Saturday, August 30, 2014

Plum and white chocolate fragipane tarts

Last weekend when we had our housewarming, one of the guests brought us a bag full of fresh plums. Or rather to be accurate one of the guests friends who we had never met before, brought us a bag of plums. We live in that sort of place, where strangers turn up at our door with bags of fresh fruit and no one bats an eyelid.

So anyway, as I already have a good stash of plums in the freezer, I thought I should turn the plums into a dessert and this is what I came up with. A sort of combination of everything that was in the cupboard/fridge. The result was rather delicious and that comes from someone who has spent most of the last couple of days not eating.... but that's a whole other story!


Pastry base

250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
1 egg

Fragipane filling

180g unsalted butter
180g icing sugar
2 free range eggs
120g ground almonds
50g plain flour
50g white chocolate chips

6 fresh plums

(Makes 6)


Make the pastry by combining the flour, butter and caster sugar in a food processor until they look like breadcrumbs, then add the egg and allow the mixture to come together in a ball.

Next roll the pastry out and cut to fit your tart tins.

Refrigerate tins with pastry cases while you make the frangipane. To do this beat the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one by one, then stir in the almonds flour and finally the white chocolate chips.

Fill the pastry case with the fragipane mixture and top with fresh plums cut into thin slices.

Bake at 175c for 25 minutes.


I'm entering my plum tarts recipe into the Rix Aga Inspired Recipes competition for a chance to win a £100 Waitrose voucher...

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A story about looking gift horses in the mouth...

A few weeks ago I was approached by Dormeo and asked if I'd like to review one of their mattresses. A new mattress! Who would say no?

Well dear readers, I very nearly did! This is because I suffer from some rather old-fashioned (and I now realise entirely misplaced) prejudice about foam mattresses. I read up on the mattress saw it had no springs and then dismissed their offer of a superking for us and instead said I would take a single for our spare room, more out of curiosity than anything...

On the day of delivery I loitered around the front door waiting for the two burly delivery men who would presumably arrive carrying this weighty mattress over their heads to my front door. Instead what happened is one man arrived with a parcel the size of Theo. I took a photo on my phone and sent it to Jim absolutely incredulous that this tiny box could contain a mattress worth sleeping on.

Then we unboxed it, cut the tight plastic that was wrapped round it and watched as a full size single mattress leapt out of a the tiny wrapping. We lay it on the bed frame and allowed it to come back to life for the required length of time and then very slowly and very cynically I lay down on it, ready at any moment to say "Ha! I told you so foam mattresses are rubbish!"

But then I had a horrible sinking feeling, no not that feeling you get on a memory foam mattress that's a little too soft and swallows you up. The feeling you get when you realise you have just turned away a superking mattress for your own bed and are now lying on its incredibly comfortable smaller sibling.

I admit it, I was wrong! Completely totally damn-this-bed-is-comfortable wrong! Previously the spare room had been occupied by a sprung mattress from a well known national store which wasn't a patch on the Dormeo one. The Memory Deluxe is both firm and soft. The memory foam top gives way just the right amount and the firm core supports it.

My father-in-law was the first to test it out this week when he stayed in the spare room and he was immensely impressed. I don't think he liked to say it, but the one we had before was pretty uncomfortable. Not only did he spend seven very comfortable nights on it last week, but he's coming back for Theo's birthday at the weekend and I have just been told he's coming a day earlier than originally planned. Either that's to sample more of my cooking or it's because the bed is so comfortable. I know what my money is on...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Win a new bed or a glamping holiday!

How do you fancy winning £700 to spend on a new bed? You could treat yourself to this gorgeous King size Isabelle Bed Frame and turn your master bedroom into a romantic boudoir! Or perhaps the runner's up prize is more your kind of thing... A glamping holiday in a super-chic canvas lodge at Mill Farm in Wiltshire.

I know both sound rather appealing to me, especially as our bed seems to be squeaking in a very annoying manner since we moved it into our new bedroom!

So what do you have to do for your chance to win? Well, CarpetRight are looking for photographs of you, a friend or family member sleeping in strange places. Whether its collapsed at their desk, passed out on the stairs or fast asleep in the garden, they want you to share your pictures...

To enter all you need to do is get in touch with them via social media...

Tweet @carpetright
Tag Carpetright in a facebook status update
Or include @carpetrightuk in an Instagram post

And remember to add the hashtag #weirdestplacestosleep

The oddest sleeping place that is revealed will win £700 to put towards a new bed and the runner up will enjoy a family midweek break in the beautiful British countryside with Mill Farm luxury holidays worth up to £380!

Not sure you have a photograph of a strange sleeper in your family? Perhaps look to pets and children for inspiration. I used to like sleeping the wardrobe when I was a kid - I can't be the only one?!

Full details of the competition are here and you have until 3rd September 2014 11:59AM to enter - Good Luck!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Planning our dream bedroom...

Our bedroom is currently a very blank canvas. This is for two reasons, firstly indecision about what we want to do with it and secondly what money we had left at the end of the building work went on the more important areas like the sitting room and Theo's bedroom. It has white walls, a rotating selection of white duvet covers and no curtains or blinds (we are using Theo's old travel blackouts at night!) The boldest design decision that we've made so far was actually made by my sister who chose the fabric for our bedside lights.

So when I saw Heart Home were running a competition in partnership with the newly launched Good To Be Home magazine to design your dream room, my first thought was that it would be a great reason to force me to consider some ideas for our bedroom and to start the process of thinking about how to make the room more homely.

After several hours of browsing for ideas (it's amazing how I can procrastinate when I have university work to do) this is what I came up with. I wanted to incorporate some of the colours of the sea and land near us, but also to use yellow to add a pop of colour. I tried to use materials that suggested the sea through texture and pattern rather than a more explicit nautical bedroom.

(1) Acrylic Seascape by Stuart Roy. £185 from - I have always hankered after owning an acrylic or oil painting as I think there is something quite wonderful about being able to see the brush strokes in the picture. This seascape pulls together the colours of our room and its undulating paintbrush strokes echo the natural shapes the sea carves in the earth.

(2) Hanging chair (various) - Our double doors look out over farmland towards the harbour. It's a lovely view and would be a great spot to relax with a book. As we have a structural beam directly above the doors, I thought it would be the perfect place for a hanging chair.

(3) Sellarsbrook Yellow Rug. £4,548 from The Rug Company - I'd love an extra large yellow geometric rug, as this is a dream bedroom there is no one to stop me spending the price of a small car on one, so this beauty can go on my list!

(4) Indigo Hand Dyed Shibori Cushion, £28 from Rebecca Desnos on Etsy. - Tie Dye is big news right now and the washed out look of this cushion reminded me of the way fabrics on board boats can be faded by sun and salt.

(5) Harris Tweed Herringbone Throw - Personally I cannot think of a fabric that connects more directly with the sea than this one. It's pattern imitates waves and it originates in the windswept Western Isles of Scotland. My Harris Tweed bag came from a lady who made them in a cottage a few feet from the shore, I'm sure she'd make a great throw for our bed too.

(6) Seascape wallpaper by Anthropologie, £31 a roll - A lovely subtle undulating wallpaper which would make a beautiful feature wall. This being my dream bedroom, I'd also like to hire someone in to hang it. Jim's only just got over doing the bathroom last week

(7) Moss Stitch Cushion by John Lewis, £25 - The texture of this cushion reminded me of the thick cream knitted jumpers that fishermen wear. I think it would look great on our bed.

(8) A stack of vintage books - Yes I know most of us have Kindles these days, but there's nothing like the wrinkled pages of a well thumbed novel. In my dream bedroom I'd have hours to read under the covers and no digital distractions, so having a stack of these on hand would be essential.

(9) Reclaimed wood headboard - Top of my list of things to change in our bedroom is to create a headboard for our Ikea Malm bed. There are stacks of ideas and hacks out there and I'd really like to create something similar to this for our room. (original image source)

(10) Upcycled yellow midcentury bedside table - This is a beautiful piece I found online and I'd like to find a similar pair for our room and paint them yellow to add a splash of colour. (original image source)

(11) Linen curtains - If this blog post has achieved one thing it is that I have finally worked out what I want for material for our curtains! I think linen is such a beautiful natural textile and the neutral colour will work well with the other elements in the room. I would make my own to keep costs down.

