Easter Sunday activity

  • A lie-in whilst reading (one of the very best no-cost luxuries).
  • No need for make-up. I’m giving my skin a rest. Lots of moisturiser (re-applied in the afternoon) and the feeling that I’m doing my face some good.
  • A leisurely look at the Sunday papers and a browse through the cruise supplement.
  • A glass of chocolate milk shake which I love but very, very rarely allow myself (no Easter eggs so I feel justified in choosing this as my chocolate treat for Easter).
  • Vintage Roxy Music playing whilst I ironed. Back in the 1970s I saw the group three times and fell a little in love with Bryan Ferry. (My friend L is still in love with him and has met him personally, lucky lady). And then, more nostalgia courtesy of The Monkees!
  • Sewing done:
    • Three pairs of leggings shortened. I’ve tried them all – expensive and inexpensive. The very best were M&Co. But they changed the manufacturer and the lower leg was made slimmer so they were more like footless tights than leggings. Some brands have fabric that is too thick or too thin, and some go bobbly.   Now I find that the best all round value for fit, non-pill and cost are from Sainsburys; two pairs for £10; they’re even better than the more expensive ones that Salisbury’s sell! The only drawback is that they don’t offer a petite option so I have to shorten them by three inches.
    • Dress,  shortened sleeves to make three quarter length.
    • Evening jacket, replaced buttons.
    • Cuffs on jacket removed. Sleeves now three quarter length.
  • Photographed several items that I’ve been meaning for ages to sell on ebay.
  • Listed same on ebay.
  • Packed up my daughter-in-law’s beautiful wedding dress to donate to charity.
  • Made a meal plan for April which should reduce the freezer contents drastically (so long as I stop shopping)!
  • Prepared salmon salad for dinner. I don’t necessarily do a roast on Sundays.

With yesterday’s mammoth tidy up of bedroom drawers and dressing room sort-out, I’m feeling very satisfied with how I’ve so far spent this holiday weekend. Even though I don’t usually work on Mondays or Fridays it has felt like a real break because with the gym closed and no shopping, I’ve actually managed to accomplish several tasks that I’ve wanted to do for some time. Tomorrow I will be making some birthday cards, Nutella brownies and French onion soup.

Easter ingredients

image

A Happy Easter to you all. Do you like our new hats? Haha, they were made for my little grandsons by their mummy as it was Easter bonnet day at nursery yesterday.

We will be having a very quiet Easter and I really do need that.  I seem to have hardly any time at home lately. There are drawers I want to tidy, bits of sewing to do, some greeting cards to make (I’ve reluctantly stopped making them to sell at the gym. I just don’t have the time to keep up with demand), and I want to read, write and try out a few new recipes. I’ve made a start on the latter this afternoon.

For the first time, I made soda bread. It was so simple – flour, buttermilk and baking soda. I don’t think I’ve ever bought buttermilk previously. Here is the bread before cooking, and after.

 

 

For our meal this evening, I toasted slices of the soda bread, and we ate it with sautéed onion and mixed mushrooms (shiitake and button) in a peppercorn sauce. It isn’t the prettiest dish but it was very tasty.

 

 

I’d better make some soup tomorrow so that we can use up some more of the bread.

Another first was a honey and almond cake. We’ve each just tried a piece and it’s ok, but a lesson for next time – make it more almondy!

image

Both the bread and cake recipes are from a new book – Three ingredient baking by Sarah Rainey. There’s a jar of Nutella in the cupboard ready for the Nutella brownies, and I like the look of the potato farles too. There’s a rather nice looking key lime pie and as for the lemon posset (which I absolutely love) served in pretty china cups … …. …. I deliberately didn’t buy double cream!!

image

 

 

 

Tiny trifles and cheesecakes

Margaret pointed out that on the photograph of my daughter’s hen party afternoon tea (previous post), the mini trifles couldn’t be seen. Here is a photograph (top picture) but actually, I see that they were mini cheesecakes. The trifles were for an earlier effort that I made for friends. I don’t have a photograph of them, but I do have one of the miniature tiramisus made for the same gathering (see bottom picture).

The little pastry tartlets in the bottom picture were bought ready made, but I mad the fillings. Similarly the macarons in the top picture were ready made.

Finding these photos has made me want to arrange another tea soon! Who will be the lucky guests, I wonder!

imageimage

Afternoon delight

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” – Henry James

Afternoon tea … I should start by saying that I have indulged in far too numerous to mention every one but there have been a few which are particularly memorable for one reason or another. I’ve eaten teas that cost £10 for two, and a tea that cost £65 for two and let me tell you, cost is no indicator of either deliciousness or value for money!

Below is a picture of my daughter’s hen party at my house in 2016. Having seen the photographs of a small scale afternoon tea that I had prepared from friends, she suggested that I might like  to provide similar for the home-town version of her hen party. (I think she considered that her ‘real’ hen party would be a little too raucous for her mother and other ladies of a certain age)! It was fun to prepare but harder work than I’d anticipated. I made tiny trifles in liqueur glasses  and the scones were accompanied by not only the traditional strawberry jam but  also blackcurrant which I prefer. It seemed that several others liked it too as the strawberry was barely touched. That’s the nice thing about a DIY version – you get exactly what you like best!

