Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Guardian

Late November always sees me rushing to finish the Christmas crafting ideas I had in October, so that I can mail off parcels to around the world.

This week I finished this piece for a friend.  The pattern "The Guardian" is one I bought from this lovely site "What Delilah Did". 

Also last week I designed myself a stamp for using on my handmade items and sent it off to this site to have it made up.  The whole process was so easy and the stamp was delivered in two days.  I get really excited about daft stuff like customised stamps, so it was an exciting week for me!

Hopefully The Guardian will watch over my friend's Christmases for many years to come.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Pin Cushion Gift

I usually get started making gifts and decorations for Christmas in October, and even with post-move cupboards still crying out for organisation (and the occasional box left still unpacked), I have made an earnest start.

Miss S's gift for Grandma, last Christmas

Miss S, my seven year-old is starting to take an interest in sewing and embroidery.  She is also obsessed with the winged heart motif and I find it doodled all over pieces of scrap paper everywhere in the house!

So, it was a logical progression to start a sewing kit for her for Christmas, and the design for this embroidered pin cushion was easy to choose.

I used an 18pt linen embroidery fabric in a shade of oatmeal and drew the design, tracing through a light-source from a print-out behind.  I used the same image as Mr Muck's birthday card (see post here).

I then filled in some areas with fabric paint (I use Pebeo fabric paints - just iron when they are dry and they're colourfast).  I then went over the outlines using a combination of split stitch and long-stitch embroidery.

Now to source the other parts of the kit...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Moving on, settling in, catching up...

Neptune's jewellery, Cable Bay, NZ

I can't believe it's been so long since my last post.  I've had a pretty good excuse for my extended bloggy silence.  In late May myself and my whole family left Switzerland where we were living and flew to New Zealand, where we stayed for three months with family.  Then we moved to Sydney, Australia, phew!

Suffice to say there's not been much time (or available resources) for creative projects in the last five months, but that doesn't mean there's been no creativity!

My eldest, Miss S, turned 7 in July and since we were in New Zealand (where it was mid-winter at the time), we decided to have a Swiss Winter themed bash complete with Swiss-chalet-in-the-snow themed cake and the party itself was held at an indoor ski field.

The chalet I made from gingerbread and iced with fondant.  The rest of the cake was my usual chocolate cake iced with chocolate ganache and fondant over top.

This cake would have been different if I had made it at home, as all my specialist equipment was on a container ship heading across the Atlantic!  So it was a low-tech cake, but that in itself was quite fun - using what I had available and being a bit innovative with materials and re-purposing tools from my mum's kitchen drawers.

Moving forward several weeks, last Sunday gone I locked myself in my bedroom and began painting.  I wanted to do a picture for our guest quarters (a self-contained flat downstairs in the house we are renting).  The walls down there are very bare and I had been toying with the idea of doing a painting of a Swiss scene to remind me of our time there.

So this is the finished product - "Limmat at Dusk".  The Limmat is the river that runs through the old part of Zurich city. It felt so great to be painting again.  I can't remember the last time I did a painting, it would be over five years ago at least!

Well, thanks to all my faithful and new readers who have kept up with me during my hiatus.

Watch this space for my posts on early Christmas crafting.  I need to come up with a theme for Christmas this year... any suggestions?

Rachel x

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jethro's toy box cake...

Yesterday we had a little birthday dinner party for my son Jethro who turned four.

Usually my kids pick a theme for their party and that helps me decide on a cake, but this time it was the other way around.

Months ago when quizzed about what he wanted for his cake, Jet waivered between being quite specific and rather vague.   He wanted the exact same cake as last year, but could he have Lightning McQueen on it?  Hmmmmm....  I didn't really like the idea of making the same cake twice, nor trying to make a red race car seem congruent with a prehistoric world full of dinosaurs :).

In the end, I decided that his cake would incorporate several of his favourite things, and the best way to do that was to make a toy box cake.

It was a labour of love, and whilst I am glad I made it, it's not a cake I would want to make again because of the time put into it.  Several weeks ago I began making toys - nearly all of them - miniatures of Jethro's favourite toys.

There was Stephen the Stegosaurus, his cuddly bedtime friend, made of fondant with gumpaste spikes.

Thomas the Tank Engine, also made of fondant.

Lightning Mc Queen on a puzzle:

This puzzle was made from mexican paste - a modelling paste which dries very hard (recipe here).  I then cut it out using this nifty sandwich cutter, before painting the image on with food colouring paste diluted with vodka.  The outlines were done with an edible marker.

