A Winter Warmer & Halloween Decor

It was the official end of British Summertime on Sunday and I wanted to celebrate the coming hunker down season…plus I’ve missed the impromptu sunny get togethers we usually have due to the none too super summer weather this year…so I arranged a ‘Winter Warmer Walk’ get together…

Booted & be~coated, we walked from home up onto the downs ~ just far enough that the kids could make it and to get the views & the brisk crisp fresh air ~ then we rewarded ourselves with a stop in at the pub enroute home where we shivered cupping our drinks in the last of the chilly evening sun…

I made huge amounts of delicious butternut squash, chilli & creme fraiche soup and served it up in paper cups with lots of yumcious different breads for dipping ~ tiger bread, salt & cracked black pepper, and sourdough…we followed up with sausage hot dogs… a very simples and fairly easy menu for a large quantity of people (14 adults, 5 kids & 2 bubs!)…

As we were nearing Halloween, I did a little game for the kids involving glow~in~the~dark bats and blackcurrant jelly sludge and the winning of a little treat…they all got glow sticks and a few little treats along the way…I think it was a hit…

I’m not a massive Halloween doer and I tend to avoid a lot of decorations…except pumpkins…but I wanted to do something for the Bear, so, inspired by danamadeit, I spent the evening before the party snippety snipping bats and sticking them from the hall to the kitchen…I was actually really chuffety chuffed with the result ~ very simple, but very effective. I will be doing this again methinks…

It was a really lovely afternoon…

So now I’m looking forward to fireworks, log fires, hunkering down and cosying up before the countdown to Christmas. What do you like best about Autumn?

Thanks for joining me ♥ 

Flood Icing Biscuits ~ A Beginner’s Beginner’s Guide

I’ve always looked at beautifully iced biscuits in envy and wished I could do that. Biscuits like these make me *sigh*...
I wanted to make some biscuits for one Goddaughter’s 1st Birthday & the other’s 10th Birthday, so I decided I needed to get to grips with this icing lark…Now, I’m certainly not professing to being any kind of expert, but it is easier than it looks for a beginner to get started & produce a reasonable looking iced biscuit…here’s my beginner’s {literally} guide…

You will need:
♥ Biscuits {I make mine using Miranda’s recipe from the Great British Bake Off ~ She has her own book out now}. The biscuits MUST be completely cooled. You could practice on Digestives or Rich Teas as an easy shape to start with.
♥ Royal Icing Sugar {most big supermarkets will have this with the icing sugars, or you can make your own if you know how. Obviously, I don’t!}
♥ Water
♥ A dash of lemon juice {optional}
♥ Icing bags & nozzles/icing bottles ~ I use the Kuhn Rikon bottles below ~ I find them alot easier than the faff of piping bags, and you can save icing for a day or two in them.
♥ Food Colouring {& bowls for mixing in}
♥ Toothpicks
♥ Kitchen Towel
 Make sure you have quite abit of space if you are doing lots of biscuits as they need to be left to dry {ideally out of child/crafty dog reach if you live in my house I now realise!}

Mix up the Royal Icing as per the pack {I substituted a tspn of water with lemon juice}, then distribute into small bowls and mix if using different colours, or just use the one colour to start. Cover the bowl/s with damp paper towel topped with cling film or use tupperware with lids as the icing dries quickly.

 Fill your icing bottle/piping bag/s. Only part fill your main/flooding colour {you’ll see why} and using a small round nozzle, outline the edge of your biscuits like so…
I find holding the nozzle about a cm above the biscuit works best~takes a little practice but you get used to it. You don’t really want the tip to touch the biscuits.

Leave the outline to dry. {I find that by the time I’ve done them all and the first part of step 3, the outline is dry enough}.

♥ Squeeze any unused edging icing back into the bowl and very gradually, add small amounts of water until you have a more runny consistency~only just so it runs more smoothly off the spoon when you lift it up {not watery though}.

