Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Eve

It's New Year's Eve and I've got a streaming cold.

A cold that started on Boxing Day.

That's six days of coughing and sneezing.

First Defence couldn't defend me from this one.

I've almost gone through three boxes of Kleenex.

I feel lousy.

But not lousy enough not to have made inroads into that bottle of Pink Champagne I won in The Christie's raffle!!


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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Another WM strategy - how to cheat with dessert!

Got people coming over for food?

No time to make a fabulous dessert?

Got some leftover Christmas Pudding?

Try this recipe.

I made it on Boxing Day and displayed it on the buffet. It looks stunning and if you crack the filo a little after cooking, it looks like bark on a Christmas log.

Guests thought I'd conjured up a delicious dessert especially for the occasion.

Little did they know..........

Monday, 27 December 2010

Emergency Plumbing

A lovely Christmas was had in the WM house. We had a gorgeous goose for dinner with all the trimmings, a Black Sheep Brewery Christmas Pud which I'd bought in August, Christmas Coffee from Whittards and Christmas Dinner Chocolates from Hotel Chocolat.

Mum and Dad livened up the evening by producing a variety of wind up toys they'd bought from Hawkins Bazaar and we all proceded to race them across the coffee table. The sight of the false teeth chasing the dinosaur was very amusing!!

MIL went to Yorkshire and we promised to keep an eye on her house.

All went well until this morning .......................

My mum and dad had gone home last night so we had a lie-in and then hubby said:

"I'll just pop over to mum's and we'll all have breakfast when I get back"

Five minutes later I got a phone call from him:

"Do you know where mum's stop tap is?"

Turns out that a pipe had burst in the garage, the condensing pipe had frozen up and her heating wasn't working.

She was due back this morning.

The clock was ticking, we had to fix this or she would never go to Yorkshire again at Christmas.

I rushed round with daughter and I started to sort out the heating while hubby dealt with the burst pipe.

I released the condensing pipe, got the heating working again and started to defrost the frozen pipe.

Hubby dashed to DIY store for plumbing stuff and home for his tool box then he set to work on the burst pipe.

He was just fitting the last little bit when BIL's car pulled up and MIL got out.

She went straight into panic mode, but I was able to say:

"Don't worry, everything's okay, just checking on your house"

Then we discreetly packed up and left for a very late breakfast.

Disaster averted!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Well, I made it.

It's Christmas Eve and I've still not got a cold!

Not only that, MIL is on her way to Yorkshire, the goose has been collected from the butchers, the wrapping is all done, there is a mountain of food in the kitchen, favourites have been circled in the Christmas Radio Times and the tin of Quality Street is about to be cracked open.....

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............. it's Chriiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaasss!!!!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Fingers crossed!

I preface this post with the plea: "don't judge me".

The plan for Christmas is that we have MIL one year, husband's sister has her the next, etc. This year it's SIL's turn. It is very much her turn. I can't have my Christmas spoiled again by complaints, tears and negative comments. It's the first Christmas in years that I've been well and I really want to enjoy it. My parents are coming and they are much more fun. There's plenty of Christmas cheer, silly games and laughter when they are around. I am so looking forward to a fun-filled Christmas. (And they help with the cooking and the dishes!)

However, SIL lives over the Pennines and there's been a bit of snow around here lately.

MIL says she won't drive over there.

Fair enough, so BIL is coming to get her on Christmas Eve.

MIL says they're are snowed in and can't come and get her.

They were at City's match in Manchester on Monday night so not snowed in then!

MIL says all roads over the Pennines are closed.

The Highways Agency says they aren't (I know, I've checked!)

MIL says she won't go because she doesn't want to get stuck there and not be able to get back to look after her house.

We've promised to check on the house.

MIL said that if she had somewhere else to go she would phone SIL and say she's not coming.

I have instructed husband not to invite her here thus giving her a get-out clause.

(Of course, we would have her if she truly couldn't get over there; I wouldn't leave her alone at Christmas, but while there's a chance she can go somewhere else.............)

Tomorrow is D-day.

BIL is still on schedule to pick her up.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Finally, presenting........ "Snowflake Shower"!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

This Year's Christmas Cake

The Working Mum Christmas cake is a much anticipated affair in my family. My Christmas creations are now legendary. One year my mum even asked me to take my cake to her house to be the centrepiece on the table so she didn't have to make one!

I always try to make a yummy cake in October half term, then I feed it with brandy for weeks and finally, I enjoy decorating it after I've broken up for Christmas - just me, Nat King Cole on the CD player and a ton of icing sugar.

Well, this year's has now been completed; it's the first one that I've designed myself and it's very topical. However, I have been trying for three days to upload a photo of it to this post and Blogger is not playing ball! So, you'll just have to wait to see it in all its glory..............

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

How to work Father Christmas

My daughter has met Father Christmas on three occasions so far this Christmas. On each one she has been delighted and the look on her face has been a picture I want to treasure forever. However, beneath the angelic smile and the perfect manners lies a far too-clever-for-her-own-good little schemer.

How so?

Well, on the first occasion she asked him for Toffee the Pony.

On the second she asked for Barbie's Tawny Horse.

On the third she asked for Barbie's Magic of Pegasus DVD.

Then she told me her plan:

"Every time I meet him, I ask him for something different, so then I get everything I want!"

When did she become so devious?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire....

Okay, not roasting, but chopped up and made into Chocolate Chestnut Cupcakes. But more of those later.

Life has been typically busy in the Working Mum household, but this Winter there's one big difference ................

.................................... I'm not ill!!!!!!!!

I'm not pumped up on paracetamol and existing on Soothers, Venos and Lemsip! A couple of weeks ago I was starting with a cold, but on the recommendation of one of my pupils, I tried Vick's First Defence. I swear, they have invented the cure for the common cold. Two days after starting with a cold it had gone!

Now I'm feeling full of energy and life and have been asking my colleagues "Is this how the end of term should feel?" I haven't felt this good at the end of term for years. Not only that, I've now lost over a stone in weight, I feel great!

So, armed with unseasonal energy, I've been a Christmas whirlwind. I've almost done my Christmas shopping (just hubby left to buy for), most of the presents are wrapped, half of them are delivered, cards done and posted (including one to Australia which I'm usually too late for), tree bought and decorated and I've been baking. Boy, have I been baking!

Not only did I make two dozen Christmas cupcakes for the School Christmas Fair, I've made another dozen and a half for daughter's school Christmas party, I've made three dozen Orange, Cranberry and Almond Mince Pies which are now in the freezer and today I made a new Christmas Cupcake.

Last year, following a Christmas Cupcake Course at Leah's Pantry, I made a variety of sponge cupcakes with icing decorations:

but this year I spotted this recipe for Chocolate Chestnut Cupcakes in Good Food Magazine and thought they would be a perfect sophisticated cupcake for Christmas. So today I made a dozen which I will take into work for my department who can be guinea pigs and tell me what they think. If they're a hit, I'll make some more for Christmas Eve.

Have to admit that to a chocoholic like myself they do look scrumptious:

Just one more week of school, three Christmas Concerts with choir and then I'm ready for the big day. Bring it on!

Friday, 3 December 2010

I'm a parent of a year 2 pupil and ...........

On Monday I donated books and toys.

On Tuesday I donated toy and sweet filled jam jars for the hoop-la.

On Wednesday I donated three boxes of chocolates for the chocolate tombola.

On Thursday I donated four bottles for the bottle tombola.

Today I made two dozen cakes for the cake stall:

And tomorrow I get to spend an obscene amount of money trying to win or buy them all back!!

(Yes, it's our School Christmas Fair!)

Monday, 29 November 2010

Christmas is coming

The school Christmas trees were delivered today. I watched the caretakers positioning a massive one in the crisp, cold quad this morning amid the frost (the quad that some children say makes our school look like Hogwarts, so you can imagine how fantastic it looks with a 20ft Christmas tree!).

My new cookbook arrived today:

And this Sunday I have my first Christmas concert.

Oh, and I have a scratchy throat, a chesty cough and I keep sneezing.

Yep, Christmas is coming!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Were there more than twenty four hours a day.........

20th November already?!

I don't know where the time goes.

So what's been happening?

Well, Prince Edward visited our school and daughter was most disappointed. She thought he would arrive in a horse drawn carriage and wear the full Prince's regalia a la Cinderella.

He didn't.

She did say, "He looked liked Dadddy................. only Daddy's fatter"
(Yes, her father appreciated that one!)

Yesterday was Children in Need and I've spent nearly every evening this week making Pudsey Bear cakes and biscuits for school inbetween trying to help daughter learn lines and songs for the Nativity (she's Angel Gabriel, but doesn't understand why when Gabriel was a boy and she's a girl - explain that one!).

I've been back to my GP about my plantar fasciitis (foot problem) and am now being referred to a Consultant Podiatrist, but I was supposed to phone for an appointment last Friday and still haven't managed to do so due to being rushed off my feet at work. I'm sure there's a pun in there!

This morning I was in school for an Open Day (hate being at work on a Saturday).

And of course, there's been the usual trying to fit in all the housework at weekends whilst husband is at various football matches (last weekend he went to three!) and failing miserably. I've now written the word "DUST" in the dust on the TV stand in the hopes that husband will see it when watching football and do something about it.

I know. Futile.

And it's that time of year again. I've got 130 tests to mark and 130 reports to write within the next two weeks on top of my normal job.

And I know I'm getting stressed because I was supposed to go to Ikea this afternoon to buy the storage for daughter's bedroom, but the M60 is closed due to a jumper and I find myself thinking "how inconvenient of them to commit suicide when I need to go to Ikea" rather than "how terribly sad".

Need to get some perspective.

I may be some time...........

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Live Nation reply

You may remember my annoyance at the disappointing time my husband had on his birthday treat from me; A Platinum Experience of A Question of Sport that turned out to be more brass than platinum. (I'm not recounting the whole story, if you missed it click here)

Anyway, I wrote my letter to Live Nation detailing my complaint and my refund requirements and sent it off.

Yesterday I received my reply and I have to say, not bad customer service from Live Nation. A personalised letter addressing each of my points after investigating them, some calculations of the refund (which I mostly agree with) and a cheque for a reasonable amount. I am happy that the matter has been resolved.

With the cheque burning a hole in my pocket I thought I would buy some tickets to something else for husband and I to go to. I knew that there was a gig coming to Manchester that I really wanted to go to and the tickets went on sale on Monday. I also knew that it was likely to have sold out in hours, but I tried.

I tried one date, sold out.

Another, sold out.

Another, sold out.

And so it went on.

Eventually, I thought I'd try one last date and guess what?

Two tickets available!

I nearly dropped my laptop.

So we're off to:

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Party Times Cupcake of the Month


My Autumn Maple Leaf Cupcakes have been chosen as the "Cupcake of the Month" at the Party Times, the on-line party magazine from Party Pieces.

Check out the blog for lots of lovely information and tips on creating wonderful children's parties and check out Party Pieces for all things party related, especially the Christmas section. I am going to have to indulge in these holly gold lace cupcake wrappers for my Christmas cupcakes:

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Someday my prince will come.....

I think my daughter has unrealistic expectations. I blame all those fairy stories. You know, girl meets prince, falls in love, lives happily ever after.


Well, next week, The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex is visiting our school.

Daughter has asked me to do her hair in plaits that day so that she can be at her prettiest to meet the Prince!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Super soup!

Lizzy at Quest for Yummy Mummy Status has tagged me. It's been ages since I've been tagged. I'm usually too busy to do the long list ones, but this one was very close to my heart. She's asked me to share a winter warmer soup recipe.


We have soup every Monday because it's easy to get it ready after arriving home from work and before dropping daughter off at Rainbows, then I've enough time to come home, cook it and whizz it, then I pick her up and come home and reheat it. Any leftovers can be frozen for school holiday lunches. Perfect!

But which recipe to share?

I love to try different recipes and recently borrowed a Covent Garden Soup Company recipe book from the school library (how school libraries have changed!) and did the Maple Roasted Parsnip Soup. Nice.

I'm currently waiting for Jerusalem artichokes to come in the shops so I can make my Cream of Artichoke soup and of course, I've already said that I've been making plenty of Thai Pumpkin Soup recently.

Well, in true Working Mum style, I thought I would tell you about the quickest, easiest, tastiest, storecupboard soup that I make when I'm rushing in from work, no time to peel or chop and with nothing in the house. A real 'WM Strategy' Soup.

WM's Butterbean Soup:

  • 2 x 410g cans butterbeans
  • 1.5 pts vegetable stock (I like Just Bouillon)
  • 1tbsp green pesto
  • 1tbsp sun dried tomato paste
Tip the butterbeans in a large pan and add the stock. Heat and then simmer for 5 mins. Add pesto and paste, then whizz until smooth. Voila!

PS I love my hand held wand blender for whizzing, no transferring soup to a blender, just do it in the pan; if you get one with a stainless steel shaft you don't have to wait for the soup to cool, either. This is mine:
PS Tag can be picked up by anyone with a lovely winter warmer soup recipe, just let me know if you do it so I can try out your recipe.

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Pony Palace!

As promised, here are some pictures of daughter's bedroom now that I've finished decorating.

Here's the entrance:

(Notice the sign above the door? - The Princess Sleeps Here)

Now, this is the play part:

And this is the sleeping part:

I'll admit it's not quite finished, there are a couple more pictures to put up and we need to get some Trofast storage from Ikea for the rest of her stuff (I can't believe she has sooooo much stuff!), which will go here next to the wardrobe:

But I thought I'd better take the pictures before daughter moves in and it no longer looks like this:

A Pony Palace!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Half Term, Halloween and Hair

Yes, it's nearly the end of half term and I've been busy, busy, busy. Sorting out the garden, getting the cars MOTed, visiting friends, taking daughter to parties, Christmas shopping and writing my Christmas cards (have to get ahead!), making delicious Thai pumpkin soup and baking lots of Halloween pumpkin cake.

I've also been busy painting daughter's bedroom including dipping my hair in tins of emulsion (not intentionally). It's now painted "Beauty Queen" and "Lilac Bloom" (her room, not my hair) and is just awaiting the "Coral" carpet.

We've had a family fun day to York where we visited Jorvik Viking Centre, but refused to pay £20 to visit the Minster. (Since when did I have to pay a fixed entrance fee to visit an Anglican church? I'm a member!! What happened to leaving a donation?)

Daughter has had some friends round to play and, since it's nearly halloween, and I am the Queen of Cupcakes, I decided to do Halloween Cupakes with them. Here are some of their creations:


And I've had my hair done.

I love having my hair done. Three hours of being pampered and not being mithered. Bliss!

Just waiting for the carpet fitter to arrive to do daughter's carpet and then I can set about making it the best bedroom in the world ever. It's going to be fab-u-lous! (Photos later, I promise)

Now that's a successful half term.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

A Question of Sport is just not sporting

For husband's 40th birthday you may recall that I bought him two tickets to see A Question of Sport 40th Anniversary Tour at the MEN Arena. Not only that, I paid rather a lot of money for him and a friend to have the "Platinum Experience". A chance to meet Phil Tuffnell, Sue Barker and Matt Dawson before the show, ask them questions, have photographs taken with them, a signed programme and seats in the first four rows.

A few weeks ago we received a letter saying that Sue Barker would not be available for the Platinum Experience.

I was a bit miffed.

Last night hubby and friend went to the show and after pursuading the officials that there actually was a Platinum Experience to be had (they had the passes to prove it), they went in only to find that Matt Dawson had caught a train to Liverpool by mistake and was not available.

Now, given that I forked out a large sum for this special occasion, and that two of the celebrities did not show, do you think I can ask for two thirds of my money back?

Update 29 October: The co producers of the show have seen this post and offered me some QofS merchandise and tickets to another show with a chance to meet Matt Dawson (oh, the power of the internet!). However, my husband cannot attend another date now he is back at work, and besides, that is not the point. So, my letter has gone to Live Nation to ask for a partial refund. I'll keep you informed.......

Christmas Shopping for who?

Have just returned from a stressful shopping trip to the Trafford Centre. I thought I would try and get ahead with the Christmas shopping while daughter was at a friend's house and husband was out playing golf. The trouble is, I've realised I'm really bad at Christmas shopping.


Well, I spend most of my time browsing around and thinking:

"I'd love that!"

"I wish someone would buy that for me"

"I could really do with one of those"

"Think I'll get that for myself"

"I would really love one of those!"

and not actually buying any presents for other people!

My best Christmas purchase today was this:
for me to wear whilst making Christmas dinner!

Must do better.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Advice for husbands on maintaining marital bliss

Yesterday I made a one-pot Sunday lunch and put it in the oven on the timer while husband played on the Wii.

I then spent all morning painting daughter's bedroom while husband read a book.

On finishing the painting, I got the vacuum cleaner out to clean the hall, stairs and landing carpet while husband lounged on our bed watching TV.

"Does something need hoovering?" he asked.

"The hall, stairs and landing is covered in bits from moving daughter's old carpet" I replied.

"Oh right" he said.

Note, the correct response should have been:

"I'll do that then, love, you have a sit down and a cup of tea"!!!!


Thursday, 21 October 2010

20 10 20 10 20 10

Last night, all over the country, Rainbows, Brownies and Guides renewed their promise at 20:10 on 20/10/2010.

The Grand Finale of the Centenary Year of Guiding!

My daughter was the only Rainbow from her unit to attend the event at the Trafford Centre (all the others had to be at school the next day) and she had a whale of a time.

She took part in the Street Dancing:

(I've blurred other girls' faces)

and the Circus Skills and she was one of three Rainbows in the Past Uniform Parade (her unit still use the original tabards):

(Again, I've blurred the other girls' faces)

We all (me included) wrote our memories of Guiding on little paper strips which were stuck up for everyone to read.

Surely I can't be the only person who remembers "Poached Egg Pudding" at Guide Camp?

(Not as disgusting as it sounds, it was a slice of raspberry swiss roll with half a peach on top and then surrounded by hot white sauce. Hmm, maybe it was as disgusting as it sounds!)

At 20:10, via a live media link, we all renewed our promises

and yes, I cried.

Just want to say many, many thanks to all those involved in Guiding (my favourite bloggy Guiders included Jen, Kelloggsville and Tawny ) for all their time, effort, energy and enthusiasm in creating such a fantastic association for so many girls.

I think it will be a night that daughter (and I) remember for a long time to come.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

English Mum's Autumn Bake Off

English Mum is having another Bake Off, a Great Big Autumn Bake Off, and there was no question about what I was going to enter:

My Autumn Leaf Cupcakes!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Made it!

It's half term.

I made it.

Without illness and with relatively little stress.

I've negotiated parties, homework, two Harvest Festivals, one Book Week, swimming and riding lessons and Rainbows.

I've attended choir rehearsals, sung in a concert, oh, and held down a full time job.

In true Working Mum form, it's going to be a busy half term decorating daughter's bedroom, but when I've finished I'll be the "Best Mummy in the World Ever".


Well, so far I have bought:
  • pink and lilac paint
  • horse stickarounds for the walls
  • pony bedding
  • a horse mural for the wall
  • a horse clock
  • horse curtains
  • a pony blanket
  • a pony picture
  • pink baskets for "stuff"
  • pink lampshade and bedside lamp
  • pink bead curtain for the doorway
  • pink mosquito net with sequins
  • pink bunting embroidered with daughter's name
  • a pony lightswitch cover
I think I'm about to make one pony mad girl very happy!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A Very Happy Harvest Festival

Today was Harvest Festival at our church. The vicar was showing the children various foodstuff and asking if they knew what they were. At one point only my daughter put her hand up.

"Do you know what it is?" asked the vicar.

"Barley" Izzy replied.

"Well done," said the vicar, "and do you know what it is used for?"

"Beer!" she said, very confidently,

and much to the amusement of the whole congregration.

I was so proud *!

(I blame the fact we took her here in summer)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Male brain vs female brain

We have a half term holiday at the end of October and husband and I have been approaching it in very diferent ways. This week he asked if he should book us into a B&B in Ingleton for a few days and go walking.

I said, "No".

The reason?

Well, in his head half term looks like this:

Saturday - City match
Sunday -
Monday -
Tuesday -
Wednesday -
Thursday - City match
Friday -
Saturday -

In my head half term looks like this:

Saturday - shopping, washing, cleaning, empty daughter's bedroom, rehearsal and concert
Sunday - daughter's swimming and riding lessons, clear gardens
Monday - plasterer coming to put coving in daughter's bedroom, plumber coming to remove radiator, prepare daughter's room for painting
Tuesday - husband's car MOT, daughter's friend coming for day, choir rehearsal
Wednesday - hair appointment, paint daughter's room, burglar alarm service
Thursday - my car MOT and service, paint daughter's room
Friday - carpet fitter coming to put daughter's new carpet in, fit new curtains
Saturday - shopping, washing, cleaning, plumber coming to put radiator back in daughter's room
Sunday - daughter's swimming lesson, daughter at party, put daughter's stuff back in her room

Saturday, 25 September 2010

A few random thoughts on this week

Why is it that I'm too busy working during the week to read any blogs, but when I try to read them at the weekend "service is unavailable"!?

Why can my hairdresser give Izzy french plaits in three minutes when I just turn her into a haystack in half an hour of trying?

Why do Next sell shoes for little girls with heels?

And who buys them?

Who was it that signed up for something I recommended which resulted in my receiving a thank you hamper of goodies at work yesterday?

Why do six year olds need six lots of homework a week, plus recorder practice and learning lines for assembly?

Why do things run like clockwork when my husband is away, but not when he's at home?

Why don't shoes come in shoe boxes anymore when you need the boxes for harvest festival?

Why did our friend not tell anyone he was getting married on Thursday, in Thailand?

Why do Boden always sell out of size 12?

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Thursday, 23 September 2010


A little while ago I completed a questionnaire for Tesco regarding my internet shopping and delivery. In the suggestions box I asked for them to develop an app so that I could do my grocery shopping on my i-touch.

Guess what?

The Tesco Shopping App has been launched!!

I'm a PC and the Tesco app was my idea!

Monday, 20 September 2010

More tea, vicar?

So, daughter joined the Year 2 Drama Club at school.

Their first production?

The Harvest Festival Assembly.

Daughter came home very upset that she was allocated the part of Villager 1 with only one line to speak. I said the usual stuff:

"You have to start small"

"Do it well and you'll get more lines next time"

"Maybe you'll have more to say in the Nativity"

Well, the very next day, as I was taking daughter into school, I bumped into the teacher in charge of Drama Club looking quite flustered.

"The boy playing the vicar has pulled out!" she said.

Seeing my opportunity to make my daughter happy, and having my feminist head on, I jumped in:

"Couldn't Izzy play a female vicar?" I asked.

"Well, if you think she's got the confidence" she said.

I didn't mention that daughter has got up and entertained the whole congregation at our church on more than one occasion, I just said, "I think so".

"Well, if you're sure, try it with her and see" she said, and thrust the script in my hand.

When we got home I realised what I'd done.

Two pages of dialogue, the biggest part in the assembly and we've got ten days to learn it.

Why did I open my big mouth?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

That'll teach me!

As you know, my MIL has a habit of turning up on Saturday mornings expecting coffee and cake while I'm busy unpacking the shopping and doing five lots of washing. Well, this morning it was my birthday; I had Tesco deliver yesterday and I did most of the washing yesterday evening so that I could enjoy my day. I had breakfast in bed, opened my presents and cards and then waved hubby off to work leaving me and daughter free to enjoy ourselves. One thing I did not want to do was entertain MIL!

Knowing the time she normally calls, I packed daughter into the car and went to collect a parcel from the Sorting Office.

"Hmmmm, need to waste some more time", I thought.

So I took daughter into the local "village" to try out one of the coffee shops. ( I say, "village", it's called a village but is a little group of shops in the suburbs, it was probably a village at one time.) One milkshake, one cup of tea and two slices of Bakewell Tart later I thought it safe to return home.

On opening the door I saw a birthday card on the mat.

"Mission accomplished" I thought.

Then I saw the handwriting.

My brother.

He had driven 30 miles to come and see me with his card and I'd missed him.

Half an hour later MIL turned up.

That'll teach me!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Maple Syrup & Pecan Cupcakes

It's my birthday on Saturday and there is a tradition in my department that the birthday boy/girl provides cake for the rest of the department. Of course my department have come to expect something stupendous from me given my reputation for cupcakes so I have to deliver.

The pressure, the pressure.........

This year I thought I would go for an Autumn theme and toyed with blackberries and hazelnuts but then I saw these:

at Lindy's Cakes.

"That's it!" I thought, "Maple Syrup cakes with Autumn Maple Leaves"

So I ordered the cutters and set about researching recipes. Pretty soon I found a cake recipe, but finding a recipe for the buttercream/frosting, oh my word!!

I found recipes using egg whites, recipes using egg yolks, recipes with comments saying that the quantities are all wrong and one that used meringue powder (what on earth is meringue powder?). I eventually found a recipe that looked suitable at Baking Bites, but the recipe was in cups! Not even sure if the site was using US or Canadian cups! After googling conversion sites and trying to find out how many UK ounces to a cup I discovered that it depended on the ingredient being measures since cups is volume and ounces is weight (or mass if you want to be pedantic).


I just want to make maple syrup flavoured buttercream!!

Last night I made the cakes.


The cakes overflowed and then baked with rock hard crusts and virtually nothing underneath (I thought there was too much baking powder in the recipe). In the bin they went and I returned to my old faithful victoria sponge recipe with added maple syrup and pecans.

Tonight I made the buttercream (my usual recipe with added maple syrup) and decorated them.

Here are the results:

I just hope my department appreciate them!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Well, fancy that!

Checking out the new "stats" thingy on blogger , I found that a particular site had visited my blog quite a bit in the last couple of weeks.

"What's this 'Playpennies', then?" I thought, clicked on the link and blow me, there's a review of my blog!!

And there was me thinking I was getting left behind in this blogging lark by all the new talent!

Think I might carry on a bit longer, now.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Selfish not to share

Last night I watched "Casino Royale", again.

I just had to share:

Is it wrong to watch Bond films just for this?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Mini Masterchef

Ever since she could wield a spoon I've been encouraging daughter to join in with cooking. However, a lot of "children's" cookery involves baking and then decorating, which is great for a creative outlet ...............

Remember the biscuit bears?

And the Valentines Cupcakes that won her a prize in English Mum's Valentine Bakeoff?

......... but does tend to involve a lot of fat and sugar.

Now, I've always talked to her about the nutritional benefits of her food and she knows what's good for muscle, bone and immune systems, but she hasn't made much more than fresh fruit kebabs and the said cakes and biscuits. I wanted to enable her to cook healthy, nutritious meals, but wasn't sure how to begin.

Luckily, the BBC Good Food magazine (my cooking Bible) has been doing series of little pull out pages called "We love to cook" taking one ingredient per month and creating three recipes suitable for children aged 3 - 6, 5 - 9 and 8 - 14. I've been cutting them out and keeping them, waiting for an appropriate time to introduce them to her.

I needn't have worried, after a summer of being addicted to "Celebrity Masterchef" (and correctly predicting the winner), daughter announced "I want to cook like that!" so I quickly whipped out the recipes and away she went!

After making the Strawberry Jellies (from powdered gelatine) she started to suggest her own versions with different fruits and juices!

Then she moved on to Cheesy Courgette Pizza and talked about other combinations of toppings.

