Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Froctober

It's October! (I have absolutely no idea where September went, but this does mean we are getting closer to Christmas - yes, I said the 'C' word! - which I am REALLY looking forward to....sorry, off on a tangent!) Or I should say FrOctober.

This means that for the month of October I shall be 'frocking', basically making a bit more of an effort with what I wear and opting for dresses (or frocks), skirts and tunics rather than jeans. Why? To be honest, because it sounds like fun, because I like a challenge and because I saw it on Twitter and thought, why not?!

There is, however, a slightly more serious point to it. FrOctober was started by 3 mums who met on Twitter and decided to set a challenge to not wear jeans for a month, it became a charity challenge for pni.org.uk - a charity supporting those who have suffered with post-natal illness or post-natal depression. Check out the FrOctober Blog for more information or see the Facebook page for more details.

FrOctober has now become a general awareness raising exercise, as well as a time for fundraising. It's made me read a lot more about PNI and I have already 'met' new people and read their stories. I haven't personally suffered, but just having the 'baby blues' was enough, it must be awful to suffer with depression at what should be some of the happiest times of your life.


It's only day 3 and I am feeling quite inspired so far, plus I have realised I own a lot more dresses than I thought I did! Including a few I know I'm unlikely to wear, so to raise some funds for PNI in the true spirit that FrOctober is inteneded (rather than just posting photos of me across the internet) I am planning to host a swishing session. Swishing is where everyone brings at least 1 good quality item of clothing to a venue and then we have a multi-way swap - so hopefully everyone goes home with something new. If you are interested in swishing in Swansea (ha!) then leave a comment or give me a shout on Twitter (I'm @rhiandaniel) and I'll let you know when it's all finalised. There'll be a small entry fee (around £1), cakes to purchase and probably a raffle - either way, it's cheaper than buying a new dress!!

Are you involved? What are you Frocking?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The pursuit of tidiness

I have neglected this blog a bit lately. It's not for want of trying, it's quite simply a lack of time. I feel like I have a hundred balls in the air at the moment and no time to get anything done. I have just started a new cake business - The Raspberry Cakery - with a friend of mine, so between that and everything else, not to mention little Evie Grace (who is 1 now, by the way!!), I have very little time for blogging.

This rare opportunity has struck because I have been awake since 4:30am with Evie (she's got a tummy bug) and I couldn't get back to sleep. Why? Because I was thinking about all the cleaning and sorting that needs doing. We are in the middle of a little house re-organisation (to put it mildly!) starting from the top and working down. We have so much stuff everywhere its time to start getting rid or using what we have. I also need to sort out a cleaning schedule - and a way to stick to it - so that once the house is nice and tidy I can keep it that way. Plus I want to start getting Evie into a routine, so we can get our evenings back.

I have started reading a few blogs on the subject. My favourites so far are A Thrifty Mrs which calls itself a thrifty blog, but has some amazing posts on cleaning and organising, plus DHWP or Daily Housewifery Prompts. The Organised Housewife's blog is full of tips & routines for getting organised, and she has recently set the 20 days to organise & clean your home challenge. I am about a week behind, but I've started with the pre-challenge tasks to set up my folder, a morning and evening routine and goals. I just need to work out how to stick to them.....My task for today is to sort out my cleaning kit & I may have a go at making my own all purpose cleaning spray.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Pantry

We have been planning a pantry at our house for quite a while. Both hubby and I love to cook and we own many gadgets, as well as a vast collection of ingredients. We do have a big kitchen with plenty of storage - it just turns out its not quite enough... ;) It's also annoying that stuff ends up in the back of the cupboards so we end up buying more of stuff that we already have because we just can't see it.

Anyway, we decided to turn our under the stairs cupboard into a pantry. It is right next to our kitchen, so its not too far away, and is an ideal size. We (well, by 'we' I mean hubby) emptied it out a while ago and painted it white.



Then a few weeks ago the shelves were put up. And last weekend we got the time to actually move stuff in.


It still needs a bit of sorting out, and I want to put pretty labels on jars and shelf liners. Plus I need to sort out my spice storage. But I think it's looking pretty fab so far.

I saw the idea for this plastic-storage-pouch-sheet-thing on Pinterest somewhere, so I'll dig out the link and post it. [EDIT: Here's the link] It's great though and works really well, though I wouldn't say no to one with slightly bigger pockets as some of the soup packets are a bit of a push.



