Monday, January 31, 2011

Olde English Marmalade

Well. I love marmalade. A lot. So when Waitrose Weekend featured a "you should make marmalade this weekend" recipe, my first reaction after "Who, me?" was "Sure!"

I procured some Seville oranges and preserving sugar and set off. See the recipe? Could you have resisted? Thought not.

I had a little trouble in several places.

  • The recipe says "cut the peel as thickly as you like." This is not true. Cut the peel into teeny tiny slices. Super-teeny-tiny or semi-teeny-tiny are both fine.
  • The recipe asks for a square of muslin to hold the pits and pith while you boil the peel. Don't use a cloth napkin or dishtowel. It won't work. And you'll make the dishtowel very sticky and yucky and you will spend several hours trying to de-stick and de-yuck it.
  • I think I might have burned the marmalade. It certainly tastes rather caramelised, and didn't reach setting point after 25 minutes. Husband thinks I should have been stirring while boiling. Not sure on this one.

In the pan, cooking the peel:

Boiling the marmalade to get it to set:

Anybody want some slightly-over-caramelised EXTREMELY thick-cut marmalade? There's only so much a girl can eat...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Garden update (January).

Garden watch! My hellebores are starting to think about flowering. YAY!

And, my Witch Hazel is enthusiastically spitting out little lemon-zest looking flowers. It has brightened up the whole garden.

A Grand Day Out

I had an exceedingly stressful week at work - taking on a huge pile of new work, with very little handover. Lucky me! It'll all sort itself out at some point.

The Husband decided on Friday evening that I needed a mini-vacation, so suggested a trip to London on Saturday. Woot. However, spontaneity and National Express East Anglia do NOT mix. John checked the NXEA website for the train schedules (rather than creating a "journey" on their journey planner), and announced that the trains departed Stowmarket at half past every hour. So we drove to the station, paid for our parking, and walked over to the ticket office.

Hmm...what are all those busses doing there?

[epic rant] 

As NOT mentioned anywhere on the National Express website, they were doing engineering works AGAIN, so there was a bus replacement service to Ipswich, where we could catch the train to London. Since we had the car anyway, we figured we'd just drive to Ipswich. I was checking my Trains app to see when the next train was due to leave Ipswich, and tripped over the curb and skinned my palm and my knees. OW. And I blame the evil Train people for mucking us about. See? My injured palm? (I'll spare you the pictures of my skinned knees.)

Skinned knees be damned...let's still go to London. So we drove to Ipswich, where they announced that the normal trains weren't running and we'd have to take a puddlejumper to Stratford and change to the Central line. We'd already gotten this far, so figured we'd go for it. Plus, I still REALLY wanted to go to London. The final insult to (actual) injury was that our two tickets to go 70 miles on the Slow Coach cost us £73. That's over $120. Granted, the puddlejumper took FOREVER, so maybe that's why it cost so much. National Express East Anglia, I hate you. Especially since you've raised my commuter ticket (one way) from Bury to Stowmarket to £5.10. ONE WAY! And there's no way to buy a ten-trip. Can we borrow some Dutch train-experts to come sort things out, please? Thx.

[/epic rant]

Anyway, we DID eventually get to London, where we proceeded to have an excellent time. We stayed on the Central line to Chancery Lane, where we got off and walked up towards Lamb's Conduit St (great name, btw), on our way to Persephone Books. More about them in a minute.

John said, "I'd quite like a coffee and a bun." And magically, Bea's of Bloomsbury appeared out of the mist. (Yes, I look like I weigh 400lbs in my green jacket, but it was FREEZING yesterday). We knew the cake was going to be good when they asked us if we had a reservation. We didn't, but they found seats for us anyway.

I had an extremely large slice of carrot cake with cream cheese icing, which was delicious, and John had a seriously rich piece of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache icing and caramel and coconut filling.


I should have brought the big camera...

Newly fortified by our cake, we made our way up Lamb's Conduit Street to Persephone Books. According to their website: 
Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by C20th (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of 90 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written.
I agree wholeheartedly. I bought a book, to be reviewed shortly. They also gave me a copy of the most recent Persephone Biannually, which featured a short story by none other than the wonderful Eva Ibbotson. Really? I couldn't have planned it any better. Run, book geeks, run to Persephone Books!

