Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Leap Year

Happy 29th everyone!
Did any of you girls propose to your man today?

I saw this on facebook and thought it was delightful! I hope you've all had a lovely 'unreal' day.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The uses of Amaranth flour. Or, well one, at least.

One of my flatmates is lactose intolerant and also allergic to gluten, which makes cooking for her a bit limiting.... but it also leads us on an ever increasing search for really amazing recipes that vegan and gluten free people can eat, that are also yummy and not full of really weird substitutes.  The other by-product of this is that people randomly give her alternative food stuffs that they have found purely on the basis that they are gluten free.... even if they don't know what they are, how you should use them or what else they contain.  It is at once perplexing and also amusing.  One such occasion recently she was given several bags of amaranth flour and scoured the internet for recipes she could make with it.  She got hold of this gluten free biscuit recipe and we gave it a go:

Pistachio and Amaranth biscuits

3/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp rapeseed / canola oil
2/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1 cup rice flour
1 cup amaranth flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda/ bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp chinese five spice

 - Set the oven at 175 degrees C / 350 F and grease some baking sheets.
 - Grind the nuts to a fine powder in a food processor, then add water, oil and syrup and mix.
 - In a separate bowl, mix the flour and all of the other dry ingredients together.
 - Stir the nut mix into the flour mix
 - Form into biscuit shapes.  These biscuits do not rise much, they stay the same shape that you make them in so you can form them into balls, or flatter circles... this doesn't make a pastry really but you could try cookie cutters if you wanted to.
 - Put the shapes onto the greased baking sheets and cook in the oven for 8 - 10 mins or until a little brown around the edges

Ta dah!
They are quick and easy to make, and quite lovely if you are having guests round that have allergies that normally don't get to partake in any biscuits or baked goods.  They are not too sweet either, so if you know someone who doesn't like too much sugaryness then these are great for them too.

In the end we added a lot more of the spice than it said in the recipe, but even so the taste was quite mild.  The amaranth flour gives the biscuits a quite particular taste and texture:
(The white dots are the amaranth)
I had a couple to get used to the taste and then we both decided we really liked them.  We're going to try modifying the recipe to see how hazelnuts and cinnamon would work, or even blue cheese and rosemary.  I'll keep you posted.

In which we commence a discussion on Ninjas

Miss H's friend Tim is awesome. and so are his cartoons.

Tim comes by every now and again and in the course of a conversation he inevitably finds some reason to draw a cartoon or two for us.  I had mentioned ninjas, and Tim said he would draw me one, so I got down the paper and the pen pot... and then he promptly held up a blank piece of paper and said 'a successful ninja!' to which I looked baffled for a bit and then realised, obviously, that you wouldn't see a successful ninja because they are so stealthy and silent.  He felt bad that I'd got down all the stuff for him in anticipation of some cartoonage, so he did actually draw me a ninja as well. Hooray.

Successful ninja

Unsuccessful ninja

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Extending Family

As it stands I come from a pretty small family - there is only me and my sister and I only have one aunt and uncle and two cousins.  The family that I do have is pretty spread out so not only are there few of us, we also don't communicate often.  My mum is much more connected to her side of the family, particularly on my grandpa's side, and last few years she has been doing more and more work on the family tree.  She joined a website called Geni which allows you to create an online family tree that connects people and before you know it, mum was galavanting about all over the place meeting cousins of various removals and other varieties.

Mum goes to the States now and again and sometimes visits a branch of the family from my grandpa's side, based in Boston.  Someone else got in touch with her about a branch of my grandma's family that were all down in South Carolina, but the daughter is now located in Boston too (coincidentally!), so mum got to meet Kendra and her partner Jen last year.  My grandma had a cousin called Felix and Kendra is his granddaughter... so I think that makes us 3rd cousins? maybe? Kendra is a teacher so both of them have been over in London this past week on a trip with Kendra's students, and also their 19-month old daughter, Addison.  I went up to London yesterday to meet 'the cousins' as they have now become known (because I don't understand all the '4th, twice removed' type business) and we had dinner together with my mum, my sister and her boyfriend.

Can I say that the Cafe Rouge in Leicester Square is not particularly great for small, tired children?  Addi is a sweetie, but it was way past her bedtime.  Jen was saying that she thinks she might wait another few years before travelling abroad with Addi again!  She is generally very stable in her routine and the time change was difficult.  Both the ladies are very friendly, Jen is a photographer and arty person, and Kendra is more literary.  They've both travelled and done lots of exciting stuff, so we ended up having some lovely conversation. In general, the family seem to be really enjoying their trip, but it has only been a week in London and then they get a couple of days in Paris and then they go back to the States, which is a bit of a whirlwind tour by anyone's standards! It was a nice dinner, and I had a crepe (in honour of pancake day, of course), but the waiting staff weren't the most attentive and I had to run off and catch a train after 9pm so it was short but sweet.  I really enjoyed meeting them, hopefully next time they come over we'll have more time to get to know each other.  In the meantime, maybe mum will dig me up some more distant relatives.

