Baking: Pumpkin pie recipe

Saturday, 18 October 2014

With spiced pumpkin lattes now in full autumnal swing, and my teapot on constant refill with Bluebird Tea Co's spiced pumpkin pie tea, I thought it was about time I attempted to make pumpkin pie.  This happened to line up quite nicely with the Get Baking For A/W14 With Topps Tiles competition AND National Baking Week! As a side note, is it me or does there seem to be a week celebrating every single thing, nowadays?!

I was lucky enough to be one of a select few, handpicked bloggers who were asked to submit a recipe to the Topps Tiles A/W14 National Baking Week Challenge to celebrate Autumn and baking! Two things I can definitely get on board with! It was also far too tempting when I realised the prizes, if won, would be two ticks off my 30 before 30 list (otherwise they were looking unobtainable like the rest of the list)!

Seeing as it is October, and nearly Halloween, I had my heart set on doing something spooktacular/Pumpkin related! Tesco (World food aisle FYI), proved to be my source of inspiration to take the plunge and try my hand in homemade pastry related goods! I mean, I eat enough of the stuff, so it's only fair I give something back to society! I'll be honest, the Libby's pumpkin pack smelt exactly like baby food, which put me off initally but I think i've just about recovered.  With no further ado, here is the recipe:

Sophie's Pumpin' Pumpkin pie.

Stuff that you need:
-9oz shortcrust pastry.
-2 eggs slightly beaten (by your ill boyfriend).
-1 can of Libby's solid pumpkin pack (or baby food might do?).
-6oz granulated sugar.
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
-1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
-1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger.
-1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves (or just do what I did and use a Schwartz mulled wine pack!).
-1/2 pint of evaporated milk.
-9inch flan pan (!).

What you need to do:
-Pre heat the oven to 220C.
-Roll out the pastry onto the flan pan.
-Pop in the fridge to chill.
-Bake the case in the oven for about ten minutes.  You're meant to put baking beads or dried pulses in it. I googled alternatives and instead just pricked all over with a fork, which seemed to work!
-In the meantime, reduce the oven temperature to 180C and mix the ingredients all together.
-Pour into the chilled pastry case.
-Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
-Allow to cool.

There you have it! Let me know if you give it a try! In the meantime, i'm off to drink some pumpkin pie tea and eat some pumpkin pie! I'll leave you with this amazing photo of my daughter as a pumpkin (that's reason alone for me to win, surely?!).

LIFE: Lately

Saturday, 27 September 2014

 Baking yummy treats

Buying cute snack pots...
Eatin' cake with my favourites in my garden
 Cooking Autumnal food....
 Hangin' at the park (s). 
 Hangin' with celebs (Jorah Mormont) whilst on the way to Manchester Orchestra at the Wedgewood rooms. 
 Finding new coffee shops in other cities...

On Friday we headed to Portsmouth or more precisely, Fratton; to see Manchester Orchestra play at the Wedgewood rooms.  On the way there, I saw a man who I thought I recognised and then proceeded to spend at least five minutes not very subtley, loud whispering "is that-" "i'm sure that's-" "Try and get a photo-".  Before we could gain the answer from google for confirmation he may be in the area, the man was in front of us recounting, in his softly spoken dulcit tones, how he had left his phone at Chichester and requested use of our phone to call it.  This led to the most awe struck, awkward encounter by us whilst Callum fumbled to use his phone and  then muttered an awkward "Thanks" as he walked off.  The poor dude was evidently pondering what to do about the situation and was clearly exhausted, so we didn't feel it appropriate to ask for a photo.  What a genuine and nice guy though. 

In other news, Fratton is not the nicest of places to spend time if neccessary; we spent a good while looking for somewhere decent to grab a coffee and nice food before eventually finding Southsea high street which rewarded us mildly for our troubles.  As I sat there in a below average pub, with no drink that tickled my fancy, I pondered why anyone would live here until I realised just how spoilt we are, here in Brighton.  The gig was awesome, whilst the sound was a bit dodge (less drums noise, more vocals please) the band were very atmospheric and played a good set list.

5 reasons why I hate being a full time working Mum

Thursday, 25 September 2014

As we near the end of another week off work with stress and yet another funeral I'm actually feeling quite positive (shock horror!).  So I figured it was probably a good idea to use this to write a blog post semi serious semi tongue in cheek.    After reading a few different things including these counter articles, it got me thinking about why I don't like being a full time working Mum and it's probably quite therapeutic to note them as a reference for future life paths!

