one year ago today …

… I began my adventures in blogland with a very nervous first post from my sewing room.

To tell you the truth, I was not at all convinced that anyone would be the slightest bit interested in my ‘wee bits o’ nonsense’ (aka sewing projects).  But I was amazed how quickly I was made to feel welcome in the blogging community with lovely comments and words of encouragement.  Bloglanders are such a friendly bunch 🙂

Looking back over my blog I realize that I have created a colourful little journal of my life in stitches!  I didn’t think about that aspect of blogging when I started out, so it’s an unexpected and happy bonus!

Hexy flower side view

One year on and I would like to thank you all for reading my words, looking at my pictures, checking out my tutorials and for all your wonderful encouragement and amazingly generous comments! I can’t tell you how much you brighten my day by taking time out of your busy lives to share your thoughts with me!  It is particularly heart warming when someone tells me that they have been inspired by something they have seen on my blog! And I have to pinch myself when I see a Sewing Room Secrets project on Pinterest!  That still freaks me out every time! (in a good way!!)

I have picked out 12 of my favourite makes and posts from the past 12 months and hope you will humour me as I take a little trip down memory lane…

Little hexie needle caddy

Little hexie needle caddyIt’s a giveaway!

Etsy Collage

A treasury of applique

sewing-room-secrets-sewing-caddy11

Hexagons for Harriet

Harriet before applique

‘Lola’

Lola8

Zakka Style

fabric boxes11

Zakka inspired gift set

red-set-with-flower1

‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

Morning star 20

How to make a Suffolk Puff

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Time to just be me

My glasses case

Catching up …

Crafty Creatures

On white

Chocolate Tiffin Recipe

tiffin5

Thank you for your company this past year … having you along for the journey has really been a blessing 

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*Edited: I will be taking a step back from blogging for a while, as I will not be able to devote as much time to it in the coming months, due to other demands in my life right now. I will still be ‘around’, working on my Love Entwined quilt and drafting several new patterns for my Etsy shop, but unfortunately blogging will have to take a back seat for now.  I will try to pop back from time to time with updates when I can, but for now I bid you all a fond farewell and happy stitching!  Love & hugs, Natalie xx

 

in my element

I was in my element this afternoon.

The boys were out and I was ‘home alone’ … there was the mother of all storms blowing a gale outside, but did I care? Not one jot! Cos the central heating was turned up high and Bing Crosby & David Bowie were singing ‘Little Drummer Boy’ at full pelt, whilst I got to play with glue and glitter and wolf down a few home-made Christmas cookies! Did I mention the Drambuie? Well, that too.

Christmas cookies

The reason for all the glitter (and there was a LOT of glitter!) is this …

Teddy1

… a little bit of last minute present making in the form of a glittery, heart-shaped gift box to house a teeny, tiny teddy that I knitted for my God-daughter’s doll’s house.

Teddy2

I glued a wee suffolk puff to the lid as a finishing touch

Teddy3

Gift box2

Gift box1On the subject of gift-giving, I baked a whole heap of stuff this week and enjoyed giving lots of home-made edible gifts to friends and family

Christmas baking

Mince pie gift

Jars

Of course, I made sure to bake a little extra for us too 🙂

mince pies

The girls at work got the little Zakka style gifts I made for them and I wished them all a Happy Christmas. I am now officially on holiday for nearly two weeks! Yay! I am sooo ready for a break!

Gift1

Aqua set

Aqua cookie jar

Green set3

Green cookie jar

Rather than wrap the presents, I made some little gingham bows from ribbon, stitching them to brown paper bags and then I put the gifts inside.

Gift bags in a row

Gift bag ho, ho, ho

… and with the decorations up and the presents all wrapped, it really is starting to feel a lot like Christmas around here 🙂

Tree decs

Presents

Fairy

Christmas pics 097The little felt Santa in the photo is another present for my God-daughter. His tummy is a cut out circle and the hole is covered over with some see-through netting, so that you can see all the chocolate coins he has gobbled up!  There is an opening at the back of his neck to provide access to the chocolate and for refilling him.

