Ain’t No Sunshine So We Baked

I have always loved watching the Great British Bake Off. It was a lot more fun to watch when Jordan and Kathryn were both at home to watch it too – we would guess who would be going out and who would become star baker. Although I love baking, I would never be able to put myself through the pressures that the bakers go through. The technical challenge always looked very daunting to me and as for doing a show stopper – what is that about?!

Whilst preparing food for my picnic at the beach with Kathryn, I came across the recipe for jaffa cakes. I hadn’t realised it was the first technical challenge of the new series as I hadn’t caught up with the show. Although I changed the size of the baking tins so my jaffa cakes looked different to the bakers’ finished product, I was fairly happy with my effort. Even managed to have a shiny chocolate finish. It also inspired me to have a go at another challenge.



The following week’s challenge was Viennese Whirls and I thought that would be great. One advantage of not being on the show is you do actually get the full recipe. On initial reading, I thought these might be a bit extravagant to make as I needed to buy jam sugar. I put that aside as it was going to be fun to make – somebody had said to me why make jaffa cakes when you can buy perfectly good ones. Why – because it is fun and a bit of a challenge.

Jordan might be 23 but he was keen to help too. So good that my children still want to do these things with me. It might have been August when we did attempt them but it was a baking the day – it was a dreary wet afternoon.

First job was to make the jam. That was quite easy. Whilst I did that, Jordan prepared the baking trays, drawing 2 inch rounds onto greaseproof paper. It was at this point I realised that I had used the wrong biscuit cutter for my jelly for the jaffa cakes the week before. Nobody noticed so I didn’t make too much of a drama out of it.

Raspberry Jam
Raspberry Jam

Preparing the biscuit base was a funny affair. Jordan is still keen to impress so started “beating” the mixture. His version of beating is a bit different from mine – he did it very delicately. I had to take over to get the job done!

Next up was piping the mixture. Again a lot of laughs in the kitchen whilst doing that. We had to pipe swirled rounds not rosettes. Still don’t know what that actually meant but with Chris having a go at the piping too, the baked articles were still impressive.

Swirled round or rosette?
Swirled round or rosette?
Impressive though
Impressive though

Jordan had moaned about the fact we had to wash the piping bag to be used again for the butter icing but he still did a good job. We had to spoon jam onto one half of the biscuit then pipe the cream over then add the other side of the biscuit. It was a delicate job but we only had one casualty.


We certainly had a lot of fun making the biscuits and next came the job of eating them. First day, they were nice – actual biscuit was lovely – but quite rich. A few days later, so delicious. Will make again.


I haven’t attempted making the bread/batter challenges but the pastry challenge is one that I am going to try, probably enlisting the help of Jordan again. It is Bakewell Tart – a family favourite. I do have to purchase a new piping bag – second attempt of washing it last time, Jordan tore it! Will also get to use that jam sugar again.

It’s Now Or Never

I have no idea how this happened but there is only 5 more weeks left until I run the Great South Run. Whilst I do run 3 days a week, I have been saying for the last month that I must get a running/healthy eating plan together. Finally I started at the beginning of the week.

Although I am very active, I had not been very good with my eating. I had avoided the scales since getting back from my holiday in June but knew things were not good as my clothes were not fitting me. I finally braved the scales on Thursday 8th September and whilst in the right range of BMI, I was 6lbs over my target weight. I hate the word diet on its own as I think this word is so negative – what I needed was a healthy eating plan. Another words, cut out on those crisps, biscuits and chocolate. Well my completed challenges, London trip and making banana muffins, in the last week didn’t help much, but on Tuesday I put that behind me and put everything into eating well and exercising for two days. Weigh in day saw a loss of 1 3/4 lb so not bad at all.

When I first started running, I did buy myself a new pair of running trainers. They have been a very good friend to me and I love them but I decided that I needed a new pair. This was the perfect time to buy a new pair and wear them in for the big event. I stayed with the same type as before but went a bit bright (okay very bright!). I love them.

New running shoes
New running shoes

I always run on my own and have never taken part in an organised run before so I needed some practice with that. My daughter was going to take part in a Parkrun so I thought I would gatecrash too. I signed up and was quite excited about it. I felt a bit nervous about it the night before and nearly didn’t go.

Parkrun’s are organised timed 5 km runs and run in public places. Our local run is along the beach. Kathryn’s boyfriend was running too and as they are both competitive, I was left on my own. I have to say I was very slow and it felt so hard. It didn’t help that the day was cold so I had put my hoodie on and needed to take that off half way through. Kathryn passed me along the route and gave me a wave of encouragement. She finished a good 13 minutes before me so was at the finishing line to encourage me to finish. In the end, I got a time of 36.43.




