c December 2015 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) 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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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!

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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

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

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 


  • 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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