Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for August, 2012

Chocolate Cake

Time to have your cake and eat it.  

Its snack time in our household and I have three hungry mouths so this week I have decided to bake a cake.   This is just a very quick easy sponge with a bit of decoration that goes down as if I had paid a fortune for it.


175g  butter
175g  caster sugar
175g  self raising flour
3 large eggs
2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder (I used drinking chocolate because I had run out)
blackcurrant jam
chocolate spread (I use a cheap supermarket brand – Beware some have NUTS in)
chocolate buttons
sprinkling of icing sugar

I am not professionally trained and I know I will upset some bakers but this is my method of making the sponge.

Put the block of butter in the bowl and put in microwave for 20 seconds, check then add another 20 seconds.  This will be mostly melted with a few very soft bits left.

Add the sugar and whisk till smooth

Add all the flour and cocoa powder and fold in with a spoon then add the three eggs and whisk thoroughly checking that all the ingredients are well and truely mixed in.

I always put a touch of butter in my cake tins and heat them then spread around the tin so that nowhere is not greased.

Add the cakes to the tins and put in the oven, medium heat (190 C  / 375 F / Gas 5)  for about 20 – 25 minutes

Once cooked with still a little sponginess in the top turn upside down and leave, with the tin on, to cool.

When cooled take the bottom layer and spread thinly with chocolate spread.  Then on the top layer spread the base liberally with the blackcurrant jam before turning to sit on the chocolate covered layer.

Using the chocolate spread cover the top and sides of the cake.

Decorate with chocolate buttons (big ones look good if you can get them)   and a sprinkling of icing sugar.

Serve to the waiting throng and don’t expect to have very much left.  

Enjoy, tell me how you like to decorate your cakes.    I have to make cakes with a chocolate flavour if I want to stay popular but what flavour do you choose?


Find out what I am up to in my other blog  Dawn Chorus

Getting the Grade

It’s been a long week of waiting especially for 16 year olds and their wearied families.  Last Wednesday brought a stream of successful A’level results; leading to young futures being mapped out as scenes of happy teenagers realise they had won that coveted place at university as they study the sheets of paper handed to them.

This week it was the turn of the GCSE results.  Boys and girls up and down the country have been back apprehensively attending school; for one long drawn out moment of intense emotion, as they learn how well they have done.  All those tedious hours of study, those nagged timely homeworks and all those missed activities; were they enough?

I made a point of being up early.  I had not been asked but I knew it would come and when it did it would be instant.   “I need a lift now?”

The last two years have been a long haul for No 1 Son dealing with more than just the usual teenage angst, lack of motivation and general ennui that his classmates seem to have overcome.

He, not surprisingly being such a keen sports player, opted to take Further PE as one of his options.   He would of course focus all his passion on rugby as his main sporting activity.  Fate however, was not of the same opinion and he was distraught and devastated by the distressing news he needed pins in his hips and would be out of contact sport action for a whole year.  The first operation was just before he embarked on his GCSE course.  Six weeks spent in a wheel chair and a further six on crutches before he tentatively began walking and gently jogging.  Then tragedy struck as fate dealt her next blow; the second hip gave way and he was catapulted back to square one.

The second operation took us less by surprise as we now knew there was weakness but the timing could not have been worse.   Weeks into the new school term and days before the first set of exams in his modular English, Maths and Science GCSE were due to be sat.   When the pain came it was almost routine, one phone call and we leap frogged the waiting list to be seen.  That day we were admitted and the operation took place early the next morning.

No 1 Son still suffering from the anaesthetic was taken from his hospital bed straight to school to sit his maths exam.  Unable to keep track of the time due to severe bouts of sleepiness; how was he ever going to remember how to divide fractions or work out the circumference of a trapezium.  He sat uncomfortably in his wheelchair wondering what day it was, as he filled in the hazy paper in front of him.  Two days later still heavily dependent on pain killers, still tired and angry we dropped him back at school to discuss the merits of the chosen topic book.  A story in which he had already struggled to find empathy with any of the characters.