I am starting to have doubts that I can manage this challenge but I have told myself I am going to walk some of it. If I do, I will try again next year. I also realise that whilst I run up to 6 miles sometimes, I am only doing short runs during the week. When I first started running, I did 30 minutes running every other day so although it is darker in the mornings, I am going to set my alarm earlier and run 30 minutes Monday and Thursday this week and then maybe do another park run on Saturday.

My next blog post about this challenge is going to be more positive towards the run and hopefully I will be a little smaller!  Positive thoughts – this girl can!


Hot Stuff

My day in London had been exhausting. It was a good job I had changed my days of working this week so I had the luxury of having a lazy day on Monday.

The day was warm so I thought I would try another challenge.


When the children were younger, I have made chocolate and banana cup cakes. I have tried to convince myself that they were healthy because of the bananas in them but with the addition of chocolate chips and syrup, I really don’t think that is the case. Four months ago, I rediscovered the recipe and made some in muffin tins instead of the small fairy cakes I used to make. Big mistake – I think we had demolished them in three hours – they are so delicious warm. This challenge gave me the excuse to made some more. They are so easy to make and whilst baking, I tackled the ginger beer.


I used the recipe I found on my favourite cookshop, Lakeland. Chris had got me the ingredients on Sunday and I was a bit concerned about the colour of the unwaxed lemons – more of a green colour. I have put that down to the fact they were organic so haven’t been dyed. The ginger beer didn’t take long to put together and I left it for 20 minutes. At this point, I did a taste test on it – it was very hot and spicy. Added a little more sugar before straining it then added a bit more sparkling water.

Fermenting ginger beer
Fermenting ginger beer

Rather than a lunch time treat, I finally sat in the garden around 4pm to enjoy my bagel, muffin (okay cup cake) and ginger beer in my mason glass bought for me by Kathryn. It was all lovely.



Enjoying in the sun
Enjoying in the sun

Another tick for me.

Going Underground, rolling on the river and on top of the world (well Greenwich!)

Challenge number 17 was to visit son in London and I can now tick this one of my list.

Almost 2 years ago, after graduating, Jordan decided to work in London.  As a mum, it was a scary thought.  Kathryn was in university in Cardiff and Jordan was also leaving home.  Even scarier was remembering how on a visit to the ATP World Tour finals at the O2 in 2013, Jordan had looked very scared when we faced a very crowded underground.  He has adapted well to London life and has found what he likes to do.  He does love returning to the peace of our home most weekends though and eating our food!


I chose to go up on Sunday to complete this challenge and it was a perfect September sunny day.  Armed with Chris’s oyster card (he didn’t realise how much that was going to take a hit!), I caught the national express coach at 8.20am and aimed to be there at 11am.  A bit of miscommunication between myself and Jordan there – he was expecting me at 11.45.  He had been out the night before but I think he was aiming to have quiet time waiting for me in a cafe so I ruined that for him!

The coach journey up was great.  I caught up with some reading.  The coach pulled into Victoria on time and Jordan was waiting to take me on my adventure.

Normally my trips to London have also included a theatre trip which normally entails rushing to get some food before the performance and then rushing to get transport back home.  Whilst London has such a fast pace about it, I also like finding the slower pace around the rivers.   Whilst having many ideas for the trip, we decided that on this day out we would fly Emirates and try Emirates Air Line, the cable car experience over Greenwich.  To get there, Jordan had decided we would go by river so we headed towards Westminster.  There were a few shops trying to tempt me along the way – how can Clarks shoe shop make their shop display so much more enticing than home and House of Fraser taunted me with their discounts with Clarins – I had already ordered directly so didn’t look!  My credit card stayed firmly in my purse.  However the oyster card was used on the Thames Clipper which we boarded to take us to the O2.  On the way we could see lots of the famous London tourist attractions and Jordan was able to point out where he lived and where he worked.  We were able to catch up on his week.  Jordan had stayed in London this weekend and had visited an air museum the day before going out in the evening to what sounded like a fantastic eating experience with lots of friends.


It was now lunchtime so before boarding the Emirates Air Line, we headed to the O2 to find something to eat.  Unusually the O2 was quiet and we had the pick of restaurants with lots of space.  Each one we said we will come back to this one but in the end opted for a burger in the Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  Jordan does love his burgers but normally goes to Byron’s so this was a different experience for him.  Burgers aren’t normally my first choice as I am not keen on all the relishes but I decided to go for the chicken with camembert and cranberry – very messy but so enjoyable.  The service was quick (they were very quiet – still took my plate away before we had finished everything though.  My pet hate at the moment!) and the food was good.  “Fed” up, we headed for the Air Line where the oyster card took another hit!

