Best Friends

Friends

Life’s truest happiness
is found in friendships
we make along the way.

Recently I received this card from a friend, well actually my oldest and “bestest” friend. We met and became instant friends our first afternoon at university as we attempted to unpack our boxes and got hideously sidetracked from the task in hand by gossip and I imagine there is a fair chance a bottle of wine was also speedily sipped.  I was very tempted to dig out an old photo of us both to include with this post, but given it was the 1990s, that wilderness before hair straighteners revolutionized our lives, I have opted not to.

This card really says it all – and I could probably finish this post now, but will of course continue to waffle for a little longer.

Since moving to Canada I have met and made so many lovely new friends who have made such a difference to my life here.  And, of course, there are the friends who I have known for years – who e-mail or call out of the blue and just make me smile.

Friendships so well established that even after six months (or sometimes longer – quick apology here, since I am a pretty bad at keeping in regular touch) of sporadic e-mails you can pick up the phone and talk as though you saw each other yesterday.

So, essentially what I am really trying to say (and to get to the point before I am sidetracked further….) is a big thank you friends.

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Running (or not……)

I realise that I have allowed certain things to slip over the winter.  To clarify these things do not include high heels, dresses, cake and chat – which are daily pre-requisites whatever the season.

Running
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But running – and if I am strictly honest, exercise in general.  I can no longer continue to convince myself that exercise by osmosis (that is the countless hours I spend watching my children practice their chosen sports) counts.  Nor can shovelling snow be included in my daily quota (although I believe it does burn 288 calories per hour and works multiple muscle groups) since even here in the Great White North we do not have to shovel snow on a daily basis.  And, when we do I have become expert at being seen with the shovel but dodging the actual work by either bribing my children or strong-arming my husband into taking on the task.

I really could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as a serious runner and I would most definitely never again consider training with my husband, as he is quite simply mean!  When it comes to running it seems that we are mutually incompatible.  He thinks my pace a pathetic dawdle and I (coming very much from the school of thought that you should never train so hard that you lose the ability to talk) am affronted by his refusal to gossip.  But, I do love running, in particular the sense of achievement gained from finishing a training run or even better a race and the lovely shiny medal on a ribbon around my neck.

So the time has come for the excuses, talk and prevarication to stop.  I will stop spending hours browsing for cute running outfits and tweaking my playlist.  And, I will stop using the cold winter weather as an excuse, especially since this will not be a viable or valid one soon.

It is time to finally emerge from my self-induced winter exercise coma and dust off and lace up my trainers …. Not sure I have time today, so maybe tomorrow?

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Victoria Sponge

Victoria Sponge Cake

Last week in my A – Z post, I mentioned how much I love Victoria sponge:  Victoria sponge – there is nothing better for afternoon tea.

Victoria Sponge Cake with a Cup of Tea

I got a comment back asking me what a Victoria sponge was, so here goes, and hopefully I am reasonably historically accurate:

Victoria sponge is a cake filled with raspberry jam and cream which was named after Queen Victoria.  She was very fond of a slice for her afternoon tea.

Now, this is the history bit I particularly like:

Afternoon Tea
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Apparently afternoon tea was a tradition started by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford in 1840.  She found herself unable to manage from lunchtime until dinner without feeling weak so took to ordering tea, sandwiches and cake mid-afternoon.

With their corsets worn so tight it is absolutely no wonder that Victorian ladies were unable to squeeze in enough lunch to keep themselves going until dinner!

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How to be a Domestic Goddess - Nigella Lawson

The recipe I always use when making Victoria sponge can be found in Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess

Minus 9 and feeling like Spring?

Minus Nine - feels like spring

Last week was exceptionally cold (sorry more muttering about the weather).

So cold that standing in the school yard waiting for my son I actually found myself unable to speak (something which hardly ever happens – I really am never lost for words, chat or a snippet of gossip).  But my face was so cold that I found I was mumbling lopsidedly out of the corner of my frozen mouth,  and convinced that if I continued to speak I would be mistaken for being drunk I opted for silence and a bit of smiling (possibly due to the cold it was more a grimace, but I tried) and nodding!  Dressing to venture out of the house was a mammoth undertaking and extremely time consuming; bundling up into layers, more layers, coats, hats, boots, mittens.…. The whole performance only to be repeated 10 minutes later when I scurried back into the house, waving a metaphorical white flag at the icy weather, to notch the heating up another couple of degrees.  And, as for the hour I spent shovelling snow off the drive on Friday evening, only for the forecast to be wrong and the snow to keep on falling so that we had to shovel again to drive to the pool at 5.30am on Saturday morning – there was a word (or several) for this!

Suffice to say the weather definitely had the upper hand and given the option I would have gladly pulled the duvet over my head and stayed put for the whole week.

