tilly makes & bakes

Always striving to achieve a state of domestic bliss!


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Enter catchy Spring related pun here

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Spring has sprung. I have a “Spring” in my step, etc, etc. I am seriously excited that this time of year has finally arrived- but enough with the seasonal plays on words already. Equally irritating are Easter wares and activities that are proclaimed to be “eggcellent” or “eggciting”.

Waking up light like this is quite something, isn’t it? I am not a cheerful morning person- in fact you could say I am downright grumpy. It takes at least one giant mug of coffee to get me going for the day.  This is the window next to my rocking chair in the landing and I just had to take a photo of the lovely light reflections from a mosaic vase. Being greeted by sunshine so early in the morning cheered me right up. Some other highlights of my week were

♥ buying some bedding plants for the fairy garden we are planning to make during the holidays

♥ home grown rhubarb made into a crumble (I forgot to take a photo of the crumble before it was devoured)

♥ hubby built me a quick and nifty support frame for my vege bed which I have yet to drape in netting to keep the pesky cats from using it as a litter box.

♥ home made iced coffee: simply blitz up ice cubes, 1-2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder, vanilla syrup and milk using a hand blender.

♥ a packed salad for lunch every day.

♥ putting up an Easter tree with my little lady

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One person’s junk…

… is another person’s treasure! Isn’t that just the truth!? Those who know me, are aware that I am partial to a touch of second hand shopping. The great British Charity Shop is maybe not the most stylish high street haunt these days but I couldn’t love them more. I try to take little H at least once a week to see which new bits and bobs we can find. Oh the excitement… you never know what will be waiting for you each time. The whole concept of the charity shop appeals to me as obviously things that would otherwise be chucked out and end up in landfill are sold on to be given a whole new life. And all the while money is raised for a local or national cause.

I am very excited to share some of my recent finds here. There was this perfect children’s chair.

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I am in love with the pattern and colour of the little cushion. Chair and cushion were a steal. Little H made me chuckle as she sat in the chair by the till whilst I paid.

We found this lovely hand crochet cushion cover.

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It has since been filled with a pale blue cushion and it looks very stylish on my comfy rocking chair.

We have recently picked up a few of these lacy shawls and tablecloths. They usually cost around £1 and we use them to set the dolly kitchen for tea parties or on the floor as a picnic blanket. Can’t wait to build pretty dens using these with the girls in the garden when the weather brightens up.

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I am currently loving vintage inspired illustrations and so I was thrilled to find some gorgeous old books (one was actually given to us by a friend who was sorting through her grown up sons old books).

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How sweet is this little lady?

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I have spent ages poring over the gorgeous pictures.

Besides these we have picked up a slightly garish plastic fairy castle because we are planning on planting up a fairy garden in a big barrel outside. I am thinking violets, pebbles and glass nuggets as paths, a little playmobil bench perhaps. We are just waiting for a sunny day to start our project and of course I will share here how it all went.


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Peanut butter chocolate cups

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I found a recipe for these in a magazine just before last Christmas and made a batch as little gifts for those unannounced visitors or to bring along when we were invited around people’s houses around that time of year. They looked really lovely in cellophane bags adorned with Christmassy ribbons and needless to say I was in everyones good books wherever I turned up with these yummy treats in my bag.

The reason why I have dug these out is because I want to make an Easter/Springtime version, topped with mini eggs this year. I am thinking I might go all white chocolate for that and maybe try almond butter instead of peanut. The beauty with this kind of recipe, where you just melt some chocolate and stir everything together, is that you really can go wild and add any extra bits and bobs you like. I will keep you posted on how the Easter version turns out but in the meantime here are the quantities I used for the choc cups in the photos.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cups

Ingredients

50g chopped white chocolate

100g crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla extract or paste

150g milk chocolate

150g dark chocolate

25g salted cashew nuts (or could use honey salted peanuts)

1. Melt the white chocolate and stir together with the peanut butter and vanilla until it forms a paste.

2. Melt the milk and dark chocolates in separate bowls.

3. Pour 1tsp of melted milk chocolate into your paper cases. Add 1 tsp of peanut paste and top off with enough dark chocolate to cover and “seal” the chocolate cup.  Sprinkle with the cashews or peanuts (or your choice of topping). Leave to set outside of the fridge (you can cover them with a piece of greaseproof baking paper, although this is not essential).


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Oaty fridge cookies

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I was looking for a cookie or biscuit recipe that my four year old could mostly cope with herself and I knew that rolling out dough and using cutters would need too much input and help from me. Whilst looking for a recipe (Hello Pinterest!), I came across several different versions of so-called ‘fridge cookies’. Ah yes, I remembered cutting discs from chilled logs of dough as a child – anyone for checkerboard biscuits? Perfect for tiny hands. As my ‘big’ little girl is starting school in September, I am trying to make the most of our now counted days of weekday freedom. I really will miss all our mornings of pottering, crafting and baking.

Oaty fridge cookies

150g soft butter

150g brown sugar

5 drops orange essence

2 medium eggs

200g rolled oats

150g ground almonds

1teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Method:

1. Whisk the butter and sugar until creamy. Add orange essence and one egg at a time.

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and gradually work the dry and wet ingredients together until a dough forms.

3. Split the dough into two and roll each half into a sausage shape about 30cm long. Wrap in baking parchment and refrigerate for at least an hour or two.

