Friday, 28 June 2013

Five Minute Friday / In Between

Happy Friday, Friends! I am linking up with Lisa Jo's Five Minute Friday community today.

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Our house in its current appearance suggests the lives that we are living in between. In between making this house into a home. The bare walls silently speaking of the potential there is to bring beauty into our home and onto these white walls. The swatches of paint that reveal the in between place that we lie in our decision making for what shade of green will be  just right to add a splash of colour; the up-ended, half built cot in the bedroom where our baby will sleep and dream, speaks of the in between place of pregnancy. New life is in the process of developing and pregnancy is that safe and precious place where human life grows.
The preparations for change are evidently underway, all over the house, but currently we are present in the in between stage. And as I look at the in between places, the garden that is not yet a place of beauty, piled high with rubble and rocks, I start to see the beauty that exists in the in between places. The birds that gather to bathe in the garden dust speak life to me, when all I can see is rocks and weeds.
The buds of the peonies in our living room remind me that beauty blossoms over time. And that is exactly where my thoughts settle on the 'in between.' We have time. We have time before our baby arrives, we have time to make decisions about the art that will adorn our walls, and I need to take the time to appreciate the beauty of the in between places, to enjoy the journey of creating life and beauty.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

around here


This week, I have been enjoying...

+ the presence of peonies in my home. They are my all time favourite flower
+ the scent of Spring Dreams oil filling our living room
+ the feeling of our little babe flipping around inside me
+ reading about childbirth
+ photographing a beautiful baby boy
+ drinking gallons of water and orange juice
+ stretching at Pilates

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Hello friends, for the last 18 weeks I have been carrying around this little secret with me. I never thought I would wait this long to write about being pregnant in this little space, and in all honesty, I am not quite sure how we are past 18 weeks of pregnancy already. 

I read the quote below earlier on Mary Beth's blog and I was reminded of why I take the time to write here: 

First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind.  If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive to write about it…we do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” ~ C. Day Lewis

I have always enjoyed writing as a way of processing my thoughts, and as this pregnancy flies past at an incredible rate, I am feeling the need to write through my experiences, so that I might process these precious days in a little bit more detail. I love to document life with my camera, and I have surprised myself at just how little I have managed to take photos during this pregnancy. You see the photo above? I am well aware it is far from fabulous, but I am ok with that. I kept waiting for the perfect opportunity to take a photo of my growing belly to share with you, and I realised, it was never going to happen if I didn't just get on with it. In the end, I settled with a photo of half my face, on bended knee with my camera on timer, stacked up on a pile of books, to try and get some kind of self portrait.  

Pregnancy so far has felt incredibly normal. For the first 14 weeks, I noticed very little difference in myself, except for the waves of tiredness that would swoop over me in the middle of the afternoon. There has been no sickness, no cravings, no crazy hormones. Just a tiny baby contentedly growing inside of me, and the knowledge that this was so. What a miracle, which I marvel at daily. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Saturday Dinner // Moroccan Lamb

Lamb does not often feature on the menu in our house, and I think this is mostly because it is so much more expensive than chicken. So it was a nice treat to eat something a bit different on Saturday evening, having been inspired by my brother Ben telling me about some Moroccan seasoned bread he had made.
The marinade is the key element of this recipe, consisting of chilli's, spring onions, garlic, cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper. I envisaged we would only leave it to marinate for an hour, but a trip to Ikea changed that plan. By the time I had escaped Ikea's grasp, the lamb had been sitting pretty in the marinade for almost three hours, I think.
I have learnt from John that the joy of making marinades (and cooking in general) is that you can get away with being pretty inexact about quantities, and it'll probably taste fine. So, the quantities below, are an approximation of what I actually used:

ingredeints for the marinade:
3 cloves garlic
half a red chilli
1.5 tsp each of cumin, paprika and cayenne
4 spring onions
enough olive oil to bind it all together without being too wet or dry

method for preparing and cooking the lamb
1) Once you have blitzed all of your marinade ingredients together in a food processor, put your diced lamb in a bowl (we used 300g for 3 of us), cover in the marinade and chill until you are ready to cook.

2) Place the marinated lamb in a roasting dish, along with 2 diced bell peppers, an onion and anything else you fancy adding.

3) Roast for approximately 30 - 40 minutes at about 190C / Gas mark 5, or until cooked! Alternatively, place the diced lamb & peppers on skewers to make kebabs, and try barbequing them!

