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This week as part of our new Embrace Nature feature we wanted to share a lovely little project to help you get ready for Easter! This Easter Nest is taken from Inspire: The Art of Living with Nature by Willow Crossley and shows just how easy it is to bring nature into the home, especially in the holidays when you will be around to enjoy it! This is a great one to make with the kids and to store some tasty mini Easter egg chocolates for them to enjoy on Sunday, as well as a beautiful way to make a natural display in your home for guests to admire.
I always feel a bit cruel picking up a bird’s nest. We found a few in our garden this year and left them where they were for months, until we were sure that no one was coming back to inhabit them.
However, a nest is used only to hold the eggs and protect the young. Most nests are abandoned once the babies are old enough to leave. If you don’t like the idea of bringing a real nest inside, it’s easy to make your own from moss and twigs and maybe a little fine straw. I love using a mix of genuine (abandoned) nests and homemade ones on the table at Easter. I display them under glass domes, filling them with mini chocolate eggs and hollowed-out quails’ eggs, and even a decorative feather bird. Here, I’ve also added a pretty glass with a bunch of lily-of-the-valley.
Large shallow dish
Moss, twigs, fine straw
Mini chocolate eggs
Hollowed-out quails’ eggs
Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)
Inspire: the Art of Living with Nature by Willow Crossley is available here.
We hope you have some time to enjoy nature over the holidays, whether you are out in the garden over the weekend or choose to decorate your house with nests and flowers for Easter, and have a fantastic break!
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As we approach the wedding season, we wanted to share a delicious recipe by our author and specialist celebration cake maker, Victoria Glass, who’s new book Deliciously Vintage is out now. This Passion Cake recipe was originally created for weddings, as Victoria explains below, but we think it sounds just lovely and we fancy making it this weekend!
Whether you’re looking for something to serve for friends with tea and coffee on Saturday afternoon, or for a lovingly baked dessert to have after dinner one evening, this tasty cake classic will be just the thing.
This deliciously moist carrot cake has the fragrant additions of banana and coconut. Apparently, the cake was created for weddings as a cheaper alternative to traditional fruitcake. It was named passion cake in celebration of the love and union of marriage. It doesn’t actually contain any passion fruit, but I sometimes like to scoop out some passion fruit pulp to decorate the top.
For the cake
4 large eggs
300 ml/1 1/4 cups
400 g/2 cups light muscovado sugar
450 g/3 cups grated carrot
zest of 1/2 orange
1 large ripe banana, mashed
100 g/ 2/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts
50 g/ 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
350 g/2 3/4 cups self-raising/ rising flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 quantity cream cheese frosting (see below)
200 g/1 1/3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
pulp of 1–2 ripe passion fruit
2 x 23-cm/9-in. sandwich pans/round shallow cake pans, greased and lined with baking parchment
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) Gas 2.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and sugar until fully combined and slightly frothy. Add the carrot, orange zest, banana, walnuts and coconut and mix together. Sift over the flour, bicarbonate of soda/baking soda and spices and fold in with the salt.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 35–45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Leave the cakes to cool completely in their pans on top of a wire rack for 10 minutes, before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.
In the meantime, make the cream cheese frosting following the instructions below. Whisk in a little lemon juice if desired.
Place one of the cakes on a serving plate and spread the top with half the frosting. Position the second cake on top and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Gently press the chopped walnuts to the sides of the cake, if using, and decorate with passion fruit pulp on the top as an ode to the cake’s name, if you wish.
cream cheese frosting
200 g/6 1/2 oz. full-fat cream cheese
125 g/1 stick unsalted butter, softened
500 g/3 1/3 cups icing/confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
makes single quantity
To make the frosting, whisk the cream cheese and butter together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Sift over half of the icing/confectioners’ sugar and whisk again until combined. Sift over the remaining icing/confectioners’ sugar and whisk again. Whisk in the vanilla and lemon zest until the frosting is light, fluffy and spreadable.
Deliciously Vintage by Victoria Glass is full of all of the baking favourites you remember from your childhood (and some that you wish you'd tasted as a child, but at least you can try them now!) The book is available here.
Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy baking!
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As we come to the end of the London Book Fair 2014, we just wanted to show you a few photos of our lovely stand and share some of the excitement for all of our new books! We hope everybody who visited the fair had a great time and your feet aren't aching too much!
The hilarious Dog 'n' Bone Books...
...and our beautiful stationery!
Getting down to business...
...and admiring these tempting cupcakes...
...and these cute Macarons!
We love our new display stand...
...and just look at the lovely books!
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Whoever said that mid-week meals can’t be delicious? Whether you are cooking a relaxed meal for a few friends after work or need something super quick to put on the table before you rush out again, mid-week meals should be appetizing and enjoyable to make! So today we have a quick and tasty salad for you to try from Friends Around the Table by Acland Geddes of Megan’s Restaurant and Deli.
The ingredients in this recipe can be thrown together pretty swiftly, so you could even take them to work for a tasty lunch or serve with some lovely crusty bread for dinner. The reduced balsamic vinaigrette will last you a few meals, so take a little extra time one evening to make it and then enjoy it for several salads after that!
grilled nectarines with buffalo mozzarella, coppa salami & chilli
A great-looking dish that’s bound to get ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. It tastes as good as it looks, and is totally foolproof. Don’t worry if you don’t have the time (or patience) to grill the nectarines – it’s the combination of colours and flavours that makes this simple assembly dish such a hit.
caster/superfine sugar, for sprinkling
8 slices coppa salami (if you can’t find any, substitute Parma ham)
250 g/9 oz. buffalo mozzarella, torn into generous hunks
1 mild red chilli, finely chopped (avoid the bird’s eye variety, they’re way too vicious for this dish)
a bunch of fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
50 g/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved
Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below), to serve
sea salt and cracked black pepper
a ridged grill pan
Stone/pit the nectarines and cut them into quarters/fourths.
Heat a ridged grill pan until smoking hot, sprinkle the nectarine pieces with sugar and cook for a few minutes on each side, until the char-lines show. Remove and allow to cool.
Mix together the nectarines, salami, mozzarella, chilli, basil and olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper.
Arrange on a plate, scatter with the shaved Parmesan and Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette, and serve.
reduced balsamic vinaigrette
Balsamic vinegar had all the hallmarks of a fad, and I was sure it was going to quickly move from cliché to passé. But it looks like it’s here to stay, and quite right too; it’s a unique flavour. There are many different types, with varying taste, viscosity, and, of course, price. The most expensive ones are usually thick and syrupy with a concentrated flavour, which you can replicate simply by reducing your standard balsamic in a hot pan.
125 ml/1/2 cup ordinary balsamic vinegar
125 ml/1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon clear honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
Put the balsamic in a pan and bring to the boil.
Reduce by half, then test for viscosity by pouring a drop onto a cold plate. It should be syrupy but still pourable, the same consistency as maple syrup. If you reduce it too far it will become a solid blob upon cooling.
Put the reduced balsamic into a jar with the remaining ingredients and a good pinch of salt. Close the jar tightly and shake.
Friends Around the Table by Acland Geddes is full of delicious recipes like this one, perfect for spring and summer entertaining as well as cooking great meals for yourself or your family in an evening! To see the trailer for this beautiful book then click here and the book is available to buy here.
Enjoy the rest of your week everyone!
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We’re now well and truly into spring and isn’t it lovely to see the sun shining and the plants revealing some colour (even if you do still need a coat to keep the wind out!)? The evenings are so much longer and lighter allowing us to enjoy a drink on the patio after work, a few hours to make the most of our homes before the night draws in, or even a spot of gardening in anticipation of the glorious flower-filled weekends ahead. It’s that time of year where we just want to get outdoors, embrace nature and enjoy some fresh air - so whether you are dreaming of pretty picnics in the park or days getting grubby in the garden, we have tons of ideas that you will love!
