13.09

Cider-with-Rosie-Ottilies-1st-birthday-17

O N   T H E   9 T H   S E P T E M B E R ,   A T   4 . 4 0 A M…

…and I haven’t stopped going on about it for a week solid! All last week my catchphrase was ‘this time last year!’ as I reminisced over the week I was in labour with Ottilie. ‘This time last year my contractions just started and I was rushing to get my hair washed and legs shaved!’ (let me tell you, no rush was necessary!!!), ‘this time last year was the first full night of contractions’, ‘this time last year I was in the birthing pool!’ and so on and so on…you get the picture!

But really, how on earth has it been a year? Watching Ottilie grow from a tiny baby into a miniature- and very, very sure of herself!- little person, has been the greatest joy of my life so far. She fills our days with so much laughter, and hearing her sweet chatter all day long makes my heart feel so full with love I’m sure it might burst.

I still can’t get my head around the fact that this sweet baby girl is all ours, and when she shouts ‘Mama Mama Mama!’ as she climbs the stairs each morning after she’s had her breakfast downstairs with Jason I feel so privileged that it’s me she’s calling for. I never take for granted what a gift it is to be a Mother, and have embraced all the opportunities this year has brought me to grow as a person as I’ve found my way into this new role.

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We decided to have a little get together over the weekend to celebrate this year with our baby girl, and it was such a fun afternoon! My Mum, sister and I spent most of the day before her birthday preparing sandwiches, rainbow skewers of fruit, chocolate traybakes, salads, and then I stayed up super late baking a vanilla and homemade blackberry jam birthday cake! Just don’t ask me about the first batch of cake that went into the bin, okay?

I honestly think could stare forever at these photos below of Ottilie when she first spotted her pretty confetti balloons, the joy on her face makes my heart ache…

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^^ Getting so steady on her feet these days ^^

We bought Ottilie the a beautiful wooden dolls pram for her birthday, and she wants to push it around non-stop now! I ummed and ahhed for ages over what to choose for her as her gift, but it’s been a hit so far! Up until recently she hadn’t been keen to try and walk at all, but since we gave her the pram over the weekend all she wants to do it stand up holding it and trundle it up and down the hallway. I wonder how long it’ll be until she’s off and running? I’m not sure I’m ready for a walking baby!

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We’d been holding off letting Ottie have anything majorly sugary until she turned one, and so I’d been so excited about giving her a slice of her very first birthday cake! But I’ll be honest, she wasn’t majorly interested…I think she’s still a fruit girl at heart! She really just ate the jam out the middle and then mashed the rest up a bit…but hey, she’ll learn! ;)

Also, seeing the way she’s playing with my cousin Emily’s sweet little girl Darcey in the photos melts my heart! Cousins are just extra siblings, if you ask me <3

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See what I mean about Ottilie and her fruit?! We ‘borrowed’ a couple of apples from the tree next door that has branches hanging over into my Mum’s garden, and they were seriously delicious!

Also, please note the crumbs of something or other in my hair in the first of those two photos above! I nearly edited it out, but then I thought, hey, it’s representative of Mum life!

(p.s. I’ve had a lot of questions about the dress I’m wearing in these photos! It’s from LK Bennett, I bought it in the sale at the end of June. As far as I can see it’s no longer on the website, so I’ve put a few alternatives, at a range of budgets, in the widget below :)


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Tania, Freya and their other halves came down from London to celebrate with us, which of course made me the happiest. I’ve missed being able to be spontaneous and pop up to London as much as I used to this year, and so having them come down to visit is the best! In fact, Tania Freya and Lizzie’s visits when Ottilie was a tiny baby were complete lifesavers- they used to come down for the day, take over Ottie-cuddling duty and send me off upstairs for a relaxing bath! I have the best ever friends- fact.

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And that’s it, my baby is one! It’s been so lovely sharing her first year of life and my first year of motherhood here with you all, and I’ve been so grateful for being able to turn to this community for support and advice along the way. Here’s to year number two!

