Friday, 28 June 2013

Friday's Kitchen: Peachy's Pay-Day Pizza

It has to be said, nobody appreciates a pay-day pizza more than me or my beau.  I love pizzas, trips to Pizza Express, a cheeky pre-gig Pizza Hut Buffet, even Sainsbury's own brand Vegetable Pizza is so far unsurpassed (in my opinion) on the frozen front.

But, with great pizza comes great cost, unfortunately.  So, with the help of my glamorous assistant, not to mention life-guru of oft, Amanda, we decided to try our hand at creating our own delicious pizzas from scratch.  The results were better than I could have imagined.

For the dough, I scoured the internet for something quick, simple and delicious and came across this recipe from bakingmad.com

http://www.bakingmad.com/recipes/dairyfree/pizza-dough 

The amount of ingredients and the time it took were the two factors that drew me in - just 4 ingredients and a bit of kneading later, I was ready to go.  

Ingredients: to make 3-4 medium bases
500g Strong White Bread Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Sachet Easy Bake Yeast
2 tsp Caster Sugar
325 ml warm water

Method: 
  1. Put the flour and yeast and salt in a large bowl and mix together. Make a well in the centre of the mix.
  2. Stir the sugar into the warm water then add to the well in the centre of the dry mix.
  3. Work for the outer edge and mix all the dry ingredients into the water. When the mix has come together turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. At this stage the dough should be soft and spring back when lightly touched. 
  4. Flour the dough and cover with cling and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.
  5. If not baking immediately leave the dough wrapped in lightly oiled cling film and palce in the fridge until you are ready to shape and bake.
  6. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces depending on how many pizza bases you want to make.
  7. Taking one pieces at a time and roll out on a very lightly floured surface. Ideally the base should be 5mm thick but you can be creative on the shape. Why not try, oval, or square for a change! Place on a baking tray and leave the rolled bases for 15 to 30 minutes to rest. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180 C/ gas mark 6.  When ready, add your desired topping and bake for 7-8 mins until golden brown.
Once the dough was ready, we loaded our pizzas with chopped veg and loaded mozzarella and baked.  We served with a pathetic amount of salad and enjoyed every single morsel!  The pizza bases were the perfect combination of crispy on the outside, oozing and doughy on the inside.  The strong white flour created an authentic Italian taste, a definite contender for Sainsbury's crown and a healthier choice for the family - on both the waistline and the wallet.

Suggested topping ingredients:
1/2 Red Onion
1/2 tube Tomato Puree mixed with small amount of Napolina's Pizza Topping
1/2 packet grated Mozzarella
Selection of chopped and roasted veg (Peppers, Mushrooms and Courgettes)
Sprinkle of Mixed Herbs
S+P to taste

I know how I'll be celebrating pay-day from now on!
 
Had a go at your own?  Why not pop over and upload your photos to Life is Peachy's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/lifeispeachytales

Got a recipe idea for Life is Peachy to try or invent?  Email missemmaberry@gmail.com with your ideas!
 

















Thursday, 27 June 2013

Peachy's Top 5 Celebs We Wish We Were Friends With....

Just for fun!  Well, we can all dream can't we...here's this month's top 5!

5. Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor

Feisty model cum DJ Atlanta, not only gains hundreds of kudos points for her edgy style and grungy attitude, to rival the Riot Grrrl movement of the 90s; she's also the offspring of all-time bass GOD John Taylor, of Duran Duran! Potential conversations would be a little like this:
E: 'Hi Atlanta'
A: 'Hi'
E: 'How's the modelling?'
A: 'Good'
E: 'How's the DJ-ing?'
A: 'Yeah, good'
E: 'Cool...um...I love your Dad'. *'A' promptly hangs up phone*

4. Camilla 'Millie' Mackintosh

Millie did this, for all womankind
Poster girl for Bafta-winning guilty pleasure reality/unreality show Made in Chelsea.  Millie confirmed last week that she will be leaving the show to pursue her career, including her own YouTube make-up artistry channel.  The very picture of Chelsea sophistication, Millie is beautiful, has pins to die for and an immaculate sense of style.

But perhaps what we most love about her, is the unforgettable moment on MIC, in which, Millie finally took the reins and gave idiot posh-boy and world class David Brent lookalike, Spencer Matthews what-for with a massive slap around the chops.  In that moment alone, we all wished we had been her.  Millie, we want you on our side!

3. Deborah Ann Woll

The redhead, better known to most as Jessica (or 'Jeschka', as Stephen Moyer would say), the teenage vampiric tearaway from HBO's finest, True Blood, plays an unpredictable yet lovable and loyal character in TB. 

In real life, Deborah is even more of an inspiration, as she uses her celebrity status to raise awareness of a condition called Choroideremia, suffered by her boyfriend EJ Scott, which eventually results in blindness.  Fangs of steel, heart of gold, that's why Deborah belongs in the top 5.

2. Stacey Stewart

The beehive, the sixties dresses, the cakes.  Nobody says 'new best friend' more than Food Glorious Food's Stacey Stewart.  Much like myself, Stacey is self-styled in the wardrobe department as well as self-taught in the kitchen department; proof that a little self-discipline, and self-promotion can go a very long way.
Unique, talented and good for a chinwag over a steaming vintage teapot and a slice of Maple and Pecan cake!  Stacey and I could have mini bake-offs and hair-offs, plus I get the feeling she's a dab hand in the charity shop rummage department!  Enough said, Stacey Stewart joins the imaginery friend club!

1. Christina Hendricks 

Just when you thought the luscious Mad Men heroine couldn't get anymore inspiring - other than practically single-handedly bringing TV land to its knees with her curves, encouraging the re-evaluation of the fuller figured woman's representation in the media and being named 'The Body' - Hendricks KNITS!

Yes indeed, Hendricks forewards this wonderful
knitting book with tales of how she, along with her lucky friends, like nothing more than sitting around, knitting and gossiping.  Rumour has it, she takes her knitting bag on set at Mad Men HQ.  Could this woman be any more perfect?  Could we want to be her friend any more than we already do? No?  Thought not!  Well Christina, congratulations, your love of knitting awards you the top spot in the fickle world of imaginary celebrity friends!

Christina's Our Top Spot!




Agree or Disagree?  Who would you choose as your top 5 celebrities you wish you were friends with? www.facebook.com/lifeispeachytales

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Handmade Home: Papercut Writer


I've always admired the work of Rob Ryan and the likes.  The intricacies of Papercutting really interest me, I've seen such beautiful artwork in this form and have really wanted to give it a try.  I love the depths that Papercut artwork creates and, particularly with Rob Ryan's work, there is a certain 'life' to the flimsy and magical world he creates with his laser-cutting techniques.
The delicious and quirky world of Rob Ryan


Father's Day was in fear of coming and going this year.  I've been so busy writing, blogging, raising Daisy and planning ahead to post-Mat Leave work that trips to town are becoming scarcer by the week.  This year, to mark Mr Peachy's first Father's Day, not to mention avoid the Paperchase queues like the plaque, I decided I would try my hand at some simple Papercutting to make a card for Mr Peachy.

John Lewis stocked a very handy and inexpensive pack, which consisted of a self-healing craft mat and craft knife and I bought some black card and pastel paper to practice free hand writing on. It didn't take too long to get to grips with the amount of pressure the craft knife needed and the results, two hours and several feeds later, was quite accidentally a Kid Acne inspired piece of writing!
To help enhance the words, I placed some pastel peach paper on the inside of the cardand added Daisy's painted footprints (I had only had the stamina to do one set with her - the hands will have to wait); accompanied by the message 'thank you for helping me to find my feet'.

Overall, I was impressed with how quickly I felt confident in gliding that craft knife across the paper, there was a certain ease to it, though I now feel I want to try my hand at some more intricate images and challenging italics (never satisfied).  

I might not be quite up to scratch just yet, but this simple technique has definitely given me the bug for paper cutting.  Watch this space for more papercut 'masterpieces' to come!

Have you ever wanted to try a craft?  What was it and how did you get started?

Monday, 24 June 2013

Ashes To Ashes: A Review of James Herbert's 'Ash'

Fan? Much? My cluttered bookshelf
Earlier this year, one of my favourite author's James Herbert, one of the most well-renowned horror writers, passed away.  He was 69 years old, no cause of death was published and, in my opinion, he has left a gaping hole in the world of horror fiction.

'Ash' was Herbert's last, and potentially his most controversial, novel to date.  A mammoth paperback at nearly 700 pages long, Just this fact alone set it apart from his usual quick-scare paperbacks.  The artwork was a mark of Herbert's usual foreboding, ghoulish imagery, but the tone of the book immediately felt slower paced, easing you in with several character introductions.  All this from a man who, in 'The Dark' (my first descent into Herbert-madness), shocked his reader with a particularly nasty killing by a 4 year-old, just 5 pages in.

Herbert chose to re-visit one of his familiar characters, skeptical and moody psychic investigator David Ash,for this story.  Those familiar with his character, will no doubt remember the traumas he suffered in 'Ghosts of Sleath' and 'Haunted', yet his indifference and quest to find rational explanations for strange goings-on remains un-perturbed.  Ash is hired by a mysterious group of people who run the equally mysterious 'Comraich Castle', a secret home from home for the both very rich and very disturbed, when a terrible and seemingly supernatural murder occurs within the grounds.  Cue exposed secrets, reams of 'dead' celebrity psychopaths, some particularly nasty and bloodthirsty wildcats and the suggestion of a secret royal son residing in the grounds, as the reader is taken on a twisted journey with Ash and his sudden sidekick, psychologist Delphine.


