Garden Office Update

Aug 17

Garden Office Update

17th August 2016

Since my last update my husband has been working hard in the evenings and at weekends and the structure has really moved forward.

All the walls have been built, joists installed and plywood fitted across them ready to take the finished roof covering. Thanks have to be given to family and friends for help they have given and the loan of a cement mixer.

Two columns that are going to be linked to the building via an overhead structure have also been built. This has been done using concrete blocks, reinforcing bars and concrete. The intention is that these will help provide a link between the building and garden itself,  as well as providing a support for  attaching a hanging chair.

Whilst progress has been good there is still a lot to get done before its complete and the finishing details are so important to the success of it. A tight budget however makes this more complicated.

Originally the plan was to have a metal sheeting for the finished roof surface however costs have been coming in higher than anticipated and as the roof surface won’t be visible we are currently considering having a cheaper alternative such as felt.

I have however sourced a company for the window and patio door. Having had quotes previously for aluminium to match the house we decided to get quotes for UPVC in grey, to try and keep costs down however we found there wasn’t much of a price difference.

After some further research I have found a supplier that can provide them in aluminium at a lower price and with a 2-3 week lead time. We visited their showroom last week, with the quality looking good and the window profile looking the same as the house windows, these will be ordered very soon.

That just leaves us with the roof to sort, the rendering to be done, cladding materials to be chosen, a hidden door to make and all the electrics, floors, fixtures and fittings to do.

More on these in the next update.





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Orange Custard Cream Cupcakes

May 23

Orange Custard Cream Cupcakes

Last week for my brother in laws Birthday I was given an open reign on what flavour cake to make.

I always like trying new recipes so I delved into my recipe folder to see what caught my eye.

I settled on a recipe pulled out of a Guardian supplement some time ago for Orange Custard Cream Cupcakes as I was trying to go for  something that wasn’t too sugary / chocolaty for my  1 year old niece to have.  Its an easy to follow recipe and they taste great. The only problem I had was on the custard front, having never made custard from scratch before I failed miserably as the mixture split. Instead of having another go I bought some fresh Madagascan vanilla custard from the supermarket.

I will have another attempt at custard another time !



For the cakes

175g caster sugar

50ml sunflower oil

50g unsalted butter, softened

3 medium eggs

1tsp orange extract

100ml double cream

250g plain flour

2tsp baking powder


For the Icing

225g icing sugar, ideally the fondant sort

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange


For the custard cream

2 egg yolks

3tsp cornflour

2tsp vanilla extract

25g caster sugar



Line the pockets of a muffin tray with muffin papers and heat the oven to 160°C (140°C fan-assisted)

Beat the sugar, oil and butter until light in colour, then beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Add the orange extract and cream, beat well, then add the flour and baking powder, and beat again until smooth. Fill each muffin case about two-thirds full with the mix and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cupcakes are neatly domed and golden. Remove and leave to cool.

To make the custard, beat together all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil, whisking often, then beat until smooth. Cover and leave until cold, then pipe it with a plain 8mm nozzle deep through the top crust and into the cupcake heart; alternatively scoop out a little of the cake with a small knife, spoon in a little custard and top with just s slice from the cake plug.

Beat the icing sugar, zest and enough juice (probably 25ml) to make a thick icing and drizzle over the top of the cupcakes, thereby covering your tracks. (Alternatively omit the cream filling altogether and just ice the cupcakes as they are.)


My Tips

I only filled the muffin cases just over half and got 18 cakes in total out of the mix.

For the icing I had to use about 50ml orange juice as 25ml was nowhere near enough. You want the mixture to be thick but runny enough to spread itself out on top of the cake when you spoon it on.







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Devilishly Good Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie

May 06

Devilishly Good Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie

For this weeks Friday bake I decided to try out a recipe from  Gluten-Free Christmas Heaven magazine ( xmas 2015). Its easy to follow recipe that doesn’t take very long to do and it smells great when you take it out of the oven.  I took it along to a BBQ with friends, one of which is a Coeliac and it went down very well. I then had some more the following day heated for 15 seconds in the microwave and served with ice cream, it is just delicious.


