Saturday, 26 October 2013

New Makes

It's been a crazy half term what with my new work responsibilities, university course and family life. I haven't really had any time for crafting but now it's half term and I thought it was about time I started making again.

I started with gingerbread men smelling of cloves perfect for the holiday season but to be honest I think they look a bit zombie like.

I then moved onto owls with buttons for eyes in various different colours.

And this morning I'm thinking of something new which will have a beaded keyring element to it.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Busy Life

My life has been so busy since I returned to work from the summer holidays that my blog has been sadly neglected. I've got a new role at school which is taking up a huge amount of time and I've gone back to university for the year which is involving a lot of reading and will also involve essay writing come the holidays.

As you can imagine that hasn't left a lot of time for being creative. I've had a few unfinished projects lying around and I finally managed to finish them yesterday. I love the colours, buttons and beads that are involved. What do you think?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Early Morning

I was up early this morning to make sure the flapjack was made and soup done before we had to be out of the house. I always find that if I don't do this before we go out, I can't be bothered when we get back. Do you ever feel like that? When we were on holiday, I had a lovely lentil soup so I've tried to recreate it this morning. I've used a recipe from the good food website. It's a twist on a plain lentil soup as it has carrots in too - useful as I had some carrots lurking away in the bottom of the fridge.

Here it is after it's blended. I've just tried a tiny amount and it's delicious. Perfect for lunch.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Summer Holidays

Sorry I haven't posted for a while. I've been on holiday in the Yorkshire Dales then it was back to earth with a bump with the start of the new term and Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah). It's been a busy couple of weeks and I've managed to find 5 minutes to share some pictures of the makes and bakes.

I decided to start making some felt key rings, but this time I used beads instead of ribbon. I like the way they look.

Small and large hearts with matching beads

I also made a new house design.

I took these as presents for family when we met them yesterday in Birmingham.

I've also been making honey cake (for a sweet new year) and round challah (sabbath bread).

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

So sorry I've been so quiet recently. The summer holidays are always a time for catching with friends and family and having the time to do all the jobs I've been putting off for the rest of the year. We've visited the doctor and dentist, found time for some crafting (although my mojo has only recently decided to visit me again) and spent some time away in beautiful countryside. My children decided to spend a week with their grandparents so my dh and I booked a cottage for a week in the Peak District. Bliss. Surprisingly, for a National Park which is the second busiest in terms of visitor numbers, it was really quiet. I don't know if it was because everyone was heading to the beach or because last summer was so rotten that everyone was abroad but we loved it. Here are some of the things we did.

Cycling on the High Peak Trail and Tissington Trail - 44 miles in one day which I was extraordinarily proud of even though they are both old train lines so quite flat ;).

Drinking the spa water in Buxton. Weirdly it was warm.

Picking and eating wild raspberries - little mouthfuls of sweetness.

Cycling the Monsal Trail - every time we came out of a tunnel, we were greeted with a beautiful view.

Walking along the Limestone Way into Matlock and we then walked back along the Derwent Way. It was a beautiful walk and we didn't meet anyone on the walk. Even getting caught in a downpour was fun.

Walking up and over Mam Tor, near Castleton. You can just see Hope Quarry in the distance in the photo.

Whilst the weather wasn't great it didn't stop us walking and cycling all week. We even managed to get to the Bakewell Show.

This was about 9am and it became a lot busier during the day (thousands of people).

So, if you ever get the chance, the Peak District is definitely worth a visit. Now I'm off the defrost the freezer - another one of those holiday jobs :) I'll be back soon to show you some of the things I've been making and baking this holiday. 

Monday, 5 August 2013


I love holidays that can rejuvenate and revitalise (although I'm sitting here writing this post in the cottage we've rented with a very sore posterior from the cycle ride we went on yesterday). Apologies that posting will be kept to a minimum this week as I'm having too much fun in the Peak District. This is truly a beautiful part of the UK and the word of the week so far has been AWESOME. The views are beautiful and we're hoping to walk straight out from the cottage this morning, not using the car at all and then get the bus back from the end of our walk. Even the rain is refusing to dampen my spirits. We've done and seen so much in the two days we've been here - walking, cycling, Bakewell, Buxton....

