Tuesday, 30 March 2010

How long does it take to eat a Lindt Easter Bunny???

It was a dirty job but somebody had to do it . . .

Apparently only 24 hours!!

Note* This information comes from a very reliable source . . . no *real* bunnies were hurt or injured in the process . . .

Monday, 29 March 2010

One last memory . . .

I wasn't going to do another post here before I move. I am sitting with boxes all around me, and Todd will be boxing up this computer shortly and that will be that . . .

I was visiting my friend Rachel's page, A Cupcake For Moose, this morning though . . . and she brought back a wonderful memory for me. She went on a girlie's picnic and was sharing that with us.

One of my happiest memories was a girlie picnic that I, and a few good friends, went on a couple of years back. Oh, what a wonderful day we had. It was nice, to be together, just us gals and we enjoyed the day immensely.

We had been planning it for weeks. We decided we were going to go down to Eastbourne. It was in the summer and my employers were away so I had a lot more free time than I usually did, or at least a lot more time to play. Each of us wonderful gals was in charge of a part of the picnic lunch. I got to do the sandwiches! (I had a real whopper planned!) Another lady was in charge of desserts, bringing several cakes. One had the drinks to take care of, and another brought fresh fruit. As if!!!! But hey . . . we were all well intentioned and the fruit helped to ease our conscience!

It was a beautifully sunny day and we all piled into the car and took a leisurely drive down to the coast. Oh what a wonderful time in the car we had. Anyone listening would have wondered what on earth was going on. We laughed and gabbed and just had the most fabulous time. I am sure we were quite noisy, but isn't that the way it is when good friends get together? That is the way it was for us!! We were having fun!!

We spent a good part of the morning walking along the seafront at Eastbourne. There is always ever so much activity going on there of a hot summer's day. There are lots of kiosks selling everything from A to Z.

Loads of people walking and taking in the sun . . . families, loaded down with umbrellas, picnic baskets, frisbees . . . courting couples, arm in arm . . . the infirm being pushed in wheelchairs, and out enjoying a warm sunny day . . . roller skaters . . . dog walkers . . . you name it . . . there's just a lot of holiday making, if only for one day making, happy people about!

We then drove up to Beachy Head for our picnic. Beachy Head is a dramatic and beautiful headline, extending some 535 feet above sea level near to the Eastbourne town proper. A lovely place to escape to, relax, and take in some very beautiful scenery.

We walked along the cliff front for a time, just enjoying the view and each others company, all the while scouting the area for "The" perfect picnic spot. We found one and spread out our blankets and we all settled down for our feast. OH, but it was lovely. I had made muffaletta sandwiches. They were quite tasty, if I don't say so myself . . . a delicious HUGE French loaf, all hollowed out and dressed . . . and stuffed to overflowing with cheeses, meats, olives, artichokes etc, It's like eating a tasty stuffed suitcase!!! There was lovely cakes . . . victorian sponge, cupcakes, brownies . . . tons of fruit . . . apples, pineapple, grapes, satsumas . . . oodles of cold and refreshing drink. I had thought to bring a cooler stuffed with ice and drinks. We were well set.

What a wonderful time we had sitting up there on the cliffs . . . the hot sun beating down on our heads . . . the cool sea breeze tickling our toes . . . the warm camardarie of close friends enjoying a day out together . . . what looked like the whole world stretched out before us in one of the most beautiful views ever. Oh my but we did have a good time. We talked. We laughed. We cried. We stuffed ourselves silly. We just enjoyed being there together. It was a most wonderful day.

When we had had enough, we packed everything up and made our way back to the car. Of course the Ice Cream Van was in the parking lot and we did what any self respecting woman would do . . . we had ice creams! OH it was so lovely. Just to be on our own like that, not a care in the world . . . no men to distract us . . . just a few like minded friends out for a day together.

We rolled home exhausted at the end of that day . . . faces sunburnt, stuffed to the eyeballs . . . happy as larks. The best part of the day was not in the sandwiches, as tasty as they were . . . it was not in the sights or scenery . . . it was not even in the ice creams. It was in the time we spent together, being friends, enjoying each other's company . . . just being . . . us. It was a day I will cherish always, and I often go back to it in my mind and take the memory out like a well polished treasure stone to hold in my hands and drink in it's beauty.

Everyone should have a gem of a day like that at least once in their lifetime, and if you can do it more than once . . . go for it!! Days like the one we had together are worth their weight in gold . . . priceless . . .

Now, that's it. I'm going now. Catch you on the flip side!!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Marie's Sunday Six

Welcome to my Sunday Six smile maker post. This will be the last one I ever write from Oak Cottage actually. It is hard to believe that my days here are rapidly coming to an end. We moved down here, from Chester, in September of 2003. The past six and some years have gone by rather quickly and I thought it would be fun to share with you this morning, some of the things that we came to love and embrace during our stay here . . . and some of the things we will really miss.

It has been a wonderful experience getting to work and to live in such a beautiful environment. Imagine being able to work in a beautiful, historic property, surrounded by beautiful gardens, stunning gardens . . . and imagine being able to live in just such a idyllic place. That has been my experience over these past years. Each day, each week, each month . . . each season and year has unfolded in front of our eyes with great beauty and splendour. The job itself, has given me invaluable experience. I am so grateful for that. I have grown as a cook in unimaginable ways and been able to stretch and develop my talents in amazing directions. I have a wonderful reference as well. Those two things are worth their weight in gold.

We have made so many wonderful friends down here, and been able to share some really special times with them . . . through monthly cooking evenings around my kitchen table with the relief society, garden parties with my friends from RecipeZaar, entertaining wonderful and much loved friends from church, activities for the young women, my young friend the piano playing Michael . . . not to mention countless missionaries that have come to our home that I have been able to mother and feed . . . I will miss them all. Oh, I know . . . I will undoubtedly make some new friends, and have new parties, feed new missionaries, etc. . . . and they will be just as dear to me, but I have made some really special eternal friends here. People whom I have become family to down here . . . people that have become so very dear and beloved to me. I shall miss being able to see them every week, but I do hope that they will take up our offer of visiting us in Chester.

I shall miss living in a rose covered cottage. From the one that is covered with beautiful pink blossoms that scratch against my kitchen window panes, the beautiful red and white hanging roses that sheltered our car against the bright sunshine and elements, to the pretty yellow climbing roses that we planted against the shed . . . these special bushes and flowers brought me so much pleasure and so many smiles . . . I know, I can grow more roses where we are moving, but these will always remain in a special corner of my heart.

The view from the windows upstairs in our library here . . . just a glimpse of the fairytale orchards that have surrounded us. How very beautifully they have taken us through the many seasons here at Oak Cottage. Each season of the year bringing us it's own and special beauty. They are just beginning to bud at the moment, and I know that within a few short weeks, they will be a sea of beautiful blossom and a hum of activity.

Oh how I have loved the special gifts that they have brought to us . . . the pretty blossoms in the springtime, the smell . . . the lovely and long walks throughout the whole year, the sight and smell of branches bowed down and filled with abundant fruit in the autumn . . . the sound of the apple pickers . . . the luxury of having bountiful windfalls to eat and cook with, of all different varieties. What an amazing and wonderful gift it has all been.

The pond in the nearby village that has brought us many hours of joy . . . from the daffodils in the springtime that line it's beautiful banks to the sight of many a lad and his dad fishing on sunny days.

The many Canadian Geese Goslings and the ducklings that live there each year with their parents, and that have brought us many, many hours of entertainment and joy . . . and the beautiful cherry trees across the road that we have found so stunningly beautiful each and every spring. Oh how much I will miss them . . .

My early morning walk to work . . . this too, has changed with the seasons and with the weather. It has been a peaceful time for me, these few minutes of my day . . . listening to the birds in the hedgerows . . . feeling the sun, or the wind, or the rain upon my face.

It is a simple and a short walk that has brought me much joy and blessings throughout the years, and tender thoughtful moments, no matter the weather or season. I shall miss the early morning quietness of a peaceable, thoughtful journey . . .

There has been so much beauty and joy here . . . it sprung from cracks in the pavement and oozed from every nook and cranny . . .a constant feast for all my senses. I am so thankful that I was aware and that I never took any of it for granted.

I have captured so much beauty and peace through the lens of my camera over these past years. I have enjoyed it all so very much and will enjoy the fruits of my labours for many years to come.

Looking back at some of these photos this morning, I scarce can take it all in. It's been amazing and lovely, and breathtakingly beautiful. I am such a nature lover and the experience of being able to live here has fed all of my senses on almost every level, and in so many ways. What blessing it has been . . .

The lavender that grew in abundance along the back wall of our house and edge of our patio . . .

The many bunnies that lived and loved amongs the grassy lawns . . . that ate everything we tried to grow, but gave us many hours of watchful thought . . .

The splendour and magic of winter . . .

The multi-coloured joys of autumn . . .

The many fledglings that visited our feeders in early summer . . .

The crazy squirrels that annoyed and pestered, but mostly entertained us . . .

Splendid walks . . .

and hollyhocks . . .

The beauty and magic of it all . . .

I shall miss you, I shall . . .

Goodbye . . . and farewell . . .

Don't worry by the way. I shall be back once we have settled in Chester and are back on line. Try not to miss me too much!! And do come back to check us out later on this week at the other end!!! (Fingers crossed!)

I was able to make us an incredibly delicious vegetable gratin for supper the other night. I had sweet potatoes, potatoes, butternut squash, leeks . . . all needing to be used up, not to mention some cream in the fridge. It came together in an amazingly wonderful dish that had us both smacking our lips!!!

What a tasty concoction!!

*Mixed Vegetable Gratin*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This came about by having to use up all the vegetables left in the larder. It didn't quite use them all, but it did make a good dent in them! It was delicious to boot!

2 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into thin slices
2 medium regular potato, peeled and cut into thin slices
the neck of a medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
salt and black pepper to taste
2 cups cream
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
a handful of whatever cheese you have to hand, shredded (Gruyere, cheddar, etc.)
( had a mixed package which contained shredded cheddar, jack, mozarella, chilies and olives)
softened butter to grease the casserole dish

Place the garlic into a saucepan with the cream. Bring just to the boil and then leave to set while you prepare the vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F.

Butter a deep casserole dish really well. Layer in the vegetables, layering each the sweet potato, potato, leek, and butternut squash in that order, and repeating once. Lightly season between the layers. Strain the hot cream over top. Scatter the cheese over top of everything. Pop a lid on if you have it, or cover tightly with foil if you don't.

Bake in the heated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for an additonal 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the top of the casserole is bubbling and golden. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before spooning out to serve.

On The English Kitchen today . . . a scrumptious Gingered Apple Brown Betty!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Saturday Fun!!

Yesterday I was surfing through the Blogosphere, as I am wont to do when I have a bit of spare time and I ended up on my good friend Tracy's page, of Pink Pearl. I just love Tracy. She is such a calm, sweet and pink person! We were lucky enough to have been able to meet in person a year or so back. I just love it when you are able to cross the boundaries of Invisible Friend to Real Life Friend. That just makes what we have together all the more special.

Anyways she had this fun little exercise posted on her page yesterday and I thought it would be a really fun thing for me to do as well. It's a great activity and opportunity for some self-discovery. If you want to do it too, feel free and if you do and want to share your list, let me know, as I'd love to know more about you as well!! It's so much fun to share with each other, don't you think?? It's all about if you were different things, like colours and stuff. Here goes!

If I Was...

  • a color, RED with White Polka Dots (That's a colour isn't it? I also love White and Blue anything, which is a colour too (Especially stripes.) At least it is to me!)
  • a verb, ♥ ♥ LOVE ♥ ♥
  • a day, Sunday, I love going to church, slowing down, relaxing, praising my Heavenly Father, taking the sacrament, and seeing all my church friends. I also love Songs of Praise on Sunday evenings, Antiques Roadshow and just canoodling with Todd as we relax and really take a true day of rest.
  • a TV show, Larkrise to Candleford I just ♥ ♥ ♥ this show!! It has to be one of my alltime favourites!!
  • a taste, one of my favourite taste combinations has to be salty/sweet. You know like the combination you get with you combine pretzels with chocolate, or peanut butter with jam. It's not something that Todd totally understands, but it's one of my quirks that he has learned to live with, if not embrace. Ok, so he draws the line at peanutbutter and jam . . .
  • an emotion, JOY! All embracing, heart exploding, life surrounding JOY!!
  • a month, December (need I say more??) I ♥ ♥ ♥ Christmas and everything to do with it, and most especially of all Jesus, the reason for the season.
  • a flower, I can't choose, it's good old Sweet Peas and Pansies. They are tied for first place in my heart. I also love Batchelor Buttons, Lupins, Carnations, Roses, and Holly Hocks. I just love flowers, especially Cottage Garden Flowers.
  • a holiday, I love ALL the Holidays! I don't have a favourite. Any excuse to celebrate all that we have been blessed with here on earth is a wonderful excuse for me. I have been known to create HoLiDaYs just so that I can celebrate! I guess I just life and people, and everything to do with them!
  • a movie, I just love the film, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes. It is an old film from 1945, starring Edward G Robinson and Margaret O'Brien. It's a tender family story of a Swedish immigrant farm family just before WW2. I have many fond memories of watching it with my children when they were growing up. I had a copy that I had taped off of the telly, but sadly, it got thrown away by accident. I have since looked for one, but haven't been able to find one that I could afford to buy. I shall have to wait and hope that it comes on the telly again one day!!
  • an article of clothing, no surprise here . . . PAJAMAS!!
  • a book, Emmaline, by Judith Rossner. It is a lovely book and based on a true story. I just love books based on true stories. Do you?
  • a car, I love the car we have right now, a Vauxhall Agila.
  • a piece of furniture, I used to have a lovely sideboard that had come off of a Cunard Liner. It was my mother's and someone had given it to her. My ex and I had refinished it. It was beautiful, made from Maple with Birdseye Maple Panels inlaid into the drawer fronts. He would not let me have anything from the house when we divorced and he sold it in a yard sale, probably for peanuts, knowing him.
  • a scent,Jo Malone perfume, Pomengranate Noir. I just love it. I have a bottle of the cologne and my boss gave me some of the body wash this past Christmas.
  • an instrument, the flute. I just love it's sweet melody.
  • a store, I just love the Borough Market. I know, it's technically not a store, but if you are a foodie like me, it is heaven on earth!
  • a shoe, I just love my Asics Trainers. I have had a lot of foot problems over the past few years, and they have solved most of them. If you have to spend a lot of time on your feet, I highly recommend!!
  • a fruit, I just ADORE Cherries!! Every year long about May the cherry sellers set up stands along the layby's all over Kent and you can buy them freshly picked. There is nothing like a paper bag filled with ripe, warm cherries on a warm spring day! It is heaven on earth!!
  • a song, His Hands, make sure you click the link. It will take you to a video of the song. I just love this song. It's not a pop song. It's a love song.
  • a tree, fruit trees. They bring you a gift with each and every season. In the spring you get the beautiful blossoms, and then during the summer you get to watch the fruit appear and grow, in the autumn comes the harvest, and then in the winter comes the sleeping promise of things to come . . .
  • a planet, why it would be very remiss of me not to love planet Earth! It's such a beautiful place. From outer space it looks mysterious and beautiful. There is so much beauty here. It is one of the father's greatest creations, next to mankind.
  • a tool, anything and everything to do with cooking! No surprise there!

The photo at the top of my post is one that I took at Scotney Castle several years ago. It is a place that I have loved to go with Todd. It's beautiful to look at, and a great walk. It's a place where I feel at peace and in tune with the spirit, and where I feel close to God. I hope that you have enjoyed this little exercise with me, and will want to play along and share your list of favourite things with us. If you do, let me know, so that I pop on over to your page and read them!!

*Potatoes Parmesan*

Serves 2, but is quite easily multiplied
Printable Recipe

Four ingredients and half an hour in the oven, will give you a potato dish so creamy and delicious your guests will think you have been slaving in the kitchen all day to create it. You want to make sure you use a really good and well flavoured chicken stock here as it will be your only seasoning.

2 large red skinned potateos
1 cup of good chicken stock
2 TBS grated Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
1 TBS melted butter

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly butter a shallow casserole dish. Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and slice very thinly, about 1/4 inch thickness. Place the potato slices into the prepared casserole dish. Heat the stock and pour it over top. Sprinkle the Parmesan Cheese evenly over top and then drizzle with the melted butter. Bake in the heated oven about 25 minutes, until the stock is absorbed and the potatoes are meltingly tender. Absolutely delicious!!


There is a deliciously Creamy Courgette Lasagna on offer today over on The English Kitchen!

Friday Food For Thought

I was contacted recently by the Executive Editor of a women's magazine (which shall remain nameless). She stated that, through my writings, she had discerned that I had been married a number of times, and that they were doing an article in a future edition of the magazine on people who had been married numerous times, and would I be interested in talking to them.

Oh yes, she also asked, how old I was.

I was quite chuffed actually . . . first of all to think that the Executive Editor of any magazine had been reading my stuff, and secondly, just to be asked! I replied that yes, indeed (much to my regret) I had been married three times, and that I was 54 years old. I then went on to briefly explain the circumstances of each marriage, and stated that I was quite willing and happy to contribute to the article. I like to think that perhaps by sharing my own life experiences, that I may be able to help someone else who is going through a similar thing, and that I may actually even be able to give someone else hope that things can and do get better!

I got a very quick reply, however. It seems that, although my experiences were quite interesting, I was too old. They were wanting experiences from women under 35. I guess it didn't really matter that both times, when I had made my earlier marriage mistakes, I had been ages 19 and 21 . . .

I was disappointed somewhat, but then, after thinking about it for a time, I was almost angry. Ageism does exist, and it's a shame really, because I think her readers may have missed out on some really valuable and helpful stuff, not to mention . . . some pretty darn good reading as well!

At what point does a person become too old for their experience in life to be considered as being valuable and helpful to anyone of any age??? I like that think that my readership on here spans many age groups. I know that some of you are quite a bit younger than myself, and that some of you are a bit older, and some . . . even quite a bit older. I like to think that these words that I write on here every day have a validity for each of you, and that most of you . . . at one time or another . . . have gleaned at least a little bit of something from my words that may have inspired or helped. Some little snippet of wisdom, information or inspiration that you have been able to apply to your own lives and that has helped you in some way, however large or small.

I don't really think that one has to be of any particular age for that to matter. Apparently though . . . my experiences are only valid and relative to those over 35 years of age. The under 35's might just as well stop reading now, because what I have to say could not possibly help you and it uninteresting and of no import to you whatsoever! I am a dinosaur . . . albeit, a very experienced dinosaur, with a big heart and a willingness to help, but . . . a relic all the same . . .

Oh woe is me . . . I think I'll go bury my head in a big vat of chocolate or some such and bemoan the fact that I am not someone famouse. . . for I'm quite sure that if my name were Madonna, or Joan Collins . . . my experience would have been quite valid no matter how old and decrepid I was . . . and that, my friends . . . is that!

Here's another oldie. One bowl Vanilla Cupcakes. I can promise you one thing though. They are delicious no matter how old or how young you happen to be when you dig into them!!!

*One Bowl Does It All Vanilla Cupcakes*
Makes 18
Printable Recipe

These are cheap and easy to make, and what's more . . . quite delicious! Everything is mixed together in one bowl so that not only simplifies things, but it is a lot easier for clean up as well£

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco, Trex or white Flora)
1 cup single cream
3 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 TBS vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly grease two medium size muffin tins, or line with paper wrappers. Use one with 12 holes and one with six. Set aside.

Put all of the cupcake ingredients into a large bowl and then beat them on medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended, for about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat for a further 3 minutes, or until well mixed and smooth. Divide the batter amongst the prepared muffin cups, filling them only half full.

Bake inthe heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until they test done. They should be lightly browned on top and spring back when touched very lightly with your fingertip. Remove from the oven and immediately remove them from the muffin tins to a wire rack to cool completely before icing and decorating as desired.

Note - I have used a vanilla butter cream here, but chocolate is very nice as well!!

There is a delicious Macaroni Cheese with Cauliflower and Broccoli over on The English Kitchen this morning. It's yummo!