c 2015 | Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me

Remember the Reading Challenge back in January 2015

Some twelve months ago I promised myself I would make an effort to read more. I love reading but had allowed other interests to occupy my leisure time. To help me focus and to add a little motivation I set myself a  2015 Reading Challenge. I would read 15 books over the year, using the Goodreads site to keep track and rate each of the books I read.

I did it, I read 15 books and even managed to fit in a short story during Christmas! 


My 2015 Reading Challenge Book List
My 2015 Reading Challenge Book List

I am more than a little pleased to have found the time for reading, it's relaxing, interesting and informative. Initially I was reading books that from the PopSugar reading challenge criteria, but I found that I was first picking a book and then making it fit to one of their reading criteria. Instead of the other way around, so in the end I decided to read books that were either recommended, won or gifted to me.

The winners and losers

My 2 top reads of the year are The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin, a fictional historical story, elegantly written. Also Divergent by Veronica Roth, for reigniting my enjoyment of reading the science fiction genre. I also found Murder at the Maples and Flora Lively and a Date with Death by Joanne Phillips enjoyable reads, mostly because they are set in my home county of Shropshire.

My most disappointing book of the year The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers. I struggled to get into the story, and whilst I enjoyed the ending it seemed a chore to get there.

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#25FestiveDays December Instagram Photo Challenge

At the start of December I decided to try something new, I setup an Instagram Photo Challenge with a Christmas theme aptly called #25FestiveDays. I was so very pleased to see people joining in. I wanted to thank everyone that took the time to take part in the challenge it was so much fun see everyones photos, and the different ways people interpreted each days theme.  Christmas is an exceptionally busy time of year, so I know that some people struggled to keep up, but that's ok it was a fun no pressure challenge. After all what better use of the hash tag #Lateragram.

It was also lovely to see Christmas from different areas of the World: - Australia, Canada, America and of course here in the UK.  I thought I would share some of my favourite photographs from those of you who took up the challenge. I cannot include them all as there are far too many,  I am so very sorry if I have missed you out, it is not intentional.

The photographs are embedded into this blog post directly from Instagram so apologies if they take a short while to appear, but they are worth the wait I promise!  You can view all the photographs by searching Instagram using  #25FestiveDays

If the photos appeal to you then feel free to give them a heart or pop over to Instagram and follow them too.






A photo posted by Karen S Burns-Booth (@lavenderandlovage) on


A photo posted by emπŸ¦„ (@emirush) on


A photo posted by Janice Pattie (@farmersgirlcook) on

A photo posted by Beth (@making_life_delicious) on


A photo posted by Anca (@ancaslifestyle) on




A photo posted by Muss (@missmuss12) on

A photo posted by Angie Walton (@cnsnape) on



I may very well do another photo challenge in 2016, maybe in the Summer, not sure of the theme at the moment but I will get my thinking cap on. Do let me know if you can think of a particular theme that maybe of interest, or it you are interested in jointly running a photo challenge with myself.

* If I have included your photo and you would prefer it was removed from this blog post please let me know.
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Christmas Cake Inspiration to create Festive Robins Cake

Christmas Cake. I am not a fan of this rich fruit cake with or without the alcohol,  covered in a blanket of almond marzipan, it's just not for me. I happily leave the baking of Christmas Cake to my sister, but I am happy to come up with the ideas and decorations to adorn it. There was one stipulation from my sister, it had to be covered in royal icing - NO fondant icing on Christmas cake ever!


Christmas Cake with Festive Robin decorations
Christmas Cake with Festive Robin decorations



This years inspiration came from Pinterest, my go to ideas source for so many things.  It was a mash up of two cakes, one for the swirling icing finish and the other robins on flake logs. Flake as in chocolate flakes, not fake as in not a real log - but then a flake log is not a real log, so I guess that makes them fake flake logs!




Cutting up the chocolate flake bars and also Matchmakers was the easy part. On top of the logs are the handmade fondant robins, yes I know I said the f word 'fondant'. But that's OK, it's not like anyone is going to eat these cute little Robins. I mean you just wouldn't, would you? The Robins were very easy to make, using coloured fondant icing. At one point I felt like I was running a cake decorating class as my very able 9 year old niece, Ava and my eldest sister joined in to create several of these cute little red breasted robins.


Christmas Cake with Festive Robin decorations
Festive Robin sugar paste decorations
Sugar paste robins
Christmas Cake decorated with swirled royal icing 
and sugar paste robins


What a perfect and seasonal Christmas Cake, so much more fun when family gets involved. 10/10 to us all, just do not expect me to eat it, except for the flake logs!

Follow me on Pinterest!



