Friday, 26 May 2017

The Mad Hatter

You know me from old... What do I do in probably the most stressful week I've had this year, the week when I am making my brother's three tiered wedding cake? I decide I need a hat to wear to the wedding of course, and if that wasn't last minute enough for me, I decide I need to make it too!

I armed myself with a glue gun, some cardboard and trims plus a £1 charity shop black skirt and set to work. I found a great youtube video (one of those occasions when you just love the internet!) and in no time at all I had the basics. But it needed more and required another outing to a well known hobby shop which was a welcome break from the endless icing sugar and fondant coating my kitchen. An hour and a half later I returned with glitter and feathers. Just what every girls needs (the burlesque dancing has obviously gone to my head!)

And ta-dah... I have a hat!

It is a themed wedding... Alice in Wonderland meets festival all in steam punk style. There will be a Mad Hatter's tea party and dress code is optional fancy dress.

I didn't want to go all out fancy dress but I am dressing up, with the queen of hearts lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. I actually finished my dress a couple of weeks ago (even I couldn't cope with last minute late night sewing). So my hat is a mini topper with sparkly hearts. I like to think it is subtle... but who am I to judge! I'm hoping once I've done my hair (and freshened up the colour with a lilac toner... I can't believe how quickly it has faded) and put on some slap it will look half decent!

I'll be back after tomorrow no doubt with more photos of the party and to show off my dress. And of course there will be the big reveal of the cake, which thankfully is also finished, with a whole day to spare... get me! Do you want a sneak preview...

There is steam punk edible lace and lilac roses... amongst other things.

Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Miss Gina von Teese*

It probably would never have been on my bucket list but when my soon to be new sister-in-law announced that we would be having a burlesque dancing lesson as part of her hen night, it was another thing I'd never done before that I knew could be added to my sixty by sixty list.

We were told to bring high heels and a feather boa with us. You may be surprised to learn I don't have a feather boa, although I do possess a boa type scarf which I thought would do the trick. And high heels... Well I have them but do I wear them? Certainly not since the incident of the ditch in the night time! But entering the spirit of the event I brought them along anyway...

However, as you can see I was seriously overdressed (yes, I'm the old girl who is completely covered head to toe... actually not true, my toes are peeping)! I consoled myself with the fact that as well as a feather boa I don't own a basque either so my long sleeved top was probably as good as it was going to get and also more appropriate as I had a good twenty years or more on most of the women in the room.

Before long our instructors from MyBurlesque were taking us through the moves a step at a time until we had built up a whole routine.

Fortunately for you there don't seem to be any photos of me in action (well I did keep myself tucked behind a pillar at the back being a bit of a shrinking violet) but here are some of the others strutting their stuff.. bride to be taking centre stage of course.

And as for these little accessories that were in our goodie bags, I can't see them getting much of an outing round here. Even if I felt so inclined they are unlikely to do me much good. I could have pranced in stark naked in my high heels and feather boa last night and and the best response I could have hoped for would have been "Shouldn't you have a vest on... it's chilly out there you know!" And they say romance is dead!

All joking aside it was actually great fun, very tongue in cheek and lots of laughs.
* Wondering how many hits that title is going to get!

Monday, 15 May 2017

The London Moonwalk 2017

What a brilliant night it was! 

It started on the train to London where I met a couple of the volunteers who were helping marshall the event plus another walker, Jane. As we were too early to actually be admitted to "Moonwalk City" on Clapham Common, Jane invited me to join her and the friends she was meeting up with, for supper at Nando's first. We then all travelled together on the tube arriving to this wonderous sight!

Jane and her friends let me, "Mrs Billy no-mates", hang around with them while we waited for it all to kick off. They even gave me a set of fairy lights to light up my assets! The amosphere was amazing, with thousands of people, men and women, all dressed up in their decorated bras and variety of accessories from feather boas to tutus, and all there for one cause. Many there were people who had battled breast cancer themselves, others were there walking to remember those who had lost that battle. The memory of the man who stood bravely on the stage wearing a bra to say he was doing this for his sister who had died just twelve weeks ago will stay with me for a long time. it wasn't sad... it was a joyous and uplifting evening.

