Wednesday, February 29

Recent deliciousness

Here are a couple of things I have managed to bake and photograph before it gets dark! (Although I'm loving the steadily lighter evenings and the fact it's March tomorrow!)

I made muffins using a Paul Hollywood (of bake-off fame) recipe and substituting the blueberries for chocolate chips. I'm on the hunt for the best basic muffin recipe - mine never turn out quite like the ones you get in coffee shops and bakeries.
This one was probably the best so far. Instead of the usual muffin method (preparing the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another, then roughly mixing together) this recipe used a cake-like method - creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs, etc. The muffins had a nice "crumb" and used easy store cupboard ingredients. My only criticism is that there was definitely nowhere near enough batter for TWELVE muffins - I only made eleven, and they were much smaller than I would've liked. Mary Berry wouldn't be impressed, Paul!

I also made some rock cakes from a lovely recipe book - the National Trust Teatime Baking Book - which I picked up for £4 from WHSmith! It's crammed with so many delicious and classic English recipes - scones, Chelsea buns, Easter biscuits, apple cake, fat rascals... One of those recipe books you read through and think, "right, sod it, I'm becoming a fatty, cake for breakfast!" Anyway these rock cakes, made with wholewheat flour and soft brown sugar, turned out truly delicious (although personally I think 2 tsp mixed spice is a bit much).

I'll end with some daffodils because at this time of year I think daffodils should be everywhere. Oh hurry up spring! Morning sunshine through kitchen windows, gingham tablecloths, fresh cut flowers on the table, poached egg on toast, sixties music on the radio...

Saturday, February 25

And when we find the land we will be thankful to all of our friends

Walking is one of my favourite exercises: it's free, it's good for you, you get to see England up close, and there's something so natural and therapeutic about travelling on your own two legs.
These photos were taken on a walk taken last week somewhere near the beginnings of the Chilterns, in Oxfordshire I think (my geography is terrible). Sometimes, on a grey day in February, a bracing hike somewhere new is just what I need, to blow the cobwebs away and lift the spirits.
Oxfordshire is really pretty and this walk began in the most picture-postcard English village ever - trellised cottages, sprawling period houses, hilly lanes, a meandering river, short stubby old churches, rambling antique shops and a cosy cafe. Along the way we didn't see many people but spotted gorse, robins, mysterious bright yellow birds, and lots of lost gloves and lumps of snow, remnants of chillier weather. We had a picnic lunch on top of a hill overlooking the Oxford villages clustered round the Thames. What is it about hiking that makes ordinary cheese and tomato sandwiches taste amazing?

I think gorse is my new favourite thing. I love anything yellow, but this is extra pretty against the February murk.

Sunday, February 12

Snow & spring

The snow came at a good moment: I had a bit more time on my hands to venture out, and it was an opportunity to practise with my DSLR. I know snow photos get a bit boring, but I couldn't resist sharing some of the robins I spotted in the white. I especially loved the two robins having a conflab over their breakfast!

At this time of year the snow melts very quickly and the snowfall was nowhere near as epic as the 'Big Freeze' of December 2010 but it was good to see everywhere covered in white, if only for a short time. Snow gets a lot of hate and it can be inconvenient, but I think it's so beautiful - like Laura Marling says, "I never love England more than when covered in snow."

It's weird seeing bits of spring poking out of the snow too. Kitchen daffodils next to a snowy garden. The first bright colours of spring against the frosty white.

I'm thinking of starting a photography portfolio blog, something akin to what Laura (hearts of sand) has done, just to have a place to keep my favourite photos together. What do you guys think?
I also want to get back into posting more regularly now that the January/February slump is coming to an end (hurrah!). What sort of posts would you like more of? I usually just post about whatever I'm enjoying at the time, but if there is anything in particular you'd like to see, let me know!

Goodbye old England covered in snow. Hello spring, I'm starting to feel ready for you now.