Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Laptop back = dissertation finished, printed and bound!!

I've got my laptop back!! J's dissertation is finished, printed, bound and ready to hand in tomorrow - thank goodness. We weren't involved with C or B's, in fact not sure B did one, so didn't go through the stressful last days. Anyway all done and he's back at Loughborough with just his finals to do, guess it will go quick for him.
So what have I been doing in the meantime? well, when D and I were away in our caravan we talked about how we could bring some colour into it. (I do wonder about caravan designers and how they choose the furnishings because to my mind they are usually so bland) Having noticed Kate's van from Just Pootling I thought we could do something similar. Here is our 'bedroom' area before

all very pleasant, but not really any wow factor. I decided a trip to Dunelm was called for and I returned with this - I do like spots.

The headboard was easy to do, just a case of re-covering on top of the old fabric. The curtains didn't take very long either, even lining them. I still had some fabric left so a quick trip to where the van is stored to get some cushions and we now have a lovely bright bed area. What do you think?

I am so pleased with how it looks, so much brighter, and can't wait to go away in it this weekend. So thank you Kate for your inspiration.
I've also been doing a bit of baking - no surprise there, but I did remember to take some pics as I went along. We had an unexpected visitor last week which was a good excuse to make a Greek Halva cake. It's one I have often done at Easter but as we were on our own this year I didn't bother. Here it is finished

and here is how you make it

You'll need
100gr butter
100gr caster sugar
finely grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
2 beaten eggs
175gr semolina
1tsp baking powder
90gr ground hazelnuts or almonds - I actually mixed chopped nuts from Asda which are chopped finely

For the decoration
1 orange, lime and lemon
225gr caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
12 cloves

Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Stir in orange and lemon rinds, eggs, semolina, baking powder and ground nuts or chopped nuts.
Put in a lined 18cm square tin and bake in 220oC oven till just firm.

For the topping pare strips of rind from fruit, taking care not to include any white pith.

Squeeze the juice into measuring jug and make up to 300ml with water.
Place liquid with sugar and spices in a heavy based pan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil. Add the prepared orange and lemon rinds and cook for 3 mins, then add the lime rind and cook for 1 min.

Remove the rind and spices with a slotted spoon and arrange over the cooked cake. Pour over half syrup. Boil the remaining syrup for 2 mins till a little thicker and then spoon over the cake.
I like to serve it with creme fraiche as a pudding. It keeps quite well although generally it doesn't last long in our house.

Unfortunately I'm going to have to say goodbye as I've just looked at the clock and realised I'm due at work shortly and need to get some lunch before I go. Must just mention that I am off to see Paul Hollywood on Thursday night (my Christmas present from D) with my best friend A, can't wait! L A xx

Friday, 25 April 2014

Laptop commandeered!

Just to let you know I've not forgotten about you all, it's just J is on the last leg of his dissertation, he and D are proof reading it and so are using 2 lap tops in tandem, one of which is mine. It is all but done so I hope to be able to tell you what I've been up to tomorrow, so see you then xx

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A good Good Friday

What a lovely day Friday was, not only because we had such lovely weather, but also for D and I as we had a lovely day out in Derbyshire with two of our very best friends C and A. We had arranged to go for a walk and D and C decided on Dovedale which is nearish to Ashbourne. Neither D or I had ever been before but having looked at the map and some images we knew we would be in for a lovely walk and sure enough it was. We made the very good decision to meet early, 9-30pm in the car park at the start of our walk. There were very few cars there when we arrived in stark contrast to when we leave where the place was heaving. We walked up by the side of the river, which was in the bottom of a steep sided valley and crossed over the stepping stones

We carried on up the valley

passing the coin trunk, that reminded me of the one at Bolton Abbey.

Up and down we walked, it was so lovely, peaceful with just the noise of the river and birds

We passed Ilam rock, an amazing limestone pillar

The wild flowers were just beginning to carpet the wood

Continuing on we passed the Dove Holes caves

The path then took us into the lovely little village of  Milldale.

We walked a little further till we came to a suitable picnic spot and settled down to enjoy the food, the views and the peacefulness. As we retraced our steps it certainly became busy, Milldale looked like this

and that picture wasn't taken at the busiest spot. On reaching the stepping stones there were long queues to get across so we chose to carry on down the same side eventually returning back to the car park which was now jammed solid with not a space to be found. We decided to call it a day and said goodbye to C and A. It took a little time to get onto the main road again, goodness how long it would have taken us if we had stayed another hour. Having got back by 5pm we were able to enjoy a rather nice G&T in the sun before having our tea cooked for us by J.

