Thursday 28 February 2013

On a Downer.

   I don't like to make miserable posts, so don't assume I'm being whiney. I'm using this post as a way to try to figure out what might be bothering me. But let me start by saying that by no means do I feel that nothing in my life is going right. I have an amazing boyfriend who I really do love more every day, and who can always make me laugh and knows just how to do it; I have an amazing family who look after us as we do for them, would never turn us away or kick us out, and never ask us for anything; I have health, and intelligence, even if it doesn't always seem like it. In short, my life is just peachy.
   But I still can't shake this downer. I'll be honest, I don't think I have much to be upset about, like I said above, but that doesn't always help to shake such a feeling off.
   I can think of a few things it might be.

   My shop. Lately they have both been so very, very slow. The only thing keeping me positive is that I've got new products for both Peaches and Pebbles, and Grumble Cave Monsters. The downside of that is that I'm still waiting for supplies for my new jewellery, and while I finished the new monster piece, I've found it impossible to photograph. I photographed it against white, but because it is white itself, it didn't work out, but I don't like it against wood at all, either. I don't want to photograph it on myself, and I have no immediate people who can help me out either, so I'm feeling a bit stuck with that.
   My weight. I weighed myself at the beginning of February, worked hard for the next three weeks, particularly the final week where I doubled my exercise time. I weighed myself the Monday afterwards and somehow gained a pound or two. In my experience, if I weigh myself on a Monday, exercise properly for a week, then weigh myself on Friday, I always weigh more, but if I rest for the weekend and then weigh myself on the next Monday, I weigh less than the initial Monday. I'm hoping that by doubling the amount of time I spent exercising, I just shocked my body, or something like that, and the weekend wasn't enough to rest over. I don't believe I've actually gained anything, surely I've only lost it, but it still hasn't given me any confidence boost - very much the latter, in fact.
   Writing. This is a big one for me. I enjoy writing, and I like the story I'm writing right now, but I'm having a hard time wanting to do it, and so, I don't. This means I'm postponing my dream career, because, I've discovered, I don't think I want it as much as I thought I did, otherwise, surely, I'd be able to make myself do it. Actually, I wouldn't even have to "make myself" do it. I'd do it because I want to. I think, for the most part, it's because I'm not interested enough in my characters. The story is a good one, and it could do well, but finding the concentration to sit down and write it is getting harder and harder - and the longer I put it off, the harder it gets to get back to it. It's bringing me down, along with the fact that, as I've stated several times before, my dream career is in the hands of complete strangers, depending on their opinion. I cannot offer any achievements or grades to pursuade them, because they would mean little. So all I can do is keep writing and hope it's not all for naught.
   Money. I don't like to talk about finances, but we're saving up for things that are important to us, which means we're a little worse off than we used to be. We've never had much money, and with nothing but crickets coming from the shop lately, we are especially bad off, which is bringing me down. I worry that we won't be able to afford things we need, or, should something happen, we be unable to cope.

   I don't mean to whine, and it's helped to get this out a bit, but at the end of the day, I think I've realised that this downer is something I've slipped into for no reason at all, and one I will snap myself out of in time. Knowing me, it may not last too long. Seeg thinks I just need to keep myself occupied, so there's a marathon Naruto session coming up, along with excessive amounts of Mass Effect and Skyrim, and birthday cake making. It's my mum's 49th on the 1st, and, despite having to ask my dad nicely, we managed to get her a present. Nothing flash - she's very hard to buy for, since she has no hobbies - but it's something that will last and she will enjoy looking at. We got her some fake poppies. At least they won't die - and, knowing mum, she won't even realise they're fake. Not that we're trying to trick her, we're not that mean.

   Hopefully things will perk up shortly. How about everyone else? Anyone else having a bad day? Or perhaps an especially good day? Got any nice/funny/sweet stories to cheer me up with? We also just watched the Naruto Shippuuden double episode of the Kyuubi's attack on Konoha today, which didn't help. While it was obvious particular characters would die, since it was set 16 years before "present day", it still didn't stop tears from streaming down my face. Anime is deadly. Chracters get too deep, and when they die (which is rare, to be fair), it's awful.

