Thursday, 31 December 2009

2010 here we come!

Wishing you all a very happy New Year.  I am looking forward to 2010 and hope that this is my best year yet.  I have lots of exciting things planned for this blog, so I can't wait to get going.

Happy New Year.


Saturday, 26 December 2009

2009 Review

As soon as Christmas is over I start thinking about what I want to achieve in the New Year.  I have been thinking a lot about my achievements in 2009 and I am incredibly proud of what I have done in the last 365 days or so. 

I decided that 2009 needed to be my year of change.  Oprah was changing her life, America was getting a new president who offered the hope of change and therefore I decided to follow suit and do the same thing.  I set myself two goals - to lose weight and sort out my finances. I decided that I needed to document what I was doing so I set up my blog in May 2009. 

Weight Loss
The year started well and I took off with my very healthy eating, but it soon fell by the wayside and in February a friend and I joined Rosemary Conley weight loss classes, with a weigh in first and then an exercise class.  In total I lost 8lbs but as my friend got sick I started to find excuses not to attend the classes alone and by June I had given up.  It took until the end of September to start on the Special K diet and I am pleased to say that I have now lost a stone and a half.  There is more dieting to be done but I don't pig out as I used to but feel more in control.  I look forward to continuing to lose weight next year.

This has also gone well.  I didn't use my credit card from January until October.  However, from October I have used it and when I look back I have used it for really silly things - Starbucks coffee comes to mind!  I have managed however, to pay off a lot of my credit card and I am really proud about this.  I will continue to pay off the credit card next year, and I hope that by the end of 2010 I have got my spending really under control.

I hold family as my top priority, but although relationships with my parents have grown stronger I have not made any inroads with my sister.  She lives a couple of hundred miles away and I very rarely speak/communicate with her.  My sister is 18 months younger than me and I have always seen comparisons made between us and this is where we don't get on.  My goal for 2010 is to be a better sister.  I would like to understand her better and get to know her again.

As I write this I have a sore throat, but I have been in good health this year.  I took three days off sick from work this year - two with a bad headache (caused by stress which I didn't manage too well) and the other with this sore throat.  My teeth caused me problems in October (which caused the stress mentioned above).  This has been sorted out now though, and it gave me the opportunity to look more closely at my health and making sure that I took care of myself better for the future.  I also had my first hospital procedure where I had a benign lump removed from my right arm.  I now have a one inch scar on my arm which I will continue to treat with Bio Oil to reduce the scar. 

My diary informs me that I have been to one gallery in 2009 (National Portrait in London), been to the ballet once (Swan Lake), the theatre once (Lion King), the cinema seven times, a book signing (Bill Granger) and away to Sheffield once to see my sister graduate and to New York with mum.  I also saw a taping of the Martha Stewart show.

I am looking forward to seeing what I can achieve in 2010.  My diary shows that it has been a busy year and I hope that in 2010 I focus more on relationships, try new things and develop into a better person, I also want to make this blog more personal, better designed and  something to be proud of - a love life wouldn't go a miss either!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Martha Mondays - Vinegar Glossed Chicken

December has been a difficult month.  My grandad continues to be in hospital following another fall as soon as he came out of hospital.  And in general the month has been pretty chaotic juggling work, parties, Christmas chores and everything else that seems to happen just when you could do with a break. 

But, I found time to do the Vinegar Glossed Chicken.  I am keen to start trying more of the flavoured oils and vinegars and found the red wine vinegar with ease in the supermarket.  I changed the recipe only slightly in that I did skinless chicken breast instead of skinned chicken.  I never eat meat which has the bone in it, and we never buy chicken with the skin on. 

The recipe was easy to make and it was enjoyed (I served it with Muse in the Kitchen's garlic rice).  I wish there had been more 'sauce' on the chicken and I would be tempted to use more sauce next time.  I see this as work in progress.  I will definently try it again and might cook it with some onion next time. 

I'm sorry but there is no photo this time as my camera on my phone is not working (another thing to get sorted out)!

