Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Cakey Bakey Merry Christmas!

T'is the season to get baking, tra la la la la, la la la la !

Si has been away for a week on an endurance vintage car rally from Lands End  to John O' Groats, so J and I got our bake on! Especially as the snow came down and we were snowed in again for a couple of days. So we decided to have a crafty/bakey couple of days. First up were mince pies. No recipe here as it was convenience ingredients all the way with the packet of shop bought pastry and jar of mince meat. As you can see J had great success in making some rather delicious pies. NOt bad for a two year old!

Next up was a gingerbread house. Admittedly this was a project J was not really involved in, namely because he would have eaten the entire thing!! Though I do have to say I am a little bit proud of it. especially as I do not have a creative bone in my body!

J absolutely loves it. I cannot wait to tell him he can demolish it and eat it! It will be gingerbread carnage!

Next up was the christmas cake. We followed the recipe for Nigella's fruit cake recipe in November and then left it until earlier this week, where we levelled it off and covered it in marzipan. Then we iced it and J helped to cut out and colour the stars for the top. Again I am really pleased with this and J keeps askng for cake. Roll on Sunday!!!

All that is left now is for the Big Man himself to pay us all a visit on Sunday and for us all to have a Very Merry Christmas and an Amazing Happy New Year!!!!! Have a fabulous time.

Kathryn and J x

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Peppermint Dreams

I have started a new project, which I am very excited about. I have started to learn how to knit. After a couple of weeks of bake-tastic-ness, and an increasingly tighter waistband, I needed to focus on something that was not food realted. I went to visit my gorgeous friend T, who inspried me to learn how to knit. I left with some basic knowledge, a pair of needles and a ball of wool. After a few practice sessions and a few trips to You Tube (thank goodness for you tube!!!) I was away. 

There is something very theraputic about the repetition of kntting and I have to admit that I am hooked! I managed to make J a scarf, which I had to start over about thirty times. It did have a LOT of holes in it where I had managed to drop stitches, but I just sewed them up and I have to say I am chuffed to bits with it!

I have now decided to make J a patchwork blanket. It is very much a work in progress and I have worked out that I will need over a 156 knitted squares, but it should keep me out of trouble!

However, I do have to say that after a week of not baking anything, I did get itchy feet and needed to make something. After stumbling across a recipe for peppermint creams, courtesy of Nigella, following some bedtime reading (I absolutley LOVE to read cookery books like they were novels!), I just had to try them.

All you need to do is:

Mix 500g icing sugar with 2 whisked egg whites (whisk until they are just bubbly and fluffy) and peppermint extract together until you have a firm "dough".  Then roll out until it is about 1/2cm thick and cut some shapes out it.

Leave them on some baking paper on a try over night somewhere cool or in the fridge to firm up.

The next day melt some dark chocolate and paint/dip the mints in whatever pattern or design you wish. Nigella makes them into dominoes, but I went for peppermint circles. you could even add some green food paste to the icing mixture when you are  to make them look "minty". Leave them to set and enjoy!

I managed to get about 32 out of the batch and I did have to add quite a lot of peppermint extract in order to get the right level of mint taste, but just taste as you go and add as much or as little as you like. We also had these one night after dinner with my friend and her husband and they were recieved really well.

So here's to another week of knitting and yummy bedtime reading!!!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

All Hail All Hallows!

It is no lie in our house that I love a good knees up and will pretty much find ANY excuse to dust the old cake pans off and cook up a feast! Hallow'een is no exception. This is pretty much my favourite time of year. I love the weather, the colours and the celebrations and of course the food! Last year I could not indulge my party needs as we were having our kitchen fitted and were not able to produce anything more than some sausages and barms for a family bonfire. It still went down well, but I really wanted to pull out all of the stops for a delicious dinner. After much deliberation, I decided on Butternut Squash Soup, Lancashire Hotpot, Butternut Squash Muffins (there is a theme here!), Creepy Sugar Cookies and of course Parkin.

As I have mentioned before, we recive a veg box every week and I had to get my inspiration form the ingredients that they had sent me. After receiving a glut of Butternut Squash, I needed a few ways of eating them. I stumbled across a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup and I adapted it to what we had  in the cupboard. I managed to roast the squash along with a baby gem squash, potatos, sweet potatos, carrots, garlic, thyme and rosemary in the oven for 40mins on 180C. Then I blended it with a little chicken stock and devoured! Admittedly it's not a pretty dish, but trust me it tasted divine!

The Lancashire Hotpot (sorry I forgot to take photos) was also another "One Pot". Just layer some onions in the bottom of a casserole dish followed by a layer of diced braising steak, a layer of carrots and finally a layer of thinly sliced rounds of potato. Pour in a litre of beef stock and drizzle the top of the potatos with some olive oil and herbs. I used italian herbs this time and it tasted wonderful. Cook on 150C for at least 3 hrs and keep checking it to make sure there is enough liquid in the casserole to stop it from drying out.  Bob's your uncle a really divine and warming dish perfect for this time of year!

