D.I.Y. // Hearty Pin Cushion & Box

Today I have a little D.I.Y. for you: a pin cushion-box-set.

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My mum had this very old but practical little plastic box/pin cushion-all-in-one set. That kind where you have a little box to store your pins but also a little pin cushion on top, so you can use it for storage as well as work with it. Naturally plastic wears out, so a little while ago the box broke and mum has been looking for a new one for months. In the end, I bought a little wooden box and decided to make one myself. And today I’d like to share with you how I did it.

This little project is one I like for various reasons: it’s cheap (I went under €5, especially because it includes things you will find in most households anyway), it’s easy (suuuuper-easy, believe me), it’s quickly done (because it’s so easy) and there are thousands of possibilities in terms of colours, size and looks. I used a heart in a different colour to be in the centre of the pin cushion, but in fact you can use any shape you want, a star, a rainbow, even a unicorn I guess (given the fact you can cut out a unicorn free-hand – I couldn’t). And above all, it looks cute.

First, I spray-painted the little box gold (mainly because I still have so much spray-paint left-over and because I really like using it). Then I collected all material I wanted to use: two different colours of felting (you can go with only one colour or with even more, if you like), a needle and matching thread (I used pink, but blue would have looked great, too), a pair of scissors, darning wool, a few safety pins and some mod podge(1). 

I used a plain sqaure of 13×13 cm in pink (the box is about 5 cm in diameter), folded it in half and cut out half a heart in the centre of the felting (2).

Bild 2I cut out a smaller square of blue felting (the size depends on the size of the heart, it should be slightly bigger than the cut-out heart) and attached it on the back (3), handstitching along the edges of the heart (4).

I put a small fist-full of darning wool in the centre of the square (still on the back where you can only see the blue square obviously), brought the four corners together and used a few wild stitches and two safety pins to bring the edges together and turn it all into a little round-ish package. As you can see in the picture below, my stitches are really wild and this looks rather unprofessional – but the safety pins (from which you can only see one, because the other one is covered by two or three layers of felting) are really helpful, especially if you are using a really thin thread like I did. 

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Eventually, I applied some mod podge to the lid of the little golden box and put the pin cushion on top. It took about 12 hours to dry but now you can’t even see the safety pins. I put in some pins and also stuck some into the pin cushion and voilà – the gift was ready to be presented to my mum (who, by the way, is really happy to finally have that old, broken plastic box replaced). 

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Ich bin ein Berliner… or something like that!

Have you ever tried a “German doughnut”, a Berliner, a Krapfen or a Fastnachtsküchle? No? Oh, dear. You missed out big time, I’m afraid.

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Today is what we call “Rosenmontag“, Carnival Monday, the highlight of German carnival, the day of raving carnival parades, crazy costumes and one endless party. To be honest, I hate it. The disguises, the craziness, the drunk people out on the streets, the roadside breath tests every few kilometres… but there is one thing I really apreciate this time of the year – the Berliner.

It’s made of a sweet yeast dough, fried in hot oil and has a jam- or creme- (vanilla, Baileys, eggnogg, Nutella, whatever flavour you could possibly imagine) filled centre. It’s covered in cinnamon and powdered sugar and taking your first bite feels like an epiphany. I spent the better half of today making Berliner and a similar type of doughnuts (made with baking powder instead of yeast) called “Quarkbällchen”.

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If you want to try to make your own Berliner and Quarkbällchen and get a taste of German carnival, here are the recipes for you.

Quarkbällchen (super-easy, perfect for beginners!)
– makes about 20 –

In a mixer with paddle attachement mix for 3-5 minutes

250 g plain flour
80 g sugar
2 g salt
12 g baking powder
300 g quark
13 g cooking oil
100 g butter (liquid)
3 eggs
1 egg yolk

Let sit for about 30-45 minutes. Heat about 2 l of cooking oil (or deep-frying fat) in a pot (or use a deep fryer), use an ice-cream scoop to drop portions of dough into the hot oil and deep-fry at 180°C for 5-10 minutes until golden brown (make sure to turn them around from time to time). Use a slotted spoon to take the Quarkbällchen out and roll them in either white sugar or a mix of white sugar and cinnamon powder. Enjoy.

