yourself, will make more dust!

Remember, a house becomes a home when you can write
“I love you” on the furniture…..

by Rose Milligan 

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Little Scraps and a Big Deal

I'm a one proud Mama. This here is our Daughter and what she is holding in her hands is a piece of paper with some scrapbooking letters on it. I gave them to her in a pile because she wanted to have the letters that were in her name. Obviously I was not expecting her to be able to put them in correct order, but that she did. Completely by herself she glued the letters in a right order on her piece of paper. She is three. Yes, very proud indeed. :)

 But to the business. I don't really do scrapbooking. Well I did when I was much younger, but scrapbooking then and scrapbooking now are really two different life forms. So for a while I've just been staring admiringly at the different kinds of paper sheets for scrapbookers available in one of the local art stores. And wondering what I myself could make of them. 
And as it happens, I have also been staring at my ever increasing pile of recipe clippings in the kitchen cupboards wondering what I myself could, indeed, do with them. I didn't want a folder. I've tried a notebook and immediately run out of space. Maybe a box would do. But all the recipe boxes being sold are practically miniature for my purposes so what else was there to do but make one myself. 
At first I thought I would use a shoe box. But the Husband used the last available free shoe box in the house to make it into a house for tiny toy creatures for the Daughter. So, I also bought brown cardboard and using the now-toy-house-shoe-box as a template, made a box just like it. Then I used the dotty scrapbooking paper by BoBunny, letters by Graphic45 and some soft white drawing paper to cover the box with.

The box ended up looking like this. I run out of paper glue. The Daughter sure likes gluing things together. Had to do some creative cutting as was in danger of running out of spotty paper. And I'm not going to show you the insides as I'm still to glue, or write, the recipes on cards. But I'm quite happy with the end result. At least I can now hide the pile of cutouts in there. Mission accomplished.

 And the car you see peeking in there? The Husband got his hands on some broken down old toys and managed to fix these cars so now him and the Little Miss can race around the house with their remote controlled little racing cars. For Little Miss though, the best part seems to be the crashes as the little men inside the cars pop out whenever the car bumps into something. Oh well. 

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Mellow with Mac 'n Cheese

Comfort food. Everybody has one. Or two or three. Or as in my case, many. One of them, however, is Macaroni and Cheese. Sorry, not the Kraft kind, though. Slightly too, hmmm, alarming shade of orangey yellow that is, for my taste. And I'm generally not one for the metallic industrialized taste either. And while I'm fully aware that for some people, French mustard or 'strange' cheeses have no place in this dish, I say don't knock it until you've tried it. So here goes.
Take some tomatoes. I know, now you're asking 'What do tomatoes have to do in Mac 'n Cheese?' Well, unless you're eating yours straight from the saucepan, it makes a nice change to cover your dish with oven roasted tomatoes. So, take the tomatoes and cut into thick slices. Spread on a dish, pour on some olive oil. Sprinkle some salt and freshly ground pepper, add some herbs if you wish and stick in the oven at around 200C for 20 mins. 

 While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare the mac 'n cheese. Cook the macaroni in a separate pan. Chop one onion. Yes, yes, I hear you. But I like onions, in everything. If you don't, just skip this. Melt about 150 grams of butter in a thick bottomed saucepan, and when the butter is melted, add flour while whisking it with a hand whisk to avoid lumps and bumps in your sauce. Use enough flour to get a thick consistency. Next, add slightly less than a liter of milk. By the way, this makes rather a large pot of sauce, feel free to divide the amounts. Let simmer on slow heat. Add a smidgen of salt and white pepper, and around two teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Trust me. It works. While the sauce is simmering, start adding the cheese. I use a mixture of whatever happens to be in the fridge. Cheddar is lovely, smoked cheddar even better. Emmenthal works well, as does gruyere. Mozzarella makes for a creamy, dreamy sauce but has a very mild flavor so use only as a part of a mixture. When the cheese has melted pour the sauce on the mac and mix well.