You can stick with the round nozzle or switch to one like this if you have a large area to fill {I don’t know the technical name/number, I am a beginner too after all!}…
Refill your icing bottle/bag with your main flooding colour and squiggle over the icing to ‘flood’ the outlined shape…
If you have quite a simple/large shape, you can use the nozzle tip to spread the icing to fill gaps (don’t do this if your icing is too runny though as you’ll just over~flood the shape I found out). If you have a smaller/more fiddly shape {like the No.1 biscuits below}, you may find it easier to spread the icing with a toothpick. Either way, the end result should look something like this…

♥ If you want to create dots like my stars, you need to do this while the icing is still wet {if you want this effect, it’s definitely handy to have the bottles/bags filled and ready with your different colours as you need to switch quite quickly}. I filled and dotted each star before moving on to the next as I had a lot of biscuits, but if you had a small amount of biscuits, you could probably fill them all, then dot…
Simply dot the icing where you want the spots/decoration to be and it will sink in to form a smooth surface when dry. I also did this with my letters and hearts as I was on a time limit {it was nearly 1am the day before the party, hence the poorly lit photos!}, but I liked the result. It does spread a little so go steady unless you want huge polkas!…
If you want a raised effect like in the pretty {expert} bics pictured at the top {or my (not so expert but not half shabby) No.1′s pictured below}, you will need to wait for this layer to dry fully and then pipe the decor details on top. You could leave them overnight, but about 3 hrs should do the trick…et voila! Pretty biscuits to be proud of…
Be warned, it’s abit addictive once you get started ~ I want to do lots and lots more!!

I’d love to know how you get on so do leave a comment if you try this.

Thanks for joining me 

Top Picture Credits (from top left, clockwise)
twigandthistle via miette
JulietteStallwoodCakesandBiscuits
Dessert Menu, Please

kristascookieswithcharacter  


 

Cookie Stamps & Ducks

We had the BEST afternoon today, me & Boo. The miserable weather here has kept us stuck indoors and me resorting to writing about my pants in a moment of madness…but, NOT today…

Today, the sun tried to shine and so out we went. First, we went for a wander and a browse around Arundel, which has THE most gorgeous boutiquey, vintage, kinda full of loveliness shops that I like alot {it also has a castle, a cathedral, is steeped in history and is very beautiful (which I also love, but wasn’t so interested in today)}; we stopped by a favourite, Sparks Yard on the off chance they might have such a thing as a cookie stamp I had been looking for, and lo & behold…
 …woo~hoo! Of course they did! This is the ‘Home Made’ Cookie Stamper by Suck UK {you can also find the recipe we used on their site ~ just hit the Suck UK link}, oh Sparks Yard, how I love thee ~ I could dilly dally for hours…alas, I’d parked on the bridge (1hr limit) and promised Boo she could have a drink and a biscuit in the cafe {I am not adverse to bribery in order to achieve 10 minutes peaceful browsing!}…so I speed browsed and also picked up a new cooling rack, a few bits for {fingers crossed} a little glamping, and some Raspberry Marshmallow Fluff ~ Don’t know what I’m going to do with it but it looked so good and it’s little pink fluffy voice called out to me from the shelves saying ‘buy me, buy me’ in a voice only me and small, not quite four year olds {who, btw, had also bribed me into a new drinks bottle she had found ~ it’s the eyes!} could hear {well, that’s what I’m telling Daddy Bear anyway!} So, we made our purchases and then sat down for said promised refreshment ~ the Bear schlurped an RWhites and scoffed a smarties cookie double time, while I just had my usual Coca~Cola. We chatted about random stuff, our family, our dog and our next bit of the day…feeding the ducks & making cookies…
{There must be something about the Bear girls and pants at the minute…We dashed back to the car and made an emergency toilet stop where I discovered that Boo had, this morning, put on not one…not even two…but THREE pairs of knickers for some reason. When asked why, she replied ‘because I like 3′…fair enough chick!…}

We headed off to park beneath the castle so Boo could scoot down the lovely tree lined walk~way by the stream towards Swanbourne Lake, which was really very beautiful. We had great fun peeking under the bridges and jumping muddy puddles and yet the rain has made everything a really bright lush green which made it feel very quiet and peaceful. Boo was doing her theatrical loud whispering saying ‘shhhhhh, we must be kwi~aaahhht!’ which always makes me chuckle.
We arrived at the lake, pointing out the swans, ducks, moorhens and seagulls, fed the ducks, which were VERY friendly and came right up to our feet {although Boo did get a nip trying to hand feed them}, and tried to avoid the seagulls which, as usual, were a little pushy. Then we went for a little explore nattering about our recent trip to France and holidays and taking a rowboat out another day {one of our Bucket List items~’can I do the rowey things with Daddy?’ she asked…{Boats can be hired at £3.50 per adult/£2.50 per child, per half hour}} and how much of a ‘PLOP’ we’d make if we fell in the lake!

