Friday, 26 August 2011

Fruit Picking

Up until recently, fruit picking was one of those things that I never really thought I'd get to do while I lived in London, just something that other people, who lived in the countryside got to do and that I'd probably never get a chance to do. Until I found Parkside Farm, its local, its easy to get to, and it was voted best PYO Farm 2011. We went last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, and on Friday I got to go again. Luckily the weather was gorgeous, and we spent a good couple of hours picking.

I picked a huge amount of strawberries because I wanted to make jam - some for us and some for gifts - I'm thinking ahead to that 'C' word! We also picked a smaller amount of raspberries, sweet corn and runner beans which have all been eaten and were delicious.

It took three batches in my largest pot to make about eleven jars of jam. I'd say the last batch made was the best, because jam making really is something that takes a lot of practice to master. Not that I am in any way a 'master' but I think I got my timings better with the third batch.

I bought a set of IKEA spice jars ages ago thinking that they would make great sized gift jars for jam, and they worked really well. They are cute, but not stupidly small, and you can get a nice amount in the jar too. I covered the tops with red gingham to match the Bonne Maman jars I used for the rest of the jam. There is just something so lovely about the Bonne Maman jars, there is no way you can throw them away is there? They are just too nice!

I used my ever handy Cath Kidston labels to pretty up the jars and have also labeled them with the batch number so I know which ones are from the best batches- just have to decide whether to give those ones away or to keep them for us! Is that bad of me?
I also filled the little china jam jar with the remaining jam for us to use straight away and have popped it in the fridge. The last little bowl of strawberries got eaten but I thought they looked so cute in this tiny rose pyrex dish I almost didn't want to eat them!

A couple of jars have already been pinched as you can see, but I have a nice little stash to share out...

Or maybe just eat all by myself!

I see a Victoria Sponge on the horizon!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Rose Quilt

Over a year and a half ago, I started this quilt. I chose the fabrics, cut out all the pieces and sewed the quilt top all in one day. Then I went out and bought the wadding needed to turn it into a quilt. I had the backing fabric chosen. All I needed to do was put it together. Sadly that took me a heck of a long time.

Last week I dug it out, laid it all on the floor and sewed it up like a mad woman. Mad because I seemed to have this feeling that I needed to really rush through it and get it done, because I wanted it finished! Just like the bunting that I finished, I also managed to complete this in an afternoon, so I can't understand why I put it off for soooo long. Luckily I still liked it (you know sometimes how you end up hating things that you put off?) and I am so pleased its finished.

Its a mix of Tanya Whelan and Ikea Rosali fabrics, and it has a proper layout (unlike my first and second quilts) and it looks like it was actually planned rather than thrown together. I backed it in the same rosali fabric as its so pretty and I also have the bedspread to match if I want to go completely over the top with it! The way I quilted it was different to before in that I sewed the front and back of the quilt together on three sides, turned it the right way round and then placed the wadding in the middle - kind of like putting a duvet cover on really, and oh my goodness how simple it made the quilting No layers sliding about, no need for hundreds of safety pins, just easy, fast quilting. Also, no need to use that fiddly bias binding - hooray!

Its not perfect, but its finished, and I'm naming this one 
The Rose Quilt

If it hadn't been for my blog, or the incredibly inspiring people I've "met" online I would have never have thought I could have made something like this. To make a quilt from scratch and see it sitting on my bed makes me very happy and I am in awe at some of the incredibly complex quilting that so many people do. I know mine is simple, but I hope that it will be one of those things that will stay in the family and be treasured for years to come. The confidence I have in myself to be able to do these things all comes from being a part of this wonderful online community of lovely people who inspire me daily.

Sorry to sound gushy, but I just thought about it, and realised that I am really grateful to every one that comments and reads my blog, and lucky to have such brilliant blogs to follow and keep me inspired!

Talking of inspired...its almost as if these beauties were meant to be in the same room don't you think?

P.S I am now on Pinterest and totally hooked, are you on it? If so you can find me here.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Blueberry and Lime Drizzle

I really love baking at home, especially cakes and sweet things, but there is a bit of a problem when it comes to blogging about it which is that I don't make the most attractive looking cakes. Meaning that I very rarely make cupcakes, brownies or anything like that, and I almost never ice a cake. I think I just don't like making icing, I've had a lot of icing fails before, so I tend to chose things like victoria sponge, or chocolate marble cake, or cakes with fruit in them, as there is no need to ice!

