Sunday, 25 January 2009

Burns Night

I must have mentioned before how much I love to mark the passing seasons and days. So, how could I resist celebrating Burns Night tonight?!

It is just a quiet, simple evening with me and my lovely husband, but if we enjoy it, we think we will have our families around next year!

As I type, we have a Haggis steaming in the kitchen, which I shall be serving with buttered neeps and tatties. I know, I know, Haggis is made of squeamish-making things, but really, when you think about it, if you have eaten cheap sausages, then you have eaten far worse than what goes into a Haggis! And once it starts steaming it smells so savoury and good!

Then for dessert, we are having rice pudding with raspberry jam and whiskey, followed by whiskey coffees! It will just be a nip in mine, as I don't normally like it that much...

As we serve the Haggis, we will play bagpipe music (courtesy of youtube!) and Carl is charged with reciting Robbie Burns Haggis poem....

Such fun!

Mimi Makes Lemon Curd

At a family gathering last week, I revealed that my main plan for the weekend was to make some lemon curd; one of my relatives remarked that I am 'a real little homemaker'. I hadn't really thought of it like that, but I do love the comforts of home, and making it just as nice as can be, and an important part of that for me, is having scrumptious things to serve at my table.

Today was a gloomy, rainy Sunday afternoon, the perfect kind of January weather for pottering about in the kitchen. With a full cup of tea, and the Puppini sisters playing, I sallied forth...

Mimi's Lemon Curd

4 lemons
4 eggs
4oz butter
1lb sugar

First, put a saucepan of water on to boil, with a pyrex bowl on top, not touching the water.

Cut the butter into tiny cubes, and put into the bowl along with the sugar, and the juice and zest of the lemons.

(I used my zester rather than grating the zest in. Less delicate perhaps, but I love strands of lemon zest).

Pour in the beaten eggs, and stir over a gentle heat.

You have to be careful- too hot and not enough stirring, and you will get lemony scrambled eggs- ugh - not enough heat and it wont thicken.

When it thickens (it will thicken more as it sets) pour into sterilized jam jars and seal.

I have to say that this was a real joy to make. It made two largeish jars....recipe books always advise using small jars, as it does not keep well (8 weeks in the fridge) but I shall keep a jar and give a jar, and I am sure it won't last long! It is simplicity itself, and the kitchen was filled with the most marvellous refreshing scent of lemons. Yellow has never been my favourite colour, I usually find it too harsh, but there are some shades of yellow that are the colour of spring to me....daffodils, crocuses, and lemon curd!

I have plans to eat it with soft white bread, to stir it into thick plain yoghurt, and to perhaps use it as a filling in cake, too.

I hope your afternoon has been full of zest too!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


One blog that I love to read is Yarnstorm, by Jane Brocket, who wrote one of the most divine books...The Gentle Art of Domesticity. She recently moved her blog, and now writes here:

It is still scrumptious as ever, but sadly, the archives are no longer there. Jane posted ages ago about a poem, Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis, and knitting a hot water bottle cover to match the covers of the fabulous Persephone books.

At the time, I tried to read a Dorothy Whipple (one of the Persephone books) and just couldn't get into it. At all. I was so disappointed...I wanted to read these books and knit these things....but somehow couldn't.

Time moves on, people change...I have long since been in love with Dorothy Whipple's writing. I was walking home from work in the gathering twilight the other evening, and although I was enjoying the shadows and play of dark upon dark, the pools of light from lamposts, the biting cold...I couldn't wait to get home, put on the whistling kettle, and settle down with 'They Were Sisters' and then knit some more on my hot water bottle cover. All of a sudden, I remembered about when I wanted to do these things, but couldn't make it work for me. I have grown into doing them, being them, loving them, and I couldn't be happier.

If you haven't yet discovered do...and any Dorothy Whipple book you care to choose, should you be at the right time in your life to read it, you will adore. How could you not?!

Pics of hot water bottle cover when it is finished. It is a chalky duck-egg blue, soft and snuggly, with some polka dot buttons, some plain, and I am going to make a great big corsage to go on it as well.

Mimi Makes Marmalade

Today is one of those clear, bright, cold January days, when it feels like the day has been scoured clean by the cold. It has been a perfectly wonderful day...a day off work, before the madness of my new hours starts, lunch with a friend, a new haircut, and a new bunch of daffodils!

Carl will be home in an hour or so, and I will be serving steamed smoked haddock, crushed steamed new potatoes, green beans and creamed spinach. I love it when I am at home first, and know that he will be coming home to a house full of warmth, light, and tasty dinner.

We had a scrumptious Sunday, too...a dear friend invited us to Sunday lunch in her sweet little cottage. She made a lemon and thyme roast chicken, and we took Creme Brulee for dessert. When I go to visit people, especially if we are eating with them, I really like to take what I hear in the States is called a 'hostess gift'. Usually flowers or some little token like that, but this time I took a jar of homemade marmalade.

