Sunday, 25 January 2015

Robin Days

We weren't going to be able to go far on Saturday as G and his friend and work colleague S were off to watch Saints in a cup match in the afternoon.
It was cold but it was bright and we wanted to stretch our legs so G suggested as short walk at nearby Royal Victoria Country Park.
We parked close to where G works and so approached the park from a different route from normal, but no matter which way you arrive the tower can always be seen.

We were stood talking at one point when G said very carefully turn round and have your camera ready. There sat on the hedge was this robin, seconds later he flew off but I just managed to click the shutter before he went.

Something I've been meaning to do for a while is to sit down and sort out the many recipes for cakes and cookies I have torn out from magazines but never actually got around to baking and this I accomplished whilst watching a movie I had taped from December. It's a movie I love, not least because Cary Grant and David Niven both have lead roles. Two British actors I would have loved to have met. If you've never seen The Bishop's Wife then I urge you to.
Whilst watching I managed to divide the different bakes out across the months of the year. The plan is to try and make them all by the end of 2015. I'll share as many as I can on here.
One thing we did try that afternoon is something I haven't been able to try before now because we hadn't owned a microwave for a long time. We bought one just before Christmas and I'm on the lookout for recipes which I can cook in it. We did have a microwave years ago but gave it away through Freecycle as it was just used for heating up baked beans. Now we have one again I want to make better use of it.
S used it to bake a cake in a mug. What a success that was. I ate a slither but the rest was shared between T and S. A chocolate cake baked in 4 minutes, I'm not sure if that is a good or a bad thing!

Sunday morning saw us out on another stroll. S has a homework project on Queen Elizabeth 1 to do and she has decided to do it by making a poster size timeline of her life and so in order to do this we needed a large piece of card. To buy this a trip to the local branch of The Range was necessary, but we took a detour to the a section of  the Shoreburs Greenway before hand.

T very kindly let me take his new camera along. I am a bit envious of it actually, it's much better than mine! It has a great zoom and I was able to get a good close up of the fungi on this tree trunk.

It's definitely been a weekend for robins though. This little fellow flew to a branch near us and sang his heart out.

In the second photo he is in a very similar pose to the robin on the mug G bought me for Christmas. I used this mug this afternoon to enjoy a new hot milky drink. Hot caramel malted milk was on one of the pages I had been looking at the day before. If you have a sweet tooth you may like to give it a try too. The amounts in the recipe were  quoted to serve 4. I stuck to them as it was the first time I was making it and found it gave us all approximately three quarters of a cupful. More milk needed next time! Heat 1 and a half pints of milk and whisk in half a tin of caramel flavoured condensed milk. Spoon 1tbsp malted milk powder into each of 4 four mugs and pour hot milk on top.
The article went on to say that a pinch of salt could be stirred into the remaining half of the tin of caramel and then be used to drizzle over toasted marshmallows.

Monday, 19 January 2015


There are some meals I cook because I know everyone likes them and some evenings there isn't time for doing anything other than a tried and tested favourite.
Although I do still like to try new things out on my little family, you never know one of them may become another favourite.
Over the past couple of weeks I've tried a few new recipes.
Post Christmas I'm trying to use up things already in the freezer rather than buying more. First up to use was a pack of sausages. I took a recipe originally for oven baked chicken and figured it would probably work ok with the sausages.
G and S liked it, T didn't. He left the sausages.
Next to use was a joint of pork so I tried this balsamic vinegar and honey recipe in the slow cooker.
This time G and T liked it, S didn't. She gave it a good go, adding a good splodge of BBQ sauce to try and finish it off but it just wasn't for her.
My last thing to use was a 750g pack of steak mince.
I had torn out a recipe from an Asda magazine which said to add a tin of mashed up chickpeas to the meat and seasoning to make it go further. T and S don't like chickpeas but I thought disguised in meatballs and a pasta sauce I may get away with it.
G and T liked them, S didn't although she managed to eat all of them bar one.
Finally with the other half of the mince I made a turkey tortilla pie.
I made a few changes though, obviously the mince was steak and not turkey and
I left out the kidney beans as I knew these a definite no no but I did add 2 peppers.
I didn't have any chipotle paste but I did have chipotle ketchup and used that instead and I substituted passata for the chopped tomatoes. 
And I'm pleased to say that finally it was a unanimous thumbs up all round.

