Sewing, stitching, baking, cooking, gardening, shopping and general homemaking.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Home Styles

In one of the cupboards in my bedroom I have a lot of home decorating/style books.  I don't think I've ever really made up my mind what my style is.  Most of the walls in my house are pale and my bedroom has pale walls and soft furnishings.  Since fleece blankets became easily available I've done away with duvet quilts.  I hate duvets because they are impossible to wash in my washing machine so was always buying new ones.  I wash things a lot.  Now my bed looks much neater with sheets, fleece blankets and a nice bedspread.  

Hanging off the lamp in this picture is a necklace, one of those sort that you can buy in the supermarkets these days.  Unfortunately I can't wear jewellery that has nickel in it but I love jewellery so use it to just hang around the bedroom.

The other side of the bed has a chest of drawers next to it.  The two flower pictures you see are embroidered.  The orange one is of cross-stitched pansies, I think done with one strand, I didn't stitch it.  The other picture is a bouquet of flowers done in normal embroidery, I did stitch this one.  I'm never happy with how I display things.  I would like one of those wooden free standing mirrors on this chest of drawers so will be on the look out for one.

If I could afford it I think I would have a new look in each room every year.  Recently I've admired the shabby chic look, I'd have to buy the furniture ready done though, I haven't got the energy for all the work needed to shabby-up furniture!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Day Off

I'm having a day off today.  A day off to me means no cooking meals or doing housework.  Also, no going out if I don't want to.  And, not making the numerous cups of tea we always drink throughout the day.  I don't very often get a day off, even on holiday we go self-catering so there is still cooking to do.  So, what do I do on a day off - I spend time in my craft room.  Today I'm still on my chicken making binge.  I have decided I like the back-to-front chickens best, I've got more cut out in this autumn themed fabric and will carry on with these, then I'll probably make a couple of zipped bags (another obsession at the moment).  I was given a box of six inch zips years and years ago and didn't know what to do with them.  This is one of the best things about being a hoarder, I didn't get rid of them and now have found a use for them.

This morning I spent a bit of extra time searching out interesting blogs and have added some to my links.  One blog had a 'show us what's at your bedside' (or something like that) so later today I intend taking a picture of my bedside to show here.  This article is in this blog.  I love to look at blogs that show their homes, especially the Norwegian ones, I think their decorating style is gorgeous.  I see some blogs that have pictures of a shelf with various things on, they look so decorative and artistic, my shelves just look full.  My house can be a bit dusty and some rooms look a bit untidy, though I have to say all my cupboards and drawers are organized, so you don't see how organized I can be.  My ideal house would be loads of cupboards with very little out, I suppose that is Shaker style.

What's your idea of a day off, I'd love to hear.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Tea Time

I wanted to make some black bread after seeing it on Master Chef the other evening.  After surfing the web I came across a recipe that I thought I could manage.  It contained fennel seeds, caraway seeds, cocoa, coffee granules, rye flour, bread flour, syrup, dark brown sugar as well as the usual water, butter and yeast.  I expected it to taste sweet and of chocolate but it didn't.  It was very light and fluffy though not as black as I wanted it to be, more dark brown.  The toppings I used were dressed crab and tomato for one lot and cream cheese, chopped cornichons and prawns for the other.  The bread didn't overpower the toppings at all.

I only make bread in my bread machine, I'm not fit enough to do it by hand - it's hard work isn't it!!!  My kitchen has quite a few gadgets, the one that I found the most disappointing was the juicer.  The one I couldn't do without is my food processor, I bought my first one about thirty years ago.  Just recently I got rid of my Moulinex electric hand mixer, I'd had it forty years so it had seen good service.  Another gadget I've had for a long time is my electric carving knife, it's great for cutting bread as well as meat.

Another thing I find very useful in the kitchen are the Teflon baking sheets, they last for years and nothing ever sticks to them.  For my baking I buy the ready cut greaseproof paper circles for the bottom of my sandwich cake tins and the cake and loaf baking tin liners, it saves energy not having to cut them out like I used to.  I've also got a multi-size foldable cake pan, the sides slot together and you can make from a huge cake to a very small one.  Recently I've been using measuring cups instead of weighing, this is because of the recipes from the USA that are on the internet.  I have bought myself some decent digital weighing scales though, they weigh starting at one gramme.  I'd love to hear what anyone else has in their kitchen and what their favourites are and what was a total waste of money like my juicer.

Friday, 23 October 2009


The pastry on these frangipane tarts is delicious, I mentioned yesterday I wanted to make the Sable pastry and I used a quarter of the ingredients in the link.  For the frangipane I used 

3 teaspoons of butter
9 teaspoons of caster sugar
1 egg
1/4 of a cup of ground almonds
5 teaspoons of plain flour

Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and mix well, I used an electric hand mixer.  Add the almonds and flour, again I used the mixer and gave it a good mixing.  Half the pastry and all the filling are just right to make six tarts.  Bake at 190C for twenty minutes.  I sifted icing sugar over them before serving.  The pastry that was left over is now in the freezer as this pastry is supposed to freeze well.

