Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

The work Halloween party was a huge success - the cake was gobbled up and we had many fine offerings this year, Here are some grainy iphone photos.






And today Ciaran and I bottled our wine! Just a reminder that you can read about our home brewing adventures at www.theloftbrewery.co.uk. The wine hung out in the demijohn a few weeks longer than it should have done but we finally got round to bottling it today. The siphoning process was the cause of much hilarity as the bottles fill up way quicker than you think. I've got a glass in front of my now so here's my thoughts upon tasting our first wine...

It smells of wine. It tastes like wine too but its so so sweet. It's the sort of wine you might get if you went to an Indian restaurant where they offered a free bottle of wine when you order a set menu.

We've got another 5 bottles so I might have more tasting notes once I've had a chance to get used to it. We did the test...can't remember what it's called? The one that tests the alcohol percentage. Apparently our wine is 3.9% so we're thinking of calling it something like 'Drivers Delight'. Though we did a test on the bottle if wine we drank with dinner and that came up as 0% which can't be right because I feel quite pissed. Possibly we're doing it wrong. Anyway we went to Lidle and bought a load of grape juice so we're going to crack on with the next batch soon.



Friday, October 29, 2010

Decorating a cake is not as easy as you think...

I optimistically started writing this post before I actually iced the cake, thinking that I could just slot in the photos afterwards and would be ready to post. Things didn't really go quite as smoothly as I thought, turns out icing a cake is hard! I've kept my original post but updated it in red with what actually happened.

I started off by baking a carrot cake. This is a Rachel Allen recipe which is available online here. I also have her book Bake which is a lovely recipe book, focusing mainly on cakes and breads but with a few savoury recipes too. Any recipe will do but I liked the fact that this one calls for a good amount of grated carrot.

I made this cake last night as there wouldn't have been enough time to let it cool before icing it. Have you ever iced a cake before letting it cool properly? It will look OK for a couple of minutes but then the heat from the cake will melt the icing and it will all subside and look like the saddest thing in the world. For decorative purposes I'm going to be using fondant icing. I don't really like fondant icing at all so to make up for this I cut the cake in half horizontally and filled it with cream cheese icing. I also smeared the top of the cake with the cream cheese icing to fill in all the lumps and bumps and create a smooth surface for the fondant to sit on.

* Update * The cream cheese icing oozed out of the middle and slipped down the sides creating little tumour like bulges at the base of the cake.
Phase two involved heating up some apricot jam and spreading this onto the cake to give the fondant icing something to stick to.

* Update * I skipped phase two.

Now its time for srs bsns. I went to three different supermarkets and none of them had the icing I was planning on buying (this icing if you're curious). Instead I bought plain white icing and some liquid food colouring and coloured the icing myself.

* Update * This was the most stressful thing I've ever done in my life. I had to add loads of food colouring to get a good colour and the icing basically turned to paint in my hands. I had to keep putting it in the freezer to let it harden up again.

I only managed to take three photos of the whole process:

White icing before I coloured it.

Mixing the yellow and red food colouring.


After this point I went to pick cup the rolled icing 'supporting it with my rolling pin' only to find it was the texture of a damp tissue. My fingers sank through it, it hung limply and stuck together before shredding apart. This is not as easy as it looked in all the demo videos I watched on you tube. Eventually I managed to cover the cake with a patchwork of orange and put it in the fridge to harden. After refreshing myself with some wine and a Chinese take away I took the green icing out of the freezer and found that it turned back to liquid as soon as I touched it. By this point I had had enough so I blobbed on some leaves and had done with it.

I'll take some photos of it at the party this evening and let you know how it goes down.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Every Halloween (and every Easter and Christmas come to think of it) we have a bake off at work. Those who bake compete against each other to be the bringer of the most impressive cake and those who don't bake bring a bottle of wine. The ratio of cakes to wine usually works out perfectly. In the past we have had home made Bakewell tart, marzipan petite fours, chocolate chip banana bread, peanut butter cookies, toffee apple cupcakes (Me!), ginger bread, Victoria sponge and Cinnamon buns.

This year I was inspired by this post on Epicute of a pumpkin shaped cake. Some Google research informed me that two cakes baked in a Bundt tin could be inverted to create a perfect pumpkin shape.

Bundt Tin

Well I don't have a bunt tin so I wont be doing that. Instead I will be making a delicious carrot cake with extra spices, juicy gratings of carrot and chopped Brazil nuts. I'm going to bake it in my cake tin which is slightly small in diameter and nice and tall. I'm going to put in extra baking powder to help it puff up nice and high. Then I'm going to cut it in half horizontally and spread a thick layer of vanilla cream cheese icing in between. Then I'm going to decorate it to look as much as a pumpkin as I can using fondant icing - this is the bit I'm most excited about! The baking is happening tonight and the decorating tomorrow night. I will update as I go - no doubt this will be a resounding success!

