Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Cards, Cake and Knitting

Yesterday I made some cards again.  Using the papers I blogged about here and some inspiration from here, I stitched some cards...

It was fun doing them on the machine, and it made an interesting change from just sticking papers onto card!  I didn't have matching envelopes for every card- some in my stash were too large to go with anything, so I cut them down to size and them stitched them on my machine too, which made for a nice 'set'.

All three of my new knitting projects are underway, and though I shan't reveal them all now, I shall mention one of them- the one I am using my lovely knitpicks yarn that I mentioned in my last post.  I am doing the beautiful "Charlotte Dress" by Nicole Montgomery.  I am enjoying working in the round on my circular needles, and at the moment, because the skirt of the pattern is pretty simple, it's easy to pick up and put down when I have a moment or two.

The only frustrating thing about knitting with this lovely yarn is that it comes wound up in a skein, which then is rather messy when you're working with it (see first pic above).  Does anyone have any tips for keeping this neat? Do any of you bother to wind it up into a ball as I am slightly tempted to do?

Lastly today, I have made a yummy chocolate cake for a craft evening tonight...

Mmm. Can I wait for tonight?!

How are you this week? 

C x

Sunday, 26 June 2011

A finished project and a day out.

I finished the garter stitch cardigan on Friday.  I'm pleased with the result.

I think P looks rather gorgeous in it too...

It was a nice easy pattern using only garter stitch, and with one row of decreasing (making the eyelets for the ribbon to go through).  I used King Cole DK Smooth.  It is lovely to knit with, and although it's actually acrylic, it feels really light, and quite like bamboo.

Yesterday we had a trip to the Zoo with Husband, Small Ones, and Grandparents.  It was a lot of fun.  E was absolutely captivated by a little train which drove around the site, and paid it far more attention than he did the Lions, Zebras and Giraffes!

Al's parents bought a fabulous picnic, and during lunch time we (I say 'we', I really mean 'they'!) attempted a cryptic crossword.
It was an overcast and windy day, but kind of perfect for an outdoor day, as no one was worrying about trying to keep little ones out of the sun etc. - very different from the scorching heat of today! (Talking of that, does anyone have any tips for keeping a very grumpy baby cool in the heat? She does NOT want to go to sleep tonight!).

What a lovely way to spend a Saturday.

To finish, I'll give you a sneak peak of what wonders arrived in the post for me this week... Any guesses on the projects I am now starting?!

Have a lovely week.

C x

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Clafoutis and Yarn.

Last week I was given a bag of fresh rhubarb and coriander (not mixed!).  I don't often eat rhubarb, and am rather ambivalent about it in crumble, so I decided to make clafoutis.  We had a delicious one of these when visiting some friends in France last year, and I've quite fancied the idea of making it since.

It's essentially a sweet batter, with a spiced cooked rhubarb filling.  It's delicious, and we thoroughly enjoyed eating it!
I enjoyed using the coriander too, and made a lovely lime and coconut chicken, and a carrot and coriander soup.  Thanks Nadine!

I've not blogged much about yarn recently.  I have been knitting, but things are getting made less quickly at the moment with two little ones taking up lots of time! BUT- I have renewed vigour and am steaming ahead, as I have some lovely things lined up to make.
I am almost at the end of a Debbie Bliss garter stitch cardi for P, and I have three new projects I am about to start... EXCITING!
I'll give you a sneak peak of the cardi, but I'll save most of the info on this for when I have completed it.

I'll finish with a couple of shots, nothing to do with cooking or crafts in the least, but everything to do with what most of my time is currently spent on...

Goodnight friends!

C x

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A bit thrifty

I was inspired by reading a friend's interesting post today on Food Waste, and how it is a really serious issue, and it got me thinking again about how much I waste...  I try not to, but with life being pretty busy, and with two rather time-consuming little ones to watch, I start off with good intentions and then get lazy.

Today I resolved again to work on cutting the amount that we waste, both to be more environmentally friendly, and to help the old bank balance.