Indeed, I was up bright and early that very morning to make it. Having read through several marmalade recipes (The River Cottage Preserves book is very useful!) I concocted a recipe of my made three small jars, and our little flat was wonderful scented with orange all day long.

Mimi's Marvellous Blood Orange and Cointreau Marmalade

10+ Blood Oranges (enough to give 1 litre of juice)
3 lemons
500g caster sugar
50ml cointreau

First, zest 6 oranges and the 2 lemons. (This part smells wonderful!)

Next, juice all the oranges- you need a litre of juice. To get the most juice, I used my juicer (the kind that also juices veggies like carrots).

Juice the lemons, too.

Put the juice, zest and sugar into a large saucepan, and stir gently over a low heat to dissolve the sugar.

Scoop out all the pulp from the juicer, and put into a square of muslin. Squeeze it over the pan, and stir all the squeezings in.

Bring to the boil, then simmer for about an hour, or until setting point has been reached, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick and burn.

When setting point has been reached, take off the heat, stir in the cointreau, then leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour into sterilised jam pots, cover and label.

Now buy some lovely soft bread (tiger bread is my favourite at the moment) that is all squishy, and enjoy your marmalade...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

A Clean Sweep!

Once I start my new job, I will be working three Saturdays a month, instead of the two I do now, so our original plan for today was to really relax and make the most of my last Saturday-Sunday weekend for a while.

I just couldn't settle into it though- we still had a few Christmas presents which needed homes, and I wanted to hoover too. So, I went to the shop first thing, and when all the groceries were put away, I put away the rest of the presents, dusted, hoovered, tidied and puttered, and now our little flat is just as scrumptious as can be.

We have the lantern burning again, and I am sipping tea as I type. I bought some blood oranges at the shop (although they are now, curiously called 'ruby red' oranges) and spotted some sevilles, too. I love to make marmalade, and wonder, could I make it out of blood oranges, or would it be too sweet? Hmmm, I feel a little internet research is called for. I am going to spend next Sunday making some marmalade and perhaps lemon curd, and I hope to be knitting on a new project by then as well.

Having made our little flat all ready for another week, I have read through the new issue of Country Living magazine. What a delicious treat that magazine is! It makes me feel so...centered and enthusiastic for the coming months.

I am doing an early start at work tomorrow, so it will be an early night for me. Sleep tight, sweet dreams everyone!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Snuggly Evening

I love the wonderful world of blogs and blogging, of wonderful friends made here, of such kind comments left here...but I do wish, wish, wish I could somehow have you all here with me right now.

I sometimes think that I use the word cosy too much (and I can never decide how to spell it...cozy, cozie, cosie, cosy?) but I feel that if you could snip a little patch out of life and sew it to a quilt, and I chose this time to snip, then you would look at it and cosy would be the perfect word. I am sitting on my sofa with my wonderful husband by my side. I am sipping tea from a flowery mug given to me by one of my loveliest friends, and dear Carl is watching the West Wing boxed set that Santa left for him at Christmas. We have all the lights off, apart from the lamp he gave me for Christmas, which give such a soft warm light. We have this beautiful lantern, aged metal and glass, the kind that looks like it should hang on a pole and be taken carol singing...there is a candle flickering away in there which adds to my feeling of warmth and light.

There is the soft scent of amber in the air from where I have burnt a little incense, and a bunch of pink tulips on the windowsill (from my wonderful sister, who appeared at work within an hour of hearing about a fall on the ice that I had, bearing flowers, chocolates, and Finding Nemo plasters-neemo for my knee!)I have made out my menu plan for next week, so I am ready to go to the shop tomorrow morning, and I have a deep conditioning hair mask on under my pink bath hat.

Everything is so warm and soft and...cosy. I really wish I could have you here so I could share this with you, I really do.

As blogging technology hasn't got quite as far as that yet, instead I will share with you a few of my discoveries of the past week. Firstly, the scrummiest lunch ever. I spread a seeded wrap with caramelised onion hoummous, and then spread a handful of lettuce over it, topped with grated carrot, then rolled it up. It is so tasty, and has the benefit of being really healthy too! Hurrah!

Secondly, I have so many wonderful people in my life. After I fell on the ice going home from work, Carl picked me up, got me home, into bed, cooked me dinner and gave me a hot water bottle. My Mum phoned me at work the next day to make sure I was ok, and I already mentioned my wonderful sister. My Uncle passed away on Sunday evening, and one friend used the most beautiful words to comfort me. My mother-in-law asked me to visit and make my petit pots au chocolat for her dinner party this evening! My lovely friend Annastasia sent me an email telling me I looked fab, just as I was having a crisis of confidence. Lovely Dan is taking me see Twilight after work on Tuesday (can't wait!) and a lovely lady has offered to have me at her library for a week so I can learn the ropes from her before starting in my own little library!

