Saturday, 23 March 2013

Clandestine Cake Club: Life is Sweet, The Bridge Hotel - 18th March

I was like a kid in a sweetshop last Monday night, Newcastle Clandestine Cake Clubs's theme was Life is sweet, with cakes inspired by sweets and confectionery.

Eti's Kitkat Cake

Our gathering was held at The Bridge Hotel, one of Newcastles best real ale pubs, located next to the high level bridge. A pub? you ask, yes a pub, but The Bridge Hotel supports and encourage local groups to use it to hold meetings and events, knitting groups, pie clubs etc, and tonight was the turn of cake! It's one of those pubs with little snugs and divided off areas which meant we weren't in full view of the rest of the pub goers, and it was quiet too. Their friendly staff kept us topped up with drinks, teas coffees, or something stronger for others and we reciprocated in cakey loveliness.

The bakers arrived, the cakes were set out. The smells were amazing.  From a chocolatey snickers cake to the fresh strawberries on the strawberry cake, the floral scent of violets (parma violet of you hadn't guessed) my minty aero cake and more.

I'm always wowed by the efforts our bakers go to to present and finish their cakes, Eti's kitkat cake wouldn't look out of place in a Parisian patisserie window, it was spectacular!

The full cake list (& a selection of mobile phone pics - apologies for these)

Left to right (along top)
Eti's Kitkat Cake
Melanie's Rhubarb and Custard Cake
Iona's Fruit Salad Cake
Lauren's Sherbet Lemon Cake
Lisa's Mint Aero Cake
Richard's Sherbet Fountain Cake
Helen's Strawberry Cake IMAG0092
Leanne's Chocolate Cherry Cola Cake Leanne's Chocolate Cherry Cola Cake
Sharon's Snickers Cake Sharon's Snickers Cake
Emma's White Mice Cake Emma's White Mice Cake
Lindsay's Jazzies cake Lindsay's Jazzies Cake
Front centre: Sheetul's Coconut Cake, surrounded by Kitkat cake, Snicker's cake, White Mice cake (top left), Jazzies Cake Sheetul's Coconut Cake
Top: Kate's Violet Cream Cake
Bottom: Hannah's Daim Bar Cake
Hannah's Dime Bar Cake

    We welcomed more new members, Helen, Hannah, Emma and Lindsay who found out about CCC by the website, friends or existing members and re-welcomed our regulars.

    And as with all Newcastle gatherings we just spent the evening mingling, chatting about other local CCC events, other local food clubs and events (see Local Foodie Events this spring in/around Newcastle) and eating cake until our bellies ached (in a nice way).

    There was more than enough to be shared at the end, keeping us going until the weekend (at least) with more for the bar staff.

    And when the sharing was done, everyone (yes everyone) got stuck in and helped to tidy up, clearing away plates, wiping tables, moving furniture and returning glasses and cups to the bar - a proper team effort - thanks everyone!

    Thanks again to The Bridge Hotel for hosting us, all the bakers (& guests).

    Next Newcastle gathering: May (exact date to be confirmed)
    Location: cafe in Ouseburn area
    Theme: Here comes the sun, keep an eye on website for booking form

    Thursday, 21 March 2013

    Foodie-Happenings around Newcastle March/April

    I love good food, eating it and making it - and I want to share all of the foodie events I know about which are happening in or around Newcastle (taking part, buying, eating, learning etc).  There's always plenty to get involved in.

    I'll tag these posts as 'Foodie-Happenings' and tweet them when there's something new.
    If you want me to share any foodie events - email me (or add a comment to the page)


    Clandestine Cake Club

    A social gathering involving cake - baked and eaten by the attendees.  Meet up in a secret venues across the North East.

    Newcastle Cake Club gathering, May 2013 (date to be confirmed) - confirmed by me on twitter

    The Boiler Shop Steamer

    A new monthly food, drink & entertainment event held at The Boiler Shop, Robert Stephenson Centre, Sussex Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 3PD

    First event: Friday 5th April 2013
    Twitter: @steamerevent



    Private Pie

    Similar to Clandestine Cake Club except with PIE, secret venues, tasty themes and bakers can make sweet or savoury pies across Newcastle.

    Next event: Sunday 24th March
    Twitter: @private_pie




    The Sick Children's Trust, Big Chocolate Tea Party

    A charity event aiming to raise money for The Sick Children's Trust held at The Grainger Market on Saturday 20th April 2013 - selling chocolatey baked goodies.
    How to help: Bake something chocolatey for the event (& take it along) or BUY something chocolatey from the event.  Or do BOTH!


