A Slice of Birthday Fun(fetti)

So, this week brought Offspring#2’s eighteenth birthday (how did that happen?!?!) and of course, that meant cake!

A lot of my cakes start with the same base recipe. It originally came from a 1963 edition of a Brownie Guide cookbook, and so far it has yet to fail me!

The Recipe

This is a ‘weight of an egg cake’, you use the same weight of all your ingredients, obviously starting with your eggs!

For this particular cake, I used half a dozen eggs, weighing a total of 365g (it is important that you weigh whole eggs! Offspring#1 once made the mistake of weighing the contents, making the mixture too runny, and ended up with more of a raspberry quiche than a sponge).

  • Cream together butter & caster sugar.
  • Add eggs, one at a time. Alternate with a spoonful of your flour between each egg.
  • Fold in a third of the remaining sieved self-raising flour, repeat with the last two thirds.
  • Stir in 80-100g brightly coloured hundreds & thousands.
  • Split the mixture equally between two greased & lined tins.
  • Bake at 180°C for approximately 25-35 minutes.
  • Remove from tins, and transfer to a cooling rack.
  • When completely cool, split each cake in half horizontally; giving you four layers.
  • Sandwich together with buttercream & jam.
  • Decorate top with piped rosettes of buttercream and sprinkle with hundreds & thousands.

          Variations

          • Coffee & Walnut : whisk in a shot of coffee before folding in the flour and replace the hundreds & thousands with chopped walnuts. Decorate with coffee buttercream & walnut halves.
          • Lemon : add lemon essence & zest before folding in the flour, flavour buttercream with lemon, replace the jam with lemon curd and sprinkle top with lemon zest.
          • Chocolate & Raspberry : sieve 50g of cocoa along with flour, replace the hundreds & thousands with freeze-dried raspberries, or frozen raspberries; fill with chocolate buttercream & raspberry jam; decorate with fresh raspberries.

          Do you have a go-to recipe that never fails you? I’d love to hear about it!

          Thanks for stopping by; now, I’m off for a cuppa & the last slice of cake. 

          Crafty xx

          A Birthday Bouquet from Prestige Flowers

          There’s something wonderful about receiving a delivery of flowers, it makes you feel special, don’t you think?
          So, of course, I was delighted when the lovely folks at Prestige Flowers offered to send me a bouquet from their Birthday Flowers range to review for you all.

          (I would like to point out that the timing of this was a serendipitous coincidence, and had nothing to do with the fact that it was actually my birthday the following week!

          I think…)

          Delivery & Packaging

          I had been informed to expect delivery on the Friday, I assume if you are the person ordering a bouquet for delivery you would receive tracking information; allowing you to access up to date information on your shipment.

          Late afternoon a rather cheery courier arrived at the door, carrying a substantial cardboard box.

          The Contents

          On opening the box, the first thing I noted was how snugly the large handtied bouquet was secured inside the box.

          On removing the bouquet, I discovered it was wellwrapped in thick cellophane and had a damp cotton pad secured around the cut stems. This struck me as a particularly efficient and thoughtful way to keep the flowers fresh during transit.

          Here’s my glamorous assistant showing how well wrapped the bouquet is.

          I then found another intriguing package inside the outer box….

          Closer inspection revealed that this contained a large clear glass vase!

          The correctly sized vase, and the already prettily arranged & tied bouquet meant that in a matter of minutes (long enough to trim an inch off the stems and mix the enclosed flower food with some water) I had a lovely floral display to admire. 

          Also included was a handy care guide; complete with detachable voucher offering £5 off next purchase, another voucher featuring a discount from Naked Wines, and a lovely little gift card bearing a sweet note.

          I did indeed enjoy the flowers Michael, thanks very much! 😀

          Finally, nestled right at the bottom, I discovered a cute little box of chocolate truffles. These are an optional extra which you can choose to add to your floral gift, completely free of charge. 

          The Bouquet

          This particular bouquet is entitled Blue Lagoon; a name perfectly in keeping with the stunning selection of flowers, in various shades of blue and white, which it features.

          The Blue Lagoon bouquet is currently available to order for £29.99, with medium & large versions an additional £5 & £10 respectively.

          Blooms included are:

          • Fresh Lilies,
          • Eryngium,
          • White Chrysanthemums,
          • Reagan Chrysanthemums,
          • Statice,
          • All framed with the beautiful fronds of two palm leaves.

          I thought the almost marbled-like colouring on the brightly dyed chrysanthemums was particularly enchanting and loved the fact that they had kept white petals here and there for added interest. I also love that they include the eryngium, I’m a sucker for some prickly sea-holly!

          How did it compare to the website?

          When I compared the bouquet I received with that which was advertised, I felt it was a reasonable replication.

          NF1018

          The Blue Lagoon bouquet as it appears​ on the website.

