Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Round Up


  • 31st: Chicken with Lemons and Artichokes (Sarah)
  • 30th: leftover shepherd's pie
  • 29th: Jambalaya
  • 28th: leftover lamb curry
  • 27th: Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
  • 26th: Trout, broccoli, fried potatoes
  • 25th: Lamb, Spinach and Potato Curry
  • 24th: Pancetta wrapped chicken, potatoes, green beans (Sarah)
  • 23rd: Pasta Bake
  • 22nd: New Potato and Rosemary Pizza
  • 21st: Malaysian Chicken Laksa
  • 20th: Spaghetti Bolognese
  • 19th: Hungarian Goulash
  • 18th: Spinach and Chickpea Curry
  • 17th: Leftovers/Cook for Yourself
  • 16th: Minted New Potato and Courgette Fritatta
  • 15th: Crunchy Meatball Pasta
  • 14th: Soup (misc, leftovers, from freezer)
  • 13th: Pot Roast Chicken with Bacon and Peas
  • 12th: Spicy Bean and Vegetable Stew
  • 11th: Squash and Mushroom Macaroni Cheese
  • 10th: Quick Sausage Stew with Crusty Bread and Green Salad (Sarah)
  • 9th: Spicy Vegetable and Cashew Ramen
  • 8th: Spicy Moroccan Mince, Courgettes
  • 7th: Stilton and Wilted Spinach Soup, Cornbread
  • 6th: Enchiladas
  • 5th: Lamb Rogan Josh, Curried Okra (Geoff)
  • 4th: Fajitas
  • 3rd: Musroom Risotto
  • 2nd: Penne with peppers, olivers, anchovies, etc
  • 1st: Roast Saddle of Lamb, Roast potatoes and parsnips, cabbage, grav

Dinner, 31/1/13: Chicken with Lemon and Artichokes (Sarah)

Another Sarah night - she's developing quite a repertoire of chicken dishes. I didn't eat this with everyone else, as I went to yoga, but I did have some heated up later and it was nice. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Back to our regularly scheduled weather...

Wet and windy - the usual British Winter...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dinner, 29/1/13: Jambalaya

From the cookbook Top 200 Low Fat recipes, with some alterations. I did use more chorizo than the recipe originally called for (which, I know, makes it less low fat!) and I used a different kind of fish because that was what I had in the freezer. I also added peas as I felt it lacked vegetables and I made more, as there were 5 people to feed and I wanted leftovers for lunch. Other than that.... Anyway. It was  yummy and the kids liked it (though Sarah of course didn't want the prawns - as they were on top and not the only protein in the dish, I let her give them to those of us who really like them).  The only real problem with this dish was that it took quite a bit longer to cook the rice than the recipe said - I knew it would take longer than the specified 20 minutes, but it took even longer that I expected. Next time, I will start earlier...

Monday, January 28, 2013

As there was no dinner to blog today (leftover lamb curry from the other day) I thought I'd give a bit more of my ongoing house/stuff tour.  If I were clever and not lazy, I'd join these two photos to show the view across the whole bookcase, but I just can't want to do that right now (a phrase stolen from my friend's 16YO - she used to say it when she was about 3 and now, both families do!). 

This year, the top of the big bookcase in the living room has mostly coloured glass. Most of it isn't anything particularly special - it's been acquired here and there, especially the stuff on the left side. There is a small red glass ashtray which my mother gave me which is at least collectible if not antique, but otherwise, it's just coloured glass.   On the right, though are a few more interesting pieces - the perfume bottle was a gift, and the pumpkin (blue and green) was bought at the shop at the Corning Glass Museum. I love it - I had a terrible time deciding which pumpkin to buy - there were so many lovely ones. The other glass piece came from Malta - or rather, Gozo - when I went there on holiday some years ago. They are known for this type of glass.  The large plate is a piece I bought many years ago, perhaps at a Montgomery potters show in the US.

As for what's in the bookcase, the left hand square has a molded dish made by my mum and a tall vase which was a wedding present from a woman I used to be in a pottery class with. I love the texture on that and the deliberate distortions. Can't remember where the small oriental dish came from or the tiny ceramic box on that shelf.

Moving along, there's a large plate which I think I may have bought in Ireland and a wooden cat of unknown origin.  The pitcher in the centre square is from a craft show, along with a small Mexican elephant (from Ensenada), a little wooden box with bells (unknown) and an anniversary card from my husband from several years ago, which probably came from a shop in Camden Market. But I like it, so it often stays out. I have another one, obviously the same artist, with a large flower on it.

