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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

I'm still struggling with the effects of the clocks going forward almost a week of early night's later and putting Missy to bed whilst it's still light outside has been a little confusing for her as she's still chatting away to herself on occasion when Buster is going to bed over an hour later.


Anyway, I love this time of year, I'm appreciating so much more this year as we are emerging from a particularly long, harsh and depressing winter.  I decided yesterday that some fresh air was in order so, despite the rain, Missy and I pulled on our wellingtons and went out into the wilderness (when I say wilderness we walked to the local walled gardens) to allow Missy to have a run without the worry of cars and dogs.
She loved the flowers that were blooming in every corner of the period gardens
and insisted on touching each Daffodil head with a gasp of excitement as she did it
I can't wait to walk her to the local wood when the Bluebells are in full effect, she'll be in raptures as it's a spectacular sight and she was too small to appreciate it last year 
The Bluebells in 2010

Cakey, Cakey! - Dairy-Free Cake

A college friend of mine, Mrs E, recently tasked me with seeking out a cake that could be made without butter or margarine as her son has a dairy intolerance and she was a little sad that he had to miss out every time there's home-made cake in the house.  I must confess that I have been putting off my research somewhat as I'm not really a fan of 'fat-free' cakes, it's a contradiction in terms as far as I'm concerned and we have a mantra in our house 'fat equals flavour'.


Anyway, with all Buster's birthday cake finally consumed and no more cake on the horizon until Mrs B comes for Friday afternoon tea I decided to whip one up, the recipe to which I found in a fat-free dessert cook-book we inexplicably own.


When I say whip one up, I'm not joking.  The recipe calls for the eggs and caster sugar to be whipped to within an inch of its life and next time I make it it will be in my Kenwood mixer instead of my handheld electric whisk (don't even attempt this cake with a manual whisk, the eggs would go off before you get them to the correct consistency!).


I don't usually go through the drudge of typing out recipes but as this one is especially for Mrs E I'll pass on the love


Master E's Cake


Ingredients 


3 eggs
115g/4oz caster sugar
76g/3oz plain flour
A little oil to grease the tin


Method


Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5
Grease and line a 23cm/9inch sandwich tin
Place the eggs and caster sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick (when whisk is lifted, a trail should remain on the surface of the mixture for at least 15 seconds)
Sift the flour over the egg mixture and fold in carefully with a large metal spoon
Pour into the cake tin and bake for 25-30 mins or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed
Run a palette knife between the cake and tin then turn out onto a wire rack to cool


With the lack of butter I was expecting this cake to be more like a dry biscuit and it didn't look as well-risen as a conventional sponge but I was surprised at how light it was yet dense enough for me to slice horizontally in order to fill without crumbling.


I sprinkled a little caster sugar on top and served myself a generous taste-test slice with a cuppa.  My mantra of fat equals flavour was ringing in my ears but it turns out that's not always the case, the cake was very tasty, it reminded me very much of Boudoir Biscuits in both flavour and lightness.


I flavoured mine with a dash of vanilla extract and filled it with strawberry jam but I think you could make a chocolate, lemon or coffee variety without too much trouble.  Not sure how the recipe would fare if it were made into cupcakes but I'm sure I'll get round to trying it out.


Hope Mrs E's wee man likes it too and that he won't now feel left out when everyone else is enjoying cake.  Maybe Marie Antoinette was misunderstood and was in fact campaigning for the French to be inclusive of the dairy intolerant community when she said 'let them eat cake' - cake should be for everyone!

What's Yellow And Dangerous?

Q:  What's yellow and dangerous?


A:  Buster's new lunch box snacks. 


Any mum who prepares a packed lunch for their child will know how tricky it is juggling a child's miniscule boredom threshold with school rules on what is and what isn't permitted for lunch whilst making it a well-balanced healthy yet appealing meal.


Buster has had a packed lunch at school every day for the past 5 years made up from a juice box (fruit juice, no added sugar of course), a sandwich or flatbread or crackers or a filled pitta, sometimes even a slice of cold home-made pizza just to liven things up  There's the ever-present piece of fruit and some kind of squeezy yogurt.  