Disappointing results were met with his school wanting to move him down a group in maths and to monitor his English.   I don’t get belligerent often, but armed with an arsenal of justifying persuasions I tackled the school who gave in without fight on the proviso his next results were better and he would retake these modules studying on his own.  The battle rules were laid.  Only he could pull it back, but at what cost.

The first year of his course for PE he watched longingly as the others played their sports and developed their skills while he read the theory.  Once fit but unable to play rugby he took to refereeing the game which helped his study of the laws and added another strand to his practical sports.  He took up tennis with less chance of being in a crash or wipe out. Sluggishly his serve found its home as he sauntered along the base line hoping for a long return with restricted stretch.

He had taken the battle rules and reworked them for himself, he was not going to let them move him.  He knuckled down and worked; creating revision timetables to focus his time and energies.  He limited his party going, opting if not preferring to have proper sleep rather than beer infused dozing.  He exercised his way to peak fitness, losing all the weight that had begun to drag him down after months of inactivity.  Back on his beloved rugby field he came from nowhere to take the end of season “most improved back” trophy.   He practised his new found tennis skills and can return a mean backhand down the line challenging some of his county level playing friends.

Notes of revision were posted over the house explaining assonance, alliteration and adverbs.  Diagrams of algebraic fractions and wigwams began appearing on the bathroom walls!   He dragged himself reluctantly off to extra classes and took on extra homework to catch up on his lost year.  Finally he sat the last exams and today he will want to go and collect his results.

Whatever his results give us he has scored an A* for his dedicated, disciplined and determined attitude to achievement and he deserves so much more than a sheet of paper with a few letters on.   He has overcome huge obstacles to get to this stage.  We asked for best effort and that is exactly what he delivered. So well done No 1 Son!

Dedication, discipline and determination A*

“Mum are you doing anything, could you just give me a lift to school my friends are meeting there in a few minutes……..!”


Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

PS:   Of course I cannot reveal his results as they are between him and who he wishes to divulge them to.   To say we are proud is an understatement but I feel my belligerence has been vindicated.  His English and Science were above predicted and his Maths was way above all predictions. Two years ago he was in a wheelchair; today he has exceeded all expectations delivering an incredible result in his Sports GCSE.


Turkey Pasta

We had just got back from holiday and desperate for a cupboard meal rather than do a big shop while still unloading the car and between copious piles of washing,  I raided the freezer and cupboards.  Yet again threw it all together and it was so welcoming at the end of a long day of travelling.  It took minutes to actually cook once defrosted but a great idea if you plan it before you go away.


Turkey steak – diced   (I used a combination of turkey and chicken from the freezer)
Onion – chopped finely
Condensed soup (I had chicken but mushroom would be fine)
Large splash of milk

Fry the onions for a few minutes to make them soft then add the meat.

Fry this off till browned on all sides.

Stir in the soup and add milk to rinse the tin.

Bring to the boil for a few minutes then turn down and allow to simmer.  If it begins to look dry or sticky add a little more milk.

I put the pasta water on at the same time and then added the pasta as I turned the meal down.

Just before the pasta is ready,  drain and finish off in the milky sauce.

Serve with bright coloured vegetables such as brocolli, carrots, peas.     We had frozen peas from the freezer.   This will probably work well for most meats if you adapt the soup.    If you use beef or lamb you may need a vegetable soup or a jar which would need a red wine rinse rather than milk.

Enjoy and let me know if you have any quick cupboard style meals that can be rustled up.


Find out what I am up to in my other blog  Dawn Chorus


I am a creature of habit and sadly my weeks follow a pre-planned timetable with my meal menus befitting the activities the family will be subjected to.   Weekends have their own mini timetable which we all adhere to in some small way.

However this weekend the weather man said “tomorrow will be sunny and dry but with a gentle crosswind, a little choppy towards the coast”

“Shall we go sailing then?” suggested Sexy Sporty Dad with more enthusiasm than he has had since he left work for our holiday.   This was not on the agenda!  It was not even a couple of precious hours that could be squeezed into the rest of the day with an early start or late finish.

