Starburst baby blanket

More knitting, more projects, more babies to knit for! A lot of folks are having babies around us at the moment, so I have a little production line on the go. First up is this starburst pattern baby blanket. I’d wanted to have a go at crocheting starburst rounds for a while, having done the whole granny square thing to death.

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I spied the lovely pattern in The Gentle Art of Knitting by Jane Brocket, and after splurging on a rainbow selection of wool, set to work making a baby blanket for our friend Helen‘s new little lady, Thora.

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Having already crocheted a full-sized granny square blanket for myself, I knew a baby blanket would be a great way to try out this lovely starburst pattern. Much smaller, and much quicker. Still, crocheting 30 squares is no mean feat, and with weaving in ends and sewing together, I was literally racing the baby to the finish line/birth day. Happily, she won, and knowing a little girl had been born meant I could go all out and finish the blanket off with a pink shell border, another crochet technique I’d been wanting to try for a while.

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This blanket was really fun to make, and I loved playing about with the colours. So effective, and so pretty! I have seen lots of lovely colour starburst combinations on Instagram, in greys and blacks. I think a bright and colourful 70s style one with a black border would look awesome.

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Maternity style: 19 weeks

I’m not intending to write a maternity style post for every week of my pregnancy, but I wanted to this time because week 19 has probably been the most momentous so far (after finding out I was pregnant, of course). Last weekend my belly well and truly popped out, and although it’s still small, I love that I’ve finally started showing. What’s more, I’m feeling well and – short of a few spots and, ahem, bouts of moodiness – am really enjoying being pregnant.

Another reason this week is a biggie is because I felt our baby move for the first time. I had been trying not to get too excited and confuse belly rumbles for movement, but the little pops and flutters I’ve been feeling are quite different. What’s more, just a few days ago I put Jim’s hand on my bump and after a few minutes he felt quite a fierce kick/punch! It was truly amazing to experience that together and now in the evenings, when the baby seems most active, he can join in on the fun with me.

For this week’s photos we went for a stroll to our local park, which was looking quite the Autumnal postcard. I love layering up, and am looking forward to more of this lovely tights-and-scarf weather!
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Wearing: necklace, Topshop | waistcoat, knitted by me | dress, American Apparel | maternity jeans, Topshop | boots, Sainsburys

Maternity style: 18 weeks

These photos are actually from last week, when the weather was miserable and rainy and I was just shy of 18 weeks pregnant. Luckily, a lemon cake was in the oven and I had just been gifted this pretty fair isle skirt so was in the mood for a garden photoshoot with our chickens. At 18 weeks I was back to feeling very much like a normal human (ha!), with the queasiness of morning sickness long gone. Here you can just see my bump beginning to make itself known! One odd side effect I experienced briefly last week was itchy hands…anyone else had that before?

I am loving stretchy, comfy skirts, and this knitted one is no exception. Perfect with tights and legwarmers for a cosy afternoon of baking – and, maybe, some chicken chasing.
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Wearing: t-shirt, Allo Darlin’ | skirt, gift | wellies, charity shop find | umbrella, leftover from our wedding

Rainy day lemon cake

If, like us, you’ve been experiencing drizzly, grey days lately, you might (like me) have been craving comfort food. I did yesterday, which is why I decided to bake Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle cake. This is a recipe I come back to time and time again, because, for me, it is foolproof. It uses Mary’s all-in-one method, everything just goes in the bowl together and gets mixed up, so it’s super quick to rustle up for guests. The crunchy lemon topping really makes it, and a sneaky slice while the cake is still warm is just DIVINE (well, you have to make sure it tastes OK, right?).

This cake will fill your house with a warming, lemony smell, and draw everyone into the kitchen to find the source. Lemons may not be particularly seasonal right now, but if you’re looking for a cake which is comforting, delicious, and easy to bake, this is it. I usually bake this cake in a round bundt tin, for extra prettiness. But whatever. It’s going to taste just as good whatever you bake it in.

Lemon drizzle cake
from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

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Ingredients:
225g (8oz) softened butter
225g (8oz) caster sugar
275g (10oz) self-raising flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk (or enough to make the cake mixture loose and creamy)
finely grated rind of 2 lemons

For the crunchy topping:
couple of tablespoons granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon (or enough to make a runny mixture)

- Preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C. Grease a bundt or round cake tin then line the base with baking parchment.
– Measure all the ingredients for the cake into a large bowl or electric mixer and beat until well blended. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top with the back of a spoon.
– Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin and springs back when pressed in the centre. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out and peel off the baking parchment.
– To make the crunchy topping, mix the granulated sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl to give a runny consistency. Spoon the mixture evenly over the cake while it is still warm. DEVOUR!

