Sunday, 30 August 2009

Weekend catch-up

 Hello everyone,
I hope that you are all enjoying the weekend with the prospect of a lovely extra day off tomorrow for all of us in the UK- hoooray!
Right, I will start this post with a list of my five current obsessions. it really was tricky narrowing the list down to just five things, but here goes in no particular order:

Okay number one would be books and reading. I absolutely love reading and love books of all sorts. My local library, the library at the university where I work and the Amazon website are perhaps three of my most visited places. Fiction or non-fiction, new or classic- it doesn't matter I am interested in all sorts of books.
"Bluestockings" by Jane Robinson is definitely top of my to read next list. Has anyone else read it?

In at number two is fresh flowers. Beautiful, gorgeous, fragrant and utterly delightful- even more so if tied in a big bunch with a big floppy ribbon- need I say more?

Number three would have to be crochet. I have been crocheting on and off since I was a child, and one of my favourite possessions is a lovely, brightly coloured granny-square blanket that my late grandmother made for me when I was about 8. Just being wrapped up snuggly underneath its heavy warmth made me feel warm and secure. At the moment, as some of you will know, I am in the process of making my own granny-square blanket for the sofabed in my spare room and it is just so satisfying. I just love it!

Here is a photo of my blanket in progress- hmmm, someone seems to have found my pile of squares a rather comfortable napping place!

Old wares can be my fourth obsession. I  particularly love cups and saucers and old china, baskets and linens. (More about these later!)

Finally for something completely different and in at number five is running. I have been running for the past few years, mainly entering 10km and alf- marathon races. So far this year I have run three half-marathons, the latest being the New York marathon a couple of weekends ago, and I have another coming up in October.  I am not particularly fast and feel that this picture probably closely resembles what I am like as a runner and to be honest I'll say that the actually process of running these races is not particularly joyous but the feeling you get at the end is exhilarating and definitely makes it all worth while!
Now, I think as part of the blog award process I also need to nominate five of my favourite blogs. Again, this is a lovely task, but very difficult to choose just five so I think i will need a little more time to think about this.
When I last left you on Friday, I was off on an antiquing adventure around Kent and Sussex. Well, what a lovely day I had. My first stop was Nutley Antiques in the little village of Nutley not far from where I live in Tunbridge Wells.
What a treasure trove! This little shop is absolutely crammed with all sorts of wonderful bits and pieces ranging from old furniture to teapots, kitchenalia, garden wares and quilts and that is just the beginning!. Upon entering I was like a child in a sweet shop and just didn't know where to start looking- there was just so many things that I loved so imagine my excitement when I discovered that there was also a basement to look through too- wow! This is somewhere I will definitely be revisiting. Thanks for the recomendation, Sian!
I also paid a visit to the lovely Lewes- another gorgeous town and again loads of wonderful antique and bric-a-brac stores just waiting to be trawled through by the likes of me. One place that completely caught my attention was this place:-
Goodness, you could literally spend hours looking through this place. I made a couple of interesting purchases including this lovely teacup (pictured above as well) which I have someone in mind who I think will love it, so I am going to stash this away in my present-box.

The other purchases I made were two old (1897) magazines quaintly entitled " Isobel's Home Cookery".
They are so interesting and provide such a wonderful insight into the world of women one hundred and ten years ago. I was particularly interested in the article about making jam, but there are all sorts of other recipes and stories on topics like budgeting to planning a week of simple summer suppers. I haven't quite finished reading them yet but will share more with you when  I come across something that I think you might like.

Now it is time for me to settle down with my crochet (I am getting close to finishing it now...) in front of the film "Becoming Jane", a lovely portrayal of Jane Austin's life, which is on BBC1 tonight. So until next time goodbye and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Blog awards

Hello Eveyone
I am so excited to have been given THREE blog awards this week so have added them to my side-bar. The first one was from Sarah at Red Gingham. She has a really lovely blog, so do go and have a peek if you haven't seen it already. The other one came from the lovely Lucy at Vanilla Ivy. This is another fabulous blog and she is such a clever crafter!
I have just found out that Suzie at itch2stitch has given my blog an award too! I am thrilled!!!! Have you seen her blog? Definitely worth a visit and really inspirational!

