Archives for category: blogging

Cybher is in a few days and I, like many other ladies in the blogosphere and Twittersphere, cannot wait.  My blog has been severely neglected due to a lot of unexpected things taking precedence this year, but Cybher is just the thing to give me the inspiration and the much needed kick up the butt to get back on track.

Cybher 2013

I’m really looking forward to seeing the lovely ladies of The High Tea Cast, whose Twitter banter makes me laugh on a daily basis.  I’m not sure they can top the cupcake headgear they sported last year though! Additionally, we’ll be celebrating the launch of Mario Cacciottolo’s tour as he takes ‘Someone Once Told Me‘ across the world… And these are just two of the highlights you can expect from Saturday!!!

If you’re going to Cybher, do say hello.  I’ll be the one dressed like Peggy Olson and shouting about badges, trying to keep them organised while you go through registration.

**File under: bring me a margarita or my log saw something that night**

I can’t believe we are in the home stretch to 2013. 2012 has passed way too fast for my liking. Looking back through the photos which have documented this year, I haven’t been baking or blogging about baking nearly enough.

And though this has been a recurring sentiment, I’m getting back in the proverbial (blogging) saddle. Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. There’s going to be a whole lot of baking, eating, sharing and best of all a big trip to the motherland.

Stay with me, dear readers… but in the meantime, here’s a taste of what went on in the downtime:

Victoria Sponge

Victoria Sponge in honor of the Diamond Jubilee. Recipe from Primrose Bakery Baking Book, although I used fresh strawberries in place of jam and Earl Grey/Lemon whipping cream. This was my first go at the traditional British cake. I was happy with the way it turned out and will most likely bake it again when tradition calls.

Hepburns

My baking book of the year is definitely ‘Baked In America‘ – maybe it’s because I’m American, but mostly because this is one AMAZING baking book. Recipes from this book are featured many times throughout the blog in 2012 and will continue to be featured in the future. One day I’ll finally make it to Chiswick to Outsider Tart and hopefully meet my baking heroes – the two Davids.

The brownies above are called Hepburns (Kate, rather than Audrey) and probably the best brownie recipe around. They make ideal treats for any occasion – school fetes, birthdays or general parties.

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake brownies

Brownie tower

These Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Brownies were made especially for my mother in law’s un-birthday party. As her party food was served buffet-style, I wanted to make a special desserty treat that attendees could eat as little or as much as they like. So these brownies were cut into 1.5 in squares and served on cake stands mixed with the Hepburns featured above.

Orange polenta cake

Another series of books which have inspired breakfasts, dinners and baking alike are the Leon books. The Orange Polenta Cake is from Leon – Baking & Puddings, book three, as featured in the ‘Teatime’ section. This cake is an ideal accompaniment to Earl Grey tea and also gluten-free!

Trish's Two Cents

Martin has been working on building a set of speakers over at his dad’s house. I like to take a baked treat when we go over. One weekend in September, Trish’s Two-Cents from Baked In America caught my eye and I had to give it a go. This is the best ‘pound-cake’ type cake I have ever had. It is definitely going to be in regular rotation for when cakes are called for.

Pumpkin pie

And last, but not least, in the baking recap is Pumpkin Pie. This is a recipe traditionally served at Thanksgiving, in fact was featured in my Thanksgiving blog post from 2011, but I am not celebrating Thanksgiving this year so it was moved to Bonfire Night. While this recipe is from the back of a Libbys can, it is home-made with love and reminds me of autumnal days past.

Watch this space for Christmas treats to come soon…

It’s that time of year where everyone puts into motion the plans for their summer holidays. Whether jet setting to a foreign land of beaches and sunshine, or staying local and exploring the hidden gems of Britain, holidays with the family are what makes all that work worth it.

Has holiday travelling been a highlight for your child, like it has mine? Then check out the Content and Calm Facebook competition to find their next TravelBug Reporters!

Want to win a family holiday to a luxury villa in Greece courtesy of Simpson Travel or an all-expenses paid trip to a top UK family attraction?

Here’s how to enter…

Does your child have natural flair in front of the camera? Do you think they could be the next children’s TV presenter? Are they a Judith Chalmers in training? If so this competition will be perfect for them!

