Friday, February 27, 2015

LITTLE CRITTERS ......

If you popped your head outside today, you'd never think that Spring is anywhere near .... it is snowing in North Texas .... and has been for a couple of hours !!!! I, for one am overjoyed ..... I LOVE snow !!!!
It wont be long though, before the flowers start blooming, and the little critters start appearing. When life seems to start anew .... a beautiful time !!! With this in mind, I baked some cookies a couple of days ago ..... little Spring critters :-)


So cute .... and delicious too !!! My favorite are the hedgehogs ..... I've always had a soft spot for those prickly little things. Brits favorite are the snails ... she just has a thing for them :-)
After my recipe testing session last time, it must be revealed that we have a new recipe for decorated cookies ...... the shortbread type cookie won hands down over my long standing sugar cookie recipe. We are a family of shortbread lovers however :-)

Time to go fetch the kiddos - they're releasing them early from school today ......Wohoo - there is some snowman building in our future I predict ....

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

FOR THE LOVE OF SOPHIE ....

A couple of weeks back (5 to be exact), a new CAL started - Sophies Universe. It is to be a mystery CAL, this means that week on week a new piece is revealed to us. At the end of the 20 weeks, we will have created an afghan.

What can I say ..... we've reached Part 6 (Week 5), and Oh My Goodness, she is an absolute beauty .....
I gave you a peek at Parts 1 & 2 (Week 1) HERE. Today I'll begin Part 6 (Week 5), and I can barely wait. There is a Facebook Group associated with this CAL, a lovely group of ladies, who are always ready to help with problems or a little encouragement. For me, one of the most exciting things about this CAL, is that the designer is a "Home Girl" !!! She's a South African girl, who also lives as an Expat (she lives in the UK).

So without further ado, let me catch you up on Sophie .....


Part 3 ..... I had no color plan moving into this. I chose the 7 colors I wanted to use throughout, and from that point on, I have just chosen my colors round on round, based on what I thought would look good - I'm very happy with how that has worked out for me so far.


Part 4 ..... we've started to square her off. I have learned SO much from this CAL. To be honest with you, I find myself sitting back and admiring my work ..... I cant believe I've made this !!!!


Part 5 ..... she didn't stay square for long - now she's an octagon. This pattern is ever changing, ever evolving. Each Week reveals another piece of this mystery pattern, and each Week, she gets more beautiful !!!
I think it's safe to say ........... Sophies Universe has captivated me :-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

PAVLOVA .....

The name alone is romantic ..... or at least I think it is.
It's one of those desserts, that at first sight looks complicated, but really it's not .... It's the dessert created to impress ... For me, it is just THE dessert !!!!

Valentines Day for us was a low key affair. The Hubby despises the day - Just another opportunity for Hallmark to make a killing. I, on the other hand, am more of a romantic, and love the idea of one special day, set aside, in the name of love ... Oh well, it is what it is :-)

Days like this in our house, are treated to an extra special dinner. The dinner table gets appropriately decorated, and there is always a themed dessert. This year it was Pavlova !!!
In honor of this dessert, and because I think everyone should have a go at making it at least once, I thought I'd share my recipe with you .....
This recipe comes from one of my South African recipe books ...... Cook With Ina Parman.

MERINGUE
- 4 Egg Whites (1/2 cup)
- 1/2 tsp White Vinegar
- 1 cup Superfine Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Boiling Water
- 1 Tbsp Cornstarch

- Beat egg whites, until foaming lightly, then add the white vinegar.
  (Remember to use a glass bowl and electric mixer ... never a plastic bowl)
- Continue beating until mixture is thick, stiff and slightly dry.
- Gradually add the superfine sugar, beating continuously. The mixture must be firm, shiny and retain its shape.
- Beat in the boiling water.
- Sift the cornstarch over the mixture, and fold in with a metal spoon.
- Place baking paper on baking sheet, and mark out a 20 cm circle (this is where I marked out a heart shape.)
- Place egg mixture in a piping bag (or Ziplock bag, with a hole cut in the corner), and pipe out a    solid base to your shape.
- Now pipe around the edge of your shape, to build up a little wall.
- Bake at 275 Deg F for 30 mins, then turn the oven temperature down to 250 Deg F, and bake for a  further hour.
- Cool completely ( I switch the oven off, and allow the meringue to cool in the oven)


This is  what the baked shell looks like (the cracks in the meringue are quite normal) ..... it has a slight creamy, pink color to it. It's quite lovely :-)
Time to fill this beauty ....