A simplified version of his favourite stacking rainbow:

The Lego blocks were made from Wilton Candy Melts which I set in a Lego block ice cube tray.  I also made some juggling balls, a wooden block, and Chick Hicks, from the first Cars movie.

A couple of weeks ago I covered the cake board in grey fondant and fondant dots so it would look like a Lego board.  This is a good thing to do well in advance as you really do need the fondant to dry a bit, and so long as you cover it loosely in clingfilm to keep the dust off, it is OK to be stored for about a month.

The hardest part of the cake was definitely the actual toy box!  I baked two chocolate celebration cakes in a roasting tin I had (recipe at the end of this post).  I then cut the edges off and stacked them on top of one another.  I iced them in chocolate buttercream before decorating with chocolate fondant on which I created a wood-grain effect with a pointed modelling tool.

It was a fun cake to make, despite all the work and despite stretching myself a little too thin whilst doing it!

All this talk of chocolate is making me hungry.  Is 10am too early for tea and cake?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jethro's favourite things party...

Today my bright and extremely funny son Jethro turned four.  This evening had a little "birthday dinner" for him to celebrate, since tomorrow we are going to Legoland in Germany and so I felt that he didn't need a big party.

Famous last words!  Since when have I been able to resist turning a simple dinner into a full-blown primary-coloured fun-fest?  Since never, that's when.

The cake, a toy-box full of his favourite toys, set the theme.  Jethro's favourite things.  Jet loves cars (especially Cars the movie and Lightning McQueen), he's mad on dinosaurs, drawing, lego and jigsaw puzzles.  And though I hate to admit it (and we don't go there very often, I swear!), he loves a nuggets and chips Happy Meal from McDonalds.

So, I used his favourite things to create the party.  As you may already know, we are moving to Sydney, Australia in July.  With this move looming, I've been more keen than ever to use what I have lying about rather than buy anything in.  So, all the decor was made from bits and pieces I had lying around.

The plates were biodegradable banana palm plates lined with paper placemats.

Each guest had their own takeaway plate complete with fries box (template here).  

The fries boxes were really easy to make and could be used for a fun favour box if not used to hold food.

I also made these little straw name tags using a scalloped craft punch so each guest knew where to sit.

For the decorations I used Jet's toys which kept it fun, bold and bright, and meant I didn't have to make anything like bunting or pompoms.

It was a colourful party for an equally colourful character.  Happy birthday to my special boy!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Birdy turns one... and a little announcement!

It doesn't seem quite like a whole year has passed since I announced the arrival of my third child, Moxie.

She's gone from being this tiny swaddled bundle to being a furniture-scooting, stair-climbing little daredevil who is keeping us all on our toes.  Seriously, my first two kids were active and curious, but Moxie is a tiny Houdini whose only mission in life is to get on top of the highest piece of furniture in any given room.

On monday last week we celebrated her actual birthday with a little cupcake, a round of "Happy Birthday" and a few presents.  Then, on the following sunday we got to celebrate with some friends when we threw a proper brunch, complete with cake.

I've been loving our heart-shaped "Waffles on a stick" machine.  The kids love holding the waffles in their hand and they can be made ahead and frozen.

Brunches are our go-to entertainment format at the moment.  The kids are in fine fettle in the morning and my husband - who normally doesn't set foot in the kitchen - makes a mean batch of the most delicious and tender crêpes.  So with his help with the food, I don't have much else to do but a bit of extra catering and some decor.

The cake was smaller than I usually make, bearing in mind that after a plate full of liege waffles, crepes and bircher muesli, you generally don't feel like sitting down to a big slice of cake (that still didn't stop me though!).  I settled on a theme of spring birds and blossoms and tried to keep it simple for the sake of my slightly sleep-deprived brain!

I also made matching cupcakes which were party favours.  The toppers I made weeks ahead from gumpaste and were the easiest thing to do.  I then piped the "nests" with a Wilton grass tip in chocolate buttercream and with the addition of a couple of fondant flowers, they were really a very simple cupcake design to execute.

We are making the most of our time with our friends here in Zurich, which brings me to my big announcement.  Starting July this year, we are going to be living in Sydney, Australia.  It's a big move for us, spurred on mostly by our desire to be closer to home (which is New Zealand), and to make schooling a bit easier for our kids.  It will be sad to leave after almost six years here in this stunning, amazing country - how lucky we have been to live here.

So that goes a little way to explaining why I have dropped off the radar for so long.  I'm planning some changes for my blog in due course, and looking forward to becoming a part of the blogging community in Australia once we are settled in.

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