Wednesday, 3 December 2014

How to make an ambulance out of cake

My nephew went to Coventy University in September to learn/train to become a paramedic, he's wanted to do this for a long time.  I was asked to make him an ambulance for his 18th Birthday (21st May 2014), here's my belated post about how I made his cake.

I started (as always) by googling "ambulance cake" and taking a look at what other people had made, my inspiration was this one 

Here's my version:

 



I made several chocolate sponge cakes and cut them to a basic shape Then glued the layers together with chocolate buttercream and covered the entire cake in buttercream. Then covered the cake in white icing - this bit was tricky, I did it in two parts the front cab and the back were 2 separate pieces of icing.

Then I added window (cutting out the shape from the white icing and replacing with black icing), making the wheels and bumper (black icing) and then adding the rest of the ambulance logos:

Eat Your Photo

The checkerboard and the logos were printed onto edible icing - and ordered from Eat Your Photo - you send them a file with your images and they'll print and send them within a few days, I just googled for the images.  I've been really impressed with their service.  You cut the pieces to size, wet the back and stick onto the cake. 

Here are the finishing touches:




I then added some blue lights, wing mirrors and a number plate JACK 18
Unfortunately I didn't get any pics of the back - which I did in the traditional chevron style (but it wasn't as neat as the front).



Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Misheard lyrics: Dons "Big Fun"

This is a 90's dance track, one of those that you'll hear and say "oh yes I remember that" - but you might have seen the title to this post and gone "who? Eh?"

I heard it at the weekend, at the time I was dancing around the kitchen rocking my 3wk old baby to sleep and singing the chorus.

The chorus (to me) went like this..."we're having meatballs"



(Scroll in about 46secs for the chorus)

Apparently these aren't the words of the chorus (says Mr Lisa) the lyrics are, "we're having big fun"

I much prefer the carniverous lyrics.


Monday, 6 October 2014

The birth of my baby boy, Sam Vincent.

This time last week I was in early labour at the RVI, I'd gone in on Sunday 28th September to be induced, being pregnant for 39weeks +1 day.

I'd also built up this fear of induction, reflecting on the last time labour was induced; to give birth to my dead baby (Ellie) and I was over-thinking things too much...

I was also concerned about "what ifs" - what if the drugs they used didn't work - I didn't want to have the intravenous drugs (known to cause rapid, more painful contractions and with a higher risk of requiring other interventions).  On reflection, these concerns were about control - if things didn't go "smoothly" then I wouldn't feel in control and that (for me) meant danger.

My birth plan was simple (I thought) - no epidural, no forceps, no c-section (unless there was a significant risk to my/my son's health), I'd accepted every drug offered to me during the delivery of Ellie and this time I refused everything (except gas & air) to ensure that nothing would compromise the health of my baby and I needed to hear that all important "cry" as soon as he was born, compared to the silence when I had Ellie. 

I did seek help and support from the SANDS forums and Janine Rudin - an extrodinary woman, who has helped me over the last 18months or so....She gave me the support and reassurance that I could re-think the negative "what ifs" into positive "Cans" - positive statements to confirm what I can do: I can ask questions, I can use breathing techniques to relax, I can listen to my body, I can move around etc...And focus on the ending I'd been visualising; laid in the hospital bed with my baby on my chest.

I was induced at the RVI hospital in Newcastle, along with 4 other women, and was happy to be in the same ward - this was 'normal' practice with a positive outcome, and I wanted as much normality as possible.

Looking rebellious after escaping
I was weighed on the day, 88.9kg (13stone 13lb) - a pleasant, unexpected surprise (I thought I might have put on more in the last few weeks). Treatment began at 11.40am, at 12.30pm I was allowed to get up and move around, permitted to walk around the hospital but not to go off site....so we went off site.  I felt so naughty, I'm never usually a rebel and tend to do as I'm told.  My hospital wrist band and surgical stockings were visible but I didn't care.  We went to M&S near Haymarket and sat at the cafe near the bakery section and had a slap up lunch, chicken & bacon ciabatta, Carl had a steak sandwich.  It was brilliant!

We returned to the hospital for a check up around 2pm, by this time I'd felt some mild contractions but nothing regular, nothing to worry about.  Back at the hospital regular contractions began at 3pm, every 10 minutes.

Sam's Progress (heartrate & kicks)
My remedy was to listen and dance to music - I'd put together a collection of dance music, stuff with a good beat that I could shake/sway/wiggle my hips to stood at the end of the bed (the curtains were drawn), and Carl had a nap.  I felt that if I was actively dancing around then the baby might start moving in the right direction

At times I was put on a monitor, with 2 elastic belts around my waist, monitoring our baby's heartbeat and I had to use a clicker to record his kicks, his heartbeat was regular and steady and his kicks/movements were normal too.


