Monday, 30 April 2012

Our Favourite Bookshop

I took this photo a few weeks ago, back when we last saw that thing in the sky called the sun.

Yesterday we visited a nearby bookshop a few miles away in the centre of Bradford. Bradford is a city that is so often in the news for all the wrong reasons - racial tension, riots, economic woes - but it has such a rich heritage of wool, mills and textiles that is often forgotten, as well as some truly beautiful architecture.

Bradford Wool Exchange is a gem. It must be one of the most striking buildings in the city.  How many bookshops have a ceiling like this?

It recently won a place on The Independent's list of The 50 Best BookshopsThe polished marble columns are all numbered from when the building was full of wool traders going about their business.

The building has a coffee shop on a mezzanine level, which provides an excellent place to sit and look down over the shop and do some people watching.

I love these arches. They are so beautiful.

We love this shop. We often go over on a Sunday afternoon when it is very quiet and have a coffee and browse. We went yesterday, in fact, to escape the freezing rain and enjoy hot chocolate.

The children's department is wonderful. I love Amazon, and it has it's uses, but you cannot beat the feeling of a real book in your hand when you are browsing. Especially when the setting looks like this.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? I would love to hear about it.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Weekend Breakfast 8 - Orange French Toast

My day began before 7am when I woke to find Angus's face inches from mine. He was standing there, clutching his bunny, saying "My got out of bed Mummy!" and looking ever so pleased with himself. I'm still amazed at how small people can go from sound asleep to wide awake in seconds. I needed a bit more help this morning so I made Orange French Toast from Nigella Express. I fancied something springlike and zingy but still comforting and this was both. Also, I had all the ingredients in the fridge. You can find the full recipe here on Nigella's website, but I will summarise it. In fact, it is so easy, you don't really need a recipe.

You will need eggs, oranges, milk, bread, marmalade, sugar and butter. All store cupboard staples. You could probably manage without an orange and use some orange juice but the zest really does add flavour.

Mix together the eggs, milk and orange zest and soak the bread in it for a couple of minutes on each side.

Bring the orange juice, sugar and marmalade to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until you have a runny syrup. 

Fry the bread in a little butter for a couple of minutes on each side until golden. Pour the orange syrup into a jug ready to be poured over the french toast when you are ready to eat.

I think that most of my recent posts have been food related. I am sorry - it is the rain! It just makes me want to cook and eat and hide in the kitchen. I have also been busy trying to complete some sewing projects - hopefully I will have some Actual Finished Projects to show you soon. 

The weather is so cold and wet and windy here today, a day to hide indoors. John is working so I will take the children to a nearby soft play centre and let them run around on slides and climbing frames and wear themselves out. Have a lovely Sunday everyone.

Friday, 27 April 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Via SouleMama.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Parmesan and Seed Crackers

It has done nothing but rain here for the last two weeks. Every day. I am sick to death of trudging to and from school twice a day through puddles. If it was just me it would be fine, but it's rain plus small people. Angus refuses to wear his wellies (I do not always have the energy to insist), then jumps in puddles and cries because his shoes are wet. Bella wants to use her Hello Kitty umbrella but Angus gets cross because he has no umbrella and wants hers - bickering ensues. I can't push a pushchair and hold an umbrella at the same time, so wear my horrid cagoul. Water runs off this very efficiently and I end up with soaked jeans. The only upside is I get to wear my yellow Hunter wellies and we drink hot chocolate after school to warm up.

Only baking will do when the weather is like this.  I have to be in the warm, bright kitchen with the radio on and Angus playing and chattering nearby (his talking is really coming along now) and get busy. Last week, I made these Parmesan and Seed Crackers from the excellent Popina Book of Baking by Isidora Popovic to take to book group. We take turns to host our book group but everyone brings some snacks and wine with them. I will tell you more about our group another time, but today is for baking.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Dark Chocolate and Ginger Rocky Roads

A while back I made some Rocky Roads and said I would try some dark chocolate and ginger ones. I made some last week, and they were very thoroughly taste tested by my friends at book group. I am happy to report that they passed the test, and so today I can share my recipe with you! 

You need:

300 grams/10 oz dark chocolate
3 tablespoons golden syrup
125 grams/4 oz unsalted butter
80 grams/3 oz marshmallows
30 grams/1 oz chopped crystallised ginger
200grams/7 oz gingernut biscuits
Icing/confectioners sugar for sprinkling

Melt together the chocolate, syrup and butter. Pour about a quarter of the melted mixture into a jug and reserve for later. Bash those gingernuts until they are a mixture of crumbs and chunks.

Add the marshmallows, biscuits and ginger to the melted chocolatey goodness in the saucepan and stir well. 

Pour into a lined baking try, push it into the corners then pour over the reserved chocolate mixture - this just gives the top of the rocky roads a slightly smoother finish.

Chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, then sprinkle with icing sugar and chop into portions. 

The ginger flavour is quite strong so you could always leave out the crystallised ginger and just use the ginger biscuits if you prefer, but I like the heat the ginger provides. I thought these would be too dark and rich for Bella and Angus, but oh no, their sweet tooth prevailed and they liked these bars very much.

Monday, 23 April 2012

April Showers

The weekend's activities mainly involved avoiding the rain showers and eating. We went to the shops for provisions so that John could make a ragu sauce. This is one of John's specialities, and he often makes it when he has a day off. He retreats into the kitchen, puts on some music and potters around. He makes the best ragu sauce ever, I will share it with you one day.

Angus built one of his speciality traffic jams, where he likes to spend hours lining up all his toy cars, trucks, fire engines and other vehicles in a perfectly straight line. Sometimes they are in size order, sometimes not. No-one is allowed to touch them (this causes problems when other children come round to play) but we are permitted to admire his creative efforts.

Some time with the paints. I've found letting them use these watercolours is so much less mess than getting out the poster paints, and they seem to enjoy it just as much. Bella painted a row of flowers...

And Angus painted "a rainbow".

The finished results:

Angus poring over one of his favourite books. I can't remember the title, he just calls it the "police car book" and he loves to stare really closely at the images as though committing them to memory.

On Sunday we ventured into Leeds. We visited the City Museum to see the Pharaoh - King of Egypt exhibition on tour from the British Museum. It was very interesting, but did not really grab the children's attention so we didn't spend that long there. 

But another exhibition, "Silver Seventies" really caught our attention. My fellow Leeds blogger,   Jen at little birdie, wrote a great post about it on Saturday.

It was brilliant - colourful, well laid out, informative and funny. I was born in 1978 so I don't really feel that I am a true child of the seventies, as most of my childhood memories are from the eighties. But there was so much in this exhibition that provoked memories for John and I - styles of decorating, home furnishings, board games. I was particularly taken with the sewing patterns.

Then to Carluccio's for lunch. We'd never been here before and it was very nice. Lovely style of interior design and good service.

I was so impressed with how child friendly is it. As soon as we sat down the children were given an activity pack with paper and crayons. Their drinks came in plastic cups which always causes me to breathe a sigh of relief. The lovely Italian waitress made a fuss of Angus ("ah, such a cute leeeetle boy!") and he allowed her to stroke his cheek. I ordered the spinach and ricotta ravioli in sage butter sauce and oh, it was so utterly delicious. Then coffee gelato for desert, which was rich and bitter and dark. Strangely, Bella loved it, so I traded her some of mine for her vanilla gelato, and that really was delicious.

And a lovely gift from friends in the afternoon..

A rye fruit loaf (or "malt loaf for grown ups") from our friends Kate and Dean. Dean is a talented and passionate baker. There is nothing he does not know about bread and he spends a large part of his spare time baking various and wonderful loaves. I've gone round in the evening to babysit before and found rows of sourdough, brioche and croissants lined up, cooling, ready for the week ahead.

Good friends to know! Especially when they give you random and delicious bread. What did you do over the weekend? I hope you stayed dry and had fun.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Weekend Breakfast 7 - American Style Pancakes

This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess, one of the first cookery books I bought myself when John and I moved into our first house, more than ten years ago. It's still one of my favourites and I turn to it time and time again both for inspiration, and for fail safe recipes like this one.

The full recipe can be found here although I omitted the bacon and added fresh strawberries and blueberries instead. I have never tried pancakes and syrup with bacon - I know that's how it's usually served in America but I can't get my head around eating sweet and savoury flavours together. 

I mixed all the ingredients together in a food processor and left them to stand in a jug for twenty minutes, then fried them until the top bubbled, then flipped them over. 

Then we poured maple syrup all over them and ate them straight away. The children liked them a lot more than the English style pancakes I made them on Pancake Day - maybe that was something to do with the strawberries and maple syrup!

It is pouring with rain here (again) and we are trying to decide what to do with the day, even though it's ten o clock already and by the time we are ready to leave the house it will be lunchtime. Have a lovely Sunday everyone and thank you so very much for visiting and reading, it makes my day.

Friday, 20 April 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Via SouleMama.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


I learnt a new phrase recently: WiP, or Work in Progress. I do like to have a few of these on the go but I think my WiP situation may be getting out of hand. I just keep starting new things and then another tempting idea comes along, so I start that, and before you know it I'm staring at a box of fabric, yarn and embroidery thread wondering when I will ever find the time. And there is a bit of a theme emerging from all this business...squares.

I am still LOVING this Winterwoods ABC cross stitch, but it is very hard on my eyes. I should probably work on this during the daylight hours but that is not really possible, so I do it in the evening. My poor eyes!

I am still practising granny squares on nasty acrylic yarn which manages to feel squeaky and fluffy and split all at the same time. I am still not happy with my tension so I need to work on that before breaking into the good yarn.

And while rummaging for this cheap yarn in the attic, I came across a bag of twenty nine pink wool knitted squares. I made a very simple knitted cot blanket when I was on maternity leave before before Bella was born, and I think these were intended as a border of somekind. I found knitting these ten by ten squares incredibly soothing, and spent most of that time lying on the sofa, knitting and watching Law and Order box sets.

I'm not sure what to do with them. I may knit up the rest of the wool and make a patchwork cushion, pink on one side, multicoloured on the other.

And I am planning a patchwork quilt for Bella's bed, in pinks and greens and, like a child, I can't resist cutting out squares and playing with them even though it will be MONTHS before I get round to actually sewing anything.

I am out of control. No more projects! (Oh, except the three tea towels my friend Gemma asked me to make, I will start those right now.)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


I can't really think about madeleines without thinking about Marcel Proust, whose bite of this small cake provokes a vivid childhood memory, the lengthy examination of which lasts for seven volumes of A La Recherche Du Temps PerduNow he really was a navel gazer. He would have been an excellent blogger. 

"[My mother] sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called "petites madeleines", which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrims shell...I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place."
Proust, M, Swann's Way,  Penguin 1957, pp 55-56.

I did not get on with Proust. I read Swann's Way, the first in the series, when I was an undergraduate, and found it rather like wading through treacle. It was not for me. One professor told me that Proust is "the Everest of literaure" which I think he thought was a good thing. Well, I got halfway to base camp before giving up and going home for a cup of tea and a murder mystery. How I passed that semester I will never know.

The recipe is from my current recipe book obsession. I promise I will put it down now and cook from another book. Madeleines are basically small light, buttery sponge cakes baked in a shell shaped tin and the recipe can be found here on the BBC website.

I overfilled the tin when I made the first batch and they came out looking like this:

so I was careful to put half as much in for the second batch, barely a small tablespoon. I wanted them to have their pretty shell shape, and the second lot came out looking like the ones in the book. They are very, very delicious. I have eaten four. Possibly five. The sharp, moist bite of raspberry and lemon curd in the middle is wonderful with the buttery sponge. I baked them first thing in the morning and the house smelt wonderful all day. Perfect to cheer one up on a cold and wet Wednesday morning!