Archive | January, 2013

Clandestine Cake Club visits the Corner Lounge, Batley

14 Jan


On Sunday 13th January, Angela and Barry of the Corner Cafe in Batley town centre opened up their doors and in particular the Corner Lounge a lovely room behind the main cafe area, to the Spen Valley group of the Clandestine Cake Club.

Have you heard about the Clandestine Cake Club?

The One Show and the Alan Titchmarsh show heard about it and you may have seen the programmes which were shown on television during 2012

Its not a competition and you will not be judged on your baking and there is no charge.

The idea of it is to book a place on the CCC website, bake a cake, bring a mate and then eat cake, have a lovely social afternoon/evening and then take cake home!

That’s what happened on Sunday afternoon.

There were 24 bakers and guests and 16 amazing cakes


The Clandestine Cake Club is the brainchild of Leeds housewife Lynn Hill and from the first gathering in December 2010 it has grown, to not only a nationwide phenomenon but there are cake clubs now as far afield as New Zealand, Canada and the Cayman Isles and it boasts around 6,200 members worldwide. The ‘clandestine’ part of the club is that when members book a place, only the general area e.g. Batley is mentioned, the address of the venue only being revealed a few days before the event takes place and then only to those who have booked a place.

The Corner Lounge in the Corner Cafe in Batley town centre was the latest venue on Sunday afternoon for a meeting of the Spen Valley branch of the Clandestine Cake Club which is run by me Sue Jones with much help from my daughter Helen.

Angela of the Corner Cafe kindly offered the CCC free use of the Corner Lounge for their first event in Batley and made everyone extremely welcome and the Spen Valley CCC send many thanks to Angela and Barry and their team.

All venues used by the CCC gain in many ways. Getting new customers, filling in quiet time, extra revenue (2 drinks per member estimated), return visits from attendees and potential audience for any future foody events.

This is the website if you would like more information, have a venue suitable for future events, or wish to book a place. A new venue for this group Spen Valley (covering Batley, Cleckheaton, Dewsbury, Mirfield, Liversedge, Heckmondwike etc.) will be arranged soon and the other local groups close by are Leeds, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Saltaire and Pudsey.

























Ironing and me.

9 Jan

When my son Richard moved into his house in May 2010 he lost custody of a washer, as it was a rented property he had moved out of. Shortly after this, he knocked his iron off the ironing board and although it got hot, water leaked out of it.

I took pity on him and said that I would do his laundry until he bought a washer. Now it is January 2013 and still he has no washer. He has always found something else to spend his money on.  Funny that!

I don’t mind really but most of the ironing I now do is for Richard.

I can’t say I love ironing but I can truly say I don’t mind ironing.  I sometimes iron a shirt, read a tweet, iron a shirt, read a tweet…you get the picture and so it continues and the ironing passes quickly.

This morning I ironed 9 shirts in 35 minutes which was pretty good going even for me and  the 8 T shirts and all the rest of the ironing was completed within an hour.

Lots of people on twitter have commented about their hatred of ironing and I realised the thing you need to do to improve your ironing experience is to invest in a good iron.

Recently my daughter Helen needed a new iron quickly and whilst she would have liked to buy an iron similar to the one which had just broken, she couldn’t find one at the right price for her, so she chose one which cost about £30. I believe it was a Breville. There were so many things to complain of about this iron.

When filling it with water, it was in the upright position but the water level marker only showed the level when it was in the ironing position.

The iron had a steel plate at the bottom and stuck to something as Helen was ironing which was bad enough and she couldn’t get it off, but amazingly it came off on two of the next items she ironed,  Isaacs brand new baby gros.

When she was opening the iron to fill it will water the cover for the ‘fill’ opening, broke off.

The cable got in the way when in an upright position, and so the list went on.

