Wednesday, 21 November 2012

On the train

That most dreaded time. On the train and completed all my email and reading work.

It's even too dark to window gaze.

This is Sheffield . . . .

Fortunately the rain in the south of the uk making transport hell there has not yet hit! It has even stopped raining.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Homemade onion and feta tart

For this post the title says it all.

I made some wholemeal pastry and filled it with fried onions topped with feta cheese and a balsamic drizzle.

For a first try it tasted ok, but just ok so I am going to need to work on the recipe.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sleep(!) overs

Had a fun evening and morning with the 1st Meadow Covert beavers. Lots of activities and up early for rounders and playing on the park.

No quality food or sleep, but the sky looked good this morning!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Baby season begins....

Before my mum has a heart attack, not my baby season! From my previous posts it will have become obvious that the are many babies on their way amongst my friends and colleagues. 

Well, baby number 1 was born on Tuesday. Mum and baby are doing well, but are both pretty tired. We went to deliver a blanket and some booties the other day and to visit the new arrival. She was very calm and coped wonderfully well with being passed round the room.

Here are the baby gift pics now the element of surprise is no longer required :) I didn't know the gender of the baby so went for the well - known baby neutral colours of red and white.

The blanket is of my own design, and these little beauties are from the pattern from the purl bee. I think they turned out great, and so cute! Link to the pattern.

We also took along an Andrex puppy toy for the baby's big sister, although she spent more time with the great ribbon I used to wrap the gifts! 

Let's hope the remaining arrivals of 'baby season' go well. We've got new arrivals now almost monthly until February.

I have now finished my crocheted blankets so can get on with the mix and match granny square blanket for our bed. At a double size I only need about a hundred and fifty more squares, this is a long term project and not one I am expecting to finish this year. In a post in a while I will take a few pictures of my progress.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Ok diner, A1 Northbound at Tickencote

A day trip out finished off with dinner at the diner!

As usual mlh (my lovely husband) had a banana milkshake, apparently there is no other kind. I went off-milkshake with a coke float in an effort to be able to eat the dinner. The diners milkshakes are so good as they use 4 scoops of ice cream to make and you get two big glasses full. Yummy.

We have visited the diner before (See this post) and were inspired to visit by a series on the food network called Diners, Drive ins and dives 

It remained fantastically neon.....

For dinner I had a barbecue pulled pork bap and mlh had a chilli cheeseburger, his with curly fries and mine without. We have never got to try the puddings, although they sound great on the menu, we are always way too full.

Mlh is keen to try and visit all of the ok diner chain and is planning a motorbike tour round it. We have so far been to three, A1 northbound and A1 southbound (at colsterworth) and the A38 southbound.

And are they any good?

Well, we've joined the loyalty card scheme ;)

Find the ok diner near you here. Ok diner website.

It's not food you would want to ( or rather your arteries would want you to) eat very week, but for a milkshake-tastic neon occasional treat it's worth finding one near you!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Glades Restaurant, Melton Mowbray

A sunny Saturday calls for a trip out! We hopped into my car and went for a drive to Melton Mowbray's Saturday market. The sky was beautifully blue and, although cold with the roof down on my Eos we both needed the sunglasses on. I think in the uk you need to take every opportunity to have the roof down to make the most of the car, and that's what we did. 

The market wasn't that busy so we were able to get all of our bread, meat and veg quite quickly. Then off to dinner. Our favourite spot is the Glades, think fixed plastic chairs and tables, really friendly waiting staff and massive all day breakfasts. 

For this week, the food will do the talking. look at these lovely all-day breakfasts. At £5 each (including the mug of tea) you can't go wrong. 

That's me on the left, poised to dive in, and making a start in the second. Just look at the lovely fried bread.

Contact details and location on here, someone else is obviously also a fan!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Special spiced chicken, at home

So what do you give your tired husband for dinner when he's tired, hungry and racing around for a weekend of 'playing on (motor) bikes' with his friends?

Mr Huda's curry chicken of course!

We were bought a selection of Mr Huda's pastes for Christmas by my always-seeking-something-different sister in law (mentioned in the previous Handmade Boutique post) and we are gradually working through them.

So-back to the chicken.

It was really easy (a boon for me, I am not a fan of ordinary everyday cooking, I prefer the 'play' cooking - jam, cakes, buns, chutney etc) all I had to do was rub a teaspoonful of Mr Huda's paste onto each chicken breast and then covered it with clingfilm and left it in the fridge all day.

