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Author Archives: CeeKay

Honey Beer Chicken from Thistle and Maize

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I read quite a few blogs about food, and really like to read recipes that people have invented (how do you do that?!) But I have never tried to recreate one of them until just recently. I was reading a blog by Thistle and Maize and came across a recipe for Honey Beer Chicken. I thought ‘That looks yummy, it’s easy to make and I have nearly all the stuff to make it!’ so after buying the things I didn’t have, I did make it! and here it is:

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It was really tasty, and my family thought so too! We decided it was like a mix of teriyaki and chicken stew, so a sort of oriental stew. As you can see I served it with broccoli and mini jacket potatoes. It was also quick to make which was also a bonus. A few changes I made to the recipe was to use a bit of left over sliced onion instead of shallots, vegetable oil instead of canola oil (because I don’t know what that is!) I also used a honey flavoured beer, as I thought it would go with the honey in the mix:

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Thanks Thistle and Maize! Has anyone else got a favourite cooking blog they can recommend?

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Pretty pyjamas

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I mentioned on my last post how I had been inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee, to finally make my own clothes, like I had been wanting to do for ages. I wanted to start with an easy pattern and as Simplicity were having a half price sale, ended up buying Simplicity pattern 2116 for pyjama bottoms and two different tops. The tops needed a stretch fabric and the bottoms just a standard cotton, so I got a lovely flowery cotton poplin and a matching colour stretch cotton for the top.

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To start, I never realised how confusing pattern sizes would be. Maybe it is because I’m only a beginner, but I really had to think about what pattern size to cut out. I’m still not sure I got it right, but as they are pyjamas, it doesn’t matter! I also found the instructions a bit tricky and I’m glad I had picked up a bargain book about dress making that really helped with everything. If you are new to dress making like me, I would really recommend Dressmaking by Alison Smith for help on everything from fabric choice, pattern cutting and alterations to sizing and of course, sewing up. It also has patterns in the back with step-by-step instructions on how to make the garments! (I got mine for a lot less than is showing on amazon at a discount book shop) In the end, the bottoms were really easy to make. They are comfy and I can see myself making a lot more. They would also be a nice present for someone!

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There were two patterns for tops. One a regular t-shirt and the other a racer back sleeveless top. I only intended to make one, but after a mix up at the shop, had enough fabric to make both, so I did. The Racer back top was pretty simple, considering it was a stretch fabric, I thought it might be more problematic. I just switched the stich on my machine to a straight stretch stitch (try saying that 5 times fast!) as when I used a regular straight, the stiches broke when I stretched the fabric. All the hems on the tops are raw, which I expect if I wasn’t using a beginners pattern, would be a lot more work. The trouble with sizing in this top became apparent when I tried it on, the arm holes are quite gape-y, so I don’t know if I made a size too big or maybe I need to add some bust darts?

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The t-shirt was also pretty simple. The only slight tricky part was adding in the collar, and that also looks a bit wonky when I put it on, but never mind! Again the fit is strange, because according to the measurements of the pattern, this is 2 inches smaller than my actual size, but it still looks pretty big. I asked someone who knows about these things, and she said to measure the actual pattern pieces to find out which size to cut, rather than go off what to say. A helpful hint for the future! I feel like my first try went well, I didn’t expect them to be perfect, but as I can get  my arms and legs into the holes and they are in the correct places, I will say success! Anyone else just started dressmaking?

The Great British Sewing Bee!

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Source: bbc.co.uk/sewingbee

I am sew(!) excited about this new programme on BBC2 called The Great British Sewing Bee. It is a sewing competition where each week the contestants are given challenges to make or alter items of clothing. Episode 1 the challenges were to make an A line skirt using a pattern they were given, alter the neckline of a simple white top then finally make a ladies day dress to whatever design they liked.  The programme is made or created (or something like that!) by the people who make The Great British Bake Off which is one of my favourite programmes. You can see my attempt at making one of the cakes from the Bake Off here. The show also has little films about the history of sewing and tutorials on simple projects. It is the kind of show I like and reminds me of Projects Runway/Catwalk and The Next Great Artist. I really want to get into making cloths so I will be watching keenly over the next few weeks to pick up loads of tips! In fact I’m off to buy some dressmaking patterns now, I’ll post up my attempts when they’re done!

P.S. If you want to watch, The Great British Sewing Bee is on BBC2 every Wednesday at 8pm!

RCA Secret 2013

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I recently came across a web article about a new exhibition at the Royal College of Art called RCA Secret 2013. It is such a good idea. Basically, the RCA has asked well known artists and graduates who are relatively unknown, to produce work on or the size of, a postcard. The artist signs the work on the back and all the postcards are displayed to the public. ‘So what?’ I hear you ask. Well, each of these postcards is on sale for only £45 meaning that you could get a piece of work by a big time artist at low, low prices. It’s like a lucky dip into the art world! The famous names participating this year include “Paula Rego, Julian Opie, David Bailey, Christo and John Baldessari, Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park, film director Mike Leigh and from the world of fashion, Sir Paul Smith, Orla Kiely and Manolo Blahnik.” I guess some of them like Nick Park and Orla Kiely might be easy to spot if they stick to their well known styles, but with 2700 postcards on display by 1034 artists, it might be harder than I think! The only problem with this is that you have to be there in person to buy. That means going all the way to London (which is not my favourite place to be) and hoping to be there in time before everything is sold 9the exhibition opens to sales at 8am!). You have to register to be able to buy, and you can only buy 4 works at most. If you were in London though, and you like art, and you don’t have access to the Saatchi fortune to spend on random art, it would be a great opportunity.

