Our Summer: Episode 1

28 Jul

We have had the most lovely week.

The sun has shone and we could not have asked for a more lovely time. My children are growing up so quickly. I feel very lucky that I can spend the summer with them.IMG_5378

We have played.

We have been lazy.

We have taken part.

We have done our own thing.

But most of all we have had fun!

I was so relieved to finish school at 1.30 last Friday. It has been hard work this year at work; even working 3 days has been hard after having a year off in a school that is waiting for Ofsted to make an appearance.

I picked up some beer and reduced priced tapas on Friday teatime on my way to pick the kids up from nursery and…relaxed…

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Saturday: And the holidays started with…rain!

So after Evie had had her swimming lesson we went shopping. Evie spent the trip around the retail park picking up loom bands, and Isaac complained about being in the buggy. Just as expected!

Sunday: the sun came out. Rod was off to Leeds to run his first 10k

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And I took the kids swimming. Later we met Rod and friends in Leeds and had a lovely afternoon out with grown ups and Grandma babysat for us.

Rod had an extra day off work on Monday so we had a lovely afternoon at Oakwell Hall, riding bikes and picking up loom bands (which is a theme for the week I think)

IMG_5427The weather looked fantastic for the rest of the week so we planned lots of outdoor activities

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Tuesday: we took advantage of the fantastic free Kirklees activities and had a walk and story in Batley Park. This was great for both the kids and we will be regular visiters to this activity at different parks every Tuesday morning this summer. We then had tea at Grandmas.IMG_5444

Wednesday: we met our lovely friend Lizzie (who you may know as Wizbuf on Twitter and Instagram) and returned to Oakwell Hall in the sun. What a fantastic place for the kids (and for adults and dogwalkers). There are playgrounds, picnic areas, large areas to walk, bridleways, the river to investigate and the hall, as well as other activities that are organised throughout the holidays for kids to keep occupied.IMG_5475

Thursday: breakfast at Ikea and an impromptu visit to the White Rose Centre to buy sandals.IMG_5479 IMG_5504

Friday: we had a lazy morning before Evie went to a creative craft afternoon, I walked to the pub, Isaac fell asleep and I had a cheeky pint in the beer garden in the sun. Lovely!IMG_5506 IMG_5511 IMG_5512IMG_5514IMG_5517

Saturday: Evie had a swimming lesson and then later we had a 3 mile walk to a cricket club where the kids played on the grass and the adults had a drink in the sun.IMG_5519 IMG_5521 IMG_5524

Sunday: a quiet one with a walk to McDonalds and the supermarket, a play in the garden and Grandma picked Evie up to go to a friend’s barbeque for an hour before our Sunday dinner.IMG_5531 IMG_5533

In between we have played in the garden, watch Despicable Me 1 and 2 about 100 times, I have crafted before the kids woke up and after the kids went to sleep and we have all had a lovely relaxing time!IMG_5490 IMG_5494 IMG_5501 IMG_5525

Siblings

24 Jul

IMG_5330I remember being small with my little brother. We used to play together…sometimes more nicely than others. He is three years younger than me and I remember visiting him in hospital on my third birthday when he was one day old. My mum pulled back the covers on the cot so I could see his tiny toes. To be honest I think I was more impressed with the birthday present of a dolls house that was waiting for me when I got home.

Who are these two?

Who are these two?

As we grew up we had our moments of playing nicely and fighting, but when I realised he was growing bigger than me we stopped fighting and became firm friends. As we grew into teenagers I would take him places, or he visited me at university, and now in our thirties we spend time together with the rest of the family and with my kids.IMG_5193 IMG_5192 IMG_5191

My children have a 3 and a half year gap between them…when Evie heard that Isaac had been born and he was a boy (rather than the sister she hoped for) she cried!IMG_5444 IMG_5446

She soon got over it and was excited to be a big sister. He was mainly ignored for the first few months of his life, but then he started wanting the things that she had, grabbing for her toys and taking attention from her just slightly!IMG_5462

Over the last few months I have seen lovely moments with them together. I still repeat at least 5 times a day, “No! Don’t try to pick him up! He doesn’t like it!” and they still both want the same toy or want to play different games at the same time. But, then, just for a few moments they are friends, and it is lovely and I hope that they always stay friends over the years.IMG_5459 IMG_5460 IMG_5461

Rainbows and Butterflies Birthday Cake using Renshaw Ready to Roll Icing

23 Jul
Rainbows and butterflies

Rainbows and butterflies

I love baking, but I am not artistic.

I can be creative, but I usually need to follow a pattern.

I have decorated birthday cakes in the past for my two children and I have been quite impressed with myself with the results.

