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The Friday photo: spot the Ninja

The Ninja Cat of Death, when not entertaining herself by ‘poofing’ into a large and slightly spiky cloud shape to terrify the dog, or eating the dog’s dinner while poor Millie sits, quietly gibbering in terror, nearby, really likes the snow.

I think it appeals to her inner ninjaness to be able to step out into the garden and then disappear. But then she totally ruins it be leaping about like an idiot for ten minutes, getting cold, and appearing at the window making silent ‘MAOW!’ noises (roughly translated: ‘let me in, you gits’) while we sit, all warm and comfy, and laugh at her.

Well, the dog’s got to get her own back sometime, right?

The Friday Photo: what next?

So one of the downsides of moving back was that I had to give up my chickens.  Happily lovely Madge and Bluebelle went to a farm where they’ll be well looked after and *gasp* meet a cockerel for the first time (brace yourself, girls).

So now we’re happily settled back at English Towers what’s it to be?  I thought maybe quails, but then a friend said they’re ‘horrible little bastards’, and then I thought maybe I’ll just settle for normal chooks again.  Or maybe I’ll get chooks AND a puppy (that’d please the Cat of Death)…

Pigs?  Goats?  Trouble is, I’d be no good as a smallholder as I’d never be able to despatch anything.  What about you? What would you have if space (and time) allowed?

The Friday (Bert) photo: I want the bunny, though…

Okay, so here he is, especially for Moon.  Sadly, he’s not doing anything cute, or funny, or naughty.  In fact, he hasn’t done anything except this:

I want the bunny.  I want the bunny.  I need the bunny.  Can I have the bunny?  Can I?  Hmm?

… for several hours, since we went for a walk and discovered what we suspect to be Bert’s arch enemy, The Nasty Nemesis Hare ( the one who lolloped round the field, bimbling very close to windows where Bert happened to be, looking suspiciously like he was on a bit of a wind up) squished in the lane outside the house.  No longer will he saunter smugly past the window, furry face set in a hare-approximation of disdain, sticking his little tongue out as Bert leaves great pools of drool on the windowsills and sings a very bad Edith Piaf impression of absolute, jaw-clenching frustration…  Nope, he’s an ex-parrot.

And because Bert can just about see the aforementioned squished hare if he really cranes his neck, sadly his little peanut greyhound brain can focus on nothing else.  I mean, look at the expression.  I’ve tried to gently break it to him, that his furry tormentor is no more, but sadly, Bert will probably sit there until tomorrow morning, when he will discover that the flattened ex-hare has been taken by a fox, and stare for another couple of hours in a sad, disbelieving trance at the place where Nemesis Hare met his maker.  Bless.

And for those of you who haven’t visited before, no it’s not a very small sofa, it’s an utterly enormous horse-sized, somewhat bewildered and incredibly stupid dog.  Just thought I’d clear that up.

The Friday photo: the good, the bad, the painful and the sad

No, I think this is my best side...

So it’s been a bit of a mad week really, what with all the planning for The Big Trip on Monday (did I mention I’m going to Florida?).  

The good news:

  • I’m going Aer Lingus to Gatwick!!! (I hate Ryanair : all that cattle-market bustle for a seat).
  • I did buy myself some new pants
  • My Ma sent me dollars AND sterling!!!  (Thanks Ma xxx)
  • Tomorrow is #1, the Mad Professor’s birthday, which I’m not sure should really be in the good news section.  I mean, I can’t possibly have a 14 year old child.  Remember how old you thought your parents were when you were 14?  I’ll let you know about the birthday cake tomorrow.  
  • Parent consultations went really well – The Mad Professor is ‘a joy to teach’ (doesn’t get that from me) and ‘keeps me on my toes asking loads of questions’.  Apparently he never stops talking either, which could possibly be from me.  

The bad news:

  • I didn’t get my highlights done
  • Nor did I get a bikini wax (I did, though, drag the dreaded, bastard epilator out of its case, where, once again, it made me cry real fat tears of agony whilst simultaneously ripping my body hair from my flesh – still, the rash has died down now and at least I don’t resemble a Wookie any more).  
  • I didn’t find a travel plug (surely they have hairdryers in hotels these days?  It’s been a while…)
  • I didn’t find a bag suitable for hand luggage, unless you count the pink Nike backpacks they sell in Lifestyle Sports, but I’m not really a backpack girl.  I’m wondering if I can get away with a Tesco bag-for-life until I reach the shopping haven that is Gatwick Airport?
  • Hubby gave Bert a bone which he ate, then yacked up in strategic positions all over the house.  He waited until I washed his bed and all his blankets before yacking on them all again.

The sad news:  although I’ll be posting, no doubt, while I’m away, I just thought I’d mention that it’s a whole year since my lovely friend C died.  D and the kids are doing well but it’ll be a sad time and I’m sorry I won’t be here to share it with them.  Still, she’ll be in my thoughts, as she is every day.  D has ordered the gravestone (you have to leave it a year) and she’ll have the lilac stones that she wanted and the picture from her graduation on her headstone (which we tried to talk her out of [‘what if they make you look ugly?!], but she was insistent – funnily enough it’s actually quite common here in Ireland to have a picture on the grave – apparently it’s sent away to Italy or somewhere to be etched into the stone) in time for her first anniversary.