I hope you have had a lovely weekend too, Happy Easter! L. Anne x

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Easter Treats

I can't believe it's almost Friday again and I have so much to show and tell you. As the Easter weekend starts tomorrow I must share with you our Easter tree and treats. A couple of Sundays ago I went down to the country park to look for a/some branches to use for our Easter tree. I knew the rangers had been cutting down a lot branches near the road so guessed I'd find what I was looking for - not so. Having seen all the branches piled up since before Christmas they had finally been taken away. However I also knew that D and the members of the sailing club had been able to trim a couple of trees back a little and so by walking alongside the lake I found what I was looking for. Once home I set about putting the branches in a pot filled with sand, you can see them here

Just perfect. I found some battery lights and wound them round then the next job was to unpack all the decorations that we had collected over the years and decide which were going on the tree. I had bought some little yellow eggs in Bruges specially so they were the first to go on, followed my homemade birds.

With the addition of more things a yellow and green theme started to emerge. My rabbits were stood carefully round the bottom

  and the tree was finally finished and I was 'well' pleased with it

Having still got some very favourite bits to put out, I decorated our fireplace without a fire. 
Here is the result and I rather like it.

Now in the Easter mood I turned my attentions to some real Easter treats in the form of cream egg brownies as asked for by J and his girlfriend F. As usual I went onto the internet to find a recipe as I had not even heard of these, but then I don't like cream eggs so wouldn't go searching for something to do with them. Anyway sure enough I found a recipe  for cream egg brownies (I used mini eggs) and added my own twist soft dark brown sugar, here they are before baking, some I split some eggs in half and some I left whole

and here they are after baking

They were gorgeous, and were nearly as good the next day - yes we were very restrained and only had one each. Don't worry I'm not going to leave you without the recipe, here it is - you will need a set of cup measures

4oz bittersweet chocolate - I used 80% coco chocolate
6oz butter
1/2 cup of sugar - I used soft dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup SR flour
Mini eggs - a £1 packet had 8 in and I found that I could stretch the mixture to make 8 brownies

Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over water, then cool
Whisk sugar and egg, then slowly add cooled chocolate mixture
Add flour and gently combine
Divide into bun/muffin cases
Put an egg in each
Bake for 13-15mins in 170oC oven

My first lot sank as they cooled, the second batch I made using caramel mini eggs and they didn't sink as much but my uncooked mixture seemed much firmer - they both tasted just as good. Do give them a go and let me know how you get on. 
Till next time Happy Easter. Love Anne x

Saturday, 12 April 2014

My Friday

Busy, busy, busy. I made a list of all the things I needed to do. I like making lists as there is something satisfying about crossing stuff off when you've done it isn't there? This is what is had on it

Clean our room
Caravan food
Clean downstairs
Salads for raclette

So I did start at the top, I had had 3 egg whites in the fridge from the weekend and had been meaning to make meringue all week. I had some concerns as to whether they would still be ok and whip up but put them in the kitchenaid and set it going - brilliant, and when I started adding the castor sugar they immediately started to thicken, so it was onto some baking paper and in the oven. Here is the result about an hour later

All I need to do now is fill with a mixture of cream and greek yoghurt, add the rasberries and it's ready for my guests. One crossed off, now for the quiche - Minted pea and goats cheese, you can find the recipe here. I started with the pastry and thought that 6oz flour, 3oz fat would be enough all was going well till for some reason I added too much water, result very wet mixture. As far as I was concerned there was only one thing to do, add more flour and fat and make 2 quiches instead of one. This involved a quick trip to Lidl to get more goats cheese and cream whilst D kept an eye on the bases which were being baked blind. Here's how they went once I got back, first the minted pea mixture

then the cream, eggs and spring onions

finally the goats cheese

into the oven and 30 minutes later

and as we have had one for lunch today I can say it was as good as it looks. Well what about the other? that is in the freezer with a large label on which says Cornwall, Spring Bank - the first of my cooking for our 'French Sunday lunch on a Saturday' more about that another time.
I'm just going to have to leave you all briefly whilst I quickly prepare the chicken for tonight and get it in the oven - won't be long
Sorry about that, chicken in - I'll share that recipe with you at a later date, but back to my list. Cleaning our room, well I'm afraid that didn't get done and still hasn't but there's always tomorrow. Caravan food, now that did get sorted. We are very briefly going to take the van to West Stockwith, which is between Bawtry and Gainsborough. D has to take an outboard motor for servicing and pick one up at West Stockwith so combining it with a couple of nights in our van seemed a good idea. All I needed to do was to sit with a coffee and collect my thoughts together and make a list of meals and what we were going to eat, and as I have some bits in the freezer for our main meals it was easy to sort. Clean downstairs, well again that didn't get done (do you think I have an aversion to cleaning?) but I've sort of done it this afternoon. Finally salads for the raclette. I needed to make a coleslaw and waldorf salad, not very difficult till I found we didn't have any - in the words of John Clease in Fawlty Towers 'waldorfs', peacan nuts were quickly subsituted and I don't think anyone was any the wiser. Maybe I better explain what raclette is to anyone who has not come across it before. Raclette is a French cheese which is used alot for cooking in the Alps. We came across it when we were skiing and really enjoyed it. What happens is that you have a selection of cold meats, salads, pickles and hot new potatoes. The cheese is cut up into pieces about 2" square and about a £1 coin thick, these are then put on a paddle and melted under the hot element of a raclette grill, then once melted tipped on to meats and potatoes before eating. Hope that explains it, here is our raclette grill, it is plugged in. The little paddle you can just see at the left of it is what you put your cheese in. You can put stuff on the top to keep warm or you can even cook on it.

