Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Overly Talented Kelly - Picture This by Kelly Stanley

Far too many years ago now, my friends and I each decided upon an adjective for each other. Mine was Super...there was a Gorgeous, a Lovely, an Evil, amongst many others. Kelly's was Radiantly Beautiful, because everyone in the world was in love with Kelly. As well they should be, because she is indeed Radiantly Beautiful.

Now I feel like we should change that adjective. Yes, people should still be falling over themselves to be in love with Kelly but because she is Overly Talented, as well as Radiantly Beautiful. Kelly is one of those people you kinda want to hate because they're just so good at everything they decide to try, but you can't because she's just too damn nice. Ergh.

When I first met Kelly she was a tiny young thing, rocking out on stage and winning a competition for doing so. Some of my favourite songs of hers are from these very early days. But she was never one to just stick with one talent. As well as being an Overly Talented singer/songwriter/musician, she is also an Overly Talented artist. This is the crux of the matter.

Kelly makes her living doing all these wonderfully creative things, from teaching singing and performing live, to creating art and selling it. I'm here to point you in the direction of the lovely things she creates and hope that maybe something takes your fancy for yourself or as a gift.

First thing I'll tell you about is her drawings. I love her drawings of animals, and you can bet that once I get my cat (when I am a grown up/do not have an "allergic" housemate, it is one of my highest priorities) I will be commissioning a drawing from Kelly. Here are a few examples:

Totes adorbs, right?

Another thing Kelly does is paint plates. These make me hungry.

Guess what! There's MORE!

I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid for Kelly last summer, and it was an entirely beautiful day. Much of the loveliness was created by the Bride herself, and she has now added those beauties to the things you can commission and buy!

This is the topper Kelly made for her own cake...that's her and Scott and little Bilbo, their pug!

I could show you a million examples of things that you will undoubtedly love, but it is far better that you look at her Etsy page and fall in love much more organically. Find Picture This on Etsy, and have a browse. I have managed to time this post slightly off...unfortunately Kelly is away for a little while having surgery (thinking of you Kelly!), but she will be back up and running very soon, I'm sure.


Wednesday, 27 May 2015


Right, let's just get one thing clear here. I hate running. I would say I always have, but I remember having enthusiasm once, in Year 3. It all went downhill from there...

I've tried to run so very many times since I (apparently) became an adult, and it never seems to work for me. I tried getting one of those little chippy things that goes in your shoe to spur me on because I'd be so interested in all the facts. Nope. Just got frustrated with picking the stupid thing up every ten seconds. Jen and Keith (sister and brother in law) have got into running, and not just running - TRIATHLONS - and have said I should give it another go. One of the two is less gentle about his suggestion. Not naming names. But you take what you will from the pronoun.

Well there was no chance I would be going for a triathlon. I love swimming, hate running, and loathe cycling as the very hell that it is. But, after some cajoling from those around me and a suggestion to use the NHS Couch to 5k app, I decided I would give it a final shot.

Guys, it seems to be working. I mean, it's not like I'm suddenly an avid runner and go crazy if I don't get my jogging fix, but I haven't stopped.

The app builds you up slowly, alternating walking and running. It's supposed to run for 9 weeks, and each week has a different run that you do three times, though the last 4 weeks are slightly different to this. You start out running for a minute, and then walking for 90 seconds, running in total 8 minutes. The first week I hated my life. I had my music playing, and just as I reached the point where I wanted to chop off my legs my phone decided I needed to hear "When your legs don't work like they used to before...." My phone has a sense of humour it would appear.

Now I'm halfway through. Today I completed the second run of week 4, and now am running a total of 16 minutes per half hour, with 5 minute blocks. I've absolutely gained fitness, and as much as towards the end of the half hour I am plodding along wishing I was on the sofa, I don't feel horrendous. Yes, today I was bright red for an intriguing length of time, but that is by the by. It was sunny.

I'm enjoying it more. I've been using a couple of apps to track what I'm doing - RunKeeper and Strava.

I enjoy that RunKeeper tells me how I compare to previous runs, telling me that I've set a new record for distance or time. I'm awful for forgetting to tell it I've stopped running today, which is annoying. It took me 15 minutes to remember today, so I can't tell how my time compared to the last one.

