Friday, 22 May 2015

Cupcakes Galore and an Earthquake

I was up before 7 this morning and started baking straight away. 

My first batch of everything-free cupcakes for the Vegans, gluten, rice and just-about-everything-else-under-the-sun intolerants were not a great success. They used millet and tapioca flour as some were allergice to soya and rice, the more usual substitutes, and coconut milk, dairy-free spread, cocoa, and bicarb to raise. 

Unfortunately, they looked awful and frankly tasted worse, although I used a recipe supplied by DD2s vegan friend who knows a thing or two about allergy-free cooking. 

 The first batch looked like mini cowpats and tasted as bad (not that I've ever eaten a cowpat)

I modified the next bake slightly and the second set have turned out better and taste passable after I added extra sugar and filled the cases up more. 

 Second attempt, still a bit cowpatty but larger and sweeter

I'm hoping they will be okay once DD's future mum-in-law ices and decorates them. 

The ordinary vanilla and chocolate ones I made from my usual recipe from an American book. They always dip a little in the middle when cool, but are so amazingly light and fluffy and I know from experience they will freeze well until next week.

 Regular Vanilla

Regular Chocolate

Mixed lot using up the mixtures

It was while I was up to my eyes in flour and eggshells that DD1 texted and asked if I'd heard or felt the earthquake. What earthquake, I replied with floury fingers all over my phone? Well, apparently there was an earthquake in East Kent last night. 4.3 on the Richter scale, it was felt from Margate down to Dover at least, and inland as far as Essex and even East Anglia. 

But not by me! 

After having had a couple of late nights, last night I slept like a log through the whole thing (although it only lasted about 10 seconds anyway). DH hasn't texted or called from work either to say he felt anything, so I guess he didn't, although DS2 said it woke him up. It's not the first one we've had in this area and I did feel the last one that was centred about 8 miles away around Folkestone. It just felt like something had jolted the house for a second or two. 

It makes me think how lucky we are that we only get these minor tremors and not the hugely devastating ones like they've had in Nepal. Still, it is a concern that we've had several small ones in the last 10 years or so.

So, that's my news so far today. Hope all is well with you. Love, Helen xx

Wednesday, 20 May 2015


Just popping in amidst the craziness that is my daughter's final wedding preparations to post a few pics from the hen night last Saturday. 

Fun and games (and drinks and nibbles) at her place first before taking a minibus to Canterbury and the nightclub where we had a specially reserved area. 

I did indulge in a few drinks (wine, awful champagne laid on by the club...but it was free so, of course, had to be drunk...and a couple of Jack Daniels and coke might have slipped down my throat as the evening progressed), but I didn't overdo it and I was fine the next day. I also managed to stay up long after my usual bedtime and didn't get to sleep until nearly 2am.

I did pay for the night with a 2lb weight gain at my slimming club, but I'm working on losing that before the wedding which is now only 10 days away.

So here are the pics of Supermum and her awesome daughters.

Supermum, flexing some muscle

Supermum and Batgirl (aka Bride-to-Be, aka DD2)
Supermum and The (Sexy) Riddler (aka DD3)
Supermum, Sexy Riddler and Batgirl (demonstrating that her superpower is eating a whole cake in one bite). 
 Incredible cake made and decorated by her future mother-in-law.

I have DS2's university final year perfomance to attend tomorrow afternoon, and then Friday I'll be making and freezing the wedding cupcakes (including 'everything-free' ones for the vegans and the gluten-intolerant guests, who also can't tolerate rice which is generally in gluten-free flour). The groom's mum is doing the decoration, thank goodness, so I just have to make the actual cakes. And I have everything printed out ready to make their wedding card and just have to buy some mauve ribbon as DD3 used all mine for the wedding decorations.

DH now has a new suit but at the weekend we need to get him a shirt, tie and shoes. Thankfully I now have my entire outfit...just have to make sure I can still fit into it without too many visible bulges on show!

That's all for now folks. If I don't manage to write again before the big day the next post will be all wedding pics. 

Hope you are all well. Love and hugs, Helen xx

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Junk Food Night

A foody blog today. 

Once a week we have a junk food type dinner. It's not always all that junky, sometimes its quite healthy such as homemade soup with homemade bread sandwiches and salad. 

Tonight it's a less healthy meal of burgers and chips with salad leaves and cherry tomatoes, and homemade lemon cake and custard. I bought the burgers and buns from Farm Foods at £2.95 for 6 mega beef burgers and £1.25 for 12 seeded burger buns. I'll only use half the bag of buns as DS 1&2 will have 2 burgers each and DH and I will have one. The picture below shows the burgers already grilled so I just have to reheat them later.

