Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Easy pinecone painting

I love Autumn, crunching through colourful leaves, collecting pinecones and sticks, family walks with boots and jumpers and cosy evenings with hot chocolate and marshmallows.

The girls collected lots of pinecones last weekend so we set about decorating them. These are so easy to make and would look great hanging from the Christmas tree or in a pot by the fire.

We tried a bit of colour mixing with the paint too, which was great fun.

Beautiful, pretty pinecones.

What's your favourite Autumnal craft?

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Monday, 22 September 2014

Awesome Birthday Chocolate Cake

My little girl was 6 last week, I spent a LONG time making an Elsa cake for her birthday party, so needed something easier for her actual birthday. She asked for something chocolately, so this is what I came up with.

This is just a normal sponge cake, I usually add a bit of milk to keep it extra moist, covered in lovely fudgy icing and lots of chocolate sweets.


Sponge Cake Recipe

I just add the ingredients below to a mixing bowl, mixed till smooth, then baked for about 15 minutes.

250g Caster Sugar
250g Self Raising Flour
250g Unsalted Butter - room temperature
4 Eggs
1 teaspoon of Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
1 splash of Milk

Chocolate Icing

80g icing sugar - sifted
25g cocoa powder
50g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar

Place the butter, a couple of spoonfuls of water and butter in a pan and melt on a low heat. Pour over the icing and cocoa powder and mix well. Leave for a few minutes until it's cool enough to spread.

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A Beginners Guide to Drawing

Do you love to draw? I've got a great guest post today about pencil drawing, just the thought of it makes me feel relaxed. I might have to get it a go.

Pencil drawing can be a truly fulfilling hobby. You don’t need lots of equipment, the creative possibilities are almost endless and you can produce something beautiful. Here’s a guide on how to get started with some top tips on how to get on the road to draw like an artist.

Get the right tools
There are many places where you can pick up pencils and pastels online. You can get high quality drawing materials from George Weil who have individual pencils as well as sets. You don’t need every pencil available at first but getting a selection of five or six is a good place to start.

Choose your subject matter
You may want to try out ideas before settling on a style of drawing. Landscapes, portraits, still life and abstract are all options. Looking at past famous artists may give you inspiration and help you decide which style you prefer or suits your skillset.

Hone Your Own Technique
Do not try and be too much like someone else. Working on your own craft and being yourself will mean you produce truly original work. But it is good practice to try and recreate some existing pieces first.

Master the Basics
There are six pencil techniques to practice which will give you a good grounding in drawing which are: 
outline: draw individual lines lightly to start with to guide your sketch and then heavier to complete oultines.
Hatching: straight up and down shading technique to indicate shadow or blocks of colour.
Cross-hatching: as the name suggest this is like the above technique only crossing the lines.
Stipping: Tiny dots and dashes to shade an area giving texture.
Scumbling: This is a good technique which lends itself well to blending dark and light. Simply move the pencil in circular motion and increase pressure to illustrate darker section.

Learn When to use Which Pencils
There are plenty of guides online to talk you through your 2Bs and 3Hs. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be able to render more realistic scenes and instinctually know which pencil to use when.

Teach Yourself How to Blend
Blending means fading deeper shading into lighter and vice versa. When you master this you will be able to realistically illustrate all different surfaces and reproduce all kinds of surfaces and objects in different settings.

Look at things like an artist
Start imagining everything you look at as subject matter for a drawing then imagine how you would draw it. 

Perfect Your Proportions

One of the biggest challenges for artists is getting the proportions of a subject right. This is the space between the different elements of the composition. The trick is to reduce or increase these spaces relatively to how you are resizing the subject. This will take practice.

Practice Practice Practice
You are not going to be a pencil perfectionist straight away. Enjoy practicing and experimenting and you will quickly see vast improvements.

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Monday, 15 September 2014

Easy Baked Alaska Cupcake

Did you know this week is National Cupcake Week? We're celebrating with these super easy mini Baked Alaska Cupcakes.


125g Caster Sugar
125g Self Raising Flour
125g Unsalted Butter - room temperature
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon of Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
1 splash of Milk

Ice Cream
Mini Meringues
Any other decorations


This is my favourite cupcake recipe, they always turn out super moist and stay delicious for several days.

  • Place all the cupcake ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix at high speed, scraping down the sides every now and then.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between 12 cupcake cases and bake for about 12 minutes at 180 degrees. The tops should just be turning brown.
  • Place on a cooling rack to cool.
  • Once cool, scoop out the centre of the cupcakes and fill with ice cream.

  • Top with a mini meringue and warm melted chocolate.

Super simple, and just a bit special.

This is my entry into the #BettaBakeOff with Betta Living spotted on Foodies100

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Sunday, 31 August 2014

The best crisp sandwich

I'm not the biggest fan of crisps, in fact I much prefer chocolate, but there's something about a crisp sandwich that always appeals.

