Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Night of Hope with World Vision

This Halloween World Vision are encouraging us to turn a night of fear into a Night of Hope.


My children have everything that they need but #ANightOfHope highlights that for children of Syria every night of the year they go to bed scared and frightened. Many have seen unspeakable horrors and live in fear and uncertainty. Something that no child should have to face. 

So to raise awareness for #ANightofHope we have carved a pumpkin heart as a symbol of hope. World Vision will be collecting all the pumpkin pictures shared directly with them on their social media sites to create a pumpkin mosaic which will be shared with Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon during a visit in November. So if you want to create your own pumpkin and share it you can find out more about how to do it here: World Vision

 
Finally we have donated £5 by texting HEART8 to 70060 and you can do the same too. The money will be used for schools and educational equipment to give the children hope for the future.

We had lots of fun creating our pumpkin heart, the boys were fascinated by the carving process and it felt really meaningful to be carving for a good reason. Many of you will know that I am not a big fan of Halloween, and its not a night that I look forward to in the calendar, so it feels great to see it become something positive and bring hope to children who don't have the blessings that mine have.

Why don't you have a go at crafting your own pumpkin heart, I would love to see yours. 


Monday, 27 October 2014

A secret Shed-away

There is something so exciting about the thought of a secret hideaway, the perfect place to relax in in the evening whilst enjoying a glass of wine, or a cocktail. Love Chic Living and Tiger Sheds are challenging bloggers to come up with their dream shed hideaway so I have been dreaming up what mine would look like. My husband and I have always really liked the idea of a hideaway shed bar in our garden, the perfect place for entertaining whatever the weather. Its nice to be going out of the house when you are really staying in and it would be lovely to have a space that was just for us and was not invaded by children's toys. From the outside it looks like a log cabin not much bigger than the average shed but hidden within its depths instead of garden tools it has wine glasses. Instead of its usual dark shed like features it is bright and versatile with comfy seating. A place that draws you in and oozes of comfort and sophistication.


Bar in a shed

When I think about a shed I always think of a single light bulb hanging precariously from its centre barely giving enough light to see into its dark corners. So I wanted to keep that concept of a bare lightbulb incorporating it into my design for my bar shed hideaway, a clever way to remind it of its origins. 

I love bright colours and I feel like they really lift your mood which is exactly what you want when you retreat into this space in the evening, to feel refreshed and invigorated. The quirky eclectic mix of modern vibrancy I feel is a perfect reflection of my personality as well capturing the life and soul of the party which is exactly what I was going for. I wanted it to feel like each seat was different on purpose to reflect the uniqueness of the space it was in. Finally no stylish shed would be complete without a bar and I love how this one I found opens up out a box unit and would look as good closed down as it does opened up. I can just imagine myself in the daytime whilst my boys are at school snuggled into a comfy chair reading my book and enjoying the view of the garden. 

How would you transform and style your shed? 

This post is my entry into the Love Chic Living Style a Shed Blogger Competition. 

Surprise Flowers

Monday is usually my quiet day when both boys are at school, but not today, its half term. The day started in its usual breakfast mess and chaos and whilst I sat sipping my cup of tea in the kitchen contemplating starting cleaning up the boys ran off to play busying themselves. After the initial squabbles had piped down they seemed to be playing together quietly (this rarely seems to happen).


All of a sudden they came creeping into the kitchen and told me they had a surprise for me, so I followed part enthusiastically and part scared about what they might have done. "Surprise" they had turned over the red box and made with pegs three lovely flowers. I did not expect this and I felt like my heart melted in that very moment at how thoughtful as well as creative they had been. I feel very loved and special today.


I have no idea where they got the idea from and I am pretty impressed at how imaginative and inspired they were to make these using pegs.

What a lovely surprise.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Lavish Alice Wishlist

Here is my Lavish Alice Wishlist and I warn you that I might have got a little carried away as they have so many lovely things to choose from.


