Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mein Cupcake - A Review

The month of May has been just lovely so far: time spent with family; nights out with friends; my birthday; half term spent with my boy and lots of lovely baking - hooray!





In that spirit I'm here to tell you about some lovely new baking equipment which I was sent to review. The very kind people at Mein Cupcake allowed me to choose a couple of items from their huge selection in exchange for a fair and frank review here in my Rhiality....so here goes....

I was like a child in a sweetie shop when trying to choose which items to request - a cake shop is like my happy place and an online cake shop is even better. The site is really well designed and easy to navigate and all the items are accompanied by clear pictures and a full description. 
Anyway, after much debate I made my choice and waited patiently for my parcel to arrive from Germany. There are some great delivery options all with helpful tracking links so you can follow your goodies all the way to your door (although you may have to translate the page from German but that's no trouble in this day and age). 



First up are these totally gorgeous Nordic Ware cookie stamps. I have been lusting after stamps like these for ages so when I saw these they jumped straight into my trolley - especially since they are such a great brand. 


























These were even more gorgeous in real life and they just feel proper in your hands - I'm all about the feel of things when I'm baking and these are lush. You have to grease them slightly and I recommend using a stiff, robust biscuit dough. I tried shortbread which was definitely too short so went with a really basic biscuit recipe which I normally bake with my boy as it's dead easy - these stamps certainly jazzed them up and made them look more fancy than usual!!

Next up is this whopper of a cake tin!!




This ring cake tin is enormous at 28cm across!! In America they call this a Bundt tin but it is also known as Kugel in Europe. Again, this is the sort of tin which I have always wanted and so I couldn't wait to give it a try. My main problem was deciding what to bake in it - should I go for something spiced and fruity (ooh-er!) or stick to something more simple ---- in the end I opted for a marble cake since I asked my boy for help in deciding and that's what he chose because he liked the pretty pattern in the batter. So I enlisted him as my sous chef and I started planning. 

It took me quite a long time to get my head around a recipe for this tin given it's size and as we all know - you can't simply double an existing recipe since it never turns out quite right, especially where the raising agents are concerned - so I put my thinking cap on and reached for the calculator....a little while later I had written a recipe and so we were back on track. 


This is the pretty bit my boy liked best. He especially loved mixing it up with a skewer - and licking the spoon of course!


I was really pleased with how cleanly it came out of the tin and it looked so cool!


Once it was cool I smothered it in a sticky chocolate glaze.


Once that was set I drizzled it with a vanilla caramel sauce which I made up since I needed to use up a tin of evaporated milk which had been lurking at the back of the cupboard.

The service from Mein Cupcake was fabulous and I will definitely visit their site in the future as I know they have nearly everything I could possibly need! I especially loved all their themed cake tins - I'm sure I'll be the proud owner of a Star Wars cake tin in the not too distant future. 


There you are lovelies - I urge you to visit this site if you are looking for any new equipment.

As always, all the opinions given are my own and are totally honest and just to reiterate, I was given these items for free in exchange for this review. 


What have you all been baking lately? Let's share some cake - virtually you know. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Product Review - Beets BLU Key Finder

The lovely peeps at Beets BLU kindly sent me a super cool device for free in exchange for a review here and on Amazon. 


So here's the deal.....at first I wasn't sure that this item was really for me but then it hit me - maybe not for me but definitely for my husband!!!!!!

You see the keyfinder can be used on a keyring, inside your wallet or bag or even on your dog's collar. Basically, whatever you might lose and need to locate easily. 

Since we often refer to our pooch as the velcro dog we have no trouble locating him so he didn't need the pager tag. I have a dedicated spot for keys in the house - which is where they end up 90% of the time so that's covered but my husband's wallet is the one thing which is constantly being lost - and it's the one thing Alex says to me before he heads out of the door, "Do you know where my wallet is?"

That's why I them jumped at the chance to give this product a try. 

I placed the order through Amazon as instructed and it arrived promptly. It was a super cute little box with clear instructions - not that I needed them since it was so simple to set up. 





















We downloaded the app from the App Store - easy peasy.


Then we inserted the battery which came in the box - a cinch.


We synced the phone with the device - literally at the press of a button.


It was as easy as that....then we popped it into the wallet, it's small and thin so didn't even bulk out the wallet at all. Then the fun game of hide the wallet began (not as dirty as it sounds not dirty at all).


We tried to see how far away we could get and how loud the alarm was. The wallet was found every time so that's all you need to know - the product works as described and was simple to set up and use. 

OOh yes and one more thing - not only can you use this from your phone to locate your wallet - you can use it from your wallet to locate your phone - GENIUS! 

So you get the idea - it costs under £20 and is available from Amazon. It is compatible with iPhone and Android and does exactly what it says on the tin. 

Best of all I don't get asked the, "where's my wallet?" question five times a day anymore (sorry lovely husband).

*In case this wasn't obvious I was sent this product for free in exchange for my review but all opinions are my own and completely honest - as always. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Roar-some 5th Birthday

Right-o, I'm just going to dive straight in with this one if that's alright with you.....

We've had a crazy-busy old time around here lately - one big reason is that our gorgeous boy had a big birthday.

