I have been a devotee of the macaron for quite some time, especially since sampling them on a pilgrimage to Laduree in Paris. I have tried to make the little delicacies at home, with limited success. So imagine my delight when I met the lovely Lynne (from Medici Macarons) at Hebden Bridge WI. We soon started talking everything Macaron and Lynne kindly invited me to sit in on a making and baking session.

macaron1

Session 1 involved me watching Lynne like a hawk (believe me, if you think macarons are expensive then you really do need to see exactly how many stages are involved in making the almond delights and how precarious the process is!). Lynne went on to turn out a beautiful set, practically perfect in every way!

Session 2 started with me opting for a Macaron flavour (I went with lemon) and making a batch of macarons from scratch. Under Lynne’s watchful eye I made the lemon curd secret centre and continued to make the Macaron shells and buttercream. I picked up some magnificent hints and tips on making the batter and filling the shells – end result, not too shabby!

macaron2

Thanks so much for your time and effort, Lynne (a.k.a the Macaron Queen!). I am officially Medici mad and can’t wait to taste your latest Yorkshire rhubarb and custard creation!

You can find out out more about all things Medici at: www.medicimacarons.co.uk or on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/MediciMacarons

Yesterday I spent a very happy afternoon with fellow Hebden-ite Sue Leslie, (A Thousand Paper Wishes), who is beautifully skilled in all things paper and specialises in handcrafting paper for special occasions.

Off to Sue’s paper craft room we went (it’s awesome by the way!). First up, we made a gorgeous paper decoration from a section of an old black and white paperback book:

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I was so surprised at how easy it was and how quickly you could get results! So therapeutic too, with the repetitive folding motion. My kinda crafting!

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Next, we made a gorgeous paper heart decoration, again, stunning results for the work of moments!

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I really loved perusing Sue’s work in progress, including the exquisite paper lanterns for fairy lights, fabulous brooches and colourful origami boxes.

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I returned home with a small supply of paper for further projects (including a Booths Christmas catalogue, perfect for making a paper Christmas tree, apparently!) and more folding examples and can’t wait to get cracking.

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You can browse more of Sue’s handiwork down at Spirals on Market St, Hebden Bridge, or find more information on her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AThousandPaperWishes

All in all, a wonderful afternoon! Thank-you for taking the time to pass on your skills Sue and for providing such inspiration! A proper paper craft convert 🙂

I have been a member of the Women’s Institute for about a year now, it’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m delighted to have become a new member at the Manchester group.

When I heard about the plans for a collaborative tea party get together with Oxfam, to coincide with celebrations across the globe for International Women’s Day on March 8th, at my first meeting I knew I wanted to get involved.

Hair today

As we were invited to dress up and sport our most wonderful headwear I decided to make a piece in keeping with the theme and was inspired to make a playing card hair-clip.

hairslide

The clip was really easy to make, and I am delighted with the result.

Details of how to make this slide can be found at the wonderful Cut-Out-And-Keep website.

Queen of Hearts, Jam Tarts

Next up, what to bake for the tea table! No mad hatters event would ever be complete without a plate of jam tarts so I set about searching for a recipe. I settled on this one from Zoe Makes Cakes, as I liked the cute little heart pastry toppers, which kept with the theme perfectly.

I haven’t made too many jam tarts previously, as I’ve always been a little disappointed with the final result as hot jam spills over the sides of the pastry base. This recipe suggested using a high fruit content jam to counteract this, and I think it worked a treat!

jamtarts

Alice-in-Wonderland Themed Cupcakes

To accompany the tarts I also wanted to bake some cupcakes. I cooked up 12 lemon beauties, using a tried and tested Little Primrose Bakery recipe.

After a bit of research I came up with a few easy decorating ideas, based on the ‘ready-to-roll’ icing method;

Queen of Hearts design
Tea-cup motif
Mushroom (as eaten by Alice)
Tweedle-dum (or was it Tweedle-Dee?)

The cakes were fun, if a little tricky, to decorate, but I had some very complimentary comments from women in group, which was lovely!

cupcakes

Floral Delights

During the course of the afternoon we had a bouquet making demo by the wonderful boutique florist, David Wayman. I took along a jam-jar and got to make a beautiful posy. I usually struggle with making a ‘random’ anything (my inner ocd just takes over!) so it was great to pick up some tips from the expert! Can’t wait to try this out again!

flowers

I also assisted Charlie in cutting out fabric for the forthcoming WI banner, so I’m now really looking forward to personalising my fabric square as part of the next WI venture!