4) Serve with pittas and salad.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Court Farm

Today I took my class of children on an adventure to Court Farm. The farmer's there are fantastic with children, and it was a lot of fun to be in a different setting outside of school for the day. One of the highlights was seeing a cow being milked. Cows produce a seriously impressive amount of milk. In ten minutes, one cow produced enough milk to fill 80 cartons - potentially about 320 litres. How impressive is that?!
Farmer Ed taught us a fascinating fact about cows, and that is, when they have a drink from a bucket, they get milk up their noses, so to remedy this, they lick the milk from their nostrils once they've drunk as much as they want.
Calves take a bit of time to develop this skill, and so help each other in the process, by doing each other the favour of licking the milk out of the other nostrils. Pretty clever, hey?
The children also had the opportunity to bottle feed the baby lambs and goats. They were a ravenous and rambunctious bunch, and I wanted to take them all home with me. For a brief moment, I thought about giving up teahing to go and work on a farm, and then I decided it'd be a much better idea to teach children on a farm instead of in a school. There's that old saying, 'never work with children or animals.' Me? I'd happily work with both.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies. I love them. My first ever job was as a Saturday girl in a bakery, and I loved the flavour of their chocolate orange cookies. They were enormous. I couldn't quite get over the fact that it was possible to bake something so enormous and evenly textured that tasted delicious. Each Saturday, we would have to clean out the giant drawers that housed the cookies and biscuits which had a shelf life of longer than a day. Inevitably, there would be a good number of broken cookie pieces, which I merrily munched on throughout the day. What a treat. Even though I loved them, there was something about their texture that I pondered on. They seemed to lack a chewiness that would make them perfect.
It was quite possibly from then on that I resolved to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I was excited and determined by the challenge, and I remember scouring my Mother's recipe books in the hope that I would find what I was looking for among the dog eared pages of those books. My first attempt at baking cookies was totally disappointing - they fluffed up beautifully but crisped around the edges too much. Their texture was inconsistent and their flavour was a far cry from the cookies at my bakery. And so the search continued, although I got rather way-laid for a number of years, as I tried my hand at baking no end of brownies and cupcakes. Then came the day that I discovered the wonders of using Condensed Milk in double chocolate chip cookies and boy, did those cookies make me happy. But still, I wanted to find a single chocolate chip cookie recipe that I loved just as much. I have tried a few, which have been fine, but not the mouth watering deliciousness I was looking for.

A few weeks ago, while we were in the throes of packing up our home in preparation to move, I co-hosted a baby shower, and cookies felt like the order of the day. So I started my search for the recipe afresh. And I finally found what I was looking for. This recipe produces perfectly cracked, perfectly chewy cookies and I love them. And if you are in the mood for an enormous cookie, these work perfectly on a giant scale (or if you prefer tiny cookies, they work perfectly for that, too).

(Confession: It might just be 4.20am on a Tuesday morning as I write this, and I might just have consumed the last of a batch of these cookies as a consolation treat for being wide awake at this time in the morning. If you find yourself experiencing insomnia or wakefulness at such an hour and feel in need of a cookie, just let me know, and I will send some your way.)

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

ingredients
200g dark brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
250g self raising flour
half tsp bi-carbonate of soda
170g unsalted butter, melted
250g chocolate chips (I used half white, half milk chocolate)

1) Pre-heat oven to 170C & grease 3 large baking trays
2) Gently melt the butter
3) Weigh the sugars into a large mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Beat until well combined
4) Beat in the vanilla extract, egg, and egg yolk until mixed
5) Sieve in the flour and bi-carb and mix gently
6) Stir in the chocolate chips
7) Place balls of cookie dough the size of a walnuts (weighing approx 25g) on the prepared baking tray, well spaced apart - these cookies spread a lot. If you would like giant cookies, use an ice cream scoop to measure out the cookie dough
8) Bake for 6-8 mins in pre-heated oven if you have made the dough the size of walnuts. If you have gone for the larger cookie approach, bake for 10 - 12 mins.
9) Whip them out of the oven and leave to cool on their trays for a few mins before transferring to a cooling rack, or consume as soon as they have hardened slightly with a tall glass of milk.

