Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Easiest Ever Gingerbread Recipe ..with Amazon Fresh UK

I wish that my website had a sniff facility because if you could smell my kitchen now you would just want to dive right in.

It's freezing cold outside (-2 according to my phone) but inside our house is warm and the even warmer smell of cinnamon and ginger is wafting through.... we've just knocked up a batch of gingerbread men with the help from our friends at Amazon Fresh UK, your one stop shop for groceries direct to your door.

Our friends at Amazon Fresh UK kindly sent us all we need to get baking on this cold Saturday morning and I'm so excited to share with you the easiest ever recipe for gingerbread so that you too can get baking at home this holiday season with your loved ones.

What you'll need....
350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g unsalted butter (room temp)
175g light soft brown sugar
1 egg
4 tbsp golden syrup

All of the above items can be purchased from Amazon Fresh.

How you do it... 

Now, I made mine using my food mixer but this can also easily be made by hand but WARNING it will be sticky!!! 

1. Preheat your one to 180c
2. In your food processor measure and slightly mix together the flour, bicarbonate of sugar, ginger and cinnamon.
3. Cut the butter into cubes and slowly add to your food mixer so it becomes to resemble crumbs.
4. Lightly mix the egg together with the golden syrup and slowly pour in the the gingery breadcrumb mixture until it binds together and a dough is formed.
5. Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring it all together.
6. Place the dough in the fridge for half an hour.
7. Remove the dough from the freezer and turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to approx 5mm thick.
8. We chose gingerbread men cutters but you can use any cutters to cut the shapes out.
9. Place cut out shapes onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 12-15 minutes util they start to go a golden brown.
10. Remove and transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool before decorating as you wish!

The kids will love this at this time of year and I plan to make a batch of them for Charlie's class as an alternative to Christmas cards this year!

Happy baking,

Nathalie x


Monday, 4 December 2017

This Surrey Mummy's Guide To.... Getting Ahead In Time For Christmas...

I am a HUGE Christmas fan - there's no Grinch's in our house either which I'm really lucky about and that both Webbo and I love Christmas!

This year we are hosting at ours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and in the break between Christamas and New Year on average there's likely that I will be catering for at least 10 people for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day so for me getting ahead when I have a little extra time on my hands in the run up to the festivities is key!

With Webb and I both working in schools the last couple weeks of term is normally chocker block with reports, shows, chapels and that's before we've even thrown the boys end of term Christmas school schedule into the mix. I am an avid planner in life. I love a good meal planner and my 18 month diary is my lifesaver so planning at this time of year does not come as a chore and by spending 2 or so hours in the run up planning will save me so much time in the long run.

So here is my guide to getting ahead this Christmas!

Firstly what I tend to do is get my diary out and look at the weeks running up to the big day. I've made the mistake of in years gone by of cramming so much in in the run up to Christmas so that when the big day arrives we are all physically exhausted so this year we are keeping our commitments to a minimum. I think the problem with Christmas is that expectations are so high and we set such high standards that when we don't achieve them we beat ourselves up about it.

Think about the things that you actually want to attend and think about what's important to you and your family and prioritise them. For me I want to spend as much time with the boys as soon as they break up doing things together with them as a family so in the week before Christmas our diary highlights are... Peppa Pig World to see Father Christmas, a craft afternoon with my sister in law and niece at my Mother In Law's and THAT IS IT. The rest of the time will be spent chilling and relaxing at home watching Christmas films and just reenergising for the manic week that will be ahead of us.

Next up is FOOD!! I love cooking and at Christmas for me, cooking with a glass of bubbles whilst Michael Buble belts out a couple of festive numbers is my idea of bliss - that said you certainly won't find me on Christmas Day peeling sprouts and spuds!

Plan what you want to have for the big day - make a menu if need be and STICK TO IT! Compile a separate shopping list of Christmas items that you'll need and if they are able to be frozen buy in advance, freeze and spread the cost.

It might not be neat, tidy or pretty but this is my go to list for this Christmas....

My proposed Christmas Day menu...

In the run up to Christmas try to get as much of the food preparation done and the majority of this can be done and stashed in the freezer a couple of weeks before. I LOVE a Christmas dinner so we did a trial run the other weekend to see what worked, what didn't and how much food I could actually get on the table - I love a full spread of food!

