Wet Wet Wet Live At Scarborough Open Air Theatre- July 30th 2016.

The end of July for me and for millions of other Wet Wet Wet fans was an exciting time for us. It was a few weeks ago now, how did that happen? But as I’ve mentioned in previous posts I don’t always keep on top of my blogging. Earlier on this year the band had gone on their amazing The Big Picture Tour but we have been well and truly spoilt with extra live shows recently. The Wets added four extra dates to their Summer 2016 schedule.  We were lucky enough to go to their show in London at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea back in June.  Then the guys flew over to The Netherlands to play at Night At The Park in The Hague.

Finally back in May, they announced they were going to be playing at Tatton Park in Cheshire, followed by Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre at the end of July.

I was so excited to hear about the Wets coming to Scarborough.  Scarborough, for me is quite a special place.  I’ve been going there since I was a baby. Starting with my great grandparents, then my grandparents and then onto my Dad, we had a holiday flat on the South Cliff.  Many happy memories of childhood holidays have been spent in Scarborough.  Until going abroad and better weather was the attraction.  I’ve always loved the North Bay end of Scarborough and although lots of changes have happened such as losing the outdoor pool and all the new development where the Corner Cafe used to be, it is great to see that some childhood favourites have stayed the same.  Peasholm Park is just as I remember it and generations of my family have loved going on the miniature railway, on the pedal boats and watching the Naval Warfare battles with remote control boats (do they still have that on?) Northstead Manor Park has been improved and renovated a lot. I hope they do reopen the cable car in the future though!

I’ve always wanted them to come to Scarborough Open Air Theatre (OAT) as it is such a great venue.  I’d not been to a show there but my Mum and Dad remember the original theatre with stone steps to sit on and the stage across a lake with a building which reminded them of a castle.  I’m sure there is a photo somewhere of my Mum aged about 20 sat on the steps when she and my Dad were going out. Or maybe it was a photo of my Nana when she was the same age. I don’t remember any shows at the original theatre but I remember it being overgrown and wishing it could be opened up again.  My Grandad once told me, “I dare you to go over there and stand in the tower and let down your hair like Rapunzel!” Now forgive me if I’m wrong but there was a great big lake in the way and I nearly fell in it once after my little brother capsized the pedal boat we were in at the time!  It was fantastic news to hear the OAT was being renovated and reopened with new, plastic  seating.  One thing I was happy to realise is that the venue organisers put decking down over the lake when concerts are on so that you aren’t far away from the stage. Lots of famous acts have played there, including Elton John.

Saturday 30th July was thankfully a gorgeous and sunny day.  So it would be Sunny Scarborough after all! Though being cold and wet wouldn’t have bothered us or put us off. But in Wet Wet Wet’s nearly 30 year history, the rain always stays away! I was looking forward not only to seeing the band, but to also catch up with my lovely group of friends affectionately known as my Wettie mates.  Sadly though we would be without one of our gang, the lovely Julie who was on holiday. I was on driving duty and my car gets nicknamed the WetsWagon. It’s definitely put a few miles on the clock this year but I only live about 50 miles away from Scarborough, this was a local gig to me!  First I was off to pick up my friend Dot, then over to pick up my other friend Michelle who both live in York.  Dot had told me the day before about avoiding the A64, it’s a right pain especially around York and where it isn’t dual carriageway. From past experiences I’ve always been stuck behind an old fart, dozens of caravans or just everyone heading to the coast on a glorious summer Saturday.  We drove cross country to Helmsley and over the North Yorkshire Moors via Pickering, which was much quicker.  In perfect time to find a picnic spot and to meet up with all our Wettie friends.  We had a fantastic time catching up with everyone who had travelled far and wide.We didn’t stop laughing all afternoon.

Paddy who does the Breakfast Show on Yorkshire Coast Radio was going around doing his promotional bit.  He introduced both Ben Montague and the Wets and did a few announcements. I found this pic with us in the background on the Yorkshire Post FB page the following day!

Waiting for the show to start. A couple of friends took photos of us sitting down before everything got started. The sun was right in our eyes, just look at us with our bags!

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Another getting ready for the show to start, some of us can’t wait for it to get going!  Many thanks to Caroline Creese for this photo.

Finally, it was time to get into the park and to find our seats. We weren’t as close to the stage as we had been before, but we still got an amazing view.  I was over the moon that Ben Montague was back to support the Wets and he also had supported them at Tatton Park the night before. We had seen him play last year when the Wets played at Koko, in London for a one off concert in aid of the Nordoff Robbins Charity.  He was fab and got the crowd dancing and singing along. The same happened tonight at Scarborough.  After his set we went down to see if we could buy a copy of Ben’s CD and he also very kindly let us have selfies with him.

Ben Montague introducing one of his songs. Thanks to Cindy Brewer for the photo.

 

Ben Montague played a fantastic set.  I would love to go to another of his shows one day. Photo copyright of Cindy Brewer.

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A cheeky selfie with Ben Montague after his set.  He had to take the selfie on my friend Dot’s phone as my battery was about to go dead!  Thanks Dot! x

Then, after a short while what we were waiting for happened!  Out came the Wets to lots of screaming and applause.  They opened with their East Of The River, one of their popular tracks from their first album Popped In Souled Out. Then onto Wishing I Was Lucky, their first single.  As I listened to the music and watched the guys performing I thought there are going to be loads of Scarborough residents not at the gig wishing they were there right at this very moment. I was stood up and dancing, along with most of us around us.  The guy sat behind me wasn’t too happy though, well I’m sorry I go to a gig to dance along to the music.  If you don’t like me standing up, get a seat right at the back or don’t come!

Then the guys slowed the tempo down with their 1989 hit Sweet Surrender.  This is the song I have as my ring tone for Mr SmartCookieSam (“One look, was all it took!, hahahaha!) Unfortunately Mr SmartCookieSam doesn’t share my love of the Wets.

The guys played a few favourites from their multi million selling album, the fabulous “Picture This” from 1995, including Julia Says, Morning, She’s All On My Mind and Don’t Want To Forgive Me Now. All classics which everyone never tires of hearing.  But for me, my all time favourite which they played for me at my leaving assembly from my last job, the beautiful Somewhere Somehow. We were also treated to a little bit of The Commodores’ Brick House, a song I love. I hope the guys play this again at a gig as it sounded brilliant!

Marti Pellow entertaining the crowds at Scarborough Open Air Theatre.  Photo copyright of Cindy Brewer.

Graeme Clark rocking his bass. Photo copyright of Cindy Brewer.

Marti’s friendly banter on stage with the other band members and to the audience. Photo copyright of Cindy Brewer.

Playing as the sun went down and it got dark. Photo copyright of Cindy Brewer.

I had to ask my friend Cindy if she had any nice photos with Tommy on as my phone camera was rubbish, especially when it got dark.  She got this lovely one of him, thanks Cindy!

No idea which song Marti was singing here, but whatever it was it would have been fantastic. Photo copyright of Cindy Brewer.

Graeme Duffin on guitar with Neil on keyboards in the background. Again I had to ask my friends to see who had a nice photo with Neil on as my phone camera wouldn’t do the business. Copyright Cindy Brewer.

Last year the Wets got to record some new material in the South of France. Hopefully we’ll get to hear some more of this new stuff in the future but they played their new and fantastic Love Worz which went down very well with the audience.

No Wets gig is the same without their classics Angeleyes and Sweet Little Mystery.  Even though we have known these songs for nearly 30 years,they still remain as fresh today as the day I first listened to them aged 15!

We were also treated to the full version of Temptation, which no Wets gig would be the same without.

Then to I Can Give You Everything, another favourite and popular track from the band’s early days.

There was a variation on the set that the guys played at Chelsea.  I’m pretty sure they didn’t play All I Want, which is usually one that does come up regularly at their shows and also they didn’t play an acoustic set this time.  I don’t know how they decide which songs to include or to leave out of the set when they have so many great songs to choose from.

All too soon it was time for the show to end.  The encore was Lip Service though it was funny to hear Marti Pellow singing “the roof is on fire,” when there wasn’t one!  Such an amazing, feel good song which never fails to get you up and dancing. Finally to the ending “Love Is All Around” which was a perfect end to a perfect night.  As I stood there singing with my arms round my two friends Dot and Cindy and swaying in time to the music, it clearly showed that indeed Love Is All Around.

It went so quickly and  yet the show lasted nearly two hours.  They say time flies when you’re having fun which is what you always get at a Wet Wet Wet concert. But, as we left the show and drove home we all said to one another how lucky we were.  I’ve met some lovely friends who I would never have known if it wasn’t for Wet Wet Wet. Not only have they made our lives special with their music but our lives have been enriched by meeting wonderful people.

Love Sam xx

Strawberri Daiquiri Bundt Cake

I’m pretty sure I’ve got an addictive personality.  I’m an all or nothing kind of person.  Over the past two or three years I’ve really got into baking bundt cakes. I blame Rachel McGrath (aka the fabulous DollyBakes, the bundt queen herself!).  After seeing her amazing creations on her website using NordicWare bundt pans, I thought I fancy buying a couple of those tins!  Now I have a shelving unit with them piled up in our garage much to Mr SmartCookieSam’s disgust!  Both he and my kids have said if I buy any more cake tins, they’re going to throw some out! My 16 year old son said to me yesterday that I hadn’t used one of the tins I’d bought when we were on holiday in Canada.  Well I hate to disappoint him but that tin was a snowflake shape and I don’t want to be thinking of wintery themed cakes in August, thankyou very much!

