Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For lent I am giving up....


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. 

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Launch of Swansea Clandestine Cake Club

There's a new club sweeping the nation where people meet in secret locations to eat and talk about cake. It's The Clandestine Cake Club. And I am pleased to say that there is now a club in Swansea.

I'll post details of all the events on this blog, but I strongly suggest you join the Swansea group on the CCC website to make sure you have all the up to date details.

It doesn't matter what your baking experience, this is a great excuse to practice, try new flavours and get tips from other bakers. The main rule of CCC is that you must make a cake - not a cupcake, muffin, pie, tart, cookie or brownie. A proper cake that can be cut into 8 - 12 slices. Beyond that, your imagination is the only limit. A theme is set for each meet, but the location is kept secret until around a week before the event. Every baker can bring 1 guest, and then it's a bit of a cake free-for-all. You even get to take home any leftover cake.

The Swansea CCC launches on 1st March 2012 - St David's Day. Here are the event details:


Wonderfully Welsh

As our first meet for the Swansea CCC is on St David’s day, I thought it appropriate for us to celebrate all things Welsh. So whether you have a favourite welsh cake, your sponge is the colour of daffodils, or the ingredients are welsh, let’s celebrate our intrinsic Welsh-ness with a wonderful slice of cake.


1st March 2012 at 7:00pm

We will be meeting in and around Swansea, and our first meet will be in a village outside the city centre.
Full details will be sent closer to the time, but there will be a bar available serving alcoholic & soft drinks and tea & coffee.

Book a place

If you as a baker/and a none baking guest (one guest per baker, please indicate when booking) want to attend this event, please complete the contact form below with an indication of the cake you will bake.
Allow 24 hrs for confirmation of your booking. Your place/places are not guaranteed until you receive this email.
Points to remember. Each cake must be large enough to slice into around 8 – 12 good slices. Sorry, but No cupcakes, Muffins, Brownies, Cookies, Pies or Tarts.
Home-bakers and professional bakers can join in. It’s not a competition, no judging, just a lot of fun. And you get to take cake home.
Read what Clandestine Cake Club is all about and have a mosey on over at the disclaimer page before you book. Then register as a member and it will be even more fun.


It’s all about Cake

I hope you will come and join us! In the meantime go and sign up on the website and join in the discussions. You can also follow me (@rhiandaniel) and @clandestinecake on Twitter. Don't forget to include the #SwanseaCCC hashtag to any relevant tweets.