Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sweet Sunday Snapshots - 31/01/16

I haven't done a Sweet Sunday Snapshot post for so long! I've missed looking back at the sweet things I've enjoyed each week, so I'm bringing it back! And this week has had an awful lot of sweet to look back on, so here goes...

-My sweet, hilarious boy! Hal is growing into such a funny, lovely boy and it's just such a pleasure to watch him develop into this amazing little person. At the moment he loves making Ezra laugh, trying on my glasses and telling jokes!
-Crafternoon! The first crafternoon of 2016 was CRAZY AMAZING! We had a fantastic time chatting, crafting and eating yummy food. I love my crafternoon ladies and I really cherish the time we spend together each month.
-Play time! Now that Hal's almost 2 he's so much more fun to play with! He's really loving playdoh, coloring, building blocks and baking at the moment - and I'm loving doing all of those things with him.
-Best friends! Two of my bestest friends in the entire world came to stay for the weekend and we've just had such an amazing time together. I can't wait for them to come to visit again soon!

What sweet moments have you had this week?

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Rhubarb & Custard Cookie Sandwiches

My lovely friend Emma Jane makes and sells bespoke cookie stamps over at Emma Jane's Bakery, and she was kind enough to give me some stamps to play with just before Christmas. Since then I've been developing a recipe for vegan sugar cookies that retain the imprint from the cookie stamps when baked, and now that I've perfected it, I'm finally ready to share it!

I've used custard powder as a binding agent in this recipe, which gives the biscuits a really lovely, subtle custard flavor. If you don't have custard powder or don't want to use it feel free to replace it with the same amount of cornflour for a delicious vanilla flavor sugar cookie.

I filled the cookies with a tangy rhubarb frosting, and sprinkled some crushed rhubarb and custard boiled sweets over the top before sandwiching them together. After all, rhubarb and custard are a classic flavor combination for a good reason!

Emma Jane offered to make a custom design stamp for me, and I chose a Dala Horse. As you can see, it turned out oh so perfect! Although I must admit that I'm head over heels in love with the 'for me, for you' stamp. As a mum I'm constantly having my food pinched by tiny toddler hands, so I loved that with these cookies I could break off a piece for Hal and the rest was MINE! Also, how perfect would the stamp be for Valentines Day? A romantic cookie for two, anyone?

Rhubarb & Custard Cookie Sandwiches
Makes 10 Cookie Sandwiches

For the cookies
1/2C + 1tsp vegan margarine
1/2C caster sugar
2 + 1/4C plain flour
2Tbsp vegan custard powder
4Tbsp soy or almond milk
1tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting
3Tbsp vegan buttery spread
3-4C powdered sugar
1tsp rhubarb flavoring
1/2tsp pink food coloring 
2-4tsp soy or almond milk

2 rhubarb and custard sweets, crushed (optional)

Line two large baking trays with grease proof paper and set aside.

Cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy (I use my Kitchen Aid mixer, but you could use a handheld electric whisk or do it by hand - make sure your margarine is nice and soft.) Add the vanilla, flour, custard powder and milk and mix on medium speed until it comes together to form a firm, pale dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and dust the top with flour also. Roll into an oval about 3mm thick and press the cookie stamps down nice and firmly, making sure to leave a strong imprint in the dough. Repeat, leaving a small gap between each one until you have covered the surface of the dough. Cut out your cookies using a floured cookie cutter (in a pinch a glass jar will do!) and carefully transfer them to the lined baking trays. Bring together the scraps of dough and work into a ball, you can then repeat the rolling, stamping and cutting process until you have 20 individual cookies.

Place the cookies in the fridge for an hour before baking at 175/350 for 10-12mins or until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Transfer the baked cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely while you make the frosting.

To make the frosting cream together the buttery spread, rhubarb flavoring, pink coloring and one cup of the powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the powdered sugar and as much milk as needed until you have a smooth, thick, fluffy frosting. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a flower nozzle and seal at the top.

Once the cookies are cooled pipe frosting onto half of them, covering as much of the surface of the cookie as possible. Sprinkle over the crushed rhubarb and custard sweets and carefully place the other cookies on top. Press down gently - be careful not to press too hard or the frosting will squidge out.

Store the cookie sandwiches in an airtight container for up to a week.

Note: The cookie dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw completely before using. This dough also makes fantastic individual sugar cookies for decorating with kids! We did this recently at a play date and it was great fun.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Bible Journaling Introduction

If you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen a few of my Bible Journaling posts! People really seem to enjoy them, so I thought I'd start a regular feature on the blog!

I first discovered the wonders of Bible Journaling through a few lovely ladies I follow on Instagram. As a Christian who loves craft, I was immediately drawn to the idea of combining art journaling and Bible study. Since being diagnosed with CFS 5 years ago I've had a lot of trouble reading anything more than a couple of paragraphs (my brain goes all foggy!) so I've not really been reading my Bible much. So the idea of being able to focus on a short passage, or even just a couple of verses, and do something creative with it sounded just perfect for me. 

I bought an NSV Journaling Bible online and got some nice coloring pencils and my sister bought me some of these special pens that don't bleed into the (very thin) pages. I'm not particularly good at drawing or painting, but I love paper craft and have a gazillion washi tapes and other bits and bobs which I've been using to decorate the pages.

I decided that I wouldn't worry about covering up some of the text on the page as I'm using this Bible more as a journal than an everyday Bible for reading. (I've got another one I use for following in church or reading long passages.) 

I use the Word For You Today app to find a passage to focus on, and spend about 20-30mins on each page. I'm actually finding that I'm learning more focusing on short passages, and I'm remembering more of what I've read, too.

One of my Goals for 2016 is to do at least one page a week, and I'm really enjoying it so far! I've always enjoyed combining spirituality with creativity, and this is a fantastic way to do that on a regular basis. I'm looking forward to looking back towards the end of the year and seeing all of the beautiful pages, and reflecting on the things I've learned. 

I love connecting with other Bible Journaling folk through social media, and I've even found a local group and may try to get to a meet-up some time soon! I'll be posting updates here every now and then, I hope you enjoy having a little peek into my spirituality through craft!

Do you use craft as a spiritual outlet? If so, what do you do?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Photo an Hour // 18/01/16

7am // Starting the day by giving Hal his antibiotic. Poor boy has had a horrible infection giving him ulcers and swelling allover the inside of his mouth.
8am // Breakfast time! It's really chilly today so it's gotta be oatmeal! Topped with Banana, Lotus Spread, Cinnamon & Frozen Raspberries.
9am // Ezra is down for his morning nap and Hal is happily playing with his train set so I'm sipping on a Salted Caramel Coffee and flicking through this brilliant book Pete got for Christmas.
10am // Ez is up from his nap and ready to play! He can't crawl yet but is giving it a good go!
11am // Hal's snoozing away and it's time for my second bevvy of the day! Trying this tea my lovely Swedish friend Cassandra sent me.
12pm // Both the boys are napping now so after a quick bit of tidying it's time for a bit of meal planning (while watching Pretty Little Liars on Netflix!)
1pm // Ezra's having fun practicing sitting up while I do a few more chores.
2pm // Hal's finally up from his nap and is playing with one of his favorite Christmas presents - a Peppa Pig doll house! (I love having means I get to play with super cute stuff like this!)
3pm // Pete's home from work so we popped to B&Q so I could pick up these paint swatches for a super secret crafternoon project!
4pm // The boys are playing and giggling away together (they adore each other!) so I'm having a cup of Vanilla Chai and a cheeky Golden Oreo (they're like a vegan custard cream!)
5pm // I'm pretty excited to make Hal's dinner this evening, it's the first time he's eaten in nearly two weeks because he's been so ill!
6pm // Hal's done with dinner and ready for his bath! Look at that cheeky grin!
7pm // The boys are tucked up in bed so it's time to make dinner! I'm completely obsessed with eating as much veg as possible at the moment, so this mountain of veg is just my portion! (Serving it with creamy pasta.)
The rest of the evening was spent working on crafternoon bits and bobs and watching Arrested Development for the gazillionth time! And like the old lady I am I went to bed at 9pm!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Whipped Marshmallow Cream

For years I've made whipped coconut cream to put on top of hot chocolate, and I love it - but sometimes you don't want a strong coconut taste with your chocolate, ya know? And you don't want to have to chill a can of coconut milk overnight...sometimes you want whipped cream quickly! The other day I had a brainwave - when you whip reduced aquafaba with sugar and vanilla it tastes like liquid why not use that to top hot chocolate!?

Well I tried it and not only is it a delicious alternative to whipped cream, it's like topping your hot chocolate with fluffy clouds of melted marshmallow! Win! I was even able to reduce the sugar, so this is a fairly healthy alternative (so you can really pile it on!)

I half expected it to melt once it touched the steaming hot chocolate, but it doesn't! It holds its shape really well. I'm thinking it would be fantastic for topping pies, or even just to serve with fruit.

Whipped Marshmallow Cream
{2.5 syns per serving on Slimming World}
Serves 4

3/4C aquafaba (water drained from a can of unsalted chickpeas)
1/4C or 4Tbsp sugar
1tsp vanilla extract

Pour the aquafaba into a small saucepan and place over a high heat. Allow to simmer and reduce down for about 5-10mins, until you are left with about 1/3C. 
Pour the hot aquafaba into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk and whisk at medium speed until frothy. (You could also use an electric hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer.) Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk, turning the mixer up to high speed. Whisk until the mixture is glossy and extremely stiff (it should be hard to get off the whisk!) 

Serve piled on top of almond milk hot chocolates or in a bowl with strawberries!
If not using immediately store in an airtight container in the fridge. If the whip separates or loses it's stiffness, you can just whip it again to thicken it up.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sunny Lemon Spread!

I was very excited when the lovely Hannah from Hannah Banana Bakery offered to send me some of her Sunny Lemon Spread to try! Vegan lemon curd is something I've been on the lookout for, but I can safely say the search is over! 

Hannah Banana Bakery not only makes incredible, award winning vegan cakes and cupcakes to order, but often offers various other tasty vegan treats too! 

The Sunny Lemon Spread is freshly made with hand-squeezed lemons (and you can really tell - much better than artificial shop-bought stuff!) It's sweet, very lemon-y and really delicious. It's lovely on toast or in a sandwich, but I think it would be great as a filling for macarons, or to sandwich together layers of a cake! And how cute is the label on the little jar!? Adorable! 

I'll definitely be buying more when they are restocked for Valentines Day (my jar has been polished off already!)

Hannah Banana Bakery's Sunny Lemon Spread costs £2.50 per jar and can be shipped anywhere in the UK.

Christmas 2015

Better late than never, that's what I say! I've been meaning to write about the Christmas Crafternoon and just general Christmas-y stuff for weeks and weeks, but the lead up to Christmas was mad, and since Boxing Day both boys have been ill, or teething, or ill...So here I am, mid-January, writing about Christmas stuff! Hey-ho!

The Christmas Crafternoon is always one of my favorites of the year. I love Christmas, and everything it entails, so of course I went all out for our December Crafternoon. 

Like last year we decorated Gingerbread Houses, although this year I made things a LOT less stressful for myself by buying them rather than making them from scratch! (I found accidentally vegan ones in my local Tiger store!) I put them together with burnt sugar and stuck them to place-mats I covered with brown parcel paper. I made some Aquafaba Royal Icing and popped it into piping bags ready for everyone to use. We all brought sweets and sprinkles to decorate the houses, and we had a lot of fun!

It was amazing how different everyone's Gingerbread Houses turned out! Everyone's individual styles came through, which was fantastic! We also had such a lovely, relaxed time just chatting, listening to Christmas music and drinking peppermint hot chocolates! 

I'm really looking forward to Januarys Crafternoon which takes place in a couple of weeks time! I can't wait to see my ladies again! 

This year I decided to order some Christmas Cards with a photo of Hal & Ezra on them, which I thought was a fantastic idea and shouldn't bee too difficult. Well let me tell you, getting a photo of a very active 18 month old and a 5 month old both smiling (or just not crying!!) was a nightmare! Eventually I settled for the above photo - I didn't want Hal to have his dummy in his mouth, but it was the only way we could get him to stay still (albeit momentarily!) Although I must say, if ever I feel down all I have to do is look through the hilariously awful 20-odd photo's we took and I can't stop laughing! Here's my favorite awful one!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year!