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Saturday, 27 October 2012

Food and flowers

 Just some pictures I wanted to share:

 My birthday apple and cinnamon cake with caramel on top baked by my lovely husband and equally lovely daughter. Delicious!
 My attempt to cook my mother's lentils and sausages recipe... Still need to work on it to make it as good as hers.

 My second birthday cake (apple too!) baked by my mother-in-law. Doesn't it look gorgeous?

 Before the cake we had a lovely lunch which included deer. It may look rather crispy from the outside but the meat inside was just perfect. 

And to  finish with food: what do you think of that home-made pizza (before cooking)? It was very yummy!

To conclude, here are my last flower pictures of the Autumn (we are in Winter now!)

Update on my unfinished projects!

If you remember I posted some time ago about "unfinished projects", well I have finally managed two out of the whole list (haven't dared to count them to be honest!)

First of all, a sort of a cross between a traditional bib and a table cloth, let's look at the pics before explaining more.
 Little N. is now at a stage where she wants to eat alone but does not master the art of using cuttlery yet... Every parent knows what I am talking about. I was getting a little bit fed up of having to gather all the food on the ground though (especially now that I am in my 8th month of pregnancy), so I decided to use some oilcloth, some pieces cut from a towel to soften the top edges and I made this half-bib-half-table cloth thing. It works great!
Just a remark though, oilcloth is rather a nightmare to sew if there is nothing to make it slide nicely under the sewing-machine.

The second finished project is the album gathering all the cards, emails and sms that we received for little N.'s birth. It will be nice for her to look at it when she is grown.

 Just needing to get on with the rest now, but I have faith especially after today's feat of finishing a whole project in just a few hours!

Keeping warm outside during Winter

Last year I posted several articles about keeping my baby warm in Winter, well this year I will not have that much to do but here is something needed: a hand-warmer for both Mummy and little N. on the pushchair.

It has been on my to-do list for a little while but I was not in a hurry. Being end of October I thought I had time! How wrong was I, for today - Saturday the 27th of October (still supposedly in Summer time) - the temperatures dropped dramatically and it started snowing. The weather forecast does not predict snow in the next days, but the temperatures should now remain pretty low. So I decided it was high time I got on with making these hand-warmers!

Little N.' is extremely simple and I did not even attempt making it look too nice or too elaborate. It is just a piece of fleece with a long velcroband to put around the handle in front of her in the pushchair. The handle is covered with a sort of plastic which will feel very cold in Winter, hence the need for a bit of fleece over it.
Mine is more elaborate. I have looked on the internet for a tutorial but did not find much and buying one is quite expensive. Eventually I found this blog with tutorial and pattern. Before cutting any fabric I had a quick look at my pushchair and decided that I needed to make the pattern a little bigger. Well, I wish now that I'd had a bigger piece of water-proof fabric to make it even bigger than what I did (it feels a bit tight) but nevermind.
If anyone is interested I can make a scan of the larger pattern, just ask by email or comment (leaving an email address).

If you look at my photos, there is one thing I did not do as explained in the tutorial: the lady just put all the layers in the right order and then biais-tape all around to hide the seam. I decided to sew from the inside, leaving an opening to turn it out afterwards, then did a nice seam all around to flatten properly the whole thing and close the opened part. I also chose not to use black thread so as to have just a tiny hint of colour outside :)

I am very much looking forward to use it now and see how it works out (and mainly if it does keep my hands warm!)

What is extraordinary though is that I did manage this whole project within a few hours! It probably never happened to me before!! (Can you feel how proud of myself I am?)

In the meantime my husband baked us some delicious mini-muffins: Apple and Carambar - we got loads of apples from my parents-in-law and we had some caramel Carambars that needed eating/using. If you don't know what Carambars are, just check out the link

 I am off to taste them now. Have a good afternoon everybody!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Painting with a toddler

Little N. is very fond of drawing with her pencils, and I recently decided to try painting with different tools: a big brush, an old toothbrush (good thing that she cannot reach for ours nor hers!) and a sponge cut into 6 smaller pieces. Oh! I almost forgot the most used tool: her hands and fingers!