All in all, Herbert's last masterpiece is everything you would both want and expect from a horror story.  Herbert manages to provide his usual mix of grisly murders and intrigue throughout even if, at times it felt as though some of the most important characters and plot points were glossed over in favour of love scenes.  There were still plenty of shocks, gore and scares to carry me through the pages, though I didn't stay as gripped as I had done his other books, The Magic Cottage still being an unbeaten favourite.

I don't know if I felt this because I read this book post Herbert's death, but there was something chillingly finite about this book.  The controversy of the inclusion of such characters as Lord Lucan and other notable murderers from history, alongside Herbert's own dig at his previous works such as The Rats, suggest to me that he may even have known his time on this earth was limited, hence giving himself the freedom to push even more boundaries.  Either way, the lagging pace at certain points didn't make this book any less than enjoyable than the others and if Herbert wanted you to ponder the blurred line between fact and fiction ever after, he succeeded in doing so, in his unique, horrific way. 

Coming soon: A review of Jeanette Winterson's 'Why Be Happy, When You Could Be Normal?' 


Do you have book you would like me to review?  email missemmaberry@gmail.com

Friday, 21 June 2013

Friday's Kitchen: Bake-Well Well Well



The truth be told, I have quite the juxtaposition problem when it comes to baking.  I have a fond love of pastry goods, namely the classic Bakewell tart, but an irrational fear of baking shortcrust pastryI've always promised myself I would get over this and, one day, when the nightmarish visions of a pregnant woman scorned by mince pies 'gone wrong' subside, I'm sure I will.

Fate, or Fay, as it happens, came to me in the form of one of Fay Ripley's recipes showcased on the 'Lorraine' programme; the 'Easy Bakewell Cake'.  Nothing could be more 'Ronseal' about that title.  I watched in amazement as Fay casually chucked a load of base ingredients into a mixer to form a sumptuous Bakewell inspired cake.

I've never been a 'chucker' when it comes to recipes, but I was compelled to discard my usual need to conform by the gram and give this one a go.

Here is the link to Fay's recipe, as featured on Lorraine, with ingredients and quick method:

http://www.itv.com/lorraine/food/faye-ripley-easy-bakewell-cake/ 
  
 Ingredients:
150g Self Raising Flour
150g Ground Almonds
150g Soft Butter (I always cube it to ease mixing)
150g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
6 tsp Raspberry Jam
150g Fresh Raspberries
50g Flaked Almonds
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 160 (fan), 180 C or Gas Mark 4. Line a 22-24cm springform cake tin with baking parchment.

2. Use a food processor or electric whisk and whizz the butter, sugar, flour, ground almonds, eggs and vanilla extract. Put half of the mixture in the tin and smooth.

3. Dot the jam, 1/2 teaspoon at a time all over and scatter the raspberries. Drop the remainder mixture over the fruit and smooth over with your fingers.

4. Scatter the flaked almonds on top and bake for 45-50mins until golden. Cool and then serve with ice-cream, custard or just have it on its own!


 

I think what is so lovely about this recipe is that it is quick, light and bound to be a winner with any friends or family in need of a quick cake fix.  For anyone with a busy lifestyle, it's a perfect 'throw together and chuck in the oven' recipe  I am slowly starting to introduce myself back into the joy of baking, as opposed to the stress of icing 100 cupcakes in a shared kitchen with one mixing bowl, and this was the perfect recipe for that 'quick-win' baking feeling.

The sponge itself is really light and fluffy, the perfect accompaniment to a cheeky afternoon tea.  I would be tempted to try substituting the jam for different flavours and would maybe try using fresh cherries for a sour kick.  Drizzling fondant icing over the top might also work - a Peachy homage to the classic Cherry Bakewell!

Overall, fabulous recipe, perfect timings and Fay Ripley's 'What's for Dinner?' cookbook, has shot to the top of my wishlist!


 



Tried it? Love it?  As ever I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you have a go at your own, why not upload it to the Facebook page, it's so nice to see everyone's results!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Handmade Home: Knitting in a Free World!

A few days ago, my beau's younger brother made an off-the-cuff comment about knitting.  I can't remember exactly how it was termed, but the particulars included something to do with knitting being for both the 'sad' and the 'old'.  I perked up at this, defending us young, hip knitters and I was temporarily excused for my knitting obsession as I was now a 'mum'.  I started knitting when I was at University.

 

I don't think a lot of us crafters, knitters etc would be able to pin point a moment in life that we decided to put our intrigued fingers to work, neither could we give a reason why we do it.  I've only ever answered this sort of question to one thing; writing.  I said I write because I can't not write.  I suppose I knit for the same reason; I can't not do it.