What would you put on your postcard if you were invited to exhibit? The works can be jewellery and 3D so long as they are the right size. I might make a paper collage, or stitch a tiny bag!

Blanket of many colours

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blanketAbout three of four years ago, I bought a knitting book really cheaply in the sales. It was by Rowan and had all sorts of designs for cushions, blankets and rugs. (I tried to find it on Amazon to link to but couldn’t. I should just go downstairs and find it, but I’m feeling lazy today! I will post it later.) This patchwork blanket caught my eye. It is made up of different hexagons, some in knit, and some in fabric. All the knitted hexagons have a different pattern so it’s really textured and interesting to look at.

My Mum and I were given a big bag full of odd Rowan balls by my Aunty and they were just perfect for this project. I knitted them on and off for about three years (!) until I had finally finished them. I then went hunting in the fabric stash box, and came across some corduroy type fabrics to use as the other hexagons. Now there was a laying out pattern in the book which seemed straight forward, but when you consider that no two same knitted patterns or colours should lie together, this got complicated! Finally I arranged the knitting pinned and sewed it together (I don’t mind sewing up knitting. I know some people hate it, but to me it means I’ve nearly finished, Hurray!) then I came to a stop.

The book said, sew the fabric hexagons into strips according to the pattern. I did that on my tiny sewing machine that just does straight stitch. Then lay the knitting over the top, pin and zig zag stitch to the fabric. I’m not doing that by hand! I eventually got myself a sewing machine, and my first project was to finish the blanket. I zig zagged, cut out a plain grey wool backing, used the same for the edging and sewed it all in place. The edging was like bias binding, so I then had to flip it over to the back and hand sew 😦 all around the edge.

Finally after four years I had finished and just in time for the snowy weather. Although at times I absolutely hated this project, I love the finished result. I can really see it being something I will always have, and the fact that I finished it by hand makes it all the more special. I don’t know if four years is a record for not finishing a project? I’d love to hear of anybody else’s long suffering craft projects!

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Mmm! Chicken and ham pie!

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pieI thought I would get back into blogging by sharing a recipe I sort of made up (the sauce and pie top recipes were from other places but I can’t remember where!) It is really yummy and you can use up leftovers and add whatever herbs and spices you like. The amounts aren’t exact because like I said, I was sort of making it up as I went along.

Ingredients

  • Chicken breast fillets, cut into bite sized pieces.
  • Pre cooked ham or gammon, chopped into smaller pieces.
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Pinch of Cayenne pepper
  • 25g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 150-200g of chicken stock (depending how thin you want the sauce)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of double cream
  • A squeeze of lemon
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 75g vegetable suet
  • chopped sage
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Fry the chicken in a little oil until browned all over. Add in the cooked ham and mushrooms and stir. Add some cayenne pepper (or whatever you fancy!) and season. Leave in the pan but take off the heat.
  2. Make the white sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Cook slowly, stirring, until the mix is the colour of straw. Pour in the stock, turn up the heat and stir constantly until the mix is simmering and smooth. Add in the cream and reduce the sauce to your desired consistency. Add the lemon.
  3. Make the pie top. Put the flour, suet and herbs (I used sage because it goes with chicken, but you could leave out the herbs if you don’t like them) in a bowl and add enough water to make a sticky dough. Dust the dough with some flour and wrap in Clingfilm to rest for 10 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin and hands (I told you it was a sticky dough!) into a shape that will fit the top of your pie dish.
  4. Lightly butter a pie dish. Add the chicken mix into the sauce and season. Stir well and pour into the pie dish. Take the rolled out dough and place it on top of the mixture, making sure it reaches the edges of the dish. Make a small hole in the centre of the dough with a knife and brush the top with a little milk.
  5. Put the pie on the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven at Gas Mark 5 for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is lovely and golden. Serve and enjoy!

My family really loved this recipe, and like I said it is easy to customise. If you try it, I’d love to see pictures and let me know how you liked it!

Making a mannequin

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I don’t like mannequins because they are scary, but I wanted something that I could display some of my products on at a stall. I had a look on eBay for dress makers dummies, but they are all pretty expensive and as I can’t make clothes, it would be a bit of a waste most of the time. Then I came across a tutorial by Etsy on how to make a custom dress form in your exact size. This is perfect for dress makers as clothes will fit you brilliantly. For me it was perfect because it was cheap!

Basically, you put on a t-shirt you don’t mind being cut up, then get someone to cover you in layers of duct tape!

I bought two cheap turtle necks from the supermarket (I also got cheap duct tape there) and put one on for the base as I wanted the form to have longer shoulders and a high neck.

Once you are covered in a few layers, get someone to cut you out! You’re left with a shell that is a replica of you! next just tape up the join, stuff the form with something (I used newspaper) and either stick on a cardboard base or attach it to a pole.

I then used the second  turtle neck as a cover, and there you have it! It’s the perfect size to sit on a table stall and a lot cheaper than buying the real thing! If you want to make one, definitely check out the Etsy tutorial as it has detailed steps and goes into a lot more detail than I have.