Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Happy Birthday Aaron

Aaron would have been 15 today.

                            Story behind this photo -
         "Aaron blanked me and I had to work hard for my reward of a smile,
              but this smile is when John told him off the next day 
      and he just laughed 'cause he thought it was very funny blanking mummy!!!! 
                            He did it all the time!!!"

There is so much I want to write about, but as today is about Aaron, above all else, for this post to be a celebration of him.  I asked his mum, Sandra if she would jot down an annecdote or two. Anything at all that is special to her. She sent me a poem written by his teachers and rather than diluting it's message by taking excerpts of it I decided that I would put it in, in it's touching entirety. I had so many ideas about what I wanted to say but do you know what?...When I read this I was knocked sideways. So much better than I could ever say it:

Aaron the Rascal...

R is for remembering, something we will always do,
The way you put a smile on our face, it was all up to you.
Tou loved the rough and tumble and smiled when we danced around the room,
You even loved us to sing some opera, even if it was out of tune!
But one thing will stick in our minds, the day Caitriona Ruane came to Visit,
You practically laughed in her face and I think she left quite livid!
Nothing like showing us up Aaron on Tor Bank's biggest day,
but it shows just what you're like, "I'll do it my way" you say.

A is for all the attention from the attractive nurses on the ward,
What did they have that we didn't Aaron?
'Cause without you in the classroom we were slightly bored.
Did they tickle your toes, give you cuddles, even rub your head?
Oh, how did we not realise it was all about getting into the bed!
You liked to keep them busy, everybody knows,
Running around the ward day and night, keepin them on their toes!

S is for being sick, thats what you liked to do every day,
"I'll think we'll have a little game", says you "you know I like to play",
As soon as the coat went on, we new the fun had begun,
Gloves, kidney dishes, Tena sheets, suction machines, you loved to see us run!
As soon as the bus pulled up, the sickness had all been and gone,
and with a smile on your face, you knew what you were doing well and truly all along!

C is for confined in physical terms, something that was so tough,
but if anyone could handle it, it was you 'cause you're made of tougher stuff!
For someone as young as you are, you've put up with an awful lot,
an even when it came to the end you gave it a second thought.
Not sure if it was your time to go, I know we waited for you to pull through,
But one thing can be said about you Aaron, you're a fighter through and through!

A is for all the years you've been in our school Tor Bank,
putting up with all those staff, we're not sure who to thank!
You've touched so many lives and blessed us in so many ways,
You definitely won't be forgotten, that's what we all want to say.
We'll think of your smile, giggle and red hair, even the sickness too,
There's no getting out of it Aaron, we won't be forgetting you!

L is for loved, something that you will always be,
And today you're up in heaven playing with old friends you've waited to see.
And Aaron you're a colourful child, like a rainbow in the sky,
And today we're dressed in bright colours in case you're ascking why?
We love you so dearly, that we wanted you to know,
But heaven sent their angel down and said it was time to go.
You're safe in the arms of Jesus with a perfect body today,
And we look forward to the reunion with you Aaron, it will be an extra special, fantastic day!
We love you, we will miss you, you have played such a special part,
Thanks for letting us know you Aaron, you will forever remain in our hearts.

Sandra is a good friend of ours and in order to celebrate Aaron's birthday wanted cupcakes to bring to the respite care home that looked after him. The only stipulation was "bright, rainbow colours", with thoughts of vibrant icing in her head. With a wry smile and a different idea in MY head I came up with these, I think we did him proud.

                                                     Vanilla Rainbow Marble with Sky Icing.

Aaron had Cerebral Palsy and passed away, aged 12.

Happy birthday Aaron.

Love & kisses

Suzi. xx

Monday, 21 May 2012

Down Time

Bloggy woggy doodah, what to write about today?

It's been a crazy few days, full of orders, meetings and automotive electrical failures but you don't want to hear about that.  The orders were  fun, the meetings were dull and the car is a pain in the rump.  But I love my Big Betty and she will rise again!!! Once Neil stops swearing at her and pulling bits off!!!

So, with the meetings met, the orders made and collected, the kids asleep, the kitchen cleaned and a ginger tea in hand, lets talk.

                                              Mads prefers being chaufeured at the moment.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE. The term makes me shudder. We have to work but we NEED a life!!! There is more to our existance than the paycheck. We don't make as much money right now as we did when Neil was working but then he was leaving the house as the kids were getting up and on the rare days he wasn't working late, he was getting home as the kids were going to bed.  More often than not he was getting home as I was going to bed. 6 days a week. Trust me, money isnt everything! Of course we dream of being millionaires like everyone else does but purely by adjusting how we spend we are happy enough.  We have sacrificed a few of the niceties but nothing too depressing. Is fabric softener really that important?

                                              Finn & Vale have a break in "Hutchy's Hedge"
                                        Vale appear to be trying to move her bike via telekinesis

The big thing though is the balance has swung the other way. We have a LIFE/WORK BALANCE. We work together and for the moment at least, we work from home.  Where the kids are! No commute! Less fuel costs! Less stress! MORE LIFE! The kids are growing up with their dad around all the time, not just as that bloke who looks shattered in the livingroom every Sunday.

Weekends aren't really weekends in our house. People have parties and get married or older at weekends so Friday and Saturday tend to be our busy days but weekdays after school and Sundays (On the assumption the MotoGP isn't on and that bloke in the livingroom isn't grumbling about how the kids are louder than Eurosport) then we make as much time as possible to be a family. Simple things generally like playing games or watching Peppa Pig...Or chasing the kids round the house and tickling them until they can't breathe! That's just some sort of legal torture isn't it? Finn would say anything you want him to if it will make you stop!

But today it's summer!!!!! IT'S SUMMER!!!! It may not be tommorrow but today? Today was a day for bikes!!! This is what life is about for us. It's all about the kids. And bless them they're so easy pleased. We have a long country lane for a driveway with a couple of hills and a few bends. A run or two up and down and the kids are over the moon. We all love a trip to the BMX track but when time is tight it does the trick. Especially on a warm summers day.
                                                               Pedally bike Tetris!!!!

I'd have liked to have had more photos to show you but it's hard to look through a camera when you can't watch our fearless Vale careering down a hill on her balance bike. Feet up, tucked down, no brakes.

Our life won't be to everybodies taste but to us we are living the dream.

Love & kisses

Suzi. xx

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Generation Game

It's a funny old world. One that seems to get busier and busier. Convenience has become a bit of a buzz word surrounding a lot of things, convenience food, convenience store etc, etc, etc. We seem to be losing track of skills that have been passed from generation to generation. How many of your peers can bake? Or knit? Or even sew on a button? I appreciate that this is a sweeping statement and as with everything in life there is the exception to the rule but I can count on one hand the amount of people my own age who can do these things. Or perhaps that should be, have an interest in doing these things. It is, after all, easier to buy cake than make it. I find that a bit sad. I love baking! It's as much a hobby as it is a business.

                                       It's safe to say there's a certain amount of mucking about!

And it's fun! At Nice Buns, we are determined that it will not be a dying art. We are bringing it to the new generation! Our 3 kids love to bake (apart from the oven bit! bit young for that yet!). They enjoy measuring and weighing the ingredients, mixing is a free pass to make a mess, icing is, to them, the edible equivalent of one of those play-doh hairdresser shops. They're imaginations run riot and at the end they get a generally over the top and somewhat abstract masterpiece of a snack. More importantly they get a snack that is free from preservatives and can be free from anything artificial. Usually we let them have a dab of colour for the icing but everything else is as nature intended. What's more, it is fantastic bonding time where we all destroy the kitchen as a family.

                                         The girls at work. Shortbread for afternoon munching.

The summer holidays are fast approaching and we would like to share the carnage with you and your families. Come join us at Nice Buns HQ with your kids. We'll make a mess, make some cake, have some fun and hope fully inspire a new generation of little future bakers! And you won't even have to clean up afterwards.

                                         If there's no baking on the go, there's always pretend!

E-mail us at and tell us what you would like to learn and when. Sugarcraft? Icing techniques? Some easy baking? EVERYTHING? All open for discussion. We haven't set class dates yet so would love your input as to when suits best. We don't want to clash with the 2 weeks of sunshine now do we?

Love & kisses

Suzi. xx

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mads is Hot and Trendy!!! WOOOO!!!!!!

It's official!!! Our Maddie is hot and trendy! Everyone we know is soooo jealous that we have such a cool kid!!

                                               Looking hot and trendy whilst mountain-biking!

There is a lot of fuss being made in the states about a comment on The Today Show about coeliac disease being "the new, hot disease these days" and "the trendy disease". And it was a doctor that said this!! Now, understandably this has not gone down well amongst Coeliac/Celiac community. Is that right? Are we a community? Not sure that sounds as I want it to. I  was made aware of it through the amazing powers of Twitter. (To which, I am getting thoroughly addicted!!) I was led to the website of @InspiredRD. Or Alysa Bajenaru as she is known in the real world, a dietition from Phoenix, Arizona. She, like our wee Mads has Coeliac.

Im not going to get all militant here but I have to agree!! The new hot disease?!?!? Really?!?! Lucky Mads!!! on...she's two years old and needs cleaned from nipples to shoulder blades, the long way round if she so much as licks something with gluten. Is that hot or trendy?

Lets be realistic for a moment. I don't think this was a purposeful attack at the seriousness of Coeliac. It was a flipant, off the cuff comment or it was a badly scripted piece of comic relief. It was bloody stupid! That much I know for sure! How can a disease be hot? Or trendy? IT'S A DISEASE!!! Can you imagine the outcry if  she had said cancer was hot? Hey folks, Leukemia is awesome!!! All the cool kids have it!!!

OK, OK, big difference but my point still stands.You wouldn't trivialize cancer, so why would you with coeliac? Or any disease? She then went on to say it was easy fixed. Just stop eating gluten. Ta dah!! It's a miracle!! No mention of cross contamination issues or how gluten is in so many places you wouldn't expect etc. Or the general trials and tribulations of living with it.

I appreciate that there was probably a limited time slot but if they didn't have time to create awareness properly, should they have even mentioned it? Would it not have made more sense to create a time slot at a later date that is long enough to discuss the subject fully?

There is a trend for gluten free dieting for weight loss and certainly it would appear beneficial. Likewise, there are people who have reduced their gluten intake for the health benefits and I fully support these people for what they choose to do. Anything that makes you feel healthier has to be a good thing, right? But this could have a part to play in why the Coeliac message is being diluted. Is there confusion between those that want to and those that have to? I'm not saying there is but for Joe Average off the street that may well be the case as he may have no need to know. And that's fine...buuuuuut for someone who has a doctorate in medicine and has been invited to talk about it on a national television show I sincerely hope it isn't a point of view they share.

For the truth on Coeliac, here's a link:

For Alysa's blog including THE clip, here's another link:

Love & kisses

Suzi. xx

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Here, There & Everywhere

Where does food come from?

                                               Finn knows! He's always been a farm boy.
                                             18 months in this pic and mastered the art of
                                             driving a Land Rover through a muddy field!!!

There's a lot of fuss at the moment about "food miles" what with fuel cost and environmental issues etc.  At times, you are almost made to feel guilty because those bananas in your supermarket trolley weren't grown on your doorstep. Now I don't fully buy into this. I live in Northern Ireland!!!! For those of you who have never been here, there is not a snowball's chance in hell of growing a mango worth eating! There's a reason that Ireland is associated with potatoes. They don't need an abundance of heat and sun and aren't too worried about near constant rain. And that's fine...but I like mangos.

However, I will buy locally where possible, so food which can be produced in Northern Ireland can be found in my trolley. And ingredients for our cakes are almost entirely local. REALLY local. This came about through blind luck as much as anything.