The orange square has a piece of my mother's Raku pottery, a lemonade bottle which Olivia decoupaged and some fake flowers. Also a small oriental box which may have come from a shop in Neal Street, Covent Garden. Or not.  And finally, another plate, which was a gift, but I don't remember who from - my mum probably. And a purple glass bottle whose stopper seems to have gone walkabout since I got it and a glass paperweight which I think was a housewarming gift (when we moved into the previous place we lived), from a work colleague of the time. I might be wrong on that one!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dinner, 27/1/13: Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

We've made several different kinds of non-meat Shepherd's Pies before, including this one, and this is our favourite. It has mostly puy lentils in, with carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms.   And it's really, really tasty, a fact which is not simply due to the melted cheese on top.

And, there are leftovers for later in the week - hoorah!

End of the puzzle!

Ta da!  It's finished (and actually, by now it's been taken apart and put back in the box) - it was quite tricky -lots of similar colours - but we enjoyed it.  Some of these monsters must be from fairly old Dr Who episodes as we couldn't figure out who they were.  We were, however, able to name a surprisingly high number of them, and also, to tell which creature a puzzle piece matched, even from quite a small bit of detail. I might expect this of the 9-nearly-10YO Dr Who Fan, but even I could pick up a puzzle piece and say - oh, this one is Weeping Angel wing...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dinner, 26/1/13: Trout, broccoli, fried potatoes

Not much to say here - we were going to have salmon, but the trout was on sale. It was really moist and lovely, as it happens.

Puzzle's Progress

After a bit of work today - I think we'll finish tomorrow. I hope so, at any rate!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dinner, 25/1/13: Lamb, Spinach and Potato Curry

This is another recipe from the Hairy Dieters cookbook - it was lovely. I served it with rice (even though they didn't in the book), so consequently we have enough left over for another meal - it will probably replace Monday's usual soup night. Really tasty, and although it takes a while to cook in order for the lamb to be tender, quite easy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dinner, 24/1/13: Pancetta-wrapped chicken, potatoes, green beans (Sarah)

Thursday night, which means (usually) Sarah's night to cook. As usual, I went to yoga, so I didn't get a chance to eat what she cooked, but it smelled lovely, and I have it on good authority that it tasted lovely. The recipe was originally for cooking a chicken breast on the barbecue (wrapped in pancetta), but we modified it for the griddle pan. Everyone seemed happy to eat it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dinner, 23/1/13: Pasta Bake

This is one we have quite often - we all like it and it's  a very simple way (and quick) to have a lovely meal in on the table on a busy weeknight. It's just some ready-made filled pasta (the fresh kind, cooked), a couple of tins of tomatoes, and some soft cheese (tonight was mascarpone, but I've used others) - scatter with some basil and stick in the oven to get hot and melty. A complete doddle, but tasty. We had it with crusty bread and a salad - instant supper!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dinner, 22/1/13: New Potato and Rosemary Pizza

Served with a green salad... This is easy and filling, and tastes nice the next day cold for lunch as well (I made two of them so we'd have extra). It uses brie or fontina cheese, the new potatoes, rosemary and that's about it - pizza dough, of course, which I made in the bread machine, but you could buy a ready-made pizza base - that's what's in the recipe...

Igloo building

Yesterday at cubs, they built an igloo in the garden - it didn't quite get finished, but it was fairly substantial...

Here's Alex helping, along with a couple of the leaders. There were more photos, but they had other kids in them, so I'm not going to share them.  I think they had a lot of fun - might as well enjoy the snow while it lasts!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dinner, 21/1/13: Malaysian Chicken Laksa

Monday is soup night, usually. Tonight's soup was a Malaysian style chicken soup with rice noodles in it. Lovely, though I will up the flavourings a little next time I make it. 

Snowy day

Remarkably, I remembered to take my camera with me this morning on the way to school, to capture a bit of our local colour - white!

Here's Alex about to make the big trek across the field to school - ok, it's not Antarctica, but it's a lot of snow for London - especially the fact that it is staying cold, so it's hanging around instead of melting more or less straight away, which is what it usually does.

Panda Hat.

Someone had made an igloo from snow over the weekend - we didn't get close as it was way across the field from where we cross, but it looked cool from a distance.

Unfortunately, during our walk we encountered several dead snowmen...

Here's a tree - not my usual tree, as it happens - in the snow. I love the snow on the lower branches.

And here's my usual tree, of course!

