Thursday, 16 July 2015

Life's a Beach!

It was a typical Scottish day at the beach. We arrived there equipped with suncream, picnic blankets and sunglasses but ended up sheltering under a huge golfing umbrella, forced to eat our picnic under an itchy blanket in the car with the heater on full blast! Still, the kids had an absolute ball and swam in the waves despite the freezing temperatures. The sun even came out for a short while in the afternoon, warming our skin and allowing us to enjoy an ice cream on a bench. It was the kind of day where memories are made.

As we strolled along the sand I stopped briefly to write a message using the metal tip of the umbrella - BAKEWITHBREE - well, someone might've spotted it before the tide washed it away. Promotion doesn't stop, even on a family day out. My niece took it one step further, adding - GO AND SEARCH IT ON GOOGLE by HAZEL ALLAN. It took her ages and I was really touched by her dedication to the cause.

She pointed out the pawprint dot above the letter 'i' which was completely unintentional but cute nevertheless. 

I think we took most of Gullane beach home with us. Judging by the amount of sand in the boot of the car and in the shower tray I am surprised there was any left at all on the beach! We all had weather beaten cheeks and by 6 o'clock my niece's legs had turned from blue to healthy pink and my old Dad was spark out on the recliner. Smiles all round.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Topics and Treats

I've decided I'd like to branch out and add to my skills as an author/presenter! I am now available for baking/storytelling/arts and craft workshops in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. I am prepared to travel a bit further and this would be reflected in the price.

The idea is to combine my skills as a writer, Mum and Early Years Educator to bring classroom themes to life through the medium of baking, rhymes, songs and arts and craft activities. By blending my passion for storytelling, literature, education and food I believe I can bring a unique and dynamic spin to classroom learning. 

I have an A-Z of themed ideas, ranging from Animals, Christmas, Butterflies and Fireworks to Road Safety, Vikings, Weather and the Zoo! These themes are added to on a daily basis and are always child centred, fun and educational. With my expertise, creative flair and catalogue of good ideas I will be able to adapt and extend any theme to suit any classroom or nursery environment.

All baking ingredients will be supplied so all that I require is a suitable, clean space to bake, a cooker/oven and some enthusiastic children! I cover all ages from babies to teens (adults too), tweaking recipes to ensure they are age appropriate and suited to the learning needs of the children. I am happy to work in private childcare or council schools/nurseries. I am Live Literature funded through The Scottish Book Trust.

Children benefit from baking in many ways:

Not only are you offering them lots of fun while they create something amazing but you're also teaching them science, laying down some basic maths and reading skills, building confidence and creativity, giving them a sense of control and accomplishment, enhancing vocabulary, fostering social and important life skills AND providing them with an important introduction to health and safety. 


Who would have thought baking cakes could be so educational and rewarding? 

A typical "Topics and Treats" session would take place during a morning or afternoon session (maximum 2 hours but I can be flexible) and would cost in the region of £100-£150, depending on time, travelling, resources, materials and planning. This is in line with the Scottish Book Trust and Society of Authors rates of £150 per 1 hour session.

The session would ideally start with a 'sit on the carpet' introduction and a stimulating but controlled discussion. I would then read a story or poem - I'm an expert in the art of keeping little ones focussed and I am also skilled at facilitating discussion with any age group. I will sometimes read books by other authors but if I can't find a suitable story to fit the theme I also enjoy writing my own.

Staff can then select a smaller group of children to come and bake. Staff can discuss with me prior to my arrival (via email) how many children I will be working with, any special arrangements or dietary requirements and whether there is a particular focus of my visit - for example weighing or texture. I could also prepare some name labels in advance so every child has their name on show - this helps me but also ensures the children feel relaxed and valued.

I am extremely organised and will come prepared with ingredients, some equipment and materials and a laminated recipe card to make things attractive and as easy as possible for the children to follow instructions.

After a tidy up and while we wait for any cakes to bake we can either go back to the carpet for another story or a sing song, which would be tied in with the theme. Sometimes I will bring along props, like puppets. Depending on how long the session is we could also do an art and craft activity.

Here is an example of a typical session for nursery aged children

The theme is Minibeasts or Halloween.

The children have expressed an interest in spiders and you would like me to visit your nursery to read some stories and make something nice with them.

