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Thursday, 19 January 2017

A REVIEW OF 2016

Happy New Year to you,

I am sorry, I'm a little late, in wishing you a Happy New Year, but I do have a very good reason. We have been away on holiday and only returned home last Wednesday. I have to tell you, it has taken us all week to recover from jet lag. For days we were waking in the early hours of the morning feeling really hungry,  we didn't know whether it was breakfast, lunch or supper time. 

Now as  you know, I love every aspect of Christmas, but this year, December felt a little off kilter, because I had nothing to organise.  Yes I had bought our Christmas gifts, but  there was no Christmas food to prepare, no Christmas decorations to put up and no Christmas tree to decorate.

.... but I have to tell you, although the run up to Christmas felt strange, Christmas itself was amazing and I had the most wonderful 3 week holiday.  

Christmas Day was such a treat, as we went to a restaurant for our Christmas meal. I wore my favourite dress, I put on my favourite pair of shoes and I felt like a million dollars. You see, these days, I rarely have a reason to dress up, so when the opportunity does presents itself, I make sure I savour every moment. 

At the restaurant, there was an amazing range of food to choose from, with each dish being truly exceptional, but the one thing which surprised me, was seeing sprouts on the menu.... this made George very happy as he loves sprouts.

I think, maybe it is time I stop waxing lyrical, because I feel I might give the game away.  I am going to keep you in suspense until next week, because I need just a little more time to organise my photographs, but what I will tell you, is, we did not visit warmer climes, oh no, the place we visited was even colder than the North East of England. In fact the temperatures have been known to be as low as -20C... now that is cold. It makes our North East winters seem almost tropical.

So instead of writing about the last 3 weeks, I thought it would be nice to look back a little further and revisit 2016. I know we are supposed to look forward, but I also like to look back, because it reminds me of how much I have achieved in the past year.

So come along with me and let's remind ourselves of what we did in 2016..




After all the rich food we ate during the Christmas festivities,  our palates craved fresher flavours.  





So we made these prawns with a touch of spice. It was fun reading the words I had written, because this was the first post of 2016.  I was deciding whether or not to battle the elements and drive to my sewing group.  In the end I decided to drive, and I was so pleased I did, because we all managed to make it through the bad weather. Some friends arrived later than others, but when everyone arrived, it was so lovely catching up with each others news.




In February George was unwell, so I needed to be around to keep an eye on him.  It was a lovely sunny day, but as you know, when the sun shines, it can highlight those places in our homes where dust has gathered a little more than we thought. So one thing lead to another, I started dusting and washing plates and kept myself very busy.  I ended the day with a cup of coffee and I put my feet up, to watch the film 'African Queen'.  All in all a good day.




During March, we made  Rice with Green Lentils.  I have to say, I really enjoy this rice dish. This is where I introduced you to a 90 year old friend of ours, who has long since past. Rose was a wonderfully, eccentric lady, who loved to smoke cigars. There are people we meet in our lives, who have such an impact on us, and for me Rose was, one such person. Today, we know that cigarettes and cigars are unhealthy and we have the information to enable us to make our own choices, but remember, Rose came from a time when it was popular to smoke. It's incredible to think that people even thought that smoking was healthy.  I remember Sadie, George's mother, telling me that she started to smoke as a young woman, because the film stars of the day, looked so exotic when they smoked.  If you watch 1940's films, you can't fail to notice that most people were smoking. What I admired about Rose, was that all her life, she was a fiercely independent woman.




April arrived and we visited the Isle of Wight, just off the south coast of England.  We had a wonderful few days away and the weather was so very kind to us. It was a treat to see these beautiful thatched cottages.




We also made this appetising lemon cheesecake. It looks very impressive, but it was so easy to make.
April was the month I decided I needed to sort out my messy kitchen drawer.  I discovered recipes from 2011 which I had cut out of newspapers and magazines. At the time I had fully intended to recreate these recipes, but I just never got around to it. Do I still have those recipes.... well yes, some I kept, I just could not bring myself to throw them all away.



