Sunday, 24 July 2016

Fresh Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream

The holidays have started. I officially finished work on Wednesday but went back in on Friday to finish some things off, so it's taken a few days to for it to sink in. I spent yesterday thinking "the holidays have begun, yay!" one minute and then " the holidays have started, oh my goodness, six long weeks, send help" the next, depending on the children's behaviour and my mood. Angus especially has forgotten how to entertain himself and flops from house to garden, never really settling on anything for long. It won't last and we all just need to get used to each other, get used to being in the house together during the day. Today was lovely. We've been out and about, baked, pottered. I've got so much to show you and share with you, but today it's ice cream (which we've eaten rather a lot of this last week in the hot weather.)

I should start by saying that I don't actually like mint choc chip ice cream, so why I've devoted a whole blog post to it is anyone's guess. It tastes so synthetic, like sweet toothpaste, and the chocolate is so squeaky, not to mention the weird blue-green colour which puts me off. Everyone else in my house disagrees and they love it and always choose it over any other flavour. So when John decided to try this recipe for mint choc chip ice cream from the Waitrose magazine last weekend, I was a bit indifferent. 

It's made with fresh mint, rather than peppermint extract, and I have to confess that I became marginally more interested when I smelled John chopping the mint. Fresh mint smells like Pimms, mojitos, buttered Jersey Royal potatoes and summer, and has one of the most delicious and evocative scents of all the herbs. I tasted the minty custardy mixture and started to reassess my feelings about green ice cream. 

This recipe is a faff. You make a custard, cool it (2 hours), churn it in an ice cream maker, freeze it (four hours), churn it again, melt the dark chocolate, and then layer it over the ice cream in a tub, freeze again (4 hours). This becomes a two day affair if you're not very organised, start it in the afternoon and haven't frozen the bowl for the ice cream maker properly before starting, like us.

But oh my goodness it is glorious. The freshness of the mint is almost grassy, and goes strangely well with the sweet vanilla custard base, and the dark chocolate is of course perfect with both. I think I am converted, but also ruined, because now I'll definitely never like shop-bought mint choc chip ice cream, not now I've tasted the good stuff.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Hot Day

Yesterday was dramatically hot, or hot for the UK anyway. As I sweltered all day at work I became more and more obsessed with going to the beach, with dipping my hot tired feet in the cold water. It was all I could think about. I texted John at work in the afternoon. Did he fancy going to the beach? He did, and a hurried plan was formed involving picnics and my nieces, who I'd previously arranged to have after school yesterday. We set off late and the traffic was awful, as predicted. There is only one road to this beach and everyone has to use it. By the time we arrived at the beach hut it was after 6 but we still had a couple of hours, bedtimes being later and relaxed since today is the last day of term. The children ate their picnic and went off to play. Angus and I went down to the water and paddled. I had wanted to swim but there was such a breeze on the shore that it really didn't feel so warm once I was down there (only in the UK could it be 34°C but feel too cool to swim!), so I contented myself with standing with my feet in the sea for about a hour. It was bliss. Angus and my niece, Jennifer, "surfed" in the shallows. The tide was coming in, covering the sand and reaching the pebbles. It was time to go home, back to our hot house, to shower the kids and make ourselves some dinner. John cooked some rigatoni with a really fresh tomato and basil sauce and we had a beer. Then I fell asleep on the sofa. It must've been the sea air. I asked myself if it was worth it, all the rushing and traffic for a couple of hours on the beach. Yes, without a doubt. 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Really Good Saturday

Saturdays when John is not working usually begin in a similar way. First, pancakes for breakfast, then we all go into town to visit the library and shops, sometimes stopping for coffee and cake too. We always call in at Waitrose for bits and bobs for the weekend, once we've decided what we want to cook and eat on Saturday and Sunday. We plan the weeknight meals and do the big weekly shop elsewhere, but we usually think about the weekend food differently. It might be a takeaway or something that involves lots of planning and preparation, depending on the kind of week we've had, what the weather is like. Then, unless we have somewhere particular to be, the afternoons are usually quiet and involve pottering around the house. 

Today was like that but ten times better, mainly due to the sunshine and totally gorgeous weather. We went into town but drank our coffee sitting outside the cafe, under the shade of a huge maple tree. It was just lovely. We did our shopping, went to the library (lots of crochet magazines!), bought a paper and nice things to eat, came home. There was one alarming moment when Angus left Barry the Badger behind in the children's section in the library and we didn't notice until we were half way round Waitrose. Luckily he was just where Angus had left him and badger and boy were reunited, but that was close. I don't know who would be more upset if we lost Barry, Angus or me.