I remember lying on my bed as a child eating salt and vinegar crisp sandwiches whilst reading book after book. 

I had all kinds of big sandwich plans when I read about the Tots100 competition with Seabrook, but as usual time ran away with me, however I do think a crisp sandwich needs to be simple, so here is our ham, cheese and crisp sandwich. Simple, but awesome! It's also made from leftover party food, so saving waste too!

This recipe is an entry into the National Crisp Sarnie Week competition with Seabrook crisps
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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Easy Rock Cakes

Z wanted to make some rock cakes after watching Junior Bake off. I'd never baked or eaten rock cakes before, and to be honest they'd never really appealed to me, but they were delicious, especially when fresh from the oven, the texture was lovely and they were just sweet enough.

We made half a batch of fruit and nut flavour and half a batch of white chocolate flavour. They were very simple to make, perfect for young children wanted to try their hand at baking.


225g/8oz wholemeal self-raising flour
75g/2½oz caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
125g/4½oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
A couple of handfuls of crushed nuts and raisins or chocolate chunks
1 free-range egg
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 180C and line or grease a baking tray.

Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the butter till the mixture looks similar to breadcrumbs.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg, milk and vanilla extract.

Add the egg mixture to the dry mix and stir well. It should look like a thick lumpy dough, you can add more milk if needed.

Add your nut or chocolate, and stir again.

Split the mixture up into golf ball sized pieces and place on the baking tray, leaving a good space between them.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden-brown.

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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Top 3 recipes to keep you warm this winter

I know it's still Summer, but Winter will be here before we know it, so I'm very happy to be sharing these 3 great winter warming recipes today in this fab guest post. All the recipes sound delicious, especially the hot chocolate.

Even though we’re in the midst of summer, it’s never too early to restock your trusty recipe book with a series of winter warmers. From wholesome cottage pies to Sunday dinners, there are various taste tantalising dishes to choose from.

Muffin-topped winter beef stew

On a cold winter’s evening, there’s nothing more inviting that a warm winter stew. It’s also a great dish to make if you’ve decided to invite a small gathering of people around to your McCarthy and Stone, house as it’s a recipe designed to feed many mouths. It’s also a healthy option that uses a number of seasonal vegetables.

Ingredients (makes enough for 2 adults and 2-3 children)

For the stew

500g braising steaks, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with pepper and a little salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
450g carrots cut into chunks
2 large parsnips cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp sundried or regular tomato paste
300ml extra stock
450ml vegetable stock

For the topping

     225g plain flour
     3 tsp baking powder
     140g low fat cheddar, coarsely grated
     2 tbsp olive oil
     150ml low fat milk


Heat the oven to 150°C. Toss the beef in seasoned flour and heat a little oil in a casserole dish. Brown the beef in batches and set aside.

Add 2 tbsp of water and the onion to the pan, stir well and lower heat, frying gently for ten minutes.

Add the carrots, parsnip and bay leaf, fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the beef and the tomato paste then bring to the boil. Cover and cook for 1-2 hours or until meat is tender.

For the topping, sieve flour and baking powder into a bowl and add half the low fat cheese. Mix milk and olive oil and add to flour to make a sticky dough. Spoon over meat and vegetables and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until golden (around 15 minutes).

French Fish Pie 

A fish pie is an alternative to a meat dish, yet still makes a great warming winter dish.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1kg trimmed leeks
40g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 fillets of skinned haddock loin
150ml dry white wine
300ml low-fat crème fraîche
50g fine white breadcrumbs without crust
2–3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan


Halve the leeks and finely slice into half-moons. Soak them in cold water, then drain. Heat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6. Melt butter in an ovenproof pan to fit the fish fillets snugly, stir in the leeks, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.

Add the wine and simmer briskly until the leeks are juicy but not wet. Pat the fish dry and lay it over the leeks. Cover the fish with crème fraîche then breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is crisp.

Caribbean hot chocolate

This recipe will instantly warm the cockles and when using dark chocolate, it boasts a number of antioxidant benefits.

Ingredients (serves 4)

800ml almond milk
125g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tbsp soft dark-brown sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
approx ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
4 tbsp grated plain chocolate


Place 200ml of the milk in a saucepan with the cream, chocolate and sugar. Slit the vanilla pod along its length and remove seeds. Add the seeds and pod to the milk. Heat, stirring a little until smooth. Add the cinnamon and the rest of the milk and bring to the boil. Add the nutmeg, remove from the heat and allow the flavours to meld together (approx. 20 to 30 minutes).

Whip the cream and stir in the dark-brown sugar. Reheat the chocolate milk then remove the vanilla pod and cinnamon stick. Pour into glass mugs or heatproof glasses and top with grated chocolate. 

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