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February 2012

The beautiful Moray Firth

The beautiful Moray Firth

by Clare Mansell

When we moved to Scotland from Cyprus, one of the things I was most looking forward to were the Scottish beaches.

Big Dog on Lossie beach

This might seem like a really odd thing to say given that we were living on a Mediterranean island before, but you have to bear in mind Cyprus’s beaches are often covered in litter or tourists, roped off to protect sea turtles or (in the case of all but ONE beach on the island) closed to dogs.

Scotland on the other hand has miles and miles of deserted beaches which are dog friendly, and for us personally we are lucky to be just six miles from the wonderful Moray Firth.

Rock hopping
Macy eating seaweed

Over the winter we’ve been consistently lucky with the weather, and most weekends I’ve been able to get out in the fresh air and sunshine, enjoy the surf and let the dogs have a good run off the lead (or just stand around and chomp on seaweed!)

Mostly this is thanks to some good friends who I do the walks with, because one adult, two dogs and a baby is a whole lot less stressful when it becomes three adults, three dogs and two babies.

Me on the beach

Now that there’s less than a month till Jim returns from Afghanistan, we are both looking forward to him being a part of this and getting back into our old routine of weekends on the beach and cooked breakfasts at our favourite harbourside cafe.

This deployment has been a long slog but I’ll come out the other end knowing and valuing our friends a lot more. All the old cliches about military spouses looking out for each other are (mostly) true, and when the tables turn, I am looking forward to being the one giving out help instead of receiving it for a change! I am so almost there…

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Theo at 5 months

Theo at 5 months

by Clare Mansell
Theo - 5 months & 9 days

Another month has passed in the life of Theo Boy!

He continues to be a very bonnie chap. Sleeping and feeding well and engaging with anyone anywhere who’ll give him a smile (he particularly likes the ladies in our local post office!)

He is becoming increasingly aware of the dogs and squeals with delight when he spots them in the mornings. For their part, I have obviously done far too good a job of telling them to stay away from him early on, because most of the time they steer clear of him. However, when they do come close enough to lick his fingers, or for him to touch their fur, a great grin bursts across his face. What will they make of each other, once he becomes mobile?

Oscar & Theo
Theo & his little friend Oscar

He is still growing rapidly and has just grown out of the snowsuit I bought him at Christmas (6 weeks wear!) which means lengthwise he’s into 9-12 month clothes, which is the same as our friend’s 11 month old baby girl – Gosh!

I’m still dabbling with weaning, but as he’s not sitting up properly yet, it’s just a taster of purees once a day, which sometimes he wants, and sometimes he doesn’t. Like a lot of things I’ll be tackling it with more purpose once Jim’s got home and I’ve less on my plate.

And the keen-eyed amongst you may notice he’s quite a bit fairer than when he was born! Most of the dark hair he was born with disappeared, and grew back blonde, I wonder if it will last…

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WIP Wednesday (8th February 2012)

WIP Wednesday (8th February 2012)

by Clare Mansell
New Wave quilt in progress

Oh hello, it’s Wednesday again! This time last week didn’t I make some stupid rash promise that by today I’d have one quilt totally finished and the top for the other one complete? Clearly I was thinking about a world where a week has more than 7 days in it, because I have not even touched the Triple Dresden since last Wednesday!

There has been some good progress on the New Wave quilt though and it seems the simpler I go with designs the more I love them, and this is no exception, I’m already trying to think of an excuse to make one for me!

As I mentioned in previous posts the colours in this quilt were all picked to exactly match the interior decor and existing quilts in my parents house, all with the aid of a Kona Colour Chart. I really don’t know how (or why) I survived without it. The amount of fabric I ordered online that turned up and was slightly different from what I was expecting, now everything matches perfectly.

I mentioned before that they were hard to get in the UK, but if you are still after one simplysolids.co.uk are stocking them, although they seem to sell very quickly! Not only do I now have one, but my mum and my sister have also bought them. (My husband would say we’re a bit like that anyway, if one has something, then the other two have to get it too!)

Anyway, until next week, more inspiring quilting projects to be found by clicking on the link below…

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced
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A weird week and some winter soup

A weird week and some winter soup

by Clare Mansell

Tomato, chickpea and chorizo soup

It’s been a funny kind of week. On Monday I was on the verge of calling the plumber out in an effort to rid our downstairs loo of the horrible smell that had overtaken it in the proceeding 24 hours, but then I discovered the doggy poo bag in the carrier underneath the buggy, which was stored in the downstairs loo – Yuk!

On Wednesday I was briefly horrified as I struggled to squeeze myself into the skirt I’d ordered, only to take it off and find it was a size 8. (US 4) Two sizes smaller than I usually wear! And yes it was my error, not the company’s, I don’t know what I was thinking (or not) when I ordered it.

And on yesterday I thought I’d finally lost it, when things started appearing on my Facebook page when I was nowhere near the computer. Only to learn that 600 miles away my father had been playing around with the facebook “like” button on a website and (having no account of his own) had guessed at my password! I don’t think he had actually realised it would make something appear on my wall!

But after all of that, I can tick another week off the calendar and congratulate myself on surviving it with my sanity intact. There now remains less than six weeks (all being well) until Jim comes home. I feel a lot like an exhausted marathon runner approaching the final few miles.

But what does all of this have to do with that picture of soup? Well not a lot, except I always like to post with a photo, and more importantly I cooked this today and it is quick, filling and delicious, which just about ticks all the boxes for me at the moment…

Spicy chorizo, tomato and chickpea soup (makes 4 good portions)
(Adapted from this recipe at bbcgoodfood.com)

2 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes.
200g of Chrorizo sausage
300g of cabbage, spinach or celery 
A generous sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1 veg stock cube

Slice the chorizo thickly and then quarter each slice. Fry the chorizo in a little oil for about 5 minutes. Add the two tins of tomatoes and a tin of water to a pot on a medium heat, add the fried chorizo, drained of the fat it will have let out in the frying pan. Add the sliced green vegetables, chilli flakes, chickpeas and stock cube, bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the green veg is tender. Eat with some yummy homemade bread.

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Food Bloggers Unplugged

Food Bloggers Unplugged

by Clare Mansell

Obviously I must have been blogging a lot about food recently, because I have been tagged by Magnolia Veranda in her food bloggers post!

What or who inspired you to start a blog?

It’s so long ago (6 years!) that I honestly can’t remember! I was sent to the Falkland Islands with my job with British Forces Broadcasting and I’d sort of heard of these things called blogs and thought it would be an interesting way to keep in touch with friends and family. Now I can’t ever imagine not doing it!

I ♥ Sunday Breakfast

Who is your foodie inspiration?

My mother! My husband still tells people in absolute awe all about how “Clare’s mother cooks absolutely everything from scratch…” and I can still count the amount of takeaways I’ve had on one hand.  I guess I was just born into a family that loves food and believes in preparing excellent stuff to eat.

Your greatest, batter-splattered food/drink book is?

Richard Bertinet’s “Dough”. With apologies to regular readers who hear me banging on about bread quite often, I use a recipe from Richard’s book at least 3 times a week. My whole family are prolific breadmakers. It’s not just that it’s cheaper and contains less rubbish (don’t start me on the Chorleywood baking process) but it also tastes far better than anything I’ve ever been able to buy.

Stack of pain au chocolats

Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Too many! My family had a holiday home in Spain for most of my life so I grew up eating Paella and I still cannot resist the sticky loveliness of paella rice. But more recently I’ve had grilled octopus on Curium Beach in Cyprus (see below,) Toothfish cheeks in the Falkland Islands and an amazing breakfast at the Red Tree Lodge in Fernie, British Columbia.

Lunch at Curium

Another food blogger’s table you’d like to eat at is?

There are so many great bloggers out there, both foodie and non-foodie, I’d find it hard to pick, but there are two or three in the States who would be very high up on my list. Not really anything to do with the food, just that I’d love to see inside their houses!

What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

I’m pretty much sorted for kitchen gadgets, but I do know the husband would love a really expensive coffee machine!

Who taught you to cook?

My mum! She is still teaching me now and I’m 35!

I’m coming to you for dinner, what’s your signature dish?

Bread is going to figure quite highly and if we just want a relaxed hassle free evening, I’ll probably do lasagne, have it all pre-prepared and chuck it in the oven when you arrive.

What is your guilty food pleasure?

A Mars bar straight from the fridge and cut into pieces, A&W burgers, New York fries and Tim Horton’s Boston Cream. I blame two years living in Canada for the last three!

Friday night pizzas

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn.

Food related? I’ve never eaten a kebab (the kind that come from shops) and I was vegetarian for most of my teens!

So now my instructions are to tag five other food bloggers with these questions, who in turn must tag five other food bloggers. Unfortunately I could only think of three, but here they are! 

The View From Great Island
Make Do & Eat
Salt & Chocolate

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