Having a bit of a love affair with caramel

Last month at one of our markets, a very nice lady asked us if we made salted caramel fudge which got me thinking (we always like to try out new flavours in our fudge recipes) so we decided to have a go at creating one.  I found a great recipe for salted caramel sauce (thanks Nigella) and I have to admit that it’s really easy to make (shhh don’t tell everyone…).   With a couple of experiments and a change in the salt we were using (flakes work much better than normal sea salt), we’ve now got a lovely salted caramel fudge which proved a hit at last weekend’s Duck Pond market.

Because Nigella’s salted caramel sauce is so delicious, I began to wonder what else we could use it in.  The first (and most obvious) thing that came to mind was salted caramel cupcakes – my mum had asked me to make some cakes for her – and all it took was a simple cupcake recipe with the caramel lightly stirred in, a cream cheese frosting and a load of caramel sauce drizzled on top (according to my husband ‘a load’ wasn’t quite enough – the caramel sauce was that good!  Again, thanks Nigella).

Salted caramel cupcakes and salted caramel fudge

Salted caramel cupcakes and salted caramel fudge

I’ve spent a little bit of time today looking for different salted caramel recipes and so far I’ve found:

Salted caramel hot chocolate (going to try this one tonight using a bit of caramel sauce I’ve got left over)
Chocolate fondant with salted caramel brittle and caramel sauce (yum)
Salted caramel brownies
Salted caramel brandy butter (this one sounds perfect for Christmas, poured over Christmas puddings or home-made mince pies)

Something tells me that this love affair might last for some time…

 

 

The ABC of me

ABCFor a while I’ve thought about sharing a bit of information about myself with you all, because although in the beginning my readers were friends and family who already knew a fair bit about me, none of my new readers do really and this seemed to be the quickest way of sharing.  You can probably guess that this came from America (I’ve changed the spellings) so here it is:

Addictions: fluffy animals, Reese’s Pieces
Bed size: Super-King (and it’s reeeally comfortable)
Chore you hate: cleaning the bin
Dogs or cats: two cats and a dog (Molly, Pickle and George)
Essential start to your day: tea, and a wake up call from Pickle
Favorite colour: lemon yellow
Gold or silver: silver
Height: 5’5 1/2
Instruments you play (or have played): the drums (not since I was 16 though)
Jobs titles you’ve had: estate agent, recruitment consultant, P.A, office manager, front-of-house (theatre), teacher, tutor, stage crew, LX swing (theatre)
Kids: only my fluffy ones (see A)
Live: North West London
Mum’s name: Shirley
Nickname: Don’t really have one – there’s not much you can do with the name Jane!
Overnight hospital stays: spent four hours in the middle of the night in an emergency room in Florida last year
Pet peeve:  people stopping in the middle of the pavement/tube platform/steps in front of you without warning, and incorrect grammar
Quote from a film: “I thought I heard you saying it was a pity… pity I never had any children. But you’re wrong. I have. Thousands of them. Thousands of them… and all boys.”  Goodbye Mr Chips
Right or left handed: right handed
Siblings: Two brothers and a sister
Time you wake up: six in the morning
Underwear: got lots thanks
Vegetables you dislike: do mushrooms count?  probably courgettes actually, and aubergine
What makes you run late: being too busy and not quite prepared enough
X-rays you’ve had done: when I broke my arm age seven (ish)
Yummy food you make: lemon fudge!
Zoo animal: any of the big cats but pretty much all of them

Things which have made me smile this week

At the moment I’m counting the hours until the summer holidays, not because I don’t enjoy my job – I do – but because it means two things: 1) I get to see my husband during the day before he trundles off to work in the evenings and 2) I get to spend more time focusing on the Little Lemon.  Actually, three things – 3) I get to spend time in the garden (trying) to make it look nice and catching some sun and Oh four things – 4) I get to walk George twice a day, go for runs and get fit.  Actually, the more I think about it, there are plenty of things being on summer hols means and I plan to make the most of it.

This weekend was our sixth wedding anniversary and we celebrated it by taking the Little Lemon to the market.   The sixth anniversary is represented by sugar so I suppose selling fudge was quite an appropriate way to spend the day!

In between customers at the Duck Pond market, surrounded by fudge

In between customers at the Duck Pond market, surrounded by fudge

We always take a moment to wander around the market when we’re there to say hello to some of the other stallholders we’ve made friends with, and I always pop into the petting zoo for my fix of fluffiness.  This week I played with a piglet (he squealed a lot) and sat with a tiny bunny on my lap.

Cute!

Cute!

Several of our friends and family popped down to see us which was brilliant and our friends Janine and Steve whom we haven’t seen since Australia three years ago came along too.

On Wednesday last week I went along to the press night of Dirty Dancing which I thoroughly enjoyed – it was nice to be back at the Piccadilly Theatre and to see old friends.

An incredibly pink Piccadilly

An incredibly pink Piccadilly – picture shared from Charlotte Gooch

Last weekend we had some friends and family round for a barbecue in the garden as a sort of early anniversary celebration – Simon did all the cooking and even made us an enormous Eton Mess for dessert (one of the many reasons I love my husband – who doesn’t love a guy who can whip up an Eton Mess at a moment’s notice?)

Simon eating his Mess straight from the bowl (this is not a flattering view of the garden - hoping it will look better in the coming weeks)

Simon eating his Mess straight from the bowl (this is not a flattering view of the garden – hoping it will look better in the coming weeks)

And we discovered that some of our neighbours who had lost their black cat have found him again (phew).  They posted notices up on trees and fences to let us know:

Found him!

Found him!

Here’s to another week filled with things to make us smile!

 

If you go down to the woods…

… then make sure you have a decent pair of gardening gloves and a stout heart.  This is what our garden looked like until last weekend:

Not exactly the suburban idyll

Not exactly the suburban idyll…

Although I really like the ‘meadow’ style of garden, this was taking things a bit too far and it wasn’t ever meant to get this bad! (I do love that we provided a home to lots of interesting creatures like the little hairy ginger fella on the right though).

Last year Simon’s brother Philip, who’s a horticulturalist, took care of our garden for us but with a new baby imminent he’s rather got his hands full and with the upkeep of the garden left to us… well, you can see how it ended up.  With all the rain we’ve had this year, and with the two of us out of the house working all hours and running the bakery, it always ended up further down on the to-do list and we watched with horror as our neat garden grew and grew and grew.  To make things worse, our neighbours have a lovely, well-tended garden which made us look like lazy slobs.

So, last Saturday while Simon was at work, I covered myself in suncream, put on a sun hat and my (brand new and hastily-bought-in-Homebase) gardening gloves and got to work.  It took three hours, but I managed to cut back most of the overgrowth that was hiding our lovely flower beds and had all-but-strangled our rosemary bush.  On Monday, Simon got his gardening groove on and attacked the lawn (is it still considered a lawn when it’s two and half feet tall and the grass has its own buds?) with first the strimmer and then two goes with the lawnmower.  Of course the grass is utterly knackered and rather yellow but at least we can get out there now in the sunshine before it disappears. This is what it looks like now:

A little yellow but much less wild!  I rescued some of the wild flowers for the coffee table

A little yellow but much less wild! I also rescued some of the wild flowers for the living room

There’s still a lot more to do, and George definitely misses snuffling around in the long grass, but I’d really like to fill the garden with wild flowers and at least keep a little bit of a haven for the butterflies and ginger crawlies.  And today I noticed that our other neighbours’ garden looked like this:

neighbourSomehow I feel a little bit better now :)

 

Three new discoveries

George taking a stroll to the park

George taking a stroll to the park

Now that I’m no longer working on a show in the evenings, I’ve a little more time on my hands. I’ve been spending that time walking in the park with George (which is lovely now that the evenings are warmer and lighter) and discovering all sorts of things via Pinterest and some of the blogs that I follow. There’s something intrinsically communal in reading what other people are up to and sharing ideas with them and here are three things I’ve discovered today which I really like:

Firstly:
Grooveshark – a website where you can create your own playlists (they seem to have pretty much every track ever written) and even embed it into your own website. Tree introduced us to something similar when we stayed over in Vegas last year, but you couldn’t access it from outside the U.S because of copyright laws. Grooveshark is international so visit the site and fill yer boots! Here’s my playlist for today:

http://grooveshark.com/playlist/Summer+s+Eve/88377713

I also found a new recipe for an old favourite:
Chocolate brownies with cream cheese icing, strawberries and blueberries on top – I’ve made brownies before and I love the fudgy, gooey inside but I’d never thought of topping them off with cream cheese icing and fruit. You need to make sure that the brownies are slightly thinner than usual to accommodate the thick fruity topping, and a little crispier than usual. I can’t wait to make these! It’s our anniversary in a couple of weeks’ time and we’re having a barbecue to celebrate so these might have to go on the menu…

Berry brownies - with thanks to http://www.freckled-fox.com/

Berry brownies – with thanks to http://www.freckled-fox.com/

Lastly, I’ve been looking at photo-editing apps to do funky things with.  I normally use Adobe Fireworks and Apple’s Aperture which are fab but I downloaded an app from the App Store called iSplash; it’s simple to use and has one function: to add splashes of colour to monochrome images.  Here are a few other pics which I used iSplash on:

On the dance floor at Tree and Josh's wedding last year

On the dance floor at Tree and Josh’s wedding last year

Gotta have Pimm's at a summer wedding!

Gotta have Pimm’s at a summer wedding!

Simon signing the register at Tree and Josh's wedding

Simon signing the register at Tree and Josh’s wedding

As you can see, it’s quite addictive.  I could spend hours messing around with our pics but there’s baking to be done and fudge to be made so I’d better get back to it…

 

Silverstone baby!

This time a week ago we were packing all our camping gubbins and several picnics in the car and high tailing it off up to Northamptonshire for a weekend of fast cars and festival, and what a flipping brilliant weekend it was! The weekend was a birthday present for my brother’s 40th – he’s a Motorsport fan and has been to lots of car events including Le Mans, but never an F1 race. It’s the first time I’ve been to Silverstone and we’d booked our tickets back in February. Hubby and I were lucky enough to go to the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai a couple of years ago when we were travelling and that was my first experience of a GP (and the one that hooked me into Formula 1). Great though it was, there was actually nothing going on at the circuit apart from the race and the Chinese weren’t hugely welcoming.

The campsite at Silverstone

The campsite at Silverstone

Silverstone was a completely different story: our campsite had a pub and a steak house (!) as well as a couple of big stages for live bands and comedians, and different food stalls. The atmosphere was brilliant – everyone was busy having a marvellous time and the circuit was the same, with more food stands, restaurants and another huge stage with entertainment and jolly times to be had almost constantly (Saturday night on the big stage was the legend that is Billy Ocean. I know. It was brilliant!)

I’ve never been to an actual festival (was probably not actually cool enough) but this was pretty much what I imagined a festival would be like, complete with putting up a tent in the rain (good ol’ Blighty) and getting covered in mud (hurrah for the wellies!) and getting sunburnt when the weather took a turn for the best (not me this time but there were an awful lot of very pink people).

Full English fry-up to set us up for the day

Full English fry-up to set us up for the day

Before the race on Sunday, we were treated to the Red Arrows and I was once again reminded why I love being British – there are some things we do really rather well and these guys are incredible.

The race itself was brilliant and even though you see less of it when you’re there than you do watching it from your sofa, it was so much more exciting. Afterwards, they opened up the track and we all piled onto it to get up close to the winners’ podium (something else we weren’t allowed to do in Shanghai), and then we spent the rest of the evening kicking back in the sunshine in front of the stage with a beer to a few more bands and the drivers coming out to say hello. We had a fab time (so did my brother) and we’re already planning to go back again next year – better start saving the pennies!