Sunday, 12 January 2014

OOoooooo cake!!

Well , it's a slow flowing Sunday in our home today and  I've finished my chores for the day ( well for now anyway ! ) . There's a beef stew slowly cooking   in the oven ( stew and dumplings for tea , yum yum ) and a coffee and walnut cake sat next to it in the oven ( I must remember to check on it ! ) . In fact my whole weekend has been at a steady pace , which I have thoroughly enjoyed . I'm now sat on the sofa the open fire is crackling and I have my lap top on my knee .

My first working week of the new year has been a good one , I'm pacing myself and taking time to enjoy other things in my life , I've spent quality time with my children and Mr P . and I've especially enjoyed being at home too . I love our little house and I have been doing lots of pottering and baking , I had been getting very grumpy about how neglected the house had started looking before my Christmas break . But I am now back in my happy place where our home is concerned  . I now feel it is back to giving me a big warm and welcoming hug when I walk through the door , where as before Christmas I felt the house just stared at me when I  came through the door saying  " Oh it's you is it  !! " . I truly feel my house has a personality and it let's me know when it's not happy . This weekend I've been moving bits of furniture and bit's and pieces we have , I do like to change things around seasonally to create different looks in the house . So I've taken a little table from our bedroom to put in the bay window in our living room as I've been wanting somewhere that plants and flowers can be sat in the very limited day light we have . This idea had sprung into my head from  a plan for a flower arrangement I had hatched very early Saturday morning .  Whilst stood at the sink washing up the breakfast pots on Saturday morning and looking at my humble back yard dreaming of spring and summer planting projects . I spotted two little pots of Tete-a-tete's from last year( Inever throw them away when they have finished flowering but usually plant the bulbs so they flower in the garden the folowing year , but these I had left in pots ) that I had kept in a sheltered position and they had sprung back into life . Bing !! a flash of an idea  started whirling around my head . The thing is , I do love fresh flowers in my house , who doesn't ? But particularly in cash strapped January there isn't much money for such things . This idea I had was going to create a floral feature in our home for spring with no cost , a result I like !!

First job was I needed a container to put the arrangement in and after dithering over several options I decided on one of my vintage glass cake stands ( actually I think it is a Bon Bon dish ) anyway , I also needed some moss . I've done spring buld arrangements before with dried florists moss but I had none to hand but I knew where I could get some fresh moss, my front garden wall !! Out I went collecting moss from our wall and there was plenty to harvest .
So I had all the things I needed and set too . Firstly I arranged the bulds into the glass container.
                                        Then I started to cover the bulbs and soil with the moss.

               Here's the final result , I am really pleased with the arrangement and it didn't cost a penny !!

I am really looking forward to them flowering !
I am also looking forward to changing the look of my little table with the seasons . However I do think I could do with some stems of Pussy Willow for the galvanised jug , but I will have to see if this weeks budget can stretch to it !
I have also got back into spending time baking which is good , as I have said before I do use it to relax and de-stress . In the last week the family have put  their requests in and they have all enjoyed ........................
 home made Lemon curd .Which I then used to make some delicious, melt in the mouth Lemon curd cookies ( as well as some Cherry jam ones too as the eldest isn't keen on Lemon curd ) .

Here's the recipe if you fancy giving the Lemon Curd Cookies a go .
1 Cup  ( 230 g ) unsalted butter , softened to room temperature .
2/3 cup (134 g ) granulated sugar .
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract .
1/2 teaspoon Almond extract .
2 cups + 2 tbsp ( 264 g) All purpose flour ( Plain flour ) .
Lemon Curd ( or a jam of your own preference ) .
 1 cup (12 g ) of Icing Sugar .
1 tbsp ( 15 g ) cream or milk .
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla or Almond extract .

Instructions :
: Firstly beat the butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy .
: Then add the sugar and beat together .
: Then add the Vanilla and almond extract and beat into the mixture .
: Then gradually add the flour to this rather wet mixture until you have used up all the flour and have a mixture that has formed into a dough .
: Then wrap your cookie dough in cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 & 1/2 hours .
: While the dough is chilling prepare a baking sheet or two if you have them with baking parchment .
: Your Oven will need to be up to temperature @ 180 degrees C (350 degrees F ). Don't have your oven really hot as these cookies will burn .
: Once the cookie dough is chilled take it out of the fridge .
: Divide your mixture into approx 24 equal amounts and roll into small balls .
: Place some of them onto your baking sheet with plenty of space in between each cookies as they do spread . I only put between 6 to 8 on my baking sheets , so it does take a few batches of baking to cook them all .
: Make a small indentation in the centre of each cookie ball using one of you fingers . Then fill this indentation with the Lemon curd ( or any other jam you fancy ) , I roughly used about 1/2 teaspoon and was careful not to over fill the indentation . Try not to flatten the ball of dough too much as they will spread and flatten in the heat of the oven .
:Bake for between 12-14 minute and just as they start to go golden on the edges take them out of the oven and leave to start cooling on the tray . Once they have solidified enough transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling off . Repeat this process with the remaining cookies .
: While they are cooling make the glaze , mix the dry and wet ingredients together.  If the consistency is too stiff to drizzle add a few drops of water a drop at a time until you have a good consistency for drizzling .
: Once the cookies are cold and on the rack get a fork and use it to drizzle the glaze in wavy lines .
: Leave the glaze to set .
: Then enjoy , they are soooooooo very moreish !!

