A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

Cupcake worship: Free cupcake here!

Did you know it is National Cupcake Week and that after meeting the lovely folks at Wayfair.co.uk in London for tea and cake yesterday, we have rustled up a cupcake themed giveaway? Read on! Hurrah!

So cupcake week. What better excuse to get baking with the kids this weekend. It’s also been my daughter’s birthday, so I know what we will be up to on Saturday morning ahead of her party. I am attempting a giant cupcake, using one of these cupcake silicone moulds, possibly with piñata elements – so wish me luck. If all goes well I will share it with you next week.

If it doesn’t? Well ok I will share anyway, because we all need a giggle right? I had to throw my son’s shark cake in the bin last year and rush to the supermarket for a replacement, but last year my daughter got this beauty, so it could go either way!

To be honest, I never got the obsession with cupcakes, I always thought they were too sickly and perfect – for me cupcakes were always a poor substitute to fairy cakes, the badly iced party fayre of my youth, covered in dolly mixtures and jelly tots. Until I met Emily, from A Mummy Too and she taught me to ice them and I made that one you see at the top of this post, pretty impressive eh?

I will share the how to video Emily and I made on this, but first I thought I would share my baking wish list!

I’ve had a little rummage over at Wayfair.co.uk, every cook need cupcake tins to keep the goodies. A cupcake tower to display the wares comes in really handy at kids’ parties especially.  This vintage style cupcake mug is perfect for taking a break from cupcake making or for indulging in a cup of tea alongside a cupcake.

cup cake baking

We have a cupcake maker, like the pink one above, kind of like a toastie maker but for muffins and cupcakes – the kids do love the novelty of using it. Great gift  from Grandma!

Of course cupcakes aren’t just for eating. If you are looking for a child’s bedroom theme, I rather like the way the gingham and brown tone down the pink in this funky cupcake wall art, pouffe and handy cupcake organiser. There’s also a duvet set, cushions and playhouse.

cupcake bedroom

And why should dogs miss out?  These vanilla flavoured cupcake dog toys would have been the perfect thing to put my dog Max off the scent when we made this video! He loves to try and get involved in baking snaffling anything he can get hold of - look (Max only has a small part today – he’s complained to his agent - but in all fairness, it’s genius. Find it at 5.54).

How to Frost Cupcakes Video

For more cupcake baking advice read Emily’s how to frost cupcakes post and recipe.

Cupcake Giveaway!

Just tell me what your favourite cupcake themed item is over at Wayfair.co.uk and you could win this delicious Cupcake Cookie Jar.

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Simply follow the rafflecopter instructions to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Listed here: Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com

Pumpkin and Feta Pie (no pastry)

When I left you last week I was here…

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Okay so not physically there, but mentally. I was reliving all that amazing food we ate at Corfu Club, eating pumpkin and feta pie, Greek salad and Briam. I even fitted in a little garden tour, because all the food is home cooked.

The team at Corfu Club were so welcoming, when they are not serving the drinks and amazing food, they are cooking, BBQing and mixing cocktails. Nik cooked this pumpkin pie and wrote down the recipe for me. Continue reading

Through The Keyhole – Hours of Family Fun

Through the Keyhole family garden
I don’t know about you but I love to look around people’s homes. This was the inspiration behind a new feature on A Residence, Through the Keyhole
Through the Keyhole gives you a chance to have a sneaky peak inside someone else’s home. Last time we snooped around Kate’s amazing Pinterest influenced collector’s home. Today I have a garden for you. 
I’m not going to tell you whose home we have this week, except to say she is normally too busy writing about what happens beyond her home to write about her own beautiful garden. She also has masses of great ideas for family fun. I will take you ‘though the keyhole’ to her blog later if you’re curious to know who lives here, which I know after reading this you will be.

I blog regularly about family travel and love getting out and about with my four young girls, so it’s nice to be able to talk a little about our home. My favourite part of our home is our garden. We bought the house because of the size of the garden. After relocating back to East Yorkshire from a terraced house with a postage stamp sized garden in urban Hertfordshire, having lots of outdoor space was a top priority. While we have most definitely put our family-sized stamp on the garden (I won’t show you the paddling pool, or the sandpit, or the requisite guinea pig house on the grass) there are lots of lovely features which I love, many of which have been here since before our house was built back in the 1930s.