Lavish Alice Wishlist


I love the white and grey grid print contrast sleeve duster coat and its just perfect for those colder autumn days we have coming. The white cropped sheer dipped hem long sleeve shirt is perfect to go with so many different things but I love it with the nude & silver metallic abstract print skinny cigarette trousers.  The white PU & silver screw detail cuff really caught my eye to compliment my choices with the silver linked rings & turquoise stone necklace. The cream and grey contrast trim cropped bodycon midi dress seems like the perfect choice for dressing up for a night out. I just could not decide between the navy satin roll neck crop top or the cobalt blue wrap back crop sweater (with that incredible back on it) to go with the navy crossover wrap culottes.

I love the versatility of the pieces and how they work in different combinations as well as being so flattering to the figure. Which of my choices do you love? 

This is my entry into the Lavish Alice Style Off Competition if you fancy having a go at creating your own wishlist and entering you can find all of the details below. 


Green Tea Layered Crunch Pudding

Lately I seem to have made a lot of sweet puddings and as lovely and yummy as they can be I wanted to create a pudding that didn't have all the unhealthy ingredients in it, but still tasted just as good. Puddings are so tricky as nearly all of them contain sugar and I am not a fan of sugar alternatives so I decided to stick to simple ingredients that together combine to create something delicious avoiding sugar altogether other than whats naturally in foods.


Recipe: Green Tea Layered Crunch Pudding

100g Cashews crushed
300ml Natural yoghurt
400g Strawberries
1 Sachet of gelatine powder
Mint for decoration
1 Tsp Matcha Green Tea Powder



Method:
1. First you need to puree the strawberries, then sieve half into a saucepan and put on low heat and the other half save for later.


2. Add your sachet of gelatine to hot water and dissolve before adding to your saucepan with the strawberries in. Once mixed in, place in a container to set and chill in the fridge. (I used a lasagne dish and you want your layer to be about 0.5cm.) If you forget to sieve your strawberries like me you can always do it as you transfer to the setting dish.


3. The first layer is the crushed cashews (best done with a rolling pin and a bag) press it into place in your glass.

I had a little helper for Cashew bashing! 
4. Mix the Matcha Tea Powder with the yoghurt gradually as the powder needs to be well mixed. (Its always a good idea to taste it as too much powder can make it taste too bitter and a small amount goes a long way). This then can be added to your glass to form your second layer. (I mixed in a small pot each persons individually so that my husband got have less green tea and I could have more)




5. Add some of the pureed strawberry mixture as your third layer and finally cut your jellied puree to form your fourth layer.



6. Finally add a spring of mint to the top and enjoy.


The strawberries balance really well with the green tea yoghurt and give the dish a hint of sweetness. As you delve to the bottom of the pudding you get the crunch of the cashews adding another texture to the dish. For me its refreshing to have a healthy pudding dish that gives you a zing and burst of energy. It looked really pretty too in its layers.

Why not serve with a steaming cup of green tea which is packed full of antioxidants.

This post is my entry for the Simplyhealth Healthy Smile Blogger Competition.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Won't cost the Earth - Sponsored Post

Its Big Energy Saving Week this week and having just moved into our new house one of the first things we did was look at our light bulbs and swap them or LED bulbs. It might seem a bit like a hassle to change them all over but just look at the difference it could make if we all switched. Not only are we looking after our Earth but also it can save you money too.


Won't Cost the Earth - An infographic by LightBulbs-Direct to promote the Benefits of LED Bulbs for ‘Big Energy Saving Week’. To view the full image click here.

Have you changed over to LED? Is it something you have thought about?

This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A dinnertime change

Dinner time has been a bit of a disaster in our house in the last few weeks for the boys. Mainly because they are coming in from the school walk totally exhausted (which I am sure is just part of being 4 and having just started school) and because they are always starving I have moved their dinnertime forward to 4.30pm so that I don't miss the bedtime window. It works great at solving their hunger problems but I fear that because I haven't been eating with them their dinner habits have become a bit wayward and messy.