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Posted in BABY, BIRTHDAY, OTTILIE

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08.10

Coffee-walnut-four-tier-layer-cake

Today’s is my sweet fiancé’s 27th birthday! Jason’s one and only birthday as a ‘fiancé’ no less, and his last before he becomes a husband! 27 is set to be a big year ;) To celebrate, we’re taking the day off and heading out into the countryside for a jolly, and then going for dinner in the evening at his family home. Expect photos, because that’s just how this works, right? ;)

This year, Jason requested coffee and walnut cake, please and thank you. We toyed briefly with the idea of doing Jamie’s chocolate cake, with that amazing looking nougat frosting and the chocolate crispy layers. Carrot cake was mentioned, too. As was good old Victoria sponge. We even discussed a Devil’s Food…before remembering that we always find chocolate cake deeply unsatisying. Eventually though, coffee and walnut cake (that stalwart of the country fair bake sale stand) was settled upon. I actually made this cake last year for Jason’s birthday, but have done a little tweaking with the recipe to take it up a notch or two since then! Mainly by ramping up the coffee flavour in the frosting by using fresh espresso instead of powder (never enough coffee for us!), and slicing up the layers to make this cake a four tier-er.

Making Jason’s birthday cake each year is one of my favourite annual traditions. I like to think that in years to come, I’ll look back on all the years and years of cakes that’ve been made in various different kitchens, and feel fondly nostalgic…even more so than I do normally! But even aside from all this silly sentimentality, this cake’s set to be a tasty one! We’ve yet to cut into it (as much as I’m dedicated to the art of photography and food styling, there’s nothing that’ll make me cut into someone else’s birthday cake merely for the sake of a great photo ;) but liberal amounts of both the batter and frosting were consumed yesterday, and I can confirm that it’s a good’un. (Maybe my lunch yesterday consisted of cake batter and frosting with a token Nakd bar thrown in for ‘health’. Maybe I sat on the living room floor eating frosting off the spatula yesterday afternoon, looking dejectedly at the post-photoshoot mess around me and wondering how to get away with not clearing it up Maybe not. There’s just no way of knowing.)

So, to the recipe!

How-to-put-together-layer-cake Coffee-and-walnut-layer-cake-recipe

The recipe is adapted (barely, because it’s pretty perfect as it is) from Nigella’s coffee + walnut cake recipe in ‘Kitchen’. Serves about fifty million people (look at the size of it!).

Ingredients ::
50g walnuts
225g caster sugar
225g soft unsalted butter
200g plain flour
4tsp instant espresso powder
2 1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
2tbsp milk

For the frosting ::
525g icing sugar
260g soft unsalted butter
3tbsp fresh espresso
Walnuts + dark chocolate, to decorate

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, then butter two sandwich tins and line the bases with parchment paper. For the cake, begin by putting the walnuts and sugar into a food processor, and blitz until the walnuts have been broken down into a fine crumble.

- Add the sugar mixture into the bowl of a mixer, and beat together with the butter until light and fluffy. Measure out the flour, espresso powder, bicarb and baking powder into a separate bowl, and mix to combine. Whisk the eggs in a jug.

- Add half the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mix, followed by half the beaten eggs, beating well between each addition. Continue until both the dry ingredients and eggs have been combined into the butter and sugar mixture, and the batter is smooth and well combined.

- With the mixer on low, add in the milk a tablespoon at a time, until the batter reaches a lightly whipped dropping consistency. Feel free to add in a splash more milk if the batter stills feel thick after the initial 2tbsps have been added.

- Divide between two prepared sandwich tins, carefully smooth the tops flat, then bake for between 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown and springy to the touch. Allow the cakes to cool for around 10 minutes in their tins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When the cake are completely cool, carefully slice them in half. I found that scoring a halfway line round the middle, then cutting bit by bit in a circle was the easiest way to do this.

- To make the frosting, put the butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a mixer, **hang a tea towel over the top of the mixer to stop the sugar going everywhere!** and then beat until the butter and sugar start to clump together.

- Brew a double shot of espresso, then whilst it’s still warm, begin to add it to the frosting a tablespoon at a time with the mixer on a slow speed. I probably added a dash more than the listed 3tbsp, but give the frosting a taste after each tablespoon of espresso has been beaten in and stop when it’s ‘coffee-y’ enough! Beat the frosting on a high speed for a minute after all the espresso has been added, to make it beautifully light and fluffy.

