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!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Apples, Apples, Apples

We have been blessed with a few days of good weather.  Beautiful autumn days and chilly nights.  The leaves are turning on the trees, a gorgeous time of year.  I had a peek in the orchard.  Quite a few apples were in need of picking.  It was time for Mary-Jane to have another first - apple picking.  I showed her how to twist and pull, she virtually got the hang of it.  She became confident with it and didn't need to be asked to pick the next apple.  She picked all the apples she could reach and put them in the bag.  The it was time to get the ones that were higher up.  After she picked each one, she wanted to put it in the bag.  Lifting her up and down soon told on my back!
Some apples Mary-Jane had to reach on tip-toes for.

We put the apples in a bag, gently
Some branches had to be gently lowered for MJ to reach.

All the apples are Eaters.  I am planning to cook the majority of them into pulp and freeze them.  Hopefully tomorrow.  We only picked from one tree, so there are plenty more to go.
Mary-Jane and I went back to playgroup.  She was quite a nervous or shy as last week, although stayed very close to me.  When it was time to put the toys away, she didn't want this to happen, neither did she want to sit at the table with the other children to have some fruit, which she did last week - she wanted to play with the cars.  Initially she didn't want to join in the sing song and screamed all the way through the first song.  This changed very quickly, to where she was stood in front of me playing the drums with some maraccas and shouting 'I'm playing the drums and singing everybody'!  When it was time to go, out came the screams again, she wanted to stay and play.  She is most definitely Getting There!

Biscuit Baking and Books

This is from Sunday, when we went out visiting and went to the beach at Silecroft.  All trips to the beach must include ice cream, and this day was no exception!  Here is Di, Mary-Jane and myself, indulging in a spot of ice cream eating at the beach.
Mary-Jane has been quite taken up with cookie cutters. I did try a few days ago to bake some biscuits with her, but she was far more interested in the 'Shapes'.
Today, however, we managed to get some biscuit making done.  We cheated and used a packet mix, as a time saver to keep MJ's attention.  These are the first biscuits she has made.  I did the icing with the provided icing pen.  We both got our pinnies on and I weighed out the butter whilst Mary-Jane watched.  I then showed her how to combine the butter and mix by hand.  She wasn't sure at first, then started to mimic the hand motions, and mixed a bit up.  We both rolled out the dough, Mary-Jane insisting that she knew how to roll out!  I showed her how to use the cutter, she was amazed.  I put them on the baking tray.  Much dough was sampled, even some pieces of the bat were sampled....The biscuits turned out fab.  I'm so proud of my Baby Girl.
 Naturally, after every baking session comes the tasting!  We all gave the biscuits a thumbs up.  Mary-Jane helped with the washing up after, all part of baking.


Mary-Jane and I went for a walk this morning, down Nursery Road, at the back of us.  MJ was highly delighted that she saw six tractors and all the farmers waved to her.  This afternoon, the three of us went to Gosforth Library.  We all chose books to borrow.  Mary-Jane had another bear pawprint on her bear passport and she was allowed to stamp the date in her books herself - very grown up of her!  HK got five more Western books.  I got Linda Collisters 'Christmas Treats', The great british book of baking, from series 1 of the great british bake off; Cakes to inspire and desire by Lindy Smith and The Boy who bakes by Edd Kimber, winner of the above series.  I have some serious book reading an baking ahead of me!

Monday, 8 October 2012

A Quick Daily Round Up

I am getting more up to date with things.  I have completed my sugarcraft homework ready for tomorrow.  I went to Woodlands Knitting this afternoon - relaxing and enjoyable - I took the Spring Cardi (I don't know what else to call it).  I have only about six rows before putting the sleeve stitches on a holder.  I didn't realise that I had to do a plain inch between doing the increases and dividing for the sleeves. Tsk. 
I got two more baking tins this morning, one to do mini loaves and one to do individual cakes about 5" diameter.  I'm now itching to get in the kitchen and bake, bake, bake.  This isn't going to happen for at least a day or two.  Tomorrow is playgroup and sugarcraft, Wednesday the barn is being emptied ready for work to start on the roof and floor.  The WI in the evening.  Thursday and Friday don't look too bad.  I need to fit a Library trip in there somewhere as well.  I was going to do that tomorrow afternoon, I think we may be too busy.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Very Disturbed Night

The last 24 hours have been eventful.  HK and I were awoken not long after 1am with the sound of the front door going and lots of loud voices.  I thought it was very late for anyone to be calling, but you never know.  The noise, the voices and the front door opening and closing carried on.  The upshot of it was that a drunk driver had driven into our next door neighbours house, had gone throught the wall and stopped in the kitchen.  The driver fled the scene, then later handed himself in.  Luckily our neighbour was upstairs in bed.  She wasn't injured, only very shaken, as you can imagine.  It was her, the police, the fire brigade and the ambulance people that we could hear.  The whole room of the kitchen looks like a write off.  The hole in the kitchen wall is massive.  Car size in fact.  Our neighbour is a widowed lady in her late 80's.  I feel sorry in my heart for her.  I won't go into too much detail further. She stayed the night with us, and all of today into this evening, when some of her family arrived from the south coast.
As Mary-Jane hadn't had the best of nights - she had already awoken twice before everything started happening, then was awake again with it all - I knew she would be cranky today.  I know she wouldn't handle strangers coming in and out of the house very well whilst she was tired.  She did eventually get used to Our Neighbour and wished her Night Night at bed time.  HK and I thought it would be best to take her out for the day.
We had already arranged to go to a friends house and collect a petrol mower.  So we packed what we needed for the day and headed out.  We stayed for lunch, MJ had a run around the garden, then it was time to head to the nearest beach, Silecroft, about a mile away, to have fun on the beach and an ice cream!
Now I am very tired.  Busy week ahead.  It was this week (the second week of the month) last month that knocked me about and made me tired and it's back at me, nipping at my heels!
On the upside, I had a phone call at tea time saying that I had won a bottle of whiskey in one of the Coffee Mornings.  It will be dropped off for us on Tuesday.  Happy HK!  Another upside of today, is that the Drunk Driver has been to Our Neighbour and sincerely apologised and offered to help where he can.  I think there is a Life Long Lesson for him to be learnedd.

Another Coffee Morning, A Closure And A Table Top Sale

Friday Morning I went to another Macmillan Coffee Morning in Cleator.  It was a friends house.  I took Mary-Jane and Mum.  The cakes were out of this world!  Really lovely, very scrumptious.  Mary-Jane handled herself very well, to say that there was a lot of people there and lots of chatter and people paying her attention.
Whilst I was stood in the kitchen, I saw a lady eye me up as if she was going to talk to me, but deciding whether to or not.  I stood and smiled at her.  She started to ask me if I had helped her, at Tesco's, we both said at the same time.  Yes that was me.  Last August, I went to the aid of two ladies that had fallen or tripped over in Tesco's car park.  The older lady was in her 90's and the other lady was her daughter.  First Aid staff from Tesco soon came out, an ambulance was called etc, as it was apparant that there was injuries, beyond being shaken up.  Whilst the mother was being attended to, I sat with the daughter, kept her company, held her hand and hugged her.  When the paramedics took over with her, I  along with HK and Mary-Jane, went on our way.  I have often thought about the two ladies and what happened with them.  I knew I'd probably never get closure or see the people again, of find out how they fared.  Unless I was meant to find out. 
So here was this lady stood nervously in front of me.  She was the daughter.  She told me the rest of the story, which for her privacy, I will not go into.  And Thanked me profusely.  I welled up.  I was rather stunned that this should happen out so out of the blue.  I thanked her for speaking with me and letting me know what happened, and that I was sorry for the final outcome.
Whether it was a coincidence or it out meeting was meant to happen, I don't know.  But I am sure glad it did, and was thankful for it.
Friday afternoon I slipped out by myself to Gosforth to a Table Top Sale.  I met up with LA and M.  I got Mary-Jane a toy red tractor, a knitted pink pig and a knitted scholarly owl, a jar of home made lemon curd and a denim dress for MJ.  We then had a cuppa and a biscuit and put the world to rights before going our seperate ways again.  Enjoyable!
I have still not done my sugarcraft homework.  I shall have to do it Monday evening after I come back from WI Committee.  Hopefully.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Working On An Old UFO

Another late evening/night with Mary-Jane last night.  Not an overly bad one, just enough to make me a bit tired with crankiness on the horizon.

Did I start telling you about the cardi I started making in the weeks before we moved?  It was an aran weight all-in-one top down cardi, using Sirdar Denim Aran weight.  Since moving, I couldn't bring myself to even look at it without getting emotional.  The cardi has been buzzing around in my thoughts over the last few weeks, so I bit the bullet and pulled it out from the bottom of the wardrobe.  I bought it downstairs to have a good look at it.  I must have been emotional or not concentrating brilliantly (yes and yes), as the stitch count was way out.  So much way out that it couldn't be rectified.  I frogged the whole lot.  And started again.  And I'm doing well with it so far.  In row counts I'm two thirds to where I frogged it.  Good going.  I am liking the project and getting lots of good and happy vibes from it, beyond that, I'm trying not to think too much.

The cardi jacket I started for Mary-Jane I am also going to frog.  The texture of the yarn and the pattern don't go well together.  I am thinking of either doing a sidways all in one jacket or an EZ Surprise Jacket.  I'm not decided at the moment.  I do know that the yarn I am using for my cardi, would work really well with the pattern I originally chose for Mary-Jane.

I was planning to make some biscuits with Mary-Jane this morning.  Well, I was going to make them and she was going to cut them out.  Instead, MJ spent the time playing with the cutters - shapes as she, quite rightly, calls them.  Perhaps in the next few days.

Yesterday I had a few hours down at Fobbles.  I had my motor mouth on and I felt that I didn't stop yakking.  I did get some knitting done, but not in the first hour!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Sugarcraft Week 3, Sugarcraft Guild & Chasing Rainbows

I've yesterday and today to catch up with.  Last night was Sugarcraft Class, Week 3.  We did large and small leaves, using the Virginia Creeper Leaf Cutter, and a leaf veiner.  We had to do 12 large and 6 small.  As well as this, we wex re shown how to do the throats for the orchids.  My home work is maybe 6 or so large leaves and all my orchid throats. I think there are six of those.  They fix on the pieces that look a bit like spoons.  I am much more relaxed than last year, though not as relaxed as I would like to be!  My confidence is growing slowly, it would grow more with practice.


Whilst we are on a sugary subject, this evening I attended the West Cumbria Sugarcraft Guild Meeting.  Again very interesting.  I have learned so much.  The demonstrations were by members.  The main one was quilling.  Quilling as in the same as paper quilling, but with flowerpaste.  Very impressive I must say.  It looked simple to do, and maybe time consuming to build a big picture up.  I am inspired to have a go.  We were shown how to make a duck, a fish and a cluster of bullrushes.  The other demonstration was covering a cake in regal icing (or was that royal? icing), along with hints and tips.  I was also personally shown how to hold and use an icing bag.  On the small amount I tried, I could see an improvement.  It's all in the technique, and practice of course.

Back to yesterday (although I am starting to wonder if it was the day before, days roll into one at the moment).  We had a lot of heavy rain, no surprise there.  But amongst all the heavy rain, there was sunshine, so there was rainbows.  A beautiful double rainbow.  I grabbed the camera to go outside.  I had the thought to take a good picture of the rainbow and take it to the farm opposite.  The end of the rainbow was right on their house.  I got to the back door and it was absolutely hoofing it down.  I retreated.  HK was brave enough to go out and he took the pictures.  He is good to me!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Mary-Jane's First Batch of Fairy Cakes

I was starting to feel a little tired and jaded today.  My mind was telling me that I should be on the go, not just sitting on the sofa.  Time to bake with Mary-Jane.  I had previously bought a couple of cake mix kits, that I thought were ideal for her to start with.  If we started from scratch weighing everything out, I think she would have lost interest.  Plus she is getting used to the noise of the kenwood again, so I don't want to push my luck.

We started off by putting the mix in the bowl, followed by and egg and a knob of butter
Then we gave it a good whisk to mix it all up
The batter is checked for consisitency and lumps - no lumps here!
Then the fairy cake cases were put in the tray.  We did do this first, then decided to use different cases.  I passed them to Mary-Jane and she put them in the holes.
The fairy cakes were then baked and cooled.  I put the icing and sprinkles  on.  Then there was the great tasting session.  Full marks all round!
One very happy little girl.  She has made her very first batch of cakes today!  No mean feat.

Oh and in between times, she washed the smaller items of pots up.  I did the big mixing bowl, and Mary-Jane did the rest.  I dried and put away.  I am proud beyond belief of her.  xxx