Lemon Drizzle Birthday Cake

My baby girl is five years old.  Five… I can’t quite believe it.  I remember the night she came into the world.

We were getting ready to go to bed for the evening.  I laid down in bed when suddenly I felt a huge gush of water.  I was in shock and stumbled into the bathroom. It was happening! It was really happening!!

I had had back low pains all day and that “feeling”.  My goodness, I remember googling “when do you know you’re in labour?” about a million times and most of the articles simply said “you just know”.

I hate to tell you this, but it’s true. You just know.

I had an urge to walk.  I know how weird that sounds.  The back pain was very similar to period pains, but a prolonged version – it never ceased but stayed there throughout.   I told my husband I had to walk around, so us and Jackson ended up walking around the block several times.

I had planned to stay home for as long as possible but as there was meconium in the water we had to go into hospital. As a VBAC candidate and having had meconium in the water, I was set up with my very own midwife who looked after me throughout it all.  She was so caring and kind, strong and encouraging and really helped me through the rushes of pain.  I’m not going to the lie, the gas and air also helped! In all, apart from the consultant and midwifes arguing about how much syntocin to pump into my veins, the birth was pretty uneventful up until 10 centimetres.

Baby Maggie’s heart rate suddenly dropped and she and I were whisked into theatre for an emergency c-section.  I was disappointed in having had an assisted birth (since I was a VBAC girl – there is nothing wrong with a c-section birth!) but utterly delighted at the sight of our perfect baby girl.

Out came our beautiful redhead.  Caring, passionate, fearless – a one of a kind.  She’s artistic, sensitive and clever and I really couldn’t be prouder of this little girl.

Starting school last year, as a tiny little four year old, she took it all in her stride and just got on with it.  She did remarkably well, and somehow managed to keep up with her older class mates.

Maggie  loves baking (YAY) and often wants to help me in the kitchen.  This year we made her birthday cake together – a Lemon Drizzle Cake.

This was super easy to make! She loved helping me squeeze the lemons and measuring it all up.  Definitely one to make with your kids.

Here is the recipe we used:

Maggie’s Lemon Drizzle Cake

img_5767Ingredients

  • 175g self raising flour
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 lemon, finely zested and juiced
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the buttercream

  • 75g sifted icing sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested

Method

  1. Make sure you eggs and butter are both room temperature before you start.
  2. Pre heat the oven 180 C / 160 C fan / Gas 4. Lightly grease and line the base of two 18cm (7 in) loose bottomed tins.
  3. Gently mix your dry ingredients – the flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest into the mixer bowl and mix to create a smooth batter.
  4. Add your wet ingredients – butter, eggs and finally lemon juice.
  5. Evenly distribute the batter between the tins, level with a spatula and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. While the cake is baking make the lemon drizzle syrup. Put the granulated sugar into a bowl, add the lemon juice and mix together to create the syrup.
  7. Once the cake is cooked remove from the oven and place the tins onto cooling racks. Select the best cake for the top tier and drizzle with the lemon sugar syrup. Leave the cakes to cool before removing from their tins and remove the base and lining paper, return to the cooling racks.
  8. For the buttercream icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the butter, lemon zest and about 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Beat the ingredients to create a stiff cream; add more lemon juice in small quantities to slacken the cream until it is smooth and pliable enough to spread.
  9. We tried a “naked cake” effect.  To do this – evenly spread the lemon buttercream onto the bottom cake.  Make sure it spills out over the sides. Add your top layer and gently spread the buttercream to the sides.  Keep going until the bottom and sides are somewhat covered.  Then add buttercream to the top tier. It’s much easier then it sounds and there are some brilliant “how to-“ videos on YouTube.
  10. Decorate the cake!  Maggie LOVES unicorns and I found some great DIY Unicorn festive kits on Amazon.
  11. Enjoy!

 

Love, Jess

❤️

 

Atlantica Holiday Village Greece – part 1

Delays, Mosquitos and Making Friends in Paradise

We booked our Atlantica HV Rhodes holiday over a year ago as we wanted to make sure we could bag one of the very few rooms that can accommodate a family of five.

The 31 July couldn’t come fast enough.

Our plane was originally meant to leave Luton airport at 8.15am. (A surprisingly sensible time for a First Choice/TUI flight!)

Check in and getting through the airport at Luton was a breeze – even with it being the school holiday and the copious number of people.

Unfortunately we were held on the tarmac for 40 minutes as Traffic control in Rhodes said they had “no space” for our aircraft. Our pilot chuckled and said, “That’s Greece for you, get used to it”.

