Sunday, 30 December 2012

Odd Sleep

I had a not so good night's sleep last night.  In addition, Mary-Jane was crying at 4am, thankfully settled herself down again, and she awoke again about half five, quarter to six.  I was starting to get a bad headache as I went to bed.  I put it down to being tired and off the hooks, so I didn't take anything for it.  Mistake.  Even through my sleep I could feel it.  My sleeping thoughts were lucid.  It's difficult to explain.  I am asleep, but I think I am awake and I lay there thinking and thinking and thinking about stuff.  Last nights topic was managing a prison healthcare centre and making sweeping changes and improvements, how I would go about assessing and improving, even down to wording policies.  I was even annoying myself with having this line of thought and was desperately trying to think of other things (like knitting and baking) but my mind soon wandered back to my Healthcare Centre.  I was trying not to frown about it, as I knew that if I frowned my head ache would get a lot worse.  A lot of my headaches are to do with nasal congestion and neuralgia.  As I was waking up properly, I had to keep telling myself that I had had a good sleep, I had not been awake, just my mind was off on one.
So when I did get up, I did feel pap.  But Positive Mental Attitude saved the day.  I thought lots of positive thougths, that I felt better, that my headache was going and that I wanted to have a better day.  And I did.
I am not quite up for baking yet, each day I am hoping that I am.  Knowing me I shall have a deluge once I'm up for it.  I did try to cook a good tea.  HK wanted a sandwich - he has been feeling lightheaded today - so I did myself jacket spuds with a topping of Mushroom Korma.  Tomorrow I am hoping to do something along the lines of beetroot, boiled eggs and feta.  Maybe also with bulgar wheat and veggie chicken style fillets.  Tomorrow is another day though!
I have been at one with my kntting tonight and last night.  Yes you can hear me cheering.  I am doing 'Grace Beret' which can be found on Ravlery.  I am using Louisa Harding Grace Silk & Wool  A lovely yarn to work with.  I haven't worked with anything with Silk in for quite a while.  I am 17 rows off finishing and ten of those are decrease rows.  Easy.  If things weren't quite as they are at the moment, I would have hung in tight tonight and gone for broke and tried to finish it.  The early nights are doing me good, so I must go with that.  I'm only going  just over an hour earlier than normal,it is helping considerably!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas, Books and a Need To Share Grottiness

Christmas is nearly over for another year.  We have come through relatively unscathed and looking forward to a Christmas when we have our own home again.  Mary-Jane had a wonderful time.  She enjoyed opening her presents more than seeing what was inside them.   She spent most of the day playing with her new things, looking at the lights, dancing and singing.  She was so very excited.
I am feeling really grotty, physically.  I have had a lurgy/cold/bug for weeks and weeks now and I can't seem to shift it.  Just when I think it's going it re-invents itself.  It is anoying me now.  I shall try not to go on too much with a 'woe is me rant', but it is now emerging on the battlefield of 'I'm not going to let it get me down'.  Which is either a pre-curser to wellness or to worseness!  I went to bed very early last night, had to go back to bed during the day, and am going to have another early night tonight.  I am feeling positive in myself, which is good.
In my mind I wanted to do some baking today, my body just laughed at me.  Tea was reduced to a boiled egg sandwich (and trifle), I didn't have the strength about me to even do a proper tea or supper (I wasn't overly hungry).  I have to share all this grottiness with you, otherwise I feel that it blocks what I want to say and to ramble on about.  So I have to share.
Mary-Jane is still mesmerised by the whole christmas thing.  She loves the tree and all the lights in Granma's room.  She loves the decorations.  She is talking more and more about Santa, parties, music, lights, presents, games and snow.
What did Santa bring me?  Jane Austen Knits III, seven books all on various aspects of baking and a cupcake calendar.  I am one very happy bunny, busting a gut (literally!) to get into the kitchen!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Momma and Mary-Jane - Decorating Our First Christmas Cake Together

A bit of a long day, to be expected really.  And lots and lots of photos of Mary-Jane.  Granma put her tree up last night and her decorations up this morning. Mary-Jane was quite fascinated by these as they had lights on them, moved and made noise (singing etc).  Here she is sat in Grandad's old rocking chair, in Granma's room

My main Kitchen Task today was to finish decorating the Christmas Cake.  I had help.  Well why not.  Mary-Jane had helped me stir the cake when I was baking it.  It is kinda fitting that she should help decorate it.  I had managed to dye the sugarpaste red before she twigged on that Mommy was baking in the kitchen.  She spotted my small rolling pin and wanted to 'help Mommy roll the pastry out'.  I obligingly sat her in the chair and she rolled out the icing sugar on the table.
Then she added some trex (white fat) to what she was doing
Helping Mommy in the kitchen can be hard work, so a bowl of chocolate ice cream is just the thing!
Then the real help with the cake started.  I wanted to emboss the red icing with snowflakes, then have white snowflakes on top, with a partial white snowflakes around the base, in place of a ribbon.  Mary-Jane saw me embossing.  She wanted to help stamping, so off she went.  With encouragement from Daddy.  In some areas of the cake there was heavy embossing, almost down to the cake itself.  Mary-Jane had fun and it was delightful to decorate our first christmas cake together!  Things don't always turn out as planned.
As it was coming up to MJ's bed time, Daddy and I encouraged her to leave a plate of mince pies out for Santa, as well as a glass of milk and a carrot for Rudolph, as well as a key for Santa to let himself in with as there are no open fire places in this house.  I showed MJ the carrot, and that was it.  Poor Rudolph wasn't going to get much of a look in.  She has never been particularly fond of carrots in any way, raw or cooked.  She munched her way through 3/4's of it before returning it to the plate.
It was too much not to expect MJ to taste test Santa's mince pies.  She had a nibble and a bite out of both.  With the cake, I only got to do four white snow flakes.  I did a twisted candy cane style rope.  This seemed to pull the cake together a bit more and give it a bit of lift.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow and seeing Mary-Jane with all her presents, and her just generally enjoying herself and getting terribly excited!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

My Cake Has Broke!

The Chirsmas Spirit finally came nibbling at me today.  The Scene - HK and Mary-Jane in the front, Status Quo on the telly, me in the kitchen making chocolate mince pies.  I was dancing and baking to The Quo (!) and apparntely MJ was dancing too, but I didn't see her.  I felt Christmassy.  By this point I had already put marzipan on the cake.  I  know I am way late decorating the cake.  I was hoping to be done with it today, but no.  I did get Mary-Jane to help me roll the marzipan out, and HK helped MJ. 
A little later, when my back was turned, only for seconds, these holes magically appeared in the cake, yes they go right into the cake, don't they Mary-Jane?  I was alerted by the little lady herself, telling me that the 'cake had broke'.  I couldn't be mad at her, not in the slightest.  The holes are fill in-able.  I'm glad that I'd not finished decorating the cake or done it it a fancy manner.  I am gooing for quite a simple cake.  I shall watch MJ like a hawk and I shall not turn my back when she is around!
I made some chocolate mince pies.  They tast okay.  I rolled the pastry too thick, it did seem thin enough at the time.  Never mind. Live and learn.  HK is not keen on them, he did try one.  Good job I have more pastry and more jars of mincemeat.
Another pic of the Cherry and almond cupcakes.  I used a corer, rather than a knife to make the hole.  Much more neater.  It is an inexpensive tool that I would recommend.

I have wrapped all Mary-Jane's presents up, and stashed them in the spare toom (Auntie Annie's Room).  I didn't wrap HK's as he said he know what they were and it would only waste paper.  They are now sitting on his book shelf (they are books).  He promised not to look at them till Christmas Day.  He's good like that.  I wanted mine wrapping.  I do know what I am having.  By Christmas Day evening I won't know whether to Knit or Bake!  Books and magazines coming my way.
I still have lots of chrimbo baking I want to do.  I don't feel as much under pressure now I have started.  That hasn't stopped me from adding another one or two things to the list.  I would like to pick a book and work my way through and do every single recipe.  Hhhmmmm, just need to choose one.  Perhaps that can be a New Years Resolution.

Cherry and Almond Cupcakes with a Cherry Brandy and White Chocolate Frosting

Cherry and Almond Cupcakes with a Chery Brandy and White Chocolate Frosting

Makes 12.  Use foil cases.

