Monday, 9 December 2013

Birthday cards

Slightly behind but thought you would like to see two special birthday cards I made in November.  This one was for my mother.

A Coffee and Walnut cake with one candle for each whole decade...

And here is the birthday girl herself with her eldest grandson.

And this card was for my father.

I made the marbled paper a long time ago and it reminded me of the sea so I added real sand, tiny shells and seaweed.  I really love tiny shells and can happily spend hours on the beach searching for them.  The 'Happy Birthday' was a peel off sticker as I thought it could easily be removed if the card was going to stay out longer than usual and I had a feeling it might well do.  Sure enough a month later it is still on the windowsill, minus the sticker.


December Joys

The start of December in our house means the Christmas mugs come out along with Christmas music and carols.  Then begins the start of the mince pie baking.  I make so many each year that it gets to be a bit of a joke and we keep count.  This was the first dozen out of the oven and as I transferred them to the cooling rack I realised that these two tins of mine have baked every mince pie I have made since I got married 31 years ago.  Actually I still have quite a lot of my original tins which is quite amazing considering the amount of use they get.

Anyway this first tray was quickly joined by some more and the blackboard recorded that 30 were made.  However as I went to photograph them...

 there was no longer 30 there!

This week they were followed up by another batch taking the score to 60.  

Then I made a batch of Frangipan mince pies yesterday, I really like the almond topping, it goes so well with the richness of the mincemeat, and with eggs and almonds in it sounds almost healthy!  Well that's probably a good excuse to eat one or two (for me) and considerably more than that by my husband and eldest son!  Good job I photographed them yesterday as there are none of these ones left now.

The mince pie tally is now 74!  It will go up even quicker once the Universities break up and my two youngest return home for the holidays.



Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Little Hats

I am currently supposed to be knitting a blanket for my daughter, it is rather a long standing work in progress having been started well over a year ago.  It is rather well travelled as I like to knit in the car especially on motorways, not when I am driving I would hasten to add!  This blanket has done lots of travelling in England over the past year, especially with many University visits and also accompanied us on two trips to France so far.  My daughter is constantly asking if it is finished yet as she really wants to take it to Uni and she has pointed out that the weather is getting colder hence an even greater need.  However, I have to report that it is still a UFO, one of those many unfinished objects that I wish were completed.

I am pleased though that I managed to knit a dozen little hats for Innocent Smoothies.  
They have an annual campaign requesting people to knit or crochet little hats which are put on botttles of Smoothie drinks and sold in shops.  For each one sold the company give 25 pence to Help the Aged charity.  Some people knit some amazing designs but they obviously have a lot more time than me.  Do have a look at the website they are great fun.  Although I hadn't intended to make any, I became aware that the deadline was extended, presumably because they needed more hats and these very simple ones were quick and easy.  

Twelve little hats decorating my halloween display.  I made Esmeralda the Witch ten years ago so my daughter, who drew her face, must have been 8.  I should have taken a close up photo to show you.

Here she is with all my hats.  They look a bit Christmassy in red and white so maybe someone buying one will use it as a Christmas decoration.  I happened to have some red wool around and then they needed something to brighten them and the white wool jumped out the cupboard first.

You can see Esmeralda's face a little better in this photo, and the hat she is holding is very special so needed to be shown on it's own.  This little hat was knitted by my eldest son's girlfriend, a very talented artistic young lady but she hadn't done any knitting since she was 7 years old!  Having mastered this so speedily there will be no stopping her - perhaps she will help finish the blanket!

This is a most unusual squash, Miss Pusscat thinks they all smell interesting!  I cannot decide which way up I like it best.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A fun day out!

Guess where I went to last weekend?

Here's a big clue.

Well there is no mistaking this skyline, it has to be London, and of course there is one place where you get such a view and it is Alexandra Palace.

Why was I there?  Well here's a little clue...

Don't know if you can read the sign behind the taxi, but it was the Knit and Stitch Show.  This taxi was the first thing I saw and it was totally covered with knitting and crochet.

Love this 'field' on the bonnet, complete with picnic, toadstalls and all sorts of creatures, even snails!

This wing mirror had a bird perched amongst the flowers.

If you saw this driving around it would certainly brighten your day.  Of course everything inside was great too, there is always more than you can really see in one day.  It is great to watch all the demonstrations and speak to the artists.  I think the furthest travelled has to be Dale from Australia, she certainly had some unusual things too - still not sure what I will do with sea urchin spines but couldn't resist buying some.  I did manage to resist her porcupine quills even though they were painted brilliant colours.

It was very busy inside and I was too engrossed most of the time to take photos but this work did catch my eye.  

All the work by this lady was equisite, such tiny stitches and attention to detail.

These leaves are done with a button hole stitch, hundreds of stitches in each one.  They are based on stumpwork which I have never tried.  A magnifying glass must surely be a necessity.
I didn't buy her book but if you are interested... 

I did buy some things though and will show you some soon!

The times they are a changing

Look what I found on the ground today

Lots of them were scattered around.  I love the glossy shine and the softness inside those prickly shells.  Time to bring out my Autumn plate with the painted leaves to make a little display.  

Little Miss Pusscat has managed to leave them alone so far but I bet she won't for long and I am sure they will soon be scattered all over the floor.

I have two very confused cats at the moment they cannot quite work out why two members of the household are hiding in the computer!  They hear the voices and see moving images but just where are the bodies!  I don't suppose they will ever understand Skype but it certainly works well for the rest of us to keep in touch with these two...

My two youngest have both gone to University this Autumn, both to study History but one has gone north and the other south.  It would have been helpful if they could have gone in the same direction!  It really has been a big change in this house but what an exciting time for them.  I love this photo of them, it never fails to make me smile! They were 5 and 2 then and were so pleased with their Sticklebrick model although I cannot remember what it was supposed to be.

This photo was taken on holiday in France this summer so rather more up to date.  As you can see my son still has that lovely smile and my daughter still has her beautiful blonde hair.  Isn't she lucky to be naturally blonde. 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Question: What do you get when you cross a Coffee and Walnut cake with a Battenburg cake?

 Answer:  An owl 

Why would I think about doing such a thing?  Well it was for a 21st birthday cake for my eldest son's girlfriend. So a few finishing touches and...


Made from a coffee sponge baked in a traybake tin then sliced through horizontally.  I was a little worried that it might fall apart when I lifted the top off but actually it was fine.  The filling was a coffee buttercream, chopped walnuts and... well you will never guess... it was Rhubarb jam!  I made some in the summer using a recipe by Vanessa Kimbell in her book, 'Prepped' and being slightly sharper than most jams it balanced the sweetness of the buttercream perfectly.  A thin coating of marzipan over the top, and then a little fondant icing used for eyes and beak.  A quick paint job of bronze pearl lustre and food colouring with walnuts for his front and one owl ready for the celebrations.

 I don't know why he is sideways but having had several attempts at rotating him, despite the fact that he is the right way round on my stored images, I have had to give up.  Anyway the unusual combination worked very well and was appreciated by the birthday girl who had not been able to decide whether she would prefer Coffee and Walnut cake or a Battenburg!

What would you have made?

Happy Birthday Jo


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Summer time and the living is easy...

Actually it has been incredibly busy.  Would you like to join me for a nice cup of tea and a catch up?  There has been so much going on that I have neglected you and that won't do at all.  The sun is shining and the table is set, outside of course as we must make the most of this lovely sunshine.  The Winter and Spring seemed to be so long that it seems wrong to be inside at all.

 The new tablecloth fits perfectly over the little table.  I bought it from Brussels when hubby and I went to the Jazz Festival.  It was so pretty and I just could not resist all that lovely embroidery.

Can I tempt you to a cake?  Do try a Rose and Elderflower one.

 The rose petals are fresh picked and some from this rose bush helped to colour the Rose and Elderflower syrup.  I love this syrup, quick and easy to make and delicious to taste. The recipe, comes from 'Prepped' by Vanessa Kimbell.  She tells us to use red scented rose petals but as my red roses are regretably not scented I used some red petals and some of my yellow scented ones.  It looked so pretty stewing in the bowl but the smell was incredible.

 How about a little Elderflower cake with fresh fruit?  This recipe was from the Waitrose magazine a few years ago now and definitely rates amongst my favourite cakes and I make them all year round. I usually make them a smaller size than the recipe suggests as 8 would vanish in a trice in our house, and also I don't feel guilty eating a little cake, so fairy cakes or mini muffin size are perfect and daintier on a cake stand.  As we are past the time for fresh elderflowers I picked a few blackcurrants and raspberries to go on top.  


The blackcurrant bush has done very well for it's first year but it has become much larger than I anticipated so some of the branches are now amongst the gooseberries!  Despite a mass cut back of the raspberry canes last autumn they are now as Triffid like as ever and now sending up new canes in the lawn! 

Now what else has been happening... 

Younger son turned 21 and had a chocolate orange birthday cake.  I forgot to take a picture when it was cut so you will have to imagine the four layers of sponge soaked in orange liqueur, layered with orange liqueur butter cream made with a sugar syrup.  The outside was coated in a chocolate ganache and hand made praline.  It's a good job you are only 21 once as it took me a whole day to make but definitely worth it and as a good cook himself he appreciated the effort.


Then our dear daughter redecorated the house in preparation for her A-level exams. Walls, doors, windows and even inside drawers - I think everyone's knowledge of History and English improved! 

 Of course the end of exams and the end of school was heralded by the Prom and that meant shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping (are you worn out yet?  I definitely was) for the Prom dress.  Who would have believed it could be so difficult.  Eventually, the day before we went on holiday (I will tell you all about that another day) we found one that she liked, they had the right size and it fitted BUT she didn't like the skirt's half lining under the chiffon as it had a split up the front and she really wanted a full lining.  This meant that on the day of the Prom I ended up relining the dress.  In order not to add extra bulk at the waist I ended up cutting the top of the new lining with a soldering iron to stop it fraying. It was all worth it in the end though, she looked so beautiful.


Well that is just a little of all that has kept me so busy, I shall tell you all about the holiday soon.



Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Happy Easter

One bunny

 Two bunnies

Three bunnies


 If they are very lucky there may soon be two more!  

Just need to find where the stuffing has been 'tidied' away, it has to be somewhere!  

I enjoyed knitting these little egg cosies, a nice pattern, well written, means they knit up quickly, and as I still have some wool left it seemed a fun quick project to do.

 If we are at home for Easter I do try to make a table decoration, but was surprised that I couldn't find any narcissi to put into this oasis ring.  These little flowers did the job perfectly though.  The little egg shell baskets just needed a finishing touch and gave me the opportunity to try making some paper flowers.  Miniature beads in the centre gave a more realistic touch, and with mini eggs inside were popular.

I normally pick forsythia and flowering currant branches to decorate with eggs and chicks.  Small sprigs also go into the oasis saving the necessity to buy flowers for it.  Last year the flowers were almost over but this year they are so far behind they are not open yet.  I cut some and brought them into the warm hoping to force them, and the forsythia obliged but the pretty pink of the currant has still not opened.

I took the bunnies and table decoration outside to photograph as we actually have some sunshine this morning, and a few little Spring flowers peeping through.  We could have done with some sunshine yesterday when we went to Lyvedon New Bield

Built over 400 years ago, there is no longer a roof or floors but you can go inside and listening to the audio guide can easily follow the story and picture all the rooms.  

The frieze running around the outside of the building tells the story of the Passion, so although I didn't know this before we went it did seem appropriate to visit at this time.  

It was a very cold afternoon, much too cold to stand still long, but we enjoyed a brisk walk around the gardens.  I think we will try to go again in the summer, I am sure it will look very different then.