But I do like to add a little treat every day, I'm not talking sweets or chocolate (those items are not permitted in lunch boxes by the school and rightly so) but I've been through the lot; home-made cake (when we have it), Fruit Winders, sultana boxes, Humzingers, Nutrigrain bars, granola, flapjacks, crunchy nut bars and just lately yogurt covered dried fruit flakes.  


Sainsbury's didn't have any in this week so I took a gamble and purchased two boxes of Ambrosia's version, although theirs are not covered in yogurt they're covered in CUSTARD!


I'm not sure how long they've been about but I only noticed them this week.  Buster and I have tried both flavours (Apple and Banana) and agree that the banana is the best.  They might look like sweetcorn but as the company name suggests they are indeed the food of the gods.  


They just need to bring out a rhubarb falvour and I'll be hooked.


 NB:  This is not a sponsored post

Monday, 28 March 2011

It's A Small World

I linked up my latest Junk Shop Jewels post with Magpie Monday over on Me And My Shadow as usual and checked back a little later on to have a nose round the other blogs that had also linked up when, to my utter amazement, I noticed that Mumsarcade from Giggling At It All had picked up the dinner service that matched my bargain tea set.  What are the chances?  We're from totally different ends of the country!


Here's my tea set...
...and here's Mumsarcade's dinner service
Photo by kind permission of Mumsarcade
I'm secretly hoping that my entry is the closest in her little comp to guess how much the dinner service and welsh dresser set her back as, if I win, she's promised me a cup to complete the set of six (which would greatly help my ocd!), it's just a shame she doesn't have two milk jugs.  Oh well, there's obviously missing items out there to be had as this happy coincidence goes to show, I've just got to track them down!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

This Week's Junk Shop Jewels

Much to the amusement of my husband's friends I have been back to the charity shops yet again this week and, after an initial dry spell, I discovered a couple of new local shops and came up trumps yet again.


First up is this diddy glass tray for 60p


Then, what I think to be green tea cups, all four still in the original box for £1.00
Still on an oriental theme a pretty Japanese three legged pot for £3.00
This floral teacup, saucer and side plate for £3.00
And finally, my sale of the century this white china tea set with gold trim, £6.00 (yes you read it right!) for the whole lot!!!!!!!
Teapot, 5 teacups (sadly one missing), 6 saucers, 6 side plates, a cake plate and sugar bowl, I just need to find a complementary milk jug and perhaps a similar teacup and I'll have a complete set.


This post is part of Magpie Monday over on Me And My Shadow, go take a look at the other bargains, you know you want to!


Me and My Shadow

Gorgeous Gadgets - Nintendo 3DS

Finally, two days after his birthday, an extremely patient Buster received his Nintendo 3DS and quite frankly he hasn't had a look in.  I am in L-O-V-E with it.  It's amazing.  


Anything 3D amazes me.  I used to love the old 3D movies they used to put on after Gloria Hunniford's Sunday Sunday when I was a child and fell back in love with the genre with the recent cinematic revival which was so much of an improvement on the old cardboard glasses with the red and blue sweet wrapper lenses.


The 3DS is so much better than even the recent movie and TV technology because it's 3D gaming but without glasses.  I was blown away as soon as we switched the console on.  There's so much to do, even before you play any purchased games.  


You can make 3D images of yourself (the 3DS has inbuilt cameras) and have them fly around the room for you to shoot.  The console also comes with some cards that enable 3D images to be transposed onto flat surfaces.  At one point I was trying to defeat a 3D dragon that had emerged from my kitchen work surface! 


Buster also received the new Lego Star Wars III game which is also in 3D and is perfectly suited to it.


I think I'm more in awe of it than Buster is, he's just taking it all in his stride but for me it's as if Back To The Future is actually becoming a reality.  You have to remember that when I was his age the tv in my room was my parent's old black and white portable which had a dial to select the channel and a coat hanger style aerial.


It really has to be seen to be believed and at the moment I can't wait for Buster's bed time as that's when I get to have an uninterrupted play.