125g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
2 med eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp almond essence/extract
100g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
60g cherry conserve
  • Preheat oven to 180c.  Put foil cases in 12 hole cake tray
  • Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy
  • Gradually pour in eggs, then almond extract, mix well
  • Gradually add flour, baking powder and ground almonds to the  mix
  • Add the milk, fold it in till mix has a soft dropping consistency
  • Spoon batter into the foil cases, 2/3rds full
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool in tin for 5 mins then transfer to wire rack
  • When cool, use a cake corer (or knife) to remove the cores, put to one side
  • Fill holes with cherry conserve and replace the cores, pushing them down.


110g icing sugar
4 tbsp cherry brandy
100g white chocolate
  • Melt Chocolate
  • Sift icing sugar.  Add brandy and mix well
  • Add melted chocolate and mix well
  • Put frosting on cakes.  This frosting will firm up quickly

Thursday, 20 December 2012

One Whimsical Christmas Spiral Sock Completed

My first Christmas Whimsical Spiral Sock is complete.  I am one row into the rib topping on the second.  I am quite chuffed with it.  It looks good on, and is the right size for me around the calf.  I am interested in how well it will keep it's elasticity though.  It is very warm and I can't wait to jump around with the pair of them on.  Not on a shiny floor though.  It is a little loose around the ankle, to be expected I suppose.  The foot is loose fitting as well, not overly loose. 
 The sock comes to below my knee.  I didn't do the recommended amount of rows, 24 less I believe.  It would be interesting to see how this pattern can adapt to different yarns.

A nearly sideways angle, showing the looseness around the ankle and foot.  It is toasty to wear, fun to knit.  I shall speed along with the second one.

Today saw the last of the food christmas shopping.  I am anticipate that I shall not have to go food shopping for around two weeks, apart from for fresh stuff such as bread and milk.  And maybe cheese etc.  I have a sinking feeling that this may not happen.  My cupboards are full.  I did pick up a couple of bargains, always makes me smile. 
I still have the urge to bake.  This urge is not yet translating itself to actual time in the kitchen and goodies baked.  Hmmmph.
Mary-Jane helped me put the shopping away.  She put alot of the fridge stuff on the table, the mushrooms in the hall, watched me put the freezer stuff in the freezer.  She then put the parsnips, carrots and a can of baked beans one at a time gently in the washing machine, and closed the door, talking to herself.  I couldn't say anything other than 'Good Girl for helping Mommy put the shopping away'.  An unforgettable moment. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

We have heating again

We have central heating again.  Woohoo!  Mary-Jane is quite in her bed, baking in the heat probably.  She woke again around five-ish, and at half one.  HK got up and I stayed in our bed with her.  She did try to settle for five minutes.  As she was settling, I could see that she was thinking.  She said 'I can't sleep, my eyes won't stay closed'.  Out of the mouths of babes, as the saying goes.  She still has her cough, but seems to be generally better in herself.  If the weather is not bad tomorrow, I may take her out for a bit.

My Christmas Spiral Sock continues apace.  I have four and a half rows till I start the toe shaping.  It seems to fit.  Hopefully it won't go too saggy once it's worn a bit.

I didn't manage to get any baking done today, due to the boiler being fixed.  Must try harder tomorrow!

I am tired in myself.  I am waitng for the last week or so to catch up with me - it has to catch me first, mind.  Lots of early nights for me and lots of relaxation.  And baking.  And knitting

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Banana and Chocolate Chip Lovejack (Flapjack)

We have been a little warmer today, thanks to winter sunshine and a few extra fan heaters.  We have put a portable radiator in Mary-Jane's room.  I am quitely confident - and have my fingers and toes crossed - that she has a good nights sleep.  She needs it.  She woke up just before 5am, started crying and saying that she was cold and that she wanted more clothes on and to put a scarf on.  She came into bed with us, tried for a bit to settle, but was too awake.  She did have a snooze this afternoon(we all did!).  Since going to bed this evening I haven't heard her even cough.

I have made some Banana and Chocolate Chip Flapjack.  Yummy scrummy

115g unsalted butter
75g light brown soft sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g rolled oats
2 medium size bananas, mashed
100g dark chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 180c.  Grease and line a shallow 8" square tin with baking parchement
  • Put the butter, sugar, syrup and vanilla extract together in a pan and gently heat until melted.  Stir in the oats and leave to cool
  • Add the mashed bananas and chocolate chips and mix well together
  • Put the mix into the tin, level, smooth and press with a back of a spoon
  • Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden.  remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes then cut inot pieces.  Allow to cool completely in tin before turning out, then cut again with a sharp knife.
My latest baking reads, that I can recommend are - Great British Puddings by The Pudding Club and Baked in America by Outsider Tart.  I got them both from the library.  I know that the former is on its way from Amazon, via Santa for me, lucky me!

Today's baking is the first in my long list of Things I Want To Bake At The Moment.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Cold But Not Bitter

A few more days have passed.  These can be summarised quite easily.  Mary-Jane's cough has been getting progressively worse.  We have not had any central heating since Friday night, as the boiler is up the swanny.  I have been getting the rumblings of Mary-Jane's latest lurgy and HK has started with it today.  We are not the only ones coughing in the house.  We do have a couple of portable blow heaters.  Mary-Jane doesn't like the noise of them in her room when she is asleep, so we put it on in her room for an hour or so before I take her up, then turn it off.  We now have two more fan heaters to put around the house.  The portable radiator in the other front room will be put in MJ's room from tomorrow and the heater in there will be swapped with it, so MJ has a warm room at night.  The boiler should be fixed on Thursday.  West Cumbria in December is not the place you want to be without any heating.  But we do have some form of heating and at the moment I can't say that the weather is bitter.  It is such a shame that the fire places have been blocked up and the Aga isn't working!
All that being said, Mary-Jane is being very good, and very tired.  She did have a good night last night, where we didn't need to go into her.  For qute a few nights, she has been waking and crying a few times and from the early hours, the only way to settle her is to have her in bed with us.  She has been steadily settling quicker with us and napping, which we are thankful for, but it doens't eqaute to proper sleep!  Both she and I have had a nap or two during the day.  I have seen HK on the brink of napping as well.
Mary-Jane has been well wrapped up.  She has been wearing PJ's, then a Onesie (she has been bought four onesies for the occasion!) and she has had her dressing gown on during the day as well.  Toastie.  She has been eating well. so apart from her cough and cold, the only other major thing that I am worried about is how cold her room gets at night.  And she will be missing playgroup tomorrow due to her been unwell, I don't want her to pass it onto any other children, especially so close to Christmas.
Talking of Christmas, HK and I put our deccies up this evening.  I dont' feel particularly anymore christmassy.  I do smile when I look at them, all hand made decorations.  We have had to hang the stockings high up as we don't want MJ to pull them down.  Pictures will follow!
Knitting.  I started making a Grace Silk Beret night before last.  I had a few problems with the cast on.  I muddled through and got to about ten rows of the main hat pattern.  It seems that I muddled in the wrong direction with the cast on and it is way too small.  It will be frogged.  It would have been frogged before now but........ I got distracted with the massive holes in my socks, and with HK nagging me to knit some more, that I thought that now was a good time to make some more.  And with that thought, joined with the thought that these new socks are for weting roung the house, rather than wearing when being out, it was logical to think that the socks should be done with somthing thicker than a standard sock yarn.  There was only one pattern to do - Carol Wileys Whimsical Spiral Socks.  The cast on for these can be used (I'm pretty sure) for the Grace Hat.  It also has picot edge.  I have done it slightly bigger than the given pattern as I have good size calf muscles (due to lots of swimming and cycling in my early teens).  I am using a red acrylic aran.  The same as I used for MJ's red riding hood cape.