Last week I went into TKMaxx with my Mum and daughter.  My daughter wanted a new handbag but when she was paying for it, I wandered over to the Homeware section knowing full well they sometimes have Nordicware tins in and they’re usually half price!  My eyes lit up when I saw the layered heart tin on the shelf for £19.99 (half price) and I picked it up! My Mum saw me with it and said “What do you want that for?” and “I don’t like hearts,”  When someone says that to me the rebel in me wants it all the more!  All I could think about for the next few days was getting that blooming cake tin and what I could use it for.  As luck would have it I went back into TKMaxx and it was still there on the shelf!  I nearly danced with it to the checkout!

On Sunday afternoon I got to use the tin for the very first time.  Mr SmartCookieSam saw it and asked “When did you get that tin?”  I said, “Oh I’ve had it ages and it’s been in the garage!” Normally we ladies do that with shoes and clothes (well I do that too!) It was Headingley and Meanwood Clandestine Cake Club’s event coming up and we were going to be meeting at White’s Bar in Headingley.  The theme was Cocktails which is always a fab theme for cake club and everyone comes up with some delicious cakes.  I had recently bought some of Sugar and Crumbs’ new summer flavours of their natural icing sugar and was keen to try out their Strawberry Daiquiri flavour.

I had to google what was in a strawberry daiquiri as I don’t think I’ve ever had one before.  My daughter who has a part time job in a bar said she was pretty sure it had rum in it but had never made one. She wanted me to make a Godfather Cake but that would mean going out and buying bottles of Disaronno and some Jack Daniels. With the daiquiri I could buy a small bottle of Bacardi and know that MrSmartCookieSam would finish it off with some coke.

For the cake itself I went back to the Queen of Bundts for inspiration.  Rachel McGrath has a recipe in the second Clandestine Cake Club book “A Year Of Cake” which is a Passionfruit Caipirinha  Bundt.  I adapted the recipe to make it Strawberry Daiquiri flavoured. Instead of lemon extract I used natural strawberry extract from Lakeland.  I kept in the grated lime zest but substituted passionfruit yoghurt for strawberry yoghurt.  There was also Bacardi in place of the ready made caipirinha cocktail mix.  I hoped it would work in the cake.  I’ve found in the past that you can’t always taste the alcohol, maybe I should have added it afterwards as a soaking syrup.  You can but try.

Last Sunday afternoon saw me baking a few things as I was having a couple of my friends over for lunch the day after.  The bundt was going to be done last as it needed the longest in the oven, after salted caramel brownies, peanut butter cookies and a Pimms Victoria Sponge.  My son was hovering around the kitchen and asked if he could help with the brownies and the cookies.  I don’t think using a heart shaped bundt tin was his idea of baking though, so by that time he sloped off upstairs.

An hour later and the cake was ready to come out of the oven.  I always get nervous about bundts coming out of the tin in one piece especially when it’s for cake club.  Though it nearly ended up on the floor as my dog walked into the kitchen as I was carrying the cake across from the oven to the cooling rack.  One of these days he’s going to end up with hot cake on his head! Thankfully the bundt slid out of the tin perfectly and there weren’t any stubborn bits stuck to the side.  I gave it a while to cool down and then started on dinner.  After that I mixed up the icing sugar which had a heavenly scent of strawberries.  It tasted very sweet so rather than making it into buttercream, I made a very watery glaze and let it trickle down over the sides of the cake.  I put a plastic mat underneath but icing still ran over the edge of the mat onto the worktop.  Mr SmartCookieSam doesn’t like it when I use icing sugar as it goes everywhere. He has a point.The next morning the cake was finished off with its decorations.  I put whole, fresh strawberries inside the middle of the cake and cheated with ready made pink flower and leaf decorations bought in my local Morrisons. I can make sugar flowers but I didn’t have time to colour up the only white icing I had in the cupboard.  Even Mary Berry uses shortcuts!

 

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Flying With IcelandAir

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Flying with IcelandAir on our first ever visit to Canada to see my brother and his family.

Normally I love writing about cooking and baking but recently I’ve been keen to try writing about other interests.  One of my passions is travelling and exploring new places (time and finances are always a constraint, though!) so what better excuse than to write about them?

I like writing reviews and talking about times when myself and my family have had a great experience with a product or a service, so I felt that I had to write about our family’s fantastic experience flying with IcelandAir. Usually, our family holidays fit a pattern. We have a UK based holiday in May and a week abroad somewhere in August. The week abroad is usually somewhere we can fly to from Leeds Bradford, which is our nearest airport. Sometimes if we can fit it in I go away with Mr SmartCookieSam for a couple of days. This hasn’t happened for a couple of years, though as we have both been too busy with work and family commitments. This year was different.  My brother emigrated to Canada two years ago and had recently got married. Although we couldn’t make the real ceremony due to work commitments and my son’s GCSEs, we wanted to go over and celebrate the wedding.me doing. My mum was also going over to Canada a couple of weeks earlier and staying a bit longer so she was also on the flight search mission.

 My husband gets annoyed with the lack of flights from the north of England, it always seems to be that everything goes from Heathrow or Gatwick. To be fair we aren’t far from Manchester airport but we do worry about getting stuck in traffic on the M62 and then missing our flight. He didn’t want a long drive home after no sleep feeling jetlagged or struggling on an expensive train ride feeling shattered.  My mum then found a gem of an idea! She found that you could fly to Canada and the US via Reykjavik with IcelandAir and that there were flights going from Manchester.  We thought this was perfect so my husband started investigating.  Instead of getting worried about being stuck on the M62 we would get the direct train from York. He then found out that if you wanted to break the journey and have a stopover in Reykjavik for up to seven nights, the cost of the flight would be the same.

This made me so excited.  Last year I was really envious of my son going on a GCSE Geography field trip to Iceland.  He swam in the Blue Lagoon and saw beautiful waterfalls, lakes, lava fields and the Geysers. Every photo he showed us made me more and more determined to go there. I had seen pictures of this stunning country and both Mr SmartCookieSam have always wanted to visit. My son loved the place and knew that we would too.  Every time I had got a near chance to go to Iceland, the flights wouldn’t fit in around the time we had.  So when my husband thought that we could combine a few days in Iceland and then go onto Edmonton to visit my brother and his family, I at last thought all my dreams were coming true.  In the end we booked four days in Reykjavik and we loved it so much.  We are definitely going back as Iceland has so much more to offer and plan to go for a week and tour round the country instead of just staying in Reykjavik.

IcelandAir offers three different booking classes Economy, Economy Comfort and Saga Class (Saga instantly made me think of OAPs on holiday, but it is their equivalent of Business class!) As we had four people and four flights to pay for, the only option to us was Economy.  My husband being over 6 feet tall was worried about the lack of leg room, especially on long haul flights. We needn’t have worried, my husband felt there was much more leg room than on other airlines, like Jet2 which we have flown with a lot recently.

Our first flight with IcelandAir was on 1st July and we flew from Manchester Terminal 1 to Keflavik Airport.  Check in time was quick and easy and the staff on the check in desk were efficient and friendly.  The same went for the ground crew at the departure gate and thankfully we didn’t get the hassle of getting on and off a shuttle bus.  Using an air bridge made it so much easier for families with young children, of which there were a few on the flight.

Each plane in the IcelandAir fleet is named after an Icelandic volcano or landmark and there are about 28 aircraft in total. They are mainly Boeing 757s which are narrow body aircraft and have a long enough range to fly to North America and Europe from Iceland. One of the fleet, which is easily the most beautiful aircraft I have ever seen has been named  Hekla Aurora.  This aircraft was given a special Aurora Borealis livery to advertise IcelandAir’s #MyStopOver campaign. The inside of the cabin also lights up with LED mood lighting and provides a restful and peaceful setting. More about Hekla Aurora later on in the post.

Most of the IcelandicAir planes are fitted with WiFi and also have impressive onboard entertainment systems. There are films, music and lots of TV programmes you can watch. While we were on the plane I got to watch Deadpool and Eddie The Eagle.  I didn’t really listen to the music but there was a broad selection of music including some Icelandic music. Some of this was playing in the cabin when we were boarding and leaving the aircraft. The music gave a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere to the whole experience, especially as it is at a time when I feel apprehensive about flying. The only plane we went on which didn’t have all these facilities was the one which flew us back from Reykjavik to Manchester.  Instead, the cabin crew gave out individual tablets to watch films on if you wanted.

We flew with IcelandAir on four flights and were very impressed. The staff were polite, kind, courteous and couldn’t do enough to help you.  They spoke impeccable English which puts a lot of British people to shame when they go overseas.

As we were in Economy class we had to pay for all alcoholic drinks and food but it was great that water, soft drinks and tea and coffee were complimentary. On the longer flights to and from Edmonton we did have wine and a tapas snack box, but felt we didn’t need anything other than a drink on the shorter flights.

Loved the inflight entertainment system but kept going back to look at the flight updates from time to time!

Arrival at a sunny, but cold and windy Keflavik airport.

Not an IcelandAir problem, more to do with whoever deals with baggage handling at either Manchester or Keflavik airports.  I don’t like the way they throw the luggage about like balls! That’s why I always buy cheap luggage, there’s no way I’m buying fancy stuff if that’s how it gets treated!

Sat and ready for pushback at Keflavik.  Canada and Edmonton, here we come!

Somewhere over the North Atlantic on the way to Canada.

Reaching the coast of Greenland. Easily the nicest flight I have been on, in terms of comfort, seating position and also a stunning view!

Snow covering Greenland at about 35,000 feet enroute from Keflavik to Edmonton.

First view of Canada before cloud cover nearer Edmonton.

We got to fly on the HeklaAurora on our return flight to Iceland from Edmonton.

