Monday, 29 August 2011

Mapledurham estate

For Roys birthday Emily had brought us a ticket to visit Mapledurham estate, just outside Reading. A country manor house and watermill, with a cream tea included. After checking the weather reports we booked in for yesterday afternoon. 

But upon hitting the motorway the heavens opened. 

Although just 6 miles down the road it was blue skies and warmth.

The house on the outside is beautiful but no photographs are allowed on the inside. I was expecting beautiful rooms full of beautiful things, but everything was a bit tired and tatty. It wasn't shabby chic, it just had an out of date 70s feel about it. There were lovely oak panelled doors and walls that had been painted dark brown and to me it just felt a little bit sad when it could be stunning. 

The plants either side of the front entrance were magnolias and the flowers were bigger than dinner plates.

The grounds were nice and looked all the way to Reading in the distance.

A huge cedar tree took pride of place

They had a walled vegetable garden for viewing. I thought we would enter the gate and see a well kept garden brimming with veg, but no it was just a few cabbages and grass.

We had our cream tea in the sunshine and went to see the watermill which is currently out of action due to renovation and alteration, but the inside was lovely. 

We made a quick visit to the little church on the way out.

A lovely afternoon out and it made such a change from a normal Sunday. Would I recommend it, probably if you had a special offer voucher as we did, but maybe not if paying the full entrance price. But then these observations are just mine, other visitors didn't seem to have the same reaction as me and thought it was wonderful.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


Rhiannon was looking after my great niece Mia yesterday and they came over to my house to play for a bit. It's been a long time since I had little people around and found myself quite enjoying it, but then again it was only for an hour or so and she did do the washing up!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Golden wedding flowers

We had a golden wedding anniversary in the family last weekend and a really lovely afternoon was spent in a local hotel. Good food, great company and lots of laughter, what could be better and even the sun came out for the proceedings. 

Emily, who's now 23, went off in the grounds to play with the younger members of the family and I'm sure the whole of Bracknell would have heard the shrieking from a game of 40 40. It was only when she came back inside, purple faced, that she confirmed thats no it wasn't the kids we could hear but herself!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Wedding cupcakes

I was asked to do some cupcakes for a friends wedding a while ago and of course I said yes, just 40 cupcakes no problem. But eventually the figure grew to 60 (still no problem) and a giant cupcake (big problem). I have never baked one of the giant cupcakes, nor have a really wanted to and would I ever want to do another - I can safely say the answer to that question is no...

The giant cupcake tins or moulds don't come with a recipe as such, just how to make them using boxes of cake mix and they do seem to be more based on US users than UK. So after lots of searching for ideas and recipes I chose one and got to work the day before collection. Unfortunately halfway through mixing I realised that the recipe I was following was incorrect but at least I realised in time and managed to fix it. Basically a giant cupcake is made with a victorian sponge recipe x 2. 

The next problem was how to decorate it. As the wedding is not until Saturday I needed to ensure it would be as fresh as possible so chose to cover the bottom in fondant icing, not as easy as it looks. I tried to do a wrap around icing as on the net but I thought this just looked messy and after having taken it all off to start again I decided to try it my own way and it did turn out much better. At this stage I still had no idea what to do with the top!

Yesterday started at 6.30 (day of collection) and all 60 cupcakes were cooked and cooling before breakfast. So now I had all the cakes made as well as some little fondant flowers, which luckily I could make in advance.

Aiming to put off the inevitable I went to Rhiannons to help oil her newly sanded parquet floor and killed a couple of hours there, then dragged her back to mine to decorate the cakes and for moral support. 

The cupcakes were no problem once we got going and we finished those off fairly quickly, apart from having to keep mixing up more buttercream icing. I actually ended up going through 3kg of icing sugar in total and what felt like a ton of butter!

Each cupcake will have a blue wrapper added when in situ.

Then onto the giant cupcake and still no idea how to do the top. After more failing attempts Rhiannon checked the net again and we decided on an old ladies swimming hat design. After adding the flowers it actually turned out quite pretty with a nice neat fondant icing bottom.

I am promised a photograph of the cupcakes in their wrappers and on their stand after the wedding and look forward to seeing the final result. Hopefully they will taste great too.

Sunday, 7 August 2011


There seem to have been a lot of butterflies about this year, mostly the great white.

But finally I have also had a peacock. I haven't seen one for years and there it was in the garden just as I was rushing out of the house, nothing for it but to run back in, grab the camera and be a little bit late!