Monday, 22 July 2013

Busy

a view of hay bales
Busy farmer making hay bales. The view from my garden is completely different now since my last post (we've had continuous hot and sunny weather for over a week - it's been absolute bliss). I watched with fascination and wonder at the speed and ease the farmer worked on this field.

image of a farmer at work
Busy last week of school. A whirlwind of activities took place in my busy corner - swimming certificates awarded, my girls in the school talent show, special school assemblies to go to, school birthday parties. All this on top of the usual routine of family life. Phew! It's been hectic but really enjoyable.

image of crochet work
Still busy working on my very own summer project. I mentioned it first on this post. I'll be releasing the pattern soon - hopefully on my next post. Fingers crossed!

image of ingredients for bath melts
Busy making teacher presents. I always prefer to craft my own presents for the teachers. It may take up a bit more of my spare time but it beats trawling the shops any day! I decided to make Lavender bath creamers which I've never done before, so the challenge was on. These are featured in Kirstie Allsopp's Craft book which I've had on loan from the library for over six months now. It's a fab book full of lovely craft projects. They melt in the bath to leave the skin feeling soft and moisturised. 

The ingredients were really easy to source, the Sweet Almond Oil and Lavender Essential Oil were purchased from the local high street, and the Cocoa Butter and Shea Butter were purchased here, and the rosebuds here. Luckily for me my sister in law is the co-founder of The Soap Empire, so she was able to offer some good advice and handy hints which I will share with you. Firstly you will need

100g cocoa butter
50g shea butter
50ml sweet almond oil
2-4mls lavender essential oil (I used 5ml which is 1 teaspoon)
Petit four paper cases (mini ones - roughly about 18-20)
Rosebuds (or fresh or dried Lavender)

1. Put the cocoa butter in a microwaveable plastic container (I used a plastic container that I'd kept from an Indian takeaway- they always come in handy - I usually save them as paint pots for the girls).
Microwave on high for short bursts of 30-40 secs until melted. Now the book says 20 seconds, but mine was still hard so I think it took more like 2 minutes. Just keep an eye on it so you don't end up nuking it!
2. Add the shea butter to the container and microwave again until all has melted. Shea butter is a lot softer than cocoa butter so it won't take as long to melt.
image of cocoa and shea butter
3. Stir in the almond and lavender oils, then allow to cool for a few minutes
4. Arrange the paper cases on a tray (you don't need a muffin tray as shown below). Spoon the mixture into the cases (use a teaspoon - I might use a syringe next time to avoid spillages and waste). Take your time!
image of bath meltsimage of rosebud added to bath meltimage of rosebuds added to bath melts
Leave to become cloudy and cool. It says 10 minutes in the book, but mine took a bit longer, and I think I put the rosebuds in too early so they sunk a little. My advice would be to leave putting them in till they are not only cloudy but when the mixture has turned semi-solid.
Set aside for 24 hours, then they should be ready  to use, but I made these when the weather was blisteringly hot so some of them still hadn't set properly so I put them in the fridge for a few hours which did the trick.
image of finished lavender bath creamers
So here they are - a relatively quick and easy way of making a lovely hand made present. They didn't come out as smooth in appearance as I would have liked, but I would definitely make these again.   I'm sure the teachers will appreciate them when it comes to some luxurious well earned pamper time! I kept one for myself so will be doing the same too :-D X








Friday, 5 July 2013

Beauty-full Baking

Can 't believe Friday has come round so quickly again, and dare I mention we are in for a bit of a heat wave in the U.K. this weekend - (allegedly)?! Mm we'll see, if it does happen there'll be plenty of pictures of celebration in blog-land from this side of the pond as the summer here has been pretty dismal  so far. (This is a view taken earlier on today from my garden into the farmer's field. He will be mowing it soon into hay bales, but Oh, Oh, Oh just look at that blue sky - there isn't a cloud in sight).
image of summery rural view

This could be the reason why I've baked some yummy comforting cakes in the last few weeks. I usually bake on a Friday afternoon as a treat after fasting for two days, but oh dear standards have been slipping lately so now fasting is 'sandwiched' between an all you can eat cake fest. (and I wonder why the weight isn't coming off?). 

One of my favourite cake recipes at the moment is Mary Berry's Banana and Choc Chip cake. This is by far the best banana cake recipe I've come across... so quick and easy to make, and a great way to use up over ripened bananas - I loathe waste. This is super moist and delicious and a winner with my sweet-toothed tribe. I've found that I have to cook mine for a further 15-20 mins as the mixture is quite wet and takes a bit longer for the middle to cook, this makes the outside of the cake really chewy and fudgy...O so lovely with a freshly brewed coffee, or warmed a little with a dollop of ice cream.

I always feel an enormous sense of achievement when I can not only cook dinner from fresh but also create a pudding at the same time. Eton Mess is a great example of this, but when it's something baked I'm after then this is THE one I choose... easy cinnamon puffs found at The English Kitchen. This is a fab foodie blog hosted by the super talented Marie. I can whip up a batch of these beauties in 10 minutes, throw them in the oven while we eat dinner, then 10-15 minutes later they're done. Perfect!

The only problem is I'm left with unused egg white, and I really don't want to throw it away. I know I can freeze it, but knowing me I would probably forget it was there. I haven't enough to make meringue, besides I don't want to spend any more time in the kitchen. What better way than a super indulgent home made face mask. I love using store cupboard items, and fresh fruit and vegetables to concoct lotions and potions.

image of ingredients for home made face mask

I whip up the egg white till it's nice and fluffy then add some Aloe Vera gel (approx 1-2 tbsp), plus 1-2 drops of Lavender essential oil. This makes a really great treatment for sagging skin. Aloe Vera is very soothing and helps retain moisture. It softens dry chapped skin, and promotes the growth of healthy new skin cells. Lavender oil also has soothing and comforting properties, plus it's antibacterial too, and best of all it smells wonderful. Completely natural, no nasty chemicals...all good stuff.  I apply mine with a brush, then pop a couple of slices of cucumber on my eyes...heaven! So I'm off for a spot of luxurious ME time now with a nice tall glass of G & T...bring it on!
Have a great weekend XX