Thursday, 30 April 2009

A Bakefest And The Addition Of Superwhizzy Technology.

How has this happened? How has it been over 2 weeks since I last blogged? I really don’t know where the time is going. Clearly it’s been sucked away by some nearby breech in the space-time continuum or something (or maybe I just watch too much Sci-Fi?).

There’s been plenty going on around here, but not much of it particularly exciting I’m afraid. We’ve had a couple of new technological advances round at Chez Cookie the last few weeks with the addition of new mobile phones (LG KC910 Renoirs) and shiny new pooters (desk top for Kendo, laptop for me). I’m totally in love with my new phone. It’s got Wi-Fi and an 8MP camera (what more could I ask for mobile blogging? – well, I could ask that my free internet access start before my next billing date, but it doesn’t so I have to wait until the beginning of May *sniff* - but other than that, no much).

The new pooters are fab (although they’re running Windows Vista which is taking a little bit of getting used to) and they’re about to be teamed up with Virgin Media 20Mb broadband – so there should be no stopping us! (from waffling crap at you ;)).

On the crafty side of things I’ve made a couple of small project – namely little pouches for the aforementioned new mobiles and I also finished lining my SILs Scottish Widows cloak in the nick of time for her birthday present. It was a big project (stretchy cloak + not so stretch satin lining fabric caused a few niggles) and I was terrified of making a balls up of it (mostly for fear my SIL would sneak into the house and stab me in my sleep should I make a mess of it!). I have requested that next year she asks for something a little easier for her present – the gall bladders from several Amazonian pygmies maybe?

Other than those few sewing projects I’ve mostly been on a baking gig lately. I have spells where I get the baking bug (usually when I’m supposed to be on a health kick – which doesn’t really work out, I think it’s probably a subconscious backlash against the idea of a diet!). I’ve made a couple of batches of berry muffins (one with raspberries and blackberries, one with raspberries and blueberries) which haven’t lasted long enough to photograph and yesterday I was prompted by the ladies in my office to have a crack at carrot cake (not something I’ve made before, I don’t normally do big cakes, only cupcakes/muffins). I haven’t tasted it yet, but it looks yummy.

Here’s my favourite part. Little marzipan carrots waiting patiently on their icing sugar dusted plate to go on top of the cake.

Marzipan Carrots

Aren’t they sweet?

It probably seems a strange thing to do, but I remember distinctly the first time I ever tasted (and indeed had ever seen) a carrot cake. I’d gone on a shopping trip with a school friend and her Mother to the next town over from us (not somewhere I had been very often). We had lunch in a little cafĂ© and there was carrot cake in the counter display that had these little marzipan carrots on top. I remember being completely mermerised by them and amazed by the fact that you could make cake with carrots. I tried a piece and I’ve loved carrot cake ever since, so I couldn’t not make these to go on top of mine.

Here’s the finished article:

Carrot Cake

And here’s the recipe:

Carrot Cake

Cake Ingredients

12½ oz carrots
2 oz pecans
4 oz self-raising wholemeal flour
4 oz plain wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
8 fl oz vegetable oil
6 oz soft brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons’ golden syrup
Topping Ingredients
7 oz cream cheese
2 oz softened unsalted butter
2 oz sifted icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
These quantities make a 9” round cake.
Start off by grating 12½ oz carrots and chopping 2 oz pecans. Put to one side.
Sieve together 4 oz self-raising flour and 4 oz plain flour (both wholemeal) with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg and 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda. (Tip the bran bits left in the sieve into the mixture.)
Whisk together 8 fl oz vegetable oil, 6 oz soft brown sugar, 4 eggs and 2 tablespoons’ golden syrup. (Heat the spoon first and the syrup will slide off easily.)
Add this to the dry ingredients and mix until it’s nice and smooth. Stir in the carrots and pecans.
Tip the mixture into a greased lined tin and cook at 160oC for an hour, or until cooked.
For the topping, mix 7 oz cream cheese, 2 oz softened unsalted butter, 2 oz sifted icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, until smooth.
Allow the cake to cool and then add the topping
This cake will keep for a few days in an airtight container.

The recipe is from a website, somewhere, but I’ve had it in my “to try” folder for an eternity so I can’t remember where from. Maybe the Good Food Guide, or the Food Network? Somewhere like that.

On that note, it’s almost 11 o’clock, which means its time for elevenses, which means its time for tea and carrot cake. I hope it tastes as good as it looks!


Tuesday, 14 April 2009

(Hope You Had A) HAPPY EASTER!

