Sunday, 21 February 2010

Catching up with friends

It's been a while since me & mine went out for an evening with friends. Somehow preparations for Canada, getting the house into some sort of order seemed to overshadow everything else.  This weekend we called a halt to the DIY and took a well earned break. Some friends had recently moved to a nearby village and they invited us over to see the new house, which by the way, is beautiful.  After some wine we headed to their local pub which, we found, serves the most delicious Thai food I have ever tasted.  We had one of the nicest evenings in a while, good food, great company and later a romantic bus ride home!  Yes too much to drink so a very amiable publican allowed us to leave the car safely in the car park. The  bus stop was right outside so as our friends tottered off toward theirs we waited patiently under a starry sky.  We were safely tucked up with Horlicks by midnight!  Just one of those little luxuries...time with friends.  Thank you Vicky & Ash!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Finding time for the little things

Between blogging recipes, shopping and going to the cinema I also had time today to experiment with my camera.  Thanks to Lorrie and her excellent recommendation of Scott Kelby's Digital Photography step by step book I managed to get some excellent shots of my paperwhite narcisi.  Thought I'd share them.

Everyone's talking about Lamb Shanks!

Now I don't know whether it's the cold climate that prevails at the moment but the topic of conversation in our staffroom seems to be comfort food!  More precisely casseroles and slow cookers.  So before I throw myself into the usual Saturday morning chaos that is teenagers,'s, shopping and cooking I thought I'd share our favorite Slow cooked Lamb Shanks in Red Wine recipe.  I love this not only for it's tenderness and rich gravy, but because it can be quickly prepared early on and then left to it's own devices until you want to eat it!

Before you go to bed take 1  red onion, chopped.  1 large garlic clove, crushed.  Mix with 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tspn each  ground paprika, rosemary and thyme.  Take 2 Lamb Shanks and stab them all over (very therapeutic if you've had a bad day!) then put them in the bowl with oil/vinegar mix. Massage well, cover with cling film, put in the fridge and go to bed!

On waking flick on the slow cooker to heat up.  Sear the lamb shanks in a hot pan on all sides and put in the slow cooker.  Saute the rest of the marinade for a minute then add a good size glass of red wine.  Next add a pint of lamb stock made with 1 stock cube and boiling water.  Pour this over the shanks, add more water if necessary to cover them. Put the lid on and leave for six hours or longer.

Now go enjoy your day knowing that later on when you're hungry you only have to throw some veg in a pan for 15-20 minutes.  If, like me, you like a thicker gravy remove the lamb from the pot and put in a warm oven, pour the gravy into a pan and thicken with a little cornflour.  Be sure to bring to the boil for two minutes to ensure the cornflour is cooked off.  Serve up pouring gravy all over !

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Simple pleasures or pure indulgence?

Yesterday I spent a rather lovely day at The Royal Spa, Tunbridge Wells. A christmas gift from my best friend.  We arrived just before nine and treated ourselves to a pot of tea and some thick granary toast with real butter and homemade raspberry jam.  With my rapidly approaching departure to Canada we wanted to make the  most of some one to one girl time that so often escapes us.  We checked into the spa and put on our white fluffy dressing gowns and were whisked off for a whistle stop tour before being left to our own devices.  We had a full body massage booked for 11.30 and a facial at 3.30.  As we swam, very leisurely, up and down the pool we planned our day. Eager to spend quality time together and, of course, to get our money's worth. We decided to chill by the pool and in the spa bath until half eleven. After lunch, served on low tables lounging on beanbags, we would rest in the bedouin style bedroom then back to the pool area.  Here we would apply our 'Morrocan Mist' treatment, a scrub, detox gel and a moisturiser.  This would be followed by our facial.

So this is what really happened.  All went well up till lunch time.  Have you ever tried to sit elegantly on a squidgy, unruly beanbag in a dressing gown without losing any dignity? No? Well let me tell you it's not an easy task.   If my friend could have disowned me she would have!  I think my first error was to pull it away from the wall. Then I plumped it up, sat on it and just sort of disappeared off the back with my legs in the air!  However, lunch was beautiful and tasted just as good as it looked.  Fed and watered we retired to the bedroom where we chatted and flicked through magazines. Then... we fell asleep.  We awoke about 5 minutes before our next treatment!

