52 weeks: 29 & 30 / 52

Apologies for not having been around much recently – things have been so busy round here that this is the first chance I’ve had to write! I’m going to have to cheat and put a few weeks’ worth of the 52 weeks challenge all together again or I’ll never catch up…

The biggest reason I’ve had to smile doesn’t have an accompanying photo, and really doesn’t count as a little moment of happiness since it’s actually a pretty big thing, but I’m including it anyway… After several years of post-university uncertainty, and a manic month or so of applications and interviews (hence my absence from here), I’ve been offered a place on a teacher training course, so from September I’ll be teaching history in a local secondary school! I’m tremendously excited and ever-so-slightly apprehensive, but overall I just feel very relieved that I finally know what I’m doing…

In other news:

summer pudding

One bag of frozen berries, a ripe nectarine and a few slices of white bread – the easiest summer pudding ever.

minestrone

Minestrone soup – one of my favourite summer dishes, and it gets even better when I can start to use the tomatoes, courgettes and new potatoes from the garden – it was just the basil this time.

rhubarb custard cake

Rhubarb and custard crumble cake – a particularly delicious creation, even if I say so myself.

new plates

What do you do to celebrate when you’ve just found out you’ve been offered the job you wanted? Buy a whole new set of crockery of course! The whole time that T and I have been together, we’ve only ever used an old set of crockery that his grandparents kindly offered us when we first moved into our own flat. We were very grateful at the time, but the design was not one that we’d ever have chosen (see the minestrone soup), and so having decided we might finally just be able to justify a new set we went on a joyful trip to Ikea. We came back with a mix of plain green, plain aubergine and green/white leaf designs and I *love* them. I carefully restrained myself from showing you the entire set one by one…my husband however has to put up with my unbridled joy every time I open the cupboard or eat a slice of bread. (We’re on day three, and my love of these plates shows no sign of abating.)

simply crochet

This month’s Simply Crochet was a good issue; there’s a fair few patterns and ideas that I plan to have a go at. A very relaxing moment in between interviews!

plantpot cover

…plus it gave me the inspiration for this plant pot cover! I liked the pattern for a jam jar cover but had to adapt it considerably to suit the shape of the (rather grubby) pot; I’m happy with the result though!

ripe blueberry

The first ripe blueberry!

sweetcorn

Last but not least, the sweetcorn has shot up in the heatwave (since I took this photo last week, it’s grown even more.) We can’t wait until the cobs start to appear!

I’m hoping that I won’t be away from here for quite as long next time. Until then, keep enjoying the summer!

52 weeks: 27 / 28

Slightly cheating, but this way I can get back on track more quickly! The past two weeks have been somewhat manic – hence the lack of posts – but also scorching hot, as I’m sure anyone in the UK will agree. Personally, I have never encountered such a long run of *hot* summer days; I grew up on the Yorkshire coast, where the combination of the sea breeze and fret (thick fog that sits over the coast) means that temperatures very rarely get as high as they might otherwise. The concept of going to bed after a long, balmy summer’s day secure in the knowledge that you’ll be able to wear another sundress tomorrow is not one that I’m familiar with…but I’m enjoying it! Far too much to want to sit at the computer once I’ve finished essential work…

So, in no particular order, a peek into some happy moments from the past two weeks.

sweet peas

evening primrose

evening primrose

Evening primroses – so colourful and sunny!

blueberries

The blueberries are getting nice and plump…

bumble bee in clover

bee in clover

…and the bees are enjoying the clover flowers.

hot cat in shade

carrot and lentil burger

A delicious carrot and lentil burger in a sesame bun – far tastier than it sounds!

rainbow squares blanket

…and the blanket is coming along well. Not that a woolly blanket really suits the weather…

52 weeks: 26/52

Hm. Halfway through the year! The first half has been largely positive; I’m hoping that the next twenty-six weeks are just as interesting. Although I’m mildly disturbed by the number of festive (I’m not going to mention the C-word) images popping up on Pinterest… I’d rather not think about the end of the year just yet!

This week has been busy once again, and I haven’t been taking many pictures – I’m aware that the photos for the past few weeks haven’t been especially interesting, but then that just reflects how life is – sometimes it’s the most mundane things that provide the happy moments in a busy week!

Firstly, rain; we’ve had a lot of this in the last fortnight. In itself, it isn’t my favourite weather by a long way; once this week, though, I opened the back door and smelled that wonderfully-fresh ‘summer rainstorm’ smell – almost as good as newly-mowed grass. Since you can’t take photographs of scents, I went for a shot of the friendly gargoyle that guards our back step.

gargoyle in the rain

In addition, rainy days mean more of this – crochet and tea! Two of my favourite pastimes. (The cosy was knitted by my sister!)

tea and crochet

And when you need a break from crocheting, there’s always baking! This was my attempt to make something satisfying to keep me going as part of my packed lunches this week – oats, barley flakes, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, prunes, cinnamon…oh, and a tin of condensed milk. Which is guaranteed to raise a smile!

healthyish flapjack

Finally, don’t you love it when you rediscover something you’d forgotten about? I came across a jar full of flowering teas (it had got pushed to the back of the shelf; that I categorised it as ‘lost’ says a lot about the state of my kitchen cupboards.) You can’t tell what flowers they have inside until they bloom in hot water; the first one I tried was a beautiful ‘dragon’s eye’. Lovely isn’t it?

flowering tea

Have a good week all!