NB - I wish this was a sponsored post but it's not :(

Friday, 25 March 2011

I Want Me Some Stardust

Ever since I became a mum to a boy 9 years ago I have been constantly searching out items of clothing that are a little bit different.  When he was small shops used to stock twice as many things for girls as they did for boys and I was sick of it so if I would make it my mission to search out quirky and fun t-shirts at every opportunity, sometimes resorting to making them myself.  


Most of his collection I have only recently passed on on eBay and it would appear from the many profitable sales that there is still a lack of really cool tops for kids, that was until I read a retweeted message from another mummy blogger about Stardust.


Stardust make the kind of tops I wish had been in the shops when Buster was a toddler, thankfully they make clothes for babies, toddlers as well as discerning 9 year olds, they even do stuff for adults along with jewellery and accessories.  Lots of their products can be personalised too, ideal as gifts for other like-minded funky souls.


My personal favourites are, for Missy the Audry Hepburn Cat t-shirt 
and for Buster the Bruce Lee Karate Tiger t-shirt
Stardust also have a reassuring 'Ethical' section on their website which clarifies all those nagging questions the savvy consumer feels they should be asking these days which is a bonus.


Anyway take a look at their lovely wares here www.stardustkids.co.uk or follow them on Twitter @stardustrascals or 'Like' them on Facebook (search StardustKids).


NB - I'm hoping this will be a sponsored post in that Stardust will send me a free t-shirt as promised for sprinkling some Stardust over my lovely readers.

The Worst Day Of My Life

Yesterday was the worst day of my life.  


At 11am I received a phone call from Mr Right's office asking if he was due into work today and if so had he left home yet?  My blood ran cold, Mr Right had left home at 7.30am and it's only a 45 minute commute on the M1, so after almost 4 hours he still hadn't arrived at the office.  I felt sick.  I got straight on the phone, calling his mobile but to my dismay it went straight to answer phone.  I left a tearful message telling him how worried I was and asking him to call me as soon as he could.


I bombarded his phone with text messages the heartbreaking text 'worried x' from Sian O'Callahan's boyfriend that had helped in the initial search for her fresh in my mind, just in case his car was in a ditch somewhere and hadn't been spotted.


I just stared at my phone blankly, I didn't know what to do, so I did what everyone does in those kind of situations, I reverted to childhood and called my folks (again in tears) and bless them, they came haring back from a shopping trip to a nearby town, also fearing the worst.


In the mean time I searched the traffic sites on the internet and saw that there had been a jackknifed lorry on the section of the motorway that he traveled that had caused the whole road to be closed.  Of course I assumed that if he was just stuck in the traffic he would have called the office and at least let them know he would be late and therefore as he hadn't he was somehow involved in the accident so I frantically called the Accident and Emergency departments of the two big hospitals on his route and after answering lots of questions and an agonizing wait I was informed by both that he was not in their care and that they had no 'unidentifieds' .  


All the time I was thinking there's a real prospect I could be a widow and how the hell do I tell the kids that they had lost their father, especially the day after Buster's birthday and with Missy being so little.


Finally I spoke to the local police and after giving Mr Right's numberplate they were able to inform me that his car was not involved in the M1 accident and tried to allay my fears by reassuring me that he was probably just caught up in the ensuing nightmare traffic jam, made worse by road works and people breaking down.


I still couldn't get terrible thoughts out of my head that he might have taken a back route to avoid the traffic and come off the road somehow.


At about 12.30 I received a call that changed my day from the worst to the best, it was from Mr Right.  He'd finally got into the office 5 hours after he left home and had indeed been stuck in the traffic on the closed motorway.  Assuming he'd only be stationary for a short while he played a few games on his phone, which caused the battery to die leaving him with no way to communicate his lateness to the office (or me).  


To say I was relieved would be an understatement but I must confess I was a bit angry with him for causing such worry not only to me but my parents and his colleagues and asked for his reassurance that should such a situation arise again could he kindly step out of the car and ask someone else if he can borrow their phone so that I'm not on the receiving end of one of those calls ever again.