FILLING
Only fill the meringue shell, when you are ready to eat the dessert.
- 1 cup cream (whipping or heavy whipping)
- 2 - 3 Tbsp Superfine Sugar
- Pinch Of Salt
- Assorted chopped Fruit (Kiwi Fruit, Strawberries, Grapes, Raspberries, Mango)

- Beat the cream until stiff.
- Beat in the superfine sugar
- Season with a pinch of salt

- Pile the whipped cream into the meringue shell.
- Sprinkle the chopped fruit over the top of the cream.
- Serve immediately.



There you have it ....... Dessert perfection !!!


My little table gifts were very simple this year .... a Cadbury's Milk Chocolate bar, that I wrapped candy wrapper style, with some Valentines themed scrapbooking paper. I then made a belly band, which I wrapped around the chocolate bars "belly". I then used my Cricut to cut out these cute Valentines frogs, which I attached to the band with a pop dot ..... quick and cute :-)

I hope that your Valentines Day was full of love, laughter and some extra special treats !!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

LOVE IS IN THE AIR ......

It's almost time for THAT Hallmark holiday ....... the one that tops all Hallmark holidays !!!
You know the one I mean ...... Valentines Day !!!

We don't make a big fuss of it in our house. I do put a little bit of special effort into making sure that the dinner table is set nicely, and there is always a special themed dessert :-)
I have over the last little while, taken quite a shine to decorated sugar cookies ...... It is a lot of effort to put into something that's just going to be eaten, but for the few moments that they are all in tact, they look lovely, so to me it's totally worth the effort.

I played around with two different sugar cookie recipes today. The one was my regular, go to recipe, and the other has more of a shortbread texture to it - shortbread is a favorite in our home.
The icing I used is the one I always use - It's a sugar glaze icing, that tastes yummy. The cookies dry and are stackable, but it's not as hard as royal icing. I love the shine that the cookies have when iced, and it holds color beautifully.
I kept the icing to three colors - pink, red and white. I for one hate having to clean out ten different color bowls and icing tips ..... it's a yukky job !!! I also think it keeps the cookies cohesive, and they look great when displayed on a platter.


After dinner tonight, we're going to have a cookie tasting session .... I wonder if I may have found a new favorite cookie recipe ..... We'll see !!!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

SIGNS OF SPRING .....

It may not seem like it, but it's coming. The signs of its arrival are all around us, we just need to stop and look.
Here in the South, it's been a mild winter. We've had the odd cold spell, but nothing major. We've had no snow .... this makes me sad, as I do love a little bit of the white, fluffy stuff.

Last Spring I bought a few of those cheap, grocery store pots of daffodils .... instant color !!! Once they had died down, I moved them to the side of our front porch, intending to repot them, in the hope that they may sprout again this Spring. Needless to say I forgot about them, and as Summer progressed, the pots got blown around, and the bulbs all fell out and scattered themselves. Well, a couple of days ago, I noticed that those bulbs had little sprouts on them ..... no soil or anything like that, just bare bulbs with little sprouts ...... Oh so cute (and exciting !!!). I gathered them up and potted them in two pots, not sure whether they'd do anything more ..... well today I checked and the sprouts have now popped through the soil ..... I dare say we may have some daffodils this Spring.

There was one bulb which was bigger than all of the others .... also lying there bare, with no soil. There is no soil under the mulch you see there - only the black weed protection fabric. Instead of moving him, I decided to just dump a few handfuls of potting soil over him, and see what happened ....... Well guess what ....


Just take a look at him, all strong and leafy !!! I am so fascinated by this - I check on him a couple of times a day :-) I am so surprised by this - I always thought that the bulbs you bought early, like these ones, were forced bulbs, and that they wouldn't flower a second time ... guess I was wrong.

I have some hyacinth bulbs (the ones grown hydroponically), that have finished flowering now. Once they die back, I'm going to pop them in pots, and see whether or not they produce again next Winter. No harm in trying :-)

Because this is just a little random post, I'll love and leave you with this rather lovely photo that my boys took this morning, while they were out fishing .....


Oh how I LOVE nature :-)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

MEMORIES .....

I popped into Market Street the other day .... not something I do too often, but a real treat when I do.
While browsing the fruit section (I realize just how lame that sounds .... I love spotting the unusual though !!!), I found grenadillas ..... my heart quite literally skipped a beat. In the 10 years we've lived in the US, I think I've only seen them one other time. I have sometimes been able to buy the tins of pulp from British Emporium - but it's just not the same as the fresh fruit. Here in the US, you know it as Passion Fruit.
















Rewind about 35 years, when I was a little girl, growing up in Rhodesia, I remember my late Mom making a grenadilla cake ... delicious.
I have the recipe book, that the recipe she used came from (with hand written notes, and all :-) ...... it's an old fundraising cookbook from my Primary School. It was created back in the day, before photocopying was even commonly used (well, back in Rhodesia anyway) ... the recipes were typed up on a typewriter, and the pages were roneod ..... for those who may remember - that handle you used to wind to make copies ...
This will  give you an idea of what a Roneo Machine looked like, if you're interested :-)


As you can see it was really well loved, but is very fragile now. The sad thing, about that exact recipe, is that the printing has faded so badly, that I couldn't use it ... I wasn't confident, that the cake would turn out. So I did a little snooping around the great WWW ....... and I came upon This Recipe, shared by a South African lady. When I compared the two recipes (as best I could), they looked almost identical :-)
So, on went the apron (after a visit to Market Street, to buy the grenadillas), and I got to it !!!


Oh My Goodness ..... while I haven't had a hunking great slice yet (I can assure you, that will happen before I go to bed tonight), but I will confess to picking a little of the inside to taste, and licking the icing bowl out .... this is cake perfection !!!! It is a grenadilla cake, that tastes unmistakably of grenadilla, and I LOVE it !!!!

This recipe will now be written right alongside that old faded recipe that my Mom used to use .... there for future generations to use and enjoy.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

A QUILT .....

Quilts just speak to me of all things home .... they're like a big fabric hug !!!!
My desire has always been that my kids have at least one "Mom Made" quilt each .... well, I have now accomplished half of that desire ...... Brittany has one !!!!
I saw this  9 Square Quilt, and decided it would be perfect. Quick and simple, but still cute.



I'm taking part in Val's Year Long Craft Along (click on the button on my sidebar for the details). Each month she sets us a crafty challenge .... January's challenge was to make a blanket/quilt ... something to wrap up warm in. I needed no better excuse to get going !!!

I chose a central feature fabric. Brit loves tattoo art (she can't wait until she turns 18 - she'll be knocking on that tattoo parlors door!!!), and this fabric reminded me of that. I chose 8 other complimentary fabrics, and cut them to 16"x16" squares. The sashing and border strips, are just plain black fabric, cut to widths of 21/2". Sewing up the quilt top was fun ..... the next part (yes, the quilting), not so much !!! In all honesty, I REALLY didn't like this part - too much bulkiness being shoved through too smaller space. I think those quilters who piece their tops, and then send them off to be quilted are very wise:-) Anyway, I did it - I may have said a naughty word or two during the process though !!! The quilting I did was very basic, I sewed 1/2" around the inside of each square, and then 1/2" around the outside of each square ..... Voila - Done !!!

I used bright red binding, because I love it, and because it tied in with the roses of my feature fabric. The backing was just plain black fabric.


Brit loves it, which is what counts. It's been through the washing machine a couple of times already, and I must say, I love it a little more after each wash. It gets a little more crinkly and quilty each time ..... Just as it should.



I'll leave you with a picture of my sweet girl all wrapped up in it .... nothing makes my Mommy heart sing more, than a picture like this. Something made with so much love, being loved so much :-)