Monday 31 October 2011

Halloween Ginger Biscuits

I'm new to baking cakes but I've been making these iced ginger biscuits for 6 years but only seem to make them at Halloween and Christmas.

Preheat oven to 190C

Put 150g plain flour in a bowl and add 1tsp of ground ginger and 75g butter. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine bread crumbs

Add 50g caster sugar and 2 tbsp golden syrup. Mix together until you have a dough and knead lightly. Roll dough out and cut out shapes (we used pumpkin, bat and circle [full moon] cutters).

The Jellyfish hard at work

Place shapes on a baking sheet (I used baking paper on the tray) and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack before decorating

Make up icing according to the packet. I added orange flavouring and red and yellow colouring. Spread onto cooled biscuits and sprinkle on hundreds and thousands

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

I was supposed to be making pumpkin cupcakes but the faces didn't work out so I sprinkled hundreds and thousands on instead!

The recipe is easy peasy (as long as you're not trying to add pumpkin faces).

Preheat oven to 190C and then put

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 100g self-raising flour (then remove 1 tblsp and replace with 1 tblsp of cocoa powder)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tblsp milk
into a bowl and whisk until the mixture is creamy and blended well

Divide between cake cases (mine made 14) and bake for 15-20 minutes

Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to completely cool before decorating

Orange Buttercream Frosting

Beat 50g butter until fluffy

Measure out 200g icing sugar and gradually add half to the butter, beating well.

Add 2 tblsp of milk and a few drops of orange flavouring, red colouring and yellow colouring. Beat well and add more colouring if the colour isn't deep enough.

Slowly beat in remaining icing sugar.

Add additional milk or icing sugar to achieve the correct consistency

Spread onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle on hundreds and thousands. Do not attempt to make pumpkin faces out of ready to roll icing that you have Simpsonised yourself with by adding yellow colouring

Short Story: Trick Or Treat

Trick or treating was a nice enough idea in theory, as long as you didn’t factor in the icy wind and aching feet after traipsing door after door all evening. Sam had thought her five year old daughter looked adorable as a pink and black sparkly witch as they’d left the house an hour ago but now she couldn’t wait to strip Evie of her costume and replace it with a pair of pyjamas before tucking her into bed. There were still a few hours left to settle down in front of the tv with a glass of wine. A foot rub would have been appreciated too but there was nobody around to offer such services anymore.
                “Can I eat my sweeties now?” Evie asked as Sam closed the gate of the latest house.
                “You can eat one when we get home. The rest can go away for another day.”
                Evie was silent as she took Sam’s hand, her small yet cunning brain figuring out which was the biggest sweet in her pumpkin-shaped bag. But the debate over lollipop over mini bag of Haribo was halted when she spotted the house across the road. The iron gate had been covered in what Evie hoped were fake cobwebs and spiders.
                “This one, Mummy. This one.” Evie tugged at Sam’s hand, urging her towards the house. Sam had made a rule before they left the house that they would only knock at the doors of decorated houses, to ensure they were didn’t bother those not entering into the spirit of Halloween. The rule, however, had little to do with manners; Sam had assumed this would leave only a handful of houses to call upon, meaning she would be home within the hour.
                Sam had been wrong. It seemed there had been a surge of Halloween popularity and at least every other house was adorned with spooky skeletons and ghoulish ghosts. And this latest house was the worst offender so far with pumpkin lights draped across the bare branches of a small tree in the front garden, polystyrene headstones littering the grassed area and a giant inflatable Frankenstein’s monster loomed by the front door. Candles flickered from within a row of carved pumpkins and a sign warned passers-by not to enter. Sam marvelled that none of it had been nicked.
                “Please, Mummy. Can we knock?”
                “Ok but this is the last one.” If they hurried, Sam could catch Coronation Street.
                The gate creaked as it opened but Sam was sure it simply needed a bit of oil and wasn’t an added sound effect but Evie’s grip tightened on her hand.
                “Remember, this is the last one,” Sam whispered as Evie tapped at the door. The door opened but instead of the expected kind-hearted middle-aged woman, it was a man. A tall, broad-shouldered man with collar-length brown hair and a smattering of dark stubble.
                “Trick or treat!” Evie mustered all her enthusiasm, knowing this was her last chance for another whole year.
                Trick or treat indeed, Sam thought as she subconsciously licked her lips.
                “Daddy, can I give out the sweeties please?”
                Of course, Sam realised as the glossy haired girl popped her head around the door. It had been foolish to think a single man would go to such efforts for Halloween.
                “Evie!” The girl bounced up and down and tugged at the man’s sleeve. “Daddy, this is my friend from school.”
                Sam recognised the little girl from the playground. She was a year older than Evie and, if Sam recollected, had a stunning mother. The kind who turned up to school in skinny jeans, stilt-like heels and jackets nipped in at her tiny waists. Hair and make up had been done to perfection, as though she were about to step onto the catwalk. The kind of mother Sam despised because she could never keep up. She couldn’t even be bothered to wash her hair in the morning, let alone blow-dry and straighten it. She had better things to do, like enjoying an extra half an hour in bed.
                “Do you think we should give Evie two treats?” The man asked his daughter. He winked at Sam and she was glad of the excuse of the cold night as she blushed.
                “Thank you, Lily.” Evie beamed as her friend dropped two lollies into her pumpkin bag.
                “Do you want to come in and see our house? We’ve got loads of Halloween stuff.” An answer didn’t seem to be required as Lily tugged Evie inside without waiting for one.
                “Sorry about that,” Lily’s father said as Sam was abandoned on the doorstep. “Do you want to come inside out of the cold for a minute?”
                Sam dithered. It wasn’t every day she was invited into the home of a handsome stranger but what about all those rules she’d had drummed into her as a child? The same rules she drummed into Evie? But Evie was already inside the house so surely it was Sam’s duty to ensure she was safe. She really had no choice in the matter.
                The house was warm and bright, lit up with yet more pumpkin lights. The surfaces were stuffed with shop-bought and homemade pictures and models.
                “I went a bit crazy,” Lily’s father explained as Sam took in the spooky grotto. “It’s my first Halloween with Lily since she was a baby so I went a bit overboard.”
                Ah, so he was separated from Lily’s mother. Sam was sure she should have felt sympathetic towards his situation yet the information made her glow inside.
                “This is the first time I’ve taken Evie out trick or treating. Her dad promised to take her but he cancelled at the last minute. He has better things to do with his new family apparently.” Quite why she’d had to make it clear she was also single was baffling. It wasn’t as though he could ever fancy her, not when his type was the Barbie look.
                “That’s a shame. Not all men are like that though.”
                Sam took another glance around the room. Clearly not. She couldn’t imagine her ex going to so much effort for Evie.
                “I’m Richard, by the way.”
                “Sam.” They shook hands and the formality made Sam giggle, which in turn caused another blush.
                “Would you like a drink?” Richard either hadn’t noticed the school-girl effect he was having on Sam or was doing a good job of hiding it. Either way, Sam was grateful.
                From the laughter vibrating from upstairs, Evie was in no hurry to go home and funnily, Sam wasn’t either anymore. Accepting the offer of a drink, she sat down next to a giant inflatable skeleton. Over coffee, Sam learned she had a lot in common with Richard. Mostly the girls but they also had similar taste in films and music. Without either realising, an hour raced by.
                “I’d better get going,” Sam gasped when she noticed the time. “It’s way past Evie’s bedtime.”
                “I’d better get Lily to bed too. I don’t want another black mark against my parenting skills.” Sam couldn’t see how he’d ever earn anything other than praise. He seemed pretty perfect in her books.
Richard shouted the girls from the hallway and the pair thundered down the stairs.
                “Thanks for the coffee,” Sam said after Evie had said a reluctant goodbye to her friend.
                “Thanks for the company.” Richard ran his fingers through his hair and Sam fought the urge to reach out and do the same. “I’ll be dropping Lily off at school in the morning. We could meet up and go for another coffee if you’d like.”
                Sam would like. Very much so. “That would be nice. I’ll see you in the morning then.”
                Evie wasn’t sure why her mum was smiling on the way home. She’d been a bit grumpy about Halloween earlier but had cheered up somewhere along the line. Perhaps it was the thought of all the goodies in the pumpkin bag.
                “Did you like trick or treating, Mummy?”
                Sam’s smile widened. “Yes, Evie. I did. It was good fun.” The evening had turned into something of a treat and she couldn’t wait until morning.

Halloween Song & Funny Pumpkin of the day

Sunday 30 October 2011

Halloween Crafts

We've put the half term break to good use this week by doing Halloween crafts. They've all been easy to do and cost very little but the kids (and me) have had fun doing them.

First up was painting using Halloween colours of red, orange, blue, brown, green and purple:

Then we made monsters out of plasticine:

The Jellyfish made different kinds of monsters, from an alien monster in a space ship to a pirate monster

Boo's all had a similar theme...

I was proud of my one horned purple people eater. Until I discovered he's a one eyed, one horned purple people eater. Bah.

I also made an evil flower, which came out cuter than intended.

Even the partner had a go and made a Cheesestring monster

Today we have been busy baking and making milk bottle ghosts and funny balloon faces (which were supposed to be monsters but came out looking gormless so they're rebranded).

I saw the milk bottle ghosts on another blog a few weeks ago and can't remember which one so apologies to whoever did it first as I can't link back.

To make the milk bottle ghosts we washed out the plastic bottles and cut a hole in the back and then drew on ghost faces using a Sharpie pen

I didn't have any fairy lights to use like in the original so I used battery powered flickering 'candles' instead, placing them inside the pre-prepared hole.

They look much better in real life than in the photo and glow rather than having a big light in the middle.

Lastly (phew), we made funny face balloons for the trick or treaters by drawing eyes, mouths and noses on plain sticky labels and colouring them in

I then put a small roll of sweets inside a balloon and blew it up (leaving the balloon quite small as the stickers would have been lost on a normal sized balloon)

Then the kids stuck the faces on. To finish off I tied string around the bottom and added some leftover monster and alien stickers

The response from the trick or treaters was great. One girl told me it was a good idea and a boy was heard saying 'the sweets are inside the balloon - wicked' once the door was closed so I am very pleased.

Halloween Song & Funny Pumpkin of the day

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Book 1 & The First Crumpled Post-It Note

Last week I made myself a schedule so I can keep on track and finish this draft before Christmas. I stuck up post-its with the dates when I wanted each block of five chapters finished by and this week, despite feeling sorry for myself because I had a cold, I managed to complete the first one.

Here is the first post-it, crumpled up. Hopefully the others will be following soon.

Halloween Song & Funny Pumpkin of the day

Mr Potato Head Skeleton

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Book 1 & Self-Imposed Schedule

Editing is going well this week. I feel like I'm back in my stride (it's about time). I'm over a quarter of the way through now and would like to finish this draft by Christmas.

We're going away to New York for Christmas so I think it's the perfect time to finish and have a few days off. I've divided my time between the chapters and copied them onto post-it notes. I won't beat myself up if I don't manage it but it would be nice if I'm able to.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Tessa has the perfect life. She and her world-renowned paediatric surgeon husband live in a Boston suburb with their two young children. But Tessa is beginning to wonder if she did the right thing in giving up her career, worried it is affecting her marriage.
Valerie is a single mother to Charlie and has never had much luck with love.
Although the two women live in the same suburb, they have little in common until an accident merges their lives.

After watching Something Borrowed I decided to give Heart of the Matter a try as it is by the same author. Warning: if you are planning on watching/reading Something Borrowed I'd do that before reading Heart of the Matter as it contains spoilers.

I'm not usually a fan of Desperate Housewives type novels but, although there is an element to that kind of lifestyle within the book, it didn't seem to bother me too much. I enjoyed reading Heart of the Matter and felt sympathy for both Tessa and Valerie. My only niggle is the ending - I would have liked a little bit more to completely resolve the issues and find out how both women coped/what happened next but overall it was a good read.

Verdict: Enjoyable Read

Friday 14 October 2011

Halloween Crafts - The Ghoul Family & Pointy Witch Hat Song

I wanted to take the kids out on a nature walk last weekend. The plan was to collect leaves and twigs etc and make a nature collage when we got home. The Plan did not happen as it chucked it down all day.

Instead, inspired by my Halloween CD that had arrived the day before, we stayed indoors and did some Halloween crafts.

With empty loo rolls, a pack of craft paper offcuts and a yogurt pot of glue, the Jellyfish and I made a witch and a vampire.

The Jellyfish had such a good time, she decided to create more...

... and we ended up with the Ghoul Family.

And to finish off, I thought I'd share our Halloween song that we made up last year

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Book 1 - Lightbulb Moments & Competitions

Last week I was really struggling with Chapter Six. It just wasn't working and no amount of tweaking could improve it. After picking at it for days, I thought enough was enough. I would delete the whole chapter and start it again.

I felt much better after making this decision and later on that day I had a lightbulb moment. I realised why the chapter wasn't working. Instead of simply rewriting the chapter, I had to write it from scratch, without the content that was already there. It seems obvious now but I really couldn't see it at the time.

So I wrote Chapter Six and I think (hope) it is better. I'm certainly feeling more positive about my book again and am able to move on.

Also this week I have been working on the It Started With A Kiss flash fiction competition. I've never attempted a piece of flash fiction before and have come to the conclusion that they are really HARD. And I thought regular short stories were difficult!

I've had a go and sent off my attempt. I don't think it's up to scratch but it is my first attempt and it was fun to write something other that the Current Project.

This week I am going to send off my autumn short story and my first 100 words of the Current Project for the Cornerstone Literary Consultancy competition. I am also working on a Halloween short story but this one is just for fun. I might post it on here if I feel confident enough.