Stained glass mosaic course – Denman College

finished stained glass mosaic

You may or may not be aware that the Women’s Institute (WI) have a college in Oxfordshire called Denman where they run cookery, craft and lifestyle courses. You don’t have to be a WI member or female to go. It’s open to everyone.

While I was heavily pregnant I won a bursary to help cover costs towards one of their courses. I decided to use the money towards a 2-day residential stained glass – leaded mosaic panel course and would take both LB & Hubs with me to make a weekend of it. Why not a cookery course? Time for a change.

It was going to be some well overdue “Me time”. During the teaching sessions it would be the longest I’ve been apart from LB since she was born and also the longest Hubs has been sole carer for her.


As we pulled up to Denman Friday afternoon I will admit we had reservations. Hubs had some preconceived ideas of the WI and when he spotted a lobby full of women old enough to be his mum he looked scared. As we got to our huge, traditionally decorated room in the main house, Hub’s heart sunk even further when he realised there was no TV or wifi signal. The three of us headed down to dinner with all the other residential students a bit unsure about what lay ahead of us. It soon came clear why there is no TV and wifi signal is patchy, it’s to make you do that good old-fashioned thing of talking.

We’re not the most natural of social butterflies but once we realised nearly all people there had come on their own we soon got chatting to others. I think the novelty of Hubs being one of only three men there and carrying a baby was a pretty good ice breaker. As the evening wore on, we thawed and realised we were surrounded by a bunch of the loveliest, open-minded, interesting women around. Most of which seemed to adopt LB as their granddaughter.


Once dinner was over I headed over to the teaching block to start on my design, meet Anna Conti our tutor and the other 7 students on my course. One of the reasons I picked stained glass mosaic was because I decided it wasn’t something I could easily learn without a tutor and I don’t have the equipment at home to quickly rustle up a panel. Initially I was going to make a panel with LB’s initial, but unless I got it perfect it could look awful so after playing around with a few ideas I settled on a tree made of circles. Yes I forgot I’d have to try and cut a circle from glass.

Saturday was spent cutting glass, gluing our mosaic  the glass panel, leading up and burning my finger. Note to self: steadying hand by putting finger on metal part of soldering iron hurts… lots. Sunday we finished our panels in time for Sunday lunch.


Other courses running the same weekend were patchwork, botanical painting, showstoppers (singing & dancing) and a very popular baking weekender. The delicious scents from the cookery school kept wafting into the classroom where we were working.

All our time in the classroom was interspaced with food, lots of it.One of the big things about going on a course at Denman is the catering. In true WI style you won’t go hungry and the food was excellent. Each break was accompanied with a biscuit or slice of cake and there was always a pudding with custard for lunch and dinner.

A big mention must go to the staff. Babies rarely visit, let alone stay at Denman and they went to great lengths to make us feel welcome and make sure things ran smoothly. Nothing was too much trouble.


A weekend that originally I was so nervous about I nearly cancelled, turned out to be a lovely relaxing weekend learning a new skill with precious bonding time for LB and Hubs. I want to return to do another one of their craft courses. I like the sound of stone carving or silver jewellery. At first glance the prices can seem steep but you have to remember that this includes full board accommodation.

This isn’t the most modern of places to visit, but that’s ok. Denman is in its own little bubble. The lack of TV and wifi wasn’t missed, in fact it was refreshing. We all need to disconnect from modern life once in a while and invest some time in ourselves. Cast aside your ideas of what the WI is about and give one of their courses a go.


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Christmas Pudding Krispie Cakes

xmas pudding krispie

This Christmas is going to be very different for us. Last year was spent it telling our families of the impending arrival of Little Baker (LB) by giving the future grandparents this book and counting the seconds before the penny dropped and tear/squeals started. This year 5-month-old LB will be joining us at the dinner table, not to eat as she’s not quite old enough yet, but to preside over the feast. How long she’ll be happy in the high chair before wanting to sit on someone’s lap is another matter.

