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Thursday, 18 May 2017

THE BATTLE FOR THE ULTIMATE FAMILY SANDWICH ~ BRITISH SANDWICH WEEK

Good Morning to you,


I was reading in the Good Housekeeping magazine, that this week is British Sandwich Week.  By all accounts this is an annual event and it is a week long celebration of the British Sandwich.

To tell you the truth, in previous years, this event has passed me by and I'm not sure why.  So this year I've made a note on my calendar, to remind me about British Sandwich Week next year. 

I then thought it would be fun to ask my family about their favourite sandwich combinations.

Danielle's is definitely George's bacon, cheese and brown sauce sandwich.... to be honest, I had never heard of bacon and cheese until Danielle mentioned it to George. Danielle's perfect bacon sandwich has to have 3 thick slices of bacon, which incidentally, has to be bought from the local butcher, no other bacon will do, and the bacon has to be placed inside two medium slices of buttered bread.

Now, I know Natasha also loves George's bacon sandwich, but she is a purist.  She enjoys only bacon inside two slices of buttered bread.

So I asked what Stephen's favourite sandwich was.... and it seems Natasha has a double favourite.  When in England, she loves her dad's bacon sandwich, but the one sandwich, both Stephen and Natasha dreamt of, when they lived in India, was,


a sandwich made of sliced granary bread, good quality ham, mature Cheddar cheese, iceberg lettuce, mayonnaise and grainy mustard.... oh but I'm not sure if the bread was buttered.

It's interesting the things our taste buds miss when we live in another country.  I remember when we had a family holiday in Goa, I loved all the spicy Goan food, but towards the end of the holiday, my taste buds wanted something plain.... in actual fact they were screaming out for something plain to eat and you'll never guess what I asked for one evening.... french fries, yes honestly, french fries.... nothing else and once eaten my taste buds were satisfied. So I do understand Natasha and Stephen's craving for this sandwich, because during their stay in India, these ingredients were unavailable to them.

So in honour of British Sandwich Week, I thought I would share with you Natasha and Stephen's favourite sandwich.

There are no amounts, instead, I have added photographs so you can see the ingredients I have used.

HOW TO MAKE
THE
ULTIMATE FAMILY SANDWICH
OR IS IT?


Start by slicing your loaf of bread


I used 2 slices for George.


Spread each slice of bread with butter, then
spread the grainy mustard.

If I was making this sandwich for Phyllis, I would have made sure that the butter and mustard reached the edges of the bread.... as this is the way she likes her sandwiches. She cannot abide dry bread.

Then,


slather with as much or as little mayonnaise as you like. Maybe you prefer less slathering. 


Add 2 square slices of mature Cheddar Cheese.


2 slices of ham


Slice the iceberg lettuce into strips
and
add salt if required
and place on top of the ham.


Place the 2nd slice of bread, which has been spread with grainy mustard and mayonnaise


on top of the lettuce. I find the mayonnaise helps to keep the lettuce in the sandwich. Although once
bitten into, the lettuce does escape.

Cut the sandwich in half.... and I have to tell you that you will need a serviette for this sandwich, because as you can see, it is a very full sandwich.

I wonder if this sandwich will pass muster with Stephen, as I know, he makes a very good sandwich.

I know it did with George, so I am wondering if this sandwich will replace his previous favourite, 'A George Size Sandwich', which I have added to my featured post this week.

I did ask him, but he was very non-committal because he was enjoying Stephen's sandwich.  He just smiled.... I think he was wondering what other sandwich fillings might be coming his way.

Personally, I am very boring, as my favourite sandwich is a toasted Cheddar cheese sandwich. Not very exciting, but lovely all the same. Oh but I do love a little mango chutney served with my toasted sandwich.

I was reading about the origin of the sandwich and it seems John Montague the 4th Earl of Sandwich asked for cold beef to be placed between slices of toast, as he did not want to leave the card table and interrupt his card game.

Isn't it strange how these things happen. I feel sure the Earl of Sandwich would be amazed to know that his slices of toast and beef became known as a sandwich.... and all because he didn't want to leave the card table.... amazing.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

As Always,






Thursday, 11 May 2017

SCONES MADE WITH MAPLE SUGAR

Good Morning to you,


As I have grown older, I have noticed subtle changes in the way I look.

I did know that I would change as I aged, but I had not expected it to happen so soon.... well it feels too soon for me.

