Yuletide Greetings

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Indeed, Yuletide greetings to you all.

Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, celebrated as the festival of Yule in ancient and modern Pagan traditions. Yule was the traditional mid-Winter festival of ancient Europe, before being adopted and adapted by The Christian Church into the festival of Christmas. Being the shortest day of the year – that is, the shortest period of daylight between sunrise and sunset, obviously every day is always 24 hours long – the festival of Yule is based around the celebration of the sun returning and bringing life back to the world with the (gradual) move out of Winter towards Spring.

Whatever you want to call it – this time of year always makes me want to bake and feed people! So I do like to mark the Solstice with a bit of baking. Of course, the Chocolate Yule Log derives from the tradition of the Yule Log which was an actual wooden log that was burnt to celebrate the Solstice. I didn’t fancy lining myself up for the stress of trying to roll my own Chocolate Yule Log – instead I decided to go down the route of orange, marzipan and cinnamon as ingredients that make me think of warmth and sunshine.

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I used this recipe from Sweet Paul for Norwegian Skillingsboller, that’s Cinnamon Buns, although this recipe has an awesome twist of added marzipan! It takes a bit of time to make as it is a yeasted dough, so you need to leave it to rise, but other than the waiting the recipe is pretty easy. Note: mixing the butter into the dough is very messy!

Mine turned out a bit, haphazard looking – but this isn’t GBBO and I’m not marking myself on presentation or uniformity, it’s all about taste for me.

The finished buns are delicious, I’m going to struggle to restrain myself from eating them all. I did a taste test when they were warm and they were amazing – I’ve also had one cold and it’s still really good, but it might be worth zapping one in the microwave for a few seconds to warm before eating.

I also made these Tangerine and Marzipan Muffins from Olive Magazine. I haven’t tasted one of these yet, I’ve been too busy focussing on the Cinnamon Buns, but they smell really yummy 🙂

UPDATE: I’ve just tried one of thee and they are lovely! Light and orangey and not too sweet, surprisingly! Recommended 😊

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I have a feeling I may take a few steps backwards on my weight-loss over the next week :/

Hope you are all enjoying the festive season, whatever you celebrate and whatever you eat!

Love

Betty

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Weekend Catch-up

I haven’t been feeling quite myself this past week. From time to time my stomach decides to throw a bit of a hissy fit and leaves me feeling bloated and nauseated – and this week has been one of those times 😦
So I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself and not been getting up to as much as I would have liked.

It’s been especially frustrating as I have (finally) got myself a job, which starts a week on Monday, so I had been hoping to make the most of my last weeks of freedom.
I’m going to be working for the local University, engaging with local companies who have been involved in a University project to find out the benefits they got out of working with the Uni. It’s actually only a three month contract to start with, with the possibility of extension, but it’s definitely the best (only) offer I’ve had all year!
It’s sounds like a really interesting role, but on of the best things (other than getting paid) is that it’s only a five minute walk away from the house 🙂
It’s also been an excuse to do some clothes shopping, which I haven’t really been able to do for a long time as I haven’t had an income. Even though it was only work clothes it was still nice to be able to treat myself. I mostly bought trousers as I have tops that are work appropriate but the only trousers I really have are jeans that I obviously can’t get away with in an office. I might get around to taking some photos for you to see when I’m feeling less bloated and obese.

It has got rather cold here as well this week – so as well as being ill I’ve been staying inside to avoid the cold. I’m hoping the office where I’ll be working has got good heating :/
The cold isn’t all bad though as it means we get to put the fire on and get snuggled up in a blanket. The animals (cat and dog) are definitely on board with that plan too- they’re either trying to psych each other off of my blanket or spreading themselves out in front of the fire. They aren’t the best of friend, but their mutual love of warmth had brought them closer together than ever these past few days.

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I’ve also been doing quite a lot of crochet again, it’s a good snuggly winter evening activity 🙂 I’ve been working on some animal xmas baubles that are quite easy but super cute. The pattern is an original design by All About Ami which you can find here, there are also loads of other great designs and helpful hints and tips all really well illustrated with photos.

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I’m on my own this evening as the parents are away in Vietnam and Pete is out seeing a friend who has come up to climb in Snowdonia. Evenings on your own only mean one thing – personal indulgence 🙂 Not wanting to tempt fate, but my stomach is feeling the best it has done in 2 days, so I might go and treat myself to a mug cake!