But I do like a challenge and Renshawbaking.com keep challenging me! And I have to keep taking up the challenge! So here is my latest effort at icing a birthday cake!IMG_5252

I searched for inspiration on Pinterest and decided I needed rainbow colours. I intended making a rainbow of spots, but then I came across my butterfly cutter and I put together two of my 5 year old daughters favourite things…rainbows and butterflies!

I hope you like it! I would like to think that anyone could make it and impress other people. The colours are so vibrant and happy I defy anyone not to smile and be cheered by the design.

Renshaw Ready to Roll Icing and Marzipan

Renshaw Ready to Roll Icing and Marzipan

I made a fruit cake (recipe below) and covered it in mazipan and white ready to roll icing both from Renshaw. I then used a butterfly cutter to make the butterfly shapes in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple and arranged them close together for the purple and then more spread out to create the effect of them fluttering away I hope.

The pictures tell the story.

Fruit cake turned upside down so I had a nice flat top to ice

Fruit cake turned upside down so I had a nice flat top to ice

I stuck the marzipan to the cake with apricot jam, mixed with a bit of hot water, microwaved to get it hot and then sieved before painting on the cake before the marzipan is rolled out and placed on.

I stuck the marzipan to the cake with apricot jam, mixed with a bit of hot water, microwaved to get it hot and then sieved before painting on the cake before the marzipan is rolled out and placed on.

White icing rolled quite thinly and stuck to the marzipan with cooled, boiled water

White icing rolled quite thinly and stuck to the marzipan with cooled, boiled water

The butterflies are flying away across the cake

The butterflies are flying away across the cake

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Just add candles!

Dust the icing sugar off with a dry paintbrush when the icing has dried for a view hours.

Dust the icing sugar off with a dry paintbrush when the icing has dried for a view hours.

Inside the fruit cake

Inside the fruit cake

 

The icing was sent to me for free and I was asked to write this blogpost to show a birthday cake. The ideas, words and pictures are all my own.

Summer with the Mortons

22 Jul

Our mission for the next six weeks is to do as much as we can and have as much fun as possible without spending the earth!

Chilling in the garden.

Chilling in the garden.

Filthy, pretty and ready for the summer.

Filthy, pretty and ready for the summer.

I’m known to be frugal, but don’t get me wrong! I am not tight with money, I just like to make sure it goes as far as possible and then, when I want to splash out, I can afford it and enjoy it.

Three summers ago (before we ever had an inkling about Isaac) Evie and I did something every single day of the summer holidays. We were super busy! I blogged about it after the summer in 2011.

Last year I had just had the year off after maternity leave and the summer before I was 8 months pregnant and knew I was about to have the year off, so although we had great summers, I didn’t feel like we had to fill every second.

This year, after a year back at work and a year of Evie at school, I really intend to have a great summer filled with lots of activities that both children will enjoy.

We have started it off with a shopping trip last Saturday after Evie’s swimming lesson (we intended going to Oakwell Hall for jazz in the garden but it rained incessantly all day), on Sunday we went swimming before Grandma babysat the children and I went to Leeds with the hubby (who had just run Leeds 10k) and friends for a few beers in the afternoon, and today we have been bike riding (and loom band hunting) at Oakwell Hall.

Rod about to run his first 10k. He did it in 58 minutes.

Rod about to run his first 10k. He did it in 58 minutes.

An hour at Oakwell Hall. Isaac wanted to ride Evie's bike and Evie wanted to look for loombands!

An hour at Oakwell Hall. Isaac wanted to ride Evie’s bike and Evie wanted to look for loombands!

For the rest of the time we will be taking part in all the free activities that Kirklees provide in the holidays such as crafts in the museums, stories in the parks and the summer reading challenge and other activities at the libraries. We will take the train to Leeds to visit Leeds museum, we will undoubtedly have a day or two in York and visit the railway museum, and maybe a trip to the seaside.

We are so excited to be on holiday for six weeks and we will fill it with fun…watch this space!

Baker Days Letterbox Cake

3 Jun

You have a celebration you canot get to…flowers doesn’t really say the message you want it to, a bottle of bubbly isn’t appropriate…so what do you send?

Step forward the “Baker Days Letterbox Cake”

Baker Days Letterbox Cake

Baker Days Letterbox Cake

The letterbox cake, as you might imagine, is sent through the post and fits through a normal letterbox. It is cleverly packaged to keep it in one piece and can be personalised for any occasion.

The tin makes a nice keepsake and memento in itself

The tin makes a nice keepsake and memento in itself

When I was asked if I would like to receive a letterbox cake, I immediately thought of our wedding photo as the letterbox cake allows you to have any picture printed onto it. We got married on the first of August last year and have a great photo of my husband and me and the kids. As I scrolled throught the hundreds of designs I saw we could have hearts around it and I knew that my daughter would be thrilled with it.

