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Happy New Year!

Hard to believe 2014 will be over soon, it feels like this year has really flown by! Too fast in some places…

I’d like to thank all the people in my life that made this year great! There have been laughs, tears, drunken nights out, weekends away and a bunch of nights in.

2015 is already shaping up to be a great year with many things already planned.

So many new year resolutions to be made and forgotten!!

May this new year be everything you imagined it to be! Have a happy new year, everyone! xoxoxo



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I’ve been interested in baking for the past 5 or so years now, I like to think (and have been told) that my techniques, recipes, decorations etc have been getting better over this period.

I think having the right equipment helps a lot! Here’s is a list of MY bakeware essentials and why I find them useful.

1. Cookie cutters

Not just for baking cookies! I’ve found they can also be used for cutting foundant / royal icing for decorations too – it took longer than it probably should have to realise that!

Cookie cutters come in a variety of fun shapes, but to start with a set of round cutters in various sizes (such as Lake land) will come in handy.

Other essentials would be stars, gingerbread men and, for me, hearts.

I have 100s (1000s?) of themed cookie cutters too, e.g. Winnie the Pooh, Doctor Who and Star Wars! It definitely depends on what events/people you’ll be baking for.

2. Loose-bottomed deep tin

For cakes that won’t be layered or ‘sandwiched’, e.g. fruit cakes, a deep tin is best.

I have a couple, one 6″ and one 8″, I tend to use the 8″ most often as that’s what the recipes I’m using recommend.

Having a loose bottom allows for a much easier release.

When it comes to cake tins, I prefer non-stick metal. I’ve tried silicone pans but find the results aren’t as good.

3. Baking sheet

Simply, a flat metal sheet used to bake pastries, biscuits etc. Anything that doesn’t require a mould.

The one I have is non-stick and has a ‘lip’, making it a lot easier to get out of the oven!

4. Loaf tins

Many of my go to recipes recommend a loaf tin, e.g. lemon drizzle cakes. I have two, a 9×12 one and a – neither are non-stick! But I’ve never had any problems with cake sticking to the tins – Both have been handed down to me from family members. Sentimental value. :-)

Loaf tins can come in a range of sizes, there is no ideal shape – it’s up to you to choose one/two (or more) that’ll suit your needs.

5. Hand-held electric mixers

Sometimes I’ll use my hand-held balloon whisk – mostly if I need to mix eggs – but for most things I use my electric mixer.

An electric mixer will save you time and effort, but won’t exercise those arms as much. ;-)

6. Loose-bottomed tart tins

I only have one of these, an 9″ fluted tin and although I don’t use it often, would be lost without it. I use it for tarts, quiches etc – both sweet and savoury.

Like the loose-bottomed cake tins mentioned previously, these also allow for an easy release.

7. Rolling pin

I have three rolling pins! Two are decorative and the other is a more practical wooden one.

There are so many things you’ll use one for, rolling dough for example.

8. Cupcake / Muffin tin

As the name suggests, these are used to cupcakes! But can also be used for a range of make small cakes and pastries.

Considering this is one of the things I use most of the time, I’m surprised I didn’t think of adding it before/earlier on.

9. Cooling rack

They allow heat to escape from all sides of the cake at once. When a cake is left in the tin or on a plate, it can make the cake soggy – speaking from experience!

10. Sandwich tins

I have a couple of 8″ (20cm) ones, both are non-stick and loose-bottomed. This tends to be the most commonly used size.

They’re ideal for filled sponges, such as a Victoria sponge cake.

Besides the bake ware essentials noted above, I also have various ‘specialist’ tins in my cupboard, that I’d recommend:

  1. Bundt tin: Used for making ring cakes – I have two different sizes.
  2. Heart-shaped tin: For Valentine’s Day cakes – I have two in the same size which I used for layer cakes or filled sponges.
  3. Novelty tins: For Birthdays and other special occasions. I have a Dalek, Dinosaur and Car one (to name a few).
  4. Square tin: For brownies
  5. The Lakeland Hemisphere cake tins

Other baking essentials

  • Scales/li>
  • Measuring Spoons / Cups – or both! – I own both. :-)
  • Mixing bowls
  • Fine-mesh Sieve
  • Spatulas
  • Cake Tester


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Cirencester, Gloucestershire: The capital of the cotswolds.

NB. I have also submitted a similar article at Cut Out + Keep.

