Monday, 31 December 2012

Ringin it in

The hubs & I are spending the night in with a big plate of mashed taters, spinach & hollandaise. I'm nursing a new year's cold with a cuppa of lemsip and a side of Jurassic Park.

Whether you're out on the tiles or cozied up at home, have a wonderful new year!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

So here it is

A derelict gingerbread house sits half-eaten in the corner of our kitchen and there is a distinct lack of cheese in the fridge. Ralphie shot his eye out and Rudolph befriended Bumble. This could only mean one thing: Christmas has come and gone.

The holiday seemed to sneak up on us this year. Our minds pre-occupied with work work work and extremely poorly pups. But our christmas spirit had not faltered. If anything, all the woes made Christmas & family time more precious (just try not to think about that Downton special).

Our Christmas kitchen saw a couple sweet bread loaves, mini meringues and several gingerbread houses this year - the first of which Mr Walter single paw-edly ate (you'd think after his whole sock eating emergency surgery palava, he would have learned his lesson)!  The second gingerbread house took pride of place at my mother-in-law's christmas party - where grandpa started the demolition by pulling the front door off. It was a tasty destruction.

Santa brought all sorts of baking goodies, wrapped perfectly in brown paper packing & tied up with string: glass bowls, a retro timer, wooden spoons, brownie pans, etc. All fitting into the plans to de-clutter & colour scheme the kitchen. That jolly ole man sure is swell. 

I hope you all had a wonderful christmas and enjoy the new year celebrations to come.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Ready. Set. Bake!

Last weekend our little ole apartment was swirling with the smells of pasties, white cob loaves, croissants, and savoury buns. Admittedly I went on bread and puff pastry overload...

It's beginning to look a lot like…

The tree is up. The baubles are strung. The lights are all a flicker. And Mr. Robot has once again taken pride of place. Time to break out the Charlie Brown Christmas album and Snoopy dance with miss Lila.

French Toast

Needless to say, there was a bit of stale cob loaf left over from last weekend's baking marathon. French toast is the perfect way to polish off any stale (or even fresh) bread you've got in your bread bin.

You'll need..

2 Slices of Bread
1 Egg (beaten)
Splash o Milk
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
Sprinkle o Nutmeg

Mix the egg, milk, cinnamon & nutmeg together in a shallow plate or bowl. Place a  slice of bread onto the mixture and allow the mixture to soak into the bread - flipping the slice to ensure even soakage.

Next, place the coated slice into the centre of a heated frying pan and fry for approximately one minute each side (or until the egg mixture is completely heated through).

Repeat & (lather in butter, smother in syrup, sprinkle with powdered sugar) eat!

Until next time...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Happy Tofurkey Day!

Any holiday that gives me the chance to decorate the house and feed my dearest friends is good in my book. Sure I'll bake cookies for Halloween & Valentines, or lend a hand to my mother-in-law on Christmas Day (though she'd always rather me leave her to it), but Thanksgiving is the only time I can take the reigns and go all out!

An American 'eating' holiday that I can only describe to you UK readers as a sort of Boxing Day, Thanksgiving lands on the fourth Thursday of every November, and originates from the Pilgrims giving thanks to the Native Americans for corn…as well as for helping them survive the move to the motherland (further down the line the Indians all died of small pox.*)

On making my pilgrimage to England five years ago, I decided to bring the tradition with me. Year one consisted of the husband, a work colleague and I gathered on the floor of our flat - paper plates in hand, eating a collection of southern-style grub. The next year found me feeding a party of twelve at a friend's flat in south London - having cooked all the mains, this was a somewhat logistical nightmare, but it resulted in one of the greatest nights of my English life.

The last three years I have hosted Thanksgiving at casa de Hollis with a collection of friends I've met through the years. Each year topping the last in home decor & showcasing some of my mama's cherished recipes - giving me a chance to put some south in my guests mouths.

(*no one died of small pox at this year's Thanksgivin).

 Happy Tofurkey Day 2012!

The Setting:

Last year's thanksgiving theme was overly traditional. Complete with fall colours, pilgrims, an "I'm thankful for" wall, photobooth, and a paper turkey centrepiece. This year I thought I'd make it a little classier. Overly excited, I built this moodboard several months ago…

After many weeks of scouring eBay & charity shops…and asking mama to fly in a few family heirlooms from Mississippi, the house was ready:

The Menu:
Turkey & Tofurkey (big shout out to my mother-in-law for baking the turkey!)
Mama's Scalloped Taters (the most nostalgic food in my repertoire) 
Green Bean Casserole (a classic!)
Sweet Potato Casserole (often terrifies my guests, but always a hit)
Devilled Eggs 
Waldorf Salad
Sweet Corn
Cranberry Clementine Pecan Sauce (Little Miss Mazza took her turn on my sauce this year. It was excellent!)
Boozy Pecan Chocolate Pie (A signature dish, I had to sneak it in)
Peach Cobbler
American Flag Pavlova (created by the wonderful Katy)

The Entertainment:
Louis Jordan (the tunes)
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - a little surprise from Katy & Matt, no Thanksgiving would be complete without this gem!
Who's It? The Post-it Game (re-appropriated from Allie & Will's scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner the hubs and I attended on Thursday)

Last night was absolutely amazing. I'm so thankful for all my family & all the wonderful friends I've made since moving here…and my mama's scalloped taters!