When I arrive we all gather together on the carpet for a relaxed introduction and I read 'Aaaarrgghh, Spider!' - a "rip-roaring, shout-aloud picture book about a spider who wants to be the family pet". I also like to write my own stories and often enjoy storytelling as an alternative to reading from a book.

Staff then select a smaller group of children to come and bake. A maximum of 5 or 6 children would be best but we can discuss this prior to my arrival.

We make Incy Wincy Delights or if you'd prefer we could make a healthy Spider Pizza using vegetables. It's always nice to make enough to share with the other children.

After the baking session we gather together again to sing some songs or if there is time we could do a simple art and craft activity - making spider puppets for example.

This is simply an example. I am happy to take the lead but I am equally happy to discuss in an email prior to my visit what you would prefer me to focus on.

Sound good?

I have 20+ years experience of working with children of varying ages and abilities. I have vast experience working with challenging behaviour. I have an N.N.E.B qualification in Child Care and Education and a BA Degree in Community Education. I currently work in the Learning Support department at a busy Edinburgh school. I am PVG registered.

In addition to my career in education I am a published author with three acclaimed children's novels. 


I have a passion for literacy and creating good quality, exciting stories for young children. I thoroughly enjoy encouraging language and communication development through books and stories. Being a children’s author has not only offered me a keen insight into what young people look for in fiction but has also given me a passion and determination to reach children who might otherwise approach reading and writing in a reluctant way. I regularly visit schools where I talk to young people about my love of words and my life as an author. I have been invited to speak at many literary events, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I have also devised Teaching Packs to accompany my novels.

Baking is my other passion. I love food almost as much as I love books!

Making learning fun. It's what I know, it's what I live, it's what I'm good at.

So, if you are interested in me visiting your establishment then drop me an email at

I promise you won't be disappointed. 

Incy Wincy Delights 

Click her for Flipagram recipe

Some very simple ingredients. This is a no-bake recipe, suitable for very young children. The only 'cooking' involved is melting the chocolate!

I used a mixture of Original Oreos and Chocolate Creme flavour. Smarties are good for eyes but you could also use Skittles, white buttons or M&M's. Not the healthiest recipe ever created but what is Halloween all about if it's not about eating sweets? Everything in moderation, that's my motto.

Melt 200g of Milk Chocolate over a simmering pan. Be careful not to let any of the water touch the chocolate as this will ruin it.

Twist the Oreos apart. This can be quite tricky for little ones and they'll probably need a bit of help to avoid their biscuit getting broken. We don't want any tears!


Lay out the bowl of melted chocolate and plate of sprinkles on the table.

Let the children choose their biscuit and then spoon a teaspoon of melted chocolate onto one half. This will be messy...and FUN!

The children then take a Cola lace and carefully cut it in half and then half again so they end up with four pieces. This is a brilliant opportunity to do some counting and talk about measuring and basic fractions. Great chance to introduce simple mathematical vocabulary - Half, quarter, four equal lengths, measure etc.

Show the children how to lay the four pieces of Cola Lace across the centre of the body of the spider. This would be a great time to discuss how many legs a spider has and another ideal opportunity for counting.

Gently replace the top half of the Oreo biscuit, pressing lightly so the chocolate squishes everything together. 

Spoon another small amount of chocolate onto the top of the spider's body and follow this with a good scattering of chocolate sprinkles. This is where the fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination comes in.


The main body of Incy Wincy is now complete and all that's left is to decorate his face. You can do this any way you like. I chose Smarties and black writing icing for the eyes, and a jelly diamond cut in half for the mouth. Tiny strawberry lace pieces also make good mouths as you can shape them any way you like.

Incy Wincy Spider - ready to gobble up. YUM!

The little 'web' Oreos are a nice addition and use up any leftover chocolate (if it hasn't already all been scoffed!). Easy peasy - just spoon a little chocolate over the top of an Oreo biscuit, draw four circles of white writing icing, one inside the other and then use a cocktail stick to draw six evenly spaced lines from the centre of the biscuit to the outside edge giving the effect of a spider's web.

Don't worry, we're friendly!

Wriggle, jiggle, tickle!

A plateful of Incy Wincy Delights and web Oreos. Perfect for a spooky Halloween or minibeast theme.

 Love and sticky fingers, Hazel X