Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Wedding Gift Part 1

Dh and I have been invited to a wedding reception in August - the invitation asked for money towards a honeymoon, but, ever the rebel, that's not really my kind of thing, too impersonal.  I do not know the couple at all; dh used to work with the bride-to-be a couple of years ago, so it's very kind of them to invite us and I wanted to show our gratitude in a creative way.
I've been giving it some thought for a while now, and eventually settled on the idea of a small, framed cross-stitch.  Now, making something for someone you don't know is not straightforward, so I've tried to be fairly mainstream and fairly of-the-moment ...

I found some 14 count Aida ...

... and checked how much I was going to need.

I find it useful to count the squares with a pin ...

... then I got out my lovely fabric scissors ...

... and cut quite a bit more than I was going to need.

I found some tapestry needles ...

... and some thread which needed to be finished ...

... and using a single thread I attached the thread at a corner ...

... and then roughly sewed around the edges; this is to help prevent fraying during work.

One reel of thread finished, time for another one!  I needed a colour which would contrast with the colour of my design ...

... and I used this to mark the centre lines horizontally and vertically so I would know where the middle is.


Then I threaded the needle with some proper embroidery thread; I threaded both ends through the eye of the needle to help me keep the back both neat and as flat as possible.


I pushed the needle from back to front through the hole where I wanted to start stitching, ... 

... but left a decent amount of the loop of thread at the back.

Then I went back to the front and pushed the needle from front to back where I wanted the first stitch to lie - if you look in the very centre you can just see a small black stitch.

The needle came out of the back and I passed it through the loop ...

 ... gently pulled it taut and there we have it, a very neat back of fabric to start the stitching!

The work came along surprisingly quickly - probably helped by the kids being happy entertaining themselves!

However, it was not long before I made an error ... the bottom left of the H is not wide enough ... and despite trying to continue and just live with it, I found myself getting the seam ripper out and starting that letter all over again!

There, much better!

The finished back.

The 'finished' front ... of course it's not finished, it looks too lonely and loose - I'm going to add a border!

Here is the back with the border added ...

... and here is the front with the border added - definitely looking better now ... just have to do one more thing tonight ...

... remove the blue stitching which marked the centre lines and the middle ... now I can sleep, and the rest can be done another day :-)




Friday, 18 July 2014

Paleo Birthday Cake!

For Lent this year I gave up refined sugar - this gradually developed to include some natural sugars and then that developed to dh and I (mostly!) following a paleo diet for the last couple of months or so. We are both feeling a lot better for eating more of some things and less or none of others.  However, birthdays still need to be celebrated, and after a fairly fruitless search for paleo birthday cakes (most had ingredients I had not heard of in them, or sugar!) I decided that I could come up with something myself!  And this is what I came up with:


If you fancy having a go yourself then here's what I did:

Ingredients:
300g almonds
50g butter
50g coconut oil
600g soft cheese
120g dessicated coconut
3 teaspoons set honey (which was quite runny due to the current heatwave, but in winter I'd use runny honey!)
200g strawberries
165g dark chocolate (I used 85% cocoa chocolate)







I crushed the almonds in a plastic bowl with a heavy wooden rolling pin.



 I put the butter in a saucepan ....



... and added the coconut oil (due to the current heatwave, the coconut oil was already much more liquid than in the winter!).


Then I remembered that this may well stick to the bottom of the tin so used some greaseproof paper to make a circle to line the bottom of the 20cm spring form tin




Then I melted the butter and coconut oil.



I added the crushed almonds ...


... and mixed it all up.


Then I put the mixture into the tin and pressed it down with the back of a metal spoon.  It smelt great at this point :-)


I left it to cool down.


Then I put 600g full fat soft cheese into a bowl and mixed it with a wooden spood.


I weighed out 120g dessicated coconut ...


... and added it to the soft cheese.  It did not look slightly green like it does in this picture!


It didn't taste quite right, so I (reluctantly) added 3 teaspoons of set honey - I think runny honey would be better in any temperature less than the current heatwave!


Then I put the soft cheese mixture on top of the nut base in the tin ...


... and smoothed it out and put it into the fridge overnight (I don't think it needs to be in that long though!).


The next day I took 165g of 85% cocoa dark chocolate (I think this was too much in retrospect, 100g would be enough!) ...



and broke it into pieces ...




... put some water in a pan and carefully put the bowl of chocolate on top ...


... and stirred it until it melted.


Next I hulled 200g of strawberries (the ones I bought were all huge, I'd look for smaller ones next time) ...




...and speared them with forks. 



I covered a chopping board with tin foil


and then dipped the strawberries in the melted chocolate.


It was hard not to eat them straight away!  They went into the fridge for about 20 minutes, although I think they probably could have done with longer.


I put the strawberries on top of the soft cheese mixture but there was still lots of chocolate left over so I spooned that over the top.


This is what it looked like with the wet chocolate:




I put it in the fridge to let the chocolate harden ...


... and this is how it came out:


I took off the sides of the spring form tin - a lot easier than I had thought it would be ...


... and slid it off the base (but left the paper in place).  There was nowhere to stick candles without cracking the chocolate so I chopped an old apple in half and stuck them in there!


Just two more things left to do ...


... light the candles and sing Happy Birthday!


And just in case you are wondering, this is what it looked like inside:


It tasted nice and I will definitely make it again for another special occasion; I'd probably halve the quantities though.  I wish I liked cream because that would be much easier than all the soft cheese, but there we go, mission accomplished :-)