Monday, 28 May 2012

The Olympic Flame!

Today was a day very unlikely to be repeated again for me in my lifetime!  The Olympic Flame passed through my nearby town so I seized the opportunity and took my children to see it!

We thought we had pushed our luck for time as I had to work until 10am (and then collect the children from school - with permission, of course!)... but as it happens the timing was just right!  We saw the floats and numerous police escorts which proceeded the torchbearers - the atmosphere was great. My daughter even got to sit on a Police bike while he took 5 minutes to chat to the waiting crowd!

And then we heard the cheers and along came the torchbearer and "her" flame!  It was a great sight and my children were excited to see it and learn about the history and what it symbolises. 

A quick walk back to the car and back to school/work for us!

Then, in the evening, an extra surpise as Sensei from the Dojo my children attend brought his Olympic torch to show all the karate students and talk to them about it.  Sensei had carried the torch through the town earlier in the day.  Numerous photographs were taken and it was a proud moment for him and the children.

 All in all a good day... and the sun is still shining for us :)

And last but not least... here's a cake picture for you!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Sandy Saturday!

WOW, what a day!  I've been on my feet all day but have achieved loads!  Even managed to squeeze a trip to the beach in - OK, OK, for those who do know where I live, the excursion only takes 3 minutes to get the sandy shores!  However, the whole trip lasted about 10 minutes (including travelling time!) as the wind was whipping up a sand storm! 

After tears from most of us (2 adults, 5 children and a dog!) we made an executive decision and came back home :(  But it did make us realise why the Egyptian princesses all wear veils in the desert; you can't blinking see otherwise!

On a "cakey" note, all the cakes have been baked and decorated for tomorrow's craft fair.  Here are a couple of pictures to show you what's on offer!

Rose Cupcakes...

Chrysanthemum Mallow Cupcakes...

And my personal favourite... "Ice Cream" surprises!

Yes, it's a cake topped with buttercream!  The un-meltable ice cream, which in this weather is a good idea!

I'll hopefully post more pictures for "Silent Sunday" tomorrow and then detailed instructions on the "how-to" next week!

Anyway, I'm off to bed for another busy day tomorrow!  Nos da!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Millie the Space Dragon

Today I had a lovely surprise when I picked my daughter up from school.  She came proudly out of class clutching a book, "Look Mum, we wrote this book at school!".  And sure enough, the children from my daughter's class had written a chapter in the book about Millie the Space Dragon!

In their chapter, Millie has a bit of an accident with a flagpole and has to find a replacement... which ended up leaving the school with no electricity as she "borrowed" part of the wind turbine!  But in the end, all's well and Millie even manages a trip round the harbour in a fishing boat!

The children in my daughter's class at school are part of Project 21 - a project delivered by Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff.  Through the project, the children have had really good creative opportunities; from music workshops to metalwork and tapestry work with reputable artists including Cefyn Burgess.

The book will be something that we will treasure as it's not everyday you get your name in print!  My daughter and her classmates should be (and are!) extremely proud of what they have achieved up to now with the project and also with what's to come until their 21st birthday.  My daughter is now aspiring to be an author..... however last week she wanted to be a teacher and the week before a nurse - so let's see!

What made you smile today?  This certainly did .... but so did this when it popped up on my Facebook feed....

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

There, their, they're...

Some may find this post criticising, boring or too academic but one of my pet hates is the incorrect usage of words... "there", "their" and "they're" being prime suspects! 

Correct usage.... "They're over there with their toys".

With the increase of text-language and slang used in normal conversations, sometimes I worry that my children will grow up without the basic skill of how to spell and use correct grammar.

A good way to remember where to put commas comes from the sentence, "Let's eat Grandma"....

OK, OK, "Let's eat, Grandma" sounds and looks much better!  See, punctuation really does save lives!

And the violent panda that lies within us all, "Eats, shoots and leaves"!

My daughter's only 7 years old and reading very well for her age.  She can understand punctuation and knows where to pause and take a breath!  My son is starting to read and from the beginning, we have shown him how to read and use the full stops and commas correctly.

Needless to say, I have checked and double-checked today's post and cannot see any mistakes - if you find any, please comment!  I promise that I will take any corrections well!

Although I must admit, one word I always have to double check is "stationery" and "stationary"!

"Cool 2 Cook" Recipe Book

Everyone loves a freebie, especially something that you can use time and time again.  I picked up a free recipe book at a community event last year and have used it ever since!

