Saturday, 29 September 2012

A MOST PEACHY PERFECT JAM LABEL

As winter creeps up towards the door, or barges straight in as is the case here our minds turn to storing food for the winter. Jams, chutney's, pickles & pesto's all take there place on the pantry shelves or in the depths of the freezer and why shouldn't they get a touch of bling with a fancy label while they sit patiently on the shelf...

I recently came across this great site for making your own Jam or whatever labels. There are free ones but I invested the couple of pounds to become a premium member which means you can access all the designs and pay the nice man for all his time & effort.


The instructions suggest sticky back printer paper but I just printed them on the everything & anything normal printer paper that I happen to have on hand. A lick of glue on the back and bob's your uncle....and easy to remove when the locusts (oops I mean children) in the household have devoured the contents.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

SALTED CARAMEL...

Salty sweet goodness is always a boost to the soul...

photo - nigella.com


Nigella's Recipe here - my favourite sauce
Always with Butter Recipe here
Lick my Spoon Recipe here 

Don't skimp on the salt....


PS I would just like to thank everyone that commented on my last post & let you all know that you cheered my days and made my heart smile....I don't usually like to share my grumpy thoughts but I think it was the tonic + words of wisdom from my crafty pal to get me back on track. So here's to onwards & upwards & I will tackle those mocking stairs...

Monday, 24 September 2012

UNFINISHED

The number of unfinished projects around the house seems to be growing daily and are mocking me with each pass from the lounge to the kitchen to make yet more tea..The light is ugly, my photographs are as grey as my mood & it is pouring with rain, my crafty soul is tarnished and not shining too brightly....I guess winter is on its way. 




I have had a wee dabble with the chalk paint that is on every ones lips at the moment...It's interesting and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet but that could just be the down turn in my mood. So I may save my thoughts for another day.


I did manage to paint the chair with the duck egg blue...see it sneaking there in the background. I placed it strategically so I have to pass it many times a day reminding me how nice things can look when they are finished! I have noticed that when I seem to get these blocks in activity, my confidence drops off & I find it really difficult to make a decision and my rose coloured specs are quite simply not doing the job. 



And there is indeed another huge pile of unfinished yarn type stuff....I hope your days have been more productive than mine at the moment...

Thursday, 20 September 2012

MR PRINTABLES

Violet has become very taken with the idea of the alphabet & writing her name these last few weeks and we have been colouring a few printable alphabets that we found here & there on the web, a most wonderful resource I should say....while trawling the many wonderful sites offering a plethora of material to print off for the small ones we stumbled across the wonderful Mr Printables and to be honest we were smitten from first look.


Our first stop was at the ALPHABET PAGE where these most lovely flashcards, with wallet I might add were to be found, along with various combinations of just letters, fonts & sizes. The large A4 version might be just the ticket for a young ladies bedroom wall but there is much deliberation to which letter she likes best ( at the moment V is top of the list).


Moving onto the POSTER page one of our favourites here....we recite it every morning in hopes that it will indeed be dry, doesn't seem to work too well but we shall continue chanting it with gusto!  It is indeed bookmarked for future visits as we seem to have run out of suitable printing card as Miss Etchasketch has been helping herself to the stash.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

OH FOR THE LOVE OF COTTAGE CHEESE

I am sure there are many of you that shudder at the mere mention of the bland tasteless rubbery stuff that has been the curse of dieters far and wide...saying that I always rather liked the stuff if mixed with enough salt & pepper and the odd spoonful of mango chutney it wasn't really that bad but now a light has been shone upon this most plain of cheeses & goodness me it is good.

As my cheese making journey continues I decided to give cottage cheese another chance, just one last chance and if it didn't step up to the mark then that page in the book would be quickly flicked past.


I had some raw milk fresh from the farm & some yogurt made the previous day, the rennet was waiting patiently in the fridge.