 

Earlier in the month, I published a short beginner's tutorial to knitting, in the lovely online magazine for Peta's Vintage Boutique.  It was difficult to put these actions into words, as it's been a long time since I completed my first few stitched under the watchful eye of my Nan, a keen and talented knitter for many years.  That was where I got the bug, fast forward to present day and now, I have even more reason to go 'handmade'; there is nothing quite like watching Daisy man-handling (baby-handling) the sensory blanket I made for her.

You can find the original knitting tutorial here ---> http://www.petasvintageboutique.com/issue-2.html

I chose this Val Pierce-inspired sensory patchwork blanket as my first baby-project.  The different knitted textures and the daisies are great for little grabbing fingers and will, hopefully, become something of a comfort blanket for Daisy when she is a little older.  I chose to work with pastel, light colours to fit the Beatrix Potter theme in Daisy's nursery.  I was really pleased with how the colours blended together - Peter Rabbit's Blue, Jemima's Pink and Lilac and a soft baby Cream.   It worked wonders for the first few weeks after Daisy's birth, as we were hit with such cold, snowy weather and now it's great as a sensory object that remains familiar to her.

As an intermediate knitter, I found this blanket quite easy, the bulk of the blanket is made with simple garter and stocking stitches; these make for a very classic patchwork look.  The challenge lay in creating the daisies but I'm always up for a crafting challenge!  It's a great pattern for sitting in front of the TV, especially when I needed my mind taking off impending childbirth.  I'm now looking at adapting this pattern with different sensory objects and colours.  Results to follow!


I've got the handmade bug!  More posts to follow on 'handmaking' your home and nursery on Life is Peachy!

Are you interested in commissioning a sensory baby blanket?  Email missemmaberry@gmail.com for further information, costs etc.  I would love to hear from you!

Monday, 17 June 2013

A Picture of Owlish Grey...

Every once in a while, I stumble across a truly unique crafter, who has taken an entirely different approach to their designs.  Since Father's Day was yesterday, I just had to share the gift I chose for my beau's first Father's Day, designed and made by the wonderful Owlish Grey.

CRAFT MEETS SCIENCE
I stumbled across Nottingham-based Owlish Grey quite by accident, when she gave a friendly 'like' to my other business' Facebook page.  Intrigued, I looked a little closer at Owlish's Etsy shop, and was so pleasantly surprised by what I found, I simply had to order one of her unique 'Soundwave Prints' ready for the Big Day!  

Owlish Grey's products stem from an interest in crafting accessories, whilst taking inspiration from science and nature.  Some of her latest products include cards and prints with famous scientist's quotes and also cards featuring symbols from the periodic table.  A truly different design approach, which make for some lovely keepsake pieces.

A first Father's Day is always going to be very special, so I decided to opt for a unique 'Soundwave Print'.  Should you decide to purchase one (which I thoroughly recommend you do); they come in two different sizes and, once you have placed your order, you are required to send a short recording of a message you would like to give to the receiver of your gift.  There are several options you can choose from in terms of colour, a borderline etc and you are asked to clearly state your options when sending your order across.  What is then posted to you, 48 hours from completing the order, is a unique soundwave print of your voice and your message. 

 

I chose a red soundwave to match the red theme running through our abode,  I also chose a grey background to add depth to the piece and recorded myself saying 'Daisy Loves Daddy'.  A simple, but perfect and very personal gift for Mr Peachy to treasure.

Aside from the originality in Owlish Grey's designs, her attention to detail in each step of the process really inspires me.  Her packaging is personal, even her envelope stamp is named and she provides you with a barcode so that you can scan and hear your message!


Needless to say, the OH was chuffed with his gift, a lovely memoir of his first Father's Day celebrations and something so personal to him.  I would like to thank Gemma, of Owlish Grey, for her wonderful product, incredible service and for her part in making Mr Peachy's day so very special!  Owlish Grey gets the official 'Peachy Seal of Approval'!


Check out Owlish Grey's wonderful designs on her Facebook page and Etsy shop: https://www.facebook.com/owlishgrey/app_259525164100619

Coming soon...my first foray into the world of Paper Cutting

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Happy Father's Day!



Happy Father's Day to All The Daddies! 
And a very Happy First Father's Day to my lovely Mr Peachy!

 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Friday's Kitchen: The All American Breakfast!


Prior to having my daughter, Daisy, breakfast was usually something of a rushed affair of branflakes and throwing tea down my throat, in between putting make-up on whilst the other half opts for another ten minute 'snooze'.

These days, with Mr Peachy having to work weekends, breakfasts on his days off are something I really look forward to and, if time allows, I like to treat a lazy Sunday breakfast as I would an evening meal.

They say diets always start tomorrow...well this was definitely the case when I decided to try my hand at American-style pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.  What was always a pre-holiday early morning treat at the airport, seemed to be the perfect way to snuggle up with the family on a rainy Sunday.