The pastry turned out so crisp and melting.  I'm not a good pastry cook so for me this was a success.

This picture was taken on the beach at Titchwell .  The sea must have been very rough for all these shells to have ended up on the beach, there were masses of them.

There is supposed to be a bird having a bath in this picture but I can't see it.  This is part of the marsh at Titchwell.

It was a fine day when we visited Titchwell Marsh Reserve and we were able to have a pleasant walk around.  We saw long tailed tits quite close up in one area and bramblings on the bird feeders.  Graham saw a stonechat.  We saw a lot of the usual inhabitants but my brain won't let me recall them at the moment.  We were very surprised at the number of people who were there too, mainly old codgers like us but also quite a few younger people.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Some Pictures

Sorry about the really stupid title but the old brain is a bit befuddled this evening.  I want to show some pictures I took while I was in Norfolk and I was hoping for good weather while we were there but it was pretty bad.  So, here are a few pictures I took, mostly of sky.

These starlings were a real sight to see, just like Bill Oddie showed us on one of his tv programmes.  They were so fast though, by the time I got hold of the camera they had zoomed off.

Shelducks, but mostly this gives you an idea of what the Wash looks like, huge expanses of sand when the tide is out.

These two pictures were taken in September and show the old wooden groynes at Heacham.

Well, I have more pictures but will put more on another day because I want to watch the final of Master Chef Professionals.  I don't usually watch this sort of programme except when I'm at the caravan and this is the first time I've ever watched Master Chef.  I was so impressed with some of the desserts that I can't wait to have a go.  I want to make sablé pastry and tuile pastry, then have a go at spun sugar.  I loved the episode where the chefs had to serve tea at Sketch in London.  I wanted to put a link to Sketch but couldn't find a decent one.  I love afternoon tea and have been out to tea rooms locally but can't really say that either was particularly good as regards the room itself.  The food at Mintons was good but the room was quite shabby though clean.  At Manor Farm Tea Shoppe the food was alright but the room was a bit scruffy looking and the staff were young girls who were a bit inexperienced.  Because of this I like to do my own afternoon teas.  Last year I invited a few friends round and we had a lovely civilised tea!!!  On the programme there was also a sandwich made with black bread, Graham found a recipe on the internet for this using a bread maker so I want to have a go at it.

Right - I'm off to watch the final!!!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Chickens That Look Forward To Christmas

In recent years I've been making Christmas decorations and joining in with a Christmas themed swap at one of the groups I'm in.  This year I thought I'd make some chickens as an addition to the package and my own collection - and here they are.   BUT - I made them back to front!!!!  So they tend to lean back unless I prop their tails up.  I wondered what was different about them and it wasn't until I checked a chicken I'd made years ago that I realised this *&^%!!!!  Oh well never mind, I'll make some more.  If you want a laid back chicken email me and I'll get one to you in time for putting up your decorations, first come first served.

Friday, 9 October 2009

A Full Stop

I knew it was too good to last!!!  The last few months have been tough physically as well as mentally.  The strange thing is that while I was feeling so worried my 'bad back' hasn't played up at all.  I had moments when I would panic and think that if my back seized up we'd be in a right mess.  I felt very happy that I could get on with life without my back on top of everything else and probably got a bit over confident - as you do.  My crafting is starting to get back on track and yesterday I started getting some ideas together for an upcoming swap, as shown above.  I was so sure that today it would all be finished and I could start on a Christmas ornament swap that I'm doing next.
So of course I felt that horrible little twinge that precedes 'a bad back'.  Damn!!!
Looks like being a boring rest day for me.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Lemon Bakewell Tart

Because I've still got some marrow cream left I decided to make a lemon Bakewell tart.  This is the recipe I used

1 ready made pastry case (I used a bought one)
3 generous tablespoons of marrow cream

3oz/75g butter, softened
3oz/75g caster sugar (I used golden caster sugar)
1 egg, beaten
4oz/110g self-raising flour
1oz/25g ground almonds
juice of 1 lemon (and the grated rind if you want to)
halved almonds for decoration

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the beaten egg.  Fold in the flour and ground almonds, then stir in the lemon juice.  In the pastry case, spread the marrow cream evenly over the base and cover with the cake mixture.  Arrange the halved almonds on the surface.  Bake for 15 minutes at gas 6, 400F, 200C then turn down heat to gas mark 2, 300F, 150C and bake for a further 30 minutes.

It turned out really fluffy and the marrow cream was lovely and lemony.


This is a very quick soup to prepare because I've mostly used veg from my freezer.  I use Farm Foods freezer shop a lot, their prices are very good and apart from freezer items they also have bargains in most other grocery type items.  Their bags of frozen veg are quite big and I only have a small freezer so I thought I'd use up a couple of things that seemed to take me a long time to use up.

