Tuesday, 30 November 2010

# 20 Getting in the mood for Christmas

December 1st is the day me and A. put up our Christmas decorations so tomorrow is going to be busy after he gets home from school.

To get us in the mood for the festive season I've been busy baking some Christmas themed biscuits, cutting lots of tags from last year's cards for a crafty project I have in mind and trying to finish our Christmas cards so they're ready to be sent sometime next week, hopefully!


Thursday, 25 November 2010

# 19 A cold day + A hot cup of tea = Homemade biscuits

I love baking especially on a cold day and it has been very cold here in the UK in the last few days; the result of that is 2 new biscuit recipes tried and tested and very much approved by the 3 of us.

The 1st recipe I tried was the Choc-Chip Cookies recipe from the Stork booklet/web site.

I made a couple of changes namely:

- I didn't add the vanilla essence.

- Instead of chopped walnuts I used chopped, roasted almonds.

These cookies spread a lot while baking so you shouldn't try to bake too many in one go as I did or you'll end up with a batch of funny shapped biscuits instead of nice round ones! The ones you see in the picture above were from my second batch.

The 2nd recipe is called Lemon Biscuits and is from the Biscuits Recipes site.

Again I made a few changes as follows:

- I used plain flour instead of self-raising flour to which I added a teaspoon of baking powder and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.

- I added the juice of half a lemon and used orange and lemon peel of which I added a  lot more than the recipe says, just a little over 100g.

- I also cut down slightly on the amount of sugar.

We loved both types of biscuits although A. says he prefers the Choc-Chip Cookies while my favourites are the Lemon Biscuits. Why don't you try them for yourself to see which are your favourites?


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

# 18

The last few days have been very productive craftwise. I have finally finished my blanket which is now on the bed looking gorgeous and have managed to make a few other items as you can see below.

Warm night slippers for mum.

Warm day slippers for mum.
Peg bag made from lefotver cotton yarn.

My 1st pair of wrist warmers.

I love my wrist warmers which I made Saturday evening to take on our Sunday outing to Wightwick Manor and Gardens in Wolverhampton. Although the house looks old on the outside it was actually built only 113 years ago.

Wightwick Manor and Gardens, Wolverhampton.

We found this scarecrow in the kitchen garden, it has a cute face don't you think?

The inside was furnished under the influence of the Arts & Crafts Movement and is rich in wallpapers and fabrics by William Morris and ceramic tiles by William De Morgan. Their patterns are beautiful, full of colour and detail, if you do a search online you'll see what I mean.


Friday, 19 November 2010

# 17 Pasta with Bacon

Tonight there's a Disco for the children at the school and as I'll be helping out I had to get dinner done in advance, ready to heat up later in the microwave.

I made one of A.'s favourite dishes and I thought I'd share the recipe with you. Whenever I make this wish during the week I always make one extra portion so A. can take it to school for lunch the next day. He absolutely loves it.

I'm not giving exact amounts so you'll need to adapt this to the number of people in your household.

Fry or grill enough smoked bacon slices, remove all the fat, cut them into small pieces and put in a deep oven proof dish.

Cook the pasta shapes in boiling water with a little salt and olive oil. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the bacon. Mix well.

Make the white sauce by melting a tablespoon of butter in a pan, add a tablespoon of plain flour and mix, then add double cream and stir until it thickens. Add a few drops of lemon juice and a pinch of ground nutmeg and stir. Pour part of the sauce over the pasta and mix then pour the remaining sauce on top.

Bake in a pre-heated oven until golden in colour.


* Instead of bacon you can use ham. In fact the original recipe mentioned ham but A. doesn't like it and that's why I use bacon.

* I don't add any salt to the white sauce as the bacon is usually quite salty already.

* To make this dish a little more exotic I sometimes add pineapple pieces and chopped walnuts. The sweetness of the pineapple goes very well with the salty bacon and the walnuts add crunchiness.

*As a way to measure the amount of pasta per person I use the soup ladle, one ladle full of pasta per person.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I if you try it I would love to know what you think and what changes you've made.


Monday, 15 November 2010

# 16

I love our weekend family walks, they are our chance to spend time outdoors, have fun, get to know new places and do some exercise while enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside.

Yesterday we decided to go and try to find a public footpath someone had told us about and which runs through the woodland area of the National Arboretum at Westonbirt.

 It did take us sometime to find it and then sometime more to find a place where we could park the car but it was worth it and we had a lovely walk despite the occasional drizzle.

The adventure begins, field across the road from the Hare & Hounds.

Finally a map tellings us where we are.

On the right path.

Pretty colours.

A reminder that Christmas is coming.

After the walk.

If interested you'll find more info about this walk here.


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

# 15

It's cold but sunny today and it's definitely a day for going out, looking up and taking in as much of the blue sky as possible to keep it in reserve for those dark Autumn days.

The photos below were taken earlier this year in February in a day just like today on a walk along a section of the Severn Way.

River Severn.

Fields along the River Severn between Berkeley and Sharpness.


Monday, 8 November 2010

# 14 From Slimbridge to Sharpness

We went for a walk yesterday, a very long walk along the canal between Slimbridge and Sharpness docks.

According to my pedometer we did about 9 miles in total but boy was it worth it. There were some burts of sunshine which unfortunately didn't last for very long but it didn't rain either which was good.

This is a nice flat walk with plenty to see and one which we'll be doing again in the future.

As always I took some pictures and here they are.

One of the 3 swans in the canal.

I liked the bright colours on this watering can.

Purton Bridge

Ships graveyard on the River Severn to help protect the river banks against erosion.

A. taking pictures. His rucksack is full of gadgets: a compass, torch, binoculars, etc.

The water was so still, it was almost like a mirror.

Remains of the Severn Railway Bridge.

Boats at Sharpness Marine.

View from Sharpness towards Slimbridge.

View from Sharpness towards Thornbury.


Thursday, 4 November 2010

# 13 Crochet & biscuits

I'm so excited! Yesterday I decided I'd been procrastinating for long enough and finished sewing the last of the squares and octagons that make up my popcorn flower blanket. The next stage is to come up with some sort of edging and get it finished before Christmas. Meanwhile I'm already thinking ahead to my next blanket and trying to decide if it's going to be a strippy one, a granny square one or a rippled one. Decisions, decisions!

This post is also about biscuits. I like my cup of tea with a biscuit but to be honest I'm getting tired of the shop bought ones so to make it more interesting I've been trying out some biscuit recipes I have in my recipes folder and so far there's a few we really loved and which I'll be making again sometime soon :-)

Right now I have a box full of these heart shaped biscuits, I think I need to buy new cutters as A. says hearts are too girly and doesn't want to take them to school in his lunch box!!

Anyway, the recipe for these came from the Easy Cookies web site and goes like this.

Cut Out Sugar Cookies

3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time and add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture until well blended. Cover and keep in the fridge for about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven. Roll out dough onto a floured surface. Cut out into shapes and place on a greased tray. Bake until lightly browned. Remove from sheets and let cool on a wire rack.

Notes: I made a few changes to this recipe. I don't use vanilla so didn't add that, instead I added the zest of one lemon and also some leftover orange and lemon chopped peel I had bought for a fruit cake. Next time I might try these with some chocolate chips and raisins.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

# 12 Splash of colour: November

Yesterday I came across this blog and liked the idea of posting photos full of colour until Spring as a way to make Winter a little less gloomy and a little more bearable. To that effect I also joined the Splash of colour group on Flickr and here are my splashes of colour for this month.

Barrington Court, April

Budlake Post Office, October

If you want to add a bit of colour to your Winter why don't you join too? To do so just follow the links above and have fun :-)


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

# 11

This past week was so busy I had no time to update my blogs or to surf the Web but now with A. back to school and N. back to work it's the same old routine again and it feels good to have the house to myself for a few hours :-)

Taking advantage of our National Trust membership card we went to North Wales for 2 days staying at a hotel overnight. We were lucky that the weather was nice with plenty of sunshine although a little cold especially in the morning.

Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey

Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd

Rhuddlan Castle, Rhuddlan (not a NT property)

Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Conwy Castle, Conwy (not a NT property)

Aberconwy House, Conwy

Back home again it was time to redecorate the bathroom, our bedroom, kitchen and entrance hall. They're all looking much nicer now with a new coat of paint.

On Friday we went to Blenheim Palace before our annual pass expires and on Sunday we went to the Forest of Dean Railway. All 3 of us had a great time riding the steam train and exploring the surrounding countryside with it's beautiful Autumn colours.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Train at Blenheim Palace

Forest of Dean Railway

Wood at Parkend

You can see more photos on my Flickr page here.

By the way, I've made a few changes to this blog. I changed the header and also added a "grab this blog's button" code box to the side bar. If you want you can copy and paste this code into your blog to add my button to your blogroll.