Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Why a girl needs emergency chocolate cake stashed in the freezer...

I do and I'm a girl, well a grown up mummy lady but I do *need* emergency chocolate cake stashed in my freezer.

Sometimes only chocolate cake will do and I am well apt to cope with what life throws my way if I know there is a chocolate sponge ready to be slathered in chocolate buttercream available to defrost at any given time I may need it.
It's a simple strategy really, whenever I make chocolate cake (Nigella's all in one recipe in Feast is my go to), I make a double batch, that is four sandwich layers rather than two and bung two of them in the freezer *in case of emergency*.  It works for me as my local Sainsburys only sells sour cream by the 300ml tub and the basic recipe requires half that amount.  It is sensible then to use it all up, no? Besides I am a double, triple, quadruple batch type of a cook.  It's practical and means I can justify using huge pots and long handled wooden spoons. Any excuse for that in my kitchen makes me a happy haggis.

I also make sure I have a supply of luxurious dark chocolate in my baking drawer and I'm good to go.

 My boys love their chocolate cake and it is always their choice if they fancy some cake resting in the kitchen, on a cake stand or pretty vintage plate, ready to be sliced after school.

I like mine with a cup of tea served in a lovely cup.

If there was no emergency chocolate cake it would take so much longer to use my scrummy dark chocolate up or use pretty cake stands or vintage china or eat alongside cornishware teacups and saucers or make my boys happy after a hard day at school.

Emergency and essential  chocolate cake stashed in my freezer is a must!


Find me on Twitter and Instagram as jammypudding.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The day I made lemon curd and embroidered a pretty jar topper...

So I am asking why oh why oh why oh effing why haven't I made lemon curd before?
I mean it
I love lemons, adore them, cannot think of a tastier flavour of sponge. There are few better smells in the world and they rock yellow like no human could.
Yet until very recently I hadn't ever made the effort to make homemade.  I had this recipe from the lovely Fishy and bonny Mrs B (whose shared foodie blog I miss with all my stomach and would bribe them to post again) bookmarked for an age and had copied it into my favourite treat notebook.  I mean for yonks and yonks!
Anyhoo, I have no excuse and if I had known how effing easy peasy lemon squeasy it was going to be to make I would [like to think I'd] have done it sooner.

 It is the best lemon curd I have ever eaten and had to take Mrs B's advice and pair it with my favourite scone recipe with added poppy seeds.

There was enough for just about two jars becauseI didn't use standard sizes. I knew once I saw those golden filled jars I had to get sewing, sorry embroidering (see still have issues with the names).

Still wanting Robert Plant to squeeze ma lemon.  That will never change whenever and everytime I think of lemons

 Says what it was, lovely lemon curd.

If you have never tried making it, please do.  You will be rewarded with heaven in every mouthful.

Some strange people, namely Mr Biscuit are not impressed by lemons, fools and numpties one and all. He is both, trust me!


Find me on Twitter and Instagram as jammypudding.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Oh my, I love to embroider...part 1.

I have always sewn since way back as a wee lass learning at primary school.  I was taught 'cooking and crafts' by Mrs M whom I remember enjoyed the sun. As in 'looked like an old leather handbag' liked the sun and wore an incredible amount of ugly gold jewelery and had pillar box red talons.  Not nails, dear readers, t-a-l-o-n-s!! Her hands freaked me out because she she would insist on keeping those rings on when she had her hands in flour.  To this day I hate to see someone baking with rings on and never ever, not on your nelly, do I keep mine on.  Any kind of food under someones rings gives me the boak!  Worse still under those talons.  I blame Mrs M for me never wearing nail varnish either.  Put me off for life. The look of her garish, leathery hands has stayed with me even if she was the person who taught me to sew hexagons together and bake cakes.  *shudder*
But I was hooked (not by her talons which would have held me prisoner, pinned forever) and since then I have always felt at home with a needle in my hand.  Later, in my teens, my mum and dad got me a second hand sewing machine. I used it loads, altering things I got in charity shops and generally playing about with it.  I have never fallen in love with a machine as much as with sewing by hand.  There is something so methodically comforting about hand sewing.  It soothes my soul.
Until recently I feel I have only dabbled in embroidery.  Even back in spring I was waxing lyrical about that. Dabbled because in my head embroidery is quite specifically defined.  That is, what I do, the sewing I usually do, is not embroidery. I suppose, for me, embroidery is prettifying, embellishing with stitches.  I don't know why in my head I think I didn't do it.  I am a loon as it's obvious I do embroider and always have. I was just calling it sewing, which it is, duh!!