Because it was so hot - and, being British, we get a bit excited when the weather in summer is summery and get confused and think we're on holiday - we opened beers and put the parasol up and ate lunch in the garden. Then we went to the park where the kids ran around while John and I lay on the blanket, he watching the cricket and me crocheting. It occurred to me that the kids were getting loads of fresh air and exercise while I wasn't having to exert myself in the slightest, and that was very pleasing.

Now, it's cool and cloudy. The kids have been having a water fight which involved flinging around full watering cans and trying to soak each other. I had to strip them off at the kitchen door, they were so wet and dirty. They are now upstairs reading, showered and in their pyjamas. John is preparing spicy pork noodles for our dinner and the kitchen smells of garlic and ginger. There is a key lime pie in the fridge for dessert and I have a glass of white wine next to me. We're deciding what film to watch later. Happy days.


Photos of me washing up taken by Angus. Keeping it real.


Thank you SO much for the response to my crafting post. So many good ideas! I need to sit and think and process, and - of course - write a list, and then write a blog post. But thank you. I knew you'd all come to my rescue. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

In need of inspiration

I have two projects on the go currently, one that I'm loving and one that I'm not, and I feel like I need to shake it all up a bit. It's getting boring. 

I am loving every stitch I sew on my sampler, to the point where I need to slow it down so it's not over too quickly. I was supposed to be saving this project for our summer holiday in August, but I already I've completed the N, O, S, T and X motifs. I love making samplers so much  - just the right amount of stitching, each section so pleasingly achievable - but I feel like this will probably be the last one I make for some time. Completed, I like to frame them and then, once framed (which ain't cheap), they need to hang somewhere. And I wonder how many more framed cross stitch samplers I want in our house. So I am conflicted about my love of cross stitch; I want to stitch and stitch, but I don't want my house full of cross stitch, if that makes sense. Yes, I can make gifts, but sometimes you just want to make something for yourself, don't you? I know you fellow crafters understand.  John says: if it makes you happy then sew all the samplers you want, and just have them out on rotation, you don't need to see all the stuff all of the time. Sensible man. But you can see why I don't want this lovely project to end.

My other project is the granny stripe blanket I am working on for Angus. I love the colours but I do not love the pattern at the moment. It's really boring. I know that once it stops looking like a scarf and starts looking like a blanket - which will hopefully coincide with the onset of autumn - I'll be full of love for it, but right now it's a duty WIP. 

I love to sew and crochet so much but i'm really wondering what to make at the moment. I want projects that inspire me, that make me think "I want to make that!" and get all excited about ordering yarn. But I don't want to crochet any more cushions or blankets or scarves. What can I crochet? I'm thinking perhaps a lightweight cotton sweater, or a bag. A bag for my yoga mat perhaps? But it's got to be the right kind of pattern. (No flowers.) And sewing - what can I sew? I could dust off my neglected sewing machine and take a deep breath and try to make some clothes... But it's hand stitching I really love to do, whether it's embroidery or cross stitch. I might do something with my huge stash of fabric and make some hexies. I recently came across this blog and this quilt and it was the first thing I'd seen in a long time which made me feel inspired and excited. English paper piecing appeals as so much of it, from the making of the hexies to the quilting, can be done by hand rather than on a machine. 

Help me, lovely blogging friends. You all know what you are talking about. What can I make? What can you recommend for both quick and long term projects for crochet and embroidery?  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Summer Colours

Everywhere pink, red and green, those colours making their way from the supermarket and the garden into the house, onto the table. Strawberries in smoothies and on top of pancakes.  Redcurrants and blackcurrants ripening on the bushes outside. I pick a handful every day or two, add them to the bags in the freezer, look into ice cream recipes. I make the simplest salad of tomatoes, mozarella and basil; it tastes like summer, clean and fresh and bright. Supermarket peonies have become a dining table regular and I just love them. Milky white freesias smell sweet up there on the mantel. Outside, pink hollyhocks and geraniums bring a little colour to my pots and borders. And everywhere so very green, after what has been a mild, muggy and very wet few weeks. Sports day was rained off but everything is growing like mad. This time last year we'd just had a brief but wonderful heatwave. I'd quite like another one, if I'm honest. I'd like to spend my days barefoot under cloudless skies and complain about how it's too hot to sleep.


Thank you for your kind words on my last post. I am feeling quite well, if a little tired and frazzled. Nothing that a rest and some vitamin D won't cure. In the meantime there is wine and crochet.