Friday, 26 February 2010

hob nobbing...

hobnob [ˈhɒbˌnɒb]
vb -nobs, -nobbing, -nobbed (intr; often foll by with)
1. to socialize or talk informally
2. Obsolete to drink (with)
[from hob or nob to drink to one another in turns, hence, to be familiar, ultimately from Old English habban to have + nabban not to have]

Last night I went to the opening of the latest Toast store in Cheltenham. The evening was a collaboration with Hobbs House Bakery, a local artisan bakery, who are a supplier to their tiny tea room {tables pictured above}. There was an exhibition of curio's and projected images, between rails of the new 2010 Toast clothing range and a wall with framed slices of bread! The walls of the store had been stripped back to reveal the rough plaster finish, which reminded me of Jamie's restaurant in Bath. With champagne and local apple juice flowing, and canapes made with lovely bread, the evening finished with some 'live' entertainment in the form of a small play, which was delicious and very quirky!

Monday, 22 February 2010

how to make marmalade...

This is the time of year when we make marmalade, I make mine with Seville oranges, as they have more pectin in, than other sweeter varieties. I tried a different recipe this year, from Jane Baxter of Riverford Field Kitchen.

Ingredients to make around 2.3Kg:
1.5Kg Seville oranges
2 medium lemons
2.25Kg natural granulated sugar
sterilized jars
waxed discs

1. Cut the fruit in half, remove the pips and put to one side. Squeeze out all the juice and reserve. Reserve the skins too. Take the cut fruit halves and cut in half again. With sharp knife remove as much pith and flesh as possible (my son uses an older blunt knife for this part). Put the pith, pips and flesh into a piece of muslin and tie up with string.
2. Cut the skin into fine shreds (we only do a few skins as we aren't keen on lots of shreds) and put in a pan with 4 pints of cold water, the fruit juice and the muslin bag (which now resembles a large tea bag). Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours or until the liquid has reduced by about a quarter and the peel is soft.
3. Remove the muslin nag and drain over the pan. Measure the contents of the pan in a jug, there should now be about 3 pints. Return the liquid to the pan. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat for 15 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.
4. Boil the mixture rapidly for about 50 minutes or until it begins to set (test after 15 minutes). When you think it is ready, test on a cold saucer until the skin wrinkles. When it is set, leave to stand for 15 minutes.
5. Spoon into warmed jars (I heat mine by putting them in the dishwasher, which also sterilizes them at high temperature). Cover the tops of jars with small waxed discs and leave to stand until cool. I use small kilner jars (so I have a ready supply made gifts for impromptu invitations as well as our own consumption) and just close the lids, or if you prefer finish with transparent covers and an elastic band.

Spread lavishly on a piece of toast, whatever time of day!

Friday, 19 February 2010

things that are making me smile right now...

my two silly boys and their constantly muddy knees!

this evening I am hosting a Neal's Yard Remedies party at home as you can never have too many organic beauty products and evenings in with the girls!

a parcel all the way from the US from this lovely lady

and the fact that I just baked a broccoli cake and no one else was here to lick the bowl!

I hope Friday is making you smile ;0)

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

February is full of food...

is it the cold weather that makes me hungry? All I'm doing at the moment is blogging about food! Today, being Shrove Tuesday, it's traditional to make pancakes, in fact some even have pancake races, where crazy people wear an apron and run through the streets tossing their pancakes as they go! This year my little chefs, made their pancakes all by themselves, the eldest reading the recipe {a good tip for little ones learning to read} and I allowed them to break the eggs into the bowl themselves, oh the responsibility of it all! It also marks the start of lent, a time where people give things up until Easter, which I never do, maybe I should?

Monday, 15 February 2010

valentines day...

Valentines Day is low key in this house, but we still found time to make some jammie dodgers!

Jammie Dodger Recipe

275g plain flour
250g lightly salted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
175g icing sugar
2 medium egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp Strawberry jam

1. Put the flour and 200g of the butter in a food processor and blend until the mixture starts to resemble breadcrumbs. Add 100g of the icing sugar, the egg yolks and vanilla and blend to form a smooth dough. Wrap and chill for an hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 200oC/gas mark 6. Grease 2 large baking sheets. Thinly roll out half the dough on a floured surface and cut out 24 heart shapes, using a cutter. Space slightly apart on one of the baking sheets.
3. Roll out the remaining dough and cut out 24 more hearts, this time cutting out a smaller heart in the middle.
4. Bake in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until pale golden around the edges. Leave on the baking sheet to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
5. Beat the remaining butter in a bowl with the remaining butter in a bowl with the remaining icing sugar and 1 tsp boiling water until pale and creamy. Using a small knife spread the buttercream over the solid biscuit shape and spread the centre of each with the jam. Top with the remaining biscuits.

Makes 24. Recipe from Waitrose online.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

chinese new year...

Happy chinese new year to you, it's my year ~ the year of the Tiger! Last night we had a Chinese meal with friends and ate our homemade fortune cookies. Even better our fortune telling fish say 'we're in love', yippeee!

Friday, 12 February 2010

making fortune cookies...

We are having a small party to celebrate Chinese new year tomorrow. We are going to order a Chinese take away from a nearby restaurant, hang paper lanterns and have also made some fortune cookies, which were really easy to make.

Recipe for fortune cookies

in preparation we cut small strips of paper and wrote our own fortunes and messages on them, to go inside the cookie!

