MTT: Autumn Apple Crumble Muffins

Recently I have noticed plenty of females in my online world going crazy for a guy. Crazy in the way that I and many others went crazy for Harry Styles from One Direction on last year’s X Factor, an obsession I would like to blame on post-pregnancy hormones or whatever, but I’d be lying. I just fancy him. He’s 18 now, right?

Photo Credit: Reviews of Tings

Anyway, recently everyone’s gone nuts for Robert Billington, a contestant from the amazing Great British Bake Off. He’s young! He has dimples! He’s got great hair! He can bake! Right now he is the lusty culinary world’s Brad Pitt. A female’s Nigella (though he does lack her unctuous curves). As I don’t have too much of a sweet tooth I will always prefer a man who can deep fry me some shit over one who can whip me up a batch of delightful macaroons, but I can definitely see his appeal.

Photo credit: RTE Food

To this end I would like to present to you one Donal Skehan, who I found by following a link from Sophie at The Littlest Things. Just look at him – he kind of reminds me of Harry Styles – and he cooks as well as bakes! I may have found possible pervy male cooking nirvana. He’s Irish (sexy accent), has written some books (not illiterate), used to be in a failed boy band (One Direction-esque) and is a fairly grown-up 25. You are welcome.

If my hormones get any worse I may well be wallpapering his face to my new kitchen.

The first recipe I tried of Donal’s was the Apple and Cinnamon Crumble Muffins, which I am re-posting due to someone on Twitter asking me to (sorry – can’t remember who). These muffins were lovely as they weren’t too sweet and the crumble topping set them apart from your usual boring cake. You can also pretend they’re healthy and eat them for breakfast. The recipe calls for cooking apple but I had none and so used regular eating apples (Gala – I think).

Autumn Apple Crumble Muffins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
I never ever bother with buttermilk; a dessertspoon full of lemon juice stirred into 200ml of ordinary full-fat milk works fine for me and creates the buttermilk effect.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 75ml of olive oil
  • 200ml of buttermilk
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 150g of caster sugar
  • 250g of self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 250g of peeled and diced cooking apple (Approx 1 large cooking apple)
  • For the crumble topping:
  • 50g of vanilla sugar (or substitute with caster sugar)
  • 50g of plain flour
  • 50g of butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 190?C. Line a muffin/cupcake tray with paper cases.
  2. Measure the oil and buttermilk in a pyrex jug and then stir through the lemon zest and set aside.
  3. Using a handblender with a food processor attachment, blitz the ingredients for the crumble topping until you get left with rough crumbs. You can also do this by hand in a bowl using your fingertips to combine the ingredients together. Set the crumble topping aside.
  4. In a standalone mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add in the oil, buttermilk and lemon zest and whisk until combined.
  6. Gently fold in the flour and cinnamon until just combined. Fold through ¾ of the diced apple until combined. Be sure not to over mix the batter.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases, top with the remaining apple and about a teaspoonful of the crumble topping.
  8. Place in the oven on the middle rack to cook for 20 minutes until brown on top.
  9. Remove from the oven and place on a wire wrack to cool.

 

Willow Tree Cottage

Instead of boring you with the trials of moving all our worldly belongings from not one but two houses (we still had 1 and a half van loads of stuff up at our house on the market in Nottingham) I will just say this: it was HARD.

We’ve spent the last three weekends at our new house getting it ready. Sanding the kitchen and utility worktops down and re-sealing, scrubbing the quarry tile floors, cleaning the fiddly bits in the skirting board with a toothbrush, shampooing carpets, wiping down all the walls in the house. My brilliant DIY Dad re-aligned the dodgy French windows, replaced locks, replaced the kitchen sink, advised us on the best filter tap to buy, re-sealed things and blocked up the broken catflap in the back door (all for a couple of beers and a takeaway).

Super DIY Dad

And this weekend we were finally able to move in. It was a baptism of fire for me, going from a small two bedroomed new build to a 400 year old four bedroomed cottage – this place is COLD. Well, not really, probably not for people who aren’t as sensitive as me, but colder than I’m used to. I’m starting to regret those purchases of 100% silk dresses and wish I bought hoodies instead.

Those scrubbed floors

The kitchen and family room are mostly unpacked. We have a seriously dark pink lounge that needs definite attention (I’m thinking grey on the advice of Aly), gothic black wall lights that need to go and a pantry that is crying out for storage and some organization but this will all happen in good time.

Our new kitchen

The family/play area and those wall lights

Err… help?

What’s left to do is a different matter, and can only be demonstrated by these hellish photos:

Elfie’s room, which is now looking slightly better

Underneath all this is our new spare room

The office

The utility room

We have five rooms that we need to decorate and I’m trying to resist the urge to slap expensive wallpaper on everything (love and love), apparently wonky walls and my expensive taste do not mix. So I’m back to drooling over Farrow & Ball colours when I should be unpacking, or working on the largest project of my Freelance career. And dealing with the lingering pregnancy exhaustion and all-day sickness. Zzzzz!

An Elfie Update At 15 Months

The main purpose of this blog has always been to record our lives with Elfie. Having kept various diaries since the age of about 10, I find it so valuable to look back on life having recorded my thoughts and feelings and the resulting memories are priceless.

But then life has got in the way a little bit recently; it’s easy to blog about myself rather than my number one girl (sorry Elfie, your mama has always enjoyed being the centre of attention and this probably won’t change) and I’ve so enjoyed writing my recipes and general musings.

So let’s take it back and look at my little girl.

Elfie is now fifteen months and thirteen days old. She is such a happy little character, she rarely has a grumpy mood and only gets iffy when tired or hungry. Every time we leave the house she beams and waves at everyone, so trips to the shops, restaurants and supermarkets are always a pleasure. It upsets me a little when people don’t wave back (teenage boys and older men are the main culprits) and is makes me so happy that her smiling face gives people joy, they love to stop and chat to her.

We’re teething which is hard in patches but she takes it in her stride. The best remedy we’ve found is an amber necklace, I often am terrified I will forget to take it off when she goes to bed but it seems to give most relief. Aside from waving, her other favourite thing to do is pointing (a bit embarrassing when she points at people) and she’s always making an inquisitive little “eh?” noise when she does it. Favourite things to point at: trees, lights, cats, people.

She’s not walking yet which is fine by me, she will cruise along the furniture but has no interest in walking with no support. Water is the best: she loves to go swimming and her favourite game is tipping her beaker on the floor and playing with the resulting mess. She’s been ‘helping’ me clean the new house recently, and by ‘helping’ I mean ‘stick her hands in my buckets of dirty water and squeeze a sponge over herself and then try to eat bleach’. Bathtime is her favourite time of day and she will stand and watch the bath being filled while we undress her – she’s always so desperate to get in.

Elfie can’t say any words apart from ‘Dada’ and ‘eh’ but she understands a lot. She knows where her head, hair, nose, ears, tummy, and toes are, she knows what noise a dog, cat, tigger, pig and fish (?) makes, she can bring her different books to you on demand (‘That’s not my donkey’ and ‘Spot’ are her favourites) and she knows food/drink/milk/more/up/sit down/kiss/cuddle. She knows who dada, mama, grannie and grumpy are, and pretends not to know what ‘no’ means. But then again, so do I.

Other favourite household games: pushing buttons on the washing machine and printer, closing and opening cupboard doors, blowing raspberries, trying to put on clothes and anything to do with an iPhone or MacBook Pro.

Today I was reminded again of what a special little soldier Elfie is. She was up all last night crying and then was not herself this morning. She scared me by going all snuggly and weak (very unlike her), was a bit moany and then fell asleep in my arms as soon as I’d got her up, which is usually her brightest time of day. I gave her a double dose of  her medicine, paracetamol and milk, took her temperature (normal) and cuddled her back off to sleep, worrying about whether or not to call the hospital or do an ankle prick to check her blood sugars. I let her snooze for a while and a couple of hours later she was as right as rain but it was terrifying. I can’t wait until she can speak and articulate to us what hurts or how she’s feeling, I think that will take a lot of the worry away.

 

Since we found out I was pregnant with number two I have had a lot of guilt and I need to keep reminding myself that everyone goes through it: how am I going to devote time to two babies? What if I don’t love the next one as much as Elfie? I even feel guilt for the foetus, when I was last pregnant I spent every spare second on BabyCentre – reading about the stage we were at, what to expect next, how other women were feeling. This time I’m struggling to remember how many weeks I am right now (I have it scheduled in iCal for this purpose) and the time is absolutely flying. The exhaustion has been so horrendous that Elfie’s spending a lot more time than usual with her grandma, we don’t go swimming at the moment and I can’t remember our last mama and daughter lunch date. I miss her, I can’t wait to return to normality and have to keep reminding myself that although it’s hard now and will be for the foorseable future, the closeness in age between Elfie and her new sibling will be worth it.

