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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

My Alice in Wonderland Obsession

Now it isn't exactly a secret that I have a love for Alice in Wonderland, and seeing as it is my shops most popular item, it would appear I am not the only one!

After several hours of painstakingly detailed digital colouring I have managed to create this;


I know I'm biased, but I absolutely love it!  I have a feeling that it will be the first of many in this series :)

Here are the other Alice in Wonderland items in my shop;



To celebrate the launch of our latest Alice in Wonderland print, I decided to create a treasury filled with beautiful handmade Alice in Wonderland items from other Etsy sellers, it can be found here.



Thursday, 11 July 2013

Super Scrummy Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes


Wimbledon may be over, but the nations love for Strawberries and Cream is still running high!  These gorgeous cupcakes contain the two most loved Summer ingredients and have a secret jammy surprise - easy to make and sure to go down a storm!

Ingredients - Makes 12 Cupcakes

115g Caster Sugar
115g Self Raising Flour
115g Margarine (or butter)
2 Medium Eggs
1.5 teaspoons vanilla essence
Strawberry Jam

284ml Double or Whipping Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
50g Sieved Icing Sugar
6 Strawberries to decorate

Equipment

Apple Corer
Syringe / Plunger Icing Set
12 Cupcake Wrappers
Ice Cream Scoop
Electric Whisk
Metal Cupcake Tin
Scales
Sieve
Wooden Spoon
Mixing Bowl

Directions

Preheat the oven to 170° celsius

In a bowl measure out 115g margarine - this should be at room temperature.  If like me you've forgotten to take it out of the fridge early, nuke the measured amount in the microwave (high setting) for 10 seconds.  Measure out 115g caster sugar and tip into the bowl with margarine.

Starting on a slow setting (feel free to hit high if you want your kitchen decorated in margarine) start to cream the margarine and sugar together.  Gradually increase the speed until the mixture is light and fluffy!  Whisk in 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Sieve 115g self raising flour and set aside.  Crack one egg into the bowl and add one heaped tablespoon of the flour, whisk on a medium setting until fully mixed - repeat with the final egg.  Mix in the remainder of the flour and whisk on a high setting for two minutes.

Place the 12 wrappers in the cupcake tin.  Using the ice cream scoop divide the cake mixture between the 12 cases.



Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes - baking times are never an exact science, so they may take slightly longer (or shorter) just remove when lightly brown and they spring back from the touch.

If like me you have some home grown strawberries, now would be the time to pick them :)


I can highly recommend growing your own - the humble strawberry is pretty hardy, and these organic ones were divine!  Was slightly worried as they seem to be a much deeper red than store bought, but I think it is just the strain :)



Store bought ones are also fine :) wash your strawberries and leave them to dry until you need them.

Once baked remove the cupcakes from the oven and turn out onto a wire cooling rack.  You will need to wait until they are fully cooled before the next stage - this can take 1-2 hours.


Using the apple corer, carefully hollow out the middle of the cupcake.  Don't throw this away!  They are perfect for snacking on, or you could use them to make a mini batch of cake truffles :) Be careful not to go all the way through the cupcake - you want to aim or about 2/3 of the way down.



Fill the syringe with jam (I found a smooth, no bits jam works best!) and then pipe into the hollows.  Be careful not to over-fill, you should aim to have them flush with the cake.


Pour your cream and vanilla extract into a large bowl and start to whisk.  Again start on a low speed or else you will end up wearing your bake.  Once the cream is starting to thicken, add in the sieved icing sugar - carry on whipping until you achieve firm peeks.  It's very easy to over-whip so when you see the cream is starting to hold it's own shape, you should knock the whisk speed right down again.

Using a piping bag decorate the top of the cakes with the cream mixture, paying extra attention that the jam opening is fully covered - it is supposed to be a 'surprise' after all ;) If you don't have a piping bag, you can always spoon the cream onto the cake - just be careful when placing over the jam or else it may show through.

Your strawberries should now be nice and dry, so remove the top and cut in half.  Then press lightly into the cream on your cupcake.

Because these are made with fresh cream they should be stored in the fridge - the sponge will go slightly hard when chilled, simply take it out of the fridge for 10 minutes and allow it to come to room temperature before serving - light and fluffy once more :)

Boil kettle, make a cup of tea and enjoy the fruits of your labor!





Mad about the Girl - Why I'm Defending my Beloved Bridget

I have made several refferences to Bridget Jones on my blog.  As regular readers will know, I often think of myself as the Bridget Jones of the Infertility World.
Where Bridget can look at any food item and tell you how many calories it contains, I can tell you whether it has a neutral, positive or negative effect of fertility and whether it should be consumed pre or post ovulation.  Bridget has a flat strewn with relationship and self help books, mine is littered with books on fertility and various guides to achieving the (seemingly impossible) goal of a baby.  While Bridget battles an increasing deluge of friends becoming Smug Marrieds, I'm beginning to despair as my friends become Smug Mothers.

Bridget wasn't created for my generation - in-fact if Bridget was an actual person, she would only be a year younger than my Mother!  When she was first 'born' I was only 10 - men, booze and fags were probably the furthest thing from my mind ;) I am rather abashed to admit that I only knew of Bridget's existence once the 2001 film came out.  It was still another few years until I settled down with the books - since then I've been hooked!

Bridget has helped me through many a tough time.  She taught me that it's okay to not have life figured out at almost 30 and beyond, that drinking too much and making a tit of ones self isn't the end of the world and most importantly that basically being a slathering nut job with more than a smidgen of body loathing just means I'm normal.

Imagine how delighted I was at the beginning of this year to learn that Helen Fielding was dusting off her Granny Pants and bringing my Beloved Bridget back!  I was pretty sure that after the fairy tale ending of 'The Edge of Reason' that Bridget would have morphed into a Smug Mother and although I would have felt I'd lost an ally, I would have been over-joyed for her.

A few months ago I noticed a few journalists were giving back handed comments on the release of number 3.  To my resounding squeals, the extract released showed that Bridget was in-fact the same old, familiar, very slightly neurotic Bridge.  It would seem I was part of the minority that was over-joyed at this revelation - apparently the world has moved on from the 90s third-wave feminism that Bridget encompassed, and that seeing a woman that is (by all rights) in her late 40s behave in this 'dated' way is completely unrealistic!

Really?  So despite the fact that single life (both chosen and circumstance) is on the increase, the journalists are stating that people of Bridget's 'age' are no-longer on the look out for Mr Right - and if they are, then they certainly aren't sending regretful drunken tweets.  Their social networking interactions are of the reserved, and oh so very mature manner.

I thought that 40 was being touted as the new 30?  Is it just my part of the world that features 40 something females behaving in an oh so familiar way to us 20 somethings?  Maybe it's being part of the generation after Bridget was aimed at, but I have never thought of her drunken behavior as anything but amusing and quite sweet - she isn't stripping at work functions, taking part in drunken brawls or passing out in the street.  Her behavior has always been very tame compared to most that I have had the misfortune to witness.

This notion that Bridget would hit mid 40 and morph into Mrs Sensible career lady is insane!  It would appear that the grumblers out there believe that 40 is the mandatory age to morph into a 'grown up'.  In a society that urges women (and men) to embrace their age and continue living life to the fullest, it seems a rather bizarre concept that Bridget must conform to the out-dated concept of 'acting your age'.

More than ever there is increased pressure for Women to have it all - we have all these milestones that we secretly aim to complete by certain ages (so very guilty of these).  We try to under-cut them and out-do friends, family and those in the lime light.  Failure in any of these areas is felt on such a personal level - we feel inferior to others that achieve what we can't.  Admitting you are struggling or that life isn't quite as you planned is seen as a weakness, a taboo subject that no-one wants to admit to.

Bridget is very normal in many senses of the word - she struggles to achieve what she wants on both a personal and business level.  When Bridget fails, we don't see her as any less of a person; in fact most of these endear her to us even more!  The world needs Bridget to tell them that it is okay to fail, that it makes you no less of a person to not have the man, the baby and the house.  In fact Bridget makes us realize that to fail makes us normal!  To have wobbly bits that we hate is a wonderful embodiment of human nature.

All of this is why I am still 'Mad about the Girl' and why I will go on to defend my beloved Bridget

Thursday, 4 July 2013

AWOL Again!

Apologies to regular readers, I know I have been somewhat lax recently but I have a really good reason - no really it is a good one!

We have the first craft fair of the Summer lined up for this weekend (Sunday 7th July) and in a bid to not be running around like a loon at the last minute under-prepared, I have been snowed under with making and assembly for the last few weeks.

In my head it would be easy; grab some shop stock, cobble together some signs and I would be ready.  Sadly this was not the case, two weeks later and I am still spending every waking moment rushing about.  What I predict will take just an hour or two seems to be stretching into 4 or 5!  I have learnt that I grossly miscalculate time predictions, thank goodness I started well in advance.

So here is a photo of our first mock set up - proof that I have indeed been busy!


There are about 14 papercuts that have been made just for this show - along with a dozen or so ones that will be sold unframed.  Posters have had to be re-printed and bagged, jewellery has has to be made and nifty packaging designed and made from scratch.

Although somewhat stressful, I have really enjoyed it :) Hope to update soon with the final trial run, this will be a dress rehearsal with full signage on display :)