The Perils of Buying a Second Hand House

So it’s the middle of the night, the hottest day of the year and in fact it’s Summer Solstice, yes that’s right the longest day of the year and I’m lying here hot, tired, sweaty praying for some sleep before the morning routine starts again.  Just as I start to drift off for the 23rd time tonight my dream comes true, you know that inbuilt sprinkler system you wished you had above your bed that gently sprays cold water over you to cool you down in this sweltering heat.

Oh HELL NO!!!  Sitting bolt upright I suddenly realise that I haven’t fallen back into the land of nod, I do in fact have water splattering in my face from my ceiling above my bed, soaking my duvet that has casually been pushed to the bottom of the bed throughout the night in my bid to cool down.  Until the droplets appeared on my face I hadn’t concluded what was going on lower down my bed and the main trail of water appears to be coming through scarily close to the chandelier light fitting in the centre of my bedroom leaving my duvet pretty much drenched!

Rushing to my feet in utter horror, I run up the attic stairs and see that the loft conversion bathroom floor is swimming in water and spreading a couple of feet across the main room carpet. Help!!  At this point my 9yr old comes running up and I yell at her to grab some towels, find the mop, just anything and she starts telling me about her tooth fairy visit that happened in the night (well about 10am – shhhh!) and is trying to read me the note the fairy has left her!

Next mission is to find the cause of my middle of the night rain shower, bearing in mind it now feels like I’m in 100 degrees heat, the attic should be reincarnated as a sauna in its next life I tell you, the sweat is now dripping off my face faster than the water dissipating through the floor!

Bingo!!  Mummy struck gold – well not literally – but I have single-handedly resolved my current predicament and discovered that due to the sink tap being left on with a very slight drip and a missing aerator under the bottom of the sink tap, the water didn’t actually drip into the sink but came back on itself under the tap and went over the edge of the sink causing the sea of mayhem I’m in right now.

Quite frankly, this is the story of my life with my recently purchased second hand house.  At first glance it looks ok, nice area, great layout, large extended space downstairs, amazing garden,  just a little modernising required here and there, a touch of tlc and a fresh lick of paint and you’d think it would be a lovely family home.  But no, once you move in you find out that a previous owner who carried out the loft conversion, downstairs extension and all the other botched DIY jobs that we come across quite literally bungled his way through fixing things up, ditching official tradesmen along the way to add his cheap mismatched fittings, and scrapyard finds, leaving doors hanging askew, unfinished jobs and to put it bluntly extremely shoddy workmanship in every aspect of our house.  So of course with this attitude, who would care if a little thing like a tap aerator fell out – you wouldn’t bother putting it back in or buying a replacement would you – well not if you were my previous owner!!!

It just goes to show how little things left undone can escalate into substantial issues for the future.  Running through my head I wonder what would have happened if I’d just gone to work for the day….   Please fix any problems as you find them, don’t leave them.  Not only does a slapdash attitude send a house into a downward spiral of DIY disarray, the jobs seem harder and costlier to fix in the long run ultimately devaluing your home.  Houses are a huge investment and one I want to continue to grow for my future.  The events of the early hours of this morning are proof of that – with some love and care I WILL turn this house into a home!

P.S. My 6yr old slept through the commotion – oh to be young again!

Is Creating a Work, Family Life, Me Time Balance Always Possible?

Is it always possible?  That’s the question running through my head right now.  At the moment life is a juggling act, our routine changes from day to day due to the husband’s shift work, the endless kids activities after school, in the evenings and at the weekends and depending on whether I’m working or not each day.  Since 2009 when I returned to work after a year’s maternity leave with my first born, I cut my hours down to just 20 a week having previously been full time.  I also chose to work two and a half days a week, the first half so my working week finishes at Wednesday lunchtime.  This has been working well for me in my home, family, work and me time balance but unfortunately with significant changes at work this option is being taken away from me.

My future feels just like this rock I encountered in the Grand Canyon back in 2006, a balancing act that could topple either way, will it make it, will it fall?

