Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pink Roses and Lamb's Ear...

Tonight my "coffee" group will meet at one member's house for drinks (obviously not coffee, hence the inverted commas).  Apparently the drinks and nibbles are already sorted, which was leaving me with my mother's voice playing a loop in my head - "never go empty-handed, never go empty-handed".

So this morning I woke with the idea of making some little floral arrangements of some sort to take.  I thought one could go on the drinks trolley and one in the guest bathroom.  Then, of course, they could be enjoyed by the hostess long after the effects of the night's frivolity have worn off.

...with Camellia leaves

I'm no florist, but I have dabbled in a bit of amateur arranging on and off through the years.  Being a bit out of practice I thought I'd stick to what I know and use Roses.

So I took off with Master J in the pram for a little walk and some subtle pilferage of some of the local greenery.

I had these in mind:

Gorgeous Lamb's Ear.  Furry soft, silvery-green Lamb's Ear.  I even love the name.

And I came across some large Camellia leaves as well.  With their deep green colour, waxy finish and flexibility, they're always a favourite when foliage is needed.

Now with the acquisition of a lovely bunch of small mauvy-pink Roses I was in business.

If you'd like to try either of these arrangements (or adapt them to your favourite flowers and foliage), here's how to do it:

You will need:

* A small round of oasis (my ones were 8cm in diameter and about 5cm deep)
* A ziplock bag
* 10 or 15 dressmaker's pins
* Scissors
* About 7 Roses
* 10 - 12 Lamb's Ear leaves (or whatever green you'd like to use)

First soak the oasis.  Drop it into water and let it sink on it's own (you can put some flower food in the water first if you have some).  Pushing the oasis down under the water will create a dry pocket in the centre which you don't want.  Soak it for as long as you can.

Find a bowl or cup that is about 5 cm wider in diameter than your oasis.  With a permanent marker draw around this onto your ziplock bag and cut it out.  (This will of course give you two circles).


Pin it to the base of your wet oasis as shown.  This will stop water from leeching onto to a tablecloth or surface.  (If you really are concerned about a surface getting wet you should probably put the arrangement on a saucer or similar).

Now arrange and pin your leaves around the base.  You want them to come up above the top of the oasis by about a centimetre.  Overlap them and place the pins in on a steepish angle to make them hold better.  Don't worry about getting it looking too perfect - I actually prefer the finished result to look a little "organic" (LM speak for charmingly messy).

The finished Lamb's Ear "Basket".

Now cut your roses on an angle, leaving a stem of about 3cm.  Arrange them on top by pushing them directly down into the oasis (not on an angle).

All done!

For the camellia, wrap two or three large leaves around the oasis in the same way, but this time make them overlap both the top and bottom edge of the oasis.  It would probably help if you position the spine of the leaf around the horizontal centre of the oasis. Trim along the bottom edge with some scissors to remove excess leaf so that the arrangement can sit properly.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jive Chalkin'...

Here's a little serendipitous discovery.  The oilcloth that I bought at Ikea (by the metre), to cover our dining room table can be drawn on with chalk and then wiped clean with a damp cloth.

So why would I be encouraging my children to draw on the furniture, I hear you ask? Well, ten minutes of quiet time around dinner can be a precious thing, and this seems to give me just that.

It's a bit of a novelty at the moment - I'm not sure it will last, but perhaps if I keep it as a once in while thing, it might just do the trick for those "cactus hour" moments when it's really needed.

Here's the rub though:  The oilcloth needs to be completely dry when you write on it otherwise it's much harder to clean.  Also, I'd use white or pale coloured chalks as dark or bright colours are a bit harder to get off (requiring spray cleaner as opposed to just a damp cloth).  Also beware of chalk dust on your kids clothes.  I've been putting Master J in a bib first (it's mealtime anyway), to contain that a bit.

Oh, and make sure you do a little patch test on your terms before letting your kids go crazy - I can't promise all oil cloth will behave like mine does.

Image from Oilcloth Addict's Etsy Store

Now, if you like this idea and you'd like to make it a bit more official, I can point you in the direction of a great Etsy shop that might inspire you.  Every type of oilcloth you could possibly imagine and also some great chalk cloth too...

I'm going to procure some for myself, and already have some great ideas for Christmas which I'll be sharing with you later.

Image from

With my newfound fascination with oilcloth & chalkcloth, and with the help of Google, I have come across this fantastic blog, and thought I'd share this cute Thanksgiving table project with you. Click on the photo to go through to the site.

Until my next post (yes, yes, it's coming!), have a great week.  I'll be the one explaining to my children why they can't draw on the sofa...

LM x

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Little freebie...

I found these cupcake wrappers as a free download on and thought they were super cute and needed to be shared.

You can print and cut them out and then wrap them around your cupcakes to make them just a little bit special.

Click on the picture above to go to the shabby blogs site and then click download.   If you need inspiration for the baking, you might like to read my previous posts including my simple vanilla cupcake recipe as well as some cupcake decorating ideas.

Hope you enjoy these!

Oh, and P.S. - you can make these up and instead of using them for cupcakes you could just fill them with little sweeties.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Coming up in August...

Well, the weather has turned decidedly autumnal here in Zurich in the last few days, so with no trips planned to the local Badi (swimming area on the lake), I have no excuses to not craft.

One of our local Badis...

Mr Muck said to me a few months ago - "don't post so often - you'll run out of ideas!".  Pffffft, I thought, I don't run out of ideas.  Does he not know me?

A totally unrelated-to-this-post pic of my kids on a walk in the forest...

So anyway, three months on I find myself very short on ideas.  But after a little rifle through my crafty cupboards, I have a couple of little projects on the go and the posts should be with you shortly.