A while back I bought Alicia Paulson's Daisychain sampler pattern from her shop because I was going to learn how to embroider properly (right, I know, thicko alert).  Ignoring the fact that I knew how to do quite a lot of the stitches described in it, 'I sew not embroider' was imbedded deep. Oh my it was a revelation, I found the thing I love to do more than anything.  I am all about a needle in hand.  I had started to get that when I was sewing thousands of hexies together by hand.  I enjoyed it way too much even with the pain of aching joints and getting spiked under nails and through fingers.  I felt hardcore folks!  But I had found 'my thing'. The sampler was going to be my way of practicing new stitches with something at the end of it.  I wasn't a fan of alphabet things, well I thought I wasn't.  I am all over breaking assumptions in crafting!  I loved the end result.  'I made that' was a grin plastered to my face!

Here's some shots...

Once finished I put it in a frame and it now hangs in my bedroom reminding me of the joy I had sewing it. My boys and I ask each other what letter is our favourite and before we know it we each have said pretty much all the letters. It is that pretty!

Once this was finished I moved on to a new project called 'Crafty Shelves' which I will save for another day.  Wouldn't want to bombard you with too much gorgeousness at once.  I thought we could spread it out for longer appreciation of the joys of embroidery.  You agree, yes?


Find me on Twitter and Instagram as jammypudding.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Why I love camping, glamping, holidaying in a tent...

I do.
It's just lovely.
This year we went up north a few hours in to the Scottish Highlands, the land of midgies and mouintains.  Our campsite in the Rothiemurchus  Estate (near Aviemore)....let me rephrase that. We got to pitch our tent in the woods which happend to have a (fanatastic, clean, refreshingly unisex) toilet/shower/dishwashing block in it.  We literally found a spot to camp for the piddly price of 152 pounds for seven nights.  Don't let the cheapness fool you, we weren't slumming it.
Now, our tent is massive...

See? Big right?

If I could pass on one tip about tent choosing or buying a tent, is get bigger than the number who sleep in it.  Our tent sleeps six even though we are a family of four.  You need the living space for dodgy (normal UK) weather.  You need to be able to take your outside furniture inside and still have enough room for a cooking area.  As it turns out having a canopy that attaches to the front of our huge tent means we haven't had to move indoors yet as a canopy simply means we can stay seated outdoors and not be exposed to wind and rain.  We can still eat out there and still barbeque.  We have born witness to so many families squeezed into a 'perfect fit' tent in the pouring rain.  Get a bigger tent to 'live' in and if you can a canopy for more of an outdoorsy time of it.  I must admit that I refuse to do any type of camping that does not involve being able to stand up inside a tent.  We used to rent holiday cottages and since downgrading price wise to camping, I still want to be comfortable.  I don't want to have to crawl into spaces and sit on the floor. No way no how.

We pitched next to a burn surrounded by trees. That burn was a lot of fun for my boys and even though there was a couple of falling in incidents (one of which was mine but I still argue I did a ladylike sit down.  Okay I was a bit tipsy and my boys urged me to do the obviously obligatory 'You've been Framed' fall in the burn.  Unfortunately being drunk ( did I mention that?) I was a little eager and 'sat down' before anyone got their camera ready.  My boys were not impressed missing out on 250 smackers!!  I really didn't slip in on purpose but still too soon.  It felt lovely to my drunken bottom!).....but oh my it was a lovely spot.  Running water is a heavenly sound.  We saw loads of red squirrels which I have never seen in my life before even though I have tried and failed on many visits to the Highlands. They are so cute and very fast.  The mister manged to get a photo but you have to be quick.

You can spot the wee beastie in the middle of the shot.