In just a few weeks I’ll be required to spread my hours across five days a week, that means working Monday to Friday every week.  To add an extra twist to the equation I currently work in the road next to my children’s school which has its obvious advantages. I’m also able to walk to work (albeit a 2 mile hilly hike! lol) but it keeps the fitness up and enables us to juggle being a one car family and my husbands shift work – he takes them to school more often than not whilst I head to work, if he’s late shift he leaves the car at my work and walks home ready to cycle to work at lunchtime etc. (He always rides a bike to work so has no need for a car).

In the Summer the building I’ve been employed at for the last 15 years is closing its doors and being sold off, whilst the staff are being relocated almost 4 miles away across the city to another of the company buildings, on a route that’s accessed by a road bridge that is renowned for being gridlocked at not just peak but various others times during the day (should there be a breakdown or accident, you can forget arriving at your destination any time in the near future!).

So here’s my dilemma – in just a couple of months I will not only be working 5 days a week but I’ll also be responsible for all the school runs in order that I can have the car to travel to work.  It means my start time will be some point after school drop off and when I have managed to navigate my way through the city centre traffic and prayed that the bridge is clear.  My finish time will be 4 hours later and by the time I return home I’ll hopefully have 1 whole hour of child free time, yes you heard it right, instead of a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon and all of Thursday and Friday, I’ll now get a measly hour each day after a shift at work.

This my friends will become the one hour a day in which I can do my child free housework, child free food shopping, child free nip into town for errands, child free ironing, child free gardening, child free blog photos/writing, child free house renovation planning, child free DIY (yeah like painting a room in an hour is gonna happen), child free coffees with my friends/mum and most of all child free ME TIME.  Yes and by me time I don’t mean sitting with my feet up, painting my nails and reading a magazine, by this I mean getting to dye my ever increasing grey hair in peace, having a bath without constant interruptions and just being alone in the house being able to sort things out and concentrate without the constant nattering, interruptions of the kids!

So as you can see the chances of my new house being fully decorated are ebbing away, my small window of opportunity each day is limited and squished between the morning school run, a dash across the city and 4 hours at work, then breath before school pick up, after school clubs, cook dinner, read school books/homework, bath kids, bedtime routine and then to be honest I’ll be shattered and my bed will be calling, well after I’ve had time to make pack lunches, get school uniform/work clothes ready, clear up the house, get a wash iron, squeeze some ironing in and dash the vacuum round!

Really I’m finding myself in a bit of a quandary, working 5 days a week isn’t the part time working lifestyle I envisaged and I’m not sure how successful it will rank in balancing the duties of a household, family life and me time.  Daddy will form a lesser part of the children’s lives, missing out on all of the school runs, after school trips to the park on days mummy used to work and if you remember he works shifts so is often not there in the evening when we come home, works many weekends and will find his work free time alone in the daytime when the kids are at school and mummy is at work!

With this configuration of part time working – is it even worth it?  As much as I need the money for my new mortgage/house renovations – will I be comprising family life/child free time?  I don’t want to end up super stressed and feel like I never get a break/can’t get household things done (kids just don’t appreciate you being on the phone to utilities/insurance companies, endless trips around bathroom/kitchen shops)… time will tell, fingers crossed for now!

My Handsome Little Man is 6!!

Last Sunday my handsome little boy celebrated his 6th birthday.  I’m so proud of him and everything he has achieved over the last year, more than I could have imagined.  He started school just over a year ago and sailed through the foundation year, so much so that he got awarded with a special book ’50 Utterly Silly Stories’ at the end of the year for his amazing achievement of reading 188 books throughout the year and outshining the rest of his class in his all round abilities!

blake-6To think he’s come this far is amazing.  Mister B and his older sister  Miss M are like chalk and cheese in so many ways yet have an amazing sibling bond and come together to play and help each other throughout every day.  I’ve always known Miss M falls in the upper half of her class but expected Mister B to be Mister average with his silly ways, jokey nature and clown antics, but it seems he’s proved me wrong in many ways.