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The best thing about Cirencester (or Corinium) is its history. It was the second largest Roman town and has a bunch of historical sites in the town and surrounding villages.

On Cotswold Avenue is the site of a Roman amphitheatre. It’s still buried but retains its shape. It’s great for a walk and for taking photos from the top!

The Corinium Museum in Cirencester is, as you’d expect, dedicated to the Roman history of the town but also national history. If you have a couple of hours free, it’s well worth a visit.

There are a few parks in Cirencester, but probably the most well known two are The Abbey Grounds, situated behind The Parish Church – which is beautiful inside, really worth a visit.

church

In the Abbey Grounds grounds you will find a lake, impressive trees and greenery and a section of ancient Roman Wall. The other is Cirencester Park, home to the Bathurst Family.

Both have beautiful landscapes. I enjoy walking around both, sometimes taking a book to read or a sketch book along with me. Also both are great for a picnic and the former for a bicycle ride.

We also have a castle, well technically it’s an old barracks, but is known as The Castle to locals. There’s a Victorian era outdoor swimming pool nearby.

castle

The Sundial Theatre, part of Cirencester College, (where I studied) hosts drama and musical events by community groups and professional companies. I’ve seen quite a few shows there, mostly amateur productions.

Shopping

The high street in Cirencester is home to the typical high street shops, such as New Look and Dorothy Perkins. But I’d recommend checking out the back streets: Swan Yard and Black Jack street which are home to the more independent shops and have lots of nooks and crannies to explore. Be sure to visit Pick-A-Pot-And-Paint, where you choose your ceramic from their extensive range, paint it on site and they glaze and fire it for you. There is also a lovely art shop (Coln Gallery), an independent book shop specialising in children’s books (Octavia’s Bookshop) and Simply Crystals (selling gemstones and jewellery). There’s so much to explore here.

swanyardYou should also take a look down the bottom end of the high street and visit some of the independent shops down Cricklade Street, like Manns which is a family run jewellers and Sew N’ Sew.

A couple of my favourite shops for more unique gifts are Lock Stock & Barrel and Surprises both found in The Market Place.

If you’re bringing children with you or are a kid at heart… or perhaps love Lego (like I do!), be sure to visit Crocodile (a traditional toy shop) in Cirencester’s Wool Market, which has been in Cirencester for as long as I can remember. They sell a wide range of toys and have a Lego room on the 1st floor. ;)

It’s worth noting that The Wool Market isn’t actually a market (it was once upon a time)! However, a market is on in the high street on Monday and Friday.

Eat

There are various cafés in Swan Yard and Black Jack street. The Swan Yard cafe has to be one of my favourites, with it’s roof terrace giving great views of that part of town. Sometimes Jessie Smith’s Bistro have a BBQ outside their butcher shop.

If you’re willing to splash out a bit, Made By Bob in The Corn Hall is fantastic. I quite often go there for breakfast.

The Black Horse on Castle Street has become my local over the years. Great for a bite to eat or to grab a drink and hang out with friends. Another notable, is The Crown in West Market Place

A trip to Cirencester isn’t complete without a visit to the Candyman, who sell traditional tuck shop sweets as well as some American favourites – like Twinkies mmm.

candyman

Otherwise, there’s the Cornish Pasty Shop off the main high street and plenty of coffee shops.

Arts and Crafts

The two parks I mentioned are perfect for crafting in. Whether you like drawing, painting, photography or something like knitting even, would be perfect to do there.

New Brewery Arts in Cirencester (which as the name suggests used to be a brewery) is a craft and art exhibition for local crafters and artists to display and sell there work. If you’re looking to learn a new craft skill this is the place to be, they offer various courses and one off workshops.

breweryarts

There’s a craftmans market in The Corn Hall on a regular basis. Which is worth a look. I’ve gotten many things from local crafters there.

There’s one lady who sells stained glass ornaments, I have a few that hang on my Christmas tree and one in my bedroom window.

Souvenirs

Perhaps something Roman themed from the museum? Or also inside the museum you’ll also find the tourist information centre, where you can buy Cirencester based nik-naks and postcards.

Where Next?

There are many villages to visit around Cirencester, a few of my favourites to go to are Bourton-On-The-Water (home to the only King Penguins in England), Lechlade (with its own Christmas shop), Bibury (be sure to visit the trout farm!) and Burford (which has a wildlife park nearby).