Monday, December 17, 2012

My Oven!

Well as I'm back off the ivs (hurray!) I was going to do some baking, but then I thought I'd introduce an integral part of my baking. This is my oven. I hate my oven with a passion that is practically insane! From the front it looks like a normal oven, yes I know it's rather dirty- but it doesn't deserve to be cleaned! It's not like normal, sensible ovens, this one opens like a drawer- see pics below. Now when we acquired it with the house the previous owners assured us that the drawer opening design was brilliant as it let you get at food so easily... Well quite frankly that was rubbish! It drives me nuts! The drawer mechanism is fine if you are only using one shelf, but I often want to use two shelves, for example baking a multilayer cake- how unusual of me! The only way to get at the different cake tin or dishes, is to open the drawer right out and then take out the lower things to do stuff with them, then put them back in. If you try and do anything whilst the tins are on the lower shelf you will burn yourself on the upper shelf-guaranteed. Also, by opening up the drawer you expose your cakes to cold air, the result cakes that often won't rise or that deflate in the middle- not what I want. You also have to open it if you want to see if something is done or risen as there is no light in it (not a light that doesn't work there never was a light in it) and the window is mostly obscured by the shelf mechanism anyhow!  I can't seem to get a new seal for it either as its a non-standard design (at least in England) so because the seal is fairly useless these days it leaks heat and takes absolutely ages to heat up.  There is also no way to get a new instruction manual as the previous owners helpfully did not leave one, so I have no idea how to reprogramme the clock of use the timer as all have rubbed and randomly pressing buttons usually ends up with the oven turning on in the middle of the night.  So all I want for Christmas is a new oven! But I'll wait til the sales...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rock Cake

I'm back on the wretched ivs again... but I did get a little more baking in before I had to temporarily hang up my oven gloves.  Right now I am feeling pretty grotty and frequently nauseous, so baking is one of the last things on my list of things to do!  I have been indulging in some online retail therapy recently and my amazon addiction is showing no sign of abating, and one of my purchases is the lovely Ritz London Book of Afternoon Tea.  It is definitely one of those little books that are described as charming in the publicity blurb; its filled with lovely illustrations of Victorian ladies and gents taking tea and has some great little tea related poems and stories.  Its also written in the style of a slightly un-PC maiden aunt who has been at the sherry a bit too much... I particularly like the fact that the recipes are divided into English cakes and Foreign and Wicked cakes! Wicked French fal-de-lals covered in cream and other such decadence! I decided to have a go at their recipe for rock cakes as I have always liked a good rock cake and they really are so simple, its a good recipe for when you are feeling tired and full of cold- as I was when I made these.  One good thing I have discovered during making these, is that my kitchenaid can rub butter and flour together really brilliantly and far more quickly that I can do it by hand. It also means I don't get loads of flour and butter stuck under my fingernails which is one of my absolute pet hates-ick ick ick!
Lovely rubbed in butter
So a bit of a quick mix of everything else and whack 'em in the oven for about fifteen minutes and that's it- very quick and very yummy. I finished them with a good drizzle of leftover chocolate icing- I never throw icing away, I will make extra cakes just so that I dont have to!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Food and I

I have a bit of a funny relationship with food.  As a PWCF I have problems with digesting food, particularly with absorbing fat.  This means I have to eat as much food as I can, as often as I can, to maintain a healthy weight; its what I call the CF Diet. I can't remember a time when there wasn't a dietitian/doctor/nurse/parent telling me I needed to eat more-they still do! According to the health pros I should really be consuming one and a half times the recommended number of calories for an adult female- which I find practically impossible!  Added to this pwcf don't produce enough of the hormone ghrelin that makes the body feel hungry, so even tho I have to eat a lot I very rarely feel hungry.  People often say to me "oh you are so lucky you can eat whatever you want and not get fat."  Although I usually just smile at this remark, what I would really like to say is "b*ll*cks!  Getting past the obvious fact that being thin is never going to be any sort of compensation for having CF, this is simply not true.  I do not get to eat what I want, if I did I probably would not eat very much at all and would survive on tea and cake!  What I have to do is eat even when I don't want to, when I am feeling nauseous or when I have awful heartburn and quite frankly this is not fun.  If I don't eat enough the weight falls off me at an alarming rate and I can go from my okish BMI of 19 (the dietitian would prefer 20+, 20 being 'normal') to about 16 or even less, which is getting into dangerously low. malnourished territory.  For most women this would probably be fabulous-easy weigh lose, but for me it means no energy, lungs get rapidly worse and I end up on IVs or worse.  Without the high calorie intake I try and maintain, my health collapses frighteningly quickly, so I really don't have a choice as to whether I keep to my diet.

I would seriously contend that my CF diet is just as hard as any diet to loose weight. Frequently, I get to a point where just the thought of having to eat makes me utterly miserable and sometimes I even start feeling sick.  People often think that I must just 'be used to it', and yes, I suppose I am used to it but that doesn't make it any easier.  It also does not change the fact that its never going to get any better.  I have a target weight to get to and I have occasionally managed to get to it, but once I'm there the slightest cold can result in my falling straight off it again.  Also, maintaining this weight is really difficult, if I relax my intake down goes the weight again.  So, not only is this diet unpleasant it is unending. I am hopeful that a new study that is designed to see if injections of ghrelin could stimulate my appetite may make eating a bit easier if I am actually hungry sometimes. However, the study is still going and it takes a long time for these things to be approved-sigh.  In the meantime I will just have to keep eating...
Fantastic book!
Not really all the same size...
In a bid to make my cf diet a bit more easy to live with, I do tend to eat little and often rather than big meals which frequently get thrown up again... This is probably why I adore afternoon tea and small baked goods. They are much easier to eat and really help keep my intake up.  Also, as Dan Lepard says in his book Short and Sweet (pictured) sometimes 'we like to have our own cake rather than a piece of someone else's!"  I'm trying to widen my small things repertoire a bit and I found a recipe for Chocolate Whoopie pies in Dan's book that looked very promising.  They are two small cakey-biscuits sandwiched together with marshmallow frosting and finished with chocolate icing-nom.  I think I may have made mine a little bit big, and next time my inner pedant will definitely insist I get the piping bag out and make them more tidily! I dolloped these ones onto the baking try with a spoon and I think they were a bit big once put together to be described as bitesize...  I was feeling far too lazy to be more careful, but I think they could look really fantastic if made a bit more effort. I'm not totally convinced by the marshmallow frosting that sticks them together, as I do find marshmallow a bit too sweet even for me and it is so sticky that dealing with it is fairly annoying! However, the little cakey bits are delicious, so next time I may try using butter cream or possibly chocolate ganache. I also like the idea of experimenting with a lemony version and maybe a chocolate and cinnamon one...mmm...


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I've got a bit behind already with blogging the cakes I've been making-oops.  So here is a quick post of two that I made a while back.  The first is a Honey Cake from Nigella's chocolate cake hall of fame in her book Feast that I made for my birthday lunch.  It was a little later than my birthday cos as usual I was on ivs so had to put it back a week.  It's a really gooey, sticky, rich cake that you can only eat small slices of due to its density! Classic Nigella basically.  Sadly, I can't claim that I thought up the lovely marzipan bee decoration idea, but they have proved so popular that my Mum has had me bunging them on cupcakes and cakes for family birthdays ever since.
Making the bees.
The second cake I made to take a to a Halloween party, the theme of which was bad science.  Now I was assured by Mr EB that the obvious cake to make for this theme was The Portal Cake, from the game Portal.  I've not actually played this game but ever happy to make cake I agreed.  This is a picture of the cake from the game-
Apparently, the game's main premise is that humans will do anything to avoid death and to get cake-seems fair!  But as you are trying to escape from an evil computer, sometimes the cakes you find are a trap and is actually going to you, hence the quote 'the cake is a lie!'  This was exclaimed many times when I took the cake to the party, but didn't stop people eating it.  It looks like some sort of black forest gateau, but I'm not a huge fan of them so I made a cake called Brooklyn Blackout cake from the Hummingbird Bakery Book and covered it in chocolate custard and shredded chocolate.
A fairly convincing interpretation!
Three layers and LOTS of chocolate custard.
The photos here are all taken by Mr EB, hence they are all much more in focus and interesting than my attempts.  So just to finish off, here is a rather fun picture he took of my gorgeous Kitchenaid with me in the background.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I've written and rewritten this post several times over the last couple of months but I'm not really sure what to write in this blog anymore.  I always wanted it to be about things I've made or done, shows I've done,  places I've visited and fun, cheerful (preferably shiny!) things, with maybe a bit of awareness raising about CF and encouraging people to sign up to the donor register and donate to the CF trust.  I don't want this blog to simply become a long guilt trip by me to make people give money and I definitely don't want people feeling sorry for me! It was never meant to be a litany of my treatments and health problems, as quite frankly I am fed up of having to put up with them myself, without boring everyone else and repeating it all online.

So, I don't know where this blog is going to go... I was feeling rather down about it all, I hate having to be sensible all the time and not do things cos of my health; it's very annoying, not to mention frustrating, irritating etc.  So I'm going to make a list of things I can still do and that may even be doable whilst on ivs, as they take up such a lot of my time these days. I definitely want to try and resurrect my hat a week project, which got totally scuppered by my health, however, it may have to become hat a month!  But I don't want all the lovely and rather expensive things I've got for hatmaking like my blocks and lots of feathers and materials, to just sit about gathering dust.  They were bought for a reason and they are darn well going to be used!  There must be more things that I can still do so my brain does not moulder and I loose all the skills I worked very hard for.  So on my list, I'll start with more crochet as I can already do the basics but might try some more complicated things. Then there is tatting which is a type of knotting my mum used to do, which I've always fancied having a go at.  More machine embroidery is also on the list as my machine is just sitting about too.... Although this is a bit on pause due to software problems- don't ask, it's very annoying!

Some culinary adventures may also feature in my new list of things to do.  I may finally write my definitive list of the best places to eat tiramisu that I've found! Any excuse to eat more tiramisu... Perhaps I shall embark on a challenge to make all the recipes from one of my many recipe books with my marvellous new Kitchenaid mixer- courtesy of Mr EB and my parents for my birthday.

It is quite ridiculous how much I love this machine! Not only is it a beautiful colour (Ice Blue), but it makes baking so much easier, as I was starting to find holding and using a hand whisk annoyingly tiring.  So now I can sit and let this do all the hard work.  It also has loads of extra tools and gadgets that you can add on, like an ice cream maker and a sausage stuffer so I feel this may feed my gadget hoarding gene too.   Watch this space for, hopefully, a bit more regular blogging...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Oh dear...

... I've not been a good blogger. No posts for over two months-opps. To be honest tho, I've not really had very much to blog about! Work wise its mostly been alterations- which are not exactly exciting! Otherwise, my life seems to revolve around far too many courses of IVs - including the last eleven days being incarcerated in Papworth's CF Unit.  My health really has gotten a bit pants. I've been having IV's every four weeks sometimes only every three, and its not exactly an exciting fun thing to blog about. I'm not one of those bloggers who want to blog every tiny aspect of their lives, as most of the time I find it very hard to believe that anyone would be interested in the banality of my medical regime!  I could go into great detail about my IVs and all the tests I've been having and the problems of being in hospital, but quite frankly it bores me so I doubt anyone else wants to know! All I really want to say about my health at the mo is that it is crap, I have to take too many drugs, but it is sooooooo good to be out of hospital! I was getting serious cabin fever in there!

Another consequence of all these damn drugs is that I have had to cut right back on work. Making sure I hit deadlines has resulted in my having to work when I am on IVs which is really not ideal. Not only am I tried but  my brain is all drug addled so even simple jobs take a lot longer. Worst of all it is very stress full! The last thing I need these days; the consequences to my health really are not worth the money I may earn... So once again, my health is forcing me into changing my life in big ways I don't want. I haven't quite worked out what I am going to do but I am going to have to 'Adopt, Adapt and Improve!'  Suggestions on a postcard....

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Well despite me continuing heavy IV regime I have managed to do some work during the last couple of months!  Two more of my lovely friends from Lindy married their gentlemen friends recently and both brought their dresses to me for adjusting and adding some extra je ne sais quoi! The first nuptials were Katherine and Graham's, and as Katherine has the most gorgeous auburn colouring she wanted to add some extra teal aspects to her dress which would match her bridesmaids (which I also made for her)  Her dress was a lovely draped organza ballgown, with a lace up back and ruffle details.  She wanted to add a sash to highlight her teeny tiny waist, and add some sparkles to the flowers on the front. I only took a couple of photos in the workroom but you can see how pretty the sash looked-
I will try and get some pictures of the dress in action and post them soon. As usual my camera does not do just to just how lovely the teal coloured satin looks in real life.

The second wedding was that of Natalie and Geraint, and Natalie wanted a rather dramatic transformation for her dress! I must have chopped about 2 feet off the bottom of her skirt! Changing it from full length and  more, to tea length... This is the dress before-
and hopefully I will get a picture of the after from Natalie as I managed to forget to take the after shot- I was on IV's at the time! You can see in the picture of the front, that there was an asymmetric overlay to the skirt that stayed at tea length for a while and gave a natural length for the new hem line. I used the off cut of her skirt to make her a veil and two shrugs, one with 3/4 sleeves and one with little cap sleeves (and I still have several metres of the chiffon left!). 

 In the end she wore the short sleeved one during the day, and the sleeves when it got a bit chillier in the evening. I was lucky enough to go to both weddings and had a fabulous time at them both, I always love to see people I like wearing things I've had a hand in :-) Apologies for the lack of photos I will try and rectify this soon...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jolly Holidays

Oh dear, not blogging very much at all recently.  Mainly because I don't really think I've had anything that interesting to blog about! I've done barely any hatting because I've either been too ill to actually manage any work, or I've been doing alterations and small jobs that are not hugely suitable for blogging. I will post a few pictures of some of the bridal work I've been doing (once I'm allowed) as that at least is rather pretty.  I did manage to go on holiday in between IV courses, with the massed Evans clan (parents, bro, Josie and Sophie) and of course Mr EB- which was really lovely. We went to a gorgeous farmhouse near Woodbridge in Suffolk for a week. Having an extremely active two year old around for a week is not hugely restful but it is great fun. I have now been introduced to the many songs that Sophie loves by The Green Balloon Club on Cbeebies. Her particular favorite is The Waggle Dance, which is all about bees and flowers. So, my next Sophie based project is definitely a bee costume for her :-) I think my favorite song had to be Mini Beast Madness, which although about yet more insects is a total tribute to Madness-including cheesy dance moves and sax solo!

Whilst in Suffolk we pottered around many of the lovely towns and villages, and one thing that really struck me was the wonderful colours that many people had painted their houses. I'd heard about the tradition of painting houses in Suffolk a very characteristic pink, in fact quite a large number of houses round here are painted in that colour too.  But my favorites were definitely the ice cream colours that popped up all over the places we went to-


I particularly like this last set of houses, as the blue house was further decorated by an amazing silhouette of I think a Regency scene. I've never seen anything like this on a house before, but I definitely think it should be encouraged, although I'm not sure Mr EB will let me start painting our house front mint green or Suffolk pink!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Peacock Green Dress

Oh dear, I really have not managed to keep up my blog well at all recently. What with December being a total disaster health wise, 2012 did not start much better as by the end of Jan I was back on the IVs, AGAIN!! I just can't seem to manage to go more than a month without them these days, which makes having any sort of normal life bloody difficult. I can't give definite answers to invites because chances are I won't be able to make it cos of my health. Work is totally stressing me out as I would hate to let any of my clients down, and I can't let the bridal clients down! I'm doing some alterations to friends wedding dresses and the thought of letting them down has left me with more than one sleepless night... so I am having to make very difficult decisions about what I am going to take on in future. I hate that yet again my bloody CF is dictating what my life has to be.

Anyway, rant over, one very good thing that I did manage to go to over the Christmas period was a wedding of Simon's friend and colleague Tom and his now wife Eden. They got married on New Years Eve in a gorgeous country house in Somerset. As the dress code was Hollywood Glamour it was an obvious opportunity to make myself a dress for a change, and of course a head piece to with it (see previous post). I decided to go for a colour I don't often wear, and don't have a dress in- dark green. I've had samples of silk from James Hare Silk for ages and I often order bridal fabric from them, but I've not had a chance to use their new heavier weight satin back crepe that comes in loads of utterly gorgeous shades. So I chose this beautiful peacock green satin and a fairly simple design as the fabric is so lush that it would be a shame to distract from it. Sadly, these photos really don't do the colour justice but you get a slight idea of how fabulously intense the colour is.

As I was stuck on IV's for sooooo long before Christmas, it was an excellent opportunity to do some beading on my dress. So whilst sitting with the drip going I would gradually add on more and more strings of iridescent blue and green beads around the neckline. Again the photo doesn't really show the colour very accurately.  It is surprising just how quickly I finished it, although with three sets of two hour drugs to drip in for two weeks, maybe I should not be so surprised....
Close up of the beaded loop at the centre front neck.

Monday, January 09, 2012

A better butterfly picture

I'd forgotten Mr EB had taken a couple of shots of the butterfly for me before we went off to the wedding on New Years Eve. The colours in this shot are far better than my poor attempts at capturing peacock feathers, although I always thought my hair was darker brown than this!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Hat a Week 5: Peacock Butterfly

I actually managed to get some hatting done whilst stuck in Papworth, but as usual it took ages for me to actually take some photos of it... I made this peacock butterfly to go with the green silk dress I wore to Tom and Eden's wedding on New Years Eve (pictures of that to follow as well!). It was a bit of a fiddle to make, as attaching feathers to wire and then onto a delicate beaded body and then onto a comb was rather harder than anticipated. In fact, next time I make this design I will probably make a small buckram body onto which I will mount everything and then attach that to the comb. Hopefully this will make it less delicate without being too bulky!

Close up of the beaded body

Its very difficult to get the sheer beauty and colours of a peacock feather to come out in a photo- I'll try getting Mr EB to use his superior skill when he has a mo! You can also see the sticky tape I had to use to attach the comb to the dolly head temporarily... As it has no hair, comb based designs can be a pain to attach to the dolly, but I would rather use tape than put a wig on it!