Olympic fever! And questions for Matthew Pinsent!

Hello all.

As you all know, England (London for the most part) is lucky enough to be hosting the Olympic games this summer. I am really excited as I think it is the event of a lifetime- although I remember when it was announced that we had got it and I worked out that by then I will be 31! Doesn’t time fly? We applied for tickets in the first round, but didn’t get any. I was determined, so for the second round we got up super early, had the website loaded up and ready to go, and managed to get some (a hockey match and an athletics session I think- both on the same day). I am also planning on going in to watch the women’s marathon (it turns out we are on holiday when the men’s one goes on). Anyway, I was lucky enough to be sent a guide to the Olympics to review.

This is London 2012 Olympic Games The Official Book, published by Carlton, £12.99, available from all good book shops and online (I have seen it on Amazon for pre-order).

The book is really fantastic. It is set out really well. It has a section about the different stadiums being built, what events they will host and what will happen to them after. This includes the venues that are not in London.

It has an overview of the games in a little grid, to show what events will be happening on each day, sort of like an “at a glance” guide.

Then it has several pages on each sport, including little facts, athletes to watch, current champions and when the events will be held.

At the back it has a few pages of Olympic records- most gold medals, most medals, most appearances, youngest and oldest medal holders and so on. And in the very back it has photos of the London medals. It is all very exciting! The only thing I would say is that the Paralympics are not mentioned very much. I personally think they should run side by side, and not after, so perhaps that is just me.

I think the book is really lovely (Andy called it “a posh programme” which describes it well)- I think it will be a lovely reminder of the games once they have been here. Plus the information about the different sports is interesting too (and probably handy for a quiz night). The price is £12.99 which I think is pretty good value as it is a pretty good sized book and is packed with information, not just a load of photos.

The book is being launched on the 18th April, and to help launch the book the publishing group are getting people to put their burning questions to 4 time gold medalist and legendary sportsman, Matthew Pinsent. The best questions will be asked to him on the 18th April, and people can win signed copies of the book too! Exciting!

If you are on Twitter (I am not, so I hope I explain it properly) you can tweet @carltonbookspr using the hash tag #AskMatthewAnything. You can also leave the comments at the bottom of this post, or on my facebook page, and I will email them on.

So, what would you ask to Matthew Pinsent? Are you excited about the Olympics? If you got tickets, what are you going to see? And anyone else planning on going in for any of the free events? 

Baking for swapping!

I was so excited when Tam posted about her blogger cookie swap. I took part in it when I had first started blogging, and it was fun. I need no excuse to bake, plus you get to receive a surprise in the post too- what could be better?

I could not decide what to make, and in the end made 3 types to send off.

I had my eye on this nutty apple loaf recipe from Hummingbird for ages, and decided to make mini loaves with the recipe.

I also decided to make some cookies (using the Millies Cookies recipe)- I used dried cherries and carob as I love that combo.

The recipe made a lot, but luckily I was seeing some friends on Saturday, and one of them cannot have chocolate, so these were perfect.

An awful lot!

I also made some peanut chocolate squares. These were based on the minty brownies (from Sweet Vegan ) but I made a sort of peanut caramel for the centre by mixing peanut butter with some brown rice syrup, heating it up, and adding a little icing sugar to thicken.

This was poured on the base.

And then left to set.

Then I made a topping by melting some dark chocolate with some dark chocolate peanut butter (it makes the best topping ever) and then sprinkling with white chocolate stars.

So pretty 🙂

Then I packed them all up and sent them off. As I made 3 recipes I had a lot of spare, so my freezer has quite a few baked goods in it now!

Today I received my parcel in exchange 🙂

It was packaged up so prettily- with strawberries on the box. Tam has made me some lovely peanut butter buttons (which I was so tempted to try before breakfast, but I did wait until just before lunch to sample (but I did not take a photo- too busy munching!) and they are amazing) and also some carnival cookies. She also included the recipes-(and a recipe card) thanks so much!

I love taking part in this, so thanks Tamzin for organising it 🙂

If you like baking, why do you think you enjoy it so much? To coin an Early Years Teaching phrase, “it’s the process not the product” and I think that is why I enjoy it so much. Of course I do enjoy eating the baked goods too, but actually it is reading the recipe books, weighing out ingredients, mixing it all up, and of course the lovely smell it creates too, that I most enjoy.

WIAW- loving Spring

Hello! I cannot believe how fast the weeks are going by now. I will be back at work before I know it!


This has been my favourite breakfast recently- bircher muesli (sort of)- soaking muesli and chia seeds in almond milk overnight, with some raspberries (or sometimes peaches) and almonds, and then sprinkling on cinnamon in the morning.


Some home-made rye sourdough (Andy sliced them really thick so I had to toast it twice) with almond butter, apple and persimmon (4 for £1 at Asda- even cheaper than Sainsbury’s which do 3 for £1).

Plus some hazelnut chocolate.


Return of the bean wrap! Although I bake it open so I get lots of filling and not so much wrap! With salad and balsamic dressing.

At least there was green in my dinner (salad and green peppers) and of course I had mint tea for breakfast! Sorry Jenn I didn’t really manage the theme this week!


A pot of strawberry frozen yoghurt! This was lovely (and it was full too- Andy had some)- I love freeze dried strawberries and they were sprinkled on top. They also do a blueberry one sprinkled with pumpkin seeds which sounds like a fab combo too.

I have been loving this sunny weather!

My sunglasses have been making a regular appearance for my walks!

I have been going on one or two walks each day, and they are getting a bit longer too (well, I am going further not slower). This weather is making it easy to get outside, and I don’t even need a coat at the moment! I might even need to start making iced tea again.

Soon I will be able to crack out my sandals and some of my friends were quite surprised last year that I didn’t paint my toenails. So, would you have “bare” toenails or not? 