Take the tomatoes out from the oven and transfer on top of the macaroni and cheese. Put back in the oven for about 10 minutes. Enjoy. And as I said before, you can leave out the tomato part and the putting in the oven part and just serve, or even eat, straight from the saucepan. Lovely either way.

I know, mine could've used a little less oven time. :) 

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Life and Lollipops

I've been off for a couple of days. It would seem like this big bad thing has really gained some new vigor from the coming of the spring, or from something else altogether. I don't know from what or from where. At times I actually find it quite frightening, the unpredictability and what I feel like the devious nature of this condition. And after all, this whole thing is still so new to me that I don't yet know what will trigger a flare and what won't, and to top it off I'm also having serious problems with accepting the restrictions all this is setting on me. I'm just not that big on restrictions. Today I saw a nurse in the health care center. And we ended up talking about, of all things, blogging. Oh for sure we talked about much more serious issues as well, but she was indeed curious about this blog of mine. And in the end she said she thought it was good that this blog was about more than just 'hospital files' because after all, life is more than 'hospital files'.  Life goes on all around me, all the time, even though on some days it seems to me that all I can think of is ANA titers or anti-Smith antibodies or something along those lines. And that has really been the case for the past few days. I have been so preoccupied with illness related issues that when I baked an angel food cake it came out more like an oven baked vanilla flavored egg white omelet in a cake pan. The sauce I made for the dinner yesterday ended up being inedible since I paid absolutely no attention whatsoever to the salt I poured in it, or the pepper, or the mustard for that matter. The house is a mess. Big time. There is so much un-sorted-through laundry waiting to be ironed and put away that it's a wonder there is anything in the clothes cupboards at all. I have not so much given as taken myself a break.

 But I promise, tomorrow I shall bake cupcakes. I have been wanting to make MMF covered cupcakes for a long time. Pale blue with little flowers and something nice for the filling. Hmmm, we'll see. But for now, seeing as I am already talking about MMF, here come the Lollipops. I made a batch of these for the Daughter's birthday and as some managed to survive we ate them even a week later. They keep since they're frozen. So, they act as a sort of ice-cream as well. One multitasking lollipop. First, MMF. Marshmallow fondant. You can find many tutorials online for making it , but it really is very simple. I used one bag of pastel colored marshmallows. When the colors blended the end result was a sort of salmony hue which I made stronger by adding some pink gel paste food coloring. If you want your pops to be a certain color, and are not prepared to do some serious chemical experimenting, use white marshmallows. Put the marshmallow in a microwaveable dish and microwave for about two minutes. The time, however, depends on your oven. Check every minute or so. When the marshmallows are melted, take out and whisk with a spoon. At this point I poured the melted mixture into a 'kitchenaid' machine bowl, simply because my wrists don't allow me to do any heavy hand mixing. Add powdered sugar while you're mixing until you reach a 'doughy' consistency. At this point you can also add the coloring.

After the dough was done I took it out, gave it a bit of hand kneading, wrapped it carefully in cling film and put it overnight in the fridge. Next day took the dough out, made it into little balls and stuck a lollipop stick into each one. Stood them in tea mugs and put in the freezer. The day before the party I took them out and made little holes on a half of an egg carton, and put the pops standing in the holes. Melted some milk chocolate, dipped each pop in the chocolate and after that in a plate of nonpareil candy. Transferring the pops back into the freezer is also relatively easy on their egg-carton stand, even with the chocolate still being all gooey. 

Here are some snippets of the other party munchies. I will be posting how-tos ASAP.


Sunday, 18 April 2010

Old and New Around the House

Vintage. Retro. Or just plain old. Whatever really, as long as it holds a story to it. Most of the toys our Daughter has are second hand. I would prefer for all of our furniture to be of the battered, old type. And one of the biggest loves of my life are old, dogeared books. If it has the name, or names, of the previous owner on the front page, all the better. Sleek, modern lines have no place in this home. 