Her next offering is Sweet & Sticky Chicken Noodles - yum.

I think I've unleashed a Mini Masterchef!

(If you have any budding Masterchefs at home, and would like to try some, the "We love to cook" recipes are available here )

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

New Term, New Horizons

Can't believe I've only been back at school for a week. I feel like I haven't had a minute to myself. I've already got one Parents' Evening under my belt (introductory information evening), done my lunch duty (library this term) and manned my stall at the First Year Clubs Fair (couldn't compete with the Pets' Club chinchilla, though).

Choir rehearsals have resumed and we've added two more concerts in December giving us five concerts over four weeks at the busiest time of the year. Think I'll just live off caffeine for December.

Daughter has flung herself into Year 2 with gusto and announced that she wants to go to lots of lunchtimes clubs.

On Monday she signed up for Recorder Club (need a recorder and a music book).

On Tuesday she signed up for Craft Club (need a 1litre juice carton and a Pringles tin).

Today she signed up for Drama club (need a costume for the Harvest Festival Assembly).

I didn't think I could take much more so I asked her what else she was planning on joining.

"Well, Friday is 'What's in the News Club' " she said

"What about Thursday?" asked husband.

"Oh, that's just Football, I won't do that" she replied.

Husband's face was a picture!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The secret of our marriage? GSOH

On our anniversary last month my MIL came round to give us a card and her usual lecture. The one about how we were too young to get married when we did. Or rather, her son was too young to get married (we were 23). Then she turned to me and said:

"If it wasn't working, would you stick it out?"

"What do you mean?" chipped in husband, "We've been sticking it out for 17 years!"

(Husband and I rolled about laughing; I don't think she saw the funny side!)

Friday, 3 September 2010

Free Food Time!

As you know, I can't pass up the chance of free food and now is just one of those times.

It's blackberry picking time!

Our hedgerows are currently teeming with juicy blackberries, so get out there!

I thought this year I would perform a public service and show the blackberry virgins (so to speak) what to do with their bounty so that they can have delicious blackberry based food all winter.

You will need
  • a tub to collect your blackberries
  • a colander
  • kitchen roll
  • trays (baking or otherwise)
  • freezer bags
and here's what you do:

1 Hit the hedgerows and collect a tub full of juicy blackberries
(they should come away easily when you give them a little twist):

2 Wash the blackberries a few at a time in a colander:

3 Gently roll the blackberries on kitchen roll to absorb some of the excess moisture:

4 Spread the blackberries out on trays and place in the freezer for 3 - 4 hours:

5 Remove from freezer, transfer to freezer bags and return to freezer:

You now have individually frozen blackberries which you can use a few at a time for such delights as Apple and Blackberry Crumbles and Pies, Blackberry and Apple Crumble Cake, Blackberry Muffins, Blackberry and Apple Jam, Blackberry and Raspberry Smoothie, Blackberry and Hazelnut Scones, Nigella's Anglo-Italian Trifle or my favourite, the delicious Blackberry and Almond Meringue Cake!


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Part 10 - Ta Dah!

The last part of our house renovation was to hang the photograph that I had put into a box four years ago and vowed not to open until it was to be rehung in the hall as the last act of renovating the house.

And that's precisely what we did two weeks ago.

Here it is:

Worth the wait.

I can't believe that the inside of the house is finally finished.

Next job - redecorate daughter's bedroom!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Part 9 - Hall, Stairs and Landing

And finally (apart from some new flooring in the downstairs loo),

from Easter 2009 to Autumn 2010

the big one ......

The Hall, Stairs and Landing!

This involved a new front door and frame, completely replastering the whole area, stripping and sanding the newel posts and base boards (took me six months), new spindles and hand rails, ten new interior doors, new radiator and finally painting and varnishing everything!


(Remember the scary axminster?

And now......

come in, come in.......

(Took me six days to varnish those doors)

(That's the staircase that took me six months)

(I've painted six of those doors on both sides - phew!)

Then, all that was left was the symbolic last act.

The thing that I had kept under wraps for four years to be the grand finale ...............