Sunday, August 28, 2011

Culinary Experiment Book 2

In the last few weeks I've jointed a chicken (more than once), found a new favourite and had our first fail of the project, although that was largely my fault.  Yes, we've moved onto Book 2, and this time it's one I actually own.

I discovered the Pioneer Woman blog and recipes in the last few weeks of my pregnancy when general twitchiness sent me trawling the internet for something different for supper; we tried the meatballs and never looked back.  I ordered the book wandering which would arrive first. It was the book.  By a good week.

Book 2 in the Great Culinary Experiment: Pioneer Woman Cooks

We've made a few things before but this time I sat down again for a good cover to cover read with the added bonus that I was willing to consider cooking things that involved bending down to put them in the oven.

Now then, shall we get the one that got away first:

August 342
Chicken Pot Pie.  When I say it's largely my fault, it really is.  I ran out of plain flour after making the pie crust, which incidentally was delicious, so when it came to sprinkle flour in to the chicken and veg to make the gravy I used the only thing in the cupboard - strong white bread flour - I know, I know, blame it on sleep deprivation; a very glutinous flour is going to give you a very glutinous pie.  And so it was - gloopy, cloying and not at all nice - we enforced the house rule and ordered pizza.

I think that with just ordinary plain flour, although probably not a whole cup of it, it would have been nice, but H just wasn't wild on the flavours altogether so it might just not be one for us.

On the other hand, this will be on the repeat list:
August 340
Chicken Spaghetti Casserole.  Oh how we loved it.  Oh how we loved it the second and third time, and Oh how I forgot to take any pictures on any occasion.  It was spicy enough for H but mild enough that Kitty wolfed it down and really simple to make and one recipe makes enough for three generous meals for our little family.

August 314
But possibly best of all, a pot roast.  Soft tender beef, with slow cooked carrots and new potatoes.  One little joint did two suppers, a lunch, and a little bit left for snacking, and it was perfect.

Last but not least, Macaroni Cheese - another of the 'eaten before I had a chance to take a photo'.  Just imagine a golden, bubbling, slightly crispy layer of macaroni with cheesy pasta underneath.  It was good, it was a working day, and pasta shapes and cheese it one of my major food groups; you can see why the camera never had a look in.

The portions are cowboy sized and I haven't done as many recipes as the last book simply because my freezer only has so much space.  At the moment it's got a frozen lasagne, a steak pie and two portions of meatballs and it seems a little empty.  What this book has shown me is how much I easier life can be having food stored away in the freezer for working night meals so I think Monday will be our cooking day for a while to come and as long as the freezer doesn't break and I remember to defrost at the right time all will be well.

I think I read somewhere that there's a new book in the works but in the meantime I need to petition Food Network UK to show their American cousin's new Pioneer Woman Saturday morning programme, because this food is good, and it's food to go straight to the heart of my steak-loving husband.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grown up wood nymph

When H and I had just started working, and before my parents retired, we would try to meet up in Devon every autumn half terms and go for a walk on the edge of Dartmoor, down through the woods in all the colours of green, gold and sienna to a stream that hurried and sploshed over the rocky river bed.  We'd go along the stream, up to the top of the wood and back to the car through an Iron age fort in time to reach the pub for rabbit pie and scrumpy at lunchtime.

When Zee and I were little we did the same walk, but we'd run ahead and hide behind trees or pose on tree stumps, or fallen logs. Mum and Dad or sometimes Grannie would walk past with the obligatory,

"Oh what a lovely wood nymph.  I wonder where Carie/Zee could have got to..."

and of course we'd jump out and 'boo' them.  It never seemed to bother any of us that wood nymphs didn't usually wear a bright blue coat or jeans and a rainbow jumper, it was in the mind, as all good make believe is.

Now though I think I've got the outfit.  Well the jumper at least.

August 084
These pictures aren't from the woods, just my parent's garden courtesy of Zee who helped take photos when we were down at the beginning of August (as yes, that tells you just how far behind I am on my blogging!).