Sailing isn’t really my thing.  I can be tempted on to the water; In fact I do love the sea, the rushing of the waves, watching surfers catch the waves then crash and splash as they lose out to the power of the water.  I love watching the boats bobbing on the horizon and the sight of hundreds of sails all fighting the elements, is exhilarating.

I do not like the sand getting into all my little creases which there seem to be even more of this year, then finding its way into the box of food which I have desperately tried to keep closed, or the tiniest folded item of dry clothing.  I hate seaweed clawing at your feet as you paddle, brushing past like an unknown predator then wrapping your legs, re-igniting fears of some horror film about the deep.

My kind of sailing does not involve hanging on for dear life; waiting for the boon to whip round and take you clean out of the boat landing heavily in too deep salty cold water.    My kind of boat has an engine, it has soft leather seats to relax back into as the wind whips through your wayward hair.   My boat has a large deck for me to catch the rays of the beating sun as I sip a large fruit filled chilled pimms.  If I am totally honest my boat also has someone to sail and definitely someone to serve the pimms.

So dream on; I will have to keep buying my lottery ticket and hoping for that.

Good sailing days are so unpredictable and usually do not fall conveniently on a weekend.

It took a couple of hours to prepare the 420 which to our horror has not been out for 2 years, together with the little topper for the children to try to exert some power over the mighty sea.   An impromptu picnic thrown together and we were on our way.

You know how you always say things like “oh next time you must come with us”; next time comes around too quickly and everyone is too busy.   This time we stopped for a moment; Natty my neighbour has been sailing before and provides me with a wonderful excuse not to venture into the boat; we invited her along.   She had her sister and family staying so they all came along.  No 1 Son’s friend Stuart loves the water as do his family so we invited them and  they came along.

We all met up at harbour side in Poole where the boats were then rigged and ready to launch.   My role in this is to hold.   I hold the ropes, I hold the boat, I hold the launch trolley.   Then I hold my breath as I watch the waves batter the boats; sails bending tantalizingly close to the surface before being pulled back to the correct position.

I count them out and I count them back in again.

We were not the only ones to have listened to the forecast and decided days like this were not guaranteed.  The sea was alive with sails, jetskis, motor launches and the odd ferry cutting through the crowds.  Waves and over swell causing the boats to bob brazenly above the turbulent waters.

I tiptoed gingerly into the freezing water my shorts rolled as high as they could be without cutting my circulation.   After the initial three or four minutes either my legs were so numb they lost sensation or the water was actually not as cold as expected, but I could no longer feel a thing.   Venturing further and further into the water I clung to the edge of the bouncing boat as it tossed and turned tumultuously against my chilled hands.  Wet suit clad bodies climbed in causing the boat to move further out to sea dragging me with it.  My now soaked shorts clinging to clammy legs; I clasped the edge in a desperate bid to keep hold. Once everyone was seated my last task; a final push and the current carried the crew from my clutches.

Back on topper watch I stood on the beach watching as the children capsized their craft.  The wait was interminable as the sail appeared momentarily before the next wave took it back into the water.   Each near attempt to pull the craft upright thwarted, by an upsurge of water, followed by another drift towards the busy ferry route.    My breathing now limited to the wispy views of the sail as I paced the beach contemplating how to rescue the child.

Swimming out to them was never an option; I am a hesitant swimmer these days and anything out of my depth is guaranteed to leave me slowly sinking southwards.   Not that I would have the knowledge or strength to haul the hull back into sailing mode.   Also having rescued the boat I would be stranded without even a life jacket, which all the sailors and visitors were enforced to wear, and unable to swim back to shore.

I tried yelling to Sexy Sporty Dad that the topper was in trouble but my voice despite the raised volume and desperation was carried far off to France on a furious gust.  After several attempts to catch his attention; he did spot or rather couldn’t spot the boat so turned tac to make for the sail lying forlornly on the water surface.

With a final hold of breath and a lot of psychic willing from the remaining shore based party, the sail rose gloriously out of the water; fleetingly teetered on going over the opposite way, righted itself before a body bumbled into the boat.  The topper sailed majestically through the sea towards the 420; not requiring any help at all.

