Friday, 29 January 2016

Pancake Day recipe and tips

Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day is on the 9th February in 2016. 

Pancake day traditional recipe and tips
I gather this is a UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia thing - do you have Pancake day where you are?

The pancakes that we have here in the UK on Pancake day are similar to French crepes, just not quite so thin and delicate and they are traditionally served with lemon juice and sugar. They are SO simple to make, SO cheap and SO delicious I invite you to give them a go - wherever you are in the world.

Just in case this whole Pancake day thing is new to you, here's the basic recipe I've always used. We usually make double mix or more.

Pancake Batter - makes 12
8oz (225g, 1 3/4 cups) Plain Flour
2 x Eggs
1 pt Milk (any kind is fine)

You will also need:
Cooking oil - I use sunflower, I guess a spray would be fine
A frying pan or 2 (see tips below)
Toppings - lemon juice, sugar, honey, syrup, jam, fresh or dried fruit, chocolate spread, chocolate sauce...

  • Put the flour in a big bowl, add the eggs and half the milk. Mix well with a whisk. Add the rest of the milk and whisk again.
  • Put the batter in a jug and leave it in the fridge for a bit if possible (1/2 hour minimum, 2 days maximum) but if you are in a hurry and can't wait then don't worry too much, they will still work.
  • Heat a teaspoon of cooking oil in a frying pan and when it is really piping hot pour in enough batter to just cover the base of the pan. It should sizzle straight away. You have to swirl the pan with one hand as your pour with the other. You want them thin, just a couple of millimetres of mix. 
  • Somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute, lift the edge of the pancake with a spatula and peek at the underneath. If it's brown then your pancake is ready to toss. 
  • Give it a shake to make sure it's loose then hold it a little away from your body with your elbow slightly bent and flick the pan up slightly so the pancake flips over. (then pick the pancake up off the floor or unfold it in the pan, call that one practice and try again!)
  • It will only need another 30 seconds to 1 minute to brown the other side and it's ready to slide onto a plate and start again with the next one
  • You need to add the teaspoon of oil for each pancake, give a few seconds to get hot then pour, swirl etc as before.
    Tossing pancakes is very traditional and kind of fun but if you just want to eat them it can slow you down. You might well want to just flip them over with a spatula after a while. It's perfectly alright and not cheating at all!
    Here are a few hints that you might find helpful whilst we are on the subject.
    • Get 2 pans on the go, each pancake may only take a few minutes but when you are making a heap you really do what 2 pans, unsurprisingly it then takes half the time! If you have enough space, frying pans and people helping have more than 2!
    • Put your jug on a small plate so the worktop doesn't get in a mess
    • You want your pan really hot before you start, but even then the first pancake will take WAY longer than the rest. You only need to adjust the heat if they start to burn. My hob is gas and I generally have it on about 3/4 of the way
    • As they are ready pile the pancakes up on a plate. You don't need to put greaseproof paper between the layers, you don't need to keep them in the oven. With 2 pans going you have another pancake ready every 60 seconds or so - they keep each other hot
    • Serve them as soon as the last one slides out of the pan, you can warm them up but they are nicer when fresh
    • Count them before you start so you know how many there are each!
    Personally I don't feel a proper meal is necessary before the pancakes. We have cheese and ham or chicken to make some savoury ones and fruit options as well as chocolate spread, syrup and the traditional sugar and lemon. It's once a year and we do make A LOT of pancakes.

    If you want to have your Shrove Tuesday pancake the proper traditional way pop your pancake on your plate, sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar (granulated or caster is fine) evenly over and then add a good splash of lemon juice. We use the ready to go stuff in a bottle. Roll it up then eat with your fingers or cut up with a knife and use a fork. Make sure you hold it and your mouth over the plate as it WILL drip - it's supposed to!

    I found a few photos I'd shared on facebook of Pancake days gone by, taken on my phone.
    Not great photos but at least you know if yours look like this then you've done it right. 

    Are you tempted to have a go and join us for Pancake day?

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    Saturday, 23 January 2016

    Star Stitch Sweatshirt Refashion

    This grey star sweatshirt was just a little to monochrome for my taste so I've given it a little stitching makeover to add just a touch of colour.
    Star Stitched Sweatshirt refashion
    This was my "before" sweatshirt.
    I bought it about at the end of last winter from a large UK supermarket chain, I actually think it was being sold as Pyjamas. It was in the sale, it is warm, soft and fluffy, it's ok.... It's just a little bit un-colourful for my taste. Each time I wore it I felt like it was someone else's top.
    The stars are actually sparkly close up which makes it a little bit nicer than my photo shows.
    I thought about covering some of the stars with colourful fabric to start with but in the end I tried something a bit more subtle.
    I fired up the sewing machine and just stitched round a random selection of the stars in different coloured basic sewing thread.
    colour stitching refashion
    That bottom photo is just so you can see what it's like on the inside.
    I went round each star twice and the whole thing took maybe an hour and a half with tea breaks. In all I stitched round 20 of the stars in 5 different colours. 
    Star Stitched Sweatshirt refashion

    Star Stitched Sweatshirt refashion
    This has been extremely difficult to photograph in a way that shows you the difference, which I admit is subtle. I wear it with bright jeans and a scarf usually. Here I'm wearing it with the infinity scarf that I shared a while back on The Pinning Mama. It's made from an old T-shirt and covered in little bright tassels.
    You can find the tutorial with full instructions on the Pinning Mama here.

