Friday 23 January 2015

one man, one roast

Both the man and I spent Christmas day with our respective families which was lovely, but we added an extra Christmas of our own to the calendar too, for us to exchange gifts, have a Christmas dinner and spend it together.

Dinner was really the man's domain. I suppose the very fact that I had time to take the pictures shows you how much input I had into the meal.  And even though I have photographic evidence of the roast being created, I still find it a little bit magical how he can take all the components of the meal, and a couple of hours later, without writing anything down or scheduling timings or doing any faffing about whatsoever...he has made a whole roast.

It's magic. And it works every time.  He also did a chicken for New Year, and he's made a roast for the past two weekends too. In fact, the very first time he ever cooked for me, he made a roast. Each one delicious, no stress, and he usually manages to find me a glass of wine and a cup of tea. I like to have both. Meanwhile, I do something mundane like chop carrots into wobbly, slightly apologetic batons. 

While I am by no means a great cook, I enjoy cooking and feel I'm reasonably competent.  But the man definitely has the edge on me.  Anyone who can create a feast during the adverts of a couple of episodes of Downton Abbey deserves considerable acclaim in my opinion.

Brussels sprouts were required, naturally. Neither of use actively dislike them, but we don't normally opt to have them either.  However, there are certain times when sprouts are not optional.  This was one of them.

Ah, this is my one contribution.  I was raised in Yorkshire, so I make the eponymous Yorkshire Puddings. I quite like them.  Nom nom nom.  But fair to say, the rest is all him.  I hope one day he will teach me and I will prove an apt student and can learn the art of 'casually knocking together an entire Sunday dinner without thinking'. But for now, I help where I can and marvel; he's a bit of a wonder.

We tend to find that the leftovers will dish up another couple of meals. I think we've had a home-cooked roast 4 times in the last 3 weeks, and each time we have turned the remaining elements into a stir-fry, chucking everything into a wok and tossing it with sauce, a bit of veg and some noodles. At times, this has lead to some quite unusual food fusions, with Yorkshire-meets-the-east sir fry involving Teriyaki sauce and the odd mouthful of Yorkshire pudding.
Seriously, it's good!
Kisses xxx

P.S. Also you haven't truly had roast potatoes until you've had the man's roast potatoes.  He nails it. Every time. Fluffy and crunchy.

Saturday 17 January 2015

gingerbread hot chocolate

It's been a busy week!  Lots going on at school, and every single evening was spent out of the house.  Therefore this weekend finds me catching up on paperwork for Guides, sorting out admin, frantically baking for a cake sale tomorrow and attempting to get in a bit of crafty goodness in the gaps.  It keeps me sane.

So by mid-afternoon a break was very much called for.  I decided to make hot chocolate.  The kind of hot chocolate I could wrap my hands around and sit back with.  The kind of hot chocolate that would afford me a little while to daydream. Today was the day I was going to make Gingerbread Hot Chocolate.

Gingerbread Hot Chocolate is just normal hot chocolate with added home-made gingerbread syrup (and added capital letters for importance).  I used the recipe here from A Beautiful Mess to make the syrup.  But I used Galaxy hot chocolate made with milk for the drink.  Topped, of course, with marshmallows and white chocolate chips, and a dusting of cocoa powder. It's been very cold and the marshmallows help to insulate the hot chocolate. 

The Lindor Lindt chocolates don't do anything, they just taste nice. Interesting fact: if you drop them, they don't bounce.  They just sort of sit there and roll a little bit in a way that looks strangely anti-physics.  Secondary fact: I've done enough not-very-interesting things today in order for that to seem interesting.  

So hear's to Gingerbread Hot Chocolate, best eaten with a spoon.  This is a beautifully indulgent drink for January, and when Saturday means ploughing through a lengthy to-do list, it's nice to have a little bit of chocolately luxury and warming, spiced ginger.

Kisses xxx

P.S. Another bemusing fact about Lindor Lindts is that strange melty stuff in the middle.  It's solid but melty, and velvety smooth in a way that normal chocolate isn't.  What do they do to it?  Why is it so perfect?

Thursday 8 January 2015

the age of steam

New Year’s day found the man and I hopping in the car, hoping the grey, threatening clouds weren't heralding rain, and heading off for a day out.  The man had suggested a visit to the Bluebell railway, and it turned out to be a great idea! 

The Bluebell Railway is a preserved section of track which runs regularly scheduled steam trains from Sheffield park through Horsted Keynes, Kingscote and up to East Grinstead.  We got tickets for a return journey (Third class) and then had an hour to amuse ourselves at the Sheffield park station before our train. 

Amusing ourselves was incredibly easy: there is a shed full of steam engines that are either partially or fully restored, and huge amounts of information.  They are restored almost entirely by volunteer enthusiasts who could be seen tinkering around with bits and pieces of train, and I enjoyed peering into the workshop.  The engines themselves have a striking industrial beauty and I couldn't help but feel infused with visions of the romance of train travel under steam. The station was lovely with so many period details to admire and point out.

When our train arrived, we had time to get a quick cup of tea for the journey, and then selected our carriage.  Apparently 3rd class travel means comfortable, squishy sofa-style seats upholstered in gloriously patterned material.  And leg room to spare. It felt incredibly luxurious!

It was lovely to sit back and relax in the relative opulence of bygone days, and gaze at the world rolling past, marvelling at the steam snagging on the branches of the trees, caught like so many tufts of wool. We rode all the way up the line to East Grinstead where we had a brief pause to hop out and visit the stationary buffet car.  Having nobbled a nice cup of tea and a generous wedge of Victoria Sponge cake for the journey back, we re-boarded our train

We rounded off with a visit to the Sheffield Park museum to find out a bit about the history of the line both when it was used as part of the National Rail Network, and since its days of preservation.
And then we tried on some excellent hats.

A most triumphant way to see in the new year.

Kisses xxx

P.S. I think I'm going to start a little series of fun days out that we we have.  I'd like to be able to look back on the collection at some point in the future.  So I have tagged this post the first in the series Great Dates 2015. 

Wednesday 7 January 2015

twinkles and marshmallows

I have lived in London now for well over 5 years, but somehow had never been to Kew Gardens.  When I discovered they break out with all the twinkly lights at Christmas, it seemed that this would be as good a time as any to make that first visit and so the man and I got tickets for the very end of December.  Christmas at Kew is a mile-long trail through the gardens, and is an incredibly festive and beautiful experience.

We made a brief start on the trail, before deciding that was a silly thing to do without some mulled wine.  So we nipped back to the start, loaded up with that particular genial beverage and began the yuletide wander through the gardens.

We came across fountains that danced to music, bathed in light while snowflakes hurried across the lake and the house.  We found chandeliers suspended from low-slung boughs, a twinkling grotto filled with mistletoe for a secret smooch, and striking botanical sculptures glowing in the night.  The temperature was freezing, but we were well wrapped up, and all of Kew seemed to radiate warmth.

About half way round, we paused to indulge in a marshmallow break.  The Marshmallowists were out in force displaying their wares; Christmas pudding flavour?  Vibrant orange mango?  Actually we both plumped (or flumped?) for blueberry and gin marshmallows, and with our prizes safely skewered we embraced the heat of the braziers more than willingly and toasted our marshmallows to perfection!  These were the BEST marshmallows I've ever had: none of your insipid sugary nonsense thankyou-very-much, these confections were soft and smooth and fluffy and had such full, incredible flavour. I will be seeking out the Marshmallowists in future!

We followed the snowflakes winding deeper into the gardens.  We saw fire-jugglers and stilt walkers, tellers of tall tales and trees embellished with magic.  Christmas at Kew was one of those evenings that more than exceeded my expectations and hopes.  I found it absolutely enchanting.

I hope to be able to come back to Christmas at Kew in future years, and I would love to explore the gardens in more detail and be able to appreciate the plants and flowers more fully.  But for a spellbinding, twinkly, oh-so-festive evening, I don't think this could be easily beaten.

Point towards the light!

Kisses xxx

P.S. I find it tough to get the white balance and focus right on night-time photos.  I enjoyed taking my camera out (although very cold on the fingers!) but I could definitely use more practice with night photography!

Monday 5 January 2015

reflections and resolutions

Happy New Year!  I'm a few days behind, but as today was the official back-to-school day, this somehow feels more like the start of a new year than 1st January does.  I've had fun looking back through my photos from 2014 which record some wonderful moments, and these are some of my favourites. 

I found it hard to pick a few pictures for this post: I felt like I could spend this year blogging my favourite photos from 2014... But ultimately that seems counter-productive. On the plus side, it makes me feel ever more motivated towards photography!

So in summary, 2014 has been the year of trying a bigger range of crafts, from paper piecing patchwork pillow cases, to stitching a giant map onto canvas.  Which is still a work in progress.

2014 is also the year of the pointing-at-nothing selfie.

I learned to knit lace, and discovered I loved it, as well as completing one of the goals on my list of Things To Do Before I'm 30. 

In 2014 I attended the weddings of two of my closest friends; I was honoured to be asked to be the photographer at the first, and a bridesmaid at the second.

2014 was the year of the Grand Holiday, where the man and I threw caution to the winds and spent two glorious weeks exploring the Caribbean.  

2014 was also the year that my wonderful family treated me to Afternoon Tea at the Ritz.

It's been a year of adventures with friends in London, the year of the camera-on-the-ground angle, and the year of coming back to scrapbook the results at home.  2014 is clearly the year I realise that hand-cut titles are the best, tiny pegs go with everything, and that white backgrounds make things pop.

2014 was the year of strengthening new friendships, spending time together and being inspired to volunteer more with Girlguiding.

And while I know I have blogged this photo more than once before, I think it's quite possibly my favourite of the year. (But I can't claim to have taken it!)

Now it's time to look forward into the new year! And I have plans for this little blog. I've got a new scrapbooking class in the works, some craft projects to both work on and share and with any luck, I will collect photos galore from London and from some of the travelling I plan on doing in 2015.

I also think I've shifted the focus of this blog somewhat; I can't legitimately call this a purely scrapbooking blog.  It's not been a conscious decision, but I  have started to really enjoy sharing more photography, more of London, and more of other crafty exploits outside scrapbooking.  And by writing about and photographing a wider range of things, I can post more regularly, as well as documenting my memories more coherently.  In many ways, perhaps my blog has become my scrapbook for when life is full and busy and I haven’t quite got time to grab some pretty paper and scissors.

The New Year is also a time for resolutions. I do love to set goals, make lists and tick things off, but given I’m still working on my list of Things to Do Before I’m 30, that is my priority.  However, I do have 3 ambitions for 2015:

A little one: 
Lose the last 5 pounds. It’s been almost 2 years since I set out to be a bit healthier and lose weight. Four stone later, I’m almost there. Actually, given that I ate A LOT over Christmas, it’s now slightly more than 5 pounds.  But with any luck, this will be done by half term.

A regular one:
 I've set myself a photography goal for the year. I’m going to explain this in more detail another time, and share my progress in monthly updates, but I find that my love for photography just keeps growing, and having a specific project is very motivating, so I’m feeling pretty inspired to keep getting my camera out.

A big one: 
More than anything, I would like to live with the man.  Which is unfortunately easier said than done due to red tape and the many terms and conditions that come with our current respective flat situations. (Long story, it’s been a longer discussion and we still don’t know the answer!). However, on the bright side we should be in a position to start looking for our first house to buy together by the end of the year. One of the biggest adventures yet!

Time to welcome the new year then: here we go with 2015!

Kisses xxx

P.S. I'm on the look-out for a good list-making app.  Does anyone use one that they would recommend? If it has a way for me to tick things off with a satisfying flourish, so much the better!