- Put the base layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate, and then spread with a generous amount of frosting. The frosting is a fairly stiff one and won’t spill out, so can be spread right up to the edges of the cake. Build up the cake one layer at a time, then finish with a final topping of frosting. Top with walnuts and chocolate shavings (drag a sharp knife over the back of a bar or chocolate), and serve to your favourite person on their 27th birthday :)

Coffee-and-walnut-cake-recipe Nigella-coffee-cake-recipe

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Posted in BAKING, BIRTHDAY, CAKE, COFFEE, RECIPE, SWEET

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17.02

This year for my 23rd birthday (back in December) my darling friend Jo treated me to tickets to see the Royal Ballet’s Giselle! We went the Thursday before last, and met in Covent Garden on the rainiest, tube strike-iest night of the year. Before the ballet, we headed over to Homeslice in Neal’s Yard for a slice. Turns out, we were hungry for more than just a slice, and put away (in an impressively short amount of time) an entire 20 inch pizza between the two of us. Even the waiter said that he was impressed. He told us that it’s usually only guys who finish a whole 20inch between two. The pizzas are pretty light though, so I don’t know if I buy that. We had a half and half pizza, with salami and rocket on one side, and slow roasted lamb and marinated goats cheese on the other. The salami and rocket was my definite favourite, whereas Jo felt the slow roasted lamb was king. But since, you know, editorial control and all, I’ll tell you that the salami/rocket was the *clear* winner! ;) Definitely worth a taste, if you’re in the area!

And after that caveman-like display of appetite, we went to the ballet! Giselle was absolutely stunning. I’d not been to see any ballet for almost 5 years (since I was studying it myself in London), and had forgotten how breathtaking it can be. I thought perhaps being at the ballet would make me feel sad to have left that world behind, but it didn’t. Not one bit. It was so, so nice to just sit back and enjoy it, instead of spending the whole performance mentally berating myself for only being able to manage a double and never a triple pirouette en pointe ;) Thank you thank you Miss Jo, for the greatest birthday gift!

(p.s. Photos below are mainly iPhone jobbies. Please blame any graininess on the amount of dust and junk currently stuck underneath the lens of my poor old smashed up iPhone. )

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^^ The Royal Opera House. Isn’t she a beauty? ^^

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Posted in BIRTHDAY, LONDON

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04.02

Happy-Birthday-Mama!

Last week, my darling Mum turned 55!

Don’t worry, she isn’t the sort who gets funny about people knowing her age. In fact, my Mum’s ability to embrace her age for what it is (a milestone, a marker of how many years she’s lived and loved and learnt) is one of the things I admire most about her.

For her birthday, I took her out for surprise afternoon tea at Pennyhill Park. I’ve had it planned for a few weeks now. Pennyhill Park is one of the most beautiful hotels in Surrey, with an award-winning afternoon tea. I actually worked there for a few months the summer before I met Jason, and spent hours (literally *hours*) each shift hanging about in the pastry kitchen, pilfering spoonfuls of ice-cream straight from the freezer, eating all the white chocolate truffles from the petit fours plates (& filling the gaps on the plates with the horrible dark chocolate ones), and persuading the chef to make me a pistachio soufflé to enjoy at my leisure once I’d finished ‘working’. Thinking about it, I’m surprised the hotel actually paid me a salary…

But back to it! Sunday morning when I picked up Mum, we were excited! Lots of squeals were squealed. We *love* surprises in this family! We drove about 10 minutes, and when we turned into the driveway of the hotel, Mum said ‘No! No way!’. I asked what she thought we were here for. She replied ‘Afternoon tea?’, and I said ‘Yes! Surpriiiiiise!’

Mum thought the surprises were done with once we’d got to the hotel, but no! There were more to be had! I’d actually dropped my sister off at the hotel about fifteen minutes before picking up my Ma, so when we got to our table, surprise again! Francesca was there in place, looking glorious and elegant and as pleased with herself as I felt! Mum shrieked, and then cried, which is pretty much the reaction my sis and I had been banking on ;)

And after all that excitement, the tea itself was crazy delicious too! Hibiscus and berry was our especial favourite (we drank pot after pot of the stuff!). Also, those scones. Oh my. They were the size of your fist, crisp on the outside, and all fluffy-warm inside. The jam was something special too. I didn’t take too many photos over tea (was up to my elbows in jam, you see) but the few I did take are below. Some are iPhone jobbies, others are from my proper camera. I hate mixing iPhone and proper camera photos in the same post, so I’m sorry about that.

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^^ Afternoon tea get-up. Bare legs in February. Cerrazy. ^^`

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^^ That choux bun was filled with gooseberry compote and vanilla cream, and is one of the most delicious pastries I’ve ever eaten. ^^

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Happy birthday little Ma! We love you!

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Posted in afternoon tea, BIRTHDAY, FAMILY, MUM

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