Thursday, October 13, 2016

Happy birthday...

... To my lovely big sister.

Life is pottering along. Still getting used to the new norm of the kids being at school all day. Time for me to start job hunting/deciding what I want to do next with my life, and bringing another income of some sort would be good too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Rainbow party planning ideas

 This post is just a quickie to share the links I found most useful when I was planning and preparing for Soph's rainbow party.
Rainbow biscuits  - our recommendation would be to not make equal parts of every colour, there's been some mathematical debate as to the actual proportions you need, but basically, start small and make each section bigger. We ended up making extra dough to do the final two and a half layers.  We used mostly food colouring from Aldi and some old liquid colours, but I'm told some power colours that you get in cake shops may be brighter colours with less effort.  
 Coloured pasta. I looked at a few blogs' and then sort of did my own thing.  Rubbing alcohol was suggested, but we cant get that easily in the UK, so I got a bottle of white vinegar.  Cheap and cheerful! Put a quantity of pasta in a bag, ziplock is good, but we made do without.  Add a capful of vinegar and a squirt of colour and then rub and shake around until they're all covered.  Tip out onto newspaper to dry.  We found that the ones we added more liquid to ended up sticking to the paper and not drying out properly and we threw one lot away.

Fruit and veg platters. I used
Veg - tomatoes, carrot, yellow peppe, mange tout, and beetroot crisps.
Fruit - strawberries, small easy peeler citrus, banana, green apples, blueberries and purple grapes

Colouring the cake  - I wanted to use as many natural colourings as possible, but I did supplement a couple of them with food colouring.   Some sites I used to get ideas are here and here and here.
I think the things I used were as follows
Beetroot juice for Red
Carrot juice and a little beetroot juice for orange
Turmeric for yellow
Spinach juice for Green
Blueberries (cooked and sieved)(and a fair amount of food colouring) for blue (still turned out grey!)
Blackberries (cooked and sieved) and beetroot juice for purple

As you can see, the colours didn't turn out exactly how I wanted them to for a strict rainbow, so I decided to mix up the layers.

Other ideas - pin the tail on the unicorn. We didn't end up having time to do this.
Decorate biscuits - We made biscuits ahead of time and used icing sugar and water and a little food colouring to make a couple of colours of icing, and a bunch of sprinkles (buy from B&M store, if you have one, cheapest place I've found for them!), marshmallows and skittles (taste the rainbow!)
Pass the parcel - the prizes were a colourful notebook and a packet of felt tip pens. I did two parcels with 12 layers each and sent them both round at the same time (I wasn't sure how many kids there would be, turned out to be 18, so some people got a second turn)
Different coloured pots of playdough for game prizes. 
Menard printed off some pictures of rainbows, rainbow dash etc and we hung them on thread from the ceiling.  And some rainbow butterflies were stuck on the windows.  And I got some multi-coloured bunting and hung that. We had paper plates with lots of colours on.

Hope that's helpful to anyone wanting to plan a rainbow party!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Savoury, yet sweet

Today's prune delights are being cooked for my church life group, so I hope they enjoy them!

I'm making a Moroccan themed chicken dish to be served with rice and sweetcorn (because it's easy!) and then a prune cake which I made yesterday for those who gave me the giant prune tin in the first place, and it got such rave reviews that I thought I'd make it again for my group. It's a bit like sticky toffee puddings, I think, but less fiddly to make. I used milk with a squirt of lemon juice in to make homemade 'buttermilk'. I used a couple of handfuls of flaked almonds, not a whole cup of nuts, and I used honey in place of corn syrup in the icing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Photos of things that have happened around here lately ish (now that I can post pics again!)

I found my 200th geocache
Soph got a happy birthday sticker at school and was very proud of it 

JJ sat on a swing with a book (school wanted places of kids reading in interesting places!)

Daddy added a cool cardboard den addition to the little bike shed.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

hashtag prune week

Ok, so it all started when I was gifted a ginormous tin of prunes. We're talking 2.7kg of prunes, which is almost 6lb of them.  Well actually, it says drained weight is 1.7kg of prunes, so there's a fair amount of syrup too, but its still a lot.

Not to be someone who does things by halves, I came up with the concept of prune week. I post all about prunes on facebook, and share recipes that I've tried out and stuff like that, and then if anyone else wants to do it too, they can use my #pruneweek to label their posts, and that way they can be searched and found (probably by me, but anyone else who is interested too!)

So today kicks off the start of prune week with a prune cake.  I like the idea of this recipe because it contains no extra sugar. Because I'm using prunes in syrup rather than dried, I adjusted the recipe by using 100ml of water and 100ml of syrup and that made the batter wet enough.
It's just cooked through (checked and the knife came out clean) and is cooling on the side, verdict to follow in the next prune week post!

