Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Happy Endings

This last week has been a crazy, manic, busy and most off all productive week. After many weeks of stressful house hunting, we have finally found a place to call our new home! We are still waiting on a few administrative things to be finalised, but we are hopeful that we will be on the move just after Christmas. Relieved doesn't even begin to explain how I feel at the moment :)

I also realised with a jolt that there are very few days left until Christmas and although we have started packing up our flat, we have put up our Christmas tree. It seemed a bit silly at the time, but seeing Little T's face of pure wonderment and joy when we switched on the lights made it all worth it.

I haven't done nearly as much Christmas baking as I would have liked to though, but I fully intent to rectify that in my few spare minutes this week. I have a wonderfully spiced, citrus cake in mind for our Christmas Eve dinner...

To top off this amazing week, I managed to finish my Giant Granny Square blanket!! Using seventeen different colours of yarn, I did fifty-nine rounds of treble clusters to make a blanket big enough for all three of us to snuggle under. I had a bit of trouble choosing a border for my blanket, but in the end I just did what felt right. A few rounds of double crochet in two of my favourite colours and it's all rounded off with a gentle scallop in a girly pink (for me).

It was a very poignant moment when I finished this project as it made me realise that many things are now coming to an end for our family. Not only is it nearly the end of another year, but it's also nearly the end of my time being at home with Little T, the end of P's long employ at the wonderfully crazy workshop and of course it's the end of our time here in London! As scary as all of these things might be, we are looking forward to a New Year full of new experiences and adventures, and at least we're getting a good night's sleep under our new lovely blanket :)
I am sure to be very busy over the next few weeks and most likely won't have time to blog. So I will wish you all a very happy Christmas now, I hope that you will spend this Festive Season with the ones you love, eating plenty of good food :)
I will be back in the New Year, with plenty of stories to tell!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Back to Baking

For a little while there I had completely lost my baking mojo. I just couldn't find the inspiration or desire to bake anything and found myself buying chocolate bars and packets of biscuits for those moments we wanted something sweet. It didn't feel right though and I knew that I had to do something to get myself back into the baking spirit.

Luckily I got to spend a few wonderful hours walking around Covent Garden with a friend last week and we immersed ourselves in all things Christmas. The smells of mulled wine, gingerbread and chocolate wafted towards us from all of the beautifully decorated stalls and by the time I got home I was feeling very festive indeed. With my senses still buzzing from all of the Christmassy goodness, I headed straight to my kitchen to see if I could create my own bit of Festive cheer.

Dried cranberries always feel festive to me, and I immediately knew that I wanted to use some of these ruby red jewels to bake some cookies. There obviously had to be some chocolate involved too, and I had the perfect swirled choc-chips waiting in my cupboard still left over from my trip to Canada.
After a very joyful hour of mixing, scooping and baking I had the pleasure of eating a still slightly warm, gooey, scrumptious cookie. No store bought biscuit can hold a candle against that! Oh how happy I was to be baking again :) 

Festive Cheer Cookies
  • 175g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 175g rolled oats
  • 100g dried sweetened cranberries
  • 100g mixed choc chips (milk and white)

Preheat the oven to 180 °C/350 °F/Gas 4. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer (or using held held beaters), cream together the butter and sugar and pale and fluffy.
Add the vanilla to the butter mixture and then beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth.
Slowly beat in the flour, mixing well and then add the oats, cranberries and chocolate chips, making sure everything is evenly distributed.
Use a small ice-cream scoop to spoon the mixture onto the baking sheets and flatten the cookies slightly using a fork.
Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes until they are lightly golden brown and starting to crisp around the edges.
Leave the cookies to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Of course, they are simply delicious eaten still a little bit warm.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Baby It's Cold Outside

Winter has most definitely arrived. We are once again greeted every morning by a pale and frosty world, trees bare of all their leaves and a watery sun trying it's best to brighten up the short days. It's not all bad though, we have been blessed with a few sunny, though very cold days over the past week and I managed to take Little T to the park on just such a day.

He was very happy to run around the playground, still wet from the melted ice and in spite of the biting cold, we were both really enjoying being out of the house for a while.