Hope you are all well,

Love,

Betty

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Pulled Pork Stew

This summer I completely fell in love with Pulled Pork – it was cheap, easy and very, very tasty. It’s something I meant to blog about all summer but never got around to.

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Now, whilst Pulled Pork is a barbecue style dish (not that mine involved the use of a barbecue) and could generally be considered to be summer food, there obviously isn’t any reason why you can’t enjoy it in the winter – slow cooked spicy meat still sounds like a great, comforting winter meal.  However, I was inspired by a recent email from Tesco to put even more of an Autumnal-Wintery twist on my summer favourite and make a Pulled Pork Stew.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it uses Pork Shoulder, which is a really affordable cut of meat – Asda have Pork Shoulders available from £3 per kilo (I used around 700 grams of shoulder steaks and that was more than enough for 4 people).
Another great thing is that it is really quite low effort – as a slow cook dish, so you can put it on in the morning and it can cook all day to be as good as ready when you get home from work 🙂

Pulled Pork Spice Rub

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1. Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl. Rub half into your meat then cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours or over night.

I have previously used Pork Shoulder Joints but used Shoulder Steaks this time for the stew, however, I think I would probably recommend Joints over Steaks

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 2. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius  Place meat into a roasting tray/tin, add a cup of water and cover the whole tray in tin foil. Cook for 4 to 5 hours (for 1 to 1.5 kilos)

To make stew mixture
(any time after putting the meat into the oven) 


3. In a large pan/casserole dish – Soften a chopped onion and sliced celery (optional) in olive oil

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4. Add tinned tomatoes and water (number of cans depends on number you are feeding, I used one tin of tomatoes and one tin of water for 4 people)


5. Add chopped veg of your choice (I generally use carrot, peppers, courgette, tomatoes, green beans…)


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6. Add beans – I used tinned kidney beans in chilli sauce, but you can use any type of bean, fresh, dried (and soaked) or tinned (even baked beans) or skip the beans all together if they aren’t your thing (but they are very good for you and if you cook them for a long time you’ll probably not even notice they’re there!)

7. Add more tomatoes and/or water if more liquid is needed

8. Season to taste – salt, pepper, smoked paprika/cayenne pepper/chilli, tomato purée

9. Now you have a choice, which partly depends on how long you have left til the meat is cooked
– If it is still a few hours til the meat is ready you can either put the pot in the oven with the meat (make sure it is oven proof) and leave to slow cook or you can simply turn it off and leave it covered
– If the meat will be ready soon (within 30 minutes to one hour) you can leave the pot, covered, on a low heat on the hob or pop it in the oven with the meat

Bringing things together


10. Once the meat is cooked, remove the layer of fat (which will be weird and squidgy, not like crackling as Pete is always disappointed to find) then take two forks and pull the meat apart (hence PULLED pork) and mix in the spicy juices in bottom of the tin

11. Add the meat to the stew mixture – If you took the stew mixture off the heat while the meat cooked then do warm it up on a mid to low heat hob, or in the oven, before mixing the meat in

12. Serve. 
I served mine with savoury corn muffins made using this recipe, although substituting buttermilk for soy milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

I certainly enjoyed it, and everyone else seemed to as well.

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I hope you are all well and enjoying some hearty and warming meals now autumn has definitely arrived.

Love,

Betty

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We Are Adventuring. We Are Adventurers

“Adventure – Be Your Own Pet”

December ended up being a pretty hectic month for me one way and another, I didn’t get to blog as often as I would have liked even though I got up to some cool stuff I have really wanted to share. Now this stinky cold/virus, that is still hanging around, has been severely impairing my brain function and ability to do most things.
So, I thought I’d break myself back into blogging and try to do a bit of a mini review of the more interesting things I did in the build up to Christmas (mostly around Winchester). In line with my 2011, and now 2012, Resolutions, I’m still trying to make much more effort to get out and do things as part of my plan to improve my mood and enjoy life more, and these are some of the mini-adventures I’ve been on in an attempt to do that 🙂

Ice Skating in Winchester

While Pete was away over the summer, we decided that, in order to make sure we spent more quality time together when he returned, every Tuesday would be Date Tuesday; a day/evening to do something other than sitting on the sofa all evening. So, as soon as I remembered that it was December and that the ice rink was back in Winchester, I booked us in for some Tuesday afternoon skating 🙂
The setting was lovely, with the ice rink set up right next to the Cathedral and surrounded by the little sheds that constitute German markets in this country. We were booked in to skate from 4.15, and so the sun had set and all the lovely Christmas lights were on by the time we took to the ice. Neither of us are experienced skaters, but Pete was much more confident than me and spent most of the time with me firmly attached to his arm.

Winchester Cathedral and Ice Rink
Pete and I (wrapped up warm in my awesome River Island Leopard Print Trapper Hat!)
Warming Up afterwards in the cafe, with tea and cake 🙂
Wearing: Hat, River Island. Top and Cardigan, Dorothy Perkins
Christmas lights near the Cathedral

It actually wasn’t too cold and I managed to not fall over once! Despite being quite scared, I had a really lovely time, especially the yummy lemon drizzle cake afterwards. I ached like nobodies business the next day though (from the skating, not the cake).
We definitely caught it at the right time though, as apparently peak times (mostly weekends) were ridiculously busy, which wouldn’t have been so much fun.

Star Gazing on St Catherine’s Hill

The following Date Tuesday, Pete decided to take charge and took us out to sit on the top of St Catherine’s Hill (near Winchester) in the hope of seeing a meteor shower.Unfortunately, the weather didn’t work in our favour and it was too cloudy to see the sky and too cold for me to wait too long. It was still nice and peaceful to be sat up there, just the two of us and the dog, in the dark, under a blanket, with a thermos of tea. Goodness knows what anyone would have thought if they’d come across us!
I got to take some interesting low light pictures though.

Lights of Winchester from St Catherine’s Hill
The Moon behind some spooky looking trees
More spooky looking trees

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

Pete and I have wanted to go to a summer or winter solstice at Stonehenge for ages now. While you can usually only go and walk on a set path around the outside of the stones, at the summer/winter solstice (longest/shortest days of the year) and at the two equinoxes (when day and night are of equal length) the site is opened up, primarily for Druid/Pagan worshippers, and you are allowed to get right up to the stones.
This year we decided to take the opportunity, and took Pete’s brother, who lives in New York, and his New Yorker girlfriend along for the experience (as great as NY is, you definitely cannot do this there!).
The biggest downside was the 5am wake up call, to get up and get ready in time to drive across to Stonehenge for 7.30am, when the site opened, and get in position for the 8.09am sunrise. In fairness, I could have got up later, but I wanted to put my make-up on :/
The road alongside Stonehenge was crazy busy, as were the lanes where people were parking. It was clear some of the more ‘hardcore’ visitors had been there at least overnight and had set up camp in their vans, with fires, chairs and cooking stoves. We found a reasonable parking space not too far from the site, hopped the fence (actually I slipped and got a massive bruise on my shin) and headed through the sheep towards the stones.
There were quite a lot of people there, but nowhere near the numbers you see at the summer solstice. While there were a lot of people clearly there for religious reasons, floating around in awesome cloaks with big wooden staffs, there were also a lot of people just there for the experience. There was a ceremony being conducted in the centre of the circle (not that I could really see that through the crowd), music and drums, a fair amount of drinking, and just a generally jovial and good natured atmosphere. We even got offered lavender shortbread by a passing lady in a cloak!

Me and Pete touching the stones
Sunrise through the eastern stones
The Stones

If you ever get the chance, I would totally recommend you head to one of these celebrations at Stonehenge. While the summer solstice might seem the obvious choice due to weather, you will have less chance of actually seeing anything due to the high numbers of people and, also, sunrise is much earlier in the summer than the winter!

Doing the Tourist thing in Winchester

After the sunrise we had a whole day to kill, and, even though my primary instinct was to head straight back to bed, it was decided we would head into Winchester to show Pete’s brother and his girlfriend the sights. Although we’d only been in the city a few weeks earlier, we didn’t actually do anything other than the ice skating.
We managed to fit quite a lot into the day and I was very impressed with myself for managing to keep going and not get shirty with anyone through tiredness. We made a brief round of the Cathedral grounds, saw the statue of King Alfred, visited The Great Hall and saw The Round Table and went round the City Museum.
The statue of King Alfred wasn’t the easiest of attractions to see, being situated in the middle of a road, right next to some rather popular parking spaces, but we got a few good pictures. The Great Hall and Round Table were interesting too, but the City Museum was by far my favourite part of the day. The exhibits were fun and there were lots of things (for kids) to get involved with, including dressing up clothes for each of the different eras!!

Statue of King Alfred
The Round Table in The Great Hall
Pete and I dressed up in cloaks in the Roman section of the City Museum
Playing shop in the Victorian Pharmacy in the City Museum
Trying on a selection of hats in the Victorian section of the City Museum

It was all really good fun, which, given how tired I was, must mean it was a really, really good time. An added bonus, all the attractions we saw were free (statue) or only had donation boxes (The Great Hall and City Museum). FYI, we did make donations! Beware the giftshop attached to The Great Hall though, you could easily spend a lot of money in there!!

