An Unmitigated Disaster

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be that of romance, an opportunity to remind those you love of how much they mean to you.  

Yes, yes, yes – I know you should do it every day.  You shouldn’t need a hallmark occasion to tell that special someone that you love them.  But to me, I wanted the opportunity to rain red on my husband.  To treat him.  After all, apart from the name it could be any old Tuesday and Tuesdays aren’t the most exciting days of the week, are they?

image taken at 5.50am - so apologies for the poor quality from my mobile phone!

So it was all planned.  Sunday I set out to make a mouth-watering heart-shaped red velvet sponge cake.  That was mistake number one.  It looked like plastic.  It rose beautifully in the oven, and then disappeared before my eyes into a bendy piece of rubbery type sponge – probably would look better on a BMX bike tyre! 

Nevertheless, I had read that sometimes red velvet cakes came out this way so I would soldier on.  But I needed another layer!

Monday night came home and got a heart-shaped chocolate fudge sponge in the oven.  Figured it couldn’t fail.  My tried and tested recipe for my infamous Chocolate Fudge Cake. 

Nope – that burnt.  I have never, ever, ever burnt a cake before. 

Mortified, I thought – I’ll cut those bits off.

On with the cream cheese frosting which would cover up the mess and no doubt make the cake look beautiful covered in iced roses.

Nope – catastrophe.  I can only think that the cream cheese I used was not thick enough.  A whole box of icing sugar later, it was still too loose.  In the fridge for 2 hours.  Still runny as honey.

5.30am – a whole 10 hours later, rush downstairs to ice the cake before hubby wakes up.  It’s looking thicker – could be onto a winner.  Quickly ice the middle of the cake and apply a crumb layer – it’s looking possible.   Slop the icing into a disposable bag with my new 1M nozzle and start to squeeze.


Just look at the poor photos.

Alas.  Lopped on some more icing.  Watched as it slowly slipped down the sides of the cake and onto the plate.  My face drops as I hear hubby getting up. 

Reluctantly, I put it on the table next to his card, as small gift, a few choccy hearts I bought as decoration and a novelty red rose.

Needless to say, it didn’t have the reaction I had hoped for.

It’s back in the fridge now as I write this from work.  I’m hoping that the icing might solidify enough that I can try a piece when I get home and if I think it won’t kill anyone, I’ll bring it into the office so it doesn’t go completely to waste.

Hopefully the card, gift, the small love note in his salad box, and the little heart-shaped box of choccies in his work bag he’s probably found my now will make up for the poor attempt of gastronomical patheticness (is that a word?)

But I’m not deterred.  I’m going to crack that recipe.  I’ve decided to steer clear of any future American websites and cook books – inspirational use only.  Never again will I make cream cheese frosting except for a carrot cake.  I will stick to the good old English metric measurement.  Although, that couldn’t have been the reason for the chocolate fudge fudge up!  That is unexplainable and something I must get to the bottom of. 

Oh well – this evening we’re off for a romantic meal at one of our favourite restaurants – hopefully that will make up for the day of mishaps.

But alas, I have no wonderful recipes to share.  No words of advice on how to make Valentine’s day special.  Although, I think the effort always counts! 

Onto Valentine’s 2013.  Hopefully by then the humble housewife will have learnt a few more tips and I can impart my wisdom!  Until then . . . I remain humble and plod on.

Local shopping experiment

As you can see from it’s seperate page on my blog, I love my hometown: Leigh-on-Sea.  I have been lucky enough to live here for 3 years now (I was born close by and then grew up in the surrounding area, but I decided to put down roots in this small seaside town).  However, although I have lived here for a few years, I have been terribly lazy when it has come to utilising the shops on my doorstep.  It’s not that I didn’t want to, more time stopped me from doing so.  Instead, I visited the big bad chain store – Tesco!

However, listening to LBC recently  (yep I am getting old!), there was an interesting debate taking place regarding the cost of healthy food these days.  People arguing it’s cheaper to eat ready meals than cooking dinner from scratch.  In some cases this may be true, and I do believe it’s particualarly true for singletons; however, there are ways around the problem.  Cooking food in bulk and freezing it for example. 