Strava was something Jen and Keith pointed me towards, and I've only just started using. It's similar to RunKeeper, in that it tracks where you've gone, how far, how fast etc., but it's much more social. You can follow people (not literally, that would be a terrifying and quite probably illegal app) and see what they've been doing...give Kudos (equivalent of a Facebook Like) and comment. It sates the need we all have to show off a little that we haven't just been sat at home on Netflix without being that person on Facebook that just makes you feel terrible as you allow the next episode to start in 7, 6, 5....
You can also add activities that aren't running, e.g. cycling (puke) or swimming. I'm sure you can see the obvious flaw here too, but it doesn't involve costly mobile phone repair and replacement. You can put in the app that you were swimming, how long for, and how far. Pools being the handy things they are, you know the length and as long as you remember how many lengths you did it's no big job to work it out. I've been attempting to swim on the days I don't run (not done terribly well due to my ears conspiring against me) so it's nice to have something that lumps all my exercise together. Or all my "official" exercise anyway. You go spend a day in Year 2 and tell me you haven't been exercising. I dare you.

So here we are. I'm still not a fanatic, but I'm not a hater. Hopefully in 4 and a half more weeks I will be able to run 30 mins/5k without stopping, something I have never achieved.

Tell me if you've made a similar attempt at running, I want any and all advice and tips you have to give. I'm perfectly prepared to love it, I just need a hand.


Hello blogging my old friend...

I've come to blog with you again...

Hey! It's me! No, for serious, it is! 
I know, I've left somewhat of a gap. Your lives must have felt pretty empty I would imagine...you have my deepest apologies. But never fear, I missed the blog, and I want to do it better this time around. A whole mess of life happened in the past year though, so I've got plenty of things to fill you in on. 
Where to start? Oh man, I've crocheted all the things. There was one big project that I so wanted to blog about, but as it was a present I had to keep my mouth shut. This was torture, all I wanted to do was whinge. I followed this wonderful pattern from Skeins and More, making a stormtrooper blanket for my brother's 37th birthday. 
Here is the final product...
I should have taken some in progress photos, but I was worried I'd accidentally send them onto birthday boy, or leave them on a memory card that I'd then give him after a wedding. Subterfuge is difficult. 
This took me four months (there is a slight possibility that this present was belated...) and I got through all of Game of Thrones in the process. Unfortunately I have now forged a complete association with crochet and GoT, so now when I watch I feel like I should be crocheting...I have yet to start another project, but I do fear for my productivity without the clash of swords and inevitable, yet still shocking and gruesome death as my soundtrack.
There have been other projects, but this one changed me, and quite possibly Bex. There was wool everywhere in the flat for a frighteningly long time. I have learned the following things:
 1) Blankets. Take. Forever.
 2) Actually though, FOREVER.
 3) Consider joining as you go with granny squares.
 4) You will be sad when it is over and the blanket goes away. 
Speaking of Bex, she is now no longer my friend in East London but my flatmate in East London! I managed to return to this wonderful city, but rather than going back west as I had thought, I have landed in Walthamstow. There are a lot of things I intend to tell you about Walthamstow, I'm excited, you should also be excited. 
This post has become rambly. I tell you what, I'm going to post this and start a new one for the next thing I want to talk about. Ooh! Suspense! 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Guys, I crochet now.


So over the past few weeks crochet has become a thing in my house. It started off when mum found a pattern for making a bag from crocheted plastic bags, we started it and promptly ran into problems. I decided to find some regular yarn and practise with that. I couldn't do that either...so I went back to the beginning and started making scraps consisting of different stitches until I got the hang out of it. Then the idea of the plastic bag bag seemed dull, so I started looking for other patterns....and that was that.

I now have a new obsession, a whole pile of yarn waiting to be used, and a burning desire to increase the stash. My standard Pinterest search involves crochet patterns and/or dream yarn collections. Imagine just being able to go and find the exact colour and weight you want...drool.

Here are a few of the things I've been making, some are from patterns in books, some came out of my brain and so don't have a pattern written down.

