Wednesday, 30 March 2011

'Bills that were big enough to be Williams'

The clearest thing I have noticed so far about 'going local' is that our shopping bills are so much smaller than before. Tiny in fact.   For weeks one and two and three, I have spent a quarter of what we spent for the equivalent weeks the month before...and we have still eaten, and well at that too.

Though I never bought ready meals before and have always cooked from scratch (though obviously jars of pesto and fish fingers do not count) I think maybe it is that the farm shops simply have less to sell than the miles and miles of supermarket shelves.   Less to choose from simply means less to buy.

Perhaps it is the different surroundings as well as the reduced choice that sharpens your awareness onto the things you actually are picking up and putting in your wicker basket/hessian bag (...I know) as opposed to flinging stuff into the trolly and paying by card.  

I know some people can be put off by shopping at farm shops because of the perceived extra expense, but its not always dearer (a word my wonderful grandma would have used)  In fact sometimes you can even bag a bargain, and do a local farmer or shop keeper a favour too.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Little Brothers birthday

It was Little Brothers 1st birthday this weekend.  We can hardly believe he is now one year old. Amazing.  He is such a cool little man, very smiley and he had a brilliant time at his party.  He managed to squeeze in a record 2 sausages, 2 strawberries, 1 crisp and a piece of bread all into his mouth at the same time, like a hamster.

We had the usual party fare, and as usual, all the cake and biscuits were gobbled, and naturally most of the sandwiches remained.  After all, under fives definitely have their priorities right.  Sugar first, vitamins second.  

I was pleased to have sourced everything from local shops and managed to continue my going local campaign.

Little brother had chocolate cupcakes, and lemon cupcakes, with a secret home-made lemon curd filling. And centre place was Little Brothers very first birthday cake, a two tiered duck cake, iced in yellow buttercream icing and complete with eyelashes and a baby duck.

A brilliant time was had by all, prosecco for the grown ups and running around outside for the kids.  Perfect.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Probably the sweetest cupcakes in the world

Dinner with the girls tomorrow night calls for a lady-like cupcake and a flicking through the Love Bakery recipe book, the fragrant Rosewater cupcakes seemed to be the one to go for.  They are light and girly, as well as super, super sweet.  The recipe called for a cream cheese and rosewater frosting which you would think wouldn't be as sweet as a regular buttercream icing, but you would be wrong.  It's somehow sweeter.

They are delicious, but definitely call for a cake fork, and how happy am I that mine can be put to good use.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Darling boy in the wide green space

I love this photo.  Darling boy and all that wide open space from the top field at the farm.  Exactly what you need for boys who are basically like puppies.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Darts Farm and chocolate cake

Marvellous mum and I treated ourselves to a trip to local foodie shopping mecca, Darts Farm with the boys recently.   We oohed and ahhed over the lovely things, we mooched and meandered around the food hall and, most importantly, we stopped for lunch.

I was able to take advantage of the lovely food hall and stock up on a few essentials (bacon, cream, and a very tasty local blue cheese)  And Darling boy was able to take advantage of the Darts Farm cafe comprehensive cake counter.  As with all battles between cake and toddler, the chocolate cake was a worthy adversary, but it was a child's devotion to chocolate that won through.

Little brother looked on in wonder, but is still too little for cake (though ask again next weekend, at his 1st birthday party and it will be game on)

Friday, 18 March 2011

My new milkman

One of my main ambitions for my 'going local' challenge was to find a milkman.  With two bambinos at home, we go through quite a lot of the white stuff, and finding a good, and local, source was going to be key to my success.  Dairy farmers have always had a raw deal from the supermarkets and it's only been getting worse for them.  So supporting a local dairy was important to me.

Luckily one of my chums at bell ringing was able to recommend her milkman.  They are a great dairy, and produce their own milk, cream, butter and yoghurt. What could be better?  I've also asked them if they could make me a huge batch of unsalted butter every now and again.

Apart from a less than clever first start (the milkman waking up our next door neighbours, the heros looking for our front door)  It has been plain sailing ever since.  I remember having milk delivered when I was a little girl, and it's just great.  So convenient.  I just have to go to my front door- and there it is!

So, people everywhere, find your nearest milkman and embrace him.  Buy his milk, support your local dairy and keep him in business.  If you don't know anyone already with a milkman, try asking in your local farm shop, or you can try websites like   Or you could always ask your friend at bell ringing practise.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The cupboard is bare, well almost

Pre-going local challenge, and our fridge was almost always fairly full and the larder and freezers likewise, but now, something rather curious is happening.  We are actually eating all the food that we have had stored away for ages.  And something even more magical is happening... I strongly suspect with all the tempting produce in the farm shops, we are eating more fruit and vegetables. Shhhhhh, don't tell Darling boy!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The second's getting better

So, I have reached the end of the second week of 'going local'.

This weeks spend was £47...Even more impressive than last weeks bill.  So, okay, things we are running short of may start to be in issue later on in this month, ie dishwasher detergent and nail varnish remover (both essentials to me, as my refusal to waste any time doing washing up when the clever robot can do it for me, is in equal proportion to my love of nail varnish.

