My Weekend (Mostly) In Pictures: Cake-Pops and Clothes

I decided to give myself a break from work over the weekend and get involved in some things I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

On Saturday, I broke out my cakepop maker, that my sister bought me for Christmas. It wasn’t the first time I’ve used it, but I didn’t take pictures last time! I’m really impressed with it. It’s so simple to use and cooks so quickly. I like cakepops, they’re really cute, but I’ve never been able to get them right with the crumbled cake and frosting method. This bypasses that and just cooks the cake mix into a ball shape! So there’s less faffing around making the cake balls and more time for decorating!
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My Cake Pop Maker
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Tiny Spherical Cakes
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Jammy Cake Pops

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I added some sprinkles into the cake mix for fun, putting little colourful flecks throughout the cake 🙂 I’m still experimenting with decoration. Last time I tried standard icing, which didn’t work at all, fondant icing, which worked but was very time consuming and melted dark chocolate, which was the easiest. This time I tried vegan white chocolate, which I was initially disappointed with, but looked better when set, chocolate frosting, which was messy but worked and just rolled in sugar, which was very easy! The ones rolled in sugar also had jam inside, which I did using my new fancy injector nozzle for my piping bag 🙂
That wasn’t the end of my cake related activity. On Saturday evening we went to a 30th birthday party that had a kid’s party theme. There were so many sweets, treats, snacks and cakes! I came away with this beautiful cupcake (I was too full to eat it on the night!), which has further inspired me to improve my cupcake decorating skills.

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On Sunday, I moved from baking onto sewing, and got back to work on the dress that I started ages ago! Ideally, I’m hoping to wear it to ZOMGbloggersbash next Monday, but I’m not sure I’m going to get it finished on time. I’d already cut out most of the pattern pieces, so it was mostly just sewing the pieces together, which is quite nerve racking as I’m not the most accomplished seamstress (my most used tool is my seam ripper!). It took me quite a while to get started, but managed to sew together most of the top, both the sleeves and the skirt before I was hit with a mega headache and had to stop. I’ve been taking pictures along the way and will write a blog post about the whole process when I’m done.
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I’m making the long sleeved version 🙂
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My silver chick pincushion, a present from my grandparents

After lying down for a few hours, dosing myself up with paracetamol and then stuffing myself with pizza, I felt a bit better. We spent the evening with out recently engaged friends, talking weddings, playing board games and eating apple and blackberry pie. It was a really lovely end to a great weekend 😀

Finally, I wanted to welcome all my new followers and thank you all for reading my blog!
Hopefully I won’t be too busy with work to post again this week.
Lots of Love,
Betty
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We Be Jammin’

Having been inspired by my new Queen of Crafts book, I decided to turn my hand to a little jam making this weekend. It’s something I’ve fancied trying for a while, I like the idea of preserving and storing fruit and veg produce for the winter. There’s something satisfying and comforting about the idea to me.
Anyway, I was aware that it about the time of year for blackberry picking. I have great memories of picking blackberries with my parent when I was a kid. So, I took myself and Alf (the puppy) off to the local common, where I knew there were vast expanses of brambles and where, a few years ago, the boyfriend and I had a very productive blackberry picking session. Unfortunately this year was no where near as profitable. I don’t know if I was too early, too late or if it has just not been a good year for blackberries. I came home with about 200 grams, which probably wasn’t enough for making a decent amount of jam.
So, the following day I decided a trip into the New Forest, my childhood blackberry picking ground, was in order. Plus I really love walking Alf in the forest, he enjoys it so much. I took my camera along and took a few pictures in between picking berries and getting caught in brambles.

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The forest wasn’t actually that much more profitable on the blackberry front, but it was so nice to get out with Alf and have a walk in the peace and quite, with practically no other people. I’m quite specific about picking berries, which probably slightly reduced my haul. I don’t like to take too many from one spot, I’d rather pick a few from a bush as a walk past, you need to leave some for the wildlife! I got a fair few injuries too, several pricked fingers, a couple of splinters and a very prickled calf :/
Due to the low fruit yield, and the fact that I had definitely decided I wanted to make jam, I made a quick trip to the supermarket to buy some supplementary blackberries, as well as sugar and pectin, which I also needed. The recipe is not mine to share, I suggest you buy Queen of Crafts as a most excellent guide, but here are some pictures of my jam making fun 🙂