Fed up of this annoying dinnertime behaviour where not much food gets eaten and a lot of mess is created I decided to clamp down, but not in the usual way. Tonight witnessed a bit of dramatic (and probably totally hilarious fly on the wall action) creation where instead of me serving their food in the normal way, I became a new character "Mamma Italia". Mainly because I was serving spaghetti and meatballs and it seemed totally appropriate to create a fictional Mum who embraced the essence of their meal and told them all about Italy. She also taught them how to twirl up the spaghetti - although as you can see from the pictures they went a bit large with it.


I am not sure if was because "Mamma Italia" was so different from what they expected or if they enjoyed playing along too, but they both ate lots of food and the mess was so very minimal. I might also add they had to call my fictional character by her name and they had to call "Mummy" back at the end of dinnertime. Tee hee. Sometimes I just can't help myself.


When my husband came in from work the first thing the boys told him about was "Mamma Italia" and that she made them spaghetti and that did he know that Pasta came from Italy. Fantastic.


It might be a little crazy of me, but it worked and I had fun too rather than my usual pull my hair out dinnertime so I think I might just be off to dream up a few new crazy mealtime Mum characters for the rest of the week.

What crazy things have you done to make meal times run smoother?

My Jewelsy Wishlist

I love Jewellery and I think it brings that little extra something to your outfit when you add it in. I wanted to share my Jewelsy wishlist with you as the pieces I have picked aren't that expensive. They do have quite a lot of fun and quirky jewellery items too. 

I love a chunky necklace and they make this beaded one in white and multi-coloured as well. 
A few years ago I had a midi ring but when it broke I never replaced it because I couldn't find anything I liked, until now.
I love earrings and these look so elegant and yet modern.
A matching bracelet is always lovely when you have the necklace too.
What will you be putting on your wishlist? 

This post is my entry into the Jewelsy Bloggers Wishlist Competition.

These boots were made for walking

For my birthday this year I asked for money from pretty much everyone so that I could buy a new pair of boots. A few years ago I had my feet measured and fitted and a pair of Cowboy boots made especially for me by a shoe shop in Totnes, Devon called Conker. I have huge problems with my feet suffering with peripheral neuropathy and my Cowboy boots have been the most comfortable thing I have found to wear and have been fantastic, so I couldn't wait to order a second pair.


Due to the boots being handmade I had to wait 6 weeks for them (just in case you are wondering why I only just got them and my Birthday is the end of August) and they were well worth the wait. As they already had my size on file it was really easy to pick what I wanted. I decided on the higher pull on boot and they sent me a purple swatch of leathers to look at so I could pick which colour I wanted. I also picked the harder Vibram walking sole as my Cowboy boots had the softer Vibram walking sole on and after two years have just been sent back for a re-sole (yes isn't that good).

So here they are and I am totally in love with them! You can also wear them rolled down too.



Monday, 20 October 2014

Bedroom of the Future

Having just moved into a new house and with our master bedroom in desperate need of a rethink and redecoration I was very inspired and excited to see that Betta Living have created with the help of leading blogger http://gadgetynews.com/ a Bedroom of the Future.

This Bedroom of the Future features lots of cool and neat gadgets and gizmos including an intelligent virtual bedroom mirror that will suggest what to wear, and monitoring systems that will automatically adapt your whole bedroom environment to your personal biotech readings, to 3D printed family portraits and self-designed 3D printed ornaments. I am wondering if Betta Living's virtual bedroom is what our bedrooms will look like in just a few years' time, as technology, household furniture, gadgets and accessories evolve.


I am most excited about the Virtual Mirror (including Personal Stylist Functionality) because isn't that every girls dream to have your own personal stylist all of the time! So how will it all work? Let me explain a bit more: Mirrored glass on the wardrobe doors will be superseded by a virtual mirror, something digital agency Code Computerlove has already developed for retailers and that Betta Living believes will become commonplace in UK bedrooms within just a few years.


The intelligent interactive surface will not only display the contents of your wardrobe (that you can browse and virtually try on using gestural technology) but will cleverly act as your own personal style adviser – helping you to decide what to wear depending on your diary, the weather and what you've worn previously.  I just love that it learns your personal style and as a busy Mum this will be a huge help in the morning. I am imagining telling it: school run walk, wet weather and practical and out it pulls me the perfect outfit with little effort from me.