2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
8 tablespoons of white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of water

1. Preheat the oven. Separate eggs {you only need the whites} and place the egg white in a bowl and beat with a balloon whisk. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the vegetable oil and whisk again until the mixture becomes a little foamy.

2. Place the flour, cornstarch, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl and stir in the water {you may find it easier to use an electric beater for this bit} until it resembles a think paste.

3. Take your egg mixture and add small amounts to the flour mixture and combine together using electric beaters. Continue adding egg mixture until there is nothing left and you have a smooth runny batter.

4. Place tablespoons of batter onto a greased baking sheet, making sure to space each 2 inches apart. Tilt the sheet to spread the batter into large thin circles.

5. Bake at 300oF/150oC/gas mark 7 for 10-15 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown.

6. Remove straightaway from baking sheet using a spatula {I wore gloves for this bit!}, and place it on the palm of your hand, work quickly to place a fortune inside the circle folding in half then bring the outer points together to form the shape.

7. Place in a muffin tray to cool, the cookie hardens as it cools.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

new crate shelves...

With a few busy weekends ahead, the boys and I took ourselves out for the day, on a jaunt to Baileys Home & Garden, Ross-On-Wye. They like me, are quite happy to 'while away' a gloomy day in a cafe as long as they can be bribed with cake and warm milk. Whilst they entertain themselves in the children's corner, I managed to potter around the shop and pick up these three crates in the sale. I am planning to use them for kitchen shelves, with maybe some glassware in or some recipe books as more of a focal point.

I would like the crates to replace a perfectly fine shelf, much to my husbands despair "why do you want to replace a perfectly good shelf", he asks knowing exactly what the answer will be! ~ "because they will look much better!" I reply breezily!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

my guilty pleasure ~ Saturday night TV...

I am addicted to the BBC One show 'so you think you can dance?', obviously there
is a dancer deep inside of me wanting to get out! {OK very deep inside!} I especially
love the hip hop dancers, Tommy in particular, and found this clip on You Tube, which
is amazing! I love the fact that two genres have merged, hip hop dance to classical
music, you would think it wouldn't work, but it so does. Check it out, what do you think?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

my knight in shining armour...

Knights outfit:
Cape made by Jenny from an old skirt from a charity shop, cut open and hemmed, then two gold buttons and a piece of elastic used as a clasp.
Tabard made from old velvet curtains, ghastly brocade fabric, a silver netting over a black material for the metallic hood and a little imagination!

If you don't have the time to make a knights outfit, check out Myriad for a lovely St.Georges outfit with crochet chain mail helmet!

simple pleasures ~ the last roast potato

As a child I remember my mum serving up a plate of roast potatoes with every Sunday lunch, she would always do extra as we would always ask for more. I don't know what it is about a spud roasted in oil, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, that can cause such family arguments about who has the last one! It would always be small and crispy, and whoever was awarded this coveted prize, would use it to mop up the last smears of gravy from their plate! I love a roast on Sunday and mine always comes with roast potatoes too, although I never get the last one!

What is your simple pleasure?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

sleeping angel...

see this sleeping angel? Not at 10pm last night he wasn't when he woke, then again at 10.30pm when he woke again. At midnight he was in our bed, half an hour later he was sick in our bed, at 1am he was back in his bed, I had changed our sheets and put them in the washing machine. Then, a few minutes later, he was sick in his bed and all over the bathroom floor as Pete attempted the 'carrying a child whilst being sick' maneuver {not for amateurs ~ yuck!}. I then changed his sheets and put him back in our bed, and finally, rescued Jasper the rhino who wasn't impressed having been covered in vomit! He was hot, fevery and unsettled until about 3am, when he finally went to sleep! We all woke at 6am.

If you are not a parent, I apologise for this post, really having children is full of sunny days, roses and rainbows! If you are a parent, you will sympathise and be nodding along with me, remembering nights that last forever, sick children, bodily functions that don't even cause you to raise your eyebrows anymore and the tiredness that five nights of broken sleep can bring.

Sometimes arriving at work for 9am fully dressed is the greatest achievement of your life! Wondering whether you stink of bile during your appraisal is maybe the flipside.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

a little direction needed...

Recently I have been wondering why on earth, with all the good things I have around me, such as husband, children, friends, home, job I am not blissfully happy all the time. It's a horrible feeling and one I have kept bottled up for a long time for fear that people think me ungrateful, but after admitting it out loud here to some straight talking girl friends, it is almost like a weight has lifted from my shoulders.

I try to be the best mother, the best wife, the best employee, the best photographer, the best friend and the best daughter, but all too often it is all too much and I just can't keep everything going at the same time and if I do, it's usually me that crashes and burns! This year I have to learn that I can't do everything, nor am I expected to. It is perfectly OK to want more in life and that I am entitled to pursue my own dreams. And the most important thing, I have got to stop worrying about what other people think! Does this sound familiar?

To help me start this process, tonight I am filling in the 'unravelling the year ahead' worksheet, to give me some direction in 2010, it's free to download, why don't you give it a go too?

Monday, 1 February 2010

blue monday...

The little man is poorly today with a horrible ear infection. Pete made me a chicken sandwich before he left for work this morning, if he hadn't I wouldn't of eaten today as the poorly one hasn't let me out of his sight all morning! I am wolfing it down now while he sleeps and after two nights with little sleep I am thinking about taking a nap myself! I just wish I could stop worrying about not being at work today.

p.s. the theme for the 'words to shoot by' collaboration was blue, check it out Steph has just posted.
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