Sunday, March 20, 2016

Project 52: Week 11

I didn't take many pictures this week, but here is my first attempt at a still life from Monday's art class. 

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky


word of the week

Today is officially the first day of spring, and as much as I can't quite fathom that we are so far through the year already, it is lovely to have blue skies and sunshine outside. This week seems to have flown by, and I'm guessing next week will too, as I am counting down to our next scan on Thursday, followed by the long Easter weekend.

It has been a gentle week, walks with the dog, early nights, films and home-cooked meals. We have started making inroads into the bedroom which we hope to use as the nursery, and it has involved much clearing out and sorting through of paperwork. For me, there are years and years of university work, assessments, feedback, projects, and remnants from my first few years of work, most of which are being binned. It feels like the right time of year to be finally filtering through it all, the ultimate spring clean to be discarding so many papers from the past, especially with the promise of the future, and the hopes for what that room will become once we have created some space.

We spent this afternoon at a christening, our close friends had a service and a party for their little boy, and as it had also been his first birthday this week it was a double celebration. It was a lovely way to spend the day, and then this evening I had a nap in the afternoon sun, followed by dinner and a film with The Husband. And now, for an early night, and another exciting week ahead.

The Reading Residence

Sunday, March 13, 2016

word of the week

It has been a busy week here, on way or another. An event at work meant that I saw lots of colleagues I hadn't seen in a long time, and it was great to find out where people were up to, and also a good opportunity to share our baby news, which made it feel very official!

This weekend the house has been filled with The Husband's university friends. They live across the country now, and so it is not often that they all manage to get together, making it a cause for celebration when they do. It was good to see them all, and he had a great weekend.

Leaving them to their catch-up also gave me a good chance to have a few catch-ups of my own. I saw my close school-friend and her family on Friday night, and on Saturday afternoon called in on another close friend to see her and her husband and their little boy. It was lovely to have such a sociable weekend, and having a house full of people stopped me from feeling like I should be doing chores all weekend, and I have felt all the more relaxed as a result, as well as the weekend feeling longer too.

And, although not strictly a reunion, Saturday night was spent having dinner with my parents and then watching Brooklyn with my mum. It was great to spend several hours with them, and although they live so close to us, it felt like the first time in a while we had managed to chat properly.

All in all it has been busy in the loveliest of ways, and now I'm looking forward to some equally lovely calm and quiet. Thank you for all of your comments recently, I hope to reply to them this week!

The Reading Residence

Project 52: Week 10

After a busy and lovely weekend, calmness has descended, and an early night beckons. 

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky


Sunday, March 06, 2016

Project 52: Week 9

After a week of snow, sleet, rain, and bitter cold, today as I wandered round the garden with Millie, there was warm sun, blue skies, and bursts of colour. Maybe, just maybe, spring is tentatively starting to arrive.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky


word of the week

The calligraphy leaves something to be desired this week. The Husband bought me some coloured calligraphy pens as a gift, and they are lovely, but I don't feel able to do them justice yet!

Our pram hunt is still going strong, and we have changed our mind multiple times and must be worrying the staff at our local mothercare with the number of visits we have made this week! We seem to have eventually settled on one of two mamas and papas models, particularly as they both fit in my rather small boot! It may all change again next week, but for now it is nice to feel like we have narrowed it down and made some progress. We both keep joking that parenting should be easy after the navigating the complexities of prams, strollers, pushchairs, travel cots, car seats and the rest!

My antenatal appointment went well this week, all seemed fine, and Mum and I even heard the heartbeat whooshing away, which was reassuring. It is strange to think that next Mother's Day I should hopefully be celebrating as a mum as well as a daughter!

And, of course, today has been about the mums in our life. We are very lucky to have family that live close by, so we can manage to see everyone on occasions like this. We are even luckier to have the love and support of our parents, and each year I realise just how much they do for us, and how much they make our lives easier. Particularly being so close to my mum, I am so grateful to have her nearby, not just because of all she does for us, but because of how easy it makes it to spend time with her. I hope you have all had a lovely weekend with family, and that you have a great week ahead.

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: February

For month two of Penny's Cookery Calendar Challenge I finally used a recipe book that has long been on my shelf untouched. I got Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals (and its predecessor, 30 minute meals) when they had first been released, but haven't yet cooked from either of them. I watched the linked television programme when it first came out, but also remember reading reviews at the time saying that the recipes took much longer than the title suggested, and required lots of equipment.

Joining in with the challenge gave me the push to test it out for myself, and having not left myself much time in February I picked two recipes and ordered the ingredients for both at the same time. As a result, I realised that the cost of the ingredients for the two dishes was as much as our usual weekly shop. Admittedly some of this was due to bulk buying ingredients such as chicken breasts, when only two were required, or having to buy a whole jar of a herb which I would only use a teaspoon of, but it still seemed quite expensive, particularly considering one of the dishes was a meat-free one.

Which brings me on to recipe number one, Falafel Wraps with Griddled Vegetables and Salsa. It was a brave initial choice, as I have never made falafel before, and was made even braver when The Husband declared he didn't particularly like it, and also made it apparent that the absence of meat had not been well-received! I enjoy trying vegetarian dishes, and am regularly trying to make meals that have more vegetable content than meat, so I was optimistic.

Unfortunately, this dish was no great revelation, and The Husband and I both agreed that the falafel was pretty tasteless. Before we got to that point though there was the mere matter of rustling up the dish in 15 minutes. The reviews were right, it was a complete under-estimation. I had duly lifted out my food processor, heated pans, and done all of the required preparatory work which isn't included in the 15 minutes, and it still ended up taking me half an hour. I worked at a frantic pace, and the kitchen was a scene of utter devastation when I had finished, the whole thing felt so contrary to how I normally enjoy cooking. What was more frustrating was that the recipe was clearly written by someone with a team of kitchen-hands, for example you use the food processor to make the falafel, and then a few steps later use the food processor to make the salsa. Unless you have the luxury of two food processors, or a person following you round washing up, you needed to stop everything to dismantle and wash the food processor, which probably used up 10 of the 15 minutes I had available!

The dish wasn't a complete disaster, and actually the side dishes were really flavoursome, the salsa in particular was very quick and tasted lovely. The griddled vegetables were really simple but tasty, and the cottage cheese and chilli sauce (I realise it sounds a bit dubious) worked well. However, we were really grateful for all of those flavours, because the falafel, which I hadn't managed to maintain in any kind of recognisable shape, was fairly dense and despite the mixture of spices, didn't really taste of much at all. It felt much like a stodgy filler, adding bulk but not a lot else. I took the leftovers for my lunch the next day, and again, all mixed together it was a really tasty plate of food, and I was glad to use ingredients, like harissa, that I haven't tried before.

After that, I was glad that I felt my second choice would be a guaranteed hit, having opted for Pasta Pesto with Garlic and Rosemary Chicken. The Husband adores pesto, and I was really looking forward to making my own for the first time. I also liked the idea of chopping up fresh lasagne sheets to use in the dish, and so was feeling more positive about this one.

From the start I decided not to rush madly through the recipe this time, and just work at a slightly more relaxed pace, allowing me to keep the kitchen in some semblance of order. It still took me around 30 minutes, but I enjoyed the process a lot more for not feeling like I was against the clock. The dish itself was quite nice, The Husband really enjoyed it, but I felt the lemon juice overpowered the pesto. This was partly because the recipe just said add lemon juice, and there was one lemon listed on the ingredients, so I added all of the juice, which was probably too much. This quite vague approach to the recipe was quite common, and I think the recipes are written in a similar style to the programme, and at times it is a bit of overkill. I realise it is probably intended to add a sense of pace to the recipes, making them more dynamic and less detailed, but being told to tear up peppers and squash garlic through a crusher was a bit wearing.

This dish was good, and had quite a kick from the chilli. What also surprised me was how filling it was considering there were only 2 chicken breasts. It was meant to serve four, and it easily could have. For us The Husband added more veg and lasagne sheets to the leftovers to make supper the next night, and also some lunch for me today too. What I did like was bringing a big dish or platter of food to the table. We do that fairly often, and it was nice, particularly with the falafel to put out all the components, and the side dishes, and both tuck in. It hasn't put me off using the book again, and I may well try the 30 minute meals book later in this challenge, though I shall be sure to allow an hour!

I have already chosen my book for next month, hopefully you will pop back to see how I fare. There are a few of us doing this challenge with Penny, so do check out her blog if you'd like to see what the others are doing.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

first things first

The first of March.

The first day working from home for while, followed by a presentation tonight.

The first maternity appointment tomorrow, since my booking appointment. We have reached over 17 weeks now, which sounds quite a lot when I think about it. Tomorrow will be the first routine appointment that The Husband won't be able to come to, so it feels a bit strange. I'm feeling a little nervous tonight, perhaps after the almost weekly scans we ended up having for the first month, it now feels quite a while since any kind of check-up, even though this is the normal wait between appointments! Luckily mum is coming along so I won't be alone, and there is a definitely a bump appearing these days so I'm trying to take that as a reassuring sign.

March brings with it some quieter weekends after all of the excitement of last month, although we do have a friend's 30th party, and a weekend where The Husband's university friends are coming to stay. We hope to use the time to make some first inroads (and maybe last if we are especially productive!) into clearing the bedroom which will become the nursery. It currently has a lot of our accumulated junk, as well as years of work from my time at university. I need to sort through it and will hopefully manage to clear out a lot of it, although I always find it tricky to throw things like that away.

There will also be the first Bank Holiday weekend since New Year, with Easter arriving early this year. It will be a nice break to look forward to, and although the clocks going forward the same weekend will mean we lose an hour, it should also hopefully mean that spring feels well and truly on its way by the time the month is out. That is a lovely thought, particularly as The Husband tells me that snow is forecast overnight! Which also means tonight is the first time in a while that The Husband brought me a hot water bottle up to bed, and I am very grateful indeed!

Last night was the first time I missed The Year in Books twitter chat this year, having arrived home late and forgetting to charge my phone, which is a real shame. However later in the month will be the first chat discussing a specific book, where a number of us have read the same one, so I'm looking forward to joining in with that.

Later in the week I am putting some of birthday gifts to good use and having my first massage in what feels like forever. I am really looking forward to it, and as it is close to where I currently work it will be lovely to be able to head there in the evening and unwind. We also have tickets for a few different things over the next few months, and the first show we are seeing is later this month, it feels good to have some things in the diary to look forward to.

I wish you all a lovely March, may this be the first day of a very pleasant month.