Sunday, 31 March 2013

Out in the garden

I think Spring is trying it's best to put in an appearance.  The weather was mild enough for us to sit outside for a good half an hour.  HK gave the grass it's first cut of the year.  MJ enoyed running around outside and playing on her slide.  I  loved watching her.  I found it quite spiritually envigourating and very relaxing to sit out and look around the garden.  I could feel my muscles deep in my shoulders and back relaxing down.  At times like this it makes me realise how tense I actually am all the time.
The garden needs much work on it.  Although we are willing to look after it and have great plans for it, our hands are tied as it is not our garden to do as we please. 

Mary-Jane is in mid flight.  She has out grown her swing already!
The veg patch is in a sorry state.  HK dug it over a few times last year.  We didn't plant anything.
The soft fruit bed, in even a more sorry state than the veg bed! We were told that didn't need any pruning or cutting back, so probably no soft fruit again this year.  Such a shame.
My rhubarb patch.  I have asked HK if I can take over looking after it, as it has been threatened with digging up and the plants re-planting in the different places where they were originally, as they didn't yeild much rhubarb last year.  Perhaps they just need time to settle and to be looked after.

The view from by the front wall looking onto Cold Fell.  There is still snow on the tops of the fells.
View turning around and looking up the garden.  We are down to nine chooks now.  We would like to build a better, more practical, safer run for the chooks.  Can you see the lesser spotted HK?!
HK and MJ by the veg patch.  This is the table and chairs we bought with us when we moved.
Earlier in the day, Mary-Jane and I planted some seeds in easy grow pots.  Another introduction for MJ to learn about gardening.  We planted basil, chives and tomatoes.  Granma has bought some cress seeds.  It will be fun to find unusual containers and plant the cress.  I have also thought about growing some mustard seeds - I need to keep my eye out for some!
To follow on with these herbs, I am hoping to grow more herbs outside.  There is a small herb bed, although this has been taken over by ?bay leaf.  I shall see what magic I can work.  I don't want to grow too many different herbs, just the ones that I primarily use.  Mint is a must!  I still cant have boiled tatties without mint.  I would also like to try and make my own mint sauce.  I don't have big ideas for a herb garden, just to start small and manageable.  Let's see what the year brings us - hopefully a good and bountiful harvest.

Friday, 29 March 2013

The start of the Easter Holiday Weekend

I have come a little closer to achieving my Holiday Weekend Goals.  I have made a quiche and some cheese and mustard pinwheels from the left over pastry - they didn't last long at all, I must say.  I shall try again tomorrow in the kitchen, if I'm feeling up to it and if the kitchen is free.  We also need to go to the library in the morning.  Mary-Jane, Mum and I went to Tesco this morning to do my weekly shop.  I got MJ a denim jacket.  She point blank refused to try it on in the shop.  It was a size 5/6 years, I thought it would fit her, but if I'd noticed the label it said in small print 23" chest.  I would have known to get a bigger size (and roll the sleeves up!).  When we got back, the only way I could get her to try it on was on a promise to go outside and see the daffodils.  Fair trade off really.  Except the jacket was too small for her, so a walk outside to see the daffs turned into yet another trip to Tesco to change it.  We ended up with a size 8/9 as it was a 25" chest.  She is only two and a half.  She is roughly 39" tall.  Definitely a Jackson Gal!
So MJ, HK and I went back to Tesco in the afternoon.  We also got some more plinky plonk for Grandad as it had 25% off, plus the wine that I chose was about half price.  Bargain.  Grandma also got some fresh yeast a big lump for the princely sum of 1p, as it 'had to go through the till, sorry'.  If the yeast is not used, it gets thrown out, so it is not minded that customers ask for it.  Something I shall remember.  That's if I prefer it to dry yeast.  I have a feeling it will be a while before I start thinking about that decision, unless I have a specific disaster!
I am about 3/4's through the Summer Ruffled Top for Mary-Jane.  I do like the way the yarn knits up - I wouldn't mind a cardi out of it myself!
A few days ago HK, MJ and I went to the Tat Shop in Egremont.  Lady Luck was smiling on me.  I found some non-interchangeable circulars, five pairs size 2mm through to 3mm, different lengths, a ball of variagated orange yarn, wound up in a ball and to me, looking rather a lot like malabrigo.  I was smirking by this point, as you can imagine.  But the piece d'resistance was yet to come.  Two earthenware 9" pie dishes, looking as near to new as possible.  And a pound each.  Happy, Happy, Happy in the words of the philosophical Phil Robertson.  A Key Lime Pie and a Pumpkin Pie have re-entered the 'Must Bake Soon' list.  I was very chuffed to say the least.  HK had luck as well - two camera lenses at a good price, and a fraction of what he found them on ebay for.
I have started the ball rolling to re-register as a nurse.  The only place I particularly would chose to work is the prison.  It is becoming apparant that between HK and I this may be the most likely way of one of us working.  It is not a decision I have taken lightly.  There is no vacancies at the moment, apart from in IDTS - Integrated Drug Treatment Service, I don't overly fancy doing that, but won't say never.  So I may hang out an application for a while till a regular prison nurse job comes up.  Or another job I fancy.  The lure of being on the same or similar wage is more than enticing.  Time away from Mary-Jane does not enthuse me.  I have an amount of blind faith in that the path will be illuminated for me.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Jackson's Baked Beans and Fruit Scones