          The bouquet appears significantly fuller in online​ shots (which feature the medium-sized version of the bouquet). I can only assume that the stems are cut much shorter and the bouquet is presented in a far smaller vase than that which I received. That being said, I think the number of blooms included in my bouquet was more than satisfactory.

          My bouquet, straight after unpacking.

          After 10 days.

           

          How well did they last?

          I received the bouquet on the Friday, the first lily didn’t open until the Tuesday and the next on the Wednesday; the final one finally bloomed on the following Sunday, by which time some of the other flowers were looking a little tired.

          After dead-heading and a quick rearrange, the flowers lasted another couple of days.

          I have now had this bouquet for two weeks but, whilst it was definitely starting to look past it’s best, I still have a reasonable looking bunch after again removing the tired heads before rearranging the remainder​ into a smaller vase.

           

          How Would I Rate Prestige Flowers?

          • Quality: Very impressed.
          • Value: When compared to other online floral delivery services, they are towards the less expensive end of the spectrum, a fact belied by the high standard.
          • Appearance: A varied selection of blooms, some more unusual ones are included. More delicate headed flowers are sent in bud form for freshness.
          • Delivery/Packaging: Packaged carefully to ensure arrival in good condition.
          • Longevity: 2+ weeks seems reasonable, especially as during this particularly warm spell, there have also been a few periods of temperature fluctuation.


          I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend  Prestige Flowers to anyone wishing to purchase and send a bouquet via a delivery service.


          Disclosure

          I received this item free of charge, in return for a blog post including an honest review of the product and service.

          When is the last time you sent or received flowers? Which are your favourite blooms? 

          As always, thanks for stopping by!

          Hugs,

          Crafty xx

          [Book Review] ‘Twenty-Four Potential Children of Prophecy’ by Emily Martha Sorensen

          TITLE: TWENTY-FOUR POTENTIAL CHILDREN OF PROPHECY

          AUTHOR: EMILY MARTHA SORENSEN


          Henina tends to irritate people. She can’t help it — she’s bad at shutting her mouth. So when a prophecy is made that someone will stop the war, she figures she’s the worst possible choice.

          Too bad.

          The Fates have their sights set on her, and it will take all her cleverness and quite a lot of offending the king to foist the prophecy off on somebody else instead.

          But she can do it. After all, there are a lot of potentials to choose from.


          The Author

          Emily Martha Sorensen writes young adult, middle grade, and clean new adult fantasy. I must admit, it is a bit of a breath of fresh air to start reading a book and when my young teen niece asks what it’s about; and is subsequently intrigued; I have no qualms at saying she can read it when I’m done! If you’ve hung around here for any length of time, you’ll know I have a soft spot for the gory, the gruesome and the downright grotesque; but sometimes a light, witty and easy to read tale of skullduggery is what’s​ needed!

          I was delighted when I recently received an email offering the chance to review an ARC of this, her latest* book, and quickly got stuck in.

          [ * Boy! She works fast! In between arranging to review this and reading it (in the space of less than a week!) , Emily has also released her next book Trials of a Teenage Werevulture  ]


          The Book

          We join the story on Prophecy Day, a monthly event where the King’s personal soothsayer and fortune teller impart what The Fates purportedly have in store for the kingdom in the coming weeks. The marketplace is heaving as whilst the general population usually aren’t too interested, the prophecy last month led to the King throwing silver coins into the crowd and so all are eager to attend just in case there is a repeat performance.

          We meet Henina, a mouthy young woman who apprenticed to her father, wants to live her life her way, without the constraints of ‘normal’ married life and children. She is bolshy, and argumentative, and I adore her. 

          Then a prophecy is made that changes everything…

          “The days of the war are numbered.  The one who will end it now stands within this square.  You will know her by the mark of the star she bears on her hand.  She will rule the kingdom with wisdom and grace.”


          No-one seems to care when she argues that it is a scar from a recent burn that she bears rather than a mystical mark, or indeed question the scratches or even drawn on stars that the other potentials show.

          All Twenty-Four are escorted to the castle to begin their training whilst the court awaits the revelation of The Fates’ chosen one.

          The following days are spent with Henina trying, through a series of ever more outlandish schemes, to thwart any possible plans which The Fates may have for her.

          The main characters in Twenty-Four Potential Children of Prophecy are marvelous. Henina especially is wonderfully annoying. She clearly has no ability for internal dialogue and just blurts out whatever she is thinking; making for truly amusing exchanges with those, whom she meets along the way, who then have to suffer her infernal chattering; constant questioning & complaining. The other twenty-three are a varied lot, everyone from the four-year old daughter of peasants; to Anna Khordoa, the haughty niece of the King; and Henina’s uproarious interactions with them all as they vie for position as THE Child of the Prophecy are hilarious.

