|Pics from Creative Commons...|
Monday, 19 December 2016
|Ready, steady, bake!|
|This elf was helpful as I had to roast and shell|
lots of hazelnuts for this recipe. I paid him in kind
and the recipe's credit of course!
much this year. Lately I have been working four days a week and volunteering in the community on the 5th so it has been busy. My volunteering commitments included manning the blog for a community garden (http://emptycommongarden.blogspot.co.uk/) and its members' list, doing careers fairs for kids and teens (media and marketing), looking after Spanish and Italian newcomers for a University organisation (http://www.nvs.admin.cam.ac.uk/) and other bits and pieces (daughter's school, community talks, storytelling, etc). So my blogs have suffered. But I am off work now until January so here are two festive recipes to cheer us all up!
|This is a festive treat for Santa and friends... the brownish top|
is not cinnamon but a dusting of mild chilly powder...
Festive bites & Elf on the Shelf's hazelnut brownies
(Yes, he also wanted the recipe's credit, the little bugger)
|Chocolatey & Nutty|
|O Come All Ye Faithful!|
I used the transparent cup from my breadmaker (see pic above, it's behind the blue bowl), a cup is about 4oz. Here we go...
2 cups of plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
2tsp mild child powder (extra for dusting if you wish)
2tsp mixed herbs
2tsp poppy seeds
50g of butter
2tbsp olive oil
1 cup of grated cheddar (or more if you like)
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan (optional)
3/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to gas mark 6 (200 degrees). In a bowl mix flour, baking powder, chilli powder, herbs, seeds and salt. Add butter and oil. Mix with your fingers until you get the consistency of bread crumbs. Stir in cheese and milk.
Turn dough on floured surface (I use a big IKEA plastic tray as I dislike messy surfaces). Roll or pat your dough then use cookie cutters to make shapes. If the dough dries when you re-roll it, sprinkle a bit of water and knead it a bit. Or you can add a bit of oil if not sticky enough.
Place your shapes on a tray (I use baking paper on the tray). Bake until golden (about 13-15 minutes). Serve warm. Using a tea colander, dust your bites with mild chilli powder as it looks very festive... (bright red not brown as in my pic).
Hazelnut Brownies à la Elf
Still using the breadmaker's cup (washed of course) for measurements...
11/4 cups of plain flour (you can also use self-raising if you like)
45g of butter (it won't hurt if it's 50g)
50g of good quality dark chocolate (more if you want it very chocolatey)
100g of marshmallows
3tbsp of good quality cocoa powder
2 cups of white sugar (or brown if you are pernicky)
1tbsp of vanilla extract
100g of hazelnuts (roasted, shelled and chopped - more if you want it very nutty!)
Preheat oven at gas 4 or 180 degrees. In a big bowl, mix flour and salt. In a decent pan (not the ones where stuff sticks) melt butter, chocolate and marshmallows, stirring so it's smooth. Remove pan from heat, stir in cocoa powder, sugar and vanilla.
Beat the eggs well in a separate bowl. Add the chocolate and butter mixture to the flour mixture. Add the nuts. Stir in beaten eggs and combine. Spread the mixture in the baking tin (you can line it with baking paper if you like). Bake for 30 minutes and check with a toothpick. If you do not want any gooey inside, bake for further 10 minutes.
Happy Xmas everybody!
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
|Pic: Geralt, Pixabay|
You can read it here. Please share your opinions and like if you appreciate it. I would love to feature your experiences on the blog... let me know.
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
In Italy I saw all my school friends as we celebrated our Leva, a gathering that starts at 18 (last time I did it) then continues at 25, 30, 35, 40, etc.... We celebrated with this big champagne bottle with firework at a dancing and eating restaurant and on Sunday I got this cute posy before the special Mass given by our Professor of Religion in secondary school. The summer street celebrations also include a fairground and it's Michela's favourite time of year. I saw parts of the street concerts as we needed to keep an eye on Michela who tried all the rides... Soon we were back on the Mont Cenis, where we visited the beautiful church and the Alpine garden. There is also a museum.
We had dinner at Les Tables, which I have reviewed on TripAdvisor because it had a very nice kid menu and a very affordable Savoyard menu for adults. If you love cheese, I recommend it. The kid meal included ice cream served in a plastic cow, which Michela has kept to use as storage for rubbers.
Chambery was once Italian and capital of the Savoie, a small kingdom with a king (the King of Italy and his family were exiled after 1945 for their complicity with Fascism). There is great looking castle and it's a pity we did not go to see it as the admission charge is small.
On to Troyes, which is a great city if you like half-timbered buildings, narrow medieval streets and Champagne! Back in the Champagne region, where the food is excellent. We always go to the same restaurant as it has delicious food and menus in English (not a tourist trap, don't let the translated menus blind you). Troyes has a pretty good covered market, if you fancy buying your lunch or dinner.
Last stop is Calais, which has been in the news a lot because of the migrants' problem. Last year we did not venture in town but this year we did and it was back to normal. Two years ago we went and the shopping centre look terrible with many empty units, there were also many young male migrants roaming the streets and looking very unhappy, which is understandable but a bit frightening when you visit places with a young child. This year the bookshop had reopened and there were less empty units. The streets look more lively. Let's hope that this situation is resolved, UK charities have been set up to relieve the immigrants' plight with donations of food and items for families. Calais has an amazing townhall with a Rodin statue and wonderful gardens. This year the theme was Oriental gardens, hence the red sticks and the pagoda and small pond at the front. We had dinner at the modest hotel we stay at because the restaurant is so great.... This year we booked and got a table overlooking the beach walk, which is full of playgrounds, mostly free.
The last day it was a sunny day and as Michael and Michela enjoyed a lie-in I went to the beach and it was wonderful, so empty and natural... It was around 8am on a Sunday. Just me and a few birds, the sea had retracted a long way. Then two walkers appeared, too good a morning to miss out! We were back in England a few hours later.
Friday, 9 September 2016
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I have saved the best bit for last, the point of difference...
you do not have to do it on your own!Dutch entrepreneur Johan Hagenbeuk built in a social element which is easy as 1,2.3:
There is a 14-Day Money-Back Guarantee and you can see samples of what you'd get if you click the link in your personalised email.
Monday, 5 September 2016
|Our 'new' Toyota Yaris on Mont Cenis|
2nd stop: DOLE It is near Lyon, it was our first time there and to our delight we discovered it was the hometown of Pasteur, the vaccine inventor and also the inventor of the Pasteurisation process and a very effective treatment that prevents mould on vines. The wooden frame of his portrait was donated by grateful wine producers and it is made of vine wood. We also saw an interesting case with two mice with ears attached to their backs, apparently Pasteur dabbled in genetics too... Another great thing about Dole are the houses on the canal, the marina and the underground passages, including a hidden pool. No need of a map, all you have to do is follow the cat trail... So look down and follow the tiles with the cat.... Because of the motorway diversion away from Lyon, we missed the Mushroom Playpark so we broke the tradition of having a photo of Michela on huge mushroom slides. The best we could do is sit her on this chicken ride celebrating the expensive Poulet de Bresse, a 'bargain' at over 30 euros per uncooked chicken. It must the Champagne of chickens! Dole has also a fun way to collect ciggies' butts and find out popular opinions...
3rd stop: Chambery
Wednesday, 6 July 2016
Just a quick update to show something I made for Facebook, inspired by a conversation with another blogger. I did follow in her footsteps and looking at my life now I replicated a lot of her decisions. So after so many years, she is still my role model. What about you???
Friday, 1 July 2016
|This is me on 28/6/16|
You dust off old tech - nostalgia is so fashionable!
The Ministry of Sound is still churning out those CDs!
You ask yourself: 'Mirror, mirror, do I need you?'
If comfort eating is your thing, don't knock it!
You are in the market for stylish sunglasses for sure!
You still have secret office fantasies
Saturday, 25 June 2016
|I know what you did last Summer!|
Summer did not have a great start with Brexit becoming a reality in a city that has a huge majority in favour of staying in the EU. Indulge me by letting me bring out the Brusselo as this illustration made me laugh and laugh.
Last summer was not a great one, me with my tennis elbow working away or resting a 'dead arm', battling the blues too - the first Summer I put my daughter in the holiday club, albeit part time. So I have great hopes for this Summer when despite everything the mood is good and we are going on holiday twice since my partner did not take any time off at the half term. We did and had a lovely week in France staying at a friend's house. Two more French holidays coming up, Brittany and en route to visit my parents in Italy. We never had such luxury before but they won't cost us the earth either, we are a frugal family... I still have my Cheapskate blog running...
When Michela was little, the best thing ever was to have a paddling pool as she would spend ages in it, so if you have a young child an inexpensive paddling pool is a must have plus a toy kitchen. I saw a really cute wooden one in Ikea recently at a very good price (no sponsorship here, just saying). The below one came from a charity garage sale. Get these two and you will be lounging in the sun with a book or magazine while your child keeps busy. Trust, me whatever it takes to distract/amuse your child for more than 10 minutes it's worth trying out!
Michela is now 9 and I just love the age as we can do more interesting things together. Today I will join her Brownie group to a trip to Cambridge Botanic Garden, the loveliest place ever! This Summer will be special and it does not matter I don't have a work contract - my arm is doing well and I am feeling upbeat (I recommend HRT even if you still have your period). We are going to have fun with crafts (sewing, papier mache'/decoupage, knitting) and we will cycle everywhere, we might volunteer to host a picnic for other families linked to the University, we will be best friends and there will be less 'Don't do that' from me. Let's enjoy this bliss before the teenager emerges!
|Michela and I at the half term - we love art!|
This post is an entry for the BritMums Confessions of a Summer Parent Challenge, sponsored by Anchor. Views are my own and I thought it would be a fun competition to do.
P.S. After a Facebook convo, here are a few more suggestions that came to my mind:
- Also small items (not too small, think choking hazard) and boxes, they love filling them up and emptying them.
- Playdough is good too
- Oversized drawing chalks for pavement
- Best and nearly free thing, a brush and a bucket of water to paint a wall with (choose one you don't mind getting damp) or the patio...
Monday, 20 June 2016
|Standing in my garden on a recent sunny day (not today)|
I have more time now so have been spring-cleaning the house (including very dusty bookshelves), been baking and indulging my social media accounts. I have also started a new creative writing blog and you can read my fiction here. I am feeling good, either HRT is working or I have SAD as I don't do as well in winter months (this year it will be different as I will take action - and it helps having an arm that works again after nasty tennis elbow). Aside tweeting marketing stuff, I also spend more time on Facebook and other platforms discussing the EU referendum. I have no vote despite living in UK for many years so I can only join the debate verbally. I am for remain and if not, I would have changed my mind as a huge number of brexit people are nasty beyond belief (online) or do not trust rational views (figures are figures, emotions are something else).
So here is another update. I am on the lookout for new things to test. My daughter is 9 and I am a keen cyclist. Would love to test some cycling gear/accessories. Have sent a request for two products, let's see...
PS It's likely I will not be working this summer so no holiday club for my daughter. I have plans for some great stuff to do together. I am not stern on tablet/computer use, my daughter puts them down if I offer an activity, if not she can spend time on them while I do other stuff. She grew up with me hitting keys all the time, even when breastfeeding her. It would be hypocritical to limit her enjoyment. Also forbidden fruit tastes sweeter. I know what children's development people say but she did not become addicted to TV after spending hours while I was trying to work from home and no, she has not moved from addiction to addiction, she can put the tablet down if I offer time with her.