Thursday, 31 July 2014

Because I'm Happy

I was recently tagged in one those FaceBook chains where someone nominates you to post something on your status and then to nominate others to do the same. This particular chain required the nominated person to post three positive things each day for four days running. I was really taken aback by how hard I had to think to come up with a measly three things that were positive on my first day and this got me thinking. Why is it so easy to focus on the negatives, the things that make us unhappy, all the little problems in our lives instead of the good and positive things around us. All too often I find myself feeling down and low, worrying about things that in the big scheme of things just aren't that big a deal and getting into a right funk because of it. These few days of having to look for the positive things in my day, noticing little happy moments and writing them down has been a wonderful reminder that life is beautiful and that happiness can be found in the smallest of things.

Believe it or not, but one of the my positives this week were these peaches. These "doughnut" peaches are only around for a few weeks each year and when I saw them sitting on the shelf of my local store they immediately made me smile. Not only are they the most delicately sweet and juicy peaches I have ever tried, but they hold very precious memories of my mum's visit to the UK last year. Each time I eat one, it makes me think of my mum and just like that I feel happy and positive.

Once I started looking for the good things in my life, it became easier and easier to find them, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem. Like how the sun comes through the lead glass window of my front door when we come downstairs in the morning.

It is something that has always been there, right in front of my eyes nearly every day for the last five months, and yet I have never really appreciated it, as I'm usually worrying about the seemingly endless list of things that needs to get done that day. However, this morning I truly noticed it for the first time, basking in the multicoloured light filling the hallway and allowing myself a few moments to just feel happy about it and not to worry about anything.

In my new happy state of mind I wanted to share with you a few pictures from our lovely weekend in one of my most loved places, Brighton. Not only is this wonderfully eclectic and bohemian Regency gem of a city, with its quirky shops and colourful locals an absolute joy to be in, but it too holds a plethora of memories of long lost friends and much loved family.

When the sun is out, like it was this weekend, Brighton can get full to the point of bursting and finding a spot on the pebble beach can be nigh on impossible. Luckily we know of a beach just a bit further down the Sussex coast where there was hardly another soul around, where I was able to find happiness in the beauty of the sea and its destructive nature.

Little T was also in a very happy place as he finds endless joy in stones and pebbles. It is something he shares with my mum and I loved watching him as he picked up pebble after pebble, "oohing" and "aahing" over their colours, shapes and textures, sharing this happy moment with me.

 He found a couple of large pieces of white chalk too, something he was very excited about as he discovered that he could draw on our patio slabs with them yesterday. I was busy with some boring household task when I heard his delighted shouts from the garden, calling for me to come and see what he has done. Not wanting to let such a precious moment pass me by, I grabbed a stone too and spent a glorious hour drawing simple pictures with my son, marvelling at his magical imagination and just being happy :)


Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Cookbook Challenge - Revisited

Some of you might remember my very ambitious attempt at cooking a recipe from each of the cookbooks in my rather large collection at the end of last year. I got off to a good start but after only two weeks, it all fell apart. Several things got in the way of my grand plan, not least a very chaotic and sudden house move. I do however think that the main reason this plan never got out of the starting blocks is the simple fact that I had labelled it as a challenge. For me cooking is something that I do to relax, to clear my mind. Turning cooking into something with deadlines, strict constraints and making it even in the slightest way stressful was never going to work for me.

Since I had my original idea (and took the above picture), my cookbook collection has unbelievably grown. Each time I acquired a new book, I had a very niggly and guilty feeling about all of the cookbooks already sitting on my shelf, unused. So, this week I decided it's time to do something about this, to revisit the challenge and make it work for me.

I started off by looking what I had in the house, rather than looking at which cookbook caught my attention. As always, eggs, butter and cream was to be found, but also a large chunk of cooked ham joint was waiting to be of use. Without even having to think about it, I knew which book will be best to re-start this journey, and that is this tomb of wisdom from Leiths School of Food and Wine.

I bought my Baking Bible many years ago, it was in fact one of the very first cookery books that I had bought for myself. It's also probably my most used book as it holds over 600 pages of the most reliable baking recipes you are ever likely to come across.

It's not the most exciting book to look at, mostly it's just page after page of tiny black print, but it covers everything you need to know about baking and then some. It has more hints, tips and professional tricks than you'll ever be able to remember and explains everything from the basics up to the very advanced. There are a few glossy pictures spotted about the book though.

Again, these pictures are mostly to help you understand the techniques explained in the book and to act as a visual guide for the more tricky stages of a recipe.

Over the years of owning this book, I have only ever used it to bake sweet things. There are some truly delicious and impressive cakes and bakes on these pages, but there is also a wealth of savoury dishes to be found throughout the many chapters. With the ingredients I had to hand, there was a very obvious choice for me to turn to, a classic quiche.

My finished quiche may not look as professional and polished as the authors of the book would have liked it to, but the proof is in the eating, and there I came out a winner. Best of all, I got going again on something that I have been wanting to do for months now, and hopefully this is the start of many more cookbook posts to come :)

Thursday, 17 July 2014


Having grown up in a sub-tropical part of the world, where the temperature often reaches well into the thirties (that's Degrees Celsius) and hardly ever drops below 10 degrees, I found adapting to the British weather a bit of a challenge when I first arrived here. I have however acclimatised over the past eleven years and now (quite embarrassingly) I find myself struggling to cope on days when the quicksilver hardly even begins to climb into the twenties!

This week, us here in Old Blighty have been issued with a severe weather warning, a Heat Wave is coming!! I still have a little chuckle to myself when they warn us to prepare for temperatures in the high twenties, (what, that's not a heat wave!), but then as the days grow hotter, my chuckle quickly grows to more of a groan. I don't however like to complain when the weather is nice like this, all too soon it will be cold and miserable again, so instead I use this opportunity to come up with lots of new salads and quick cook suppers for us to enjoy while the heat plays havoc with our appetites.

Little T loves fruit, so we have been eating lots of salads that are just simply fresh fruit cut into bite sized pieces, served with bread sticks and some cold cut meats for lunch. I always make sure that the fruit are very cold and served straight from the fridge, it's a lovely and refreshing meal after a hot and sunny morning of playing in the garden.

For dinner, stir fry has become my new best friend. What could be easier than throwing a selection of chopped veggies into a hot wok, adding some noodles, a few herbs and spices and a splash of whatever sauce will bring the best out of the dish, and within minutes you've got yourself a light and lovely supper for a hot summers evening. My favourite part is seeing Little T slurp down the long noodles and him giggling when they wriggle into his mouth :)

Speaking of herbs, the warm and humid weather has been very good for all of my potted herbs. I am still amazed that I have not just been able to keep all of these plants alive, but that they are growing so well. Soon I will have enough basil to make a pot of pesto for another hot weather favourite dinner of ours, "green spaghetti".

I don't have a whole lot of other plants in the garden as I am not allowed to plant anything in the ground (it's a rental property) and as I have admitted before, I am not very good at gardening. Lucky for me then that this beautiful flower sneaked through from our neighbours in a gap in our fence :)

According to all trusted sources, and from the feel of it this early in the day, today is set to be another scorcher, so for now Little T and I are off to make some fruity ice-lollies for our tea time snack :)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


In my last post about our trip to Poland I gave you a little sneak peek at the yarn that I had brought back with me. Remember this picture :)

While we were visiting my parents-in-law I had a sudden thought that there must be yarn stores in Poland too and that I absolutely can not leave there without visiting at least one. With my mum-in-law not being much interested in any kind of needle work, I wasn't sure she would know where I would find such a store, and so I turned to Google. Very randomly I stumbled across a blog by a Canadian girl studying in the Czech Republic and travelling around Eastern Europe. (I am sorry to say that I don't remember the name of the blog or the girl.) She had very kindly made a list of her favourite yarn stores in all of the cities that she had visited and one of these were in Bielsko-Biała!

The first chance I got, I asked to be taken to this shop and what a little treasure it was! Unfortunately I did not think to take my camera with me, and I still regret this lapse in photographer's memory. For now I can only direct you their website to feast your eyes on all of the goodies that are to be found there - Pasmanteria
After a good long while of yarn smooching, fabric fondling and general store browsing, my eyes fell upon a shelf full of this T-shirt yarn. As I have been wanting to try out this kind of yarn for some time now, and with the price of it being so good and the colour range being just spectacular I very quickly had a selection of it at the tills. As I had to get this back to the UK in a suitcase that already contained clothes for all three of us, I reluctantly showed some restraint and took only four skeins.

 As soon as we got home I (almost) immediately got to work on this beautiful mandala rug. I may have gone of the pattern around round 8 or 9, as I started just winging it after a while :) The hook that I had bought with the yarn is a bit of a monster, 12mm! and as a result I found that my hand got tired and sore very quickly and progress was slowing down. Luckily I soon discovered that if I hold the hook slightly differently (see photo below), this was no longer a problem and soon enough I was whizzing through the rounds again.

With the yarn being so bulky, it really works up very quickly and my rug was done and finished in just a couple of days.

 Here it is, adding some great colour to a rather bland corner of our bedroom.

It's not terribly big, measuring about 43 inches across, but then the space it was destined for isn't that big either. It also meant that I had some yarn left over to make a spaghetti bag. No pattern for this one, I just made it up as I went along and stopped when I had no more yarn left :)

Now, to fill that bag with a new WIP!!

Monday, 14 July 2014


As always, I am late to the party, but I am finally getting myself sorted with Bloglovin. So here goes...

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Friday, 11 July 2014


Well, we are home again after an amazing couple of weeks visiting my in-laws in sunny, gorgeous Poland. I have finally caught up on all of the dirty laundry and house cleaning duties and have now had a chance to sit down and sort through all of the 700 pictures that I took! Here are some of the highlights of our trip :)

My in-laws live in a city by the name of Bielsko-Biała which is, as they say, "in the mountains", and what beautiful mountains they are too. Just a short walk from their house is one of the highest peaks in this area, Szyndzielnia and as a treat we took the cable car to the top. I don't know who had the biggest smile on their face, Little T or P!

We headed out again the next day to take a ski-lift to one of the lower peaks, and despite my initial trepidation, I enjoyed this little ride much more than I should have :)

We did have to deal with a couple of rainy days, but we had planned ahead for such eventualities and so P and I left Little T at home to spend some quality time with his Babcia, Dziadek and their lovely doggie, Raven while we were off to one of my favourite places in Poland.

Wieliczka is a 700 year old salt mine located just outside of Krakow and is one magical place. Your tour starts off with descending 60 meters into the ground down this wooden staircase in an old mine shaft and then you walk for two hours through the winding tunnels and huge chambers until you are more than 120 meters below the ground.

Along the way you will of course see lots of salt in all sorts of shapes and forms, you can even give the walls a lick if the fancy takes you.

One of the main attractions within the mine is this stunning chapel, St. Kinga's Chapel. It was carved from the rock salt by 3 miners over a period of 70 years. It truly is an awe inspiring place.

Everything within the chapel is carved from salt, including these huge chandeliers, each one of them containing hundreds of pure salt crystals.

I was very sorry when the tour came to an end and we had to get into the shiny new lift to take us back up to ground level. There were still so many interesting tunnels, staircases and chambers that we didn't get to see. According to our tour guide there are so many miles of underground tunnels that it will take about 3 months to see all of it! I guess for now I will just have to wait patiently until I can go again, and next time I am definitely doing the miners route...


Luckily the sun soon came out to play again and our next trip out was to the famous town of Zakopane, which sits at the foot of the majestic Tatra Mountains. Although this place is quite the tourist trap, it does still have a lot of charm and some lovely things to see.

 After a big, busy day of seeing all of the sights, we were all ready for a good meal and a refreshing drink. Lucky then that P's aunt owns this lovely karczma (traditional Polish pub) on our way home.

With our bellies full of delicious pierogi and a glass of chilled wine in hand, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of P's family while the sun sank below the horizon on our second to last day of holidays.

I usually never like the last day of a holiday, but we decided to head out to the mountains one last time, this time walking to the top, and ended up having one more fabulous day. All too soon though it was time to pack our bags, load up the car and head to the airport and say our teary goodbyes.

Being home again after a great holiday is always a bitter sweet thing. Although I am happy to be home, to sleep in my own bed again and to have all of my home comforts around me, I also dearly miss the family and places we had to leave behind. Good thing then that I had brought home a "small" souvenir to keep me busy and my mind occupied for the next week or so :)

More about this soon...