Category Archives: Family

It’s Christmas!

It’s been a little while since I visited my blog but it would seem in my absence, I have still had a steady stream of visitors, so thank you!

The build up to Christmas in the Popple household has been as busy as ever. Here is a pictorial summary of some of the things we have been up to:

Decorating the Christmas tree – for the first time,  I let Ava (with a little help from Benjamin) put every single bauble on the Christmas tree. For the past five Christmases, I have rearranged Ava’s effort overnight.


Chutney Making for Ava’s teachers and Benjamin’s childminder


Salt Dough Decorations for the Christmas tree – the first time I have let anything homemade anywhere near the Christmas tree! Thanks to my sister-in-law for the salt dough recipe.


Homemade Santa Decoration – this one is for you Auntie Marcia – there maybe someone who sews in the family after all!


Homemade Snow Globe – this one is for my mother – there maybe a potential artist in the family!


Visiting the Coca Cola Truck in Reading


Watching the Annual Barnado’s Toy Run in Reading – Ava and I dropped a toy off beforehand for one of the bikers to take to Barnado’s.


Ava’s first Christmas Concert at school – much like her mother, she appeared to mime most of the words although has been proving she knew them around the house and out in public ever since!


Making our first Gingerbread House – a little cheat here – we didn’t actually make the Gingerbread House – got to leave something different to do next year!


Making my first Christmas Cake – thanks to my mother-in-law for the recipe. No thanks to my fluctuating oven, it actually tastes ok, after an epic 8 hour bake!


Our first Christmas Eve box with onesies. Not sure the kids will ever put on ‘normal’ clothes again.


Seeing ‘Santa’ aka the International Space Station. Thanks to Facebook, we knew to look out for this. Priceless.


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Our holiday to Italy seems like a distant memory now and with Andy’s impending big hip op, we felt that we wanted to make the most of the summer. Neither of us can quite agree how we ended up glamping on the Isle of Wight and after the first night, neither of us was looking to take credit for the decision. We tried in vain to enforce a 7pm bedtime on our children (two nights running). Who were we kidding? We were never going to be able to enjoy a quiet night for two on the decking, looking out at the stars. It was light out for a good two hours past the children’s bedtime and other kids could clearly be heard playing outside, as noted by our four year old. This also resulted in our 2 year old waking up at 5am two mornings on the trot – yawn! By the third night, we had learnt our lesson and all went to bed at the same time.

We’ve both always enjoyed camping but this was the first time that we have been with the children and neither of us had ever been glamping before. It’s fair to say glamping is a bit of a cheat; yes there is canvas involved but there is also electricity to provide light, charge a mobile phone and to power a television and a hairdryer, plus beds with duvets and soft pillows and cooking facilities.

We soon abandoned the notion that we would cook dinners, although Andy did manage to do some pretty good scrambled eggs on toast one morning. The shower block is however the same for everyone, with the push taps on the showers to make sure you don’t spend too long and the invariably muddy floors and cheap toilet roll. Showers are no fun with a four year old and two year old in tow; I might add on separate occasions, as the cubicles are too small and the threat of little hands unlocking the door at any moment is nail biting. Obviously remembering to take a towel to the shower block is pretty imperative, although it turns out that a top will do just as well to dry off. Also remembering to roll up your pyjama bottoms before entering the shower cubicle would make for a better start to the day; not a mistake that is made twice!

All that said, by Day 3 we were starting to get to grips with glamping and could happily have stayed for a few more days, so much so that we might even look at purchasing a proper tent next year.

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Happy Birthday Grandma

As promised in my post ‘Happy Birthday Grandpa’, my challenge was to make a coffee and walnut cake for Grandma’s birthday and I think with a little help from Masterchef judge Gregg Wallace and the veteran of a thousand cake sales as described by the BBC Good Food website, I did pretty well. I took the ingredients for the sponge element of the cake from the traditional coffee and walnut cake recipe (although I finely chopped the walnuts rather than halved them) and the icing, filling and decoration from Greg Wallace’s recipe. I was ably assisted by the little lady and my twin brother (who was making a special flying visit) but as you can see from the photographs they preferred to lick the whisks rather than do the hard graft!

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Pancake Day

I love Pancake Day; partly because pancake tossing is something I can actually say I’m better at than my husband and partly because it makes for an easy dinner, although clearly only the girls in this family would agree with the latter. Ava and I were perfectly satisfied to have a savoury pancake (ham and cheese) for main and a sweet pancake (banana and honey for Ava and the traditional sugar and lemon for me) for dessert. Benjamin, the youngest Popple isn’t interested in eating any sort of pancake be it sweet or savoury and as for Andy, a pancake in his view can only be served sweet, as a dessert. I must admit that the savoury pancake was a first for me and if I’m really honest I prefer ham and cheese omelettes! So perhaps this is one thing Andy and I do agree on after all.

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Happy Birthday Grandpa

These days I don’t need much excuse to don the apron, roll my sleeves up and get the baking gear out of the cupboard and last week to celebrate my Dad’s (Grandpa’s) birthday, provided the perfect excuse. Over the last few years, the children’s birthdays have given me ample opportunity to practice making Victoria sponge and Madeira cakes and I for one was ready to consume something different. Inspired by a Facebook photograph of a cake that my friend made for her husband’s birthday recently and my father’s love of chocolate, ok my love of chocolate, I decided that a chocolate sponge cake was in order. My mother reminded me that this was not in fact my first chocolate sponge cake offering. As a child, I had spent several hours throwing together a chocolate sponge cake in celebration of one of her birthdays. A recipe at the age of 8 or 9 was obviously considered a hindrance to the creative process. The fact that I refused to touch even a morsel of the finished article, speaks volumes about the success of that experiment. Anyway, this was Ava’s first chocolate sponge cake and definitely the first time that three generations of the Collins girls have baked together (for those of you who know my mother, you’ll know how rare this is!).

I have faithfully followed Delia Smith’s sponge cake recipe for some time now and naturally expected another Delia special, with a chocolate twist but when my Google search resulted in a chocolicious offering by none other than Mary Berry, of Great British Bake Off fame, I knew I was onto a winner, so here is the finished result:

Chocolate Sponge Cake Grandma & Ava

Later this month it is Grandma’s birthday and I’m reliably informed her favourite cake is a coffee walnut cake. That definitely would be a first for me. Does anyone have a recipe that they care to share?

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