Wednesday, 27 April 2011

It's twins...

More new arrivals.  This time it's twins...Jimmy and Max are teeny, tiny twin Red Devons who were destined to go 'up the road' because of their diminutive size.  But instead they were offered to Handsome husband for the boys to have instead as (can I believe I'm saying this?) pets.  Max is the larger of the two, but is still only waist height, with Jimmy being around mid-thigh.  They are both fully grown and not set to get any bigger.  Apparently.

The idea is the boys get to grow up with cows about their own size and can practise handling these beauties.  They have sweet natures and seem very chilled and happy.  Darling boy is loving them and have been saying 'I'm a farmer now'  Little brother is pretty keen too and has been busy pointing at them with gusto.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Going cheap

Look who has joined the gang down at the farm...10 tiny chicks, known as 'table birds', i.e they are destined to be dinner.  Be it roasted with lemon and garlic, or eaten cold dunked in mayonnaise these chicks are brand new and currently enjoying the hot life under a heat lamp before joining the eggers in the great outdoors.

Darling boy wants to call one of them Ginger pig...Who knows why, but I say, why not?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Shimmering Simnel cake

I have never made a Simnel cake before and have only ever made one other fruit cake before.  But aprils challenge was calling and the making of marzipan spurred me on to making a Simnel cake to take to Easter Sunday lunch with both sides of the family.

For those who aren't familiar with a Simnel cake, it is a light fruit cake, with a layer of golden marzipan in the middle, and topped with a disc of the almond wonder paste, and crowned with 11 marzipan balls (to represent the 11 disciples, naughty old Judas is excluded from the party for obvious reasons!)  Traditionally you burnish the top with your handy blow torch.  I went the extra step and added gold glitter-of course- and mini chocolate eggs- well it is easter.

Making marzipan

My New Years resolution for 2011 was to do something new each month.  This month, I was rapidly approaching the end of April and hadn't met my challenge.  However, Easter Sunday presented the perfect opportunity.  I was going to make a Simnel cake, and for that, I was also going to make my own marzipan.  Now I love marzipan. Deeply.  It is delicious and I could happily eat tonnes of the golden chewy wonder food.  Those who claim not to like it are simpletons and fools.

The brilliant thing is that is really easy to make.  You just need a handy sugar thermometer and the ability to stir. Easy peasy.  Whats not so easy is the patience to wait for it to cool before sampling the almondy goodness.  You boil water with sugar, then when it has reached the soft ball stage, take it off the heat and add ground almonds, almond essence and egg white.  The results were very tasty and I will be posting soon about the marzipans destination, part 2 of Aprils challenge.

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Royal I do

Surely only a die-hard anti-monarchist, with a heart of stone would claim to be totally uninterested in the forthcoming Royal wedding.

Even if you aren't so into Royalty (is it a capital R?) the national excitement (even if its only over the free day off, and the possibility of day time drinking) is building.

Personally,I like the Royal family, the history and the role they play in our society is unique.  I like anything that gets the community together for a party. And I love love love weddings and romance. A young princess and prince, its got to be a beautiful wedding, surely? With the rumours of an Alexander McQueen wedding dress, its shaping up to be an interesting meeting of tradition and modern style.  Put the whole caboodle together and its a match made in heaven.

Anyway, the point is, Handsome husband, Darling boy, Little brother and I are all off to a street party.  I am SO excited.  Puddings have been requested as a donation, so I will of course be taking cupcakes.  The big question is how many, what flavour and what design?  Big decisions need to be made...

ps, you would be right in guessing the photo above was not taken by me (I didn't have any crowns hanging around conveniently for a photo shoot in my kitchen) instead, I found it on t'internet. Well done Google.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

This little piggy

It's nearly two months now of going local and it is still going just fine and dandy.  I only meant to do it as a one month challenge, but it felt pretty good and has spilt over into April.  I'm still hitting the local farm shops and still dodging the supermarkets.  My poor old debit card and bank balance have been enjoying the rest, and it's so much easier, as well as the local economy enjoying the benefit of our wonga instead.