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He’s different to his sister in that she is incredibly sporty and always eager to try new things.  Mister B is more laid back (think daddy!) although he has an incredible imagination, can play independently and come out with some amazing stories and fun ideas.  He’s also very humorous and loves to tell a joke.

A couple of the areas he was slightly behind in over the last year have suddenly hit a turning point over the last few months.  On our holiday this year we had a private swimming pool which the children disappeared in two or three times a day (obviously with and adult or two in tow!).  The first few days Mister B was there in his armbands, but by day 3, he had ditched them and was jumping in, diving under the water and swimming a whole width on his own!!

Over the Summer we managed to upgrade both of the children’s bikes after a friend was selling some fairly new ones quite cheaply so we managed to get them both the next size up. The only downside was that Mister B’s new bike didn’t come with stabilisers.  This proved a sticking point for many weeks as poor Mister B was terrified about riding without any support, yet daddy insisted he tried.  It was a fraught time which I found quite hard, but then this amazing company followed me on twitter.  Intrigued I looked into their product and sent them a message and we ended up reviewing the amazing BikyBiky cycling harness which turned my little boy from a nervous cyclist on stabilisers to a fairly confident rider on two wheels in just a couple of weeks!

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I cannot believe within the last 3 months my little boy has ditched both his armbands and his stabilisers – amazing progress for him!

So I was so proud last Sunday when he turned 6 years old.  I baked a rather vast amount of cakes for him using my new Savisto stand mixer and we celebrated with a big Minion themed disco which I felt he deserved due to all his hard work.

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The children had fun, Mister B danced the afternoon away showing everyone his funky dance moves (with a bit of break dancing thrown in!) and the party proved a huge success. (Excuse the red disco light in Mister B’s eye in the photo below – couldn’t have timed that worse could I ?!?)

blakes-partyThe day after his party was his actual birthday and as we had family visiting, we went to a restaurant for lunch where we all enjoyed too much food and had a good time!

4f93577e-eb94-4786-a566-9d689d846a46All in all we spent a whole weekend celebrating Mister B’s birthday, it was hard work for me, but rewarding watching my son hit a milestone and celebrate everything he’s achieved over the last year.

As much as I hate watching the children grow up (it goes way too fast!), I can’t wait to see what Mister B achieves next and where the future will take him.  I love him to bits (as we all do our children) and he never fails to give me a hug at every given opportunity.

Good luck Mister B in all that you do and every venture that life takes you on in the upcoming year!!

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A New Year and Miss M’s 8th Birthday

It’s been a hectic start to the year to say the least, with trying to sell a house and job worries making it most stressful, but I musn’t forget the amazing event that really started off the year and that was Miss M’s 8th birthday on the 1st January!

Maisy 2What an amazing eight years it has been and she has done me very proud with both her efforts at school and at home.  She has grown into a lovely, polite girl who loves to help others and is friendly to everyone.

She wanted a birthday party at home, which was fine by me so we decided on biscuit decorating as the main activity.  Miss M eagerly helped me the day before to mix the ingredients and cut out enough biscuits for all her friends to decorate the next day. I also bought some flat cardboard food trays which they decorated the outside of with coloured pens as the first activity of the party.

maisy 5They then iced and decorated the biscuits with great enthusiasm, but I was particularly impressed with the results and they all ended up with a really lovely tray of biscuits to take home at the end of the party.  Mister B did a great job of his biscuits too!

maisy 4We then moved onto some other party games which Miss M had chosen and all the girls loved.  I had frozen some erasers in silicon cake cases so they were like blocks of ice and each girl had one to unfreeze using their hands and mouths – they absolutely loved it, I’d thoroughly recommend it.  I just placed some trays on the floor for them to let the water drip onto and put some towels around for them to dry their hands on.

