Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chocolate Fudge and Jam Tarts

I promised my work colleagues last week I'd make a little something to celebrate my birthday. And today I was totally in the mood for baking and making treats. First of all I made chocolate fudge, from one of my favourite books, Christmas Treats to Make and Give. It was super-easy to combine all the ingredients (not much more difficult than melting chocolate), put it in the fridge, and it was ready.
As a contrast I then made jam tarts, from Jane Brocket's book, Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer. Everything I've ever made from CCaGB has been a huge success. The recipes are well-written and turn out absolutely PERFECT, so I was surprised when I took my jam tarts out of my oven after 12 minutes to find them burnt (above are two tarts from my second batch, which I baked for 7 minutes). I also had trouble rolling out the pastry as I'd added two egg yolks (which were listed in the ingredients but not in the instructions! it just said to add liquid) and this made the pastry too wet. So when I tried lifting my beautifully crinkly-shaped rounds they were stuck fast to the table! And I had to prise them off with a spatula and re-roll them! Anyway, they actually taste okay, even though they're burnt round the edges, and I was lucky I had enough pastry left to adjust my times in the second batch.

The meringues are a by-product of making the jam tarts. I hate to waste food and I LOVE meringues! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Personalised Pairs Game

It's abundantly clear from my blog that I love making things. If I could, I would spend all day, every day, making things. I'd love to learn how to do woodwork and make my own furniture. I love bespoke craft.

I decided before Christmas to make a Pairs Game for our friends and their children. We have so many photos of us all having adventures - exploring castles and at the beach, etc, that there were plenty to choose from.

Above is the entire game.
I overshot my Christmas deadline but managed to finish the game in time for their visit at Easter. First of all I printed out 15 pairs of mini-photos at Boots. Then I designed the backs, as above. 

The trickiest part of the whole enterprise was deciding how to protect the photo and back so they wouldn't get grubby from fingers turning them over. That's why I decided to laminate them all. The laminates can be bought from Ryman's. I'm glad this is the route I chose, however the laminates are pricy.  
It was as I was writing the rules (last pic) that I decided to add this element of deciding who starts the game. Who goes first is very important to children (and adults). I didn't want it to be done with dice so made up these cards that are particular and personal to the Burnses. For example, Some cards are obvious, like The Person Who Has A Cat Called Yeow could only relate to Nathan. And, The Person Who Has A Ukulele, could only be JJ. But I also wanted to add a bit of fun, so The Person With The Darkest Pants On, and The Smelliest Person, will be open to interpretation!
I played a sample game myself. The cards are laid out in a 6 x 5 grid. I think there are enough cards to carry a game, but not too many that it is overwhelming and impossible. However, for younger children it is easy enough to reduce the amount of cards.
Two Darth Vaders!

The lovely thing about the game is it allows you to remember the fun, good times while you're playing. The Burnses and The Haggartys all like adventures. 
I tried to keep the rules as simple as possible. I particularly like the last instruction, "Everyone must then say something really nice about the winner."

I'd love to make the game again for my nephews' children. My idea to make this game originated when I gave a shop-bought pairs game to my great nephew Keigan for his birthday one year. I thought how nice it would be to personalise it. When he's at my parents' house he's always naming people in the photographs on the wall. Anyway, it took me about 8 months to get this game together, so maybe I'll wait until my other great nephew is a bit older and do a game for them both.

One bit of advice I would give to anyone considering making this game for themselves is: it's crucial to make the backs of the photos exactly the same. It must be impossible to tell from the back which photo it is, otherwise players could use this knowledge to their advantage. When I was putting the photo and back into the laminate I had a template drawn onto paper, so I could place them in exactly the right place in the laminate. I also used the sticky side of the laminate for the photo, so that the backs would all be indistinguishable from one another. (Laminates have one sticky and one non-sticky side.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Gardening Update

It's been an extremely busy month, begining with my parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary, through to having our friends and godsons here for a week, then it was my birthday, building up to Hagos going on tour again. I'm only just getting caught up with everything.

I'm in the middle of four days off, at home, by myself. After the intensity of the month I felt very odd on Saturday morning, waking up with no plans, no social engagements. So I've been doing what I love doing most - pottering.

Hagos bought me a mini-greenhouse for my birthday and I couldn't wait to put things in it. For the first time ever I bought PEAS and LETTUCE! I'm very excited about the peas. And even though Ba is kindly giving me the exess tomatoes she's grown from seed I couldn't resist buying the same tumbler tomatoes I bought from the garden centre last year.
Tumbler tomatoes
First earlies: Swifts
Chilli plants: Cherry Bomb and Ring of Fire

My other chilli seeds didn't germinate. So I've sown more and am trying again. I find vegetable gardening extremely exciting. It's the first thing I do every morning - go outside to check all my plants. I have a lot more plants than I did last year so I hope I can keep up with them all.

More, non-gardening, updates to follow. 

Saturday, April 03, 2010

How does your garlic grow?

My French Garlic is already sprouting! As are some of my chilli plants (below).

Tomorrow I plant the rest of my potatoes.