social spark Aisling Beatha: June 2011


Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

You can find posts with labels not included in that list via the labels list over in the sidebar.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quick and Easy Bible Costumes

Today I needed to provide costumes for a quick team photo for Open the Book.  Between us I think we did rather well don't you?

The golden cloak used to be a curtain but has been used in various drama productions over a number of years.  The turban and other head scarves are all pashminas.  The blue and white costumes are all made in the way below, the white one is just a little wider, whereas the stripy one, is made by pinning two pieces of fabric together in 4 places along the top and popping the head through the middle.

The following instructions come from the Open the Book resources.

Making basic costumes

The following instructions are very simple and require only basic sewing skills. 

Tabards (open-sided tunics)

These are the most versatile items of clothing. This team has striped ones (worn by the shepherds), a white one (usually for Jesus), a blue one for women, a brown one and muted pattern one for "ordinary" roles of men or women and one of a richer fabric for a higher status person.


  • 2 1/2 metres of fabric x 115cm wide (45") will make TWO tabards economically.
  • Bias binding (or use strips of bias from extra width of fabric)
  • Cord for belt.


  • Fold the fabric in half and cut out hole for head.
  • Bind edges of neck with bias binding or use strips of surplus fabric cut on the bias.
  • Sew narrow hems all round.

 As we go along we'll pull more resources together but I think that for now we're doing very well.

One last photo, just to show how excited we are to be part of this:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sourdough Waffles

I hope you have been following my attempts to start and grow a sourdough starter.  This morning I used the starter for the first time.  Sourdough Waffles!

I've been following the starter instructions at the Gnowfglins website and decided to follow their recipe for waffles that is part of their sourdough e-course.  I dragged my waffle maker out from it's hiding place deep in the back of a cupboard.  Seriously, I cannot remember the last time I used this thing.

When you want to use you sourdough starter for a recipe, you have to bear in mind how much you will need when you feed it the feed before (and sometimes the feed before that as well if you need a large amount).  I knew I needed 2 cups of thick starter for the recipe today, plus half a cup or so to keep the starter going.  I fed it with a whole cup of water and a cup and a third of flour.  Actually I could have done with a little more of each.  As it turned out that I ended up needing to keep some of the 2 cups back to keep the starter going.  That meant the waffle mix was a bit thinner than it should have been, but they still came out just fine.

I needed

eggs, oil, some sort of sweetener (I was hoping to use honey but our honey had set and I decided to use maple syrup instead), vanilla, salt, baking soda and a little water.
(for amounts you will have to check out the e-course)

I mixed everything except the baking soda and water in a mixing bowl.

Then added the sourdough starter.

Finally used the baking soda and water to get the mixture to sponge up a bit and it was time to cook the waffles.

It took me a couple of attempts to remember how much mixture was ideal to fill the waffle maker without spilling over, and well, not all of those attempts made it to the pile of waffles at the end, I may have been a little eager to try them, mmmmmmmmmm.

But finally I got the hang of it and was making a pile of gorgeous waffles, youngest son (16) said it smelt a bit like eggy bread, and he doesn't like eggs, but he ate them just fine, so they can't have been that bad!  Wonderful, whole wheat, sourdough waffles.

If you'd like to see what else I make with my sourdough starter in coming weeks, why not subscribe, using one of the links over in the sidebar.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Messenger Bag From Cargo Pants Tutorial

With two teenage boys in the house, I often come across pairs of trousers (pants) that are beyond repair.  In the past these have gone in the rubbish bin (trash can), but since I got my craft room, I have begun to save anything like that, that I come across, to make into other things.

The great things about Cargo pants, is all those extra pockets.

Take your pair of Cargo Pants and cut the pockets off, leaving a fair bit all around. You will need to tuck this under for stitching them on.
The lining on the back of the pocket, often extends past the stitching line on the front, bear this in mind when cutting the pockets out, in fact, it might be better to cut from the reverse side.  I didn't do that and almost left myself not enough fabric to turn over and stitch.

Turn those edges under and top stitch all around.

For the body of the bag, use the leg, below where you cut off the lower pocket.
Trim off any unusable portion at the bottom of the leg.

You can get two bags from each pair of trousers.  You can use the waistband as the strap of the first bag.  Carefully trim close to the edge of the waistband and unpick any waistband loops.

For the second bag from each pair you will need to make a strap from any fabric not used in the main body of the bags.

You will have to adjust measurements depending on the size of your trousers and positioning of the pockets, but I managed to cut all these strips at 3 3/4 inches wide, from the remaining fabric.

