Amazing chocolate chip cookies -Every time!


I was supposed to put this recipe up last weekend, i’m slightly behind schedule as always!

But here it is anyway & I promise, its is so worth the wait.

This recipe will give you perfect, crisp on the outside, soft, gooey chocolate chip goodness on the inside – cookies. Its tried and tested a thousand times over and never once has this recipe failed me.

First up a few notes. I use a method (not the recipe) I discovered from Ina Garten -The barefoot contessa for anyone familiar with the food network- and i’ve found this to be the best/least messiest way of making cookies. This method requires you to freeze your dough before cooking, doesn’t have to be completely frozen 4-6 hours will do, but I always make the cookie dough the day before I need them so they have plenty of time to harden. The bad thing  about this is you don’t get cookies right away, the fantastic thing is you can make up a gigantic batch in one go, and you always have cookie dough in the freezer for when you fancy a treat.

So now we’ve covered that, here’s the info.

These quantities will make roughly 24 cookies.

What you’ll need:

  • 250g plain flour.
  • 2.5g Baking powder
  • 2.5g salt.
  • 170g butter.
  • 200g soft brown sugar.
  • 100g caster sugar.
  • 5g vanilla paste. (optional)
  • 2 eggs – using only 1 yolk.
  • 325g milk chocolate chunks/smarties/white chocolate. all depending on what sort of cookies you want to make.


Here’s what you need to do first.

  1. Sift together the flour, salt & bi-carb before setting aside.
  2. In another bowl cream together the butter, brown sugar and caster sugar.
  3. Beat the vanilla, egg & egg yolk into the sugar/butter until light and creamy.
  4. Empty in the dry ingredients and chocolate chunks before mixing.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a sausage shape onto onto a sheet of greaseproof paper.
  6. Roll up the mixture and scrunch the edges together.
  7. Place in the freezer for 4-6 hours – or longer (overnight is best).



*You can keep your dough wrapped up in your freezer for up to 6 months – realistically its never going to last that long so  don’t worry about that.

And here’s how to bake your cookies.

  1. Preheat oven to gas mark 3.
  2. Slice through the cookie roll making disks.
  3. Place the disks on greaseproof paper on a baking tray & bake for 15-17 mins or until the edges are lightly toasted.
  4. Leave to cool.

*If your doing more than one batch and need your tray, simply lift the greaseproof paper up and off (carefully) and lay a new sheet on your tray for your new batch. Your cookies will be incredibly soft (not to mention scalding hot) so don’t touch them until they have cooled.



Easy as that! As I said, you can keep your cookie dough wrapped up in your freezer, simply slice of a disk when you fancy a cookie.



The little woman pretends.

Mischa’s Birthday Party : Photo diary.

Our Darling girl turned four last week. Four! Where on earth did those years go? Little background on Mischa’s birth: I fell pregnant whilst we where based in Cyprus. Mid pregnancy  we were posted to Germany & two weeks after we arrived I went into pre-term labour. I lay aching on the sofa all day whilst Sam was at work, thinking I had the flu. I didn’t have the flu. I was having a baby -kind of a massive difference-  Mischa Alexandra Elizabeth was born on March 11th 2011 at 11.34pm in the Gilead hospital, Bielefeld, Germany. Weighing a tiny 1lb 8 oz. She battled daily & finally on June 2nd 2011, she was allowed home. That was a truly amazing day!

Now we have an actual child, she’s clever, kind, compassionate yet so brutally honest, she has a ridiculously good memory & can be terrifyingly bossy.

She’s been talking about her birthday since last november, and every day since.

I booked a local community centre hall, and kept the invites to a minimum, I thought about inviting every kid she knew (60+ invites) but I wanted it to be a bit more of a family occasion.  And the less people invited the more I could focus on giving her party more of a personal/handmade touch rather than have to buy everything.

I made her outfit.




Made sweetie cones instead of the usual plastic toy filled goodie bags.


Obligatory party jelly!


I had my best friends mum (who also happens to be an amazing cake maker) make up Mischa’s cake, plus 24 mini cupcakes – because there’s just no such thing as too much cake!



I spent the morning before her party making up fresh baked batches of Smartie cookies. (Recipe for that will be up this evening – guaranteed chewy, chocolate- chipped goodness every time!)




And finally I rounded up a few of my nearest & dearest to help set up – because by this point I had spent two full days prepping, I was tired and had about half an hour to get everything ready before her everyone came.




I even managed to persuade everyone to jump in for a group photograph before it was over!



Everyone had an amazing day, I sent away lots of sugar filled children, weary adults and then set about the big clean up. It wasn’t so bad, I had limitless tea & complete silence.

But most importantly, Mischa had the best time ever, and even now nearly a week later she still tells me how much she enjoyed her special day.


The little woman pretends.

Quick and easy mirror up-cycle.

 I’m a massive lover of car boots.. One mans junk is another mans treasure and all that. A few weeks ago I bagged a bargain with this massive mirror, It was just what I had been looking for size wise (minus the £100+ price tag) and we managed to get it for the grand sum of £15.



But for me, it the black just made it look bland  and cheap, so I figured a nice copper spray  would give it a shiny new lease of life.







It really was a hit ‘n’ miss project, the plan was to repaint if it didn’t work out, I know any sort of metallic spray paint can quite easily make anything hideously tacky. But I genuinely love the finished result, it has a rustic yet modern feel & really brightens up my neutral scheme.


The little woman pretends.

Real chicken gravy – 5 easy steps.

chicken gravy

Happy Sunday!

Here in the Swain house we love Sundays. The door doesn’t get unlocked, pyjamas stay on, the TV shows a constant run of family friendly box sets and films (Modern Family & Harry potter being our favourite), we spend the whole day relaxing, just being, free of any stress that comes from having a busy family life.

My favourite part of our Sunday is the Dinner. A traditional roast dinner, Roasted meat, slow cooked over 3 hours, crispy Yorkshire puddings, steamed veg, fluffy roast potatoes and my favourite part?.. Homemade Gravy.

I think one of the greatest things I ever taught myself was how to make real gravy, its ridiculously easy and honestly, you will never go back to the instant stuff after tasting your homemade version.

Now I must admit I have never actually measured everything out & the amount of meat juices you get relys soley on the amount of meat you roast. So a few things before we begin, your meat needs skin/fat. I add oil anyway but for the flavour to be there your meat needs a lovely thick layer of skin.

I am going to give you the recipe for Chicken gravy- my favourite!! – but its easily adaptable for other meats

-If I want a Beef gravy I use a few glugs of Worcester sauce instead of marmite.

-And for Lamb I replace the marmite with a bit of port.


So here’s what you’ll need:

-Marmite, roughly two teaspoons.

– Chicken fat, as much as you can get from a roasted chicken, one small mug of fat gives me enough for a full boat of gravy.

-Plain Flour, two tablespoons.

-Pepper, to personal taste, so it can be as much or little as you like.

-Boiling water, again this depends solely on how thick or thin you like your gravy to be.


And here are the five easy steps to making up the best gravy you’ll ever taste.

1.First up, Remove your roasted chicken out of the tray, place on a plate, wrap it in tin foil to keep warm.

2. Add your marmite to the fat in the roasting tray, placing your tray over two hobs  & turn on the heat to low.

3. When your fat/marmite mixture starts to sizzle add your flour and whisk furiously. You want a  a very thick, dark paste.

4. It’s at this point you start to slowly add boiling water. Make sure you whisk throughout until your gravy is the perfect consistancy- this varies, some like it thin, some like it thick, but remember the more water you add the more you are diluting the flavour, so dont make it too thin.

5. And finally, once your gravy has been whisked to perfection, you can add your pepper to taste.

Voila… Chicken gravy!

It really is as easy as that. I always expected it to be difficult somehow, using the ‘just add water’ variety always seemed easier, but I can honestly say I never use that powdered stuff anymore, I always have a small tub of the homemade stuff in the freezer that can be quickly defrosted and used for a mid-week meal.

Happy Sunday folks. I hope your day is as relaxing as mine!


The little woman pretends.

Easy children’s Bloomer Tutorial.


Is there really anything cuter than a little squishy baby in bloomers? No. no there isn’t!

Bloomers were & still are a massive seller, back when I used to sell handmade children’s clothing ( all those 1 months ago!), and its not hard to see why, so many combinations of fabrics to make something so ridiculously adorable.

There are many ways to make a pair of bloomers, I’m giving you the super easy version.

Difficulty rating: Easy.

Time to make: 30 minutes max.


Heres what you’ll need.


-Fabric, a Fat Quarter will do, but always buy extra, that way you don’t have to work under the pressure of a mistake will mean having to stop to go & buy more fabric.

-Tape measure

-Dressmakers pins

-Elastic, 1/4″ thick, you can buy this in bundles over on ebay (and other places) I always recommend you have a small supply of this in.

-Fabric shears

-Bloomer pattern.

Here are your free Bloomer patterns, I have four sizes 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months & 12 -24 months. I will try and get some larger sizes patterns up soon (if they are requested.) These sizes aren’t restricted to this age, you’ll find that they’ll last a lot longer than the age it was meant to.

0-3 months:

3-6 months:

6-12 months:

12-24 months:


Now lets start!

First you need to print off your required size pattern, you can do that by clicking one of the above links & printing. simple as that. once you’ve got it printed you’ll need to cut it out, I’ve already incorporated the seam & hem allowance into the pattern, so just cut across the black lines. I’ve noted below what the numbers are on the pattern, other than the age, you don’t really need to pay any attention to that just yet.




Next you need to get your fabric and fold across, making sure the fabric will fill across the pattern cut out.


And pin your pattern to the fabric, the fully straight side going against the fold on the fabric.



Now we cut.



You need two of these pieces, so do exactly the same as you’ve just done again. Until you have two identical pieces of fabric.



Now, we open out the fabric and put both pieces front to front (the pattern side both on the inside. Pin down the sides 1/2″ in and across the bottom & then sew. You want to set the stitch on your machine to the smallest straight stitch.

*REMEMBER… Don’t forget your back stitch, at the beginning & at the end of your stitch or it won’t keep tight.  You can finish these seams of with an overlocker like I do, or using only your sewing machine (click hear for that tutorial)




Now you have the base of your bloomers. They’re a bit massive & aren’t very cute at the moment,but don’t worry, it will all come together!




Next we need to give your raw edges a better finish, so remembering what I said in the Sewing & securing a seam tutorial, follow the same rules. Fold & fold again, securing with a pin, first around the waist of the bloomers.




Once you’ve secured your fold, you can take to your sewing machine & sew it.



Now you can move on & do the last two steps to the leg holes, it is a bit tricky around the inner thigh part, but be patient & try to give as even a fold as possible. Another step done.




This next part is completely optional. If you want to add any extra trims, or in my case pom poms, now is the time to do it. Really easy to do, simply line up where you would like your trim to go, pin to secure, then sew taking out the pins as you go.




Now its time to add the frills… Or add the elastic that will make the frills. I mentioned before that there are many ways to make bloomers, today I’m teaching you what I think is the easiest way. First, using the measurements on the front of your pattern, you measure & cut your elastic. You need one waist & two legs. First we’re working on the waist, so you now simply line up the edge of your elastic up at the top, on the inside of your bloomers (not the very top, bring it down to where your stitch is that you did to hide the raw edge). Go over back and forth a few times using your back stitch to really secure and then slowly pulling your elastic out you sew, stretching your elastic until the end meets with where you started. Remembering to go over it a few times again with your back stitch to finish.




Done! They’re starting to look a bit more bloomer-ish.



Now we do exactly the same with the leg holes, remembering to back stitch to secure & to place the elastic slightly below the edge, so your fabric has room to frill.



And, thats it your bloomers are done!



You can turn your bloomers into a co-ordinating set, making up a matching head tie (tutorial here) or a bow. The possibilities for fabric & trim bloomer combinations really are endless!

Here are a few of my favourites.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 15.36.56


Don’t forget I love seeing your hard work, so if you do decide to tackle this tutorial this week, I’d be so happy to see your finished piece.

Happy friday!


The little woman pretends.

Lancashire hotpot- A Northern feast.

Today is Sam’s (my husbands) birthday and as usual I asked what or where he would like to eat tonight, rather than pick a restaurant he decided he’d like some good old home cooking, and as a northerner of course one of his favourite meals is a lancashire hotpot. I’ve been making this for a while now & as i’m not too keen on the traditional version (mainly because of the stench of lamb kidneys that fill my house for hours) I’ve perfected our very own version. A few of you wanted my recipe so here it is.

Will serve 4

20 minutes prep

1 hour 30 minutes cooking time.

Heres what you’ll need:

  • -500g Lambs mince.
  • -300ml Lamb stock,
  • -2 medium onions,
  • -3 large carrots,
  • -2 tablespoons of plain flour,
  • -dash of Worcester sauce,
  • -4 large potatoes
  • -a few bay leaves (dried is fine)
  • -chunk of butter (about 30g will be fine)
  • -1 tablespoon oil.

And heres the method:

1. Pre-heat your oven to 140C, 160C Fan or Gas mark 3.

2. Melt about 20g of your butter & oil in a large pan or crock pot, putting your hob on a medium heat.

3. Add your lamb mince, chopped carrots & onions, stir until your veg is softened & your mince has browned.

4. Next add your flour, mixing it into your meat/veg.

5. Throw in your Worcester sauce, a small glug will do.

6. Add your stock slowly, continuously stirring until your flour combines making a thick gravy.

7. Turn of your heat.

8. Peel & slice your potatoes. I like to use the slice tool on my blender, this gives the potatoes a uniform thickness, making all of the potato cook evenly.

9. Place a layer of potatoes over your lamb/veg/gravy, covering your hotpot mixture completely.

10. Drop a few small chunks of butter over, sprinkle with salt, pepper & place your bay leaves on.

11. Place in the oven, top shelf & uncovered and leave to cook for an hour and a half.

Easy as that! Its super delicious & everything will be able to be picked up locally – no scouring every butchers you can find for lambs kidneys!

Serve with a side of pickled beetroot or cabbage for real northern England authenticity.