Hello and welcome to my Little Willow blog, well welcome to those who might stumble across it anyway as I have yet to give this address to anyone :) I thought I might try and see how I get along with just writing in it first. It's all a lot of random stuff, but hey, hopefully there'll be something interesting for people

Monday, 31 January 2011

Film Review - The King's Speech

I hadn't heard an awful lot about this film before going to see it, beyond the fact that it was expected to do well at the BAFTA's. To be honest, it didn't really sound like a film I would generally like watching, but when a friend of mine wanted to go and see it, I decided to go along and see what the fuss was about.

The synopsis of the film is as follows: "The King's Speech" tells the story of the man who would become King George VI, the father of the current Queen, Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George 'Bertie' VI (Firth) reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded nervous stammer and considered unfit to be King, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Rush). Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war."

While I was watching the film, I realised I was actually enjoying it. The acting was very good and that made me wonder whether Colin Firth found it difficult to rid himself of the stammer he portrayed in the film, once filming had finished. Not a very important point, but it would be interesting to know :-)
I can understand why some people claim the film is 'slow', it is in parts and could never be described as exciting and full of action. However, I still quite liked these slow parts as I found it engaging to see all the different techniques the King tried to help rid him of his stammer and the unorthodox way his therapist went about it.

I found it quite a heartwarming tale of triumph. I can't imagine how happy and relieved the real King must have felt at the time, getting through a critical speech without stammering. Overall I would recommend people to see this film and on the plus side, at least we know this will be a film that can't spawn a sequel :-)

I give it 6 and a half out of 10 - I did enjoy it but I don't think I would buy the DVD or watch it again and there are many other films out there that I prefer

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Baking Review - Chocolate Peppermint Bars

I'm a bit late in posting this recipe on here - I made these yummy peppermint bars last weekend when my brother and sister in law came to visit.

I ended up making these and also the cranberry and white chocolate cupcakes I've made previously (and also blogged about). I had lots of ingredients left over from Christmas when all our plans went slightly awry so I decided to do one thing I'd made before and also a new thing.

The recipe for the Chocolate Peppermint Bars comes from the book - 1001 cupcakes, cookies and other tempting treats by Susanne Tee, which I received for my birthday off my friend Sian. The recipe is on page 190.


55g/2oz butter, plus extra for greasing
55g/2oz caster sugar
115g/4oz plain flour
175g/6oz icing sugar
1-2 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2tsp green food colouring (optional)
175/6oz plain chocolate, broken into pieces


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a shallow 30x20cm/ 12x8 inch baking tin. Place the butter and caster sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Sift in the flour until the mixture binds together.

Knead the mixture to form a smooth dough, then press into the tin and prick the surface all over with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin.

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Gradually add the water, then add the peppermint extract and food colouring (if desired). Spread the icing over the base, then leave to set.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, set the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and heat until melted. Spread the chocolate over the icing, then leave to set. Cut into slices to serve.

I ended up using a tin slightly smaller than suggested as I could only use what I had! However, the amount of base that was made from the ingredients barely covered it at all and in the correct sized tin, I think it would have been stretched too much. Also the mixture didn't really come together brilliantly and didn't form a smooth dough, it was quite crumbly. But despite that, it did come out ok in the end.
For the peppermint part, I actually added another few drops of the peppermint extract to get a stronger mint flavour, which worked well for me and my family as we like it like that, but obviously go on what your preferences are. I did use the green food colouring and it does come out a lovely mint green colour - though I don't think I can show you this as a I stupidly forgot to take photographs of it once sliced. Never mind, next time :-)
I also used 200g chocolate instead of the 175g required as I had 2 100g bars and didn't want to leave any as i'd only end up eating it all! This gave a slightly thicker chocolate layer, but really, who's going to complain about that?

