Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday Round Up

chillin' in the raised beds - the only thing that makes early mornings bearable - the agony of indecision
supplies - my new baby - sink unit all ready for the sink
extension built up to first floor height - white jelly babies are the best - my new little friend

Another week has flown by and I've just calculated that there will only be three more Friday Round Up posts before Christmas. Gulp. I really need to crack on with my Christmas preparations, I haven't even bought cards yet!

As you will see from the pics above, this week has all been about the new house. Finally settling on colours for the kitchen (Farrow & Ball 'Clunch' for the walls and 'Pointing' for the ceiling and woodwork) and beginning painting for me, and insulating the garage roof for Matt. You will also see that the beautiful Aga arrived on Wednesday and made me the happiest bunny on the planet. I know it's just a cooker and that the vast majority of people will think I'm crackers but I've wanted one of these bad boys forever. I've spent the past two years saving up for it and I can't wait to start using it

We had some pretty terrible weather last weekend and we awoke after Matt's presentation night, in the early hours of Sunday morning to discover that the roof was leaking and water was running down the bedroom walls behind our bed. Like the good semi-drunken, semi-comatose people we were, we pulled the bed away from the wall and wiped it down with towels, strategically positioned a jug under a persistent drip and crawled back under the duvet, lulled back to sleep by the patter of raindrops on the window

This weekend we are heading off to Manchester on Saturday night to see my favourite band, Elbow. I've lost track of how many times I've seen them but I never get tired of watching them live. I love all of their music and their gigs have a really cosy, intimate atmosphere, even in an arena

We'll be up early and coming straight home on Sunday to get back to the house and pick up work where we left off. I'd planned on making a weekend of it in Manchester but we just don't have the time, unfortunately

You may remember me mentioning that out of our last batch of Pekin Bantam eggs we had four hatch and they were all boys. Talk about unlucky! We managed to give one away and this week had to send the remaining three to a neighbouring farmer to dispatch and dress for us. So tonight we will be having roast chicken for dinner. Roast chickens that were bobbing about in the garden earlier this week! It feels a bit wrong but they had to go as they were causing havoc round here, trying to kill each other every five minutes and bullying the hens so badly that they've all dropped condition and look terrible. As no one wants roosters we had no choice but to have them er 'taken care of' ... and Matt feels very strongly that we should eat them and not waste them. I'll let you know how that goes ...

On a slightly cheerier note, I'm really looking forward to the return of Vlogmas this weekend by my favourite vlogger, Fleur! Is it sad that I've been looking forward to it all year? Don't answer that ....

What will you be doing this weekend?

November Favourites

Another month, another monthly favourites post. The months seem to be passing faster and faster, it only seems five minutes ago that I was writing up my October favourites! Anyway, here are my favourite items of November ...

Joico K Pak Intense Hydrator
This is my go-to conditioner. As I mentioned in this post, my hair has been through the mill a bit these past few months and I've been treating it to lots of deep conditioning treatments but this is my staple conditioner that I always come back to because it just gets the job done. I've been using it regularly for over a year and always have two tubes in the bathroom as I panic at the thought of running out! I usually leave it on for at least half an hour, to reap the full benefits, and it leaves my hair soft, smooth and tangle free

The White Company Winter candle
I picked this up from The White Company on our first night in Edinburgh to burn in our hotel room. I fell in love at first sniff - this has to be the perfect Christmas candle. It smells of cinnamon, orange and clove and it's quite strong, this little baby easily scented our whole room despite it's diminutive size. I'll be buying another before long I'm sure, to me this is THE perfect Christmas candle

Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Hand Recovery
For the last month or so, since the weather has been colder and I've been working in the cold at the new house, my hands have really suffered and slathering on hand cream just hasn't been cutting the mustard. I raided my stash and found a couple of tubes of Crabtree & Evelyn Hand Rescue which is basically a hand scrub, but quite a luxurious one. It has a thick consistency and is quite oily, you squidge it about in the tube to mix it up and then squirt into your hands without wetting them. You scrub your hands using a hand washing motion then rinse off, pat dry and follow with hand cream. It really does the business

Elemis Skin Nourishing Milk Bath
When I was about 17 or 18, my best friend was a 30 year old woman I worked with called Anne. I remember her telling me once that her legs were so dry that when she took her black trousers off there was flaky skin on the inside of them! 'Yuk!' I thought. Now I am that woman. I haven't checked my trousers (!) but my legs have been so dry this month that they feel sore. I almost purchased This Works Dry Leg Oil which I've heard wonderful things about but I have millions of moisturisers already so I hit my stash and came up with this milk bath from Elemis. I'd thought it was just for putting in your bath but you can use it on your body for extremely dry skin and it's definitely helped my legs. I'm not over keen on the scent but I can cope with that in the name of softer legs