My last few irons have been Tefal irons with  a teflon sole plate, so good for gliding over your ironing and mostly not making dark colours shine. Occasionally something may have stuck to the bottom, if perhaps I’d run out of steam or whatever but anything that did stick on came off easily. You can fill the iron and see the fill level at the same time and it has a cable in a position which doesn’t get in the way of standing it up or ironing.

As Christmas approached I searched online for a Tefal iron. Ones which were in electical retailers had them in for approx £43.

Miraculously I found just what I wanted on Amazon for £29.50

Now this is the best bit. I ordered the irons (one for Helen and one for Richard) on Sunday 23rd December, no delivery charge and on Monday 24th December, yes, on Christmas Eve, less than 24 hours after ordering, they were delivered.

I can report that the Breville iron is now in the bin and Helen whilst not happy about the all the ironing she has to do, is ironing with no complaints about the iron again.

Richard’s iron remains in the box!

What is your iron like? Is your iron making for a poor ironing experience?

Perhaps you should buy a new iron!

On the other hand you could always send it out and let your Mum do it for you.

My life of many diets!

8 Jan

When I got married in 1968 I bought a ‘going away suit’ from Richard Shops and it was a size 13. I know its not a size you see often but thats the size the label said it was.

15th Oct 1968

I think that was as slim as I’ve ever been since I was in my early teens.  I weighed somewhere in the region of 9st 10lbs and always during the early years of marriage, if I ever got up to 10st 7lbs, I dieted until I was under 10st again.

My diets in those days consisted of salads, eggs, and cheese. Yes you heard right, cheese.  Always with Ryvitas. I also cut out potatoes and bread.

I would have poached or boiled egg for breakfast with Ryvita, 2 or 3 Ryvitas for lunch with cheese, followed by an apple. Then the evening meal would be meat and vegetables without potatoes.

The diet worked (even eating copious amounts of cheese). As I didn’t let myself get too overweight before starting a diet, it was not long before I was back to my ‘fighting weight’ again.

I have always had a tendency to put on a few pounds and then diet….and repeat.

I came across this book the other day,’The inch war campaign’ which I’ve had for about 40 years and actually the cover picture doesn’t give its age away (may be mini shorts give its age away a bit!)Ryvita book - Copy

Its only when you look at some of the pictures inside just how long I must have had it (Look at the milk bottle)


So you can see I’ve been forever trying to find ways to lose weight.

I’ve been to both Slimmer’s World and Weight Watchers over the years and learnt that eating fat makes you fat so when I’m dieting I stick to fat free cottage cheese or Quark and if I use solid cheese its only a grater of cheese, over a salad to liven it up.

Its so easy to gain a half stone and then another half stone and then before you know it you have 2 stone to lose and its an unsurmountable mountain to climb.

I’m quite happy being a size 16 but sadly most of my clothes are now size 18. I have a lot of size 16’s in my wardrobe and I would have more choice of clothes without buying more if I got my act together and lost a stone (or so)

Whilst not being too rigid in my menus, I have opted for many healthy lower calorie meals lately.

Salads like this

Sunday lunch

Or I’ve prepared loads of vegetables

Veg ready for stew

and turned them into meat-less stews like this.

Stewed veg

I know I should be more strict with myself but there are so many temptations in the house it being just after Christmas.

There are so many chocolates left. I have two boxes of Celebrations, Thorntons chocolate, chocolate oranges, Roses chocolates but  honestly I’m not very tempted to eat these.

Its the savoury food that is calling to me. I’ve actually given away bags of crisps to my daughter’s house to get rid of some of them. I’m keeping the large bag of salted peanuts though, still thankfully unopened, athough for how long I don’t know.

My metabolism  doesn’t seem to burn colories off quickly and my body certainly has a tendency to lay down fat. Not being thrilled at exercising wont help me here at all though.

As it is for many people, losing a few pounds has been and is going to continue to be, a life long challenge.

Never squat with your spurs on…

7 Jan

I received an email from my brother today and I thought it was worth passing on to you.


Will Rogers, who had been a cowboy in Oklahoma, then a vaudeville performer and motion picture actor, died in a 1935 plane crash at the age of 56.

Some of these sayings accredited to Will Rogers are quite comical and worth sharing!

Never squat with your spurs on…..

1. Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.

2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

3. There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.

4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5. Always drink upstream from the herd.

6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.

8. There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

10. If you’re riding’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.

11. Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier’n puttin’ it back.

12. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring.

He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him.

The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.


First ~Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

Second ~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Third ~ Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me; I want people to know ‘why’ I look this way.

I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.

Fourth ~ When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

Fifth ~ You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

Sixth ~ I don’t know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.

Seventh ~ One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it’s such a nice change from being young.

Eighth ~ One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.

Ninth ~ Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.

Tenth ~ Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft.

Today it’s called golf.

And, finally ~ If you don’t learn to laugh at trouble, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you’re old.

It’s part of who I am!

6 Jan

A rare occurence happened yesterday.

Even if I’m not going anywhere, I clean my teeth and I get washed and although I may stay in pyjamas till I eventually I do get washed, I always put clothes of some description on whether its staying in clothes, going out clothes or best clothes. I have to be really ill before I don’t do this and always, yes always, I make my hair presentable.

Yesterday, I didn’t do anything with my hair and I wasn’t ill.

Not a day goes by usually, without having to tame my hair.

From being about 11 years old, until the revelation of finding out about heated rollers about 20 years ago, I slept with rollers in every night.

My straight hair was not only straight but it took on the shape of every hat I wore, or every pillow I slept on.

A breath of wind and most of the endeavours of sleeping on spiky rollers was undone and any hint of moisture in the air, relaxed the soft curves,  put in so lovingly and rendered it lank! In the 60’s a headsquare was my friend. Before leaving the house to go to work on a morning, the headsquare went on. On the bus it came off. On again for the walk into work and then I felt it looked completely ok to start the day at work.

How I have always envied girls with curls. Not frizzly curls. Curvy curls.

I’ve had many perms in my time and many of those have ended up with hair more frizzly than I would have liked. I tended to either be blonde or have a perm as the combination of perming and lightening hair made for dry frizzly hair too.

Now I am neither permed or blonde and have given in to having grey hair but still the bed head hair is with me until the rollers have been plugged in, heated up and put in daily, if not twice daily if I’m going somewhere special on an evening!

Rollers have travelled abroad with me and I even have a set bought in Wall Green in Orlando with the correct voltage for USA use.

I get up on a morning, wash my hair, blow it dry, mousse on, hot rollers in, comb out and then hair spray.

On Saturday 5th January, a rare occurrence happened. The rollers were not plugged in. The rollers were not heated. The rollers stayed in the box.

I decided I was not going out and I really couldn’t be bothered.

Instead, I had to hide away inside so no neighbours could spot what a mess I was. I did actually scuttle out to the dustbin with the rubbish and scuttle back again to avoid shocking anyone.

I felt trapped in the house.

I need the comfort of knowing my hair is coiffured to the best of my ability. Its part of my make up. It makes me who I am.

It won’t happen again in a hurry!


This is a picture of my hair on my last visit to the hairdressers!


Since publishing this blog, my daughter Helen (@BakingAitch on twitter) has corrected me and says its more like 30yrs not 20 that I have been using heated rollers, after all 20yrs ago was only 1993! Shock horror at just how time gets away from me!

Knitted chicks.

5 Jan

Now Christmas is over I am re posting a blog from last year. There is no time like the present to start making some of these for Easter.

Easter Sunday is on 31st March, 2013 and so there is loads of time to ‘get knitting’.


Size 10 needles (UK old size)

Double knitting wool

Cadbury’s creme eggs or eggs of similar size

Cast on 36 stitches

Knit 8 rows in garter stitch (plain knitting)

Row 9. Increase 1 st at each end of row

Row 10. knit

Row 11. As row 9

Row 12. Knit

Row 13. As row 9    (42 sts)

Knit 3 more rows

Cast off 11 sts at beg on next 2 rows. (20 sts left)
Knit 11 rows

Do not cast off the stitches.