I need to list five obsessions as well, so as I am such an obsessive person about soooo many wonderfully delicious and delightful things, I will need some time to think about this, so watch this space.

I have an annual leave day today and am just about to hop in the car for a drive around Kent and Sussex in search of the antique shops mentioned a few weeks ago by Sian at Diary of a Tinyholder who clearly has a talent for interior decorating and beautiful buys. Hopefully, when I get back this afternoon I will have lots to share with you. Have a great day!

Oh, just couldn't resist adding this photo that I have just taken of Burt and Ruby.

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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Ready for a treat?

Hello again everyone.
Here I am late home from work again on Tuesday evening but just had to look at my blog and add some more to it. It is like an obsession, a really lovely obsession of the best possible kind. All the way home from London in the train I was thinking about what I should write about tonight.

Well, I think you are in for a treat, because I am going to share with you one of the most delicious recipes that I have come across in a long time and it is just perfect for the season (my apologies to my bloggy pal in NZ- Sarah, you might just have to store this recipe away for a few months!)

Firstly, a clue:

Yes, you're correct, blackberries! All picked fresh on Sunday afternoon from the fields and hedgerows near my home. Goodness the bushes were just laden with them, hiding among the nettles and prickles, and my hands and arms were a little scratchily worse for wear , but it was so worth the fun and satisfaction! As you can see our efforts (yes, my husband is an avid berry picker too) were worth it and we harvested 6 punnets full to the brim, even though there are only 4 in the photo.

What then to do with them? That was the question but it didn't take me long to work it out!

So, in between being totally mesmerised by the antics of the baby kittens and besotted with my new old sewing machine, I whipped up a big batch of blackberry jam. So much in fact that I ran out of jars!
Still, not a bad output- I now need to find somewhere to put it.

Even after all of this I still had a punnet or more of blackberries left so after a quick flip through the recipe books, I came across a recipe for Blackberry Crumble Cake. Believe me it is absolutely delicious! Here's the recipe:

What you need-

Melted butter, to grease the cake tin
200g butter, at room temperature
170g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
150g (1 cup) self-raising flour
150g (1 cup) plain flour
185ml (3/4 cup) milk
about 2 cups fresh blackberries

crumble topping
75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
50g cold butter, chopped
60g (3/4 cup) shredded coconut
55g (1/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar

Here's what you do-
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Lightly grease a springform pan with melted butter. Line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper.
Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy.
Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each.
Add the combined flour and milk and use a large metal spoon to fold until well combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and use the back of the spoon to smooth the surface.

Arrange the blackberries, in a single layer, over the top.


To make the crumble topping, place the flour in a bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the coconut and sugar.
Sprinkle the crumble topping over the blackberries.
Bake for 1 hour.
Then cover loosely with foil and bake for a further 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow it to cool and the the best bit- Cut the cake into wedges and serve!

Yummy! Here's what mine looked like-

And here's what it looked like on my lovely new china just waiting to be enjoyed with a nice cup of coffee

So, if you haven't made any plans for the Bank holiday Monday, grab a container and go and pick some blackberries!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Sunday success!

Hello Everyone. I hope that you've all had a good day and stayed free from the clutches of the dreaded mondayitis!
Thank you all very much for your lovely comments about my "new look" blog. I must admit that a monster is well in the process of being created and the more I add to it, the more addicted I get! The photo editing business is all a little time-consuming though and very tricky at times.

Anyway, if you haven't already got a nice cuppa in your hands, quickly go and make one and settle down somewhere comfy because I think this is going to be a long post. I've lots to tell you.

Right- are you ready? Okay, here goes- I am going to tell you all about the wonderful day I had yesterday (Sunday).

The weather was bright and sunny so first thing on the to-do list was a visit to a car boot sale. Very conveniently there is one held every couple of weeks just up the road from where we live on a local farm. Having been quite disappointed previously with car boot sales, especially after reading about some of your wonderful finds, I went with no expectations at all. Needless to say, this time I was not disappointed!

The first things that caught my eye were these bowls. Emma Bridgewater look-alikes and for the asking price of 10p for both they just had to come home with me. I hanker after the real thing but just loved these at first sight!