Finally pudding!! (The best course!!!). I was struggling to come up with something a bit different that was not too heavy after such rich dishes, but still tied in with the Hallow'een theme. I then stumbled across this recipe from Jamie Oliver: Butternut Squash Muffins. They were amazing. I can honestly say I was a little (read a lot!) bit dubious about using squash in a cake, but they really worked.

They looked a little boring, even in thier silver and black cases, so I made some super quick spooky decorations to stick into them. I am so glad I did, as they just made them look that little bit extra special.

I also decided to make some creepy cookies, recipe here: Creepy Cookies. The recipe suggested icing the whole biscuit in royal icing, but I thought that would have made the biscuits too sweet, so I just piped a coloured edge around the biscuit and used a black cake decorating pen to mark the faces directly onto the biscuits and crushed some edible glitter and sprinkled it onto the stalks, onto which I had put some edible glue, to make them more pumpkin like.

There was nothing at all left after our meal, which we enjoyed with our two very dear friends and thier little girl. Even J ate seconds and thirds of the soup and hot pot, whilst still ensuring he got his fair share of cake and biscuits! A veritable table creaker if ever there was one!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Wombles and Rainbows

It was Womble's (aka my Dad's) birthday this week and of course that called for a rather smashing birthday cake.  But what to bake?  Whilst surfing the net for ideas, I came across a Rainbow Cake that someone had made for thier little boys birthday, via a forum that I visit on Natural Mamas. Now I know it's for a little person, but this cake kind of sums up my family. Sparkly, coulourful and a little bit silly!

I started out by making a plain victoria sponge. I like Nigellla's recipe:

I doubled the ingredients and mixed it all in 1 bowl so that I could then seperate the mixture into 5 disposable round trays, that I greased with my new favourite thing, Wilton Cake Release, and poured equal amounts of the cake mixture into each.

I added a drop different coloured food paste into each of the tins and stirred until I got the desired colour. As you can see I chose red, yellow, green, blue and orange. I then baked the cakes 2 at a time for 8 mins on 180 C and left to coold for a couple of mins before turning out onto wires racks to cool completely.

The next step was to layer the slices of cake in whatever colour order you want them in, with a layer of butter cream inbetween each one (make sure this is a thin layer, or it could get really sickly). I used Betty Crocker's vanilla butter cream icing, as I ran out of time to make my own, plus it tastes delicious! Then cover the whole of the outside of the cake with buttercream.

By this time you will have a 5 layered cake covered in buttercream ready for decoration. I chose smarties as they are rainbow coloured, but you could use anything: Jelly Tot's, Dolly Mixtures, Skittles etc.

I have to say that it has a real home made/lived in feel to it, which I really like. "Gronky" our family would call it. However, when you cut into it, is where the real wow factor comes in.

Wonderful! A real rainbow on a plate! It was enjoyed by all and brought a smile to everyone's face!

 Needless to say it did go down a storm, but beware, it is toothachingly sweet and I would advise against cutting yourself a huge great big hunk of it in one go, as you will probably struggle to eat it all (i know because we tried!).  But this cake keeps well in an airtight container for a couple of days, so you can continue to enjoy rainbow loveliness for a few more days! Enjoy!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Bored to the Core.

We have had a right week of it! Poor J has had some major attachment anxiety after being away from us for the weekend. On Monday I had to be called to pick him from nursery as he kept crying and calling for me, which I did like a shot. After a great big cuddle and a couple of hours of playing and reassurance, I asked J what he wanted to do. His response was "Mix mix peease, cakey. Mix mix" (like mother, like son!). Ususally this would not be a problem, however we had only one egg and not much by way of flour. So the question was what could we do? We managed to cobble together a couple of scones, but more importantly J had a really lovely smile back on his face.


On Tuesday we awoke to a pretty miserable day. Cold, grey, wet and incredibly windy. Nice!!! We pretty much exhausted all of our games and activities, so by the time we hit a very cold and wet Wednesday we needed a plan. But what to do? We could not get out to go to the supermarket as it was shut for a full week of refurbishment and all J wanted to do was make something. After looking around the kitchen I realised we had 8 apples that were on the edge of useability. That was it Eureka! Dried apples.

I did the chopping and J did the dipping in lightly salted water and threaded them onto a piece of clean dowel we had in the house, after which we left them out on the side to dry for 4 days. What a huge success! So pretty and tasty too! We quickly rinsed them and have patted them dry and they are ready to go. Fabulous! They have already been ear marked to decorate a dorset apple cake. Mmmm!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake!

