Thursday, June 20, 2013

Attempting to be back again!

I have been delinquent for ages now!  I had such good intentions at the start of the year that I would be back to my regular postings again...but alas, I slacked off.  Again so much has happened since my last post!!  After months and months of having our home on the market (and some disappointments along the way), we sold our house in the early spring and were in the new place by the end of March.  I'd like to say that we're now settled, but as we plan for this to be the "forever" house, we're taking our time in making it perfect.

The movers were great and it was amazing to see how much stuff we had!  Even worse was having to unpack it all.  But we've managed (mostly).  We've still got what feels like a ton of boxes hidden away in the eaves, and just as much in the garage, but we'll just deal with all those later.

One of the best things I love about the house is the new area we live in.  When we've had free time, we've always loved taking our dog for long walks.  One area we enjoyed was the Basingstoke canal, but it would take us a half an hour just to walk there.  Our new place is less than a 5 minute walk around the corner, so we've been walking there as often as the weather permits.

On a recent Saturday, hubby was working so I took the dog out for a super long walk to enjoy the weather!

It was such a busy day on the canal that day!  There were so many kayaks  out, as well as canoes, a narrow boat and lots of cyclists, dog walkers and people just generally wanting a stroll and some fresh air.

 It's so beautiful there when the weather is nice!  See why we love it so much!!

Now all we need are a few more sunny weekends and we'll be able to break out our kayak too!!

hhmmmm, I don't see that happening anytime soon!!
Chance of Rain
Chance of Rain

Monday, December 31, 2012

Where has the time gone??? ....and fruit infused alcohol!

Firstly let me apologize for this post.  The time references are all wrong because I wrote it up, saved it with the intention of adding some photos and then complete forgot to post it!  So now that two weeks have passed, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with their family and loved ones!! 

Wow I can't believe that in just one week it will be Christmas! (see apology above) This year has gone by so incredibly fast and so much has happened!  We settled into a new area, my husband spent 6 months in Afghanistan, I got a new job and now we're planning on moving again!  No wonder I seem to have more grey hair than ever these days (thanks for covering it up, Max!)

So I don't know about you, but I am the biggest kid at Christmas time!  I am SOOOOOO excited!  I know exactly what I'm getting (tell ya next week), and I can't wait!!!  (Taking photos with the photo my wonderful husband gave me for Christmas!!)  And I just love giving too.  I'm so excited for my husband to open up the gift I bought him (even though he knows what it is too) and see how excited the dog gets when we start ripping open paper!  (Mental note...must go buy him the biggest bone the shop has!)  I've also spent the last several months preparing fruit infused alcohol to give as gifts.  How the interest started is we spent a long weekend in the Cotswolds for our first wedding anniversary and the hotel supplied us with a small complimentary decanter of homemade sloe gin (which they topped up daily!!)  I was a bit reluctant to try it as I don't like gin...but I'm so glad that I did because it was delicious!  After a long day of walking in the countryside, it was so nice to put our feet up and sip sloe gin.

When we got home I ordered some sloe berries through a guy on ebay - I could have just gone out the country and picked them myself, but £7 saved me the trouble..not bad really. Once all the ingredients were in the jar, we were really good about shaking them daily and then weekly...even tasting occasionally to see how they were progressing.

As I was then on a role, I found other recipes online for fruit infused alcohol and settled on raspberry infused vodka (because that is hubby's favourite fruit) and then cranberry and orange infused vodka....which we also would religiously shake (and taste).

After about 2 months everything was ready to be bottled.  We've kept quite a few for us, but I've also given some out at work as Christmas gifts for colleagues.  My boss was thrilled! (brownie points for me!)  I just think sometimes a homemade gift means so much more.  I hope everyone enjoys drinking them as much as I enjoyed making them!  This project is definitely on my list to do again very soon!  Maybe I should rename this blog "Fancy a tipple?"     *smile*

We're saving the last decanter of sloe gin (photo above) to enjoy in the new house!  I can't wait!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Finished Top Down Sweater

So after months of being delinquent again, I decided to log into blogger and consider possibly maybe catching up with another post..and see drafts sitting there! ????  I apparently logged in months ago, wrote a couple of posts, saved them and then must have immediately forgotten about them. Yeesh!

So here is my first one.  Another lovely FO!


I think I bought this particular pattern by Per Amore Designs a few years back.  I had good intentions on doing it right away, but as I do with knitting, there are soooo many projects that I want to do that I get completely sidetracked.  I bookmark so many and get overwhelmed with all the choices!