Have a great weekend!! xx

The Good Friday photo: Hot cross buns or ‘not cross buns': you decide.

Not cross bun

So I’ve gone a bit hot cross bun mental recently.  I was testing recipes for them ages ago for the magazine as I think I mentioned, and as people keep scoffing them, I’ve just kept making more and more.  I’ve made them with crosses cut in the top, with crosses piped on, with crosses dribbled on… with no crosses piped on…I’ve made them in round tins, or on baking trays… you name it.

Anyhoo, here the ressup.  Do with it what you will:

450g strong white bread flour

1 tbsp mixed spice

1 tsp salt

75g sugar

 1 x 7g sachet dried yeast

100g sultanas (or mixed peel if you must – bleurgh)

150ml milk

150ml water

Zest of 1 orange

50g butter

First, then, sieve the flour and ground mixed spice together into a large bowl.  Next, stir in the salt, sugar, dried yeast and sultanas.

In a small saucepan (or jug if you’re doing it in the microwave) warm the milk, water, orange zest and butter until the butter is just melted, then turn off the heat.  The liquid should be about blood temperature when it’s added to the dry ingredients.  If you’re using a mixer (mine finally exploded during my last batch, sending Hubby and #2 scurrying to the kitchen to see what I’d blown up, and if I’d survived the blast), set it on low and slowly pour in the milky mixture until the dough comes together (you might not need all of it so go steady), then plug in the dough hook and set it to knead for a good five minutes.

I’ve come to believe, though, that they come out nicer and lighter if you knead them by hand for at least ten minutes.  Yes, I know, sorry, but it’s true.  Knead away, then, getting a good kitchen workout into the bargain.  The sultanas keep trying to escape, but grab any trying to make a quick getaway and poke them back in.  Keep going until the dough is nice and springy and firm (apparently, good dough should be the texture of a woman’s breast). 

Dough

Erm anyway, moving swiftly on… when your dough is sufficiently boob-like, leave it covered in a warm place until it’s doubled in size.   Then, just knock it back with your fist (imagine it’s someone you can’t stand – nice bit of culinary therapy there), and cut it in half, then half again and half again.  Form each of your 8 pieces into a ball and place them on a baking tray.  Cover and rise again until they’re puffed up.

If you want to add the cross, then mix about 2 tbsp flour, a tsp of caster sugar and enough water to make into a paste and either just dribble it with a teaspoon, or pipe it onto your buns (ooer Missus).  Or, you can cut a cross in the top of the buns, like so:

Ready to rise

 …and pipe the cross into the little lines like so:

Dodgy piping

But whatever you think.  Let’s not obsess here, they’re just buns. 

Ooh, one thing, though, you can spread them out inside a large, springform tin, which produces a little circle of buns that you have to tear off – good for novelty value:

Not cross bun round

Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 180/gas 6 until they sound hollow when patted on the bottom (sorry, I seem to have gone all Les Dawson in this recipe).  Finally, when they’re just out of the oven, glaze with a tbsp of sugar to which a drop or two of boiling water has been added, or warm up some apricot conserve and brush it on for extra glossy stickiness.

Now, to the important business of face stuffing: if you’re eating them straight out of the oven (a move I heartily recommend), slather them in butter and be done with it.  But if you’re eating them maybe the next day, split and toast them first.  If you’re going to freeze them, slice them in half first so they can go straight in the toaster.

Buttered

Oh, and if you’re going to go all Jamie Oliver, you can slice them, spread them with marmalade, pour over some custard (although I would have thought that ready-made would be disgusting, I’m sure he knows more about it than me) and bake them in the oven.

Erm... is that one mine?

Either way, have a wonderfully happy Easter break/secular celebration of the start of springtime/excuse to stuff yourself with chocolate /insert your own excuse here… with your loved ones.

Back soon!

The Friday photo: mix and match

A veritable bouquet of photies for you this morning, then.  Firstly, I captured the sight of my inaugural washing line use of the year – a pinky  wash, naturally – and the English Mum shirt was just a happy coincidence, not clever photoshopping (I can’t photoshop: my brain is too full of chocolate, sparkly things, red wine and double cream).  Don’t you just love hanging out the washing on the first bright, shiny day of the year?  Maybe Spring is er… sprunging at last:

 Washing

Second, because it’s the Friday photo and Jennifer will moan otherwise, is a snap of Bert, relaxing with a nice glass of red (well, Hubby’s nice glass of red) the other night, in front of Bones.  Needless to say, he didn’t pay much attention to the plot.   Note to self: when I win the lottery I must buy a bigger sofa:

Bert chillin 

And lastly, a cheeky little taster of what’s to come.  I’m rather proud of this photo – my new camera is certainly improving my ham-fisted attempts at food photography.  I’m a testin’ and they’re a comin':

HXB

The Friday photo: lap(top) dog

Bert: easily squeezable into any spaceSo here’s Bert, then, doing a bit of blogging by the fire, while the smalls play with their new toy, a SNES that they got on Ebay complete with Mario World.  And yes, he’s on my lap, which is somewhat uncomfortable as he’s a bit heavy and somewhat bony.  Still, he makes a handy laptop rest.

The Friday Photo: Recessionist chic

Victoria Beckham's Dress Collection

Look at this dress.  Isn’t it cute?  It would be perfect for our wedding blessing in September.  Not too ‘weddingy’, nice and understated… There’s just one tiny problem: the price tag.  ‘Between £600 and £1900’.  Might as well be between 1 million and 5 million.  Ain’t going to happen.  The designer?  Only one, surprisingly talented, Victoria Beckham. 

 

And listen, you know me, I’m not mad on celebrity bashing.  Those magazines shouting: ‘SHE’S TOO FAT!’ and ‘SHE’S TOO THIN!’ only ever get perused when I’m in the hairdresser, and only then if someone else has nabbed the Indo.  So today, then, saw me covered in fetching tinfoil highlights (‘half head today, Lorraine, times are hard’) and perusing one of said magazines.  This one had a picture of some poor girl bending over in a bikini and showing a teeny bit of tummy.  Gosh.  Shocking.  More shocking, I thought, were pictures of the designer of this cute little number, Madam Beckham, tottering about between ‘design meetings’ and ‘lunch with Marc Jacobs’ (God,  I bet that’s a carb-fest: ‘another lettuce leaf for you, Marc?‘, ‘no thanks Vick’, [pats tummy] ‘I’ve had two already’ ) on her little kebab stick legs in the $1500 shoes of the season, carrying this ‘must-have’ handbag one day, then that ‘must-have’ handbag another day… then another in another colour… then another… and another.  Now I love fashion, but seriously, does La Beckham not realise there’s a recession on?  Companies are going bankrupt.  People are losing their jobs.  Doesn’t it all seem a little, well, tactless?  So okay, we know she’s got more money than all of us put together, but does she have to rub all our noses in it quite so brazenly?  I love fashion, and I’ve always adored reading about this season’s stuff, but suddenly I’m not finding her wardrobe (and her price tags) so fascinating.  In fact, I’m actually finding it all quite vulgar.

 

So this year, I’m seeing myself less as a ‘fashionista’ and more as a ‘recessionista’.  I’ll be making do and mending.  I’ll be grabbing the contents of my wardrobe, tipping it all out on the bed and starting again: reviewing all my previous purchases, rediscovering the jeans I’d forgotten about (let’s be honest, I might love fashion but I only ever wear jumpers, jeans and wellies – I live next to a peat bog, for God’s sake) and Ebaying some of my more expensive mistakes.

 

With the help of TC, my gardening and self-sufficiency guru, I’ll be working on my kitchen garden (and working on Hubby – pleeeease can we have some chickens?), cooking from scratch, treating the kids to a big chocolate cake instead of a new PSP game and looking for a fabulous, cheap, dress for our blessing, not, sadly, this one.  But hey.  Them’s the breaks.  I bet ol’ Vicky wishes she had an athletic, adoring (if somewhat dim) companion to accompany her on her walks like I have.  Oh, hang on…

The Friday Photo: Pornobert, part deux

Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the sofa…  Last night we were watching some dreadful shoot ‘em up film with Clive Owen [insert Homer Simpson drool noise here] called, unsurprisingly, Shoot ‘Em Up (has head on car crash with baddies, shoots out windscreen mid-flight, lands in back of bad guys’ van and kills them all before they turn round, that sort of thing).  All of a sudden I’m aware of a bit of posing going on over on the opposite sofa. 

Blimey, Bert needs a girlfriend.

The Friday Photo: in which Bert models an Aussie original

So having a leggy blonde model in the house would, you would think, be a bit distracting for Hubby.  But this one does have breath-like-dead-people and a nasty habit of sitting up close to you on the sofa whilst spending unfeasibly amounts of time licking his bits.  Enough said.

Anyhoo, the gorgeous, wondrous, talented, fabulousness that is Coastal Aussie sent me a pressie.  I know!  All the way from Austramalalia!  The parcel was so gorgeous – all covered in sparkly stars and pretty things – that the postie actually loitered in the doorway until I opened it.  And darned jealous he was too.

And so, after a very unseemly bit of ‘handbags’ in which both the children laid claim to my present and tried to wrestle it off me (I won – I’m surprisingly adept at the half nelson) I legged it to my office to try on my prize.  And dashed snazzy it is too.  I shall be wearing it with pride on future walkies down the boat road, feeling very ‘snowboardy/surfer chick’ kind of thing.

To preserve my anonymity, Bert ‘agreed’ to model the hat and I think you’ll agree, it’s a thing of beauty.  The hat, not the dog.  Although I suppose he’s not bad either.

Can I just add that our somewhat reluctant model, the beautiful Bert, sulked so dramatically during our photoshoot, that I nearly lost all bladder control.  If the photo is a little dodgy it’s because after the fifty seventh attempt to persuade him not to pull the hat off with his paws I was shaking so hard with laughter that I couldn’t keep the camera level.  He’s still not talking to me.

Sorry Bert.