We Need The Perfect Tin But They Come In Different Sizes

Along the top shelf of my special corner, are books by very well known food writers plus a lot of Rosemary Conley books. I don’t think she would approve of Gary Rhodes and his little bit of butter, the amazing croissants and pastries, all using so much butter by Paul Hollywood but she might approve of some of the Jamie Oliver’s recipes. I do think that she would forgive me for my passion of books by Delia Smith and Mary Berry. I am trying very hard to do without diets for keeping trim and try to “keep everything in moderation”. Not working yet but there is hope.

I decided on Delia for the next recipe. My first book by her was my very tatty and well used Compete Cookery Course. Her first edition was published in 1978; my omnibus edition was published in 1983. I have used it for finding out so much; how to cook eggs, the most perfect roast potatoes ever (adapted now to be more healthy although mine were never that bad!), make a wonderful Christmas cake, perfect sauces to make her wonderful lasagne and her many macaroni cheese recipes, enjoying a lovely cottage pie with leek potatoes and not forgetting the leftover chicken curry which was always known in our house as the green curry. Not sure why!

In 1998, Delia was given a new TV series with her new (or maybe updated book for young cooks) and brought out Delia’s How To Cook Book One. Poor Delia come under fire by the likes of Gary Rhodes and my brother because she dedicated a section on cooking eggs. I actually think that this is one of the most important parts and was invaluable to me. I have revisited in the last few months and if you follow the instructions step by step, you will make the most wonderful boiled eggs and as for the scrambled eggs; delicious. Whilst I do my own version of the poached egg and omelette, I do plan to take some time to revisit these pages. I thought I would look through this particular book for the next recipe and found what Delia calls a low-fat moist carrot cake. Carrot cake is a great favourite when going out and I actually thought this would be one that would be one I try for my 50 recipes.

Delia’s How To Cook Book One

Carrot cake comes in so many different shapes, ingredients and icings so this won’t be the first recipe I try but I thought it was a good start. This recipe called for a cake tin measuring 10 x 6 inches and 1 inch deep (metric sizes 25.5 x 15 cm with depth of 2.5 cm). Now Delia has set 5 rules for cakes and biscuits for beginners:

  1. It is absolutely crucial to use the correct sized tin
  2.  You must have a reliable recipe
  3. You need to weigh the ingredients correctly
  4. Once the cake is in the oven, don’t open the door
  5. Make sure your oven is functioning correctly

Brought up with Delia’s cooking book, I do try to follow these rules. Over the years, I have collected a lot of tins but did I have a 10 x 6 inch tin; the answer was no. However, I did have an 8 x 8 inch one so I thought this might be perfect.

I carefully did a check of my ingredients in the larder and placed an order for everything I needed. In my larder I had all sorts of sugars; light brown soft sugar, dark and light brown muscovado sugar, demerara sugar, jam sugar, caster sugar, icing sugar and even bulk standard granulated sugar. I needed dark brown soft sugar and I didn’t have this so that was another ingredient put on the order.

Carrot Cake Ingredients

Delia said that this was one of the quickest, easiest cakes to do and I would have to say I agree apart from the first hurdle; recipe said dark brown soft sugar, sifted. I gave 5 minutes of attempting and gave up. I do plan to ask if it would have made my cake lighter but thought I could cope with the whatever the results. In no time, my cake was in my incorrect sized tin and in the oven which had already preheated because I had already made a Victoria sandwich. I was working hard this particular morning.

Kathryn’s Degree Victoria Sandwich
Prepared mixture in wrong tin

One of the other vital points of cooking in general is to read the recipe fully. This recipe called for the topping to chill for an hour or two in the fridge before using. A syrup glaze also needed to be made to spoon over the cake when it came out of the oven. Important stuff to know before the cake can be completed.

Ingredients used in the cake that were a little bit different were wholemeal self raising flour, quite a lot of mixed spice (smells wonderful) and sultanas. Walnut pieces were not used. The topping used quark. Now I have tried one with mascarpone cheese which is heaven to me and first impressions was I didn’t like the taste of the topping at all. I hoped for a miracle and that once it had been given chance to chill, it would appeal to me.