All in all, a lovely afternoon for a worthy cause. Well done Manchester WI and Oxfam!

I did it! I vowed that I would and I did! I crafted my first very own home-made Christmas in 2012.

All in all, I made:

6 jars of mulled wine plum jam
6 gift bags of sea salted chocolate snaps
5 knitted scarves
5 packets of sparkling vanilla Christmas cookies
4 knitted ‘rose’ corsages
4 bags of chocolate and cherry almond bark
1 gingerbread gift jar
1 cross-stitch sampler
1 bottle of cranberry-infused vodka

…and a partridge in a pear tree (well, ok, not that last one!).

jam

crossstich

It’s been such an enjoyable experience choosing patterns, yarns and recipes for friends and family and it was wonderful receiving their heartfelt thanks on Christmas day. It was just as I thought, it did mean more. And cost less.

chocs

Starting in August, I knitted my first scarf on holiday in Turkey, in 40+ degree heat! Crafting carried on right up until Christmas Eve and there was only one project which remains unfinished, first for next Christmas then!

turkey

I’ve made a mental list of those who have proved themselves to be ‘make and bake-worthy’ and have already starting researching patterns and recipes for Christmas 2013.

I think I may start crafting for Christmas even earlier this year…

Big thanks to the lovely @wisthelens ladies who have been, and remain, a constant source of inspiration and advice.

Roll on December 2013 – as my Christmas crafting is due to get even bigger and better!!

On Saturday I received a Random Act of Bakeness. What a wonderful thing.

The package arrived whilst we were out at a preview of a friend’s new coffee shop so we returned to find it on the doorstep. I immediately got the ‘what have you been ordering now’ glare from the other half. I couldn’t wait to open the parcel, which was beautifully wrapped in both brown and gift paper and was intrigued to find a biscuit tin within!

I opened the tin and was immediately hit by a wonderful aroma of chocolate and saw 12 fairy cakes, all beautifully iced with buttercream, with a white chocolate button atop each one along with a sweet Tigger and Pooh gift card. How lovely!

Despite a few of the cakes suffering a little in transit it took nothing away from the joy!

All I know about the friendly baker from whom I received my kind gift from is that he/she is called Fran, nothing more, so thank-you, whoever and wherever you are! Your efforts are very much appreciated. We ate some of the cakes with friends at a cycling event yesterday so it was even lovelier to be able to share the joy and all partakers declared cakey-love!

The opportunity to nominate friends, who have been going through a rough time recently, to receive a surprise package of baked love by way of a pick me up, or the opportunity to become a fabulous volunteer, now appears to be closed. However, I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if the bakey project continues!

You can find out more information at: randomactsofbakeness.blogspot.co.uk

A great big thank-you to @tillymintboutiq for nominating me to receive this kind gift, following my health issues earlier in the year.

What a simply lovely deed to do for a friend!

This year, what with being at home full time and all, I’ve decided to craft a home-made Christmas.

Time is one thing I’m not short of at the moment, so I’ve been having great fun on http://www.ravelry.com selecting free knitting patterns and choosing shade and variety of yarn especially for friends & loved ones.

Without giving too much away you can see some close-ups of items completed to date, scarves have featured heavily but today I’ve progressed onto my first corsage!

It’s been fun so far, as with each pattern selected I’ve learned a new stitch, or technique, or have used a different type of yarn, to keep things interesting.

I’m moving on to baby gifts tomorrow with a boottee-licious knitting session planned with @carafreckles who has been a huge inspiration to me in my recent knitting frenzy!

I found my 2011 Christmas spreadsheet this week (what, doesn’t everyone have one?) and blushed slightly as the costs incurred last year. Hopefully, the expenditure will be substantially less, with a little ‘craftiness’, this year!

Lots more clacking to go to get to the end of the list so I’d better head off….

Happy Christmas one and all!

First up, big thanks to @carafreckles for providing the inspiration for my first ‘hand-made’ greetings card, after she recently sent me a wonderful ‘knitted bikini’ card for my last birthday!

