Friday, 31 May 2013

May highlights 2013

Eeep! It’s the end of May already and time for my catch up of the month. If you’ve been stopping by this month you’ll have seen most of what I’ve been up to but my favourite part of writing these posts is catching up on the things that never quite made it into a blog post all of their own and May was especially exciting. 

Firstly on the blog….
Miss Chaela Boo: May Highlights
 Crafty Creative box 10: Blue - Goldfinch button from Miss Beatrix
 - UK vegan food swap - Ms Cupcake UK book review

The blue themed Crafty Creatives box 10 inspired these blue fox cards which are now available in my Etsy shop here. I received some wonderful happy post but still haven't decided what to do with the beautiful button I ordered from Miss Beatrix. I discovered the scrummy maple syrup lolly in my vegan food swap box and have baked some equally scrummy cakes from the new book from Ms Cupcake, read my review of the book here! Er, that's actually all stuff that arrived in the post then.

And off the blog…
Miss Chaela Boo: May Highlights
Half of the Thunder Run team
During the May bank holiday I ran two 10km races in two days with half of my running team as part of our training for the Adidas Thunder Run in July. Mark, Katie, Neil and I tackled Cambridge's guided bus way on the Sunday followed by the mountain of Ashton on the Monday. Frustratingly I picked up a cold three days later and haven't been able to run since so fear that training may have gone to waste. We all picked up two medals though. Win!

I snapped the beautiful and strange cherry tree in the park with both pink and white blossom. For the non-gardening types, this is the result of a pink variety of cherry being grafted onto the root stock of a white variety and the white cherry sprouting from below the graft. 
Miss Chaela Boo: May Highlights
Pink and white cherry tree - Shelly the tortoise
We had a tortoise for a week!! Her name was Shelly and we looked after her while she was between homes. She was very cute but I’m not missing the ‘nails on a blackboard’ type scraping noises that she made while digging. 

And finally, I GOT A NEW BIKE!!!!
Miss Chaela Boo: May Highlights
Back in April, I finally decided that after six years together my old bike wasn’t worth the £130+ it would cost to get her back to full health. I ordered a new bike through Cycle Scheme and I eventually got the call last week that she was ready. So it was ‘goodbye’ Starling and ‘hello’ Swift. I’m planning on keeping the old lady to grow plants on but I haven’t worked out the space yet, perhaps just plonk her at the back of a flower bed.

What were your May highlights?  

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Book review: Ms Cupcake UK: The Naughtiest Vegan Cupcakes in Town

I first heard about the buzz about the new book from Ms Cupcake via Twitter (of course!) on the day the book was launched. There was lots of excitement coming from some of the vegan food swappers who were attending the launch party later that day. I got on to Amazon to order a copy straight away and was delighted when it arrived only a couple of days later. I have to start by saying I adore this book! As I read through the it (even the introduction!) I was drooling over the wonderful pictures of the cakes. I might even have squeaked when I came across the recipe for Jaffa cakes!!
Miss Chaela Boo: Ms Cupcake UK book review
The pictures in the book really are stunning and for me it’s really important to have a decent picture of what you are trying to make. How are you supposed to know if you’re doing it right if you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like? The beginning of the book talks about the basics of vegan ingredients and has some great tips (rules) for making sure that your vegan bakes turn out perfectly.

Miss Chaela Boo: Ms Cupcake UK book review
From the book: Pineapple Upside-down Mini Cakes - Neapolitan Triple Layer Cake - 
Turkish Delight Cake - Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Most of the recipes in the book require no weird vegan ingredients. Out of the recipes I have tried so far the most unusual thing I had to buy was cider vinegar and since it features in lots of the recipes the rest of the bottle certainly won’t be going to waste.

I'm really pleased that the book includes cup measurements. I absolutely love recipes that are measured in cups, I love the simplicity of cup measures and I’m slightly obsessed with my treasured baking bowls which were a gift from my best friend Ro. However, I did find the cup measures in the some of the recipes a little fiddly, although I think it was mainly that my cups don't measure in thirds, so I had to resign myself to the measuring jug and digital scales which aren't as pretty as my baking bowls.

Anyway on to the gorgeous recipes…

First up was the Jaffa cakes, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about trying out a recipe. Jaffa cakes are a favourite of mine and Ro’s and we often buy them for each other whenever we visit. I didn’t need to do any shopping to make them either, bonus!! The recipe uses marmalade instead of the traditional orange jelly which as Ms Cupcake points out is far quicker than waiting for jelly to set. In terms of flavour, these Jaffa cakes are perfect and the fact that mine turned out a bit bigger and substantially more chocolatey than the shop version meant that I didn’t need to eat six in one go. I will definitely be making these again.

Miss Chaela Boo: Ms Cupcake UK book review

Next up were the Carrot Maple Nut Muffins! I found this recipe very oily and the mixture looked a little odd almost slightly separated but the results were gorgeously springy muffins with the lovely flavour of maple syrup.  

