Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Ships in the Night

I had a little operation last week ~ nothing major, but it's kept me on the sofa recuperating for a few days with barely even any energy to knit (cue shocked gasps!)

But at the foot of my sofa is a thrifted picture I adore, of a ship sailing a moonlit ocean. Here is a terrible photo of that picture:

I just love paintings and pictures of the night, especially when you add in the romance of a gentle ocean and a ship setting off on an adventure. There is something about moonlight on waves, about silver and midnight blue, and the lines and shadows and hints of things that would be laid bare and bereft of mystery during the day. There is a gentle hint of adventure, a thrill of horizons yet to be discovered when dawn warms the sky.
And so although I have been too weak and feeble to get up to anything of much interest, make anything fun, or even finish the tutorials I had planned, I did manage to browse some beautiful artwork on Etsy and put together this Treasury: 

You can see the whole treasury here, and I hope you will take a few minutes to do so ~ there are some very talented artists whose work would be better served by a more detailed view. And who knows, maybe one of these prints and pictures will capture your heart and send you off on an adventure of your very own, dreaming on a ship through the night . . .

Friday, 24 May 2013

A Passion for Postcards

I love a bit of snail mail. Whenever I go on holiday, even if it's just for a long weekend, I like to send postcards. It doesn't bother me that the cards take longer to arrive than the holidaymaker, I just love those cheery little rectangles!
Unfortunately not many of my friends and family are as big on sending them as I am, and so it is a rare day that sees anything other than bills and junk mail falling on my doormat.


Then a couple of months ago I discovered Postcrossing, an amazing website which allows people to send and receive postcards from random strangers around the world. It's completely free (well, apart from the cost of sending your cards that is!) and such fun. All you do is sign up and request an address, then send your card. You can send a maximum of 5 cards at a time. When your card is delivered, the recipient registers it online and then your address is assigned to be sent a card. And one day you get in from work to discover a bright little surprise nestled in amongst the junk and bills.

I've received cards from all across the world ~ including Lithuania, New York, Finland, and the Ukraine. The site is completely child-friendly, in fact I have received a couple of cards from children and students, and you are advised to choose your cards and the words you write in them accordingly (in other words, don't be saucy!) But you see a brief profile of the person you are sending your card to so you can get an idea of what to say or what kind of card to post.

I hope you all like this idea as much as I do and who knows, maybe we will end up postcrossing to each other some day!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Nutella Cake-in-a-Cup

I've put my back out :(
I've never done that before ~ it's not only extremely painful, it's also MEGA annoying! I had to cancel all my (boring but necessary) weekend plans, and have even found crocheting too tiring half the time! Scandal!
Still gotta eat though, and I need comfort food now more than ever. Something quick, easy, and above all, naughty.
I need a cake in a mug.

I've seen these on Pinterest for a while now but hadn't got around to trying one. I looked at a few different recipes before finally tweaking this one just a little.


4 tbsp SR Flour
4 tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp Nutella
1 tbsp Cocoa
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
4 tbsp Milk
couple drops Vanilla Extract
1 Egg (at room temperature)

Break the egg in a jug and beat it with a fork, then mix in the sugar, oil, milk, and nutella. Add the cocoa and flour and mix well. Pour into two small mugs or cups (my teacups each hold 200ml) and microwave one at a time for about 1 1/2 - 2 mins. Add a squirt of whipped cream or a scoop of ice-cream, and enjoy!

The original recipe calls for this to be mixed and baked in one large mug, but the only large mug I have is a favourite Cath Kidston one, and I didn't want to risk it in the microwave. The recipe made two good-sized cakes so it's no loss, and it rose like crazy so I'm not sure even a large mug would have coped! As you can see in the second picture, the flour didn't mix particularly well, but I still enjoyed it. The texture is similar to one of those microwavable sponge puddings. I might have to see if I can figure out a syrup version!

Have any of you tried mug cake recipes? I'd love to hear how you got on!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Honey Biscuits

When my son was little we would often go to the library and choose books together. We used to love reading together at bedtime, but one day he chose a book that meant we got to bake together ~ Honey Biscuits by Meredith Hooper. Not only is Honey Biscuits is a great story about a boy baking biscuits with his Gran, it also teaches children where the ingredients come from. If you have young children then I can definitely recommend it. If you don't, I can still recommend the biscuits! I have tweaked the recipe slightly as I felt the honey flavour didn't come through very strongly, but that could be because of the type of honey I used, or because I am always waaaaay too generous when it comes to cinnamon!