On Sunday though we began to sense a thaw; reaching what I believe was the seven day high, a balmy minus nine!  And, encouraged by the sunny blue skies I happily pulled on my boots and enjoyed a couple of hours waking in the snow.

Snow boots

It felt like spring.  All I can say in response to what I know is a ridiculous statement, is that everything is relative.

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Fat Rascals

Fat Rascals

Saturday morning coffee break.

Fat Rascals are most traditionally served in Yorkshire (England) for afternoon tea, but I always associate them with Saturday morning coffee with my Dad.  They are one of his absolute favourites, and when my parents moved away from Yorkshire a couple of years ago and were unable to buy them, my Mum had to start making her own.

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For this Fat Rascal recipe you will need:
100g (4oz) mixed dried fruit
1 tablespoon brandy
grated zest of 1 orange
225g (8oz) self raising flour (sifted)*
1 teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
100g (4oz) butter
75g (3oz) sugar
1 egg (beaten)
20ml milk
glace cherries and blanched almonds (to decorate)

*  I have found I cannot buy good self-raising flour in Canada, so use all-purpose instead.  For this recipe I substitute 3 teaspoons of all-purpose flour for 3 teaspoons of baking powder.

Makes 6 Fat Rascals

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400F / Mark 6 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  • Place the dried fruit into a bowl and add the grated orange zest.  Pour the brandy and 1 tablespoon of water over the fruit and microwave on a high heat for 1 minute.  Leave the fruit to cool.  (If you prefer not to microwave the fruit it can be left to soak in the brandy overnight).
  • Measure the flour, mixed spice, cinnamon and butter into a bowl.  Rub together until the mixture takes on the texture of fine breadcrumbs.  I use my Kitchen Aid to do this (but it could be done by hand).
  • Add the sugar and prepared fruit and gently mix.
  • Add the beaten egg and milk and mix together.  You will find this forms a fairly sticky batter.
  • Divide the batter into six (or if you want to make smaller “rascals” 10).  Roll each piece into a ball, place on the prepared baking sheet and gently pat down with your hand (you could roll out properly and use a cutter, but I prefer a more haphazard shape as I think it adds to their quirky charm).  Do not place them too close together as they increase quite a bit in size whilst cooking.
  • Top each one with half a cherry (for the nose) and almonds (for the eyes), to form the “rascals” face, and brush  with a little milk.
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 – 20 minutes.  They can burn very quickly, so keep a close eye on them.
  • Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  • Fabulous buttered, with a large cup of coffee and your feet up.

A to Z

Fun Friday post about me from A to Z:

Letter AAdamant (not to be confused please with Adam Ant) and regularly Astonished

Barely functioning and Bewildered (more often than I care to admit) and Blogging (of course!)

Cupcakes – I love them of course and am always making them

Cupcake

Dreaming and Dizzy (far from grounded) but definitely Determined and wearing gorgeous Dresses

English

Friendship, Friends and Family

Girl with Gumption (or I certainly hope so)

High Heels

Homeless (not literally – but just renting right now) and Happy in High Heels and don’t forget Handbags

I (the capital letter as in me)

June and July – it is finally summer

Kate

Handbag

Laughing and sometimes and little bit Loopy

Mid-life crisis (my husband’s, not mine….)

No-Nonsense and absolutely No-Numbers

Outspoken and OMG! – no further explanation needed

Pink dressParticular

Quiet – hardly ever

Restless (try as might I can’t sit still) and Running (not as often as I should)

Stressed (far too often) and sitting in the Sun

UmbrellaTwitching (see R) and Talking constantly

Umbrella – pretty one’s of course for some sunshine even on a rainy day

Victoria sponge – there is nothing better for afternoon tea

Why?

Letter ZX-chromosome

Yawn – I hope I’m not boring you yet?

Zymurgy – I like to have the last word and this was the final listing in my edition of the Collins English Dictionary

 

THE END…..if you managed to make it all the way from A to Z then thank you for bearing with me.

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 Charms from Bombay Duck

This week so far……

This week I have spent hours doing battle with a seemingly endless list of technical glitches – not easy when you are a total technophobe like me!

In between I have been blogging, but you may not have received your usual subscriber emails.  So here is a quick catch up:

Do I qualify as a Canadian Blogger?
Canadian Mountie

Carrot Cake Muffins
Carrot Cake Muffins

Mountain Top Moment
Johan Clarey

Fingers crossed it is now all fixed …..

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Mountain Top Moment

Earlier this week I incredulously read the news about the French skier, Johan Clarey, who became the first person to break the 100mph downhill ski barrier during a World Cup race, setting an astounding new fastest high speed record of 100.6mph racing the Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen, Switzerland.

News article

I use the word incredulous, not because I was surprised that he had been able to achieve such eye popping knee trembling speed to set this new record (although it is most certainly the most amazing achievement to have the skill, tenacity, balance and coordination to do this without the aid of a jet engine), but because he had both the nerve and inclination to literally propel himself off the top of a mountain at such dizzying speed!  It raises the question:  How could he? and, why would he?

Possibly I simply lack the part of my psyche that would encourage me to indulge in what are in my view extreme sports……. As was all too apparent when I attempted snow tubing.

Last February, on our way home from a weekend in Muskoka (where my daughter had been competing in a swim meet) instead of heading straight home we diverted to Snow Valley (just outside of Barrie) to try snow tubing.

However, as I stood at the top of the slope in bitter minus 18 temperatures (have I mentioned before that I am not keen on the cold winter weather?), and watched my children and husband fly off the seemingly vertical drop holding onto what was essentially an inflated polo mint, I knew with complete conviction that I would not be taking that leap.  Even if my life should have depended on it (given that I would surely die in a heart stopping moment of terror if I were to, what would be the point anyway!), nothing would persuade me over the edge of the icy precipice!

Frozen to the spot (both literally and mentally) aware that ice was actually forming on my eye lashes, I was eventually led to the side by a member of staff.  To add to my abject mortification and the increasing mirth of my dare devil family who kept rushing past to throw themselves repeatedly down the slope – he kindly enquired if I would need assistance to walk down the hill?  The implication being that I was in my dotage!  As I shuffled down the hill on my rear – it was far too steep and slippery to descend with any grace – he could be seen sniggering along with my ever supportive family.

So, there really is no need for me to add that I will not be giving snow tubing (even though everyone claims it really is one of the best, most thrilling and fun snow activities) a second chance.

And, to go back to my original point, whilst I am impressed with Johan Clarey’s recent record and skill and openly applaud his accomplishment, the question still remains: How could he? and, why would he?

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Carrot Cake Muffins

I have convinced myself that these count as one of my five a day…..

Even better, I could eat five as a substitute for my daily quota of fruit and veg – perfect!

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For this carrot cake muffin recipe you will need:

175g soft brown sugar
175ml sunflower oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g grated carrot
100g raisins
grated zest of 1 orange
200g self-raising flour (sifted)*
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

*  I have found I cannot buy good self-raising flour in Canada, so use all-purpose instead.  For this recipe I substitute 3 teaspoons of all-purpose flour for 3 teaspoons of baking powder.

Makes 12 muffins

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases.
  • Measure the sunflower oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl.  Beat well until all of the ingredients are combined (I prefer to use an electric mixer, but it could be mixed by hand with a bit of effort).
  • Add the grated carrot, raisins and orange zest to the bowl and mix.
  • Gently stir in the sifted flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon.
  • Spoon the mixture into the paper muffin cases and bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 25 – 30 minutes until the cakes are well risen and cooked through.
  • Remove from the muffin tray and leave to cool on a wire rack.

If you want to top with cream cheese frosting, this is the recipe I use.  Once iced, the muffins will need to be kept in the fridge.

For the frosting you will need:

200g creamed cheese
100g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Measure the frosting ingredients into a bowl and beat until smooth and creamy (again I find it much easier to do this with an electric mixer).
  • Spread (or pipe) onto the top of the cooled muffins.

Do I qualify as a Canadian Blogger?

Last week I joined a blogger’s network and came across a Canadian Bloggers Group on the site.  As we have only been living in Canada for 18 months and are here on a temporary work visa for as long as my husband’s job requires, I was not entirely sure if I would legitimately qualify to join; so asked the question.  Almost instantly, I received this lovely reply:

You definitely qualify! You’ve obviously lived through at least one winter.
And survived.
You’re official!

So, despite the fact that I have not wrestled with a black bear


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Nor had an encounter with a Mountie (to be honest, this is something which is most definitely on my bucket list)

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Cannot ice skate and still struggle to follow a game of ice hockey

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And, whilst my children are now word perfect on “Oh, Canada”, I still have to mouth the words – probably something of a blessing given my very tuneless singing voice ….

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It seems that having lived through and survived my first winter in Canada (I will gloss over the minor fact that last winter was I believe one of the mildest Canadian winters on record) makes me an “adopted” Canadian.  Admittedly over the last year my attitude towards winter has changed considerably; the incredulous look on my husband’s face on Friday evening when I remarked that it was only minus 4 …. as though this was mild, said it all!  In England I would have refused to leave the house if temperatures had dropped that low.

Although with temperatures set to really plummet over the next week or so, whether I will manage to survive another winter is questionable.  And, moreover, my total preoccupation with and how much I delight in talking (and moaning) about the weather, surely makes it more than obvious that I am still English!

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