How Do You Like Your Eggs in the Morning?

Poached Eggs

We eat a lot of eggs in this house. They’re cheap, easy, versatile and healthy. Weekend breakfasts often consist of scrambled or fried eggs. This week I had a sudden yearning for poached eggs. Quick as they are to make, there is something about them that makes them feel like holiday fodder. A treat.

Eggs Poaching

The secret to poached eggs is the vinegar. Two teaspoons in the water and something magical happens – instead of a mess of blobby rubber, the whites remain smooth and round.

Poached Eggs

I used to boil my eggs for 3 minutes but, since reading Lucy’s ‘Egg Poaching Knowhow‘, I now gently pour the eggs into boiling water before leaving them, off the heat, to gently cook for 5 minutes. Perfect!

Poached Eggs

Soft, white and just ready for eating. Tuck in!

Poached Eggs

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Bread, Baking and Barbeques

Bread Baking

Sunday was such a wonderful day. I spent the majority of it in the kitchen preparing for the evening’s festivities. It was time to crack open Paul Hollywood’s ‘How to Bake‘ and indulge in some good, old-fashioned bread making. What a luxury! On today’s menu were Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia and Wholemeal Barm Cakes. Both were recipes new to me and both were a great success.

Focaccia

The focaccia was a delight to make and eat. (If you wish to have a go, Paul Hollywood’s recipe can be found here as well as in the book). The dough was springy and silky smooth and surprisingly easy to manipulate considering its stickiness. Watching those episodes of ‘The Great British Bake Off, Masterclass’ paid off at last!

Focaccia

I sprinkled one loaf with sea salt and oregano, as the recipe suggested, but the rosemary and sea salt version was the real hit. So moreish, we did eat a lot of bread!

Barm Cakes Dough

Wonderful as the focaccia was, I was proudest of my Barm cakes (another name for soft rolls, perfect to use as burger baps). They were soft, light and floury with a wonderful nuttiness. (I had run out of white bread flour so had to substitute wholemeal bread flour. All good!) Being so soft, their texture is quite different to most home-made breads where the crust is the best part. As these were so delicious I have written up the recipe in case you want to have a go.

Barm Cakes

  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 10g salt
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 10g instant yeast (I used active dry yeast and it worked well, I just left it a little longer to prove)
  • 40g butter, softened
  • 320ml cold water

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, butter and enough water to form a rough dough. Knead for 5 – 10 minutes until smooth.

Cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 1 – 3 hours until at least doubled in size.

Tip out and knock back before dividing into about 12 pieces or balls of 70g. Leave to rest for 30 minutes on a heavily floured surface.

Flatten slightly with a rolling-pin and place on lined and floured baking trays. Sprinkle with flour and place the trays in a carrier bag and leave to prove for about an hour until doubled in size.

Bake in an oven pre-heated to 210 °C for 10 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.

Store in a lidded container to keep them soft.

Chocolate Orange Cake

The final preparations came in the form of cake baking. Gizzi Erksine’s Chocolate Orange Truffle Cake to be specific. This recipe was actually the top layer of my wedding cake – sweet, gooey and delicious.

Chocolate Orange Cake

It is incredibly rich but the orange gives it a slight tang and stops it from being too sickly. Nom nom.

Worm Hunting

The Little Man was amazing all day. He spent most of it in the garden with various family members, endlessly walking up and down, playing football and searching for worms in our vegetable beds! We have experimented with putting the kitchen waste straight into the soil at the front so we can grow courgettes/squash on the freshly composting peelings. It seems to be going well as a lot of the matter has already decomposed and the bed is now full of worms, always a good sign in these situations and an excellent source of entertainment for 2 year olds.

Barbeque

Finally it was barbeque time. There is nothing quite like the glowing embers of a barbeque. Any of you who visit regularly will know that I am a fan of open air eating. Yes, this is England. Yes, it is February. Yes, it is cold outside. However I do not see why that should spoil our fun. It was time to celebrate my lovely brother-in-law’s birthday in style. (This was party take 2 as he had missed half of his own celebrations last week – see here). What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday evening. We all ate lots and laughed lots. The weather remained dry and relatively mild.