Eventually by 11.30 pm my group of walkers were off. I was separated from Jane and friends by then but there was always someone to have a friendly chat to en route. A couple of miles in I was joined by my stepson James and his wife who live quite near the start. It was lovely to see them and walk a mile in their company. And the chocolate they brought was very much appreciated!

There was a bit of a bottle neck going underneath Westminster bridge but a chance to photograph the Houses of Parliment and Big Ben as it struck 1 am while we waited for the crowd to ease.

There is something magical about the city at night, especially walking along the river with all the twinkling lights. St Paul's Cathedral looked wonderful.

Tower bridge also looking beautiful all lit up too!

By about 2 am we were crossing Tower Bridge which was still full of traffic. I know New York is known as the city that never sleeps but London didn't seem to get quiet all night long either.

A close up as we walked around St Paul's...

And then around Westminster from the other side of the river just as Big Ben struck 3 am.

From there we made our way along to St. James Park, around Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park Corner and then along the Bayswater road all the way to South Kensington... those felt like long miles so it was very welcome when we started to hear the birds singing heralding the approach of the morning. Unfortunately it also welcomed some light drizzle but we were all equiped with plastic capes to keep the rain out. How wonderful it was to see we had walked 24 miles...

But also excrutiating to think we still had to pull another two miles out from somewhere! Shortly after this point James and Elizabeth appeared again (complete with flapjack this time!) and walked the final mile back to Clapham Common with me which once again, was very much appreciated. I crossed the finish line 8 hours and 15 minutes after starting out, which taking into account of the number of stops to cross roads, queue for the loo etc. wasn't too shabby. And despite feeling a little wobbly, a bit damp and very tired I felt fantastic too! Unfortunately I never did see Jane and her friends again so I hope they had a good walk. I think a special mention should be made of all the wonderful volunteers and marshals who not only kept us safe in the never ending London traffic but whose cheers and encouragement kept us going... even the chap who at the 7 mile mark shouted out that we still had miles to go yet! It made me smile.

I managed to stay awake on the way home (well, I might have dozed off a few times but I got off at the right stop!), I went straight to bed and slept for two hours before having a lovely hot bath and didn't feel too bad afterwards.Today I slept until 7.15 which is a lie-in for me and despite some blisters and feeling a little stiff (to be expected really) I'm fine. And would I do it all again... you bet! Although I can't help thinking there are other challenges and obstacles to be overcome that I haven't tried yet! What to do next I wonder?

I know I have given the link to my sponsorship page before but I'll do it one last time as the money raised goes to fund a variety of breast cancer charities ranging from research, treatment, equipment and services, all of which do vital work in battling this disease which will effect 1 in 8 women at some point in their lives, as well as a considerable number of men. And remember, check your breasts, have those mammograms and get walking! Because a daily walk is one of the best things you can do to stay fit and healthy! And if you can spare a couple of quid to sponsor me... then thank you very much!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Hurtling Towards Sixty

Growing older graciously... not a chance! After many years of being perfectly happy not dyeing my hair, enjoying the freedom of not spending hours at the hairdresser, of not constantly having the roots touched up, not spending a small fortune etc. etc. I decided to celebrate my approaching sixtieth birthday by having all remaining coulour bleached out and a lavender tint put in.

I always hated hairdresser visits until I met Tom, but not only does he do a great cut he's also great fun. So visits to the hairdresser are something I enjoy rather than dread. We've been plotting this colour change for several months and I finally took the plunge this week... and I love it! Another thing ticked off my sixty by sixty list.

I doubt it will be something I maintain for long but I'll enjoy it for now. And while I'm growing older disgracefully I might as well show you my outfit for my moonwalk next week. It's not often (if ever) that I wear so little in public but it is all for a good cause. Just keep your fingers crossed that it stays warm and dry overnight on Saturday!
And if any one fancies sponsoring me the link is here:

Meanwhile I have finished another birthday cake (layers of lemon drizzle) this weekend and have another two to make this week... keeps me out of mischief I guess.

I'll be back soon to tell you all about the walk if not before!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge - May

You may remember it was my intention to join in with this month's Cookery Calendar Challenge hosted by Penny by cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi's book Plenty. Of course, it is more likely you don't remember at all because why would you when even I forgot for most of the month... Too busy spinning plates!

