Saturday, 30 March 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...24/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in as ever with the lovely Jen at little birdie, here are this week's happy things:

1. New postcards from the fantastic Showler & Showler. That bear with the scarf just makes me smile! 

2. Hot cross buns made by my very talented baker friend Dean, given to us yesterday afternoon still warm from the oven and sticky with their apricot jam glaze.

3. Anything made by the children always makes me happy, especially when it hardly stands up under the weight of all the glue and tissue paper.

4. Collecting our Danish Kroner from Post Office this week. There is something so exciting about foreign currency. Our first trip abroad in almost five years is almost here!

I want to wish you all a very happy Easter. I hope you are enjoying the long weekend, wherever in the world you are. Thanks as ever for visiting and for your kind comments, they make my day. Also, hello new followers, it's so great to have you here.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Almost Easter

It's almost Easter! How did that happen? I feel unprepared. I seem to remember confidently declaring here, at the start of the month, that I was going to bake a Simnel cake this Easter. Well, that hasn't happened for lots of reasons, which are mainly that I have had not had the time or the will to think about it, I don't really care for almond paste, and I still have half a Christmas cake sitting in a tin in the kitchen. I don't want to make or eat fruit cake right now. 

But what I am doing, what I have done this Easter mini eggs, lots of them. Probably too many. I made chocolate nests with the children at Angus's nursery and then again at home with Angus and I learnt that the combination of shredded wheat and melted chocolate looks charming but tastes disgusting. I dug out my felt Easter egg garland and the birdboxes I made last year. I experimented with my new bell jar, fiddling around with little arrangements and generally enjoying myself. Cards have been made and posted, a large chocolate Hello Kitty Easter egg has been purchased for Bella and a chocolate dog for Angus. I have attended and clapped at Easter "sing-a-longs" and learnt that the song "Little Peter Rabbit Has A Fly Upon His Nose" has three verses, yes three. 

What else? The snow is slowly melting. I have a nice bruise on my left hip where I slipped on the ice (on the way to the pub - I hadn't even had a drink!) last night. It's still cold but when the sun peeks out and the wind drops you can feel a little warmth, just for a moment. The evenings grow longer and lighter. And I am washing, ironing, packing and writing lists, ready to travel down south to see family at the weekend. Tomorrow there will be coffee and hot cross buns at a friends house and on Sunday there will be church and a big family lunch. There is a long weekend ahead of us to enjoy and savour. 

So no, I have not made a Simnel cake but I've had lots of fun doing other thing instead. Next year I'll make one. Definitely. What are you plans this Easter weekend?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A Geometric-Inspired Cushion

You know how I described our weekend as slow? Well, so far this week feels fast. Fast and busy. And that magical, deep, deep, snow that so enchanted me? It can go now, I've had enough. Enough of multiple pairs of socks, of icy pavements and snow piled up by the side of the road so that you can't park. Anywhere. Enough of wearing my ski jacket every single day, of cancelled plans, of chapped hands and lips. How I would love to skip out of the front door wearing footwear other than boots, minus a coat, and walk carefree along the pavements without wondering which bit of treacherous, slippery ice will catch me out.

In other news, I have made a cushion. I have been stitching away here and there over the last week or so. I have been very inspired by this wave of colourful geometric pattern I am seeing everywhere lately, on clothes, on fabric, in prints and design. I am drawn to the regularity of the pattern and the bright and happy use of colour. I feel in need of colour lately, a response to the cold weather no doubt.

I had a plain, unbleached cotton cushion cover* lying around, ready to go. I made myself a little cardboard template of a right-angled triangle, measuring 11 x 11 x 16cm and started cutting out triangles from the pile of crafting felt I have stashed away.

If you are feeling in need of a little cheap, easy and creative fun on a rainy or snowy afternoon, then I highly recommend this activity. Just start cutting and playing. It needn't be a cushion - a plain tote bag would be a fun blank canvas to decorate. 

I cut out my triangles and started to play around with colours and arrangements...

I settled on this design below and then used bondaweb to stick my triangles in position before I started sewing. 

I didn't want the stitching to stand out so I chose threads as close to the colour of the felt as possible, and used a very small straight stitch. It took around twenty minutes to hand sew each triangle in place. Not that quick, I know, but I will always prefer a little hand sewing in front of the tv to sitting hunched over the sewing machine.

So there you have it, one pretty easy and very cheap cushion.

