Friday, 31 May 2019

A New Lunch Bag

I've been taking my lunch to work with me for years now.  Most recently in this tatty plastic bag.  Mostly it gets shoved into my big bag, but its useful in case there isn't room as it has handles. 
However the blue colour comes off on everything (including my work laptop - don't tell) and a couple of weeks ago I put my finger through it as I tried to force it into an already over stuffed bag.

So I decided to make myself a replacement.  I found some rip-stop nylon on the web in a lovely shade of purple - this is really light weight but durable.  Then I just needed some time to put it together - a cool May Bank holiday was perfect.

I didn't have to do much except copy the bag I was already using.  So I cut out a paper template then cut out my material and sewed it all together. 

With the body put together I added the handles and now have myself a lovely light weight bag which takes my lunch boxes perfectly.  It only took me a morning and hopefully it will last much longer than the tatty plastic bag.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Snowflake Coster

When we first moved in together I found some lovely placemats for the dinning table.  But that was a while ago now and they are starting to look pretty tatty.  I've been looking to replace them, but I haven't found any I like, so I decided maybe I should make some.

So when I came across Martin Storey's Snowflake design which includes coasters, placemats and a table runner, I knew these were the ones.  Its a pretty design and very straight forward to knit.  I've made one coaster so far, but now I know what I'm doing it shouldn't take long to make the whole set, it's the sort of thing I'll do between bigger projects.  And now I know that while continental knit stitch is amazing, continental purl is pure evil.  I look forward to completing the set. 

Sunday, 19 May 2019

The Loch Ness Marathon - part 6

So this is the last update around the Loch Ness Marathon which I ran last September (promise).  To encourage people to sponsor me I offered everyone who did sponsor me the chance to be entered into a prize drawer.  The winner could chose to have something knitted for them, be it a jumper, cardigan or teddy.

So having run the marathon I had to find someone to drawer the name for me.  We found a lovely lady in the Baxters soup tent to do this.  I think she was a bit bemused but was happy to help.  She pulled out my friend Katie's name.


Once back home I let Katie know she had won then waited while she found a pattern she liked the look of.  She chose Kate Davies Carbeth jumper.  We then had a lovely visit to the local wool shop to select some wool. She went with King Cole Magnum Chunky in parsley.  The photos here don't do it justice - it is flecked with lots of different colours and is quite beautiful.

Then it was just a case of sitting down and knitting it.  It was actually a really lovely knit.  Fast to do because of the chunky wool, and quite straight forward - it only took me just over a month to knit.

And it came out really well and actually fits her which is amazing.  Of course its the wrong time of year for a thick roll neck jumper now, but she'll be all set for winter.  The sleeves might be a tiny bit too long, but the rib cuff means she can roll them up to the right length so I'm not too worried, much better than being too short!

And I learnt a new technique - grafting.  This allowed me to join the stitches under the arms in a way that looks like the knitting just continues.  My first attempt wasn't perfect but I'm really pleased with my second attempt. 

 All in all it was great to knit my friend a jumper.  As I knitted it I thought of all the cool stuff we've done together over the past 20 years, from the bouncy castle in her garden for her 21st Birthday to all the chats and walks and eating cake together.  I hope she can feel all those positive thoughts and happy memory when she is wearing it.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Basingstoke Festival 5k Race 2019

Today I ran the 7th Basingstoke Festival 5k race.  Not only is it the 7th time this race has been held but its the 7th time I have run it.  We had a lovely morning for it, sunny but not too hot but I was glad I decided to wear shorts and a t-shirt.
Following my success at the Winchester 10k I was determined to get my time under 26 minutes where it has stuck now for the last couple of years. 
This is a really nice race - you start off running through the shopping center, then out round Waitrose and some office buildings before running round a boating lake.  And it's so well organised, my time was printed out and stuck on a board by the time I'd caught my breath and no queuing for toilets either.  I just wish the medal was a little more exciting.
Anyway, I was dead chuffed to come in at 24:59.  Only 6 seconds slower than my 5k PB.   
I look forward to coming back next year and seeing if I can get it under 24:50!

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Joni Dress

With a week off for Easter and some lovely stripy material just waiting for me to do something with it, it was time to have a go at another of Tilly and the Buttons Stretch patterns.  This time I made the Joni Dress.

