Carrot cake for a first birthday

Although Grace was technically one last Wednesday we decided to have her celebrations at the weekend as it’s quite hard to celebrate and work at the same time!

We gathered at my daughter’s house and Grace’s cake was (as it’s her favourite) a carrot cake with some reserve cupcakes for those that would rather have chocolate! The recipe was tweaked to have the nuts and sultanas removed to make it more baby friendly but was a huge success and Grace quickly devoured her mini portion and we felt quite mean saying no to any more!

I bought Grace a little teddy bear fancy dress outfit some time ago and now seemed as good a time as any to wear it! She does make me smile, she is so sweet – but then I am also amazingly biased!

Ingredients

Serves: 16 

  • 650g grated carrots
  • 220g dark brown soft sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 250ml vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 250g crushed pineapple, drained
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  1. In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and dark brown soft sugar. Set aside for 60 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Grease and flour three 9” tins
  3. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in the caster sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple. Combine the flour, bicarb, salt and cinnamon, then stir into the wet mixture until absorbed. Finally stir in the carrot mixture. Pour evenly into the prepared tins.
  4. Bake for about 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until you are happy that cake tests done with a skewer. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from tins. When completely cooled, ice with your favourite cream cheese icing recipe.
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Dad’s Shed!

Sheds are wonderful things – you can make a little craft haven, leave a pile of junk in them, turn them into private pubs or just keep nice organised gardening tools in them. There was a great programme on recently called “Shed of the Year” and I watched it avidly, such a diverse collection of eccentric shed owners that loved their sheds and had a passion in their lives.

This plaque was made as a sample for us by Jo Channon and has a great combination of techniques. The plain MDF plaque is from our website. Then it was crackle finished (again from the website) and the pansies were added by doing some napkin decoupage, peel the top tissue layer from 3 ply napkins and it’s amazing what you can create.

Then lots of antiquing – you can use inkpads or coloured wax, the choice is yours. Finally add some 3D decoupage from the Jane Shasky decoupage pack and some bakers twine and garden string. The letters can be die cut and varnished – bought as stickers/peeloffs or whatever appeals to you most

This makes a fabulous man’s present – but by altering the words you could easily create a super gift for a gardener, or something equally lovely for a crafter.

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Good Luck!

We all have friends and family that could really do with a good luck wish at some point. Whether it’s a driving test, moving into a new home, passing an exam or starting a new job – good luck cards and wishes are always welcome. Sometimes I think we don’t realise just how daunted people are by the project in front of them and a pretty card with some supportive words lets them know you are thinking of them and can make all the difference!

This card is made from some artwork by Barbara Mock and is on our One Summer’s Day CD – there are lots of lovely things to work with on that one. This is a simple but effective card that won’t take you too long to make.

The three toppers are all on the sheet you print out and if you mat and layer them onto cream and then black it gives them a smart little frame. The card blank measures 210mm x 140mm and some more cream card then backing paper and then black card are layered up as per the picture to create the base.

Add all the toppers with some foam tape or glue gel and embellish the corners with a little self adhesive pearl and you’re away!

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Putting on a bit of a show…

July and August are busy times down here in Devon. Of course, the tourism industry is huge in this area – we are blessed with beautiful countryside and a dramatic coastline – but it’s the strong sense of community and tradition in the countryside that also come to the fore at this time of year.

The rural community is still closely aligned with the farming world and country shows, town carnivals and village fetes are all still important (and popular) events on the social calendar.

Growing giant vegetables, showing your best breeding ram or entering your dog in the agility class are all part of the fun,­ although some people take it very seriously indeed! People go to enormous lengths to build carnival floats, groom and polish their ponies and traps and produce flower arrangements of great ingenuity. It is heartening to see such ‘traditional’ ways of life still carrying on so strongly in this technological age.

My partner in crime writing, Julia Wherrell, took the afternoon off to wander around a show local to her up on Dartmoor, the Chagford Show, and took some fun photos to give you a real feel for what goes on. She spent quite a lot of her afternoon in the produce and craft tents and when not in there, she was admiring the prize sheep and cattle, oh, and chickens of course. She says she most definitely did not go near the beer tent(!), but might have swung by the cream teas!

They always say ‘write about what you know’, so if you happen to be a fan of our Swaddlecome Mysteries series, this sort of rural entertainment will be well known to you! 

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Memories of Mrs Tiggywinkle!

When she created Mrs Tiggywinkle, Beatrix Potter secured a place in our hearts for this funny little prickly creature. For all us children who read about her, the hedgehog will forever be something cute and special.

Just down the road from where I live is a lovely children’s attraction called Prickly Ball Farm – can you guess what that’s all about? Yup, hedgehogs! In fact, they have a hedgehog hospital where you can go and see the fantastic work the staff do to rehabilitate sick and injured hedgehogs to bring them back to health before releasing them back into the wild. They often care for up to 80 of the prickly little beasts at any one time and it takes a lot of time and love to nurse these little creatures.

They are always happy to receive donations of old fleeces, blankets, towels, hot water bottles and food bowls. They also ask for any unwanted newspapers, shredded paper, sawdust or straw to help with the daily clean out of all the hedgehogs. And while you are there, you can learn more about hedgehogs and their habitat from one of their daily hedgehog talks.

Of course, as with all such attractions these days, they have to offer a whole range of interesting things for visitors to see and do and Prickly Ball Farm has grown to become a very popular attraction. They have a wide variety of animals including ferrets, pigs, chickens, ducks, pygmy goats, ponies, donkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs and even foxes! As well as getting to see all the animals, they run activities throughout the day so visitors can get a real ‘hands on’ experience with everything from pony grooming to walking a ferret and feeding the goats.

Spike’s Farm Shop sells everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to home made products from the café, local produce plus a range of prickly gifts and souvenirs. And just as the adults are starting to flag, there’s a very nice café with an excellent range of home made cakes! It’s a sweet day out and just a little bit different. Once my granddaughter Grace is old enough to appreciate it, Granny Joanna will be using her as an excuse to visit!

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