During May it snowed, yes you read that correctly, snow in May.  Consequently, I had to rush around the garden re-covering the lemon tree and the olive trees. We certainly did not expect snow in May, but once the snow had disappeared it was nice to see which plants were beginning to flower in the garden. It is a nice reminder of what is waiting for us, just around the corner.

During June, July and August, I had a break, because I was helping George decorate the house.



I wrote again in September. If you have been reading Ivy, Phyllis and Me! for a while, you will certainly know about my love of potatoes.  I really don't mind how they are cooked, as I love them, any which way.... but I have to tell you, these spicy potatoes are rather good. 



Oh my word, do you remember in October, we made this Brioche Pudding, which was so decadent, but oh so delicious. I think this was one of my favourite puddings of the year. I admit not very good for the waistline, but every now and again, it is alright to indulge just a little.

November brought something a little different.  I had been practising my crochet skills and was thrilled with how this frilled throw turned out.  I use it often, as it is perfect for snuggling up whilst  reading a book.


Then before we knew it, December had arrived and whilst I had no Christmas preparations to complete, I could not let Christmas pass by without making something a little festive.  So I shared this Christmas mulled cider.... which received a perfect score of 10 from George.

So that is a reminder of what we did in the year 2016 and whilst it has been fun looking back, I am very excited for the year ahead.  Who knows what will happen, who knows what exciting things lay ahead for us all.... I for one cannot wait to find out.

So, as always, take good care of yourself and I will catch up with you next Thursday.









Thursday, 15 December 2016

WISHING YOU, A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Good Afternoon to you,


My Christmas gifts have been bought
 and 
they are wrapped,
ready for Christmas Day.


Those which needed posting are winging their way to our family and friends,
whilst the Christmas gifts for family and friends
 who live locally, have been wrapped,
 delivered by hand and placed underneath 
the Christmas trees.


Our Christmas cards have been written and posted by George, who, bless him, 
braved the queue, at the post office, for over
 an hour, waiting to post our 
Christmas cards.
 He is such a super star.


So all there is left for me to say is,


from George and myself,


HAVE A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS




and I will catch up with you in the middle of January, when I will have some fun things to tell you about. 

.....but  before I leave you, I wanted to share with you, a Christmas song, which our daughters Natasha and Danielle used to sing, when they were little girls.


O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum)


O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Thy leaves are so unchanging;
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Thy leaves are so unchanging.


O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Much pleasure thou can'st give me;
How often has the Christmas tree
Afforded me the greatest glee,
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree,
Much pleasure thou can'st give me.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Thy candles shine so brightly,
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Thy candles shine so brightly,
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There's only splendour for the sight.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Thy candles shine so brightly.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How richly God has decked thee,
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How richly God has decked thee,
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How richly God has decked thee.

.... and I love this version by Andrea Bocelli


Such lovely memories.


HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY


WITH WARMEST WISHES






Thursday, 8 December 2016

CHRISTMAS MULLED CIDER

Good Afternoon to you,


It has been a sad week, for us, here at Ivy, Phyllis and Me!

.... because we lost not one, but two of George's uncles.

.... each passed away within a few days of each other,  so our hearts are feeling a little heavy at the moment.

Friends mean well, but I keep hearing the words "At least, they lived a good long life". You see both uncles, were in their 80's when they passed away, but you know, those words are hard to hear, when you are the person who has lost their loved one. George's aunt does not want to hear those words, because she did not see her husband as aged 80 years, her eyes only saw the young man, she fell in love with, all those years ago. It is interesting because when you have been together for a long time, you really don't notice that your partner has aged, your eyes really do see the same person, you fell in love with.

.... and I can attest to that, because George and I have been together for over 40 years and on a day to day basis, I really have not noticed him ageing.  Of course when I look at old photographs,  I can see the difference in us both, the bloom of youth has long since disappeared, so you would think I would notice the change in George, but I don't.... my eyes still see the man I married.

So George's aunt, who was married to the man she loved for 65 years is left to face a life alone.  The family will gather around her and care for her, but it will not fill the hole which George's uncle has left behind.

So if your loved ones are in the house, stop what you are doing and give them a hug and tell them you love them. 

They will love it and so will you.

.... and talking of smiles, George's uncle was of Irish descent and he loved a good party. Whenever we gathered for a family party, sometime during the evening, we would hear the words, '1 singer, 1 song' which basically meant, it was time to be quiet because someone was going to sing a song, which of course we all loved.

I remember one evening, when George's aunt and uncle came to stay with us in Cyprus, supper had finished and the dishes had been washed and put away, but no one wanted to leave the table, we were content to stay where we were. We had our coffee and continued to sit around the table talking. George and his uncle were in fine form and told us rip roaring jokes, we laughed so much that our sides were splitting.  Then  George's uncle sang.... and we all joined in.  It was one of those perfect evenings, that will stay with us forever.

So today, I thought I would play something in honour of George's uncle.



He was such a lovely man.... and for us, he will be missed.... but oh how he was loved.... and isn't that the most wonderful thing,  that when we leave this earth, we leave knowing we were loved.

.... and if you have the time, please spare a thought for George's aunt, and think of her in your prayers, as it will surely help her along her new path in life.

So today, I thought I would make,


a little tipple in honour of George's uncle.  He wasn't much of a drinking man, although he enjoyed the odd drink at Christmas and New Year. He would have loved this Christmas Mulled Cider.... although he would have asked me why there was so much 'other stuff in the drink'.... he meant no harm, he was just a plain talking man and cider was cider, why would you need to add anything else.... and do you know what else he loved.... Christmas sweet mince pies.

So it's on with the pinnie and it is time to gather my ingredients.


INGREDIENTS
YOU WILL NEED
TO MAKE
CHRISTMAS MULLED CIDER

1 litre dry cider
3 cloves
3 star anise
1 x 3 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
1 large orange - juiced

HOW TO
MAKE
CHRISTMAS MULLED CIDER


(I couldn't resist pouring the cider into George's
empty decanter.
The decanter was bought to celebrate
Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. 
I did try to photograph the inscription,
but sadly I failed.)

Pour the cider into a large saucepan

and



add
the cinnamon stick,
the cloves,
and the
star anise,
into the saucepan,


along with the grated nutmeg,




and
1 tablespoon of brown sugar 
(keep the other tablespoon of brown sugar in reserve for the moment)

and



also add
the orange juice.

Stir the ingredients together.
Cover the saucepan with a lid


 and

place over a high heat until boiling.
  Reduce the temperature so that the cider is gently simmering.

Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and very carefully taste (remember the mulled cider will be piping hot).  You might find you do not need the extra tablespoon of brown sugar.... I tend to omit it for George, but you know about me and my sweet tooth, I always divide the mulled cider in half and add the extra tablespoon, to my half.

This is the point where you have a choice.

You can serve this Christmas Mulled Cider straight away or you can allow the cider to cool, with the spices and refrigerate it overnight to use the following evening. I find the flavours infuse much more when I leave it overnight, but that is just a personal preference.

If serving straight away, strain through a nylon sieve and discard the spices.


Pour the Christmas mulled cider into heatproof glasses,
 and,
as always,

Enjoy.

George's uncle loved Christmas cake and mince pies, so I think I will drink my Christmas mulled cider, eat my mince pie and raise a toast to the man who was so loved within the family. 

It was a pleasure to know him.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.


This week I will be joining,



and
and

As Always




Thursday, 1 December 2016

CHOCOLATE FILO COIL

Good Afternoon to you,

Did you brave Black Friday, the new phenomenon which has crossed the water from America?

My goodness, the first year Black Friday arrived, I was horrified to see how people behaved. It turned, what I perceived, to be normal people, into aggressive people, pushing and shoving each other, to bag a bargain. I can honestly say, I had never seen anything like it. For instance, there were a couple of people shown on television, arguing over the same television set. They were pushing each other, trying to keep their hands on the television and they were so aggressive. It really was a sad sight. I remember thinking at the time, that if the television was still inside the box, it would be neither use nor ornament, because by the time the couple had argued over it, the television would be smashed to smithereens.

So last year, I avoided Black Friday, only to discover that many other people had avoided it as well and that the shops were pretty quiet.

