Tag Archives: Helpful Stuff

My Reading List Progress…

So, I have a Reading List. Books that have been recommended to me. Mostly in response to a Facebook status a few months back when I realised that I hadn’t read a good book in a long long time. Other than baby sleep books!

So this is my original list and my progress:

  • Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks —> read! 
  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  • House Rules – Jodie Picoult  —> reading at the moment 
  • The Last Song – Nicholas Sparks
  • Minding Frankie – Maeve Binchy
  • The Island – Victoria Hislop  —> read! 
  • Room – Emma Donoghue  —> read! 
  • Cutting For Stone – Abraham Verghese
  • Perfume – Patrick Süskind
  • The Little House – Virginia Lee Burton
  • Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan
  • Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn (I wanted to start with this one because I just love the title!)
  • Skippy Dies – Paul Murray
  • Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
Hmm, I felt I was doing well until I did this list… now my three – almost four – books look rather silly.
Mini- reviews, super quickly and super subjective, in the order that I read the books:
The Island –  loved it 🙂
I felt like I knew the characters and wanted to keep on reading about their lives – I was quite disappointed when I got to the end of the story. I think I slowed my reading down as I realised I was nearing the end in order to make it last longer! That’s pretty telling. Interesting and believable storyline without being too cliche or predictable. Lovely setting.
Room – oh wow.
Seriously made me look at everyday life in a new light. But in a good way! I kept interrupting LOML to tell him what the characters were doing and how things were going for them. Just the right balance of tears (mostly happy) and laughter. Very very unusual, and I loved the first person perspective. I would definitely recommend it.
Birdsong – not a great fan
I liked that the book is written from two different perspectives, and jumps between two periods in history, and the storyline is good, but it just didn’t quite grab me personally. The descriptions were really very detailed and I’ve discovered that I don’t like that much! The author did lots of research, and I enjoyed the historical aspect of it a lot more than I enjoyed the actual story.
House Rules – still reading, but enjoying it so far.
The story is told by more than one character, and each chapter gives you a perspective from one of the characters, so that they overlap each other and the story moves forward. Me likey. Again, the author must have done a lot of hard work to get the facts – the story is about a family dealing with Aspergers… a topic that interests me anyway. I’ll keep you posted.
What are you reading at the moment?

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Filed under Oh Sweet Words

Red Velvet…

Even just typing the title got me singing Black Velvet 🙂

So… I have discovered something to top chocolate cake. I know, who would’ve thought it possible??

I found this recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes on a blog called Annie’s Eats. I copied and pasted the recipe from the blog, but have changed a couple of things, like using the word ‘icing’ instead of ‘frosting’ and adding some different measurements for some ingredients. I sometimes find the American way of listing everything in cups and tablespoons quite hard to use for certain ingredients, like butter.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
30ml/2 tbsp. liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the icing:
300g tub cream cheese
75g/5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
10ml/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a large bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the icing sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Ice cooled cupcakes as desired.

Ok, this is me again, not the recipe.

Helpful stuff:

* The author recommends using vanilla flavouring (colourless) for the icing rather than vanilla essence for a nicer colour and texture. I did, and I liked it 🙂

*I piped the icing on top using a ziploc bag with a little snip in one bottom corner. It’s not exactly pro-looking, but it was something different to just slathering the icing on top with a knife or spoon. I don’t think I’m ready to actually go out and buy piping bags and fancy schmancy piping tips.

*I decorated with mini mini marshmallows (yip, that’s what the box called them) on some, hundreds & thousands on some, and cherries on the rest. I thought they looked cute, and carried on the pinky-red theme of the cakes.

*I decided to do some research into how full you’re supposed to fill cupcake liners… apparently 2/3 is the accepted amount. Based on some other cupcake advice I found at the same time, I used a 1/4C measure (not completely filled) to pour the batter into the cake liners so that each had the same amount of batter. I’ve always just guessed in the past, and used a couple of normal spoons. This way took out the guess work, was quicker and less messy. Hurray!

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Filed under Oh Sweet Chocolate, Oh Sweet Food, Oh Sweet Handmade


Haha! Oh joy! What ho!

I have found somewhere to organise my I Really Want This List Wish List without having to bookmark or copy and paste a gazillion websites 🙂

I guess it’s kind of like the social network of collected images. You ‘pin’ internet images onto your boards, and other people can follow you, see your boards, and ‘repin’ the pictures (ideas, inspiration, etc.) onto their own boards.  When you pin the picture to your board, the owner of that image automatically is credited – the link appears below the picture, and anyone can quickly and easily see (and go to) the website that the picture comes from.

Hmm, I hope that makes sense….

Sorry, I couldn’t get the picture of my boards any bigger in the post – if you want to see it more clearly, click on the picture itself and you’ll be taken directly to my Pinterest page.

Anyway, this is Pinterest.

This is where you can get an invitation to join (yes, you need to be invited!)


People use it to catalogue all sorts – fashion, science and technology, wedding ideas, books… anything really! For me, it’s my Wish List, my crafty/DIY/repurposing To Do list, and my These Things Are Just Generally Gorgeous list.



Filed under Oh Sweet Handmade

My microwave is clean!

Really, you’re reading this post???  With a title like that?

Either you’re desperately bored or, like me, you hate cleaning yours and you’re hoping I’m going to tell you I’ve discovered a self-cleaning microwave at a fraction of the cost of a regular one. Err, no, sorry. But that would be nice!

No, what I have discovered is a quick and easy way to clean the microwave. You see, due to lack of worktop space, our microwave is on top of the fridge. Kinda hard to reach, but I can press the important buttons and get things in and out without burning myself too badly. The great thing the problem is, I can’t see inside the microwave to know when to give it a wipe. Yes, I could just do it on a regular basis, like give it a clean every Sunday or something like that (whatever), but it’s a case of ignorance is bliss. Or denial. If I can’t see the muck, it’s not there.  (How does it get there anyway? We always cover plates and dishes before heating them.) Eventually, when I can deny no longer, I am faced with the mammoth task of a microwave spring clean. Bleh. Until now…

Maybe you’ve known about this way of doing it for years. Maybe I’m the only newbie to this magnificent and oh so simple cleaning method… but if you’re curious – read on!

Microwave Cleaning Method That Is Really Really Super Duper Quick And Easy

1. Put a mug of water in the microwave.

2. Heat for 5 minutes on high.

3. Take out the mug, the round glass tray and revolving thingamajiggy.

4. Shut the door really quickly again to keep the steam in!

5. Wash the glass tray and revolving thingamajiggy immediately in warm soapy water (ok, that’s nothing new).

6. Now you can use a wet soapy cloth to wash the interior and door.

Ta da!

The steam loosens up the grime and makes it really really easy to wipe away. Apparently you can put lemon juice into the mug of water to help remove any odours too.

I found this advice at Apartment Therapy. Check out their other tips for tough cleaning situations.

Do it and tell me what you think! Did it work as well as I said it would??

Please tell me you have some great tips to revolutionise my cleaning?? I could sure use it. Put ’em in the comment box below 🙂

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Filed under Oh Sweet Life