Mushrooms and Child Portraits

Mushrooms:  Brown. Boring? And every so slightly covered in dirt.  I must admit, I have never before photographed a mushroom before.  But yesterday, something made me do it…Just before I popped them into the chicken stew (which was yummy, by the way.)

And though I appreciate a pretty mushroom photo, full of bokeh from the rain-spattered window, I appreciate even more the photo that it helped me to get.  And the reminder that sometimes, the best way to take a photo of your child is to NOT take it.

You see, as I was cooking (and being photographically inspired by fungi), Phoebe was eating her snack at the side counter. I told her I was going to photograph the mushrooms.  She watched me do it…and then watched me put the camera down.  Suddenly, she said, ‘Look at me Mama! Take my photo.’ And voila:

Another mushroom photo lead to more Phoebe posing:

(though I’m not sure Harry was too pleased to be included…)

So how can you get your children excited by your camera? This may sound over-simple but…Involve them, and don’t TRY to take their photo.

1. Ask them what you should photograph. Pick an object in the room and set up a still life shot.  It doesn’t really matter what it is: coffee cup, apple, flower, stuffed toy.  Let your child place it somewhere and take a few shots of it. Make this a game and do it often.

2. Show them the images on the back of the camera.  (Kids love to see what you are creating. Dads love this too!)

3. Let your child press the shutter. Phoebe has one of my old point-and-shoot cameras.  She takes lots of photos of the floor and the ceiling.  And sometimes some of half my face. She loves it.

4. Be excited by what you are doing…or at least, don’t keep your enthusiasm to yourself.  Enthusiasm is infectious.

5.  Ask.  Always ask your child if you can take his picture.  If he says no, then respect the answer.  Sometimes, you will get a yes.  :)

Do you have any other suggestions or ideas that have worked for you?  Please share them in the comments below.

Here’s to mushrooms and children.  Have a wonderful weekend!

ps…it’s actually sunny here! Who-hoo! :)

 

 

More Jewellery Fun at Covet in Windsor!

Jewellery, jewellery and more jewellery! I simply can’t get enough of it.  Thus my slight addiction for making it.

If you are like me, come on by The Covet Pop-Up in Windsor this Friday.  This super-fun event is the brain-child of Angela Toy and Jayne Howard.  They combine vintage & designer clothes with jewellery, a psychic and a masseuse with coffee, cakes (daytime) and a martini bar (evening) in a one day sale.  This time, Covet is featuring my jewellery.  So exciting!

Friday, 24 January @ The Firestation.  12-19:30. I hope to see you there…….and psst! spread the word! :)

 

Our Christmas Tradition

In our family, we love to make cookies at Christmas. We’re not happy with just one or two varieties….No, my grandmother, and then my mother, used to make at least 10 different kinds each year.

When I’m home, I come close to this heroic baking extravaganza. This year, as I’m visiting my family in NC, I’ve had to settle for making only my favourites…but I did get to capture my little niece with her first attempt. Pretty good for a 1-year old, don’t you think?

Do you make cookies at Christmas? If not, what are your traditions?

Happy Christmas Everyone! Thank you so much for reading and commenting here.  I’m truly grateful for you and send you best wishes that your day will be delicious and merry. xxo

Shortbread Cookies

It’s the time of year for cookies….if you are American.  Here in the UK, my friends are all starting to make their Christmas cakes.  I’m not such a huge fan of this fruit and alcohol-laden delight, but give me a baking tray and I’ll produce batches and batches of cookies.

Sadly for the cookies, this year Phoebe and I are heading back to the US to see my family.  I need to save my Christmas cookie indulgence for next year.  But to satisfy my craving, I thought I would make some shortbread.  The best thing about this recipe is that it can be whipped together in 15 minutes in the food processor.  And the only thing dirtied is the food processor bowl itself.

I made these for some clients to enjoy during their portrait viewing.  And I made them in the in-between-time while I was waiting for my daughter to painstakingly finish her lunch.  (She’s three…is this why mealtimes last FOREVER??)

SHORTBREAD COOKIES – Download the recipe card HERE

makes about 16 squares

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter softened

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

zest from one lemon or one orange or a combination

Preheat oven to 300F/150C. In a food processor, mix softened butter, powdered sugar, sugar and salt until just combined and ‘fluffy’.  Add flour and zest and whiz until dough starts to come together.

Turn into an 8×8 inch pan and press until smooth.  Prick with a fork to decorate.  Bake 45-50 minutes until slightly golden.  Let cool until barely warm before cutting.  If you like a slightly sweeter cookie, sprinkle lightly with 1-2 teaspoons sugar.

Good warm, but even better the next day with a cup of tea.

 

Something Sweet: My Great-Great Aunt Mary Luke’s Frosting

Today, it is time for something sweet.  And what is sweeter than frosting?  How about a frosting that isn’t sickly sweet?

I don’t know about you, but I have a sweet tooth.  I LOVE my desserts.  Years ago, while working in a restaurant, I had a customer order her dessert first….just to make sure she had room for it.  I had TOTAL respect.

BUT, even though I love my desserts, I’m not a huge fan of overly sweet things.  You may have noticed this if you’ve tried any of my dessert recipes.  This is one reason why I love this quirky frosting recipe. There is only 1 cup of sugar in the batch, which is enough to frost a double layer cake.

