Monday 28 February 2011

Pretty Cakes

Hi All!  I am still very slowly working through the changes I want to make to Amelie's House. But it has been half term and trying to do anything with kidlets about is like wading through treacle.  Anyway just to keep you going I thought you may like to see some pretty cakes I've been making.  Thankyou for being patient with me.

Thursday 24 February 2011


Well not so much of a cake and more of a bread.

This month we were discussing 'Your Presence Is Requested At Suvanto' by Maile Chapman.  I have to admit it wasn't my favourite book we have read, but we did have a very good discussion.  The story unfolds in a Finnish Sanatorium during the 1920's.  We have three choices every month and the book that the majority pick is the one we read.  I picked this because I was assuming it would be a Finnish 'Tender Is The Night' wasn't!
The story, we all agreed, would make a great film because it is so atmospheric and describes the Finnish landscape in all it's wintery bleakness.  It got an average of 6, so not the most popular, but if you are in a book club it makes for an interesting exchange.
And now onto the cake.  This was a great book for cake ideas as the women do like their treats.  I plumped for Pulla, a Finnish sweet bread with cardomon.  I used this recipe.

It was very easy to make and I made three loaves from this recipe.  Big kidlet loved it and breakfasted on the spare loaves for a week!

Next month we are discussing 'A Prayer For Owen Meany'.  I haven't started it yet but my book club has become a real highlight for me, so I'm looking forward to hearing the other opinions.

Monday 21 February 2011


On Saturday I had the great pleasure of being the one of the guests of the lovely Ms Marmite.  She has a Secret Underground Restaurant, how exciting does that sound?  And it was, I felt like James Bond (or Miss Moneypenny), there was a secret password and everything!.  This was a special day with guest speakers speaking about food blogging and a wonderful three course lunch.
I had treated myself, as a 21st birthday present! 

This is the amazing Ms Marmite, she was a superb hostess, I should very much like to return to her establishment again. We were greeted with coffee and freshly baked pastries and ushered in to a delightful room decorated with great taste and style.

The first speaker was Danny Young (1) of Young and Foodish.  Even though his voice has deserted him, his wife hadn't, so she was his voice for the day.  He did interject at times, in a whisper, and is a fascinating speaker, very dry and funny. His topic was blogging, how to, and making your blog more successful. Unfortunately most of what he had to say was repeating the advice that Mr Lemon Drizzle has been ranting about suggesting to me for months, and he is now feeling quite smug to say the least.  So I bow graciously to their good advice.  Expect me to be under the radar for a while as I start engineering works at Amelie's House.

Next up was the delightful Laura James (2) with advice on how to write recipes, approach publishers, agents and be all round fabulous.  She wrote 'Cool Camping' which I'm sure you have seen, if not own.

We then stopped for lunch of fennel and pea shoot salad with focaccia..delicious. 
Spaghetti Vongole was next.  I have never had this before or ever eaten clams ...delicious.
Finally rhubarb guessed it, absolutely delicious.  Unfortunately I was so overcome with pudding love that I only took a picture once I had hoovered it down finished.

After lunch Paul Winch-Furness (3) gave a practical talk about food photography.  In deference to his, and others advice I have not included my picture of the clams as my lens was very steamed up!  But you can visit his site here and see the professionals take on the day.  I especially love his picture of the croissants.  His advice on editing was great but I feel my pictures would be even better if I could always get them in focus!

Last up was Tim Hayward (4) who is a fascinating person and made a great after dinner speaker.  He is the editor of Fire and Knives a quarterly food magazine and was talking about do's and dont's of food writing.  After the conference we each received two copies of Fire and Knives. I shall attempt find a quiet corner somewhere and read them thoroughly. (It is half term though!)

The ticket for the event suggested to treat the day as if you were at a dinner party.  So no respectable guest would arrive without a present for the hostess.  I quickly whipped up some cupcakes and dug out my trusty children's books to come up with these.

(I again apologise for the pictures especially if you were at the conference and listened to the advice to only include good pictures but it was 8am and I had to leave the house quickly. And I know alot of my readers love the cake pay-off!)