Next up was another favourite in which three partygoers, including the birthday girl became mummified in toilet paper!!  They worked in three teams and it was great fun with minimal, easy mess to clean up afterwards.

maisy 3Miss M had a great birthday and it was a lovely start to the year.  We have lots of change coming up this year, particularly with our new house which we can’t wait to share with you.  There’s been a number of complications which we are working on but I forsee a year full of DIY ahead as well as a great family home where we hope to share lots of baking and gardening projects throughout the year as well as other fun times.

Wishing you all a fantastic 2016!

 

Happy 5th Birthday Mister B

Ten days ago the handsome Mister B became a 5yr old!  It doesn’t seem possible, the years have whizzed by, but he is still as cute and cuddly as ever, although I’m sure that will change in future years!

His birthday fell on a school day, but he was more than happy with that as it meant he could choose something out of the present box and everyone would sing two songs to him.  He was also insistent on wearing a birthday badge to school as he was a little worried that the teacher wouldn’t know it was his birthday and he’d miss out on that much talked about birthday box.

WP_20151016_08_33_49_ProAfter school I picked up a very happy 5yr old, who couldn’t wait to tell me all about his day, but also eager to get home to see if he had any presents (he only got cards in the morning!).

Fortunately in the lounge lay await a bundle of presents which we opened whilst having his choice of birthday tea (pasta, ham, cut up cocktail sausages and grated cheese) followed by a star wars birthday cake.

WP_20151016_15_05_06_ProHe was a very happy boy with his newly aquired minions winter hat and gloves, along with minion top, minion goggles, minion balloon amongst other things.

InstagramCapture_d1d61cf0-2234-4dc6-9eb4-d085c0c3ab98We delayed his party by a week to allow for his cousins to come down for a few days so this weekend it’s been Mister B’s birthday all over again with a party at our local soft play centre.  He was a very lucky boy and received some really lovely presents from his school friends which we have had fun playing with over the last few days, a favourite being a tube of slime full of monsters – ewww!, a remote control car and a superheroes playdoh set!

InstagramCapture_988901c4-0bdf-4af9-9989-7194e28c363fIt’s been a fabulous week, enjoying watching my little 4yr old become 5.  He has made me so proud, doing really well in his first term at school and constantly being a little joker, he always makes everyone laugh with his silly dances, funny jokes and quick witted comments.

He dressed himself yesterday in his new birthday cap, t-shirt and socks which did make me smile when came downstairs – he’s such a cute little character full of energy and always with a cheeky grin on his face! (well.. most of the time)

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Santa Maria Fab Fajita challenge #TASTEsantamaria

Mexican is one of my favourite meal choices and something we eat regularly at home.  With the range of Mexican inspired store cupboard ingredients available from Santa Maria, you really can make up your meals simply and easily just be adding a few fresh ingredients.

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Being vegetarian I always serve vegetarian fajita’s.  For tonights meal I am adding Quorn along side various fresh vegetables with my special ingredient being courgette which really helps fill out the meal and gives you a nice addition to the peppers, onions and tomatos.

I’m also using Santa Maria wraps, Fajita seasoning and salsa which make it really easy to get that spicy Mexican flavour.

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After lightly frying the onion, I add the Quorn to brown off, then the other vegetables and sprinkle with seasoning, continuing to cook to until my kitchen is wafting in Mexican fragrances.

I like to serve my fajitas with a side salad to make the perfect meal, ideal for all the family on a Saturday night!

Once served add a light sprinkling of cheese and some ground black pepper.  Tasty!!

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We were provided with Santa Maria products for the  #TASTEsantamaria Fab Fajita challenge.

Theatre Royal Plymouth Back Stage Tour

Last week I was lucky to be invited for a tour around the backstage of my local theatre, the Theatre Royal Plymouth.  I’ve visited the venue several times over the years since living in Plymouth with the last show I saw being the spectacular stage production of Wicked earlier this year with my daughter.