I love parties! :)

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365 Project – Week 7

The Lake

Hello my dears. There is always room for another lake picture so I have squeezed an extra one in to begin with. Maybe next year I shall do a 365 lake project! Tree

Sunday 9th February: The mixture of sunshine and storm clouds in this picture is a perfect metaphor for this day. On the one hand, we had fun in the park and a wonderful party of family and friends for my brother-in-law’s birthday. On the other hand I had a poorly husband and my sister spent the day in and out of A&E after an altercation with a food processor. I don’t think this is the place to say any more but I am glad that my life is not usually full of such drama! A day that I will not forget in a hurry, that is for sure.

Mood of the Day: Pinky red – happy, dramatic, family and friends.

Leaf stitching

Monday 10th February: I make a very conscious effort to seperate my working life from this blog. Afterall, it would be a miserable 365 project if my daily image was a pile of books to mark each day (even if it does feel like that sometimes!). These pretty leaves, created to inspire my class in their creative endeavours, just had to appear alongside my cheerful, lilac square for that day. Life was feeling good.

Mood of the Day: Lilac – a good work day.

Crochet Mood Blanket

Tuesday 11th February: As always happens in these cases, work managed to throw a curved ball today to bring me down with a bump. Hey ho, let’s just bury ourselves in colourful crochet instead. (See here for my Week 6 update).

Mood of the Day: Peach – a very unsettled colour after my good mood being crushed at school!

Heating whisky

Wednesday 12th February: A rather late Burn’s Night Supper of haggis, neeps and tatties. After last year’s triumph, the whisky sauce once again took pride of place. Delicious and the Little Man loved it (the haggis that is, not the sauce!).

Mood of the Day: Bright blue – happy, bright, a good day.

Cheese and haggis sandwich

Thursday 13th February: The most amazing sandwich ever – cheese and haggis topped with tomato and fresh basil. Always the best part of having haggis for dinner. 

Mood of the Day: Maroon – cosy, comfortable.

Valentine's Day

Friday 14th February: Happy Valentine’s day one and all. We shared a Chinese take away with my sister and her husband before battling it out over Settlers of Catan. A strawberry and kiwi pavlova from my lovely hubby topped it all off perfectly.

Mood of the Day: Bright purple – a happy feeling of deep contentment.

Fish and Chips

Saturday 15th February: Fish and Chips at the Black Country Museum. Amazing! I was quite concerned when we realised that the old chippie, who used to fry the chips in beef fat, had closed but these did not disappoint.

Black Country Museum

We had a marvellous time, stepping into the past and experiencing life in a Victorian mining town. The ranges were so beautiful, although I do not envy the women having to clean them out.

Mood of the Day: Steel grey – grey skies in the Black Country. Grey can be a beautiful colour.

So there we have another week in pictures. So much happiness. I hope that you take a moment to think back over the happy times of your week. x

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Crochet Mood Blanket – Week 7

Crochet Mood Blanket

Evening all! Here we are, Tuesday again and time for Hazel’s Crochet Mood Blanket link party. Very exciting this week as we actually have photographs taken in the daylight. Whoop whoop!

Crochet Mood Blanket

I am so pleased to finally show you the true blanket so far. You can appreciate the subtle differences in colour: the purples (usually school days) from the bright, cheerful shades for happy work days to the dull, lifeless tones for the tired, stressful days. The pinks showing happy days with family and friends and the blues indicating how the weather has affected my mood.

Crochet Mood Blanket

A happy pile of colourful squishiness.

Ends

Tonight I made an effort to deal with some of those pesky ends, sewing and snipping to secure them firmly. So boring but a very satisfying job. The overall appearance will be improved ten fold when it is complete.

Happyland Play

Today has been a cosy, homely day with lots of cuddles and familiar play. Many books have been read, toy boxes emptied, the track has been carefully assembled and spectacularly demolished. All good fun.

Ripple Blanket

To top it all I even managed to hook a couple of rows on my sister’s ripple blanket (see, my dear, I have not forgotten!).

Pizza Soup

As well as a lot of stay at home time, we’ve also been living life al-fresco this week, dodging the grey skies and making the most of any break in the weather. Today I chanced upon a notice on the Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries website announcing a visit from a mobile zoo at Blakesley Hall. A cheap, easy outing which would allow us all to have a breath of fresh air and enjoy a spot of outdoor dining.

Tea and Scone

We demolished the rest of yesterday’s Pizza Soup before tea and scones for dessert (not homemade but you can’t have everything!). A lovely little outing before bedding back down in the warmth of home. x

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Pepperoni Pizza Soup

Pizza Soup

Last week my interest was caught by a post entitled ‘Hearty Pepperoni Pizza Soup‘ on Simply Made Kitchen and Crafts. Ever since I read the recipe it has been on my mind so, when my sister suggested dinner tonight, there was no decision to make.

I did adapt the recipe somewhat. Indeed, although I have kept the title, my version did not actually contain any pepperoni at all. I much prefer the sweeter, smokier flavour chorizo so used that instead. I also added a lot more seasoning as, for me, the herbs are the secret to this dish. At the end of the day, my soup still delivered exactly what it said on the tin – pizza in a soup. Brilliant!

So here’s my recipe:

  • 4 – 6 onions, minced
  • 1 chorizo, sliced
  • 4 peppers, chopped
  • 2-3 courgettes, diced
  • 6 cloved garlic, minced
  • 20 tomatoes, blended
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs (the dried oregano is what gives this soup the flavour/smell of pizza)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 500ml – 1l water
  • 50g parmesan cheese, grated
  • Cooked meat – I used left over sausages and chicken (optional)
  • Cheese to sprinkle on top

Fry the onions and chorizo until the onions are soft and the chorizo has released its oils. Add the peppers, courgettes and garlic.

Stir in the tomatoes, seasoning and water and bring to the boil. Cook for 30 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and meat and cook until hot all the way through.

Serve with crusty bread and cheese sprinkled on top.

Enjoy!

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Crochet Mood Blanket – Week 6

Crochet Mood Blanket

Ah, there it is. Never ending, squishy goodness. I am totally in love with this blanket! Due to its size and bad lighting, I admit that it is proving somewhat tricksy to photograph but never mind. We do our best!

Crochet Mood Blanket

Unfortunately I missed Hazel’s link party last week as my granny making slowed somewhat after a mistake in the joining. Pressure got to me and I took a few days off. It was such a relief when I had caught up and we are now fully back on track.

Crochet Mood Blanket

Oh dear, just look at those ends! I was doing so well. By next Tuesday, I intend to have them all weaved in and snipped. I cannot bear to leave them for long or I’ll never do them!

20140210_211724

I am still fascinated about what I have learned regarding my relationship with colour. Take the purple in the photo above. I have two almost full balls of it as I was never overly keen on including it in previous projects. It is not particularly offensive but lilac does little for me. If I think about my mood colours, however, that colour strongly represents my feelings after a good day at work. How strange that a colour that I am not particularly fond of can symbolise such positive emotions.

Anyway, enough of my musings for today. Back soon! x

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365 Project – Week 6

Sunday Morning Lake

Good evening! It has been wonderful to see so many of you around at the moment. I hope that means that you are not bored of seeing my little snapshots. I really love sharing them with you, reliving happy times and remembering forgotten moments.

Sunday Sky

Sunday 2nd February: We shall begin with a sunny Sunday morning, the start of a lovely day. Nothing much happened. We didn’t really go out anywhere exciting. But it was me and the Little Man and that does not happen very often. I ducked outside soon after breakfast to take the pictures above but I was not quite ready to leave the house yet. It was too warm, too comfortable. I was having too much fun!

Duplo

Amusement came in the form of the Little Man’s Duplo. Oh how I love these colourful blocks. We have a bit of a mottled collection. There are some old Duplo-style bricks that came with some rather strange farm animals, which were purchased from the charity shop, a Duplo farm and a Duplo zoo. Altogether they make quite a pleasing collection. It makes me so proud watching my Little Man exercise his imagination. He places the pieces so carefully – just look at the tiger in the top right corner, his foot placed gently on his giant slab of meat. And the giraffes and the elephants are always left in close proximity to a luscious green tree. He’s such a clever boy!

As well as the happy memories it is the randomness that really pleases me – the giant giraffe and the huge tractor ready to trample any lonely animal that gets in the way. It reminds me of such games when I was a child – animals and people who bore no resemblance to reality in terms of scale or colour. As if this matters when you are transported to an imaginary world!

Inevitably our fun came to an end as the Little Man grew restless. Fresh air beckoned. We decided to visit the ducks and make the most of the sunshine which was to disappear by lunchtime.

Play Area Tree

Our path took us, as usual, to the play area. Whilst there I love gazing at this tree. There is nothing to spoil its sculptural quality – it just sits against the vast sky, the branches weaving their way towards the clouds.

Play Area Tree

Love it!

Mood of the Day: Deep blue – I wanted my favourite bright blue but I cannot bring myself to have two identical blocks next to each other whatever my feelings that day. I have to like this blanket!

Jigsaws

Monday 3rd February: A rather last minute photo of the day but these do represent my favourite part of the day – playing with the Little Man before bedtime. His smiles and cuddles make everything worthwhile.

Mood of the Day: Charcoal grey – wet, tiring, rather miserable day.

Sunrise

Tuesday 4th February: Not a great deal to say about this day but I did at least manage to take this moment to calm myself and marvel at the beauty of nature before work.

Sunrise on the Lake

Mood of the Day: Plum – dull, tired, stressed.

Toy Car

Wednesday 5th February: I wasn’t really sure what to photograph today but the sight of this little car sitting on the kitchen worktop made me smile. Probably left by the Little Man as he tried to snaffle some tasty morsel off the side!

Mood of the Day: Deep pink – a definite lift in spirits after a good day at work. Feeling very content.

Tea and Chocolate

Thursday 6th February: Sometimes tea and chocolate is just what you need. :)

Mood of the Day: Teal – a rather wet day but feeling happy.

Bathing with Candles

Friday 7th February: Relaxing in the bath, sipping Sambuca and getting rid of the cares of the week. Wonderful!

Mood of the Day: Deep red – feeling warm and snuggly as I relaxed into the weekend. x

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365 Catch Up – Week 5

Morning sky

Hello my lovelies, I hope that you are all well. I have been trawling through my albums, selecting my favourites for my daily snapshot. I do love this project, I love seeing how my life evolves day-to-day, bobbing along quite contentedly with regular moments of excitement. I have split this post up to help keep the size down so will just do a few days at a time. I have also decided to merge my 365 Project and my Crochet Mood Blanket by including which colour matched my ‘feeling’ for that day.

Cake and Crochet

Wednesday 29th January: Being treated by my husband – a custard slice and a crochet hook brought a smile to my face and gave me a bit of peace before resuming work for the evening.

Mood of the Day: Beige – warm, comfortable, calm.

Cuppa and Crochet

Thursday 30th January: Cuppa and crochet - me time. I have said it before but I am loving this enforced hooky time of an evening. It is so good for the soul!

No Knead Bread

In other news, I am still continuing my No-Knead Bread journey, although it has somewhat slowed for the moment.

Mood of the Day: Ice blue – cold, tired.

Sponge Cake

Friday 31st January: A slice of sponge cake baked by my husband’s fair hands. What a lucky girl I am! (Do also note the beautiful, warm and furry cardigan covered in stars. My favourite item of clothing at the minute!)

Mood of the Day: Light blue – another day at the end of a long, tiring week. Lightened by the fact that it was Friday.

Splashing in the Mud

Saturday 1st February: I love my Little Man dearly but, if I am honest, this was a difficult week for him and therefore us. The world can be an infuriating place for a nearly-two year old. A lot of frustration. A lot of screaming. Sometimes I did not even know what the crying was about. Where had my wonderful, happy-go-lucky boy gone?

Forge Mill Farm

My solution to tetchiness is always to get out of the house so a trip to the farm with my sister was on the cards. Blue sunshine, lots of mud to splash in and animals to entertain. What could go wrong? Let’s just say the journey around the farm lasted under 30 minutes, 25 of which involved moaning and screaming. Argh! Get me out of here.

Indoor Picnic

We decided to escape the biting wind and take refuge in a little barn fitted out with tables and chairs for indoor picnicking. Within minutes peace descended. Smiles returned and there was much laughter and chatter, especially as we were quickly joined by two dogs and their owners who were also seeking a bit of warmth.

Play area

As good spirits had been restored we decided to burn off a bit of steam at the play area before we left. A lovely way to end a rather awful outing.

Mood of the Day: Shrimp – bright, cheerful, love and cuddles. Even a bit of moaning does not stop me being grateful for my weekends with my amazing boy.

p.s. I am glad to say that, as all such phases, Little Man’s mood had lifted by Sunday so peace and harmony has returned to our household. x

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Walking in the Wind

Cuppa Tea

Greetings on this blustery Winter day! Come and have a cuppa and warm up. :)

I know, I missed my Tuesday link party with Hazel to update on my Crochet Mood Blanket this week but I will be there ready next week! It all went a little bit awry for a moment but the problems have been resolved and we are now back on track again. All good.

Sheldon Country Park

Back to today and look at that sky. See how big it is? How blue? We just had to get out and make the most of those restorative rays.

Sheldon Country Park

Our jaunt took us to a local park. Luckily we had the forethought to don our wellies as the ground was completely saturated. See those massive puddles? The seagulls have taken up home there is so much water! We have been lucky enough to avoid the awful floods that some parts of England have been suffering with but the rain has seemed somewhat incessant at times. Today, however, it was the wind that we had to battle with.

Birmingham Airport

Our final destination was the end of the runway at Birmingham Airport. Based on the fact that it was blowing a gale, it may have been a strange choice to go and picnic in the windiest spot in the city but hey ho.

Birmingham Airport

The Little Man loves it here. The planes sail straight above your head with a deafening  roar before screeching down the runway. There is something rather majestic about seeing them up close. It defies gravity and logic that they can keep themselves up! Admittedly the plane in the picture above is rather diddy but we were all ready to race back home by this point so I had to take what I could get.

Picnic

Along with the train line, which is also visible, they provided excellent entertainment during our picnic. The Little Man was enchanted.

Sheldon Country Park

A good job as we needed some distractions from the weather. To be honest, the picture at the top may have given a slightly optimistic view of things. In fact it was even raining at one point. Freezing cold droplets blowing across our faces over the sandwiches. Marvellous!

Sheldon Country Park

We are hardy folk though and it quickly cleared.

Sheldon Country Park

The blue sky and golden rays were back. Happy days!

Cuppa Tea and Gloves

I’ll be back soon with a 365 Project update. :)

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Crochet Mood Blanket – Week 4

 

Crochet Mood Blanket 2014

Good evening all, Tuesday’s here again - time to join Hazel’s link party and update on my Crochet Mood Blanket. Boy is it getting big! Already longer than I am and still 4 more triangles to attach. Hey ho, it’ll be a weighty finished item. I always like to veer on the side of caution as I worry things will be too small – this is why I do not sew!

I am looking forward to some sunny Spring snaps so that you can see the true colours as they are much more vivid, but also softer, than these images imply. I love the fact that I would not choose these colours for a blanket but they work so well. I do miss my yellows and browns but I do not feel ‘yellow’ so it cannot appear in my mood blanket. As I have discovered that the weather affects what colour I ‘feel like’ on any given day, brown may start creeping in during the course of the year.

Crochet Mood Blanket 2014

It has been a revelation that I feel so pink for positive days full of family and friends, whereas the working week tends to lean towards various shades of purple depending on stress levels. Beige and greys are for those dark, Winter days, although they do not necessarily imply a dip in mood, just weather conditions! The blues come out when the sun is shining and my mood soars – finding myself outside for at least part of the day definitely lifts my spirits, even if it is just for P.E.. My moss-green day stands out as when I felt most connected to nature this year at the Birmingham Nature Centre (read about it here), though I envisage more green creeping in as the trees begin to leaf. The colours definitely dulled to match my mood towards the end of last week so I am pleased to see the brighter shades return as I regain the spring in my step.

If you are taking part in the Mood Blanket 2014 party, please leave a comment so that I can see how yours is coming on.

Back soon! x

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