So this year, George and I decided we would test the waters and buy our Christmas gifts on Black Friday. On Thursday evening, we sat down and listed our family and friends and thought about each gift we wanted to buy. George usually shops for the men in our family and I shop for the girls. We agreed, when shopping, there would be no dilly dallying, we would not be side tracked, we would focus on our lists.

We were up and about early on Friday and braced ourselves, but do you know what, we were fine.  At the start of the morning there were no crowds, but we did not linger. As agreed, we went to each shop and bought the gift we wanted and when we reached the end of the list, we decided to go home.

I have to tell you, it was just as well we decided to shop early in the morning, because by the time we had finished our shopping, the town was jam packed with people. 

.... and as we were walking through the crowds, we were secretly smiling to ourselves, because we knew, we were heading home,  to put our feet up and enjoy a cup of coffee.... oh such a nice feeling.

.... and what goes nicely with a cup of coffee? Well, chocolate of course, so this delicious Chocolate Filo Coil certainly hits the spot.

I love using filo pastry in savoury pies and sweet pies,  although I don't use it as much as I used to. 


A friend of mine gave me this recipe a number of years ago, and I found it whilst leafing through one of my old cookery books. So I thought it the perfect thing to make, especially as I love, the combination of chocolate, ground almonds and chopped dates, especially Medjool dates.... for me they are Top of the Pops where dates are concerned. You know about me and my sweet tooth, plus the flavours are so Christmassy.

So it's on with the pinnie and the music I am listening to is,


the marvellous Milos Karadaglic.  I adore this album and today I was in the mood to listen to some beautiful music.

I wanted you to listen to,  El Testament d'Amelia, which is on this album, but I could not find a You tube clip.  So instead I chose Quizas, Quizas, Quizas.... listen to it and tell me if you recognise the music.



So while your listening I will gather my ingredients.

INGREDIENTS 
YOU WILL NEED
TO MAKE
CHOCOLATE FILO COIL

Serves 6-8 people

275g packet of filo pastry ~ thawed
75g unsalted butter

For Dusting

1 level teaspoon of icing sugar           
1 level teaspoon of dark cocoa powder
1 level teaspoon of cinnamon             

The Filling

75g unsalted butter
125g dark chocolate
115g ground almonds
115g chopped dates
75g icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

You will need a 25cm round cake tin

HOW TO 
MAKE A
CHOCOLATE FILO COIL

Butter the cake tin.

CHOCOLATE FILLING

Place the butter with the chocolate into a heatproof bowl.

Bring a quarter filled pan of water to the boil, reduce to a simmer and place the bowl containing the butter and chocolate over the pan. 

Do not allow the bowl to touch the simmering water. If it does, then empty some of the water from the pan. Make sure the bowl fits comfortably.

When melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Place a tea towel on your work surface so that the bowl does not slip. Stir the butter and chocolate together.

Add the ground almonds
Add the chopped dates
Add the icing sugar
and finally,
Add the cinnamon.


and mix the ingredients together.  The mixture will slowly come together.

Set aside to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F



Melt the butter.

Then

gently unroll the filo pastry.

Remove the first sheet and brush with the melted butter.

Lay another sheet on top of the first sheet and brush the second sheet with melted butter.


Place some of your chocolate filling along the bottom edge of the filo pastry, about 1/2 inch from the edge and gently roll the filo into a long sausage shape.  With each turn, brush with melted butter.  I find this much easier than trying to turn the flat sheets of filo pastry.  It will take a little longer, but it is worth the effort.

To give you a guide, I used 8 teaspoonfuls of chocolate mix for each roll.  Do not overfill each roll, because otherwise, when you get to the final roll, you will not have enough mixture.


Place the first roll around the outside of the buttered cake tin.

and

repeat the process, until


the cake tin is full.

Brush the coil with the remaining melted butter.
If you find you do not have enough melted
butter, then just melt a little more.

Place the Chocolate Filo Coil in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the filo pastry is a golden brown.