Fat Face hoodie
I bought this after lusting after it on the website then seeing it on Rosie's blog, at which point I could resist no longer. It's barely been off my back since it arrived! It's lined so it's really warm and the perfect thing to wear around the house on cold days. I love the colour too, it goes perfectly with my blue Joules gilet and makes a really cosy combo. I wore them on our latest family trip to Windermere

What have been your favourite things this month?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Feel Unique Haircare Haul

It's AGES since I've done a haul post. That's not to say I haven't been spending a fortune on things that I could probably live without - I have, I just haven't been blogging about them

I've been steadily lightening my hair for about a year now and it's gone from a very dark, warm brown to it's current colour which I guess you could call a very 'warm' blonde (much lighter than my profile pics which were taken in the summer). I'm finding it hard to let go of the red basically! But all the lightening has inevitably stripped my hair and left it damaged and weak. I'm VERY tempted to abandon the lightening process altogether now. I do this every few years - go for a lighter colour, love it but get to a point where I feel my hair is too damaged to continue. Ultimately, the condition of my hair is more important to me than the colour

As my poor hair is suffering I treated myself/my hair to a few bits from my favourite online retailer, Feel Unique, to try to pamper it a bit

In the last few months I've been struggling with shampoo. My hair turns into a huge dreadlock when I wash it, I think it must be because it's so damaged as it never used to do this. So I've been looking for a shampoo to make it feel less like knotted straw when washing. I decided to try ...

Kerastase Bain Satin Shampoo
because a previous hairdresser used this and swore by it. Plus it's a multi award winner!

Korres Almond & Linseed Shampoo
because it was recommended on one of my new favourite blogs, Spoiltface

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Extreme
This is a pre-shampoo treatment which you apply to wet hair and leave on for half an hour or so before washing and conditioning as normal. As I leave my conditioner on for at least half an hour as well, this will be for days when time is on my side! I've used the original Elasticizer before but felt extreme measures were required this time

Senscience Inner Restore Intensif Masque
I didn't go looking for this, I was actually planning on getting a Kerastase masque. But this was half the price and the second most popular treatment after the Moroccanoil, so I thought it was worth a gamble

Moroccanoil treatment
I've been umming and aahing over this purchase for a while. As you may know, I am a huge fan of Orofluido and have never found a better oil. But this is the only oil I've never tried so I wanted to give it a go - just so I could be sure I was using the best one! This sample size is a great idea. Still pricey but better than shelling out a fortune on a product you just want to test

So there we are, quite a pricey haul but I had a 10% off code and I get cashback through my employee advantage scheme at work, which justifies pretty much any purchase in my eyes!

Have you splashed out on anything recently?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Recipe - White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

Well if the name alone doesn't have you salivating, wait until you smell these bad boys baking!

Dried cranberries make anything seem Christmassy in my humble opinion and in these cookies they add just the right amount of tartness to bring down the sweetness of the white chocolate and stop them being sickly

This is an adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe from her Nigella Christmas book. If you love Christmas and love cooking and baking you need this book in your life. Believe me, it's the holy grail of Christmas catering, I've found favourites in this book that I'll use for many years to come

You will need

125g soft butter
75g dark brown soft sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
75g rolled oats
40g cranberries (more if you'd like)
50g pecans roughly chopped (or chucked into a freezer bag and bashed with a rolling pin!)
150g white chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees

Cream your butter and sugars in a bowl with an electric hand mixer (or serious elbow grease) then beat in the egg and vanilla extract

Beat in the flour, baking powder, salt and oats then fold in the cranberries, pecans and chocolate chips

Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls with your hands and press onto a baking sheet, giving them a little squish to flatten them slightly

Bake for 15 minutes - they will be a pale gold colour when done

Set the baking tray onto a cool surface for 5 minutes whilst the cookies harden enough for you to slip a spatula underneath them and remove to a wire rack

Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Let me know if you give this recipe a try!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday Round Up

hot choc with my sis - yummy carrot cake - how cute is my poppa smurf??
festive pillow - festive candle - festive plant
surprise voucher from the white company - cheeky chickens - friday night treat

I fully expected my first Monday back at work to be grim but I had no idea quite how grim. It was awful. I'd been trying to keep on top of my emails whilst I was away so the catching-up part wasn't too bad, but just the sheer comedown of getting back to the daily grind completely floored me

I enjoyed my time off SO much! Relaxing at home, taking Matt to Edinburgh and taking our traditional family trip to Windermere were only part of it. Mostly I just enjoyed the lack of stress, the lack of responsibility. Not getting up and wondering what was going to go wrong that day. Not planning my diary, preparing for meetings, driving all over the country and lonely nights in a Premier Inn! It was great. Only a month now until Christmas and another week off, I'm already counting the days!

I was feeling a bit festive mid-week so I lit my Winter candle and did a bit of shopping. I do all my Christmas shopping online. In fact I buy pretty much everything online all year round but from mid-November onwards I don't go near the shops unless I have to. With the exception of my annual pilgrimage to Chester the weekend before Christmas with my pal Liz - by that point we've got everything we need and it's all about soaking up the atmosphere and buying the odd treat for ourselves. Last year we ate and drank in the hotel bar and were tucked up in bed in time for the Strictly final - we've discussed actually Going Out In The Evening on this year's trip but to be honest, I'll believe it when I see it

This weekend I'll be spending as many waking hours as possible at the new house, painting the kitchen. I'm not over-excited about it but it's a job that needs doing and it needs doing before the Aga arrives next week. Tomorrow night we're at the presentation night at Matt's motorbike club where he'll be picking up his trophy for coming second in this year's championship. I'm so proud!

What will you be getting up to this weekend?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Feeding the birds

I have always fed the birds that visit my garden because my Mum always used to make a point of doing so, especially during the colder months. I remember going round to my parent's house once and she made my boyfriend and I sit down and watch some video footage she'd taken of the birds at her bird table. It was so cute of her! Her favourite birds were Robins and they are my favourite too

Little birds need to eat 30-40% of their bodyweight per day in food during the Winter and I like to help them along by ensuring they have plenty to eat when they visit us.

During the warmer months I only feed a seed mix but when it starts to get colder I add peanuts and fat balls to the table. That's right, fat balls. Someone, somewhere had a good giggle when they came up with that name I'll bet! Anyway, fat balls and peanuts both contain fats which help our little feathered pals to keep warm. Make sure you remove the netting from the balls though as teeny bird feet can easily get tangled in them

We have regular birdy visitors, including a female blackbird with one white feather in her tail, I call her Magda, and a collared dove who patrols the bottom of the bird table and won't let any other doves near it.

We get several blackbirds, a few blue tits and a beautiful pair of greeny gold birds that I've yet to identify. The chickens like to hang around under the bird table too and pick up any seeds that drop out of the feeder

Buying wild bird seed can get expensive if you buy small bags from the supermarket, as I used to. I've found the cheapest way of doing it is to buy in bulk. I buy 20kg bags of own brand seed from our local country store and store it in plastic dustbins with my chicken feed. They also sell fat balls, peanuts and feeders so it's nice and easy to get everything I need. I also put out any left over bread and sometimes apples too

Do you feed the birds during the winter?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Family Traditions - Lake Windermere

As I mentioned in this post, on the 16th November it was nine years since we lost my mum. She'd been ill for a long time and we'd had plenty of time to say our goodbyes and for her to tell us what she wanted to happen. She asked us to scatter her ashes at Lake Windermere as it was her favourite place in the world. We had holidays there as a family and she and my dad had been several times with their best friends whilst she was ill too.

So on her birthday in 2004 we took her ashes to her favourite spot and scattered them as she'd asked. We go back to that same spot to visit twice a year - on her birthday and the anniversary of her death. When our family dog, Max, died a few years ago we took his ashes there too so we could sort of send him to my mum to look after

This is definitely not a morbid post - at least I hope it doesn't come across that way. We three enjoy our trips to Windermere and it's a chance for us all to spend some quality time together and share our memories of my mum

We have the same little routine every trip. We stop at The Olde Naked Man Cafe in Settle for brunch (she loved that name!) We go to the hostel where we used to stay, right on the banks of the lake. We have a memorial bench there with my mum's name on it, so we always sand and oil it to keep it in good condition. We have coffee and cake at a little cafe on the lake. It's always freezing!

I feed the ducks and my sister and I make a wish at the little wishing well

We go home via Wetherby and stop at The Wetherby Whaler for the best fish and chips in the world

This comforting little routine has been part of my life for the last nine years and it's hard to imagine a time when we won't do it. We managed it even when my sister lived in Nottingham and I lived in Milton Keynes - the logistics were just slightly trickier!