Mother's Day Marshmallow Cakes

   With Mother's Day right around the corner, I thought I'd share with you a really simple but delicious treat! Using a standard cake mixture and marshmallow mixture, you can make yummy squishy bites!
   I had a fat day making these, because I was making biscuits to start with, then decided to make a marshmallow mixture, and then I ended up making cakes as well because Seeg walked passed shouting about cake. Luckily we had just enough sugar, so I got to it all.

   It's really simple to do. You make your cakes - I added yellow food colouring to mine, which usually doesn't work out if they start to brown, but I happened to check on them at exactly the right time this time. Once your cakes come out of the oven, let them cool. I would suggest making the marshmallow mix only once they come out of the oven. While you make the marshmallows, which can take half an hour, the cakes are given the chance to cool.
   Once they are cool, use a spoon and dug downwards into the top-middle, going in a circle, as below, and on the final dig that will join the circle, you can scoop it out. The depth depends on how far you dig, and the size on how far out you dig.

   Once you've dug yourself a little bowl from the cooled cake, you can spoon in some of the marshmallow. Bear in mind that the marshmallow will gradually set while it's standing there - it may take 4 hours to overnight to fully do so, but the texture will certainly change if it's sat there untouched for half an hour. If you plan to make actual marshmallows from this same mixture, I recommend moving the majority - if not all - of the mixture into your chosen container, and spoon bits out as you need them. Then, once you've got your marshmallow into a cake, pop the top back on. Be sure you put the tops back on after you've done each one, because, as I said, the mixture may start to set, and that will affect how well the "lid" will sit.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Garden Moss Terrarium

   I've always wanted to make a terrarium. I love moss - I love how rich the shade of green is. There's moss growing on rocks in the garden and it looks lovely, but any time I've looked into how to go about it it's always called for seeds of this and that which, to be honest, I can't be bothered to maintain. I really don't have green fingers. Honestly. Any plant I get I manage to kill through neglect. It's terribly cliche, but...well, what do you do with a plant? Give me a dog - hell, any animal - and it'll live in luxury, never bored and never alone.
   Anyway, no, anytime I read how to do it it just seemed too much work for something so small. It's strange, though, how the obvious solution was such an obvious solution that I didn't even notice it.

   Like I said, the moss was growing on rocks. After looking up simple garden moss it became obvious that it didn't need soil, and little to no watering. Moss doesn't have typical roots, it has little...I don't know, suction leg thingies that cling to the surface it decides to grow on. All you really need at the bottom of a bowl is gravel or wood or something. Most people use soil for their terrariums, regardless, because it looks more natural and earthy.
   So, the other day, I grabbed an unused fish bowl, a knife and a spoon and headed out into the garden. I'd read that if you use soil, you want to use more acidic soil because the moss will prefer it, but it doesn't really matter. Either way, using my awesome gardening tools, I scooped up what I happened to know was acidic soil from a corner of the garden, layered the bottom 1 and a half inch of the bowl with it, and then moved over to the greenest moss in the garden, which was growing on a stone bench, and used the flat of the knife to scrape the moss off as the interwebz told me to. I arranged it all in the bowl as I liked it, and used a rock from the garden to cover up a bare patch I couldn't quite cover.
   Garden moss doesn't do much for refreshing oxygen, but it at least adds a bit of green to a room. I have a few things in mind to make for it, which I'll get to in time. For now, though, the green jar will do.

Friday 22 February 2013

How to Use Chocolate Transfer Sheets

   Chocolate transfer sheets are sheets of thin plastic with a design printed on them, usually made from cocoa powder and food colouring. They can be bought from most cake or craft shops, or easily online. I've seen this stuff around a lot, but I've never really had the right opportunity to use it, until Valentine's Day. As you saw in my last post, I used these transfer sheets for the first time, with much success, with my chocolate valentine heart cakes.
   So I thought I'd show you how to use them.

You will need:
Chocolate, or chocolate melts
Transfer sheet of your choice
A bowl
Sharp knife or cutter - I used hearts (optional)

   Melt your chocolate in your microwave or a double boiler. Once it's all lush and runny, spread it over the transfer paper. The sheets are much bigger than what's shown above - about A3 size - but it's best to cut it into strips so that you only use what you need. Saying that, I cut it into strips and still used far too much.
   Spread it thin and evenly with a spatula over the transfer sheet, shiny side down, patterned side up. Don't worry about smudging the pattern - I was worried about it, because little goes the way I want it to with such things, but this went fine and there was absolutely no sign of smudging.
   Let it almost set. You can hurry it along by placing it in the fridge or freezer, and it will soften back up a little when you take it out. At this point you use your knife or chosen cutter to cut the chocolate up, then let it set completely.

