Saturday, 31 December 2016


Well that's it all over for another year! There was lots of good food shared over three days, much laughter over silly games (reverse charades were a great hit this year)...

Some thoughtful gifts...

And baby cuddles.

So all in all a good Christmas... a happy Christmas but if I'm honest I found it absolutely exhausting. With eleven for supper on Christmas Eve, followed by twelve plus baby Logan here for lunch on Christmas day and seven extra sleeping overnight it was more than a little overwhelming. I may have been heard to mutter "I'm never doing that again" as my head hit the pillow on Sunday night but of course I'll have forgotten that by next year.

The days since have been calmer, beds have been stripped, laundry done, floors cleaned and there has been time to take some lovely long walks in some beautiful winter sunshine. Time to read, time to knit, time to watch TV (someone got the box set of series two of The Bridge) and generally time to stop and reflect on the year that has passed.

It was a year that started with the death of David Bowie, one of my teenage heroes, and continued with so many other well known celebrities leaving us. We've had the shock of Brexit and the election of Trump all of which pale into insignificance against the atrocities in Syria. The world sometimes feels like a frightening place.

On a personal level it has also been a year of changes and challenges. We started the year with my Mum living with us and Jacob back home struggling with severe depression and anxiety. Mum is now settled in her own flat and Jacob, although not better has managed to live back in Guildford and resume his studies. There are occasional blips when he retreats back home and stress levels rise, but ever the optimist I'm hopeful he will graduate in the summer. I had a year trying to establish a baking business alongside my textile practice. I've lost count of all the cakes I've made and although I'm still enjoying it (the Minion cake was made this week) I'm not convinced it is the way forward for me. There needs to be a lot more reflection on that over the coming weeks. I also managed to break my ankle which is still not completely right, we got ourselves a puppy, Hector, who is growing up into a beautiful dog, and despite finances being a bit tight we managed a fabulous weekend in Copenhagen... so a mixed bag and certainly not all bad.

And as for 2017... who knows. 
But I just hope that whatever the coming year holds it is a happy and healthy one for you all.
Happy New Year!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Advent 2016 - twenty four

Well after twenty four days there's not an awful lot left to say except thank you to all my blogging friends and followers, especially those who have stuck with me every day and have taken the time to read and sometimes leave comments. It makes it all worthwhile. I'm now going to spend the next couple of days catering on an industrial scale but also sneaking some time with our new grandson. After that, I might put my feet up!

May your holidays be happy and stress free. 

With much love and best wishes, Gina xx

Friday, 23 December 2016

Advent 2016 - twenty three

With pretty much all my baking orders done for this year I treated myself to a sparkly Christmas manicure yesterday afternoon. I can't wear nail polish or rings when I'm baking for clients so this was a real treat... Plus there was the added bonus of just sitting doing nothing for an hour and a half. Pure bliss!

I've told the men folk this means no heavy housework or hands in water for the next few days ( I didn't let on that gels are pretty indestructible!)

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Advent 2016 - twenty two

Never too late for a bit of last minute decorating is it? Origami stars made from wrapping paper... Yes, I know I should be wrapping presents but I got distracted. Instructions are here should you be so inclined.

I thought it would be fun to photograph them in front of the mirror... Then I noticed it needed cleaning which is why it's all a bit hazy..

Of course you could just make them and attach them to the front of cards like this one I received from a friend... For next year of course! Now what was I doing... ah yes, wrapping presents.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Advent 2016 - twenty one

After baking all the gingerbread biscuits at the weekend I still had a big ball of dough left so in one of those crazy moments that I seem to specialise in, I decided to make a gingerbread house. After all, nothing else urgent needs doing!

But of course, I didn't actually have enough left over dough so had to make another batch. So now I have a gingerbread house and another batch of dough left over in the fridge. It's like when you decide to crochet a blanket from your left over yarn and then realise you haven't got enough, so go out and buy another twenty balls of yarn and have even more left over... but I digress.

I'm thinking a gingerbread family and garden sheds...

But perhaps I ought to concentrate on things that actually need doing. I did get all the mince pies baked though!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Advent 2016 - twenty

It might be day twenty of my advent posts but it is also the twentieth of the month which means it is time for the Cake Slice Bakers reveal. The four choices from Roger Pizey's World Class Cakes were a bit mixed this month. There was a coffee and walnut cake which the book says "every family has a recipe for this classic cake"... And I do, so not much of a challenge there.

There was a classic Gingerbread, again something for which I already have a fail safe recipe, admittedly without that very fancy iced doily effect but really, who has time for anything that fiddly in December?

The Carribean Coconut cake did sound rather nice but more of a summer cake in my opinion.

So that left a rather splendid Torta Gianduja... a flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake from Piedmont in Italy.

As I had to bring the dessert for our book club meeting this sounded perfect, which was lucky really. Mostly it was straightforward to make, easy to cook  and once baked it was extremely easy to handle... it turned out of the tin easily and sliced like a dream. The only part of the recipe that didn't really work was mixing the cocoa powder with the water. It was meant to create a batter... mine was a very thick lumpy mess which I would never describe as a batter, despite adding extra water. I had to beat it into the melted chocolate to make a smooth mixture, but it was just a slight hiccup. .

Because the resulting cake was wonderful! It was rich and chocolately with a fudge like texture

I decorated mine with caramel dipped hazelnuts... each hazelnut was speared onto a cocktail stick before dipping into caramel, made by heating 100g caster sugar with a tablespoon of water, and then hardened by suspending from my unique device pictured below!

As there was caramel left over I stirred some more hazelnuts into it and poured the mixture onto baking parchment to harden. I then whizzed the mixture in the food processor to make a praline which I sprinkled on the top of the cake, although you could just use more ground hazelnuts to decorate.

I stirred a couple of spoonfuls of the hazelnut praline plus a tablespoon of Amaretto into some whipped cream to serve with the cake. I think the hazelnut cream was almost as popular as the cake... in fact I spotted one person just eating spoonfuls of the cream!

It was certainly a very popular book club dessert... and so good I made it again for my other book club's Christmas party!

Should you want to try it yourself ,it is definitely worth the effort, so this is my version:

Torta Gianduja (adapted from World Class Cakes)
You will need  an 9" springform pan, greased and lined. Preheat the oven to 155 deg C (135 fan), 310 deg F
  • 185g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 165g soft unsalted butter
  • 70g cocoa powder
  • 60 - 100 ml hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto
  • 300g soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 265g ground hazelnuts
  • pinch of salt
  •  Melt the chocolate with the butter in a heavy based pan over a very low heat (or if you prefer, in a bowl over a pan of simmering water)
  • Mix the hot water with the cocoa pwder until you have a smooth batter (or a lump... see above) then add the vanilla and Amaretto
  • Mix the cocoa batter into the chocolate mixture to form a smooth mixture (this required some heavy duty whisking to get it smooth)
  • In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and thick. Stir into the chocolate mixture.
  • Fold the ground hazelnuts into the mixture.
  • In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until you have soft peaks but take care not to over whisk. Fold these into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes, until the edges are firm. It will still be slightly soft in the centre.
  • Cool completely in the tin before turning out and then decorate the top with a sprinkling of icing sugar and some more ground hazelnuts or praline or caramel nuts... or any combination you feel like.
  • Serve with hazelnut cream (see above) or just plain whipped cream.


Monday, 19 December 2016

Advent 2016 - nineteen

I admit I'm beginning to run out of steam with these advent posts but I can't stop now so it's an old photo today. But this was what I was doing yesterday afternoon.

Forty eight gingerbread biscuits iced and ready for collection today. I've only got nine dozen mince pies, five packets of biscotti and a first birthday cake to make this week and then I can bigin to think about what we'll be eating this Christmas!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Advent 2016 - eighteen

Job done

Next year I really will start earlier.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Advent 2016 - seventeen

It feels yesterday's post is a hard act to follow... But the tree is up!

No. three son came round for supper this week.

Joe: "where's the Christmas tree?"
Me: "In the boot of the car"
Joe: "Well it's not much good there is it, shall we put it up?"

So we did... Thank you Joe, otherwise it could well have stayed in the boot of the car until January at the rate I'm going. However, all the other decorations that he helped bring down from the loft are still in their boxes in the hall... Maybe tomorrow?

Friday, 16 December 2016

Advent 2016 - sixteen

One beautiful baby,
Logan William Harry, born 13th December 2016, 7lb 14oz

One very proud Grandad...

And one equally thrilled Nanni-G

Congratulations Kirsty & Adrian
What a wonderful Christmas gift

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Advent 2016 - fifteen

I'm still baking cakes but happy to have come to the end of all these Christmas cakes this week... Ten in total. On the upside, one of them is for us so I have actually finished our cake before Christmas Eve which is always something of an achievement.

Then yesterday I had this one to finish off... Another baby bump cake for one of my neighbours.

