20 April 2011

Cakes, sun & dino eggs!

I recently had the privilege of baking a cake for a friend's birthday dinner. I'd been thinking of creating my own Eton mess 'Eat 'n' Mess-cake' for some time. As I wouldn't just want to play it safe and have Eton mess predictably on menu. It turned out well, but definitely had room for improvement. I did make Eton mess cupcakes too, which were heavenly, but I didn't get a chance to get a picture of them.

Last week we visited Wakehurst Place gardens in Sussex. It was a lovely day, spent with lovely people. On the way out I walked through the shop to buy some drinks. I walked past this cake stand then had to turn back and have another quick look. Then I took this photo of it on my phone, so I guess I don't need to tell you that I liked it, a lot. I immediately imagined/day-dreamed of it at Eat 'n' Mess piled with fresh scones, or cupcakes, or whoopie pies, or...or.........

My husband had a birthday. We made him chocolate and malt cupcakes. Tweaked from one of my many favourite Nigella recipes. Wouldn't they look even more delicious on the slate stand?!

For those of you who have been living on the moon of late, or just not living in the UK, we are enjoying a fabulous heatwave. I LOVE the sun. Sometimes a bit too much. I blame the sun and my son on me getting no-where with the business plan. But I'm enjoying the Easter holidays and don't want to miss out on any of the Hud-man's growing up.

He's a bit obsessed with eggs at the moment (I'm hoping most kid's are right now, not just mine), and he loves dinosaurs so when I came across this crafty activity I knew it would go down well with him. I honestly had as much fun with this as he did! In fact I think we may do it again next week, but with better food colouring.

25 March 2011

Pleased as punch

So as you can see the final header is all done! Doesn't it look gorgeous!! I'm so pleased, and it turned out even better than I had anticipated. I plan to have the header displayed on one of the cafe's walls.

But the thing that's even more important to the business is the logo. I'm so glad I decided to use Joy Nevada because the final logo couldn't be more perfect. Thanks again!

My meeting with my mentor went really well. It was so positive, it really gave me a boost. Apparently everything I'm doing so far is right! So nice to know I have someone whose there at the end of the phone/email to offer support. People ask me a lot "How's the business?", I often feel lame because it hasn't progressed much since they last asked me, but I will say that the progress is slow but steady. Even though I don't have a lot of time to devote to it right now I'm still loving it all the same. It's still so exciting when I get a little bit done. Through much research I have found a really great company for all the arts and crafts supplies. I was beginning to lose hope, and they even have superb customer service...I know, shocking!

The company; 'Eat 'n' Mess Craft Cafe Ltd' is now official. It's registered (finally)! We have domain names registered too. So anyone thinking about nicking eatnmesscraftcafe.com or .co.uk don't bother, because they're mine!

Hopefully I'll get some 'business-y time' soon where I can crack on....but with an active three year old son and a husband who works crazy shifts, it doesn't look too hopeful! But I'm not complaining because I'd hate to lead a quiet life.

3 March 2011

A little bit of progress is better than none, right?

I finally have something business related to blog about. After choosing an illustrator whose work I really love, I decided to contact her and ask if she would be able to design a logo for Eat 'n' mess. JoyNevada's work is awesome, she's especially great at drawing little animals which she prints onto baby and children's clothes. You can read her blog here and look her up on Etsy

But she didn't just agree to design a logo she also said she would do a header that could be used for a number of things: Letter heads, complimentary slips and a blog header. I highly recommend her, she's fast and reliable too! So here's the progress so far, starting with the logo-

Or is this one better?....

The header and its progress so far-

Spot the difference between the colour headers, and then comment on which one you like best. There's only two differences!

Now you get to say which name design you like best. I think I like the first one, how about you?
I know they're all fabulous aren't they! Thanks again Nevada- you rock!!

One last thing. So just when I'd given up hoping that the Prince's Trust would help me further I got a call from one of their mentor's saying he wants to take me on! So I have my first meeting with him next Friday. I'm excited because he was one of the mentor's that taught us on the course back in October. Also it gave me the added motivation I needed to get my teeth stuck into the nitty gritty of the vital business plan. I spent Monday home alone trying to get as many quotes for monthly utility bills, rent and rates. I don't want to bore you, so I'll just say it was no easy task, especially as maths has never been one of my strong points. But nothing when it comes to making calls to energy companies is simple, is it?! But it was a small piece of important progress that has really helped, the frustrating job actually made me feel good, as I could have easily used Monday to sleep off my cold but I resisted and did something productive. Don't you love days like that?

