Saturday, 7 March 2015

Spring is in the air !

Well hello , how are we all ?......good  I hope !!
I have just emerged from a fortnight of feeling truly grotty and exhausted with a horrid virus whizzing around my system , I even ended up on a week of antibiotics after ending up with a bacterial infection on my face , oh how attractive I looked !! not .
But on Thursday I woke up feeling totally back to normal , that's if I could ever be described as normal !
I feel full of the joys of spring , the days are getting lighter , spring flowers are opening up and giving us much needed bursts of colour after the dark drabness of winter . The sun has been shining too and there's even a bit of warmth in it if you get chance to sit in it . Oh how a bit of sunshine and little bursts of spring time colour lift my spirits . This week has really felt like we are waving goodbye to winter .
 A couple of exciting things have happened over the last couple of weeks , firstly I have a bit of an announcement to make . On Monday I bought my new business Insurance which in it's self is rather mundane , but my new Insurers policy now allows me to open up sales to the U.S.A. and although I still have some restriction to do with the percentage of sale I am allowed to go to U.S.A
( this is the boring bit ). 
It does means when I now pop items in my etsy shop ( link button to my shop handmade Over yonder is at the top right hand corner of this page ) I can offer  these pieces to a wider audience . This feels great as I've hated having to say no to people .
On Sunday evening from 8pm onwards (U.K. time ) I will be popping 5 of my Yorkshire Mill Mice into my esty shop and I will be able to sell to U.S.A customers , whoop whoop !
So that's been one bit of excitement and the other has been getting a new cooker !
Yes I know by a lot of peoples standards this would be pretty low on the excitement scales , but for those who now me well they know how long I have waited for this day . I have been managing with using a  cooker that has needed scrapping for since 2013.
Mr P and I started our cooker fund in 2013 and were starting to make headway by the beginning of 2014 and then my mum had her accident . Well, after a few weeks of travelling too and fro daily on trains to hospitals miles away from where I live our savings were wiped out . It was a bit of a set back but when life throws things at us we do what we have to do at the time . As we are on a very tight budget we knew it would be a while before we could get a new cooker .
 So the saving started again , a couple of weeks ago I decided to start checking prices out on ranges again , just to see what sort of figure we were talking about .
Well I couldn't believe my luck as a website I popped onto was having a sale and there was £150 off a cooker we had previously looked at , this meant we could afford to make a purchase .
Yay no more nylon cord holding the cooker door up ( the hinges had gone) , no more putting a chair against the cooker door every time I used the oven( the seals had gone too, totally disintergrated in fact )  and no more shouting for help when the door would dropped off as I was trying to get food out ( my patience had gone too ). Oh so many times I had stood in the kitchen with a hot oven door in my hands shouting for help .
My daily oven dramas are over .
The domestic bliss of having a new functioning appliance .
I'm such a happy lady .

I  christened my oven within a couple of hours of it being fitted , the first bakes were Hazelnut Nutella cake ( for this recipe please visit and search Hazelnut Nutella cake )  and Walnut Brownies .
I love my new oven , but I also think a greater appreciation of things is felt when it has taken a serious amount of hard work to get them .

So as you can imagine I'm like a child with a new toy , I love spending hours in the kitchen  anyway cooking and baking for the family and friends too and this is making my experience all the more enjoyable .
Whilst I was ill I made a few different soups by far my favourite was Cauliflower and Stilton soup .  Now , this soup is not to every ones taste  particularly the rest of my family . But this hot creamy fragrant soup really hits the spot for me .

 So here is the recipe for anyone who wants to give it a try .
Ingredients :
1 Good sized Cauliflower , cut into florets
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lrg brown onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic , crushed
veg or chicken stock ( up to 1.2 litres)
125g Blue Stilton ( use 100g for soup , keep 25g back to garnish )
half a pint of milk
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
black pepper & sea salt
Heat the olive oil over a low heat in a large  heavy bottomed pan , add the chopped onion with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft but not coloured . Then add the crushed garlic and freshly chopped thyme . Cook gently for another couple of minutes the add the cauliflower florets and pour over enough stock to cover the cauliflower ( either chicken or veg stock , I use chicken ) . Simmer for a further 20mins or until the cauliflower is cooked , the cauliflower should be soft when pierced with a knife . Then add the milk and crumble the Blue Stilton in and at this stage add the freshly grated nutmeg ,continue to cook for another 5 minutes . Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit before blending into a smooth creamy soup . Whether using a hand held blender or a food processor please be careful at this stage as hot splashes could burn your skin .Once your soup is blended start to heat up ready to serve hot , at this stage taste and see if a little more seasoning of salt n pepper needs adding . When your soup is in your bowl and ready to serve why not add a final flourish of some crumbled Stilton onto the surface of the soup and maybe serve with a crusty date & walnut bread .
My cooker love has continued with much baking , this is a family favourite Lemon Drizzle tray bake , the recipe can be found on  the recipes actual name is Lemon and Violet drizzle cake ( I just leave the Violets out ) .
  As a member of my youngest sons school  P.T.A. I am always very willing to do baking for our money raising events , on our last coffee morning 2 weeks ago these giant Smarties cookies were all snapped up . Once again this is a BBC good food recipe and no I'm not getting paid by the bbc !! lol
It's just I have one of their recipe books and I often go to their web page to source recipes and I bake a lot of their recipes and they always work .

