Mini Bake Off

I do like it when I get sent a good book to review – especially when it involves cake!  I was sent ‘The Great British Bake Off – Learn to Bake’ which is a cookery book aimed at older children to teens I would have said.  We’re addicted to the show here and we’re all Team James for the final. He won Miss L over with his crazy gingerbread derelict barn which was just a genius recovery from something going to terribly.  A good life lesson for Miss L I felt – you can mess up and still win – good work James.

Anyway back to the book.  I must admit I know it’s aimed at kids but I’ve actually found it quite informative. It has nice concise instructions and isn’t too overwhelming but not condescending either and not like a lot of kids cookery books  just full of cupcakes with smarties on.

There’s whole sections explaining basic ingredients, equipment and what baking terms mean which is good because I had no idea what ‘whisking to ribbon’ meant.  The book much like the programme is broken down in cakes, little bakes, biscuits, bread, pastry and puddings.

Miss L has been rummaging through it for cooking ideas for the half term that’s coming up next week and apparently we HAVE to make the rather amazing looking swiss roll in the book.

Anyone who was with me in a Home Ec class in 1984 stop sniggering now – there was an incident with me, a swiss roll and a coverup by my whole amazing class – really long story.  I’m just hoping that the swiss roll murdering gene has skipped a generation and my girl is less cack handed than me – shouldn’t be hard!.

I’ll post some pictures of our baking’s next week!

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{Book Review} Beginner’s Guide to Reading Music

Let me preface this with, I literally don’t know a thing about reading music. At my 1970’s  junior school we were only taught the triangle. In my secondary school there was a music block mostly there for impressing parents, but you weren’t allowed to use it unless you had out of school music lessons and could be trusted. That pretty much ruled my friends and I out of going anywhere near it!

So when Miss L came home from her new school last year, telling me about her ‘Theory of Music’ lessons and Band Classes, I was made up for her. In September she’ll start learning the Cello and it’s dawned on me that she might actually have some music homework and need support at home for learning music, not something at the moment we can really provide!

At the begining of the summer holidays Flame Tree Publishing offered to send me Beginner’s Guide to Reading Music, so I jumped at it, because I will actually have to learn some of this alongside Miss L.  It seems to me with my albeit limited knowledge a comprehensive, well illustrated beginners book which explains what all those funny squiggles are. I now know what all the types of Clef are *proud face*.  If you’re one of those people who actually know a Clef from your elbow, you can look inside the book on Amazon and it’ll give you an idea of what it’s like.

Miss L and I have had a look through it, and she already understood a lot of the early basics in the book. But as the book goes on it builds on the basics, and gives you lots of diagrams to tie in where the music is on the page to where you’d need to place your fingers on an instrument – this is going to come in very handy!  I do think you need an instrument to use with this, or at the very least a piece of software like Garage Band to simulate having an instrument, to help with the exercises.  But it’s a good starters reference guide and I suspect we will be using it a lot in the coming weeks.

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I’m Reading…

An actual book! This is my first new book of 2011

As most of you know I love social history, a lot of my degree was based on Victorian social history and I am an utter Family History geek so this caught my eye.   I had/have Edwardian grandparents, my maternal side were born in 1906 and 1909 and my paternal grandmother who is still alive was born in 1913.

Growing up I heard stories from my grandad (born 1906) about having no shoes to go to school, the deaths of siblings from minor ailments, the aftermath of the sinking of the Titanic – everyone wore black –  and the joys living off ‘bread and dripping’, blurgh!!.  Grandad wasn’t one of those old people who went on about ‘the good old days’ he knew that poverty and deprivation were rife in that period, even though he was a small child at the time.  His own mother was  a midwife, and she was mugged in 1904 on Battersea Bridge coming home from a birth.  The men threatening to throw her off the bridge and took the few pence she’d earnt.  So I knew it wasn’t all unlocked doors and cockney knees up around pianos in that period, like some would have us believe.

The book is a collection of oral accounts from elderly people who lived through the Edwardian period.  And it’s a real eye opener, it turns out that parents worrying about strangers taking their children isn’t a 21st Century worry, they had it too. Their children were also told not to go off with strangers and stories of stolen children were rife.  The accounts of women dying in childbirth or having 14 children and then dying wornout at 43 were just heartrending. If you come from a mining or weaving family, it’s well worth a read there is a lot in there about the working conditions of not only the adults but the children as well who were there from a very young age.  If you’re into social history, I’d recommend it.

Do any of you have a recommendation for my next read?

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{Book Review} Witchcraft – Halloween Craft Fun

I was sent this book a couple of weeks ago but didn’t get a chance to look at it until now.  Miss L is still off school, much better than she was and is now bored out of her head so this book has come in handy for Halloween craft ideas.

It’s a collection of over 25 ideas from Bloggers and Etsy Store owners like PeculiarMomma, Knitting with Floss and EmandSprout amongst others.  I love the idea of a book of Blogger inspired goodness, it really made me smile.

