2016. The best of this year.

Ahh 2016.  it’s been a pretty crazy year. In normal life I’ve been trying to rear the children into being a less feral state, I’ve been jumping from health kick to ‘how much fried food can I eat in 24 hours’. And I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell I want to do when I’m a grown up. Turns out this year I grew up, I decided on a route. And for the most part of the year I’ve been working on it. hooray for decision making!

The blog world has been just as eventful, 2016 was the year of interiors over here on TLWP. The sewing machine has pretty much lay abandoned this year, instead replaced with a hammer, or miter-saw. This year I’ve swapped spending all of my money at the fabric shop, for spending it all at Savoy, and my home really does thank me for it. All in all, I’m leaving 2016 feeling energised, excited and so much more knowledgeable than I was when we started it. Here are some of my best bits.

Food:

I darn’t even guess how much sugar I’ve used this year! But you all know by now, I’m all about the desserts, this years top blog post pick  for food is, my most popular bake of the year the Raspberry & White chocolate loaf cake.

 

 

Interiors:

My obsession with home building started way back in April, Sam and I hatched a plan to build a floor to ceiling TV unit, practical, pretty, perfect! It took an entire week of my downstairs looking like a rabbit hutch- seriously, sawdust everywhere! But we did it. And I am so glad we plucked up the courage to give it a go. I don’t think I’ve had a month off building some sort of bespoke unit since. Full posts can be found here & here.

 

Family life:

2016 Was the year of the Home life project. 12 months, one post a month, detailing our weekend through photo’s. I started this project with absolutely no direction, next to no skill, and absolutely nothing to bring the the table. I’m ending this year proud as punch that I persevered, kept on practicing, upgraded my camera and discovered a passion. Clare has assured me 2017 will bring lots of great things for this awesome link, I can’t wait to see how this next year goes.

 

Crafts:

This year hasn’t been as crafty as 2015 was, however I have still spent some time on the sewing machine. One of my favourites of the year has been this adorable drawstring bag tutorial. It is honestly SO easy to make up and they are completely customisable! Mine switch between ballet bags and PE bags. cheap, cheerful and so cute!

 

Lifestyle:

I dont tend to discuss my real life all that much over here, I tend to prefer keeping it all about the ‘How to’s’ However every now and again, something amazing happens & I just HAVE to share. This year my top pick for the lifestyle post, has to be my birthday trip to London. It re-ignited my love for leaving the hometown, even if for a short while. I spent an incredible 72 hours in the capital, sleeping in luxury, eating the most delicious food, and of course finally getting to visit the Harry Potter tour! It truly was amazing.

 

All in all, 2016 has been pretty good to me,  here’s to another year!!

Tonight, I’ll be doing what we do every year, I’ll make up our traditional beef wellington (Jamie Olivers incred recipe here.) the girls will settle around 8pm, Sam and I will share a few glasses of fizz, and play a game – usually a themed monopoly- This year we have Game of thrones Monopoly. I’m way more excited than I should be about this. ha. We’ll probably watch a little TV (We started The good wife last night) we’ll toast in the new year and shuffle off to bed at five past midnight, like the little elderly souls we are. There’s no other way I’d rather end and start any year.

Happy new year!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

NYE celebration doughnuts.

We’re finally in the last week of the year!! How on earth did the happen?! With it being the end of the year, this is also my very last recipe post of 2016! So I thought I’d make it super fancy, something luxuriously delicious to end your week with. And of course you all know how obsessed I’ve been with those cake doughnuts this year, well I thought I’d finish up with an extremely delicious version. These are Hazelnut & chocolate doughnuts, topped with Dulce de leche & golden glitter (edible of course.) These are AMAZING!

So, here’s what you’ll need to make it.

  • 200g unsalted butter (s0ftened.)
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 115g plain flour
  • 35g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g ground hazlenuts
  • 100g milk chocolate (grated)
  • Ready made Dulce de leche / caramel sauce
  • edible glitter to finish.

And heres how to make it.

First, we have to make up the sponge cake mixture to make the doughnuts. To do this, add your butter and caster sugar into a bowl and give it all a good whisk together.

 

Next, add your eggs, one at a time, giving it all a good whisk in-between.

 

Now, add your dry ingredients. Your hazelnuts and grated chocolate first, giving it a good stir with a spoon…

 

Before pouring in your flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Finish with a good whisk up.

 

Now its time to get your Doughnut tray ready, these are the coolest thing! I’m really not a big lover of the normal doughnut, I think its the fried aspect. I just end up eating the filling and leaving the rest, tense why I love these cake versions SO much more. You can find the tray I use here. To prep for baking (and to make sure your sponge doesn’t stick) just rub a bit of butter round each doughnut shape, making sure you get it over the middle bit too.

 

Now you can spoon in your cake mixture. You can use a piping bag to do this part if you’re fancy. But I prefer to just use two teaspoons. You don’t want to fill up your trays completely, around 3/4 full is perfect.

 

You can now pop your doughnuts in to bake. Middle shelf, 180 (fan) for around 12/15 minutes. They’ll be firm to touch and risen nicely once they’re done.

 

Once you’ve taken them out of the oven (and whilst they’re still quite soft), grab a spoon and gently spoon around the sides of your doughnut trays, separating the edge of the doughnut from the tray, do the centres too. You now should be able to tip your tray upside down and they’ll fall out fully formed -though you may need to give the underside of the tray a good bang. Now set aside your doughnuts, re-butter the tray and add your second lot of cake mixture.

 

Once your doughnuts have completely cooled, you can decorate. To do this simply add your dulce de leche (I love to use this sainsburies version) to a piping bag with a plain circle nozzle.

 

Now simply, squeeze out a simple circle around the top of your doughnut.

 

You can use the blunt side of a knife to spread it slightly.

 

Before finishing with a sprinkle of glitter.

 

How fancy are these eh!

 

It is New Years after all, so I’ve paired mine with a glass of something bubbly..

 

And a bit of sparkle to finish them off nicely….

 

The perfect treat if you’re having guests over this New Years eve…. or even if your having a night in by yourself, indulge and eat them all!!! Ha.

 

Happy New Years!!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

DIY Play shop.

A couple of months ago, my list of possible Christmas gifts to the girls in hand, I came across the cutest Play shop for sale, it was basically a small uinit, with a shop sign attached. and they wanted £120 for it. Now don’t get me wrong, if something is quality craftsmanship, by all means you charge your worth. But this, was just so…. So flimsy. And so I did what I always do. I planned to make my own.

I sketched a fairly simple design that looked  a little like this…

 

Measurement wise, it had to fit in a quite small corner of their room, so I just worked with that to decide how big I wanted it. It ended being 120cm High x 70cm wide x 80cm length. So altogether not a massive build.

First up I needed to gather my supplies. For this I used MDF from Savoy timber, 2 cans of Novasol pinty plus chalk paint in broken white and one can in Rose petal. I also got to try a new product, the Blackboard spray (amazingly easy to use by the way!).

 

Once everything had arrived, it was all about getting it put together. I started it out by spray painting the backing and the shop sign. No real reason to start there, I just wanted to see how those colours looked.

 

Then I moved onto the important stuff, the actually build. I’m not going to start rambling on about specifics (although if you would like to know more details, you can always pop me an email.) But I started by putting the main front unit together, then adding the side worktop and giving it all a good paint. I decided on keeping it simple with white.

 

Next up was building that large frame to go round the top – and ultimately to hold the roof fabric. These where obviously all pre-cut but the tricky part came with the painting. I have only had 2 hours childfree each weekday morning to work on this (it is after all a secret Christmas present for the girls.) So I needed paint to be dried fast, so it could all be packed away before Izzy came home from nursery. To avoid having to paint each side, leave it to dry and then turn to do the rest, Sam came up with this. it took me three whole minutes to spray everything, I gave a quick re-coat of Pinty plus (Broken White) after half an hour and it was all good to be packed up in time.

 

So, the next day, when work could start again, the frame went up. Fairly easily actually. I wanted it to be higher at the back, than it was at the front. This was so the fabric could slope down.. it’ll make sense when you see it.

 

Once the main frame was done, it was time to get excited and do all the fun bits. Like adding the fabric roof – I decided on this gorgeous traditional-esque canvas cotton

 

And most fun of all, the writing the shop sign on the chalk board – I used this fail safe method for perfect handwriting.

 

All of a sudden, the project was nearly finished!

 

All, that was left was to add all those little bits I had collected over the past month, wooden food for the shelves, mini baskets, a sweetie shop container and of course a till!

 

The final result, is pretty fab! The girls have just entered that make believe play land, everything is pretend at the minute and I want to encourage that completely. The great thing about this build, is it can become anything they want. A restaurant, a bakery, a sweetie shop. The creative possibilities are endless!

 

So, price wise. I mentioned earlier about the shop I say that inspired this entire build, the one that cost a fortune for next to nothing in .. here’s a breakdown of cost for this project.

MDF – £21

Roof fabric – £22

Chalk paint – £0

Till – £13

wooden food -£19.98

mini baskets – £3.97

Sweetie holder – £3.99

White chalk pen – £2.50

Total cost- 82.47

 

Its not “cheap” but its not £120 for something that won’t last a month. I’m totally in love in the new addition to their room, Now I’ve just got to keep it hidden from them until the big day!!

Handmade really is best! I’ll be sure to put a picture up once they’ve seen it on Christmas Day. How on earth is that only two day away?!

I’m going to try and hop back on to the blog before Christmas, but if I’m too busy with festiveness I hope you all have a happy Christmas, and I’ll definitely be back next week with some New Years posts – one of which is a NYE dessert recipe involving a whole lot of caramel and some edible glitter. YUM.

Merry Christmas!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

 

 

Christmas Traditions.

Like most families, we have our own Christmas traditions. Ours mainly centres around Christmas eve. Christmas day is jam packed with family and so Christmas eve is our night, just the four of us. This is why every year, we (I) prepare a christmas eve box. I’ve seen just how popular these have become, and so I thought I’d share whats in mine this year.

 

  • New Pyjamas. Obviously. – All matching, not always a necessity, but OMG so adorable!
  • Something to eat, a little Chocolate, popcorn,  general snacks for the evening.
  • Something to watch. x2 A film to watch with the children and then something for Sam and myself to watch once they’ve gone to bed. I haven’t put ours in the box because we already own it. Love actually. Its always our Christmas eve movie.
  • Something to play. This year… Buckaroo!
  • Lush Christmas Bath bomb. The girls love a lush bath.
  • Hot chocolate supplies. You can find everything you would need for the best hot chocolate here.

 

Christmas eve is our time, we play games, watch movies, snack to our hearts content, as well as taking our annual Christmas eve family photo. I’m really looking forward to this years photo, my skills have grown so much since last year, so I’m expecting a clear & cosy photo.

On Christmas Day we start off the same way. Stockings poured out over the bed, downstairs for breakfast and straight into present opening. I usually put the Turkey in to Slow roast round about 9 am, and the rest of the morning is spent wading through packaging and trying to find the 80+ batteries needed for toys. Ha. Round about Mid- day the In-laws come round, we share more presents and spend the afternoon full of festive cheer before a very hearty Christmas dinner and once dinner is over I almost cry actual tears of joy at the sight of a crisp, cool glass of Rose.

The evening is very relaxed, a combination of tiredness and fullness, we’ll catch up on some Christmas specials TV and revel in the Christmas cheer.

 

Boxing Day. Ah Boxing Day. This is the day I get to rock up to my dads house, hand out gifts, I get to eat without having to cook, I get to drink wine whilst my family watch the girls. Boxing Day is a very special day. This year will be no different. On the 26th you’ll be able to find me lounging around in my dads house, glass of wine in one hand, plate of turkey sandwiches in the other.

That. Is what Christmas is all about.

I’m intrigued to know what your Christmas traditions are? Is there something you just have to do every year?

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

Port & Sage Chicken liver pate.

Chicken liver pate is a massive hit in our house, it really does make the most delicious snack. Or even Supper, which is what I’ve planned for Christmas Eve. With it being for Christmas though, I thought I’d fancy up my original recipe, by adding some port and sage. YUM it really is delicious, served on a slab of crusty baguette with a cool glass of red wine. Pure festive luxury.

So, here’s what you’ll need.

  • 220g unsalted butter, softened.
  • 3 shallots
  • 450g chicken livers
  • 60 ml port
  • 5/6 fresh sage leaves.
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped.
  • 2 tablespoons of creme fraiche.

 

And here’s what you need to do.

First, peel your shallots and garlic cloves, before adding them to a food processor.

Give it all a good blitz up, before adding your fresh sage leaves.

Now, add 20g of your softened butter to a pan, let it melt down and heat up, before adding your onion/garlic/sage mixture. give it a good fry, stirring regularly until your onion pieces have gone soft and golden. Empty into a bowl immediately and set aside.

Now its time to move on to the next bit. First, give your chicken livers a good wash, before patting them dry with kitchen roll.

Now slice your chicken livers in half,, making sure to cut off any stringy bits.

Now, add 30g of your softened butter to your pan before throwing in the chicken livers.

