Tag Archives: autumn leaves

Giant Jaffa Cake and Leaf Wreath


DIY fall leaf wreath idea

The “English” get a bit huffy at Halloween, they start complaining about the “Americanisation” of October 31st and all the paraphernalia and hype in the shops.  Guy Fawkes Night (aka Bonfire Night) is their seasonal celebration (November 5th).

Well, here in Scotland, Halloween has always been celebrated with the tradition of “guising” – not “trick or treating” you understand, just dressing up and going round the houses in dis”guise” – performing a wee song, skit, poem or nowadays often just a joke.  Since our household is 50% Scottish and 50% American – we indulge in Halloween.  Also, the Scots are secretly a wee bit annoyed Guy Fawkes didn’t succeed in blowing up the English Parliament – so no “Bonfire Night” for us North of the Border.

The best thing about the Americanization of All Hallow’s Eve, however, is the introduction of the pumpkin.  It wasn’t any fun as a small Scottish child trying to hollow out a “neep” (swede) for your lantern.  In fact it was impossible. My effort below is pretty basic compared to Ballet Girl’s but I was busy making my wreath!

spider carved pumpkin

So pumpkins are fun and my kids, who are denied “sweets” pretty much all year except Easter and Christmas, like Halloween very much.  This year, I am celebrating the fourth and final coat of fresh paint on my front door with a seasonal leaf wreath.  I threaded hundreds of sycamore leaves on to a wire coat-hanger – time consuming but cheap (no cost) and therapeutic.  It used a lot of leaves but I was able to nip up to the Church Yard for more leaves every time I ran out.  To “treat” my kids this year I have made them a giant Jaffa cake.

autumn decor and cakes

I was going to put red food colouring in the orange jelly bit to make it “blood orange” for the occasion but in the end chose not to (didn’t want to sully a classic).  I found the recipe on a blog I follow called Tangerine Drawings and you can find it here.  I just love the fact that she uses drawings rather than photographs.  My sponge turned out beautifully, very light.  It’s made from only flour, cornflour, sugar and eggs.  The orange jelly is made from gelatine, fresh squeezed orange and marmalade.  The chocolate top is pure dark chocolate.  So, pretty much like a regular Jaffa Cake only bigger.

home made jaffa cake slice

Basically you bake the sponge, make the jelly in a slightly smaller cake tin lined with cling film, then when it’s set, place the jelly on top of the sponge and smooth the chocolate (melted over a pan of hot water) over the top.  I apologise for my plastic table cloth – mine is a working kitchen not a photo studio.  I cook, I mend, I make; and, sometimes I clean (when absolutely necessary) ‘cos it’s no fun at all and cuts into my “playtime.”

how to make a giant jaffa cake

My giant Jaffa Cake turned out a bit tangy, I’m not sure the kids will actually like it, I maybe shouldn’t have used home made Seville orange marmalade or should have added more sugar.  Still, if it’s too sharp for the kids, we sophisticated grown ups can eat it all.  Jaffa Cakes are pretty low fat you know.  Here’s another shot of my kitchen, I took the table cloth off for this photo but you can see all the normal kitchen mess in the background.

giant jaffa cake recipe

Anyway, have a great All Hallow’s Eve, however you celebrate it, keep warm, crochet yourself a new hat, make a cake, snuggle someone you love.

A Tale of Two Cities – Newcastle/Gateshead


millenium bridge and baltic arts centre autumn sunset

After a dodgy start, our day out in Newcastle/Gateshead was wonderful.  We woke early to find that heavy overnight rain had wrought havoc on the roads.  I diligently listened to the radio – there were no reported problems on our proposed route.  Well – after driving through many “ponds” we came upon a lake where the road should have been.  I didn’t want to be one of those idiots that you laugh at on TV when their car breaks down in flood water so, sensibly, I turned around and took an even more scenic route – we made the train.  Phew.

From then on, not another drop of rain fell, the sun broke through the clouds and the day finished up with spectacularly clear skies – it was cold with a stiff breeze but the cockles of our hearts were warmed by the sun, the dialect and a delicious lunch (with a glass of wine for me) in an excellent Italian Restaurant.