All done: stripy crochet bag

I have to admit that I finished this two weeks ago; I’ve been waiting for the combination of time and dry weather to take photos of it! I’ve been using it almost every day – I’m not really a handbag sort of woman -and it’s holding up well, although I’m considering putting in a lining  as the holes aren’t great when you’re carrying things like keys, pens and lip balm…

stripy crochet bag

But – I’m so happy with the bag! It was fairly easy to make, although I did make one change to the pattern; if anyone else plans to make this, I found that when I was working on the main body of the bag I had to alter the pattern repeat so that I was making 4dc in the 3rd, not 4th, stitch, for the second and all subsequent pattern repeats (contact me if you want me to make that clearer!)

handles crochet bag

I also added little rosettes to the bottom of the handles. Primarily to cover the messy stitches from where I sewed the handles on, but they look nice too!

crochet bag

I used Drops Paris cotton in the following shades: Dark Purple, Petrol, Raspberry, Pistachio, Vanilla, Light Turquoise, Heather, Dark Old Pink and Light Blue Purple, with a 5mm hook. The yarn isn’t bad to work with, although as with all cotton I found my fingers beginning to ache after using it for a while – going back to work with Stylecraft DK on my blanket felt lovely! I do love the look of crocheted cotton though; the stitch definition is wonderful.

Finally, I feel I should explain that I had help in photographing this today. Well, he thought he was helping… I wasn’t convinced.

stripy crochet bag and cat

52 weeks: 25/52

I’ve been so busy over the past few days that I haven’t had a chance to post here, so I’m a little late with last week’s moments of happiness!

Now this doesn’t look as tall as it is in real life!  The pile of squares for my rainbow blanket – all I need to do now is join them together…

rainbow squares

This is the first posy of sweet peas that I have picked in 2 years – last year, the slugs got to all of the plants before they’d even made it outdoors. Hurray for sweet peas – and the best bit? The more you pick them, the more you get. Perfect.

sweet peas

You can tell, even though there are patches of blue sky (international readers, this is what is known as a typical summer’s day over here) that it wasn’t the brightest of days. But there’s something about York minster that suits the gloomier weather. We had a lovely day out in York, and hardly got soaked in the rain!

york minster

That’s all for this week,  although if I’m realistic the final picture here should really be one of a jam doughnut. Seeing as we’ve already had a post full of those, I won’t add any more…but if you haven’t made any yet, do!

Homemade doughnuts with plum jam

plum jam doughnut

Today is one of those summer days when you really wonder why we keep pretending that we have different seasons in Britain…grey, gloomy and not very warm. The one thing you can say is that we might well have a scorcher tomorrow – we live in hope! Anyway, rather than getting too upset at the lack of sunshine, I took advantage of the autumnal turn, and made something I haven’t made for a couple of years – doughnuts. With the plum jam I made a week or two ago, and a dusting of lightly-spiced cinnamon sugar, they are a fantastic treat.

plum jam doughnuts

I plan to experiment with a sourdough version – but until then, give these a go. I was always put-off by the frying, but it isn’t as much of a hassle as it sounds, and it’s worth it!

Ingredients: (makes 8)
250g white bread flour
1/3 tsp salt
25g caster sugar
25g melted butter
80g hot water
80g milk
1 tsp dried yeast
3 drops vanilla extract
jam of your choice
oil for frying
caster sugar for dusting
cinnamon (optional)

Add the water to the milk in a small bowl and stir in the yeast, leaving the mixture for 5 or 10 minutes or until the yeast has foamed up. In a larger bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar. Stir in the activated yeast mixture together with the melted butter and vanilla extract, and mix until everything is incorporated. Turn out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for 5 minutes. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover, and leave to rise for between an hour and an hour and a half, until doubled in size.

homemade doughnuts

Divide the dough into 8 equal balls (mine each weighed 58g.) Flatten each ball, pulling the dough thinner around the edges than in the middle, add a teaspoon of jam into the middle, and fold the dough around the jam, pinching the edges firmly together to seal the jam inside. (This might take a little practice, but the ideal result is that the dough isn’t pulled so tight that you can see the jam inside – it’s easy to burst them when frying if this happens!) Give the dough a final shape to make a perfect ball, then cover and leave to rise for another half hour.

Meanwhile, prepare your workspace for cooking – you need a conveyor system of kitchen towel to drain the excess oil, a bowl of sugar to roll the doughnut in (with added cinnamon if you choose), and a rack to pile the finished items on, as well as a slotted spoon to lift the doughnuts out of the oil. When ready to fry, pour 2 inches of oil into a heavy-based saucepan. If you have a sugar thermometer, heat the oil until it reaches 170*C – I used a thermometer to make these for the first time today and it worked so much better than on previous attempts! If you don’t have a thermometer, heat the oil until a piece of spare dough dropped in bubbles around the edges and begins to colour, but without going brown immediately.

frying doughnuts

When the oil is hot, add the first doughnut, carefully dropping it into the oil. Cook for approximately 2 minutes; you will see the edge of the doughnut colouring, so it’s fairly easy to keep an eye on it. Carefully flip the doughnut over to cook the other side. The colour should be a deep golden brown – they will look darker than ones you’re used to buying at the supermarket! Cook until the second side matches the first – it takes just under 5 minutes to cook each doughnut in total. Lift the doughnut out of the oil and blot it gently with the kitchen towel, then roll it in the caster sugar and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts, keeping an eye on the temperature of the oil – if the doughnuts seem to be colouring too fast, turn the heat down slightly, and so on.

homemade plum jam doughnut

Best eaten on the day they’re made – not that that will be a problem.

last bite of a doughnut