Leave long piece of yarn.

Thread a needle with the long yarn and draw through sts. Pull tight.

Fold in half and sew up. Fill the head cavity with cotton wool if required

Embroider eyes and add felt beak

Perfect size to hide a Cadbury’s creme egg (or similar) inside.


Making Up Instructions (added on 11th February,2013)

After making another 3 dozen chicks, I’m adding a few tips for making up the chick after knitting.

Its much easier to sew the eyes (I used one stitch of black wool for each eye) and to sew on the beak before sewing up the chick.

Also, I now invisibly sew a row of yarn, along the row between the head and body, to gather up later, to accentuate the head shape.

When the chick is sewn up, this thread is pulled gently and only slightly to accentuate the head.


This photo above shows the position to place the gathering thread.


After knitting the chick, instead of casting off the stitches, the yarn is threaded through them and drawn up tight to form the top of the head, as shown above.

I like to sew up the chick from the right side using the method below. I can’t remember whether it my Mum or one of my Grandmas who showed me this method but its my method of choice for most knitted garments.


Sew from the wrong side to the right side of the item


I also sew along the bottom of the chick (about one centimetre or so) so the egg is trapped and doesn’t easily fall out.


Now add a creme egg of choice.


The head has been stuffed with toy filling. You could use cotton wool too.

Take care of course if you give these to small children. Be aware the filling will be loose in the head cavity, the nature of the chick being, to be open at the bottom to add an egg of your choice.


The finished chick …and a group of them.


26th March 2013


I have now adapted this pattern to take a Kinder Surprise egg. This is the link to the pattern.


24th February 2017

Another version of this chick is to sew up the bottom and leave the space between head and tail open. This way a chocolate egg can be inserted from the top.


Illusive sleep.

4 Jan

I couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve.

Usually after two or three cans of Carling, perhaps not quite as soon as my head touches the pillow but certainly within 5 or 10 minutes in bed I am dead to the world.

On Christmas Eve, I’d had pink sparkling fizz and more than a few cans, but sleep was illusive.

There were many factors involved.

There was the excitement of the past evening and the thought of the exciting day to come (Christmas day). I’d eaten food late in the evening. I was staying overnight at my daughter Helen’s house so I could see Evie’s wonder and excitement at finding that Santa had been on Christmas morning and I was in the new ‘spare bed’ in Isaac’s new bedroom.

I might add that Isaac wasn’t actually sleeping the room because I was there.

The new bed was extremely comfortable too, far more comfortable than the old bed it had replaced!

I couldn’t believe I was still awake and I kept switching on my phone to check what time it was.

I saw every hour ticking by.

Four o’clock arrived and I heard Rod (Evie’s Dad) get up to go to work. I heard him go downstairs, I heard him come back upstairs, I heard movement on the landing, I heard Rod go downstairs. The front door closed and Rod went to work.

Six o’clock arrived and shortly afterwards I went to sleep.

Amazingly although it was Christmas morning, Evie slept till 8.15. I’d told her the night before that I was staying and to come in to my room instead of waking Mummy and at 8.17 there she was at the side of my bed.

I had slept for about 2 hours.

Not sleeping was NOT a problem to me at all. Of course being retired makes all the difference. I’m quite relaxed about it.

If I’d been still at work and not retired as I am, if I had to be up and alert to drive to work and then to work an 8 hour day it would have made all the difference.

When you know you have to be up for work and you are still not asleep after hours in bed, then its a trouble to you and of course you can be a danger to all around you. Not sleeping does not make for safe driving! Not sleeping is not good for temper or beauty.

Being relaxed about not sleeping surely helps sleep arrive on the following night. Not worrying about lack of sleep makes all the difference.