So, as Christmas Day approaches, I will be signing off for a few days, but before I go I want to leave you with the recipe for my little Christmas cookies, which I call ‘Festival Pennies

Ingredients

  • 130g (4.5 oz) chopped hazlenuts
  • 250g (9 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau
  • 55g (2 oz) caster sugar
  • 55g (2 oz) cornflour
  • 300g (10 oz) plain flour
  • Zest of an orange, finely grated
  • Few drops of orange essence
  • Icing sugar

Method

  1. Lightly grease a baking tray and preheat the oven to 180ْC (fan) / 200ْC / 350ْF / Gas mark 6
  2. Cream the butter and sugar
  3. Beat in the egg yolk, Cointreau and orange essence
  4. Stir in the orange zest and the hazlenuts
  5. Sift the flour and cornflour over the mixture and mix with a wooden spoon to a firm dough
  6. Break off small pieces and shape into a ball, then flatten slightly into round ‘pennies’
  7. Cook in the centre of the oven for 12 – 15 minutes (do not brown)
  8. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes
  9. While still warm (but not hot), roll the cookies in icing sugar and coat generously. I often roll them in the icing sugar a couple of times to give them a good coating. Sift extra icing sugar over the top.

If you don’t have Cointreau or orange essence, you can substitute for brandy and vanilla essence and omit the orange zest. Sometimes, I will also add powdered vanilla pods to the icing sugar to make them a little extra special!

Now all that remains is for me to wish you and your loved ones the happiest of Christmas times.  Thank you all so much for your visits here, for all your lovely comments and support over this past year and to all who have bought my patterns.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to each and every one of you!   Natalie x

Snowman

chocolate tiffin recipe

So I posted the wee giveaway pouch off to Kathleen today and fingers crossed she will like it!

parcel

TagBefore I get started on any more stitching, I want to share a little recipe with you…

… there was a time when my husband and I owned a busy coffee shop and during that time I’m guessing I must have made around 8,000 slices of this Chocolate Tiffin – no kidding, it was kinda popular with the customers!

chocolate tiffin

It was like our ‘signature’ bake, if you like, and people came back for it time and again.

I am, admittedly, using the word ‘bake’ here very loosely because there is no actual baking involved!  But that doesn’t stop it being the yummiest and, quite  frankly, addictive chocolatey treat ever!

Ingredients

  • 400g digestive biscuits
  • 125g butter
  • 75g raisins or sultanas (or you can use chopped dates )
  • 3 tblsp cocoa powder
  • 185g of golden syrup
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 30g white chocolate

Tiffin2

Method

  1. Break the biscuits into uneven size pieces and mix with the dried fruit. Now I know some people are not fans of raisins etc, in which case you can use chopped dates instead or you can leave them out altogether if you like – it will still taste yum!
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter, syrup and cocoa powder and pour this liquidy goo all over the broken biscuits. Mix well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a tray bake tin and press down well with the back of the wooden spoon (the tin I use is 11” x 7” x 1.5”)
  4. Break the milk chocolate into pieces and place into a heatproof bowl. Place the white chocolate into a separate heatproof bowl. Sit the bowls over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie) and allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally.
  5. Spread the milk chocolate evenly over the biscuit base.  Drizzle the white chocolate over the top.

Tiffin1

and drag a cocktail stick randomly through the chocolate layers to create a marbled effect.

tiffin3

Chill in the fridge until firm but not completely solid before cutting into slices.

tiffin5

The tiffin tastes best straight from the fridge, so keep it chilled until ready to eat.

Enjoy!

Natalie x

all set for the big day

If you saw my last post you will know that I have been preparing for a family wedding taking place this weekend and I have been scurrying around trying to find a wedding outfit.