The next drugs were due around 5.30pm, but as I'd progressed enough (2cm) my waters were broken (not painful but it caused a big gush of fluid, I was surprised at how much).  After this I had to stay on the monitor until a delivery room was ready.

At 7.10pm I "graduated" from the induction ward to a delivery room (on my own), the other 3 women on the ward weren't there yet, and this made me feel positive - my labour was progressing well.  By the time I left I was contracting every 3 minutes for about 45 seconds at a time (typically 4 in a 10 minute period).

Everytime I heard a cry from a baby on the corridor it reminded me why I was there - reassurance of the positive ending - a crying baby :-)

I remember being introduced to another midwife, her name was Ellie, they asked if that was okay?  I thought it was because of her name, but then realised she was a student - and they were asking if she could observe.  My birth plan said no, the midwife Lyndsey also realised what my birth plan had stated and we said no.  They were fine with this.

I told Lyndsey that I would fully cooperate with her, I'd listen to her and I'd work with her during the pushing bit as I really didn't want to tear or be cut.

The next parts were a bit blurry (I didn't make notes, as I'd been doing until now) I was too distracted by contractions and focussing on my breathing.

The last time I remember being checked was 9.30pm, initially I was stood up leaning over the bed leaning on a pilates ball during contractions, and breathing "calm and relaxed"as I went.

There was screaming across the corridor, other women in labour going through the pushing bit - some seemed to be screaming forever, I didn't want to be like that.  I just told myself that they were having a bigger baby than me.  It seemed that as soon as the screaming stopped you'd hear a wail from a baby and then 20mins later another woman would start screaming in agony...

I ate pieces of "power flapjack" - a recipe I'd got from the CycleHub last year for their cyclist's flapjack (full of oats, honey, peatnut butter, fruit & nuts) and I covered it in chocolate too for good measure.  And I drank lots of water, and also High5 cycling energy drink.

I had Air "Pocket Symphony" and Kate Bush "Aeriel" playing on a bluetooth speaker - calming songs to help me relax.

I made sure I went to the loo every hour, at each visit the contractions were increasing and I gave myself a pep talk in the mirror - to keep me focussed, to remind me to breathe and to tell myself that this is what it necessary to bring me my baby.

The last toilet stop I remember was 11pm.
I kneeled on the bed in an upright position, Carl massaging my lower back (& when his hand got stiff, he used a tennis ball we'd taken in).

I was offered drugs - I refused. Just gas & air.

My baby's heartrate was monitored during later contractions, no change - almost textbook.

I'm sure I could feel him wriggling in there too whilst I was experiencing the pain of labour, and I knew that he was alright.


During strong contractions I sometimes got my breathing technique mixed up with breathing the gas and air and I'd panic, which would cause me to tense me up, and I had to tell myself to stay "calm and relaxed"

I got to a point where I couldn't stay as calm and relaxed anymore, things were at the point of no return, my calm and relaxed breathing now had a noise, me crying out in pain - which I felt were pretty calm compared to what was going on across the corridor (but you'll have to check with Mr Lisa about this, as I can't remember how loud I got)

I reached the point where I needed to push and I moved into a position where the midwife could check things (to make sure I could push) and at this point I was staying like this, on my back.

I'd forgotten about how to do the pushing bit, and the midwife explained this again.  During the contraction I pushed - like I was having a poo, sometimes the contraction wasn't long enough.  When his head was there - I was asked if I wanted to touch his head, no I didn't, I wanted him out, I wanted him alive, I wanted to hear him to cry.

Minutes after birth - how I'd imagined
The pushing took 15minutes (that's quite quick they tell me).

Once his head was out the rest of the body followed, it felt incredibly strange all of that long body going through me, it seemed to take forever and I think I gasped in horror, like I could see my insides coming out of me, of course they weren't - this was my baby - but it was quite a shock.  With Ellie, I didn't want to see her birth, and I had a cushion over my knees to shield the view.

At 1.15am on Monday 29th September 2014 I heard it.

The cry. The cry of our healthy baby boy.

Alive and well.
Our baby was put on my chest, skin to skin - where he immediately did a wee on me.

No cuts, no tears, no interventions, just grazes - a small price to pay for a beautiful baby boy, with long gangly arms and legs and big feet and hands.  Shovels for hands as my dad would say.
 

Monday, 22 September 2014

My name on a biscuit...


I went to a www.cakepoppins.co.uk class yesterday - yes she makes amazing cakes, cakepops and cupcakes but she also runs classes so you can learn some new baking/decorating skills for yourself.

Yesterday's class was using royal icing to decorate biscuits, something I wish I'd done pre-St Basil's Cathedral.

There were 5 of us on the class, Kate had baked the biscuits and so all we had to do was, watch, listen, have a go and r-e-l-a-x.

No one was able to roll the greaseproof into the piping bag shape, something I'm sure I could master after watching it repeatedly on YouTube - so Kate made all of our piping bags.