These giant Smarties cookies are a great bake for fund raising they are quick to make and you get 20 cookies out of the mixture .
My final sharing of my love of baking and the joy of using my new cooker is this Citrus Bars , This is a shortbread base with a citrus curd baked on top , and it is divine .
Where do you think I got the recipe from ? yep you guessed it ,
For anyone who has been attending our Creative Coopers knit/ Crochet n stitch groups on a Tuesday ( 1pm to 3pm ) & Friday (9am to 11am ish ) this cake is very very similar to their lemon squidgy cake . It's well worth making , in fact Mr P tonight had a slice and he said it had the same taste as lemon meringue pie . I think I will bake this for our next fund raising event .

Well it's been great popping by and I hope I've not made you too hungry and I do apologise to anyone who has given up cake for |Lent , I hope I've not put temptation in your way !
Have a lovely weekend everyone and ta ta for now
and thanks for popping by
Tracy .XX


  1. Great post. I first 'found' you last year when you Mum was ill. It's been quite a journey for you. Well done. I work with people experiencing financial problems showing them how to budget and not use credit. It was music to my ears to hear that you'd saved up for your cooker. Well done and you are obviously enjoying it so much. xxx

  2. I remember keeping my oven door shut with a piece of wire until my husband found the same oven on ebay for parts, a bid of £10 bought it and not only do I have a door that shuts but we have a box of spare parts in the garage and we sold the cooker shell for £10 scrap value! Here's wishing you happy cooking!

    1. Oh Anne that's great ,yay for closing oven doors !! and it's fab when you manage to find a bargain like that and it serviced all your needs .
      Unfortunetly our cooker had been mended twice previously and some parts couldn't be replaced as the cooker was an old italian model and they could no longer get the parts . So each time the technician came out he did what he could to keep it going but on his last visit he told us that it if it went again not to ring as we needed a new cooker and we kept that cooker going another couple of years after his last visit . But I am enjoying the fact I have less drama around meal times !
      enjoy your weekend Anne and thanks for popping by with regards Tracy

  3. Hi Penny
    Thank you for popping by and leaving me such a supportive comment , Life is hard for a lot of people out there on very tight budgets , us included . But it's great to hear there are people out there helping those that truly struggle with this . I am often passing little tips to friends and family and sometimes if appropriate in blogland on things to help their household budgets , whether it's where the best bargains in town are for food or household goods , I do a lot of footwork some weeks form shop to shop to make our budget stretch . Or if I find someone providing a good service cheaper that a previous used provider I always try spread the word . When you've lived like this out of both necessity and to some degree choice for a length of time it just becomes a way of life and it's not a bad life , and life is so full of riches other than financial ones and this is something some people need help to learn too.
    .....and yes I am enjoying my new cooker , enjoy the rest of your weekend Penny with kind regards Tracy .

  4. I love your new stove. Also when do you serve afternoon tea? As I can be by anytime that is good for you!!! I hope there are some lemon bars left, I love lemon!!

    1. Hi Gill,
      Thank you for popping by , Oh afternoontea is fab isn't it !
      If I ever get fed up of doing my making ( very unlikely ) I do have a little dream of opening a very old fashioned tea room that serves traditional afternoon tea . A small scale Betty's Tea rooms but not as expensive ! But those lemon bars are divine , a new one in my repertoire . Enjoy the rest of your weekend with kind regards Tracy

  5. Tracy I hope u get lots of new sales. Love the new cooker and your bakes look fab.

    1. Good morning Rosezeeta
      Thank you so much for popping by , I'm in my happy place with my new cooker and really enjoying trying out new recipes .
      Enjoy the rest of your weekend with kind regards Tracy

  6. Yay on being able to get these lively mice across the pond. And I'm so happy for you that you got that stove. It is wonderful and I love how you're putting it through it's paces.