I stayed again on Christmas day night and went to sleep quickly and  I slept all night.

Mincemeat cake

3 Jan

This recipe came from a friend’s Grandma. Its great for using up left over mincemeat from Christmas but also tasty enough to warrant buying a new jar of mincemeat to make it.

I made this cake for the 2nd birthday Clandestine Cake Club gathering and covered it in marzipan.DSC_1256


Preheat the oven to 180º

Cream together

4ozs soft brown sugar

3ozs margarine ( I used 4ozs of margarine and omitted the lard)

1 oz of lard

Add two beaten eggs and mix together thoroughly

Also stir in

11ozs mincemeat

½ teaspoon of mixed spice

7ozs self raising flour

Add a glug of milk till a dropping consistency is obtained.

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment and add mixture to the tin.


Bake at 180º C  in centre of the oven for 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 160º and bake for a further 50 mins.

Check the loaf is baked 10 mins before end of baking time by inserting a skewer into the centre. If any mixture sticks to the skewer the cake is not cooked. Bake until the skewer leaves the mixture cleanly upon testing.


Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then lift out onto a cooling rack to cool


This cake can be decorated when cool, or can be eaten warm or cold undecorated.


I borrowed some great alphabet cutters from my daughter Helen and loved playing with them to cut out the marzipan shapes for the decorations.

Why I cried watching ‘UP’

2 Jan

I have only had to think of times when I have seen children singing, perhaps in a choir, their little voices soaring and giving their all and I could cry.

I cried when the Von Trapp children were singing  ‘Sound of Music’ as I channel hopped over Christmas.

I rarely play music in the house as it invokes too much emotion in me.

I can’t bear it when Andrea Bocelli  sings ”Time to say goodbye’. I could cry every time.

Films and old photographs stir the same emotion in me and I know I’m not alone.

‘The film Up’ was on tv last night and there were lots of tweets about getting out the tissues. It wasn’t real. Why did we cry?

The opening sequence was so poignant.

A couple of kids Carl & Ellie playing together, grow up, marry, can’t have kids, grow old together and then Ellie dies. Carl is alone. I could cry now thinking about it. I wasn’t bothered about the rest of the film, a bit silly really but I kept it on playing in the background.

Ok, if this opening sequence was true and real people were involved instead of cartoon characters, it would make us cry too but I believe when we cry watching a film or listening to music, we are not just crying at what we see or hear. There is far more too it than that.

There are always underlying memories of people who are no longer with us, loves lost, regrets in our past and a tune, a song, a film,some sight or sound delves deep in our psyche and tears at our heart strings and sometimes the tears shed are  for sad times in the past.

Some times we need this release. Would we cry otherwise? Doubtful in my case anyway. It  just needs something to set us off.

Somehow I am drawn to watching the opening sequences of ‘Up’ again…..


1 Jan

How many smokers have made a new year’s resolution and have chosen new years day to stop smoking only to buy a packet of fags before the first weekend.

How many people have made a new year’s resolution to excercise and will pay membership fees at the gym this week, only to waste it all and stop going after a few weeks?

How many people similarly will join Weight Watchers or Slimmer’s World and give up after a fortnight?

New year resolutions are made to be broken. New year resolutions often don’t last till February!

Making a new year’s resolution and breaking it  brings about feelings of guilt which is never any good.

Ok, I need to excercise more. I need to lose weight. I need to de clutter my house. I need to sort out having my driveway repaired. I’ve needed to organise having a new bathroom fitted for years.

If I do it, then fine.

If these things don’t get done then fine.

I’m not making any new year resolutions. Not carrying them through means ‘failure’. Why make resolutions only to feel a failure? Not me!

I shall continue just getting on with life.

I shall enjoy meeting new people and continue to enjoy the company of people I already know.

Sometimes I will make things happen and sometimes things will just happen and I will grasp the moment.

Resolutions will not make me a better person.

I realise I am comfortable in my own skin.

I like who I am.