When the weather turns cold, I always start craving citrus fruits. Bags of clementines, oranges, grapefruits and lemons regularly fill my shopping basket and make up most of our snacks at the moment.

They can make any winters day bearable with their brightly coloured, richly scented peels and their wonderfully juicy segmented insides. Whether I'm eating slices of fresh clementine or a slice of lemon and lime drizzle cake, they are all my perfect winter's treat.

I haven't just been eating though, I have also been making most of the long nights by adding to my colourful blanket. It has grown quite satisfactorily over the past few weeks and is already doing its job in keeping us warm. It's very nearly big enough to cover the entire sofa and therefore the entire family. I am just not ready to stop working on it yet. A few more colours should do the trick though and then the all important border will keep me going for another short while.

Right now I am off to the warmth of my kitchen to make a pan full of lemony risotto for dinner that is sure to keep us cosy and warm on this cold and frosty night :)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Stress Busting

There are some major changes coming for this little family of three in the next month or so and as a result we're all a little bit stressed out at the moment. House-hunting, job-hunting and finding childcare is taking up nearly all of my time and has left me with very little energy to do much else. Quick and easy dinners fill out tummies most nights, hardly any sweet treats have come out of my oven and blogging once again went out the window.

I also took a brake from my crochet projecst and didn't pick up a hook for nearly a week. I tried to keep going with my mini hexagons, but found them too fiddly and frustrating for my current state of mind and they have ended up in a box under the bed until further notice. Sorry fellow Tuesday Tallies folks! Happily my fingers did start to itch for yarn and hook again after a short while and I dug out all of my left over balls of Double Knit. The pile of happy colours did what it always does and immediately brought a smile to my face.

I jumped in without too much thought and started with a granny square and just kept going. The mindless, repetative pattern of treble clusters was exactly what I needed to relax my mind and is the perfect stress buster. Picking a new colour to join in after each round requires nothing more than a snap decision and my blanket is growing at a very happy pace.


We still have a crazy month or two ahead of us, with too much to do in too little time, but I'll keep my bag of yarn within close reach for when it all gets too much.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

TV Shows and Tuesdays

I must admit that I am somewhat of a television addict and do spend many hours watching cooking shows. I have several shows that I will not miss for anything in the world and I (im)patiently wait for them to grace my screen every year. One of these shows is the Great British Bake Off and I tuned in every Tuesday night for my weekly fix since it started back in September. Each episode would fill my head with recipes and ideas to go and recreate and yet by the time the next episode came on, I hadn’t gotten round to making anything. By the time I had watched the final, cheered as the winner was announced and started to feel the void left by Sue, Mel, Mary, Paul and all of the bakers I still hadn’t baked a single thing from the show. Surely this had to be rectified straight away.


The one cake that had caught my attention more than any other over the weeks was Mary Berry’s Fraisier Cake. It was so beautiful and elegant and looked absolutely divine. I simply had to make it, or rather my version of it. I had to take into account that the strawberries available to me were less than appetising, that my fridge offers only very limited space and most of all that I have a toddler seeking my full attention most of the day. This meant that I used the much better looking and tasting raspberries that I found, made only half the amount of crème patisserie stated in the recipe and then to finish it all in Little T’s nap time, made a straight forward processor sponge cake, skipped the “line a cake tin with acetate” stage and completely forgot to put the marzipan disk on top. I know that this cake would not have been received well by any judge on any baking show, but then that’s the beauty of baking at home. At least I baked something rather than just watching others doing it and all three of us really enjoyed eating it, so that’s got to count for something :)

Having sated my need for baking, I felt more than happy to go back to watching some more of my favourite shows. I do however have to keep my hands busy at all times, and have therefore started to crochet these gorgeous little hexagons from the leftover yarn of my ripple blanket. I’m still not sure what it will grow into, but I’m thinking it will make a great Tuesday Tallies One a Day Project.