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One of the most talked-about features of our garden are the walls. We have them down one side of our garden, and through the middle, cutting our garden into two halves. The previous owners told us that they believed the brickwork came from St Mary’s church in Beverley – which is one the churches allegedly in the nursery rhyme Mary, Mary, quite contrary – but I don’t know how much truth there is in it. Wherever they came from, they make an interesting feature in our garden. While I could easily knock down the walls making one huge garden area, I don’t want to do anything which will mean losing our lovely and quirky brickwork.

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Another item we inherited was this Buddleia, or Butterfly Bush. It refuses to die no matter how ignorantly we trim back its ever-sprouting branches, though I would be sad if we did kill it through heavy-handedness. It certainly attracts the butterflies and though is in an awkward spot, has earned its place for a few more years.

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When we moved in in 2002, the bottom (and lower) half of our garden was all used as allotment. The retired couple we bought our house from were almost self-sufficient vegetable wise, but with full-time jobs there was no way we would be able to cope with that sort of maintenance. We spent over a year in our spare time turning a plain mud area to lawn and low-maintenance flower beds. We used reclaimed railway sleepers to create beds for rocks and slate. This Japanese maple was planted a short time afterwards and is very much at home. It is now over 6 feet tall. I don’t know what we’ve done right, but it seems to like our care.

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Also in the same bit of garden, we have our summerhouse. It’s over ten years old now and needs some maintenance, but we still sit out there from time-to-time. My husband painted it last year and we just need some replacement window glass to make it like new again. It’s one of those jobs we will never get around to completing, I suspect.

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I’m no horticulturalist but I have got this corner where I’ve made a bit of an effort. We have a sweet pea, a rhododendron, a lily, and various other bits, like a bird cage and a gnome – which at least I can’t kill. Time will tell how long the rest of it lasts.

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And what family garden would be complete without a shady tree to hang things from – like this wonderful mobile made from beads and a soft cheese carton? Gorgeous, right?

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We love our garden. It has space, character, and provides us with hours of family fun.

I love that today’s Through the Keyhole has give me the energy to mow the lawn and make the most of the sun we’ve been forecast. Have you guessed whose garden this is yet? Are you ready to go Through The Keyhole and find out more?

Okay, time to put you out of your misery, *puts on best Loyd Grossman voice* Who would live in a house like this? Let’s go through the keyhole …just click it.

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What struck you about today’s home? Please share in the comments or join the conversations #throughthekeyhole @aresidence. To take part in Through the Keyhole, please contact me using the links in the sidebar or in my About Me page.  To see more through the keyhole, click the badge below.

“Through

 

Keyhole picture credit

A Greek Feast at Corfu Club

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Greek food has to be one of my favourites, we spent an amazing week in Corfu this summer. It baffles me when in Greece that I am constantly offered pasta when Greece has so many amazing vegetable dishes, I often order two starters instead of a main just to try them all. I loved Briam, a spicy vegetable stew, served here with Olive bread.

Of course the pasta was lovely, sometimes spiced with cinnamon, sometimes fiery chilli, but for me there are many more dishes I associate with Greece. The best pasta I have tasted in a long time, was at Corfu Club.

 

We stayed at the Corfu Club after winning some travel vouchers from On the Beach, for writing this post about Italy. It is a really special place to stay. Just a handful of apartments around a pool, the club is run by family and their close friends, and the love and care that goes into that really shows. The gardens, food and atmosphere are really something magical. When we saw Corfu Club on On the Beach’s site we could tell it wasn’t your average holiday summer sun apartment complex.

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The food is what has inspired me to write today. We went on a B and B basis, but ate either a lunch or dinner there most days. The food is all cooked from a little shack by the pool, using home grown vegetables. By the end of the week I was begging for recipes to take home, and a tour of the veg patch.

Once the staff realised I was vegetarian, they cooked me some incredible dishes, including an amazing Pumpkin pie. They also encouraged my kids to play chess.

corfu club playing chess

Back to the pie, its laced with feta, dill and parsley, so the flavour is incredible. I will share the recipe, but the magic thing is you put flour in, so there’s no need for pastry, it makes its own crust. Kind of like a soufflé I guess.

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Every day there was a different home cooked dish of the day, using vegetables from the garden. The gardens are beautifully maintained and bursting with colour and drama.

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You can order your food and, once its ready, someone will let you know so you can move to a table. So relaxing!

corfu club foot selfie

 

Food is served all day and into the night.

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During the day the kids had enough room to run around, to have some freedom without getting lost. It’s a very safe environment and they loved the playground, and chasing kittens and lizards through palms and under the walkways draped with grapes and figs.

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This is the view from our apartment.

corfu club garden

The first thing I did was order a Greek salad, 10 years ago when Mr A and I first came to Greece, I remember flying down lanes of Olive trees on a motorbike to reach the most beautiful beach hut restaurant and eating Greek salad as we watched the sunset.  Greek salad always takes me there. It felt so good to be back.

corfu club greek salad

This one topped any Greek salad I had ever eaten in my life. Served in a big bowl, cucumber and tomato ripened in the club’s garden, topped with the most gigantic slab of fresh, salty feta. It was heaven. If you need a reminder of the ingredients, my post is here.

corfu club greek salad 2

The kids really enjoyed this, a kind of pasta bake, made with giant penne pasta and tiny pieces of aubergine and courgette.

corfu club lasange

Outside our apartment great big shiny lemons were ballooning in the sunshine. So Mister G, having been well taught by his mother, and my mother before me, was straight to the tree on a scrumping mission. The perfect slice in my G and T.

corfu club lemon tree

Breakfast was a feast of fresh coffee and juices, heart shaped waffles, Greek cakes with swirls of chocolate or lashings of honey and lemon. Eggs, watermelon, meats and cheeses. And of course everyone was furnished with chocolate pancakes. Cake for breakfast, real holiday treat.

corfu club pancakes

Nik promised to give me the recipe for the Pumpkin Pie. First he showed me where all the ingredients were grown, for the pie and all the other dishes I had loved.

corfu club peppers

Peppers were plentiful and I was amazed to learn sun dried tomatoes only take 4 days to dry. I imagined months, I am sure it would be in England!

corfu club sun dried tomatoes

The tomatoes were so big and juicy, totally different flavour, just amazing in Greek salad.

corfu club tomatoes

The chillis too thrived in the sun, look at the size of them!

corfu club chillis

I don’t think I have ever seen aubergines growing, look at that glorious deep and shiny, purpleness basking in the sunshine, they tasted amazing in the briam stew.corfu club aubergine

So the pumpkin pie recipe, Nik found it on the internet, but its something his mum makes too. Greeks seem to refer to marrows, courgette and pumpkin as pumpkin.  I’ve made it a couple of times with marrow and with courgette, and because its based on cups it has come out differently each time, both yummy, so I think I have nearly cracked it enough to pass it on.

Watch this space!

Holiday details

Corfu Club was a perfect base to explore the island. It is a really calm, leafy green oasis, perfect if like us, you want a base for more adventurous island exploring rather than a resort to stay in all week. Gouvia was in walking distance and was fun to explore, if a little faded and too resorty for us, although we dodged the football bars and ate a good meal in a taverna by the gorgeous bay.

Club Corfu is only 20 minutes, if that, from the airport, it is right next to an amazingly well priced supermarket/cash and carry. The apartments are well placed to explore all the island, being just a short drive from loads of really beautiful family beaches where you can hire a boat and take yourself from beach to beach, moring up for refreshment. I recommend Kalmari, home of the Durrell family, and Paleokastritsa. It’s also really near Aqualand which we loved, but far enough away from the mayhem of Kavos.

We flew Ryan Air, which although seemed pricey for what was on offer, and not particularly well stocked on our return flight, was clean and welcoming and stress free. It was the height of the summer I guess.

On the Beach was easy to use, its easy to search online for flights and accommodation, and find trip advisor reviews of each property. On the Beach give you a dashboard with all your holiday details in one place. Response times were slow on the phone but amazing via Twitter. Email queries were handled well. The variety of accommodation you can choose from is impressive.

We stumbled upon a real gem here!

