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Updated: 2016-03-26T09:42:55.940+00:00


Bartsmarks mystery tour


Last Saturday I joined Nikki Pugh for a mystery tour on our bicycles. We met at Birmingham Open Media (BOM) where we are both inaugral fellows and which hosted my Bioprospecting Birmingham earlier in the year. At the exhibition Nikki spotted that we both had the same old map of Birmingham (printed by Bartholomews)- but hers had some intersting additions - some curious black blobs.Nikki has contemplated these for some years and so we hatched a plan to make a cycling tour of a few of them (there are 140 of them spread across the city). So on Saturday we met up, along with our trusty steeds, at Kings Norton Junction on the canal and set off to examine the location of 14 of them. Our route was only 15miles or so but it took us most of the day stopping and puzzling at each location, and also enlisting willing passers-by for their views as to the origin of the blobs.At each location I took a Sphere photo to see if we could document the area and potential spot the similarities. Thats what you can see below once they've been liniarized. All suggestions are welcome! Our passers-by were going for pubs though this didn't pan out as some of the blobs are on Cadbury Quaker land with its ban on pubs and we had the suggestion through Twitter that they could be from water pumps, which are no longer there! The National Library of Scotland website has access to some great old maps - if you find anything let us know! The order from the top is:1. Us looking at the map at Kings Norton Junction (there was no blob here but there was for the rest of these locations),2. Junction of Station Road and Camp Land, Kings Norton3. Woodland Lane near Pine Walk, Northfield,4. Junction of Hole Lane and Heath Road, Northfield,5. Fordhouse Lane near Beilby Road, Stirchley,6. Junction of Hallam street and Willows Road, Edgbaston,7. Junction of Mary Street and Edward Road, Edgbaston,8. Junction of Sir John's ROad and Pershore Road, Selly Park.[...]

Fun on the beach


 On Widemouth beach for our summer hols I made a little sculpture, here it is before and after the waves made their own intervention!

Little baby ice cream


 For a break at the last conference I went to in Philadelphia a small group of us headed to Little Baby's Ice Cream shop to try out some of their unusual ice cream flavours. We tried one of each between us by having two of their tasting dishes! My favourite was the strawberry pink peppercorn, though the pizza (thats the orange coloured one) was pretty popular with the group too!



Amazing tasting meal at Lasan!

Viennoisserie at Loaf


I had a fantastic day on Saturday at Loaf in Stirchely learning to make croissant, brioche and cinnamon buns with Tom Baker - yes that really is his name and he certainly lives up to it. The techniques were precise but surprisingly simple - what is required is time and patience. The freezer is now bursting with tasty treats - as we couldn't possible have eaten them all on the day!

Quilting again


This time it's one for our room! Some lovely Lotte Jansdotter material for the backing too.

Bioprospecting Birmingham


This week I have been down at Birmingham Open Media (BOM) running an interactive DIY-Bio session called Bioprospecting Birmingham to see if we can grow some bacteria in the gallery that has been sourced from the buildings and monuments of Birmingham. I made a short video to explain what I was up to!

You can make agar at home too - take a look at Dr Simon Park's Exploring the Invisible website for information and saftey considerations.

Salted caramel brownies


Salted caramel brownies for my birthday! We had to throw out the fleximold brownie pan so I cooked them in three loaf tins - lots of extra crunchy and chewy edges - yummy!

Bistro 1847


Last night we headed to the Great Western Arcade and Bistro 1847. This super little vegetarian restaurant is named for the year the Vegetarian Society started. The food was divine - local, fresh and very beautifully presented. We were tempted to have one of the tasting menus but had a la carte in the end: carrot falafel with feta ice cream, mushrooms with potato crackling, leek crepe, mushroom ragout with parsley dumplings, whipped squash with plum and chocolate and crunchie parfait! [...]

Chocolate and Orange Teacakes


These delicious teacakes were inspired by the Meringue girls TV recipe on the waitrose website  but made just about following Jamie's minty ones. All I changed was adding tangerine zest to the dough, omitting the peppermint oil and adding a dash of orange oil to the chocolate coating! 



We had a super time yesterday visiting Hicote manor and gardens. We had intended to spend time at The Fleece Inn, who were celebrating apples and cider and had owls visiting, but we were evidently too early and they hadn't quite got going when we turned up, so we poottered round the corner to Hidcote and had lots of fun exploring the gardens and eating cake!