The only exceptions have been

* Two years ago when my sister's waters broke at The Olde Naked Man and we had to turn around to fetch her home. My nephew Finley Joe was born the next morning :-)

* In May just gone, my mum's birthday, when I'd been out for dinner with friends the night before and got horribly drunk. I was terribly hungover and was sick in the car - my dad turned around and dropped me off at home and he and my sister went on their own. I'm not proud of that but they both had a good laugh at my expense!

I love family traditions and this one is particularly special to me. I'm looking forward to the day when Finley Joe is old enough to come with us and maybe my children will come one day too. I think my mum would like that.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Hello Edinburgh!

As you may have read in MANY previous posts, I'd been trying to book a break for Matt and I for a good couple of months but due to my fussiness it had become a bit of an ongoing saga

I'd had about enough of torturing myself over it, so I told Matt I was going to book our 'usual place', The Crab & Lobster (highly recommended by the way!) He rebelled and insisted he wanted to go to Edinburgh, which made it slightly easier for me - now all I had to do was find a hotel. A lovely reader called Polly commented on this post and mentioned a couple of places which I checked out and ... booked one!

We'd decided it was too far to drive so we only drove to Doncaster and took the train from there. We spent two nights at a hotel called Tigerlily in the city centre

There was a lovely fire, the mini bar from heaven, fluffy robes and White Company goodies in the bathroom and even a decent hairdryer and a pair of GHDs

We got to Edinburgh on Tuesday afternoon and after stowing our bags in our cosy room we popped out for a look around the shops and to find somewhere to eat. After an early dinner and a couple of cocktails we hightailed it back to the hotel and raided their DVD library. Watching a film in front of the fire in our PJs whilst tucking into a box of Hotel Chocolat's finest and burning my new Winter candle ... we're a real pair of adventurers aren't we??

After a hearty Scottish breakfast on Wednesday morning (including haggis - I didn't like it!) we trundled off to see what Edinburgh had to offer us. We had a wander round to get our bearings and found our way up to the castle. Sadly the weather was pretty rubbish, misty and damp with a fine drizzle that saturated our clothes and made my hair go wild!

The castle was beautiful and I really enjoyed learning about it's history

We visited the Scottish War Memorial which was very sombre and peaceful and were lucky enough to see the changing of the Guard

We stopped at the little whisky shop and saw a bottle of whisky which cost £8000!

We saw some beautiful views of the city

And a little cemetery for soldier's dogs, which was so sweet. The little graves brought a lump to my throat

We wandered down the Royal Mile and popped in to The Witchery to see if we could get a table for that evening, sadly we couldn't unless we wanted to eat at 10.30pm. That's late even by our standards! Maybe next time. We stopped for mulled wine at a gorgeous little pub and saw Canongate Kirk where Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall got married. I am a huge fan of the Royals!

That night we ate at a gorgeous little restaurant called Wildfire which I found on Trip Advisor. The food was delicious. I had stovies with beetroot and oatcakes, followed by steak and ale casserole. Matt had smoked haddock, salmon and prawn chowder, followed by a surf & turf. We really wanted a cheeseboard too but were just too full. Sorry I didn't take any food photos, I just can't bring myself to take photos in a restaurant!

On Thursday morning we had breakfast in bed whilst watching a film again! Another full Scottish for Matt and eggs benedict and coffee for me. I should have taken photos but we were in a bit of a rush to get checked out! After breakfast we headed off to do a bit more shopping before catching our train home.

I was really shocked to see homeless people on so many street corners in Edinburgh and even more surprised to see how many of them had dogs. This is a real bugbear of mine - I believe that if you can't look after and provide for yourself then you shouldn't have a pet. Many do it to pull on your heartstrings, for monetary gain and I think that's wrong. On the way to the station we saw a man with a dog which he had trained to hold his cap out to people for them to put money in. It absolutely broke my heart - the woebegone expression on the dog's face brought tears to my eyes which didn't stop until we were on the train. It's just so wrong. If that man cared about his dog he would put it before himself and find it a suitable home. Gah!