Once in the air all was good. The kids behaved so well, (honestly, they were fantastic), we had lovely snacks and drinks and all in all it was a pretty non eventful flight.

When we arrived in Rhodes we were, once again, held on the tarmac. Since the Rhodes Traffic control had asked us to wait back in London, we had now missed “our slot” to land. (Which made zero sense as they were the once who asked us to wait in the first place!!)

Anyway. 45 minutes later and we were allowed to disembark.

My goodness. Stepping off that plane and hitting that wall of heat. You know the one mean? It hits you like a sledgehammer.

Thumbs down. My beautiful, beloved Betsey Johnson flowery suitcase got totally destroyed.

Thumbs up: Even with a two hour delay, the taxi driver was waiting for us at arrivals. He was a lovely chap who told us all about the local history and what not to miss as we left Rhodes Town for Kolymbia and the Atlantica Hotel. Originally from the mainland, he travels to Rhodes in the summer to work as a taxi driver. He said that this was pretty common as tourism still makes up most of the Greece economy. (“The most important economic industries are tourism and merchant shipping”*

Checking in at the hotel was super easy and within 10 minutes we were in our room.

And even though it’s a bit on the small side, it’s lovely and comfortable. The fact that it fits us all is an achievement in itself.

The main bedroom is split into two sections by a partition wall that works well. There’s a big bathroom with shower and bathtub and obviously the pièce de résistance – our own swim up pool entrance.

Every other holiday we’ve been to with the kids have meant one of us getting up at the crack of dawn to reserve sun beds and it’s just doesn’t feel like a proper holiday. Faffing with the alarm, getting all the towels out and then lying around until you can go for breakfast.

We have our very own piece of sunny heaven. We don’t have to set an alarm, there is no rush. Our sun beds are out there for us to use at any time. We can have a lie in every day.

I honestly can’t tell you enough how wonderful this is.

I’m kidding, we have THREE KIDS – what the heck is a LIE IN?!

The kids have done lots of fun activities. Maggie has had swimming lessons and took part in Stage Academy with a show at the end of the first week.

Jackson has been doing Football academy.

Both of them have joined in several kids activities.

Alfie’s been into the crèche, and although a bit hesitant at first – he now enjoys it.

Maggie and Jackson made friends with some lovely Irish/Scottish girls on the first day and luckily for Brooks and I, their parents are lovely and so we all hang out.

It’s so nice when they make friends and it’s all very relaxed and well, easier somehow.

One drawback has been the mosquitos. They have been relentless and Alfie and I have been bitten alive. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Brooks and I went to George’s shop next door and bought everything. Like, any kind of mosquito fighting cream, spray plugin imaginable.

Alfie’s bites are so bad, the staff at the crèche suggested we call a doctor as they suspected it was chicken pox.

(It wasn’t. The doctor arrived. He confirmed they’re mosquito bites and prescribed a cream and antihistamine. £130 later. Ahem. But better safe than sorry right?)

The first week has flown by. This week we’re planning to head down to the beach and hopefully do some shopping too.

Love Halloween Hate Scary Movies

I love Halloween. 

Jackson trialling his electrifying Halloween costume

I love dressing up for Halloween. Under duress I dress up my children, dog and house. My husband is down with the dressing up but he’s firstly awesome and secondly an actor, so dressing up is second nature. 

My decoration collection has steadily been growing for years. A lot of the supermarkets stock a lot of fabulous Halloween decorations nowadays and I always head to TKMaxx for any fun/extravagant extras. And I ain’t done yet. 

Alfie wearing his Lion outfit

Every year I research different themes and  with the kids we come up with fun ghoulish food and drinks menus. I go full out. 

(Mind you, that is true for most Holidays. I go BIG. But that’s for another day) 

However, as we have small children I try and find themes that are less offensive and scary. 

More Casper, less Pennywise if you will. 

I love Halloween. The autumnal colours, pumpkin soup, dia de los muertos, candy, being creative – not only when it comes to costumes, but also the food. 

I hate Scary Movies. 

I really, really do. 

Watching Poltergeist as a teenager positively traumatised me. I had nightmares for weeks. Heck, even now, if I see the TV flicker the hairs at the back of my neck stand up. 

And don’t even get me started on those twins in the Shining or Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Even though I dislike them so much, I’ve somehow watched most of the more notorious scary films. 

As an adult though I refuse to watch them. My imagination runs away with me and I can’t sleep.  

A lot of pop-culture references and iconic characters come from horror films. I’m sure you can name a few; Michael Myers, Jason, Norman Bates or (perhaps the scariest of all) Freddy Krueger. 