(12) Beach Hut Style Chest Of Drawers by Camberwood at Not On The High Street, £521 - Our current chest of drawers are very bland. They aren't even Ikea, they are imitation Ikea! (can you believe it!) this chest of drawers with an array of twilight blues, would be an absolute delight to wake up to every morning.

You can see more of my ideas on my Pinterest board here...

Good to be Home Dream Room Competition

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Living Arrows - 34/52

ISO 640, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/50

A week away from turning 3, Theo is interacting with the world in more complex ways every day. He is a spontaneous hugger of strangers, a boy who dances on the spot when he's excited, a chap who likes to eat his breakfast without his shorts on, a fan of the fairer sex, an appreciater of Lego, a compulsive collector of cars. tidy (mostly) happy (nearly always) and already particular about his clothes. His sentences are getting longer, his humour more sophisticated, his appetite for the company of his friends is growing.

The weeks are flying by at the moment we are all so caught up in our own projects that I'm in danger of missing the opportunity to capture him as he grows. Thank heavens for this linky at least to pause once a week...

living arrows

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Homebase bank holiday bargain...

For some strange reason in the seven years we have been married, Jim and I have never bought ourselves a TV unit. Of course we've had lots of things that have served as TV units, like sideboards and tables, but we've never actually had something made for the job, so when Homebase contacted us recently and asked if there was anything we needed for our new home, a tv unit was the first thing I thought of... but could we really get anything decent for a £100 budget?

I did some research online and then yesterday first thing we went along to our local store to take advantage of the 15% off bank holiday promotion. When we arrived everything looked different in the flesh to online. Not better or worse, just different.

I wandered around the display at the front of the store getting more and more confused and then decided to go and find Jim and in doing so stumbled across another totally separate display of tv units with this little gem...

This TV unit was originally selling for £239.99 and had been reduced to £119.99 and then this weekend has an extra 15% off in the Bank Holiday sale, bringing it down to £101.99. It was a smidge over our budget so we paid the extra with our nectar points!

Online it says it is "wood effect" on the box it said it was "solid and veneer." Personally I think it feels very much like a piece of solid oak furniture and it looks like it's worth every bit of the £240 it was originally selling for. All the parts fitted together very well and the doors have a very satisfying firm magnetic pop when you open and close them. I honestly can't believe they are selling something of this quality for nearly £100. The sale is on in store till the end of Monday and there appear to be some codes online (here) offering the discount online till the end of Tuesday, but I bet the stock they have won't stick around...

This is a review post in association with Homebase

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sharing holiday memories...

This month's Center Parcs challenge is all about sharing holiday memories. As we've been a bit busy this year with work on our house we haven't had a chance to do too many summer activities, so for this challenge I decided Theo might like to share some of my holiday memories from when I was three so we sat down together to look at some photos...

When I was Theo's age I used to have holidays on the Costa Brava. There was lots of swimming in the sea, warm sunshine and Spanish food. I remember long days at the beach, the twin room I shared with my sister and wandering around little old Spanish villages during lovely warm evenings.

Until now I haven't shown him many photos of me as a little girl, but he seemed to catch on to the idea that the small child in the photos was actually his mummy. There were plenty of family members in the photos too who look quite different 25 years on, but he seemed to enjoy trying to guess who was who.

If you want to take part in the August challenge, Center Parcs have put together a load of tips about how to preserve your family memories with children. I really liked their advice about building a scrapbook...

"Create a scrapbook by sticking in different mementos of your summer – train tickets, photos and handwritten diary entries always work well, or why not try something a little more unusual? Ask your little ones to decorate your scrap book with hand prints and finger painting, cut out words from old newspapers and magazines or even have a go at creating a digital scrapbook, complete with video clips."

But I also think the suggestion of putting together a short edited video of summer moments is lovely. It's something I keep meaning to do more of... and maybe we need to start thinking about our own Spanish seaside holiday too!