Cake did bake very well and I quickly spooned over the syrup glaze and left to cool completely. Once it was cold, I took it out of the tin and spread over the topping. What appealed to me about this cake was it was a single layer cake and I cut it into 12 small pieces; perfect size when you are having a cup of tea. One of my pet hates when going out for tea is the enormous slices of cake you get. I know that customers might moan if the slices are too small but, to me, there is nothing worse than feeling sick because you have eaten a cake that is far too big. Some say leave what you don’t want but that seems a bit criminal!

Carrot Cake with syrup glaze
Iced Carrot Cake
Finished Low-Fat Moist Carrot Cake

The most important bit of baking is the tasting and now was the time. I was still worried by the topping but I found the best way to eat the cake was with a fork and to make sure you had a piece of cake with the icing. The combination was perfect. This version of the carrot cake tasted Christmassy and was very moist. I will be baking this again but have three others to try:

  1. Mary Berry’s Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Topping – single layered again but with the addition of walnuts and ripe bananas
  2. The Great British Book of Baking Carrot Cake – a layered cake with walnuts and a filling and topping made with full fat cream cheese, butter and icing sugar
  3. Carrot Cake on the back of the self raising wholemeal flour packet – made in a deep 8 inch tin the cut in half and topped and filled with a marcarpone topping

It will be interesting to see if we have a favourite. Delia’s recipe did not disappoint though even without the perfect tin!

This Girl Just Wants To Bake Cakes

Going back to work after a holiday is always a bit of a comedown. When Chris asked me if I was looking forward to it, it was a big fat NO and a comment that I just wanted to cook!  First day back and it was so hot.  I was greeted back home with a welcome delivery on the doormat; this month’s baking box.
The Baking Club delivery
Aaron had bought me a subscription to the Baking Club from BakedIn for my birthday last year.  Each month you receive a box with a recipe and all the dry ingredients you need for the recipe all weighed, numbered and bagged up for you to start baking.  You have to add a few ingredients depending on the recipe eg. milk, eggs, butter plus the baking tins.  I have baked delicious chocolate cakes, eclairs, whoopie pies, biscotti, hot cross buns and many more.  Once tried, you can bake again and again.  The great thing is if you don’t like something, you don’t have to buy the ingredients that you might never use again.  I thought that my subscription might finish after 3 months but it continued.  Aaron hadn’t even noticed the money coming out of his bank account!  I had enjoyed receiving the boxes and wanted to continue so took over the subscription in February. Now they have my e-mail address, I receive an e-mail telling me that it is dispatch day and letting me know what ingredients I need to buy.
Chocolate Honeycomb Cake
Almond and Apricot Biscotti

BakedIn was formed from an idea by two work colleagues, Joe and Anna on a car share to work in 2013. After getting a prototype kit together with another friend, and testing on friends and colleagues, they got a start up loan and whilst working, expanded the business.  Further investment in 2015 meant that Joe could quit his job and work in the business full time.  An introduction from one of the shareholders to Michael Roux gave them the opportunity to have their recipes exclusively developed by him.

So on to June’s bake. I had already added the additional ingredients for this month’s box to my shopping order so they were in the fridge waiting to be used; sour cream, unsalted butter and 2 large eggs. I was all prepared on Monday but it was actually too hot to bake. In the end I found some time on Wednesday to try the new bake, cinnamon and pecan loaf.

My box contained the bagged ingredients :

Bag 1 – Pecan nuts

Bag 2 – Caster sugar

Bag 3 – Self raising flour and salt

Bag 4 – Demerara sugar and cinnamon

Bag 5 – Icing sugar

First job was to prepare a 2lb loaf tin with the baking paper provided.  The loaf tin is one of my essential tins; I make a lot of cakes in this tin.  Step 2 was using bag 1;  you are told clearly which bag is needed. I had to chop the pecans and toast them in a small frying pan for 4-5 minutes.  It did state quite clearly that I should be careful not to let them burn.  Let me tell you that you really need to be careful at this stage.  Not too much of a disaster though!

