Thursday, 31 October 2013

Photo Scavenger Hunt: October

Here's my entry for October's Photo Scavenger Hunt, organised by Greenthumb at Made with Love.  It's always interesting how the selection of photos reflects my life each month. This time it shows that my days were mostly spent close to home with only an odd day out.

Orange: Could it be anything else but pumpkins for a post on Halloween?

2: On the side of an industrial unit.

Flower: Rudbeckia in my garden.

Rubbish: Trimmings from my miniature quilt which is almost ready to reveal :)

Emotion: I really really struggled with this category as none of my family were willing to appear on camera and I felt uncomfortable photographing strangers without their permission. In the end, my daughter came up with this idea: the strapline for the current Peugeot adverts is 'Motion & Emotion'.

Flight: Having just taken off from Manchester Airport, flying over Tatton Park, to destination unknown.

Homemade: A caramel custard apple tart.

Black & white: Zebra crossing.

Coffee time: Latte with a waffle, maple syrup and whipped cream.

Balloon: Seen floating in the roof of the covered market, Preston.

Weather cock: At Tatton Park.

Fridge magnet: I started collecting fridge magnets from places we've visited a few years ago. This is one of my favourites (and a fabulous place to visit).

The categories for November are already available if you fancy joining in next time. x

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Tealights & teacups

Like many of you out there, I love to burn scented candles in the evening, particularly with the nights drawing in. We don't have a real fire so it's lovely to have the gentle glow of a flickering flame to give the impression of the warmth of a fire.

What I don't like though is all the bits at the bottom of the tealights which don't burn away and get wasted, particularly if they're the more expensive ones or my favourite scent. Maybe it's the crafting spirit in me that saves everything but I've been hoarding them until they could be repurposed.

Over the summer, I decided I had enough collected to create new tealights. I scraped out all the bits with a screwdriver and melted them down in an old milk pan. The molten wax was poured into new tealights using a kit bought from Hobbycraft.

Really quick and simple. Thankfully the scent is pretty good too given that it's a combination of different wax.

The other candle wax of which I always have plenty is from the small samplers. Some burn down all the way but most seem to leave behind a large molten lump. These too I've been collecting and sorting into colours ready to transform.

Fired up with the success of the tealights, I decided to be more ambitious and make a teacup candle. I found this beauty in a charity shop for £1.

Again the wax was melted in my old milk pan and poured into the cup. There seemed to be a lot of wax in the pan but, as you can see, it wasn't nearly enough. My method of holding the wick in place was a bit precarious too!

I was very happy with the way it turned out though and was glad I'd made one for myself before attempting to make one as a gift. I already have another teacup to make one for my Mum - now all I need are some more leftovers!


After a week when I travelled to 5 different towns/cities in 5 days with work, I decided that this weekend would be a quiet one. Apart from treating ourselves to coffee and crumpets at a local cafe for breakfast this morning, it's been a couple of days of cosying down at home and cracking on with my miniature quilt.

One of the benefits of so much travelling was that I managed to read this book, Malkin Child by Livi Michael. If you enjoyed my post about the Pendle witches, you might like this. It's the story of Jennet Device during the period in which she testified against her family and others during the Lancashire Witch Trials of 1612. As it's actually aimed at young adults it's a light and easy read and helped me pass a pleasant couple of hours on the train.

The wind has really picked up over the last couple of hours as the storm approaches. Hope you're enjoying what's left of the weekend and that you stay safe. x

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


It's not often that work takes me away overnight but, back in September, I was lucky enough to go on a conference in York. Lucky because it's such a beautiful and interesting city to visit. Having looked at the conference programme, I'd spotted a couple of windows of opportunity to do some brief sightseeing.

I knew I was in for a great time as this sunflower was shining over me at the railway station as I set off.

The first window of opportunity was on the evening of the first day before the start of the conference dinner. We were staying at the Royal York Hotel which had the Wheel of York in its grounds (though it's moved to another location now). Even better, one of the perks of the conference was a voucher for a half price ticket.

The capsules were much smaller than those on the London Eye which I'd been on many years ago when it first opened. In these it was seated room only with a commentary on the history of York and sights to look out for.

Below us was the hotel with the railway station right behind it.

Over to the right in the distance was Holgate Windmill.

Further round was the river Ouse.

And York Minster dominating the skyline. You can also see part of the Roman wall amongst the trees.

In the grounds of the museum, I could see the ruins of another unidentified religious building. Intrigued, I decided that would be my destination in my final window of opportunity.

Next morning I was up and breakfasted early to give myself an hour to explore. Heading towards the river, the first building I came across was Barker Tower which was built as a watchtower in the 14th century. Apparently it was also once used as a mortuary! Now though it's a cafe.