I will let you know next Tuesday if I have decided what this is going to be and if I have made any progress with. Right now though Little T wants to build a Lego house, I have a sink full of washing up to do and my one and only surviving pot plant really needs a bit of water!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Sisters and other lovely things

No need to worry folks, I haven't disappeared from the blogging world again, I just went to visit my sister in Canada for a couple of weeks :) My sister and I both moved out of our parents' home and onto different continents over a decade ago and since then have spent hardly any time together again. We have seen each other every now and again, but it was always just for a few days or sometimes even just a few hours and there was always something going on that made it almost impossible for us to really catch up. So a real, proper visit was well and truly overdue.

Little T and I arrived bleary eyed and jet-lagged to the colour spectacular that is Autumn in Canada and started to take in the all of the houses covered in siding, the front gardens decorated for Halloween and the enormous lakes everywhere. It really is a lovely place to behold.

Lucky for us it was Thanksgiving weekend and as my sister also has a passion for good food and cooking, I got to eat a golden roasted turkey with all of the trimmings, covered in freshly made cranberry sauce. Of course there was no other way to finish this beautiful meal than with a slice of home baked pumpkin pie. What a wonderful welcome it was!

A very typical way for families to spend an October Sunday in Nova Scotia is to go pumpkin and apple picking on the nearby farms. Wanting to make sure that we got the full Canadian experience, we all jumped in the car and drove down to the quaint and gorgeous Annapolis Valley to do just this. Despite the day being really rather chilly, Little T and his cousins had an absolute blast, running from one bright orange pumpkin to the next, trying to find the biggest one in the patch. The tractor ride into the apple orchard was undoubtedly Little T's favourite part, he smiled from ear to ear as we bumped over tree roots and ducked to avoid apple laden branches on the way.

We did a fair bit of sightseeing over the two weeks, visiting small little towns dotted along the coast, admiring the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the rocks at the bottom of a red and white lighthouse and walking along the docks of Halifax harbour. I got to go to some of my favourite shops and bought some of my favourite things including several bags of candy melts, Hershey's choc chips, Reeces peanut butter cups and even a Crochet Dude hook. If only airlines didn't have a limited baggage allowance...
The best part of the entire trip for me was definitely spending lots of quality time with my sister, reminiscing about the good old times, sharing new stories and getting to know each other all over again. Here's hoping that we don't have to wait another decade to do it again!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Wooly Ice-Cream Ripple

October is my favourite month of the year. It means that the leaves are putting on their colourful display, that there are pumpkins galore in all of the green grocers, that both my nephew and I will celebrate our birthdays, that I can start wearing all of my lovely warm scarfs and that I can snuggle under blankets any time of the day.

After finding the softest, loveliest Wendy Sorrento yarn on sale in one of my local yarns stores, I quickly convinced myself that I really needed another blanket to welcome in October. As I nearly ran home with my bag of squishy balls of wool, my mind was already working overtime thinking of what type of blanket I wanted to make. The colours reminded me of the gorgeous displays in the Gelato shops in Italy and as I have been itching to make of Lucy's neat ripples, I knew what I wanted to do.

Working with this yarn was an absolute dream and the ripple pattern had a certain addictive rhythm that meant that I worked on this blanket every available moment I had. Before I knew it, I was nearly finished.

This pattern works such a perfect, straight edge on the sides with a lovely wavey edge at the top and bottom, that I didn't feel that it needed anything else added to it to finish it off. It's perfect just the way it is.

Making this blanket has been the perfect way to start my favourite month and snuggling under it has become Little T and my favourite thing to do.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Humble Crumble

You might think I'm a bit funny, but there are few things in life that I find as soothing and relaxing as rubbing butter into flour :) When I have too many things on my mind and the weather is getting me down, making a crumble is the best therapy for me. With the rain forcing us to stay inside for a second day in a row, big changes looming in our not so distant future and missing my dad like crazy on his birthday, today is definitely a crumble making day.

The summer glut of berries and soft fruits is slowly disapearing and being replaced by plums, apples and pears, all perfect crumble fruits. Spice these up with a spoonful of cinnamon and you're onto a winner.

Sift your flour, add the little cubes of soft butter and start rubbing your worries away. The best thing about making a crumble is that you can prepare the topping whenever you feel like it and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to bake. I'll be popping mine into the oven around dinner time, ready to eat while its still slightly warm and covered in plenty of creamy custard. Therapy session over :)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Rambling Rambles

One of our favourite things to do on a sunny day is to go for a ramble through the gorgeous country side. This weekend we explored part of the Chiltern Way and what a wonderful day it was.

Along the way we met some friendly cows...

...visited an old church...

... passed through plenty of kissing gates...

... came across a man-eating hedge...

and had a spot of lunch on the banks of the Thames

They say the best things in life are free and after this happy, relaxing family day spent in the fresh air, I can certainly agree :)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Seasons with my Granny

Unbelievably we are heading into the second week of September already! It still feels like middle of July to me, especially as we enjoyed a wonderful week of sunny, hot, summery days here in London. As much as I would like to stay ignorant to the true date on the calender, there are unavoidable clues to the approaching Autumn all around me. Chestnuts lying on the ground, brown and orange leaves peeking through the green, the sun setting before Little T has gone to bed and a definite desire to curl up under a blanket when I settle on the sofa in the evening. Luckily I have now finished the perfect blanket for just this purpose.

Over the past few weeks I have been turning my basket full of Rico Creative Cotton yarns into happy, multi-coloured granny squares for my sofa throw. Its just big enough for one, its just warm enough for a chilly evening and its just so lovely and soft. As you can tell, I love it :)

All credit goes to the lovely Lucy of Attic24 for the inspiration, the great tutorial on the join-as-you-go method and the introduction to this gorgeous yarn.

Armed with this square of bright colours, I am now ready to face the reality of Autumn being well and truly with us and I can smile at the prospect of many an evening spent snuggled under it :)

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Gone Away

The last weekend of August is always a bank holiday weekend here in the UK and in many ways it signals the end of the summer for me. The days are noticeably getting shorter, the evenings are getting chillier and the the next bank holiday will be Christmas!! Wanting to make the most of this long weekend we decided to take Little T to visit his grandparents in Poland.

They have been enjoying a really hot and lovely summer on the continent this year and we were hoping to have a few days in the sun. But as luck would have it, it rained most of the time we were there. We didn't let this dampened our spirits and on Saturday we headed to a little mountain town to visit a very hilly animal park. We marvelled at their birds of prey display and demonstrations, fed the billy goats and deer and ate a lot of ice cream. The sun even made an appearance every once in a while.

It was lovely to see P relax and rest for a few days and to have a bit of a break myself while my mum-in-law did all of the cooking and most of the running after Little T. Ultimately though, the best part of this trip was seeing Little T being doted on by his grandparents and the pure joy in their eyes every time they could give him a hug. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the end of summer and now we look forward to other visits to come.

Monday, 20 August 2012


I don't own an alarm clock any more as I can be guaranteed to be woken up by either Little T or P before I am quite ready to get out of bed, most days. But early on Saturday morning I was delighted to find myself being woken up instead by brilliant sunlight, finding both toddler and husband still in dreamland beside me. I took my chance and very quietly got up, got dressed, grabbed my camera and sneaked out the door for a rare bit of "me-time".

 This time of the day holds a certain magic for me, the nearly empty streets, the quiet yet teeming with life surrounding woods, the birds singing their morning songs. I savoured it all as I walked around, taking pictures, the sun rising higher in the sky and everybody starting their day. It truly was a little bit of indulgence.

When I got home, P had already dressed and fed Little T, ready to go to the local park and playground while I got to go and spend an hour at the hairdressers, getting pampered and beautified. Another rare indulgence for me:)

By lunch time, we were all happy to be back together and headed to our favourite pub's beer garden for some cool and delicious refreshments. We spent a wonderfully enjoyable afternoon sitting in the sunshine, while Little T happily played with his cars on the grass, and every so often wandered off to chase a passing dandelion seed. This was turning out to be a very indulgent day indeed and what better way to end it than to bake a truly indulgent cake...

 Nigella Lawson is the queen of indulgence and this very easy, very delicious cake was the very obvious choice. Ready in no time, I topped it with swirls of butter-cream icing and a heap blackberries and we wasted no time before we tucked in. The smile on my face still hasn't completely faded away :)