Monday, 23 May 2016

Private collection

We’re off on our holidays soon and as usual it’s a cruise. I wouldn’t say we like them but this will be our eighth and we’ve got another three booked... Instead of the usual cruising the Mediterranean we’re heading north – a round trip starting in Copenhagen and sailing to the land of the Midnight Sun.

I usually like to try and make a new dress for one of the formal evening. However with my back not being very good I haven’t been able to.

What I have made though are a couple of bags for my private collection (it’s basically bags I made just for me but ‘private collection’ sounds much better).

I wanted a bag that I could use for when we went ashore. As I would be in Wizzy* it needed to be small enough to lie between me and his arm rest, have plenty of room inside, yet not be too big that it impedes me when I’m wheeling him.

A couple of years ago my mam bought me a lovely suede shoulder bag which fitted the above criteria except it’s getting on a bit. I made a note of its vital statistics and designed a new bag from that.

 As I had some black leatherette lying around in my fabric box I used that for the main part of the bag and some light blue cotton fabric for the lining.

You can never have enough pockets in bags so there's one both front and back and each compartment has an internal zip pocket.

One of the problems of walking with Stickies is you can't carry a clutch bag as your hands are otherwise engaged, so I also decided to make two formal drawstring evening bags that I could slip over my wrist.   

The bags were very easy to make and as I had plenty of leftover fabric from previous evening dresses I made them out of that.

Till the next time.

Gertie xx

*Wizzy is the name of my wheelchair

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The passing of time

It’s true what they say – the older you get, the more time passes by so quickly. I can’t believe my last post was January.

As I mentioned last time my physical health still isn’t good. The pain management clinic I was attending suggested I try a course of acupuncture for my back.

I’m not a big fan of alternative medicine (it’s all a bit too hippy and new aged), however my back pain was horrendous so I was willing to give it ago. I had about 12 sessions and it did ease the pain a little, though how it works is still a mystery to me. 

I certainly don’t like this getting old business – seven changes of sweaty bed clothes every night is not funny!!!  I’m still waiting for my HRT to kick in as it’s supposed to be the wonder pill for all things menopausal so anytime now would be good....

Trying to fit in sewing whenever my back is having one of its very rare pain-free moments and when I’m not exhausted, has been few and far between. However I did manage to get some made for Gertie’s Bags and I’ve even got a product – beach bags.


They should all be up on Etsy and eBay in the next few days.

Till the next time

Gertie xx

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Catching up

Do not adjust your set as they used to say in the 'olden days'..... It really is me!!!!

So, what have I been up to since I last reported in (I'm not counting the bake of the month entries).

The sale of my handmade bags on eBay and Etsy has been coming along nicely.  I’ve been busy replenishing Gertie’s stock and also coming up with news designs. These should be online in the next week or so.

I’m still trying to get the hang of social media for Gertie’s Bags. At times like these I wish I were a teenager!!!!

Back in the summer we had a break in Stratford upon Avon. It’s a great place to simply chill and recharge your batteries. Whilst we were there I did my usual pilgrim visit to the two fabric stores in the town. I also paid a visited to a fabulous fabric shop just outside of Solihull. My poor credit card got a serious workout that day!!!! 

Sadly my physical health not been good. The pain in my back has got worse so that has had a knock on effect everything I do. Plus the dreaded ‘change’ has started early so that’s causing huge problems as well. Give me the hormonal teenager any day. At least they didn’t have night sweats, hot flushes, insomnia, tiredness, exhaustion etc, etc.... 

Till the next time.


Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day".

I wish you a very happy and peaceful new year.

Gertie xx

Friday, 25 December 2015

Saturday, 28 November 2015

November's bake of the month

My nemesis in the baking world seems to be cherries. No matter how many tips and hints I follow to stop them from sinking to the bottom of the cake, the little devils always do!!!!

One of my motto's is 'I'll never be beaten' so the kitchen was prepared for yet another cherry v Gertie showdown...

Rather than attempt the usual cherry cake recipe I decide to add another player in the ring – a layer of marzipan. I was hoping the marzipan would be a good ally by forming a protective layer to stop the cherries from all sinking to the bottom.

On the other hand my plan could backfire. The cherries could simply do what they usually do, but this time twice in one go to add insult to injury.

What was the result – you'll have to wait until the end of the blog to find out.

Let the battle begin !!!!!!!

Cherry marzipan cake  
(adapted from a Good Food recipe)
  • 8oz (200g) butter/margarine, softened
  • 8oz (200g) caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 8oz (200g) self-raising flour, sieved
  • 8oz (200g) glacé cherries, chopped
  • 4oz (100g) ground almonds
  • 9oz (250g) marzipan – doesn't matter if it's golden or white
  • 2oz blanched almonds, cut into half lengthways
  • Icing sugar, optional

  • Preheat oven to 160ºc/Gas Mk 4. Fan oven 140ºc.
  • Line a deep 8 inch/20cm round cake tin with baking parchment or a cake liner. Using greaseproof paper or baking parchment, make a 7 ½ inch/ 19cm round circle template. Put to one side for now.
  • Beat the butter/margarine together until light and creamy.
  • Gradually add in the eggs and flour, a little of each at a time, beating well before adding any more. Incorporating the small amounts of the eggs and flour together should stop the mix from curdling.
  • Fold in the cherries and ground almonds until they are evenly incorporated.
  • Spoon half of the mix into the tin.
  • Roll out the marzipan then cut out a 7 ½ inch round circle using the template you made earlier.
  • Gently lay the marzipan circle on top of the cake mix already in the tin, then add the rest of the cake batter, leavening the top of the cake with the back of a spoon.
  • Finally scatter the almonds evenly on top of the cake.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hours, or until a skewer (I use a piece of spaghetti but you could use a clean knitting needle or cocktail stick) comes out clean. To stop the top of the cake from burning cover it with tin foil after 1 hour.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  • You can dust the cake with icing sugar if you wish.