    Once it's set, you can peel the plastic away, and the pattern will be left clearly on the chocolate surface. If you remelt the chocolate, the pattern will disappear, so you can use other transfer sheets with the left over chocolate.
   I pressed the chocolate hearts into the icing on my heart cakes. I've seen other people drizzle chocolate into shapes onto the plastic and stand them in frosting, and others still sandwiching chocolate between two strips of transfer sheets and creating looping ribbons with them. There are a lot of ways to use these things - look about and I'm sure you'll find some clever ways to use it.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Chocolate Heart Cakes - Valentines

   As you all know by now, I cheat. I prefer box mixes to making my own because it never seems to go my way if I need a big cake. It usually burns on the top and stays runny in the middle, and if it does cook right through it won't come out of the pan, and if it does come out, it's usually in pieces. I thought it would be the same with box mixes, but actually the best cakes I've ever made have come from a box.
   This Valentine's day, I returned to my favourite box mix because a) it's delicious, and b) I could rely on it co-operating in a big tin.

   I'm rather proud of how they came out. I used the same Betty Crocker cake mix that I did with my dinosaur fossil bed cake, but in a slightly bigger tin to make a thinner cake. That didn't actually happen, though, it still came out quite thick, so once it cooled I sliced the cake through the middle.
   Once that was done, I took a heart cookie cutter - I used 4cm for the most part - and went to town on the sponge. There was a lot left over because I wasn't very economical with the heart cutting, so I put that all to one side. Well, most of it anyway. There are certain benefits to being the baker.
   I then took the same yummy chocolate icing that I used on my dinosaur cake, also from Betty Crocker, and put a layer over the hearts. This was quite difficult given their size. The sponge is gorgeously soft, but the icing is quite thick, so I had to hold the cake firmly enough that spreading the icing wouldn't break the cake, and gently enough that I didn't crush it.
   Once I'd done all this, I moved onto the chocolate. I'd never used chocolate transfer sheets before, and with my experience, I expected it to go wrong, but I thought I'd take the risk. The chocolate could always be remelted.
   Well, this part actually went very well. Chocolate transfer sheets are thin sheets of plastic with patterns printed onto them, made from cocoa powder and colouring. They come in a whole range of images, patterns and colours. I went for a nice subtle one. I had intended to buy a gold one that I'd seen several times before, but I couldn't find it when I wanted to buy it, but this scrolling one suited me fine.

   Here's a little tutorial I put together on how to use chocolate transfer sheets, but for the sake of consolidating information:
   I melted the chocolate in a double burner (saucepan filled with water, boiling on a hob, with a heatproof bowl sat on top with the chocolate in it) and then spread it thin over the transfer sheets. I had worried that by dolloping the chocolate on and then spreading it across I would smudge the pattern, but nothing of the sort happened. It seems to be Kim-proof, so it's certainly fool-proof.
   I put the chocolate in the freezer to hurry it along, and then I took a 3cm heart cutter and cut hearts out of the chocolate. Once again, I wasn't as economical as I could have been, so there were a lot of scraps left. I put them to one side again. I actually made far too many hearts, I probably could also have gotten away with only melting one chocolate bar rather than two, but nevermind. I froze the chocolate for a little longer and after twenty minutes was able to break all of the hearts out. I positioned them on the icing and that was that.

    The scraps didn't go to waste, either. We had them for dessert a few nights later. Cake scraps, chocolate scraps, a few left over raspberries that didn't get added to a smoothie, a couple of left over chocolate hearts, and some whipped cream. It was gorgeous, actually.

Homemade Pizza Pinwheels

   I love pizza pinwheels. I always have. Pizza is generally awesome, really, though, isn't it? Though, saying that, I knew a girl who hated pizza, and chocolate. Bloody weird if you ask me.
   As I said yesterday, I wanted to make these with homemade dough rather than store-bought, so I put together my own dough, the recipe for which I posted here yesterday. Using this recipe and typical pizza dressings, I managed to make really quite nice pinwheels!

