Monday, 9 December 2013

Christmas in Colour

There is no escaping the fact, Christmas really is only two weeks and two days away, and personally I can't wait :)

I love the build up and preparations that go along with Christmas and thoroughly enjoy getting the house to feel more and more festive as the big day comes closer. This has been especially true since having Little T, as Christmas is just so exciting when seen through the eyes of a child, reminding you of what really makes this time of the year special.

Last Christmas was a slightly stressed and rushed affair with us making the big move from London to the countryside, and I didn't have much time to make too big a deal of the decorations. This year though is a whole different story :) This year I want Christmas to be as bright, colourful and happy as possible, and so I got started nice and early on some lovely Granny Twinkle stars to hang around the house.

These starts have their own bit of magic. They start out all curled into themselves, looking like fallen leaves. Then with the help of a few pins, a can of Spray Starch and a bit of patience, they become happy, pointy little stars!

I made eighteen in total, each a different colour and have hung them, along with some tiny, shiny baubles, on the shelves in our living room. I have to admit that I am very much in love with this slightly quirky garland.

I also wanted to add some colour to my rather traditional red and white Christmas tree decorations. I bought some more colourful baubles, but I had bigger plans than that.

With inspiration from blogland, I made a few big eyed owls and jewel coloured birds to hang in the branches of our tree.

The pattern for this little guy and his other owly friends can be found on the lovely blog Hopscotchlane and they are an absolute joy to make.

The little birdies are my interpretation of Lucy's, filled with toy stuffing and they make me and Little T smile every time we look at our tree.

I have a few more colourful ideas floating around in my head, but more on that on a later date :) First, I have to go bake some of my Festive Cookies!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Cookbook Challenge - Week 2

I had every intention of doing this post on Wednesday and every Wednesday until I had gone though all of my books, but as always my topsy-turvy life does not allow for such rigidity. So here it is a couple of days late, but like the old adage goes, "rather late then never" :)

This week I want to share with you one of the prettiest cookbooks that I own, Miss Dahl's voluptuous delights. A few years back the BBC aired The Delicious Miss Dahl and I was captivated by this gorgeous cooking show from the very first minute. When the show came to an end after just six delightful episodes, I just had to rush out and get the accompanying cookbook.

This book just oozes with Sophie's charm and femininity and is a real feast for the eyes.

The entire book is filled with pretty designs, stunning photos and equally delightful writing from Sophie herself.

I just love to read about her past life, working as a model and living in New York, her memories of her grandfather, Roald Dahl and some cheeky little stories about lovers :) I can easily get lost in this book for hours.

The book is separated into seasons, starting off in Autumn and working its way wonderfully through Winter, Spring and Summer. Each season is then divided into recipes for breakfast, lunch and supper.

With no disrespect to Miss Dahl, the recipes are quite simple and perhaps more suited to someone who is relatively new to cooking, but it comes across loud and clear that she loves good food and eating healthily.

Yesterday I just knew that I was going to have one of "those days", where you hit the ground running and don't stop until well after your child's bedtime. I also knew that I was most likely not going to have time for lunch and therefore decided that a big breakfast was certainly called for. I therefore turned to Miss Dahl's book for some inspiration and settled on one of her scrambled egg recipes, the very saucily named Coquette's eggs.

Once again I went a little bit off-piste and made a few changes of my own. Instead of roasted peppers, I used fresh, purely to save time. I also rarely have feta cheese in my house, but I always have cheddar and double Gloucester, and this sufficed perfectly.

I fried the peppers in some olive oil on a very high heat to scorch them slightly and give them that smoky flavour of roasted peppers.

The trick to these soft and creamy scrambled eggs are to whisk your eggs with just a tiny splash of milk until they are nice and frothy and then to turn the heat right down on your pan so that they cook very slowly.

When the eggs are just set, you haphazardly throw your little cubes of cheese into the mix so that they can go all soft and gooey, but still slightly hold their shape.

These eggs went wonderfully with some hash browns and Polish style baked beans and gave me all the fuel I needed to take on my crazy day :)

PS: After speaking to some of my friends, both on-line and in the flesh, it became clear that I am not the only one who doesn't make full use of my cookbooks. I would therefore love for anyone who feels inspired by my posts to join in with this challenge and cook from their cookbooks with me. I simply ask that you blog about your experiences in the last half of the week and link back to my blog in your post. Please also remember to post a link to your blog in the comments below :) Happy Cooking Everyone!!!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Cookbook Challenge

In my house is a little bookshelf that holds one of my most treasured collections...

