Saturday 30 April 2011

Poetry Saturday . . . Forever Spring . . .

I wish it were forever spring
Never the summer or the fall,
But larks forever on the wing
And mating birds that croon and call
Each other in the scented dawn
While yet the dew is on the lawn.

I wish that it could always be
Just like today . . . the field and flower
Could keep the freshness of today
And hold the beauty of this hour
Like precious wine in crystal bowls,
To quench the thirst of weary souls.

I know it could not be . . . I know
The blossoms on the apple bough
Must wither to produce the fruit
And all this shining beauty now,
Must pass like moons upon a lake
Unmindful of the toll they take.

But still I wish that Spring could stay,
Forever as it is today.
~Edna Jaques

Another one of my favourite poems by Edna Jaques, one of Canada's favourite poets, long since passed away. It is taken from her book, Fireside Poems, a small green volume. My mother had this book, and as a child I loved to take it from the bookcase and read through the poems. I thought they were beautiful and they spoke to my soul. I was so pleased last year to find my own volume of them on It was like coming across a long lost friend.

Oh, wasn't the wedding yesterday beautiful??? Todd and I were absolutely mesmerized by it all. Nobody does pageantry like the British. The Bride was stunningly beautiful, I thought. The Prince so handsome in his uniform. The church, very understated, and yet beautiful as well, and full of meaning. I loved all the hats! Never have I seen so many different hats in such a wide array of colours and styles . . . although admittedly some of them looked quite hilariously ridiculous . . . like reindeer antlers, and serving dishes . . . I was amazed by the crowds that turned out to watch in person. I would not have wanted to be in that crowd for anything in the world, although they all seemed to be having a wonderful time! I think the Bride and Groom looked fabulously happy and so much in love. I wish them all the best in the years to come!

Here's a little something I have been working on over the past couple of days. I am so in love with her! She has been painted in acrylics on a box shaped canvas, that wraps around to the back and all the sides are finished as well. The country scene you see at the bottom goes around the sides to the back and bottom, and the sky and clouds also go to the sides and top. It measures about 12 by 10 inches in size. I'm really pleased with the way she turned out. I haven't been able to get a good scan of her really and so I think I will have to sell the original instead of prints. I don't really like parting with my originals, but one has to do what one has to do. If you are interested in purchasing it, send me a message! Thanks!

We are off to the shops this morning to pick up a few groceries and then this afternoon we are going to take a drive to Tatten Park which is not too far from here, so we can get some more use out of our National Trust membership! The day looks to be sunny and warm so far! I promise to take my camera!!

Here's a tasty supper dish that most people love. It's like a combination of pizza, spaghetti and lasagna, all rolled up into a tasty pie! This version is particularly low in fat and calories. Of course if you are not worried about those things, you can use whole eggs instead of egg whites and full fat everything else! It's delicious any way you make it! I like to serve it with a tossed salad.

*Spaghetti Pie*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

A lower calorie version of an old favourite!

Nonstick cooking spray
4 ounces dried spaghetti
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 TBS olive oil
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups low fat cottage cheese, drained
8 ounces ground turkey breast, or extra lean ground beef
1 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 8-ounce tin of tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp of dried Italian Seasoning, crushed
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Spray a 9 inch pie plate with the cooking spray. Set aside.

Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions. In a medium bowl, stir together 2 of the egg whites, the Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Drain the cooked spaghetti well. Add to the egg white mixture and toss to coat. Press this mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pie plate. Set aside.

Whisk together the 2 remaining egg whites and drained cottage cheese, along with a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Spread over the spaghetti in the pie plate. Set aside.

Brown the turkey (beef) in a large skillet, along with the onion, peppers and garlic until the meat is browned, draining off any fat that may accumulate. Stir in the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Spoon over the cheese mixture in the crust.

Bake for 20 minutes in the heated oven, until completely heated through. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 5 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting into wedges to serve. Delicious!

Over in The English Kitchen this morning, some delicious Apple Muffins with Cinnamon Butter!

Friday 29 April 2011

A Right Royal Do!!

There will not be a lot going on in our house today.

All the bunting has been hung and the flag is flying.

I am wearing my party hat

And Todd has put on his.

We are sitting on the sofa . . . glued to this . . .

Only because this obviously got lost in the post . . . but never mind. We've probably got a much better seat here at home!

In just a few hours now the pageantry will begin and there will be plenty of colour, and sound and horses . . . crowds cheering as this makes it's way down towards the abby.

If we are lucky we will get a glimpse of these . . .