For the pancakes, I used a Nigella Lawson recipe; a woman I strongly admire for her refreshing attitude towards food and balanced eating, not to mention her ability to look forever on-point, curves and all.

Here is the recipe:

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/american-breakfast-pancakes-141 

Ingredients: 

1 tablespoon baking powder 

1 pinch of salt 

1 teaspoon white sugar 

2 large eggs (beaten) 

30 grams butter (melted and cooled) 

300 ml milk 

225 grams plain flour   

butter for frying 

Method: 

The easiest way to make these is to put all the ingredients into a blender and blitz. But if you do mix up the batter by hand in a bowl, make a well in the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, beat in the eggs, melted butter and milk, and transfer to a jug: it's much easier to pour the batter into the pan than to spoon it. 

Heat a smooth griddle or pan on the stove.

When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it's time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute, if that.  I managed to make about 8 large pancakes from these measurements.

Stack the pancakes as you cook them, serve with lashings of maple syrup and grilled smoked bacon and add a steaming cafetiere of good coffee.  Add to the mix a good black and white film and there you have it, a perfect Sunday Breakfast and a treat for a deserving Dad this Sunday!

Have a lovely weekend folks!

E x


Had a go at your own?  Why not upload your results onto my Facebook page...I'd love to see them! www.facebook.com/lifeispeachytales

 

 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Outfit Post - The Vintage Playsuit: A Stylish Way Out of a Post Pregnancy Melt-Down


Since having Daisy, it has become my very strong belief that an image crisis, even in the most self-assured woman, is all but inevitable.  Nobody likes to admit this, why would you?  But when you are suddenly heavier, bigger, less fit than you used to be, not to mention in need of a post pregnancy wardrobe, I think new mums are more than allowed to encounter one or two wardrobe meltdowns.

I've always been quite confident in my style, the one thing that's remained the same since I was able to think 'fashion' for myself, is that I've never wanted to look like anyone else; i've inhabited my own style - from my heady college goth days to my current vintage-inspired rockabilly look.  But it  has surprised me just how many near-panic attacks I've had at opening the wardrobe and not being able to wear everything in it, just yet.  I'm dressing for a slightly different body shape and they say it takes up to a year for a woman's body to return to normal, after giving birth.  To add insult to injury, my first night out is coming up and I don't know what I'm going to wear! So, what to do in the meantime?

REGROUP, DON'T CHUCK
I'm not quick to chuck out clothes, I've purchased and gained some fabulous items through my years in fashion retail and I do treat my wardrobe as a long-term investment.  Cheap and cheerful works sometimes, but I love to hunt out classic, timeless pieces that will suit me for years to come.  However depressing it is that only about 30% may fit me right now, it is incentive enough that my other beautiful items will be kicked back into action, in a short while.  In the meantime, I ask myself, what fits, what doesn't fit and what am I missing to emulate my style for now?

WHAT DEFINES YOUR STYLE?
Are you a dress fan?  Do you feel most comfortable in trousers?  Is there something missing in your wardrobe?  I took a good, hard, look at my wardrobe and, at the time, the answer was glaringly obvious.  I spent 99% of my time in my black skinnies, but all I really want to wear are dresses! So it was time to start looking for practical dresses, with a vintage twist, to re-ignite some yearned-for femininity.

A FUSSY MUM ON A BUDGET
Bargain hunting has become something of a passion for me, I love the thrill of finding bargains for house, home or wardrobe but have not always had the inclination to root through charity shop, some people have 'the knack' but it's something I'm still working on.  eBay is always a great place for clothing bargains and I've had some success with both buying and selling before, but it can be hit or miss depending on when you're looking.

The High Street offers great clothes at competitive prices, but I'm not feeling a lot of the 90s fashions right now, they're not very 'me', neither do they flatter my shape (before or after birth, to be honest)

Luckily for me, the vintage shop COW, in Nottingham offers a fantastic range of vintage and upcycled clothing in their new-ish two storey store.  They saved my bacon with this lovely upcycled vintage playsuit, priced at a very reasonable £17 - which I have paired here with a pair of chunky platform heels to contrast with the feminine florals.


My other half affectionately refers to this as my 'Goodnight Sweetheart' dress, which I take as a compliment.  The buttoned front is great for feeding and the frilled top creates a cap sleeve as I don't like to show off too much of my upper arms.  All in all, a very comfortable number that I can pair with flats or my clogs (loves of my life) during the day or dress up for the evening.  It's a lovely light fabric, perfect for Summer or layering in winter. 

Well done COW - you are now my one-stop shop for post-pregnancy style! Shop COW's latest collections online or, if you are lucky enough to live near one of their stores in Notts, Birmingham, Manchester or Sheffield, make sure you pop in.

http://www.wearecow.com/shop

Stay tuned for more post-pregnancy inspiration on Life is Peachy.  Do you have a go-to style or a favourite shop?  Where do you think is good for post-pregnancy clothing?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Will I Return to 'The Returned'? Investing in TV...


