Sunday, 24 August 2014

Birthdays, Blueberries and Blackberries.

 Hello again! Last week was Big Sparkles birthday and as Granny was still staying I made her a favourite, Blueberry & Banana cake, which works fantastically well with Gluten Free flour. This is a very moist cake and even more so with ordinary flour. And the best thing about it is, this is the most forgiving recipe ever. You could pretty much chuck in any quantity of each ingredient and you will still get a really scrummy cake at the end! But I will tell you the guidelines I work to for this one.

3 ripe bananas
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of flour
2 eggs
Stick of butter (the original recipe I had said a whole 250g block!!! But there really is no need!)
Optional blueberries - but also try chocolate chunks instead.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease your cake tin and dust with a little flour.
Sift flour, baking powder into a bowl with the sugar and butter. Cream together.
Add the eggs and bananas. Add half the blueberries. I use a hand blender to blend the blueberries into the mixture. Then add the remaining whole blueberries and pour the mix into your cake tin.
Bake for around 30 mins and when the top turns golden brown, cover with foil to prevent burning.
Bake for a further 40 minutes or so. Because this is such a moist cake it is better to do a touch test rather than a skewer test, and the cake should spring back up from a light touch when ready.

This one was still being decorated quite late at night because the paper craft Frozen characters pattern I found online seemed like a good alternative to plastic figures because all the shops had sold out of anything Frozen. Luckily Granny and Hubby were here to help!

Frozen cake complete with 5 sparkler!
But Big Sparkle loved it so that's all that matters. She had a lovely day at Longdown Farm where she got to ride a pony, and then opened some more presents after her cake.

Spot the pony.
Look at all the little sparrows in with the goats!
Name art for Emily
A while ago I had the request for a picture with roses and kittens and fairies so Emily has this picture to hang in her room now.

 A couple days later we found some blackberries so we decided to pick a few and take them home. We didn't have that many (maybe 300g) so we decided to make a Blackberry Fool or Bramble Fool if you want it to sound posh.

400g (13oz) blackberries. We bulked ours out a bit with some strawberries (save a few for decoration).
3tbsp icing sugar
½tsp lemon juice
250ml (8fl oz) whipping cream
250ml (8fl oz) Greek yogurt (we used fruit yogurt instead).

Tip the blackberries into a saucepan with the icing sugar, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of water. Over a low heat, bring to a simmer, stirring a few times (the berries should soften but not to stew). When they start looking juicy take off the heat.
Mash lightly to squeeze out all the juice and then pour into a nylon sieve set over a bowl. Push as much fruit through the sieve as possible, squeezing out every last drop of juice so you end up with a thin purée. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, whip the cream lightly in a separate bowl (don't whip it too much as the acidity in the fruit will also help it thicken). When the cream just holds a soft peak fold through the yogurt and half of the purée, until just combined. Ripple through the remaining purée and spoon into dishes. Top with some whole blackberries and serve.

This smelled delicious!
Sieving the fruit
Add the cream and make pretty patterns. Run off with spoon.
This was a really yummy treat and good fun to make too! I hope you enjoy them.

That's all from me this week, see you soon!

Amber xxx

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Sequin Stitches and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

 Good morning all my lovely readers! I do hope you are well. I have been recovering after my 'Choppy Neck Op' and keeping myself busy with Granny who has come to stay and help look after the Sparkles. Granny has been a wonderful help and has smartened up our garden too! Well, all except one corner... You may recall that most of my Nasturtiums perished when we went to Cornwall. The remainder have met a sad end when they became these hungry caterpillars dinner. More about these guys in a moment.

They munched their way through ten juicy leaves. But they were still hungry.

The succulents have been separated and the thug plant from the pathway has its own pot! 

Little Sparkle running an inspection to make sure all is well.

My rose, 'A Shropshire Lad' has made a bit of a comeback after all! 
A frilly tutu for a fairy perhaps?

More strawberry flowers have come out too.

And this is the Super Moon. But I think I missed it looking at its most impressive, sadly. It just looked very very bright but not particularly big. And I only took a couple photos as I think my neighbour wondered what my flash was and came out to investigate. So rather than make the situation worse and frighten him with my choppy neck I ran away and hid back inside. It was the right thing to do.

Super Moon

These are a bit more impressive though! Our lovely Sunflowers have finally bloomed.

Is this Sunflower stopping a giggle from escaping?

The tallest Red Sunflower. This one is just under 6 foot tall.

Anyway, after the desolation of the poor Nasturtiums I noticed two little caterpillars (or Cabbage Worms as they are also known) had decided the food was so good, they would go in for bed and board too.
The top pictures show Mr Fivestar inside the sun room. I'm not sure he wanted his pictures done as he was getting changed ...
And Mr Threestar is a bit more outdoorsy. The brown blob there is actually the old exoskeleton and if you look closely at the bottom right photo you can see where the wings are already forming on the sides of his body. I would love to catch them making their grand entrance as butterflies but we will have to see!

A while ago I promised to make Big Sparkle a dream catcher with real crystals. Real crystals are very exciting indeed. And so are dream catchers, so it's a winning combination.
First I wrapped ribbon around an embroidery hoop. 
Then threaded on ten different threads around the outside. Next I tied each thread to the one next to it and worked my way around until I got near the middle. (Don't knot the threads together too close to the middle, keep pulling them together at the centre to see the effect you will get.) I tied a European bead into the centre and left the threads as a tassel but you can trim them off.
Finally I added some real crystal gemstones on using a cotton thread and then tied some ribbons at the sides.

Making the Dreamcatcher

And here is the finished rainy/sunny day project, complete with a rainbow of gemstones. Why not have a go too, you could use any beads instead of crystals to add some colour.

Big Sparkle loves her new Dream Catcher.
That's all for now, I will say in advance that my blog may be a little late next week as I have some super duper amazing lovely friends coming to visit which I am very excited about! I will be back soon though and I hope you enjoy your week.

Amber xxx

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Meanwhile In the Garden...

Hi there! So lovely to see you again! I am actually writing this a little in advance because by the time you get to read it I will be in hospital having had what I call a 'Choppy Neck Op'. The technical term is a partial Thyroidectomy but I think my name sounds better. So it will be Sequin Stitches minus the sequins.
Anyway, onto other things... is it silly that I got a bit excited (eggcited, sorry, had to) that Hubby brought home some eggs and they match my kitchen! I know, how good is that? They look really pretty I think.

Old Cotswold Legbar Eggs.
I thought I would show you some of the lovely flowers in the garden. Most of these pink ones were from a 'rake and shake' packet so I am not entirely sure of their names. 
And because last year I put about eight packets of seeds in and got about two plants out for my labours, I must admit I didn't expect much and so chucked the lot in one bed. Of course every single seed germinated and now there is a bit of a mini jungle happening. 
I sort of attempted to thin them out a bit but then I started to get itchy arms and took this as a sign to back off and let nature take its course. You can see a bit of this happening down there on the bottom left. The taller ones are red sunflowers but they aren't open just yet.

Pretty in Pink.

Sadly for me (but not for Hubby as he thinks they are weeds), most of my Nasturtiums died a slow death from lack of watering whilst we were visiting Cornwall.

Sunny Tones

My absolute favourites are my roses. Some didn't flower as well this year after being moved but luckily there were some beautiful ones left here for me by the previous owners, including the orange one and that stunning pink cabbage rose. The striped red and white rose in the middle is called 'Crazy for You' and the top right is called 'A Shropshire Lad'. This one I hope will be back to its former glory next year.
Looking Rosey!
And lastly my succulent collection. I really do love these little guys, probably because they don't hate me if I forget to water them. I really want to get more varieties as they look so good mixed together. I ought to thin out that filler one though. I actually found that variety growing on my dad's pathway and its gone a bit rogue and taken over, the naughty thing! 
By the way, on Pinterest there are lots of ideas for cool and quirky ways to display succulents. 

My succulent collection
I love this pink succulent, it looks so pretty.

Big Sparkle doing her 'little job' of watering the garden.
Fluffy Clouds.
 I will leave you with this lovely blue sky picture and hopefully I will be back on form pretty soon!

Amber xxx

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Chiffon Chic and the Fairy Circus Tent

 Hello again! It has been wonderfully sunny here and we decided to get ourselves a little gazebo for the garden. It's only a cheap one (less than £20) but its perfectly adequate for teddy bear picnics...

And 'Beauty Parlours'. Big Sparkle finally stopped chewing her nails a while ago when she was told the nail stickers wouldn't fit on them! Now it's the holidays, we decided to try them out. All of them...

But then we thought 'Hey! We can do better than this!'

Chiffon Chic!
It's very delicate like magic fairy material!
So we got a bit creative and in no time at all...ok, maybe it was fifteen minutes or so after the Sparkles had finished racing about the garden with their 'fairy princess capes' and putting the chiffon over their heads...

...we had transformed the boring plain gazebo into a Fairy Circus tent! Huzzah! 

And had loads of fun!

We spent a good three hours playing in here and they absolutely loved it. A simple idea using some chiffon or organza and some string! Oh, and a gazebo! Why don't you try it too?
Have fun and come back again soon!

Amber xxx