Celebration Popcorn & Some Foodie Resolutions

white chocolate marshmallow pecan nuts sweet popcorn

I’m having the most perfect New Year’s Eve tonight. We went to the Pantomime at the Liverpool Empire earlier with the girls, been for a delicious Italian meal at Il Forno in Liverpool, had drinks at our friends for a few hours afterwards and are now back home with the girls snugged up in bed. I’m not spending the whole of my NYE on the computer but wanted to share one of my favourite recipes with you. Tonight I will be drinking Prosecco (Yep, I’ve still got some left from Christmas) and nibbling on my favourite way to eat popcorn, Celebration Popcorn. So called because I did out the recipe near enough every time there is a celebration.

If you got some popping corn in the house, you still have time to make it before the clock strikes twelve. Here’s how:

Ingredients:

  • Around 75g of unpopped popcorn (available in most supermarkets – I got mine from the Asian aisle in Tesco – not sure why it was there!)
  • 50g Mini Marshmallows – plus extra for sprinkling on later
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 50g Pecan Nuts (or whatever your favourite nuts are)
  • Vegetable oil for spreading around the base & sides of the pan
  • Popping Candy for extra explosive fun (optional)

Method:

  • In a large pan, drizzle about 1tbsp oil and brush around the sides and all over the botton
  • Pour in the popping corn and turn on the heat – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE LID ON
  • After 2 or so minutes the corn should start popping (Its fun to watch if you have see through lids on your pans) – Carry on with the heat until the corn pops start slowly down and there are several seconds between each ‘pop’
  • While this is happening, place the marshmallows and white chocolate (chopped finely if not already in small pieces) into the microwave and heat on high at 30 seconds intervals. It should take between 4-6 shots until you have a ‘bloop’ consistency. It will never go that runny.
  • Transfer the choc/marshmallow mix into a large bowl and add the corn. Mix thoroughly until well combined. Some corn chunks may break down. The bloop will turn into a crumb like consistency – most odd but great to eat.
  • Break up the pecans and mix well into the corn mix.
  • Just before serving, add a sprinkle of popping candy if you are using it – I also added extra marshmallows for extra chewiness.
  • get your glass and enjoy your celebration!

For 2014, I have made some Foodie plans/resolutions: During this year, I am going to try to:

  • Eat 5-a-day (or more) – Don’t gasp, I know I should have been doing this already.
  • Drink more (Not alcohol!) My water intake has dropped a lot – I’m going to experiment with different flavours of cordials and non-alcoholic cocktails.
  • Continue experimenting with different foods – 2013 was quite a good year for this -I’m going to keep up the good work and use some of this stuff in my cupboards.
  • Have a supply of homemade frozen meals in the freezer – Around 2-3 times per week, Millie and I have to eat our evening meal in the car or at a leisure centre for her swimming training. We give Meals on Wheels a whole new meaning.
  • Dermot has put us on a ban of buying any alcohol during January (We may even see how we go through to February). We’ve gained quite a stash over the past month so we need to economise. Watch out for some odd combinations – I’m still not sure we’ll drink my mum’s massive bottle of Lambrini or that really old bottle of Cherry Liquor though.
  • I’m all about Food Bargains at the minute – I’m not about to start queuing with the masses at the fridges while the shop assistant puts the ‘Whoops’ stickers on but I’m really going to cut down on our food bill. 2014 is the year of Frugal Eating for us!
  • We are going to experiment with different cuts of meat and types of fish.
  • Buy Less shop made cakes & biscuits – It annoys me every time I see the cupboard full of pre-made cakes – Surely I should be able to have a house full of homemade goodies?!
  • I’m getting back to sugarcraft – I lost the joy of doing it for a hobby but now there has been a while since my last wedding cake went out, I can start to experiment again.
  • Join in with linkies – I love discovering new blogs and recipes. I also love being part of the foodie community. Long may it continue!
  • And a biggie … I’m aiming for AT LEAST 200 FOOD BLOG POSTS. (If I type it in capitals, it has to happen doesn’t it?)