The first part was to pipe the outline in stiff icing, remembering not to pipe too close, then flood the biscuits (piping runnier royal icing onto the biscuit) up to the outline - using a cocktail stick to spread it.

Kate told us which biscuit to work on and the colours to use - a bit like "paint by numbers" and we all followed, this was helpful for me because it meant that I could concentrate on getting the techniques right before having to worry about picking colours.

So when we'd worked through the teapot, the dog, the duck and the fish, we could do some of the other shapes (circles, hearts, stars and choose our own colours!

This was most challenging part of the class for me - so many pretty colours to choose, but what if they didn't look right together and what kind of pattern should I do - so many variables to worry about un-necessarily. Kate's solution to a crap looking biscuit was to eat it! A helpful tip.

Talking of helpful tips - the class was full of them: getting the consistency of the royal icing right, mixing colours, choosing royal icing, feathering, flooding, dropping, storing royal icing and getting the colours looking vibrant.

I've done the macaron class and the cakepop class, both of which were equally excellent and strangely relaxing once you get going. Classes are small so you can ask lots of questions and you get to take loads of tasty treats home!

See: http://cakepoppins.co.uk/Classes.html for classes/dates/prices

Monday, 28 July 2014

Allotmenting whilst pregnant

Although I've not been posting regularly about my allotment, I've still got my allotment and am still 'doing' it.

This year I've done 90% of the work and Mr Lisa has done the other 10%.

Being pregnant is no excuse (for me) to stop, I'm fit and well, the baby is active and well and because I was digging/weeding/picking/planting/sowing before I became pregnant then it's perfectly safe for me to continue (I'm still spinning & walking up/down the escalator).

For the early part of the pregnancy (until about 18wks) I haven't really had to do anything differently.

As my bump has grown I've had to listen to my body, and adjust things accordingly.

Before 18wks:
I'd dig a patch of ground with a fork, turn it over, bend over and pick the weeds out, non-stop until it was done.

Now:
I dig a patch of ground with a fork, I squat down and pick the weeds out (wearing gloves) and if I feel the (normal) gentle muscle/ligament stretch across the lower part of my belly I'd slow down or sit down for 5mins with a drink.

Generally my weeding/sowing/planting position has changed, mainly because bending from the waist squishes my (growing) belly and soon causes that muscle/ligament pain.

So I'm mostly on my hands and knees (kneeling on a knee pad) using a handtool and wearing gloves to pick/remove weeds, or squatting.

There are some things I can't squat down for, like picking peas, picking climbing french beans, filling the watering cans and digging potato plants but I'm just *careful* about how vigorously I do these and I listen to my body.

My allotment still isn't perfect and I know it never will be, but it's keeping me active and when I have dinner and see that all of the veg is homegrown I feel proud.

30wks pregnant.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Experiments: St Basil's Cathedral


Cakebook 2014: St Basil's Cathedral

      Experiments: St Basil's Cathedral

      Once some of the decisions had been made I cracked on with the towers - I'd decided that using dowels would be too tricky, they'd need to line up perfectly, no room for mistakes and the cake would be stacked in layers, which wouldn't be very strong and a wobble in the car might cause cracks, so then I thought about making the towers portable - taking the base, transporting the towers and putting them on at the venue, but that meant that the towers would have to fit perfectly and we'd still be hoping that they wouldn't topple over on the day and the decoration on the towers might come off if the towers were laid on their side in the moving car.

      Then I wondered about swiss rolls, making swiss rolls.  I've made them before - but they're never even and they always unravel - they're tasty enough and easy-ish to make, but I couldn't commit to doing 8 perfect ones and the cake in the base too, but that didn't stop me thinking that shop-bought swiss rolls might be a better, more structurally sound alternative.

      I began with mini-rolls




      I tried mini-rolls first of all, I skewered 4 together and wrapped them in icing.  It was a pain to do because the chocolate kept droping off the mini-roll and then when I'd finished wrapping it in icing I realised that I should have covered the mini-rolls in buttercream first (to help the icing stick).

      Another problem with the mini-roll was that the joins between mini rolls weren't strong enough, so as soon as the skewer was removed I'd get cracks....I decided that mini-rolls were not the cake to use here, so I unwrapped them and ate (some) of them.


      So I moved onto swiss rolls, the family sized ones - 15inches (ish) long and 2 1/2 inches (ish) wide - these were much better, with a longer roll lightly buttercreamed and covered in icing there were no joins and I didn't need to have a skewer in it either.  I made one and left it to harden, which helped it even more.  I also thought that I could try a bit of piped royal icing too, just to see what my current efforts were like - pretty rubbish I can tell you.  And that was whilst the tower was laid flat, I needed to get the hang of piping on a vertical surface...

      I told myself that I still had enough time (about 3weeks) to practice my royal icing skills, and used youtube and help/tips from my friend Cake Poppins.  I also found out that you could buy a piping nozzle which had more that one hole in it, so rather than stuggle to pipe 1 line at a time I could do 2, 3 or even 4 lines, if i bought the nozzles, which I did!!

      Domes/Onions

      St Basil's Cathedral has 8 towers, each tower has a dome, 4 small and 4 large domes - we needed something that could be put on the tower that was fairly lightweight and that we could decorate.

      Fondant icing & Flower paste (like fondant but sets ROCK HARD) - easy to mould and get the basic shape, sets hard but felt it might be too heavy.

      So tried rice crispies & marshmallows (a friend at work told us how good they are for creating shapes/moulding/scuplting.  I found a recipe that was quick and simple and and had a go....Woahhhhhh, how sticky does the mixture get!!! My hands were covered in a sticky mess.  So washed them, put on latex gloves and tried again, woahhhh still too sticky, so I tried again with the gloves but coated my hands in olive oil - much better - but I wouldn't want to eat it after that.  I got a good enough shape and it set pretty hard but it really is a pain in the backside to handle, and and still probably a bit too heavy.

      We also considered the option of using the dome made from icing - covering it in clingfilm and covering it in rice crispy/marshmallow goo - but it didn't seem to work so well.

      Then with about a week to go we decided that we'd see whether a cakepop might work...What's a cakepop? Ask my good friend Kate who runs CakePoppins holds classes and she'll actually teach you how to make cake pops - small bitesize cakes (cake crumbs & buttercream) on sticks covered in chocolate and decorated up - if you're too lazy to learn you can always buy some from her - and they are bloody delicious too.

      A cakepop is a small thing like the size of a golf ball - I don't think that it's recommended that you do anything larger because the weight of the thing wouldn't hold to the stick, but we were desperate and we weren't putting it on a stick, it was more to sit on a flat tower, so we gave it a go.  We decided that we'd make a batch and if it failed miserably at least we'd have something nice to eat.

      So we made up some mixture, made one (at the size we wanted) weighed it, and then made the rest exactly the same weight.  Chilled them in the freezer for a bit and melted some chocolate.

      We decided that dipping the cakepop in the chocolate might not be ideal as we didn't want to fill the white chocolate with brown chocolatey crumbs, so we took the messiest option of pouring the chocolate on top of each cakepop.

      As you can see - it was best to cover the worktop in greaseproof and have something that the cakepops could drip through, I admit that they weren't very evenly covered, but we decided that we'd coat them in coloured fondant icing anyway so you wouldn't see the bumpy lumpy bits.  And the beauty of cakepops is that once they're covered in chocolate they'll keep really well (for about 10days) if they're in a cool spot (cupboard/fridge).

      You can paint the chocolate, but we didn't have time to experiment with that...

      Also, you may notice that there are 5 small domes in the picture below, we did enough for one small spare (knowing that it would be ours to gobble after the event - as I said, cakepops are delicious!!)
       


      So we decided that cakepops were the way to go, they were probably even heavier than the icing and the marshmallow things, but we'd reached a point where we just decided to stick with this and keep everything crossed that they wouldn't cause any leaning/damage to the towers.  Plus they would be transported and added to the cake in situ.

      After they'd been covered in chocolate all we needed to do was decorate them in really bright colours - just like the cathedral

      Actual domes (Image from http://www.kiddroof.com)



      Icing covered half-finished domes
















      Planning: St Basil's Cathedral

      Cakebook 2014: St Basil's Cathedral

      Planning St Basil's Cathedral

      Mr Lisa was very concerned.  He took on the burden of "Engineer" as he always does, even without volunteering.  His role was to find all of the tricky bits in the original building and work out how to make them work (stand upright without any assistance: cardboard boxes, batons, skewers) using the medium of cake - he's a purist and passionate about it too. If you're building a building out of cake it should be entirely made from cake, none of this cheating with boxes covered in icing...He likes the challenge, and by removing the amount of cake essentially removes the challenge for him.  And even though we have serious discussions about how busy we both are, we actually really enjoy the planning, experimentation and the actual building process.
      Plans, blueprints, other versions (in cake)

      And we had a few challenges to deal with:
      • How are we going to do those towers around the outside, all 8 of them?
      • How are we going to do those towers around the outside AND transport it 8 miles without any structural damage?
      • How are we going to do the massive tower/spire in the middle?
      • How are we going to do the massive tower/spire in the middle AND transport it 8 miles without any structural damage?
      • How are we going to do those onion shaped domes on each tower?
      • How tall are we planning to make this?
      • How are we going to find the time to do all of this?
      My thoughts were taken up with ideas about what shortcuts and decorations I'd like to try, and googline for "St Basil's Catherdal cake" - there are quite a few results, which was good, because it told me that it was possible!


      I wanted to get started on experiments, on practicing piping royal icing into pretty patterns, on baking cakes (to freeze) on trying to create a lightweight dome rather than deciding how big to make the beast.

      We found "St Basil's Cathedral" floorplan was very useful too - helping us to work out the shapes and size.  Mr Lisa was able to do some photocopying/enlarging and selotape it together to produce our blueprint (actual size floor and side views).

      And then I could experiment!!

      Cakebook 2014: St Basil's Cathedral

      As an aside, before I tell this story I like to note that Basil is Lisa spelt backwards with a "b" at the start.  I didn't realise it at the time when I choose to build St Basil's Cathedral, but my unconscious mind may have helped the selection....

      This story is broken into smaller bite size chunks which makes for easier reading...

      Cakebook 2014: St Basil's Cathedral
       
      Earlier in the year I got an email about Cakebook 2014, pitched as Cake Planet - cake-buildings from across the world...Soon after a list was circulated of buildings on offer...Soon after that I seemed to find myself replying with a "yeh, I'll do it - put me down for St Basil's Cathedral" and then June crept up before I knew it.

      Saturday, 28 June 2014

      1yr today since I had Ellie

      But today wasn't a sad day, I've been building the best cake i could ever make as birthday/remembrance cake for Ellie (it's #cakebook2014) it's not quite finished but we're getting there - the big event is tomorrow.

      I don't want to feel sad either, I've got a little wiggly baby inside my tummy. His kicks and wiggles are the last thing i feel before I sleep and the first thing I feel the next day - how can I feel sad? :-)

      Tuesday, 24 June 2014

      Cakebook update...

      Things may have seemed quiet with regards to me and cakebook, but no I'm paddling like hell under the surface. I've left it until late on to do my prep, practice and panicking.
      I've got excuses of course, but excuses don't change things.
      So I'll share my progress, and celebrate what has been done (so far).

      I'm building St Basil's Cathedral - that 9 towered dome topped colourful delight in Russia - out of cake

      That fancy Cathedral in Russia with the domes
      (image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Basil's_Cathedral)

      Progress:

      1. I have blueprints, a floor plan and a side view (thanks to Carl, the photocopier at work & lots of sellotape)
      2. I have saved myself some time (& headache) by buying 8 Swiss rolls for the towers - they're in the freezer
      3. I've made the domes from cakepops (cake crumbs & buttercream moulded into shapes, chilled and covered in white chocolate - see www.cakepoppins.co.uk for her brilliant cakepop classes)
      4. I've made 3 big rectangle cakes, a 12-egg /600g recipe 
      5. I've got a cakeboard, my dad cut me a piece of wood 24" x 20" - yeh, it's pretty big.
      6. I've got icing, Teddy bear brown they call it - it doesn't look like enough, so I've ordered more!
      7. I'm teaching myself how to pipe icing on a vertical surface using tips from my cake maker friend www.cakepoppins.co.uk blogs and YouTube videos, this includes folding greaseproof to make a pipingbag!
      8. I've designed the icing patterns on my towers, I thought I should do this in advance so I know what I'm doing and the towers look relatively similar and consistent.



      I think that's about it so far, I still need to:

      1. Bake another cake
      2. Make more buttercream
      3. Cover my cakeboard in foil
      4. Remove my Swiss rolls from the freezer cut them (or ask Carl to cut them)  octagonal, buttercream and cover in icing and pipe on the icing.
      5. Remove the other cakes from the freezer, cut to shape, buttercream together and cover in icing.
      6. Make the central tower from cake and marshmallow rice crispy cake mix.
      7. I could do with another copy of the floorplan (so I'll trace this and cut it out tonight).
      8. Dome decoration
      9. Some idea of how I'm doing the buildings in front of the towers, I haven't a clue just yet.

      I have Friday afternoon off work and most evenings this week to crack on. Ideally I don't want to be faffing too much on Saturday morning with it.

      See this and other wonderful cakes on Saturday/Sunday 28th & 29th June 2014: Tea & Cake Planet (food stalls for non-cake eaters) 


      Sunday, 18 May 2014

      Let's hear it for the boy!


      This is my new facebook cover picture, as of 18th May 2014.  I've had a woodland full of bluebells for ages now and I think it's time to update it, and also make a subtle announcement at the same time that I'm pregnant (again), do you think this is subtle enough?

      I've been reluctant to talk about it on social media as I wanted to get passed the date where we lost Ellie (she died at 19wks, I didn't know until a routine 25wk appointment), so 19wks was The date I wanted to get passed.  Now at 20 weeks I feel comfortable about talking about it on social media.

      So yes, I'm 20weeks pregnant and we're having a BOY and we're both really pleased and are looking forward to welcoming him on/around 4th October (my mum is especially pleased as this will be her 2nd grandson, the other one is 18 next week and she has 4 granddaughters (including Ellie).

