Very excited to share the news that Jim and I are expecting a baby! Mini Ashworth is due in March 2015 and we’ve already begun planning, organising and (for me) knitting. I’m excited about growing big during the cooler months and will be sharing some outfit posts in this space. Life is about to change a whole lot and I’m looking forward to sharing our adventure here on this little blog!
My obsession with flowers is well documented on this ol’ blog, so it’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of Anna Bond, founder of hugely popular Rifle Paper Co. Her beautiful paintings can be found adorning everything from calendars to greetings card, notebooks to phone cases, and even wallpaper! Anna’s instagram feed is a delight, full of dreamy snaps of her daily life and floral paintings.
But something particularly lovely recently caught my eye – Anna’s designs for covers of four classic children’s books, which are being re-issued by Puffin over the next few months as part of their ‘In Bloom’ collection. Aren’t they just stunning!? I love the colour palettes, the hints of gold and the little O-mouthed characters. Working in a library, I’m still a big fan of reading a story in a book rather than on a digital screen, so these have gone straight onto my wishlist for Christmas. I sincerely hope Anna has more treats like this up her sleeve!
If you haven’t visited the Rifle Paper Co. website before, I’d highly recommend popping over there for a browse (I have my eye on a floral 2015 calendar). But maybe leave your credit card in the other room…
A few weeks ago, over my birthday weekend, Jim and I went to Manchester for the day for some shopping, browsing and afternoon tea. I always love visiting my old home, seeing what’s changed and what’s new. Anyway, this time I had an ulterior motive for wanting to visit Manchester, and specifically, Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Tucked away in the heart of the Northern Quarter, the centre houses 30 artists and makers across two floors, all selling their handmade wares. There’s a huge variety of goods for sale, from jewellery to baby clothes to prints to paintings to toys, as well as a friendly café downstairs.
Back in April a new resident moved in to the design centre, with a studio I was very eager to visit. I’ve been a fan of Nadia Izruna for years, since she launched her beautiful handmade clothing label Nadinoo in 2009. Nadia has a real knack for design, and for choosing beautiful fabrics to compliment her collections of dresses, blouses and two-piece sets. In fact, Nadia was the person who introduced me to Liberty fabrics, in particular the Claire Aude fabric which later became the inspiration for the colour scheme for our wedding!
So when I found out that Nadia had opened a studio, I knew I had to see her beautiful pieces in person – and perhaps buy myself a birthday gift, of course! Meeting Nadia was a real treat after following her adventures for so long online. She was welcoming and friendly, and we had a lovely chat. I rummaged through the rails, tried dresses on and grinned with delight at Nadia’s pint-sized children’s collection. And I did treat myself to a birthday present; a custom-made Nadinoo dress, which arrived last week and is perfect for Autumn adventures. I’ll save that for another blog post…in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my photos of Nadia’s lovely workspace.
Unfortunately, Nadinoo’s studio doors will be closing for the last time on 15th September – so if you’re in the Manchester area, hot-foot it over there! I have no doubt that Nadia has many more exciting projects up her sleeve, including a children’s collection for Spring/Summer 2015, which I had the pleasure of viewing and which is THE CUTEST. In the meantime, you can follow Nadia’s adventures on her blog and shop her lovely clothes online. Stay tuned, more great things are coming from the Nadinoo camp.
Things have been pretty quiet on the blog baking-wise lately. But I’ve been trying my hand at some new recipes, including spanakopita (delicious), chocolate eclairs (deflated) and strawberry cheesecake (GNAM). Today I’d like to share a recipe I’d been wanting to try out for a while, only it felt too…well, Autumny. Signe Johansen’s lovely book Scandilicious Baking is packed full of beautiful and tempting treats; I’ve written about it before, here. Pastry and dough-making pops up a lot in the book, which may sound time-consuming, but the results are well worth it. And this week I attempted, for the first time, jam pinwheels.
First off, to explain my reasons behind baking such an Autumnal treat when we’re still in sunny August: although I was a Summer baby, my favourite season is Autumn. Perhaps it’s because UK Summers are always so half-hearted nowadays, but by this time of year I’m always craving Autumn, anxious for it to arrive. Although other people hate the early dark nights, there’s something I love about leaving work in the dark, wrapped up in layers and walking home to find the fire lit and delicious smells filling the kitchen. I love fireworks, bonfire night, and Halloween, and the promise of Christmas just around the corner. I love the warm, comforting smells of Autumn, the layers, coats and colourful knitwear. I have a coral pink wool coat that I bought over the Summer and am itching to wear. I know I may sound a bit mad wishing the Summer away, but at this time of year, when the weather is gradually turning, I feel ready for crunchy leaves, hot chocolate and roast dinners. I prefer tights to bare legs (mine are perpetually white), I love warm fairisle jumpers and woollen miniskirts and layering. I really am an Autumn girl at heart.
