Thursday, August 21, 2014

Clandestine Cake Club...

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Back at the end of last year I heard about the Chichester Clandestine Cake Club via Twitter and went along to their November meeting. Somehow nine months has gone by and despite the best of intentions I never made it back to a second meeting... until last night!

The group meet at a location in Chichester (not disclosed till the day before) and share cake creations on a set theme. Last time the theme was winter warmers and I took a ginger cake. This time the theme was a bit trickier, we were asked to provide a cake which was a supersize version of a picnic food. After lots of fruitless Pinterest browsing I decided I was going to have to make something up from scratch and so the Scotch Egg cake was born!

As luck would have it, an old (and very creative) friend came to see us for lunch yesterday and together we managed to make something half decent...

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Should you ever want to make a Scotch Egg cake this is how we did it...

In addition to your usual cake ingredients, you will need rich tea biscuits, Betty Crocker cream cheese icing and yellow and red food colouring

(1) We made two chocolate cake mixtures (my cake mix is here, just leave out the Philadelphia) and cooked each one in a well greased six inch pyrex glass bowl.

(2) After they had cooled, we hollowed out a hole in the middle for the egg part. For the egg white, we made a third sponge cake mixture (basically my chocolate mixture with vanilla rather than cocoa) crumbled that and mixed it with Betty Crocker cream cheese icing. We then packed the walls of the hollow out with the cake mixture.

(3) Next we put the cakes in the freezer for about 15 minutes to harden them up and coated the outside with the Betty Crocker icing and crumbled rich tea biscuits. The most effective way to do this is either to put the biscuits in a slightly larger bowl than the one you used as a mould. Or to turn the cake upside down (narrowest part upwards) and pour the biscuits over it.

(4) Next we added the yolk which was Betty Crocker icing coloured with yellow colouring (the whole tube!) and a bit of red.

(5) Finally having decided the egg "white" was not white enough, we topped it with icing powder, in retrospect it would have been far more sensible (and neater) to mix the icing sugar with a little boiled water to create a paste... maybe next time!

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PS - Thank you to all the lovely folks at Chichester Clandestine Cake Club and especially to Helen & Laura who organised the event and to Jan who took the top photo!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Isle Of Wight by bus (and hovercraft)...

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Back in May we traveled over by ferry and spent three nights on the Isle Of Wight. Though it was great to have the car with us for a longer stay, we also became aware of how quick it would be to nip across as a foot passenger on the hovercraft and do a day trip. So on Monday that's exactly what we did. It was yet another family birthday (Jim's this time) and a good excuse to do something different for the day.

Of course the only problem with traveling by foot is how you get around once you get to the island. I checked in with Caroline who blogs over at Scraps Of Us as I knew she' knew the island well and she recommended the open top Downs Breezer bus which does a circular route from Ryde stopping at most of the island's tourist hot spots. I was slightly nervous as I had a 3 year-old, a husband and a father-in-law in tow all with different levels of expectations, but in the end, we had a brilliant day.

We got the 10:30am Hovertravel crossing, which arrived at Ryde 10 minutes later, giving us 45 minutes to explore the pier before the bus left. Ryde pier is not only open to cars, but also has a train that runs along it and a Costa Coffee at the far end and some pretty nice views of the scenic end of Ryde towards Cowes...

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We took the anti-clockwise route and our first stop was half an hour along the route at Arreton Barns where we toured the selection of craft shops and stopped for lunch and a pint of real ale at the Ploughman's Daughter. The food was brilliant and due to our enthusiasm to tuck into it we neglected our parental duties slightly and a small accident occurred which resulted in Theo spending the rest of the afternoon touring the island wearing no trousers. I figure this is one of those great stories we'll be telling him when he's older...

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But anyway... after lunch and some feeding of the ducks, we hopped back on the bus and after another thirty minutes down winding lanes and over the top of the Downs (getting a stunning view back towards the mainland) we were in Sandown at the Isle Of Wight zoo... a zoo so small it turns out it does not sell shorts or trousers in its gift shop... just in case you are wondering!

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After a couple of hours visiting white lions, lemurs, tigers and some merekats, as well as a lot of stamp collecting in Theo's zoo passport, it was time to squeeze the boy back into some slightly damp trousers and hop on the bus for the final 20 minute loop back to the hoverport.

We arrived back in Ryde slightly early for the 5:30pm crossing we were booked on, but were able to jump on the 5pm without any problems. As soon as the engine started up Theo was asleep, what had been so exciting 7 hours previously, was soporific on the return!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Living Arrows - 33/52

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I'm stealing a photo from my sister for this week's Living Arrows - although I was involved in creating it too! It was taken at East Wittering beach on Friday and Jane took the picture while I encouraged Theo to play "peek-a-boo" with me. We got a series of great animated expressions from him which would look great in a multi-aperture frame. Taking photos of kids in pairs is definitely much easier!

He's only a couple of weeks away from turning three now and his speech is improving by the day, with quite complex sentences and hilarious parroted phrases coming out of his mouth. The best one was last week when he suddenly said (in context) "Give me a break mummy!"

Some friends visited us last week with their two year-old daughter who doesn't have any words yet and it seemed so strange to think that only a year ago Theo was also a mute little boy. We are very used to his constant nattering now!

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Great Bloggers Bake Off - Week 2


This week on the Great British Bake Off it was biscuit week. As tempted as I was to try constructing a three-dimensional biscuit scene, I know my limitations (of both talent and time) and decided instead to make much simpler batch of chocolate chip cookies.

My husband found me making these in the kitchen when he took a break from wallpapering the bathroom (that's a post for next week) and was so surprised he felt compelled to tell me how long it was since I'd last made cookies (mostly cause we just eat them) so I'm waiting for the "ohhhhhhhh" moment when he sees the blog and realises why I really made them!

This recipe is adapted from one in the Popina Book Of Baking by Isidora Popvic, which (amongst other things) contains my go-to recipe for shortcrust pastry (which doesn't require chilling.) It is well worth a look.


Ingredients :

120g salted butter (at room temperature)
150g soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
Few drops of vanilla essence
1 egg
210g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100g chocolate chips (I used a mixture of plain and white)

Method :

* Heat the oven to 170c.
* Combine sugar and butter
* Add syrup, vanilla esssence and beaten egg
* Add dry ingredients
* Finally stir in the chocolate chips
* Place the cookie mixture in clingfilm and mould into a log shape.
* Chill in the fridge for an hour
* Cut into discs and place on a baking tray
* Put in the oven. Set the timer for 12 minutes and check on the cookies. They may need an extra 2 or 3 minutes. They will be a little floppy when they come out of the oven, but they harden as they cool and will still retain that chewy cookie consistency.

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com
 
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Birthday at the beach...


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Yesterday we spent the day at East Wittering to celebrate my birthday. We did the same last year and its rapidly becoming a family tradition.

We took a picnic, a disposable barbecue and some fold up chairs hurriedly purchased that morning in Tesco for £4.75.  For those who know this stretch of coast, you may wonder why we opt for East Wittering rather than its more well known cousin to the west, and there are three good reasons. Firstly you don't have to pay the £10 parking charge (we just park in a side road) secondly in the summer West Wittering is closed to dogs and thirdly this stretch of beach is far less crowded.

Dogs and children loved the outing and husbands tolerated it with a fair bit of good tempered moaning along the way.

The weather wasn't brilliant, but it stayed dry for long enough for us to drink some beer, eat sausages, sandwiches and picnic eggs and only started to rain as we walked the last few yards to the car on the way home.

Best of all we (my sister!) managed to get some photos of Theo with us and with his cousins. So easy not to do (I think the last one with all three of us was on his second birthday) and yet so important to do every once in a while.

PS - Theo's lovely doggy jumper was provided by the kind folks at Barbour.  It's in the summer sale at the moment and their autumn/winter range is launching soon.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Our living room : Before & After

A month has gone by since we moved back into the house and I've been teasing you with talk of sharing internal photos... We still have a half varnished staircase, one bare plaster wall and a DIY list as long as my arm, but the sitting room is almost finished and I figured that almost is probably good enough, so I could show you one room at least...

This is the part of the old house that has seen the biggest change. Earlier this year it was made up of two south facing room which we knocked it into one.  Though the main bedroom was a good size it was right next to the front door and the sitting room though in a good location was tiny.

The rooms had actually switched purposes at some point in the house's history when the kitchen was built on the back, which explains an awful lot!

This is what it looked like in March when we had the roof off. It gives you a good idea of the layout...


Here's the view from the front of the house. In the first photo I am standing with my back to the bedroom door, in the second the door is no longer there. We replaced the old fixed pane windows on the left with bifold doors, but the opening is the same...


The old and new sitting room taken from the doorway... In these pictures the outside door and internal paned glass doors haven't changed, but the wall on the left has been removed.


And the view from the kitchen through the internal doors. The sash window at the end is entirely new. The bedroom had previously had a bay window which was off-centre (due to the way the house had been extended)

 
And a view down the room taken through the new sash window. The bookcase is Ikea, but was second hand from eBay, the coffee table (which is enormous) was also an eBay purchase. The corner sofa was second hand from my parents and is 10 years-old, not that you'd know it and the red sofa you can see through the doors in the kitchen is one I bought in the Ikea bargain basement 15 years ago. We bought a new cover for it from Bemz which has completely rejuvinated it!

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Next week we are starting the big final push to get everything sorted before our housewarming on 23rd. (I don't know about you, but I work best to deadlines!) Beyond the obvious (you may have noticed the lack of curtains and the unhung pictures) we are still undecided about how we are going to use a couple of rooms in the house. We have a spare room downstairs for guests, but also a spare bedroom upstairs. 

We debated for a while turning it into a second guest room and even went as far as looking at some beds to buy, but decided in the end that we didn't want to tie it up as a spare room when it would probably only get used twice a year. I think this has left us with a playroom downstairs and a study upstairs, but as we work our way down the to-do list I'm sure things will become more apparent!

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