Its so nice to be able to see what we have, and be able to get at it easily. And I love seeing ingredients in kilner jars rather than scruffy packets. 


My plan is to keep you posted on my pantry storage - partly to share what I find with everyone and partly to try and get myself back into blogging. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Foodie Penpals - May 2012

It's time for another Foodie Penpals reveal! A bit late as I've been having some technical issues - but here none-the-less. This time my foodie penpals were Nicky from KabochaFashionista.com and Lucy from Offaly Good. (You can read about what I sent to Lucy here.)

One of the things I love about Foodie Penpals is getting to try stuff that I wouldn't normlly buy, and I had plenty of opportunity in this months parcel.


First up I had Tyrells Proper Popcorn, lighly sea salted. And its lovely. I confess I am usually a sweet popcorn kinda girl, but I would buy this again instead of crisps for my next gathering. Its not so salty that you need a huge drink to go with it, but just a nice savoury delight.
 

Next up were these blueberry Yo Yo's. Very thoughtfully chosen to help me in my mission to eat 5 fruit & veg a day.

I hadn't heard of these before and I love the packaging. The contents were pretty tasty too! The chocolate chip Cliff bar was an energy bar - which I took with me to Evie's swimming lesson. And, well, who doesn't love a choc brownie? :)


These blueberry cookies were the first thing I sampled from the parcel - and were like large jammy dodgers. Really tasty jam and crumbly biscuits. I have one left that I think I'll be having with a cup of tea later today.


Finally a bar of organic praline chocolate, which I understand to be Ncky's favourite. I'm not usually a fan of praline as I've found some to be a bit over bearing, but this was really creamy and with a subtle nutty flavour.


Last, but not least, the parcel was accompanied by this cute little note


So thank you to Nicky for a lovely package, and to Carol-Anne at This is Rock Salt once again for organising. I think I'm going to take a few months off from Foodie Penpals as I have so much going on at the moment, and I end up leaving it til last minute and feeling bad when I send the parcels a bit late. :-S If you want to sign up though, go to http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/ for all the details.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

5 ways to getting your 5 a Day

I'm on day 9 of my #5aDay challenge & so far it's going ok. Some days (like the weekend) were a bit of a struggle as I was out and about and my eating gave way to drinking. But even then I managed to eat 5 different fruit & veg.

It's beginning to wane a bit at the moment due to lack of planning, but I thought I'd share with you some tips that have helped me so far on my challenge.

Get your fruit & veg delivered
We stumbled upon a veg box delivery service and it has definitely helped make sure I get my fill. Instead of going to the shops and just buying what we need, we plan our meals around what we have. It means we will often get items that we wouldn't normally buy, and get a good variety. I know this isn't going to practical for everyone, but I would definitely recommend it if you can.

Plan your meals and...
If you don't get a veg box delivered (and even if you do) take some time to plan some meals and buy what you need. Making sure you have the food in the house is a HUGE help to making sure you can eat it. So take 20 minutes to plan meals for 3 days or a week, whatever you have the time for. I am a bit rubbish at this, as I can barely decide what I want to eat for lunch let along in 3 days time. And don't forget to plan in some nice meals! A fruit salad with a splash of cream still counts....

...plan for leftovers
When you cook, plan to have leftovers the following day. It's a lot easier to cook 4 different veg if you cook in bulk and knowing it will last a few meals. Make a sunday dinner, then use the veg for fry up the following day. Make a vegetable chilli, then use it as a topping for jacket potato. Boil some veg, then quickly roast it for a salad.

Make your own snack packs
If your fruit and veg is prepared and easy to grab on the go, it's much easier to get your fill. So when you buy a melon, take it home and slice it. When you're searching the fridge for something to snack on, it's ready to eat. Make a fruit salad and have a bowl with a yoghurt. Cut up carrot sticks and eat with a pot of hummus. Just make sure it's as easy to grab some fruit or veg as it is to grab a biscuit or chocolate bar.

Know your fruit & veg
Understand what does count towards your five a day. It's better to get a variety and knowing what does count makes it easier that just sticking to the standards. Mushrooms, beans, even popcorn (according to some sources) all count towards your five a day.

If you have any tips or tricks, feel free to share.