The cake arrives safely packaged in a tin

The cake arrives safely packaged in a tin

Easy to remove from the protective tin

Easy to remove from the protective tin

Choose any image for your cake

Choose any image for your cake

As you can see from the pictures, the photos are brilliantly reproduced which makes a really special present that would fit all sorts of occasions.

If you don’t have a photo you want to use, you can have a pattern or message put on it from their extensive list.

Personalised cake

Personalised cake

If you can’t be with your dad this father’s day, there are lots of fabulous designs you could use to really surprise him with an original gift.

Lovely cake with "Not too thick" icing

Lovely cake with “Not too thick” icing

There is always a lot of excitement from my 5 year old when a parcel arrives. When this one came I had the normal questions:

  • Is it for me?
  • What is it?
  • Can I have a look?

So to answer…

  • No
  • It is a cake.
  • Yes

And when she had a look…

“It’s a face cake!!!!”

And so the cake for the next week was called the “Face Cake”. As in, “Can I have some face cake mummy??”

The “Face Cake” was definitely a hit!

Seal of approval from the toddler

Seal of approval from the toddler

For more information you can follow this link to the Baker Days website.

The cake was sent to me for free but the words, pictures and opinions are my own.

 

 

Passion Fruit and Orange Victoria Sponge Cake

2 Jun
Yum!

Yum!

It is no secret that I love a bargain, so when I spotted these passion fruits for only 38p I had to buy them.

#helensbargains

#helensbargains

The next questions was of course what to do with them…so I made a cake!

Passion fruit and orange

Passion fruit and orange

Passion Fruit and Orange Victoria Sponge Cake – serves 6-8

Passion fruit and orange Victoria sponge cake

Passion fruit and orange Victoria sponge cake

Ingredients:

115g soft butter or margarine

115g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

1 orange

115g self raising flour

2-4tbsp milk

200ml double cream

2 passion fruits

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Method:

  1. Grease 2 18cm round sponge tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
  2. Cream together the butter and the sugar in an electric mixer or in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and combine well.
  3. Add the grated zest of the orange and mix. Add the flour and gently mix in with the milk to make a smooth cake batter.
  4. Bake the cakes at 160C for 10-15  minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
  5. Allow to cool for ten minutes in the tins before turning out to cool on a wire rack.
  6. Meanwhile, beat the cream until just stiff and then add the juice of the orange and the seeds of one and a half passion fruits and stir in gently.
  7. When the cakes are cool, add about half of the cream mixture to the top of one cake, top with the other cake and add the rest of the cream to the top of that. Top with the remaining seeds of the half a passion fruit and serve.
Ta daaaa!

Ta daaaa!

Simple Store Cupboard Beanburgers

9 May
Use whatever type of beans in your cupboard, you could even rinse the sauce off cheap baked beans like "A girl called Jack"

Use whatever type of beans in your cupboard, you could even rinse the sauce off cheap baked beans like “A girl called Jack”

On my rainy day off last week I turned to the store cupboard in my kitchen for inspiration for lunch. I always have tins of baked beans, kidney beans and tomatoes in there and decided I would make something different for a change. I wanted something that the toddler would eat, but I could also enjoy and feel that I wasn’t eating kids food.

I gathered together a tin of kidney beans, a slice of bread, an egg and a carrot and with a few simple flavourings came up with this recipe which I enjoyed with grown up rocket and Isaac enjoyed with kethcup and veg sticks.

Make it a grown up lunch with rocket

Make it a grown up lunch with rocket

You could easily add chilli, salsa, fresh coriander or other flavours you have at hand to satisfy your tastes.

Simple Store Cupboard Beanburgers (makes 12 small or 4 large burger)

Ingredients:

1 tin of kidney beans, rinsed well and mashed roughly with a potato masher or in a food processor

1 slice of bread, pulsed to bread crumbs in the food processor

1 egg

1 small carrot, finely grated

1-2 tbsp worcester sauce

1-2 tbsp tomato ketchup

oil for frying

Sizzle sizzle

Sizzle sizzle

Method:

  1. Mix together all of the ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon to make a wet mixture.
  2. Heat a small amount of oil (1 tbsp) in a large frying pan. Shape the burger whatever size you like with your hands and cook on a medium heat until lightly browned and the egg has “glued” the burgers together. Try not to turn the burgers too many times as they are a bit fragile until the egg sets them.
  3. Serve with salad, spaghetti hoops or (I didn’t feel guilty) just with ketchup (as they do contain veg after all!!!)

 

Golden Bean Burgers

Golden Bean Burgers

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