Friday, 21 December 2012

It's a wrap!

Can you believe it's only 4 sleeps until Christmas?  I sure can't!  Thankfully we have been prepared for some time and shopped online.  With our busy lifestyle it really was the only option.  The last parcel was delivered yesterday, it was coming from US and I was beginning to panic but all is well!

I spent a few hours tonight wrapping everything (apart from baby's gifts which we'll do on Christmas Eve), it was the best night to wrap as my big girl was out (and she likes to snoop), so it's all done and looking lovely and back hidden in the Christmas present hiding place!

Since my last post I've celebrated a Birthday!  I was spoiled!  S got me a gorgeous Cath Kidston bag, I've been wanting one for so long, I LOVE IT!  My older kids bought me a ticket to The Nutcracker by Scottish Ballet (big girl and I went to see it on Tuesday, it was brill!), I also got a scarf and a bottle of fizz from my big girl.  My baby got me a new watch, it's the same as my last one which sadly broke just before our holiday so I was chuffed to have the same one (different colour though, I love it too!)... I also got gorgeous gifts from my family and friends, spoiled indeed!  It was a quiet day, no big party... I never saw S as he was working night shift but my Aunt visited and we had birthday cake, she's a gem!

So... 4 sleeps... I'm off my day just Saturday and Sunday but back on Monday... I have a few personalised prints to frame tomorrow and deliver them, then I can take a break from my other job.  Looking forward to a few days off.

Hope you're all prepared for Santa!

A x

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Gouldings Winter Wonderland

I have been debating for a while now... which Santa will we visit?  Our baby girl is 15 months old, so still not getting the whole commercial concept of Christmas, so to be honest it didn't really matter which Santa we visited as the likelihood of her remembering is slim, but I still wanted it to be a nice experience for us all.

We decided on Gouldings in the Clyde Valley, it is just down the road from us and we had heard great reviews about it...  We had planned to go on Dec 16th but when Hubber had an impromptu day off today (it's rare we get a day off together) we decided to go today as it wouldn't be as busy.

We arrived around 3pm and paid for our tickets, £7.50 per child and £5 per adult and off we went to the tractor.  We were the only ones there, so we sat at the front and N got a Santa hat!  The chap who was driving the tractor was cheery and chatty.  He had on a headset mic and happily chatted to N asking her if she was ready to go and see Santa and telling us where we where going and what we were going to see... we took the bumpy ride up the hill and we saw Angela and Jenson, two donkeys, who were happily munching away.  Then we saw two reindeer, Rudolph and Dancer.  We also saw two (sleeping) sheep.  We then went down the hill and into the yard where Santa's Grotto is.

We where first greeting by some cute animated snowmen then we walked down a walkway that had illuminated snowmen and santas... inside the Grotto there was lots to see.  Reindeer, Mrs Claus' Kitchen, elves making toys, polar bears, penguins, lions and a nativity scene.. then we heard a jingle bell ringing... N bent down and peeped through the fence to see who it was and it was..... SANTA!

Now I really wanted a Santa with a REAL beard but sadly there was no real beard but he was a lovely chap and chatted with N.  I was quite surprised that N wasn't shy or even crying, she seemed quite comfortable.... although not overly so.  But she was fine to sit with Mommy and Daddy beside Santa and Santa even got a high five!  N got a little bar of chocolate (which is still in my pocket... shhh!) and then she got to choose a gift.  The only gift that really suited N's age was a soft toy, and she chose a black dog (which is now called Rover).

After seeing Santa you then enter an area which has a train ride, 3 small bouncy castles, a hook a duck stand (this costs £1 a go), a ladybug ride and another fairground ride.  Mums and Dads get a free tea or coffee and a mince pie (the mince pies are AMAZING!!), it was a cold day so the tea and mince pie was welcoming and warm!  N had a go on the train ride, the bouncy castle and 2 goes on the fairground ride.  She had fun!  I can see older kids happily spending an hour or so in there.  You can stay as long as you like and there is a bench areas to sit at, so you probably could take a snack with you.  Although they do sell juice, sweets and crisps inside.  (the loos are portaloos though... boak!)