Missing my daughter- This is of course an obvious one, and whilst I do think it is healthy for her to attend Nursery and have some time away from me, I hate just how much time we have to be apart.  I'm sure some stay at homes would occasionally counter this with their occasionally exhausion by no time away, I guess the grass always appears greener! Often family offer to aleviate the strain on me by offering to help with Ophelia (e.g. nursery pick up), which is all lovely and very kind but in my head I can't help feel stubborn that I don't want yet more time away from her. 
World narrowing- Since returning to work, my world has reduced to a very small circle due to my lack of time to keep up to date with things outside of work, chores and a baby! I used to be the Queen of remembering Birthdays, making thoughtful gifts, sending snail mail but now i'm lucky if I even open the boring post let alone send any! This obviously has an effect on relationships and such, because you kind of go off the radar.  I also used to be quite often texting (my Mother regularly used to get me hilarious cards illustrating this point) and all texts received would be replied to, but since returning to work, I often find i've replied to none.  This isn't on purpose, it's simply that by the time i've worked, got Ophelia, done bed time, dinner... I usually fall asleep!

Not a fit- Intrinsically linked with the last one, this one is about how as a working Mum i've got segregated from both support networks; other Mums and work colleagues.  Due to me working full time, I find that I don't get a chance to see or meet other Mums because I'm always working! Whilst at work, people no longer ask if  I want to go to the cinema/drinks/bike ride (mental OTs!) after work, because they know I have to get Ophelia from Nursery.

Not able to do things to my full capabilities- I set unrealistically high standards for myself, I am fully aware of this- but I believe this is actually a strength because it is what helps me to be so determined and driven to be successful.  Unfortunately the pitfalls to this and my current situation mean that I end up feeling like i'm failing on both ends of the spectrum; Motherhood and Occupational Therapy.  Whilst I'm fully aware i'm doing an 'ok' job at being a Mum, this is never good enough for me and leaves me frustrated.  I recognise that i've got to find a balance and finally accept that 'ok' is actually OK!

Time for US- Between rushing in the mornings, Nursery pick up, 5am wake ups, 9pm sofa bedtimes and seemingly monthly time off work where Ophelia has been ill, PLUS everything in between- understandably we are often passing ships in the washing up bowl.  We've noted that this is why we need to use our annual leave wisely with a mixture of things we like to do but also at least one duvet day to catch up on our favourite box sets. 

I'm sure there are millions more but thanks to the usual sleep deprivation I can't think of them at the moment! I had been getting increasingly frustrated by this situation, hence what led to me being so stressed I think, but I'm feeling quite zen about it (today at least).  A few things seemed to have helped me get to this place;
  • A few useful GP visits with a very understanding young, recent Father who shared a few tips on his similiar situation and some great techniques- including; to stop being so bloody hard on myself, lower my expectations for myself, show myself some self compassion and re-evaluate the trivial pursuit pieces.  He reminded me that it's okay for me not to be a positive thinker, that's simply not me (i'm a sarcastic realist) because that actually causes more problems by trying too hard to be happy/fix the future, that i'm miserable in the present.  Instead, I plan to try to embrace uncertainty, failure, insecurity and pessimism.    
  •  Attending my Great Aunt's funeral yesterday; she was the equivalent of my Grandmother and was genuinely the nicest human I've known.  Seeing my family come together even though we often do not see each other, and watching her great grandchildren put together a book of illustrated memories and anicdotes to help find acceptance reminded me what life is about and what kind hearted people look like. 
  • Having time for 'me' whilst off; as an OT I am fully aware about the importance of Occupational balance and so it was very apparent this is what I need in my life- having time to bake, cook properly, exercise, read and meditate has made my insides feel somewhat cleansed.
I found this really helpful to write and I hope if anyone stumbles across this when thinking of returning to work, it helps them to make an informed decision about what is best for them and their family.

PS. SOZ about the lack of photos, I wasn't sure a squashed face dog was appropriate for the tone and a picture of someone cross legged with their eyes clothes is far too cliched for my liking!  

