Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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Summer stitching

What with first my sister then a friend moving house, a penpal giving birth to a baby girl (yes, I have penpals) and my godson’s 2nd birthday coming up in September, I ended up stitching a few cross stitch cards over the summer. Obviously I took photos of all my stitching (wellll… apparantly not all, see next paragraph), and where better to save them for posterity than on my blog? ;-)

For my sister’s new home card, I choose a bird house design that had appeared in a collection of “spring stitches” in one of my magazines. Not very imaginative (is it just me or do loads of new home cards feature bird houses?), but cute. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have taken a photo of it… and if I did it’s gone now! In my attempt to figure out why there was no photo of this card anywhere, I managed to accidently delete all the folders on my camera’s memory card… 2 days before I was due to fly to Taiwan!! When a friend moved home a few weeks later, it occurred to me that a beehive would also make an excellent theme for a new home card! I knew I’d seen bees somewhere in one of my magazines, so I went on a search through some back issues, and was soon rewarded. This little beehive is actually part of a larger sampler that I don’t like very much – too old fashioned for my tastes! But this little picture alone is cute, and the perfect size for a card!

cross stitch

In June, a penpal in Germany gave birth to a baby girl. I knew she was having a girl in advance, so I stitched most of the card then spent the rest of the month waiting to find out the name. A birth announcement card was waiting for me when I returned from Vienna, so I was able to quickly finish the card and get it sent off along with the gift I had bought. I’ve blurred out the name on the photo because I don’t like to share the names of other people’s babies on my blog… even if there is zero chance of you ever working out who she is!

cross stitch
Finally, having failed to find a nice birthday card for my godson in the shops (where are all the decent kids’ birthday cards?!), I decided to stitch my own. It took me a looong time to find an image in my magazines that was suitable for a small boy… sooo many fairies and cutsie mice! But I eventually decided on a skateboarding tortoise. I haven’t actually turned this one into a card yet (that will happen when I get back from Taiwan – tomorrow, in case anyone is wondering. Assuming no Icelandic volcanoes have erupted since I sheduled this post!), but here’s a photo of the cross stitch itself:

Tortoise

And that’s what I’ve been stitching for other people this summer. I also mentioned in my latest photo an hour post that I’m working on something for my kitchen. I still have one more thing to stitch for that (I have a frame with four gaps), then all four little pictures will be up on the blog, so look out for that!


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Friday letters

After the debacle that was my attempt to post on my birthday (I hit publosh and the computer just sat there going “posting…” for half an hour, which is when I got mad and gave up!), I’ve managed to find a way back to the old publishing screen, so hopefully this post will actually appear on my screen! In case anyone else is having trouble, it appears going via dashboard takes you to the plain text publishing page instead of that new fangled one that probably requires all sorts of things this computer doesn’t have! Anyway, on with the letters…
postbox

Dear boyfriend. As much as I will miss you when you’re away, I’m actually looking forward to having a whole weekend to myself. My plan is to sleep, read a lot and eat crappy meals that require no chopping of vegetables. And as for next week… eaten before 8 pm and getting a few early nights? Sounds like a plan to me! Then, in just over a week, I get to see you in Taiwan and have you all to myself for an entire 6 days! Yay.

Dear weather. Would you please make up your mind! I’m sick of either dressing in trousers because it looks like rain then coming home from work desperate to change into a dress because I’m so hot or heading out in a skirt because the weather looks fine only to get absolutely soaked and have to sit around in wet clothes all day!

Dear WordPress. Please stop fixing things that aren’t broken! The old way of publishing posts worked just fine! I am aware that most of the reason I can’t use the old system is because this computer is terrible (and hasn’t had any updates done to it for over a year), but that’s not the point! We can’t all have the latest technology and there’s no need to fiddle with things all the time!

Dear computer. I know most of your problems are Jan’s fault for neglecting you (and there’s nothing I can do about it as I don’t have an admin password!), but if you don’t stop doing things like refusing to publish blogposts, freezing when I go on certain websites and taking centuries to upload photos to anywhere (WordPress, Twitter, Facebook), I will not be responsible for my actions!

Dear friends/family. Thank you for all the lovely cards/gifts/messages for my birthday. I loved everything and I am so thankful to everyone who thought of me.

That’s all for this week. Slightly moany, I’m afraid. I’ll try to do better next time ;-) In the meantime, I’m scheduling this post, so hopefully it will actually publish!

