April photo a day challenge... DONE!

30 April 2012

Phew! I've just posted my final photo for April!

I've really enjoyed this month. I feel more comfortable and confident taking photos. I think I'm also developing a style of my own too. I take all the photos on my mobile phone {HTC Desire if you were wondering!} which has an absolutely brilliant camera. I've been really impressed that the close up photos have come out so clearly and with so much detail.

I was really happy when Instagram for Android was launched at the beginning of April, so I've been posting all my photos on there. As well as on Twitter and of course on here!

You can view all my photos here or click on the 'Photo A Day' button on the left. Here is a selection of my favourite photos.

Day 7 // Shadow

Day 15 // Sunset

Day 19  //  Orange

Day 21 // Bottle

Day 25  //   Looking down

Day 26  //  Something you're grateful for
Day 29  //  Circle

So onwards and upwards to May! I think I might struggle even more with next month's as some of the prompt words are going to be a real challenge.

So what do you think about my photos? If you've been part of the photo challenges please feel free to leave a comment with a link so that I can have a look at yours!

Silent Sunday

My son... the thief!

28 April 2012

Last week Oliver came home from playgroup with a small toy spider in his pocket. When he showed it to me he was very proud of himself! I didn't want to make a big deal out of it so explained that he's not allowed to take things from playgroup as they are not his and they are for all the children at playgroup to play with. We took it back the next day.

A few days later, after playgroup, he produced 2 small bricks from his pocket. Again I explained why he shouldn't take them and he was made to take them back.

The next day he came home with his pockets bulging full of bricks! He had those combat style jeans on with the pockets on the legs and those were also chock full of bricks! Again I explained why he can't take them from playgroup.  We put them all in a bag and I made him take them back the next day and say sorry to the lady who is in charge!

So on Thursday my sister picked him up from playgroup. When they got home Oliver proceeded to take a small toy from each of his 4 pockets and proudly show them to her! When I arrived she showed them to me so again I explained why he can't take things that aren't his. My parents were taking him to playgroup the next day so I asked my Dad to have a word with Gill {Oliver's favourite helper} and ask her to keep an eye on Oliver in case he put anything in his pockets.

Well that day he came out of playgroup and the first thing he said was 'Mummy I didn't take anything from playgroup today cos we're not allowed!' Now I don't know exactly what was said but, when they had quiet time at the end of the session, Gill explained to all the children that they can't take toys from playgroup as they are there for all the other boys and girls to play with. She didn't tell them that anything had been taken or mention any names.

I know its a phase that some 3 year olds go through and Oliver's just pushing the boundaries but I really hope this is the end of his career as a toy thief!

And the best thing for him is that Hubby has bought some bricks of his own!

Week in pictures... rain, shopping and Steps!

27 April 2012

What time do your children go to bed?  Is 6.20pm too early for them to be in bed asleep?

The Darlings were uber-tired tonight so that's what time they were both in bed and fast asleep! Lydia didn't have an afternoon nap as she slept over lunchtime so she was very tired and whingy. Oliver had a total meltdown at dinner time as he bit his own finger {kids eh!} while eating his dinner and proceeded to cry for the next 20 minutes! He calmed down eventually after a cuddle but Hubby and I made an executive decision to put them to bed early. We actually felt it would be cruel to keep them awake any longer!

So I thought I'd do a 'Week in  Pictures' post  to show what we've been up to this week.

It's been raining all week so we've spent lots of time indoors. Oliver is really into playing with his cars  at the moment and Lydia wanted to dress up as Spiderman. Or should that be Spiderbaby! She loves copying what her big brother does!

I actually bought something for myself this week. I don't buy much for myself nowadays as I go a bit overboard buying clothes for the Darlings. But I saw these {in Asda!} this week and just had to treat myself.

We had a rare glimpse of sunshine so the Darlings were straight outside playing in the garden.

And my highlight of the week was going to see Steps in concert at the MEN Arena in Manchester. I went with a couple of friends from work, one of whom had never been to a live concert before! I had THE most fabulous time singing along to all the songs, doing a few dance moves and even a tiny bit of screaming {I was a bit tipsy and I'm an old-school Steps fan!}

How was your week? What was the highlight for of your week?