"Cool 2 Cook" is a great child-friendly recipe book with healthy and nutritious meals which are easy to get the children involved in the preparation and cooking.  We have made each recipe numerous times - my personal favourite is the Welsh Lamb Tikka Wraps - the Fun Mini Pizzas are a firm favourite with my children!

The recipes provide plenty of opportunities to get the extra vegetables and fruits inside your children's tummies - I only know too well this can be difficult to achieve at times!  It is also bi-lingual Welsh/English, so as a Welsh-learner it gives me the opportunity to expand my vocabulary - I'm not quite ready to follow a complete recipe in Welsh; missing a vital ingredient would probably be the most likely outcome in that instance(!) but every little helps!

Another great point to make about the book is that the pages are wipe-clean... no matter how much of a tidy person you are, cooking with children always results in a splash or spillage or two!  For me, I always say that so long as you start off clean and tidy and clean up afterwards, the inbetween "messes" are all part of the fun!

You can download or request by email the recipe book here - it is produced and promoted by HCC Meat Promotion Wales promoting the use of Welsh Beef and Lamb.

I think this book will become a cookbook that is passed down and used for years to come.  I have some of my Mum's cookbooks that she doesn't use anymore - some more well read and well used than others but the best are the ones containing the quick and easy family recipes that I remember from growing up!

What about you, do have an old family recipe that you still use?  Don't worry - I won't be asking for the secret ingredients!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Time to Pamper :)

Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of posts yesterday... it was a rather hectic day with a million and one things to do.  But I was proud of myself for managing to tick off the list all of the things that needed to be done - and that resulted in me being able to treat myself at a Pamper Evening organised by my local school's Parent Committee.

It was a great evening - for a small entrance fee there was a lovely buffet and numerous beauticians so we were able to choose what treatments we wanted to try!  From massage and holistic treatments to eyebrow shaping and "twinkle toes" nail art, it was a lovely way to wind down after a long day.

I'm not really a "girly-girl" but love to treat myself now and again - I've had the Twinkle Toes treatment before but this time treated myself to hair diamantes, like this...

They last about 1 week and will withstand gentle shampooing... I think I'll have to have these done again for a special occassion - I'll find a babysitter, have my hair done and then there's no excuse for my husband not to take me out!  Hee hee...

There was also a representative from The Body Shop at Home selling scrumptious pampering products - as a teenager I loved anything Dewberry-scented!  Even now, the smell takes me back to my high school days.....

Also, there was a lovely local lady EllieBelle Jewellery & Designs promoting her business and selling lovely jewellery items and gifts.  I love the wooden plaques she has for sale here and was definitely spoilt for choice as each saying could definitely apply to my house at one time or another!  From the jewellery side of things, I love the flower rings and my daughter loves the Moshi Monster danglers.  Pop over to her Facebook page and give her a "like" and a wave from me!

Anyway, off to sort the children out with their supper... it's Silent Sunday tomorrow so I'll speak to you all on Monday!

Horrid Henry Monstrous Midnight Feast Kit... Gross!

Horrid Henry Monstrous Mignight Feast Kit... Gross!  Who's Henry you might ask?  Well, he's a delightful character on CITV.  To be honest, at first I thought I would detest the programme - a child called Horrid Henry who definitely lives up to his name... no thank you!  But, having sat through an episode, there is always a morale to the story and the the good guy always wins!

My son received this present for his birthday from one of our friends and was thoroughly excited when he unwrapped the paper.  It has a variety of different child-friendly and practical but equally gruesome kitchen moulds and cutters.  A Brilliant Brain jelly mould, Ghoulish Ghost cutter, Wormy Worm cheese stamper and a Bonkers Bat stencil/cutter.  Along with a Monstrous Morphing mug and Spooky Spider spoon, this is a great set for any fan of Horrid Henry.  The set is well made and safe to use for children, with no very sharp edges to the cutters. 

No prizes for guessing what we ate for dinner today... the main features were cheesy worms on toast (ghost shaped of course) and jellied brain for dessert! 

As all the component's are reusable, it's a great gift for anyone to keep and use time and time again.  My son can't wait for his first sleepover, where I'm sure this will make an appearance along with lots of gruesome things to eat!

You can read about re:creation toys here - a great brand of toys to suit all pockets, from 99p to £29.99.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cookie Monster Cupcakes!

These are one of my favourite types of children's cupcake to make... they are really quite simple but look very effective and will be loved by both children and adults (of the Sesame Street era anyway!).

