Christmas Birds

21 Dec

I’m afraid dear Beatrice, I’ve done it again. I simply cannot stay out of Liberty’s. I see it’s grand statuesque architecture, it’s glittering gems, it’s fine selection of treashurable delights, and I quite simply cannot walk away. With Christmas only a few days away I’ve only just managed to find myself in the festive spirit. After a rather lacklustre start to the season, even with this wonderful duvet of snow across the land, I’ve felt rather non Christmassy. However, the tree is now donned with baubles, the banister glittering with tinsel and twisted pine, the air full of festive scent. It’s not as stunning as Leonora’s perfect and decadent style I’m sure, but for this single bachelor it’ll do just fine. I was lacking some eye catching decorations for the Christmas tree, and as usual, Liberty’s winter shop came to my rescue. And though many think that this luxury shop may be a little extravagant, Christmas decorations are magnificently cheap.

With these two little birds now amongst my tree’s branches the entire ensemble has come together nicely. Whilst the gorgeous glittered fello was just £3 the dove now gracing the top of the Christmas tree was only £4. And whilst they make look stunning in my festive surroundings, they would be equally well placed as a little stocking filler in four days time.

Espresso Candles

16 Dec

Leonora, I know you’re one for homemade arts and crafts and do I hope you’ll be proud of my efforts. I’ve never made a candle in my life. In fact, I could hardly call myself a crafter at all. I like to eat. That’s my thing as you well know! However, whilst looking for some new vases in the local charity shop I stumbled across an espresso set for just £4.99. I know! I don’t even like coffee but I just had to have it. Anyway, I decided that I’d make a cheap homemade candle set, something quite cute that could provide a function but also look great in a kitchen, lounge, or even dining setting.

Making candles is extremely easy Leonora, I’m surprised you haven’t turned your graceful hand to it. I bought all the equipment from WhicksnWacks, a great little online store that had the items to me in just a few days. The entire lot cost me just under £13 and I have enough wicks and dye for more future crafting. It seems far easier to make your first candles in a ready prepared holder, such as these espresso cups, so that you don’t have to worry about getting the right shapes or having to pay for moulds.

Melting the wax was extremely easy, and then the dye block was simply grated into the liquid until I had the right colour. I warmed the cups first in warm water so that the china wasn’t cold. Working out how to attach the wicks was a little tricky as the first time I attempted to pour in the wax the wick simply floated to the top. However, I found that standing them upright in the cups and pouring a tiny amount of wax in, which was then allowed to harden, allowed the wicks to grip the bottom. I also used elastic bands to keep the wicks upright and straight as, when you pour the warm wax in, the wicks have a tendency to flop to one side.

Then it’s a simple case of allowing the wax to harden completely, cleaning off the cups from any excess wax which may have dripped, and fashion them into a perfectly placed piece of decor! I simply love them. Of course, they are my own little novelty as they’re the first I’ve ever made but they are both cheap and quick to make. Overall, each candle cost approximately £4 to make and that includes the extra’s that I can use again in addition to the plates and milk jug. I think it’s a fabulous thing to have made, and once I’m more adept at making such things they will be great Christmas and birthday presents. And, with the containers being recycled from charity shops, no two candle sets will ever be the same.

Hummingbird Bakery

15 Dec

Did you enjoy a cupcake today? I visited London’s Hummingbird Bakery, the branch on Wardour Street, and treated myself to a scumptious red velvet cupcake to celebrate National Cupcake Day. Glorious.

National Cupcake Day

14 Dec

Now Beatrice, before you start, I know that cupcakes are an American treat and that the English version is our own traditional butterfly cake. However, that doesn’t stop one enjoying snacking upon several when the time comes, especially when they are still warm from your AGA. And now that you’ve perfected the cake, I can happily say that I will continue to relish your cupcakes. Indeed, I enjoyed the perfection trials immensely!

