Sunday, 24 May 2015

Desserts Through the Decades, and my mums favourite is..

I enjoyed the recent BBC program Back in Time for Dinner. Discovering how the way we buy, store, prepare and eat food, can have such an effect on the way we live as a family. For me it bought back some great memories of pudding and desserts from the 1970's such as Artic Roll, Trifles and Blancmange. Here is one of my mum's favourite desserts - Crushed Pineapple Flan. A shop bought flan base, topped with tinned crushed pineapple and dream topping and grated chocolate. For me it has to be Bread and Butter pudding. Do you have a favourite?

Retro Dessert Crushed Pineapple Flan
Retro Pudding - Crushed Pineapple Flan

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Looking for Birthday Cake Inspiration

Ever since my nieces 3rd birthday I always baked her birthday cakes. This year she will be 9 years old, she was quick to tell me at the weekend this will be her last year of being a single digit it will be the double figures of 10 next year! I am still unsure what cake I will make this year, but thought it may be fun to share with you the previous birthday cakes I have made for my niece. As you will see cake decorating was quiet new to me 7 years ago.

Some of these cakes will be familiar to those of you that regularly visit my blog, but the earlier cakes will be having their premiere!

A simple cake decorated with water icing, butter cream
and sugar balls

A regular Victoria sponge cut and reassembled into a butterfly, decorated with sugar paste and jazz chocolate drops

Sponge cake baked in a 5 mould, decorated with sugar paste (very tricky) and
my handmade sugar paste fairy

A seaside themed sponge cake, decorated with moulded sugar paste and sugar.
 I had great fun making this one.

A birthday on holiday so keeping it simple with a Sweetie Cake, also known
as the 7 in Devon cake

Birthday number 8 - Loom Bands! Decorated in sugar paste and
mini fairy cakes with marshmallows

Friday, 22 May 2015

Join in with The Great British Bee Count during May

For the month of May Friends of the Earth are encouraging everyone in the UK to count the bees in their garden. I will be joining in sometime over the next week, hopefully on a nice sunny day that will bring all the bees flying by. 

Bee on Astrantia Flower

All you need to do is watch for bees in a 1 metre by 1 metre section of your garden with flowering plants, and count how many bees you see in two minutes.

How to take part

You need to download the Great British Bee Count app to your phone or tablet. 

Why you should join in*

Bees help pollinate hundreds of our main crops including apples, strawberries and tomatoes. Without bees we can kiss goodbye to gran’s apple crumble, strawberries & cream (and even that cheeky gin & tonic).

The UK has lost a shocking 20 species of bee, and a further quarter are on the red list of threatened species. A big reason is that bees depend on flowers for food - and in the past 60 years 97% of our wildflower meadows have disappeared.

But the good news is that you can help change things. By planting flowers rich in nectar and pollen you can start to replenish their lost habitat.

*Bee facts supplied by Friends of the Earth.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

NGS Yellow Book Gardens - Shropshire

'What could be nicer than strolling through a delightful, plant-filled garden, enjoying a "proper" home-made tea and at the same time raising money for charity?'  These are the opening words in the 2015 National Gardening Scheme, Shropshire guide book. It lists all gardens in the county that open to the public and raise money for charity, and is more commonly known as the NGS Yellow Book. 

Shropshire national Garden Schene
Shropshire National Garden Scheme

You should be able to find a copy of the Yellow Book for your county at your local library or garden centre. Shropshire also has a Historic Churches Trust Gardens that open during the year, a leaflet I also found in my local library. These books will open you to a world of gardens you never knew existed, a chance to see beyond the garden gate.

One of the Yellow Book gardens I visited last year was Preen Manor, located at Church Preen, Shropshire. These were quite breathtaking gardens, located in the Shropshire countryside. A 6-acre garden on site of Cluniac monastery with historical connections to the nearby Much Wenlock Priory.

Do you have a favourite Yellow Book garden? 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Sewing my first dress which turned into a tunic

I took the plunge and decided to progress from making my own skirt to making a dress. As with most sewing projects I start they do not alway go to plan - is that just me as a novice dressmaker. I started badly by not taking the time to pick a suitable dress pattern. Instead I went we a free pattern from Prima magazine, minus the magazine which I am sure must have included extra guidance inside. 

My choice was influenced by the design using elastic at the front of the dress, I thought this would help the fitting and my s shaped spine, because of my scoliosis. I had decided to make a mock up dress first, necklines and sleeves were all new to me.  
  • The pattern instructions were poor,  googling confirmed this as other sewers encounter similar problems.
  • The casing using the strip of elastic looked awful and was arkward to sew.
I had to fit the dress wearing the fabric the right side, because of my scoliosis I can not pin inside out, as all the adjustment would then be on the wrong side. Fortunely my sister helped with the tricky pinnning. Not perfect but it was just a mock up and I was now more comfortable I had the pattern peices adjusted correctly and confident with the sleeves, not so much the neckline.

The Final Garment

I even ventured to use fabric with polka dot pattern, an easy forgiving print to match up. I had to make my own bias binding for the neckline - tricky.  I changed the elastic casing and used rows of sherring elastic instead, much easier and a neater finish. It took me three attempts, to sew the binding around the neckline neatly enough that I was happy with it. 

Prima Pattern Tunic* 
Oh and one more thing, I had a slight misjudgement with the hem line, so the dress quickly turned into a tunic. 

I am still wearing it though!

*Apologies for the quality of the photograph not one of my better ones.