Friday, 26 February 2016

A Thursday morning

Hello. Time for Five on Friday again (where has the week gone!?!)
and today I have five photos from a beautiful Thursday morning I spent with my husband last week.

Every now and again he gets a day off during the week and it happily
coincides with one of my 'free days' - the days when Lulu is at nursery.
So we get a day to ourselves ( hurray!) and we can pretty much do
as we please from nine in the morning til three in the afternoon.
It's always exciting when, just after dropping off the girls, we make
a decision about where we want to go and what we want to do.
We almost always start off with a walk, then stop for coffee and cake
somewhere and if there are shops around, we'll have a nosey and
see what interesting things we can find. Whatever we end up doing
we always have a great time and not surprisingly, such days are most
anticipated, savoured and thoroughly enjoyed.

Last Thursday was one of these days. We headed to Bingham Park
right after the morning school run and had a lovely walk there,
my husband showing me where he used to play tennis and mini golf
 with his friends back in his secondary school days. He hasn't visited
 the park for many years so it was a trip down memory lane for him.
 I was simply happy to tag along.

Near Endcliffe Park, we saw a number of trees with red bands around 
their trunks and red hearts with the 'Save Me' message. I wondered 
why these trees were for cutting down; lots of people are not happy about it and neither am I. They looked all right to me. I hope they
will be saved.

Down Sharrowvale Road and around Hunters Bar are some delightful
and attractive shops and we stopped at many of them - the children's bookshop, a specialty shop selling lovely fresh pasta, a hardware store,
the wool shop. There was also this vintage place that looked very interesting but unfortunately, it was closed (see the little note on the
upper right hand corner). I hope it's open and we can have a look round
the next time we're in the area.

Our coffee and cake stop was at this bakery. I had hot chocolate
and this apple and cinnamon pastry; it was delicious.

We saw this sign outside the fishmonger's and we can only agree.
And also, quite clever advertising, don't you think?

That was our lovely morning out and then it was home for a quiet,
leisurely lunch and of course, before we knew it, it was three o clock
 and time to pick up the girls. But it was time well spent and we were together and as always, we are very much looking forward to our
next day off together.

I hope your Friday is going well. Thanks again to Amy for organising
this link party and thanks to all those who have visited here lately.
Wishing you all a great weekend!

Friday, 19 February 2016

Frosty Friday

It's time to join Amy again for Five on Friday. It's been a year today
since everyone can join in with this link party so big congratulations
to Amy. Long may Five on Friday continue.

It's a very frosty Friday morning here and while we were down at
Heeley City Farm earlier I took some photos and I'm sharing four 
of them here with you. 

It was great to see the flowers soldiering on in the cold but we felt 
sorry for the ducks. There were thin ice floes on the pond and they 
must have been freezing. The last photo was taken when we got home. 
I love blue skies but we couldn't really linger for long outside today. 
It's just too cold! Best to head indoors and admire the view from
the warmth and comfort of our little home.

Those are my five today. Thanks again to Amy. I wish everyone 
a lovely Friday. If you're having a frosty, freezing day like us,
I hope you're staying warm and cosy today.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Sweet and Lemony

Last Christmas, I treated myself to a copy of Life is Sweet, the latest
cookbook from the popular Hummingbird Bakery in London. My
husband got me the first Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook a few years ago and it's become one of my favourites, along with Mary Berry's
Baking Bible. 

Life is Sweet is a collection of baking recipes all originating from America. It's the sort of baked goods their bakeries have become famous for and they're introducing us to more of these American style baking with this new book. I was initially amused to find a recipe for 7-Up Pound
Cake and Chocolate Bundt Cake that uses mayonnaise instead of oil or
butter but I also found them strangely familiar somehow. Then I remembered having cake flavoured with Merinda, an orange carbonated drink, and also Sprite when I was a child. I also recall an auntie making chocolate cake with a dollop of mayonnaise. So I now realize that some of the cakes from my childhood were American-influenced and this shouldn't really be so surprising as the Philippines was once an American colony. I just haven't thought much about it before.

 I'd like to make these cakes one of these days just to give my girls
 a little taste from my childhood. I'm planning to substitute 7-Up with Fanta for that orangey flavour from a long time ago. I'll tell you more once I've made them. For now, though,  I'd like to share a recipe for Lemon Crumb Squares from the book. It's a little less exotic but it's definitely very tasty and you might like to give it a try too.

 *Lemon Crumb Squares*

Pre-heat the oven to 175°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Line a 9x13 inch tin
with non-stick baking parchment.

To make the base and topping, sift together 180g plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp baking power in a bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixer or whisk, cream together 115g unsalted butter (softened) and 200g soft dark brown sugar for around 5 minutes on
 a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add 90g rolled oats and
the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and mix until it resembles 

Press half of this mixture into the base of the prepared tin and set
the rest aside in a bowl.

To make the filling, whisk together 370 ml sweet condensed milk,
140 ml fresh lemon juice and the zest of one lemon.

To assemble, spread the filling evenly onto the pressed base.
Sprinkle the rest of the reserved topping gently over the filling.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the topping begins to go brown.
Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes then in the fridge for
at least 1 hour. Cut into squares. 