          Each person she meets is quickly dubbed with a (not always flattering!) nickname, thus the King’s haughty neice Anna is known as The Spoilt Brat and his Fortune-Teller becomes The Self-Important Charlatan; whilst Helga , fortune-teller and one of the Potentials, is referred to as The Fortune Teller (or indeed, The Fortune Teller who is not called Helga – it makes sense, I promise!!)

          Henina’s attempts to thwart The Fates become more and more outlandish as the story progresses, and each idea seems to backfire as both coincidences and consequences start to pile up.

          • Who is the real Child of the Prophecy?
          • Will Henina escape The Fates?
          • Will she find her Grace?
          • Will they stop the 50 year war?

          You’ll need to read the book to find out!!


          Another amusing touch is the way the chapter titles (& contents!) relate to the chapter number:

          Chapter 3: Three Silver Coins That Smell Like Feet      

          Chapter 7: Seven Influential People I’ve Offended Today   

          Chapter 10: Ten Impossible Things for Breakfast 

          Chapter 13: Thirteen Griddle Cakes and a Greedy Sister  

          Chapter 16: Sixteen Possible Traitors, and One Maybe

          …. and so on.


          Rating and Recommendations

          I wholeheartedly rate this witty read with 5 out of 5 stars and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, aged 10-100, who enjoys a fantasy novel with a historical slant and a large dose of giggles.This book is a perfect melding somewhere between classic Greco-Roman tragi-comedy and laugh-outloud modern sitcom. It really is an extremely wittily & cleverly woven tale. I can’t recommend it highly enough; and I cannot wait for the release of the sequel, Fifty-Three Assassins with a Head-Cold .


          For more information on Emily and her work, visit EmilyMarthaSorensen.com , where you’ll find links to her books, giveaways and the opportunity to join her mailing list (and receive a copy of Six Shiny Silver Coins and the Ridiculous Ruckus They Caused a free short story which is the prequel to Twenty-Four Potential Children of Prophecy.)


          Disclosure

          I received an e-book copy of this book, direct from the author and free of charge, in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


          As always, thanks for stopping by!

          Hugs, 

          Crafty xx

          [Book Review] TREAT YOURSELF! by Jessica Siskin

          TITLE: Treat Yourself!

          AUTHOR: Jessica Siskin

          PUBLISHED BY: Workman Publishing Company

          PUBLICATION DATE: 27 June 2017

          EDITION: Paperback

          GENRE: Cookery, Crafts & Hobbies, Food & Wine

          ISBN: 9780761189800

          PRICE: $14.95 (USD)

          Jessica Siskin, AKA talented food artist; and Instagram sensation; @mister_krisp, invites you to ‘Treat Yourself!’ in this beautifully photographed & easy to follow book detailing 

          “How to make 93 ridiculously fun no-bake crispy rice treats”


          About The Book

          One of the first things I noticed was the copious amount of clear photographs spread through the book. The instructions themselves are detailed yet concise and each stage is accompanied by a corresponding photo. 

          The opening chapters include an introduction from the author, explaining a bit about how and why she got into Rice Krispie Treat modelling, and detailed descriptions of the equipment and ingredients necessary. Everything is well documented, with additional links, recommendations, and hints & tips where appropriate.

          Another genius idea is that every single treat uses the same basic recipe. In the introductory part of the book, Jessica supplies us with a helpful table listing how many cups, tablespoons & drops are required to make batches of set sizes (named A-H for ease)

          Each individual​ recipe then states which size batches you need and which colouring drops are required. 

          The writing style is friendly and easy to read, chatty and full of puns, it’s like reading a letter from a friend.


          The Recipes

          The recipes themselves are laid out alphabetically; starting with Apples and a ridiculously realistic looking 11 inch tall Avocado, includes Balloons, a BBQ complete with kebabs, a dinosaur, lollipops, a piñata, a star-spangled wizard’s hat, and of course finishing up with a Zebra. 

          There are even instructions for how to make Yourself  out of Rice Krispie Treats. I repeat, MAKE YOURSELF, OUT OF RICE KRISPIE TREATS. We’ve all seen those cakes with the photo of the birthday girl/boy/dog printed on top, but imagine the look on their face when they see themselves; in all their Krispie treats glory; taking centre stage at the party! (Coincidentally, this book is published the same day Offspring#2 turns 18. I’m already looking for a suitable snapshot to utilise this idea!)

          The individual recipes are easy to follow, each step is clearly explained and any additional equipment or decorating ingredients are detailed at the beginning, alongside the required number of differently sized & coloured batches. The top of each page is also clearly marked denoting how hard each particular build is; bearing Easy, Medium or Advanced coloured banners. 

          Also included are traceable (or downloadable) templates to make moulding your shapes easier. They are easily transferable to the reverse of baking parchment, then you can set to work moulding each batch of mixture.


          How Did I Get On?

          Of course, I had to give it a try, and since I was reading this book over National Doughnut Week (6-13 May), I just had to plump for misterkrisps Donuts recipe.

           I used chocolate crispies and didn’t add colour to the mix, if I was doing this again, I would probably add brown colouring or cocoa to my mallow mix.

          I had 6 mini donut silicone moulds, so I used those. A ‘G’ Batch of mix filled those, plus I had enough left to mould 2 more by hand.

          Half were iced with melted dark chocolate before being dusted with glitter sugar & coloured sprinkles, whilst I topped the remaining four with a coat of pink candy-melts and a drizzle of milk chocolate.

          Jessica’s instructions were simple to follow and the opening chapters even include photographs of what the contents of your saucepan should look like at each stage, along with appropriate timings for a midsized batch. Speaking of which, I cannot believe how easy the cleanup was at the end; I filled my saucepan with hot soapy water whilst I put away my extra marshmallows etc and when I came back to it 5 minutes later, the remaining butter/marshmallow/crispie mix just wiped off!! 


          What Did The Victims Think?

          The Other Half: “Yummy!” and “mmmm..marshmallow-y”

          Offspring#1: “I liked them, I guess!?!”

          Offspring#2: “They were some good doughnuts” whilst simultaneously reaching for a second

          & Me? I found it a bit on the sweet side but yummy, and I’m sure I’ll be making lots more Rice Krispie Treats in the coming months!

          Rating

          I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars, as it is a real treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds! 

          Disclosure: A free ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


          As always, thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you here again soon, and in the meantime; have you tried anything from an interesting new recipe book lately, or have you got an old favourite to share? 

          Hugs,

          Crafty xx

          [Monday MailCall] 12 June 2017

          BookMail

          Monday brought Bookmail from two different sources.

          I finally won a goodreads giveaway! I know that the actual number of individual giveaways you enter make no difference to your chances of winning, but still… you’d think I’d win something after hundreds of entries!! Well, finally, I did!

          Published by Bloomsbury Kids, Countless is Karen Gregory‘s debut book. It tells the story of Hedda, a young woman who; whilst suffering from an eating disorders; discovers she is pregnant. Countless then proceeds to weave a tale about the strength of love, heartache, and human resilience.

          I was very taken with the beautiful cover, the pictures really do not do those lovely glossy embossed colour drops justice.

          As usual, I’ll be sharing a review after I’ve read it, so keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks!

          The next bit of book mail was another ARC via ReadersFirst. I actually won this one a while back but as it has only just arrived, I guess it got waylaid somewhere in the mail!

          Exile is the sequel to James Swallow ‘s spy thriller Nomad. Recommended for fans of  Robert Ludlum’s Bourne saga, and also TV series such as Homeland, it’s sure to have plenty of action and intrigue.

          (And, you know the drill by now … Review coming soon ….)

          That’s so LAME!!!

          This bright pink parcel of prettiness is from That Lame Company. I might have spoilt myself a little as a pre-birthday treat.

          IMG_20170606_171412415

          I ordered the May #Box of Lame. It is most definitely NOT lame!!

          You can see my full review here, but in the meantime, I can share a little extra that I couldn’t​ resist adding to my order…

          How cute are these snailmail cards?

          Cards

          As last week was birthday week, there were also a few birthday cards dropping through the letterbox.

          So, what about your mailbox? Did you receive anything exciting last week?

          As always, thanks for stopping by!

          Hugs, 

          Crafty xx

          [MailCall Monday] 5 June 2017

          The May #Paperhaul

          Technically this should have been featured in last Week’s roundup but it ended up mistakenly going through a neighbour’s letterbox on Saturday and didn’t make it’s way home till Tuesday…

          The May Paperhaul theme was Flamingo Flavour, and featured lovely pink flamingoes, hibiscus flowers and lush green ferny palm fronds, all in tropical shades of coral pinks and deep forest greens.

          You can get a closer look at what was included by checking out my May Paperhaul review.

          Book-ish Mail

          The latest issue of oh comely magazine dropped through my letterbox.

          It’s always a lovely read, full of interesting articles are swoonworthy photos.

          And not a ‘which celeb is cheating on who with their neighbour’s dog’s pregnant husband’ story in sight!!

          A Timely Treat from Prestige Flowers

          Friday afternoon brought a rather exciting delivery, in the form of a large cardboard box from Prestige Flowers.

          I had recently been in contact with them regarding reviewing a bouquet from their birthday flowers range and somewhat coincidentally, delivery had been arranged for the weekend before my birthday!

          Of course, you’ll need to wait for my review post to find out exactly which bouquet I received!

           
          Was there anything interesting in your mailbox this week?

          As always, thanks for stopping by!

          Hugs,

          Crafty xx