Our Advent Calendar | Christmas 2014

Friday, 21 November 2014

Making our advent calendar with Baby MiH and Mr MiH was a lot of fun - it may have involved eating raw pastry and smarties, but that is why I prefer baking than playing with play-do. 

It is a bit early to make an advent calendar - especially one involving biscuits (they need to last for a bit of time) but as I was not sure whether I would have time to make it for the first of December I decided that last weekend was as good as any - and I could make fresher biscuits in between and these could be decorative.

I probably got out all the cookie cutters I have in my possession to make the cutting interesting, but also the advent calendar a bit more special. As you can see from the icing - this is very much homemade. Baby MiH was involved in the cutting but not in the icing - I am not really good at it, so with a toddler I dread to think what we would have ended up with. 

I used a new cookie recipe for these biscuits - from this book. It is an ok-ish book but it does have an interesting section on baking with children. I think it is the third time we baked with Baby MiH - and actually the first time with a pastry that does not stick everywhere, and got him interested for a whole hour! So it is probably worth using pastries like this with toddlers. 

The recipe is for classic honey cookies - these are super sweet (Baby MiH cannot get enough of them, we are a bit less keen, but they do smell wonderful!). You need to make the pastry beforehand - so just be aware of it, if you have mentioned to one little toddler that he will be baking soon... 

You will need (this makes a lot of pastry - way enough for the advent calendar and more; I followed the proportions because I wanted thick ones and I was worried I needed spares for the calendar because of icing accidents - but I think you can reduce the amounts by a third):

- 1 jar of clear honey (450g)
- 225g of light brown cane sugar 
- 225g butter
- 10g of baking powder
- 2 tbsp of rosewater
- 1 kg of flour
- 2 tsp of ground cinnamon, 1tsp ground ginger, and 1tsp ground cloves

How to make the pastry:

Bring the honey, sugar and butter to the boil, stirring constantly, and leave to cool. Dissolve the baking powder in the rosewater, stir the wet ingredients into the tepid honey mixture and add half of the flour, mixed with the spices. Mix well and gradually add the remaining flour. Knead the dough, put it in a plastic bag, and rest in a cool place for 24 hours (I left it for an afternoon in my garage...). 

Roll out the dough to the thickness you want, cut into pieces and bake at 200 C for 15-18 minutes. 

Let them cool down. And then get on with the icing, once the toddler has gone to bed. I used some already made icing (this one in red and white)- so much easier to handle. 

I know this is not perfect, but the fact that we all contributed to make our advent calendar is pretty cool (although I am not saying it is less expensive than one off the shelf). Also it did allow me to keep with the theme I have in mind for this Christmas. I am just wondering now how I am going to display it. It is one thing to display them neatly on my vintage trunk and another to make a Christmas garland out of them... 

What is your take on advent calendars this year? And do you have kids pastry recipes you would recommend?

Well that blanket was on time

Thursday, 20 November 2014

From my hospital bed, I cannot believe I am with Little Baby MiH - Léo Benjamin. He is gorgeous, a spitting image of Baby MiH. And we could not be happier. 

The Hourglass Baby Blanket | A Finish {Knitting}

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

It is finished and that is before the baby is here! I am having so many (fake) contractions at the moment, that it is a wonder that I managed it. To be fair I only finished and blocked it yesterday - so I am not leaving myself a lot of time. 

This is one of my favourite knits. The pattern, the yarn, the way it blocked - I cannot actually believe I handknitted this beautiful blanket. I am so glad I spent some time finding the right pattern and match the yarn. 

Pattern: The Hourglass Throw by Anne Hanson
Yarn: Swans Islands Yarn organic Merino and Alpaca blend yarn, naturally dyed 
(I used 3 skeins, as per the pattern)
Needles: 5.5mm
Final Dimensions: 29' x 41' (after blocking) 
Modifications: None - do not have the brain for it. But I reckon that it would make a great jumper pattern if someone wanted to take on the challenge!

The yarn - an organic naturally dyed yarn - is amazing to knit with. I am so glad I gave it a try. I have washed it - to block it - and the colour did not change at all. And it did block it beautifully (I used blocking wires and it worked amazingly well). 