Toasting pecan nuts – be careful
The next three steps, using bag 2 and 3 and ingredients I had to provide, were quite straightforward although it needed gentle mixing.  A separate bowl was needed to mix bag 4 with the toasted pecans.  Step 7 was transferring the mixture to the tin which was a bit different to a normal cake.  Half the cake mixture was put into the tin followed by half the cinnamon and pecan mixture.  This was repeated then I had to swirl round with a knife.  Each recipe has a top tip from Michael Roux; his tip was to swirl the mixture a little more than you think it needs.  This would ensure a good marbling of cinnamon mixture throughout the loaf.  Well I swirled and swirled and had this pretty effect before putting in the oven.
Preparation mixture
Swirled mixture
The actual smell of the cake whilst it was baking was amazing.  It took all my willpower to allow it to cool down and add the icing before cutting in to it.  I have to say that I have enjoyed lots of the bakes and it is so hard to come up with a favourite, but the taste of this with a cup of tea put this in the top three of my favourites.  It might go to the top even.  I belong to the BakedIn Facebook group where we share our pictures and thoughts of the bakes. Every time I saw a new picture of this one come up, I could just taste the flavours again and was so jealous I had already baked mine.  I will bake again!
Cinnamon and pecan loaf out of the oven – very tempted to eat
Cinnamon and pecan loaf

I love my subscription and to some, it may seem pricey:

Yes, you can buy recipe books for £10 and cheaper but you get the dry ingredients so you don’t end up buying banana chips to find you don’t like the recipe and will never use  them again.  I actually bought them again to make the very delicious banoffee cookies again.

Banoffee Cookies

Yes, you can buy cake mixes and again so much cheaper.  Believe me these are different. You don’t just add eggs and water to a mix and it’s ready.  There is a bit more involved which is what any baker would like.

My £7.99 a month gives me so much pleasure that I find it is a worthwhile spend.  I love the excitement of not knowing what is coming through the door.  My anticipation starts when I receive the e-mail that tells me the ingredients I need and I am trying to guess what I will be baking; not got it right yet! I then have to wait for the postman to deliver.  I then am excited before opening, again when I open the box and then I can’t wait until I bake it.  I haven’t had total successes; normally the bakes that require a little more skill are my downfall but I will try them again.

As well as the baking club subscription, Bakedin do sell cake mixes and mug mixes too.  I had not been tempted before but did put an iced cinnamon bun kit in my shopping basket so will review soon! I think if I worked for BakedIn I would have been happy to go back to work!

It’s a Family Affair

I have been back from my holiday for over a week and have been trying to get back into the flow of things. I actually did very well in the first few days and made a great start on my new 50 challenges of this year. Just to recap, I plan to cook 50 recipes from all the lovely cookery books I have in my special corner.

Recipe Books

So I made lots of hints before my birthday and was delighted to receive the new book by Joe Wicks (the Body Coach), Cooking for Family and Friends. Joe has three other books out and whilst Jordan has cooked a few lovely recipes from them and I have cooked a few, I have not followed as a healthy eating plan. What I like about him is he does make food sound like a friend and not an enemy. He takes away the calories as most of the recipes are higher in calories than the normal diet books but he encourages you to exercise. I am a great believer in eating and exercising although I have to confess I am doing far much of the eating and not enough of the exercise lately.

Once I had my holiday washing sorted, I sat with the book and looked for a recipe to try for my first week. There was so many recipes that I wanted to try and I was drooling looking through. As Jordan was going to be home for a week and also Kathryn was around too, it was a good week to be cooking something from the book. In the end, I decided on Baked Chicken Sausage Risotto but before this was cooked, I couldn’t resist trying something from the sides section, Hassleback Potatoes. I know that I shouldn’t be surprised but I was amazed when I finished cooking and the completed dish looked like the picture in the book!

Joe Wicks Hasselback Potatoes
Tina’s Hasselback Potatoes

Now for the baked chicken sausage risotto. I am trying to plan my meals so I have a category for each day. I remember when I was growing up, we had certain food each day of the week. I didn’t have healthy foods but I thought that the they could be incorporated into one day of the week and I would call it “Comfort Tuesday”. It will include all the foods I love to make me feel better about life; simple egg and chips were Monday’s meal, a mince dish for Tuesday (who doesn’t love cottage pie on a cold day) and sausages on a Wednesday. Confession time here; I didn’t like Wednesdays. Rupert was on the TV (I don’t know why I didn’t like him and his checked trousers!) and the sausages were never nice. I love sausages now and always go for healthy ones. I often make meatballs with them and whilst tomato ketchup isn’t a favourite of mine, one of our favourite sausage recipes is sausages marinated in tomato sauce, honey and mustard. So to get Comfort Tuesday started, this was a perfect recipe.

