Tuesday, 30 April 2013

April's Crafting and Crochet Projects

Well, April, haven't you just been a hectic month? Dealing with a seriously ill cat at the start of the month, racing to meet several work deadlines towards the end and suffering from a lingering flu-type illness that lasted the best part of two weeks have left me little time for anything else. I have managed to fit in a little crochet though. I'm usually a fan of instant gratification in my crafting endeavours but earlier this year, I decided to take on some bigger projects. I'm currently working my way towards my first ever crochet afghan and managed to hook up a few more of these this month:

I'm also attempting to make a kind of over-sized shrug/cardigan type garment and have just started it for the third and, I hope, final time! The yarn I was using was too heavy so I've taken it down a notch to a lighter version. I'm making it without a pattern but my idea is fairly straightforward so hopefully I'll have something wearable by the end...

I'm planning on selling some crochet accessories via Etsy over the coming months and am working on stock. This was a great little project while I was laid up in bed last week. I love anything I can finish in 10 minutes and it's really satisfying to see the little piles growing! Still need to weave the ends in though, boooooo:

I also had a go at crafting with felt. I made a wonky heart first and then tried a little birdie, inspired by the lovely Suki over at the equally lovely Owl Club Blog after I saw one she'd posted on Instagram. I can't remember really using felt before, possibly as I'd been put off by the garish  primary-coloured sheets in those craft packs you see all over the place aimed at children, but I picked up some pieces in muted shades the other week and was keen to have a go. I love freehand sewing and felt is much more forgiving towards uneven or mis-judged stitches, making it perfect for a quick and easy crafting. 

felt embroidered heart applique

felt embroidered bird

So there is my April in a crafting nutshell. Thankfully, little Pepster is now doing well and enjoying chilling at home in cute sleeping poses:


Monday, 8 April 2013

The Fabulous Women of Mad Men

It's with mixed emotions that I'm awaiting the start of season 6 of Mad Men on Sky Atlantic.  The creators have said there will only be one more season after this one so while I'm really, really excited for season 6, I'm gutted that I'll only have one more season premier after this one *sob*.

Whether you watch Mad Men because you're a fan of dashing men, immaculately put-together women, excellent storytelling or just first rate acting, you'll almost certainly appreciate the incredible attention to detail in each and every scene.  I started watching Mad Men a couple of years after it first aired, spurred on to check it out by an article in Grazia detailing the lengths the set-dressers went to to make sure everything was just perfect.  Soon hooked on the slow-moving yet utterly absorbing storylines and the sheer beauty of Betty Draper's wardrobe, I became a huge fan of all things Mad Men.

Here are some of my favourite looks sported by the leading ladies of series so far:

Betty Francis

Betty's Rome outfit was a real glimpse into who Betty might have been before she met Don, when she was still modelling and had the world at her feet.

I really love Betty's pretty dresses, though, and covet much of her fabulous wardrobe.  

I'd play tennis EVERY DAY if it meant I could wear this:

Joan, Joan, Joan

Has there ever been a woman as fabulous as Joan Harris?  (Clue: The answer is"no").  An inspiration to tall, curvy gals everywhere,  I love seeing her strut across the screen.  Her honeyed tones disguise a strong, independent woman who really develops over several seasons.  I love you, Joan.

Mad Men Joan Fashion

Peggy Olson

Not a fan of anything Peggy ever wears, ever, I struggled to find a look I liked.  I had to include Peggy, because, you know, she's Peggy.  She's in practically every scene in many episodes and is arguably the most important female character in the show.  I do quite like this cute dress, though:

Sally Draper

I adore Sally.  From cute little kid to feisty teenager, she has stolen every scene she's appeared in.  This glam look is from Season 5 and is the first time we see Sally sporting an adult look:

Mad Men Season 5 Episode 7 Don and Sally

Megan Draper

I love lovely Megan.  She's much more of a 60s chick than the other characters and her look tends to be less polished and more modern.  As a black eyeliner devotee myself, I can totally get on board with her approach to make-up, too.

I'll be glued to my screen when Season 6 starts this week and trying not to think about the fact that sometime next year, Mad Men will be gone forever.  Thank God for boxsets.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Song lyric embroidery #2

One of the few things my sister and I have in common, apart from the same parents, vegetarianism and the belief that my niece is the best child in the entire world, is that our favourite band is The Doors.  I made this little set of embroideries for her birthday, using a line from her favourite Doors song:

I did them totally freehand and although they're a wee bit wonky, I think this adds to the homemade look rather than detracts from their appearance.  I used chain stitch which I hadn't done before but I'm now hooked on the way it looks.  My stitches could be a bit neater and I definitely improved a lot towards the end, but as a first attempt, I'm pretty pleased.  

Now, shall we have a gratuitous picture of Jim Morrison to round off this mini-post? 


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Malteser Cupcakes Recipe

I've taken a bit of a break from blogging, social-networking (I've missed you all) and, tragically, crafting for the past couple of weeks as I've been too busy with work to fit anything else in.  After two weeks of non-stop work, I spent Easter weekend painting, sanding, filling, glossing and doing all manner of other DIY-like things to my hallway so I feel I've earned a treat.  I made these cupcakes for my sister's birthday celebrations and kept a couple back to enjoy with a cuppa while I sat on the stairs, admiring my work so far/sinking into despair at how much more was left to do.  


I've done Malteser Cookies, I've done Malteser Refrigerator Squares, and now Malteser Cupcakes.  What can I say?  I just love the chocolatey, malty deliciousness of a melt-in-the-mouth Malteser.  The actual cakes this recipe produces are not too sweet or rich but the mountain of Malteser frosting on top makes up for this!  I used Ovomaltine, the Italian version of Ovaltine, because I'm cosmopolitan and exotic like that.  And also because I just happened to have some leftover from my trip to Rome at Christmas.

This recipe produces a whopping 24 cupcakes as I needed that many for a family gathering.  It can easily be halved to produce 12.


Cakes (makes 24)

220g butter or butter style margarine
220g caster sugar
4 free range eggs
220g self-raising flour
4 heaped tbsp Ovaltine (the traditional kind, not the light version)
4tbsp milk

Malteser Frosting

500g icing sugar
75g Maltesers
250g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
A few tbsp of milk, as required
Extra Maltesers for decoration


Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 4/160C


1. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, flour, Ovaltine and milk.  Beat until smooth.
2. Split the mix into 24 paper cases, and bake for 15 - 20  minutes or until cakes have risen and the centres spring back when lightly pressed.  The cakes will have an ever so slightly sticky top.
3. Transfer to cooling rack and leave to cool.


1. Using a blender, food processor or good old-fashioned bashing with a rolling pin, crumble, blend or crush the Maltesers until you have a fine Malteser dust.  There will be a few larger chunks of chocolate in the dust and that's fine:

Crushed blended Maltesers

2. Beat the butter until it begins to look pale and light.  Add the icing sugar, a third at a time, beating as you go.  Add the vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.  Add the Malteser dust and continue to beat until you have a light, fluffy buttercream.  You may need to add a few drops of milk to loosen the mixture as you work.  Add no more than 1tbsp at a time to ensure you don't loosen it too much. 

Pipe or spread the frosting onto the cupcakes and top with a Malteser.

Malteser frosting recipe