Sunday 21 February 2021

It's the little things

 What do a light bulb, a hollyhock plant and fifteen half used balls of wool have in common?

At first glance, nothing springs to mind but those three little things all contributed to a very positive frame of mind at the weekend.

Let's start at the beginning, with the lightbulb.  The one that was in the light above the table in our dining room; the one which blew on Thursday evening.  Not just any old lightbulb, but a special globe shaped, opaque coloured, dimmable one.  We had no spare, and it was not one that could be added to an online grocery order.  A reason to go into town! 

So with a reason to go into town, and with our son's imminent birthday and no shops being open for suitable presents, I ordered him some Levis from John Lewis to be picked up at our local Waitrose.  I could kill two birds with one stone.  On the way into the shop they had a display of plants on offer - four for £12.  One of the varieties on sale was hollyhocks - the exact plants we had decided would look nice growing up against the garden fence which we have painted grey.  It was meant to be!  Jeans collected, hollyhocks (and a lupin) bought, I then walked to the shop which I knew would be open and which also sold the right bulbs.  Once in there, I also picked up some new gardening clogs for Paul, and a few other gardening bits and bobs which we needed. 

It was perfect gardening weather and once I'd returned home, had a coffee and changed into old clothes, we spent a happy day tidying up the flower beds and planting up the new plants.  The more we looked, the more little signs of spring were discovered.  It honestly made such a difference to our moods!

So if the bulb hadn't blown, I wouldn't have gone into town (I'd have ordered the jeans to be delivered to home) I wouldn't have seen the plants and we probably wouldn't have felt inspired to spend the day in the garden.

What else?  Oh yes, the wool.  I've finished my blanket - I'm so pleased with it, and especially love the border to it.  

But it only used half the wool I bought.  Which seems a bit of a waste right?  What's a girl to do?  

Start a new blanket to use up the left overs!  

Happy days!

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Tasty Tuesday

 Paul doesn't normally take much interest in my blog posts, but when I told him about this one, he was more than happy to know what I was up to.

Oh yes, now I had his attention!  Anything that involved me cooking one of his favourite desserts was certainly going to get his approval.  Leslie has organised a blog hop and if you like the idea of finding some new recipes, hop on and join in!  If you arrived here from Penny's blog welcome and thank you for joining me.  

My recipe is one from my favourite star baker, Mary Berry, and it is a variation to a traditional creme brûlée - this one is cappuccino flavoured.  And so simple to make (but don't tell Paul that, he thinks I've gone to a lot of trouble 😉)

The original recipe serves 6 but I have halved it so that it gives us one each today and then as a special treat, Paul can have the leftover one tomorrow.  This is a fab dessert if you are having people over for dinner.  Ah, remember those days when we could have people come inside our house?  Sigh.  I digress, here's the quantities for three.

2 egg yolks
I small tub single cream (150ml)
1 small tub double cream (150ml)
22g caster sugar
1¼ teaspoon coffee granules
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

25g caster sugar (Mary says use Demerara but I find caster sugar melts faster and smoother)

US conversions can be found here.

Pre heat oven to 160 C (fan 140 or 325F) and boil some water

  • Put egg yolks in large bowl, add caster sugar and vanilla and whisk to combine
  • Put both creams into a pan and heat until scalding but not boiling.  Remove from heat and add coffee granules and stir. Cool for about 2 mins then pour into egg mixture.  Don't do this too soon or you'll end up with coffee flavoured scrambled egg!  
  • Pour into ramekins
  • Stand ramekins in a roasting tin and pour hot water into the tin until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (Like a Bain Marie)
  • Bake for 20 - 25 mins then remove the ramekins and leave to cool. 
  • Once completely cool, cover and put in fridge to go completely cold.  Can be done up to 2 days ahead.

When you are ready to eat these little beauties you get to the fun bit. 
Sprinkle about a tablespoon of caster sugar over the top of each one and then ... fire up the blow torch! 

Of course you don't have to have a blow torch, you can just put them under a hot grill to melt the sugar until it caramelises.  Once the sugar has melted, let it cool for a little while until it goes brittle and then you can crack it open with a teaspoon to reveal a gloriously silky smooth custard beneath.  Yum.

Thank you Leslie for organising this blog hop (and to Ruth who recommended the cooking conversion page!) 

So, now let's take off our aprons and head over to Leslie at Once upon a time happily ever after and see what's on the menu in El Paso!

The full list of the other participants can be found here:

Bon Appetit!