Daily Diaries with The Lotus Creative


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(Belated) cake day

This was supposed to be yesterday’s blog post… except WordPress have gone and changed the bit where you write posts and I now literally cannot publish them on my home computer. I press publish and it just sits there saying “posting” for ages. So I’m posting this from work…

I forgot to take a photo of the cake I baked for work, mostly because by the time it was ready it was so late Jan had to take it out of the oven for me and yesterday I was too busy getting ready for work to think of it. But luckily a package from a friend saved my blog from being cakeless on my birthday… or it would have if I’d been able to post!

Anyway, this is what a mini Smarties cake looks like after travelling all the way from the UK:

cake dayAnd now I guess I’m officially “in my 30s” (as opposed to just being 30). *Sigh*


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A bit of stitching…

This still isn’t the post I wanted to write yesterday, but it’s a post so that’s better than nothing.
At the end of last year, I dound myself getting really fed up with cross stitch, so in January I decided to start making some smaller projects that I would actually be able to finish in less than five months! Spending ages stitching the same thing had been getting really frustrating, and the idea of actually achieving something was very appealing. So I started stitching cards for various occasions that were coming up. The first was my paternal grandmother’s birthday at the end of January.

Bear card

She loves gardening and cute things, so this little bear seemed perfect for her. The watering can was actually supposed to be a different shade of green, but I didn’t have the right threads so I just made it up.

You’ve already seen the card I made Jan for Valentine’s Day, so next up is a daisy that I stitched for my other grandma’s birthday in March. I actually messed up at one point and had to improvise. Can you tell where?

Daisy

Finally, my most recent completed project – a Mother’s Day card for my mum. This one was difficult! So much complicated backstitch. But I managed… and I’m actually quite proud of how it turned out.

Mother's Day

So there you have it, my 2014 cross stitching so far. My current project is an Easter card that I’m working on for a friend, then I’ll be doing some baby cards for a few people I know who are due in May. Busy, busy, busy!

 


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Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

cupcakeSaturday was Jan’s birthday, and on Sunday I felt like baking… perfect timing for Jan to be able to take something in for his colleagues today. I didn’t want to make a full on cake, so I decided on chocolate cupcakes using a recipe that I’ve had for ages and is really easy to follow. I found the original recipe on BBC Food years ago, but I can’t provide you with a link because it doesn’t seem to be on there any more. Buuut I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my own purposes over the years, which means it’s mine now and posting it here without a link won’t be breaking any copyright laws, right? Right? Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
220g butter
220 g caster sugar
220g self-raising flour OR 220g plain flour plus 1.5 teaspoons baking powder (plus half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda, if you have it)
4 eggs, beaten (mine were medium, but I’ve used large before)
15g cocoa powder
30g chocolate chips
A few drops of vanilla extract

For the frosting:
125g soft butter
210g icing sugar, sifted (the sifting is important or the frosting will have lumps of icing sugar in)
125g plain chocolate
1 tsp cocoa powder

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the cocoa powder and blend it into the other ingredients, then stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla extract.

3. Add the eggs and stir well (don’t worry if it looks a bit lumpy at this stage).

4. Gradually fold in the flour until you’re left with a thick paste that looks a bit like chocolate mousse.

5. Place heaped teaspoons of the mixture into cupcake cases in a bun tray and bake for around 15 minutes until risen and bouncy when touched. The mixture makes around 24-26 cupcakes, depending on how much of the mixture you eat before it makes it to the oven (what? I know I’m not the only one that does that…). Once the cupcakes are baked, leave then to cool while you make your frosting.

Fresh out of the oven (if they look flat in this picture, it's the camera angle. I swear they had actually risen!)

Fresh out of the oven (if they look flat in this picture, it’s the camera angle. I swear they had actually risen!)

6. Melt the plain chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water (or in the microwave if you have such a thing…)

7. While the chocolate is melting, cream together the butter and icing sugar.

8. Add the melted chocolate the sugar and butter and stir everything together well.

9. Add a teaspoon of cocoa powder and stir until all the powder is properly blended in.

10. Place a teaspoon of the frosting on each cupcake and spread it with a knife (or pipe it on if you want your icing to end up looking better than mine… I preferred the less washing up option!).

Chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting

Chocolate cupcakes and chocolate frosting

11. You can either leave the cupcakes as they are now or decorate them as you see fit. Apparantly, I saw fit to sprinkle stars on mine in an incredibly haphazard manner. I could claim it’s supposed to be artistic but we all know it was sheer laziness…

Seeing stars...

