Gidday Soiree…A Hat Trick Of Birthdays

The inaugural Gidday soiree is done. My guests have left replete with good food, an indiscriminate amount of wine and feisty yet flowing conversation.

Le outdoor setting (or patio furniture as my American compatriate at work calls it) did me proud and the skies, while not exactly blue and sunshine-y, kept to themselves with not a drop of rain falling. That’s a minor miracle in itself given the past few weeks.

(Although as I woke this morning after yesterday’s intermittent and torrential rain, I do believe I closed my eyes and whispered ‘oh please just let it be dry!’ Maybe someone was listening.)

It has inspired me to do more of this. I have to say that I rather enjoyed having visitors to fuss over, deliberating over the menu during the week prior to strike the balance of both the ‘right’ quantity and trying out some new things.

(There was a chilli, cheese and corn loaf and some savoury rolls – basically a soft cheese mixture and some other ingredients wrapped in pita bread, chilled overnight and sliced – which were both newcomers to the party.)

It was also an opportunity to use my ‘stuff’. You know the stuff I mean. You have some of this yourself. For me it was my Oma’s crockery, my Mum’s tea set (for the coffee) and, being a cup short, even a lone Royal Doulton cup and saucer for the fifth of our party.

Having the room at the new Gidday HQ for all of this to have been unpacked from the boxes that were their home for 6 and a half years is absolutely brilliant. Now it’s all just an arms reach away on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard.

I’m extremely proud to say that the only thing not Gidday-Made was the chocolate cake, collected from the local Polish store round the corner this morning, to celebrate our three birthdays.

Which brings me neatly to a reminder that there are only 17 sleeps to go until my big day. Celebrations may have started today at Gidday HQ but this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook peeps.

Not by a long shot!

The great bake-off sputters to life

It’s been 6 months between ‘bakes’ but my second foray has been a resounding success.

After returning from Australia having spent 2 weeks over Christmas with family and food in abundance, I have been waiting for a chilly Sunday afternoon to cook this delicious fruit cake for myself (I’ve decided baking is best on afternoons when it’s cold outside!)  And this last weekend was D-Day…

Mango Fruit Cake 1

Scrumptious, super-easy and no-added-sugar. Feel free to snaffle the recipe (below) for yourself. Believe me, your guests/ friends/ hangers-on will be impressed…

Bon Appetit!


Mango Fruit Cake recipe

Sunday On My Mind…

Today’s weather has left a lot to be desired, particularly after yesterday’s more inspiring blue skies, so I have been getting on with a few chores.  And washing (of clothes, dishes, hair) done – and trying to avoid looking at the enormous bag of ironing on top of the cupboard – I finally ventured outside between showers (the precipitous, not bathroom kind) to trim winter’s obvious bleakness from my surviving plants and to cut a few choice bay leaves in preparation for tonight’s culinary exploits – a Kym-style take on cottage pie accompanied by roasted squash.

To my surprise, I could see rows of tiny ‘bud-lets’ along the seemingly naked stalks and in recent weeks, my continental parsely seems to have been inspired back to life.  The bay tree by the door soldiers on as always and my strawberry plants may just be redeemable with a little TLC so there’s a chore for next weekend already.

The weekday mornings and evenings are getting slightly lighter now and during the week I was delighted to see that my daffodil bulbs had emerged, green and stoic and heralding Spring-around-the-corner.  But today, bay leaf snippets in hand and having pocketed my almost redundant secateurs, I turned to check on my brave little daffs only to find four – YES FOUR – flower buds nestled amid the greenery.

And after last year’s flowerless haul, there are no words to describe the joy that the prospect of those happy, yellow blossoms gave me today.

The year is looking better already…

Did Somebody Mention Christmas?

Last we left things (see Lazy Saturday), I was bracing myself for a rather chilly foray into Kingston to run a couple of errands before heading over to A’s for red wine (yes more), a home-cooked dinner and some girly telly. 

So I set out just after 4pm (you know, just after our ‘sun’ has gone down and it’s, well…dark), crunching down the sporadically-gritted path to the bus stop, resolutely telling myself that a) it was not as cold as my nose was telling me it was, b) it was ok not to walk all they way into Kingston today because it was cold/it was dark/time didn’t permit and c) that I would feel much better with these errands off the to-do list. 

And then I got into Kingston to find…

…the lights are up…
…the tree is out…
…and there’s a gorgeous new old-fashioned sweet shop in Castle Street (where I spent about 20 minutes wondering around in child-like amazement).

Buoyed by all this festive cheer (and a reunion with my phone which seemed to go quite smoothly), I crunched on to A’s who had promised an evening of home-cooked lasagne and mooching on the couch, curled up under blankets and just feeling all warm and toasty. 

I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did… 

She was making lamingtons when I got there!

Eeeeeeeeeee (aka squeal of excitement)!
Delicious little chocolate-dipped, coconut-covered bundles of sponge-cake yumminess!

And not wanting to be rude, I had three…

I think Christmas may have come a little early (27 days actually) this year!

The Universe Provides…Adding A Blog Page…

I have been racking my brains (and surfing the net like mad) trying to work out how to add more pages to my blog.  You see, I found out that you could add a menu bar across the top (which I did quite easily) and then thought to myself ‘adding of a page must be a cinch!’

Well not really…I searched through what I thought were all the logical places, and then turned my attention to the not so logical places, followed by a menu by menu trawl through my ‘blogger dashboard’ and then finally a google search…to no avail.

But the power of the internet showed its stuff and thanks to fellow blogger Kate (Marmite and Fluff), I have today added my first extra page – The Great Bake-Off, where I promise to share all of the highs and lows of my baking journey.

ps…for those of you who want to check it out, visit my blog – http://www.giddayfromtheuk.blogspot.com/ and click on the The Great Bake-Off tab at the top – or you can just click here.

Promises, Promises…The Great Bake-Off

Every year on my birthday, apart from celebrating all that is fabulous (and modest, of course) about me, I am always inspired to embark on something new.  This might be a new experience, a new adventure or simply a new ‘education’ but there always seems to be a plethora of things I’d like to conquer – or at the very least have a crack at. 

So when I turned 41 back at the start of August (and realised that, yes I had left my thirties well and truly behind me), I made a little promise to myself that this year I would overcome my trepidation in an area that everyone else makes look effortlessly simple – baking.

I’m not talking about the type of baking to do with vegetables, burritos, fish or lasagne (although having never made one of these before, I might just sneak one in this year).  It’s proper baking I mean to master – cakes, pies, tarts, muffins, loaves, biscuits – all that lovely old-fashioned, apron-clad cleverness that’s absolutely meant for sharing (vs one-pot meals for one or two).

So this week, with a few days off and having been given 4 tins of pineapple pieces (a whole other story!), I decided that I would kill two birds with one stone and try a cake recipe that used canned pineapple…and after a small amount of fossicking on-line (Google, how I love thee!), I embarked on my first venture – Pineapple and Banana Loaf.

After much mashing, measuring, mixing and mulling over the batter-spotted recipe sheet, I got that beast into the oven and just over an hour later was rewarded with this:

There was a still-warm slice each for me ‘n’ J for dessert on Wednesday night and then my Ladies Who Lunch visitor, and baking friend extraordinaire, A polished off another couple of slices on Thursday, whilst making all the ‘right’ noises.  And the rest is going next door tonight to face the ultimate test – a couple of teenagers! 

But the reviews are good…and I have to say, I’m a little bit chuffed with myself!!

However timing will be of the essence in my future baking forays – after all, I cannot be expected to polish off 32 serves on my own – late at night, watching Mad Men, Desperate Housewives, Hells Kitchen or The Apprentice.  Otherwise next year’s promise will be a cinch to select…mastering the discipline of Low Fat Diet & Exercise!

Amazon…Delivering The Ultimate Thrill

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d been wondering what to spend some of my birthday money on and that I’d decided to invest in The Midlife Manual (plus a fab cookbook, but more about that later) via that portal of all things useful and wonderful, Amazon.co.uk.

Before I came to the UK, I was oblivious to the behemoth that is Amazon and it was only when I got the way the whole Wish List thing worked (and saw some of the terrifyingly large numbers on postage stickers from Australia) that I started to fall for its charms. It is quite simply the place to find everything…and collect a few Nectar points along the way (when one remembers to use their card!) and the Wish List is definitely the way to manage the tyranny of long distance gifting.

So on Thursday, Reception called to let me know that an Amazon parcel had been delivered for me.  I could not wait to get downstairs and I gleefully tore the cardboard strip down the package to reveal two books that:

a) I’d ordered online 6 days earlier; and
b) knew were coming because I’d received an email to say they had been despatched the day before.

No surprises.  No special gifts.  Just exactly what I’d ordered.

The voice in my head (you know, the one in sensible shoes) tutted softly in the background at my impatient voracity in tearing the package open right there in Reception, while the other voice (the one in the ridiculously fabulous stilettos), purred contentedly as I entered the lift again, cradling The Midlife Manual and Fast, Fresh and Green possessively to my chest.

What is it about receiving an Amazon parcel that provokes such unadulterated joy and pleasure?

Life in the UK…A Guilty Pleasure…

With yesterday’s birthday festivities done and dusted, the final day of my birthday-treat-to-myself, four-day weekend is well underway and I am indulging in a little delightful daytime telly, a few episodes of the ultimate combination of ego, pretentiousness and witty put-downs, Come Dine With Me.  While I love passing vicarious judgement on the food, hosts, houses and guests at each weeknight dinner party, the best bit is definitely Dave Lamb, voice-over extraordinaire, who tracks the behind-the-scenes shenanigans both in and out of the kitchen.

I’ve just been laughing at Dave’s reaction to Night 1 (lamb’s testicles and a falling out – unrelated), Night 2 (speechlessly bad food, gifts of crystals and a truce – again unrelated), Night 3 (great food that nobody could pronounce and a falling out) and Night 4 (mackeral with a rhubarb & sorrel sauce and more falling out). 

We are now at Night 5, the host of which has been the focus of Night 2 host’s righteous indignation – Night 2 host has just arrived before anyone else and she’s as frosty as a popsicle (and I am hoping her fellow diners are about to tell her exactly what she might do with it!)

Must go…I wouldn’t want to miss a moment!

ps…
In the meantime if you don’t believe how smugly funny this show is (I hear it’s made its way Down Under and Stateside), you can read a couple of other little snippets below (and yes the WAGs special was priceless).
pps…
N2 host caused so much friction at the table that N5 host asked her to have her dessert IN THE NEXT ROOM….LOL!
ppps…
364 sleeps to go…
Ha ha just kidding. Even I can’t sustain the interest, excitement or badgering for that long…

Come Dine With Me: Wags Special (guardian.co.uk)

Why Come Dine With Me is a gem | Marina O’Loughlin (guardian.co.uk)

1 Sleep To Go…10 Things About Me…

There’s just one sleep to go.  One day left to complete my 41st year on the planet.  What better way to round off the year than with a few more things that make me tick:
7.  It’s ALL about The Hair…the way I feel about my hair underpins how I feel about life at any given moment.

8.  When I say ‘yes, you can have a bit’, I only mean a LITTLE bit. 
Don’t take liberties!
9. I am Half-Dutch – cute though the outfit may be, underneath there is some serious attitude – don’t mess with it or you’ll get ‘the look’! (See 8.)
 
10.  Life’s A Beach…gritty bits ‘n’ all, there’s no better place to be.
So the 10 Things You Love/Hate/Need To Know About Me are:
  1. I like my laundry line-dried…just because
  2. I like teddy bears…they are better behaved than children
  3. I like food..admiring it, eating it, cooking it
  4. I like to help…so let me
  5. I like birthdays…a lot
  6. I like being a sister…the older one
  7. I like my hair…fabulous
  8. I like sharing…a little bit
  9. I like my mixed heritage…shaken AND stirred
  10. I like the beach…anytime

Yes peeps, this post really is all about me – here endeth the lesson…

ps…if you missed Parts One and Two, click on the underlined bit and you can read them for yourself.  Or you can read them again if you liked the photos and are a bit of a nostalgic git like me.

Love is…

So here it is…Valentine’s Day 2010…with all its societal hopefulness and commercial pressure (or should that be societal pressure and commercial hopefulness?)  And I must say that it has been one of the nicest Valentine’s Days I’ve ever had.  And guess what we did…

I washed the kitchen floor, did a load of washing, washed the breakfast dishes (hmmm reading this there is a definite ‘washing’ theme)…I have also eaten the entire Milky Bar-flavoured chocolate cow J gave me this morning – and have a mild sugar headache to show for it – and am planning to cook a mean spaghetti bolognese for us tonight.

J on the other hand, got into my drawers…

Noooo…tut tut….naughty naughty….I was referring to my chest of drawers!

These were an IKEA purchase from 5 years ago that I built all by myself when I first moved here by following the riddle we all know and love as ‘flatpack instructions’.  I have also progressively filled each drawer to the brim and reglued the bottom of each as they succumbed under the weight of my chattels.  But recently the drawers became ‘unfixed’ so badly that I have been living for the past few weeks with the top one sitting on the floor by itself and the bottom drawer’s contents completely inaccessible because the middle drawer has been semi-collapsed on top of it.

So J basically rebuilt this for me…the result is awesome and verging on indestructible (he does a proper DIY job my man does!) and apart from being able to reclaim the small piece of floor next to my bed, I am chuffed at getting even more value out of this IKEA purchase by spending merely another tenner.

He must love me a lot!

Hope you found a little love to get you through this Valentine’s Day…xx