Sunday, 31 July 2011

My Mim

My mim is the lady who taught me to love cooking and creating. When I was little I used to sit on a chair and watch her cook. She is as mad as a cat in a dishwasher. Today she made me cake so I thought I'd share with you this great lady.

She used a doily to make that icing sugar into a pretty little pattern.

 "Whats the point in depriving yourself with a diet, the world has cakes"

Belinda Stepford

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Sugar Stars

I saw on niftythriftythings blog and thought I'd give it a go. Sugar cubes are so cute and a quick way of making something mundane interesting and a bit classier. 

1 cup of granulated sugar
2 regular tablespoons of water
A trap of either mini ice cubes or chocolate moulds
Flat surface, I used a tea tray because I could place the tray on top of the mould and flip it over quickly

Add the sugar to a bowl, if there are any large lumps of dried up sugar either break them up or remove them out.  The add the water to the sugar, don't add both spoons at once stir in one then see if you need the other. what you are aiming for is the consistency of damp sand.

Then add the damp sugar to the ice cube trays, push it down with your finger tips so it is really compressed, think sand castle building for grown ups. I used these sweet star shaped moulds because I thought they would be rather quirky. 

Leave in the trays for ten minutes then carefully flip the ice cube trays onto the flat surface and gently the shapes out. Then leave to stand for an hour, don't touch them as they will fall apart.

Once finished they are pretty solid and can be stored like your average sugar cubes, they look beautiful in the light almost as though they have glitter in them. I used white sugar but you could use brown sugar. They are just adorable. 

Belinda Stepford

Monday, 4 July 2011

Scotland Trip

Mim, Joy and I set off at eleven am listening to Dolly Parton, the weather was overcast but warm. We where packed into the car with food and bags. We whizzed up the motorway heading towards the Lake District. I had a rather dozy moment where I thought ‘gosh that landscape is really well animated’ which I am so glad I didn’t say out loud. I felt ridiculous the moment I thought it. Dotted along the motorway where birds of prey such as Kestrels, Buzzards and Kites, in the last couple of years I’ve noticed them a lot more.

We arrived at the Lake District at around twelve; we took a detour through some cute country lanes to go to Grasmere. Singing along to Tom Jones and giggling, the sun was shining and it felt decidedly warm. We walked in the sunshine and looked at the river. Then stopped at a cutie little café for brunch. I drank a cappuccino and had a slice of carrot and cranberry cake, twas lovely. On the way back to the car I noticed the sick and twisted butchers window display and had a giggle.

The Cafe window
In the butchers window, brilliance. 

We then drove on zipping up the motorway, through the mountainous geography and headed in the direction of Scotland.  We stopped at Gretna Green on the way; oh it’s so delightfully tacky. I tried heather whiskey it was really sweet and tasty but for the next half hour all I could taste was plant. There was a highland cow there and some belted Galloway’s, so we all had a photo next to them.  We had a picnic on a bench; I spent most of my time throwing bread to sparrows. I actually can't believe people get married there its just so not special at all. Its like a retail outlet with a chapel. 

We pushed on and got to Glasgow and had a bit of a game with their one-way system. We stopped at joys uni accommodation, where I accidently left my bag so no photos of us heading off into the city. It is beautiful, the architecture is really appealing and there is so much to do. We had dinner at a little Italian place, the service was great and the food was lovely. We skipped dessert and headed back to joys accommodation, stopping off at Tesco on the way to pick up milk and bits. On the walk to joys accommodation there is a stretch of grass joy had been insistent there where rabbits on, we joked about saying she’d seen rats. Them my Mim pointed and said ‘look rabbits’, I glanced up and said disparagingly ‘no mother that is a seagull’ … the rabbits where about three foot from the seagull… I am an idiot. When we finally got to joys flat I was less than impressed, it smelt like pizza and there was mouldy food in the fridge. She was annoyed that one of her flat mates had used her slow cooker and not washed it so that too was mouldy. She poured bleach in it while I made cups of tea.  We had out tea and Mim and I left to go to travel lodge leaving joy to pack up her uni flat over night. This is where things start unravelling.  Firstly the satnav wouldn’t find satellites so we used my phone to navigate, I had a proper map but had no idea where on the map we where. Then the satnav who we call Betty found satellites but just had us driving across fields. We managed to get out of Glasgow but then my phone died. We where lost on the motorway when we hit diversions, there where millions of cones everywhere in pairs. Betty was recalculating and sending us around roundabouts multiple times. We saw a deer at the side of the road eating grass. We ended up in the canal capital of Scotland with a train of about twelve cars behind us getting annoyed because we where in a national speed limit zone going at forty, looking at maps and going around mini roundabouts multiple times, we went to a council estate because the satnav told us to, then back to the exit we came off at. We ended up in a bus stop that wasn’t marked on the signage but wasn’t the second exit either. It was an ordeal

Eventually I spotted the Travelodge in the distance and we managed to find the entrance. The travel lodge was twelve miles from the uni accommodation and should have taken at most twenty five minutes to get there. We arrived at about half ten at night two hours we spent doing the elaborate version of twelve miles.  The Travelodge was at least nice. The room was a pale yellow instead of the usual garish orange. We settled in really quickly I was on the floor bed and Mim was in the bed. We both read our books for a while then Mim fell asleep and snored. I eventually fell asleep. In the morning we got up late and shower. We headed off to joys where we had tea and breakfast of little cereals that you get to go camping with. I helped joy finish packing while Mim tided up our mess in the kitchen, what a star. Mim and I had another cup of tea then found we where getting in the way so we headed off into the wilderness of Glasgow, I bought an amazing green top in a charity shop. To fill in the gaps in the photos here are some from Queens View seeing as I took so many.

 Forget me nots
 Cow parsley

We went back to joys and ate bread, goats’ cheese and grapes it was heaven. Peasant food is where it is at. We faffed about a bit packing and tidying. After that we headed out to go to loch Lomond. We got a bit lost but there where lots of signs along the way. We stopped at a Co-op and bought a chicken and some nibbles while on the journey. We listened to Simon and Garfunkel and sang along.

We stopped at a mountain thing called Queens View and ambled up to the viewing platform. The views where intense and the botany was so diverse. It was warm but breezy and Mim gave us all sorts of facts about the geography of the landscape. Like the rounded mountains where formed by glaciers being formed on top of them and then melting so over thousands of years they have been smoothed down.

This is my favourite one 

We then drove on to loch Lomond and walked to the shoreline carrying our picnic. We found a table that over looked the loch and the mountains, it was stunning. The afternoon sun was still warming but the breeze had died completely so it was cosy. We ate chicken wraps with salad and salsa, drank cider and admired the view. We watched some grebes teaching their chicks how to hunt fish. It was so peaceful. Until the midges came out so we left before I was bitten to death. We dropped joy off and Mim and I had another mission through the canal capital to find the Travelodge, it was funny but by the time we arrived we where both rather tired.

The next morning consisted of helping joy pack all her stuff into the car and getting the keys of the landlord, which took about two hours because he was being silly. Joy got very stressed out, eventually we got the keys. When we arrived at the flat we found out we had been given the wrong keys and had to wait for the landlord to arrive. Joy and Mim went off to get the rest of joys things from her uni flat because she had to be out by midday. The landlord arrived and let me in giving me the new keys. Joys flat is amazing a family could live there the ceilings are ridiculously high and the windows are huge. It’s poorly decorated but that’s what you expect from a student flat. I was snooping about when one of the bedroom doors closed on me. When I went to open it, it wouldn’t budge, the door handle just turned around. Then Mim and joy arrived and couldn’t get in the flat because I was locked in a room. I was laughing and trying to find a way out, joy went and stood outside looking at me from the window. Mim stood outside the door helpless. Joy was on the phone to me shouting silly suggestions like cut up your cardigan and lower the keys down. That was a stupid idea seeing as the window only opened two inches and there was a ledge beneath the window so they would have ended up sat on a ledge. I then went to inspect the door and remember when this happened with the door at home we used a screwdriver to lift the door latch. I then used a broken hangar and made my escape. Mim later told me she had been planning on ringing the fire brigade if I couldn’t have escaped. Oh how foolish I would have felt.

leaving the door wedged open

After that joy taped warnings on the door and taped the hangar I broke too. We carried all joys things from the car into the hallway of the flat and then set about cleaning. The flat was filthy and dusty. I doubt it had been cleaned in twenty years. I know it’s a student rental so it hadn’t exactly been loved but it was really vile in places. When I later had a shower the water turned grey from all the filth in my hair. We spent absolute hours on cleaning and it was brought up to a minimum standard. We then played about with where the furniture should go, it was all either IKEA or stuff clearly bought from the charity shop across the road in a rush. After a lot of heavy lifting and joy giving directions like ‘turn it to the left, not your left’ we gave up and had a cup of tea and I realised I was starving. So we went for a walk picked up some bits and came back to the flat and ate bacon butties and chatted away until it was time for bed. I slept in one of joys flat mates rooms, I steam cleaned the bed before use mind. It was noisy because of the road but comfortable.
In the morning joy was unpacking so Mim and I where just getting in the way, so we left and went to explore. We did a bit of shopping and bought some things for joy like a mop and buckets, and then we went to the Kelvin Grove Art Gallery and Museum. It was so interesting. The displays where really cobbled together comparing animals to machines but it worked really well. The art was really amazing too but I can’t help but feel I’ spoilt when it comes to art galleries growing up in Liverpool we have so many great works of art it hard to be impressed by most collections.

We had tea in a cafe, from funny cups, and laughed at a woman with a child that kept running way. We chatted about art and our plans. I showed Mim my photo snaps and we giggled about the cones. Mim said she had considered throwing Betty out the window.

The Gallery was closing so we left and went for a stroll in the park; we found an herbaceous boarder and took some photographs of the plants. It was getting late so we left. again I spent ages photographing the beautiful flowers.

 Don't worry I a path to get there
 We headed back to joys and Mim cooked spicy chicken and rice, we ate away and told joy about our day. I tried to watch a movie on joys laptop but it wouldn’t play so I ended up reading my book some more, I’m not enjoying this book the writing is stilted and the characters aren’t likeable or interesting. Joy and I then made halwa, which is an Indian milk jelly dessert with cinnamon and pistachios in. It’s really tasty so we left that in the fridge to set. We then moved the things in joys room about making it a bit more homely, then we all went to bed, Mim slept in joys room as its quieter and wanted a good nights sleep before the drive. Joys room is quieter but it’s smaller and the worst decorated compared to the other rooms so that’s the trade.

In the morning we had eggs on toast and cups of tea for breakfast, we tidied all the bits that where hanging around the flat and locked up. Joy will be spending the summer in Liverpool so her stuff is really just being stored there at the moment.  We set off at around eleven and drove to Edinburgh without a fuss. We stopped to wonder around a bit and have tea. I much prefer Edinburgh to Glasgow its so pretty and the accent is nicer. I bought a dress in a charity shop and Mim bought a top. We left Edinburgh after about half an hour because we wanted to arrive home as early as possible. We did that a detour to a place called peas cove because joys saw a sign and said lets got there. We ended up on a tiny narrow lane going down and down a steep cliff face. That led to a caravan park, which was literally a foot from the sea. We then forded a river crossing and drove up an even steeper narrow lane. There where no other cars and we where laughing about the silliness of it all. We found a cross road and turned left, so we ended up on a turnip farm and had to turn around and go back. Then we ended up on a road with road works, the men looked at us like we where mad and they clearly had no idea where we had come from but they move out of our way so we could get passed. Once we where passed them we passed a sign that said the road we had just driven down was closed.  We eventually found our way back to a road we knew where we where relying on Joys poor map reading skills because she wanted to be in charge of the map. I swear she is twenty but a child.

We finally found Berwick after much faffed and lots of u-turns and little back and beyond villages. It started to rain. We stopped and had a walk about and some food, I had chips and a chicken burger it was all right for fast food but I’m not really a fan. There was a spider on the wall as well, which put me off.

We then left Berwick and drove to where Grace Darling is buried; it was starting to rain so we didn’t stay long. Her memorial was really beautiful with carved stone seaweed along the pillars. I really liked that the stone figure of Grace was raised off the ground so she could see over the wall and look out to sea.

We drove passed Bamburgh castle but it was closed because it was four. So we drove on getting turned around and lost with joy directing us totally in the wrong direction. It was funny at first. We had intended to go to Hadrian’s Wall but it was to late in the day and Mim wanted to get home. We ended up stuck in traffic in new castle anyway so it didn’t really make a difference in the time. We saw the angel of the north and a rainbow.  We drove through Kendal just as the sun was setting and the mountains in the pale light looked like a turner painting. We trudged on. Stopping at a service station for a drink and a walk about.

By the time it was dark and we where nearly home but on the wrong side of Preston, this is where joys ineptness with a map really took us wrong, we ended up driving in the wrong direction and doing loops and wasted about an hour trying to escape. We ended up in Southport and when we finally got home it was passed midnight. We all went and collapsed into bed. Seven hundred and seventy two miles we did in total over a few days. I had work the next day one until five but I had to get up early to go buy some camping supplies.  In the end Leigh and I couldn’t go camping because her car Bugsy had a blown exhaust. 

Belinda Stepford