Homeless dogs aside, we had a great time in Edinburgh! It was lovely to get away from the day-to-day stresses of the house build. I'm not exaggerating when I say it has taken over every waking moment of our lives. It's literally all we talk about - we're so close to finishing now that the fine details are becoming all important and we're having to make decisions virtually every hour - to a deadline because the next tradesperson is already scheduled in. This is tortuous for someone as indecisive as me so the chance to put some distance between us and the house was really welcome!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Friday Round Up

giant spider which took over the bathroom - an autumn walk with my BFF - cute present from my sister
honey loaf, delicious toasted and buttered - edinburgh forecast - train window view
first mulled wine of the season - lovely warm pub after a freezing castle tour - train snacks

This was the week that we FINALLY managed to get away for a little break! We went to Edinburgh on Tuesday, I'll do a bit more of a detailed post over the weekend although I didn't take many photographs as the weather wasn't even as good as the photo above suggested! My lovely best friend Liz came over to look after the house/dogs/chickens, the dogs absolutely adore her so it was as much of a holiday for them as it was for us!

Today it is nine years since my mum died so I'll be spending the day with my Dad and sister as is traditional for us. We scattered my Mum's ashes at Lake Windermere so we have the day there together on the anniversary and on her birthday. It sounds very sad but it's not as sad as it used to be - enough time has passed now that we don't spend our time there crying, we spend it reminiscing about the good times and the funny times and just enjoying each other's company

This weekend I need to finally nail down a colour for the new kitchen walls and ceiling and get painting as I'm running out of time. The Aga will be here in a week and a half and I need to have the kitchen ready ... once my new baby is installed there will be no painting in there if I have anything to do with it! I've already told Matt he has to board up the kitchen doors to stop the builders popping in there to make a cup of tea, if anyone damaged it I would go mad with rage! Speaking of Agas, how cute is the doorstop kit my sister got me??

I hope you've all had a great week and have exciting plans for the weekend. What will you be up to?

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mouse's Story

If you read this post, you may have noticed that I mentioned our little cat, Mouse. Our ex-little-cat really as she sadly died a couple of years ago. But she was a bit of a one-off and I thought you might like to hear her story as I know you guys are lovers of all things cute!

She came into Matt's life about 10 years before we met. His friend's sister worked at the local veterinary practice and she had fallen in love with a cat at work that needed a home but she couldn't take her in because she lived with her parents and her Mum Said No. We've all been there.

The cat was only very young, about six months they thought. Her owners were farmers and had accidentally run her over in their truck. When they realised what they'd done, they checked their rear view mirror and saw she was still moving. Being tough, rural types they thought the best thing would be to put her out of her misery, so they reversed back over her. Unbelievable but true! Farmers have no use for a maimed cat and no interest in paying vet's bills I guess. Having got out of the truck and seen that she was STILL alive, they finally saw sense, picked her up and drove her to the vets. This is where they abandoned her, telling the nurses that they didn't want her back

Usually this would be the end of the line for a poor little farm cat but it must have been her lucky day. The vets, at their own cost, knocked her out and operated immediately, inserting more metal pins, screws and wires into her smashed back legs than was strictly sensible. She stayed there until she was able to move about on her own and then they delivered her to Matt, tiny, pathetic and wrapped in a blanket. He called her Mouse.

Having been through such an ordeal, she was obviously left with some after effects. She walked with a strange gait, her growth was stunted and she was unbearably skinny. She was the tiniest cat you'd ever seen, people mistook her for a kitten even years later. She weighed literally nothing. We used to joke that we had to keep her away from magnets incase she disappeared, thanks to all the metal holding her together. When you stroked her she was all angular and bony, with little metal knobbles. Like a little bag of bones and metal

She soon settled in with Matt and used to spend a lot of time either sleeping on the sofa or under the hedges outside. She may have been tiny but she was quite the hunter - easily tackling (and beating) woodpigeons and seeing off any other cats that dared to cross into her territory. She patrolled the boundary hedges, slept in the road, brought half dead animals into the kitchen to play with and slept on/in any clothes she could find. She could be absolutely ferocious - we used to dare each other to touch her tummy as it drove her absolutely wild and she would attack like a crazy thing! Sometimes she would come in and 'take to her bed' for a few days, appearing stiffer than usual and with scuffed claws - we assumed the result of fighting or near misses with cars. But she always used to bounce back

Once, she came home scruffy, black and staggering around like she was drunk. She'd fallen in a bucket of used engine oil that Matt had left outside the garage, hence her new colour and trying to clean it off had almost poisoned her. Matt rushed her to the vet, who pumped her full of drugs and sent them home with a block of lard to drag through her fur, to clear out the oil