 

Back in 2008, word came from across the pond that a new programme was sweeping across the nation and had just been commissioned by Channel 4 to air here in the autumn.  The lead male actor was, by birth, English, the plotlines were outrageous, each episode consisted of gratuitous sex, violence and blood-thirsty vampires.  The dawning of a new post-Twilight age.  I was sold.


Needless to say, True Blood, has since become my favourite programme.  It has swiftly taken over my love of Sex and The City and filled the void left by HBO's cult classic.  I love the characters, the far-fetched nature of each season, the humour and of course, Eric (who doesn't)?  For me, True Blood, crept into a neat little hidey-hole on the channel 4 viewing slot and grew to new levels of country-wide TV phenomenon on a swift yet steady basis.  My romance with the vamps of Bon Temps ceases to calm.

I should point out, it isn't very often I am so compelled from adverts to watch a programme.  There are ITV dramas and documentaries I've been meaning to watch and I even missed out on the recent Broadchurch madness!  So when Channel 4 began airing clips of the much acclaimed French thriller, 'The Returned', I was sold.

'The Returned', is set in a small French village and tells the story of a world where 'Zombies' return to their lives and wreak placid havoc on the lives of their loved ones.  It suggests a world where this 'coming back to life' malarkey is quite commonplaceBut, unlike the horror films of yore, The Returned look just like you and I, they don't have an awareness of dying and, for the most part of episode one, tend to stare motionlessly at people.  

Compared and contrasted to Sweden's smash hit, 'The Killing', The Returned's strengths of episode 1 lay in it's ability to chill with nothing but atmosphere and character placement.  There was an eerie gloom about the town in which it is set, suggesting a population of characters for whom, time has stood still since grieving their various losses.  Music, or lack of it at certain points, made for an atmosphere too leading you to believe something menacing was just around the corner, but you couldn't understand what or why.  Visually, it reminded me slightly of the film 'The Mothman Prophecies', with very little 'jumps' but a psychologically discomforting 'whirring' of horror.  All that said though, I didn't find myself gripped.


These days, if I'm going to invest my time into a TV programme, it really needs to grab my attention from the off.  The Returned, unfortunately, failed to do so.  Creepy in its premise and artistically shot landscapes, I found the characters and dialogue difficult to empathise with, I'm not one for slashy gore and obvious plotlines (much), but there seemed a little too much silence between me and the characters to suck me in to next week's episode, much like the walking dead, I was left stone cold.  I couldn't help but feel 'The Returned' had been a little over-hyped, a classic advertising trick of pacing a slow programme in such an excited manner, that it does nothing but disappoint when the actual hour-long programme airs. Perhaps I need to watch it again, alone, in the absence of a babbling baby, but it didn't quite cut it for me, I'm not sure I'll be tuning in to see the next instalment.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know your thoughts below! 

 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Race For Life 2013: Cancer We're Coming To Get You

Little D wore my RFL Supporter's Band

Yesterday, I completed my 4th Race for Life.  A fabulous charity race for cancer research, that involves women of all ages and fitness levels who all have one thing in common: we have all been affected by cancer.

I don't consider myself a 'runner' on any level, particularly since giving birth to Daisy - I've got a way to go before I start any kind of marathon training - but the reason I take part in Race for Life is because it's become my way of raising money for a charity that needs it.  There is no pressure to be the best and run the fastest, there is nothing but a lovely atmosphere and a day where you can allow yourself to be over-emotional, as you read the racers' messages of love, support and memory.  Sometimes it can get a little bit too much.

This year, there was something quite special about completing the race knowing Mr Peachy and Little D were at the finish line; I guess now I'm a Mother, there has become even more importance in doing Race for Life, so that the researchers can continue to find a cure to battle this horrible disease that will affect nearly half the population in our lifetime.

So who do I race for??  The list is endless, there are relatives I lost at a young age, Grampy Stan, Great Uncle Al, my Grandmother May, and there is the future for Daisy, where she might live to see a cancer-free world.  But I do always honour the memory of our friend, Hannah Gregory.  Hannah lost her fight to cancer aged just 23, a bright and resilient woman with everything to look forward to.  Two years ago, I wrote an article as part of a competition for Elle magazine, about someone who inspired me.  I wasn't fortunate enough to win, but I do feel proud that I wrote it and proud that I knew her.  So today, I would like to share it with you.  I hope you enjoy and perhaps I'll see you at next year's race...only this time, I'll be sprinting!