I know, I’m a little late with the Easter wishes. We’ve had a busy, busy weekend around here – in a good way for once. We decided that rather than spend the time slobbing at home like we usually would (with the kids getting all cabin fevered and driving us up the wall) we would try and get out and about every day over the Bank Holiday Weekend. So, here’s what we got up to:


We (well, I) took advantage of not having a getting up deadline on Friday and enjoyed a bit of a lie in (while Kendo got up with the kids – hurrah). Once we were all up and about we decide we would head out to a local ice cream palour for some lunch. We’ve been meaning to go there for ages, and I was so glad we did. Fabulous, gorgeous, yummy, delicious flavours of Italian icecream. To die for. I had a scoop of kiwi and a scoop of lime cheesecake flavour in my sundae. What’s not to love. Grace informed us that we had to eat something health before we had our ice creams (I don’t know where she gets this stuff from ;)) so we were very good and had sandwiches first. Then we tucked into these:



Poor Gracie got the obligatory “ice cream headache” (there’s always one isn’t there?):


After stuffing our faces with huge sundaes we decided some exercise was in ordered so headed to a lovely little park practically next door to the ice cream place. It was fabulous there. The playgroup equipment was in good condition, the ground was clean, the grass cut and the flower beds kept nicely. We have a lot of public parks near us but they’re not always the nice places to visit that they could be so this was a lovely surprise and I think we’ll definitely be paying a return visit.







The weather was a little overcast and it started raining whilst we were at the park so we headed home for some DVD watching (Doctor Who series 2 (the first one with David Tennant in) and then my best friend (and the kid's Godmother) Paula dropped round to have a few beers and watch this (once the kids were in bed):


Saturday began with a lie in for Kendo (we always take turns on weekends like this) and then we headed off up to Nanny Winnie’s to go for a walk with my MIL, FIL, eldest SIL and her dog. I’ve mentioned before the colliery parks that we have in my town and we decide to visit another one of those for our walk. Colliers Moss Common was formerly the site of a colliery and power station but has been turned into a lovely natural walking area. There are markers sunk into the floor all the way around the park showing the way to various points of interest:


There are also some strange pieces of art dotted around the park, like this one (we’re torn between dinosaur egg or giant Easter egg (although I do think it’s really supposed to be a big seed):


Grace made herself comfy as you can see:


We’re not entirely sure what this is supposed to be either – its on a small lake were there are lots of bull rushes, so maybe its supposed to mirror those? Who knows.


There are also some nice lakes dotted around the park. The dog has a particular liking for this one:


Although Grace was not amused by getting caught up in the doggy shake’n’spray when she got out:


There was an awful lot of this going on:



Which, quite frankly, makes me a little nervous, but the kids love being up there.

We also decided we would walk to the top of here:


Which was definitely worth it for the view:


Do you think its at all possible that Gracie was sick of Mummy taking photos?

Grace Face

After that it was all over bar the sulking (because Auntie Keggy said something nice to Egg and not to Grace. Humpf! How very dare she!):


And the windmills:


We, of course, had to make sure we were back home for 5.45, because we couldn’t miss the Easter Special of Doctor Who. There are precious little enough David Tennant episodes left as it is *sniff*


Sunday morning was church and then dithering over what we were going to do for the day. We considered going up to Rivington Hall Barn, which is somewhere we used to visit a lot before we had the kids (people go up there on motorbikes all the time, it’s a huge biker hang out (that is there are a lot of bikers that go there, not that they’re all huge, well, most of them are pretty chunky, but you know what I mean ;P). A text from some friend of ours completely changed our plans though. These friends own a piece of woodland in Cumbria (just outside of Broughton-in-Furness) and we’ve been meaning to get up there to check it out for a while. They’ve been up their camping for the holidays and as the weather was beautiful we decide to just bite the bullet and go for a run up there. It’s a trek to be sure (about a 2hr drive) and I couldn’t even get my car half way up to the actual camp site (we gave up after the first rise in the dirt track where my tires lost grip and decide to walk up) but it was well worth a visit. It’s stunning countryside up there and owning their own little piece of it just makes it all the easier. They’re not allowed any permanent structure on site but they have constructed a yurt, which is camping the way I like it – wooden floor, bunk beds for the kids and a calor gas heater! They’ve also now put in a composting toilet, with a proper loo seat and everything (which doesn’t smell, at all, which I was very surprised at) and have something approximating running water (albeit a hose pipe running from their stream at the top of the hill). They have a little kitchen area all set up and a fire pit etc. It’s just a great place. The kids were in their element. Egg was overcome with the amount of sticks and rocks (his very, very favourite thing to collect) and they both had a great time splashing about in the stream (Egg wanting to dive into the small pooled part in the middle of course *sigh*). I fear holidays up there would cause havoc with my blood pressure having to watch what Egg was into but it was a fantastic day out for all of us.


