Thursday 9 June 2016

Factory reset

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

I've been in a bead funk. A long, dark, woebegone, frustrating bead funk. I've cried, I've moped, I've thrown things, I've sworn and I've cried some more but I think I can finally see a chink of light at the end of this miserable bead tunnel.

The Oatmeal did a comic about making things – in his case, creating content for social media – but if you swap that for creating beads then his comic pretty much describes how making stuff (or not) works for me.

I think I may have mentioned before that when I have one of these I-just-want-to-set-fire-to-the-shed-and-make-cake-and-eat-the-cake-whilst-huddled-in-a-corner times, I find that going back to my personal 'factory reset' colours of black, white and clear (non-colours really, I guess) helps to start the unfunking process.

My friend and fellow glass melter, Kathy (who is also known as Practical Kat and you should definitely go and look at her glassy makings) has been listening to me drone on with my bead woes and she suggested I make spacers. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated - just spacers. So I did. Black, white and clear ones. And okay, some of them have spots and stringer but the fact that I wasn't putting pressure on myself to make beads that were more complex enabled me to at least make beads, which is way more than I've been able to do this past week or so. Cheers, Kathy. You're cosmic.

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

The resulting 'Magpie' Beadlings are available in my shop as strands of ten.

There are also some 'Peach Tea, Blue Sky' spotty Luminobeads...

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

...and I dug out my ancient straight-sided lentil press and made some 'Aegean' beads. Just a little pair. Fab for earrings.

Lampwork glass beads by Laura Sparling

All the beads pictured can be purchased in the usual place.

I think I really am reaching the end of the miserable bead tunnel now. Well, I flipping hope I am because moping about is very tiring and unproductive. I just don't have the time or patience for it!

Thanks for reading.

Monday 6 June 2016

Recipe: Lemon & Coconut Slice

Lemon and Coconut Slice

I had the loveliest cake in Starbucks the other week. It was a lemon and coconut slice; a thin pastry-ish biscuit base topped with lemon curd and a layer of coconutty ooh. As I sat there eating it I was trying to think if I'd ever had a lemon and coconut baked good before and I honestly could not recall one. Like some kind of cake addict I went in to Starbucks again this weekend, with the sole intention of grabbing a piece of the lemon and coconut slice, but they had none. It was 'limited edition' apparently. Whatever.

A quick Google told me that lemon and coconut slice seems to be an Australian thing. Well done, Australians - I salute your wondrous cake-making skills! A lot of the recipes I found were for no-bake slices made with condensed milk but none of them seemed to have the base bit. I eventually found a couple of baked ones and I kind of melded the recipes together. The measurements were all in cups so I've converted them to good old metric which should make life a bit easier. Well, it does for me. (Cup measurements annoy me, you see.) The resulting cake has a sightly different base to the Starbucks one but it doesn't matter because it's flipping delicious.

Before I list the ingredients and give you the recipe, yes I'm aware this contains a fair amount of sugar. I know that sugar is considered heinous and toxic these days but nobody is suggesting that you make cakes every single day and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Michaela Strachan would not be happy with this recipe (she had a benny about The Great British Bake Off last week) but that's fine because I'm not inviting Michaela Strachan round for tea and cake any time soon. Or ever, actually.

If you're feeling fancy you could make your own lemon curd for this recipe but I just used the stuff in a jar from the shop.

Lemon & Coconut Slice


For the base

125g unsalted butter
160g caster sugar
220g self raising flour
1 large free range egg, beaten
Lemon curd

For the coconut topping

125g dessicated coconut
160g caster sugar
1 large free range egg white


Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C for fan assisted ovens) or gas mark 4. Line a 20cm x 20cm tin with baking paper.

Base: Melt the butter in a saucepan. In a bowl, combine the sifted flour and the caster sugar. Add the melted butter and mix. Add the beaten egg and mix again. You'll end up with a fudge-like loose dough. Tip it into the lined tin and press down and level. You can use the back of a spoon or a spatula but I found it easier to use my (clean) hands. Bake the base in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until it is a light golden brown.

Topping: In a clean bowl, lightly beat the egg white with a whisk until it is thick and foamy. You're not making a meringue here so you're not looking for glossy stiff peaks of egg white; just whisk it until it is like dense, lathery soap. Add the dessicated coconut and caster sugar and stir it all together with a metal spoon. You should end up with a kind of crumbly mixture.

Spread the cake base with lemon curd. Two or three tablespoons of lemon curd should do the job but use as much as you fancy. Sprinkle the coconut mixture over the top. Again, I used my hands and kind of crumbled it on all over. You don't need to press it down; just make sure there's a nice even covering.

Return the tin to the oven and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes or until the coconut topping is golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin (are there three more annoying words in baking than "leave to cool"?) and then remove the slice from the tin and cut it into as many squares or bars as you like.

I guess you could use whatever flavour jam or curd you fancy. I think raspberry or cherry would be very lovely but there's something ever so summery about the lemon and coconut combination.

Happy baking!

A splash of red


I've not been feeling very beady this last week or so, so here are some poppies instead. These are on a grassy bank next to the main road, round the corner from where I catch the bus into town.

In between trying to make beads I've been doing a lot of reading and quite a bit of garden pottering.

Books I've read are:

And I am halfway through The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, which is a thriller set in Australia.

I guess I should stop reading and typing about reading because this blog post really is about nothing, and I should try and go and make some beads instead.

See you later!