So there you have it.  All in all, if I look at it from a kid's point of view it would be exciting... the tractor ride, knowing that you were going to see Santa... a kid wouldn't know you were driving round the back of a garden centre and all the animated animals would look exciting!  Santa himself was good (despite no real beard) and I guess when you take into consideration the free rides, bouncy castle, tractor ride, and gift from Santa the £7.50 is good value... although I do struggle to understand the £5 per adult.   You can also take your own photos with Santa.. we took quite a few but I don't know how that would be if there was a huge queue of kids waiting.

I think next year, I'll give it a go again as by then N will be excited about Christmas.

I've added some photos onto my Facebook page so come on over and have a look (click here)

Ax

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Chilly Chilli

I've been saying all night 'it's chilly' so it reminded me that I hadn't posted my 'Chilli' slow cooker recipe that a few of you have asked for... sorry!  Here it is:

Brown the mince

In the slow cooker add:

1 chopped onion,
1 pepper (optional),
2 stalks of celery (optional),
500ml carton of passatta,
tin of (drained) kidney beans,
pinch of salt,
1 teaspoon of garlic puree,
1 tablespoon of tomato puree,
1 tablespoon of dried basil,
1 teaspoon of chilli powder,
pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional),

Stir and add mince and cooked on medium for 6 hours (or low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours)

That's it.. nothing fancy - just basic ingredients from the store cupboard.  You can add more chilli if you like it with more of a kick or add fresh chilli - I keep it mild as baby loves chilli!

I serve one of two ways:

1) with boiled rice (Riddock Rice as we now call it... it's the perfect fool proof technique, if you want to know just let me know) and a spoonful of natural yoghurt

2) over homemade potato wedges and grated cheese on top

Enjoy!
A x

Monday, 26 November 2012

Anyone for tea?

...not just any tea but teapigs tea!  Have you tried it?

I had heard so many good things about teapigs I just had to try it out.  I knew that a brand with such a cool name it would be a little different to the norm, so my first stop was their website (find it here 'teapigs')

Now I thought I knew about tea... I knew I was a huge fan of Yorkshire teabags, and I like my tea black..not strong but not like dishwater.  Well, I was about to find out that I really knew very little about tea indeed!  Check out the Louise explains tea page, Louise is a tea tester... sounds like a great job!  I was quite flabbergasted when I was taking in all the information about tea.



The kind teapigs people have sent me some samples to try out, I was so excited when my Husband messaged me at work to tell me they had arrived!!  Did you see the brill mood-o-meter on the home page of the teapigs website?  I clicked bloated and it suggested peppermint... oh my indeed!


The tea temple (that's what your teapigs tea is housed in, not a bag but a temple!!) holds the leaves, they are proper leaves not crushed up or ground tea and you can smell the aroma straight away, you just know it's going to be good even before you try it.  

I added my tea temple to my cup of boiling water for a little over 3 minutes.  The smell... oh the smell.. it was really minty and refreshing.  It tasted great, I could really taste the difference over other peppermint tea bags.  It was soothing and tingly on my tongue.  I really do think there is no going back now, for my peppermint tea.  I'm sold!

I still have some other samples to try which include:  everyday brew, darjeeling earl grey, chamomile, super fruit and also liquorice and mint.  I will let you know how they are very soon!

I have a treat for you all...15% off* at www.teapigs.co.uk using the code BLOGGERS12

Enjoy, and if you try some, do come back and let me know what you think!  You can also let me know on my Facebook Page

PS.  if you're stuck for any Christmas Gift Ideas, then check out the Christmas Gift Shop what a smashing gift some teapigs would be!

AnneeApple x



Thank you to teapigs for sending me some samples to review.
(*enter code at checkout. discount does not apply to gifts and cheeky deals as these are already discounted)






Friday, 23 November 2012

Slow cooking and coffee

The slow cooker has been dusted off this week and we've used it twice.... yes twice!


On Monday we had chicken curry, I used the Slow Cooker range from Schwartz.  I'd never used this product before.  It was really quick and easy to prepare, which is what you want when you're a busy working Mom.  Even before the meal started cooking it smelt amazing!  Throughout the whole day the fragrant aroma of dinner cooking was making my mouth water.  I cooked this for 6 hours on medium and served with boiled rice and chapatis.  There wasn't much sauce but the meal was tasty, not too spicy at all, just a nice mellow curry which was perfect for an evening meal.  I added some natural yoghurt to my dish, not to cool it but just because I love yoghurt with my curry!

Tonight we had beef stew, this was another Schwartz product from the Slow Cooker range, it is beef and ale stew but as baby was having some too, I didn't add the ale.  There wasn't much smell before the meal cooked and throughout the day there was only the hint of aroma.  I cooked this for 6 hours on medium then I turned it down to low as not everyone would be home at the same time for tea (this is why a slow cooker meal on these nights is just perfect!).  The meal was delicious, maybe too much water / juice this time.. but next time I cook this (as there will be a next time) I will add less than the recommended 750ml of liquid (water and ale, although I just added 600ml of liquid).  Everyone enjoyed this meal, I served it with mash and puff pastry.

Do you cook with a slow cooker?  I'd love to hear your recipes and if you've tried the Schwartz range what did you make of it?

This week is also the week of our new Dolce Gusto Genio, isn't it gorgeous?


Our Genio arrived on Tuesday and I LOVE IT!  It's compact and so cute and it makes amazing coffee.  We have £10 credit on the webshop so tonight we're going to order some more pods!

A

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Crafty Weekend!

What a busy weekend...  I'm quite tired but you'd never guess with the amount of crafting and baking I've been doing.  Here's a snippet:


White chocolate and cranberry cookies



Giraffe stuffed toy (it has a different pattern on each side)



Letter 'N' cushion



Peppermint bark



Teacup pin cushion

Why so much?  Well, I am conducting a craft demo on Wednesday night for the Girls' Brigade, they want to make something different to what they normally do for their Christmas Market.  So, I thought of the simple teacup pin cushion... I don't actually have a pin cushion (well I do now as I made this one tonight), so I was looking forward to trying this out. AND I used it afterwards when I made the stuffed toy and it worked a treat, I LOVED the little handle of the cup so it was easy to move about from one work station to the other with me!  It was so easy to make, I'll post a tutorial soon!

I'm also going to talk through (would take too long to demo on the night) the process of making Peppermint Bark, I adore this stuff... I really didn't want to bag it, I just wanted to eat it!  I'll post recipe of this soon too!  Now I just have to think of one other thing to demo and I think I'm going to do a tea light gift... thinking cap on!

Hope you all had a great weekend!  I am off work until Wednesday so have another few busy days ahead!  My new table should come from John Lewis tomorrow and I SHOULD get a phone call to let me know delivery dates of my chairs and my new Dolce Gusto Genio coffee machine will be here early this week... can't wait!

A x

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Coffee anyone?

I'm super excited!  We have just ordered a Dolce Gusto Genio (that's a lovely, cute coffee machine from Nescafe, you knew that right?)   Here's a link

We used to have a brill coffee machine, it was huge though.  But it made amazing coffee, you could have espresso, filter and it also had a milk frother.  It sat perfectly in our kitchen in our previous house as we had one corner worktop at the other side of the room, you'd have thought it was made for the coffee machine (I can't even remember the brand but it wouldn't look out of place in a small cafe!).  When we moved house, jeezo, nearly 3 years ago it was damaged in the move and we've not replaced it yet.  We don't have a huge amount of work tops in our kitchen as half of the kitchen is a breakfasting area, so we never really saw a coffee machine that was neat and compact...

On Monday, Hubber, baby and I where staying overnight at a lovely hotel in Edinburgh (which was a covert job) and in our room there was a Nespresso machine... now I'm not a fan of espresso but there were a few different pods for us to try, I opted for the Vivalto Lungo which was amazing!!  It really put me in the mood for some good coffee when I got home.  So the hunt was on, which machine?!

I posted, on my own FB page a status asking for my friends opinions on coffee machines and why they liked them.  I must say the biggest majority said the Tassimo, and we were seriously considering it.  I thought it was too big and when I looked at the choice of pods, there was so many... but after cutting out all the things I wouldn't drink then the options for black coffee was really one Kenco pod?!  That's no good to man nor beast (or houseplant)...  So I was instantly put off.  No-one mentioned the Nespresso, I really liked this although the cup holder that folded up and down seemed a bit flimsy and was made of plastic.  When you're paying over £100 for a coffee machine, I'd like it to be robust...  A few friends mentioned the Dolce Gusto, they did say the spout the drink comes out got blocked a lot but they live in a very hard water area and this will be the problem.  Our water in Scotland is very soft, we have no problem with limescale.  Even if we did though I saw that on the Dolce Gusto website they sell liquid water descaler, which they advise to use every 6months.

I was coming round to the Dolce Gusto Genio... it looks compact and the colour is named Piano Black.. and you all know we are huge piano fans here!!  When I was looking through the pod varieties there was so much more choice, I can't wait to try most of them!!  I've also got my eye on the black bubble pod and also have you seen the new Cappuccino Cups - Barista Edition in Green?!  Yeah, I'd love these!

Look out for photos of our new machine coming soon!!


Thursday, 8 November 2012

New prints!

It's been busy here in AnneeApple land...  I've been working on some new pints for my kitchen.  We have a new dining table and chairs coming from John Lewis in a few weeks time and the chairs are bright colours, each chair a different colour.. so I wanted some colour on the walls to bring it together, hoping these will do just that!  I'll be selling these prints soon... so check out www.facebook.com/aemphotography or www.aemphotography.com for them coming soon!


I've also been working on some prints for our bedroom, we have a superman print above the bed (I do like my superheroes... or maybe it's pop art I like more?)... I've created this one so far, it would be a perfect Wedding Keepsake Gift.


I told you I signed up to the Bloggers' Secret Santa right?  I'm excited about this.. and I'm enjoying looking for things that my person will like!

A x


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Halloween Eve

... is there such a thing?  Well if there is then this is it!  We've carved the pumpkin, which is looking quite good! And the Halloween bags are prepared and in the hallway, we've made 25, hopefully that will be enough.  Last year I made the same an had about 15 left!



It's been busy and still is busy in AnneeApple land.  I have a few graphic design jobs I need to complete in the next couple of days and a lot of driving about to do and there's book club on Thursday, but... I've not even started the book... I can go along for the tea an biscuit right?

I signed up for Bloggers' Secret Santa today, I'm quite excited about this.  I don't usually get surprise gifts, it should be fun!  I'm looking forward to finding out who I've to buy a gift for.  There's still time to sign up if you want to join in! Do it!

Hope you all have a fab Halloween!  Stay safe! x

Halloween Nails!


I really should have done something with my little amputee finger, made it into a monster or had the mouth / teeth nail eating it... ewwww now that's gross!   Have a great Halloween everyone! x

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Gingerbread... to ice or not to ice?

My gingerbread has to be iced!  I've known some to butter their slice and some eat it plain but I LOVE it iced!  By request here is the recipe... I think I'll make this next week for Halloween, I have some orange and black food colouring and I have a snazzy ice idea using those colours, plus it's yummy!


225g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of bicarbe of soda
50g of brown sugar (I use demerara) 
100g butter or margarine
175g black treacle
50g golden syrup
150ml milk
2 eggs

Put all the dry ingredients into the blender and blend until combined.  

In a pan melt the butter, treacle, syrup gently and slowly beat in the milk until combined and then set aside to cool.  Add the eggs once the mix is cool and beat until combined.  Then add into the blender and blend until all combined.  Pour into tray and cook for around 40 - 45 mins (until it's firm on top and a skewer put in the middle comes out clean).

Once cool you can ice and then it's best left for one whole day (if you can wait that long... I usually make it at night and don't eat any until the next day)... then cut into squares.

Delicious!

A x


Apple Spice Drizzle Ice.... muffins

Can you tell I came up with the name whilst the Rhyme Rocket was on TV?

You may already know (from Twitter or my Facebook page) that we're having a storecupboard / freezer week... we've got so much in there and we want to do a Costco shop at the weekend and we've nowhere to store the new things... so meals and treats are being made from what's at home.

I bought a huge bag of apples last week and I had already used some to make Apple and Pear Crumble at the weekend so I wanted something different... quite fancied a toffee and apple cake but I had made a big cake the other day (if you want that recipe just holler, it was amazing... Devil's Food Cake)... so muffins it was... here they are and here is the recipe:


350g self raising flour
160g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbe of soda
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice

375ml milk
2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1 egg
2 tablespoons of golden syrup

70g butter
500g of apples
brown sugar

Put the flour, powders, salt, spice and caster sugar into blender (I always use a blender for all my cakes, and I never bother sifting anything!) and blend till all combined

Add the lemon juice into the milk and leave aside for 5mins

Skin and chop the apples add these to the butter (which you're now melting in a pan), sprinkle over some brown sugar and cook these for about 5mins (whilst the milk and lemon juice are resting)

Add the egg and golden syrup into the milk mixture and beat with fork until combined.  Slowly add this into the dry ingredients in the blender, blending slowing until all combined.  Then add the apple / butter mixture and blend till all combined.

Spoon into muffin cases and sprinkle with brown sugar before baking at 170 degrees for around 25 -35 mins (until golden brown).... job done!

Oh... drizzle with plain icing if you like :)  This recipe made 24 small muffins or it would make 12 big muffins.

A x

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Wish List

Always wanted to create a wish list.. so here it is:

http://chris-parry.co.uk/web/?wpsc-product=the-memory-pendant-silver
I love this pendant, the heart shape is quirky and I love Chris's style of fonts and the way he put them together.

http://chris-parry.co.uk/web/?wpsc-product=the-memory-ring-sterling-silver
I'd say this was a matching ring, to the pendant.  I really want a new ring.

http://www.swarovski.com/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/WFS/SCO-Web_GB-Site/en_US/-/USD/SPAG_DetailPage-ViewPage?SKU=1081927
I love Swarovski!  I have one pair of earings from there, which were a gift.  A new store recently opened at Glasgow Fort and I love browsing there, the store is lush!!

http://www.cathkidston.co.uk/p-18350-cath-kidston-antique-rose-day-bag.aspx?referrer=category

http://www.cathkidston.co.uk/p-18418-cath-kidston-spot-business-bag.aspx?referrer=category
I want not one but two Cath Kidston bags... although one is a laptop bag - I do have to measure my laptop to see if it will fit first though... so you're (yes you) are thinking of buying this item then wait until I've said the laptop will fit! ... I got a new laptop bag, not as lush as the Cath Kidson one but more practical and black (boring)!

Oh well...I've got as much chance as nae chance of getting any of these, but hey a girl can dream right?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Cinnamon and Raisin Pasties


I love these and I don't make them often enough!  They are so simple, trust me!

What you need:  
A regular packet of puff pastry (yes the packet you'd have with your stew and tatties)
A big spoonful of apricot jam
A small spoon of cinnamon
Raisins (optional)
Icing

What you do:
Roll out the puff pastry until it's a big rectangle, it should be about 3mm - 5mm thick (if you want to be technical)
Mix the jam and cinnamon together... if it's thick then heat it in the microwave for a few seconds till it's easier to spread... then spread all over the rectangle of puff pastry
Sprinkle over the raisins (if using)
Now cut the pastry into long strips and roll up... place each on flat onto a baking tray (line your tray with greaseproof paper).
Spread any leftover jam over the tops before baking
Bake till golden brown (around 10mins)
Once cool drizzle thin icing over the top then MUNCH!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Green & Black's NEW Flavours!