Here is a pumpkin made by some of my colleagues for the occasion:


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hello Autumn!

I love this time of year, everything good about Autumn and Winter is still ahead - Halloween, Bonfire night, Christmas Eve. I love winter clothes too, especially dresses and jumpers. Here's a few things I'm currently desiring...


From left to right: Silk blouse by Chloe, Angora jumper by Rag & Bone, Mitzy leather tote by Mulberry, Wednesday Adams dress by Cabbages & Roses (I saw this in their shop at the weekend the collar is detachable - so cute!), two tone loafers by Marc for Mark Jacobs

What's occurring this week? Every year at work we organise a Halloween party and everyone bakes. This year I'm baking a carrot cake which I'm going to decorate like a pumpkin - stay tuned.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Elvis is back in the building

I just wanted to share this cute story my Mum told me when we met up this weekend. There used to be an old lady who lived in our street who would walk up and down the street at night smoking cigarettes from a cigarette holder. Anyway she had a white cat called Elvis Presley. Elvis was a 'house' cat and would only leave the house for five minutes at a time, never straying too far. About 15 years ago the lady, lets call her Anne, died and my Mum assumed that Elvis had also bit the dust long ago. Anne's daughter in law now occupies the house and last week my Mum found her crying hysterically in the road knocking on doors asking if anyone had seen Elvis. It turned out that after about 19 years on this earth, Elvis had got frightened at the dustbin men that morning and run outside. After he had been gone 15 minutes, Anne's daughter in law, lets call her Susan began to get worried and after 24 hours she was inconsolable. That evening, at his usual dinner time, Elvis strolls back in through the cat flap as if it 'aint no thing.

This made me smile, the fact that Elvis is not only alive and kicking but isn't too old to be frightened by the dusbin men and camp out all night.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Home Sweet Home


It's done, I'm here! We spent Saturday packing the last of my things and driving them across town and Sunday finding homes for everything. We also did one of my favourite activities - emptying out the contents of all the cupboards and draws, cleaning them and putting everything back in! At this time of year I like to pay extra attention to the house - it's almost like a rush to get everything clean, organised and cosy before the cold weather comes and I spend more time inside. I'll share some pictures of my new neighbourhood over the coming weeks.

The above sampler can be purchased as a little kit here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Update

Just a quick one today to share some more photos of the shawl...




The colours here are way off - for some reason they've come out really yellow? The yarn is actually a really soft shade of moss green. My war against clothes moths is finally coming to an end. Every single item of clothing I own has either been washed or shoved in the freezer for a week. Most importantly this shawl and the remaining yarn escaped unscathed. The last stage will be to open my yarn stash which I keep in my Grandfathers old suitcase and inspect it for damage. Clothes moths are probably the most prevalent topic on this blog but honestly, nothing else induces the same fist shaking rage as delving into your wardrobe to find everything you love ruined.

I'm actually very excited to get home from work this evening and have a look at my stash - it's not very big and there won't be any (happy) surprises but it's somehow inspiring to have a range of textures and colours to pick up and feel, even if there only left overs not big enough for a real project. I'll try and share some pictures this evening.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I like to move it move it...

Actually I had totally forgotten how time and energy consuming moving house is! Especially with a full time job - trying to get things done in the 3 or 4 hours between getting home and falling asleep on the sofa is really hard. The last shipment of my belongings will be arriving next weekend so by the end of the month I hope to be settled in with all my things in their proper place and be able to spend my time making and doing again but for now I'm living in a world of ironing and cleaning.

I always find that when I've got the least amount of time to get anything done, my brain is flooded with ideas and my hands are itching to pick up some sewing or knitting. Actually the knitting is going really well. I have been wanting to share some pictures here for a while but just haven't got round to it. Hang on, I'm going to take one now...



I know this is a terrible iphone photo but I just wanted to prove that this does exist. I've been knitting the border for this shawl on the bus journey to and from work which adds up to about 2 hours a day. It's good to see it coming together now and it also feels nice to use those little 'dead' parts of the day creatively. I'm definitely one of those people who has to feel the pressure in order to work at their best. When I've had periods of time with nothing to do in the past I've never made the most of them like I thought I would.

Once I'm settled in my new place I'm looking forward to spending this autumn knitting the shawl, finishing the dress I began at the start of the summer, making home made Christmas decorations and Christmas cake!