Showing posts from 2012

'Twas the day after Christmas

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. In fact, hubby and I are tucked up cosily on the couch, recovering from yesterday's excesses and anticipating D(elivery)-day tomorrow. Who knows when I might have a chance to post again, so I wanted to share a few festive photos before wishing you all the very best for 2013 and signing off for a little while.

First off, my Christmas cake went down a real treat yesterday! I was concerned that it would be dry in the middle, but it was perfectly moist all the way through! Despite the dark exterior, the crumb was surprisingly light, both in colour and texture, and the marzipan and icing were just thin enough to add a little almond-y sweetness at the end without overpowering the cake itself. Yum! We cut slivers of cake to have with coffee right after Christmas lunch, even though we were all stuffed to the gills, and after a much-needed brisk walk, managed a bit more. I mustn't have been the only one to sneak s…

My first Christmas cake

Yesterday, hubby and I decorated the Christmas cake. We cheated a little bit, using ready-made marzipan and ready-rolled icing, but, hey, we're novices. Plus, we were both in agreement that this was not the time to faff about making our own marzipan and icing! Still, I'm pretty happy with the end result.

As you can see, we kept the decorations simple. While I learned how to make sugar roses in my abortive cake decorating course recently, I never got to do anything remotely Christmas-related. I suppose hubby and I could've experimented a bit, but once again, we opted for simplicity and ease, if only for sanity's sake! As we decorated, we nibbled on the bits of cake I sliced from the top to give an even surface, and they were delicious, even if I do say so myself! Rich; fruity; redolent with cinnamon, cloves, and a touch of whiskey; and exceptionally moist! Here's hoping that's true of the whole cake and not just the top layer!


A picture-less post

I don't have a picture to show you today, but I do want to share a couple of links, which, when followed, will more than make up for this post's lack of visual stimulation! You see, I forgot to mention yesterday that this past Saturday was our final Bee Blessed meeting of 2012. Fueled by some warm mince pies topped with dollops of seriously strong brandy butter, and festive mulled punch (thankfully non-alcoholic, or else we would've all had to stay over night to sober up!), we managed to work our way through an impressive amount of cutting, piecing, sewing, and quilting. You can check out photos of what we got up to over on Judith's blog. I quilted the fantastic blue antique tiles quilt, and there's also a lovely pic of the finished rail fence quilt I mentioned a while ago. 

We're taking a break now for Christmas but are back together again come 5 January. Obviously, I'm not sure if I'll be making that first meeting of 2013, but I'm looking forward t…

Rest and relaxation?

Yesterday was my first day of maternity leave, and, while I managed to stay in bed until almost 11, I also realised very quickly that relaxation isn't my forte! Especially when there's nesting to be done! The nursery is all but ready to go, and we've got all the necessaries laid out in their appropriate places, but what we don't have is a freezer full of food to feed us in the first few hectic weeks after Baby H's arrival. Naturally, I had intended to prepare a variety of delicious and nutritious freezer-friendly meals over the past few months, but life got in the way. The best laid plans and all that. Yesterday and today though, I managed to bake a couple of batches of biscuits - one chocolate chip, one white chocolate and pecan - to pop into the oven straight from the freezer when friends and family call around. I also threw together a lasagne and a few other hearty, satisfying casseroles, and am now smugly patting myself on the back. Such self-satisfaction, I su…

Let the Countdown Begin!

Well, the ECV last Thursday didn't work, and another scan this morning showed Baby H is well and truly comfortable the wrong way around! I've actually been scheduled in for a section now, and though there was talk last week of this taking place before Christmas (i.e. next Friday!), it's actually going ahead just after Christmas, which is a bit of a relief. I was starting to panic about the idea of the baby arriving so early! And, plus, it means there's still plenty of time for a somersault! 

In the meantime, though, I'm frantically nesting and trying to tie things up so that I'm both mentally and materially ready for baby's arrival. This week, therefore, I've finished hand sewing the binding on Frankenblanket, wrapped Christmas presents, done about a thousand loads of laundry, and put up the Christmas tree! 

Today is technically my last day of work, and, luckily, I've managed to get everything essential just about finished and handed over in preparati…

The lady's not for turning!

For the past couple of months, Baby H has positioned herself like a little Buddha across my stomach, with her head cradled by (read: jammed into) my lower left ribs and her backside down in my right hip. Until fairly recently, it hasn't really been an issue, and the consultant has seemed pretty willing just to let nature take its course and hope baby flips of her own accord. I've tried to help things along, of course, following a few suggestions from the midwife - I've crawled around on the floor on all fours for longer than I care to remember, bounced like a madwoman on my exercise ball at all times of the day and night, and lain with my hips elevated above my heart whilst watching tv (no mean feat, that). But, baby seems well and truly comfortable exactly where she is. As hubby cleverly quipped, 'The lady's not for turning'

Since baby is so stubbornly refusing to turn, and since we're already halfway through week 36, we've been scheduled for the ECV …

Almost there...

