(Chocolate) Chip Off The Old Block

My mum used to make cookies all the time when I was growing up, until she became overly concerned with ‘health foods’ and started substituting all the yummy butter and sugar for coconut oil and… well, I can’t remember what replaced sugar. I am a ‘full fat’ baker – if you’re going to have a tasty treat it’s okay for it to be calorific! Just don’t eat them all day, every day.

Anyway, I don’t possess my mum’s talent for just chucking ingredients together and turning out perfect cookies, so I have to follow a recipe. I don’t know why but I’ve always struggled with cookies – they turn out too ‘biscuit-y’ usually rather than the gooey loveliness I’m after. I wasn’t going to make any sweet treats this weekend; I planned only to make scones and quiches but you’ve gotta go where the wind cravings take you!

Watching the cookies like a hawk really is the key to getting the right level of gooey. I’m used to cake baking whereby you have a spare 40-60 minutes of oven time to get the kitchen cleaned up and the kettle boiling before turning out a fresh bake, so the 8-10 minute timeframe screwed that up somewhat. However, the proof really was in the pudding, so to speak:


They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and I take this quite literally! Karl is forever being surprised with freshly baked cakes, puds and breakfasts. I get immense pleasure from feeding people but especially someone with as sweet a tooth as Karl. Taking homemade cakes into the office is an instant way of brightening everyone up. Yes, I’m a public health student and should know better than to contribute to the obesity crisis but I’m also a depressive in remission so I know the importance of contributing to people’s mental happiness. 😉 Karl’s worked hard on the house these past couple of weekends and so I kept him fed and hydrated in the absence of any useful DIY skills on my part. He’s super clever – he can turn his hand to anything and his perfectionist streak means it’s always done to a high spec. The amount he saves us in labour costs is worth a few cookies and pancakes, right? 🙂

P.S. The secret to Mary Berry’s figure despite all the cakes? Definitely serving size. The recipe said the mixture makes “about 20” cookies but guess how many normal-sized cookies I got out of it? Yep, nine.

P.P.S. I did also make two quiches – with mixed results!


Wedding Guest Dress Part 2. Translating My Toile into Pattern Pieces

I’ve spent a looooong afternoon cutting out pattern pieces and I can say with certainty that this fabric is a slippery little so-and-so, which makes me nervous about sewing it up! However, for now we’ll pretend that’s not going to be an issue…

So, I chopped up my toile along the seam lines and used these to create templates. As the photos below show, the final toile and the initial pattern pieces I had worked from weren’t all that different but there were some changes;


After seam allowances there’s not much in the differences so it was flattering to learn my very first Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) was fairly accurate! The photo on the right shows my toile on top of the FBA template I made.

These are the completed templates. The solid black outline doesn’t have seam allowances so the red dashes and black dots are where I measured 1.5cm (black dots) or 1cm (red dashes) for the seams.


I cut out my first ‘set’ and took the time to pattern match the side seam before realising the dart I’d added to the bust made that a fruitless pursuit! I also realised that I needed to add more length to the front bodice section along the side seam, so I added a bit to my template;


Then came what seemed like hours of smoothing, pinning, cutting, refining and duplicating. Luckily, the F1 was on so I had something to keep me entertained (Vettel won! Yay!) but it was still a tedious job. I cut each piece out separately as well, rather than cutting two at a time by folding the fabric because the slipperiness made me wary. I chose to line the bodice in the same fabric for a couple of reasons, including that I don’t have any navy lining fabric to hand but I don’t want to delay the project any further…!

Unfortunately, when you’re working on a full length dress and 6 metres of fabric, you’re limited as to where you can work. Hence the kitchen floor and I became well acquainted…


Fortunately I realised after I took this photo that I’d laid the pattern pieces the wrong way around so the flowers would all have been pointing down! Phew! With these larger pieces I decided I’d go ahead with folding the fabric in half but it was still a painstaking process.

Trusty Pins: can I just say thank you. You don’t get enough credit but without you there would be much more frustration, many more mistakes (and perhaps one or two less ‘ouch!’ moments). Scissors: I’m sorry but you’re getting replaced. Blunt scissors ain’t got no business in dis neighbourhood.

Tomorrow, we sew!



Wedding Guest Dress Part 1. The Bodice Toile

Front view (Karl says it looks like a bra…)

After many, many alternations, I am finally happy with the fit of the toile I made for my wedding guest dress. My dear friend Z is getting married in June and I’ve been so excited to make my own dress for the big day since she got engaged! However, as the time draws near I’ve been struggling to find the same level of enthusiasm – no doubt in part because the threat of failure becomes more real with each passing day. 
I started off with the Butterick 5748 pattern but once I made a bodice toile for that I realised it didn’t really suit my shape, lovely though the pattern is. 

