Cupcake extravaganza

You won’t be surprised to hear that cupcakes featured heavily over my birthday. There were quite a number of cupcake cards, Mim gave me a 24 hole mini cupcake tin, and birthday celebration #1 was a feast of cupcakes in the park on Sunday afternoon.

Annabelle provided a veritable banquet of Hummingbirds:

Gill made glittery cakes while Claire baked fruit-filled beauties (got to get those vitamins in somewhere!) and I made a determined attempt at the title of Cupcake Queen, with three varieties. This was a feat of some organisational skill. Bearing in mind that I’d just spent seven days camping, I didn’t have time to bake the day before – so I baked them two weeks ahead, stuck them in the freezer and iced them on Saturday night. Brilliant forward planning, if I do say so myself.

I present to you: Red Velvet and Marshmallow cupcakes courtesy of the Hummingbird book alongside Brownie cupcakes (this recipe, put into cases & frosted).

Marshmallow cupcakes are things of beauty. I’ll let you into a secret, you get the gooey marshmallow centre by scooping out a little of the sponge and adding melted marshmallow. It’s a fabulous surprise when you bite into them and it helps when there’s bit of gooeyness in the frosting too. (They went down very well at church later that evening when I distributed the leftovers and made a number of new friends.)

As well as making fabulous cake, Claire created special cupcake bunting – instructing me to find a picnic spot ‘near small trees’ but not divulging why until she arrived. Thus we had a very beautiful corner of Regent’s Park in which to gorge ourselves on sugar. Oh, and she even had lovely cloth napkins to place the cakes upon – folded into lilies. Yes, lilies. The other friends were so intrigued by this that a demonstration was demanded and Annabelle suggested I film it, so here for your viewing pleasure, is a tutorial on turning napkins into water lilies:

Three favourite moments –
(i) “It’s like afternoon tea meets Blue Peter” (Absolutely true.)
(ii) “I’m so going to do this for my next dinner party!” (Oh Annabelle, I still can’t get over the fact that you’d had a dinner party, let alone that at your next one the napkins will be shaped like lilies!)
(iii) “It works better with the paper napkins” “Well, if you use stiff linen napkins it works even better…” (Sorry, was that just a paper versus linen napkin moment? Oh dear.)

I love my friends – even more than I love cake. Now, all I need to do is prepare some special karaoke numbers for birthday celebration #2 on Friday…

Giving Away in May

It’s been a little while since I last took part in the global warmth & fuzziness that is the Sew Mama Sew giveaway day, but it’s back again…

I’m giving away a pair of handcrafted earrings. (Allergy proof sterling silver fixings, with Swarkovski beads.) These are just an example – I’ll make the same design afresh in whatever colour the winner chooses. In addition, there’s a bracelet made from semi-precious stone beads – so it’s a double giveaway.

To win, all you have to do is leave a comment by the end of May 20th. I’ll choose the winner at random and post the result the following day. (Please make sure you leave me some way of contacting you!)

Readers arriving here from Sew Mama Sew – welcome! I’m not a craft blogger generally, although I will post projects when I’m hit with inspiration, but have a tendancy to blog on an eclectic range of topics – lately there’s been rather a lot about the election [Britain had an historic election the other week, but I’m not entirely sure that the rest of the world cared about it all that much], there’s usually plenty of gym anecdotes and every so often I rave about shoes and handbags

Regular readers – feel free to enter too. You deserve some kind of gift for persisting with me!

Deli delights

The second day of the crafting extravaganza was spent visiting Webbs of Wychbold – a delightful combination of garden centre, Hobbycraft, shops selling pretty things, outdoors stuff, hot tubs (sale of not use of, sadly), pet care and a delicatessen. [Re-reading that sentence, I’m wondering if I’ve somehow turned 40 overnight…garden centres fun??]

I probably don’t need to go into detail about Hobbycraft. It’s in turns wonderful and utterly ridiculous. Where else can you buy not one, but two varieties of Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric? Or, a ‘knit a coat for your Yorkshire Terrier’ kit? A book of projects for making themed toilet roll covers? I could go on…

However, the highlight by a long stretch was the deli…

Oh. My. Goodness. This is not a place to bring someone 11 months into a healthy eating regime (especially after a breakfast of Weetabix that felt a very long time ago). There was chocolate in abundance, mostly particularly yummy European varieties; preserves aplenty; home-made cakes; crisps…

Here, Mrs WF made quite a discovery:

Yes, that would be Valentines themed crisps – strawberry, white wine & sweet chilli flavour. I imagine the conversation in their marketing department must have gone something like this:

“What we need to do is cash in on Valentines Day – have a special flavour that really resonates with what the general public think of when they’re loved up. What flavours do we associate with Valentines? Strawberries – yes. White Wine – yes. Sweet Chilli? Hmmm, I suppose that could work…”
[Incidentally, we had them for lunch – actually not as weird as you’d think!]

Then we got to the deli counter… Ahhh, cheese. I’m not a massive cheese fanatic, but this stuff was gooooood. And the fudge? Not since the discovery of Heavenly Chocolate in Scarborough have I been this excited by fudge! This little lot kept me on a sugar high all the way back to London:

Yummmmm.

How to felt – and countless other tutorials

I have a blogging friend (in this case, an actual friend who later began blogging, rather than a ‘virtual’ friend, or worse – someone I stalk via their blog), known as Mrs Wibblyfish, with whom I like to do crafty things. She introduced me to the concept of giveaway days and I introduced her to Homemade By Jill.

Not as often as we’d like, we meet up to craft – because that’s the kind of wholesome individuals we are. This weekend was one such opportunity, made all the better by her parents appearing for a couple of hours, taking Scrap (her baby – not a pet dog) off her hands, enabling us to get on almost uninterruptedly.

Our craft of choice was needle felting. Not something I’ve considered before, but it was immensely pleasing. It basically involves a great deal of stabbing wool with a barbed needle which is incredibly therapeutic. The fact that we created pretty things out of this violent action was a bonus. For a detailed explanation of how to do this, check out this tutorial – it is actually just as simple as it looks. In case you can’t tell what the pretty things are, that would be a flower corsage (which will probably be fashioned into some form of hair adornment) and a pink heart (I made a white one too) which may become either hair clips or brooches…

In the above collage, you’ll spot Mrs WF watching another tutorial. Were her face not mostly out of the photo, you’d also see that she was rather amused. Searching for needle felting guidance led us into the surreal world of the YouTube tutorial – home to many batty ladies passionate about obscure crafting techniques and keen to share them with others.

It would be mean to highlight some of the dodgier examples we found, but our favourite discovery does need to be shared – luckily the quality was also excellent, so this is an honest recommendation. By and large, craft tutorials are dominated by the female gender, so it was refreshing to find one by a man. The fact that this man is associated with a whole craft website and was rather cute made it all the more wonderful. We were entranced – and that was even before we discovered his ‘how to make a handbag out of a recycled book’ video. [Those of you who know my intense feelings towards the care of books will understand that this video had the potential of being deeply traumatic, fortunately, his charm and good looks enabled me to overcome these feelings.] Bless you, Chris of curbly.com.

I think we’ve now decided that come our next craft date, we may have to make our own tutorial – just to show the world how it should be done. All we need is an appropriate craft to share…

A long time ago, in a gallery far, far away…

Ok, not a long time ago, in fact right now; in a gallery pretty far away (Florida); there’s an exhibition of Star Wars related stuff. What’s so interesting about that? (Unless you’re a Star Wars devotee.) Well, in a collision of two equally nerdy/talented worlds, classic films meet crafters and the results are oh so special…
The Guardian has a whole photo gallery of them, along with as many Star Wars/Craft puns as you can throw a crochet needle at. Entitled ‘Stitch Wars’, you can see more on Flickr or their website.

My shortlist of favourites are as follows:

(That’s knitted Jedi training, felt Star Wars, Star Wars finger puppets and a terribly brilliant use of fleece in a Princess Leia wig.)

Even the promo for the exhibition is hilarious:

Should you be able to get to the exhibition, you may even be able to buy some of the items. Tell me, who wouldn’t want their very own 4ft6 Chewy?? (Honestly, I’d be terrified!)