Whilst I think I might have made a risotto before, rice isn’t something I have mastered. I tend to stick to bags otherwise I end up with a sticky mess. The recipe stated that baking risotto is much easier as it only requires a few stirs and the oven does the rest of the hard work. Sounded like my kind of recipe.

Most of the ingredients needed were ingredients I always have in the cupboard or fridge so I didn’t need to buy too many extra bits. I did buy some fresh herbs but think I might actually start growing my own. I am inspired by one of my 50 birthday challenges to grow vegetables that I think growing herbs would be a wonderful thing to do. Although the day I chose to cook this was a particularly hot June day, I did actually enjoy the process of getting the ingredients prepared. The recipe stated 10 minutes preparation; Tina’s time was around 25 minutes! My normal plodding time. The ingredients certainly looked good.

Prepared ingredients

I needed a large hob-proof casserole dish or ovenproof saucepan that I could use on the hob then put in the oven. The pan I used was one that I bought 7 years ago from Lakeland. I have used it quite a lot and it cooks and cleans very well. The only disadvantage is the handles do get very hot so you have to be very careful when cooking with it. I will replace it sometime but it does the job for now.

I had to start with frying the ingredients in coconut oil. As a bit of a Rosemary Conley fan, I don’t tend to use oil but my new attitude to cooking and eating is enjoy the food so I am open to most things now. The frying up didn’t take long and I did manage to cook the dish in the 35 minutes, the time stated.

Stir Fried ingredients
Ready to go into oven

On a warm June Tuesday evening, we were able to sit down to a very tasty meal. It is one that I will make again and hoping to share it with some of my friends.

Joe Wickes Baked Chicken Sausage Risotto

It was a family affair and recipe one completed.

I’ve Got The Recipe And It’s Called Teen’s Magic

50ticks came to an end on 6th June. I had a great birthday followed by a lovely holiday in Gran Canaria again. It has given me a chance to recharge my batteries: the last two weeks of the challenge were very intense and I really didn’t know if I was coming or going! I already had an idea of what I would do with my blog so here is the big reveal.

Puerto De Mogan

Whilst completing the challenges, I certainly found a lot of things I enjoyed and also found I needed to cut a few things down to fit everything in. My completion of my cross stitching kit renewed my love of the hobby and I am planning on spending two hours for five days a week, stitching. Reading has probably been a bit of a casualty. I am still enjoying reading but probably being a bit more select now. I will hopefully get through the library on my Kindle sometime.

Gorjuss Puddles of Love – next project

The challenges that stretched me sometimes were the cooking and baking challenges. I have a pasta machine which I do plan to use regularly. I realised that choux pastry was quite easy. Even when things went wrong, I did find that it was “fun” trying to correct it.

These challenges made me realise that cooking and baking is my release from life’s daily routine and stresses. I might have found making croissants a little bit stressful but it was a good feeling when the family tasted them and said “they were just like croissants” ! Making jammy dodgers were so much fun on a beautiful winter’s day.

I decided to keep with my 50ticks for my theme of my blog but this year it will be around cooking. I have shared my wonderful cookery book selection and have to admit that some of the books haven’t been used. I am going to try to cook/bake 50 different recipes using the books I have. Along the way, I want to try different recipes and methods to find the best Victoria sandwich(I actually do like the one I use but different methods do change the texture), try to perfect pastry, create a set weekly menu (meat free Monday and maybe fishy friday) as well as trying 12 dishes I would like to cook (I love lemon meringue pie but I have tried twice unsuccessfully to make this). A bake from my past and one I remember my Grandad baking was cream horns. I was reminded of these by my uncle a few weeks back and thought these would be great to share with my own family. A lot of jam will go in mine!

Recipe Books
Lemon Meringue Pie

I have carried on with my baking club subscription so will also share the boxes I receive.

Baking Subscription

I have thrown away the scales (well I refuse to get on them anyway), and know that I have increased my weight because my trousers are a bit tight so to begin with I plan to find some healthy recipes. Eating sensibly along with a good fitness routine should be all I need.