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Saturday 13 February 2021

Things that make you go 'ah' (version 2)

 I quite like the idea of recording the things that made me smile in the previous week so here's a few things that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

It snowed!  And we took Leo and Rosie out for a little play.  As you can see we were all bundled up with lots of layers but while one of us {me} may not have looked particularly stylish, we kept warm and dry!

Then on Wednesday Jon rang to say that it had been far too long since Max saw his nanny and grandad so he popped over for a very chilly walk and Max wondered why some of the ducks were able to walk on the icy water while some of them were swimming in the part of the lake that had melted.

As it's been so cold outside, I've spent a fair amount of time inside perfecting my crochet skills!  Only four more coloured stripes to do and then I'm onto the edging 😀

I've been hinting for a long time that it's been five years since we had our 'new' kitchen installed and we haven't repainted yet and on Thursday Paul finally agreed that it is looking a little 'tired' and needs freshening up.  I've decided it might look nice to go for a lighter neutral colour and then add some colour through accessories so here is our patchwork sampler pot effort!

Then today, totally out of the blue, I received this happy mail from Alison who was part of the Shimelle Scrapbooking classes 'gang' from quite a few years back.  It really did make me smile, happy mail really does live up to its name!

And finally, a different kind of 'ah', more of an 'argh' really - that shock to the system when you are out walking with the dog, the wind changes direction so you are walking into it, the sun goes in and you're in shade.

Ah!  Wind chill temperature of minus 10 degrees Celcius - time to head for home Coco!

Have a good weekend everyone, and I'll be back here on Tuesday, when I'm joining in a with a Sweet Treat Blog Hop.  I cannot begin to say how much of an 'ah' moment that was for Paul when he discovered I 'had' to do a sample of one of his favourite desserts!  

Monday 8 February 2021

Things that make you go 'ah'

 We had Leo and Rosie here for a couple of hours again on Friday afternoon, that definitely put smiles on all our faces.  Rachel got Rosie out of her car seat and she immediately ran across the lawn shouting 'Nanny's house! Nanny's house!' She was so excited.  As was her brother who had brought with him two bags full of things he wanted to show us, although once here, he totally forgot about them and just got stuck in with playing with the things we keep here.  We try and spend as much time as we can outdoors just to be super careful and Leo just loves digging in the dirt looking for treasure, making ponds out of holes that he's dug and lined with some plastic and turning over stones looking for creepy crawlies.  After a while he shouted across the garden to me 'Nanny!' and I was expecting him to ask if he could have a drink and a biscuit so it was a lovely surprise when he just shouted out 'I love you!' Definitely two things that made me go 'ah' on Friday.

So what made me go 'ah' at the weekend?  Well, we cook meals from scratch every day of the week so it was made a lovely change to have a Waitrose Thai meal for two that we could just put in the oven, all prepared and ready to go.  Just to make it feel a bit special we decanted the food into metal bowls and laid them on the table on heated plate trays so it almost felt like we were in a restaurant.  All washed down with a pink gin and tonic with a slice of lime and a couple of raspberries (does that help with my '5 a day' do you think?)

Then the weather turned cold with snow forecast so on Sunday, the thing that made me go 'ah' was comfort food.

Roast Chicken, roasted new potatoes, honey roasted chantenay carrots, savoy cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli cheese and a spoonful of special gravy.  This is a variation on a recipe by the queen of the kitchen, Mary Berry and promise me you will try this next time you roast a chicken.  Slice two onions thickly and put in baking dish.  Lay chicken on top of onions and roast as normal.  When chicken is cooked you will have a layer of chicken juices and meltingly soft onion slices.  Stir in a tablespoon of flour and stir to a thick paste.  Add about half a pint of chicken stock, a generous spoonful of redcurrant jelly and a large splash of Worcester sauce.  Oh boy.  The flavours!  

Woke up to this today

So I got dressed, wrapped up warm and headed over to Rachel's with Coco for some fun outside with the children.  That really made me go 'ah'!  Coco was having so much fun, Leo was making 'snow angels' in the snow and Coco was joining in rolling around on her back too.  It was a good start to the day.

Here's hoping we all have a good week with a few more moments of 'ah' along the way!

Wednesday 3 February 2021

Winter Photo Scavenger Hunt - part two

 It's nice to have a distraction from being in lockdown and I've enjoyed searching for some more of the items on the Winter Photo Hunt list.  Want to see what I've found?  Here we go:

So, 12 down and 8 to go!  I've included one of the alternative ones just in case I struggle with one on the list.  It's a Romanesco Cauliflower; isn't it gorgeous?  I'd never cooked one before but I fancied making cauliflower cheese to go with our roast chicken the other weekend. The shops had sold out of 'normal' cauliflowers and this was all they had.  I figured it probably tasted very similar - and it did!  Coated in a lovely, creamy cheese sauce it was absolutely delicious.  Almost too beautiful to cook and definitely came under the category of 'textured'!  

