Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Month Closer to Spring!!!!!

Can you believe we're already in February?? Yes I can hear the groans both sides of the pond that it's still Winter and when are we gonna see warm sunshine and Spring flowers!!!! Well Spring IS on the way and certainly in the UK it's still fairly light around 4.30 each day. I know parts of the US need to catch up a bit but it won't be long!!!!! We're lucky here that we can take advantage of the early "forced" rhubarb in the stores right now - a beautiful champagne pink and wonderful in muffins, crisps, pies or cakes - I've even made rhubarb juice which is just rhubarb cooked gently with a little brown sugar then pressed through a sieve, the juice collected and chilled. Serve over ice either as it is, spiked with spirit of your choice or cut with sparkling mineral water. And my rhubarb cake which is just diced rhubarb mixed into a basic sponge cake mix then baked is wonderful either as a cake or for a pud!!!! Today I've made a huge batch of chicken casserole to portion down and freeze - this is simply diced chicken thighs (skinned and boned) shallots, canned whole mushrooms, casserole mix and a bottle and a half of fruity red wine with some redcurrant jelly. This all bubbles slowly until flavorful and cooked ready to be served with rice, mash, noodles or whatever you like!!!! My kitchen smells wonderful which is eddying round the neighborhood as I have the kitchen window open a tad as it's a beautiful bluesky day here!!!! For meals in the week I'm making a good old-fashioned cottage pie today - nice lean minced (ground) steak cooked with chopped onion and seasoning then piled with mashed potato before the cooking finishes to brown the mash. I have some roast chicken gravy defrosting and peas to go with it. As pomegranates were on sale today I got one and will make a pomegranate-honey salad dressing to go over roast chicken chunks mixed in with salad greens to serve with a little garlic bread. Sunday is stitchalong and PJ day and I'm still stuck in confetti hell right now but it's worth it cos White Star looks wonderful and will look even more wonderful when I'm done!!!!! I took the last of the three little cat projects into the framers here today and will post pix when this is ready. My Big Sis finished this one off for me and it's lovely to have something she's worked on. All three are small but vibrantly colorful and brighten my living room. Luckily the framers I go to where I live are still hanging in there, even though business is down a little - but then these framers are the only good quality professional ones for miles around and if you've produced something good it deserves the very best framing rather than being framed half-assed or worse, stuffed in a drawer!!!!! Happy Stitching along with rhubard & custard muffins all round!!!!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

PJ Stitch a long Day

Now, what can be better than a Sunday spent in one's PJ's. A hot cup of fresh coffee sitting next to you. One huge cross stitch project in hand and some movies on the DVD player. That's my idea of a good day. OK, I admit I put on clothes long enough to get groceries this morning. I can't resist Sunday mornings for shopping. I usually have the whole store to myself and there are no lines at checkout.

It's been a crazy month so far for me. Once the new year starts, this accountant is so busy at work for the next month that I hardly can remember my name. Once all the January deadlines are met, it's not to bad for me. The others in my office are a different matter though. I'm not complaining. I have a good job and I'm more than grateful for it, even if poor Little Sis has a grumpy Big Sis to talk to every evening on the phone.

Stitching time has been slight so far, I admit. This weekend I'm trying to make up for it. Other stitchers I know understand, if I don't stitch for a few days I even crabbier and anxious. I'm not sure what it is about needlework that keeps me grounded, but it does.

To that end, there's a project I've been working on for over 2 years now. It's finally finished! Anyone that knows me knows I don't have a big list of WIP projects. If I have 2 going at once it's a lot for me. This one really has been bugging me because it's not the most enjoyable one to stitch, but it is just stunning. So, without further ado, here's Pompeji Garden by Chatelaine!

I've taken it to the framer's already, since there was a 20% off coupon. I found the most perfect frame, and when I get the whole thing back, I'll post pics etc.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Rainy UK Saturday

Yes it is rainy in this part of the UK (south west for those who care about such things) and thankfully the snow has melted away. We did not get quite as bad snow/ice as other parts of the country but bad enough to make the journey to/from work even more of a whiteknuckle ride than usual!!!! However today I am profoundly grateful for where I live and what I have (especially my Big Sis!!!!) and that Big Sis and everyone I know is safe, warm and has food. Our daily grumbles/problems pale beside what those in Haiti are dealing with. I have donated - to animal charities as well as people charities - and feel the most positive thing I can be is grateful for what I have. Today is eggplant parm day and it has turned out rather good - this is a baked egged and crumbed eggplant rather than fried then covered with pasta sauce and mozzarella before baking. To use up oven space I made a cheese & onion quiche and an apple sponge - UK Bramley (or cooking) apples are at their best right now AND cheap. All good yummmmmy food for the weekend and coming week supplemented with fresh soup and toast for minimum effort *allows self a small preen* Right now it's time for stitching and White Star is coming along nicely although getting a tad heavy as it's a big piece!!!! Tomorrow I declare to be a PJ & Stitchalong Day - do join Big Sis and me if you can!!!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Snowy Hi from the UK!!!!