The two boats then turned tail and chased each other up and down Poole harbour.  There were lots of quick

chasing the wind

changes as crew and sailors swapped life vests and in some cases wet suits.   The day drew into evening, the wind dropped, clouds cleared and the sun began setting on a perfect sailing day.

Unable to say good bye and end the camaraderie and general enjoyment, everyone came home with us.  The ginger and garlic remained in the fridge. Lids on the cumin, coriander and cardamom all stayed firmly shut   Saturday night curry was relegated to another night as a takeaway was hungrily consumed by some very tired and hungry individuals.

On Sunday despite the thunderstorm crashing about our ears, the family were subjected to the planned BBQ even though it had to be cooked inside.   One impromptu day in a weekend is more than enough disruption in my ordered life for the family to cope with!


Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy



Holiday Dreams

What of the dream?

The holiday brochure looked so appealing.  Those descriptions online were incredibly irresistible with their crystal clear waters and multi water slides.   Shops, bar and take-away all there on site so you do not have to move from your accommodation.   Just look at the photos and check out that deep azure sky, not a cloud in sight. So what are we waiting for?

Hours on the phone negotiating ferry times and co-ordinating which accommodation will be available on the dates the ferry allows us to arrive.  Of course if madam wishes to upgrade to the deluxe chalet, that is available anytime!

No madam, you have to book a seat or cabin for the ferry crossing.  Yes I know madam that it is a daytime crossing and with such an early start you will be in the restaurant to start with, but we have to charge you for a cabin or seat.

Oh and does madam need bed linen and towels?

Can we not bring our own towels?   Of course you can bring your own but if you require bed linen then the towels come as a pack.

The one concession I do agree willingly to is the welcome pack: – tea, coffee, milk, washing up liquid, tea towel and matches, the essentials in life, just waiting when we arrive. The extra cost will be worth it and Sexy Sporty Dad need not concern himself too much over little details such as cost.

It does not matter what the starting price in the brochure or on-line says.  The final pay up front deal will always be more than you budgeted for, whether you fly, ferry or remain firmly fixed in this country.

The deal is done and we have 6 wonderful months planning it, what it will be like, what we will do and eat while there.  How we will use the facilities and all the French we will talk, how many friends we will meet and make.  Those French teenagers ooh la la!

With six weeks to go the final payment is handed over and the travel documents arrive.  The car is booked in for service to check that it is up to the journey.  The insurance is checked, we are covered by our car insurance and by our travel insurance.  A search reveals we have not lost the paper parts of our driving licences and all our passports are current with the E111 which now has an expiry on them but are still in force.

A week to go and I remember to order the Euros, we check whose swimming kit still fits and who needs new shoes.  Suitcases are dusted off and packed.   The old travel wallet is dug out from the back of the wardrobe where it has languished idly since the last European trip.   A zipped compartment reveals £30 worth of Euros which were not worth changing back into sterling so have been forgotten,  together with £20 worth of Turkish money which we will not be requiring on this holiday.

It’s here!

All of a sudden our holiday is upon us and with a very early start we arrive at the ferry point for 7 o’clock in the morning.   Despite the only half wakefulness, crammed into the car with three growing boys and enough luggage I swear for a month away, emotions are hyper, expectations are hopeful and excitement is heightened. We creep slowly onto the ferry and into the allocated parking spot.   Unload what we think we may need for the crossing and follow the tide of passengers surging up the metal stairwells.

We have ordered and begun breakfast even as the ferry edges its nose away from Portsmouth Harbour out into the clear open sea ahead.   Apart from a few seagulls and breaking waves the view is uninterrupted sea, to the front, to left and to the right; sea.

As mid-day approaches we discuss what we should do for lunch.  After all we do not know how long the journey may take and what will be open at the other end on a Sunday evening.  We tucked in to a second meal on board the ferry before being ushered off the boat and onto the continent.