Sorry if I’m bringing you down, but think about the other upside to Autumn: the baking. I baked this cake last week and am feeling ready for another delicious dark batch of this. I’ve had enough of pavlovas and strawberries. The apples and damsons are ripening in our garden and I’m feeling the urge to bake crumbles and pies, desserts to eat warm with ice cream and a cup of tea.
So to pay homage to my favourite season a little early, here’s the recipe for Signe’s jam star Danish pastries – or, pinwheel pastries. This recipe does take a bit of preparation; you have to make the dough the night before baking the pastries. But if you have the time (and take your time), the results are definitely worth it. Next time I think I’ll make a large batch and freeze it for when I have the pastry itch. You can use any jam you like, and as the photograph in the book shows, these pastries look especially pretty with different-coloured toppings. I used damson jam, however, as we had a large jar in the fridge, made by Jim using fruit from our damson trees.
I made these pastries for my pals at knitting club, and they went down very well. I will roll the dough a bit thinner next time, though, as my pinwheels turned out a bit, well, beastly! I’m really pleased I took the time to make these sweet pastries, and will definitely be making them an Autumn staple in my baking repertoire. After all, it is nearly damson season.
Jam star Danish pastries
recipe from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen
for the Danish pastry – prepared the day before baking the pinwheels
250-300ml whole milk
500g strong white flour
10g fine sea salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
15g fresh yeast or 7g fast action dried yeast
1 medium egg, beaten
250g unsalted butter, chilled
- Scald 250ml of the milk by heating it in a small pan until almost boiling and then allow it to cool. Scalding the milk makes the finished pastry softer.
- Sift the flour, salt, sugar and cardamom together in a large bowl, sprinkle in the dried yeast (if using) and stir through. If using fresh yeast, cream it with a teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl and once it is liquid (after about 30 seconds) add to the dry ingredients.
- Make a well in the middle, add the beaten egg and then the milk mixture, which should be warm rather than hot to the touch, as otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Stir everything together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl, adding as much of the remaining milk as you feel is needed until the dough looks – for want of a better word – doughy. Shape into a rough rectangle shape, cover with lightly oiled clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (30-60 minutes depending on how cold your fridge is). Use a cheese slicer or a very sharp knife to cut 250g chilled butter into thin slices. Lightly flour the surface you’re going to roll the dough on and the dough itself. Roll out to a rectangle about 45cm x 15cm and roughly 1cm thick. Starting at one end of the pastry rectangle, place the butter slices across two-thirds the pastry, leaving a border of a couple of centimetres around the edges. Make sure the butter is evenly distributed and that there are no large lumps sticking out.
- Fold the unbuttered pastry third over to sit on top of half of the buttered pastry, and then fold the remaining buttered third on the top of that, so that you end up with a rectangle of pastry a third of the size but three times as thick as when you started. Turn the pastry 90° and roll out again to a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in thirds lengthways again, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for one hour.
- Remove from the fridge, place on a lightly floured surface and roll into a long rectangle (roughly 50cm x 10-15cm) when it again should be about 1cm thick. This time fold both the shorter ends in so they meet in the middle and then fold of half on top of the other, as if you’re closing a book. Turn the pastry 90° and roll out again into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in thirds lengthways one last time, cover with clingfilm and leave to chill for another hour or so before using to make Danish pinwheels.
for the pastries
1 batch of Danish pastry (as above)
12-15 tbsp jam
1 medium egg, beaten
- Lightly oil a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Roll out the chilled Danish pastry on a lightly floured surface until it forms a rectangle about 30cm x 40-50cm. Slice into 12-15 equal squares of pastry, until 10cm x 10cm each, and place about 3-4cm apart on the baking sheet.
- Use a sharp knife to split each corner of the squares by cutting a couple of centimetres in from the tip towards the centre, leaving the middle of each pastry square uncut (to make room for the jam).
- Dollop a tablespoon of jam on the centre of each square. Lift one side (left or right, whichever you prefer) of one of the split corners of the pastry square and fold it in towards the middle, pressing gently in to the jam so that it stays put. Repeat with the same side of each of the remaining split corners, pressing the pastry tips together in the middle, to create a pinwheel star shape. Brush the exposed pastry surfaces with beaten egg (dabbing a little on the points where they meet in the middle to stick them together), cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 20 minutes. While they are proving, preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7.