Market foraging


On Saturday we went to the markets with all the grandparents to 'forage' for our supper. Having passed on the delicious looking game we settle on a fishy fare - sushi for starters and halibut for mains!

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Our little Lexi is getting bigger - we just celebrated her second birthday. Of course there needed to be a great quantity of cake: for us, for nursery and even some practise ones! The theeme was 'tickle monster'!

Lexi picked out the cake cases and helped fill/empty them.

rice crispies witches by laughingmagpies

cakes for nursery

practise monster cakes

Pumpkin bowls


A few weeks ago we visited the beautiful Charlecote Park - to our delight they had a huge number of pumpkin and squashes on sale. I bought a few and made some pumpkin moulds and then some dishes. I also bought some new Potter's choice glazes - Albany and Firebrick - and a Pear Celadon glaze. I really like the results - just need to make a few more now!

Cupcake at Charlecote Park


Steam fair


A fantastic outing to the steam fair!

Purple velvet cupcakes


Last week everyone was very helpful in the lab and got me through a rather important experiment. So I made them some of these scrummy cupcakes from the good food mag. We picked blackberries from opposite the house too, so a local treat!
Take 150g blackberries and crush them with a fork. Melt 100g butter and 100g dark chocolate (mine was a supermarket brand at about 40% so not that dark) gently together. Mix 225g self raining flour, 175g caster sugar and two tablespoons of cocoa powder (I used green and blacks) in a large bowl. Beat two eggs with a teaspoon of chocolate extract (this was an extra addition I made to the original recipe). Then add the melted butter and chocolate and eggs and blackberries to the dry ingredients with a little red/purple food colouring. Mix everything together into a smooth batter and apportion to 12 cupcake cases. Bake at 180C (160C fan) for 15mins or until a skewer comes out clean. 
(The recipe recommended the following for the icing. I think it's a bit much and could easily be halved but then it depends on how much icing you like!) Press 150g blackberries through a sieve to extract the juice. Beat together 100g soft butter and 400g icing sugar with 1tsp vanilla essence. This is very very stuff. Mix in enough of the juice to make it pipable. I made the mistake of mixing it all in at once and it was a bit runny so take your time! If you have any spare blackberries put one on the top before serving. 

Moomin house - Tove Jansson's centenary


To celebrate 100 years since the birth of Tove Jansson, author of the fabulous moomin books, we baked a moomin house and cooked onion tart and tomato salad from her cookbook.

David Austin Roses


To go in our front garden we wanted to buy some fragrant roses. So we headed off to David Austin Roses near Telford. What beautiful place to visit! We had a fabulous moring exploring the gardens, sniffing the roses, eating tasty treats and ended up with three delightful roses - Sofie, Darcy and Gertrude!

Another decking project


Yes we made another one - with the help of the laughing magpies again!

Isle of Wight


We had a beautiful week in the Isle of Wight, staying in Shanklin. Beautiful weather and amazing lobster and chips as a final celebration!

Brindley Place gingko leaves


On Sunday we went to the Sealife Centre to see the new penguins - what a treat it was!

While we picnicked in Brindley
Place I noticed no less than 6 gingko trees! I managed to find a selection of fallen leaves which I squirrelled away and brought home. Yesterday I took the day off and used the leaves to impress into some lovely flax clay. They're looking good just now - I hope they make it throught the firings!

Jam tarts


Made up Cheesecake


After pottering round the supermarket just before closing time last night and finding a lack of rhubarb, N and I decided we'd make a cheesecake rather than the planned rhubarb and custard cake for dessert tonight. So we bought some cream cheese and frozen berries, thinking we'd have sufficient ingredients for the rest back at home. And we did, though I did have to amalgamate several recipes to accommodate the half a pot of cream and some marscapone, a leaf of gelatine and some squeezey lemon juice. Tasted good though!!

Birthday cake!


At the weekend I went down to Kew Bridge for the last of Anna's Romantic Disease workshops at Waterman's gallery. I stopped in at Peyton and Byrne for a little yoghurt and berries breakfast with some Lapsang Souchan. The server then brought over a complimentary cupcake! How very lovely!!