Finally last year when wanting a super easy knit I could do in the car on the way up North, I remembered this top down pattern.  And as I'm trying to work through my stash, I grabbed some inexpensive acrylic I had.  It was super soft and a stunning colour.

Unfortunately though (insert curse here) so many things I make come out too big!!  I even started this, pulled it out and started it over again in a smaller size and it still came out too freaking big!  Damn!

So I couldn't really bring myself to pull it all out again and start over, so I packed it up and mailed it to my mum. *smile*  She loved it of course (as she does the several others I've given her over the years!)

Doesn't it look great!!??  I think the colour is just so flattering and she's almost colour coordinated with the azaleas in the background!  Never mind that it was super hot and she complained about having to try it on in 80 degree weather!

(I must remember to tell her the date on her camera is completely off!)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Another Finished Object

So I recently finished another knitting project.  With hubby working overseas for several months it gave me a chance to catch up on all my knitting!  The latest one is the little lacy top in merino/cashmere.  Would you believe I started this over a year ago!  I originally started this when we were living back in Essex and was so excited at first..and then I made the mistake of putting it aside.  Oh how you lose interest fast!  Of course I started other projects, got myself completely sidetracked and finally I thought enough is more new projects until I get this thing out of the way!

Didn't it turn out lovely?  I am really pleased with how it turned out and am so glad I finally got around to finishing it.  That said, I wore it once and the neck stretched out quite a bit..perhaps I bound it off too loosely.  So I need to figure out someway to fix that without unbinding it and casting off again, but there should be an easy way to do it.

I'm still super pleased with the result and definitely think I'll make this again soon.  I have some lovely silky bamboo yarn that I think would make the lace pattern drape beautifully!

If you're interested, I found this pattern through the Lana Kn website....or otherwise look for it on Ravelry.

Happy knitting!

(now to tackle all my other half finished projects!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I'm back!

Wow, I've been so delinquent with this blog again.  And so much has happened since I've been gone!  Most importantly, I got married to the most wonderful man!  We'd been doing the long distance thing for several years while I lived in Canada, but then we made the decision that I move over the England...and let the wedding planning begin!

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day in October.  With a sleeveless dress I was worried I'd be cold, but I couldn't have been more wrong!  The sun was shining and it was gorgeous and warm!  Perfect..perfect..perfect!!
Isn't the dress lovely!?  I got such a wicked deal by buying this from China!  We were on a bit of a tight budget and I found this dress online, took a chance in ordering it and it was just lovely when it arrived.  I had a few minor alterations done at a local seamstress and then it fit like a dream!  And I only paid about £140 in total!  Better  than the £450 I would have paid had I bought the cheapest dress I'd liked in the shops!

It was so good to see everyone again, even though I didn't get near enough time to talk to some people.  And everyone looked fabulous!  It's always so nice to see people dressed up!  And even better, everyone got along so well!  Our friends and family are awesome!  We're so blessed that some people came from so far to celebrate our special day.  It really meant alot to me.

The venue was so lovely and the staff couldn't have been more helpful!  I also have to rave about the wedding cake we chose.  I lucked out when I found Natasha who wasn't far from the venue and she has a special technique where she paints on the cakes...anything you like!  So with our Canadian connection and being in October, I wanted something with maple leaves.  We chose to have a small top tier of yummy chocolate mud cake with chocolate ganache for ourselves (half still in the freezer to enjoy together) and then maple flavoured cupcakes with maple butter cream for all our guests.  The top cake was painted with a scattering of leaves and each cupcake had a single disk on top with an individual maple leaf.  Beautiful!

If ever you need a wedding cake or extra special hand painted treats  anywhere near Buckinghamshire, please call Nevie Pie Cakes. She's worth every penny!

You can also keep up to date with all the events she's involved in by following her blog Amelie's House.  It's from here I found out about her visits to Selfridges in London and popped in and got some delicious hand painted gingerbread cookies in December! YUM!

Aren't the cupcakes adorable!?

So after all the excitement of our wedding, we luckily had a few days of down time in the South of Spain.  It felt good to finally lay back, put our feet up, relax and order a pitcher of sangria!  Ah!  We stayed in a little village just North of Marbella called Benahavis, which is renowned for it's restaurants and often referred to as the dining room of the Costa del Sol.  How convenient..since I love to eat! *smile*  I'll gather up some photos and add more on Spain in a later post.

We returned home to pack up the house, load up the cars and moved to our new home in Hampshire.  We had a few months together here and now unfortunately hubby is working overseas for a few months.  Ah I get to explore the area on my own until he comes home again.  Wait till I post some pics of my walks with Charlie in the area!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Monkey Bread

I was just going through some of the foodie pics I'd taken for this blog and I can't believe I never posted this recipe!  It was soooooo good!  I must admit, it was a heck of alot of least more than I'd ever been used to when baking goodies for myself before, but it's so worth it!

I made this a few months ago back when I was baking several times a week and sending most (or half) of what I baked off to work with Chris.  Hahaha, that was before I realized my clothes were miraculously shrinking from this British climate.  It's the climate I tell you!  Don't argue with me, let me dream.

So this Monkey Bread recipe is from the Brown Eyed Baker blog.  I think her recipes are just fantastic and I do them so frequently that I've given her her own label on this blog. 

I must apologize for the photos coming up.  I have a big sweet tooth and I'm still relatively new at this blogging thing that I often start eating my goodies before realizing I hadn't taken a photo yet!  Ha Ha!  So you'll probably notice photos of many half eaten treats on this site!  Chris got into devouring this as well before we took photos!

They are so gooey and delicious!  I think I'll be making these again very soon!  I've been told tonight that Chris's colleagues are literally begging for another batch of these!!  Thank you, Michelle for this heavenly recipe!!!
Monkey Bread
from the Brown Eyed Baker blog

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, 2 tablespoons softened and 2 tablespoons melted
1 cup milk, warm (about 110 degrees F)
1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees F)
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 package instant yeast
3¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons salt

Brown Sugar Coating:
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk

1. Butter Bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Set aside.

2. In a large measuring cup, mix together milk, water, melted butter, sugar and yeast. Mix flour and salt in standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter and knead briefly to form smooth, round ball. Coat large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and coat surface of dough with cooking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a draft-free area until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.

3. For the sugar coating: While the dough is rising, mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Place melted butter in second bowl. Set aside.

4. To form the bread: Gently remove the dough from the bowl, and pat into a rough 8-inch square. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough into 64 pieces.

5. Roll each dough piece into a ball. Working one at a time, dip the balls into the melted butter, allowing excess butter to drip back into the bowl. Roll in the brown sugar mixture, then layer balls in the Bundt pan, staggering seams where dough balls meet as you build layers.

6. Cover the Bundt pan tightly with plastic wrap and place in draft-free area until dough balls are puffy and have risen 1 to 2 inches from top of pan, 50 to 70 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap the pan and bake until the top is deep brown and caramel begins to bubble around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a platter and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

8. For the glaze: While the bread cools, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and milk in a small bowl until the lumps are gone. Using a whisk, drizzle the glaze over the monkey bread, letting it run over top and down the sides of the bread. Serve warm.

*Note: (This is the method I used) To make without a stand mixer: In step 2, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the flour, then add the milk mixture to the well. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough becomes shaggy and is difficult to stir. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and begin to knead, incorporating the shaggy scraps back into the dough. Knead until dough is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Shape into a taut ball and proceed as directed.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I am a HUGE lover of food blogs!  It seems I am often glued to the computer putting stars next to special recipes and bookmarking others.  I would print out all my faves, but I would then definitely need a new full-sized bookcase!!  It's bad enough I already have one giant bookcase overflowing with cookbooks!  I tell you, I love recipes so much that if I don't keep up with the blogs for a few days...I suddenly have like 200 posts to catch up on!  What was I thinking subscribing to sooo many??!!  I love them all though and constantly drool over each new recipe!  Keep them coming!

Recently I had my extra special friend, Deniz, visit me for a couple of days en route to Turkey.  Knowing that Deniz has a massive sweet tooth as well, I welcomed the opportunity to get baking in the kitchen!  (Yes, yes...I know! More cheating on pre-wedding diet!!) 

This time I made some fabulous Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from the Brown Eyed Baker blog.  I wish I could say I had a better photo than this, but I took a couple of shots while the pan was cooling and then well...completely forgot!  I cut them into pieces, shoved several into my mouth and put the rest in a container and quickly left the room before I ate any more!  They were that good!!  Make these if you know what is good for you!!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
from the Brown Eyed Baker blog

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan; set aside.

2. In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until creamy and light. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until the flour is just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

4. Turn out the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until the center is set. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars and store at room temperature in an airtight container.