Sunday, 29 May 2011

Clandestine Cake Club (Flirtatiously Fruity and Succulent Savoury)

Hi everyone!

Apologies for the absence of posts, I have been catching up on coursework and studying for exams and such, so have been avoiding going on the computer, as once I get on, I cant seem to tear myself away from all the fabulous blogs I read regularly, so I thought it would be best to avoid it altogether and go cold turkey!

Although I still have tons of coursework to do before I finish the course in a couple of months, I am somewhat caught up, so today I decided to break away from the books, and have a lovely day of blog reading (and posting!) and YouTube surfing whilst snuggled under a duvet on the sofa, drinking big mugs of coffee and eating homemade cake - perfect Sunday afternoon in my opinion!

Yesterday my sister and I had a fabulous afternoon at Clandestine Cake Club - a secret once monthly  gathering of cake bakers and guests at a secret venue in Leeds, with the exact location only revealed by email a week or so before the event.

Bakers each have to bake and take along a 'proper' cake that can be sliced into 10-12 good slices (no cupcakes, buns or cookies allowed) and there is usually a theme for the cakes (this months theme was 'healthy' Flirtatiously Fruity and Succulent Savoury - as the venue was in the Leeds Healthy Living Network building in Armley!)

I First heard about CCC by another WI member at a meeting a month or two ago, and joined up, but was unable to make the last one in the end (boohoo!) but I made sure I cleared my diary for this one! As the theme for this month was 'healthy' (yeah, right!) Kaila and I decided to go with fruity rather than savoury, and we baked two (so there was enough to go round) Lime and Coconut loaf cakes (a first attempt at this cake meant that we also made a banana and walnut cake too as a back up, just in case!)

Luckily they turned out just fine, and tasted lovely! (If anyone is interested in the recipes I used, just mention it in the comments box, and I will post the recipes)

There were some really stunning cakes, and some fantastic combinations of ingredients brought along: Roquefort, pear and walnut cake, courgette cake, peach upside down cake, rhubarb cake, orange, rosemary and polenta cake, banana and walnut cake (lucky I didnt take mine!) Dorset apple cake, Toffee rhubarb cake, apple and cinnemon tea loaf, beetroot and stout cake, tropical fruit cake, peach, bluberry and ameretto cake, lemon drizzle cake, nutty apple loaf and raspberry layer cake, to name but a few!

    There was a lovely selection of teas available, lots of herbal or fruit teas, as well as tradtional tea, all served in lovely cups and saucers :)
    The idea of CCC is you and your guest turn up with your cake, display it prettily on the table with the other cakes, get yourself a cup of tea and a plate ready, and when given the ok, join the queue and take a slice of as many cakes as you would like to try, and then mingle and chat with the other bakers.
    There was a nice mix of peaple with about 40 in total, as each baker brought along a guest, and I was suprised to find that at least a 3rd of the bakers were men! Who said baking was just for girls?!
    Its a really nice way to spend a couple of hours, meeting new people with a shared love of cakes (Though I have yet to meet somebody who DOESNT love cake!) getting new recipes and trying out new combinations of cakes that you wouldnt normally try (the beetroot and stout cake was delicious!)
    Our table decided that we would try as many cakes as possible, but sharing a plate so we had a small taste of each cake, rather than a slice, so we could all fit more in!
                                                         This is the first plate:
                                                             And the second!
    Two hours later, our plate looked like this!
    We had a lovely time munching our way through lots of yummy cake, and chatting with some lovely people (I even managed to recruit some new WI members-to-be!)
    When it was time to clear away around four o'clock, the leftover cakes were divided up, so each person got a selection of cake to take home too!
    I definately recommend attending a Clandestine Cake Club event if you havnt yet, as they are so much fun (and cost nothing, except the cost of your cake ingredients,) and as there seems to be events popping up all over the place, there may well be one near you!
    Have you been to a Clandestine Cake Club event?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Leeds Midnight Walk in aid of St Gemma's Hospice

Hi everyone!

Saturday night was the Leeds Midnight Walk in aid of St Gemma's Hospice, and my little sister Kaila and I took part along with literally thousands of other ladies, in a women - only Midnight Walk in order to raise money for the Hospice which is respite for terminally ill cancer patients.
As the name suggests, the walk starts at midnight, and participants choose which of the two walks they wanted to do, either the 6 or the 12 mile route. Kaila and I had decided that we wanted to walk the 12 mile route in memory of our late Nan (in for a penny!) and we went to register at Headingley Carnegie Stadium at 10pm as instructed, to get our registered walk number :)

As we were there two hours before the start time, once we had all gotten our numbers, we headed over to the 'entertainment room' where they were stalls selling fancy dress items for the walk, raffles, Real Radio, a St Gemma's information stall, a live band, and a lovely lady doing face painting - so of course me and Kaila got in the massive queue to get our faces done!

Kaila went for a white tiger, and I fancied a neon butterfly:

Just before midnight, everyone had to do a warm up, and it involved a room full of women doing the silliest dancing you have ever seen! great fun!

The atmosphere was amazing as we all piled outside ready for the off, and everyone was taking turns getting their photo's next to the start line, so I was pleased to have gotten our picture on the way in!!

Both routes started the same, with everyone walking together (all 1000 of us!) from Headingley Stadium, down Kirkstall Lane, then along Abbey Road as far as Hawksworth Road, where the Six mile walkers turned off. Those of us walking the 12 mile route carried on up New Road Side, past the Esso garage and turned onto Broadway and carried on to the West Park Centre.

 West Park Centre marked the half-way point for the 12 mile walkers, and we all checked in for a well deserved (and needed!) hot drink and snack (snickers, mars bars and bananas were on offer :) before turning around and walking all the way back!

Surprisingly, we managed to keep up the same pace on the way back, and actually hit our (personal) target, and completed the 12 mile walk in four hours :)

When we arrived back at the stadium, we were greeted with a medal and certificate for completing the walk!


Each walker also received a goodie bag (containing a floral cup (!?) a cinnamon swirl pastry, sweeties, panda pops bottled water, Real Radio sticker, and lots of lovely bits and bobs :)

When I called a taxi to come and collect us to take us home, I was told there were non available for at least 50-60 mins, so after a sit down, a coffee and our breakfast pastry, Kaila and I decided to walk home, resulting in us walking an extra mile, taking the total to 13 miles in a few hours!

Kaila and I are still collecting sponsors, so will let u know the grand total once we have collected and totalled it all up (although if anyone still wishes to donate, please let me know!)

We had great fun, everyone (including the fantastic walk guides, volunteers, and staff, who were all amazing, offering encouragement every step of the way) were in great spirits, and Kaila and I were really proud to be raising money for such a great cause, and we hope to do it all again next year!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

My First Attempt At Soap Making!

Hi everyone!

When I was off work recently (seems an age ago!) with my hand injury, I had plenty of time to read up on my favorite blogs. This particular post on Frugal Queen  was Soap Making, which really caught my eye, so I decided to have a go myself, with visions of making something like these to give as presents, or sell on my upcoming stall in Otley!

I decided to go completely from scratch rather than do melt and pour soap making, mainly as this recipe was the same one featured on channel 4's, Kirstie's Homemade Home series (I think!) and as I ADORE that show, (and Froogs' tutorial seemed relatively easy) it appealed to me and to my little sister and so we got stuck in! 

I forgot to take pictures, :( but it involved mixing caustic soda, oils etc (click the above link for the tutorial) and stirring for quite literally, HOURS until the soap reached trace (where it thickens up, see pic below).
My hand blender actually conked out due to being overheated, I was stirring that long!

I followed all the steps in the tutorial, which advised to store the soap in towels overnight in the airing cupboard, and turn the soap out of the tubs/moulds the following day when they have hardened up a bit, then leave them for a month until they are safe to use (as the soap is still caustic and harmful until then) and after chopping the soap into usable sized blocks, it looked like this:

I didn't use any colours or patterned moulds, I just followed the basic tutorial and for a first attempt, I think It looks soapish, smells nice (I used lavender essential oil) its very moisturising due to the olive oil content, and it gives a nice gentle lather, but even after a few months, although the soap holds its shape well, it is quite squishy to touch. :(
Does anyone have any ideas on why this is or what I can do to avoid this in any further batches I make? Or what stage to add any colouring to my soap (would mineral mica colouring work?)

All in all though, I'm pretty pleased with my first ever attempt at soap making 'from scratch' and I'm enjoying using it up :)

Have you tried your hand at soap making?

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bank Holiday BBQ and Burlesque!

(warning - post is picture heavy and very rambly!)

Hi everyone!

This weekend saw more gorgeous weather (at least, in Leeds!) so Simon and I decided to head down to a local beauty spot yesterday and have a BBQ / picnic with my sister, brother, his partner and my three gorgeous nieces (and not forgetting Lucy!)

The walk to the picnic spot was lovely and Lucy enjoyed the walk too!

The spot we picked was near the canal, and was perfect for sunbathing and paddling, which which Lucy, Simon and the girls took full advantage of :)

We had a lovely walk through the woods after lunch, and we had to resist picking armfuls of gorgeous bluebells that were simply everywhere.

We spent a lovely few hours by the canal side, before Simon and I headed home to get ready for this:

Last night, Simon and I had tickets to The Sunday Night Variatease Burlesque show which is a variety club, involving burlesque, cabaret, dancing and stalls filled with all manner of treasures.
Last week I had actually been asked if I wanted to have a stall there, selling my handmade bath and body products, but sadly it was too short notice, and as I havnt finished sorted out my branding and packaging, I really want my 'debut' to be perfect, so I am sticking to the Otley Gala in June for my first 'proper' stall!

Although I didnt have my own stall, it didnt stop me from buying some lovely/quirky hand made jewelry for other stalls:

Opening and ending the shows, were performances form unsigned band Madam Laycock and her Dabeno Pleasures, which were fabulous, performing in a dark cabaret style which perfectly complimented the mood of the evening (click for link and to listen to some of the songs performed) I really enjoyed thier set, and bought their CD which the band signed for me :)

The Burlesque performances themselves were great, we had some really fun tongue in cheek sets, as well as the classic 'tease' performances:

All in all, we had a fantastic weekend! How did YOU spend yours?