My cookbooks :)

Perhaps not the most extensive collection of cooking volumes, but I love each and every one of these inspirational books. I find great joy in paging through the glossy pictures and reading the little stories that sometimes go with the recipes. I also love adding to this ever growing collection and can very often be found in the cookery section of my favourite charity bookshop.

It must therefore come as a bit of a surprise when I reveal that I hardly ever use these books for their intended purpose, that is to cook from them. I am much too much of a rebel and inventor in the kitchen to be told what to do by a recipe :) I do sometimes feel slightly guilty about this though...

That is why I have decided to set a challenge for myself. I will choose one cookbook a week and cook a dish from that book. That way each and every one of my beloved books will get its very own fifteen minutes of glory and spotlight time!

To kick off the challenge I chose the River Cottage Veg Everyday book, for the simple reason that I had most of the ingredients for one of the recipes in the house :)

This is a lovely book and one I look through quite often. I just love the pictures and the cute way in which they used veggies to make prints.

There are some truly wonderful recipes in this book.

The one I chose for my challenge was this butternut squash stew.

I had every intention of following the recipe to the word, but realised within minutes that this was not going to happen! I didn't have enough butternut in the house and had to add in some sweet potato to make up the difference.

I also decided on a whim that I was going to oven roast these veggies before adding them to the stew. I personally think that you get the best flavour from vegetables by covering them in glistening olive oil, adding a few little cubes of butter and roasting them in a hot oven.

I also used a red onion in favour of the required brown one, as I much prefer the sweet and mild flavour that it brings to the stew.

The end result was not too dissimilar to Hugh's own, and I was very happy that I had more or less achieved my goal.

The proof was in the eating though, and I am very pleased to report that it was clean plates all around :) That's a win in my book!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

What a Beautiful Day

On Wednesday we were lured outside by gorgeous blue skies and the desire to go and discover another lovely walk in the National Forest. We got on our way quite early in the day to make sure we got as many sunshine hours as possible and I took my camera along to snap a few pictures of this stunning day. Here are a few of my favourites...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

One for Me, One for You

It feels like someone, somewhere has hit the switch to turn on the cold weather. All of a sudden the days are terribly short and the sun seems to really struggle to get high in the sky. Without warning I have had to swap my light waterproof jacket for a warm woollen coat and I find myself wanting to spend more time indoors than out. Winter is well and truly here and having some of my favourite home-made chocolate treats, Tiffin slice, is becoming a must!

It is not all bad news though, as I have also taken all of my blankets out of their boxes for us to snuggle under. It makes me so happy to see all of their happy colours spread around the house, and to wrap myself in the soft woolliness of them when the evenings draw in and the cold nips at my toes. Little T is also slowly starting to come round to liking blankets. He has never really liked being covered with anything while he sleeps and still prefers to have just a light cover over him, but he does like to play with the blankets very much.

I love my blankets a little bit too much to have them dragged along the floor, have toy cars driving along their stripes and sticky hands grabbing at them all day. This is why I decided to make Little T his very own blankie. I still had a fair amount of yarn left over from our big rainbow blanket and just got a few more balls of darker colours from my local yarn shop to fill in the gaps.

I went with a granny stripe as it is so quick to make, requires very little concentration or counting and feels like the perfect blanket for a toddler to play on. I also did a bit of interlocking colour work to make it that little bit more bright and colourful.

As always, the border was the hardest part for me. After quite some frustration and several failed attempts, I finally worked up something that I am very happy with :)

While I am on the subject of putting left over yarn to good use, I thought I will finally share my little owl bag with you. While my mum was here, I asked her to help me make a tote bag from some of the great unbleached cotton fabric I had found in a local haberdashery. With her being an expert at using a sewing machine, it was a matter of minutes to finish the bag itself. Next came the fun bit...

Using the left over cotton yarn from the African Flower blanket, I crocheted first one, then a second little owl to decorate the bag. I didn't use any particular pattern, I just made it up as I went along, and if I may say so myself, I am quite proud of these two little guys :)

I made some of Lucy's little hearts to give them a place to perch, sewing them on with cute little wooden buttons and added the final flourish of colour by crocheting some stripy straps and attaching them with big, bold buttons.

I do love this bag for being so cute and for the fact that I made it with my mum, but knowing that it used up all of the little scraps of yarn that I just didn't have the heart to throw away, makes me love this bag even more. It is a very happy bag, perfect for keeping those Winter Blues at bay :)