All the clothes are micro tagged so you won’t even have to open the wardrobe door to decide what to wear – they will be displayed on the virtual mirror. Using gestural technology you can swipe through wardrobe items and try outfits on using images of your clothes superimposed on a life-size video of you.

Select a skirt or pair of jeans and the virtual mirror will then suggest shoes, tops and accessories from your wardrobe that will not only look fabulous with it, but will also be suitable for that day’s weather and what you’re doing that day - if you have a lunch meeting or an evening out after work it will use this intelligence and advise accordingly. 
And of course, if you don’t have that vital pair of shoes to match an outfit the intelligent virtual mirror will take you to an online shop where you can buy an item with just one click. 

When it’s time to take physical garments out of the wardrobe, advances in storage systems will mean clothes will be easy to access - almost handed to you on a plate, like Betta Living’s soon to be launched infrared motion sensor rail.


I love the concept of Smart Windows 
Clear glass windowpanes and window dressings will become a thing of the past. The window in this futuristic bedroom is a transparent ‘smart window’, automated to the time of day and season or personal preferences. While the screen can be translucent (for those lucky enough to have a view), it can blackout, work as a virtual window blind, display a scene of your choice – think gorgeous snow scene or a beach shot from your holidays to enjoy year round – or be used as an interactive screen to watch TV, check the weather and even browse and update social media accounts.

Samsung's Transparent Smart Window gives a sneaky peak into how this could work http://bit.ly/1BG23em and may not even be that far away in the making. This might also really change how we position our bedrooms and how we use them. 




Then take the bed itself
Foldaway beds are not only practical but allow for free-floating sleeping, and this next generation Betta Living bed could even use a clever cantilever mechanism to store the bed in the ceiling rather than a wall. At the touch of a button, the bed could elevate up into a spot lit surround, and then it’s gone.  A really clever way to make a smaller bedroom seem much bigger and have much more useable space. 

Bedding will be hi-tech too and better for our health. The FineBedding Company hints at the fact that it will be taking its Smartfil temperature control synthetic duvets and pillows to the next level with built in technology.  Duvets of the future will be connected to body monitoring systems, telling them to heat up if the body is getting too cold and thanks to an in-built cooling system it will cool the body down to prevent night sweats.  

Pillows could incorporate the same light technology used in lamps to combat the symptoms of SAD. Pillows will light up gradually as you wake and include health-enhancing lighting. 
Similarly, SleepNumber’s iLE mattress has temperature balancing technology and even offers personalised mattress contouring too – where you can adjust each side to your ideal firmness, comfort and support.

On top of these innovations, self-iron fabrics will mean the end of the onus task ironing duvet covers.
By the side of the bed, techies are currently working on the ultimate green smart beaker, an insulating and refrigerating mug that absorbs heat from the boiling hot beverage inside and saves this energy to be used later to keep the drink at the perfect drinking temperature. A thermometer shows the energy stored and what temperature the drink is at. 



Wearables In The Bedroom
For bedtime reading, watching TV, playing games or video-chat with friends, wearable technology like the new OculasRift will not only eliminate the need for a screen but users can step into whatever world they want. Similarly Google Glass, the Apple Watch and the Blocks modular watch could well all feature on our bedside tables sometime soon.  

Audio wise…
In the multi-functioning bedroom of the future, everything will be connected to our phones/watches and app driven like Tivoli’s app Audio Albergo+ that couples as a Bluetooth speaker system, alarm and radio.

A Healthier Home
The nation’s future bedrooms will be kitted out with home automation systems linked to health monitoring gadgets to optimise our wellbeing and create an environment (heat and light) suited to our exacting personal needs - even down body temperature.

While this trend has already begun, with products such as LightwaveRF that controls everything from power sockets and light dimmers from smartphones, and Beddit’s ultra thin film sensor, which connects wirelessly to your smartphone giving sleep analysis, such as sleep cycles, respiration, heart rate etc., Jawbone’s collaboration with Nest is another example of this trend. Jawbone’s UP24 wearable device detects and carefully monitors whether a person is asleep or awake, so once the band enters Sleep Mode, the thermostat will kick down to the owner’s ideal temperature and adjust to a warmer temperature when they wake – creating the optimum sleeping environment and ideal conditions for getting up. 