As they all make their way to this hallowed place . . .

What will Kate be wearing??? All the world wants to know and can't wait to find out!! I am sure she will be beautiful!

What will her flowers look like??? I am sure they will be beautiful too, and very fitting for a Princess to be . . .

It is bound to be beautiful, and wonderful and magical and I wish this lovely young couple all the best in the world. May they truly be happy and blessed.

I'm quite sure that they will . . . for I truly believe that they have married for love . . . a priviledge and a blessing not afforded to Prince William's parents. He is his mother's son, and spent a part of last evening walking amongst the crowds of well wishes camping outside the abbey, shaking hands and speaking to the people. I will be quite proud to be able to one day call him King, and ever so happy to have Kate by his side as Queen. I do hope that the press will give them some time to canoodle and become comfortable in married life with each other, before they start hounding them and camping on their doorstep.

Where there is love, the heart is light,
Where there is love, the day is bright.
Where there is love, there is a song
To help when things are going wrong.
Where there is love, there is a smile
To make all things seem more worthwhile.
Where there is love, there's a quiet peace . . .
A tranquil place where turmoils cease.
Love changes darkness into light
And makes the heart take wingless flight.
Oh blessed are those who walk in love . . .
They also walk with God above . . .
And when you walk with God each day
And kneel together when you pray.
Your marriage will be truly blessed
And God will be your daily guest,
And love that once seemed yours alone
God gently blends into His own.
~Helen Steiner Rice

Here's to Prince William and his lovely Bride on this happy day! May their union be long and happy and oh so very blessed!

Here's a tasty cake to be celebrating this most auspicious occasion with! It is a typical Victoria Sponge Cake, but topped with some whipped cream and fresh berries!

*Traditional Victorian Sandwich Cake*
Makes one 7 inch cake
Printable Recipe

Popular during the reign of Qyeen Victoria, this cake remains popular to this day, which is a huge testament to it's taste and ease of baking! Don't be tempted to use all butter. This is one recipe that is better for the use of a mixture of butter and margarine.

3 ounces of butter, softened (6 TBS)
3 ounces soft margarine (6 TBS)
6 ounces caster sugar (1 cup)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, beaten
6 ounces self raising flour (a scant 1 1/2 cups)

To finish:
3 TBS raspberry jam
buttercream to fill (optional)
icing sugar or caster sugar to dust the top

Butter and base line two 7 inch sandwich tins. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Cream the butter, margarine, sugar and vanilla together until light in colour and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon, taking care to use a cutting motion so as not to knock out too much of the air that you have beaten into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins, leveling off the surface. Make a slight dip in the centre of each.

Bake on a centre rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponges have risen well, are golden brown, and spring back when lightly touched. Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes before running a knife carefully around the edges and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, place one layer on a cake plate. Spread with raspberry jam and buttercream (if using). Place the other cake on top, pressing down lightly. Dust with icing or caster sugar and serve.

Over in The English Kitchen today, Fairy Bread suitable for a Royal Wedding Feast!

Thursday 28 April 2011

Solitary walks . . .

The silence of a wood is a living silence . . . it is full of breath and rustlings and movement . . .
The wind stirs, a mere sigh in the sentient trees . . .

A sudden flutter of wings ripples through the air and is lost in the muffled whisperings of startled leaves . . .
The crack of a distant shot makes the heart race, serving only to emphathise the peace which it disturbs . . .

The trill of a bird sets up a soft ripple along the surface of stillness, and the sobbing of doves beats like a hidden pulse at the heart of the silence.
A solitary walk in the woods is never boring . . . so say I.

I just love the beauty of this country I live in. You are never very far from the countryside where you can walk for seemingly miles in solitude, breathing in all that nature has to offer. It is a real wonder to me. Everything so green and lush . . . carpets of bluebells in the springtime . . . and the distant braying of sheep and lambs . . . so, so restful and inspiring.

We are off to Runcorn this afternoon to the Specialist Hospital for my check up, where I suppose they will be wanting to know if the cortizone shot has helped any. It has helped a bit, but I still have good days and bad days. There is a brother at our church who had his knee operated on at the same hospital a month or so ago and who was intially doing very well, but who now seems to be worse than ever and in an incredible amount of pain. Something's gone wrong somewhere! I do hope it is only a temporary blip for him!

I attended my first Relief Society Presidency meeting last night. I was a bit daunted, but it went well. I do have a problem knowing the names of all the sisters in the Ward . . . that comes from having been closeted away in with the children for this past year. I expect it won't be long though before I know who they are speaking of! They are a nice bunch of women and I am looking forward to my association with them! I will be in charge of organizing the extra meetings and activities, so that will be fun!

