Cold Brew Coffee

God, I bloody love this stuff.

Because I love coffee. And I am fussy about coffee. But I don’t always have time to be fussy about coffee. 

Even making an Aeropress can sometimes take too long if the toddler is rampaging. Also I quite like the small ceremony of the Aeropress routine, and to take my time with it.

I also, slightly freakishly, like coffee when it’s gone cold. Again, useful when there’s a toddler around. But yeah, it’s sometimes more bitter than you’d ideally like (more on the science here).

So I decided to make some cold brew. Which sounds like beer to me but it’s actually an immersion method of slowly brewing coffee.

Image

I coarsely ground some Union Hand Roasted* coffee, 110g of their Abahuzamugambi ba kawa microlot from Rwanda. Cold brew can give a smoother taste but only if you’re using decent beans in the first place, and these are amazing.  Candied orange and milk chocolate notes. 

Image

Then I put the grounds in a huge Kilner with 2L of water, gave it a good stir – and you can see it start to bloom, above –  and left it 12 hours. To strain, I lined a sieve with two Chemex filters and poured the whole thing through, which took about 15 minutes.  Then bottled it and put it in the fridge: beautiful coffee concentrate. Depending on who you talk to, it keeps anywhere from two days to two weeks. But it’s not difficult to make so I think we’ll aim to prep a batch every three to four days. 

Image

Since then – sun or not – I’ve been throwing a cup of it over ice and usually adding a little whole milk. It’s amazing coffee flavoured rocket fuel. Can’t imagine I’ll be brewing any other way until there’s frost on the trees!  

 

 

 

*Union are a client but I choose to buy from them anyway, and pay for my coffee myself

I like a Big Lunch

I really like where we live. I know most people would hope to say the same, but there’s a lovely sense of community around here – something that London is sometimes criticised for lacking. We have a brilliant park at the end of our road and last June we formed a ‘Friends of…’ group to try to make the most of it, and make it into a thriving local resource. 

We did some bulb planting last year but our first major event was hosting The Big Lunch on 1st June. We knew the weather would make or break it. I woke up at 5:30 on Sunday morning and my first thought (after ‘oh Sproggett go back to your own bed) was ‘zomg it’s bloody well sunny’ and it turned out to be a scorcher. 

We were on site from 9:00 setting up, and left at 5:00 after a brilliant day. We had yoga for kids, bee hotel making with Friends of the Earth, a police car to clamber into, ‘art growing on trees’. I was mostly behind the cake stall (having baked all Saturday, after our last three-hour planning meeting – including biscuits that were supposed to be rockets but actually looked like cycloptic monsters wearing braces, see below) and lovely lovely Edd came to judge it. Even the Bunting for Life got an outing. 

We enlisted some of the visitors to the Big Lunch for a few minutes to help for the tear-down We got chatting with people who tentatively ventured ideas for future events we could do, and it was so great to see people get excited, and see the potential in our park and our community. We’ve already been asked what we’re going to do next (which is a bit like asking someone with a newborn when she’s having the next one, #toosoon) but we have tentative plans for something Bonfire Night related. Lots of small children and fire, what on earth could go wrong?

 ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

I’ll only see 39 again if I come back as someone’s front door

Image

As Mr D has taken a few days off, it’s officially a long weekend in our household from tomorrow.

Today isn’t marked on the calendar, mainly because we don’t tend to do that sort of thing much. It’s the end of my 30s. Goodbye to a decade that saw three houses purchased: one joint, then thankfully released to one on my own and then finally just two weeks after I became Mrs D, the purchase of what has turned out to be a very happy family home. Even if it’s growing more ramshackle by the day.

This little terrace and my life is filled with a metric ton of plastic crap, more Ikea furniture than I’d ideally like but hey, it does the job, much sleeplessness due to teething at the moment, and two amazing men (one grown-up, one miniature.)  I could never have predicted how my situation would be at 40 and it’s vastly different to how my 30s started – and I’m so grateful. This city, London, is a constant but lots of other things have changed and only for the better. Apart from my knees. I’d like my 30 year-old-self’s cartilage back please.

Todays’s also significant for the celebration – or not, they keep it fairly low-key – of my parents’ 42nd wedding anniversary. I think it’s significant that when my father doodles mindlessly on the newspaper, it’s always the digits 27, which I ascribe to this day. My mother always snorts lovingly when I say that and rolls her eyes, bringing forty-two years of experience to bear. 

Tomorrow they’re flying over to spend the weekend with us – ostensibly for my birthday. Mainly to visit Sproggett. We will spend the weekend child-fussing and gardening, I’d say. Not exactly an exciting stay in London for them but actually the best pressie I could wish for.