- Bake on the upper shelf of the oven for 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 190°C/170°C/gas mark 5 for a further 3-5 minutes or until the pastries look golden brown and feel crispy and firm to the touch.
- Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack, sift icing sugar over the top for a pretty touch and eat while still warm (but not immediately out of the oven, as the jam gets very hot).
It’s back to normal around these parts, which is lovely. Although I enjoyed planning our wedding, I have to say that I don’t miss it. I’m loving being at home, doing normal homely things. One such thing is a lot of crafting, as we have several friends who have babies on the way in the next few months. My friend Rachel gave birth to her second baby in July, and as I made Rachel’s first child a giant Humpty Dumpty a couple of years ago, it was only fair to make the new baby their own toy.
I’m a big fan of making toys for babies, as opposed to clothes, as children don’t grow out of them and will – hopefully – form a lifelong bond with their new pal. I decided to make a bear from Chloe tells you how…to sew by talented stitcher Chloe Owens. It’s a great, colourful book full of patterns for fun projects to stitch, from a toy rabbit to a patchwork quilt, to a feather headdress, cat bed, felt biscuits and earrings. The 60s fabric that Chloe favours really caught my eye, and made me want to make Fred bear straight away, with his happy face and smart braces…although I had plans to update this bear if Rachel’s baby turned out to be a girl!
I was planning to stick with braces if the baby was a boy, but add a lace trim to the neck and waistline if a girl. When little Maria was born on 4th July I excitedly set to work adding the lace, and of course, eyelashes. Although I do a lot more knitting than sewing, I really enjoyed this project and think Mrs Bear turned out pretty cute, if double the size of the baby (she’ll grow into it). Furthermore, Mrs Bear didn’t take long to put together. My favourite part was probably choosing fabric for this project – there are so many possibilities! Also, well. The fabric in my craft room is getting a bit out of hand. Good job there are more babies on the way then…!
We knew our wedding reception was never going to be easy, or simple. Both Jim and I have very specific tastes over various things, and it became clear early on this was going to be a full-on DIY job which would require a lot of organisation and manpower. Cue a small group of amazing friends and family, who stepped in and set to work with no grumbling whatsoever and the sweetest will in the world. You guys, we did everything ourselves. When I say ourselves, I mean either me, Jim or one of our small group of workers. It was a mammoth task, and you know what? We did a pretty good job.
Our reception was held in Trelawnyd memorial hall, a ten minute drive from the ceremony venue. We knew we needed a big space as there were to be 110 guests during the day, with more in the evening. But a space doesn’t half fill up quickly when you introduce six foot tables, all the accompanying chairs, a bar and buffet tables. Phew. We made it work, though. We hired all the tables, chairs, bar and glassware from a local company, and our mismatched vintage crockery came from Wedding Bunting Hire. I spent a year collecting embroidered tablecloths and various bottles and jars for flowers. We did the whole handmade napkins thing, and had giant balloons for the table centrepieces. Our favours were screenprinted tote bags, featuring a design we made up of our names and the date of our wedding. We’ve seen a few friends since using them, which warms my heart!
The hall was a such a big space to fill that bunting was a given. To be honest, though, I wanted something a bit different to your normal triangular bunting, so we went for scallops. Jim’s mum made 100 metres of gold bunting for us, and I loved it. I also have thing for festoon lighting, so we bought our own LED bulb lighting off ebay. This is a great idea if, like us, your hall doesn’t have strong beams to support the usual heavy festoon lighting. Our strings of LEDs were light enough to be hung off the curtain rails. Finally, I bought tissue poms off ebay, in pink, white, yellow, mustard, coral and peach. I’m not going to lie, they took a lot longer to hang than first anticipated. Huge respect to my brother, the best man and the father of the groom for slaving away and making it look like they took ten minutes to throw together.
The amazing best man, Ian, and his equally amazing girlfriend made us a piñata. They were so patient and lovely, listening to what I wanted and duly shuffling through Pinterest boards and finally creating a huge pink and gold heart. IT WAS IMMENSE! I was sad that we would eventually destroy it, it was so lovely. We filled it with finger frights and lollipops and badges of ourselves (bleurgh), and almost injured various people while whacking it. I made 19 huge flowers out of card in our wedding colours, which I’ve written about before, and we stuck them on the stage and around the room.
We own a Polaroid Miniportrait camera, and Penny’s brother generously agreed to man it for us so we could have a photobooth. This went down a treat, and I shed many a tear the day after the wedding looking at our friends and family being daft for the camera. You can see the full set of photographs here.
Jim’s mum made our wedding cake, and a friend’s mum stepped in to be our chef, making vegetarian chilli to Jim’s recipe. We bought a potato oven and had a huge buffet with rice and salads. It went down a storm. I roped my brother, Jim’s mum and my bridesmaid Katherine into baking cakes with me for the dessert table, which were scoffed within half an hour. We hired wedding coordinator extraordinaire Laura Tickle to help with the running of the day, and she was fantastic.
Just after the evening guests arrived, our friends Katy, Laura and Stan surprised us by performing acoustic versions of ‘Afternoon Delight’ (from Anchorman) and ‘Easy Lover’ (one of my all-time favourite songs) for us. They were fantastic, and delighted everyone. What a beautiful wedding gift! We had a fantastic ceilidh during the evening, then our own four-hour disco playlist. My favourite part of a wedding is the dancing, so I knew that I wanted our disco to be pretty spectacular. We spent months making a list of songs, arranging them into the right order and then listening to the playlist. Our guests danced all night to everything from Prince to David Bowie to Beck to Kanye West to Devo. A free bar helps, of course.
Our wedding was full of love and happy tears. We had hiccups (my mum was ill, it rained) but the generosity, support, goodwill and patience of our family and friends made our wedding day one I will never forget. We will never be able to tell those people how much they did for us. But when you look at all the pictures of the day, you can see the joy, and perhaps that is thanks enough.
Well, the honeymoon dust has settled and things are a little more normal around here – although, admittedly, we are still housing a lot of leftover wedding paraphernalia (does anyone want 50 squashed pom poms and 20 giant paper flowers!?). Anyway, the official photos have arrived so it’s time to share them. Huge thanks to brilliant photographer, and our lovely friend, Llinos Griffiths, for snapping away like a mad woman.
We got married at Bodrhyddan Hall in Rhuddlan, surrounded by grey clouds and beautiful lush gardens and greenery. We had a fairly short ceremony, which felt completely “us”, including having a piano solo version of the Jurassic Park theme as our wedding march! I really wanted a reading to be included in the ceremony, but everything I found felt old or obvious or just not right. Eventually I stumbled across a children’s book called I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, which I fell in love with straight away: sweet and funny and just the right amount of cute. My lovely friend and bridesmaid Penny did a beautiful job of reading it, and as she pointed out, the poem also applied to our silly friendship. My beautiful bridesmaids wore coral dresses from Warehouse, found two months before our wedding day!
We had vintage Morris Minor 1000 cars from Regent Classics, which were impeccable. And then there were the flowers. Oh, the flowers! Our brilliant pals Helen and Laura did the most amazing job. They are true friends and I can never thank them enough for listening to me and completely hitting it out of the park. I wanted peonies, ranunculus, yellows, pinks and corals, and they added new colours and shapes, and flowers I’d never heard of. So many people commented on how beautiful the flowers were, and at the end of the night we sent guests home with bunches to enjoy while we went off on honeymoon. I loved thinking about everyone enjoying the flowers as a memento of our day. Helen also created my flower crown, which, well. There are no words really. I showed her lots of photos and rambled on about peonies, and she went for it. This baby was big, and it was heavy, and I absolutely loved it. It completed my outfit perfectly. I have had so many people say how much they loved my crown that I may need to request one from Helen for every wedding anniversary. Helen, I can’t thank you enough. I still have the crown, dried and hanging on our airing rack.
It took me a good while to find my wedding dress, trekking to Manchester and London. Eventually I discovered Glory Days Vintage through a friend and hot-footed it up to York with my mum and future mother-in-law. Hayley at Glory Days has a huge selection of stunning gowns from the 1920s right up to the 80s, as well as vintage floral hats, gloves and veils. It is a true treasure trove, perfect for the vintage-loving bride. Trying on a 1970s sheer polka dot number, I never thought it would be the one, but it was such a perfect fit that I was convinced straight away. I stepped out of the changing rooms and the mums just nodded at me. My dress was really comfortable, and light enough to dance to our ceilidh in. I loved it.
After the ceremony we fed our guests delicious pizza courtesy of Matilda’s Bakehouse, which everyone raved about. We sent our guests off to the reception in a vintage coach from Llandudno, which proved a big hit, not least because of the entertaining driver. I’ll leave our reception photos for next time, because this post is long enough already, and there are a lot more details I want to share…See you soon!