So I am finally going to pack that hospital bag as I feel the end is near. I am reading 'The Woman I wanted to be ' by Diane von Fustenberg - it is really good already, so I cannot wait to keep on reading. 

I am joining KCCO and Ginny's today.

Pattern Picks | BT Wool People Vol.8 {Knitting}

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The new Wool People is out! There are a few patterns to be excited about, not as many as some earlier WP but still - and maybe a chance for my first (or first two) real colourwork knitting. So here are my picks for this new edition. 

The Maurits scarf knitted in the round is graphic and looks so cosy - you could have any colourwork and would really add some impact to some outfit. I have never done real colourwork knitting, and that night be a great start - the pattern mentions that it would improve my stranding technique - sounds good to me! 

The Field cardigan is probably on my pick list because I just love the whole outfit - so basically I need this cardigan, in this colour with that shirt and skinny jeans. I could also have that hair (probably do most days at the moment - but not looking as hot as the model). 
Oh that cable work looks wonderful. I think I need a new naturally dyed skein and get going. I may make a version that is between the beanie and cap version - who too small and one is too slouchy I feel. I am quite excited about the Sawmill River Hat
Esher looks like a great pattern for nursing - easy to put on when you are a bit cold and hide the nursing baby (although I do not breastfeed in public unless desperate). The pattern mentions that 'Escher flatters the figure with a colorblock triangle as the slimming focal point and deep ribbing that slants across the hips' - all the right keywords for me at the moment. 

Here are my pciks! What are yours? Are you excited about this new edition of WP? 

A pouch full of crosses | Le Challenge

Friday, 14 November 2014

This le challenge has come round very fast indeed. I had so many ideas for this month's theme 'x' - very big projects, but current events have taken over and it was time to get my hospital bag ready (yes that seems to have come round quickly as well). Mr MiH has been nagging me about it, and I still have not done anything about it. 

But this is what I really needed - a big handmade pouch that could carry all my beauty products in travel size. It is made of felt - I do love working with felt - and I actually 'printed' my own fabric so it is all coordinated. I am actually so in love with this pouch, that I am now happy to start packing - at some point.

I have written a quick tutorial so you can too make this pouch and the fabric - or at least be inspired by the process. 

My pouch measures 10' x 9'- and it is fairly big. I will provide the measurements I used to make this pouch - but it is really easy to adapt for any size pouch that you want. The only thing that you should be aware is the proportions of the white felt against the size of the pouch. I made it a third of the pouch, you may want to make a bigger/smaller statement. My seam allowance is 1/2 inch

You will need for the pouch:

- Cut two pieces of felt outer fabric 11' x 10'
- Cut two pieces of lining fabric 11' x 10' (I reused some calico I had made my muslin Tova with)
- Cut two pieces of white felt - 11' x 3' and line it with fusible web
- one zip to size

You will need for printing the fabric:
- Dylon fabric paint 
- a paint brush
- half a potato 
- baking parchment and fabric to iron the paint on (according to the instructions)

The potato may have suffered a bit from the process
1. Start by 'printing' your lining fabric - to make sure that the printing is dry when you get to use the fabric.

I followed the instructions on the bottle. I did try it on similar fabric beforehand to see how much I needed on the 'stamp'. I would say that my fabric looks very handmade - and I am sure you get better at it the more you do it. I did use a ruler to try to space the crosses evenly. 

I would love to print some fabric with Baby MiH - I am not sure he is ready for it yet, but soon we will have a go on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Beware this is a lot of fun! 

When I thought of the lining of the pouch I tried to put the best crosses at the top - and the double stamped one at the bottom... 

2. Put the outer fabric together

Draw the design you would like to add to your white felt fabric on the back of the fusible web - and cut out the design. 

 And iron it on

I quilted around the cross - because I thought it might the area that would be weakest point if I use it a lot - which I intend to!

3. Sew the pouch together

I followed the Purl Bee Simple Lined Zipper Pouch Tutorial to put it together - the tutorial also provides help to adapt the pouch sizes to your needs. 