The boys and I will also have an Aldi Mature Cheese Slice on our burgers; 10 slices are £1.49 and we'll use 5. 

DH will have some fried onions on his (1/4 pack of FarmFoods frozen sliced onions at 69p, although it says £1 on the bag). 

 The chips are Aldi's crinkle cut at 89p for 1.5kg and we'll have two-thirds of a bag. 

The salad was bought yellow stickered for 75p and half a pack of Aldi cherry tomatoes is about 40p. 

The cake and custard ingredients came to about £1.50 and will make at least 8 portions. 
Allowing for extras like ketchup and salad cream, the total cost of the main meal is around £6 (average £1.50 a person) and 4 portions of the dessert comes to 75p (around 19p a person). So for around £1.70 each we'll have main meal and dessert...a lot cheaper than if we ate the same meal at a restaurant, pub or McDonalds or had a take away. Of course the cost is even less if you don't have 2 piggy 20-something sons who eat 2 burgers each. 

It's been lovely weather here today, but I haven't ventured very far from home, just to Aldi in one direction (DS2 and I popped in and voted on our way there), then back home to unload the shopping before going to Farm Foods and Morrisons in the other direction. I'm now having a lazy afternoon catching up on programmes recorded on our Tivo box.  

Talking of TV, did anyone catch the first episode of Home Fires on Sunday evening? I have the book Jambusters that inspired the series. I absolutely love anything WW2 homefront related and have a huge collection of knitting patterns, cookbooks and women's magazines from the era, plus loads of dvds and books such as Coal House at War, 1940s House and Nella Last's War. I particularly enjoy women's diaries of the period and love Nella Last's as she's an ordinary woman and also we lived in Barrow-in- Furness for over two years when my oldest girls were little. I did enjoy the programme and hope it continues being as good.

That's all for now, back to vegging out and watching too much TV. Love to you all, Helen xx

Friday, 1 May 2015

Instant Herb Garden

Firstly I want to say how overwhelmed I am by the lovely comments people have left me after my last post. Thank you all so much for missing me and welcoming me back.

This is a quick post just to show you the lovely potted herbs I bought today in Aldi and Morrisons. 

There are 6 small pots from Aldi for £2.99 containing chives, oregano, mint, parsley, thyme and sage. As there was no coriander, which I use a lot of in soups, I bought a lovely big plant from Morrisons for 99p. The only other herb I now need that I use regularly is rosemary so I'll keep a look out for one of those. I love using fresh herbs - although I'm not a purist and think dried can be just as good in most cases - but I'm rubbish at growing them from seed, so I'm hoping I can manage to keep these plants alive.

I'm off to Margate tomorrow (well, the Westwood Cross shopping centre just outside Margate). We're going to be looking for a suit for DH for the wedding. I finally have my entire outfit (except tights), having bought a cheap set of stud earrings and nose stud from Primark when I was in Canterbury yesterday. They look the part and that's all that matters. Only 4 weeks to go now.

I hope everyone has a lovely bank holiday weekend, whatever the weather. Love, Helen x

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

I'm Still Alive and Kicking

Hi all. 

I'm just popping on to say a big thank you to Rachel, Pam and Bridget for asking how I'm doing. I'm okay, but haven't felt much like blogging lately and I've generally been spending less time online so haven't been checking out other people's blogs as often as I used to. 

It's only 4 weeks until DD2's wedding and I've been dealing with the occasional freak out from her that all won't be ready in time, and of course I've been lending a hand with the preparations. I'm looking forward to the big day, but will also be glad when it's over as it's been all-consuming for the past 15 months. 

In addition, DS2 has recently split from his girlfriend of 4 years so I've been playing the supportive mummy role, and we took him up to her place at the weekend to pick up his stuff and to return hers. That was a sad occasion as we've also known her and her parents for 4 years and will likely not see them again now.

I also had a nasty flu bug that left me weak and tired for about 3 weeks and DH has changed jobs yet again and is back at the college teaching IT so our finances will be messed up for a month or 2 (or more) until they get his tax code correct (it took about 4 months the last time he worked there). As well as that we've been attending lots of cabaret events that DD3 and her boyfriend have been performing at and we're off to another one on Sunday night, as well as gigs that DS2 has been singing at with one band or another. So, never a dull moment.

In addition to all that we're considering getting a dog to join our mad household. We had to have our 13 year old Yorkie put to sleep about five and half years ago, and have only had our 2 big British Shorthair cats for the past 4 years.

 Shadow (top) and Halo.

But I really want a dog to take for walks to get me out of the house and for companionship when DH is at work. I would love a tiny dog but fear the cats might think it was a rat and chase it (not that either of them is any good at actually chasing or catching the occasional mouse we get in the house). And a big dog is out of the question...big dogs make me nervous, and anyway as we're both getting older I want something that won't pull me off my feet and that I can hopefully tuck under my arm. So I'm looking for a small (not miniature) or medium-sized dog, something like a shih tzu or bichon frise or one of the new mixed breed ones like a cavachon or cockerpoo. I've thought of looking for a rescue dog, but I'm not sure we'd be approved with already having cats and only a tiny backyard. Also, most of the dogs I've seen online at rescue centres tend to be larger breeds with the biggest percentage being the chav's fave breed, the Staffie. But buying a dog also means cost is a factor and even those mixed breeds can be upwards of £500. Anyway, we need to get the wedding out of the way first and then we'll start looking in earnest. Any advice on breeds, rescue dogs etc. (especially in the Kent area) gratefully received.

I love going for walks but not so much on my own and I have no one to go with when DH is at work, so a dog will be a great company and mean I get more exercise. My social anxiety issues mean I can't really join a group...well, I could but the idea gives me the colly-wobbles. I'm not sure how I'm going to get through the socialising with lots of folks I don't know at the wedding...lots of deep breaths and reminding myself its only for a few hours. Luckily I do get on well with DD2's future mum-in-law, but about two-thirds of the people there will be on her fiance's side of the family.

Well, I was only going to write a line or 2 but as usual I got carried away. I'll try not to leave it so long before writing again, and in a few weeks I'll post wedding pictures.

I hope everyone is doing well and I'll check out a few blogs later this evening. Hugs, and thanks again for asking after me. Love, Helen xx

Friday, 13 February 2015

Snot Stops Play On Valentine's Day

Hello, everyone. Sorry for not updating, I was busy over the weekend and at the beginning of the week getting everything sorted to send to the clinic in Sevenoaks for DS1's autism assessment. I spent 4 days on and off wading through years of medical and educational reports going back to when he was about 3 or 4 (he's now 26) trying to decide the most relevant to send, photocopying everything as I didn't want to send originals, and helping DS fill in the forms that came with the application letter. 

This is the middle stage of the process and we have to wait to see if they will actually agree to assess him. The first stage was persuading his doctor to take him seriously and refer him. It's hard to believe that in this day and age this fairly young doctor still seems to think someone on the autistic spectrum shouldn't be holding down a job, or have any social life whatsoever. He really upset DS the first time DS brought the subject up...luckily being treated to breakfast at McDonalds (and a few hugs from mum) helped make him feel better, and the next time I went with him to the appointment and spoke on his behalf.

Anyway, I sent off a fairly thick envelope of stuff and now we have to wait and see. It could be weeks before we hear either way, and if the answer is positive it could be months more before he actually gets an appointment. 

DH is off for 2 weeks half term break after today. We were looking forward to lunch out tomorrow as a Valentine's day treat...but yours truly here has a nasty cold and can hardly sit at a table without snotting all over everything and my taste buds are completely on strike so we're going to defer it until sometime next week when I'm feeling better. I shouldn't complain as this is the only real cold I've had this winter. We're hoping to have a few days out round and about this area rather than going away this fingers crossed for some decent weather. I am sooo ready for spring to come; I'm just about sick of feeling so cold and everything being so dark and dull and dead.

Not much crafting going on here at the moment. I can't even really knit because of my dripping nose. I did cobble together a simple unlined tote bag earlier in the week as a practice for making personal effects bags for relatives to take patients' possessions home from the hospice. It wasn't too good, a bit small and I wasn't happy with the handles, so I'm using it myself and will have another go when I'm feeling better. I prefer lined ones I think, more substantial and all those seam allowances are nicely hidden, so I'll probably go back to my usual method. I haven't even made DH a Valentine's card this year, but have cheated and sent him a free E-card through Not that we're all soppy romantic any more but Valentines is another excuse to tell him how much he means to me...and to celebrate with a special meal!

I'm hoping my cold is best part over by Monday as I'm off to Maidstone with DD2, her maid-of- honour and her future mother-in-law for a practice run of her hair and make up for the wedding. The lady who is doing it will come to the house on the actual day, but DD needs to go to her salon for the practice. It's getting scarily close now (May 30th). After over a year of her turning into bridezilla and talking about little else it will be almost a relief when it's over, but I do hope she has a lovely day. I still haven't a clue what I'm wearing and the hen night is also fast approaching and that's a costume do with a female superheroes and villains theme. I am definitely not copying most comic book characters by getting into a skintight leotard and having my boobs hanging out all over the place for that.  I though I might go as Malleficent...suitably evil and well-covered up.