Monday, May 07, 2012

Planning a pantry

Hubby and I have talked about having a proper, walk-in pantry for as long as we've been living together. Over the last few years we have spent a lot of time cooking & buying kitchen gadgets & ingredients, and with my baking business as well, we've found that we just don't have enough storage for it all. This means we have cluttered work surfaces & it's just getting on our nerves. So we have finally decided to convert the space under the stairs into a pantry!

It's just big enough to put up some shelves and hooks and be able to stand in it. And with some careful planning it should be able to accommodate all of our staples and some gadgets leaving us more space in the kitchen.

Following some online research & plenty of pinning I have found some lovely pantries & great ideas for organising and storing our stuff. Including using magnetic blackboard paint & magnets to store herbs & spices, making pretty labels, even painting bunting over shelves!

Anyway, I sat down and started planning, and here is my initial sketch.





Even more exciting is that last week we actually started work on it too! We cleared it out a few months ago, and last week hubby sealed the plaster ready for painting. Today we're planning to buy some paint & go look at containers so we can plan shelf widths etc. (How's that for planning?!)

Have you got a pantry or have you seen any you'd like to share feel free to leave a comment. Or if you have any pantry planning tips is love to hear about them.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Eating 5 a Day in May

In an attempt to improve my diet I am making an effort to eat 5 different fruit & vegetables every day in May. I don't eat particualrly badly, but fruit and veg tend to be a bit of an afterthought rather than an integral part of my diet. I read somewhere that it takes 30 days to form a habit so for the month of May I am going to make an effort to eat my 5 a day hoping that it'll become second nature.

I have been posting my daily eating recods on tumblr, so come and follow me there if you want some ideas on how to increase your F&V intake.I'll add an update here every now and then too, more for my own records really.

Disclaimer time - I know that in many cases (during past 'experiments') that I don't eat what is the recommended quantity for it to count as a portion, but that's not really the aim here. The aim is to start including more variety in my meals, so for example if I have a turkey salad sandwich I will list tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber as 3/5, but it is more likely to count as just one portion according to the guidelines. I'm hoping to build up to the actual portion sizes later on. But for now it's about the variety.

This project also has a bit of a sideline - I will sometimes take photos of my food, so I'm hoping this get me practising food presentation and photography, and get me cooking and experimenting a bit more rather than just sticking to what I normally do.

It also means I need to be more organised & make sure I have the variety of F&V in the house, so I can't use it as an excuse.

Anyway, enough rambling. Here's my progress so far.

Day 1
Breakfast: I actually missed it today but I planned to have a banana sandwich (0/5)
Lunch: fried leftover veg (carrot, swede & cauliflower) with ham, mushrooms & fried egg. (4/5)
Snack: slice of melon (5/5)
Dinner: pan fried lemon & pepper tilapia with giant cous cous & greek salad (red onion, cucumber & tomato) (8/5)

Day 2
Breakfast: Yoghurt & Fruit Salad - orange, grapefruit, melon, grapes (4/5)
Lunch: Turkey salad sandwich - red onion, little gem, tomatoes, cucumber (8/5)
Snack: orange juice (8/5)
Dinner: Prawn Harissa Stew with rice & flag bread - tomatoes, garlic, onion (9/5)

Day 3
Breakfast: banana sandwich (1/5)
Lunch: chicken burger with lettuce, red onion & tomato. Orange juice. (5/5)
Dinner: moussaka.- tomatoes, onion, aubergine. (6/5)
Wine: grape? :)

Note: Where I have had tomatoes for lunch & dinner, this only counts as 1.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Copying, Stealing, Inspiration & Good Ideas

There's been a lot in the crafty world lately about copycats & people stealing ideas. I'm not talking about using someone else's images to promote yourself. But when two craftspeople or designers produce very similar work. How do we know who has copied who? Or indeed if anyone copied at all? Surely this could just be coincidence? We are all inspired by something, and in many cases it's by trends, whether in fashion, craft, or cake making.

I know I have created cakes that look like someone else's because we've been inspired by the same thing - Cath Kidston prints for examples.

I made a birthday card for my sister with quilled cocktails on & then noticed someone else has made a card with a quilled martini glass too. But how do I prove I haven't copied? How do I prove that I just had the same idea? Because I've started to notice that some of the copycat claims aren't for identical matches but very similar designs.

I understand there's a 7 differences rule, that there should be 7 distinct differences between two items to prove its not a copy. But when you're dealing with a cupcake, or a quilled card, there aren't often that many changes to work on.