Milk was warmed, yogurt & rennet added and the curds were left to form overnight, this develops the flavour...Next day the curds are gently heated for 25-30mins and they begin to firm up....and there we have it the most delicious, indulgent cottage cheese I have ever tasted and most perfect on a bagel for breakfast.


I must say I am really rather enjoying this cheese making lark...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

READING CORNER


As autumn draws in, winter is almost knocking at our door and there is a bit of a nip in the air, there feels like an urgency to start preparing for winter....The main downside to living in a ramshackle farmhouse in a county that sees more rain than anything else is that is is uncomfortably cold from the end of October to early May....


It is impossible to heat all the house to even be slightly comfortable so we tend to decamp to one room for most of the time... wearing our rather spiffy thermals and several pairs of socks. Our dining room the one with the toasty warm wood burning stove keeps us going and warms our cockles.


This is our cosy nook, a place to knit, stitch or hook. Read a good book or two and while away the cold dark days... Violet has sorted some of her favourite books and we have a few more blankets to add so that everyone can stay wrapped up warm & snug. I have set myself a challenge for this winter...more about that to follow believe me it needs a post of its own.

So we have made a start, there are still a few jobs to do including a bed for Stanley otherwise he feels the need to park himself on the sofa.


I wonder if any of you tend to stick to one room in the winter or have the niceness of a lovely warm house that you don't need to put your coat on to go to the bathroom..I would love to know if you have any top tips to keeping frostbite from the door...please share xox

Thursday, 13 September 2012

SEWING...


Some fabric just won't wait....
some have to be sewn immediately and worn to town. 

This indeed was one of those fabrics...
I am itching to stitch the rest that sits patiently in the pile, quietly calling my name but family needs feeding, washing needs sorting and stairs need to be painted. 
I will return to my fabric shortly and everything will be well.

xox

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Monday, 10 September 2012

OUR DAILY BREAD


I like to bake bread, I bake most days and have done since my eldest Jake was born almost 15 years ago. I began with a bread machine and used that for many years but I always felt let down by the resulting bread, which was often stale tasting & cardboard like only a few hours after it had been cooked and often used it just to mix the dough & cook the bread in the oven.

Now I would like to have the time to knead my dough by hand each day, 2 rises and then bake, I would like to be able to make sourdough daily but again time is not on my side plus mostly my house is freezing not a good environment for such yeasts. 

As well as being rather tasty to eat it also works out a whole lot cheaper and if you make a batch of rolls to keep in the freezer there is always a standby or bread for the packed lunch...the dread of the early morning routine. 


So if you fancy have a bash at making your own bread here is my basic recipe that is easy peasy( you will need a mixer with a dough hook for time saving but you can knead by hand if you wish)

Ingredients

4 cups of flour
1tsp quick action yeast
1tsp sugar
1tsp salt
1 cup of milk
1 cup of water
1tbsp olive oil (or rapeseed if you prefer, i use both)

1. Place all dry ingredients into your mixer bowl  and lower your mixer with dough hook, start on the lowest speed
2. Pour the warmed liquid into the dry mix in a steady stream until its all combined (I usually fill half a cup with milk & top up with hot water, repeat) add oil.
3. Turn up the mixer to the next speed and let it mix for about 5mins. The dough will be quite sticky to begin with but as it mixes you will see it change to be smooth & lovely.
4. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently into a round. Place in a floured bowl, sprinkle with a wee bit of flour & cover. Leave in a warm place for at least 40mins. (for extra time saving you can do this the night before, ready to cook in the morning)
5. Now turn the dough onto a floured board and either separate into equal sized balls for rolls & place onto a floured baking tray or shape into an oblong & pop into an oil & floured bread tin. Cover and leave for 30mins in a warm place. At this point turn your oven to the hottest setting possible.
6. After 30mins place your bread into the oven and turn down the heat to between 200 -180 ( 375/400 gas 5/6 ) bake for approx 15mins for rolls & 30 mins for bread. These times will really depend on your oven so it is worth experimenting a bit.

Turn onto a rack and leave to cool, wrap in a cloth and keep in a dry place.

