Is It Spring Yet?!

31 January 2013

Oh how I was it was Spring already! Well it's the last day of January today which of course means that Spring is not too far away. Regular readers will already know that it's my absolute favourite season. I can see glimpses of spring everywhere... like a few more blue skies, the days getting longer and bulbs beginning to shoot up in the garden.

I bought some beautiful daffodils this last week and when I posted the photo as my Silent Sunday photo I got lots of comments saying how much people love them. So I thought I'd put together a cheery little post of some of my favourite springtime pictures that I found on Pinterest. You can visit my spring Pinterest board to see all the photos that I pinned.

Source: via Debra on Pinterest

See, now you're feeling all cheery and spring-like!

American Pancakes

30 January 2013

american pancakes

American pancakes on a Sunday morning have become a regular thing in our house. If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen me posting photos of our pancake breakfasts!

We all love pancakes and it makes a nice change from our usual cereal and toast or bagels. We have pancakes with maple syrup {yum} and bananas but they would be nice with any fruit or you could sprinkle blueberries or cherries in when youre cooking them. Or even eat them the American way with some crispy bacon. 

I've tried a few different recipes but this is my favourite. They're lovely thick squidgy pancakes and are quite filling. The batter is really quick and easy to make, so in 15 minutes they're on the table ready to eat. Perfect when you've got hungry little people waiting for their breakfast.

American Pancakes
Makes 12

225g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
2 large eggs
30g butter (melted)
300 ml milk
Butter for frying

Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl and give them a quick mix. Make a well in the dry ingredients then add the eggs, melted butter and milk. Whizz with an electric hand held mixer until you have a smooth batter. If you have a blender, you could put all the ingredients in and just blitz. Pour the batter into a jug.

Heat the butter in a frying pan or a smooth griddle on medium to low heat. Pour a splodge of batter into the pan {I cook three at a time in my pan} When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when bubbles appear on the upper side of the pancake it's ready to flip over and cook the second side, and this only needs about 1 minute.

Spiderman Cake

29 January 2013

Spiderman cake

What birthday cake do you make for a child who's obsessed with superheroes? A Spiderman cake of course! Oliver had a Spiderman cake for his 3rd birthday last year, but I bought that one from Sainsburys! I've made a few fancy birthday cakes now so a few months ago, I asked him what birthday cake he wanted for his 4th birthday. I wasn't surprised when he said he wanted a Spiderman cake again. 

I spent hours on Pinterest looking at different cake designs. Have a look at my birthday cake ideas board if you want a few ideas. I didn't want to make anything too difficult... I know my limitations! I really liked the Spiderman face design so thought I'd go for that.

Anyway, if you want to have a go yourself, here's how I made it. Sorry I didn't take any photos but I was a bit stressed!
  • The cake is made with my Victoria Sponge cake recipe
  • When the two layers are completely cooled, sandwich them together with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream.
  • Cover the cake with a thin layer of buttercream and make it as smooth as possible. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours {or overnight if you have time}
  • Cut a 3.5cm {1.5 inch} strip out of the middle of the cake and push the two halves together to make the oval shape
  • Cover the cake in red ready-to-roll icing, cut off the excess and smooth it all down with a cake smoother tool
  • Score lines on the cake with a skewer or wooden toothpick. Use an image of your choice to copy the Spiderman design or use this one that I used.
spiderman cake template

  • Using a tube of black writing icing, draw lines where you have scored.
  • Make a template out paper for the shape of the eyes. 
  • Roll out some black ready-to-roll icing, place the templates on it and cut round the templates.
  • Roll out some white ready-to-roll icing, place the templates on it and cut round the templates. Then cut off approx 3cm's round the edge of the white piece so that it's smaller than the black piece. 
  • Stick the white piece on top of the black piece using a small amount of water to stick them together.
  • Place them carefully on the cake. You won't be able to re-position them as if you move them you will smudge the black lines {I make these mistakes so you don't have to!}
  • If you want to, you can cover the cake board with blue ready-to-roll icing and score lines on it to make a 'brick wall' design {you can just see them in the photo} then pin a black ribbon round the edge. I also personalised it with Oliver's name and age on the cake board.

In typical Debra fashion I left it till the last minute and was rushing to finish it {due to one of the cakes sinking so I had to make another!} I did the cake board the day before and in hindsight, I should have made the eyes and letters in advance too so they had time to harden. Icing is much easier to work with when it's gone hard!

All in all I was delighted with it. And for someone who's been baking for less than a year it's a pretty good achievement! Oliver and his friends loved it which is the most important thing. I must admit a nearly shed a tear when it was being cut up as I only finished it 3 hours earlier!