So not much baking has gone on this week, as we have just come back from a fabulous weekend in Bruges. It is the first time since before we had J that we have had some quality time away, just the two of us, and boy was it needed! It was wonderful just being able to stroll around the city and have a few drinks and some amazing food at a really leisurely pace.  So I decided to share a couple of the fabulous items that we had.

After a really great flight and arriving over an hour early, we landed in Brussels at 6.30pm. We then caught two trains and arrived in Bruges at 8pm. A quick change and unpack later, we ventured out for dinner. I made a vow (as a converted fussy eater!) to try as many new things as possible whilst we were away. After meandering around the main square (where I had heard that they charged premium prices for average food) and roads, we decided to head off the beaten track and stumbled across an Italian called De Stove, where we had the most wonderful food. They brought us apetisers of smoked mozzarella and baked aubergine, with warm thick ciabatta. Si had the roast Lamb rissotto and I had the pea and saffron rissotto, followed by the most amazing Limoncello Tartuffo. Now I am not joking when I say that I would travel a thousand miles for that Tartuffo! It was heavenly! I am currently searching furiously for a recipe so that I can recreate this at home!

The day after, we spent most of the day walking around looking at the usual sights - the Belfrey, the canal tour, the lake of love, the museums etc - which we punctuated with cafe stops and lots of delicious light bites. During our walk around, the number of tourists and cars started to increase, which in turn started to frustrate Si with the continual bumping and banging of umbrellas and people. It was time for a break! We stumbled across the most amazing cupcake tea room with a sign that read "Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake". Well it would have been rude not to. So in we went!

The displays and the varieties were absolutely phenomenal. So diverse! They had everything from strawberries and cream to chilli, pepper and chocolate. I opted for a rather gorgeous chocolate and meringue topped cupcake and Si had a lemon cheese cake both to be washed down with hot chocolate (chocolate overload I know, but where else can you over indulge in chocolate other than in Bruges!) Now these were not your ordinary hot chocolate drinks that we enjoy at home. They came served on a platter with hot milk in a mig and liquid chocolate served in a little bowl to be mixed in by yourself, along with cream and sugar and a dish of chocolate (yes more chocolate!!!) thins and truffles. Needless to say we most certainly did not need to eat lunch that day!!!

After a rather indulgent bite to eat, we set about shopping for gifts for people at home. We settled on (you guessed it) chocolates. Everywhere we went we were greated by amazing displays and flavours, but sadly we could not face any more chocolate! The bag we brought home for ourselves remains untouched in the fridge as I type! It may take another week before we can face it!

The city was very gothic and romantic and absolutely breathtaking, especially at night. We usually have a rule that once we have visitied somewhere, we won't go back, but continue to travel to new and different places, however when asked if we would go back, I have replied "in a heart beat!".

Monday, 26 September 2011


I have been on a baking frenzy!! Si is going away tomorrow for a couple of days and it will be just me and the little man. So I thought I would pre-make some dinners and some food for Si to take with him. I began baking at 5pm and have just sat down. Phew!

So on the roll call we have:

4 Naan Breads
2 portions of Chicken Shashlik
12 Lemon and Raisin Scones
8 Mini 3 Cheese, Bacon and Onion Tarts
1 Tomato and Cheese Quiche
1 Tomato, Bacon and Cheese Quiche
8 portions of Ham Soup
4 Thyme French Loaves (from my new favourite book "Confessions of A French Baker" by Peter Mayle and Gerard Auzet)
Fish Pie

And there is still more to make tomorrow:

Apple Rings
Carrot Cake
Gingerbread Men

I think I may have gone overboard! Oh well the freezer will be full again after our pre-holiday pillage and none of us are going to go hungry!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

What can you do with a Purple Carrot?

I have been receiving an organic vegetable box for a few weeks now and I LOVE it! They send you seasonal items and the box changes everyweek. There have been a couple of items that I really had no idea what they were - the main surprise item was a squash that looked like a grapefruit/pepper hybrid  and the grapefruit that looked, smelled and tasted like a bright pink orange!! - but it is opening my eyes up to a whole new world of food and cooking. This week was no exception. We got back from our holidays to be greeted by this weeks box, which contained the usual bananas and potatoes along with other veg and fruit. Buried at the bottom though was a bunch of purple carrots. Brilliant!

Now these beauties are absolutely gorgeous. Really pretty, but I don't know what to do with them. I feel like I should do something a little more ceremonious with them other than boiling them within an inch of their lives and serving them sliced or mashed. So I got to thinking and started googling recipes.

