Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Light and Shade of 2014

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!
Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Roast Butternut Squash, Chestnut and Onion Soup

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
Olive Oil
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 soup is suitable for freezing.
Love Mrs Jones x

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Cake in 5 Easy Stages: Stage Five - Icing and Decorating

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.

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas Cards 2014

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.

Have you made your Christmas cards this year?
Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas Cake in 5 Easy Stages: Stage Four - Marzipan

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.

You need to leave this for 24 hours before icing.

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Christmas Cake in 5 Easy Stages: Stage Three - Feeding the Cake

This is Stage Three of my Christmas Cake in 5 Easy Stages, but don't despair if you are wanting to start your Christmas Cake now, you do still have enough time (see Stage One and Stage Two).

 Feeding the cake is just about keeping the cake nice and moist, and uses the same liquor that you used in Stage One to drizzle over. So unwrap your cake, prick the surface with a skewer and spoon over a couple of dessertspoons of liquor before wrapping back up.

You can feed the cake as many times as you like - I try to feed it twice. So, I fed it a week ago and I will probably feed it next weekend too.

The fourth stage is all about the marzipan, so arm yourself with a block of marzipan (almond paste) and some apricot jam and I will see you in mid December!

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Looking Forward in November 2014

October was fairly productive for me. Sewing: I finished my scrappy chevron quilt, made myself a new pair of pyjama trousers, re-worked my overlap skirt into my new size (not blogged)! I have also got my Winter's Lane quilt out again and have made a couple more blocks. Crafts: I was lucky enough to be given some ribbon reels by Fantastic Ribbon for whom I made the Christmas Card project. Baking: a childhood favourtite - treacle tart, and the first two instalments of my Christmas Cake series.
I am very keen to make November the month that I finish Winter's Lane, but I can't help but be persuaded to take on new sewing projects too! I have just borrowed Learn to Sew with Lauren from my local library and am very taken with the Pick Your Pockets Skirt. Coincidentally, I have a day in London mid November by myself and I may just have to go and explore the fabric shops in Goldhawk Road! 

I am also lusting after the new Norway pattern from Camille Roskelly which would look great as a Christmas centrepiece. I still haven't done anything with my map fabric (where does the time go)?

As usual, on the first of the month I am linking up to Lily's Quilt's Fresh Sewing Day.

Fresh Sewing Day

Love Mrs Jones x