Sunday, 29 January 2012

Birthday Party of Awesome

Two years ago I got snowed in on my birthday. I didn't see anyone but Ian, I had a cake that I'd made for my colleagues at work that I had to eat all by myself and it was pretty pants. So, I made a promise to myself that I'd do something to celebrate my birthday so that it felt special. Last year we had a great nacho party. This year an idea came to me whilst watching Ian coming down the stairs for work one day. He was wearing some nice rainbow striped socks and it reminded me how much I like rainbows. If we'd had a massive wedding, I would have had 14 bridesmaids, two of every colour. So, a rainbow themed party it was.

I spent ages looking for inspiration, I even put together a whole rainbow party board on pinterest.  I had a lot of plans but I'm not great at actually getting as far as executing. I still think I pulled off an impressive spread but I could probably have done some more awesome rainbow stuff if I'd spent less time on the internet!

The first task I had to tackle was the rainbow jelly. It needed to set so I started this one in advance. The first two colours were hard work because we don't have blue jelly in the UK and the blackcurrant jelly was not as purple as I'd wanted. Consequently we used soft drinks and gelatine to make these layers. We wanted the jelly to be slightly more exciting than just clear layers (when I say we, I mean me - Ian just got dragged into helping) and so we split each colour in half and added milk to one half to make it more opaque.  It turned out pretty good, there were two different methods of eating it within our group, some ate each layer individually, some attempted to get a spoonful with all the layers - all ate the jelly (apart from one person who doesn't like jelly who had a pretty decent stab so I'm pleased still).


The next task was to make the centrepiece cake. I was inspired by this cake, and I followed the recipe for the icing, but made the sponges with my normal basic sponge recipe (although I did leave out the egg yolks so as to get a whiter starting mix - not sure that was strictly necessary because the food colour paste I used was pretty bright so could probably have taken the yellow - guess I'll never know as I've no plans to make another one!).  The icing was delicious but was quite hard work to make, mainly due to the fact that I wanted to do the pasteurising mentioned in this post so that my pregnant friend could also enjoy the cake.


Most of my friends knew what was coming with this cake, but the white icing allows you to hide the rainbow inside the cake until it's served which adds extra wow factor. I'd recommend cleaning the knife between slices to avoid getting coloured crumbs in the icing of the next slice.

The morning of the party, I was making more sweet rainbow delights, this time in the form of marshmallow rice krispie treats. These stuck to anything and everything, but eventually I saw the part in the recipe about spreading them out with a buttered spatula and everything became easier!


I wanted to make sure that not everything on the table was for the sweet tooth so I made a rice salad to balance out all the sugar. My plans were to dye a small amount of rice blue to add into the salad, but we ran out of time. It was still quite colourful though with the addition of red pepper, sweetcorn, peas and small cubes of ham.


I also made a nice tower of rainbow crudites, which allowed me to use another of my many cake stands (after wanting one for several years, I ended up with three as wedding gifts and two more this christmas - I'm not complaining, but I think Ian might be!). I was proud to get natural blue onto my tower too in the form of blue tortilla chips and I felt very pretentious serving up dip that we'd bought from a local restaurant too!


For those after the healthy option, we also had rainbow fruit kebabs, on another cake stand. We made about 10 of these, so we only needed 10 pieces of each fruit, but we weren't thinking when we went shopping and so bought masses and masses of fruit! Ooops!


I really impressed myself with the colourfulness of the table and I think this party will be well remembered for quite some time. If you want to see more rainbow party pictures, check out my set on flickr.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012


I'm pleased to announce that the winner of my 100th post giveaway is Matt. A nice cupcake package will be on it's way to you shortly, to help bring out your girlie side!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The White Horse, Otterbourne

For my birthday meal, we decided to go somewhere new. The White Horse in Otterbourne has recently reopened after a change of management and it's on the route home so it seemed ideal. 

The taster menu on their website looked good, although I'm not sure they win any points for using fractions in their prices.  When we arrived, the restaurant was fully booked so we took a table in the bar, which they were happy to accommodate. The menu wasn't the same as on the website so I assume they use seasonal produce and change their menu accordingly.

Ian and I both wanted the black pudding fritters, but as it was my birthday, I got them and Ian went for the goats cheese with poached pear. Of course, we were just going to share them both, so it didn't really matter. Both starters were really good, I was expecting the black pudding fritters to be more like sweetcorn fritters, but instead they were more like battered black pudding. A little greasy, but this was balanced out with a good amount of leaves and apple puree. 
Ian's starter was quite similar to the starter at our wedding (which I really should blog about!) although the goats cheese were inside little balls, which sort of melted when you bit into them (that's not a bad thing, it was quite nice). The caramelised walnuts that accompanied it were good, but Ian didn't think the pears were 'peary' enough. 
For mains, I went for duck confit with a white bean and chorizo cassoulet. Now, let's see if you can tell what I'm going to say just by looking at the photo.
Yes, that's right - it's a bit, erm, lacking in the colour department. The cripsy shallots on top really helped the cassoulet along, because it was quite boring - the chorizo really didn't shine like chorizo should. When we cook chorizo (for we, read Ian), it's a lot more vibrant and the flavour oozes out. This didn't seem to be the case here. It's a shame because the starters definitely made our expectations a lot higher.

Ian's main was fish and chips in an ale batter with smashed minted peas. The batter got increasingly aley as you got further through the fish, which was a bit strange. Ian tipped his chips onto his plate and although good chips (thrice cooked apparently), there just wasn't enough of them.  
Overall, the meal was a little disappointing, mainly due to the inconsistency of the food between courses. The pub itself is nice and cosy, and has plenty of high backed chairs and seems like a good place for a drink after work. It was quite lively when we visited, but it was a Friday night.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Week 3 Photo Challenge

Already I'm beginning to amass a good number of photos, and I'm getting quite excited about how many I'll have at the end! My friend pointed out that it will make me remember just how much I did this year, and although at times I find it hard to think what to photograph, I'm persevering because I know it'll be worth it. This week I did almost miss a photo though, so apologies for the randomness of Day 11 (and the blurry photo!).

Day 10 is a reminder of the vast amounts of sweets and chocolate still to eat - this will appear again this week too!
Day 10
Day 10 - Sweetie Bowl
Day 11 was the day when, at 11pm, as I'm dozing off, I realise I've not taken a photo. This time, Ian is doing similar next to me so I can't convince him to go and get my camera or take a photo on my behalf.  I tried taking an arty picture of my bedside table but it just looked messy. Then I spotted my first digital camera in amongst some junk in a drawer and thought it would be a good thing to document. I'm on my fourth digital camera now, one died when my sister pushed it off a kitchen work surface with a cake (she maintains it committed suicide), and the other didn't have a good enough zoom to cut it for the honeymoon. I'd still like to get better at taking photos, so hopefully this challenge will help with that too. 
Day 11
Day 11 - Camera blast from the past
Day 12 there are a set of photos. I'll only post the starting one here, but you can check out this set on flickr to see what happened. 
Day 12b
Day 12 - How can you eat something that's looking at you like that?
Day 13 was my birthday so there were plenty of photos to choose from that Ian took while I opened my presents. 
Day 13
Day 13 - Happy Birthday to me!
Day 14 my family arrived to celebrate my birthday. When my family are visiting the week beforehand is spent frantically tidying the house. It doesn't take long for it to look like this, but it's worth it because we have fun!
Day 14
Day 14
Day 15 we went out for a meal out at The Water Margin with my family and two friends. Entertaining a six year old isn't always easy, and you have to be resourceful. Sometimes, playing with your food is OK!
Day 15a
Day 15 - Chopstick noughts and crosses
When we got back, we realised that my friends shoes are the same size as my eldest niece. There's a twenty year age gap, and it's not that my niece has enormous feet!
Day 15b
Day 15 - shoe size shenanigans
Day 16's photo is an example of the worst parking ever. I was so shocked as I drove past that I managed to park my car almost as bad and had to repark (and really, this person should have reparked - it's ridiculous!) 
Day 16
Day 16 - Parking palava
This week should be a good one for photo opportunities so next weeks post will be worth checking back for. Also, don't forget you've got until 24th January to enter my giveaway.

