Thursday, 30 July 2009

Ripple blanket : progress

Tan tan taraaaaaa! No it's not finished yet but I'm oh soooo happy with it and it's longer than I am tall now so I can wrap myself in it and be a stripey mummy.....Truly mummified....
Just thought I'd share with you all the colour permutations i have been playing with as it's a kind-of-a-sampler ripple stitch blanket- with just 19 rows left to go.
Above is the full view as is at over 1.55cm long.
Then follows 3 sections that make up the above and then I give close ups of some of my favourite colur groups: let's go see!!!

This was the end a few days ago but I've gone all oranges and reds since that purple now...
I really liked this turquoise between these 2 blues for a change. The dark blue is next to a pale aqua but it looks bleached white in the photo.
Here's the blues more conventionally in a tonal variation.
There's almost always a different colour next to the purple every time.

More coming soon! It's meant to be 2m long and I may add a little finishing edge to the sides....
It's been enormous fun to do and although no longer an easily portable project, still such glorious warm cuddley fun to do while watching films or tv on the sofa: stitching away at one end while wrapped in the rest!!!
Our FILM FEST this week ( due to all that rain!) has included- and I have enjoyed them all!!!
Young Victoria
The secret of Moonacre( got the book but not read it yet)
Shaggy Dog
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Confessions of a Shopaholic( not nearly as good as the book!!!!!!!)
Marley and Me: ditto the book was sooooo much better!!!!!!
And of course there was a NEW Midsomer Murders last night when it was filmed in our very OWN THAME MUSEUM!!!!
Hence together with some handsewing chores and sewing in of ends there's been 4 rows added since the purple....And a lot of child and dog and puppy cuddling too.....

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Dutch applecake or APPELTAART # 1.

Dear diary: do you remember when you wrote things like that? When I was about 6 I wrote in my journal every day and always started in time- honoured tradition: Dear Diary:....

I feel a bit like that now so here it goes: Dear Diary : yesterday started inauspiciously but worked out a really GOOOOOD day for the family.

At about 9 am I opened my washing machine to find my blues wash( lots of jeans) more dirty than when it went in!!!

This is despite it being a BOSCH and a lovely machine but being 5 years old or more it has these hissy fits every 8-10 washes or so only this time it was only 5 washes ago...
Yes I've cleaned the filter and no I didn't put it on ''reduced time'' but it seems to be able to ''find'' all sorts of dirt and griity stones to deposit ONTO my wash! Luckily halving the load and re-washing always ( fingers crossed!!!) sorts the problem.

So that was the ''bad ''bit over and no I didn't get the rewashed jeans into the sunshine because by then it was raining AGAIN.

We went to KUMON by car as we were running late ( girls had lovely lie-ins) and while they did their maths I managed 3 personal bests on the braintraining so I was well chuffed as I believe the expression is?!! I mean triangle maths in 18 seconds can't be bad for the old brain now can it? Still can't quite beat Izzles on the X20 though but I do on the X100: no stamina these young ones...

Sun being out we all cycled back into town for purchasing yummy fruit and veg on the market and back again to have a late lunch.

Then the dogs being desperate we walked them at the Long Crendon playground and chose books at the library for our imminent holiday in the Yorkshire Dales.
Izzles' lunch before going off to cylce with friends as baking was way too boring for a primary school graduate...
Then a photo of Lucy but she turned too fast and Pippa was pleading for attentiontoo- isn't she lovely?
So here is our Lucy at 5 months old exactly!!!! HIP HIP HOORAY!!!!!
And onto the BAKING!!! Today we are trying to make a dish that was a favourite as I grew up in Holland: my mother always made it from a ''kit'' a premixed packet and I must confess so did I : when I could get it from the Netherlands....
It was Koopmans or Dr Oetker I think and is called ( in Dutch) APPELTAART.
Now this is NOT a tart of any kind as there is no pastry it is Dutch for cake: but it's filled with apple pieces.
I googled the word and found a fabulous site in the NL region of the web run by a lovely 23 year old Dutch lady who has been collecting all sorts of recipes for this all together: there are dozens of variations - and I mean DOZENS OR MORE!!!- and I though we'd simply try the first one - the most popular- and then work our way down until we found the one most like my childhood favourite....

