Monday, July 10, 2017

Mocha Muffins with Walnut Crumble

It's no secret I'm a coffee addict so its shouldn't surprise you to know that I also love to add coffee to my baking. Morning or afternoon teas are a major coffee hit for me when I make a batch of these delicious Mocha Muffins with Walnut Crumble:
These muffins are seriously good people, I mean whats not to love? Coffee, chocolate and walnuts are a match made in heaven right? :) and for this coffee lover, they satisfy my insane caffeine cravings. The muffins are super soft and light and very quick to make. I'm a little heavy handed with the coffee so adjust the strength of yours, to suit. I make a relatively strong brew (2-3 heaped teaspoons to 3/4 cup boiling water) but less coffee still gives the muffins a lovely hint of flavour, so play around with the strength of yours.
The walnut crumble adds that little something special. I make my crumble base in the processor (plain flour, butter and demerara sugar), sprinkle it on top of the muffin batter and then I add the roughly chopped walnuts so they retain their texture. You could put the walnuts in the processor with the crumble ingredients for a finer crumble but I like to see my walnuts and crunch on them while I eat the muffin.
I bake my Mocha Muffins in the cafe style muffin wrappers as they make a larger muffin and they look more coffee shop professional. Using my recipe you will yield nine muffins in the large wrappers or 12-15 in the normal patty pan liners. Don't worry if you can't source the cafe style muffin wrappers, they are super easy to make yourself if you have a roll of baking paper.
Making your own Cafe Style Muffin Wrappers: Cut squares of baking paper about 6" square. Centre each square over the base of a glass about the same size as your muffin tin hole and mould and shape around the glass to make your wrapper. Quick and easy and no origami skills required :)
I think the secret ingredient to a good muffin is cream. The cream makes them moist and fluffy and it adds a richness to the muffin. They are best if eaten on the day they are baked as they do tend to dry out a bit after that; another reason I like to make them bigger and less of them.
They are also filled with dark chocolate chips which is a nice surprise and adds another level of flavour. I use chocolate chips but roughly cut or grated dark chocolate works just as well. They also have a lovely hint of cinnamon which is always welcome.
If your not a coffee lover then these muffins are not for you and seriously, we can no longer be friends I'm afraid..... just kidding ;) I'm the only coffee lover in our house, so when I make a batch of these, they are all mine which is rare because usually I bake and everyone else enjoys the fruits of my labour :)
If you would like to make your own Mocha Muffins with Walnut Crumble you can download my recipe HERE or right click on the photo below and save to your computer for later:
I hope you like this muffin recipe. Have a play around with the strength of your coffee and make sure its to your own tastes. I'm on a constant roller coaster of trying to give up coffee and I can be successful for weeks but then I succumb. Life is too short to go without what makes you happy and a batch of these bring a smile to my face every time :)
Happy baking :)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How To Read A Crochet Chart

