Sunday 31 May 2009

Marie's Sunday Six . . .

Welcome to my Sunday Six post for Sunday, May 31st, 2009! What a lovely week I have had these past seven days. It will be so hard to keep it down to just six things! I love doing this post for you each Sunday. 'Tis a wonderful time for me to stop and reflect on the week that's just gone and the many ways my life has been blessed. My friend Lura started this on her blog, Grammy's News, and then she so graciously made one of these little picture thingies for me so that I could do this on my own. I just love Lura to bits. She's proof of all the good things that come from the Internet, and I am proud to call her my "friend."

I opened the "inbox" of my e-mail one morning this week, only to find a lovely e-mail from my son Anthony, which contained this delightful picture of my eldest grandson Gabriel! I know I am his Gran, but I think he is just the sweetest little boy. I am ever so grateful for a son that thinks about me and sends me these lovely little tidbits from time to time. He gave me his cell number this week and we have been texting almost daily as well. Yesterday when we were in Eastbourne I texted him to tell him we were sitting on the pier looking out at the ocean. It was wonderful to be able to share that with him. He texted me back that he was looking at the pier on Google Earth. Isn't modern technology a wonderful thing!!! To think that I was able to share that special moment with him whilst he was thousands of miles away. A hundred years ago, having to live in another country, separated by countless miles from you family was quite a hardship. Writing letters was pretty much the only way to communicate and it took weeks for a letter to arrive. People were only just getting into the telephone thing and only the very wealthy had them. While it is still hard to be separated like we are, modern technology makes it just a little bit easier. I am grateful for that. An inbox full of pictures of grandsons make me smile.

We stopped in the little village of Alfriston on our way home from Eastbourne yesterday. It's a very picturesque village in the Cuckmere Valley in East Sussex. Historians amateur or professional fall in love with this village, where almost every building offers a record of generations past. There is an extraordinary concentration of Medieval buildings, as well as one of the most famous churches in Sussex - St Andrews so imposing it is often called 'The Cathedral of the Downs'. The Clergy House, next to St Andrew's, was the first building acquired by The National Trust. We really enjoyed exploring it yesterday. There was a wedding going on in St Andrews and we managed to catch the bride being driven through the village by these lovely horses. It would be rude of me to show you the bride, but I thought you would enjoy seeing the horses! They made me smile.

Going to the seaside of Eastbourne yesterday with my Toddy Bear made me smile in a very big way. I love the British seaside. It's the perfect place to be on a sunny Saturday. You can walk for what seems like miles, smelling that beautiful seaside air and listening to the seagulls as they soar over head. We walked and walked yesterday. It was delightful, not to mention great exercise. We sat on the pier and looked out across the water and watched paddlers and dogs and children, all having a wonderful time. We ate fish and chips and we just enjoyed doing it all together. Being able to enjoy special things like the seaside with the man I love, makes me smile in a very big way!

Susan Boyle makes me smile. We watched her last night on the finals of Britain's Got Talent and tears just streamed down my face, she touched my heart so very much. It was an incredible show. Everyone was so talented. It was really hard to pick a winner, for each act was magic in it's own special way. In the end, we both voted for Susan, because she touched our hearts in a very special way. She did not win, but came a very respectable second. The dance group that won truly were quite wonderful They had performed perfectly. Not a step was out of beat and they probably did deserve to win, but I admit to being a tiny bit disappointed that Susan didn't. I don't think this is the last we will hear of Susan Boyle however. She has inspired and touched the hearts of the world. In a year that has been filled with financial disaster and political un-rest she gave hope to everyone. I predict that this is only the beginning for Susan.

I have such a sweet husband with such a giving and wonderful nature. Who else would stick himself into a lobster trap on a wharf in Nova Scotia just so I could take his picture. (It was a very big lobster trap) He sat in a Rocking Dory so I could take his picture as well, and yesterday he crawled into this kiddies pirate ship on the Eastbourne Pier just so I could, yet again, take his picture! It didn't matter that any onlookers might have thought he was nuts, it only mattered to him that I wanted to take his picture. That is love, and the thought of that makes me smile.

Holding hands across a restaurant table makes me smile too . . .

Earlier this week I was the very lucky recipient of a wonderful Organic Fruit and Vegetable Box from the wonderful people at Abel & Cole. This box really made me smile. Not only was it free, but it was chock full of wonderful organic produce. There were lovely new potatoes, radishes, a beautiful head of lettuce, spring greens, mushrooms, apples, oranges, bananas . . . to name just a few things, and everything was of the best quality. I had tried an Organic veggie box scheme last year from another company which had been a huge disappointment to me, so I was thrilled when this box arrived and everything was of such good quality. They also do organic meats and poultry. In fact when you look at their page (and I hope that you do!) you'll see that they do a very wide range of organics and all at very reasonable prices! What more could you ask for?? Well . . . they also sent me a lovely cookbook to use!

The Abel & Cole Cookbook Paperback to be exact. And as you all know, Cookbooks always make me smile in a very big way!

I have to say that the new potatoes in this box were some of the most delicious ones I have ever eaten, truly. They were earthy and sweet, just like potatoes should be. They couldn't have been any tastier had I grown them myself and just pulled them from the ground. I made Todd and I a delicious Potato Crush with some of them and have earmarked the rest for a lovely potato salad.

*Cheese and Chive Potato Crush*
Serves 2
Printable Recipe

This is a wonderful way to make the best of those early new potatoes. You can very easily double or triple the amounts, and, in fact, this recipe is more of a suggested way of cooking new potatoes than an actual recipe. I just kind of threw it together and it was most impressively delicious!

about a dozen small new potatoes, scrubbed well
2 heaped tablespoons of cream cheese (I used the extra light)
a small handful of fresh chives, finely snipped
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Place your potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water and bring them to the boil. Cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until they are tender, but not falling apart. (Leave the skins on, they're delicious) Drain the cooked potatoes really well and then return them to the pan and place the pan over the residual heat on the burner and shake them to really dry them off. Lightly crush the potatoes with a fork and stir in the cheese and chives. Roughly mix it all in along with some sea salt and black pepper. Take care not to over mix them as you want to keep the texture rough, with lovely chunks of potato and cheese. Serve immediately.

*note - these are so good I could eat a whole pot of them and nothing else. Bliss!

Don't forget to get your name in for my latest Giveaway. This is the last day to do so, for I'll be picking the lucky winner tommorrow morning. Tommorrow will also be the grand official launch of my Cookery Blog, The English Kitchen, which will also be marked with a special giveaway, so be sure to check it out as well!

Saturday 30 May 2009

An ode to buttercups . . .

A baby gardener sat in tears
Beside her private plot.
Alas, a yellow buttercup
(A simple yellow buttercup)
Was all that she had got.
She'd nursed it since it was a seed,
And now she found it was a weed.

Unhappy little six year old,
To learn, as all must do
(though they be Kings with golden crowns),
That life is full of ups and downs,
And dreams that don't come true.
I said: "'Tis very sad indeed,
But are you sure it is a weed?"

We sat and thrashed the matter out
For nearly half an hour,
Suppose this rather lovely thing . . .
(This harbinger of early spring) . . .
Was, after all, a flower.
And, in the end, we both agreed;
A buttercup is not a weed.
~Reginald Arkell

Oh, how I have always loved buttercups. Can there ever be a more beautiful sight, than to chance upon a field of wild buttercups, their little yellow heads dancing in the breeze amongst the tall grasses. They always bring a smile to my face and a song into my heart. I want to plunge into them with both feet and dance amongst them, but I restrain myself for fear I'd look quite silly . . .

As a child we used to hold them up to each other's chin and beg the question . . . "Do you like butter?" . . . the answer always yes . . . the yellow glow upon the other's chin the proof positive that this was so. Oh childish games, but wonderful memories.

I was thrilled to get an e-mail this morning from Foodie View of the Day. It seems they have chosen to highlight one of my pictures. The one of the Garlic Dill Oven Chips. You can vote for it here if you like. I've had food photos featured there before, but I thought this time I would tell you all about it, and give you the opportunity to vote.

We had the most delicious lunch yesterday, Heuvos Rancheros. It was something I had always wanted to try, but just never gotten around to making. I was really impressed with them and I know I'm going to make them again one day. These were a real favourite . You can read all about it and get the recipe HERE. It is a new blog I have started up, a totally only food blog. I will be launching it officially on June first, along with a tasty giveaway and special post. But do hop on over and have a peek and let me know what you think.

We're off to the beach today. It's such a beautiful day out there and beautiful sunny Saturdays are not something that happens alot over here. We do get beautiful days, but most often during the week when I have to work! Today I can play and so we are going to take a nice drive down to the coast and walk along the beachfront and munch on fish and chips and just enjoy a relaxing time together. I'll try to remember to bring my camera!

My mom always made the best coleslaw. This was a salad we all loved no matter what time of year it was. She never used a grater, but painstakingly sliced and chopped all the vegetables by hand. I could eat a big plate of this and nothing else. It's delicious and not cloyingly filled with mayonnaise like the stuff you find in the shops. This is light and tasty.

*Mom's Coleslaw*
Serves 4 to 5
Printable Recipe

I am betting that this is the best coleslaw you will ever eat. This is the perfect salad to bring to potlucks or barbecues. Mom always cut her vegetables up by hand, and I think the vegetables taste better that way. It really doesn't take that much effort and I think you will agree that the added texture makes for a very delicious salad. The buttermilk and the raisins are my own addition. This can be easily doubled for a larger crowd. Be sure to plan ahead as this tastes best if made the night before, in order to allow the flavours to blend properly.

1/2 head of green cabbage ( or known as white cabbage over here, some 5 cups hand shredded and chopped)
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 green onion, trimmed and minced
1/2 cup sultana raisins
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 TBS cream
2 TBS buttermilk
1 1/2 TBS white vinegar
1 1/2 TBS fresh lemon juice
3 TBS white sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Using a sharp knife cut the cabbage into fine shreds and then chop it into smaller bits. You want the pieces to be about the size of your baby fingernail. You can either grate or chop the carrot. We like the extra texture the chopped carrot gives. Transfer all the vegetables, including the onion, to a large bowl, tossing together well.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a large beaker. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Pour over the veggies in the bowl and mix well to combine. Cover and store in the fridge overnight in order to allow the flavours to blend. About half an hour before serving, stir in the sultanas.

*Note - mom sometimes added peeled and finely chopped cucumber and or green peppers. These add another dimension to the mix and more colour and texture. You may also add a small handful of chopped toasted walnuts just before serving if you wish. They add a wonderful crunch!

Thursday 28 May 2009

Singing Your Song . . .

"I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung to this day."

~Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

I found this quote the other day and I thought to myself, "Wow!" It's very similar to the quote I have in my sidebar by the late President Kimbell. "Let us get our instruments tightly strung and our melodies sweetly sung. Let us not die with our music still in us."

It's all about living life to it's fullest and taking risks and becoming everything we were sent here to become. There's no point in having a guitar if you never learn to play it, and what's the point in having a life that's only ever half lived??

Is there some skill that you have always wanted to develop, but up until now, have been putting off? Have you always wanted to take singing lessons, or to learn how to play the piano, wanted to do Judo, learn to swim, take flying lessons, learn how to sew or embroider??? Maybe, it's something as simple as learning how to bake or decorate a cake!! Most local colleges and high schools offer day courses and night courses in all kinds of things. Often they are not all that expensive, and if you are a senior citizen I believe that, over here in England at least, they are very cheap, if not free! A wise man once said that "you have nothing to fear but fear itself," so why not take the plunge and do some of those things you have been putting off?? Why wait for a rainy day?? Why not sing the song you have been placed here on earth to sing??

It's all about joy, and finding our own little piece of it, and making the best of all we've been blessed with in this life, and making each day count in the most beautiful way.

I baked this salmon yesterday for our dinner. We had it with a delicious cheese and chive potato crush and some mixed steamed vegetables. Salmon is not one of Todd's favourite fishes, but he does like it done this way. It is moist and has a lovely flavour. Just be careful not to overcook it. Dry fish is horrible no matter what kind it is!

*Salmon With A Garlic and Herb Crust*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

You can buy something very similar in the freezer section at the supermarket, but why bother when it's so easy and infinitely tastier to make your own at home from scratch?
Imagine moistly flaky salmon beneath a bed of crisp crumbs flavoured with garlic, cheese and herbs. It's wonderful!

1 cup fresh soft bread crumbs (Use a good white loaf)
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 TBS finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
the finely grated zest of one lemon
3 TBS finely grated Parmesan cheese
the juice of one lemon, divided
3 TBS of butter, melted
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 good sized boneless, skinless salmon fillets (6 to 8 ounces each, pin bones removed)

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly grease a baking sheet large enough to hold the salmon fillets without them touching each other. Set it aside.

Mix the breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, thyme, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese together in a bowl. Juice your lemon and then divide it in half. Put half of the lemon juice in a bowl and whisk it together with the melted butter. Toss the bread crumb mixture together with the lemon butter.

Wipe your salmon fillets and lightly dust with some salt and black pepper. Place them on the prepared baking tray. Drizzle the other half of the lemon juice over top of them. Divide the crumb mixture evenly and pat it onto the top of the salmon fillets, using your fingers to get it to adhere better.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the crumbs are lightly browned and the salmon flakes easily when tested with the tines of a fork. Do not over bake.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

A walk while day is dawning . . .

A walk while day is dawning is a blessing,
A draught of water for the thirsty soul;
Beneath a gallant sun intent on dressing
A rain-washed tattered sky in sheets of gold,
I deeply drink as morning light unfolds.

The rose and gilded clouds are barely dry,
Mirrored puddles glitter at my feet,
And baby birds peer from their perches high
While parents gossip somewhere in the trees
Of stormy rumbles carried on the breeze.

Oh! In moments fashioned such as this,
Tenderly, from Mother Nature's breast,
There is no earthly place of greater bliss
Or hall in heaven holding sweeter rest
Than a walk in daybreak's splendidness.
~Rachel Wallace-Oberle

I think I solved the mystery of why the female blackbirds were mobbing that starling the other day. Yesterday as we drove into our drive I noticed one sitting on top of our garden shed with a mouth full of dry grass and twigs. As I watched she flew into the ivy and clematis that grows at the side of the shed upon a latticework that we have placed there. She is nesting. I had not realized that blackbirds nest so late in the spring. Do starlings raid the eggs of nests? I don't really know, but those females were certainly putting the chase to that one the other day . . .

I am a real nature lover. I have always been so. It's always fascinated me and I get real pleasure from watching it and taking it all in. I'm not so fussy about bugs though. I do find them a little creepy, but when it comes to animals, birds and plants, I just can't study them enough. Not in the way of a scientist, but in the way of someone who truly appreciates and enjoys them.

That is something that Todd and I surely have in common and I am truly grateful for that commonality. It's nice to be able to share this love of mine with the person that I share my life with. We often stand at the window together, arms around each other, looking out at our garden and watching the bunnies, or the squirrels and more often than not the birds . . . drinking it all in together. He is the gardener . . . he does all the weeding and trimming etc. I get to enjoy the fruits of his efforts and we often enjoy them together.

One of my favourite parts of working all night when I have occasion to do that, is getting to walk home along the lane that runs from the big house back to our cottage in the wee hours . . . just as the sun is coming up and dawn is breaking. It is such a peaceful time, and such a wonderful reward for a night's work just passed. The birds sound so beautiful and even the air is charged with a special feeling, a feeling that is so very hard to explain, but the word joy comes very close, as does gratitude . . . I often go into our back garden and just sit on the seat of the picnic table that sits on our patio, and I drink it all in for a few moments before I go into the house and to bed . . . the dew on the grass, the hum of early morning bumble bees beginning their daily work, the rustle of night-time creatures hurrying home to their dens in the underbrush, the beautiful melody of the song thrush as it greets the day . . . the sun is not yet giving out it's warmth, but the promise of the warmth of the day to come is already there . . .

I think of all the times of the day, this is my favourite . . .

Speaking of favourites, I did another little one of my paintings on Monday while I was enjoying my relaxing day off. I know I say it every time, but I think this one is a favourite of mine. I'll be posting it all on my art page when I finish here, but for now, this is just a little teaser.

I have a few Rachel Ray cookery books. We don't get to watch her on the telly over here, but I have seen her a few times on the telly back home. I was flipping through one of her books the other day (365:No Repeats) when this idea of a side dish caught my eye. I changed it a bit (of course, I can never leave well enough alone) and was pleasantly pleased with the results. These oven chips went really well with some chicken breasts I had grilled in our Foreman grill. I may never do plain oven chips again . . .

*Garlic Dill Oven Fries*

Serves 4
Printable Recipe

What could be simpler than dressing up ready made frozen oven chips with a few ingredients most of us have in our larders and spice cabinets. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeasy as they say!

1 package (about 1 pound in weight) of frozen french fries (oven chips)
(I used the rustic ones by McCain, less than 5% fat and with the skins still on)
3 TBS butter, melted
3 or 4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
2 TBS dried dill tops (dill weed)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Pre-heat the oven to 205*C/425*F. Stir together the butter, Tabasco sauce, dill, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a small bowl. Lay your frozen chips out in a single layer on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Drizzle the butter mixture over top of them and toss them with your hands to try to coat them as much as possible. The butter will harden a bit on them, but don't worry, it works out well that way. Pop the baking sheet into the pre-heated oven and roast for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and give them a stir, flipping them over. Pop them back into the oven for a further 10 to 15 minutes, until they are nicely crisped and finished cooking.

Divide amongst 4 serving plates and serve hot. Delicious!

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Tuesday, Tuesday . . .

A laugh is just like sunshine,
It freshens all the day,
It tips the peak of life when light,
And drives the clouds away;
The soul grows glad that bears it,
And feels its courage strong;
A laugh is just like sunshine
For cheering folks along.

A laugh is just like music,
It lingers in the heart,
And where its melody is heard,
The ills of life depart;
And happy thoughts come crowding
It's joyful notes to greet;
A laugh is just like music
For making living sweet.

Well, here we are back to the work week, and, for those of us who work outside the home, there is no more play time until Saturday at the very least. Why is it always so hard to go back to work at the end of even a little holiday? Todd and I had such a lovely weekend together. The weather was really quite good, except for yesterday, when we had showers off and on. We decided not to go anywhere in the rain, but to just have a lazy day around home.

Sometimes it's good to be lazy and have nothing to do. I couldn't do it every day though. I found it quite boring by the end of the day really. I like to be busy and puttering about. It doesn't suit me to do nothing.

I did a little painting, and I did a little baking. I stood at the window and watched the song thrush take a bath in the birdbath. Oh, he did bring a smile to my face with his ministrations and fluttering wings. I watched three female blackbirds mob a starling until it had no choice but to fly away. It was so very interesting to see. I had never seen anything like it before.

I read a bit and dozed a bit and cooked a bit.

I found my father on MSN and talked to him for a bit.

I found my Father in heaven and talked to him for a bit too.

I sat and pondered the ways of the world, and was glad that I don't follow the world.

I watched some old comedies on the telly and laughed . . . a lot. I love the old shows. Life was simpler then it seems.

I sat and listened to the rain dropping on the skylight in our bedroom, a most comforting sound.

I stood at the kitchen window and watched Todd and the little fella next door do some target practice in the back garden.

Yes, yesterday was the fitting end to the long weekend. I did very little and a little of a lot. Days like that are few and far between. They help us to appreciate the value of work, and they help us to appreciate the value of a bit of play. I suppose . . . if every day was a holiday, then holidays would cease to have any meaning or worth. I really am quite lucky to know the difference.

I did bake some cookies yesterday. I should have done my Dorie baking challenge, which was the Chipster Topped Brownies on pages 94 and 95 as chosen by Beth of Supplicious. But then I thought . . . I only made brownies a week or so ago and I am really the only one who eats them much. Did I really want that on my conscience? You know the answer . . .

*White Chocolate Chipsters*
Makes about 65 cookies
Printable Recipe

I can sometimes find white chocolate a bit overly sweet and cloying. When you mix it with the tartness of dried cranberries and the lovely crunch of macadamia nuts though it really becomes moreish.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
14 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed soft light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
6 ounces of good quality white chocolate, cut into chunks

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, soda and salt together. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and the two sugars in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing just until blended in. Stir in the cranberries, nuts and white chocolate bits.

Drop by heaped tablespoons onto the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, until they are golden around the edges. Don't overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Repeat until all the dough has been used up. Store in a tighty covered container for up to a week. For longer storage, freeze.

Monday 25 May 2009

The Simple Woman's Day Book . . .

FOR TODAY, May 25th, 2009 ...

Outside My Window...

It looks a bit clouded over this morning. One really can't complain. We have had a gorgeous weekend weatherwise thus far. Usually it rains all bank holiday weekends. These past few days of sunshine have been a real blessing! I think I heard on the telly last evening that there might be thunderstorms later today. I love thunderstorms . . . well, as long as I am inside!

I am thinking...
About the wonderful time Todd and I have gotten to spend with each other over the past couple of days. Usually I am so busy with work and he will his church work that we don't really get to spend a lot of hours together. I am grateful for every moment. I suppose since we have found each other later in life our time together is all that more precious to me. He got all dolled up yesterday for our time out together, with his red shirt and tan trousers . . . even wore his best shoes. What a dapper picture he cut. That's my man. ☺

I am thankful for...
Precious moments spent together, memories built . . . A knowing smile across a crowded room. A gentle arm to lead me, protect me, love me . . . Sandwiches shared beneath a leafy canopy . . . Quiet companionship . . . love eternal and true . . .

From the kitchen...
There is a delicious Gingerbread sitting on the counter top and some leftover Stromboli, all stuffed with cheese, sundried tomatoes and pesto. I wonder would that be good for breakfast??? Pizza is, so I expect that would be as well . . . mmm . . .

I am wearing...

I thought about shocking you and saying my birthday suit, but even you wouldn't believe that. Pink Pajamas!!

I am creating...
I did another little painting last evening while we were waiting for Britain's Got Talent to come on. I really like this one. Here's a teaser. You can see the whole thing HERE.

I am going...
Back to work tommorrow, but for today, the last day of the bank holiday weekend, we were planning on going back into London to take in a few museums. At least that was the plan last night when we went to bed. Now that I am awake though, I am thinking I may just rather go see something a bit closer to home. We'll just have to see what transpires. Sometimes it's nice to just walk through the orchards and then down to the pub for a cold drink of Lime and Lemon. I love Lime and Lemon, or even Bitter Lemon. It's so refreshing!

I am reading...

I am still reading December by Elizabeth H Winthrop. I guess I am about 2/3 of the way through it now. I ordered a new book by Lisa See which should be here soon, called "Shanghai Girls." I love books about Oriental culture and history. When I was a girl one of my favourite musicals was Flower Drum Song. I'm also still feeding my spirit and reading Henry B Eyring (Drawing Closer to God). It's an amazing book. He's an amazing man.

I am hoping...
That the rain holds off until later today . . . but . . . I am doubtful . . .

I am hearing...
The birds in the garden are chattering away. It is such a peaceable sound, very heart warming and comforting. We have not heard the peacocks from down the lane in quite a while now. Perhaps they have moved on somewhere else. They were quite noisy, but one got quite used to their sounds after a time. I think I read somewhere once that it was unlucky to have peacocks around, but that may have been a dream . . . I have very vivid dreams.

Around the house...
We still need to paint the other half of the kitchen. Half of it is a pale yellow and the other half magnolia. It's not really all that noticeable, except to me as I know it's there. We need to paint our small loo as well and put some new fittings in there. The old ones are looking quite tatty and half are broken. I don't think it was ever really painted, as all that appears to be on the walls is primer. I know . . . we've lived here six years, and it's about time we did something about it!

One of my favorite things...
is watching the Waltons. Todd loves that series too. We have purchased the whole series one by one as they came out, and are now watching the next to last one. We have only one more episode in this series and then . . . we are on to the last. I will be sorry to see it end. I expect then we will start at the beginning and watch them all over again. They really are timeless and I enjoy watching them no matter how many times I have seen them!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Back to work tommorrow . . . ho hum . . . and then there is Seminary and Mutual on Thursday evening. Our ward is having a Barbeque on Friday evening that we hope to be able to go to. I love getting together with the rest of our church ward and getting to visit with each other on social occasions. On Sundays there is always so much else going on you don't really have much of a chance for a visit, and then during the week, we all live so far apart and it's not easy to get together. Ward Activities are wonderful opportunities to share some like minded companionship with people you love and care about in a very special way.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

This is a picture I took yesterday of one of the statues in the Italian garden at Hever Castle. Isn't it beautiful? We had such a lovely day there. The grounds were packed with holiday makers and children. I always feel a bit sad at Hever . . . especially when I think about poor Ann Bolyn and the mess she got herself into when she hooked up with King Henry VIII. Standing in the courtyard one cannot help but think to oneself . . . were there stolen kisses here, tender words and knowing glances shared . . . if she could have seen the end of the story would she have begun the tale?? Would any of us take chances and move forward if we knew what lay ahead? Perhaps . . . perhaps not . . .

And there you have it, my Simple Woman's Day Book for today. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!)

I did mention Gingerbread earlier didn't I? I think Todd loves a warm gingerbread almost as much as he loves a homemade apple pie. He's one of those lucky people that have one of those amazing metabolisms which allow them to eat whatever they want without putting on weight. I can only wish and dream. . .

*Gingerbread with a Lemon Sauce*
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

Moist and spicy this is a real comfort food dessert. You don't have to make the Lemon Sauce to go with it if you don't want to, but it really does add an extra dimension in flavour. Ginger and lemon go so very well together. You can also add a dollop of freshly whipped cream if you really want to splurge!

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 cup vegetable shortening or margarine
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
(If you cannot get molasses, a good substitute is half golden syrup and half dark treacle)
1 large egg, sightly beaten
1 cup white sugar
4 TBS cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
6 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 TBS softened butter

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Grease the bottom only of a 9 inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper. Grease again. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger together in a large bowl, mixing all together well. Add the shortening, water, molasses and egg. Blend all together well with an electric whisk, until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until done and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

For the sauce, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a small saucepan. Whisk in the watr and lemon juice. Cook, stirring over medium heat, until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Allow to cook for one minute before removing from the heat. Stir in the butter and lemon zest.

Serve the gingerbread warm and cut into wedges. Spoon the lemon sauce over top. You can also add a dollop of softly whipped cream if you wish.

Sunday 24 May 2009

Marie's Sunday Six in London

Welcome to my Sunday Six post of May 24th, 2009. I just love being able to tell you about all the wonderful things that make up my week, counting my blessings! I could tell you about all the nice things my boss said to me the other night when we were working together, or I could tell you about all the lovely e-mails I received this week, the pretty birds I got to listen to, the beautiful flowers I got to see, or even a host of other wonderful things that made me smile this past week, but, for today, I am going to dwell on the lovely time that Todd and I had in the city yesterday. The sun was shining and it was wonderfully warm. We really could not have asked for a better day out!

We left Oak Cottage, bright and early yesterday morning to catch an early train in to London. We wanted to get there nice and early so that we would have enough time to get ourselves a good priced ticket for the Saturday afternoon matinee of Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre. We were really lucky and got a fast train that only stopped twice, once at Waterloo Station and then at our destination and we were really pleased once we arrive in London to discover that Leicester Square was only one stop away from Charing Cross station, so that was easy peasy lemon squeasy!

I love London, especially on a sunny day. It is so full of life and excitement. If I was a young person I would probably want to live there, but since I am a lady of maturity now . . . ahem . . . it's a nice place to visit , but . . . well, you know the rest! It had been a really long time since we had been in London together. I think the last time we had been was the day we took our lovely missionary couple the MacDonalds in, and that was about a year and a half ago, or maybe even longer!

The first thing we wanted to do was to procure our tickets. We had been hoping to get some half price ones, but alas . . . we were told that because Les Miserables sells out every Saturday there was no chance for a good deal . . . we'd have to pay the full price. We hummed and hawed over that, coz it was a LOT of money, but finally we decided it was a once in a lifetime thing, and so we said what the heck, damn the torpedos, and went for it. All I can say is it's a good thing we don't do this all the time!

Once we had our tickets bought we had about 3 hours to kill and so we wandered about London here and there. We spent a lot of time in London's Chinatown, which is chock full of charm, Chinese grocery stores and restaurants. (Not to mention acupuncture and massage parlours!) I managed to find some Panko bread crumbs, which, as any real foodie knows, are the absolute best and lightest crumb to use for breading anything that you are going to fry. The streets hummed with excitement and energy and the pavements were full of oriental fruits and veg just ripe for buying from the various vendors. The air was full of the smell of stinky Durian fruits and melons. It was all very wonderfully exotic!

We enjoyed a picnic lunch sitting on a bench together in the park at Leicester Square. Just Todd, myself, a host of other people and umpteen bazillion pigeons. It was lovely. We wandered about up to Piccadilly Circus and had a cold drink in a pub there and chatted and just enjoyed the time to be away from work and together. It was lovely, it truly was.

Before we knew it the time had flown past, and we started wandering our way back to Leicester Square, and on up to the theatre, but were delighted to find a bunch of young ladies and men doing a May pole dance in the square green! How wonderfully colourful and delightful it was! We stood and watched them for about 15 minutes. It was really lovely, an added bonus to what had been a lovely day thus far!

All of the costumes were fun and very pretty, and beautifully colourful.

I was so excited to see the theatre with the HUGE Les Mis sign outside! Ever since I moved over here to England I have wanted to see a musical in the West End and all my dreams were coming true!

We didn't have long to wait before we were seated inside the theatre and enjoying one of the best musicals I have ever seen. What a talented cast and what an amazing experience it was for us. . . . even though the ice creams at the intermission were incredibly expensive, (£3 for a very tiny Hagen das) and Todd spent the whole time trying to peer around a very big head of hair!! We were both swept away into another time and another world. It was fantastic, and so very well done. I am so glad we went, and so glad that we didn't change our minds when we found out how much it was going to cost us! This truly was a once in a lifetime experience and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Afterwards we spilled out onto the streets amidst the happy crowd of what seemed to be thousands and thousands of merry holiday makers making their way through Chinatown and back to Leicester Square. There was a lovely Mexican restaurant there and so we decided to treat ourselves to a Mexican meal for our supper. We gorged ourselves on nachos and chicken wings and then Todd had some Mexican chicken dish and I had . . . oh heck . . . fish and chips. It was in a Mexican beer batter! I know, I know, what am I like! An eating out treat for me, ever since I was a child, has always been fish and chips. You just can't teach an old dog new tricks! While we were eating we thought perhaps we could go for an evening walk along the embankment, but alas . . . we were so zonked from all the sunshine and excitement by the time we were finished that we decided it was time to catch the train home and home we went. (even the train ride home was pretty exciting as it was full of footie fans either on their way to or from a footie match. I couldn't figure out which!)

We fell into bed last night tired and happy, and so very glad to have each other in our lives. I do love my Todd so very much, and getting to spend a whole day like that with each other doing something special was just the best day ever . . . I can't think of a better way to spend a day off than with the one that you love, can you?

Todd always balks at the idea of me taking pictures of our food in restaurants, so I never do (although I really would like to). This is the chili I made for our tea the other night. It's not quite fish and chips, or even nachos . . . but it is kinda Mexican-ee, right?

*Marie's Chili Con Carne*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This is tasty, economical and uses things that I always have in my store cupboard. It's also a real family pleaser. Sometimes we eat this in bowls with crushed cornchips and cheese on top, and sometimes we eat it spooned over rice with a garnish of chopped raw onion and grated cheddar cheese. Either way it's delicious!

1 TBS oil
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 small green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green chili, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups tomato sauce (in the UK tomato passata)
3 ounces tomato paste
2 cups tinned chopped tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp mild chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups tinned chili beans, undrained

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and brown, cooking and stirring, until no longer pink. Add the onion, peppers and garlic. Cook and stir until the onion and garlic are softened.

Add all of the seasonings and cook for a few minutes longer until quite fragrant. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, worsestershire sauce and the beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and simmer over low heat for several hours. Serve hot over rice if desired, or ladled into hot soup bowls.