To protect her clothes (well actually just the body) I used an old short sleeves t-shirt from her Dad's and had three steps:
- Step 1 was to shorten the t-shirt without cutting it so that it can "grow" with her.
- Step 2 was to cut two small holes in each sleeve.
- Step 3 was to insert an elastic band through the holes and sew the two ends together. 

The idea of the elastic band being that the sleeve is maintained properly around little N.'s arms, preventing the paint from going all over her.

After the first use I came to realise that I do need to add a fourth step: add an elastic band through the neck part too, this way it will not hang too much anymore.


And then you have the pride of displaying your child's first artwork on your fridge ^^

Monday, 15 October 2012

Challenge : "Un mot, des titres" - Session 11

After missing Session 10 because of the summer holiday, finally I have managed to read my book on time! So swapping to French now :)

Le mot de cette session était "beau", et comme on pouvait accorder cet adjectif j'ai choisi la forme masculine qui précède une voyelle "bel". Il s'agit d'un roman médiéval, composé au début du XIIIème siècle:

Le Bel Inconnu, Renaut de Beaujeu

"Composé au début du XIIIe siècle, le Bel Inconnu de Renaud de Beaujeu, récit d'aventures chevaleresques et sentimentales, reprend le fonds commun de la matière de Bretagne mis à la mode par Chrétien de Troyes. Mais c'est aussi un roman moderne dans lequel le narrateur manipule ses personnages et transgresse avec brio les conventions de l'écriture du genre.
Renaut de Beaujeu mêle en effet sa propre histoire d'amour à celle de son héros, partagé entre deux femmes: la fée séductrice, qui l'initie à l'érotique courtoise, la reine qu'il conquiert au terme de ses victoires sur les forces du mal. Si ce héros sans mémoire et sans nom finit par retrouver le lignage du père et rejoint l'idéal arthurien en délivrant la reine et son royaume, c'est finalement l'image de la mère qui ressurgit auprès de la fée amante. Quant au narrateur, il invente dans une ultime pirouette un dénouement ouvert, lié au bon plaisir de la dame pour qui il a été tour à tour romancier et poète."

Ce livre, publié par les éditions Champion Classiques, est une version "billingue" du texte: à gauche le texte en français du XIIIe siècle, à droite en français moderne. Pour ne rien vous cacher, par pure fainéantise je l'ai lu en langue moderne, l'ayant déjà lu en langue originale précédemment. Un certain nombre de notes de bas de page accompagne le texte et permet d'éclairer un lecteur peu au fait des us et coutumes moyennâgeux.
Notre Bel Inconnu, très jeune, arrive à la cour du Roi Arthur, et demande au Roi une faveur: de lui accorder une chose qu'il lui demanderait. Une jeune demoiselle en détresse (bien sûr) arrive à la cour pour réclamer l'aide d'un chevalier brave, courageux et expérimenté. Notre jeune homme demande alors sa faveur, qu'il soit envoyé pour aider cette demoiselle. Faveur accordée, demoiselle fort peu contente et que l'aventure ou plutôt les aventures commencent! Je ne vais pas faire la liste ici des aventures que nos jeunes gens vont rencontrer, mais si certains d'entre vous ont déjà lu des romans arthuriens, ils auront bien une idée. Le résultat: deux femmes qui veulent toutes deux épouser notre Bel Inconnu et lui divisé entre raison et passion.

Ce qui m'a le plus intéressé dans ce livre c'est l'omniprésence de l'auteur, ses interventions quasi-permanentes dans le texte, n'hésitant pas à parler directement à sa dame et à lui proposer de changer le cours des événements si cela lui convenait mieux. Je me pose souvent la question de savoir si c'est purement rhétorique ou bien si des changements auraient réellement eu lieu si tel avait été le bon plaisir de la dame en question.

Bien que ce soit un monde un peu violent et parfois cruel (notre héros tue sans pitié ceux qui se mettent sur sa route), c'est un univers tellement éloigné du nôtre que je recommande de s'y intéresser. La littérature arthurienne est trop peu connue, elle est pourtant vaste et variée :)

Monday, 8 October 2012

Unfinished Projects...

