Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Flake cake

It is just a regular Wednesday, what we in Norway sometimes refer to as “little Saturday”, and I thought it would be nice with a midweek treat.

I got this cake recipe last time I was over in England and have used it with success a few times. Some weeks ago Hubby and I were sitting down for a coffee and cake on the veranda, when a neighbour from down the road walked by. We invited him to come on over or a cuppa and I cut him a hearty slice of the cake. He must have liked it because he made sure he got even the tiniest crumbs before he put his plate down.

Why don’t you give it a try too?

Here is the recipe:

2 oz self-raising flour, wholemeal and white

2 oz ground almonds

2 oz grated coconut

4 oz butter

4 oz sugar

2 large eggs

1 large Cadbury Flake chocolate

Bake at 150 degrees for 35 minutes

I find almonds go well in many dishes, so I usually keep a small stock handy.

Use two large eggs or three small ones.

I’m very happy with my Typhoon scales, although I can't for the life of me understand why I chose to buy the red ones when all my other kitchen things are cream enamel. Oh well, I must have been in a red mood that day I suppose.

I usually use half and half of whole meal and white flour.

The coconut gives it a nice and chewy texture.

We never use margarine in cooking, only real butter.

This baking tin is actually a little bit too big for the recipe.

Warm cake straight from the oven smells divine.

If you serve it warm, a bit of ice cream on the side makes it even better.
Maple syrup flavoured ice cream is lovely, but vanilla will also go well with this cake.

The lovely old cups from Hubby’s granny are our favourites when we are having an afternoon treat.

Hope you’ll enjoy it!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

A Close Shave

For Hubby, shaving has gone from being a daily boring chore to a daily 20 minutes of fun in front of the mirror. You see, he finds it so entertaining that he takes his time about it – humming and singing a little. It obviously provides a good start to his day.

As lots of other men, Hubby used to use an electric shaver. In fact, he had never used anything else. But a few years ago, on a trip to Helsinki, he managed to leave his electric shaver at home and Husfruen was sent out to buy a can of shaving foam and a packet of disposable razors. That was it. He never looked back.

I had no idea that you could actually get hooked on shaving but that is exactly what happened. Hubby very quickly advanced from the cheap razors to the best Gillette can offer. However, it turned out that this was, in his opinion, by no means the best a man can get. What is more, the cost of blades, which didn’t last very long, annoyed him.

An intense period of trial and error followed. Finally though, he decided that old-fashioned safety razors were the thing. Fitted with blades from Personna, they gave him the closest and best shave.

He is very happy with the fact that he pays less than one krone (ten pennies) per blade. Once, when a poor telemarketer from Proctor and Gamble called to offer some so-called cheap blades, Hubby kept him on the line for more than half an hour, finally convincing him that he had to try the old-fashioned blades, as they are so much better and more economical.

But he doesn’t count the thousands he has spent on the rest of the gear. You see, once he got going with this new hobby, he started buying everything you can possibly think of and then some more. Husfruen just shook her head in silence, while his mom exclaimed laconically: “Oh dear, he has really gone to town with that one, hasn’t he?”
There are only a few manufacturers left of the old-fashioned safety razors, so Hubby had to spend quite a few happy hours online to find the best, but a razor from the German precision firm of Merkur soon found its way into the bathroom and helped to increase both the standard of his shave as well as the length of time spent shaving.

Well, that was just the first of several. He now has razors for all occasions. For everyday use there is the “slant”, for long hair he has a “comb” and he even has a little one specially designed for the mustaches. For travelling a so-called “HD” has replaced a take-down travel razor. This one obviously needed a leather-case, so he had a shoemaker make one specially.

Then there are the brushes. Of course he has several. A badger hair brush from Shavemac (another German company) is used to apply the soap every morning. Then he has another, silver encased one for travelling.

Obviously, his favourite brush and razor need a proper stand, so that they are kept correctly and are easily at hand. I have to admit it all looks rather stylish.

Of course we have not touched upon the subject of soaps yet. There has been a long period of trial and error there too. Perhaps we’ll come back to that another time. All I will say for now is that a beautiful soap dish certainly looks better in the bathroom than a can of shaving foam, so this is one of his habits I can easily tolerate. I sure am glad though, that we have two bathrooms so that I don’t have to wait in line in the morning.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Lazy Fairies and Laissez-faire

My mother-in-law is a housewife extraordinaire. She cooks, she cleans and she bakes so well that just the thought of any of her pastry dishes causes Hubby’s eyes to take on a dreamy far-away look. If ironing was an Olympic sport, there is no doubt in my mind she would be the captain of the English team.

My father-in-law, who, let it be said, is a dab hand in the kitchen himself, reaps the benefits of her daily efforts. Something, I am sure, he is eternally grateful for. However, from time to time he fails to see the necessity of her spending hour after hour behind the ironing board and kindly asks her to sit down with a cup of tea instead. To which she will call out “In a little while, dear”, gaze over at the still half-full laundry basket, sigh, roll her eyes, and mutter under her breath “You know, he thinks the fairies will do it!”