I'm still enjoying discovering new farm shops and market stalls that pop up in towns nearby selling colourful veg and fruit - usually with a cheeky grin and a devonshire quip.

My new favourite farm shop is in Tiverton, The most lovely Landrake farm shop, is run by the even lovelier Mary.  I'm hoping to make a weekly trip there part of our new shopping habits.

Ok, so some things aren't great about only using local farm the unsalted butter I bought which went off 2 days later, to the new milkman who woke up our neighbours, the homing heros at 5:45am (more about him later!) but on the whole, it's still proving to be a change for the better.

Monday, 14 March 2011


Handsome husband and I celebrated our 11th anniversary this week and to mark it, I wanted to bake him something tasty and chocolately, but with a minor nod to healthiness (I know, not always two qualities found together in the world of cake)

Anyway, a trawl through my memory found something that might fit the bill.  Good old Nigella (how I heart her) had a recipe for what she called blondies...Basically, an oaty (and therefore, healthy) bar, stuffed with condensed milk, sugar, butter and chocolate.  The idea is to slightly undercook them to give them a squidgy, brownie like texture.  And oh dear, they are very good.  Though I think they might be more accurately (and rudely) called collar and cuffs, as the chocolate sinks to the bottom (in both mine and Nigellas-natch)  Still, I'm not complaining, who doesnt like a chocolately bottom, hoho.  Ok, rudeness over now.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The shape of things to come

This sight and site will not be exciting to anyone, apart from those in search of retail bliss in Devon.  For this is where the new John Lewis is going to be arriving.  Squeak!

When people ask me what I miss from London, top of the list is obviously my friends, then the food, theatre and art, and then the shops.  How I love the shops.  And it has been a very sore point that Exeter has no John Lewis.  I know, just imagine.  So, it is isnt any wonder that the possibility of John Lewis arriving down in the South West has been early anticipated and much gossiped over.  From bar maids to cleaners, to stall holders to hairdressers; it seems every one has the insider info about when and where...and now it has finally started its rebirth, like a big beautiful phoenix rising from the ashes of an empty old building.  This is one girl who is really rather excited.

nb, for those who have no idea what or who John Lewis is (really?, just imagine!)  John Lewis is the department store to end all department stores.  It only sells what is worth buying and is full of beautiful shiny things.  In a bleak and depressing world, sometime we just need a bit of shineyness.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Home made bagels already

The variety of things I'm making for us at home is increasing.  Darling boy and Little brother are both very partial to a bagel, and the boycot of the supermarkets has meant I need to become more adventurous with what I am making from scratch.  I've said before, I'm devoted to my bread machine, but don't often use it for use the dough setting, but decided to give bagels a go, and was surprisingly delighted at the results.  They have a genuinely bagel-ly flavour and nice texture.  Bring on the smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Vintage cake forks

Sweet tooth was asking if I ever found any vintage cake forks, after I was lusting for some a while back...Well, I did managed to find some, in South Molton market and then I was also given another set at christmas.

You can just about see them here in this photo of chocolate fudge cupcakes.  So pretty and oh so very lady-like.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The end of week one of 'going local'

At the end of the fist week of supermarket dodging and 'going local' I can proudly say it has been brilliant.  

No frustrating, boring twilight time lost in the vortex of Tesco, dragging the kids up and down aisles they don't want to be in, being tempted and brainwashed into buying things we probably don't need, no popping for a couple of essentials and accidentally spending £60.  Just simpler shopping (well, there is less to choose from) and nicer shop keepers.  It's more fun, more interesting produce, it's quicker and there is all the benefits of supporting local businesses.  Hooray.

To top is all, the cherry on the locally produced cake is that it has been massively cheaper.  Here are the figures...This weeks shop came to £67, compared to the first week in February when I was using the supermarkets as normal, which cost an eye-bulging, puke inducing £205.  For me, this second figure says something quite telling about my consumer behaviour in supermarkets.  Perhaps it is,'I consume, therefore I am'  God, I hope not.  I think it might be more along the lines of George Mallory,  (I bought it)...because it was there'

Though 'going local' can have its drawbacks (more of which soon) the bottom line is the massive saving of nearly £150 quid (don't tell Handsome husband though, he will blow a gasket that I was spending that much before!)  It feels good to know that, instead of lining the pockets of the big 4 for another week, I have instead been going local and supporting local producers, shop keepers and farms instead.  Right on sista.

Here is to the next 3 weeks

Monday, 7 March 2011

More delicious vintage cake accessories

Our trip to the racecourse car boot on Sunday was surprisingly successful.  Mostly I'm impressed that I managed to not lose Darling boy in the crowds and not bring back a boot full of rubbish. A solo parent trip to an exciting place full of brightly coloured plastic toys lying invitingly on blankets on the ground is some kind of 'Its a knockout' style parenting challenge.  Fantastic behaviour meant one toy each for Darling boy and Little brother were purchased, and after a luxurious bath in fairy liquid they are the new favs in our household.

