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    Food, Play

    My Daddy Bakes Millionaires Shortbread

    One Saturday morning I was the one who got up to make the kids’ breakfast, while Mr A snoozed. A few hours later, among many demands they made that morning, the kids demanded to bake, they’d been sent some fab baking equipment by Good to Know who have launched a guide to bakesales.

    So I told them to ask their Dad. My thinking was that this would wake him from his very long lie in, pass the buck and buy me a few minutes peace. Little did I know it would end in him actually baking, and very fine baking it was too. He selected this recipe for Millionaire Shortbread from the Good to Know site. Continue reading

    Home

    Dream Bedroom: Set for the Silver Screen

    Home Fantasy: Movie Nights

    Today’s house fantasy is all about the bedroom. A bedroom is an escape. My dream bedroom would combine the luxury of a boutique hotel with the romance of the movies. So I decided to combine hotel chic with the silver screen, to create a room that is like stepping into a black and white movie.

    I’m trained as a drama and film teacher, so it is hard not to see designing a room as being like creating a set.

    The black, white and silver palette connotes the age of the silver screen. There are less subtle clues in the tripod camera lamp and camera table lamp. A bedroom that truly sets a scene.

    The crisp white sateen stripe sheets, faux fur throw, metallic cushions and L’amour lampshade all scream night away in a boutique hotel. The service bell wouldn’t be out of place in a hotel reception, who knows, maybe my dreams of room service will come true.

    The cushions continue the cheekiness, but also take me back to silent movie age, when well chose typography replaced the need for speech.

    I am taking part in the Dream Bedroom Blogger Competition. We have a lot of antique furniture which I would never replace, so I have used very little of the £5000 fantasy budget. Amazing how you can make your dreams come true for relatively little isn’t it?

    Camera table light £50,  wood lamp £225,  fauxfur throw £50, clapper board £13, 5 cushions £100 in total, white sateen stripe bed linen £57, 2 L’amour light shades £100, bell £9. 
    Total £600

    Jen over at Love Chic Living is judging, I think it is clean and fresh enough for her tastes and I am hoping today’s house fantasy theme appeals.

    What would your dream bedroom consist of? Hop on over to Jen’s blog to enter.
    Food, Residence

    Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognaise

    One of my all time favourites that I go back to time and time again, is my mum’s vegetarian spaghetti bolognaise. That’s my old cat, watching the world go by from my parent’s kitchen table. My friends and I spent so many late nights at that table during our A level years that we asked Mum to cut it up and send us a piece of the old table cloth when she got a new one. My friend V said she felt as if she had the tiny pink flower pattern engrained on her brain, it feels that way seeing it again now. Continue reading

    Garden

    To call a spade a spade

    My Grandad’s old spade hangs on the wall, to remind me that greenfingers do run in my family, that gardening is a huge legacy and I really want to learn more about it. Watching my Dad, another keen gardener, with my kids, or seeing the way my brother grows chillis and tomatoes on his London balcony, I always thought the green fingers had bypassed me. Then, in my typical bull in a china shop, Gemini fashion, I decided to attack the garden one day.

    This is what it looks like in the Estate Agents documents, from when we nearly sold it last year. Neat and tidy but a bit bare. Glad we didn’t sell it, but we need to ‘reown’ it.

    I decided we were having a veg patch. Mr G was put to work on hosing the turf, while I dug. Each time I dug it got a little easier, instinct and Mr G’s excited shrieks kicked in. I’ve watched my Dad digging enough times over the years. We even found an old horseshoe which sent Mr G on a fabulous journey of the imagination and had history mad Miss L speculating.

    We added the old boat shaped sandpit as a raised bed

    We stuck canes in as we had seen my Dad do, to keep the neighbours cats off. Then we forgot about it (told you, I am a Gemini, master of unfinished projects).

    Until my Dad gave us a Kew Gardens seed and soil test kit. We tested the soil in a series of test tubes and realised it was perfect for growing stuff. So we filled the old sandpit with the wild flowers that came with the kit and added the broken old watering can and the old horseshoe for decoration. I hope it brings our crops luck!

    Then Mr G and I found some pea seeds in a tin in the shed. As I was planting the peas I could see my Grandad in my mind, hear him, telling me how to do it. I could see his big hands, the dirt permanently engrained in the creases, gently pointing where to go. And the peas, they only went and grew!

    See, all that information I’ve absorbed from watching the professionals in action is there, just a bit buried. I’ve had two rather fast growing little ones to look after and there hasn’t been much time for plants in my life.

    We bought some more seeds, and me and Miss l went for it.

    We thought some windmills would brighten it up and some log roll edging to keep little feet from jumping onto the seeds as they grew.

    It still felt a bit flat, so what we needed was a scarecrow. I looked around for some ideas and discovered hessian ones last longer. You can see how I did it in my how to make a scarecrow post.

