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Mince Pies, love or loathe?

butter tartletsIt’s absolutely the time of year for lots of catching up with friends and family and at this time I especially love to have some old family favourites baked and ready in the cupboard.   You can pick up a  box of mince pies in any local shop but there is nothing better than home baking.   So do you love or loathe a mince pie?  I find they are an acquired taste and I totally love them but these butter tartlets my mum used to make when I was little are a perfect alternative and are always a huge hit with my guests, they are also a lovely hostess present to take round to friends in a pretty tin.

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For the pastry I use a quick one stage shortcrust and the recipe is as follows:

4oz soft tub margarine

6oz sifted plain flour

1 tablespoon of cold water

Cream the water and margarine in a bowl for around 30 seconds.  Add 2 tablespoons of the flour, mix well, add the rest of the flour to form a soft dough and knead lightly until smooth.  Roll out on a floured surface and cut into rounds, press into shallow muffin tins.

 

I then add 1 tsp of  the fruit mix to each pastry case and you should have enough for around 24 cases.

Then there’s nothing left to do but pop the kettle on, grab a cuppa and enjoy!

Love Joanna X

Pretty Pastel Tea Party.

The brief for a recent birthday tea party was “pastel and pretty” and the Liberty Betsy range available from Party Pieces was the range I used on this occasion.   I teamed the beautiful pieces with some vintage glassware and some gold accents to complete the perfect look.  As this was a relatively small party I organised the food too and baked a pastel pink vanilla jazzies cake which went down a treat and I have shared the recipe for this below.

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vanillaspongecollage.jpgFor the butter icing recipe I used, click here.

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The Liberty Betsy cups and straws are so pretty and save any washing up afterwards, I used these on the help yourself buffet table with some fruit punch and pink lemonade.  If however  you prefer real glasses then the straws are gorgeous displayed alongside your glasses in a separate jar. As this was just a small afternoon tea the small size of plates  and  small napkins were ideal  and although the plates are paper  they are very sturdy.  I am sure they were refilled a few times over the afternoon. For some sweeties and other smaller scones and cakes I used some vintage glass dishes and plates set onto a gold runner.  When the fairylights were on these all sparkled beautifully.

I used a lace tablecloth and co-ordinating lace backdrop with fairylights which was perfect for a pack of the stunning liberty betsy pinwheels to be placed against to bring the whole theme together as seen below.

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BeFunky Collage

No party is complete without of course the traditional party bag and there are a couple of options available in this range, I have linked the bags I used  here.  I pegged on a tag for the hostess to write each guest’s name on.

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I hope you have enjoyed reading about this pretty tea party and enjoy baking, should you decide to try the vanilla cake for yourself.

Love Joanna X

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All words, thoughts and photos are my own, I would like to thank Party Pieces who kindly supplied the Liberty Betsy items for this collaborative post.

 

 

Holidays are Coming.

With most of our immediate family and friends living either in the north of Scotland or the north of Ireland we often have houseguests to stay over the holiday season.  I love nothing more than to make the house cosy and welcoming and find the best way to do this is to have lots of seasonal cushions, signs and sweet treats around the home. holidaycollage1

This Christmas cushion by the fabulous Evans Lichfield is a super stylish and affordable way to update your guest room,  I find that using items like these together with some seasonal magazines and sweet treats ensure  guests feel immediately at home. holidaycollage7

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Fairylights are another must to have all around our home ( all year actually) and they create an instant warmth and cosiness to any room. Mini Christmas trees in the guest rooms are another perfect way to make  guests feel at home over the holiday season and our guests always feel relaxed enough to know they are welcome to retire to their room at any time to relax and recharge their batteries. holidaycollage2holidays5

This Christmas window  cushion from the Skandi range at Evans Lichfield is another favourite of mine and an  instant  stylish seasonal and affordable  update for any room in the home.

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You simply cannot go wrong with a cosy checked cushion, one of my favourites is this Stirling pink check cushion which also comes in a variety of silhouette patterns  and colourways with something to suit everyone.

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Lastly for a quick and easy update to move from season to season I  change most of  my candles around; this gel candle with pine needles smells so Christmassy and I sneak  in little snow displays around the home  from  now until Christmas time.  This can be some jars of brightly coloured baubles or decorations like the little polar bears and penguins seen below.  I hope you have enjoyed this holidays are coming post and look forward to sharing some of how I will decorate my own home for Christmas with you all soon.

Love Joanna X

 

 

 

Seasonal Chutney with Laura Ashley.