Currently I like it on the grey sofa in the living room, but it will be moved around at some point. I think it might have been more effective on a pure white background, rather than the unbleached cotton, but I like it, very much, and it can stay.


* I bought the cushion cover from John Lewis a while back - this one - but they are out of stock currently. Also, The Clever Baggers are a good stockist for plain cotton bags, tea towels, aprons, t shirts and other things, while I think of it. 

Sunday, 24 March 2013


Indulging after school on Friday with hot chocolate and waffles. 

Waking on Saturday morning to more snow. 

Marvelling at how deep the snow actually is (the photo on the left is of our kitchen door opening onto my frozen herb pots).

Braving the elements by walking up to the shops for supplies (bread, milk, CBeebies magazines, chocolate, wine). As we left the house, Bella said "Mummy, where are the steps? I can't see them." 

Drying our winter woolens on the radiator when we got home.

Changing the bedding...ooh, pink!

Moving my felt ball garland from the living room to the shelf in the bedroom and deciding I love it there. No, the novelty of a newly decorated room still has not worn off.

Eating penne with prawns and pancetta for a sofa supper on Saturday night, trays balanced on our knees in front of the tv.

Wearing two pairs of socks, every day, plus welly socks when I go out. Too much?

Attempting to make a pretty Easter coffee table arrangement while Angus interfered with my Easter coffee table arrangement.

Creating some Easter cards with Bella.

 Roasting a leg of lamb, then eating apple crumble for pudding.

The good thing about really heavy snow at the weekend, the sort of snow which forces everyone to cancel their plans and forget about driving anywhere, the sort of snow which has people chatting to strangers and neighbours alike, is that it forces you to slow down.* It gives you permission to relax and do, well, not nothing, but do less. All thoughts of spring are gone and it's all about hunkering down and being cosy. I uploaded all these photos in the order in which I took them. I wanted to give you a flavour of our weekend. It was a good weekend. A slow weekend. 


* Not the good people who have to get to work though. They don't get to slow down.  It took John two and a half hours to make a thirty minute journey to work on Saturday morning.

Friday, 22 March 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...23/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

Joining in with the lovely Jen at little birdie, here are my happy moments from this past week:

1. Bella's current crafting and junk modelling obsession. Pictured above we have "flying-unicorn-girl-doll".

2. Cancelled plans, cold sleety weather and grey skies on Wednesday meant that I was glum and in need of my favourite cold weather comfort food - cheese on toast and tomato soup. The lunch of champions.

3. The pussy willow that always sits in our living room appears to have become an Easter tree. Bella has made an assortment of decorations - the things that aren't eggs are bags, apparently. Yes, bags.

4. Our walk home from school today. We had a fair bit of snow this morning and so I took the sledge with me when Angus and I walked up to collect Bella this afternoon. I pulled Angus, then Bella pulled Angus, then Angus pulled Bella's lunchbox, book bag and ear muffs home. It is quite slushy in these photos, which I took on my phone, but it's been snowing steadily since late afternoon. It was a nice example of being mindful and just trying to enjoy the moment.

5. Also, Jen came round for coffee this week. I made lemon cake. She brought daffodils! Lovely lady. Our paths have crossed many times over the years without us knowing it, through colleagues and mutual friends. Sometimes Leeds is a very small place.


Thank you for your really lovely comments on my flowers post. My flowers didn't make spring come though, did they? In fact, it's decidedly wintry out there today with snow and strong winds. It's cold out there, and so our plans for the weekend depend on the weather. Do have a wonderful weekend whatever you are doing. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Flower Filled Eggs

About a month ago I saw a picture somewhere of an egg box filled with eggs and overflowing with little flowers. I loved it and it just stuck with me. I must look at so many images here and there throughout the day - magazines, blogs, pinterest - but I can't for the life of me remember exactly where I saw the idea. 

So I thought I'd have a go at making my own little floral display. I bought a ceramic egg holder recently in the shape of an egg box. I forget who made it but it cost around £6 and you can get ones like this very easily online. Or you could paint or decopatch the bottom half of a cardboard egg box.

To create the egg shell vessels, you'll need a sharp knife, a couple of bowls, paint and brushes, and a way of drying the eggs - I used long plastic sundae spoons in a couple of tumblers.

Take your egg and tap a little crack into the pointed top of the shell, then quickly and confidently cut the pointed end off (as you would to a boiled egg before you put it in it's egg cup). You want the line at the top to be as clean as possible. Tip the raw egg into your waiting bowl and rinse and air dry the egg shells.