Jackson's Baked Beans

Dedicated to Auntie Annie
  • 3 onions, chopped and diced
  • 2 tbsp dry mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 500g dried haricot beans
  • 250ml veg stock
  • 500g passata
  • good squidge of tomato paste/ketchup
  • few tbsp buffalo wing sauce (to your taste)
  • oil for frying
  1. Soak haricot beans in plenty of cold water, 8-10 hours, preferably overnight.  Drain and rinse well.  Put in a pan with fresh water, boil for 10 minutes then simmer for an hour.  Or follow instructions on your pack
  2. Set oven to 140c/ gm 1
  3. Fry the onions, add mustard powder, paprika, sugar, salt, garlic. 
  4. Mix the veg stock and roughly half of the passata together, then add to pan.  This just helps the two liquids combine.  Add the rest of the passata, tomato paste and buffalo wings sauce
  5. Give it a good stir and let bubble gently for ten minutes or so.
  6. Transfer to a casserole dish and cook in oven for about 2 hours.  Stir a couple of time and taste - add seasoning or any bits and bobs to your own taste
These beans can be frozen

Fruit Scones
  • 1lb (16oz) self raising flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, mixed with buttermilk to make up to 10fl oz
  1. Heato oven to 220c/gm 7.  Flour baking sheets
  2. sift the flour with the salt, rub in the butter until resembles fine bread crumbs.  This can be done in a processor. 
  3. Stir in the sugar and fruit
  4. Make a well in the centre and add the fluid, retaining a very small amount.  Mix to a spongy dough
  5. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, knead gently then roll to 1" thick and cut with cutter
  6. Brush tops with remaining fluid
  7. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, depending on your oven, until the scones are golden brown.

Easter Plans

I had planned to have some kitchen time today.  I want to do a fair bit of baking for this Easter Weekend.  Today I wanted to do a quiche for our tea and a Simnel Cake.  I got pastry out of the freezer, along with carrot soup for lunch.  I checked that I had all the ingredients for the Simnel Cake - I had.  Then it was out to me to go shopping.  I needed milk to tide us over till tomorrow when I do the weekly shop.  Plus there were some Crock type shoes on offer in Lidl that I could make good use of.  When I am in the kitchen weraing my slipppers, for some reason I can feel the cold of the floor coming through them, which I haven't had with any other footwear, including an identical pair of slippers I had last winter.  So I agreed to go shopping with Mum.  We came back five hours later, after going to Wilsons the Butchers, Lidl, Iceland, Home Bargains and Morrisons, I didn't get any baking done and we didn't have quiche for tea and the carrot soup is still in the fridge.  It was so busy on the roads and in the shops!  It was like Christmas.
So I want to go out first thing tomorrow and get what we need for the week, and get back in good time, and try again to do some baking!  I also want to bake some bread, some biscuits with Mary-Jane, maybe do a trifle, and this Manchester Tart which is starting to drive me up the wall because I've not made it yet.  And a lasagne, I've been after making one for a few weeks.  My last attempt was thwarted at the final hurdle as I didn't have any lasagne sheets(!).  I do now.
On the upside of things, Mum bought a Pop Cake Maker and chocolate fondue set today.  Pop Cakes are now on the Coming Soon Menu.  I bought some candy melts on Saturday.  I am looking forward to having a play with them.
I also have lots of plans of things to do with Mary-Jane over the Holiday Weekend.  I want to decorate eggs with her, construct Easter Baskets and have an Easter Egg Hunt in the garden.  Weather permitting of course.  Fingers crossed for a day like today. If the weather is good, I'd like to take her to the beach and have an ice cream.  I think I may be pushing it too far to say that I'd like to have a picnic.  I also want to plant some herbs with her.  I will put them on the kitchen windo ledge, and cover them wiht plastic cloches, otherwise they will never withstand the 'pruning' by the cats.  Only old Bob is allowed up there.  In fairness, the others jump down from there when they see me, especially when I reach for the wooden spoon.  Ahem.
Lots to do, let's see what gets achieved and what prevents it!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A Hectic Weekend