Now, my father-in-law is not a dim-witted man – quite on the contrary, I think most people would agree – and that had me wondering. What if he was right?
The idea that there are little hardworking fairies out there, ready to leap to my assistance, held great appeal to me, for we could certainly do with some extra manpower around the house at the moment.

The existence of fairies, house helpers or other kinds, has of course been debated throughout history. Many otherwise intelligent people believe in them. The great Arthur Conan Doyle even thought he had found proof of their existence. Many of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the story of the Cottingley fairies, caught on camera by two little girls in 1917. The cousins Frances Griffith and Elsie Wright apparently liked to play with them in their garden. When they borrowed a camera, their little winged playmates willingly posed as models for five photographs. These quickly achieved worldwide renown and were taken by many as evidence for the existence of supernatural creatures. A photography expert, Harold Snelling, who examined them declared they were "genuine unfaked photographs of single exposure, open-air work, show movement in all the fairy figures, and there is no trace whatever of studio work involving card or paper models, dark backgrounds, painted figures, etc."
In other words: The real deal.
It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the ladies finally gave in and admitted they were really cardboard cut outs – all except the last photograph of the fairies sunbathing... They also maintained that they really had played with fairies.
Now, what to make of that story is up to each and every one of us. I for one was sorely tempted to believe.

Being somewhat less extraordinaire around the house myself (I strongly doubt I would be deemed worthy of representing my country in the ironing Olympics.), plus being under the pressure of deadline at work, I have to admit that housework hasn’t been high on the agenda lately. Consequently, the whole house was rapidly drowning in dust and clutter. In the hope of getting some help, or at least some moral support, I pointed this fact out to Hubby. But his uncomprehending expression as he looked around in total astonishment saying “What?? Where???” told me there wasn’t much to be gained there. I simply had to put my faith in the fairies.

So for the past week I’ve applied the laissez-faire principle to housework. In other words I haven’t lifted a finger. Every morning I have scanned the house, eagerly looking for evidence of some nocturnal activity by little helping hands, but to no avail. I did get really excited one day as I came home from work and found that half of the enormous pile of laundry waiting to be ironed had actually halved in size, but it turned out it was just Hubby who had done his shirts, bless him. Apart from that, the house looks worse than ever. If the fairies have done anything at all, it’s just contributing to the mess.

So, from this experiment I think we are able to extrapolate the following:

     - If there indeed are any fairies dancing around in our garden, they are not domestically inclined;

     - The housework will not do itself;

     - Hubby will actually try and do his share;

     - and my mother-in-law really does deserve to sit down with a cup of tea.

LAZY LITTLE BUGGERS. It seems fairies are only good for causing mischief and frolicking around in gardens. They appear to show absolutely no sense of responsibility for housework of any kind.

Photos are borrowed from the Museum of hoaxes website.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Flower therapy

The weekend is over and the sun is shining again. Typical!
I think the weather gods must be making fun of us these days. I didn't get my afternoon coffee on the veranda either, because Hubby is painting the window frames and he had occupied all the space with ladders and buckets of paint.
So I had to bring some of the summer inside.

LIKE PERFUME. Nothing spells early summer like the scent of lilacs.

I love to decorate with flowers. The colours and the scents put me in a good mood, so there usually is a vase or two on display.
Even if it is a lot of work to have a big garden, it is incredibly nice to be able to just go outside to pick flowers to brighten up the house. Not that we have a very large selection to pick from but I can always find something to put in a vase. We have a crooked old lilac tree that would probably be better off in the big garden in the sky, but we haven't got the heart to chop it down because it smells so wonderful when it is in bloom.
Now, it smells like summer inside the house too and I am happy again. :-)

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Sunday Breakfast

We are notorious for lounging in bed on Sunday mornings. Hubby usually brings us coffee and then we sit there with our laptops and find out what has happened in the world. The days of newspapers are long gone for us, I'm afraid. Anyway, our mailbox is five minutes walk away, down at the main road, and it's not a trip you can do in your dressing gown, so we have to settle for digital news. At least for a few hours, until Hubby jogs down to pick up the Morning Post.
It is so nice to just sit in bed and sip our coffee, perhaps nibble on a biscuit, and discuss the headlines, until the delicious smell of bread wafts in from the kitchen and tells us that it will be time for breakfast soon. 

You see, sometimes we prepare dough the night before, then all we have to do is chuck it in the oven in the morning and we'll have freshly baked bread for breakfast. It's a little luxury to have warm, sweet-smelling bread or rolls for the first meal of the day. 

I love these little miniature jars of jams and preserves for breakfast. Here in Norway they are ridiculously expensive, so I usually stock up on them whenever we are over in England. Once I bought a tiny wicker basket full of them at Harrod's and I've kept the basket because it's so handy.

For Hubby, a breakfast without a proper cup of tea would be unthinkable. I have grown accustomed to it too and I really like to use our teacups from Firkløveren. I especially like the little flowers on the inside of the cups. Perhaps it's silly but they brighten up my day. 

Our cutlery is the Dubarry pattern from Viners. The timeless classic design makes it fit for any table. It has been in daily use for almost twenty years but still looks nice.

