Saturday, February 26, 2011

What we had here was a failure to levitate...

I am confident cook. I make most things well. When I bake, things generally work out just fine. I'm not bragging, cooking and baking are things I enjoy doing.
It therefore came as a huge shock when the lemon pound cake, made using my beloved Pampered Chef stoneware bundt pan, failed in spectacular fashion yesterday. No, I didn't take a photo. It was just too sad.
I can describe it though: the bottom half of the cake rose, but the top half sunk into the centre, all the way to the bottom. It was weird and freaky. 
I eyed it up and down, trying to decide if I should just serve it smothered in its blueberry sauce and pretend nothing had happened. Then I lifted it onto its cake plate, not an easy task because it was so very dense. I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that the blueberry sauce was just blueberries -- not some magical elixir. I took a deep breath, hefted the cake plate, and slung the cake into the bin.
Which brings me to this morning. I fired up the oven and started all over again. I decided that yesterday's failed cake was the victim of not enough beating. The recipe says two minutes on medium speed. But, I don't think that is enough. I went for four minutes, and this the glorious result. This is the bundt lemon cake I remember.
I share the recipe with the caveat that you have to use a bundt pan. Stoneware is good because it heats evenly and its insulation properties help keep the cake moist.
Lemon pound cake, yumm...

Lemon Pound Cake

1 box white cake mix (use the cheaper store brand if you can. It doesn't work as well with the super moist ones)
2 lemons
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350. Zest  and squeeze lemons. You will need 2 tbsp zest and 3 tbsp juice.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, or until well blended (I found that 4 minutes was the magic number). Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 15 minutes, invert onto a wire rack and cool thoroughly.
Blueberry sauce
Okay, maybe the blueberry sauce is magic...
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 tsp butter
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thick and bubble. Once the bubbles break the surface, continue stirring and cook for three minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter for a more glossy sauce. Cool.
Presentation: sift confectioner's sugar over the cake. Serve slices with about 2 tbsp sauce.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fresh summer thinking from the UK

Sizing up and drafting the patterns
At the beginning of the month, I won an on-line auction for a piece of Cath Kidston cotton duck fabric.
It is a good sized piece, 71cm x 49cm. I just adore Kidston's strawberries pattern.
It arrived today!  I washed it, ironed it, and cut it -- today.
I didn't even take the time, as I normally do, to admire it and convince myself to cut it.
This is how excited I am about making this summery little tote.
I cut it carefully, so that I have some little pieces left for applique/collage purposes.

I love the whole Cath Kidston vibe -- retro, vintage, and funky. Of course, like nearly all crafty things I really love, it isn't readily available in Canada. So, I keep an eye out for scraps on ebay. Sometimes, like this time, it works well.
Cath Kidston's designs remind me of  when I was a kid.-- back when I first fell in love with patterns and fabric. Several of my mothers' friends had an awesome collection of vibrant table linens and the like. Drawn to the designs, I would be entranced by the colours, while adults sipped tea and told tales.
This pattern for this bag comes from Homestyle Sewing, a UK magazine that has two issues so far. It is very pricey here, but I've done quite a few projects from the magazines, so I think I am getting my money's worth. (The UK theme is developing quite nicely, I think...)
Prepped and ready to be sewn

I have just enough strawberry fabric for the outside of the bag. For the inside, I am using the polka dots (from the UK's Markower Studios) that Sandra gave me for Christmas.
I am also making heart-shaped pockets for the inside, using some stripped fabric from the remnant bin at the quilt store.
The gingham bias tape -- at least four metres of it -- was a Value Village find in a $1.99 bag of ribbon.
The pattern is for a reversible bag, but mine will be all about the strawberries.
Did I mention that I love this fabric????
I will post a photo when it is all put together.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

TGIF, getting involved in FNSI, and other fun acronyms

Almost finished

Last night was Friday. In our part of the world, the wind was gusting to up to 97 km per hour by dinner time -- this after a wonderful almost spring-like day with (gasp) sunshine and temperatures that approached 10 degrees Celsius.
So, I was glad to be stitching this little Tone Finnanger image. Fortunately, I chose the colours when it was sunny and warmish during the day, thus its cheerful spring vibe.
Late in the day, I opted to sign up for the Friday Night Sew In. Get the details here:

I like the idea of a virtual sewing bee. The advantage is that you feel kind of connected, but since you can't actually see anyone, you don't waste time yaking. Actual work gets done in this virtual meeting!
I was waiting for Miss B to come home for the Family Day weekend, but as she prepared to come home, the police evacuated the Dundas St. northbound train.
So, she stayed downtown and waited for her Dad to finish work and come home. Long story short, I was glad I had some free time on my hands.
There is something very comforting about stitching when the weather swirls all around you. I did get up and check out a couple of banging noises -- at one point one of shovels left its perch on the porch and scooted across the flagstones. But, when I opened the front door to get it, I was hit in face with a huge blast of cold air. I decided to leave the shovel to its own fate.
Really, by this point of our never-ending winter, I am kind of sick of the thing anyway. I don't care if it blew away and I never saw it again. Don't even get me started on how sick I am of my winter coat...
It is still blowing and snowing here this morning, so I will finish this piece today. It will become part of a quilt sometime this summer.
Spring time detail views
I hope everyone is happy and warm in your part of the world this morning! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Making groovy Japanese flowers

I can see this is going to become a favourite craft book. 
Great way to use up little left overs...
Here's a close up of my very first kanzashi. I think it's groovy.
I have been working on making some flowers. I found a book by crafts teacher Diane Gilleland. It's called Kanzashi In Bloom. These fabric flowers are made in much the same way as origami -- using a series of folds to make the petals. Then, you sew the petals  together, and embellish the centre with a button or a bead. I have admired these on various web sites for a while now, but I had no idea there was an excellent book about how to make them. Gilleland covers the basics and explains them well. Helpful photos explain each step. There are also a number of projects using the flowers. I am working my way through slowly. Watch this space!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Baby, it's cold outside!

The prototype was redone many times.

Warm and woolen.
Okay, as promised, here are my attempts at making infinity scarves. They are basically lined tubes of fabric. I've used some soft jersey material, silk/cotton blends, cotton rayon blends and rayon/wool blends.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a bit of a brain freeze trying to put them together, but once I realized you have to sew the long ends together, with rights sides together, first -- then I got cracking on at a blinding pace. (I can hear the snickering out there...)
The measurements are random and varied as I worked out how each fabric would drape. At some points, I used my sewing machine's walking foot because some fabrics weren't meant to butt up to each other like that. When they do, they fight a bit for supremacy. The walking foot plays the peace maker and makes each of them get along until they are sewn together. I also found that if you use a wide zigzag, all the fabrics not only line up properly, but they retain their stretch when it comes time to wear the scarves.
Basically, you cut a strip of fabric about 33 cm (13 inches) wide.  You'll be using the fabric's whole width, selvage to selvage, so you'll end up with a strip of fabric that is 33 cm wide (13 inches) by 140 cm (45 inches) or 150cm (60 inches).
Cut two of these strips in contrasting colours, and decide which will be the main colour. Pin right sides together, and sew the long edges together, using a wide zigzag stitch. Go slowly, so you don't break your needle on the pins. My seam allowance is .5cm (1/4 inch)
Turn the scarf right side out.
Pin the main colour ends -- right sides together -- matching the side seams as closely as you can. Then, on either side of that seam, pin about 7 cm (3 inches) of the lining fabric right sides together. Sew together in a continuous seam, taking care not to catch the rest of the lining in the seam (happened to me twice, and I said some bad words). You'll have joined the main colour together and have just a bit of hand sewing to close up the lining seam.
Eh, voila! A scarf that is both a cowl and a hood. They are very comfortable and warm.
This is one I made for me. It has Hawaiian shirt material on one side and rayon jersey knit on the other. Special thanks to Phoebe the foam head for her help in modeling the finished results.
If you want to wear it as a cowl, you put it over your head so it is a giant necklace, then you twist it once and pull it over your head. If you want to make it a hood, just pull the twist up over your head.   
I did most of mine with a jersey/rayon blend that I found in the remnant bin for $3. The work best with soft fabric that drapes nicely. This stuff isn't easy to sew, but I like the results.
I did a bunch of these for my daughter, Miss B. They will be winging their way to her tomorrow.