The birthday boy before school

In March our boy turned 5 (that's half of ten as he keeps reminding me!) and this was his first birthday since starting school.

We are very lucky in that the school have a great system whereby you can hire out the hall for parties.

This genius idea allowed us to hold a joint party with two of his classmates directly after school on a Friday - this meant that practically the whole class was able to make it and it suited most parents for convenient pick up etc.

The added extra bonus is that our boy's favourite teacher of all was hired to put on a sports party for the children - I call him the pied piper of children since they all adore him.



We decided on a dinosaur theme - who doesn't love dinosaurs?!
This was probably the easiest and most stress-free children's party we've ever had.

Division of labour was sensible:
One mother on food - mini packed picnics for each child
One mother on party bags - a couple of dinosaur themed mini goodies and a lolly!
One mother on cake - guess who!!!!

We will get to the cake in a moment but I should let you know that I was also on balloons. We made the dash to the balloon shop on the morning of the party and chose purple and green balloons (Joker colours) - this meant driving around a clown car for the rest of the day without being able to see out of any windows!

Now for the cake - one cake for three dinosaur mad boys. I put some serious thought into this cake since it wasn't just my boy's special day and I felt more pressure than I usually would...I decided on a stegosaurus since it was easily recognisable.



Now all I had to do was figure out how on earth I was going to achieve this.....I roughed out some sketches to decide how I would make a cake-jigsaw into something resembling a dinosaur and just how much cake I would need.

I knew that a couple of children don't like chocolate so I decided to make half chocolate sponge and half vanilla.

Then I would cement everything with vanilla buttercream and cover with shop-bought fondant - I'm sorry to admit that this is the one area where I never make my own.

I know I usually bang on about from scratch but putting together a cake like this is enough work already. (Besides which I have made my own in the past so I know how to and am therefore allowed to cheat - k?)




It sounds a bit like I know what I'm doing but please don't be fooled - I baked the cake in advance so it could dry slightly making it easier to carve and then I made a shit load of buttercream (that is a technical term).






I used a half and half semi circle for the body and then winged it for the rest, shaving off bits as I went until I was happy.

With a smooth crumb coat I then left it again to harden slightly before returning to cover with rolled fondant (I can feel Mary Berry's eyes on me as I write this - lest we forget Enwezor). I used white fondant for the claws, teeth and eyes with dots of gel icing for the pupils.

Excuse the washing basket with carrier bag (wtf?!)








The biggest challenge was the spines of our stegosaurus, I considered a few options but I had very specific requirements.

My perfect match needed to be: strong enough to retain shape and position; sturdy enough not to go soggy buy absorbing moisture and still tasty enough to eat!!!















I plumped for gingerbread (love me some gingerbread!) I made three different sized templates as I wanted the spines to be graduated in size. Rolled out the gingerbread, cut enough (plus loads of extras just in case) then scored to add detail.



This was what I was most nervous about but I was thrilled with how they turned out and I think they did look authentic.











There you have it - I stabbed them in where I thought they looked good and a dinosaur was born.




The party was a success and the children were very excited and impressed by the cake. Most of all they all said it tasted yummy and there was enough left for all the adults to enjoy too - hoorah!




Have you made a dinosaur cake? I bet you had a better strategy than I did didn't you?! Do share if you have as I'd love to see.



Until the next time, from my Little Stormtrooper and me, "May the Force be With You" 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Um....Is it February already????

Hiya, *raises hand in a shy fashion*

Remember me? I know it's been a while but you know - life!

Ok, let's think....December:

School play, my boy winning an award for reading at school, Christmas holidays, meeting Father Christmas, loads of baking - ACTUAL CHRISTMAS (as my boy took to calling it!), New year, my mum giving us all a scare by being really really ill and then going backwards and forwards for a while before being - ok now I hope!

Little Christmas jig never hurt anybody

Then....new year, back to school, back to routine and, um - here we are in February without me even realising it!

My boy has gone from strength to strength at school and started playing rugby which he loves. His class performed their first assembly at school which was awesome and they were all fantastic.

Roar-some

I'm making a bigger effort to stay healthy this year and so far so good. Back on the gym schedule, and we're all enjoying some new healthy foods - even the boy who has ramped up his eating skills lately and been trying loads of new things which is awesome.

My brilliant husband has been working like a madman since before Christmas and busting his gut for us but hopefully the light is at the end of the tunnel a little bit with that one and the gruelling schedule will ease off a little very soon as we have some serious fun to catch up on - hooray!

We've been enjoying getting to hang out with my big brother lately which is one of my favourite things to do and I just love the relationship he has with my boy - they are so cute together.

Oh yeah - there's one teeny thing I forgot to mention - our family got bigger just before Christmas

Cosmo

The Mini Schnauzer

Double Trouble

Look at this little guy - he is just adorable. It has been brilliant for my boy to have a best friend around all the time. They are already thick as thieves and that's just what we hoped for.

Oh yeah and the other addition to our family was this teapot - so fricking cute!

Isn't she puuurrrddyyy?!
This feels like one of those dick-ish round robins that people send out before Christmas - only this one is after Christmas so you're not allowed to call me a dick - ok?!

Anyway, now we're all back up to speed normal service will be resumed.

In a bit yo!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Next Christmas Wishlist

Season's Greetings to you good people of the virtual world....

For those of you who have been reading my ramblings since last Yuletide you will know how much I adore Christmas and so naturally I am in happiness overload as it's now December and that means full systems festive!

The good people at Next.co.uk got in touch recently and asked me to create a Christmas Wishlist - I love a bit of window shopping so I got stuck in perusing all the goodies they have to offer. I actually love how going through the website is just like it used to be flicking through that big old Next Directory - showing my age again I guess - eek!

Well here we are, the 10 things I love at Next:


To take you from left to right:
  • A stunning matte black leather jacket - this would go with literally everything!
  • Super cute navy brogues - classic with a twist for the girl about town
  • My boy would look adorably cosy in this fair isle set
  • This blouse is a gorgeous contrast of feminine pink with utility styling
  • My husband would look very sexy in this chunky knit cardi - love me a man in a cardi
  • This lace glass trifle dish would be perfect for my Italian Christmas trifle which I make every year for Christmas day - the dish I make it in is cracked so I would love a special one
  • I love that the Next Varsity range has the emblem N - my boy's initial and he has lots in this range which he gets very excited about
  • This Christmas Rules sign would look so gorgeous in my hallway so everyone knows the rules when they come to our house!
  • I'm so into burgundy right now and this skirt is elegant with an edge - right up my street
  • I simply couldn't not pick something tea related and how sweet is this set?!

So there you have it - my pick of gorgeous gifts, treats and xmas goodies from Next - oh and they might even pick me to win one of these items - I promise I've been a good girl this year and so have my boys. 


Well, you better believe that this is just the first of a jam packed festive line up here in my Virtual space so until the next time - the countdown is on and we're only three weeks away people - that deserves a big WOO and an actual HOO!!!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Ox Pasture Hall, a review

Hello loves - I'm glad to see that we all survived Hallowe'en in one piece!

I'm here today with a review of a hotel. Yes, I was very kindly invited to stay in a stunning 4 star hotel in exchange for a review in my Virtual Rhiality. So here goes.....

A little while ago I travelled to Yorkshire, 3 miles outside of Scarborough to be exact and visited the stunning Ox Pasture Hall.


I could wax lyrical for some time about how beautiful the grounds are and how picturesque the Yorkshire countryside is. It's no wonder that so many people choose Ox Pasture as their wedding venue - the photo opportunities would be amazing whatever the weather!

stormy skies

sunshine prevails
the long and winding road
However since I didn't get married there last week (shocker!) I'm going to stick to the hotel itself and share my experience with you. I hope the photos will tell you the rest :)

Let me start by saying all the staff I met were incredibly polite, nothing was too much trouble and they found that perfect blend of attentiveness which doesn't turn to bothersome. The second thing which I have to mention is cleanliness - I know I sound like an old fuddy duddy but this matters to me a lot! I'm always surprised when I visit somewhere of a certain standard when things aren't totally clean - I'm not getting all "four in a bed" about it but I mean normal things like dust. Anyway - this is a long winded way of saying every inch of the hotel was spotless and that makes Rhia a happy girl.

Let's get onto the room. I was booked into a suite which sounds terribly grand.....and it was. I loved the decor which was neutral but not the kind of neutral which is devoid of personality - I don't do beige!

Here's a little collage of the room - the gorgeous view - the two tellys!

Gigantic luxurious but unfussy bed. Clean and comfy.
I can really only talk about a hotel room from the point of view of what matters to me so here it is: wifi, impressive room service menu, clean, comfy, spacious and.......tea!!!! My husband laughed at me for taking this picture but I knew this would matter as much to others as it does to me!!






Look - fabulous, enormous dressing gowns and fresh flowers. I love these little touches (And yes, I also got laughed at for taking a photo of inside the wardrobe!)



Let's talk bathrooms - this one was massive with one of those rain showers, an enormous tub and stylish his and hers wash basins.




The hotel has a restaurant and a brasserie as well as a bar with comfy lounge so there are plenty of places to relax around the hotel.

Dinner in the restaurant was incredible. It started with a glass of Prosecco in the bar and was followed by this: a starter of fish cake with a poached egg and pea purée, followed by mediterranean vegetable wellington with seasonal vegetables and was topped off with an awesome chocolate and pistachio layer cake, chocolate and pistachio Arctic roll and a chocolate and banana mille feuille. I could have chosen so many things from the menu which usually doesn't happen to me being a little fussy with food as I am but everything I had was delicious. You get the idea right? 




The next day I had a light breakfast because well, see above! Later that day before leaving the hotel there was afternoon tea, taken in the lounge next to the roaring fire. It was exquisite and there was no shortage of tea - so, you know - bonus!




So what more can I say. I would highly recommend this hotel. I felt thoroughly relaxed after just one night. You are close enough to town but still very much in the country and you are surrounded by woods and wildlife making it perfect for walks in all seasons.


bye bye comfy bed



 Bye Bye Ox Pasture Hall. Thanks so much for everything. I'd love to come back soon.


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