This wasn't the suggested recipe on the pack, and it's the 'kebab' paste that I used (this one)

When it came to drawing together the dinner, I popped it into the oven and simply baked it for  25 minutes. I served it with broccoli, cauliflower and rice, with a little mayo on the side.

It was declared a great success. The chicken was moist and spicy without being too chilli hot, in fact it has been requested again next week :)

I have realised that if I am going to do more of the home-cooked recipes and ingredients you'll probably want to see what it turned out like, unfortunately in this house dinners are eaten as soon as they hit the table so I'll have to make a special effort to show you my outputs as well as my inputs.

I've also used the onion bajee paste (this time following exactly the recipes on the box) to great success for bajees and pakora that taste like they do in the restaurants, but they really are messy!

This is the bajee paste:

Have fun with them curry-lovers.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Handmade Boutique, Mailbox, Birmingham

From my last post with my own jam making and crocheting baby blankets to the handmade efforts of the professional artisan in this.

I attended the opening night of the Handmade Boutique (5th floor of the Mailbox, Birmingham) on Wednesday. It's open 11am to 6pm 7 days a week from now until the end of December, so if you want to pay a visit you'll need to do so in the next few months.

The store has been set up by Tracie Bedwood (who makes the candles above, in vintage glassware and ditsy tea-cups) with help from her favourite producers drawn from Midlands craft and handmade fairs in the past few months. I know the guys at the Black Acres Soap Pantry and went along to support.

Their soaps are great, really moisturising and smell great. My husband absolutely loves them and they're very reasonably priced (most products less than £5) so it's not hard to treat yourself!

The night was a good opportunity to speak to some of the makers themselves and understand just how much effort and time goes into the products, not only to make them but also to professionally package and present. 

I really liked the pieces from Perlina Jewellery who have a workshop in Lichfield. The jewellery is particularly striking and the necklaces would need a bit of confidence to wear, but I am positive that you'd feel a million pounds wearing one. There are also some simpler pieces (bracelets and rings) which would suit the more conservative jewellery fan.

Photos above by Gary Price photo.

I stopped by the chocolate counter of Daniel Jones and sampled the extra-dark chocolate, which was really good, being very dark, bitter but not at all sour like some of the commercial dark chocolates. Daniel is doing some live demonstrations at the shop at 1pm on Saturday 13th October, and the shop is sure to smell gorgeous whilst that's going on!

I was really impressed by the folded and woven paper handbags (yes, handbags!). They are really intricate and would be an amazing gift, clearly they take a lot of time to put together. I particularly like the antique map and crossword bags. These little beauties are made by Weave and Stitch.

If, like my sister in law, you're always looking for that special gift or an item to treat yourself with that no-one else has and is not mass produced for the high street it's in little shops like these that you'll find a good selection in a warm and comfortable environment. 

I've also included the direct web links for each maker I spoke to, if anything particular takes your fancy! 

Just to note, this is not a sponsored post and the opinions expressed are genuinely my own.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Making things (food and sewing)

Making things.

I have felt a distinct need to make things recently, perhaps because it is getting distinctly colder and I feel Autumn is coming on.

My father has brought round so many bags of redcurrants it's untrue so I have got round to finally using some of it up. I have made two jars of jelly and one of (less sweet) ice-cream topping.

It's really easy to make jelly, just cook through the redcurrants and add the same weight of sugar. Boil it up until the mix in the pan starts to get syrupy and then drip some on a cold plate. If you gently push the   blob of jam and it wrinkles slightly it's ready, if not it needs a few more minutes before testing again.

Then, sieve your lava-hot mix into sterilised jars and (using oven gloves) screw on the tops. If you're recycling jars the 'pop up' bit of the lid will suck itself back in.

The evidence........

The redcurrant jelly has been great in yoghurt, on pancakes, on ice cream and on cold meat. In fact, one jar has gone already and two jars have been sent off to my parents!

I have also been creating things for the pregnant ladies that seem to be popping up all over the place at the moment in my life. I've done two pairs of baby trousers following the tutorial over at 'Made by Rae'  it's a really easy go-to pattern which fits 0-3 month (and slim 6-12 month) babies really well (or so I am told by the recipients of the previous versions. I'm not posting this lot yet as they have not been given away yet - but they are like the previous versions I've blogged about the new ones are a little fancier with ribbon and contrast panels, but it's the same idea. I have also made a number of crochet baby blankets, no tutorial required, one is using a granny-square stitch.