Seeing stars…

12. Leave the frosting to cool/set for a bit then enjoy your cupcakes!


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In which I make blue cake…

As some of you wioll know, the British TV series Dr Who celebrated its 50th birthday on Saturday. That day also just happened to be the birthday of one of my friends, and in the invitation to the party he suggested that people might want to wear “a bow tie or something blue that’s bigger on the inside than the outside…”. I’m not sure most people got the reference, but I did. I may not have seen a single episode of Dr Who, ever, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know some things about it. It is embedded in my culture, after all. And I spent half my childhood being afraid I might accidently catch an episode and see the Daleks. Those things are terrifying when you’re six! But I digress…

Some of us started talking about what things we could do for the occasion, and in a moment of what I can only assume was temporary insanity, I volunteered to make a cake… a blue cake! (The cake part alone wouldn’t be insane. I like making cake, but blue cake was a new one!). After a couple of experiments, I finally hit upon a recipe that I liked and that resulted in a reasonably decent shade of blue, so on Saturday morning, the baking commenced…

blue cake

I admit the outside doesn’t look very blue… but it had after all been baked, so what do you expect? And you can see some blue shimmering through the brown.
For the topping and filling, I used vanilla cream cheese frosting, because there is no better icing! If there is a heaven, I’m pretty sure it’s a place where you can eat vanilla cream cheese frosting by the bowlful and not end up feeling sick!

Yum yum!

Yum yum!

Icing done, it was time to decorate. Unfortunately, all my blue food colouring was in the cake, so I had to make do with what limited other supplies I had… Germany is mostly disappointing when it comes to cake decorating equipment! But I did what I could with colourful sugar confetti and stars…

Tardis cake

A little wonky, but at least it’s recognisable! Here, have a close up:

Tardis cake decoration

Clearly that photo was taken before I put the stars on, so I’ve inserted the last two in the wrong order but nobody cares about that, do they?
And just so you can see that it really was blue(ish) inside, here is my cake later that evening…

Blue cake

As for the taste… it was pretty darn good, even if I do say so myself!


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So, I got my poppadoms

After all the talk of poppadoms and Indian takeaways right here on my blog, there was no way I was going to get through Friday without one! So I texted Jan the message “Want to meet me for curry tonight? I really fancy one!”. His response was “Sure, where?”, and so he left work relatively early and met me for Indian foods. He ended up going back to work afterwards, but that didn’t bother me… I was fed and watered by that time. Well, mango lassied anyway…

Papadums

I was too busy stuffing my face to take photos, so you’ll have to make do with someone elses… (Photo credit: Renée S. Suen)

The place we went to is called Continent. If you go there straight from England expecting the kind of curry you would get at home, I can guarantee you will be disappointed. But the food is reasonably tasty and at €8.90 for the all-yo-can-eat buffet, I’m not complaining. And anyway, they have poppadoms (which is what I was mostly craving) and some very nice Naan bread, so it’s all good. Basically, it’s a budget place and it shows… perfect for students and other people who don’t have a lot to spend. Oh, and it caters to German tastes, so the so-called “Lamb Vindaloo” was roughly as spicy as your average chicken tikka masala… The vegetable pakoras are… odd. They literally slice up some vegetables (courgettes, onions and potatoes as far as I can tell) and coat each individual slice in batter before deep frying it. The shape and size of the potato ones makes them basically battered chips (fries). I’m pretty sure that’s not how pakoras are done in the UK? But what do I know… I’m not Indian. And they’re still tasty even if they’re nothing like any pakora I’ve ever seen.

I don’t think they do anything vegan, but the buffet has 4 or 5 things that are suitable for vegetarians and I assume there’s more on the main menu (I keep telling myself that I’m going to order a full meal from them one day, but the idea of trying everything on the buffet is always too tempting…). So if you’re ever in Karlsruhe and fancy eating something vaguely Indian without spending too much money, you can do worse than a trip to Continent. The food there is certainly a million times better than the place we went to in Rottweil

Farscape

Farscape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, we travelled to Germersheim (a village an hour’s tram ride away) for a birthday party. I ate a delicious panino with goat’s cheese, honey and sun-dried tomatoes. Then we came home, watched an episode of Farscape and ordered pizza for tea… or technically supper, I suppose. It was around 10 p.m. by that time. Yes, I’m pleased to report that 16 days after removal of my wisdom teeth I finally managed to eat pizza again! Hurrah.

The plan for today is to rearrange some of the living room furniture… whenever Jan decides to get out of bed, that is…

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable weekend, too!

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