And talking babies... There is some news but you'll have to pop back tomorrow for that!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Advent 2016 - fourteen

On Friday I treated myself to a morning out at a workshop with Elspeth Jackson making rag rug wreaths. Elspeth was a great teacher and we learned how to make loopy rugs as well as shaggy rugs before embarking on our wreaths. Not only did she make it all seem so simple she also provided all the materials we needed, so it was a really relaxed workshop

Of course there wasn't time to finish a wreath in just a three hour class but I've been adding to it in snatched moments since Friday and have finally finished it off with some silver bauble sprays and a ribbon. It is now hanging on my door... the first of the decorations up!

Of course, I now want to make an actual rug and it's on my sixty x sixty to do list... Like I need another craft in my life!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Advent 2016 - thirteen

When I was just a little girl, many, many years ago, we would often go into London to the West End to see Selfridges' windows and the lights in Regents Street at this time of year.

But nowadays all I have to do is stroll down the street...

And every year we are treated to a spectacular display, that is quite the talk of our village.

I know it might not be to everyone's taste, but it's harmless fun and makes us smile. My friend who lives opposite calls it Disneyland...  my photos really don't do it justice.

And that reminds me... It's probably time I took the decorations down from the loft!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Advent 2016 - twelve

Not very much reading getting done this month... What a surprise! But I have recently finished this fun story, Man at the Helm, from Nina Stibbe. I've read her autobiographical letters to her sister "Love, Nina", and saw the TV show based on them and thoroughly enjoyed both. At first I wasn't too sure about this as I didn't think it was going anywhere but I really warmed to this story of two sisters, trying to find a new man for their Mum who has fallen on hard times. It is joyful and funny and about a lot more than just "getting a man". It is a fabulous observation of a disfunctional family. I think there are similarities with the family in "Love, Nina" and I imagined the mum in the story as Helena Bonham Carter who played the Mum in the TV series.

I've also rediscovered the library recently. We always used the library when I was a child, and I used it constantly when my boys were small but when our little local branch closed I got out of the habit of travelling into town to borrow books. I would probably never have read this if I hadn't spotted it on the library shelf so I'm determined to keep up this library habit! Which reminds me... this is due back today!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Advent 2016 - eleven

Following on from yesterday's Christmas Card post... Some more hand made cards. Once again I joined in with Amy's Christmas Card Swap and this year I was paired up with Tricky and his family who live in Spain. This week I received this beautiful Santa card made by his children. I love the way his beard is made from their hand prints... thank you little Wolf Cubs x

In return I sent this Christmas tree, stitched onto metal... even the sequins were stitched on by machine! It was one of the projects I did with my class before the end of term.

It is a small but lovely way to reach out and connect to other people so thank you Amy for organising again... And Happy Christmas to Tricky, Carly and the wolf Cubs!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Advent 2016 - ten

After my lovely day out in Cambridge it was a dash back home for the December gathering of our stitching group, a quick tidy up, light the fire, put out wine and snacks... And then write their Christmas cards. Except because my mind works in weird and mysterious ways, with less than an hour before they arrived I decided I would also make their cards... why do I do this to myself?

I put layers of ribbon stitched in straight lines onto felt, cut them into triangles and stitched them back down onto a small piece of linen on paper to look something vaguely like a Christmas tree. Hey presto... Six cards in half an hour!

And then I did it all again on Wednesday for the gathering of our book club... Except I made Christmas puddings too.

I've bought the rest of my cards... Just a little matter of getting them written and delivered now!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Advent 2016 - nine

On Tuesday I had a day out from the relentless lists and checking them twice and instead took myself off to Cambridge for the day. None of braving the crowds and the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping for me. Instead I went to the relative calm of the Fitzwilliam museum to see a glorious exhibition of illustrated manuscripts all about Colour.

And if that wasn't special enough on its own, I had the pleasure of meeting up with a dear friend whom I've meet through blogging, who was here all the way from New York. It's a couple of years since we last met so it was lovely to catch up and see the exhibition together.

After the exhibition we met with another mutual friend, also originally made through blogging and the three of us enjoyed a leisurely lunch and a stroll around Cambridge.

And I came home inspired to try my hand at egg tempera painting again... Which of course I haven't touched since my course two years ago.

Maybe next year?

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Advent 2016 - eight

I love wrapping presents. Everything from making a neatly wrapped parcel (the trick is to use the right sized piece of paper) to decorating them with ribbons and trimmings gives me great pleasure. I have a box where I collect papers, tissue, ribbons and trims just for wrapping. And I also love stickers, so when I spotted these beautiful little stickers in the Bottle Branch Etsy shop I knew I could satisfy both my love for stickers and present wrapping in one fell swoop.

Elizabeth takes beautiful photographs of plant material and then uses them to make exquisite prints, cards and stickers. Perfect for beautifully wrapped presents.

Although if I don't clear up my desk soon I'm not going to have beautifully wrapped anything!