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Berliner (a bit trickier, but if you follow the instructions, it shouldn’t be too complicated)
– makes about 17 –

Using a mixer with dough hook, mix

250 g flour
250 g milk
21 g yeast

After 3-5 minutes add

300 g flour
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
75 g butter (liquid)
40 g sugar
1 pinch of salt

Knead for about 10 minutes on low speed and another 4-5 minutes on high speed. Let the dough prove for about 30 minutes in a warm place (kitchen counter, for instance). Cut pieces of 50-60 g each and roll them either on the counter or in your hands to form little balls. Let them sit on the counter (or on a baking tray, covered with a teatowel) until their twice their original size (this might take a while, be patient!).IMG_8351.JPG

Then put them upside down into the cooking oil (again at 180°C), cover the pot with a lid and let them cook for 3 minutes (placing the lid on top of the pot is very important as it keeps the steam inside the pot and enhances the volume of your Berliner). Use a slotted spoon to turn them upside down and let them cook for another 3 minutes. Take out and dip them in a mix of white sugar and cinnamon. (By the way, the white stripe around the middle is characteristic for this type of baked good and it’s a sign of high quality and the right method of cooking!)

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You can fill them with anything you like, using a thin nozzle on your pastry bag and your favourite marmalade, jam or pudding. I used vanilla pudding mixed with eggnogg but this also works with Baileys or any other liquor you like. Some people also cut them open like you would a bun, and spread Nutella on one half before putting the two halves back together. Get creative! Once you have them filled, dust them with powdered sugar and impress your guests (or your family or simply yourself) with traditional German Berliner/Krapfen. Enjoy!

P.S.: No, Kennedy wasn’t talking about these delicious things when he famously said “Ich bin ein Berliner!“. He really meant “I am a person from Berlin”, not “I am a German carnival doughnut”. Famous words…

Last Minute SOS Christmas Spirit Supply | WEEKEND WIND UP #55

Have you found your Christmas spirit yet?

No? (If you have, just pretend you haven’t and go with it. Or just read on to find out how to play out your Christmas fantasies.) 

Well, it’s two days before Christmas, so you better hurry up and find it!

If you’re not in the mood for some quality time with your friends and family, gift wrapping and unwrapping, charol singing, decorating your tree and kissing under the mistletoe, I know exactly what you need.

You need Diesel.

Diesel is the Spirit of Christmas (at least he says so) and he is a ficitional character brought to you by Janet Evanovich (one of my favourite writers, which you probably know by now) in her Stephanie Plum Between-The-Numbers Novels.

You probably guessed it: whether you are eagerly awaiting Christmas or not – “Visions of sugar plums” is the perfect book for you in any case.

Still not quite excited about the upcoming holidays yet?

Hm.

Have some cookies, maybe that’ll help.

And listen to some (or all) of these songs:

Okay, now if all of that hasn’t put a smile on your face, you’re a tough case.

Then I’ve got only one ultimate solution to finally get your Christmas cheer going: booze.

How about some candy cane coffee?

You need a cup of coffee, one teaspoon cocoa powder, one shot crème de menthe and a candy cane for my version. (Alternatively, you could follow this recipe video.)

That was The Last Minute SOS Christmas Spirit Supply brought to you by coffeerocketfairytale. 🙂

Have a very merry Christmas and a couple of wonderful days with your loved ones!

Happy Halloween! | WEEKEND WIND UP #49

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It’s Halloween weekend again so I kept looking for some spooky inspiration for a perfect Halloween party.

1. Spooky Cocktails via Martha Stewart / / 2. Halloween dekoration (eyeball wreath via The Dainty Squid & Halloween garland via Fredflare) / / 3. Corpse Bride cake via Pinterest/Google / / 4. Halloween game via kidzui / / 5. Halloween food (cupcakes via Cute for Kids) / / 6. Pumpkin via Skull-a-day 

There’s much more cool stuff out there, e. g. Halloween pancake molds, more inventive Halloween recipes and Peanuts Spooky Hot Chocolate

I’m sure everyone who plans a Halloween breakfast/tea/party will find plenty of inspiration on the web.

Do you have any fun Halloween activities planned? 

The Pie Challenge

One of the blogs I frequently visit is “Oh, Mishka!“, written by the lovely Michelle who is facing a pie challenge.

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She has a list of 25 things to do before her 25th birthday and asked her readers to help her out a bit.

While there are quite a few things that I consider huge challenges for myself (rock climbing, speaking French, etc…) there is one thing I can help her with: pie making.

On Michelle’s list it says: “Bake a pie from scratch” and I couldn’t think of any better recipe than the traditional apple pie.

Telling her about my recipe (from this book) made me want to make my second favourite pie (#1 is still this one) myself and now that autumn is here it’s the perfect time to do so:

350 g plain flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

200 g butter

Mix flour, salt and sugar.

