Coptic binding is something I’ve been wanting to try for ages and I found a really great tutorial. I love this one particularly as the pictures are so clear.
To practise this technique, I decided to bind my old sketches together. They’ve been laying around, sheets of A4 from sketch pads that have fallen to bits… I don’t really know why I keep them but I do! Binding them all together meant I could keep them all tidy in one place and also have a go at coptic binding. Winner.
I love the spine!
One of the advantages of this type of binding is that allows the pages to lay nice and flat:
One of my favourite Christmas presents this year was this book: Everything Oz, The Wizard Book Of Makes & Bakes. Ever eager to have a reason to try out new craft projects (though sometimes no reason is needed!) I chose the paper balloon mobile to make as a gift for my friend, who’s just had a baby boy. Armed with some adorable but subtle blue pram-printed paper from good old Paperchase, I set to work.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to post a full tutorial on here, because I really think that if you like crafts then you’ll love this book- it’s a great investment. However, I’ve done little pictures of my progress, so you can get a good idea of how these are made.
So. Here goes. Basket first:
The base is a circle with tabs round the outside, which are attached to a long rectangular strip of paper (nice surface on the outside!).
Next, I made the swags to go around the edge of the basket:
I did 4 of these, evenly spaced. Ish.
Then on to the balloon! Using a variety of papers works well. I used blue printed, sometimes inside out, plus some plain silver.
I adapted the balloon bit slightly, using the method from the paper beads I make.
All that was left to do then was to attach the basket to the balloon:
Ta da! I’ve added a few embellishments, a silver paper bow to cover up a gap in the swags, where the string was glued on and also some teeny triangles for bunting:
A hot, sticky September afternoon is perhaps not the best time to try making these, but I’d got it into my head that I wanted to try. So I did. I know these aren’t proper Florentines, but I couldn’t think what else to call them!
I started by tracing some circles on a sheet of baking paper. I used what I thought was a suitably sized cookie cutter:
This went onto a baking tray. I melted some chocolate and used my teeny ladle to scoop it inside the circles. If you’re careful, you should be able to dollop in a nice circle- let it stop about half a centimeter from the edge of the circle. Doing it this way meant there was room for the mixture to spread a little when I gently ‘dropped’ the tray a few times onto the work surface, to get rid of the air bubbles.
I was worried about putting too much on, but I think I got it about right! They were thin, but still substantial enough to be satisfying to bite into.
After they’d set a little but the chocolate was still nice and soft, I sprinkled on a nice mix of dried fruit and seeds. I found a little bag in Asda that had a good mix of tiny seeds, bigger seeds and different coloured dried fruits:
I left these to set in the fridge; I’d let to say it was until they were nice and firm, but I’m afraid we just couldn’t resist and tried them while they were still a little melty!
“What shall I call those things I just made?” I asked my husband. “Oreo Wonderfuls” said he. Ok then. Since I can’t think of anything to call them, Oreo Wonderfuls it is.
I started thinking about making these after watching Lorraine Pascale make her cheaty cake pops, where she combined Oreos and chocolate spread. After a quick browse on the internet, I found lots of similar “recipes” that used cream cheese instead of the chocolate spread. This seemed like a far better idea, as we use the light version cream cheese in our house and can thus pretend that these aren’t actually that bad for you.
Basically, all you need is:
And you’re good to go. You’ll need roughly twice the weight of Oreos as you do cream cheese. I used 8 oz Oreos and 4 oz cream cheese, which made 20 bite sized balls.
Put your Oreos in a food processor, blender, or bag if you don’t have either of those. It helps if you take the cookies apart first. Pulse (or bash with a rolling-pin, if you have them in a bag!) until you have fine crumbs.
And the cream cheese and blend together until you have a nice even gooey lump of deliciousness.
Put a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray or similar. Roll the mixture into little balls the size of your choosing and place them on the tray, then pop this in the freezer for a while to firm up.
While they’re in there, you can start melting your chocolate- I find it easiest to do in the microwave, but a double-boiler works too of course. You need to get it as runny as you can, but keep heating in small amounts and stirring, so you don’t over heat the chocolate.
Once it’s ready, you can start dipping! I just used a spoon and dropped the cookie ball into the chocolate, rolled it a bit then took it out- they’ll need to go back on the baking paper covered tray, by the way, so keep it handy.
When they’re all coated, you’ll need to stick them in the fridge for a while to set. If you’re feeling fancy, once they’ve been dipped you can cover them in nuts/sprinkles etc. to make them look even more exciting. Personally, I quite like the rough-coating look, so I left mine be:
These are so easy and so delicious, I think I’ll be making them quite a lot.
This cake is not as faffy as it seems and it is de-licious.
100g castor sugar
100g clear honey
3 large eggs
225g self raising flour
The recipe calls for a 20cm square shallow tin, but I used a round one!
