My Milk Glass Cake Stand

I thought to myself recently “my blogs got a bit show ‘n’ tell lately. I must stop going on about stuff I have bought“.

And I will do. Right after I share my indulgent purchase of the month with you, that is!

I justify this post because I think a lot of us bloggers and blog readers like stuff like pretty cakes, pretty nik-naks and a right good bargain.

Do read on if you are a fan of Vintage Pyrex, Hazel Atlas, Phoenix Opalware, Anchor Hocking Fire King, Jadeite and milk glass in general. And do read on if you have long admired the cake stands that they use as props on The Great British Bake Off and that seem to be in every photograph in every baking recipe book ever.

Look away now if you are concerned about the environmental problems with cheap consumer goods manufactured in China* and the copyright issues and ethics behind knock off goods….

Cos I got me one of these!milk glass cake stand

As Wayne and Garth would say “schwing!!”milk glass cakey

Thanks to a heads up from French for Cupcake on Instagram, I am the proud owner of a 10″ fake milk glass cake (that is actually glass not ceramic) for £9.99! They had loads at my local branch. I ummed and ahhed about what size and colour to get, and I did consider buying a few more to maybe sell on Ebay. But I would feel a right **** doing that. Its all very well selling vintage bits and bobs, as they tend to be one of a kind, but I could never rip people off with something that they could buy in a shop around the corner from themselves. Note to self – this is why I will never be rich. I am not ruthless enough!

Dodgy camera phone pic

Dodgy camera phone pic

I have long admired these cake stands and I am so pleased to own one now, and so chuffed that I saved loads of money with a much cheaper identical version!

I think to celebrate, instead of baking my usual healthy-sugar free-bananary-oaty-peanut buttery-type of slice, I need to bake something photogenic involving lots of layers, food colouring and a shed load of butter cream!

Image from notonthehighstreet.com. Click on picture for source.

Image from notonthehighstreet.com. Click on picture for source.

* It had a sticker on the bottom saying ‘made in China’. The real deal cake stands are made (by hand) by Mosser Glass in America.

My Style In My Thirties

Rob said to me while I was tapping this post out on my laptop “hurry up and publish another blog post, I want to know what is going on in our lives!” I replied “oh no, its just another narcissistic post where I talk all about myself again!” Ha, ha! Read on if you dare!

I mentioned a few posts ago about my wardrobe problems, in that I had nothing to wear. Actually, thats a lie. I had (and have) plenty to wear, just no real options for a smart casual outfit for a family meal.

Since that post, I have bought a few new items of clothing and edited my wardrobe. Here is a little peek!wardrobe

Please excuse the basket full of sanitary towels and my granny style dressing gown – it was a Xmas pressie!

As you can see, I have a lot of denim and navy. And not a lot of imagination, it seems!

I have invested in three pairs of decent jeans. I had been making do with a couple of cheap, ill fitting black jeans from Primark and New Look for the last few years. I put off replacing them because of my lack of funds (I work PT and would rather spend my money on food, books, festival tickets and house stuff than clothes) and, well laziness really. Shopping for and trying on jeans is pretty high up on my list of hellish things to do.

But when you have a mix and match, minimal, uniform way type of dressing you have to make the main elements count. So something had to be done.

When I left my second job last year they gave me a £25 M&S voucher, so mother and I took the bus up to the evil triangle of shops, sorry Bluewater, on a mission to spend it. We headed to the massive M&S denim department, and I managed to scramble around and gather the last few pairs of jeans in my size to try on, before all the herds of women of a certain age snatched them up before me. (Seriously, its like a war zone in there!)

And miracle of all miracles, I found some jeans that fit and flattered me! I bought a pair of their £22.50 jeggings which are lovely and comfy. So comfy in fact, that I went home and ordered them online in two different colours!

So now I have three pairs of decent jeans that I can dress up or down. Yay! I feel like such a grown up!

Its amazing how a good pair of jeans can make an outfit. For the first time in my life my Mum has started to tell me that I look nice and compliment me! But nothing has really changed with how I dress. I have just crossed the T’s and doted the I’s.

I live in my jeans and my style is very basic. I love a denim blouse, a chunky cardie, a stripy top and a hoodie or two. I have lots of these items in various colours which I can mix and match with my jeans and DM’s in the colder months.

In summer I pretty much live in t shirt style skater dresses with leggings and in what I call my jazzy pants (baggy, patterned, cotton trousers) with a black or white vest top and my old faithful Birkenstocks. Although I do also have a pair of navy Saltwater sandals. (Whaaat…I read far too many blogs, OK!) which my Mum and sister take the piss out of me for wearing, calling them my granny sandals!

If I need to dress up, I just wear smarter shoes, a bit more make up and some jewellery with my basic black blazer (which normally only comes out my wardrobe for job interviews and funerals). This seems to convince my Mum that I have made an effort and keeps her quiet! My poor Mum has despaired for years over my scruffiness. But once a grunger, always a grunger I say!

Its funny, when I was a teenager in the late nineties I loved standing out from the crowd. I used to wear secondhand clothing from the 70’s (it wasn’t called vintage in those days), make my own jewellery, bought kids clothing from Tammy Girl and prided myself for wearing the widest pair of flares I could find. Oh, and I loved a bit of glittery make up from Barry M too!

Once Britpop disappeared and it became the noughties, I went through a Hello Kitty and Afro Ken phrase. I loved all that Japanese cutesy stuff and used to wear their t shirts and accessories on nights out and wore a lot of pink. Thats all well and good when you are in your early twenties, and maybe up until your late twenties. But once you reach your mid thirties, you feel a little silly wearing this stuff. Or at least, I do anyway. Hats off to you if you can pull it off.

The same goes for me with slogan t shirts. Thats why I stick to plain or striped clothing. These days I am all about safe and boring and blending in. Its down to, part being that bit older and having nothing to prove, and part laziness with me.

As for inspiration, I love Erin from Reading My Tea Leaves outlook on style, fashion and dressing. The bloggers who’s dress sense I like the most are Susk from Susk and Banoo and Anna from Door 16 (check out their Instagram accounts for inspiration). As for celebrities, I admire Jessica Alba’s off duty style. That girl always looks amazing in her jeans, a baggy jumper and a scarf. Its probably because she is drop dead gorgeous and could wear a black sack and still look unbelievable! I admire Janet‘s, Elise’s and Pea Soup Eats outfit posts on their blogs. And the only fashion blog that I follow is Vintage Vixen. I follow her more for her attitude and outlook on life though. The lady talks sense! And Vix and Jon have a (slightly older than ours) orange T25 too. Respect.

In Hel’s Kitchen #1

I love food, cooking and eating.

Maybe, just maybe, I love the eating part a little bit too much for my own good!

Never mind eh! Even though I love talking about food, I don’t really like blogging about food. I find typing up the ingredients and method really tedious. And, if Im honest, my posts are dull, too long and my food photography is lacking good lighting, pretty props and all the rest of the stuff that passes as good blogging!

But I still want to share the best of the wholesome, cheap ‘n’ easy recipes that I cook on here. So I thought I would start a new series similar to my Lately# posts where I just round up my thoughts and share a link and a picture or two.

I know plenty of other bloggers do these type of posts (thanks for the inspiration gals) and I really like them. I always click on the links to see if I fancy trying out the recipes and I love having a nosey at other peoples meal planning and daily eating habits. So its only fair that I share mine in return!

Plus, this is a quicker, lazy way of food blogging and I have been dying to drop Hel’s Kitchen as a blog post title (snortle!). Win win!

I don’t know how frequent these posts will be, time will tell. But for now here are some of the highlights of what we have been stuffing our faces with in late Jan/early Feb –

  • This vegetarian chilli from Whats Gaby Cooking. Very tasty. Next time I make it I will use less stock though. I actually had some fresh limes for once (Mum sent them over) and the freshly squeezed lime juice definitely adds an extra something to the dish.
  • Another healthy oaty snack bar to satisfy my sweet tooth from Ellie Krieger. Don’t bother making these if you do not have a food processor.snack tretch
  • Another veggie chilli from Bessie’s Veggie Food. I messed mine up by adding too much chilli powder. (Whoopsie! Think runny noses and tears while eating, not a good look!) But I will make this again. Its quick, cheap and filling. And it makes a huge amount. You will be eating this for days.chili
  • This two ingredient pizza dough. I was intrigued to see how it works, and sure enough it does make a nice enough pizza dough, thats great for days when you have no time to let a dough rise etc. I made mine with Lidl’s Greek style yogurt (as its cheaper than the traditional Fage Greek yogurt) so my dough was very heavy and dense (still tasty though). Next time I will try it with the real deal strained Greek yogurt to see if it makes any difference.
  • Yet another chilli recipe! This chicken barley chilli from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. One meal eaten and two meals frozen, for when I am working lates, all from two chicken breasts. Boom!
  • And finally as a little treat, just to maintain our podgy figures in order to keep warm during Februarys big freeze, these cocoa powder brownies from Smitten Kitchen found via The Wednesday Chef. Mine were a little crunchy on the top, but still very moreish!

I promise you that we do not just eat chilli’s, pizza and brownies! These were just my favourite new recipes that I have cooked recently. Honest!

Although, to be fair, I would be quite happy existing on a diet of chilli, pizza and brownies!

Shaggy Sheep Furnishings Anyone?

Rob was telling me about our friends new business.

They are selling handmade shabby chic furnishings.

Except that he got a little muddled when describing the term for it!

Image from thevillageblacksmith.net

Image from thevillageblacksmith.net

Now try to look at anything shabby chic without thinking shaggy sheep…….!!!!!

Image from jezebel.com

Image from jezebel.com

Dreamy Crib Alert 3

While compiling my Design Classic post about the Cross blanket I revisited my post about Papa Bear Chairs to insert the link, and it made me remember just how amazing Rachel Griffiths’s mid century LA home is.

So amazing, that it deserves its very own post!

What I love about the house is that this is a mid century home thats not a shrine to the past. Its a home that has been bought up to date to accommodate her families needs, but yet still holds onto its original features. Like the fireplace, the large windows (although updated with modern glazing, Im sure) and the wooden panelling on the walls which has been painted white for a lighter, brighter look. Then filled with modern furnishings, all complimented with a few tasteful pieces of furniture from the homes original era (Papa Bear chairs! Bertoia chair! Eames unit!) and with a cheeky Ikea lampshade in the office thrown in for good measure!

Rachel Griffiths Im loving your work!exterior17french-doorsdramatic-rug-1garden-patio-areahome-office51living-areaLiving-room69open-plan-kitchen7white-and-pink-bedroom
All images taken from housetohome.co.uk

Lately #13

Well didn’t January just fly by, eh! And didn’t I half waffle on and on about dates and flapjacks in my last blog post, eh!

Right, its time for another little round up on my thoughts and what’s been happening recently. Thankfully shortened into much more reader friendly bullet points! Phew!

  • This post, that I found via the Little Birdie blog, brilliantly sums up everything that I could possibly say about how I view blogging.
  • I really want to go to this exhibition. I have to wait until October though.
  • I decided not to enter the London to Brighton bike ride. Because, err, you know, the whole 56 mile thing. Talk about running before you can walk! Plus the £40 entry fee is a bit steep. So I am going to enter Rob has entered me into this 35 mile event instead. I need a goal and something to motivate me to get off the sofa and move more. Just as soon as it warms up a bit that is. I still have 6 months to prepare for it right?
  • During January I just basically sat on my arse. No swimming, no bike rides, no yoga DVD routines, no long walks etc. I need to get back on the fitness wagon again, especially if I am going to do this bike event. Eeek!
  • I am pleased that Slaves are doing so well lately. A local band that I can be proud of, finally! Well, one of them is from Maidstone, so I am calling them local! We saw them a few years back at the Tunbridge Wells Forum supporting Dinosaur Pile Up and we all agreed that they were much better than the headliners. If you get the opportunity to see them live, do. They are amazing live.
  • I am loving these silly scissors that I got in TK Maxx for £2.99. Pointless – Yes. But they make me smile and make chopping herbs more fun!
  • I got carried away and bought this gadget which I am probably not going to use. It was only £4.98 in Morrisons! I do love a bargain! I am planning to get back into making smoothies again to increase our fruit and vegetable intake. And they will include healthy homemade yogurt in them (I hope). Unfortunately I think my blender is on its way out, as it has a funny burning smell when I use it, so I am saving my pennies up for a Nutribullet! Welp, if its good enough for K-Middy, then its good enough for me!yogurt maker
  • I have been having these funny urges again….the urge to be creative! Oh dear! It happens around this time every year. One year it was crocheting (I got as far as buying a magazine with a free kit in it, which went to the charity shop a year later), one year it was sketching, one year it was quilt making (influenced by a friend who sews amazing quilts as a hobby) plus knitting, photography and evening classes in pottery have all been considered over the years! This year I have been over influenced by the WWW (yet again) and have a hankering to either weave something, macrame something or craft a plant pot out of concrete! Oh dear! Do not watch this space. I will not be acting on my urges. I know my limits, and me and crafts do not mix. The world already has enough bad crafts in it without my contribution!
  • I have also been experiencing some other funny feelings lately. Like the feeling that I want to set a lovely table with nice things on it and invite people over for dinner parties. I must be getting old! Its so sad, but I have been daydreaming about nice napkins and teak Danish candle holders. What is happening to me?!!? The reality will be me giving my guests food poisoning (I still haven’t recovered from the embarrassment of serving guests raw chicken – don’t ask!) and me not being the hostess with the mostess, but getting drunk and swearing too much and knocking down the candles and setting something on fire!
  • Acting on my greedy wants for stuff I don’t need, I bought these Scandi influenced napkins from Asda for £3 (aren’t I posh with fabric napkins, eh!) and the yellow tray that I had been admiring in Wilko’s below as it was reduced from £7 to £4 (well it would be rude not to). I am rubbish at this living a clutter free life lark.table crap
  • Good news, the campervan passed its MOT! It is our only car, in case you were wondering. The Beetle has been declared off the road for a while now and is Rob’s next restoration project. It seems that I will always have a rusty old project parked on my driveway a’la Shameless style!
  • The other day I was thinking about the blogs that I read. I follow a few foodie ones and lots of vintage, mid century and design blogs. But the majority of my Feedly feed is written by thirty-something British women. Talking of which, here is my most recent favourite discovery.

Two Healthy Snack Bars

Rob and I have major sweet tooths. I don’t know what it is, but after eating something savoury, we immediately start craving something sweet. Even if we are full.

We both grew up being told that once we have eaten all our dinner, we can have our pudding. (So basically, even if we are stuffed, we will still force a pudding down!) Sugary sweet things will always be a treat to me. And a necessary. Blame it on the parents, eh!

Over the last few years, my baking habits have changed. I no longer bake sugar laden cakes every week. Back in the heady days when I first discovered my love of baking, I was eating a slice of homemade cake nearly everyday. No wonder I went up a dress size!

I had to admit that all the sugar, butter and buttercream (which is again is just sugar and butter) in and on the cakes was not doing me any favours. And my lack of exercise, but thats another story.

Slowly, but surely, I cut down on making cakes. It breaks my heart that I don’t get to practice my main hobby and use my Kitchenmaid mixer as much as I would like too. But Spinderella will last me a lifetime, and I would like a long lifetime in which to use her.

I still really want sugar though! I want something sweet ALL THE TIME!!!! I am addicted!

At first, instead of cakes, I baked flapjacks and snack bars. I absolutely adore flapjacks and they are one of my favourite foods. But they still contain lots of sugar and butter. So the hunt for healthier alternatives was on.

Recently I have been pinning away recipes like a mad thing, check out my board full of healthy snack bars! Thank you internet for providing me with plenty of recipes based around oats, using natural sweetners like maple syrup, honey, dates or bananas instead of sugar, and coconut oil or peanut butter as a fat!

Here are two of my recent favourites that I want to share. For both of these recipes you need a food processor. Sure, it would be nice to have a Magimix or a Kitchenmaid model, but there is no way on earth I would pay £200+ for something that does the same job as my little old £30 job from Phillips. It might not win any awards for design, nor can it manage to grind oats into a fine flour as required in some of the recipes that I have tried (dammit!). But it can cobble together some houmous, veggie burgers and manage to smoosch up a few dates and thats all I use it for! If you don’t have a food processor you might be able to manage making these with a steady hand and a hand blender. Let me know if you can, as I am always looking for ways to reduce my washing up!

The first is this recipe from The Minimalist Baker. Its so moreish and easy to make. Its a bit of a bugger to spread out in the tin to set, but it works well with both Medjool dates and the cheaper Deglet Nour ones. I know as I have tried out both. Its a perfect treat for the 3pm afternoon energy slump and will keep you going until dinner time thanks to its slow burning carbs and all that other good stuff. Try them, you won’t regret it!peanut butter bar
The next recipe is more of a formula than a recipe. I found it here on The Kitchn. I used 1 cup of Medjool dates, 1 cup 50/50 of raisins and cranberries and 1 cup 75/25 of almonds and sunflower seeds. Plus about a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder. Because we all know that added chocolate makes things better.fruit n nut

I mixed my fruits, nuts and seeds purely to keep costs down. Dried fruit and nuts are not cheap, but I am a savvy shopper and I usually get mine from Lidl, Aldi and Grape Tree rather than your traditional health shops. Plus I am sad because I always request my giant tubs of Manuka honey, coconut oil and natural peanut butter for birthday and Xmas presents. Edible bulk buy presents FTW!

Now on to the dates. I was never a fan of dried dates before. They always made an appearance at Xmas time when I was a kid, in those funny oblong containers with their strange plastic stick things to eat them with, and were hard and horrible. But once I tried Medjool dates I was a fan! How can something that is grown on a tree taste so rich, sweet, indulgent and vanilla-ery? I can see why they were called the fruit of the Kings!

Yes, Medjool dates are more expensive, but they are worth it. I have shopped around and the cheapest that I have found is in Sainsburys at £2.15 for 200g. They are in the fridge next to the fruit BTW, in case you head over to the dried fruit baking section like I did. Buy the organic dates and feel smug while you eat your homemade chocolaty energy bars that taste just like expensive Nakd and Trex bars etc!

Going back to all the recipes that I have pinned on Pinterest. To be honest, I don’t think I am going to bother making any of the other date based energy bars, as they are more or less the same recipe again and again, and this recipe/formula is pretty much perfect for me. The fruits, seeds and nuts I have used are all my favourites and they blend together perfectly for just the right level of virtuous sweetness, with a subtle hint of chocolate. Yum.