Bird watching

Hello all,

Man was I looking forward to the weekend- this week has been flat out, and after having a few weekends away it was nice to have time at home to look forward to. This morning (after a lovely lie in and then a trip to the post office along with half the town) I went on a run. I have not been on a long run for a few weeks, but seeing as on Wednesday I managed to keep a pretty fast pace with the Sweatshop run (the guy from the shop even said how much he had noticed I had improved) I thought that I would still be fine for my lovely 8 mile route. It was cold, well, windy really, and after not being sure what to wear, ended up being just right- long sleeved craft top (love these, so cosy) and a jacket, gloves, tights and headband ear warmer- kept it all on the whole time. I did glance at my watch a few times to check I was not going too fast, or plodding too slow- most of the time I was about 11 min miles, so fine, and the 8 miles were just enjoyable. I saw a very pretty Jay bird (rusty coloured with bright blue streaks on the wings), so I stood and watched it for a bit, after all, I am in no hurry. Then later I saw a kestrel (you do see them a lot, but it was really close) so I stopped then too. I did the run in exactly 90 mins, which I am happy with. I have done it quicker, but I have also run it slower, and really I am just enjoying running at the moment. I am signed up to the Brighton Half in the Spring, so after Christmas I will concentrate on speeding up a bit, hopefully.

When I got home it was time for a late lunch- tomato soup and some pop chips, which I was sent to try. I was quite impressed.

This week I have been finishing getting all the Christmas things ready. I have made marmalade, fudge, written cards, wrapped presents- I love it. We put the tree and decorations up on Wednesday evening.

I can’t seem to get a good photo, so that will have to do. I went for lights and decorations, but no tinsel or beads this year. Each year we have been adding to our decorations, and I have some lovely ones that I don’t want to be hidden by the tinsel.

This is one of my favourite decorations- we got this in Denmark a few years ago- it is nice to link decorations to memories I think.

I got some cute little tags in Bath so have been labelling the marmalade (and fudge) with those.

I am also going to be playing with my new present! We had “Christmas” with my parents last night as we are away (hopefully) over Christmas itself. They got for us a hot water dispenser- it will be getting a lot of use that’s for sure! We gave them their gifts, and they loved the robin Christmas cake- I don’t think they were expecting it at all. 🙂

I am also going to do a bit more baking- I need to make another batch of fudge for more presents, and we are seeing Andy’s family, and having a breakfast at work. I was sent a lovely book and some cookie cutters as a thanks for my Baking Mad post- how sweet. 🙂

Right, off to do some baking I think. Have a lovely weekend 🙂

Mad for Christmas baking!

Hello all

I was asked by the Baking Mad people to have a go at baking one of their Christmas recipes. That sounded right up my street.

I often use the website now as it is chock full of recipes, and I had no idea what I fancied so I ended up browsing for a long time.

I was so excited when I saw the instructions for making penguin decorations! Just what I was looking for!

There were some instructions, but I was a bit unsure as to the relative size of each piece. But, I am very pleased with the finished items. I was not sure how to make the tree, so I made a green cone, and then stuck on little triangles of green icing for the branches.

Then, when browsing again I saw a recipe for stollen bites. Stollen is one of my favourite cakes- I love anything with marzipan, and I think the spices just make it smell like Christmas. The recipe I usually use is a Rachel Allen one, but it does take a while, and this recipe seemed quicker so I decided to give it a go today.

The dough was easy to make, although in the recipe it mentioned adding sugar, but there was no amount given-I went for 50g as the dried fruit and marzipan sweeten it a lot. A word of warning- the dough is very sticky, but that is fine (and the same with other stollen recipes)- it is not like a bread dough, so not that easy to shape. It rested while I was at aerobics, and then I baked it while the oven was on for dinner.

You do have to dust it liberally with icing sugar when it comes out of the oven! Although I am sure that was no where near to the 50g stated in the recipe.

I thought it might be more like a recipe for individual ones, but you baked it in more of a rectangle shape, and then sliced it, although you could easily leave it as a loaf shape. If you fancy trying to make stollen then I would recommend this recipe, because it is much easier than the recipe I have used before, although I would add in some flaked almonds, as I love the crunch they add to the cake.

Perfect with a cup of tea, and it will freeze well too (if I can make it last that long….)

Baking mad also have some fab recipes for cupcakes, and some beautiful looking mince pies, so check them out if you fancy getting your festive bake on.

Are you a stollen fan? Are you decorating your Christmas cake this year? Any other festive recipes I should try?

I am off to try some stollen 🙂

Feeling even more festive!

Hey peeps!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. I had a brilliant weekend in Bath- I love it there.

We drove down on Friday night (our hotel was near Frome, so a bit outside of Bath), and then headed to the park and ride on Saturday morning. That seemed the best way by far (previously we have got the train in, but that is much more expensive as the park and ride was only £2.50 each for the bus with free parking). As we had only had a banana for breakfast we headed straight to Sally Lunn’s for a late brunch!

Yum yum, a bun with lemon curd, and an Earl Grey. Love it!

Then we were off shopping. My, the shops were packed! I had forgotten how busy city centres get this close to Christmas- normally I avoid the shops at this time of year. Anyway, I had a successful day as I had a list of people to buy for, and I managed to find little gifts for them all. The markets were so pretty, but packed (they even had a one way system going) so we had a little look, but decided to go back later (thanks to Lucy for the tip).

By around half 4 we were needing a rest, so headed to Starbucks, when I realised I had missed their 12 days of gifting this year- I meant to get one of their nice green cups but I totally forgot. Ah well, a yummy steamer with gingerbread syrup gave me some more energy.

We had a little look around the markets (so pretty in the dark) and then went to Giraffe for dinner (sweet potato fries mmmmm). Then we had a final wander and bought more gifts, and a few bits for me too (passionfruit curd- how yummy does that sound?). Andy did take a lot of photos (as usual) so I might pop some on here once he emails them to me. For now you shall have to make do with my purchases.

Some of the pretty decorations I bought- although the large wooden ones are for other people.

On Sunday we went to Stourhead, which is a National Trust property near to where we stayed. It was perfect, as they were having a festival of music, so there were local choirs and singers dotted around the grounds. We had a walk around the lake, a look around the house (all decorated with trees etc) and then went for tea (and carrot cake in my case). It was just so festive, I loved it.

I also bought a few more Christmas bits in the shop- the reindeer, and the Christmas tree tealight holder (the snowflake jar was from Bath).

When I got home I was planning on having a run, but it was about half 4, and I realised I had only eaten a banana for breakfast, and carrot cake for lunch- not ideal. So I lit the candles and concentrated on unpacking and tidying (and also searching you-tube for Christmas carols).

We watched the new Bourne film (which I was a bit apprehensive about as I love the first 3, but I really enjoyed it)- and had a nice snacky tea of ciabatta, cheese, salad and fruit.

And I had a lovely hot chocolate later on.

Love it!

This evening I went on a very cold run, and then have been writing some Christmas cards. I might even wrap some presents later!

Oh, and don’t forget to check out the lovely Christmas giveaway that is running at the moment- good luck!

 How are your Christmas preparations going? I am hoping we will put up our tree this week as I feel like the last person in the country to do it!

Win a Luxury Pamper kit!

The lovely folks at the Sainsbury’s food bloggers network have come up with a lovely pre-Christmas giveaway, and I was lucky enough to be one of the host blogs. You could win a lovely pamper kit, to give to someone as a lovely Christmas present.

The kit contains: Nip + Fabs body wash, body lotion, facial wash, hand cream, day cream, eye cream, relaxation mask, hydrating mask and facial scrub and is valued at £40.

Sounds fab, right?

All you have to do it leave a comment on here, saying who you would give the kit to, and why. A team at Sainsbury’s will judge the responses and decide who will win. The winners will be chosen on Monday 17th December, so the winner should get theirs in time for Christmas. Only open to UK people.

Good luck!