FOOD: Favourite salads

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Yep, you read that right folks! Here we are, deep in the Autumnal months and i'm writing about salad but with good reason- I bloody love salads.  I'd eat them for .Every.Single.Meal if I could, but not in a -i'm-so-2013-i-stick-kale-in-my-smoothie-kinda way.  A little fun fact for you (which I may or may not have mentioned before, brownie points if you can find evidence that I have); as I child I was proper fussy eating, I wouldn't even eat pizza or McDonalds! WHAT KIND OF CHILD WAS I?!

I used to perform in pantomimes every Winter of my childhood which meant some poor chaperones having to find a way to get 20 or so children dinner in the space between shows (sometimes half an hour). Of course, being the precocious child I was, I would be one of the few children that wanted the opposite to everyone else.  So whilst 18 other children fought it out between whether they would get Pizza Hut/Wimpy/McDonalds, myself and my bestie (big up Mary G) would vouch to sit and each wheels of cucumber and carrot.

Anywho, I digress, but you get the jist for how my love for raw foods runs deep! I'm always on the look out for new, healthy salad recipes to whip up a florette, salad frenzy (but not as crazy as my dad, I mean figs in salad just seems a bit ridiculous to me).

Thanks to my wonderful new book, A salad for all seasons I have a whole lot of new exciting salads to try this Autumn and here are my favourites:

  • The classic cobb salad - google it, you will not regret it.
  • Quinoa- with anything and everything (ideally halloumi).  
  • Cucumber, chilli and lime with nutes- I LOVE nuts in salad.  Also, what I really love about this salad is it goes really well on a table with cous cous and other stuff to dig into with your pals.
  • Autumn fruit salad- nectarines, plums, apricots- MY FAVOURITES! (My mouth is actually watering as I write this, having actually just eaten a massive salad).
  • Spanish salad- butter beans, peppers, chorizos, rocket. Perfect Autumn food.
  • Roasted root veges with crispy garlic pitta.  Root vegetables are one of my favourite things about Autumn!
What about you? What's your favouite thing to eat in Autumn? DO YOU love salad as much as me?

     *Book was kindly sent to me but no obligation, all opinions my own.

Christmas ideas for children: Mibo books (review)

Monday, 15 September 2014

As mentioned previously, I love to support small businesses; cafes, artists, shops, ...anything and everything! So when I got an email asking if I wanted to look at the brand spanking new kid's books by a local range of books, of course I was going to say yes!

Button Books is an exciting range of design led children's books that include round cornered board books, wipe clean flash cards and picture books with pop up animals to make.  They combine beautiful illustrations with high production values AND innovative ideas- two massive thumbs up in my opinion.  I have a few books already that fit into this vein also; the baby lit books and an illustrative nature book of poems- both of which Ophelia adores.  Ophelia really loves reading; as well as nature, sound effects, bright colours and touching stuff (so a typical toddler then!) so I always want books that support her enjoyment.

 The Mibo series of books (The Jungle Crew, The Polar Pack and The Safari Set), fit into all of the above in one way of another! The first thing I noticed when I opened these books was how really very well made they are; the texture of the pages just ooze good quality and whilst this might get forgotten by the littles in our life, I'm sure i'm not the only Mum that is always reassured by some extra thick pages whilst their child pretends the page is a Wobble board?! I also love interactive, multi-purpose books and so the little animals to make with each book are an added bonus for me-I love a good 3D educational toy, me! Now is probably an appropriate time to mention that these books are aimed at 4-7 year olds, however Ophelia is only 1 and already loves them. 

So now for the important part, what did Ophelia think?! Well, it was clear very quickly that she loved the bright, bold illustrations (and the fact they were animal related!)- her eyes clocked them and she had her hands all over them, fingering through the pages within seconds! She loves animals and so got quite excited simply leafing through the pages and pointing at the animals then doing an impression (i'm slightly concerned she wants to be a lion when she grows up by the way!). 
She also really loves repetition and rhythm, and these books create great rhymes to withstand a young child's attention- I can imagine this will be even better as she gets older.  I can imagine these books being long standing favourites for different reasons as she grows up; following a story with the help of role play, inspiration, crafting and educating about different animals and regions.

I can imagine these books would make the perfect gift for Birthdays or Christmas, appealing to both kids and adults alike!