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Entering through the stage door, I was greeted before being shown through to the wings of the stage and seeing the lights come on and the safety curtain lifted.  This enabled me to walk on and take centre stage looking out into the auditorium, somewhere I never, ever envisaged me being privileged enough to stand.  Fortunately the seats were empty, as I certainly do not confess to owning the amazing acting and singing skills like those that the cast of Shrek have, having experienced some fantastic rehearsals from them a bit later in the day.

theatre royal 2With Shrek currently touring the UK, their current run is here in Plymouth, so we were fortunate to see the stage set up with all their backdrops, props and wardrobes.  Firstly we went upstairs backstage to where the numerous backdrops hang and are operated using a counterweight fly system, using many ropes to pull each one in to place.  It was fascinating to see the technical side of the theatre and gain some knowledge of how productions comes together.

theatre royal 3We also walked through the main wardrobe area backstage which consisted of rails and rails of costumes, many more than I envisaged.  Within the show of Shrek, each person plays many characters, and each have understudies, so each person has their own costume for every part they play.  There were also make up stations, wigs hanging up and props galore!

theatre royal 4And finally we went down into the orchestra pit, somewhere I imagine very few people have been.

theatre royal 6We finished the day by taking a front row seat and watching the Shrek cast rehearse which was both enjoyable and interesting.  It’s amazing watching the technicians pushing the various stage props in and out of the wings as well as the various cast members change parts, coming on and off stage as different characters.  As they weren’t changing costumes for the rehearsals, I could easily tell the same people, whereas in a live show, you probably don’t realise how few cast there are playing all of the parts!

Backstage in the theatre is a maze of corridors that go round and round, up and down, through one door, out the other and to be honest,  I didn’t have a clue where I was most of the time but one room I did spot that we got a peek in was The Green Room.  Not anywhere near as exciting as you might imagine but I can now say I’ve been in “The Green Room”.  Unfortunately there were no exciting guests or actors in there at the time as it was during the day, but hey, I’ve been in there!

theatre royal 5Well I think that just about sums up my exciting day in the Theatre Royal Plymouth, obviously we couldn’t photograph everything and it was pretty dark inside.  Meeting the Shrek cast was really interesting and has definitely inspired me to get to the theatre more either with or without the children (I do need a break from them sometimes!!).

Keep your eyes peeled for more exciting collaborations with the Theatre Royal Plymouth in the future!

Our family summer holiday to Perran Sands Cornwall

After visiting Perran Sands in Cornwall for the first time last summer, we were quite impressed.  We had glorious weather, spent everyday on the beach and I have to say the Haven caravan impressed me.  I’ll be honest and say I was sceptical not having holidayed in a caravan for years, but it was almost brand new, modern decor, en suite toilet etc.

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So as soon as we got back, we booked again for this year without hesitation.  Unfortunately the weather wasn’t quite as sunny this year, but we did manage most days on the beach and the caravan surpassed itself.  We believe we were probably in an upgrade to the level we booked and I reckon we had the best view on the whole site as we had a full on sea view and our caravan jutted further onto the cliff then any others so it felt very private.  We had a decking balcony with table and chairs, not to mention a bath with shower over, as well as an en suite shower room off the main bedroom and washing machine in the kitchen.

Here’s the view from standing on our decking outside the lounge of our caravan:

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So aside from my amazing caravan, the children couldn’t wait to get exploring.  Not knowing that their cousins were due to arrive in another caravan, we headed to the central area where they had a play before we surprised them with my brother and his family.

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Most days where then spent on the beach.  Both my children just adore the sand, although Miss M has become a total water babe, she spent most of her time body boarding in the sea with daddy whilst Mister B and I played in the sand.

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Mister B’s beach dumper truck was a  big hit as usual, creating all sorts of imaginative play, it kept him occupied for hours!

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Miss M opted for some beach gymnastics, to practice her cartwheels and handstands and I can definitely say she’s improved.

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There is a steep cliff face coming down to the beach and with some water trickling though which made a river right across the beach.  The children loved this and collected water there as well as making dams out of sand across the river, and having “sandball” fights against the cliff!

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What I like about the beach at Perran Sands is that it is vast, so much room that you don’t feel cramped and they children had plenty of room to play.  I’m pleased we had some good weather days where the sky was blue and the beach was sheltered, so the children could run around to their hearts content.