I did have two recipe books for my birthday:, one is about the Ritz teas. Kathryn bought me that as it was a challenge to go there. The price was a problem there but this little book tells me about the history of the Ritz teas plus different afternoon teas . I will try some in a few months. The other book, which should be very useful at the moment is Joe Wicks new book, Cooking for Family and friends. Joe is the big name at the moment to tone up and lose weight. Jordan has all his other books and recipes are good so I am looking forward to trying this one.

Book of Afternoon Tea
Joe Wicks Cooking For Family and Friends

I’m looking forward to taking on this challenge and hopefully will be able to share lots of successful cooking and eating experiences over the next year.

Bake Yourself Happy
Bake Yourself Happy

I’ve Had The Time Of My Life

On 6th June on your blog, write about how you found being 50

How do I start this post? This morning I read my post about turning 50. Reading it made me feel very happy about the past year. I have actually found myself feeling a bit sad over the last couple of weeks that my 50th year is nearly over; however, what I should be doing is embracing the rest of the nine years in my 50s. Maybe I should make nine goals to complete in the run up to my 60th. Now that sounds a good idea.

So how have I found being 50? I realise it is just a number; how you find life is about how you live it. This does also depends on your health too. Certainly having the challenges have made this year a lot more interesting and it is something I would recommend whatever the age or the digit at the end. It makes the day worth getting up for even when the sun isn’t shining, gets you to try to do things you might not have done before and just makes you so happy that you grin like an idiot when you achieve something.

Grinning like an idiot

There is a part of me that wants to say that being 50 has been the best year of my life but that would take away the wonderful things that have happened previously:

My 20s – marriage and starting a family
My 30s – watching my children blossom
My 40s – restarting my career (being a mother is a wonderful career) and finding the courage to start running (taught me you could do anything you set your mind to)

I think the difference at 50 is I am a bit more carefree. The year certainly didn’t start off as a bed of roses; there has certainly been a few obstacles thrown in the way. One thing I have had though, is total support from my family to complete the challenges which is the best thing you can ask for in life.

In the last month, I have had a foot pain which has put a bit of a stop on some of my exercising. I realised that the exercising is a huge part of my life; as well as keeping me fit, it does make me very happy. I did feel down that I couldn’t run, had to drive to work more times in the last month than I had done in the last six months and had that niggle that this maybe a sign I am getting old. I had a bit of a chat to myself and told myself that the foot will get better. Just rest up a bit and it will be fine. I still might run tomorrow though; it is global running day so would be rude not to!

So before I gave you my top 10 of my favourite challenges ( in no particular order), what have I found about the challenges? The challenges have meant that I tried things that I wouldn’t normally try. Whilst I have run for 4 years now, I would never have believed that I could do the Great South run and actually enjoy it. I have found a lipstick I like and use, enjoy buying myself and others flowers, surprised myself by painting up a frame and found it great to plant seeds and watch them grow. I have appreciated reading more; I always enjoyed it but instead of just buying a book because it is cheap on Amazon, I plan to make sure I read my favourite authors regularly. Through Kathryn’s challenge of reading her favourite books, I have certainly discovered some new authors that I will continue to enjoy.

So what are my top 10. Well here goes (I am sorry if I left you off but have enjoyed everything!):

  1. Cooking a three course meal consisting of three different cultures
  2. Sign up and run the Great South run
  3. Frame a photograph you have always wanted to
  4. Visit your daughter in Cardiff (loved all the outings but welsh cakes are lovely)
  5. Visit your son in London
  6. Visit somewhere in England you never have before (I miss George but his music will live on forever)
  7. Start and complete a sewing project
  8. Make croissants (now that one is a surprise)
  9. Write a short story of 1,500 – 3,000 (I surprised myself with this one)
  10. Make blog! (I will continue a blog but on a bit of a different theme. More to come)

Buying a new lipstick nearly made it but writing a short story had it!

Being 50 has been great – 51 is going to be just as good.