** Did I finally claim victory over the cherries or was it business as usual. Long silence to add to the dramatic effect.... 

I won !!!!

Friday, 30 October 2015

October’s bake of the month

The Christmas pudding, or plum pudding as it’s sometimes called, has a history dating back to Medieval England.

The pudding would be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity; it would contain 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his 12 disciples and every family member would give it a stir from east to west to honour the Magi (the Three Wise Men) on their journey. 

Unlike the Christmas pudding we know today it was actually a savoury meat dish with consistency similar to porriage. By the 14th century citrus fruit and exotic spices had started to be added, and by the end of the 16th century the addition of eggs, breadcrumbs and dried fruit made it more in keeping with what we know of today.

Contrary to its name, the pudding has never had plums in it. In Victorian times dried fruit, such as raisins and currants, were called plums, which was why it was called ‘plum pudding’.

Christmas pudding is traditionally made on ‘stir-up Sunday’, the last Sunday in November. Each family member would gather round take it in turn to give the pudding a stir then make a wish.

I’d always wanted to make a Christmas pudding but steaming it for hours and hours then doing the same thing on Christmas day kept putting me off. Shortly after buying ‘Captain Slow’ (our slow cooker. Yes I know we’re terribly sad at giving things names....) I came across a recipe in a slow cooker cook book for a Christmas pudding. There was no stopping me now !!!!!

Christmas pudding 
(adapted from a Delia recipe)
  • 4oz (110g) shredded suet
  • 2oz (50g) self-raising flour
  • 4oz (110g) white bread crumbs (roughly three slices of bread)
  • 1 level tsp ground mixed spice
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg (either freshly grated or dried)
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 8oz (225g) soft dark brown sugar
  • 4oz (110g) sultanas
  • 4oz (110g) raisins
  • 10oz (275g) currants
  • 1oz (25g) mixed chopped peel
  • 1oz (25g) almonds, chopped
  • 1 small cooing apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • Grated rind of ½ large orange and ½ large lemon or 1 small lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp brandy or rum
  • 5fl oz (150ml) stout or dark ale – not beer as it’s too bitter
  • Lightly grease a 2 pint (1.2 litre) pudding basin.
  • Pre-heat the slow cook on high for about 20 minutes.
  • The day before you want to make the pudding take a large mixing bowl and add the suet, breadcrumbs and sugar. Sift in the flour and spices then mix everything together thoroughly.
  • Gradually add the grated orange and lemon zests and apple.
  • Break the eggs into a small bowl then add the rum/brandy and stout/dark ale. Beat everything together thoroughly.
  • Pour the egg liquid over the other ingredients and thoroughly mix together. Now is the traditionally time for everyone to have their turn at mixing the pudding and making a wish – but don’t tell anyone your wish or it won’t come true.....
  • The mixture should be a rather sloppy consistence - it should instantly fall off the spoon when it’s tapped on the side of the bowl. Add a little more stout/dark ale if necessary.
  • Cover the bowl with a tea-towel and leave overnight.
  • The next day pour the mixture into the greased pudding basin. Cover with a double sheet of greaseproof paper and a sheet of foil then tie securely with string.
  • Have the basin standing by the slow cooker as you wait for the kettle to heat up. Once the kettle has boiled put it next to the basin. You need to have everything ready on hand so not to lose too much of the cookers heat once the lid is removed.
  • Place the basin into the centre of the cooker and add the boiling water to about ¾ of the way up the basin. Don’t let the water touch any overhanging greaseproof paper as it may seep into the pudding. Quickly replace the lid.
  • Leave it to cook on high for about 10 hours, checking on it every now and then to see if it needs the water topping up, and if so, fill it back up with boiling water.
  • Once the pudding is cooked, allow it to go cold then replace the greaseproof paper and foil for fresh pieces. Store it in a dark, cool place until the big day.
  • To re-heat it on Christmas day repeat the cooking instructions (eg pre-heat the cooker etc) and cook on high for four hours. Serve with brandy/rum sauce or custard.
  • I find it best to chop the apples last so not to let them go brown. You could also pour a little lemon juice over them as the lemon stops them from discolouring.
  • If you like your pudding a little more alcoholic then substitute some of the stout/dark ale for brandy or rum. Not all of it though as you don’t want it 100% proof!!!!
  • As there’s such a lot of ingredients I find it best to tick off each one off as I’m weighing them out, and also as I’m adding them to the mix, so nothing gets forgotten about.
  • Make a handle with the string to help lift the basin out (the internet will show you how to do this. I’m hopeless at tying knots – mine always come loose – so I just use oven gloves....).
  • Any leftovers can be re-heat on Boxing day in the microwave or how about making some Christmas pudding ice-cream. Yum, yum !!!!