Sunday, 27 January 2013

Snow today, gone tomorrow

Well, the snow finally arrived here on Friday afternoon. It was pretty scary driving home from work on the motorway in a blizzard and the lane lines invisible. However, safely home with a glass of wine in hand, I stood mesmerised watching the snow fall.

Saturday morning I couldn't wait to get out to photograph the scenery while it was still quiet. It's so difficult not to fall into cliches but there really is something joyful about wandering around in the crisp morning sunlight, your feet disappearing into the deep powdery snow. Later on, this area was filled with dogs bounding around and families with young children enjoying the snow while it lasted.

I was delighted to come across this little guy.  He looked like a winter sprite sat on the bench, winking at passers by!

Later on I spotted this snowman in a nearby garden. At first glance I thought of Wallace (of Gromit fame), for some reason, but then wasn't sure if it was a monkey? Any guesses? Very artistic though!

And this is where we were headed. Winter berries in Mum and Dad's garden. Look at the splash of scarlet against the snow.

There was splashing of a different kind going on when Chickpea and I decided to have a snowball fight. What is it about snow that makes you feel giddy and 6 years old again?

Back home we decided to make a snow bear with the snow I cleared from the drive.

Mr Bear is just a memory now though. Overnight we had heavy rain and all that remains of the snow are a few patches where the mounds were deeper. Another blogger (sorry, I've forgotten who) likened the snowscape to being in Narnia, and it really does feel like we've stepped through the wardrobe back into reality. Which is the way I like it really.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Burns Night Supper

Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth

Today is the birthday of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, and all over Scotland and parts of the world with Scottish connections, people will be gathering to celebrate his life and poetry. These gatherings are known as Burns Nights or Burns Suppers.

As our friend, Gordon, is Scottish, and it was his birthday recently, we invited him, Sue and their little boy over for a night of food and entertainment (though for scheduling reasons we celebrated last weekend).

They arrived dressed for the occasion: Gordon in tartan pyjama bottoms and Sue in a handmade sporran!

And so to the festivities. Formal Burns Suppers have a traditional running order and I adapted this one from the BBC web site.

Piping in of the guests

With the meal ready to be served, our guests were invited into the dining room to the sound of bagpipes. Well, you can't have a Scottish celebration without bagpipes!

The Selkirk Grace
Before the arrival of the food, a short prayer was offered, in best Scottish accent.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Piping in of the Haggis

The haggis was brought in on a 'silver' platter to the sound of the national anthem, Scotland the Brave, and paraded around the table.

Haggis is a national delicacy and is basically pig offal, oats and rusk cased in pig stomach, though ours was cased in plastic. They can be microwaved, baked or steamed. I chose the latter so it could be kept in the casing for the next important element. I'm guessing that some of you reading this will be thinking 'bleurghh', but it's actually very tasty!

Address to the Haggis
Gordon read the Burns poem, Address to a Haggis, and I plunged in the knife at these immortal words,

'Cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright'

I have to tell  you that the entrails really did gush! As soon as the knife went in, the contents erupted through the hole!

Toast to the Haggis
A short toast with a wee dram of Crabbies Green Ginger Mac, a blend of ginger wine and whisky. Yum! I  usually can't stand whisky but this was delicious.

The meal

As well as the haggis, I served the other traditional accompaniment, neeps and tatties, otherwise known as potatoes and swede, using this recipe. Plus chantenay carrots and gravy.

After the main course, it was time for some appreciation of the works of Burns. Gordon read his poem, My luve is like a red red rose, and we listed to a rendition of Rantin' Rovin' Robin.

Toast to the Laddies and the Lassies
We raised our glasses to salute first the gentlemen present and then the ladies.

Not at all Scottish, but Sue brought chocolate cake so we ate that with cream. A more traditional offering would be cranachan or clootie pudding. We listened to some classic tunes such as (our favourite) Doon in the wee room  and Donald, where's yer troosers.

Auld Lang Syne
Words by Robert Burns and probably his most famous though, luckily, I'd printed out the lyrics as no-one really knows the words! We held hands and sang along to the the tune everyone will recognise from New Year's Eve celebrations, backed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and chorus. However, I wanted to share this hauntingly beautiful version with you which Chickpea and I haven't been able to get out of our heads.

And thus concluded our Burns Supper. The meal over, we retreated to the living room for one last dose of Scottishness: the DVD of Brave.

I hope you enjoyed the Home Jules version of a Burns Supper. We had a great time and laughed a lot. Maybe it's time to introduce Supper nights to honour other national poets? Which poet would you choose and what would you include?

Sunday, 20 January 2013


Much of the country is covered in snow at the moment, though we only had a couple of inches here. However, the photos I'm sharing today are from a few weeks ago when the lake froze over. In itself, that's not unusual as the lake regularly freezes in winter. However, this time the surface froze completely smooth instead of rippled. And instead of being dull and opaque, it was shiny like a mirror and perfectly reflected the surrounding buildings and trees.
I've never seen it do this before and was completely fascinated. Needless to say, I rushed over with my camera to try to capture some of the beauty of the reflections and patterns.

The ice melted slightly during Saturday and then froze again so, on the Sunday, there was a combination of a rippled frosted-glass surface and the mirrored ice. The final three photos were taken as night began to fall, with the water reflecting the last of the sun's glow and the most deep intense blues of the sky.

Isn't Mother Nature amazing?

And, to finish, a photo of our local ducks taken yesterday. They thought I was there with food. I knew I was there to take their photo and admire the bright orange of their feet in the snow.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Button brooches

It was a craftier Christmas than usual as I made presents for two friends this year. As well as knitting a scarf, I made button brooches. Both were inspired by this simple brooch I made for myself some time ago. Three buttons were stacked and secured by cord through the button holes. A brooch bar was sewn to a circle of felt and the felt glued to the back of the largest button.

After playing with felt flowers here and here, I decided to incorporate both ideas for the presents.

The first brooch was made to match the Galaxy scarf. I was pretty sure Sue would like it but, to test the theory, I wore my own when we met up. Success! Not only did she admire it but she asked how it was made.

And this is Sue's brooch. Her favourite colour at the moment is lime green so that gave me the contrast colour to go with the purple of the scarf. She likes big and bold accessories so I was sure this would fit the bill.

As the buttons on this one seemed quite heavy, I added some extra stitching to attach the buttons to the felt backing to give it extra strength.

The second brooch was made to match this red and silver ruffle scarf which I made Gill for her birthday. The yarn is Rico Can Can Glitz. There's a lady who makes ruffle scarves to raise funds for the church so I think everyone in our village owns one of these!

A different colour scheme and a slightly simpler design which Gill will prefer. I think this one was my favourite. Which is yours?


It's been a quiet day of the usual domestic stuff: supermarket shopping, washing/drying/ironing, cleaning the car. I've also been transferring my files onto USBs as my PC is showing signs of being on its last legs - it's started to forget what day and time it is. I do that all the time too but I think it's more serious in a PC! Can't complain really as it is about 14 years old so is ancient in technology terms.

Tomorrow we're going to see Les Miserables at the pictures. It's Dad's favourite musical though I've never seen it and the reviews have been good. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. x

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Pea, pine nut & blue cheese pasta

Do you have any blue cheese left after Christmas? We love it and buy it all year round but I know more people buy it at this time of year for their cheese board. If you're wondering how to use up your blue cheese, this is one of the recipes I love to make.

Three of the ingredients for this dish are always in my store cupboard so it's an easy one to pull together. And peas and blue cheese are such a classic combination. The spring onions were left over from another recipe and were added for some extra flavour - cheese and onion, another classic.

Cook the pasta, and add some frozen peas for the last few minutes. Drain and put back in the pan. Add the crumbled blue cheese and toasted pine nuts and stir to combine. Pile onto your plate or dish.

Sprinkle with spring onions, parsley and a grind of black pepper, and serve. Preferably with a glass of red wine. So simple but so delicious!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Cyclamen, clementines & cake

This Christmas I wanted something different to the usual vase of flowers for my table. I've always thought that piles of clementines with their leaves looked very Christmassy but the problem is that we don't actually like them that much.

Then Gillian posted about the orange cake her husband had made and I realised I could still have my clementines and eat them!

I already had the gold platter and the fairy lights from the Woodland Vase. The cyclamen was from Asda and came with the gold star pot. Grapes were added to fill out the display but also to tempt Chickpea to eat fruit instead of all the chocolate she was likely to receive! I added a few baubles for some extra colour.

I was really pleased with the way it turned out and it looked lovely on my table and lit up at night, though I think I ended up eating more of the grapes than Chickpea!

And so to the cake. Originally I planned to make Nigella's delicious Clementine Cake from her book How to Eat, which I've made a couple of times. But, while I was browsing through my file of recipes looking for a special dessert for New Year's Day, I came across a Fruity Ricotta Cake from the Morrisons magazine which used slices of the clementines to decorate the top and sides. It looked so pretty I couldn't resist.

I used a reusable cake tin liner for the first time and was very impressed. The cake came out of the tin beautifully - just slid out without sticking at all. In fact the liner stayed 'stuck' to the tin. I'll definitely be using it again.

This was the finished cake. I thought it would be more like a cheesecake but it was actually more like the clementine cake with a moist almondy taste and texture.

(Hmm, I'm now wishing I'd taken more time to get a better photo and that doily was definitely a mistake. But the hungry hoards were waiting!)

Whilst on the subject of cakes, when I went back to work on Thursday, I was finally able to open my Secret Santa present after missing out before Christmas with my back. Well, it was worth the wait - look what Santa brought me! He clearly knows me very well :-)

We've just finished taking down all the decorations and clearing Christmas away for another year. There's a couple more mentions of it to come on here though as I've got a recipe to share with you and and another gift I made for friends. Back in a day or two.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New Year's Day

As Mum provides Christmas dinner, it's my turn to provide dinner on New Year's Day. I don't normally do formal table settings but this time I fancied a change. I went for a green and silver theme inspired by a green table cloth I already owned and the silver runner I picked up for a bargain price in the sales. I also did these little tealight displays using some glass jars which originally had some kind of pudding in them. The napkin flower was courtesy of Kirstie Allsopp as demonstrated in her latest series.

In honour of the New Year, we rolled out the glitter ball!

When Mum and Dad arrived, it was time for a cocktail, White Christmas Dream. Not something I usually do as you can see from the fact that this isn't a cocktail glass, but I came across this recipe and, by chance, had all of the ingredients in the house. To serve one person: 30ml vodka, 30ml amaretto, 30ml double cream, pinch of grated nutmeg. Yum!

For dinner, it was minted lamb stew with carrots/peas/soya beans, roast potatoes, broccoli and green beans.

Dessert was a new recipe which I'll tell you about next time.

Before settling down with coffee and mints, we headed into the garden to use up the last of the sparklers from Bonfire Night. Even Mum and Dad enjoyed whirling these around!

Then a couple of games. First up was High Five. I bought this set last year but you could easily make your own. You need a set of cards with the letters of the alphabet and a set with categories (TV programmes, countries of the world, flowers etc). Draw a card from each pile and each team/person has a minute to come up with 5 of the category beginning with the letter. My team won!

And then our all-time favourite, Cluedo. I think my brain was too addled by tiredness, cocktails and wine by this point and I was finding it hard to remember which was my character let alone who they might have murdered where! Dad, however, was on fire and won every game.

And that was my New Year. A perfect one of family, good food and fun. Hope you all enjoyed your New Year's Day, however you spent it.

Back to reality and work tomorrow.