    My Week On Instagram

    28 January 2013

    On our way to nursery after the first time it snowed... Oliver loved it! It snowed all morning so by the time I went to collect him there was loads of it.
    I love the photos of the frosty plants in the garden. Jack Frost had been out making everything look pretty
    Oliver and Lydia had a mad half hour playing in the snow in my parents garden. It was absolutely freezing and they wouldn't wear their gloves so their little hands were like icicles!
    We had a quiet afternoon at home while the snow was falling. I took a few photos of the darlings and played around with them on my new photo editing app PicsArt
    I was so excited by the impending snow. I couldn't wait to take the darlings sledging and build a snowman with them.
    Oliver loved sledging. He started off on a small gentle slope but soon he was sledging down a massive hill with the big kids! Lydia was a bit unsure of it all to start with but she took it all in and even had a go on the sledge sat on Hubby's knee.
    I love my pink wellies... I've worn them all week. The only problem was I forgot to take my ballet pumps to work to change into, so I was walking round the office in my wellies. Not a good look haha.
    I bought the darlings new wellies. Lydia's feet have grown loads because they're her second pair of wellies this winter!
    We had enough snow for a whole family of snowman... according to Oliver there was a daddy, mummy and baby. My dad helped and was responsible for the dead hydrangeas... they look like cheerleaders!

    What has been the highlight of your week? Do you have a favourite photo  from the past week?

    Silent Sunday

    Fun in the Snow

    25 January 2013

    Yes, we had snow... and lots of it. Actually I think we had more snow than I've seen for years. I'm not normally a fan of snow but because it was at the weekend I got a bit excited about it. I couldn't wait to take the darlings out sledging and building snowmen. Lydia was too young to remember the small amount of snow we had last year so it was the first time that she's really been out playing in it.

    So Saturday morning we got the darlings dressed up in about 13 layers of clothing {I'm surprised they could walk!} and went out for some fun in the snow. We got the sledge out and walked over the field across the road where there are a few gentle slopes perfect for sledging.

    Then it snowed even more on Sunday night into Monday morning and just carried on all day. I took this photo at 4am on Monday morning. We live on a main road, it's an A-road, and I have never, in the 10 years I have lived here, seen it so covered with snow!

    The snow coincided nicely with my day off work. Oliver's pre-school was closed so we walked over to my parents house to build a snowman with my Dad. We ended up with a whole family of snowmen. The dead hydrangeas were my Dad's idea!

    The funniest thing was that it was my Dad's birthday and I'd made him a Kit Kat and Maltesers Cake. There was only one way I could get it to him..... I strapped it on to the sledge!

    How much snow did you have? What fun things did you do in the snow?

    Oliver Is Four!

    24 January 2013

    I can't believe that my baby boy is four whole years old! I know it's a cliché but where the heck did the last four years go? Oliver's really grown up this year especially with starting nursery school.  He's learning loads and made lots of new friends and his behaviour is so much better. He can write his name already {proud mummy boast!} He's such a typical boisterous boy, always jumping off things and running round like a maniac.

    I let Oliver choose where he wanted to have his birthday party. He went for the same playgym as last year! I also let him choose a few of his nursery friends to invite which he was really happy about.

    I made the party bags which looked really cute with mini pegs and personalised gift tags. Inside was a Mr Man book and some sweets and chocolates. 

    Homemade party bags

    And of course there was the cake! I asked him ages ago what sort of birthday cake he wanted and I wasn't surprised that he asked for a Spiderman cake.

    Spiderman cake

    I'd planned on getting the cake finished the day before his birthday but I had a bit of a disaster as one of the layers sunk so I had to make another. It all took much longer than I thought and in the end I only finished it 3 hours before his party. So it lasted about 4 hours before it was cut up and dished out to all the kids!

    Kit Kat and Maltesers Cake

    23 January 2013

    kitkat and maltesers cake

    My Dad is a big chocolate lover. That's probably where I get it from. So when his birthday was coming up there really was no question that his cake would be chocolate. I made a Chocolate Fingers and Smarties cake for my birthday back in October and I really wanted to make it again. I thought I'd mix it up a bit and make it with Kit Kats and Maltesers this time as I've seen them all over the place and it looks a bit more grown up than Smarties!

    It's actually a really easy cake to make and decorate. I found a recipe for Death By Chocolate cake in one of my books and as you'll see from the recipe below, it's almost a 'chuck it all in a bowl and mix it' recipe! Then all you do it stick the Kit Kats round it, empty the packets of Maltesers on top, tie a bow round it {optional} and voila!

    kitkat and maltesers cake

    KitKat and Maltesers Cake

    Preparation time 45 minutes
    Baking time 35 minutes
    Serves 16

    For the cake
    275g plain flour
    3 level tablespoons cocoa powder
    1.5 level teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
    1.5 level teaspoons baking powder
    215g caster sugar
    3 tablespoons golden syrup
    3 large eggs
    225ml sunflower oil
    225ml whole milk

    For the ganache
    200g plain chocolate
    100g milk chocolate
    300ml double cream

    To decorate
    230g bag of Maltesers
    Kit Kats {you'll need about 36 fingers)

    Preheat the oven to 160C {320F} Gas mark 3. Grease two round 20cm {8in} deep loose bottomed cake tins. Line the base of each tin with baking paper or parchment.

    Put the bicarb of soda, baking powder and cocoa powder into a large bowl then sift in the flour. Add the caster sugar and give everything a good mix. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the golden syrup, eggs, oil and milk. Mix well with an electric hand held mixer until it is smooth. The mixture will be very liquid but don't worry!

    Pour into the tins and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 35 minutes. When ready a skewer instered into the middle of the cake will come out clean and the cake will spring back when lightly pressed with the finger. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. {One of my cakes rose a lot so I cut the 'dome' off when it had cooled to make it flat}.

    Make the ganache. Gently heat the cream in a saucepan until it starts to bubble, remove from the heat, then add the chocolate and stir like crazy until the mixture is completely melted and there are no chocolate lumps left. Leave to cool for about 2 hours until the mixture has thickened {you can pop in the fridge but the ganache may lose its glossiness}. 

    Place one of the cakes onto a plate or cake board. Spread about 1/3 of the ganache onto the cake then place the other cake carefully on top and spead 1/3 of the ganache onto the top and smooth with a pallet knife. Then spread the rest of the ganache around the sides of the cake until it is fully covered. You should have enough ganache to give it a good thickish covering. 

    Lastly, stick the KitKats all the way round the cake and cover the top of the cake with the Maltesers. If you wanted a bit of extra wow factor you could sprinkle on a little edible glitter too and tying a bow around it gives that lovely finishing touch.

    Chocolate Cake Bites

    22 January 2013

    Chocolate cake bites

    What do you do with left over cake? Left over cake? What's that??! Yes it does occasionally happen. When I made my Dad's birthday cake at the weekend, one of the cakes came out really domed so I had to cut it off to flatten the top so I could decorate it. I didn't want to just throw away a perfectly good piece of cake {death by chocolate cake no less!} and I've been recently been looking at making some cake pops. The absence of lolly sticks was a bit of a problem though so I thought I'd do cake bites instead.

    All you need is...

    Cake, any type, whatever you have to spare
    Frosting e.g. buttercream or ganache
    Chocolate for melting, white or milk
    Sprinkles or coloured icing

    {I haven't given any quantities in the recipe as it depends on how much cake you have to use. Sorry if that's not much use but it's best to just have a go!}

    • Crumble the cake so that you have fine cake crumbs. Cake that's a day old is easier to crumble than freshly baked cake that is still quite moist.
    •  Add the frosting and mix with your hands. Add it very sparingly as too much will make the mixture too mushy. Add maybe a tablespoon at a time and combine it with the cake crumbs until you can form a ball shape with your hands. The cake balls should be still very much cakey.
    •  Place the cake balls on a baking tray lined with baking paper or parchment, pop in the fridge for a couple hours until they have firmed up.
    • Break up the chocolate, place in a bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water or melt in the microwave on half power in 30 second bursts.
    • Dip the cake balls in the melted chocolate and place back on the baking tray. If using sprinkles, sprinkle them on now before the chocolate sets.
    • Pop back in the fridge for about half an hour until the chocolate has set.
    • If using icing, drizzle lines or swirls over the cake balls. I used writing icing that comes in a little tube so it was nice an easy to drizzle over the balls.

    chocolate cake bites

    chocolate cake bites

    chocolate cake bites

    I only got seven cake bites out of the amount of cake I had but I think this is just one of those recipes that's perfect for using up whatever you have left over. I hate left overs!

    Silent Sunday

    Silent Sunday

    My Week On Instagram

    10 January 2013

    Here's my first 'Week on Instagram' of 2013. It's turning into a regular thing on my blog isn't it? I love doing these posts and looking back over the past week at what we've been up to.

    Lydia has had lots of fun playing with her new toys. Father Christmas bought her a new pram and a new dolly, which we have named Holly. She loves playing with them and is like a little mummy pretending to change her dolls nappy and feeding it and making her cups of tea!
    I was so happy to take down the Christmas decorations on New Years Day. I loved having the Christmas tree and everything else up, but it was so nice to pack it all away until next year and get the house back to normal. 
    I got my beautiful Samsung Galaxy Tab a few days after Christmas. I'd wanted one for ages and my wonderful Hubby got it for me.
    Lydia is currently obsessed with In The Night Garden. It drives me crazy but it's like a drug for her! She would watch it all day long it I let her. Thankfully it's only on at bedtime so I don't have to suffer it till then.
    We spent a lot of time indoors over the holidays so when we had a relatively mild afternoon, the darlings and I had some fun in the garden. We all got wrapped up but I was freezing so decided to run round the garden with the darlings chasing me - what a sight! It was lovely that it stayed light a bit longer too. I can't wait till spring when the days are longer and we can have our after-dinner trips to the park across the road again.
    I was immersed in preparations for Oliver's 4th birthday last week. I made some fab party bags and felt very smug when I had the idea of photocopying all the thank you notes so I didn't have to write them all individually!
    Oliver's first birthday treat of the day was pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast. The darlings love them and it's becoming a regular thing that we do on lazy Sunday mornings.
    I made Oliver a Spider-man birthday cake for his birthday. He kept popping into the kitchen while I was decorating it to see how I was doing. It was harder than I thought it would be but it turned out great. And of course he loved it!
    Oliver went back to nursery on Monday after the Christmas holidays. He was so excited! He loves going and had made some lovely little friendships. On the way to nursery, I made the darlings stop while I took a photo of the beautiful sunrise!

    What have you been up to this week? How did you feel about taking your Christmas decorations down?

    Silent Sunday

    A Bedroom For A Boy & Girl

    4 January 2013

    So the time has come to move Lydia out of our bedroom. Well she is two years old!

    Our major problem is lack of space. Until we move house {that's a whole other story!} we're stuck in our tiny two bedroom house. So Lydia has been in her cot in our bedroom because Oliver's bedroom is also tiny. The only way they can share the room is to have bunk beds, but Oliver is only three years old {four in 3 days} so until now we thought he was too young to go on the top bunk. Lydia is also running out of space in her cot so we've got to do the move asap. Actually,  I can't wait to have our bedroom back so I can have an early night and watch tv in bed.

    So I've chosen and ordered the bunk beds and they'll be arriving in a few days. Exciting stuff. I've been looking for ideas on how to make their bedroom as nice as I can which works for both a girl and boy.  The walls are a pale yellow colour which we are keeping as it's quite nice and neutral. Once again Pinterest came in very  handy  for finding ideas for a girl/boy shared bedroom.

    Here are a few of the photos I've pinned as my inspiration...

    Source: via Debra on Pinterest

    The last two are my favourites, I just love the bright colours. I definitely think a trip to Ikea is called for. I really love this brightly coloured bunting duvet cover and matching curtains. They look great for both a girl and boy and would go perfectly with everything else in the room. I'd like them with a blue blanket on Oliver's bed and a red one on Lydia's for a little individuality.

    Wish us luck that the move goes smoothly. I'll keep you updated on how the it goes and will share some photos when the room is finished.

    Our Christmas Celebrations 2012

    3 January 2013

    Happy new year everyone. I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and Santa brought you lots of nice goodies. Well I'm back from my blogging break. I didn't intend to have so much time off but real life just took over. Although I had to work for two mornings after Christmas, we just chilled out and spent lots of quality family time together.

    WeIl wasn't December fabulous? Isn't the run up to Christmas just the best time of the year? I've always loved Christmas but it's a million times more special when you have children.  Of course it was all building up to the big day which always seems to pass in the blink of an eye.

    I was just as excited as the darlings {maybe more?} about Christmas day. I was awake at 7.30am and was sat up in bed waiting for everyone else to wake up. I'd set Oliver's groclock for 7.45 and on the dot I heard little footsteps across the landing. He appeared with two stockings full of presents which they opened in our bed. Then it was straight downstairs to see what else Santa had left. The look on Oliver's face was priceless when he saw the big pile of presents. And he was delighted that Santa had eaten the mince pie and drank the milk we had left out for him. Lydia took it all in her stride as if a room full of presents happens every day. Oliver unwrapped with such speed I could barely get a  photo of him. Rip rip rip next, rip rip rip next! Lydia needed a bit of help from hubby but got there slowly but surely.

    As much as I love the festive season, I'm now dying to take the tree and decorations down. If Oliver had his way, they would be up all year long. I keep sneakily taking bits down here and there but I think I'll have to do the full dismantle when they're both in bed.