Fake Christmas dinner to work out what worked and what didn't!

Great items for freezing include:

- Custard
- Mince Pies
- Pigs in Blankets
- Homemade cranberry sauce
- Bread sauce
- Gravy
- Red cabbage
- Carrot and swede mash - I always buy shop own and stash away!
- Shop bought stuffing

So, off my Christmas Day menu here is what I will make before...

Festive pavlova - this will be made a couple days in advance and stored in an air tight container. This also leaves room for error - I have been known to make four of them in a bid to achieve the perfect pav!

A summer version of my Festive Pav! 

Pigs in blankets - as I mentioned mine are already chilling in their blankets - simply assemble, place individually on a baking tray, cover and pop in to a freezer for an hour. After an hour remove and place into a freezer bag - these can be cooked from frozen on the big day or before with every single roast if you are like us!!

Everybody loves a piggie in a blanket!!

Yorkshire puddings can also be made and frozen - a bit a la Aunt Bessie - cook and freeze like the piggies in blankets and then remove and cook from the freezer ten minutes before eating!

Mince pies are also another great one for the freezer - make ahead freeze individually and cook and warm throughout from frozen!

My Christmas braised red cabbage is in the freezer as I made a double batch the other weekend in the slow cooker and froze half.

I will be making my Brussel sprouts the day before. Trim as you like them, I like mine with a X on their bottoms, boil for 5 minutes, strain and plunge into a bowl of iced water (this will stop them cooking further), leave to cool and place in a fridge bag. On Christmas Day I am going to be doing a recipe that my friend Lauren does where she pan fries pancetta in a dry pan, crisps up the pancetta and then adds the sprouts after - sounds lush!

Roast potatoes will also be made the day before. Cook in the goose fat as you would normally and then 20 minutes before they are done remove from the oven and cool in the tray. Then cover the tray and place in the fridge then the next day stick in the oven at a high temp and cook until crispy!

Fridge space at this year can be a total Tetris style nightmare so my advice would be if you can, ask around to see if anyone has a large cool box - fill any excess food for Boxing Day and ahead in the cool box and store outside - it's normally cold enough for the food to stay safe but just to be super safe whack in a few ice blocks for good measure!

When it comes to pressies I again have a list at the back of my diary of who I am buying for and what I have got them - I also have photos of these on my phone in case I am out and about and get caught short! Once the pressies are purchased I assign the "Head of Wrapping" aka Webbo in our house to wrap the presents. We've gone for a simple wrapping scheme this year - Hector gets Paw Patrol Christmas wrapping and Charlie gets Christmas dinosaur wrapping for their individual presents and then we have a reindeer one for joint presents - I got this idea from my friend Cate who suggested it - it also saves a huge amount of time writing labels!

Now, I am not saying that all of the above will work for you, you may also find it a bit militant but that's ok - I just love planning. The main thing is to just go with the flow. It's such a special time of year because we are surrounded by our loved ones that no one will care that you are running late for lunch or that the sprouts are slightly over done - just enjoy yourselves!

I'm off for a mince pie and a little browse online,

Nathalie x


Friday, 17 November 2017

An alternative Christmas cake with Hobbycraft....

Can you believe that it's less than 6 weeks until Christmas? Crazy hey! If you follow me on instagram then you'll have seen from my instastories that one evening this week I planned all of my Christmas food for the whole week from Christmas Eve to New Years Eve as we have friends and family staying with us the whole festive period. I am a firm believer that the better prepared you are the less stress there will be at a time when you should really be enjoying yourself!

As you know I LOVE baking and I love baking even more when you can fake it! By faking it I mean making an incredible full of love bake that essentially has been born from a box! A fake it bake it if you would!

Well to celebrate the opening of the brand spanking new Hobbycraft store in Farnborough I've teamed up with them to bring you an alternative Christmas cake! I love the idea of baking a Christmas cake and decorating it but the reality is that my family despise it. So, when Hobbycraft asked if I would like to attempt to make something for my readers to try at home I naturally was lured to this Christmas tree cake! It is the perfect fake it bake it for you to try this festive season and it's such a jolly little number that it will force a smile on even the Grinchiest of people! Did I mention that it's also hideously easy to make and can be baked and decorated in under a couple of hours.

When I mentioned to my sister in law that I was doing this collaboration she was surprised to hear that Hobbycraft did cake ingredients and accessories. I love Hobbycraft and have long been a fan of their baking section - in fact for a long while it was one of the only places you could source Wilton baking accessories (a brand I discovered in the USA about ten years back).

Everything in the recipe below you can get in store - well with the exception of the oil, eggs and water needed for the cake and the Smarties and Flake!!

So here goes.....

What you'll need 

- A box cake mix - I used Betty Crocker Devils Food Mix
- Henshaws ready to roll icing in white and yellow (available here)
- Wilton decorator icing (available here)
- Wilton Christmas tree tin (available here) CURRENTLY ON SALE FOR £5!! (17.11.2017)
- Wilton cake release (available here)
- Wilton Kelly green food colouring (available here)
- Star cutter
- Smarties
- 3 x Flakes

How to make it...

1. Use the Cake Release as directed all over the inside of the tin.

2. Preheat the oven and make up the cake mix as directed on the packet.

3. Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake until the skewer comes out clean.

4. Leave to cool in the tin for fifteen minutes then turn onto a cooling rack.

5. Take three large dollops of the decorator icing and add a small amount of the green food colouring and mix to incorporate. The green colour depth you want can be achieved by adding less or more food colouring.

6. Take the green food colouring and spread evenly over the "branches" of the cake.

7. Take some of the decorator icing and spread over the bark.

8. Cut the 2 x Flakes into thirds and place on top of the icing on the bark and then crumble the remaining one and then press onto the sides making sure to cover all the icing.

9. Take your yellow icing and roll out to the depth of a £1 coin. Cut out the shape of the star and place in the freezer to firm up.

10. Next roll out your white icing and cut in to three equal strips measuring approx 1cm wide. Take one of your strips and place at the lowest part of the tree (like in the photo) and trim to width. Do the same with the two remaining strips.

11. Now for the lights, well the Smarties! Decorate with as many or as little as you'd like.

 Now in true prepping ahead of time the cake can be made in advance and frozen to be taken out, defrosted and decorated closer to Christmas.

I have been a HUGE fan of Hobbycraft's blog page for a while and there are so many things on there for the first time crafter to the most experienced. I so tempted to make the stags head for this Christmas - always wanted to try my hand at some decoupage! 

So, if you want to have a browse in store at all the fabulous things besides just crafts that Hobbycraft have, then why not visit its new store in Farnborough located at Horizon Retail Park. The new store is packed with crafting materials to suit all ages and abilities, and beginners through to experienced crafters are all welcome to pop in and chat to one of the colleagues, who are all passionate about arts and crafts. 

Well, I do hope that you give my alternative Christmas cake a try - it really is so very easy to bake and decorate and really does have the wow factor and will knock spots off any fruit cake this festive season!

Nathalie x

DISCLAIMER: This was a sponsored post in collaboration with Hobbycraft to promote the opening of their new store in Farnborough. 


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Capturing the moment with Caroline Stocking Photography...

I adore taking photos - in fact I would go as far as to say I am obsessed with taking photos - especially of my family. However, there is one thing that I am very guilty of is and that is always tending to stay behind the camera and rarely in front of it in the actual picture.

My boys are growing up so quickly and I only have to browse back over my Instagram feed to see just how quickly that's happening and in front of my eyes. It was actually through Instagram that I stumbled across Caroline Stocking Photography. After a few mutual likes here and there we started chatting via Instagram and before I knew it we were due to meet at 1030am on a damp autumn morning half term.

What I loved instantly about Caroline's style was that she just "got it". She got the type of photos I wanted to achieve and there was no pressure to nail the shot and especially with two children and a dog that was never going to be easy.

Whilst I wanted cool and casual shots I wanted us all to roughly match - or should I say compliment each other! Boys were decked out in H&M kids, whilst Webb opted for an older number from Crew Clothing and I wore a spotty blue and white number from Primark and I even pushed the boat out and had my hair blow-dried before that at Baloolah

Naturally the boys started off happy as larry but as the shoot went on their enthusiasm wore off and the willingness to smile naturally seemed to disappear - that said Caroline, goodness knows how she did it managed to keep them going and pull off the nicest shots I have of the boys.