These were made for my parents' anniversary (39 years, woo!) to live in their campervan, Harvey. This was the zig zag stripes pattern from "200 crochet flowers, embellishments & trims" by Claire Crompton, found on sale at HobbyCraft. This was the first time I tried carrying the yarn up the side, and man am I a fan. I didn't for the first couple and weaving in that amount of ends is BORING.

These were another Harvey present, this time a suggestion from mum from "Handmade Glamping" by Charlotte Liddle & Lucy Hopping. These were a lot of fun to make, I do love a chance to use a sewing machine, even if it is only for a circle.

Don't blink.

Here's Lynsey's birthday present, she's a huge Doctor Who fan. Pinterest came up trumps with this wonderful blog post from Crochetbot3000 on making a Weeping Angel. I made it and passed it on to Nich to pass onto the birthday girl, then realised I hadn't taken any photos and asked her to send me a couple. I then got this message...

"So, was going to take a picture of your Angel but then realised that an image of an angel becomes an angel so....."

I lol'd.

These little fellas were a gift for my sister in law, Sara's, birthday and were inspired by this pin and were my very first foray into using my own knowledge to make a pattern. It was very exciting! The body was made using some brilliant textile yarn I got from HobbyCraft. It's beautifully soft, perfect for cuddlies. It was on sale which is brilliant, but does make me worry it will disappear. I've already been back for more once, will have to hope it hangs around for awhile. If you see Rico Fashion Summer Print grab some. Or, equally, grab some for me. I'm happy to receive donations. The fabric came from the wonder that is my mum's sewing room, it's like we have our very own haberdashery in the back room.

I hope the people in my life are starting to appreciate that their presents from now on are likely to be in the form of fancy knitted string. This is Tom's birthday present, an iPod holder. He is another huge Doctor Who fan, and I had originally intended on making him a Tardis version, but if didn't have the right blue, or the time to go get the right blue. So I thought about other things Tom likes, and ingeniously decided to make him an Inspector Spacetime case instead.


Now I'm planning for my little Susie's birthday, pondering what I could do for Joe's, and then making up a stash of things for presents or to sell. Having enough knowledge to be able to create the shapes in my brain is amazing, and I'm loving looking for inspiration! I desperately want to make a blanket, but the money for that amount of yarn is not forthcoming. One day!



I've done what I can to attribute any patterns from other people here, the others are made by me, so similarities will be because that's what you have to do to make that shape happen. These things have been given as gifts, not sold. Just saying.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Pancake Day! Almond Flour English Pancakes


So yesterday was Pancake Day! If you're not lucky enough to be aware of this, put it in your calendar for next year. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday and was traditionally a day to use up all the fatty and indulgent things in your household ahead of the start of Lent the next day. Pancakes clearly being the height of indulgence, it is now Pancake Day. In England we have our pancakes very thin and lacy, quite like crêpes, usually with sugar and lemon. Whilst this is DELICIOUS, can anyone truly deny Nutella? Man alive.

Those who have read my previous baking posts will probably know that my mum has type 2 diabetes, and I don't like to flaunt the lovely things she can't have if I can help it. She makes a beyond delicious cake with almond flour, so I got to thinking I could just use almond flour in the pancake mix instead of regular plain flour. I googled it, but couldn't seem to find anyone who had attempted it for anything other than American pancakes. Don't get me wrong, I adore stacks of pancakes, but this is a day that calls for them being thin and as big as your face. I intend to give drop scones with almond flour a go some day soon, mum used to make them for breakfast and...it's making me too hungry to think about, we'll move on shall we?

First things first, I got the important things into the kitchen.

After consulting with mum, she let me know that she usually uses a small amount of plain flour in with the almond flour. As I was working with a recipe asking for 120g of flour, I decided to make it 100g almond flour to 20g plain. Then I discovered we had 36g of plain flour left and it seemed silly to keep 16g, so in the whole lot went and was topped up to 120g.

2 eggs in a well, 210mls of milk mixed with 90mls milk, a pinch of salt and a tbsp of vegetable oil later, you have the batter, similar consistency to single cream. Generally speaking...you should let it rest for like...30 minutes.

But I lead a busy life and I'm sure you do too. Into the frying pan it went, a small ladle at a time, maybe a touch more.

These were thicker than I'd like, but so delicious regardless. If it's thicker wait for bubbles to form on top before flipping, thinner and you use some judgement.

You know what successfully happened?! I flipped the pancakes! All of them! Multiple times. They survived. How happy did that make me? Beyond happy. The almond flour makes it a little weaker than the plain flour might, so they had a little less structural integrity when transferred to the plate, but the important part is that they survived the flipping.

After the first round we decided to amp up the almondy deliciousness, and added the merest droplet or two of almond essence. It worked, do it.

I may have not had the discipline to wait to take a photo before having a bite.

They were amazing, lovely and light, and I defy you to say that raspberries and Nutella is not a winning combination. Also, who can deny skoosh? Not me. Ever.

I may have not learnt my lesson and still not had the discipline to wait.

Any other slightly less than traditional pancake day recipes out there? Anything almond flour-y that I just have to try? Let me know, I'm up for whatever.


P.S. I got myself a twitter account specifically for the blog, look for me @Challenge_Steph!


Monday, 24 February 2014


A week or so ago my aunt and uncle, Kate and Paul, came over for lunch. Mum fancied making Cranachan but as she had the meal itself to make, she suggested I make it instead, yay! I was actually surprised not to have had it before, what with Mum being Scottish 'n that. I think maybe I avoided it because I'm not usually a fan of boozy puddings, but this was great. It will be happening again, you can be sure of that.

First off you toast some oatmeal under the grill. It doesn't take long, but you have to pay attention. The oatmeal doesn't brown that much as it's toasted, you have to use your nose and wait for that lovely nutty smell.

While the oatmeal is cooling, start crushing up some raspberries for a purée. Note to self, don't use a red bowl with red ingredients if you want to take a photo. Leave enough aside to add in whole in the final product.

This recipe said to then smoosh them through a sieve with a spoon to get your purée. In my opinion, this results in more of a juice than a purée, I would consider maybe blending them next time, and with way more raspberries. Bloody love raspberries.

Seriously, Steph, what's with all the red bowls? Can you see how pitiful the amount of "purée" we have here is? And how thin? P'shaw. Add a bit of caster sugar here to sweeten it a bit.

Next step is to get your cream ready. Some may say this is the best part. They will be correct. Mmm. Whip up your cream until just set.

The recipe we were half working to says to add honey, we mixed it up slightly. Mum has Type 2 diabetes, so she is always thinking of ways to take that into consideration when making puddings. This time it meant rather than just adding honey, I added half honey and half agave nectar. Man alive...so tasty. Maybe next time we'll go the whole agave nectar hog? I'd be up for that experiment. 

Then add your whisky. I believe we used some of Dad's Glen Moray but, I'll be honest, I haven't got a clue. It was 3 tablespoons, but again I'd use some more. I don't like things overly boozy, but if they're gonna be you want it to be slightly more obvious than that. 

Last addition, mix in your toasted oatmeal. We used a fair bit more than in the recipe, again, and I'm so glad we did. It meant there was plenty in every spoonful, and gave it texture. 

By this point the cream will probably have whipped up more thickly from all your additions, give it a bit more if you think it needs it.

Now you can start layering it up!

I don't remember the last time these glasses were used but they were fab for this, if annoying when constructing. Super messy.

Here they are all finished! I loved it, big fan of Cranachan right here now. I doubt it would pass muster with Gregg Wallace, but I would eat this for hours. 

Though I basically would change everything about the amounts used, here's what the recipe suggested for 4 people. Before you say it, I know I made 6, when I made it I added half again to account for this. So there. 

2 tbsp medium oatmeal. Three for six people, but I probably used about 5, if not a bit more. Love those oats.
300g fresh raspberries. I used 450g, use more, use a blender, remember to leave some whole.
350mls double cream, about 525 for 6.
2 tbsp honey, or agave nectar if you're as awesome as us.
2-3 tbsps whisky, to taste. You need more. Trust my face. 

I hope you all go embrace your inner scot, or failing that, embrace your inner Gregg Wallace. 