I can hardly believe it's already December! You know what that means, right?! Only a matter of weeks/days before Baby H arrives! CRAZY! Yesterday, my lovely friend, Kristin, threw me a fantastic baby shower, and we're now materially, if not mentally, prepared for the baby's arrival. Exciting times! 

Thanks to a fairly un-ambitious sewing to-do list last month, I have a couple of things finished and ready (or nearly ready) to add to the pile of beautiful baby clothes, blankets, and accessories given to us by our super generous friends and family. That includes Frankenblanket...

And two little throw pillows for the nursery...

Truth be told, I'm not sure how crazy I am about these pillows. They certainly don't seem to go together... the first is too busy for the second, which definitely seems to require some buttons or applique or something. But then, the rocking chair is really too small for both pillows together, so maybe it's no bad thing that they don't match…

Fimo and Fabric Craft

Last Friday, I started the fantastic Christmas Projects class offered by Judith. We're going to be making a variety of buttons, brooches, and fun fabric crafts over the course of 4 weeks, and I'm already having a blast! We started off kneading, molding, and rolling out Fimo to create little flowers, hearts, and Christmas trees, among other things. It was like being a kid again, messing around with play dough, as you can see from the photo Judith posted! The difference with Fimo though is that, once baked, it hardens, meaning these little shapes can then be used as buttons, pendants, and card decorations. Here's a selection of mine...
I'm hoping to use these to make little barrettes and necklaces for my nieces this Christmas. They love jewelry and hair accessories, so I think these would go down a treat!

We also got to make good use of the shreds of fabric and thread left over after a big quilting project. You know the ones - they're usually too small and scrappy to s…

It's Alive!!

Much like the Creature assembled by its namesake, Victor Frankenstein, Frankenblanket has slowly but surely taken shape over the past several months in my first (and possibly only!) EPP experiment. Truthfully, I'm being a bit ungenerous in calling this quilt 'Frankenblanket', as Sarah pointed out. The various fabric scraps I scavenged to create the flowers that form the focal point of the quilt actually blended really well together and, unlike Frankenstein's hideous and misunderstood monster, produced a really stunning quilt, if I do say so myself!

In other ways, though, the Frankenstein comparison remains apt. Like Victor, I dedicated a lot of time, effort, and study to this particular project, with no promise of success. At least, that's the way it seemed! And that's not to mention the pints of blood, sweat, and tears I poured into this predominantly hand-wrought baby quilt. I'm speaking metaphorically in the case of the former but completely literally in …

Happy Thanksgiving!!

This is what I wish I was eating right now! (Yes, even at this early hour of the morning!) But, alas, it's just another workday here, and a particularly busy one at that. Nevertheless, hubby has promised me (a non-Thanksgiving) dinner when I get home from work tonight and has already been instructed to take out the pumpkin pie I made a while back and froze for just this occasion. Can't ask for more than that, especially as pumpkin pie is my favourite part of Thanksgiving anyway! Sadly, I suspect he won't be joining me in my pumpkin pie feast. Every time I've made pumpkin pie here in Ireland and Northern Ireland, in fact, I've generally found people rather hesitant about it, primarily, it seems, because they associate pumpkins with savoury dishes. I'm willing to admit that the cinnamon and clove spiked pumpkin custard that fills the pie shell might be an acquired taste - one that can seem foreign and strange if you haven't grown up with it. But they say the …

All my bags are packed

This weekend was pretty much all about Baby H! After months and months of research, several interesting trips to Mothercare, and a subscription to Which magazine, we finally managed to buy our pram. (You might guess that hubby was largely in charge of this!) The model we ended up with is perfect for our needs - it fits into our narrow front door and hallway; it collapses with only one hand; and it folds down to next to nothing to fit in the boot of our tiny little car. No mean feat living up to all of those demands! It's now assembled and waiting expectantly in the hallway until we might need it. Just having it there makes me feel a bit more prepared, as does knowing that my hospital bag is similarly sorted. There's still a lengthy list of things to do, but that didn't stop me spending the weekend singing, in my best John Denver imitation, 'All my bags are packed; I'm ready to go...'! 

I'm hoping that I'll get to see this gorgeous stripe-y quilt equally …

Call me Fifteen-a

When I first moved to Northern Ireland, part of the culture shock I suffered had to do with the humble 'traybake' - an oxymoronic term denoting a tea-time treat that neither has to be baked nor necessarily made in a tray. Go figure. Traditional traybakes include Malteser Squares, Chocolate Biscuit Tiffin, Cherry Bakewell Slices, Millionaire's Squares, Flapjacks, and my favourite, Fifteens. It took me about a year after moving to Belfast to try one of the latter, primarily because they look so odd - kind of like coconut covered slabs of red, white, and pink speckled cookie dough. Not exactly the most appealing thing around, right? Once I got over the strange appearance, however, I discovered that the fifteen is quite possibly the most delicious 'traybake' to be had. It's also probably the easiest to make, as it's no-bake and involves only a handful of ingredients - digestive biscuits, marshmallows, glace cherries, condensed milk, and coconut.

