Sunday 31 January 2010

Lost in translation

I realise I had done my 'new recipe of the week' with the Rocky Road but I woke this morning in the mood for some serious cooking. I've been craving some of the old recipes my mum used to cook when I was growing up so yesterday bought the ingredients for Lancashire Hot Pot. It's cooking at the moment and I can almost taste the succulent lamb, the texture of the pearl barley, the softness of the carrots and those gorgeous crisp slices of potato. I digress! So as that takes 2 hours to cook, I decided to use the top oven for some baking. I had seen Robyn's son Andrew making something that looked delicious here in the post 'One thing I miss' and we all know how great the Americans are at cookies don't we? Us Brits can't compare, so I thought I would give Robyn's recipe a whirl and have a go making a few minor adjustments along the way.
Firstly I had the problem of translation. How can two countries who speak the same language have so many differences?! Over here we are brainwashed into exact measurements and those of an advanced age such as myself (ahem, you don't HAVE to agree with that!) not only had to learn one set of imperial measurements when we were growing up, when we got into our teenage years we had to learn again with metric. (Hands up if you remember 'Granny gets the point' on TV? A public information advert to help learn decimal currency. No one? Just me? Oh my goodness I'm older than I thought) So anyway, the Americans use cups. How easy must that be? No need for scales. Good old Google, directed me to a '' programme and I had my translation. And of course America still uses the imperial scale of liquid - no litres in sight! Then of course there are some ingredients that I don't think I've ever seen in Tesco or Sainsburys or Waitrose: Canola oil? Is a Canola anything like a Sunflower? I had to hope for the best! The temperature seemed awfully high at 375 degrees, until I realised that in the US they use Fahrenheit not Centigrade.
Now at this point I have to say that when it comes to a tidy kitchen, young Andrew could teach me a thing or two. I am officially messier than a four year old. Chocolate mixture over me, the work top, and the kitchen towel. I decided to go for a larger, flatter cookie shape as in our family that seems to be most popular. Plus my daughter prefers a less dark chocolate so I was probably more frugal on the chocolate front. But you know what, these are some pretty tasty cookies. Don't take my word for it, pop over to Robyn's and have a look!

Friday 29 January 2010

Happy Days

wow! An award! For little ol' me! Thanks Sian. This has made me smile on a day which was so frustrating at work and had made me come home with those little frown lines on my forehead slightly deeper than when I left home this morning. So now with the world of school firmly behind me and the weekend peeking round the corner I am proud to announce the things that make me happy
  • When both 'kids' are home in the holidays and I go to bed knowing all four of us are safely tucked up in bed in the same house
  • Alexander the Meerkat's 'compare the' advert - always makes me smile
  • A chilled glass of prosecco or champagne
  • Snuggling under a fleece blanket on the sofa watching Grey's Anatomy. Especially enjoyable if I know I really ought to be doing the ironing
  • Going to my sister's holiday home in Portugal, the minute you open those patio doors and feel the warm Portuguese sun on your face you know that relaxation time has begun
  • Reading just before I go to sleep at night. Even if my eyelids can barely stay open, I love a good book
  • Seeing my son's name as 'online' on Facebook while he is at uni. Sometimes that's as close as I get to having a 'conversation' with him all week
  • Doing something creative and if it causes a mess throughout the study or dining room, so much the better.
  • Trying out a new recipe. Especially if the first ingredient is chocolate
  • Having friends round for dinner, eat, drink and be merry, that's my philosophy!

And now to pass this award on, with the instructions to follow my lead and list those things that make you happy too. There are a couple of people I would have included but someone else got there first so I will choose people previously un-nominated:

Denise for being a brilliant friend over the last 32 years and for introducing me to scrapbooking

Robyn whose blog has such great variety, I only know her through cyberspace but she's the kind of person I'd like to be friends with

Abi who I 'met' through Shimelle's blogging class. I relate to her stories as she's not far off the age of my son and when I read them I can almost hear the way she is writing them (does that make sense?)

Rachel B she has a gorgeous little boy and I love the pictures she takes of him and the little snippets of info of the funny things he does.

