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!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Shout Out For A Friend!

Be patient - it won't be long before we can enjoy this again...
This is a shout out for an "old" friend of mine - Cathrine Rød Gundersen - who just published a book called "Boat Friends" (Båtvenner).The book came about when she was looking for a gift for a friend. The sea is obviously a big part of this sea faring nation and many Norwegians spend their spare time roaming the coast and exploring the many little islands scattered around. As the cover picture of the book shows, these long summer evenings are really quite magical.
Cathrine wanted a book depicting life in the boats, but she couldn't find anything except navigation books. So, this energetic lady wrote her own! This 200 page book (in Norwegian) is full of lovely pictures of various boats, the families enjoying them, recipes and loads of tips and suggestions.
A super idea for a gift!
Gratulerer med boka, Cathrine!  

Monday, 18 March 2013

Happiness is...

Old and new friends visiting from Norway.

Despite bitterly cold weather we enjoyed the company of visiting friends. Some of us had not met for YEARS. Some even met for the very first time!
We did pretty much the usual things, ate well, drank well, walked a lot and talked a lot
plus planned a lot for upcoming events...
So, although our neighbour mowed the grass last week I would like to know when spring is deciding to come??? We had snow again some days ago and it is incredibly bitterly out there.
Should have known - The Cat refuses to go out. A sure sign that it is cold...
Don't need to look at the temperature - just check out The Cat curled up on the bed!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Recommended Reading: Wildflower Hill

I just finished reading "Wildflower Hill" by Kimberley Freeman. An easy read along the same line as Kate Morton's books.  Wildflower Hill is a compelling, atmospheric, and romantic novel about taking risks, starting again, knowing what you want and believing in yourself.
A good holiday read, I would say.
The story spans over three generations and half the world. It is a romantic and compelling story of two women who share a legacy of secrets, heartbreak, courage and love.
Emma, a prima ballerina in London, is at a crossroads in her career. She is forced to take stock of her life and finds that she’s mistaken fame and achievement for love and fulfillment. Returning home to Australia, she learns of her grandmother Beattie’s death and a strange inheritance: a sheep station in Tasmania.
Beattie also found herself at a crossroads as a young woman. She followed an unconventional path that was often dangerous and heartbreaking. Beattie knew the lessons she learned in life would be important to Emma one day, and she wanted to make sure Emma’s heart remained open to love, no matter what life brought. She knew the magic of the Australian wilderness would show Emma the way.

Monday, 4 March 2013


I went up to Durham on Saturday to help The Professor settle in to the rental house we have got him while we wait for the sale in Edinburgh to go through and while we look for something new to buy. I really enjoy these train rides. A bit of luxery to have 3.5 hrs to myself, just sitting reading or crocheting!
This is apparently the oldest University building in the world still in use, from 1027. Nope, it is neither the house we are renting nor the house we went to view... :-)
Glorious weather and lovely with some alone time with The Professor
The house is fine and within walking distance to town and office. But it is a rental, so it takes a little effort to make it more 'home'.
On Sunday we went to view a house for sale. It was a big disappointment, to be honest. It is really annoying to see how the estate agents use wide angle lenses to make rooms look bigger...
Makes me really annoyed, actually!
But we should be patient.
This was the first house we viewed so I guess we should listen to the quote saying
patience is bitter, but it's fruit is sweet...

Friday, 1 March 2013

A Real Treat on A Normal Working Day...

The Women's Staff Network within the university I work for hosted a lunch time seminar today with comedian Deborah Frances-White as part of the 2013 International Women's Day's.
Deborah is not only a comedian, but also an author, screen-writer, corporate speaker and executive coach.
It short - it was an excellent event.
Funny, insightful and thought provoking.
Her talk focused on what women need to do to become 21st century leaders
- without the power suits, Dynasty hair and shoulder pads!
Most people fear public speaking - almost more than death. It was very effective to see her simple demonstration of how most would behave and how to change it to so you can 'own' a room.
Above is a You Tube clip I found of her.
Food for thought on a Friday.
Have a great weekend!