Such is my love…

Getting there

Well, it may not be the prettiest quilt I've ever made, but Frankenblanket is slowly taking shape! 

I'm really loving all the different colours and patterns in the hexagon flowers, and though I often tend to follow specific patterns and colour schemes in my quilts, I think the variety works really well with the hexie form. You can't really tell from the photos here, but even the white hexies are different, something I worried about at first but which I now see as completely in sync with the randomness of the rest of the quilt! 

I had a bit of trouble when I actually started sewing the hexie flowers together into rows. Where I had initially intended to stack them on top of each other in straight lines rather than diagonals, my spatial reasoning and cognitive abilities seemed not to be up for it! And so, I ended up with lovely offset diagonal rows, which I now firmly believe look better than more straightforward up and down stacking (that's my story anyway, and I'm sti…

It's beginning to smell a lot like...

Dare I say it? Quickly and quietly, perhaps... Christmas. I know, I know. It's a little bit early to be thinking about such things, right? Normally, I'm a fan of waiting until the end of November before diving into the Christmas rush, but this year presents a slight deviation from the norm, primarily because Baby H is due on 30 December. Hubby and I have thus wisely decided to forego visiting our families for the holidays, thereby avoiding (I sincerely hope so anyway!) all of the potential nightmare scenarios I've been envisioning - giving birth in the car halfway between Wicklow and Dublin in the middle of a freak Irish snow storm being the main one. Instead, we're going to make a few traditions of our own! We're not quite sure what these traditions will be yet (see above), but I figured now was as good a time as any to try my hand at Christmas cake for a traditional conclusion to our not-so-traditional Christmas dinner (assuming we get to sit down to eat it, that…

Oh, the places you'll go!

Well, I didn't quite manage to finish everything I had intended to this month, but 'almost' is ok with me at the moment! My biggest accomplishment this month is my charm square baby quilt...

I'm really pleased with how this turned out and can't wait to use it when Baby H arrives! The FMQ worked out really well, despite some teething issues at the start, and, while I wondered initially if I should use a different colour thread for the quilting, I think the cream adds the perfect contrast to the various fabrics without being too glaring or conspicuous. 

I'm going to call it 'Oh, the places you'll go' after one of my favourite Dr. Seuss books. Not just because the bright colours kind of remind me of the vivid illustrations in all of the Dr. Seuss books, or because the FMQ makes me think of winding roads and journeys with lots of fun detours and digressions. But also because I'm hoping that this little quilt might have some of the same adventures with…

Jack O'Lanterns and Frankenblankets

This Saturday, hubby decided he just had to carve a pumpkin for Halloween. This, of course, was no small undertaking .... long was the time spent drawing potential jack o'lantern faces on scrap paper; equally time-consuming was the sketching of the chosen faces on the pumpkin itself (yes... this was a Janus-faced jack o'lantern!); few were the newspaper sheets placed underneath the pumpkin as it was carved; innumerable were the 'oohs' and 'ahs' required once the carving was completed; and infinite was the gratitude and praise expected for the roasted pumpkin seeds produced in the aftermath of the great pumpkin carving. 

For the rest of the evening, we sat around breathing the slightly acrid smell of burning pumpkin flesh - a tea candle had to be lit inside the jack o'lantern at all times for full effect, you see - and gorged ourselves on the sweets intended for the trick-or-treaters who never came! I'm not quite sure what we'll do if they come a-knoc…

Waddling Along

Only about two months to go until Baby H arrives, and I'm definitely feeling the effects of my ever expanding bump! I've got the teeniest, tiniest waddle going on now, and though I've made a real effort to keep as active as possible, I'm definitely slowing down. Yesterday we brought a visiting friend up Cave Hill to take advantage of the lovely weather and show her some breathtaking views of Belfast. I huffed and puffed my way up, stopping a few times to catch my breath and feeling sorry for my more energetic and agile companions. At least I'd managed to feed them a good breakfast before we set off.

Apple, Walnut, and Raisin Muffins
Adapted from Rachel Allen's Bake

600 ml Basic Muffin Batter (recipe follows)
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100 g raisins
50 g walnuts, chopped

Just mix everything together, pour it into 16 or so muffin tins lined with muffin cases, and bake in an oven preheated to 180ÂșC for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpic…

I'm still here...

