Saturday, April 30, 2011


One of the best parts of the royal wedding is the hats! It makes me want to start collecting fascinators, even though I have no real opportunity to wear them. I do have a collection of vintage hats and am amazed how timeless some of them are and I've pictured a few I think could be worn to a wedding today.

This brown one is a favorite of mine. The color is very flattering.

I have never managed to wear red like this, but I do love it. The bauble is a nice touch.

This is another favorite, but is more of a headband than a hat. I love the detailed velvet leaves. I've never quite worked out how the netting is supposed to go, but I think over the hair to the back of the head...maybe.

Quite a few have feathers.

This one looks surprising well on. One just has to be careful not to drag the feather through doorways.

I'm not likely to add to my vintage hat collection at this point as they are from family and a family friend, but I am so tempted to get some new head pieces!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding Day

Despite the recent track record for such marriages and being American, I was quite excited for the royal wedding. I treated myself to two commemorative 1 pint mugs from Emma Bridgewater as I couldn't decide which I liked best. They are the perfect size for my daily latte and having two means Jeff can use one. (Don't you like how I justify another piece of EB?!) On the big day, I had my latte in this one.

It's hard to see here, but one of my favorite touches on this one is the heart motif on the handle. They have both been getting a lot of use.

I found the old biscuit tin in my Grandmother's basement and the newspaper pages in some of my Great Aunt's stationery and I ended up tucking them away in a drawer in my house since they amused me! Now, I have two cute mug boxes to keep some treasures in.

I got up pretty early to watch the TV coverage, though I'd set the Tivo too, so I didn't have to be up at 4am and I didn't miss anything. I loved all the hats! It was fun seeing everyone arrive, like Rowan Atkinson. The horses are a favorite part for me too. Did you spot the loose one?

Hurrah for William and Catherine!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Poor Saffy! She loathes the cone. I made the mistake of taking it off her thinking it would be ok off in the living room with us watching her, but she was too interested in the stitches. Then, after we put the cone back on her, she moaned and cried so pitifully. Once she knew it could come off, she was trying to insist we remove it for her again! We had to be tough and not give in even though she was really working on our emotions. Now, it's on for the rest of the 2 weeks...

She has been crashing into door frames, furniture, Silas, Bandit and knees. She just about scoops Bandit up with it and plows him along!! She hangs her head, so it catches on the ground and the steps into the house. She has figured out how to eat with it on. She lowers it down around her food dish, all the way to the floor and eats inside it. It keeps Silas and the cat from being able to steal any of her kibbles!

We are keeping her well dosed with pain pills and we haven't seen any signs of pain other than an occasional wince when the leg gets bent all the way. She already wants to trot and canter around the yard and we are having to keep her on a tight leash. She still manages to bounce in place quite a bit.

She's loving all the extra attention and treats--she doesn't know that some of those treats have pills inside. Actually, we've found out she will just eat up the pills alone so we don't have to be sneaky like we thought we'd need to be. They are not flavored to be appealing either!

Royal Wedding Biscuits

What better way to test out the Biscuiteer's book than by making some hearts and crowns in honor of the royal wedding? I used the basic biscuit recipe, but added a little more than 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla paste. I like to see the flecks of vanilla in the cookies.

The trouble with making biscuits for icing is trying not to eat them all before doing the icing...especially if you make the biscuits one day and ice them the next!

I used some sugar 'pearls' in addition to icing.

WC makes me think "water closet"!

The recipe is delicious. Next time, however, I will either make two batches of cookies...or halve the icing recipe. This time, I ended up making another batch of biscuits a day later. The icing stored in the fridge just fine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BBQ Dinner

We are finally wearing short sleeves outside, so it seemed appropriate to celebrate with a bbq dinner.

I made the sauce from the Chinese-Style Spare Rib recipe from Everyday Food magazine, issue 82. But, instead of using it on ribs, I butterflied a whole chicken, covered it with sauce, roasted it and then Jeff did the finishing touches on the grill outside. I reserved some sauce at the beginning, so he could baste it on during the grilling.

To go with that, I made potato salad using Veganaise for the first time. That is good stuff! I am a convert! Mayo is good too, but why not avoid cholesterol when possible? I am looking forward to trying the Veganaise in other recipes too, like dips.

For greens, we had a bit of arugula with balsamic, lemon juice and EVOO.

We had some of our 2010 garden pickles on the side. I also used the juice and some chopped ones in the potato salad.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Annual Vet Visit & An Operation

Monday, we had the big annual vet visit for vaccinations and checkups. The vet sends photo postcards of each pet to remind us to book the appointments and I scanned the pics to post here.

Saffy was intent on the Hand That Held the Cookies.

Silas has a funny expression here. I guess it's a look of wondering if he's going to get a cookie or have a needle jabbed into him.