August 086
It's the Grown Up Hoodie pattern by Kira Dulaney in Madelintosh 80/10/10 Worsted in Forestry.
August 096
I knit to the pattern with one major and somewhat obvious exception - my hoodie is stocking stitch not reverse stocking stitch.  I just like it better that way and it was easy enough to change, all I added was a single purl stitch either side of the cable pattern on the back and on the pockets and that was that.
August 102
It is a great pattern and the yarn is lovely so I have exactly what I set out to get, a snuggly warm cardie for the autumn and those winters nights when Kitty decides she needs extra cuddles (please let her have started sleeping through by the winter, please please).  If I'm being perfectly honest with myself though, I could have improved the fit for my body shape a little better.  I added length because I'm longer than average in the body and I put the extra length after the waist shaping as usual but in this pattern it would have been better just after the ribbing.  Then of course the swatch lied (again) and the jumper grew lengthwise so the in point of the waist shaping is on my hips.  It isn't noticeable though unless you really look.
August 116
The other amendment would be to add more height to the back of the hood before picking up the sides. It's a nice big hood and it's great to snuggle up in but on me, having the hood up lifts the front the jumper up off my collarbone.  As I rarely wear hoodie hoods up (I just like them for the scarf-effect of extra fabric around the back of my neck) I'm not bothered by this at all.  This is my first hoodie and now I know for next time what I'll be checking in the schematic.
August 147
The buttons on the other hand are a perfect match colour wise and satisfied a longing to use them in something for me, ever since I first encountered and applied them to a baby surprise jacket.  I might just have to put a stitch in the buttonholes though post blocking.
August 136
As I said it's not a fail by any stretch of the imagination, I can see this being my go to cardie for a while to come (although it's about to face some stiff competition in the cardigan's I have queued).

Monday, August 22, 2011

11 months (and a day)

To our little girl

August 399
Yesterday was your last month birthday, next month you will be a whole one year old and I really can't believe it.  Your eleven month birthday was your little buddy's proper first birthday, the first baby to arrive out of our NCT group, two weeks early and 24 hours before we were all meeting up for a pre-baby reunion lunch.  Perhaps we should have organised that earlier!
August 240
At eleven months you are seriously mobile; you crawl at high speed, usually towards an open door, or the stairs, and you're still trying to thwart your parents seemingly unreasonable intention to prevent you from pushing all the pretty lights and buttons on that little box in the corner.

August 067
You love:
  • your food -
 August 370 August 362 August 364

strawberries in particular; and now you have two tiny teeth you're munching away on anything and everything.  We had giant couscous salad for lunch today and you carefully picked up each little grain for the first 10 minutes and then splatted the rest of it and licked it off your fist.  Things that you don't like so much you dangle over the side of your high chair and drop when you think we aren't looking.
  • your teddies - Giraffe and Solomon the Elephant are never far away from you and they snuggle up with you at night.

  • swinging -
 August 405 August 423 August 412
you were a little bit scared the first time we took you to the park but now, now we have to tear you away.  You tried the slide today, with Mama holding you so you didn't go too fast, and I think we got a little giggle.  You certainly liked the texture of the slide, it's all bumpy metal and makes a funny noise when you hit it with your hand.
  • being outside - you seem to be constantly making a bid for freedom if we've got the doors open.
  • listening to your stories and playing with your books.
    August 351
You're not so keen on:
    August 441
  • Naps
  • Sleeping generally
  • Being away from Mama. (but Mama isn't that keen on being away from you either). 
August 346 August 348 August 353

You're still pretty tall for your age (no surprises there) and your smile would melt the stoniest of hearts.  When I pick you up you wrap your arms around my neck and dig your fingers into my hair, and your ankles tuck into my sides to cling on as tight as you can.  Some day you won't want to cuddle in so tight but for now my arms are always open.

I love you little girl.

Love Mama

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cake and Crafty things

On Thursday I made one fruit cake, one batch of red velvet cupcakes, one batch of chocolate brownies, chicken enchiladas and three greetings cards.

On Friday I made one fruit cake, one lemon drizzle cake, the icing for one batch of red velvet cupcakes, the icing for one batch of chocolate brownies, one round of shortbread and a piece of vorticist art.