The restaurant was called Francesca’s and was in a lovely area of Victorian terraces just North of the City – Jesmond.  Lunch was very good and very inexpensive – £1.90 for my glass of wine!  We practically never eat in restaurants so this was a BIG treat.  As an added bonus, a new shop had opened next door called “Made in Jesmond” which was filled with lovely hand made goodies and vintage treasure.  We had a lovely chat with the women there about the possibility of them stocking some of my “Made in the Borders” goodies.

For those unfamiliar with N.E. geography, Newcastle and Gateshead sit on either side of the great River Tyne.  Newcastle to the North and Gateshead to the South.  The Angel of the North is in Gateshead and the new cultural attractions of the Sage and the Baltic Art Centres are also on the Gateshead side. There are seven bridges over the tyne.tyne bridge

The wonderful Millennium Bridge, which has just celebrated its 10th Birthday, is an elegant foot bridge which connects the two.  Newcastle itself is full of beautiful buildings and grand streets.  Sir John Betjeman wrote of Grey Street…  “As for the curve of Grey Street, I shall never forget seeing it to perfection, traffic-less on a misty Sunday morning. Not even Regent Street, even old Regent Street London, can compare with that descending subtle curve”  Grey Street is named after the British Prime minister Earl Grey (1830-34) as is the tea! He was a local lad.

After lunch, I wanted to go to the Shipley Gallery in Gateshead – I promised the kids a visit to the nearby Saltwell Park – however, the park and weather turned out to be so fabulous that I couldn’t drag them away.  There was a huge flood in the play area but we managed to work around it, I took “puddle” photos while the kids played – happy times.

girl cycling through puddle with autumn leaves

autunm trees and leaves reflected in puddle

The fairytale house and gardens were built for a stained glass manufacturer called William Wailes, he bequeathed his quirky house and 55-acre garden to the people of Gateshead in 1876 and the park and house have recently been restored to their former Victorian glory.  We had an ice cream on the sunny terrace.  saltwell towers gateshead basking in autumn sun

Saltwell has been “Britain’s best Park” in the past and I can see why.  Can you see any of today’s “rich” giving such gifts? No, they are too busy avoiding taxes, chasing bonuses at any cost; and, gleefully risking other peoples hard-earned money for their personal gain.

autumn leaves on steps at saltwell towers park gateshead

autumn trees and leaves saltwell park north east england

fall autumn beech tree leaves

stone steps at saltwell park gateshead newcastle
In the early evening we visited two lovely shops near the station on Westgate Road.  First, the Amnesty International Second-hand Book Shop where we made several purchases of lovely books – actual paper books that had been thoughtfully bequeathed by altruistic intellectuals keen to share knowledge and reading pleasure while funding a very good cause – as opposed to kindle users who buy books for their personal use and entertainment –  and have nothing “concrete” to give or share.  The second shop, was an amazing art shop called the Newcastle Arts Centre – Oh my, we could have spent a week in there – they had everything an artist could want or need – plus a gallery and a coffee shop.  We bought some gorgeous and funky wrapping paper to be used as end papers for some books I am having re-bound by But n Ben Bindery – but that’s another story.

sage, millenium bridge and tyne sunset

Finally, the icing on the cake was our sunset walk along the Tyne, the air was still and the light amazing – we had the place to ourselves and just made it to the Baltic Arts Centre as it was closing it’s doors.  We wanted to ride the great glass elevators and have a drink in the restaurants’ little glass box at the top.  Timing is everything and we made it just in time to see the sun disappear behind the Tyne Bridge.  We each had an iced coke – from a glass bottle – and collapsed to admire the stunning views on the comfy sofas on top of the world – money just can’t buy you that sort of thrill.millenium bridge and baltic gateshead

sage gateshead and tyne bridge late autumn sunset

So, Newcastle gets five stars from me – but then I’m a patriot with a passion for people, art, architecture, history and geography  – Newcastle has it all.  I’ll be back – for a week next time.

late autumn sun setting on the baltic arts centre - formerly flour mill