Saturday, 31 December 2011

Christmas Commissions and a Tiny Gold Bee

I've rather got into the habit of making my boss a little gold charm for her charm bracelet each Christmas - hopefully she'll let me know when she's got quite enough on there and would rather have a pair of earrings!

I was torn this year between making a tiny raincloud and a tiny gold bee charm, but my room mates at work unanimously voted for the bee. It actually looked great cast in gold - I rarely wear gold but am tempted to make a gold mini bee necklace for myself!

I didn't have time to drag all my studio lights down from the mezzanine, so I just took a couple of shots with my 18-55 kit lens and pop up flash. I see now why jewellery photographers never use flash - the pictures are horrid! But anyway, they give an idea of what the bee looks like in gold, so here they are:

I also had a commission from another lady at work to make a silver spike bracelet, similar to one on my website, but with amethyst stones instead of sapphire. Here's the original:

And the version with amethyst:

Again, rubbish photography I'm afraid, but I was rather pleased with the way the bracelet turned out.

I've had a few days rest from jewellery now (even put some false nails on - never again! How do people with long nails cope with life...?) so ready to get back to the bench and work on some new stuff.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Festive Baking

I'm feeling pretty smug about my festive baking, especially given that I baked not so much as a single cupcake last Christmas.

I wanted to take some treats into work instead of giving out cards, so I thought mini Christmas cakes and mince pies would be easiest.

I needed a simple but cute way of decorating them, as I've done fully iced mini cakes before and they took FOREVER! So, I decided to take inspiration from childhood memories of Mum's eternal battle with Christmas cake icing. Royal icing was mixed, pallet knives dunked in hot water, but the icing always remained resolutely not flat. It would invariably end up being whipped into peaks with a teaspoon, with mum cheerfully proclaiming it snow, before adding ceramic santas, sleighs and snowmen.

I decided on snow with a little piped icing Christmas tree and some little sugar snowflakes.

So, here is my tiny icing forest. I made them with a piping bag, open star tip and royal icing, then added tiny silver sugar balls. My flat is bloody freezing, so they took about 2 days to harden!

I used a normal Christmas cake recipe, which called for cooking in the oven at 120 degrees for 3 hours, and after some experimentation (and charring...) worked out that 120 degrees for about 20-25 minutes was about right.

So, here are my tiny Christmas cakes, marzipanned and decorated with Mum's snow icing :)

And on to the mince pies!

Thanks again to Mum for the recipe, which makes the best mince pie pastry ever, with lemon rind and cream cheese. Here it is, if you're interested:

175g (6oz) butter
175g cream cheese (I used Sainsbury's marscapone)
rind of 1 lemon
250g (9oz) plain flour
2 tsp icing sugar (I accidentally added 2 tbsp and it was still fine!)
pinch of salt

Beat together butter (softened works best) and cream cheese.
Grate in lemon rind.
Add flour, icing sugar and salt
Mix till it forms a soft dough (I used the dough hooks on my hand mixer, which worked great)
Chill in fridge for 30 minutes

I find the dough is a little bit of a nightmare to work with - I have a silicone rolling mat and a silicone rolling pin and still need to add flour when rolling out. But yes, just roll it out to an acceptable pastry thickness (1-2mm ish?), cut out bases, and put in greased shallow bun trays. Add a teaspoon of mincemeat to each (the boy persuaded me to add more and, foolishly, I gave in, but the little pies overflowed a bit), then cut out tops in whatever shapes you fancy. Mum does stars, but I couldn't find my star cutter so mine ended up with snowflakes.

Give them a glaze with some beaten egg, then put in the oven at 190 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Mum says 15, but my oven is mental so they only took 10.

Remove from oven, admire, attempt to stop boy from eating them whilst still molten, and you're done. If you want to be fancy, dust them with a sprinkling of icing sugar before serving.

Here they are before they went into the oven, but I totally forgot to take a picture when they came out all golden and bubbly!

And that was my festive baking. Thanks Mum for the recipes and inspiration!

My shopping is mainly done, my jewellery orders are up to date, so all that's left is to wish you all a lovely Christmas.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

Oh Hi There December

December last year was so much chaos, I put in place much earlier cut off times for Christmas orders this year and have been way more organised.

I've even put up some decorations, which was quite exciting. Last year's festive decor involved half heartedly hanging some sparkly penguins in the window and that was about it! This year we have a very small tree. It's a compromise because I wanted a fake tree, as I think it's really sad every January when you see the piles of dying trees lying on the street waiting for the recycling, but the boy wanted a real one. So, we have a tiny 2 foot high tree, in a pot, which we will give to a friend after Christmas to look after, as I am rubbish with plants at the best of times and the likelihood of me keeping an outdoor tree alive in the flat is nil.

So, here's my little tree with some tiny lights:

And with some sparkly, and slightly bonkers, baubles:

I've even had time to do some festive baking, more of which later...