Wishing all my readers a very Happy Christmas.


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A Crochet Success - a pair of wrist warmers

I picked up a crochet hook a few of years ago, with a small amount of success. I managed the odd crocheted flower, but nothing with any real purpose. A few months ago I was tempted again, but this time I had set myself the task of making a useful pair of Wrist Warmers.

Crocheting Wrist Warmers
My first crochet project - a pair of wrist warmers

A regular blog I read, Love Made My Home has a tutorial for crocheting a pair of wrist warmers.   Having revisited the page over several weeks I thought it time I actually got started on my first crochet project. Amy assured me they were really easy to make, but just to be on the safe side I decided on a practice run.  Crochet hook and spare white wool in hand and I quick look up to remind myself 'what the heck a double crochet stitch is' I was good to go.

easy crochet gloves
Easy made crocheted waisted warmers

Amy was right, it really was not that tricky. Although, I was pleased I decided on a practice run, my tension was all over the place leaving me within an uneven rectangle for the main glove. I also used this as a gauge to the size that would fit me best. Following those few adjustments I moved onto the final creation - using a bright teal colour wool.  Which in hindsight may have been too thick. I did adjust the size of the shell trimming at the top, but please do not ask me how exactly as I kind of just made the pattern up.

Stokesay Castle carols by candle light
Stokesay Castle carols by candle light

I am quite delighted with them, they had their first outing at the Stokesay Castle Christmas Carols by candle light evening, just perfect for holding my light and song sheet. Rather apt too I thought in this very medieval setting. Thank you Amy for reintroducing me to crocheting.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for other easy crochet makes.

I have briefly put down my crochet hook, having now been tempted to pick up knitting needles after a break of over 10 years.

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Tea and Raisin Spiced Buns Recipe

My regular readers know just how much I enjoy drinking and baking with tea. So I was delighted when asked by Typhoo Tea to get the kettle on, the mixing bowl out and to get my bake on! The Tea and Raisin Spiced Buns recipe I have created is an easy, tasty, fruity bun that even a novice baker can make and enjoy. 


Tea & Raisin Spiced Buns Recipe
Perfect enjoyed whilst still warm out of the oven with a cup of Typhoo tea, whether you enjoy your tea strong, decaffeinated, with or without milk. 


Easy bake Tea & Raisin Spiced Buns

Bake a double batch of these buns and freeze half of them. Then next time you fancy a cake with a cup of tea, take one out of the freezer 20 minutes before to  defrost. Perfect for unexpected visitors. Or take them straight from the freezer and into your lunch box for later.


Recipe Tea and Raisin Spiced Buns

Recipe Tea and Raisin Spiced Buns

Equipment
  • mixing bowl
  • small bowl
  • scales  
  • fork
  • spoon
  • measuring jug  
  • cooling tray (or the wire rack from your grill pan)
Ingredients

makes 10-12 buns

225g self raising flour
110g butter or baking fat
55g caster sugar
110g raisins 
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 egg beaten
125ml brewed Typhoo tea 


Instructions

  • Set Oven temp to 200 degrees C / Gas Mark 6
  • Brew 125ml of strong tea, I used Typhoo. Place the raisins in the small bowl and cover with the hot tea. Allow at least an hour for the rains to soak in the tea, this will make them plump and moist.
  • Add the flour into the mixing bowl, cut the butter into cubes. Using the tips of your fingers rub together the flour and butter. It should resemble small breadcrumbs.
  • Mix in the sugar and mixed spice.
  • Add the raisins to the mixture but be sure not to add any excess tea in the bowl. Add a teaspoon of the cold Typhoo tea to the egg and mix together.
Recipe Tea and Raisin Spiced Buns
  • Add the egg and Typhoo tea to the mixture, stir all the ingredients together with a spoon. As the mixture starts to come together use your hand, this will allow you to tell if the mixture is too dry and you need to add a little more cold Typhoo tea. You you have a sticky mixture.
  • Using a spoon, place 12 even mounds of mixture onto a baking sheet, allow a little room for them to sprend when baking. This spiky looking bun will bake with nice a crunchy outside and a moist soft inside.
  • Bake in the oven for 17 minutes, or slightly longer to a golden brown.
  • Place on a wire rack to cool.
Recipe Tea and Raisin Spiced Buns
Tea and buns!


You can make these buns smaller or larger in size,  just be sure to adjust the cooking time.


Disclosure: I received a Typhoo Tea Hamper to create this recipe.
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Room for Change? Find Out Which Decade Your Room Style Creates

When it comes to decorating and styling a room in our homes, we all have our own degree of flair when it comes to putting a look together. We may not all know the colour palette for the season, but we do know which our favourite are. The trickier part comes in putting a room together, combining the right colours, furniture style and accessorise to create a look that works together and suits our personality. It may be retro 70's, or vintage 40's or modern contemporary with minimal accessorises.

Room for Change Yellow Drawer Unit
                          



Room for Change Retro Cat
Retro Cat

If you are unsure of which style suits you best then try this fun interactive Room For Change quiz from The co-operative insurance, from some simple likes and dislikes you will find out which interior decade and style you are naturally attracted to. It only takes a minute and Room for Change will discover your favourite.

Room for Change 1920's decade
1920's Style Room for Change
My answers created a 1920's room. 
'Your interior utopia involves art deco lamps and sumptuous sofas, glossy wooden furniture and ornate fireplaces. Add an antique gramophone for dedicated authenticity and Charleston the night away!' 
Well just call me Lady Mary! Actually I much prefer Lady Edith but that is enough Downton Abbey talk.  This style does not surprise me, I love heritage, old type writers, singer sewing machines, Ercol furniture  - although I am not sure my knee would be up to doing the Charleston all night long.


              


                   
Why not try it yourself maybe you like the modern style or hark back to the 1970's when ghetto blasters were all the trend. It is a real memory jogger when you see some of the accessories and furniture designs, some will take you back to when you where a child and the home you grew up in. Find out your Decade Style at the Room For Change website.

Photo source: Room for Change The co-operative insurance.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative blog post with The co-operative insurance.
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Christmas Preparations of Cards and Flowers

The first week of December has arrived, I have been waiting patiently and have lots planned, as I will not be working for the whole month! 

Christmas Card Swap
My Christmas card swap from Eternally 28

I am just about to sit down and write my Christmas Cards for family and friends.  I also have a special card I send to Japan each year, so I need to get a move on to get this in the post if it is to arrive in time for Christmas.

This year for the first time I have joined in with a Blogger Christmas Card Swap, a lovely idea all organised by Amy at Love Made My Home.  I was matched with blogger Rachel at Eternally 28, I have been following Rachel's blog for a few years now - so it was nice to get the chance to exchange Christmas Cards. I have sent Rachel one of the lovely handmade felt cards from Nell Makes.

Thank you Rachel for my lovely and first Christmas Card of the year!

Christmas Flowering Hyacinth
Christmas Hyacinth

Christmas Flowering Hyacinth
Hyacinth Bulb grown in water
My Christmas flowering Hyacinth is growing well. I have planted three bulbs this year, the other two are in slightly cooler places in the house so are a week or two behind in growth. But hopefully one of them will bloom in time for Christmas Day - fingers crossed.

Christmas Flowering Hyacinth
Rooting well through the glass beads
For those of you that are celebrating Christmas I hope your preparations are going well.

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#GeorgeSecretSanta Gifts for Christmas

Being part of a workplace Secret Santa is just one of the great ways to celebrate the festive period at work. But this year I would not be at the office to take part, oh no it's a Christmas disappointment in the making! But wait, what was that, the wonderful people at Talented Talkers want me to be part of the #GeorgeSecretSanta for bloggers - hurrah to Secret Santa!

yankee candle gift idea


Here is how the blogger secret santa works. I was given another bloggers name, and then the online research began, I search through their blog and social media accounts to give me a feel of which gifts would match their personality and interests. There were no shortage of items to choose from that fit the bill from George Asda Christmas Gift range, they had a huge selection. 


I wanted to say thank you to my Secret Santa blogger, who delved into my blog, Twitter and Instagram feed. I received some fabulous gifts. All of them arrived gift wrapped by the secret santa elves!

Christmas Bauble Effiel Tower

Wonderfully scented Vanilla Frosting Yankee candle in a jar £13.00, when lit this fills the air with a wonderful homely fragrance.

Glass tear drop snow scene Christmas decoration, this is intended as a tree decoration but as it has a flat bottom I think it looks wonderful on my bookcase. A festive scene in miniature. 


Monogram letter cushion

I adore my fantastic letter cushion 'A', it is just perfect and great value at £5.00. Although I may have to fight my niece for it when she visits, as both our names begin with A! 

George Birdcage toiletries

Gift set of toiletries, I love the wire birdcage these are presented in, will certainly be finding a use for the decorative cage in the new year.

George Asda Birdcage toiletries

Fluffy slipper, I'm a slipper lover no matter what time of the year. Knit boot slipper £8

Secret Santa Gifts


Warm and cosy snugly dressing gown complete with hood in dusky pink, which will certainly keep out the Winter chills. Hooded dressing gown £14.

