Monday, 19 November 2012

Craving Chocolate

I had really big chocolate craving on the weekend and was inspired by my favourite blog, Posie Gets Cozy by Alicia Paulson, to try out this recipe for chocolate brownies. They were everything I wanted - easy to make, quick to cook and deliciously chocolatey.

This is my version of the recipe - I do own a set of 'cups' for measuring American style but I've converted some of the other ingredients into metric for those who, like me, find it easier to follow.
120g butter
100g dark chocolate broken into small pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs straight from the fridge
1/2 cup flour
few drops vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 170C (Gas 3, 325F). Grease and line an 8" square cake tin with parchment and set aside. Melt the butter gently in a saucepan and when hot remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir once and leave 'til the chocolate has melted. This doesn't take long and you can prepare the cake tin while you're waiting if you like. Stir the chocolate and butter mix until smooth and then beat in the sugar and salt (I tipped the chocolate into a bowl before doing this but you can use the saucepan if it's big enough). Then beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla if using and then add the flour. Mix until the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Tip the mix into the tray and bake for 30 minutes. I found the timings to be perfect and a skewer put into the middle came out clean. Leave the tin to cool on a wire rack and then remove from the tin. Dust with icing sugar and cut into 16 small squares.

These were sooo scrummy - particularly the corners with that lovely combination of chewy gooey centre and slightly crisp edges. I'm afraid they didn't stick around long...
I'm thinking that next time I'll add some toasted hazelnuts for nutty chocolate heaven!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Baby it's cold outside

It may be cold outside but on the weekend we had a go at making ice cream for the first time. We've always been fans of Margaritas so this recipe for Margarita ice cream  (from Nigella Express) sounded right up our alley. It was as simple as pie to make and positively scrumptious to eat!

Margarita Ice Cream
125ml lime juice
2 tablespoons Tequila
3 tablespoons Cointreau or Triple sec
150g icing sugar or powdered sugar
500ml double cream
Pour the lime juice, Tequila and Cointreau (or triple sec) into a bowl and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Add the double cream and softly whip until it is thick and smooth but not stiff. Spoon this into an air tight container and freeze overnight. There no need to churn it and it won't freeze too hard.
We found it was delicious served in Margarita glasses with salted rims (run a lime around the top of the glass to moisten and then dip in coarse sea salt) and a smattering of grated lime zest on top. Wow. Who cares if it's cold outside when you can put the heating up high and eat this. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Season of Mists and Festive Sprucing

As the Autumn has descended on us, all flurries of bronzed leaves, gentle mists and surprise gusts of wind that leave my curly hair looking a bit more 'Russell Brand' than 'Pre-Raphaelite goddess', I've begun nesting and home-making like I really am about to hibernate for the winter. Bathroom and now bedroom have been given 'the treatment' (clear out junk, tidy, clean, re-arrange stuff, put up pictures - generally prettify) and this afternoon it's the living room's turn - it's the biggest and messiest room so I may need fortifying mugs of hot chocolate to get through it.
I'm not sure everyone gets it (everyone = the man who shares my life) but simply moving stuff around, putting up a new picture or trimming a shelf with old lace brings a fresh new perspective for me. I do like things to look attractive and I'm usually too lazy to do anything about it but occasionally I get the urge to perk things up. The coming Christmas celebrations and long break from work (yippee) always brings on a burst of enthusiastic sprucing - the thought of being at home for a long stretch is heavenly but being at home when everything's looking just a little different than normal is a feast for the eyes and feels like a true holiday in someone else's beautiful home. I'm likely to revert to my usual slovenly self for the rest of the year.
I've been rooting through my old box of lace trims and ribbons whilst doing all this and thought I would share this simple lampshade makeover with you.
In the bedroom I have two Ikea lampshades with barrel-shaped cream shades that I've had for many years. I like their simplicity but as I'm feeling a little more romantic and in need of 'pretty' for the winter I've given them a temporary makeover that can easily be removed or changed when I feel the need. This is the 'before' shot:
This is the after shot. (It did take a little longer than the two minutes shown on the clock - but not much - I have two shades and this is one I made earlier!)
And this is the very simple 'how to':
Using some of the large lace trim that I'd already decorated the metal frame of the bed with, I simply wrapped a strip around the middle of the shade, making sure that a little was hanging below the bottom.
I then wrapped a piece of contrasting lace around the top part of the shade, making sure that a little of the scalloped trim peaked above the top of the shade.
As these lamps sit on our bedside tables and can't be seen from behind, I have simply held the pieces of lace in place at the back with a little blue tak - no stitching or gluing needed. If you wanted to make it permanent, simply tuck in the edges to neaten and attach with small dabs of glue to the shade. With a temporary fix though you can change the look using different trims and ribbons whenever you feel like it.
To hold everything in place and create a smart finish, tie a length of ribbon (black in this case) around the join of the two pieces of lace. My ribbon was thick so I used a simple double knot but a bow would also look nice. Trim the ends of the ribbon after it has been tied and you're happy with the way it looks. Finally, I've used a pair of sparkling clip-on earrings attached to the middle of the knot to finish the lampshades off - a vintage brooch or dress clip would look good too.
Et voila! A simple change to create a more romantic and coordinated look. If you frequent car boot sales and thrift/charity shops be on the look out for plain lampshades as they can easily be given a makeover - without any technical know-how - to match your room. 
Happy sprucing everyone!

