Thursday, 18 December 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Truffle Balls

I love the idea of giving baked goods for Christmas and since before we were even married, Daddy and I have made a tradition of giving baked goods to family and friends each year (in addition to other gifts of course).  We've done lots of different things from individual gingerbread houses to "Hazelnut Brittle" with a mini cleaver to chop it ... remember this post!  And I think this tradition may be rubbing off on our girls.  Bethany and Hannah love to bake, and they love to give baking to family and friends.  Fun, Fun, Fun!!

So this year for her school classmates, Bethany really wanted to bake something and I remembered this super-simple Chocolate Truffle Ball recipe from when I was a kid.  In fact, my younger brother had a book about tractors, rollers and other machinery doing roadwork, which was a story-book that gave the recipe for these balls in the story of the machinery crushing the rocks and mixing the earth and so forth.  It was a fantastic book, but sadly we can't find it.  Has anyone else seen this book?  If so, can you email me with the title/author.  I'd love to see if I can find it to buy!

Anyway, I thought I'd share my recipe in case anyone's stuck for last minute gift ideas.  The great thing about this recipe is there's only 4 ingredients, it takes about 30 minutes tops to prepare (plus some time in the fridge), the kids can be involved in every step of the process, and there's no baking involved.  They look great as a gift just with 8-10 balls in a cellophane bag and tied with ribbon, which we have done for our swimming and gymnastics teachers and a few friends and extended family in the lead up to Christmas.

For Bethany's class, we also added these cute Rudolf, Santa and Elf sticks which Nanna found in a local craft store.  They are foam, and just glued together and stuck to a wooden stick.  I thought the kids could use them as bookmarks!

So my recipe is a simplified and tweaked version of several other recipes I've read.  Here's how we made these balls:

Ingredients: (Makes about 40 balls)
- 1 pack of Milk Arrowroot Biscuits (or any other sweet plain biscuit/cookie)
- 3 tablespoons of Cocoa powder
- 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup of desiccated coconut

1. Roughly break up the biscuits / cookies and place in a food processor.  Then blitz them until they are like bread-crumb consistency.
If you don't have a food processor, no worries.  Bethany and Hannah had a ball making the first batch of these by putting the biscuits/cookies into a clip-lock bag, closing the bag (getting as much air out as possible), then whacking and smacking the bag with a rolling-pin until all the biscuits were crushed up.

2.  Put the crumbs into a large mixing bowl, then add 3 (heaped) Tablespoons of Cocoa, and the can of sweetened condensed milk. ... Yum ... who doesn't love condensed milk!

3.  Mix it together thoroughly.  It will become a thick paste-like consistency.

4.  Pour the coconut onto a dinner-plate ...
... then roll the mixture into small balls.  For Bethany's class we did them about 1/2-1 inch in diameter.

5.  Roll the balls in the coconut until they are covered, and place them onto a tray (or another plate in our case), cover with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge to set.

6.  Once they've set (after about an hour in the fridge) they will stay pretty firm even when taken out of the fridge, so they're perfect as a gift even if you don't have fridge access for them.  They will also last fairly well in the fridge, so if you're looking to make them ahead of time, they will be fine.  I would make them now for Christmas next week, and get this project ticked off the to-do list before the last minute rush of things.

Then just package them up and give them away.  Everyone loves these, and they never need to know just how easy they were to make.

And to all of you, my lovely readers, I wish you the happiest of Christmases and pray for a blessed year ahead for you and your loved ones.  I'm hoping for lots more crafty fun in the new year as we enjoy our summer holidays (and 6 weeks off the school-drop-off-pick-up routine!), and looking forward to sharing more of What this Mummy's Been Up to!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas Swaps No 1: Pin Cushion Swap

For the first time this Christmas, I've decided to participate in a few swaps ... well 3 to be exact ... and I think I might be a little addicted.  I love to sew or craft for gifts, but to be able to create things and send them to a strangers and then to receive something lovingly handmade by another stranger is just something so lovely.  I love the generosity of the gift-giving associated with swaps, as well as the chance to get to know new people from all over the world ... and seriously, who doesn't like to receive a package of handmade goodies in the mail.

So, my first completed swap (even though it was the last one I signed up to only a few weeks ago) was the Pin Cushion swap hosted by Caroline of Sew Can She .  This was a great last minute swap for me.  Basically I signed up, and a few days later I received details of my secret swap partner.  My partner is in the US, and I couldn't really find anything about her on the Sew Can She Sewcialites Facebook Group, so I decided I'd just make a pin cushion that I would like, and hope that she will like it too.  I haven't heard that she's received it yet, but postage from Australia to the US at this time of year can take many weeks, so I'm sure she'll get it eventually!