Are We Nearly There Yet? 5 Family Travel Tips

The Summer holidays may be over, but my plans to travel aren’t. I am already planning the next adventures. I was reflecting on this Summer and how easy our travels had seemed, I think the more we do it, the better we are getting at it. So when Parkdean asked me for some family travel tips, here is what I came up with:

1. Give kids responsibilities, for making healthy snacks, looking after their bear, ticking off a list of things to spot on the journey. I loved Find 50 as a kid, Michelin do I Spy books, or make your own with pictures.

2. When it comes to entertainment value, novelty always wins. Mine never play much with their own toys on holiday, they just end up littering the car, aeroplane or weighing down our case. Instead have small surprises up your sleeve. A magazine or pocket money toy from the service station, or some new colouring pens and glue stick, scrapbook or new books. A new box of Lego. Little packets of sweets.

3. But never forget favourite bears and always treat them as an extra member of the family –  build them into your head counts at service stations, airports beaches, cafes!

4. Music  - have a playlist, some CDs. Music not only distracts them, it lifts everyone’s mood.

5. Load up a tablet with apps, TV shows and games, take headphones so the whole carriage, car, plane doesn’t have to hear. Travelling can be tiring and stressful for the whole family, I have no issues with a bit of electronic gadgetry.

Parkdean put together this video about family travel tips and experiences, which makes me feel a lot more normal!

What  is your top family travel tip? Please share in the comments.

In association with Parkdean.

Do you have a travel goal? If not, why not?

travel goals

 

I don’t know about you, but I do believe if you put your thoughts out to the universe, then sometimes it answers. I travel a lot, but often because I am invited to blog about it. We’ve been to some amazing places, but after meeting more travel bloggers, for a while I have been thinking where do I want to see in the world next? Who do I want to see? Can we be even more adventurous?

It’s time I started writing down my travel goals, letting the universe know, and really committing to those travel plans. Having a goal is such a powerful way to make stuff happen.

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I was introduced to Amadeus.net, a cool new way to plan your travels online. My first impression was that I loved the sentence search function, it freed up my mind to think about where I really wanted to travel. Travel can be daunting, but when I asked others, they too had no problem filling in the blanks – Amadeus.net truly is an effortless way to start planning a trip.

Amadeus.net is in Beta, but it already has clever tools to allow you to add to that plan, you can check, weather, currency, time zone. You can add flights, searches, links and then share the plan with friends and chat about it. Soon you will be able to add hotels too. It’s a non transactional site, but parent company Amadeus.com are an IT company who specialise in building software for booking sites so they will find you help you build the trip and find the best price, then you can simply click over to other sites and book everything.

Amadeus.net gives your plans a home and is a base to plan an itinerary from. If you know the cost at different times of year, the best dates to go weather wise, you can start to build a SMART target (that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). I asked six A Residence readers where they would like to go…

 

Becky, A Thrifty Home.

 

…the summer camp I worked at there in my 20s for five years is having its 50 year reunion and I would so love to see the place again and all my old friends. Oh the memories we shared!

Here is Becky’s back to camp plan on Amadeus, I’ve started to pull in flights for her trip and added some links to things she could do in Minneapolis, if she has time! I can share the plan with her and chat about it in travel notes. You can also save searches, to go back to at a later date, so if it takes you a while to get round to a trip, all that Googling isn’t in vain,

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Joy from Pink Oddy 

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… a romantic break away with my husband for Valentine’s

Amanda, The Ana Mum Diary

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….We’ve always wanted to travel to Australia as a family, and at Christmas we could experience a hot one on a beach, and we would never forget that! It would be a road trip and we would slowly explore parts of Australia, not rushing around like we do at home. With it being a long trip, business class would make it far more bearable with children. 

Liz, Cambridge Mummy 

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…so I can explore New York all over again and show it to my Mum, who I’d definitely take with me! 

Carolin, Mummy Alarm

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… I would love to spend a fun weekend with my sister because I haven’t seen her since June. 

Sarah, Boo, Roo and Tigger Too

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…so I can enjoy the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and go skating in Central Park.

Clare, Seasider in the City

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…by March my brother will be a Daddy and I would love to see him and meet his beautiful new family. 

Mari, Mari’s World

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…so I could spend Christmas with ALL of my children and grandchildren. You know that saying, say it out loud and it may happen? Let’s hope the universe is listening. 

