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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Week 3

This week ended with Burns Night on Sunday. I'd love to tell you that I made my haggis from scratch, (love may be pushing it, but heigh ho), that I piped the pudding in and then recited (from memory) the Ode...

We did at least have haggis for supper (nae neeps though... never liked the indestructible stuff), though we did have tatties (of the baked variety), and we also had cranachan, because let's be honest here, we all know that's the best bit!!

Once, many years ago, I served cranachan for afters at a dinner party for some friends. I'd made it plenty of times before, but I was nervous and wanted it to be absolutely spot on, so I'd read the recipe from a book, and measured everything out precisely. Never, ever, again. The recommended amount of whisky nearly knocked us all out for starters, and I think the cream is better for adding vanilla paste. But that's just me. Add to taste!

Ingredients:

  • Pinhead oatmeal
  • double cream (500ml)
  • Clear/runny honey (Scottish Heather Honey for preference)
  • Vanilla paste (if you've a vanilla pod in, scrape the seeds in instead, but the paste is cheaper)
  • Whisky (don't use a cheap blend, be sparing, but use a good one)
  • raspberries or blackberries (aka brambles)
  • Icing sugar (optional)
  • chocolate (optional)
  • mint leaf (optional)
  • shortbread (optional)
  1. Toast the oatmeal in a dry frying pan
  2. While the the oatmeal cools, add the honey, vanilla paste and whisky (to taste) to the cream and whisk until it forms stiff peaks.
  3. Fold the oatmeal into the cream. If you like it very creamy, don't add loads of oatmeal, but I prefer mine to be almost at saturation point and bursting with oatmeal - it's personal choice. [If the oatmeal is too warm, it will melt the cream, so make sure it's sufficiently cooled)
  4. fold most of the raspberries into the mix. It's quite common to use brambles (blackberries) instead, and it is nice. I once ate a cranachan with no fruit in, which needs to go by another name, because it's not right (in my opinion).
  5. I often blitz a few raspberries with a little icing sugar to make a coulis to decorate the cranachan, and then sprinkle some grated chocolate over (I'll be honest, I hate washing the grater after use, so I tend to crumble a flake over it out of lazyness, but it seems to work ok) then add an ornamental whole raspberry and (if you are feeling very fancy) a mint leaf or piece of shortbread to decorate. (if using shortbread, don't add it until you are serving the cranachan or the shortbread goes soggy - learn from my experience).
  6. Leave the cranachan to chill for up to 2 hours & enjoy!
We also had a book club meeting, where we decided that our next book should be Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.

Other than that, I decided to try and knit an ear-warmer for walking class. My knitting skills have deteriorated with lack of use, so after three failed attempts, I bought one. Sadly, the only ear-warmers the shop had, were embellished with tacky giant fake gemstones which are (sadly) rather securely attached. This must be punishment for not being competent enough to knit my own. I shall suffer wearing the tasteless tacky bling thing, until such time as I can knit myself a replacement.
The forest was it's usual, glorious self (with obligatory photo-stop at the Black Lake), and the tacky ear-warmer succeeded in keeping my ears warm, and ear-ache free, so regardless of it's lack of elegance, it serves it's purpose admirably, although it catches on my 'everyday' ear-rings, so I have to take them off for walking now. Never mind!

I did finish A Needle in the Right Hand of God, by R Howard Bloch... a book about the Bayeux Tapestry, which goes off on rather a lot of tangents (Robin Hood, anyone? took me two goes to realise how we'd got to Robin Hood). In fairness, the tangents themselves were interesting, alas, it was not, in my opinion, the most engaging read.

Until next week... a sneak preview of which includes a comprehensive discussion about the tradition of chippy teas, a trip to the cinema, a book review, eating out and girl child's first overnight school trip... I bet you can hardly wait!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Week 2

I knew I wasn't going to be able to make my Nordic Walking class this weekend (I had scheduled my hangover in), so I made a mammoth effort to go for an hour long walk one lunch time. And I did it.

On Thursday I took a slightly longer lunch break (I made the time up) and drove to Moore Nature Reserve where I Nordic Pole Walked just over 3 miles (3.2) all by myself in the howling wind!
My phone took this. Isn't it beautiful? Pity it was so cold.
I think I could get my time down below 45 minutes if I stopped stopping to take pictures though! I will come back with my camera at some point, walk a bit more slowly and try and shoot (with a camera) some of the wildlife. I think they were sent running by the noise of my poles, and I had my headphones in (I spent the first half hour listening to my teach yourself Norwegian audio-book, and the second half listening to "A Needle in the Right Hand of God", which is about the Bayeaux Tapestry.

Earlier in the week I finished reading my book for the Review Group (not allowed to post a review here, will link to it when it's up on the review group site though), and then I read the first of this year's World Book Night choices, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death.

I've quite fancied reading MC Beaton's Agatha Raisin books for a while, I've heard good things, but I've always had something else to read, but when I spotted it on the WBN list, I decided the time was right, and I am very glad that I did. It's incredibly easy to read. The writing and the plot just drag you along. It's well paced, and although I read it quite quickly, it never felt rushed, and she portrays the idea of a sleepy Cotswolds village well. I especially loved the references to other detective fiction, especially Agatha Christie books, nice touch. yes, I know it was on television over Christmas, but it's never the same, is it? Anyway, if you haven't read them, and you like genteel detective fiction, give it a go.

I also finally got round to finishing A Christmas Carol. Yay! A review? Really? You know the story, I know the story... if you haven't read it, you should.

I have also been to the cinema again. We managed to see The Imitation Game on Wednesday. It finished at our local cinema a while back, but a few towns over, in St Helens, they have a cinema (and an oriental buffet restaurant) and the cinema there sometimes shows films at slightly different and also their take 2s are different from ours (and also not on a Thursday at 4pm... just sayin'). I'm really glad that we did get to see it. It wasn't at all as I expected, but it was good!

We have also, this year, seen The Theory of Everything (which is also very good) and Taken 3 (have you seen the first two? So you know what to expect, right? Also, Hollywood... so we know who the bad guy is from the title credits, don't we fellow Brits?), We've also (by we this time daughter and I rather than husband) been to see Into the Woods, which other people have raved over, I thought was a bit meh, and daughter actively disliked it. But hey, we're getting the most of our pay monthly cards here! And all three of us went to see Big Hero Six, which is not just good it is Awesome! I know that it's animated, but that just means that the actors can have bad hair days and the animators have to work overtime! Also, if you get to see it, wait for the credits, there's a section called "Production babies" which lists the name of every baby born to someone who worked on the film during it's production - there's a lot, but we loved that they did that and just sat and "ahh"-ed at it. Other than those we're just basically waiting for the Minions Movie, although we'll go and see anything else that takes our fancy when babysitting (or film certificates) allow!

We did manage to organise a Murder Mystery Dinner Party. It went quite well (everyone made an effort to get dressed up, and seemed to have a good time) and I was rather proud of my efforts with the food. 

For Starter we had a Smoked Salmon Souffle, served with a rocket and pomegranate salad and balsamic glaze.

Main course was roasted Partridge, with gratin dauphinoise, steamed veg and a shallot and red wine sauce (recipe from Good Food who attributed it to Gordon Ramsey). I'll be honest, it wasn't the best red wine sauce I've made, I don't think that I reduced it enough.

I couldn't decide what to do for pudding, so I did a selection platter of four mini-puds. There were a lighter mini chocolate tartlet, two chocolate profiteroles, a mini strawberry and champagne jelly and a mini cranachan.

It seemed to all go down well with my guests, I didn't do it (nor did I guess who did though), and I am looking forward to doing another one, but later in the year!

On Sunday, my hangover wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated, but it was nice to have a lie in. Beloved made lunch and then I went to my writing group, where I wrote very little, but we did have a nice catch up after the festive season.



Friday, 16 January 2015

Week 1

It's currently the end of week two, and I have put off this blog post long enough already.

Firstly, I already told you about the secret wedding, and the rest of week one passed in a blur of work, and very little else until Wednesday, when world events became the focus of all western media.

I don't want to be controversial or start jumping all over band wagons, but I am aware of what happened.

Even the weekend was pretty quiet. I barely read, I barely stitched, I did go to the cinema (a lot) and also did some housework (not too much, didn't want to go all overboard, but some).

This week's been a bit better, but I shall save that for the next post.

I did manage to stick to some (if not all) of my new years resolutions. They're not the sort of thing I'm just going to shrug and say "well, didn't manage today, might as well give up", there the sort where, I didn't manage today, tomorrow I'll do better. And I have been doing.

I made it to my Nordic Walking class again, it was slightly warmer (which means also slightly muddier) this week, but at least I'd remembered my emergency shoes for driving home in!
Excuse the glare, I was trying to capture the sparkle of the tree
We don't think this is a mere in Summer, just an iced over flooded area
I did manage to finish one short story, I've included it on my list of 52 (I bought it, I read it, it's a published book, just a short one) and then went back to my book for the review group I'm in (I had every intention of finishing it in Week 1, truly, but it took me until Monday, which made it week 2). 

I set another resolution too. I shall walk (for leisure purposes - and it includes jogging/running... don't laugh. It might happen) 300 miles in 2015. That's 6 miles per week with 2 weeks off, and I usually do around 3 miles in a Nordic Walking class (it's a leisure activity, it counts), and that's around an hour long (including stops for stretches) so I only need to do about another hour a week of walking, at a moderate pace, not even all at the same time. I made a good start by walking into the village at lunchtime one day from the office instead of driving to the post office, that was 1.6 miles... and sadly the only other walking I did apart from the Nordic Walking class, but, I can make that up with a good long walk round the zoo one weekend!

Anyway. New blog post will probably be up much earlier next week, and I'm going to try to post by Thursdays in future...

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2015 - Week 0

The first few days of 2015 were, according to my old diary, the last few days of week 52 of 2014, and therefore not yet week 1!

Week one eventually started with a secret wedding! I know! The service (at St George's Hall no less) was at 10am, followed by photographs (and champagne) and then the pub!

The rest of the day followed a similar vein, lunch, pub, another pub, evening meal, another pub before catching the train home again!

I had borrowed some filters from my Dad for the purpose... including a sepia toned filter and a keyhole filter...

I rather like the effect anyway! There was this fabulous shot of the signing of the register too... 

One of the photographs which looks slightly less weddingy than the others, is of a statue in the gardens behind St George's Hall which had been yarn bombed (there is a scarf on there to keep him cosy) and had a seagull on his head...

I did discover, during the day, that not everyone knows about the Runcorn Super Lamb Bananas... so I photographed them again on the way home too:
Super Lamb Banana Bridge
Super Smiley Lamb Banana
Anyway - back to work for the rest of the week. But it was a really lovely way to start the new year.