If you can’t wait for the future - Honeywell’s evohome enables you to schedule, zone and personalise your warmth and hot water wirelessly with its touch screen controller or by using its Total Comfort Connect app.  

Advances in lighting will also deliver more health benefits and mood enhancing options than today, not stopping at a lightbox but offering anti Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) benefits throughout the room.

Energy-bills will be substantially less too, as lighting becomes more energy-efficient, like with MegamanUK’s LED.  

Fitness In A Box
The futuristic bedroom is all about being ‘transformative’, where even the smallest of spaces will not restrict activities. When homeowners want space to work out, they can elevate the bed and bring out a home gym like Domyos Training Box. It contains a weight lifting bar and selection of weights, a weight bench/cardio step and mat all in this tiny box. 

Futuristic Furniture and accessories
Tailor made is something already associated with fittedbedrooms, but 3D printing takes this further. Forget framed family portraits hanging on the wall, highly realistic 3D mini-me figurines of loved ones, like ones that can be created by imaker.com and Asda, will adorn bedroom shelves instead of 2D prints. But because anything can be scanned and designed, the bedroom of the future will be adorned with ornaments and accessories design by the homeowner – from stags heads and magical horses to homespun vases, whatever the trend 3D models can be created in just hours.  

Flooring will also be interchangeable at the flick of a switch. Forget having a single carpet or floor tile design, floors in the future will display graphics of choice – anything from images of textured fabrics through to disco-esque effects on the floor. Or why not put an image of a lovely lawn or under the sea scene to really bring the outdoors in?



Cleaning
And finally, no bedroom of the future would be complete without a robot! The iRobot Roomba 880 can be pre-set to vacuum whenever you want, while you sit back and let it do the work! It even recharges itself between cleaning and is super effective at its job. Who wouldn't want someone else to do the cleaning for them? 

Bedroom Gadget Giveaway
If you fancy a little bit of tech for your own home Betta Living are also running a fantastic Bedroom Gadget Competition on their Facebook page. The total prize value is over £1500 and includes a iRobot vacuum, Tivoli radio alarm clock, iMakr 3D mini-you model, Gym in a box, SAD Light, Lightwave RF products. You can enter here: Betta Living Giveaway.

So what do you think to the Bedroom of the Future? Do you like the idea of a new futuristic bedroom, and can you see yourself having one? My favourite gadget is the personal styler built into the wardrobe and just how much fun it would be to use as well as how much quicker I would be getting dressed in the morning with someone else coordinating my outfit for me. Of course I might also change the flooring and lighting to go with my mood for the day as I am storing my bed away. 

This post is sponsored by Betta Living. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Creative Play

I love encouraging creative play there is nothing more exciting for me as a Mum than to see my kids using their imagination to spark play that is beyond my thinking, mixing up traditional for imaginative re-thinking.


This is my eldest son and he is off school with chickenpox but despite feeling poorly he surprised me by still having the energy to play and put toys together that I never would have. He wanted the playdough out which traditionally you would think of being used for making shapes and sculptures but not in our house. Today it was a mountain for the digger to climb, a series of obstacles for the digger to work around. The mark making and cutting tools helped to shape the mountain but not in usual ways and they also became part of the dialogue becoming encouragers who egged the digger along on his journey. The colours were important and the red ball of dough soon got knocked onto the floor to oblivion, the blue held the key and held the play together being shaped and formed by small hands . I love the engagement in his face and his focus and determination to complete his play mission no matter what, oblivious to me taking a photo his imagination will succeed. For me what I like is that its great for his development to be using fine motor skills, creativity and imagination in the storyline and mixed media toys being brought together for the first time in new and exciting play.

