Wheelbarrow Fairy Garden

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Wheelbarrow Fairy Garden

My daughter and I share an obsession with fairy gardens. Actually she is obsessed with caries, and I’m obsessed with gardens. 

We did some serious Pinterest gazing for ideas before embarking on our first garden, which was in a shallow pot.  

I then saw some wheelbarrow fairy gardens, and realise I had one knocking around that had a wheel that I couldn’t fix.  So here is the new and improved fairy garden. 

The fairy is a solar light and lights up at night. 


The plants are mostly succulents with a few pansies for colour. There is also Corsican mint, which will spread and give ground cover. 

We’re not done yet.  We’re going to make a fairy house out of a bird box, and Holly wants to make a swing. We also need more stones to make more of a path. 

Updates soon…

Pot luck – round three

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Pot luck – round three

I was pretty happy with my pots last year (see post ‘Pot Luck – round 2).  But I’m trying to cut down the work the garden requires, so this year I’m trying more perennials in pots. 

I couldn’t resist some of my favourite annual plug plants, but I’m gradually introducing perennials. 

I potted up a lot today, so I thought I would share some pictures of what they look like now (1st weekend in May), and then I will add some more  in the summer when they are in full bloom. 

Lollipop verbena (perennial) under planted with verbena Aztec magic silver (annual). 

Wine crate planted with summer jasmine and honeysuckle (to climb the fence) with lavender and aubretia (all perennials). 


Cherry tree and fairy rose, both under planted with aubretia (perennial) lobelia (annual). I’m hoping the aubretia will tumble down the sides of the pots over time. But for now I’ve added lobelia that will do it in one season!

Osteopermum (3d violet ice), verbena Aztec magic (silver), surfinia (rose vein). All annuals

Petunia (phantom), bidens (golden eye), calibrachoa (can can coral reef) (all annuals) 

Euphorbia x martini (perennial) , underplanted with helichrysum (golden) (annual). 

Petunia (tumbelina Susanna), verbena Aztec magic (white), verbena Aztec (coral). All annuals. 

Petunia (cascadia Indian summer), Calibrachoa (can can double dark yellow), verbena Aztec (coral). All annuals. 

Scabiosa (blue jean). Perennial. 

Coreopsis (golden joy). Perennial. 

Osteopermum (serenity blue eyed beauty), Diascia (little dancer), verbena Aztec magic (plum). All annuals. 

Perennial wallflower (planted last year), under planted with 3 annuals –  Scaevola (blue print), verbena Aztec (violet wink), calibrachoa (cabaret deep blue). 

Tanacetum coccineum (Robinsons red). Perennial. 

Sweet pea Cupid pink (annual). 

Salvia superba (snow hills). Perennial. 

Gaillardia snappy. Perennial. 

Gazania daybreak tiger stripe mixed. I think this is a perennial but people grow it as an annual. 

Potentilla nepalensis (Mcbeath). Perennial. 
That’s not actually all of them. But they are all new for this year. 

Look out for an update in June/July!

Tulip Love

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Tulip Love

I thought it was about time to make my flower cutting patch work a little harder. So last autumn I planted masses of tulip bulbs and some wallflowers in the raised bed. I leave my dahlias in place all year, so just planted around them. 

I got bulbs (specific varieties I liked the look of) and wallflowers (plug plants) from Sarah Raven and more bulbs (some mixed collections) from Thompson & Morgan

I have to say, I’ve been totally thrilled with the outcome. I’ve had at least 10 gorgeous bunches of tulips. In completely different colours to ones that you can buy in the shops. I never realised I loved tulips so much. And I’ve had loads of comments when I posted pictures on Facebook. 

The tulips have flowered at different times, so it’s been pretty constantly in flower for about a month, in fact I’ve given some away as I’ve had so many in bloom at times. Definitely pay attention to flowering times when choosing bulbs so you don’t get too many at once. 


This is the cutting bed fairly early in spring. I had a net over them over winter so the cats/foxes/squirrels didn’t interfere. Once  they started to bloom I removed it. 

And here are some of the bunches of tulips. I love them so much!


Favourites include Mistress Grey, Bruine Wimpel, and Brown Sugar. 

The wallflowers haven’t been so good. I think I wouldn’t grownthem for cutting again, but they do look great interplanted with tulips for admiring in a pot. 

Interested to see what happens next year. Im going to leave them in situ and plant my annuals in the gaps whilst the leaves for back. 

Low Syn Rice Pudding – two ways

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Low Syn Rice Pudding – two ways


I completely love rice pudding. And as rice is free on the slimming world plan then I thought I would experiment with trying to get the lowest syn, tastiest rice pudding possible. This is basically my low fat rice pudding recipe tweaked to make it slimming world friendly, and with the syns calculated. 

I have two options- so take your pick. Or try both and see which you like best. Both serve 4 and take around two hours to make (well 5 minutes making and 2 hours in the oven!). And I’ve frozen rice pudding made with milk before, so I imagine the both would freeze well. 

Both assume you are using the milk as your healthy extra A, (HEXA), but I’ve also given the syns in case you are not. 

Option 1 – with almond milk  – 9 syns for the whole thing, (2.25 syns per serving). Or 14 for the whole dish syns (3.5 per person) if not using milk as HEXA

120g pudding rice

4 level tbsp Sweet Freedom Fruit Syrup (8 syns) I prefer this to sweetener as it’s natural and doesn’t have an aftertaste. I don’t like it too sweet, so you may need to add more. You can always add more at the end. 

1 litre unsweetened almond milk. I used Alpro as it was on offer for £1 in my local Coop! (This whole litre can be your Healthy Extra A, or you can syn it – 5 syns for the whole litre)

1tsp vanilla bean paste (1syn) or use vanilla extract and save yourself a syn (as that’s free), but I like the paste as it makes things taste amazing and you get the little vanilla bean flecks in your food. 

Chuck it all in a pot, give it a stir and cook at 150degrees for about 2 hours. Give it a stir half way through. For a runny rice pudding reduce the cooking time. 

This is yummy, but you can definitely taste the almond. So if that’s not for you, try this…

Option 2 – with skimmed milk – 9 syns for the whole thing, (2.25 syns per serving). Or 29 for the whole dish syns (7.25 per person) if not using milk as HEXA. So definitely one you would want to use your HEXA for. It doesn’t use the whole of your milk allowance (250ml if you have 1/4 of the pudding) so still 100 ml spare for other things. 

120g pudding rice

4 level tbsp Sweet Freedom Fruit Syrup (8 syns) 

1 litre skimmed milk

1tsp vanilla bean paste (1 syn)

Chuck it all in a pot, give it a stir and cook at 150degrees for about 2 hours. Give it a stir half way through. If you like it runny cook for less time. 
And if you want to switch it up – here are some other options:

Semi skimmed milk – same quantity. Would use up all of your HEXA allowance for the day if you had 1/4 of the pudding

Seeetner instead of sweet freedom – would reduce the syns to 3 syns for the dish or less than 1 per person) as its only 1/2 syn per tablespoon

Sugar instead of sweet freedom – would increase the syns to 13 for the whole dish (3.25 per person) as its 3 syns per tbsp. 

Vanilla extract instead of paste – saves you one syn on the whole dish

Choc shot to make a chocolate rice pudding – replace the sweet freedom with choc shot – would be the same syn value. 

Make it sweeter – each tablespoon of Sweet Freedom is 2 syns. 

Max – King of The Wild Things

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Max – King of The Wild Things

Just a quick blog to share my daughters Max costume. 

Her school celebrates World Book Day ever year, where the kids dress up as characters from books. This year she decided she wanted to be one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are, which is a brilliant book written in 1963 by Maurice Sendak. 


With only one week to prepare, I thought that might be too difficult. 


So I persuaded her to be Max, who is the little boy who becomes the King Of The Wild Things. 


For inspiration we checked out Pinterest (my favourite), and spent ages cooing over cute babies dressed as Max.

When he meets the wild ones he is dressed in his wolf suit, so that is what we tried to recreate. 

We didn’t have much at home that we could use, so I did have to buy a few things. 

I wanted a fluffy white onesie, but couldn’t find one for her age (7), so I got a plain one online from plaintshirts.co.uk which I ordered at the weekend and it arrived on Thursday. It’s actually really nice quality, and she will definitely wear it again. 

The crown was made from gold card and the feet from thin foam (both WHSmith). 

I cut the feet shapes and then attached thin elastic which went under her feet to keep them in place. Felt would work just as well as foam. 

The tail is part of a set (wolf ears and tail) that I got online from Amazon. It came with elastic which went round the waist, but I cut that off and just safety pinned it to the back of the onesie. 

A bit of fur fabric would work just as well, or For those with a bit more time, I’ve seen some awesome tutorials for making tails from acrylic wool and a pet brush!

And finally a bit of black face paint for the wolf nose and whiskers. 

And here she is…




If I had more time I would have sewed felt buttons onto the front of the onesie and put some fur fabric around the bottom of the crown, but I’m pretty happy with the result. It looks homemade, but I like that. 