Are you joining in with the hunt?  How are you getting on with your list? Thanks to Mary-Lou for introducing me to this fun challenge organised by Eileen!

Monday 1 February 2021

A sentence a day in January

It's a new year!  2021, we all have high hopes for you.  We certainly hope that you are a vast improvement on the year we have just left.  

For posterity I should record that we start the year in Tier 4 restrictions.  Pretty much confined to home with your own household only, except for meeting with one other person outside, and those in childcare bubbles can have those children (not their parents) inside their homes.  All non essential shops and services are closed.

Day 1 A chilly start to the new year - a day where staying home and not going outside except for a dog walk is all that is on the agenda

Day 2 Started to dismantle Christmas, starting with the decorations in the conservatory; watched the first episode of The Undoing in the evening

Day 3 Took down the Christmas tree and all the other decorations in the house; although the lounge looks a bit bare now, there is part of me that likes to get things back to normal

Day 4 Dentist appointment to replace the broken wisdom tooth filling - worried about it all morning then in the end I was only in the surgery 15 mins - memo to self 'must try not to be so anxious.  Boris Johnson on tv this evening announced another full lockdown #feelingdespondent    

Day 5 Feeling very down today at the prospect of at least another 6 weeks confined to home, somehow it seems even worse this time

Day 6 Watched another episode of Bridgerton (I'm not normally keen on period dramas but I'm enjoying this one) did a bit more jigsawing and then a dog walk 

Day 7 Zumba - Coco went to Rachel's for a sleepover in the evening

Day 8 'Attended' the funeral (via Youtube) of a lovely lady that I used to work with, she packed so much into her 87 years and was a real inspiration to all who knew her

Day 9 What day is it?  Saturday?  They are all merging into one now!  

Day 10 Today's dog walk was freezing cold but beautiful 

Day 11 Tried a Joe Wicks PE lesson - I'm not sure if I'll be doing that again, I don't think it's aimed at my age group!

Day 12 Coco went to the groomers - lucky girl getting a spa day and haircut

Day 13 Max went to hospital to have tests on his heart (his mummy has a genetic condition that can be passed on) what a relief to be told that all looks good and he doesn't need to go back until he is five

Day 14 Zumba in the morning, made a cake and Leo and Rosie came round in the afternoon for some childcare bubbling.

Day 15 Really getting stuck into my crochet today, I can honestly say that I am 'hooked'

Day 16 Woke up to a thin layering of snow today, it didn't last long but it was fun while it lasted; had a lovely long video chat with our son and family, was so good to see Max again even if it is only via a phone link.

Day 17 Sunday - another week bites the dust!  

Day 18 Went into town to collect a parcel, Paul's back has gone into spasm and I am on full dog walking duties ...

Day 19 Watched Greys Anatomy, crocheted and jigsawed!

Day 20 It's now been 32 years since my dad died, gosh that's more than half my lifetime, will always be a day of memories for me.  In other news, Joe Biden is now President of the USA.

Day 21 Zoom Zumba where the theme was 70s disco classics - what a fun class!  Took Leo and Rosie for a walk in the afternoon.

Day 22 Went for a walk with my friend Mandy, normally we would see her and her husband at least twice a month either for meals out or drinks round each others houses, now we have to make do with socially distanced walks outside.

Day 23 Same old, same old - crochet, jigsaw, lunch, dog walk, cook dinner, eat dinner ...

Day 24 It snowed!  Not for long and not very much but enough for every kid in town to get out and slide or make teeny tiny snowmen. 

Day 25 The slushy snow froze overnight and the pavements were treacherous in the morning which made for an 'interesting' dog walk.

Day 26 Woke up to a beautiful sunrise.  Made Paul a hat! 

Day 27 Dog walk, jigsaw, lunch, crochet ...

Day 28 Zoom Zumba, took Leo and Rosie out to the park so that Rosie could have a nap in the buggy and Leo could show Grandad his football skills.

Day 29 Had Leo and Rosie over for a couple of hours in the afternoon so our daughter could get some 'working from home' done - we all really enjoyed it!

Day 30 Wet and miserable day with slushy sleet all day, dog walks were much shorter today.

Day 31 Bright and sunny for our dog walk this morning - fortunately I wore my wellies as it was decidedly muddy in the places where the sun hadn't yet melted the frost.

And finally, the month in video form - 1 Second Everyday

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