Yencamade posted an article recently which was showing some of her unfinished projects and somehow that made me feel so good to know that somebody else out there also had many plans but not enough time to complete them all! Then I thought, why not show mine and make it work as a motivation to finally complete them? In my case it is partly lack of time (for most projects), partly laziness (for some others). Let me take you through the list:

- The Baby book project which I started in 2011 before my first baby was born, you can see how far I got there. Baby n°2 is to arrive soon and this book hasn't got any further... Let's see if I have time to get working on it before Christmas, but I doubt it. Some others things are first in line!

- An album gathering all the cards, emails and text messages we received for our daughter's birth. I figured out Little N. might like to have a look at it when she is older, especially since all the cards are particularly pretty! That one is almost done, I just need to go and get a refill for my printer cartridges.

- For years and years I have been collecting receipts, tickets, photos, leaflets etc. in order to make "Holiday booklets" ... Well I have a huge box which has been sitting in the entrance for ages and is just screaming for a bit of attention. I guess I really should get on with it sooner than later, but probably again not before 2013. 

- A small embroidered cloth. Actually this is not really MY project as such and it is probably the oldest of the unfinished projects!! My Grand-mother started it as a young woman (if memory serves), she passed it onto me when I was about 11 or 12 years old (now about to turn 28!) and I have been busying myself with it from time to time since then. I wonder if I will ever finish it, or if I will also pass it onto my daughter or, who knows, my grand-daughter!! I feel no pressure about finishing this one though, I love taking it out from time to time and enjoy the feeling that I am using the same technics, fabric and even some of the thread that my Grand-mother used. It brings back lovely memories. 

And now, finally the rest of the list with pictures, that will be more "fun" to actually visualise them:

- Third oldest project, a knitted scarf. Rather not-so-great colours but well I was 15 years old when I started it. Even if those colours are still among my favourites, they are not the ones I would pick for a scarf today. Nevertheless I am absolutely determined to finish it some day. I started it the year one of my brothers was born, my mother laughed and said that maybe I would finish it for MY 18th birthday, now I am wondering if I will finish it for my brother's 18th birthday! Not that I intend to give it to him, I will keep it, but that sets a sort of deadline: 6 years to go ;-) YES I CAN!

- I guess I do not need to explain what I intend to do with that one. I just need to get on with it. Any ideas about the background colour that would fit best to all the masks?
- A pile of clothes to repair, baby clothes. I have started getting on with that pile and have made fair progress. I just need a little more courage to brave the remain of it! It goes rather quickly because the repairs are only minor ones, but seeing that big pile on my sofa just tends to put me off.
- I very much prefer looking at my sewing-basket. I cannot say much about it, but there you can see future Christmas presents!

- A cushion made by my Grand-mother. I had to wash it as shaking it by the window was not enough anymore to get rid of years of accumulated dust. The problem is that the filling material used for the cushion did not stand it (it was hand-wash thouhg), so my mother-in-law carefully separated the embroidered top from the rest and now it is up to me to find a new fabric and a new cushion in order to re-assemble the whole thing. The back fabric used to be brown. I wonder if I should keep the colour or choose a new one.

- Two of my old dolls, the one on the left is my very first one and she is also turning 28 soon. She still looks pretty good, but her body is weakening in some areas, mainly close to the arms, legs and head. My plan is to make up a new body that I would put on top of the old one as there is no way I would dislocate her and risk not making things right! The second doll, well... the problem is with the hair, I need to find a way to make it look acceptable. Then only my daughter will be able to play with both dolls.
 - Of those two I cannot say much as they are intended as presents (almost a year late now), so I leave it to you imagination to guess what the final result will be. Hopefully I can show you after Christmas.


- More baby projects: a hat which I started in February I think, I can still just add a ribbon and it is done... Will try to do that in the next two weeks. And on the right is material which I wanted to transform into another mobile. Let's see how it turns out!