Chicken liver doesn’t need that much time to cook, round about 5 minutes on a medium heat should do just fine. The thing with cooking them is that if you over cook your livers will take on a grainy texture. If you really are unsure wether or not your livers are cooked, simply fork one out and slice it right down the middle, you want it to have paled all the way through. After about a minute of cooking your livers, pour in your Port, you want to infuse the cooking liver with the deep flavour of port as its cooking.

So, once everything cooked, transfer your livers (liquid and all) over to your blender. And give it a good blend, you want it to be nothing but paste, no lumps whatsoever.

Now pour your liver pate from your blender into a bowl, add your onion/garlic/sage mixture and two tablespoons of creme fraische. before giving it all a good mix.

Add your Salt and pepper, before giving it all another thorough stir.

Next up, add 55g of your butter to the blender and half of your pate mixture, give it all a good mix up, before adding another 55g and the other half of your pate.

Now you can transfer your pate into your chosen jars. I’m using some I kept from the M&S creme brulee’s (they where actually the only reason I bought the creme brulee’s.) I’m doing them in smaller portions because I’m going to freeze mine, I can take one out each time we want one, and the rest wont get wasted. I’ll tell you more about freezing further down.

Finally, melt down your remaining 50g of butter and pour over the top of your pate. This layer of butter, once set will help preserve your pate.

I’ve finished them off by dabbing a spare sage leaf into the top of the butter, you don’t have too… but it does look pretty.

I mentioned before that I was making these up for our Christmas Eve super, whilst they will last a week in the fridge thanks to the butter preserve, Its not enough for them to still be edible on Christmas Eve, so I’m going to freeze mine (well all but one.) to do this simple place a sheet of cling film over your pate, making sure its pressed agains the butter and place in the freezer. They’ll last  up to 2 months in there, and when you fancy having a posh supper, just take one out the morning before and leave to thaw out for the day. easy as that.

As for the one I left out. That gets sided with chunky slices of wholegrain baguette and a glass of M&S’s finest red.

Just testing it of course, don’t want Christmas Eve supper to be ruined now do I?!

Perfect.

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

 

Our handmade Christmas tree.

I am very particular about my christmas tree, i’d love to be one of these mums that turns the dressing of the christmas tree into a family event, but no. Just no. I cant cope with the cluster of baubles, the uneven-ness of decorations. I like it orderly. So, last year I thought i’d let my kids have there very own Handmade christmas tree to do as they please with, this included making up their very own decorations for it too!

 

It worked out great for me, all those little bits they bring home from school and after school clubs have somewhere to go, They get to pick out a couple of their own baubles as well (This year we’ve added a rainbow & a carousel horse) And this year Mischa made up her very own angel to sit at the top. It is all a bit adorable!

 

We did try last week to make up another batch of handmade decorations for it, but I ended up having a bit of a Pinterest fail… What was supposed to turn out like this….

 

Ended up turning out like this…..

 

Not really sure where we wrong to be honest. Ha ha. Anyway, some decorations that I can actually do are the Salt dough baubles. Thats what we started with last year, and seen as I didn’t post anything about them, i’d thought I’d share a quick ‘how to’ here…

You’ll need:

  • 125g Plain flour – You cant substitute self raising here, your decorations will actually rise!
  • 1/3 cup of salt
  • 1/3 cup of water – maybe a tiny bit more.

 

Simply pour all your ingredients into a bowl and mix, I used an electric mixer, its just easier, but if you dont have one dont worry.

You want your dough to be completely combined into one large ball, slightly sticky and soft.

Now flour a surface, place your dough down and roll out, you want it to be about 1/2 an inch thick.

Using cookie cutters you can make your salt dough decorations in any shape you want. Mischa & izzy choose a few star shapes, christmas trees and a gingerbread man shape. Using a kebab skewer or something similar pop a hole through the top of your cut out. This will be the hole that you’ll thread string or wire through.

Place your dough cut outs on a baking sheet lined tray and pop them in the oven for at least 2 hours. It is a while, but you need to bake out all that moisture, any moisture and your decorations will just crack & crumble apart.

You’ll know they’re done when they are rock solid and almost white in colour.

Leave to completely cool before decorating.

 

Easy as that!

 

There are loads of possible handmade trinkets to adorn your tree, I’ve popped a few of the best tutorials I could find below.

 

Paper baubles – Stephanie Lynne

 

Twig Christmas tree – Michelle made me. 

 

Dried fruit baubles – Simply Notable

Wool wrapped stars – Live Laugh Rowe.

Lots of ideas for you there if you want to get a little bit crafty in the run up to Christmas. I’m interested to know how many others have a handmade tree?