A few tips to try...
*save a piece of your dough each day to add to the next days bread. I keep a bit in a jam jar on the side it's name is Fred.
*If you fancy add an egg, just whisk in the cup & top up with milk or water as part of the liquid allowance, makes a richer loaf and adds a bit of protein to the mix.
*add a seeds for a different flavour
* replace sugar with honey & add a handful of raisins & tsp cinnamon for a fruity bread
* If you oil & flour your tins well you shouldn't need to wash them and the bread leaves the tin easily with each loaf cooked.

Don't be afraid to try out different things after all what's the worst that can happen, if will taste rank & the birds will get an extra treat plus you'll know not to try that variation again....

Well I enjoyed my lunch today fresh baked bread with tasty local cheese & a splash of homemade piccalilli...as for cheese well that is the next adventure in this abode...stay tuned for my tussle with halloumi x

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A MOST LOVELY DAY

My 40th year has ben a most exciting one and today I welcome the 41st I wonder what the next 365 days will have in store…as lovely as today then all will be good…
Sharing a few highlights of my day…

049
My lovely card from Jake and Violet, Tom tried to recycle the one he made last year!

048
My new wireless remote control for my camera...very cool

050
knitting in the car


051
A most lovely find


052
Best £12 ever spent


056
Now claimed by Violet 'who is learning to sew' and we must shhhh so she can concentrate


the best ever carrot cake made with much love by my sweet & kind Jake...it was quite delicious xxx

A huge thank you also to all my lovely online friends who have sent me birthday wishes, you make my days sparkle with your comments & little messages far more than you know....xox

Friday, 7 September 2012

A BLANKET & A PAN OF DYE

As autumn comes knocking at the door its time to take the woollen blankets out of storage, give them a gentle wash if needs be and employ them around the house into various tasks for keeping out draughts, warming chilly toes, piling high on beds and any things else we can think of. 


This year I have been really lucky and added to the pile with some really nice quality vintage blankets (a post another time of those beauties) so these ones looking rather thread bare and past their prime were destined for the pot. 
I decided to throw caution to the wind and move away from my usual packet of dye in the washing machine method and use a pot on the stove one. Now this I feel was a little risky as indeed my past experiments have been somewhat patchy and more of the tie dye persuasion but other than banishment to Stanley's bed these poor worn out souls had few other options. 


So into the pan go the dye (I used dylon multi purpose rosewood) & the salt, some warm water, whisked briskly & topped it up with warm water to about half way before dunking my 1st victim.


I chopped the blanket into pieces that would fit comfortably in the pot with enough liquid to cover and left each one stirring occasionally for 30mins before removing it (draining as much liquid back into the pan) before adding the next, topping up the water level as I went. 


As you can see there is a really nice gradient of colour between the first & last dunking and I have some interesting plans for these now, they are no longer thread bare, unloved & at the bottom of the pile but indeed have a chance to shine again.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

BLESSED ARE THE CHEESEMAKERS

So along with the arrival of the new 'Simple Things' magazine & a whole bunch of seeds to marvel at my long awaited digital thermometer was finally delivered. So several days after reading my magazine & pondering my seeds I have thrown myself into the world of homemade cheese and oh my is it delightful....and really quite simple. My first exploits were with halloumi...an all time favourite in this house I can tell you.


A most simple recipe using just 2 ingredients, well 3 if you count a sprinkle of salt and about 10 minutes of your time (plus an overnight stint in the cheese mould balancing carefully on a couple  of chopsticks) and voila a large block of cheese for just under £2 (for those of you with beady eyes the black flecks are a wee bit of pepper I ground in, not anything sinister).


Of course I had to try some for lunch along with some salad leaves & my new best friend strawberry & mint dressing which I am most smitten with at the moment...Mark tried to join me employing all manner of cat stares to get a taste but he was removed from the table before I started eating & I might add that the table was wiped down with a suitable cleaner!