    Event Date: Saturday 20th April 2013
    Twitter: BigChocTeaParty

    There's also a fantasticly funny Charity Comedy Night on Monday 29th April at The Stand Comedy Club, raising money for The Sick Children's Trust - and there is a food-related link, Seymour Mace has baked at a Clandestine Cake Club! 


    Cakebook 2013

    Newcastle Gateshead's popular EAT Festival returns in 2013 (24th Aug - 8th Sept) and includes the amazing Cakebook event - a cityscape made from CAKE (Monday 26th August)
    Website for cakebook:

    Website for EAT Festival:
    Twitter: @EATNg


    CAMRA 37th Newcastle Beer & Cider Festival

    The place to be for real ale - yes, Newcastle's annual beer festival returns!  It's held at Northumbria University Students Union,  Sandyford Road,  Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8SB.  Always provides a wide range of local and national real ales and ciders.  There is a fee to get in, but you get a glass and pay for beers using their simple token system.

    Dates: Wednesday 10th - Saturday 13th April 2013
    Unofficial Website:

    Hinnies & Rascals

    Newcastle's own baking club, meeting in venues across Newcastle this gathering and welcomes all baked goods, sweet, savoury, individual, portions, pies and cakes.
    Their next event isn't yet advertised, but follow them on twitter
    Twitter: @GasMarkFour

    Monday, 18 March 2013

    Easy peasy patchwork workshop at Made Cafe, Whitley Bay

    Last weekend I spent  Saturday morning at Made Cafe Whitley Bay on their Easy Peasy Patchwork workshop, a craft I've fancied learning how to do for ages.

    When I arrived I had no idea where to start with creating a patchwork object. Choosing fabrics
    and in only 3hrs I'd created a patchwork cushion. 
    Easy Peasy Patchwork - DONE


    Couldn't I just teach myself?

    Yes I've got craft books with instructions, but I learn better by watching and applying, under the close supervision of an expert, so if I do make a mistake I'm made aware of it when I've done it, not right at the end and realise that I need to undo the last 20 steps to correct it.  And when that happens I lose heart and give it up as a bad job.


    Class size

    There were 5 of us on the course, all of us arrived as complete beginners. It's nice with a small class, we get to ask Jeannie anything, she can dedicate her time to us all, equally and you get to bond with the other attendees too.

    The workshop

    The pattern was already designed so all I had to do was choose materials, cut pin, sew, iron, cut, sew, pin, iron, cut pin, sew and iron until it was all done.  Jeannie explained the technique, joining short sides together and building up in size.

    The hardest task was choosing the fabric, Jeannie had so many lovely patterned fabrics to choose from, I settled on a handful of muted aqua/turquoise colours and started...after joining 4 squares together it started to resemble patchwork, and as it grew it gave me more pleasure.

    When I'd done the first 6 pieces I reassessed my fabrics, and decided that my muted tones needed a lift so swapped in a couple of pieces, their patterns contained a few pops of red and really lifted the piece.

    If you read my previous post about Embroidery done cool you'll know that I find freeform difficult to grasp, preferring to stick to a plan otherwise chaos could ensue (of course it won't but try telling the perfectionist in me), yet with patchwork I could easily see what was needed to lift my cushion and it felt natural making changes to my original fabric selection to make it work. Quite liberating, and not difficult at all.

    Jeannie shared a few shortcuts with us, like joining two fabrics together before cutting them to size, I say cut, most of the time we snipped and ripped - easy peasy. And using a rotary cutter and mat to cut fabric - it was just so easy, how have I never had a go with one before? It was the first thing on my "must order from Amazon when I get home" list. There were scissors and card templates for those who wanted them, and magic pen - it writes on fabrics like felt pen but fades in air (also on my 'must buy' list).

    As always there was a lovely cuppa coffee and slice of cake (lemon drizzle) to help keep the creative juices flowing.

    By 1pm we'd finished the front of the cushion, the easy peasy patchwork bit, just needed to find a piece for the back of our cushion, stitch it on, stuff the cushion in and stitch the top up.
    As I stuffed the cushion I felt a real sense of achievement and by the end of the workshop I was beaming with pride.

    I used to say, I wish I could do that now I can say, I CAN do that!

    Made cafe takes you from novice to not-so-novice in 3 hours. You get to make something from start to finish, Jeannie is always there to help, whether it's giving advice on fabrics, guiding you around the pattern and which pieces go where, sharing her knowledge of where to buy equipment or filling the spool on the sewing machine.

    What I learnt:

    • Try to have a colour palette in mind before starting, aqua and red was mine (which I'd seen combined recently on Blueberry Park blog)
    • Don't get too hung up about fabrics choices too soon - keep an open mind to the possibility of change, normally I find this quite difficult, but in this workshop it felt easy and necessary.
    • Patchwork isn't always about cutting hundreds of regimented shapes,
    • Having a basic pattern helps you stay on track (especially for beginners)
    • Don't let the cutting out be a chore, use as many shortcuts (snip & rip, rotary cutters) as you need.
    • Iron your seams as you go
    It is possible to create something simple but beautiful in a few hours.

    I've seen how to make a basic cushion in a few hours and can see how the basic pattern could be repeated as blocks and joined together to make a quilt, a blanket or even a bigger cushion...

    Since finishing the workshop I've give my mum my cushion as a mother's day gift (& both her and my sister were suitably impressed, as were my facebook and Twitter friends), I've also ordered a rotary cutter, a cutting mat and cutting template and eyed up a range of fat quarters on Elephant in my handbag and My Fabric House.

    Learn how to do it yourself...

    The next easy peasy patchwork is on Saturday 29th June, visit the website & book your place and whilst your there, take a look at the cushion on the website - look familiar? :)
    places are limited so book yours today - recognise that cushion?

    Choosing fabrics The pattern My favourite new toy
    The first pieces - joined together Adding another piece Re-thinking the fabrics...
    Nearly there The back of the patchwork block Easy Peasy Patchwork - DONE
    Visit my flickr page for the set: Easy Peasy Patchwork workshop at Made Cafe
    Creative Commons Licence
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Wednesday, 6 March 2013

    Fashion trends I don't understand: Pandora bracelets

    I just don't get them.

    Why all the fuss?

    To me, they are just metal bracelets with metal beads threaded onto them.  Oops, my mistake they're CHARMS not beads.

    These charms cost about £15 each and they're not even made of precious stone/metal.

    They look pretty but not to warrant paying a small fortune for one.

    No, I can't see the attraction and won't be buying one. Ever.

    Tuesday, 5 March 2013

    Wallington Hall & Gardens made me cry

    For a while now I've doubted the existence of red squirrels, mainly because I've never seen one, everyone I speak to has and I've wondered if this was a joke or conspiracy.

    Of course I can google for images, videos and the like, but that's not the same as seeing one in the flesh. Alive.

    So last week I asked Simon, a  colleague and volunteer ranger for Northumberland National Parks, where I should go to see a red squirrel. He promised that I'd see them at Wallington Hall - the bird hide, they're all over the bird feeders.

    So on Sunday we went.
    Wallington Hall & Gardens, National Trust property, North of Ponteland onthe Scotland road.

    We'd been sat in the bird hide for a good 30mins, spying the Chaffinch, Bluetit, Great tit, Coal tits, Greenfinch, Greater Spotted Woodpecker (I think) and Pheasants have good go at the bird feeders, the pheasants were picking up scraps off the ground, not clambering on the feeders.

    We were about to move on, disappointed that these squirrels were either non-existent or just waiting until we'd gone, when I glanced over at a wood pecker feeder, a mesh box filled with peanuts & hinged lid attached to a tree, and saw something.
    A bushy red tail.
    I looked at Carl, did you see it? Yes, he looked and smiled (he's seen one before).
    And then it scampered around the tree, sat on the feeder, opened the lid, helped itself to peanuts and sat and nibbled them.

    Squirrel image from Wikipedia
    Not the squirrel I saw, but very similar - this is from wikipedia
    I tapped the lady next to me, looking out the front window, and told her. She was excited and told her husband (who had the camera), who told the other bird hide couple. And we all watched the squirrel.

    I didn't take pictures. I sat and watched and got so overwhelmed that I cried. It was one of those moments I'd been waiting for and then it happened. It took my breath away and I was overcome with emotion.

    Silly old bint, I know.  We watched it feed and followed it back up the tree. On the other side of the hide, another red squirrel was doing the same thing at another feeder. Two red squirrels in one day! Amazing. It was the best £7.50 I'd spent.

    And that's how Wallington Hall & Gardens made me cry.