What happens when you let Grace have the camera. Attractive! Not.


Egg finds (another) big stick.


The guys making charcoal (one of the ways they make the woodland work for them).


Playing on the rope swing with Elle.


Paddling in the stream. Really cold apparently. I had to man the camera so couldn’t possible have found out :P




We could barely get the kids to leave when it was time to go home. Egg holding tight onto his sticks and Gracie declaring she wanted to wait for “fire time” but we needed to get back so we hit the road around 4.30 and headed home. We were in plenty of time to stop off at Taybarns for tea on the way home though. Mmmmm. My favourite.


On Monday, spurred by Sunday’s visit to the woodland and the realisation that it was a shame we couldn’t have camped the night (on account of not having a tent!) we headed to a local outdoor shopping centre to price up a new tent and some camping equipment. It’s becoming patently obvious to us that camping is really going to be the best way to go for future holidays. We’re taking Grace out of school for a week this year while we go away to a holiday park but it’s unrealistic to think we can take her out from next year and the cost of holidays in the UK in July and August is nothing short of scandalous. So, we’re thinking we invest the cost of a year's holiday in some decent camping equipment and make next year's holidays more about regular weekends camping than about one week away somewhere.

Of course, that means that I need to get over my complete aversion to camping and the outdoor life in general. I’m mostly of the opinion that if God had meant me to camp he wouldn’t have invented Travel Lodge and the static caravan. I need to get over this and embrace the camping – and the all-week stinkiness, and going to the loo in the cold in the middle of the night, and living off food that’s got that “cooked on a camping stove” taste about it. I’m slightly afraid though that the thought of camping doesn’t horrify me quite as much as it used to. I think I’m getting old. Next thing you know I’ll be thinking about buying a caravan! Although, I did see a really nice trailer tent in the camping shop…………

We think we’ve actually decided to go for this tent. Which is a great size for us in terms of inside space and how much it takes up when it’s packed. That'll be a tale for future blog posts I'm sure.

So, that’s our Easter weekend in a very large and photo filled nutshell. We had a great time. Hope yours was good too.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

It'd Be Snood Not To.

*groan* sorry. I couldn't resist the title.

My big sister* belongs to an amateur dramatics society. This one, in fact. They're just about to being a production of Cole Porter's "Kiss me, Kate" and when she was up at Mum's a few weeks ago she asked me if I could crochet her a snood to go with her 1940s costume.

Much internet trawling ensued (as it always does when someone asks you to make something and you have no idea where to start) and I finally stumbled across this pattern, for a "Perky Snood" (how cool is that name). It contained a couple of vintage instructions, so a little more surfing to discover how on earth one is supposed to accomplish a "long treble" and I made a start.

Then there was a wedding, and a washing machine breaking down disaster, and other such pesky life things and I didn't finish it. Yesterday I realised in a bit of a panic that she needs it for Tuesday and it's Bank Holiday weekend!! Eeek!! Knowing I'd have to post it today if it stood anything resembling a chance of getting to her by Tuesday I cracked on with it last night and managed to get it finished.

Then I was struck with the problem of how to photograph the back of my head whilst wearing the thing. It's harder than it sounds, you know.

Here's the best shots anyway:

Crocheted Snood

Crocheted Snood

This is the first time I've never crocheted anything with such a loose weave pattern. Blimey. It's like juggling spagetti! I don't think I'll be trying that again for a while.

I'm still slightly dumbstruck that I've actually managed to finish something crafty. Wonders will never cease. I think I might be brave and try to finish something else before the weekend. Watch this space.


*Yes, she's supposed to blog there, and no she doesn't, well, not often enough.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

And All That Jazz.

Chicago at The Empire rocked. Totally.

I’ve learnt a few important things from the experience too:

1) I am destined to have this:

lodged in my head for the foreseeable future and must learn to live a normal life whilst continually suppressing the urge to sing it whilst shaking my shimmy in almost nothing but a bowler hat and fitted dinner jacket. I don’t think the world is ready for that sight (as discussed with Auntie Lou this morning, I’ve established that I have a 5’10 tall skinny dancer inside me screaming to get out – I can usually shut her up with cake and chocolate though).

2) Jimmy Osmond still has a lot of fans. Most of those fans still think it’s 1970-something and they’re still 16 years old. They’re not. I’m surprised we didn’t have to call the paramedics for multiple heart-attacks, or at the very least a few broken hips.

3) You should always, always sneak your own sweeties into the theatre, because the cost of them from the confectionery stand in the foyer is nothing short of outrageous, AND eating them illicitly makes them taste 100 times better.

