Saturday, 27 August 2016

Bake Off 2016 - Cake Week

Bake Off is back and has collided inconveniently with a rather uncertain part of my life. The lovely thing is that despite the uncertainty, Bake Off will be consistent, and awesome, and will give me a little focus while I contend with the rest of life. My friends and are going to be doing the Bake Off Bake Along, now in its third year (years one and two started with only a couple of us!). We're no professionals, but we are certainly enthusiastic fans of the TV show. Every week we select one of the three challenges to have a go at and as it is the first week, we have three cake based challenges to pick from: 1) drizzle cake, 2) Jaffa cakes or 3) Mirror Glaze cake.

The mirror glaze cake looked amazing so I wanted to kick start my baking adventure with something awesome so I gave it ago! The challenge basically asked for 2 genoise sponges, covered with ganache or butter cream and then finished by a shiney mirror glaze. I went with a vanilla and blueberry cake, which I had hoped to cover in a blueberry mirror glaze but alas! After trying 3 times, I wasn't able to make the glaze. A different problem for each attempt - I couldn't make it a) shiney b) set and c) smooth. Sigh.

So I've ended up with an excellent vanilla buttercream and blueberry jam cake, but unfortunately didn't quite manage the full challenge. Here it is:

Mum dug out a nice cake stand for my slightly disappointing but still pretty cake!

Mary Berry always says how nice it is to show on the top what you have in the middle, right? Hello Blueberries! :)

I ran out of ingredients and time to really try the mirror glaze again, but I am sure that I will go back to it at one point. Right now, I'm excited about moving forward from cake! Looking forward to more exciting bakes! Hoorah for the return of Bake Off! :)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Happy Birthday Little Buddy

My dear little nephew,

Your Auntie Zan loves you a lot. Thank you for being such a lovely little boy filled with curiosity and joy. You are such a sweet little boy, tender and gentle, and always full of smiles and sincerity for every person you meet. You have inexplicably amazing hair that defies physics, and your feet are always sticky, but you are adorable and you have greatly enriched my life just by existing.

My little nephew, this has been a challenging year for your mum and dad - I think that they might have superhero status simply for surviving the last year. You haven't always been the best sleeper or eater but that's okay because now you sleep like a rock star and eat like that belly of yours is bottomless. You weren't totally enthusiastic about crawling either, but now you have a deft understanding of the difference between carpet and laminate, and how differently to crawl on each surface. 

Thank you so much for playing with me this year, for putting a fistful of food in my face and forgetting to let go, for letting me read you stories and turning the pages really fast. Thank you so much for being a peaceful, happy person. The world seems okay when I hang out with you - thank you for being such a calming influence on all of us. You may not understand any words yet, but I think that you know that we all love you very very much.

Happy birthday little buddy! You may be small right now but you have big things to give to the world. You've certainly taught me a lot already, and I look forward to discovering more new things with you in the future.

Much love,
Your Auntie Zan

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Picnic by the Sea

My friend Lee and I decided that it was high time that we had a picnic by the sea. Coincidentally, it was round about the time of my birthday so it was double fun! My friends J and Peki came over to visit from the Netherlands so we all piled into my car and we all zipped off to Formby Beach. Angry clouds loomed overhead as we drove towards the beach but a strip of blue sky in the distance kept us optimistic. Dry and lovely weather met greeted us as we parked up by the beach. I immediately took my shoes off and ran around on the sand.

Here are some photos:

Here was our picnic on Formby Beach. We had so much food.

We wandered along the water, beach combing, and enjoying the peace and quiet.

We found a little crab who was having a little adventure too.

We decided to explore the sand dunes too. They were incredibly sandy!

We found a load of red, dotty moths. They were so very cool. There were bees too!

Look at these trees! So straight and tall! All next to the beach.

Here we all are, a little further along the coast in Blackpool. 

A walk along the South Pier is incomplete without this photo :)

After fish and chips by the beach, we were given this beautiful view of Blackpool - a lovely end of an awesome day.

As always, I reflect on the amazingness of this group of friends. We were missing a few on this adventure, but together we've known eachother for over 16 years now. Our numbers of fluctuated here and there - and we now have people's other halves too, but it doesn't feel any different! Every time we meet it's like no time has passed at all. We are just as close as we were all those years ago when we hung out at college. It was so much fun back then, and it's so much now too! Except now we occasionally talk about politics. HA! I adore these wonderful people, so much. I look forward to the next 16 years! :)

An awesome day with amazing people. There was even cake - I can't ask for more. Thank you for an amazing adventure, and hoorah for everyone! :)

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Finding Little Feet

A few days ago, I went down south to babysit my little nephew. He is at the point in life where he is literally finding his feet, and it has been fascinating watching him find out about the world. Here are some photos:

Here he is, getting acquainted with his Auntie Zan. Look at that hair!

He really likes books. And standing up. So here he is standing up and looking at a book.

Here we are, a happy morning selfie.

And this is a photo capturing a little boy and his carrot. He loved this carrot for some reason, and every time he saw one of us with it instead of him, he cried!

I had a lot of fun with my little nephew. I've worked out how to make him laugh now and it has a completely infectious quality! He can now crawl, which he doesn't really like doing because it means that he can't hold anything in his hands while he's on the move. Instead he will reach out to hold any willing hands and walk to different places because it's faster than crawling. Haha. His hair defies all the rules of physics and I love him so!

Going into this babysitting gig, I was confidence because of my week long experience with my niece, but I am still really glad that we got on well! We were both happy and well when his mum and dad came home, so all is good! I look forward to hanging out with my nephew again soon! :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Being Birthdayed 2016

I feel very much loved after spending a few days being birthdayed by various lovely people. And to have so many versions of cake too! So exciting, so delicious and so awesome.

Here I am having birthday sushi with my sister and brother-in-law. It was followed up by birthday eton mess. So great. My little nephew was around too, but more on that later :)

This was birthday snacks and pandan swiss roll with my friend Ricky. Not seen him for so long, it was lovely to catch up!

And here I am with my friends Lee, Peki and J for a birthday beach adventure! We had red cake, next to the red squirrel park, with a red lady. More about this another day too! :)

Combined with my trip to the Lake District with Andy and my actual birthday celebrations, this has been an awesome couple of weeks. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful people who spent time with me indulging in my love of cake and adventures. You are all lovely. Thank you so much! :)