Don't forget to tell me what you think of the logo and header, all feedback is gratefully received. Thanks.

14 February 2011

Feeling and sharing the love

As it's Valentine's Day I thought I would share a little of what we got up to today and a few other things too.

My star obsession continues to grow stronger.


I recently learnt the art of making tie-fleece blankets, and I'm now well on my way to becoming obsessed with those too. They could be a fun activity for older children to do at Eat-n-Mess with their parents or even by themselves....depending how scissor savvy they are! They make perfect baby gifts.

I got my first brand new oven and hob, it was a very good day! The door closes fully, it has a light, a timer and barely makes any noise! There's no stopping me now as far as practising baked goods go. It's all in the name of business though of course!

The first thing I baked in it had to be cookies.

I was really unorganised concerning everything Valentine's this year, thanks to a busy weekend, and well, life kind of takes over and moves a bit too quickly sometimes doesn't it? But luckily I managed to pull a few supplies together, mostly recycled stuff that we cut up and glued together, to make a little something for the Hud-man's little Valentine. Their relationship has blossomed rapidly in the last few weeks so we couldn't let Valnetine's Day come and go without giving her something. I decided a hanging heart garland would be fun to make as the Hud-man's favourite creative activity is glueing. I toyed with the idea of heart shaped cookies but as cookie decorating really is not my forte I quickly reasoned that at least a garland would last longer. I got a little inspiration for the garland from here. Definitely one of my new favourite blogs.

Next we got to work on the all important cards. Simple card and fabric hearts, with a whole load of glitter chucked in for good measure- the boys' favourite part of the whole activity.

Lastly it was time to deliver the goods. The Hud-man could barely wait....it must be love. I don't think the pictures need much more explaining, apart from to say that obviously there's been many-a-cute-Hud-man moments but this has to be one of my favourites.....so far.

I have an important and potentially very exciting meeting on Friday afternoon to prepare for now. It could be the start that Eat-n-Mess really needs to get off the ground, so cross your fingers for me that it goes well.

Until next time, I hope you all are having/had a very loving Valentine's Day!

31 January 2011

Help! I have an addiction!

Where to begin?...As I haven't blogged all month I thought I'd just include a bit of what's been happening since I last posted way back on Christmas Eve. Does that seem like an eternity ago to anyone else?

My best boy turned three! He's getting all big. I hate it! I wish children could stay little for a bit longer. So I thought I'd share a birthday picture of the Hud-man's big day but I'm trying to not be predictable so I decided against the traditional blowing out candles picture. The silly glasses I'm wearing are from a 'Scooby Doo' magazine that my husband bought for the Hud-man. He thought it was hilarious when I put them on. I couldn't resist his natural grin.

Significant other: I potty trained the Hud-man! He 'got it' in less than a week. I was and still am shocked but really proud of him. I don't do sitting on the toilet photo's. 
I guess when you're a three year old boy, playing in a cardboard box and wearing big boy 'Cars' pants is pretty great!

This is my addiction- SOUP! January to me is a cold and boring month so I've spent many a morning making soups! I love it so much, from making it to eating it. I've realised that the older I get the more of a food snob I become. I now will generally only eat homemade soups! Quite funny as I was brought up on Heinz oxtail soup! My love of soups has transferred down to the Hud-man too, luckily because he's not the greatest veggie eater.

From left to right- Watercress and potato,
Broccoli and stilton, 
Lemon, chicken and noodle,
Roasted parsnip and cumin,
and in the centre- Carrot. My choice of soup.

He's not too keen on Lemon, chicken and noodle soup. Can you tell?!
Carrot soup on the other hand he never refuses. Every time I make it and say to him "Would you like some carrot soup and bread?" He always replies "Yes! 'Cus that's my favourite!"
We like to bake. Cupcakes always cheer us up. No matter what.

I have another addiction. I love anything starry. So when I did an Ikea run recently for one particular thing, I of course came away with a few other unneccessary items. Ikea is just not worth going to for just one thing, right? So when I saw these starry jars I had to get one, and immediately imagined them sitting on the counter at Eat-n-Mess filled with mini marshmallows ready to top hot chocolates!......but for now this one's just storing our sneaky biscuits.

I occasionally let the Hud-man eat Oreo's. Slap my hand the next time you see me if you want!

My baby had a little accident last week. It wasn't fun. He ran and tripped hard into the base of my bed. He was very brave. I was more freaked out than he was!