And as for Sian and Mel ; I would have included you guys but you've already been nominated and there's only so much room on your mantlepiece for awards!

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Recipe of the week - Rocky Road

I have the tattiest, scruffiest old recipe book that I hand write any recipes that other people give me or that I scribble off the Internet. The recipes are given my own title, which usually includes the name of the person who gave it to me. Which explains 'Auntie's Lemon Flan' 'Denise's Cherry Cheesecake' 'Mum's meringues' and 'Debbie Turner's Hawaiian Chicken'. You can tell how often I have cooked something by the amount of splashes and bits of crumb on the pages. Remember my intention to try a new recipe every week? Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to: Lynn the Osteopath's Rocky Road:

250g plain choc
150g milk choc
175g butter/marg
4 tbs syrup
200g broken up biscuits
150g Brazil nuts
150g glace cherries
125g mini marshmallows

Melt chocolates together with butter/marg
Add syrup
Chop up nuts and cherries and add to the mix with the broken biscuits and marshmallows
Pour into 10" square greased tray.
Put in fridge to set and then cut into squares.

(I cheated and melted a bar of milk chocolate with nuts in rather than chop nuts up and add separately!)

Sunday 24 January 2010

End of the weekend

You know, I can't quite get used to working on a Monday. For 8 years I've worked part time but never on a Monday. In September I was asked to increase my hours and to come in for 4 hours on a Monday. And it still takes me by surprise on a Sunday night when I realise I've got to get up early the next day!
We almost booked a holiday yesterday. Even got as far as sitting in Thomas Cook. But we can't quite decide where to go or what to do. We had almost decided to go on a cruise, decided on a route and everything. Then actually priced it up. Blimey they are expensive! To be honest, I quite like having a couple of short breaks in the year as well as a week or so away and if we went for the cruise, that would be it for the year. So that is on the back burner.
Back to the drawing board. We have to go in school holidays as I work in the office of a secondary school. My husband doesn't 'do' extreme heat and I don't 'do' activity holidays. We need somewhere where the sun will be shining, preferabley a nice beach, good food, pretty scenery. Photo opportunities for serious scrapping on my return. Somewhere with a bit of local charm and atmosphere. Anybody any recommendations?!

Friday 22 January 2010

Sloe-ly does it

I've been very patient.

It's been hard not to touch this.

We HAD to finish the contents of a pretty bottle so I could decant it ;-)
But these little juicy berries have done their business.
They've fermented and matured and given up their juiciness.
And now the time has come
To sit down, relax and enjoy ...

Thursday 21 January 2010

It's complicated!

Last night I went to see this:

It was so funny and if you find yourself with 2 hours to spare and you fancy a relaxing evening, I suggest you find a friend to go with. I don't think it's a man's film so husbands/boyfriends should be left at home!
Whether you like Meryl Streep or not you have to admire her for not worrying about appearing without make up or fancy clothes. It was a good film and I think it had the right ending, it could have gone either way but she made the right choice in the end I think.
Go see it, let me know if you agree!

Tuesday 19 January 2010

The Mermaid Story

Are you sitting carefully? Then I'll begin.
Once upon a time there was a novice scrapbooker called Deb who had been encouraged to go to a monthly Scrapbooking Crop day by her friend Denise. She had been a few times and managed to keep up with the work set. Every month the organiser of the crop would send a 'Sneak Peek' of what they would be doing and details of what needed to be taken from home.
On this occasion, they were told that the designer was a very talented lady called Michelle Mogford and that among other things they would need 2 head and shoulders pictures 3cm x 3cm. Pretty small for a 12 x 12 scrapbook layout huh? Denise assured Deb that she would enjoy MJM's work, she was quirky and original and her layouts were very different, modern and fun.
When the crop began, Michelle explained that she was going to teach something that could be incorporated into card making or interactive scrapbook layouts. The class were going to learn how to make the mechanism for moving characters. You know the type of thing, you pull a tab and a lever moves behind the front paper to make something on the page move up and down or side to side. Very clever, very intricate and quite outside of Deb's comfort zone! It was then that the handout was given out and the class realised that the characters that would be moving up and down were a mermaid and a mer-man and this is what the little photographs were for. Now, Deb wasn't sure that her 19 year old son and 23 year old daughter (whose photos she had taken) would be happy to see their little heads bobbing up and down in a sea-scene attached to the bodies of amphibious creatures. Denise was quietly confident that her very macho sons would be equally unhappy.
But none were more unhappy than those ladies who had brought along photos of their cats.