Apart from cleaning the oven, shopping for clothes ranks among my least favourite activities, so shopping for ‘dressy’ clothes is akin to sticking pins in my eyes. After much rummaging through clothes rails, I managed to get kitted out for the big day (yay!) …. except for a clutch bag. Rather than subject myself to any more retail therapy torture, I decided to make my own and I found a great little tutorial for the perfect little purse over at Elm Street Life.

It is surprising what you can do with a fabric bow and a wee bit of bling  😉

Clutch bag4

Clutch bag1

There is plenty of room for the essentials – make up, lipstick, phone, money.  Just need to get the confetti and I’m all set 🙂

clutch bag

We will be having people stay with us this weekend too and I have been doing a lot of pillow plumping and house cleaning in preparation for their arrival.  I took a break from all that today in order to make some gifts for my female guests. The girls are big Cath Kidston fans, so I got them each a set of Cath Kidston hand creams and I made them a wee tissue holder each as well.   I hope they like them.

Tissue holder4

Tissue holder3

Tissue holder2

Tissue holder1

I baked some of Aunt Annie’s fruitcake yesterday, as well as a whole bunch of lemon drizzle cake, so we will have plenty of yummy treats on hand. I love making lemon drizzle – it’s one of my favourite’s!  I use Mary Berry’s method to make it. It’s super easy; just put everything in the bowl together and mix – never fails, yum! Here’s a link to the recipe.

With all the preparations done, I just couldn’t help it ….. I had to try out the lemon drizzle to make sure it was gonna taste good, right?

… And. It. Does.

lemon drizzle cakeJPG

Have a wonderful weekend folks ♥

a wonderful wednesday

Today has been dreamy.  I’ve been pottering in the garden and baking fruitcake.

The sun has made a rare appearance and I have even allowed myself to believe that summer might actually be here at last.

It’s funny, I’ve started calling Wednesdays ‘wonderful Wednesdays’ at work, because it’s my day off :).  And it has indeed been wonderful today – planting up tubs in the garden with the birds’ sweet song for company.

plants

plants4

plants7

plants2

plants8JPG

With the tubs planted up and watered in, I had time to bake a fruitcake to take along to my sewing group tonight and I wanted to share the method with you.   The recipe comes from my Great Aunt Annie who used to make these fruit loaves for all the family.  I remember visiting her as a child and we would always leave with one of her famous boiled fruit cakes wrapped up in a plastic bag.  Aunt Annie also made great potato farls and Irish soda bread!

cake3

This is such an easy recipe and not too heavy or stodgy.   It also freezes beautifully.

Ingredients

  • 4oz margarine
  • 2 cups dried mixed fruit
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 tsp of ground, mixed spice (or to taste)
  • Handful of glace cherries (cut in half)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1-2 tbsp demerara sugar (for the topping)
  1. Place the margarine, sugar, fruit and water in a saucepan and heat until the margarine has melted.  Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool.  There is no need to cool the mixture completely, just enough, so that when you add the egg, it won’t scramble! About 20 minutes or so is usually sufficient.
  2. When cool, stir in the cherries followed by the beaten egg.
  3. Sprinkle over the baking soda. Mix it in until it all fizzes up and becomes a bit foamy.
  4. Sieve in the flour and ground mixed spice and stir well with a wooden spoon to combine.
  5. Pour into a well greased 2lb loaf tin (lined on the bottom with baking parchment) and sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
  6. Cook in the oven at 160ْ  (fan oven) for about 1 hour.  The cake is done when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

cake

The demerara sugar gives the top a lovely crunchy texture. Yum!

So, that’s been my day up to now.  I’m just going to make a bite to eat for the boys and then I’m off out to my sewing group, laden with this yummy cake.  The perfect end to a perfect day ♥

cake4

Wherever you are in the world, and whatever you’ve been doing, I hope you’ve had a ‘wonderful Wednesday’ too!