Looking back I seem to have a thing about making food christmas pudding shaped. These are simply rice krispie cakes with some fruit added for good measure. They are quick to make, cheap and perfect for that moment when you realise you’ve forgotten to make something for the charity Christmas cake stall stand. Alternatively if Hub’s birthday bake goes wrong today he may get these.

They are not the most photogenic to make. Or should I say I struggled to make my batch (made by me, a 30-something who’s usually a perfectionist) not look like a 7-year old had made them. If you wear disposable gloves it is possible to roll this mixture into balls, but it is easier to spoon the mixture directly in to a paper case.

I got the holly & berry sprinkles used on these cakes as soon as they appeared in Sainsbury’s back in October. I’ve spotted them appearing in Morrisons and cake decorating stores too, but be quick as they seem to disappear fast.

So as another Christmas rapidly draws closer have a very merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Pudding Krispie Cakes
Makes 12

  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 60g rice krispies
  • 25g dried mixed fruit
  • 50g white chocolate
  • holly and berry sprinkles (You could also make them from sugarpaste or glacé cherries & angelica)


  1. Melt the milk chocolate.
  2. Stir the rice krispies and mixed fruit in to the melted chocolate until well coated
  3. Share the mixture between 12 paper cakes
  4. Melt the white chocolate then drizzle this over the krispie cakes.
  5. Decorate with the holly and berries then allow the chocolate to set.

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Little Baker Picks – December

LB Dec 14

Didymos Didytai

When LB was little I carried her in a stretchy sling from Victoria SlingLady. Now she’s bigger and heavier I’ve upgraded to a Didymos Didytai to give more support for both me and LB. I like that I can carry LB on my front, back or side with it plus it comes in lots of pretty fabrics. This pleases the hippy haberdashery lover in me. Hubs prefers the more traditional carriers so he uses a Baby Bjorn and for Christmas we’re getting a hardcore baby carrying rucksack so we can take to the hills with her as she loves the great outdoors.

I’m a babywearing fan. Sometimes it’s easier to wear than take a buggy, it means I can get on with jobs and the biggie, put a grouchy LB in a sling or carrier and she’s usually asleep within 5 min. Magic.

Baby grows

I do love baby grows. As a baby it’s the only time in your life when it is socially acceptable to be seen outside the house in a onesie. As cute as outfits are for babies (I’ve bought a fair few), sometimes it’s nice and easy for her to be in a babygrow. Think taking her swimming. Never again will I make the mistake of putting her in an outfit. It’s a mare to change a damp, rapidly chilling wriggle monster into something that isn’t baggy with minimum buttons.

Next baby grows are good as they wash well and have integrated scratch mitts. Size wise they are generous. 20 weeks in and weighing 14lb, LB still fits in her 0-3 baby grows from Next. It’s interesting seeing how the retailers differ so much in quality and sizing. Tesco – good sizing, usually good quality and generally wash well; Asda – small sizing, poor choice unless you have a penchant for frills, slogans and baby pink. LB has nearly grown out of 3-6 months Asda baby grows even though she is small for her size; Morrisons Nutmeg – while some of their clothing is good, their baby grows are thin, wonky seamed and don’t wash well at all.

Baby books

Tactile books are brilliant for babies. LB has the Faces version of this book and it seems to go most places with us. They are made of material, feature plastic mirrors, can be chewed and feature a velcro strap meaning they can be safely attached to the buggy or play gym. She’s mastering the art of turning pages at the moment.


Or should I say Mocc Ons. LB has the inability to keep most types of booties/shoes on and in the colder weather a couple of pair of socks just aren’t warm enough. I’d read about moccasins for babies being great (especially when babywearing) so set about trying to source them. I finally found them in Sainsbury’s. They sell them in a large variety of patterns and colours for the bargain price of £5. You can find other retailers on the Sockons website.

Have you made any fab baby/child discoveries recently?


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Christmas Pudding Rum Truffles

christmas pudding truffles

These truffles are based on a rum truffle recipe I used to make and eat as a child. Often we would visit Mellors, a local bakery, and pick a cake. My favourite was a rum truffle and I can remember it being the size of my fist. Of course I now know that rum truffles are a cheeky way of using up leftover cake.