I am doing them on DPN's.  I can go so much faster on circulars.  I am working on 56 stitches, no where near enough to use circulars.  Carry on regardless.  No doubt the boiler will be fixed before I have one completed.  Nonetheless, I am glad to have been spurred on to make some house socks and be able to retire my old socks before they fall off my feet altoghter.
I have been meaning to bake for quite a few days.  A general tiredness has stopped me.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Head full of cold and cables

I've got yet another chesty cold.  Mary-Jane has a cold and a cough as well.  MJ slept slightly better last night.  She awoke twice, about tennish and again around half twelve.  She did eventually settle until her usual waking up time in the morning.  I have been dozing this afternoon.  Both of us are dosed up with paracetamol.  I just can't be bothered to be poorly, it's a pain in the butt.  I have lots of things to do and don't really want to be slowed down.  Amongst other things, I have a list of at least half a dozen things I want to make, and I still have to decorate the christmas cake.
I am having a break from my aran jacket.  I didn't realise I needed a break from it.  I have made a prayer shawl for a friend, I finished that last night.  I hope to see my friend soon, to give it to her.  Daft as it sounds, I don't know whether to ring her and ask to drop it off (this may be sensible) as she is awaiting a 'results' phone call.  Perhaps, looking at it, it is the best time to ring her and drop the shawl off.
I saw a pattern yesterday on Knitty for a celtic cabled cowl.  It nearly instantly had me wondering what yarn I could make it in.  I have selected a yarn now.  A few days before this, a fb/rav friend posted that she was thinking about doing  Grace Hat.  I rather like the hat and amazingly enough had the right yarn to do it in, so I cast on this evening.  I have one more round to do of the rib before I start on the main body.  I used the same yarn to do a pair of fingerless mitts in January, with a  pattern from the first Jane Austen Knits.  I know another friend would love the cowl, I shall see how I go with it and it may be a belated christmas pressie for her.
The sunny winters days are over for a bit - back to lots and lots of rain and wind.  It isn't as bad as I thought it would be, judging from the weather forecasters.  I have been sporting my 'Waking the Dead' hat and cowl.  I made these a couple of years ago, whilst watching a season of Waking the Dead, hence the name.  Take a peek on Rav for the patterns.  I used  Big Softie, a very chunky yarn, so it took no time at all to do and looks good, not to mention keeps me warm!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Spicy Squash Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I mentioned yesterday that Mary-Jane (and us) had a bad night Sunday.  This is my cutie pie come Monday teatime.  One minute awake, the next minute, fast asleep.  Couldn't resist it!
I am more than thankful that we all had a good night last night.  Mary-Jane and I went to playgroup this morning.  There were only six children there.  MJ had more of a run around and was less clingy than usual.  She seemed more relaxed at snack time, sat at the table, helping herself to the fruit.

I got some baking this afternoon.  I did the frosting this evening.  It almost feels that I am only just slowing down and stopping now.  I am determined to get an hours tv and crocheting before bed.  I also made a big shepherds pie for tea, yummy.  The cupcakes are Spicy Squash cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting.  The recipe is from Betty Crocker The Big Book of Cupcakes.  They are surprisingly very scrummy!  The original recipe uses pumpkin puree and a cream cheese frosting.  I find this frosting when I make it to be too sickly.  I did try to make a brown butter buttercream frosting but burned the butter.  It is a new type of buttercream to me - I must try harder next time!

The weather here is still quite cold, bouncing around 1degree.  It is clear and crisp, with a hint of a breeze at times.  The winter sun is very low and very bright.  No rain for a few days - I can put up with this!  There is some snow on the top of the fells.  All very beautiful.

I am still not in the Christmas Spirit.  Hmmph.  It is lurking a littl closer, but not yet on the horizon.

Sylvia - Thank you for the Christmas card - are you still at the same email addy?

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mary-Jane's First Christmas Party

Another hectic weekend acts as prelude to a busy week.  Saturday was good.  In the morning we went to the library.  Mary-Jane got another certificate for her attendance and borrowing books.  She is loving having the library books to read at bedtime.  Saturday afternoon was the Biggie.  The First Christmas Party.  We were first there.  Initially Mary-Jane was very shy.  Ten minutes later she was running round the room and looking at all the decorations and balloons like a very excited two year old that she is!  She calls the room The Big Room - it was in the same place as playgroup.  She joined in the games and singing and actions.  She sat to play pass the parcel - and won fair and square - a box of jelly babies.  She discovered that she very much liked cheeslets (a cheesy biscuity baked crisp, sort of similar to cheddars).  It was beautiful to see her let herself go and have as much fun as she could muster.  After an hour and a half, she was getting tired and asking to see Daddy, a new sign that she is tired.  When Santa arrived she was not impressed.  When it was her turn to go and get her present, she cried and cried.  I carried her to Santa and she clung to me tightly.  She had a Dora The Explorer backpack and a My First Nativity book.


Sunday we went to Workington, just for a blow out mainly.  We had lunch in Morrisons.  MJ did well, apart from when I went for a replacement cuppa as the tea bag had burst, MJ took flight and started to run around (looking for me I think), so Gramma had to chase her.  I caught her, sat her down again and she didn't try to get up until we were ready to leave.
Sunday night Mary-Jane wasn't much in the mood for sleep.  She awoke after midnight, screaming.  Once she settled back down again (after much more screaming), she awoke again just before four and was quite certain that she wasn't going back to bed.  She did have a few naps inbetween Daddy and I.  So this morning, indeed all day, we have have been tired.  MJ finally fell asleep when Daddy was making her tea.  She fell into quite a deep sleep for ten minutes or so.  So far, touch wood, we have not heard a peek from her!  We need as good sleep - play group tomorrow!
This afternoon was Woodlands Knitting group.  I was toying with whether or not to go, due to tiredness.  I had perked up and I decided that it would probably do me good.  It did.  I took some crochet for a change.  I am making a prayer shawl for a friend.  I am using James Brett Marble chunky, the same stuff that I used for the Apple Shawl.  It is showing off the colours really well.
My head is still quietly stuffed full of recipes from The Pink Whisk's 12 Days of Christmas.  I haven't had the opportunity to do any.  I did defrost the butternut squash puree to bake with yesterday.  As yet no baking and the puree is still in the fridge.  Will have to check on it and if its okay, then baking tomorrow afternoon is hopefully on the cards.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Now Fudge!

I am still liking and munching on my coconut ice.  However I was left with half a tin of condensed milk in the fridge.  I have used it now and made a small-ish amount of chocolate fudge.  I have not attempted to make fudge for donkeys years.  I was always told it was difficult to make, along with toffee.  It is chilling in the fridge.  I used plain chocolate as that was all I have in the cupboard.  Plain is not the first type I would go for.  Maybe next time I may use an electric whisk, we shall see.  I am eager and a little wary of trying it, incase it doesn't come out okay.  I suppose that is something normal when trying new things.  If it does turn out okay (I need more faith in myself at times) then I will try it with a milk chocolate, and I shall try rum and raisin fudge.  Oh and find a recipe for banana fudge.  No, it's banana toffee that I go nuts for, not banana fudge!  Maybe worth a try though?
This morning the WI were doing the refreshments for the Egremont Farmers Market.  I could only stay an hour as I had to get back to take Dad to an appointment.  I did notice that on the stall next door, they were selling hanks of Portland aran, from sheep at St Bees, for £8 per 100g.  My tongue was hanging out, espeically as I am knitting with aran at the moment, and well into cabling.
Then this afternoon, was the usual Friday trip to Tesco.  Exciting.  There was a bitter wind, coming, literally off the sea.  It has been blowy all afternoon.  The sky over Cold Fell has been as black as a gorilla's dangly bits.  No rain here though!
Tomorrow promises to be exciting - Mary-Jane's first Christmas Party in the afternoon and a trip to the library in the morning.  I have requested two books, The Pudding Club's newest book and 'American Baked' - muffins, cakes and brownies.  I'm not sure how long it will be before they arrive.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Coconut Ice, Banana LoveJack And A Napping Child

IBS has rocked my world today.  I have not had it this bad for a very long time.  If I had had tablets to take, I would have.  It drains me and makes me feel really miserable, as well as all the regular symptoms.  It is much better now, but it is still there.  It used to be this bad when It Was Bad.  It has been worse than this.  Tsk.