The final point is have I made 50 ticks? We did do Shbam as the different dance class which was enjoyable. Loved the teacher and even think I might return to the centre we used to try some different classes there. Aquafit next on the list to try. Kathryn was a bit cross at me with the languages but after making a chocolate cake for work last night, I put in a little bit of practice and after work today I tried to practice. I promised that I would continue. Tonight after giving me a present for completing the challenges, Kathryn and I had our own spa evening. We soaked our feet and painted our nails whilst toasting with the prosecco.

50 ticks

Thank you for the longest birthday I have had, Kathryn. I even enjoyed the challenges I moaned about! I have had the time of my life x

A Winner Never Quits (Don’t Give Up)

Tomorrow is the final day that I have to complete the challenges. Today I have 6 left to get a tick against. They are:

Challenge 4 – Revisit learning French – I got this changed to Spanish. If I am very honest, this isn’t going too well. I did sign up for a course on Future Learn. First part of course needed me to type answers with the correct accents over. I work from a laptop and the process of downloading the keyboard was so complicated – very foreign to me. Next I tried a website Kathryn told me to use – Saysomethingin. I have to say it was very good but I have so far only managed one lesson. I need a compromise here.

Challenge 18 – Learn 7 – 10 (new) German words a week. Another foreign language one that I haven’t mastered. There is a pattern here – I am only just mastering English!

Challenge 19 –  Spa day with your daughter. Partly achieved whereby we did go swimming yesterday completing another of my challenges; no 48  – take up swimming on some level. I had been trying to pluck up the courage to do this for sometime. I can swim but I have a confidence issue. I had found a small private pool and evantually booked to go yesterday. It was great having the pool to ourselves and we managed 100 lengths (I did say a small pool!). It was enjoyable but I am slightly deaf now due to water in my ear! I do think I might try aqua-size in my local pool now as I do think I would get a lot of benefits from exercising in water. To complete this challenge, we are aiming to get our nails done on Tuesday. I think a proper spa day might be on the cards later in the year.

Challenge 28 – Take a dance class with your daughter. We are completing tonight. Going to do Shbam. I have no idea either but should be interesting!!

Challenge 49 – Make blog! I think I can have that one although I will share with you tomorrow more on how I will continue.

Challenge 50 – On 6th June on your blog, write about how you found being 50. That can’t be done until tomorrow!

Apart from the first two challenges which I am going to have to strike a deal with Kathryn so I get a rollover challenge, I will get this completed.

The challenge I did complete yesterday which I enjoyed more than I thought I would was reading Kathryn’s 10 favourite books in “proper” book format. She does have more so I plan to read a few more. The books, in no particular order, were:

Dream a little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Looking for Alaska by John Green
I am Malala by Malala Yousasafzai and Patricia McCormick
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson
The Truth about Forever by Sarah Desen
Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Writing the list, I realise I can not count (which is very bad news for the clients!) and have actually read 11. How did I not notice this?!!

I was a little negative at first about reading a “proper” book but I did enjoy reading them all. I know that Kathryn would like to know what my favourite was and that is a very hard question. They all had something about them that I loved and a lot of different issues were tackled in each. I am Malala and Reasons to Stay Alive are non-fiction and were telling you about problems faced by both authors. I think that my favourite has to be The Truth about Forever. The book is about Macy, who at 17 years old is still coming to terms with her father’s death by trying to be perfect whilst her mother and sister cope with it in different ways. Macy starts working for a catering firm and becomes friends with an interesting group of people and finally allows herself to open up. I loved the characters in the book and whilst it is written for teens, it was a book I couldn’t put down.

See you tomorrow for the final chapter of my challenges. I will not quit!

Sisters are doing it for themselves (well for mums, dads and everyone really)

Well there was two more ticks today – a few problems with both challenges but I think Kathryn has passed both with ticks.

After doing The Great South Run which I will always be proud of doing and will always be grateful for Kathryn setting me this challenge, today’s challenge of running a 10k run with Kathryn should have been just a run in the park! Unfortunately my body had other ideas! I had been determined to prepare for this run and make sure I did 10k practice every month. January 1st was my first 10k of the year so I was on to a great start. I was running regularly in April but after a run on April 29th, I found myself limping. I had a pain in the bottom heel area of my right foot. I carried on walking to work but it got very painful. With my race for life 10k run looming, it was not good news. I did manage to go to zumba and tried to take it easier than normal but managed to hurt my knee! It was great yesterday when I had my first day without a limp so I was hopeful that I would be able to run today.