On a brighter note, the other layouts we did with MJM were fab, fun and funky, it's just that the mermaid one always makes us chuckle.

Monday 18 January 2010

January Crop

At last, enough daylight to take pictures of the pages we did at the crop yesterday. I was quite pleased about the theme of them as luckily the photos I had taken along were quite appropriate. The instructions for the layouts left a bit to the imagination as they were by a Polish designer so there is a little 'artistic interpretation' going on! Believe it or not, these pages were made from paper that was originally Christmas themed but a bit of cutting and trimming and careful alteration, we made two very un-Christmassy pages. It never ceases to amaze me how a room of 20 ladies following the same instructions can come up with such differing pages, it's amazing how different photos can completely alter the look of the page.
I think my favourite bit of the 'Angel' page is the gold wire with crystals twisted into it that we bent to make a circular frame around the photo. But I also loved the little pearl and gold pins that went through the red ribbon. I liked the wording on the journalling bit on the other page which reads: magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen. That wasn't supposed to be on there, but I noticed it on an offcut of paper that we weren't using for the layout and decided to make it part of my page.

Sunday 17 January 2010

A hard days scrapping

By the time I got home, the light wasn't good enough to take pictures of the layouts we did today at the crop but photographing them is on my 'to do' list for tomorrow.
There were Webster's papers (Yay!)
There were roses
There were pearls
There were sparkly stick ons
There were fancy rub ons
But best of all .....
There were no mermaids!

Saturday 16 January 2010

Can you guess?

Tomorrow is the first Craftystash crop of 2010 and I am really looking forward to it. I had to miss the last couple of 2009 due to Husband having very inconveniently timed birthday near to Christmas and also our Chocolate weekend in Belgium.
So here is the 'Sneak Peek' that we have been sent. I'm liking the look of it and have printed off a selection of pictures in colour and black and white because until you get there you have no idea if what you have brought is appropriate. (One day I will tell you about the mermaid layout ...)
So, what do you think the day has in store for us? What do you think you can glean from the pictures?

Thursday 14 January 2010

Missing days

I haven't done a blog post since Monday and here we are at Thursday evening.
You may be forgiven for thinking that after my confessional on Monday about the absolute pure naughtiness of overindulging over Christmas, Rosemary Conley herself had descended on the class and taken me to the equivalent of dieting jail until I lose those pounds.
Or maybe the government had decided that having been given 3 snow days last week, all school secretaries should be locked in the schools overnight to clear their work and make up the lost hours. (Shhh don't give them ideas)
Maybe I had been whisked away to some exotic location by a loving husband, some magnificent 5* luxury spa resort in a hot foreign climate.
Nothing so exciting I am afraid.
Yes, I had put on weight but only 2 lb and that will soon go providing I stay on the straight and narrow for a couple of weeks.
Yes, I have had a fair bit of work to catch up on, but I've nearly made up for the lost work time.
Yes, my husband did take me away from home yesterday, but it was only to Sheffield to take our son back to university.
To be honest, I haven't had any scrapping to showcase, nor any exciting tales to tell and I was just plain tired after a 300 mile round trip within 7 hours last night.
So anyway, Shimelle has asked 'why do we scrapbook'. Well for me it is to make something pretty out of the masses of photos we have stored on our computer. OK, it's easy to take loads and to have them stored, but there is nothing quite like picking up an album and flicking through. It's a way of documenting important moments in our lives and archiving what we were doing at any point of time. I have so many photos that my parents had kept and many of them are of people I don't remember and places I don't recall. My scrapbooks will help my kids and their kids know a little more about me, how I was feeling, the people that were important to me and the occasions I celebrated. And not just me, my whole family. They are a little part of my history. Oh, and they are a good excuse to lock myself away in the study for a while and lose myself in creating something.