    Costings

    Seeds – £17 (bumblebee wild flower mix, peas, carrots, broccoli, beetroot, lettuce)

    Tomato plants  – £3 in the sale

    Scarecrow materials – £10 online/petshop

    Log roll edging – £10 Asda

    Windmills – £4 for 8 mini ones Asda, larger ones National Trust £6 for 2.

    Creativity, Garden

    How to make a scarecrow

    You need – 2 Hessian sacks (I bought mine online) Straw (from the pet shop), garden twine, an old plastic milk bottle, scissors, a darning needle, an old broom handle, a garden cane, marker pen, hat and props.

    1. Cut one sack in half, from the bottom, to about two thirds of the way up to the top to make the legs. Cut the other sack in half, but all the way, this will be the arms and head covering.

    2. Sew the legs, I used garden twine, leaving room to now stuff the broom handle between the legs. Stuff with straw.

    3. Take  one half of the other sack and cut a head hole in the long edge, put this over the broom. Sew along the the open length of the sack, first creating the left arm, then sewing around the body to attach to the legs. You will need to scrunch up the fabric of the ‘leg’ sack to ensure there is room left to sew along the length on the other side to make the right arm.

    4. Stick a cane through the length of the arms and stuff the body and arms and then tie the ends with string.

    5. Using the leftover half sack, cover the milk bottle in sack with the excess length under what will be the scarecrow’s chin.  Stuff in some straw. You can either sew the head to the body, or just tie using the excess sack around the pole with string which gives a less Frankenstein like appearance!

    6. Kids can add features with marker pen or with props. Excess sack bits can be used to make a nose, or perhaps a scarf.

    Education, Food, Kids stuff, Play, Residence

    Chocolate Soreen Baked Alaska

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    I have been wanting to make Baked Alaska since I got chatting to Emma at Science Sparks about science in cooking. I’ve been meaning to follow lovely Kerry of Science Spark’s recipe, the picture of her holding beaten egg whites over her head makes me smile. Then I found this recipe for Chocolate Soreen baked Alaska, I had to give it a go. But do check out Science Sparks for the Science bit, as this is such a genius recipe to cook with kids!

    Chocolate Soreen is only available for a limited time. Chocolate Loaf is in Asda now, in Morrisons from 20th May for 3 weeks and Sainsbury’s from 23rd May for 3 weeks. Continue reading

    Food

    Simnel Cake, perfect for ailing souls

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    Bunny Burner. Still tastes awesome, even though I somehow read 6 minutes instead of 3 under the grill.

    Good Friday I was feeling, ‘meh’, burnt out, tired and unable to face the mess from a busy week or even worse the prospect of building even more mess over the Easter holidays. But Mr A volunteered to take the kids food and ingredient shopping, so I cleaned the kitchen and prepared for some baking therapy.

    Simnel cakes have been around since medieval times as a sweet treat, it was the Victorians who decided to decorate them with 11 balls to represent the disciples minus Judas. My interpretation, as a ‘heathen’, as Mr A affectionately refers to me, is all about Spring. I am a firm believer we need festivals to see us through the seasons.
    Continue reading

    Food, Kids stuff, Play, Residence

    Easy Chocolate Brownies

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    These went down really well as Christmas presents for teachers, and we also took some as presents when we went to stay with my brother’s family. This recipe which I picked up from one of my visits to the Panasonic Ideas Kitchen, makes loads, at least 30 small squares, and is so easy. We make them in our Panasonic Combination oven which cuts the cooking time, but I have included conventional oven timings too.

    Ingredients

    • 250 g plain chocolate
    • 250 g unsalted butter
    • 4 large eggs
    • 310 g caster sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence
    • 180 g plain flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 75 g hazelnuts
    • 75 g white chocolate chips
    • 75 g milk chocolate chips

    1. Put the plain chocolate and butter in a large bowl. Place on glass turntable and cook on HIGH MICROWAVE for 3 mins. Leave to cool slightly.

    2. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.

    3. Stir the sugar into the Chocolate. Add the eggs and vanilla essence.
    Fold in the flour, nuts and Chocolate.

    4. Pour the Chocolate mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place on tray and cook on COMBINATION: CONVECTION 180°C and SIMMER MICROWAVE for 18 mins. Or Gas 4/180 C for 25-30 minutes.

    The middle should feel soft when cooked. Allow to cool in the tin. Remove the brownies from the tin and cut into squares.

    Food

    My favourite Nut Roast recipe and Vegetarian Gravy recipe

    This is the gorgeous nut roast we have pretty much always had at Christmas, but it is lovely for Sunday lunch or any special occasion. It has a layer of tomatoes and parsley in the middle which makes it attractive, extra special and a little bit festive too. The meat eaters always have some as stuffing and since I discovered this gravy it has been the only one we ever make, for veggies and meat eaters alike. Continue reading