The last few days have been busy and involved a fair bit of running around and 'doing'.  It started Saturday.  I had only arranged to meet someone for a coffee, taking perhaps an hour and half, two hours tops.  Plenty of time left in the day to bake some bread.  I had read in Paul Hollywoods 'Bread' what would be an ideal size tin for bread.  I had exactly the size given, but it is my tattiest tin, the non-stick is not even there is some places.  I guess I am hanging onto it because I've not yet got another one to replace it.  I asked Mum in the morning if she had one a similar size.  She hadn't.  At the end of a very long and convoluted day, (most of which isn't really for here) I still didn't have a new tin-for-bread-only tin.  Mum had bought a Silverwood 12" multi size pan with two extra dividers, which could of course be used for bread.  It will come in very handy and be very useful and I'm excited that I may have a chance to use it. 
Sunday I took Mary-Jane to Messy Church at the Methodist Church in Gosforth.  I was quite wary of this, even though it sounded like fun.  I was on my guard that this might be a way of 'introducing' me to the Church.  This is a very sensitive subject for me, probably more sensitive than what I realise.  The Nuns at the Convent have so much to answer for.  I took Mary-Jane down and boy did we have fun!  The Messy Church was free and there was so many activities for MJ to do - reading, colouring, playing 'kitchen', baking bread rolls, using playdoh, decorating small cupcakes, decorating eggs, face painting, making easter cards and making pictures with tissue paper!  Wow!  And then we had lunch, with cakes - the ones that the children had decorated.  After that there was an Easter Egg Hunt in a wonderful garden of a 'church lady'.  Mary-Jane found two eggs.  On our way home MJ was given two mini creme eggs and two mini Lindt chocolate rabbits.  It was a fantastic two hours.  The only religeous part of it was when we were waiting for the lunch to be put out.  There are two main rooms - the Church and the Church Hall as such.  We were sat in the Church and a visiting Reverend told a bible story of Easter and two songs were sung.  The story was pitched a little above the older childrens head, I thought, but they got the jist of it.  The age ranges were from a babe in arms to about 8 or 9 ish.  I will definitely take Mary-Jane again.  It's on three or four times a year.
Sunday afternoon we managed to 'win' a fish tank and supplies from Freecycle.  We went to collect it Sunday afternoon.  It turned out to be from a Knitty Lady that I know, and haven't seen since Gosforth Show, so it was nice to have a quick catch up.
Monday morning first thing I hot footed it to Lidl in Whitehaven to get MJ a Balance Bike, they had them on offer that day.  I got there for 9am.  They were already sold out.  I was so disappointed.  The store assistant was very helpful and rang around other stores for me, but without joy.  She took my number and said she would ring me if any of the other stores in the group had any left. 
Then it was off to Tesco.  I  wanted to talk to Customer Services about some sausages that I had bought last week.  They were on offer - £1 instead of £2.15.  They had gone through the till at full price.  I hadn't noticed till I got back, then rang the 0846 number to hear a recorded message saying that I should take the product and reciept back to the store and they would double the difference.  Customer Services said they couldn't do this as the sausages were on offer when I bought them, the offer had finished and there was no way they could verify that they were on offer.  I said that I couldn't have returned them on the day (also the last day of the offer) as it was not worth a nearly 20 mile round trip for the princely sum of £2.30.  I said I would never have bought them if they were full price. Still No refund.  However the chap did give me the direct phone number of the stores Customer Services, so that if it happened again, I could ring, speak with them, get the situation clarified, and there would be a credit note waiting for me.  Next time.  Hmmph.
I managed to get back for about 10.15 and was due in Gosforth to meet Helen for a cuppa at The Hungry Parrot.  I do enjoy the cuppas and chats with Helen.  Just what I needed after a hectic weekend.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Double Chocolate and Ginger Steamed Pudding with Banana Ice Cream