Each week over the Spring and Summer months we are going to post a project or some inspiration from one of our beautiful home and garden books that will encourage you to embrace nature and enjoy the outdoors. This week (as we aren’t quite into t-shirt weather yet!) we have chosen some beautiful creations that will allow you to bring nature indoors. So here are some stunning photos from three brilliant new books to start you off!
The three images above are all taken from the stunning new book by Isabelle Palmer, The House Gardener, published by CICO Books.
The three striking still life photos above are all taken from The Stuff of Life by Hilary Robertson, published by Ryland Peters & Small.
The three lovely photos above are taken from Inspire: The Art of Living with Nature by Willow Crossley, published by CICO Books.
We do hope these gorgeous images will inspire you to bring nature indoors over the next few weeks and get you excited about the outdoor living opportunities ahead! Don't forget to pop back each week to see some more ideas for embracing nature and to try some of the creative projects from our books.
Have a lovely week everyone!
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Last week, we won the social stationery category for our beautiful Seasalt notecards as part of the London Stationery Show and we’re so thrilled! Judges included people from Sainsbury's, Rymans and the Guardian, and they loved the new Seasalt range that we launched in February 2014.
Our Seasalt stationery currently comes in two different designs. The Sail Away range is inspired by the surroundings and the nautical heritage of Cornwall - the rugged north coast, the lush south, harbours and boats.
Cornwall not only boasts beautiful stretches of white, sandy beaches but the great sub-tropical gardens of Heligan, Trebah, and Tresco Abbey Garden which form the basis of the Shells & Flowers range.
There's plenty of space to record your thoughts with two different sized packs of three notebooks in each range, while the award winning notecards are perfect for sending any greeting.
We are so proud to have won a London Stationery Show award with this great Seasalt range and we hope you enjoy the stationery!
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Above: Stephanie with her new book
When did you start meditating?
I started meditating in my teenage years, as a friend of mine introduced me to the practice when I was going through a period of exam stress. Over time, I found it was a fantastic environment in which to relax, and it gave me the space I needed to press pause and gain some perspective. Over the years, I found that while I enjoyed meditating in a group environment, I didn't always have time to make the classes, and so I started to cultivate my own practice, at home, where I could bespoke the session to fit my needs and a time-frame of my choosing.
How do you integrate the meditation practice into your day to day life?
I fit in a 5-10 minute session most days, but if I'm experiencing a particularly busy day, and I find that I don't have time, I integrate Mindfulness into my day; so for example, on my walk into the city, I will be mindful of my surroundings and enjoy the moment as it unfolds - it's a great way to get the meditative benefits while out and about. I have written about Mindfulness in the book, and have also included some exercises readers can carry out while on the move.
Why is meditation beneficial to you?
I can get quite anxious, and so meditation has been a way for me to decompress and to keep my focus on just one thing, whether it be the sound of my own breathing or the immediate sounds and sights around me. I find that meditation de-clutters my thinking, and enables me to take a more balanced and even view of things.
What made you decide to write, 'Meditation Made Easy'?
I wanted to write from my own point of view as someone who has found a genuine benefit from the practice, and I also understand the questions an individual new to the practice will have. The beauty of this book is that all the exercises are accessible and not time specific. I have given a rough time guide of 5-10 minutes, but they don't have to be as long as that. As I say in the book, meditation is not a one-size fits all practice, so always bespoke your meditation routine to fit your lifestyle.
Meditation Made Easy by Stephanie Brookes is published on April 10th 2014 by CICO Books.
You can follow Stephanie on Twitter @stephbrookes
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When we think of weekends we think of long, lazy, languishing mornings and what better way to start your day than with a delicious feast! Combine the might of maple syrup with utter brilliance of bacon and you have a maple-cured bacon sandwich to devour; a match made in heaven. Get your fingers nice and sticky with some good old fashioned dirty food!
maple-cured bacon & tomato sandwich
There’s no turning back once you’ve tried homemade maple-cured bacon, although you will need to prepare it a week in advance. When it’s ready, just try to stop yourself frying up the whole lot and working your way through it with sticky fingers and guilty pleasure.
