It’s Halloween, and no, I’m not going Fancy Dress!

That title makes me sound like a right grumpy pants, when in fact I feel I am embracing Halloween a lot more this year than previously.

Evidence:

  1. I bought sweets in case we get any trick or treaters, usually we just don’t answer the door and turn out all the lights.
  2. I’m actually going out on Halloween especially. Oh hang on that now makes number 1 defunct, as who will give out the sweets, as I am sure my husband won’t even answer the door!
  3. I baked halloween cakes

Ok so the above 3 evidences all happened by accident as follows:

  1. I was in Sainsburys saw the bucket of sweets and thought ‘oh I love swizzle lollies’. I have tested a couple to make sure the kids don’t get poisoned!
  2. I had no idea what the date was when I was invited, and when I did realise I pretty quickly made it clear that I would not go fancy dress…sorry Anna!
  3. I accidentally mentioned cake in the organising of the above rendez-vous, so guilted myself into making some Carrot Cake cupcakes (i got over my fear of all that oil!), as didn’t want to disappoint…you can forgive me the above point now Anna!

Despite this self confessed accidental falling into the spirit of Halloween, I do actually love the concept, and the idea of making a big ol’ fuss about it. I love it a lot more than Fireworks night where I have to stand in a cold field all night. Don’t worry Joy, I will enjoy it really! 😉

I think the Americans have the right idea and love that they really go to town. With a bit more planning I think I may join them next year, and carve a pumpkin! It’s just a bummer that it falls on a weekday, as it doesn’t feel right celebrating it on any other day than the 31st.

Because I can’t have a post that doesn’t connect to my 3 themes here is a link to the recipe I used for the cupcakes.

I must admit that I didn’t make the cream cheese icing as I had run out of icing sugar, and that is in fact ‘squirty’ frosting! Who knew you could by that in a can???

Hopefully the guys enjoy them tonight!

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Weekend Baking Conquests

This is just a quick post to show off my latest baking conquests. As you’ll know from my previous post I’ve latched onto the lovely ladies @bandofbakers and the next meet is Winter Warmers. I needed to broaden my repertoire, so I had a crack at a different Carrot Cake recipe & a Pecan Pie. Yum Yum!

Pecan Pie

Ok, as I am too honest for my own good, I did not make the shortcrust pastry base, opting for the easier Just-Rol variety, but hey you still have to blind bake it…am I let off the hook? No? Oh well.

Pecan Pies are easy, but the ingredients are so scary my teeth almost fell out in anticipation of all that sugary badness. But it did have 2 eggs, so surely that balanced the nutrition out?!

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Being my own worst critic I would say it probably needed a little longer, as the filling wasn’t quite set enough, but it tasted jolly good! I’ve tried it out on my work colleagues and so far (@12pm) there is only half left!

Carrot Cake

I also thought I would have another go at a carrot cake, and going as far as to frost it. After grating my weight in carrots I then realised that the recipe was for two loaves. Oh well, one for me & one for Phill! Now, for some reason the amount of oil that goes into a carrot cake scares me, and even though I’ve done it twice I still can’t believe quite how much. My stomach goes tight every time I think about it! Halfway through making this one I realised that my Joseph Joseph scales were set to ml and not g, I’m hoping that didn’t matter 😉

The baking time seemed to take double what the recipe said, as every time I stuck my knife in it came out very gooey. Luckily I was patient and it finally cooked perfectly, according to hubby, who for some reason doesn’t eat a lot of cake but really likes carrot cake! As I mentioned, for this cake I decided to attempt to add frosting. At this point I had already packed away my mixer, so going against the instructions, I thought I would just manage to mix by hand. My arm literally fell off! Why did I think I could mix a whole brick of butter with Icing sugar, cream cheese & vanilla extract? Hmm, the frosting now benefits from a slightly lumpy consistency of butter chunks – ops. Oh and don’t try to frost a cake that is still warm – it just does not work!

