Last year I was lucky enough to be able to make many jars of blackcurrant jam with the bountiful berries harvested from the bushes in my sister’s garden. Unfortunately, as my sister no longer lives at that house, my blackcurrant picking this summer was not to be. Not to be thwarted, I have been keeping my eyes open for berries growing wild. I have my eyes on a vacant lot with loads of blackberry bushes which I am hoping will bear loads of fruit, as blackberry is my favourite jam of all!
Last night, on my way to work, I spotted a tangle of wild raspberry bushes and decided to pick some on my way home. Unfortunately, it was quite dark and I had to pick what I could without being able to see much. I planned to make jam using them along with the pears and plums I had in the fridge.
Sadly, on seeing the raspberries in the light, they were pretty rank and couldn’t be used. Not to be deterred, I pressed ahead and made pear and plum jam (sans raspberries) instead. I was a little worried it wouldn’t set properly, as I don’t add pectin, instead relying on the pectin naturally present in the fruit.
Fortunately, the jam did set and although it’s a little sweet for my personal tastes (it could do with being just a touch more tart), it’s pretty tasty. As you can see from the photo, I got just shy of four jars filled. I look forward to trying some on a slice of toast, or perhaps a home-made scone!
Title: 666 Park Avenue
Author: Gabriella Pierce
Publisher: Avon Books
First Published: February 2011
No .of pages: 320
Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch . . . literally?
Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, fledgling architect Jane Boyle has been living a fairy tale. When he proposes with a stunning diamond to seal the deal, Jane can’t believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job to make a new start with Malcolm in New York.
But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan’s most feared and revered families, Jane’s fairy tale takes a darker turn. Soon everything she thought she knew about the world – and herself – is upended. Now Jane must struggle with newfound magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them.
If you like paranormal romances that aren’t too gushy and still have a bit of kick to them, then you’re going to love the first book in the new 666 Park Avenue series!
Seriously, I love paranormal stuff, but usually can’t stand the romance side of things, however this more than stands up to even the biggest haters of romantic fiction by having enough paranormal activity and believable characters to carry it off easily. Jane is a very likeable and flawed character; Malcolm is suitably suave and mysterious; and his mother is the perfect socialite matriarch. the settings are lush, the pace is fast, and the story is incredibly entertaining. Honestly, I had great difficulty putting it down and actually missed my bus stop because I couldn’t tear my eyes from the page!
I am now eagerly awaiting the publication of the sequel because I can hardly wait to see what the future holds for Jane!
DISCLOSURE: I was sent this book by the publisher for review purposes, but was not paid for the review.
Title: The Secret Life of William Shakespeare
Author: Jude Morgan
Publisher: Headline Review
First Published: April 2012
No .of pages: 400
Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
The greatest writer of them all, brought to glorious life. How well do you know the man you love? How much do you think you know about Shakespeare? What if they were one and the same? He is an ordinary man: unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband. And he is also a genius. The story of how a glove-maker from Warwickshire became the greatest writer of them all is vaguely known to most of us, but it would take an exceptional modern novelist to bring him to life. And now at last Jude Morgan, acclaimed author of Passion and The Taste of Sorrow, has taken Shakespeare’s life, and created a masterpiece.
I’m a big ol’ fan of Shakespeare’s many beautiful works, so when this novel exploring his early life and his start in the world of theatres and writing, I was over the moon!
Living up to the most famous writer in the world was always going to be a tall order, but Jude Morgan takes up the challenge with great aplomb and does a sterling job of showcasing The Bard’s works while presenting him as a real and very believable character in his own story – a fallible man striking out in the world on his own, trying to support a wife and family from a great distance whilst living out his dream
This is a beautifully written exploration into the not-so-glamourous world of Elizabethan theatre, where fickle audiences and the whim of Queen Elizabeth could make or break a play, or even a writer’s whole career.
If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, theatre, or Elizabethan historical fiction, give this one a try, and be transported to another time and place, where a young man struggles to prove his words are art and find his place in history.
DISCLOSURE: I was sent this book by the publisher for review purposes, but was not paid for the review.
Spread the word, and you could be wearing a Pretty McGorgeous hair accessory absolutely FREE!
That’s right, when we hit 50 likes on the Pretty McGorgeous Facebook Page, one person will be chosen at random to receive a free gift from Pretty McGorgeous – any one of the accessories listed at the Pretty McGorgeous Folksy store at the time of the draw!
All you have to do is like the Pretty McGorgeous Facebook Page HERE, and then spread the word to all your Facebook friends.
It couldn’t be simpler! And you can choose from hair clips, scrunchies and hair bands, so there’s something suitable for any length of hair in many different colour combinations.
Get sharing and good luck!