Today was a gray, gray day. Again. So I went around the house and photographed bits and pieces that caught my eye. Mind you, I'm not a photographer, really, so pardon the weird quality of the pictures. 

Another flea-market find, a basket bag. And a vintage brooch from a weirdest little shop kept by a, well, slightly, ahemmm, eccentric Lady who holds on to her merchandise dating to the early 1960's with such a vigour that the shop is filled from floor to the ceiling with all sorts of vintage goodies to do with beauty. Last time I dropped by she told me that she prefers to sell only to such customers as she sees are the 'real' kind. I never quite figured out what she meant by that but she seems to be happy to sell to me and comes up with all sorts of hidden little gems for me as well so whatever it means, suits me. 


This is I guess a sugar and salt dish from Portugal, from the Husband's family. Meaning that I guess it's for sugar and salt, the rest I know for a fact. We've been moving house, and country, for so many times that the Husband is terrified of pieces like this getting lost. Not to worry, though, this is exactly the sort of thing I like to fill my home with. Basically rather useless but terrifyingly beautiful things that are a horror to keep clean but stop me in my tracks multiple times a day just to pause and look at them. And think. Of the past. And the future.

 I could hardly be described as androgynous. Ok, even I have to laugh now, that must be the understatement of the year. Enough said. These sweet little vintage earrings are from Luxembourg. Most likely originally from France, but that's where I bought them from. The only problem with them, as with any other piece of vintage bijou not made of gold or silver is that I am allergic to them. Before, I could use most pieces if I kept the contact with the skin brief, but now even that is not possible. Sigh. So the youngest Sister keeps receiving pieces of costume jewelery that I just couldn't resist but then can not wear. These earrings I will keep though. First, they are too 'pretty' for her, and second, I am planning on covering the part that actually touches the ear with something.

 The rare stuff on the bookshelves that is actually anything other than books. And, as you can see, some of this stuff is, well, books too. The picture on the back is of the Husband's family long gone. And on top of the books is his old compass. I think that if he could be anywhere in the world it would be anywhere in the world on a sailboat. On the other hand, I can't sail and get terribly sea sick even on a rowboat, so the little bits on top of the book on chivalry belong to me and are connected to an entirely more sedate activity. Those are my vintagey thread cutter and needle holder. Although I guess one could sew on a sailboat too....

And here we have the old and the new. Drawings and other handicrafts by our Daughter share space with vintage postcards and I believe there is a picture of me blowing out birthday candles. There are four candles on that cake, so trust me, that picture is vintage indeed.

Today I leave you with this. It means yes. This and a plethora of other lovely thingies were purchased in a tiny shop in Porto called Casa de Lo. The last I checked they don't have a website but if you happen to be in Porto, be sure to drop by. Besides stationery they also sell all sorts of old-fashioned sweets and delicacies as well as the delightful Pao de Lo cake. The address is Travessa de Cedofeita, no 20, a tiny side street where there is also a nice antiques shop that you could easily spend a day and a fortune in.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Bouncy Buns

Tomorrow we're heading for the countryside. The real countryside. The middle of nowhere. The truly 'out there'. Two moms and three kids, one of them still in his comfort cocoon of my friend's belly.  And a one not-really-terribly-reliable car. Should be fun. Actually we're going to visit an old friend of ours we haven't seen properly for a long, long time. And she just happens to live in an old school in the middle of nowhere with her husband, her two lovely children and about a hundred dogs. Take the wellies, she said. So, wellies. Check. Change of dry clothes. Check. For me too. Check. Emergency lights. Just kidding. But I did just realize that we had run out of bread. No sandwiches, then. No sandwiches in the Little Miss's Hello Kitty picnic box. Eeeek. Not good. For a trip like this, sandwiches are a necessity. So out with the flour and yeast. The bowls and spoons.