Since we were in his 'hood, we stopped by the British Museum to visit our buddy, the Horus. Unflappable, as ever, and most definitely still in charge of the museum. We had a little chat.

We meandered our way across Soho, to Liberty. Where I really wished that I had brought the big camera. [Camera geeks, any suggestions for a small-ish non-fugly bag that fits an SLR, a paperback or Kindle, and my wallet, phone, Burt's Bees and some kleenex? Thanks.]


And stairs!

And lots and lots and lots of fabric. Didn't buy any, but window-shopped extensively.

I checked Pinterest for London suggestions before we left yesterday morning, and found Tokyo Diner in Chinatown. It reminded me of the places I used to eat in New York - reasonably priced and very yummy. They had a power cut just as we were finishing, so we ended our meal by candlelight. How romantical!

We were pretty much zonked at that point, so we made our way back to the Central line and back to Stratford and back to Ipswich (on an express that only stopped in Colchester, Chelmsford and Manningtree, woot!), and then back to Stowmarket. A supremely Grand Day Out, once we actually made it to London.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fabric, on order

We were in Ipswich last week and wandered in to a score with lots of Scandinavian fabric, homewares, and other awesomeness. Some of this blue geometric fabric is now winging its way across the North Sea. Woohoo! Couch cushion, and then DEFINITELY some quilting.f

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recipe: Blueberry muffins

I really wanted to make some blueberry muffins. So I asked the internet and found this recipe from the BBC. It says that it makes 12 muffins - we thought it made a scant 9.

As you can see, they were a yummy 9!

Blueberry Muffins, from Paul Hollywood, BBC Saturday Kitchen
makes 12 [we only got 9!]

110g/4oz plain flour
110g/4oz butter
65g/2½oz caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
1½ tsp baking powder
125g/4½oz blueberries, or equivalent in frozen blueberries
pinch nutmeg

Cream the butter and sugar together then slowly add the eggs, mix for three minutes.
Add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, stir to combine, then refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
Place a spoonful of muffin mixture into each muffin case, filling each to just over half way. Stud each muffin with about eight blueberries.
Bake in an oven set at 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 20 minutes, or until golden on top.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Recipe: Martha Stewart's Cornbread

I was planning black bean chilli for supper tonight, and decided that I really wanted some cornbread to go with it. I was informed by my boys that they Do Not Like cornbread. Fair enough - more for me!

I searched around for a few minutes (none of my cookbooks had a recipe - zoinks!), and decided that I'd see what Martha Stewart had to say about it. Oh, look, a super-duper Martha cornbread recipe. Thanks, Martha!


Makes 1 eight-inch square loaf [I used a rectangular pan because I didn't have a square one]
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs


  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees [or 200 C] with rack in center. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan [or a 6 x 12 pan], and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and eggs until frothy. Pour the milk-and-egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix until the ingredients are just incorporated. Do not overmix; the batter should be lumpy. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Cook until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry, 20 to 25 minutes.
From Martha Stewart Living, November 1999

So here are the dry ingredients, all piled in:

And the batter in the pan (yum!):

And my golden crispy cornbread with the veggie chilli and the rice (for the non-cornbread-eating boys):

Good thing you can freeze cornbread (it was delicious but there's only one of me)! To their credit, they did both give it a try. Pronounced it "too American."

Pizza at home

I'm from New York. Therefore, I like pizza. However, Stowmarket does not have a good pizza delivery place.

John took it upon himself to make me feel "at home" very early on after I moved to the UK. One of the first things he made was pizza. Which I liked, but didn't think it tasted exactly right. After lots of trial and error (I know, such a chore!) and yummy homemade pizzas, John discovered that the trick is to use "00" flour. And turn the oven up to max. And use pizza stones. And not overload the pizzas with toppings.


He makes the dough 24 hours ahead and lets it rest & ferment and bubble.

Then he kneads/rolls it out at the last minute.

And then I got distracted by the toppings and the eating and didn't take any more pictures!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Swiss Kitchen

Well. Who knew that so many of my blog readers were such evangelical Kindle fans? Ok, guys, you've converted me. Shiny. (Well, future Shiny...I'm still pondering).

And now for something completely different. 