That ended up being a pretty long post. Hope you didn’t get too bored!
I’m unlikely to be that busy again for quite a while, due to work load, so you probably won’t get another post this long again for a while.

Hope you’re all well,
Betty
x

WIWT: Winter Warmer

What I wore today, when I went ice skating with Pete.
I bought this outfit last week, all from Dorothy Perkins as they had up to 30% of everything. I have been a bit in need of some new jeans and have also had an eye out for an awesome snuggly winter jumper/cardigan to keep me warm as the weather gets colder.

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I am so in love with this cardigan. It’s soft and warm and cosy and exactly the right size (ie, slightly oversized). I think I am probably going to end up living in this over the winter months. I had had my eye on it for a while, but wasn’t sure it was worth the money, but it totally is. I’m even considering getting a second one.
The stripy top is also reasonably thick and warm, plus has gold sparkly threads running through it, making it a bit festive.
I had a bit of trouble with the jeans. I really like them, come on, they’re leopard print!! However, when I tried them on they were really tight, even though they’re a size 12. I was pretty upset and sulked all night afterwards. The next day I headed straight into the city centre to try on the size 14, with the expectation of having to exchange, even though I really wasn’t happy about the idea of wearing size 14 jeans 😦 Anyway, long story short, when I tried on the size 14 they were much too big and were baggy in all the wrong places and just totally unflattering. So I’ve stuck with the size 12. They’re still a little on the tight side, but I’m hoping they might give a little with wear, and I also need to get back on my exercise regime. Fingers crossed.
I’m especially going to love this outfit as it might be the last new outfit I get to buy for a while 😦

Have you picked up any awesome items in the recent spate of reductions/offers that retailers have been running?

Love,
Betty
x

An anti-ode to summer

So it looks like summer is over, supposing it ever properly started, and you know what, I am glad.
Summer is probably my least favorite season, which probably leaves me in a minority.
I love autumn, winter and early spring.
I like wearing boots and big socks, scarves and hats and coats. I like thick knits, wool and faux fur. I feel uncomfortable in swimsuits, bandeau tops and sandals. I can cope with skirts and shorts, but only if I can wear them with reasonably thick tights. I get more excited about fluffy ear-muffs than sunglasses. I like to sit under blankets, all wrapped up. I love open fires (not that I have one).
It’s only been a week since the prospect of autumn arriving has been being thrown around, and I’ve already bought some big woolly socks and wellies!
Why do I dislike summer so? Well, partly it’s because I’m a bit of a delicate flower (haha). As much as I like to see sunshine, I don’t like it when it’s hot, I hate it when it’s humid, I despise sweating and I burn at the drop of a hat. Another thing that puts me off summer is the fact that it’s almost entirely taken over by school holidays, meaning the world is over-run with people and children. Everywhere is busy. I’m an anti-social so-and-so at heart.
But Autumn. Autumn is full of beautiful colours, moody skies and bracing winds. Autumn can be warm but never too hot, and when it’s not you get to pile on lovely layers of jumpers and bundles of scarves. I can go out in the autumn and walk without getting too hot and without places being too busy to be enjoyable.
Autumn gives way to winter. Yes it’s dark, yes it’s cold, yes it rains quite a lot. I don’t even mind the rain that much, it’s so nice to curl up inside with a blanket and hot chocolate while it’s raining cats and dogs outside. Winter also brings wonderful crisp mornings with glittering frosts and the prospect of snow! Winter is the perfect season for breaking out sequined party wear, shimmering make-up and glittery heels.


I’m sure a lot of you will probably disagree with me on a lot of this, but to me, autumn and winter are the most beautiful and enjoyable times of year with the most exciting fashion. Summer is too, ordinary.
I do kind of understand why so many people love the summer so much, but I think autumn and winter are too quickly dismissed, especially given they make up the majority of our year in the UK! Autumn and winter have so much more to offer if you look past the rain and the grey clouds and embrace the positives! Find yourself a good pair of wellies, a big coat and go walk through an autumnal forest and kick leaves and then tell me autumn is not a beautiful time of the year!

All pictures included in this blog are from morgueFile.com, a resource for copyright free images.
I hope you’re making the best of your current weather, whatever it is.
Love,
Betty
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