You see, for what feels like forever I have been trying and trying to make bread that could not also duplicate as a serious war weaponry. I've been through countless of recipes, read countless of books, to no avail. This particular book I actually bought in the hopes of becoming, well, a sort of frenchy bread maker. Snigger. The book is nice, though, but I really thought I was a lost cause when it came to baking bread. So I gave up. And all this while my Mother had been dropping hints about what I should maybe try to do, that just maybe I could use that instead of this and raise the dough like this instead of like that. Did I listen? What do you think? Until one day that I just decided to give it a one more go. The way my Mother does it. And you guessed it. Happy happy joy joy. The perfect fluffy bread. The loveliest bouncy buns. Ever since I have been baking bread almost every day. Not kidding this time.

This is how it goes. Take some live yeast and crumble it on the bottom of a bowl. Add some warm water, test the temperature with your hand, if it feels hotter than your hand it's too hot. Pour a little bit on the yeast. Add a sprinkle of sugar. Let stand for about 5 minutes until you can see that there is some 'action' going on in there with the yeast. Add more water. And some salt. Then start adding the flour. First, I use a wooden spoon and then my hand. When the dough is of a desired consistency, pour it on a working surface that you have sprinkled some flour on. Start kneading. Throw the dough down a couple of times. " You have two hands. Use them both" says my Mother. After a while of kneading, I make a little cave in the middle of the dough and pour some olive oil in it. This is my addition. I just happen to like bread with olive oil. And then, more kneading. 

Next, put a baking sheet on an oven tray and make any bread shape you wish. Round ones, loaves, buns, whatever. Lift the bread on the sheet, cover with a linen towel and let rise in a warm space until it seems to have doubled it's size. Stick in the oven. I use 240C , the time spent in the oven depending on the shape and size of the bread. The bread is done when you knock the bottom and hear a hollowish sound. 

As you see, there are no exact measurements, no specific times, no science. As my Mother had kept saying to me, instead you pay attention to how the dough feels like, how it's behaving, how it smells like. And you will learn. I doubt I will ever quite be the baking whiz my Mother is, but she gave me the nicest of compliments just the other day by asking my Daughter to " Come taste this bread your Mommy made, it tastes almost like mine. " What can I say? Listen to your Mother, people. :)

 Can you tell it's heading straight to my mouth?

Oh, and did I forget to mention that my Mother is actually a real life professional baker....?

And the picture of the Earth Mama on top is from a bag of mine by Dogeared. 

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Fluffy Felt Flowers

It's been one of those days. You wake up too tired from a night spent sleeping badly because it seems that every bone and joint in your body aches. You're too exhausted at seven thirty in the morning to walk to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of coffee. All you really , really want is to take a bucketful of painkillers and go back to bed. But of course you can't and you won't, there is a smiling three year old covering your face in wet kisses, wanting to play turtles with you. And you decide that works just fine, you'll just pretend to be a three hundred year old turtle since you're already moving like one and she can be a happy little turtle girl hopping and skipping away. Making the best of waking up with a chronic illness, this is. And since it seems that either the sun or the changing of the seasons, or the stress or who knows what is once again threatening my fragile equilibrium with this disease, today just had to be a veeery slooooow day. A three hundred years old turtle kind of day.
So, what to do. Puzzles? Books? Building blocks? Learning to sew? Yes. That's it. Hand sewing. After all, the Little Miss is always wanting to take part and 'help' whenever she sees her Mommy doing any crafty thingies.  A piece of felt, some thread and a needle and there we go. And while the co-ordination, or patience, of a spirited three year old is not exactly suited to any actual embroidery, we did in the end manage to get one pearl and a piece of ribbon attached to a slip of felt. And she was so proud. :)
A blanket for a doll. She decided. And proceeded to build a house for her dolls from the building blocks while I continued with my head in the felt basket ending up with a bunch of pastel colored, fuzzy little felt flowers. You see, the Little Miss received a lovely pink trench coat from Portugal a while ago, and while the coat as it is is really lovely, I have been feeling that there was a little something missing. Something to give it a little bit of personality. To more suit it's owner. And here we have it. Lovely fuzzy felt flower brooches. 
First, I drew some free-hand flowers on the felt and cut them off. Then I just cut some dot shapes as well in different sizes to use in the middle of the flowers. I guess it would be possible to glue the layers together but I chose to sew them together, at least that way they would be less likely to fall apart. I also sewed some tiny seed pearls to form the centers and to decorate the petals. As you can see there are also very simple embroidery stitches that I used to give some shape to the petals and the centers. I was pretty much just improvising as I went along, with no clear idea in my mind but they ended up being rather cute, I think.
 There is one thing I want to mention though. My 'Thread Heaven'. On the box it says thread conditioner and protectant, and I am sure it does both of those, but to me what it really 'protects and conditions' is my nerves. It keeps the thread from unraveling or tangling or doing many of those things that are simply infuriating when you're hand sewing. I also find it much easier to thread a needle if I have used some Thread Heaven on the thread first. If you want more information about it you can find it here
 And here is the end result. A bunch of little pastel flowers. Cute as anything. I think only one will end up on her coat though, and the rest? Hmmm. I am sure I can figure out something. :)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sunflower Cake