This is one of my favorite things in our kitchen. It was my grandmother's, and when she bought it, she bought one for herself, one for my mom, and one for my aunt. All three of them always had them hanging in their kitchens, and it has always given me a real feeling of home. After we bought our house (and after my grandma died), my mom gave us "mine." It's not mine, really, it's Grandma's. Our family has always referred to it as "the Swiss kitchen" - I have no idea if they originally came from Switzerland but given the amount of travelling my grandparents did, it seems fairly likely!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kindle debate (internal)

I'm confused. I'm reading Victoria Forester's novel, The Girl Who Could Fly (which always makes me think of the Kate Rusby album, The Girl Who Couldn't Fly), and the copyright lines in the front say "First published in the US in 2009."

Fine. But I added it to my book list as a result of a recommendation on Stephenie Meyer's website, and I've checked the dates in my archive and I read Breaking Dawn in early 2009. But when I tried to add it to my Amazon queue, it was listed as "out of print." But it's now here, and seems to be the first printing. WHAT?

Anyway, so far, so good. I'm still stalling on Wolf Hall - I feel like I should read it, but part of the problem is that it's so enormous I can't take it with me to work without using a bigger bag than my super-awesome Etsy messenger bag that my brother gave me (thanks, Ed!). It kind of makes me want a Kindle.

-It's small! I can take it on trips to NY, trips to London, train trips, and commuting, without filling my suitcase with books. (Me? Fill a suitcase with books? But I need the one I've almost finished and the one that I'm reading next and the one after that and maybe one more for the plane ride home?)
-It's instant-gratification - when I want to read the next in a series (Twilight, Hunger Games, McCall Smith), I can do it right then.

-I love free books. I get them from the library, read them, and give them back.
-I really only ever read one book at a time (except for you, Wolf Hall).
-When I finish a book that I actually own, my first impulse is to share it with someone. Mother-in-law, book-group buddies, my mom, choir pals, random other friends, etc. I tend not to see books for years at a time. They wend their way back eventually.
-It's expensive (compared to free, anyway). I'd have to buy the Kindle. Then I'd have to buy the books.
-Do I need another gadget? No!

As you can see from my list, the cons still outweigh the pros, at least in my calculations. Things that would tip the balance:
-A 2-week Kindle 'loan' program from the library (or Amazon, or whoever). Like Netflix. Done? Delete the book and you can have another one. I rarely reread books (and the ones I do, I buy so I can reread over and over and over), and I'm not precious about having a 'library' in the house (mostly because with the amount I read, we'd need a bigger house!)
-For Suffolk County Council to go mad with their cost-cutting and get rid of my Stowmarket Library. Although I will make trouble if they do...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lazy weekend

I woke up on Saturday morning feeling like I wanted a proper breakfast. We had some extra eggs, so John made poached eggs for us while I fried some bacon and mushrooms. Mmmm. His new-and-improved egg-poaching method involves a shallow frying pan, a kettle of boiling water, a pinch of salt, and some vinegar. I've always been afraid to poach eggs - it seemed like such a lot of things could go wrong.

The method: boil the kettle, add some salt to the frying pan, with a low flame. When the kettle boils, pour the boiling water (slowly!) into the pan. Turn down so the pan is just simmering. Add a splash of vinegar. Crack the eggs on the side of the pan, and drop them in, gently. The smaller pan and shallower water will mean that they don't spread. NEATO!

Last weekend with Pav, we picked up my Christmas present from Wibbling Wools. A KnitPro Symfonie Interchangeable knitting needle set. LOVE it. I had seen the KnitPros on various websites, but I was not in love with the somewhat psychedelic rainbow-coloured wooden needles and didn't really want metal or acrylic ones. The Addi bamboo ones were SUPER expensive, which made me sad.

I was really excited when Wibbling Wools had this "special edition" set - the needles are rosewood and really beautiful. And they come in fancy box. They're slightly slippery, but I'll get used to them. I was getting really frustrated with never having quite the right needles for whatever project I was doing - now I don't have to worry about it. And apparently I can add more/thicker/thinner KnitPro needles in whatever material I like to the set - they'll all fit.

Oh, and we rented Ponyo this weekend. I really like Miyazaki's movies (except Howl's Moving Castle). However, Ponyo seemed a little weird. Maybe it was the dubbed American Disneyfied version (although I also generally quite like Disney, too), and I would have enjoyed it more with subtitles. Not sure. It seemed a little disjointed and slightly camp. Anyway, not one of my favorites - I won't be watching it again!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Krispy Kreme fairy visits Bury St Edmunds

Well. Yesterday morning I got an email from a colleague who commutes up from London every day. He stopped on his way in at one of the Krispy Kreme shops in London, and bought two dozen donuts to bring to the office.