Finding a 10K run before Tuesday proved difficult locally so today’s run was for a great cause, Race for Life, at Royal Windsor Racecourse. It did mean a very early start with Chris driving us up at 7 a.m. Luckily the day was gorgeous and the venue for the run was stunning. Before the start of the race there was a guest speaker from a survivor of cancer; a great inspiration as to why we were running this race. After a warm up, we found ourselves near the front for the start of the run. I would love to say I ran the whole of the race but with being a bit out of practice and the heat of the day, I did have to ask Kathryn to walk a few times (okay more than a few times!).  I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t run all the way this time but it was great running with Kathryn and running for such a great cause. I do have a bit of pain in my foot but not as bad as previously. Once it is fully healed, hopefully I will take on another running challenge.

My second tick today was challenge number 35 – DVD night with your kids (one film chosen by each). This has been very difficult to arrange with Kathryn being in her final year at university and Jordan back in London and having restricted time at home. We decided to change to just one film and all of us sat (well collapsed) in front of the TV this afternoon and watched Kathryn’s choice, Me Before You. Kathryn and I had seen this at the cinema but it was just as emotional watching it the second time. It was a hit with Chris and Jordan too. I still want to watch the film I would have chosen so we will find some time in the next couple of months. One of my favourites, and one that Jordan and Kathryn haven’t watched, Sixth Sense.

I only have 8 more to do but with only a few more days, can it be done! I will have a good try.

With A Little Help From My Friends

40 out of 50 ticks completed!!!

I have only got 4 days left until deadline day. In my job, I often have deadline day, and whilst my new job still has deadlines, I don’t have anywhere near the pressures of my last job. The day I left my last job wasn’t just a day of bringing a cake in and saying goodbye; I worked until home time (actually I think I worked later), with the added pressure of a power cut thrown in. A little bit of pressure makes you stronger, right?! So midnight on June the 6th (or should I say 12 a.m. on June the 7th), I will hopefully have completed 50 challenges.

Leaving cake

So what have I been up to the last 5 days. Well I would love to tell you I had completed most of the challenges but that would be fantasy. I have been exhausted but it is time to get on with the show! Actually I had spent most of the bank holiday weekend cooking for one of the challenges I have made a little harder on myself. Challenge number 8 was to host a MacMillan Tea Party. I did make a lovely cake for Macmillan coffee morning and take it into work. We raised £11 but I didn’t think that was good enough for the challenge.

There are so many charities that I would love to raise money for but I do think it is hard to ask for people to part with their money. Charity runs etc are brilliant but sometimes I think if a person is actually taking part in the event, and charged for it, it is a bit easier. Kathryn and I paid £10 each to do a 3 hour zumbathon in April; got fit, had fun and helped raise £1,000 for 2 charities on a Saturday morning.

Our local radio station have a special charity called Cash for Kids to “support local children under the age of 18, who are financially, socially, emotionally or physically disadvantaged”. They hold auctions, collect Christmas presents, wrap and present to the less fortunate, hold quiz nights, take part in local event etc. One of the fundraising events I wanted to take part in was the 1,000 faces where you have to raise £100 in whatever way you want. You have to do it by December. I decided to change challenge 8 a little bit, signed up and instead of going out with family and friends, invite them round and ask them to donate something to cash for kids. The grand total so far is £75 (would love to have made £100 by D day but it will be a great excuse to continue). Here are some of the things I have done so far:

Mother’s Day breakfast prepared by Jordan

Breakfast with Jordan

Lunch with Leanne and Kelly (first try of cheesecake. Dessert of 2017)

Kelly and Leanne

Tea with my sister to celebrate what would have been our mum’s 75th birthday

Chocolate Honeycomb Cake

Tea party with Ellis

Scones for tea

Early birthday celebrations with Joan and Lyn. Vegetarian food with 2nd outing of yummy cheesecake)

Yummy Cheesecake

I do plan to continue having people round; it is hard work but so worth it. My food is made with love so hopefully it tastes as good as what we would have in the pubs, restaurants and cafes. Everything I have done so far has been relaxed (once the cooking is done that is!) and I am enjoying it.

With a little help with my friends, we can hopefully raise a bit more than £100 whilst gaining a tick for the challenge. Tomorrow is the 10k run; I have a poorly foot but if I can’t run it all, I will walk it.

P.S. Kathryn let me have the course challenge.

Let It Grow

Well another tick for me. Well two actually; numbers 11 and 12 – grow your own plant with materials provided by your daughter and then pick out and plant a vegetable of your choice.

I kept putting of this challenge because gardening has never been my thing and I certainly didn’t know what to do with the seeds. I got them out of my box quite a few times and looked at them. I’m not that good with keeping plants either but this 50th year, I did get some practice. Chris bought me this lovely peace lily and orchid They are still living! Jordan also bought us herb seeds and a pot for a stocking filler at Christmas and we have had fresh coriander and parsley. Watching it grow has been fun (we are like kids seeing them sprout up) and actually using them in recipes was rewarding.

I still put this challenge off. Chris had started a contract with a garden centre so that proved helpful. We went along to one of their branches and bought the items we thought we would need. They remained in their bag for several weeks. Last week, I thought I would do something about it. Sunday saw me clutching a present from Chris: a diblet and cell tray trowels (I really didn’t have a clue!), I started to plant seeds in our seed trays. As well as peas and marigolds given to me by Kathryn, I planted carrots, spring onions, rocket leaves and peppers. Tuesday, Chris sent me a photo of the rocket growing. Must have done something right. A week later, everything apart from the peppers have “sprouted” so might need to thing about repotting and then deciding where to plant for the final growing.

Ready to be planted
Tuesday leaves coming up
No peppers yet
Peas, carrots and marigold

Maybe gardening will be my new hobby.

If You Judge A Book By Its Cover

I think I can put another tick against challenge no 5 – read a book every month of a genre you don’t/don’t often read. I say think as Kathryn suggested my May book and I have only got half way through and decided that I can’t waste anymore of my life on that particular book. I will explain later my reasons.

Here are the books I did read:

June – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Kathryn’s choice)
July – Cut – One Woman’s fight against FGM in Britain Today by Hibo Wardere
August – The Sand Men by Christopher Fowler (Jordan’s choice)
September – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
October – Carrie by Stephen King
November – Our Life on Ice by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean
December – Mr Stink by David Walliams
January – 50 New Year’s Resolutions -How To Make Them, How To Keep Them by Fiona Steinkemp
February – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
March – Edinburgh Visitor Guide 2016/2107 by David Wheater
April – Animal Farm by George Orwell
May – How To Be A Woman by Caitlan Moran

I have enjoyed most of the books and I will be reading a lot more of Agatha Christie. Some of them have been hard going; classics in particular. However, I do plan to dedicate September to reading one of this genre. Self help books have not been one of my things but as well as my January read, I have also enjoyed Challenge Yourself, I Dare You so I will be making this type a regular read.

So now I must share with you why I can not read anymore of How To Be A Woman. My relationship might never be the same with Kathryn again.

Should you judge a book by its cover?

The description of the book doesn’t tell you too much but the last paragraph probably explains why I didn’t enjoy it:

“Part memoir, part rant. Caitlin answers the questions that every modern woman is asking”

The book has 313 pages; not a huge book. Why, after 10 days of reading am I only half way through and basically feel like what is the point. One of the points is to realise I am and should be proud of being a feminist. I do think that Caitlin has made a few good points but my problem is I do not enjoy her memoirs at all. Maybe this is because I am a stick in the mud and the thought of my children (one male and one female) behaving in the way she has, is not what I want to know. Don’t get me wrong; they will always be doing something I don’t know about and that’s the way I like it! 160 pages along and it appears that Caitlin is an absolute star; she appears to have landed a job at the age of 16 in a music journal office in London and has her own place to live with her boyfriend at the age of 18. Maybe if I allow myself to be tortured for another 10 days, I will get to find out how to be a woman. Personally, at 50 (okay closer to 51), I am quite happy with the way I have lived my life, know how I want to dress and enjoy the activities I want to. At 18 years old, I experienced the “club scene”, knew it wasn’t for me and found what I wanted. In my mind, making my own choices is being a feminist.

So sorry Kathryn (and Caitlin), I might be being narrow minded, but the book is going into the heading in my kindle of “books I am not enjoying”.