14 January 2014

Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate)

As much of North America braces for a second Polar Vortex and the United Kingdom prepares for (more) flooding, is anybody else considering building an igloo or an ark?

With sunshine in the forecast for two hours today, we headed out for a winter's forest walk and picnic. In true English style, we found our perfect picnic spot and, on cue, the rain started.

Just two bites into our sandwiches we had to pack away the picnic. We took refuge in an enclosed tree house which minutes before had been bathed in sunshine and an intriguing place for our little pirate to explore.

We denied the rain any joy in washing out our family fun.

Cold and tired, Ouisie only consented to grocery shopping after a promised concession of hot chocolate back at the cottage.

As you try to thaw between arctic blasts, or dry out between floods,  perhaps Chef's Chocolat Chaud will help warm your frozen feelers and soggy spirits, too.

Serves 2 

2 cups of Whole Milk
40g  (1/4- 1/3 cup) good quality Dark Chocolate (finely chopped)
1/4 cup double cream
  1. Bring milk to simmer then remove from heat.
  2. Add chocolate and whisk until melted.
  3. Add double cream and blitz with hand blender to create froth.
  4. Pour into glass and garnish with grated chocolate and marshmallows

10 January 2014

Our Marriage: A Decade Strong

Our marriage turned 10 today (that is 3,653 days to include the leap years in between).

We intended to go on an African safari to celebrate our anniversary. You would think ten years would be ample time to plan, but alas it proved otherwise.

And so, we celebrated a decade together in the English countryside observing wildfowl in the fields, the aging dog, and our precocious Queen of the Wild Things. It was, almost, the Serengeti.

Ten years later, we still draw straws over who spotted who first.  We do agree on one point: it was love at first sight. The whirlwind romance found us married just 13 months after our first date.
A risky proposition?
Do any come with a lifetime guarantee? 
Our winter wedding day was picture perfect but was far more than a great celebration. It served as a platform from which we joined hands and dove into our new lives as husband and wife.

In our first first ten years of marriage we have revealed our idiosyncrasies, hang ups, and pet peeves. 

Island fever and city-scapes, in vitro fertilization and miscarriage, promotions and transfers, culinary creations and travel adventures, grey hairs and receding hairlines; these are the bricks and mortars that shape our marriage. 

We have cried and laughed, mourned loss and celebrated birth, explored countries, feasted better than royals, and created a comfortable home.

While we love to reflect on the past and anticipate the best is yet to come, we try to remain focused on the present and feel eternally grateful.

I wanted to share with you a 1.5 minute video from the past 5,260,321 minutes we have enjoyed as husband and wife.

For these, and all the other memories, I raise a toast to my beloved Chef.

05 January 2014

Tissue Papered Windows: Notre Dame de Hampshire

Rain, rain go (and stay) away! 

The United Kingdom has a soggy start to 2014. After weeks of rain, the lingering English grey sky makes even the most upbeat of us feel gloomy and depressed.  I realised yesterday how desperately the country needs a good wringing out when a flock of seagulls sought refuge in our countryside woodland. Squawk! 

Inevitably, bad weather has poor timing, and this winter front is no exception. Christmas school holidays and seasonal closures have found me reaching deep into my creative hat for fun indoor activities for our toddler.

Perhaps the reason I love this sensory play for a rainy day is because of its invigorating and cheerful colours.

It involves three things that most have at their fingertips: coloured tissue paper, a spray bottle, and a window. The cleanup is minimal and it is a great exercise for the child to practice fine motor skills and color mixing. And best of all, the end result is a multi-coloured window that is sure to brighten up a dreary day.

Assorted coloured tissue paper cut into small squares
Spray bottle filled with water
A floor window (or secured bench window)

Cut the tissue paper into small squares (or whichever shapes you fancy) and place into a container. 

Ensure the child is able to easily spray the water from the bottle. I only filled a quarter of the bottle so as not too heavy for the toddler to hold (and less of a water spill should the cap be unscrewed by my clever artist).

Ouisie really enjoyed spraying the water. At first, she carefully pieced the cut tissue paper one at a time and ensured each was secure with her "glue" water.

Note: The dye from the tissue paper will run down the window if a lot of water is applied. If worried about any stains, best to protect floor, baseboard, and window frame before activity.
Almost immediately, the first pieces of tissue paper brought lovely bright colour into the room. It was the next best thing to natural sunshine!

The fascination with the sticking the tissue paper was temporarily lost to spraying water into her mouth.

Ouisie then began to apply multiple pieces of tissue paper at a time. We watched as the water from the spray bottle bled the colours together forming new pigments. 

The activity held Ouisie's attention for a good 45-minutes which is a light year for a toddler!

The tissue paper stayed on the window even after drying. If you allow the paper to dry onto the window, please note it takes a little more work to clean up as some of the paper may need to be lightly scratched off. 

Et voila! Notre Dame de Hampshire. 

How pretty does that rose window look against the backdrop of rain? Here is proof that every dark cloud has a silver (or multi coloured) lining! 

03 January 2014

A Cottage-made Christmas

You know the holidays are winding down when: you are numb from exhaustion instead of winter temps, the child is bouncing off the walls from stocking sugar overload and school holidays, the creche has ten new pieces in need of storage, and you cannot remember if trash collection is today or tomorrow.

Ho! Ho! Hiccup.... Happy New Year!!

We celebrated our 7th Christmas in the cottage and our 3rd with Ouisie. From 1st December- 24th December she inhaled her breakfast eager to open the advent calendar for a sweet treat. She met her  Elf of the Shelf, Sprinkles, and delighted in finding him each morning. I must praise Sprinkles Elf as Ouisie's timeouts decreased in December. And despite Chef and Ouisie's hesitation at first, we all enjoyed our elf's witty sense of humour. In fact, the cottage is a bit too quiet and tame without him...

Ouisie sang Happy Birthday to Jesus every day of advent and Santa's jingle bells were heard for weeks before his scheduled debut. Our toddler's joy was infectious and renewed Chef and my faith in virgin births and flying reindeer.
Aside from Ouisie's delight, my favourite part of Christmas was the homemade element. Ouisie and I kept busy with Christmas crafts and decorating salt ornaments for her friends. Santa and Mrs Claus spent weeks refurbishing a kid's kitchen and easel. And Christmas dinner was a triumphant culinary first for Chef with his Pithiviers. You can read more about Pithiviers from Callie & Chef's blog post, J'adore George V.

Though exhausted from many late nights of painting and prep, the cottage-made elements of our Christmas celebration added a personal touch which we will treasure and hopefully Ouisie will remember. What's more, the demolition and degustation of some of the crafts was equally satisfying.

In the coming weeks some of the craft projects will be linked to posts with full instructions/recipes/tips. I am assuming that you, like me, are not planning Christmas 2014 just yet?

Cheers to sharing more great food, adventure, and laughter with you in 2014!

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