for the maple-cured bacon
140 g sea salt
400 g brown sugar (preferably dark brown sugar)
320 g pure maple syrup
2.25–4.5 kg pork belly, washed and patted dry, with the skin left on
for the sandwich
8 slices sourdough bread
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 eggs, cooked on both sides (optional)
8 tomato slices
4 slices Cheddar cheese (optional)
maple cured bacon (see above), 2 slices per sandwich
handful of rocket
sea salt and ground black pepper
Sweet Pickles (see below)
Sweet Potato Fries (see below)
Curing bacon at home takes a while, but it’s really worth it. In a medium bowl, combine the salt, sugar and maple syrup. Rub the mixture over the pork belly on both sides. Place the pork in a large resealable plastic bag with a zip and seal tightly. Refrigerate and let cure for 7 days, turning once a day.
After 7 days, the bacon will be cured. Cut off a small piece and fry it to test the saltiness of the bacon. If the bacon doesn’t taste too salty after being cooked, you are ready to proceed. If the bacon tastes too salty, soak the remaining pork belly in cold water for 1 hour.
Once the bacon is ready to cook, carefully slice it into strips of the desired thickness. Fry it for 3–4 minutes per side, until it reaches the crispiness that you like. Fry the eggs, if using.
Assemble the sandwiches with slices of sourdough bread, mayonnaise, eggs (if using), tomatoes, Cheddar cheese (if using), rocket, salt and pepper. Serve with sweet pickles and sweet potato fries.
This recipe is taken by Dirty Food by Carol Hilker which is available here.
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Today is Tweed Day and we’re feeling the need for tweed! Not the traditional Scottish man’s jacket kind, instead the geek chic crochet skirt kind! So if you’re into crochet then here is a lovely project from the Nicki Trench book, Geek Chic Crochet, for you to enjoy.
A great little skirt made using a smart and effective tweed stitch in three vivid colours.
Rooster Almerino DK
50% baby alpaca/50% merino mix DK (light worsted) yarn
» 2:2:3:3 x 50g (13⁄4oz) balls – approx 225:225:337.5:337.5m (248:248:372:372yd) – of shade 212 Blueberry (A)
» 2:2:2:2 x 50g (13⁄4oz) balls – approx 225:225:225:225m (248:248:248:248yd) – each of shades 210 Custard (B), 213 Cherry (C)
4mm (US size G/6) crochet hook
dc double crochet
htr half treble
RS right side
WS wrong side
yrh yarn round hook
fptr (front post treble) tr worked around stalk of st from previous round from front of work
bptr (back post treble) tr worked around stalk of st from previous round from back of work
22 sts x 21 rows over 10cm (4in) square working tweed st using 4mm (US size G/6) hook.
SKIRT FRONT & BACK
(make 2 the same)
Using A make 55:61:65:71ch.
Row 1 (RS): Miss 2 ch, 1htr in each ch to end. (54:60:64:70 sts)
Row 2: 2ch, miss first st, *fptr around stalk of next st, 1bptr around stalk of next st; rep from * to last st, 1htr in top of 2-ch.
Row 3: 2ch, miss first st, *1bptr around stalk of next st, 1fptr around stalk of next st; rep from * to last st, 1htr in top of 2-ch.
Inc row: 1ch, miss first st, working in dc inc 24 sts evenly across. (78:84:88:94 sts)
Beg working tweed st as foll:
Row 5: 1ch, 1dc in first st, *1ch, miss 1 st, 1dc in next st; rep from * to last dc, 1dc in last dc.
Do not fasten off, attach B.
Row 6: Using B, 1ch, 1dc in first st, *1ch, miss 1 st, 1dc in
next ch sp; rep from * to last dc, 1dc in last dc.
Do not fasten off, attach C.
Row 7: Using C, rep Row 6.
Cont to change colour in this sequence, rep Row 6 to form tweed st until work measures 41cm (16in).
With WS together, sew up side seams, turn RS out.
Block and press.
The skirt is designed to sit on the hips, rather than at the waist.
Geek Chic Crochet by Nicki Trench is available here.
Enjoy the rest of your week folks and happy tweed day!
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