Tonight's dinner will be cowboy baked beans with chorizo served with jacket spuds and salad. Beans and jackets done in the slow cooker. Quick and easy to put together and flavoursome enough even I might be able to taste it.

The weather has been mostly dry here this week, but still very cold at times. I'm just thankful we have only had a few flurries of snow over the past weeks and none of it has settled.Bet I've jinxed things now and we'll have a right old storm before February is out.

Right, that's all. I'm going to toddle off round Aldi's and might even go into town for an hour to get out of the house and hopefully some fresh air will help clear my head and nose a bit. Hope you are all well. Love and hugs, Helen xx

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Woman Can Always Change Her Mind

After Slimming World yesterday morning (stayed the same at 1lb under my target weight), I spent most of yesterday afternoon helping DS1 with one of the 3 forms he needs to fill out to apply for his autism assessment. Last evening I sorted through 15 years worth of his school reports, special educational needs statements, speech therapy reports etc. etc. to find evidence to support his application. And for most of today I've been trying to decide which of them to send, and then spent hours photocopying pages and pages on our slow home copier. In between all that I've done a dark load of laundry, changed the cats' litter trays and disinfected everything, vacuumed through downstairs, emptied the bins and put the recycling out for collection tomorrow and made 3 days worth of dinners.

Talking of much for this week's menu plan. I was browsing through my Hairy Biker's Mums Know Best cook books last night and of course wanted to make half the recipes in there, so I decided to ring the changes on this week's dinners. We'd already had the corned beef/tinned ham, chips and beans last night instead of later in the week because I couldn't be bothered making the sausage plait yesterday after all that sorting of paperwork. 

Before bedtime last night I took a 750g pack of value minced beef and 500g pack of puff pastry from the freezer to make a mince and onion plate pie. But, being me, I knew I could stretch it to more than one meal. The beef was browned in my large slowcooker and drained of fat before being divided into 2 portions into my 2 slowcookers. One portion had onion, garlic, frozen peppers, mushrooms and carrots sticks added to it, plus leftover sauce from Sunday's meatballs to make a pasta sauce. The other portion had onion, frozen diced carrots and swede, some leftover veg soup, a couple of beef stock cubes and some mixed herbs added to make the base of the minced beef pie. I then divided the puff pastry in two, half to top the pie and the other half to make 4 small sausage plaits using vege sausage mix.

So, tonight's dinner was the minced beef pie with the filling from the slow cooker, topped with puff pastry and cooked in the halogen oven. I served it with microwaved frozen cauli and green beans, and frozen mashed potatoes. It's the first time I've used frozen mash and it was lovely. I bought mine for 69p for 650g from Aldi and it easily did 4 portions. With the cost of fresh potatoes and considering what gets lost in peelings plus the cost of cooking I think it was pretty good value and so easy to prepare.

Tomorrow will be a sandwich night, except we're having some fancy crackers instead of bread and reduced fat Brussels Pate from Aldi (crackers approx £1 and pate on offer at 49p). 

Friday we'll have the individual sausage plaits with spicy potato wedges and salad. I cooked the plaits in the halogen, browing the bottoms first before turning them right way up to ensure the pastry was cooked on all sides.

Saturday will be a pasta bake using the slow cooker sauce, topped with some grated cheddar and browned off in the halogen. 

The weather was cold and bright today after yesterday's massive snowflakes that thankfully didn't settle with the ground so wet already, but I only managed a quick trip down the road to Aldi once I'd finished with the photocopying. I'm hoping it will be dry tomorrow so I can get out for a decent walk even if it's only in to town for a wander around the shops...although I only have about £4.60 left of this week's £50 and I need to buy the crackers and pate with some of that. I am doing well, though, and have only overspent on one week by just over £1.

Oh, and to put a dent in my budgeting plans, DH got a tax demand for £580 in today's post dating back to when he was supply teaching. He was actually paying though the agency for a firm to manage his tax and national insurance contributions but they obviously didn't do a very good job of it. We'll probably take a chunk of savings and pay it off rather than have them deduct it monthly from his salary. Thank goodness we're in a postion to do that and aren't having to face an extra £50 a month deduction from salary that we can't afford. It must be terrible when something like that happens to someone already just scraping by.

I hope you all have a good night and the weather isn't too terrible where you are. Love and hugs, Helen xx