The Mountain Man returns

15 (long) days ago, the Mountain Man left for a walking trek up the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. As a welcome home treat, the boys wanted to make a cake. I had visions of a really nice mini-cupcake I’d see on a favourite blog. I was really looking forward to making it. So I showed the boys. It was met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, followed by: “No, Mum. A mountain cake”.

“Umm? Hmm. Ok…are you sure?”

“Yes. A mountain cake.”

Knowing what I was comfortable making, working with, and had on hand, I put together a Plan. Yes, this one called for a capital letter.

I seriously thought about buying a couple of boxes of cake mix and some packaged frosting (icing). Both of these US baking stalwarts are only really starting to take off here. But in the end, I decided if I had to make a Mountain Cake, I wanted an authentic one. However, I wasn’t going to go all out. There is something about a novelty cake that makes me think that the contents won’t be the star. And I had helpers; while Boy 1 and Boy 2 are super enthusiastic, complicated cake recipes weren’t going to work. So I used a basic recipe for chocolate cake from the New Joy of Baking, along with the basic buttercream icing. And off we went.

Chocolate cake in the making

The obligatory bowl of soon-to-be-cake.

Yeah, I’m not convinced either. Although the eggs weren’t in yet…

We made 3 batches of cake mix and distributed it into a jelly roll pan (kinda like a texas sheet cake pan), a 8″ round cake tin, and a medium pyrex bowl. We then made the buttercream frosting and coloured one portion green, one portion brown, and then left the last bit white. I found some sprinkles that we use for ice cream that had been hanging around for a bit looking for a good purpose (other than ice cream, of course).

I had plenty of help with the icing and decorating. Here’s what we ended up with.

Mountain Cake

The jelly roll cake provided the base, the round cake was the bottom of the mountain, and the pyrex formed the dome part of the mountain. The craggy top was made from offcuts from the bottom of the dome (so that the dome could sit flat).

Mountain cake 2

The boys enjoyed finding appropriate lego figures for Mountain Man (right) and his bestie. They are pretty good likenesses! Although, it’s really just walking, not climbing…

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Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out. Mountain Man is back tomorrow, and then we’ll know how it tastes. But frankly, the boys had so much fun doing it, it doesn’t matter.

Now brought to you by…the letter S

During the spring, before I really got crafting again, I was stalking following along with the Moda Designer Blog Hop: Spell it with Fabric. Each day a different quilter, or set of quilters, was featured for various letters. If you do a web search, then you’ll be able to track down all the letters as it was a free blog hop. And there are plenty of Pinterest boards showing all the designs.

All the letters were really cute but I didn’t want to make a full alphabet quilt. My boys are a bit too young for that. So I opted for one letter which is the start of both my husband’s and my last name. The letter S. But S on it’s own, while shapely, is rather boring. During the blog hop I saw one designer who had personalized their letter by adding a smaller block within the letter block and I thought that would add a bit of excitement.

The problem was that the designer didn’t add any details about how she added the smaller block. It looked like it was a Sawtooth Star block and I liked the look. The contrast with the curvaceousness of the S with the 8 points of the star appealed. The problem was designing it to fit the S block. I knew approximately what height I wanted the star block to be but the Sawtooth involves half square triangles and, it had been such a long time since I’d sewn, that it took me awhile to figure out how to the size each piece. And I wish I would have saved my calculations…[yet another reason for this blog!]

The letter S in fabric

In the end, I was quite happy with it although it was slightly too large as I wanted to line up the bottom of the star block with the bottom of the top arm of the S. To do that, the top of the mini-quilt ended up being a bit wonky.

Sawtooth Star

Part of the issue was that, when I was piecing this, I hadn’t invested in a 1/4 inch foot. I was having loads of trouble with getting seams to line up. Now I have one – see that beauty below? They are cheap, people, and worth every penny!

1/4 inch foot

I also did some beginning free motion quilting – the trauma of which I’ll post more about in the future.

FMQ

This mini-quilt is definitely not perfect, in a number of different ways, but I like it anyway. It represents my returning adventure in fabric, which I think is pretty Special.

Bound

Maple Syrup – UK gold dust

A Saturday morning, without any running around to do, calls for coffee and baking. I’ve been wanting to make some donuts and had my eye on a recipe from one of my favourite baking bloggers*. Maple Glazed Donuts sounded like just the perfect addition to my lovely cappuccino.

As the name suggests the donut glaze uses maple syrup. As an ex-pat in the UK, finding ingredients that are common in the US can sometimes be challenging here. Maple syrup is one of them. People really don’t know what to do with it, and pancakes – as I know them – aren’t on any breakfast menus. And when you can find maple syrup, it’s jaw-droppingly expensive. I’m trying to contain my excitement now that Costco has arrived here. I bet I was one of the first people to take out a membership at our local store! But I haven’t bought any syrup from there yet because whenever I go to the States to visit my family, I come back home with some that has been locally tapped. It’s a bit of a risk to pack the glass bottles (yup, that’s what the locals use) in my luggage and then let the baggage handlers have at it. When I get home, I always breathe a sigh of relief that no leakage has occurred.

My main decision this morning was whether I really wanted to part with a half cup of home tapped syrup from my very last bottle. But it was a Saturday morning, without anything that absolutely had to be done. There isn’t much more indulgent than that when you have two boys with loads of activities. So maple glazed donuts, here we come.

These baked donuts use a spiced cake base which was really easy to put together. I followed the recipe exactly, including the tip about filling the donut pan (put the dough in a plastic bag and cut off the tip to squeeze out).

Maple Glazed Donuts

After just 10 minutes, these beauties came out.

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And when they were cooled, I just dunked them in the maple syrup glaze.

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At exactly this moment, Boy 2 twigged what I was doing in the kitchen. What happened next is pretty predictable.

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Boy 1 then got in on the act. The key, I think, to this recipe is the spices.

spices

If you like strongly cinnamon-y flavours, then you’ll like this. Boy 2 likes strong flavours and devoured his donut. If you don’t like strong flavours, then this recipe probably isn’t for you. That’s my Boy 1, who promptly gave his donut to his now sugared up brother. Me? I’m somewhere in between. If I make these again (taking into account that maple syrup here is like gold dust), I think I’ll dial back on the spices or use a vanilla cake base.

Oh, and Mom and Dad – I think I now qualify for a maple syrup emergency! Send some soon.

*http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/09/17/maple-glazed-donuts/

Dream Weaver

So it’s the autumn, and autumn to me has always meant going back to school. So that’s what I’m doing! I figure I’m pretty competent in my professional life so I’m not going back to learn more about what I already know a lot about – although I like doing that. Nope. I’m going back to learn about how to be a blogger. I’ve enrolled in WordPress’s Blogging 101 course. Every day we have an assignment and, as a type A personality, I’m anxious to perform. Today’s assignment is to publish a post to your dream reader.

I’m old enough that when I read “dream reader” I hear in my head the music to “Dream Weaver”. Come on, I know that some of you are with me on this. Now you can’t get it out of your head, can you? …sorry about that. And a bonus for those of you too young to know the song I’m talking about, here it is.

I’m not sure that the actual lyrics are wholly relevant to this assignment but if you stick with me I’ll try to make a connection. The tone of the song is about leaving worries behind and living in the moment (in a psychedelic kinda way but that’s the way the 1970s rolled). I have a demanding day job – which I absolutely love – but when I wanted a break I logged into Pinterest which then led to me following blogs, and I was particularly excited about those that were being creative with fabric and flour. While these somewhat clandestine social media forays started out as a way to take my worries about the day away, they ended up being so inspiring that it kicked me back into actually doing craft, rather than thinking about doing it. And for that I have a debt of gratitude to those creative bloggers out there. As a poor way of paying that debt forward, I’m doing something I never thought I’d do – start my own blog.

But who do I want reading my stuff? Who is my dream reader? Someone like myself, looking for a dream weaver for just a small bit of time to take your mind off the worries of the day. Although it would be helpful if your dream was about fabric and flour too…

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Welcome to Fabric & Flour

Happy Autumn and welcome to my brand new blog.

This summer I started crafting again, after a very long absence. I missed it. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Let’s not dwell on why I stopped. Well, OK -maybe just for a minute. You know that elusive idea that people refer to as (say this like the emcee for wrestling) WORK/LIFE BALANCE? Yeah, wasn’t happening.

But I took a couple of weeks off. I made a cutting table out of stuff we mostly already had – so now I don’t have to pack up every time I get a couple of hours to do something but not enough hours to finish it. I got going on a few quilting projects and started doing some more baking. Along the way, I tried to remember to take a few pictures to document my projects because I really wanted to remember some of the details. I didn’t do a very good job of remembering. Solution?

I’m a biologist, used to taking detailed fieldnotes* to describe observations and experiments. And I had become addicted to several crafty and bake-y blogs. So starting my own electronic fieldnotes for my own crafty-bakey projects seemed like a logical solution. This blog may end up just being my diary, read only by my husband (and then under duress), but if you want to join me on my expedition I’d be happy to share my fieldnotes about my experiments in fabricandflour.

A quick picture of my cutting table. Bijou but perfect. I heart my cutting table.

I heart my cutting table

Thanks for visiting.

Rhonda

*shhh…mostly it’s lab notes because I am rarely in the field. But “fabricandflour lab notes” isn’t alliterative like “fabricandflour fieldnotes”. And, for the record, I have done field work, so it’s not a complete fib!