Another bake I have done this week is a Russian poppy seed cake , this is a lovely loaf style cake that is simple and has a delicate flavour .It come out of a much loved baking book called ' easy cakes & cookies ' published by Ryland Peters & Small .  After all the rich food at Christmas this cake is a simple delight . Here's the recipe as I know there are a few of you who are waiting for me to post this one  .

Russian poppy seed cake
Ingredients : Serves 8-12
: 115 g ( 3/4 cup ) poppy seeds
: 160 ml ( 2/3 cup ) milk .
: 125 g or 1 stick of butter @ room temperature .
: 250 g  ( 1 1/3 cups ) caster or granulated sugar
: 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract .
: 2 eggs separated .
: 200 g ( 1 1/3 cups ) plain or All purpose flour .
: 2 teaspoons baking powder .
: 1/4 teaspoons sea salt .
: icing/confectioners sugar, for dusting .

: A 900-g/ 2-lbs loaf tin/pan , greased .( I line my tin with baking parchment which makes it much easier to remove from the tin /pan )

Instructions :
: Put the poppy seed in a food processor or blender , process for about a minute until the seeds are finely chopped and have a damp looking appearance .
Tip the seed into a sauce pan then add the milk and then bring to the boil only stirring once or twice. Remove from the heat and leave to sit for about an hour .
: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F .
: Put the butter & sugar in a bowl and beat together until smooth and creamy . Beat in the Vanilla extract the and egg yolks . Add the poppy seed and milk mixture and mix well .
: In a separate bowl combine the flour , baking powder and salt . Then sift it into the poppy seed mixture and fold in .
: In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff , then fold this mixture into the cake mixture a spoonful at a time .
: Put the mixture into the prepared  loaf tin/pan and level the surface .
: Bake for about an hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre come out clear .
: Leave to cool on a wire rack .
: Dust liberally with the Icing/ confectioners  sugar .

: Then serve and enjoy !!

I really am enjoying being more relaxed compared to the pre Christmas stressed me !! I think my family and friends are too .  I have a busy  (  but manageable busy ) week ahead , I may even de -camp at home this week as I have a lot of school interruptions to my working week which is fine but the less tooing and froing I do the better . Now I have a sewing machine at home as well as the studio it really isn't a problem if I have to work around the children and be at home for a few days . Where ever I end up working tomorrow I am eager to carry on working on my Mr Foxes and have a batch finished very soon .
Thanks for popping by and I hope my post doesn't scupper anyone's post Christmas diets .
Have a lovely week ahead and ta ta for now .
Tracy xx

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Welcoming 2014 with open arms !!

I hope these festive holidays have been a good one for you and yours , however you celebrate it . Our family have had a lovely low key Christmas and we are all in a very happy relaxed place right now . My hubby asked me a couple of weeks before Christmas  what I would like for as a present this year  , to which my reply was " rest , that's all I want  rest  " . I have got exactly what I wanted , it took me a while to wind down and I was very fidgety for my first week off . But now I have my old relaxed ( but occupied with hobbies ) pace of life . I will never be a person that can just sit , I always need to have my hands occupied but that is my natural happy state . I have disconnected myself from technology as much as I could and packed all my work out of sight and embraced the space in my daily life this has created . I have been able to spend time with my thoughts and think and plan , boy that has been good for me !! I actually feel mentally refreshed as well as physically rested and my energy levels  renewed . I feel excited about 2014 but I am also aware I have to keep balance in my life , so that is my New Years resolution to find balance in my life .

It feels good to be on the first day of a new year , it feels to me a bit like the feeling I get when I get a new sketch book . It feels special and new and full of possibilities . When I get a new sketch book the first page is always important to me , I'm quite superstitious that way , if I  make a mistake on my first page  I cannot use the rest of the book and abandon it for a new one . But life isn't that simple but it has been important for me to see out the old year and see in the new year in a way that felt right  . So New Years Eve saw me , Mr P and the boys snuggled up quietly at home , I had my crochet at my side as well a little tipple and once the boys were in bed we watched a spooky ghost story . A low key night of cosiness , just how we like it !!

I have found time to start working on some much neglected projects which I am going to find time to carry on working on , as it is so relaxing working on these projects . I've been working on a project which you may recognise as I have posted about this blanket project before . A friend gave me a very large bag of Tapestry wools as she new  I would find a use for it and yes I did !! I started making little round at first which then led to me turning them into square and this is how the project is developing .

I'm loving using all the yummy colours in interesting combinations , which is not normally  possible  if using balls off wool as it would cost a small fortune to to play with this many colours . 

Another project I've been working on  for a few months now and it  has been a very on and off project , is this Shawl . I had a real erge to make something for myself in greys and yellow . Usually I would shy away from yellow on something to wear but I had a really strong need to use it and here's what I've come up with . I got the initial pattern from Ravelry and it was a use up your stash project for a stripy shawl . It is an American pattern which is free and as soon as I find the pattern I will edit the details into this post . I'm making slow progress but am happy with how it is turning out and would like to be wearing it by spring .

In the last few days I have started easing my self back into my creative work life which I am very excited about and have started to make my mill mice shawls , there is going to be a new addition to this range but I can say no more.  but the thought of it makes me feel soooo giddy !! 
What a lovely time I've had this afternoon blogging it makes me so happy when I pop by , the best sort of therapy .
I hope you've found time over the holidays to do something you've really wanted to do and lets embrace 2014 with open arms , it's the first page of a new sketch book just waiting to be filled with whatever we create .

Thanks for taking the time to pop by and ta ta for now . Tracy xxxx