                                                     Vale meanwhile is more interested in
                                                             livestock than machinery.

Eggs is eggs they say. No! They really aren't! You get what you pay for and the difference in quality and taste between a free range egg and a mass produced battery egg is massive. The difference between the battery egg and a free range, grass fed chicken's egg from a small producer is phenomenal!  This is why we keep our own.  We can ensure that the best quality eggs go into our buns without having to pay a premium to get them. And as local produce goes? Well...They're about 50ft away.


Milk is a little bit trickier. We dont have space for a herd of cows. Nor a dairy. But a family friend of ours does. They have been dairy farmers for generations and I have milked their cows since I was 9 years old. Summer holidays, weekends and so on. I just love life on the farm! Now obviously we can't take milk directly from their cows so it goes a little something like this. Cows go into parlour, get milked. Tanker collects milk and travels the half a mile to the processing plant where it is pasteurised and bottled. Milk is collected by truck and delivered to shop a quarter of a mile down the road, back towards the farm. As I pass this shop regularly I pick up my milk there and drive it the 3 miles home. That is about as local as I think is possible without my own cows and it is all produced and sold by one family. A proper local, family business.

                                         Haven't got any flour photos. Have another cow one.
                                         This is the view from "the pit" in the parlour as the ladies
                                          come in for a milking. Some enjoy a nose stroke first.

Flour gets a little trickier again, but it is produced from primarily Irish wheat, milled near Belfast and bought from the shop next door to Finn's school up the road. At the moment I can't tell you a great deal more about it than that but I am trying to organise a show round with the producer so I can write about it here.  I'll let you know how that pans out.

                                                             Butter comes from cows!
                                               Hard to scratch behind your ears with hooves!
                                          So they have a spinning brushy thing on the way out.
Butter? Similar story. Produced in Dromara, about 12 miles away and bought in that same shop next to Finn's school. Must have a chat with them too. See if I can go play there for an hour or two.

Sugar...Er...You got me there. I very much doubt you will find a sugar cane farm in Ireland. Bit like the mangos really. But we do use a brand that is refined and packaged in Northern Ireland in a town called Lisburn. 14 miles away.

                                          Not strictly a Paddy...A Matt actually...Close enough!

That's the basics of it then. Obviously the gluten and dairy free is a bit more of a far flung lands affair as there are ingredients such as rice and soya involved. Ireland is well known for it's Paddys and it's fields but not it's paddy-fields.

Love & kisses

Suzi. xx

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Big Reveal.

Cupcakes with blue and pink glitter?!?! Whatever for? Not us thankfully!!!!!!

                                                                Nice buns! Awful photo!
                                                          Glitter just does not photo well!!

On one of the morning tv shows a week or so ago there was a piece on a woman who was embracing the latest cake craze from the USA. I will admit I was sceptical as the trends in America don't always take off over here. Whoopie Pies for example, we are told are very popular stateside but here, not so much. Yes they exist and its easy enough to track them down but they are far from deposing the mighty cupcake from the bakery throne.

So the story goes that the woman in question was pregnant and while having a scan had asked if she could know the sex of her unborn child, but-and here's the twist, she wanted it written on a piece of paper for her to ignore. Off she went, paper in hand to a baker where she ordered (and no doubt explained the concept of) a Gender Reveal Cake and handed over the piece of paper. 

So what's the game? Well, with innocently iced cake giving nothing away as to it's secret within ordered off you go to organise a party or family get together and decorate the house in blue and pink with question marks and balloons, as much or as little as you please. As with any party really. The star of the show is the cake though! With everyone gathered round and video camera set up for the inevitable YouTube video full of excited sqeaks and emotional overload, the mum and dad to be cut the cake to reveal.....(insert drum roll or tense background music here.)....the sex of the baby to be!!!!! Blue or pink coloured cake or icing within being the giveaway. Or both if you are really lucky/unlucky depending on point of view LOL.

A lovely idea we thought, but even baby showers are pretty rare in the UK and Ireland, no-one will go for that will they?  Um...Yes! ha ha. Within 24 hours!!! Or a variation at least.  King Cupcake reigns! Marbled vanilla and pink with buttercream icing and "girl or boy?" glitter.

                                                                     FOR A GIRL!!!!

The party was yesterday so everyone knows now, not just us.  It's an odd feeling knowing the sex of someone else's baby before they do. A bit invasive but exciting. And watching what you say at all times!! DON'T LET IT SLIP!!!

On a personal note I'm still not 100% sold on these. Maybe its because my family is complete. No plans for any more so I won't get to be on the receiving side or maybe it's because we decided to make a few boys ones for photo purposes (after the order so there wouldn't be a mix up.). Pink is reminiscent of Battenburg cakes and Angel cake, close even to Red Velvet....but blue? Hmm...Maybe I shouldn't have marbled it as it reminds me! Don't get me wrong they taste great but they look...well, you decide.


 Here's the thing though. As with everything in life, it is all subjective. It's all down to personal taste. Just because I think they look a bit alien doesn't mean you do. And I hope you don't. I hope you take the view of our Finn: "WOW...THOSE ARE MENTAL!!!!" He knows the right things to say, bless him. Every living soul in his school will know about them by lunchtime too.  My little marketing man.

Valentina is unsurprisingly more impressed with the pink ones.  She is the girliest tomboy you could ever meet. Watching their reactions has made me think though. Vale wants pink buns for her birthday in September and Finn wishes he'd thought of blue cake for his last month. And why not? Maddie just wants cake!! She's easy pleased!

In an industry that is at present dominated by vibrant colours and OTT ideas, let's take it that one step further. It's all about fun and enjoyment after all, so if you want some or want to come play in Nice Buns HQ give us a shout. Let's make something that will impress, delight or shock your friends and family.

Love & kisses

Suzi. xx

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Jaffa Cake That's Not a Jaffa Cake But Kinda Looks Like a Jaffa Cake and Tastes Like a Jaffa Cake!?!

Well...That's our Finn's take on it anyway!

                                                Apparently perfect for your "tree stump table".

Now these are a new one on us.  Jaffa Cakes have always been a favourite in our house. We eat A LOT of them. Especially Val! Jaffaholic!! After eating eleventy billion of them the inevitable "cake or biscuit" question came up.! No, biscuit! No cake!! Definitely cake!! Isn't it? Well after today I have decided that they are stale cake...Maybe. Anyway, it prompted us to have a punt at making our own.

Dead easy! Genoise cake shaped with a cookie cutter and cut to the right depth with a sharp unserrated knife. There's your cake, biscuit wait...cake base! This is DEFINITELY a cake base. Place them in cupcake cases or a cupcake tin.

Make some orange jelly up in a large tray. keep it shallow. Only about 3 or 4mm. When set, shape with the cookie cutter and place on the bis...cake base. This is up for negotiation in my opinion. I know they're "Jaffa" cakes but why not strawberry or raspberry? Whatever works for you. Or add some marmalade to the orange jelly to make it a little tangier?

Last up, melt some chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water on your hob. Milk chocolate for sweeter, dark for the authentic style. Let the choccy set and your done. Don't over do it though. Tempting as it is to go heavy on the chocolate, it will overpower the other flavours. There is the mistake we made with batch 1. It was this and the soft moist base that prompted Finn's interesting take on them. Does it matter? Not according to the kids! Just different and it was thumbs up from all 3!

                                          He may not be convinced what it is but he still likes it!

That's right...All 3!!! Even gluten free Maddie! And she has a cold so is finding the whole world annoying today!

                                             Jaffa Cakes! They wont cure a cold but they will
                                                           help make you feel better!!!

So...Gluten and dairy free then? Yup. And how lovely to see Mads enjoying them with her brother and sister!!! We learned something here.  For the standard cakes we used a readily available dark choclate in a red pack made by a company normally associated with purple. You with me? This brand uses dairy but we thought it would be the best option as its not overly bitter. We were wrong!! For the gluten and dairy version we used a 70% cacao from the other well known brand which is usefully dairy free.  The bitterness is a wonderful contrast to the sweetness of the jelly.

OK, so the Genoise recipe:

7 eggs
250g of caster sugar
225g of plain or gluten free flour
90g of unsalted butter or dairy free spread (melted and cooled to soften)
 1tsp of vanilla

Right. Grease a couple of cake tins an dust with flour and pre-heat your oven to 180 celsius.

Beat eggs, vanilla and sugar in a mixer until thick and frothy.  Patience now, this may take 10 minutes or so.

Sift the flour in and fold in.

Pour the butter slowly down the side of the bowl and mix.

Split the mix into the tins and stick 'em in the oven for 20 minutes.

Usual tricks here, light golden brown and if you can poke a sharp knife in and it comes out clean its done. Word to the wise on this one, don't get nosey too early.  If you open the oven before its close to done it will deflate like a punctured spacehopper!

Place on a rack and allow to cool.

                                             Vale loving the Jaffa!!! Can't leave Girlybird out.

The Best bit about this recipe is you can get the kids involved. Our 3 were going mad with the cookie cutters and eating most of the jelly before it got anywhere near the cake! What a perfect Saturday afternoon!!

Have a go. Make a mess. Enjoy life. Then pay them £1.50 to clean up after. LOL

Love & kisses

Suzi. xx

Friday, 4 May 2012

Not So Fantastic Mr Fox!

Wow, what a week!!!!! One of those chaotic ones where your rump doesn't touch a chair for long enough to enjoy a brew! (Apart from lunch with the girls on Thursday. Most enjoyable)

Here at Nice Buns HQ we believe, as I have mentioned before, in sourcing local produce or better yet, producing our own. Veggie patches are a good idea and something the kids love to get involved in. Who doesn't like digging?!?!

                                           Here's a few of the ladies having a spot of breakfast.

But it's our chickens that mean the most to us. No eggs means no buns!!!! So they merrily cluck about and scuffle, tame as you like, not a problem for the kids to catch for a cuddle.  All the time watched over by Raj the rooster.  Big boy, Brahma Gold, a big softy but my days is he intimidating! Looks like an eagle that didn't bake quite right.

                                                  Big Raj and a nervous looking Marco

It seems daft but you get a bit of a bond with chooks.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not bringing them in to sit on my lap while I watch telly but there is something very calming about sitting in the field as they wander round you and even more satisfying when you collect the eggs. So when Fantastic Mr Fox comes to visit it's upsetting, frustrating and infuriating! I'm not going to start a debate here as I really don't want to stir up the cutesy wootsey little foxey woxey brigade vs the horrible, nasty, f*#king killing, thieving bushy bas.....(you get the picture) brigade. What I will say is that while they are undeniably pretty creatures and its lovely to see them playing in the long grass from a distance....They are also malicious killing machines who can decimate your herd of egg layers for an easy feed time and time again. And that is not lovely to see.

This though, is the way of the countryside. My love/hate relationship with foxes will continue but it has shown me how caring my kids are.  Finn has been trying to come up with new ways of fox proofing a field while Vale and Mads have taken on the role of counsellors for chickens with post traumatic stress.  Cuddle away the pain.  It is the funniest and cutest thing. Kids and chickens go great together and I feel privileged to have that little bit of space to keep them.  They don't need much and you could easily keep 3 or 4 in your garden (we need a few more) and have fresh eggs daily. This is something I can't recommend enough.  They're basically, useful pets. Just keep an eye out for Foxey Loxey.

                                                   Dr Doolittle and one of her many chums.
                                                 (and a headless Finn! I'm no David Bailey!)

So with a salute to our fallen comrades I will move on. (imagine me sat in my kitchen, saluting out the window in the direction of the field.)

For this weekend I am working on a concept which is new and for me, very interesting. I'll not let the cat out of the bag just yet but lets just say that it is a bit OTT but very sweet and all done for the most fabulous of reasons. I'll keep you posted.

Love & kisses

Suzi. xx