Ever wondered what to do with that leftover roast chicken? Sick of sandwiches? Why not try this delicious recipe for a change…
Chicken, Spinach and Soft Cheese Stuffed Cannelloni with Tomato Sauce
Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
OK, so it doesn’t look very appetizing, but I promise it tastes good!
- 1 small onion (roughly chopped)
- 2 large garlic cloves (crushed or finely chopped)
- 1 medium carrot (finely grated)
- 100g courgette (finely grated)
- 50g mushrooms (roughly chopped)
- 1 x 400g can plum tomatoes
- 500g passata
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1/4 tsp oil
- large pinch mixed dried herbs
- large pinch paprika
Stuffed Cannelloni Ingredients:
- 10 – 15 cannelloni tubes (depending on how big they are)
- 180g fresh spinach (wilted)
- 150g roast chicken (finely chopped)
- 1 small onion (finely diced)
- 200g extra light soft cheese
- To make the sauce, roughly chop one small onion, crush the garlic, and sautee in the oil till the garlic turns the colour of cappuccino.
- Add the tomatoes, passata, grated carrot and courgette, roughly chopped mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, herbs and paprika, and simmer till you reach the desired consistency and the carrot and courgette “melts” away into the sauce. You may like to add some water and then reduce it.
- To make the cannelloni stuffing, wilt the spinach, then set it aside to cool.
- Finely dice a small onion and the chicken, then stir into the soft cheese.
- Squeeze all the water out of the spinach and roughly chop it, then add to the mixture and stir through.
- Stuff the mixture into the cannelloni tubes allowing 2-3 per person depending on size. Use your fingers – it’s messy, but it’s easier, trust me! (And if your kids like helping in the kitchen, get them to do this bit – they’ll love it!)
- Place the cannelloni tubes in your baking dish, and cover with the tomato sauce.
- Pop it in the oven at 200C for around 30 minutes, till the pasta is cooked.
- Calories: 234
- Carbs: 26g
- Fat: 6g
- Sat Fat: 2g
- Protein: 18g
- Sodium: 249g
This nutritional information is based on the brands I used (Asda smart price passata and tinned tomatoes, Asda cannelloni tubes and tomato puree, Kraft Philadelphia Extra Light soft cheese). Using different brands may well result in different nutritional values.
I made this up in individual portions so I could freeze it (pre-cooking stage) and just defrost and pop it in the oven whenever I fancy some cannelloni. I allowed three cannelloni tubes per serving because the Asda ones are quite small. As you can see, I didn’t mention any cheese sprinkled on top, because I like to leave them without it in case I don’t have enough of my allowances left for the day to have that. It’s lovely with a sprinkling of cheddar melted on top, or even just a sprinkling of parmasan when you serve it. It’s great served with a green salad or some garlic bread, or just alone as a light meal.
We had a bunch of bananas that were getting a little over-ripe, so I was hunting for recipe ideas to use them up. I had a big smoothie for breakfast, but that only used one of them, so Xander and I experimented in the kitchen and came up with a lovely moist banana bread recipe that is surprisingly low in fat and calories.
Makes 1 small loaf yielding 12 slices
- 3 small bananas
- 40g honey
- 2 eggs
- 50g margerine/butter
- 200g self raising flour
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Mash the bananas till they’re all fluffy, then add the honey and eggs and mix well.
- Add the margerine/butter and mix well.
- Stir in the flour and mixed spice.
- Line or lightly grease a 1lb loaf tin and pour in the batter.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the banana loaf is golden and cooked through.
- Slice into 12 equal portions and keep in an air-tight container.
- Calories: 127
- Carbs: 22g
- Fat: 3g
- Sat Fat: 1g
- Protein: 3g
- Sodium: 19g
These values are based on the brands I used (Asda Smart Price flour, honey and eggs, and Lurpack Lightest). If you use different brands, your nutritional values may differ slightly. The values offered here are merely a rough guide for you.
I think this would also be really good if sultanas/raisins were added, but you’d have to adjust the values for that.
A lovely moist banana bread that doesn’t really need anything on it! The honey lends an indulgent slight stickiness that is just gorgeous, and the banana flavour is light rather than overpowering. Just enough spice to give it a little extra flavour. Xan and I both enjoyed this and Xan LOVED mashing the bananas and stirring everything up.
I enjoyed mine with a glass of skimmed milk and I’ll be taking a couple of slices in to work with me this evening so my colleagues can try it out too!
A quick round up of the films I watched for the first time during June. Yes, I know some of them are older films, but I’d never seen them before now…
Posted in Films and Reviews, Pastimes
Tagged Alie In Wonderland, Domestic Goddess, Film Reviews, Food Fight!, How To Train Your Dragon, Love Actually, Men In Black 3, Movies, Source Code, The Raid
Xander is really getting into making things in the kitchen, so when he begged me to make some cakes with him this afternoon, I couldn’t say no, and we headed through to experiment and make up a new recipe. Here’s what we came up with…
Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate On Top
Makes 6 cupcakes
Banana peanut butter cupcakes topped with chocolate. Delicious!