This one was taken on the way home, when it was beginning to get dark - there was  a little layer of mist beginning to rise off the snow, which I thought was very cool.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dinner, 20/1/13: Spaghetti Bolognese

Due to a request from my eldest for "normal teenage food", tonight was spaghetti bolognese - ok by me, as it's still nice warm comfort food. I'll save theplanned slow-cooker lamb shanks for next week, I guess (I hadn't bought them yet anyway)...

More puzzling

Good progress is being made on the Dr Who puzzle - I reckon the next session will see it finished. It's both easier (because there are fewer pieces left and more places to fit in pieces) and harder (because the remaining pieces are often less distinctive in colour, texture, etc) than before, but there aren't too many left, so I imagine it won't be long now.

Some more snow!

Alex and his friend Keir spent some time outside today in the snow - it's still snowing in this photo, but it's very light, so you can't see it coming down.  I think they had a snowball fight and built a fort and sledged a bit - just what you'd expect from a couple of boys.

Here's the view out my window - I cleared my car off yesterday when we went to swimming, so the accumulation is all from overnight and today.  It's not a lot of snow, I know, but it's a lot for London...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dessert, 19/1/13: Mixed Fruit Crumble

We had some apples which needed using, and various other bits and pieces which had gone a bit soft, so it was time for a crumble - Olivia's favourite dessert.  Sarah doesn't like cooked fruit, but the rest of us love a nice crumble. With cream, of course...  And there's enough for two nights, hoorah!

Dinner, 19/1/13: Hungarian Goulash

served with papardelle noodles.  Sarah's comment: "Except for the mushrooms, this is really yummy."  Those of us who like mushrooms liked all of it (Geoff, Alex, me).  I used my slow cooker and a recipe from a book called Slow Cooker by Sara Lewis, though I did adjust quantities slightly to accomodate our large, greedy family. I used a pork leg joint, which I removed the skin from and cut up myself - given the long cooking time, any joint will do, so you can buy something fairly cheap.  With all the snowing around, it's definitely a slow-cooker kind of weekend.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dinner, 18/1/13: Chickpea and Spinach Curry

An old favourite, served with flatbreads (unfortunately, not the lovely homemade ones that our local shop does - they were out) and various chutneys & pickles. Mmm.


Olivia was out playing in the snow with friends - apparently she fell over. Nice to know they aren't too old to enjoy the snow!

Alex was out earlier with a friend - now he's in the back garden mucking around with "our own" snow - it's not quite as dark as it seems in the photo...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Around my House, part 2

The second in my series of shots of my stuff. Just what you wanted!  The computer room/dining room is full of books, but the wall does allow some display stuff, as do the tops of the bookcases. The pictures on the wall come from several different sources - there are a few shots I've taken myself - the orchid at top left, the berries in the top centre. The two small pictures of birds you can see below were a wedding present from Geoff's brother and SIL - they are little Australian birds (they live in Australia - their main wedding present was Stuart actually coming to the wedding in the US!). There are two Audubon prints - you can see one - which my mother gave us, and an engraving of Cambridge, showing Clare College (Geoff's college) among other scenes, also from my mother. The little picture in the left centre is a drawing of the Marine Parade at Lyme Regis, which I originally bought for my mum, but it's a bit small and delicate and doesn't really go in her house, so she offered it back and I took it, as I love it. There are some other pictures on the wall, but they can't be seen - they include a couple of photos of European cities my dad took when he and my mother lived in Germany nearly 50 years ago (I was born there), and a couple of botanical prints.  Finally, there is an oriental rice-paddy scene in mother of pearl inlay, which again, was in my house growing up. I can't remember the origin of that one either - whether it was something my dad got in Vietnam or whether it has different origins. I'll have to check with my mum before she forgets, too...

Among the other things on the wall and bookcases, the things that aren't pictures, there is an old doll made out of coins, which I can't for the life of me remember the origin of, only that it was in my house when I was growing up. I must check with my mother about that one! The two masks you can see were both made by my mum, who does a lot of ceramic mask work - I tend to like the quite odd ones. Both are raku or wood fired rather than regular kiln fired, which adds to the appeal.  The plate on the wall is also a raku piece, and was a gift from my friend Barbara - you can't really see the texture in the plate in the photo, but it's super.  

There are four pottery pieces on the bookcases, of which I've made only one - the tall terra cotta hand built piece. The raku pot to the left is another piece my mum made, and has an interesting texture made with lace on the wet clay, and there is a raku vase on top of the tall bookcase, which I bought at a craft fair in the US a long time ago, if memory serves.  The green piece on the short, righthand bookcase is another gift from my mother, but I'm not sure where she got it.  