Monday, 10 June 2013

From House to Home: Part 1

The house that we have moved into is in a lovely condition, having been newly renovated throughout, prior to being put on the market. We so appreciate the fact that the house is structurally sound and requires no major work. What has taken us slightly by surprise is all of the work that goes into transforming a house into a home. All of the little, and not so little jobs accumulate into one long list. After returning from our holiday last week, we felt slightly overwhelmed at all we needed to do in order to make this house feel like a home So, we wrote a long list of jobs, and then a smaller list that of what we wanted to achieve by the weekend. 
One of the main jobs was to build some shelves for our dining room. John had the vision to buy reclaimed scaffolding planks from a local wood yard and use the width of 1.5 planks for each shelf. The plan worked perfectly.
John's parents came to stay this weekend, and oh my, do I have a lot of admiration for their work ethic. John's Dad worked his fingers to the bone to sand down all of the wood, with a slightly inadequate sander - he concluded that a belt sander would have been much better for this job.
 The finished shelves are beautiful and have a brilliant character and charm to them that I love.
John varnished the shelves with an Antique Pine finish, and while he was on a role, he also varnished the coffee table we were given for our wedding almost three years ago! Thanks to the sander, John was able to remove all of the water stains and marks the table has acquired over the past few years, so it looks like new.
My parents came to stay a few weekends ago, and I had deliberated for a long time with my Mum about the best way to dress the windows in our kitchen and dining room. After looking at all of the options, we bought a plain Roman Blind for the kitchen with the plan to purchase some lightweight fabric that I would cover the blind with. After a couple more weeks of consideration, we decided that it would be best to avoid a fabric blind in the kitchen, as it would be in such close proximity to the taps, and inevitably, would end up getting splashed a lot. So, on Sunday, John's Mum and I went back to John Lewis and I exchanged the plain blind for one of their ready made ones to hang in our dining room. While I love all things hand made, and would like to be able to say I made a lot of the soft furnishings in our house, I was happy to let this one go. It didn't seem cost effective to go to all of the trouble to make our own, and I am happy with the blind we have ended up with.
John, in all of his efficiency, put the blind up on the day we bought it, making the dining room feel just a little bit more homely.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Bishop Thornton: Yorkshire

When we arrived in Yorkshire last weekend, it felt like we had entered The Secret Garden. We walked through this beautiful archway, along the flower lined path, and through a creaky wooden gate to get to the entrance of The Old Hayloft.
Shirley had laid the table for us, adding yet more of her beautiful flowers to the napkins. I loved the attention to detail!
The Aga did an incredible job of keeping the Hayloft warm - you would think that by the end of May we would not be so thankful for the heat it generated, but it was a very wet and cold week! It served dual purposes in drying our clothes as well as brewing our coffee.
We had been informed by good friends that if we were near Harrogate, we must visit Betty's tea room, so we did just that. It is an incredibly popular place, with customers happy to queue along the street for a good long time in order to get a table. We enjoyed a cream tea there (although, dare I say it, it wasn't the best I have ever had), and stocked up on delicious biscuits in their shop.
On Friday, we visited a reservoir and went for a stroll. My absolute favourite part of this day was taking a nap on a moor in the glorious sunshine - if you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen the photo evidence of this.
Before we headed back to the Hayloft from the reservoir, John and Tim collected kindling for our evening fire.
The sunshine on Friday that buffered a week of rain provided the loveliest of endings to this week. We drove home feeling incredibly tired from all of the resting - if that is even possible - and a car full of finds for our home from an antiques market, which I will share with you shortly.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

breathe.

It has been almost a month since we moved into our very own home. We have lived in the same flat since we got married nearly 3 years ago. It was fully furnished, which has meant that the only pieces of furniture that we could call our own when we moved out last month were a coffee table, a desk and an Ikea Expedit unit. We spent a good number of hours scouring the internet for furniture, thankful for Gumtree in helping us source reasonably priced, local, secondhand furniture. 

We moved during an incredibly busy time in the school year, which has meant I feel I have given our house very little attention since we have moved in. I am very fortunate to work part time as a teacher, which means that my afternoons are my own. However, the nature of the job has meant that nearly every afternoon since we moved has been spent either at school or in a coffee shop, making use of the free wifi to catch up on school work. It has felt like there has been little room in my head for anything other than working my way through the never ending to-do list of school related jobs.

{entrance to The Old Hayloft}

Suffice to say, I was grateful for the half term break this week. We went to Yorkshire for the week, and stayed in a beautiful place called The Old Hayloft with Tim and Becky. This place was a breath of fresh air, thanks to the hard work of Shirley, the owner of the property. Shirley is the most wonderful of women - beautiful and gentle, incredibly hardworking and hospitable. Shirley has created a delightful haven to rest and recuperate in, and we are already talking about visiting again. We arrived late on Saturday night, following a family wedding, and were greeted by a fire blazing in the wood burner, and fresh cut flowers from Shirley's garden adorning every surface.

This Spring has been the coldest Spring in the last 50 years, so we made very good use of the wood burner in The Old Hayloft, which served us well, drying our trainers after running in the rain, warming our toes as we played numerous rounds of Articulate, and shared news with Tim and Becky. The rest of the week was filled with many hours relaxing in The Old Hayloft, a few country runs, a visit to an enormous Antiques warehouse and napping in the sunshine on the Yorkshire moors. I'll be back next week with a few more details of a very lovely week.