My husband and I had our fifth wedding anniversary. But as we had a little wounded soldier to look after we scrapped our romantic plans and went out for pizza with him instead. It was actually great fun. Photographic evidence that other Dad's might just enjoy a little craft-ernoon at Eat-n-Mess with their kid's too. My husband loves drawing pictures and colouring in with the Hud-man.

Finally, did I mention that I HATE that my son is growing up?! I grabbed a bargain and got him a booster car seat. It's crazy how fast time goes by, seems like yesterday I was bringing him home from the hospital in his baby car seat. He loves this new seat though. It seems a bit too grown-up for him though to me. Why do kids have to grow up so fast nowadays? One thing's for sure; at Eat-n-Mess kids can be kids and play, explore, create and never have to act like grown-ups.

24 December 2010

"Who would put cigars on their Christmas tree?!"

So this post is dedicated to my favourite Auntie Lauren, who is one of a kind!

My Mother and Auntie Lauren were recently out shopping in a large department store browsing the Christmas decorations section. My Auntie clutching a handful of brown stick like objects tied with a piece of ribbon, turns to my Mother and says- "Who'd put cigars on their Christmas tree?!" My Mum needless to say burst out laughing and quickly rebuked her and replied- "They're cinnamon sticks! Not cigars!!"

I love using cinnamon sticks in cooking, especially around this time of year so every time I opened my spice drawer and saw my cinnamon sticks I had a little chuckle to myself. 

This amusing story has inspired my favourite Christmas craft to date. It just came to me one morning and I couldn't do anything else until I had constructed what I had envisioned in my mind.

As you can see it's very simple but to me its beautiful, and the best thing about this is anyone, even children could make this from just a few materials in a matter of minutes. I think they would be a hit with parents and kids alike at Eat-n-Mess. The image inside could obviously be changed depending on people's taste and religious beliefs. This one now hangs off of my Christmas tree.

This one is made using slightly bigger sized cinnamon sticks. All you need is a picture, strong glue, some ribbon or string and four cigars.....I mean cinnamon sticks! The reason I say they're beautiful is not because I have some freakish cinnamon stick fetish, no it's to do with the image they frame. I have loved it for a while now but have never thought to actually have it displayed in my home. But now it will always be a part of my families Christmas. The one above I will be giving to my Mum. I should give one to my Auntie too, but not sure she'll see the funny side! To learn more about this image please click here.

My last edible gift for this season is an un-esembled gingerbread house kit; complete with icing sugar and a variety of sweets for my very sweet nephew and nieces. I think this makes a great, fun and personal gift for any child or family. 

I plan to have 'gingerbread house assembling and decorating' as one of the many festive crafts at Eat-n-Mess. Kids and their parents/carers will get a choice of gingerbread houses and then get a bundle of sweets and chocolates together with a nice big heap of icing to then experiment with and hopefully have a holly jolly good time with!
Should be a win-win as what child doesn't like sugar, sweets, chocolate and getting messy....without being yelled at!?

Thanks to my big sister we started a new tradition with the Hud-man tonight by leaving a bag of straw, aka 'reindeer food' outside our home for Rudolf and his gang. 
As you can see this is a super cute thing for any small kid to do on Christmas Eve. It got me thinking to future Christmas's and about the the children who visit Eat-n-Mess before the most important day of the year. We could of course just re-create this simple bag full of straw or they could do something a little bit more special and magical. Coincidentally I came across this on one of my favourite food blogs; "Our Best Bites" today- 


Reindeer Food for Christmas Eve

I wasn't planning on posting anything today, Kate and I are supposed to be on a blog-cation!  But I just finished making these and had to share.  See, the stomach flu attacked our house this week, right after it attacked our house last week.  So for almost 2 full weeks I've had at least one, and at times 4 people hurled over buckets in my family room.  Needless to say, it put a kink in my holiday baking plans and I feel bad that I didn't get goodies to all of my friends!  But even the guilt isn't enough to inspire me to slave in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, so I decided to scrap the last-minute baking and do a little craft for my boys to deliver to their buddies instead.  I spotted this idea on The TomKat Studio and thought it was adorable!

Basically you're just putting random stuff in a little baggie and calling it Reindeer food, the poem on the bag is what I love (In case you're on a screen where you can't see the picture)

Sprinkle this reindeer food outside tonight,
The moonlight will make it sparkle bright.
As the reindeer fly and roam,
This will guide them to your home.