- Another old thing: the top part of the lady was the figure on top of the cake at my Christening! I've kept it all these years and when I was about 12 or so, my mother and I started trying to put something together to make her a dress and transform her from being a mere bust, into being a standing figure. It is rather sad to have to admit that the only thing left to do is to hand-sew the purple fabric! I am now aiming at finding a little bit of time in the next weeks to finish this and proudly put it on my bedroom shelf (I cannot expose it anywhere else considering once again the fabrics I chose back then!)
- And to finish with (although I am sure I will find some more when I get on tidying my DIY cupboard), the latest thing I've had in mind: Little N. is starting to eat alone (oh joy!). I already bought an oil-cloth for the table which renders the cleaning after each meal much easier and faster than with normal table cloth! And I bought an extra small piece (of a different colour), a cheap towel and velcroband in order to make her a new looooong bib. The ones I have are very good but they do not cover her legs which currently often end up being full of mash, or whatever we had for lunch. I probably should start very quickly as my girl is showing more and more signs of independance which means that the mess is just going to grow.

And that's without counting the patterns which I bought earlier this year to make pretty dresses for my daughter, the many pieces of fabrics which I have both under my bed and in the cellar, and the cushion pattern which I just bought online from OneInchWorld (check it out by the way, Katherine has loads of brilliant ideas!).

How about you now? What are you unfinished projects? Do you have many? Would you show them to us and make all of us feel less bad about them? ;-)

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Guest for dinner

Hi everyone!

My last post being from the 29th of August, I thought it would be high time to post something! I missed out on the last Book Challenge post, the next one is coming in about two weeks, I will make sure I do not forget it this time! But for now I want to talk about cooking and lovely food :)
Food is a big part of my life and I am lucky to have married a man who is in the same state of mind. On the weekend for the first time in ages we have taken a bit of time to cook together while our young lady was having a nap, and it was the first time EVER that we could cook next to each other, two different things, without stepping on each other's feet - we've had our new kitchen since February but never got the occasion... Anyway, a friend of ours, who has moved to a far away country for a couple of years, was back in our home-town and came for dinner. We then decided on a special menu that I am presenting you now:

Starter: Tuna Rillettes

* 400 gr Tuna (tin)
* 300 gr Cream cheese
* 1 Lemon
* Chives and Shallot
Drain the tuna and crumble it with a fork in a bowl, adding the cream cheese and the lemon juice. One can also add the lemon peel, chives and shallot.Put it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

I had intended it to be eaten as such, but my husband (and our guest) did prefer spreading it on a nicely toasted piece of bread. As you can see, there is something else presented with the tuna. Well that is the next recipe:

Lemon Curd

- 3 Lemons
- 100 gr Sugar
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 Tablespoon Cornstarch

1/ With a whisk, whip the eggs in a small bowl.
2/Wash the lemons, and get the peel of one and a half lemon over a sauce-pan. Add the juice of the three lemons, the sugar and the cornstarch. Mix everything above a low heat.
3/ Then add the whipped eggs to the mixture, above high heat this time, but keep on beating strongly otherwise it will burn! Beat the mixture until it becomes thicker.
4/ Take off the heat and pour into clean jars/glasses. Leave it to cool down and then put it in the fridge.
This lemon curd can be kept in the fridge for about a week.
You can find the original recipe in French there. With the given quantities I obtained the equivalent of (maybe) 150gr of lemon curd. It just tastes delicious both with savory dishes but also as sweet spread in the morning for instance.

We then moved on to the main dish. I, unfortunately, did not take pictures of it when it came out of the oven, which is a shame really as the cheese had completely, nicely melted on the baked potatoes:

Main: Tartiflette with mushrooms, accompanied with lettuce and vinaigrette

If you want to see what it looks like, I send you back to this previous post of mine. The only thing is that I did not use the meat since we were already having fish for starter, instead I cooked some mushrooms with the onions. It is also a nice option if you ever get a vegetarian guest (or if you are one yourself), but to be honest I have a preference for the meat version.
The vinaigrette was made of olive oil, old-fashion mustard (with seeds), and balsamic vinegar with lemon (I had found this special vinegar in Lidl in the "Deluxe" products). Eating the lettuce with the tartiflette adds a little bit of freshness and lightness to the heavy dish. 
We also had a bottle of Sauvignon blanc to accompany the meal (well, fruit juice for me but nevermind).