Please note I'll translate the recipe at the end?!!!

Here's my assistant chef with hair tied back- her insistence I was sooo impressed!- apron on, hands washed and ready to goooooo. She will be making the dough.

It uses LOTS of creamy unsalted butter and it needs to start off cold so you can chop it small as above. Then we had the flour and sugar and cinnamon and vanilla ready to rub in the butter.... OOOOOOH It smelled so good: delicious!!!
Rub until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs: didn't she do well?!!! And it wasn't easy it was so very sticky and buttery!
Mum was in charge of the apples: peeling and chopping and adding some sugar and lemon juice and yet more cinnamon.
Adding 3/4 of a beaten egg to the ''breadcrumbs'' turned it into dough: TA DAH!!!
This then went into the fridge for an hour or so while we had a break: chocolate frozen yoghurt icecream and part of a kid's movie.
Then we rolled it all out and adding some flour cut a circle for the base, strips of 6cm by 23 cm for the sides and then lots more 2cm strips for the top.
We had added- almost forgot but not quite!- the raisins to the apple mixture and after adding the apples into the cake tin we laid the thinner strips in a lattice pattern over the top, brush with left over beaten egg and pop into pre-heated oven ( 175 degrees Centigrade) for 78 minutes....
TAH DAAAAH!!! Except I took this out after 58 minutes as the fan hadn't switched off when I thought it would and it looked so ready....
The recipe says and I quote: Leave the taart in the fridge for 2 days for best flavour and it can be kept up to one week from baking day..... 2 DAYS????!!!Does anyone EVER wait THAT long???? Mine cam out of the oven after 7 pm and by 10 pm well.......

And we all had some scrummy yummy applecake...!!!!I don't think it will last even one day let alone 2 days.....
It's great but not quite the same so the quest continues...... Could be it needs more dough round the sides and less long to cook? Or try some more of those recipes!!!!

Here is the RECIPE

For the Dough:
300g Self-raising flour
200g cold butter
160g castor sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
dash of salt
1 egg: mixed with a fork
The Apple Filling:
1kg of chopped apples- I suggest Bramleys or Granny Smiths
15 ml or more of lemon juice
cinnamon to personal taste( we like loads!)
15 g castor sugar or to taste.
60g raisins( but I may have used about 50% MORE..)
For the apples I used 5 medium Bramleys and 3 Braeburns.
1. Cut up the butter and mix into the flour and sugar mixture with the vanilla and the cinnamon.Rub until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add the egg slowly and form a dough. Do not use all of the egg and add a bit more four if too sticky or not forming a dough. Put dough in fridge in clingfilm for at least 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile: preheat oven to 175 Centigrade and peel and chop the apples.
Mix the lemon juice and cinnamon to coat the apples and add sugar to taste and the raisins.
4. Roll out the dough and fit it to the base of a 9'' or 23 cm greased springform. Then fit strips around the sides too: about 6cm high. After lining the base I had 430 g dough left and used 230 g for the sides leaving 200g for the strips of the lattice.
I think I could have used more for the sides and less for the lattice.
5. When you have a base and sides: fill with the apple mixture and cover the top with the lattice strips.
6. Brush the lattice with the leftover beaten egg.
7. Bake in the centre of the oven for up to 78 minutes but check at 40 and 50 minutes as mine seemed a little overcooked...and I did 58 minutes in a partially fanned oven...
The latter is ''enjoy this tasty food'' in Dutch.

AND thank you- DANK JE WEL to Saskia in Holland who is the 23 year old fabuolus lady who put this recipe on the internet!!!
At least 40 variations to date....

