Wednesday, 31 October 2012

New addition

While it was wet and windy outside, I spent the day catching up on my tv viewing and making a new addition for Leah Makes. I'd like to introduce you to my rabbit.

 I tried to make it out of fabric but the size of it meant it was really difficult to turn it up so I gave up and made it out of felt instead. I used buttons that used to belong to my grandpa. I love a bit of reusing and making things that hold memories. I put a bit of embroidery on the back as well as this is the part of the softie that normally gets ignored.

I'm really happy with the way they've turned out and I've also managed to catch up with New Tricks and Dowton Abbey. Have a happy Halloween and enjoy all the trick or treating.

Change of plan

You know when you've spent ages planning a day and then it doesn't go to plan. Well, that was my day yesterday. The plan was to accompany my ds up to central London for a commitment he had up there. I was planning to meet a friend for a bit of shopping and then we were going for champagne afternoon tea at the Ambassador Bloomsbury hotel near Euston station. It was a two for one offer which I found on the afternoon tea website. I've found quite a few good deals on here in the past so I was really looking forward to this.

Yesterday morning I received a text from my brother saying that my youngest nephew was in hospital with suspected meningitis and could I look after the other children so he could go to the hospital. Well, of course I changed all my plans. Grandma took ds up to London, my friend spent the day sorting out her airing cupboard and decluttering (not as exciting as afternoon tea but needed doing) and I spent the morning with my gorgeous nieces and nephew. Luckily, it wasn't meningitis and after being pumped full of antibiotics and a stay in hospital for observation, my nephew was allowed to come home. We spent the morning making get well cards and presents for him and there was a great presentation ceremony when he got home. I felt truly blessed that I was able to step in and help out and that my youngest nephew was on the mend. Thank you to the doctors and nurses of the NHS for looking after him and for my sister in law ignoring the initial advice from the evening doctor service to just go back to sleep.

As it happened, ds finished at 2pm and was on his way home so the timing of the afternoon tea wouldn't have worked anyway. So, all in all, everything worked out well. I now just need to rebook a slot for afternoon tea. This may take some time as when else will our children all be off doing different things. Whilst I was over looking after my nieces and nephew, they showed me something new they had been given from Greenwich market. I'm going to use this as inspiration for my next make. What do you think? I'm also planning to make some snake draught excluders like the ones my granny used to make (thanks mum and dad for the idea) but I'm still not sure what to fill them with. Do you have ideas?

How cute
We're all looking forward to a lazy day today and then trick or teat for Halloween tonight. I've bought enough sweets and chocolates to last the evening of little (and some bigger) visitors tonight and I'm really looking forward to lighting my pumpkins. Now I just need to find the tealights. I hope you all have a lovely day.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Pumpkin carving

Cinnamon buns before icing
The cinnamon buns I made yesterday have received the seal of approval in our household. The recipe has now been torn out of the Waitrose magazine and added to my recipe binder for future reference. This morning I got up to find that my dd had made some pancake batter for her and a friend but she insisted that I made the pancakes. I have to say that I'm not the world's best pancake maker and this was proved true this morning. I didn't get it right until the last pancake. I hope they still tasted good. I then moved onto carving the pumpkins for Halloween.

 In our neighbourhood, the children only go to houses for trick and treat if there is a lit pumpkin outside. I really like this tradition as it means that those houses are welcoming to the children and the other houses are given a wide berth. Whilst we don't follow the Halloween traditions to the same extent as some American communities, the children do dress up and go out with their friends.

Will you be celebrating Halloween? How is it celebrated in different countries? It would be lovely to hear from you.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

So many things to do

It was an amazing firework display last night. We started with a torchlight procession down the village high street (I nearly managed to light the hair of the lady in front of me but luckily I missed) and then we lit the bonfire on the village green. Here we are at the tale end of the procession just before lighting the bonfire.....

and here is the bonfire which has just been lit.

There was a traditional funfair which dh and I actually managed to find the time to wander round (ds and dd were with their friends) and for the first time ever we made it to the beer tent.

Today I spent a bit of time in the kitchen making pizza dough and tomato sauce for tonight. For the tomato sauce, fry 1-2 chopped cloves of garlic, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, 2tsp sugar and some dried mixed herbs (I use fresh herbals from the garden during the summer - oregano, marjoram and thyme. Put the lid on the pan and turn down low. Cook for about 20 minutes. Take off the heat and then blitz. This is enough tomato sauce for 4 pizzas. There is sometimes enough leftover for a portion of pasta the following day. This is a really simple sauce but it tastes so much better than the sauces bought from the shop and I know exactly what has gone into it.