This morning he showed me that he had put a couple of books in his car just in case he gets stuck again so he's not tempted to play with his phone so I think the message hit home.  Although I think a car phone charger may have to go on his birthday gift list!

Happy Birthday Buster

Buster turned 9 (how did that happen?!) this week and requested a Club Penguin themed birthday cake.  For those not in the know Club Penguin is yet another licence for Disney to print money and Buster has been pissing his in their general direction every opportunity he gets of late, hence the cake.  


He had originally asked for a Ben 10 Ultimatrix but had a sudden change of direction at the eleventh hour, which I suppose is only to be expected of a pre-teen these days and I should expect this type of fickleness as the shape of things to come from now on.


Anyway, here's the cake

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Too Cool For School

I've been lax of late and not participated in the Gallery over at Sticky Fingers for a number of weeks but decided to get back in there with this week's theme of Education.  As usual I'm doing my homework at the last minute so here's a school picture of me in around 1979 (aged about 5).
Bunk off and hang out behind the bikesheds gossiping about the other posts over at Sticky Fingers

Sunday, 20 March 2011

This Week's Junk Shop Jewels

I've been out browsing the charity shops again this week and here's my haul.
Two matching small glass bowls for 30p each
Three pressed glass cake plates, £2.99 for all three
And diddy pair of sugar tongs for £1.99.


I couldn't leave the kids out this week.  I got two little jelly shopping baskets for Missy, 50p the pair
And Buster got one step closer to his dream of becoming a pirate with this mini treasure chest for £2.00


This post is part of Me And My Shadow's Magpie Monday, flit on over and take a look at the other bargains
Me and My Shadow

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Doily Dolly

This afternoon I tweeted and facebooked that I was sorting out my doilies (god I live life in the fast lane!) and I'm not sure that my followers/friends believed that I had enough to warrant a sort out but just for the lookie-loos here's my collection so far.
I have circular ones, rectangular ones, oval ones and my favourites, the heart shaped ones, all in different sizes.  I've yet to purchase some patterned ones but I'm sure it won't be long!

Just Room For Another Small One

I told you I could buy a new cake stand every day.  Having resisted an over-priced beauty in a charity shop this morning I spied this one in the window of my local cook shop and had to bring it home
It's just big enough for one spectacular cupcake but until then it can give my ceramic one a home

Cake Stand And Deliver

I need a bigger house.  I'm a consumer, I can't help it, it's how my generation were brought up.  A product of 80s excess.  I'm also a hoarder which doesn't help my cause.  Take my many cake stands, I could buy a new one every week but they're not the easiest of items to store.  I have them in cupboards, on top of cupboards, on window ledges, on top of the fridge, they're even stacked on top of each other, Mr Right says he's scared to fart in case it brings a teetering tower crashing to the ground (great deterrent!).
Some of my cake stands
It's not just cake stands, I have domes, boxes and tins that I use for storing and transporting cakes too.  The irony of requiring storage for my storage is not lost on me, I think the solution might be to just build a house out of the cake stands and storage boxes.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Japan

I very rarely blog about current affairs but I couldn't ignore the terrible ongoing disaster that has befallen Japan and it's people.  I can't begin to imagine what they might be going through, I know I would have gone to pieces after the original massive earthquake, let alone the horrific tsunami that followed plus the continued threat of a nuclear disaster whilst trying to get life back to some semblance of order in the midst of absolute chaos and such terrible loss of life.


The images that have been playing over and over on the rolling news channels here have been shocking to both me and my family.  They truly bring home to me how insignificant any one person really is.  


I know from my stats that some of my readers are from Japan and I just wanted to let them know, in my own little way, that my thoughts are with them.  


I was going to put an image of the tsunami here but I decided that I should put something positive instead as so much has been made of the negatives, so here's an awe inspiring photo of a four month old baby girl shortly after she was rescued from the rubble.

