Sunday 27 November 2016

Mosaic Monday # 18. Seasonal preparations.

Eating home made mince pies is a British tradition that the SP and I have kept up ever since we left Merrie Olde England over 30 years ago.
Whether we celebrated in the snowy wonderland of Bavaria or a rural backwater in Normandy there have always been mince pies to eat at Christmas.

Over the years I have tried Delia's, the Hairy Bikers and Jamie Oliver's recipes to name just three but the basic list of ingredients - dried fruits (raisins, sultanas & currants), suet, sugar, candied peel, mixed spices and brandy always remains the same.
One other thing that stays the same is the bowl that I mix my ingredients in, a classic cream coloured stone ware T G Green "Gripstand" bowl.

With Christmas fast approaching I decided that it was time to start preparing this years batch, so on Saturday afternoon I gathered all the ingredients together ready for the first stage.
After weighing, measuring and mixing everything, except the brandy, together I covered the bowl and left it to stand overnight on the kitchen windowsill.

On Sunday morning I added 2 tablespoons of Cognac and at the SP's suggestion 2 tablespoons of Cointreau to enhance the zest and juice of the oranges and lemons before placing the bowl in a low oven (120C) for about 3 hours.
After the mince meat had cooled a little I spooned it into clean warm jars before storing them in the pantry.

As the mixture slowly matures the flavours will continue to deepen until I'm ready to make the pies.
If the sweet and spicy aroma pervading the kitchen yesterday is anything to go by I'm guessing there'll be a request for some pies by next weekend at the latest!

Thursday 24 November 2016

Five On Friday - IKEA festive 5

This week Storm Angus has been battering our little corner of Normandy, most mornings have seen us returning home from walking Fleur looking like drowned rats holding useless umbrellas blown inside out by strong gales. Some areas of the Marais are starting to flood already.
Clearing up in the garden has had to take a back seat (shame!) instead we've stayed indoors enjoying log fires, good books and lots of tea.
You can have too much of a good thing though and eventually cabin fever did set in so on Thursday we headed over to IKEA in Caen for a little retail therapy and lunch.
For my Five On Friday with Amy this week five things that came home with me from the blue box store.

A pair of table topping Christmas trees, faux of course.
Apologies for the terrible photograph.

Fingertip towels for the downstairs cloakroom; stylish black and white paper napkins for tea time.

Lots of scented candles.

Bright shiny red baubles for the two new faux trees.

That's my Five, click on the link below to see what Amy's been up to this week.

Sunday 20 November 2016

Mosaic Monday # 17. Getting Crafty.

I've been a scrap booker for about eight or nine years and set up a separate blog called just scrapping about four years ago which has been sadly neglected of late.
The blog not scrapbooking!

I belong to a fabulous on line scrapbooking community "UK Scrappers" and have made many friends there, firstly on line and then at a scrap booking retreat last year in Bourneville, England.
I love to decorate tags and two of my favourite groups on UKS this past year have been the monthly Circle Journal tag swap hosted by Jill and the bi-monthly Chinese Whisper tag swap hosted by Elaine.

Jill provides a theme for the Circle Journal swap each month and we have to produce three tags of our own design to fit the theme.

When complete the tags are sent to Jill who then distributes them between us all, so 3 tags in and 3 very different tags back.

As you can see the themes are sometimes, but not always, seasonal.

The Chinese Whisper swap works a little differently.
It's all done by email,  a single tag to scrap lift every two weeks and that means that we get to keep the tag we made - it's a win-win.

Above are four of the tags that I made from prompts emailed to me by the person ahead of me in the circle.

The centre tag above is the one I chose to begin my circle, on the left my take on the first prompt, on the right my final tag of the round.
Both swaps have ended now but hopefully there'll be another CJ starting in the New Year.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Mosaic Monday - # 16. November days.

The first week of November certainly blew in with gusto bringing leaves and conkers swirling down and back breaking work for the Senior Partner and me.

Add to that a house front covered by an ancient Virginia Creeper resplendent in vibrant reds, oranges and yellows and there was no mistaking that fall had arrived in Normandy.

Strange looking fungi have appeared at the base of a damson tree, they look edible. Friends have identified them as honey fungus and advised me that they are not to be consumed!

Autumn has also made itself felt in the kitchen.
The last green tomatoes became a deep, rich and fragrant chutney.

Butternut squash, chopped carrots, whole garlic cloves and onions with a handful of dried mixed herbs,oven roasted in a delicious Rapeseed oil which the Senior Partner discovered at the Ludlow Food Festival in early September.

After roasting I blended the veggies with 2 litres of hot homemade chicken stock to make a deliciously rich soup.
The ideal antidote at lunchtime to hours of back breaking leaf raking.
On Saturday night I topped left over supermarket rotisserie chicken with a herby cobbler, a warming supper to be enjoyed by the fireside, watching Strictly.

I'm always surprised at how economical rotisserie chickens are compared to fresh, have you noticed that too?
Simple, heart warming, timeless.
These are some of the dishes I turn to at this time of year when the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting darker.

Sunday 6 November 2016

MosaicMonday # 15 - Attingham Park, Shropshire.

On our last trip over to the UK we spent a lovely morning touring Attingham Park a perfect example of Georgian architecture located close to the village of Atcham in Shropshire.
If you're a Downton Abbey fan you'll like this story.
Here's a brief history.......................
Attingham was built between 1772 and 1785 by George Steuart for Noel Hill, 1st Baron Berwick. There was already a house on the site, called Tern Hall, which was incorporated into the new building.

Tern Hall is the lower building on the left
which was incorporated into Attingham Park in the 1780's
The 1st Baron was a politician and friend of the then Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger,.
He made his fortune through politics and business and with his wife Anne had six children, the only children ever to live at Attingham Park.
The 2nd Lord Berwick was Thomas who inherited the title at the tender age of 19. He remained unmarried until he was 41 when he married 17 year old Sophia Dubochet.

Having always lived an extravagant life Thomas was forced to auction off many of the contents of Attingham Park before being declared bankrupt in 1827 at which time he and Sophia fled to Italy to escape their creditors.

Thomas died, childless, in exile in 1832.

At the time of the bankruptcy auctions Thomas' younger brother, William, (3rd Lord Berwick) was the ambassador to Italy. He attempted to buy back as many auctioned pieces as possible and reinstated them at Attingham alongside 18th century Italian furniture acquired during his ambassadorship.

When he inherited the title he moved into Attingham with his Italian mistress who bore him several illegitimate children who would not inherit.

The Baronetcy passed to a younger brother Richard, a clergyman, who had never expected to inherit the title. However, he very much enjoyed living the life of a country gentleman and once again the Berwick family fortunes were depleted. The estate's very extensive wine cellars were especially diminished by the 4th Lord Berwick.
Although a confirmed bachelor Richard fathered many illegitimate sons which meant that the title continued.
His son Richard became the 5th Lord, he restored the family's fortunes creating a model farm and establishing a nationally famous herd of Herefordshire cattle.

His brother the 6th Lord was a 60 year old military man when he inherited the title, like Richard, he was childless and never resided at Attingham Park.
The 7th Lord wasn't a direct descendent of the Parson and came to the title through another branch of the family. He married a Swedish woman, together they were content to spend their days sailing the Mediterranean and spending the Berwick fortune, they never lived at Attingham.

Downstairs: the Butler's pantry, Housekeepers Parlour and Estate Managers Office.
During the First Word War Thomas, 7th Lord Berwick, let Attingham Park to a tenant who established a hospital for wounded soldiers.
After the war Thomas married Theresa Hulton in 1919 and mortgaged the house to facilitate the purchase of paintings, sculptures, carpets and furnishings necessary because the tenants of the house had been very neglectful and many of the rooms were uninhabitable. Thomas and Theresa made the restoration of the house their life's work, selling 4000 of the estates 8000 acres to finance the work.
When Thomas died in 1947 he left the house to the National Trust who leased it to Sir George Trevelyan who then set up an Adult Education College.

In the 1990's the National Trust began to painstakingly restore and renovate the house, I particularly enjoyed seeing the "Downstairs" rooms which have been wonderfully recreated.

Whilst we were touring the house we came across TV presenter Alistair Appleton with an "Escape to the Country" film crew in tow. I'm very much looking forward to watching that episode in the next series.
My internet connection this weekend is a little hit and miss, hopefully normal service will be resumed in time for MM.
Please go ahead and linkup as usual however it might take me a little longer to visit your blogs this week.