4) It’s a shame I don’t live in 1920s Chicago. Clearly if I did I’d just be able to shoot my husband when he’s starting to annoy me and as long as I had 5 grand and a love of the spotlight I’d be onto a winner. You know he had it coming, it was a murder, not a crime!

5) The aforementioned Eastenders actress who was in it was Emma Barton, who played Billy Mitchell’s wife, Honey. She’s also the daughter of Una Stubbs. I hadn’t realised this before but as soon as she came on stage I could see the resemblance. It was a real Aunt Sally flash back!! Scarily like her mother.

I’m trying to get a tonne of work done this morning – but the intranet at work is still on the fritz so the pile of 170 UCAS forms I have to input has only been diminished by about 10 this morning. This is not good. I need to get them on to the system. I have NO filing left to do. Arrrrghhhhhh. Damn this technology stuff!

Not having work to do leaves me time to ponder the myriad of things that I need to be doing at home and haven’t yet done. As well as all the crafty plans I have I also really, really need to have a blitz in my living room (well, in the rest of my house too, but mostly in my living room). It’s a pig sty. It ain’t pretty. I still don’t know how people manage to work and clean their house aswell (unless they all sneakily have cleaners). The trouble is. I hate housework. I hate it. With a passion. I’d rather do pretty much anything than do housework. Tooth extraction? Sign me right up. Giving birth. Yup, I’d take that. Being run over by a mack truck – well I might consider washing one or two dishes before that, but if it was that or laundry I’m truck fodder. I don’t know what happened with me. Clearly I skipped that gene (my Mother is a housework fiend. She loves it. Can’t get enough of the stuff. I’m beginning to think she’s addicted to bleach. Seriously).

It wouldn’t be too bad I suppose if I’d manage to marry someone who was a complete clean and tidy fanatic. That might have evened out my messiness into a state of comfortable living. Unfortunately Kendo is worse than me (well, in some areas anyway, in some ways I’m way worse than him). We’re messy, messy people. I really don’t want to be passing this onto the kids though so we need to start getting a grip and doing something about it. Either that or hope that the “cleaning gene” skips a generation?


Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Technicologically Dependant.

Okay, so 'technicologically' isn’t really a word, but I’ve been spending far too much time with the ever expanding brain of my 5 year old lately, so I’m all about the making up words as you go along. Gracie’s latest is “magnetical”. Apparently she had a dream where everything in her room was “magnetical” and stuck to her. Magnetical. I like it. It makes sense to me.

Anyhoo, back to the technicological dependency. There has been no computer network (aka no email, no internet, no access to on network documents!!) at my work today. Arrrghhhhhh!!! It’s easy to forget how completely dependant we become on technology to get through our daily lives. I had to go a whole morning without emailing Auntie Lou (thank goodness for text messaging I say, phew) and I haven’t been able to check my work email, or my googlemail account, or my google reader list all morning. Things were so desperate that I had to resort to filing, yes actual filing, of actual paper documents, just to get me through the boredom of the morning. Shocking I thought. I knew things had gotten really bad when I took to making little models out of blu tak. The six sided die came out best. I’d take a photo if I thought everyone in my office wouldn’t think I was completely crazy. You’ll have to trust me that its good.

As its Easter holidays around here – which means no children (well, young adults in this case) in college we usually have the radio on in the office, but that was scuppered by the lack of online activity so we had to rely on CDs instead. Which CDs? Well, I’ve been listening to show tunes all morning. What disturbs me most is that I didn’t find it too hideous, in fact, I rather enjoyed it and was somewhat perturb to discover I knew most of the lyrics. Sheila Williams (my high school music teacher) has a lot to answer for I think (right April? ;)).

On the topic of show tunes. I am off out on the razzle (again – as my darling daughter informed me) this evening to see Chicago at the Liverpool Empire. Jimmy Osmond starring as Billy Flynn and some bird from Eastenders (I don’t watch it so I have no idea who she is, Emma Barton?) as Roxie. All you can eat Chinese food before the show too, so it should make for a nice evening out.

I suppose I should go catch up on some work (and check out the google reader list, I might be missing something important!).


Sunday, 5 April 2009

As Mr Idol (Billy, not Eric) would say......

3rd April 2009 was indeed a great day for a white wedding.

Our good friends Julie and Doc tied the knot on Friday. After 18 months of meticulous planning by Jules it was a wonderful day and everyone had a great time. The sun shone (thankfully) and Jules looked beautiful.

It was proving to be a pretty photo intensive post for this - so instead of individual pics I've condensed into a slide show:

The kids behaved like angels (for the most part) and Gracie looked like a princess in her gorgeous dress. It really was a wonderful day and a privilege to share it with them.

Just one more thing to leave you with then: