Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Hearts and thread

Can you guess what I've been getting up to? Here's another clue...

Surely you've guess by now? No? Well let me have a little ta-dah moment then!!! I present to you the hearts needlepoint!

I've never tried my hand at this craft before but was inspired to give it a go after reading one of Attic24's posts a while back. Not sure what I'll do with it though, maybe frame it? But I'm not sure what type of frame would 'show it off' the most... any suggestions welcome!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Blackberry party

Last weekend was another rather successful weekend in terms of berry picking: we managed to pick 1.6kg of blackberries! I kid you not!!! After picking lots the previous weekend, I just couldn't resist - their fragance is simply exquisite!!! And Boyfriend had found an interesting recipe which he was dying to try out: blackberry brandy. So here it goes! Take 1kg of blackberries (clean of course!) and place in a large glass container (I used a demijohn found in Wilkinson's):

Add 500g of caster sugar,

Add 1L of brandy (not the cheap stuff, the aim is to drink this!),

And there you go! Easy peasy!!!

Finish off by giving it a good swirl.

The plan is to give it a good swirl every few days to start with, then once every two weeks I think. Might have to put it in my diary to make sure I don't forget! Also have to store it in a cool dry place. And hopefully, fingers crossed, it'll taste really nice and we'll be able to bottle it in small bottles and give some out at Christmas! [I reckon we could add another litre of brandy in there, there's plenty of fruit to flavour more so we just need to get some more at the supermarket - so if you try this, get 2 litres to start with].

You might be right to point out that we collected 1.6kg, not 1kg as used in the above concoction. Well rest assured I put the rest to good use! I'm planning to make a blackberry and apple crumble later on in the week (with apples found at the weekend too!),

but even better, some I made some blackberry icecream on Sunday night!! I don't have an icecream maker because there's simply not enough space in the kitchen, but I've managed fine without it to be honest. I've got a fool proof recipe that works everytime:

  1. whisk some double cream (a large pot of 600ml is good) until you get soft peaks

  2. add in a couple of heaped tablespoons of icing sugar (add more later if it's not sweet enough - remember, it should almost taste too sweet at this point, as it will taste less so once frozen)

  3. mix in whatever it is you fancy (mashed bananas, some chocolate chips and fudge pieces, blackberries in my case this time)

  4. put in a tupperware in the freezer, mash with a fork after an hour and then again an hour later

  5. enjoy the next day and try not to eat the whole thing at once!!!

Happy Tuesday all! xx

Monday, 28 September 2009


was back for a few days last weekend. I hope you had as nice weather as we did, it was simply amazing! We definitely made the most of it: 4hours and 13km of walking!!! Needless to say, we were knackered at the end of it! But it definitely was worth it, we saw the most amazing landscapes, and I squeeled numerous times at the most amazing flowers. In this case, a picture definitely speaks a thousand words, so please, enjoy the view:

And now for the most gorgeous looking flowers...

So, what do you reckon hey? Not bad I reckon!!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Friday food!!!

It's Friday!! Woop woop!!!! I hope you've had a good week and have exciting plans for the weekend. Or even exciting plans to do NOTHING at the weekend. That can be very enjoyable too!! I'm not sure yet what I'll be getting up to. Boyfriend is off to see some friends so I'll have the place to myself for a bit. I might try making some of this bread by Domestic Goddess in Training  because it looks really tasty.

Talking about food, I've been meaning to tell you about what I made last weekend. Why it was that I was soooooo busy!! But I obviously got distracted during the week - anyhow! Well a couple of years ago, Boyfriend's mum gave me a wonderful book for Christmas: Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible. It is so beautiful to look at, I thing I might have been slightly put off by it because of that reason. It just looked so perfect, I didn't feel I could achieve any of it. But I changed my mind recently and decided it was about time I tried some of the recipes in there. So last week, I went through the whole book and stuck post it notes on recipes that should be given a go. I think I picked some of the easiest ones, or at least some which take the least amount of time/ effort to get ready. You have to start somewhere!!! So anyway, as we had a whole chicken in the freezer, I decided to make a whole roast chicken curry. And boy was it good. I feel so proud of it, it was utterly delicious. DE-LI-CIOUS. I'm not joking. You have to try this!!!! I mean look at it, doesn't this make you want to???

It certainly makes me want to do it all over again! All there was to it was making a sauce to marinate the chicken in. That was made up of lemon juice, tamarind paste, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, chopped chilli (I used some of our home grown habaneros to give it a good kick), some ground coriander, ground cumin, a pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I put it all in a pestle and mortar, gave it a good bashing and spread it on the skinned whole chicken (yes you have to remove the skin, not exactly the most pleasant thing to do but oh so worth it - and make large slits in the breast and thighs). Wrap it in foil, leave to marinate for 30min, then put in the oven at 200 degrees C for an hour, after which you need to open the foil and baste the chicken with the juices. Close the foil and put it back in the oven for another 20-30min (depending on the size of your chicken). It comes out really wonderful, and so very moist! Yum!

To accompany the chicken, I cooked some plain basmati rice and a veg dish. The veg dish was tweeked to fit what I had: potatoes, mushrooms and frozen peas. It turned out delicious as well, even if I do say so myself! I pretty much followed another recipe from the book, and discovered this amazing spice: asafoetida. Has anyone else heard of this before? It was really interesting, and definitely gave an oniony taste to the dish. This was really simple to get ready as well. Basically start off by heating up some oil in a frying pan. When hot add cumin seeds and some asafoetida, followed by your potatoes cut in cubes. Brown off the potatoes, add the frozen peas and mushroom, barely cover with water, mix everything and bring to a boil. Turn the temperate down, cover with a lid/ foil and leave to cook for 15min. After that time, take the lid/ foil off and cook for a further 10min until the water has evaporated. Five minutes before the end, add some chopped fresh tomatoes and dried curry leaves if you have any. So there. I seem to have written lots about this, but honestly, it was easy. Try it, you won't be disappointed!

And now to leave you with something sweet for the weekend! I made little chocolate cookies for Boyfriend's family last weekend. I used a Nigella recipe but instead of making 12 (she is so greedy!!!!), I made about 20 bitesize ones, and I still had about 2 thirds of the dough left over. So it's now in the freezer, waiting to cheer us up on a cold day!

Sorry about the photo, I forgot to take one when the box was actually full! Have a nice weekend all!!! xx

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Kitchen therapy - and a bit of knitting of course

Tuesday was a really boring day in the office. So I decided to cheer myself up and have a fantastic evening. Not that I don't usually have pleasant evenings, but you know how it is sometimes, you get home from work, potter around for a bit, make dinner, eat dinner, prepare next day's lunches and before you know it, it's time to go to bed. [You may have noticed washing up is not part of my routine, not because I've delegated this task onto Boyfriend (not anymore!) but because after a year and a half, we have finally started using our dishwasher - oh my goodness - we are in love with it!]. Anyway, I digress! In order to have more of a pleasant evening, I decided to skip the gym. This really isn't a good idea at the moment seeing that all my clothes have shrunk in the wash (wink wink), but honestly I just couldn't face it. So I indulged in an evening of kitchen therapy. I carefully washed my blackberries and made two lovely things out of them:

1/ blackberry crumble - also added a chopped apple in there and the juice of an orange, and added flaked almonds to my topping - what can I say - heaven in a bowl!

2/ blackberry and apple leather - I mentionned this a couple of days ago and you might be intrigued (or not!) to find out what they are. Well let me lift the cloud of mystery! This is what it looks like:

And it couldn't be easier to make. I found this recipe in an old Waitrose Food magazine. You need 500g blackberries, 400g roughly chopped apples and 200g caster sugar. Put it all in a large saucepan with 100ml of water, cover and cook on a medium heat for 5min. Then uncover and simmer for 10min until the apples have collapsed. Let cool for 10min. Put in blender and blitz until it's a thick mush. Put the mixture through a sieve to get rid of all the pips/ apple skins etc. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and divide the mixture between the two. Make sure it doesn't reach the edges of the trays. Put in an oven overnight at 75degrees C. The next day, cut in strips, roll the strips, sprinkle a little icing sugar to prevent them sticking to each other and store in an airtight jar. Can't tell you how long they last for, but the recipe did say they freeze very well too.

So my evening was pretty amazing by then. Pottering around in the kitchen is an activity I very much enjoy. The next part didn't involve standing in the kitchen but it did involve making Boyfriend happy. And that is even better. What I did was finish a little knitted 'pillow' cover I started a few months ago. I got fed up with it and put it aside until last weekend, when I found it while tidying up my yarn stash. Did any of you watch this programme that was shown on the BBC earlier on in the year about growing your own drugs? Well if you did, you might remember the presenter's solution for people who have trouble sleeping: mixing dried hops and lavender in a bag. Apparently the smell of hops sends you to sleep, and the lavender is relaxing (and stops the bedroom smelling of real ale!). So there we went, got some hops from the internet and lavender from our local farm.

And I started to make a nice little cover for the pillow. But it took me for-e-ver to make the back and I got bored. Bored. How terrible. So last weekend, I decided enough was enough, and on Monday evening, I finished the front of the cover whilst attending my local knitting group. I can now reveal the hop and lavender pillow!!!! Ta-dah!!!!

It's far from perfect, but I'm so glad I've finally finished it, and I think it looks kinda cute ;-) xx

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Indoor sunshine

If you came here last week, you would have seen these. They are still going strong!!! I think they are absolutely amazing  and I am still mesmerised by them. Hope you don't mind seeing them again ;-)

I've also got some of these at the moment, Boyfriend's sister gave them to me at the weekend when they came over and they are so lovely!!! Sorry about the light in this photo, I took in on Sunday evening! But you still get the idea, they are lovely!

And finally these. Again, if you've been reading my blog for a bit, you'll remember my lavender frenzy. Well I've still got some of the little bouquets I'd made and here's one I've got on the window sill in our bedroom. It was in the vase the white flowers are now in (anyone know what they're called by the way??) but I had to use that for the flowers, so I moved the lavender into a kilner jar. And I love it!! It looks a little rustic, I hope you like it too!

Now, onto the second part of my indoor sunshine - it's not all about flowers you see! It's about.... wait for it.... a hand towel! I know this may sound odd but who doesn't like flowers and a bit of knitting hey?!

After reading Fancy Elastic's post about a knitted hand towel, I knew I had to have one. Now I know it's not the first time I get inspiration from Fancy Elastic, but I thought it was such a clever thing. I have that problem too with tea towels slipping off the oven handles, and I thought it would be perfect! I also found a similar project on Ravelry with different colours and completely fell in love with it. So there, here it is.

Do you like it? I think it's really cute! And made with 100% organic cotton! I'm planning on making another two, one slighly darker in the same kind of shade, and another white. It could make a nice present too, but it does take a little bit of time to make, and I'm trying to get on track for Christmas presents (sorry, I've mentionned it again!!!) so it might have to wait for a bit.
Anyway, come back tomorrow and I'll show you what I did with my blackberries! Have a nice day! xx

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Lavender pouches part 2

It's been a while since I've posted about knitted things, but I hope you like what I've managed to do, and to be fair, there's more coming! I just didn't want to show you things before they were properly finished, not while they were pinned to a towel being blocked! So I have been busy, I just haven't got round to getting things ready - just - right - ;-)

I managed to finish some lavender pouches. Here they are. The first one was a 'test' really, but a friend of mine came over to stay and she loved it so much I decided to give it to her and put her initial on the front. It was done in stockinette by alternating a size 3 needle and a size 6, which gives it a slight lacy apperance. You can vaguely see this on the photo.

The second one was done for Boyfriend. As I was giving the purple one to my friend, he started saying he doesn't get any knitted things. So I knit this one for his car and it smells so nice!!! I did it by alternating one row knit, one row with the following pattern: k1, *yfwd, k2tog* repeat until last stitch, k1.

The third one I made for my mum. Last time she came over I showed here photos of these. She liked them very much and said she'd quite like one for herself. Her only request was that it should be in pink. So there I went, bought some nice pink yarn and made it for her. I'll give it to her in a little Christmas hamper. I haven't filled it with lavender yet though, as otherwise it would loose some of its beautiful fragance. This one was done by repeating the following pattern: k1, *yo, p2tog* until the last stitch, k1. I like the end result, do you? I hope she does!

And thanks for the suggestion I've had for the blackberries. I've actually come up with a few ideas myself, and I can't wait to find a minute or two to get things started! First, there will have to be a blackberry crumble - it's a must isn't it? Second, there will be blackberry and apple leather strips - now you'll just have to wait and see what those are! And finally, there will be blackberry brandy - oh yes, another Chrismas treat is one its way!!!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Weekend walk

Hello!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a weekend hey?? I don't know about you but mine was crazy!!! I did so much stuff it's unbelievable, and to be honest, I did so much I don't mind too much being back in the office this morning. I know. Cra-zy!!! lol

First of all, have a look at the views we saw from our little walk yesterday afternoon. Boyfriend's family came over for Sunday lunch (we went out to a local 'gastropub') and after they left, we both decided we needed a bit of fresh air before the start of another week. We're extremely lucky with where we live, close to London, but in the countryside too. And I wouldn't change that for the world. I absolutely love being so close to nature. Even though I've always lived in a town, I've been privileged to always be quite close to fields, so I guess that's just in me. And as I've grown older, I enjoy 'the simple things in life' more and more, and walking through fields is definitely one of them. So please, have a cup of tea, and enjoy the view.