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Taste tester husband was very impressed, commenting on the moistness, colleagues look like they are preferring the pecan pie so far, but afternoon tea could be this cakes reckoning.

Although some cheater did bring in some gorgeous shop bought french (from Paris!) Macaroons, which I fear have overshadowed my conquests, although if I scoff down all the macaroons they’ll be nothing to compare to.

Right, Operation Macaroon is underway – wish me luck!

All recipe links are supplied – thanks Channel 4 Recipes!!

Baking? Where did that come from?

I recently found myself at a Band of Bakers event, what’s that, I hear you cry. Well before I turned up I wasn’t overly sure, or really how I ended up there in the first place.

As with many things it all started with my husband, he had seen a random re-tweet from Franklins mentioning that they were going to hold a Band of Bakers event, and sent it onto me to see if I was interested.

This was odd for three reasons, I hadn’t really baked all that much, or shown an overt passion for it, and finally H doesn’t really eat a lot of cake, so what did he have to gain from me getting a new interest? Despite all this H had a feeling it might be something I would like (he’s good like that), and by jingo, I did!

A history of my baking…it’s very small!

I had baked at school, big gap, no baking, barely good cooking, then earlier this year I baked three cakes – a Raspberry Bakewell, a Carrot Cake & Fairy Cakes.

I managed to burn the Fairy Cakes – Rubbish.

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The Carrot Cake recipe scared me due to the amount of oil you had to put in it – hello heart attack!

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As Goldilocks once said, the Raspberry Bakewell was ‘just right’, and very easy – SCORE!

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Ok, Ok I sell myself short, as I have made quiches & pasties before, oh and a Key Lime Pie, but the latter wasn’t baked, so doesn’t really count.

With the success of the Bakewell in my mind, and much deliberating as to whether I would be good enough, or whether I was social adept enough to make new friends and whether I was ready to have a new hobby (it takes commitment you know, like cake boards, a stock of ingredients on hand at any moment!), I sent an email to see if there were any spaces left.

There were! And the theme for the bake was ‘Retro Bakes’…Hmmm! Now I had a problem, as this meant research and learning something new. I decided to practice what I knew, and look at an alternative. I attempted to bake a twist on an Eccles cake (basically a sponge with fruit in it), but it appeared that I had too much mixture for my tin. The result was a molten volcano of cake erupting in my oven – tasted good though!

I decided for my first outing to just go with what I knew. The word Bakewell in the title was enough for me to think it was retro, and I think I got away with it.

There were some fantastic bakes there, including a Quiche (Damn, I knew how to make them too!), lots of Black Forest Gateaux, Battenburg, oh and Fig Rolls, amongst many great really retro bakes.

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Mine was probably the simplest cake there, and it looked like the only people who tried it where the girls I spoke with – very polite, but I had a great time. It was definitely a good starting point to get more adventurous and to see how good everyone else – VERY!

The event is very well organised by two lovely local ladies, who obviously have a great passion for baking, blogging and tweeting away about their popular passion. A passion that is somewhat infectious, leading me to realise that baking is fun, not as hard as I thought, and a very novel way to make friends.

I need to up my game for the next event, which is Winter Warmers, I have a few ideas, so watch this space…

A lot of new things – First running!

So, this is my first blog post. Before I get started I should probably apologise for many things, such as:

  1. Spelling, grammar, punctuation – It’s not going to be perfect, and I am so sorry
  2. Updates – I hope they will be regular, but I have a habit of laziness, so fingers crossed I can break a habit of a lifetime
  3. Boring – I will try, I promise, to be interesting but sometimes life just isn’t!

Ok, just 3 things to apologise for, not bad. I’m sure there will be more before my 3rd post.

I’ve decided to blog about 3 new things in my life. 2 of which seem to have sneaked into my list of things I like to do, one of which was so sneaky I didn’t even realise I actually liked it, until only yesterday.

Running!

I am notoriously lazy when it comes to exercise, healthy eating, cleaning…OK most things actually, but definitely when it comes to exercising.

The thought of getting sweaty and exerting myself wears me out, let alone the showering and changing after. I had no enthusiasm to drag myself off the sofa to a class or onto the cold streets of Dulwich, and this lack of enthusiasm was really beginning to distress my dear hubby, oh and my waistband!

Now don’t get me wrong I’m no heffa, I love a good hike and cycle, I just had no motivation to do something regularly.

So one day I decided why not run home from work. It’s only a 4 mile stint, it has an ultimate destination, and once you start you’re pretty much committed to stay the course.

So that’s what I started doing. It took some planning, i.e. don’t wear too many clothes on the days you decide to run home unless you’re happy to leave your clothes at work, or carry it all in a backpack. This meant strategic planning of wardrobes, conversations with myself as to whether I needed a coat/umbrella/laptop that day, I was already losing interest…I joke of course.

I got myself a MapMyRun app for my iPhone, so I could keep a track of the distance and speed at which I was running, in the hope that I may actually get faster. I also updated my music library with some good running tunes, but listening to music whilst running is a contentious issue as I have recently learnt.

I’ve been running since the summer, and I try to do at least 2 runs home a week. Usually the same route, but I have been known to try to find a ‘shorter/faster’ route only to get lost and find myself going up the biggest hill to get into Dulwich, and going a mile out of my way extra. I swear Dulwich is in it’s own little valley with hills on all sides, and the only easy route in is to go along smelly Rye Lane!

For a while I was stuck on a time between 43-46 minutes (dependent on if I got lost or not!), and couldn’t seem to get any faster. When I went slower than the previous run I would get depressed that the running obviously wasn’t working, and I would never get better. Then, hubby suggested I just really push myself. WHAT! Actually try harder?? Surely I should just go faster by virtue of having done this running malarky a few times, and going faster takes no effort and is just a given result of frequency.

OK so my laziness was actually holding me back, so last Monday I took hubby’s advice, and low and behold I went a whole 3 minutes faster. I was ecstatic, I even had enough puff left at the end to jump up and down with joy. Well surely if I had some puff left for jumping could I go faster? Hell yes! I went out on the Wednesday and went a minute faster again! That’s a whole minute a mile faster, for the whole route, I had managed to shave off just by pushing myself.

The heady sense of achievement I had from this result meant I promptly signed myself up for Parkrun, thinking I’m ready to pit my superior speed up against some worthy competition.

Now I must stress parkrun is not ‘really’ a race, it’s a community run that helps you monitor your progress over 5KM, and ranks you against all the other runners (hmm, still sounds like a race to me), and helps you make improvements week by week. They have these every saturday all other the country, and I must say they are fantastic. It’s free to join, but they always need volunteers and that is all they ask of you, to volunteer at least 3 times a year.

My first 5K was this Saturday, there was a field of 72 runners of all ages and abilities. Hubby volunteered this week so he was there to cheer me on during the 3 laps of Dulwich Park.

It went well. I went my fastest speed ever, doing 5k in 27.31! I was really pleased. It was tough to start with but I got my rhythm sorted, and settled nicely. Didn’t really overtake anyone except this one guy, who then overtook me towards the end. Overall I came 66, which doesn’t look that good, and is certainly something I will improve on, but hey, it’s not a race!

Hubby has joined the local Dulwich Park Runners running club and I met a few of them on Sunday at a 10K (hubby running, not me! That would be too soon!), they all seemed like a great bunch of people. A running club seems like a great way to get into something more socially, and give me the motivation that my laziness needs to continue with this running thing I’ve fallen into.

So my blog will hopefully also be motivation to keep me running as I log my progress (or lack of…) to the world. Ok, who am I kidding…just a few people who see my link on Twitter or Facebook and are bored at work, but I can dream.

Stay with me there will be more…