The view from our cycle ride

Buxton Water (which was warm)

Just a few pictures with more to follow. Hope you're having a lovely week.

Puff Pastry Pizza

What do you make to take to a friend's house when your job is to provide a main dish and the weather is so hot, you don't want to spend any time in the kitchen? Puff pastry pizza. This is the easiest 'pizza' to make and allows you to spend a minimal amount of time in the oven. I started by roasting two peppers in the morning (when it was slightly cooler outside). I used a red and orange pepper. As far as I'm concerned, green peppers should never be used a they're just not sweet enough and even with the caramelisation process of roasting, they still don't work.

I roasted these for about 20 minutes, turning once. About an hour before I was due to go out, I unrolled the puff pastry. Now, usually I go for the cheaper option and but the block of puff pastry and roll it out myself but it was just way too hot yesterday to expend any excess energy. I placed the puff pastry on two oiled baking sheets and scored around the edge. This is to encourage the outer edge to puff up. I covered one sheet in homemade tomato sauce and the other with pesto (from a jar). I always use the Sacla organic pesto as that's the only one which is vegetarian.

I then topped both sheets with sliced baby tomatoes, mushrooms and roasted peppers. Having forgotten to pick up mozarella at the the supermarket in the morning, I topped it all off with grated cheddar cheese.

I then baked it for approx 15 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. The mistake I made was not to prick the base first as the middle section puffed up during cooking so I had to put a fork in the base when I took it out to let the steam out. Apart from that, the dinner party guests seemed to enjoy my offering. It was so warm on Thursday night that we had drinks on the patio of my friend's house and then dinner on the lawn. This is really turning out to be a warm summer (although it is raining as I write this).

Friday, 2 August 2013

Redcurrant Harvest

I planted a redcurrant bush in our garden a couple of years ago. My granny and mum used to make meringue and redcurrant tarts which were delicious so I bought the bush as a memory of those kitchen times. I harvested the redcurrants yesterday as I knew they would start to rot if I left them for any longer. Here they are in their luscious glory.

I also harvested the rhubarb but I'm not sure what I'm going to make other it yet. Before making anything with the redcurrants I took them off their stalks and cleaned them.

It was so hot yesterday so I didn't spend a lot of time outdoors, only enough to hang up and take down the washing which dried in super quick time. I've been getting all the washing done in preparation for some time away. While I was inside trying to stay cool, I thought I'd search for some redcurrant recipes which are surprisingly few and far between. I stumbled across a recipe for a lemon cake with redcurrants and I decided to take the topping from there. So this is what I did. I made up a Victoria Sponge recipe as normal.

175g margarine or butter
175g caster sugar (I used the unrefined sugar)
175g self raising flour
3 medium eggs

I creamed the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Added an egg one at a time with a spoonful of the flour and then I added all the flour. At this point I added half the redcurrants and folded them into the mixture to prevent them breaking down. I divided the mixture between two greased and floured cake tins and baked for 25 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. While the cakes were in the oven, I mixed the juice of 4 lemons (I only had 3 lemons left so I had to use some squirty lemon juice from the fridge) with 150-200g of demerara sugar. Once the cakes were out of the oven I spooned half the mixture over them, leaving the other half for the other two cakes I made with the second half of the redcurrants. I decided to cut the cake into finger sized pieces. I tried some and it was delicious but as we're going away, I've put the rest in the freezer ready for my next tea party.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Busy Days

