Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Blackpool Bonanza!

Morgan and I went to do some training in Blackpool today and while we were there, we thought we'd also enjoy some top quality seaside time. It turns out that Morgan has never been to Blackpool before, so this was going to be a fun experience. Here are some photos:

It was a gloriously sunny day today. I love how the clouds have settled in a line across the blue sky.

Here is Morgan admiring the comedy art work on the ground.

This is quite the image of Blackpool - so such a lovely day!

Here I am, touring one of the piers with Morgan.

And here are the seagulls who were trying to eat our tea while we were eating it - everyone loves fish and chips! :)

We also went to the arcades and spent our 2ps on the machines, we had freshly made doughnuts, visited Blackpool Tower, walked along the promenade, and drove the length of the illuminations. Next time we will have to eat whelks, go on a ride and visit the beach. Oh yes - there definitely will be a next time!

It was a wonderful day all round, even including the presentations that we did! They were very well received, and Blackpool seemed to like us. I think we like Blackpool too! Now to wind down and prepare for the rest of the week! Hoorah!

Monday, 21 September 2015

GBBO 2015 - Victorian Week

I sit in my room, happily stuffed from an evening of excellent food supplied, in part, by my Bake Off attempt of this week. It was Victorian week, where participants were asked to bake stuff based on old Victorian recipes. I chose to do the pie, but I had no fancy pie tin so I decided to go for 2 hand raised pies. It was supposed to be full of game meat which I couldn't find anywhere (in the 2 supermarkets I visited) so I went with lamb, some venison sausages and some pancetta. Finally, it had to be highly decorated, so I tried my best. Here are the results:

Here is one of my pies, decorated like a sunflower.

Here is the other, decorated with leaves.

Here they are, fresh out of the oven, cooling down for a Morgan and I to feast upon!

The pastry was lovely - hot water crust which was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The filling was tasty too - all the flavours smooshed together but it was good! Morgan and I shared one together with sprout tops from the market and beetroots from the garden. We have one saved for a lovely lunch later this week too, which will be something food to look forward to! It was a fun bake that wasn't entirely like the Bake Off challenge, but was enough of a challenge for me! Next time, I reckon I'll have to borrow a decorative pie mould for and locate some game at the market!

This is a busy week, but I should be able to blog about it, so check back again soon! :) Not long until my next adventure and there's lots to sort out before I go! Eeee!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Cake SOS

I found out recently that DIY SOS, a show that I have been watching for years on the BBC were in the area, and today was the first day for a while that I could go and do a little something for them. Not being a trades person I really couldn't do much, so I thought that I would do a little baking for them. Here's what I came up with:

I made DIY SOS themed cakes - there were hammers and spanners an little houses on coffee or lemon fairy cakes.

This one was my favourite :) I may also love this show because their theme colour is purple. The purple on these cakes was delicious.

Morgan and I drove down to the site where they are fixing up loads of houses for veterans in the local area. It seems like a massive project, and a little baffling as to how it will all finish up. I know it will happen on time, because it always happen on time, but I'm still worried for them - it's such a big project and I want this project to be completed well and on time, for the sake of the tradesmen, the presenters as well as the veterans!

I approached with cake, and they were all so pleased! There was immediately 3 cameras in front of the cake - I was sooo amused. Then Nick Knowles, the main presenter, thanked me for them and took a photo with me! I was so very chuffed! :)

A little over exposed, but there we both are! Yaaaay! :) Zan with a famous person! :) I played it pretty cool too! :)

I think we will go back and help to clean or move things in the next few days. I've always admired the things they do on this show, the people they help and the impact that they have on the community, so I want to be part of this awesomeness! Watch this space! :)

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Burger or Lobster?

Oh my oh my, I just had the most lovely meal with my friends Nadia, Fiona and Angel in Manchester. We went to a restaurant that is simply named Burger or Lobster served exactly those two things - burgers and lobsters! There were only 3 options, lobster, lobster roll or burger  - all served with fries and salad. I will say, we argued for a long time before finally deciding ordering 2 grilled lobsters, 1 steamed lobster and 1 burger to share. Here are some photos:

Here is the tool for getting the meat out of our lobster. I thought it was awesomely themed.

There was a tank full of lobsters in the entrance to the restaurant. They were huge!

