Thursday 26 February 2015

A Year in Books: February

Last month I read 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves'. I have mixed feelings about it. I liked it for many things - it was enjoyable while I was reading it, engaging and it really made me think about an issue that I've not given much thought to since I was a teenager (shame on me). It had some annoying things about it, very neat ending and some hard to like characters but I think I'm only bothered about those looking back on the book, they didn't bother me when I was in it. So I would come to the conclusion that it's a good read.
I'm being a bit cagey about it as I don't want to publish a big fat spoiler and it's hard to write about it without doing that. It's for your own good people.

This month I'm reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time because:
1) I must be the only person in the universe not to have read it.
2) It's been sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to read it for a long time.

I'm joining in with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees link up #theyearinbooks
Share the book you are reading each month. Simple.

PS: I'm not sure I'm really up to joining in with all these monthly challenges... it feels like the advantage in doing them is to post them up at the beginning of the month; but I suppose I'm more in the "it's the taking part that matters camp"
And I've started, so I should try to finish.  <<<< See my note to self in the side bar over there.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Morocco - Holiday Portraits

One of the many things that was really good about escaping these shores last week was being able to take some nice shots of the children. Posed and candid... here are my favorites from our half term in Morocco.

We did more or less the same as we did last year - read the full lowdown from that trip here.
We packed light - which is why Coco seems to be wearing the same thing everyday.

I did some sketching, we read and did puzzles, Coco and Henry made new friends. We played lots of cards - especially the very popular Rat-a-tat-Cat game. We ate well, wandered the souks - bought back a few little souviners and generally enjoyed getting some sun on our backs.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Styling the Seasons: Feburary

February styling the seasons - laying the table by Alexis at

To me February seems like a good month for long Sunday lunches for cooking and entertaining.
We've had a couple of lovely Sundays recently catching up with friends, enjoying good food while children entertain themselves around us.

Whenever we have friends over we have the same plan. To be ready when they arrive, it rarely happens though... and having a table laid and ready pretty much never happens. It's much more likely that guests will be roped into help while the gravy is being prepped.
But I remain hopeful that one day we'll have people round and the table will be ready. So for this months styling the season I thought I'd get out my best china.

February styling the seasons - laying the table by Alexis at

The garden has been in it's winter slumber - only offering up the occasional herb and a few weedy stems of broccoli from the veg patch... but the trusty hellebore's are flowering away. There are so many on some plants that it seems crazy not to bring a few indoors even if they don't last that long, the one above seemed particularly regal and perfect.

February styling the seasons - laying the table by Alexis at

I love our Astier de Villatte china but we've been a bit shy of using it since Henry broke a beautiful bowl when he was about two. I kind of hate the idea of 'best' china, we never had that when we were young (we ate off beautiful plates all the time; much the best way!) but practicality wins out and we have separate plates and bowls for everyday use. I'm on an eternal search for set that would compliment the Astier but also go in the dishwasher... the closest I've seen are by The White Company.

February styling the seasons - laying the table by Alexis at

The little water glasses were Coco's souvenir purchase from Morocco last year and she loves us to use them on special occasions. She is very particular about who gets which colour.

February styling the seasons - laying the table by Alexis at

And finally our cutlery. This does get used everyday by everyone. It's called Paris by David Mellor and it's perfect. We rate good cutlery in this house!

Styling The Seasons is a monthly challenge run by Katy and Charlotte - anyone can join in - just do a post or put a photo on instagram using #stylingtheseasons
This month there is also a little styling competition going on over at Laura Ashley which I missed out on due to the fact that I never reply to emails. Sorry if you're waiting on an email from me, but you'll probably be waiting sometime. I'm better at snail mail; but more about that in another post!

A little PS as normal:
A good friend of ours recently went to a posh restaurant for her *ahem* 40th birthday. The table was laid with beautiful Astier de Villatte china. She commented to the waiter that her friends have some of this china (us!) but that she'd never eaten off it.... The waiter said that she wouldn't be eating off it there either. It was just for show when you sit down... the food came on more 'practical' china. 

Monday 9 February 2015

Scenes from the Weekend

It feels like the weekends are becoming a tug of war between trying to get things done and trying to slow down and to just spend time together as a family.
This weekend was no different and it felt so typical of where we are right now...

 Bread. PJ's. Cards. Drawing. Eating. Food Shopping.

Saturday started slowly with the children playing downstairs and sorting out their breakfast... I was feeling vaguely fragile after a rare Friday night out. The morning was therefore spent in pj's (the best TBC pj's) with endless cups of tea. I was also reading our new cook book {a modern way to eat by Anna Jones}, and playing cards with Coco. Hugh was in the early stages of bread making.