A year or so after we met, we noticed that she'd started to be sick most days, and we took her to the vet. She was found to have a thyroid problem and she needed an operation to remove her thyroid. She wasn't insured so Matt forked out nearly £700 for her operation and we brought her home with a new diet of expensive, prescription food. Whilst she'd been at the vets she'd been really stressed (as you can imagine) and had started to 'self-harm' - licking a little patch of her shoulder until it was bleeding and raw. We treated this to no avail and went back to the vets again and again. In the end we took matters into our own hands and started making little suits for her out of Matt's socks! We cut off the toe and ankle part, cut little armholes into the underside and slid her in after applying cream to her sore shoulder, so that she couldn't lick off the cream. This went on for about six months, until it finally healed. We called the socks her 'Medical Suits' and everyone must have thought we were mad. The socks clung to her skinny frame and she looked frightful!

During this time, a lady came and knocked on our door one day asking if 'the little kitten in the jumper' was ours. I giggled and explained about her sore shoulder. The lady was unimpressed and disappeared. 'Odd', I thought. Mouse didn't come home that night. Or the next. Worried, we asked around and were told by the pub landlord that a lady had been asking about the 'skinny little kitten' and saying that she was 'clearly neglected and someone ought to do something'. He had told her where we lived, hence the visit.

It seemed obvious to me what had happened and I was furious. How dare she steal our cat and make presumptions about her health with NO IDEA what she'd been through? I made posters and stuck them on our gate, on the pub noticeboard and in the village shop window, stating that 'OUR CAT HAS BEEN STOLEN' and that she needed her medication otherwise her health was at risk. I went round the village that night in the dark, knocking on doors with a photo of Mouse but no one owned up to having seen her. Matt pointed out that without her special food she would soon be throwing up all over their house, they couldn't fail to see the posters so we ought to just sit tight and wait for them to bring her back. A nice man knocked on the door the following morning and tried to explain what had happened but I snatched her back and slammed the door in his face, fuming! God knows what (and how much) they'd been feeding her, she was sick for three days. They were new to the village, which is why they didn't know us/her (EVERYONE knew Mouse!) and they didn't get off to a very good start here

Just as we finally managed to get her shoulder to heal and she was able to resume life without clothes (!) the Awful Winter Of 2010 hit. I don't know how bad that winter was for you but here it was pretty terrible. If you didn't have a Land Rover you were in big trouble. Matt sold all of his stock in a day! It was minus 18 at one point and the snow was knee high. We brought Mouse inside and boarded up the cat flap so we could keep her warm inside. She started to be sick again, appeared drunk and spent nearly all her time asleep - we wracked our brains as to what could be wrong with her. She was still eating her special food - could she have eaten something dodgy before we brought her in? We decided she needed to go to the vets but sadly it was too late. She died in her little bed and I couldn't believe it. This little cat had been through so much and had so many near misses, we'd thought she was invincible. I rang Matt at work to tell him and he didn't believe me. 'She can't be dead - have you tried poking her belly??' He came home and we buried her in the garden, under a tree. It was pitch black, minus 15 and frozen solid that night but Matt dug through the snow and dug a hole with just a spade, I don't know how he did it. It was the first of of only two times I've ever seen him cry. We lit a candle to mark Mouse's final resting place and somehow it stayed lit for over a week

Mouse's Best Bits

* The time a lady came to the door crying, telling us she thought our kitten had been run over. We went out to her in the road and woke her up. She'd been sunbathing

* The times we took the dogs for a walk and she would follow us, mewling pitifully as though she thought we were leaving her forever

* The time a new cat in the neighbourhood dared to venture into our garden and she saw it off in fine style, even though it was three times the size of her. She was literally screaming at it

* The time we 'lost' her for a few days and found her napping in the wardrobe, buried in one of Matt's cosy jumpers

* The time we were on our way to the vets with her and she did a huge smelly poo in her cat carrier. It was so vile we started to retch and had to pull over and dump the little blanket she'd been sitting on in a ditch. We almost dumped her too.

* After that we abandoned the cat carrier, convinced that she was showing her disdain for it. We had to ferry her to and from the vet in Matt's van. She either sat on the headrest behind him or on his shoulder, caterwauling all the way. Once, she got her claws stuck in the foam around the edge of the rear window and was swinging around trying to get free, wowing away and looking like a gymnast on the parallel bars

She really was a funny little thing and she loved Matt more than life itself, I like to think that she knew he had taken her in when no one else wanted her. Losing her was so sad and there will never be another cat like her, she was very special. In more ways than one!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Recipe - Snickerdoodles

When the weather turns colder I like to have cakes and biscuits around the house to snack on with our hot drinks. If you ahven't already guessed, I'm not much of one for watching my waistline! Baking is so comforting on cold days, I love the smell of warm spiciness in the kitchen and my favourite cinnamon and nutmeg flavours really come into their own.

These are neither cakes nor biscuits but something inbetween. This is a Rachel Allen recipe, there aren't many of her recipes that I have been impressed with but Snickerdoodles are a regular treat during the run up to Christmas. They are kind of unusual (guests never know what to make of them!) but delicious

You will need

4 1/2 oz butter, softened
4 oz caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
9 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you have some)
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

For dusting
1 dsp caster sugar
1 dsp ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees

Cream the butter in a large bowl (I use my hand mixer) Add the caster sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract

Sift in the flour, nutmeg, baking powder and salt and gently mix together to form a dough

Mix the dsps of sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls then roll them in the sugar and cinnamon mix until well coated. Place on baking trays about 1 inch apart and flatten with your palm

Bake for around 15 minutes, until they are firm around the edges

Stand on their baking trays for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool

Enjoy with a cup of tea or a cinnamon latte!

Let me know if you give this recipe a try!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Friday Round Up

jessie takes a quick dip - and dries off afterwards - time to catch up on my subscriptions
chickens keeping wam in a sunny spot  - new yankee - finley joe, my gorgeous nephew
christmas scent for my car - cheeky chicken catching bird seed - freebies make me happy

Well, as expected, it's been a very busy week off! As I mentioned in this post, I had a lovely day at home earlier this week and really enjoyed it. But I've also made a start on some of the life admin I mentioned in last week's Friday post. I've had my flu jab, booked an eye test, found a new hairdresser and ... finally booked a break for Matt! We'll be heading off to Edinburgh for a few days next week and we're both very excited (after some last minute dithering over whether we dare to leave the house at such a crucial point) I've booked a beautiful hotel and we're planning some shopping, sightseeing and well-earned relaxation. I'm looking forward to a tour of the castle - does anyone have any other must-see/must-do recommendations for us?

We had some friends over for dinner last weekend, I made chicken liver pate which we ate with buttered, toasted homemade bread and red onion marmalade. We had Hungarian Goulash for main and followed it up with a whole lot of cheese, crackers and a lot of red wine. I discovered a previously unrecognised love of Gorgonzola with celery crackers - amazingly good! I've never been sure about blue cheese but the lovely lady at the deli persuaded me to try her favourite Gorgozola and it was just gorgeous. I'm converted.

I treated myself to a gorgeous Fat Face hoodie after spotting it on the website and then on Rosie's lovely blog, A Rosie Outlook. This blog is a new discovery for me and I absolutely love it, if you're not already a fan I suggest you head over there now! 

Yesterday I popped over to Meadowhall to take advantage of the amazing Ojon offer. If you hadn't heard about this -if you live under a stone for example - Ojon were giving away free full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner (worth £41.50!) if you took in an empty shampoo bottle, of any brand. I had to take them up on it and Meadowhall is my closest stockist, albeit an hour's drive away. I don't need much of an excuse to go to Meadowhall to be honest!

I also started buying Christmas decorations from a lovely interiors shop which happens to be next to the deli where I stocked up on cheese! I only went in to smell their Yankee Candles but I ended up coming out with quite a lot of tree decorations as well as a yummy new candle, 'Blissful Autumn', and a Christmas scent for my car

Reading back through the above solves the mystery of why my bank account is looking a bit sorry today. But hey, I'm on holiday!

I hope you've all had a great week. What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Recipe - Chicken Liver Pate

I hate liver but I LOVE pate! Preferably the smooth type rather than coarse, preferably with some alcohol included and by necessity, spread on thick cut toast with salted butter and a dollop of Red Onion Marmalade. So although this recipe, with it's mention of livers, perhaps doesn't sound inspiring, believe me when I tell you it's yummy. So yummy that when we have people round for dinner, they put in special requests for it - I'm making a double batch here for guests!

We like to eat it as part of a 'pick n mix supper' too, with cheeses, crackers, wine and chutneys

This is an adaptation of an old Delia recipe from the very first cookbook that my mum bought me when I left home. I use about a third of the butter that Delia does, believe it or not!

You will need

8oz chicken livers
100g butter
2 tbsp brandy
2 level tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp powdered mace
1 level tsp fresh chopped thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to season
frying pan
food processor

Take a good thick frying pan and melt about 1oz of the butter in it. Cook the chicken livers in it over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, keeping them on the move and turning them frequently. I know it's not pretty.