You can see more of Jen, Kendra and Addi's adventures at Adventurous Moms

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Little surprises

So as you know, yesterday was Valentine's Day and many a happy couple were out doing romantic type things and buying chocolate and roses for each other, and I was not one of them.  I did have a lovely experience at work as I was wondering past the library, there were people selling cotton roses to raise money for charity.  One lady stopped me and asked if I wanted to buy a rose, and I indicated that I had no-one to buy one for but I gave them some money anyway, and she said 'Oh, well, let this one be from me to you then!' and she gave me a white rose.  I was very touched. It's the small moments in life that lead us to connect with others. After that my day felt a little less mundane and a lot more connected.

I did do something for V Day, I sent gooey texts to my friends and I left my flatmates a chocolate cake and some Love Hearts on the table as a gesture of affection.  As I was taking them out of the packet to scatter delicately on a saucer, I decided to take a couple of pictures of the cute ones, cos you never know when you might need a picture of a Love Heart (see the photo in yesterday's post... can I say I had no idea that taking photos of Love Hearts would be so difficult! Damn you artificial lighting!).  So I was reading them to see what they all said and most of them were pretty predictable - Cute Guy, I Love You, Only You, Sweet Lips, that sort of thing, and I came across one that I was quite surprised by.  Here it is, for your delectation:
Well, I wasn't expecting to have
to say this today....
Ha ha ha ha ha! Maybe sometimes you need love and also a reality check?! It did tickle me.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

 This was posted in Missed Connections, and I thought it too lovely not to share:

'If, like me, you don't have someone "special" to exchange heart-shaped confectionery with today, how about this: As you go about your business find six strangers to connect with.  It could be as simple as "hello" or "I like your hat".  It will make you feel good, probably make six strangers' day less lonely, and who knows, maybe one of those strangers will be me, and maybe I'll like your hat too, and maybe we'll go for coffee and fall in love and maybe next year we'll exchange hat-shaped confectionery. I mean, why not?'
Why not, indeed!

Happy Valentine's, y'all 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Girl, Interrupted

So I noticed that M has a thing about jumping in at the last minute just as I'm about to take a photo.  I can't say that I mind.
We're at the beach! Rock n' Roll!

We were here!, eating crisps....

If I just creep across, maybe no-one will notice....

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Things that make me happy!

In these dark, cold days we all need things that give us back our sparkle and put a spring in our step, here are a few of mine:
Playing in snow
Snowy snowy garden
I love playing in snow! and I also love watching the magpies, robins, blue tits, cats and the squirrels playing too - I can't have all the fun!

People with their own sense of style

This made me so ridiculously delighted! check out more amazing ladies at Advanced Style blog

Reading kids books

Messing around and being silly
This is why I always have a camera on nights out 
Especially with hats.  and friends. and friends with hats. but friends without hats are more than welcome too. I'm not exclusive about my silliness.

Playing with my food
It's art.  No, really.
The sea
Nothing like the sea air to perk you up
Luckily I live by the coast, so it's not too far to get to if I want to have a pensive moment by the sea.  We have plenty of rivers around here and forests and little back roads that I like to walk down if I need some thinking time.

A nice cup of tea
I do like a good cheese board, it's true
There's something about tea that is very soothing and relieves almost every minor stress in my life. Just tea will work wonders but tea with cake is also delightful.  and also cheese. and also curry. yum.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Cake of Quantumness

I'm still a bit sniffly and have nothing of note to report really, except that I did make it to yoga today - hooray! - where my body was bent into lots of interesting shapes and I realised that taking two weeks off from my exercise routine actually does make a difference.  I'll still be trying to sleep lots, because what is the point of being ill if you can't spend as much time as possible under a duvet? And surely any decent recovery should involve duvet time.  And maybe after I've recovered, just to make sure I don't catch it again. Maybe.

Today, I made cake for the first time in ages because we have an Open Day tomorrow, and no self respecting open day would open without cake.  I asked around and everyone said that they wanted chocolate, so I made the simple Chocolate Loaf recipe from Nigella's How to Be a Domestic Goddess.  It's classic, it's easy and it's the best thing since sliced bread.  Maybe since before sliced bread.  And because we're expecting a few people over the course of the day I thought I'd double the recipe, since making two loaves is roughly the same effort as making one so I might as well.  Or at least that was the plan.  In actuality, I doubled the recipe and got three loaves.  I'm not entirely sure how that works, is it like quantum cake? Maybe the normal laws of physics don't apply - last time I doubled the recipe I got two, this time three, maybe next time I'll get 12?!  Or maybe the more you make the cake, the more cake you get back in the future.... like karma, but with baked goods?  Maybe someone will get enlightened eating that cake! I had no idea it was all going to get this deep.... I might have to go back under my duvet til someone figures it all out.