Baking Mad for Easter!

Yes, it is another baking post today (and there is another one to come!).

As I have been home alone a lot, I have been trying to stay away from daytime TV, but I came across a baking show that is shown over lunchtimes (called Baking Mad), so I started watching it. They have a website (bakingmad.com) which is jam packed with recipes, competitions (exciting), kids baking tips, offers and even a forum.

They have lovely seasonal sections too, so if you were looking for an Easter cake to make, there are loads to choose from. How about an Easter carrot cake? Sounds yummy.

Anyway, I decided to make some Easter simnel brownies. These are brownies with dried fruit, and topped with marzipan- my favourite!

It was a super easy recipe-  a tray bake (which I love anyway) plus like my best brownie recipe, it was made in a pan. You did have to soak the dried fruits first, but that is easy too- you just need to allow a little time. I love it when the chocolate melts. I used some Fair-trade 70% dark chocolate from Aldi.

It is 99p for 100g, which is not too bad for Fair-trade I don’t think, but as the recipe needed 300g it meant the recipe was a bit expensive to make (totally worth it though).

Yum- the chocolate smells amazing!

Then (once the eggs, flour and dried fruits have been added) it gets topped with marzipan. The recipe said grated marzipan, but I just chopped it into chunks. I think I would have had to freeze the marzipan before grating it. Anyway, as I love marzipan so much, big chunks can only be a good thing!

They are then baked, left to cool,and then refridgerated overnight. Yes, this recipe needs patience!

It was hard to resist picking the marzipan off the top!

Ooops, a bit of a blurry photo. Anyway, they sliced very well and were still gooey in the middle- nice and chewy like a brownie should be. I was not sure how the dried fruit would go, but they were lovely- a bit like Christmas cake crossed with a brownie. Marzipan and chocolate are fab together anyway, so it was a great combo. Plus much easier than making an actual simnel cake. I had marzipan and dried fruits left over from making Christmas cakes and stollen and things, so it was good to use some of them up as I don’t think they will last until next year.

I have saved the recipe into the “my recipe book” tab of the site, as they were very popular at Sunday tea and I am sure I will make the recipe again.

Also when you look at a recipe, there are more suggestions at the bottom showing other recipes you might like, so I have spent hours clicking from recipe to recipe 🙂

Do you ever make anything special for Easter? I used to love making those little chocolate nests with shredded wheat and mini eggs at school, and I sometimes make hot cross buns, but it has never been traditional to really do anything for Easter, unlike making a Christmas cake which is a must-do for me.

Busy baking! And coconut yoghurt!

Hello everyone!

I hope you have been enjoying the most fabulous weather (well here in England anyway). I have been getting out in the fresh air and feeling better all the time- there are some fields near the back of my house, and I have been loving walking through them. Before I was sticking to the roads in case I had to phone someone to come and get me, but I know I can manage it now. Although I did drive the other day for the first time and was so shattered I had to lie down and nearly slept before dinner. I went to see the doctor and she was very pleased with how the incisions are healing- she explained to me that the biggest cut (and the most pain) is on the left because they could not go in on the right side (the side the cyst was) because they could not risk puncturing it. Made perfect sense but I never worked it out! Anyway, she said to increase everything gradually, so not to drive too far too soon and that sort of thing. Plus now although I have some soreness, it is not pain any more, just twinges now and then, and general aching (she said it was still a bit inflamed and would be bruised inside for a while) and tiredness, and that is so much easier to deal with. Hurrah!

The other day I was sent a sample of Coyo, which is yoghurt made from coconuts. I had some when I was in the US in the summer, and it was lovely, so I am so excited that we can get it over here now. Unfortunately the package had split in the post, but I managed to salvage a bowl-full to try. I was sent some berry coconut yoghurt, which contains coconut milk, tapoica starch, xylitol, blueberries, blackberries and probiotic cultures.

I topped it with a little bit of coconut, but it was delicious on it’s own too. I absolutely loved it- the flavour of the berries went really well with the coconut and it was so rich and creamy- it was thick like greek yoghurt. Heaven in a bowl! And such a taste of summer too.

They have a list of stockists on their website, (but none near me currently) but they are also sold online at Planet Organic which I have used before, Goodness Direct (which I have seen other bloggers order from) and also a site called red23.co.uk, which I have not heard of, but looks good.

Anyway, I have also been busy baking!

That mess is the start of sourdough! I had to start off a new culture (I got rid of the last one before I went to hospital because I thought it would not make it!) and seeing as I only started it on Monday it was looking pretty good (the rest is in the jar). The dough looks so craggy, but a good lot of kneading will make it come together. I used half white and half rye flour for this one.

It has to be left for a few hours to rise, before you shape it.

I decided to cut it before I left it to rise overnight, because when I have cut it before baking, the bread seems too delicate, and I saw it done this way on a TV show this week.

It had risen a lot overnight, and was ready to bake. I used my silicone loaf pan inside the metal one, as the metal one keeps the shape, but it comes out of the silicone one much easier.

It had burst out of the back a bit, but it smells pretty good. I still think it is amazing that this is made from water, flour and salt. No added yeast or dough improvers or anything else. We will have some for dinner this evening but my favourite is to toast it- I freeze it in slices (between pieces of baking paper so they don’t stick) so perfect for lunches/ breakfasts all week.

I also got a little i-herb order 🙂 I have been using peanut flour in smoothies a lot, so decided to get some more. Also some cinnamon raisin peanut butter (as I have not tried this flavour and it sounds like an amazing combination), some chocolate chai tea and some apple spice tea.

I have also been baking for the blog cookie swap, but I won’t post any pictures until Tam gets her package 🙂

Anyone want to guess what I made?