Monday, February 27, 2017

Cookery Calendar Challenge: February

For February, I chose to cook from The Hairy Bikers' Eat For Life, which is the second book in their Hairy Dieters range. I cooked from their third book as part of the Cookery Calendar Challenge last year with mixed results, and although I have used this book a lot before, I had a similar experience this time.

The first recipe I picked was a low-calorie chicken tikka masala. One of the things I like about this series of books is that there are lots of dishes that feel like hearty recipes or treat dishes with small changes to make them healthier. The "fake-aways" are a key feature, and it is good to feel like you can have what might otherwise be junk food without it being incredibly bad for you. This curry was simple, and didn't include too many spices, which some of the other recipes do, so I had in everything I needed. The marinade required a bit of planning ahead, and I served it with naan rather than rice, and it was a great weekend supper. I do enjoy vegetables in curries, which this didn't have, but there are other curry dishes with more of a vegetable based sauce that I will try in the future.

The second dish was sticky chicken with homemade coleslaw. I was less pleased with this one. Again, other than the white cabbage for the coleslaw, all of the ingredients were ones I had in, and I served it with wholewheat wraps and some potato wedges. The coleslaw was enjoyable, really fresh and tasted much lighter for being made with a mixture of yoghurt and mayonnaise. I preferred it to shop-bought, and would make it again, and as the rest of the cabbage is still in the fridge through lack of any other ideas, it might be making a reappearance soon! I was less of a fan of the chicken, although The Husband enjoyed it. I found it to be more of a loose sauce than a sticky glaze, and I don't enjoy chicken thighs as much as chicken breast, so I don't know that I'd be rushing to repeat it. It was a simple sauce, with a good flavour, that I might use in other dishes, but it wasn't quite the effect I was expecting from the description. I notice the blogger I have linked to above seems to have been more successful so I wonder if it might be worth a second attempt at some point.

I said last month that I would also like to include a monthly link to an online recipe, as I use them a lot, and then, typically, I didn't make a specific recipe from the internet this month, but I have used it for inspiration for a few dishes, including homemade raita and a tomato, mozzarella and basil conchiglie. I thought it was appropriate to share this one as it is also by The Hairy Bikers. I used it to make the pie filling, which I then topped with sliced potatoes rather than pastry. I haven't decided on next month's book yet, there are a few I am keen to try, and my friend bought me a tagine with a recipe book as a Christmas present so that will definitely feature in the project at some point. As always, use the link below to see what others have been cooking as part of Penny's brilliant challenge.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

word of the week

Well this is probably more a word of the fortnight, or perhaps even longer! Since I last wrote here it feels like lots and lots has happened, and while I'm not quite sure how February is nearly over, at the same time we seem to have crammed lots in to the shortest month!

The day before my birthday we got the brilliant news that The Husband had successfully been offered a new job. It is a promotion and a move to a new organisation, so it is an incredibly big achievement, and I am amazingly proud. It was a fabulous start to a long weekend of celebrations. We went on a bear hunt on my birthday (although I was sad to read the attraction has closed permanently after Storm Doris), it was a fun way to spend some time as a family, and then we had a lovely meal with my parents and Grandad at night.

We have also been to visit the church where we got married for a lovely mass, and then our wedding venue for a coffee. It felt special to be back and have our little boy with us. Valentine's day included a family 5k run as part of the running challenges I have been doing, and a meal at home.

The last week has also marked six months since our little boy was born, and in fact it turned out to be exactly a year since we told people I was pregnant at my 30th birthday party! After 6 months it's about time I actually decided what to call him on here, so I'm going to go with his initial, T, for want of anything more original! He is now sleeping in his cot in his nursery, and it felt like a big step for him to move out of our room, though a full night's sleep is proving elusive still! We also started the first steps to weaning but it has not been as straightforward as I expected, with lots of mess, and quite a lot of coughing and vomiting. A much thinner apple puree seems to have been more successful the last few days, but still only a morsel at a time! He is full of a cold, and teething too (we have a first top tooth making its appearance), so I'm pretty sure that must be playing part, and writing this I realise that it's less than a week since he first tried any food at all, so perhaps we are not doing too badly really! I didn't really get in to the habit of doing milestone posts when I was pregnant, or since he has been born, but I may yet do a six month one (albeit a little late) as I feel it will be nice to look back in the future and read what he was like at this age, particularly as we looked at his first outfits tonight and were shocked (and a little teary) at how much he has grown already.

My lovely Grandad has had quite a few scans and hospital appointments in recent weeks, and is also recovering from the same cough that seems to have laid most of us low repeatedly since Christmas. He is doing well otherwise, and if he wasn't having any tests we wouldn't know that there was any need for him to be seen, but it is always worrying seeing a loved one going through appointments and scans, especially when it's someone like my Grandad who is always so fit and well. Luckily we have had lots of happy trips too, including a brilliant concert at the Bridgewater Hall with him, and a fabulous night seeing Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl.