When the sun is not shining outside, at least we can enjoy the bright colours of juice and soft-boiled eggs. 

For Hubby of course, no meal is complete without a piece of cheese - preferably Dutch.

A day can never be too bright to light candles. :-)

Friday, 11 June 2010

Joie de veranda

I suppose it had to come sooner or later. The rain, that is.
After weeks of sun, we woke up this morning to a grey and cloudy sky. Drippetydrip. 
And it’s cold too. But the worst of it is that now I have no excuse not to do housework. When the sun is shining in our part of the country, it is such a joyful occasion that one feels obliged to go outdoors and enjoy it. It is considered perfectly comme il faut to let the house overflow with dust and completely ignore the staggeringly high pile of laundry waiting to be ironed.
But it seems this weekend there will be no escape. Isn’t it just typical; the sun has been beating down on us all week while I have been stuck in a hot office, but now that Friday is here, it’s pouring down.
Oh well, on the bright side the lawn will probably benefit from it. It actually started to look a little brownish. Besides, last weekend was so perfect that wishing for more of the same already is probably immoral or fattening. We’ll just have to live on the memories of a few lovely days on the veranda, safe in the knowledge that it won’t be long until next time.
Here are a few photos. If you’d like, you can listen to some music while looking at them.

THE GOOD LIFE ON THE VERANDA. In between painting and pottering around in the garden, we relaxed in our deckchairs with a glass of redcurrant juice, reading magazines. Or I just leaned back and enjoyed the sunrays peeping through the little holes in my straw hat.
FINALLY NEED SUN PROTECTION. What bliss it is for our pale bodies to feel the warmth of the sun. It almost feels good to get sunburnt.

WALL DECORATION. During the winter the copper butterfly has taken on a light green hue from verdigris. It now matches the colour of the walls.
THE GEKKO has for some reason not turned green but it’s still cool.
FLOWERS AND BEES are a sure sign that summer has arrived.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Mowing moves

I may not have very green fingers but today I certainly have green toes – a result of mowing the lawn in open-toe sandals.
It has been said that “A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. ” Ours however, is in perfect working condition.
Well, we should be thankful for that, I suppose, because in our battle to beat the moss, we fertilized the lawn, and the grass is now sprouting at record speed. It has to be trimmed at least twice a week. That is normally Hubby’s job but since he was busy doing other things, the task was appointed to me – after long deliberation about whether I could cut it, so to speak.
You see; my lawn mowing skills are not exactly up to Hubby’s rigorous standard. First of all I don’t empty the grass box often enough, it seems. Secondly, and more important, I don’t follow the rules of direction. I mow a little here and then a little there and I find it easier to go around in concentric circles rather then back and forth. This makes Hubby cringe. According to him, proper English lawns should apparently have very straight lines. He even pulled out a book his father had sent us to show me pictures.
However, although I personally don’t see the point of having rules for cutting grass, I’m willing to go along with the idea that there is such a thing as the right way to do it. After all, Hubby is completely unable to see the point of folding towels correctly, even though there is obviously a right way to do that. (Into thirds and then into thirds again - of course. Unless it’s a bath towel, where you fold it double first.)
Anyway, after this theoretical introduction to the topic I was taken outside to be given a practical demonstration – down in a straight line, then turn and come back, overlapping the last cut ever so slightly. Then he proceeded to do the edges around the whole garden twice. Only when he saw that I was getting so impatient that I was about to walk off and leave the whole thing to him, was I finally entrusted with the lawnmower.
He remained standing for a minute to supervise, before a hostile glare from me sent him scuffling around to the other side of the house.
I will let you in on a secret: I do actually know how to mow the lawn. I can do it beautifully. It’s just that I like it better when Hubby does it, so I fake a little ignorance and let him feel that he does it sooo much better than me. But don’t worry, it’s not like I’m taking advantage of him. This technique works both ways. I’m pretty sure that deep down he knows how to fold towels.
I may not have concealed my skills well enough today though, because after I was done he complemented me on a job well done. Dang.

PERFECTLY MANICURED. Our garden with more or less straight mowing stripes.

IN FULL BLOOM. Our rhododendron bush looks fantastic at the moment.

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound—
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

Robert Frost

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

I won, I won!

Wow, this must be beginner’s luck. I could hardly believe it when I heard that I had won first prize in Villa Klarabergs Give Away.

A pick-up slip came in the mail today and of course I rushed off to the Post Office to get it. I think Hubby was just as exited as me when we opened several presents. In an envelope there were two lovely iron-on pictures. I don’t quite know what to use these for yet but no doubt inspiration will come.

In the small package there was a doorstop, which will come in very handy because the door to our guestroom will not stay open by itself.

In the big package there was a perfectly lovely French metal sign, in the precise light shade of green that I am so fond of. Isn’t it beautiful?

I’m going to hang that in the bathroom, because nearly all my towels are green, so it’s going to be a perfect match.  

This was such a nice and inspiring surprise. Thanks so much to Jorunn at Villa Klaraberg, which by the way is a lovely blog that deserves a visit.