The other two are stripey variations using double crochet chain one and treble crochet chain one. The first is red and white stripes and the second is baby pastel purple. Lovely!

I also attempted the 'sprocket' cushion from this tutorial  over at Cluck Cluck Sew. The tutorial was great, and I got right to the very end of its creation, only for the upholstery fabric I was using to fray mercilessly when being turned the right way round (cue lots of holes on the seams and maybe a little cursing). It looks good, but I can never use it - sniff! I am now in the long, long process of unpicking the backing so I can at least re-use that. Definitely project - FAIL.

XII Apostel, Cologne, Germany (Twelve Apostes)

We'd been in Cologne for a long (4-night) weekend break and had, several nights, walked past the XII Apostel without really meaning to, noting that it looked lovely and that we really ought to go.

On the night we'd decided to go, we absolutely could not find it again! Cologne's a lovely city to walk round and very manageable on foot but all the shopping streets really did look the same that night. We'd had a long day doing touristy things and were tired, and I'll admit to the search being a little fraught :) After deciding we were not going to find it - we relaxed and just looked round for the nearest place, and lo an behold it appeared (like magic!).

So you don't have the same issue it's here, just outside the Heumarkt metro station (don't confuse it with the Neumarkt station like I did)

Heumarkt 68-72

Tel +49 221 250 830 22

The restaurant is lit up beautifully at night.

When we arrived we were given a drink quickly, and the restaurant was really busy. My husband celebrated his first success at being able to achieve a pint of beer, beer in Cologne normally being sold in much smaller volumes. Our (really friendly) waiter explained they'd had an offer on that night and it had been really popular. The business meant that the big restaurant had a vibrant feel about it and, as we were seated near the kitchens, we could watch the theatre show that was the chefs at work.

The twelve apostles of the name are represented in the newspaper-style menu as pizzas. They have really unusual toppings (Peter having salmon and creme fraiche, Judas being spicy with rocket and spicy meat). The pizzas going to other tables meant that we went straight for that, as they looked really good (good-sized, well topped). The restaurant also does a full complement of meat, pasta and other Italian dishes - but I'd have to go back again to comment on those!

Our waiter was very patient with our rubbish German (we'd both learnt French at school, which doesn't help much) and helped us along with some encouragement in perfect English. Despite being run off his feet he was prepared to put the time in to deal with us as individual customers, excellent.

The pizzas were amazing, as they had looked, satisfyingly crisp (but not hard) bases and plenty of topping but not swamped with cheese. Accompanied by a cold beer I'm not sure what the actual apostles would have thought of it but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A big, fat recommendation for this one.

And a gratuitous Cologne pic...

This is the cathedral for which the city is famed. We did the full tourist thing and went to the 4711 perfume shop to buy gifts for our Mums, we went up the high tower, did the cable car over the river (and right over the top of the nude part of the hot-spring spa), and saw the padlocks attached to the bridge. The idea is you put a lock with your name and a special date on the bridge and throw the key in the river, so to remove it (and break the relationship) requires special effort. There are literally thousands on there - look

My husband and I also visited the marvel that is the Jack Wolfskin shop. It's a shop, and it has a full-sized proper pond in the basement. We could not believe our eyes! This wasn't in the guidebook, but it really should have been....

It's the shop at Minoritenstrasse 2, 50667 Cologne (I think, right in the centre just down the street from the Aldi shop), talking of the Aldi I was very proud to get the hang of how you recycle your plastic bottles to reclaim your deposit, all in German. I know, the English are rubbish at foreign languages, but it's always good to have a go - right? It's probably different when you speak the language I am mangling.

A long post - but it was a great holiday!

I've been invited next week to the opening of an artisan co-operative shop full of handmade goodies (in the Mailbox, Birmingham). I am trying to include lots more pictures in the blog and I am looking forward to the goodies in store there. Hope you are too.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Weston Super Mare, a trip to the seaside

A lovely trip this week to the seaside at Weston Super Mare (not sure how you spell it really - but it's here...)

Now, having lived in the middle of England most of my life I absolutely LOVE a trip to the seaside so the very first thing I wanted to do on arrival was run down the beach (shoes and socks off) and have a paddle in the sea.