Miss Chaela Boo: Ms Cupcake UK book review
Finally I made the Bakewell Tart cupcakes. How pretty are these? It was the gorgeous picture from the book that inspired me to make these. I even attempted to pipe the icing using a sandwich bag since I don’t own a proper icing bag (yet!). I was really pleased with how these turned out and boxed up four of them for a birthday present.  

Miss Chaela Boo: Ms Cupcake UK book review
All of the recipes I have tried are absolutely divine and (apart from the Jaffa cakes because I ate them all myself!) have had the seal of approval from non-vegan work colleagues. Whether you are a vegan or not this is an awesome book. Go buy it!!

**This is not a sponsored post**

Sunday, 26 May 2013

UK vegan food swap - May

After finally joining the UK Vegan Food Swap last month I was really looking forward to the next round. I had such fun finding interesting foods and receiving some wonderful treats. I'm still obsessing over the amazing 'Love me Truly' tea that I received and have been making everyone try it. 

When the email for May arrived I found I would be sending my parcel to Claire of Great Vegan Expectations. I was much more organised this time and managed to get a few things in advance, of course that's a risky strategy if you don't know the likes and dislikes of the person you are buying for but it makes life easier and you can always make a few substitutions. 
Miss Chaela Boo: Vegan food swap - May
The best place for vegan and vegetarian shopping in Cambridge is Arjuna Wholefoods on Mill Road, they have a broad selection of vegetarian and vegan foods, toiletries (including some amazing smelling soaps) and cleaning products. While I was there I picked up Sesame Sticks, Japanese Rice Crackers, lemon cookies, pineapple and mango fruit bars and CoCo Jack bar which is like a flapjack made from coconut and seeds. From my local supermarket I also grabbed a bar of plain chocolate, dairy-free buttons and a rhubarb and custard Nakd bar.

In return I received the following (very exciting) box from Christine. 
Miss Chaela Boo: Vegan food swap - May
Christine had included a couple of treats from the US and I was immediately drawn to the maple leaf shaped lolly-pop and wasn't disappointed to discover that it is indeed a lolly-pop made from maple syrup!!  The second US treat was Root Beer Float flavoured chewing gum, I loved the foil wrappers which reminded me of how chewing gum used to look (can you still get Juicy Fruit or Double Mint?) and the cheeky slogan inside read 'Have Your Dessert & Chew It Too!'. 
Miss Chaela Boo: Vegan food swap - May
Also in the box were the baked dough rings with fennel seed (they'll be going to work with me for afternoon snacks), olive paste and a selection of tea including a green chai which I can't wait to try. I was also really impressed that Christine had baked Pumpkin and Miso muffins too and I'm inspired to have a go at baking for the swap next month. 

If you've never tried a food swap before I would highly recommend it and the UK Vegan Food Swap is great way of discovering new foods whether your a vegan or not. Alternately just try Google to find one that suits your tastes better. If you like getting post and you like eating, you love a food swap!! 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Happy post

This week has undoubtedly been an excellent week for post and one that seems worthy of a blog post.

First up I received a cute steampunk notecard and camera notebook from Anna of Miss Beatrix as part of our #PostCircle team. Anna is the organising brains behind #PostCircle and with over 200 members signed up she's a busy bee. #PostCircle is a lovely way to rediscover letter writing and of course means a regular stream of happy post. Find out more about #PostCircle here.
Miss Chaela Boo: Happy Post #PostCircle
Next up was the stunning new book from Ms Cupcake. I heard the buzz about the booklaunch on Twitter (where else!) during the week and imediately ordered my copy. There's so much I want to say about this book but I'll leave it for now as I'll be doing a proper review of it later in the week.
Miss Chaela Boo: Happy Post - Ms Cupcake UK
The glamorous themed Crafty Creatives box 11 arrived! I'm very thankful to my Postman who has started leaving parcels in the greenhouse which means I don't have to wait until the weekend to collect things from the post office. More on this once I've had the chance to make some things.
Miss Chaela Boo: Happy Post - Crafty Creatives
I also finally got around to ordering new business cards after changing my blog and shop name at the end of March. What do you think?
Miss Chaela Boo: Happy Post - business cards
Finally, there was the beautiful hand painted goldfinch button that I ordered from Miss Beatrix. Anna is very talented at painting tiny birds onto her hand made buttons and there are lots to choose from in her Etsy shop, or put in a request for your favourite bird like I did! This actually arrived last week but I couldn't not mention it.
All of that and I'm still looking forward to receiving my vegan food swap parcel!! Did you receive anything exciting in the post this week?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Crafty Creatives - Box 10 - Blue

Box 11 plopped through our letter boxes yesterday (actually my postie left it in the green house!) but I've got some catching up to do with my Box 10 makes. 
Miss Chaela Boo: Crafty Creatives box 10