I also have a few other resolutions:

  • To continue with my reading challenge of reading 500 books by the time I’m 50 – considering I’m only 3 books in and I only have 9 years and 8 months to go – I’ve got some work to do this year.
  • This year is all about crafts for me too – I’ve sorted the craft room (at last!) and I’m ploughing on with my WIP’s. I’m taking part in the Granny Square Crochet Blanket – I’m aiming for 2 squares per week and am motoring on with our plan to crochet bunting to be displayed at the St Helens 10K in March in aid of raising money for the Steve Prescott Foundation
  • My inbox WILL be clear *cough*
  • I’m going to walk to school more – This is probably the last year I’ll ever have a pram with me *weeps* so I’m going to make the most of it.

Have you made any resolutions/plans/goals – whatever the trendy term is this year? I’d love to hear them. Don’t forget, while your working them out, enjoy a bowl of Celebration Popcorn! Happy New Year!

The Big Draw 2013 – Imperial War Museum Manchester

Big Draw Imperial War Museum half term activities

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to take part in a preview of The Big Draw 2013 at The Imperial War Museum in Manchester. This event is inviting families to take part in the world’s largest drawing festival. The people at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) say it doesn’t matter what age you are or how good you are at art – that was enough for me, off we went.

Soldier's boots

Our preview day started with storytime in the Open Studio which was suitable for very young children. There were quite a few tots there on the day that could happily potter around the room, dressing up in the war inspired outfits if they wished.

We then moved on to the actual drawings. This was a brilliant way of introducing wartime objects to children. We could explain to the kids what things were (such as gas masks and powdered egg tins) whilst they were drawing. The team from IWM were very welcoming and friendly to us all, allowing us time to chat and draw – they also managed to make us feel like our drawings were fantastic somehow – true people skills! For children of Millie’s age (11) it was a chance to cement what she had already learnt from school and for Violet (7) it was a brilliant introduction to how things used to be.

ration books

What we drew

We spent absolutely ages going around the Main Exhibition Space. We highly recommend the Big Picture Show from Horrible Histories on Rotten Rationing which is shown on all walls in the Exhibition area. It lasts around 10 mins and keeps the kids enthralled. A must to see and hilarious!

There are plenty of Handling areas that kids can get their hands on. I spent so much of the day marvelling at the fact that the IWM has been open for just over 11 years and I had never visited before. We will definitely be going again. What realised surprised us was how spacious and clean the whole building was. The extra space ensured that littlies such as Tara had the freedom to roam whilst we were looking at exhibits. You also appreciated just how big some of the exhibition pieces are too.

Large War exhibits

The highlight of our day was a chance to go up the Air Shard – the lift is truly terrifying and fantastic all in one go. I’m not great with heights but loved getting out of the lift at the top, being able to see the ground through the grilled floor and then seeing the whole of Manchester from above. I cannot praise the security guards and in fact, everyone that we met at the IWM enough. They couldn’t do enough to help us (they didn’t know we were there for review purposes – I got the sense that they just love their job).

Our view of Manchester from the top of the Air Shard

Our view of Manchester from the top of the Air Shard

There are just a couple of points I do feel I need to point out for first time visitors with children:
* On the way into the Cafe (which served a lovely soup and again had very friendly staff) are images from the Iraq war. Some of them show some injuries and children being rescued. My Violet at 7 was very intrigued but also a little alarmed – If you go up in the lift with young children, you can avoid these picture if you need to.
* One of the small rooms was set out like a living room which was very appealing to the girls after walking around. This room was showing a video of the Vietnam war and the famous image of the naked child running to safety.

I know that these areas are not particularly suitable for my children at the moment so next time we go, I will avoid these.
I would definitely recommend reading any literature you get when you visit. There is so much to see that you can easily walk past something and not realise its significance – The mangled wreckage from the World Trade Centre was just chilling when we realised what it was.

Guess the trench stench activity - Stinks but great for the kids!

Guess the trench stench activity – Stinks but great for the kids!

Half Term events for The Big Draw run from Saturday 26 October – SUnday 3rd November.
Admission to the IWM is free – Donations are welcome. Tickets to the Air Shard are an amazing £1.60 (80 pence for concessions).
Opening times 10am-5pm.

For more information visit www.iwm.org.uk
Any Big Draw sketches can be shared on the IWM’s Facebook page here

Learning to Crochet with Black Sheep Wools

black sheep wools

I’ve mentioned on here before about wanting to learn to crochet properly. I’ve had a stab at it on a couple of occasions but I never seemed to get any better. I’m not the sort to want to be just ok at something. I have endless patience with other people learning but when it comes to myself, I want to be excellent straightaway. Maybe that competitive streak I thought I never had, has arrived at the age of 40?

learning to crochet

I was talking to the ladies from Black Sheep Wools when I met them at Blogon Manchester in July. I have been to their shop a couple of times for a browse (not only do I want to be the best, I also want to own EVERYTHING when I start something new) but I didn’t know anything about their courses.

When I was invited to learn to crochet at Black Sheep Wools, I jumped at the chance. There were 3 other bloggers there on the day. Heather from Not from Lapland, Emma from Mum Mum Heart and Ang from This Is Life.
We had a lovely afternoon. Our teachers made it so relaxed. We laughed, we ate cake but most incredibly we actually learnt a lot too. For some reason, just being in the training room helped the crochet to stick.

crochet know how sheet

Black Sheep Wools is a haven for anyone into knitting, crochet or needlecrafts. Based in Culcheth, Warrington it is ideal for a short visit from many places in the North-West or even a longer visit. Even when I didn’t have my obsession with yarn, I enjoyed pottering around the shop. There are always members of staff on hand to help with any queries and the cafe is fab too! I know because we ate huge chunks of cake during our afternoon course! They have several different types of workshop – all of which can be accessed through their website – I defy you not to spend hours searching through this website! Its gorgeous!

crochet work in progress

Since visiting Black Sheep Wools, I’ve been crocheting away and have made huge progress on my pram blanket. I started this last year and if I’m honest my Mum had done most of it. Up until now! I’m doing line after line and loving it. I’ve even become confident enough to change colours myself.

We have been invited back to Black Sheep at the end of November, so watch this space what I create after that! I just need to get to grips with the good old elusive Granny Square next.

Scotch Super Glue Precision Applicators – A new breed of glue

new style scotch super glue

Scotch Super Glue has had a revamp. Its more than a revamp, its completely changed since my childhood memories of a teeny tube that only my Mum and Dad were allowed to use. I remember that they had to use the tube really quickly otherwise it would clog up and no matter how hard they tried, one of them ALWAYS managed to get some stuck on their fingers.

I was sent some packs of Scotch Super Glue to review a few weeks ago. The teeny tubes are no more – in their place are some funky plastic holders with applicators to allow the glue to come out in tiny amounts. The applicators have a lid which stops the glue drying up and guess what? After the glue being open for 3 weeks, its still going strong!

sticking buttons on glass

I was asked by Scotch if I would try out the glue on a craft project of my choice. How hard is it to think of a suitable craft project off the top of your head? Well, on Sunday I went to the first Blog On Conference in Manchester. We all got given mega goodie bags and in mine was a really cute old fashioned milk bottle from Handpicked Media. Straightaway I wanted to fill it with buttons. I have a ‘thing’ about buttons – cannot throw away anything without taking the buttons off it. The milk bottle needed a bit of tarting up so me and the Super Glue set about attaching buttons in the shape of a ‘B’.

Extra strong craft glue with precision applicator

I used tiny buttons so needed on a miniscule amount of glue on each one. I know this sounds daft but I was amazed how quickly the glue set but yet seemed safe. Those buttons certainly weren’t moving off that milk bottle!

sticking onto glass

My button bottle is now sitting on my craft drawers and I’m feeling very organised that I have somewhere to put them.

I have to also add that over the past 3 weeks, I’ve fixed a lot of items using the Super Glue. From broken sandals to garden ornaments that my baby nephew broke. I love not having to save up all the breakages and fix them all at once. And there have been no fingers stuck together either!

hair accessories

Violet rocking the sparkly bow look

I have also fixed the girl’s sparkly bows. I’m wondering whether these are a St Helens’ thing or whether they pop up in other towns? We have a shop in St H, Bowtique that basically sells sparkly bows for hair. For the most part, they look hideous but young girls love them!

how to fix hair slides

They frequently break so out comes the Scotch Super Glue once more. I couldn’t fix the slide but instead attached a bobble. Ta-da! It works!

uses for super glue

Disclosure: I was sent Scotch Super Glue for review purposes. Scotch Super Glue is available in the new applicators for £3.48 from many retailers.

Homemade Thrifty Party Bags and Tatty Teddy/Me to You Gift Tag Printable

Thrifty Party Bag and Homemade Me to You cookie

For years now, I’ve been promising myself that I would do more homemade stuff for the girl’s parties. Every year I run out of time but this year I was determined.

I know I’ve harped on about Violet’s Tatty Teddy Cake on a previous post – the next step was party bags. I cannot abide the plastic tat that our house gets filled with, every time one of the girls comes home from a party. I feel so sad and rude, throwing away the plastic whistles, the bangles, you know the like. After all, someone has paid good money for all of it.

We were expecting an enormous 48 kids to the party, so I knew I would have to be thrifty about what I included. I wanted useful, and if not useful, then tasty.

Here’s what I came up with for the thrifty party bags:

* Homemade Tatty Teddy Cookie – I knew I wouldn’t have time nor the inclination to start cutting the cake up at the party so a cookie was a substitute. I already had cellophane bags and tons of ribbon scraps to decorate them with. Tutorial on How to make a Tatty Teddy Cookie/Cupcake coming soon.

* Chocolate/Strawberry straw – 5 for 39p from B&M. Stick the straw in a glass of milk, suck up and ta-da! You have chocolate or strawberry flavoured milk.

* Fun sized bars of chocolate – Bargain at B&M

* Haribo – Mega packs from the Pound Shop – bought a few weeks earlier when I had time to shop around.

* Glitter pencil – so cheap on Ebay

* Sherbert Straw – Again, miles cheaper on Ebay than in the shops.

There was supposed to be an eraser in the bag too, however these didn’t arrive until the day after the party and were microscopic in size. Anyone want 50 teeny rubbers?

Brown paper party bags

For the bags themselves, I used brown paper bags with a handle. They did need some tarting up though, so I got creative. I’m no IT wizard but I am determined to get better. My Pinterest addiction is getting a tad out of control but it was the first place I went to for inspiration. I wanted a gift tag with a Tatty Teddy/Me to You theme but couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. So I made one!

I pasted a pic of a Tatty Teddy onto a white background and added to PicMonkey (another obsession!) I then added lettering at the bottom, thanking everyone for coming to Violet’s party. With there being so many kids coming, I had to let go of my dreams of making everything personalised. Then I sent the collage over to Costco after resizing to A4 size and asked for it to be printed as a matt photograph.

Tatty Teddy final

The next day, I picked up my gift tags. Chopped them with the guillotine and hole punched the corner. I cut 4 inch lengths of sparkly ribbon and attached around the bag handles.

If you are thinking of doing a Tatty Teddy gift tag, save yourself some work and download this one.

The Craft Walk of Shame

I like to think of myself as a Completer/Finisher (a throwback to a term I used in my HR days there!). The reality is so much different though. Hidden treasures lie around this house, taunting me of projects that started so well and never quite got to the finish line.

Let me introduce you to the hell that is my TBF pile and the promises I make to myself that I will not start another project until I’ve finished them all:

The Kitchen:
The 2 bowls of measured out fruit that has been soaking in alcohol since early December. Yep, I still intend on making those Christmas cakes even though it’s now mid January. Who knows they could end up birthday cakes for Tara in Feb (or the rate I’m going my own cake in August!) I have kept adding so much port to them over the past few weeks that you are in danger of going over the drink drive limit by just walking past the bowls.

The Blanket
The blanket that I absolutely LOVE, that is languishing in a bag in the corner of the kitchen. We’ve got so used to the bag being there, that we’ve stopped noticing it. I fully intended on Tara using this as a pram blanket for this winter, knowing that by next winter she might not be using a pram all that much *sniff*

The Rainbow Badges
Have you any idea how long it takes for a Rainbow to collect so many badges? Obviously not as long as it takes me to sew them onto the blanket she uses! I hate to think what the other girl’s blankets look like in comparison to Violet’s. My poor deprived child. Perhaps I’d better contact our local WI and ask if they’d like to help sew them on … Erm!

The Ballet Shoes
Why oh Why do they sell them with only half the elastic sewn on? Both the girls are now doing ballet and conveniently wearing the same size shoes. Yes they are looking a bit battered and grey but they have both sides of elastic on and the girls swap them over between ballet lessons in record time. God help them if they ever have lessons at the same time.

The Lavendar Bags/The Christmas Tree Decorations/The Knitted Nativity
These had a fabulous holiday to France the summer before last. I convinced myself that I would finish them before Christmas and make one for each underwear drawer in the house (not sure Derm was too keen on that idea). Thankfully I soon went off that idea – not that keen on the smell of lavendar knickers anyway! ;-)

I also convinced myself that starting knitting a nativity scene and Christmas Tree decorations in blazing sunshine in August would mean that by December I would be well finished. The evidence is here in picture form to argue differently.

The Knitted Camper Van
My first ever knitted project and supposedly a child’s kit. My Mum got so sick of seeing this hanging around that she even took it to her house to sew together and soon gave up. I’m beginning to think its impossible to get a good camper shape and its about 3 times bigger than I expected it to be too.

The Knitted Aardvark
Doesn’t everyone have one of these in their home? At the time of starting, I was the owner of Aardvark Cakes so it was very appropriate – I can’t admit to myself though that maybe now isn’t the time for us to be joined by a very cute but unfinished wooly toy.

The Christmas Beanie Hat
A present for my brother-in-law for Christmas 2011 – it had a brief resurrection this December when I thought I might finally finish it but no. Its still there!

Please make me feel better, tell me you have hidden projects that are just waiting for that magic moment when they will get finished. Perhaps we should all get together and have a Finishing Party – no-one is allowed to go home until they’ve done all their jobs. Although, I may be some time with all those Rainbow badges!

Marzipan Apples Tutorial

I’ve been making apple cakes today (Post to go up tomorrow about them). I could have left them alone and enjoyed them as simply apple cakes that were delicious. Me being me though, resulted in rows of marzipan apples being created for that added interest.

I thought I would post a tutorial of how to make the marzipan apples in case you fancied a go …

Makes 6 marzipan apples:

  • Tangerine sized piece of marzipan (the paler the better as it will hold the colour better)
  • one thin chocolate stick – I used Mikado but Matchmakers do just as well

Instructions

  1. Colour the marzipan pale green – I used Sugar Flair Gooseberry 
  2. Remove a large grape sized blob of marzipan from the main piece and colour this slightly darker.
  3. Divide the main pale gooseberry piece of marzipan into 6 identical sized balls – will be about the size of maltesers. Roll into smooth balls. 
  4. Break the chocolate stick into 6 small sticks – you might not need to use all the stick – enjoy eating the rest. Insert these into the tops of the balls – these are your stalks.
  5. Using the dark gooseberry green piece, divide into 6 small balls. Roll into cone shapes. Using a veining tool, cocktail stick or end of a thin paintbrush make a small indentation about half way – this will flatten the leaves. Attach to the main balls next to the stalks. No glue needed. 
  6. Lightly dust with red dusting colour and Ta-Dah!

How to make a Peppa Pig Cake Topper – Tutorial

I’ve made thousands of Peppa Pig cakes over the years (maybe a teeny exaggeration but not much!) so now it’s your turn. Here’s how to have a go at making your own Peppa Pig Cake Topper using our good old friend, the Walnut Whip (walnut gets removed and eaten!)

Equipment Needed: 1 x Walnut Whip, Red fondant icing, Pale Pink Fondant Icing, 2 small balls of white icing, Just under a malteser size ball of black icing, small rolling pin (or end of a paintbrush), sugar glue, small knife, paintbrush.

  

Step 1: Take Walnut Whip out of packet, Remove Walnut and eat – Take ball of red icing (for approx size needed see pic next to a walnut whip).

 

 

 

Step 2: Roll out red icing and cut a straight edge down one side. Paint around and on top of the walnut whip with the sugar glue.

 

 

 

  

Step 3: Wrap the red paste around the walnut whip and cut the bottom edge with knife to make neat.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4: Pinch the top edges of the red icing together and cut with scissors or a knife. Flatten to make as neat and flat as possible. This will be covered by the head though so don’t worry too much what it looks like. If it is not going to be eaten you could insert a skewer or cocktail stick to make sure that the head stays on.

 

 

 

Step 5: Roll out the pale pink fondant icing. Use the side edge of your hand to make a tear drop shape with the top end being the fatter end. Press in the thin end to make a slightly flat nose shape. Keep messing about with it until you are happy with the shape. I sometimes like to have my nose facing upwards slightly as if Peppa is looking up.

 

 

Step 6: Use the pointed end of the rolling pin to make eye sockets – go quite deep with these (you will be filling them with white later)

 

 

 

Step 7: Roll two white balls of icing into pointed tear drops and insert into the eye sockets. Only paint the sockets with glue once you are sure they are the right size. Roll 2 very small balls of pink icing (slightly darker then Peppa’s skintone is best) and stick onto the cheeks with sugar glue.

 

 

Step 8: Stick the end of the small rolling pin into Peppa’s nose twice to make the nostrils (Do pigs have nostrils?) If you have a smile tool go under the snout and insert to make a smile – if not, cut a straw into a smile shape and push under the nose (slightly to the side is best) – Your Peppa will now be smiling.

 

 

Step 9: Stick your 2 tiny balls of black icing on top of the white eyes – at an angle is best. Looking straight on always looks a bit strange.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 10: Roll 2 small sausages of pale pink and flatten down halfway with the end of the paintbrush – stick to the top of the head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 11: Roll 2 thin sausages of pink and attach to the cake (My Peppa is sitting on a dark blue puddle) Paint with sugar glue and stick your model on the top.

 

 

Step 12: Your model sitting in place – Nearly done! 2 balls of black with the bottom cut off makes the feet – always best done in situ as I always knock them.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 13: Roll 2 sausage shapes again and attach to the body. Make 4 more teeny weeny sausages and attach Peppa’s fingers. See there’s the smile!

Good Luck – Feel free to show me your homemade Peppas – You can start getting all creative and add bows and flowers on her head too!

Chocolate Roses Wedding Cake – Cake of the Week

Happy Easter Everyone. Hope you are having a wonderful day. We have unexpectedly come home early from our second caravan trip of the year – Violet became unwell yesterday and we didn’t want to chance her spending the night vomiting in the caravan – Of course, as soon as we got home, Violet was right as rain. We don’t mind really as we got a couple of days to spend at home relaxing. We have been to church this morning which was lovely (Tara wasn’t quite so impressed) and now we are home to carry on eating chocolate.

Our house was slightly more full than usual of chocolate this week due to a massive 4 tier chocolate wedding cake for a couple that got married on Good Friday.

They wanted the same style cake as this one but slightly different so chose it to have the corners covered by the moulded roses. Each rose was dusted with gold lustre and each tier was chocolate fudge cake. I’d completely forgotten how long it takes to do the roses (especially the white chocolate ones that melt as soon as you look at them)

For those who would like to have a go at making moulded fondant chocolate roses, heres how:

We’ve not had a Cake of the Week link up for a while, so here’s the link – don’t forget to spread the word and invite new members – I love seeing your creations!

Mr & Mrs Easter Chick – Creme Egg Creatures

I’m going retro this Easter with my Easter Chicks. I did this design about 8 years ago and they sold like hot chicks. They were everywhere – up the stairs, on window sills,you name it! I’ll even admit to having the odd conversation with some of them – they were definitely part of the family.

2 more children later and time constraints mean that I won’t be able to make as many this year but if you are quick you can order some of the limited edition chicks for £4.80

As usual, they are made from a Cadbury’s Creme Egg middle and come gift wrapped. don’t forget to say whether you want a Mrs Chick or a Mr Chick.

In other news, my Monkey Creme Egg Creatures and Flower Basket Creme Egg Creatures were highlighted in a lovely post by Ruth of the Great British Bake Off fame. Ruth has made her own Creme Egg Chicks too – why not pop over to her place to check them out?

Cake of the Week will be back very soon along with news of what I’ve been getting up to. Its been fairly manic (in a good way) – you didn’t think I’d been staying in with my feet up every night did you?

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