Monday, 17 February 2014

Red Dwarf Piñata Cake

So, it was my brother's birthday so I attempted to make Roast Beef. Chortle.
What *actually* happened was that I decided I wanted to make a cake for Stu for his birthday. I started looking through all my bookmarked Stumbles and Pinned recipes to find something exciting. I originally toyed with something to do with cameras, or Star Wars, or minions, or Big Bang Theory but everything was far too advanced for me. Then I came across a Piñata cake that I had pinned a long time ago. This one was a shaped and decorated like a rainbow, not quite what I had in mind. Then I thought, why not make it look super boring, so that when it's opened it's a big surprise? Which then made me think of Lister's cake in Balance of Power, and a new plan was formed. I would recreate the cake, making it seem like the fun part about it was that it was that cake, then OH EM GEE, LOOK AT ALL THE COLOURS! I even put a quote on Facebook a day or two before I saw him, hoping it would implant Red Dwarf in his head. I'm sneaky.
I turned to my favourite cake recipe, White Velvet. It still needs some tweaking I think, but it turns out a delicious cake, and nice and flat so it's easy to decorate and stack. Problem with it is that it is for a 9 1/2 inch pan and the pans here at Pogles are 8 1/2 inches. Now it could have been absolutely fine, and probably would have been, but I had images of batter flowing over the sides of tins and a massive mess to clear up. Naturally, I went straight to Google and I found the CakeOMeter.

Hells yeah I have Flappy Bird. Also, get Dots, it's awesome. Anyway, this app is amazing. You put in the recipe you have and the tin size it is for, then the tin size you have, and it converts it for you! How brilliant is that?! It makes me want to find recipes to convert and bake, just to prove it's right.

I'm a big fan of this vanilla extract, it's slightly more expensive but worth it.

Being at Pogles I have a whole different set of equipment to work with, I left my other baking things in the care of Madeley Road until I'm back in London. I love this big bowl, makes me feel like I'm on no cooking show. When Jen and I were younger and did any baking we would measure out all our ingredients and put them into separate bowls, then pretend we were on a cooking show. You know how Delia would always have a tiny bowl with her salt in rather than just take the pinch? Aw, memories.

I saw this on Saturday kitchen last year sometime, can't remember exactly who it was, but they said if you need to soften butter you should put it between parchment paper and whack it with a rolling pin. This changed my baking life, I never remember to get butter out ahead of time to soften. This way, it's softened straight away, and you're able to easily slice it up into bits to go into your mix.

As much as I love the baking of the cake, I am NOT a fan of making icing. It never works the way I want it to, and I end up with rubbish icing and a thin layer of icing sugar dust all over everything in the kitchen. So I will invariably just buy Betty Crocker, cause I love her. This is the first time I've tried this Buttercream style icing, and it was gooooood.

I used about...half a 5p size blob of gel colouring to get this wonderfully exciting shade of grey. Just the one.

See what I mean? Very flat. Quite thin. Gonna tweak. The thing about this cake is that it is very pale, being White Velvet 'n all. When you look in the oven when your buzzer goes off you think there's no way it can be done, it looks like batter with slightly browned spots. But it is.

As I said before, I used a box mix for the middle layer, and yes it was Betty Crocker. My favourite is the chocolate swirl cake, it's really quite tasty.

Next step is to cut out the void for your piñata cake. I ummed and aahed slightly over whether to go bigger or smaller, I wanted plenty of goodie room, but I didn't want to have a flimsy edge. This pot gave me a good size edge, but did cut out most of the swirls. Note to self: swirl your mix better.

I couldn't bear to just haphazardly heap the cream on the cake hoping it was in the right areas, so I marked out the area using a bit of the gel colouring.

I'd smash my face into that right there.

Doesn't it look exciting?! I used two share bags of smarties, I considered just one, but if that was insufficient I could never have lived with myself.

The final product! The kids were very excited by it, despite my intentions. Clearly they know me too well...I don't bring boring cakes. My favourite part of the 'reveal' was Stu starting to cut into the cake and saying "This is crunchy, what?!" I'm a genius.
Cake went down well with all concerned, Keira was keen to yum up as much as possible, so I shall count this as a win. Definitely something I'll do again, interested to think of other ways I could play with the idea. I've already got my next plan in my head, but, naturally, this will be kept secret. Especially as it may go terribly, horribly, irretrievably wrong.