After our fantastic stay in Edmonton, we flew back home to the UK via Iceland again. This time we transferred straight onto a flight to Manchester instead of another stopover. We would have loved to have stopped over again but we had to fly home due to work commitments! When we were waiting in the departure lounge at the gate it was a lovely surprise to find we were going to be flying on the HeklaAurora!  I think this is easily the prettiest livery I’ve ever seen on a plane and it looks even better sparkling in the sunshine.  As we were staying in Iceland at completely the wrong time of year to see the real Northern Lights, this was the next best thing!  Also the cabin’s interior lighting was gorgeous- different hues of green and blue to match the real thing.

We had been offered an upgrade to sit in the emergency exit seats which was a massive help for my husband.  At least we had more room to stretch out. Although it was an overnight flight none of us sleep well on aeroplanes.  I closed my eyes for a bit but I don’t think I slept, even with a pillow and a blanket wrapped around me.  My family didn’t sleep either. We were still comfortable though as best as you can be on a long haul flight in cattle class! The flight passed very quickly and it felt strange as it never got dark. Before we knew it we were descending into Keflavik airport on a breezy morning at 6.30am.

 It definitely blew the cobwebs away realising you had to get off the plane and go on a shuttle bus to the terminal building.

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The tail end of the HeklaAurora as it had just landed at Keflavik airport  early on a cold, but sunny July morning after its overnight flight from Edmonton.

Panic began to set in as we had an hour and twenty minutes before our flight took off to Manchester. Luckily we didn’t have to check our bags through again and we didn’t have to go through security again.  We weren’t sure what to do as in the past when I have done connecting flights I’ve not had to recheck the bags in but I’ve had to go through security again. This, to be fair was at Dublin airport flying from Birmingham through to Boston. Also, my mum had had a recent bad experience with a connecting flight at Toronto, where she completely missed her flight.  We didn’t want this to happen to us. We needn’t have worried. Although the airport was heaving with people all off on flights here, there and everywhere, we got to our gate in plenty of time.  We found out we had to go on yet another shuttle bus which delayed things.  The plane looked like it was parked the furthest away from the terminal and near to the runway!

By this time I was just desperate to get home.  The plane was full and I couldn’t wait for it to take off.  It seemed ages before we got going but I never once felt unsafe or rushed on an IcelandAir flight.  I don’t like landing in planes and found two out of the four landings a bit scary for me.  The first when we arrived at Keflavik it was very windy and the plane seemed to move from side to side. The final landing at Manchester frightened the life out of me as the wheels came down with such a massive bump, I thought we were going to crash.  I don’t know why I don’t like landing so much but I’ve had a couple of nasty landings at Leeds Bradford in crosswinds.  The last nasty landing back into Leeds Bradford frightened me so much as the plane lurched forward, I really thought that was the end!

 I have had a fantastic experience flying with IcelandAir.  I hope to go back to Iceland on holiday in the next couple of years as there was so much we didn’t get to see. Also there will be future trips to Canada to see my family.  It is such a great idea to combine a holiday in Iceland if you are travelling further afield and the flight cost was so much cheaper than say if we had flown direct to Edmonton from Heathrow.  Also, if you fly to the USA, IcelandAir offer regular flights to various US cities, such as Boston and Los Angeles.

Please note I have written this review purely to share what a great experience I had flying with IcelandAir and haven’t been paid for this post.

Love Sam xx

 

 

Our Visit To The Blue Lagoon-Iceland.

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The Blue Lagoon in Iceland: top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember!

Iceland has always been one of those places to visit on my bucket list. I saw photos of the stunning scenery, the mountains and the clear blue lakes and just knew one day I had to go. Both my husband and I felt the same.  We got close to going a couple of times, including when we wanted to go somewhere to celebrate my 40th birthday but the flights never fitted in around our schedule.  I’m not complaining though, I did get to go to the Italian Lakes and Venice which was also on my bucket list!

Last year my son had the chance to go on a school trip to Iceland as part of his Geography GCSE course.  He just HAD to go although the rest of us in our family were wishing we could go too!  One of the things he got to do was to go to the Blue Lagoon, somewhere we wanted to go to when we were there.  Every time I saw pictures of it on the Internet I felt more and more determined to go.  Although it would mean the other tourists and local Icelandic folk seeing me in my swimming costume- ugh! My son loved the Blue Lagoon and when he came back from his trip I noticed something miraculous. He has always suffered from bad eczema but it had virtually cleared up after his spell in the Blue Lagoon.  I also think the lovely, natural healing water in Iceland also has something to do with it, though! The water in the Blue Lagoon is rich in minerals like silica and sulphur (a downside is that it smells like eggy farts!).  The water is delightful and warm where the temperature is usually between 37-39oC.

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Outside the entrance to the Blue Lagoon.