So rather than try two new recipes from the book I've only actually tried one - a smoky frittata. However it was so good I made it twice in one week and we had again for lunch today. Usually I put potato in a frittata but this one has cauliflower and scamorsa, a type of smoked mozzerella (no, I'd never heard of it either) and although it sounds unusual, it was fabulous... a sort of smoky cauliflower cheese encased in eggs.

Wonderful with a salad for lunch. I did think I would make this Moroccan carrot salad to go with our frittata today but ran out of time this morning but there is always tomorrow.* I need to do something with the backlog of carrots that keep arriving in the veg box each week!

Given how short of time I seem to be at the moment I'm not publicly committing to choosing a new book to cook from in May but I've got one in mind if I get around to it... after all we've got to eat something!
Have a lovely weekend x

* I did indeed make the carrot salad for our lunch on Saturday, which like everything else I have made from this book was wonderful and went perfectly with the left over frittata. The only critisism of Ottolenghi's recipes is the very long list of ingredients which can be off putting... but always worth the effort.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Spinning Plates

It's a phase and I'm sure it will pass as all things do, but I feel like I'm juggling balls and spinning plates at the moment... Ever so slightly out of control. Who am I kidding... Totally out of control!

Since giving up working at the bookshop, cake orders keep coming in which is wonderful. I loving working on each individual cake, each one so different. One minute it's a sophisticated red velvet cake for a thirtieth birthday and the next, an enormous cake plus several traybakes for a party for 300 people... all recorder enthusiasts. Who would have guessed there were that many! This one was ordered by my ex-husband... I resisted telling him it had only been laced with jam and buttercream. He would never have got the joke!

Meanwhile I am also now supplying a coffee shop with cakes and scones, which promises to be regular work, (good news) I'm making my brother's wedding cake next month as well as making myself a dress to wear to the wedding, (looking forward to doing both but not sure when I'll find the time), trying to organise my own birthday party (hoping it will be fun), attempting to keep things calm and peaceful at home (which is much easier said than done... it's complicated), grabbing odd minutes in the garden when I can so it doesn't have a second year of neglect (a losing battle)... all this as well as all the usual day to day stuff like shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. And I forgot... still training for the overnight marathon walk that is just over two weeks away. I have completely lost all incentive to go out and walk long distances at the moment and I'm wondering why on earth I wanted to do it in the first place... but I did make myself do seven miles this morning.

So you can probably appreciate why I feel like I am sinking right now and barely holding it all together. Meanwhile two little girls have just celebrated their first birthdays with these cakes and I've practising my icing skills... I think my boys had a swiss roll with a candle stuck in the top for their first birthdays!

And this weekend I'm wearing my other work hat as I'll be away teaching a class on machine embroidered landscapes.

Which might have been a relaxing weekend away except there has been a problem with the accomodation and I'm going to be driving back home on Saturday evening and back again on Sunday. Oh joy!

At least June is looking like a quieter month I hope... for the moment anyway.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

It's time again to join in with the Cake Slice Bakers where all participating bloggers bake from a choice of four cakes from World Class Cakes by Roger Pizey. There were some interesting cakes this month. I couldn't face making Lamingtons as it seemed such a time consuming process for something I didn't really fancy eating but the other three choices all sounded tempting... a Turkish Yoghurt cake, a pistachio and lemon cake and the one I opted for a Japanese Strawberry Shortcake.

This was basically a genoise sponge, sliced in half and then sandwiched together with a jellied Chantilly creme and strawberries. I ended up making twice the amount of filling specified in the recipe and I didn't use gelatine but substituted agar agar, a vegetarian alternative. I'm not sure it needed to be jellied however and I think that whipped cream would have held the shape.

It was a pretty cake that tasted light and delicious. The strawberries on top were dipped in a raspberry coulis but I'm not sure that was entirely necessary. I drizzled the extra coulis inside the cake with the strawberries and cream.

And although the recipe says it serves six, we found it made eight generous servings.

Which went down well with our dinner guests... well this little chap is not quite ready for eating cake yet but his Mum and Dad enjoyed it... and got to take the leftovers home!

 We were having quite a conversation about cake... I've got him all lined up for mixing and stirring when he gets older!

This is going to be the last time I join in with The Cake Slice Bakers as I'm finding it more and more difficult to find the time to fit it in and blog about it (hence no actual recipe from me this month) and sometimes things just have to give. But it has been fun. Do check out what the others have made: