Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Visiting York August 31, 2009

Filed under: Interiors,Travel — lauravw @ 4:51 pm

yorkI had all of last week off, and spent some of it visiting family in York. Ever since I was born, I have been visiting York two or three times a year, but it’s always been family visits rather than an actual holiday. This trip was a little different: my mum and I stayed at a bed and breakfast near the centre of town, and spent time exploring as tourists. Mum grew up in York and so knows the city well, but she had never been on a boat trip along the river, which is something we both enjoyed during our stay. (Though she had crossed the river on a boat before: it often floods, and she remembers being ferried across the river as a schoolgirl on army boats during some particularly high waters.)

If you’ve ever been to York, you will know that it is filled with tourists – and so seems like a busy place for such a small town. The skies were blue on our first morning, and so I got up early (by my standards) and was walking along the river by 7.30am. It was so peaceful – I saw birds and squirrels, and hardly any people. I then walked along a stretch of the Bar Walls, and only passed three people on there (they are very narrow elevated paths, and so usually if you walk along them you spend all of your time getting out of people’s way). From up there you can see all sorts of things – from the Minster to people’s back gardens, and so it’s a great way to explore.

livingroomWe visited my grandfather a couple of times during our stay, and spent one afternoon with him looking over all the old family photo albums. There were a few pictures of the way his house looked in years gone by – this one shows the dining table-end of the living room, and a little of the kitchen. I love the way the room is styled, and it reminds me of some interiors I’ve seen in magazines in more modern times. My grandfather made most of the furniture in the house himself (even the fitted kitchen), and much of it remains, though these days the room is a little more cluttered.

There are a couple more pictures of the room, which you can see here – and I’ve made a set of all my pictures from this trip here, including some which show the very pretty windows of Betty’s tea rooms.


More Halloween from Martha August 23, 2009

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 12:45 pm

Given how hot and sunny it is here today, it is perhaps odd that I’m looking at Halloween goodies. But I can’t help myself when it comes to Halloween. Andrew at Martha Moments has just posted a ton of new Martha Stewart Halloween products, and I am already wondering which ones I’ll be able to bring home in my suitcase when we visit the US. The thing I want most (even though I have nowhere suitable to put it) is this witch silhouette. Thinking more realistically, I’m hoping I’ll be able to buy the Halloween banner near the foot of the page.


Boden – winter preview August 22, 2009

Filed under: Fashion,Shopping — lauravw @ 4:15 pm

I just had a look at the Boden website, and it turns out the one I’ve bookmarked is the preview site, where they publish sneak peeks of the next season’s lines. And so I can report that this is the place to go if you want to see what they’ll be selling this winter. And this is the code to use to get 20% off and free postage/returns if you order anything: PRV9 (expires on the 26th August).

I’ve already taken a shine to this tweed coat, but at that price 20% off isn’t quite enough for me.


Baked goods

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 4:07 pm

custardI’ve been making a bit of an effort to lose a few pounds recently (and it’s slowly working), but that didn’t stop me from making both brownies and egg custard the other day.

My mum turns out baked egg custards seemingly every few days, without ever once looking in a recipe book. She’s been making them for so long that when I asked for her recipe, she just said to add ‘some’ milk to ‘a few’ eggs and ‘a bit’ of sugar. Hmm. So I scoured my recipe books and eventually found a recipe. I won’t post it here because I don’t think it was sweet enough – next time I visit my mother, I will take some kitchen scales (I don’t think she has any) and measure out everything she puts in her egg custards so that I can write up the details. What I was very happy with was the fact that, baked in small ceramic dishes inside a big lasagne dish filled with water, the surface of the custard didn’t crack. It looked great – and they were quite yummy, it’s just that sweeter would have been better.

browniesNext up: chocolate brownies. I am a fan of brownies (who isn’t?) and even have a little book that’s pretty much entirely about how to make them. (It’s called Brownies, Fudges and Toppings – and seems to be selling for a fortune second-hand on Amazon today. It must be somewhat rare these days – it’s only a little booklet.) But this time I wanted to try something new. The recipe for Brownies in Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess has always looked interesting, but it seems to use an obscene volume of ingredients – and would cost a fortune to make. I made it anyway – but I halved all the quantities. And as it turned out, that was fine – my brownie pan was nicely filled, and I don’t think could have accommodated the full amount prescribed. I’ve learned through the years that a ‘properly’ baked brownie is a dry brownie: I like mine still gooey, and so always remove them from the oven five or ten minutes earlier than the recipe books suggest (after poking them a bit with a skewer to check they have at least done a bit of baking). These were delicious – I was very happy with them.

All the ingredients came from the very kind people at Abel and Cole – thank you! The chocolate in particular was very special, and I hope to try some other products from the same range soon. The brownie recipe used two bars of it (so you can see how expensive it would have been to make the full amount as per Nigella’s recipe). We also got to try the eggs and the organic flour – both good and fresh.


Martha at Halloween August 21, 2009

Filed under: Halloween — lauravw @ 8:18 am

I was very excited to read that there’s a new Halloween magazine coming out soon, from the Martha Stewart stable – Andrew at Martha Moments has all the details. And I’m even more excited to read on his blog that there is a new range of Martha Halloween products coming out too – I am lucky enough to be heading off to the US before Halloween, so I’ll hopefully be able to buy the magazine and maybe a few goodies to go with it.

But all this also reminds me that it’s nearly September and I don’t yet know what I’m going to carve in this year’s pumpkins… Last year’s Orla Kiely pumpkin was a real hit, and so there’s a lot to live up to. (The year before that was a Space Invader, and before that a spider.) If you have any suggestions, please let me know! Bear in mind that I am not good at drawing so it needs to be fairly simple. We’ve recently spotted a little bat flying around our garden at dusk, so perhaps I should try to carve a bat pumpkin in tribute to her/him?


Little houses August 19, 2009

Filed under: Interiors — lauravw @ 12:07 pm

This article on the BBC about the fact that we Brits live in pretty small houses really struck a chord with me:

“The sofa won’t fit into the living room. There’s not enough room for children to play in the kitchen as you cook. And where’s the recycling bin meant to go?”

Recently I’ve seen a few episodes of Place In The Sun: Home or USA, and every time I’ve been staggered by the size of house you can buy in the US for the amount of money that, in the UK, would buy you the sort of 1930s semi-detached property that I live in. This week, the couple looked at homes in Las Vegas. It’s not somewhere I’d want to live, but the houses they looked at cost roughly the same as my little home, and were enormous – and they had pools! I swear, you could fit the entire upstairs of our house into the master bedroom of these places and still have space to walk around it. I don’t think I’d want to live in a giant house, but the thought of a walk-in wardrobe and perhaps a utility room are very appealing…


John Hughes August 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauravw @ 7:16 pm

I was so sad to hear that John Hughes has died, and now that I’ve been reading more about him, I know he was involved in far more of the films I like than I realised. I knew about Ferris Bueller and the Breakfast Club, but there are many more 80s films I’ve enjoyed that he either wrote or worked on: Uncle Buck, The Great Outdoors, National Lampoon’s European Vacation (look kids, Big Ben!). He will be missed. There are still a couple of his films that I’ve not seen, so next time they show Sixteen Candles on TV, I’ll be watching. Rest in peace.