Some recent recipes

I’ve been baking LOADS recently. I’ve also been taking advantage of fruit from the garden (cherries, bland tasting apples) and the local woods/common- foraging is quite fun, as long as you don’t mind being stung a bit. Seriously, lately I’ve been stung three times and NO DOCK LEAVES were available. I feel nature let me down there. Anyway, if you’re up for a bit of autumn foraging, I can recommend Alys Fowler’s very good book.

Anyway, recently I’ve made the following and, where possible, I’ve linked to recipes. Welcome to autumnal comfort baking!

The closest I’ve got to ‘proper’ Millie’s style cookies is here. I’ve done these with choc chips, Smarties and M&Ms. I would definitely stick to M&Ms, as they seem to cope better with being cooked.

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We visited my family in Cardiff at the start of the summer holidays and I came home wanting to have a go at Welsh cakes, which are sort of like scones but you fry them instead of bake them. They’re a bit temperamental and you have to watch that they don’t burn, but they are lovely. I got my recipe from the Bero book (which, if you don’t already own is well worth the £2.50 it costs!), but Visit Wales have a very similar recipe here.

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I also had a go at making a Bara Brith, which I remembered from GBBO a couple of years ago. I make tea breads quite a lot, especially if D wants to bake, as they’re quick and simple. Bara Brith means ‘mottled bread’ and is a handy recipe to whip up if you have guests coming round. You can find the recipe I used here.

Remember when I was pregnant with D and my nesting phase was basically just me baking parkin, which is lovely and autumnal (as well as being a recipe from my home town of Leeds? Well, it’s the time of year again to get perfecting it in time for Halloween and Bonfire Night. The recipe is here.

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I’ve also been experimenting with chutney (my friend Marine suggested a few weeks back that apple and ginger was nice), as we’ve had a glut of apples. The ones in the garden are a bit strange: small and not very flavoursome. However, they are a really good apple for taking on and enhancing the flavours of other things. So, I made four small jars of apple and ginger chutney, which was MUCH easier than I expected. The recipe is here. The jars are now in a cupboard maturing and won’t be released until December, when I expect them to perform well with the festive cheeseboard.

I’ve also been making an autumn jelly- foraged blackberries, garden apples and spices- but I’m working on tweaking that recipe, so keep your eyes peeled for that soon!

What are you baking at the moment?

Bye, summer…

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This week- the last week in August- has felt more like the end of September. We’ve had a difficult week (we lost my grandma last week, the funeral is next week) and the weather hasn’t helped to lift the familial mood.

Yesterday, Benn suggested we take a walk in the rain and I readily agreed. D could only be coaxed out by the promise of hot chocolate with marshmallows afterwards- he’d seen an episode of Show Me, Show Me in which Chris and Pui enjoyed fake hot chocolate and suspiciously rubbery looking marshmallows. On the verge of cabin fever, Benn and I agreed.

(The ominous figure in the background is actually just Benn in a cagoule.)

(The ominous figure in the background is actually just Benn in a cagoule.)

I’m mentally preparing for autumn; D is about to start nursery, I’ll be going back to work and we’ll be gearing up towards D’s third birthday in October. I don’t mind, I quite like it when the nights draw in and Strictly’s back on the TV…

I’ve already started painting my nails in ‘autumn’ colours- navy, grey and dark red- and today I dressed for a wet, windy day. It’s much more my natural habitat than summer clothes! Tights, cardis and Doc Martens boots in dark colours are more me than floaty dresses and pastel hues…

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I’ve also been commissioned to knit winter socks, which is obviously focusing my mind on the coming months. It’s really upped my game in terms of skills; what will work as ‘oh well, that’ll do’ for myself is sometimes not good enough when someone is paying you. So I’ve been revisiting my (ahem, quite large) library of knitting books and approaching technique in a more professional manner, which is a good thing- there’s always room to learn and I do like a challenge!

Bring it on, autumn. Bring. It. On.

Handmade sale!

I was looking through some bits and pieces and realised that I had a lot of stock left from when I used to make and sell things at craft fairs in Brighton and I really would like to clear the decks- I only have so much storage and if I keep everything, Benn will eventually have to divorce me due to hoarding… So I’ve decided to start small.

I’ve made all these items myself with a range of materials. If there’s anything you fancy, leave me a note in the comments with what you want and a way to contact you once I’ve worked out postage. Everything is sold as seen- any questions, get in touch!

Bracelets- 

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  1. Rock Music- Paper, lava rock, goldstone. Was: £9 Now: £4

2. Sahara- Large porcelain beads, goldstone. Was £10 Now £4.50

3. Tiger- Mookite (the irregular shaped beads; it’s a gemstone), tiger’s eye. Was: £9 Now £4

bracelets24. Ice and Fire- Lava beads, blue sodalite. Was £10 Now £4.50

5. Marrakech- Paper beads, clay. Was £7 Now £3

6. Waterlillies- Vintage (1950s and 1960s) Czech glass beads. Was £10 Now £5

bracelets37. Beachball- Glass beads. Was £9 Now £4

8. Gatsby- Murano glass beads. Was £9 Now £4

9. Clash- Plastic beads, freshwater pearls (runs slightly large). Was £6 Now £2.50

bracelets410. Aphrodite- rose quartz, glass. Was £8.50 Now £3.50

11. Christabel- Chalk turquoise, purple glass. Was £8.50 Now £3.50

12. Old Lace- Large 1960s Lucite beads, blue sodalite and moonstones. Was £9 Now £4.50

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13. Picasso- Glass beads and moonstone. Was £8 Now £3.50

14. Chaos in Tokyo- Japanese paper beads, plastic beads. Was £6 Now £2.50

15. The Nile- Chalk turquoise, glass. Was £7 Now £3

Scarves– These long, skinny scarves would be great in early autumn and are made from organic Merino wool, hand-dyed by me (it’s really hard to capture the colours, but they are quite bright. Ask if you’d like further photos.) I designed and knitted the scarves myself. Originally £17.50, these are the last two: Sherbert Pink and Awesome Orange (SOLD). Now £8 each

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Vintage Stamp Brooches– Made by a friend of mine, these simple badges feature genuine stamps from the 1970s to the 1990s (and many are from countries that no longer exist!) £1.50 each or three for £3, please state clearly which number you would like when ordering.

The following numbers have been SOLD: 1,2,3, 11,16,19.

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The Happiness Project #7: Make something

One of my all time favourite actresses, Jean Harlow, knits on set.

One of my all time favourite actresses, Jean Harlow, sews on set.

This week has been a real test of my positive thinking exercises. It’s been hard- I’ve been potty training D (which means barely leaving the house) and a family member is very, very ill. So being indoors with lots of time on my hands has meant that I’ve had to fight my inner negativity. So I’ve done what I usually: make stuff.

I’m a bit of a crafting jack of all trades, master of none. I mainly knit and bake, but I’m teaching myself to sew on a machine and to dabble in cross stitch, embroidery and crochet. For me, I don’t really count writing as part of this process, as I find (for me) that the creativity I use for writing is slightly different, but YMMV.

I first started crafting properly ten years ago and never really looked back. Making stuff with my hands feels good. Yes, it’s more expensive than going to Primark and buying something, but there’s a real connection with what I’m making. If I’m feeling sad, or angry, or stressed, or frustrated, all those feelings become wrapped up in the fabric of what I’m doing.

There’s also the feeling of letting my mind focus on something else; if I’m focusing on a pattern or trying to perfect a recipe (at the moment, I’m slightly obsessing over producing a decent home version of a Millie’s cookie), I can leave whatever is upsetting me to one side. It definitely feels like I’m using a different part of my brain.

Finally, there’s the finished product. If it’s successful, I can be proud and feel like my time has been spent productively- or at least, more productively than if I’d just spent my time watching TV and worrying. If it’s gone wrong, I then have something I can explore- why did it go wrong? What can I do differently? Again, it’s all about helping my mind think about something else and not letting myself be consumed by the darker bits of my brain.

Anyway, I’m going to go and work on my Hitofude cardigan. Are you making anything at the moment? Or do you want to learn a craft?