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One day we went down quite late in the afternoon, not realising that the tide was on it’s way in, but that just provided extra entertainment with the children digging holes to sit in, and wait for them to fill up with water, before running inland a bit more and starting again!

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When we weren’t on the beach,  we made good use of the indoor pool, with Miss M enjoying one of the junior pool parties.  She also had an archery lesson which she really enjoyed although I was surprised to see the bow was almost as tall as her!

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The bungee trampoline was a big hit with Miss M where she could bounce up as high as the sky!  She also successfully attempted some backflips which were amazing to see her twirling round in the air.

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It was soon time for our holiday to come to an end, and typically we woke up to an exceptionally sunny day when we were due to leave, so once we had packed the car up and handed in the key, we walked down to the dunes overlooking the cliff and finished our ice lollies, threw some whistling foam javelins between us and played in the sand bunker behind a huge dune.  It was so peaceful, warm and sunny I could have stayed there all day, but it was time to say goodbye to another wonderful family beach holiday at Perran Sands

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Home Grown Lettuce with the Kids

My children both love helping with the chores around the house (as long as it doesn’t involve tidying up their own mess!!), and one thing they are always keen to do is help out in the garden.  They love growing things, watering and eating something that they have watched appear from a seed and then picked with their own hands.

Tiger Shed’s kindly sent us some seeds for salad leaves and challenged us to grow these over the last 4 weeks and show them our results.

tiger shedsOnce I’d picked the children up from school, they couldn’t wait to start gardening with the day’s delivery, although Mister B did get a little distracted with the sack our goodies were delivered in, and before I knew it he was sack racing around the patio!

tiger sheds 2Miss M got stuck in with filling our wooden trug with soil, and sowing the seeds.  They then both had a turn at watering!

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tiger sheds 6We were pleased to see our first little seedlings after just a few days, which is good when gardening with children as it keeps up their enthusiasm and it became a daily task of who’s turn it was to water them.

tiger sheds 4Our final week of growing was last week, although we were off on our family holiday to Cornwall, so as much as I was hoping for a hot, sunny week, I also didn’t want the little salad leaves to dry out, but fortunately we came home to a trug full of luscious green leaves just waiting to be picked.

tiger sheds 5So we took a few cuttings, and had them for dinner!  Thank you to Tiger Sheds – the children have had lots of fun and we have lots of salad leaves for the coming weeks!

 

Thanks to Tiger Sheds for providing the goods for our little gardening adventure.

Cupcake Masterclass at Mrs Brown’s

Last weekend I met up with 8 other Plymouth bloggers at Mrs Brown’s, a local bakery and decided to do a vintage cupcake masterclass.  I’ve always loved making cupcakes, although finding less time as the children get older and more demanding of my time.  I’m a huge buttercream fan and tend to stick to this as is easy to work with and tastes delicious so it was interesting to work with other types icing and learn how to create different effects.  I certainly picked up a few tips that I’ll be putting into practice the next time I bake.  Can you believe I decorated all the cakes below with my own fair hands!

cupcakes 2First off we learnt how to make an edible rose decoration.  Would you believe that you start with 11 little balls of icing and by using your fingers to flatten and mould they become petals which in turn become a finished rose.  Spray on a bit of silver lustre, add a sprinkling of pearlised balls and voila, my cake is done!

cupcakesWe then tried some other ideas before stopping for a break and trying a piece of a rather huge Victoria sponge cake, covered in chocolate coated strawberries, that Georgie (owner of Mrs Brown’s) had made for us.  We then went back to our decorating class before boxing up our four creations ready to take home.

cupcakes 4Here we are showing off our handiwork:

cupcakes 3It was a great way to spend a couple of hours and I couldn’t wait to get home and see what the children thought.  I think the pictures below show you of their approval for mummy’s cakes!!

cupcakes 1Going to the cupcake class really reignited my love of baking and although I have a hectic few months ahead, I do hope to try out some new things and bake more regularly in the future!

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