                                  For Hannah and All That Came After (2011)
'In a matter of weeks, we will all be celebrating in style as we wave a reluctant ‘au revoir’ to my dear friend Cat, who is off on a much-longed-for adventure around the world, for who knows how long.  Rachel and I will be quite lost without her on our continent; the three of us all surrogate sisters, all reliant on each other, but one person will be notably absent from the celebrations.  Notable, of course, because she would have been the one person who would have encouraged Cat from day one, not to mention seen her off with nothing but smiles and endless shots of Tequila.  Our friend Hannah, a passionate and wonderful person, whose life was cut tragically short by The Big C, aged just 23.

I was an idiotic, sullen nineteen year old when I first met Hannah, she - all mile-high legs and bleach blonde hair, me - caught up in the throes of a hideous ‘woe is me’ crush and desperate to be ‘different’.  I paid little attention to a future that crept closer and grew ever more uncertain as the hazy safety of my University days flew by.  We all lived in the moment I suppose, but not with passion, in denial, in limbo.  Hannah was the girl who made it happen, who approached life with a shrug of the shoulders; the girl who would advance on the intimidated guys staring in clubs to get answers, if nothing more.  The girl who realised there was more to her and all that she did, who saw her first diagnosis as a springboard to plan for a brighter future, to gain a place at University and fulfil her dreams of becoming an English teacher.  I only wish she had got that far.  Even in the deepest, darkest moments of her illness, she never once questioned ‘why’, she simply beheld a belief in beating it and, when she knew she could fight no more, concentrated on making the dreams of those closest to her come true; by creating a living will.  A testament to her giving nature, a need to provide a future for those around her, one that she would not share. 
Years have gone by and the three of us, Rachel, Cat and I have remained the closest of friends.  We continue to be each other’s confidantes, encouragement, discouragement where necessary, shoulders to cry on and, last year, Cat and I played the roles of proud bridesmaids on Rachel’s Wedding Day!  We are all still bonded, as ever, but not in the wake of the impossible unfairness of Hannah’s passing, but in her incredible vitality for life, even when she was staring death in the face.

They say everyone who comes into your life, comes into it for a reason.  Well if that’s the case, I will forever question why we had Hannah for such a short time and why other unnecessary types mess about in our daily existence for so much longer.  Either way, Hannah was the sort of person who could instil those feelings of endless possibilities within you, someone who would always tell you to ‘Go for it’ whether ‘it’ be the pursuit of a true love or scaling Mount Everest; even if she does now represent a tragic reminder of the fragility of life in all of us. 

I cannot help but think she is perhaps a big reason why Cat is following her dreams of round the world travel, or why Rachel and her Husband are in the process of planning a permanent move to Australia.  Perhaps it was Hannah who really did lie at the root of my decision to break free from the quiet routine of my existence in Somerset and move to London, to realise my dreams of becoming a writer, or even just become a part of a new city, to start a new life.  I’d like to think she is here as I sit, typing this, urging me to complete this, another step on the road to recognition.  Either way, I believe she left us all with a message; to see and do everything you want to and to experience all that you can, because she ran out of time and time, for us, no matter how much we have left, is a gift that we must all cherish.

So here I sit, finally half the embodiment of everything I think I want to be, copper hair, ridiculous shoes, inked body and consumed heart.  Different.  I’m still planning, celebrating, dreaming and always inspired by my sweet, but all too short friendship with Hannah; the three of us are now forever unbound by the limits of our ever-changing everyday lives, exploring our own little worlds and living our own big dreams.

Wherever you may be now, dear friend, I hope you know we are all still going for it, like you would have wanted us to.  Our hearts might have sunk when we said goodbye, but we were uplifted by you and your fierce, unapologetic, uncompromising attitude towards an illness that may have taken you from us, but at least taught us something about embracing freedom, about believing in endless possibility, if only because sometimes life really is too cruel and too short.  And in that alone you, our lovely girl, will forever live on'.




Friday, 7 June 2013

Friday's Kitchen: Strawberry and Vanilla Gnome Cupcakes


In celebration of this month's 'Say Yes To Gnomes' campaign on Life is Peachy, I thought I would share my recipe for Strawberry and Vanilla cupcakes, a perfect light summer treat and beautifully decorated with fresh strawberry gnomes.

These little fellas add something a bit different to your average cupcake and are a delicious light bite for the summer months or a themed afternoon tea!  I use a Hummingbird bakery cupcake recipe as my base recipe for most sponge cakes, it's the lightest mixture I've found in my experiments!

