Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Penguin for Penelope

We welcomed my new niece, Penelope Joy, into the world a month ago. She's super cute and she actually sleeps - who knew that some babies actually sleep? I would never have guessed it.

I wanted to make something special for her. I've been crocheting baby rugs for a few years now, but I decided it was time to go all out: it was time to learn how to crochet a toy.

Happily, I had Emily to teach me the stitches I needed, and to explain how to follow patterns. I don't know how I would have done it without her! She even found me an easy pattern to try: gorgeous Snuggles the Penguin from All About Ami. There are a few toy patterns on this blog that are definitely on the to-do list now :-)

My penguin isn't perfect, but I think he's pretty great for a first timer!

I changed the pattern a little bit by using a 4mm hook and 8ply yarn, instead of a 2mm hook and 4ply yarn. The penguin feels like a good size and weight to me - after all, there'll be a baby chewing on him and throwing him around the nursery soon enough, so he needs to have a little bit of heft to him.

My favourite childhood toys were all crocheted by my Grandma, and it makes me so happy that I can now crochet toys for my nieces and nephews.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Rockpool Salted Butter Caramels

I was recently lucky enough to be taken to Rockpool for a big family dinner... Yum. It was a great meal (and needless to say, great company) but at over $100 a head, it wouldn't be a regular event for me. I ordered the salted butter caramels for dessert and they were AMAZING! I loved them and immediately wanted to try making them myself.

One quick search later, and I had my hands on the recipe courtesy of Trissalicious. (This blog also has a lot of original recipes that I'd like to try at some stage).

This recipe was the final prompt to buy a sugar thermometer, which I've been meaning to do for years. Boy, am I glad I did. I've tried out the recipe three times now (half-batches each time, in case of massive culinary failure) and it's worked well each time. An $8 thermometer was well worth the money.

The trouble with cooking delicious caramel (and watching that thermometer closely) is that it smells great, but you can't taste it along the way unless you want to burn your tongue. Which I don't. 

When I ordered the caramels for dessert at Rockpool it cost $8 for about ten pieces, and the half-batches I've made have each produced over 50 pieces, for a total cost of about $4 - $5 per half-batch. Each time I've cooked them it's taken about half an hour, plus another half an hour to cut and wrap the caramels individually. So it's a relatively cheap and easy recipe, but the final product has a huge wow factor. I suspect that these will be added to my go-to list for homemade presents.