I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and have visited Longleat village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how

CenterParcs Family Blog Club

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Our bathroom tour...

After a week of hard work another room in the house is almost complete and I'm really thrilled with how it has turned out. This is the main bathroom upstairs, but in reality as we have an en suite too, this means it is currently mostly used by a three year-old.
I had two broad design ideas for this bathroom, we wanted tongue and groove boarding rather than tiles and secondly we wanted it to be fun. A lot of inspiration came from my bathroom board on Pinterest, but the main colour choice of red was almost entirely down to Theo. He loves the colour and as we thought it wasn't a bad idea, we decided to go with it. The fabulous beach hut wallpaper came from Graham & Brown who offered it to us months ago and have been incredibly patient waiting for it to finally appear on the blog. I honestly had no idea how long it would take for us to actually finish things. The wallpaper has a vinyl finish which means it is particularly suited to bathrooms and kitchens.

You may notice that the bathroom window isn't obscured. Personally I'm not a fan of frosted glass unless it is necessary. It cuts down the light significantly and fortunately for us we look out on to woodland so being overlooked isn't a concern. We will be adding a blind at some point in the future though just to give us the option to shut out the outside world.

As far as dressing for this room, we picked up a few other bits for this room in Ikea, Homebase and Sainsburys, but the bathroom was done on a strict budget and cost less than half the price of our en suite. The builders had a hard time getting their head round the logic of that, but as I said at the start.. it is going to be used mostly by a toddler!

PS - Giveaway..... Graham & Brown gave us two rolls of wallpaper and we used slightly more than one of them. This means we have an open roll of just less than 10 metres which we no longer need. It would be great for a small feature wall, so if you think you could make use of it, just leave a comment below before midday on Friday 29th August and I will select a winner at random. UK addresses only please.

PPS - You can see all our house remodel posts here and see the external before and after pictures of our home here

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Clandestine Cake Club...


Back at the end of last year I heard about the Chichester Clandestine Cake Club via Twitter and went along to their November meeting. Somehow nine months has gone by and despite the best of intentions I never made it back to a second meeting... until last night!

The group meet at a location in Chichester (not disclosed till the day before) and share cake creations on a set theme. Last time the theme was winter warmers and I took a ginger cake. This time the theme was a bit trickier, we were asked to provide a cake which was a supersize version of a picnic food. After lots of fruitless Pinterest browsing I decided I was going to have to make something up from scratch and so the Scotch Egg cake was born!

As luck would have it, an old (and very creative) friend came to see us for lunch yesterday and together we managed to make something half decent...


Should you ever want to make a Scotch Egg cake this is how we did it...

In addition to your usual cake ingredients, you will need rich tea biscuits, Betty Crocker cream cheese icing and yellow and red food colouring

(1) We made two chocolate cake mixtures (my cake mix is here, just leave out the Philadelphia) and cooked each one in a well greased six inch pyrex glass bowl.

(2) After they had cooled, we hollowed out a hole in the middle for the egg part. For the egg white, we made a third sponge cake mixture (basically my chocolate mixture with vanilla rather than cocoa) crumbled that and mixed it with Betty Crocker cream cheese icing. We then packed the walls of the hollow out with the cake mixture.

(3) Next we put the cakes in the freezer for about 15 minutes to harden them up and coated the outside with the Betty Crocker icing and crumbled rich tea biscuits. The most effective way to do this is either to put the biscuits in a slightly larger bowl than the one you used as a mould. Or to turn the cake upside down (narrowest part upwards) and pour the biscuits over it.

(4) Next we added the yolk which was Betty Crocker icing coloured with yellow colouring (the whole tube!) and a bit of red.

(5) Finally having decided the egg "white" was not white enough, we topped it with icing powder, in retrospect it would have been far more sensible (and neater) to mix the icing sugar with a little boiled water to create a paste... maybe next time!


PS - Thank you to all the lovely folks at Chichester Clandestine Cake Club and especially to Helen & Laura who organised the event and to Jan who took the top photo!

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