Firstly, preheat your oven to 180ºC. While it’s heating up, line your tin with baking paper and measure out your ingredients.
Next, toast walnuts in the oven for 5-6 mins; cool a bit, then roughly chop and set to one side.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan over a low-ish heat. And the sugar and honey and stir until dissolved. Once it’s nice and smooth, bring it to the boil, then pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool to about room temperature.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs lightly. Add to the cooled honey mixture and whisk until evenly blended.
Finally, gently mix in the flour and chopped walnuts. You should now have something that resembles a cake mix! Pour it into the tin, level out, then bake in the oven for 30-40 mins. I was using a fan oven and it was pretty much done after about 25 mins; just keep an eye on it, once it’s a lovely deep golden brown and springy on top, it’s ready!
Allow to cool on a wire rack, then slice it up and eat it- makes a great accompaniment to coffee or Bailey’s. Or indeed coffee and Bailey’s.
While we were in Florida, I picked up a whole new load of candy making stuff- mostly Wilton. Actually, I think all of it was Wilton!
I got peanut butter flavour and dark chocolate candy melts, a new candy mould, some squeezy bottle things, and some decorating brushes. Making peanut butter cups meant I got to use EVERYTHING.
The squeezy bottle things say you can half fill them with Candy Melts, then place the bottle in a bowl of hot water until they melt. Well yeah, sure, that sounds simple enough. Except the bottles are still light and half full of air, so the just float- you end up having to hold the bottle in the water! And then, (because you’re trying to keep it so the water can’t get in) all the melted candy is at the bottom, and it takes aaages to work its way to the nozzle when you’re ready to start, by which time it’s cooled a bit and is reluctant to come out. Bah. Bah!!
I squidged a little melted dark chocolate into the bottom on the mould and then used the little brush to make sure the sides were covered. This bit was a lot easier to do with the brush, however because the choc had cooled a bit, by the time I’d done half a dozen cups the brush was basically a stick with a lump of chocolate on. But I got there. Guess which one I did last:
While these were cooling, I got on with melting the peanut butter candy filling. After the first attempt, I modified my method slightly, and left the bottle to rest like this:
It still took a while, but at least I could leave it where it was for a bit. You do have to keep sqidging the bottle a bit to make sure it’s melting right the way through.
Anyway, onto filling the cups. This took a lot longer than the old dolloping-in-with-a-spoon method, and in the end I gave up and reverted back to my old ways- which were quicker, but a heck of a lot messier!
Phew. Nearly done. After the filling had set, I smoothed more melted chocolate over the base to seal, and once that had set they were done and ready to be turned out into pretty little cases:
The arrival of a new nephew last October prompted me to attempt some proper bunting. Just over 3 months later and it’s done! I got the Kirstie’s Homemade book for Christmas, which helped a lot- I mainly followed those instructions.
Sewing machine/the patience to sew by hand
Cord or something to thread your flags on
The first thing you’ll need, of course, is material. A few years ago I bought what I thought at the time to be a lovely pair of blue and white striped trousers (£5, Mango, bargain). They went into my wardrobe and there they stayed until about two weeks ago, when I began cutting triangles from them. The bunting in the book was made from vintage fabric, with plain fabric for the backing. As I had plenty of the material I was using, I used that for everything, opting for horizontal striped one side and vertical on the other.
Now, you’re supposed to spray starch your fabric and iron beforecutting the triangles out, but I got carried away and ended up ironing each triangle separately afterwards. It was fine though!
You want the triangles to be even and matching in size; other than that, I really think it depends what you want the bunting for and ultimately how big you want it! Cut yourself a template from cardboard. Mine was roughly 18cm x 12cm. Then use it to cut triangles from your material; again, it really depends how much bunting you want. You can figure it out by the length of triangle tops and how much space you think you’ll be leaving in between.
Next job is putting a front with a back and sewing them together. If you’re going for a shabby chic look (as I usually am) then sew them with the backs together. If you like neat, you can sew them right sides together then turn them right way out- just make sure you don’t sew the short side beforehand!
So… where was I… sewing. Do up each of the long sides, meeting at the point, but stopping a good few centimetres from the top. (If you’re being neat, this is the point you’d turn it right way out). Then sew across the top of the short side, so you’ve got a gap between this and the side seams; this is where you’ll thread your cord through.
Now it’s time to string them all together! I used thin rope type stuff, that I found in my craft box. I’ve no idea where it came from, I’m afraid, but I thought it looked nice. I used a big blunt needle to thread mine through. Another way is to wrap tape round the end, so it doesn’t fray and can be pushed through easier. Just make sure they don’t all fall off the other end!
All that’s left to do then is decide how far apart you want them, the put a couple of little stitches in each to hold them in place.