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A new dress and a new series

Last weekend, during a trip to London, we managed to fit in a few photos of my latest dress purchase. Remember that visit to the Nadinoo studio I made a couple of months ago? Well, here is the custom dress Nadia made me! It’s a re-working of the raindrop dress, in the beautiful Liberty Claire Aude print I love so much, with an added waist tie which will be perfect for accommodating my growing belly! I’m looking forward to wearing this dress with cosy cardigans and warm, mustard-coloured tights during the winter. I was waiting for a fun occasion to wear it, and our friends’ daughter’s naming ceremony seemed just the party. Luckily, we had a last spell of warm weather while in London, and found a couple of fancy walls to act as a backdrop for some photos.

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Wearing: sunglasses, Shevamps on Etsy | dress, Nadinoo | tights, American Apparel | shoes, Swedish Hasbeens

As you can see, I’m not showing at all yet really. I was 15 weeks pregnant in these pictures, just over a week ago, and I have a feeling that it’s going to be a little while before my bump decides to make itself known to the world! In the meantime, I’m enjoying being able to wear (most of) my normal wardrobe. I’m not a huge fan of most of the maternity stuff out there, but have bought a few new items to help me out a bit – maternity jeans (I love you eBay!), a couple of stretch knit skirts, and my new oversized winter coat should come in very handy for keeping my growing bump warm over Christmas. Other than that, I’m going to try and make the most of my large collection of skirts and smock dresses. I’m going to see if I can be creative with my maternity wear – and will of course be posting the results on here!

As for our little baby, who appears to be a wriggler, all is well. We heard the heartbeat last week, and I’m counting down the days to my next scan (Halloween!), when hopefully we’ll be able to find out the gender of our little one (wolfman or witch?). I must admit that Jim and I haven’t been able to resist buying a few cute unisex items, and there is so much lovely baby stuff out there that I simply don’t think I can wait until the birth to reveal the sex of our little wriggler.

My pregnancy so far has been fairly easy-going, I’ve only had some mild nausea which is thankfully long gone now, although I was recently warned about bad headaches. I had one last week and…woah mama. But all in all, we are happy, excited, and pram-shopping around these parts! Welcome to my new maternity style series. I’m excited to share this lovely journey with you.

Autumn vibes

Another Autumn-y recipe today, in the form of a spiced apple cake which to me optimises everything lovely about the changing seasons from Summer to Autumn. It’s rich, warming but not too heavy and filling – maybe later into the cool seasons you could add raisins and brandy to spice things up a bit. But for now, this is a great cake to welcome those Autumn vibes and use up some apples falling from the trees. A friend suggested using pears, which I think is a great idea!

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The recipe comes from Cakes: River Cottage Handbook No.8, which is a great book (as you might expect from the River Cottage crew), full of homely Autumn recipes from flapjacks to jammy dodgers, florentines to Bonfire night parkin, toffee apple cake to Somerset cider cake, and even biscuits for dogs! I’ve made this apple cake several times, and it never fails to impress. Delicious straight from the oven with a coffee in the afternoon, it perfectly sums up Autumn to me.

The other great thing about this cake (besides being delicious) is that it’s very quick to make, if you don’t peel your apples. I tend not to, but the book advises that if your apples are older or waxy-skinned they are best peeled. I like to bake this cake in a round bundt tin, echoing the holes in the middle of the apple slices on top. The recipe uses nutmeg and cloves, but I usually switch these out for cinnamon and ginger, because I prefer them. Experiment with whichever warming spices you like! And enjoy: Autumn has arrived.

Apple cake
from Cakes: River Cottage Handbook No.8

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Ingredients:
For the cake:
125g self-raising white flour
125g self-raising wholemeal flour (I usually just use what I have to hand)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp ginger, or whichever spices you prefer
125g butter, cut into small pieces
125g soft brown sugar
350g cored apple (prepared weight)
1 egg, beaten
50ml milk

For the topping:
1 small eating apple (ideally red-skinned, cored but not peeled)
1 tbsp caster sugar

- Preheat the oven to 180℃/gas mark 4 and grease and line a loose-bottomed round or bundt cake tin. Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl and mix well together. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles medium breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

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- Cut the apples into 1cm dice and toss lightly in the rubbed-in mixture until evenly distributed. Add the egg and milk and bring the mix together with a wooden spoon to a sticky, lumpy dough. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level with the back of the spoon.

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- For the topping, cut the apple across into 7 or 8 slices and poke out any residual pips. Lay the slices on top of the cake. Sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over the mixture and apples – this will give the cake a lovely crisp topping when baked.

- Bake for 45-50 minutes until the top is golden brown, firm and crispy to the touch. Leave in the tin for 20-30 minutes before turning out. The cake will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight tin in a cool place.

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A bit of news…

Roswell

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!