This is my entry into the #ToyellaChristmas Blogger Competition and you can find out more about it here at mymillsbaby and you could even enter yourself. The competition is in conjunction with Toyella.com and they have some interesting and exciting toys that challenge children to play in different and more unusual ways that inspire creativity.

ToyellaBadgeComp zps7631f58f Calling all Bloggers: Have a #ToyellaChristmas and win £150 in Toys (CD: 25/10/2014)

Afternoon tea delights - rainbow meringues

There is something very lovely about afternoon tea and that accompanying sweet treat and sometimes as a Mum I just need a little bit of that in my house to to cheer up a dull and rainy afternoon. Pottery company Denby are having The Great Denby Cake Off and so I thought why not enter and create an afternoon treat of my own something fun to bring a little spark back to my afternoons.


I love cake but on this occasion I wanted to make something just as sweet but much lighter, something that could be enjoyed without me spoiling my dinner and so that I could still walk the school run. So I decided to make meringues and being the quirky person I am I wanted to put a little bit of me into them by trying out giving them a rainbow design and to top them off a little bit of chocolate.


Ingredients:
225g Caster Sugar
4 Large egg whites
2 pinches of cream of tartar
Food colourings - I used blue, purple, yellow, pink, red
100g Chocolate for dipping

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 120C and add baking paper to your tray (Tip: I like to stick my baking paper to the tray by spraying on some cake release - that way your paper doesn't move when your piping).

2. Put the egg whites into your mixing bowl and whisk until the whites become foamy. Add the cream of tartar and keep whisking until the mixture forms a soft peak.


3. Whisk in 4 tablespoons of the sugar, one at a time until the meringue is glossy and forms a stiff peak.

4. Add the rest of the sugar over the meringue and fold in with a metal spoon

5. Divide into bowls and add your food colouring - be as adventurous as you like!


6. Add your colouring to your piping bag. I layered mine across working from one side of the bag to the other but it all mixed together when I pushed it down to pipe. When I added more to my bag I also saved some white to add in and I liked how they all looked different.


7. Pipe into swirls onto your baking tray


8. Place in the oven for 55 minutes.

9. When the timer goes do not open your oven! Turn the oven off and leave to cool in your oven. Seems weird but it stops the meringue from cracking.

10. When cool you can heat up your chocolate either in a bain-marie or my preferred method in the microwave.

11. Dip your meringue in to coat the bottom and turn upside down to dry. (This was the trickiest part as the meringue to very delicate.)


12. Serve with your tea, my preference is Earl grey for afternoon tea.


These tasted so very delicious, they were light, crunchy on the outside and with that little mallowy goodness on the inside, topped off by the chocolate. I loved the colours too of the rainbow design and they felt like a modern take on afternoon tea. What do you like to have with your afternoon tea?


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Fashion at your fingertips

Have you ever had shoe envy on the school run? Or remembered that you have no dress to wear for that wedding your attending on Saturday when your sat in a coffee shop? The only problem was by the time you got home you had forgotten all about it so you pulled your moth eaten one out instead and cowered in shame all day.

Do you like to have 10 tabs up on your computer when your shopping like me, desperately trying to match your trousers to the top you love except they are not on the same screen and they are from different shops? As much as you try you just can't tell if they will work or not and end up frustrated and with a fashion mis-match. 

Mallzee have just released a new version of their shopping app which I have been quick of the mark to download. This might just be the very thing to solve my fashion problems. It's easy to use and you can teach it about the things you love by swiping right for YES I want that and left for no thank you. You can also save your items into your trends categories or into your main folder meaning that you can put the pieces that make up your outfit from four different retailers right on the same page. For me this is where the app is different to just going directly to the websites because you can build outfits that you know work together - no more ten tab screens, hoorah. This also means no more mismatched clothes that you thought might work because you have the visuals to prove they do. 


You can teach it the brands you love and filter out the ones you don't which I am excited about. It has lots of big brands listed so it's also good if you want to be a fashionista but don't know where to start with it. It will also will notify you (if you want it to) when your loved items drop in price, another handy tool for bargain hunters like me that prefer to buy clothes in the sales and save their pennies. 