On to pleasanter things

I recieved a parcel from my Fairy Godmother, Paula.  It was a belated Halloween and early Christmas Pressie.  I am chuffed to bits, I really am.  I still have my fetish for cupcake papers, and today it has been spurred on.  I am formulating plans for cupcakes of my own divining, running along the lines of chocolate (not cocoa powder) and bananas.  I shall keep that under wraps for now, probably till Sunday at least.  Thank You again to Paula xxx
I have made some Coconut Ice.  I haven't made any before, that I can remember.  After I made it, I mentally put it on the list of Things Not To Make Again.  It is very stiff to mix, to the point it was starting to hurt my delicate hands (!)  I did think to ask HK to stir it, he had Mary-Jane resting on him at the time, so I didn't want to disturb them.  I tried dyeing half of it pink.  It came out orangey.  I was a little disappointed. I like coconut ice.  I always beleived it to be difficult to make.  I think now that it might have been more of a cast that the ingredients were expensive, back in the day.  This evening, I cut it up into bite size pieces and tried some.  Coconut Ice is now on my To Make Again List.  I have introduced a sub-group to this list - Ask HK To Help!  I may try it with cocoa.  I don't know if it would be too sweet coated half coated in chocolate?

Talking of Chocolate - yesterday I have the lastest edition from the Food Heaven magazines drop through the door - Chocolate Heaven.  I haven't looked through all the magazine yet.  There are a few things that are tempting me straight away.  The prime thing is Banana and Chocolate Chip Flapjack.  I first tried Banana Flapjack at Beautiful Days in 2005 and instantly fell in love with it, perhaps that why it was called Banana LoveJack - or was it because it was made by hippies?!  I tried re-creating it myself with a degree of success, but not quite the same.  Bananas are definitley on this weeks shopping list.

I am doing well with my Aran Jacket by drops designs.  I think I have been salling it my Decimal Jacket, but I have just remembered that the Decimal Jacket is actually a cardi that I am knitting in a pink 4 ply chenille style yarn.  So here it is anyhow.  I have finished the cabling and am working 22 rows up to the armholes.  It looks really big, no doubt will be snug on me.  It is going to be very heavy to knit, the more so as I go along, without stating the obvious.  Achey neck is will be coming on to the horizon.
Did I tell you that Mary-Jane has had a few early mornings of late?  Today and yesterday she has crashed and burned, but only managed to have a nap yesterday, whilst 'Ready, Steady, Dink'ing on Daddy.  Ready, Steady, Dink, is MJ sitting between Daddy's legs whilst the foot recliner is up.  She can't resist sitting there.  She sits there quite often when she is tired and needs a rest.  And more often than not, watches Tinkerbell.  Sleep overcame her this time.

Auntie Annie - did you arrive back safe and sound?  I am missing you!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A Quieter House

The house has continued to be busy.  We have had six and/or seven adults in the house over the last three weeks.  Auntie Annie was the last to go last night.  It was sad to see her go, and to think that she will be so far away and that I might not see her again for a year or more.  At least we have phones and the t'internet.

HK and I went to Workington this morning to get Mary-Jane and outfit for her Christmas party on Saturday.  She also has a new pair of Peppa Pig Slippers and a new pair of posh shoes.  She just needs a pair of everyday shoes.  We are planning to get these after christmas when there is less festive and party stuff about.

This afternoon I went to Woodlands Cafe in Santon Bridge to meet up with LA and M.  It was M's Welcome Home Tea as she has been home home to the Far East  to see her family.  It was lovely to see her again  We chatted and chatted.  One of the highlights of conversation was sieves with feet.  When I came out of the Cafe, I noticed that I had a huge piece of something hanging down under neath the car. The garage was on the way back, so I called in.  I had noticed a scraping sound when going over speed bumps for well over a week.  It turned out to be the plastic that keeps the engine cleaner.  The things that attach it had come away.  The garage fixed it free of charge (phew_ and I was on my way.  HK says that the garage would have had to have removed it to change the oil etc when they had it for MOT and servicing a week or two ago.

Mary-Jane and I got to playgroup yesterday morning.  She had lots of fun.  SHe is coming on well, each week.  She even sat at the table for her juice and fruit after only being asked once.  She accepted a piece of orange that the child sitting next to her offered her.  Smiles all round.

I have not yet been hit by the Chrismas spirit.   I usually have by now and am itching to put up the deccies and make a few last minute ones.  There is time yet.  We went on Sunday to the Egremont Christmas festivities and watch the lights being turned on - more of that tomorrow!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Cinnamon Pastry and ASJ

Last night  I had another rarity - I was taken out for a night out for a pie n pea supper and prize bingo at Wath Brow.  I quite enjoyed myself.  I didn't win on the Bingo but came exceedingly close to getting a full house - I only had one number to get (12).  I was taken out by Uncle Frank and my cousin Ian.  I won two prizes on the tombola, one was a box of wine gums - HK was highly delighted!

This is my 3d Santa.  It doesn't look toooo bad.  I shall be practising this technique, then I shall be off and away with it.  You really need to know your icing consisitencies.

I made a quiche today.  With the left over pastry, I rolled it out, cut it and dipped the pieces in cinnamon sugar, then sprinkled an extra bit on.  I was a bit inspired with the pinwheels - and I think they tasted better.  Sadly they have all been eaten now!  It is a fab way to use up pastry cut offs.  It has also been suggested to me to use a vanilla glaze.  They are only half a step away from danish cinnamon swirls and I have a thing for them.  A memory of cinnamon swirls has popped into my head - I used to take a lot of danish pastries into work with me when I worked in a cat b (male) prison.  I used to get them from the localish tesco on the way into work.  I used to get two packets - one of mixed pastries and one of just cinnamon swirls as myself and one other colleague had a thing for the swirls.  Funny how the memory works.  That was 8/9 years ago.  Lots of memories are on their way now.  I shall move on.
My ASJ.  I finished it a few weeks ago, but have only had the opportunity to have photos taken today.  As you can see, I made it a bit on the big side.  It's lovely and comfy to wear.  Needs buttons.  That seems a common factor on my finished garments!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cockermouth and Keswick

We had a day out to Cockermouth and Keswick.  We being myself, Mary-Jane, Auntie Annie, Cousin Elaine (Auntie Elaine to MJ) and Mum.  We had an early lunch at the Lakes Home Centre at Cockermouth.  I had a lovely cheese and relish toasted sandwich.  Mary-Jane had a ham sandwich but was far too taken up wiht everything going on around her.  I drooled over some of the things in the kitchen part, namely Mason Cash mixing bowls.  I do have a fancy for them.  There were some small ones, one pink that matched my big pink one, and a small red one that said 'God Save The Cream' on it.  I am trying not to think about them and how much I want them!
We then went on to Cockermouth.  The first shop we went into, a clothes shop, Mary-Jane walked straight up to the counter and asked the lady for a lollipop.  I was a bit taken aback!  In Chambers in Workington, they have a jar of sweeties that they offer children, the last two times I have taken Mary-Jane, she has had a lollipop.  The lady said she didn't have any lollipops but had a biscuit if that was alright?  Yes Please, said Mary-Jane.  The lady went into the back and came back with a tin of biscuits, gave Mary-Jane one, then put a good handful in a bag for her to take if she wanted one later!  She then put the bag in a carrier bag to make it easier for MJ to carry.  MJ then did a quick tour of the shop and headed straight for the door!
We then had a walk up the main road, and had a look in Fagans.  At the rear of the shop, they have a baking section.  With MJ in tow, I had a whistlestop look around.  Long enough for me to ooh and aah over cake papers and such like.  And long enough for MJ to find some cake papers with tractors on.
After Cockermouth, we headed to Keswick.  It seemed colder in Keswick.  It was around 1degree.  Crisp and cold.  The images are taken on the road between the two places.



In Keswick the market was on.  We had a look then went into the big chocolate shop.  Lots of temptation in there!

Mary-Jane enjoyed her day out.  She was quite tired when we got back.  She said she had fun and protested when it was bed time.  I haven't (touch wood) heard a peek out of her since!

Uncle Ken went home today.  Uncle Frank (Dad's brother) and his son Ian arrived early evening and are now down the pub with Dad.  Mary-Jane took quite a shine to Uncle Frank last time he was here.

Monday, 26 November 2012

My First Thanksgiving Weekend

Mary-Jane has got another cold.  She has had it for a few days now.  I think it may be breaking, fingers crossed.  Either that or it is taking hold of her and getting worse.  She had a bit of a temp most of the day and a runny nose.  Poor little things.  Her appetite is not too bad.  Yesterday she ate everything in sight, today, not quite as much, but still ate well.  She asked for super-duper-soupie for lunch - soup to everyone else.
On Saturday, we had a Thanksgiving Dinner.  It was my first.  I made pumpkin pie, with the pumpkin that Lee kindly sent me.  When I mixing the pumpkin filling, Mary-Jane wanted to be in the kitchen to help Mommy and put her pinny on.  I gave her the left over pastry to roll out, as she was getting excited about seeing the rolling pin.  She also needed distracting from eating the flour on the table!  I sat her in the chair and helped her to start rolling out, then I carried on with the pumpkin mix.  Grandad came through and began to encourage and help Mary-Jane with the rolling.  It was beautiful.  I watched.  The I was inspired as to what to use the spare pastry for.  I was going to do a fancy edging.  With a little of the pumkpin mix left over, there was only one thing to do - make a small pumpkin pie!  So obvious.  A Momma and Mary-Jane Pumpkin Pie Production!