For paint, I used emulsion tester pots in an assortment of pastel colours, giving each egg three coats and drying them like this:

Don't they look pretty? There is something very appealing about their smooth, uniform shape and the pastel shades.

Then the fun bit - filling the egg shells with flowers. I tried to stick to a spring theme and used grape hyacinths, narcissi and sprigs of thyme for a bit of delicate greenery. Just carefully pour about an inch of water into each egg shell with a jug then snip your flowers to suitably short lengths and have fun arranging.

Even in the cold winter light (it was snowing when I took these photos) the colours in the flowers just glow. It would look lovely as a centre piece for an Easter lunch table.

Do you think that, through sheer force of will, I can make spring come? Maybe, if I craft enough and make enough and bake enough I can encourage the temperatures to rise and the sun to come out. I am so weary of these cold temperatures and snow showers.

In the mean time I will admire my little egg box display on my kitchen windowsill, where I can see it every time I do the washing up, and it makes me very happy.

This post is linking in with Lou's Wednesday Nature in the Home series, over at her blog littlegreenshed. Do pop over and have a look at some very inspiring ways with flowers and plants in the home.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Lately I have Been Making...

...painted eggs for a little spring floral display...

...a throw for the living room...

... a pretty trim for some plain white towels (the crochet pattern is from issue 17 of Mollie Makes)...

...a geometric inspired cushion...

...another baby blanket, very similar to this one for a friend who is due to give birth in May. I'm just doing little sections here and there, when I get a moment....

...and, with Bella, some Easter decorations to hang on the pussy willow.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Carrot Cupcakes

I had planned some seasonal baking for March - Simnel cake and chocolate nests - but I find that I've made carrot cupcakes instead. Does carrot cake count as Easter baking? I suppose rabbits like carrots, don't they? Hmm. The flavours, spices and colours of carrot cake make me think of autumn but honestly, these cakes are welcome in our house all year round. I almost make these just so I can eat cream cheese icing. There is no better sort in my book - the tangy, creamy sweetness is very moreish. But the cake underneath is very good too - moist and chewy and it keeps well.

For the cakes you will need:

200 g or 7 oz sugar (caster sugar is fine but soft brown sugar adds more flavour)
200 ml or 7 fluid oz vegetable or sunflower oil
2 eggs
200 g or 7 oz  plain flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 level tsp baking powder
1 level tsp cinammon
200 g or 7 oz grated carrot
100 g or 3 oz sultanas* 

and for the icing/frosting:

250 g or 9 oz icing sugar, sifted
100 g or 3 oz cream cheese (nice and cold, straight from the fridge)
30 g or 1 oz butter (room temperature or soft)

To make the cakes:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 170°C or 325°F.
  • Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  • Put the sugar, oil and eggs into a bowl and beat to combine. You cold do this by hand but I use a mixer.
  • Add the flour, bicarb, baking powder and cinammon and mix well.
  • Add the carrots and sultanas and mix again.
  • Divide the mixture between your 12 muffin tins and bake for around 20 minutes.
  • When they are cooked remove the cakes from the tin and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

and the icing...

  • The cakes need to be room temperature before icing, otherwise the icing will warm up and melt and you have something that resembles "melting" more than "icing".
  • Combine the icing sugar, cream cheese and butter slowly and carefully to begin with (to avoid an icing sugar dust storm).
  • Once they are roughly combined beat well for a good couple of minutes until the icing is nice and fluffy. Again, you can do this by hand but a freestanding or hand held mixer will be a lot easier.
  • Divide the icing between the 12 cakes. I am hopeless at piping so I sort of spread and swirl it over the cakes with the blunt side of a knife. 
  • Dust with a little cinnamon to decorate, or some of those mini sugar paste carrot cupcake toppers like these would look very cute.

If individual cupcakes are not your thing this cake mixture could be divided between two round sandwich tins and baked at the same temperature for 20 - 25 minutes. Then use half the icing to sandwich the cakes together and spread the other half on the top.


Thanks for all your comments about our recent decorating exploits. A couple of people mentioned that a print in a bathroom may get damp, which is a very good point. Although it's a small room it is quite well ventilated with an extractor fan and a large window, so I hope this will not be an issue. I have been putting the paint tester pots to good use this week and have been painting eggs for a little Easter flower display. As soon as the clouds part and we get some sun I will take photos and show you. Enjoy your Sunday everyone!

* By all means use currants or raisins instead, but I always prefer sultanas and their plump juiciness works well here.