Here are D, J and F enjoying their meal

It's the kind of meal to linger over, although the cheese is quite rich so you don't need a huge amount of it. The other way to have it is in the picture below. The big slab of cheese is melted by the element and then scrapped off.

If you like cheese do try it if you get chance.
So back to the list and tomorrow before we go away I shall make an effort to cross off the cleaning bits as I know I'll feel better about it when I do. 
Still lots to tell and show you so bye till the next time. A x

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Nothing like a bit of baking!

One of my friends from up the road popped down on Sunday for a coffee and brought me 5 brown bananas saying 'I was going to throw these away but thought you'd do something with them' - 'Yes J. you're right I can and will do some thing with them' and with a food duty at the sailing club over Easter I knew exactly what - these

Chocolate and banana buns along with chocolate and banana muffins

I have been making chocolate and banana buns for a long time. They should really be a cake, but I find these days buns are so much better as you can freeze them and just take out the number you need. The recipe was a Good Food one but it appears not to be on their site anymore so here it is

100gr plain chocolate melted
150gr unsalted butter (I use Stork as I like the lightness you get)
175gr golden castor sugar
3 eggs, beaten (mine were large)
175gr sr flour
1 level tsp baking powder
25gr coco powder
2 large bananas mashed

Cream sugar and butter till fluffy and pale
Gradually add the eggs, beating well between each addition
Sift flour, baking powder and coco and fold in
Add mashed banana and melted chocolate, mix well
Put into bun cases or 2 x 450gr loaf tins

Bake 180oC fan 160oC/gas 4 for ~ 15mins for the buns or 35-45mins for the loaves

I usually put melted chocolate on the top to finish them off, they will have mini eggs on this time.

The second batch were muffins which had white chocolate chips in. I had been following Jill at Emerald cottage and she had made them with her children here. Most had to be frozen but I did sneak some into the cake tin and took one to work which was delicious. So thank you very much Jill for those, they will definitely be made again.

I do love baking, usually having music blaring out - generally the ipod on shuffle or Radio 2 depending on the time and day. I get a great deal of satisfaction seeing it all on the side before it's all put away.But now I have to put yourselves away, it's WI tonight, so that means early tea which I need to go and start. Macaroni cheese with cauliflower and bacon in it, yum, yum. Till the next time xx

Monday, 7 April 2014

The wonders of modern technology

Going back to 'getting back to normal' I need to carry on with our 'normal'week and tell you about Friday evening. We had decided that we needed to celebrate J's job offer from Lend Lease, the construction company so asked B and boyfriend T to join us at the pub and then tea back at ours. That was duly accepted and whilst at the pub B asked if they could stay overnight. No problem really except that both spare bedrooms seemed to have been taken over by 'stuff' so deciding that if I went home I could have 10mins to deal with them - plan made. It's amazing what you can shove under a bed when you need to isn't it? They arrived back and D opened a bottle of bubbly and B proposed a toast to J, very touching it was.

then she decided that she would take a picture of us all and send it to C down in Cornwall. She in turn immediately rang to find out what was going off and expressed a wish that she would like to be with us. The genie from the lamp ie J granted her wish and she was duly linked up via facetime, propped up at the end of the table to join us while we ate 

You should just be able to see her at the end of the table! It really made the evening to have her with us, with her joining in as if she was there - the wonders of modern technology

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Magnificent magnolia

Aren't magnolias beautiful? Ours had started to flower before we left for Ireland and I was very pleased to see it in full bloom when we came back. However it very much depends on the weather as to how long they remain in flower and today ours has lost at least half of them in the winds. Knowing these facts I did have the foresight to take some pictures earlier in the week and here they are

Gorgeous, if only they lasted!

Now yesterday I wrote that you would have to wait to find out what I did with this 

well I can now reveal that some of that fabric went from that to this

and then to these

decorations for Easter. I might add some eyes, what do you think? I couldn't decide. The rabbit pattern was from the Little Fabric Shop blog and the birds were from a Cath Kidston pattern that was in her Sew book. I really enjoyed making them and so went into my fabric stash and found some gingham which I used to make these.

Well I'm going to have to say goodbye as I have bread in the oven which smells as if it needs to be taken out. Till the next time x