Ladies, your plans are out there, all I can say is I hope seeing them in writing pushes you a little closer to them coming true! I love that they are all as much about the people in your life as the places!

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What about you, why don’t you go and create your first travel plan on Amadeus, or look through the other plans on Amadeus.net for inspiration? The ones above are searchable here and listed in my plans too. I’ll be blogging about my family’s dream destinations over on parentshaped very soon.

My top tips to make a travel plan happen:

Set up a savings account and arrange for an amount to go out each month, ask for money towards your plan instead of birthday, Christmas or other gifts.

Set a deadline to commit and then make the plan with the other people involved, nothing happens without a deadline.

Set aside a time to make all the arrangements, give it time and organising a trip can be a real joy.

Ask around on social media for tips or recommendations, you never know what you might find out.

Collaborative post.

5 foraged food treats from the garden and beyond

scrumptious apples from our tree

I want to talk about the garden beyond my garden at this point in the year.

This summer I became utterly obsessed by foraged food. It all began when Persil sent me a jam making kit. We had a blissful day of jam making, perhaps my favourite day of the year – we took Max for a walk and picked blackberries along the old railway line, made the jam and even made labels for the jam. The best bit was it was so easy, even with two kids and a dog in tow.

When Mr A returned from work we were in fits of giggles singing Beats International’s PUMP UP THE JAM.

So here are my top five foraged food treats:

Apple pie or crumble

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Our next door neighbours are students, meaning the house is often unoccupied each summer, so we scrump apples from their baking apple tree. My mum started the tradition and it seems rude not to honour her memory. This is the pie we made, you can see the recipe here or my Mum’s crumble here

Blackberry Jam

blackberry jam

I could not believe how easy it was to make jam, here’s our jam making post.

Pear and Ginger jam

I am been driven mad by a tantalising pear tree on the railway line that belongs to no one and yet is just too high and surrounded by thorny rosehips to reach. Then on a walk last week a man with a stick with a hook on it appeared. And lo and behold unhooked some pears. What did my son find on the way home, but a hook. Liz suggested I add a cut off bottle to the stick to catch the fruit. When the mission is accomplished, I want to make pear and ginger jam.

Sloe Gin

Having worked out what damsons looked like I stumbled on lots of threads explaining how to tell them apart from sloes. I was wandering around the forest with Max the dog, while the kids and a friend had a den building competition, when I suddenly found myself looking at a fully laden sloe tree. They are in the freezer for a couple of days, as you aren’t meant to pick til the frost has got them. Here is the sloe gin recipe I am going to follow.

Bramble Brandy

Aly has been a real font of knowledge for my foraging this summer, so do check out her fabulous Bramble Brandy recipe.

5 easy foraged fruit recipes

Have you been scrumping, experimenting with foraged food, harvesting treats, jam or produce making? What are your favourites?

Linking up with How does your garden grow #hdygg.

Manneskjur

Adventures with Delia’s Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust

apple pie with a cheddar crust

When I want to really put my cooking skills to the test, and to experience the full satisfaction that an hour in the kitchen can bring, then it has to be a pie. Normally I would make crumble, but my daughter wanted to bake a pie. My favourite recipes are from Delia’s Vegetarian and Nigella How to be Domestic Goddess, I also love a Sunday lunch or Boxing Day leftover pie or pasty.

Today’s apple pie was inspired by both lovely ladies, although in the end I chose Delia’s apple pie recipe, as Nigella’s recipe mushes the eating apples into a kind of sauce and leaves the cooking apples to retain their shape, I wasn’t keen on that, I Iike all the apple to retain its shape, but it might be your ideal pie. I will add the full recipe below, as Delia talks though making pie in so much helpful detail, but its always good to have some pictures I think!

scrumptious apples from our tree

The pastry is made with cheddar cheese, which sounds odd but it isn’t, both Nigella and Delia agree it adds a crispness to the pastry without adding cheesiness. It looks amazing when baked too. This apple pie uses a mix of cox’s and baking apples, we had ‘scrumptious’ apples in our garden and the empty house next door has cooking apples, so the kids and I partook in our annual scrumping adventure.

First chop all those apples into thin slivers.