Here I am playing with the lobster shell squisher. That's Nadia. We'll be seeing much more of her on the blog in the next couple of years.

This is our one burger, divided thoughtfully into 4 by our waitress.

This is one of the 3 lobsters we ordered - so delicious.

This meal was amazing. The lobster was juicy and meaty, and cooked perfectly. The fries were really yummy and the salad was dressed really well. There was just enough food there to be wonderfully full, except I was given extra lobster by Angel and Fiona so I was waaay too full in the end. But it was totally worth it. It was delicious. I will totally go again. 

We had a lovely evening of conversations and laughter, and stayed actually really late. It was really fun and eventhough my belly is still super full of deliciousness, I'm ready to go again. Who wants to come with? :D

Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Throwing of Puddings

Morgan and I decided to go and visit a highlight of the North England calendar - The Annual World Black Pudding Throwing Championship.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with black pudding, it is a savoury meat delicacy that is famous in the area and made predominantly with pigs blood. I quite like the taste of black pudding if I eat it with other things, like as part of an English Breakfast, but folks usually eat it heated up with a little mustard. No, these are not the same as the puddings you get in America. They aren't sweet and aren't wobbly. I am available for further questions if you want to talk more, or need counselling.

Anyway, to the lobbing of puddings - a big tower was set up in the middle of the main street in Ramsbottom, and folks queue up to throw black puddings at the yorkshire puddings on the tower to knock the yorkshires off. There were a lot of people there, and the atmosphere was low key and friendly. Here are some photos:

Here is the tower, and if you look closely, there is a black pudding in the sky! Everyone cheers when the puddings are thrown, it's awesome!

Here are the black puddings, clothed in tights to prevent them from making a mess on the ground.

And here is Morgan, throwing black puddings at the tower.

So we didn't knock any of the yorkshires off, but it was an amazing experience. I feel ridiculously Northern which makes me feel really warm and fuzzy inside. That, and having a bacon, egg and black pudding butties (sandwiches) afterwards - awesome. It was a short and sunny visit and kinda one of the most surreal and amazing things I have ever attended! Morgan blogged about it too, so it's double awesome! Hoorah! :)

Friday, 11 September 2015

GBBO 2015 - Pastry Week

~ Preamble: between this post and the last post, my wonderful friend and colleague Morgan arrived back in my world after quite a confusing series of events. It should be said that almost everything I do now, will involve her too. End of preamble. ~

It's pastry week on Great British Bake Off and I invited some friends around to enjoy my bakes with me this week. I had the choice between frangipane tart, an unpronounceable cheese based pasty, and vol au vents. After much thought, I went with the vol au vents with two different fillings. Here's what I did:

I made 27 vol au vents in the end (didn't want to waste any pastry). I think they really look like the real deal!

This one is prawn and avocado with seafood sauce - a classic :)

This one is creamy mushroom, with the pastry lid back on top.

I'm really pleased about how these came out, and the resulting tastes too. The pastry could have been lighter, but the lamination was awesome, so I'm not too worried. It was crisp, and the fillings were good. I'd like to try this all over again one day, with new fillings until I find my favourite! :)

My friends really enjoyed these little delicacies which turned out to be really filling after about 3. We hadn't expected that! We also had a lot of other fun foods to share too - it was a day of eating fun things! We simply spend the evening talking, eating and sharing stories. Everyone met Morgan and it was nice to have her meet my lovely friends too. Yaay! :)

I'm super sleepy now - it's been a very long, very complicated week so I am going to wind down and rest up. More fun soon! :)

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

An Afternoon in London

After staying the night with my delightful friend Nadia in Oxford, I was suitably refreshed from a day out with my niece and sister-in-law, and was ready to hang out with my brand new nephew and my sister. I've actually hung out with my nephew before, but the last two very brief times I saw him, he was completely asleep. Today, he wanted to be anything but asleep! Here are some photos:

Here he is, my little nephew. He already makes excellent eye contact. Hello!

My little nephew isn't very good at selfies yet. We'll work on it :)

This is my favourite photo of the day. It's screams "AHHH, I'M HERE!"

My little nephew really likes eating, but doesn't like sleeping. Just like meeee! Hahaa! My sister is doing very well as a new mum, and my brother-in-law is doing wonderfully looking after everyone. 