My lovely friend, of more years than we probably care to mention, Jennie, recently gave birth to her first baby. On hearing the news of Martha Rose entering the world I knew that I wanted to make a special card as a keepsake.

So after recently picking up the knitting needles again, following a mere 30 year interlude, I put on my thinking cap to consider how I could adapt Cara’s idea. I decided that I would knit a simple babies hat motif. I had some red wool left-over from a recent project which I utilised – I do get a bit tired of the strictly ‘pink for girls’ theme sometimes.

Using size 3.5mm needles I cast on 14 stitches, then knitted this row, I then decreased the number of stitches on each subsequent row by 1 stitch each time by knitting the first 2 stitches together, I continued knitting until 1 stitch remained, then I cast off. I made the simple bobble by laying short pieces of yarn horizontally across a vertical strand, I then tied this together and fanned the strands out for a bobble effect.

I popped to Hobbycraft and bought a pack of 10 white cards with envelopes and a tube of PVA glue, quickly sewed the bobble onto the hat and glued hat to card.

I’ve since had feedback from the proud mum declaring the card to be ‘lush’, which is good enough for me!

I’ve since worked out that this project cost the price of about 3 bought greetings cards but with a little imagination, and items from my craft box, I can still make another 9 cards. So this fits neatly with my new ethos of austerity!

I’m already thinking of other ways to adapt this theme for more upcoming events so watch out friends and loved ones!

I’ve been tagged by both @anothergoldfish and @tillymintboutique (thank-you both!) to reveal the tomes that I’ve currently devouring, so off we go!

There’s rather a lot happening for me bookwise at the moment. Current periodicals include a mixture of books from Christmas’ past, pass-it-on recommendations from friends, and library loans. This week was library visit week, always a pleasure, I’m just like the proverbial child in a sweet shop once I’m over the threshold!

First up, Kitchen by Saint Nigella. They say that you should never meet your heroes, well I bought this one for a book signing in Manchester last year, suffice to say that real-Iife version Nigella did not live up to the tv persona (but, then what did I expect?). It’s a real heavyweight this one so I’ve tended to pick it up as and when inspiration is called for. I love the sentiment behind this compendium, home is where the heart is, and for me, like Nigella, that’s never more so than in the traditional rhythms of the kitchen. Recipe highlights so far include: Sunshine soup on p78 and Everyday Brownies on p216. This one comes highly recommended!

One Day by David Nicholls, now this is one book I’ve struggled with so far. After the film, proclaimations on the book jacket that it is a ‘modern classic’, and almost EVERYONE I know loving the book (this one has been passed on by a friend), I have successfully picked up the paperback at least 3 times and not got past the first chapter. However, I’m now on p154 of 435, so this time I think I may just crack it! Must admit I’m warming to the characters much more this time round, so here’s hoping!

Risotto with Nettles by Anna Del Conte, I came across this Italian food writer via Nigella Lawson, and I have to say I have not been disappointed. Beautifully written, it is full of both the taste and talk of food, and fond memories of a lifetime of eating (in Italy and England), and is also peppered with delicious recipes along the way. One that’s back on the stack for an overdue re-visit!

Can’t Stand Up for Sitting Down by Jo Brand, this one’s a recent library loan yet to be started. The recent documentary ‘Jo Brand on kissing’ on BBC4 reminded me just how much I like her. She seems to have mellowed a little over time, and (some!) of her ultra-feminist corners seem to have been rubbed off. This book details how Jo started out in stand up, and what she had to go through in order to become the success that she is today. This one is somewhat topical with the current debate on the lack of female comedians on TV. Looking forward to this one.

Burned by Thomas Enger, I’ve never been one for crime thrillers, but must admit that I’ve been really enjoying (if that’s the right word?) the ‘Nordic noir’ genre books that I’ve had on loan lately. Burned promises to ‘plummet the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewer the corridors of dirty politics and nail the fast-moving world of 24-hour news’. All this plus a string of extremely brutal murders. This crime debut, is the first volume in a series of six books featuring the crime reporter, Henning Juul. Each book contains a complete crime story, but an overall mystery runs through the books: who killed Henning Juul’s six-year-old son? One book per year is planned for publication over the next six years. This promises much, possibly a mix of the wonderful recent BBC4 serialisations of Forbrydelsen (the Killing) and the political thriller Borgen?