As Mary-Jane wasn't feeling so clever, I decided not to take her to Calder Bridge Autumn Church Fayre.  I was disappointed that we couldn't go, both MJ and I like to go.  MJ's health comes first.  Granma, Grandad, Auntie Annie and Uncle Ken (no relation) went down.  They did very well on the raffles and tombola.  They bought MJ and I a strip of raffle tickets in our abscence, and this is what we won!  A beautiful and well made hand sewn quilt.  I have put it away for MJ, for time to come.  Someone must have been smiling down on us!

We are having heavy rain and high winds at the moment.  I can hear it over the monitor, rattling on Mary-Jane's window.  Her sleep gets quite disturbed with weather like this.
Mum, Auntie Annie and Uncle Ken are going to Lakeland tomorrow.  I must admit that I am green with envy.  I haven't been to Lakeland for well over 20 years and I would go like a shot.  I am telling myself that it is best that I don't go as I can't really get anything and I would be down in the dumps.  This line of thinking is only partially working!  I'd love to look round and drool over their baking section!  All in the fullness of time.  Lakeland is a good 50+ miles from here.  That might not sound much, but with the geography of the place, you are looking at maybe an hour and a half to get there.  Lots of fells and water between here and there!  I may be on a promise for a duo icing kit though, I'm smiling, I've been wanting one for months!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Carrot Cupcakes With Caramel Frosting

I have been in the kitchen again today.  I have made Carrot Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting, especially for Auntie Annie.  Carrot cake is a favourite and seeing how it is Thanksgiving, these were a must.  I took a bit of time perusing for the right recipe.  The one I used was in Betty Crockers 'The Big Book of Cupcakes'.  It also has pineapple and raisins in.  The batter was very runny and I had doubts when I put it in the oven.  I should have more faith.  They turned out fine.  Not as carroty as I thought they would be but delicious all the same!  The frosting is something else.  I love it!  I have never made frosting like this before, but by gum, I shall make it again.

You melt your butter in a pan, then add the brown sugar till it dissolves, then bring it to the boil, stirring all the while.  The add the milk and bring back to the boil, then take it off the heat and leave it to cool to luke warm.  Then gradually add the icing sugar, stirring with a whisk.  Gorgeous.
I have also done my sugarcraft homework.  As it is my first attempt, there is room for improvement.  I liked doing this and can see where and why I need the practice and experience.  For my first go, it aint too bad at all! On Tuesday we shall be shown how to stack the three pieces to make it 3d, and then put some sparkle on it.  It will then rest on a pastillage plaque.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Boston Baked Bean Day

Auntie Annie and I have been beavering away in the kitchen and have made two dishes of Boston Baked Beans - one with bacon and one without.  I liked making these and enjoyed cooking with Auntue Annie.  It is another recipe I shall make again, I may tweek it a little here and there to make it mine.  HK would like buffalo sauce in it or hot pepper sauce to give it a bit of a kick.  HK and I had some for our tea, with chips and a pastie.  What doesn't get eaten tomorrow will go in the freezer.

I also had a visitor today - Sarah.  We haven't caught up for a few weeks, although we have seen each other in Gosforth, mainly when I have been driving and Sarah has been on foot.  I was able to give her her belated birthday present - the Shawlette.  She seem happy with it and it looked rather good on her.  She naturally wore the shawlette in many different ways that had not even crossed my mind, they all looked good.
I was going to do my sugarcraft tonight.  I had bought it all downstairs with me when I put Mary-Jane to bed.  When I came to it, I had left the tracer paper upstairs, so couldn't be 100% on which colour goes where.  I could've guessed, but I was still full from tea, so I decided instead of sneaking back upstairs, I'd do it tomorrow night instead - this is a must to get it to dry intime for next Tuesday.  I am itching to get my hands on some more waxed paper to experiment and play with this technique.  I know I can get some from my 'local' sugarcraft shop in Workington.  I am on a mega strict budget this month, so it will wait till next month, which in reality is only two weeks away!
Mary-Jane had a much better nights sleep last night, so it follows that HK and I did too.  Phew all round.
I have been typically naughty as well with my knitting, I must confess.  The aran jumper that I am undoing to re-knit, well, yes I have cast on this evening.  I need a bit of TV knitting and this kinda fits the bill.  Till I get to the cabling.  It is not an all over cable pattern.  The jacket is knitted all in one, although I didn't chose the pattern for this reason.  It is a Drops Design 109-3.  I do wonder if the yarn is a chunky aran, as what little I have done so far is making a dense-ish fabric.  I am sure it will look fab when it's done - and it will be lovely for the Spring.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Sugarcraft Week 9 - Royal Icing and Flooding

I have had another enjoyable Sugarcraft class this evening.  Despite not doing my homework, I quickly caught up.  What we focused on this evening was doing the outlines of our chosen figures.  These are going to be 3d, so I must do my homework this week, and before the weekend so it is dry for next Tuesday!  I found the piping made my thumb ache after a while, probably because I'm not used to using it this way.  The figure is piped using a 1.5 writing nozzle.  In this instance it can be done using black icing.  Once this is done, the tracer can be taken out from underneath the wax paper.
Before icing starts, prepare enough icing bags.  Disposable bags may work better than re-usable, as the hole at the end needs to be quite small and you don't need a nozzle to do the floodwork.  I made mine from greaseproof paper.  After doing the figure, prepare your different coloured icing.  Add the colour before letting the royal icing down. Put the icing in the bags then put the bags in sealed plastic bags until you come to use them.  Then the flooding starts.  You can't do two neighbouring sections at the same time incase they run.  Bigger areas can be done in a circular motion.  A cocktail stick can be used to bring the icing to the corners.  I started off by using too much icing, on the hat.  I suppose like anything, it comes with practice.
I am excited to learn this technique, as it has a lot of potential - you can do any design - and is fun to do.
I'm still undoing the seams of the aran jumper.  I did some today and got on a lot quicker than last night.  HK thinks I am wasting my time as he thinks the yarn won't be much good, he is now re-advised on this matter!
Mary-Jane had a rough night last night.  She was awake and crying a fair few times, though we couldn't quite pin down why she was upset.  Sometimes we can, or at least get a general idea.  During the night I was getting quite a bad head ache and this stayed with me most of the day, It's just a back ground headache at the moment. 
We went to playgroup this morning.  Mary-Jane really had fun and enjoyed it.  She has started inter-acting with a few of the other children and passing them toys etc, a first for her.  She usually cuddles in close to me when other children come near her.  I also had her playing with play-doh, the making of this is now going higher up my list of things to do!  MJ also called another child by her name, a follow on from last week.  She is making much progress and I'm proud of her for it.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Two Batches of Cupcakes And An Aran Jumper

The weekend has been fairly steady.  HK has been feeling poorly again, he was quite bad yesterday and went to bed when I put Mary-Jane to bed, the same again tonight.  Last night he was insistent that I check on him during the evening.  This was worrying.  I checked on him a few times and he was sound asleep each time.  I hope he feels better by morning.
I have managed to do not one but two lots of baking.  The first was a batch of Orange Marmalade Cupcakes, made on Saturday.  The second I did this afternoon - Banana, Cinnamon and Walnut Cupcakes.  Both are taken from the highly recommended Eat Me!  by Xanthe Milton.  In the background you may notice some haricot beans soaking.  Auntie Annie and I shall be making Boston Baked Beans tomorrow afternoon after playgroup.  We will be making two lots - one with and one without bacon/pork.