So this is a genuine question:

How do I carry on crafting, designing websites and decorating cakes without the fear of being outed on twitter as a copycat simply for having the same good idea as someone else?

Your thoughts?

Monday, April 30, 2012

April Foodie Penpals

It's been a whole month since the last foodie penpals post, and in fact my last blog. A little bit because I am struggling to find the time now that I am back in work & Evie is BUSY, and a little bit because I don't feel I've had anything to say. I'm hoping to find my blogging mojo again and make a better effort in May.

Anyway, onto the reason for this post - my foodie penpals parcel. This month my foodie penpal was Shelia, and here is my package.




It contained a post of 4am Tea by The Teashed. It's a white tea in very cute silky tea bags, presented in a paper coffee cup. I am a fan of tea, but have never tried a white tea before - and I have to say it is lovely. Not dissimilar to a black tea, but a bit more fragrant, and generally served without milk. I can't say I'm a total convert, but for something different - especially at 4am when I'm up with Evie - it's a lovely alternative.




I also had these Vanilla & Salted Caramel Drops. I confess I am not a huge fan of mixing sweet & savoury, so have managed to avoid the salted caramel and chocolate with sea salt phase, however, I had to try these. And again they were really lovely.




Finally I had Quince Jelly. Something I've been meaning to try for a while. We did get some from Tesco at Christmas time for our cheese board, but this looks to be the real deal. I haven't tried it yet, as I'm waiting for the right time, and the right cheese, but I think it's definitely something I am going to enjoy.




All in all, it's a lovely parcel, with items I wouldn't have bought for myself - which I think is what Foodie Penpals is all about. If you want to find out more about foodie penpals and join in, all of the details are on This is Rock Salt's blog.

I am now off to find out what everyone else got and see what Hannah thought of her parcel.....

Friday, March 30, 2012

March Foodie Penpals

I heard about Foodie Penpals on Twitter via @ThisIsRockSalt, and as I love food & getting mail, I had to get involved. Basically you get matched to someone who will send a parcel to you and someone who you must post to, you then get in touch to find out a bit about them, get a parcel together costing no more than £10, then pop it in the post by 20th of the month. Then we all post our reveals on the last day of the month.

You can find out more (and sign up) on www.thisisrocksalt.com

My foodie penpals were @RosieOutlook and @JEN_DUB. I recieved this lovely package from Rosie. Including a handwritten letter and post cards.



Personally I think she got it spot on! I had these great cupcake cases - ideal for the upcoming jubilee celebrations...


...delicious homemade white chocolate and cranberry cookies along with a cookie recipe book...



This lovely strawberry and cream tea.

And dark chocolate drops.



So, thank you Rosie! I loved my package and I really hope Jennie liked hers.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quilling with the WI

On Tuesday we held our first proper meeting of Gowerton WI where we had a quilling demonstration. I was expecting it to be quite old fashioned, but the work we were shown was amazing. Especially the 3D work. We even got to have a go ourselves - here's my gift tag.




I remember trying quilling when I was younger and making plenty of flowers, but none fringed like the one above. It has really inspired me to get back into crafting and I have found some really gorgoeus quilled pieces on the internet and already have some ideas. So the day after our WI meeting I stopped by Hobbycraft and picked up some supplies. Apart from the book, quilling is a fairly cheap craft to get started with, especially as you can start with cocktail sticks and pins and don't really need the tools (although they do make it a lot easier).


 
 
As always I am looking forward to getting started and will definitely be adding a new quilling board to my Pinterest account. Stay tuned for some quilled projects in the future. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

FO Friday: Nannie McZee card

It's been a while since I've done anything crafty - let alone finish a project! As last Sunday was Mother's Day, I wanted to do something nice for my Mum as she has been so great with looking after Evie while I'm at work and helping out in the house. I looked everywhere for a card that would fit, but none of them were 'right'. So I decided to cross stitch one.

Here is a card for our fabulous 'Nannie McZee' (a play on Nanny McPhee).




And for that truly professional (personal) touch.... no card would be complete without a maker's mark.




Sunday, March 04, 2012

Wonderfully Welsh @ Swansea CCC

Thursday, March 1st saw the first meet of Swansea's branch of The Clandestine Cake Club. The theme was 'Wonderfully Welsh' as it was being held on St David's Day, and the venue was Waunarlwydd Rugby Club.