When cooked, remove them to your food processor with a slotted spoon and blitz until smooth

Melt the rest of the butter in the pan and add to the food processor. Pour the brandy into the pan, swirl around then add to the processor

Add the mustard powder, mace , thyme and garlic, season with salt and pepper and blend throughly until smooth

Spoon into individual ramekins and allow to cool

Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for a couple of days. I like to make this at least the day before I want it and make sure to remove it from the fridge a couple of hours before eating, to allow it to come to room temperature

Easy peasy and definitely worth having around over Christmas. Or any time really :-)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A day at home

I'm a simple soul. For me, there's nothing better than being at home. I love it. Partly I suppose because I love our home, it's cute and cosy and because we have knocked it about over the past few years, it's exactly how we want it. Full of interesting features and little details that have special meanings to us

Being off work (did I mention I'm on holiday??) has allowed me to spend more time at home and made me really appreciate this quirky little place. We'll be leaving it soon so I'm really pleased that we'll get one more Christmas here, it's a perfect Christmas house as it really lends itself to being dressed up. I'm planning to do a living room tour post next month when I've put my decorations up, partly because I LOVE reading other people's house tour posts (especially Charlotte's) and partly because it will be a great way for me to reminisce about this house when we've moved on

My favourite part of the week is Sunday night, when we curl up on the sofas with blankets and dogs, fire lit, candles lit, roast in the oven, glass of red in hand and Sunday night TV keeping our minds off work the next day. If it's raining - so much the better. The patter of rain on the windows only makes this scene cosier

Today I've been at home all day, reading, catching up on my favourite blogs, doing some washing and some online shopping, planning blog posts. It's a filthy day outside, dark and rainy and just being cosy inside with my candles lit and the dogs snoozing on the rug is lovely. For once, I've got nothing pressing to do today so I'm enjoying the silence (broken by the occasional dog snore) and a nice cup of tea and contemplating doing some baking in a while. Maybe.

I always thought that I couldn't bear to be a housewife, I am too independent and wouldn't want to rely on someone else to bring in the money. What would I do when I wanted to buy him a birthday present, for example? Not to mention the fact that I'd be deadly bored. Wouldn't I? With no nice car to drive about in, no money to spend, no important meetings to get nervous about?

But at times like this I can definitely see the appeal. Life takes on a slower pace when you have no strict schedule. Plus I'm tired, I've been working full time for 14 years with no gaps. I've been abroad once in that time, this current holiday is the longest time I've ever had off work and for the last three and a half years life has been about non-stop building work and planning for the future. I want to step off the hamster wheel, curl up and rest for a while

This holiday couldn't have come at a better time

Friday, 2 November 2012

Friday Round Up

m&s crack out the mince pies - late night lab snuggles - new read
no more weevils in MY flour - our building site - when in doubt, have both
actual snow this week! - a block of wood, the poor mans ice scraper - a green fire for halloween week

I finished work at 8pm last night and I don't have to go back until the 19th November! It's going to be the longest time I've ever had off work and I just know that going back will be the worst Monday morning ever. Ugh.

But I don't need to think about that just yet. I've got stuff to do. Essential maintenance stuff like getting my eyes tested, getting my teeth checked and cleaned, getting a flu jab and finding a new hairdresser. Relaxing stuff like reading, baking, blogging and walking the dogs. Fun stuff like taking Matt on a mini break, having a day in York, a day shopping with my sister ... I'm going to be just as busy as I am at work! I started my holiday this morning the way I mean to go on - reading my new book in bed with a cup of tea. There'll be lots of that in the coming fortnight, I feel

I need to start planning Christmas whilst I'm off work too. Buying cards, planning gifts, picking decorations. I'm trying not to get excited too early but I can't help it. I bought Michael Buble's Christmas album yesterday!

I'm also going to commit to learning how to use my camera properly. I've been meaning to do it since I got it but I'm too impatient. And I've got lots of work to do at the new house. I ordered my Aga this week so I need to make a beautiful new kitchen for it to live in. The bathrooms are now tiled and the extension walls are built up to head height, it's all slowly coming together

This weekend holds cooking and baking as we have friends coming over for dinner tomorrow night - that means a takeaway tonight in my eyes. Then painting at the house on Sunday and our usual cosy Sunday night in front of the fire with the dogs, winter TV, a roast dinner and candles burning. It's the best part of the week

Have a great weekend everyone!

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