I had to laugh.  We had been looking forward to this day for weeks.  My friend had paid goodness knows how much for it and there we were... asleep!  We both agreed that we would, however, do it all over again!  Thank you Jan, snoring aside, it was a lovely day!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Work in progress!

This is my Russian Doll doorstop prototype 2!  The first was the perfect shape but I filled it from the top and wasn't happy with the finish.  This one I thought was going to be great.  Fill it from the bottom, I thought,  and the top will be better.  That worked ok.  But  I made the face a bit smaller as I felt the first was too big.  Am I happy?  No!  This one I feel is too small!  I can feel a third prototype is needed!  Oh well Rome wasn't built in a day... and neither will my doorstops be.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Recipe for a night in

I love cooking.  I love eating too! I found this recipe, it's from Weightwatchers so you can have a glass of wine to go with it and not feel guilty!  You could have a pudding too!  If you speak fluent Points it's worth 3 and half points per serving.  Whatever!  Just enjoy it.  This recipe serves 2 so perfect for a romantic Valentines Day Dinner.
2 Garlic Cloves
15g piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
pinch of salt
1 small red onion finely diced
1/2 tspn each cumin seeds & ground coriander
1/4 tspn each ground tumeric, cayenne pepper and freshly ground black pepper.
6 tomatoes, skinned de-seeded and chopped
200g cooked, peeled king prawns
100g 0% greek yogurt
1/2 mild green chilli de-seeded and diced
1 tbspn chopped fresh coriander

75g (dry weight) basmati rice

 Pound the garlic, ginger & salt in a pestle and mortar.
Put rice on to boil according to packet instructions
Heat wok saute onion gently for 5 minutes
Add garlic and ginger paste and all the spices cook for a few seconds but don't burn the spices
Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.  Turn down the heat to low and stir in prawns.  Heat through then add the yogurt and chopped coriander stirring until all heated through.
Serve with the Rice

The original recipe used a whole chilli. I'm wary of chilli because I don't like hot curries.  Using half a chilli still gave it quite a kick.  I would recommend starting with half and increasing the heat next time if you can cope with it!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

At 7 o'clock one morning I made a snap decision to go for a walk with my camera! The sky looked beautiful with a pinky orange glow that I knew would not last much past 8 o'clock. I set off for the beach which is about a five minute walk from the house. Our local fox, I call him Charlie, was just coming off the night shift. Unfortunately so was I, not quite alert enough and thus missing a great photo opportunity. I settled myself on the beach for a few minutes and just snapped away! Taking the circular route to return home via the lagoon, I was surprised to see that some parts of the lagoon were still frozen. Almost as surprised as the rather sleepy moorhen who came to an abrupt halt when he swam into the edge of the ice! Early morning is probably my favorite time out there. There was a faint hum of traffic far in the distance, but other than that it was just me and the birds, two of whom I caught canoodling on a bench!

Home and breakfast. English muffins with marmalade. On reflection a little more effort perhaps next time? Sipping my hot tea from a Maxwell William White Basic mug I remembered the fuss I made about collecting a Royal Albert Country Roses tea set. This, I'm ashamed to say, is languishing at the back of the cupboard. Next time.

Sitting in front of the fire looking out over the garden a black bird appeared from nowhere on the guttering above the workshop window. He hopped down onto the fence. Then his mate appeared from under the roof tile. It appears that we have a wee small family in residence in our workshop! Better not tell the cats! This discovery, I have to say, made up for missing Charlie. Truly a fantastic morning.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Welcome to my new Blog!

Life’s simple pleasures is a blog that is focussed on just that. I get a great deal of enjoyment just exploring and experiencing everything life has to offer. From a few minutes at sunrise when the light is so perfect to a whole hour of soothing piano music playing softly whilst I’m baking. My second source of pleasure is recording and sharing those moments with others.

I created this blog, with the help of a dear friend, in an attempt to share these pleasures with a wider audience in the hope of spreading a little joy. I hope that you find something here that you will enjoy. If you find something that helps lighten your load, solves a problem or simply makes you laugh out loud then it has all been worthwhile.

My thanks to Lorrie, who got this blog up and running for me.