It’s Apple and Blackberry pie season

The weather decided that it wasn’t going to give us an Indian Summer after all and began to cool down just as Gary’s Dad delivered a large batch of Bramley apples from his tree.

No more encouragement was required to do some pie making.

But before that, our recent holiday in Normandy put me in the mood for some apple tart, Pâte Brisée style.

Pâte Brisée is a French sweet pastry which is rolled within a millimetre of it’s life to be as thin as possible. It was the first time that I had attempted Pâte Brisée and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

The recipe in the GBBO book offered great guidance.

After mastering the Pâte Brisée, next up was pie making time. My top tips for a good apple and blackberry pie are:

1) Use butter rich shortcrust pastry, chilled for at least an hour
2) Lightly cook chunky chopped apples in butter, cinnamon and brown sugar until the apples soften slightly around the edges
3) Add cinnamon to the pastry lid along with some sugar
4) Don’t forget to serve with double cream

What are your tips for a fabulous apple and blackberry pie?

Apple and Blackberry Pie

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Back to blogging and baking


I’m determined to find my blogging mojo after a couple of years of just being far too busy. So I thought I would start out with a plan to blog every time I bake.

I made a Chocolate and Caramel cake to assist Gary in his birthday celebrations and to top up his calorie intake before his next 3 and a half hour bike ride.

Any cake for Gary has to include chocolate as a main ingredient, so after some research I came across this Chocolate and Caramel Later Cake on the BBC Good Food website.

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out as it’s quite impressive when you cut through it and can see the 4 different colours. The cake is quite dense and rich and can easily feed more than 12 people as the recipe suggests.


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Operation Hello Kitty Birthday Cake

Blogging has taken a back seat for the past few months as things have been pretty hectic. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you would have seen me talking for the past couple of months about Operation Birthday Cake.

My sister turned 32 earlier in October and she asked me to make her birthday cake. But of course it couldn’t be any ordinary birthday cake, she requested a Hello Kitty Cake with Keroppi cupcakes.

This took a fair bit of research and design from my point of view but I came up with a couple of ideas including pink macaroons. The pink macaroons were later binned as I couldn’t get the colour right at all even though they tasted great.

Anyway, I decided to go with red velvet sponge for both the cake and cupcakes. I made the main Hello Kitty sponge about two weeks before my sister’s birthday and froze it so that it (in theory) would be easier to ice and decorate. Freezing it paid off and I will definitely do it again if I have to make any similar cakes in the future.

Hello Kitty took me about 3 hours to decorate including fixing the neck where I practically garotted her and the Keroppi cupcakes took me about 4 hours to make and decorate with some help from my sister and a bottle of wine.

The m&ms made life a little interesting. You can buy them online but the minimum order fee was £65. I would have been eating m&ms forever with that quantity. So I decided to visit the m&ms store in Leicester Square. Just a word of warning, it is 4 floors of tourist heaven (hell) with a Red m&m being chased around the store by children when I popped in! Also be prepared for the vast array of colours available to buy. I just wanted pink m&ms and was confronted with at least 6 different shades!

So here it is, all the hard work was really worth it and my sister was really chuffed:

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Day 2/30 Juneathon – Day out in London

A day trip to London is beginning to become a half term holiday ritual for me, Gary and Deaghlan at the moment.

So we headed down to Epping in the car and jumped on the tube. First stop was the British Museum to check out the Mummies and Romans (Deaghlan is a big fan at the moment), then off to London Bridge and a walk to and around the HMS Belfast. We finished the afternoon and early evening off with a wander around Southbank. Deaghlan got thoroughly soaked in the ‘Disappearing Rooms’, watched the skakeboarders and rollerbladers in action, checked out the beach huts and the roof garden before walking across the Millennium Bridge to Embankment and back again.

We had a fantastic day and to top it off, the weather was stunning.

So I’m counting the huge amount of walking as Day 2′s Juneathon contribution. I have no idea how far we walked but my feet are still killing me on the morning after. Gary still managed a 10km bike ride last night and I have no idea how!

Anyway hoping my feet recover over the day as I’m scheduled to run 6.44km tonight.

Distance: No idea but very far
Time: 10am – 7.30pm

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Day 1/30 Juneathon – and we’re off

Just managed to fit in my timetabled 3 mile run today.

I’ve been trying to fit in 3 runs a week for the past month or so but am yet to manage it. I’m hoping that Juneathon will get me up to regularly running 3 times a week.

I hit the road just after 8.30pm after rooting out my iPod from down the back of the sofa. Didn’t properly plan where I was heading so aimed from the Football Stadium and turned round halfway and headed home. Met a couple of other runners along the way and too many young lads driving their Dad’s Audi or BMW…….

Distance: 4.83km

Time: 36.29 mins

Average: 7.33mins/km

Hope everyone else had a good start to Juneathon :-)

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Juneathon plans


As Juneathon is less that 24 hours away, it’s about time I set myself some goals and figure out a plan. So here goes:

1. Complete 20 mins of yoga per day

2. Run 3 times per week

3. Do strength work 4 times per week

My mileage has remained steady since Janathon and my speed has slowly been increasing. My main aim is that by concentrating on strength work and yoga it will help improve my speed and deal with my niggling knee pain.