Felt is thicker than fabric of course - so I usually use the raw edges of the outer felt fabric flush with the zip. It makes a less bulky finish at the top. 

Don't forget that opening at the bottom... 

And reveal it all! 

Well I must have done well - because Mr MiH is now asking for a sponge bag for himself after seeing my pouch. He never asks anything from me... 

This is will make great Christmas present - you can adapt it to anyone's taste - and although the tutorial makes it sound like it takes forever - it definitely does not. Probably took 3 hours to make (including 'printing the fabric' - a step you can easily skip). 

For all other le challenge entries, or a random chance to win a $25 gift certificate to the Fat Quarter Shop to spend on anything you like and a rainbow bundle of zips from Rickety Rose Crafts - you get to chose any 25 colours and sizes of the closed-end zips, link up here

Please remember to include the button or a link to Le Challenge in your blog post or Flickr description and use the hashtag #lechallenge if you're linking up from Instagram. So I can go and check out your entries! 

Purl Ridges Mittens | A Finish {Knitting}

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

I think I am a small-knitting-project-kind-of-girl. I love the process of knitting of course - but I get bored so quickly with repeats, no matter how beautiful I know the end result will be. Whereas with small projects you have a chance to finish quickly - which is really rewarding. Using naturally dyed yarn - dyed by myself - make the result even more special of course. 

So these mittens ... well they got knitted up quite quickly considering I am knitting a baby blanket as well as getting on with Christmas projects at the same time. 

I had been wondering for a while whether it was worth buying the pattern - it is quite expensive (well, I think) for a basic mittens pattern. I bought it because I did not have the brain power to work it out by myself - but I think you can - but really wanted this pattern. 

However I think it is worth it in the end - because you do get a basic pattern that would work for any mittens (there are a few stripey versions made with this pattern). The knitting of the thumbs is really interesting compared to other mittens patterns I tried in the past - and really neat actually. Also they fit my hands perfectly -  I have small hands and I usually have issues with size, so that's pretty good. 

I may have to add that I only wear mittens so having a basic pattern in my pattern library is quite essential. 

Pattern: Cozy Purl Ridges Mittens by Jenny Gordy (available here)
Yarn: Hand dyed worsted weight yarn (naturally dyed) - by me. 
I talked about the kit I used here and here.
Needles: as recommended by the pattern
Size: The pattern is in one size
Modifications: None
Result: I love how it shows this pattern, and the yarn of course. 
I do think I need a grey version of those as well. 

If you are looking for handmade presents ideas - I would recommend this pattern. It is easy to adapt to anyone's taste and the technique is simple but makes a neat result. And of course now, my little hands will finally be warm!

I will be linking up this project to KCCO and Ginny

Green tourists | Thorpe Forest

Saturday, 8 November 2014

I love these pictures - it was a great weekend away, the last one as a family of three - although we are talking so much of the imminent birth of Litlle Baby MiH that a little someone must be wondering whether there is actually someone in his Mummy's tummy or whether I just ate all the pies. 

Also we had great weather, which is always surprising when we go away in October. And because there was something for everyone - although my being on a bike at 8-month pregnant was definitely more for keeping Baby MiH happy, and for Mr MiH to have a laugh, than my own comfort. 

It is also the first time we went to stay in an Eco lodge, something I was really keen on - Mr MiH requested a tree house (still 8-month pregnant, I am not sure he is grasping the concept) - I found a luxury lodge, on one floor, in the middle of the forest - and after some family negotiating on dates (what do you mean you are running a 10K and we cannot do anything before because you need to train?), we booked our long weekend away in Norfolk with Forest Holidays

Baby MiH may have stolen a few stones in the process.. Sorry... 

Baby MiH did love the bike despite his scrunched up face.. 

We felt restored - every so often we need to get away as a family (ie not in France) and spend some quality together (ie not with our parents, no matter how helpful babysitters they are). 

Although I would definitely go back, it will never be in summer. The whole lodge is designed around you being part of the forest - ie massive windows, ie a lot of light in the morning (and no black out curtains) and maybe a sauna effect in the summer. But it is great in the Autumn as you can enjoy the beautiful colours at your doorstep.