So I searched the internet for a longer, more open necked dress and came upon New Look 6401, version B. It’s a little alarming upon first glance that the photo on the cover is of a bridal dress as I’m in no way trying to upstage the bride! But if you look at the other designs, and B in particular, they are just maxi dresses, really. In fact, I’m tempted to make another version in my beautiful  butterfly chiffon if this version goes well. 

So, after all the fitting and re-fitting, I’m ready to dismantle my toile and try to replicate the fit in the actual fabric, which is navy with bluey-grey flowers. 

Now trying to decide whether to go with navy shoes and fascinator or to use a bright red for some “pop”! Alternatively, I could opt for grey. Guess I’ll know more when the dress is near completion. 

Back view

Reboot Required. Shut Down Now?

I want to create but I’m struggling to be creative at present. I have (as usual) many WIP (Works In Progress) projects but few are advancing either due to lack of skill, drive or time. In these circumstances, I tend to turn to baking or small crochet projects because I’m more likely to finish them rather than larger sewing or other crafty things.

Even so, I can’t say I’ve completed much since I last blogged. I’ve made a faithful gingerbread cake upon request of the boyo, some jam-centred biscuits, a coconut sponge with raspberry jam and buttercream (a Caribbean Victoria Sponge, one might say!), some quick gooey chocolate puddings, another marbled cheesecake (which was extra delicious) and an eggless banana and walnut loaf.

I’ve always loved the texture of coconut cakes so I scoured the internet for a recipe and ended up mashing together a bit of one and another to make the end result. It didn’t look all that great but it tasted rather fabulous. I took it into work and got the thumbs up from our service users. 🙂 I also farmed off some cheesecake to a friend because there was far too much for me alone to eat (and Karl didn’t like the dark chocolate element of this one) but I’ve not heard back about that one so maybe it didn’t meet the benchmark… It was quite dense rather than the fluffier, lighter types of cheesecake. 


On the sewing front I’ve not touched the blazer recently and I did start a Sew Simple Amelia Tea Dress in a gorgeous cotton fabric I bought online but I came across some bust-fitting issues so I put it to one side whilst I try to learn how to do a Full Bust Adjustment. I completed a toile for the Butterick dress I was going to make to wear at my friend’s wedding; it’s confirmed that the dress – pretty though it would be – isn’t really going to work on me so I’ve selected a new, completely different style of dress; New Look 6041B. I’ll use the same fabric (luckily I haven’t cut into it yet) and I think it will work well with the drape of the gown. I need to get a shuffle on as it’s only about 7 weeks away and four of those will be mainly crammed with essay writing for an early May deadline!

I dropped Karl and one of his friends off for a steak dinner the other night and, feeling I deserved a little treat myself, I stopped by Hobbycraft on a ‘new yarn’ mission. I was very restrained – I only bought three balls of WI Soft and Chunky so I didn’t have to hide my purchase in the sewing room! 😉 I love grey so I opted for grey, teal and cream to make an Afghan cot blanket. I opted for the Easy Ripple Afghan pattern I found here. I didn’t have an 9mm hook as the yarn label suggested so I’ve used an 8mm, which seems to work fine. I was getting along with it swimmingly when I realised I’d made a big mistake so I had to pull it all back to the second row but at least I now know what not to do!


Because I am using a much studier yarn then the pattern recommends, the furrows are much more pronounced in my creation but I must admit I quite like it. At first I wasn’t sure but then I thought ‘Who decided a blanket had to have straight edges anyway?!’ and ploughed on. Once you get into a rhythm with this it’s very therapeutic.

A quick little project I did today comprised of creating four little Easter treat bags for my nieces in the South West. There are four of them aged 2 – 11 so I appreciate they won’t all want exactly the same (I can’t see the 11-year-old going crazy for stickers anymore…) but, so as not to show favouritism, I’ve tried to keep them similar! Whether Auntie gets more joy making them or nieces get more delight in receiving them is anyone’s guess!

I’m not green-fingered in the slightest – my plants tend to die from too much love and attention – but I love flowers so I replenished the hanging baskets yesterday evening with some cheap purchases from Morrisons. 

I’m attempting to grow a tomato plant and strawberries but I’m not holding my breath… 

Now I have a four day weekend stretching ahead of me I plan to make a real dent in some of my craft projects (and my essay!) so I better get cracking!