The first recipe I stumbled across was a "Carrot Cake" Porridge reicpe, that I spotted on a forum last night. It sounded so obscurely fabulous that it needed to be tried. I am sooo glad that I did. It was delicious and will be making a regular return to our breakfast table!!

"Carrot Cake" Porridge

2 pinches of brown sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon and mixed spice
30g oats (or however much you want)
Milk (however much you want to use)
Chopped apricot or apple (I used a soaked dried apricot)
1 grated carrot

Mix oats and milk/water and heat up by your chosen method
Add other ingredients and stir. Enjoy!

Now posed the question "What else can I do with a purple carrot?" I decided to roast some using some fresh thyme and rosemary from the garden, along with some potatoes and garlic. Not incredibly exciting but again absolutely gorgeous! Plus what better way to showcase the amazing colour that they have running through them.

I have aready ordered and received my next bunch and am now going to try Carrot and Courgette Bread and a rather interesting Carrot Sandwich Spread (which should be interesting!) along with a Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup and a Beef Pilaff.

Happy Eating!!


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Happy Birthday J!!!

I cannot believe it! My baby is not a baby anymore!! He has turned 2 and to sound like the old saying "Hoe time has flown!" To celebrate we went to a farm nearby for a bit of a party and to feed some animals and have a tractor ride. Fun was had by all (though I do believe that most of the adults had more fun than some of the kids!).

To go along with the farm themed party, we decided to buy a tractor cake. However, after shopping around and being told that the cheapest quote would be £47.25 (!!!!!!!), I decided that it could not be that hard to make one myself. So after much research at the local library, I bought a rather fabulous book and decided to give it a go.

Now I need to point out hat I am by no means a fabulous baker, I want to be and I aim to be, but I am new to the world of cooking and baking, a complete novice and am teaching myself to cook and bake from scratch. Prior to doing this cake, I had only ever made a two tier cake, like a victoria sandwhich, once and thought that that was hard!

So after my said trip to the cake decorating shop in the village, I bit the bullet and started the cake.

Make 2 loaf cakes out of a recipe for a madiera cake or such like. I used a reciped for Vanilla custard sponge cake. It worked really well, as it stayed moist yet was easy to carve and strong enough to make a novelty cake from.

500g softened butter
3 cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups custard powder
4 cups self raising flour
1 cup milk
3 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C and grease two 25cm x 11.5 cm loaf tin
Cream butter and sugar and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Gradually add sifted custard powder and flour and beat well.
Beat in milk and vanilla extract until combined.
Divide batter into the 2 loaf tins and bake for around 45mins.

Level the first loaf cake and cut 6cm off one end. From this small piece, shape a rectangle that is 2cm high x 6cm wide x 9cm long. This is for the bonnet of the tractor. The remainder of the loaf cake is for the main body of the tractor. Then coat each piece in butter cream or real icing, whatever you like. I used Betty Crockers butter cream and it turned out fab.

From the second loaf cake cut a rectangle that is 10cm high and 9cm wide fro the cabin. Cover this in butter cream. Leave the rest of this piece for the wheels.

Use the butter cream to stick the bonnet ontop of the main body of the tractor. Ice the main body of the tactor in whatever colour icing you want and place onto your cake board.

Then cover your cabin piece and bonnet piece. Place them onto the main body.

The only thing here was that our cabin was a little heavy for the base. Use  dowels/straws, toothpicks or whatever you fancy, to secure it in place. We had to use 6 wooden skewers, but next time we will use straws and a piece of thin card.

Make your wheels for the remaining cake, cover in butter cream and ice. Stick to the tractor with skewers and leave to set.

And Ta Da!!!!

I do have to say, that I am a little bit proud of it! I love the fact that it looks super homemade and a bit wobbly in places ( I think I can honestly say I am not going to make a living from novelty cake making )but we did it! J loved it and we had to hide it until Sunday as he wanted to play with it.

So my first homemade novelty cake. If I can do it, ANYONE can do it!!

The only thing now is we had such a good time making it (Si and myself), that I want to make another. Maybe we could have an all singing and dancing Christmas cake! We will have to see.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Follow your heart not your brain!!

So after a couple of weeks of going through a hundred different thoughts and ideas about what I want to do ( I felt like I was going through career guidance at school again!!), I have have come to the conclusion that the only person that I need to impress regarding my own development, is, shock horror, myself. Given that I am my own worst critic, this is a tall order to meet. I have to be realistic in that we will hopefully be expanding our family in the next couple of years and J is not starting school for a couple of years either, so it would be ridiculous to start trying to complete a degree, or try to give a language or other course my full undivided attention, until we have got to a place as a family, where I can focus on something other than us as a unit. So I decided that as I am the chef of our household, I would throw myself into something I LOVE. Learning how to cook and bake.