Since this was totally last minute, all I had was oats.  Next time I do it, I think I'll add some sunflower seeds and maybe a few nuts, or use granola.  Or go with coarse sugar or colorful sprinkles like many of you readers suggested.  But hey, this was totally last minute so since reindeer are magical, I'm sure they don't eat normal oats.  And as it says in the poem, the moonlight will make it *sparkle*.  So, as I saw lots of people on the internet doing, I added glitter.  In retrospect, I probably should have used something like sugar sprinkles so it's more eco (and kid)-friendly.  Don't call PETA.  And don't lecture me.  And if you do call PETA, definitely don't mention that I used a light dusting of hairspray to make the oats stick.  What?  I think it's resourceful.  Kind of like when Kate used her Creme Brulee Torch to light fireworks on the 4th of July.  I told you next year I'll use sugar sprinkles.   And I'll make sure the recipients know it's not for human consumption (as if everyone doesn't already know that only Santa's magical reindeer like sparkle oats with a side of maximum volume super hold spray).

Just put your reindeer food in little baggies (a sandwich bag will do)  and punch a hole in the corner and tie on the tag, or do as I did here and punch two little holes and pull the ribbon through

then tie in the front

My boys love pretending to be the mail man and making deliveries so they're going to be super excited to get to carry a basket and hand out these little magical favors. And even if you don't make these to pass out to friends, I think it's a super cute thing to just do at home with your kids.  

I just love these, so cute but seemingly simple and inexpensive to put together.

So, the most magical night of the year is here. The Hud-man is sleeping peacefully, the reindeer food has been left out, the presents have been wrapped, festive food has been prepared, and I'm exhausted as ever! Just time to wish you all a very healthy and happy Christmas and a fabulous 2011!!

I'm off to snuggle down with a box of chocolates and my husband, to watch 'Elf'.

Thanks for reading the blog! 

See you again next year.

17 December 2010

Can you ever have too much ribbon?

This post is dedicated to my love of......ribbon, yes, that's right-ribbon!

Christmas time is filled with beautiful coloured ribbons so I thought I'd make use of them whilst I have the opportunity and make a couple of things. I'm a sucker for anything red or green at Christmas. I recently went to Chelmsford market with the Hud-man and let him a grab handfuls of 'bundles' of any red, green and gold ribbons. We got a lot because I'm also a sucker for a bargain (who isn't?) as the bundles are a steal at 60p each for 3 metres. I was in heaven. The Hud-man was extra happy because we stocked up on glitter too. 

I've always liked the idea of making my own door wreath from scratch. I wanted to make one that was a bit different with lots of Christmas colours. Don't get me wrong I love the whole minimalistic thing but at Christmas time that all goes out the window for me. I love colour, and as I said before the more red and green the better! So I know it won't be to everyone's taste but here's what I came up with-

I like the idea of seeing parents making these with their children at Eat-n-Mess. It would be an ideal activity for adults to do with their children. It was so simple to make. I think as it has a lot of pins and cutting of the ribbons it would suit kids aged 8 and up. But we'd give the option of having pre-cut ribbon too. Imagine the sense of achievement and pride your child would feel if they had made this!

Ok, so I don't have the prettiest front door. But it sure does look dressed for the holiday now.

These glittery Christmas cards kept the Hud-man entertained for a good 20 minutes (which, if you don't know him, is quite an achievement). Until I had my son I thought only girls were into glitter. Oh how wrong I was!!

So, with it being the end of term I thought I better at least try and be a good parent and make something for his pre-school key-worker (note I did not say teachers-there's at least 10 so we decided on just giving to his key- worker, who also happens to be my favourite staff member). I thought biscuits would be a general crowd pleaser since we wanted to give some to the Playgroup leader (who is phenomenal, and worthy of a whole separate post!) and also a couple of the Hud-man's best mates from pre-school. I have to say these lemon biscuits were pretty yummy, it's a very good job we were making them to give away because I'm sure I could have eaten all 35, maybe not in one go though!

I still have a fair amount of ribbon left from the wreath so I decided to put some to use and attempt some table decorations/name place settings for the big day. I have had these shallow glass ramekins sitting in my kitchen collecting dust for months (I always thought "I'm sure I'll use them one day"). Well that day finally came today. For the foodies amongst us-yes the ramekins are from those very naughty puds.

I know; they're not exactly something Ina Garten would have on her table at Christmas time, or any time actually, but a 2 (very nearly 3) year old did help me. He picked out the ribbon, counted out the berries for me and placed the tea lights inside...and begged and begged me to light them. I'm glad he's getting involved in making things and preparing for this very special holiday. He seemed to have fun and that's the main thing.