Start by making a basic cupcake mix to make approx. 12 cupcakes - bake for the correct time and leave to cool.  I cool my cakes by placing on a wire cooling rack and cover with a clean, damp tea towel.  Wet the towel and throughly ring out the water so it does not drip at all - I find cooling this way keep the cakes moist and they don't go "crispy" on the top (if they do, don't worry as you are covering with buttercream anyway).

When the cakes are completely cool, spread with a generous amount of buttercream, recipe below...

I use a palette knife to spread with as I find it easier.  Try to shape the buttercream into a rounded-dome if you can but it doesn't need to be perfect as the coconut topping is quite forgiving and finishes off the shape.

Next, top with dyed coconut.  This looks quite technical but, again, is really easy!  Get yourself a good-quality sandwich/food bag and tip in a handful of dessicated coconut.  Add a couple of drops of required food colouring, twist or hold very tightly closed and shake!  You can add more colouring if required, but remember the "Golden Rule".... you can always add more colour or flavour but you can't take it away!

Place the dyed coconut into a wide shallow bowl and carefully dip the buttercream-covered cupcakes into the coconut.  To fill in any gaps, just sprinkle the coconut on top and press lightly.

Then, just add the finishing touches - cut mini choc chip cookies in half and put into place for the mouth and white chocolate buttons with black "writing icing" dots for eyes.  You can also use sugarpaste for the eyes but the chocolate buttons are much easier in my opinion and look just as effective.

And that's it.... a perfect display of cool monster cakes for any party!  Ideal at Hallowe'en but also for any time of the year when there are monsters around!

200g of icing sugar, sifted
100g soft margarine or butter (I generally use Stork for making both cakes & buttercream)
A couple of drops of flavouring (vanilla usually, but whatever flavouring takes your fancy)
1 tsp or so of milk, if required.

  1. Mix everything together until light and fluffy - you may need a bit of milk (only a bit!) if the buttercream is quite stiff.  I use a electric hand whisk but this can be done by hand although it will take longer.
  2. Cover and store in the fridge until needed.
  3. That's it!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What time is dinner?

This question is probably asked in most homes every day - definitely in mine on a weekend as my son's tummy starts to rumble around midday!

However, that's not the question I'm actually asking... what I want to know is what time is it when you eat your meal known as dinner?  Still confused???

This question always divides comunities or groups, especially ones where there is an amalgamation of different family roots.

What do you call the meal you eat at midday?  And then what about the meal you eat in the evening?

In our house, we eat breakfast, dinner and tea.... and then supper before bed (if you have eaten all of your tea!).

Looking back in history to the 1700's and early 1800's, working families ate breakfast, dinner, tea and supper - so I'm right, or living in the dark ages!  It was only when lifestyles changed and in the Victorian era, afternoon tea at 3pm became popular with the explosion of tea rooms serving tea & scones.  High tea followed afternoon tea at about 6pm and then supper at about 9pm.  The morning meals were breakfast and then luncheon at midday.

Maybe the Victorian's had the right idea though... eating little and often is actually better for you than eating three large meals a day - with the working lives that we have in our culture now, this is more the norm.

Personally, I think the Spanish have the right idea - a siesta in the afternoon is much more tempting than an extra meal!

So, is there a North/South divide regarding the names of mealtimes?  Let me know below with the area you are from and see what we find out!  PS... there's always time for cake!

Monday, 14 May 2012

It's Competition Time!

Well, here we are, all ready to host my first competition!  We have up for grabs a £10 voucher to use at Luvit! - a cute and quirky shop in my home town of Barmouth, Gwynedd.  You can also buy through their website here, so feel free to enter even if you don't live in my corner of the UK!  (Quick small print - UK entries only for the comp please!)

I love this little "Aladdin's Cave" of a gift shop - you can always find the perfect gift at the right price.  From bags to toys, craft items to kitchen accessories, there really is something for everyone!  Local suppliers are very well supported - I especially love the hand made jewellery items and bags from Eleanor's Attic.

They also stock beautiful retro and vintage kitchen equipment like these cookie cutters... great for shortbread biscuits or sugarpaste cake toppers.... yum yum! 

The competition will close on Tuesday 29th May... keep "liking and sharing" and earn a massive 5 entries each!  Good luck everyone!

ThePrizeFinder - UK Competitions
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 12 May 2012

In preparation for "Silent Sunday"

Just a quick one today in preparation for tomorrow, which will be "Silent Sunday"!