Photos are an amazing thing. A snapshot of life at that time and I am so pleased that I now have some really lovely family photos of all of us together.

Thank you to Caroline for taking the time to come and shoot my family and I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. If you'd be interested in getting Caroline to take some beautiful photos of you and your loved ones then you can get in touch with her at .

Nathalie x


Thursday, 5 October 2017

DIY Designer Pumpkins In Under 30 Minutes...

I love this time of year, in fact I will go as far as saying that autumn is my favourite season. The nights start to draw in, the leaves start to change colour and the abundance of new fruit and vegetables leaves me yearning for casseroles and flaky pastry pies. 

This month also sees that spooky tradition of Halloween. I have to be honest I am not a massive fan of this holiday and the prospect of taking my kids door to door knocking for sweets quite frankly leaves me feeling a little awkward. That said being a modern day mum I like to embrace all these holidays and we always have a pumpkin outside but this year I decided that having lusted over patterned pumpkins over on Pinterest last year to this year  pimp my pumpkins!!

So after work this afternoon I went in search of materials and as soon as Webbo stepped through the door we set about this super simple task....

What you'll need....

- Pumpkin (mine were a bargain, big one £3, smaller ones £1 each from Tesco)
- Spray paint colour of your choice (I got mine from B&Q for £9 each)
- Shape stickers or electrical/masking tape

How to do it....

Start by sticking and pressing down your chosen shape sticker

Make sure to cover your little stalk too!

Spray your pumpkin with a thin coat of the paint - don't be tempted to spray too much in one area. Now leave to dry!

Carefully peel off the stickers...

I chose to do one with stripes

And I love the way the one with stars came out!

I am so chuffed with how these turned out and they really were so easy to do and all finished and by my fireplace within half an hour!

Please SHARE this post so that you too can jazz up your pumpkins as wildly or as simply as you like but I hope you'll find some inspiration in my pumpkins!

Nathalie x

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Weekend Days...Boating And Burgers in Kingston...

There is something, I can't put my finger on it but there is just something about the river and being on a boat. 

We've had this idea for months that we wanted to get a boat from Hampton Court to Kingston with the kids where we would stop and have a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants on the river. The restaurants by the river by Kingston Bridge has definitely taken on a "South Bank" type of vibe in more recent months, so when I was contacted to see if I would like to take a trip on a boat to Kingston with Turks boat trips Webbo and I jumped at the chance!

So, last Sunday we hot footed it down to Hampton Court, parked the car in the station car park - a total bargain at just £2 and made our way across the bridge to where the boats launch. 

We were a little early and given it was a lovely balmy day decided that an pre-boat trip ice cream would be in order! Naturally given that Hector had been up super early he fell asleep in the car and proceeded to sleep through the ice cream.

"Believe me my your friend there is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply
messing about in boats!" - Wind And The Willows
We boarded the boat at Hampton Court Palace and headed to the top deck to make the most of the journey. Hector at this point had woken and was mesmerised to have woken up on a boat! I'd lost count of the times he said "boat boat boat" by the time we had got to Kingston!

It took about half an hour to get into Kingston and we disembarked and had a wander along the river to the restaurants. 

We picked Jackson & Rye to dine at. Now this is a restaurant we have walked past many a time but never ventured in, but we headed in and picked a spot by the window so we would people watch!

The boys opted for Mac 'N' Cheese and and their cheese burger. I was wearing my stretchy trousers and dived straight into their mixed platter where the brisket was to die for!!! 

Webbo looking like he's come straight out of his latest cook book!
The menu at Jackson & Rye is really varied and the portions are really very generous and Webbo highly recommends the ribs! They also have a fabulous cocktail menu and the kids menu is really sensible with some simple options to some that will challenge even the most foodie of kids.

We had a super day out and one that I am glad we did having chatted about it for so long! If you are local to Kingston then I can't recommend a little jaunt up the river and to stop at one of the many fantastic restaurants that the town has to offer. A great day out!

After all that messing about on the river the boys were shattered so on full bellies it was a snuggle on the sofa and early to bed!

Nathalie x
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