So if you would like to venture into the world of cheese making yourself I can highly recommend this book from Lakeland and they also sell the moulds and all the other paraphanalia too.

Tomorrow evening I am collecting my first raw milk from the farmer up the road from us and am going to try my first unpasteurized Cheddar which isn't quite as simple...

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

SEEDS & DREAMS

Seed Parade bounty

Yesterday saw the arrival of some of my seed orders for next year...2012 was going to be all about the garden but more exciting things came along and the overgrown ramshackle mess had to fend for itself...
Quite frankly it is amazing how quickly things change when you are not keeping a close eye on them especially with 3 wayward pigs rampaging through the undergrowth, stealing all the fruit from the bushes, scoffing tiny tiny apples and being general nuisances...this is the ring leader, look carefully & remember her beady eyed stare and no she point blank refuses to clean her teeth!

Hilda...not to be trusted

So anyway back to seeds, I always try to buy seeds from various different sources rather than just the mass producers with their fancy packets and no idea where or what the seeds have been subject to. My favourites at the moment are SEED PARADE, great value for money, clearly labelled and arrive very quickly. I had great success with the seeds I bought last year and in fact have just sown the last of my stash to take me through to the next season.



This year I really wanted to get a variety of different flowers dotted about the place especially ones that would be good for the bees. At this point I stumbled across HIGGLEDY GARDEN and a rather interesting blog post about seeds to sow in september...perfect i said to myself 12 packets of interesting seeds all ready & waiting to be sown now...in the ground & forgotten about. Plus a rather lovely handwritten note with a few extra tips for sowing success...don't see that too often nowadays.


On with the wellies and along with big plans & high hopes Violet & I set to exploring the overgrown mess that is our croft...hmmm we battled against the thistles, got stung numerous times by the mean nettles, said a hello to Merlin who watches over our abode and decided that it was all a bit much and we needed a cup of tea.





So I think those dreams of what could be out here may have to wait until at least the undergrowth has died down and we can actually start to mark things out & get going but it is jolly good fun wading through such long grass.

Monday, 3 September 2012

SOFT SOAP…

My granny would never of been without a stash of soft soap in her cleaning cupboards, a favourite of the victorians this jelly like smelly stuff was a staple in both world wars when everything was precious and nothing wasted..Bits & pieces of soap would be saved, melted down and a jar of magic gloop would be employed for all kinds of cleaning jobs.

For those of us with a liking for old fabric & doilies stashes, soft soap is ideal to hand wash any delicates. I usually make up a batch with green household soap or household leftovers but today whilst shopping in one of those old style whatnot shops that have a bit of everything I spotted a rather lovely bar of pink carbolic soap (just a note to say I don't think I will be using this pink stuff and my lacey lovlies just in case...)


Now Carbolic soap is a mild disinfectant and was commonly used as a cleaner in hospitals in days gone by, remembered by many for its nostalgic sweet, tarry smell although I do think it has a touch of the marmite love it or hate it factor about it.
In England it was used in state schools at least up until the 1970s and many of us will remember the threat of the pink bar of soap to wash your mouth out should an unsavoury word be uttered from you lips.

So I parted with my 80p and carefully stashed my bar of soap in my bag, hoping that the pungent smell wouldn’t soak into everything I own and returned home.
Whilst admiring the said bar the thoughts of soft soap, pink gloop in a jar came to mind. So a grater, saucepan, a wee bit of skulduggery, I now have a lovely jar of pink stuff adorning the windowsill about the sink. Ready to jump to it should the need arise





Should you wish to have you own jar of magic gloop see the recipe below

1 bar of household/carbolic/leftover bits approx 80g
1 litre of water
An old saucepan
A large jam jar
1. grate the soap & add to the saucepan
2. Pour in the water and bring to the boil, stirring until the soap has melted
3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15mins.
4. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly & pour into the jar.
 
Once the soap has cooled completely it should form a soft gel which can be used to wash clothes, cleaning around the house or added to other cleaning concoctions to give them an extra boost….