We had 8 people & cakes booked in with a few guests, unfortunately 2 people had to pull out last minute, so we ended up with 6 cakes & 8 cake enthusiasts (plus 2 babies).


Here are the cakes:

Chocolate & Brains Beer Cake - a Welsh take on a chocolate & stout cake - with buttercream icing by @cupcakesbyrache
Shirley Bassey - a chocolate cake with salted caramel & peanuts by @gowercatering
Bread of Heaven - a low fat carrot cake with mascapone & creme fraiche icing by @p0we
Daffodil Lemon Cake - a 3 layer cake with lemon curd & buttercream, topped with a welsh cake & daffodil by Victoria
Chocolate Lovespoon Cake - Devil's food cake with vanilla buttercream by @writingforfun
Red Velvet Dragon cake - triple layer of red velvet chocolate sponge with a meringue frosting by me
All of the cakes looked gorgeous and tasted really good! We all had a good chat but ate dissapointingly little cake on the night! By the time we had tasted each of them I don't think anyone could face much more, luckily we had all brought some of the largest tupperware boxes I've ever seen! So there was plenty of room to take cake home. One thing I really enjoyed was that most of us (if not all) had never made the cake they brought before so it was new to us all, luckily they all turned out really well and we had no disasters.

We now plan to swap recipes so, Swansea CCC members, feel free to blog about your cake or add details in the comments below for where to find the recipe and I'll add the links to this post. You can stay up to date on all things Swansea CCC related on this page and I invite you all to join the Swansea group on the Clandestine Cake website too .

You can find more photos on my Facebook page.

We are planning to hold the next event in May and if you are interested you can either stay up to date via the Clandestine Cake Club website or email me your details rhian [at] rhiandaniel [dot] co [dot] uk and I'll send you details when available.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Joining the WI

As you will know from reading this blog, I love knitting, baking, cooking, anything crafty and spending time with friends. So I have always been somewhat fascinated by the Women's Institute and their values - empowering women and bringing back some of the 'old school' skills that some women feel they lack these days. The promise of sharing skills, meeting people and having fun very definitely appeals to me. But, like a lot of people, I felt I was too young for the WI, until I recently turned 30. And even then I have found out there are a number of young WI members in their twenties.

A few things have led to me being involved in starting a new WI. Becoming a Mum, turning 30 and getting back in touch with an old school friend.

Becoming a mum and turning 30 have improved my confidence and  encouraged a 'just do it' attitude. It has made me look a bit harder at my life to see what I want to achieve and who I want to be. And it was my friend (@gowercatering) who asked if I would be interested in joining the WI and helping her start a new one during one of our 'stitch n bitch' sessions in the pub she runs.

I'd look at the WI briefly but didn't look too hard into whether there was one close enough to join, so when I was asked, how could I say no? We've had 2 meetings now with WI organisers who are helping us get started with WI Gowerton (we may come up with another name) and our first proper meeting is on Tuesday 13th March. The plan so far is to meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month, arranging a speaker for one meeting and an activity for the other.

I can't wait to get started and am really looking forward to meeting people and trying new things. If you are interested in coming along it costs £31.50 per year and we are meeting on Tuesday 13th March at 7:30pm in the Coffee Shop in Gowerton. The first meeting will be a bit of a 'get to know you' session and chat and it really is the more the merrier!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For lent I am giving up....

... CLUTTER!

I am fed up of seeing stuff everywhere I look. Of my and hubby arguing about stuff being everywhere. Of everything taking so long to find. Of spending my time cleaning and tidying rather than with Evie and hubby or with friends or crafting. So my resolution for lent is to have organised my house by Easter. Or at least have made a good dent in it.

Today I took E swimming and was meant to be shopping then baking this afternoon. We didn't shop because the weather was awful and the thought of taking 2 babies around town in the wind and rain was not appealing. I didn't bake because I didn't have the ingredients I needed and didn't fancy going out again. So I started my decluttering project.

I started with the rooms we use the most. The kitchen and the living room. I took a FlyLady approach and just did as much as I could in the time I had available - however long E was happy to be sat in her chair watching and being sung to! I cleared all of the kitchen units, washed and dried all dishes, cleaned my sink and put a load of washing on.