It won't come as a surprise to you that I love chocolate!  After many years of having a milk allergy (that disappeared as quickly as it came), I am again enjoying all the chocolate I missed out on.  When I suffered from my milk allergy I could tolerate Green & Black's Dark Chocolate Organic Mint and it was my saviour! So when I heard that Green & Black's where about to launch some new flavours, I couldn't wait to try them!!

I love trying new flavours and will happily give anything a go but I really wasn't sure about the Milk Chocolate and Sea Salt combination.  At first bite the chocolate is lush and creamy, it's the after taste that the sea salt flavour hits and it is wonderful!!  I really enjoyed this, smooth chocolate with taste of sea salt, who thinks of these combinations... brilliant!  I could happily eat a few squares of this bar at the one sitting!

Now the Spiced Chilli... I do love dark chocolate and I have tried and enjoyed the Maya Gold bar (which has nutmeg, cinnamon and orange flavours) but I've not tried any chocolate with chilli.  The chocolate in this bar was very rich indeed and the spices where smooth and not overpowering but you could definitely taste the flavours.  I think I'd enjoy this bar if I ate a little at a time, it would be the perfect bar to have at home when I am healthy eating as I'd only nibble one square and I'd be satisfied with my chocolate hit!

Have you heard of the recipe of adding chocolate to chilli con carne?  It's a great addition and I think the Spiced Chilli chocolate would be a luxury addition - great for a dinner party!

If you've not tried these bars yet and you love chocolate then go for it!  Also check out the Green & Black's website, it has a new look and some great images there (I'm a sucker for good photography too!).  Let me know what you think when you try them!



Annee Apple was sent these two delicious chocolate bars to review.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Dairylea-sagne

I've been so busy lately that I've not had time to make a homemade meal but today I finished work at 12.30pm and I am off for 18 days (yipee).. so my first stop on way home was to Asda for shopping as the fridge was bare!

I planned on making spaghetti bolognese, which I did but then I spotted lasange sheets in the cupboard and I just had to make lasagne!  I always make my own red and white sauce and sometimes the white sauce can be quite bland when I make it quickly (without the onion and nutmeg), so I had a brain wave and added some Dairylea triangles!

I'm currently trying Dairylea as I'm a BzzAgent and Dairylea have a new recipe, which is so creamy!  I added two triangles to my white sauce and it made it a great thick consistency and it was tasty without the need to add heaps of cheese, I only had to add a tablespoon of Red Leicester along with the triangles and the sauce was perfect!

The lasagne was a great hit and baby loved it too!!  I'll definitely be making it again soon and Dairylea will now be added each time!


Thursday, 6 September 2012

It worked!

It worked!  Chunky jewel shaped crayons!  Although I was scared to overfill the mould as I wasn't sure how the wax would melt, so only have the jewel shape has turned out, but not to worry I will redo them tomorrow using these crayons and just add some more!

Chunky Crayons anyone?

The last time I tried to make chunky crayons this happened....

Yup, as I was carrying the tray of molten wax outside to cool something (spray bottle of Vanish) leaped off the utility shelf and I dropped the tray!  It took hours to clean up, but thanks to my Super Aunt who saved the day with her steamer we got the place as good as new again.

I've been itching to try and make crayons again.  I had to throw out the trays that I used before so the only one I have left is a jewel shaped mould... fingers crossed they work.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Hey!

I've been looking for inspiration on how to kick off my blog, so why not with What I Wore Wednesday!

I can never seem to manage to get any photos of me... so this week you are getting my shoes.  You'll find out over time that I love animal print, especially Zebra and Leopard *shurgs*.

If you're hanging around, I do plan on blogging more and linking to my Facebook page - check it out - facebook.com/anneeappleaday it's all about cooking, crafting and reviewing and I will showcase some of my prints which are from my Graphic Design and Photography company aemphotography.com and facebook.com/aemphotography




Shoes - Dorothy Perkins
Skirt - M&S
Black knitted jumper - M&S
Animal print scarf - Wallis