I would say that the definition of happiness on a Friday morning at around 9:30 (I start work at 8, so 9:30 is definitely mid-morning) is below. An Americano from my Aeropress, in the Kate [Rusby] & Doris mug, with an original glazed donut. Sigh.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Owls & Owlet

I love Kate Davies' patterns. Well-thought out, well written, and generally awesome. I was going to make her Mini-Manu for Gabi (I still am), but I got distracted when I found out that Gabi Loves Owls. Like, a whole lot. So, I made her an Owlet. Ravelled, here.

Sorry about the colours - I was impatient and wanted to send it off so I took pictures in the dark (Hello, England In January, when it's only light from 8:30am to 4pm and I work from 8 to 5). Plea to Gabi's Mommy: can you please send some pics of Ms. G in daylight in the sweater when it arrives? This is the actual yarn color:

Here it is with its big sister (my Owls sweater). LOVE.

Bye bye, little Owlet. Hope you like New York!

Monday, January 10, 2011

OMG, yarn!

Pav and her husband (Mr. Pav?) came to visit! All the way from Australia to Stowmarket (well, Bury St Edmunds, really).

I think this picture sums up the whole weekend rather well. Pav, with a Guinness, knitting in a pub. My Aspalls cyder in the foreground. Sigh. The impression we got from our assembled hangers-on (husbands, mostly), was that we were either talking about knitting, wool, or books, or were about to start. What? There are other things to talk about? Nah!

I picked them up in Stowmarket on Saturday, in the early afternoon. We went to Bury, grabbed some lunch, and then went for a walk in the Abbey Gardens. The boys decided to go investigate the pub situation, so Pav and I went to Wibbling Wools and wibbled for a while. And then went to the pub. And then stayed at the pub for dinner. And then I came home and hung out with the husband and read some more of Mockingjay (which was great), and went to sleep.

Then on Sunday, Team Pav and I went to Aldeburgh, "to the beach." Now, Team Pav live in Australia, near a beach with sand and sun and blue water. We had sun, but it was rocks & blue-ish-brown water all the way. And it was FREEZING! We saw the sun for the first time in days and days and days, though, which was great. I felt like a little mole, squinting at the light, trying to soak up as much vitamin D as possible while not freezing to death.

After the reaction from Pav when I mentioned that there was a Real Live Actual Historical Castle (aka Framlingham Castle) on the way home, we had to stop and see it. We didn't walk around on top of the walls, but we went on an extremely muddy circumnavigation of the keep. Squelch. Eew!

And then, because she's awesome, she brought me some hand-spun (by her own fair hands) skeins, to knit with. I think I might do a smallish cowl, or possibly a headband. There is a skein of alpaca, a skein of silk, and a skein with the two mixed together. The two with alpaca were dyed with tea. LOVE.

Pav & Mr. Pav are now continuing their circumnavigation of the globe - next stop, New York! (Jealous, since I had to go back to work today, which is markedly less fun than globetrotting or going on Adventures in Suffolk.) Have fun, guys!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nautical quilt - finished!

All done! I finished the quilting earlier this week and was just waiting for enough light to take a picture. It's going to cross the Atlantic later this week to meet its new owner!

Before it goes, I took it on a short field trip to the beach for a photo shoot. I love the texture of the pebbles with the texture of the free-motion quilting.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Review: The Charming Quirks of Others

I came across an unread (GASP) Alexander McCall Smith on my travels across the internet, so I quickly remedied that and added The Charming Quirks of Others to my library queue.

I, um, read it in less than 24 hours. Granted, it was a 24 hour period in which I was valiantly battling a cold/sore throat combo and was tucked up in bed for most of it, but still.

Isabel Dalhousie was her usual pensive self, and while nothing really happened during the 200+ pages, it was a lovely book to enjoy under the duvet with a cup of tea. I love her random musings, especially that they tend to happen when she is conversing with others, much to their mystification.

As part of my convalescence, I had the Thai Curry Chicken soup from Waitrose (see this post). It was supremely restorative. I tend towards spicy foods when I have a cold - the hotter the better. It was a little bit gritty (maybe it was the spices?), but otherwise very tasty. And, unlike some other packaged soups, was just right for one serving. I find they are normally 600+ calories and more than one serving, but I finish them anyway and then feel too full.