 Fortuitously, growing up I missed the whole Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and recently I thought it a splendid idea to acquaint myself with it.  You know, to see what all the fuss was about. 

Surely it wouldn’t be scary now, I’m a grown woman, it’s the middle of the day, it’s just a film. 

Wrong. 

Brooks found me on our sofa in the lounge, pop music blasting out from the speakers, all the lights on, no sound on the TV watching Nightmare of Elm Street, hiding behind a big pillow. 

This year we’ll be away in Spain for Halloween so the kids and I decided to have our own spooktastic party early.

We’re making spooky brownies, spooky cupcakes and mummy frankfurters. 

Today we were making hot dog mummies. Such an easy dish to make and the kids love it. Here is the recipe I used: 

Frankfurter Mummy

You’ll need:

  • a packet of hot dogs/Frankfurters (8)
  • puff pastry, either shop bought or make your own 
  • Mustard 
  • Edible Eyes, for decorating once cooked and cooled
  • An egg (for the egg wash) 
  • Ketchup for the (historically inaccurate, yet very tasty) blood
Puff pastry ready to be cut into strips

Preheat your oven to about 180 (160 Fan assisted)

Take your puff pastry out and carefully cut out thin strips.

Now thread the strips around the frankfurters. You don’t have to be too precise, they’re mummies after all.

Once you’ve covered them with pastry, place them on a baking sheet. 

Egg wash your frankfurter mummies.

Place in your oven and bake until the pastry is brown. (About 15 – 20 minutes or so) 

Take your hot dogs out and let them cool. Add little dots of mustard at the top of every frankfurter and add the edible eyes for the finished look. 

Enjoy! 

Frankfurter Mummies

Holy Mackerel – Alfie’s Party

Holy mackerel. What a party! 💙 Today we celebrated Alfie with lots of our family and friends. 

As usual I was running around all over, (#threekids) but we all had such a lovely time.  The kids had decided we should have a Under the Sea theme. 

I love a party theme.

To be fair, I love a party. In fact, if you know me well you’ll know not only do I love a party, but I particularly organising and planning a party. Any kind of party! 

The morning was spent sorting out the party food and decorations. 

Ocean Blue Scallop square dish
Ocean Blue Scallop dish

Honeycomb decorations
Honeycomb and Fan decorations

 

 

I got most of the decorations and balloons from eBay and some of the helium balloons from Morrison’s. Their party section really is excellent and good value too. 

I’m in love with these honeycomb decorations. And you can order a set in a colour scheme which is so handy too. I chose blue green and then bought some Aqua blue shade fans to go with it. 

We put popcorn in little buckets and added a sprinkle of mermaid glitter. 

Popcorn in a bucket y’all
Mermaid sprinkles. What’s not to love?
A banner just for Alfred

We had personalised Alfred banners and Blue 1st birthday balloons. (You can never have too many balloons in my mind) 

I love serving salads at parties as it’s simple to make for big numbers and easy to individualise by adding a few ingredients here and there. 

Also. Salads mean I can have lots of cake for dessert. Win – win.

Today was no different and this is one of the salads on the party smorgasbord.  

Roasted pumpkin and sweet potato salad

This super yummy (and healthy!) salad is made up with green leaves, spinach, roasted pumpkin, roasted sweet potatoes, walnuts and pomegranate. 

Drizzle some balsamic glaze over and you’ll be all set. 

Another popular salad is a broccoli coleslaw salad with roasted cashew nuts and dried cranberries from Costco. It’s simply divine and a firm staple on all our party tables.  

Sandwich cutter – dolphins and ❤️

As well as some good old sausage rolls I also made ham and cheese sandwiches in the shape of dolphins for the kids that all went down very well. 

Under the Sea Quiz. Kept the adults busy for ages – result

Alfred’s granny had made all the cakes and they looked and tasted amazing!

Cupcake Fish Cake
Vanilla sponge cake
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing and edible sea creatures on top

And how about this weather we’re having?!We were sitting outside, in the sunshine, whilst the kids were running around playing in the garden in October!

We couldn’t have asked for a better set up. 

That sky…

Now it’s time to put my feet up, have some bubbles and catch up on Strictly. Happy Saturday everyone! 

First Birthday Milestone

He’s one. One. A whole year has passed since he join us. 

How is that even possible? He was only a newborn yesterday! 

I remember lying on that hospital bed and they placed the most perfect little boy on my chest. He had black hair and huge, beautiful blue eyes. 

We were both pretty exhausted after a long labour and so we just lay there, so happy and content.