It's been a while since my last post, and I don't have much excuse except that I've been manically busy trying to juggle 16 million things at once! Feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all this morning, I headed out for a pressure-releasing power walk (read: waddle) and was almost immediately refreshed by the autumnal glory in Ormeau Park.

Somehow it's never really occurred to me before this year how similar autumns are here to those back in New England. Belfast may not have New Hampshire's reputation for fantastic fall foliage, but it's still pretty spectacular! The crisp fresh air combined with the lovely scenery and some child-like romping on my part put things back in perspective and made me crave some of my favourite autumn treats, pumpkin pie chief among them. I just might have to rustle one up this weekend! 

These are the only photos I have to show today, but there'll be a few very soon of my first finish of October (just in time!!) - my charm square bab…

Near Finishes!

After the disappointments of last week, I wasn't quite sure I had the energy or confidence to do anything remotely creative or crafty this weekend. But, my targets for the month of October called, and I sat down to my sewing machine with no small sense of trepidation on Saturday afternoon, armed with helpful suggestions from Judith and Leanne about FMQ-ing. After a methodical de-threading, cleaning, and re-threading, my machine magically began to cooperate, and I was back in business! I finished the FMQ-ing in no time, and I'm so pleased with the result! 

While I was at it, I sewed on the binding and now just have to finish hand sewing it on. I'm calling that a success, if not yet a completion! (Near finishes count, right?!) 

Since I was obviously on a roll, I also made a start on the throw pillows to match this baby quilt. I had bought two pillow forms at Ikea a while back with this intention but didn't have much of a plan in mind, except that I wanted to use the same f…

Cake School - Week 5

This week, it seems, is destined to be one of general frustration for me when it comes to all things crafty! Last night, at cake school, our task was to create cute little cake-toppers for a traditional christening cake. It all seemed pretty straightforward.... cut out a few pieces of sugar paste, mould them together with a bit of royal icing to construct a teeny-tiny crib, artistically arrange a miniature baby and few delicate flower blossoms, et voila....

Mine, sadly, had structural problems from the start. The first crib was terribly crooked and refused to hold together. The second seemed like it might work... that is, until baby and pillow were inserted and blanket draped over both. At that point, the foot end of the crib cracked and fell off, imperiling poor baby, who was, in any case, nearly smothered by my ham-fisted attempt at a blanket. *Sigh* I didn't have the time or energy to start again, so I took everything apart, stowed baby away for another day, and vowed to try aga…


This afternoon, a new spool of thread in hand, I sat down to finish the FMQ on my charm square baby quilt. But, luck clearly wasn't on my side, and I just couldn't get things to work for me. The thread kept bunching up on the underside of my quilt sandwich, and no matter how I changed my thread tension, re-threaded my needle, re-inserted my bobbin, and checked the feed dogs, I simply couldn't get things going right. Extra frustrating because I only have a tiny portion left to quilt, and I was hoping to get the quilting done and binding attached today. Instead, I forced myself to push back from my sewing table, shut things down, and vow to have another go when I was feeling fresher. No point ruining the rest of my Sunday over a bit of uncooperative thread! Any suggestions on what I might be doing wrong? I'm sure it's something simple and obvious, but I can't figure it out, and the manual for my machine isn't shedding much light on anything, except to indicat…


I can hardly believe it's October already! September just seemed to fly by, not least because of my new job, and while I love all the wonderful things about October - the changing of the seasons, autumnal foliage, and the welcome opportunity to bake apple and pumpkin pies - I'm feeling slightly anxious about the passage of time. You see, the beginning of October means I've only got three short months left until Baby H arrives, and none of my baby-related projects are finished yet! Eeek!! Now is the perfect time, therefore, to follow the lead of many a fellow blogger and offer both an account of what I've accomplished in September and a projection of what I'd like to do in October. I'm trying this out through the Fresh Sewing Day on Lily's Quilts (hope I've done everything correctly!); I'm also linking up to the Small Blog Meet in the hopes of learning more about other great blogs and maybe attracting a few more readers to my blog as well!

In truth, t…

Cake School - Week 3

This week at Cake School, we learned how to make calices (singular: calyx) - the little green leaves from which the rose bud .... well ... buds... - and leaves of various sizes. Adding calices to my roses from last week certainly resulted in more life-like, botanically correct flowers...

I can't wait to see what they look like with the leaves added to them! The leaves were fun to make, if a little bit tedious. I especially liked pressing them in the 'veiner', which looked and felt like a dentist's mould of some sort and added all the necessary life-like character to each leaf. 

Our homework is to complete five sets of leaves consisting of one large and two small leaves and to wrap the stems of all of our leaves and roses in green floral tape. I'm also aiming to make a few more full blown roses and another few four-petal flowers to replace the ones that broke after class the first night. After that, I feel sure I'll be ready to accept commissions for ornate, flowe…