The other day I glanced in the mirror and I noticed something a little different. Now don't laugh when I tell you.... my nose is changing shape. Yes honestly, it really is. Just a slight change, there is nothing bulbous or unsightly about it, I certainly don't look like Schnozzle Durante.  There is just a slight change in the shape, which no one, other than me, has noticed.

I then visited the dentist.  My teeth, which  once were straight as a die, were beginning to become a little crooked. I wouldn't mind, but  I wore top and bottom braces in the 1960's which were really uncomfortable, but I persevered, or should I say, Phyllis made me persevere and the braces did the trick. So when did the crookedness happen and more to the point, why have I only just noticed.... and another thing, when did the tiny gaps start to appear in my front upper teeth.  There are gaps where no gaps have ever been before.... not huge gaps, but enough for me to notice. When I questioned my dentist, he said, sorry Daphne, yes he knows me that well, I'm afraid its all to do with your age. 

.... that was slightly disappointing.

On Tuesday I was talking to my friend and we were discussing shoes.  I mentioned that I used to wear a size 5, but nowadays I wear a size 6.  I thought it was down to the manufacturing, that companies were scrimping on materials, but she informed me no, it was because I was getting older and my arches were falling.

My word, that was enough, nose, teeth and feet. Surely that was it with the changes.

But no, there is more.

.... yesterday, it was a lovely sunny day, so I decided to pin my hair up.  You see I have decided to grow my hair a little longer.  The bob is still there, but the layers are longer.... I fancied a change for the summer. Whilst pinning up my hair, I caught sight of my ears. Was there something a little different about my ear lobes.  On closer inspection I have to say yes, there was, my ear lobes are certainly a little larger than they used to be. Again they are not huge, I think I need to put this into perspective. We are not talking about ears as large as Jar Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace. They are not flapping about in the wind. No there is just a tiny difference. 

So what is happening to me.

Am I going to morph into someone else the older I get.  Will the person I see when I look in the mirror be so different in years to come.  In that case, will I recognise myself.   More to the point will George, Natasha and Danielle recognise me.  Now that could be a problem.

I am only joking with you. This is all tongue in cheek. As you know the ageing process is not something which happens over night, it is a gradual process. So the changes on a day to day basis are slight and hardly noticeably. 

So what is my solution to these changes.

Will I become upset and hate my nose.... not at all. My nose is part of who I am.

Will I stop smiling because my teeth are not perfectly aligned.... oh no not me. I love smiling.

Will I worry about falling arches.... definitely not, I will continue to wear beautiful size 6 shoes.

Will I stop wearing earrings because my ear lobes are slightly larger?  Absolutely not. I adore earrings.


.... and do you know why I am not worried? 

Because I am a Phenomenal Woman.

PHENOMENAL WOMAN
DR MAYA ANGELOU

Many people wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model size.
When I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips,
I'm a woman,
Phenomenally.

.... and that is enough for me.

I love to hear the beautiful voice of  Dr Maya Angelou reading Phenomenal Woman. When I read or hear this poem, it reminds me to be proud of who I am, that with all the changes that come with age, I am still a phenomenal woman.

So what phenomenal bake are we making today.


These fabulous scones made with the maple sugar and maple cream I received from our friend Bea.

I love scones and there was a scone recipe card included in the parcel. The original scone recipe was developed by Chris Wickham, the owner of Glen Mountain Market, in New York. I had thought to make Chris' scones, but decided to use my own recipe with the addition of an egg and the maple sugar, instead of normal granulated sugar.... and the scones are scrumptious.

So it's on with the pinnie and time to organise the ingredients.

INGREDIENTS 
YOU WILL NEED
TO MAKE
SCONES WITH MAPLE SUGAR

460g (1 lb) plain flour
pinch of salt
2 oval teaspoons of baking powder
115g (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
115g  (4 oz) maple sugar
1 egg
1/2 pint butter milk
1 tablespoon of milk

FILLING

250g blueberries
284 double cream
small jar of maple cream

YOU WILL NEED

1 x 12 case muffin tin
12 paper muffin cases

Pre-heat the oven to 160C

HOW TO 
MAKE
SCONES WITH MAPLE SUGAR


Place the muffin cases into the muffin tin.


Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a medium
sized bowl.

Cube the butter and add to the bowl.

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture
resembles fine breadcrumbs.


Add the maple sugar and mix well.

Beat the egg and mix with the buttermilk.

Add the egg and buttermilk to the bowl.

Gently mix the ingredients to create a soft dough.

I sometimes find that at this point
I need to add a little extra milk to loosen the mixture. For some reason, not always, but  on this occasion it was needed.