As you’d expect the ideas are fresh, stylish and fun, and more importantly for a non crafty person like me – easy to make!  If you’re a knitter there are some cute patterns for mini witches, Dracula’s candy bow,  knitted bones and my personal favourite the ‘Vampire bite’ necklace – which is so cool!

We’re going to make the graveyard cupcakes, ghosts toasts (to pop in soup), the cute tangerine pumpkins and some bottled ‘potions’ to give to Miss L’s friends.  If you’re into Halloween Crafts or want some projects to keep the kids entertained over half term it’s a fun book.  I’ve just added to the Violet Posy Amazon Book Store and it’s £6.99 (normally £9.99 in stores) but check with your local library – they may have a copy.

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{Book Review} Katie Morag and the Grand Concert

Random House sent me an email last week asking if I’d like to review some of their children’s books.  A lot of them weren’t really suitable for Miss L’s age group and then I spotted Katie Morag on the list and knew we had to read it.  Miss L’s in Year 2 so Katie Morag is featuring heavily in her curriculum at the moment – they even made Katie Morag ‘Porridgies’ on Monday.  Frankly as long as it’s not anything to do with Biff and Chip and the blessed Oxford Reading Tree I’m happy!  So last night we settled down at bedtime to read Katie Morag and the Grand Concert.

It’s the first one I’ve read, despite her reading them at school and it wasn’t bad.  I thought it was a little disjointed in places – Katie’s brother disappears out of the house and although he’s found it’s not properly explained how. The illustrations are beautiful with lots of detail for little ones to look at and the story in which Katie overcomes her shyness to sing to the village is sweet. Miss L thought it was hilarious from start to finish especially ‘Song of the Grandmothers’ – which is about throwing your ‘Granny off a Bus’ I must admit I had a giggle singing it to her as well 🙂

Miss L’s taking it into school tomorrow to read to her class so I look forward to hearing how they enjoyed it as well. So all in all a thumbs up for Katie Morag from the Violet Posy household.

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{Book Review} How to Afford Time Off with Your Baby: 101 Ways to Ease the Financial Strain

Becky Goddard-Hill (@babybudgeting) is one of my Twitter friends and she kindly sent me a copy of her book to review.  Becky also runs a howtoaffordtimeoffwithyourbaby.com which has some wonderful family budgeting ideas.

I wish I’d had this book when I was pregnant or even trying to get pregnant.  To say that I was clueless about having a baby and the impact it would have on our lives financially is a complete understatement.  We’d spent nearly two years trying to get pregnant, so when I did instantly on our honeymoon it was somewhat of a welcome surprise!

The first time it was apparent that maybe we weren’t prepared was when I was 6 months pregnant and I was looking around the nursery that my office overlooked. There I was oooing and ahhhing over the lovely baby room as I was determined to go back to work 6 months after the baby arrived. Then I asked how much it was a month, thinking somewhere about £350 would be reasonable.  I was stunned when the lady came back with £860 plus nappies & formula – our mortgage at the time was only £600!.  I was earning £1200 and my work was a daily 60 mile round trip, so my petrol was about £300 a month plus my lunch and other little expenses meant I’d be working for nothing.  So we decided I’d be a Stay at Home Mum, and care for our baby for a couple of years – all well and good until hubby was made redundant when Miss L was 6 weeks old.  Suddenly our savings were far too small, because we’d both always had well paid jobs it had never occurred to us that we might not have money coming in at all.  It was a steep learning curve but a good life lesson, since then we have made sure we have 3-6 months of salary in the bank and tried to keep the credit cards down.

But How to Afford Time Off with Your Baby goes much further than the obvious that we’ve adopted.  It’s a great resource for adjusting to the drop in family income you have when a baby comes along.  Becky has covered everything from working out your maternity allowances, a guide to the various benefits, what you really need to buy for a baby, when to buy food cheaply in the supermarkets (I will now be shopping after 9pm!)  how to easily save without thinking about it (cancelling a direct debit? – just move the money straight into a saving account instead!).  The chapters I could have really done with are the ones on getting out and about with your baby on a budget. I’d never heard of mother and baby groups and had no idea they existed. Frankly they would have saved my sanity when Miss L was little,  I ‘d go for weeks without seeing anyone to talk to.  I was too scared to spend any money on going out other than to the park and to do the week’s shopping.  There’s also an excellent chapter about making money as a Stay at Home parent, and one about how to afford nursery and pre-school care which can help massively if you are trying to start your own business and work from home.

I think this is a great resource for parents to be and I’ll be buying a copy for my friends who are thinking about starting families and some of the ones who have already!

I have 2 copies to give away to Violet Posy readers, leave me a comment before 10th January to enter and I’ll do a random number generator to decide the winners – Good Luck!.

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