We were so excited when we finally got to visit Iceland last month. We combined our four day trip with a visit to Canada. This took advantage of IcelandAir’s #mystopover campaign where you can break your journey for up to 7 days without an extra charge. So at long last I would get to visit the Blue Lagoon! Pre-booking is essential or advised. I didn’t know this until I looked on the website the day before to find out how much it would cost to get in.  It was a good thing I looked: on that day the Blue Lagoon was fully booked up. Luckily the following day they had a space at 4pm.  There were different packages, we chose the second cheapest, called the Comfort. For the time we went this cost us about 65 euros each.

 

The Blue Lagoon first came about in 1976 after a pool formed on the site from the waste water of the geothermal power plant that had just been built there.  In the early 1980’s people started to bathe in the pool after they found it might have healing powers.  By 1992 The Blue Lagoon company had been formed and turned into a bathing facility for the public. There is a strict hygiene code and you must shower before and after bathing in the Blue Lagoon.

When it was our time slot to go into the lagoon we were given an electronic tag which was on a wristband rather like a Fitbit. You use these to activate your locker and to record any drink purchases. We then went off to our respective changing rooms which were clean and spacious.  There were communal areas and private cubicles for changing into your swimwear.   Everyone before going in the Lagoon needs to shower carefully.  

At the poolside entrance there were racks where you could put your towels and robes. I just had a towel with me.  Even though I didn’t have my flip flops with me, I wish I had because some areas did look slippy, especially when walking down some steps.  I had left them in the locker in the changing room.  Even though there were a lot of people in the Lagoon, it didn’t feel crowded and I felt like I could swim around rather than just paddling! 

As part of our package we got a free drink included and two face masks.  It was hilarious when my son wanted a Slush Puppy drink but it was called Krap!  I didn’t feel  like asking “Can I have a Krap?” but the drinks were lovely.  I had a blueberry smoothie made with Skyr (Icelandic yoghurt). The face masks were an algae one and a silica gel one. The algae one  made me look like Shrek for about 5 minutes but my face felt lovely and smooth after.  In fact after a few days spent in Iceland, my skin felt wonderful.

We spent  over an hour in the Blue Lagoon and it definitely lived up to my expectations. We would love to go back to Iceland as there’s so much to see and do but it would be worth it just to go back to the Blue Lagoon!

Love Sam xx

Icelandic Marriage Cake.

Whenever I go on holiday I like to find out if there are any traditional local cakes either to try  or to recreate at home.  Last month we went to Iceland for four days as a stopover on our way to Canada.  I didn’t eat any cake or sample any Icelandic baking but was curious to know if Iceland has any traditional cake recipes.

On our flight back from Edmonton to Keflavik flying with IcelandAir I was looking through the menu card for the inflight meals and snacks.  They were offering what looked like a flapjack bar with jam in the middle called a Marriage Cake.  Although I didn’t eat one, I thought I’d Google it when I got home and see if I could make one myself.

Looking up about the marriage cake was interesting, there were lots of recipes around but nothing mentioned the origins of it and why it was called marriage cake. Maybe in years gone by it might have been one of the first things a newly married wife would bake for her husband to please him. It seemed quite an easy recipe so, maybe if the new wife wasn’t used to cooking.  I don’t know.  Maybe it contains aphrodisiacs?!!  Anyway, most recipes I came across had a few things in common. They tended to be baked in a circular cake tin with a crumble type base. There would be a layer of mixed raspberry jam with rhubarb, then the remains of the crumble mixture would be sprinkled on top.

Eventually I came across this recipe on the Delicious Magazine website:

http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/happy-marriage-cake/

The recipe uses a mixture of rhubarb and strawberry jam in the filling. I didn’t have any of that jam in my cupboard, although Mr SmartCookieSam sometimes loves MacKays Rhubarb and Ginger Jam on his toast for breakfast. I used some Bonne Maman Blueberry Jam instead. It wouldn’t have been that authentic but I didn’t want to go out buying more jam when I had plenty in the cupboard.

I chose to bake the Marriage Cake in a square tin instead of in the circular loose bottom tin like other recipes suggested. I wanted it to be cut in bars instead of slices so I used a tin I use a lot for when I bake brownies and shortbread. To prepare the tin, I greased it with some Wilton Cake Release, which I swear by.

In a large mixing bowl I creamed together some softened butter and light brown muscovado sugar. I thought that if this was meant to be a crumble type mixture then you would need to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Instead this sounded more like baking biscuits! I followed the recipe anyway and then added a beaten egg to the creamed mixture. Once this was added in, then I put in some plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and some porridge oats. This did look more like a cookie dough at the end of it.

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Two thirds of the crumble mixture was pressed into the tin to form the marriage cake’s base.

The middle of the cake was made up of blueberry jam, although this was a bit runny!

The final layer was the topping which was the last third of the crumble mixture. Very rustic looking but it was all in the taste.

