Apple Scone Round

img_0522Last week my Dad and step mum gave me a bag of beautiful looking apples from the tree in their garden. I was delighted with them as the apples on my own tree in my front garden aren’t quire ready yet. The apples are a bit small and hard at the moment. To top all that, Mr SmartCookieSam had to prune the tree a couple of weeks back as our greedy and nosy Labrador worked out a way that he could shake the tree to make apples fall down. He had a great time doing this until he ended up hurting his tail after jumping up at the tree! I’ll have to see if they are worth using in a couple of weeks time.

Every year I think about what I could bake with the apples and I get fed up of the same things. Of course crumbles and pies work well and I did make a few different apple cakes. But sometimes you just want to try something different.  I gor out my recipe books and looked for all the apple recipes I could find.

One simple but delicious recipe is one I’ve baked before but never actually made it at home. In my previous post about Cheesy Feet I mentioned about working in a school and running a Cookery Club. This was a big success and wherever possible we tried to use fruit and veg that was grown in the school garden.  We did have an apple tree which on one year only produced two apples. So we made a big thing of using the two apples in a yummy apple scone round.

The original apple scone round recipe comes from the very first Great British Bake Off recipe book published back in 2010 to accompany the first series: The Great British Book Of Baking.

It’s a great recipe and I found it perfect for baking with children.

First, you need to peel, chop and core some apple. I used two medium sized ones. I put the chopped apple to one side in a bowl but worked quickly so that the apple didn’t start to turn brown. Then in another bowl I rubbed in butter, self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon to create a breadcrumb texture. Then some demarera sugar was added to sweeten the mixture.  When this was done I added a little bit of whole milk bit by bit until it formed a manageable ball of dough.

On a large baking sheet covered in baking parchment, I put the dough but flattened it out gently until it was about 20cm in diameter. I then got a knife and divided the scone into 8 by scoring the lines on the top of the dough.  Into the oven it went for about 20 minutes.

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Ready for the oven.

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Apple Scone Round; a great way of using all those leftover apples.

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A slice of apple scone with a cup of tea and some Cheddar cheese.

To get the best out of the flavour and taste, as with all scones it is best to eat them warm and fresh.  As I’d baked the scone round on a late Saturday afternoon and was going out for dinner, we didn’t eat any til the following day. It was ok but probably should have been eaten straightaway. A great serving suggestion popular round my way is to serve it with a slice of cheese: something like Cheddar or Wensleydale would work well. Failing that, it would also be delicious with a good dollop of clotted cream on the side.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

 

Cheesy Feet

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Cheesy Feet: a favourite recipe baked with children in the school I used to work with and also with my own kids.

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m a primary school teacher.  I do supply now as it fits in much better around my family and home life but I’ve always loved teaching and working with young children.  Although the teaching profession isn’t what it used to be, I feel I have the best of it doing supply.  I don’t get all the stresses that permanent teachers have.

Before I did supply teaching full time I worked in a local primary school for eight years.  I did a lot of supply there but also worked as a teaching assistant in the KS1 class.  I loved that job, but sadly TA’s are very poorly paid for what they do.  The money didn’t bother me, what I got out of it was a lot more than a pay cheque.  I got job satisfaction and a lot of laughs, giggles and happy memories to treasure along the way.

I had only been working at the school a couple of weeks when the class teacher asked me if  I wanted to cook with the children.  I was so excited when I got asked to do this and we thought about a recipe we could use which fitted around the topic of Ourselves.  I thought about some recipes we had and apart from the obvious, making gingerbread men I remembered a great recipe I had in one of my Nigella Lawson books.  In Feast, there is a recipe called Cheesy Feet!  This gave us all a big laugh because I said to the children, sometimes cheese can be smelly and so can people’s feet if they are hot and sweaty.  This started the children laughing and saying their Dad’s feet smelled!  I told them they hadn’t smelt Mr SmartCookieSam’s feet after he’d been wearing trainers!

I had a foot shaped biscuit cutter but we couldn’t make pairs of feet as you couldn’t turn it the other way round.  So all of our cheesy feet biscuits were left feet!

Although it was ten years ago that I baked the Cheesy Feet with the children I worked with, we regularly cooked or baked in school.  I also ran an after school Cookery Club for three years as I am passionate about getting kids cooking and learning life skills. Sadly the same school has just closed down and I was reminiscing about activities we had done in the classroom.  Several former pupils remembered my cookery club and said they loved my cheesy feet!  In fact it had been such a hit, several parents asked for the recipe!

This last weekend I was feeling in a very nostalgic mood.  My daughter has just gone off to uni for the first time and my son has started college. I wanted to bake something and thought back to the Cheesy Feet.  I just had to bake them again for old time’s sake!

The Cheesy Feet are simply like savoury biscuits and they taste just like cheese straws.  You can make them in a food processor or by hand.  I can’t give the recipe here as it’s not my own, it’s Nigella’s but I can give you a link to it.

Nigella Lawson’s Cheesy Feet Recipe

I didn’t use a food processor as mine has broken and I still haven’t got round to replacing it. I’m trying to find one that juices as well, maybe it might have to go on my Christmas list? So instead I rubbed in the butter, baking powder and plain flour together until the mixture looked like breadcrumbs.  After that I combined this with some grated cheese and formed it into a ball.  Nigella said the recipe makes about 16 feet but her cutter must have been slightly smaller than mine. I only got 11 biscuits.

