Sunday, September 22, 2013

Judging Covers

How beautiful are these?
After seeing Bee's latest post, and falling head-over-heels for her edition of The Secret Garden, I investigated these 'penguin threads' editions to see if they're all as beautiful.  Turns out they are.  Hand stitched needle and thread, the illustrations were originally completed by Jillian Tamaki and continued by Rachell Sumpter.  
{Images source.}
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Simple Question

// matu-maloa
// thisismylittle

What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.

--- T O  T H E  L I G H T H O U S E ---

 --- V I R G I N I A  W O O L F ---
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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Books Are My Bag

// Hot Key Books

TODAY (14th September) 
bookshops, publishers, literary magazines, and bookworms up and down the UK are uniting to celebrate bookshops.

I thought I would share my experience with dwindling local bookshops in a hope to spark some conversation about this problem affecting high streets up and down the country:
Turners' Bookshop was long and narrow.  You had to push the long glass door with a dark wooden frame quite hard for it to open, with a little jingle, and the lovely lady would come running down the stairs to welcome you in.  As you walked through the door, you were immediately greeted by the books for adults, which was boring and pointless (in my opinion).  Rushing through to the back I would stand and gaze at the shelf which had every. single. famous. five. book. ever.  This was my Everest.  Being able to stand there, taking in every title, memorizing the ones I had already read and the others which I still needed to buy.  It wasn't long until I was negotiating an increase in my weekly pocket money from my father to cover the cost of one Famous Five book a week.  He and I would come in every Saturday, regulars, he in the front section, and me standing staring at these perfect books.  They were sooo much better than library books - they were still shiny, the spines weren't bent, and as far as I was concerned I was the first person,ever, to read them (Enid Blyton and I had a special arrangement).  
Sadly, Turners' closed down when I was around 11 years old, so I never really got to make any use of the adult section which I always rushed through.  Now, according to the national bookshop database my nearest bookstores are supermarkets.  Supermarkets, whilst good for stocking bestsellers at low prices, are not the same as bookshops.  
Now is the perfect time to go and appreciate your favourite bookshop whilst they are still around! Go, stare at the books, maybe even buy a couple!  And be sure to pick up a 'books are my bag' bag ;)! 
For more information - here's the website and twitter feed.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe

// With Grace & Guts Tumblr

Ellen Branford is a high-powered New York attorney; engaged to the man of her dreams Ellen couldn't be happier.  This happiness, however, doesn't last too long as Ellen's grandmother is suddenly taken ill.  With her dying breath she asks Ellen to deliver a letter to an old friend in her home town in Maine for her.  She had been meaning to send the letter herself but was too scared that the letter would return unopened so instead left it.  Before Ellen could ask any questions about the recipient, content, or meaning of the letter her grandmother passed away.  Leaving Ellen with so many questions that she decides to hand deliver the letter to her grandmother's home town to try and solve some of the secrets her grandmother had been hiding for so long.

Arriving in the picturesque Maine it's not long before Ellen makes a big-splash (pun intended) across the local media when she nearly drowns only to be saved by a local hero, Roy.  Unlike real life, Roy is not an overweight man in his fifties, but rather a loveable stud (aren't they always in these books?), who is just waiting for the right woman to sweep him off his feet.  Ellen shakes off the swimming incident, determined to proceed with her investigation into her Grandmother's history.  She soon discovers the house of the mystery man her Grandmother was writing to - but there is no answer.  She decides to stay a while to see if he returns.  As she travels through Maine she discovers that her Grandmother, who taught her photography, was an avid painter.  Her paintings won prizes and gained her a place at art school yet as far as Ellen was aware, her grandmother went to Chicago University.  And it soon transpires that the roguish Roy may just be the only person who is able to help her discover the truth behind the mysteries her Grandmother left behind...

This is a wonderfully lighthearted read: full of vivid descriptions of the landscape, food, and people of Maine (I really want to visit it now!).  Ellen has a wonderful journey of self discovery as it transpires that she isn't such a New Yorker through-and-through as she had thought.  The same woman who would only eat chicken finds herself tucking into lobster with butter sauce, cider apple doughnuts, and of course plenty of blueberry muffins! The more Ellen discovers about her Grandmother's past, the more Ellen wants to allow herself to rediscover her own personal past, her creative side away from the office.  She becomes less concerned with her appearance and more concerned with her identity.  Opening herself up to the wonderful Roy, who is just standing on the sidelines, waiting to change her life for good...

This is the kind of book which will pick you up and cheer you up on a cold, damp, rainy day -- perfect for Autumn! ;)

(psst: the author, Mary Simses, preempts your cravings for blueberry muffins by including a recipe on her website [HERE] - I've yet to try them, so let me know how you get on if you do!)


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Recipe Book: Apple and Blackberry Crumble Cake

Bushes and bushes full of ripe and juicy blackberries line the fields where my mum and I walk the doggies.  It wasn't long until we came armed with some tubs, treading in among the sharp brambles trying to find some goodies, and having a bit of an 'incident' with a wasp.  Nasty things.  We soon headed home debating how to put our bounty to good use.  This cake was decided on almost immediately!

The recipe I was following, however, was really disappointing.  Confusingly laid out they had jumbled together various stages in one 'step' and hadn't bothered with separating measurements for the various stages.  After various mumbles and grumbles I decided to just go-for-it and improvise! And was rather happy with the results.  I've yet to find a better written recipe for this beauty so decided to share my own.  

This cake is composed of various stages, which can be done whenever, don't be put off by the various stages as they're relatively simple - so long as you remember to add them all together at the end! ;)

 Heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 4.  
Butter and line a 20cm springform tin with baking parchment

Peel, core, and slice each of the apples into 8 wedges
Heat 25g of butter in a large frying pan
Add 1 tbsp golden caster sugar and the apple wedges
Cook slowly until the apples are tender and golden, leave to cool.

Crumble Topping:
Melt 50g unsalted butter
Mix in 50g soft brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 75g plain flour, 50g hazelnuts
Keep mixing until it until it resembles bread crumbs, allow to cool

Cake Mixture:
Beat together 175g butter and 150g golden caster sugar until light and fluffy
Gradually mix in the three beaten eggs
Fold in 200g plain flour and 2tsp baking powder
Add the 150g creme fraiche, mix until smooth.


Spoon roughly 2/3 of the cake mixture into the tin, level, and sprinkle a layer of the crumble mixture
Top with the remaining mixture, level again
Scatter another level of the crumble mixture
Arrange the apples and blackberries on top
Finish with another layer of the crumble mixture

Bake for about one and a half hours
loosely covering the cake if you find it is browning too quickly


I added a layer of butter cream and blackberry jam, served with a dollop of creme fraiche.
My mum would have preferred I left out the jam and cream and just served with some warm custard.

Possibilities are endless!

Please share any blackberry themed recipes you enjoy - I still have lots, and they're feeling rather neglected out in the freezer!

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