So, here's what you may expect for the remainder of August:

* Chairback tea towel tidy/ bookbag
* Hot-mat notice board
* Interview with Vanessa Harper of Harpsters
* Life's simple pleasures:  Easy scones

... and of course whatever life finds me baking and crafting in between.

Thanks for reading, following and commenting.  I hope you like the new look of the site too.  I really wanted to look at those pretty cupcakes some more, so hence the new banner...

Off to do a tax return now... yawn!

Yours Muckily,

Lady Muck xx

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tuscan Tiramisu...

During our holiday to Tuscany last year we had a local chef come to our Villa to teach us to make a range of traditional Tuscan dishes.

It was just before the harvest, so the grapes hung heavy on the vines...

We made Lasagne from scratch, Veal Scallopine, and a range of amazing starters, but the stand-out dish for me was the Tiramisu, which I had never really tried before (not being a fan of liqueur).

A scene from the busy villa kitchen...

He explained that traditionally Tiramisu is not really made with liqueur, so I decided to give it a go.  Oh dear, now I have probably eaten my bodyweight in it in the last year and it has become my go-to dish when "bringing something to the party".

This week just gone we had the big farewell party for my friends Meghan and Brian who are moving back to the US.  I thought I'd take the opportunity to do a step by step guide to make this amazing dessert, as I whipped it up for my "ladies a plate".

This dessert needs to be made the day before because something wonderful happens when it is left to mellow in the fridge :).

(to serve 6-8 people)

* 6 shots of espresso (or 6 tsps of good quality instant coffee made up with around 300ml of boiling water)
* 6 eggs
* 500g mascarpone cream (1.1 lbs)
* 7.5 tbs castor sugar
* Around 3 dozen ladyfingers (sponge fingers)
* 3/4 cup dark choc chips (optional, but not really)
* Cocoa, for sifting

Make your espresso, or coffee mixture from instant coffee.  Add 2 tbs of castor sugar to the coffee and stir to dissolve.  Set aside to cool.

Separate your eggs, - whites in one bowl (bowl of your mixer if using), and yolks in another bowl.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

And with a little frosting...

This morning Master J sat patiently in his highchair so that I could ice the cupcakes I made last night.

I made one batch of butter-based buttercream - as opposed to the shortening-based one I've been using lately.  (Sorry, I don't have a recipe, I just sort of stick unsalted butter, icing sugar, vanilla and a little milk in the Kitchenaid and whizz it up.)

Then I separated the icing into thirds, leaving one white, tinting one pink and adding a couple of tablespoons of cocoa to the other to get a light chocolate buttercream.

A little something for everyone:

Vanilla lines with sprinkles...

Pink Hydrangea...  I used a large star tip and started around the edge, then filled in the middle.

Chocolate swirl with dark choc and caramel drops...

"I defy anyone to look at a cupcake and not smile..."  Anon.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Easiest Cupcake...

Tomorrow we are going to a party that starts in the afternoon so the kids can be a part of the festivities.  I offered to make some cupcakes to bring for the kid's afternoon tea because secretly I know that nothing could be more simple to make and more delicious than these particular cupcakes.

I collect "put everything in a bowl and whizz it up"-type recipes because although I love a challenge sometimes, most of the time I'm looking for this recipe trifecta - easy, quick & no-fail.

This recipe is it.  Only six ingredients, quick to whip up, and plenty of ways to elaborate to make something a bit special, should you like.  Although, in my opinion, these are pretty special just as they are.

So, here is the recipe:

Vanilla Cupcakes
(Makes 18)

225g (8oz) softened, unsalted butter
225g (8oz) castor sugar
225g (8oz) self-raising flour (or 225g plain (cake) flour, with 1.5tsps baking powder added)
1 tsp baking powder
1 (5ml) tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 175 degrees celcius.

Put all ingredients in the bowl of your mixer, (or any large bowl if you are using electric beaters), and beat until light and fluffy.

Spoon heaped tablespoons of mixture into patty pans and bake for 20 minutes until just a little brown around the top edges.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin, then let them cool on a wire rack.

Ice and decorate as desired.

You could make variations on this recipe quite easily.  Sift a few tablespoons of cocoa into the mixture to make them chocolatey, or use any other essences in place of vanilla.  Also, the rind of a lemon or orange, grated into the mixture, along with a tsp or so of the juice would make a very nice citrus cupcake.

These keep in an airtight container for 3 days, or you can freeze them un-iced for a couple of weeks.

I'll decorate these ones tomorrow and I'll be sure to post some more pics of that!


Update as at 6th August....  Click here to see them all decorated up!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

And the winner is...

Happy Swiss National Day!

It's going to be a cracker of a day here in Zurich, and I'm really looking forward to going to a friend's place to have a BBQ and watch the fireworks over Zurich city once the sun sets.

I've also been looking forward to drawing the winner of our Swiss Kitchen Gadget Giveaway.  Last night I tallied up all the entries, and wrote all the names down on little slips of paper.  This morning, Miss S did the honors and I am pleased to announce that the winner is....

Georgina Dew!

This collection of Swiss Kitchen Gadgets, including a bar of Lindt Double Lait and a bar of Lindt Orange Intense (not pictured), are on their way to you this week.  Congratulations!

And I have a little runner's up prize (because when purchasing chocolate for aforementioned main prize, I just couldn't stop myself!)  

Lindt Caramel and Fleur De Sel & Dark Chocolate Mousse.

So I have these two lovely bars of Swiss chocolate here, and they will be going to...

Liz Oakes!

Thanks to everyone who "liked" and interacted with my Facebook page, joined this site and made comments, I really appreciate it!  I'm looking forward to August, I've got some fun things planned.  

I'd love to hear from you and if there's something you'd really like to see on this site, please let me know.

Right, off to make waffles for the little Mucks....

Yours Muckily,

LM x
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