Tuesday 26 February 2013

Ta-dah! Tuesday - Minute Make - Homemade Hot Fudge Sundae

Here's the second in my occasional series of quick desserts to make your children love you and your dentist despair, and take only minutes to prepare. This would also be a perfect pudding to treat your Mum for Mothers' Day, or better yet, to get the kids to make for you. They can do all the measuring of ingredients, scooping of ice-cream and sprinkling of toppings, leaving the hot bit to Daddy if they're too little to be trusted with the saucepan.

Ingredients - serves 4
1oz butter
4 tblsp soft brown sugar
2 tblsp golden syrup 
4 tblsp evaporated milk [I freeze the remainder in 2 tablespoon portions in an ice-cube tray, rather than waste the rest of the tin]

Vanilla ice-cream
Flaked or chopped almonds
Optional : 2 Cadbury's Fudge bars cut into slices. [The first ones I made had these, but we ate them before I got a good picture. Food photography is hard!]

  • Put the four ingredients for the sauce into a small pan over a low heat and stir for 5 minutes without letting it boil too madly. 
  • Scoop your ice-cream into glass dishes, pour over the fudge sauce and scatter over the fudge slices and chopped nuts.
  • That's it! I added a mini sparkler too, cos obviously desserts are improved by the addition of gunpowder.*

Ta-dah! **

Don't blame me when you can't do up your jeans any more. If you've been inspired to get creative, check out Waitrose's Making for Mum campaign for great ideas and the possibility of winning some fantastic prizes.

Link up any of your best makes, bakes, finds and outfits below.

Last week's recipe - Mini Spotted Dick

Lakota x

* If I need to warn you about not letting the kids light fireworks you probably shouldn't have any.
** Procreation not essential for the enjoyment of this pudding

Monday 25 February 2013

Catching up - Travels, Friends, Collections, Art...

Hiya, hope those of you to whom half term means anything - whether kids at home or time off work - have had a good one. We had a couple of days in Brighton, or 'Hove, actually' as the bit we stayed in is generally known, and I'm finally beginning to thaw out. When will we ever learn that February half term is NOT the time to attempt to do family mini-breaks? Still, the Siberian snow flurries coming off the sea-front did give us an ideal excuse to spend a lot of time in our favourite galleries and to make regular cake stops at cafes, which is always enjoyable, and we got to spend some time with our nieces. We took the kids to the Sea Life Centre, which is fun - although given that it's housed in a subterranean Victorian arcade - also chilly. I refused to take my gloves off for long enough to take more than a few snaps of Brighton on  my phone - not particularly surprisingly they all fall into my regular subject categories of street art, cake, and random things which strike me as amusing:

Tape Butterflies outside ArtRepublic gallery by Cassette Lord

More Cassette Lord work near Hove Station
Most of the junction boxes have been decorated by him
{with the council's OK}

Mmm yeah Tea - by Sinna 1

Chocolate sculpture in the window of Choccywoccydoodah
Desiree is that you?

Obey Mr Grey - wedding?? - cake in window of shop in North Laine
Imagine having to explain the theme to your Grandma

Insane poodle trainers - not by Irregular Choice, but...Adidas!
Krista - what do you think? Tempted?

Speaking of pink haired princesses, I recently met up with the divine Miss Simmonds for a little jaunt round Camden, which mainly involved gossiping, trying on hats, chatting to knicker makers, buying sunglasses - it was pissing down, obviously, but a trip to Camden without buying shades is no trip at all - and a bit of charity shopping. It was less freezing, and I occasionally remembered to get my camera out.

None of these is Clare

Here she is, next to her faithful steed

Glamorous pants, made by 

Coy. Don't you just love her sparkly lurex frock?

Pretty in Pink in Traid changing rooms
This would have been a great dress if it weren't for all the holes. I think if you're going to try and charge £17 for a second hand home-made garment the shop should at least attempt to mend the several places where it was coming apart at the seams. Unfortunate because it went really well with her hair.

In addition to the cheapy sunglasses I bought some skull print jeans to add some interest to my school run wardrobe, a felt hat from Zara via charity shop for a fiver and a turquoise leopard print vest also from a charity shop. Turquoise and leopard as a combination appeals to me almost as much as the scarf I bought in Brighton - purple! With skulls! Made of flowers! Shame it's polyester chiffon and not particularly warm. I continue to suffer for the sake of rock and roll. 

See, I DO like florals...