This is such a simple, no-bake recipe. It can be adapted in many different ways to incorporate different themes and flavourings. I find rum flavouring works better than real rum in these truffles. The rum flavouring can be sometimes be a bit difficult to find (Silver Spoon do one) so when I spot it I buy it.

From an educational point a view this is a fabulous recipe to teach ratios. It’s essentially 1 part cocoa powder:2 parts icing sugar :4 parts cake crumbs and as it makes 12 truffles when using 100g cake there are many factors relating to the number 12. This makes the recipe easy to scale up and down or work out the ingredients if you only a given amount of cake crumbs.

Christmas Pudding Truffles
Makes 12

  • 100g cake crumbs (more or less any sponge cake works, even stale cake)
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp flavouring (I like rum flavouring or orange extract)
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 3 tsp icing sugar mixed with 1 tsp of boiled water to make glace icing
  • holly made from small amount of coloured sugarpaste. You could also use glacé cherries and angelica or holly sprinkles.
  1. Mix together the cake crumbs, icing sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Add the flavouring and milk. Mix until the ingredients are well combined and stick together.
  3. Using your hands mush together the mixture until it is almost evenly coloured. Wash your hands. The next step is easier with clean hands.
  4. Pinch off a small sprout sized piece of truffle mixture. Roll into a ball and set to one side.
  5. Drizzle a small amount of the glace icing on to the top of the pudding, then decorate with the fondant holly. Chill for an hour to allow to set.

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Make Eat Get Read Go – Dec ’14


I guess it’s inevitable what this MEGRG will contain, for festive frolics are just around the corner.


Door wreath

Every year I make our door wreath. One year it contained chilli & limes, the next year I made it from sprouts. Last year I went on a Blossom Tree wreath making workshop and I was really pleased with what I managed to produce. Now I just need to come up with a design for this year now. If all else fails I do love this herb & chilli wreath from Rocket Garden.


Christmas Florentines

For the last few years I’ve made Christmas cakes but they rarely get eaten so this year I’ve decided to make festive Florentines instead. They are one of my favourite sweet things. I’m thinking dried cranberries, sour cherries, candied peel with lots of nuts, chocolate and maybe a liberal dusting of gold lustre. Something a bit like this Hairy Bikers recipe, though if it is as good as the recipe in the Green & Blacks cookbook remains to be seen.


Paul A Young Advent Calendar 

I’m a lucky lady, Hubs has treated me to a Paul A Young advent calendar, I think it’s to make up for the fact he bought himself yet another Star Wars Lego advent calendar this year.

I’m a huge fan of Paul A Young. His rich brownies are like eating a slab of divine truffle. They are so rich I cut them in quarters and eat over 4 sittings. The chocolates contained in this years calendar include: champagne, fruit & nut, spiced rum, persian spices and his multi-award winning salted caramel. To offset these rather good chocolates I also have a Cadburys Hero calendar. Still great chocolate just at the other end of the chocolate spectrum.


Nigella Christmas

Not original I know, but there is something about the book that makes me smile, even if it is to just look and dream than cook a recipe from it. Don’t forget it’s probably Nigella to blame for why so many of us deck our kitchens out in fairy lights during the festive season.


Calke Abbey Christmas Lights and Labyrinths

It’s been a tradition of ours for a good few years to attend Calke Abbey for their Christmas events. Every year the gardens are lit, children deck the trees with handmade ornaments and the wish tree even granted my wish a few years ago.

Inside the house they decorate some of the rooms using decorations found stashed in the grand hall. This is surprisingly easy given the previous tenants, the Harper-Crewe family, were hoarders. Last year there was a tree decorated circa 1980, this took me back to my childhood and made me surprisingly emotional.

This year some of the tunnels will be lit and we will be returning for the first time with Little Baker in tow to add her to our Christmas tradition.


Wishing everyone a fabulous festive season and there will be a couple of quick and easy Christmas recipes coming to the blog in the next week or two.

megrg tag

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Little Baker Picks – November

LB nov 14

As Little Baker (LB) get closer to 4 months our old life is becoming a distant past. No time for new recipes or photography (unless it’s trying to catch LB smiling), and you certainly don’t want to see the state of the garden. Our life is now a whirlwind of mother and baby classes, reliable non-fuss dinners and bedtime routines. We’ve also decided that we really must stop celebrating her weekly birthdays and milestones with cake. Don’t worry though, weaning will start in January and that’s when the real fun and mess begins.