I did make it a little harder for myself by using a stripy material, but it was still pretty straightforward to make.  I spent an afternoon getting my pattern sorted and cutting out my material, then a day to sew it all together.

The hardest part was the neck line, but I got there in the end.  Matching up the stripes took a little extra time, but was well worth it in the end.  I'd also found some tiny pink buttons in my button jar which were just perfect for a little detail on the arms.
I only wish I'd thought to add pockets when I was putting together the skirt.  Tilly has a blog post about how to do this with any pattern which would have been perfect.

I can't decide if this can be a work dress or not.  The pink stripes are a little sparkly, so it feels like it wants to have more fun than just sit in an office.  I do know that I'd like to have a go at making it as a real party dress with velvet and sequins!  Maybe in time for Christmas?

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Gorgeous Cakes - part 28

This week I made an Easter Battenburg and Easter Egg Brownies.  I've not made a round batternburg before - normally they are square, so that was interesting.  It also has ginger conserve between the layers of sponge, which is nice but a little over-powering and sadly no marzipan. 
It should have had almond flakes up the sides, but 'im outdoors doesn't like nuts and would have just picked them off - best not to bother.  
It did sink a little in the middle, but otherwise the sponges seemed to come out well.

I've made the brownie before, although I don't normally bother decorating them - they don't last very long.  It's an excellent recipe and makes a really nice gooey cake, which is exactly how brownies should be.  It should have nuts in, but as I said 'im outdoors doesn't like nuts so I just leave them out.   I'll be interested to see how they last the week.


Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Frankie Baseball T-Shirt - amended

A couple of weeks ago I made my first t-shirt using a pattern from Tilly and the Buttons book Stretch!  I was really happy with how it came out but thought the neck was a bit high compared with what I normally wear, so I decided to have a go at modifying the pattern.

I found two t-shirts that I do wear and like, so using some rough paper cut out the new necklines based on them.  I then stapled the paper together and tried it on.  Happy that they worked I traced them onto my material.  I'd accidentally bought too much of this lovely spotty material which meant I could make the two t-shirts at the same time.

It helped that I managed to find a super helpful page all about how to work out the new length of your neckline.  With a little bit of maths I had the perfect length which meant I didn't have to mess about trying to work out what it should be.

So happy with this new neckline
Once again I'm really happy with how they came out.  The slightly deeper neckline is exactly what I wanted, so I'll be creating a proper new pattern piece so I can make it again.  I think the other one might need a bit of work to make it more boat like, but it still has potential.  

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Gorgeous Cakes - part 27

Its at this time of year that I normally make a Simnal Cake, however there isn't one in the book so I've had to make so with an Easter Fruit Cake.
It was nice and easy to make, although the recipe asked for saffron to put in the icing - I missed that bit out and just used some food colouring instead.
And I imagine the mini eggs will go weird over time - their colour was already starting to run as I was taking the photos.  I'm sure they will still taste nice. 
It seems like a nice light sponge, so I'm interested to see how it lasts over the week.

Verdict:  Quite nice, but the eggs went weird quite quickly.  Had to be kept in the fridge.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

A Giant Knitted Bear

I've been knitting bears for a while now, but a couple of years ago when I gave my mum one for Christmas my little sister asked 'where's mine?'
I hadn't really thought she'd want one, but apparently I was wrong.  So when I found some Sirdar Alpine furry wool in the wool shop I got a couple of balls to make her one.
However this was just before last Christmas and I realised that this was a chunky knit wool!  The body was coming out massive, so I stopped to have a think before continuing.

Compared with a 'normal' knitted bear, he's a giant!
 It was after Chrismas before I continued on smaller needles.  Oh well I'd have it ready for her birthday in Feb.  And I would have too except it took a bit more wool than expected and the wool shop ran out! The wool finally arrived and I got the knitting finished, but then I realised the eyes I've got were too small so I had to order bigger ones.
I gave him jointed arms and legs rather than sewing them on, which worked really well.
I finally got him made up and gave him to her last week.  She was really happy and called him Bert.  And she said he was the perfect size because he is too big for her little dog Ellie to be interested in.  Perfect.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Gorgeous Cakes - part 26

This week I made a Banana Passion cake to take to my sisters to celebrate Mothers Day with my mum.  While reasonably simple to put together you probably only want to make this if you like banana cake.  
It was pretty moist and the texture was OK, but it was still banana cake.  Also the pink sprinkles had melted by the time we came to eat it, which was disappointing.
And now I know that my sister doesn't like banana cake and having tried this I'd say I'm not a fan.  There are better cakes in this book.  On the other-hand mum loved it, so I sent it home with her - no point wasting it.