  You can buy them:
 Button books

Review: Eisberg non alcoholic Rose wine

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Recently, Callum and I shared a bottle of Pinot which we both instantly regretted; two small glasses later and Callum was in a state of constant confusion and I don't remember going to bed (fully clothed).  Needless to say, after our regularly 5am wake up and it being a school night, we soon vowed not to live so crazily any time soon!

So it was pretty perfect timing when an email aeroplaned from outer space to my awfully managed inbox with the promise of alcohol free wine.  I'll be honest, my initial thought was intrigued, I've always wondered what it would taste like; would it taste the same? would it taste like schloer?! Well, there is only one way to find out!

Eisberg alcohol free rose wine
  Eisberg alcohol free wine is made basically in the same way as alcoholic Rose, except at the end of the process the alcohol is taken out- the idea being that you still keep true to the taste it should be.  I can totally see this or should I say, taste this, in the final product- there was a dash of that familiar fruity Rose taste.  What I liked, is that this wasn't overly sweet- I used to drink Rose wine a lot in my early 20s but found more than one glass far too sweet for my liking.  There are many things I liked about this drink, but i'll start with the oddest one shall I?! I liked the fact it wasn't too easy to drink (i.e. "down in onnnnne"), which in my eyes makes it the perfect non alcoholic replacement when the designated driver, i'm very guilty of gulping down soft drinks so fast! Another plus point of this beauty is that it contains a mere 35 calories per small glass and only 0.05% alcohol- which means you can go and eat a whole pizza instead!

I like the simplistic but clear design of the label; it is nice and discrete for times if you're not drinking alcohol but you don't want to draw attention to it.  The colour of the drink (not well displayed by my awful photography!) is very similar to those pale pink roses (which are usually my favourite).   The one thing I would say, is that if you want a drink that tastes the same as your favourite glass of Rose this is not going to cut it but it is a great tasting competitor for non alcoholic beers/schloer.   You can get it from all good supermarkets for about half the price of normal wine!

Now, go and buy some pizza!
I was kindly gifted the wine but all views my own!

Life in Brighton: A family dinner date at Brighton Pizza Express

Saturday, 30 August 2014

On Thursday the three of us headed Pizza express on Jubilee Street (Brighton), to have a post work meal treat! I hadn't been to Pizza Express in YEARS! I thought it had been ten years but Callum informs me apparently we went when we first started going out (so actually about 6 years ago!).  My lasting memory of Pizza Express is going with my friend and her daughter, and I would always order the same salad without fail! We had a fab time, the staff were pretty attentive without being in your face, the decor was appealing (Ophelia was especially inamoured with the big photographic portraits on the walls and the bright bunting) and the food portions were lovely and generous (so much so that I had half my pizza for lunch the next day!). 
I had  the classic dough balls for starter- just as good as I remember! Callum went for cheesy garlic bread- both were a nice intro to the night! A friend bought round the shop-bought-pizza-express version of the garlic bread a few weeks ago and I remember thinking how amazing it was, and this trip re-reminded me how good it is! The cheese was mozerella which is already a win in my book, Ophelia particularly enjoyed this rolled into small balls. 

Both of us enjoyed our pizzas, I personally feel they are on the salty side of salty, but then this is coming from the girl that puts no salt in or on her food, so probably have salty sensitivity or summat [that's totally a thang, right?!].  For you crazy, next day, cold pizza types (FYI as a side note, be prepared to be judged if you carry a take out box of pizza to work the next day). it is just as good, if not, even better when eaten next day.  I went for the Romana Emilia (goats cheese, rocket, mushrooms and garlic) and I loved it, especially as it's like no pizza I have had before and this always grabs my attention in a pizza!  I am also a big fan of thin, rusticesque pizza and this was definitely in that vein- nice and crispy outside but soft on the inside (like me ;). 

Ophelia mostly just stole shared our food so we aren't able to comment on kids menu etc, but the staff were good at finding space for the pram, bringing a high chair and crayons and appeared to have a good awareness about risk (e.g. candle/water/hot food proximity), needs and entertainment.  Ophelia is at the stage where she constantly requests to "down" (i.e. walk), so sitting still is not at all in her remit, thankfully there is a great outdoor space covered in artificial grass which was great at burning some energy (and avoiding tantrums!) in between courses whilst still being in view of the table.

Have you been to Pizza express recently or either of the ones in Brighton? What's your favourite chain restaurant?