Continuing on over the river and along the street, the next building of interest was this one. You might think it's a church but it's actually part of St Leonard's Hospital which was built in the 12th century and, at that point, was thought to be the largest hospital in the North of England.

In those days, hospitals did have a religious element in that the sick were also treated for their spiritual health. Unfortunately, that connection to the church meant that St Leonard's was included in the buildings destroyed as part of the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s under Henry VIII. This lovely undercroft survived though.

Whilst wandering around photographing St Leonard's, I could see other buildings nearby and was irresistibly drawn on towards them. This is the Multangular Tower which was built around 300AD by the Romans and is the last surviving of eight similar towers. In Roman times it was only as high as the orange line of terracotta tiles.

The upper part with the arrow slits is 13th century.

Behind the tower and along the wall was a small fernery. I loved reading the little information board which said that in medieval times, ferns were associated with mysticism and superstition and were believed to help you become invisible!

I have to say that the all of the information boards I came across were very interesting and well put together. It was refreshing to have so much free information, particularly in somewhere with such rich history as York.

Anyway, I could now see the building I'd noticed from the top of the Wheel the evening before.

This is St Mary's Abbey which dates from the 13th century, though it stands on the site of an older abbey of 1055. It was once the richest abbey in the north and, I love this bit, was renowned for its decadence! So much so that the rich Abbott is featured as one of Robin Hood's enemies in medieval ballads.

Like St Leonards, it was destroyed in the Dissolution. If you're interested, there is more about the Abbey and all of the other buildings I've mentioned in this post on the History of York website.

Did I mention I only had an hour? I'd already managed to pack a lot in but wanted to take a closer look at the Minster.

You get an idea of the scale of the building from the man standing in front of the door.

And this is the arched window from inside.

You have to pay to wander around inside but, with time so limited, it wasn't worth it so I made do with the shots I could take from the doorway.

In any case, it's just as impressive from outside.

With time marching on and a last look back at the Minster, I carried onwards to circle back to the hotel via the town centre.

I didn't have to go far before I came across something else of interest though: a statue of Minerva, goddess of wisdom and drama.

The great thing about York is that there's something of interest every few steps. This is the spot where it is believed Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 (though the building is 18th century) and he was baptised in the church across the street.

This is Mulberry Hall which, as you can see from the front of the building, dates from 1434. It's now a shop selling fine china, crystal, dining and kitchen ware. There are lots of these wonky half-timbered buildings around York.

Mulberry Hall is relatively modern compared to some of the buildings though, or rather the ruins of some buildings.

And there are lots of interesting details like this amazing door knocker.

My favourite find though was this pair of mischievous looking dragons.

All too soon it was time to head back to the hotel and the conference with a last look at Barker Tower and the city walls. I'm so glad I made the time for some whistlestop sightseeing and it's safe to say I'll be making time to visit again at some point to see what else York has to offer. x

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Chocolate, courgette & macadamia nut cake

Last month I promised you another courgette cake recipe. While I was leafing through my collection of recipes torn from magazines and newspapers, I came across one which I hadn't made before. The original used rapeseed oil and hazelnuts but I didn't have either of those so I substituted what I did have in my store cupboard. I also changed the method slightly and have included a more helpful indication of how much courgette you'll need. Ironically, after the summer glut, I didn't have enough courgettes in the garden so had to buy some! I also had to buy dark chocolate and came across some 150g bars in the supermarket which were reduced to the bargain price of 30p! The line is being discontinued but they still had a best before date of 2015. Needless to say I bought several bars as it's a pretty safe bet I'll be making something with chocolate over the next year :)

200g dark chocolate
2 large eggs
150ml vegetable oil
200g grated courgette
200g self-raising flour
120g caster sugar
50g macadamia nuts, finely chopped
4tbsp amaretto

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160 Fan/Gas 4.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  3. Put the eggs and oil in a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the grated courgette and gently stir into the egg/oil mixture.
  5. Combine the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt and add to the courgette mixture.
  6. Then add the macadamia nuts and melted chocolate. Stir until completely mixed through.
  7. Pour into a 20cm (8") cake tin and bake for 45 minutes until the cake is cooked and feels firm but springy.
  8. Leave in the tin and, while the cake is still warm, pierce all over with a skewer and pour over the amaretto.
  9. Leave the amaretto to soak in for a few minutes and then turn out and allow to cool.

We ate it at room temperature one day when it was lighter and fluffier, and out of the fridge the next day when it seemed richer and denser (I preferred it this way). It's not as sweet or chocolatey as I expected so would be good with a chocolate icing. I served it drizzled with more amaretto and some cream. Yum yum!


Before I go, I wanted to share these photos of the sky taken at about 7.30 one morning this week. Amazing. Stunning.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. x