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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Arranging a Salad Platter

There are precious few things as enticing as a deliciously fresh salad platter and the best part is that anyone can do it. Let me walk you through the steps.

I start by laying down a layer of crisp fresh green salad leaves. Any type will do and a variety will look even better.

Next I lay down my centrepiece, a row of tomatoes. I was fortunate to find these tomatoes on their stems, but any tomatoes will do, even big tomatoes, sliced into wedges. It is the vibrancy of the colours that determine that these will go in the middle.

I cut the English cucumber with a special tool I have so that it would have a wavy pattern.  They would look just as nice cut with any other knife. Cut them into thick slices, so that they are easy to hold by hand. The cucumbers form the frame of my arrangement.

We all love peppers, so I opt for this next. I cut the rounded ends off and pit the peppers. The rounded ends are chopped up and frozen for another day (unless you can use it within the next two days, in which case you can keep them in a sealed container in the fridge). The chubby slices are arranged next to the tomatoes.

Now cut the peeled carrots into bite-sized chunks. I want more colour to the side of the platter and add them to the outside.

All of my guests love olives and I add to rows of olives to fill up the open spaces.

It is time to break the geometry. I cut feta cheese into squares and strew these all over the salad.

Lastly, I find a couple of edible flowers from the garden and add these as decoration.

You can swap out the veggies for anything you know will go down well with your guests. I kept it simple, bearing in mind that I was expecting children who were reluctant to try 'strange' foods. They loved it and it was interesting to see how the kids headed straight for the salad first, drawn by the arrangement and colours. That's when you know it worked.

This salad was served with the dip I blogged about earlier.

For more tips and tricks, visit A Pretty Talent and remember:
Keep on exploring your TALENT for making PRETTY things!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Making Sour Cream and Chive Dip

I love dips, but I am seldom satisfied by the quality of the dips available on the store shelves. That is why I have started experimenting with making my own dips. This one in particular is a firm favourite.

I start by harvesting some fresh chives from my herb garden. Store bought will do nicely as well. I pick a whole bushel and chop it very fine.

 I empty a whole tub of cultured cream/creme fraiche in a mixing bowl and add my chopped chives.

Now I add a whole tub of sour cream to the mix.

I mix it all together with a blender (or a whisk).

Next I add Lemon Salt to taste.

Lastly I add freshly ground black pepper corns before I mix everything one last time.

The mix is enough to fill two medium sized bowls. As a final touch, I add a fresh mint sprig from the garden, before setting it out.

On this particular occasion, I used the dip as an accompaniment to a salad platter I had made, but it goes equally well with chips or biscuits as well.

Visit A Pretty Talent to see what other clever ideas we have for you to try at home and remember:
Keep exploring your TALENT for making PRETTY things!

Designing and making a Pleated Handbag Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog, I have shown you the development of the pattern of the handbag, which is downloadable in PDF format from the A Pretty Talent website, free of charge. When we reached the end of the article, our pattern pieces were already cut out in fabric and waiting to be made.

Part 1 was published on 21 February 2015
Part 2 was published on 26 February 2015
Part 3 was published on 1 March 2015
Part 4 was published on 2 March 2015

In today's blog I am going to show you how to sew the four inside pockets of the handbag. Let's start with the cellphone pocket.

Cellphone Pocket

You start by folding the pocket double in its length.

Measure approximately 1 cm in form the fold and pin the fold on both ends.

Now push the fold flat, so that you have a pleat and pin the pleat in place.

Fold the pocket in half with right sides facing each other. Pin the pocket together and fan it open.

Start approximately 4 cm away from the fold line and stitch all the way around the pocket. Stop approximately 1 cm before the fold line on the other side of the pocket. You want to leave the 4 cm gap open so that you can turn the pocket inside out. You need the gap on the other side to string the elastic through later.

Snip the corners opposite the fold line away, so that the excess fabric does not make bulges when you iron it flat. Be careful not to cut into your seam.

You can now turn the pocket inside out.

Sew a top stitch about 1 cm away from the fold line. This will make a funnel for you to string the elastic through.

Draw the elastic in so that the  top of the pocket is about the same width as the bottom with the pleat. Pin your elastic in place. You can either tuck it into the funnel neatly, or you can tuck it at the bottom of the pocket.

You now need to iron the pocket flat before you continue. Be careful not to hurt yourself with those pins!

Pin the pocket to the centre of the handbag's lining.

Top stitch around the sides and bottom of the pocket, securing the elastic in place and fixing the pocket to the lining. Make sure you do not sew the pocket close at the top.

Now you can test it!

Tablet Pocket

It is time to put the cellphone pocket aside and move on to the tablet pocket.

The first thing you need to do, is find yourself a nice strong and wide piece of elastic, similar to the black elastic I found in my sewing box. Measure it to be just as wide as the pocket. Fold the pocket in half. Measure 4-5 cm from the fold line and pin your elastic in place. Unfold the pocket again.

Make sure your elastic stays in place, by sewing the sides only.

You now need to determine your own needs. What will go into this elastic? You are going to have to sew little 'compartments' into the elastic for your chosen items to fit. You might need a lot of narrower spaces, or more spaces that are wide. You decide according to your own lifestyle. Here is what I might typically want to carry with me. I leave room for my passion (art) room for being a woman (make-up), and room for being professional (pens, etc.).

Before I get to this step, I need to measure and mark the spaces I want to create. I used a pencil mark the lines where I wanted to sew. I then sewed the on the lines, forming the 'compartments' in the elastic.

The next step is to fold the pocket in half with the right sides facing each other.

Start approximately 4 cm from the foldline and sew the three open sides of the pocket closed. You can sew right up to the fold line on the other end, since we will not be stringing an elastic through this pocket.

Snip the corners to get rid of excess fabric and turn the pocket inside out.

It is important to iron the pocket flat before moving on to the next step.

Measure about a foot width from the top of the pocket (the fold line) and top stitch along the whole length of the top. This will help maintain the shape of your pocket, preventing the top from collapsing into the bottom.

Position your pocket in the centre of the remaining handbag lining and pin it in place.

Sew along the sides and the bottom of the bag with a top stitch, securing the pocket to the lining. Take care not to sew the top shut.

Time to put it to the test again!

The Side Pockets (for glasses)

There are two more pockets that can either go inside, or outside the bag, depending on your own preference. These are designed with glasses in mind, but will fit a myriad of other things equally well. We will not be able to complete the pockets, since they go into the seams of the bag itself, but we will get a head start on them.

Fold the pockets over, right sides facing each other and pin them in place.

Sew only the top seam.

Iron the top seams open, before turning the pockets inside out.

Now iron the pockets flat.

Sew a neat not stitch about a foot width away from the fold line.

We will have to wait for the body of the bag to be put together, before we can continue. The next steps will follow shortly in Part 3.