photo from the BBC Good Food website.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Delayed By An Hour

We set out for the train station on Saturday morning and a few minutes later we were back home because our train had been cancelled.
S took the opportunity to do some homework whilst I made use of the time by cleaning the bathroom.
How exciting.
An hour later than planned we did catch the train.
Our destination was Cosham.
Up until 18 months ago I used to travel there 3 times a week to go to work.
I would get off the train, walk a few hundreds yards to the office, work my allotted hours, go back to the station and come home again.
It needed further exploration.
As we were setting off an hour later than planned we changed our plans and decided lunch was first on the agenda.
The pub we went to was ok. It had obviously had a makeover a little while back and was starting to look a bit tired, but I did like the arrangement of these mirrors on the wall opposite us.

Now I knew Cosham was charity shop rich but I didn't know what else it had to offer. A quick google search showed it had a church, St. Philip's, designed by famous architect Ninian Comper, who I must admit I had never heard of. We found the church easily enough, but we couldn't get a look inside and I have to say it was pretty nondescript from the outside.

The online map  we found showing us the location of the church also showed something labelled as Hilsea Moat just a little further along the road so we went to investigate this afterwards. It turns out this is part of what is known as the Hilsea Lines. We found an information board which had details of a couple of trails which can be followed to explore the site further. Everything was pretty muddy and this part of it fairly bleak looking too. So after G and S had walked across the little wooden bridge, we decided the best course of action was a return visit in nicer weather armed with proper information about the trails we would want to walk. 

It was then time to hit the shops and the very first charity shop we walked past had this chair for sale in the window for £5.00. When we invite people over there aren't enough chairs and we liked the look of this one to serve as a spare.

I mentioned my present swap with Jo recently and one of the gifts she gave me was a bar of Green and Black's dark chocolate. This was put to good use today when I made Jamie Oliver's hot chocolate mix. This is something I had on my puttery treat list. It certainly warmed up a cold January afternoon, especially with the hot waffle to accompany it.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Better Late Than Never

Look away now if you don't want to read about Christmas presents.
You see this post really should have appeared in December but the photos were on my old lap top.
I thought I would share even at this late, or extremely early depending on how you see it, stage as it may be useful to someone somewhere.
All gifts were placed inside this tin.
It doesn't have to be a tin, it could be a gift bag, but I had a conversation with said friend the Christmas before about our mutual love of Christmas tins and so that's why I chose it.

Inside the tin were a pair of white cute and cosy socks

a white chocolate face mask

a white and silver packaged box of smellies

a white fig and patchouli candle

and finally a packet of white chocolate jazzies.

Inside the tin I placed a piece of paper saying 'May All Your Christmases Be White'
After opening this gift I then gave my friend another gift. This was a bottle of red wine with a tag attached which she could read once unwrapped saying 'and if the white runs out, drink the red!'
The present was the result of seeing a quote on Pinterest which can be seen here  on my Christmas board.

Of course the gift could have been one bottle of white and one bottle of red but I felt this selection of goodies was better suited to our friend.
I only came up with this idea late in 2014 but was pleased with the things I found and am hoping to find more during the course of this year and using this idea for another couple of friends come Christmas 2015.

Monday, 12 January 2015

How's It Going?

See this badge.
That's been me that has.
Anti bacterial spray in one hand and vacuum cleaner in the other.
Getting each room tidy, things being put back into their normal places as decorations were taken down and an attempt at restoring some sense of order.
I wrote a few times last year about how helpful I found the Brocante Home website as I tried to become more organised and one of the things which struck a chord was reading how we should give in gracefully to the fact that come 1st January we simply aren't able to start a new year all neat and tidy as there is still so much Christmas around.
Better to cut yourself a bit of slack, give time for things to be packed away properly which in turn allows for getting your home and head straight and then  welcome new year on 15th January.
Maybe the first 14 days of January could be re-named Januember.
A lot of people don't like January so this could be a good solution.
A jolly good plan I reckon.
And I love the badge, it was given to me by my sister as one of the gifts in our advent swap.

Another of Alison's recommendations is to ensure you have what she terms as puttery treats.
Little treats daily or every now and then to brighten the day. It could be something simple like buying a bunch of daffodils,  or planning a trip to go and see an art exhibition, eating a chocolate ├ęclair for breakfast, going to bed an hour early one night to read a magazine. Anything. It's whatever YOU want it to be.
I have been giving some thought to things I would like to do each month and along with Alison's writing and other sources of inspiration like the book Simple Abundance I have come up with a few ideas and key words or phrases to capture the feeling of each month and season.

Board games.
Playing board games is always a favourite thing to do during the colder more indoor based months.
But this Saturday afternoon T asked me to play a game with him.
Yep you read correctly.
T asked me.
This is the game we played. G joined in too. S was occupied elsewhere with a friend she had invited round for the day.
I bought this a while ago at a jumble sale, can't remember how much, but probably for a pound or so I expect. It had never been played before. It was still wrapped in cellophane. The board is a map of central London, but not London as we know it today.
This version of the game was made in 1983.
It had sat in it's wrapper waiting to be played since 1983!
We checked online and a new updated version can be purchased and would we recommend it, yes we would. We played 3 rounds of it on Saturday and all 4 of us played it tonight.
One of you is Mr X, a master criminal, who is on the run in London and the rest of you are detectives trying to hunt Mr X down.

Cosy socks.
When the weather is wet and cold what we need is sturdy footwear and what we need underneath that footwear is cosy socks.
 When we are snuggling up indoors with a good book we need our tootsies to be warm in cosy socks.
And I have been given the cosiest of cosy socks.
Last year my lovely bloggy friend Jo and I arranged we would do a 12 Days of Christmas present swap.
One little gift to open each day starting Christmas day to take us into the new year.
A way of extending the festivities a little longer.
A way of brightening those early days of January.
Or Januember if you fancy going with the name change.
 Jo is very talented when it comes to yarn being able to knit and crochet.
 I already have a wonderful pair of fingerless gloves she made me last year and one of my swap gifts were these handknitted socks. 
They are so soft and comfortable to wear and the colour combinations are perfect.
Thank you Jo, they are such a thoughtful gift.
Me and my cosy toes are very lucky indeed.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Here we go

with 2015.
Let's hope it's a good one for everyone.

I am going to make the sentiment on this bag I purchased at the weekend my mantra for this year.
It's a big bag for life type of shopper from Wilkinsons and I do like the bird design on it too.
In fact I did buy a couple of items from this range for a friend's Christmas present, I find they do very pretty and well priced stationery ranges.

We started the year with a little trip to the cinema. All 4 of us (yes T came along too!) went to see Paddington on New Year's day. It really is a very entertaining movie and I would recommend it to anyone. Angel Gem wrote such a great review of the movie it made me want to see it all the more and it was lovely to go as a family.

On Saturday 3 of us (yes no T this time) took the train to Boscombe. I had found details online of a vintage fair being held, but when we got there it wasn't on. There was a poster advertising the fair, it starts in Feb and is then held every other month. Never mind we had a couple of charity shop finds and G claimed the bargain of the day when he bought a Scorpions album from a vinyl record shop for £4.50 and then found out it sells for over £40.00 online.
Plus we met G's brother for lunch and found a TARDIS. Pretty good going all in all. Apart from the fact it lashed down with rain on our way back to the station.

Whenever the children return to school after a holiday I always cook something I know everyone likes and is also quick to prepare, tired heads can lead to trying mealtimes. Thankfully the chicken wraps, salad and potato wedges were well received and things were nice and relaxed. During the course of us chatting for some reason apples were mentioned which then prompted T to remember something he had seen on FB. He then got busy with said fruit and a knife and his laptop. This is what he was trying to make and this is his (with a bit of help, or possibly hindrance from me) end result. We did laugh.
And that's what makes us happy.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Final Post of 2014

I'm a bit late to wish everyone here in Blogland a Merry Christmas, but I hope you all had fun.
However I am in time to wish you all a Happy New Year.
May 2015 bring you all you wish for.
I couldn't be posting December photos in January, I have spent most of the year doing catch up posts and I didn't want to start that game for the coming year too.
So I'll try and do a brief round up from the rest of December.
We carried on with our advent activities, although there were one or two hiccups along the way we did do most of the things I had planned.
One was a trip to the theatre to see The Snow Queen the weekend before Christmas. It was a real family outing with Grandparents and Aunties joining us, we made a party of 9 and jolly good fun was had by all.
One evening S and I made snowflakes from cupcake cases

and the final photo from our activities is Christmas shaped jellies, which as you can see proved to be a little stubborn for getting out of their moulds, but they tasted just fine.
On the baking theme we also made the mincemeat brownie tart from the Sainsburys magazine which was delicious and from the Co-op magazine we made some rice krispie wreaths.

Mid December we took a train to Salisbury to meet G's mum and J for lunch and have a mooch around the Christmas market. Unfortunately I didn't get much browsing time but one objective was completed when we handed in S's contribution to the Save the Children record effort to make the longest paper chain. It had to be specific width and length so I cut a sheet of card accordingly and took that along with some felt tip pens and sticky foam and S decorated it on the journey which kept her entertained.

We made our was through the Close to the museum afterwards and I'm glas we took the route we did as we got to see these topiary squirrels all decked out in their festive finery. Although looking at him he looks a bit like Basil Brush too.

G, his brother and his dad were pupils at this school but it was only his dad who could claim to have been taught English by William Golding.

It was so cold by the time we walked past the Cathedral

and reached our destination of the museum that although we got to meet three beautiful reindeer, we didn't want to be outside for much longer and so made our way back to the shops in search of a hot drink to warm us up.

The following day S and I took my mum with us to a local church for their Christmas tree festival. The only hold it every other year, the first time we went was with my dad and so it holds bittersweet memories for me. I always light a candle for dad when we go.

All this build up finally led us to Christmas Day. Christmas morning we heard T get up at 7.15 and go and wake S who then both came through to us with their stockings. I try to take a photo of them each year sat on the stairs before we go into the front room to see what delights are under the tree. Here they both are, wearing the new nightwear Father Christmas sent down the chimney on Christmas eve. T looks like a Jedi in his as it has a hood and is longer than his old dressing gown and S looks very snuggly in her pure white fluffy nightgown.

Christmas day was very mellow. We weren't having any visitors and so there was no rush to do anything. The children opened some of their gifts and then we stopped for breakfast and then finished the unwrapping afterwards. There were even some gifts from family friends which weren't opened until Boxing day afternoon. Not because they had so many, but just because they were content to be busy with what they had from us and it was lovely as things were appreciated all the more.
Of course not expecting any guests gave us all the perfect excuse not to get dressed, as you can see by the next selection of photos of us complete in our table present tackiness!

Fez's are cool.

Me with obligatory red cheeks, not sure if that's from cooking dinner or the number of Bailey's consumed whilst cooking.

T looking wonderful in his glittery glasses

and S looking equally fab in her fluffy fairy headgear.

I was pretty pleased with the crackers, each one contained a wind up reindeer and the box converted into a race track. I reckon this will become an advent activity next year.

There are a couple of memories which will stay with me from this Christmas, one of the most special is S telling me whilst I was in the kitchen how 'this is the best Christmas ever mum'. That makes it all worth it doesn't it.

It will come as no surprise at all for me to say that I totally forgot to take photos of the stash of pressies I gave my sister C for Christmas. I was annoyed with myself when I realised but I had wrapped two thirds of them before it occurred to me and by then I didn't think it was worth it. But I'm pleased to report she liked them all, as much as I did all of mine from her.
One of those I was particularly thrilled with and is already in use on the dining room table. I know it won't be to everyone's taste but I love to bits this tablecloth of sweet packaging. Who doesn't love a Drumstick????