Wednesday 25 November 2015

Apricot & Fig

The painter and decorator finished in the kitchen at about 4pm on Friday and the fitter finished off the skirting boards at about 6 pm. Cutting it fine even by my standards.

 Fortunately I had managed to package up some mini Christmas cakes and several packets of biscotti earlier in the week.

But Saturday turned into a baking frenzy of mincepies...

Gingerbread biscuits...

And if you will allow me to say so,,, the most amazing cranberry and clementine Bundt cake, rich with white chocolate and soaked fruit yet light and fragrant too. I may have got a little over enthusiastic with the spray-on glitter though... a little over excited too!

There was also a triple layer gingerbread and caramel cake...

As well as a gluten free almond and clementine cake. There was also some very naughty Rocky Road but that disappeared before I took a photo.

And despite all the last minute rush, everything was ready for my Tasting Day and launch of my new venture "Apricot and Fig" on Sunday afternoon.

People came all afternoon and there was a definite buzz and excitment. Lots of cake was sampled, lots of cake was bought and even more was ordered. I virtually sold out of all these jams, jellies and chutneys

By the end of the day I was exhausted but left happy feeling that I might actually make a success of this.
Meanwhile this week there has been more embroidery, lots of shifting of boxes and furniture and I'm still exhusted... but that's all a story for another time!

Don't forget to leave a comment on this post if you would like to have a chance to win a set of Cambridge Christmas cards.

Thursday 19 November 2015


Coming from London, I am a city girl at heart. Even though I have lived in a small village for over twenty five years now and have no desire to live anywhere else, I still enjoy the buzz and pace of city life. Fortunately we do have Cambridge on our doorstep, which is a particularly beautiful and vibrant city... with a very lively food scene. I have recently joined an online group in Cambridge for poeple who like to make food, write about food, photograph food... and most of all eat food!

Through this group I have met Cambridge based artist Naomi Davies who has produced these beautiful pen and watercolour drawings of wintery scenes around the city, that she has made into Christmas cards.

 They really do conjure up a feeling for the city... it's hard to pick a favourite.

But best of all Naomi has sent me a set of these cards and although I really would like to keep them all for myself, I thought it would be a festive gesture of appreciation for everyone of you who keeps reading my wittering to give them away! All you have to do is leave me a comment on this post and after one week I will pick a name out of a suitable vessel to find the winner of the set of cards

Meanwhile I am trying to get some festive baking underway... cakes, mincemeat, pies etc as I have a tasting day on Sunday to launch my new business. I'd like to tell you that the kitchen is all finished and ready but I'm still working around tradesmen, ladders and the occasional bucket of paint! Maybe by Sunday?

I've also had a special order this week to make a Slavski Kolac or Slava Cake which is a traditional Serbian dish made for family saint's days, a yeasted enriched dough a little like a brioche. Our friend Pete wanted me to make it for a family get together this coming weekend as it was something his Mum always used to make. As it was something new for me I decided I'd better have a trial run.

This afternoon Pete and his wife Janet came over for a cup of tea and a trial tasting!  And the verdict... almost as good as his Mum's... which was good enough for me. Now let's hope the real version turns out as well as this one!

Then it's back to more baking ready for Sunday... where luckily for me Naomi will be bringing some more of her cards so I will be able to buy a set for myself. Don't forget to leave a comment if you would like a chance to win. And take a look at some of Naomi's other lovely drawings:

Friday 13 November 2015

A Busy Five on Friday

Well since I was last here, that was some mad crazy week that's not over yet... So I thought I'd pop by very quickly, join in with Five on Friday if I can remember how and then take my leave once more. Goodness knows when I'll next find time to blog!

1. Holt

We had a lovely weekend away in Holt, despite the weather being pretty awful. The day we arrived I could hardly walk, the arthritis in my left knee had flared up so badly, so I didn't mind the rain and the excuse to stay inside. But anti-inflammatories worked their magic and the sun came out for a while so by Sunday we managed some walking and saw loads of seals out at Blakeney Point. Stewart also managed to fall in the mud which was slightly amusing... I wasn't quick enough with the camera unfortunately!

2. Work

By Tuesday I was back teaching in Letchworth and on Wednesday this was followed by a workshop at Art Van Go. This is a collage of some of the wonderful applique made by the ladies in my class.

3. The Kitchen

It will probably be several weeks until it is entirely finished and every time we think maybe it will all be done today something else crops up... like the fitter having his tools stolen when he left the van unlocked (not on our drive I hasten to add) or the damaged worktop that needs replacing etc etc. But I am working in it as you can see. And today the painter is in and it really is starting to look fabulous (bare plaster is so dark!)... and that cooker... Oh, I love it!

4. Crochet

Spare moments are being spent making crochet snowflakes... I'm aiming for fifty of them and so far have done twenty that are still to be blocked. I'll tell you more about this particular project in a week or so, if I ever get it finished. (I've got until 26th... loads of time!)

5. Cake

This is what I was making in the kitchen photo above. My first order to come out of my new kitchen... another chocolate and peanut butter layer cake. I was getting slightly worried I wouldn't be able to get this done in time and I'm mighily relieved I can work that beautiful cooker too!
Now if you'll excuse me I must finish my last bit of packing before I head of to Missenden Abbey for my final weekend teaching there this year. Have a lovely weekend!

Joining in with Amy for Five on Friday.

Friday 6 November 2015

The Year in Books - November

This might as well be titled The Weekend in Books... We've escaped the renovations again for a weekend in Holt, returning to the beautiful and cosy Blackbird cottage where we stayed last year. It was booked long before we knew the kitchen work was scheduled for now and it is probably not the best time to go away but on the bright side, there is a washing machine and a cooker... And it is warm and clean! But the weather is awful so think we might be holed up in the cottage for most of the weekend, reading! I've already bought a another new book in the excellent Holt bookshop.

But back to my October Year in Books choice, Emma by Alexander McCall Smith, the retelling of Jane Austen's classic. It was a light easy read, amusing and certainly not too taxing. I'm not entirely sure the manners of Jane Austen's era translate to modern day but I still enjoyed it for what it was. And I'm now thinking that perhaps I ought to read the Jane Austen original.

I also picked up Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris in a charity shop for 50p last month, which I quite happily enjoyed. A bit far fetched and I'm not sure I realised it was a murder mystery/thriller to start with (despite mention of murder in the first chapter!)... And I certainly didn't have a clue about any of the twists and turns that were revealed at the end, but none of that detracted from my enjoyment of the story, which is set out like a chess match between the main characters in a rather old and decaying private school St Oswalds. Joanne Harris spins a good tale in this story of revenge, she writes some excellent characters and there is always a dark and rather sinister under current lurking not far beneath the surface.

And this month I'm reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, which I'm already loving. A very powerful fictionalised account of the life of American abolitionist and suffragette, Sarah Grimke told in parallel with the story of her personal slave, Hetty.. I'll report back next month! I've also got a couple of others in my bag if I finish it this weekend, which looking at the rain outside could well happen!

And do you want to see what I've left behind at home...

Still no oven until next Tuesday (fingers crossed) but it is starting to look fabulous... and I'm looking forward to getting back and baking. Just a bit excited really!

Joining in with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for The Year in Books.

Wednesday 4 November 2015


I escaped!
I escaped the dust, the endless commercial pop radio, the builders rubble on our drive, the ever shifting deadlines for our finished kitchen and had a blissfull day out stitching with Gill at a fabric shop, Backstitch based in Burwash Manor near Cambridge. The first Wednesday in the month always used to be Spectrum day, but since my involvement with the group ended I have a years worth of SPECTRUM marked in my diary that I can now fill with other things... days out, exhibitions... and dress making!

I have had the pattern for a Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress for months, I bought the fabric for the dress in September but it all lay untouched until today.

But by booking in to the shop for a social sew day, we had access to a wonderful big cutting table, plenty of room to spread out, tasteful music in the background and a whole day just to stitch and natter with no distractions... bliss!

Of course there were a few fabric purchases too... well, I need something to make the next time I go back for a day out stitching. And best of all I finished my first Coco dress. From start to finish in a day!

I posed for the first photo but then I had Gill and Heather (who works in the shop) telling me to cross my legs, thrust my hips and  lift my chin if I was posing for a photo... I resisted a Victoria Beckham pout though!

Back home at the ranch we have now passed day ten of the "week to ten days" we were quoted for our kitchen and it is nowhere near finished. (No surprise there) No sign of an oven either which is a little worrying given I have cakes to make next week. Ah well... at least the microwaved curry tasted good tonight!