Monday, 30 September 2013

The Reading Corner...

Throughout the whole of my life, wherever I have lived, I have always managed to find a quiet and secluded spot, solely made for the purpose of reading. In my bedroom as a child it was a corner of the floor, with a beanbag and a small white bookcase which housed all my favourites. Brambly Hedge, several Roald Dahl's and Charlotte's Web to mention but a few. In Uni, it was the bottom corner of my single bed in my halls of residence. The bed was boxed into the corner of the room by a large desk, and so I would stuff all my cushions and pillows into that little nook, prop myself up and get lost in the writings of post-modern theorists, fashion industry veterans and their musings on sub-cultures, and the odd retrospective of Vionnet or Chanel and the like.

Nowadays you can find me in the corner of my living room. Feet curled up underneath me in my bent-wood hand-me-down Ikea armchair pouring over the writings of Sophie Dahl, or taking Dianne Jacob's word as gospel while I plot my world domination, one recipe book at a time.

I think everyone should have at least one quiet spot to which they can escape, and lose themselves amongst the pages of some epic fantasy novel, or fall in love with a dashing Wall Street tycoon, or live their lifelong dreams through a fictitious heroine who dumped her boyfriend, took on her company executives, and won the lawsuit all while wearing designer shoes.

If you haven't got one yet. I whole heartedly encourage you to find yourself a reading nook and make it the comfiest place in your house, so it beckons you everyday for at least an hour to kick off your shoes, curl up, and switch your brain off as you mindlessly flick through page after page.

So here's some food for thought. A few of my favourite inspirational images I pinched from Pinterest to get your brain whirring.
If you like, head over to my Pinterest page, and take a look at the whole board I created.  

Friday, 20 September 2013

Autumn Anticipation...

Aaaah Autumn. How I have missed thee!

Waking up to cold shoulders and toes outside the duvet. Dew kissed cobwebs which suddenly seem to appear in every corner of the garden. Torrents of rain, followed closely by a blazingly warm sun, tricking you into shedding your coats and scarves before catching you unawares with another icy cold shower.

Why is it that when people try to think of their favourite season, they instantly feel the need to choose between Summer and Winter? For me, Autumn has got to be one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. Closely followed by Spring ofcourse. It's those changeable months when you feel the earth let out a sigh of relief from an exhaustingly hot summer, and everything starts to slow down a little as mother nature begins to put herself to bed, and settle down into a cold cold winter.

I've also been letting out a similar sigh of relief lately. And I'm sure you've probably noticed that things have been particularly quiet around these parts as well as on my instagram. Y'know sometimes, things just get a bit too hectic and it forces you to slow down, take stock and appreciate the quiet time you may have inbetween the hum-drum day-to-day neccessities. After all, this is what I created this blog for, to help me appreciate the simpler things in life, and to learn to slow down and truly understand what a 'homespun' lifestyle is.
So, I bet you're wondering what I've been up to lately. Well, let me update you, shall I?
Here goes...

Mid-week days off have been spent jumping on the bus up to my parents' house. They live in a lovely little quiet village tucked just behind the crest of hill, away from all the nearby town noise, and let me tell's lovely. I pottered around the village. I went to visit the girls in the little hair salon (most of which I've known since I was knee-high to a grasshopper). And I wandered through the church yard inspecting the latest crop of blackberries, to assess their crumble capabilities. And they certainly didn't disappoint.

I came home that day, laiden down with blackberries. So much so, I had to freeze them in two batches. Lucky for me, the Mr isn't too fond of blackberries either, so I have been enjoying them on my porridge and in cakes for many days now.

Alas, the rain has struck with avengence. So out came the winter boots, to keep my feet dry on the way to work, along with my rain coat and cloche hat. I'm the kind of person that gets frustrated with toting an umbrella round all the time. I would much rather tuck my hair up into a hat and cower against the wind, than wrestle with spokes in my eyes any day.
I'm not sure if it's because I've been living in Wales so long that makes me used to the rain but, I don't seem to mind it so much any more. There's something quite comforting about putting the kettle on as soon as I get into the office, and watching it lash against my little shop window. Or even walking home, knowing there's a hot chocolate and my pyjamas waiting for me at the end.

The change in season also means a change in fashion. This means, 'good post days' are a-plenty at the moment. I love picking out knitwear, and little dresses to pair with wooly tights and boots. Being a February baby, I am definitely suited to the colder months. Not to mention catalogues filled with spongeware goodies courtesy of Ms Bridgewater. My Christmas list is going to be a good read this year.

And finally, I've begun testing out recipes for Christmas hampers. I think the ladies at the library think I must be crazy, checking out Christmas cookery books mid-September. But, when you work in retail during the festive period, everything needs to be planned out with military precision if you don't want to be left panicked and frazzled on Christmas Eve just as you're closing up shop, along with everyone else on your street.

And ofcourse, some baking for myself was needed as well. This particularly tasty batch of flapjacks was rustled up in ones PJ's (obviously) while still a little soggy from walking home in the rain. They were then hastily washed down with a bucket of tea, whilst watching an episode or two of Barefoot Contessa (my other guilty pleasure), and it was absolute bliss!

I hope you're all enjoying the changing Autumn months, and not fed up of the wind and rain just yet.
A couple more exciting things coming my way soon...

The winter duvet goes on the bed this weekend.
Myself and the Mr have booked a week off together, which begins on Monday.
And the heating goes on the week after.

Yay! Simple things, folks...simple things.  


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake. Enough said!

Sometimes, Only Cake Will Do...

So it may appear on this ere blog, that I've been taking a longer than expected hiatus but, if you follow me on instagram you may have seen that things have been pretty hectic lately. In true Back to Work stylee, within 2 days of returning, it felt like I'd never been away and the pace certainly hasn't slowed down since.

So to save my sanity and my sugar cravings, I recently rustled up this delectable White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake one evening after work to take to my mum's the following day for a family gathering. And let me tell you, it went down a storm. This recipe comes courtesy of the lovely John Whaite, winner of Great British Bake Off 2013. Trust me, you HAVE to try this. Just as he describes, baking this cake is the ultimate stress buster. Melting the butter and white chocolate together completely fills the house with the most amazingly vanillery-buttery smell that will literally having you salivating as you wait for it in the oven. It's so easy to make, I managed to bust this out (minus the ganache) after returning home from work on a Saturday, gone 8pm and frazzled to the core.

Now, I'm not sure what the ettiquette is with posting other people's recipes online etc so, I'll simply link you to John's Facebook which is the exact same page I followed this recipe from.

Here's a couple of little tips though...
  • The ganache definitely takes a while to thicken. After a couple of hours, it was still at a thick runny stage. So once it had cooled completely, I covered the bowl with some cling film and popped it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I simply whipped up the ganache with a wooden spoon to loosen it a little before spreading it into the centre of the cake as directed. Voila!
  • Instead of using fresh raspberries, I managed to get away with using thawed frozen ones. (Perfect, if you fancy making this in the depth of winter without importing raspberries from Morocco.) They do start to ooze out a little juice though so I found adding a handful of flour from the measured amount and gently folding them in, ensured they were mixed into the batter evenly, without turning the whole cake pink.

So, what are you waiting for?! Go grab your pinny, whack the oven on, and be prepared to wow your nearest and dearest. This is one Show Stopper that will not have you bursting into tears with 5 minutes left on the clock! Yippee!