Zingy lemon cupcakes

25 April 2012

It's a whole week since I did any baking. I've been getting withdrawal symptoms!

Last week I baked my biggest batch of cupcakes to date. Remember I'm still a novice baker so 24 cupcakes was a lot! They were actually for work, as our team takes it in turns to chair the weekly team meetings and it was my turn last week. The chairperson usually provides some snacks and nibbles {we're all obsessed with food!} so I decided to make some cupcakes instead. I made 3 different types...vanilla, chocolate and banana cupcakes.  I was very happy that they were all eaten and I didn't have to take any home!

This is half of what I baked!

So this week I wanted to try something a bit different. A flick through my cupcake recipe book brought me to Lemon Cupcakes. Then I remembered that I'd seen a recipe for these on the lovely blog of Holly at Recipes from a Normal Mum {she's the lovely lady who was runner up in The Great British Bake Off and I love her blog!} I adapted the recipe slightly {don't I always!} so I used traditional buttercream instead of the Italian meringue buttercream used in Holly's recipe.

Zingy Lemon Cupcakes

Makes 9
Preparation time 25 minutes
Cooking time 15-20 minutes

2 large eggs weighed in their shells
The same weight of Stork margarine {I used butter instead}
The same weight of plain flour
The same weight of caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons whole milk
{E.g. my 2 eggs weighed 130g so I used 130g of butter,plain flour and caster sugar}

Juice of one lemon weighed
Same weight of caster sugar

150g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons hot water

Preheat the oven to Gas 4 180C (350F). Put the rack in the centre of the oven.  

Line your bun tray with paper cake cases. Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, lemon zest, milk and flour in a bowl and beat with a hand-held electric whisk for about a minute until light and creamy. Divide between the paper cases and level with your finger.

Pop in the oven. After 15 minutes if the cakes look very light brown and ‘done’ then open the door and check for bounce-back. If the sponge does bounce back when gently pushed with a finger then remove them from the oven straight away. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the cakes are baking make the drizzle. Heat the lemon juice and sugar in a small pan on a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Once your cupcakes have cooled for 5 minutes, pierce them all over with a toothpick and spoon 2 teaspoons of the lemony drizzle over the top. Do this carefully and slowly so that it has time to soak through. Leave the cakes to cool completely. You will probably have some lemony drizzle left over but please resist the temptation to pour the lot over the cakes.

Put the unsalted butter and icing sugar in a bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or hand-held electric whisk until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and hot water and beat again until smooth.

Pipe or spread the buttercream over the cupcakes and top with sprinkles of your choice. I spread the buttercream with a pallet knife and went for some little white chocolate flowers which I bought from Sainsbury's!

My new cupcake recipe book

23 April 2012

I've only gone and bought this new recipe book!! It arrived today and has cheered me up no end as I've had the mother of all headaches for two days!

I still love my Hamlyn 200 Cupcake book. I've made some lovely cupcakes from the recipes in it and there's still more I want to try. But you can never have enough recipe books!

I've had my eye on The Hummingbird Bakery book for a while as a girl at work recommended it. She has her own cupcake business and makes all hers using the Hummingbird recipes. And it was only £4.59 from Amazon!

Here are some of the cupcakes in there that I can't wait to try....

Black bottom cupcakes

Carrot cake cupcakes

Chcoclate cupcakes

Red velvet cupcakes

Vanilla cupcakes

Don't they look delicious?! All their bakeries are in London and they do deliveries in London too. It's lucky that I live in Yorkshire or I'd be in there every day!

All cupcake images are from THB website.

Pinterest Party... Raindrops

22 April 2012

I couldn't wait for this weeks Pinterest Party over on the blog of the lovely moors-mummy.  I joined in for the first time last week but she's on week 10... I wish I'd known about it since the start!
Anyway, here's what you do....
  1. Log in or set up an account on Pinterest.
  2. Then in the search bar type in the topic/theme for this week.
  3. This weeks theme is RAINDROPS.
  4. Browse through the pictures until you find ONE picture that you like the most.
  5. PIN IT onto your board (Pinterest Party- you may have to create one)
  6. Blog about your choice of picture. Making sure you follow the RULES.
  7. Link back to moors-mummy in your post
  8. Return here and add your blog to the linky.
  9. Have a look at the others and comment on their blogs and follow on Pinterest!
  10. Enjoy it and come back next Sunday!
Here's mine... Raindrops...

I chose this because I really like the simplicity of the photograph. The raindrops and branches look really tiny and delicate and I love how the raindrops in the background are blurred out but are still shimmering in the sunlight. It makes me think that it was taken in the summer, early in the morning, which would turn into a beautiful sunny day! 

Have  a gorgeous Sunday!

Silent Sunday

Where do I want to go?

21 April 2012

The other day I was watching a documentary about Mississippi. They visited the studio where Elvis recorded his songs and it made me think of the places I want to visit. Don't worry, I won't actually be popping over to see Gracelands anytime soon! But that very studio is one of the many places my Mum and Dad have visited. They've travelled to a fair few places and seen lots of amazing sights {since my sister and I left home I might add!}

I think over the last 4 years everything has been about the Darlings and there's nothing wrong with that but I kind of pushed my dreams to the back for a while... and we all need to have dreams don't we? It's only now that I've started thinking of things that I want to do... and travelling is one of them.

Unless I win the lottery I doubt that I'll visit all of these places {and there are actually a few that I've already been to} but hopefully I'll get to go to a few of them before I reach the Pearly Gates!

So in no particular order here's where I want to go...

Las Vegas  //  Is like Marmite. You either love it or hate it. I loved it! I've went about 7 years ago but I loved it so much that I have to go back one day. Next time I want to stay at The Bellagio Hotel!

New York  //  Who doesn't want to go to New York?! It's such a busy, bustling, exciting city. I want to see the Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park... The list is endless!

Los Angeles  //  I always think of L.A. as full of movie stars, a place synonymous with glamour and style. I totally wouldn't fit in! But I want to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Venice Beach, Rodeo Drive, Universal Studios all in the shadows of the Hollywood sign.

San Francisco  //  I would be a typical tourist and go to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Chinatown, ride on a cable car and drive down Lombard Street!
Source: goo.gl via Debra on Pinterest

Orlando, Florida  //  I wanted to go before I had the Darlings and I want to go even more now! I want to see it all... Disneyworld, Epcot, Universal Stuidios, Seaworld and Islands of Adventure. I'm such a big kid!
Source: goo.gl via Debra on Pinterest

Paris  // I visited Paris on a school trip when I was 16 years old and knew then that I would love to go back one day. The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Sacre Coeur, the Pompidou Centre... I want to see them all again!
Source: goo.gl via Debra on Pinterest

Barcelona  // This is another place that I've been lucky enough to visit already. I spent 5 days there on my sister's hen week. It was such a beautiful city but I didn't see enough of it, so would like to go back again to see everything.
Source: goo.gl via Carita on Pinterest

Australia  // I think this should actually be top of my list! I want to see the whole country! Sydney, The Great Barrier Reef, the Gold Coast, Alice Springs, Ayres Rock, even the set of Neighbours!

Fiji  //  An old Uni friend had visited Fiji on her gap year and the photos she showed me looked incredible... the white sandy beaches, cloudless skies, beautiful scenery and the coral reefs.

China  // The thing that attracts me to China is the culture. There are cities like Hong Kong, Beijing 
and Shanghai which are so vibrant and noisy! Then there are the ancient wonders like the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army and the Forbidden City.

Dubai  //  What I love about Dubai is the 'over-the-top-ness' of it all! The flamboyant hotels and shopping malls, the souqs, the dessert and of course the famous Palm Islands and the World Islands!

Have you been to any of the places on my list? 
Can you suggest somewhere else for me to visit?
And where would you like to travel to?

Beautiful shoes for Lydia

19 April 2012

The Darlings both have big feet! Oliver is a size 9 at 3 years and 3 months old! Lydia got her first pair of shoes back in January (she was 13 months) which were size 4.5. They were looking a bit snug so I had her feet measured last week and she's gone up a whole size to 5.5. Bless my kids with their giant feet!

Anyway, I usually buy Lydia's shoes from good old Clarks but the only pair I liked were too wide for her and there was nothing else that I liked.

Luckily, a few days later I received an email from a company called Topsy Toesy offering a discount off their children's shoes. I like a bargain so yesterday I took a look at their website. Well I fell in love with all their shoes! They are just beautiful... I would describe the style as retro with a modern twist!

So I ordered the Peacock design by Livie & Luca. I chose the 1st class delivery option which their website says is 3-10 days so I was very surprised when they arrived the today!

So here they are!

And look at the cute little show box they came in!

Aren't they gorgeous?! The quality is fantastic, they're made of really soft leather and are very lightweight. I absolutely love them!

Note: This is not a sponsored post/review. Topsy Toesy have not asked me to write this post, I have written this as the shoes are beautiful , I wanted to show them off and let everyone know about the supplier!

Getting lost and coffee with my favourite boy

17 April 2012

We had a fairly sedate weekend at My Darlings and Me!

On Saturday we all had bacon or sausage butties for breakfast! I popped round to the sandwich shop for breakfast which was a very popular with the darlings {and hubby} who loved having a change from their usual weetabix and toast!

Then it was party time. We were invited to my best friend's daughters' 3rd birthday. It was being held at a soft play centre that I had never heard of and had no clue where it was, all I knew is that it was in a neighbouring village. So I was relying on the Sat Nav {which is never good for me!} I don't think the Sat Nav lady likes me as she took us to a little Cul-de-sac on the opposite side of the village. I flipping hate Sat Nav's, I'm way too much of a control freak to have a machine telling me where to go! I'm not using it ever again {I say that every time!} Thank god for mobile internet so I could find where we were supposed to be... we were only 20 minutes late!

Anyway, the Darlings had a blast. Lydia loved the trampoline. Oliver hurt his knee on the trampoline. I had a latte. They had lots of party food {it was quite healthy food for a kids party!} I had another coffee. But the toilets were disgusting!

Sunday was a quiet day. It was my turn for a lie in so hubby got up with the darlings {he's not all bad!}

Later Oliver and I popped out to Argos to get some storage boxes to go under his bed. On the way home we called in at Costa Coffee. I love going for a coffee date with Oliver! We don't often get any mummy and son time together so it's always lovely to do something special for just the two of us. A friend of mine recently posted a photo on Facebook of her son with a Babychino in Costa, so I asked Oliver if he wanted one. It was so cute in the tiny cup dusted with chocolate. Well he spilled his first sip all down his t-shirt and got his face covered in chocolate but he loved it! And he ate most of my Tiffin slice  - along with his own gingerbread Charlie Chick!

Frosted banana cupcakes

We all love bananas in the My Darlings house! It's not often that there's a spare banana left in the fruit bowl. But I really wanted to try these cupcakes so I stole a banana and hid it until it went ripe!

These are in my new cupcake recipe book but I've adapted it slightly as the original recipe had icing made with Greek yoghurt.  You put the yoghurt in a double layer of kitchen paper and squeeze the liquid out of it {you have to do this twice!} then add the icing sugar... I didn't fancy all the messing so I used traditional buttercream.

My piping skills are improving but practice makes perfect!

Frosted banana cupcakes

Makes 12
Preparation time 25 minutes
Cooking time 20 minutes

100g lightly salted butter, softened
100g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 ripe banana, mashed

150g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons hot water

Line a 12 section bun tray with paper cake cases. Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour, and baking powder in a bowl and beat with a hand-held electric whisk for about a minute until light and creamy. Stir in the mashed banana. Divide between the paper cases.

Bake in a preheated oven, 180C (350F) Gas Mark 4, for 18 minutes or until risen and just firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Put the unsalted butter and icing sugar in a bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or hand-held electric whisk until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and hot water and beat again until smooth.

Pipe or spread the buttercream over the cupcakes and top with sprinkles of your choice. I went for a sprinkle of cocoa powder which looked quite cool!

Recipe taken from this fab cupcake book