c February 2013 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Gardening Time - Wilkinson Giveaway (closed)

A great garden giveaway

A few weeks ago the skies were clear and the sun was out, albeit the temperature being a little fresh - the perfect opportunity to get out into the garden. I was busy sowing lots of different seeds both flowers and vegetables, these are now settled into their seeds trays in the greenhouse. For the first time I will be growing some Dwarf Aster flowers in the garden this year, these were just some of the seeds I purchased from my local Wilkinson.

Garden Giveaway
To help you prepare your garden Wilkinson are offering one lucky reader of Garden Tea Cakes and Me a £20 Wilkinson gift voucher. Wilkinson have a great selection of gardening tools and equipment, if you were the lucky winner what your you choose. Maybe one of their new ergonomically designed garden tools or lots of garden seeds or what about a growing kit for the children.

Follow the instructions below and complete your entry using the Rafflecopter widget below. Entering a Rafflecopter giveaway is easy. Sign into the giveaway widget with either your Facebook account or your name and email address and follow the instructions. Once you've completed a task that's listed on the widget, you'll receive entries into the promotion.

If you have problems seeing the Rafflecopter widget refresh this webpage, sometimes it can take a little while for it to appear.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure - I would like to thank Wilkinson for donating the prize for this gardening giveaway.
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Homemade Afternoon Tea - a birthday celebration

It has been a while since I have posted an Afternoon Tea for you all. Earlier this week a friend celebrated her 70th birthday, so we helped welcome this milestone birthday with a quiet but simple afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea treats!

Chicken finger sandwiches 
Cheese finger sandwiches


Raspberry and cream shortbread
Fruit cake
Butterfly fairy cakes


Harvey Nichols Afternoon tea blend

An array of Afternoon Tea ideas
The shortbread was made using the Shortbread Fingers recipe, but this time I used a standard pastry cutter along with my homemade stamp, which I have been waiting to use since last June. You can make the biscuits the day before, then pipe on a little fresh cream and top off with a few raspberries - simple but highly addictive! 

I also defrosted a few butterfly fairy cakes from the freezer that morning and the fruit cake was made a few days earlier. An afternoon tea that did not require hours of preparation and just as enjoyable as if hours were spent on it.
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Review - Marshmallow Madness!

Marshmallow mountain
Where to start? Marshmallows I love eating them and most of all I  love them melted on top of a mug of hot chocolate. However, I will confess to having never made them myself. So when I was asked if I would like to review Marshmallow Madness! by Shauna Sever published by Quirk Books I jumped at the chance. 

This book has been something of a revelation for me, I have always admired marshmallows made by fellow bloggers but I have never really paid that much attention to the recipes. For some bizarre reason I have always thought they were made using egg whites. So I now find it amazing that sugar, water, gelatin, heat and golden syrup creates amazing white clouds of fluffiness.

I put the book to use by making Classic Vanilla Marshmallows, which I found amazingly easy to make. Although I did have a moment when adding the hot syrup that it all may go wrong, but I need not have doubted myself. 

I only have an electric hand mixer, and you really do need a stand mixer as you really do need every hand you have to make marshmallows. I did wonder if my little hand mixer would last the distance!

What I love about the book?
The book itself is almost like a marshmallow it has a puffy like cover, very tactile indeed. 

There are some wonderful photographs, the clever use of shapes and colours in the marshmallows makes them fun for all to make and eat.

There is a great section called Happy Hour which shows how you can include alcohol into your marshmallows to give them a cocktail feel.

It is filled with very creative marshmallow recipes, not just limited to using them in drinks, recipes that involve the use of marshmallows in sweet treats and cookies. So do not be fooled into thinking this book is all about marshmallow.

What I'd like more or less of?
This book is by an American baker and as such all the measurements are in cups, a conversation table would of been useful. I have a lovely set of measuring cups, so this was not a hindrance for me. If you were to by the book as a gift you may want to include a nice set of measuring cups too.

Marshmallow Madness is available to buy online, for more information about PGUK Books follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

Thanks to PGUK Books who kindly sent me a copy of Marshmallow Madness to review, all opinions expressed are my own.

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Vegetable Garden Planner 2013

Chitting time
I've been busy scribbling down the planting I have planned for my vegetable garden this year. That is if I can ever get into it with the never ending snow or rain that seems to be falling from the sky of late. 

Whats in? - this year for the first time I will be growing Turnips - hurrah!  

Whats out? - I will not be growing Sweetcorn, Peppers or Tomatoes with the exception of Cherry Tomatoes.

I have two raised beds measuring 6 x 4 ft, I also have space around these to place bags and pots which will be planted up with courgettes and potatoes. Next to the raised beds is an area that is quite shady due to it being under a small wall this is home to  Rhubarb, Blackcurrant, Gooseberry and some Strawberries.

So what else will I be growing this year:- 
Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach, Pak Choi, Mixed Salad, Lolla Rossa Lettuce, Carrots, Onions, Peas, Beetroot, Turnips, Broad Beans, Leeks, Garlic, Potatoes, Courgettes, Gooseberries, Strawberries, Rhubarb, Blackcurrant, Plums, Apples and Blueberries.

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National Nest Box Week

Coal Tit setting up home
Did you know that the 14th February is not just Valentine's Day but also the start of National Bird Nesting Box Week which runs 14th-21st February.  National Bird Nesting Box Week is organised by the British Trust for Ornithology, their website contains all you need to know about selecting and using the most suitable bird box for your garden.

You may already have a bird box in your garden just as I do. Now lucky for me year after year a pair of birds choose it to make it their temporary home. Both Coal Tits and Blue Tits have hatched their chicks in this particular bird box. Obviously I have fingers crossed that another pair of birds will visit the bird box again this year. I am hoping that the Long Tail Tits that visit the garden will make it their home.

If you have the carpentry skills you could try making your very own bird box, you will find full instructions on the National Bird Nesting Week website. Or if like me you prefer to buy one there is a great choice available to buy online, you will find a guide on which type of bird box is most suitable for the birds in your garden.

I will leave you with another photograph of a Coal Tit popping in to feed it's brood of chicks - oh if only we could see inside!
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Sweet Heart Valentine Fairy Cakes and Buttercream Recipe

Valentine's Day Fairy Cake

This is a simple but effective Valentine's Day themed fairy cake. It is worth buying some nice paper cases to bake your cakes in, I used some red and white polka dot cakes.

  • I started off by baking a batch of my plain fairy cakes.
  • Once cooled I decorated them with some buttercream (recipe below)
  • Add the jelly heart sweets and a sprinkle of edible glitter. Of course you could use other sweets such as Love Hearts or fizzy jelly hearts.

Buttercream Recipe

5 oz butter
10 oz icing sugar
drop of milk
edible glitter (optional)
food colouring (optional)

  • Whisk the butter until soft. 
  • Add half of the icing sugar and carefully on a low speed and whisk. Add the remaining icing sugar and whisk until smooth.
  • Add the optional food colouring and combine.
  • If you feel the buttercream is too thick had a teaspoon or two of milk.

Tip - if you want a different flavour buttercream you could add a little lemon or lime juice.
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