So I am following my heart in order to feed my family and my brain. Plus The Great British Bake Off has started and there is no better time in my eyes to try and increase my baking and cooking knowledge, whilst using the medium of media to motivate myself, plus every episode makes me want to bake more and more exciting things (Battenburg here I come!!).

In order to get myself started, I decided that I needed a few things, so I made a trip to my local cake decorating shop in order to stock up on a few "essential" (cough, cough) items that I could not do without. I am not too sure that I definitely needed the icing roller or the three different shades of green food colouring/paste, but I got them.

So with my new kit, I have also decided to order an organic vegetable box on a weekly basis. This is the best thing I have ever done. Plus I am stupidly excited every Wednesday when Alan brings our delivery. Fabulous. I am making things that I have never ever thought I could. Not only that, I am realising that recipes are not really that difficult, as long as you read it properly. In fact the only reason I made the same 4 dishes over and over ( lasagne, chicken casserole, sausage casserole and beef in ale, in case you were wondering) was because I found the names of recipes and the huge amount  of ingredients really daunting.

One of my first exciting new creations were courgette polpettes and home made naans, which J helped with of course:

As you can see he was not too impressed with the dough!

All I can say is thank you Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall (?????). His recipe for the polpettes were delicious. Even J ate them, which considering they had green veg in them was a miracle. Admittedly they are not the prettiest things, but boy they were good. The only thing I would have added was possibly some cumin to give it a bit more of a kick, but I suppose you could add some chilli if you wanted some added kick. We will definitely be wheeling these out again.

I am so pleased that I have finally given myself a break and am doing something that I am really enjoying. the only problem now is that I may have to take up running in order to burn all of the extra calories off!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Career or No Career? That is the question.

Over the last few weeks, I have been questioning what I want to do with my time now that J is getting to an age where he will be going to nursery for a couple of days a week. I have played about with doing a cake decorating course, learning a language, doing a creative writing course, doing my Egytpology degree, going back to work..... The list just kept on going. After talking to my mum, I came to the conclusion that I just needed to focus on one thing and run with that. The only problem is what to do?

There have been a few things that have happened recently that have made me question what I should be doing and worse questioning my decision to be a SAHM.

 I recently went to a play group with J and was introduced to a group of mums with similar aged children to J. They were all very welcoming and after the usual introductions they began discussing how fabulous they all felt about having amazing jobs and managing to still be hands on mums. To be honest, I was in awe and thought that they were all amazing managing raising thier children and working.  That was until I spoke to them. One of the mums turned and asked me what I did for a living. I responded that I was a stay at home mum. She did not respond verbally, but looked me up and down and then turned her back on me and carried on talking to the group as if I was not there! Now I am 100% sure that I did not come across in any untoward way and that I did not give her any reason to respond to me in the way that she did. All I could do was walk away and play with J until song time and then  make my excuses and leave. I am also quite ashamed to say that I cried on the walk home and could not get my head around what had happened.

Over the last few weeks I have had a huge debate with myself as to what do I bring to the table? If some mums had thought that I had so little to offer to them based on the fact that I did not work, did it make me any less of a person?

Now back in the dark ages pre baby J, I did have a career, a good one to boot. One that I did really well at and one that I worked blinking hard at. However, once I found out I was pregnant, I realised that I was not living the dream and that after my mat leave I would have a very big desicion to make regarding whether or not I would go back to work.  After 9 mths mat leave, we decided that I could stay at home and raise J and any other children we would have. It was a hard decision and not one that we made lightly.

After much discussion with my girlfriends, husband, family and many other people (including a table of people at a wedding we attended - it was the red wine, honest!!), a general consensus was that a person is not defined by what they do professionally, how they look and what they have. A person is defined by how they treat others, what experiences they have encountered, thier actions, what they have learnt, thier friends and family. All of which, the mums at the playgroup could have found out, if they had bothered to talk to me. I also realised that I had made the right decision in being a SAHM. It is not easy at all, some days I really question my sanity when we are watching Monsters Inc for the one millionth time or when J is having one of his tantrums, but it is such a priviledge to be here with the little man and watch him grow up.

However, I have noticed that in recent trips to Tesco, is that I will talk to anyone. I will linger at the deli counter or till point having a chat with one of the assistants slightly longer than I should do, all in an attempt to have an adult conversation. I talk to people doing thier shopping who give me polite smiles that read "back away from the crazy lady!!" Now I do need to point out that I am not some crazy person who randomly skulks in the bacon aisle talking to complete strangers about the weather, but I do manage to talk to a large number of people about nothing! After our last trip to the shops where I needed some points putting on or card and I spent just a moment too long talking about J and his cheeky monkeyness, I realised that I needed some mental stimulation. So again what to do?