Verdict: If you like banana cake this one is for you.  I won't be making it again.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Gorgeous Cakes - part 25

This week I made a Heart of Gold to take to my in-laws to help celebrate Mothers Day.  I wasn't sure how well it would go down, this is a very orange cake, but actually it was really tasty.  
It was pretty simple to make - just one big sponge, so it didn't even need filling.  The hardest part was making a nice heart shape. 
I then decorated it with silver balls and wafer flowers.  Everyone said it looked great and tasted great and there wasn't any to bring home, much to 'im outdoors disgust.

Verdict: Very tasty and easy to make.  Not sure it would last a week as it was quite moist, but a great celebration cake.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Gorgeous Cakes - part 24

This week I made an Old-Fashioned Baked Cheesecake.  It was pretty simple to put together, although it needed breadcrumbs which didn't come out so well as I was using gluten free bread.  
It came out darker than the photo in the book, but it tastes OK and I'm happy that this one was cooked through.  It tastes a bit like a bread and butter pudding to me, probably because of the nutmeg and the sultanas (that all settled at the bottom). As 'im outdoors said, it kinda tasted old fashioned.

Verdict: It was OK but reminded me too much of bread and butter pudding.  'im outdoors liked it a lot.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Loch Ness Marathon - part 5

Last year I ran the Loch Ness Marathon.  It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I'm proud of my achievement; not just finishing but raising a reasonable about for charity too.
So I started to wonder what I could do to make sure I didn't forget my achievement.  And that's when I came up with the idea of framing my vest and medal. 
'im outdoors made the wooden frame for me, which I painted, and then I cut mount board to hold my vest, race number and medal.
It's taken a little while to do as there was a bit of prep, but it is now hung in the 'gym' where I go to stretch before and after runs, a good place to remind myself just what I am capable of.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Gorgeous Cakes - part 23

This week I made 'My Mum's Lemon Cheesecake' as it is titled in the book.  It was pretty straight forward to make, but I think because my tin wasn't as wide as her's and my cake was a little thicker, I should have given it a bit longer in the oven.  It's ok and tastes lovely but its not really set in the middle. See how it lasts the week.

Verdict: Tasted good, although it could have done with a little longer in the oven.  A little dry by the end of the week and 'im outdoors didn't think it tasted lemon enough.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Commissioning a Couple of Plates

As I've been working through the Gorgeous Cakes cook book it has occurred to me that I don't really have any nice plates for showing off my cakes.  The larger cakes end up on a dinner plate, the rest on a slightly-larger-than-the-others tea plate.

As I was looking online for something I had a sudden thought - the lady across the road from us makes pottery! Wondering what she makes I had a look on her website.  I loved her work, beautiful form and splashes of colour, but there weren't any plates.  Just as I was thinking I'd have to try somewhere else I noticed she sometimes makes commissions.  It couldn't hurt to ask, right?

Following a chat, and a chance to look in her workshop, she agreed to make me two plates.  One for swiss roll type cakes (but apparently also works for salads etc) and one for the normal round cakes I make the most.  'im outdoors was very excited - they would make perfect easy birthday presents!

The swiss roll plate was with us for Christmas, while the round plate took a little longer due to an issue with its glaze.  But it was totally worth the wait.  I now have two beautiful plates which will make hosting guests for tea a more sophisticated affair.

And they are totally unique!  They aren't mass produced, no-one else will have anything quite like this.  And they are made to my specifications - I took my cake tin with me so we could make sure my cakes would fit.

I can not tell you just how chuffed I am with them.  And I would advise anyone thinking about buying a special one off piece to see if they have a local maker they could support instead of something mass produced in China.  
I look forward to using them for many years to come.