Saturday, 29 September 2012


This week we are returning to the Yorkshire Dales, our home for several years before we had to move back to the south of England three years ago. Lots of old memories, both happy and sad, will no doubt be stirred up but most of all we will be thinking of little TD, who sadly died a year ago this month. We had lots of fun with him when we lived in Yorkshire and here's a few pictures taken at his first Christmas with us (he was about 8 yrs old). He got so excited unwrapping his little red jumper and he looks so smart in it! The winters were bitter cold up in Yorkshire and we think he appreciated the bit of extra warmth.

Hope you all have a happy week - the Etsy shop and blog will be back up and running when we get back.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Ginger on tap

I found this great book a little while ago in a small antique fair and have finally listed it in the shop.

When I was young I thought one day I might be a brilliant tap dancer. Sadly this was not to be, possibly something to do with having size 8 feet. I pictured myself elegantly tapping away like Ginger Rogers but in reality never learnt any of the more complicated moves. There was still a great feeling to be had though tapping away on the kitchen floor and I miss that.
I thought about taking it up again as an adult but, as most of the beginners classes available were for young children and the only adult class I found was filled with ladies in leotards who looked as if they'd been doing it all their lives, I never quite had the nerve.
I was so chuffed when I found this 1930s book on how to tap dance at a small antique fair last year and I couldn't believe it when I leafed through and saw these illustrations of the moves featuring a very young looking, dark-haired Ginger Rogers.
There are 39 lessons in all, each with photos, written instructions and a short musical score. As well as Ginger there are several young starlets of the day including Lonita Foster, Catherine O'Neil, Eunice Healy, Eleanor Coll, Raye Davis and Betty Nylander - all sporting natty little outfits. This illustration of Dorothy Dare in a spotty number and matching headscarf is one of my favourites.
I've discovered that some of these girls had brief careers on the stage or in films in the 1930s but many are sadly lost to history. Such a shame - I wonder what happened to them?
Such a charming book and, although I may never take up tap again, I feel inspired to sit back on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and watch my old Fred and Ginger movies. Bliss.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Blue Birds

Vintage tins are great for storage and these two lovely old toffee tins look good and are a useful size too. Made in the 1950s or 60s, these tins once held a luxury selection of Blue Bird Toffees. Part of the treasure I found at a car boot fair a couple of weeks ago, both are now listed in my Etsy shop.
One has a great Chinoiserie design on the top and red/gold designs on the sides.
The other is decorated with pictures of English castles.
Both tins have a bright orange design on the inside of the lid, bearing the Blue Bird logo and company address.
Blue Bird Confectionery was founded in Worcestershire, England in 1898 by Harry Vincent. Their toffee was originally called Harvino but Harry changed the name to Blue Bird after watching Maeterlink's play 'The Blue Bird of Happiness'. The company left the West Midlands in 1998 and became part of Needler's. Unfortunately, the toffees are no longer made as Needler's was purchased by Ashbury confectionery in 2002 and all previous Blue Bird lines were discontinued.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Edwardian Card Case

This lovely Edwardian card case is something I've had for some time and have finally listed in my shop.

I spent some time researching this today and initially I was a little puzzled as to it's use. The tiny pockets inside are too small to hold much - but I managed to find some very similar items online. What would we do without Google I wonder?
Cases such as this would have held a small amount of money but were mainly used to carry calling cards, stamps, tickets and other small items. In Victorian and Edwardian times calling cards would have been used by any lady or gentleman of means and the etiquette of leaving cards when calling on friends and acquaintances was widely known.
This lovely example is made from crocodilian skin, most likely alligator, and has 925 silver trims on each corner on the front. The silver trims are each marked '.925' and 'S & Co', which stands for Steinhart & Co of 14 Newhall Street, Birmingham, England. Steinhart & Co imported items such as card cases, cigarette cases, etc., from 1900 to 1929 and the other marks on this piece, a triangle and a lower case 'g' indicate that it was probably made in 1906.
I love the aged look to this piece too. The alligator skin is shiny in places and a little dry in others, and the silver trims are tarnished almost to black. The stitching on one of the inside pockets is missing but the other is still intact. There's also some rusting to the metal frame but the push-in clasp works as if made yesterday and I think you'll agree, the overall effect is charming.


Monday, 10 September 2012

More Booty

Finally went car booting again on the weekend after a bit of a quiet summer due to the wet weather. Sunday was beautiful - sunny, hot and dry - so I was up bright and early and spent a couple of hours scouring the stalls. Here's a few pictures of the wonderful things I dug up.


Lots of marvellous things to research and list in my Etsy shop in the coming days. I think that I'll be keeping the fossil (at the back on the left hand side of the first photo) as it will fit perfectly in my collection and I'm also pretty tempted by the lovely oil painting!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Roman Holiday

I've returned at last after my summer break. I didn't consciously decide to take a break - it just sort of evolved. After our two week holiday in Cornwall in June I reopened our Etsy shop but was feeling too lazy to do much! Without the shop and blog to occupy me I've enjoyed reading more, crocheting (more on that later) and generally mooning about. It's been lovely but I feel ready now to give the shop and blog my full attention.
Before I begin to talk about all things vintage though I've some pictures of a last minute anniversary trip to Rome that we made a couple of weeks ago. We'd never been to Italy and with the last moments of this very wet summer ebbing away we decided to try and grab some sunshine before it was too late. Of course, August in Rome turned out to be sweltering!

We spent much of our time walking all around the old part of the city looking at all the usual touristy sites.

Stopping along the way for some fabulous gelati. The best was from Venchi on the Via della Croce, not far from the Spanish Steps. For me - dark chocolate and cherry together with mascapone and fig; for Leigh - extra dark chocolate. No photographs of the ice cream I'm afraid - it wasn't around long enough! 

We squeezed in as much art as we could in our time there, which is not difficult when great sculptures, such as this fountain by Bernini, are in every Piazza.

And Caravaggio's are to be found in the churches.

The beautiful perfection of the Pantheon's dome was every bit as impressive as we imagined. 

A three hour guided tour of the Colosseum and Forum,  even on a very hot day, was well worth it. The Colosseum was impressive, despite it's familiarity, and our guide was so informative we were even inspired to watch Gladiator again!

Our hotel, the Marcella Royal on Via Flavia, was a short walk from the old part of town but a lovely spot to retreat to at the end of the day. The roof top bar became our favourite spot for a beer or Limoncello before bed - and I admit to developing a bit of an addiction to very chilled Limoncello. I now have a bottle sitting in the freezer for late night tipples!