So, more sunflowers! The ones the Little Miss planted have already started sprouting greenery, which means that my makeshift greenhouses seem to work, and here is another sunny bit to brighten your day. I might have said it before, but if I haven't, here it is. We like cakes. Ever since we were little our Mother, now the Grandmother, has made us the loveliest birthday cakes, and somehow both of my sisters, and our Big Brother, ended up as the craftiest cake makers. Maybe it was by some strange sort of osmosis, or maybe they just paid more attention than I did, but it is only very recently that I myself have begun my experiments in the cake world. Still a long way to go, but I'm getting there. No hurry. Here, however, is a Sunflower Cake made by our Middle Sister for her spouse. 

The cake itself is a basic sponge she made according to the oldest sponge recipe we know, where this recipe came from I'm not sure, but most likely it is the same one the Grandmother has been using all these years for our own childhood cakes.  This means that you simply take equal amounts of eggs, flour and sugar with the addition of 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Whisk the eggs and sugar, fold in the flour and baking powder and you're done. For the filling she used strawberry jam plus some extra added strawberries, sliced banana and a mixture of whipped cream and quark, flavored with a little bit of sugar and vanilla extract. The cake was then covered with whipped cream spread with a spatula. The flower is made from pre-dyed yellow marzipan, and the center is a chocolate Noblesse cookie. Finally she split some chocolate easter eggs in half and placed them on the sides and on top of the cake. The little flower buds on the right are made of whole chocolate eggs with yellow marzipan for the flower part. Lovely.

Monday, 12 April 2010

'I Want to Grow a Sunflower, Mommy'

I believe we can now officially say the spring is here. After all, the sun has been shining for two whole days so that must count for spring here. Right? Well, even though there might still be snowy patches on the ground, the time has come to dig out the seed catalogs and start brushing off the potting bits. Before, however, I start on the growing of the seedlings to plant on the veggie patch come summer though, it was finally time for the Little Miss to plant the sunflower seeds she chose herself in the store a while ago. She also insisted on choosing some pink flowers, pink being the color of the moment, and I think some ended up with the sunflower seeds in the pots so I guess we'll have little pink flowers growing with the huge sunflowers. I hope we will. It sounds nice.

The Little Miss didn't want to start growing her seedlings in the plastic green miniature hothouse so we chose some tiny clay pots as homes for her flowers. And she did the whole planting business herself, I was just hovering around taking photographs. :) I wanted the future little flowers to have some kind of hothousey thing though, so I ended up improvising with some barbecue sticks, plastic bags and string. We'll see how that works. So far so good, seems to keep the humidity well. It certainly looks nicer than the green plastic ones. Now we just wait for the first green sprouts and the Little Miss runs to the windowsill at least twice a day ' just to check if the flowers are growing'.