Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday baking

The other day I decided to healthify my breakfasts by trying some refrigerator oatmeal. Apparently it's gross unless you use chia seeds, so I popped to my local health store to pick some up. Along the way, some cocoa nibs caught my eye. I decided to try them together.

Ugh. Gross. Seriously, it was like eating mush studded with crushed coffee beans. Blergh.

Now I was left with this big bag of cocoa nibs that I didn't want to go to waste. What to do? Add lots of sugar and bake, of course!

Joy the Baker's recipe for oatmeal cookies came up first in google. I took one look and went with it.

Amazing. Gorgeous. A revelation. The nibs are crunchy and subtly bitter. The only alteration I made was to use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet, because I do love milk chocolate.

Seriously, these cocoa nibs are amazing. They just needed the right context.

By the way, I tried again with the refrigerator oatmeal, using this recipe. It was great. No more nibs for breakfast.

Unless they're in some oatmeal cookies.

Anyone have a refrigerator oatmeal or cocoa nib recipe to recommend?


Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Baking

I didn't blog my Friday baking last week because it was a little underwhelming. I did some tollhouse cookies, usually a sure bet. But I made some mistakes... didn't bring the butter to room temperature before mixing, meaning the cookies were a bit flat and crispy. Didn't use dark brown sugar (a must when making chocolate chip cookies in the UK--for some reason e light brown sugar here is really dry), so they were even crispier. That's all a matter of taste, but I just find crispy cookies a bit disappointing.

Even worse, I got low-quality chocolate chips that didn't melt. That's just wrong. (Although, to be fair, high quality chocolate chips aren't so easy to find.) And, to top if all off, they were mysteriously slightly grainy.

So, needless to say, I wasn't feeling too inspired to blog this week and I was really hoping for a better result this week.

What do you think? I was going to do plain shortbread this week, but then I remembered that Saturday is the first community decorating day at Significant Seams. And decorating volunteers deserve chocolate, yes? Yes!

I'm so pleased with how these turned out! They are so yummy. I used the recipe for lavender shortbread from Tea with Bea, leaving out the lavender since I'm allergic and adding in the chocolate chips at the end when the flour was almost incorporated. I didn't measure the chocolate chips, just threw them in by batches until it seemed like a good amount.

**Every Friday, I bake something for Significant Seams, a local craft and community center. And then I blog about it. **

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blogging Warmth

I just finished ready Tilly's (of Tilly and the Buttons) blog post about her experience on The Great British Sewing Bee (which, if you're not watching already, you should totally check out), and I felt inspired to write a little post about two sewing blogs I love.

The first (big shock here) is Tilly and the Buttons. She writes with such a lovely warm tone, with lots of tutorials and encouragement. And when I say tutorials, I mean detailed and step-by-step sew-alongs with enough instruction to help the most bewildered beginner.

The other one is my sewing teacher Karen's blog, Did You Make That?. She happily shares her muddles and triumphs, in such a lovely way that you are pretty sure you could follow suit. With the triumphs, I mean. She's also meticulous and so clear in her directions, and so determined that anyone can and should sew to a high standard, however simple the project. I feel really lucky to be taught by her.

The thing these two have in common (aside from, um, sewing) is the atmosphere of warm helpfulness and support. Their blogs are not just a litany of the cool things they created, and the gorgeous fabrics they've found, and ooh look at this amazing expensive thing I just got, or anything like that. And that is actually really hard to accomplish.

Here's the thing... that kind of knowledgeable warmth, which has nothing to do with showing off or know-it-allness, and which I very much aspire to, requires a lot of self-confidence. You both have to believe you have knowledge to share, and be completely comfortable with yourself, to the point where you are quite happy to share your blunders.

And if you're not that way, if, like me, you're fumbling through feeling a bit inadequate but trying to learn and share, then your sharing just ends up being (or seeming like) a lot of showing off in the hopes of getting some approval and comments.

I've been kind of contemplating writing a little knitting tutorial, but I've been a bit scared, in case I did it wrong, or my technique wasn't good enough, or I just ended up rehashing what's already out there a million times. But I think I will, after all. Maybe it will help someone, and maybe it'll be a bit more interesting than another braggarty photo. (Although, I am close to finishing a project I'm pretty psyched about, and I think I just made up a new word. So my braggarty days aren't over just quite yet. Just tempered a bit, perhaps.)

So, anyway, check out Karen's and Tilly's blogs if you are at all interested in sewing. And even if you're not, do read Tilly's post about putting something positive out there in the world. It's lovely, and will brighten your day should you need a day-brightener.

And if that doesn't work, Karen's giving away some fabric and/or a copy of The Great British Sewing Bee on her blog! Check it out!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Play mat complete!