This was so easy to make, I'm looking forward to making them
again with the girls. It's got a nice, crumbly base, a soft and gooey
middle that is both sweet and lemony, and a golden, crunchy topping.
 Actually we think it's like a traybake version of cheesecake
 but much thinner and with a condensed milk-lemon juice-zest filling 
instead of cream cheese. It's really good, especially with a hot drink.
I can see this becoming another family favourite.

Before I go I'd like to say thanks for all your comments and well
 wishes for last Monday. It went okey. The morning school run was
more chaotic than usual due to road works and closures around
the school but we made it on time and the girls came home in the afternoon very tired but happy. As back-to-school/nursery days go,
it was all right.

 Thanks again. Hope you enjoy the rest of your week.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Sunshine and Snowdrops

I hope you've all had a lovely Valentine's Day. Ours started off with
church then a walk round Crookesmoor Park. We had blue skies,
bright sunshine, pretty snowdrops, cute little hearts, light snow,
good food, hugs, laughter and kisses. It's been a good day and a very happy Valentines. It's also been a very nice way to finish off this
 half-term break. Tomorrow the second half of the school spring term begins and we're hoping for a good start to the week. Hope yours go
 well too whatever your plans are and I hope you had a wonderful, cosy and love-filled day today. See you soon.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Five on Friday

Hello. I'm joining in again with Amy's Five on Friday and today I'm
sharing five photos from our week.

It's half-term here and we're having ourselves a nice little holiday.
We've been lucky to have lots of sunshine and blue skies especially
 after last weekend's stormy weather and we've been making the most
of it. The girls have been playing a lot outside and I've done several loads
 of washes since Monday. I know, boring stuff but as the saying goes
 'make hay while the sun shines...' Our laundry basket is nearly empty
and that's really good!

We made time for baking on Wednesday afternoon. The girls wanted
cookies so we made oat and raisin ones. They're yummy and quite
moreish. I'd be in trouble if I'd given up cakes and biscuits for Lent -
lucky I haven't (I'm giving up crisps and craft magazines instead).

Lots of pottering all week. I've been using these quieter, slower days
to catch up with chores and work through my to-do lists. Again, boring
stuff but I'm pleased they're now done and hopefully I'll have more time
for crochet and reading this weekend.

This was yesterday morning at Weston Park. The girls fed the ducks
and had a run around the park before spending an hour at the children's
museum. We all love the museum; it's always a fantastic place to visit.

While we were at the park I saw these yellow and purple croci. 
I love their bright, cheery colours and I can't wait to see more in bloom
as Springtime gets closer and closer.

Those are my five for this Friday. Thanks again to Amy and advance
congratulations for Five on Friday's first year anniversary next week!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and  a lovely Valentine's Day
on Sunday. We sort of had ours already last Sunday - we had a night away in Harrogate while the girls stayed with my in-laws. It was the Turkish baths, dinner and breakfast at Betty's - the perfect one night
getaway. To those who are just about to start their half-term holidays - enjoy!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pancake Joy

Today is Shrove Tuesday, a day to enjoy pancakes, and we did. We had
ours for lunch earlier; they were small, slightly on the thick side, and
 very tasty especially with a drizzle of maple syrup and topped with fresh fruit. These are the sort of pancakes I had in my childhood and ones I still prefer. My husband likes thin, crepe-like English pancakes served
with sugar and lemon. The girls would rather have French Toast if given
the choice and this is why we don't make pancakes very often in our house. Today, though, they liked their pancakes which was great and
it pleases me even more because I was the one on pancake-making
 duty (husband is at work). They now call them 'Mummy's pancakes'
and of course, I am very, very pleased.

How about you, what kind of pancakes do you prefer? Fat or thin?
Sweet or savoury? Whatever your favourite, I hope you enjoy them today.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Five on Friday: reds and yellows

It's been a long time since I've joined Amy's Five on Friday
 so I'm very delighted that I have exactly five things to share today
 and I can join in again.

My five are some of the things we have on our mantel this month:

: : pretty daffodils in a vase

:: a Christmas tree ornament found in the post-Holiday sales

:: wooden Japanese dolls, both presents from my parents-in-law

:: more daffodils - these ones are smaller but just as pretty

:: a Bjorn Wiinblad plate, another present from my in-laws

 I like to change things around on the mantel every now and again
 just to freshen things up a bit and I've noticed that  there's a little colour theme going on this February. Usually it's just a random collection
 of items like postcards, feathers and sticks the girls have picked up
 on our walks, drawings and artworks from school, pebbles and shells from our holidays - everyday things that we love and remind us of happy
memories as well as the current season. There is still a randomness
to the things on display this month but they also all have some reds
and yellows which I think is just fitting for February. The reds are
a nod to February being the Month of Love and all that, while yellow
is just perfect for bringing a burst of colour on grey February days
and with the beautiful daffodils, it's a hint of Springtime and sunnier
days to come. Next time I change things around there might be more
colours - pinks, light blues, Springtime hues, but for now, I think these reds and yellows are just right.

So those are my five this Friday. It's been fun sharing them here
and again, I'm very glad to be able to join in today. Thanks, Amy!

I wish everyone a happy weekend. Half-term holiday has officially
started - Yehey!