Monday 11 January 2010

Oh the shame

It's the first Rosemary Conley class of 2010 tonight. And I'm hoping that over the Christmas period, my scales have suffered some malfunction and are no longer showing the correct weight as I surely cannot have put on THAT much weight since December 13th.
Really regretting finishing off those brownies this afternoon.
Wish me luck.
I'm going to need it.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Recipe coming up ...

... OK for those chocoholics who like the sound of the chocolate brownie muffins I posted earlier, here is the recipe from the Cupcake book by Susanna Tee:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/gas 4
Line muffin tin with 12 paper cases

115g Plain white flour
pinch bicarbonate of soda
25g cocoa powder
225g plain chocolate
85g butter
3 eggs
200g caster sugar
100g walnut pieces roughly chopped

Sift together flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder
Melt chocolate and butter together (I microwaved mine for about 1 minute)
Put eggs and sugar in large bowl and whisk.
Add flour mixture, then stir in melted chocolate mixture and then the chopped walnuts
Fill muffin cases with batter and bake in oven for 30 mins until a crust has formed on top but the muffins are still slightly moist in the centre.

Bet you can't wait until they have cooled down before you try one ;-)
Bon appetit!

Healthy Eating

Hands up all those people who like chocolate. Now, hands up if you like chocolate brownies. And again, who likes chocolate muffins? If you found yourself answering 'yes' to all of those questions, then boy are you going to enjoy these! Remember how I was going to try a new recipe every week? And work my way through the cupcake cookery book I had for Christmas? Well this is what found it's way into my oven yesterday. Quite simply the BEST chocolate brownie/muffin recipe I have ever tried. If you are not on a New Year diet and want to try them too, let me know and I will post the recipe!

Saturday 9 January 2010

Officially over ...

You know the expression about it 'not being over until the fat lady sings'? Well, Christmas isn't over until the scrapbooking page has been made! And here it is - done and dusted! Every year I make the family pose for a family group picture on Christmas morning and every year they moan but it HAS to be done! I got this paper and the one I used for the Belgian page from a crop day and they are from here . I really liked the papers as they were quite different from anything I would normally use. However I wonder if I should have bought more and then used some of them to cut up and use for embellishments. What do you think?

Friday 8 January 2010

And again ....

We have another snow day! One of the advantages of working in a school that is in a private road that isn't gritted. Things cannot continue though, public exams start on Monday and as Assistant to the Exams Officer, I will have to go in even if the rest of the school is closed :-(

Husband has gone into work today and whilst it was lovely to have him home yesterday, he did intrude into my day somewhat. I waited until he was happily listening to something on his ipod and then sneaked upstairs for a bit of scrapping. Next thing I knew he was sitting at the desk - filing. Asking questions. Moving MY bits of paper. Tutting over the 'mess' I was making. I was not happy. I was part way through this layout and finally realised it would have to wait until I was home alone to be finished in peace. So after encouraging him to try to get into work today, I dropped him at the station this morning and came straight up here to finish it off. I just wanted to keep a reminder of this week for the future because by the time next January comes, we'll probably have forgotten just how much snow we had this year. I'm not sure that the cactus in the picture is wholly appropriate for a wintery page but the colours went with the layout!

Thursday 7 January 2010

Guess what?

School's closed again today!

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Ugg Boots?

I'm not sure Ozzy's Ugg boots are the genuine article!
We awoke to a serious amount of snow this morning so I walked round to my niece's to see if any dog walking was required. Her tibetan terrier was more than up for a nice run around in the snow but I didn't realise quite how the snow would stick to his fur. How comical does he look?! Wasn't so keen to have his little legs washed to get the snowballs off though.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

It's getting there

Many thanks to all suggestions and advice given re blog header, I think there's been a slight improvement - basically I needed to resize my picture by pixels rather than measurements. It has gone slightly out of sharp focus but I think I can live with that for a little while! Sadly I don't have Photoshop as I think that is what was really needed, but you live and learn.
To all those with children who were reluctant to go back to school yesterday, can I please reassure them that the staff would have been feeling the same! It was so hard to go back. I thought I had left things in an orderly fashion, I'd even left myself notes on what needed to be done. Letters stored on the computer post dated to 4 January etc (I am school secretary not teacher!) but I was hit by beginning of term-itis and let's just say it took a little while for my brain to defrost. Thank goodness I only work until 12.30 on a Monday! Highlight of the morning? - opening my new 2010 Brad Pitt calendar to hang on the wall. At least I have a nice view now ;-)

Sunday 3 January 2010

Can anybody help?