120g Butter
120g Sugar (and a little extra)
3 tablespoons Honey
1 Egg yolk
1tsp Cinnamon
180g SR Flour

Preheat oven to 175C / 350F / Gas 4

Beat the butter and sugar together til creamy. Beat in the honey then the egg yolk. Add the flour and cinnamon a third at a time (I didn't bother sifting it and it was fine!) and mix to a soft dough. Use a teaspoon to scoop up walnut-sized dollops and roll them into a ball then roll in the extra sugar to coat. Place on a greased baking sheet (a couple of inches apart, these are spreaders!) and bake for about 10 - 12 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the tray then transfer to a rack to cool.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

How to Maximise your Facebook views

I've seen a lot of talk on Facebook lately about how many of our posts (from pages rather than profiles) get seen by our Likers. It seems that Facebook want us to pay to share our links and so those kind of posts get hardly any views. Here is an example of the kind of thing I've seen:

"I see so many small business pages that say they're struggling because of the changes Facebook has made regarding who sees your posts, so I thought I'd write a post about how I think Facebook now works.
It seems to me that a written post gets potentially seen by 3 or 4 times more people than a photo or a link and if you are sharing your own pictures or posts you might as well not bother as they're seen by so few.
The more people who comment or click "like" on your post the more Facebook will allow it to appear in different newsfeeds. So the answer is, if you're reading this, click "like" or comment on anything and everything that catches your eye and help all us small businesses survive or one day you'll go looking for your favourite business page only to find they've given up because you didn't bother to like or to comment on their photos or posts. ♥ Thank you ♥"
Now I'm fully aware that not everything that is said on Facebook is true, but my experience was tending to agree with these complaints, so I thought I would try a little experiment.

I posted 3 posts on my page within minutes of each other. One post was word only, talking about what I was about to do. The next post was a direct link to an item in my Etsy shop. The final post was word only, but with a link as a comment to another item in my Etsy shop. Twenty-four hours later I checked the results:

Type of Post



Seen by

Word only post




Link post




Link in comment




If you consider that [today] my page has 458 Likers (feel free to pop over and increase that!) then my direct link post reached less than 11% of them. Even the word-only post reached only 37% of its potential audience. So the lesson I've learned here is to only post links as a comment if I want people to see them.

I guess now that Facebook has shareholders to feed it wants to make money however it can, but I do think it's sad that small businesses like mine suffer because of it. So get wise with your posts and let's see if we can outwit Facebook for a little while. And in the meantime Like as many pages and posts as you can, and support small and local businesses.
Thank you!

A Crafter's Wedding List

Spring is here! Blue skies abound, buds and blossoms are bursting and blooming all around, and wedding season is well under way.

The last wedding I went to was lovely. A very dear friend marrying a wonderful guy. Both of them had been married before and had done the whole big White Wedding thing, and this ceremony was a much smaller, intimate, personal event, and as a result was one of the loveliest weddings I have ever had the fortune of attending.
The only thing that made me uncomfortable was that they had asked people not to give them gifts. They already had all the toasters, cutlery and electric can-openers that they could ever need, and simply wanted to share their special day with their friends and family. And while I understood and respected their decision, I felt a little sad ~ I really enjoy giving someone a special gift to mark such a special occasion, it doesn't have to be a big expensive gift (I'm way too skint for that!) but a thoughtful, meaningful, homemade present can be a pleasure to give and receive.

I started to wonder, what would I have done in their situation? I wouldn't want gifts either, but I do love keepsakes from pretty much everything I do. And then an idea hit me that I just had to share . . .

from Sew and Quilt

I would ask everyone to bring a 12" square of fabric. It could be something they have bought from a shop, or an upcycled piece from an old pillowcase, shirt, or summer skirt. You could specify a colour range if you likes, such as pinks or blues, or pastels or brights.

from Always Knitting and Sewing

Then after the wedding, when you get back from honeymoon and life is settling back into a rhythm, take your squares out and sew them into a patchwork heirloom quilt. You could cut each square down into smaller squares if you wanted to, or keep them the size they are, which ever works best for the colours you've ended up with. I would be tempted to either embroider or quilt the gifter's initials into each patch too, but that might be a bit much. ;)

So what do you think of my idea? I almost wish I was getting married so I could do this myself, maybe I'll save the idea for my 50th birthday instead!

If you like the idea but don't know how to quilt, there's a fabulous tutorial on Georgina Giles website.