  • 1 packet gluten free Orio type biscuits – I used lovemore O’Choco’s
  • 150g gluten free 50-55% dark Choclate ( I used buttons)
  • 175g butter cut into small pieces
  • 3 free range eggs , beaten
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1tsp gluten free baking powder
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 50g dried berries and cherries



  1. Preheat Oven to 170ºC. Grease a 23cm square cake tin
  2. Break Chocolate into pieces and place into heatproof bowl. Add butter and stand bowl over pan of gently simmering water. Once melted, remove the bowl from the pan and stir in the sugar. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Gradually whisk in the eggs to make a thick and glossy mixture. Sift the cocoa and baking powder on top and add the ground almonds, berries and cherries. Break half of the biscuits into small pieces and carefully stir into the mixture.
  4. Transfer the mixtures into the tin and smooth over the top. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then break the remaining biscuits in half and add to the top. Return to the oven and cook for a further 15-20 minutes, until risen and slightly crusty on top – the mixture should be slightly soft underneath. Leave to cool completely in the tin. The brownies can be eaten straight away, but hold better when stored overnight in an airtight container – make sure to wrap in greaseproof paper and then in foil.

To serve cut into squares.

For an extra naughty dessert serve slightly warm with ice cream.

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Not Just any Banana Bread…but Pecan and Chocolate Banana Bread

Apr 29

Not Just any Banana Bread…but Pecan and Chocolate Banana Bread

Not Just any Banana Bread…but Pecan and Chocolate Banana Bread

So after my husband moaning I don’t bake for him, this week I decided just for him I would do one of his favourites, banana bread.

I found a recipe in my ever expanding recipe file that looked good and I thought I would try.

It was taken from My Waitrose Magazine March 2015 Issue and this is the first time I have made it.

The process is very easy one to follow and as you can see the results looked good.

Now for my husbands verdict: LOVELY. He isn’t one for lots of words but the speed with which its disappearing speaks volumes.


100g unsalted butter softened

3 eggs

1 lemin zest and juice of ½ lemon

1tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp mixed spice

225g plain flour

100g light brown muscovado sugar plus 1tbs for sprinkling

350g peeled bananas plus 1 extra sliced to decorate

100g pecan nuts, toasted and chopped

100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)chopped into 1cm chunks

1 Preheat the oven to 180oC, gas mark 4.

Grease a 900ml loaf tin and line base and sides with baking parchment.

Blend all the ingredients – apart from the extra sugar, sliced banana, pecans and chocolate – in a food processor until evenly mixed. Stir through most of the nuts and chocolate, reserving a handful of each.

2 Spoon the batter into the tin and scatter over the reserved nuts, chocolate and sliced banana, gently pressing into the top.. Sprinkle over 1tbsp brown sugar.

3 Bake for 1 hour 15minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (cover with foil after 45minutes if it browns too quickly). Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then move to wire rack to cool.

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Small things can make the world of difference

Apr 25

Small things can make the world of difference


Fences of the traditional variety are one of my pet hates. I much prefer a more contemporary fence such as these open slat type or gabion fences.

With a fence on our boundary that was only replaced shortly before we bought the house in 2012 and funds tight I decided  to look at painting our existing panels before we put them back.

I had a look around online for options that came in a grey colour but getting hold of samples wasn’t easy or cheap and I didn’t want to waste  money buying a large tin that might not be suitable.

On a trip to Wickes for other materials  I discovered they did sample pots for the Cuprinol Garden Shades range and came away with two to test out; Urban Slate and Silver Birch.

After applying a little of each onto a sample strip of wood I instantly new  the Urban Slate was one to go for. I purchased large tins of the paint and set to work painting the panels doing two coats on each side. It is a time consuming process but I was excited to see the end results.

This weekend we finally completed the panels that had been removed and as you can see here with the panels back in place it has really transformed the fence and it works particularly well against the white and greys we have used for the house finishes.

Painting the fence grey has also brought out the texture of the wood and provides an excellent backdrop to the green of plants, really making them pop.

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