So, what do you reckon? Not bad hey? And guess what, we weren't just going for a bit of fresh air. I was determined to pick some of these little beauties. And goodness, we weren't disappointed!!!

We filled up the tupperware I'd brought with us. Ooooh, I'm thinking blackberry and apple crumble!!! Maybe even blackberry icecream? Can you think of anything else? I don't fancy making any jam to be honest, I've done plenty of that already this year, but please, any suggestiongs welcome! x

Friday, 18 September 2009


I'm totally with Jo on this - photos aren't always required for a post - well I say that because I have none to show :-( I blame it on the rubbish weather, this fast approaching dark and windy winter which means that when I get up it's still dark, and by the time I get home, unless I pounce on the camera and take photos of whatever it is that I want, the light is gone before I know it. So that means I have to be super organised at the weekend, think about what I'd like to write about during the following week and take photos in advance. Yeah right, like that's going to happen!

Anyway, so here it is, today, there won't be any photos. I'm sorry! Don't have much news to be honest, apart from that I wanted to tell you that I shall soon be revealing little knitting projects I've been working on. Some are finished, others are nearly there. So come back this weekend, hopefully I'll remember to sort out this out tomorrow! xx

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Baking frenzy

Well not exactly a frenzy, but the oven got well used last weekend! If you’re here after reading yesterday’s post, thank you for coming back! Let me share a couple of recipes with you. The first one is fool proof, and won’t disappoint. Easy peasy. It’s pizza dough. I found it a few years ago, unfortunately I can’t remember where from, but it’s absolutely brilliant. You’ll never buy a ready made mix packet again. The list of ingredients may be a little long, but don’t be put off, you just end up mixing it all together in a bowl, there’s nothing more to it! So here we go:

  • 650g 00 flour (this is very fine flour, I’ve found it in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose in the past, so it shouldn’t be hard to come by)
  • a 7g packet of dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 50ml of warm milk
  • 325ml of warm water

Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil, milk and water and mix thoroughly until you get a soft dough. This shouldn’t take too long (5 minutes). Try to make a kneading action as you mix. Form into a nice ball in your bowl, cover with cling film for about 1.5-2hours until doubled in size. You can then tear off the amount you need and freeze the rest.

When I made it on Sunday, I divided it into four. This makes four generous sized pizzas to feed two hungry people each. When you need a batch that’s frozen, just take it out of the freezer the night before and leave out until you need it (it’ll be easier to roll out if it’s slightly warm). I’m afraid I don’t have any photos for this though, it was just too yummy and I wasn’t quick enough with the camera! We had it with tomato paste spread as a base, followed by slices of fresh tomatoes, smoked mozzarella (first time I’d had this – it’s AMAZING!!!) and mushrooms, with a drizzle of olive oil, a good sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper and some torn basil leaves. Yum-my!!!!

The other thing I baked was a version of this, a banana, white chocolate and raspberry cake. At first I was a little taken aback by Maria’s recipe, as it uses cups, which I am not familiar with. But I worked around it, and here’s what I used in good old grams:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 110g soft butter
  • 110g brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 200g raspberries
  • small bag of white chocolate chips (2 handfuls should do)

Preheat oven to 170˚C and line a loaf tin with baking parchment. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat well. Add the bananas and milk and mix. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mix. Mix in the raspberries and chocolate chips. Pour the mix into the tin. Bake for about 1hour and 10min, or until a skewer comes out clean.

I thought this turned out lovely! Using up raspberries from the pick your own that I’d frozen was really nice too! I guess this might be nice with blackberries too, or whatever else you’ve got at the moment! xx

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Match made in heaven

Good Tuesday everyone! I managed to do quite a bit of cooking at the weekend (feeling low does not stop me from enjoying spending time in the kitchen - unfortunately for my waistline!), and I thought I should share it with you! Yesterday’s post was long enough, I though it was best if I saved some news for today. First of all, let me show you the last batch of cherry plum jam I made a couple of weeks ago. Not sure why I didn’t end up writing about it earlier, but I just didn’t get round to it, you know how that just happens sometimes don’t you. Well anyway, here it is! Went from this:

to this!