I then hit the living room, starting by taking down my birthday cards (they've only been up 6 weeks! Oops.) Cleared my little hidy hole next to the sofa where I store magazines, knitting projects and cook books. Put the pile of DVDs that accumulate next to the DVD player back where they belong. And threw away all junk mail.

It didn't take that long and I feel like I've made a start. Now I just need to continue this through the house.....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Time for a Spring Clean

My never ending quest for an easy to clean and organised home has been put on hold recently while I adjust to being s Mummy and all the changes that brings. Evie is coming up to 6 months and it is time for me to start planning my return to work. For the last 2 weeks I have been going into the office to start getting myself back into work, and I started accepting cake orders back in January.

And right now I have no idea how on earth I will be able to look after Evie and myself, keep the house clean & tidy (let alone tackle a re-organising project) plus work part time, grow my cake business and launch a new web venture, spend time with hubby and have some 'me' time. On top of this I have recently started the Swansea Clandestine Cake Club, will be getting involved in starting a local WI group, working with TREAT Trust Wales, starting a supper club and a knitting group, and fundraising at Waunarlwydd Rugby Club. Not forgetting taking Evie to playgroup, rhyme time and swimming lessons. And blog.

It's a lot, isn't it?

BUT I have to say I am excited by all of it. I am looking forward to everything on that list, yes, even the organising and going back to work, because I know that it will be fun, or will ultimately lead to having more time for me, or will bring in money.

If you know me, you will know that I love lists and I love to be organised. I love the IDEA of a routine, but I am rubbish at sticking to it. I can't get up at the same time every day, and I don't like having to commit to clean the bathroom every wednesday evening, because I get fed up and frustrated when I don't do it. I know that the majority of organising articles you read will tell you to plan your time, even planning in 'fun' to make sure you remember to do it - but this isn't me. Generally I know what I HAVE to do, and I get it done. I don't forget to get Evie dressed every day, but sometimes she's dressed by 8am, other days not til gone 12. But that's OK! Really. She isn't affected by it. At all. And neither is anyone else.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have a big challenge ahead to fit everything I need and want to do, into the time I have, without totally burning myself out and without a strict routine. When I can, I'll blog about it and share with you any wonderful secrets I come across along the way. In the meantime if you have any tips you'd like to share, from how to organise your spices (something I am currently looking into, by the way) to how you get everything done, please do!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Minted lamb shank with garlic mash & balsamic onions

After a lovely Valentine's meal prepared by hubby it was my job to cook last night. I eventually opted for a slow roast lamb shank. I searched for recipes and they all seemed to be 'much of a muchness' so I took to the kitchen and just threw in whatever I fancied. It smelled so good I totally forgot to take a photo once it was all on the plate, and it tasted really lovely too.




To add to the plethora of minted lamb shank recipes out there, here is my take on a slow roast minted lamb shank.

First brown two lamb shanks in a frying pan to add a bit of colour, then transfer to a casserole dish. In the frying pan gently fry 4 sliced shallots until slightly coloured (add a bit of water if the pan is too hot and the shallots seem to be browning too quickly.) Then mix in 2 tbsp of mint jelly and 1 tbsp of cranberry sauce until melted, and add 1 cup (around 230ml) red wine. Bring to the boil and reduce slightly. Add 3 sprigs of rosemary to the casserole dish then pour the red wine sauce over the top, adding 300ml of lamb stock. Put in the oven at gas mark 3 (or equivalent) for 2 and a half to 3 hours.

Roast Garlic Mash: Wrap half a bulb of garlic (still with skin on) in a piece of foil sprayed or wiped with cooking oil and place in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Meanwhile boil potatoes until soft, then mash with the roast garlic, some butter and milk.

These Roast Balsamic Shallots were lovely and sweet and so easy to do. Just spray or wipe some oil onto the foil then sprinkle with a teaspoon of dark brown sugar. Lay the whole peeled shallots on top and sprinkle over 1-2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Wrap up like a parcel and place in the oven at gas mark 7 for 30 to 45 minutes until soft. Very gently shaking or turning the shallots duringcooking help to ensure they are properly coated.






A parcel of shallots

Weekly Bake off: Apple & Almond Dessert Cake

Last week's Weekly Bake-Off was Marry Berry's Apple & Almond Dessert Cake (page 160) from 100 Cakes and Bakes.