Edited to add verdict - we weren't impressed, I'll admit. Also, although a skewer pulled out clean, it still managed to not be cooked through in the middle. It was ok cake, but I think the prune taste was too strong for the kids.
We shared some cake and prunes with our lovely neighbours. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Friday, October 07, 2016

summer throw back

Baby wearing my beautiful niece whilst on holiday in Devon in the summer. I loved every minute
(There is a real baby under that hat, honest!)

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Rainbow cake, or not

Busy baking.
Interesting results with my food colouring (natural and bought)
This is really just a place holder post!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Party prep

Yesterday was a busy day, I'd been in three shops, two of them supermarkets, and got home before half ten! My sister Bekki and niece Phoebe came for the day and we got busy busy busy.

We started off colouring pasta for the children to use to thread onto twine to make necklaces.
There's a photo on my facebook page here.

We baked practice cakes using natural food colouring to work out which will work for my rainbow birthday cake for Sophia, and which I'd do best to supplement with some not so natural food colouring gels!

And finally we made rainbow biscuit dough and made a few to try. They didn't turn out exactly as in the original post, and we ended up making extra dough for the final two layers.

Hopefully those links will work, not sure I've tried to do them on my phone before.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Experimental cooking

For dinner last night we had a random things out the freezer night. I found two 'white fish' fillets and decided to feed them to the kids.
We've made homemade chicken nuggets before so I decided to use a similar method with the fish. We coated them in cornflour (well, barely, I was running out). Then dipped into beaten egg and then into breadcrumbs (just some dry bread ground up in my ninja bullet with the grinding bland). Each child got to get messy and coat their own. Then onto a greased baking tray and into a hot oven and cooked until the breadcrumbs we're golden brown.

The verdict....

Soph - I like it a little bit.
(Mummy - that's better than "I hate it", I'll take that!)

JJ - yeah, good.

Mummy - no fish smell! Result! Would make this again for them (I don't eat fish)

Monday, October 03, 2016

Rainbow party

Can you believe it, Sophia will be 7 on the 7th. This very week! And this blog was going far longer than that too. I apologise for the huge inconsistencies in blogging (for the last two years that seems to be blogging in October and not much else!) and perhaps I'll manage to catch you up a little with our adventures along the way.

To celebrate her birthday we are planning a rainbow party. Now, I don't want to give everything away before hand, more whet your appetite for more updates after the event, and photos, I hope. My phone won't talk nicely to blogger but hopefully I can a device that will!

Cake - there will be multiple layers and there will be smarties. I also hope to experiment with natural food colouring.

Games - I still need to locate some rainbow themed (even just striped colours would be ok) wrapping paper for pass the parcel. I intend to alternate with newspaper because I'm still me thrifty self at heart!
We are also working on a variation of mr bear, your honey's not there. Possibly Mrs rainbow, your gold's not there?

Activities - I have a couple of activities I need to prep for, but which will hopefully let them create fun take home gifts at the end.

Food - I'm planning fruit and veg platters in rainbow stripes, and Bekki has found a wonderful recipe for rainbow biscuits so we might try making them on Tuesday when she comes to see us.

Sunday, October 02, 2016


So it may be something or it may be nothing, but I totally just invented prune week. It's from Sunday 9th October until Sunday 16th.
The idea is, during the course of that week you cook or bake something with prunes in, or even just eat some prunes, take a photo and share it on facebook with the hashtag #PruneWeek and if you're friends with me, tag me too. And then we all get to see new exciting things to do with prunes and raise the profile of an often put down fruit.
Will you join me in celebrating prune week?

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Culinary adventures

I've tried quite a few recipes/techniques lately, but because I'm sat on the sofa with the two kids, half watching Topsy and Tim, and blogging on my phone, you'll have to wait a day or two for actual links. But in the meantime I can tell a bit about what I've tried and you can wait in excited anticipation for links and photos. (If you're friends with me on facebook you may have seen photos or read statuses about some of them, so bear with me!)

Easiyog- this is a yoghurt maker kindly passed on to me from a friend. They're designed to be used with their branded sachets of powder, and I was given several of the sachets, but unfortunately they were past their best before dates and the good bacteria in them had obviously died. We had success with one of them by using a couple of spoons of live plain yoghurt to the mix, so that was fun, but yesterday I made a batch of yoghurt from scratch using some bought plain yoghurt as a starter, and skimmed milk powder and water. The first batch turned out tasty but quite thick, and I've made a few adjustments and a second batch is on the go. You have to let it sit for eight hours so I won't find out until bedtime tonight how it's turned out.

Slow cooker - we had almost two weeks without a working oven so I used it as a good excuse to cook a number of dishes in the slow cooker, savoury and sweet. More info to follow about banana cake, a dense brownie fudge cake, steak, chicken and bolognaise. I've been really pleased with how things have turned out, although I admit it helps if you read the recipe properly - I cooked the chocolate fudge cake thing on high the first time and it was meant to be on low!