I really enjoyed the bars and would definitely make them again and my mum also really loved them :)

Friday, 28 January 2011

New Blog

Hi everyone

Just letting you all know that I have started up a second blog that will focus purely on the English language errors I come across. I've been finding quite a few recently and feel it warrants its own blog and may interest those who aren't remotely interested in films or baking etc :-)

The new address is and is called Get it Write. I hope you all enjoy it. This blog will not be disappearing though. Remember to let me know of any mistakes you come across!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Spelling Errors - NHS Discounts AND email

Hello all

Another 2 emails with mistakes have found their way into my inbox. To be fair, I'm finding now that I am scrutinising these emails for mistakes, so I'm finding more things that I may possibly have skimmed over and not noticed a couple of months ago. But it just goes to show that if you look hard enough, mistakes are everywhere.

This is the second time I have found a mistake on the NHS discounts email and this time it is on an advert for Superbreak

If you look under the word 'Romance?' The first option is 'Diner deals'. Now my first thought was "yay I've found another one - this should be dinner". But then I did take a moment to think about it and check it out and make sure they didn't actually mean 'diner deals' - though I'm not sure somewhere like 'OK Diner' (if it's still going) would be the first choice for a romantic night out. But anyway I followed the link to the website and lo and behold they had a section there called 'Dinner Deals'. This mistake is probably just a typo, but even so, it still should have been checked.
Also, a first for my blog, there is a small second mistake on this advert: luxury hotels and country escapes are two separate options so should therefore have a comma between them. Something small, but someone could be very disappointed to discover that they won't be getting a deal on a luxury hotel in the country :-)

On the plus side, they used the word 'your' correctly

Like the email above, this is the second time I have found a mistake on a email. This time it is a Santander advert:

Focus On...

Santander's ZERO Current Account
- Santander's market-leading ZERO Current Account is now available to more people. Not only is if fee-free and offering 5% interest on balances up to £2,500, but new customers also receive a £100 switching bonus. So is it time you made the move and got more from your current account?

Not the easiest one to find as it is such a small mistake, again probably a typo. The offending sentence above reads 'Not only is if fee-free and offering...' but it should be 'Not only is it fee-free and offering...'
Come on people - pull yourself together!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Baking Review - Marshmallow cupcakes

My good friend and work colleague Sophie left the office on Friday, leaving us for pastures new to spend a year in Australia! In honour of this heart wrenching event I decided to make her some marshmallow cupcakes as these have been her favourite in the past, albeit not made by me, but I thought I'd give it a whirl. I took the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.


120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
45g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk (I use semi-skimmed)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 medium pink marshmallows
200g mini marshmallows, for the frosting
1 quantity Vanilla frosting (see later)
edible glitter to decorate (optional)

a 12 hole cupcake tray lined with paper cases - makes 12 (only made 8 for me!)


Preheat the oven to 170C (325F) Gas 3

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Put the medium marshmallows in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave until melted and smooth. When the cupcakes are cold, hollow out a small section in the centre of each one and fill with a dollop of marshmallow. Leave to cool. (Although it doesn't say so here, I did put the top back on top of the dollop of marshmallow).

Vanilla Frosting Ingredients:

250g icing sugar, sifted
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
25ml whole milk (I use semi skimmed)
a couple of drops of vanilla extract


Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is fluffy and light, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.

Now stir in the mini marshmallows by hand until evenly dispersed. Spoon the frosting on top of the cupcakes and decorate with edible glitter.

I can't personally comment on how the cakes tasted as I don't like marshmallow, but one comment I did hear today (well read today) was as follows - and I quote (literally copied and pasted): Anyway, speaking of marshmallow cupcakes, I must pass on Lydia’s gratitude and awe at your baking skills. She was AMAZED by the cupcake! I gave it to her that evening and she had a good look at it and was delighted by its appearance, but then she forgot about it til the next morning when she ate it for breakfast. She was literally writhing around in pleasure as she ate it! She was astounded at the marshmallow bit inside it, like she was looking at a small, inexplicable miracle. To cut it short, she loved it, thoroughly loved it! Then she was all like “how come you never make cakes like this?” haha! So basically it went down very well and she said to say thanks. 
 Granted Mel does have a wonderfully witty way of writing things but I'm just glad it was enjoyed :-) and I must point out that Mel can bake amazingly well and all her baked goodies are awesome :-D

I also made some chocolate cupcakes, as you can see above and I think I'm starting to get better with the frosting :-)

Word Usage Error -

Another one? So quickly? I know I know, it's terrible - all these errors cropping up!

This time the culprit is an email from that I received today:

"Millions of people are facing pay freezes this year. If your one of them there are things you can do to give yourself a pay rise and boost your net income by more than £5000. Read on to find out more..."

This is another case of bad English - the second sentence reads "If your one of them" when in fact it should read "If you're one of them". This one is such a simple mistake though and all it takes is a little thought to get it right. If you read the sentence out loud and it could read 'you are' then it's always 'you're'.

I am definitely beginning to believe that all the people who would normally check emails/advertisements etc, to be sent out to the public, have disappeared off the face of the Earth! Either that or I am just beginning to notice it more and more now I have started this section on the blog...who knows? While it provides material for me, I'm happy :-)

Friday, 14 January 2011

Moving Out

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to look for a houseshare to move into. Housesharing wasn't ever really the ideal but circumstances have made it the best option at the moment and I want to do something different this year, start changing my life and this seemed the best way to start.

I started having a look at a couple of websites at the beginning of the month but only made my first appointments for last weekend. I was very scared about going and quite nervous as it just felt a bit beyond me. The first house I visited was in Dovecot, very near Huyton and the house was huge but there was just something about it that wasn't for me. The place did feel a bit run down and quite student-y and although the bedroom would have been huge, the kitchen was tiny in comparison to the rest of the house and I think the house held 7 people at any one time. Also another thing that put me off was that there were currently only males living in the house and although I don't mind sharing with guys, I'd want a bit of female company I think - lived too long with only brothers to go through that again! haha

The second house that day was in Old Swan and it was a 2 bedroomed terraced house with a live in landlady. The house was actually really nice - very well decorated and very tidy! However the bedroom was small, smaller than my own at home which would seem to defeat the object really. The girl however was lovely so it's a shame the house was a bit small.

I found another house on the website last weekend and made an appointment to see it on Tuesday evening, completely forgetting that I was starting my cake decorating class so I decided to take half a day off work and maybe go and see a couple of houses. So I got to this one in Old Swan, with my mum, for about 1:30pm and we were shown around the house by the landlady's mum, who was lovely. The house was huge! Unfortunately there were no housemates there so I couldn't meet anyone.
After that we drove to a house in Allerton where the landlady's father was meeting us. He barely spoke to us when we got there and then the key wouldn't work in the lock and it appears the lock was broken - with a tenant still inside the house. SO basically the guy just said 'it needs a new lock, that'll have to get fixed' and then buggered off leaving the poor girl stuck inside the house with no way to actually get out! Lovely guy. As I'm sure you'll understand, I decided not to reschedule.

Anyway having a think on it that evening, I decided I really liked the Old Swan house and would like to go back and visit to meet the housemates as I wouldn't really want to move anywhere without meeting who I'd be living with. So I went and I met 3 of the 4 who currently live there and they seemed very nice and they told me they're a sociable bunch but also respectful of people's space and privacy which sounds ideal. I stayed for about 20 minutes before leaving the house with a good feeling.

To cut this long story a little shorter, I have paid a deposit on Room 1 (with en suite) in this house and will be moving in sometime in February (date still to be decided). There are 6 bedrooms (a second bedroom was also up for rental). There are 2 living rooms, a large bathroom (though I won't be using it much with having my own bathroom) and a downstairs loo in the utility room. The kitchen is huge and has a little dining area. We pretty much get a whole fridge each!!! Although there will be a lot of people in the house, it feels big enough that you won't be stumbling over each other all the time or getting in each other's way. The current housemates are 2 girls and 2 guys.

It's all happened very fast and I'm excited but very nervous also. But you've got to do these things and try it out and I'm sure it'll be fine.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Word usage error - best buy

Hello all

Today while idly looking at laptops I went to the Best Buy website and came across this beauty of a mistake:

Model: EME442
Perfect for basic everyday computing, this eMachines 15.6" Laptop is equipt with a 250GB and 2GB Memory 

This error screamed out at me and then I proceeded to tell my friend in the office, very pleased that once again I had been so observant.
As you can see a word is used that is just very poor English - "EQUIPT" come on people, really??? Obviously this word should be "Equipped". I am now starting to believe that all proofreaders have been fired and there is no-one out there to check out for these kinds of errors. On the plus side if I ever decide I want to be a proofreader, maybe I could send them to this blog as my CV? :-)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Cake Decorating Class - my 100th post!!!