Oh, and Bugsy is doing well. He's being an excellent big brother by keeping out of the way. Either that or he's protesting having a little brother in silence. Noone really knows. He was happy to see me though, cos everyone's attention is elsewhere of recent :)

Here is the bunny of bunnies! Hello Mr Bugsy - we all still love you, we promise!

My parents actually met me in London today, and I have left them there to help wrangle my little nephew into his cot for sleepy time. I left a little sad knowing that I won't see this little person for about 3 months because I'm going to tour, but I'm sure that I'll get some good quality auntie / nephew time in when I come back. See you later, little man! :)

Monday, 7 September 2015

An Afternoon in Oxford

I pootled down to Oxford today to visit my brother, sister-in-law and niece. This is the last chance to visit them before I go on tour, and I won't get see them for 3 whole months! It was a lovely day today - the weather was nice, I had some good quality auntie/niece time and everyone was well fed! Here are some photos of me hanging out with my sister-in-law and niece:

My niece likes to walk. Except she can't sit or crawl yet. So she leans forward a lot, and hopes that her feet will follow her head.

Here is the compulsory Auntie/Niece photograph!

And here is the little cutie, being entertained while having her nappy changed.

I had a lovely day with my brother and his little family today. The drive down was a bit long but it was totally worth it - so many smiles and cuddles! See you all in December! :)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

GBBO 2015 - Alternative Ingredients Week

I am getting ready to head down south on a whirlwind trip to meet family and pick up Morgan! But just before I go, I really wanted to fit in my Bake Off bake, so here we are! This week was alternative ingredients week, and I was curious about how it would play out. Challenge 1 was sugar free cake, challenge 2 was gluten free pita bread and the final challenge was dairy free ice cream. I went with the first challenge because I was pushed for time and couldn't explore as much as I wanted.

I chose a date and walnut loaf cake because I've never tried using dates in a cake before as the sweetener. Here's what it looked like:

It was quite brown because of the date mixture but I was pretty pleased with the look of it when it came out.

The texture was quite closed, but I was impressed at how moist it was, and how cakey it felt.

Using dates as the sweetener was really interesting, and something I'd like to really experiment with. I think there's a lot of potential for it, in terms of flavour combinations, and I hope that I will be able to bake more stuff for the rentals.

I was pleased with the outcome of this bake - it was pretty tasty considering there was barely any butter in it, and no sugar. My dad was pleased, so I am happy. Everyone wins :) Haha.

Now, to focus my energy on the drive ahead, and a few very busy days. Hoorah for baking!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A Round the World Adventure

It's the 1st September, exactly 30 days before I set off on my round the world adventure with the wonderful friend and colleague Morgan doing work on behalf of my charity, Pop-Up Adventure Play. Have I written about that yet? Maybe not. In the excitement in actually organising this trip, I might have accidentally forgotten to write about this amazing opportunity and adventure of a lifetime. There are a few blogs on the Pop-Ups blog which I've written. But I will tell my story here too.

The fact of the matter is, Morgan and I love to travel. Yes, sometimes we miss our home comforts, our friends, families and our lovely bed, but the sweet call of travel is strong in both Morgan and I, and, well, we decided to make an amazing adventure happen.

We took the invitation from Team Malarkey for a second Australian trip as our cue. In order to prevent 2 very sad travelers from experiencing 20+ hours of plane time in one go, I decided that I wanted to break it up a little bit. And since I'd be stopping at new locations, why not do a little work. And since we were going around the world in one direction why not go back round the other way too? All of this came to me in a bit of a rush and very soon I was pitching this idea to a very bewildered Morgan. This was going to be an adventure like no other.

Now, I am in a position to say that most of the things are in place. I have 2 plane tickets that spans 6 different countries, I have places to sleep at each of the locations, and little work to do too. I've also arranged for Andy (one of the director's of our charity) to be joining us for a part of the adventure, which he is very pleased about. 

So in less than one month's time, I will be sitting the directors of our charity down to tell them about our amazing adventures, both completed and about to begin, and then we will prepare to fly around the world. I am both excited and completely terrified - there are so many elements that are out of my control involved in this project, and I really pray for God's blessings as we traverse the continents on our journey around the world. This is going to be awesome.

Follow our progress on facebook and twitter. It'll be an adventure worth keeping track of.