My complicated, love/hate relationship with running

Running. I mainly do it because I feel I have to do SOMETHING, even though my natural state would be slobbing out on the sofa, surrounded by crisp packets and Diet Coke cans whilst watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix (and I’m planning a Drag Race post soon. Bet you can’t wait, huh?)

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Anyway, I’m getting better and there are things I like about going for a run (which I never thought I’d say):

  • I definitely like feeling the relief-and occasional smugness- I feel after I’ve done a run. I’m not going to lie.
  • I like my running kit. I have bright pink Brooks trainers, my favourite leggings come from Tesco and I invariably wear a Tee Fury shirt (mostly Powerpuff Girls or Mario vs Sonic, but Doctor Who does make an appearance occasionally.)
  • I like meeting friendly dogs and nodding/smiling at other runners.
  • I’m still massively enamoured with Zombies, Run! I’m now a premium member.
How I feel after a good run.

How I feel after a good run.

I have quite a few things I hate though:

  • I never look good running. I don’t particularly care, but I do cringe when people say to me ‘Oh, I saw you running!’ Ugh.

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  • I hate how expensive decent kit can be- especially sports bras.
  • Why do people- mainly men, but not exclusively- feel like they can make comments about me when I run past? I KNOW I’m not built like that supermodel who was recently pictured pushing her pram. I’ve been told in the past that I’m ‘not built for running.’ I KNOW. And yet, weirdly, I still do it. But thanks for your unsolicited advice. I’ll be sure to look for your fitness DVD, Liam Gallagher Lookalike Monkey Man.
  • I also dislike running when it’s too hot. Or too cold.

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Despite all this, I’ll keep at it. I’m starting to see improvements again after neglecting my running for a couple of weeks.

The Happiness Project #6: Be your own cheerleader

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How many times have you given your friends encouragement and compliments, only to find yourself being unnecessarily harsh towards yourself? I find myself doing this quite often. I would never, ever say the things I say to myself about myself to my friends- or even someone I didn’t like. It’s not self-depreciation, it’s a vicious cycle and it’s not cute (unlike the beagle puppy at the top of this post.)

So, how to overcome this? Well, I was inspired recently by my friend Jaqui, who stuck up for herself at work in a way that I would never have the guts for. She detailed exactly what she was good at, why she deserved recognition for this and why she felt she’d been overlooked. I WAS SO PROUD.

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How do we channel our inner cheerleader, then? Think of the skills we have, for a start. Think you have no skills? Now is not the time to be shy: you are currently living, you do stuff and you have things that you’re good at. You don’t have to talk to other people about it-yet- and you can make a private list. Hopefully, this will start making you think more positively about yourself; then, the next time you try to beat yourself up about something, you can remember something else that will hopefully stop you from being so negative.

It’s not an easy process to start with, but I find that it’s a mechanism I’m using a bit more regularly. I find it helps me to stop spiralling into a negative thought process and the mental paralysis I can sometimes find myself a victim of.

Have you got any tips for this sort of thing?

The Happiness Project #5: Making mistakes

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I am my own worst critic and I always have been. But I also use that nagging little voice as an excuse- the reason I haven’t written anything on my long-neglected novel for ages; the reason I haven’t properly taught myself to sew, despite the fact I’ve expressed, time and time again (and often on this blog) the desire to learn to do so. It’s exhausting being so negative.

Last week, I went to the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A. Looking at McQueen’s beautiful designs, being in touching distance of some incredibly beautiful clothing and realising that McQueen had to start somewhere made me realise- I can do something if I put my mind to it. Sure, it’ll never be couture, but I can have a go.

One of the worst things, I think, is a fear of failure and making mistakes. So I’m embracing new things with a positive outlook. What’s the worst thing that can happen? No one will die if I write a duff sentence or produce a wonky hem and no one needs know if I made a mistake. I’ll just move on and learn from it.

So the tl;dr to take away from this: challenge yourself this weekend. Have a good opinion of what you could achieve (don’t start from a negative place!), but don’t go to pieces if it’s not perfect.

Keep me posted- what did you do to quiet your nagging self doubt?