I have also been looking at my baking books again.  I am having my appetite whetted by The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days and Betty Crockers The Big Book Of Cupcakes.  With the Betty Crocker book, I couldn't get on with this at all as it was written in American English and all the weights and measures were in cups and such like.  Since putting this book down previously, following a dismal attempt to convert it to English, I have overcome my mental block of Cups.  I can read the book anew and understand them.  So, I shall study it further with fresh eyes and see waht takes my fancy.  There are a couple already.  As we are having our Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday - a day that suits us all as Mum has a meeting to go to that afternoon - I said to Auntie Annie that I would bake her her favourite cupcakes for Thursday and use some Stars and Stripes cupcake papers.  It is going to be something carroty and something quite chocolately. 
I have sugarcraft tomorrow night and I haven't done my homework.  I feel a bit bad, but time hasn't really permitted.  In the evenings I have been tired, gone to bed early or needed the tranquil headtime that I get from knitting.  I am continuing with EZ Three Lace Pi Shawl.  The yarn is black and I find that I cant do more than two or three rounds before my eyes start stinging.  So I have started Decimal, a cardi from, via Ravelry.  I am using a chenille type yarn.  It is one that I got from the tat shop quite a while back, it's on a cone and there are no labels so I don't have a clue about manufacturer etc.  I just need to keep my fingers tightly crossed that there is enough yarn to do the project.  I think I shall be sailing very close to the wind on this one.
A few years ago, I was given a beautiful hand knitted cabled aran jumper.  It had been knitted as a gift for someone.  Unfortunately the proportions are a bit out.  The chest is at least 62 " and the length is 26".  I have been looking for a cable/aran pattern that I can re-use the yarn.  I have stated this evening to unpick the seams.  I am still unpicking.  I have only freed one sleeve and and slowly freeing the other.  I thought I could get it done so much quicker.  I do feel guilty about undoing someone elses work, but the blessed jumper will never be worn in it's current incarnation and I can't let all that aran yarn go to waste.

Friday, 16 November 2012

ASJ, PI and Auntie Annie

I finished my ASJ last night.  I am pleased with it and pleased that it is finished.  I need to sew buttons on, I didn't really get the chance today.  It is a bit on the big side.  It would look nice with some kind of shawlette of detachable hoodie as the neckline is broad at the front.  The sleeves are 3/4 length and look better than what I thought they would.  They would suit some long fingerless mitts.  Anther big project done with.  I just thought that if I had sewn the buttons on this evening I could've worn the jacket in the morning when we go to the library.  Never mind, it might be raining or I may get chance to do them in the morning.
I have been very good and not started another project.  There is not one that is calling or yelling at me to start, which is good.  I can concentrate on getting work done on others.  I was going to do Revontuli, but I couldn't easily place my hands on where exactly I had place the chart, and I couldn't be diddled to look for it.  So I took up the EZ Pi Three Lace Shawl and have been cracking on with that very well, and enjoying doing it.  I have done seven rounds .  For those of you that are familiar with the wonderful pattern, I am about to start round 11 of the second lace pattern.  There are 45 rounds.  Hmmm, looking at it, I find it difficult to believe that there are only 61 more rows/rounds till it is done.  I have a nagging voice in my head about this and will need to further consult the book about this.  At the moment all I have in front of me is a copied page to work from.
Auntie Annie aka AnnInAmerica arrived safe and sound yesterday evening.  It is good to see her again and to spend time together.  We are planning to make Boston Baked Beans Monday or Tuesday next week.   I am hoping to freeze some.  Auntie Annie also bought me lots and lots and lots of really pretty cupcake cases from the US, I was busting a gut nearly to do some baking last night, maybe tomorrow afternoon, fingers crossed.  The fruit cake is not far off devoured, so I can bake again with a clear conscience!
I have also done a personal first today, with HK's help.  Nothing spectacular, just something I have been meaning to do increasingly, for quite a long time - peel, chop and boil a butternut squash and make puree to bake with.  I now have 665g of butternut squash puree sat in the freezer, ready for use.  Initially I was going to use it, but after a chat with HK, and the way the day was panning out, that I may not be able to get in the kitchen to bake.  I feel like I have wised up to a regular everyday ingredient, I suppose I have done really!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

My First Sugarcraft Flowers Celebration Cake

I had been volunteered to decorate the Birthday cake for Beckermet WI, for it's 86th birthday celebrations this evening.   As I pretty much had carte blanche on design, there was an overwhelming amount of things I wanted to do and try out, or that I had the opportunity to try out.  In the end I decided to go with my original idea (isn't it always the way!) of using the flowers that I had made in Sugarcraft Class.  I had missed the class last week when everything was put together, so I had to wing it a bit try to remember what little I knew of flower arranging.  It is only the second time I have put together a display of flowers - the first without any guidance!  I think I did quite well and I was very pleased with the result.  HK says I should be proud of what I have done.

Orchids, Bouvardia and Veronica.  I did put the cake on a lilac cake plate at the venue.



I can't take credit for the photos - HK took them!  The cake was well recieved and I had many complements

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Sugarcraft Week 8 & An Invitation For Mary-Jane

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at sugarcraft tonight.  No pictures though.  We did a lot of preparation for two projects, that I am looking forward to learning.  The first one is a technique called Flooding.  You decide on a picture, or a line drawing, or even use a patchwork cutter to give the outline.  A good size cake board is covered on the top with wax paper (not greaseproof, as many people had took this evening, as is doesn't particularly come of greaseproof very well).  Stick it down on three sides with masking tape.  Then slide your picture underneath the paper. Stick a tab on the bottom of the paper to help remove it when the time is right.  Then with royal icing and a 1.5 plain tip, trace over the lines.
When this is done, let down some royal icing to a more near pouring consisitency, put some in an icing bag, and fill in the gaps.  The icing can be coloured before it is let down.  You can't do two sections that border each other as they will run into each other.  Once it is all done, it will need to dry for about 5 days.  It looks straightforward, and it may need lots of practice and confidence, but I am really wanting to get cracking and try this.
The other thing we did was to dye ready rolled fondant/sugarpaste and cover a dummy cake and board.  With this we will try and practice different piping techniques.  This will be more for after christmas.
I have also reserved my place on the christmas cake decorating workshop on the 2nd December.  Can't wait.
This morning Mary-Jane and I went to play group.  We couldn't get last week due to us all being poorly with D&V.  The group was very busy, about 20 children.  Mary-Jane was a little shy at first, then found her feet.  When it was singing time at the end, she shone.  She played the drum with a maraccah and then her hands.  She then stood up singing and doing the actions, squealing with delight.  Beautiful to see her like this.
When we arrived, I was told that there was an envelope for Mary-Jane on the table.  Inside was an invitation from Gosforth Mothers Union for their Christmas Party on 8th December.  I got a bit choked.  It is her very first party invite.  I am so excited for her.  The Mothers Union hold a party each year and invite around 50 children.  Being in a room with 50 partying children fills me with dread and I will need something for my nerves!  I can't wait.  I rang and accepted the invitation this afternoon and am smiling everytime I think about it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Pinny Is Ready To Ride Again!

I have a had a relaxing afternoon at Woodlands Cafe in Santon Bridge, at the knitting group.  We knitted, chatted, drank tea and ate cakes.  Marvellous.  And we talked about baking. A lot.  I am more encouraged to try choux pastry, following much encouragement.  Most people that I have spoken to recently about choux claim how easy it is.  The thought of my own eclaires excites me.  The thought of mastering a pastry fills me with ooooooh-ness!  My baking mojo is coming back.  It has taken a bit of a sojourn for around two weeks.  The pinny wants to ride again!
I have had the last slice of pumkin pie - HK loves it, I am chuffed with that - it tastes much nicer than yesterday.  The vegetable flavour has gone.  It made me wonder whether to give the beetroot pie another go, and leave it a day or two before eating.  I do have some of the mix in the freezer.  It may just be worth giving another whirl.
I still haven't put the icing on the WI cake.  After I got in from the committee meeting this evening and had a very late tea, I didn't want to shift for a bit, then time dictated that it was rather late to be doing.  Time is ticking, so I need to get my finger out.  The there is the decision as to whether or not I do anymore baking for the WI birthday on Wednesday.  I think time will out me on this one.  I do not even have in mind what I could make, so unless I have divine inspiration over night, I may not bake.
I have been cracking on with ASJ.  I am now on the button hole row, so maybe another 5 rows, 7 tops.  I have decided to do this outer band all in the dark purple in the hope that it will give it a more finished off look.  I am still thinking of letting 2013 be the year of fairisle.  I shall continue stash busting.  And play about with lace. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Pumpkin Pie For The First Time

Following on from my Pay It Forward parcel of pumpkin puree and evap milk, this afternoon I set about making my very first Pumpkin Pie.  I even made the pastry - and that came out rather well!  I used American Pie Crust recipe.  The pie came out very well.  The filling was light and airy, reminding me a bit of mousse.  I didn't have any cream to serve with it, but will have next time.  I liked the pie.  It left a sweet after taste in my mouth.  What I found unusual, and found the same with the Beetroot Pie, was that there was a taste of vegetable about it.  This comment is to be bourne in mind with the fact that I am not used to having a vegetable as a desert, just as a veg.  Do you know where I'm coming from?  I am pushing my culinary taste buds in a new and tasty direction.  If I can try (and adore) beetroot roasted with sunday dinner, and beetroot (again) in cakes, the path has been laid. 
I couldn't help thinking that my palette needed something else with it.  Whether cream would fulfil this I don't know.  I thought maybe chocolate shavings, maybe not.  Nothing overly sweet.  The verdict is that I like pumpkin pie.
The recipe I used was taken from the label on the tin.