After a little bit of chatting and digesting (yes, I thought the portions would be small enough but as per usual I was wrong - I always am when I prepare a meal!), we decided we were ready for our dessert:

Dessert: Ginger and White Chocolate Mini- Cheesecakes

Serves 6
- 200g of gingernut biscuits
- 100g of butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 450g of cream cheese
- 200g of white chocolate
- 100ml of cream
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of icing sugar

The Method
1 /Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until you have fine breadcrumbs.  Pour in the melted butter and ginger and process until everything is mixed through.
2/ Gently push the biscuit base into individual serving pots and set aside.  Don’t press down too hard as you want nice loose spoonfuls of biscuit with the cheesecake mix.
3/ Slowly melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a small pot of simmering water.
4/ Put the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and add the white chocolate, cream, vanilla extract, and sugar.
5/ Beat all the ingredients together until you get a nice light mixture.
6/ Spoon the cream cheese mix into the serving pots, smooth the top and garnish with a sprinkling of thinly sliced white chocolate.
7/ Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

This recipe comes from this website (on which I will be surfing a little more in the next months I think!). But there is a bit of a story about why I choose this specific dessert. My husband and I used to live in England, and we loved going to several restaurants, one in particular: Wagamama, where I would always have the same dessert: Ginger and White Chocolate Cheesecake. This was served with a delicious Chili Toffee Ginger Sauce. Now that we are in Germany, I quite regret that cheesecake but never really got the idea of trying to make one... Until last week when I learned we would have a guest. So I searched for THE recipe, but there is no official one. The one that I liked best was the one by Donal Skehan. Unfortunately I did not find Gingernut biscuits, so I used spekuloos instead (which proved to be ok, next time though I want to have a look in the British shop that we have in town). The result was just brilliant (apart from the fact that I pressed too hard the biscuit base)!
To accompany the mini-cheesecakes, I had made a Ginger Toffee Sauce with this recipe (you need to scroll down to get the sauce recipe). I had intended to add a hint of Chili powder to get closer to the Wagamama sauce, but I simply forgot. Ah well, next time :)
Incidentally I did not choose this cheesecake recipe because of the mascarpone which I find too heavy.

Ginger Toffee Sauce
If you pay attention to the recipe and to the picture of my ingredients, I did not use stem ginger, I had forgotten to look up what it is before the day I cooked... We had a jar of Minced Ginger in the fridge though and it did the trick perfectly! The other thing was that we are not in Englang anymore. What do you replace double-cream with? Well, Schmand seems to be a very good alternative.
Have you noticed my little helper? It was the first time I was asking her to help me in the kitchen. 13 months old and doing her first cooking steps ;) We started with a wooden pin-roll, she was standing and trying to aim at the biscuits in the bags on the ground, but she had difficulties aiming. So after racking my brain for a good 10 minutes, I came up with the idea of using her toy-hammer. She was not very effective as she did not put any strength in the movement, but at least she had a lot of fun!

That's it! The rillettes, lemon curd and toffee sauce were made on the day before, then in the afternoon of the dinner I made the cheesecake and about one hour before serving I started preparing the Tartiflette. It really did not take that much time thanks to the fact that my husband and I managed to get organised and to do things calmly and in the right order. It was the first time we had guests in our new flat and almost since we've had our daughter (apart from my in-laws) and I was a bit afraid of what it would be like. However things went smoothly, even the tidying and washing-up part afterwards, so I trust we can have some more or those dinners in the future (not too many though, but from time to time) and we can get back to enjoying cooking and using our lovely kitchen!

Talking about using the kitchen, it is almost lunch time, it is now my duty to check what we will have on our menu today, so off I go!
Let me know if you try out any of the above recipes and how you like them :)