Thursday, 20 September 2012

Rose Garden Tea Cosy

This blog post has been a rather long time in the writing - but needs to posted before I finish my current tea cosy that I am working on!  After finding that I can actually knit (my mum tried to teach me on so many occasions when I was little and I just couldn't get the hang of it!) I trawled the internet for some free tea cosy patterns to get me started.  I've decided that tea cosies are the best thing to knit - firstly I have HUGE collection of ALB teapots of all different shapes and sizes that need their own individual tea cosy when used and secondly you can see results rather quickly and therefore I won't loose interest, or get disheartened when I find a mistake.

I found this rather wonderful blog from the 'Queen of Tea Cosies' where Loani Prior designs and knits the most amazingly weird yet beautiful tea cosies.  She has various books and this Rose Garden Tea Cosy is adapted from one of them.  I fell in love with the design of this tea cosy before looking at the pattern - when I did I found that would have learn the how to knit on two pairs of circular needles.  It wasn't as scary as it sounds and there are loads of great videos on YouTube showing you how it is done.  This was also the first time that I have knitted a lining for my tea cosy - feels like its adding unnecessary time to the knit, but definitely worth it - the tea stays hotter for longer and the cosy has some structure to it!

After the knitting the green basket-weave cosy I started on the flowers.  The roses are really easy to knit up - yet my lack of crochet skills meant I just couldn't make the rest of the flowers - hence a rose only garden!  Then I started on the leaves, using another new method 'magic loop' knitting (again look for instructional videos on YouTube - it's an easy method once you've seen it done and much better than knitting on double pointed needles!).  I'm not sure whether I was doing something wrong or there was a typo in the pattern, but I just couldn't get the right amount of stitches on my needles.  After a few tries I decided that I would needle felt the leaves instead.  I'd forgotten how therapeutic it is stabbing a bit of fluff until it makes the shape you want!!

After this it was time for construction and sewing on of my roses and leaves.  I was rather pleased with the final tea cosy - however, it has taken a bit of stretching as I hadn't quite got the hang of 'cast off loosely'  meaning its a bit of tight squeeze to get the tea cosy on the teapot - a bit of delicate operation when the teapot is full of hot tea!!

You might like to see the other tea cosies that I have knitted here and here.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

White Tin Loaf & Carrot and Walnut Cupcakes

As the next two weeks are going to be rather hectic finishing my PhD and doing all the time consuming things like printing and binding, I decided to have Sunday off and spend the day baking.  I had to use the fabulous new bread book from Paul Hollywood, that had been in my bed time reading pile for ages (I'm not the only one who reads cookery books before bed am I?).

After my rather successful attempt (if I do say so myself) of the 8 plaited loaf, I decided to go back to basics and try a white tin loaf.  This time I had my scales so could measure the tiny amounts accurately - I thought! - somehow the salt I was using was very light and I ended up putting in a huge amount.  I did question this at the time, but thought, no follow the recipe and believe your scales.  Big mistake - my sandwiches today were rather salty.

Then I had issues with the dough taking ages to rise - even with putting it a warm airing cupboard.  In the end I left it on top of the oven which was heating up to cook it! After a bit of googling today I found this fab site that suggested that I hadn't kneaded my dough for long enough and therefore there wasn't enough gluten in the dough.  I am going to have to invest in a stronger pair of arms!

First attempt at the White Tin Loaf 
So although the photo of bread looks rather splendid it didn't make my lunchbox as scrummy as I had hoped!  Lots of things learnt for my next attempt though.

Second attempt at the White Tin Loaf!
Thankfully the Carrot and Walnut cupcakes that I made were delicious.  They were adapted from Rachel Allen's 'Bake' - well I say adapted, they were supposed to be a tray bake and I put them in muffin cases.  The cream cheese frosting is amazing, really light.  I shall be putting these on the make again list and I personally count them as one of my five a day - I grated a huge pile of carrots for these cakes, something my guinea-pig was not impressed to find they were not for him!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Paralympic Closing Ceremony T-Shirts

In the great lottery that was applying for London 2012 tickets, my boyfriend did rather well and we went to see various events at both the Olympics and the Paralympics.  Then to put the cherry on top of our experience we also had Paralympic Closing Ceremony tickets - I decided that this called for special T-Shirts to celebrate.  Over the course of London 2012, we'd got rather into pin collecting - after PB had managed to get his hands on a closing ceremony pin, I decided to use it as my inspiration.

I decided that on the back should be a cauldron, as it was so beautiful. I made this by using ribbon for the stalks and then felt petals, with plenty of glitter glue to make things sparkle.  Although it took longer I sewed everything on, as I felt that would be easier that trying to glue - had tot be careful that I didn't sew both sides together - there were a few near misses!

Then for the front I used fabric paint for the stadium, ribbons sewn on, stars glued on and glitter glue musical notes.  The 2012 logo, I cut out of felt and glued on - glad I made effort to do the extra little bits of colour, as it really made it stand out.  The mascots were on there by pure chance, after popping into The Entertainer I found they were having a 70% and buy one get one free - therefore I could get two key rings for each Tshirt.  They we a bit on the fat side though, so I performed mascot surgery and took most of the stuffing out, therefore they would lie flat when sewn on.

And here are the finished T-shirts - we got quite a few comments and even some requests to take pictures of them!  

Friday, 14 September 2012

GBBO Week Three - Treacle Tart

Okay so I'm rather behind on this post - I blame trying to finish my PhD thesis ready for submission at the end of September and spending my weekends at the Paralympics!

The recipe can be found in the current GBBO Showstoppers book - it's a bit different to other treacle tart recipes that I have made before, as it contains lemon juice and rind.  I really like this addition as it meant that the tart wasn't as sweet as it usually is.

I made my own pastry - although did't leave it in the fridge to chill for long enough, so it kept breaking up.  I also only had just enough left over to do the lattice.  The recipe is very simple, melt the golden syrup, add the lemon juice and rind and then a mountain of breadcrumbs!  I had to use slightly more than the recipe suggested, but then I was using Kingsmill bread - I guess if you used a fresh loaf, you would need less.

The lattice I wove together whilst on top of some grease-proof paper, then I could flip it over onto the top of the tart and adjust as necessary! I shall make all my treacle tart with this additional decoration - really makes it look like a tea-time pudding - especially with a dollop of cream on the side.