We headed home to make our cookies {really easy recipe btw but needed longer cooking than suggested ~ we did ours for about 15-16 mins.} Boo loved stamping them down and whilst they chilled in the fridge, she had her tea {Hello Kitty pasta (discovered in Waitrose~great with garlic & butter), broccolli & carrot} while I made the ragu for another lasagne attempt {this is another story}…

Once the cookies were done, we headed up the road with a batch of them for the cousins, feeling content with smiles on our faces ~ what a super day.

Thanks for joining us 

 

Pink Milk

I’ve been getting ‘Pinspired’ by Pinterest a lot lately and had a hankering for quite some time for some mini milk bottles. Mainly with the idea of a weenie person’s birthday, but they are also just so pretty for flowers…

{click images for links}

So I was very excited to discover them from an eBay seller I like called ‘Homely Touch‘. I’ve bought quite a few bits from her and the service is great as are the products. So a little *squeak* ensued as I got to home to find my parcel containing these had arrived the other day…
I’d also ordered some stripy straws from the lovely ‘thatsmykindaparty‘ (you can also find them on Pinterest with loads more inspiration on offer)…
Well, the Bear was extremely excited and pink milk had to be made immediately of course and was throughly enjoyed…
I can’t wait to experiment with milk and biscuits and flowers and juice and allsorts…

Thanks for joining me 

In Photo ~ A Family Visit

We had a visit to my Mum’s last weekend, including a drop in to visit my brother & his partner’s new house. I’m very chuffed on their behalf ~ it’s such the utterly perfic home for them. We took my Grandma too {mum’s mum}. That’s four generations in one place ~ I’m always pretty impressed with this…

I decided to try to record as much as possible in photos ~ a sort of ‘a day in the life’ if you will, but I couldn’t resist adding a little commentry…

Boo ~ “Wake Up!!”
Us ~ “Urnngghfff”

Rush Rush. Out. Drive. Arrive! Take a tour. Ooo and Aah over house with a cuppa. Boo meets Little Dog {new bestie!} and Big Dog {bit bouncy}, and bumps head on kitchen island ~ Bro attempts retrospective child proofing by selotaping oven glove over corner ~ Bless!

Nice little walk to church ruin. Family group shot wasn’t planned to be in height order but I’m chuckling to myself noticing it now! Lovely to see Bro & the Bear bonding :0) Back for Lunch {during which the boys made me laugh whilst drinking and I proceeded to elegantly snort liquid out of my nose. Hurriedly left the room in fits of giggles to come back to a very red faced, teary eyed giggling family ~ glad I can be such a source of amusement! Topic of conversation ~ the pronouncement of ‘Woburn’ (Woo or Woe?). Led to such comments as ‘How WOO-d’ and ‘oh yes, Terry WOO-gan’ ~ yes, we know ~ it’s a family thing!}
Aunty S provides the entertainment while we put our feet up…literally ~ excellent child care service here {once baby proofed!}. Boys compare size of phones {why?!} Big Dog disappears  through back hedge and leads Bro on a merry six mile chase in the middle of G’ma’s tour of the garden…Garden tour suspended. Puffed out Bro and Aunty S return with unabashed Big dog.  Friends due and recovery time needed for the young couple. Goodbyes and home. Happy *sigh* over a lovely day x
Sunday ~ lovely lazee day. Made Egg & Bacon cups for brunch. Visited Bluebell Wood {further post to come}, good deeds done rescuing mud stuck drivers, ice-cream for the Bear, and stopped by the canal for a bit of boat watching. Mum made awesome Tartiflette {reminiscing over Ski holiday}, then we packed up and headed back to the currently not~so sunny South Coast. Bigger happy *sigh* over a lovely weekend. I miss my Mum everyday. Thank goodness for weekends like these.

Thanks for joining 

The Perfect Boiled Egg

I’d forgotten just how yummy a perfectly boiled egg is until fairly recently ~ I’d stopped making them for me ages ago as I always seemed to over cook them so there was no runny yolk for soldier dipping {which I always found incredibly disappointing!}, but in bids to find something new the Bear would eat, I took it upon myself to perfect my technique…

 Discovery Number One ~ Keep eggs at room temp. {I used to keep mine in the fridge but I’ve found they work better for boiling and cake making at room temp}

 Discovery Number Two ~ Punch the top of the egg {with a pin or egg piercer like this}

Discovery Number Three ~ Use medium/large eggs. And yes, farm fresh really do taste better {quite unbelievably so} and are often cheaper if you can find them locally.

Method

♥ Get the water boiling and put the pierced egg/s into the water with a spoon.
♥ Lower the temp so the water is simmering nicely and set a timer for 5 minutes.
♥ Make your toast whilst the eggs are cooking with lots of butter & cut into soldiers.
♥ Once the timer pings; empty out the boiled water and refill the pan with cold water then remove the eggs and dry. Pop in your egg cup with the soldiers on the side.

YUM! plenty of runny yolk for dipping and a perfect quick lunch done. Even the Bear loves boiled eggs now {I draw a smiley face on hers and we call it Humpty Dumpty!}

Thanks for joining me 

Turkey Bites

We visited one of my Bestie’s the other day. She is weaning her little one and doing THE most amazing job of ‘Baby Led Weaning’ which is something I am a big fan of. Anyway, she whipped up these yummy little turkey mince sausages for her ‘Little Miss’ & the Bear, which were delicious {I nabbed quite a few ~ sorry!}, so I thought I’d give something similar a try myself. I didn’t have the recipe so…

This is what I used:
500g minced turkey breast
2 apples {cored}
about 20 dried apricots
3 dried bread rolls {whizzed into bread crumbs}*
1 medium egg
ground cinnamon
olive oil
handful of fresh parsley {chopped}
Blender

Makes 12 patties

♥ Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Whizz the apples & apricots in the blender so they are chopped {not pulped}.
♥ Add 3 handfuls of breadcrumbs, the egg, turkey mince & a good pinch or two of cinnamon, and whizz until mixed {I also added a dash of olive oil, but you could omit this}.

♥ Scoop out small balls of the mixture {about palm sized}, rolling and then pressing lightly to make a pattie shape.
♥ Place the patties on a lightly oiled baking tray.
♥ Sprinkle over some fresh parsley {I also added a twist or two of black pepper} and place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until cooked through.

And that’s it. They can be eaten straight away, cold from the fridge, or kept in the freezer for quick meals. If you are weaning, you could leave out the parsley & pepper and make into weenie hand sized sausage shapes, and even if you’re not, there are lots of variations you could do such as pear & apple, cranberry, carrot & tomato, bacon & green bean…

Thanks for joining me 

* 3 rolls made alot of breadcrumbs! ~ I put the leftovers in the freezer for other recipes like crispy topping for shepherd’s pie, or crispy coating for fish or chicken ~ thrifty, huh?!

 

Butterfly Cakes

This week, the Bear asked to make cakes for MMwM. I had some of these stashed in the larder…

Giant Snowies …so we decided to make butterfly cakes with a little twist. Here’s the step-by-step…

Cake Mix:
175g very soft (not runny) butter
175g caster sugar
3 medium eggs (beaten, at room temp)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract, I prefer the paste)
150g self-raising flour (sifted)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk

♥ Pre-heat oven to 180°C (mine is a fan oven so I lowered this slightly)
♥ Put all the ingredients into a large bowl & mix until smooth with a wooden spoon or a mixer

♥ Spoon mixture into cupcake cases (I found a good teaspoon blob was about the right amount)
♥ Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the sponge springs back when lightly pressed (ours took 15 minutes)
♥ Cool on a rack before icing
For the butter icing:
125g very soft (not runny) butter
400g icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla essence)

♥ In a bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon or mixer until it lightens and is a creamy texture.
♥ Sift the icing sugar into the bowl and add the milk & vanilla. Beat on a low speed or mix with a wooden spoon (you will get an icing sugar cloud if you forget to mix on low – who does that?! – ahem. At least the Bear thought it was funny!)
♥ Tilting the knife slightly, cut a divot out of the top of your cupcakes.
♥ Spread the icing into the divots and add your butterflies. (You can either use the tops you cut out cut in half for wings, or, like we did, the giant snowies.)
And that’s it really. They are so simple and tasty, and a good one for really letting kids get involved. I let Boo do all the pouring, sifting & putting in bowls and she has a hand on the mixer while I do the work, but, I do anything that involves knives or the oven (and checking weights/measurements!), it works out pretty well. I think she enjoyed herself…

Thanks for joining us 

Squidgy, Sparkly, Soft Stuff {aka Homemade Playdough}

MMwM happened on Sunday this week as the Bear had a very important playdate on Monday afternoon…

I had been planning on making jewel star biscuits (a bit like these), but Boo had spotted her playdough cutters earlier in the week and was desperate to get them out so, since ours had all dried up, we decided to make playdough with a sparkly twist instead…

I’d forgotten how quick it is to make it yourself, and it’s so perfect for a wet afternoon. It’s not sticky, it feels lovely and it’s sooooo pretty!

The Makey Bakey Bit

This is what we used:
200g plain flour
100g salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
300ml water
food colouring (we used pink…of course)
silver glitter
saucepan & wooden spoon. I use a really heavy based saucepan of my Grandmother’s for stuff like this…

♥ Put the flour, salt, cream of tarter & oil into the pan. ( I weighed, Boo put in the pan, except for the cream of tarter which she did herself ~ I’m pretty sure there was more than 2 teaspoons went in, but it worked ok!)

♥ Add your chosen food colour to the water (the more you add, the darker it will be ~ we added about 15 good drops and got a very pretty pink. If you wanted a really bright colour, you’d probably need to add more). Add the water to the pan.

♥ Sprinkle glitter into the mix in the pan (again we used quite a heavy hand which worked well).

♥ Put the pan on a low-medium heat & cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture becomes very stiff (arm achingly so!!)

♥ Scrape out the mixture onto a flat surface. Put the pan & spoon to soak straight away.

!!CAUTION!! The inside of the mixture will be very hot so treat a little tentatively and don’t let little ones do this bit. Alternatively, you could cut the mixture in half and leave it to cool a little, but it does need a good knead (haha sorry!) so it’s probably best an adult does this.

♥ Knead the dough until it becomes pliable & holds it’s shape. Et Voila!

Playing

You don’t even have to store this in the fridge, just wrap in cling film & keep it in an airtight container. If it dries slightly {it will form a light crust}, you can revive it by kneading with a little oil.

So, we had a super Sunday afternoon squidging and rolling and cutting out shapes, and we even got D involved which was really lovely since he’d usually be at work for MMwM’s.

Getting Daddy in the Squidgy Mix

Thanks for joining us for this sparkly MMwM 

A 2012 Prospective and 2011 Retrospective

So, here goes on my {not definitive} list of things I’d like to do/complete/continue/achieve in 2012. I am NOT entitling them ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ as, for me, that is generally the best way to ensure I do absolutely nothing and then wonder why I feel disappointed in myself the following New Year ~ am I the only one on this?!…

♥ Have fresh flowers in the house, at the very least, monthly
♥ Learn how to take better photos & experiment more with my camera. Get a bigger lens & small camera for toting around
♥ Go camping and exploring with The Bear…lots {this coincides with D taking up the racing aspect of his big passion ~ windsurfing. He will be away or training quite a bit, but I’m hoping to tag along to a few of the races in the more desirable spots}
♥ Continue & improve my crochet, sewing skills & baking
♥ Finish my metre long counted cross~stitch {Emily Peacock‘s ‘HUG’} and start the next one {!gULP!} ‘KISS’
♥ Continue with the house revamping and definitely have the ground floor finito by the Summer {we’re on the way now the lounge is done}
♥ Remember that to start & fail is always better than not to try at all
♥ Start a ‘Teeth Fund’ ~ for those that don’t already know me, or perhaps don’t know this; I had a brace as a teenager {and for considerably longer than most}, but since my wisdoms came through & pregnancy, they have all shunted again & my smile makes me self-conscious & actually pretty sad, so this is the year when I’m going to start doing something about it

That’s pretty much it for now, but no doubt this will be added to over the coming year.

So that’s the PROspective. I also thought that, for the purposes of ‘web logging’ it would be quite nice to do a little RETROspective of 2011 through pictures, especially since a lot of my crafty stuff really took hold last year and we had some super mini breaks and time together too. Enjoy 

Winter/Spring

Spring/Summer

Late Summer/Autumn

MMwM

MMwM

MMwM

Crochet Beginnings

Bakey Stuff

Stitch, Yarn & Other Stuff

Thanks for joining me on the journey ahead, I’m looking forward to it