M&S dress

There is such a large choice of baby clothes out there but many places seem to think girls can only be dressed in pastel pink, with frills, emblazoned with slogan and a cartoon character. While I appreciate some people are more than happy with this it just isn’t my cup of tea. There are more colours in the world than baby pink and I’ve been trying to introduce these to LB’s wardrobe. M&S have some beautiful clothes for girls at the moment in their Indigo collection featuring bold colours and patterns. I fell in love with this dress as soon as I saw it especially the print featuring little hedgehogs.

Wonder Weeks app

This app is a must for all parents. Yes the study it’s based on could just be a ruse to sell books to desperate parents but just like horoscopes, in that you can read something in all the signs that you recognise, this app can help soothe your soul when you’re having a bad day with baby. Consult the app and little one is probably having a growth spurt. Calm restored and you know it just means sitting it out (eating chocolate) and it’ll pass.

Lamaze tug and play knot

Lamaze do great baby toys. They are bright, tactile and covered in different textures. LB has this knot toy and it goes most places with her. Every time she plays with it she seems to discover something new or if it doubt she’ll just chew on the green star. She’s got some more Lamaze toys on her Christmas list.

Baby Sensory classes

I do various classes with LB and this is my current favourite, though running through a forest with a buggy is a close second. Yes I’ve turned in to one of those mums.

As the weeks go by it’s interesting watching her development. One week she’s not engaged, the next she is tracking objects with her eyes. If I could only do one class a week with LB it would be this. You soon get over the awkwardness of singing songs to your baby about suns and moons comIng out to play. My fondness of these classes may also be because it sometimes involves singing and dancing to S Club and messy play with food.

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Saturn (tomato & basil) rolls

cottage cheese rolls

Cottage cheese purchases are often on a healthy kick whim. It’s opened, spooned on a jacket spud then the rest of the pot risks being forgotten about at the back of the fridge. This recipe uses up this languishing pot and is perfect for a quick lunchtime bread as no yeast is required.

As part of my work (well when not on mat leave) I take recipes and adapt them to fit a topic or make them more suitable for the client’s needs. In this case these rolls linked with a school’s Space topic. The mixed herbs in the dough represented the rocks in Saturn’s rings and the cottage cheese the ice. It’s for Primary-aged children to make and they had 1.5 hours to make, bake and clean up. In this short time frame it’s very difficult to make proper bread so these made a great compromise. The original recipe for these rolls uses a food processor, not ideal with a class of children with minimum kitchen facilities, so by using value/basics cottage cheese that is usually less chunky than more expensive brands you eliminate the use of a blender.

cooked saturn rolls

The cottage cheese gives the bread a lovely fluffy texture. Something you wouldn’t expect with bread made with no yeast. If you are using a thick, chunky cottage cheese I recommend you put it in a blender to make it smoother. Low fat cottage cheese also works well.

Saturn (tomato & basil) Rolls
Based on Tomato Pesto Rolls in What Shall We Cook Today?
Makes 6 small rolls 

250 g self raising flour

1/4 tsp salt

125 g cottage cheese (if your cottage cheese is very chunky put in a blender for a few seconds)

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

1/2 egg

60 ml milk

3 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

6 basil leaves

olive oil

1) Pre heat oven to 190°c. Cover baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment or fine sprinkling of flour.

2) Put the flour, cottage cheese, salt, mixed herbs, egg and milk in a bowl and mix until you have a soft dough. If the dough is a bit dry add a splash more of milk.

3) Turn out on to a floured worktop and knead twice so it looks smoother.

4) Divide the dough into 6 pieces, roll into a ball and place on baking tray.

5) Make a deep hole in each roll. Push a basil leaf and tomato half into the hole.

6) Drizzle with olive oil then bake for 15-20 until rolls are risen and golden.

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