I used:
Tomato puree (thick pasta sauce would work)
Ham pieces

   It's simple really. Spread the puree (less is more in this case) or pasta sauce over the rolled out dough, then sprinkle the cheese and ham. I won't tell you how much to use because I never thought to take much notice of how much I used. Just use what feels yummy. I went overboard with the puree but I still liked them. I don't know about everyone else. But I also think if I was to try again, I'd use either pizza sauce or pasta sauce. Something not as potent.
   Roll it up when you're happy with it, and once it's all rolled up, cut it into pieces. I went for 1 inch pieces but only because the dough wasn't rolled out thin enough.
   Stick it in the oven for the amount of time the dough needs cooking. If it's store-bought, it'll say on the package. If it's my dough, it's 12-15 minutes about 220C.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Homemade Healthy Wholemeal Pizza Dough

   I wanted to make pizza pinwheels for my nephew's third birthday - I needn't have bothered, he hardly touched them - but every recipe I found called for premade crust. Well, that's a bit boring, frankly. I might as well spread tomato and cheese on bread. So I had a look about and eventually just mashed up a recipe for healthy wholemeal homemade pizza dough by combining bread and pizza recipes. It worked quite well, I thought. So I'mma share it with you all.

You will need:
200g wholemeal bread flour (or 100g wholemeal & 100g bread flour)
10g caster sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp of instant yeast
100ml water
2 tsp olive oil

1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Create a "well" in the centre and add the water and oil.
3. Mix it all together using your hands (this is gross to start with) until it forms a soft dough.
4. Move dough to a lightly floured surface and kneed it. Punch the poop out of it.
5. Leave it to one side, in a lightly oiled bowl covering the top in clingfilm.
6. Leave it in a warm place for an hour or so until it doubles in size.
7. Move to lightly floured surface and kneed it until the air comes out then kneed until smooth.
8. Leave dough in clingfilm for 10 minutes before use.

When you're ready to cook it - toppings and such have been added - you want to cook it for about 10-15 minutes at 220 C.

Monday 18 February 2013

This Weekend...

   This weekend was great. We didn't do anything - so it wasn't much different to usual in that respect - but somehow it was still the best weekend I've had in a long time. Seeg played on his laptop while I played Skyrim on the Xbox. I played on my secondary character, a Nord Warrior (very original choice, I know), and built Heljarchen Hall. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
   This lasted the whole weekend. The sun was shining outside so bright and warm that it lit up our place amazingly. I was feeling positive all day every day, and I was so comfy wherever I was. I slept so well, didn't stuff my face with chocolate, and felt so refreshed each morning.
   I had new ideas for Grumble Cave Monsters which are monster-related but NOT plush toys, and I had some ideas for new Peaches and Pebbles jewellery that I hope to work on soon. I got some writing done and did more work on the plan, so the story is getting better and better now, and when I woke up this morning I easily jumped out of bed and did more exercise than I have in months.
   And it gets better, because this morning my glittery ammonite earrings were featured on Etsy's front page, giving Peaches and Pebbles a little well-needed boost.

   There's a chicken and stuffing sandwich on the cards for lunch today, and my lovely friend Vicky of VividPlease has put together her first treasury - and quite frankly, it's one of the best I've seen. Mint has got to be my colour crush at the moment.

How was everyone else's weekend? What did you get up to? Anyone catch any awesome
post-Valentine bargains? If you're still looking, my pink fox in a jar necklaces are at
a new lower price, and there's only one Valentine monster left - and he's looking a bit lonely.

Friday 15 February 2013

Bookmark Dump

The geology of Skyrim. A geologist who started playing Skyrim noticed how much sense the rock formations and ore placements made. Apparently she couldn't help noticing it and really enjoyed looking into it. She sounds like one awesome lady :D

Lovely colourful artwork by Bryony Crane. I swear I don't just love it for the dinosaurs.

A machine that carbonates drinks at home. How awesome is this?!

Pancake plushie by The Crafty Button UK

A brand spanking new 10 Minute Solutions dance DVD - it came out at the end of November, and I didn't see it before now because I always search "10 Minute Solutions Dance", but it doesn't have "dance" anywhere in the title. So I'm very excited about buying that one in a few months!

My guest pinner board - Melita from Coffee Break has been pinning for me this week! She's been a wonderful first pinner, and is with me until Wednesday! If you're interested in being a guest pinner for me, read up on the rules here and let me know!