Tomorrow, December 15th, is National Cupcake Day in the U.S. What a fantastic day to have! It’s just as well I don’t reside across the pond as I fear that this Algenon would be far too fat to fit into his braces. However, just because our American friends will be enjoying the experience doesn’t mean that we can’t either. Of course, I won’t be able to revel in the fantasticulously lovely Magnolia’s Bakery cupcakes, as seen on screen in Sex and the City, but that doesn’t put an end to my plan. London has a number of fantastic outlets, including Lola’s available in the Selfridge’s food hall and the famed Hummingbird Bakery. So, one way or another, I will be breaking from English tradition and enjoying an American holiday for one day. Please don’t scold me – and don’t tell Lady Shropshire, she’d be horrified

Iconic Garden Show Fire Presenters

7 Dec

Leonora! Beatrice! Whilst I know that we are all gripped by the devastingly yet compelling drama unfolding on Weatherfield’s cobbles, I must tell you of more awful news. Gardeners World has revealed that not only is Monty Don returning to replace Toby Buckland, but that our dear Alys Fowler has also been dropped from the show. I know Beatrice, reach for the gin, it’s appalling. What will we do without Alys and Toby?

Pass the gin, Toby & Alys have been cut

I cannot truly say that I’m not happy that Monty is making a return, after all, I was pretty unconsolable when he left the show in 2008. However, Toby took the reign in his hands and I thought did extremely well over the past few years. Alys, well what can I say, we all love her to bits! The only silver lining from this is that dear Carol Klein is to return, though why the BBC didn’t scrap imbecile Swift and keep Toby on causes one to wonder. All things change I suppose, but what with life on the cobbles falling apart and now this I think we may need to bulk buy gin for the ensuing week.

Algie

HALLELUJAH

5 Dec

Algenon you must see this marvellous video clip a friend sent to me. Most uplifting! Bea.

BEREMEAL APPLE SULTANA and HONEY CAKE

5 Dec

Leonora dearest. I thought I must let you have my recipe for the beremeal cake which we shared last night with Algenon and Bunny. I have adapted the recipe from one I was given in a delightful shop The House of Beauly, in Beauly Scotland, just north of Inverness. This was where I first encountered this wonderful cereal which tastes so good and is so marvellous for entertaining friends on a wheat free diet.

I love the way you use the whole apple, core and all. You need to use butter (not margarine) and good dark molasses sugar. It does work best with separate cream of tartar and bicarb- but use baking powder (2 teaspoons) if you don’t have the separate ingredients. I use an 8” cake tin, well buttered- there’s no need to line with paper.

Sultanas 2 oz

Butter 2 ½ oz

Molasses cane sugar 3 ½ oz

Eggs 1

Beremeal  6oz

Cinnamon  1 teaspoon

Bicarbonate of soda 1 ½ teaspoon

Cream of tartar ½ teaspoon

Sea salt  ½ teaspoon

Desert or Cooking apple 7 oz –to the nearest whole apple

Honey about 1 tablespoon- less if using a sweet desert apple

First soak the sultanas for about 20 mins (or more) in warm water or apple juice. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the sugar until it dissolves.  Chop the apple into chunks, add the butter/sugar mixture and whiz up in a food processor or blender- to a liquid, then blend in the egg. Mix together the beremeal, cream of tartar, bicarb of soda and salt and add to the liquid mixture with the drained sultanas and the honey. Give it a quick mix to turn into a soft dough then put into the cake tin.

I use the top (roasting) oven of the aga, so I put the cake tin into the aga cake baker but you can use a conventional oven at gas mark 4, 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C.  It takes about 1 hour 15 mins to cook- it should feel quite springy when its ready. After I take it out of the oven I warm a little honey and drizzle it onto the top.

I am so looking forward to hearing about the cupcakes you making for your friend’s baby shower- I don’t suppose you’ll have any over, but if you do Algenon  and  I will be most happy to taste them.

Bea

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