- 90g banana
- 30g reduced fat peanut butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 egg
- 40mls skimmed milk
- 100g self raising flour
- 30g sugar
- 18g chocolate buttons (3 buttons per cupcake)
- Preheat oven to 200C.
- Mash the banana and mix well with the peanut butter, vanilla essence, egg and milk.
- Add the flour and sugar and mix well so that the cake batter is light and fluffy.
- Spoon into six cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden.
- Remove from the oven and immediately place three chocolate buttons on top of each cupcake so that the chocolate melts, then spread it over the top of the cupcakes.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Calories: 154
- Carbs: 25g
- Fat: 4g
- Sat Fat: 4g
- Protein: 4g
- Sodium: 1g
A nice B-I-G bite!
These values are based on the products I used (Asda reduced fat peanut butter; Asda Smart Price eggs and flour; Asda chocolate buttons), so if you use different brands, the values may differ slightly, but as a rough guideline, this will give you an idea.
These only have a very slightly peanut buttery taste, but the banana wasn’t so overpowering as to completely cover it – it was a very tasty combination. There was just enough chocolate on top to make it feel indulgent but without it being too much. Xander certainly enjoyed his! We had a lovely time making them together too!
You know how I’m terrified of spiders? And you know how I’m determined not to pass that phobia on to Xander? Well, there was a spider in the bath last week. I told Xander that he was just having a little wander around and then Daddy would rescue him when he got home. Xander then asked, “Why don’t YOU just rescue Insy Winsy, Mummy?”
So I got a piece of card and a plastic pot, and I guided that spider on to the card, trapped him with the pot, and released him on the veranda wall so he could “go home”.
Xander seemed impressed. He told me, “That was very kind of you, Mummy. Now Insy Winsy can go home to HIS Mummy and not be lost any more!”
Granted, the spider was only the size of my thumb nail, but this is a MAJOR step for me. My heart is beating so fast as I type this that it feels like it could burst as I was so scared. But I kept that smile on my face the whole time (thank Gods I’m a good actor!).
That day I was the bravest Mummy in the world, and my little boy doesn’t even know it!
This morning I had to remove yet another (significantly larger, this time!*) Insy Winsy from our bath. I did it without hesitation and without visibly wigging out. This, however, is not the reason I feel proud. No, the reason I feel so proud is that I’ve just realised it’s become so commonplace that I forgot to even mention it to Dale today. (Mental high-five to self!)
* By “significantly larger” I mean if was one of those where the body is about the size of the tip of my thumb and THEN there are the long legs. Not quite a fill-your-palm spider, but heading that way!
I’m proud of myself.
Today I Am Awesome!
Of course, that’s not to say that if another shows up and Dale is home, I won’t make HIM deal with it – they still make me feel sick with fear inside I’m just getting better at hiding that from Xan!
Here are a few progress pictures for my afghan as well as the pattern I’m using for the squares. I’m using aran acrylic/wool mix in white, light grey and dark grey.
Circle in a square pattern
st = stitch
sl st = slip stitch
sp = space
ch = chain
dc = double crochet
tc = triple crochet
hdc = half double crochet
rpt = repeat
You will need three colours of yarn – A, B, and C.
Colour A. Ch 6 and join with sl st to form ring.
Chain 3. 15dc in ring. Sl st in top of ch3
Ch3. 1dc in same sp. 2dc in next sp (15 times).
Join with sl st in top of ch3. Fasten off and weave in end.
Join colour B with a sl st. Ch3 (miss next dc. 1dc in next dc. ch3). Rpt all the way round and join with sl st in 3rd st of ch6.
Ch4. (2tc in same sp. Ch3. 3tc in same sp. Ch1. 3dc in next sp. Ch1. 3hdc in next sp. 3dc in next sp. 3tc in next sp. ch3. 3tc in same sp). (nb The 3tc ch3 3tc makes a corner.) Rpt all the way round to end and ch1 to join with top of ch4 with sl st. Fasten off and weave in end.
Join colour C with sl st in any ch3 corner. 2dc in same sp. Ch3. 3dc in same sp. Ch1 3dc in each ch1 sp (4 times). At corners, 3dc ch2 3dc in same ch3 sp. Rpt all the way round to end and ch1 then join to top of ch3 with sl st. Fasten off and weave in end.
PLEASE NOTE THAT ALTHOUGH I’M BRITISH, I USE US TERMS BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY MAKE MORE SENSE TO ME!