      I'm feeling fit and well and he's growing well too, I've been having extra scans/check-ups this time (some for medical reasons and others at my request (for my peace of mind)), the hospital have been really supportive, whilst I've cried at every appointment - with worry, then relief as I've seen the little heartbeat on the scan images.

      We found out he was a boy on Friday and so I went out and bought him a green dinosaur (which Mr Lisa has taken a shine to) and a babygrow in neutral colours.

      I should have known really, my sister named last years bump as Vinny (until we found out it was a she and that had to change to Vienetta) and this year my sister has called it Dotty, so she'll have to come up with something else.

      Sickness lasted for about 8 weeks (less than last time) and I craved (& drank gallons of) banana flavoured milk for the first part of the pregnancy.

      At the scan he was looking comfy in there, moving around, holding his feet (the little show off) and almost smiling.  I'm feeling stronger movements every day and kind of know when he's awake/asleep.

      He has a habit of sitting on my bladder, usually as I begin my spin class, which I've been doing since October last year and have carried on doing it once a week.  I'm really enjoying it, but am noticing that the bump will eventually slow me/stop me from going, which will be a shame.  I'm reviewing things week by week.  I've been continuing to work at my allotment, planting, weeding, digging and my body tells me when to slow down/have a rest.

      I've made a paper bird for every week we've reached and have written little messages in ones where I've had a scan etc.  I plan to make a mobile out of them, I've seen pictures online and things in pinterest
      A bird for every week of pregnancy

      I'm still sticking to the rules I set last time that I won't change my profile pic to one of the kid and I won't dress him up in clothes that makes him look like an animal, when he's old enough and decides he wants to - that's fine.
      I won't dress my kid like this, unless he asks me to

      Keep your fingers (& toes) crossed for us that we get to meet our little boy, safe and alive and healthy and well in October.  I'm positive this one's going to hang in there for us :-)

      Thursday, 15 May 2014

      The best injection & filling from a dentist I've ever had

      I use a NHS dentist in North Shields, it's a 15min (or so) drive from home. It's not the closest to where I live but it's the one that was accepting new NHS patients at the time, like me. I've been going for about 3 or 4years after leaving a private practice (the dentist I had there looked like Simon Pegg) and they charged a small fortune.

      Today I had a filling, one to replace the temporary one when an old one dropped out earlier in the month.

      Before we began she asked about reactions or problems, I said no to reactions but I didn't really like needles.

      She delivered the injection gently, as in, I didn't feel the needle go in or feel the stuff in the needle go in either, or the needle come out and I've never had that from a dental injection before, Impressive!

      Then as she actually did the filling she talked through each part,  "now we build up the layers....and one more layer...." which I thought was really interesting, as well as reassuring.

      I don't particularly enjoy going to the dentist but this experience was very pleasant (as far as dentist appointments go) and I think that's all down to the dentist and I've got a good one. Thank you!

      Wednesday, 7 May 2014

      My bank holiday weekend in photos...


      Friday afternoon

      Spent the afternoon off work, so I went to the allotment and planted and weeded...
      Saturday morning

      Whilst eating Crunchy Nut Cornflakes I noticed something rough on my tooth, I took a picture of my tooth and noticed - it was broken!!! I rang for an emergency appointment, but it wasn't swollen/painful so they told my to eat soft food, on the other side of my mouth & put this temporary filler on it.
      Saturday morning

      I covered this blanket box, it used to belong to my great uncle.  He died a few weeks ago.
      Saturday afternoon


      I baked a cake, and managed to burn my arm on the oven shelf. The cake tasted nice though
      Sunday morning

      I went to the allotment, was waiting for someone to leave so I could park up, and they reversed into me, "I'm sorry I didn't see you there" was what he said. Fortunately his insurance company contacted me on Tuesday morning to sort things out.
      Monday morning
      I made this for my niece's birthday cake (I'm making her cake on Friday).
      Monday afternoon
      Image from http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk

      I drove to Newton-by-the-sea to enjoy a friends birthday celebrations, and pick up Mr Lisa, he'd cycled up there.
      Created with the HTML Table Generator
      And then on Tuesday I went to work. The End.

      Friday, 11 April 2014

      A big day out (for 2 baby pigeons)

      Before I start I should give you a bit of an explanation here, so you know that I'm not completely barking mad....My brother has racing pigeons, and so does John - the bloke with the allotment next to mine. Last year my brother and John met and agreed to breed each other 2 birds for each other, the pigeons my brother bred for John we're delivered (by car) about 3 weeks ago. Early last week my brother got the nod that the 2 birds John bred were ready. John offered to drive half way to meet my brother, but my brother knew that I was visiting at the weekend and thought it would be easier if I took them.

      I did explain to my brother that I would be coming on the train, they'll be fine (he said), I'll be taking them to work I said, they'll be fine (he said). And so it was agreed.
       
      I picked the birds up on Thursday after work, I popped to the supermarket (left the birds in the car) and brought them home. They stayed in their box in the porch all night.

      In the morning they came to work, I put the box in a bag, mainly because I can carry a bag with 1hand and also not to draw attention to myself. I did get a few funny looks, but no one asked "what's in the box". I got to work okay and put the box in a large cupboard.

      I sent an email around the team so no one got a fright when they went into the cupboard, a few people wanted to "have a look" or take photos, because "you never see baby pigeons" I put some water in a dish I took, and put it in the box for them.
      On the metro


      I left the lid off the box and stretched a hair net over, so they had some light, could see out but couldn't escape (they couldn't fly).

      We had a long chat at coffee about pigeon racing, testing my knowledge of how I think/remember my brother and dad doing it and how pigeons race, the younger ones race on their stomachs and older ones back to a mate. I must have sounded like a geek, but my dad and brother have been doing this for over 15years, it's hard not to notice.



      On the train
      It reminded me of school, when you had to talk about "My interest" and you could take something in to show (a sticker album, a rubber collection, a pet) people in your class could ask you about it and then you'd do a write-up afterwards.

      I left work earlier and headed to the station, back on the escalator, on the metro and settled them onto the train to Kings Cross and we enjoyed the train ride to Northallerton (about 50mins).

      My brother in law picked me (& the birds) up from the station and dropped me at my mums.

      I think they enjoyed the adventure, I think I did too.

      Thursday, 10 April 2014

      Before I've even seen it "The Great British Allotmenteer"

      I haven't seen the show, I've seen the trailer & the entry information, but here's my thoughts on Great British Allotmenteer. I may end up watching it and love it....

      I have an allotment, about 1mile from the north sea coast, near Earsdon (North Tyneside).

      Mr Lisa tells me about a new "Great British" TV show/amateur competition for people, they get a plot of land (somewhere down south) and over about 8 weeks have to grow veg/flowers and make stuff.

      Do I want to enter the show?
      Certainly not.

      And here's why:
      1. I have an allotment, I can't just leave it for 8weeks to take on a new plot for a competition and I can't give it up for the sake of a competition (there's over 100 people waiting for plots on our site).
      2. I have about 10yrs allotment experience from growing veg in a northern climate, all those competitors who live nearer to the site would have an unfair advantage.
      3. As well as having an allotment to continue to maintain, I have a full time job, so popping down to the competition site (100+ mile drive) isn't my kind of fun.

      I've enjoyed the other "Great British" shows, bake off and sewing bee, but with allotment - you're going a bit too far. Nice concept but you're alienating anyone who manages an allotment (on their own) and lives 100+ miles of the competition site.

      Sunday, 30 March 2014

      Fondant Fancies (Baking goals for 2014)

      At the start of the year I wrote a list of things that I wanted to bake & make in 2014, at least once.  The list included: choux buns, macarons, fondant fancies, corned beef pie etc...

      Anyway, I decided to make Fondant Fancies in March, and followed the BBC Good Food recipe (Mary Berry) - which was fairly easy to follow, there were a couple of issues:
      Fondant Faff-ons & Mr K (the mixer)
      • with the sponge - it was slightly wonky on the edges so when i cut my squares i needed to trim off a bit extra
      • putting buttercream on the sponge squares, because the cake was so fresh it crumbled
      • dipping the covered sponges with fondant icing - just messy
      • letting the icing covered sponges set - dripping fondant icing (good job i put a sheet of greaseproof underneath) - messy
      • putting the finished fancies in a tin, they didn't really set - messy
      There seemed to be quite a lot of parts to making them, sponge, marzipan, buttercream, icing chocolate finish and the last few parts were messy.

      All in all, I was glad that I'd made them, but they were a bit of a messy faff on.
      I'd eaten that many bits of offcuts and "testers" I didn't really want any, so my colleagues were treated to Loopygirls Fondant Faff-ons.  They got the thumbs up.










      Thursday, 27 February 2014

      Making my dream come true (Peach Melbas)

      On Tuesday night I dreamt about making peach melbas, and so today I decided to make that dream come true.  I don't have a recipe, I just guessed, basically it's peach slices on a pastry case covered in whipped cream covered in icing.

      My ingredients:

      • M&S sweet pastry/tart cases
      • double cream
      • fondant icing sugar
      • peach slices
      • peach food colouring (I used yellow and orange)

      Method:

      1. Whip the cream with a bit of icing sugar so it was really stiff
      2. Sieve the icing sugar added water (a little at a time) and coloured with food colouring and then you're ready to construct it all.
      3. Lay 3 or 4 peach slices in the pastry case
      4. Pipe cream over the peaches into a dome shape.
      5. Spoon over the fondant icing sugar, so it drizzles down.
      6. Stand back and admire
      7. Eat.
      The first two were pretty ugly (fugly).
      1st attempt at a homemade peach melba


      I ate one of them, to make sure they tasted alright, which they did.

      Then I made some changes and made one last one: I made the fondant icing really really thick, I made sure the whipped cream wasn't too stiff, I didn't pipe the cream on I used a spoon instead & smoothed with a palette knife and as before I drizzled the icing on, turning the tart case as the icing covered the cream.
      My beautiful (homemade) peach melba

      And the last one was perfect!

      Unlike the dream I had enough ingredients for me & Mr Lisa - so that was nice :)

      Wednesday, 26 February 2014

      Last night I dreamt about peach melbas

      Last night I dreamt about making peach melbas, but ran out of stuff & couldn't make one for me or Mr Lisa. And then I woke up with Shania Twain "That don't impress me much" in my head

      Sunday, 12 January 2014

      Allotment planning for 2014 - seed sowing timetable

      I need to have a plan of what needs planting and when for each type of vegetable I grow, otherwise I forget, sow late and have a poor yield.  My vegetable list is generally the same and it's only the dates that really change, so I've created a template in excel to use and reuse each year, just changing the dates.

      Here it is:


      It's not very sophistcated, which is perfect.  And mutliple dots on one line next to each other generally remind me to plan something during these weeks (rather than something every week). And again, this is tailored to the space I have in my allotment, the fact that there's only 2 of us to feed, what will freeze, how long things will stay in the ground for and experience of the climate up here (NE25, about a mile from the coast.

      I don't include cucumber, aubergine and peppers - because I buy these plants direct from the seed company, and all I need to do is have the greenhouse ready to receive them when they're delivered.

      I'll have a printed copy at the house so I know where I am, but I'll put the actual date I planted things on the sheet.

      Obvioulsy it all goes to cock when I book in my summer holiday - not just for the date I need to sow seeds, but what's been sown recently - because they need babysitting (& are usually packed off to my father-in-laws), so I'll have to adapt or change things to fit in, which is pretty normal anyway.


      Sunday, 5 January 2014

      Things I'd like to try and bake in 2014

      If I don't make a list then I'll forever be saying, I might, whereas if I do a list I'm more likely to do it, and if I stick it on my blog then I'll have everyone to answer to, not just myself :)

      So here's a list of things that I would like to make/bake in 2014 (in no particular order):

      1. Fish/Game Terrine
      2. Fondant Fancies
      3. Meat Smoker (I have most of the bits)
      4. Meringues (that are perfectly white)
      5. Choux pastry
      6. Coffee cake (that tastes of coffee and not just coffee-ish)
      7. Courgette Chutney (I made it last year & it was beautiful)
      8. Christmas Cake toppers (I made some at a www.cakepoppins.co.uk class and want to make some for this years cake)
      9. Bakewell tart
      10. Corned beef pie
      11. Chiffon cake
      12. Treacle Tart


      Wednesday, 1 January 2014

      2013 - I give it a 7 out of 10

      2013 has been a year that I'll never ever forget. 
      A rabbit on a sledge & a snowman
      • I fell pregant straight away
      • I found a starfish in the rockpools near Burnham (on holiday)
      • I saw seals in the harbour at Eyemouth
      • I won The Gingerbread House Challenge 2013
      • I won a fancy dress prize at Panic Room, 2013 for my costume
      • At work my secondment was renewed for another year
      • I bought my first cashmere jumper (& I love it)
      • I lost weight
      • I found spinning to be quite enjoyable (& go weekly)
      • I had a really productive allotment year
      • I really loved being pregnant & feeling excited about being a new mum.
      • I baked quite a few decent cakes for family and for cake club
      • I'm proud of my mum who's lost over 3 stone this year - she's amazing!
      • I had a lovely relaxing weekend at my friends in Cirencester
      • I finally started some craft projects (embroidery) and finished them!
      • I made mask that looked like a fox (for a party) and I was pleased with my efforts
      • I have been in good health (so have my nearest & dearest)
      • My mum & dad came to visit me (my dad's not visited me for ages)
      • I had dinner in the restaurant in the Baltic
      • I ate razor clams for the first time and loved them 
      • I felt so proud of my sister, who gave up smoking (& I felt we became close this year)
      • I joined a new secret 'canapĂ© inspired' eating club
      • I learnt how to make punschrulle - thanks Lauren
      • I learnt how to temper chocolate, how to scuplt icing into a snowman and rabbit, how to do needlefelting, how to crochet, how to make a patchwork cushion
      • I saw my friend & sister in laws 1yr olds learn to walk and talk
      • I visited Edinburgh for my birthday and had a fantastic time
      • I'm so lucky to have such wonderful, kind, loving and thoughtful people in my life; my husband, my family, friends (near and far), colleagues, friends-of-friends, people on twitter I've never met and NHS staff.
      And despite you know what, I still feel I enjoyed 2013.
      So I'm giving 2013 a 7 out of 10