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Monday, 16 December 2013

Christmas mash up

Slowly, slowly I am getting things done. The tree is up and decorated, and home made decorations are finished. I'm trying not to go overboard, work is very busy and I'm feeling the strain. So just trying to keep it low key....

I've used my Wilko's burlap ribbon on the dresser. I just stapled on the stars. The washing line at the top was inspired by a photo on a Facebook page called The Reed Warbler, which is very beautiful. I pegged on oak leaves sprayed white, ribbon, brown labels, and Christmas cards of course. My collection of jars with writing on is nudging out the floral china, which is safely stored away for when I change my mind again.

Willow wreath with acorns and leaves.

Sparkly twigs from Next (sorry about the wires and plugs!).

Oh dear, I now have five horses on wheels of varying sizes. I think that may be termed an addiction! A couple will  have to go to new homes next year. This chap is full of woodworm, so his days may be numbered anyway.

We've gone for a white tree this year. I say "we..." The family are happy to let me decorate. 
Eldest son is home from uni now, so we're a full house again.
See you again soon. I've really been enjoying my comments lately. Thank you for leaving them. There are some lovely people out there x

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Let there be light

I spotted this really simple idea in this month's Country Living magazine. Tea lights in jam jars, but embedded in rock salt to give them a snowy/Christmassy look. I rounded up some stray jam jars from the cupboard and tied some fabric and old lace around the top.

The old enamel tray came from a small antiques fair in the autumn. I was saving it for a Christmas arrangement. It's so simple but I love it with the greenery, ivy and rosemary.

Little white Christmas tree candle was from Asda. I've been amassing these old chocolate moulds and tart tins over time as well, I buy them at boot sales usually, although I did find a little stash on Ebay too.

I like to light candles as the afternoon draws in.

Tea light idea was from this Country Living, a lovely issue. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Seasons eatings

We've just had a delightful mooch around a Christmas food market in nearby Oundle. This is a small market town that is fighting to keep its centre alive after a supermarket opened just outside town. Today's initiative was a huge success: it was a genuinely local market, with (mainly) regional producers selling their wares. 

 Produce markets such as these are never cheap, but if you choose carefully, it's possible to find some good buys. This cheese is so rich and mature, a little goes a long way.

A big box of shiny orange clementines: nothing says Christmas like these.

Crisp Fenland celery. A properly local delicacy. I bought some Stichelton cheese to eat with it.
In this month's local magazine, we have a recipe for some little parsnip blinis with blue cheese and walnuts. I made them last weekend, and they're delicious.

If you want to have a go, here's how. The recipe is courtesy of Riverford Organic Farms, the veg box people. They are gluten free.

3 large parsnips
2 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
Dessert spoon of rice flour
30 ml creme fraiche (I used natural yogurt)
30ml milk
Butter and olive oil
100g Cropwell Bishop or another good quality blue cheese
Handful of toasted walnut halves
1 tablespoon honey (to mix with walnuts, if liked. I didn't!)

Chop the parsnips into half inch chunks, removing any woody bits. Saute gently in a pan of butter and olive oil until soft. Puree in a food processor, season with salt and pepper and leave to cool in the fridge. Mix the egg yolks, rice flour, cream and milk with the parsnip puree. Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold these gently into the parsnip mixture, taking care to maintain as much air as you can. Heat a frying pan and melt butter with olive oil until it starts to foam. Drop a few spoonfuls of the mix into the pan, shaping into circles as you go. It is quite a thick mixture. Cook until golden brown on one side and flip over to finish the other. Cook in batches. To serve, top with some blue cheese, and a walnut half (coated in honey if preferred). You can freeze the blinis, just defrost and warm though to refresh.

I topped them with walnuts from our tree. I'll definitely be serving these at Christmas with some mulled wine or cider.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Work and stitch

The pre-Christmas work deadlines and seasonal preps are ramping up a bit around here, but it's time to stop by and say hello.
Busy days, and lots of this going on in the evening (phone pics at night so apologies for quality):

The top of the quilt is now complete! It is quite fragile, owing to my bad stitching, so I just need to go over a few places and mend any small holes that may have appeared (not helped by the fact that I've been watching the sub-titled Borgen on BBC4 while I'm working. Not a good combination, Sub-titles and stitching). 
But the paper templates are out and it feels as if I am one step further on the quilty road.

I have new glasses. Proper prescription glasses for the first time in my life. They feel quite strange. I have a double use lens, and it makes them very thick and heavy, like bottle-tops. I expect I'll get used to them and they do help when I am sewing.
I went on a short trip to a pretty market town called Uppingham, and visited the second hand bookshop to buy some Christmas presents. This has to be the best bookshop ever.

I found some beautiful things in here.

The Rutland Bookshop, if you're ever passing that way. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Some seasonal making

It feels like time to be getting a few festive things underway. Out came the old sheet music, those cookie cutters (again), and from my favourite source of thrifty Christmas items 2013,  some goodies from Wilko's. The burlap ribbon is great, I'm going to attach the stars to the ribbon and adorn various edges and ledges with it when the time comes....

I also found these bark stars at Wilko's:

And as for the white berries on my new header, I spotted them on a tree in the front of the most beautiful semi-derelict house that I passed today. 

It really was the most magical house. Sadly, it is 'under offer...'

So I just had to settle for the berries.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Tea time treats

I think if I could choose a favourite meal it would have to be afternoon tea. Every year in the local magazine we run a feature on the best afternoon teas in our area, and the job of testing them has to be the best gig ever. They vary hugely of course: this year my favourite was a savoury afternoon tea with cheese scones, warm slivers of quiche and tiny sandwiches. Anyway, I've also been trying out some afternoon tea baking at home recently. The first item was the lemon and oat cookies, above, taken from Nigel Slater's new cook book which is called Eat. The cookies are absolutely delicious, and they are sandwiched together with marscapone and lemon curd....a lethally good combination.

Next on the list are these cheese biscuits (from a Good Housekeeping recipe).

I used my old cookie cutters for these, love this rectangular shaped one. 

This banana and chocolate cake is the thriftiest cake recipe ever, it is simple, and uses up the black bananas in the fruit bowl. My neighbour gave me this and I've made it so many times. It improves with keeping (if you can keep your family away from it), becoming softer and stickier over time....

I have a new poster for the kitchen. It's a vintage one that I bought in Totnes this summer and which I've finally framed and put on the wall. The frame is from Dunelm. They have a brilliant selection, especially larger ones. 

Teas for one shilling and a six course dinner for 3/6. I'm checking in!

* P.S A couple of people have asked for the cake recipe, so I'll put it here. I only have it in imperial measurements, it's one of those recipes that is passed around on scraps of paper....

Banana and chocolate cake
6oz margarine
8oz granulated sugar
2 -3 over ripe bananas
10 oz self raising flour
half level teaspoon salt
half level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 eggs
2oz plain chocolate, chopped into small pieces 

Demerara sugar to sprinkle on top

Heat oven to 325F, 160C or gas 3. Grease a round 8in cake tin and line with greaseproof paper. 
Melt the margarine and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat until the margarine has just melted. Remove from  heat. Peel and mash the bananas on a plate with the vanilla. Sift flour, salt and bicarb of soda into the saucepan and mix with the marg and sugar. Beat the eggs and add to the pan with the banana. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate pieces. Pour into the tin. 
Sprinkle over some demerara sugar and bake for about one hour 15 - one hour 30 mins. 
When cool, wrap in foil. 
Apparently it keeps for up to 3 weeks, but it barely lasts for three days in our house

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Hello - and some cards!

Well, I really didn't intend to be away from the blog for so long, but I was embroiled in a mega week of work. As a freelancer, I'm not going to complain (well, only a bit anyway) but it was full steam ahead all of last week. All done now, and the good news is that I've got the cards ready to go on sale, with prices etc, so I'll do that first.

There are four designs to choose from: stall, dresser, caravan and cupboard. They cost £1.50 each or four for £5 with £1 postage on top. If you'd like to order, please email me: and I'll give you my address if you would like to pay by cheque, and then a pretty little package will be winging its way to you.
The cards are blank for your own greeting, and printed on thick card, and of course they come with envelopes.

I only have a small print run of the cards, so I won't keep banging on about selling them on the blog. 

In other news...I picked up a beautiful old children's cook book a few weeks ago. It is battered and torn but very pretty inside.

It's from the 1940s, just after the war.

I love how it says at the end of the page: "Does your mother like India or China tea in the afternoon?"
Then there follows instructions for making mother a tray with a pot of loose leaf tea, and some hot buttered toast and jam. Maybe I'll leave it open at this page for my son to find.... I might wait quite a long time for my tea tray.

I've accessorised the book here with a set of old cookie cutters which I found at an antiques fair in October. I ummed and aahed about buying them (there are quite a few more than I've shown here). It wasn't the price, I was concerned about what I would actually do with them. But after a good clean, I know I'll use them.

I intend to catch up on some blog reading now.
Back soon!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Sunny Cambridge

Cambridge with my best mate was great this weekend. Walking, talking, shopping and cafe hopping. Today we visited the Botanic Gardens in clear sunshine. It's a beautiful place...  would highly recommend it.

Big glass houses, full of flowers and lush plants

Tropical colours and wonderful leaf shapes, it would be a brilliant place to bring a sketch book.

Splashes of neon colour everywhere....

as well as the autumn golds

Cambridge is a fine city, a blend of town and country.

So many paths to walk and houses to drool over.

All bathed in light today.

We bought books in Blackwells and something to wear in Noa Noa. 
Happy days :)