How to Make a Christmas Pomander

A Pomander (from the French pomme d’ambre- apple of amber) was a ball of perfumes such as ambergris carried in a ball from your neck or belt in the Middle Ages, but obviously everyone knows that…

Modern Pomanders are Oranges with cloves stuck in them- I’m not sure that a How To is exactly necessary here…

1. Get a big fresh orange.

2. Get some cloves (whole not ground from the spice section).

3. Tie a ribbon or string around the orange this is for decoration but also so you can hang it up later on.

4. Stick the cloves into the orange- the cloves have a long stem to push into the orange, expect a few to break in construction and your finger to hurt by the end of it!  You can put them in randomly or come up with a jazzy pattern.

Christmas Pomanders

Put it in the airing cupboard to dry it out.  They can then keep for years as a room or drawer deodoriser and Christmas decoration.  If you can’t dry it out before hand then you can still use them but they will only last a few weeks- especially if you have the heating on.

Swirled Biscuits

Festive Baking- Swirly/Rolled Biscuit/Cookies

Well, as I write this post it’s not even December yet, although through the magic of scheduled posts it will probably be so as you read it, but I do feel somewhat festive.  People may complain that Christmas starts earlier every year like it’s a bad thing but without Christmas you’d just have cold dark mornings and nights and nothing to look forward to…

Anyway I had a festive baked goods themed get together with friends where we each bring home made goodies, play games, do quizzes, and have a nice relaxed Sunday evening.  I haven’t actually been able to take anything of recent months due to working the weekend before but finally I have a Saturday off for baking.

I stumbled across these swirly rolled biscuits on the internets and found a recipe for them that looked doable.  Of course nothing is actually that simple, and first I had to figure out what ‘cake flour’ was.  Turns out is some crazy America flour that is all light and airy for delicious cakes but also bleached which is not allowed in the UK for obvious reasons.  But to turn regular plain flour into cake flour you replace a few tbsps with cornstarch and sieve is 5 times, according to the internet anyway!  Well my nearby supermarket does not stock cornstarch so I just bought plain flour and that seemed to work fine!

Ingredients

  • 300g Plain Flour
  • 200g Butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 16g Cocoa Powder
  • 1 ½ tbsp water
  • Wax paper (I forgot to buy this so I used cling film)

1. Cut the butter into pieces and mix until soft, add flour, sugar, egg, and mix.

2 Split the mixture in two and add the cocoa powder to one half and mix evenly.  Add water to both halves slowly to form solid dough.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.

3. Take some wax paper (about 30 x 60cms) fold in half along long edge and fold over the edges to create an envelope.  Make 2 of these.

4. Cut the chocolate dough in half and place inside two of the envelopes, place face down and roll mixture making it flat and even.  Do this for the plain dough.

5. Open the wax paper envelopes and place the chocolate dough on top of the plain dough, then roll them like a Swiss Roll (careful to peel all the wax paper off first)

6. Wrap the dough roll in wax paper, twist the ends, place in freezer for one hour, or until firm enough to cut easily without smushing.

7. Remove from freezer and cut into 1cm thick slices and place on greased baking sheet, baked for 12-15mins at 180celsius.

Swirled Biscuits

Trouser Fail

Trouser Making Fail- And Some Trouser Making Tips

I have never successfully made a pair of trousers!  There I said it!  I have made several attempts but getting the fit right is very difficult, as it is finding a pair of trousers in the shop that fit correctly.  It’s an awkward area the crouch…also the addition of zips and buttons makes it even more daunting.  Anyway, I thought I would share some of my attempts (including my first attempt which is quite amusing) as well as tips of how you put trousers together.

Trouser Fail

One simple way to make trousers is to use an existing pair as a template (this is true of all clothing), turn the trousers inside out the put one leg inside the other so you only have one leg to draw around- then trace the back and front.  That’s it- you have two pieces; a back and a front leg, and you cut them out twice for each leg.

What you don’t do is make the legs first by making two tubes and then try to attached a super wide waistband to the top of the them, which is what I did a few years ago when I made my first pair (see right).

With my crazy clown trousers I could have shoplifted a couple of watermelons no problem but I’m no sure how flattering they were to my figure and so alas they go unworn.

trousers

 

When you’ve got your leg pieces cut out you put the left back and front together (right sides together) and sew all the way up the outside edge and up the crouch on the inseam. And the same for the right front and back pieces.  As you can clearly see from my beautiful drawing on the left- who needs expensive software when MS Paint can produce results like this?

 

blue trouser (6)

Anyway, once you’ve done that you keep the legs inside out and place one inside the other and line them up.  Then sew them together around the crouch.  Of course that’s without a zip or any fastening in which case you’ll want to put some elastic in the waist.

But like I said I am no trouser expert!

blue trouser (3)
These were wearable for a while but don’t quite fit right now.
Check Trousers
These were a lesson in putting the pattern pieces the correct way around unless you want 19th century style jodhpurs.

If you were wondering- no I haven’t tried making trousers out of sensible fabric, I haven’t made any in a while but when I did I was picking up cheap remnants of fabric.   I’m currently trying to lose a little weight which should hopefully make it easier to get the fit correct as I currently straddle two sizes, once I do I might invest in some nice trousery trouser fabric and try again.

Calendar

How to Make a Calendar- Using Picasa

I like calendars, despite that fact that it takes me several attempts to corrected place the vowels in the word calendar when writing it.  But I like being organised and planning stuff, and I work shift work so I need to write down my shifts and I like nice pictures of things so calendars and diaries (have also had some spelling issues with dairies too) are right up my alley.

I few years back I started making my own using real photographs and cutting up magazines, and I have to say I enjoyed that hands on approach (although I did completely ruin cherished photos in the process) but it’s just so much easier and quicker to do it on the computer these days. I use photographs from the previous year (I photo document everything in preparation for the impending zombie apocalypse- I think it will help the survivors to have a record of happier times) and since these are all on my computer now it just makes more sense to create picture collages on the comp then print them out.

I use the free to download programme called Picasa which takes your pictures and allows you to create picture collages (this is all I use it for, but you can also use it as your picture viewer, and do some simple edits to your pics like cropping and add some effects). It’s simple to use, although depending on how you sort your picture on your computer it can be hard to find them on Picasa (but you can search for the folder’s name). Below is a screen shot:

Picassa Screen Shot

You can see the list of folders on the left hand side, and when I clicked on one all the pictures popped up.  In the bottom left you can see the tray- currently all the pictures from this album are stored in it.  But if you just wanted to use a few of them  you click on the thumbnail then the green drawing pin next to the tray.  I selected 4 pictures and pinned them to the tray then clicked ‘create’ then ‘picture collage’.  As you can see below.

Picasss Screen Shot

The next screen allows you to arrange your pictures into a collage, either an organised mosaic or picture pile where you can change the size and orientation of the picture.

Picasa Screen Shot Picasa Screen Shiot Picasa Screen Shot

I go through my old photos from the previous 12 months to see what I was up to every month- so for my 2014 calendar I use photos from 2013, for January 2014 I’ll use photos from January 2013.  That way the calendar stays seasonal and I get to look back at what I was doing this time last year every time I look at my calendar.  I arrange them into collages and print it out on A4 photo paper.  I create a simple 5×7 table in in a word document and print that out on A4 plain paper.  This is for the dates which I hand write in (I used to type them but it’s actually quicker to write them, because every month has different dates you have to redo it for each one), I stick both of these to A3 paper which I hang on my wall.  Below is the finished product, as you can see I fully embrace the homemadeness by not getting the writing very straight but I really like the way it turned out. I’ve done December 2013-October 2014, but my A3 pad has plenty more pages so in 6 months or so I’ll add some more months.

Calendar

*takes, stores, scans, not sure what the right word is here?  What I’m trying to say is that when you load up Picasa you can see all your pictures through picasa and play with them in the Picasa programme without having to put them in there yourself…

Pumpkin

Roast Pumpkin

I like pumpkin, around here it’s in the supermarket for about a week so I grabbed one (they’re probably not the best though because they tend to be ones for carving rather than picked for their flavour).  It was getting to that point where I needed to do something for it so I decided to roast it.

I cut it into quarters, scooped out the seeds and soft flesh, and put on a lightly oiled baking tray, and put into the oven at about 200C for the better part of an hour (which, it turned out, was slightly too long perhaps!).

When they had cooled off I scooped out the insides (the skin basically peeled off) and mashed it up a bit.  I ate it up in a seed pitta with cottage cheese (perhaps feta would have been better?). Yummers.

Roast Pumpkin

Gingerbreadmen

How to Make Gingerbread People (sort of)

This is a post about how to make gingerbread people but the caveat in the title is due to the somewhat bodged efforts of your most beloved blogger (me). Anyway, you can all learn from my mistakes, I’ve oft believed that is my entire purpose in life…

Gingerbread

Ingredients:

  • 350g/12oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 125g/4½oz butter
  • 175g/6oz light soft brown sugar
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup

And then icing for decorations.

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1. Sieve and mix the flour, soda, ginger, and cinnamon.

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2. Add the butter and make breadcrumbs then mix in the sugar (well you should add the sugar then but I forgot, doh)..

3. Beat the egg and syrup lightly and then mix into original mixture until clumpy.

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4. Knead into a smooth ball of dough (this is where I remembered the sugar!), wrap in cling film then place in the fridge for 15mins.

5. Preheat the oven and flour your baking trays.

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6. Roll out to half a centimeter thick and use cutters to cut out you people or shapes.  Put them in the oven and bake for 12-15mins.

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7. Wait until their cool before decorating.

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The finished result, not quite perfect in fact there were some ginger fatalities in the kitchen, if you look closely you can see an unhappy gingerbread man in the left corner who’s head fell off!  Also the one in the front middle had some kind of abdominal hemorrhage! Still I’ll take them to work tomorrow and no one will complain about free biscuits!

Previous Make- Stegosaurus Printed T-Shirt

Stegosaurus Tshirt

I suppose if I’d have wanted to be super fancy I would have made the t-shirt from scratch too but I just bought a pre-made one to experiment with and went to town with some dino printing.  I bought some thin foam sheets that cost about 50p each from Hobbycraft (I loves me some hobbycraft!) and drew a stegosaurus onto it.

I should point out I like dinosaurs, and was really indulging in dino love at this time of my life (I have dino stickers, posters, hair grips, fabric, cards, temporary tattoos, ornaments).  But thinking practically the image for printing had to have a simple and recognisable outline as any detail would be lost.  So a stegosaurus was the obvious choice.

I bought some Dylon fabric paint and painted it on to the foam stegs then printed them on to the t-shirt, but the foam didn’t transfer very well and I had to paint over them with a paintbrush and I ended up using a whole little pot of paint and I only painted them on one side of the t-shirt.

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Upcycling

Charity Shop Dress Adjustment

This is a dress I bought for £9.95 at a charity shop, it was a size 22 (I’m about a 10) and I knew it wouldn’t fit but I liked the pattern so I bought knowing I would have to make changes to it.  I started but cutting off the pleated skirt at the bottom, and taking it in significantly to fit my waist.  I think took the top half of the dress in to match the skirt, but split the amount on each side so it would keep the shape of the top, I also took in the arms which were too big.  Then I reattached the skirt but several inches higher up than where it had been, so it actually sat around my waist.   I folded the neckline to make a v-neck, and then moved the shoulders up as they didn’t sit on my shoulders.  I’m quite pleased the result although it’s shorter than I expected it would be.

dress adjust

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