Hello all and welcome to my 100th post. I can't believe I finally reached it - this time last year it seemed so far away; well in fact I don't think I'd even managed to get back into writing on the blog, but anyway, here we are now. So Happy 100th post to my Blog :-)

The honour of being part of this celebration goes to my cake decorating class which I started last night at Halewood Centre for Learning. The course is every Tuesday from 5pm-7pm. This first week was just an induction - so lots of paperwork to fill in etc and lots of talking about what we wanted to learn over the course of the next 10 weeks. I have to say I wish I'd discovered this course earlier as everyone else there has been attending since September and although you can join at any term, they do start off with the basics in September and build on that throughout the year (people tend to stay in the beginner's class for a year before moving to the advanced class). But I'm hoping I'll be able to pick stuff up, although the other students seemed so far ahead and the pictures of what they managed to do last term are amazing, especially after such a short time of learning.

Seeing the list of cakes/techniques everyone wanted to learn, it would seem as though we're going to need 10 years to get through it all, never mind 10 weeks. I feel it could be very intense! But some great ideas in there including a wedding cake, a christening cake (my suggestion), a communion cake, valentine's theme, Easter theme, Mother's Day theme, novelty cakes, cupcakes and many more!

Next week we're starting off with 'brush embroidery', a technique I'd never heard of until last night but which I dutifully googled today and discovered that it's designs made out of royal icing that go on top of an iced cake and have an almost lace-like effect. I will post a picture here - please be advised this is NOT my work! Actually on second thoughts, I may well leave alone as many of the pictures seem to be subject to copyright! But click here for some examples...

Anyway please keep your fingers crossed for me that I'll be able to pick it up ok and not make a mess of it all!!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Typing error

It would seem I'm on a roll at the moment, noticing all these small mistakes and the following comes from another email I received; this one from The Trafford Centre. It won't let me actually copy and paste the small advert on here as a whole as it won't save as a picture, so for today you will have to make do with a copy and paste from the email with the error in question, and trust I didn't just make it up :-)

"Don't miss out on this fabulous treat, only available this week Tuesday-Friday 11am-1pm*. Plus, the fist 100 people to pick up the booklet will receive a free beauty goody bag. *While stocks last."

Can you spot the mistake? It's only a small one - 'Plus the fist 100 people' should be 'Plus the first 100 people'. As I said, only a small error, but it just shows that companies are not proofreading their work fully - either that or they don't have very good proofreaders :-)

Let me know if you see anything out there

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Word usage error

Hello again

Yesterday I came across another error - this time not on a menu. This came as part of an email from NHS discounts and part of this email was an advertisemernt for a charity helping with debt management - this is the advert:

Hands up if you can see the problem...

I'm actually quite shocked that nobody seemed to check this advert before it was sent to thousands of people. As you will have noticed 'course' isn't the correct word to use in this instance and in fact should be 'cause'. Unfortunately this isn't an error that can be put down to a simple typing mistake and was probably down to someone not thinking about it properly. Ah well never mind, it provided me with another blog post so I'm happy :-)

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Baking Review - Lemon loaf

 Every time someone visits the house is another excuse to make a cake and this time I decided to give something a try that we've not had before so I went for the, what I thought would be, easy option of lemon loaf from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

The recipe is as follows:


320g caster sugar
3 eggs
grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
350g plain flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
250ml whole milk (although I used semi skimmed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g unsalted butter, melted

Lemon syrup
freshly squeezed juice and zest of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar

a 23x13-cm loaf tin, greased and dusted with flour

Makes 8-10 slices


Preheat the oven to 170oC (325F) Gas 3

Put the sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until well mixed

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in another bowl. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat well, then beat in one-third of the milk mixture. Repeat this process twice more until everything has been added. Turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Turn the mixer down to a low speed, pour in the melted butter and beat until well incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched.