The Dog who came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith, yet to start reading this library loan, but hopes are high. I love, love, love the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by the same author. There is something about the evocative Botswanan setting, and the slow pace of stories unfolding that I find such a draw. That and the emphasis put on ‘traditionally built’ ladies (for that read large) being the African ideal! I could do well there.

Missing from the pic is A Geek in Japan by Hector Garcia, for fans of Japanese culture from Anime to Zen, it’s a hip, smart and concise guide to the land that is their source, and a lively digest of the society and culture of Japan. This one tends to follow me around the house at the moment as research is being undertaken for our impending trip!

Whenever I go away I always like to take some reading material based wherever I am travelling to, I think it really helps me to understand and identify with the country and the continent. So, I’ve already started trawling Amazon Kindle for likely literary candidates to accompany us on our Japanese adventure.

And so, the book marathon continues…

Happy reading!

Despite the ‘all for scone’ blog title, making scones (and biscuits, for that matter!), has remained my nemesis! Whilst I have become fairly proficient at knocking out cakes of reasonable quality, the baking of those fluffy, round, golden brown numbers, fit to grace any tea table, has eluded me!

One of the things I wanted to achieve this year was to master the art of scone & biscuit making. I managed to turn out some pretty decent ginger shortbreads recently (from the Great British Bake off book), which has helped to address my ‘biscuit phobia’.

So, on to scones! I started last week by looking at the recipe I had been using from ‘The Best of Mrs Beeton’s Cakes & Baking’. Now whilst this may have cut the mustard in 1861, with no raising agent other that self-raising flour, I don’t think the fabulously large beauties that we prefer today could ever be achieved.

So, to Nigella! I made her ‘Lily’s Scones’, found in How to be a Domestic Goddess on p67. And, Bingo! Delighted with the result, airy, light, fluffy… They do look a little like they’ve got cellulite due to the large amount of cream of tartar used, but no judging here people! Strangely, she doesn’t use sugar in this recipe, but I found this surprisingly good! The sugar in the jam more than makes up for the absence in the dough. I suppose you could add 70g caster sugar in though, if you prefer?

I also tried making Kirstie Allsopp’s scones from her Craft book yesterday, these were not so great. to be fair I started handling the dough whilst it was still very wet and hadn’t fully absorbed the liquid, which I don’t think did the resulting scones any favours! Will try again, following the recipe more closely next time! But for now Nigella wins the scone-off!

In other news, I’ve signed up for a quilting class via WISH – Stand by your Jam . The first class was held last Tuesday – a fab group of ladies and one lovely tutor! The aim of the class is to produce one large quilt over 5 practical sessions, outlining  each of the steps required for the process. Unfortunately, I had an initial deer in headlights moment the end of the first class as it’s about 25 years since I last sat behind a sewing machine! However, with a separate ‘tutorial’ from Val I have sewn up my 2 blocks for inclusion in the quilt. Just some final cutting & individual motifs to embroider now, to enable me to identify my blocks in the final piece. Delighted that I stuck with it as ‘making a quilt’ qualifies as one of my lifetime ambitions!

Also, I have recently taken delivery of a new Sublime Stitching embroidery kit from www.sublimestitching.com I love the urban crafting style, so I’m really looking forward to pimping my tea towels with tattoo inspired graphics! As their website states, ‘This ain’t your Gramma’s embroidery’… You don’t say!

That’s all the news for now – happy crafting folks!

K

A very warm welcome to All for Scone!

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for some time… well, here it is! To be honest, it’s the Virtual Valentine Craft and Bake Competition that’s spurred me into action.

I made some Custard Cream Hearts to woo my husband earlier today. A little frugal, compared to some of the other entries, but when your OH’s meal of choice is beans on toast, you know that you’re dealing with a simple man! The closing date for the competition is tomorrow, so hopefully I will have made the cut!

Another thing that I’m particularly proud of this week is a Banksy cross-stitch piece. Started nigh on two years ago it’s been a long time coming! Dipping in and out of it during this time I’ve learnt lessons along the way. The finished article is now at the picture framers to keep for posterity, I only hope the gallery doesn’t take as long to frame it!

Finished it Friday!

I’m itching to start my next project which will be sewing related. As a member of the newly founded St. Helens WI group, Stand by your Jam, I’m hoping that I’ll be sharing many more craft related projects with you over the coming months!

Happy crafting!