Mr Snuggles has been getting somewhat very dirty of late, what with Mary-Jane's cold and unwellness, he has been in the call of duty.  As a reward, Mr Snuggles was treated to not only a hand wash scrub from Daddy, but a soak in his very own special bath, with something special in it to help him get cleaner.  Mary-Jane wanted to bath him, look after him and get him clean.  She even wanted to wash his face and hair! 
She is becoming a very loving and caring little girl.  When I say to her that I am having a sit down and a rest on the sofa, she pulls my patchwork lapghan off my shelf and put it over my legs, hauls the bean bag over and tries to put my feet on it.  Today, she clambered on the sofa next to me, put Mr Snuggles on my shoulder/front and said that Mr Snuggles was my blanket, then pushed my chin back so my head was resting on the back of the sofa and told me 'Mummy go bo-bo's'.  Bo-bo's is sleep.  Can't argue with that can I? Apart from to get a tissue to wipe my eyes.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pay It Forward

I have been the very lucky recipient of Pay It Forward.  Pay It Forward is where you do an act of kindness to someone, instead of you paying the person back, you pay it forward and do an act of kindness for someone else.  It is a beautiful principle.

Today I had a parcel in the post from a dear, dear friend.  As much as I want to shout it from the rooftops who sent it me, I feel in the main that I shouldn't.  I can't really explain why.  Sometimes kindess needs quiet, sometimes it doesn't.  Lee, Thank yous so much for the parcel, and for your thoughtfulness and kindness.  It is more than appreciated.

In my parcel I had two cans of Pumpkin Puree and a can of evaporated milk, sent all the way from the USA. Auntie Annie aka AnnInAmerica is coming to visit next week.  She will be here for Thankgiving (T-Day).  There is talk of a Thanksgiving Meal.  I wanted to help and asked for T-day desert recipes.  A primary one is Pumpkin Pie.  You can either prepare the pumpkin yourself which takes a couple of hours on it's own, or use a can of pumpkin puree.  I have never in my life seen a can of pumkin puree.  And now I have two.

I am planning to make a pumpkin pie hopefully tomorrow.  Presuming all goes well, I shall do another for Thankgiving.  I think it is a day I may adopt.  For the essence of what it stands for.  I have a Lot to be Thankful for.  Lee is part of this Lot.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

A Few Hours Out

I had a few hours at Fobbles this afternoon.  It was a welcome break and good to catch up with the ladies there.  I did a tension square for the next cardi I want to do, one from  Strangely the tension square seemed quite accurate.  I took this as a good omen and cast on.  This evening, I gave into sensible thought and took out ASJ.  I was pleasantly surprised that I only have a couple more inches to do before it is the same length as my new red cardi.  As long as it is in proportion, I don't really want it much longer.  Then there is the Great Stitch Pick Up.  That will run into hundreds of stitches.
Mary-Jane seems better today.  She is eating and drinking more normally.  Fingers crossed now that normal service can resume - once we all catch up with our sleep.  MJ woke up around 4.30 am this morning.  I put her back down after 15 or so minutes, but then no matter what HK and I couldn't settle back to sleep.  We were down stairs for half five.  No wonder I feel shattered now.
My head has been rapidly filling with more knitting projects that I want to do, as well as sugarcraft and cake decorating ideas.  I have made myself stop thinking, joined up thinking has left the building for a well earned rest!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Being Poorly, More Knitting and Not So Much Baking.

We have fallen foul of our health again.  Following Mary-Jane being sick (and the rest) Friday night (at least I think it was Friday night), HK and I were struck Monday night, and oh boy was it bad.  I was okay till early evening when my guts started churning.  I went to bed around 9.30, early for me.  By 11, HK and I were taking it in turns to use the loo.  It wasn't pleasant.  Plus the thought that I couldn't dally on the loo incase HK was in equal desperation to use it, was not a comforting thought, as you can imagine!  We settled back into bed around 1ish, to feverish rest.  Then by 3, I was up again, facing the uneviable dilemma of one end using the facility and the other end needing to use it at the same time.  'Nuff said. 
By morning things had slowed down and we were exhausted.  Thankfully now we are over the worst of it and managed a proper meal for tea tonight (Glamorgan sausages, garlic and herb roast spuds, honey roasted parnsips and gravy).  Mary-Jane is taking a little longer to get back on her feet.  She is sleeping well at night and still saying that she is sleepy during the day.  Her food and fluid intakes are nearly back to normal.  She has discovered Kit-Kats, Kitty-Kats to her, and sliced garlic sausage. 
On top of all that, I have slept funny at some point over the weekend and ended up with a stiff neck.  I have suffered with this quite a few times before.  It has improved today, luckily.  It is helpful that I have had this before as I know the physio excercises and have been doing them.
What a tat-ta.
Here is a round up of some photos whilst I've been incapacitated and off the air:
Mary-Jane looking very sombre in her Halloween dress and witches hat.  She loved the dress and wore it two days on the trot.  And fine she looked in it.

Skeleton in the Casket #2.  I am a novice to piping, so was quite pleased how this turned out.  The cake pan was sent to me by my wonderful friend Paula, along with some other halloween treasures - further pictures to come.  I love this skeleton, I wish I could Halloween bake more often.
This is a belated birthday present for a friend.  It is made with a Malabrigo worsted yarn.  The pattern is Holes To Make Lace by Caitlin ffrench.  It is freely available on Ravelry.  I like it and may have to do one for myself.
I have made a jacket for Mary-Jane.  Petite Panache by Meghan Jones, again available for free on Ravelry.  I really enjoyed making this.  There are two features that I have never done before.  The pleats around the bottom and the way the sleeves attached to the main body.  Apart from the sleeves been knitted seperately before being attached, the garment is knitted in one piece.  The collar is started by picking up stitches.  As you can see, Mary-Jane was not in the mood to try on her new jacket.
An invisible press stud is need above the top button.  Mary-Jane is still not impressed with having to try on her new jacket.  This lack of impressed-ness doesn't do a knitters feelings much good!
A cheeky Mary-Jane in her halloween costume.
In between the  two bouts of poorlyness, Mary-Jane and I found time to make the christmas cake.  Well, Mary-Jane started helping me weigh out things, didn't like me being noisy using the kenwood, but she was there to help stir the cake mix to bring us luck for the next year.  I love baking with her.