Speaking of fun, here's a deliciously fun recipe that will really please your family! Kind of like a stuffed Chicken Parmesan! Sort of like Lasagna Roll Ups, but made of chicken instead! Delicious!!

*Chicken Parmesan Roll Ups*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

If you like Chicken Parmesan, you will love this. Tender Chicken Breasts stuffed with a delicious cheese filling, rolled up, covered with a crunchy crumb, sauce and then baked.

4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 (10 ounce) package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 1/4 cups grated part skim mozzarella cheese, divided
6 TBS grated Parmesan cheese, divided
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
1 medium free range egg
10 round buttery crackers, crushed (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups of spaghetti sauce, heated

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Lightly grease a 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Set aside.

Mix the cream cheese, spinach, 1 cup of the mozzarella and 3 TBS of the Parmesan cheese together until well blended. Spread onto the Chicken breasts. Starting at one short end of each breast, roll up the chicken tightly. Secure with a toothpick if necessary.

Beat the egg in a shallow dish. Mix the remaining Parmesan cheese and the cracker crumbs in another shallow dish. Dip the chicken rolls into the egg and then roll them in the crumb mixture to evenly coat. Place, seam sides down in the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken tests done. (Juices run clear when pricked with a fork.) Serve with some of the heated spaghetti sauce spooned over top and a sprinkling of the remaining grated mozzarella cheese.

Cooking in The English Kitchen today, a delicious Roasted Asparagus Salad with Parmesan and a Lemon Vinaigrette.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Advice for Kate and William . . .

So, on Friday we will all have the opportunity to witness the "Wedding of the Century!" I, for one am very excited! I am not planning on doing anything at all on Friday, except watch the telly! If Todd think's he's getting a hot dinner, he'll be a bit disappointed because I am not going to miss any part of this Royal Wedding!

I think Kate and William are a lovely young couple, and I wish them all the best in the world. I truly believe that this is a love match, and that they will be very happy together. I thought it would be really fun this morning to post a bit of marital advice for them, not that I think they read my page or anything, but . . . you just never know do you?

This is the “If I had only known this before I got married” kind of advice!

The number of times that phrase has been uttered by unhappy spouses is probably infitisimal!! Marriage is not something that even the most educated people are ever trained for, so most of us learn in the school of hard relationship knocks.

“Most couples go into marriage saying to themselves that their relationship won’t have all the problems others experience,” say marriage veterans Walt and Pat Widmer, local area leaders for Worldwide Marriage Encounter. “That optimism is great to hear, but just wishing won’t make a marriage perfect.”

Walt and Pat offer these tips that brides and grooms should think about before they tie the knot:

Avoid the “Marriage Messiah” Complex: Don’t think you have the power to change the other person’s shortcomings, even though no one else has been able to. Concentrate on what you can change: yourself.

Take Responsibility for the Romance: Marriages get stale when one or both spouses stop doing those little things that made them fall in love. Keep doing them (or start, if you haven’t).

Squash the Molehills: Don’t let small behaviors become ongoing irritants in the relationship. If the toilet seat is a big deal, put it down!

No Gunnysacking: Don’t save up all the little irritations and then dump them on the table the next time you have a small argument. Gunnysacking will escalate any disagreement.

Please say Please: Be polite. Common courtesy often disappears in everyday relationships. Treat your spouse at least as politely as you would treat a stranger or casual acquaintance.

Duck the Rut: If every day starts looking the same, boredom is inevitable. Change the routine.

Practice Hand-to-Hand Combat: A good fight in a good marriage means holding hands when you argue. This technique has a peculiar, disarming effect.

Discuss, Don’t Criticize: Focus on yourself and your feelings rather than criticizing your spouse. Avoid sarcasm, because one good “zinger” can undo a hundred terms of endearment.

Practice Ear Contact: Listening is the most critical part of communications.

Do Spouse PR: Let other people know how good your spouse is and how lucky you are to have him or her (and don’t be afraid to do so in front of him or her).

Latch onto Love Lingo: Don’t let a single day go by without uttering the “L” word at least once. “I love you” reminds your spouse that he or she does too.

It all sounds pretty good to me! I'd have to add advice my own mother gave me . . . Don't go to bed angry, and don't ever iron his uniforms. As William is in the Military I thought this would be particularly applicable! (Not that I think either one of them will ever be ironing anything, but . . . again . . . you just never know!)

I would also say keep Christ at the centre of your home and relationship and you can never go wrong . . . and to never lose the sight of "We." I think too often, especially after we become parents . . . the "We" disappears. It is important to be good parents, but I also think that the most valuable gift we can ever give our children is to love each other as man and wife.

So anyhow, I do wish this beautiful young couple all the luck and love in the world!

To Wills and Kate:

"May the light of friendship guide your paths together. May the laughter of children grace the halls of your home. May the joy of living for one another trip a smile from your lips, A twinkle from your eye. May the Spirit of Love find a dwelling place in your hearts."

Here's a cute recipe I found on the Kraft site. I thought it would be fun to share it with you this morning. Aren't they just adorable! Kind of similar to bride and groom dipped strawberries! I wonder if there will be anything like this at their reception??? It would be fun it there was!!

*Bride and Groom Cookie Balls*
Makes 48
Printable Recipe

Cute little cookie truffles, decorated to look like Brides and Grooms!

1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
1 package (16.6 ounces) cookies, finely crushed (Oreos are the ones normally used)
12 ounces of white chocolate, divided
5 ounces semi sweet chocolate, divided

Mix together the cream cheese and cookie crumbs until well blended. Shape int 48 (1-inch) balls. Place on trays in the freezer for 10 minutes. In the meantime, melt 10 ounces of the white chocolate as directed on the package.

Dip the frozen balls into the melted white chocolate. Line the baking sheets with waxed or baking parchment paper. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour until firm.

For the Brides:
Melt the remaining white chocolate. Using a small clean paintbrush, paint 24 1 inch bridal veils on a sheet of waxed paper, flaring each veil slightly at the bottom. when slightly firm, drape each veil over a rolling pil to curl slightly. Chill until completely firm. Meanwhile pipe the remaining melted chocolate into 24 (3/4-inch wide) tiaras onto waxed paper. Chill until firm.

Melt 1 ounce of semi sweet chocolate. Use to pip chocolate onto the brides balls for eyes and mouths. Chill until firm. Attach veils and tiaras to each cookie ball with small dabs of melted white chocolate. Chill until ready to serve. You can add extra sparkle to the veils and tiaras by adding white sanding sugar before the chocolate sets up.

For the Grooms:
Melt the remaining semi-sweet chocolate. Using toothpick to dip the remaining balls, one at a time, into the melted chocolate, dipping 1 side of each ball into the chocolate, then turning to dip the other side, leaving a "V" shaped white centre. Let any excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Return to the wax paper lined pan. Pip the remaining semi sweet chocolate onto balls for the buttons and bow ties, placing the ties over the toothpick holes to cover. Chill until firm.

To easily coat cookie balls with the melted chocolate, add balls, in batches, to bowl of melted chocolate. Use 2 forks to roll balls in chocolate until evenly coated. Remove balls with forks, letting excess chocolate drip back into bowl. Place balls in prepared pan; let stand until chocolate coating is firm.

Tips for piping:
Melt the chocolate as directed on package; spoon into small resealable plastic bag. Press out excess air and seal bag. Cut small piece (about 1/8 inch) from one of the bottom corners of bag. Use bag to pipe the chocolate into desired design on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm. Carefully remove chocolate shapes from waxed paper. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, in single layer until ready to use.

There's a delicious Corn Salad over on The English Kitchen today!

Tuesday 26 April 2011

The Simple Woman's Day book

FOR TODAY, April 26th, 2011...

Outside My Window...

The sun has risen and the world is coming alive. Birds singing and chattering away in the hedgerows. The White Pigeons across the road are cooing on the rooftop. Mitzie is snuffling here next to me. Life is good.

I am thinking...
We had a lovely Easter Holiday weekend, with trips out, church, getting to talk to my mom and my eldest son and his family and having friends over for an Easter Lunch yesterday. It was busy and it was fun. Only a few more days to the Royal Wedding also! I can't wait!

I am thankful for...
I love my husband. He is my world. We get along so well together and I just adore him. I know I am a bit bossy sometimes and he pretends that it annoys him. lol I love that he is only pretending. Ok, so sometimes he isn't pretending, but he loves me anyways, despite my sometimes annoying bossiness! (He really doesn't like it when I tell him how to drive. He says that I drive, he only steers. lol)

I am grateful too, that Lura continues to improve. It is hard to believe that over a month has passed already since the accident. I know that her move to the new hospital was very difficult for her and that the new hospital is not as good as the old one. Hopefully she will soon be able to go home. You can keep up with any updates on her condition or leave a message for her here. Your prayers for her are still needed and so very much appreciated!

From the kitchen...
Mmmm . . . leftover Lemon Meringue Pie from yesterday. It was well enjoyed by everyone. One of our guests had two large pieces, so it must have been good. I think Lemon Pie is my favourite kind of pie . . . probably because we don't have it very often. But then again . . . any pie is my favourite! I just love pie!

I am wearing...
My turquoise nightie with some white jim jam bottoms and my slippers.

I am creating...
I am busy finishing off my second set of stamps now. If you would like to see the ones that are already available you can check them out here. I am down to the wire on these ones. Only a few more days til my deadline, so I will have to work extra hard today and tomorrow! I haven't had any time for doodling. The good news is that the last word I had from Imagination Crafts on them was . . . stunning. I can't wait til I can show them to you!

I am going...
I have a Presidency Meeting tomorrow night and it is Stake Temple Day on Saturday. We may go up to the Temple. A lot depends on how flush we feel. It is a long drive and Petrol is so expensive. I know it sounds like excuses . . . but we fly very close to the wire financially these days. We don't have a lot of leeway. I think it is the same for most families. With the price of everything going up the way it does, we have to tighten our belts. It may be that we cut back on the groceries this week so we can afford extra petrol for the car. The times of plenty are well and truly gone.

I am reading...

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

I am still reading this book and it's really good! It is a very thick book so I will be reading it for awhile to come! I only read at night after I go to bed, so that means that I only get a few pages read before I am nodding off. That is why it is taking me so long!

"It beings with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It beings with a discovery of witches."

When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.

For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.

Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans . . . and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well.

I am hoping...
That we have fine weather on Friday for the Royal Wedding. I have my British Bunting all ready to hang up and am really looking forward to seeing it all. I think that Prince William is a very different man to his father and that this is a true love match. I think he and Kate will be very happy together. I wish them well.

I am hearing...
Early morning sounds . . . the house cracking and snapping as it comes alive. The birds are chirping loudly in the back garden. The tip tapping of the computer keys, Mitzie gently snuffling here next to me on the sofa. Early morning traffic. I love the early morning. It is my favourite time of the day.

Around the house...
Not a lot. I am still working on my craft room/library. I've put it on hold until I finish up these last few designs and then will really crack on with it.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Royal Wedding, Royal Wedding, Royal Wedding!! (Can you tell I am excited!! It's a real shame my personal invite got lost in the post!)

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

No, you are not imagining things! That is Will's and Kate being immortalized on a Pizza! PIZZA lovers can now get a slice of the Royal Wedding action after a unique portrait of Prince William and Kate Middleton was created to celebrate their forthcoming marriage by the Papa John's Pizza Chain. Of course you need to e-mail them a day in advance to order one, as it takes a whole day to put one together. With Kate’s veil made from mushrooms and her dress from cheese, the royal pizza is also made up of salami and peppers for William’s morning suit. The faces are made of ham and the hair of olives. What do you say folks? Are you up for a slice of Royal Wedding Pizza??? (I can imagine it costs a bomb!!)

And just as a closing thought for today . . .

"Find the door of your heart, you will discover it is the door of the Kingdom of God."
~John Chrysotom

I am ever grateful that I have a heart that is open, teachable and loving.

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. 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!

Here is a tasty refreshing dessert that we just love here. Fruit is so good for you and this is a delicious way to get in several of your five a days! You don't have to use the ones suggested here, but can make up your own combination. Kiwi and blueberries are a lovely and colourful addition as well! The yogurt topping is fabulous!

(Picture borrowed from Southern Living)

*Fresh Fruit Salad with Honeyed Yogurt*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Refreshingly delicious and very pretty to look at. The yogurt topping is fabulous! A tasty way to get in some of your five a day!

2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
2 cups of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
1 1/2 cups of seedless green grapes
1 mango, peeled and sliced
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 cup of Greek Yogurt
2 tsp of soft light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp of honey

Mix all the fruit together in a large glass bowl. Whisk together the yogurt, brown sugar and honey. Spoon the fruit out into chilled dessert dishes and top each serving with a dollop of the yogurt mixture. Delicious!

I'm sharing new summer products and frozen treats over in The English Kitchen today. These here are the Fruity Frozen Yogurt Pops! (There are also some tasty Watermelon and Mint Pops!) Sorry for the bite from the top of this one. It was just tooooo tasty to resist!!

Monday 25 April 2011

A Country Drive . . .

On Saturday afternoon last, we took ourselves off on a country drive . . . down some beautiful country lanes and valleys to a place South West of here in Wales, called Chirk Castle. The drive took us through some of the loveliest scenery in the countryside. It was a beautiful sunny day and it felt good to be out and about!

Chirk Castle is a 700 year old marcher fortress, just outside the village of Chirk, in Wales. It stands on top of a hill commanding stunningly fine views over the surrounding countryside. It was built in the late 13th century by Roger Mortimer, Justice of North Wales for Edward 1. The castle was sold for 5,000 UK pounds to Sir Thomas Myddelton in 1595 and his descendants continue to live in part of the castle today.

We drove for what seemed like miles and miles on a winding twisting roadway before coming upon these magnificent ironwork gates. Aren't they beautiful??? I thought we were there, but we weren't. These gates only announce the entrance to the parklands, which are enormous and filled with trees and animals . . . sheep, cows, and more sheep . . . they were also stunning in their beauty and it was a very pleasant drive. We finally arrived at the car park and could see the castle high up on the hill . . . I began to worry that I would be able to walk all the way up there, but thankfully they had vans driving people up to it and we gladly took up the offer of a drive.

Completed in 1310, Chirk is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I still lived in today. Features from its 700 years include the medieval tower and dungeon, 17th-century Long Gallery, grand 18th-century state apartments, servants' hall and historic laundry.

The award-winning gardens contain clipped yews, herbaceous borders, shrub and rock gardens. A terrace with stunning views looks out over the Cheshire and Shropshire plains. The parkland provides a habitat for rare invertebrates, wild flowers and contains many mature trees.

I could tell you more, but I will let the pictures speak for themselves . . .

We had a fabulous afternoon, exploring all the nooks and crannies of the Castle, stopping for refreshments halfway through our time there. The gardens were beautiful, but I somehow didn't manage to get any pictures of them. You'll have to take my word for it I guess! There were all sorts of Easter Activities going on for the children and the grounds were filled with families, picnicking and enjoying a day out together. Seeing them always makes Todd and I a bit sad in a way, as that is something we have never enjoyed together and something we both would have really loved . . . oh well. We have each other, and that for now is blessing enough!! I love, LOVE that we are able to enjoy things like this together. I prayed for years to have someone like this to share my life with and it is an extra special blessing to me!

I received a new calling in Church yesterday. I am now Second Councillor in the Relief Society. I was honoured to be called into that position and am more than a little gobsmacked that I was called. I sure hope that I can do a good job, and that I can be more of a help than a hindrance!! MY abilities will be stretched for sure!!

I best dash and get off here. We are having guests for an Easter lunch later today and I have a ton of things to do! I got the biscuits made yesterday, but that is all! I have everything else to get done this morning, including making a Lemon Meringue Pie! In the meantime I will leave you with this tasty recipe for some delicious Pancake Muffins! Enjoy!

*Pancake Muffins with Strawberry Syrup*
Makes 12 servings
Printable Recipe

These are like a cross between a muffin, a pancake and a souffle. Delicious!

For the muffins:
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup, plus 2 TBS baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 large eggs, room temperature and separated
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
6 TBS butter, melted and cooled slightly
6 TBS granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/3 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
Icing sugar to dust (optional)

For the syrup:
1 cup of pure maple syrup
1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 5. Spray two 12-cup muffin pans generously with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Whisk together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed to firm, but not dry, peaks, in a clean large bowl. Set aside.

In another large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the mixer on medium-high speed until thick, ribbony, and lemon-yellow, about 6 minutes. Add the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla. Mix on medium-low speed until well combines. Add one-third of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed. Add one-third of the buttermilk and mix to combine. Add the remaining dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately, ending with the buttermilk and mixing until just to combine.

Gently fold the whites into the batter with a spatula, leaving some streaks.

Scoop about 1/2 cup of the batter into each muffin cup. (You can fill the cups to the rims.) Bake on the centre oven rack, rotating the pans after 10 minutes, until browned on top and puffed, and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out dry, 20 to 25 minutes total.

Make the syrup while the muffins are baking. Slice the strawberries into a bowl. Place the maple syrup in a pot and bring to the boil. Pour the hot syrup over the berries and then set aside.

Pop the muffins out of the muffin pan to serve, placing two on each person's heated plate. Dust with icing sugar and then pass the syrup.

Over in The English Kitchen this morning you will find my mother's recipe for Baking Powder Biscuits. They are the best!