Saturday, 5 July 2014

June Roses

Gosh, this time of year is just crazy. I feel like I haven't sat down in weeks. There is so much to do at work: reports to write, end-of-year results to collate and endlessly analyse, "graduation" to plan and prepare for and end-of-year trips and treats to organise. And then I get home and Beautiful Girl has got it all happening too, plus we've got holiday plans to organize and work happening in the house while we're away, so our entire downstairs has to be packed up and somehow moved to who-knows-where. Perhaps it's little wonder that my housekeeping has gone to pot and that I'm waking with the birds at 4 a.m. with endless "notes to self" running through my head.
Last week I decided to take a proper day off. To stop and to smell the roses - literally, as it happens. I adore early summer. June, for me, is all about strawberries, Wimbledon (tennis being the only sport I ever choose to watch) and roses. Oh... and Pimms too. And elderflower cordial....
Anyway, on a glorious Sunday last weekend we went to David Austen's rose garden in Shropshire.  The roses were incredible. Several times I felt like I was actually swooning; the sight, the smell was intensely happy-making.

Roses, roses everywhere. Gorgeous. And then, a cream tea on the terrace. 
I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Sunday in June. Could you?

Sunday, 22 June 2014

An apology and May's Cake of the Month

I'm sorry, little blog, for my absence. Please accept these pretty sweet peas in an attempt to make amends.
And a cake, too. I made this back in May, for Lovely Husband, really. His favourite pudding is Bakewell tart (or pudding? I'm never really sure of the difference, although I understand to some that it is a Matter of Great Importance.)
Anyway, it was a raspberry and almond cake; a sponge made with ground almonds and almond essence and filled with lashings of raspberry jam. If I was making it this month, when raspberries are cheaper then I'd add some fresh ones too. It wasn't an enormous success, the ground almonds making the sponge a little too dry, although when I served it to friends who had come for Saturday brunch, they were very kind about it. But then, they would be, wouldn't they?

Monday, 12 May 2014

An Easter Catch-up and April's Cake of the Month

My Easter mantle
Our Easter tree.
Just a couple of images from a really wonderful family Easter. We had 12 for lunch and the Lovely Husband made THE most delicious slow-roasted leg of lamb, served with dauphinoise potatoes and spring greens. Yum. Dessert was also April's Cake of the Month; a lemon layered cake, filled with a mascarpone cream, homemade lemon card and topped with a lemon fondant icing. Double yum.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

March's Cake of the Month

I am so behind on blogging, both reading and writing. Life has just gotten so busy. No - I tell myself reproachfully, whenever I am starting to feel overwhelmed - not busy, full. And we're nearly at the Easter holidays...
Anyhow, back to cake.
For March's Cake of the Month I wanted to bake something for my mum, to share on Mother's Day with a pot of tea, after our walk with the dog. The occasion seemed to call for something elegant, palely interesting, the Grace Kelly of cakes, if you like. I chose an Earl Grey cake, with lemon buttercream icing. Of course, I couldn't pull off the delicately stylish confection I had in mind (nothing about me is elegant, nor will it ever be) but it was delicious.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

This weekend, I have been mostly.... (*)

Cross-stitching. A newly discovered thrill. More on this to come, at a later date.

Enjoying tea and cake (a Coventry God cake, in honour of the city I grew up in) in the glorious sunshine.

 Admiring tulip-y wonderfulness, for the princely sum of £2.

Immersing myself in a stack of new books, after a trip to my favourite bookshop AND all my reservations landing at once, at the library.
It's been a quiet, but a wonderful weekend.

(* Do you remember Mark Thomas on "The Fast Show"? Each episode he would emerge from his shed, wellies and all, to announce what he had been doing/eating/saying etc. that week. My favourite, which still makes me chortle to this day was, "This week, I have been mostly wearing.... Issey Miyake.")
(Incidentally, we saw Mark Thomas browsing in a second-hand bookshop in Chipping Campden last summer.  Despite our intention to leave him alone, he made the effort to smile and say hello to a clearly starstruck ("It's Arthur Weasley!") Beautiful Girl. Which I thought was very sweet of him.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

February's Cake of the Month

This month I baked a classic chocolate cake. This is my fail-safe, go-to cake for birthdays, afternoon teas and visitors. I use the method whereby I weigh 4 eggs in their shells, then use an equal amount of butter, sugar and flour (replacing 25-30g of flour with cocoa powder). I think I got the idea from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, although I'm sure it's a pretty standard way of doing things. As I made the cake around St. Valentine's Day I prettied it up with some sugar hearts.
Speaking of Valentine's Day, here is my Valentine's mantle. The Beautiful Girl made us a message out of Lego. 
And, finally, my Valentine roses, looking slightly past their best here. Of course, it shouldn't matter at all that they were delivered to work. But it secretly does.
I seem to have lost my blogging voice this month. I am hoping that Spring will bring a renewed sense of energy and purpose. But while I am waiting for it I will retreat to my fireside, with my teapot at my side for some quiet stitching time. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

January's Cake of the Month

I once - several years ago now - bought a cake from Meg Rivers. Ever since, they have periodically sent me catalogues, which I enjoy browsing but then self-satisfyingly decide that there isn't much in there that I couldn't make myself. One thing, though, that always catches my eye is the Cake Club. The idea is that you pay a flat fee and the nice people send you a cake, seasonally appropriate naturally, each month of the year. A lovely idea but the £175 price tag makes me flinch every time. (£175?!? For 12 cakes?!?) So I had what I considered, somewhat immodestly, to be a brainwave. I'll have a homemade version! 
Presenting January's Cake of the Month...

Whole Orange Spice Cake
Whole orange spice cake
Image borrowed from Mary Berry's website
A Mary Berry recipe, where you boil a whole orange, then process it and add it to the cake batter alongside mixed spice and cinnamon. 'Twas delicious. So much so, that the piece I had set aside to photograph disappeared from the tin faster than I expected. Perhaps that's just as well because it certainly wasn't as pretty...
Oh, and as for my brainwave. It was days later that it dawned on me. Of course, Sue did it first...