I have also knitted myself a kerchief or head scarf.  One of those triangular ones.  I have it blocking on the floor at the moment.  I learnt to use a twisted drop stitch for this small project.  It looks quite effective.  No pictures as yet.
I am now wanting to make another garment.  I've still not finished the ASJ, here is a prod and a nudge to myself to get it done before I start anything else big and new.  I have found a few patterns, from dear ol' Rav for waistcoats in four ply and worsted/aran weight.  I want to use stash yarn, obviously and am doing my best to match up design ideas with yarn I've got.  I'm nearly getting there.  I was starting to get a bit over excited when I was making my final choices over what to do.  I recognised that I was getting tired and probaly wouldn't actually cast on tonight, so I did the sensible thing and backed off.  I hope tonight lucid sleep thoughts won't involve too much of deciding which to do.  I might leave that till the cold light of day. 
Besides all that, I have a new interest in snoods, the 1940's type.  I have a few patterns for these, I just need to identify some yarn and there is a few small projects.  Enough to keep my grey knitting cells leaping with excitement.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Head to Head with bedtime

I am head to head with bed time.  I have seven photos downloaded onto flikr, they will have to wait till tomorrow, apologies.  I have finished the Holes To Make Lace shawlette and it is blocking on a towel on the floor - one of the pictures.  I am happy that it is a short project and that it is done.  The lace work has whetted my lace appetite and I am having thoughts of doing some finer lace work and continuing with one of the shawls I started a while back.  I'm not yet sure which one.  Perhaps the EZ one, that has been most prominent in my mind.  I have reservations that Holes may be too small.  That may just be me, only thing is to check when it has finished blocking.  I don't always remember that shawls sit differently on people that are less voluptuous than me!
Mary-Jane has had a much better day.  She has drank and eaten, although not proper meals.  SHe has been murmering in her sleep this past hour, so I am expecting her to wake soon.  She seemed almost excited about feeling better today.  She did have rather a runny bum (ahem) at one point.  She slept really well last night and even had a lie in.  Tomorrow I'm hoping that she will take more fluids and eat more.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Catch Up

I have a few weeks to catch up on with you!  It started with me getting an almighty cold/flu symptoms that knocked me off my feet and I ended up spending a few days in bed.  It has taken the rest of the time to about get over it.  Come evening time, I have been too tired to even think about blogging.  I have written down in my trusty notepad, things that I want to tell you about.  I will try to get through most things, although not in order of things happening!  The photos will have to wait till another night, unfortunately.
Knitting - I have finished my cardi.  I am pleased with it and have had a lot of wear out of it already.  I have made a jacket for Mary-Jane in the same yarn.  It is called 'Petite Panache' by Meghan Jones.  I got the pattern from Ravelry.  It is knitted in one go, from the bottom up.  The sleeves are knitted seperately then added at the appropriate time.  The bottom of the jacket has pleats, something that I have never done before.  I have also not used this construction method either.  I reallay enjoyed knitting it.  I have started a shawlette for a friend as a belated birthday present.  I am using a skein of Malabrigo from my stash.  The pattern is 'Holes to make Lace' by Caitlin ffrench.  Again it can be found on Ravelry.  It is the first piece of lace work I have done for a few months.  I haven't had the telly on so I can concentrate and I kinda miss it!
Sugarcraft is going okay.  It has been half term this week, and I am back this Tuesday.  Hopefully we should be putting it all together and starting the next project.
I have been sent a fantastic cake pan by a fantastic person.  Paula sent me a Wilton 3D Skeleton in a Casket pan.  I have made it twice so far.  I have been treated to the correct sized piping nozzles, so it looks kinda groovy!  The first one I did the day the pan arrived, just couldn't resist it.  The second on I did was for a NSPCC Coffee Morning Raffle on Halloween.  It was won by a lady who said she was taking it to a Halloween party that night, so I was pleased with that.  On a similar subject, I have seen two Zombie Cupcake Books, they look good and I may treat myself to them using the Tesco Clubcard Voucher Exchange, so they will in effect cost nothing and I shall have them at half the price - now there is one to work out!!
Mary-Jane isn't very well at the moment.  She was sick quite a few times in the night.  She was almost more scared of actually being sick.  That is a new phenomenon to her.  She definitely didn't like her PJ's getting dirty.  She has been tired today and a bit our of sorts as you can imagine.  She has hardly had anything to eat or drink, may be two glasses of squash and half a glass of milk.  At bed time, she didn't was stories or time on the bed with Mommy, she asked to be taken to bed, the poor little mite.  Since then I have only heard her call out once, for Daddy, in her sleep.  Hopefully she will a good and restful night and be ready to drink and eat tomorrow.
Oh - Auntie Annie aka AuntieAnnInAmerica - I'm back and am counting down to your visit! xxxx

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Nearly Back

Apologies for absence.  I haven't been too well.  Laid up in bed for a few days with cold/flu symptoms.  Am nearly over it now, just generally feeling tired now, but pushing on.  Will start catching up tomorrow

Monday, 15 October 2012

Apples, Onions & Beetroot

I have had a fruitful two days.  I started late Sunday Morning with the preparation of the pickling onions.  I had bought just shy of 4kg.  That is a lot of onions to peel.  I mentally prepared myself for crying and stinging eyes that I was going to undergo, it would be worth it.  As I was starting we were talking about old wives tales about how to avoid onion eyes.  I remembered the one about cutting the bottom off first.  I thought I would give it a go.  I did and it worked!  I flew through the pile of onions like a peeler possessed and had the job lot done in 45 minutes and hardly a tear in sight - once I started cutting the bottom end first.  I was quite chuffed with myself for a few hours, I can tell you.  I put the onions in two large mixing bowls with a salt water solution and left them till this morning.  I got eight jars of large pickled onions sat in the cellar now, and a HobbitKeeper who is counting down the days till they are  ready to eat.
I have also been playing with the Lakeland Apple Master and peeled, cored and sliced all the apples that Mary-Jane and I picked a few days ago.  I cooked them up to a roughish pulp, let them cool, then bagged them up in half pound bags and froze them.  I now have a grand total of 3lb 10oz of apple pulp.  Not bad going at all!
Then this afternoon, on went the pinny.  Mary-Jane wanted hers on as well when she saw me in mine.  She was as much interested in running around as helping me weigh things out.  I made American Style Beetroot Pie.  I took the recipe from Baking Heaven Magazine.  It's a lovely simple recipe using beetroot, double cream, soft brown sugar, allspice, mixed spice and ginger.  The colour is gorgeous.  After it cooled, I put it in the fridge to chill.  When I was ready to eat it, I dusted it with icing sugar, and sat down in the front with a cuppa and put my feet up.


I don't like American Style Beetroot pie.  I managed half a slice and couldn't bring myself to eat any more.  In the bin it went.  The first mouthful was okay, it went downhill after that.  I just don't like the taste of it.  It was good that I could taste the beetroot then the spices.

I shall not be eating or making American Style Beetroot Pie again.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Sugarcraft Week 4 & Planning Food Preparation

I have finished my sugarcraft homework.  I did it last night and tonight.  In the next class we are colour dusting.  I'm not sure if we will be putting the whole composition together then or the week after.  The flowers are orchids, free form leaves to the right and orchid buds on the left.  The orchid buds remind me of the droid army on Star Wars, the head of them.


HK, MJ and I went into Egremont this morning to see if Jenkinsons had any pickling onions.  I know they sell quickly.  We were in luck.  We got around 3.5kg.  I am not looking forward to peeling that many onions!  I got the pickling vinegar in the afternoon, so in the next day or two, it's Onion Day.  I wanted to get some beetroot to pickle as well, but they didn't have any in, I am to try Tuesday or Wednesday.
I also picked up some individual round  and  rectangular lidded foil pie dishes.  I have been wanting to make and freeze pies and meals for quite a while.  I am getting closer to doing this.  All that stops me is actually doing them now.  I have everything I need, just need time and space! And to decide exactly what I am going to do.  Oh and I still have all the apples to prepare and freeze.  Think I shall be having lots of kitchen time over the next few days.

Toffee Apple Pie

On the back of the delivery of the new Baking Heaven magazine, I was inspired, amongst other things, to look to making some American Style Pies.  The first one I have made, indeed the only one so far - and only because I can't make the next pie until this pie is eaten, which will hopefully be tomorrow - is Toffee Apple Pie.  It is a cinch to make, and I still have room for improvement.  It is the first time I have used Filo pastry and Carnation Dulche De Leche.  I recommend it for it's simplicity, it's ease of making (as long as you use bought pastry!), it's looks and taste!

And here is a slice of the delectable pie!  I also want to make the American Style Beetroot Pie and the Mississipi Mud Pie.  I shall neither be slim nor hungry.

I am rather inundated at the moment with all things baking/cakes/cake decorating.  I've got my new Baking Heaven Mag that I told you about, my months subscription to Cake Decorating Magazine arrived Friday, today two books that I ordered also arrived - Annie Rigg's Christmas Cupcakes and Linda Collister's Christmas Treats.  As well as a few library books.  Good job I've got something to eat whilst I have a cuppa and study all these books and things!