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Art in Action 2009 and American cookies

Just starting off on a humorous note: I just LOVE love love these cute cows, which JJ brought back from a foreign trip and which now live on our kitchen table.
I have baked these cookies below but more of that to come!
This year Art in Action was muddy and wet on some days but on the Saturday we went we were blessed with lovely sunshine! Having been for many years now- annually!- I didn't go for 2 days just the one and no classes for myself, I had booked one each for the kids online.

This was the most fabulous wall hanging in the ''market'' tent which was to raise awareness and do charitable fundraising for people in Africa. All of the panels are BEADED- it's all solid beads and absolutely amaaaaazing.
This swan(?) was at the Derwent pencils stand and was drawn on fabric with permanent ink watersoluble pencils.
My main passion: the textiles tent was a bit dissappointing but only because I'm not into weaving or batik that much and there were no stunning embroiderers such as the eminent Alice Kettle or Verina Warren. It was a new crew though and that was good to see, after all you can't have the ''same old same old'' every year can you?

The silk painting and marbling class was absolutely grrrreat and I learned a huge amount even by watching the goings on!

A young one intent on her silk painting....
Marbling tray with carrageen solution and some red ink droppered on...
A student making marbling patterns with a stick...

Our efforts at silk painting!!!
Our marbling page: it was a shame you could only do one page each: I could have done only marbling and done 5 or 6 it looked such FUN!

Some of the class efforts including the teacher's and ours.
We had drawing and media classes too but these were not booked in advance and great fun was had with watersoluble crayons above....
Last year my kids had a whale of a time in the ''Windsor and Newton'' tent and tried out lots of fun things but this year W&N had a nasty sign up saying'' no kids allowed'' and mine were very upset as they had been looking forward to it !!!
Luckily Derwent were just amazing and very supportive and helpful and the drawings below were made with their excellent watersoluble pencils- by my kids!

Copper enamelling was also a success- we did also do this last year- and a star and oval were made this year.( a hedgehog and seahorse last year)
Never did like waiting but her oval is sitting on a mesh grid awaiting first firing...
Lovely results!!!!

Then it was time to bake and a friend had recommended this book: available from Amazon or other bookshops or from the local library.

There is soooooo much to choose from and all are shown in these gorgeous mouth watering, delectable photographs that you don't know what to make first....
I choose the choc chip cookies but the rocky raod bars and lemon meringue pie will be following shortly!!!

First time EVER( in about 20 years....) I use the ''paddle '' attachment on my food processor and it was fine on the butter and the sugar but halfway through adding the flour: it BROKE!!!
So here I am mixing it by hand and it was hard work: this is unbelievably thick and ''sticky''!!!

I was hoping happy eggs would make happy cookies and then happy children?!!!Suffice to say that one young lady has been harder to please or to get to behave than ever recently- no names, no names!!! Just DO NOT mention the words: KUMON and have you done it yet- in the same sentence.... Or room - tidying- ( beware the tantrums!) or even hair brushing.......( DUCK!)

I added this chocolate chopped finely to make it go further and I didn't want toooooo much chocolate or it has a certain ( UNDESIRABLE) effect on the aforementioned young lady.
And here they are: they were ( you don't expect there are any left do you?) DELICIOUS!!!! And just for the record: the recipe said you get 24 cookies, but they must be GIGANTIC because I had 34 cookies and mine were on the very large side!!!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Happy Home!!!

Happy holidays are here again and for MAGICAL 6 weeks I will be with my children devising ways to amuse ourselves....JOY! And NO I am NOT being sarcastic....
Iam in a totally joyful and happy happy HAPPY place right now with a grin that stretches from ear to ear, skipping along pavements( daughters hide or run on in shame) and singing a merry tune or humming one when admonished by kids to '' be quiet mum it's embarrassing...''

I HAVE THE NEXT COUPLE OF MONTHS OFF: No work! Well still the mothering and taxi-ing and cooking/cleaning/procurement/social secretary type work but none of the paid variety!!!
Just when the office/professional job was getting me down in it's daily tedium of repetitiveness and desk-boundness, total lack of creativity and lack of people contact-ness: a reprieve was available and I'm FREE!!!!!!

No excuse then not to have been blogging daily : however the last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of fabulous activity which I'll be catching up on very shortly- give me the next few days OK? There was Sports day and Music Afternoon and Plays to attend at the school, and Leaver's ASSEMBLY and LEAVER'S MASS and yep you've got it a HUGE MILESTONE in a mum's life has happened: my eldest has left primary school.....WOW.
You suddenly remember all too clearly what they were like aged 4 holding your hand to go to ''BIG school'' and taking them into Early Years class with lots of re-assurances: you'll make friends, this will be fun etc etc....

They do of course and luckily my children both adore going to school and learning and so on but 7 years fly by and there it is: the last day of primary school after all those really happy days ( 2555 days at least have gone by so fast!!!) when they learn to; read and write and do maths and science and learn to dance, sing and play tag- rugby and cricket and rounders and netball and sit SATs and eleven plus exams and cycling proficiency and swimming and learn to play flute or piano or cello and sing in a choir for Oxfordshire at the Royal Albert Hall.........and soooo much more...

So this was Sports day and she's skipping along fabulously.... We had a few prizes this year: a first a third and a few fab effort ones and overall the girls' Blue House WON this year: hip hip hooray!!!

At home there were cherries to die for! MY FAVOURITE: the blackest, sweetest, juiciest cherries EVER!!! Were sooo blessed with all this wonderful delicious fruit! I do so love this time of year.
And the nectarines, plums and kiwis and oranges, which we're eaten just after the shot was taken or ended up in a fresh fruit salad: yummy!

I was so proud of this: a personal effort to arrange some flowers! Some from the market and some from the garden.

What a zingy zesty gerbera: such a sunny joyful colour!
Then there were the silly moments of playfulness in the making of school lunches: squirty mayonaise onto a multigrain wrap.... More fun, more relaxed and no rushing , no stress.
Still trying to get that gerbera into focus? Maybe I need a new camera or better eyesight?
And there's time to cook!!! It's another favourite: SUMMER PUDDING time!!! I first made this many years ago in a small hillside cottage in North Wales but I 've lost that recipe so when I found one in a Waitrose foodie magazine - as above- I had to have another go!
My first one was HUGE and it took big amounts of red currants and black currants which I bought in a market by Llanelli but I made a really small one this time as the kids said they didn't think they'd like it.....
Find the recipe on the waitrose website at: www

This is after pouring over the extra raspberry coulis I had made and dolloping a spoonful of thickly whipped double cream on top.... I was in a dollopy kind of a mood, not the neatly piping kind, no! a funfilled-devil-may -care -dollopy mood!
YUMMY!!! One daughter liked it, one was not impressed, JJ loved it and I loved it too....So to protect the rapidly expanding waistline- how can that be? Less deskwork and more walking.... oooh it's the baking and the cooking and all those picnics????!!!!-I had to do an extra 20 minutes stepping on the WII FIT.
( had to put that in- it's a bit of social history - who knows if we'll remember what it is or that we did it in 20, 50 or 100 years???)
Then: oh YESSSS I have discovered another fun thing to do and it used to be something I hated no LOATHED to do!!
But it's IMMENSELY satisfying when a dustladen windowsill suddenly shines and reflects the sunshine back to you! So I have been following the book as below and spring cleaning a house that has only had the bare minimum to stay healthy and sane done in the last 4 years......
I'm sooooo happy I can hold my head up again and invite anyone to come home for home-baked cookies!!!! Or appel- taart - yes It's with 2 aa's as it DUTCH you know!!!!
More of this soon, see you then!