Cakey, Cakey! - Divine Carrot Cake

This week I had a couple of tubs of Philadelphia cream cheese and a handful of carrots to use up, it's as if the gods themselves were commanding me to make a carrot cake, and who was I but a mere mortal to question the gods, so I did
I crafted some miniature carrots from some coloured fondant icing I had knocking about to give the finishing touch.


Not only was this cake's inception divine, it didn't taste half bad either!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Desperate Dan's Cow Pie

On Sunday I roasted a joint of beef and to say that it was perfection was an understatement.  I know I am blowing my own trumpet but isn't that what blogging is all about?!  Anyway, sadly there wasn't enough left for us to enjoy it two nights running so I decided to pad it out by dicing it up and slinging it in the slow cooker with some onions, mushrooms, salt and pepper and a dash or Worcester sauce and let is simmer away all day in a thick gravy.  It was velvety before it went into the slow cooker, it was denture tender when it came out.


I made some pastry and lined a pie dish with it, slopped in the rich beef filling


and, as I had quite a bit of pastry left over, I decided to have a bit of fun with the pie lid.  Remembering The Dandy comic character Desperate Dan and his Cow Pie with the horns I decided to recreate it using the medium of shortcrust pastry


and here's my interpretation before a visit to the oven


Every day, on the way home from school, Buster asks what's for dinner and he's normally greeted by a sarcastic response like rat pie and chips, so when I told him it was cow pie he didn't really bat an eyelid, until he saw it.  He said he knew they were only pastry horns but I don't think he was entirely convinced, especially when I mooed as he cut into it.  Hopefully this dining experience won't make him want to become a vegetarian, perhaps next time I should make a pastry rat pie with chips!
Fine dining?  More like bovine dining!

Twitpic Of The Day

That's one mean little cherub

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Cupcapers - Lemon Cupcakes

I had a couple of lemons left over from Shrove Tuesday that needed something doing with them so I made up a batch of cupcake batter and added some lemon juice and zest, when they were baked and cooled I scooped out a little crater in each and dolloped in some lemon curd
 I then whipped up some buttercream icing which I also flavoured with lemon juice and zest, smeared some onto each cupcake and decorated with some more lemon zest.
Buster was very surprised to find the lemon curd inside, it's the Kinder Egg of cupcakes!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Cupcapers - Hummingbird Bakery Coconut Cupcakes

It was Mrs B's birthday on Friday and she popped in for a cuppa on her way back from work.  The eclairs had gone a bit melty  looked like dog turds by then so I went to my trusty Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and knocked these babies up.  They're coconut milk flavoured sponge with a coconut buttercream icing and a sprinkling of desiccated coconut on top.  


It's got me wondering how I could modify the recipe to include chocolate in some form and hopefully come out with something not unlike a Bounty bar.  I think I may have to make an experimental batch to see (excuses!), although I'd hate another Turkish Disaster!

Treating Two Birds With A Pair Of Chouxs

Mrs D, or the 'Hagel Slag' as she's now known, popped by last week as she had a box of the wonderful chocolate sprinkles that she didn't want and was passing them on to me.  I decided that, having watched Raymond Blanc make eclairs the previous week, I wanted to have a bash too.  I made some chocolate ones filled with chocolate creme patisserie and some pink ones filled with a vanilla version  
Mrs D had decided to give up chocolate for Lent so I set some of the pink ones aside especially for her
It was also Mrs B's birthday this week so parceled some up for her too
along with some Hummingbird Bakery Coconut Cupcakes that I had made for her birthday visit

This Week's Junk Shop Jewels

I was in town on Friday morning and managed a quick tour of the charity shops there, here's my haul.
Buster loves Horrible Histories so for £2 I couldn't resist.
Little glass bowl with three feet for £1
Oval glass platter for £2
Glass egg cup for 60p
Silver metal platter for £1.50 that I thought would go well with my lonely glass dome
Vintage circular metal cake cooling rack for 50p
And finally this beautiful cake slice for the bargain price of £1!


I'm chomping at the bit to have a nose round some more junk shops this week.


This post is part of Me And My Shadow's Magpie Monday, take a peek at the other thrifty gems
Me and My Shadow
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