Monday, 30 April 2012

Frolicks In the Bluebell Wood

While Canada has intense red, orange and gold autumn leaves and France has fields of lavender and sunflowers to beautify its landscape, England can claim spring as its season of loveliness. An English spring has chartreuse green and glorious bluebell woods. When in a bluebell wood, you have to imagine yourself as a lover of Keats, fresh and flushed under the verdant green of Hampstead Heath.

Keats describes the petite, unfurling bluebells the way that you could describe many English flowers, gardens and girls: 'sweet buds...with a modest pride.'  

The new beech leaves were at the point before they've gained strength and still have their protective baby hairs on.

Very, very occasionally, laziness is rewarded. I bought this suede skirt at a charity shop months ago (when it was too big for me), intending to take a few inches off the waist. I never did and it has served my pregnancy waist wonderfully. I thought the belt made it a bit like a holster; I was certainly ready for a showdown in the Bluebell Wood.

Outfit: Blazer from Korea; tie blouse, Warehouse; suede skirt, charity shop in the fascinating Coventry (if you like 1950s and 60s architecture you must go); sunshine yellow ballet flats, Clarks.

What do you love about spring? If you live in the U.K., how have you been coping with the rain?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Coleslaw for People Who Don't Like Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a perfect accompaniment to anything barbequed or grilled-- burgers, ribs, chicken, corn, potato wedges. Generally though, I find coleslaw contaminated. Whether it's with onions, too much cabbage, too much mayonnaise, or too little something; I feel like coleslaw should be good, but generally isn't. Then I discovered celeriac. 

So, how does cabbage become glorious? My recipe is basically like a celeriac remoulade with a Waldorf salad. I really think this is especially good for kids and vegetarians as there's sweetness, crunch and nuttiness. Pretty much any of the ingredients can be omitted (apart from the dressing), but together they really are insanely addictive. 

Celeriac Coleslaw Recipe:

Adjust the quantities according to what you have and like. This is what I love.

1 SMALL celeriac (the smaller they are the sweeter they are, and the smallest in the shop is enough for 6 decent portions)
About 4 cabbage leaves- savoy cabbage is my favourite.
2 celery stalks
1 apple- I'm a fan of the Pink Lady.
2 handfuls of pecans

Juice of 1 lemon/lime
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons half fat creme fraiche/thick yogurt (I use these to cut the fat a bit, but you could use all mayonnaise)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard (Go for English mustard if you like it hot, but still in slightly smaller quantities).

1. Cut cabbage into strips. Chop celery into bite size pieces.
2. Quarter apple and slice thinly. Grate celeriac. Add lemon juice (like apples, the celeriac will discolour slightly without the acid).

 3. Spoon mayonnaise, yogurt and mustard on top and mix into the coleslaw. Add any more ingredients according to your taste.
4. Toast pecans and add to coleslaw. 

Makes 6 decent portions. The coleslaw will stay fresh in the fridge for about 2 days. I love it as leftovers in my lunch.

I'm always trying (and usually ignoring) to eat more salad and vegetables. Do you have any tasty salad/vegetable dish recommendations?

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Cake To Impress a Mother-In-Law

Unlike most bloggers, I do not create perfectly pretty cupcakes. If you're one of those people, I'm jealous. I've only really gotten into domestic goddressry since I've wanted to impress my husband and his family. Easter was one of the those occasions. Being Easter and not going for the chocolate option, yellow became the obvious choice. I pimped this fine recipe from the warm yet no-nonsense Mary Berry; here is her recipe for lemon yogurt cake (link here). I really think this lemon cake will impress girlfriends, men, colleagues or whomever. It's easy, not too sweet but still intensely flavoured.

How I Pimped the Mary Berry Lemon Yogurt Cake:
1. Use more lemon zest. Whether vanilla, cinnamon, lemon or any flavouring I almost always double what the recipe advises. I zested a LARGE lemon and another half. If you're going for an impress the foodies option, grapefruit might grab their attention more; if I were making it for my Mum it would be a lime cake. For the mother-in-law and the three men, I went classic.

2. When the cake is cooked, poke some holes in it with a skewer the way you would for a lemon drizzle cake. I drizzled the juice from a lemon and a couple capfuls of limoncello I still have (limoncello recipe here) .

3. Use a more interesting cake mould, if you have one. A plain loaf is harder to make look elegant. I juiced a second lemon when I turned the mould over (make sure the cake's cool before turning it out) and added some more limoncello.

4. The quantities recommended for the icing produce a very firm, seriously sweet, royal icing. I added more lemon juice to make it more of a drizzle and iced the cake by making diagonal stripes. Add the zest from another lemon on top of the icing.

5. Add a sauce. Lemon goes wonderfully with berries, so this was my effort- raspberries and tayberries from the freezer. Blueberries would also look and taste fresh. I cooked the berries down with a bit of raspberry wine that I had; any red juice or water would be fine though. 

The cake did indeed impress. Impress the in-laws mission accomplished.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Wedding circa 1965

It's 1965- you're invited to an April wedding in England. What do you wear? In England, you're still definitely wearing a hat. Your hair hasn't quite grown to the dream of straight Michelle Phillips California hair. Swirls and flower power haven't quite hit. The reception is in the local pub. Your journey brings you to a butter yellow shift with puffy chiffon sleeves.

A pale blue veil gives you the something blue, even though you don't need it, as you're just a guest. You flip out the ends of your hair.

Stepping outside for a bit of fresh air, your date takes these photos.

Outfit: The dress and top were my Easter outfit, but it just felt so 1960s wedding that I thought I'd add a ridiculous/wonderful hat to it.
Hat- local charity shop.

Yellow shift dress stolen from my sister's old closet- last seen last summer, here:

Chiffon top, Forever 21- last seen at New Year's Eve here: 

Black and white brogues, Asos. They're falling apart right now as they're my work shoes that I wear to tromp around at the weekend too. Still, I think they've been good value.

I've been stalking the patent Topshop pastel brogues since the new year as their sweeter replacement.  Irritatingly, they're also twice the price of my original spats. Are they worth it?
Are you embracing spring colours? Has anyone found some reasonably priced pastel clothing that might be work appropriate? After February, shops don't seem to sell sleeves or anything with much material, never mind length. Let me know if you have any underground tips.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The Sun Will Shine on the Oxford Blues

                                         The Boat Race. "Terrible loss," you might say, if you're a supporter of the Oxford Blues. Even if you're like my sister and think you don't like sports, watch it. It'll certainly leave you with a grand game of "What If...?". Mega-aggressive Cox, Zoe De Toledo, was being cautioned constantly. As the wife of a Thames rower I've learned that this is a normal strategy for any cox-- the idea is to intimidate your opponents off the fastest water that you want for yourself.

Image of the intense Zoe de Toledo and her cox adversary Ed Bosson from

I dressed in Oxford blue to show my support, finding solace in a field of lurid yellow rapeseed in the Oxfordshire countryside. I was pleased that an Oxonian noticed the matching of the polka dots and the dot-like quality of the pearls.

Were it not for the distraction of some Kinder chocolate and notice-me yellow blooms, the blues may have dominated.

What did you think of the Boat race?

What cheers you up? Found any lovely Easter sights lately?