We had achieved a VBAC2 and although elated, pretty shellshocked. 

Alfie’s such a delightful little person and nothing makes him happier than hanging out with his older siblings. Or Buddy the dog. He loves them no end. 

He loves to explore and is such a confident little boy. 

He’s extremely sociable and loves to be around people – especially kids. 

He’s adventurous, and will try and climb any kind of stair, ladder, stool – you name it, he’ll try and conquer it. 

But he’s also extremely affectionate and will give you the best snuggles imaginable. 

The moment he joined our family I became a mother of three. Everything changed from then on. The way we live, travel, eat. I’ve changed. 

But all to the better mind.  I’m more confident and self assured. In a kind of “I’ve got this – bring it on” way. 

It’s reassuring to know and trust what I’m doing. In the same breath, also having the confidence to ask for help and advice when needed. 

It’s going to be hard being the youngest but he has the bests of prospects with such caring and loving siblings. 

Jackson and Maggie were up at 5.30am this morning. They had tidied the front room and decorated the room with birthday presents and balloons. Such super stars. They will always have your back.

So, happy birthday little man. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you. 

The Masters of Disguise

Our oldest son has Dyslexia. 

We didn’t realise until he started school and even then he managed to mask it for a long time.

Apart from often being wonderfully  creative they are also masters of Disguise… They are chameleons. 

They can adapt, copy and imitate. 

Genius really. Often, they have adapted to our way of reading and writing, of learning and processing data so well that their learning disability goes unnoticed for many years. 

I saw a clip recently of actress Keira Knightly, retelling the story of when her parents realised she had Dyslexia.  It was like hearing myself talking about our oldest.  

She would ask mum or dad to read the book and she would listen carefully, memorising each bit and when it was her turn to “read” she relied on her memory. Extraordinary. (And a good memory is certainly a good trait to have if you’re an actor!) 

This is how we started suspecting Jackson might be dyslexic.  The memorising bit.

Jackson never seemed interested in reading or writing and struggled with B, P, S, 5 and the other usual suspects. He could just about manage to write his name.  I wasn’t too worried initially.  I mean, he was a baby in my eyes and it could just be his age.

Still… I had that feeling in my stomach. I just knew. Jackson is different.

We voiced our concerns but the teachers kept reiterating that it was too soon to tell. 

Once he started getting reading home work he’d always ask me to read a page out loud before reading it himself.  Initially, I didn’t think so much of it.  I figured he just needed an extra boost and I was happy to oblige. One day though I was watching him read and I saw that he wasn’t actually reading the text. His eyes weren’t moving.

So the next time I changed the text from the original and that’s when I realised Jackson had memorised every word and was retelling the story from memory only.

Word for word. 

Incredibly impressive but I was heartbroken. 

I wasn’t heartbroken that he had Dyslexia.  I was so sad that he’d been so worried about being different, and not being able to read, that he’d memorised it all in order to disguise it. He wanted to hide it and not tell us.

I recently saw a thread on Twitter whether we should have home work or not. This is a whole other post in itself but let’s just say, I’m not a fan.

Home work time in this house is pure torture. 

Our son is miserable, we despair and I just don’t see the point. 

Our son is now in year 5. 

We have good days and bad days. 

His reading and writing has improved. He’s still incredibly fast at learning and memorising text. His stories are incredible; he’s so creative and imaginative. 

Often, you can play him a tune once and he’ll remember most, if not all, lyrics. 

He seems at peace with his Dyslexia and tries to keep up. His peers are so supportive and he’s never been bullied for being different. 

Our school system just isn’t set up to support children with dyslexia and we need more awareness. Keira actually briefly talks about it herself; we need to educate and support our teachers so that they can adapt their teaching plans and learning environment accordingly. 

We encourage our son to try and explore all aspects of his personality.  

Being good at reading and writing is useful, but it’s isn’t everything. 

For example, he is incredibly astute and sensitive. He’s devoted, caring and loving. He can spot patterns incredibly fast and he can see the whole picture. 

He doesn’t seem to be worried about his Dyslexia. He just says that his brain is “wired differently”. 

I’ve spoken to a few adult friends with Dyslexia. They all have different coping mechanisms and we are lucky to have technology on our side. Like spell check, and Siri/Alexa. 

Having Dyslexia won’t stop you from achieving in life. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask these following people instead: 

Albert Einstein

Richard Branson

Darcey Bussell

Keira Knightly

Steven Spielberg

Pablo Picasso

Jamie Oliver

John Lennon

Steve Jobs

Ingvar Kamprad 

Useful links:

British Dyslexia Awareness Week