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The Cheesy Feet didn’t last very long in our house.

I baked the Cheesy Feet on a Saturday afternoon and put them on the cooling rack in my kitchen.  I went upstairs to get ready as Mr SmartCookieSam and I were going out that night. When I came back downstairs I noticed there were only 6 feet left! Mr SmartCookieSam had been eating them! He said they were moreish and reminded him of cheese straws, which he also loves!

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Our greedy Labradot wanted a Cheesy Foot as well!

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“I want one of those!”

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Yesterday we had had our lunch outside in the gorgeous September sunshine and then Mr SmartCookieSam asked for a cheesy foot to go with his cup of tea. One cheesy foot turned into the rest of the box apart from one which I ate with the dog sat there drooling at me.

A recipe which is easily adaptable, you could add herbs, or maybe some cayenne pepper or paprika to the dough or even some finely chopped garlic and onion! Now that would make your cheesy feet smell even more!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Jaffa Cakes #GBBOTwitterBakealong (Series 7 Cake Week Technical Challenge)

I’m so excited that The Great British Bake Off is back. What do you think of it so far? In the first couple of episodes I spend most of the time getting confused as you begin to find out who’s who. I get muddled up with what each contestant bakes to begin with but after this week’s programme I felt ravenous. I’d already had my dinner but all I could think about was eating a great big piece of drizzle cake, followed by some Jaffa cakes and finished off with a slice of a mirrored chocolate cake! Much too tempting and as someone who really struggles with dieting, it’s going to be hard not to succumb!

Anyway, Bake Off mania started the day before the first episode came out in SmartCookieSam’s house. My copy of the brand new Bake Off book arrived. The book to accompany this series is called Perfect Cakes and Bakes to Make At Home. I wasn’t disappointed and this year the book wasn’t too heavily bread and yeast bakes biased as last year’s one was. I was impressed with the layout and the introduction featuring all the bakers too. The recipes in this year’s book are also ones which I can see myself baking so I think I’ll be having a go at a few over the next few weeks- watch this space! 

It didn’t take me long to plan out what my first bake from the book would be. Week 1’s Technical Bake was for Jaffa Cakes. Not only that but it was the theme for this week’s #GBBOTwitterBakelalong. This was perfect as they’re my son’s favourites as well. He has always loved Jaffa Cakes and once came home from school at Christmas with one of those giant metre long packets. His mate had bought him it as a Christmas present. We were allowed to have some but I think it was me who gave him the taste for them! When I was pregnant with him, I loved eating Jaffa cakes. Then again I had a craving for mushy peas when I was expecting my daughter and she hates them!

The thing is though, when you have a much loved shop bought biscuit or cake, you never know what a homemade version will turn out like. I never forget my one and only time trying to make chocolate teacakes and faffing about with making homemade marshmallow! I’ve never made them since, only bought Tunnocks instead! The same applies to Jaffa cakes, could I make them taste like McVities ones and would they be too much faff?

Last Saturday afternoon was typical August Bank Holiday weather. I’d done my cleaning and was about to go outside to start hoovering out my car. It’s in a terrible state as my dog sat on the back seat after a muddy walk and I’d forgotten to take a towel with me. But just as I was about to get the Hoover out, it started raining. Secretly I thought this was great as I could do some baking.

The first job was to make up a packet of orange jelly as you would usually do. I usually buy the sachets with powder in but this time I used a traditional block.

Baking the Jaffa Cakes didn’t take that long even though it was broken down into stages.  Once the jelly was setting in the fridge I got on with the sponge bases.  These are a fat less whisked sponge mixture, where you whisked sugar and eggs together for five minutes and then some self raising flour was folded in. To bake the sponges I used a shallow 12 hole tart or mince pie tin which was greased before with Wilton Cake Release. The sponges didn’t take much baking, only 9 minutes. I took them out when the sponges sprung back when I touched them.

After a few minutes the sponges were ready to come out of the tin.  This is where I always panic as I didn’t want anything sticking.  Thankfully apart from one cake which was a bit on the small side, they came out ok.  By the way, the recipe says that there is more than enough mixture and when spooning it into the tin, you only need to fill it three quarters full! There was a bit left over but I wouldn’t have had enough chocolate to cover any extras.

I left the sponges to cool down but as it was a day when I was trying to catch up on everything I was desperate to get on with the next stage.  I poked the jelly setting in the fridge and it seemed alright.  So I thought I’d try and cut out the jelly circles.  The recipe says you are meant to turn out the whole jelly rectangle onto a piece of baking paper and cut circles out of it.  I was rushing so much that I realised the jelly wasn’t properly set and it slid out onto the baking paper in a massive orange blob!  So there was one thing for it, I had to pile teaspoonfuls of orange jelly on top of the sponges, not neat little circles!

I then melted some dark chocolate and spooned it on top of the jelly blobbed sponges. Of course this wasn’t going to be a neat job with the mess I’d made with the jelly! The jelly began to move about as I spread the chocolate on. As for doing the criss-cross pattern on top of the Jaffa Cakes- forget it!

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A delicious and well-loved family treat, home made style.  Don’t mind if I do!

Would I bake the Jaffa Cakes again? They tasted wonderful and not as sweet as the shop bought ones.  They were quite faffy to make though but I might try again when I’m not rushing things.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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