This week there have also been surprise visits from my best friend, new bedding purchased and duvet dry cleaning after an early morning vomiting explosion from T, and the usual swimming and library trips. I also managed to catch up with A Year with My Camera reading this weekend, and made some actual notes in a new notebook with pretty pens, which was a fun way to spend half an hour. I realise this has mostly turned into a diary post, but I wanted to spend some time reflecting on everything that has happened recently. This week has been quite tough at times, between the teething, the vomiting, the clean-up operations and the appointments for my Grandad, so it has been a lovely way to end the week realising how much the good stuff far outweighs any of the less positive parts. Having said that, I have just also realised that in order to finish my February challenge I need to do 8 miles in the next 2 days, so perhaps the whirlwind isn't over just yet!!

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

wonderful wednesday #6

In true Sesame Street style, this week's Wonderful Wednesday is brought you by the letter C.

CorianderI made a recipe at the weekend that needed coriander, and my parents picked me up a bunch while out shopping. I love coriander and have happily incorporated it into lots of different recipes, including fajitas, chicken and coconut curry, and has also been livening up my lunches. It always makes me feel a little bit fancy having fresh herbs, although I tend to be a little overliberal with my sprinkling, as the picture above attests.

Cuddles: This morning I woke up with a headache, and so, I chose to stay in my pyjamas, and when the baby took a nap I actually followed the sleep when the baby sleeps advice. It was a lovely snooze on the sofa, snuggled under a blanket, with the dog snoring gently by my side, and I woke up feeling all the better for it. The novelty of cuddling a sleeping baby has still not worn off, and I love the evenings where he drifts off in my arms after his bath, all damp hair and smiles in his sleep.

Cake: Obviously, cake is always good, but this week my mum and I baked, and it was the first time I had baked in a while. It was a successful, and simple, orange drizzle cake, and it was lovely to spend an hour baking together, and also having cake to eat at the end of it! 

Comments: Thank you to all of you for lovely comments on my recent posts. I will reply soon, but it is always encouraging to feel like your words are being read. I sometimes worry that perhaps this blog is too superficial and borders on the saccharine at times, so despite venturing briefly into the more serious realm this week, many of your comments served as a reminder that I can make what I want of this little space and it isn't a reflection of a lack of interest in the wider world if I choose to focus on the positive here. 

ClassesI went to a session on weaning run locally, and my mum came along too. It was quite helpful, if only to reassure me that I've been doing the right things so far, and it is exciting to think in a week or so we can start introducing the baby to food. I always sit him in the kitchen when I'm cooking, and generally have to sing and talk my way through every ingredient to stop him getting restless, so I'm looking forward to him being able to have a taste too. He is also at the point now where he seems to be interacting more when I take him to things. He starts bouncing very excitedly when we go the singing and reading session at the library (though I am certain his overenthusiastic rattle waving is going to cause another child an injury). Friday was also the first time I have taken him swimming where he did more than just let me move him around, having discovered the joy of splashing, I spent most of the session wiping water out of my eyes, and having my first experience of show-off parenting as I kept trying to strategically swim nearer to the instructor so that she would notice, and compliment, his first attempts at kicking (it didn't work).

Camera: I know this is becoming a bit of a frequent mention, but I really enjoyed taking part in #1day12pics again on Saturday, and I have also started to take my camera with me just a little more regularly. My parents and I took the dog and the baby to the park yesterday, and we also went out for lunch with my Grandad today, and both times I picked up the camera on the way out, with some encouragement from my mum. I didn't take lots of pictures, but I'm glad I'm starting to carry it with me without feeling pretentious, and that I'm enjoying playing with it and trying to remember what I've learnt.

If you would like to visit some of the others (highly recommended) then Sally is the originator of the idea, you can search for #wonderfulwednesday and these lovely folks all post too: JoHelenMichelleSarahKateCatSamEl , KerriMimmiMartinaIsabelle. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

recipe: orange drizzle cake

I thought I'd resume normal service with a recipe, the first time in a long time I've posted one here. This is the result of an afternoon baking with mum yesterday. It started with some oranges that needed using, and developed from a Mary Berry plain fairy cake recipe. We decided to adapt the recipe to make one large cake and flavour it with the orange, and it was such a success that my mum made a second one today using clementines and shared it with the neighbours.

Orange Drizzle Cake

Makes one 12cm round cake. Prep time 15 minutes. Cooking time 45 minutes to 1 hour.


200g self-raising flour
200g caster sugar
200g softened butter
2 tsp baking powder
5 medium eggs
2 oranges
225g icing sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan. Grease the sides and base of a 12cm round cake tin.
  • Combine flour, caster sugar, eggs, butter, and baking powder in a bowl. Add the zest of both oranges and the juice of half an orange to the bowl.
  • Use a whisk to beat the mixture until well combined and pour it into the cake tin.
  • Bake in the oven for between 45 minutes and an hour, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. You may need to cover the top of the cake with tin foil to stop the cake browning too much.
  • While the cake is baking, gradually add the juice of the remaining orange to the sieved icing sugar a teaspoon at a time, stirring until it reaches a suitable consistency for drizzling.
  • Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. Once cooled, drizzle with the icing.

Monday, February 06, 2017

love each other

(Silent Sigh - Badly Drawn Boy)

I mentioned in my recent Wonderful Wednesday post about struggling to write about bigger issues that are going on in the world, and the fear that comes with entering into public debate about these things. As if to prove my point, even the comments on the post gave differing views on whether to venture into the more serious realm. I'm still uncomfortable with it, but I'm also uncomfortable with not writing something, it seems such a big part of the public consciousness, and consequently, such a big part of my thoughts at the moment that it felt dishonest to keep skipping over the topic when I'm writing here on a more regular basis at the moment.

I guess this is likely to end up as an outpouring of thoughts, rather than anything concrete, so bear with me if you will. I've found the news of what has been happening in America hard to read, as it feels to me, like the start of a major shift in the international political arena, and as such, like the start of increasingly volatile times. That doesn't sit easily with me, I've always found that when there are major international incidents I have to step back a little at first, to stop myself becoming consumed by fear, and constant ponderings of what ifs, and what nexts.

It has been hard to escape in recent weeks, the news, the radio, and blogs too. My gut instinct was, and still is, that many of the decisions that are being made go against what I believe in, what a great many people believe in, and I can understand the outcry and the condemnation. But, I also feel that there are grey areas, things that have mulled around my head since listening to debates on the radio, and that The Husband and I have discussed over dinner, when I was desperate to talk it through with another adult, seeking that shared viewpoint and comfort in voicing thoughts out loud.

There is part of me that thinks that the actions being undertaken were part of the campaign rhetoric, and whilst it is not guaranteed these days that the promises of a campaign will come to fruition when a person takes power, none of these things are a shock, however shocking they might be. They are things that were expected from the speeches, and the headlines, however extreme they were. Which flows backwards to the fact that there was a democratic process and an election success based on that campaign, and those promises. I have an internal struggle with having a respect for the democratic process, yet also seeing the results of that process and them being so at odds with what I would choose. The discussions with The Husband also included the fact that the acting attorney general had been fired, and this was something we had both been troubled by. It felt particularly Orwellian, to immediately remove anyone who presented a challenge, even if it was on the grounds of legality. That, alongside the discussions about alternative facts, make the surge in the sales of 1984  particularly understandable. There is much mention of often-cited examples of those who were democratically elected and then committed horrendous acts once in power, and they are clearly a warning that should be heeded from history that democracy is not infallible and shouldn't be accepted blindly.

The marches have been a clear sign of the depth of feeling, on an international scale. I don't hold with the idea that it is not the right of those outside of the country to protest, though I heard many people asking what impact it could have. What I did find challenging, though, is that there are other places that have bans on immigration from specific countries, and there is not the same level of outcry, perhaps not even the same level of awareness of this. It draws parallels with the disproportionate media responses to atrocities and tragedies that affect the Western world, and that is something that has been a source of much reflection personally. Why is it so much more shocking in this situation, why does it provoke such a heightened, widespread reaction? Is it because we have different expectations of western countries, or because it is closer to home? I don't know the answers, it just made me stop to consider the differing responses, and wonder what it signifies.

As twee as it sounds, my own response is one of hope. One of trying to be positive, of not giving in to fear, and stories like this cheer me immensely. I wrote about it here, and more briefly here and here. It is easy, though, to allow a hopeful, positive response to slide slowly into apathy, and I still feel so small, and insignificant in the scheme of things that it feels incomprehensible that there is a difference I could make. I suppose writing something here, even if it isn't particularly revolutionary or rallying, is a way of being active rather than passive. There are good examples of more practical responses, and a trio of Michelle's have blogged about it from varying viewpoints. Michelle really summed up for me that sense of there being so much to challenge it is hard to know where to start, (and on a personal level, having read her blog for many years, it was wonderful to see her writing again after a long hiatus, albeit for less than wonderful reasons). Michelle speaks in a way I wish I was brave enough, and eloquent enough to, and gives practical advice from a UK perspective. And Michelle says what I am thinking with much more clarity than I can muster.

I know I shall worry when I post this, I know it feels like a huge thing and an inconsequential one simultaneously, but I also feel like I wanted to say something, not to look back and feel that I stayed entirely silent. So, for now, this is my contribution, my tiny attempt to face off the negativity with some words of positivity, and to add another hopeful voice to the many.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

wonderful wednesday #5

Another week, another round of wonderful things. Unbelievably we are already in February, and even more unbelievably I have managed to make it 5 in a row.

Camera Bravery: Another week of A Year With My Camera, and another week where I braved the park. This time with The Husband, dog and baby, and I actually sat on the bench and played with the different settings for a good half an hour while he walked them around. This week was about shutter speed, and I got some action shots that I was quite pleased with! It is lovely to think I am starting to have just the slightest idea about what the myriad of buttons, letters, numbers and options mean.

Good Timing: We had to take our pram to have a screw replaced, and the nearest Mamas and Papas store to us is a bit of a jaunt to the huge shopping complex that is the Trafford Centre. The service was excellent and they had to send it away, providing us with a loan of the same style pram in the interim. On Friday I had a message to say it was ready for collection, and on our way to the store we walked through Selfridges, for a quick gaze at the food hall. Just as we walking past they were reducing lots and lots of the desserts, and resisting the urge to buy them all, we came away with a toblerone cheesecake, a rocky road cheesecake, and a brownie for 80p each. By the time we walked back through after collecting the pram, they had all gone, so we were rather pleased with our little haul, and enjoyed our decadent desserts when we got home that night.

Socialising: I wrote on Friday about what a sociable week we had, and it had continued since, with visits to my mum and stepdad, The Husband's family, my grandad's, and my dad and stepmum's. I have also heard from a few good friends, and it was nice to catch up even if it was via text.

Bloggers: It is a tumultuous time politically at the moment, and my general approach on this blog is to veer away from bigger issues. I often feel like I don't have the right words, or even enough understanding to explore those topics publicly, which may be doing myself a disservice, but I lack the confidence to enter into online debates, despite having deep discussions with The Husband over dinner. I do, though, as I have said previously, find hope in realising that there are others out there feeling the same, and galvanising readers into action. It is always wonderful to know you are not alone in your thoughts, particularly when the world seems increasingly divisive. 

Calming candles: On a slightly more mundane note, I have started to actually use the vast array of candles I have, lighting a Neom relaxation one before bed, whilst also liberally spritzing the scent too (I almost set off The Husband's asthma with my slightly overenthusiastic efforts though, so I have reigned it in a little). I had the first bath I have had in months (I do shower, just to be clear), and I got back from a run to find The Husband had lit candles for me. I don't usually see the appeal of baths, but it was a lovely way to wind down.

Falling numbers: I am now less than half a stone off my pre-baby weight. I realise in the grand scheme of things that this is fairly superficial, and I also realise the secret to contentment does not lie in the scales (you know, that famous saying), but I am keen to be a healthy weight, and to set the right example as a parent in terms of exercise and food choices. I hope by the time my maternity leave is over to be much healthier and fitter, and seeing the beginnings of that both in the number on the scale, and the pace on my runs, is a wonderful thing indeed.

first things first

The first of February.

A month that will bring with it some lovely firsts. My thirty-first birthday. I guess that means I will officially be in my thirties now, rather than just on the cusp of a new decade! It will be my first birthday as a mum, so I'm expecting things to be somewhat more low-key than last year's incredible adventures, but no less special. 

It will also mark the first 6 months of our little boy's life, and my goodness hasn't time flown. This will probably be the month where he has his first taste of food, and, maybe the month where he moves into his nursery. I'd love it to be the month where he sleeps a little longer overnight too, but that might be wishful thinking!

The flower above is the first to appear, this morning, on the potted plant my friend bought me a week or so ago. As I mentioned on instagram, it is clearly not the hyacinth I thought it was! It is still very much appreciated though, and cheered me up when I finally made it downstairs after a long night.

The first run tonight of a new challenge. I didn't manage the 62 I had initially aimed for in January, due to being out of action for nearly two weeks due to the bug the baby and I had. However, I switched to the 31 mile challenge and managed to complete it so I pleased I didn't do my usual trick and write it off the minute I fell behind. This month has two challenges, a 28 miles over the month, and a Valentine's 5k with someone you love, which will definitely include Millie and possibly The Husband and the baby too!

We have had an email from the church where we were married saying that they are having a special service to celebrate marriages, and inviting all those who had their ceremony there to attend. It is the weekend after my birthday, and would be the first time we have visited as a family, so I think we shall put that in the diary, and maybe even continue on to our wedding venue for a bite to eat,

It seems there is lots to look forward to in February, and I hope it is the same for you.