I once brought a pair of teal trousers from boohoo.com one of the brands featured on Mallzee and at the same time a top to match from another site. When the trousers came they were less teal and more green, an honest mistake that would have been avoided had I been able to see the colour next the top as it would have made it obvious that they were not a match made in heaven. 


So next time your in that coffee shop you could also be flicking through the latest fashion items and saving your new outfit whilst you sip your latte. On the school run you could be searching for those shoes you are drooling over whilst you wait for your children to appear with your new shoe inspiration stood right in front I you. You could also be bold and ask them where she got her beautiful shoes from and then find them on your walk home. 

Fashion has just got a whole lot simpler  and easier for me to fit into my chaotic schedule. Plus it's fantastic when you are still not sure which dress to choose because you can put them all next to each other for quick viewing by that trusted person. My trusted person is my husband and he is not patient enough to sit through pages of dresses as I flick from tab to tab. My other annoyance with clothing websites is that often if you place loved items in your basket, get distracted for a while and come back to find your basket items have been wiped. This does not happen with Mallzee your saved items remained saved and ready for easy access. Perfect if you like to think before you buy.


Finally I love that you can share what you find, it's fun to be able to share that top you think your friend would look amazing in with your friend. Or you could have a style off where you race to pick the perfect outfit for each other just because you can. I would love to have a style of with Natalie Portman just to see what kind of things she would pick as I always find her style so glamourous and elegant and yet with that quirky edge which is something I try to aspire too. Who would you like to style off with? 

You can find out more about the app and download it here: Mallzee

This is my entry for the Mallzee Blogger competition in conjunction with ebuyer and London College of Fashion.

Upcycled table

I do like it when you can turn something thats cluttering up your house into something thats useful. Having just moved into a new house and after an emergency purchase of a fridge-freezer money is a bit tighter this month that expected, so I have been trying to make the most of what we have.

The router has a new location in our hallway and to be honest it has been bugging me for weeks that it was just tossed on the floor looking unsightly. My husband and I came up with the idea that we could get some kind of table or unit to put it on or in, but it hadn't happened yet and we weren't really sure what we wanted so I decided to get creative instead.


This was super simple to make and it cost nothing which is even better. We have stacks of books from a love of reading so I decided to put some of them to good use forming the base of my new hall table. After much deliberating and trying the books in all different kinds of directions we opted to have them spine facing out because they have so much colour on them, and I think look fab.


I then rooted around in the garage to see what I could find as a table top and found this cut up piece of MDF that came from the back of the kitchen unit. I am also thinking that you could spray something you already have too and this would work just as well, as long as its flat and sits sturdily on top. Finally we fiddled around with the book height so that it covered the socket behind it, then I found some russian dolls to stand in front of the router without blocking it too much so it still works.

This simple table idea would work really well for a living room side table or maybe even a coffee table if you had a much larger table top.

This was my little helper who helped me put it all together
I am really pleased with its final look. What have you been upcycling? I would love to see your ideas of other things that I could re-develop, particularly other storage ideas.

This post is my entry into the Upcycling competition being hosted by claireabellemakes in conjunction with Able Skills.



Monday, 13 October 2014

Everything is always better when there is cake!

When you are having friends over, a party or you just need cheering up I can't think of anything better than a slice of cake. That light airy sponge tantalizing your palette followed by the soft sweet buttercream and then the chocolatey ganache to finish it all off. For that one moment you forget it all and indulge yourself.

For me a show stopping cake never fails me, I nearly always have all of the ingredients and there is always plenty to go around. We had my parents over to our new house last weekend and with my Dad just having celebrated his birthday I wanted to create a cake that would look the part but also have all of his favourite things in it.


If you have seen my previous post about #morningwins you will know that I do most of my dreaming on the school run and thats where I came up with the idea for this showstopping cake.

Ingredients:
Sponge: Makes 3 x 20.5cm Cakes
350g Unsalted butter
350g Caster sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
6 Large eggs, beaten
350g Self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
50g Cocoa Powder (for the chocolate sponge)
4 Tbsp Milk

Buttercream:
125g Unsalted butter, softened
400g Icing sugar
3-4 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder

Ganache:
200g Chocolate
200ml Single Cream

Toppings:
Flake and Maltesers

Method:
Do these things first:
- Get your butter out its needs to be soft (ideally you want to get it out much earlier in the day)
- Preheat your oven to 180C
- Line the bottom of your cake tin with baking paper and grease your tin. (*Top tip: Stick your baking paper down with cake release spray so it stays put)


Sponges:
1. Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then add the vanilla essence an beat until light and fluffy.

If you have help - egg beating is a great job! 
2. Keep beating and gradually add the eggs a tablespoon at a time, with the last two tablespoons add a tablespoon of flour to stop the mixture curdling.

3. Sift the remaining flour and salt into the bowl and gently fold in.

4. Split the mixture into two bowls and sift the cocoa powder into one bowl with 2 tablespoons of milk fold in until blended. With the second mixture just add the 2 tablespoons of milk and fold in until blended.

5. Using two piping bags spoon the sponge mixture in ready to pipe into your tin. (Your bag ideally needs to be 1.5cm plain end, mine was a bit small at 1cm)


6. Pipe a ring of chocolate mixture around the inside edge of the tin, then do alternate rings of colour until its all filled. To get the chequered effect you need 2 cakes to have the same pattern and 1 cake to start with the other sponge to start. (Tip: I only have two tins so I cooked two cakes first then when cooked started again for the third and the mixture was fine left sat in the piping bags).


7. Bake for 22 ish minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool.


Buttercream:
1. Put the soft butter into a mixing bowl and beat until paler in colour and very creamy. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl, and add the milk and cocoa powder and beat until very smooth and thick. (Tip: I forgot to sieve my cocoa powder so it created a light speckled effect on the buttercream which I really liked, but if thats not your style remember to sieve it).


Putting the cake together:
This is where you start to put the cake together and I trimmed my sponges to make them sit nicely on top of one another. You also need to make sure that you have your one sponge thats different in the middle of the sandwich. Its also at this point that I turned around to find my husband eating the cut off bit of cake with some stolen buttercream!

Stolen cake and buttercream!
I used buttercream to sandwich the cakes together and then started icing around the outside. I really needed for this a spinning cake decorating pedestal and a plain edge tool but I didn't have either so I used a palette knife. Slightly more work but I still go a lovely smooth edge around the side.

1. Use buttercream to sandwich the cakes together and they need to sit as close to each other as possible.


2. Start adding buttercream to your outside edge and don't worry too much about getting it too smooth just get it covered. Also cover the top of your cake. (Tip: You are going to put ganache on the top so it doesn't need to be that smooth at all.)


3. Once your outside edge is covered chill it in the fridge for about 45 minutes so the icing hardens off a bit.

4. Add a second layer of icing to the outside edge and this time you can smooth it using a palette knife dipped in hot water (dry it before you use it on the cake). The hot knife is a miracle worker!

5. Put back in the fridge for 45 minutes to harden off again and start on your ganache.

Ganache:
1. Heat the cream up and take it off just before it boils (don't let it boil)

2. Break your chocolate into small pieces and put into a bowl (everyone says you should use chocolate that has over a 70% cocoa ratio however I broke all the rules and used cadbury's dairy milk because I knew everyone would prefer it and it was just fine)

3. Pour your cream over the chocolate and leave for a few minutes. Don't be tempted to stir it!


4. Careful and very gently stir the chocolate and cream together.

5. Pour your ganache over the cake (you might need to warm it slightly over hot water if it isn't runny enough but I didn't do that I just poured it straight on)

6. Decorate your cake with your desired toppings. I decorated mine with maltesers and flakes as they are my Dad's favourite.


This was a huge bake for me and I am extremely pleased with the results and the taste. The cake didn't last very long at all which is always a good sign and was a huge hit too. This cake was all crafted with a wooden spoon and it reminded me that I really need to get myself an electric mixer!


What show stoppers have you been baking this week?

This post is my entry for the ao.com #aoshowstopper competition.