Monday, 28 December 2015

In the Blink of an Eye

As ever, the build up to Christmas seems to go on forever and then before you know it is all over in the blink of an eye. For me this year the build up was all about baking for my new business, which was wonderful and exhausting in equal measures and far more successful than I ever imagined, but it did rather mean that everything else was pushed to the background. But despite my occasional middle of the night panics that Christmas wasn't going to happen for us this year, it did of course happen and for the most part was just as good as ever.

Decorations and the tree got put up in between rolling pastry and whisking up cakes. Joe helped me decorate the tree which was particularly lovely as he wasn't with us for Christmas this year.

My two eldest sons Ben and Sam, plus my youngest Jacob were all here for Christmas but Joe has taken himself off travelling again. This time only for five weeks to Peru and Bolivia and we did manage a quick Facebook message on Christmas Day but he was still missed.

What made things considerably easier this year was we all decided on a present amnesty in the family (prompted by my lack of time to go shopping... either in person or on the internet). There were still odds and ends exchanged and I gave everyone food hampers of homemade biscuits and jams etc but no-one felt obliged to go out and buy more "stuff" that none of us needed. It was wonderful and I can honestly say none of us missed the frenzy of present opening that is often Christmas morning.

When I told one friend this is what we were doing she was aghast... "What will you do if you don't have presents to open?" Well, we talked to each other, we laughed, we played games...

We went on walks and admired the seasonal berries...

As well as some not very seasonal blossom... what is going on with this weather?

There was also plenty of seasonal eating and drinking with much festive fizz consumed

And some not so traditional desserts (a chocolate pavlova should you ask). But I can honestly say that not one of us missed the present buying madness and not one of us feels hard done by or as though we have missed out.

Despite not eating meat myself, I cooked a turkey (locally reared in our village!) which over three days of various family members and friends visiting has been totally consumed... the last of it going in a curry this evening. To accompany it I made a lentil curry using a curry kit I was given by one of the Cambridge Eat-Up members, Pina...

I put in a few extra tomatoes and would have added a scattering of chopped coriander if I'd had some handy, which I didn't, but it was still very good as a main course veggie curry. And as might be expected the Turkey Korma curry eaters had some as a side dish too!

And so there we are... another Christmas done and dusted and not being very good at relaxing and doing nothing, I'm filling the limbo between Christmas and New Year, clearing out my sewing room and reflecting on how I'm going to combine my new baking venture with my textile work. But one thing is for sure... food is going to feature heavily in 2016!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas

I would just like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas! 
Gina xxx

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas Cards

It seems to have become quite the thing not to send Christmas cards these days but to give the money that would have been spent to charity instead... which is all very good and worthy, but I actually like getting Christmas cards. On more than one occasion a card received has prompted me into getting in touch and meeting up with someone I'd not seen for a long time. And I like to catch up with snippets of news etc that come along with cards.

So when Amy of Love Made My Home suggested a simple card swap between bloggers I decided to join in. My partner was Liz from Love those Cupcakes and this was the gorgeous hand crafted card I received from her.

 A few of us also sent cards to Amy as a thank you for organising the swap and I was pleasently surprised to receive this back from Amy... another beautiful hand crafted card.

I've received quite a few hand made cards this year so have displayed them all together beside my fireplace. These are special ones that will be kept and not recycled.

And then this morning, just in time for this post, this gorgeous hand painted teacup card arrived all the way from New York from fellow blogger Frances of City Views, Country Dreams. I can't tell you how delighted I was to open this and how privileged I feel to receive one of these unique cards, which will be framed and hung in my kitchen where I can see it all year long.

So a huge thank you to Liz, Amy and Frances!

And should you want ideas on what you might do with your cards after Christmas (the mass produced ones, not special ones!) I've a couple of ideas from past blog posts... just click on the links here and here!

Friday, 18 December 2015


Remember these snowflakes that I was making back in November?

Possibly not, but I promised you a cake free post and as there has been nothing but cakes around here for the past few weeks I'm having to go back to November to find anything vaguely non cake related! I never did manage to make fifty of the snowflakes as planned but finished thirty six in time for the Christmas tree festival in our church during the last weekend before the start of Advent.

Various individuals and village organisations took on the challenge of decorating Christmas trees to the theme of "Christmas Carols". Mine was "See Amid the Winter's Snow" hence the snowflakes... and fortunately as the tree was small there were plenty of snowflakes and I didn't need fifty.

There were nineteen trees in total so I won't show you all of them... but this was "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen" from the cricket club.

"Carol of the Bells" from the Brownies

"Away in a Manger" from the church toddler group

and "King Jesus Hath a Garden" from our drama group, which I also had a hand in making as we had a fun session one evening doing the tissue paper flowers.

Just a small selection of the many beautiful trees on display and not a cake in sight. In fact, I've not baked a single cake or mince pie today... but by this time next week I'll have made over 340 mince pies and sixty mini Christmas cakes not to mention numerous and various other baked goods. I am enjoying this new venture but thank goodness Christmas is only once a year!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Cake, cake and... More cake!

I remember the days when I was a regular blogger with a wide range of interesting things to write about (well, I thought they were interesting). When I also had time to read and comment on your blogs too... but times have changed and I'm hardly ever here and when I am all I can talk about is cake. I fear I will bore you all to bits and you will abandon me in droves, but nevertheless as I have just found a spare half hour to sit down (after delivering 29 desserts to the local pub tonight) I bring you more cake...

The week started with a lovely Christmas market in the church where to be fair I sold as many stitched items as I did baked goods... and then promptly spent every penny buying things from other stall holders! After that my baking week got underway in earnest... mostly more mince pies... lots more mince pies but a few Christmas cakes too.