Friday, 13 January 2012

100th Post!

This is my 100th post! It's also my birthday! Celebrations all round.

So, I'd like to do a giveaway - I've never done one of these before, but it sounds like fun.

To enter, leave a comment saying what your best or worst birthday present has been, and then I'll randomly select a winner from the comments using some clever random number generator.

The prize will be a small cupcake themed parcel of goodies. I'm happy to post anywhere, so it's open to all.  Make sure you leave some way to contact you when you comment.

I'll draw the winner once I'm done celebrating my birthday, which will be 24th January, 10pm UK time.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Week 2 Photo Challenge

Taking a photo a day isn't that easy. Some days, I'm just really boring! But I've managed to keep up with it, and I'm blogging again so it's all going swimmingly so far.

Ian got a new alarm clock this week, and the first time it went off, he jumped, so I guess it's working!

Day 3
Day 3 - Monkey Alarm

It's been hard getting back into the routine of early bedtimes for work, and so when I managed to make it upstairs before 10pm on day 4, I thought it would make a good subject for the photo. I tried to take a picture several times with the clock on 21:59 but they all came out blurry, so unfortunately the picture doesn't really prove before 10pm, but it's close enough! (Clearly the routine isn't working, I'm writing this at 10.08pm!)
Day 4
Day 4

The last day of the christmas decorations happened to coincide with an incredibly windy day here in Hampshire so I tried to document both of these things. Thankfully, the damage we sustained was only a fallen over chair, not any trees or fences.
Day 5 (1/2)
Day 5 - Wind carnage
Day 5 (2/2)
Day 5 - Tequila!
This bobblehead reindeer was the newest addition to our Christmas decorations this year, and possibly my favourite.

On my day zero list, I also have a goal of reading a book a month. Some months I've even managed three, but I'm trying to keep it to one so that I can use the spare time to achieve other things on my list. So, it's 10 days into January and I've already finished the book for this month, and that's because I settled down to read it with chocolate! What a perfect evening. 

Day 6
Day 6
Days 7 and 8, my photos are of new purchases I made. One is slightly more exciting than the other, both are purple though! I'm still working out whether the curtains are good enough, that's why there is still an old one up, but the laptop is amazing and I'm blogging on it right now!

Day 7
Day 7

Day 8
Day 8 - Wish I'd hoovered before taking this photo!
Day 9 was the first day where I found myself in bed having forgotten to take a photo. Thankfully, I knew what I wanted to photograph, and Ian was still up, so I asked him to do it for me. I told him that I wanted to photograph the new waitrose magazine we picked up while shopping, to show that we were back into the shopping routine after the Christmas disorder. Ian followed my brief, but decided to add his own twist and sneakily put the empty Terrys Chocolate Orange box in the picture to show that as well as returning to routine, I'd also spent the night scoffing the whole thing! We've got so much chocolate in the house right now, I'm worried this will become a common photo!

Day 9
Day 9

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

365 Day Photo Challenge

I've seen many bloggers attempt a 365 day photo challenge. I've always wondered if I can manage it. I made a day zero list last July, and I decided to add this to my list. I also added blog weekly, so I'm hoping that by doing the first one, it'll help me achieve the second as I've not been doing very well with the blogging! So, I'll start with my photos from the first two days of the challenge (as the other two are still on my camera - great start!) and I'll pop back weekly with a round up of the weeks photos.

For the last three years, Ian and I have exchanged lego sets on New Years day, and then spent the day building them. This year, I bought Ian a slightly larger set than normal, and so it spilled into two days. Consequently, the first two pictures are of Lego. I can assure you though, the dog shark was not part of the instructions, just Ian improvising with the left over pieces (we also had an exploding bomb dog but I didn't photograph that).

Day One
Fire Station - floor one
Day Two
Dog Shark

Happy New Year - here's to a more blog-tastic 2012!