Bandit actually was getting treatment for an ear ache on the day of this picture, but it is still pretty cute.

We gave everyone baths the night before, even Bandit. He's a weird cat as he likes water! He purrs and arches his back as he's rubbed with shampoo and is very relaxed in the tub. He likes getting cocooned in the towels after and even lets me use the hair dryer on him.

The vet appointment came just at the right time as Bandit is having one of his scratchy spells where he digs at his neck and causes bald spots and cuts. That is apparently an allergic reaction (to what, I have no idea...maybe cat hair?!) and is treated with a shot. So he should be feeling a lot better soon.

Saffy has had a bump on her hind leg for awhile and it was not a problem until last Friday when she worked on it until it became a sore!! The vet said we could bring her in the next day to have it removed, if we wanted, and we were relieved it could be done so quickly. Still, it is nerve-wracking to have a pet put under for an operation. She did not like skipping breakfast in the morning! Silas did not like being left behind. She will have stitches for about 2 weeks and we have three different kinds of pills for her. She ate the first one right up--Jeff hid it in a peanut butter sandwich he made with dog cookies! The cone will take some getting used to. She doesn't know how to sleep with it on or walk through doors or hold her head up enough so it doesn't drag and catch. We are helping her get around and now we have her restng in the middle of the living room with her toys around her for comfort.

Between those two suddenly having some issues, I was just waiting for Silas to come up with something, but fortunately, he's in one piece!

Everyone is generally in good health, thankfully!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pasta with Spinach, Mascarpone and Parm

I've made something similar to this with broccoli before, but this version with spinach is from Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver. It is delicious and is done within the time it takes to boil the pasta.

I'm going to make it again with spinach, but it will also be good to use Swiss chard. You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Easter has been pretty low key here since I've been sick, but we are still having a good day. I made more Paprika Sirloin Wraps as pictured in the previous post. For a special treat, I made the Coconut-Lime Berry Cake from Everyday Food mag, issue 82. The berries go on top of the batter and sink in as it bakes. I used frozen ones instead of fresh and it worked well. I partially thawed them first. The magazine says that wrapped and fridged it keeps 5 days--HAHAHAHA! It's not likely to be around for even 2 days!

Ready to eat!

On the way downstairs to check on my seedlings, I took a picture of Bandit. I thought you might like to see him asleep in his favorite spot--the recycle bin! He enjoyed an egg for an Easter treat. He just knows when we are about to give him an egg--it's impossible to surprise him with it!

The most recently sowed seeds are now up or at least in the process of sprouting in the case of the Cilantro and Dill.

I thought I'd show some progress shots. Eggplants and lettuce:

Tomato jungle:


Outside, the peas are growing well. You can now see the rows of green. The row to the left takes the longest time 'til maturity, so it is a little behind the others, but it's up more than it looks in this picture.

I hope you've had a good Easter too!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cookbook Spree & Tonight's Dinner

I told you a few posts ago that I was going to get some new cookbooks. You probably didn't think it would be this many! I didn't either! I go ages without buying any and then end up with a list of them that I really must try out. I may have gotten a little carried away, but I am so happy and I can't wait to start cooking from these. It was fun to plan for today's grocery shop for the week.

There is a home made chorizo recipe (for the taste of sausage without the preservatives and fat) in The River Cottage book that I can imagine in pasta and breakfast burritos for a start. Paprika Sirloin Steak Wrap and Real Mushroom Soup from Jamie's Dinners. Sono recipes will satisfy any sweet cravings and some savory ones too. I may start with the Soda Bread as I have Buttermilk to use up after doing the Everyday Food scone recipe. Jaffrey's book looks like it will really help me 'throw together' Indian dishes. I want to start with the Apricot Chicken. How to Cook Indian is a brand new book I bought on a whim having just learned of the author, Sanjeev Kapoor. It is huge! In my first look through, I especially liked some bean and lentil recipes and some of the vegetable curries. I know there will be more I want to make when I do more read throughs. It is a lot to take in.

I ordered a few books from AmazonUK too. I didn't want to wait until fall for Jamie's 30 Minute Meals book to be released here, for instance. The recipes from it that I've found online have been so good! And, with other cookbooks involving a lot of baking, I've decided I would really prefer metric versions. I will have to put an oven temperature conversion chart on the fridge for a quick reference though--some books don't include the F.

The Biscuiteer's Book is especially gorgeous and inspiring. (I would SO like to have their royal wedding cookies and tin!!) I can't wait to try some new ideas! I really love the dinosaur fossil cookies!

For tonight's dinner, I needed something easy and quick as it was getting pretty late and I was exhausted from today's appointments, chores and ongoing head cold. Jamie Oliver's Paprika Sirloin Steak Wraps from Jamie's Dinners were a perfect choice. The wrap has hummus, steak, tomatoes and arugula dressed with lemon and EVOO, sour cream and an extra sprinkle of paprika. So great tasting!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spaghetti Limone Parmeggianno

This is another recipe from My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow, though I altered it a little. I know, I'm on my 4th recipe from her book and I am getting my monies worth!

I make something very similar to this all the time and vary it by adding peas, zucchini, spinach, or whatever veggie or herb appeals to me at the time. Sometimes, I even add in a bit of ham or some chicken sausages or lay some sliced, grilled chicken across the top. Sun dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives are another frequent addition to my dish.

However, my version uses some cream and since that's rather fatty, I'm happy to try Gwyneth's version using reserved pasta cooking water and a little EVOO instead of the cream. I tend to prefer the taste/texture of lighter recipes, so I did not miss the cream.

Since I couldn't find any decent looking basil, I added some dried oregano, sliced Kalamata's and chopped sun-dried tomatoes just for fun and more flavor. I look forward to also trying it with basil from the garden.

I tossed arugula with oil from the sun dried tomato jar and balsamic vinegar. I made my own garlic bread. I make a paste with a little softened butter, parm, oregano and minced garlic, spread it on bread and broil it.

This is a super fast, easy way to satisfy a pasta craving!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

White Bean Soup

I am under the weather with a head cold and am hoping it's only a quick one! I was happy I'd planned a healthy soup for dinner tonight.

This is another recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, My Father's Daughter. I love the use of fennel in this soup. I served some cheese toasties on the side, for dipping and crunching, using some of the Vermont Sharp White Cheddar left from last night's soup. The only change I made was using chicken stock instead of veggie as it's what I happened to have in the pantry.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sowing, Sprouting and Growing On

The Romaine is still inside, but not for much longer. I need the space for peppers. You have a glimpse of the tomatoes and eggplants in the background.

I started another inside tray with lettuces and herbs. I want to put more outside in jugs too, but these will have a head start.

Outside, checking the jugs, I saw that the Italian Alkanet is getting going. Two are well up and more are coming, if you look really closely. I need replacement plants for the nice clump I had as a rabbit decided to dig that up, utterly destroying it. I love the iridescent blue flowers.

The primroses are up, but you may have to take my word for it. I marked some of the tiny sprouts with black circles, which aren't very apparent either--oops!

The chives are stringy things, but they will take off soon. It's ironic that I'm starting chives as there are lots of wild ones in my yard, but I want to try this variety and have really nice plump, flavorful stems for my cooking.

UPS arrived late in the afternoon with my cell packs for the peppers, so I could get started with the potting on. I got a lot done, but there are still some more. Some of the slower varieties will stay in this tray a bit longer.

The potted on ones look happy in their new homes.

Along with the trays, cell packs, some seeds and twine, I got the small version of a garden trug to see what it would be like. I think it will be very handy and I'll be ordering the larger sizes to help me carry the produce in from the garden too.

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

I love blended soups! They tend to be so simple, but filled with wonderful flavor. This recipe is from Gwyneth Paltrow's new book, My Father's Daughter. It was delicious for dinner tonight.

Arugula, in addition to the broccoli, adds flavor and nice darker green flecks to the soup. I used Vermont Sharp White Cheddar cheese.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Perfect Spring Days

I wish this season could be twice as long, but I guess I appreciate these days all the more because they are really quite brief. I enjoyed a weekend that included a little shopping and garden/yard planning and work.

Saturday, we went out to a few stores and lunch out at Chipotle. At Target, I found a new gardening hat. It seems to be becoming a tradition for me to get new hats there each spring. I really needed it starting today to avoid sun bleaching/drying my hair and burning my nose! Maybe I will find a pretty feather in the yard sometime to tuck into the band.

Over the weekend, I cut back all the butterfly bushes and Jeff and I cut back the Rose of Sharons together, making quick work of cutting all the little sticks right back to the stumps.

Today, I got a lot of planting done for the cold frame.

I sowed:
Giant Mixed Zinnias and Cactus Mixed Zinnias
Broken Colors 4 o'clocks
Sensation Mix Cosmos
Heavenly Blue and Scarlett varieties of Morning Glories
Cherry Nasturiums
Raven Zukes
Marketmore Cukes

In between sowing, I checked the jugs and there are mustard greens up (shown in picture) and mesclun greens too.

Saffy and Silas could not stay awake. I think they tried to keep an eye on me, but it was just too dull for them and the sun was so warm and sleep inducing. They were even a little lethargic when we walked about the yard. I guess their winter coats are probably feeling heavy and too warm now. Silas has already started to really shed.

While I was outside, the mail arrived and with it another parcel from a Boden sale. A couple of things are still back ordered for a long time, but two things came today. It's another twist front top in a different color for variety and a ribbon necklace. It's hard to see in this light, but the ribbon is navy and the beads are blue, purple and silver. I really like it on me!