I hope to do a post before Christmas, but if not, then I wish you a very wonderful Christmas full of fun, warmth and holiday spirit.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Christmas in the Singer household

There is no denying that I love Christmas. In fact I start thinking of Christmas in summer (which is like winter anyway). By September I have already started shopping and by October I am singing carols.

This last week has been very hectic. A trip to New York (which I will blog about some day) and then straight back to London to learn that my grandfather had had a fall and was in hospital. With our suitcases still to be unpacked we drove up to see him (he lives about 150 miles away) and when I saw him again today, he is progressing quite well in hospital. Although at 92 we are taking each day slowly.

Anyway, as both mum and I are tired after such a hectic and stressful week we decided that the best thing to do for a day of 'rest' was to deck the house out for Christmas.

So, here are the first photos of our decorating. Wreath (ala Eddie Ross) photo will come shortly when I find some decent ribbon. And we always get our tree the week before Christmas (the 18th I hope).

This jug and bowl with the blue small bowl always sit on this ledge above our stairs. The candles were plain Ikea ones which mum added ribbon to.

A little tree sitting on the stairs (I think I may add to this at some stage).

The fireplace in our living room. Our theme in the living room is gold and red but we decided to stick to red with the baubles. We added a piece of wood to the top of the mantel piece (a Martha suggestion) so that we could hang the snowflakes without damaging the wood.

Red baubles at the window in the living room. The silver ones were left up after last year and look great all year round. The garland on the window sill has red and gold baubles and there are two red candles holders at the end.

I hope you are all getting very festive.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Martha Mondays - Birdseed and Suet Feeders

Brette from Martha & Me choose this weeks project and I was pleased to do a craft instead of cooking as I already knew what I wanted to cook this weekend.

Back to the bird feeders. Mum had already attempted this but was a bit mean with the bird seed and they were not put up. We did this as a joint task with me being more generous with the bird seed this time! We used lard instead of suet as we have always done. And we re-used the lard from the birdfeeders that we had not used. They were easy to make and we hung them in the garden this evening. No bird have touched them yet, but the rain has been falling and it always takes a day or two for the birds to suss them out.

We also did a task which we had seen in Country Living. You get a pinecone which you have ribbonned at the top and drip lard on to it and then sprinkle seeds on to it. We left them to set and then hung them outside also.

Thanks for the task this week Brette. I won't be doing the task next week as I will be in New York. If anyone has any last minute tips of where to try please let me know. Mum and I have managed to get tickets to see Martha and I can't wait!!!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Martha Mondays - Apple Tart

This weeks project was chosen by AquaSunday from the November issue of Living. I had looked at the tart and was keen to try it - I was glad to have the excuse to make it.

As 'Jazz' apples were on offer in the supermarket (2 for 1) I bought those, and got prepared and made the applesauce on Saturday night. Today (Sunday) I baked. I had planned to make it and then bake it later, but in the end decided that it was easier to get it done and then reheat some later. The recipe was easy to follow, although I didn't need 2 tablespoons of butter or all that apricot jam but it didn't matter.

The tart is lovely, the apples turned out a little dry but this could have been due to the type of apple and we had the tart with cream so it didn't matter at all. I think I might adapt this and add some sultanas and cinnamon for a Christmas treat.

Thanks for a great Martha Monday project - I think I will go and have another slice now!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ragamuffin Garland

I always find it strange how from starting at looking at websites I spend most of my lunchtime and any time on the internet looking at blogs. As far as I am concerned, they are the best invention. Ordinary people opening up their lives so that we can look into them. I love it.

After a trip on Darby's 'Fly Through Our Window' blog I saw that she had done a guest blog on the 'Life In Grace' blog. This opened up Edie's 12 days of Christmas event in which she has asked friends to give projects for Christmas. I loved The Nester's ragamuffin garland and knew that I had to make one.

The instructions are posted in the link here and I urge you to make one. They are so easy and I am so pleased with the results. I used pink, grey, blue and cream for my colours. The pink was from a skirt which I tried on and was way too big! : ) At the bottom of the skirt was ribbon and sequins so these were cut into separate pieces as was the bright pink silk lining.

The garland is easy to make and looks wonderful. I have hung mine at my bedroom window and hung Christmas baubles underneath. I am so pleased with the results.

This Week Recap

After last week's manic week where I managed to not get alot done, but got slightly stressed by not having enough time to do things I took things slower.

  • I had a wonderful time with Jackie going to see the lights in Oxford Street and Regents Street. Whilst we couldn't get out of work early to get up there to see them being switched on they were still wonderful. And it has made me even more festive than I was before!

  • Mum and I did a wonderful walk from Waterloo Bridge through St James's park to Buckingham Palace before going shopping.

  • I wrapped presents for my sister and her partner as mum is off to see them next weekend.

  • I watched wonderful fireworks celebrating Guy Fawkes Night with mum.

  • I did my Martha Monday's project with great results!

Although it wasn't the busiest of weeks, I really enjoyed it. I took things slower and loved every minute of taking the time to wander around London and enjoy being a tourist for a couple of hours. I loved decided on Thursday afternoon that I would do some baking and then going home and getting on with it.

I am planning to be able to spend my weeks last this for the timebeing. Not rushing around, but enjoying the autumn and spending more time with friends and family as winter draws in.

Martha Mondays - Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

It was my turn for the pick for Martha Mondays and I chose a dish that I had wanted to do for ages. I don't know why I don't just cook it when I see it in the magazine, but I always feel there needs to be a good reason for me to cook instead of bake.

The ingredients were easy to find, unlike my last pick for Martha Mondays which required a lot of different ingredients.

The recipe was easy to follow and was quicker than the 45 minutes it gives as a guide. I had never cooked bacon without oil and I was amazed that it produced crispy tasty bacon very quickly. Although I see many Martha recipes with chicken stock in the UK it is quite rare to use it. But it worked wonderfully. I ended up with a sort of gravy and it was delicious.

Mum and I had this for our dinner after wrapping a ton of Christmas presents and we couldn't fault it. I thought it was perfect. I can't wait to see how everyone elses turned out!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Blogs I Love - Andrew Ritchie's Martha Moments

Andrew Ritchie's blog Martha Moments was the first blog that I ever looked at. A couple of years ago I Googled 'Martha' and found Andrew's account of attending a Good Things event where he critiqued the day including what they had done that day, Martha's presence at the event and the food that had been served. I loved it.

As I continued my search on the blog I found such detailed information on Martha it was as though Andrew had sat on Martha's shoulder for many years. How he manages to find such wonderful information and know so many facts is beyond me. Subject matters include all of Martha's houses, the magazines, Good Things and details on the business.

The joy of the blog, which I read before I even check out Martha's blog is that it is real. In the past Andrew has commented on things that he feels could be modified, and changed for the better. His annual review of Living is superb and I can't wait until the end of December to see what he thought about the 2009 magazines.

If you are after information on Martha and what is coming up, Andrew's blog is the likely place to find that information. Andrew has twice helped me with information on Martha and he has always been very gracious about my rambling emails.

I truly love Martha Moments and can't wait to have my own Martha Moment so that I can tell Andrew all about it.

If you haven't stopped by at Martha Moments, I urge you to. Andrew keeps a wonderful blog and I love him dearly for keeping me updated on all that is going on in Martha's world.

Monday, 2 November 2009

This Week Recap

This week has flown by. I am now gearing up completely for Christmas, lists have been made, cards are all written (see last week's recap) and I am beginning to look through magazines for recipes for Christmas.

  • Have decided which cookies to make for Christmas (Snickerdoodles, chocolate and peanut butter cookies, chocolate meringues from Smitten Kitchen.

  • Made my first ever trip to Anthropologie which has just opened on Regent Street. I was dissapointed. The clothes are lovely and so was everything, but it was so expensive! I purchased nothing, but did find many items for my Christmas wish list.

  • Bought my sister and her partner's Christmas presents.

  • Brined a chicken for dinner.

  • Carved my pumpkin for Halloween.

Maybe it just seemed like a busier week. I didn't do the Martha Mondays project as nuts around here are ridiculously expensive and I don't own a glue gun. I do know that I was changing my bed at 8.00pm last night and still putting clothes away at 10.30pm. Maybe I just need to be more organised.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

This Week Recap

This week was slightly hindered as I didn't feel well for the whole week and ended up off sick on Thursday and Friday. I am still feeling a bit fragile but managed to:

  • Send Australia presents before the mail strikes took place.
  • Write all my Christmas cards.
  • Check out the Harrods Christmas department.
  • Do the Martha Mondays project.
  • Have lunch with ex-work colleagues.
  • Visit Brighton and Arundel for Christmas shopping (even though very unsuccesful).

It was not a great week for getting things done. I missed out on the opening day of Anthropologie which has finally opened a store in the UK. I also moped around quite a bit but will make sure that I stay on top of things and have a really good week this weekend.

Martha Mondays - Texas Red Chili

It was Megan's turn to choose the Martha Monday project and I was pleased that she choose the chilli as it meant that a meal would be cooked instead of part of a meal. I had liked the idea of the chilli but looked at getting dried chillies and had decided to leave it. I was pleased that I got to make it in the end.

I managed to get the ingredients. Although I substituted beef chuck (still don't know what it is) for stewing beef and the chillies for Kashmiri chillies as this was all the supermarket had.

The recipe was easy to make and I made it on Saturday and we ate it on Sunday.

We liked it, although thought the beef was a bit tough, which was my fault. I would make the sauce again but probably do this with mince as we usually do when we have chilli.

Thanks for a good Martha Monday project.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Decorating with Gourds

Last year I was in Australia at this time and therefore missed out on both Halloween and Bonfire Night. This year I am here and have been gearing up for Halloween for quite a while. We like to keep the decorations to a minimum and decorate more in relation to the season rather than the holiday. However we will add the finishing touches next week with a pumpkin or two. Halloween isn't celebrating a great deal in the UK but there are quite a few children in our street so there are always knocks on the door on the 31st.

With dad having an allotment and spare space there was room for gourds to be planted. They have come out well and on Monday night I sorted them out, cleaned them and arranged them.

There were about forty gourds.

Sitting on the mantelpiece. The large gourd was a gift from a fellow allotmenter.

The orange and green gourds sitting on top of my adored cake stand which was a present for my birthday.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

This Week Recap

I have decided to document my week so that I can see my accomplishments and what happened that I am proud of.

Since last Sunday:

  • Dinner with Charlotte (a good friend and ex-work colleague).

  • Tried seabass for the first time.

  • The doctor gave me my test results for the lump removed from my arm and it was benign : )

  • I did a huge clear out of my makeup and found that I had been holding on to many things that I should have chucked out a long time ago.

  • I started my Christmas shopping - books and things from Baby Gap

  • I did a trip to Fortnum and Mason with mum and bought teas to be sent to Australia.

  • I wrapped presents to be sent to Australia.

  • I managed to get into two pairs of trousers that I haven't been able to wear for two years as I bought them needing to lose weight - which I have finally done!

  • I finally managed to work out how to put a hyperlink into my blog.

I had a lovely dinner with Charlotte and we had a great laugh. Since getting my test results back I have been a lot calmer. A good week I think!

Martha Mondays - Pork & Chive Pot-Stickers

This week's project was chosen by Brette, the founder of Martha Mondays. There were two tasks to choose from but due to time restraints I chose the pot stickers. These were completely new to me and I watched Martha and Lucinda on the show to see how to do them.

I made a special trip to the Asian supermarket to pick up wonton wrappers but mine were square and not circular like Marthas. I wasn't fussed. I knew I wouldn't have time to locate circular ones anywhere.

The recipe was simple and apart from omitting the sherry I had everything else I needed apart from sesame oil. I could only find toasted sesame oil but this has been a revelation and I love it.

I made the pot-stickers on Friday night and then cooked up a few which we really liked - the photos were taken on Friday night.

I did have trouble cooking them in a tablespoon of oil as they just stuck to the pan and I ended up chucking those ones out. Instead I used a lot more oil and it was easier to stop them sticking. I then placed them on kitchen towel to absorb some of the oil. The rest we had with a 'Chinese' dinner on Saturday night - pot-stickers, sweet and sour chicken and Muse In The Kitchen's garlic rice - so good.

We all agreed that they were very tasted. I will make these again. To keep them from sticking I laid them on a plate covered in semolina - it seemed to work. Next time I will try to be more like Martha and make them a bit neater and try to keep the air bubbles out.

Thanks Brette - I would never have tried them without Martha Mondays!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Martha Mondays - Sticky Toffee Pudding

Oh Boy! Sticky toffee pudding! Chosen by Lorraine of Sweet Lorraine Bakeshop, I was in heaven just reading the name, knowing that I would be able to come off my Special K diet for this treat. It was strange as although it is known as an English pudding and as someone who lives in England I have never tried it and neither had many of my friends. It is on dessert menus a lot but it has never taken my fancy.

This was a great recipe as apart from buying butter and cream, I didn't have to stock up on anything else which I have had to do with other Martha Monday recipes.

The recipe was easy to make, and I halved it as there are only three of us.

Things fell apart (literally) when I tapped out the still warm cake as directed. I had greased and floured the pan well and the cake was fully cooked so although I thought it crazy to take a warm cake out of the pan I proceeded.

Expletives rolled around my kitchen as the cake fell apart, I had planned to serve it at dinner as a special treat for us. But I continued and 'stuck' the cake back together.

The toffee sauce was lovely and I poured this all over. It was wonderful.

I managed to get one reasonable portion out of the cake, but the rest is a bit of a mess. I had some left over and so put this in a jug to be poured over the cake - true joy!

We however loved it despite the way it looked (a good lesson here I think) and dad even had seconds. I will have my second portion whilst watching the X Factor tonight.

Thanks for a wonderful Martha Monday project - the most successful in the Singer household so far!!!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

I'm Feeling Better

I had such a fright on Friday when after eating dinner (and nothing hard at all) one of my back teeth felt strange. I ran to the mirror and saw that I was in need of the dentist as a crack had appeared in the tooth.

In the UK if you get a problem with your teeth on a Friday night, unless you pay for an emergency appointment (which is very, very expensive) or go to the hospital to have the tooth pulled out you have to wait for Monday morning to arrange an appointment.

I stayed strong over the weekend (only breaking down twice in tears) and on Monday morning at 9.00am I rang for an appointment, by 10.30am I had managed to get through and I got an appointment for Wednesday afternoon.

Anyway, today is Thursday and my tooth has been sorted out. I stayed strong despite the enormous needle, drilling, and laserlight.

The thing is, the tooth thing really set me back. I had been coasting along pretty fine (apart from a lot more work at work) but this really did stop me in my tracks. I felt useless until my tooth was sorted out and moped around quite a bit. And of course, talked about my tooth all the time.

But I am pleased to say that I am happy again. My tooth is sorted, work has got a lot better since the secretarys had a meeting about helping each other out more, the weather has improved and I am looking forward to gearing up for a great weekend ahead.

Hope you are all well and not having setbacks with teeth or anything else.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Martha Mondays - Warm Vanilla Cider

This weeks Martha Mondays project was chosen by Teresa of She chose Warm Vanilla Cider from the October issue of Living (which I can't wait to get my hands on).

I think this is our first drink that we have made and I was excited (although I did check with Brette to see if apple cider was alcoholic as it is in the UK and was informed that it wasn't. This explains last Christmas when I made a spiced apple cider with alcoholic cider and then added brandy - there were a couple of merry afternoons during Christmas!!!

I had the ingredients that the recipe called for but had decided that I would not add the addition of cream or the honeyed walnuts as I didn't have the time and it would have ruined all my hard work of dieting.

This was good. The recipe was easy to follow and it tasted good (although I couldn't taste any nutmeg). With the addition of brandy (I didn't have bourbon). I had a very merry afternoon and will make this recipe again.

No picture this week I am afraid, as I drank it pretty quickly!

Thanks Teresa.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

My Beauty Regime

This regime of mine is nothing new (at least the products aren't) but I am on a real kick to look after myself better including skincare.

I have been addicted to Eve Lom Cleanser since a shopping event at Space NK last year where the goodie bag contained the travel size cleanser. Since then (as the price tag is huge) I have given it to myself as a prize for finishing a charity walk and I had it on my Wish List for Christmas last year.

I love the whole ritual with the cleanser - from applying it to a dry face, placing the hot muslin cloth on your face and then using warm water with circular motions to remove any dirt/makeup. Finishing off with a cold flannel (to close the pores) makes it even better. I highly recommend this product.

On a week day I don't use a morning moisturiser - my skin is currently in good condition and I am always worried about overloading it too much. I therefore use the daily moisture from Garnier at the weekends or when I am not wearing makeup.

At night (and this is stuck to religiously) I use the Garnier night cream and then the Eye Roll-On. My skin always feels lovely afterward and I have been happy with the results.

Lastly, following a tip from Martha that she uses a Serum one hour before she gets out of bed (seems she sets her alarm clock an hour early to apply) I had to get one. Martha uses a YonKa product but that is not in my price range. Instead I turned to trusted Garnier again. Now, I don't do this every night, as I quite like my sleep, but when I do wake early this little tube is on my bedside table waiting for me.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Martha Mondays - Apple Brown Betty

This weeks task was chosen by Abby from I was excited. I love apple crumble (although mum's version is so floury that we have many other names for it!!!) but this sounded really interesting and was completely new to me.

I did this for dessert on Saturday night whilst we watched Stictly Come Dancing and it followed on from roast pork for dinner so I thought I was on to a winner.

It was easy to make and I followed the recipe to the tee. Even the oven instructions were right.

I had given strict instructions to mum and dad to prepare themselves and that they had to eat some of it before adding extra sugar or cream (which always happens in the Singer household). They agreed. Although dad then ate trifle and didn't try any pudding (I'm still annoyed), mum and I were game - we both agreed that it had the winning ingredients - bread and apple for mum - and apple and cinnamon for me.

We both decided that it was a bit bland - mum blamed the apples of which she suggests using cooking apples and I wished I had used the demerara. Usually I find the Martha puddings to be so sweet. We both added cream and sugar.

I will try this recipe again and change it slightly. Thanks Abby for a good Martha Mondays project. I look forward to next week!

My photo doesn't show the dessert in a great way (if anyone knows of a way to show good looking crumble please let me know).

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Martha Mondays - Mollases Spice Cake

It was my turn to choose the Martha Mondays project and I had had it worked out for weeks - the Mollases Spice Cake from the October 2007 issue of Living. Ever since I had seen the cake I had wanted an excuse to make it but there was never a good enough reason to use every spice known to man (I know, I exaggerate - slightly) and then cream cheese, sour cream and brown sugar glaze.

But the time had come. I printed out the recipe and ingredients from the internet and headed to the supermarket. I had most of the ingredients although ground mace still is nowhere to be found, and I ended up using blade mace and mashing it through a sieve, but everything else I managed to find.

As I had Friday off from work I put everything on the counter and got to work. Just one problem - the Singer household had only 1 cup of brown sugar so I used caster sugar as well. (Martha I know would never have run out).

The cake was easy to make, besides using up three different bowls. I often wonder what would happen if I just dumped in the flour and spices in one go, but I persisted. The cake for me took an hour to cook, but my cake pan was slightly smaller in size and deeper.

We all liked the cake. I did the cream cheese frosting in a separate bowl so we could add as much or as little as we liked. I wouldn't add the butter to the cream cheese again as I don't think it needed it. And I didn't make the brown glaze as we had no brown sugar.

To anyone who makes the cake, I'm sorry that it had so many ingredients and probably wasn't a good idea if you were on a diet. I hope other people liked the cake. I will certainly make it again and am thinking of trying it as cupcakes for Christmas.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Book Review - The Help

In June I had seen a review for The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I was intrigued and quickly asked in the bookshop but was informed that the book was not released until the end of July. I had to have it. For weeks I kept on nipping into the bookshop to see whether they had put it out early, mum gave it to me as a surprise when it was released. I loved it.

The book is centres around two maids (Aibileen and Minny) who work in Mississippi in the 1960s. The book tells a story about life back then from both Aibileen and Minny's perspective and their bosses.

Everything about this book is wonderful. I could imagine every character and every scene. It was a book that I couldn't put down - I would read on my way to work, at lunch, on the tube - everywhere. But as the last 20 or so pages came up I was in two minds as to whether I wanted the book to end or whether I should leave it so that the book never had to end. Of course I finished it. And it was beautiful from the moment it started until the very last page.

Since I have read it, mum has read it and loved it (although she didn't cry like I did) and I have now given it to a friend. I know that I will pass this book along to all of my friends and then read it again.

It was truly wonderful.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Martha Mondays - Apple-Honey Challah

Well after being so late last week with the pom poms I am extra early in posting this weeks (next weeks) Martha Mondays task.

This was a joint task with my mum as we were both home to do it whilst doing other chores (mainly gardening). It turned out that it was lucky that neither of us needed to go out for a long period of time as this recipe took for ever!

We started at about 1.15pm and got it out of the oven at about 5.30pm.

Despite my dislike of honey, I embraced the recipe and bought all the right ingredients including Granny Smith apples which I don't really like (I'm more a pink lady girl!)

The problem for me was that it took too long, three times I had to take it to the airing cupboard, I found the instructions hard to follow (why preheat the oven 45 minute before it can go in the oven? - I disobeyed this).

We didn't like it either. I wasn't sure if you ate it as it was, had it with stewed fruit or something/cream/butter. Mum suggests that we through it to the birds and I agree. The pigeons I am sure will love it.

I will leave on a positive though, and say that despite us not liking it, it was good to try something new. I had never made Challah before (and probably won't again) but at least I can say that I have now made it.

Ready to (finally) go in the oven.

Just before being cut.

The leftovers - quite a bit - but the birds will be happy tomorrow!


Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Martha Mondays - Pom Poms

I apologise for this post being so late - I started these on Thursday, then went away (for a disasterous holiday - see post below) and then stayed with a friend on Tuesday night.

I admit that when I first saw the project I said "Oh no!". Crafting isn't my strong point and I never have the things required. But I decided to give it a go and I enjoyed it.

Here are my results:

Instead of thin wire which I don't have I used pipe cleaners which were available in the colours I required in our stationary shop.

I was worried that I would end up breaking them when 'rouching' them up but I did not break any. I think they could look very effective in a big grouping.

I will be making these for Halloween (which I plan to celebrate in great style this year. In total I made one large one and then two napkin rings which I thought looked the best.

Thanks Megan for a great Martha Mondays!

The Best Laid Plans...

Sometimes even the best made plans I make don’t go as I wish.

We went away to Devon for the August Bank Holiday this past weekend. It had been booked for a few months, a nice self-catering cottage in rolling hills within a complex which had a tennis court and indoor swimming pool.

I now see that holidays with my family just aren’t meant to be. We argue and as three very headstrong people (mum, dad and I) it just doesn’t work. When I go on holiday (and I hadn’t been away since Australia last year) I want it to be as perfect and stress free as possible. I want to relax, glass of wine on the table with a good book. A nice lunch, or food and see some sights whilst visiting a different part of the country. I enjoy being able to 'tick off the list' a place (or usually a county).

I admit that in some ways we are restricted slightly by taking Violet (my beautiful dog) with us. Until 30th September only certain beaches are accessible if you have a dog and going out and leaving Violet in the cottage is against the rules. However she was very good and enjoyed the different beaches that we took her to, walks in the fields she really enjoyed and she got used to her new surroundings very quickly. We even took her with us to eat one evening (the other time she stayed in the car until we brought her out some leftovers as a reward).

We stayed a few miles away from the town of Honiton. I had been led to believe from a friend that it was a pretty market town, with some good shops and a market on a Saturday. Maybe my expectations were too high, but it wasn’t great. Mum and I had walked up both sides of the road, stopping in shops and at the [very] small market within an hour.

As dad had decided to fish in one of the lakes at the complex on Saturday, mum and I made our way to Gittisham a small village a few miles away and then went for coffee at the Combe House Hotel (not as posh and well serviced as you would expect). Coffee with biscuits for two came to £10.00 – I was shocked!

I had been looking forward to this holiday since we had booked it (in May). Maybe my expectations were too high. I hoped that we would not argue, (and that started the afternoon before we even went), that we would go away and come back relaxed and refreshed. It wasn’t to be.

On the journey back I started to wonder ‘What Would Martha Do?’ I decided that she would have planned the venue more, looking up restaurants to try, places to visit. I also think that she would have back up plans. I am also sure that she would not have put up with the mood of one of the party for very long either!

Oh well, I have learnt my lesson for future trips and hopefully anyone reading this will see how lucky they are when they go away with family!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Martha Mondays - Chicken with Plums

Brette was kind enough to email me the recipe for this week's challenge as the September issue hasn't arrived in the UK yet.

It looked quite good from the recipe and I was pleased to get rid of another pound of plums (we have been eating victoria plums for the last few weeks and they are beginning to get on my nerves!)

We don't like honey in our house, and never have it in the cupboard. I adapted the recipe and used brown sugar instead.

I had eaten one of the plums when I was chopping them up and they were nice and sweet. But when we plated up the dinner, the plums seemed to be more 'tart' which I thought strange considering the addition of butter and brown sugar.

The consensus was that we didn't like the plums. We ate the chicken with rice and runner beans and it was fine.

I am intrigued to find out what everyone else thought and as I haven't seen a photo I can only assume that I did it right until the magazine arrives.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Kew Gardens

I am lucky to have Kew Gardens just over a mile from where I live, but I find that I hold visits for treats. I think if I went too many times it just wouldn't be special.

Mum and I had a free ticket last night so went along (it was an evening event from 6.30pm). We both loved it, as we hadn't been for a couple of years we strolled around the gardens and did the new treetop walk whilst other visitors sat on the park benches with picnic and enjoyed the cooler weather after a week of very hot, sunny days.

Below are some of the photos that I took on my phone camera. If you are ever in the area or travelling to London on holiday I would urge you to visit. It really is wonderful.

Huge urns with petunias were set around the pound in front of the Palm House:

The Temperate House (in the summer they hold concerts in front of the glasshouse, they are always finished with huge fireworks):

The Japanese Gateway:

The famous pagoda:

Friday, 21 August 2009

William Curley Cakes

A few weeks ago was my second anniversary of working at the company I work for. It is especially important as it marks a large change that I made in my life and the beginning of a close friendship.

Jackie and I started work on the same day. We sat in the same office for the first week and have been very good friends ever since.

We wanted to mark our anniversary in a special way. For months we have been gazing into William Curley’s shop on our way to the sandwich shop. The cakes always look amazing and we decided that we would treat ourselves.

These treats were not cheap – at £4.50 each I was expecting perfection, and would have been very tempted to march back in for a refund had they not been good.

However I just want to go back in for more! The cakes were fantastic; we chose a Passion fruit and Mango Entremet and a Black Forest cake. They were lovingly packaged up and after dinner we ate them. First slicing them in half, then admiring them and then devouring them. I ate the passion fruit one first and it was the nicest thing I have ever tried, the mousse was wonderful, the cake at the bottom was soft and just perfect. The Black Forest had just the right amount of alcohol and was rich from such lovely chocolate.

In the box – they had been glued on the bottom of the box to stop them sliding around
(the photo isn’t great because I used my phone camera)

I will be going back for Christmas presents (they sell a range of chocolates, hot chocolate kits and biscuits) and for the odd treat now and then. In fact I am wondering how tempted my mum will be to try these or some of the others (below). Surely another visit this weekend wouldn’t be wrong!