I spend way too much time on Pinterest looking at crochet patterns because just like quilters, the crocheting community generously share some amazing free patterns. Unfortunately there are times when I find a beautiful pattern and after opening the links I'm faced with a chart! Ekkk these charts look scary! Written patterns pose no problems but one of these little guys has me freaking out:
The majority of charts are shared on forums or on inspiration boards and there's no direct link to a photo or the designer's website, so your flying (or crocheting) blind. The pattern is easy enough to see but those symbols look like a foreign language and what stitches do you use?
I hate not knowing how to do something so I decided to learn how to read a crochet chart. I'm sharing all of my research/tips etc. here so you can learn as well and we can refer back to them when needed. (I will credit all sources and give direct links to tutorials/charts and patterns etc., if they are available)
{picture source- Dabbles and Babbles}
My first task was deciphering those symbols, which I have since learnt are universal symbols (YAY) and are meant to be a crude representation of the actual stitches. I looked at lots of charts and the one above is the most useful, I think. It gives you a clear guide to each symbol and which stitch/direction it represents. The bonus is, its in both US and UK terms so as I crochet in US terms this chart is also a quick reference guide for me when translating UK patterns.
Go over and visit the lovely Jamey at Dabbles and Babbles HERE and download yourself a copy.  I printed and laminated mine and I keep it next to me as I crochet.
Once you have identified your stitches, the only other thing you need to determine is the start and finish point of each row, so lets have a look at a chart for a simple four row granny square:
Ok so looking at the stitches, first you can easily identify that the square is crocheted using DC and SC (US terms) stitches; each DC group contains 3 DC and each corner contains 2 SC stitches. There is a four chain centre or use a magic circle (my preference). The start of each row is numbered 1-4 and requires a 3 chain as your first DC.  The finishing point of each row is marked with the solid dot representing a slip stitch.
TIP: each row starts at the corner. I slip stitched to that corner because I used one colour yarn but if you are using different colours, cut and tie off yarn and restart where indicated in your next colour choice.
{pattern source- Simply Crochet Magazine}
And here's how it looks crocheted up. Most people are familiar with a basic granny square so in these pictures you can clearly see my crocheted stitches and how they are represented on the chart.
Ok, lets look at something a little more challenging:
{pattern source- forum, no designer credited}
In this example you can also clearly identify the DC, SC and chain stitches.  Look for the row numbers 1-5 to identify the start of each row and also the solid dots for the end of each row. Rows 1 and 5 begin with a 3 chain as the first DC and rows 2-4 begin with a 1 chain before the first SC.
I found this chart easy to follow, just lots of counting and it crocheted up quickly.
Let's look at just one more:
{pattern source- forum, no designer credited}
This one looks a little more complicated but again once the stitches and the finishing and starting points are identified, you're good to go. This square is crocheted with a combination of TR's, DC's, SC's and chain stitches. My only advice is to pay close attention to working the stitches as they appear on the chart so you don't miss any of the little chain stitches or the starting chains.
So there you have it! I crocheted all three squares using a chart only and I'm pretty proud of myself :)
Being able to decipher these charts is going to be very useful for me and open up a whole other world of crochet. With more practice, I'll be ready to tackle some of the more detailed ones but it wasn't as scary as I first thought.
I hope I have explained it clearly for you but if not, there is lots of other help available. Start with this great post from Red Heart, HERE. It goes into much more detail and was a great starting point for my research.
There's also a great You Tube video HERE if you are looking for a more visual and hands on explanation. The only other advice I can give you is, just give it a try! Start with something simple or something your familiar with and hone your skills as you learn.
Now when I find a lovely pattern and one of these charts pop up, I won't freak out and I'll be able to decipher the symbols and give it a try. I hope all of this information helps you and if you have any of your own tips don't be shy, add them in the comments because they may help someone else, me included :)
Happy crocheting :)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Plume Mini Quilt + Your Free July 2017 Calendar