Add the milk.

Continue to bring the mixture together.



Using a tablespoon, place a tablespoon of scone mixture into each muffin case.

Place in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
Check after 20 minutes.


Remove from the oven when the scones are slightly golden in colour and thoroughly baked.


Place the maple scones on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the muffin cases and cut the scones in half.


Spread a generous layer of pure maple cream  on each half.
Whip the double cream and add
 a teaspoon of whipped double cream to the bottom portion of the scone.  
Place 3 or 4 blueberries on top of the cream
and
replace the lid


Place another teaspoon of whipped cream on top and for decoration arrange a blueberry in the centre of the cream.

I loved the flavour of the maple sugar and the maple cream, oh my word it was lovely. 

The tartness of the blueberries cut through the sweetness of the maple cream and I have to say, these little scones are definitely a hit in my house and will be made again and again and again.

For my English friends who cannot buy maple sugar and maple cream, I would suggest trying light brown sugar instead of the maple sugar and if you can buy some maple syrup then whip a tablespoon or so into the cream.... I feel sure it will be lovely.

Actually, I am going to try this when I run out of cream and maple sugar.... but for now, we are enjoying our lovely treat.

Now you may have been surprised that I used muffin cases.  I love the traditional way of cutting the scones, but I was feeling a little lazy and did not want to have a lot of washing up to do, as I had a lot of sewing to catch up on, so I decided to use the cases as a trial. The bases are slightly smaller than the top, but when the scones are filled, you really do not notice the difference. 

There was also a difference in oven temperature and the scones took half an hour to cook instead of the normal 10-15 minutes.

All in all, I was thrilled with how these maple sugar scones turned out.  I have to say they were a triumph.

Take good care of yourself and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always,








Thursday, 4 May 2017

HOW TO ARRANGE A VASE OF LILACS

Good Morning to you,


During the past few days, surprisingly, my lilac bush has burst into bud. I say surprisingly, because after all the Arctic weather we experienced, I really thought the buds would be delayed for a few more weeks.

Although the lilac bush is not very big at the moment, I am being patient, because  I know when it reaches its full height, it will be covered with a mass of beautifully scented lilacs.  

Gardening, for me, is about patience. It is not a task to be rushed. For with patience, the garden will reward us with so much beauty.

.... and lilacs are a case in point.

Bob, George's father had passed away a number of years before we moved to Newcastle and now that we were settled, George wanted to plant a tree or shrub, in our garden, which would remind him of his father.

We could not make up our minds, which sort to buy. We couldn't decide if we should buy a brightly coloured plant, which would match Bob's personality or a lilac bush, a plant we knew he loved. We were still undecided, that is, until one sunny afternoon, I was sitting with Sadie in her garden and I noticed Bob's lilac bush was sprouting little shoots at the base of the large trunk. The decision was made. I mentioned to Sadie what I wanted to do and I asked her if I could remove some of the shoots to pot on. She said of course, because it was nice to know that Bob's lilac bush would live on in our garden.  I removed quite a few shoots, because I wasn't sure how well they would transplant. When I returned home, I told George what I wanted to do and he was pleased with my idea.

A couple of the shoots did not survive, but quite a few did and so 2 bushes were planted into our garden and another 2 were left in pots to grow. One each for Natasha and Danielle.

These past couple of years the lilacs have begun to reward us with some flowers and yesterday, whilst I was watering the Pulmonaria,  I noticed the lilac buds had started to open and so I decided to cut some stems to bring into the house.


.... and this was fortuitous, because, remember last week when I left you, I said I was going to show you a little tip I had learnt from a flower arranger many years ago.... well, instead of buying some flowers, I decided to use the lilac blooms from my garden.

Sometimes I really love formal arrangements, 


just like the one I showed you last week... but when spring turns into summer, I prefer a blousy display of flowers.... it matches my style of gardening.  George says this is because, during winter time, it is cold, and I feel contained, hence the formal style, but once the sun starts to shine, I start to open and this shows in my blousy arrangements of flowers.... I love that description.

.... and I think you will be surprised to learn, my flower arranging tip.

.... but first of all,


decide on the vase you want to use.  In my case, I decided to use this lovely pottery vase.  Usually it stands alone, without flowers, but today I thought it would be the perfect shape to use with the lilacs.

Once you have chosen your vase, half fill it with water and mix in some liquid feed.


Cut your flowers to size.


Now this is my secret weapon.  Scotch tape. Does that surprise you?


Place one strip of scotch tape, vertically, down the centre of the vase and allow the tape to overhang by 1 inch on both sides.

Cut the tape and press the tape securely into the sides of the vase.

Repeat on both sides.  In my case I needed 3 strips of tape.

Then repeat the process, but place the tape horizontally.  As you can see in my case I only needed 2 strips.


What you are trying to replicate is,





the grid pattern of the frog insert of a rose bowl.


Place your first cut stem into the centre space.

Then you can add the rest of your flowers.  I usually add my first stem centrally, then smaller stems, 1 to each side and 1  to the front and back.
 Then I infill with greenery.



By placing the scotch tape 1 inch over the sides of the vase, 
this gives the grid strength
 to support the flowers.

There are just a couple of little points, I would like to mention.

Firstly, I have used a creamy coloured scotch tape, but that was so you could see what I was doing. Normally I would use a clear scotch tape.

Secondly, try to make the grid as tight as possible. As the shape of my vase was a little uneven, I was unable to keep the grid tight.... but the grid was still able to support the lilacs.

.... and just one other thing before I leave you.  

Lilacs were not only a favourite of Bob's,  they were also my father's favourite flower.

So when the lilacs are in flower, I have memories of both my father and my father-in-law. How perfect is that.

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.



As Always





Thursday, 27 April 2017

1 BUNCH OF ROSES ~ 3 DIFFERENT DISPLAYS

Good Morning to you,


My goodness, we have been so busy working in the garden this week.

.... and we have had all kinds of weather thrown at us.  I think it would be fair to say, we've experienced all 4 seasons in just one day.

Sunday was a glorious day and when I spoke to Phyllis, on the phone, and told her I was wearing my summer clothes, she laughed and said she did not believe me. To be honest, I could hardly believe it myself. 

You might find it a little odd that Phyllis would laugh just because we were enjoying a sunny day, but there is a reason for this. 

Each Sunday, when I ring Phyllis, she will ask me what the weather is like here in Newcastle.  She knows, before I tell her, because she always checks the weather forecast the night before.... and trust me, it is always much colder here, than in the south of England. So Sunday was certainly not a normal day, because we had warmer weather than the south, which is why Phyllis thought I was pulling her leg.

.... and the reason she always asks about the weather is, she loves to tease George about the difference in the weather. She knows when she says its warm in the south, George will complain about how cold it is, up here in the north.  It's a little game they play. Then George will ask her to send some of the warmer weather up to us, to which she replies, no because he would not send water southwards.

I think I need to explain that last sentence.

A few years ago, because there had not been enough rainfall during the Autumn and Winter, the south of England endured quite a severe hose pipe ban. Somewhere or other, Phyllis had heard that plans were being made to transport water from the north of England to the south (I don't know if this was true). Anyway, she mentioned this to George and he teased her saying that the south had all the warmer weather and we had to endure the rain, so we were keeping our water and not sharing it with the south. To which Phyllis replied 'Well that isn't very charitable' and George answered 'Well you didn't send me any sunshine when I asked for it'. These conversations are very lighthearted .... Phyllis just loves to tease George and as you can tell it is reciprocal, because George teases Phyllis as well and do you know something, this has been on-going throughout our 46 years of marriage. As I said, this is all lighthearted, and they never tire of teasing each other.

.... but on this occasion, George did have the last laugh, because it was warmer here in Newcastle.  I feel sure he will constantly remind Phyllis of this one and only day when the north was warmer than the south.... the teasing on both sides will continue.

So after Sunday's conversation with Phyllis about the beautiful weather, Tuesday turned out to be a shocker of a day as the weather changed, the sun was still shining, but Arctic winds blew from the north and oh my word it was cold.  
We decided not to let a little thing like the cold wind obstruct us from working in the garden. I still had a few more plants which I wanted to divide, so we organised all our gardening equipment. We were ready to start work, when out of the blue, hail stones tumbled from the sky, and oh my, did they bounce off the ground. So we had to run indoors.... yes we left the tools in the garden, not good gardening practice I know, but we needed shelter.  We waited 10 minutes before the hail stones eased up, then back into the garden we went.  

I dug up and started dividing a large fern, which had outgrown the area where it had originally been planted. Have you ever tried to divide a large fern, my word it's hard going.  I had to ask for George's help, as I couldn't divide the fern myself.  I couldn't even push the fork halfway through the clump. We were making headway, we were half way through dividing the fern, when the rain arrived.  Just little droplets at first, but the kind of rain which we call 'wet rain'.  I know that sounds silly, as all rain is wet, but you know the fine rain, which you think you can stay out in longer than you actually can, but which soaks you, before you know it.  Well that happened to us. So back into the house we went for another half an hour.  We were not giving up, although this time we took all our tools back into the garage.... and we waited.

The rain passed and out came the sunshine.  The wind was still cold but the sun was beautiful.  So the gardening clogs were put back on our feet and armed with our tools, out into the garden we went once again.  We were not going to let a little thing like hail, wind and rain stop us.   We were making great headway. The fern had been divided into 4 plants and bedded into their new shady area.  They were watered in and seemed happy enough.

I then dug up some Hostas which again had outgrown their space and just when I started to divide them.... the snow arrived.  Yes snow at the end of April. By this time, I have to say, my nose was bright red because I was so cold. We could see from the sky, that the snow was going to be passing quite soon. So once again, we left our tools and went back into the house.... and I have to say, I was so grateful for the warmth.

By this time, you would have thought, we would have given up.... but no, we were on a mission, we wanted to finish our tasks. We waited, still clothed in our gardening clothes, but this time I made a cup of tea and we warmed ourselves up, before going back into the garden. 

We did complete all our tasks and thankfully, we were able to do this without anymore rain, hailstones or snow.  The ferns were divided and replanted, 6 Hostas were given new homes, Astilbe, which grows so well in my garden was divided and I have spare plants which I am going to share with my friends.... and although it wasn't the right time, I divided my white Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) because it had become a little overcrowded with the Alchemilla Mollis growing beneath it.

When we finally went indoors, we were so cold, our noses were red, our hands were cold, but we both felt a great sense of achievement. 

I checked the plants this morning and everything has settled in well, not one plant has wilted, which I am grateful for.  Even the Bleeding Heart has settled in well. So all in all a good days work.

So what am I doing today.

Well although my garden is coming along nicely, there is nothing to show you, as yet,


but earlier today when  George returned home from his daily swim, he surprised me with a lovely bunch of roses.... my favourite flower and my favourite colours.

So I thought I would share with you a couple of arrangements.  This is my favourite, because I love using rose bowls. This one was gifted to me by Sadie, my mother in law for one of my birthdays.  She knew I loved rose bowls and surprised me with this one.

but first,


this is how the bunch arrived, complete with  long stems. Sometimes I do nothing but trim the lower leaves from the base of the stem and pop them into a tall vase or container as I have done here. It is very informal, but lovely.

Whilst other times,


I prefer this smaller arrangement.  I love Gypsophilia with roses, there is something quite light and airy about this little plant.  Each year I plan to plant some in my garden, to use for indoor arrangements, but as yet, I  seem to have let this idea slip by.

Other times,


I will divide the roses into small rose bowls. This rose bowl was a gift from Phyllis.  She had been out and about in Southsea when she came across this little rose bowl and knew that I would love it.

The little bell, has a whole other story behind it, which I will tell you another time, otherwise you will be here forever.

.... but the one thing I always do,


when I receive a bunch of roses is, I immerse them in water straight away.  Then when I am ready to create my display, I choose a clean vase and half fill it with water. I then add liquid plant food to the water and swirl it around the vase. I decide on the length of the stem I want and I cut the stem at a 45 degree angle.  I then boil a kettle of water, pour 1 inch of hot water into an old cup, which I keep for this purpose , and immerse the bottom of the stem into the cup of water.  I count to 5 and remove the stem. I then place it in the vase or rose bowl, whichever I am using at the time.  

This may sound an odd thing to do, but many years ago, I attended a flower arranging course, and the instructor said, the reason a lot of roses droop when placed into a vase is because of air bubbles trapped inside the stems.  By immersing the stems into hot water this helps prevent air bubbles.... and do you know it works.  In all the years I have been flower arranging I have never had a droopy rose. 

Just in case you are wondering why the rose stem is cut at a 45 degree angle, it is to allow the stem to take in water more proficiently. If the rose stem was cut horizontally, the stem would sit in the base of the vase and this might prevent the rose from taking in water and again the rose would not  fully open. 

.... and as roses are my favourite flower, whether indoors or out in the garden, it would be a shame to loose the flower too soon.

Give this a go and tell me if it works for you. Or maybe you have hints and tips of your own that you would like to share. I would love to know.

Oh before I go, I just had a thought.  If you do not have a rose bowl, I have a little trick, which again I was taught years ago, which will help.... but not today, as I really must leave you and allow you to get on with your day. I promise I will show you next week.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.

As Always,












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