    This sweatshirt makeover was what I was doing MONTHS ago when I instagramed this picture.
    I also shared it as a Silent Sunday photo way back in May 2015! 
    I don't know if this little tweak can really be called a "refashion" but I'm not sure what else to call it. It was a simple, cheap way to add just a touch of colour to a grey top. Best if all it can still just bung in the washing machine, no need to worry about colours running as the thread is completely colour fast.
    Star Stitched Sweatshirt refashion before and after photos
    The difference in colour in these photos is because they were taken about 3 months apart and probably at completely different times of the day - I promise they are the same sweatshirt!
    It's not a massive difference but now when I look down I see colour so the top feels like mine! Maybe you have a top that needs a tiny pop of colour adding and a row or two of machine stitching in a bright colour would work for you?
    You might also be interested in:
    Lace Top Refashion
    Lace Top Refashion
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    Stripe T Shirt with Floral Trim
    Check and lace shirt refashion
    Check and lace shirt refashion
    Stripy T shirt Refashion
    Stripy T shirt Refashion
    I'll be linking up to all these great link parties, why not go and have a look!

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    Wednesday, 20 January 2016

    Recycled Plastic Valentine Hearts

    We seem to collect dozens of plastic tubs in our house so I was happy to find a way to recycle them into pretty valentine heart decorations.
    Marbled Valentine hearts
    I'm over at The Pinning Mama today with a tutorial to turn an old margarine tub into these pretty hanging hearts using the popular "marbling with nail polish" technique. 
    Over the last year or so I've seen so many objects beautified with this technique I've been itching to try it out on something. 
    recycled plastic marbled valentine hearts
    They are super inexpensive and such fun to make, this nail polish marbling is like magic. It is a bit messy though and you have very little control over how your heart comes out - for me that was part of the fun!
    Pop on over to The Pinning Mama now to see the full step by step tutorial here
    recycled plastic marbled hearts
    Use them as decorations, gift tags, card toppers or anything else you can think of! Enjoy!

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    Saturday, 16 January 2016

    Rainbow Crochet Heart Garland and Carnival Cushion

    It's now safe to share some of the things I've crocheted as presents recently, now that the relevant birthday and Christmas is past and the gifts have been safely delivered and unwrapped.
    Rainbow heart crochet garland
    Oh Pinterest I do love you! You help me to find such lovely ideas and sometimes, just sometimes, I actually make some of the things I pin! (shocker I know!) 
    I completely fell in love with this beautiful heart garland pattern I saw from Planet Penny. The pattern is free (there are links to donate to a UK charity Little Hearts Matter whom Penny designed the pattern to raise awareness for) and I found it really easy to follow. 
    Rainbow heart crochet garland
    I didn't stray too far from the directions given by Penny and I LOVE the garland I was able to make.
    I made 12 hearts in all, 2 of each colour (red, yellow, green, blue, pink and purple) and laid them out in a rainbowish order.
    Then I got super technical and made sure each tassel was the colour of the next heart in the sequence. I added little plastic glass effect beads between each heart as I joined them with a few stitches, again the colour of the next heart.
    To make the chain at each end to hang it up I threaded 6 beads (one of each colour) onto the yarn then crocheted a simple chain just incorporating a bead every 8 stitches then chaining a little more for luck. It finished up about 30cm (12") at each end.
    Rainbow heart crochet garland
     Look at it, it's just so pretty! 
    I'm curious, would you call this a garland or bunting? I've called it both so I'm obviously not sure!

    I actually splashed out and bought new yarn for the garland/bunting, I just didn't have enough of the bright colours I wanted to make it in my stash.
    The good thing was I then had plenty of leftovers and was able to make this cushion too (or do you call it a pillow where you are?) 
    carnivale cushion cover
    Photo credit Carla Nyanyo
    This is the beautiful Carnivale Cushion crochet pattern from over on My Poppet. Another free pattern with great step by step instructions and photos of every stage so you can't really go far wrong. It was originally done as a CAL so the tutorial is in stages which breaks it up nicely.