Above all, I have never been happier than I am with my life right now. I’ve never had less sleep ever, which has been horrifying at times, but it’s so true that children make life so much lighter.

Little 15 month Elf, I love you.

An Interlude for My Favourite Recent Blogs

This is what I currently look like. It is not a pretty sight; the state of my bikini line is beyond acceptable and my eyebrows are taking over my face. I can’t remember the last time I wore fake tan and I need to stop wearing clothes made out of jersey.

All my energy at the moment is being spent on getting through each day and staying up late enough to watch the X Factor. Anything else right now is a bonus… I am so mentally crushed that I can barely string an email together, let alone a blog post. This baby is leeching every bit of energy from me and I can’t wait for it to stop and for the fat, glowy part to begin.

So here is a brief interlude to tell you about my favourite blogs, in lieu of the witty observations and interesting banter you would usually find here. I hope.

Saidos Da Concha – a gorgeous interiors and DIY blog by a Portugese native living in the English countryside.

A Cup Of Jo – a NYC lifestyle blog that you probably all know about but I only just came across. Love it.

Mammasaurus – this woman has eight kids. EIGHT. She is a god.

Enjoying the Small Things – this beautiful family photography blog makes me want to move to Florida.

Mother’s Meeting – the hippest momma bloggers you will find on the internet!

Young House Love – these people have got me into DIY. This is a miracle.

Matt and Kara Adopt – one couple’s heartwarming and heartbreaking adoption journey.

DasBecca – I’ve been following the K’s family blog for about five years now. That’s a really long time.

Happy Birthday, David!

My BFF Kirsty left London for NYC at the end of September; there’s us up there at the Chambord Rendezvous event the week before her departure (although it turns out Chambord isn’t so much fun when you’re pregnant). I miss her very much, we used to work together, play together, and would always end up laughing together. She does awesome things like upload a photograph of Prince William in her crotch and then tags me.

Anyway, it’s David‘s birthday today (the big 3-0) and as Kirsty couldn’t be in London to help him celebrate she decided to take to the streets of New York. Dressed as SpongeBob. Cos that’s what you do.

She says:
“Today David turns 30. He lives in London and I live all the way across the pond in NYC, so we won’t get to see each other on this milestone of a birthday. I wanted to shoot this film as a gift, and couldn’t think of a better present than me in a SpongeBob SquarePants outfit and a load of strangers giving their best wishes.”

This is one of the most wonderful videos I’ve ever seen.

It made me weep. I don’t know if it’s the hormones, I don’t know if it’s the SpongeBob: Kirsty, you are simply the best. And if you’re not in the UK when I give birth to baby Harold number two I will be expecting my own video.

Living Room Wants: Faux Taxidermy

Having long been slightly obsessed with stag heads (but wobbly about hanging half a dead animal on my wall. Do they smell?) our impending move to the countryside has made me think seriously about the idea of taxidermy. Preserved animal parts, WOOH! In my mind it’s almost as necessary round these parts as a Barbour jacket and Hunter wellies.

Only joking!

But I do like the idea of some faux-taxidermy in our new living space. Something with a sense of humour to brighten up our new walls.

  

How awesome is this fabric stag’s head? £75 from Curiosity.Haus.

  

  

A little more exotic are these Savannah Busts, made from recycled cement bags and vintage French book pages. From £58, Anthropologie.

This Aluminium polished Stag’s head is almost a bit too realistic – the eyes are a bit creepy for me. It’s handmade in York and costs £75 from Black Scorpion Ltd on Etsy.

These stags tick both country boxes: hunting and tartan. I assume they would both bring you instant villager acceptance. The cushion can be bought from Designer Cushions on Etsy and the coat rack is by Peter Silk.

What do you think: faux taxidermy, cute or creepy?

PS: For anyone else suitably weird enough to also like stuffed once-alive animals I’d suggest a look at the best-named shop I’ve ever been to: Get Stuffed on Essex Road, Islington. We used to walk past it on our journey from our home in De Beauvoir to Islington and would always marvel at their window displays; stuffed penguins, parrots, otters, dogs… lions!