And then, just a few other bits and pieces - the naive angel I actually bought in Selfridges in the Christmas shop a few years back, but I like it so much I tend to keep it out year-round. The little owl and the little clay dragon are both things made by Olivia - the dragon in school when she was about 10 and the owl a bit more recently. The bird is made from a gourd, and was a gift, but I'm not sure from whom.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dinner, 16/1/13: Minted New Potato and Courgette Frittata

Recipe from Top 200 Low Fat Dishes, with a few small adaptations - I used a little feta cheese in it, instead of grating parmesan over and popping it under the grill and I didn't use new potatoes, as I had older ones which wanted using up. It was still nice, though - we had it with fresh brown bread from the bread machine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Around my House, part 1

At New Year's, when I took down the Christmas decorations and rearranged all my knick knacks, ornaments, artworks, and so on, I had the idea to blog some of my displays sometimes, as I really like my stuff, and perhaps some of my friends and family might like to see what's on my shelves.  So, it's an occasional feature - not going to do it all the time or so thoroughly you see every bit of every room, but it might be a fun occasional feature, especially when I have nothing else to say for a while...

This is in my dining room - I have a large collection of pink and blue pottery from the days I used to throw pots - the studio I was working in had a limited number of glazes I liked and this was one of my favourite combos. Each year I have to decide where to put the pink and blues, and this year they ended up in the dining room. There are a few other bits and pieces with them. The watercolour was painted by my brother-in-law, and the bit of glass is from a stall in Camden Market. 

On the windowsill shelf, there's a small blue teapot I got ages ago, not sure where, although it was apparently made by Alison McCauley, according to the slip inside the pot. I googled her and she's no longer making pottery, hasn't been since 2003, now just doing painting. So there you go.   There's also a free form hand built vase which I bought during the Malden Fortnight a few years back. The stoneware vase with the lace-pressed slab top is from a gallery in Vero Beach, Florida, I think. And there's a raku pot (2nd left at the top) which I'm not sure of the origin of. It's possible it was a gift from my mother, who often gives me pottery. 

Next to the plant on the right hand end of the windowsill is an enamalled bowl which I know came from my mother, but not sure where she got it from. And the other item I didn't make is the ATC in the blue elephant holder - this came from an ATC challenge I issued on my blog back in 2008  and was made by Anna Nowicki

Dinner, 15/1/13: Crunchy Meatball Pasta

This recipe is from the book Delicious Low Fat Recipes by Silvana Franco. We've tried a few recipes from this book, and some are better than others. This one is ok, but wasn't very crunchy, so not sure where that name came from. It's basically just meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta, which is them cooked a bit in the oven. It gets a little crust from that, but not a lot -probably not enough to justify "crunchy". The meatballs aren't browned before adding to the sauce, which saves lots of time, but you have to be careful they don't fall apart, so don't stir!

Monday, January 14, 2013

2012: A Year in Books

Because I am not only an avid reader, but a compulsive list-maker, I have of course kept track of the books I read in 2012.  Some of them were re-reads. Some were for my postal book group (which I have now given up, as so many of the books coming in just didn't interest me, and many of the ones which did interest me, I'd already read). Some I gave up halfway through (or slightly less).

There are 98 books on my list (some are trilogies, listed as one, but counted as 3!). Not counting the ones I gave up part way through, I managed to read 94 books in 2012.  Of these, aproximately 18 were teen fiction or fantasy, about a dozen were crime fiction, and about 17 were re-reads.   It's an average of about 8 books a month, which I think is pretty good, considering how busy my life is. If I can read a similar number in 2013, I will be very pleased. It's started well (reading in 2013) - I am on my 8th book, or 6th, allowing for the two that I've given up part way through. However, my shelf (and a half) of books waiting to be read is really getting down to things I'm fairly sure I'm going to like - there were lots of maybes in there before, and many of these I've tried in 2012 (and some, I've even liked!).

My favourites (not counting re-reads, even Persuasion, which is one of my favourite ever books) are highlighted in pale blue, with the second tier underlined, although honestly I enjoyed most of them (if I don't enjoy something that much, I stop reading it).  I don't think I could pick an absolute favourite from the bunch, though I would say that the two which suprised me the most were Star of the Sea and The Underground Man, both of which I had doubts about before starting and both of which I found pleasantly surprising (which isn't to say the books were pleasant - especially Star of the Sea).