There are birthday plans in there too – most of them are secrets still – and then on Sunday it’s the maternal motherlode – a family birthday lunch which also neatly brings my husband and I together with our respective mums for Mothering Sunday.  Sproggett gets two grannies (and granddads) to coo at.  He may actually implode with excitement. I predict him being like a metronome, not knowing whose attention to aim for. I am more grateful than ever for a mother who’s a best friend and a gift in the form of a mother-in-law. It’s not always the case and I count my blessings.

Monday is a secret escape and our first night away from the wee man. I am still conflicted about this – desperate for the sleep and getting to be a grown-up with my husband for a whole night; grateful he’ll be looked after by people who love him best and will spoil him rotten; infused to my core with guilt for not being there when he wakes in the morning.

Of course at the rate he’s been going he may just stay up all night. So that will solve the problem, right? 

 

 

Photo from Leo Reynold’s photostream under a Creative Commons Licence 

March is Shitty First Draft Month

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird

Hellooooo is there anyone out there? I’ve been off chasing a toddler and working like a loon. I kind of fell out of the blogging habit again.  I did absolutely nothing worth noting, or that’s what it seems like. So busy with so little output! And there probably won’t be much time for it next month either. Because…

Before long I will probably be wishing that I’d chosen to observe only National Bed Month in March, but I’ve got some other plans.

I’ve a big birthday looming and a sort of diary perfect storm means that I won’t be taking on much freelance work next month. But for some of that time, I’ll have lots of childcare so I have no excuse for not writing.

5984622361_a9b85820ae

My plan is to bash out, as per Anne Lamott’s sage advice, a shitty first draft by the end of March. Or, #myownprivatenanowrimo as I’ve been calling it. Also #theshittyfirstdraftclub. Yes, I’ve been spending too much time thinking in hashtags and procrastinating already. And writing blog posts.

Are ya with me?! This will be SO MUCH FUN!*

 

*as anyone who has ever written anything knows, this is the well-recognised condition known as “Pre-writing Bravado”.

Let me know if you’re interested in being word-count buddies. Support, egging on, derision if targets aren’t met, all available by email.

Image from Novel Pursuit‘s Flickr stream under a creative commons licence

Planting in the Park

IMG_1198 I’ll be honest. It wasn’t the most auspicious weather in east London last Sunday, for our community group’s first event, planting 400 daffodil bulbs.  It started off fairly dark and dank. The gazebo we’d brought almost lifted off in the winds and everything was pretty soggy, including us.  Someone clever had brought a big tin of Celebrations though, and I’d made enough Splody Pies for the entire neighbourhood.

IMG_1196

We thought that the rain might mean that the ground would have softened a little. We were entirely mistaken. Gah. But everyone got stuck in – literally – and we got through all of the bulbs in 2 hours. (they’d been provided by B&Q – thank you! – and psst lots of their bulbs are half price right now)  The weather eased too, with the worst showers happening when we were setting up, with pretty perfect conditions for the actual planting.

IMG_1199

IMG_1200

I love our local park. It’s at the end of our road, although as it borders a cul de sac, lots of people can lay claim to that. It has a newly refurbished play area with a zipline that the entire neighbourhood seems to have tried – I am sure I’ve seen more adults than kids on it.

We recently set up a Friends of St James Park group, as this basically gives us a lot more credibility with the council and we can have a say in what happens in and to the park. The official standing also gives us access to training in Waltham Forest to improve the group and understand how to access local services for it – it certainly all sounds promising.

IMG_1201

Some of the group were extremely hesitant to get sucked into the Facebook vortex, which is how a lot of groups seem to communicate and publicize if they haven’t gone down the route of getting their own website yet. We’ve gone with Streetclub instead – coincidentally also a B&Q thing but they don’t really get involved it it. It has the same functionality: conversations, postings, events, a diary, and the rest, but the difference is that to join your postcode should be within two miles of your chosen group’s specified location. The whole point is to keep it local. That’s why I wanted to be involved with this group really – we use the park twice a day (in better weather) and we want it to be a hub for the community, along with the lovely Pumphouse Museum. Our side of our borough is a little bit neglected and the park can be something that really unifies it.
IMG_1203We ended up with quite a large group of people – the team you see above were on one of the four patches we planted, by the entrances and opposite the end of some of the streets which face the park so they’ll be really visible. I got talking to a lady who seemed familiar, then remembered we had chatted in the park last summer as our sons ran around us – in fact Sproggett tried to steal her [much older] son’s ball, unsuccessfully. We had a couple of teenage boys slink past, on their way out of the park, with their football boots slung around their necks. One of the planters tried to engage them in conversation.

It turned out that one of them grew potatoes and beans in the back garden at home. They were enticed back into the middle of the clatter, with toddlers slinging miniature trowels about, and they carefully planted a couple of bulbs each, by the notice board.