I could go on, and on, and on...but I won't because I am sure it doesn't make for gripping reading! Instead, I will move on to letting you all know that the Daily Mail is giving away dvds of classic costume dramas over the next week, starting with Cranford! I do love free things!

When I go to the shop tomorrow to buy our groceries, I plan to bring home armfuls of daffodils and some hyacinths to scent our little flat. When I was at my mother-in-law's this morning, she had some blue hyacinths in a pot, and then a bunch of daffodils in a blue-and-white-polka-dot jug, and they looked wonderful.

I plan to spend the rest of the evening searching the internet for a hot water bottle pattern to knit, and then a warm shower to rinse the mask out of my hair before climbing into bed with a good book.

I hope that your Saturday is proving to be as cosy and scrumptious as can be!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Jeudi, 1 Janvier

For me, Christmas and New Year are all about family. For dear Carl and I, it falls that Christmas is spent with our families, and New Year with the family that we have chosen for ourselves- our friends. Last night we saw in 2009 with dear friends at an impossibly scrumptious dinner party, (and decadent! I got up in the middle of the night to hunt for Carl, to meet him on his way up to bed...and discovered it was 6am!) and this afternoon we had a long lunch with his friends, one of whom I have known since I was 3. I have some special people I have yet to talk with, but I have the most wonderful feeling of the abundance of love in my life, and for that I am so very grateful.

I hope that you have seen in the new year with people dear to you, and that 2009 will see your dreams and wishes coming true. Thank you so much to those of you who have left me such kind comments this year...they mean a lot to me. I try very hard not to get too hung up on comments, as it is easy to start to judge yourself on the lack or abundance of them...but I must confess that when I read your kind words and thoughts, it brings such a smile to my day.

Have you discovered yet The Wonderful Weekend Book by Elspeth Thompson? It is the most delicious book that I have discovered is full of ideas for things to do at the weekend, some for each season, and then some all the year round ideas. It is one of my resolution-targets that this year we will do more of this kind of thing, and also capture more of them on camera. The first thing I have picked to do is to go on a Snowdrop Walk. I hope to go to either The Gardens of Easton Lodge, or RHS Hyde Hall. I am imagining a crisp cold day, a flask of soup, and some cheese scones still warm from the oven.

It sounds terribly vain, I know, but this year I want to spend some time focussing on myself, and my looks. I want to eat a little more healthily, exercise a bit more and remember to use face masks and so on for more than a week at a time before trailing off! I also have a long list of things I would like to make. For some reason, I am always drawn to tea cosies and hot water bottles! Over the next day or so, before I go back to work, I am going to choose out a pattern and order my yarn.

I have been terribly spoilt this Christmas; I had a cashmere jumper in pink from my mother-in-law, and the most fabulous baking book from the wonderful Tash at (in French! I shall be brushing up on my language skills this year!) and some fabulous cherry hair slides. Oh, and a vintage scrapbook to be filled with wonderful things, and a recipe box with recipe cards, and a snuggly pair of reindeer slippers. Oh, and there is the matter of the Cath Kidston 'Make' book, and a bright pink ipod!

Although our dear little flat is rather full of these lovely things, it is quite orderly too. Before we left for New Years, we took down all of our Christmas decorations, changed our sheets, hoovered the floors, and flung the windows open. I have a vase of daffodils on the windowsill, and a hyacinth bulb slowly growing. I know it sounds a little scroogey to have done away with the trappings of Christmas so soon, but I really wanted to get into the feeling of a new start for the new year. It was rather lovely to come home today to all the freshness.

My baking book is going to come in rather handily- I plan on taking some baked goodies with me on my first day in my new job! I can hardly believe this, and still worry that somehow it was all a dream, but I have been given a little library to look after all on my own! I will still be working at my current library half of the week, but the other half will see me at a library in the most darling little village, half way between where I live now, and where my Mum lives. Such an adventure to start the new year with- I am so pleased, but also really scared!

Every time I write that I am going to blog more, it seems to me that something comes up and dashes all my good intentions. So, I am going to think it instead of writing it in the hope of not jinxing it! I adore writing, and get a lot out of writing here.

I am all snuggled up on the sofa with a steaming cup of tea; Jonathan Creek is just starting, and I feel almost indescribably cosy. Carl is next to me and is ever so nice to snuggle with as he is wearing his Christmas Cashmere jumper. I hope that wherever you are, you are starting 2009 with the same feelings of contentment and excitement as I.

Happy New Year, everyone!