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!


  1. so glad that you had such a lovely day...Sorry coudn;t see the pictures !!...Have a lovey day toady and enjoy your visitors..I only wish it were me thatwas visiting..Lemon Merangue Pie..mmmmmm Sarah used to make the very best...I will miss it very much...
    Love Sybil xx

  2. Hi, dear Marie! LOVED taking this outing to Chirk Castle with you--beautiful place! And BIG CONGRATS on your new post as Second Councillor--very exciting! Enjoy your Easter lunch today. We've been having some lovely summer-like days here, relaxing, good food, family visits. There should be more holidays throughout the year. ;o) Pity we didn't get to chat this weekend... hopefully soon! LOVE YOU LOTS, dear friend ((BIG HUGS))

  3. Love your photo's Marie, how did you do that? Looks like a lovely day out. Ralph and I will have to take a run out there sometime soon. I am wanting to go to Bodnant Gardens sometime in May to see the Laburnum arch and the Azaleas and Rhodedendrons in their glory.

    love and hugs

    Sheilagh xxx

  4. Your trip was just wonderful and I loved all the pictures. How nice that you could share them as the only way I'll ever get to see places like that would be through photos. Those biscuits in your recipe today do sound so very good. I'll have to try them with some strawberries soon.
    I hope your Monday is a great one!

  5. Hi Marie, How fun to go to a Castle. That is one of my dreams. I have never been to something so old. Someday.
    The Muffins look yummy. Wish I wasn't minding my waist.
    And happy RS calling! You will be wonderful.

  6. Congratulations, Marie! You must be thrilled.

    Thank you for sharing your trip to Chirk Castle. What an interesting place and what history lies in those places. If only the walls could talk, I wonder what tales they could tell. Your photos are terrific and I felt as though I was there with you.

  7. Loved the castle tour - thank you for sharing!

  8. I just love that you live so close to where my ancestors are from. I know very little about Wales and have never been there but my grandparents on my mom's side were first generation Americans. Their parents were all from Glamorganshire.

    Hopefully Jim and I will get there in our life time. We also both have ancestors in Sweden so have to go there too.

    But when we go to Wales we will definitley come to visit you in Chester if you are still living there.

    I have no idea how to do my Welsh family history work. But as soon as I get all my people checked out on search, I plan to start learning it. If every other person wasn't named Mary Davies or Thomas Rees(e) it sure would help.

    As I have been helping lots of people at the Family History Center I have learned that more than half the women in the world are named Maria or some derivative of it. Or so it seems anyway!

    Anyway, loved your photos of Wales! Thanks for sharing them!
    Love, B


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