Good luck to everyone participating :-)

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Dusting off the bicycles and teaching the rules of the road

With the weather slowly getting milder and the evenings lighter, it was decided that now was the time to rescue the bikes from the garage and start putting them to good use again after their winter hibernation.

Gary and Deaghlan decided that Mothers Day would be the ideal time to look over the bikes and check all was in order, pump up the tyres and take the bikes for a spin. So we headed out into Highwoods Country Park which we live right next door to and then onto Colchester town centre for lunch. Other than the uphill journey home, we had a very lovely morning.

Deaghlan then spent the rest of the day asking if we could cycle to school this week. I had mapped out the journey previously and it’s 2 miles from home to Deaghlan’s school and then a further 3 miles for me to get to work.

Entirely do-able you would think…… hmmmm

Not with a 7 year old boy who currently has the attention span of a goldfish whenever he is required to concentrate!

Hooning around on his bike in Highwoods Country Park – not a problem.

Using cycle paths and being aware of traffic and pedestrians – a whole other ball game.

The cycle route is relatively safe but the majority of it is shared with either vehicles or pedestrians. It is also on a bus route and a housing estate with plenty of driveways as well as people going about their daily lives.

So plenty of obstacles and potential hazards ahead, I spent a lot of time directing Deaghlan to be aware of his surroundings and making him stop. Trying to do this without putting him off getting on his bike again was very difficult. It took us 30 minutes to get to school but he went in happy. My 3 mile ride onto work took 15 minutes in comparison!

I stumbled across this blog post later in the day by BikeHub, which I found very interesting and would urge you to have a read. I’m quite happy for Deaghlan to speed off on his bike avoiding trees, low branches and tearing up and down hills. He has had his fair share of falls, scrapes and bruises but has always jumped back on his bike again. In his mind, cycling is all about having fun.

But learning to cycle the school run requires attention and discipline from him and a whole heap of patience from me. I know that I really have to educate him on the rules of the road, but the trick is trying to do that whilst keeping it entertaining and making sure we make it to school on time and in one piece!

I am beginning to think that teaching him to ride his bike was the easy part of learning this life-skill……

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Puffle Cupcake madness

In the Judge/Cole household we are getting into the crazy birthday season, a total of 7 birthdays in less than 3 weeks.

The first one was Gary’s twin girls who turned 7 earlier in the week, so I have recently been scouring the web looking for birthday cake ideas. I came across The Pink Whisk‘s blog sometime ago and after look through I came across her How to post on Puffle Cupcakes. Great idea I thought as the twins absolutely love Club Penguin.

It took me two solid evenings to decorate 15 Puffles and make the scenery and compared to the Pink Whisk’s instructions I cheated alot.

But I was pretty pleased with the result:

Erin and Piper really loved their birthday cake so all the hard work was worth it.

After dinner and plenty of cake was consumed, Erin, Piper and Deaghlan decided to partake in a spot of indoor snorkelling as you do!!

Indoor Snorkelling

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Keep calm and carry on: Dealing with no running

I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks after a visit to the doctors resulted in no running allowed for 2 weeks.

Apparently I have strained a ligament so was told to rest. After some searching on t’internet it seems I may have upset my Iliotibial Band so I have been doing a lot of particular stretches in order to sort it out.

For me, running is about getting some time alone with my thoughts to relieve stress in addition to getting fitter.

So being told that I wasn’t allowed to run immediately put me on edge and wondering what I can do to keep myself sane.

Here I am with one day to go before I can head out for a short steady run to see whether or not the rest has worked. So what have I been doing to keep my stress levels down and grumpiness at bay:

Making bread and Knitting

and sorting out the junk I have amassed to sell on ebay. I feel I have come through it relatively unscathed but I am praying that rest and stretching has worked its magic.

Will let you know how I get on.

What would you do to keep yourself sane if running was temporarily not allowed?

Posted in MusingsandMadness, Running | 2 Comments

Easy week

Currently sitting with my knee on ice so thought it was time to reflect a little on the past week.

I made a concious decision to slow down and take it a bit easier after taking part in Janathon and stuck mainly to core work this week. I also headed out last Wednesday for another attempt at Zumba. All the advice I’ve read about keeping motivated involves changing your routines so I may stick with it for a while. Still unconvinced with regards to the applauding and whooping but we shall see.

Had my monthly review at the gym yesterday to check on my progress. Increasing the workouts on my left shoulder to help build the strength up and discussed increasing my running distance first and working on improving my speed in March.

However, running plans were scuppered today as 3k in and my right knee started giving me some pain. I tried walking it off but as soon as I increased my speed again the pain returned.

So plenty of stretching I think over the next few days and more core work. I’ll leave the running until next week.

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