It was a really easy cake to make and tasted lovely. We had it for dessert after a lovely meal with friends, served with cream. I made it earlier on in the day and we had it cold, however, the following day I popped it in the microwave for 30 seconds and it was really delicious warm. 

The only thing I changed from the recipe is replacing Almond Extract with Vanilla as hubby isn't a big fan. I can't comment on the difference it made but I'm not sure it would have made a massive difference. It still tasted good...

This week's bake off was the Austrian Curd Cheesecake, which I didn't really fancy. So decided to have a bit of a break from the bake off. I did make some WeightWatchers brownies though..... but I think these require a post of their own.

To take part in the Weekly Bake Off you can buy My Kitchen Table: 100 Cakes and Bakes from Amazon. Check out the Weekly Bake-Off blog and follow @WeeklyBakeOff on Twitter.

Friday, February 17, 2012

FO: Stash Busting Block No. 1

My challenge for January (& February as it's turned out) was to use my yarn stash rather than buying anything new. I haven't had much time for crafting (or blogging) lately as I've started easing my way back into work and pretty much have no free time. So I have just about finished my first block! Yup, it's taken me this long to knit six 3" squares.








I need more practice on cutting cubes, and the squares are a bit too big which makes the cover a bit loose.



 
But it's not too bad for an off-the-cuff projects with no pattern.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Evie Makes a Valentine's Card

I am really looking forward to Evie being old enough for crafting and making and cooking, but I couldn't resist making this card for her to give her daddy on St Valentine's day.

We were going to try getting a hand print, but Evie was more interested in eating the paintbrush and I was a bit afraid it would all go horribly wrong. Instead I drew around her hand to make it into a rosebud.



I did let her hold the paintbrush to sign inside the card though. :)




Friday, February 10, 2012

Rusks & a Nibbler

We've had a bit of a break from weaning while I've been reading up on baby-led weaning. And so far it all makes sense to me. Food is important to me and M, we spend a lot of time growing, making and enjoying our food and I want Evie to do the same.

I have no problem with Evie 'playing' with her food, as long as she eats it and enjoys it. So I'm going to wait until the end of this month when E will be 6 months old to start trying finger foods.

In the meantime though I will still try the odd purée for E to get used to trying flavours when she seems to show an interest.

We had a day like this yesterday. So we decided to try some rusks.We crumbled a bit up and mixed it with some formula to make a paste. It tasted a bit better than the baby rice, but still Evie wasn't all that impressed.

Next we tried the Nuby Nibbler, which has a plastic handle with a net on the end. The net can be removed and filled with food or ice which Evie can nibble on without the risk of biting big chunks off. Plus ice is meant to help with relieving teething pain. I put some ice in it and Evie seemed to really enjoy licking and sucking it, although she did end up with a really cold face.






Sunday, February 05, 2012

Weekly Bake Off: Farmhouse Orange Victoria Sandwich

Yesterday I did some baking 'just because' for the first time in a while, and I have to say I am actually looking forward to a cup of tea & slice of cake. A normal cake, one that isn't covered in icing, or baked in a small paper case.

On Twitter I was pointed in the direction of @weeklybakeoff who is working their way through Mary Berry's 100 Cakes & Bakes book. Every week a recipe is selected and a number of bakers produce their version of the recipe and post photos. A judge is selected and must then choose the winner. It's lovely to see how differently the same recipe is interpreted and the little twists everyone adds to make it their own, or work-arounds because they didn't have exactly the right equipment or ingredients.

I was hoping to join in last week, but time just kind of passed me by. I had finished all of my cake on Friday and we had a nice quiet Saturday planned - a perfect opportuity for a spot of baking.

This week's challenge was the Farmhouse Orange Victoria Sandwich (page 28). I was quite unprepared, to be honest. I don't own any 7" round cake tins, so had to use my one 7" heart shaped tin twice. I didn't read the recipe properly and went on auto-pilot adding butter & caster sugar instead of muscavado, so had to start again, this time using soft light brown sugar as I didn't have any muscavado. Then when I peeled the greaseproof paper off I managed to bring with it some large chunks of cake. I also didn't have any mamalade. I tried making an orange syrup to use instead, but it didn't taste very orangey, so ended up borrowing from my mother-in-law. Luckily we had bought her some fancy mamalade when we went to Padstow from Rick Stein's shop, so I used a lovely grapefuit, orange and lemon mamalade.




All in all, it didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped, but it smells lovely and tastes good too.