My oldest sister is having a baby boy this June, or possibly late May! In fact, I have three friends or family having babies in May or June. So I'd better get going on some baby gifts already!

I started with a play mat for my little nephew. As I blogged earlier, this project got a little derailed by my poor yarn choice. I still don't love the orange I ended up with, but it makes for a nice contrast with the navy border. Perfect for the little guy's developing vision.

I used this pattern from Purl Bee. It was fairly easy, easy enough for a beginner like me to slog through, anyway. The border is knit in the round, using stitches picked up from the body of the mat. Because I used a different yarn than the one the pattern calls for (Rowan all seasons cotton, doubled), the math didn't quite work out anymore and I had to recalculate how many stitches to pick up. Fun. At least high school algebra came in handy for once.

I also had to estimate when to stop knitting, and clearly got it a little wrong. This is supposed to be a square, not a rectangle. Oh well, more room to roll around on.

I love the knobbly texture. It should be fun for a baby to explore. Also, it's machine-washable, in case he gets a bit... over-excited.

Now, I think there are some baby leg warmers I should be working on.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jogging Stripes

Since I finished the playmat for my forthcoming nephew (about which more later), I've started knitting some sweet little legwarmers for a friend's baby. I have three babies coming into my life this May and June, so I'm up to my ears in baby projects at the moment.

I'm using this baby legwarmer pattern from Purl Bee, slightly modified. (I'm doing only two colors, in alternating stripes of two rows each.) To avoid having the stripes jog, I'm using this method for jogless stripes. I used it successfully with Madhu's scarf, so I wasn't anticipating any problems.

This pattern is knit on double-pointed needles. I was quite nervous about that part, having never used double-points before.

Of course, it's the bit I felt confident about that's giving trouble. I'm about four stripes in, and realising that my stripes are jogging.

Look at those things! They might as well be wearing sweatbands and rocking out to some Springsteen.

Internet, I turn to you. Is jogging like this inevitable with such thin stripes? Is there another method I should be using? Is the method okay, but my stitches too uneven? (There's a definite problem around that first light stripe.)

But, also... Isn't this yarn combination just lovely? I keep picturing chubby little legs in my legwarmers, and wondering why I didn't take up knitting in time to do this for my own new baby.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Life, Lately

Lately, I've been...

...working on my final order for Bookworm Eats Flower (the shop incarnation).

...getting excited to repurpose my work area storage into kitchen storage, and clear up some space in the living room.

...celebrating Easter with our first ever hot cross buns from Bea's of Bloomsbury (pro tip: the "hot" part is important, butter is advised) and an Easter bonnet/basket. Kate her first taste of gelato and enjoying the sights in Rome.

...getting excited for some new projects! My sewing teacher Karen asked if I'd be a guinea pig for her new class at the Village Haberdashery, how to make Sewaholic's Hollyburn skirt. Obviously, I jumped at the chance! I ordered some swatches (I felt simultaneously fancy and prudent), and went for the strawberry print I had loved at first sight. And just in case it doesn't arrive in time, there's a Walthamstow market find, the blue fabric with the woven-in plaid pattern, for back up. At £3 for 2 meters, I couldn't say no!

And there's no photo of this, but everyone in these parts is buzzing about the Great British Sewing Bee on BBC 2. I've really enjoyed it, but it's hard to see people eliminated. Everyone is so nice on (most) British reality shows. I can't wait for next week's show--I just wish there were more than eight episodes!


Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday baking

Well, I came back from my week off from baking with a bang. I flew quite high with Bea's shortbread bars with rocky road fudge. Never mind the mixed metaphors, move right along, nothing to see here.

I was really excited because I got a thermo-spatula from Lakeland for making the fudge. It was amazing! And it's on special until the end of March. It was so easy to stir and keep track of the fudge's temperature at the same time. I did get quite nervous making the fudge, as you will know if you follow me on Twitter. (I'm @bwefshop, by the way.)

The bars ended up looking lovely. I substituted walnuts and pecans for the almonds because that's what I had on hand. I also bought mini-marshmallows instead of making my own, both because the convenience store near us stocks real American marshmallows (a must) and I just don't have time for homemade right now.

But I cut the squares and... horrors! Crumbly shortbread! I didn't overbake, I don't think, so maybe there was too much flour. It's cooling in the fridge now, hopefully that will help things along. If not, we'll be providing some paper plates to help with the crumbiness.

I made a few other mistakes, put the vanilla in a little early and let the fudge cool a little too long before pouring it on the shortbread. But I like having somewhere to go for when I try this one again!

All the same, I think I'll do something a little simpler next week. Tollhouse cookies sound good!