Double Chocolate and Ginger Steamed Pudding with Banana Ice Cream.  Not the best flavour combo, but not a bad one.  It is a fairly quick desert, especially when you need a 'comfort pud'.  The pudding is a variation of the Chocolate Poppity Ping Pud

The Pudding
  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 100g chocolate chips
  1. Grease a 2 pint/1.2 ltr pudding basin
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time
  4. Add half the flour mixed with the cocoa powder and ginger, mix, add the milk, mix, then add remaining flour.  Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Turn mix into the pudding basin, put a loose cover over it (greaseproof paper) and put in microwave on high for 3 1/2 - 4 minutes depending on the micro wave watt
The Ice Cream
  • 4 frozen bananas, previously cut into inch strips
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  1. Put all ingredients into blender and whizz until smooth.  I found that it was better to let the bananas stand for 20 mins or so to defrost rather than using them straight from the freezer.  The coldness of the bananas should freeze the buttermilk.  I put the ice cream in the freezer for 10 or 15 minutes, which made it similar to a soft scoop.  I am leaving some in overnight to see if it firms up any more.
I think this recipe may have potential, especially as a quick recipe.  I may try it with cream instead of buttermilk.  I have also come across a similar-ish hot cross bun ice cream, when I have tried and tested this, I'll let you know!

Summer Stripes Top

I finished MJ's Summer stripes top a couple of days ago.  The colours are pretty - and right for spring/summer.  I do like this design.  I will see if I can vary it a bit.
Mary-Jane likes her new princess top.  All tops that she likes at the moment are princess tops/dresses.  It will be good for her if the weather ever breaks and we get some warm weather.  I'm not holding my breath.  I am pleased that she is finally happy again to wear woolies.  Around her neck is her Special Treats Bag.  She has this on when she get her special treats - chocolate and sweets etc - from Granma.  Her treats go in the bag, she wears the bag and is a happy girl.

Last night I started a Ruffled Top by Elena Nodel, again the pattern is freely available on Ravelry.  It's going alright at the moment. I don't envisage any problems with it as it is quite straight forward.  I'm thinking that pretty soon I may need a break from MJ clothes, I think the last four things I have done are for her.  Maybe I just need to do something a bit more challenging for her.  I don't want to stop whilst she is happy to wear woolies.

Friday, 22 March 2013


Bread.  I bit the bullet and decided it was high time I made some bread without the use of the Bread Maker.  I didn't have much confidence in this area and this is the main reason I have been putting it off.  No longer.  I have been much spurred on by my success today.  I don't have grand visions of bread making, but now I know I can make bread. And make bread I will.  Without bias, this tastes so much better than any shop bought bread.  I want to experiment a little, try different things and see how I improve along the way.
The texture of the bread (or crumb, as a certain Mr Paul Hollywood, leads me to believe it is called), seems quite good to me.  I had this particular one buttered with cheese. Lovely.

Mary-Jane helped out a little, she will help more next time when I am not so uptight.  I plaited the loaves for a reason - when I was little, this is how I was allowed to play with and shape the dough, so this is what Mary-Jane will learn.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Swirly Skirts and Summer Stripes

I finished the Swirly Skirt for Mary-Jane some days ago.  She does like it and is happy to wear it - it was a bit touch and go whilst I was making it.  She looks beautiful in it.
I was trying to get a shot of her mid 'princess twirl', that was quite tricky, especially when she wants me to princess twirl as well!  However, I don't think I did too bad at catching the movement of the skirt.
MJ has re-discovered Grandad's Rocking Chair.  She loves it.  I believe she may be the fifth generation, perhaps the sixth to use it.