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Every year at the end of growing season in our garden we are usually left with lots of green tomatoes.   We live in the west of Scotland where we simply don’t have a warm enough climate to ripen them all as they grow.   This year I decided to use the tomatoes to make some delicious seasonal tomato chutney rather than just add them to soups and casseroles as I have done previously.chutney collage1

I like to use easy uncomplicated recipes and the one I have chosen is a very simple all in one recipe allowing me to use ingredients that I already had in my fridge and larder.

INGREDIENTS

1 kg chopped tomatoes

750g peeled and chopped apples

375g light muscovado sugar

250g chopped onions

250g sultanas

1 chopped green pepper (seeds removed)

2 tsp salt

1½ tsp ground ginger

200 ml white wine vinegar

150 ml balsamic vinegar

METHOD

Put all of the above ingredients into a large heavy-based pan and heat through slowly until all the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for approx. 45 minutes. Leave to cool. The chutney will start to thicken as it cools. Ladle into sterilised jars and seal. The chutney will keep for approx. 1 year unopened but once opened, keep refrigerated and use within 6 weeks.

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Before I begin cooking I like to ensure I have all my ingredients to hand and set out in the order I will need them. I used the set of 2 Kubu baskets  from Laura Ashley to collect the tomatoes, apples and peppers from the garden (these make fab bread baskets too)

As any good cook knows, the products made in their kitchen must be tried and tested so to put this chutney to the test I made some butternut squash  soup (see recipes page) and served it steaming hot in mugs together with some cheese,   the freshly made chutney and oatcakes from the cheese dome with cheeseboard set.  I set this all out on a tray to take through to the lounge and we enjoyed it cosied up on the sofa. The check tea towelfrom the fox set was used as a pretty tray cloth. (In my home pretty tea towels are never ever used to dry the dishes.)

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To create a welcoming cosy autumn feel to your home the Autumn Wreath is so naturally pretty and beautifully scented; these are not just for use on your front door, I propped mine on the piano and love it there! The Burnt Amber and Orange gel candle is also just perfect to add to the cosiness. These felt leaf coasters are great for placing your hot mugs or candles on or just simply to add interest to any display.

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I mostly gift my chutney and jams I make to family members, neighbours and friends so of course, the jars have to look pretty. I designed and printed off some labels then used the lovely Cranbourne Check Fabric to make jar covers.  To display the jars and give as a more substantial gift I put them into the Kubu triple basket and I think they look perfect! The triple basket can then be used anywhere in your home to display plants or any household items.chutney7

The sea salt cooks kitchen candle is a perfect addition to any kitchen as not only does it look pretty but perfectly masks any kitchen cooking smells.chutney collage1So as Autumn turns to Winter and we start to think ahead to Christmas, this chutney would be perfect to give as little gifts or as part of a homemade hamper. Hope you have enjoyed this post and that it has inspired you to make some handmade gifts for Christmas this year.

Love Joanna X

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(This is a collaborative post.  Laura Ashley kindly provided the items linked above  for the  purpose of this post. All opinions stated and photos are entirely my own)

 

 

 

Joint Birthday Celebration.

A surprise 60th Birthday for a special birthday girl was recently planned It turned out her son was also celebrating his 30th just a few days later so to create an elegant theme to suit them both I chose some gold,  pink and blue pieces  and I’m sure you’ll agree the pattern works range from the fabulous Neviti was the perfect choice! 
I ordered coordinating pieces in both pink and blue ; these have gorgeous gold accents throughout so paired them with a gold runner I already had.  The venue was a stunning converted steading conversion in rural Aberdeenshire and I set the party up in the huge family kitchen.

As the bespoke farmhouse table was so large I struggled to find a suitable tablecloth so I simply ordered a new  flat king-size sheet in the pale pink colour I needed and used this doubled over together with the gold runner. The result was perfect.

Along the runner table scatters in both pink and blue  ensured the theme was continued. The pink plates used were in both the chevron and spot patterns with alternating napkins in blue.   For place settings I stamped the names on little docraft gardening  papers and attached them to a plain card backing using the gold happy birthday stickers, each setting was completed with a bunch of herbs freshly harvested from the garden as the birthday girl is an avid gardener and the aromatic scents were gorgeous.