Yes, the UK has a major snow event!!! Now whilst my US and Canadian friends may shake their heads please remember the Brits are just not used to this kind of weather. We have had severe Winters in the past - 1963, 1985 and 1995 - but these are quickly forgotten and when it happens all over again everyone exclaims they've never seen anything like it!!!! Even those in charge seem to have forgotten past severe Winter weather and are now rationing grit/road salt having failed to buy in enough despite being warned by weather forecasters. It really beggars belief we pay these people but there it is. Where I am is not at all bad - sure my estate road is still frozen snow but the main roads are reasonably clear - I managed to make it to the grocery store this morning and despite dire predictions by the media, the shelves were full and I got what I needed!!! You know not many folks these days seem to keep a pantry stocked like my Mom and Grandma did - canned and packet stuff - and Big Sis says her folks did that too. We both keep a supply of that kind of thing as well as good old freezers with homemade stuff ready to thaw when needed. I'm warm, I have food and my little car's windshield is covered with towels against more snow we're supposed to get tonight. Right now I'm baking a chicken stuffed with onions, lemon and thyme to have with mashed potato (with a little sweet potato) brussels sprouts and gravy - real comfort food for a cold Winter day!!! I wish I could share for real with my Big Sis but I know she's out to lunch today - it's almost as cold in the UK as it is with her and that's saying something!!!! Both Big Sis and I have a lot to be thankful for and we ARE thankful AND I'm stitching after dinner - go me!!!!! Have a good, safe weekend and happy stitching!!!!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year!!!!!

I hope everyone had great holidays and feel ready to return to work . . . yeah I can hear the screams on that one!!!!! My Big Sis and I had a WONDERFUL time as always and apologies for not posting but I neglected to take along my blog password in my excitement to get out the door and onto the aircraft!!!! Weather was fine for travelling both ways and AA flew me safe which is after all the whole point!!!! I'm pleased to report that we did make several sourdough loaves which turned out very good and my Big Sis is keeping the starter going and I think plans to bake more bread over the coming weeks. We had fresh homemade bread along with squash & sweet potato soup for one dinner - that sure keeps the cold snowy Winter nights at bay!!!! Oh - the soup is good with a little cayenne to tickle it up!!!! We also had a turkey feast - a nice fresh turkey from the local gourmet butcher - with plenty of leftovers as well as turkey "gold" and I made stock from the carcass. My Big Sis made turkey tortellini soup which was YUMMM!!!! I also made baked pork chops with onion and apple for one dinner along with braised red cabbage - just shredded with apple, onion, a little shake of seasoning and nutmeg (you can add other spices) and a glug of red wine vinegar. This all braises happily in a slow oven along with the pork chops. When cooked the red cabbage does improve in the fridge after a couple of days and can be frozen. You get the idea that we did eat good on vacation!!!!! We also got in lots of stitching time and I'm now back to working on White Star - see my Big Sis's Fine Art Crossstitch site for the latest pic. We also had a Girls' Afternoon Tea with our Mom, Jen and SL - see pic above of the table. I made my Big Sis's apple-walnut cake with caramel frosting, UK-style scones to eat with real clotted cream and raspberry conserve and little crustless tea sandwiches - egg dijon or cream cheese with cucumber and red onion. I also had little tea favors to hand out for going home gifts as you can see in the basket. Everyone had a great time and agreed it was a very good UK twist on afternoon tea!!!! Christmas was wonderful and although we did spend a lot of time with family we also got to have several PJ Days with movies and stitching and food - a couple of new traditions are Muffalatas which are glass cocoa mugs filled with vanilla icecream then a little liqueur of choice (not every time!!!) then hot freshbrewed flavored coffee (pecan pie was best) poured over and topped with whipped cream (all lowfat I hasten to add!!!!). We also had gourmet hot chocolate in the glass mugs topped with whipped cream and a shake of gourmet coocoa powder . . . these along with a tiny Baci candy each were wonderful treats!!!!! My Big Sis made Chex Mix and I have 2 HUGE bags all to myself!!!!! I can't wait to head back in May and miss my Big Sis already!!!! But I know it won't be long and I wish everyone a great New Year and happy stitching!!!!!!!