Ingredients (to make 12 cupcakes):
For the Cakes:
280g Golden Caster Sugar
240g Self Raising Flour (you can also use plain with a pinch of baking powder)
80g Butter (softened at room temperature)
240ml milk (I use semi-skimmed)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Pinch of Salt
2 Large Eggs
6 Large Strawberries

For the Icing:
500g Icing Sugar
160g Softened Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
50 mls milk 
12 Large Strawberries (chopped)
12 White Edible Pearls

Method:
Preheat oven to 190 C (fan oven) and line a cupcake/muffin tin with cases of your choice!
1. Place butter, sugar, flour and salt in a bowl and mix until soft and textured like breadcrumbs.  Can either be whisked by hand or with a mixer - ensure to sift flour and sugar for a softer finish.
2. Once the dry mixture is combined, beat the milk and eggs together, adding the vanilla extract at the end to flavour.  Pour half the milk mixture in and mix together until almost combined.  
3. Add the remaining milk mixture a little at a time until all incorporated.  Lastly, add the strawberries until evenly incorporated into the mixture.
4. Fill each cupcake case with the mixture until about two thirds full - pop in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the sponge is golden brown and bounces back when pressed. Remove from oven and leave to cool.
5. Whilst the cakes are cooling - mix the icing sugar and butter, either by hand or with a mixer, until incorporated with a soft sandy texture.
6. In a jug, mix together the milk and vanilla essence.  Add to the icing mixture and continue to beat together until creamy and stiff in texture.
7. Once the cakes have cooled completely,pour the mixture into an icing bag and, using a star shaped nozzle, pipe small star shapes onto the cake tops, creating a flower scene on each cake.
8. For the strawberry gnomes, cut each strawberry in half (the pointed half should be slightly longer for a 'hat' appearance.  Squidge a blob of icing on each strawberry base, let a little drizzle out the 'front' of the gnome to create a beard and, finally, attached a pearl to create a nose.
9. To place on the cupcakes, drizzle an extra bit of icing on the base and secure in the middle of each cake.  

The result is really quite cute, I've also been experimenting with the idea of placing the strawberry gnomes on royal icing toadstools with white chocolate buttons.  Clearly this is a baking theme you can go to town with!


Here's to a great weekend!

E x

Thinking of giving these cute cupcakes a go?  Why not upload your results on my facebook page www.facebook.com
Upload on to the 'Your Take on My Recipes' album and share your success!

Got a recipe idea you'd like me to try?  Email missemmaberry@gmail.com with your ideas, I would love to feature them!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Paranoid Androids - When Is It Time To Ignore The Press?

 
'It's a campaign of fear and consumption, keep everybody afraid and they'll consume' Brian Warner on 'The Media'

Last week, the BBC shared this news story about the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' warning that pregnant women 'may want to play it safe and avoid potentially harmful chemicals found in everyday cosmetics and household products.  It is safe to say this has been met with harsh criticism, with critics labelling it 'unhelpful, unrealistic and alarmist'.

View the original article here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22754944

General feedback has suggested that pregnant and breastfeeding women were somewhat scapegoated as both vulnerable and mis-informed; members of society who are already so careful to follow suggested guidelines and avoid foods and substances that may potentially harm their unborn.  This latest article, simply led me to question, when is it time to switch the laptop off, toss the newspaper in the recycling (the world is getting warmer, you know), remove yourself from online forums and ignore the press?

Scaremongering tactics, as we know them, have long been evident in our media and the invention of the Internet has only worsened the fleet of paranoid articles and posts that come flooding through our inboxes almost daily.  Contoversialists and conspiracy theorists suggest media is a method of control, others talk about greed and financial gain (look at the unfounded MMR 'risks' that have recently come to light.  Either way, it seems we are the victims of paranoia attacks and I never felt this more, than throughout my pregnancy.

Being prone to asking worrisome faces and questions I decided, from Day 1 of my pregnancy, that I would listen to the advice and judgment of those who were dealing with MY pregnancy (my Doctor, my Midwife, my parents and my partner).  But, like most parents in need of momentary support at times, I would occasionally log on to a forum in an attempt to seek advice from people in the same boat.  There, I was bombarded with 'he says, she says', do's and don'ts and tidbits of myths that led me to singularly question every stage of my pregnancy.  One woman had placed a mildly concerned post on a forum about her baby's movements slowing down; four comments down it descended into chaos as one woman scolded her for not rushing to A+E amidst the fears of Strep B or broken placenta.  Alarmist indeed.

We are both fortunate and unfortunate to be in possession of too much information these days; fortunate in that we can make informed choices to protect and nurture as best we can, unfortunate in the panic inducement and the misplaced guilt that articles such as yesterday's can cause.  It comes as no surprise to me that in between dodging fish, unpasteurised cheeses, avoiding alcohol and not standing up for too long; that the powers that be have decided that we pregnant ladies simply do not have ENOUGH to worry about.  If we listened to every warning put to us, we wouldn't open our front doors, for fear of an unnamed planet smashing into our back garden.

We can only do our best for our children, and I believe it is natural to worry about the effect this world has on our children, household cleaning appliances or not.  Our common sense must always prevail, I conclude that we are right to be 'careful' throughout our pregnancies and beyond, but it is not right to pump unnecessary and unfounded fear into a society already full to the brim.

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