Sunday's are usually far from silent in my house but my blog will be :)

So, how does it work?  Well, easy really - no words, just a picture or photograph to represent your day.

Hope you all have a lovely Saturday!

Off to eat some muffins.....!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Favourite Italian dish - Spag Carb!

Whenever I eat out at an Italian restaurant, I always choose the same meal for my main couse - Spaghetti Carbonara.  This is my all-time favourite Italian dish; even second to a good tiramisu!

The abbreviated form of Spaghetti Carbonara comes from a past job working for a blue-chip company who produced a large range of ready meals for the supermarket sector.  Hence, Spaghetti Carbonara becomes Spag Carb, Ham & Mushroom Tagliatelle become Ham Mush Tag and Beef Lasagne becomes Meat Las.  And of course, the old favourite which everyone knows Spag Bol!

Living where I do, there's not much choice for eating out - but whenever we go to a "big town" we can never decide where or what to eat becuase there's too much choice!

Whilst doing my weekly shop, I spotted a Colman's Carbonara Pasta Recipe Mix.  I have used Colman's sauce mixes before but never tried this one - so tonight I did!  I have tried to make a carbonara at home before with various other sauce mixes and also from scratch but I have never got it quite right.  This one however, was very easy to follow and is the best tasting that I have tried from the sauce mix ranges that are out there in the consumer world.  The fresh ingredients are all things that most of us would have in our cupboards anyway and so this really is a quick and easy tea.

My son loved it and asked for seconds; which the pack generously allowed.  It serves 4 and quite rightly it served 2 adults and 2 children with a bit left over for anyone who is extra hungry!

To add a cake to the menu today, I made some banana muffins - super simple to make and quick to cook.  They are best eaten warm as a breakfast muffin but I think they fit into any part of your day when you need a quick energy boost with a healthy(ish) cake!

You can find the recipe here - it's a recipe from "BBC Saturday Kitchen" which I love to watch whenever I have a spare Saturday morning!  It's a really simple recipe - mix all the wet ingredients together in one bowl, sift all the dry ingredients into another bowl; add the wet ingredients to a well in the centre of the "dry" bowl.  Mix gently and bake in muffin cases for about 20-25 mins at Gas Mark 5.  Job done!  The only comment to add is that I got 12 muffins instead of the stated 10 muffins - but this can only be a good thing!  My neighbour thought so anyway as she had the spare 2 to sample!

Anyway, here's a picture for you - they don't look very spectacular but taste lovely!

5 Minutes of Fame!

An exciting post dropped onto my Facebook wall earlier from a good friend Rachel... my five minutes of fame!

Nearly 12 months ago our local primary school won a competition to win a school uniform for each child courtesey of Clothing at Tesco.  Then, a few weeks ago a couple of the families from the school (including me!) were filmed describing their experience of the competition... and now it has been published!

Uniform Embroidery Facebook Competition - 2011 winners story

I'm really proud of how the community I live in came together and managed to win a national competition - for a school with only approximately 200 pupils (nursery, infants and juniors) that's a pretty big achievement!

I must apologise that this is the second post with no pictures of food - but for your information this evening I had a home-cooked "pub lunch" consisting of scampi with lemon wedges, chips and salad with all the trimmings!  I promise that the next post will consist of a cake or two!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Day One...

Well, here goes!  I've been interested in blogging for a while but was undecided about what to write about.  Then, over the weekend whilst chatting to my friend - it struck me!  Food, glorious food!  I love to cook but sometimes see it is a necessity - after all, we all need to eat.  I try to make it fun and engage my children in the "safe" side of the preparation and cooking whilst teaching them about a healthy balanced diet.

I love to experiment with flavours.  Sometimes the outcome isn't quite what I expected but so long as I learn by my experimental "mistakes" that's fine!

I enjoy cooking in general but my passion is for baking; especially cupcakes.  I have my Mum to thank for this as my most frequent childhood memory is baking cakes on a Sunday with my Mum!  (The second memory that sticks in my mind is wasting a full tray of eggs trying to make meringues - but that's another story!)

I'm planning on blogging about once or twice a week as my home-life schedule is pretty hectic at times!  You'll get to see what I've been baking and/or cooking that week and learn a little about me and my family along the way.  There will be some competitions from time to time too, so spread the word and join in my virtual tea party!

The first picture that I want to share with you though, is the beautiful town where I live.... I wouldn't change this for the world!