I am having a day or two off baking.  I did make some spicy carrot soup.  I have had a portion and HK has had two.  Today I've frozen another three big portions, so the bag of carrots has stretched very well!  I would do a bit more freezing of soup and veg, if I had more freezer space!  I do have a few egg whites in there from my recent frenzy of curd making.  I am planning to make italian or swiss meringue topping for cupcakes, or even do an Angel type cake where egg whites are needed.
Yesterday I got my copy of Ruth Clemens - The Pink Whisk - Cake Making book.  I had it on pre order from Amazone, due out in May, but the publication date was bought forward so now I have it in my grubby paws.  I have had a good look through the book, and I like it.  I like the angle it comes from, the hints and tips.  I am eager to try out a few recipes.  I think Manchester Tart with bananas is top of the hit list.  I have promised HK another Pumpkin Pie over the weekend.  Never trust a skinny baker!
Knitterati was on Tuesday.  I got my head together with another lady and we talked knitting, various projects and knit a longs.  She showed me her yarn that she had recently bought.  I haven't really been round much yarn lately that I was accustomed to (all the top end stuff) so it was a real treat for me.  Made me appreciate more what was in my stash - and made me want to stash surf again, just to look through pretty things.  I do appreciate all my yarn so much more this past year or two.  I am so glad that I was an impulse buyer and that I stocked up the last year I was working, knowing that I was heading for a long 'dry' spell. 
I cast on another 'Tango Tank' for Mary-Jane, I'm calling it Summer Stripes.  I am using Sirdar Summer Stripes, in pinks and greens.  I have three 50g balls.  I think if I'm lucky I might get away with just two balls, if not I will only need to break into the third for a few yards. Then I need to decide waht to do with the stray ball!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Scones - A Disaster and a Triumph

I have been making scone over the last few days.  Two batches.  The first was Baileys and Choc Chip Scones, the recipe is by Ruth Clemens aka The Pink Whisk and can be found here.  If you like Baileys, (or any Irish Cream Liqueur) I would highly recommend them - and have them topped with thick cream, I used extra thick double cream.  I tried using chocolate spread, as recommended in the recipe, but I found this over powered the Baileys.  These are a decadent Afternoon Treat - you can be very naughty in public and no-one will be none the wiser!
The same cannot be said for my second lot of scones - Mary Berry's Raspberry scones.  Disaster.  I put the scones in the oven for 12 out of the 15 minutes, giving me food that is nearly fit for the gods (burnt to you and me).  With my usual scone recipe I bake them for 9 - 10 minutes.  Then there is the 4 tsp of baking powder.  I could actually taste this in the finished scone.  Then the raspberry juice reacted with I don't know what to give a very dark blue/purple colour even before it was baked.  I have heard of this, in a very hazy part of my head, but I'm damned if I can remember what causes it.

I do not have the heart to try this recipe again, unless I modify it (remove all that baking powder for starters).  The idea really appealed to me - the scone dough is cut in half and rolled seperately then the  raspberries are put on top of one half and the other dough is laid on top, in effect sandwiching the raspberries. Hey Ho!  Can't get it right every time!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

My First Key Lime Pie

I have been hankering after making a Key Lime Pie for a few weeks now.   I would definitely make it again, though more now and then than frequently.  HK made the suggestion that next time I try it with orange instead of lime and ginger nuts instead of digestives.  I think my next hankering is Baileys and chocolate chip scones, courtesy of The Pink Whisk.