On Saturday I tok them all to a tent on the village playing fields and H took me for a paninni and a nice green leaf salad for lunch and after that I felt lot better.

August 395
Distinct shades of the Very Hungry Caterpillar around here as I got ready for the village show, only exacerbated by the fact that the kitchen is still covered in cake, only now it's cooked and neatly displayed on plates instead of splattered over, well, pretty much everywhere (I am NOT a tidy cook).

A few hours later and the results were in:

In the Kitchen:

August 445 August 444
Third for lemon drizzle cake - from Annie Bell's beautiful cakes book, in a Nordicware cake tin with lemons on the top. I had a few wobbles with the cooking time but it turned out damp and delicious - I will be making this again soon. 

August 446 August 383 August 393
Third for decorated cupcakes.  My cupcakes are "Somewhere over the rainbow" - ruby red velvet slippers cake in a yellow paper case and on a yellow plate with sky blue icing, fluffy clouds and rainbows.  The First and Second cupcakes were neat swirls of buttercream with sprinkles and a flake (2nd) or silver balls and a sprig of lavendar (1st).  Next time I'll scrap the concept and practice my buttercream piping.

Not placed - Fruit cake (understandable as I added the cherries too soon on the second do over cake and the food processor chopped them too small to be identifiable - tastes nice though), shortbread, chocolate brownies and quince jelly.
August 385
Last year I only got a third in Gingerbread so this is progress.


August 463
First - Oopsie in 'a 3D item', with the comment 'a baby would love this'. She does.

Second - Solomon, also in 'a 3D item'.

August 448
Highly commended - my Phoenix socks

August 453
Highly commended - a handmade Good Luck card.  In my personal taste I did not like the card that came first in this category but for future reference, it was a Christmas card again so next yer Christmas cards it will be.

Sadly disqualified - I'm still a bit grumpy about this. The handicrafts category has a size limit of 2 foot on it.  In previous years this has been read as 'don't take up more than 2' display space' and things folded up have been fine - I won a third for my Swan lake wrap which is way over 2'. This year I entered Kitty's Alice Starmore baby blanket and my flowing river shawl and both came back saying they were fabulous and impressive pieces of work but sadly more than 2'.  Wave bye bye to two places I could have had.  I wasn't the only one caught out, a couple of small quilts fell foul too but it does really limit what I can enter in future; it will have to be socks or baby cardies because any piece of lace, or jumper, or anything knitted or quilted is going to be too big.  Maybe I should start petitioning for a category for big things!

Not placed - my Bohus wristlets, two greetings cards, a bracelet and my piece of art:

August 465
Started on Thursday and finished on Friday, it's called 'Breakers' and it's supposed to be an early cubist impression of a wave crashing on a beach.  Vortecisim just preceeded cubism, and when we went to Peggy Guggenheim in Venice there was a special collection of the Vortecists work, Edward Wadsworth being my favourite example. I suspect the idea have been floating around and when push came to shove to have something to enter I thought I'd play with it.  Full acknowledgements to H for this one though for giving me materials and trying to teach me how to paint in under 24 hours.

We like it, it's an acquired taste though and by the gentle watercolour of village life that won I think I'm a few years ahead of myself in terms of show entries.

So not a bad year all in all. H sometimes struggles to understand why I'd put so much time and effort into a show, only to get a few little cards and tuppence ha'penny in prize money, but I love it, I love getting little cards, I don't mind about prize money (and I tend to donate it back to the show as the entry is free anyway).  I suspect part of me, well lets admit it, a big part of me, loves to show off what I really love to spend my time doing, I mean, isn't part of a blog shouting to the world "Look what I made! I love it! You could make one too!"

And of course, at the end of it all - there's a kitchen full of cake!
August 442

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

And now, back to the gingernuts

Louis Vitton has returned its stock to the shop - It's my new measure for the safety of central Birmingham. Seriously though, all seems well and windows are reappearing from behind chipboard and shutters and it seems fantastical that a week today we were sent home from work at twenty past three for our safety.