    1. Hi Kepanie , I hope you and your family are all well , thanks for popping by . Yep absolutely great I can send my makes further afield ,I have been waiting for this for so long ......and yes that oven is definitely working for its keep !
      Have a lovely weekend with warm regards Tracy

  7. Many congrats on your new baby....I think she needs a name tho .... how about Hazel seeing as you christened her by making Hazelnut Nutella cake? Enjoy! xxx

    1. Hi Laura
      Nice idea , I think I just might !
      thanks for popping by with kind regards Tracy

  8. Yayy for new cookers! We saved up for ours and bought it just before Christmas. I used to prop the door shut with a piece of wood cos the springs had gone on the hinges - it wouldn't stay shut otherwise! The cookies look lovely! Is that recipe from the bbc website too as I can't seem to find it :( Enjoy your new cooker! x

    1. Hello craftymummy
      Oh the things we do to get by , it certainly makes life interesting doesn't it !
      The way I got straight to the smarties recipe was to type into the search engine : Smarties recipe , the first thing to come up was a link to bbc good food recipe and it was for this recipe so click this link and the recipe should pop straight up .I hope you find it this way if not let me know and I will put the recipe on my next post .
      with kind regards Tracy

  9. Yes, that's me! I've given up sweet things for Lent, and I'm gazing at those citrus bars and sighing. Oh they look so delicious. I shall write the recipe down in my notebook and make them as soon as it's all over. Lemon is one of my favourite things. I'm so pleased you've got a new oven, you're right, it means so much more if you wait until you can afford things. We are in very much the same boat here, lots of things are falling apart, but they won't be replaced for a long time. But as you say, it's just a way of life, I'm happy with my choices. I would rather live like this than work all hours just so I could buy Stuff. I'm sorry you've been so ill, I do hope you're feeling completely better now. CJ xx

  10. Wow, those pictures look very yummie! And the soup sounds really tasty - although I'm not really a soups-person:) Thank you for the inspiration - your family must be really happy with all the goodies that leave your kitchen right now haha!

  11. That's such a smart cooker you have now, and lovely that you managed to get it sooner than you thought with the sale too. And you're absolutely right, you do appreciate what you have saved up for. I have been straight over to the BBC Good Food website and danced with delight to think that now I can make the same wonderful cakes as you - and I do have to say that your photographs make them look so much more appetising than the ones on the website - you'll have to give them lessons! :-) xx

  12. Glad to hear you're on top form after your illness. As ever your bakes look ever so delicious, I'd definitely be one of your good customers if you opened a tearoom. X

  13. Spring has indeed sprung, and glad you're feeling much better! I was so tentative to use my new oven, I couldn't believe how quick it heated up in comparison to my old wonky gas cooker, it certainly bakes better cakes!

  14. I've not done cauliflower and stilton before - usually do leek and stilton - will have to give this a go

  15. Hi Tracy, I do admire your attitude and your baking!
    It is inspiring to read what you can do on a tight budget.
    I remember some time ago that you blogged about homemade washing powder. Do you still use it? Is it really any good? I would love to give it a go, but I'm worried about wasting money as I'm quite fussy!!
    Your new cooker looks very smart and your kitchen seems a cosy, happy place to be.
    Thanks Jo.

    1. Hi Jo
      I am so glad I am able to inspire in what ever way it is , me and tight budgets are very old friends . There are a lot of us out there that have to live quite frugally but it doesn't mean our standards have to change only our mind sets . With regards to the washing powder I used it for quite some time ,I thought it worked but my husband complained it didn't have that washing liquid smell ( he pretty much moaned every time I used it )and the only other problem was my local supply of the ingredients would occasionally dry up so much so I can no longer get the laundry whitener component as I used an eco one and the store I got it from no longer get it in and I haven't found it anywhere else . The only down side to it was I found it would sometimes damage vinyl prints on children tops , which lead to a few tears . But in the main I was happy with it and It lasted ages .
      But what I now do to keep my hubby happy is I use non bio liquid , but I use half the recommended dosage as a friends washing machine repair man said it doesn't take as much liquid as the washing powder companies suggest and he recommended that only half the dosage should be used ,so I took this advice on board and I would agree and it lasts longer and I have a box of the homemade powder for emergencies when I have weeks when money is tight . I would recommend that if in your own words you are quite fussy continue with your own brand and reduce the amount you use on each wash and make it last longer ( or if you have an Aldi I use their non bio and it is very good and is cheaper than the main supermarkets ) . Hope this helps with you query Jo and yes my kitchen is a very happy place to be .
      with kind regards Tracy

    2. Yes, it does help. Thanks for such an informative reply. I am off to print out some of your recipe recommendations now :-)

  16. Dear Tracy,
    I do admire you attitude and your baking!
    What a cosy, happy place your kitchen must be.
    I would really appreciate an update on the homemade laundry powder you mentioned a while I'm looking to save cash without reducing standards!!
    Thank you Jo.