4. When you are ready to bake, roll each dough sausage in some coarse sugar (Demerara is good), before cutting each sausage into half centimetre thick disks.

5. Place the cookies on a lined tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C (160 if using a fan oven) for about 12 to 14 minutes.


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Carrot and sweet potato cake

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Ingredients:

175g dark brown sugar

175 ml light olive oil

2 large eggs, beaten

150g grated carrots

50g grated sweet potato

100g raisins

a few drops orange extract

juice of 1/2 a satsuma or clementine

175g self raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

for the icing:

a few tablespoons of icing sugar mixed with the juice of the remaining half of a Satsuma

Method:

1. Preheat the oven. Line and grease your square cake pan. Get all your ingredients ready, peel and grate the carrots and sweet potato.

2. Mix the sugar, oil and eggs and combine well in a bowl.

3. Stir in the grated carrots and sweet potato, raisins, orange extract and juice and mix well.

4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, bicarb of soda and spices. Sift into the wet mixture and stir until all the ingredients are combined well. Do not overmix.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 to 45 minutes at 180°C.

6. Prepare the icing whilst the mixture is baking and drizzle onto the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.

This cake was so spongy and comforting. The added sweet potato turns the flavour of this classic cake up another notch. I was so pleased to serve this sweet treat to my family as baking with olive oil and vegetables makes me think it is almost healthy for them!


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Liverpool in a day with kids

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We recently spent a long weekend near Liverpool visiting family so we decided to make the most of it and drove into the city for a fun-filled day. We were lucky because the rain held off for most of the day, which was a first in many days! Obviously, there are countless touristy things to do and see in Liverpool. I was quite keen to see the Beatles’ story exhibition. However, with a 4 year old and an 18 month old in tow, not only would they not have appreciated it, but we wouldn’t have been able to really take our time to look at everything in peace. So what to do, what to do!

Well, we started off by parking near the Echo Arena so that we could go on the Liverpool Wheel. As it was a Monday morning, it was literally deserted. We saw a couple of maintenance guys and actually asked them when the wheel would open, only for one of them to reply “It is open, now!” Bonus. We hopped straight on. The kids loved it.  A cheesy commemorative family photo was purchased.

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We then moved on to the Albert Dock to have a look around the cafes, shops and of course all the boats and ships.

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All the way up the waterfront to the Liver Building.

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After that, we were truly frozen to the bone, so we decided to walk further into town in search for a more indoorsy activity. Having done my homework before we came, I knew the place to go was the Liverpool World Museum. This is actually the whole reason why I am writing this post. It was amazing. But I jump ahead of myself.

The exhibits in the World Museum are spread over five floors which are easily accessible by wheelchair, or in our case: pushchair. It starts with an aquarium on level one which had plenty of tanks and the exhibit was just big enough (not too big) to hold our 4 year old’s interest. I loved these large collages which were produced by local Primary Schools. I was mesmerised by the colours on the detail of them. Each animal was painted onto what looked like tracing paper and then layered with other materials. Maybe it’s just my sentimental teacher heart but something about these pictures made me stop and I just couldn’t stop looking at them. Glad I took the photos for future inspiration!

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The second floor of the museum was a personal favourite, as it held interactive story scenes from well -known stories such as Hansel & Gretel and Alice in Wonderland. Even our 18 month old was having a blast, running in and out of the scenes and looking at all the pictures and displays. There were dressing up clothes for the children to use and props such as a life size cauldron with a big wooden spoon. Again, with it being a Monday, it was fairly empty and we could access all that was on offer without having to queue or wait our turn. We then entered the bug house, with amazing displays and interactive resources. A favourite was the ant colony which was busy harvesting leaves and food in a see-through box. The ants were able to access their ant hill via a rope strung across to another clear box. Thus we were able to observe the little critters carrying their loads (huge bits of leaves compared to their body size at times) overhead  and across the rope which was hanging free and not boxed in. Wow. David Attenborough eat your heart out!

The theme on the third floor was World Cultures which was probably a bit advanced for our girls but still enjoyed by us all. Brilliant for older kids. At this point I was sadly struck down by a migraine so I took my tablets and remained on a comfy sofa in a hallway while hubby and the girls explored the Dinosaurs and the Space exhibition on the last 2 levels. The fact that I had a fab time despite my migraine goes to show what an amazing  place the World Museum in Liverpool is. And best of all? It was absolutely FREE! We literally spent about 4 hours there and were truly impressed. Aren’t we lucky in this country to be able to visit a wealth of museums free of charge!? Especially when entry to some theme parks and aquariums can cost you an arm and a leg these days.

We finished off in the café which does a mean hot chocolate with marshmallows and squirty cream. My last bit of headache was cured. If ever you find yourself in Liverpool with kids: go, go, go to the World Museum.

I leave you with

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A wall of jelly beans in a shop window.

And

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The Beatles made entirely out of jelly beans.

Why not.


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Beating the winter blues

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Urgh, look at all that rain on my kitchen window. Much nicer to look at some lovely hyacinths in bloom. And gosh that scent….!

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Lots of puddly walks in between showers.

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My latest little charity shop find: rainbow coloured shot glasses. They do cheer me up but I’m not sure if they are a bit too 70s trashy yet. Ah well.

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Rainbow chalks.

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Love it.

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