The other interesting point was regarding the cost of food in supermarkets compared to the local greengrocer, butcher etc.  Now, I am so lucky that I live literally around the corner from my high street.  And it is a magical high street.  Anyone who visits Leigh will know that it’s full of beautiful independant shops and still has real bakeries, greengrocers, fishmongers and butchers.  It’s a delight.  I often visit to buy gifts as the boutiques are just gorgeous, however, I have been naughty and not really exploited the food shops to date.

So, inspired by LBC, this weekend I decided to investigate.  A. to see what variety is available.  B. to see if the local shops really are more expensive.

Now, I think my findings were really quite interesting.  I went out to buy ingrediants for the sunday roast. 

Broccoli: 99p (same as Tesco)

Carrotts 86p per kilo (Tesco, 80p per kilo)

Cauliflower: 98p (Tesco, 89p each)

Maris Piper Potatoes 98p per kilo (Tesco 97p per kilo when buying 2.5kg bag)

Beef (1kg Brisket): £8.10 (£1 more than tesco, 79p cheaper than Waitrose

French Baguette: £1.50 (60p more than Waitrose, but it was lovely and from a Deli!)

So, it seems that I’m not lucky enough to live in an area where fruit, veg, meat are cheaper than the supermarkets, but it was only by pennies.  And, what certainly was an improvement on the big bad chain store was the atmosphere in the shops.  People talked to each other.  I had a number of chats with shop keepers.  I could imagine becoming a “regular”.  I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, even though it cost a few pence more.  But you know what, I also saved the approximately 30 minutes it would take to drive there and back from the supermarket and the cost of the fuel.  Therefore, I would conclude it works out about event, don’t you think?

What also was nice, was that I could browse some local shops for some birthday present ideas – thinking about the year ahead.  And I felt a sense of pride in supporting my local high street – at a time when it’s all doom and gloom on the news regarding shops closing everywhere, I feel this is important.

So, moving forward, whenever possible I’m going to don my basket (which I love and makes me feel so country housewife) and will do my shopping local.  I will have to do a monthly shop for the big stuff (drinks, washing powder etc) as my shoulders won’t take the weight (and somethings unfortunately bought in bulk will still prove cheaper elsewhere), but overall I love the high street. 

Bring forth the shopping revolution!

Love is in the air

I love February. We’ve broken the back of winter, if we’re lucky a few daffodil shoots will start breaking through, evenings are slowly getting lighter and personally, I have a month of romance ahead!

Valentine’s day kicks of proceedings. Now I can’t say Andy and I go particularly over the top. But I still feel it a novelty to actually have a man I can call my own on this day – I think that comes from school days when everyone wanted so much to get a card on what was supposed to be the most romantic day of the year. Andy and I believe the small gestures count most. Last year we celebrated with a McFlurry in Southend McDonalds and watching “Paul” at the cinema!  This year we are going out for dinner to a favourite restaurant of ours Cafe Rococo in Leigh, and for you – I’ll be exploring some nice small ways to display your affection for the man in your life without breaking the bank!

Shrove Tuesday (February 21)
I love, love, love this day. I adore pancakes. So much so we make a full night of it. I have been cooking the same pancake recipes for the last few years now and will share these delights with you. Pancakes need not be confined to sugar and lemon!


Anniversary (the day we met)
3 years ago I met my lovely husband. And I still think it nice to celebrate it. Call me sentimental. We won’t be doing a lot, but again I’m going to have a look at some nice ideas to show your husband how much you appreciate him. They’re simple folk – it doesn’t take a lot!

And on a domestic front.  I didn’t do so well decluttering the house in January, so that task continues.  I discovered a simple “Declutter Calendar” on which I can’t say I’ll necessarily follow to the letter, but isn’t a bad idea! 

Hubby and I are set to start clearing out the loft which contains years and years worth of junk. In turn I will probably fill it with new rubbish from my decluttering sessions.

I’m also set to discover some traditional, yet worthwhile, housewife tips. Starting with ironing! How to achieve hotel style crisp white sheets. How to make linen smell beautifully fresh. And some other ideas I haven’t yet uncovered!

To make the house feel a bit more spring like I’ll be potting some hyacinths and other sweet-smelling pretty flowers and dotting them around the house.

And outside … before spring is upon us, I plan on tidying up the front and back garden.  In preparation for some nice planting to take place and most importantly – taking on the Ivy that is slowly taking over our house!  Hideous stuff. Just a quick aside. I do not have a clue when it comes to gardens. So this year is going to be a real challenge for me in that arena. Any advice of what I should be doing when would be much appreciated.