Before we went out for lunch, I maxed the dough for cinnamon buns. I this month's Waitrose kitchen magazine there is a recipe from Edd Kimber for cinnamon buns. I thought I'd give it a go as I had plenty of time for the dough to rise. This is his recipe....

Put 250ml milk and 50g unsalted butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Leave to cool until lukewarm. I used pure margarine instead of the butter.

Mix all the dry ingredients together - 500g strong white flour, 30g caster sugar, 7g sachet fast action yeast and 1tsp salt (I forgot to add the salt so we'll see how it tastes) - in the food processor and then add the milk, melted butter and a beaten egg using a dough hook. You can do all of this by hand but I like to save some time. I use this time to clean the kitchen surfaces and do the watching up. We don't have a dishwasher so everything gets washed by hand.

Once the dough is smooth and elastic, put the dough into a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size. This should take about an hour. I'm not sure how long it took as we went out for lunch today. It's been ages since we've been out to a restaurant and it was a lovely experience. Definitely something nice every once in a while.

I got home and rolled out the dough to a 40cm x 50cm rectangle. I then buttered the dough with 60g unsalted butter (or I should have done but I used the Pure margarine instead). I then covered this with a mixture of 3tbsps cinnamon and 150g light brown soft sugar. The recipe says to add currants too but not many people in my family like currants. Roll the dough up starting at the long end. Roll it up tightly then cut into 16 pieces (I managed to get 20 out of the mixture) and place into a greased deep tray. I have used a roasting tin, we'll see if it works. This is what it looked like before proving.

Once the buns have doubled in size, cook in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes. Cover with foil for the last 10 minutes to prevent burning. Ed recommends brushing the buns with melted butter before baking but I missed this step out. I'll let you know if they still taste good. They now need to cool and be iced. The recipe says to make the icing using cream cheese and icing but I'm just going to make plain icing as I haven't got any cream cheese. I'm sure they'll still be great. I'll let you know once the family has sampled them.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Chill in the air

It's been a nippy afternoon so I decided to spend it making. We're off to the village bonfire and fireworks tonight so I don't feel guilty for not going out for an afternoon walk. Instead I spent the afternoon doing this....

Leah Makes cards
And this....

Beautiful clothes pegs
I also tidied up the room where I keep all my making things last night so it's now in a tidy enough state to be used for other things and the kitchen is nice and tidy too. I've even managed to catch up with Dowton Abbey and the Paradise. It's been quite a productive afternoon and now it's time to spend the evening with the community. I hope you manage to see some fireworks light up the night sky.

Start of the holidays

Today is the first day of half term. I have lots of plans to spend the time with my family with a bit of making and creating on the side. I've had some new ideas for a craft project that may or may not involve these..

I spent a bit of time this morning in hobbycraft looking for washi tape. I've seen various projects involving this tape from Japan and I wanted to see the different designs available. Unfortunately there wasn't a lot of choice so I think I'll have a look on the Internet instead. I'm planning to cover the clothes pegs with tape or material so they look a bit prettier rather than just being functional.

I'm going to spend their rest of the day pottering around the kitchen. I'm hoping to get the family out for an afternoon walk as it's looking beautiful outside. I've got a soup on the go on the hob. I had some carrots that really needed using up so I made our traditional weekend fare. Just chop a couple of onions (one onion if it's a big one) and soften in some olive oil. Add some sliced carrots.

Slice them quite thickly otherwise they will dissolve into mush. Fry until slightly softened then add vegetable stock. I make up a litre of stock with 4 tsps of bouillon powder then add to the soup. I top up with another half litre of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the carrots are nearly soft. Add some little pasta of choice and some frozen peas. Sorry these aren't exact amounts but it changes every time I make it. The thing about this soup is the pasta soaks up a lot of the liquid Blythe next day so in our family we call this sludge instead of soup. It doesn't sound particularly appetising but it tastes delicious and is perfect for an autumnal day.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Getting ready for the weekend

I am soooo tired so I'm afraid that this will be short. I just wanted to show you the picture I took yesterday. It's not quite the beautiful driving to work scene that I've been viewing all week but it gives a taster.

Woodland walk

I do love this season but I love the crisp mornings of winter even more (but not the windscreen scraping). Off to work now so this will have to be short but sweet.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Journey to work

I was going to take some pictures of the views I see on the way into work. I thought about it this morning but I didn't have time to stop the car and take a moment. Never mind, I thought, I'll be able to do it on the way home. Well guess what? I left work at just gone 6 and it was too dark to see anything. So, I'll just have to tell you about it instead. I'm privileged to live in an area of the country where I am quite near to an urban area but walk 5 minutes from the house and I'm in countryside. My journey to work takes me through much of this rural area and this morning it was just gorgeous. The trees are just turning lots of different shades from green to red, orange and yellow. I know it's not quite at the level of New England but it's beautiful nonetheless. The weather has also been a bit different recently. Whilst people have been complaining about the damp and foggy weather but I thought it looked quite ethereal both today and yesterday. I love autumn - the colours, weather and the different smells in the air. I'm particularly looking forward to the bonfire and fireworks season - roll on Bonfire night and all the fun that brings with it.

I'll try to add some photos on my next post but until then, enjoy the rest of the week.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Restful Day


This was the picture that I tried to post yesterday but the computer wasn't having any of it. This is the dukka that I made to go with my hummus - it was yummy. DS and I followed this with toasted cheese sandwiches which were really tasty and Merlin. I have never been scared by an episode of Merlin before but I don't mind admitting that I spent most of the episode jumping off the sofa. It didn't help that DS was intent on scaring me too.

Today was spent transporting the children to their various activities, baking and cooking. I intended to spend the morning making some earrings but I realised that I've put the ear wires somewhere in my clear up and I haven't managed to find them yet. Instead I asked dd what she would like for her packed lunches this week and the answer came back as chocolate chip muffins (I shouldn't have asked) and DS said he would like chocolate chip cookies (you would have thought I would learn). The muffin recipe came from an old recipe book I have and it's a basic muffin mix and then you can add in whatever flavourings you want. Here it is.....

255g plain flour
3tsps baking powder
Half tsp salt
110g caster sugar

Mix all the dry ingredients together then add the wet ingredients:

8fl oz milk
3fl oz vegetable oil
1 egg

I then added 100g chopped milk chocolate. I used the basics range from sainsburys which only costs 30p and it's just as good as the more expensive varieties. With muffins you need to make sure you don't over mix and this time I got it just right. This recipe makes 12 muffins - there are now only 8 left but that will still be enough for the week of lunches. You need to bake them for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade and enjoy.

The chocolate chip cookies are cut and come again so they are currently sitting in the fridge waiting for the right time to bake them. As it's Sunday night it's homemade pizza night. Everything is made and the dough is waiting to be rolled out. Do you have any family traditions? I hope you have a great week.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Kitchen pottering

I've spent the afternoon in the kitchen making sure everything is ready for the week ahead and that we all have some treats ready for watching Merlin tonight. We are really enjoying the new series although I am still missing Doctor Who. The flapjack has been made and I'm just about to make some chocolate chip muffins as my ds has requested them. I've also made some hummus (although I think I may have overdone the garlic this time) and I've made some dukka to go with it. This is a seed, nut and spices mix that I found in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg Everyday cookbook. It's brilliant on top of hummus or eaten by dipping bread in olive oil and then into the seed mix. As it's only me that eats the mix it lasts quite a long time in our house. Unfortunately it ran out at the beginning of the week so I needed to make a new batch. Here's the recipe:

100g cashew or pistachio nuts. I use cashew nuts as they're cheaper and I buy the big packets from our local Asian delicatessen. Toast the nuts for 5 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade. Once out of the oven, chop them quite small.

Toast 1tbsp coriander seeds and 1tbsp cumin seeds. Put into a pestle and mortar and bash until quite small.

Toast 3 tbsp sesame seeds. I do this in a dry pan, the same one as I used for the spices. I started buying the sesame seeds at a health food shop but I then realised I could buy much larger quantities for a significantly cheaper price at the Asian superstore - I love that shop. Add the toasted sesame seeds to the cumin coriander mix. Stir in 1tsp dried chilli flakes and 1tsp flaky sea salt. Finally, add the nuts and put everything in a jar with a good seal. I put mine into a Kilner jar but a clean jam jar would also be perfect. I always save jars ready for when it's time to make jam or chutney so I always have a stash available to use as storage jars. My mum gave me a collection of Kilner jars so I'm using those  at the moment as they look pretty on the side in the kitchen.

What I really want is a larder so that everything can be on shelves in a cool, dark place and be easily accessible. My granny had a larder in her flat and it was always cool and kept food fresh for quite a long time. She also used it to store all her cake making equipment and ingredients. I have to say that she probably used it to store a lot of other things too but time is not good for the memory and I can't remember in too much detail. I'll add the larder to the to do list for the house (which is quite long at the moment). Life is all about spending our precious spare time doing the things that make us smile which at the moment doesn't include painting the walls. I'll save that for another day.

Early morning start

I have no idea why but I woke up early this morning. This is the result of my early morning labours - a felt doll called Megan. It's the dress that takes me the longest as I decided to sew it by hand rather than get the sewing machine out as I didn't want to wake anyone else up. I hope you like it. I really love the dress material which I bought when we were on holiday this year. We found a lovely fabric shop in Bude which stocked loads of different material and threads. Unfortunately it's a bit of a trek just for the fabric but I did stock up on felt last weekend in Kingston so I'm certainly not lacking in material.

Megan doll
I'm planning to spend the rest of the day baking and generally tidying  the kitchen which certainly needs it after being ignored during the week. I hope you all have a lovely day - what are your plans?

Friday, 19 October 2012

A little bit of crafting.......

Sorry I haven't posted all week. It's been another busy week at work so. I haven't been getting home until late. The late nights and early mornings are certainly not me. I have, though, managed to nearly finish a felt doll for one of my nieces. I am planning to make them one each with clothes that they can dress them in. This one is still a work in progress but I'm very pleased with it so far. I've got loads of ideas of how to add to it - ribbon in her hair, a coat and a necklace are some of things still to be made. My grandfather was a cutter for a tailor and always had a stash at fabric at home. I am immensely lucky that I have inherited that fabric which includes some lovely material for coat making. I thought I'd start small with a coat for the felt doll then I might even feel confident enough to start making a coat for a grown up. He also left a wide selection of lovely buttons which I'm sure will make an appearance on the things that I make. Keep an eye out for them.

For the felt doll, I started with drawing out a pattern which included the basic shape, her hair and her dress. I think I need to work on the dress pattern as it's not quite as I want it yet. I cut the shoes out without a pattern but I am planning to make a pattern for these before my next attempt. At the moment, everything has been hand sewn but I am planning to get my sewing machine out this weekend to speed up the clothes making process (and make the sewing a bit neater). I did search the Internet for free felt doll patterns but I couldn't find anything that I liked so I made my own. I'm quite pleased with the outcome so far.

Pattern pieces
Basic Lauren doll

Dressed Lauren doll

One more working day of the week to go and then I can spend some time crafting and cooking over the weekend (and getting up a little bit later when the sun has actually come up). Today I'm up and the sun hasn't made an appearance yet which is never the most positive start to the day. I don't know how people who live closer to north and south poles cope with whole days of never seeing the sun. The flip side I suppose is the wonderful days of the summer when it never gets dark and you can be playing golf at 3 in the morning. Ooh, makes we want to visit Iceland and see all their amazing geographical features, including the warming blue lagoon and the amazing glaciers and geysers. I better put that on my things to do before.......

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Getting ready for the week ahead

I had a lovely day today. I managed to get my marking done which always makes mayday go with a swing. I spent his morning in Kingston visits my new favourite fabric shop, Fabricland. I bought some spotty buttons and felt off the roll in black, red and a beige colour which I'm planning to use for making a doll. I've got an image in my mind but I just need to transfer it to the pattern stage. The weather was beautiful today with a bright blue sky as I walked in along the river with my other half.

There were loads of people out on the river enjoying the good weather. It certainly put a smile on my face.

I'd also managed to get the flapjack cooked for the week's packed lunches before I went out this morning and I'd left the pizza dough rising so all in all, I felt pretty care free. It's amazing the small things that can make people happy! We're currently sitting on the sofa watching Back to the Future III for the nth time. We all love the bit where the manure falls on Biff and after all these years of watching we know most of the lines off by heart. We also watched Friday night's episode of Miranda which had us rolling around in laughter - 'such fun' - and I've also managed to catch up with Dowton Abbey. I'm certainly feeling prepared for the week ahead which I know will be filled with late nights so I probably won't be posting again until the weekend. I hope you all have a lovely week and manage to do some of your favourite things in between work and looking after those you care about.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Busy Day

I managed to get everything done today that I planned (my marking will have to be done tomorrow afternoon). My trip to town was successful although I had to pay for parking for the first time in ages (normally I manage to bag a free parking spot a short walk away but no joy today). After buying my crafty bits from town - I love to bag a bargain in the Works and Poundland - I drove off to the farmers market. Unfortunately there were no apples for sale which meant no apple pie for dessert but I did manage to buy the eggs from Simon's Eggs. Here is the lovely lady who sells me eggs every month. They're really good quality and I know that the hens have been well looked after.

The afternoon was spend watching Jurrassic Park III - I love the music, working on the Leah Makes packaging and making he brownies for tonight. I added a twist to one of the batches by adding in frozen raspberries into the mix as I happened to have a bag lurking in the back of the freezer. Although they didn't set as well as the other batch, they tasted fabulous. I'll definitely be making those again.

They looked even prettier on the plate. Here's the recipe....

Put 110g of dark chocolate, broken up, with 110g butter (I used Pure margarine) into a bowl and microwave in defrost for 7 minutes, giving it a stir half way through. Add 150g caster sugar and 150g dark brown sugar and stir in well. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing well. The mixture should now look glossy. Add 1tsp vanilla extract and 155g plain flour. You could also add some chopped chocolate for a bit more chocolatey goodness (which I did). Spoon the mixture into a square baking pan. I use a silicone baking tray which makes the brownies much easier to get out after baking. Cook in an oven at 170 degrees centigrade for 20-25 minutes. Don't cook for too long as they will then dry out. Leave to cool and then enjoy. Definitely not something or when you're on a diet but they will brighten up your day.

I also found time to finish off my latest project - hanging flowers. I'm really pleased with these as they look just like I imagined they would. I've just finished packaging them up after spending the evening with my lovely friends who I don't get to see nearly often enough. I hope you all had a lovely day. Now just need to get all the other things done tomorrow before it's back to work on Monday. Sometimes I think there are just not enough hours in the day,

Farmers Market

We have a local farmers market which takes place on the village green once a month. It's a lovely market where you can buy lots of local ingredients. If you're concerned about food miles then farmers markets are the place to go. I always buy my eggs from the local market. I never pay more than £6 for 30 eggs which then keeps me going for a month of baking.  I really like it when I know the provenance of the things that I buy. The plan this morning is to buy some apples from the local RHS garden to make an apple pie. The choice is wonderful as they grow many heritage varieties which you never see in the shops anymore and they have a lovely flavour. I'll also be on the look out for my monthly eggs as I'm planning a morning of baking before an afternoon with friends and family. The real question is should I make a batch of brownies too. Of course the answer is yes. I'll post the recipe and pictures after I've finished so you can have a golf you have the time. It's the best brownie recipe I've come across from the Little Red Barn Baking Book by Adriana Rabinovich. I saw the author demonstrating her baking skills at a food show many years ago and bought her book (full price which I have never done before but I was inspired). Right, time to get up and start the day. See you later.

Friday, 12 October 2012

New Ideas

It's been a busy work week again. I spent last weekend laid low with a horrible head cold so my most of the time I was under the duvet (which is not always a bad place to be). It meant it had the opportunity to finish a book I'd been reading - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It was one of those books that I had great difficulty starting. It sat on my bookshelf for a number of weeks before I even picked it up and then I didn't get any further than the first page. But once I'd started I couldn't put it down. It took me into a whole other world full of magic and amazing feats. I highly recommend it. It's certainly not my usual read. I love a lot of the teenage fiction currently on the market. I've read the Hunger Games trilogy twice and I'm a great fan of Harry Potter. I also love Terry Pratchett's discworld series. It makes me smile every time I take myself into his fantasy world. I especially like Rincewind the wizard and Sir Sam Vimes is my absolutely favourite police officer. If you haven't read any of his books and you love an alternative world that is very similar to ours, then give them a go. I'm looking forward to reading his new book Dodger but I need to wait until it comes outin paperback. I'm not sure that he'll be writing many more books as the Alzheimer's begins to take hold. What an awful illness that takes over the mind. I look forward to the time when there is finally a cure for this and the many other degenerative diseases that have such an impact on people's lives.

Friday, 5 October 2012


I've had a lovely week so far. Work has been busy but good and I've still found time for creative activities in the evening. On Monday I even found time for a cycle round the local lake after work. Whilst the rest of the family refused to come with me (I think that had something to do with the fact that I was planning to pick blackberries) I still had a lovely time. Whilst the blackberry picking was pretty useless as there were very few left so late in the season the cycle itself was wonderful. The sun was setting over the lake which created a gorgeous atmosphere and, apart from the fishermen, I had the path to myself. Apologies for not having any pictures to show of the experience but I just cycled and enjoyed. I've also found time to finish three more felt beach huts (although I still can't work out how to turn the picture round so you can view it properly).

I'm really pleased with them although it does make me long for some time by the sea. I've nearly finished packaging up all my made items in their new Leah Makes packaging. I just need to add the necklaces and bracelets and then it will be time to think about my next project.

 I really fancy making a door stop and have been thinking about the different materials I could use. I've seen a lovely pattern that looks a bit like a bag and has a zip so that you can wash it but I also like the idea of a felt one (I bought some lovely felt by the metre at fabricland in Kingston - a bargain at £2.99 per metre. I have to stop myself going back as I'll probably spend way too much money). I hope you all have a lovely weekend and spend time doing things you love.