So, the first bit went well until we got onto the damp sand. Ew!!! It's very soft, silty and like stepping through very soft clay. Boo. What can you do on a beach where you can't get near the sea? (I must admit here that later as I walked down the promenade I did see several signs warning you not to try to approach the sea at low tide due to soft sand, in my excitement I must have missed those. Oops)

My friend had been before and guided me over to the lido-type area. This is essentially a massive infinity pool where a bit of the sea has been held back and you CAN paddle and frolick in. It's not quite like 'real' sea as there are no waves or anything, but it is nice and warm and very safe for children. So, go there when you go, and don't try and reach the actual sea.

For lunch (cooked) we went to the Old Thatched Cottage. A friendly welcome and decent portions, I had ham, egg and chips and my dining partner fish and chips. A lovely little restaurant location and we left full and satisfied!

The promenade is one of the key attractions in Weston Super Mare. There was loads going on down near the beach! A steam-powered funfair had chairoplanes, carousels and lots of candy floss. There was a dog show on the green, stalls, games and donkey and horse rides on the beach. The day was quite windy and there were also a lot of kite-flyers.

The Grand pier is worth a walk along and there are a few of the usual seaside cacophony of penny (now twopenny) falls, arcade games etc. There's quite a nice looking place at the end of the pier for afternoon tea - however it was closed for a wedding so comments on that will have to be for next time!

On the way round the prom there is a good ice cream parlour near the pier - unfortunately I didn't note the name but the turkish delight ice-cream was amazing!

I had a very good, skippy day out in Weston Super Mare. Thank you.

After Weston - back to Bristol. But that's another post, it's 11pm on a work-night so I need to go to bed now :)

Night all!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Severnshed, Bristol

I have been out and about on my summer holidays recently and have only just got round to letting you know about where I have been so, here it goes!

I'll aim to do one a day, and have vowed to better keep up with the blog, it might be more varied than just the dinners and I am iming to include some more photographs too.

So here goes....

The Severnshed, Bristol. A rather lovely building for a rainy evening. It's next to the docks in Bristol and unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it. Sorry.

The atmosphere was very lively - with an active bar and a busy restaurant side with several (well-behaved) large hen parties. The music was loud and pop music, so if you like your dinner accompanied by exquisite piano it's probably not the place for you on a Friday.

We'd booked and were glad we did as it was very busy.

The menu is pretty good, with plent of 'activity dinners' that add a bit of interest to the dining experience.

Our 'activity dinners' consisted of....

fajitas - plenty of veg and meat for the 4 or 5 tortillas, dips and nacho crisps. It was plenty to eat and very filling, and flavourful - although not quite as spicy as I was expecting.

skewers - prawn and beef. The skewers are the house speciality. Your meat comes on what can only be described as swords and is de-impaled onto a bed of salad at the table. There was plenty of meat and salad, so much so that the included chips were not really necessary.

and my husband had steak and chips, which was apparently good - but he did feel a bit left out after our interesting dinners!

I did have a pudding, but I can't remember now what it was, only that it was light and sweet and came with a burnt-caramel swirl which was fun.

The rating:
A lively Friday-night venue with great location in Bristol, I'd definitely go again.

The summary:

Food =fun food, attractively presented and good-sized portions
Price = mains £10 - £20 (skewer dinner £15)
Atmosphere =lively, busy and loud


The Grove
0117 925 1212

Thursday, 12 July 2012

On the for sale Long Eaton

Hello blog readers My husband and I are hoping to be on the move. If anyone is looking for a good sized 3 bed semi with no chain in Long Eaton, Derbyshire we've got a lovely house for sale. The kitchen has been newly refurbished and it's neutrally decorated throughout. All the usual details are on Rightmove and it's on for offers over £122,000 (an absolute bargain for the space available). We're moving as me and my hubby want to sell our own houses now we are married and buy one together XX
Photobucket Happy house viewing!

We've taken loads of photos so you can really get a feel for the place....

Saturday, 16 June 2012

French Living

Doubling the blog posts so far is the next instalment.... French Living.

It appears that French Living are making much more use of the light and lively upstairs restaurant now, rather than the basement. I think it's nice to vary the two and whichever you choose the food will be great! They are also open all day which is an additional bonus.

We had selections from the prix fixe menu (offered up-front and centre, top marks!) and had the following:

Starters: Smoked Salmon and Marinated Salmon
Delicate flavours and an attractive plateful, summery dishes unlike the rainy weather outside!

