7 Dec 2014

Christmas fairs and Santa on a motorbike

Mmm.... today has been what I like to call a typical 'Christmassy' day. When the weather is cold and you bundle up with warm coats and fluffy boots. When you do typical 'Christmassy' activities. Today was definitely one of those, as I went with my family to a local Christmas market in Ripley. When we arrived, the streets were lined with stalls, left, right and centre. Vendors, huddled under canvas shelters, smiled warmly while potential customers browsed tables, full with Christmas decorations, lucky dips and homemade treats. After a quick wander up and down a section of road, we passed Pinnock's coffee house, a free table in the window catching our eye- a rare sight as it had recently been voted best in the local area. The café looked like it was made for cold winter days such as this- wooden beams supporting the worn roof, large jars by the till, filled with marshmallows and other hot chocolate toppings, fabric bunting strung up above the till. It was downright cosy. Our orders placed, we sat back and enjoyed the warm and inviting atmosphere. Even the teapots and teacups were charmingly vintage. Being the typical English girl I am, my lunch consisted of Earl Grey tea and scones with cream and jam. Très anglais, non?

(Image sourced from http://www.theguide2surrey.com/Food-and-Drink/Food-Matters/February-2014/Counter-Culture-Pinnock-s-Coffee-House/)

After our lovely lunch, we headed out to browse the rest of the streets. Naturally, the only things I bought were food- two samosas and a pack of Spanish spicy sausages. Anything other than food isn't a worthwhile investment, in my opinion. It was later in the afternoon, once we had finished our mission to find Christmas presents, that we watched a truly fantastic display. Driving down the main road were several motor-biking Santas, followed by cars with more Santas and what looked like a Christmas mouse. The parade then dismounted their vehicles and after the wonderful switch on of the Christmas lights, we called it a day. To top it all off, a batch of freshly baked gingerbread appeared from the depths of our oven... Oh the joys of Xmas!

6 Dec 2014

Birthday cake and new beginnings

I think it's safe to say that it's been a while. It's been a while since I last blogged, it's been a while since I last baked and it's been a while since my birthday. Yet here I am, telling you about the highlights and disasters of my 18th. But before I tell you that, I think I need to give you all an update. Some VERY big news. I have a new kitchen! Ok, so maybe it's not that exciting, but for me it is. After spending many stressful hours with family breathing down my neck when I spill my tea or get cookie dough on the ceiling (yes, that really happened), a new kitchen is a big relief. Finally I have more space to... make a mess, i suppose. Oh. And I have two huge drawers... one for cake decoration and one for tea. Ahh, I'm so English!

Of course, with a lovely new kitchen and an approaching birthday, my mum decided to step into my Gran's shoes and make my birthday cake. Strictly speaking, it's been a few years since I last had a proper cake, so I wasn't exactly expecting one. Of course, when I was out at work (yes, i had to work on my birthday. Oh the joys of having a part-time job), my mum began on what was several hours of hard work, and I must admit the end result was stunning. I wouldn't be surprised if I saw that cake in a magazine. It really was that good! When it comes to cake, I'm a traditional girl. You can't beat a classic Victoria sponge and that was exactly what I got. An elegant layered sponge, sandwiched with cream, jam and strawberries and decorated with delicate pink (edible) blossoms. Bellissimo!

However, as you may remember, my birthday wasn't all rainbows and butterflies, it was compromise (and you're right, that is a song lyric). No, there were many, many, many 'alterations' to my original birthday fête. The original plan was to have my family round for dinner the day before my birthday... my grandparents, my aunt and my cousin for a lovely roast dinner. Sounds lovely, doesn't it. Very lovely. But no, t'was not to be. My cousin was unable to join us because he was at his dad's house that weekend. Not long later, my Aunt and my Gran on my mum's side decided not to come, thinking it would be unfair to see me without my cousin present. So it looked like it would be just my grandparents on my dad's side who were staying for a meal. Nope. You guessed wrong. Sadly, the night before my Nan had fallen down the stairs, breaking her shoulder and her wrist. Naturally, we said that we didn't want her to stay here for my sake, especially if she was in pain. My grandparents went back home in the early evening. The meal had been cancelled, no roast for anyone. The day of my birthday I was, of course, working. After coming home and having the initial surprise of my cake, my day was brightened a little- I would be seeing my Gran, Aunt and Cousin that night for a meal out. But as the evening went on, my mum started getting a head ache, my dad's back was playing up, having injured it a few weeks before. Of course, no birthday celebration was to be had. Instead, we stayed home and watched a film (Chef- I would recommend it). And it's been a month since then- I still haven't had my birthday meal yet. Tomorrow, maybe, but my family have all decided to simultaneously develop colds. Well, at least me and my cousin can cook dinner for everyone. It may not be a meal out, but sometimes a meal in is just as good.