I won't lie to you though and pretend it's all wicker baskets and muddy carrots.  Fresh supplies of loo roll and nappies do not materialise inside my house magically (as much as a I wish they would) but I have decided I will limit myself to a once a month hit, and the rest of the time its local local local baby.  Try it, you might like it...

Saturday, 16 April 2011

My new favourite thing

Squeak! look! isn't this lovely.  The very sweet people at The Binary Box sent it to me and it's just brilliant. Perfect for those essential messages, and for making your kitchen look all pretty.  I put it up all by myself too. My blackboard teapot wall sticker is so lovely in fact that I have chosen something else from their website for Sister in law for her birthday.  It's very cool so I hope she likes it....And when we are in our new home, I would really like this too, maybe in the entrance hall.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Surprise cupcakes

It was Handsome husband's uncle's Surprise 50th birthday party (the party was a surprise, not that he was going to be 50, I'm pretty sure he knew his age alright)

We were invited and secret birthday cupcakes had been requested.  I was happy to oblige, but nervous of having to travel with them first the 150 miles to my marvellous parents, and then on into and across London via train and tube and shanks' pony.

Anyway, logistics aside, I went for a flavour combination of vanilla on vanilla, mixed with a few cheeky chocolate buttercream iced ones as well.  For the colour scheme, shades of blue in big and mini stars and initials, with matching glitters (of course) kept it about as masculine as you can get with cupcakes (though I'm always on the look out for tiny cutters in the shapes of spanners, etc)

The cupcakes were a big success.  The party was an even bigger success, with Uncle J winning a clear award for 'Surprise birthday party candidate who was the most surprised ever'  We drank champagne and laughed and cried at his lovely speech.  Then toddled back to our hotel for a relax, before heading out for more eating and plenty of cocktails. yum.
And a final word on the cupcakes too, I don't normally go for such bright colours as the blue here on the butter icing, but I think it turned out rather handsome in the end.

Do I miss London?

When people ask me if I miss London, I always says I miss my friends and the shops (oh, and the restaurants).  But with places like this on your doorstep, really, whats to miss about the big smoke?

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The end result of 'going local'

For the last month, the supermarkets have felt the cold shoulder of my steely defiance.  I have been shopping only in markets and farmer shops.  Annoyed with the mighty power that the big four have, I wanted to turn away from their dominance and go local.

Surely, I thought, it would be fine.  If our mother's mothers did it (and their mother's, and their mother's mother's mothers), then it must be possible.

It's been good, it's been fun.  It's been cheaper and it's felt more wholesome.  I've met some lovely local folk and our fridge and larder have been 'run down' in the true spring cleaning sense of the word.

Other things I have found.  Little brother doesn't really like yummy wholesome store cupboard porridge and would much prefer weeatabix thanks.  And, unsalted butter cannot be found for love nor money.

So, here is what I'm planning...  Do all my food shopping from markets and farm shops as before.  But, for the necessities in life that farm shops don't sell, like nappies and washing powder I'm off to the Co-operative, who as a retailer, focus on quality, equality, fair-trade and animal welfare, as opposed to the cheapest of cheap food.  This has got to be a good thing.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Mammas gonna make a little shortening bread

Whilst staying at my marvellous mum and dads last week I had the extreme loveliness of having an old friend over for lunch.  My friend is someone who I went to school with.  We were the very essence of teenagers.  Mascara, black nail varnish, long long chats, and lots of laughs when we should have been concentrating in double science.

Years and years passed and the brilliant of facebook brought us back together.  My friend is still the brilliant girl she always was, only now she is a grown up lady with 2 lovely kids.   

So, cake was called for.  Cake or something biscuity.  I knew I didn't fancy making a cake (just imagine) but I also wanted to do some baking with Darling boy that was quick and didn't involve rolling and stamping out shapes.  So, shortbread it was.  It couldn't be easier to make. Because they are so plain and unadorned, you can easily pretend its not like having pudding, but some sort of puritan necessity.  However, their buttery goodness betrays them every time.