How things have changed…

The pile of toys on the play mat in the corner of the lounge…

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Tiny clothes pegged out to dry…

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Yes, things have definitely changed!

Hi lovelies, it’s me! I’ve been wanting so badly to pop and say a quick hello and let you know that all is well. I must have written a hundred posts in my head, but not found the time to actually get online and write them down!

Anyway, here I am! Alive and settling in well to family life.

Our Little Man is 3 months old today, and it’s been a whirlwind 3 months! Our house is awash with baby paraphernalia: toys, books and apparatus strewn across rooms, wash baskets filled with tiny little clothes, and The Bert and I somewhere in amongst it all, wondering how it is that one small person can lead to so much change!

After the initial weeks which seemed to go on forever (probably because we spent so much of them awake, it was like one day that never seemed to end!), time is passing by so quickly now. It’s hard to believe that we are parents to a 12 week old already!

And what a lovely little fella he is too! Ever so smiley, extremely interested and nosy, alert and active! He caught us by surprise rolling over at 11 weeks! Yikes! And seems to pull new tricks almost daily… Today we heard his first giggles!

Yesterday while the weather was fine I got organised by washing his 3-6 month wardrobe. What a lucky little boy to have a change of outfits every three months! What you see here is only half of it – and all of these things were gifts, the generosity of our friends and family has been amazingly overwhelming. I’m hoping to find the time to show you some of the handmade gifts we received – who knew our friends and relations were such a talented bunch!

For now though, my bed is calling. Hoping to catch up on what you’ve all been up to soon,

Jones x

Posted in baby, family, General chit chat, Home | 3 Comments

And then there were three…

Hi lovelies,

Just a quick one to let you know that The House of Jones has been joined by its newest resident and we are now a family of three!

Our Little Man ©The House of JonesThe Bert and I welcomed our Little Man into the world exactly one week ago today – he was born on 20 February, weighing 8lb 13.5oz. He didn’t have the easiest arrival into the world but he’s doing really well and is absolutely gorgeous!

This first week has been amazing, unexpected, tiring, joyful, full of surprises, emotional… It has been more than I could ever have imagined meeting our little boy and getting to know each other during these first few days.

I imagine this might be the beginning of a short break from blogland, so apologies in advance for my absence and hopefully it won’t be too long til I’m back with news and updates!

Jones x

Posted in baby, family, General chit chat, Home | 12 Comments

♥ Made with love: Chocolate Pennies ♥

For Valentine’s Day last year, I made The Bert some handmade truffles. They seemed to go down well, but perhaps what was more successful were the chocolate pennies I made with the left over melted chocolate – basically over-sized chocolate buttons.

Pink tulips ©The House of JonesThis year, I decided that chocolate was once again an excellent gift for the one I love, so this morning I’ve made a selection of turbo-charged chocolate pennies, topped with scrummy delights which make them look oh-so professional and hopefully taste yummy too!

These were super quick to make, and you can tailor your pennies to whatever your loved one likes. The Bert is a big fan of dark chocolate, and he loves fruit, so these Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Pennies are sure to hit the spot:

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Pennies ©The House of JonesFor a bit of fun, I found chocolate popping candy – so I’ve also made some Milk Chocolate Firecracker Pennies, as well as leaving some undecorated and simply drizzling milk over dark, and dark over milk for the final pennies.

Milk Chocolate Firecracker Pennies ©The House of JonesIf you’d like to make some, all you need is 150g each of milk and dark chocolate (I used Waitrose own-brand). Melt the chocolate in separate bowls over pans of simmering water and then let it cool slightly before dropping teaspoonfuls onto greaseproof/baking paper. I made 60 pennies, each approximately the size of an old, large penny (~3cm diameter). Then let your imagination go wild! There are lots of lovely toppings for icing these days in the home-baking aisle, and ice cream toppings in the dessert aisle. What about little pieces of honeycomb, or small pieces of crystallised ginger? Or how about chilli flakes or dropping some peppermint essence in with your melted chocolate for a minty treat?

Chocolate Penny toppings ©The House of JonesOnce your pennies are ready, pop them in the fridge for a few hours to harden, before lifting with a palette knife and arranging into boxes or bags ready to gift. Mine are chilling at the moment, but I’ll be boxing them up later and hoping The Bert is impressed by my skills of domesticity!

Jones x

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This week…

Hello lovelies! Friday again already? Time is going so quickly at the moment, so here’s a little round up from the week that was.

Mostly this week I have…

Been thinking: wondering what ingredients I’ll put in my chocolate tiffin next time I make it. I like Lucy‘s suggestion of cranberries.

Chocolate tiffin in the tin ©The House of JonesSpent time in the kitchen: batch making and freezing a chilli con carne, and baking a chicken, bacon and leek pie which we enjoyed when friends came for dinner on Sunday. Here it is before I put the puff pastry lid on. Yum.

Chicken, bacon & leek pie filling ©The House of JonesBrought springtime inside: these hyacinths have smelt so good…

White hyacinths ©The House of JonesWho can resist a daffodil…

Sunny daffodils ©The House of JonesOr a flopsy tulip…

Floppy tulips ©The House of JonesFound signs of spring outside: snowdrops in the back garden…

Snowdrops ©The House of Jones…and surprise shoots in the tub my mum planted for me in the front…

Spring shoots ©The House of JonesHung pictures in the house: getting the house ready for the baby and visitors too. We bought this quirky tag earlier this year – I love the sentiment of it. It reminds me of my 52 weeks of happy posts and looking for the best in things.

Added some colour to the mantlepiece: goodbye winter whites and silver and hello spring brights.

Spring mantlepiece ©The House of JonesEnjoyed a brief spell of sunshine: after a week of rain, the sun was a welcome sight this morning. I had a lovely walk down the road to meet my friend for coffee. Look how pretty these cottages look with the blue sky behind…

February sunshine ©The House of Jones… and the allotments too. There’ll be signs of growth in the plots, I’m sure.

February allotments ©The House of JonesHung washing on the line: first time in ages I’ve been able to dry outside…

Sheets on the line ©The House of Jones… and I got to wear the raspberry-pink crocs that The Bert gave me for Christmas too :o)

Raspberry pink shoes ©The House of JonesI had to lean right over to get this photo – this is actually what I see when I look down!!

The view down ©The House of JonesWhat a big bump! I’m 39 weeks tomorrow, so the little one could come very soon!

Made progress on my crochet: slowly but surely I’m moving in the right direction. I’m adapting a pattern for this last bit – trickier than I thought it would be!

Crochet progress ©The House of JonesI hope you’re having a lovely week,

Jones x

Posted in baking, Cooking, Craft, crochet, Flowers, Garden, General chit chat, Home, recipes | 2 Comments

Chocolate tiffin

Chocolate tiffin ©The House of JonesLast week I talked of my desire to make Chocolate Tiffin for the NCT ladies. Thank you for the tips and suggestions about biscuits and fruit options. The recipe I settled upon in the end was based on this one on the netmums website.

It was super easy to make, and I have to say the final cakes were absolutely amazing and got lots of lovely compliments from the girls.

Chocolate Tiffin

Ingredients:

  • 100g butter/hard margarine (not low-fat, as it won’t set)
  • 25g soft brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 225g crushed digestive biscuits (pop them in a freezer bag and give them a bash with a rolling pin. You still want some small pieces of biscuit, so don’t get too carried away!)
  • 150g raisins

I also used…

  • 100g glace cherries (natural colour), chopped
  • 300g milk chocolate (chocolate buttons because they were on offer in Tesco!)

Method:

  1. Melt the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and syrup.
  2. Add the crushed biscuits and dried fruit and mix well.
  3. Press into a 20cm x 20 cm tin, lined with clingfilm (so that the clingfilm comes out over the sides – this will help you get the final cake out of the tin).
  4. Melt the milk chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate over the top of your biscuit base.
  6. Pop in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight, to set.
  7. Tip out of the tin, removing the clingfilm, and cut into pieces. As this is a rich treat I kept the pieces fairly small, cutting into 20 pieces.

Chocolate tiffin in the tray ©The House of Jones Chocolate tiffin all sliced up ©The House of Jones Chocolate tiffin in the tin ©The House of Jones

Ohh it was sooo good. Next time I think I might try adding some dried apricots or dates, and maybe doing a mix of milk and dark chocolate for the topping.

A piece of chocolate tiffin ©The House of JonesDo let me know if you give it a try! I’m just going to enjoy the last piece(!) now with a cup of tea and another episode of Downton :o)

Jones x

Edited to add: I kept the tiffin in the fridge before serving so that it wasn’t too warm and melty to eat.

Posted in baking, Cooking, General chit chat, recipes | 8 Comments

Last week’s baking

Hi lovelies, how has your week been? I hope you’ve been finding time to do the things you enjoy.

Last week was my first full week of maternity leave and I have to say once I’d got over the initial feeling that I was skiving (!), I enjoyed it immensely. Time to relax, take an afternoon nap if I wanted, do some gentle sorting and tidying in the house in readiness for the little one’s arrival, and watch the Downton Abbey box set that The Bert’s mum gave me for Christmas. This series completely passed me by while it was on TV (it’s not really The Bert’s cup of tea) but I have to say I’m really enjoying watching it all from the very beginning. I’m getting quite into it – it’s gentle, but compelling, viewing. I’m already on Series 2!

I also did quite a bit of baking during last week, which I thought I’d share with you now. I really enjoy spending time in the kitchen, trying new recipes, and making old favourites.

Lobster-shaped gingerbread biscuits ©The House of Jones My baking started last week with another batch of gingerbread biscuits – in the shape of lobsters. Don’t ask me why! I used Kate’s lovely recipe again, and packed the little critters off to work with The Bert (my waistline is expanding quite enough on its own without too many extra treats!). The feedback was ‘Delicious!’ and ‘they look more like crayfish than lobsters’ – I think perhaps they had a point.

Towards the end of last week I set about a bit more baking. We had day 2 of our NCT course and had a bring and share ‘pot luck’ sort of lunch planned. I made a batch of chocolate brownies, following another Hummingbird Bakery recipe that you’ll find in their book The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

Chocolate brownies and flapjacks ©The House of JonesI was really worried about how the brownies had turned out, so I also made a batch of my fail-safe flapjacks. As it happened, I needn’t have worried about the brownies – they were really good. Not too sweet and a delicious flaky-on-top-squidgy-in-the-middle texture.

Here’s the recipe if you fancy a bash:

Hummingbird Bakery’s Traditional Brownie

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I actually used 150g dark chocolate and 50g milk chocolate)
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 325g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • icing sugar, to decorate

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C.
  2. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water). Leave until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Stir until well incorporated. (The bowl I’d done my melting in wasn’t very big, so I transferred my melted mix into a bigger bowl which seemed to work just fine).
  4. Add the flour and mix until incorporated.
  5. Finally, stir in the eggs and mix until thick and smooth.
  6. Spoon the mixture into a prepared baking tray (they suggest 33 x 23 x 5cm tray lined with greaseproof paper. I didn’t have one that size but think that a smaller one would be better anyway to make them slightly thicker) and baking the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Be careful not to overcook otherwise the edges will become hard and crunchy.
  7. Leave to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar, to decorate.

YUM!

I’m planning to do a bit more baking for the weekend – I’m meeting up with the NCT ladies again and I’ve said I’ll take along some cakes. I’ve got it in my head that I really want to have a go at making Chocolate Tiffin, or Refrigerator Cake. I’ve been scouring the internet for recipes, trying to work out which might be the most delicious. But to be honest it’s got me in a bit of a pickle. I don’t know whether I should be using just cocoa powder or all chocolate, or a mix of the two? Raisins, dried apricots or cherries? Rich tea biscuits or digestives? And for the topping should it just be melted chocolate or one recipe suggested melted chocolate, cream and syrup?

So, I was thinking that you lovely lot might be able to help me out. Please, purlease, if this is a recipe that is familiar to you and you have a fail-safe favourite that you always make, perhaps you could share it with me, or point me in the right direction? Thank you so much in advance.