Brown Butter Maple Glazed Cinnamon Buns

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Brown Butter Maple Glazed Cinnamon Buns

Oh My God!

These might be the best thing I’ve ever baked. I have a secret passion for Starbucks cinnamon buns and I think these are even better! The brown butter was a revelation. I have had a hankering to use it after seeing it on Benjamina from (Bake Off 2016)’s blog. 

I made these as a practice for bread week in the work bake off. I need to practice, as bread isn’t really my thing. 

I used two different recipes for this, and as they are both from The US, I’ve converted them into metric and made a few tweaks of my own. 

Buns and filling were from this recipe here and the salted maple icing from here

Buns:

175ml milk

60g butter

450g strong bread flour

1 x 7g package instant yeast 

50g white sugar

½ teaspoon salt

Up to 60ml water

1 egg

Filling:

220g muscovado sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

60g butter

Icing:

60g butter

250g icing sugar

3tbsp maple syrup

2-4 tbsp milk

Sea salt flakes

Make the buns:

Warm the milk and melt the butter into it. 

Mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt together then mix in the egg, milk/butter mix and some of the water to make a rough dough. I did this in the stand mixer with a dough hook. You might not need all of the water. 

Then knead to a lovely smooth dough. About 5-10 minutes. 


Put it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove for around 2 hours until it doubles in size. This is my warm place!


And this is what it looks like when doubled in size. 


Whilst the dough is proving make the brown butter. You can do it in a pan or the microwave. I did it in the microwave, but it did spill everywhere! Basically you hear it until it goes brown. There is some good info in making brown butter here on the Bon Appetit website. It really does smell incredible. And when mixed with the muscovado sugar tastes out of this world. 


When the dough has risen knock it back and roll out into a 25cm x 30cm rectangle. 

Mix together the muscovado sugar and cinnamon. 

Brush some of the butter onto the dough. Then mix the rest into the sugar/cinnamon mix. 

Spread this over the dough. 


At this point it smells amazing!

Roll it up and then punch the join to help it stick. 


Cut into 12 even slices and pop into a baking tray. 


Leave to prove again for about 30 minutes. 


Until lovely and risen. All cuddled up against each other!


If you fancy you can brush with a bit more melted butter. 


Bake for about 17-20 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade until lovely and brown. 


Whilst they are cooking, make the icing:

Melt the butter and mix in the icing sugar and maple syrup. It is thick, like this


Then add in some milk until it’s the texture you want. I used about 2 tbsp. 


I then spread a little over the buns when they came out


And then the rest when they had cooled a bit more. 


Then (if you fancy) sprinkle with a little sea salt flakes. 

We managed to let them cool a while before diving in. They might not look so pretty, but they taste amazing amazing amazing. 


Cardamon, White Chocolate and Pistachio Cakes

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Cardamon, White Chocolate and Pistachio Cakes

I decided to enter our work Bake Off competition , and whilst casting around for a suitable cake to bake, came across this little beauty in The Cardomon Trail, which is the amazing cookbook by Chetna Makan, who was a contentstant on the 2014 series of Bake Off. 

It’s a really gorgeous book, and can be bought here on Amazon at a pretty reasonable price (I think I got it for about a fiver). 

If you don’t fancy the whole book, then the recipe is on the Delicious magazine website here

I did a practice run and made a big cake just like in the recipe. And for the bake off competition I made mini cakes with my totally brilliant Lakeland mini cake tin. Each ‘hole’ is loose bottomed, and you basically make mini sandwich cakes with it.  Buy the tin here. I’m completely biased because I grew up just down the road from the original Lakeland factory (once known as Lakeland Plastics), but I do think they do the best bakeware. And I always have a little trip there when I go and visit my folks (fab cafe too!). 

The second time I also forgot to include the white chocolate chips, and cut down the amount of cardamon to 3/4 teaspoon as it was quite strong the first time around. They were less sweet without the white chocolate chips, but the icing is very sweet, so it really didn’t matter. 

I also recommend getting unshelled pistachios (for the decoration, I don’t think it matters for the ones in the cake) as I did a taste test and they taste 1000% better if you shell them then chop them rather than buying a packet of already shelled ones. 

I also used President unsalted butter to make the icing because it’s very light in colour and whips up really white. I used my stand mixer to make the icing and let it mix for quite a while so the icing was gorgeously soft and fluffy. 

I also added some (edible) pansies to make it look super pretty. 


This really is a fantastic, and very different type of cake, and I really recommend it. 

And for those who are curious, yes I won my heat of the bake off. Onto round two – bread week (eek!).