From this point on we were in the hands of the tour operators.   My tom-tom is unable to get European roads so I had printed off detailed directions from the operator’s web site.   They are; one would assume the most experienced at directing all and sundry to their campsites. They had also sent us with our documentation, a map to guide us.  Naively, I now realise; I should have double checked the map.  It only covered the small area of Brittany that the camp site was situated in.  According to the illustrated map of France on the back cover we need two adjoining maps to find our way from Caen to Quimperle.   Thank goodness I had printed the directions.

After 2 hours hesitatingly following the directions, discussing and debating why we needed to go to Cherbourg to get to the bottom of Brittany; we pulled off the road not far from Mont St Michel and finding a little tabac still open we managed to buy a road map of the whole of France.   As we suspected we had no need to be anywhere near Cherbourg or Mont st Michel; so under our own steam we turned tail and trekked back down to the right route.

Delayed as we were, we looked out for a service station to break up the journey and enjoy un tasse du thé and

Services without a smile!

a biscuit; at the very least to use the facilities such as they might be.  We left the main road following the signs two or three times to be met with ramshackle old buildings that had long since closed for the day.   One man would not let us in but was kind enough to direct me towards an old lean-to shed; I hesitated to close the door in case the whole structure collapsed.  The family convinced I would be hoisted in to the air chitty chitty bang bang style waved a furious good bye as I entombed myself in the dark.  At least there was a toilet and not just a hole in the ground.

Much relieved I dug around the depths of the packing to find a packet of biscuits meant for the morning but needed now and we picnicked in a very dodgy car park described as services, on biscuits and squash.  Onwards and downwards, we climbed back into the cramped car and resumed our journey south.  It got so late that I phoned ahead to inform them we were on our way and were near L’Orient and hoped to be with them before 11pm.  That was fine they did not close the barriers till 11.

Finally reaching the local town we didn’t dare stop to grab a pizza in case this brought us over the 11 o’clock deadline.  We got in just after half ten, having tried again to follow their directions only to be directed one way, while eagle eyed children insisted the sign said the opposite way.  We went with the children on this; only for them to be proved right.

Fearing we were too late we stood bewildered in the reception waiting for someone to turn up.  Finally the girl arrived, gave us a barrier code to let us drive through and led us to our chalet.  As she opened the chalet for us I asked about the take-away.  No that was all closed for the night now.  Ok could she point me in the direction of the shop and we could get something to make a snack.  The shop was back near the main reception and was all closed now.  What about the bar? Yes that was open.  Did it sell food?  Only ice-cream!

We entered the musty chalet; I suspect we were the first to use it this season by the old smell and dusty feel.  At least I knew a cup of tea would not be far away now.   But where was my welcome pack.  Deep apologies she would go and get one.  Suspiciously I wandered into the bedrooms; where was the bed linen and towels?  On the table were four swimming wrist bands, why only four when the chalet slept six and we had requested five sets of everything.

Had I really ordered all that?  Oh yes and paid for it, I produced my travel documentation and found the receipted list of extras.   Again deep apologies and she would be back in a few moments with it all.  True to her word she was and with her a bottle of placatory wine, although I am not sure that shouldn’t have been included in the welcome pack.   Only when I emptied the pack out did I realise the milk came in tiny packs of cream powder, the coffee was a tiny pack of filter coffee and the two tea bags were not going to go very far.   At least the wine was welcome.

Starving and shattered we all fell into the welcoming beds having made them first and were instantly asleep.  I woke sometime in the night to find torrential rain beating relentlessly on the roof of the chalet, matching my mood.   So much for deep azure blue skies!

The old junior choice song “Camp Granada” springs to mind.  “Mudda, fadda kindly disregard this letter!”

We overslept deep into the morning, then wandered leisurely to the shop in glorious sunshine to fetch fresh croissants, pain au chocolate, baguette and milk a plenty.  Laughing and hilarity from the water slides and swimming pool area hinted at the fun we were about to embark on. Music already blaring from the bursting bar beckoned us to join in.   Suntan lotion smothered over our winter whitened skins, swimming togs under our clothes we followed the sound of fun.

Have fun on your holiday this year wherever you decide to go.


Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

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