Then, you make the pastry, roll out a disc for the bottom and place in a greased pie dish.

Layer the apples tightly with cloves and sugar, we had no cloves as my youngest put them in a potion a while back, so we used mixed spice. We also had no golden caster sugar in, so this is just caster sugar.

apple pie layering

Then we put the second circle of pastry on top, trimmed the edges by running a knife around the dish and pinched the edges together with a fork. We then made up what we thought Delia’s apple pie recipe meant by ‘fluting’, pinching little waves with a knife and our fingers so the pie crust didn’t stick to the dish. It actually works, it gives enough leverage to get the crust off in one piece from the dish with a knife later.

We cut leaves out of the pastry from the top, using washed leaves from our tree as a guide.

cutting leaf shapes for apple pie

We decorated the top and brushed it all with beaten egg. We made a hole for steam to escape which my daughter thought was hilarious. We added our leaves and hey presto, it was done! Only as I was tidying up did I realise we somehow managed to put ground coriander in, instead of mixed spice.

‘No one will notice!’ said my husband. And with an extra sprinkle of sugar, and lashings of custard, he was right. Although I will try Delia’s apple pie with cloves next time!

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Here is the full recipe

Eight surprisingly simple photography tips

surprisingly simple photography tips

At the weekend I was invited to an architecture photography workshop organised by Goodman property, led by Simon from Iguana photography in Birmingham. I learnt an awful lot in a day, due to Simon’s refreshingly hands on and jargon free approach. I thought I would share some simple photography tips here.

The beauty of taking photos of buildings is that they don’t move, so they are a perfect way to hone your art.

Simple Photography Tips

1. Photography is an art not a science. Manual doesn’t have to be scary, just think of yourself like a formula one racing driver. Simon reminded us we didn’t have to understand all the workings of the camera’s ‘engine’ to drive it like a pro. Simon gave great explanations of shutter, aperture, ISO etc but the theory always goes in one ear and out the other for me, but thanks to 2 minutes of watching Simon twiddling I knew exactly how to physically operate the controls even if I couldn’t tell you the science behind them.  Just call me Jenson.

2. Train yourself to see if a picture is exposed correctly. Give yourself permission to play. You don’t have to remember what all the settings mean, just twiddle the knobs and use your eye to judge if a photo looks right.

My very first shot on auto mode looked like this, nice sky but dingy bottom half of the picture:

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Simon then helped me to reset to manual settings: 1/125 ISO 100 . This just left me to twiddle with the ‘F stop’ dial to make the picture lighter or darker, easy! With a bit of thought – it looked like this. My camera screen makes pics look lighter so it is perhaps a little overexposed, but the main thing is I am learning to see this for myself (and the flag is flying and not blurred – bonus points!)

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3. You are going to have to lose your inhibitions. Simon was very at home on the floor. Continue reading

The Tiger that came for Quick Curry in A Hurry

quick curry

It was one of those nights when the kids had eaten, but were still in and out of the kitchen and under our feet. We’ve been lazy cooks of late. Our kitchen is huge, but it’s also a walkway to the garden, large enough to play in and very badly designed, so often I find myself wishing for a galley kitchen I can just lock myself in, that or a takeaway menu. Tiger Tiger sent us some Jalfrezi Sauce, the perfect way to get a quick curry.

tiger tiger jalfrezi

To make our quick curry we fried some Quorn and then added some aubergine and orange peppers, like tiger stripes, and then added the sauce.

tiger tiger aubergine curry

It was a really tasty meal, served with one of those microwaveable packets of rice it was ready in 20 minutes. We thought the flavour was more authentic than most supermarket sauces we have tasted, Tiger Tiger stay true to Indian cooking processes in preparing the sauces. Nothing is ever hot enough for Mr A (you can take the boy out of Macclesfield…), but he agreed it was hotter than most packaged sauces and the taste was great.

It would definitely keep me away from the take away menu and felt much healthier too – lower in fat, lots more fresh veggies and a veggie source of protein that also appeals to carnivore Mr A. Perfect store cupboard staple to place strategically in front of your take away menus.

These were launched in Asda in June RRP £1.88, and there are also some mouthwatering chunky looking dips to add an extra dimension to your meal.

 

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