After deciding on a couple of recipes I wanted to try from the a fore mentioned book we ventured out (which makes it sound easy, but writing a shopping list and getting four people dressed, and winter-ready always seems to take soooo long). By the time we finally left the house there was a certain amount of hangry behaviour coming from me. The fix for this was eating before food shopping so we went for an American brunch at Outsider Tart a local place which I really like, Hugh finds it a bit too quirky American, having said that he didn't want to share his chilli eggs with me. I particularly wanted to try their pancakes as we've been getting quite into our pancake breakfasts recently. The pancakes were suitably impressive - I'm not sure I'd have a hope of replicating them, partly as I probably wouldn't dare pour on quite such an enormous quantity of maple syrup; but I might still try.
So brunch turned into quite a lengthy affair - in a good way - but it meant that then the food shopping had to be squeezed in before getting Coco to a birthday party. Hugh and Henry went off to the butchers & supermarket while Coco and I headed to the green grocer. (Natoora, our local is great for stocking the harder to come by varities of veg).
Then it was time to take coco to her party... which was followed by the normal more cooking/eating etc. I managed to sneak off to bed early to read my book while Hugh happily continued faffing with his bread.
Day done: not much achieved - but some good hanging out.

Cards. Garden. Photo shoot. Lunch. Friends. Washing up.

Sunday - I seem to be the one craving the lie ins at the moment where as Hugh was up kneading bread and prepping lunch ... I woke more gently with a cup of tea.
Sunday morning was where the stress kicked in. I was trying to do some 'studio style' photos for one of my many projects. Henry wanted to do either very loud activities or anything complicated for which he had to shout for help every two minutes. Coco had homework to do but was much more interested in helping to contribute to Henry's frustrations... Eventually we chucked them out in the garden and thanked our lucky stars for our soundproof double glazing.
Hugh of course was still making bread. It should really go without saying now that at most points during a weekend when we are at home Hugh is either involved in some stage of his bread making* marathon, or doing some kind of wiring based project. I meanwhile can normally be found lamenting the fact that I've done nothing except tidying. And the house is still a tip.
This is why it's normally a good idea if we just go out; however as we had people coming to see us this wasn't really an option.
Lunch got prepped - mainly by Hugh but partly by me, photos got done, just, and then friends arrived and lunch was enjoyed along with probably too much wine... Coco got all of us to play cards and then got cuddles with baby Frank. After the washing up was done we had a quick trip to the park in the fading light.
Last of all we lit the fire and watched the beginning of Willow (I used to love that film!) with Coco and Henry - then once they were in bed we caught up on Wolf Hall before bed.
Day done:  friends seen, food enjoyed, photos taken & school uniforms washed, recycling out, only lost my rag with children a couple of times. Mediocre hanging out time (ie was slightly tinged with guilt that I should be doing something else more productive).
Weekend finished and here we go again.
We are pretty lucky really.
And pretty normal.
I think.

* Having enjoyed some delicious homemade sourdough bread today I should not be publicly complaining about this.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Coleslaw: A Winter Staple

Homemade coleslaw recipe - by Alexis at

A good 'slaw has become something that I seem to find myself making on an almost weekly basis - it's joined bolognaise, sausage and lentil casserole and chilli as one of our winter staple dishes.
I love it; it's adaptable to various ingredients, feels healthy (even though I've never really worked out how much mayonnaise I use... so the optimal word here is 'feels') it goes with pretty much everything and keeps ok for a few days too.

I've been meaning to blog about it for a while... mainly because in the weird world that I occupy taking some good photos of food suddenly has become something I wanted to do.* Unfortunately I hardly ever cook in daylight - not that we're even getting much daylight at the moment. Every time I opened the fridge last week I'd be tempted to cook the red cabbage - but I held myself back and in the fading light of Sunday afternoon, much to the children's amusement I made and shot my coleslaw. We ate some of it with baked potatoes and I've had it everyday for lunch since.

Homemade coleslaw recipe with red cabbage and red onion - by Alexis at

The very first thing I do is I cut up my onion and soak it in lemon juice...

Homemade coleslaw recipe with red cabbage and red onion - by Alexis at

I have a  tendancy to get a bit obsessed about getting all my ingredients chopped to a similar size... although Henry loves chopping so I often have to turn a blind eye to the random sized chunks of apple and celery that he throws in the mix...

Homemade coleslaw recipe - by Alexis at

We generally use a mix of mayonnaise and yogurt on our 'slaw - sometimes some mustard and olive oil too - a good grind of pepper and a salt then mix it up.
It was so dark by this point in proceedings that I had to go outside to get this photo!

I need some more go-to recipes...
I always need some more go-to recipes!

*If you too have an urge to take good photos of food then Catherine of the blog Borrowed Light is running a food photography and styling workshop in July - see details here.