Chocolate chip cookie monster

Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favourites- they taste of my childhood.  One needs the proper chips for them, however, and these are difficult to obtain in the UK.  Only Nestle Toll House chips will do.  I pleaded with my mother to bring me some this past Christmas and she obliged, so last week I made a batch.

They came out perfectly and were well-received by all who tasted them.  The recipe is here, and for UK bakers, it is imperative to replace the ‘All-purpose flour’ with strong white bread flour.

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A New Year’s walk

New years’ day was sunny and glorious- hopefully a sign of things to come.  We walked around Blagdon lake, sometimes on footpaths and sometimes on country lanes.  The views were beautiful, and the lake very quiet.  It is a nature reserve and a habitat for lots of birds and other wildlife.  I feel very lucky to have this landscape on my doorstep.

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Apple and blackberry

I am still catching up on blogs I meant to do in 2012!

This year we had some brilliant blackberry-picking adventures.  Living out in the countryside, blackberries in hedges are as common as, well, blackberry hedges, so it was not difficult to find a field in which there were more blackberries than we could carry home with us.  We also have a bramley apple tree in the garden.  So there was much jam-making, all of it done by Mark, and a little bit of pie-making (by me).

The pie below is a simple blackberry and apple pie, with an all-butter crust (half the weight of butter to flour, rub in, add ice water to bind etc) and about equal volumes of chopped up bramleys and blackberries, with a generous sprinkling of sugar.  Doused in cream, it was very good indeed.

I should confess now that whilst I did an extraordinary amount of Christmas baking this year, I took no photos of any of it.  Oops.  I was extremely proud of my mince pies, though, particularly as the pastry finally actually worked out.  I put this down to a combination of tips from Nigel and Nigella (Slater and Lawson), who suggest, respectively, chilling the liquid used to bind the pastry with ice, and placing the bowl full of flour and small cubes of butter into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill once you’ve measured it all out and before you rub the butter into the flour.  I did both, and the pastry was consequently very easy to work with.  I also followed Nigella’s tip to use 00 flour (that’s 2-1 Nigella to Nigel, if you’re counting.)  I may need to make another pie shortly to be sure I’ve cemented my skills from this festive season.

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Bookcase project

I may have mentioned here before that Mark has been working in Bournemouth for the last four months, and travelling home to Bristol at weekends.  Needless to say, this was an undesirable arrangement for many reasons (although there was a silver lining in the cloud as he saw more of his family who live in that area), but it has thankfully now come to an end as he has left the horrible job which sent him there.  “Our” furniture reclamation projects which were embarked upon so excitedly when we first moved in to our current flat were put on hold as Mark’s do-stuffing time in the evenings and weekends became almost non-existent.  The true extent to which all things DIY are driven and completed by him also became very apparent, as if it wasn’t before!

So it was with glee in his heart on his first free day home that Mark headed down to the wood recycling centre to find a ratty old bookcase for the knock-down price of £10.

I never actually saw it naked in person as I was up in London, but according to Mark (who took all the photos in this post) these shots somewhat mask the fact that the wood veneer was in quite poor condition.

(Note- the photo above is a bit misleading- there is a mirror in the back of the bookcase which is actually reflecting a DIFFERENT bookcase which looks quite similar to this one, but was in better condition so we left it as-is.)

So while I wouldn’t condone blithely painting over lovely wood (witness our gateleg table as an excellent example of something which, in my opinion, should never ever be painted or even varnished), it seemed this specimen wasn’t sufficiently sacrosanct to warrant saving, and a few good coats of white paint would give it a new lease of life (and fit in with my current obsession for all things Scandinavian.)

It first had a good undercoat, then slipped into a white eggshell.

Ta-da!  I am already plotting how to fill up the shelves without him noticing before it’s too late.  In all ways, it is good to have Mark home.