    I made the cover first then measured it and made a very simple round cushion pad to size from an old sheet and some wadding. You join the 2 sides of the cover with single crochet and then make the pom poms, I did about 3/4 of the way round, stopped and made the cushion pad, stuffed it in then finished off joining the cover.
    Photo credit Carla Nyanyo
    The back of my cushion ended up a bit wavy so whether I made a mistake with the increasing or just my tension if not great I don't know, but once it was all padded out with the cushion pad it was fine. I had the same number of stitches for joining the back and front so I don't THINK I miscounted but maybe I miscounted on both!
    round crochet cushion cover
    Photo credit Carla Nyanyo
    So in case you missed them further up the link for the heart garland pattern on Planet Penny is here and the carnival cushion on My Poppet is here.
    If, like me, you just want to pin for another day then the pin links to the original posts are here: Heart garland Carnivale Cushion on my Crochet it Board

    Happy crocheting!
    You might also be interested in:

    Diamond STitch Crochet Baby Blanket
    Diamond Stitch Crochet Baby Blanket
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    Clutch Bag from Old Knit
    BasketWeave Cowl
    Basketweave Cowl
    I'll be linking up to all these great link parties, why not go and have a look!

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    Saturday, 9 January 2016

    How to draw Mandala Greeting Cards

    I've been really enjoying making these Mandala inspired cards so I thought I would share the process with you in case you fancy having a go at making your own.
    How to draw Mandala Birthday cards
    Even though I have enjoyed making these SO much I have been in two minds about whether to share them publicly. I am aware of issues of cultural appropriation and the rampant taking/stealing of things of cultural significance to others. Mandalas and Rangoli are sacred geometric art for many people so I do not create them lightly. A quick internet search will find you lots of information about them, traditional symbolism, meaning and uses if you want to know more.
    I have asked several friends who are Buddhist, Hindu or Sikh and none had any issue with my cards, in fact they all asked if they would be getting one on their birthdays. With their nod of approval I feel comfortable sharing here and hope no one is upset as that is not my intention.

    To make one you will need:
    A square card blank and envelope
    A pencil and ruler
    A good eraser
    A compass (the kind to make circles not to navigate!)
    A black fine liner pen

    Using the ruler and pencil, draw diagonal lines faintly from corner to corner on the front of your card blank.
    Then going through the centre point where those lines cross draw a central line vertically and horizontally. I'm not sure how best to describe this so here is a diagram!
    Now take your compass and with the point in the centre of the card front, where all your lines are crossing make a series of circles in faint pencil 
    This photo shows this but might be a little hard to see as the pencil is faint so that it's easy to rub out later.
     Now just start drawing. Circles, lines, swirls, ovals, whatever you like.
    If you are not confident just keep it really simple; circles joined by lines, a swirl or two.
     I've generally started in the centre and worked out. 
    drawing your own mandalas
    Use the circle guide lines to keep the design round and the straight guide lines to help you keep everything symmetrical.
    I think it looks best if each "slice of pie" is the same, has the same number of each element in it, the same number of circles etc.
    Stop once you have the basics of a design in place and then start inking it in using a fine liner pen. Mine was black but you can use any colour, I suggest you check on some scrap card that it doesn't seep through first though.
    Once you have inked in the design so far you will find it much easier to see any gaps that you think need filling in with more design elements.
    It can be hard to know when to stop, I say just stop when you think it's enough! 
    These are incredibly relaxing to draw. Because you can do very simple shapes and just repeat them it is quite meditative. You need to think about what you are doing so you don't make a mistake, but then that means you are not thinking about everything else - like what is for dinner etc! 
    Normally I would have the radio on when I'm making anything but for these I just liked it quiet.

    This next design is a little more flowery but you can see it was built up in exactly the same way.
    In this close up you can see what I mean about using the guide lines to keep things symmetrical.
    I drew one petal centrally over the guide lines, then another centrally between them. Finally I filled in the gaps. Does that make sense? 
    Here are some of the other designs I ended up with:
    How to draw your own Mandala designs
    How to draw your own Mandala designs
    How to draw your own Mandala designs
    I ran out of square card blanks so made some on 5 x 7" rectangular cards and added some twirly writing.
    How to draw your own Mandala designs
    I made a mistake on the outside border of this last one below and had to end up putting more lines with a loop in that I originally intended, if you look closely you can see it's not very even. However I think it finished up being pretty so I'm including it here so you can see little mistakes don't matter too much!
    draw your own Mandala birthday card
    This whole thing started when "Mandala" was the word of the day on the brilliant #DNDchallange over on instagram. It's a doodle and hand lettering challenge organised by the super talented Dawn from Dawn Nicole Designs, details on how to join here
    This was my entry on that day, I liked it so much I just wanted to draw more!

    It's a really lovely challenge, you might remember I did it back in September too. Dawn also does a facebook based class for learning fancy hand lettering, where she gives helpful hints and homework. You can find more details are here.

    I've left all my Mandala designs just black and white but you could colour them in too if you like. 
    I hope you have a go and enjoy drawing these Mandala's as much as I have.

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