First of all there was this little 6" cake decorated with a holly garland...

Then this larger one... the request was for classic decoration.

Another which had fruits and nuts rather than marzipan and icing...

And finally, because I was in the groove I finished a cake for us too. I don't think I have ever finished my Christmas cake so early! There won't be much else done for Christmas with all the food orders I have for next week but at least we'll have cake!

And then I finished the week at Art Van Go for their rather lovely "Bizarre" and was relieved to find I can still remember how my sewing machine works!

And seeing that last photo and spotting the crochet snowflakes I've remembered I was going to tell you all about them too... but I'll save that for another day and maybe you'll all come back to read a post without cake!

Friday, 4 December 2015

A Festive Five on Friday

For the past five years I have done 24 advent posts during December, in the lead up to Christmas. I thought about it this year but unusually for me common sense prevailed... which as just as well really, because here we are four days in and my feet have barely touched the ground. My Mum is moving and is coming to stay with us for a while as her house has sold but her new flat is not ready. This has involved a lot of clearing out rooms, packing stuff in boxes, as well as still putting stuff back into my lovely new kitchen. And meanwhile the baking is continuing at quite a pace. So, by the skin of my teeth I bring you... A festive five on Friday!

1. There have been lots of mince pies baked... And consumed already! 

2. A couple of batches of Rocky Road made too... some was taken to Cambridge last night to go into goody bags. I met up with a lovely group of new friends, all members of the same Facebook group of food bloggers, photographers, food lovers and friends, where we had a fabulous meal at The Pint Shop, laughed a lot, got to know each other... And brought home goody bags!

3. Today I've finished off another dozen mini Christmas cakes, some orders and some to be taken to a Christmas market tomorrow. There will be another couple of dozen of these being made over the next week.

4. Gingerbread made and decorated for tomorrow's market too...

5. And just to show it's not only baking round here, a couple of festive lanterns were finished off in my last class of this year. I would have loved to have written up a tutorial for these but by the time I finished writing, it would probably be Easter. Maybe next year?

I almost forgot... The winner of the lovely Cambridge cards was Vera. Do get in touch with your address if you are reading Vera! ( that doesn't really count as six things, does it?)

I hope to back before too long, but I have 258 more mince pies to make in the next couple of weeks!

Joining in with Amy for Five on Friday.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Apricot & Fig

The painter and decorator finished in the kitchen at about 4pm on Friday and the fitter finished off the skirting boards at about 6 pm. Cutting it fine even by my standards.

 Fortunately I had managed to package up some mini Christmas cakes and several packets of biscotti earlier in the week.

But Saturday turned into a baking frenzy of mincepies...

Gingerbread biscuits...

And if you will allow me to say so,,, the most amazing cranberry and clementine Bundt cake, rich with white chocolate and soaked fruit yet light and fragrant too. I may have got a little over enthusiastic with the spray-on glitter though... a little over excited too!

There was also a triple layer gingerbread and caramel cake...

As well as a gluten free almond and clementine cake. There was also some very naughty Rocky Road but that disappeared before I took a photo.

And despite all the last minute rush, everything was ready for my Tasting Day and launch of my new venture "Apricot and Fig" on Sunday afternoon.

People came all afternoon and there was a definite buzz and excitment. Lots of cake was sampled, lots of cake was bought and even more was ordered. I virtually sold out of all these jams, jellies and chutneys

By the end of the day I was exhausted but left happy feeling that I might actually make a success of this.
Meanwhile this week there has been more embroidery, lots of shifting of boxes and furniture and I'm still exhusted... but that's all a story for another time!

Don't forget to leave a comment on this post if you would like to have a chance to win a set of Cambridge Christmas cards.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


Coming from London, I am a city girl at heart. Even though I have lived in a small village for over twenty five years now and have no desire to live anywhere else, I still enjoy the buzz and pace of city life. Fortunately we do have Cambridge on our doorstep, which is a particularly beautiful and vibrant city... with a very lively food scene. I have recently joined an online group in Cambridge for poeple who like to make food, write about food, photograph food... and most of all eat food!

Through this group I have met Cambridge based artist Naomi Davies who has produced these beautiful pen and watercolour drawings of wintery scenes around the city, that she has made into Christmas cards.

 They really do conjure up a feeling for the city... it's hard to pick a favourite.

But best of all Naomi has sent me a set of these cards and although I really would like to keep them all for myself, I thought it would be a festive gesture of appreciation for everyone of you who keeps reading my wittering to give them away! All you have to do is leave me a comment on this post and after one week I will pick a name out of a suitable vessel to find the winner of the set of cards

Meanwhile I am trying to get some festive baking underway... cakes, mincemeat, pies etc as I have a tasting day on Sunday to launch my new business. I'd like to tell you that the kitchen is all finished and ready but I'm still working around tradesmen, ladders and the occasional bucket of paint! Maybe by Sunday?

I've also had a special order this week to make a Slavski Kolac or Slava Cake which is a traditional Serbian dish made for family saint's days, a yeasted enriched dough a little like a brioche. Our friend Pete wanted me to make it for a family get together this coming weekend as it was something his Mum always used to make. As it was something new for me I decided I'd better have a trial run.

This afternoon Pete and his wife Janet came over for a cup of tea and a trial tasting!  And the verdict... almost as good as his Mum's... which was good enough for me. Now let's hope the real version turns out as well as this one!

Then it's back to more baking ready for Sunday... where luckily for me Naomi will be bringing some more of her cards so I will be able to buy a set for myself. Don't forget to leave a comment if you would like a chance to win. And take a look at some of Naomi's other lovely drawings: