Thursday, 31 December 2015

Wishing Everyone A Happy And Healthy New Year!

I've not been able to get near a computer for a couple of days as we're now with family, but one thing I've really been grateful for in the past few months is discovering the world of blogging! I was totally new to it and your kind comments have meant a lot to me. I really feel part of the blogging community now and really enjoy browsing through all of your blog posts.

Just a quick pic of our NYE walk today in the Cambridgeshire Fens, Happy New Year from Barry!

It's obviously therefore very important that I say thank you to you all for showing me the ways of the blogging world and I feel very lucky to have met such lovely interesting people through the power of blogs. I wish all of you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy new year! I hope 2016 brings you lots of the things you aspire to and lots of fun along the way too.

Lots of love,

Em x

Monday, 28 December 2015

28th December: My Favourite Photos of 2015

As with any past year, I realise that I take A LOT of photos, but I'm not going to apologise for that because I think it's quite a nice addiction!

As usual, my photos mainly consist of food, flowers and 'cute things' which just so happen to include an addition to our family who came along back in March, our handsome puppy Barry!

 My three babies; Barry, Squirt & Lola
 
  
Remembering lovely holidays this year in France 
 
 
Gardening and decorating in our very own first home!
 

 Bringing a new member into our family; Barry our handsome Jack Russell Terrier!
 

 Having some great days out and exploring the countryside with our dog
 
 Spending time with my wonderful family xx

 Doing lots of cooking, baking and eating!
 
Adding to my hobbies by learning new ones; crochet!
 
 
 And finally, I don't know where I'd be without these two. They are my world, they make me smile when I'm feeling low and they're always always there for me. I love Jack with all my heart and having Barry by our side this year has brought us lots of happiness :-)
 
Looking forward to the photos I'll be taking in 2016!
 
Em x

Sunday, 27 December 2015

27th December: Making Meals With Christmas Leftovers



Today I've been quite productive; I popped to the supermarket to get some bargain vegetables for soups etc. and then popped into Newbury to have a wander around the sales. Finally, I spent the rest of today cooking to use up Christmas leftovers.

Turkey, Ham & Leek Pie
This pie is so tasty and my favourite way to use up Christmas turkey leftovers. To make it extra easy (after the stress of cooking Christmas dinner), I buy ready-made puff pastry and I make this filling using the mighty can of condensed chicken soup - the way my mum has always taught me. If you've never used this then you should! It's great for making creamy sauces for pastas and pies.



Ingredients:
Leftover cooked ham, cubed
Leftover cooked turkey, cubed
100ml Double cream
250ml Chicken stock
1 Can condensed chicken soup
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Leeks, chopped
2 Small white onions, diced
Ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
15g Butter
Ready made puff pastry
1 Egg, beaten

Method:
  • Melt butter in a deep saucepan/stock pot, add onions and sweat briefly before adding the turkey and ham. Add the white wine vinegar and allow to simmer.
  • Pour the condensed soup into a bowl, add a can's worth of cold water and pop into the microwave for 3 minutes before stirring and adding to the meat and onion mix.
  • Add the chicken stock, seasoning and double cream and stir gently. Reduce the heat and allow to bubble gently for 10 minutes. Add the leeks near to the end or they'll cook down to nothing. I usually add these 5 minutes before removing this from the heat and then allow the filling to cool before adding to your pie dish.
  • Once cool, cover with pastry, cut two small air holes, decorate if you feel like it with the pastry off-cuts, brush with the beaten egg and then cook in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.


Oriental Turkey & Sweetcorn Soup
Usually I make this soup with leftover roast chicken but turkey works too. It's one of my favourite soups and on the odd occasion that we have a Chinese takeaway I always order this. Making it at home is very easy though, not to mention cheap.

Ingredients:
100g Cooked turkey/chicken, shredded
900ml Chicken stock
2 Slices of fresh ginger
2 Garlic cloves, halved
Can of creamed corn
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine/Dry Sherry
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
Pinch of salt
2 Eggs, beaten

Method:
  • Put the stock in a large saucepan/stock pot with the ginger and garlic and bring to the boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat and leave bubbling for a further 5 minutes.
  • Remove the ginger and garlic, add the cooked turkey, creamed corn, rice wine, salt and light soy sauce. Stir occasionally over a medium heat for a further 5 minutes.
  • Turn back up to a high heat to bring to the boil once more, then gradually pour in the beaten eggs while using a chopstick to stir to create threads. Reduce the heat and cook for a final 5-7 minutes. 
This soup is very easy to make and really tasty and filling thanks to the protein from the turkey and egg. I love the threads of egg in the soup and the chopsticks are best for creating these. I only had dark soy sauce in the cupboard so my soup has turned much darker, so make sure you don't put too much soy sauce in.


I've made plenty of soup to last me the next few lunch times at home, we had pie for dinner tonight and the remaining filling I've frozen for another meal. There's enough turkey leftover for a stir fry tomorrow and so we've done really well from our Christmas leftovers and I'm just glad we haven't wasted anything (cold pigs in blankets are so tasty too!). Any veg left in the fridge I'm going to cook into a nice soup to freeze until I'm back at work and then it can be used for my lunch.

I'm trying to get myself organised and savvy for 2016; lots of New Years Resolutions written down, budgets set and lots of fun planned for next year too. I wonder just how fast 2016 will go considering how quickly this year has flown past. Let's not wish next Christmas too quickly!

Em x

26th December: Ten Mile Boxing Day Jaunt

Hello everyone!

I do hope you've all had a lovely Christmas Day and Boxing day and are feeling suitably relaxed and full of lovely Christmas food! Firstly I have to also say how saddened I am for all the people who have had to deal with the flooding and other after-effects of this terrible wet weather we've had. It hasn't affected us down here but I really feel for those who have had their Christmas ruined by flooding.



Yesterday we decided to get the map out and explore some new walking routes around here. So far we've ventured south towards Newbury on our walks to take in villages such as Beedon and Stanmore, but we wanted to see more of the Ridgeway. This time we headed along a different by-way out of our village, East Ilsley and walked to West Ilsley. The by-way brought you in through a lovely small wood and then past many paddocks with Thoroughbred youngsters. I know Mick Channon's racing yard is situated in West Ilsley so these horses could have something to do with him. They were gorgeous anyway and very inquisitive. Barry, ever the wimp, wasn't too keen to meet these tall animals but Jack forced him up to the fence for a sniff anyway and he soon gave their soft noses a lick. I loved being near horses again, I really miss being around them and I'm determined to get back into riding next year.

 
 
We popped through West Ilsley and up onto the Ridgeway where it was very windy. Thankfully the weather was dry during our walk but very muddy which made the going even tougher. Barry loved it though; muddy puddles, various wildlife to try and sniff out and we met lots of other dogs and walkers too. There was some lovely views along the Ridgeway and I really can't wait to explore more next year (in the sunshine too!). We walked down past the gallops in East Ilsley where we usually join the Ridgeway and instead carried on right down into the next village, Compton.



Once into Compton we carried onto some other footpaths and by-ways, through some lovely forests and back towards East Ilsley.

Barry loves a stick!
 
In all, we walked ten miles and our achey legs prove that today! We got home, showered and de-mudded and then all snoozed for the rest of the afternoon before enjoying cold meats and pickles. It certainly felt good to go for a long walk and I enjoyed exploring new routes.
 
 
 
Em x

Thursday, 24 December 2015

24th December: Christmas Eve

Today was the first day of my Christmas holiday and I'm very much looking forward to the break from work. I started the day off with a lie-in, followed by a brisk walk with Barry in between the torrential downpours. I've had a good tidy, listened to Christmas songs and I'm now in the Christmas spirit (with Christmas cocktail in hand!).

Balancing a treat and a big Santa hat!
 
I made some more sausage rolls and they've almost all gone already!
 
 
 
We're now about to snuggle down to watch a film before Father Christmas arrives. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, I hope Santa brings you lots of goodies and you have a lovely time with your loved ones.
 
Em x

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

22nd December: Collecting The Turkey & Poorly Pup

Christmas really is just around the corner; the traffic on the roads in Newbury is crazy during the day with everyone rushing to do some last minute Christmas shopping. I'm so glad I'm all sorted already with that!

I'm full of cold as of yesterday which is just typical with Christmas fast approaching! Trying my best to shake it off before Christmas arrives. It meant I had a terrible night's sleep last night but was also a blessing in that I was up a decent time to drive to the local farm shop to pick up our pre-ordered turkey crown. The queue in the farm shop was phenomenal considering how early in the morning it was but I suppose everyone has the same idea to collect it first thing before the day has started. It's now tucked up in our fridge ready for Christmas, it weighs 4kg so it'll provide plenty of meat for the two of us on Christmas day and also provide me with lots of leftover meat for cold meat dinners, pies, pastas and soups.



I've got to take Barry to the Vets tonight; he's had an upset tummy for almost a week now and despite feeding him plain boiled chicken and rice for the last couple of days he's been sick overnight and on a couple of other occasions, so best to get him checked out. He seems happy in himself and eating/playing well but for peace of mind I'm taking him in now that it's gone on for a week. Knowing Barry, he's probably eaten something he shouldn't have and it's upset his tummy - Jack was chasing him around the garden the other morning because Barry had found a dead decomposing frog, so it could even be that! What is it with dogs and dead things?! I'll let you know how it goes. Just the two of us again tonight anyway as Jack is off to Ally Pally to watch the darts, so once we're home from the Vets I'll be snuggling up with the dog for the evening before an early night to hopefully shift this cold!

 
Have a good day!
 
Em x

Monday, 21 December 2015

21st December: Crochet Christmas Decorations

Hi all, hope you had a lovely weekend, last few days and then it's Christmas!!

Here's a few photos of some festive crochet pieces I've made recently and I've included links under the photos to where you can find free patterns to make them too. Most took about half an hour each to make and can be strung together to create a garland or hung individually on your tree!

 
 
 
Em x

20th December: Honey-glazed Christmas Gammon


As has always been tradition in our family, no Christmas is complete without a huge gammon joint to cook at Christmas that means you're eating gammon sandwiches until it comes out of your ears! This year is no exception just because we're on our own for Christmas; my Nan had given me a big gammon joint which had been taking up a drawer in our freezer pretty much entirely!

Once defrosted, I followed the Hairy Bikers recipe to cook it in my swish new stock pot which I bought on Amazon for a bargain £20! I had seen that Wilko did them even cheaper but had run out in our local shop in Newbury so Amazon was a safer bet. The stock pot came with a lovely glass lid too. The hairy bikers' recipe said to place the gammon joint in the stock pot and cover with cold water, bring to the boil and then pour away the water.


It then said to add two carrots, two celery sticks, two onions, a small handful of peppercorns and 4 bay leaves to the gammon, re-cover with cold water and bring to the boil again. You then needed to reduce the heat and cook for a further 20 minutes per 500g (this joint was almost 4 kg).

 
 
I then removed the gammon joint from the water - the remaining water would make a fab stock base for soup! I cut off the netting and removed the rind really carefully to leave as much fat behind as possible. I then scored the gammon, pressed cloves in (not loads because I don't want the cloves to be too overpowering), drizzled with lots of honey and a sprinkle of soft brown sugar too (not on the recipe but Mum always added this to her gammon joints before the oven stage). It then went into the oven (at 200 degrees) for 10 minutes, I re-basted and cooked for a further 20 minutes, re-basting every 10 minutes.
 
Cloves smell amazing!
 
It tastes absolutely delicious and I hardly waited for it to cool before slicing myself some off! It's nice and juicy and just the right amount of sweetness from the honey too. We have got gammon, duck egg and chips for dinner tonight, gammon sandwiches for lunch tomorrow too and we'll keep eating it so hopefully none goes to waste! I'll also use it in my leftovers pies that I make post-Christmas (turkey, ham and leek pie is my favourite).
 
Hope you're all set for Christmas!
 
Em x
 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

19th December: Christmas Food Shopping & Muddy Walks

Our mud monster!

Today started by getting to town for 8am to do our food shopping first followed by a wander around the shops to find Jack a pair of trousers for his work Christmas party tonight. We've now got all of our food for Christmas, yes masses, much more than needed but hey that's what Christmas is all about; over-indulgence and enjoying cold meats and leftovers! We found Jack some trousers in Debenhams and I treated myself to a gravy boat in John Lewis ready for some tasty homemade gravy! We got some lovely clementines in Waitrose too, they're always super sweet so I always make a special trip there to buy them. Aldi do some nice ones too actually.

My new stock pot ready to cook my Christmas gammon joint and some tasty clementines too!

Jack spent the rest of the daylight hours working on his shed and I dropped him off to his work Christmas do a short while ago. Now Barry and I are snuggled up watching the Strictly come Dancing final.

Brilliant Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn, love old movies!

Barry and I had a lovely walk earlier up the gallops and towards The Ridgeway. It was very muddy up there and Barry loved running through the puddles! We met a big tractor and a horse too but Barry was too bothered running in mud to notice them much. I cannot believe just how mild it is out there - it's the 19th December and 18 degrees! Crazy!

"You've got to wash this all off when we get home Mum!"

Shake shake, wiggle wiggle, mud mud!
 
Post-walk: Bathed and then wrapped himself up in his blanket for a snooze!

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend and not panicking in the run up to Christmas, not long now! :-)

Em x

Friday, 18 December 2015

18th December: Christmas Jumper Day!

The Christmas jumper trend has really taken off in the last few years and is a big market now! I for one love the idea, everyone can wear them whatever age and no-one looks silly as they're all meant to be fun. I prefer something more subtly festive, whereas Jack likes the really funny ones. Today is National Christmas Jumper day in aid of Text Santa, who raise money for various charities including Macmillan Cancer Support and Save The Children, it's for a good cause and I've made my donation.

This year we decided that Barry needed to be in our Christmas jumper club, especially on Christmas day and so Jack ordered him a very smart fair isle patterned Christmas jumper from Next (link here).

 
It fits perfectly, and he looks very smart; our parents found it hilarious when we sent them a photo of him in it! Barry seems to love wearing it too - when I hold it out he pushes his head in, stands still while I put his legs through and then runs off to snuggle in his bed in it!
 
Hope it puts a smile on your face anyway, have a good weekend!
 
Em x

Thursday, 17 December 2015

17th December: Handmade Gifts No.4 - Crochet Infinity Scarf - Free Crochet Pattern!

I'm usually very shy about showing off my creations, worrying about what others will think (worrying is my middle name!), but I'm so over the moon with how this crochet infinity scarf turned out that I want to show it off! I only taught myself how to crochet a few months ago and became a bit crochet-obsessed in the process. This was the second scarf I made having made myself a mesh-style scarf first. This scarf I've made for my best friend, Jess, as part of her Christmas present and I do hope she likes it.

 
I've made it in a lovely light pink colour with a soft aran & alpaca yarn. Jess loves this kind of colour so I think I've chosen well. I decided to do this scarf as an infinity scarf as they're my favourite and I didn't really follow a pattern for this but instead chose my favourite crochet stitches to put together to make a nice scarf with a pretty shell pattern in the middle. It took me a LONG time to make the scarf and at one stage I had to back track quite a lot as I changed my mind halfway through (as you do!). I'm hoping I'll get quicker at making this type of thing as time goes on and by the end I was speeding through the stitches. There's certainly something very therapeutic about sitting down with a crochet hook and yarn and creating something. Some might add that a cup of tea goes down well at the same time but I'm one of those strange people that doesn't like any hot drinks so I'll stick with a glass of water or lactose free milk (lactose intolerant too!).
 
Here are instructions on how to crochet this scarf. I've used abbreviations and I'm afraid there aren't any instructions on the different stitches but if anyone gets stuck please please ask me and I'll be happy to help. This is my first ever time at writing out my own crochet pattern and I've checked it numerous times! It was fun to be able to make up my own based on what I learned when making my last infinity crochet scarf and choosing an array of stitches (which was also good practice).
 
You Will Need:
7mm Crochet Hook
2x 100g balls of 4" Aran Yarn
Scissors
 
Abbreviations:
ss - Slip Stitch
dc - Double Crochet
tr - Treble Crochet
dtr - Double Treble Crochet
 
Important Notes:
I've used UK crochet terms, please see below for a conversion chart for reference. I've split my instructions into the three different sections of this scarf to make things easier. I also used 2 balls of yarn (as outline above) simultaneously to add extra thickness to this scarf.
 
 
 

Instructions:

 
Section 1:
  • Chain 180. ss to first to create a ring, but make sure you check that the chain hasn't become twisted before doing the ss.
  • Chain 1, then dc around and ss to first.
  • Chain 3, then tr around and ss to first.
  • Chain 4, then dtr around and ss to first.
 
Section 2:
  • Row 1:
    • Chain 1, 1 dc in 2nd chain from hook. *Chain 1, 1 dc in each of the next 4 stitches. Chain 2, 1 dc in each of the next 4 chains. Repeat from * until the last 2 chains. 1 dc in each of these last 2 stitches. Ss to first.
  • Row 2:
    • Chain 1, *1 tr, chain 2, 1 tr in 1-chain space (created in previous row). 2 tr, chain 1, 2 tr in 2-chain space (created in previous row). Repeat from * until round is finished. Chain 2 and then ss to first.
  • Row 3:
    • Chain 1, *2 tr, chain 1, 22 tr in the 2-chain space. 1 tr, chain 2, 1 tr in the 1-chain space (so kind of the opposite of what you were doing in row 2). Repeat from * until the round is finished, chain 2 and ss to first.
 
Section 3:
  • Chain 4, dtr around and ss to first.
  • Chain 3, tr around and ss to first.
  • Chain 1, dc around and ss to first.
  • Fasten off and thread in any loose ends.
 
Hopefully that all makes sense! I've done it nice and simple I think and the scarf was good fun to make. The trickiest part is making sure you don't get the ring twisted at the start. If anyone would like the pdf document of the crochet pattern to print then please let me know and I'll send it to you.
 
I'm really pleased at how the scarf turned out; it's quite weighty but lovely and soft so hopefully won't be scratchy around the neck. I really hope Jess likes it!
 
If anyone else would like me to make them one, for themselves or as a gift, please do let me know!
 
Here I am modelling said scarf, this one was too nice to model on the dog, not to mention too big!
 
And here it is all wrapped up, ready to give to Jess!
 
Em x

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

16th December: On The Countdown To Christmas - Break Needed!


Easier said than done most of the time. Tiredness, stress, anxiety and frustration are just a few words I could use to describe how I'm feeling at the moment. Roll on Christmas, a break is much needed...
 
Em x

Tuesday, 15 December 2015