Happy 3rd Birthday Boy!

My little boy turned 3 on Saturday!  Where has the last three years gone?!  Here’s what we got up to this year…

Birthday present
Birthday present
Cake inspection
Cake inspection
Victoria Sponge on the bottom and marble cake on the top
Victoria Sponge on the bottom and marble cake on the top
Pirate Birthday Cake
Pirate Birthday Cake
Pirate vanilla cupcakes
Pirate vanilla cupcakes
Chocolate buns that were decorated with chocolate butter icing and chocolate money
Chocolate buns that were decorated with chocolate butter icing and chocolate money (Joy of Baking Chocolate Cupcake recipe) The bun wrappers are from Tesco
Naked vanilla cupcakes
Naked vanilla cupcakes (Hummingbird Bakery recipe)
The theme was... Pirates!
The theme was… Pirates! Plates, Napkins and Table Cloth came from Sainsburys

We had a lovely day with people coming over from 10:30 in the morning and the last leaving at 18:30!  A very long and tiring day, but a very enjoyable one.  And as you can see, the dressing gown is being worn!

Autumn Colours

I seem to be drawn to rich, jewel colours this autumn/winter.  I find colours easier to work with at this time of the year as the saturation isn’t so searing.

Autumn Jewels - my palette for autumn!

Like the ones above – a palette I made on COLOURlovers.  I love the combination of teal and chocolate.  And plum works well with the rich brown as well.  The mustard adds some golden warmth and would be an accent rather than a solid for me.  Navy is my dark neutral or black.  Cream is my light neutral as I wash out if I wear pure white.  I seem to have chosen stronger, darker colours but all rich in tone.

When I make my Lady Grey coat (not likely to be this year – I don’t have the confidence yet…) I imagine it to be either teal or plum with a chocolate lining, finished with a flash of gold piping where the lining joins the facings inside the coat.

Other plans are for a satin Pendrell in teal, and maybe plum and a navy Beignette in a beautiful brushed cotton…  And of course my beret and fingerless mitts are in a tweedy teal too.  Oh, and if I get Colette’s Jasmine pattern for my birthday, I may consider a solid golden mustard piece.  Even if I said it’d be an accent colour two paragraphs ago.  Just look at Sarah Gabbart’s top she made for the Sew Weekly.  If that can’t change your mind, nothing will.

I love this so much!

This is the first time I’ve ever actually thought about what colours I’d like to wear and which suit me.  It’s helped focus me a little more.  I can understand why Colette’s Colour Palette Challenge is so popular!  I’m unlikely to create 8 pieces in 8 weeks, more like 8 pieces between now and spring.  But I’m not making any promises, or putting any pressure on myself.

Do you plan with colour like this, or are you much more of a sew with whatever pattern and colour combination inspires you at the time person?

Mmmm, Cookies!

Mango, Cranberry & Almond Cookies

I managed to do a little bit of baking this week!  I enjoy baking but finding time between cooking, being a Mum, a Wife, an employee, sister, daughter, aspiring seamstress and all the other things that we all try and juggle I don’t often find the time.  But I managed it this week and it was a quick fix – cookies!

I love this recipe as I can make the dough up and whilst its chilling in the fridge before its baked fit a job or two in.  Or as was the case encourage boy that going to sleep was a really good idea!

I have a fail safe (for me) cookie recipe that has worked every time for me.  Lovely crisp edges but still a bit of sqwudge in the middle – a bit gooey, a bit chewy.  I can’t remember where the recipe came from, it’s hand written in my rather battle-scarred cooking notebook.

I think it’s the use of two different sugars that helps these work.  The recipe states granulated but I now use caster sugar as I find I prefer the texture it gives.  The other thing that I feel is crucial to its success is the chilling of the dough between the mixing and baking.

It’s a really versatile recipe as the flavourings can be so easily changed.  The written version is for chocolate chips, may be with some nuts thrown in.  The current favourite here though is dried mango, dried cranberries and almonds.  I leave out the vanilla for this otherwise it all becomes a bit too much for me in the flavour department!  My husband will quite happily swap the almonds for chunks of plain chocolate though.  Smarties also work with this recipe, although the colours bleed a little on baking.

Anyway, here’s the recipe if you fancy doing a little baking:

300g Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1 teaspoon of fine salt (I normally only use 1/2)
170g unsalted butter, melted
215g soft light brown sugar
120g granulated sugar (I use granulated or caster, I prefer the texture caster sugar gives)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
300g of flavouring

Stir together the melted butter, sugars and vanilla.  Add the egg and yolk.  Beat well to ensure the egg is evenly distributed then stir in the vanilla.  Sift in the flour, bicarbonate and salt.  Fold in your flavouring so that its evenly distributed in the dough.

Cover the dough with cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190c.

When ready, put 1/4 size mounds (a large walnut size is what I go for) onto a greased baking tray.  I put 12 onto a 30cm x30cm tray.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are starting to turn golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the tray.  If you try to take them off too soon it’ll be a bit of a squishy disaster as they’re still quite soft.  Then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling and pop the next lot of dough in to cook!

Mmmmm, yummy!