Join the strips using the same method you would use for joining bias binding strips.
With right sides facing each other, place the strips at right angles to each other, pin and mark a line across the diagonal as shown.  Here I used a Frixion pen, because the pen marks disappear with friction or heat from an iron.
Stitch across the line, remove the pins and trim the seam allowance.  Finally, press the seam open and you will have one long strip with diagonal seams, so that all the seam allowance does not bulk up in one place.

Take this strip to the ironing board, and press in half along the length.
Open that out, and press the two sides into the middle.
Finally, press in half again.

To stitch along the strap, I moved the needle position to the right and then lined the edge of the fabric up against the right hand edge of the presser fooot.
If you do not have an adjustable needle position, find some mark either on the bed plate or on your presser foot, to keep you in line, and stitch down the length of the strap.

In order to prevent puckering of the fabric, it is best to do all rows of stitching down the strap in the same direction.  To do this, I moved the needle to the far left and lined the edge of the fabric up with the left hand side of the presser foot.

Because attaching the pockets is going to be a fiddly job, I prefer to first attach them with iron on hemming tape and then stitch, but if you prefer to pin then go ahead.  If using the hemming tape you will need your iron on it's hottest setting and to press hard, because of all the layers of fabric in the pockets.

Most trouser legs, have one side slightly wider than the other, you want the wider side to be the front and the narrower side to be the back.  If your cargo pants pockets come in two sizes, use the smaller one on the front, and the lager one on the back.
Position the pockets with their bottom edge at least 2.5 cm from the bottom edge of your usable trouser leg with whichever of the above methods you prefer.

Sew in place.  This is fiddly and needs to be done slowly and carefully.
I did one side and the top from the top end and one side and the bottom from the bottom end.  Working in this way using the free arm on my sewing machine for part of the time, and turning the fabric tube inside out as I worked I was able to get them sewn in place.

Take your time, and make sure your needle is down, into the fabric whenever you stop to check or adjust your fabric, and you should be able to complete this task.
If you are really not sure about this, you can machine sew the top and bottom using a free arm, but hand sew the sides.

Turn your fabric tube inside out so that right sides are facing each other and centre the two side seams.
Stitch in place.  I used two rows of stitching just to make sure it was all secure.

Turn your bag back the right way in and push the corners out.  I use a chopstick for this.  Then press.

I hope you can see the marks on these next photos.  I used the Frixion pen again, but you could use tailors chalk or some other method.  On the two seams that were the side seams of the trouser leg, make a mark that is in line with the top of whichever of the pockets is higher.  Make another mark 2.5cm above that.

Remembering that the front is the wider of the two sides of the trouser leg, and therefore the one with the smaller pocket attached to it, cut down the side of the seams, on the side nearest the front.  (so in these two photos following, the back is the side facing up).

With the front of the bag facing down, fold the resulting top flap up and mark and cut a line between the bottom of your two cut edges. 
REMEMBER, here you are cutting the front of the bag, the wider of the two sides of the trouser leg, with the smaller of the two pockets attached to it.

Go back to those side seams and extend the cut to the lower of the two marks you made.
Zig zag or finish in some other way, both raw edges, then fold in, press, and fold in and press again, before top stitching in place.

Attach the straps to the bag.  overlap the front of the bag, with the overlap going inside the bag, and line up the side of the strap with the side seam.

I used a triple stitch setting to make this as secure as possible, and did two rows of that triple stitching to be doubly sure!   On my machine the triple stitch setting is achieved by setting the bottom dial to straight stitch, and then turning the top dial to the blue S1, which gives access to the stitches that are marked in blue on the bottom dial.

Now it's time to make a closure for the flap.  I chose to use a button and button hole.  For the first bag I made, I used the button from the waistband of the trousers, on this second pair I used a button from my button box

The position for the closure happened to be  on the upper layer of the two flaps for the pocket on the front of the bag.  These two flaps were attached securely with stay stitching which made it difficult to stitch the button on.  So I used my handy seam ripper, very carefully and unpicked those stitches, opening the two layers up, enabling me to attach the button.

It was at this point that I realised it was a good job I had a spare button exactly the same for measuring to make the button hole.

You would be better making the button hole first, then attaching the button.

You could of course use whatever method of securing the flap you prefer, a magnetic closure, or other snap would also work.

And there you have it.  If your Cargo pants have 4 cargo style pockets, and you managed to use the waistband for the strap on one of the, you now have 2 messenger style bags from one pair of trousers!  Well done!

You can buy this bag, or it's matching bag, on my Etsy Shop.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sourdough Starter Part 2 - Success!

Great news, I now have a successful colony of aliens growing in my kitchen.  Well, not really aliens, since it's all natural wild yeasts and bacteria.  If you want to check out progress so far and links to where I got the instructions from check out the Sourdough starter post with a video in it.