We’re looking for 10 TravelBug Reporters who will set off on an all-expenses paid adventure with their family and report back, sharing their insider tips with all the Content&Calm fans out there as we create a series of online travel guide videos.

For your chance to win, simply create a short fun video of your child sharing their favourite holiday memories, its highlights and funny stories. To help you on your way we’ve suggested 6 simple questions but feel free to be as creative as you like! Why not shoot your film ‘on location’, get your child to share their foreign language skills or dress up in the favourite holiday outfit?!

Questions:
1.       Tell us about your favourite holiday, where you went and what you did?
2.       What was the best element of the holiday and why?
3.       What was the worst part of the holiday?
4.       If your best friend went there tomorrow, what would you tell them to do?
5.       Who would you most love to go on holiday with?
6.       Who is more fun on holiday, mum or dad and why?

If you think your child has what it takes, get creative, get them to get dressed up and show off their favourite souvenirs!

Good luck…see you around the world!

On 12th May, in the most beautiful, most central venue in London, a female-centered blogging conference was ready to kick off. Welcome to Cybher!
Once just an idea of Sian To (aka geekisnewchic/mummy-tips), now a reality – and I was very proud to be a part of it. Conferences are difficult to get the balance right, especially for bloggers, trying to please hundreds of people – all with strong opinions – who then write about it. But to me Cybher was different. All of the panels, sessions and sponsors were relevant, inspiring and informative.

Before it all kicked off, we blew off some steam at Top of the Town, as pictured with Melaina25 and BumpWearClaire.

The night before

And after a tense morning of organising badges, Cybher was finally underway.

And so it begins...Cybher 12

It was a pleasure to be announcing some very interesting panels, such as Jo Gifford’s innovative session for blog design. She could not be in attendance due to illness, but still presented via a video and Twitter Q&A.

Pass the mic

The subject of kids and online security is something that is important to me, so the session with Jill Hunley from AVG discussing the Digital Diaries programme was very interesting. The key message I took from this one was that parents need to be educated in online security/awareness just as much as the children do to keep them safe.

AVG Digital Diaries

I’ve been photographing to some extent for 32 years. I’m not great, I haven’t retained everything I’ve learned over the years, but I do love it. So given the opportunity, I will always participate in a photography session, no matter how basic or advanced as there is always something to learn. I started out shooting 35mm film with a no frills SLR. I still use an SLR when I can. Digital photography is something I am still trying to get my head around. I have a great bridge camera, but probably do not use it to its full capability. Anyway… Back to Cybher… Mario Cacciottolo (yes, I had to practice saying that and still got it wrong when I introduced his sesssion!) has a photography based blog/website called ‘Someone Once Told Me’ where he captures a subject holding a quote of something memorable someone once told them. During this session, he focused on how to capture interesting portrait photography no matter where you are. The key things are lighting, background and a prop. If you don’t have a prop use the hands… hands are very expressive and can add personality to a seemingly static (or boring, even) situation.

Mario photography session

I personally like more candid ‘portrait’ shots, so here’s one I took of Tara in action.

Tara photography session

After a long day of introducing sessions, chatting with other bloggers and generally running around. Cybher was over and it was a success! If you were there, do you agree?

Here’s to Cybher and to Sian and to new friends and most of all… here’s to next year! Bring on Cybher 13

Margarita

When I started this blog a year ago, one of my goals – or resolutions if you will – for 2011 was to make cannoli. Originating from Sicily, they are a popular dessert in New York City.  I miss the days of being able to stroll over to Veniero’s Pasticceria and enjoy one.  So, this year I decided I would learn how to make them myself.  I ordered the tubes from Amazon, as none of my local cookshops knew what I was talking about when I asked if they carried them. I had also meant to make them long before December, but this year has flown by, but New Year’s eve seemed like the perfect time.  I have ticked all of my ‘resolution’ boxes now. Start a blog – check, maintain the blog through the year – check, lose weight – check and finally make cannoli.