But this is one of my favourite cakes to eat, and it is kinda pretty, so I thought I'd share the recipe here for you to try should you wish to do so :)

Blueberry and Lime Drizzle Cake


225g softened butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
250g self raising flour
grate zest and juice of 2 limes
25g ground almonds
150g blueberries (raspberries also work well, or a mix of the two)

For the drizzle:
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
140g icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (if using a fan oven)
Line a 20cm square cake tin (or a 20cm round tin with deep sides) with baking paper.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar, then beat in eggs and add the flour. 
Zest the two limes and add to the cake mix. 
Juice the limes, but only add 4 tablespoons of the juice to the cake mix and leave the rest for the drizzle. 
Add the ground almonds to the cake mix, and finally fold in 2/3rds of the blueberries. 
Pour the mix into the tin and smooth the top with a spoon or spatula. 
Sprinkle the remaining fruit over the cake and place in the oven for 45 mins. 
After 45 mins check the cake with a skewer, and if it needs longer, cover the cake with foil and cook for another 10 mins until it is firm.

While the cake is cooking prepare the drizzle. 
Zest and juice the last lime and place in a small saucepan with the saved juice from the other two limes.
Add 140g of icing sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear. 

Once your cake is out of the oven, leave it in the tin and pierce all over with a cake skewer/knife/toothpick and then pour the drizzle over the top. 
Leave the cake to cool in the tin before removing.

Display your cake proudly and enjoy a hefty slice with a cuppa "just to check" its safe for consumption!

If you are a fan of lemon drizzles and fruity cakes I think you'll enjoy this, it has a subtle zing without being too sharp, and the blueberries add colour and sweetness too. 
If you do make it I'd love to know, and to see it.
P.S the cake tin size is a bit of a pain, but I think these would also work well as muffins too.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Flying My Flags

It seems like absolutely ages ago I started making some bunting for myself, I cut out the flags and then left them sitting unloved in my sewing bag for weeks, then I managed to find the time to sew the flags together. Then the double sided flags made their way back into the bag awaiting some binding.

So a few weeks ago, I decided I should just go and buy some binding and get it finished. I went for pink binding - of course - and found a spare hour to sew my flags onto the binding. Once it was done I couldn't believe how long I had dragged it our for, I mean just a simple string of bunting for myself, but for some reason I hadn't found the motivation to finish it. Don't you just hate that? When you've started a project and then it falls by the wayside. And it feels so good to actually complete something, to hold it in your hands, use it and display it as it was intended.

I knew I wanted to hang this along by my bed, so I chose colours that would go with my bedding (were talking floral here people!) the other day I had a little fiddle around with it, and I think it looks really pretty. I've used some of my favourite (and most precious) Tanya Whelan fabrics as I know I'll get to look at them and appreciate them everyday. I think it looks quite cute - what do you think?

I'm just glad I managed to finish it and get it on the wall. This is also one of the few sewing projects I've done lately, I just don't have that crazy sewing mojo I used to have, but I am enjoying making things on a smaller scale for myself and I am sure I will also be making for Christmas. I have seen something online which has really inspired me to sew again, so I am looking forward to starting a new project soon.

Do you have a project that you just can't seem to finish?
Maybe I should start a club for people with unfinished projects! I bet there is a lot of us.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Weekly Treats

After my blogging the other week about how I never think to buy any flowers for indoors, and after some of you very cleverly suggested I add them to the weekly shop, I treated myself to a little bunch of pink carnations. I do love the look and smell of fresh flowers at home, but flowers can be pretty expensive, and there is zero chance of getting flowers from the BF. I received a bunch from him once, very early on when we got together, and not a single stem since!

Whats the best way to hint ladies? Any tips for getting flowers without asking!?
Anyway, for £1.50 I went with the carnations and I must say it is lovely walking home clutching a little bunch of flowers, something to pretty up my room.

I popped them in my little blue jug and onto my bedside table. They have made me ridiculously happy this week, and I would say a worthwhile investment, and they have lasted well too. I once read a tip about something you put in the water that helps the flowers last....can't for the life of me think of what it was though, something odd like lemonade or vinegar. Does anyone know?

So that was my weekly treat to myself. I was also given the treat of reviewing some teatowels from who stock a huge range of them, in a massive aray of styles. Personally I was drawn to the retro style ones rather than the modern ones, but there is something for everyone!

Because of my love of tea I chose this 'Tea Revives You' red and white one, which I just love. Its really bold and the saying is so nostalgic. The other one I chose was a Tunnock's Teacake wrapper print, which I chose, surprisingly enough because I also love these! I must just say thank you to Al, who runs the business for letting me chose these lovely teatowels.

Tea and a Teacake!
So the review, well I gave them a wash after taking these photos as I think they dry better once washed, and they have come out absolutely fine, no colour running or fading, and I have used them in the kitchen for drying up and they are doing a great job!

What treats have you had this week?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Happy Days

Things that are making me happy today::

Eating yummy fruity snacks and enjoying a very "cool" book...
(nectarines and kiwis - a perfect match)

Organising my recipe folder...and faffing with pretty things...
(who doesn't love playing with china?)

Reading The Hummingbird Bakery book and spotting this colour match...
(I really must make some of these brownies too)

Admiring them as they grow...
(and trying to keep them strong)

Taking some time to do some pampering in the bathroom...
(Soap and Glory products are my absolute favourite)

Summer fruits in a bowl...
(having them in a Utility China bowl makes it even better)

Finding this beautiful vintage style bottle for £1.00...
(reduced in the BHS sale with lots of other lovelies)

Being in the sunshine and enjoying every minute of it...
(and figuring out how to actually wear this crochet waistcoat thing)

Snuggling with this little cheeky!
(this is what he does all day long, when he's not playing outside)

What is making you happy today?
(I'd love to know)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A Date With The Beach

If you've been reading my blog for a while you might have read about my trip to Norfolk in April, which was lovely, and I have since had a longing to go back. Luckily for me, I managed to hop on a train with a friend last week to go and stay in the same lovely house as before, but this time we were with the owner, which meant we were off to the beach!

This is her gorgeous beach hut, which I posted about before, and which makes life soooo much easier if you are by the sea. Chairs, tables, blankets (if it gets a little chilly), kettle and just about everything you need can be stored in here!

Although it doesn't look particularly hot in these photos, believe me it was boiling the day we spent at the beach - I got sunburnt - silly Gem!

Inside the beach hut....

Enjoying the sun and reading some magazines...

This is Sheringham beach, which is really lovely when the tide is out, I wasn't quite up for swimming though, but I should have paddled at least.

We enjoyed a lovely al fresco lunch - ahem and some chilled rose.

I picked up a little souvenir to take home with me ::

A print of an old train poster. I really love the old fashioned imagery and am so pleased I got it.
Next time I really must stay longer, its sooo lovely in Norfolk.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Making Rocky Road

I was thinking to myself the other day that it was probably about time for me to do some baking, seeing as it is in my header at the top of this page, and claims to be one of the things my blog is about. So to ease myself in gently...I've not baked at home for months - shocking I know, but I was getting too cake happy what with the cakes I bring home from work too, so I stopped.
But I have some time off at the moment, and I decided to make some Rocky Road squares yesterday. 

I don't put raisins or cherries (or any dried fruit for that matter) as we have fussy people living here who just wont eat them, and then it'll mean that I have to eat them all, and that is just not good for the waistline - good for the tummy though!

So my ingredients consist of some smashed up digestive biscuits - just broken up roughly, some mini marshmallows (because look how cute they are - how could you resist!?) and some maltesers, which is an idea that I stole from Vanessa at Coco Rose Diaries (thanks Vanessa!)

I just line a shallow baking tin and then chuck it all in, although you probably are not supposed to do it quite like this, I was being lazy though, and it worked just fine...

Personally I would have loved some raisins thrown in, but selflessly thinking of others, I left them out.

Then comes the chocolate, which is a mix of milk chocolate, unsalted butter and a few squirts of golden syrup melted down together. I scattered some extra marshmallows and maltesers over the top just to make it look pretty.

Popped them in the fridge for a couple of hours, whilst I happily decanted some of my smaller baking ingredients into these little Bonne Maman jars, you know the type - chocolate chips, fudge chunks and mini marshmallows!

Slice, and enjoy a square with a nice big mug of hot tea. 


Little crunchy, chewy, fudgy squares of loveliness!

P.S: What do you put in your Rocky Roads? Anything I should try?