 

 

 

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

Toffee apple muffins.

I’m always a little giddy at this time of year, fairy lights, present wrapping, christmas music, mulled wine… Lots of mulled wine – Maybe i’m more than a little giddy. Today, i’m making up the perfect side to a glass of Christmas juice, Toffee apple muffins. lovely soft muffin scattered with chunks of soft apple and melted fudge, all topped with a swirl of luxurious salted caramel sauce. YES! These are incredible!

 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 290g Self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 250ml full fat milk
  • 50ml oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 eating apples (I’ve gone with golden delicious, they’re not too bitter, not too sweet.)
  • 100g fudge chunks
  • small jar of caramel sauce ( I like this one from Asda.)

 

Now, here’s what you’ll need to do. 

First, put all of your dry ingredients in a bowl. So the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg & brown sugar. Give it all a stir, the scent of Christmas should start whirling round you immediately.

Next, pour your milk, oil and egg into a jug and give it a quick stir.

Pop your wet ingredients into the bowl with your flour and give it all a good whisk up.

If you have a freehand mixer, you can use this time to prepare your apples (If you don’t, you can just prepare them up once you’ve finished mixing.) Peel your apples, cut into quarters and slice out the pips. Dice into smallish chunks, about 2cm thick is perfect.

Now toss your apple chunks in a light sprinkling of flour – this will prevent your apples from just sinking to the bottom of the muffins whilst they’re baking.

Then pour your Fudge chunks and apples into your muffin mixture, giving it all another good mix up.

Now its time to prep your oven, pop it on 200 / 180 (fan assisted), and pop your cake cases into a deep muffin tray.

And using a spoon or an ice-cream scoop (I prefer the latter) spoon your mixture into your muffin cases. Pop into the oven, middle shelf for around 20 minutes – or until golden and cooked through.

Once baked, put to the side and leave to cool (although they are incredible warm!).

Now comes the most delicious part – Caramel Sauce! I love this Salted Caramel version from ASDA.

I also found the most amazing piping bag for this next part, its silicone, pops in the dishwasher after use and is just so easy to use! So if like me you really struggle with piping, i’d definitely recommend I can’t find them online to share the link, but they’re £2.50 from ASDA, so keep an eye out. Anyway, yes back to the caramel sauce, simply fill your bag with Caramel and swirls away!

Your festive Toffee apple muffins are now ready to serve.

Don’t forget your side of mulled wine!

Now, eat, drink and most importantly… be merry!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

The home life project- December Edition.

How is the end of 2016 already?! How did this year fly by so quickly?! Well technically its not the end of the year just yet, but this is the final HLP post of 2016! I’ve heard from Clare (the host of this awesome project) that The home life project will be back in 2017! yay. So fear not, Brand new year, brand new HLP. If you fancy having a go next month would be the perfect time to start, It isn’t a contest, it isn’t for professional photographers. Its just a fun little project to document candid family life a day (or weekend) each month -I’m going to do a full run down of my favourites at the end of the month. Anyway, back to this months edition.

I’ve been so excited for this one, fairy lights make for a beautiful backdrop to any photo’s, this weekend I’m documenting our Sunday, Saturday was a bit of a write off since Friday night we attended Sam’s grandma’s 80th Birthday party, lets just say the wine was flowing a little too well. So Sunday, it was typical in how our Sunday’s go, slow. We eased through the day, not really achieving much, but savouring the last day of the weekend.

Perfect.

 

 

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

screen-shot-2016-01-03-at-20-09-42

 

Decking our halls.

Its official. Its Christmas!!! December 1st (or maybe a few days before – it takes me that long now!) is the day our house is trimmed up with all that glitters. Every year, round about the second week of November i’m having to fight an ongoing battle not become one of *those* people that puts their decorations up so early. Some years, i’ve given in and had the up earlier, but It ruins the Christmas spirit and I’m usually in a rush to get them all down a couple of days after Christmas. No, I like my Christmas spirit condensed.

The twinkling of the fairy lights on a cold winter night, gives me that tickle of contentment in my stomach. That is what Christmas is all about, and why its one of my favourite times of the year. This year, i’ve gone a bit mad on new decorations, in my absolute defence this year we also built the giant new TV unit – that needed decorations, we also overhauled the kitchen – so that obviously needed a boost of Christmas spirit too! Here’s how its all lookin….

 

 

So thats it. The festive season is finally upon us. Its now all about christmas crafts, a glass of wine and present wrapping, christmas songs and so much excitement as the big day nears. Happy 1st December!!!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.