 I love the sound of rain on a tent roof which is just as well as it rained loads but as I said it didn't dampen our outdoor life at the tent. It does get cold at night though.  No sleeping bags for us but duvets and lots of woolly crochet blankets and wool blankets underneath the airbeds.  You really need them.  I know sleeping bags are warm but who wants to sleep in a tube.  I don't.  Even in the height of summer with scorchio days, nights are freezing up north in Scotland.
Here's my Biscuits' bedroom...

Necessary midgie putoff-er.

We used the lidded bbq of an evening to keep warm, sitting out once the boys were cooried up in bed, in the glow of candelight drinking tea and chatting.  It was bliss.

 And just look at this view from up the Cairngorm mountain...

 It was driech but it really wouldn't be a fair representation of Scotland if it wasn't.

We traveled up the funicular (which is one of the best words EVER!) railway which was really cool (even if I still got travel sick on the way down, the shandy lightweight I am).
We loved hanging out at our tent, having scrummy one pot dinners and tasty bbq's.  We had tasty lunches out and about, lovely walks, got soaked, ate scones and drank lots of tea. What gets better than that? Crafting, you say? Well I did some of that too.
I have the camping bug well and truly now and plans are afoot for getting a van next year so we can pop off whenever we like.  One negative thing is the packing of the car, roof and trailer but next year it will all go into one van AND we will manage to take our bikes too.  Heaven or what?


You can find me on Twitter and Instagram as jammypudding.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Blogging and lack thereof...

I cannae be arsed, there I said it. 
I think about my wee blog and I just have nothing to say. Not a thing (or so I thought, well because obviously right now I am writing this post).  I could say I have lost my blogging mojo but that doesnae sit right with me either.  I just think honestly I cannae be arsed because really I am lazy.  I like being creative out there in the thing that is the 'world wide web' but I simply have discovered a quicker way of doing it. A quicker way of posting photos and a quicker response time.  My underlying impatience has won out so yes I adore Instagram.  It is an easy fix but, BUT, like many things I am starting to yearn for a slower pace.  Maybe I want to come back to my wee blog space and take my time again.  To ponder over things rather than give into the random, the now, the 'this just happend' or the 'I just made this'.  I love random and I love quick and for this reason I hardly ever even switch on Hortensia (my laptop) because I have an iphone even though the screen is tiny and typing is a serious pain the the below stairs. It's quick and easy and I like quick and easy (titter yee not!). A habit of such things has been formed and you know what? I miss my blogging friends who are not on Instagram or Twitter but unfortunately many of my favourite bloggers (I assume, like me) have lost their blogging enthusiasm also.  It takes way too long to write up a post and I am always curious about those bloggers who manage posts every other day if not everyday.  The whole 'professional' blogger is a discussion for another day but a lot of people seem to keep up the momentum when I cannot find the energy or enthusiasm for it at all. 

I have a review to write (sorry for the delay dotcomgiftshop) but I haven't got around to it.  I have been sewing lots and baking lots and knitting and crocheting and holidaying and reading and planning and well lots and lots of things we all do all the time and not felt the urge to share ANY it here at all. It just seems like too much effort and too much time taken up to do it.  *sigh*

So what to do?  Do I shut it down, delete, move on and forget about it?  Do I make an effort for whatever reason to plough on?  Do I do it differently so it doesn't eat into my time so much?  Do I NOT make a decision about what to do at all? 

Go with the flow.
See what happens.
Maybe get around to it or not.

Not give a shit either way because in the big scheme of things it's only a blog?

It is not cumpulsary.
It is not an obligation.
It shouldn't be another chore on life's long list of chores.

Presently and for a while it has been a chore.  Something I feel I have been neglecting willfully and with no guilt whatsover if I am honest but I wonder, should I put it to bed and let it sleep an endless sleep or revive it.

I am glad to say I do not have to answer.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Pondering the 'summer' hols.

We are into the second week of the summer hols here folks and I may or not be giving a lovely long list of activities that my Biscuits and I have been up to but alas not.  For one they are of an age now (11 and  8 1/2) where they tend to have their own plans for the day and don't need me to interfere with them. Things like crafting or baking together are rare and only to be enjoyed when they are 'in the mood'.  I remember when they were small and there was a rotation of things to keep them busy all day.  They choose their own these days.  They have been glued to the PS3 as we got them a treat of a new game for the end of the year, good reports etc.  I don't know about you but on one income, new computer games are a rarity in our house. I don't have a problem [in the main] with them playing them either. I monitor, force breaks and think what a great thing they are for rainy days at the beginning of a long holiday from school.  Feeling the freedom of being able to play computer games all day because you don't have to go to school is a wonderful feeling.  Besides the novelty wears off and they naturally look to other things to entertain themselves soon enough.  Going out is not fun at the mo.  They have tried going out to play but it didn't take much to put them off and bring themselves home again.  This kind of constant rain does interfere with playing out as it puts them off from stepping out of doors in the first place.
I have to say too we don't believe in providing constant stimulation for them in the form of lots of days out either. Well of the costly variety anyways.  Rain is a problem regarding the free sort as long walks, picnics etc are simply not as fun in the [this incessant] rain. I suppose we want them to learn to find ways of entertaining themselves without having to pay for entertainment and honestly we cannot afford it and it wouldn't be right to show them that you do it anyway.  Don't I sound cheap??  I suppose it's finding the balance between letting them play/live life using their imagination etc and all the external things available to entertain. I suppose to we want [expensive] trips to things like the cinema to be a treat too.
I always think too that as parents we worry over whether they are out or in and what they do.  Lots of 'shouldn't they be' when really you can see when your kiddies are content and you are just worrying about what 'happy' is brought on by.  As grown ups I think we obsess about 'happiness' but kiddies just get on with living, don't you think? I think that is the biggest thing I have learned since my Biscuits arrived, to take a leaf out of their book and just get on with living each day as it comes, rain or shine etc etc.  I don't always manage it but you know us grown ups have a lot more things to scunner those plans. 

I do love the summer hols, I love seeing so much of my boys and yes my routine goes to pot and the house always feels a mess but you know I get to do a lot more things for me compared to when they were small and needed constant attention and supervision. For example I am just about to disappear for  more than an hour upstairs on my bike and they will happily play away, read or whatever with each other and not even notice I'm gone to be honest.
It's nice not to plan too.  Holidays are for not having things you must do after all.
Oh but please, a bit of sunshine would be heaven!!


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Effing rain!!

I don't want to be a right old moany face about it but I'm hormonal, therefore feel entitled to moan if I like.  Don't get me wrong in many ways I love rain, the verdant greens, the slate greys of paths and 'making the garden grow' etc but I want to be in my bare feet and flip flops.  I want to have all the windows and doors open and if I cannot, I'd like them to be closed without needing to coory under a blanket or worse, switch the heaters on.  I want to have meals in the garden and hang the washing out, have a view of billowing sheets and hear the birds singing.......
All that list of 'I wants' needs is addition of a goose that lays golden eggs.


My boys finish up school tomorrow and I am hoping the weather improves.  I am Scottish, I do not expect a lot, just please please please PLEASE, let it be dry for a spell.

Urgh!!!  Moan moan moan!
I'm off to get on my exercise bike and see if my mood improves.  I have cakes to bake later and cannot be this cross whilst baking, cakes need love to rise people!


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

On the list of craft 'wanties'...

I always always always have my eye on yarn of some kind and yet again I am drooling over the [above] Starburst crochet blanket by Jane Brocket from the Gentle art of Knitting book (pattern also in issue 2 of Mollie Makes).  I've had my eye on this for an age but recently spurred on by Kath on her Inverleith blog and Instagram feed, who has been making a granny a day of it and has posted lots of lovely images of the finished blanket.  She chose really lovely colours (in Rowan Pure Wool DK) and made me 'want' to start all over again.  I've even been looking at yarn and at the mo considering Rowan Cotton glace.  I have some balls that I got for the 'icing' on knitted cupcakes and the shine is lovely on this yarn.  I love cotton yarn too, it is my favourite I think. It's a double knit wool and has a lovely feel to it too when knitted up.  I am very tempted but as always such a thing is quite an investment money wise. 
I've been looking longingly at this shade card.

There is fabric on the 'wanties' list too but as of yet I have not decided what I would do with it. I have been thinking of trying to make a zipped pouch.  This kind of sewing really is NOT my area.  I get very easily confused when things have to be rightside/wronside/insideout/outsidein/cut/measured etc etc.  I like my sewing machine but it has not (as of yet) turned into love. This 'walk in the woods' fabric by Moda has me tempted to try as it has foxes liberally sprinkled all over it and I love a fox.

(image from the cottonpatch. Click on image to go see the full range) 
It really is very cute fabric and I can picture it on something small. Oh and did I mention?  Love a fox!  I'd love some of this but what to do?
I am constantly fighting the urge to make more quilts/blankets but as I have a few on the go (see this earlier post) I  really must not start another so it's lucky I do not see this fox fabric in a quilt.

There are craft books calling on me at Amazon, whispering to me with their potential.

 I've had my eye on this book for a while as I love embroidered flowers and this book has some really nice ones including daffodils.

This books looks great but I am a little unsure because as I said earlier this kind of sewing does not come easily to me but I like the look of the things in here so maybe I would be inspired to give some of the projects a go. Maybe some of you have it and could let me know hoe easy/difficult it is to follow.

 (Three book images from
 I love the look of these socks.  I haven't knitted a a pair in a while but the patterns in this book are really lovely.  I am thinking of making some as gifts as last year I made really simple tube socks for a couple of friends and they were very well received. I like the idea too of knitting (as the title says) from the toe up as you can try them on as you go meaning you can be sure of the fit you like. These socks would also mean I can look at hand dyed yarn which is a really fun thing to do on Etsy, especially with the app.

It's not a huge list but there is always, without fail, a list on the go and who doesn't love a list or indeed a notebook (or ten) to write them in?

What's on your list of craft 'wanties'?


P.S you can always find me on Twitter or Instagram as jammypudding.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Can you ever have enough......

.......baking books?
I really do not think so.
I make something, sometimes many things, from each of the books I buy, yet the compulsion to have more is always there.  First there is the 'noticing' of a book, whether it be by recommendation from someone (or by amazon - they get me every time). The imagining begins. I begin to wonder what delights may be inside, could there be the perfect recipe for something I already make and love? Something new I have never tried before and always wanted to? What photos are in there?  Will they make be drool at the very thought of the pressure of a pastry fork?
When a new book arrives I almost want to create a ceremonial moment, take the time to enjoy every detail of the book, the feel of the pages turning, the smell, the potential locked inside. It's all very much an indulgence!

Recently I have become obsessed with patisseries, windows full of shiny glazed delights, thoughts of delicate pastries and not so delicate slabs of bread, wanting to refine, to be precise, to hone my baking skills.  I love hearty classics, always, but I want the challenge of having to be more skilled.  Always wanting people to exclaim "you did that?".  You know that slightly insulting/impressed thing we all do? I want to get to grips with liquid fondant and make French Fancies. The book I recently bought by the amazing Peggy Porschen will help with that.  I want to get to grips with pastry so I  ordered this only the other day...

(image from Amazon.  Click here to see the book)
Just look at that cover!!  I cannot wait to delve into this book! I am not scared of pastry at the moment, a little bemused by it, not fully understanding it when I make it, not fully 'there' with it like I am with cakes. I want to become excellent and produce exquisite things. Things made of pastry.
I have that image of a tiered cake stand all prepared for afternoon tea and with that image I hear myself wanting to recreate it with things all made by me. 
You see why I *need* this book??

It may well be the fact that, in the main, it still feels wintry, but I have a notion for nordic baked things too so have my eye on this book...
(image from Amazon. Click here to see book) 
 This book sounds amazing. Those breakfast compotes and jams, those cakes and bread, mmmm cinnamon buns! Big amounts of *sighing*. I am so so so very tempted.

But for now, bring on the pastry making.

Always thinking about baking and loving the abundance of books. 

In my wee world, you can never, ever have enough!


P.S I'm always posting photos on Instagram so come and have a looksee, I'm jammypudding on there.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

April showers of a baking kind.

For me, April hasn't showered rain so much as flour and icing sugar.  I've been a busy ol' bee with birthdays and things and when I look at my Instagram feed (I'm jammypudding on there by the way) there is an abundance of bakes.
Back at the beginning of April I turned 39 and had a lovely, lovely day which was made all the lovelier for having this...

 Lemon cake decorated with handmade daisies.  It tasted so so so good.  I'd take lemon cake over all others (maybe?...might have to think about that claim) and it was kind of nice making myself a cake for my birthday.  Eldest Biscuit was outraged by the idea!
My father-in-law's birthday quickly followed mine so I made him his favourite coffee and walnut cake but this time I used my cool tin from Lakeland.  It has straight sides for individual cakes so you can make small versions of large cakes.  I was very pleased with how they turned out and will have to make mini Victoria sponges soon.

 The lead up to the end of the Easter hols meant I had to re stock the freezer with some bakes for my boys' lunch boxes.

Banana bread and

marble cake cut up into ickle pieces.  Sponge freezes really well and even though baking ingredients can be expensive by the time they are cut up small and used up, they work out quite cheap and although not exactly health food, better than processed and I do think cake makes people happy.  In my head my Biscuits are able to get through an afternoon of school with the help of their little cakes of happiness made with love by me.
I also made chocolate cheesecake for a friend as part of his Christmas gift of bakes throughout 2012.  I couldn't encourage a heart bypass so he didn't get a whole cheesecake, a few pieces were leftover for us.

 Oh my this cheesecake from Nigella's 'Feast' book is simply heaven in every mouthful and whenever I have it I feel I am in one of those old Flake adverts, having a special moment in a field of wild flowers. So good!

Last week I made madeleines for the menfolk as an after school and work snack (and of course a few for me too).  If you have never made them or let alone eaten one, please do.  Apart from the specialised tin (Lakeland sell one for under a tenner) they are very very easy wee cakes to make and quick too.  You can pretend, if you have a need to, to be refined and delicate whilst nibbling on one. I find it essential to drink tea from a china cup and saucer whenever I have one. Look at them, *sigh*!

 And finally, Eldest biscuit turned eleven yesterday.  All you parents out there will understand when I say I do not know how that happened so soon after him arriving but eleven he is.  I managed to convince him not to have his usual novelty sugarpaste clad birthday cake ( a 3DS this year) in favour of a chocolate cake made with chocolate from Hotel Chocolat. It's surprisingly cheaper weight for weight than Green & Blacks.  The self sacrificing mother that I am had to go into their shop in Edinburgh, forcing myself to take their free samples whilst shopping for his cake.  The things we do.
I didn't want to use my everyday, all-in-one cake (again from 'Feast') so opted for a luxury buttermilk one from 'Tea with Bea'.  This book is really lovely with seriously decadent bakes. It isn't a book for beginners I think but if you are a confident baker it's worth a looksee.  Here's how it turned out...

 I layered it with vanilla buttercream (which to be fair didn't compliment the sponge I feel, you live and learn) and covered it with chocolate buttercream.  I sprinkled over fudge pieces, Minstrels, smarties and gemstone drops from Hotel Chocolat.  I also made the bunting to decorate and little flags for these... vanilla cupcakes.  Eldest Biscuit likes to share his cake with family and friends so these were for those not so keen on a rich chocolate cake.  Too cute!
And of course there were the obligatory and traditional number biscuits.

For Christmas 2000, whilst pregnant with EB, I got Nigella's Domestic Goddess book from Mr Biscuit (he wrote inside "who's to say you're not already" sweet or what?) and knew when I saw these biscuits that I wanted to make them [for our cooking baby + any more] every year for birthdays and so far I have.  We joke that as grown men, my boys will still expect them. I followed the 'Biscuiteers' way for the icing and am getting to grips with icing bags and plastic bottles.
Here's a photo of my boy making a wish.

Oh my what a calorific month!  Just as well it wasn't all for me.  Yet I am dreaming of more.  I got a new book yesterday to sigh over and consider "What to bake?".

Indeed "What to bake?" .



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