I am not known for adventure, and going up high is not appealing to me.  Jordan experienced my terror on the Needles chair lift.  Kathryn, who loves to try all fast and high attractions, was lucky enough to enjoy this experience with her Dad – Jordan was lumbered with me.  The first thing he said was, look mum, someone has dropped a shoe.  I was hysterical at this point!  This was different, it was enclosed so I thought I would be able to handle it.  I had also suggested it too!


As we headed towards the Royal Docks in our cable car, we were able to see some of London’s heritage.  There is also commentary playing to give you some history of the landmarks.  As you go across, planes come in close to land at the City airport.  Jordan, a keen plane enthusiast, enjoyed that and it was amazing to see them land on what appeared to be a small strip of runway between the docks.


When arriving at the Royal Docks, you almost have a seaside feel about you.  Wake Up Docklands is situated here where you can take part in cable wakeboarding and stand up paddleboarding amongst other things.  The Oiler Bar was very popular to have a drink in.  Unfortunately there were no tables for us.

We walked down towards Excel and found the Royal Victoria Pedestrian bridge which we were able to access by a lift.  We wandered along and enjoyed the views of London again and were able to watch planes take off from City Airport.


We headed back on the cable cars and enjoyed more views of London on our back to the O2.  It had become very busy there so we headed for our next mode of transport, the underground.  Jordan is a lot more experienced with this now and quickly got us back through busy stations to one of my favourite places (and every other person in London too), Covent Garden.  Missed having our favourite treat, ice cream, with Kathryn last week, so was determined Jordan and I would have one.  We found the busiest parlour in Covent Garden, Morelli’s Gelatos.  Ice cream was a bit expensive but we still queued.  We decided to have a medium with two scoops of ice-cream as only 70p dearer than a small cone.  We were fascinated by the tap which seemed to produce chocolate!  I chose salted caramel and vanilla whilst Jordan chose chocolate chip and vanilla.  The salted caramel was delicious.  Not so keen on the vanilla – that will serve me right for being greedy!

Chocolate tap – I need one

As Covent Garden was so busy we found the Victoria Embankment gardens, one of my favourite places, and enjoyed the peace there.  We then walked back to Victoria for my return journey.

It was a lovely day, weather was beautiful and it was great being in the City where Jordan was working.  There is so much to see and do it London so I look forward to visiting again.

On the third month of the challenge

 I have

8 ticks ✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓

for completed challenges and

6 ongoing/planning

I am 3 months through the challenge (that means I have only 9 months to go before I reach 51!) and I thought I would write a quick update on what I have achieved. My 50 things to do in my 50th year page has been updated – I have highlighted all that is done – in my favourite colour – purple and all that I have started or are ongoing are highlighted in orange.

Challenges Completed

Challenge No 1 –  Learn how to skip – harder than I remember!  I was allowed a tick when I managed 5 skips.  2 weeks after this I did 10 but by July I managed 19.  Skipping is very good for you so I will try to continue this.


Challenge No 23 – Day trip with your daughter this summer – a lovely day out to the Isle of Wight.


Challenge No 25 – Change your running route one day – a lovely run to the beach and beyond.  I love running to the beach now.  It does give a bit of purpose to the run.  I realised by doing this that my usual run of running “round the block” of the estate I live in is like my security blanket.  I knew that home wasn’t far away and that is why I stuck to it.  Since I completed, I have changed my run a few times to include some hills in too!


Challenge No 27 – Buy yourself some flowers.  A very pretty challenge and one I have continued and even managed to bribe my son into buying me some by picking him up so he didn’t have to pay out for a taxi! Even got him to wash the car so not bad at all.

Challenge No 37 – Buy a new lipstick – loved this challenge and even wearing it into work now.

Challenge No 40 – On a perfect summer’s day, make a picnic and eat it down the beach with your daughter.  This was so enjoyable.  I loved making the food and even made jaffa cakes – which I hadn’t realised were the Great British Bake Off’s challenge.  That in turn has lead me to try some of the other challenges.  Will share later.

IMG_20160826_165253 (1)

Challenge No 46 – In Lanzarote, buy a “Lanzarote” frame and at home print and put picture of you, your son and your daughter in it – I can look at this and remember our lovely holiday.

Challenge No 47 – Buy and use a nail varnish colour you wouldn’t normally – bright orange it was!