Anyway, I don't have photos of this more recent stuff but I have been adding absent-mindedly to a few collections recently so I will link this post up to Magpie Monday - it's been too long. I've got another annual to add to the shelf - a boys' one this time - it's not dated but I think it's late 40s or early 50s, and I also grabbed this mint condition Folio Society copy of The Wind in the Willows for only £2. I'm reading J K Rowling's recent novel for grown-ups (calling it her first adult novel makes it sound like porn) 'The Casual Vacancy' and am quite enjoying it. I didn't fancy paying £20 for it when it came out, despite being a fan of Harry Potter, but £2.50 for the hardback in the Scope shop made it more reasonable. Has anyone read it? What did you think? I must admit to being mildly amused that the central deceased character is called Barry. She must have really cast around for that name!

The Eagle Annual has a story set in futuristic 1997, where dashing space rangers have to do an intergalactic Christmas pudding run!

I bought the poseable artist's figure in a local charity shop, and the Czech glass bud vase from a junk shop. I have about 12 now, I just seem to come across them and they're always cheap. The coloured glass bubble bases look really pretty in the sunshine but a lot you see have stains on the plain glass caused by hard water evaporating. I've tried lots of methods of getting rid of this but haven't found a way yet. The red-headed ladies prints are greetings cards made by Anna at Gold Lion Diaries - she kindly included them free when I bought a print for Boy2's room from her Etsy shop. Nice aren't they? I keep meaning to look out for some little frames for them.

I could have bought loads of art when I was in Brighton, spending time in galleries or museums always makes me covetous. I'd quite like Justine Smith's 'Time is Money', if anyone has a spare grand and a half and fancies getting me a present.

Time is Money by Justine Smith
 It's made of the bank notes of each country's currency and looks far better in reality

I've said it before, but I used to really enjoy art at school, I'd love to get back into it. Much as I enjoyed my English lit course, Clare's talk about art college makes it sound a lot of fun, and seeing all the modern/street inspired art at my favourite gallery Art Republic makes me yearn for a big studio, lots of canvas and some spray paint to play with. Mind you, whenever I go to the Tate Modern I'm convinced I can make my fortune with some shop window dummies, old planks and parcel tape so it's entirely possible I am delusional.

Finally my cookie cutter collection has expanded again with these few I couldn't resist on eBay. The owl, spider and er, poodle made an unusual Halloween threesome for a few quid, and I have decorating plans for the martini glass. A triangle of coloured icing and one of those little jelly lemon slices and I reckon the biscuits will look brilliant. [I counted up my collection the other day after making the polar bear biscuits and it now numbers around 80 if you include scone cutters.]

On the subject of cookies, here's some of the ones I made for my boys for Valentine's day - the bra and thong only made it into a grown-up lunch box though, don't worry!

Well I seem to have rambled on for ages, so that should probably do for now. I'll be back tomorrow for Ta-dah! Tuesday, so get ready to link up any finds/makes/bakes/outfits etc that you want to show off!

Lakota x

PS. There are loads of comments I've had recently that I wanted to reply to but I'm still being deluged with spam which Blogger's filter isn't picking up so it's getting hard to pick out the genuine replies. Is anyone else suffering? I really don't want to turn word  verification on.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Ta-dah! Tuesday - Minute Make in the kitchen! The no-scale, no sieve pudding for non-cooks

If you want a REALLY quick and easy pudding - but are fed up with crumble - this is it. Individual steamed suet puddings [basically your very own Mini Spotted Dick - you may smirk, non-Brit readers, but it's traditional.] which take approximately one minute to prepare and about 20 minutes to cook. And there's no weighing or sieving involved - all you need is a bowl and an egg-poacher. This is genuinely fool-proof, even if your usual level is scooping ice-cream or getting a yoghurt out of the fridge. Kids love these, but grown-up friends have been equally impressed. And who wants to be in the kitchen longer than necessary?

Minimalist yet cosy. Traditional yet modern. 
Bound to get me even weirder blog search stats.

Vegetable suet (1 scoop)
Self Raising Flour (2 scoops)
Sugar (1/2 scoop)
Mixed dried fruit (one scoop)
Milk or vegan alternative such as soya milk (1 and 1/2 scoops approx)

[Will make approximately 3 mini individual puddings, so serves 2 to 3 people depending on greed. I doubled the quantities for the four of us]

  • Using one of the cups that you would usually crack an egg into on the poacher, scoop your dry ingredients into a bowl and give a quick mix with a spoon. 

  • Add sufficient liquid and stir again until the mixture is combined and sticky. 

  • Grease the cups with some butter/marg/oil and divide the mixture between the cups.

  • Add water to the bottom of the poacher, as you would for cooking eggs (so that it doesn't quite touch the bottom of the cups)
  • Simmer for approximately 20 minutes until the puddings are cooked through and puffed up. [Make sure the water doesn't boil dry, you may have to add more half way through.]

  • Turn out into bowls and serve with golden syrup. [You might prefer custard but I really recommend syrup]
  • Bask in domestic goddess glory.
Let me know if you try them and what you think! I will be doing a mini series on quick and easy puddings for Ta-dah! Tuesday - partly cos I need to use up store cupboard and freezer ingredients before we move house, but mainly cos I want an excuse to eat them.

Lakota x

PS. Thanks for the lovely comments on my last post.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Ta-dah! Tuesday - A Love Story

Hi - I know it's not Tuesday, but you also know I'm not entirely brilliant when it comes to a posting schedule.  I was writing a book review, and then went out to see the fantastic Mr Bill Bailey doing a pre-tour warm up gig. But better late than never. 

I'm aware that Valentine's day has basically become an excuse for the supermarkets to sell us horsemeat lasagne and a bottle of plonk for two, but suck it up - you're getting a romance related post anyway. These are my late Grandparents, Grandad Phil and Granny Babs - Phil being the son of GGG, who you may remember featured in posts here and here - pictured below on their wedding day in 1949.

Babs was 19, Phil 26 I think. 
[Cary Grant reportedly wildly jealous of Phil's insane quiff]

I was born and grew up in South Wales, and remember clearly the 7 hours or so it used to take to get to their small house in Kent. Long car journeys punctuated by bouts of car-sickness, ensuring my sister's stuff didn't encroach onto my side of the backseat, and being informed we were breathing too much and steaming up the car by my dad. Every 90 miles or so my Mum would dole out a single Murray Mint to each of us, and if we were exceedingly lucky, there might be a stop for an all-day breakfast - and free lolly -  at the Little Chef. [Does anyone else remember the placemats featuring antique photos of locations where now stood a Little Chef? I always wanted the Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch one*]. Finally we would pull up, to be greeted in a haze of Chanel no 5 and demands that Phil put the kettle on; my Gran's suddenly blonde hair less of a shock than realising that I was bigger and stronger than her at the age of ten.

From as far back as I can remember, Granny Babs had 'bad hands'. The slow degenerative disorder from which she suffered didn't affect her as a young woman - she was healthy when she married and had her children - but she was a young Grandmother, only in her mid-forties when I was born. Her fingers were bent and locked towards her palm, and she had little dexterity, which gradually lessened even more over the years, along with her balance and stamina. She needed help getting up from her chair, her food cutting, bathing - and of course she hated it.  Despite hardly being able to pick up a pen it was only at the very last that she finally delegated the writing of birthday cards to my taciturn Grandad, doubtless dictating exactly what he should say, and supervising the licking of the envelope, in case he didn't do it properly. There was some occasional eye rolling from Phil, but only when she wouldn't spot it. He was her tireless carer - and the living embodiment of a stoic, stiff-upper-lip ex-airforce Englishman -  but oh, how he adored her as a husband too.

When he retired he took up woodworking - or was banished to the garage, possibly - and their house was filled with tokens he'd made for her. I remember a couple of carved plaques - one of their garden, with the birds it was her pleasure to watch from the window, one of a galleon in full sail, titled 'The Lady Babs' - an owl, her favourite bird, and a traditional Welsh love spoon, with their initials and a heart. He also found ingenious ways to make things easier for her - such as building wooden holders for her perfume, with a lever she could bang with a wrist, as her fingers would not allow her to pick up the bottles or depress the tops in the usual way. They were married nearly 60 years, and everything that made my Grandad who he was went out of him when she died. He was always short on words, but remembering his simple 'Goodbye Babs' at her funeral still makes me cry, and he was buried with her last year.

But I wanted to show you something else. My sister and I have joint custody of Babs' charm bracelet, and whilst it's not some valuable 'named' jewellery piece - it would make more from the scrap price of 9k gold than anything else - we love it for the story it tells of their earlier married life [She stopped wearing it as her hands got worse, the clasp is fiddly for me so I doubt Grandad would have attempted it too often]. He bought her charms for birthdays and anniversaries, and to celebrate significant events in their lives.

 The '1' is an old pound note, folded up small, so she'd always have cash for an emergency.

The '21' charm was bought to celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary, he wouldn't have had the money to buy it for Babs' 21st birthday, but he didn't see why she should miss out. They didn't have as many children as the old woman who lived in the shoe - just my mum and aunt - but I love the way the charm opens up to show the figures inside. The telephone is because when they first met Babs was working at the exchange as an operator. [She always had a very correct telephone voice, giving their town and full number. My auntie still does. The rest of us are commoners and just say 'hello?']

The donkey and cart was purchased after a trip to Spain, and the heart with a keyhole is the clasp. The bracelet itself is tiny, and just about fits around my wrist.

The stork with baby swinging from its beak probably dates from when I was born, rather than my Mum, so would have been to celebrate their first Grandchild. The tiny ringing bells may have been a Christmas gift, or perhaps related to a wedding. The cuckoo clock also has moving parts, touch the pendulum and the bird pops out. The sails on the windmill go round, and there is a spinning disc, which when flicked with a nail will spell out 'I love you'. 

The cheque book charm contains tiny pieces of paper...

...which he had painstakingly drawn on and turned into cheques in her name. You can't tell quite how tiny the writing is from the photograph, but the letters saying 'B J Kinnersley' are only a millimetre high.  He's filled in all five, not just the one at the front, and must have used the tiniest of fine nibbed pens.

I am wearing it today, and smiling. I hope you have a happy Valentine's Day.

Lakota x

Please link up your posts below.

*This is a real place and has the longest place name in Britain. It means 'St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave'.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Ta-dah! Tuesday - Polar Bear Biscuits

My parents just came back from their holidays - a ferry round Norway and up to the Arctic circle, where they were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. Now I'm very jealous of this experience, but was slightly mollified to be given this polar bear cookie cutter on their return. I didn't exactly set out to collect cookie cutters - I just began buying them in shapes I knew my boys would enjoy, but then I started to get lucky about finding them in charity shops [remember the giant crab?] and have fully embraced it.They're very satisfying to collect - cheap, cute, come in many many different shapes and sizes and of course give you the perfect excuse to make and eat biscuits. I like the metal ones best, but why not raid the kids' play-doh cutters if they have some good shapes? Domestic Goddess and general smut-miester Nigella Lawson has a collection too, and whilst it is way larger than mine - the list she proudly gives in her book Feast does not include a polar bear. [Or a squirrel. Ha! Take that Nigella]

Anyway, you may remember that I mentioned wanting to learn to make proper iced biscuits - made famous by the company Biscuiteers, stocked in Harrods, Liberty and Fortnum & Mason and wildly expensive to buy ready made. Well, given that polar bears are white and that would mean no messing about with food colourings, I figured this cutter would give me the perfect excuse to practise. And who doesn't love polar bears?

[Now imagine if you will a period of time not unlike another ice-age. Glaciers slowly carving out new valleys. Civilisations rising and falling etc etc]

Ahem. Some hours later - and with copious amounts of royal icing now welded to our slate kitchen tiles - I had finally managed to knock up a fairly respectable batch of polar bears. Some of them may look a little more sheeplike than the mighty hunter of the frozen North technically should, but I didn't think it was bad for a first attempt. I also now have a new appreciation for why the damn things are so expensive, given how long I was wrestling with an icing bag. [The cookies themselves take no time, and you could of course just slosh some regular glacĂ© icing on and be done in minutes]


I used Nigella's recipe for cut-out cookies, which I will reproduce here, as I believe it's all over the net anyway. I used royal icing sugar for the icing, which means you don't have to mess about beating egg whites and so on.

Polar Bear Biscuits
90g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1 egg (Nigella says large but I used medium and it was fine)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cream the butter and sugar together til moussey looking (use a mixer, I do), then add the egg and vanilla extract and beat together. 
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in another bowl, then add to the mixture until combined. 
  • Squish the dough together into a fat disc, wrap in cling-film and allow to rest in the fridge for an hour.  
  • Roll out to about 0.5cm thick on a floured surface and cut out your polar bears.
  • Arrange on baking trays lined with greaseproof. They keep their shape well - important for this kind of biscuit - so you can put them fairly close together as long as they're not touching.
  • Cook in pre-heated 180c oven for around 10-12mins until they are just beginning to go golden around the edges.
  • Cool on wire racks.
When they're cool, you need to make a piping consistency royal icing to outline the bears with, and let this dry for 10 minutes or so before 'flooding' with runnier royal icing. I'm not sure I got the consistency quite right and had to push a lot of it around with the end of a spoon to fill in the gaps. Oh well, Valentine's day coming up - more practise required! I drew their little faces on using one of those pre-filled writing icing tubes. Not the easiest things to use, despite what the packaging would have you believe.

What have you been up to?

Lakota x

ps. Don't forget the giveaway here