A meteor hit Russia this morning at 5:20 (GMT) - just 6 hours ago - injuring 500 people. The video below shows several clips recorded from cars. A meteor is passing very close to earth today and tomorrow (15th & 16th), closer to us than the moon is, I think. This is likely a fragment of it. The meteor that's passing us is about 50m in diameter.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Fossil Dinosaur Cake in Deposits Issue 33

Well, I received the latest quarterly issue of Deposits in the post today, and guess what was in
the "Recent Finds" section. Can you see it?

   It's an odd and awesome place to be featured. It's no craft magazine - instead, it's the only magazine in the world I've ever been able to read cover-to-cover. So to have my dinosaur fossil birthday cake featured alongside real fossils in such a great magazine is actually very exciting :D It properly stands out, too! I love how they included the name I gave it: Theobrama Cacao Veloxis :D a chocolate raptor, in short.
   This is my first magazine feature, and while it's unusual, I am so proud! Not only did I make myself an awesome and delicious birthday cake, but other people thought it was great as well. I doubt I'll ever really make it into another magazine, as much as I'd love my crafts and products to be featured everywhere - who wouldn't? - and so this means so much more.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Moodboard: Teal Scales

   I've wanted to do moodboards for some time now, but I lacked the motivation to start. However, I recently found a way that works for me! Products catch my eye for certain reasons. Sometimes it's the product itself like a dress or a ring, sometimes it's the unique style it might have, like the cut or materials used, and sometimes it's simply colour and pattern.
   In this case, it was colour, pattern, and product.
   Wellies are amazing, frankly. Shoes that are designed to get dirty. They were my favourites when I was a little girl because if I had to put wellies on it could only mean one thing: muddy puddles. And that was (is) a lot of fun. I don't do festivals - too many people, too much noise, not enough loos - but if I did, I think the wellies would be my favourite part.

   So when I saw these gorgeous teal snake print wellies I got very excited. I actually have a pair of open toe heels - eventhough I hate heels - that I bought purely for the fact that they were turquoise snake print. I had my eye on them for about a year before I finally wasted my money on them. I love those useless little things.
   But these wellies by Hunter, are on my new wishlist. The new blue-green snake print footwear that has grabbed my full attention. I love these things. And so, they easily sparked a moodboard of similar colours and natural patterns. So prepare yourselves for moodboards inspired by products that catch my eye. I think this is probably the easiest way of making them :D

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

Saturday 9 February 2013

Bookmark Dump

A recipe for smores cupcakes. I want them!

Some gorgeous little fairy lights by Cable and Cotton - I really love them!

A self-saucing chocolate orange pudding recipe

These funny little zombie animals by ZombyZoo

It's been confirmed that it was King Richard III whose body was found beneath a car park in Leicester.

Information about weightloss and 'plateaus' from Undressed Skeleton.

A lovely silver camera ring from Designed Identity.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

UK Valentines Order Deadline Dates

   Following in VividPlease' lead, I thought I'd remind you all that the UK purchasing deadline date for Valentine delivery is approaching. For guaranteed Valentine delivery within the UK please purchase by Friday the 8th. Purchases made afterwards could well still arrive in time, but purchases made on Wednesday the 13th probably won't.
   The deadline date for overseas orders was January the 24th. Orders placed the week after that date might still arrive in time but orders placed around the 30th and afterwards probably won't. Obviously, overseas purchases made now won't arrive in time at all.

   The exclusive Valentine fox in a jar necklaces in Peaches and Pebbles will be available until the 28th of February, and then they will disappear, only returning in January 2014. This also goes for the Valentine foxes in snow.
   The exclusive and limited edition Valentine monster plush in Grumble Cave Monsters will also be available until the 28th of February, or until all 6 have sold. If any are unsold, they will disappear and return January 2014. If they all sell, then a new batch will return in January 2014.
   If you'd like either of these products, snatch them up quick. I cannot guarantee a post-Valentine's Sale.

   Other pieces marked as 'Valentine's Day' will be kept on, available for purchase all year round - these items are the personalised message in a wire wrapped bottle necklace, the personalised message in a wire wrapped keychain, and the hanging heart in a jar necklace. These are appropriate for Mother's Day, anniversaries, and just to say "I love you".