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It was actually really quite easy to make, which I was surprised about. The instructions in the Queen of Crafts book are really simple and easy to follow (but you’ll have to buy it to find out how I did it!). I did have a slight issue, having ladled it into jars and leaving it to cool for a while, it was pretty clear to me that it wasn’t going to set. Having discussed with my mum, I decided to empty the jars back into the pan to boil for longer and, apparently, lemon juice (plus extra sugar to offset the sourness) helps in getting the pectin to set. Fortunately, after a second boil, with lemon juice, the mixture looked a lot more jammy. I put it all back into jars (unfortunately it had decreased in volume, down from 4 jars full to 3 and a third), sealed and left to cool overnight. Joy of joys, this morning I most definitely had jam 🙂
I also impressed myself with my resourcefulness as, not owning a funnel and not wanting to get covered in hot, sticky jam, I cut the top off a Pepsi bottle, which served as a fine makeshift funnel!
There was just one final step, dressing the jars up! I have a large quantity of fabric that I have accumulated for non-specific uses, and picked a heart print fabric to make lid covers. I cut out what I thought were reasonably size circles, but when I put them on the jars they were too large and looked a little silly, so I had to trim them up while still on the jars :/ I hope they don’t look too scrappy now. I also made labels, I tried making labels by hand, but just couldn’t produce anything I really liked, so I turned to my computer, and knocked up some pretty funky labels that I think suit me and my jam down to the ground :p

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I’m really very happy with the outcome. I did a fair amount of tasting during cooking and it was really very, very yummy 🙂 I’m not much of one for jam on toast, so I think I’m going to have to whip up some scones or jammy dodgers or something else that I can include jam in!

Hope you are having a good weekend,
Keep on Jammin’
Betty
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Queen of Crafts

Last weekend I received my copy of Queen of Crafts by Jazz Domino Holly.
I have been really excited about this book since I first read about it in Mollie Makes magazine back in May or June, when September seemed like a really long way away! A craft book written by the daughter of Joe Strummer, is there anything more awesome!? I added it to my Amazon wishlist straight away, then kinda let it slip my mind, until last week when I saw an announcement that it had been released and I bought it right away.

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I have certainly not been disappointed and, even though I’m really busy, I pick it up at every available opportunity.
The book itself is beautiful. Just on an initial flick through I already knew I was going to love it. The pages are filled with beautiful colours, great little illustrations and photographs that accompany the projects.
There are sections for handicraft, woolcraft, patchwork, baking, preserving, gardening and beauty, amongst other things, the full gamut of crafting disciplines, and more than enough to keep even the most voracious crafter occupied. Don’t think that the wide range of crafts covered means it’s a whistle stop tour that lacks detail and doesn’t allow for you to properly engage with the crafts. To my mind, each chapter contains as much detail as you would want to find in any book devoted to introducing a single one of the crafts covered here. I’m sure once you become more proficient you’ll want to read more and search out new projects, but this is a wonderfully comprehensive starting point. Plus, the range of crafts might lead to you taking up something you hadn’t originally intended to.

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The book opens with a lovely introduction written by Jazz about the resurgence in the popularity of crafting, her childhood and how she got into crafting and creating and her involvement with the WI (Women’s Institute). It is written with a lovely personal tone, in a way that it feels like she has sat down with you and is going to impart her great wisdom to you alone. This continues throughout the book as she takes you through the various crafts, from the basics of tools and terminology, through to techniques and tips, then on to practical modern projects and hosting craft based events. She walks you through knitting a chunky scarf and a bow headband, sewing a cake-shaped pin cushion and a knitting bag, various patchwork items, baking sponge cakes and jam tarts, making a range of jams, whipping up your own lip balm and body scrub and that’s just a sample of the projects covered. There’s something in there for everyone. I can’t wait to try out the bow headband, and all the baking looks delicious, to be honest, I want to do all of it!

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At every stage the book makes everything seem so easy and accessible, acknowledging that you might not be a master straight off, but always being encouraging. Jazz also makes efforts throughout to highlight the modern aspects and relevance of the crafts. There’s no way you could come away from this book thinking that crafting is only for the elderly!
Everything about this book is just an absolute joy. It’s beautiful, inspiring and packed with so many hints, tips and advice. Jazz Domino Holly totally makes it onto my list of inspiring women, talented, resourceful, motivated, funky and beautiful to boot. Plus, she has a leopard print sewing box!! (It’s not one of the projects but I’m pretty sure I can make one on my own). If I wasn’t inspired, I’d be jealous!
I personally love the little Clash/Rock N Roll/Rebel references that are sprinkled throughout – Hey, Ho, Let’s Sew 😉

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I have been into making things and crafting for a while already, but this book has served to further ignite my passion and inspire me to turn my hand to so much more. I am also really interested in her final chapter on setting up social craft groups. Jazz started her own WI group in Shoreditch, London, known as the Shoreditch Sisters, which have helped revolutionise the image of the WI. Now, starting my own WI group might be a bit much, but I would definitely be interested to get a group together to knit, sew, drink tea and eat cake together.
In my opinion, everyone should buy this book (and also, get yourself a copy of Mollie Makes).

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If anyone would be interested in getting a craft group together in Hampshire then get in touch.
Happy Crafting,
Betty
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