Well, lovelies, enjoy the rest of the week – whatever you’ve got planned. I’m hoping to do a bit more on my latest crochet project. I don’t think I’ve shared it with you yet? It’s still a work in progress and I’m a bit nervous as to how it might turn out. I’ll do you a progress report soon and you can let me know what you think!

Jones x

Posted in baking, Cooking, General chit chat, recipes | 5 Comments

Baking for a crowd

Hi lovelies,

Thank you SO MUCH for the comments on my crochet patchwork bag, you are so kind!

So last Thursday was my last day at work – Woohooo!! I’m now officially on maternity leave! I have to say, I found the whole finishing work thing a bit weird. I was completely ready – the tiredness has been a bit overwhelming since going back to work after Christmas and the drive to work, while not long, was getting a bit uncomfortable. That said, I felt really quite sad about going – even though I know I will be going back!

My colleagues gave me such a lovely send off. It’s tradition at work to have a leaving tea in the atrium and there was a really good turn out – both people and delicious cakes! People had been so thoughtful bringing in my favourites, such as carrot cupcakes, mini muffins… and one lady in my team had pulled an absolute blinder with this baby cake – I felt very guilty cutting into that one!! Not only did it look adorable but the sponge was one of the nicest I’ve tasted in a long time.

Baby cake ©The House of JonesI also received some wonderful presents – a thick and fluffy dressing gown to cosy up in, a giant box of chocolates and a voucher to get a back massage once the baby has arrived. Lucky Jones!

I’d also done a bit of baking for my last day – chocolate cupcakes. Again?! I hear you cry! Yes, again… if it’s one thing I’ve learned when baking for a crowd it’s to go with a crowd pleaser and chocolate cupcakes always go down well.

If you’ve been visiting me here for a while then you might remember I’ve already shared one recipe for chocolate cupcakes. In my attempt to try new recipes though, I used the Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe this time from their book Cake Days.

They were delicious actually, far moister than my other recipe and definitely one I’d do again. The batter was really rich and velvety, glossy and smooth…

Chocolate cupcake batter ©The House of JonesI think I overfilled the cases a little – they grew loads in the oven!

Chocolate cupcakes ©The House of JonesI’m afraid I cheated on the icing and used Betty Crocker ready-made buttercream. Very lazy as it’s hardly difficult to make buttercream… but this was just easier with the time I had available.

Chocolate cupcakes ©The House of JonesOh yes, just look at that lovely icing…! Who cares that I didn’t make it?!

Iced chocolate cupcakes ©The House of JonesA few sprinkles and they were done and in the cake tins…

Cupcakes in the tin ©The House of JonesYum!

Here’s the recipe if you want to make some for yourself::

Ingredients:

  • 3oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 10oz caster sugar
  • 7oz plain flour
  • 1 1/2 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking salt
  • 240ml milk
  • 2 large eggs

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases.
  2. Using a hand–held electric whisk or electric mixer beat together the butter, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until the ingredients are well incorporated and resemble fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk together. Pour three quarters of this mixture into the dry ingredients and beat on a low speed to combine. Raise the speed and continue to mix until smooth and thick. Pour in the remaining milk mixture and keep mixing on a medium speed until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.
  4. Spoon the batter into the paper cases, so that each is two-thirds full. (It says this will make 12-16 cupcakes – I made 22, so you may need some more cases, especially as mine could probably have used less per case).
  5. Put in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

If you want to make their frosting, you’ll need:

  • 14oz icing sugar
  • 3 1/2 oz cocoa powder
  • 5 1/2 oz unsalted butter
  • 50 ml milk

Whisk the icing sugar with the cocoa powder and butter in an electric mixer. Pour in the milk, still mixing on a low speed, then increase the speed and whisk until soft and fluffy.

Or, just buy some Betty Crocker and off you go ;o)

If you’ve got any crowd-pleasing recipes, please do leave me details in the comments. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to try new recipes, and there’s nothing like a recommendation from you lovely lot!

Ooh one final thing before I go – the crochet-lovers amongst you may want to pop over to The Grange Range and check out the C U T E S T baby bootees I’ve ever seen! Wondering if I should make a pair for my growing bump…

Jones x

Posted in baking, Cooking, cupcakes, General chit chat, recipes | 4 Comments