I wonder if anyone else is in the same boat and what they are doing. I feel that this could be a time for a little life coaching and a couple of hours of  serious thinking about what I want to do. The only thing I certainly know is that I won't be going back to work just yet and I certainly won't let any more people make me question my decisions. So watch this space whilst I have a ponder.....

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Super Great Outdoors!

We have managed to resume some sort of normaility again after our period of incarceration. But little J has still not been 100%. So we made an executive decision to just stay close to home, but explore what was on our doorstep, in our bid to embrace mother nature and all she has to offer.

The week started with a little ramble behind our house, with a trip to the farm and the footpath that leads up to the top road. What usually takes me about 10 mins to walk took our little posse about an hour to amble up. And what an amazing hour that was. We had muddy puddle splashing, dry stone walling, cattle grid negotiating, cow chasing/spotting, tractor spotting, ruin climbing, trailer leaping, stone collecting, nettle stomping, plane watching........ the list goes on and on and on.

I realised something as we were going on our little adventure, watching J and his friend N, and that is how much of a priviledge it really is to watch the world through the eyes of a toddler. I spent the whole hour just watching them play together shrieking and playing, taking in all of thier surroundings with amazement and wonder. Hearing J shout "House, build, house", as they were dry stone walling was really something else and watching his little face light up with pride as he managed to stack 3 rocks on top of each other as N kept passing up more and more rocks was possibly one of those moments that will be etched on my memory for the rest of my days.

On Friday we went to Blackpool Zoo, which was brilliant. Our band of merry mummies and toddlers arrived in a state of harrassment and frenzy. Trying to round up four very independant toddlers and a five month old, whilst battling with buggies, reins, backpacks and issuing "time-outs" for the heavyweight battles that were commencing (due to being tied down in thier car seats for an hour and then being asked to go in a buggy, whilst Mummy paid to get in) had managed to wear everyone down. But after a frought hour of trying to channel our inner peace and not shouting the same three names over and over again ( to the point where passers by knew the names of the three monkeys in question) we all started to calm down and enjoy the surroundings and the animals. We had a really lovely afternoon watching the sealions whilst eating ice cream, playing in the trees and on the playground.  Absolutely brilliant. Fabulously finished off with pizza and fish fingers with our dear friends. Can it get any better??

J really responds well to being outside, where he can run about with some freedom and independance. He always seems to come on leaps and bounds when he is allowed to spend most of his time outdoors. I too am becoming a bit of an outdoorsy kinda gal. Not bad for someone who's idea of embracing the great outdoors involved a credit card and an afternoon shopping in Manchester! Oh how children change us for the better!

I think sometimes I spend my time fretting about what activities to do with J, what books to read to help him develope, what songs to sing, which toys to play with, so much so that I forget, that its the simpler things that bring him the most enjoyment and pleasure. So I can really say thanks to Mother Nature, for helping me to focus and realise that the outdoors really are GREAT!!!!!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Cabin Fever

So we have spent the last two weeks holed up at home due to J having had an almighty array of illnesses, poor sausage. Also not great for all involved.

To say that I have been pulling my hair out trying to come up with interesting and fun things to do to take his mind of things, would be an understatement. I think that we have managed to do everything from counting through to making spoon people, all in the name of entertainment. I can honestly say, that I would have given Mr Maker a run for his money (we really have watched too much tv as well!)!! I have recylced as much stuff as humanly possible, in the form of egg boxes and containers in a bid to turn them into everything from dumper trucks to rockets. However,  I have also manged to spend a small fortune in Tesco, and the surrounding shops, finding art and craft items to use. It has turned into a bit of an obsession now though! Lets hope that Si is understanding when the credit card bill arrives!! Aarrgghh!!!

We have even managed to cook our way through most of our cook books, ones borrowed from the library and even ones bought from Amazon this week (which resulted in a few days where I stalked the postman. Not good!!). The freezer has never looked so full, mainly as a result of us all not eating anything, J being off his food and it being impossible for one adult and a 23mth old  to eat 8 cakes, 9 batches of biscuits and 3 pies in just under 2 weeks.

I really need to take the bull by the horns. Especially as cabin fever is beginning to set in. It has got that bad that when we ventured out for half an hour today to head into town, poor J was that excited to go out in the car he ran round screaming his usuall "Car, shoes, brrmm." over and over again, whilst laughing and and shaking with excitement. So a plan is needed as we need to spend some quality time outdoors. But what to do? I am going to have to come up with something a bit different than the park as he has a mass of energy that needs to be burned off and I don't think that a slide will cut it!

 I have come across an amazing blog called "Looking for Dragons", which has some fabulous ideas, including making ice cream in a bag out doors with nothing but ice, salt, 2 resealable bags, chocolate milk, sugar and some shaking. Sounds brilliant and more importantly, cheap (Lets just hope that the weather inproves.)! I cannot wait to see what we can come up with.  I cannot wait either to come up with some other random things to do. So let's pack up our brollies and wellington boots and see what sunny Lancashire has to offer!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Monkey Bread It's the Future!!

So after our foray into the animal themed lunch for the zoo, I really really struggled to come up with many original ideas to make the picnic jazzy. Then as I mentioned I found the recipe for Monkey Bread. I did make an attempt to make a salad "animal ish" by calling it vine salad, but even I feel that was a little tentative!

I decided that anything involving a toffee sauce and cinnamon would be worth a try, even under a guise of animal themed food. It was devine. Baby J and Si both polished off about a third of it in under ten minutes. I'd like to say that it was Si who ate the most, but I would be lying!! Not bad for a 22mth old! It was also quite amusing to see them both prowling round the table shouting "Cake!" whilst waiting for it to cool down from the oven. Brilliant. It was even worth the washing up and the 2 hrs it took me to clean the toffee sauce off the milk pan! The cake took a lot of prep, which J helped with and loved, what with waiting for the dough to rise and segment up and rise again, but was really really worth it!!

The Zoo was brilliant, but was most definitely a wash out, in truest sense of the word, owing maily to the downpour that caught us out whilst we were on the playground, not made any better by the fact that I was whizzing down the slide after J when the rain came, which left me with a very damp pair of jeans and a very questionable damp patch! I did draw quite a few odd looks. J managed to become aquainted with a rather giant tortoise shell and fell in love with the Orangutans and Otters.

The fab day was finished off with a rather long nap in the car on the way back, both Daddy and Baby J were wiped out, and a rather large piece of cake or two!!  Honestly Monkey Bread is the future!!!!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Animals, Shoes, Brrmm.

So for the last week J has been on a one man mission to get us to go to the zoo. After a lovely weekend in Wales and a visit to the Welsh Mountain Zoo and Chester Zoo, I think he has aquired a taste for all things Zoological! He has proceeded to follow us around the house from the moment that he wakes up, until he goes to bed , saying "Animal. Shoes. Brrmmm." He even managed this morning to get my car keys and attempt to open the front door!!! Even now whilst he is in bed, I can hear his full repotoire of animal noises being shouted over and over again. Brilliant! I have managed to visit three seperate animal enclosures in the last week to try and fulfill his animal reuirements, but to no avail! I am thinking that it might be another trek across Cheshire to visit the zoo again.

Whislt I was on my quest to cook something "new and intreresting that we have not had before" for my boys, I thought of an excellent idea. What about making J and Si an animal themed menu ( and before you point out that meat comes from animals, I mean in sense of puddings and shaped/named foods)? I came across an amazing recipe on The Pink Whisk for Monkey Bread. Fantastic in all of its yummy, sticky, toffee, cinnamony goodness! So here is the plan. Take J to the zoo at the weekend and then pack a Zoo themed lunch.  So all I have to do now is come up with a few savoury Zoo inspired dishes if I can do that then I think that it could be a success!

So Zoo here we come!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Holly Bobs.

So I have not managed to blo for nearly a month, which is not good, but I have a very valid reason. We have been on our much needed/deserved holidays. We decided that we would take J on holiday and attempt a relaxing (hmm!!!) holiday in Spain.

I have to say the idea of a 2 1/2hr flight with the little monkey filled me with dread, but after spending a billion pounds in the airport on toys and snacks for him, we managed to get through the best part of the afternoon relatively unscathed. We did have a couple of mini melt-downs, but he was brilliant.

I think we have managed to do everything that the Costa Del Sol has to offer a 1 1/2yr old and have come home comletely exhausted, but rejuvenated at the same time. Plus I have to say the Spanish were amazing with the little man. He even manged to coax a smile out of a couple of very stony faced security ladies in the airport on the way home.

I have to say that I am really glad we went and had an amazing time, but am pleased to be home and back to our creature comforts.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Green Fingers?

So this week we thought we would try a bit of gardening. I attempted to salvage my somewhat dried out/dead herbs and Si took on the beast that is the garden. All in all it was a successful attempt, aside from the herbs. I managed to "napalm the rockery" as Si put it and managed to prune every bush and plant within an inch of it's life. And as you can see Baby J has taken to it like a true little professional! I don't think he gets his green fingers from his mum! I just do not seem to have an ounce of talent for the garden in my body. I pull up plants and let the weeds run rife, because they "have pretty flowers on them". Not good when you have ripped out all of the perennials and have dead headed the roses, which did not need doing. Plus this week I managed to learn what happened when you gave something root shock. I don't think the tree will survive now! Oh well it was good quality time spent as a family, even if Si had to spend most of the time rectifying what I damage I had done! Oops!

We thought that we would embrace the Easter week trying to become one with nature. J has become the very proud owner of a watering can and several gardening tools and to be honest is doing a better job than us! Aside from a couple of tumbles and a very long paddy about not being allowed to eat the compost heap ( how unreasonable we are as parents!!!) he has had the time of his life.

We unfortunately (only for us!)  managed to introduce him to the hose pipe. Big big big mistake!! Grandma took her life into her own hands whilst tyring to film him watering the patio, the car and himself with the water. She survived pretty much unscathed, however the garden took a bit of a battering! J looked like he had been showering and went into a terrible melt down when took the hose off him. He then preceeded to jog around the garden with 2 adults chasing after him to try and dry him off, which he was not best pleased about.

Easter this year was truly wonderful filled with family and friends. I actually think this was the best one so far. J is big enough to enjoy the actvities, to an extent, and abviously likes to eat the chocolate (who doesn't??), but for me it has been a really amazing time. I had the priviledge of my beatuiful cousins company for the weekend and a wonderful meal out with my gorgeous hubby and his family and a lie in until 11.30am!!!! Yes I repeat 11.30am!! Woo hoo! It was like being in my twenties again. Plus I managed to sneak in a little baking with some hot cross buns which went down famously. Plus Si made one of his amazing pies.

So the question is does it get any better than this? The answer is no. As long as I stick to the cooking and the house and J and leave the garden to the experts!!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Baking Embargo

Phew, what a week!

We have managed to squeeze in a birthday, 2 birthday parties, a major family visit, a picnic, 25 miles of walking, a cooking class and several meals out. I feel like my mind has just caught up with my body!

It has been a brilliant week. My maternal Grandmother is visiting from down south and we have been celebrating her arrival and belated birthday, along with my gorgeous hubbie's birthday too. I have managed to use this week as an excuse (though do i really need one?) to do a spot of baking. I have managed to make a total of 6 cakes and 2 breads. Brilliant. I have loved it. Our store cupboard is groaning under the weight of all the baked goodies and the freezer is packed. However, my poor family are all caked out. My darling hubby has laid down an embargo for a couple of weeks until we manged to chomp our way through a fig and honey cake, a carrot cake, apple spice muffins, garlic bread, cheese and chive bread, peach crumble cake, chocolate cake and a gorgeous poppy seed and lemon cake. I can feel our waistbands expanding as I write this! To make things worse, I keep seeing delicious recipes everywhere and am dying to try them all. For example I am desperado to try and make a sticky toffee pudding recipe that I picked up the other week. I wonder if I can use Easter as an excuse?

I do see his point though. Poor J has taken to saying cake and shaking his head (though I do want to point out that we do not feed our little man with cake everyday or very often)! There is sea of cake and we are trying to sail our way through it. Maybe we do need a week off from baking sweet treats so that we can work our way through it. Though I am now getting itchy fingers and am dying to get back into the kitchen and bake. I wonder what I can throw myself into?

I know, Pie anyone? I'd better make some more room in the freezer!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Here we go!!

So I thought to myself "How about starting a Blog?" It seemed a great idea. Somewhere to keep a diary of things that are happening whilst the little man is growing up and somewhere to share my thoughts and ideas. Brilliant! Or not. You see I am a complete and utter technophobe. Computer lingo fightens me half to death and I have absolutely no idea what a URL is, even though my computer keeps on asking me for one for my destination!!! AAARRRGGHH! It got even worse when the computer asked me to update my cookies!?!?! How did the computer know I was having a snack???It took my hubby about twenty mins to explain that it is part of the computters hard drive. All I can think is "What am I doing?"

About a month ago, I started to think that I should do something to utilise my brain cells and drag myself kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. I realised that Baby J would be able to work more electronic equipment by the time he was 3 than I could as a 32 year old! Not good, especally when he goes to shcool and needs help with his homework and projects. As a result I decided to get on the world wide web and start utilising my computer to its full potential, or at least half a percent to start with! I kept surfing ( see I am trying with the lingo) and browsing (getting cocky now!) and could find nothing other than recipes and shopping to do online. It was then that I stumbled across blogs. "That's it!" I thought. A perfect place to keep a record of our comings and goings and somewhere I can ramble on without making other people's ears bleed! So the question was how hard could it be to set up a blog? Answer: not very.

Now I am not going to be working for IBM anytime soon, but I really enjoyed setting up the blog. Choosing the name and the page type etc. It took me a hefty three days but I got there in the end. I know this must be easy for most people, but for me this was really quite hard. I think I am going to really enjoy this. Its helping me to utilise my brain again and I feel like I am blowing the cobwebs away, that have been gathering for the last 2 years.

So here's to the new Cakey Bakey Blog! Here we go!!!