Allow the pastry to cool a little and dust with the icing sugar mixture.  As you can see, the icing sugar has melted, because my filo coil was a little hot. I really did not have the time to cool the filo coil. 
Can you guess why?
Yes, you've guessed it. You certainly know my husband.
 The aroma from the kitchen had George walking in and out of the kitchen, ready and waiting for the coil to be baked.

So

just like George,

cut a slice,

pour over some single cream

and

Enjoy.  

If you do not want to make a coil, once the filo pastry is filled with the chocolate mixture and rolled, you could also cut the roll into 2 or 3 inch pieces and cook as individual pastries.  I feel sure you would probably have to adjust the cooking time, but I cannot imagine by much.

I tell you what, next time I make this Chocolate Filo Coil, I will cut the rolls and bake them and I will let you know how long they take.

So take care and I will see you next Thursday.

As Always,







Thursday, 24 November 2016

MY HARRIS NO 1 H SEWING MACHINE

Good Afternoon to you,


I am always excited to receive a birthday gift, an anniversary gift or a Christmas gift, but do you know, I am even more excited, when I receive an unexpected gift.


.... and this is exactly what happened a few weeks ago, when I received,


this vintage Harris Sewing Machine.

Firstly I was thrilled, that our friend Nick, even thought about me and secondly that he would take the time to drive, a couple of hundred miles, to our house, to deliver this vintage sewing machine right to my door.... how kind was that.


When it arrived, it came with this beautiful wooden cover. As you can see the handle is missing, but I am going to see if I can find a replacement.


I have never heard of a Harris Sewing Machine, and as yet, I have not had the time to do any research. When I have a spare 5 minutes, I will begin to look into the history of this sewing machine.... which I am looking forward to doing.

I'm not even sure if Harris is an English make, of course there is the possibility that this Harris sewing machine could have been made in America. I will let you know when I find out.


I am intrigued to discover this machines history, because when you take a closer look at the gold and orange design around the base of the machine, it looks more like an Indian design.  I do know, the previous owner of this machine, travelled the world, but whether this machine was bought in India or made for the export market, I'm not sure.


I am intrigued by the bobbin, because I have never seen this design before.  I have left the thread hanging so that you can see the position of the bobbin. 



I love that the needle size required for this machine is etched on the little plate.... a great idea isn't it. I know it will be of no use to me now, but back in the day, when this machine was being used, if the handbook was ever lost, the owner would always have the needle size to hand. 


.... and look at this little bobbin case, it looks more like a shuttle. It took a little getting used to, because at first I found it difficult to slot the case into the machine, but after a little practice I was fine.

.... and take a closer look at the stamped design. You can see how vibrant  the colours are, it's as if the design had only recently been stamped onto the machine.... can you tell I'm a tad excited by this sewing machine.


This beautiful machine, does need some tender loving care, as it has been put away for many years and not used. Do you know, I am so pleased to be the one to administer the tender loving care this machine needs.

I do have a friend who knows of someone who repairs vintage sewing machines.  So after Christmas, I will be paying the gentleman a visit, to see what can be done, to bring this lovely machine back to full working order.

....and what do you think of,


my Christmas Cactus?  

Isn't it just fabulous.

This little plant lies dormant for the whole year, not looking particularly attractive, but when late November arrives, it flowers and it flowers and it flowers. It  changes from a mundane plant into the most spectacular plant.

The position in the port hole is perfect as the cactus has plenty of light.  Once a month, I very carefully, turn the plant, because apparently if you move the plant too much, it will not flower so well, that year. I also water it just a little, not too much, but enough that the plant can drink. One word of advice would be, if your not sure whether or not to water your plant, my recommendation would be, touch the top soil, if it is dry, then it is time to water, but the one thing you must never do, is over water, they hate waterlogged soil.

Oh yes and when you see the tips of the cactus turning red, it is time to feed the plant.

I am so thrilled to say, I have been doing the right thing, because this flowering Christmas Cactus looks amazing.

Don't you agree?

Before I leave you, I would like to wish all my American friends, 

'A Happy Thanksgiving'.

Take care and I will see you next Thursday.


This week I will be joining,

and
As Always,







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