It's been a really busy couple of days. Normally, at the start of the summer holidays, I'm so tired that all I do is lie around for the first week. My husband never allows us to book a holiday away at the beginning as he says I'm so miserable and grumpy it's not worth it and to be fair, normally he has a point. Except for this time. I've been having a lovely time visiting different places. On Monday, I dropped my son off at the Cranleigh Arts Centre for the Challenge and then spent the day doing the pre-reading I'd been sent for the SENCO (special educational needs co-ordinator for those who don't work in the world of English education) course I'm taking next academic year at Roehampton University. I started off on a bench in Cranleigh church with this as my view

and moved around all the benches as the wind brought down the leaves of the tree I was sitting under, then it started to rain so I ended up sitting in the porch of the church. I love churchyards as you can imagine the lives of the people that have gone before you. I then spent some time pottering around Cranleigh high street (not much to see I'm afraid) and then moved on to a local village - Ewhurst - which had a very pretty church. I finished off my reading in this churchyard which was a lovely experience (except for the tree surgery that was going on next to it).

I parked by this gate and then walked up a path to the left to this church

At one point, I stretched my legs and walked all round the church.

After finishing my reading, I set back off down the path. I was happily minding my own business, reading the grave stones when I happened to look up. At the bottom of the path was a mother deer with her two children just staring back at me. I tried to get a picture but the light wasn't good enough. It was a lovely, peaceful day and I also managed to complete all my pre-reading. Result.

Tuesday meant I had to do the drop off in Cranleigh again but this time I decided to visit the banks in Guildford to update all our savings books (always a task for the holidays). Having completed that, I happened to bump into one of my best friends in the high street and we ended up shopping and lunching together. Here are some photos of the Abbots Hospital at the top of the high street. It's a beautiful old building and residents of Guildford who are on low incomes can apply to live here.

This is the door into the courtyard of the building.

And here is one side of the quadrangle. We popped into Da Gennaro's for lunch. This is a family run Italian restaurant that I highly recommend. They do a lunch special Monday-Saturday which includes a starter and main from a set list and a soft drink or glass of house wine for £7.50. Absolute bargain. Here's the starter we both had - bruschetta.

By this time I was starting to flag a bit but I still had one more drop off in Cranleigh which was yesterday morning. As the pick wasn't until 8pm, I decided to do something a little bit different - something I've never done before. I drove to Brighton on my own. Normally, I go with the family but as I was on my own I thought I'd give it a try. It was a fantastic day. I pottered around the shops, including the Lanes and North Laines, popped into Infinity Foods (wonderful shop) and even had lunch on my own at Bombay Aloo which is a Indian vegetarian buffet restaurant. The food was nice although the sauces were a bit watery and the service was appalling. The waiter didn't speak to me once just put a plate down in front of me and didn't ask if I wanted a drink so I don't think I'll be going back there in a hurry.

There was a good choice of curries but you can see the watery consistency in the picture.

The best part of the day was the free cinema on Brighton beach - I stayed long enough to see Indian Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark on the beach. It was brilliant all be it a little surreal.

This was just before the movie where three authors were being interviewed. I even managed to nab one of the bean bag chairs for the movie. I was so sure that someone was going to tell me that they were only for important people but they didn't. Thank goodness I didn't have to sit on the pebbles for 3 hours. I also managed to paddle in the sea even though the weather wasn't great.

This picture made me laugh as it looks like I'm wearing anklets when in fact it's the seaweed wrapping itself round me. The water was really refreshing and I managed to collect some mini shell pieces that I'm hoping to turn into earrings - maybe today's job.

As you can imagine, I'm feeling quite tired today so no more visiting and lunching just time spent at home checking at the pictures from the last few days.

If you have the luxury of having time off during the summer, I hope you're having a lovely time.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Birthday Cake and a Day Out in Oxford

We spent the day with my mum on Saturday to celebrate her birthday. Dad had sent me an email requesting a birthday cake for her and I was more than happy to oblige. I made her a chocolate cake using a basic victoria sponge recipe.

175g margarine or butter
175g caster sugar
150g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the marg and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs one at time, adding a tbsp of the flour and cocoa powder mixture with each egg to prevent the mixture curdling. When this is all mixed in, fold the flour in with a metal spoon (I did this all in the mixer which has a metal mixing paddle). Add enough water to make it a dropping consistency. Divide between two 20cm tins which have been greased (I also added a circle of greaseproof paper). Bake in a preheated oven (180 degrees centigrade) for 25 minutes.

When a skewer comes out clear (make sure you don't open the oven door too soon as the cakes will collapse), remove from the oven and leave to cool. To make the butter icing, mix 120g margarine or butter with 200g icing sugar and 50g cocoa powder. Sandwich the cakes together and cover with the icing. I decorated the cake with chocolate buttons.

I love the plate that it's on - it was my granny's plate and I use it all the time for cakes. Mum enjoyed her birthday cake although my ds said that it was too light and he preferred his granny's (my mum's) cakes. You can't win them all!

We spent the day in Oxford - lots of people but we managed to find some of the quieter areas, down the smaller roads and by the river. We managed to beat the weather as it didn't start raining until we were back in the car. Here are some pictures of our day.

I love the architecture in Oxford and the wildlife is pretty special too.

We tried to save this snake from the canal but it wasn't playing ball so we left it have a swim. Just outside Christ's College we came across a border of lavender which was covered in honey bees - it was an amazing sight and this photo doesn't really do it justice. It's good to see so much wildlife in an urban area. After all this visiting, today was definitely a day of rest.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's been a busy couple of days visiting family so I spent today pottering. In reality I did three loads of washing, narrowly missing the rain shower, and not much else until this afternoon. The time has come to defrost the freezer but before I do that, I need to make sure we use up the freezer contents - easier said than done. I bought a cheese sauce from Waitrose a couple of weeks ago for 25p and froze it when I got home. I used it today to make a vegetarian lasagne. I'd taken it out of the freezer before I checked the fridge for vegetables. When I did all I found was mushrooms and a couple of onions but I still managed to make the sauce with the addition of frozen peas.

My ds is taking part in the Challenge this week and was very disappointed that I hadn't been baking for the week as he wanted to take extra for his packed lunch. To be honest when the holidays start, I fall out of my normal weekend routine and forget to make the baked goods for the week. Feeling a little bit guilty, I've just made a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I like to think that these are healthy as they're full of oats but I don't think I'll get away with that thought.

200g margerine or butter
1.5 cups dark brown sugar
0.5 cup caster sugar

Cream the marg and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs and 1tsp vanilla extract and mix well.

Mix in

1.5 cups plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda 
0.5 tsp salt

Add 2.5 cups rolled oats and 2 cups chopped chocolate of your choice. I used cadburys milk chocolate. Mix well. Place tablespoons of the mixture onto baking sheets - I put 6 on each sheet to allow room for spreading (4 baking sheets, 23 cookies).

Bake in an oven preheated at 180 degrees centigrade for approx 10 minutes. I took the first batch out too soon so I've just it them back in for a couple of minutes.

They're really yummy and just waiting to be added to the packed lunch box tomorrow.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Happy Holidays

It's finally here - the start of the school summer holidays in the UK. School broke up for me and the kids on Wednesday and I've had some time for relaxing, visiting family and cooking since. My ds has been taking part in The Challenge which is an amazing experience. If you have a child who is 16 or 17 and live in the UK, they can apply to take part in this. He's had a week in Ambleside taking part in outdoor pursuits, a week at a university working with volunteer organisations and learning about photography and he's just about to do four days planning a community based project and all for princely sum of £50. I can't recommend it highly enough. In between ferrying him around, we've visited family in North London and today I topped up the dukkha which had run out.

I love to eat this with my homemade hummus, olive oil and fresh bread. To make this, put 100g of cashews in the oven at 160 degrees centigrade for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove and chop. While they are browning, put 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds and 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and toast.

Pour into a pestle and mortar and grind the spices so they look like this

Toast 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds and add to the ground mixture.

Mix in 1 teaspoon of dried crushed chilli and 1 teaspoon of flaked sea salt and add the chopped cashews. Leave to cool and put in a sealed glass jar. This can last me up to a month - try it, you won't be disappointed.