For the lemon syrup - While the cake is baking, put the lemon juice and zest, sugar and 100ml of water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over low heat. Raise the heat and boil until it has reduced by half, or until it has a thin syrup consistency. When the hot cake comes out of the oven, put it on a wire cooling rack in the sink and pour the syrup all over the top. The excess syrup will run over the edges into the sink. Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto the wire cooling rack to cool completely.

I think the main mistake I made was just reading the ingredients list and thinking, yeah there's not too much there, should be quick and easy. I didn't realise until I was literally up to those points in the recipe that I needed a number of different bowls and a good deal of coordination lol. It wasn't too bad in the end, it was just unexpected - that'll teach me anyway!
I also used my silicone loaf "tin" for the first time and I don't think it's the best material for a loaf tin as it did bulge out at the sides quite a bit which I think affected the cooking time to be honest - made it longer. I may invest in an actual loaf tin. The silicone is great for the round 'tins' as it's not able to bulge.

As I mentioned above, it did take a bit longer than the stated cooking time - probably about a further 10 minutes. Because of this, it was quite hard to coordinate making the lemon syrup as if you put that on too early, the it wil have all boiled away, but if you leave it too late then the cake won't be hot any more. I managed to kind of work it out, though I think I did reduce it by more than half, could have done with more syrup to coat the cake.

I did find the cake enjoyable to eat though I felt it wasn't quite lemony enough - I think extra syrup would have helped and maybe another lemon zest in the recipe? But I'm not quite brave enough to amend recipes yet :-) I stated above that it makes 8-10 slices but I think it will go much further than that (especially if you have a loaf tin that bulges at the sides! hehe) as it is quite a dense cake and a full slice across is a little too much.

It's a New Year

HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone - ok so I'm a day late, but I spent the day reading yesterday and didn't go near technology.

I'm quite disappointed I didn't reach my intended target of 100 posts by the end of 2010 but as I was running out of time, I didn't really have an awful lot to say and I didn't really want to write any more drivel than was necessary :-)

Ok so everyone talks about resolutions for the coming year but first I'm going to dig out and see what my resolutions were for 2010 and see if I managed to accomplish any of them:

1) Do more writing - well I did do a fair few assignments and definitely did more writing than the previous year so I will credit myself with this one I think :-)
2)Save more money - I also managed to do this - to some extent as I have made a few purchases also
3)Get more active - unfortunately I dramatically failed at this one. However, I do have an excuse...I mean reason - the chronic sinusitis caused me to become very lethargic and this time last year I wasn't really expecting it to last as long as it has (which unfotunately is still a problem?)
4) Eat less indulgently and cut back on the crap - I had ups and downs with this one, I was very good at times and terrible at others, something to work on harder!

There were a couple of personal ones too which I will say that I did have success with one but it didn't work out as planned, as for the other, I failed :-(

So new resolutions for the forthcoming year? To be honest I'm going to keep most of them the same:

1) Again, get more writing done - I've now switched to the fiction part of the course so I should be able to feel more focused and I'd like to dedicate some time per week to getting out the house to write where there are less distractions.
2) I know it's a long way off but I'd like to prepare for this year's NaNoWriMo and give it a bigger shot than I did last year.
3) Save more money - again I want to keep up with this and look around for the best deals with savings accounts
4) Get more active and lose weight - not something I can start immediately, need to wait until my foot is better but as for the losing weight bit, I can start with that - eat more fruit and veg, eat more healthily and stop eating for the sake of eating - get out of the habit of boredom eating.
5) Try and do as well as I can with the new cake decorating course I'm starting next week. I'm hoping to make my new baby niece's Christening cake (it'll be a few months, she's not due until March! But at least I can get some practice in!).
6) Try new things and take more chances
7) Keep baking and attempt proper food cooking also

Ok, I think that's well enough to be getting on with for now - ok one more to add - keep blogging! :-)

Let em know if you have any resolutions and maybe we can help each other to stick to them
Good luck and I wish you all the very best in reaching your dreams in 2011