A huge thank you to the elves at Talented Talkers and Asda George for creating an exciting and fun blogger project to work on.
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Join in with my Festive Instagram Photo Challenge #25FestiveDays starts 1 December

The festive season will soon arrive, and I am welcoming it with open arms. I have promised myself this year to fully embrace all things festive - and I pretty much have some thing planned for every day in December. From a day out celebrating a Victorian Christmas to cosying up at home watching Christmas movies and eating homemade mince pies.

I have taken the plunge to create a festive Christmas Instagram Photo Challenge called #25FestiveDays giving anyone with an Instagram account the chance to join in and share a themed festive photo.

#25FestiveDays


How to join in:-
  • The challenge starts 1 December ending 25th December
  • Regram my Instagram #25FestiveDays Photo Challenge picture 
  • Share a photo each day using the theme listed include the #25FestiveDays hashtag
  • I will regram my favourite #25FestiveDays photos
You can follow me on Instagram GardenTeaCakesandMe to to see all my #25FestiveDays photos

I do hope lots of you take up the challenge, I am looking forward to seeing how everyone interprets the daily themes.

Happy #25FestiveDays everyone!



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Decorating a 60th Birthday Cake the Easy Way

Happy 60th Birthday to my uncle! I wanted to make him a 60th birthday cake that was not too fussy and did not require too much time to create it. I settled for a simple sandwich cake, filled with lemon curd, fresh fruit (raspberries from my garden) and fresh cream. Decorated rather successfully, if I do say so myself, with a chocolate birthday message and a 60 chocolate button. All of which I made using Choco Writers. It tasted divine and was very light too. I will be using this recipe again but may add a different flavoured curd - possibly lime or passion fruit and orange. 


Decorating a 60th Birthday Cake

If you would like to try some easy cake decorating yourself, I am pleased to say that Choco Writers are offering one of my readers the chance to win a set of choco writers one, white, dark and milk chocolate. You can also see my Choco Writers review for more information.

Giveaway



If you are new to using the Rafflecopter widget to enter a giveaway, simply register with your name and email address to activate the Rafflecopter widget, which will collate all your entries. 

At the end of the giveaway once the winner is selected you will receive an email (using the email address you registered to use the Rafflecopter widget).


Giveaway open to UK residents only. Closing Date: 10 December 2015


Good Luck. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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British Tea Customs - The Great British Brew

So  many interesting facts about The Great British Brew, which for the majority of the British population is tea. I, in common with over half of those of us that drink tea, enjoy it with milk and no sugar. I know that some of my readers who live elsewhere in the world will  find these facts most amusing. But I for one can identify with many of them,  the exception being 'a cup of Snargul' which sounds like a tea from Harry Potter book maybe? Oh, and anyone that know me will agree that I am somewhat fussy about how my tea is made - but then again aren't we all?

I hope you enjoy this fascinating insight into The Great British Brew, that Sykes Cottages have put together. I am sure you will have a favourite fact.  I will leave you with mine, that British tanks are equipped with tea making facilities - I kid you not!

The Great British Brew
The Great British Brew Infographic by Sykes Cottages
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.
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Gardeners Gift Guide - Gift Ideas for a Garden Lover

Christmas or Birthday shopping is always so much easier if someone does the gift suggestions for you. For those of you that know a gardener but are not green fingered yourself may find my Garden Lover's Gift Guide just the solution you have been looking for. Gift suggestions from the practical to the indulgent, budget to extravagant - happy shopping.


Gardeners Gift Guide

Gardeners Gift Guide by gardenteacakesandme 

 Kew Gardens Private Guided Walking Tour for Two  Nothing quite like admiring and enjoying someone else's garden. Red Letter Days £100



Burgon Ball Mini Snips Never without a pair of these when I am in the garden or greenhouse.amazon.co.uk £7.99


Burgon & Ball Square Cell Tray Tamper for planting seeds into individual cells amazon.co.uk £9.99
Secateur Sharpener  an essential tool to ensure one of the garden's most useful tools     remains in tip top condition.   amazon.co.uk £5.47


 RHS Good Plant Guide Paperback a very useful compact book for identifying plants
 dk.com £9.99


David Austen Rose - Olivia Rose Austin a pink fragrant bloom
davidaustinroses.co.uk from £16.50


Gardener's handmade soap take care of your hands in all weathers with Gardener's Scrub handmade soap. Support a local small business this Christmas such as Walk Mill Botanics based on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border.


Ladies Wellington Boot Socks from Heat Holders perfect for the colder weather or for winter walks, tog rated welly socks to keep your toes warm.
heatholders.co.uk £9.99



Disclosure: contains some affiliate links.
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