Box 10 went back to basics with a blue theme, there was the simple yet very beautiful art card by Catherine Moody and the contents of the box were:
  • The kit - Felt bluebird mobile
  • Felt balls
  • Glitter and beads
  • Mini blank canvas
  • Three bottles of acrylic paint in various shades of blue
  • Tiny glass beads from Musha Makes
  • Jumping Clay
  • A5 blue card and paper
  • Fat quarter of blue patterned fabric
  • Two bluebird pendants
Miss Chaela Boo: Crafty Creatives box 10
With lots to do for the tea party at the beginning of April it was a couple of weeks before I got started on this box. I kicked things of with the bluebird mobile, I added extra detail using the felt balls and some of the tiny blue beads.
Miss Chaela Boo: Crafty Creatives box 10 makes - blue bird mobile
I used some of the blue paint to make a set of my foxy cards and gift tags and I really like the look of the fox in blue. I'm wondering what other colours look good on foxes...
Miss Chaela Boo: Blue fox card and gift tag

While scouring Pinterest for new ideas for using glitter, I came across these wonderful glittery animal canvases. Perfect for the mini canvas too! So far I have painted it blue, I just need to get my hands on a small plastic animal!
Source: papery and cakery
Check out The Pampered Sparrow for a peak at what the next box as in store, I'll be back with my Box 11 makes soon and hopefully before the arrival of Box 12 (how are we almost at 12!?)

Monday, 6 May 2013

The surprise tea party

In my April Highlights I mentioned the surprise tea party that I helped to organise for Mike's parents, Helen and Chris, and I thought I'd share a bit more about how we got on.

After just a few short weeks of planning and Skype chats with the brothers, Dan and Nigel, the day finally arrived. The occasion was a double birthday and the boys had worked really hard to organise the venue and contact the 40 or so guests. 

We hired the church hall and it wasn't too difficult to convince the guests of honour to meet us there for afternoon tea. They had no idea it was tea just for them.

We spent the morning setting up and decorating the hall with fabulous bunting and the tables looked beautiful once set with mismatched crockery. 
Miss Chaela Boo: The surprise tea party
Beautiful bunting - Spring flowers - Tables ready for the guests
Dan made a brilliant slide show of photos stolen from his parents albums! 
Miss Chaela Boo: The surprise tea party
Christopher in 1951 - Helen and Chris's wedding day (obviously) 1978 - Stuffing their trolley after winning a free shopping trip in 1983 - On holiday in Austria 2011
On cakes, I made my favourite pineapple upside cake, some vegan florentines and a couple of Victoria sponge cakes. There was also the tea loaf which was like a brick and really tough to cut but still tasty. Shona made shortbread biscuits and an amazing classic Victoria sponge, while Dan and Iona made and decorated the Humpty Dumpty cake in celebration of Helen and Chris's  involvement in the panto group.
Miss Chaela Boo: The surprise tea party
 Cake stands ready to go - Pineapple upside down cake - Shona's Victoria sponge - Grumpy Humpty Dumpty cake
The afternoon went really well and while there was the odd panic in the morning when we couldn't find any tea spoons or the correct lead for the projector we got there in the end.
Miss Chaela Boo: The surprise tea party
Tea party infull swing - Group photo!
It was a great team effort, six of us in all (the three boys and the girlfriends) not to mention the friends who passed on invites and kept the whole thing a secret. Huge thanks to Maria who helped us out with tablecloths and extra tea bags when we ran out and to the generosity of some lovely friends who loaned teapots, cake stands, reams of bunting and a projector. Finally thanks to all the wonderful guests without whom we would have looked a bit silly. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

April Highlights 2013

April started with a bit of a bang on the blog after I moved virtual house at the end of March (thanks to everyone for sticking with me!) but things soon became a bit quieter after I became a little preoccupied with helping Mike and his brothers to organise a surprise tea party for their mum and dad. 

On the blog:

I only managed to publish four posts and one of them I didn't even write! Huge thanks again to the lovely Anna of Miss Beatrix for the fabulous guest post.

Miss Chaela Boo: April highlights 2013
I started off April with the teacup pincushion DIY followed by my thoughts on the brilliant Great British Sewing Bee where I showed off my sewing skills (and mistakes) with the dress I made when I was 18. As mentioned I welcomed Anna as my guest for April and she delivered with a super easy DIY for helping out our garden birdies with best building supplies. Finally I took part in my first vegan food swap and I look forward to seeing what the next one has in store.

Off the blog:
Miss Chaela Boo: April highlights 2013
Mike and I went to check out the new play fitness equipment in the local park which was so much fun and I look forward to visiting more over the summer. I got crafty with some foxy designs for cards and gift tags and started making LEGO earrings for my Etsy shop. We also had a pair of persistent blue tits trying to nest build in our boiler flue. They were eventually evicted last week after the accumulation of moss caused the boiler to shut down. 
Miss Chaela Boo: April highlights 2013
I baked many cakes including this Victoria sponge and pineapple upside down cake. After much planning the surprise tea party, that we organised for Mike's parents, happened without too many hitches and Spring truly arrived when my favourite scruffy daffodils came out to play.

I think it's finally safe to say Happy Spring everyone!!