V is for … Valentine

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Spotted in the window of a local cafe, Toast. Such a lovely idea! I walked right the way around the block to go back and take a photo. Glad it was early morning as it made it easier not to get customers in the shot, but I saw afterward that the pepperpot had a starring role! At least it’s red I guess!

 

A-Z Foodie Challenge – H is for … Hazelnuts

HAPPY WORLD NUTELLA DAY!!!!!

I’m delighted to tell you that I especially saved my hazelnut challenge for today knowing it’s World Nutella Day…..but of course I’m lying and it is in fact a very happy coincidence, although I will be celebrating World Nutella Day from now on!

I copied Linda this month and looked on Pinterest for inspiration for a recipe. I was, in all honesty, looking for a savoury recipe but when I found a recipe for The Moistest Chocolate Mug Cake and read the details (Prep Time 1 min/Cook Time 1 min!!!!) I was sold. If you’d like to check out the recipe for The Moistest Chocolate Mug Cake, it appears on the Table For Two blog here. It may have taken a MASSIVE 2 minutes to prep and cook but it took mere seconds for Holly and I to demolish it! I added a swirl of double cream and some crushed hazelnuts just to cover up for my guilt of not using the “real thing” in the recipe!

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Linda’s gone down the microwave path too this time with her Microwave Nut Caramels which were absolutely gorgeous to eat and gave me a real energy boost in the afternoon when I was flagging. Check out her blog to find out all about them – this is they….

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Will add Frances and her culinary creation soon and look forward to I is for Icing next time.

 

 

Please Titivate My Wreath!

When we visited, nan asked me what I was up to craft-wise at the moment and I told her I had an idea for making wreaths for next Christmas and showed her some pictures of them on my iPad. “Oooooh” she said and off she disappears into her amazing “cupboard of all things” and comes back with her Christmas wreath. “Can you do anything with this?” she said, “A bit of titivating or brightening up?” (thank goodness it was titvating and not pimping or I’d have been really worried!).

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To be honest it didn’t really need a lot doing to it,did it? It was a bit bent out of shape but, before you could say “holly berries”, it was in the back of the car and coming down to Devon with us.

Knowing mum and dad were going back up to check on nan mid-January I didn’t have a lot of time to do much but decided, after a bit of bending and tweaking, that a bit of glittery Stick2015-01-21les every now and then would add sparkle when the sun (hopefully!) catches them.

After that I added a red ribbon to the top (as a means to hanging the wreath) which had been taken from a panatone we’d been given at work (waste not, want not!) and our lovely green sparkly “Merry Christmas” sign, which is one of my favourite ornaments each year – but then this is for nan isn’t it?!  A couple of robins nestling amongst the pine needles and it was all ready for the trip back up to the Midlands. I managed to buy a wreath protector case from Betterware online so, hopefully, it will get there in one piece!

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A-Z Foodies Challenge – F is for Flour

I really love making bread. There’s nothing like the smell of it cooking and the magic that turns a lump of goo into something light, bubbly and delicious. However, sometimes there just isn’t time to get on and make a loaf (minus bread making machine), or….is that not really the case?

After deciding to have a soup making session I thought the best plan would be to have it with hot, just out of the oven bread. But, I was a bit short of time. Enter those inventive people at Wright’s with one of their very clever bread mixes. All you do is add water and/or oil and follow their very simple instructions to make a fresh loaf or rolls.

On this occasion I chose Parmesan and Sun Dried Tomato Bread Mix and decided to be REALLY hands off by letting my food mixer, with dough hook attachment, do all the hard work instead of standing and doing all the stretching (of the dough!) and kneading, leaving me free to get on with everything else I was trying to do. Could it work? YES, it could! It was quick, easy, very unmessy and still gave the satisfaction of a great tasting bread. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t go back to traditional bread making, but for a quick and easy solution, this was ideal.

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Not sure what Frances and Linda are up to for their flour-y challenge, but will add the details as and when. If anyone else would like to have a link in this post with their recipe using flour, please get in touch.

 

M is for …. Medals

The Summer Reading Challenge 2014 is now officially over! That isn’t to say that we won’t be making up certificates and awarding medals to those children who didn’t manage to get to the award ceremony last week – we wouldn’t be so mean!

If you haven’t heard of the Summer Reading Challenge before, it’s a scheme backed by the Reading Agency and it takes place in libraries all over the country during the school holidays. There’s a different theme each year and children have an absolute free reign on what they read – fiction, non-fiction, picture books, audio books – anything so long as they’ve borrowed it from the library. Their only commitment is to read 6 books during the holidays and to come in to tell us what they thought of the books, and to fill out the information on the back of their sticker sheets, marking the books out of 3 stars depending how much they liked the book. Yup, you read that correctly, they get stickers into the bargain too! Each set of stickers features a scratch and sniff sticker which provokes LOTS of eugh-ing, laughter, conversation and dispair from the adults (which adds to the fun of course!). This year’s stickers weren’t too bad, fortunately. Last year they were so bad we actually had people walking past our stock room where the stickers were kept and coming and telling us they thought we had a gas leak!

AND there are medals (just as well given the title!).  IMG_1850As well as having various (FREE!) activities during the school holidays along the theme of that year’s Challenge (Mythical Maze this year) we have an award ceremony at the end of the holidays so that the children can be presented with their medals (very patiently threaded by Linda!) and certificates.

IMG_1852This year we were lucky enough to have the services of our local Town Crier, Dave, to help with the award ceremony. He came in full costume (how he managed to stay upright given the temperature of the library with that many bodies in it on that particularly hot evening I don’t know!), with bell and did a special cry that he’d invented just for us.

We were delighted to have more children start and finish the challenge than ever before. We’ve had about 150 children finish the challenge this year – last year, our then highest figure, was 87. Given the great weather we’ve had this summer in particular, we’re really pleased with this figure and would like to say a huge thanks to all the children who took part and all of their parents to for bringing them to the library.

Here’s a photo of Linda with one of the medals and our breakdown of figures of starters, finishers and their age groups.

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And here’s a photo of some of our wonderful finishers with their medals and certificates. Funnily enough there were lots and lots of parents gathered at the back until we got the camera out…and all of a sudden lots of them disappeared behind the bookshelves…! Though I have to admit I’d be hiding with them if I wasn’t lucky enough to be stood at the front holding the camera in order to stay out of the photo!

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A-Z Foodie Challenge – D is for Dates

Of course dates had a special offer on them when I went into the shop didn’t they?! So, unable to resist a BOGOF, instead of one recipe this month, I’ve actually tried three of them – and still have a whole bag of dates left over!

With some help from great birthday presents and from Kev’s Aunt Kate, I’ve got a good variety of treats this month.

My lovely daughter bought me the new Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking and a quick look through it brought forth the recipe for Oat & Honey Flapjack Cookies. These contain 100g of dried fruit and nuts…dates being one of their suggested fruits. To this I added pistachio nuts and dried cranberries to make up my 100g. I think they were the most successful thing I’ve made on this challenge so far – well successful apart from the fact I ate a few bits that had fallen off the side straight out of the oven and was a bit stressed by the sound of my tongue sizzling! Lesson learned – til next time!

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Second birthday present to come in very handy was a great little set called The Preserving Kit, a gift from my sister. From that I chose a recipe for Peach & Date Chutney which they suggest will be “a good accompaniment to ripe, creamy Brie, full-fat soft cheeses and roast poultry. Perfect for serving with your cold roast Christmas turkey”. Sounds good to me!

I halved the amount of ingredients used partly because I wasn’t sure if we would like it and partly because I’m quite short of jars at the moment. It resulted in 2 Kilner jars full of great smelling chutney which only have to sit for 2 weeks before we can try them. Bring on the Brie!

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Finally (until I start again with the second bag of dates!) I used the website suggested by Kate to find a savoury recipe – http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/collections/date+recipes  From there I chose Date, Gorgonzola & Prosciutto Tart as I’d always fancied trying to cook something using a sheet of puff pastry. Unfortunately I couldn’t find Gorgonzola cheese in town and had to opt for Feta instead, which didn’t melt as well of course. Had a bit of a panic when the pastry rose in the middle when it wasn’t meant to, but other than that it worked out okay and tasted really good. I’ll look around for the correct cheese and give it another go at some time in the future I think.

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Linda went a bit Nigella had a sticky date herself! Read all about it here http://lindasmakes.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/d-is-for-culinary-alphabet/

 

 

L is for … Lancaster Bomber

Hot on the tail (or wing) of talking about Bournemouth Air Festival, one of our favourites to watch in the skies has to be the mighty Lancaster Bomber. The very sight and sound of it humming through the sky is enough to bring on a shiver of goosebumps.

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It’s hard to believe that the first flight of the Lancaster was as far back as 9 January 1941, before it was introduced into service in October of that year. An impressive total of 7,377 Lancasters were built between 1941 and early 1946. Of these, some 3,500 were lost on operations and another 200 or so were destroyed or written off in crashes. The vast majority of those Lancasters that did survive the war were simply scrapped when their services were no longer required.

IMG_6670PA474, which displayed as part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight recently in Bournemouth, is one of only two Lancaster aircraft remaining in airworthy condition out of the 7,377 that were built.  The other Lancaster is Canadian and has been over in the UK for the past month taking part in the BBMF activities with the UK Lancaster. We were lucky enough to see it do a fly past over Exeter Airport after displaying in Dawlish, but unfortunately it wasn’t able to fly while we were in Bournemouth.

IMG_4975Holly was lucky enough to meet some of the Bomber team at Bournemouth back in 2010 and they were absolutely lovely, very gentle and patient. The number of people interested in speaking to them, particularly of the older generation, was very touching.

The Lancaster is displaying, as part of the Memorial Flight, until the end of this month. If you get chance to go and see them, I really would recommend it. Here’s the details of their flying displays – http://www.raf.mod.uk/bbmf/displayinfo/

I is for …. iPod

Hmmm, now which should I choose that I wouldn’t like to survive without – iPod or iPad? In the end it had to be iPod. One of my happiest times is when I’m listening to music and I find the iPod, when you think back into the not too distant past of vinyl, cassette and cd, amazing.

My collection is, not surprisingly, mostly 80’s with some others older and one or two newer. They list from AC/DC (it was Abba but they seem to have disappeared on the last update) to ZZ Top (oh, thank goodness for ZZ Top otherwise the last one would be The Wombles and I’d have to admit that to you……oh.).

Just about everything about my iPod makes me happy. I won it from a competition run by Coke and it’s engraved with a bottle of Coke on the back of it. I love my current headphones which match the stitching on my favourite shirt and my swimming bag (I am so easily pleased) and, of course, the music makes me very happy too. I listen to it mostly when I’m walking (Slade is very good for walking to surprisingly – great beat) or when I’m trying to ignore people….I’m amazed I’m not surgically attached to it! I listen to it FAR too loud and my hearing has suffered but…

So I love you iPod – you are the happiest “i” thing I can think of (okay, so I’ll probably think of something else i-ish that I should have featured seconds after posting this!)

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Foodie Photo Challenge – B is for Butternut Squash #A-ZFoodiePhotos

So, we’ve squished and we’ve squashed and here are the results of our Butternut Squash foodie challenge.

Frances has shown us a simple but delicious way to use the squash – very handy to know as I’ve never tried it this way before. She roasted it in olive oil, salt and pepper and added some soy sauce. Looks very tasty!

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Linda’s recipe for butternut gnocchi with sage and Parmesan sounds brilliant! I’ve never made any sort of gnocchi, or even eaten it, so it seems beyond clever to me!

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Now, I admit to having had a bit of a disaster with mine… I made butternut squash cupcakes and went so wrong somewhere along the line that I ended up with a loaf cake too! Initially I went messed up by making the very basic mistake of not reading the recipe right and missing the fact I needed quite a large amount of Olive Oil. I drained the end of our bottle and then had to resort to jimmying off the lid of a bottle of 1 cal Olive Oil spray to make up the difference! The cakes were very tasty the first day but seemed to disintigrate into a greasy mess a couple of days later – not exactly a success I’m afraid!

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Chocolate next! Bring it on!!

A-Z Fun Foodie Photo Cooking Challenge!

With our month of selfie photos rapidly coming to an end, we had a bit of a think as to another challenge to keep us busy over the coming months. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we’ve come up with a combined cooking and photo challenge…..with my cooking skills it really will be challenging!

We debated several ways to do it, but have finally come up with the idea of an alphabet cooking challenge. Each challenge will correspond with a letter and we’ll cook using an ingredient beginning with that letter and post the photos to share. Now, if you’re already thinking about how many letters there are in the alphabets and how many months it will take to complete this challenge, let me save you the brain power by telling you that if this challenge were on a monthly basis, it would run until June 2016!! So the thinking is, rather than monthly, we’ll let each other know when we’ve cooked with the ingredient, share the photos and move onto the next letter – hopefully it’ll speed things up!

The ingredients we have chosen are all (no, make that mostly!) fairly simple and are all veggie friendly too. I’m very much doubting that my recipes will stay veggie though, to keep my family happy.

So, here’s the list we’ve compiled…..

A – Asparagus
B – Butternut Squash
C – Chocolate (bring it on!)
D – Dates
E – Eggs
F – Flour
G – Goat’s Cheese
H – Hazelnuts
I – Icing
J – Jam
K – Kale
L – Lemons
M – Mushrooms
N – Noodles
O – Oranges
P – Pears
Q – Quorn
R – Rum
S – Spinach
T – Tofu
U – Ugli Fruit
V – Vanilla
W – Walnuts
X – Xigua
Y – Yoghurt
Z – Zucchini

That’s quite some shopping list! The emphasis is going to be on the photos and will hopefully help improve my food photo skills – at the moment I take a photo quickly, eat all the food even more quickly and then check the photo and find out it’s rubbish! I WILL get over that thanks to this challenge….I hope! So, bring on May and bring on the asparagus!