“Next year I’ll be able to come back and know that that was my one,” we were told, and they were shy but proud.

I can’t wait to see our handiwork in the spring.

Six months spin past

IMG_1123

I try to get some writing or some work done between 7:00 and 8:00am – plus, you know, showering and dressing – FUN TIMES. The more sunrises like this that I see from our attic office, the more I want us to rip the roof off the house and put our bedroom up here. It’s just a small matter of finding many, many thousands of pounds.

IMG_1072

Can’t lie. There hasn’t been a whole lots of baking going on, as we’ve largely given up sugar. Actually we have completely given up sugar, although there’s still some boozey goodness in the house. The community had a jumble sale at our local museum and I wanted to add something to the café to fundraise for the Philippines appeal.  Why I’m outing myself I don’t know (GUILT) but I actually used box mixture and premade frosting for these. As I didn’t eat any I can’t tell you if they were obviously chemical. I feel like a fraud. But I reckoned that it was better to make something than nothing, and work time was about thirty minutes. And made for plenty of pound coins in the donation box. Loving getting to know people locally, in our little neighbourhoody home.

IMG_1069

Yeah, life is mostly about these guys. Love these guys. We three rub along well. Especially now that we are all getting some sleep.

IMG_0847

I’ve been working almost full time. Sometimes this is the daytime view I get out my window, which makes up for a lot of evils. I’ve temporarily traded off some time with the small boy to be able to help to pay for some big purchases – most notably a car (oh what adventures we will have). But working-mummy guilt – when it hits, it hits hard. It’s going to be a delicate balance, and one I have to work on. Yet it suits me better to be working some of the time. Just have to get my head around it properly. I’ve worked with interesting clients this year, now I need to cherry-pick with whom, and what I’ll be doing in 2014.

IMG_4699

There has been a very tiny amount of crafting. That’s a bit of a tease as it has to remain hidden for a little longer. But it was tremendous fun and enticing. I want to do it again.

IMG_4695

I also want to do lots, lots more of this. We got so desperate about his sleeping habits (he didn’t have any) that we worked with a sleep consultant. We all have our lives back. Now all I need to do is force myself to go to bed earlier.

IMG_4581

There are plans for dress making and crafting and all kinds of things in 2014. Some sew-alongs perhaps, and also stash busting. Living beside Walthamstow market is not helpful for a compulsive fabric hoarder (even though it’s only two boxes now).  And there are gems like Wood St Market, above, to explore.

Other grand schemes also include a ‘go big or go home’ plan on really making this into our dream house. We even have a plan – one that a proper architect came up with – but of course it’s all down to cash.

So I must go. I have a bank raid to plan.

Cheeky Monkey cupcakes

First off, some house-keeping.

You may notice some new posts have popped up here – when I got preggo I decided to set up a new blog to discuss non-food topics, as OMG had become firmly food-focussed. But recently I decided to incorporate Bake Make Rake in here for lots of reasons, but because I hate the tumblr CMS, really. Unfortunately none of the lovely comments came with the content during the import which makes me sad as some of them were very heartfelt, on rather personal, ranty posts.

On that note, expect more about craft and kids here now.

So, cupcakes. There’s an imminent first birthday in this household and I really want to try to make some fun things as my contribution to the joint spread (for Sproggett and two of his tiny cohorts). Now I know that I’ll have the Irish grandparents here in the run-up which is awesome as my Dad was a baker so should be able to offer some help (although he’s more the ‘crack six dozen eggs in five minutes, bake 288 loaves of bread type baker) but I did a practice run of something that’s simple and quick so I’ve at least one thing up my sleeve.

NB There are BIG PLANS for the actual birthday cake. Some hints here on Pinterest. But first:

Image

Super Cheaty Cheeky Monkey Cupcakes

Ingredients:

equipment (which you don’t even need, in a pinch):

  • Piping bag
  • Star piping nozzle

method

  1. Chop in half as many white buttons as you’ve got muffins or cupcakes, and twice as many chocolate ones.
  2. If you’re using a piping bag, fill it now and generously slather each mini muffin with frosting. You could also spoon it on and then rough it up with a fork to give it some texture.
  3. Place pairs of chocolate button halves as above to make the monkey face, then use either the piping bag or the tine of a fork to dot some frosting as eyes.

Of course if you have time, make the mini muffins, and ganache, and sugarpaste decorations. I admit I am a little bit curious as to how they make frosting that apparently “stays fresh in the fridge for 30 days after opening”. Gulp. But mostly these days I’m just happy if I manage to leave the house in shoes rather than slippers and don’t forget the baby, so this might be my level of expertise for a while.