So as Peter says to Rocco in The Godfather – “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

I followed Gennaro Contaldo’s Cannoli Siciliani recipe from UKTV Good Food, which worked really well.

cannoli pastry ingredients

Ingredients:

250 g plain flour

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp coffee, freshly ground

30 g butter, softened

25 g sugar

60 ml white wine

1 egg, beaten

olive oil, for deep-frying

icing sugar, to decorate

For the filling:

600 g ricotta cheese

150 g icing sugar

25 g chocolate chips

1. First make the filling. Place ricotta and icing sugar in a large bowl and whisk until creamy. Fold in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

2. To make the pastry, place the flour, cocoa powder, coffee, butter and sugar in a large bowl and mix well together. Gradually add the wine and mix well until the mixture forms pastry dough. (You may need more flour or more wine depending on how dry the flour is or the humidity.) Form the pastry into a ball and wrap in cling film. Leave to rest for an hour.

cannoli pastry

3. Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3mm. With a round pastry cutter, cut circles with a diameter of about 7.5 cm.  Roll the circles again until they are even thinner, then wrap around the tubular moulds, securing the edges with the beaten egg.

cannoli tools

Raw pastry around tube

4. Heat the olive oil in a large pan to 180°C. Fry the cannoli until golden-brown (2-3 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper for a minute then gently remove the moulds.  It’s best to remove the moulds before the shells are completely cool.  They come away much easier.

frying cannoli

fried cannoli pastry

5. Leave to cool, and then fill the cannoli with the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

cannoli pastry tubes

filled cannoli

finished cannoli

We’ll see if cannoli are as popular in the UK as they are in Sicily/NYC… I’m looking forward to enjoying one with a glass of champagne!

champagne

Happy new year… here’s to 2012! *cheers*

Ok, in my head I’m singing Madonna’s ‘Holiday’.

It has been about a year since I started this blog and I must say it has been quite a learning adventure.  I’ve met a bunch of fantastic people and made some new (and very good) friends.  But I’m getting off the subject… this post is about Christmas and (X)boxing day.

Holiday part1

Our Christmas was a much more low key affair this year.  Mini G is now at that age where he ‘gets’ Christmas and since last year Martin and I were busy getting Christmas dinner prepared, we didn’t get to play with him. So this year, Christmas dinner was moved to the in-laws and we had a nice, relaxing and very playful morning.

Xmas lego

And playful evening – pass the parcel included.

pass the parcel moustache

But the main attraction was the Christmas pudding made by MIL. Delicious and beautifully lit, if I do say so myself!

christmas pudding

To me Boxing Day is all about food, but ever since getting our Xbox 360 and kinect, I’d been imagining a house full of family where the kids are in the converted ‘game room’ playing Fruit Ninja or Kinectimals and the adults in the kitchen/dining/converted lounge hanging out and enjoying good food.  I thought Boxing Day would be the perfect opportunity, so I deemed 26th December ‘Xboxing Day’. And although certain family members were a little less responsive resulting in less kids than anticipated, we still had a fantastic time.

mini G training Kinectimals cub

Our Boxing Day spread was more than a little awesome, if I do say so myself.  We had a whole roast ‘leftover’ Turkey, Autumnal Slaw from Leon’s book, chutneys, cheeses, homemade bagels courtesy of Nigella’s HTBADG, crisps, fruits, nuts and last but not least egg nog trifle from Eric Lanlard’s Home Bake.

Xboxing day spread pt1

Xboxing day spread pt2

His book is featured on the blog quite a bit throughout this year and this one definitely is worthy of a highlight. His recipe calls for fruit soaked in Grand Marnier, but I opted for Amaretto since I had it in the house. To create the egg nog custard, he used Advocaat. This gave me an excuse to add some to our liquor cabinet and also add ‘Snowballs’ to the menu for our day of Xboxing fun.

egg nog trifle pt1

egg nog trifle pt2

egg nog trifle pt3

egg nog trifle pt4

The key to a good Snowball is 2 shots of Advocaat, 1/4 squeeze of lemon or lime juice shaken up with some ice and poured in a highball glass then topped with lemon-lime soda (Sprite/7up) or lemonade if you are from the UK.

xboxing day snowballs

We even got Nanny & Poppy involved with the Xboxing Day activities. Poppy was a natural on Fruit Ninja. Mini G showed off his animal training skills on Kinectimals and I reigned supreme on XBox Trivial Pursuit.