I decided on a Patchwork Pin Cushion, and used this Tutorial at Regina Lord of Creative Kismet

Then I decided that I was going to make the pincushion solely out of fabric in my stash ... my scrap bin is getting mighty full and in serious need of de-stashing!  These are the fabrics I decided on ...

One of the things I love about using left over fabrics for a project like this is that you can squeeze in some gorgeous little pieces of designer fabric.  I can never bring myself to throw out any decent sized pieces of fabric, especially any designer fabrics I'm lucky enough to own ... and this is the perfect way to use those little bits of loveliness!

And, here's how my patchwork cushion came out (a huge apology for the dodgy lighting and iPhone pics ... I'm obviously a terrible blogger because I absolutely forgot to take decent pics on our good camera before I mailed this cushion off to it's new owner).

I loved that I could use a few of my new-found embroidery skills on this cushion ... the seam around the edge is covered with a delicate chain stitch, and the patchwork seams are pulled with embroidery thread into the middle of the cushion to make it kind of look like a flower.  Such a cute idea.  I decided my cushion needed a little bling, so I used a sparkly button from my stash (left over from this project), on top of a plain pink button.  I really liked how this pin cushion turned out, and it was so fun to participate in a swap that wasn't a huge commitment, but was still a fun little pre-Christmas project.  

It's also been really great to be part of the Sew Can She Socialites Facebook page, which I was invited to join when I signed up for the swap.  What a fantastic group of encouraging and incredibly talented ladies.  The pin cushions made around the globe for this swap have been absolutely amazing, and in a day and age when we hear of so much negativity on social networks, it's so refreshing to be part of a group that is so genuinely encouraging of each other. This has most definitely been a highlight of participating in this swap, and has really added to the warm-fuzziness associated with giving gifts to strangers.  Thanks ladies!

And then, just this week I received an amazing package in the mail from a lovely new friend.  Karen from South Dakota (how cool is that!) sent me this amazing pin cushion with a difference.  It's designed to hang over the arm of your chair/couch so that you can have pins at the ready while doing hand stitching or other projects in front of the telly or just wherever.  My favourite part is the little pockets at each end, just perfect for holding a crochet hook, or a little pair of embroidery scissors.   I'm hoping to get stuck into a little bit of embroidery over our upcoming summer break, and this pin cushion has just arrived in absolute perfect timing!  A huge thanks to Karen! 

And aren't the colours pretty!
And the sewing is just perfectly flawless.  Karen is one talented lady, and apparently she just copied the design for this from a pin cushion she has had at home for years.  So clever!

Anyway, I think I might be a little addicted to swaps, and will post about the other 2 I've participated in when they're all done.  In the meantime, I'd love to hear of any swaps you've participated in that you'd recommend for me in future, or if you have hosted or are planning to host one that I might like.  Feel free to email me or comment below to give me the details.  I can see a good many more swaps in my future!  So much swappy goodness to be had!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Flower Tops and Matching Skirts

I love the varied and unpredictable thought process behind a sewing idea.  This one went like this ... I stumbled across this gorgeous spotty light-weight purple corduroy during winter.  I loved it the moment I saw it, and although I had no idea what I was going to make with it, it was meant to be ... I mean, it was on sale and basically jumped right off the shelf and into my arms.  And I loved the unusual colour combination that really worked.  So I grabbed a metre and started pondering.  I was thinking about a little pinafore, or maybe even some skinny-jeans for one of my girls. Then one day I found this long-sleeve T-shirt for $3 in Target, and it was the PERFECT colour to match my spotty cord. I decided then and there that this fabric would become a skirt with a matching appliqued top.

So I pulled out my tape-measure and decided to go with my go-to skirt design.  I sewed up the Elephant Skirt and this fabric came together like a dream for this design.  I left out the binding just to change it up a little, and seeing as I was feeling particularly lazy, I also left out the pockets.  Also, as it was winter I made sure the skirt was a little longer, just for some extra warmth.  Hannah has worn this outfit mostly with some cream-coloured tights and her beloved black boots.

For the matching top, I traced around a small espresso cup onto a piece of cardboard to make a template, then cut out 5 matching circles.  I used some iron-on adhesive to hold these babies in place on the shirt (and to help with avoiding too much fraying of the edges) and sewed around the edges of each circle using a small zig-zag stitch.  I then used a tiny scrap of fabric to make a self-covered button, and sewed this into the middle.  Done!  I love how the button bobbles around as Hannah walks and gives the shirt a 3D look.

Now in true What's Mummy Up To style, I can never stop at one when I try a new project and it goes to plan, so I decided to make another for my 3-year-old niece's birthday.

This time I used a lovely heavier-weight cotton fabric from my stash which I loved for it's red, pink and mint-green colour-scheme.  I coupled it with a pale pink T-shirt, and I think this one came out great too.  What do you think?  The birthday girl seemed pretty happy and the combo got lots of lovely comments from people, so that's good enough for me!