Challenge No 5 – Read a book every month of a genre you don’t/don’t often read – I have read three different books so far.  Looking forward to choosing 9 different reads.

Challenge No 6 – Read your daughter’s 10 favourite books – in paperback.  Why don’t the young get down with it and get a kindle!! Nice to read my daughter’s favourite books though. One down, 9 more to read.

Challenge No 8 – Host a MacMillan Tea Party – always wanted to do this and it will be great to hold it for charity. Have signed up for the coffee morning – just got to arrange and bake.


Challenge No 10 – Sign up and run the Great South Run.  Well, I am signed up but having a problem with the training especially when my alarm doesn’t go off!  It is in just under 7 weeks away so hopefully going to buy myself some new trainers and lose some weight.  I am not sure if I can run the 10 miles but the advert says you can walk if you want.  Hopefully I can do it.

Challenge No 29 – Start and complete a new sewing project – I am sew enjoying this!  I am hoping to have this finished long before my challenge comes to an end. I think that there are certain people who are doubtful I will – I will show them.

Stitching achieved in less than a month
Stitching achieved in less than a month

Challenge No 49 – Make blog – well this is something I am enjoying so much.  I am hoping that as time goes on, I will get better at my blog posts but I am having fun learning!

So at the end of 3 months, I think I am on target.  As the evenings get darker, I will hopefully start to do some of the language challenges and lots of the cooking challenges.

I am loving doing these challenges – not reading so much but finding so much to do that time just whizzes by. It is also helping me be a bit more organised.  I really don’t have time to work though!

Ticket to Ryde


Who would have thought that arranging days out would have been so difficult. Well we finally got there. I have arranged a day off but we are going to do the Brighton challenge that day as it was difficult to reach Brighton by train this weekend.

We decided to take the catamaran to the Isle of Wight. It is just across the water from where we live (quite an expensive piece of water too!) and somewhere which holds many childhood memories for me. We have also taken the children for many days out and a holiday there too. When you are on the ferry, it really does feel like you are going abroad. I had only been on the catamaran with the children once before though and that was a day to Ryde with friends. I could remember clearly Kathryn as a toddler not liking the hot sand on her feet at all. She was a lot different on our holiday in Lanzarote!

Kathryn now enjoys standing on the sand
Kathryn now enjoys standing on the sand

I said that it is an expensive piece of water but thanks to Tesco Clubcard vouchers, it was a cheap journey. We were very ambitious on the time and decided to go for a 9.15 am ferry which meant getting up very early on a Sunday morning. It worked out well though and the catamaran was quiet. My memories of our previous trip on the Isle of Wight was that it had been quite crowded. Mind you we had buggies, changing bags, buckets, spades, fishing nets etc. It certainly is a lot easier with two grown ups!

We were in the Isle of Wight in just over 20 minutes. We decided we would take the train to Shanklin and visit Shanklin Chine. It looked as if it would be quite a pretty walk.

The trains that are used are old underground stock and are quite bumpy but got us to Shanklin quickly. We found a map and managed to successfully walk to the Chine. On the way we looked at all the places we could have a cream tea and found the most amazing place to have ice cream. We had brought chicken sandwiches but planned to have an early cream tea and an ice-cream. So healthy!!

Shanklin Chine is the Island’s oldest tourist attraction which was carved by Mother’s Nature’s own hands over thousands of years. First stop was the cafe for a cup of tea for me and a mango fruit juice for Kathryn. That girl is so healthy now she didn’t even touch my biscuit! We were now ready for exploring.

The scenery is beautiful and I loved the waterfall. Kathryn was impressed with PLUTO, the pipe line under the Ocean, which was created and used during the war. She was able to fill me in on the history. We were able to put Kathryn in the stocks (one of my favourite memories is of a picture taken of me in stocks at Blackgang Chine on a surprise trip with my Granddad) and even managed to work out how to use a telescope. The rescue birds are lovely to look at and we spent a bit of time enjoying them.


Worried about rotten fruit and veg being thrown
Worried about rotten fruit and veg being thrown



We ate our sandwiches on the pebbled beach and then hunted out a cream tea. We decided on the Waterfront Bar which looked beautiful. They also had live music, a singer called Ben Barnes. We did enjoy listening to him whilst eating our cream tea. We were a bit greedy and ordered three scones but only managed to eat one each (we had a doggy bag for the remaining scone). We were so full that we had to miss the ice-cream. Such a shame as it had looked amazing.


We would like to think that we walked our scone off by walking along the coast to Sandown. Well we can dream! The walk was lovely and we did eventually find the railway station. We didn’t know the timetables for the trains but luck was on our side and we arrived just as the train turned up. Another bumpy journey took us back to Ryde where we had a drink before catching the catamaran back to the mainland.


It wasn’t the hottest day that we have had this summer but it was warm. I had a lovely day spent with my daughter and hopefully, one we can repeat, to explore some more of the Island.

Dream A Little Dream

Since I accepted my 50 challenges, my reading has been a lot slower than normal. That said, I am enjoying taking on the challenges and finding so much I enjoy. I will update in a few days on how I am doing.

Normally I read a book a week but in August I only read two books. The first book I read was for this challenge:

Read your daughter’s 10 favourite books …. in paperback!

As I always read on my kindle, this was like going back to basics. There are some good points as well as bad points though:

Good points
1. The cover – I have an older kindle so I don’t get to see the cover. I haven’t got used to reading from my phone yet but when I do go in to the kindle app, I can see the book covers. I know you shouldn’t judge the book by the cover but a pretty book cover is great.
2. Chapter layout – I did find it easier to see when the chapter was going to end.
3. Page numbers – I do like to know how many pages I have got to read. Sometimes the books on kindle have the page numbers but when they don’t, it is done in percentages. I happen to like percentages though so not too negative for the kindle.
4. Bookmark (this is a double entry though as it will appear in the bad list too) – See the pretty bookmark I received from Kathryn. Makes reading the book worthwhile.


5. Sharing books – You can easily pass on a book to a friend to read. There is a facility to share on kindle but not so easy.

Bad points
1. The size – Proper books are not so good for carrying in your bag. My kindle fits in most of my bags and is light. I am also carrying hundreds of books too.
2. Ease of reading – Reading in bed in the morning whilst trying to drink a cup of tea is very hard with a paperback!
3. Storage – Takes up more space to store your books once read unless you do share or give away your books when you have finished
4. Bookmark – Kathryn would not allow me to turn over the corner of a page in a book so a bookmark was needed or you lose the last page you read. The kindle, (if working correctly!) once turned on opens at the last page read.
5. Waiting for the book – I know that this can be a positive thing too but as long as I have internet connection, I can download a book in a few seconds which is so much quicker than buying a physical book. Okay, so not so good for the bank balance!!

I am enjoying the novelty of reading a “proper” book though and looking forward to reading Kathryn’s 10 favourite books.

As previously mentioned, I choose Giovanna Fletcher’s Dream A Little Dream for my first read of August. Giovanna is the wife of Tom Fletcher – member of McFly, mother of two and a talented writer. I have enjoyed previous books by the author. My favourite book is Billy and Me.

Dream A Little Dream is about Sarah who is single (having to endure a closer than normal relationship with her ex to keep her friends happy) and in a job that she is not entirely fulfilling but she is kind of happy! Sarah starts having dreams about a mutual acquaintance from her student days. What does she do when dreams turn into reality?

Although I can’t say this was my favourite book by the author, I did enjoy reading it. I loved the concept of the dreams because I do believe that are dreams have a message. There is a toilet incident in one of the dreams which I know I have a similar dream to.  I don’t know what that message is though- must be an insecurity!

I did like the way certain topics were dealt with and how the sensitivity around the subjects were handled. The book was able to make me laugh and cry in all the right places. Wasn’t so keen on the bad language as I did find it a bit unnecessary but I did also think that even that was explained too by Sarah herself. The reference to Mark Owen from Take That in the book was brilliant – something most of us felt!

The ending of the book was just as I wanted and I will probably borrow Kathryn’s Dream a Little Christmas Dream in December to catch up with Sarah.

My second read was also one of my challenges – to read a different genre I wouldn’t normally read. Jordan was choosing a book for me this month and I did think that I would get a book about the war to read or his childhood favourite, Biggles. He actually chose one that he was reading – The Sand Men by Christopher Fowler – a thriller writer.


I bought the book for the kindle then read the description.

Lea, Roy and their daughter had moved to a gated community reserved for foreign workers in Dubai where Roy has been hired to deal with teething problems at Dream World, a futuristic beach complex.

The description seemed to be something I would enjoy and I was looking forward to reading about Dubai. I did get into the book quickly and whilst it appears that everyone is happy, it does seem that there is something that is being hidden.

I did find that for the last half of the book, it jumped a lot. I was convinced that my kindle hadn’t downloaded the book properly but Jordan confirmed that his paperback was the same. I didn’t actually enjoy the ending as I had found it unbelievable and perhaps rushed. Jordan finished the book whilst I was reading it and did think the same as me. Perhaps thrillers aren’t my thing.

I will choose my own book this month. I always download the classics but never read them so I will choose one of them.