Mains: Hake Basquaise and Venison
A huge slab of venison graced my fellow diner's plate and look well cooked - it certainly appeared to taste good! The hake was well cooked and served with chunky-cut vegetables and rice. 

Puds: Profiteroles and tulle basket
I had the profiteroles, choux pastry with ice-cream in the centre (for the summer touch) and hot chocolate sauce. I'm not normally a fan of deviation from cream in the centre - however balanced with the gallons of hot sauce this was a real winner and the ice cream balanced the sweetness of the sauce well. The tulle basket was chosen as a light finish by my partner and was as expected.

The rating:
Great value for the price with properly French waiting staff and a lively atmosphere. Light and airy upstairs, darkly interesting in the cellar. I didn't want to be anywhere else tonight!

The summary:

Food = Great French food, hearty and with a seasonally-changing menu
Price = A pre-theatre menu, and two set menus (saison £18ish and gastronomique £22) plus a-la-carte
Atmosphere = Busy but not over-loud, feels French

French Living
27 King Street, Nottingham NG1 2AY   
t: +44 (0)115 9585885    

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Signature Steakhouse, West Bridgford, Nottingham

I can't believe it's my first blog post of 2012! I am going to blame it on my usual dinner partner having moved to Bristol and me therefore not having gone out to dinner. I have been out to dinner, but just not got round to writing it up! Oops. So here's an on-the-day live report.....

A special occasion calls for a special dinner and for my husband's birthday we chose a new-ish special restaurant in West Bridgford, the Signature Steakhouse. The note in the window advertised 5 local suppliers in West Bridgford's Totally Locally initiative, so all to the good.

On arrival at 6.30 there were another couple there having drinks, who left whilst we were perusing the menu. That left us as the only people there for a while, which unfortunately doesn't add to the atmosphere. We were seated in the bar to choose our drinks and to have an aperitif. It's a little odd to have a clothing boutique in a bar / restaurant, but we rolled with it, hoping we'd be moved to the dining area at the back for our meal.

We were indeed taken through to the dining area, which (still just us) had a better atmosphere as it was cosier and the music was sufficient to provide enough background to make us two feel comfortable, but so that we could still chat over it.

My husband's starter arrived very swiftly, and was unfortunately cleared away about a minute before he'd finished chewing the last morsel! The salmon starter was presented nicely and was, apparently, tasty.

The main courses arrived following hot on the heels of the cleared starter, at this point I was thinking that we'd be in, out and done in about 45 minutes! However, in chatting over the dinner and taking time over ordering dessert we had a very pleasant couple of hours.

The main courses were beautifully presented, the steak being high-quality and cooked well and my chicken stuffed with goats cheeses, sun dried tomatoes came with mash, boiled potatoes and a selection of vegetables and was filling, varied, and nicely balanced.

By now there were another couple dining, and a group in the bar - enough to give the place a warm feel.

For dessert we had eton mess and chocolate cake. The eton mess consisted of a variety of fruit (blueberries, oranges, strawberries) and was light, creamy and refreshing. The chocolate cake was served with ice-cream and was rich and an enjoyable finish.

We felt a bit exploited when it came to the bill, with a flyer advertising an 'early bird' deal available until 7pm included within the receipt folder, when we hadn't been offered that menu on our arrival at 6.30pm alongside the a-la-carte, nor was it on the collection of leaflets on the table. My husband noted this on our comment card and also mentioned this to our host, who apologised, but it was a sufficient disappointment to negate a tip (the early bird 3-courses with wine was £18, my husband's steak alone was £22 (and my chicken £14) - so a significant difference). I do wonder how long the restaurant will survive, given the lack of diners, this kind of 'oversight' which won't encourage return visits and the price point of the meal, considering its out of city location and slightly strange clothes shop / restaurant combo. Maybe I'll be surprised.

I'm out again tomorrow, so I'll double the 2012 blog posts after then :)

The rating:
A nice meal, but for broadly the same price as World Service - next time I'll go to World Service. 

The summary:

Food = Varied menu, non-steak dish was also good, presented beautifully
Price = Pricey £72 for two (one 3-course and one 2-course meal with wine) bad that they didn't offer the fixed-price menu and then had the cheek to advertise it when they brought the bill!
Atmosphere = Classy decor, laid-back, calm

Signature Steakhouse
100 Melton Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham, NG2 6EP
0115 981 6249

(and for reference - World Service or Iberico