Wednesday 27 February 2013

When You Least Expect It...

not the best picture taken with my IPhone... but at least some natural light!
I have for a long time been looking for a sideboard to go with our dining room furniture, but never found the right size. I wanted one with only two doors, a couple of drawers, not too big and not expensive.
I had more or less given up, but when I went to browse at Homesense on the weekend, there it was! Good sturdy, solid oak. Homsense (or TKMax is another one of these stores) is a great place to browse for unusual items. I believe they buy up leftovers from other stores and sell at heavily reduced prices. Some times I find a lot I could like and some times nothing. But, as it is here today and gone tomorrow and often just a few items of each, you have to buy it when you see it most likely won't be there next time you go.
There was a minuscule scratch on the top, so I took courage and haggled and got 10% off! Of course, that scratch is not visible now that I have buffed it up. I am very pleased with all the 'stuff' that now finds it's home inside it!
I have also bought some material with the plan to reupholster the dining room chairs. Think that will wait till it gets a bit warmer and I can work outside in the garden.
 Another of my finds, is the metal tray on top of the sideboard, now filled with cones, some cinnamon bark and a candlestick. I bought the tray at a car boot sale once for a 'song', not knowing what metal it was and hoping it would become more silvery when cleaned. It didn't and I still don't know what metal it is, but it works well with the little display on the sideboard.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Tried and Tested: Sticky Toffee Pudding

A Sunday treat?
It was most confusing when we moved to the UK all those years ago and people were talking about 'what they were having for pudding'. Well, we quickly understood that they meant dessert. But to add to the confusion, pudding can also be a savoury dish like Yorkshire pudding, black pudding, or steak and kidney pudding, to mention a few. The word pudding is believed to come from the French boudin, originally from the Latin botellus, meaning "small sausage", referring to encased meats used in Medieval European puddings. As I said, all too confusing and I won't bore you with more historical pudding facts.
I am in this post referring to a dessert (and the pudding is in fact a cake!)
Illustration borrowed from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861

A friend of mine loves Sticky Toffee Pudding and will have it anytime he goes out for a meal. I happened to think of him yesterday and decided to see if I could find a good recipe to learn to make this traditional British dessert (I still prefer to call this part of the meal for dessert). It was incredibly yummy, moist, and more-ish. The recipe suggested it being served with warm sauce and a scoop of ice cream. I think there can be too much of a good thing and don't see why you need ice cream, but hey! whatever takes your fancy
I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website, and I made some minor amendments to it as I didn't have the exact ingredients to hand. The recipe calls for a bit unusual ingredient - tea!, but trust me - it was delicious!

200 gram dried dates (I used prunes and figs)
250 ml black (not too strong) tea (I used a tea bag of Lady Grey)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85 gram butter
175 gram self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
175 golden caster sugar
2 eggs

For the toffee sauce:
100 gram light muscovado sugar
100 gram butter
142 ml double cream (I used whipping cream)

This is how you do it:
Chop the dates (prunes/figs) into small pieces and add to the tea and let it boil for a few minutes until soft. Add the bicarbonate of soda.

Beat the butter and caster sugar until creamy.
Add the eggs, flour and mixed spice.
Add the tea/date mixture and poor into a buttered ovenproof dish.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until top is firm to touch.

Make the sauce by simmering the sugar, butter and cream over low heat till the sugar has dissolved. Cook till the sauce is thick and has a toffee colour. 

Cut the cake into squares and pour some warm sauce (and a dollop of ice cream, if you want) over.


Monday 18 February 2013

Some Small Projects

Simple in white.
Those of you that follow me on Instagram might have seen that I have found time for some small crocheting projects. Our Boy and I went to Edinburgh for a few days last week as it was half term, The Professor's birthday and Valentine's Day. Talk about having a lot to celebrate! It was probably the last time we visit before we sell the flat. I must admit it was a little nostalgic, but a new chapter opens and we will hopefully soon be househunting again.
On the way up to Edinburgh on the train I crocheted this bib which will be making it's way to Switzerland once I have put some decorations on it. I found the pattern via Fru Tunheim who had found it via some other blog, but here is the link to the original blog (in Norwegian). I am also working on a special item for a friend of mine (almost a secret so no pictures yet), but I like having more than one thing on the go, so last night I started this super easy scarf pictured below.
Purple - my all-time favourite colour!
It is the simplest pattern ever and can be done 'in your sleep' or at least while watching TV. I am pleased to have found a way to use up some silk mohair yarn that was just 'hanging about'. I must admit I have forgotten where I found the pattern, but I will get back with the link once I have had a look at the IPad where I stored it...

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Recommended Reading: "Child Wonder"

I just finished the Norwegian author Roy Jacobsen's book "Child Wonder" (or "Vidunderbarn", in Norwegian).
The book is set in a suburb of Oslo in the early 1960s -  a time when 'men became boys and housewives women'. It is the year the Berlin Wall was erected and Gagarin became the first man to travel into space. The book is about childhood, intensely social-democratic life in Norway in the 60s, and the effect of painful memories. The book is a gripping and unsentimental portrait of childhood and a very uplifting novel. And the story stops at the right place. There is a form of closure and you sense the potential for a new story.
In another book.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Waiting for Spring - at Chippenham Park

As you can see, the snow has disappeared. It is one week between the pictures in this post as to the previous one.
Not that it feels much different. It is still pretty cold...
On Sunday I went with some friends to Chippenham Park to see the snowdrops in bloom. I had never heard of Chippenham Park before - always a delight to learn of new exciting places after all these years.
Chippenham Park is a large country house dating back to the 17th century with vast gardens, lakes and a beautiful park with lots of statues of different animals surprising us as we walked along. The owners open the gardens to the public only certain times of the year, but the property is also used for weddings and special events. I can see this is a special place, although bitterly cold as we walked around. I will definitely come back. Perhaps on a warmer and sunnier day around the beginning of April when the daffodils should be out?

Oh! I can't wait for spring!!!

Monday 4 February 2013

On the River

We have started shaking off the winter here. These pictures were taken last Sunday - a week ago. I am pleased to say that all the ice is now gone! And I am not missing it!

Last weekend I went off for the first time to see Our Boy and his team racing on the river (he is the third from the back).
It was cold, crisp, but lovely clear day. Here some of the teams are getting ready to start - it was a busy day on the river! Our Boy was well pleased as they came second in their category.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Knitting Baby Socks...

Our little friend in Zurich needs some warm woolen socks/babyboots
These are super easy and fast to knit - a few nights in front of the TV and they are done!
I hope these will help keep him warm
I found the pattern in a blog, but I can't remember the blog to refer to (sorry!). I used the Norwegian yarn Dalegarn Falk and knitting needles 2.5. I got the yarn from Dragonyarns who sell Dale yarn here in the UK. Another place for various Norwegian yarns is Scandinavian Knitting Design.
Here is how I did it (size 3-6 months):
Cast on and knit 36 stiches back and forth for 9 cm
Then only knit the middle 12 till it all measures 14 cm
Pick up 11 stiches on either side of the middle knitted bit
Knit 12 rounds with all the stiches
Now for the bottom of the sock:
Knit only the 12 middle stitches but at the end of each round you knit the last stitch together with the side stitch
Continue like this till you only have 4 stiches left on either side plus the 12 in the middle.
Cast off and sow it neetly together.
Fold down the sock
Or in Norwegian:
Legg opp 36 masker og strikk rillestrikk 9 cm.
Str så kun over de midterste 12 maskene til arb måler 14 cm.
Plukk opp 11 masker på hver side av fotlappen og strikk nå alle maskene på pinnen igjen.
Strikk 12 pinner med alle maskene.

Avfelling under foten:
Strikk over de 12 midterste maskene, men på slutten av hver omg strikker du den 12 masken sammen med sidemasken. Fortsett slik med å strikke to masker sammen hver omgang, strikk til det kun gjenstår 4 masker i hver side i tillegg til de 12 midtmaskene.
Fell av og sy pent sammen.
Brett sokken ned.