My Key Lime Pie
  • 175g digestive biscuits
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 85g butter, melted
  • 14fl oz can condensed milk
  • 125ml lime juice
  • finely grated rind of 3 limes
  • 4 large egg yolks
  1. Preheat the oven to 160c/gm3/325f.  Lightly grease a 9" pie dish
  2. To make the crumb crust - put biscuits, cinnamon and sugar into a processer and blitz till fine crumbs, not powder.  Add the melted butter and mix together
  3. Tip the crumb mix into the pie dish and press over base and sides.  Bake in oven for 5 minutes
  4. Beat the condensed milk, lime juice lime rind and egg yolks together in a bowl until well blended
  5. Pour the filling into the crumb base and bake in oven for 15 minutes until set around the edges and wobbly in the middle.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, then cover and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours
  • I might use a few more biscuits next time for a slightly thicker base
  • I use a fan oven so one or two minutes less baking won't go amiss
  • The egg whites can be frozen and used another time, so they don't go to waste
  • I am aware that there are lots of variations for this recipe - try them all out!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Thursday Afternoon Biscuits

I'm still running a little tired.  My cough/cold/chest infection seems to be on it's way out. Thankfully.  My IBS and related insides are still doing their merry thing and aren't quite right.  HK is wanting to get out and do some gardening and work on the veg patch.  Mary-Jane is sleeping slightly better (always looking for positives).  She is waking earlier, maybe quarter or half past six and eager to look out of the window at the sheep and the birdies.  It may be time to push her bed time back.  We tried it last Friday and it seemed to work.  We did think it may have been touch and go with her as she may have been over tired when we did put her down, but she had a good night.  Tonight she has new bedding on her bed, from Granma - Minnie Mouse sheets and for the first time, a proper pillow - cushion as she calls it - with Minnie Mouse on.  She also was treated to a Minnie mat.  She was very excited at bedtime, asking to go to bed and jumping up and down.  Then came the tears, soon resolved once her pillow had been put in the position she wanted it in.  So far, so good!

I have been to a friends house this afternoon and baked biscuits.  I cobbled the recipe together, and they came out alright.

Thursday Afternoon Biscuits

Makes about 40
  • 225g softened butter
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 350g self raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 200g choc chips/chunks
  1. Preheat oven to 170/gm 3.  Line two baking trays
  2. Cream together butter and sugar
  3. Mix in the eggs al little at a time
  4. Stir in flour and cocoa powder until it comes together as a dough
  5. Mix in chocolate  chips
  6. Roll into walnut sized balls and place on baking tray
  7. Bake for approx ten minutes.  Leave on baking tray of five minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.
Biscuits will firm on cooling.

Feel tree to mak this recipe your own.  It is just a generic basic one!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

On the way to Woodlands

I remembered to take my camera when I went to Woodlands Knitting Group yesterday.  I stopped at my usual spot on Irton Flats (I have been informed that the place may actually be called Irton Levels, I shall look into this, I am probably wrong).  The blob on the right is dust or something in the workings of the camera that we've not been able to get out yet.

This is looking to the left.  I must admit that I still don't know the names of all the fells.
In the direction of going to Woodlands.  Woodlands is at Santon Bridge.
Looking to the right, so a broken panoramic view
I literally stepped out of the car to this.  If I had been really lazy, I could have just wound the window down to take the shot.
A few yards up and around the corner

It is hard not to be affected by such natural beauty, to be in awe

Bambino Top

I'm a day or two behind with my posts.  I finished MJ's Bambino Top on Sunday Morning and naturally whipped off the one she was wearing and put her in her new one.  She was very happy with it, as was I.  I do like the sleeve straps, certainly a design style/feature to remember.  I love to see her running round in the clothes that I make her.  It is such a shame that I am not in a position to dress-make, if I was my head would certainly be falling off with all the ideas for clothes for her - and for me!

MJ looks quite serious here, but I was doing my best to chase round after her with the camera and snap her in those nano seconds that she stood still.


The pattern is called Tango Top, by Sarah Ronchetti, it is available on Ravelry and Petite Purls.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Of Sheep and Toddler Tops