So, we had a dinner comprised of lots of bits and bobs that needed eating up... Some delicious carrot and coriander soup (carrots were not going to last much longer, and a friend had a surplus of coriander in her garden!) to which I added more potato than in the recipe to make it go a little further.  Some bread (made using our wonderful bread maker) and butter, and some cous cous salad, using lots of odds and ends of salad vegetables that we had in the fridge.  This was topped off with a lovely rice pudding (not using anything up per se, but a delicious and very thrifty pud!).

To follow in this vein, I then made some breadcrumbs from some stale bread that was lying around... (into the freezer, and then I'm nice and organised for macaroni cheese)

And had another go at jam making with the left over strawberries from our PYO session on Saturday.  Again, I think it was a success... Thanks Delia!

On a non food-related note, I had a bit of mending to do for a friend.  She had a couple of bags that needed a spot of sewing.  One was a doddle- just a strap that needed machining back into the bag.  The other was less easy to figure out what to do with- the very pretty fabric had totally worn away and been ripped in places, leaving only the lining visible.  I wasn't so sure how to fix this without it looking like a very obvious patch-up job, but a suggestion from a friend was that I just add a panel to the bottom in a heavy-wearing fabric.  This worked very well, and I used an old pair of jeans that have been in the fabric stash for a while.

How very satisfying!
Any thrifty/ food saving ideas/recipes to add to the mix?

Happy Friday everyone (nearly!)

C x

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


On Saturday, we had one of those wonderfully serendipitous days where we ended up doing some very lovely things.  We started off at a church hall in a nearby village, watching some electric trains whizz around mini tracks (not, until recently, my idea of fun for a Weekend morning, BUT, the look of sheer animation and joy on E's face made the whole thing a delight!), and on our way home, found ourselves driving past a sign for P.Y.O...The same look of animation now lit up my husband's face!

I'd not been to a Pick Your Own farm for years, and it was the perfect day for it on Saturday-  warm and sunny.  Glancing around the fields full of fruit and vegetables, you could forget that you were in rural Oxfordshire, and imagine for a moment that you were in Italy somewhere!

We spent a delightful half hour picking strawberries and peas, where E discovered the joy of eating fresh peas straight from the pod.  On our way to pay, I couldn't resist some freshly grown asparagus and a pot of mint either.

Strawberries aside, what would you make with these ingredients? I'll tell you next post what I decided on, but I'd love to have some other ideas...

I hope your week is going very well.  I might just jam the last of these strawberries, as I'm itching to give jam-making a go again...

C x

P.S. can I just say, nothing beats the taste of freshly picked strawberries! Wimbledon, eat your heart out!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Dad's Marmalade.

I made some marmalade yesterday. And it worked- really well.  Hooray!  For Christmas my Grandparents gave me a preserving pan, and earlier on in the year I had a go at making some jam with some left over cherries we had.  But I used a recipe for plum jam, and just figured I'd adapt it.  NO. Bad idea.  It turns out you need extra pectin for cherry jam.  Suffice to say it was a disaster!

But, that was not the case with my marmalade.
My Mum has raved about some marmalade my Dad made recently (Dad is a bit of an amazing Jam maker, but does not use recipes!) so I called him up and asked him for his recipe, which he explained to me, with lots of additions here and there.

I started the process of making it, and then checked something on line, which was a bit of a mistake, as I then saw that all of the other recipes for marmalade had lots of water in them (4 odd pints!) whereas my Dad's recipe had none.  This seemed like quite a discrepancy, so I called and checked- was he really sure there was no water added?!  Nope.  Apparently no water!  So then I agonised.  Should I go with his recipe, and ignore all of the on-line wisdom, or should I just follow a recipe carefully?  I very nearly went with the latter, but then thought "It's pretty rude (not to mention pointless) to have called up someone, asked for their recipe, and then totally disregarded it!" so I went with Dad's recipe.  And it was amazing!

Here is the recipe:

1 kg Jam Sugar
1 kg Oranges and one lemon

Remove the zest from the oranges and lemon- either with a knife, and then slice the peel, or with a zester (I did the latter, as we have a zester which produces nice little slivers of peel!). Place peel into boiling water and boil for 5-10 mins to soften.  Strain and set aside.
Then remove the pith and disregard (when Dad said this I did find myself making the terrible joke "are you taking the pith?"- I know, I am so ashamed!).
Cut the remaining bits of oranges and lemon into chunks (I did quarters) and liquidise, and then pour the mixture into a sieve over a preserving pan, and push the pureed fruit into the pan.  Disregard the stringy bits that are left in the sieve*
Add the jam sugar to the orange juice/puree mix in the pan, as well as the bits of zest, and bring to the boil.  Once the boil is rolling (where the mixture is twice its original volume) keep it at that temperature for 4 minutes (It's super-fast to make- I think the jam-sugar massively speeds up the process, but I don't really know!)
After that, take it off the heat, and place a teaspoon full of it on a cold plate (I popped one in the freezer for 5 mins before hand).  Once it has cooled, it should be a good 'marmalade-y' texture... at this point I realise that I'm not sure what you should do if it isn't a good texture, as mine was...!
Pour/ladle the mixture into some pre-sterilized jam jars and allow to cool.
Voila. Wonderful marmalade!

*This was the only place I deviated from Dad's instructions- he put the big chunks of fruit into the pan and mashed them down with a potato masher, and then removed the chunks at the end after the boiling.  I just figured this way would be a bit neater!

This morning we enjoyed home-made marmalade on home-made bread for breakfast. Delicious!

The moral of my story? Trust Dad. Particularly when it comes to jam making!

Hope your weekend is lovely.

C x

Friday, 10 June 2011

Cupcakes, a craft project, and a rather delicious pasta sauce!

I'm currently enjoying one of those rather delicious moments, when both children are happily asleep.  These don't always come along every day, so I am making the most of it- as soon as I finish this post I shall busy myself with one of a few craft projects I have up my sleeve (more on those another day...!)

Yesterday I had a friend round for tea and cake, and in the morning I sat down and realised that I didn't actually have any home made cake to offer, so, nothing like a spot of baking to ease one into the day!  I thought it might be nice to do some with my son, but he wasn't terribly interested, though he did keep me company by drawing trains at the kitchen table.

I am trying to make my way through lots of new recipes at the moment (any good ones, please send my way!) and this one, for Carrot and Raisin Cupcakes is from Annabel Karmel's book on Finger food (which has other, very tasty recipes).  It is pretty easy, and the icing is a delicious maple syrup one.  However, as far as I'm concerned, a good carrot cake has to have a cream cheese filling, so I made half of both!  Some were decorated with pecan nuts, but others (for the non nut-eaters!) had some little wafer flowers that I happened upon in our local shop.

I did say that E wasn't particularly interested in helping with the cakes. That is, until it came to eating them....

Next up. I've been quieter on the blog on the crafting front, but do have a few ongoing projects. I'll not say much about it now, as I will give it a post of its own when I am finished, but here's what's going on in my knitting world...

And recently I made a delicious pasta dish (again a Jamie O!).  This time it was Spaghetti alla Trapanese.  It's amazing.  You use lots of fresh ingredients, and it's essentially a bit of a home made pesto and some. You can find the recipe here, and it's a fabulous summer meal.  I don't like raw tomatoes, so I cook the whole thing for a few minutes on the stove, just to take the edge off the acidity, but you obviously don't have to.  It's a great way to use up lots of fresh basil, and is lovely if you don't whizz it up too much, so the nuts are still quite crunchy!  It's well worth a try!

Right. They are still both sleeping, so on with some crafts!

Have a lovely weekend, friends.


Thursday, 9 June 2011


I am a bit of a hoarder if I'm honest.  Particularly when it comes to craft items.  I'm always of the opinion that things might just come in useful for a craft project one of these days.

The other evening I sat down to do some card making, as I'd run my stash right down, and do always like to give hand made cards if possible.  I had some old books with some nice prints and pictures in, and had been meaning for ages to actually cut them out and make use of them.  There are some real treasures- look at some of these...

Gorgeous eh?
So. I had a lovely relaxing time making some new cards, and now have a replenished supply.

I also had some photos I'd taken a while back that I thought would also make nice cards.  Most of them were taken in Cornwall, one of my favourite places, and I love the brooding clouds in some of them.

Very satisfying.
I got given some beautiful flowers today.  Does anyone know what they are called? They look a bit like pink poppies. I love them.

So.  What do you hoard?

Have a relaxing evening.

C x