Friday, 29 November 2013

Much to Celebrate and a Taco Chicken Tip!

Yes, there is no denying it.
This month it is
50 years since President Kennedy was killed,
50 years since C.S. Lewis who wrote the Narnia books died (he died the same day as Kennedy - which is probably why nobody remembers) 
50 years since Dr Who was first aired and
 
50 years since I was born in a hospital in New Jersey!
 
It sounds very grown up - being 50... Hope it isn't compulsory...!
I am truly blessed with all the celebrations in my honor with lots of attention from dear friends, visits from Norway, meals out and a fun party last weekend!

So far, turning 50 has been nothing but FUN!
Over to the Spicy Chicken Tip:
Due to my illness this summer, I am 'using up' holidays from the previous holiday year (our holiday year runs from 1 October - 30 September) by having every Friday off. It feels like a real luxery - I could get used to this!
So, sitting this morning with a cup of coffee reading blogs, I came across Trine's Matblogg with a recipe for making your own taco spices. Taco is much loved in this house and by putting together the spices yourself it isn't just cheaper, but you are also in control of how much sugar and salt you consume!
 
Homemade taco spice:
 
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 1/2 teaspoons chiliflakes 
2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons paprika powder (I use the hot smokey variety)
2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons seasalt
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Be aware that spices can vary in strength, so start out carefully.
 
Despite liking taco, I got fed up with the usual taco recipes with minced meat, cheese, etc, etc. Instead, I often roast chicken with the spices.

Here is my simple Taco Chicken recipe:
take one raw chicken
place it in a roasting bag
add a couple of tablespoons of taco spices
close the bag
shake vigoursly to spread the spices
roast the chicken in the oven for the time suggested on the roasting bag pack
Voila!
One VERY succulent, juicy, spicy taco flavoured chicken!


Well, I'd better get a move on. First Sunday of Advent is coming up and Our Young Man is expecting an advent calendar - as usual! I have got 19 out of the 24 surprises ready.
Only 5 more to go... It is getting hard being inventive and keeping the price down!
Besides he said - no chocolate...!
 
Any suggestions...?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Not so Much of a 'Comic'? Night Out...




Back in the spring I won a couple of ticket in a raffle to see the American comedian Reginald D. Hunter. Last Sunday Our Young Man accompanied me and we made a night of it and went out for a nice meal at Carluccio's first.
We had seen Mr. Hunter on TV many times, but I was a little disappointed in his performance on Sunday. His humour can be rather crude and he sometimes addresses a lot of very controversial issues, but although there were the occasional giggle, I never really felt like there was much scope for a real hearty 'belly laugh'. Nah, to give him the benefit of the doubt - I just don't think he was 'on form' that night.

His warm up guy - Canadian born Pete Johansson - on the other hand was much funnier and his arguments for why we should re-introduce bears...(!) to the UK were simply funny!
But having said this - it takes real guts (and talent) to get up and stand in front of an audience and try to make them laugh. Not something I would have wanted to do for a living!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Embarrassing Moment and Knitted iPhone Cover





I managed to make the same mistake as many others apparently have done - I dropped my phone in water... It all happened as as I was walking around the house looking for my iPhone and gave up as I needed to use the bathroom... Why did I not simply call the phone to hear it ringing...? Sigh...

Need I say more? The phone was in my back pocket...

Ok, so I found the phone, but chucking it in a bag of rice to revive didn't work so a new phone has been ordered and in the meantime I am using the simplest version possible of a mobile phone. For somebody who has become used to organising my life via the various apps on the phone, not to mention the calendar, this has been painful! No internet, no usable calendar, no emails... Actually, it is rather peaceful...!

But the new phone is on its way. I wanted to use up some left over yarn and knitted an iPhone cover (pattern taken from the book Knit Nordic). Quick and easy even if I managed to miss a round (yup, you can see it in the pattern if you look closely) but since I think it will be too small for the iPhone - it fits perfectly the current simple phone- I couldn't be bothered undoing it. But I will make a new one for the new phone. I realise the knitted texture makes it much easier to find the phone in my handbag!

Have you had any 'phone related' incidences...?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Knitted Tie



Scandinavian (and particularly Norwegian) patterns are all the rave these days. You find them in anything from clothes to kitchen ware! 

Our Young Man was on a quest rooting through my old sweaters and was very pleased when he discovered my Marius sweater and others I knitted for myself when I was 16 or 17. Still in pristine condition! But he was equally disappointed when he realised that he is of course much broader/taller/bigger than I was at 17... However, he struck lucky when he found a beautiful hand knitted sweater that had been made for his father by a very dear neighbour. Now he is just hoping for colder weather. Hand knitted woollen sweaters require a colder climate than we generally have...!

 
But he did ask if I could knit him a tie. Apparently, that is also all the rave - sporting knitted ties. Obviously, we have to show off our roots, so I found a pattern for a knitted tie based on a Setesdal pattern in the book by Eline Oftedal called "Knit Nordic" (I think "Marius, Setesdal, Fana, Voss, Norske Strikkemønstre på nye måter" is the Norwegian title of the same book). The bottom part carries the pattern and the rest is knitted in moss stitch (perlestrikk). I must admit it was a bit boring knitting the moss stitch, but it is simple to do in front of the telly.

Let's hope the Young Man likes it.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Still Hanging in There!

 
Oh, yes, I am still here!
I have neither found the right time nor inspiration for the blog, but I hope that will return!
 
I have gone back to work, and after my summer ordeal that felt ok. Not great, but ok. I am still on a phased return but aiming to start full time again next week. I think that will be ok, too. Sometimes you have to push yourself to move forward. One good thing that has come out of my illness is that I  started working out. Since July I have been going to the gym every other day and I really LOVE it. Who would have thought.... It has become a habit and I feel so much better for it. I just hope I can keep it up when I start working full time...!
 

Time flies and beautiful autumn days are here. The heating goes on regularly in the afternoons, the Cat refuses to step outside for days on end (he is getting lazier by the year) and The Professor reported frost on the ground up north in Durham where he is.


Last week was half term and Halloween and tonight is Bonfire Night. I wrote about Bonfire Night last year, so you can read about that here, if you want. Soon it will be Thanksgiving and then Christmas. It is just one form of celebration after the other!

Another thing to mention is that Our Boy has also sent off his University application for studying next year. So fingers (and toes and anything else!) crossed he is accepted to the course he wants at the University he wants! I am just finding it hard to understand that he is soon off to University... Seriously, where have the years gone???

These pictures are from Sunday when I managed to lure Our Boy (I guess I should start calling him Our Young Man ...) with me for a walk on Sunday with the promise of having lunch at a noodle bar. Their noodles in hot, steamy and  broth, like their Tom Kha Gai is just what you need on a blustery day. The soup was bursting with flavoursome broth enhanced with coconut milk, chicken, pork, seafood, mushrooms and various vegetables and vermicelli noodles. The portions are enormous so the leftovers were brought home and served as a starter for dinner.
No wonder this is a popular place with students!

So, time I had a 'wander' around Bloglandia and see what other bloggers are up to! Maybe time to start thinking of Christmas, too! That reminds me - I MUST get the amaryllis bulbs planted if I am to have any chance of it blooming for Christmas! Last year's didn't bloom until end of April...! I think I might be late already...

Have you got yours planted...?



 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Alexis Gloves





It is getting chilly here. It can still get up to 17-20 degrees during the day, but on a grey, rainy day like today there is no denying autumn is here. I went by a new wool shop the other day and came across the pattern for these fingerless gloves. I knitted them using baby alpaca wool - a first for me. It is the loveliest and softest yarn. I wouldn't mind making something else in this yarn!

As I paid for the pattern I don't think copyright laws allow me to just put it out on the web, but if you google 'Alexis gloves' you should find it. The top end has a loop that goes around the middle finger. Dramatic effect :-)

But I think it was the picture of the model that made me look twice at the pattern - she is almost the spitting image of my beautiful niece. It isn't my niece (who of course - in my eyes - is even more beautiful), but I think I found her 'twin'. :-)


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tried and Tested: Lemon Drizzle Cake

 
 
I have been so spoilt this summer with friends constantly bringing me food and cakes to help out whilst I was in recovery. One day, this cake arrived. It was divine and I asked for the recipe. As I was clearing out old papers today, I thought I would share this recipe on the blog and then I also have it for future needs.
 
You need for the cake:
75 gram softened butter
125 gram caster sugar
150 gram self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 tbsp lemon curd (optional, but it will intensify the flavour)
2 1/2 tbsp milk
 
Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix till they are thoroughly combined.
Pour the mixture into a 1kg greased loaf tin and make at 180 degrees for 40-45 minutes (or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean)
 
You need for the drizzle:
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp granulated sugar
 
Mix the lemon zest, juice and sugar. Pour the mixture over the hot cake in the tin. Leave to cool completely.
 
mmm....!
 


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A Blanket of Roses...

 
My blog is turning into a craft blog!
Well, I am enjoying it and I know my current state won't last forever :-)
 
A couple of weeks ago this baby blanket was handed over to the expecting mother. Something so pink is obviously for a little girl who will be making her entrance into the world later this month (unless we are all in for a big surprise...!)
 
 The pattern can be found on Garnstudio in several languages (click on the link). I used as suggested Drops Muskat Soft yarn and needle no 5. The yarn is a mix of colors and I enjoyed not having to change color and yarn as I went along making up the squares and then crocheting them together.
 
Very girly and a fun blanket to make. Not sure it is the best blanket for a baby with its big holes that little hands and feet might get tangled in. But then again - it might just be used it for decoration.


Monday, 9 September 2013

Felted Slippers/Socks

Yes, I am still here. 
A long silence from my end, but I am still here!
 
Despite my own health concerns, we have had the most amazing summer ever. Glorious weather, day after day. It really lifts the spirit and in my case, helps with recovery. Talking of recovery, I started back in July at the gym and am now completely hooked. Although I feel my recovery after surgery has been slower than I thought, I so feel the benefit from going to the gym.
Scared straight, I think...
But we are now getting back in to normal routine as Our Boy has started school again - last year before uni! A lot of pressure and so many things that need to happen in the right order. The summer has been filled with him and The Professor travelling around to some of the universities for their open days to help us assess which university he will be applying for. Grades is not the only criteria for acceptance, so a lot of strategic thinking to ensure the right things are done is needed.
 
Good friends have been over to visit and other good friends have moved back home. Unfortunately, that is often the case of many people we meet and form strong bonds with here. A very transient community. On the bright side - people leaving are good in staying in touch and coming back.
 
So, what have I been doing in addition to going to the gym?
 
A lot of various craft projects and some reading. My latest craft project is a pair of felted slippers/socks put together with granny squares.  
 
For some reason I can't upload the pictures I took, so I suggest you check out the pattern and picture found at Drops/Garnstudio
 
I got the yarn from a little local yarn shop called Sheep Shop . The yarn is called Lima and is particularly useful for felting. I only had a needle 7 (forgot to check this on the pattern before going to the shop...) so I ensured the final squares were the recommended size by adding another round. I admit it was a little fiddly to figure out how to sew the granny squares together, but just follow the pattern. It was very exciting to pop the socks in the washing machine (40 degrees and no detergent) to see if it would felt up and work!
 
And it did!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Poncho!




I am really pleased with the poncho I made after the pattern I got from Fru Tunheim's blog. I know I have a propensity for small and quick projects, but with thick yarn and crochet hook no 7 it really didn't take more than a couple of days to finish. Remember these balls of yarn? I still had 'tons' of it leftover after my knitted cushions and as part of my decision to reduce my yarn stash before I allow myself to buy anymore, I thought it would be a good idea to use the cream yarn for the poncho... Alas, it was not enough. So, I also used up the grey ball of yarn and I am really happy with the project and the fact that these two huuuuge balls of yarn have now been used up and turned into something useful!



Just a couple of strands of yarn to fasten and then it is good to go! Ok, I admit it was a very warm project to work on as we have had record temperatures here with many days with well over 30 degrees, but it was so inspiring to see how quickly the project grew! Hopefully, the nice weather will carry on and it will be some months before this poncho will be needed!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Tried and Tested: Hot in the Heat: Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Chilli





I am not very fond of too spicy food, but both my men are, so I thought I would surprise them with a dish of spicy pulled pork and sweet potato chilli. My recipe is taken 'a little from here and there' and by the sounds of my men I think this will be requested again in our house. I just add some extra dollop of sour cream or yoghurt to adjust the heat to my taste. This recipe will feed 4 VERY hungry people or 6-8 with more normal appetites. For once I noted down what I used and here is how I did it:

Brown 1,5 kg pork shoulder steak cut into chunks and set aside

Cut 2 onions into slices and fry gently with 4-6 garlic gloves (don't burn the garlic as it will taste bitter).
Add 2-4 chillies and deseed them if you don't want it too hot.
Add the following spices to the mixture and mix well:
1tsp cumin
1tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/4 tsp hot chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground gloves
1tsp cinnamon
1Tbsp sugar

Add 2 cans of tinned tomatoes and 500 ml of good stock as well as the juice of an orange and a lemon.

Add the meat back to the mixture and let it simmer under a lid for 2 hours. The pork will at this stage be easy to shred apart if you so desire.

Clean and peel about 500gr of sweet potato and cut into cubes and add to the pan. Let it cook for another 15 mins without the lid. Then add two tins of kidney beans or mixed beans and let it cook for further 10 mins.

Serve with fresh bread and a good dollop of Greek yoghurt or sour cream and either with fresh coriander or parsley.

Mmmmm...


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 19 July 2013

Learning a New Technique: Daisy Stitch




I am constantly looking for new challenges, but I am too impatient to start any new large scale projects. A friend of mine had a her birthday earlier this month and I was thinking of what to get her when I thought about MAKING something for her. She is a great cook and loves to spend time in her cosy, country style kitchen, so I thought a pair of oven mittens would be the right thing and a not too large project!

I picked up this yarn called 'all season cotton' and found a knitting technique new to me called Daisy Stitch on a blog. The blog is in Norwegian, but at the end of it is a small video which should make it clear how to make this stitch.

I made the oven mittens with 26 stitches and alternated the colours so the stitch would be more visible. I made two identical squares which I crocheted together back to back to ensure they would be thick enough and then crocheted a simple border around it.

My friend seemed to be happy for the two she got and I have already made one for myself.

I so love a quick project!

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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Summer Evening Crochet Project




Long summer evenings outside in the garden.... We are fortunate there are few annoying mosquitoes here, so the relaxing atmosphere of the evening can be savoured late into the night. The neighbours are doing the same, windows are open all around and you hear more of what is going on. Music is playing and few seem to care much about getting up the next morning...

Sitting in the garden I crocheted this new glass cover for a tealight partially using the fan-pattern i found on a blog (sorry - in Norwegian). I used very thin cotton yarn and crochet needle no 2.

Bunnen:
1. Omgang: legg opp 3 luftmasker og fest med en kjm.

2. omg: 3 lm (som fungerer som første stav). Hekle så 13 st ut ifra ringen (så det blir totalt 14 staver). Avslutt med en kjm i tredje lm på første st (som er de 3 lm).

3. omg: 3 lm, så 2 st mellom hver maske fra forrige omg, totalt 28 st. Avslutt med kjm i tredje lm iførste st.

4. omg: 3 lm, så annenhver gang en og to st mellom hver maske, slik at du i denne omg øker til 42 st. Avslutt med kjm i tredje lm på første stav.

5. omg: Fortsett som beskrevet i 4. Omgang til basen blir stor nok til glasset du bruker. Pass på at du ender opp med totalt antall staver som er delelig med 6+1.

Fortsett så med viftemønsteret som jeg fant her:

Rad 1 : 1 FM i den 2. st, *3 LM, hopp over 3 st, hekle 1 FM i hver av de 3 neste st, gjenta fra * og slutt med 1 FM i hver av de siste 2 st.

Rad 2 : 1 LM, hopp over 1 fm, * 5 ST i 3 lm-buen, hopp over 1 fm, 1 FM i neste fm ( i midten av de 3 fm ), gjenta fra * og slutt med 1 FM i 1 lm.

Rad 3 : 3 LM, hopp over [1fm,1st], * 1 FM i hver av de 3 neste st ( den midterste st av de 5), 3 LM, hopp over [1st,1fm,1st], gjenta fra *til den siste gruppen, 1 FM i hver av 3 st, 2 lm, hopp over 1 st, hekle 1 FM i 1 lm.

Rad 4 : Hekle 3 LM, hopp over den første fm, 2 ST i 2 lm-buen, * hopp over 1 fm, 1 FM i neste fm (den midterste fm av de 3 ) , hopp over 1 fm, 5 ST i 3 lm-buen, gjenta fra * og slutt med 3 ST under 3 lm.

Rad 5 : 1 LM, hopp over den første st, 1 FM i neste st, * 3 LM, hopp over [1st,1fm,1st], 1 FM i hver av de neste 3 st ( den midterste- 3.st av 5 ) , gjenta fra * og slutt med 1 fm i den siste st og hekle 1 FM i den 3. av 3 lm.

Gjenta radene 2 - 5

You can spruce up any old jam jar this way and they look lovely both outside in the garden and inside later in the autumn.

Just make the bottom as large as you need for the jar and ensure the final number of stitches of the bottom is dividable with 6+1. I have seen many bloggers make the covers higher than the jars, but for the sake of fire safety I prefer to keep them not higher than the jar I am working on. It is a quick and easy summer evening project.

Hope you are enjoying the summer wherever you are!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Tried and tested: Banana Bread

We are loving the hot weather that has finally arrived. We have had several days with temperatures soaring over 30 degrees. Ok, the nights are a bit sticky, admittedly, but we are NOT complaining!

My days are quiet and rather uneventful, just enjoying the heat sitting under the lilac tree and trying to get back to my normal self. Must admit I am a bit impatient and the pain I experienced after a cautious swim yesterday was not very encouraging, but still, I am making progress. Just a very slow one...

We are all craving fruit and vegetables in the heat, but I had some bananas that had reached the height of ripeness, so making a banana bread was the only solution. It turned out very moist and delicious. You can make it with buttermilk, but you can also substitute this as suggested below if you don't have any:




285 plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
110g butter, plus extra for greasing
225g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
4 VERY ripe bananas, mashed
85ml buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Bake at 180C

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt) into a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.

I baked it in a normal bread tin which I greased well using Cake Release which I got from Lakeland. Bake the cake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown. Let the cake cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sometimes Life Changes Suddenly...

It has been a VERY long time since I wrote anything on the blog. Life suddenly changed when I at short notice had to undergo a rather serious procedure a couple of weeks ago. I am pleased to report that I am doing well and trying to enjoy my summer of recovery.

Being rather house bound to start with, I expect a summer filled with craft projects of various kinds. And that is not bad at all...


Talking about craft projects: I attended a wedding in Oslo at the beginning of June before my ordeal started and the bride had requested a shawl in case of a chilly day (before anybody asks - no, she did not wear orange!). I found a pattern on the wonderful website Garnstudio. The site offers patterns in several languages and I made the shawl above (finished the day before the wedding - yes, I know - cutting it fine...). The pattern (here in Norwegian, but it can be had in other languages as well) can be found here
I used the yarn suggested, Drops Kid-Silk and to be honest it was like working with the threads in a spiders web. That said, it was well worth the effort and I wouldn't mind using the yarn again on a suitable project.

I am almost done with another new project - a very pink baby blanket (also found on Garnstudio) for a little girl due to arrive in September! Pictures will follow once the mother-to-be has approved the size of the blanket.

So, blog friends, a bit philosophical ending to today's entry - Carpe Diem seems appropriate to say.
And remember to value beauty around you and the good things in your life.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

An Electric Experience...

We received our electricity bill this week. Not the most exciting thing to write about, you may think, but what followed from that was, let's say... interesting.
Some background information:
I find reading the electricity bill boring and incredibly complicated. Therefore, I normally rely on it being correct and file it away. We are regularly asked to submit our readings (if we are not home when they come to do the reading) or the company does an estimated calculation of how much they think we have used. We pay via direct debit a regular monthly amount and this more than covers the consumption throughout the year. In fact, we have increasingly been in credit and I remember thinking before the winter started that it is ok since I am sure we will use more electricity over the cold period so it is good to be in credit.
Two weeks ago the electricity company came to do a reading after the winter, so I knew it was up to date.
When the bill came through this week I noticed our account was now much over a thousand  pounds in credit. I therefore called the company to ask for a refund and to adjust the monthly payment which clearly is set too high. No point in paying too much and have so much money sitting with the electricity company. It is not like they give interest on your credit...
To my surprise - and theirs - it turns out our electricity meter is faulty. There has been no registration of daytime consumption since November 2009! The night time consumption has been done, so we have paid correctly for the nights, but the daytime meter shows the same number today as it did in November 2009!
The (very nice) young man explained that this was their fault for not spotting that (thanks for that!) and they would have to come and change the meter and do an assessment of what they think we have used for the last year and charge us for that. That is fair enough, I thought. But being an honest person, I couldn't avoid pointing out that we actually owe them day time electricity consumption for 3.5 years. "Oh, no. We can't go back that far", he said. "We can only charge you for the last year. So you will not be charged for the other 2.5 years of day time electricity. It is our fault for not having discovered the meter is not working correctly."
I could hardly believe what I was hearing...
The credit we hold with the company more than covers what they estimated we have used this last year and the rest will be a very nice amount repaid to us.
Now, I said I was an honest person, but somewhere inside me a little voice is whispering -
WHY did you call them and let them know...?
SHUSH!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Falling Out of Rhythm...

Let me start by wishing all Norwegians everywhere "Gratulerer med dagen".
17 May is the Norwegian constitution day and celebrated and revered by all. Yet again, I am not able to be in Norway on this day, but I am there in spirit!
 
It has been a while since I wrote on the blog and my only excuse is 'life'. I have missed the blog and reading about what people get up to and getting inspiration from so many. But it has been a hectic month, both at work and at home with exams looming for Our Boy. In addition, I have been struggling with a bad back since Christmas and have tried to get this under control with physiotherapy sessions and daily walks which does wonders for both body and mind. I hope to be back on the blog more regularly now!
 
Here are some picture from what I have been up to the last couple of weeks:
 
Capturing the chestnut tree in bloom in the street behind my office...
 

Business meeting in London...
 
Afternoon tea with Our Boy
 


Fundraising event at work for the children's charity Barnardos
 

Another course to learn to make leather-wrap bracelets
 

A glimpse from my daily walk by the river.
A little piece of heaven on earth
 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Confused...




I think this plant must be confused. The bulb was bought in time for it to bloom for Christmas - I potted it and started tending to it at the end of October 2012 and
NOTHING
happened.

Christmas came and went and no sign of any growth. I thought it was dead, but decided to leave it  it in the pot and more or less forgot about it. I kept giving it a little water every now and then and about 6 weeks ago I could see some signs of growth!
 
So, now at the end of April when the temperature is reaching double digits, it is in full bloom. Given the very cold winter we have had it was perhaps not strange that it has been 'hibernating'?Unfortunately, it grew so big that one night it toppled over and the flowers broke off. Still pretty in a vase.
Anyway, THAT must be what is called a late bloomer!
 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Tried and Tested: Café Sting's Chocolate Heaven


I have never been to Stavanger, but there is apparently a very popular place there called "Café Sting". I have read somewhere that they claim to offer the best coffee in Stavanger and that they are also known for their killer chocolate cake.

A friend sent me this recipe and since I have  promised to make the wedding cake for some other friends, I am in the process of trying out various options. I have made a couple of minor amendments from the original recipe. It came out really moist with an amazing chocolate cream.
 
The Cake:
125 gram butter
1 dl water
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
4 eggs
250 gram sugar(I used golden caster sugar)
150 gram flour
3 tsp baking powder
 
 
Melt the butter in a pan. Add the water, cocoa powder and vanilla sugar. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in 4 egg yolks. Add the sugar, flour and baking powder. Ensure the dough is smooth and without lumps. Whisk the egg whites till it forms stiff peaks and add this gently to the dough.
 
Line a baking tin with grease proof paper and bake at the bottom of the oven at 175 degrees for 45 mins. Let the cake cool in the tin. When cooled, take it out of the tin and divide the cake in two.


The Chocolate Cream:
2 eggs
1 dl cream (I used whipping cream)
135 gram sugar
50 gram good quality baking chocolate (I swapped it for 50 gram cocoa powder)
125 gram butter
1 tsp vanilla sugar
 
Add the cream, eggs and sugar in a pan. Let it come to a boil and keep stirring. Take it off the heat and add the chocolate (or cocoa powder).  Let the chocolate melt and add the butter and vanilla sugar. Stirr till it all has melted and there are no lumps. Put the pan in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Use an electric whisk to whip it up.

Add the cream betwen the two cake layers and on top. 
 


Decoration (if you really think you need any more):
grated dark chocolate

This cake keeps well in the fridge and you can also freeze it.
If there is anything left...
I am thinking it might be interesting adding some chili to the chocolate cream.
Does any body have any views on this?

Don't worry about too much cake in our house - I tend to give most of it away to neighbours in exchange for their comments!



 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Claims To Fame...


I don't want to get involved in the debate over Margaret Thatcher that is currently going on, and my story really isn't anything to brag about, but given the departure of Lady Thatcher this week, I remembered the story of how I actually 'met' the Iron Lady once...
 
Shortly after moving to England a dear friend's baby daughter was to be baptised. We were all invited and when asked if I knew where the church was, I was convinced I did. The Professor was not able to attend, but Our Boy (who was about 3 or 4 at the time) and I trundled off to the church. I absolutely hate being late, so we were at the church in plenty of time before the service. I was a LITTLE surprised not to see my friends there, nor any of their family, but I assumed they were just running late...
 
Our Boy and I took our places and sat peacefully, admiring the old church while we waited for the service to start. Behind us was a little old lady who also arrived very early and she was very talkative, but also a bit hard of hearing. She was very curious as to where we were from and asked loads of questions. In the meantime, a faint alarm bell started to go off in my mind as I was expecting to see the baptismal font being prepared, but it remained covered and still no sign of our friends... 

I chatted away with the old dear and she started telling me of famous people who would come to this church (I have no idea WHY that came up) and told me that Lady Thatcher and Jeffrey and Mary Archer would often come. At that precise moment I happened to turn around, and who else was standing in the doorway but Lady Thatcher and the Archers... I tried to whisper to my talkative companion that they had arrived, but instead she exclaimed loud enough for all the church to hear "WHO has arrived"? Needless to say, Lady Thatcher sent us a chilling look as they swept past us to take up the seats on the front row...
 
By now the service was starting. There was no sign of my friends nor their family and the minister started talking about communion being held at the end of the service. I remembered from church back in Norway that communion would not be given if there was a baptism going on, so I realised we must be in the wrong church....
 
I decided it would look odd if we got up and left just as the service was starting, so we stayed and made our way out quickly after it was over - past the bodyguards who had taken up stand outside the church. As I drove a different way home passing another church, I saw people coming out of the church and THERE was my friend and her family! Our Boy and I joined the party and now had a story to tell about us missing the baptism.
So, any other claims to fame, anyone...?
 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Recommended Reading: Beatles

 
Filling in the "gaps"...
 
I guess we all have 'gaps' in the list of books we would have liked to have read. Working my way through my 'list', I am currently reading the Norwegian/Danish author, Lars Saabye Christensen's book "Beatles" (published in 1984). I read his book "The Half Brother" (2001) when it was published and loved it. The same goes for "Beatles".
 
The book is set in the 1960s and the story is told through the main character, Kim Karlsen (Paul). Kim and his friends, Gunnar (John), Sebastian (George) and Ola (Ringo), played football together, collected Beatles records and stole attributes from cars. Kim is the notorious liar, while Gunnar is the truth-seeker. Ola is the stuttering fat one, and Sebastian is a spiritualist. The four boys mature during the political struggle of the 1960s, and end up as left-wings, inspired by people around them. Although they are at least 10 years older than me, there are many familiar flashbacks to childhood memories, feelings and growing up in Norway in the 1970s.
 
Beatles has two sequels, Bly (Lead) and Bisettelsen (The Funeral).
 
So, my list goes on...

Which books are on your 'must-read' list?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Has Spring Sprung...?

Dare we say that spring has finally sprung...?
While The Professor went to town with Our Boy to an appointment with the optician, I opted for a walk with my camera around my favourite spot - Wimpole Hall.

Wanna come with me...?

We had snow flurries in the air a couple of days ago. In APRIL!? Unheard of in these parts, but this year has not been like any other year. But today's walk was the first without gloves! Surely that must be a sign of spring?
You wouldn't believe how many people were there, but the area is so big that it is only in the car park you notice how many are actually there. But yes, also loads of sheep about. I saw some lambs in other parts of the estate, but on route to my destination (you see it in the distance), there were no lambs among these sheep.

I have written about Wimpole Hall several times before here on the blog - it is such a firm favourite of mine.
The day was a bit hazy, but the sun came out and with the quietness of the area it was so refreshing.
The swans were paired up, but I couldn't see any cygnets around. Perhaps too early, although I did see some other ducklings.
So gracious... but don't go too close!
So, the Easter holidays are coming to an end for me.
The days have been spent partially in Edinburgh where we cleaned the flat we were selling. The sale was completed on Thursday and the new owner has moved in. It is a little nostalgic to have sold the flat, but onwards and upwards and hopefully we find something nice for The Professor in Durham. For now we have rented him a house and we also spent some time there so Our Boy could see the place, too.
Well, back to 'normal' for me. Our Boy still has over a week left of holidays and is being studious and diligent and preparing for his upcoming exams. Another sign of spring is him going off on bike rides with a mate.

So, I think we can conclude - YES!
Spring has sprung!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Easter Visit to Anglesey-Abbey



As Our Boy was revising for upcoming exams, the Professor and I spent Good Friday exploring the National Trust property Anglesey-Abbey.

We are frequent visitors to some of the other National Trust properties in the region, but this was our first trip to Anglesey-Abbey.
It won't be the last.

The place was brimming with little children on their Easter Egghunt, but since we no longer have small children we steered away from the excited crowd and followed the path through the winter garden, to the Mill and then to the manor house itself.

Anglesey-Abbey started out as a priory, but was bought in the 1920s by Lord Fairhaven who transformed the place to a country estate. He had a passion for tradition and impressing guests and this inspired him to transform a run-down country house and desolate landscape.Life revolved around horse racing and shooting, and guests enjoyed 1930s luxury.The estate was given to the National Trust in the late 1960s.

The gardens are truly spectacular with planting for all seasons The path twists and turns and you don't know what is around the corner. We were completely struck with surprise when we found this little area with naked birch trees. The atmosphere was almost a bit eerie among these trees, but I can hardly wait to see it in full bloom in the summer!

The property also contains a working mill where we chatted with the miller and bought some of his freshly milled flour. At £2.25 for 1.5kg there was nothing to complain about!

A lovely walk, great company and a visit to a beautiful house rounded off with tea and scones in the visitor's centre.What more can you want on a chilly spring day?

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Tried and Tested: Gluten-free Irish Cream Coffee Cake


Poor light gives poor picture quality, so I have borrowed this picture from the web and it is what the cake looks like!

Easter is just around the corner and I had been given permission by Our Boy to bake a cake
I am always looking to try something new, and decided after seeing I had some gluten-free flour in my larder that needed using up to make Lorraine Pascal's Gluten-free Irish Cream Coffee Cake.
I can report that the cake was approved by Our Boy!
My only comment is that this recipe gives you perhaps more buttercream than necessary unless you want to spread it both between and over the cake. That makes it a bit too much in my opinion, but others may beg to differ.

This is what you need:

200g light brown sugar
pinch of salt
200g cold butter
200g gluten-free flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 beaten eggs
2 drops vanilla extract
80ml strong coffee

In a mixer, mix together the sugar, salt, butter, flour and baking powder. I poured it all in and let it run till it was like breadcrumbs.
Beat in the egg, one at a time, then add the vanilla and coffee.
Beat for 2-3 mins
The recipe said to divide the mixture into two 8 inch tins, but I put it all in one and then cut through them.

Cook for 25-30mins at 180°C

For the buttercream you need (you can probably halve this):
125g butter
250 g icing sugar
2 drops of vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp of Irish Cream liqueur (Bailleys)

I put it all in the mixer and let it beat together till it was all light and fluffy.

Once the sponge(s) is cooled, spread the icing over one and sandwich the other on top.

Dust some icing sugar over for decoration.

A cake best served with strong coffee or a nice cup of tea!

Happy Easter!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Partial Truths and Confessions


I heard on the radio today that Barbra Streisand will be giving one of her rare concerts (apparently, she suffers from terrible stage fright so she doesn't give many concerts) in London this summer (1 June, if I am not wrong). The DJ on the radio said tickets cost £475(!) a piece, which is partially true, as they actually start from about £150.

Still a lot of money, I think and I don't think we will be going (actually I already know I am busy that day!). I am not a huge fan of Barbra, but I must say she sure can belt out a tune and this link above is to one of her more lovely songs: "The way we were..." And while we are on the topic of confessions, yes, I did once 'in my youth' own her album with Barry Gibbs from the BeeGees...

Still, you can buy an awful lot of CDs (or downloads) for the same amount of money as the cost of a concert ticket. Or have I become too sensible and grown up?

Would you have paid £150 for a concert ticket?

Have a great weekend!


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