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      Tons of tulips on a sunny day

      16th April
      I love flowers and as long as there is money in my purse, I will always endeavour to have a vase of flowers in my home.  The best flowers are those that I can pick from the garden and this is the beginning of the season when that can begin.  I love all flowers, but I especially love sunflowers for their cheeriness, sweet peas for their scent and they seemed to be everywhere when I was 9 months pregnant with my first child, so sweet memories and finally tulips for their Gemini quality, at first tall and elegant and finally casual and laid back later in their lives.

      I am lucky enough to have a dear friend who owns a garden centre in the north of England, a long way from me, but when ever she visits she brings me a pack of tulip bulbs, I probably now have over 20 different varieties of tulips in my garden.  Would you like to see some of them...

      By the way the garden centre is in the Peak District, called Glossop Garden Centre, they have a web site and are fab at delivering anywhere, give them a try or better still pop over and visit if you can!   http://www.glossopgardencentre.com/ They also have a facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Glossop-Garden-Centre/341009955986646  She has no idea I am posting this, wonder what she will say!!?



      ♥Hope you have a fantastic week where ever you are♥
      Since writing this post this morning, we have recieved a rather large parcel and inside from said very good friend was....

      ...what a coincidence is that!  See, she always buys me tulips, and I it.

A British Biscuit

This will now become a new family, go to recipe
14th April 

I love trying new things and returning to old favourites.  I am not sure what makes me seek new things to try or do and nor do I live a life of always trying out something different, it just happens as the mood takes me or the urge cannot be ignored.  But then there are days, weeks and sometimes even months when nothing but the familiar will do and there is no urge to try or experiment.  These are my batten down the hatches moments and I just live and enjoy.  At present I seem to be the opposite and my life is truly eclectic, where I want to try and experiment with everything and anything and there are not enough hours in the day... Are you like me and swing like a pendulum or are you more stable in your making and doing?

Recently an old school teacher of my children has set up her own business and teaches children to cook.  She was always an inspirational teacher and has helped my daughter to love cooking and experimenting even more.  So when she posted on her face book page, (details below) photographs of 7 year olds having made one of England's favourite tea time biscuits, there was no question about it, we had to give them a go in our house.  Since first making them, we have now made 5 batches, either for ourselves, for entertaining or for giving away, they are truly 'out of this world'.  The biscuit in question... custard creams. Mrs Bun can be found here:  http://www.mrsbunthebaker.net/  and her facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/Mrsbunthebaker

Here in England we have always loved our biscuits and the custard cream ranks in the top three favourites in the UK.  In 2007 when questioned 9 out of 10 in a poll of 7000 people, voted the custard cream their favourite biscuit.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6966747.stm and again in 2010, when asked the custard cream came out as number one biscuit of 6000 adults.  In total custard creams have won the best British biscuit accolade 12 times in recent years.  As a humorous aside, it was also voted Britain's most dangerous biscuit in 2009 for causing injuries such as scalding from people dunking their biscuit in hot tea, apparently 500 people in the UK seek medical attention for such reasons!  http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/revealed-the-most-dangerous-biscuit-in-britain-1036095  and finally in 2008 the word, custard cream, made it into the Oxford dictionary, so it must all be true then!  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2235642/Custard-Cream-is-new-entry-in-Concise-Oxford-English-Dictionary.html

Shop bought custard cream
So what is it about the custard cream?  The biscuit we know was first introduced during the Victorian times during the Industrial revolution when factory making was at its prime in the UK.  The intricate design, so well loved, on the biscuit is typical of Victorian baroque design and was based on the fern plant, recently having been introduced in the UK and was a current 'trend' here.  The main ingredient in a custard cream was the newly invented custard powder, known then and now as Bird's Custard, was first formulated and first cooked by Alfred Bird in 1837, because his wife was allergic to eggs, the key ingredient used to thicken traditional custard.  This new biscuit consisted of two layers and a custard cream filling, very like a sandwich.  Today about 6.5 million custard creams are made every working day here in the UK.  That is a lot of biscuit!  In 2010, the largest custard cream was ever made and entered into the Guinness book of records weighing in at over 15kg.  It was later auctioned off for children in Need.  So how to make custard creams, well, it is very easy...

Custard Creams
Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees
You will need:
150g plain flour
25g custard powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g caster sugar
1 egg
85g butter
For the filling:
1 tbsp custard powder
100g icing sugar
50 g butter


First rub the fat into the flour until it resembles fine bread crumbs.  Then stir in the baking powder, custard powder and sugar.  Mix well.
In a jug, whisk the egg to make it a little frothy and add to the dry ingredients, mixing well to form a firm dough. The dough will come together...
The dough, then needs to chill in the fridge for a minimum of half an hour, best if you can leave it for at least an hour though.
Due to the custard powder the dough is more yellow than usual.  We liked that!  Roll out the dough to about a thickness of 3mm.  It can stick a bit so use some plain flour on the work surface and rolling pin. 

Traditionally custard creams are rectangular, but we did not have cutters this shape, and although you could cut them by hand, we wanted a uniform look, so opted for a circular cutter.

Line baking trays with greaseproof paper and place an even number of biscuits, as you need two for each biscuit.  This mixture made three baking trays worth for us.

Bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, my oven seems to be a little fast, so they were ready in 12 minutes.  Check and remove when golden in colour.

 Once cooled make the filling with softened butter and give a generous spoon on a biscuit and then very gently sandwich together, being careful not to break the biscuits. 

Our first completed custard cream, thanks to Mrs Bun. 

 Time to eat and enjoy!

These are so delicious, I would anticipate if you make them, you will make them again and again

Injecting a splash of colour to our home

10th April

It has been ten days since I last posted, that is quite a while for me, but now we are on holidays and the made rush of life is able to slow down a notch and for a couple of glorious weeks we are not ruled by the clock.  Bliss.  And as always, I have many makes planned for these two weeks.  Already I have begun with gusto and am having such fun. 

Crocheted granny stitch bottle cosy

Those of you who have been following, will know that I am slowly making items to bring a splash of colour to the garden for summer outdoor living, well I live in hope(!) and so I continued this theme for my first make.  A good friend of mine brought over some Innocent juices one night and instead of recycling them in the recycle bin, I decided to keep one for myself and 'pimp' it up so to speak...I am a little bit in love with this bottle cosy and suspect I may make more. 

A few weeks back I acquired some old school pigeon hole shelves and knew immediately on seeing them what I would like to do and use them for.  I had to wait for the holidays to put my plan into action and I think they turned out better than I expected.  I had intended on using Annie Sloan paint, but our local stockists were all shut on Monday and so I was forced to look elsewhere and I am so glad I did.  Do you know about Autentico paint?  It is brilliant, like the Sloan paint, it is chalk based, but not suitable for chalk board painting.  As long as your surface is clean and grease free, it sticks to most without preparations!! Brilliant!  It is thinner than the Sloan paint and so I feel it is easier to apply and the colour range is slightly better too.  Those of you who can make it to Marlow, should really visit the lovely little shop called Sarah Hughes, if you cannot make it there, pop over and see her website and her blog too, her enthusiasm is infectious and she is terribly helpful:  http://www.sarahughes.co.uk/

I ran a little guessing competition on my Face book page to see if anyone could guess what I would be using the shelves for and so a little woolly creation will be sent off to the winner, someone who has entered all my competitions to date and now has finally won something, am so pleased.  If you are on face book, why not follow me there too!  https://www.facebook.com/eclectichomelife

So what did I want the shelves for...

Chalk furniture painting!

Old school shelves, just needed a wipe over before painting could begin.

I decided on a pale grey for the shelves as the contents would be colourful enough.

But then I decided that was too dull, so added turquoise to the edges, the colour here is not true, it is very vibrant.

Storage for wool of course!

My intention was only to ever paint the shelves, but I was quickly addicted to the speed of this process and the great result.  Recently my colour palette has changed, but not enough to add huge colour through out the house, but perhaps the utility room...

So taking a bog standard pine table that so many of us have, I decided it needed colour too.

Sarah Hughes had warned me that the first coat would not look good but she told me to, 'Stick with it,' and she was right.

I felt to paint the whole table turquoise would be a step too far for me and so used the soft pale grey for the table top.  This way I could inject colour with table runners and vases etc.

Luckily the weather had turned for the better and I was able to paint outside.  This paint is amazing, touch dry in 30 minutes and a second coat can be applied about an hour later. The underside of the table was painted too, the same colour as the pedestal leg as you could see the table top supports, at this stage I just hoped it would all pull together.

Not satisfied with the table, I also had four chairs to match it and so set about painting the first two, one an old fashioned pink, 'gamle rosa' as we say in Norway and the other a crisp sharp lemon, again the colours in these photos do not really zing as they do in reality.

With just painting the shelves I had decided to get away with not waxing the painted item as it would not be knocked about so much.  But having now painted the table and chairs, waxing was necessary to protect the paint work.  Quick and very easy to apply, luckily!

I waxed everything and left it overnight and buffed it the following morning with a lint free cloth.

I am thrilled with the colour combination and am secretly proud of myself for being so brave in colour choices.  Mr H is away and has no idea what I have done, could be interesting on his return!

Without knowing it the paint choices match my current crochet theme too, look how the chair works so well with the Attic 24 inspired cushion!

Meanwhile inside in the utility room...now maybe to be a utility/craft room!

Even the juice bottle cosy matches!

I love this time of year, all the flowers are from the garden!

My only question now is,  what colour to paint the last two chairs?  Another pink and lemon one?  Or, do I incorporate the other two paint colours I have and paint one grey and one turquoise? Please let me know what you think.

I think I have managed to add a splash of colour to our home, don't you?  My daughter is now saying she thinks she will sit in here to complete her homework, as it is such a fun place to be!
Have a great week everyone!