Feeling hungry? Bake. Feeling down? Bake. Feeling bored? Bake. Feeling excited about Christmas? Bake. Want to cheer someone up? Bake. Want to raise some money for charity? Bake. I’m not saying baking will solve all your problems, but it’s a pretty good place to start!
Donald Trump’s victory in the US elections has dominated the news this week and left a fair few people, particularly my American Twitter and Facebook followers, feeling pretty down. A lot of people turn to baking in times of stress as a way of relaxing and switching off for a few hours. I know I do. I think there’s a lot to be said for using baking as a form of therapy and over the past few years I’ve volunteered my own time to help different organisations with this, through baking classes and demonstrations. My dear friend Claire Goodwin has written at length about baking therapy and it’s the name of her website too (see here). We’re off to stay with Claire and her husband Carl next weekend for our Bake Off Christmas Party and I can’t wait to catch up with all my GBBO buddies. If you’ve been feeling down this week and are looking for an easy recipe to perk you up or distract you, I’d recommend my peanut butter cookies from my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself. They’re great for sharing so will cheer everyone up around you too and the recipe is also available here.
On Wednesday this week it was nice to switch off from the news and visit the magic kingdom instead. My family and I were invited to Great Ormond Street‘s Annual Christmas Party at the Disney Store on Oxford Street. Ten per cent of proceeds from sales on the night go to Great Ormond Street and it’s a really special evening with my GOSH friends. The girls were over the moon to meet Danny Mac and Claudia Fragapane from this year’s Strictly Come Dancing (below).
I must admit, I was really proud that my eldest daughter wanted to go as Rey from Star Wars rather than a Disney Princess, and we’ve picked her up the Rey costume as a Christmas present. I bought a few raffle tickets and was pretty stunned when I won the bundle of Star Wars merchandise – this might be up there with my wedding day and the births of my kids as one of the best things that’s ever happened to me! I’m eagerly awaiting their arrival in the post – I might need some Lego-related time off work!
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how individual acts can make differences in people’s lives and I shared some of my own thoughts on Twitter. Sometimes when the news gets you down, it’s important to look for ways to channel your upset into something positive. For example, my daughters get so much out of being part of Girlguiding and both Girlguiding and Scouting can only survive thanks to the work of volunteers. You can find out more about how to help here and here, and this week’s report about the mental health boost that comes from being a member was really interesting too. I’m also a Parent Governor and being a school governor is a great way to help improve education provision and to become active in your local community. You can find out more here. Or if you tap in your postcode on the Do It website here, you’ll find all sorts of different volunteering opportunities near you. Also, it’s Children In Need on Friday. If you’re holding a bake sale (fundraising packs available here), you can get the recipe for my Pudsey Bear Swiss Roll (above) here by donating at least £2 to Children In Need.
Today is Remembrance Sunday, which helps put a lot of more trivial, modern problems into perspective. I’m enormously proud of the contributions of both of my Grandfathers during the Second World War and I talk about their bravery and sacrifices to my children to help them understand what Remembrance Sunday is about. My family building business was established 70 years ago in 1946 as part of the rebuilding of London after the bombing of the Second World War. Both my Great-Grandfather and my Grandfather were involved in the rebuilding programme and I still work for some of the grandchildren of my Grandad’s clients in North London. Sarah’s Grandfather Joe (pictured below) is one of the few remaining D-Day veterans and so our children are also able to talk to him about the war from his perspective. They’re still a little bit young to understand but we’re really grateful that they have this opportunity.
I’ve been baking all weekend, with some favourite recipes from my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself (such as the delicious focaccia) and also some new recipes that I’ll be able to share soon (including the sausage roll wreath above). I’ve also got the fruit soaking to make a few Christmas Cakes this week (recipe in my book). The Washington Post converted my Christmas Cake recipe into US measurements and temperatures here if you want to give it a go yourself. I’m looking forward to filling the house with Christmassy smells for the next six weeks – it’s my favourite time of the year to bake. No baking for me next weekend though as it’s off to Manchester to see my Bake Off chums and finally visit Luis’s bakery, The Hive. I hope there’ll be a carrot cake cupcake with my name on it! Until next week – Happy Baking!