The Woollen Woods 2016

queenofheartsEvery year a magical event takes place as part of Voluntary Arts Week – The Woollen Woods. Woodlands across the country become inhabited with all manner of knitted (or crocheted) creatures to the delight of thousands of visitors. It all started last year with seven woods (of which Derbyshire was one) and this year it grew even bigger. This was the second year I’d had the pleasure of joining in with the Derbyshire Woollen Woods held in Belper Parks Wood.  It was such a huge success that I felt compelled to share a few pics (and videos) for those who couldn’t manage to make it along.mouse

It took months of hard work by local crafters (and a few further afield) to make enough pieces to decorate the majority of Belper Woods but as you can hopefully see from these pics it was definitely worth it. The creations were displayed between 7-15th May this year and the response we received was absolutely wonderful. We even had some visitors travel quite a distance for a day out in our Woolly Wonderland!whiterabbitI believe there’s a special childlike joy that only magical woolly creatures can bring and with that in mind here’s a few of my favourite pieces (not made by me) and two mini video tours. bunny

If looking through this post has got you itching to get involved with the Derbyshire event then pop over to Anne Clark Handmade and send Anne an email. owlAnne organised the Derbyshire Woollen Woods for both years and we’ve also yarn bombed several other events including local festivals, Christmas decorations, the hospital, museum and much more!

If you weren’t lucky enough to be able to visit a Woollen Woods this year then keep your eyes peeled on the Voluntary Arts Week website for details of the event next year.snake

To see some pics of last years Woollen Woods check out my 2015 post.

snails

McDonald’s Restaurant Evolution

McDonaldsboxes2When I was pregnant with my twins I had one major craving and that was for Big Macs! I couldn’t get enough then and I still love them now, so I was very excited to be invited along to the Clifton branch of McDonald’s last week. I learnt all about McDonald’s restaurant evolution and even got to make my very own Big Mac!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by McDonald’s but the opinions below are entirely my own and unbiased.

But I know all about McDonald’s

This seems to be a common misconception amongst generations that have grown up with a McDonald’s store nearby. Sure the Big Mac that you order now is virtually identical to the original 1967 burger but McDonald’s is moving with the times and there’s some exciting new features planned for your local store soon!Drinks

It’s all about convenience

Great fast food should be quick to obtain, ridiculously tasty and a stress-free experience. Of course that can mean different things to different people and McDonald’s recognises that individual needs demand personalised options. In addition to familiar staples such as the Drive thru and Order Counter you can now place your order at a Quick Touchscreen Kiosk like the one below. The touchscreen is really easy to use and can even be adapted into several languages or used in an accessibility mode (perfect for wheelchair users or shorter guests).

touchscreenkiosk

Freshness means customisation!

In days gone by people with a particular food hate (like salt on fries) would have been forgiven for thinking McDonald’s wasn’t the restaurant for them. All the food was cooked in advance which meant the contents was set in stone. Well no more, all McDonald’s food is now cooked to order, which aside from being infinitely fresher also means that it’s much more customisable. Even the new touchscreen kiosk offers you the option to remove any food features that you don’t like (such as salt on fries, or Bacon on a Big Tasty).

McDonaldsburgers

But… trying to carry all that food while watching the kids is a nightmare!

I’ve been there too, trying to balance 3 happy meals, 2 adult meals plus 5 drinks just can’t be done. However you can now choose table service and have your food brought to you. Just pick an area and select it when you order and once assembled a member of staff will bring it straight over.

tableservice

The kids run riot if I try to take them out!

Not to worry, McDonald’s is even bringing touchscreen tablets to entertain the kids while you finish your meal. Angry Birds is the current Happy Meal theme and all the games were available to play plus much more. Adults can of course use the tablets too.

Tablets

 

Time to go behind the scenes

I was invited to step behind the counter to visit the kitchens and other storage areas. The sheer scale of organisation was dizzying, plus I’ve never seen so much bread before in my life! Out back there’s some major recycling taking place, the most impressive of which is that McDonald’s takes all their used oil and converts it into Bio Diesel to power their trucks!!

MakingBigMac

We went back into the kitchens where a hive of activity was taking place, everyone has a distinct role and seemed to execute it with ease. After a quick demonstration I was assured that I could make my very own Big Mac. However I felt slightly intimidated by the speed with which the staff work (plus Big Macs are rather iconic!) but I gave it a whirl and I was unreasonably proud of the end result (as my Twitter & Instagram followers are probably already aware) :)

MakingBigMac2

Although I can’t promise that both buns have exactly 3.5g of onions (bet you never knew it was so precise!)

MyBigMac

Big Mac complete we took a walk over to the new beverage station and marvelled over the coffee machines (which freshly grind the beans) and watched a demonstration of the Frozen Strawberry Lemonade machine (it’s mesmerising to watch and even self-cleans!)

What I’ll take away from the event

As a huge global company it’s tempting to think that McDonald’s doesn’t listen or notice their customers needs but from my observation that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every member of staff has to work in their stores and interact with the general public (yep even the suited corporate employees have served you meals) so they truly understand how a restaurant works. They care about their employees and are aiming to be a truly flexible employer (great for students, parents or anyone with time restrictive responsibilities). They’re not stuck in the past or hiding behind a name, they’re attempting to take their stores into the future and make your personal visit an enjoyable experience and so far I’d say they’re hitting that goal.

McDonaldsBoxes

For More Information

Pop over to McDonald’s website for further info.

 

 

Gooseberry Meringue Tart Recipe

gooseberrymeringuetartGood Morning everyone! I hope you’ve all been enjoying the fabulous weather the last few days, I most certainly have. Unfortunately the weather folks says it’s all downhill from here and the weekend is looking decidedly cold and dull. There’s no need to feel downcast though with plenty of St George’s Day events and parades planned over the next couple of days. Why not celebrate in style by making today’s super yummy Gooseberry Meringue Tart Recipe from Rachel’s Organic.

Using gooseberries in this recipe adds an exciting twist to a classic British tart

Ingredients:

•375g short crust pastry
•400g fresh gooseberries
•50g caster sugar
•3 tbsp cornflour
•4 egg yolks
•75g unsalted butter
•100g Rachel’s gooseberry yogurt

Meringue:
•4 egg whites
•115g caster sugar
•115g icing sugar
Makes: 22cm tarts serving 6-8 or 6 individual tarts 10cm each

Preparation time: 40 mins  Cooking time: 1 hour

Method:

Step 1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Lightly grease the tart case and line with pastry. Chill the pastry for ten minutes in the fridge as this will prevent the pastry shrinking. Meanwhile cut out a sheet of parchment paper or greaseproof paper the same size as the tart, crumple and place inside the tart case. Pre-bake with baking beans for 20 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and lightly browned.

Step 2. To make the filling, add the gooseberries together with the sugar and 250ml of water in a pan and simmer until the fruit is soft. Drain the liquid off and reserve the gooseberries. Use the liquid to make a paste with the cornflour and stir this on the heat until it thickens. Beat in the egg yolks and butter. Allow to cool slightly and add the yogurt, then stir. Re-add the gooseberries and stir again. Pour the mixture into the tart case.

Step 3.Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the caster sugar in three stages on full mixer speed. When the caster sugar is all incorporated, fold in the icing sugar in two stages with a metal spoon or spatula.

Step 4. Pipe or spoon the meringue on top of the filling. Bake on 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2 for 30/ 40 minutes until lightly brown and crisp.

Tip: this method will ensure a crispy meringue which doesn’t weep.