Phew, I made it! I wasn't sure I'd be able to release a mini quilt pattern this month due to circumstances out of my control but I managed to pull it all off on the last day of the month. I don't want to go into my whole sob story of the last two weeks because everyone has issues to deal with and I'd much rather share with you something fun, pretty and sweet (and quilt related) instead. I'm so excited about this months mini quilt, so without further fluffing around, welcome the gorgeous Plume mini quilt to my pattern family:
Do you ever wake up some mornings and look in the mirror and think blah? A little fluffing, preening and plumage makes you instantly look and feel a whole lot better and ready to start the day. The feathered star is exactly the same; the feathering transforms a simple star block into something much more glamorous and beautiful. And that's not saying the star block isn't already beautiful, its just taking it to a whole new level. :)
The feathered star block has been on my wish list for ages and its not only fun to sew but it makes a stunning mini quilt. Because I'd rather not sew Y seams, I've designed it so it has none, and the mini quilt goes together quickly and easily, finishing at around 16" square.
Plume is fully paper pieced so it makes sewing all of those lovely points easier and its not too fiddly to work on as the units are large, but there are quite a few pieces in each unit.
I raided my stash for this mini and to make the feathered star really pop, I used that lovely light grey homespun as my background. This colour palette is my favorite and I use it a lot in my home decorating as well, so I'm going to use my Plume as a topper on our lounge room lamp table.
As always I have included a colouring sheet in the pattern to help you plan your fabrics and colours prior to sewing your mini, so have fun with different combinations and make your feathered star shine.
I thought I'd share a little history about the feathered star block as well. Firstly its one of the few quilt blocks that was named in the 19th century. The block was saved for "the best quilts" and it was put on the beds for guests, showcasing not only its beauty but also the sewers talent.
Originally the patterns were drawn onto newspaper and paper pieced and trust me, just drafting the pattern would have required a lot of skill. It was a great way for quilters to use up and showcase some of their more expensive scraps of fabric while producing a stunning quilt to be loved and treasured.
There are many varied feathered star designs, some with more or less feathering and some containing another star or pinwheel block in the centre. When I first drafted this mini pattern, I added a pinwheel centre but as I chose fabrics and began to sew I decided to keep the centre plain so your eye focuses on the beauty of the star and its feathering, instead of lots of added detail. Plus that navy fabric is one of my all time favorites and I really wanted to showcase it as a larger piece. Lovers of fussy cutting will have fun with this centre unit as its large enough to feature some beautiful fabrics.
I quilted my Plume mini with a silky soft grey thread and once it was done, I fell even more in love with this quilt. My favorite FMQ flower design, really adds a gorgeous texture and was perfect for this quilt.
The PDF pattern includes full step by step instructions and diagrams and full sized FPP templates. There are also additional instructions for adding a hanging sleeve or corner hangers and the colouring sheet for planning.
If you would like to make your own Plume mini quilt, from today until the end of July 2017, PDF patterns are available at the introductory price of $4.95(AU) in my Big Cartel shop HERE.
Or if you prefer an instant download, patterns are also available in my ETSY shop, HERE.
I also have your free July 2017 calendar featuring the gorgeous Plume:
To download and print your free calendar, just visit HERE.
I hope you love Plume as much as I do. I did enjoy every step in the process of bringing this quilt to you and all of the hard work was well worth it as its my new favorite mini quilt.:)
I hope you and your families have a wonderful July. Hopefully things on my end with be finally sorted in the coming days and life can return to normal for us. I guess it doesn't matter what life throws at you though as long as you're healthy, you're loved and you can make all the pretty things, then life is damn good ♥
Happy quilting :)

Friday, June 16, 2017

It's the Little Things :)

 "When you love what you have, you have all you need"
This gorgeous quote popped up in my Facebook feed the other day and it really resonated with me. I've always been content with what I have; I have never looked at other peoples lives and wanted what they have too! I love and I am loved and that is all I need.
But sometimes you come across something lots of people have (and rave about) and its pretty and useful and you just have to have one too because you know its going make life just that little bit easier. 
This adorable magnetic pin bowl arrived in the post last week. I follow Jodi Nelson on Instagram and her gorgeous pin bowls have popped up in my feed numerous times over the years. She was hand making them at this stage, so quantities were always limited and due to time differences I would miss her sale times and stock sold while I slept.
Because of their popularity, they are now mass produced and are being distributing by Riley Blake. Once I heard there was stock coming to Australia, I pre-ordered this one and patiently waited a few months for it to arrive.
I have a large pincushion collection plus a few pin bowls, one of which is also magnetic and I use it for my pins while piecing, but I really wanted this one for my safety pins.
I keep my safety pins in a glass jar with a seal and it works really well as storage, keeping my pins safe from moisture. My biggest problem is while I'm quilting at my machine and taking out the pins, I have no (safe) place to sit them until I return a pile of them to the glass jar (I know, not a life threatening problem).
I must be an over energetic free motion quilter because I move those big quilts around so much that countless times I have slid the pile of removed pins off my sewing table and they drop to the floor, tangling in cottons and then later disappearing up the vacuum cleaner. Or I have managed to knock the glass jar off completely spraying pins around the room, and trust me, picking them all up before I continue quilting is neither productive nor fun :(
This little pin bowl is the perfect solution for me. Even if I do manage to slide it off the sewing table, that magnet is so strong those safety pins are not going anywhere and I can fill it up and decant the pins safely back into the glass jar without losing any.
I hope to try it out properly over the weekend when I quilt next months mini quilt. It was a great little investment which will hopefully save me some agony in the studio and the best bit is its sooooo pretty and looks so sweet on my sewing table :) And I think it so special to me because I waited so long for it and I was so excited when it finally arrived.
I purchased mine from Alisha at Ministry of Fabric but I'm sure you can find them at your own local quilt store. They come in a variety of beautiful colours and different designs and well worth every cent.
Just before I go, I do want to thank everyone who leaves a comment on my blog, it makes my day. Unfortunately many of you are "no reply commenters" and I can not answer you back. It does make me feel rude or neglectful so please know from the bottom of my heart.....thank you, thank you thank you :) your comments mean the world to me and I really want to answer them. If you would like to change your comment setting, or check your settings so I can personally answer you, there is a link HERE that shows you how.
Happy quilting :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ribollita

I enjoy homemade soups all year round but over winter there's nothing better than a big bowl of warming soup, filled with lots of vegetable goodness to warm the body and the soul. I just finished making a pot of Ribollita and I thought I would share my recipe and serving process with you.
If you haven't tried Ribollita before, your really should. Its an Italian soup commonly called a peasants soup and Ribollita means "reboiled"as any leftovers are reboiled over and over for days until the soup is finished. Its made with lots of simple vegetables and thickened with stale bread. Its a traditional Italian recipe and everyone makes it differently but the principal is always the same.
I envision Italian women having a pot of this on the stove all the time, simmering away ready to feed their family or guests. Its hearty, healthy and made with inexpensive ingredients.
I like to make up a big batch of Ribollita and then I decant and heat up each serving as required. The flavour of the soup still intensifies over days without constant reboiling and the vegetables retain their shape and texture. I add my cut up stale bread, or bread stick to the bottom of the bowl and pour the soup over, so that the bread really absorbs the liquid and doesn't go too "gluggy".
As for ingredients, I keep it relatively simple, using cannellini beans, carrots, celery, onion and leek (I know one or the other suffices but I like both), kale, tin tomatoes, fennel seeds, garlic, a bay leaf, olive oil and some vegetable stock which I also make myself.
Don't be afraid to add different vegetables, its all about using what you have on hand. It also works well with cabbage, potato, silverbeet, spinach, parsnip and swede so its a great recipe for using up those leftover vegetables before a new grocery shop.
I use tinned cannellini beans, purely because they cook quicker but dried beans work just as well, just don't forget to soak them the night before to soften and simmer them for longer (about 1 hour). Because I love all these vegetables, I roughly cut them, no fancy slicing and dicing. I don't mind the rustic textures but you might like to dice them small and even.
The best part about making Ribollita is, its gives you a chance to clean out those vegetables at the end of the week so there's no waste and then you have a good supply of homemade soup to enjoy for days (much better than a satchel of Cup of Soup for lunch I tell you). Plus you can heat up just what you need as your family wanders in from school/work and you can warm them up healthily with little fuss.
One of the main reasons I love this soup is the addition of the bread. My mum only made tin tomato soup when I was growing up and the only way to make it palatable to me was to add torn bread slices to soak it up. Mum thought I was weird but the flavour of the "Big Red Tomato" soup was just too overpowering for me :)
I generally use a bread stick or bread rolls to thicken my soup, something with a nice thick crust. You can always cut up the bread and freeze it ready to add to your Ribollita whenever you make a batch, so again there's no waste.
Each and every mouthful of this Ribollita soup is delicious and its so simple that you will never buy canned soup again. If you would like to try my Ribollita recipe, you can download it HERE or right click on the image below and save it to your computer for later:
When I serve my Ribollita,  I add the torn bread to my bowl, pour the soup over the bread and stir to combine. I then give it a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and I can sit back and enjoy its simple and flavour packed deliciousness :) Enjoy!
Happy cooking :)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Charlotte's Dream

As I mentioned in a previous post, my Charlotte's Dream crochet blanket is all finished and being used. I had envisioned taking it to one of our parks weeks ago and photographing it amongst the beautiful colours of the fallen Autumn leaves. Unfortunately whenever I had a chance to do this, it was either raining or it had rained the day before and everything was wet and muddy.....soooo, over the weekend I photographed it, in use, in our house, instead.
Threadbare Creations- Charlotte's Dream. This is my version of the gorgeous free pattern from "Look At What I Made"
Here she is, all snugly and colourful and probably the loveliest pattern I have ever worked on. My blanket has a 4 x 4 grid (16 squares) which made it a generous sized blanket for the couch or our bed. The cotton yarn is light but warm and those colours are just beautiful. Its just the right size to share with someone or to snuggle under alone, without your feet sticking out :)
I started my first square back in October and had the blanket finished early April, just in time for the beginning of the colder weather.
Threadbare Creations- Charlotte's Dream. This is my version of the gorgeous free pattern from "Look At What I Made"
It doesn't have a designated special place in our home, nor did I crochet it for any one person so its used by all of us, whenever we want it. Its dragged from room to room and this is pretty much how I find it most mornings; thrown on the lounge chair, discarded after a late night TV session or deep and meaningful chat. I love that its so loved and that its being used everyday, that is the best reason to make the things we make :)
Threadbare Creations- Charlotte's Dream. This is my version of the gorgeous free pattern from "Look At What I Made"
Ok, so a little bit about the pattern. I have shared a few posts  HERE, HERE and HERE which give you all the links and vital information regarding the designer, the pattern and the yarn/hook I used etc.
In this post I did want to talk about the construction of the blanket.
The squares were joined with another new-to-me technique of crocheting rather than slipstitching them together. It creates a small ridge on the wrong side of the blanket but I love the pretty flat join it makes on the right side. I did enjoy joining this way and it made the whole process quicker and easier.
Threadbare Creations- Charlotte's Dream. This is my version of the gorgeous free pattern from "Look At What I Made"
Once they were joined, it was just a matter of adding a border and I really love this one. Its sweet and pretty and it took me quite awhile to crochet it because my blanket is so big. It was worth all the effort though and it finishes it off in such a beautiful way. The little popcorns really tie in well with the detail in each of the squares and I kept my plain borders white, to really frame the blanket.
Threadbare Creations- Charlotte's Dream. This is my version of the gorgeous free pattern from "Look At What I Made"
And just look at all the texture, its swoon worthy! The flowers in the centre of each square balloon out so sweetly and draw your eye to all the detailed texture in the grey sections. Its a very clever design and so much fun to crochet.
Threadbare Creations- Charlotte's Dream. This is my version of the gorgeous free pattern from "Look At What I Made"
I love all of the colours I chose for this blanket, they have that warm homey feel to them and they brighten up the house on these cold miserable days. At some stage I would like to make another one using a softer palette, mainly because I miss working on these gorgeous squares.
Until then, I'm going to enjoy my Charlotte's Dream blanket, whenever I can and take advantage of a few quiet minutes, snuggled underneath it's warmth, reading a good book and admiring all the hard work and love that went into making this beauty ♥
Threadbare Creations- Charlotte's Dream. This is my version of the gorgeous free pattern from "Look At What I Made"
Happy crocheting :)
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