Happy Thanksgiving Ya'll!!

Time for leftovers.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Southern Gals Get Spooky

Today I was joined by my southern counterpart Leza for a bit of girly time - filled with kitchen jivin' to spooky music, stuffin' our faces with puppy chow & carvin' pumpkins.

The soundtrack:

*Lovely neighbour No.6 once again caught me dancing around the kitchen, waving a dust wipe through the air, singing 'toucha, toucha, toucha, touch meeeeee. I wanna feel dirrrrrty!!!' He knocked on my door and gave me a squash from his garden.

The eats:

Puppy Chow 
the ultimate pumpkin carvin' fuel

2 bars of dark chocolate
1 small jar smooth peanut butter
3/4 box shreddies/chex Cereal
1/2 box powdered sugar

Break up the two chocolate bars and place them into a microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for one to two minutes - until it begins to slightly melt. Next add the full jar of peanut butter and toss back into the microwave for another minute. Stir occasionally until the peanut butter & chocolate are smooth and well combined.

Put the dry cereal in a separate large bowl. Pour the melted chocolate & peanut butter mixture over the dry cereal, using a wooden spoon (or your hands, if you're not afraid to get messy!) to ensure the mixture is evenly coated.

In a second lard bowl, add a about 1/3rd cup of powdered sugar. Spoon some of the chocolate peanut butter coated cereal onto the sugar, and toss till coated. Repeat, alternating the cereal and sugar mix until all is in the new bowl and well coated in sugar!

Eat up!

The carvin': 

the victims

contemplating how to attempt this...

rough sketch

stencilled and ready to go!

 E.T. phone home

our pumpkins!!!

Until next time...

Saturday, 27 October 2012


Today we're off to the local farm shop to pick pumpkins! Each year I scroll the seemingly endless pages of the Threadless Tees website looking for inspiration. Here's a sneak into the last three years of Pumpkinhood...

Mr Gingerbread's Nightmare

Zombie Killer 

Night on the Pier 

Can't wait to get started on this years!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Vol. 7

Side A:
Tennis - Waterbirds
Howlin Wolf - Howlin' for My Baby 
Beach House - the Hours
Ellla Fitzgerald - Somebody Nobody Loves

Side B:

Zulu Winter - Silver Tongue
Y.N.Rich Kids - Hot Cheetos &Takis
Kate Bush - Babooshka 
Toby Keith - Red Solo Cup
Tennis - Seafarer

Saturday, 1 September 2012

A Tale of Two Neighbours

No4 always catch me out of a bind - from clearing our drain pipes when they block, to rescuing mr bluebirdcage's dormant car tyre from a slow puncture while he's out of town. Not to mention, the avid bird watcher of No4 is always there for a friendly hello & has a keen spot for little miss Delilah.

On occasion, No6 has caught me janglin 'round the kitchen, baking and cleaning to the likes of Howlin Wolf - singing at the top of my lungs and dancing like no one's watching. One hand raps gently on the window, while the other waves a courgette greeting my way. No6's allotment grown courgettes are a thing of beauty: fresh, crisp, and always in abundance during the summer months. 

Today was time to say 'thank you' to these two wonderful neighbours*. Mama's sweet friendship loaves worked just the treat.

combine the above

friendship br(acelet)ead

 brown paper packages tied up with string...

*Stabby neighbour had to sit this 'thank you' out. Too many slams of the door, glazed over expressions and visits from the fuzz for my liking.

Until next time...

Monday, 27 August 2012

Tea Cakes & Octo Bread

So that telly show that I tried out for last year - the one that called for an interview, then didn't call back - ya'll know the one. Well, it's started back on telly a few weeks ago. Needless to say, I've been inspired more than ever to bakebakebake and apply again this year.

Last weekend I bit the bullet & finally baked for team knitwear. Flipping through the pages of Peyton & Byrne's British Baking - a little birthday pressie from the team - I landed on a recipe for teacakes. A cousin to the American s'more, teacakes are a concoction of crumbly biscuits topped with whipped marshmallow and drowned in chocolate. All that's missing is an open campfire and a rogue flame-engolfed marshmallow. 

whip it!


On a tea cake high, I attempted to bake a loaf of three-plait friendship bread on the following Tuesday. Note to self: baking bread on a work day is disastrous! It's near impossible to allow dough to both rise & proof (let alone bake the darn thing) in the one hour you have between arriving home and going to bed. The result of my mother's beloved recipe* could have been used as a chopping block in one of mr. bluebirdcage's kiddy taekwondo classes.

*I will be baking this recipe again…don't wanna let mama down. Watch this space.

After learning it was bread week on GBBO, I decided to try out another loaf - and why not up the ante by trying out the same loaf the contestants had to bake for a technical challenge? Enter Paul Hollywood's monstrous octo-bread: an eight plait loaf of deliciously fluffy, golden bread. The resulting loaf (which I baked using whole wheat bread flour) more than kicked my flat, rock solid friendship loaf's ass:

on the rise

after the bake

Until next time...