Glass jars with gold battery tealights and fresh herbs from the the garden completed the table decor, these also having the happy birthday stickers on them. A refreshing  fruit punch served in a help yourself drinks dispenser was a huge hit with the kids (of all ages) I used the lovely gold stickers here again on plain kilner mugs with gold foil striped straws to continue the theme. 

swerrs.jpgLastly pink and blue sweets  were placed in to the pink & blue chevron tubs and the pink and blue party bags were perfect to take home some sweets and birthday cake. The amazing cakes were created by the lovely Heather of Heather’s Cakescakes

Party Food

Thanks for reading,

Love Joanna X

 

 

 

(This is a collaborative post.  Neviti kindly provided the pattern works items for the event and purpose of this post. All opinions stated and photos are entirely my own)

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

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This is such an easy and tasty soup and can be made using any type of squash. You do not even need to peel the squash or carrots!

Ingredients.

1 Butternut Squash

2 Onions

2 Carrots

1 pinch Cumin Seeds

Half Cup Lentils

1 Litre Boiling Water

3 Ham Stock Cubes.

Method

Wash the butternut squash, carrots and peeled onions.  Roughly chop them setting the butternut squash seeds to one side  and put onto a baking tray with a spray of olive oil. Sprinkle over the cumin seeds and bake in the oven(180) for around half an hour, until you see the onion just start to caramelise.

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Meanwhile, add the water to the lentils and stock cubes and simmer until all the lentils burst and leave on a low heat. The veg should now be ready, add the veg to the lentils.

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Blend to a smooth consistency adding more boiled water if required.

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Take the butternut squash seeds and dry fry them on a medium heat until they start to pop.  Remove from the heat.

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Serve the soup in mugs or bowls piping hot and sprinkle a few more cumin seeds on top together with some of the toasted butternut squash seeds. Season to taste.

I have been making this soup for almost 20 years and it is still a firm favourite in our household.

Enjoy!    Love Joanna X

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Getting Cosy for Autumn.

IMG_20171009_192543As the nights start to draw in and we have more hours of darkness I feel there is nothing better than to close the curtains, cosy up on a comfy chair or sofa with a favourite throw,  light the candles and fairylights and enjoy these longer evenings.

This is the perfect time to have a bit of a refresh of the soft furnishing accessories in my home, such as layering  a satin or cotton throw with a woolen or fur throw on the beds and even on the wicker and basket chairs normally only used throughout summer … I also find this is  the ideal opportunity  to change over the cushions from light and floral to more seasonal designs; A great way to change the look of your home without spending a fortune.

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On this blog post I am featuring some of the gorgeous cushions by Evans Lichfield and the room I am starting with is the kitchen as this is most definitely the hub of my home.  Family and friends who call round automatically head for my kitchen as I am most often found there either meal planning, baking or batch cooking for the week ahead.   I have a corner with some wicker chairs and in the summer have bumble bee or floral cushions and accessories on show  but now is the time to change these up for a throw over the wicker chairs and some of these gorgeous Royal Velvet Cushions in Dark Grey. The perfect spot for a cuppa and a catchup.  kitchenfull

This is where I also like to sit relaxing with a cuppa and the radio on, especially at the beginning of the week when I  do my meal planning and write out my shopping lists.

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hyggekitchenAnother of my favourite cushions is the Hygge Cushion from the gorgeous Skandi Range It’s just such a pretty and feel good cushion that I move it around the home to wherever I want it to feel most cosy.

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Around my home in Autumn and Winter you will also find various baskets stuffed with cushions and cosy blankets & throws and whoever visits our home  knows just to make themselves feel at home and help themselves. This is also a way to make double use of things such as picnic hampers and market baskets you would otherwise only use in the spring and summer months.

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In the warmer months of the year I have the most gorgeous floral cushions which I use both indoors and outdoors as seen here …

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These were a gift earlier in the year from my mum in law and although this particular design is now unavailable, these are from the Jardin range and very similar cushions are still available. In autumn and winter I add warmer throws and use the aforementioned  Royal Velvet cushions with the gorgeous Stirling Check in pink in the middle to create a cosier look.

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To continue the look and theme I have matching cushions on a little bedroom chair that belonged to my husband’s Nana. (We are a family who love to recycle) nanachair

Our home is always busy with visitors and overnight guests as most of our family live in the north of Ireland & the north of Scotland and there is nothing more welcoming for them than a cosy feel to the guest room and I created some hygge feels for some recent guests which they loved. I have shown a snapshot of the guest room below.

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I hope you have enjoyed getting cosy for autumn with me by simply using some of these gorgeous cushions and I have some more that I look forward to sharing with you all soon on a future post where I will be talking about getting your home ready for Christmas.

Thanks for reading

Love Joanna X

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(This is a collaborative post and I was very kindly gifted the cushions for the purpose of this post but all opinions stated and photos are entirely my own)