And of course, I love that this recipe has been passed down from my great-great aunt, to my grandmother, to my mother, to me.

The method may sound strange, but trust me…it is YUMMY!

My Great Aunt Mary Luke’s Frosting

1 cup milk

5 tablespoons flour

1 cup butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup confectioners (icing) sugar

In a double boiler over low heat, cook the milk and the flour until thick.  Stir constantly. (This takes about three minutes and it is critical that you keep on stirring.  It thickens fast.  However, I usually continue cooking and stirring for a minute or two until the mixture is nice and thick.)

Cool the mixture thoroughly before proceeding to the next step.  (This is critical or the butter will melt!)

In a large bowl, combine the butter and the sugar.  Add the vanilla.  Mix in 1 tablespoon of the cooled flour mixture.  Then gradually beat in the rest.  With a mixer, beat at high speed for several minutes.  (Seriously, 3-4 minutes!  This will incorporate air into the frosting and make it light and fluffy.)

Frost your cooled cakes immediate.  Tastes amazingly like whipped cream! Download the recipe card HERE.

This frosting is perfect with the Easy Orange Layer Cake.  To compliment the cake, I sometimes add Mandarin Napoleon or Grand Marnier  to the frosting instead of vanilla.  Either is delicious. Enjoy!

 

Super-Easy and Super-Quick Garlic Broiled Chicken

There is nothing better than garlic and chicken.  There is also nothing better than super-easy and super quick.

Since I’ve come back from Shutter Sisters Camp, my life has been a whirlwind!  I seriously don’t know if I’m coming or going.  Last night, I wanted to make something delicious for my mother’s last night here.  But I needed something that was fast and easy to cook.  This dish does it all.

As an added bonus, if made with legs and thighs, this recipe will help you stick to your budget. However, the flavours give it a decadent, yet comfy feel.  It smelled so good coming out of the oven that I forgot to photograph the completed dish BEFORE we ate most of it. Hopefully, you will forgive me for this and get to cooking my new favourite dish!!  Enjoy….

Garlic Broiled Chicken 

6 chicken thighs or chicken parts

1 onion, roughly diced

A handful or two of cherry tomatoes

3 tablespoons butter and a dollop of olive oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons minced or crushed garlic

1 tablespoon dried parsley + more for sprinkling

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Pre-heat the oven broiler. Layer onions and tomatoes in an oiled baking dish.  Place butter, oil, garlic, parsley, pepper and soy sauce in a saucepan. Heat on medium until melted.

Toss the chicken in this sauce before placing into the baking dish.

Broil the chicken for 20 minutes, or until the juices run clear.  Turn the chicken pieces once or twice during the cooking process to re-coat with the butter-garlic mixture and ensure the skin gets crisp.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

This is absolutely delicious served with couscous and roasted butternut squash.  DOWNLOAD the recipe card HERE.

How to Make Potatoes Exciting…

Digging in the dirt is always immensely satisfying.  But add a few hidden potato surprises, and it gets downright fascinating!

This year, Phoebe and I decided to recycle our old recycling bins by turning them into potato-growing tubs.  (How’s that for being green?) Our garden isn’t big, but the tubs did the trick!

We had gorgeous potato plants all summer and now have a whole mess of potatoes to see us through the winter.  Well, OK…I’ve got to be completely honest.  We probably have enough for the next few weeks.

No, the yield doesn’t justify the effort. But the fun of the experience sure does!

Even Harry, the dog, wanted to help.  (Check out her hand pushing him away!)  I wasn’t allowed to harvest one potato.  Phoebe just had to do it all.

And boy do the potatoes taste great.  Stay tuned for a recipe or two…

Did you plant with your children this summer? What crop worked? What didn’t? What did they love the most??

 

My Homemade Applesauce

When the nights get colder and the leaves start to turn, I begin craving comfort food.  Good, old-fashioned, just-like-mom-used-to-make FOOD.

When a good friend shared a bag of apples from her back garden tree, I knew exactly what to make.

Though applesauce may sound ho-hum, I promise you this stuff is not!  This is simple, quick and is oh-so-yummy eaten on its own warm or cold.  I also love it on my porridge in the morning or with plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream at the end of the day.

I’m sure there are many other ways to serve applesauce.  How would you do it?

Enjoy!

Homemade Applesauce

3-4 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (Note, I use any apple and often mix types together.)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup of water

Put all the ingredients into a large pot.  Stir to combine and cover.  Cook over low heat until the apples start to disintegrate (about 30-40 minutes.)

Stir and turn off the heat, but leave covered pot to cool.

If you have mixed the apple varieties, most but not all of the apple chunks will break down. I like leaving my sauce chunky.  Feel free to mash with a potato masher if you prefer a smoother sauce.

This recipe freezes easily.

Click here to download the recipe card.

 

Easy Orange Layer Cake

This is seriously the easiest, quickest, most delicious cake ever.  It gets rave reviews from anyone who has tried it.  The best bit:  it only takes about 15 minutes to make and all you need is a bowl, a measuring jug and a zester. Oh yes, and a wooden spoon.

Download the recipe card HERE.

Come on over to The Inspiration Studio to see how my three-year old turned this into cupcakes.

Courgette & Lemon Cake

Come on over to the Inspiration Studio where I’m sharing this weird-sounding but ABSOLUTELY delicious recipe.  Click HERE to download the recipe card. Bon Appetit!