This did involve butchering my fingers (I wanted to get the stones out), 3 hours of hard labour and 4.5kg of fruit ready for action. But it was all worth it in the end. The thought that this jam was made with local fruit that grows around the corner from where I live, that I didn’t have to pay a penny for it, that I picked it myself (with the invaluable help of Boyfriend on that sunny Sunday morning with a stool to reach the higher branches – thanks again!), just fills me with joy! I thought these would make cute additions to some Christmas hampers too perhaps. I know I know, I mentioned the C word!!! Please forgive me, but I guess I’m one of these people who gets very excited by it all. I’ve done more C work and research, but I’ll save that for another day ;-)

So back to my weekend delicacies! Farls. Irish soda farls. A weekday breakfast without them is a sad one. There are sooooo yummy, you just won’t believe me until you try it. To be fair, it might not be to everyone’s taste, but I need energy in the morning. I have breakfast at 6.20am, do a fair bit of walking to get to work, and don’t have lunch until 12.00pm, so I need something that’s going to stop me from snacking all morning. And boy does this work. Have them cut in half, toasted, with some jam, and it’s a heavenly start to any day. I promise!

So here’s the recipe. It couldn’t be easier - though it is a little messy, but I’m getting better and better at containing the mess everytime!

  • buttermilk – the tub I get from Sainsbury’s is 284ml
  • 300g flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of baking soda

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the buttermilk. Mix until you get a soft dough (about 5min or so). Leave the dough to rest for about 10min. Knead very lightly on a well floured surface (and I mean WELL floured – add more flour if you feel you need to, otherwise it does get very sticky). Form into a flattened circle with your hands, about 1-1.5cm thick and cut in 5 sections.

Sprinkle a little flour in a frying pan, put it on medium heat. When it’s hot, add the farls (you may have to do this in 2 batches depending on the size of your pan, as you don’t want them touching each other) for about 6min on each side, until they’re nice and golden brown. Store in a Tupperware for up to a week (they may last longer, mine just never get to last more than that!).

Come back tomorrow to see what else I got up to! xx

Monday, 14 September 2009

Little crisis, the Ippolyts trail and Victorian classrooms

Good morning all! So, how was your weekend? A little less emotional than mine I hope! I won't go into details, I don't think it'll really interest anyone, but had a little crisis this weekend. Realised that even though I have a good job, a lovely flat and an amazing boyfriend, I wasn't happy. Now maybe that's exaggerating a little (the not being happy bit), but I guess the fact that my birthday is coming up gave me the shivers a bit. 25. That's half way to 50. I'm closer to 30 than to the day I passed my baccalaureate. Now there's a scary thought. So I guess that got me a little depressed. Or just worried. Was I doing the right thing, living in the right place, working in the right job etc etc. You get the idea. I'm a little over it now, thanks to Boyfriend who was wonderful and helped work things out. But I still reckon I need to do some more thinking. I'm sure you've all had times like these, how exactly do you deal with it? Do you tell yourself you're doing the right thing and just carry on, or do you throw everything away and try something new?

Anyway, onto lighter and happier thoughts! For the first time in my life (there's a first time to everything right?) I bought some sunflowers. Not any sunflowers though. Look at these babies, aren't they ABSOLUTELY gorgeous???!!!

Everytime I look at them, it feels like they're staring back at me, sending me a little bit of sunshine. I love them.

I could honestly spend an hour just looking at them. They make me happy. Alright alright, after reading the start of my blog you're probably thinking, well they didn't make you happy this weekend did they?! and you'd be right, well at least only on Saturday. Yesterday, they made me smile. And hopefully, they're making you smile now as well.

Moving on. This weekend was Heritage Open Days in Hitchin, the little town where I live. We missed it last year because we were on holiday, so this time around, we thought we'd make the most of it. What happens is some venues around town and in the surrounding villages are open to the public for free. Some you'd usually have to pay for, others are actually closed to the general public. So it felt like a privilege to be able to have a look around the Biggin for example. What a stunning building. We decided we should go have a wonder around St Ippolyts church as well, which dates back to 1087. Yes you read correcly, that's the 11th century. Instead of driving there though, we got our walking boots on and walked there. It was truly lovely. I got told off for getting a little snappy-happy again with the macro feature of the camera, but I'm sure you'll appreciate ;-)

I'm looking forward to coming back to these fields either this weekend or the following, there are so many elderberries and blackberries waiting to be picked! More jam parties for me then!!!

Anyway, before I go, I want to show you a few more photos. I know this post is getting a bit long, but bear with me, it'll be worth it! We had a look around the British Schools Museum on Sunday, and my goodness, the place is full of treasures. They have a variety of objects used by schoolchildren during Victorian times and a history of the school. It was truly fascinating. If you're interested in that sort of thing, I recommend you go have a look yourself. We even had a go at writing with a dip pen and played the penny game. So here are a few snaps, I hope you enjoy them!

Happy Monday to all! x