Monday, April 29, 2013

Family Dinner!

I've been reading Gluten Free Girl for a few years now. I have no gluten issues (I'm only allergic to eleventy-seven other things), but I love her writing, her photography, her sense of humour, and her recipes. I love that she bakes and cooks by weight, which means that I can use her recipes with "normal" flour.

And I love her love stories. Not just with her husband, who she clearly adores. But with her daughter. With her friends. With her home, Vashon Island. And with her food.

Her new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, comes out in the US today. I'm not sure when the UK release date is, but it's on already. For those of you not in the UK, you can buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble or IndieBound.

And to celebrate the release of the new cookbook, she's not doing a blog tour or anything. She has, however, asked us to blog about our experiences with family dinners, as that's what inspired her and her husband to create their new book.

I had family dinners as a kid and as a teenager. They were generally on Saturday or Sunday nights (depending on who was in or out), and frequently featured steak, sauteed mushrooms, and mashed potatoes. Sometimes even Potato Buds (to John's horror). Sorry, Mom, secret's out. There were always tealights (my dad loves tealights), and usually Prairie Home Companion (not my favourite...) in the background on NPR.

Since we only have the stepson every other weekend, and there are only the three of us, there was never any thought of kid-dinner and grownup-dinner. From very shortly after I met him, when he was about 7, he ate what we ate, albeit in smaller portions or without whatever substance was currently deemed "fizzy."

We cook a lot. We like to eat.

We make veggie chili, and the boys eat it with rice while I eat it with cornbread (too American, they say).

We tend to eat meat-light- a lot of our favourite recipes are veggie ones. If we're having steak fajitas, it's one small steak, divided between three. Bacon is a seasoning. Chorizo & kale pasta is one of our faves.

Once, I made toad in the hole.

We make homemade pizza all the time. For whatever reason, the photos aren't cooperating.

We made meatballs in honour of my friend's mom when she passed away, and sparked a global meatball supper on what would have been her birthday. 

And then, there's always Julia. And her mushrooms.

Which go in to the famous and endlessly delicious Boeuf Bourguignon.

We love to cook because we love to eat, but it's more than that. We love to sit down as a family and talk about the food, talk about our days, tell fart jokes (we DO have a teenager, after all), and eat. The only differences now, from 7 years ago? I'm a better cook, which helps. Teenager now gets the biggest portion (and pronounces himself hungry shortly afterwards).

We'll stay with the family dinners, thanks.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Before & After: New Kitchen Tiles

We moved into our house 6 years ago (no, I can't believe it's been that long, either). We have left all the walls off-white (hanging colourful art on them, for the most part). 

The wall behind the cooker had been getting a little turns out that curry, spaghetti sauce, and white walls are not a good combination.

I pinned a few kitchens I liked on Pinterest, and then my mom and I picked out some red tiles when she was here last year. Our neighbour next door is a builder, so we asked him if he could recommend a good tile-guy. He said he wouldn't recommend anyone but would definitely do the tiling for us.

Fast forward a year (um...summer, sailing, our New York trip, Christmas, and a LONG winter got in the way).

Here's the before. Perfectly reasonable, if somewhat uninspired. The counters and cabinet surrounds are "cherry" and the cabinets are a creamy yellow-white. 

Here it is, in progress:

And finished!

And the other side:

We. Love. It.

I think it looks brilliant - it matches the red KitchenAid exactly.

What? You don't decorate around your stand mixer? Why ever not?

The tiles have a little bit of texture - they're not completely flat. It gives really nice depth to the kitchen. We only did the one wall - I think going all the way around the room (or all the way to the ceiling) would have made the wall close in somewhat.

Just in time for my mom to see them in person (she arrives Wednesday for our annual Adventure Week)!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Great British Sewing Bee

I was somewhat of a snob when they announced the Great British Sewing Bee, and missed the first episode when it aired live. However, I quickly caught up, thanks to the magic of iPlayer. I am definitely not enough of a seamstress to be able to go on the show, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute (and am excited for the next series).

I also found two great craft blogs as a result: Guthrie & Ghani and Tilly and the Buttons. Both Lauren and Tilly were contestants on the show and both of them are amazingly creative seamstresses. LOVE!

In the grand scheme of "The BBC Is Awesome," we loved this week's Doctor Who - deliciously creepy and scary, and featuring Jessica Raine from Call the Midwife. Perfect. Television. Thank you, BBC.

One more thing I love: these Boursin Minis that we found in Tesco. YUM. They're about the size of mini-marshmallows and are devilishly good for snacking or putting on salads or in omelettes. Must buy more. Also, the pot they come in is v. cute.

Monday, April 22, 2013

LL Bean tote bag improvement

On one of my trips along the Maine 'pike to Waterville via Freeport a zillion years ago, I stopped at the LL Bean outlet to see what they had. I found a small navy blue tote bag with my mom's name embroidered on it, so I had to buy it. I couldn't tell why it had been returned - it looked fine. Normally there's a spelling mistake or the font is wrong or something.

Anyway, my mom said that she didn't need it, so I got out the seam ripper and picked out the stitching. The bag always looked cute, just a little raggedy where the embroidery had been.

And then.

I found this little guy that John bought me a year or so ago (I don't remember where).

I bleached the stains (it's a 10-year-old white bag) and washed the bag.

When the bag came out of the washer, I reshaped it and ironed it on hot (it's canvas and can take it).

When the front panel was mostly dry, I ironed on Mr. Sheep, following his care instructions, right over the raggedy part.

New bag! I think he's happy there, don't you?

I had no idea how hard it was to iron canvas. That stuf is wrinkly. And stays wrinkly.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mostly yellow (with some red)

We spent most of the weekend doing our RYA Powerboat (level 2) courses with EAST. The weather wasn't particularly warm, but at least it wasn't snowing, and we did have a few hours of sun. It was rather windy, so we did get quite wet, but it's not spring without wet foulies, so there you go.

We finished earlier than expected on Sunday, so we drove up to Woodbridge to take a walk in the sunshine.

This little chap was very proudly standing on a boat trailer.

And here were some dinghys. Things organised neatly? What does one do with a stack of dinghys, I wonder.

In other odd pictures, this garden nymph was obviously deemed to be a bit chilly in the recent snows and sub-zero temperatures. A nice frock to keep things warm, then.

And then, when the sun came out, we found this very well-loved yellow VW van. See the exhaust pipe?

Yep, it's heart-shaped. As you do.

And then, in the Quaker Burial Ground, one very upstanding daffodil.

Thank you, Spring. Please feel free to stick around for another month, until your good friend, Summer, arrives.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Hairy Bikers Tour

We thoroughly enjoy the Hairy Bikers on TV. Funny, engaging, informative, and great recipes.

We went to see them in Ipswich at the Regent Theatre about 2 weeks ago, and I have to say the show was rather odd.

It was a mishmash of video clips (several of which I had seen), cooking demos, audience-participation quizzes, dirty jokes, and a surprising amount of nudity.

They appeared to enjoy themselves, and there were some good recipes and quite a few very funny moments. However, it was NOT a family show (as billed), and there was rather a lot of swearing and raunchy humour.

I think I'll stick to watching you on TV, boys.

And I brought my book for signing but they had pre-signed everything and didn't come out after the show. SAD!

Monday, April 8, 2013


Spring made an appearance this weekend. It meant that I did lots of gardening (Mr. Honeysuckle, you may NOT go and visit the neighbour's garden. kthxbye), went for a few walks and ate my annual Creme Egg ( sweet!). 

I also pruned the forsythia and brought the pruned branches in to bloom in the kitchen (and festooned them with my Easter Critters).

And then, because I have the Best Husband Ever, we made an impromptu stop at Baylham Farm to see the lambs. Unlike this chap, we didn't get to ride on a sheep.

I did, however, get to hold a lamb. A warm, wooly, sleepy (but still nibbling on my sleeve), soft, elbow-filled lamb. Pardon my outfit - we had been scraping the boat so I was in epic grubbies. All the better for lamb snuggles.


If anyone needs a sheep farmer, please call.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Because I say it is

It's spring. These are from last year. Ours aren't out yet. 

I'm bored of snow.

I like my super-warm LLBean down jacket, and my hand-knit sweaters, hat and mittens.

I'm also bored of them.

Spring, please?