In amongst all the crazy there have been glimmers of craftyness; baking, knitting and a little sewing; a little sun, a little sea, and time spent with family.

But first those gingernuts.  H's brother and his wife have just moved back from Scotland to Cleackeaton and to celebrate the drive now being a mere two hours, we went to warm their house by helping to assemble flat pack furniture and plant up their front garden.  I think traditionally you're supposed to bring someone a loaf of bread as a housewarming gift but we thought we'd just fill a couple of cake tins instead.

Tin one, Raspberry Marscapone Layer cake (no picture, but it's the one I made for my birthday here) and tin two was going to be a shortbread, flapjack mixture.  Well the shortbread got eaten, and two rounds of flapjack later I was running low on porridge oats and still yet to make a batch that was at gift standard (although the second lot was deemed sufficiently edible to be tipped into one of our cake tins, having been given a reprieve from the bin by the independant adjudicator).

Enter stage left, this recipe. They're chewy and soft and wonderfully gingerbready and it's really a miracle that any made it up north at all.  Best of all, we had all the ingredients in the house.

August 320
I've made a second batch since and they're just as good - definitely, definitely one to go on the repeat list. Deelish.

August 325
The only amendment I made was to leave out the cloves because I don't like it, and I fond that cooking for just 8 minutes gave the best squidgy temperature.

August 321 August 328
Since then, Kitty and I took a trip down home to see my parents while H played a golf tournament with friends on courses that all seemed to be on top of hills in Gloucestershire.

August 156
(sat in Great-Grandma Frank's baby chair and not yet sure of herself)

With my sister, her husband and a friend all down at the same time we had a houseful, and when the weather failed to co-operate for a beach day (too windy and showery) we took Kitty and her Grandpa on a boat trip.

August 073
That I knew the places we saw like the back of my hand, and could have given a fair stab at the commentary didn't lessen the pleasure of being out on the water in the sunshine.  Kitty, to whom this was all new, ate her breadstick, tried very hard to loose her shark-decorated sunhat overboard, and as we pulled away from the quay, settled in to nurse and then nap for the rest of the trip.

August 077
The rest of us managed to spot the rather small yacht (second smallest in the fleet) in which Dad competed in a Tall Ships Race out of Plymouth and down across Biscay to Spain during which they had a full knock down. I've done some tall ship racing of my own but on that occassion rather him than me.

We did manage to get down to the beach nearest my parents later after supper and had a paddle.  One little toe dip was enough for our littlest one though and she was swiftly handed to Grandpa for cuddles and stone towers while the girls and I spolshed around in the shallows.  She loved kicking her feet in the small shingle and didn't eat any (I think!).  I have the first pebble she picked up to pop in her memory box. A good memento of her first visit to the beach.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shaking Down

We're in a transition phase of life at the moment. I'm back at work part time and still editing my work/life organisation - what has to be ready they night before and what can wait; just how much I can get done in a 3 day week; and how to manage all the calls for my time and attention.

I do have things I want to talk about, and I've even finished some knitting projects and lined up all sorts of crafty projects but the pictures are still on the camera and a friend is pleading with the laptop to stop sulking behind the blue screen of death.

This week we were sent home early from work because of riots in Birmingham. Not in some far off suburb at the wrong end of town but on our doorstep. Rioters and looters ran past our office, smashing the window of the shop next door.

On Tuesday morning the staff of the nearby Louis Vitton office evacuated their stock back to the warehouse and all through the day the sound was of hammers smacking nails into chipboard all across town. It's not really mindless violence; it's targetted marauding - in one street they hit LA Fitness, Jessops, skipped Pret (no sarnies), hit McDonalds, skipped Greggs and the Pasty Shop and hit T Mobile. That's not rioting, that's shopping.

On Wednesday the same scene all over again only you couldn't tell which shops were boarded up for damage and which for protection. It's been quiet since and we'll watch and wait. In all of this it seems so frivolous to write about a newly finished project or the Ginger cookies I made ... I'll tell you later.

For now we're taking care and hoping everything gets back to normal soon.