I had an amazing day, I felt like a London girl again and will digest thoroughly the whole experience.
Expect to see change! (But in a good way!)
I'm off, to write a to-do list.

ps, if you were at the conference too, please leave a comment with a link to your site as I'd love to see it and didn't get to make a note of everyone's blog.

Tuesday 15 February 2011


Hello...don't be shy...come on in!

Come on a little closer.

Come on, we won't bite (well maybe some of the children will, but we're working on that!)

There you are, welcome to the book party!

Big kidlet has been planning this party for a year, the invitations were made before Christmas, but to be honest, I don't need much encouragement to be drawn into the fun!

Her favourite book is Tatty Ratty by Helen Cooper, so I was instructed to make a cake with the aforementioned rabbit as the star. BK has her own rather scruffy Tatty Ratty, that, like it's namesake is often lost.  You can read about one of his escapades here, and how he was found here.

I have also been collecting old children's books on my travels for displaying the goodies.  Although when I was putting the display together I realised that in this case more was better, so I scoured the many book cases in our house for some of my old books.  I think I found three copies of Anne of Green Gables. (I'm filling up a little just thinking of those red plaits...and don't get me started on Pollyanna!)

We cut up some old picture books that the kidlets didn't read anymore to make bunting.

The dessert buffet, obviously the most important part of the party (to me!) included Tatty Ratty's favourite treat, doughnuts. (Although his were made by the Man in the Moon.) BK expressed her opinion the real doughnuts would take too long to make. So we whizzed up some cupcake mixture, half filled the holes of a shallow cupcake baking tray, a circle cutter, some glaze and sprinkles later and Bob's your Uncle and Tatty's your rabbit.

We also had mini cupcakes, cake pops, iced gems and strawberries to be a bit healthy.

For starters I made some old book pages into cones for their fish/sausage and chips.  I had suggested that I make some fish goujons, but this idea met with dismay "No, Mummy, they have to be packet fish fingers".  I was quite glad of one less thing to do so I agreed.
I used some more old book pages on the water bottles.
This actually came in handy as the revellers wrote their names on the bottles, so no germs were spread that day!

We had plenty of booky crafts on offer.  I had found these secret book here.  BK painted them a few days before the party, ready for the guests to create their own titles. We also had note books to be decoupaged and scratch bookmarks. 

I especially liked the tale of "The Big Bad Botom!" 

Then, of course, a pinata.

 I will write up a tutorial for this soon, it is so easy to make and one of the most enjoyable parts of the day.  Well who doesn't like to hit things with a big stick?

Mr Lemon Drizzle tried to read the the story of Tatty Ratty but quickly gave up as high spirits seemed to be the order of the day.

Each guest left with a party bag bursting with their crafts and some other goodies.  There was a beautiful hair band from Heartfelt Handmade. I had copied some text from a Milly Molly Mandy book and transferred it onto felt for Marie to use.  We also had a book biscuit for the bags made under BK's supervision.  I had her drawings to copy and the titles of each book handed to me.  There was also some letter sweets and a mermaid book each.

The whole two hours were over in flash, unlike the six hours leading up to it where we were constantly pestered with "How long now?"  "When are they coming" and "I want my party now!"
Anyway it was all worth it to see a happy kidlet curled up that night, clutching her raggedy rabbit and dreaming of cake!

Ok... well not exactly for me but for my Dad!  His ceramic bunny lamp has been nominated in the 'favourite handmade or vintage item that is fun' category of the Handmade Olympics over at the Rikrak Studio.
  Vote for him here and then tell your friends to vote for him too! 


Monday 14 February 2011


Mr Lemon Drizzle made me a cup of tea with a heart shaped bubble.

How did he do that?
Have a romantic day.

Friday 11 February 2011


This post will contain gratuitous scenes of book destruction!  Do not continue if you are of a sensitive nature.

Did you guess from my sneak peak the theme of this weeks party?
It's books!
I can't quite remember how we came upon this theme, as it was decided a year ago, pretty much as the last guests were leaving the Hello Kitty party.  But, it's a good theme, so we ran with it.
Big kidlet, as you may know loves to be involved with any craft project, especially if it's for a party.  So together we came up with this idea for an invitation.