The Marriage Cake cooling on the rack before being cut into bars,

 On the day that I baked the Marriage Cake I was in a funny mood.  The weather was lousy and every time I tried to start something I would get interrupted.  Not by my kids, though, they were both out at the time but by cold callers phoning!  Then as soon as I got the cold caller off the phone,  the phone went again.  The warmth of my kitchen is my sanctuary, where I go to relax and unwind.  It was having the opposite effect today.  Soon though, the delicious smell wafted through the house from my oven.  I was meant to be dieting but with the rubbish weather I felt like I needed something full of carbs. I could hardly wait for them to cool down.

To be honest I was a little bit disappointed.  The blueberry jam made the Marriage Bars far too sweet. Maybe if I had used the rhubarb jam, which is more tart then it wouldn’t have been so sickly.  I took a bite out of one of the bars and that was all I had.  This is unheard of for me, I began to wonder if I was ill! Me finding something too sweet?  I left the bars out on the worktop and when my kids came back in they had one each.  Funny how they would usually turn their noses up at most things but they enjoyed these.

What was so funny was that I posted a photo of the bars on Facebook later and then put the bars into a plastic tub in the fridge.  Mr SmartCookieSam who only goes on Facebook to spy on me and the kids saw the post about the Marriage Cakes  a couple of days later and commented “I haven’t seen these!” Funny how the man I’m married to was the only one  who hadn’t seen the cakes. I told him to look in the fridge but found a completely empty box!  My kids never wash out empty boxes, they just leave them there for me to clean! Such is life!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Peach Bellini Bundt Cake.

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Peach Bellini Bundt Cake. Recipe adapted from Rachel McGrath’s Pink Champagne Bundt Cake in The Clandestine Cake Club’s book “A Year Of Cake”

Last weekend I finally got the chance to go along to one of North Yorkshire and Teeside Clandestine Cake Club events.  My friend Heidi is the group organiser but I’ve never actually been to one of her events.  They’d always clashed with other things going on.

ssyLife has calmed down here a little in the SmartCookieSam house.  We had a hectic few weeks with our holiday visiting family over in Canada, then it was busy at the end of term. It’s taken me a while to wind down.  It’s been great to chill out at home as well as trying to get all those annoying little jobs done that never seem to get done at other times of the year.  My house is the cleanest and tidiest it has been in a long time, well it is if you ignore my two teenagers’ messy rooms!

I was pleased I could get along and enjoy cake, drinks and a good old natter with the other members who I hadn’t got the chance to meet up with before.

The event this time was held in a popular pub in Redcar called The Lobster which does great food. One to try again if I’m in the area.  Heidi had chosen the theme of Alcholic Cakes being as we were in a pub.  I was originally going to bake a White Chocolate and Limoncello cake but I didn’t want to go out and buy a bottle of Limoncello especially for the cake. It’s not something I really drink. I did buy some once on holiday in Rome a few years back but it ended up in several trifles over the next few months or so.  I had to chose a cake that would contain something I already had in my drinks cabinet or something I knew we could drink the remainder of.

Thinking of Italy and limoncello got me thinking about another, more recent trip to Italy. This time I was thinking back to my 40th birthday trip to the Italian Lakes and to Venice.  I remember Mr SmartCookieSam and I enjoying a Bellini cocktail outside a cafe in Varenna on the banks of Lake Como.  I haven’t drunk one since though they are easy to make with  prosecco and peach juice. I found that Sugar and Crumbs had brought out a limited edition flavoured icing sugar as part of their summer range, so the idea for a Peach Bellini Bundt was born.  The recipe I used was adapted from a Pink Champagne Bundt cake recipe featured in the second Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook “A Year Of Cake”.  In this recipe all I had to do was substitute the pink champagne for about 300ml of Prosecco.  I chose the cheapest Prosecco that Morrisons did which was about £5.99 and luckily there was half a bottle left after I’d finished baking the cake!

The ingredients that got used in my Peach Bellini Bundt Cake.

It was the perfect opportunity to try out my latest bundt pan which I bought when over in Canada. My brother and sister in law took me to Williams Sonoma which I guess is like a US/ Canadian version of Lakeland.  I was in bundt heaven and had I got more room in my suitcase I would have bought more! I came away with the 70th Anniversary Bundt pan and the giant snowflake one which was perfect.

I hoped and prayed that the bundt would come out of the tin in one piece.

Yippee! It did, except for one tiny piece.

I’m always careful and meticulous when greasing my bundt pans but this still gets me worried every time I bake a bundt and it doesn’t come out of the pan.  I have my usual praying it comes out of the pan in one piece game and if it won’t budge I have to give it a good thump.  Today the bellini bundt thought it wasn’t going to come out until I thumped the top of the inverted tin on the wire rack.  Fortunately, except for one tiny piece, it slid out in one piece! A miracle!