But for me, I managed to seek out these very pretty cake tongs.  I love them and can't wait to use them.  

I would have included photos of the boys new toys, but its a simple fact that they just aren't as lovely...

Friday, 4 March 2011

Not cake, but jewellery.

It was half term last week and as Handsome husband had some time off, I popped up for a mini-break in the Big Smoke.  It was fabulous.  Handsome husband said I should have some time off just to myself (as he is a super husband) so off to London I went for some serious girly time.  I saw my wonderful old friends and their new babies, had beauty treatments and shopped and shopped and shopped.

I am devoted to both Mac makeup and Shu Uemura  Their colours, pigment strengths and quality are second to none...and neither of which you can buy in Devon.  I miss being near to their shops and so to lounge in the luxury of the Mac pro shop just off Carnaby street and the Shu counter at the marvellous Liberty was pure heaven.

As well as treating myself to a serious refresh of my makeup bag,  I also popped along to the Alex Monroe counter in Liberty.  This darling ring caught my eye and I fell in love.  It's so silly and quintessentially english, its the mad hatters tea party in jewellery form. Perfect.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Use your (spiced and fruited) loaf

Yesterday I made this spiced fruit loaf which, quite frankly, was totally delicious.  We ate almost half the loaf in one sitting, eaten warm from the oven and smothered in butter.  We renamed it 'Pirate pudding' for our Darling boy and had it at tea-time as he is so pirate mad at the moment.  It was so tasty that I made a second today to give to our Homing Heros.

I must confess it was made in a bread maker (I love my breadmaker, I have had it for nearly a decade and it's still going strong) but I'm sure you could make it using your actual hands, kneading it and waiting for it to rise, and knocking it back and kneading it again, etc, but who has the time for these shenanigans when there are such inventions as bread machines and Sex in the City DVD box sets to watch whilst the children are napping?

So, here is the recipe, it's basically a loaf of hot cross bun loveliness, which is just dandy in my book.  The recipe is adapted from 'Bread Machine Easy' by Sara Lewis

Makes 1x 750g loaf of spiced loveliness

200ml water
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter at room temp
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
425g strong white flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fast action yeast
150g sultanas
50g chopped candied peel

Chuck it all in the machine in the order listed.  Choose a sweet loaf setting on your trusty machine.  Sit back and relax (remembering to add the sultanas and peel when your machine beeps at you)  When it is done, bring 2 tablespoons of water to the boil with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Anoint your loaf with the sticky goo and sit on your hands till it's cool enough to slice and eat.

Handsome husband and Darling boy had theirs with honey, whilst Little brother and me went the simplistic route of just butter and a big smile

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Day two of 'going local'

Not really needing anything, but keen to check out what the coming weeks had in store, I popped along to the farm shop nearest to Darling boy's playgroup.  I've been there before on a hunt for seville oranges and knew what I was likely to find.  It has nice looking fruit and veg, a meat counter manned by a butcher straight from Central Casting (ie, jolly, rosy-cheeked and a local man through and through)  I managed to come away with a wicker basket of chicken paupettes, leeks, fruit, cornish brie, some eggs and some lovely daffs, as spring has finally sprung.  Proper job.

...and ps, check out Darling boys brilliant hat made by himself at playgroup, as my Cruwys Morchard chum said, ' Philip Treacy eat your heart out!'

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Breaking free of the supermarket chain

Inspired by watching The Peoples Supermarket on telly and knowing what I know about how cruel supermarkets can be to the farmers they exploit, and the consumers they brainwash, and also being annoyed at how I give Tesco half our monthly income, despite the poor service and quality, and not forgetting their general evilness, I have decided to cut them off. Cold Turkey. For the whole of March I will not be buying anything in any supermarket.  Just for a month, to see how it goes.  If its bearable, likeable, or even wonderful I hope to continue.

Now to some, who tra-la-la from grocers to butchers each weekend with a wicker basket in hand, this might not sound like all that much, but for me it represents a stand and a big change.  With two small children and Handsome husband who works 7 days a week, and me with a cupcake business to run, time is short and precious. However, I shall join those who protest against the wicked ways of the big four.  I will take up my wicker basket and cast aside my clubcard.  Women ran family homes quite successfully before there was such a thing as supermarkets, so surely it can't be all that hard?

I will be buying all my veggies and other foods from farmers markets and farm shops.  A chum at bell ringing has recommended a local milk round (how exciting) I make our own bread, biscuits and cakes (duh, obviously) Eggs and meat can come from the chickens at the farm (and the freezer full of lamb and pork given to us by the farmer how rents the grass off us for his Houdini sheep)  So that is food pretty much covered.  I must confess to a slight cheat, I stocked up on coffee and nappies (life's essentials)  But apart from that, Tesco and their wicked brothers shall feel the coldness of my shoulder.  

I will let you know how I get on.  It already feels very liberating knowing I will not be spending any twilight time lost in the identical aisles of our local supermarket...though slightly nervous at how much time it might take once I start tra-la-la-ing with my very own wicker basket (and yes, I do have one, and yes it is lovely)

Wish me luck!