Poppy playing fruit ninja

One day I’ll have my massive family Xboxing Day, but we may need a bigger house for that one.  Food and family, that is what the holidays are all about for me.  Now on to the New Year’s celebrations…

While not exactly a wrap up of the events at CyberMummy, it is inspired by the fantastic event.

(starting with a small rant)
The recurring theme during CyberMummy11 was ‘niche’ – that to stand out, you needed to find your niche. I think niche is becoming a buzz word that is useful to sum up what makes a blog interesting or diversifies it from the rest. To be honest, it’s not niche that drives me to look or read certain blogs, certainly the subject matter is important, but most importantly it is the quality of the writing or photos or the aesthetic of the blog. ‘Niche’ will only get you so far.
(stepping off the soap box now).

I’m a new blogger, but I have been a blog reader for many (many) years. I had been thinking about starting a blog for years really. I ran a website back in 2004 that was set up like a blog, but was mainly there to promote the bands I worked with. I didn’t consider myself a blogger. I left that up to the New York bloggerazzi at the time (The Modern Age, Melody Nelson, New York Doll, Jinners, Divestar, etc). I was just the hanger-on. I thought about setting up a blog when I moved from the US to the UK but I didn’t think anyone would care. I thought about setting up a blog when Mini G was born, but my life soon became occupied with taking care of a brand new little dude. I finally took the plunge earlier this year in January and I am kicking myself for not having had the courage or the discipline to do it sooner.

What kick started my motivation was reaching out to bloggers through my job.  I work at a PR Company and we reach out to writers of blogs for various clients and campaigns. I wanted to know what the ‘secret sauce’ was to receive positive responses. This then prompted me to figure out how blog platforms work in general. What kind of code can you embed on a blog? (The geek in me is showing) How do photos work on a blog? What are bloggers writing about? Anyway, I wanted to learn more.

I bake, I love baking, I love reading about baking so I read a lot of baking blogs. I thought yes! I finally found my voice. I can write about baking. I photograph everything I bake already. I am going to start a baking blog, but because I also love other things like TV, funny things that Mini G does and other kitchen related things, I decided on a title that encapsulated it all… hence ‘Cupcakesandotherstuff’.

Cupcakephotopanel **I didn’t bake this cupcake, but I did photograph it during @cosmicgirlie’s photo panel**

And now, I am learning more. I still don’t know what the ‘secret sauce’ is for getting bloggers to respond or cover stories, but on this journey I have discovered that I love writing my blog. And I know it will give me more insight, perspective and enthusiasm which will cross over to my work.

EricaSarahHolly

I am very glad I wanted to learn more because otherwise, I wouldn’t have heard about CyberMummy. I wouldn’t have met all of these amazing – yes, absolutely amazing – women (and men) and bloggers who all have something to share and something I can learn from. I was inspired by Sarah Brown. As a politician’s wife, you can sometimes forget that she is a mom, just like me. But she made a point that really resonated with me. In her keynote speech she said, “Social networks give you a voice to enable change”. It’s amazing to think of the power and influence one has with a blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. And listening to Rachel Johnson reminded me that once you publish something, it’s out there – whether in print or in cyberspace, so make sure you are behind what you say 100%.

MariaErica

And, if I hadn’t wanted to learn more, I wouldn’t have met new friends like @mummytips and @verybusymama and @mim_tweeta and @cosmicgirlie and there are way too many to list here (this blog post is already the longest I’ve ever written!).

Soooo… to wrap it all up, through this journey I have found my niche… it’s just being me.

Hi… I’m Erica, also known as EricaAmerica and here is my meet & greet:

Cybermummy11
Name: Erica Whiteman

Blog: Cupcakesandotherstuff

Twitter ID: @ericawhiteman

Height: 5ft 6

Hair: medium brown

Eyes: Green

Likes: baking, mexican food, coffee, crime drama (tv), crime fiction (books), music, taking photos, food, cookbooks, my dudes

Dislikes: being without coffee, prepackaged sandwiches with mayo, spinning beach balls

Oompa Loompa and Mrs Teavee

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