The list is in reverse order (most recent first) - that is, the top book I finished in late December, and the bottom book was the first I finished in 2012. This is because I pull the list off the sidebar of my quilting blog, so that's the order it appears in as I update it through the year.
  • The Promise of Rain, Donna Milner
  • The Story of Beautiful Girl, Rachel Simon
  • Lies, Enrique De Heriz
  • Lick Creek, Brad Kessler
  • Clara and Mr Tiffany, Susan Vreeland
  • What I Loved, Siri Hustvedt
  • The Lighthouse, Alison Moore
  • Split Infinity/The Blue Adept/Juxtaposition, Piers Anthony (re-read) (fantasy)
  • The Attenbury Emeralds, Jill Paton Walsh (crime)
  • Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
  • The Red Queen, Margaret Drabble
  • Noah's Ark, Barbara Trapido
  • The Convenient Marriage, Georgette Heyer (re-read)
  • Great House, Nicole Krauss
  • The Return of Captain John Emmett, Elizabeth Speller
  • Bleeding Heart Square, Andrew Taylor (crime)
  • The Memory Stones, Kate O'Riordan
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Tom Franklin
  • The Case of the Imaginary Detective, Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Woman Who Died a Lot, Jasper Fforde
  • One of our Tuesdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde
  • Keeping the World Away, Margaret Forster (pbg Aug 12)
  • The St Zita Society, Ruth Rendell (half) (crime)
  • Fixing Shadows, Susan Barrett
  • Taft, Ann Patchett
  • Your Blue-Eyed Boy, Helen Dunmore
  • The Tenderness of Wolves, Stef Penney
  • Monday Mourning, Kathy Reichs (crime)
  • La Cucina, Lily Prior
  • Death Comes to Pemberley, PD James (crime)
  • Persuasion, Jane Austen (re-read)
  • Excellent Women, Barbara Pym (pbg July 12)
  • State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
  • Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel
  • The Underground Man, Mick Jackson
  • The White Woman on a Green Bicycle, Monique Roffey (part)
  • Stones for my Father, Trilby Kent (jfic)
  • The Red House, Mark Haddon
  • Star of the Sea, Joseph O'Connor
  • Aria, Susan Segal
  • The Fourth Hand, John Irving (part)
  • Bare Bones, Kathy Reichs (crime)
  • Labyrinth, Kate Mosse
  • The Post-Birthday World, Lionel Shriver (half)
  • Notes from an Exhibition, Patrick Gale
  • The Magician's Assistant, Ann Patchett
  • Jamrach's Menagerie, Carol Birch
  • Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
  • False Colours, Georgette Heyer (re-read)
  • Blue Water, Manette Ansay
  • Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen, Garth Nix (jfic/fantasy, reread)
  • Ashes, Ilsa J Bick (jfic)
  • Island of Bones, Imogen Robertson (crime)
  • The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown
  • The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
  • Grave Secrets, Kathy Reichs (crime)
  • An Invisible Sign of My Own, Aimee Bender
  • The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen
  • The Amnesia Clinic, James Scudamore
  • Fatal Voyage, Kathy Reichs (crime)
  • Good Things I Wish You, Manette Ansay
  • The Song House, Trezza Azzopardi
  • These Old Shades, Georgette Heyer (re-read)
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender
  • His Dark Materials Trilogy, Philip Pullman (re-read) (jfic/fantasy)
  • Five People you Meet in Heaven, Mitch Ablom
  • The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler
  • The End of Everything, Megan Abbott
  • Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
  • Started Early, Took my Dog, Kate Atkinson
  • Dragonharper Trilogy, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (jfic/fantasy)
  • The Girl of his Dreams, Donna Leon
  • The Somnambulist, Essie Fox
  • Becoming Jane Eyre, Sheila Kohler
  • The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins (jfic/fantasy)
  • Day of the Bees, Thomas Sanchez
  • The Sea Change, Elizabeth Jane Howard
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
  • Sleep Toward Heaven, Amanda Eyre Ward
  • The Prince of Mist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (jfic)
  • The Hand that First Held Mine, Maggie O'Farrell (pbg, Feb 12)
  • Girl Reading, Katie Ward
  • The Death Instinct, Jed Rubenfeld (crime)
  • The Travelling Horn Player, Barbara Trapido (re-read, pbg Jan 12)
  • Saving Fish from Drowning, Amy Tan
  • The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
  • The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobson
  • Dark Assassin, Anne Perry (crime)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dinner, 13/1/13: Pot Roast Chicken with peas & bacon

This was lovely - been ages since I did a chicken pot roast (usually I just do regular roast) and this was a perfect return to the pot roast format. The peas don't go in during the cooking; they are added at the end once the chicken is cooked - you take it out to rest and put the casserole dish back on the hob to finish off (it mainly cooks in the oven, after everything is browned). Very nice!