1 onion, roughly cut up
1 potato, cut into chunks
1 good sized sprig of parsly
and from the freezer - 
1 cup sweet corn
1 cup of swede
1 cup of carrots
good splash of white wine
1 cup of water
1 stock cube
seasoning to taste

Put everything into a big saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for 35 minutes.  Liquidize/blend soup then pour back into the pan with about 1 cup of milk (I used half milk and half single cream because the cream was left over from something else),  Heat through and serve.

This is a more attractive looking soup than some I make!  It has a good flavour, not at all bland like I was worried it would be.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Runner Beans

How's this for a runner bean then???  I wonder if it would've won a prize at a horticultural show, perhaps not, it's not quite straight but it does measure 17 1/2 inches!!!  I was a bit late with my beans this year, what with one thing and another.  The local garden centres have been selling a lot more veg plants this last few years and, because I always waste a lot of seed from a packet with only having space to grow a few things, I've been buying my beans as small plants and growing them on.  This year they sold out before I could get to the centre so I ended up buying a packet of beans from Wilkinson's

they only cost £1.30 and after a slow start have done really well.  They really are stringless and very tender.  I'll look out for them again next year, I do find that trying to use seeds and beans from packets brought one year never do well the following year.  Wilko's garden department is very good for reasonably priced stuff.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

This and That

This picture doesn't have anything to do with this post, I took it a few weeks ago with the idea of writing about my interest in the weather but it came out really boring so I deleted it.

There was an article in the news today about underground supper clubs, apparently restaurants are doing badly just now and a lot are closing but these secret restaurants are popular.  The person featured on the news had turned her sitting room into a restaurant, you can read about her here.  I think this is a great idea, if I was younger I may have had a go myself but could only fit six in my dining room!  I don't hold dinner parties anymore, it's hard work and I'm not up to it.

When I visited Nita's blog it reminded me that I've been meaning to mention my favourite books. Nita also runs this stitching swap blog that I'm a member of.  Anyway, I read a lot, I can easily get through six books a month and I only read in bed and I'm not in bed a lot.  My current favourites are Michael Connelly and Robert Crais.  Michael Connelly writes about a police detective named Harry Bosch and Robert Crais about a private detective called Elvis Cole.  They both write books with other characters too.  I can reread their books over and over again, I have to do this because I can't afford to keep buying books each time I finish one.  Also, I'm very particular about what makes a good story.  When I was a lot younger I would read anything and I read some very boring books, the sort of books that would win prizes I can find are particularly boring.  I like books that gets on with the story and have good characters that you can actually see in your minds eye.  I did of course enjoy books by Dickens etc, writers from that time who gave a good insight into their era.  When the French Lieutenant's Woman was made into a film and everyone raved about it I was totally puzzled - it was an amazingly boring book,  I'd read it years before it was made into a film.  I went through a sci-fi phase in the 1960/70s and a fantasy phase in the 1980s but now it's detective stories I enjoy.  Oh, I did go through a Catherine Cookson phase too. One writer who is off my reading list now is Dean Koontz, I used to really enjoy his stories but in recent years he has tended to 'wax lyrical' and too many words that don't add to the story are a waste of my time.  Same with Stephen King - I've gone right off him.  Because I'm up to date with all the Connelly and Crais books I had to find a new author, I could list all the authors I've read but it's too many.  So, I thought I'd try Jeffery Deaver 's Broken Window.  I enjoyed it and it wasn't until I was about half way through that I realised he was the author of The Bone Collector.  When I was in the Age Concern charity shop the other day I found two Jeffery Deaver books so I'm set for a couple of weeks - I hope!  I only used to buy books as a treat when I was going on holiday, they used to be so expensive, but now I can afford to buy them from places like Asda  or Sainsbury's where they price them reasonably.  Our local library is quite small and I stopped going there years ago, I probably read most of the books they stock and there seemed to be a lot of the classic books I'd already read as a teenager.

Well, that was a bit of a ramble wasn't it - I had to get it out of my system though!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

More Cupcakes

We got home yesterday after spending ten days in Norfolk, we had beautiful weather and enjoyed the break at the seaside.  While I was there I visited a little craft village at Taverham.  At a shop called The Kitchenary I bought some bigger piping nozzles for my attempts at decorating cupcakes.  Above is my latest trial.  This time I tried the Rolo Cupcakes from here .  I made the cakes from the recipe on the afore mentioned blog but used the butter cream recipe from the latest Sainsbury's magazine because I wanted to try a butter cream icing that had cream cheese in it and it worked out very nice.  The Rolo Cupcakes themselves were a bit disappointing, this is probably my fault not the original blogger's.  The problem I had was that the Rolo melted through and stuck to the bottom of the paper case so there was no Rolo in the middle.  Also, the cake itself was a bit dry, it wasn't as fluffy as the cake in my last recipe.  I know that adding coco tends to do this to the cake mix.  Overall it was a very tasty cupcake, I think I'm being a bit too fussy.  My decorating looks a bit better too but I think this is down to the flakes of chocolate hiding the untidy bits.