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Three children *** Two dogs *** Two parents *** Country loving *** Cottage dwelling in the South-West of the UK. That's us!

We've been blogging since January 2010.

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Just a thought….

"A moment spent in wonder is worth a lifetime spent in awe."

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  • Louise Houghton Fantastic. I often am in a state of indecision regarding our black refuse bag. We always burn a lot in the winter in the Rayburn... 23 Apr
  • Kim Carberry Ahh! How lovely! It sounds like you have had a fab week. That church looks fantastic. Well done x #WotW 21 Apr
  • Anne How lovely that you have had time to re-charge. It sounds like you've had a lovely week. I love your daughters church, very creative. #wotw 21 Apr
  • The Reading Residence Your analogy about recharging is so true and I've never really thought of it like that before. Food for thought. I love looking round old... 21 Apr
  • Stephanie Robinson What a fabulous post - and a gorgeous quilt - and yes hindsight, it gets us every time but great advice in this post -... 20 Apr
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Time to smile

"God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles."

- J B S Haldane

I’ve been featured by

recipe

Raspberries, please.

There has been an alarming increase in the height of my children recently. It always happens in the spring. They seem to shoot up, as soon as the sun hits. The Teen is near enough my height now, and her sister seems able to look me in the eye a little bit more easily, than I’d care to admit.

And as for the Boy, well he is taking on the appearance of someone who has begun to stretch. Looking just as willowy as his sisters. Watch any of them for long enough, and I swear you can see them growing.

Now, they are not managing this on meal times alone.

The most likely form of extra nourishment, are the homemade goodies I make. The theory is that if I make them, I can keep the snacks on the healthy side. Also there is a limit to how much I can bake/grate/chop.

A big favourite at the moment is raspberry and chocolate chip muffins. Each muffin is practically half raspberries, half muffin. Not overly sweet. Rather yummy, if I say so myself. Our supply of homegrown raspberries has long since run out, so I often find “frozen raspberries” written on my shopping list. Not in my handwriting. A subtle hint to make more.

The good news is that they are incredibly quick to make and bake. I have my muffin making kit piled up ready in the cupboard. I use a cup measure as it’s so much quicker to scoop the ingredients. Speed is of the essence. Especially when you have three children who take it in turns to check if the muffins are ready yet. (Seriously, do they have a rota for who goes in next to scout for muffins?)

Apart from the milk and raspberries, the rest of the ingredients are near by in another cupboard. I reckon I can have these muffins ready to eat within 20 minutes, if not less. I win “best Mama” points if they can smell them baking as they walk up the drive after school. You cannot beat a warm muffin after a hard day chatting with your friends studying.

So here’s how we make them (when I say we, I mean me):

Ingredients

In first bowl, mix the:

2 cups of self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1 cup of frozen raspberries
1/2 cup of semi-sweetened chocolate chips

In second bowl, mix the:

100ml oil
200ml milk
2 tsp of vanilla essence or lemon extract

Also need a muffin tin, lined with 12 paper muffin cases

What to do:

1. Pour the contents of the second bowl into the first, until it is just mixed. Do not over mix.
2. Divide the combined mixture between the 12 muffin cases.
3. For a 2 oven Aga, bake on the third shelf down in the top oven, for about 12-15 minutes, turning the muffin tray around halfway through. For other ovens, bake at 200°c/400°f/ Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes. The muffins are ready when they are golden brown and risen.
4. Take out of the oven. Move the muffins from the tray onto a wire rack to cool.

These muffins never make it beyond the day they are made. I live in hope of putting a batch in the freezer for another day. In all fairness, they are so quick to make, that it’s not a big problem.

More of a challenge is having enough raspberries available, which explains the added request for frozen raspberries to my shopping lists.

My solution is to plant more raspberry canes. I’m aiming to have a row of raspberries this summer. I miss my fruit cage and may have to make a new one. When the Teen was a toddler she used to be pushed disappear in there, after meals,  and feast on all the soft fruit. No need to serve up a pudding. Nothing beats fruit straight from the plant.

Yes. I need to work on my raspberry production.

Grow little raspberry plant. Grow. I have three children waiting for muffins.

PoCoLo
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A thrifty gift

Each year we exchange gifts with neighbours and friends. Mostly homemade goodies like festive cookies and sweets. Last year chocolate cherry mice were popular. The children love joining in. Especially between school breaking up and the big day. We have so much fun deciding what to make…..and sampling them,  of course.

As the tradition has grown, so have my endeavours to package our gifts up in a fun and eco friendly way. Usually its the bag we send them over in, or reusing the Christmas tin our friends sent over the year before. Some go backwards and forwards each year. We have great neighbours.

This year, we will probably include chocolate chip and clementine shortbread because it is amazingly good. (Recipe below.) I’ll probably drizzle icing and gold stars, but they need a good container too. I’ve been saving up black treacle and golden syrup containers. To give them a festive twist, I knitted up candy cane inspired wraps.

The beauty of these simple knitted covers is that they could be slipped off and used as mug warmers. I’m sure they could be used for a whole number of things. Most likely we will see them again, as they cheer up another package. Next year.

As I was knitting the first one, I couldn’t help being reminded of the Grinch. A Christmas favourite.

Can I admit, I didn’t like the book at first? Not one bit. Maybe it was the greeness of the Grinch from the movies or the way poor Max had to pull the sleigh or the general meaness until the end (hope I didn’t spoil it).

Re-reading it with my children, it has grown on me over the years. With each reading, I like it a little bit more. I whole heartedly love the message it gives. We don’t need all the Christmas trimmings to enjoy this time of year. It is a chance to strengthen our community and friendships.

“Maybe Christmas, ” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

“Maybe Christmas….perhaps…. means a little bit more!”

Now I’m not going to argue with that one.

Would you like the shortbread recipe? It is easy, peasy. Almost lemon squeezy, except it involves clementines not lemons.

Ingredients

175g (6oz) butter (cut into small cubes and  at room temperature)
175g (6oz) plain flour
85g (3oz) semolina (uncooked)
85g (3oz) caster sugar
2 clementines (grated peel only)
100g (4oz) or more chocolate chips

Method

1.    Put everything, except the chocolate chips, in the food mixer and use the dough hook to mix togther. Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour by hand in a bowl and then mix everything in to the mixture.

2.   Mix in chocolate chips into mixture

3.   Grease a 30cm x 22cm (12″ x 9″) tray.

4.   Spread the mixture evenly into the greased tray and press it firmly.

5.   Prick it with a fork, but I prefer to use the fork to make lines all over the flattened mixture.

6.   In a 2-oven Aga, slide tray onto the bottom runner, with the cold sheet on second runner at the top for 10-15 minutes. Turning half way through.

For other ovens, recipes seem to suggest 190 ºc/375 ºf/Gas 5 for 15 – 20 mins, but I’ve not tested it. Shortbread should be pale golden brown when they are ready.

7.   Once baked, cut into desired shapes and sizes, and lift out of the tray individually onto a wire rack to cool.

I love adding semolina to shortbread. It gives a crunch without needing to add demerara sugar. These ones are sweet enough as they include chocolate chip, so cutting down on more sugar is a plus. When buying the semolina, make sure you buy the uncooked dry type, used to make semolina pudding from scratch. Not the tinned, ready-to-eat semolina. Not a crunch provider.

Needless to say, my first two batches disappeared before I had time to package them. It was a job to have enough to photograph with the recycled gift container. I went out for an hour, and they were all gone except a few when I made it home. I had to use a photo from my Instagram feed to include here.

Anyway, I hope the neighbours will like them. The clementines add a fabulous seasonal touch to the shortbread. The containers are ready. A salvaged bow from last year, is fixed on top. Now I just need to make another batch.

Knitting notes

dk wool left over yarn from previous projects
4mm needles

For a Lyle’s Black Treacle 454g tin, cast on 48 stitches using the thumb method, or loosely. Stocking stitch 4 rows of red, then 4 rows of white and so on, until you reach the height of the tin. Cast off.

Sew up the sides and slip onto tin.

For a Lyle’s Golden Syrup 907g tin, cast on 72 stitches and follow the black treacle tin instructions.

Trash 2 Treasure

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There have been cases when people lifted my photos and words, and used them without credit to me or asking permission first. Using them for their own commercial gain. I have now added a level of security to deter people from doing this. Apologies to people who do play nicely. If you would like to use any of my photos, please contact me.

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All my words and photos are copyrighted to me. They cannot be used for commercial benefit by anyone else. If you would like to use any of them, then please ask me first and don't just take. Written permission only. Don't pass my words, photos or ideas off as your own. It's not nice.