6. Aft tea

The tradition of taking afternoon tea began in 1840 and reputedly arose from the need of Anna, seventh Duchess of Bedford, to fill the hunger gap before a late dinner. At around 4pm each day she would call for bread & butter, tea & cake. She began inviting friends to join her and afternoon tea became a fashionable event, even attracting its own style of formal attire. The occasion fell out of fashion but the old tradition saw a resurgence around ten years ago and now it seems that every purveyor of tea and cakes, from high spec hotel to local garden centre, offers its version of afternoon tea.

Confusion reigns over what exactly constitutes a cream tea, afternoon tea or high tea and it depends on what one reads as to how they are defined but in general terms, a cream tea provides scones with jam and cream, afternoon tea adds to this sandwiches and cake and high tea is an altogether more substantial and includes hot food.

It is now some years since my first formal afternoon tea.  Beatrix Potter’s old home, Lindeth Howe which overlooks Lake Windermere, provided the inspiration for Icing on the cake, a piece I wrote which won me a place in the final of the Press Associations Midland Media Awards. I potsed it in the early days of my blog. Click here for the link if you’d like to read it:  The icing on the cake

I’ve been to some beautiful hotels  and have fond memories of the teas at  Brockencote Hall (in the library – oh so peaceful) and The Chateau Impney in Worcestershire,  but my overall favourite tea was enjoyed at Orestone Manor (below)  in South Devon.  Sitting in warm sunshine on a raised terrace overlooking the wooded gardens which stretch down to Lyme Bay, it is an experience that we’re keen to repeat when we visit the area again this summer.  That the large, fresh scones tasted amazing was a bonus!

Orestone

The Four Teas in Stratford upon Avon is a 1940’s style cafe where Glen Miller provides the background music whilst authentically dressed staff  serve customers in  surroundings which resemble a war-time sitting room.  It’s reasonably priced and the food, thank goodness, is not subject to rationing!  But this place is more about the fun experience than the elegance of presentation.

At Marco Pierre White’s restaurant in Birmingham several of us went to celebrate a friend’s ‘big’ birthday. It’s the only afternoon tea where I’ve even found it necessary to request more jam and cream!  The tiny pots held enough for no more than the smallest smear of each.  No complaints about the taste though.  The surroundings are super-smart and the views stretch right across the city.

Marco P W

Bettys of Harrogate: the surroundings were elegant, the pianist excellent and the parlour palms added atmosphere. The tiny cakes were exquisite (see below) but the sandwiches were woeful. I know the by-word for afternoon tea is dainty but they were minuscule and filled with the thinnest of filling imaginable. We had bought some of the famous Bettys ‘Fat Rascals’ (a cross between a rock cake and a scone with a cherry and almond face) to take home with us and felt hungry enough to eat them on the train! This is rare indeed; a carbohydrate-laden afternoon tea usually means that nothing else is required until the following breakfast time. You pay of course for the reputation of Bettys but I didn’t think it warranted £32.50 a head.

7. Bettys

A local hotel serves what is probably the best value for money afternoon tea I’ve encountered – £9.99 a head and so much food. It wasn’t the most elegant or dainty but the food was tasty and the portions very generous. Twelve of us went and the staff regularly topped up the tea and coffee and variously asked whether we needed more sandwiches/cream/jam. They even encouraged us to take the leftovers home.

And finally, my daughter-in-law and I took the grandsons to a garden centre which has a soft-play area and decided to have the ‘lunchtime afternoon tea’. Expectation wasn’t enormous but we had a choice of cheese or ham sandwich, a scone with jam and cream and a couple of small cakes with coffee for something ridiculous like £7 for the two of us and do you know what – it was excellent. We shared with the little boys and it made a very reasonably priced lunch for the four of us.

Afternoon tea, it seems, is not necessarily a case of ‘you get what you pay for’.

 

 

Thursday procrastination

 

The yellow lilies are now an incredible 12 days old. These pink ones, mere youngsters at just a week, are similarly gorgeous.  I do love lilies.

I am procrastinating. I have a totally free day and thought last night that I would sit at the PC and force myself to write this damned epilogue. Well, I’m sitting here but that’s as far as it’s got.  After a bit of a lie in, I stripped the bed, put on the washing, had breakfast and skimmed through the newspaper. After that I looked at a couple of blogs I follow and now I’m typing this.  Oh hopeless me!

Just received a text from a friend who is trying to arrange a ladies’ light lunch for next week. I first typed ‘light ladies’ lunch’ but then realised that the ‘light’ would apply to the ladies and if that were so, then since I am not light (though I do have a great ability to ‘maintain’ at the weekly weigh-in), I would have to decline. Anyhow, I have, as requested,  provided details of my availability, limited though it is.  Shame the lunch wasn’t planned for today given that I’m free (and clearly not epilogue writing)!

Here’s where I am sitting, not at the precise moment I took the photograph obviously, but I’m here as I type. My office is a spare bedroom, not the tidiest room in the house, nor the most stylish but it’s a special place for me. It’s in this very spot that almost every word of my book has been written, and here that almost every word of my degree was achieved.

10

I need to do some ironing. I have some leggings that I want to shorten and there’s a card I want to make. I’d like to bake but there is currently enough cake to keep husband content for several days and the freezer can’t take another thing. There are a couple of things to check via online banking or I could investigate why the laptop which sits further along the long worktop that forms the desk is making an intermittent squeaking sound or I could stop this (see what I mean about procrastinating) and just get on with making a start with what I should really be doing.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE – two hours later. First draft done!  The editing, honing and rewriting will take longer but at least I now have something to work on.

Two broken bones

Two broken bones – not mine, but just a short while after this photo (which I posted a couple of days ago) was taken, my poor daughter slipped over and broke her right wrist in two places. I guess we must be thankful for small mercies – she is left handed.

image

Neither her father or myself are left handed, and yet two of our three offspring are. Apparently when one parent is left handed, the chances of their children being so is around 50%. When neither parent is, that possibility shrinks to just 2%.  For two right handed parents to produce two left handed children is highly unusual. I always knew my children were amazing! 

Whilst I never insisted that my children do things with their right hand (as they did in Victorian times by tying the left hand behind the back or rapping knuckles with a ruler), neither did I make concessions to left-handedness. I never bought special scissors or cutlery, or allowed them to eat with their knives and forks in the wrong hands as some left-handers do.  It seemed no hardship for them, they simply got on with doing things the way they were shown but with the ‘other’ hand. My son played cricket and still plays guitar right handed after being taught by right handed people.  

It is thought that in left-handers the right side of the brain will dominate. Since this is the side which controls imagination and creativity, it’s not surprising that they are reputed to tend towards being artistic. It’s certainly the case with my son, though less obvious in my daughter. 

Have you heard the term ‘southpaw’ applied to left-handers?  I have used it jokingly when talking to my children but had no idea what it meant. Now I know: it comes from the baseball arrangement where is placed in the diamond facing  east to avoid the afternoon sun. A pitcher who is left handed will have his pitching arm, therefore, towards the south – hence southpaw. Since I have no understanding of basketball rules, I’ll have to believe what I read – ( https://www.history.com/news/ask-history/why-are-left-handers-called-southpaws). 

So, my little southpaw, if you’re reading this, I hope you will be feeling much better soon X

Sunday snippets

Flowers from son and family one week old today and only just opened but definitely worth the wait.

image

It snowed AGAIN last night, and not just a sprinkle this time. It’s not awful, but I wouldn’t want to drive in it and I’m glad that I wasn’t coming home from daughter’s today. It’s gone  a lot colder too – the wind is howling down the chimney. Fortunately we hadn’t planned on going anywhere. I should have been writing – that epilogue remains no more than a title but I just couldn’t face sitting at the computer not knowing what to type. I have to sort this out!

It felt like a cooking morning but I was limited as to what I could do because I have no room in the freezer. When do I ever have room in the freezer? The thing is, I like to cook/bake so I fill it up and. Then next time I get the domestic goddess urge, I’m stumped! I made a caramel cake. I’ve had a jar of caramel flavour hot chocolate in the cupboard for some time now. Granddaughter chose it when we were shopping but neither of us was keen on the taste so it’s languished unused for several months. You’ll already know that I hate waste….almost as much as I hate snow! I added 6 teaspoons to a basic sponge mixture, and another 4 to icing sugar. The attempted swirly pattern on top looks a bit messy but I’m sure husband won’t complain.

image

Whilst it was in the oven I decided to make cookies as I recently found a recipe that sounded nice.  Thank goodness I’m used to improvising….. I didn’t have the required prunes so I used dates. 2tbsp of  wheat bran was called for but that’s not something that I buy so I used porridge oats instead, and there is no way that I’m going to buy a tub of cream cheese just to take 2tbsp out of it. I substituted thick Greek yogurt which I always have in. Walnuts are something I always have so no problem there. The other ingredients were standard – flour, eggs and fat. It’s Slimming World weigh day tomorrow so I’ve just had a little taste but Oh Yum! They were, as cookies tend to be, rather splodgy in shape which matters not one jot, but then I had an idea. I used a star shaped cookie cutter whilst they were still soft. To the trimmings I added a few chopped glacé cherries and extra nuts.  I’ll buy some tiny marshmallows and make rocky road bites for when my son and grandson visit on Wednesday.

image

There were a few cherry tomatoes  and a green pepper in the fridge which needed using so I made a black bean sauce and a tomato and basil sauce and froze them (a bit of wiggling around and I just managed to squeeze them in). They’ll do  to add to chicken in due course

image

I also made a chicken dish ready for this evening – red pepper, leeks, a sauce made with cornflour, wine, garlic and ginger and chopped chicken but forgot to take a photo. Youll note that I skipped swiftly past the mention of Slimming World. My plan was to lose 9lb through the 9 weeks of February and March. Make that 2lb….if I’m lucky. Oh it’s such an effort. 🙁

Finally, it’s a good job I left my daughter’s when I did. She sent this picture of the lane this morning. It’s a better picture than the one I posted yesterday!

image