On a trip to Killerton House in Devon, yesterday, there are signs of Spring everywhere from the daffodils and primroses to the blossom appearing on the trees. It was the first day this year when I didn't need a coat!
Well, it has been a while in the making, but I have finally completed the Winter's Lane 8 point star quilt which was supposed to be finished by Christmas. So what if it's nearly Easter now - the nights are still cold enough to warrant snuggling up under this on the sofa!
Back in September, I posted a tutorial on how to construct an 8 point star block, which you can find here.
I used a really thick wadding for this quilt as the plan was for it to be used in Winter - I am not sure that I would use such dense wadding again as it was quite a struggle for my little old machine.
You may have noticed that I took a little unintentional blogging break - fitting everything in with working full time has been difficuly and something had to give, but I feel a renewed energy now that we are actually seeing daylight at both ends of the day!
2014 was a roller coaster ride for me personally, beginning with the decision to take voluntary redundancy from a job that I had been doing for twenty years to pursue a life long dream career in teaching. Two days after my teacher training interview, I was rushed into hospital with severe pneumonia and sepsis and on a life support machine in intensive care for the following week. After a slow recovery, including having to re-learn how to feed myself and to walk again from the neuropathy, I relapsed twice and ended up with heart failure.
Those three months in and out of hospital were a nightmare from which we are all still psychologically recovering from. Thankfully, I have made an almost complete recovery but am still being monitored by the excellent medical staff at my local hospital.
Unsurprisingly, this unplanned near-death experience made me think twice about throwing myself into a stressful teacher training course and a sensible work-life balance became my aim. I left my job as planned at the end of August thinking what a stupid mistake I had made and gained a new job in November. I do now feel that the right decision was made and I am starting to enjoy my new job and its new opportunities.
My online shop has been totally neglected for the best part of the year but I have really enjoyed the break from it and sewing and crafting for myself instead of for others! Now I am back in the swing of work I am hoping to be back blogging more regularly in 2015.
Here is to a Happy and Healthy 2015 for all my readers!
This is a lovely winter warmer, perfect for making ahead and taking in a vacuum flask out with you on a cold walk. The fact that it was made with some of my Christmas leftovers makes it even better!
Roast Butternut Squash, Chestnut & Onion Soup (adapted from a recipe published on Red Online)
1 Butternut Squash, peeled and deseeded
1 Onion, peeled
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled
100g Roasted Chestnuts (I buy mine vacuum packed)
1 litre Vegetable Stock
Sprig of Rosemary
1. Cut the butternut squash and onion into chunks and place in an ovenproof dish. Add the garlic cloves and drizzle over a little olive oil. Add a sprig or two of rosemary and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 35-40 minutes. You want to make sure that the squash is nice and soft and you can check this by inserting a sharp knife into it.
2. Put half of the roasted veg and half of the chestnuts in a liquidiser with half of the stock and blend until smooth. Decant into a saucepan and blend the other half of the soup. Alternatively, you can use a food processor (this will produce a coarser texture) or use a stick blender in the pan.
3. Warm the soup up in the saucepan and season to taste. Serve with a swirl of cream and some cracked black pepper.
This is the best bit about making your own Christmas cake: the icing and the decorating (apart from the eating of it, of course)! For this stage you will need some ready to roll fondant icing which is readily available from supermarkets, plus any decorations, ribbons etc. Again, decorations may be laboured over or shop bought or you could go for something really simple like I have done.
Sprinkle your surface with icing sugar and begin by kneading the icing until it becomes more pliable. Roll it out in a rough circle so you have enough to cover the top and sides in one piece. Using the rolling pin for support, drape the icing over the cake. Smooth down the top and ease the sides into place with the heel of your hand trying to ensure that you get a nice even finish. Trim the edges and then you are ready to decorate.
For my simple snowflake design, I found a snowflake printable online and cut out the negative image, so I was left with a stencil guide. I gently scored my six main points of the snowflake with a knife and then added a couple of spikes to each end. I finished with a mix of silver balls and snowballs in a pattern.
I have been much quieter on my blog for the last six weeks, mainly due to starting a new job mid November which has limited my crafting time somewhat. Getting back into the swing of working full time and managing my household has taken definitely taken its toll, but I am am now in more of a routine.
My Christmas cards this year were made using my Sizzix Big Shot machine, then hand coloured with a Northern Lights theme and embellished.
So, the cake has been baked and fed, and now it is time to marzipan it. What you will need is a pack of ready made marzipan or almond paste and either some apricot jam or marmalade. As no-one in my house eats apricot jam, I opted for some of my home made marmalade.
Unwrap your cake and place on the board or plate which you will serve it on. I like to turn mine upside down because the bottom is always a lot smoother than the top.
Warm three tablespoons of jam or marmalde in a pan and brush liberally over the top and sides of your cake.
Roll out your marzipan onto a surface sprinkled with icing sugar, to the thickness specified on the packet. If you don't feel confident about getting one big piece to cover the top and sides, you can cheat and do the top separately, using the tin as a guide, and then adding one long strip around the sides. It will be covered by icing anyway!
With clean hands, smooth the marzipan round and trim the bottom edge with a knife to neaten.