Cut butter in little pieces and add to the mix. Knead with your hands (might take a few minutes until all the ingredients combine, just keep going – if you own a Thermomix set dial on interval speed for 3.5 minutes and you’re settled).

Put the dough on a plate and into the fridge where it needs to stay for at least an hour.

For the filling you need:

1kg apples (slightly sour)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon plain flour

100 g brown sugar

a dash of cinnamon

Peel the apples, remove the core and cut them first in quarters, then in thin wedges. Mix with the lemon juice (this prevents them from turning brown).

Grease a tarte pan (or a springform pan of 28 – 30 cm diameter).

Take the dough out of the fridge and halve. Using a rolling pin and two layers of cling wrap in between which you place one half of the dough at a time, try to roll out the dough the size of your pan.

This can be a bit tricky, but if it doesn’t work at all, you can also place one of the doughs into the pan straight away and use a small bottle or glass to roll out the dough in the tin. (Obviously, this only works for the pie base, for the top layer you will still need to figure out another way…)

Once you placed the base in the pan, mix the apples with flour, sugar and cinnamon and put on top.

Place the other dough on top (pretty much like a lid) and make sure to press the edges together.

Cook for 30 – 35 minutes (middle roast, 180°C).

Then melt 1 – 2 tablespoons of butter and brush it on the pie. Cook for another 20 minutes until the top is golden.

This pie is very crumbly (you will notice when trying to roll the dough) but the dry shell goes perfect with the juicy and sweet filling.

Super-delicious and not so complicated to make as it may sound when you first read the recipe.

By the way, don’t bother cutting little hearts out to decorate your pie like I did here – they will melt in the oven anyway and become invisible, as you can see in the very first pic…

Do you have a favourite pie recipe? Tell me about it! 

Crochet Craziness IV – Granny Squares | WEEKEND WIND UP #41

I have already announced it yesterday – today I have a granny square-tutorial for you.

I decided to keep it as simple as possible and take pictures of each step, so that you can easily follow what I was doing.

Make sure you know the basics before you start (it’s less upsetting when you know the stitches before – trust me, I speak from experience!).

You find basic stitches and crochet tipps here and here.

Click the pictures to enlarge.

Start with a chain of six stitches (1). Pull yarn through the first stitch (2) to close the round (3).

For the first round, start with three chain stitches (1). Pull the yarn through to make a double crochet stitch (5,6).

Make another double crochet stitch (7,8), then 3 chain stitches (9).

Add three double crochet stitches (10), three chain stitches, three double crochet stitches, three chain… until you end up with a tiny square (12).

And that’s basically it.

The pattern for the inner round and the first round is: 

ch ch ch ch ch ch – – – o

ch ch ch –  dc dc – – – ch ch ch – – – dc dc dc – – – ch ch ch – – – dc dc dc – – – ch ch ch – dc dc dc – – – ch ch ch 

Now, if you want to continue, just go ahead, but if you want to change the colour to have the second round in… let’s say turquoise for instance, you need to tie a knot and cut off the white thread.

Pull the new (turquoise) thread through one corner and repeat steps 1 to 12 – with one little change: in every white corner go three double crochet stitches (dc)- three chain stitches (ch) – three double crochet stitches. Between the corners, there is just one chain stitch.

So the pattern for the second round is:

(corner 1) dc dc dc – ch ch ch – dc dc dc —– ch —– (corner 2) dc dc dc – ch ch ch – dc dc dc —– ch —– (corner 3) dc dc dc – ch ch ch – dc dc dc —– ch —– (corner 4) dc dc dc – ch ch ch – dc dc dc.

Any other round follows the same principles – there are always three double crochet stitches, then there is either one (between the corners) or a group of three chain stitches (in the corners).

You can add as many rounds as you like and use as many colours and different types of yarn as you can possibly find.

I prefer to use crochet yarn, but wool or embroidery cotton works just as well.

Apparently, Luigi likes wool best.

And now – let’s go crocheting!

Blanket of all sizes, shawls, ponchos, skirts, pillow cases, rugs… granny squares are miscellaneous and stylish and we are looking forward to hear what you are making of granny squares.

What will/would you use granny squares for? 

P.S.: If you have any questions or if anything isn’t quite clear, don’t be afraid to ask. Luigi and I will happily reply to comments and emails! 

Crochet Craziness III – Some more basics

While doing all the tidying out and cleaning and everything, I took a break or two (or three or four or actually… well, you I think I get my point across).

And during that break I started a new project.

For about a year now I’ve been wanting to crochet a granny blanket – and I finally started!

Tomorrow, I’m going to show you how to crochet granny squares but before we get started we have to make sure to know the basics.

(Make sure to have a look at Crochet Craziness I, where exactly one year ago I put together a photo tutorial on how to start crocheting!)

On zzzebra, a German website for kids, I found a great tutorial for one of the most basic stitches, the double crochet:

Basically, you pull the yarn over the hook, insert the hook in the next stitch you want to work and pull the thread through the first two loops.

Then pull the yarn over the hook a second time and through the two remaining loops.

Too complicated?

Sorry, my explanatory skills might not be the best, but why not have a look at an even more detailed step-by-step guide here?

And if you need to start right at the beginning, have a look here, there is a great slideshow that explains how to start with a chain.

Luigi and I are now going back to work on some more granny squares (and granny square tutorials) to show you tomorrow.

Spiky Superstars: Cactus care continued

It’s been about a month now since I bought my cacti and succulents so I think it’s about time for a short update.

Here they are, beautiful as ever:

Not sure if you could say they have grown significantly within the past four weeks, but at least I can definitely attest: they haven’t shrunk either!

I’m full of confidence that this cacti business of mine is all working out.

And once I can be sure of having a green thumb, I will go on to my next project: miniature terrariums.

A few days ago, Dani posted on her blog Kittenbear photos of her first attempt at creating a terrarium and I am thrilled to say: it looks marvellous! Go and check it out!

On ReadyMade I also found a step-by-step guide on how to make your own miniature terrarium, so if you want to have one, too, go and check it out here.

And because I’m in such a botanic mood at the moment, I end this post with a beautiful picture of a pink poppy in our garden:

Last minute gift idea for Mother’s Day (part II) | WEEKEND WIND UP #36

Back from the 24/7 grocery store/petrol station?

Well, then let’s go and get started with our last minute Mother’s Day pressent!

And here is how you do it:

For the base:

Mix 150g butter and 75g sugar. Add 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoured sugar (or a few drops vanilla essence), a few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice. Finally add 65g flour, 65g starch and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Put the dough in a heart shaped tin. Bake at 170°C for about 40 minutes. 

While the cake is in the oven, you can make some custard.

Apply one layer of custard on the cake (after you have taken it out of the tin!), then cut strawberries in halves and put them on top.

Finally, make some glaze (if you don’t want to use a convenience product, you can make glaze yourself by mixing water, gelatine and sugar and brining it to boil). Add some red food coloring, if you like.

Whip the cream. Cut a few strawberries in tiny pieces and mix with wipped cream. Fill the mix in a piping bag and either write something (“Happy Mother’s Day”, “For Mum”…) or decorate the cake otherwise.

Done and ready to serve.

But before you give the cake to your Mum… hang on a sec, I still have some tipps for you:

  • Use some kitchen foil to wrap around the cake like some sort of frame once you applied the custard. It helps to keep everything in shape, especially when you pour over the glaze.
  • If you don’t have a heart-shaped baking tin on hand, you can also use a round or squared tin and cut out a heart after the cake is cooled down. (Use a stencil to make a heart that’s evenly shaped!)
  • For the custard, use custard powder but less milk/water than what it says on the instructions so that the custard is a bit thicker than usually.
  • Use whipping cream stiffener (makes whipping the cream so much easier!)
  • By the way, if you don’t want to use glaze on your cake, you can simply put cream on top.
  • Make sure your Mum doesn’t know what you’re up to…
… and then surprise her with a cake that looks as if you had bought it from a high end confectioner!
Happy Mother’s Day!

Last minute gift idea for Mother’s Day | WEEKEND WIND UP #35

I’m really bad when it comes to getting presents on time.
It’s always about a week after a person’s birthday that I get the good ideas.
It’s always after Christmas that I come across the erfect present for my father or the inspiration for a gift for my brothers.
And it’s always the day before Mother’s Day that I realise I still haven’t found the perfect gift for my mother.
That obviously always happens late Saturday afternoon when the shops are closed and all you can get is ice cream or beer from the local petrol station (as there aren’t any 24/7 stores where I live).
So this year I decided to bake a perfect heart-shaped cake for Mother’s Day.
If you are like me, haven’t found the perfect gift yet and maybe want to surprise your Mum with a simple yet beautiful and delicious cake, quickly head down to the grocery store (or petrol station) and make sure to get
  • butter
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • vanilla essence/vanilla flavoured sugar
  • lemons
  • flour
  • starch
  • baking powder
  • custard
  • strawberries
  • single cream