I have spent far too much time this afternoon trying to alter the header on my blog. I have even been driven to opening that sloe gin and having a little glass - evidence shown at the side. Whatever I do I cannot get the photo to just fit the header box. It either becomes humungous or I get the photo with a bit of white space either side. How do the rest of you get such beatifully well proportioned personalised headers? I'm ok with downloading a whole blog layout but I want to use my own photo. And it is driving me mad!
On a lighter note, is it my imagination or can you see a shape within the glass at the side? I can see a puppies head. See the little red face? The two little ears? a little shiny nose? Or have I truly been driven insane by the mighty Blogspot?!

Saturday 2 January 2010

Off to a good start

Prepare to be impressed ... Day two of the new year and I am already keeping my new year intentions. Here's the proof of new recipe experimentation. My son's girlfriend gave me a cookery book purely on 'Cupcakes' for Christmas and there are so many I want to try. They are not traditional British cupcakes, more American muffins but hey, who am I to quibble? This little beauty is a carrot and walnut cupcake. Naturally, cooks perks mean that I have had to sample one and I have to say it tasted pretty good!
Today marks the start of an annual quest. The holiday project. Trying to find something that ticks all of both of our boxes and is somewhere we haven't been before. This is not easy. My ideal holiday involves sunshine, sun loungers, lots of books and not moving far. My husband doesn't like too much heat, gets bored easily and likes to explore. You see my problem?! Before our children were born I worked for a holiday Tour Operator and so we have visited many European destinations. We have got into a routine of having a couple of holidays abroad and a UK weekend break each year and yesterday I dropped a suggestion into the ring. May half term holiday. Italy. Southern Italy. Neapolitan Riviera. Lovely hotels. Interesting towns. Early summer. I think I have his interest ... (I also have brochures!)

Friday 1 January 2010

New Years Good Intentions

Historically, I'm not that efficient at keeping New Years Resolutions. Maybe I'm just a rule breaker at heart! So this year I'm going to have good intentions instead. So much room for improvement, where to start?

Well I guess that a good place to start will be health related. I should intend to not eat chocolate on a daily basis. Get outside more and go for more walks. Eat more fruit.
Then to use my spare time more constructively. I am prone to squandering spare time, I am easily distracted, go into town to do a supermarket shop, pop into a clothes shop for a browse ... next thing you know I only have 10 mins left on my parking ticket and I just rush into Sainsburys, buy random items to put into tonights dinner and vow to do better tomorrow. So, my intention is to use my spare time more craftily (if you know what I mean!) and also to try at least one new recipe a month. I can see I will be popping over to Mel's blog for some help on this one!
So, day one and I've got both categories covered and the proof of this is in the photo above. Our local church in the January sunshine. Don't you just love the quirkiness of the monkey puzzle tree? I'm going to try and get out and do a monthly photo on the first of each month. Hopefully I will remember! It was such a lovely morning for a walk today. I had the tiniest of headaches following a night of eating, drinking and merry making and we didn't get home until 3am. I'm too old for all night partying but hey - once a year and all that! The sun was shining, the frost was melting and my head was clearing. We got as far as the local farm and had to divert around the public footpaths owing to the presence of a rather angry looking goose barring our normal route. DH didn't seem any keener to walk past it than I was, it was making quite a racket. Up around the field and we were then at possibly the highest point of the area. Suddenly, an icy wind came across the fields, and you know that pain between your eyebrows when you eat a particularly cold mouthful of icecream? Brain freeze, isn't that what it's called? Well that is what I felt as we walked rather briskly downhill to the shelter of the churchyard. It's almost as if I was being punished for laughing at DH for the silly wooly Spurs hat he was wearing. And what's more, he refused to let me wear it for the rest of the way home. Men!