The next thing I came across was a basket full of what looked to be some old cups and saucers. I just love old china so I stopped to have a look and then just couldn't resist it for the £1 that the seller asked for. £1 can you believe it? I was told that it is Victorian so quite old.

What a bargain and such a pretty teaset. After a good wash it looks lovely and I have used some of it already.

As well as the cups, saucers and plates there are 6 little bowls and a large bowl.

I was thrilled to say the least, but better was yet to come. I continued strolling along scanning the stalls for vintage bargains and thrifty buys when I came across this. Has anyone got any ideas of what it might be? Looks just like an old wooden box but there is more.

Let's take a look inside.....

What a beauty! Have another look. It is an absolutely fabulous vintage Singer sewing machine in working order. It has a serial number, which I have looked up and it was made in Clyde in 1910.

I just love the beautiful details and it is in such good condition.

What do you think? Do you like it as much as I do?

Okay- now the most amazing thing of all. After looking at it and drooling over it with love, I asked the lady selling it how much it was. I was expecting something in the region of £35-£40 so nearly fell over when she said £5. Yes, you read that right- just £5. I couldn't get my purse out fast enough. She seemed to want to just get rid of it and told me it used to belong to her great aunt. I couldn't help but feel a little sad.

That was all I found but wow- what a morning!
I have lots more to share with you about the rest of the day including my adventures berry picking, jam making and also one of the most delicious cake recipes I have tried in a long time. However, it is getting very late and I have to get up early for work, so I will save that until tomorrow. Bye for now!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Settling in!

As you can see, Ruby and Burt are starting in settle in. Having never had kittens before they are a source of constant amusement. Full of energy and mischief, racing about, chasing one another and generally doing what kittens do- sleeping! They also have the abililty to look so sweet and vulnerable, so alot of time is spent picking them up and marvelling at how cute they are!
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Blog makeover

Hello Everyone,
You may have noticed that I have made some changes to my blog- in fact, it has had a complete makeover! What do you think? Please leave me a comment.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Introducing Burt and Ruby

Here they are! My lovely new gorgeous kittens: Burt and Ruby.

They are even cuter than they look and I am in love !

Thursday, 13 August 2009

What do you do with a......?

Hello again Bloggers.

Two blogs today (I think I am quickly becoming addicted to this blogging thing) but this time I have something different for you- a recipe!

With all the delicious homegrown summer produce in abundance at the moment you may, perhaps, have wondered what you could do with the humble courgette (zucchini). Yesterday my office mate presented me with a huge one from her garden- and I mean HUGE! Take a look for yourself-

So, I thought to myself, what will I make? Will I chop it up and boil it? No- yuk! Will I chop it, coat it in batter and fry it? No- too unhealthy! Will I add it to some tomatoes and onions to make a healthy ratatouille? That was a good option, but no, that's not what I did. (This is starting to sound a little like the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears now so I will just get to the point).

I made it into a delicious bake. This is a tried and tested recipe that I have made many times and it really is delicious and so simple and quick to make! So next time you have some spare courgettes why not give it a go? Here's the recipe:-

600 grams of courgette
4 eggs
1/2 cup of grated cheese
1/2 cup plain flour (sifted)
1 chopped onion
1 chopped garlic clove
salt and pepper to season

Step 1
Firstly- wash, chop and grate the courgettes. This really easy and actually quite fun. When you have finished grating, squeeze out the excess water using thick paper towel or a clean cloth and pop it into a bowl.

See easy peasy!

Next, in a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs

Then- just add the other ingredients

It is satisfyingly gooey to mix!

Right- almost there now- no prizes for guessing what to do next. Yes, that's right, mix the gooey, eggy, cheesy mix with the courgettes and season with salt and pepper.

If you like you can also add some extras: mushrooms, bacon, olives, tomatoes, pinenuts. In fact you can add what ever you please. I have added some baby chopped tomatoes to this one.

Finally, pour the whole mixture into a well-greased baking dish and cook in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes. It smells absolutely scrumptious as it's cooking- a delicious combination of cheesy, garlicy bliss and there is no way that you will be able to stop yourself from creeping up to the oven at regular intervals just to have a check!

Take it out when it is cooked to your liking- I like mine quite firm and brown on top, but others may prefer a more golden hue. You can eat this hot or cold and it goes really well with salad and a glass of cold, crisp white wine. Enjoy!!

PS My courgette bake is still in the oven, smelling divine, but not quite ready to take out and photograph. I will add a photo when it is done- promise!

Here it is- YUM!

Making progress....

Hello Everyone, I do hope that you are having a good week. I am very pleased, in fact I'm thrilled to report that I am making Progress (with a capital P) on my blanket. I must admit that faced with the prospect of joining so many granny squares together had left me feeling slightly overwhelmed. In fact, Granny-Blanket was ignored for a few days entirely! However, some encouraging words from my fellow-bloggers got me back on the straight and narrow and, as you can see, I have really started to make progress with the dreaded joining up process.

I hand stitched the first 4 X 4 block together and that was far from enjoyable- it felt like a tedious chore and that I would just never get through the huge pile. So, with the help of Attic24's wonderful tutorial on joining up squares there is now no stopping me and I have a very satisfying pile of 4 X 4 patches sitting in front of me and I am feeling rather wonderful about it all. It is just so much easier to crochet them together than to sew them, however, when I make my next blanket I will definitely joing as I go.

I know I still have far to go before my beloved Granny-blanket is finished with more joining and hooking and umming and ahhhing but
hey- don't you think it is starting, just starting to come together? Have another look-

Right- enough about that and onto something entirely different- the garden. It is a funny sort of day today and the sun keeps poking out for a bit to flood the garden with its beautiful rays, and then it sneaks back off again behind a dark cloud and it looks like rain. I am working from home today, trying to get yet another paper drafted (I heard today that the previous one has been accepted!)so have been popping out periodically to enjoy the sun. Here are some of the little things in my garden that give me enormous pleasure-

My colourful pot of pansies. Aren't they just so cheerful?

And- my lovely roses that smell delicious! This one is almost past its best but it still looks pretty.

Look at all those glorious buds just waiting to bloom.

AND- just look at what I have in store. There must be about 80 or so green tomatoes just waiting to ripen. I think I am going to need a good recipe for chutney if anybody has one?

Anyway I think that's about all for now- I look forward to your comments!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

This and that.

Hello everyone. I do hope that you are having a nice weekend. The weather here in Kent is lovely- hot and sunny. Perhaps you are experiencing similar. Well, unlike yesterday's post, this one is all about crafting and crochet, thrifty finds and baking. Where will I begin?

Some of you may remember that I am currently making a big granny-square crocheted blanket for the sofa in my spare room. This has been a labour of love to which I have been quite committed since I started it in April. I finished making all the squares while away on holiday and am now in the process of joining them up. Not an easy feat, in fact this is much trickier than I had imagined, so any hints or tips would be gratefully received! You can see from the photo below that this is going to take me quite a while.......

While on the topic of things that take time, my other ongoing project is a patchwork quilt for our bed in a design called "Grandmother's garden". It is made from small hexagonal patches and I am handsewing it all. This is definitely not a weekend project- in fact, I really do think that it will take me years. I am making the patches in bright colours and using both scraps that I have in my craft basket as well as fabrics that I am buying. These are some of the patches that I have done. Each still has to have another border, which I plan to do in cream but I haven't found the right fabric yet. This one is my current favourite-

I also really like this red one-

I think I have done 12 in total so far, and still have about 80 left to make. Here are some more-

I promised something about baking and here it is. Have you seen the wonderful Attic24 blog? I really love it,and Lucy posted a delicious recipe for Cranberry and Pecan Tiffin which I couldn't resist trying. It truly is scrumptious, although mine didn't turn out quite as chocolatey as hers looked. Here it is ready to be yaffled down with a cup of coffee. The pretty plate is my latest buy. I bought it with a teacup and sauces and a milkjug and sugar bowel all for £2.50 from my local charity shop. This photo really doesn't do it justice, but it is a beautiful garden cottage design.

Finally, an update on the kittens. We went around to the breeders to see them today and they are just the sweetest little things- even cuter than the photo I posted yesterday (that was just an example- not actually them). The names that we have decided on,after much deliberation are- Burt and Ruby.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend!
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