(Picture is from my trip to RI in October - currently my desktop background).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: A Conspiracy of Kings

**We interrupt this blog posting for a short notice, for Kate's immune system.**

Attention, Kate's immune system. A friend who lives in Australia and is currently circumnavigating the globe is coming to visit StowmarKate this weekend. That tickly cold-y feeling WILL be gone by Saturday at approximately 11am, and you will NOT be bombarding said friend (or her lovely husband) with your Evil English Germs.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Right...on to the real stuff. This month's Waitrose Kitchen magazine featured some new soups that they have in the store - don't these look awesome? Mmmm. The only one missing, as far as I can see, is Matzoh ball soup. I shall buy one, slurp it, be disappointed (I tend not to like packaged soup), and let you all know how I suffered.

I needed a small break from Wolf Hall (which I'm now enjoying), so I read the final book in The Thief series, A Conspiracy Of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner. I liked the first one the best, but I thought this one was good. I realised, though, that I had interrupted medieval (well, Tudor) royal drama with medieval (ish, Fantasy-ized) royal  drama. Oops.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Nautical quilt - the process

One of my high school friends (from back from when having a baby was SUPER scary, rather than extremely awesome) is about to have a baby. I knew I would make a quilt for was just a question of what.  Daddy is a submariner, and Mommy & I met on the first day of high school because she was wearing a t-shirt from a regatta that I had sailed in. So I went on the hunt for some nautical fabric.

I think you'll agree that this is perfect. (Thanks to my mom for the suggestion of the fabric store in Barrington, RI.)

I wasn't sure how to maximise the impact in a quilt - I definitely knew that I didn't want to cut it into strips like a normal fabric. After some Flickr-spiration, especially here and here, I decided to take the plunge and fussy-cut the boats. I ended up with one of everything (and two speedboats, oops). I spread them out on some white from my stash, like this. Which I quite liked.

But then, I decided that it was definitely too plain, especially since I had picked up some really cute red and orange fabric at the same store.

So I sashed all of the pictures with white, and experimented with laying them out in strips. Somehow the fussy-cuts were all pretty much the same size. A little rearrangement (see the two motorboats, next to each other? BAH!)

And we have this! I had originally tried to quilt it in waves, to echo the waves on the boat print, but the combination of two layers of batting and a layer of soft, thick Navy (haha) blue flannel on the back conspired against me and made evil bumpy rumples. I think that's the technical term, anyway. The squiggles look fairly nautical and are definitely my best free-motion quilting so far.

The quilting is all finished now, and I've sewn the binding on the front - I'm about halfway through hand-sewing it to the back. The original binding was supposed to be a plain red, but both John and I decided that we liked the orange from Stepson's Mom's Wedding Quilt better, and there was plenty left over.

To the soon-to-be-Mommy, I know your nursery colours are green and yellow, and I'm sorry....they didn't have any green and yellow boat fabric! (There is some yellow on the submarine's propeller - does that count?)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Recipe: Firehouse (aka Emergency) Brownies

I made a new-to-me brownie recipe on Christmas Eve. We were going over to a friend's house for supper, and I merrily offered to bring brownies. "I'll just whip some up," I said. "It'll be easy." Except that when I got home, there was NO BROWNIE MIX in the house. And the shops were closed. PANIC!

As you can see from the picture below, I did end up sorting it out. Phew. For some reason, I didn't want to use any of the recipes that I could find on the internet. I looked through my rather epic stack of cookbooks and found "Barbara Lauterbach's Firehouse Brownies," in Lora Brody's book The New England Table. I halved the recipe and left out the frosting and chocolate drizzle. My adaptations below.

Recipe: EMERGENCY brownies (aka Firehouse Brownies)
Makes a small-ish pan of brownies (about the same as 1 box of Betty Crocker brownie mix)

2oz dark chocolate (chopped)
4oz butter, in small pieces
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325F (165C), and grease your favorite brownie pan.

Melt the chocolate & butter in a double-boiler (or in the microwave).

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until foamy. Add the melted chocolate/butter, the vanilla, and the flour and salt, mixing until just combined.

Bake in the pan for 20-25 minutes, until the top is shiny.

Cool & eat!

I have it on good authority that these are better on the second day...