When the bundt had cooled I started on the Peach Bellini icing.  I opened the packet of icing sugar which was conveniently exactly the amount I needed to ice the bundt.  This was 500g which I was pleased about as I don’t like waste. I added a splash of prosecco and a spoonful of water to the icing sugar. The consistency came out just as I liked it.  The icing, though was white and I wanted my icing to be a peach colour like a Bellini.  There was one thing for it, to get out my food colouring.  I can be a bit heavy handed with the food colouring and today was no exception.  Two drops of red, one of yellow.  Only the red drops were too big, more like blobs!  This meant it came out a very dark orangey red.  I was really annoyed with myself. I couldn’t make any more up as I didn’t have any more Bellini icing sugar.  How embarrassing.  I could just see everyone looking at the horrible colour and be put off eating it. There was nothing else I could do, but to carry on and decorate the bundt with the luridly bright icing! I laughed it off, even when Mr SmartCookieSam said the cake looked like a road accident!

I got a bit too heavy handed with the food colouring!

On Saturday afternoon, it was a quick and easy drive up from my home near Boroughbridge to Redcar and the cake survived the journey without slipping and toppling over in the boot.   I had to put the cake in one of my massive cupcake boxes as they were the only ones tall enough for the height of the bundt.  Everyone was joking about the size of my cake box and laughing about how much cake I could fit in to take home!  All the cakes I tried were absolutely scrumptious and mine didn’t taste too bad, despite the bright icing. Thankfully people did taste it and ignored the loud colour!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

Maple Syrup Cake

Maple Syrup Cake- the recipe comes from The Clandestine Cake Club book A Year Of Cake to commemorate Canada Day!

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a blog post update. I shouldn’t have any excuses as it’s the summer holidays and I’ve got much more time than I usually have.  But summer holidays also means a chance to catch up on a long list of jobs I don’t get done and the blogging goes by the wayside.  There have been so many blog posts in draft on the system for a few weeks now.  Today, as I write I thought enough is enough and I need to get back into it.

A couple of weeks ago I joined in with the Clandestine Cake Club’s A Year Of Cake Monthly Bakealong for July. For the monthly bakealong you have to choose one of the recipes featured in A Year Of Cake for that relevant month and bake it. You share photos and experiences with others and Lynn Hill, the founder of the Clandestine Cake Club does a write-up and posts it on the website.  The July chapter has eight different cakes to choose from.  I chose to adapt the first recipe in the chapter, Shelley Titmus’ Bacon and Maple Syrup Cake in honour of Canada Day.

Coincidentally I was in Canada on holiday in July, visiting my brother and his family.  I missed being there for Canada Day on 1st July, although my mum got to enjoy the celebrations! I would have loved to have taken a cake over to my family but it would have got a bit damaged on the plane!

Shelley’s Maple Syrup Cake is actually made with bacon as well.  I’ve never tried bacon in a cake before though I’ve had it with pancakes and maple syrup.  I would have needed about 18 pieces of streaky, dry cured bacon to add to the recipe.  The bacon is grilled until crispy.  Some is added into the cake batter, the rest used as a topping and filling for the cake. I didn’t have any bacon in but I had some other ingredients I wanted to use in the cake.  I had brought back some genuine Maple Syrup back with me from Edmonton, as well as some maple flavoured peanuts.  I thought the peanuts would be a fantastic alternative to the bacon in the cake.

I didn’t actually start to bake the cake until the very last day in July.  It ended up being a Sunday lunch dessert/ pudding.  It was a fantastic reminder of a very special holiday.  The cake itself is baked in three layers in 3 separate 20cm or 8″ diameter sandwich tins.  I creamed sugar and butter together with an electric whisk, then added  5 beaten eggs one at a time.  These were mixed in slowly with some flour and a little milk, along with 3 tbsp of the pure Canadian Maple Syrup.  I didn’t add any maple peanuts to the actual cake as I wasn’t sure how they’d react to baking. Instead I kept them for the filling and topping.

While the cakes were baking, I made up the cake filling and topping.  This was a simple buttercream icing but maple syrup was added to the icing to flavour it as well.  It tasted gorgeous but very sweet so a little piece would be all you would need.

The finished Maple Syrup Cake.

Instead of baking my cake with crispy, streaky bacon I used some maple syrup peanuts bought on my holiday in Canada.

Who’s been eating my cake?

It was too tempting to scoff a piece of this luscious cake with a coffee .

The three layers baked for about 20-25 minutes and once cooked came out of the oven and cooled down on a wire rack.  I went off to start a couple of other jobs so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat the spare peanuts or to decorate the cake before it was cool enough.  There was enough icing and enough peanuts to decorate the cake with.  To finish off, I drizzled some more maple syrup on the top of the cake.

We ended up having our Sunday dinner later than planned, so guess who ended up troughing a piece before? Yes, you guessed right! It was absolutely delicious and the cake didn’t last long. I’ll definitely be baking this one again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx