31 August 2015

Bank Holidays, Bake-offs and Blueberries

My daughter loves baking and we've headed to the kitchen together countless times over the last few years to whip up a variety of tasty goodies, but it's something my older son has never been interested in - preferring instead to use the quiet time with his sister preoccupied to get in some quality X-Box time.

baking with kids

Over the last couple of weeks though, the young chap has found himself caught up in the highs and lows of the Great British Bake Off, and this weekend he uttered the words I never expected to hear from him 'Mum, can I help you do some baking soon?'
 
Since the iffy bank holiday weather meant we weren't likely to get much outdoor adventuring done, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get some baking done as we were due to see family so would have an array of willing cake-eaters around.

 
We quickly managed to recruit my nephew to our baking team too and between the three of them they had all the tasks covered, so all I had to do was supervise and do the oven bits. For the record, I managed to make a mess of meagre tasks (by not putting the oven on high enough!) but as you can see, I wasn't the only one making a mess!

baking with kids

Issues of oven temperatures and incorrect ingredients (yes, also my job - they were meant to be blueberry and white chocolate cakes but I picked up the wrong kind of chocolate! Still, who doesn't like milk chocolate?!) aside, they turned out pretty handsome I reckon! Here's how we made them:

 
Ingredients
150g sugar
50g butter
1 egg
150g self-raising flour
100ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100g fresh blueberries
50g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 190. Mix together butter and sugar, break in an egg and whisk all together. Sift and fold in the flour. Add milk, vanilla essence, blueberries and chocolate and mix everything in thoroughly. Divide mixture between 12 bun cases and bake for 15 minutes.

kids baking
 
The young ones, as you may expect, were not the most patient when waiting for the cakes to cool enough to decorate but I somehow managed to convince them to hang on. We made the icing by cooking a handful of blueberries in a pan with a couple of spoonfuls of water. After a few minutes we squished the blueberries and sieved the product, leaving us with some lovely purple blueberry water. We mixed this with icing sugar until we hit the desired consistency and used it to ice the cakes, topping each one with blueberries.

fruity cakes

Sticking fruit in cakes is a great way of making them feel healthier without compromising on taste - I especially like avoiding horrible food dyes to get this ace shade. Plus, my recently health-conscious cousin (you all know Carl, don't you?) has been lecturing me on the low calories in an egg as well as all their other health benefits (tonnes of protein and vitamins and the like - British Lion Eggs are full of info!) On this basis, I'm absolutely convinced these are good for me, and I'm off to go get another!

* Compensation provided for writing this post

28 August 2015

Pizza and Pool at Slate NQ, Leeds

I'm definitely getting old and set in my ways - it takes a lot to get me out of my house and Leeds after work these days. But the promise of fresh stone-baked pizza, exquisite cocktails and a couple of games of pool is certainly enough to get me to take the trip!
 
where to play pool yorkshire
 
Earlier this week, my lovely sister-in-law and I hauled ourselves to the big bad city to finally check out Slate NQ - a pizza 'n' pool place I've heard plenty about since it's recent opening! The new place was brought to the people of Leeds by the same clever folk responsible for the now familiar Roxy Ballroom and Roxy Lanes, and has the same 'eat, drink, play' manifesto in a slightly more grown-up setting.

cool places to go in leeds

pizza and cocktail bar

When I say 'more grown up' though, I in no way mean less cool. It's a little less loud and colourful, but the familiar markers are all there. SlateNQ is mature in the way George Clooney is mature, and that much smarter, smoother and sexier for it!

food and cockails at slate nq bar

But we weren't there just to marvel at the wall art, no siree! We were there for pizza! With food firmly at the forefront of our minds, we navigated our way to a table (the one closest to the little kitchen, so we could get giddy with excitement seeing out prepared pizzas heading into the oven, and by as near to them as possible when they came out)!

pizza at slatenq

I was torn between a few menu choices - the blue cheese and parma ham sounded particularly intriguing - but it the end it was the BBQ Pulled Pork that most tickled my fancy. 'Twas delicious too - generously topped with a good balance of flavours..... like y'know how stuff with too much BBQ sauce can be a bit sort of sickly-sweet? This wasn't. Which was really handy, because the pizza was huuuuge! I was sat there beforehand thinking 'mmm, will that be enough? Do I need sides too?' I definitely didn't need to worry - I did get it finished off but it was a challenge!

places to eat in leeds

My dining companion, who is much braver than me, opted for the Spicy Pork Sausage. The menu does warn that it's very hot, and they aren't kidding! I pinched a slice (well, swapped one in the name of research!) and while it was very tasty I definitely couldn't have eaten a full one that hot! Thankfully Tasha is tougher than I am and she managed just fine!

food places in leeds

Thankfully, we did get to cool down a little with a couple of the house signature cocktails! I followed a recommendation of the Elderberry Martini as I was having trouble deciding between a number of yummy sounding options. Mine's the little pinky one and is described as 'a flutter of elderflower and summer fruit, combining St Germain, Chambord, apple, lemon juice, mango syrup and fresh raspberries'. This was so lovely that it took all my restraint to make it last through the course of my meal - way too drinkable to be safe, this one!

Pear and ginger collins cool cocktails

Tasha's drink was the Pear and Ginger Collins, another beauty - those pear flavours reminding me of childhood sweeties, but much more sophisticated than a paper bag full of pear drops!

cool pool halls
 
Once we had all the important stuff taken care of (that's the food, the important stuff is always food!), it was time to try out hand at some pool! Slate NQ have four 7ft pool tables downstairs, and an additional 3 9ft monsters upstairs. It's £6 for half an hour at peak times, £4.50 per half hour at all over times - but could beginners like us complete a game in half an hour?

pool and pizza night

This was Tasha's first ever game of pool, and she had a pretty poor teacher (that's me!) so needless to say this wasn't the slickest game of pool ever played. But we both had lots of fun, and both managed to actually hit some things in mostly the way we meant to, so go us! Woo!
 
One of the highest praises I can give a place is to say that it was worth going to Leeds for, and SlateNQ was definitely worth going to Leeds for! It might even be worth going back to Leeds for, I need to try out the rest of that cocktail menu!
 
* Big thanks to Slate NQ for feeding, watering and entertaining us!

18 August 2015

Lucky Dip Club - Under The Sea Box

I do love getting cute deliveries, and the monthly Lucky Dip Club boxes are one of my favourites! A sweet little post box sized package of adorable goodies based around a different theme each month. The latest to arrive was a mermaid-friendly Under The Sea box!
 
Mermaid subscription box

This is only my third box from the Lucky Dip Club, but I have to say it's my favourite yet! Firstly I got this super cute little seahorse brooch, and in such a perfect colour too! I am very keen on this little fella!

lucky dip mermaid box brooch
 
I firmly believe you can never have enough pretty notebooks and this is definitely a pretty notebook! It does say its a place for happy thoughts so I'll have to save this for my most cheerful and mermaid notes!

pretty stationary mermaid

The last few months worth of boxes have come with a 'charm of the month' charm, that by the end of the series should leave each subscriber with the makings of a lovely charm bracelet. I missed the first couple but I'm well on my way now, and this pretty sea shell will make a nice addition!

lucky dip charm of the month club

It's a pretty jewellery heavy box but that suits me perfectly, and my favourite of the wearable accessories is this stunner of a shell necklace! The accompanying paperwork points to a Rainbow Brite influence here which might be why I'm so chuffed with it, Rainbow Brite was my favourite as a young 'un!

initial mermaid necklace
 
The most exciting thing in the box though was the amigurumi jellyfish craft kit! Now, I'm far from an expert but I think amigurumi is basically crocheting a bunch of bits and sewing them all together to make a thing. So I'm going to attempt to make a jellyfish! Jellies are my favourite weird sea oddity, I love them and can't wait to try getting this together, though crochet was never my strong point so goodness knows how it'll look when I get through with it!
 
crochet jellyfish craft kit

To get your paws on one of these, you have to get an alarm set! Shopping opens at seven am on the first of the month and they tend to go pretty quickly! But once you get a subscription in place it'll roll 'til cancelled so you don't have to get up early every month - and it's definitely worth doing once! You can keep an eye on the countdown here!

14 August 2015

Win a Family Ticket to Mother Shipton's Cave!

We all know that Yorkshire is the best place in the world. This great county is filled with a never ending list of awesome places to visit, so sometimes it can be a little tricky to know where to start - so allow me to share a little inspiration (as well as some awesome free tickets!) to help you on your way!
 
family day out in yorkshire free
 
 I've not made it there so far this year, but last year we had a lovely family day out at Mother Shipton's Cave in Knaresborough. 
 
Don't know Mother Shipton? Here she is....
 
 
Mother Shipton was born in this cave on the banks of the River Nidd in 1488 and grew to become the nation's most famous prophetess, predicting the invention of iron ships, the Great Fire of London and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
 
Tourist attractions knaresborough
 
As well as seeing the cave where Mother Shipton was born and spent much of her time growing up, a ticket to Mother Shipton's Cave will also give you access to some beautiful parkland complete with picnic areas, a playground, wishing well and a small museum.
 
mother shiptons well
 
We were all particularly fascinated by the petrifying well - the high mineral content of the water will turn objects to stone and petrified teddy bears are one of the biggest sellers in the gift shop!
 
weird carved wood faces

If you fancy a visit  to England's oldest tourist attraction (open since 1630!), I've got a family ticket up for grabs - that'll get either two adults and two children or one adult and three children into the park and includes all day parking! For your chance to win, just leave me a comment with your email address and your favourite place to visit in the UK, and tweet something along the lines of 'I hope I win tickets to @mothershiptons in the @tea_adventures giveaway' - good luck! Entry closes at 10am on Monday 24th August.

* Pictures courtesy of www.mothershipton.co.uk, with permission.

12 August 2015

The Mill Race Teashop, Aysgarth, North Yorkshire

At the weekend I was recruited to drive my son to Aysgarth in North Yorkshire for one of his hobbies, and the best thing about finding yourself in one of the gorgeous little village in North Yorkshire is finding the best little tea shops to stop off at!
 
Mill Race Tearoom
 
I hadn't intended on doing too much research, expecting instead to just turn up and see what looked nice. But on having a read around to make sure I was heading to the right place I stumbled across a couple of strong recommendations for the Mill Race Teashop, so I put this at the top of my list!
 
Mill Race Teashop Aysgarth
 
It was really easy to find - we walked straight past it on the way from the carpark to the famous waterfalls (the reason for out visit!), and we had no trouble finding a table even on a Saturday lunchtime. I can only assume the other visitors to the area were taking advantage of the warm weather and picnicking by the river instead!
 
aysgarth tea room mill race

There were some great menu options that made my decision pretty difficult. I was particularly interested in the 'Mill Race Platter' - a cup of hot soup served with homemade bread, warm sausage roll and slice of cheese on toast with apple salad and chutney - and the 'Cheese Lovers Afternoon Tea' - cheese scone, slice of tealoaf and gingerbread served with a wedge of Wensleydale and a pot of tea.

afternoon tea aysgath
 
At the end of the day though, it had to be the Traditional Afternoon Tea - a sandwich of choice, fresh scone with jam and cream and a pot of tea for the bargain price of £6.95!

tea shop aysgarth

That's any pot of tea from the menu to, with plenty to choose from - traditional Yorkshire tea to fancy herbal stuff! I opted for a loose leaf black tea with rose petals, mmmm! I think serving the tea with lemon slices as well as the usual bits was a nice touch too!

wensleydale sandwich
 
Sandwich wise it just had to be a good old Wensleydale cheese - we were definitely in the right neck of the woods for it and this delicious Yorkshire cheese, my favourite, doesn't disappoint! The bread was soft and the sandwiches well filled - I love cheese!

fresh scones yorkshire
 
Of course, it was the jam and cream scone that was the main reason for ordering! The scone was pretty huge soon - served warm too which is always appreciated, and with tonnes of jam and cream (whipped rather than clotted but I'm a forgiving soul!)

yummy scones

I'd been eyeing up the lovely looking cakes but after my huge scone I just didn't thing I could handle one (I must be getting soft!) Thankfully my little companion had no such misgivings, and was very confident he could polish off this fab looking marshmallow topped chocolate cake. I didn't get to share but did receive assurances that it was awesome!

best cake tea room yorkshire

 
Unfortunately I didn't actually take as many photos of the beautiful waterfalls as I should have done (battery issues!) but it really is a gorgeous area so will have to go back fully camera-d up soon!
 

upper falls aysgarth
 
And I know where I'll be stopping for cake when I do!

5 August 2015

The National Railway Museum, York

The National Railway Museum in York is a relatively common day out for us. It's free (which is one of my favourite qualities in a museum!), and it's right by where we tend to park on our trips to the city (and the train station for folk getting the train in!) so it's really handy too. And despite none of us having a particular interest in trains, we've always found plenty to entertain us!
 
Family day out Yorkshire
 
The summer holidays is a particularly fun time to visit too, as there's always a range of extra activities, shows, storytelling sessions and other stuff to keep everyone entertained.
 
vintage railway posters
 
Unfortunately our last visit was only a flying one and we didn't have time for these extras. While the kids and I have been a lot, this was the Mr's first ever visit to this centre of all things train, so we just wanted to give him the highlights!
 

big train bridge

We had a really quick run round the Great Hall, where most of the engines are kept. The massive black Chinese engine is quite a sight, and you can sit aboard the famous Japanese Shinkansen to take an imaginary ride across the land of the rising sun!

big chinese train york

I prefer the lovely old trains in the historic Station Hall though, including the spectacularly ornate one used by Queen Victoria, and the 'dude's train' that belonged to Kind Edward VII.

vintage railway luggage

railway museum york

Station Hall is spattered with gorgeous vintage train paraphernalia and oddities, as well as being he way to the outdoor South Yard, with a little play area and mini train to ride.

york railway museum vintage cafe
 
I'm sure it'll come as no surprise that one of my favourite things to do at the National Railway Museum is to visit the lovely on site café. There's actually a couple of places to eat in the museum, as well as a picnic area, but my favourite is the beautiful vintage inspired café in the Great Hall.
 
railway museum cafe
 
railway museum cafe
 
As well as doing  lovely range of teas from the ever wonderful Taylors of Harrogate (the China Rose Petal is my favourite!), you can also find a cracking selection of freshly baked delights to go with. I can't resist a proper good scone with jam and clotted cream, but our party also had a tasty (and huge!) peanut butter cookie and a rather hefty chunk of flapjack and all went down very well!

clotted cream scone

You can find out about all the activities and events coming up at the National Railway Museum on their webpage here. The performances of The Railway Children this summer look like a particular highlight, but there's always plenty to do and see here. A great day out for train lovers and an interesting couple few hours for everyone else!