I have very nearly finished Mary-Jane's Tango Top.  I wanted it done tonight so she could wear it tomorrow.  I am half way through the second shoulder strap, so following that all that needs doing is attaching the straps and blocking the lace hemline.  I don't want to rush to finish it, or stop up late.  It will be done tomorrow and it will be my Mothers Day gift to her.  Then I shall start on her cotton swirly skirt.  Once I have done my WI minutes of course tomorrow night!
I didn't get to freeze bananas today.  We were going to defrost the freezer, it really needs doing and the ice is taking up precious space.  But we didn't get to do that.  I did make a bit of space by cooking a summer fruit strudel.  A slice of which went down deliciously with a big blob of chocolate ice cream.  We also made a massive Shepherdless Pie for tea, for today and tomorrow, and maybe the day after!
Mary-Jane had a really good sleep last night.  She may have wakened during the night but she didn't cry and we had no need to go into her.  I think it did us all some good - and probably made us feel more tired.  Fingers crossed for more similar such nights!
I am in parlez with another knitter, from Kniterarti.   We are talking of doing a knit-a-long, or a project that may challenge us.  One of the contender projects is The Sheep Carousel Tea Cosy by Kate Davies.  I've been rather taken with this pattern since last years Woolfest.  It would be nice to do this with another knitter.  I do miss this kinda thing, I used to do this with Sally, in particular, and others from Stafford Knit Chicks (Hello Sylvia - I miss you too!).  I don't think I have a suitable yarn in my stash, I shall have to see about acquiring some in the next few months.

This is The Sheep Carousel, by Kate Davies.  The image is from the pattern page on Ravelry.

I need to go Stash Surfing.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Sour Cream Pumkin Bundt Cake

The baking offering of the day is Sour Cream Pumpkin Bundt Cake.  The recipe can be found here.  I've had one slice and I'm not overly sure.  It seems over moist, but cooked well enough on the edges.  It was in the oven for long enough - the recommended time, which is generally too long in this oven.  Maybe it needs a little lower for longer, or mixing longer, who knows.  It tastes okay, which it the main thing.
The brown in the middle is a hidden brown sugar streusel filling, quite spicy.

I am planning a Key Lime Pie next.

I am getting on well with MJ's tank top, then end may be in sight tomorrow evening, maybe.  The hem will need some kind of blocking as it rolls up a bit.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A New Tank Top

My knitting for Mary-Jane continues.  I have trawled Ravelry for ideas and tried to marry them to my own personal ideas and what yarn I have available.  I have had a degree of success.  I have cast on a tank top and am ready to cast on a twirly skirt.  I have tried not to think beyond these tow, once I had made the decision to start otherwise it would bog me down terribly and nothing much would actually get done.
The tank top is knit all in one, from the bottom up.  It starts with a 12 row pattern (after a couple of set up rows).  Alternate rows are done in stocking stitch, so during the patterned rows, the tv has been paused, then set off again for the plain rows.  Decreases are made every ten rows, following this.  I have been watching The Great British Bake Off, so nothing overly taxing and it does lend itself to this sort of knitting!
I still have a cold, with lots of crud on my chest.  HK thinks his cold is breaking and poor MJ is still coughing, although I'd like to think not quite as much.  She is sleeping slightly better.  She does get so tired during the day, this frustrates her terribly, being tired.  She doesn't help herself by not  having a rest or a nap on Daddy.
We did get to playgroup yesterday, and I was lucky enough to go to Kniterati in the afternoon.  I worked on the 22.5.2 Degrees Shawl.  This morning, I frogged the whole thing.  The middle point was far too long and the ends were not long enough.  Next time, I shall stick to a more tried method of knitting from one end to the other, increasing to the centre point then decreasing.  And of course I shall try and add a fancy edging to it.  However another scarf is not on the 'Got To Make It Now' list.
The new issue of Baking Heaven arrived with me today.  As usual there are lots of things I want to bake.  If I hadn't been feeling so grotty this morning (I had a bit of a nose dive after being on the go and chasing MJ around for a good few hours), I am sure that there would have been a few cakes and biscuits on the table.  All in the fullness of time.  Perhaps tomorrow I shall find a recipe for a Mothers Day cake to do on Saturday, for Sunday.  I might even try and sneak some time to bake as well.  I am quite tempted by a few featured Scottish recipes and other biscuits.  I have also had the urge to make cake pops.  I am stopped in my tracks by the lack of Candy Melts.  I know I can get these online, and the sugarcraft shop in Workington sells them (well they did a time or two when I was last in, granted that was several months ago).  I cannot justify a trip to Workington just to buy candy melts though!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Belmondo Shawl

Another quickly completed project comes off my needles - The Belmondo Shawl.  The pattern is on Ravelry.  I used Rowan All Seasons Cotton.  The pattern says I need to block it, I'm not sure I will.  I could have done with the longer sides being longer, not the length form middle to tip.

My head is filling with design ideas for a few dresses, tops and maybe a skirt or two for Mary-Jane.  I've been jotting down ideas and sketches.  I've not yet done any serious number crunching or identified any yarn, but there are suggestions mulling around my head.  I have continued working on 22.5.2 Shawl, mainly to finish it off and to give me some thinking space for my designs.  I certainly don't want to rush into doing them without thorough planning and clear ideas of what I want the finished thing to look like and, of course, what yarn I am going to use.  And then there is is the joys of learning to do a pdf document to publish the pattern.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Spatula Licking and Park Life

Mary-Jane loves to help me bake.  She loves to wear her pinny, especially when mummy is wearing hers.  MJ also has her very own Minnie Oven Gloves, although she is not allowed to go near the cooker when it is on.  She also likes to have a bit of a run around when she is baking!

There are always perks to helping Mommy bake - one of them is licking the bowl or spatula.
008 009 012
This afternoon the weather wasn't too bad - no wind and no rain, so I suggested that we take a very tired Mary-Jane to the play park for some fresh air.  One of the ironic things of living in the country is the lack of safe space to walk a toddler.  I may have mentioned before - there are two roads by us, the back has less traffic on and no path, the front has a path for half a mile in one direction, but the road is very busy - it is the main road to Sellafield.  Not an ideal road to walk a toddler who has no road sense.  Anyhow, I digress.  We went down into village to the play park, as expected it is an ideal spot for Mary-Jane to run around, burn her energy off and have lots of fun and fresh air.

Mary-Jane discovered 'the bouncer' and loved it. She could see saw without anyone being on the other end.  She did insist at one point that I played with her on the bouncer.  It was more of a mini work out for me - I couldn't exactly sit on the bouncer (think of the physics of it!) so I had to pretend to sit on it and then squat up and down, holding on to the handles - fun really!

This is the park I used to walk to, and push Mary-Jane in her pram, then sit on the bench and knit, in the first few months we moved here.  It is also the site of the old village school, now demolished, the new one being a quarter of a mile away.
This morning I met a friend, H, for morning coffee at The Hungry Parrot in Gosforth.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and was very relaxed when I came back to the house. I am getting to value my meetings with H and our conversations.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Butter Bean Crumble

Butter Bean Crumble

A quick, light-ish lunch for 1 or a side dish for two. 

  • 1 can butter beans (about 400g predrained or so)
  • 2 pieces of brown toast, in crumbs
  • 1/2 200g pack of flavoured Philly
  1. Rinse the butter beans and put in a pan of simmering water to cook for a few minutes
  2. Toast the bread then process it into crumbs
  3. When the beans have simmered for around 4 minutes, take off heat and drain
  4. Mash approx 1/3 of the butter beans with a fork.  Mix this with the philly
  5. Combine the mashed beans with the whole beans gently, then place in a shallow heat proof dish
  6. Top with the toast crumbs, then put under a hot grill to flash grill a bit more, till it browns to taste.
Feel free to play with the recipe, it's a gentle flavour. I have added a sprinkling of paprika when combining which works well.

Lemon Curd Butterfly Cake

Within the space of 24 hours, I fell on two recipes for Lemon Curd Butterfly Cakes.  I was hooked, I had to make a batch.  The results were good.  HK took the photos, I think they are very professional.  he is quite getting into photography.  I said what I was looking for in the end image, and he worked the magic. I had my little Assistant Baker helping me, she thoroughly loved baking them as much as I loved baking them with her.

Lemon Curd Butterfly Cakes
Makes 12-14
  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp  vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g plain flour
  • 250ml double cream, whipped
  • 100ml lemon curd
  • icing sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c, gm 4.  Put the paper cases in a bun tin
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy
  3. Add the vanilla essence, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well
  4. Combine the flour and baking powder then combine this with the batter
  5. Divide into 12 - 14 cases.  Bake for 15 minutes until light golden brown and well risen, then leave to cool
  6. Cut off the tops of the cakes, then cut the tops in half to make the butterfly wings
  7. Combine the whipped cream with the lemon curd, just enoguh to give a marble effect
  8. Pipe the cream onto the cakes, place the wings on then dust with icing sugar.