Thursday evening things were not looking good, it appeared that nothing much was happening.  I was sure we should be up to doubling by now.  We were getting bubbles but no particular increase in volume.  Thursday evening I rested the starter, instead of feeding it, I jsut gave it a stir and decided that if nothing had happened by Friday morning I would give up and start again.

Sure enough Friday morning it was pretty much the same, but I decided to hang in there and feed it again.  I also decided to warm things up just slightly as our kitchen is not all that warm at the moment.  I zapped a hot wheat bag for just 30 seconds in the microwave and put it near the jar on the counter.  Not particularly warm, but just a little.  I did that, I think, 3 times during the day and by the evening we had growth!

It had grown from the line on the left to the level you see here.  Not bad, the best growth so far!

So, Friday evening I fed it again, I zapped the wheat bag for just 30 seconds, and left it near the jar, just once, and headed off to bed. 

This morning, well, WOW!

Look at that!  DOUBLED!  Awesome!  I have fed it again this morning, but have not put a wheat bag round it since the jar is sitting on the counter above the washing machine and that is going to be on most of the morning, generating at least a bit of heat.

Apparently, according to Gnowfglins, I need to keep feeding it every 12 hours for 3 weeks, before I can start storing it in the fridge and only feeding it  when I intend to use it.  But I CAN begin to use the starter that I pull off at each feeding.  I shall start with the sourdough pancakes recipe in the free sample of the e-book, and then pay for the e-course and move onto other recipes.  Check back later in the week for a report on those pancakes.  In the meantime, I need to go put that starter that I pulled off before today's feed, on the compost heap!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blueberry lemon cake

I got this recipe from

Blueberry Lemon Cake


  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or 1 cup margarine (113g if it is butter)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cups blueberries, tossed with
  • 1 tablespoon flour  

This is originally a Bundt Cake recipe but I am using a daisy shaped Silicon cake tin.  Even though it is Silicone I still like to grease it.  I had been greasing and flouring but then I bought a bottle of Cake release.  I use a small amount of that and brush it on with a pastry brush.  It works really well, even for more complicated cake tins.

Heat oven to 350°F.  For other UK bakes like me, that's just under 180C.

The recipe says to beat the butter until soft and smooth, I softened it in the microwave instead.  Then beat it with the sugar in my stand mixer.

Once that is mixed and nice and smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each.

Add lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in flour in three additions, alternating with buttermilk. Beat for 2 minutes.

Fold in blueberries.

Spoon into prepared pan.

Because my cake pan wasn't as big as the one called for in this recipe I was also able to make 6 muffin sized cupcakes.
Bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

When using a silicon pan, it is much better to actually leave it in the pan until completely cooled.  However, with using the cake release I find I can turn them out while still a little warm.

There is a glaze to go with the cake in the recipe, but I didn't use that.  I just sprinkled the cake with icing sugar.

You'll have to excuse the Christmas cake board, it was the only one I had in my cupboard the right size.  Must remember to pick up some more.

I hope you try this out it was so yummy, we finished it off for breakfast this morning.

You will find the link parties I join up with over in my sidebar.  I hope you enjoyed your visit and come back soon to see what else I have been up to.  Or you could check out my other recipes and food posts.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kitchen Chalkboard Tutorial

I know there are a lot of tutorials for kitchen menu boards or kitchen chalkboards online, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to share how I did it.


Please excuse the filthy wall.  My aprons usually hang on that hook there and I had no idea that mess was behind them.  I cleaned it all up after I took this photo.

You will need
  • something to thoroughly clean the surface with
  • a method of sanding or keying the surface so that the paint adheres well
  • masking tape 
  • something to cover any areas you don't want to paint
  • a tin of chalkboard paint
  • a screwdriver
I took the door off it's hinges, took it outside and used plastic bags to cover any areas I didn't want paint on, attaching these with masking tape. I cleaned the surface thoroughly with sugar soap solution, sanded it lightly, and wiped off any dust.

Lots of light layers are better than trying to build up thick layers.  Follow the directions on your can, but for this one it said layers could be just minutes apart.

Eventually I ended up with this:

I got it put back up on the kitchen cabinet once it was touch dry but you have to wait 24 hours for it to be "hard dry" before you can use it.
Then you take a piece of chalk on its side and cover the whole surface of the board.

Wipe that off and you are ready to use it as a chalkboard. 

I added another level to mine and pulled out my white paint pen.

I printed out the things I wanted to write up there onto paper, chalked over the back of the paper, held it up to the cabinet and wrote over it with a pencil.  This transferred the exact font I wanted to the cabinet in chalk and I went over that with the paint pen.

I'm really pleased with it.

You can check out all the sites that I link up to in my sidebar.

Why not check out my other posts and see what else I have been up to this week, what I have planned this summer or come back later in the week to see how my sourdough starter is coming along.
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