When you were young did you have 'How To Be A Spy' books?  I remember, along side the 'using lemon juice as invisible ink' and what a 'drop' is, there was always a section on how to turn a book into a secret hiding place.  Of course anyone who is a spy now would know to look in a book immediately, having read the same manual as me! (My spy name is 00CAKE.)
So we decide to create a book within a book.  Big kidlet (BK) wrote a party themed story and drew the illustrations to go with them.

I photographed them (I don't have a scanner) and fiddled around on picnik, under her supervision to create a little book.

I cut them out and she glued them all together.  We cut out the holes in the proper books with a scalpel and glued the sides together.  Fortunately my measuring was spot on and the little books fitted snugly in their holes.

I took another picture of one of the blank pages from one of the books, they have a lovely aged quality, some more picniking and we had some tags.  BK was sooo excited giving them out and the party guests were quite impressed!

I shall hopefully have a post with the full party story soon when I have recovered, (probably about a months time then!)

Wednesday 9 February 2011


We shall be having a party in our house this week to celebrate a certain someone's 7th birthday.  We have been planning this party for a year and collecting bits and bobs along the way.  Here's a little taster of the theme.

These are books that neither kidlet or her friends have ever heard of, let alone read, but I loved the covers and they remind me of my own misspent youth reading under the covers with a torch.
 I have never read Hideaway in the Hills but loved how gutsy the horse rider seems.  I would have wanted to be her when I was a child, just not on a horse.
I was forced to read Watership Down by my mother when I was at school even though I really wanted Tarka The Otter, that's what the cool kids were reading!  We went to see the film too, I still have nightmares!  (Love the Art Garfunkel song though.)
I'm sure I read the Enid Blyton story as I read nearly all of her 'cannon', but as all the stories merged into one (plucky children eat sandwiches, drink ginger beer, stumble upon bad guys being bad, discover a secret passage way and save the day) I couldn't say for sure if this particular one was on my shelf.  A shelf, by the way, which was organised alphabetically!  I also had a book to sign any novels out if friends wanted to borrow them.  I took my reading seriously then!
Little Women was one of my favourite books, I wanted to be Beth, everyone loved her and she was so good,  then either Amy (beautiful and artistic) or at a push Jo (spirited), but never Meg (boring!).  Now, considering my life, I think I've turned into a Meg and who ever aspired to be her? 
Anyway I shall be sharing more of the celebrations soon.

Sunday 6 February 2011

SOME ORANGEY GOODNESS (and a free download)

I know that many you live in totally different climates to me here in the grey, drizzly, and today, particularly windy UK.  So I'm not sure what season you are living through, but here it's marmalade making time!

How lovely in these dark days to be perked up by the citrusy zing and bright jewel colours of marmalade?

 Do you (like me) read fabulous foodie blogs where the writer has 'just come in from our local farmer's market'?  They have then proceeded to whip up a beautiful salad with pea shoots and heritage carrots, all photographed to perfection in their amazing natural sunlight.
Well this is not one of those posts!

We have a local Saturday market which I do frequent on my way to the coffee shop.  It is not full of heritage vegetables.  It is full of knock down fruit which is lucky to last more than a few days before going moldy.  I do get carried away sometimes, and once bought a shed load of strawberries to make jam.  Every box was half full of mold! 
There is, however, a wonderful French man (quite sexy too) with a trailer full of cheese and olives, a WI stall with home baked goodies and an amazing fish stall, so I shouldn't complain.

Last week while passing the fruit stall I was once again tempted, they had a pile of Seville oranges and I went a little bit Martha and bought a bag. On further inspection the fruit was perfect...hurrah! One week later and my house is full of marmalade!  (The floors are a bit sticky too.)
I used this recipe after a good friend recommended soaking the fruit overnight for the best taste.  The kidlets helped with squeezing and removing the insides, but to save time and hassle I whizzed up the peel in the food processor.

So just incase you may be in full marmalade season too, I have made a downloadable pdf for your jars of orangey goodness.  You can download it here.  Or right click on the picture below for a jpeg version which you can then reduce or enlarge depending on your jar size.  You can use the whole sticker or just cut out the middle using a circle punch.

Happy marmalading!

Ooh for me?

Mmm...don't mind if I do!