A Perfect Bench

I found a perfect garden bench with Chippendale details at Wayfair.

I thought this fern green bench would fit discreetly in our garden.

I ordered two.

The look and the price were both perfect.

A few day later I got an email that my order had been canceled because the bench was out-of-stock.

No fair!!!!  But I may have found it again but this one is much more expensive.

Have you had experience with acacia wood?


Sticky Toffee Pudding Starts with Cake

To start with I should explain that desserts in England are called pudding.  Sticky toffee pudding is actually a kind of sponge cake that is covered with a caramel sauce.

I had everything set up to make the cake with dates in it.

My task today was to make the cake portion of sticky toffee pudding which I would then freeze to use in a week.

Chopped dates in water.

The recipe is very easy although unusual is some aspects.  Having said that I don’t make many cakes so maybe I just don’t know enough.

The dates are brought to a boil before adding baking soda.

The first task is to bring chopped dates to a boil in 1-1/4 cups of water.  The recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups or 6 ounces of dates.  I weighed the dates because I could have squeezed a lot more than 6 ounces into a 1-1/2 cup measure.  I checked other recipes to make sure the 6-ounce portion was adequate.

When the baking soda is added to the the mixture bubbles up.

After the dates come to a boil baking soda is added to the pan and then the dates/water/baking soda needs to cool so I poured the mixture into the top of a double boiler and filled the bottom pan with ice. Otherwise I would have had to set it aside longer than I cared to wait.

I used the paddle attachment to mix the batter.

Mixing the butter, sugar, and vanilla was as directed except that I had no vanilla extract so I substituted the seeds from 2 vanilla beans. The beans were split and then I used a spoon to scrape out the seeds.

Sticky pudding batter

When the remainder of the ingredients were added the batter was more liquidy than I expected.

The cake in the bundt pan looked perfect.

I poured the batter into a buttered and floured bundt pan and cooked for 45 minutes.

The bundt cake was a mess but delicious.

After letting it cool a third of the cake stuck in the pan.

An old springform bundt pan.

So I made another portion of batter and this time used a very old springform pan with a bundt insert which I was careful to grease well.

The springform pan was smaller and took longer to cook.

This time the final result came out perfectly.

The batter almost filled the springform pan.

And the cake is delicious even without the caramel sauce which I will make next week.

The second cake came out of the pan perfectly.

In the meantime I have wrapped all of the cake in aluminum foil and put it in the freezer.  Before using it I will bring it to room temperature and heat it slightly in the oven.

I decided to make one cake instead of individual servings so I can monitor the size.

I threw the old bundt pan away. I never liked it and it doesn’t didn’t work well at all.

Do you have a favorite cake to bake?

A Better Fire Pit

I have been hoping Charlie would upgrade his makeshift fire pit.

These cinder blocks are Charlie’s “fire pit”.

Unfortunately he thinks this version is fine because it is functional.

This fire pit kit is available at our local Lowes.

I realized I would have to influence the change to something better by reading a DIY article and having a fire pit kit delivered.

I hope our fire pit is as neat as the photo.

The only reasonably priced kit is at Lowes and it’s on sale through Wednesday so I’m going to ask my farm manager at work to pick it up for me and deliver it to The Glade.

The fire pit is between the house and the greenhouse.

Then Sug and I can supervise its installation.

Do you have a fire pit?

International Buffet Menu Timeline

Usually when I have a party I make one fabulous thing I’ve never made before and rely on tried-and-true familiar recipes for everything else.

I made a jpeg and pdf files to email, text, and print the invitation.

For our international costume party I have a few new-to-me recipes that I hope to prepare.  I need to plan when to create each dish and how it will all come together.

I’ve made meringues many times and they’re always a hit.

I have already made 40 meringue kisses.  They’re in the freezer and will be taken out on the morning of the party.

I don’t want the sauce too dark or too thick.

I’m going to try my hand at sticky toffee pudding by making the pudding/cake part this Saturday morning. (The party is a week away on Saturday.)  This part of the recipe can be frozen and then thawed and reheated on the day of the party.

I’m hoping I can find my Bundt pan which I haven’t used for decades.

I have to decide whether to make the recipe in a bundt pan or in individual cups. The caramel sauce will be made in the late afternoon of party day.

These chips are easy and better when served warm.

I plan to toast the flour tortilla chips on the evening of the party.  The salsa will already be made.

We get our local honey from the Sweets — that’s really their name.I have never made baklava before and have heard that it is best within 3 or 4 days of eating it.  I was planning to make it this Saturday but have moved it to next Friday, the day before the party. I hope I don’t mess it up.

Ordering from the local Chinese restaurant will add an exotic touch.

I want to order either fried dumplings or wontons from my local Chinese carry-out.  Charlie can pick them up before the party starts.

I have steamed shrimp many times — it’s almost foolproof.

I’ll make the Pesto pasta shrimp salad with peas also on the day of the party in the morning.

So the plan is:

  • Saturday  –  make sticky pudding; go to the local beekeeper for honey
  • Sunday – no cooking
  • Monday – set the table with linens, put cold beverages in refrigerator
  • Tuesday – shop for all ingredients and flowers
  • Wednesday – choir rehearsal (church “A”)
  • Thursday – choir rehearsal (church “B”), arrange flowers
  • Friday – make baklava
  • Party Day:
    • Thaw sticky pudding
    • Thaw meringues
    • Steam shrimp
    • Make pasta salad
    • Make beverages
    • Order Chinese food
    • Make caramel sauce
    • Pick up Chinese food
    • Make tortilla chips

Did I forget anything?

Trip to England: Speaking the Language

We had some fun in England figuring out what people were trying to tell us.

We did take away breakfast sandwiches from Paul before boarding the morning subway.

“Take away” is “carry out” as in food.  We usually “ate in” at restaurants because we did a lot of walking and needed to rest.

A proper fringe.

Fringe is bangs.  I had my hairdresser trim up my fringe.

A detour sign in London.

Diversion is a detour, specifically for traffic.

Thankfully we didn’t have a car so a parking suspension meant nothing to us.

Parking suspension means no parking or parking is prohibited.

Vehicle recovery of a black cab.

Free vehicle recovery, as far as I can tell, means road service for one’s car if it breaks down.

The white line denotes the “gap” which should always be on one’s mind so as not to fall in.

“Mind the gap” is the much repeated phrase which means to “watch your step” when exiting the subway, I mean underground or tube.

Busking is prohibited on the south bank of the Thames near the Globe Theatre.

Busker (a person who busks) or busking is an art form that is practised by professional artists, amateur performers and those who are just starting out. Buskers put a lot of thought and effort into their act, they give a performance, entertain the public and receive tips in return. Generally busking is well-received and legal except where posted.

Belle Helene — Poached pears, vanilla gelato, and dark chocolate.

“What do you fancy?” is asked when we might say “What would you like?” In London we fancied crepes everyday.

We were admonished on the underground “say it” if we “see it”.

“See it. Say it. Sorted.” is like our American phrase “If you see something, say something”.   People are encouraged to say something to an official if they see something unusual and the authorities will sort it out.

What phrase do you find unique to a region or country?

Polar Bear Time

I have all the nighties, pajamas, and robes I’ll ever need because I prefer them when they’re soft and comfy.

In the past few years I got rid of my grandmother’s Singer sewing machine on which she created many clothing and furnishing items.

One of my flannel nighties was made by my grandmother who died in the 1980s but I love it even though it is almost threadbare.

My toes poked through the front of my last 2 pairs of slippers.

My slippers, however, become so well-worn that I must get a new pair about every 5 years.

Skiing bears on my new slippers.

This time I decided to get a pair of slippers without stitching at the toe so maybe I won’t create holes again. When I saw these polar bear slip-ons I was hooked since I’ve been using these bears as a winter theme for the past few years.

I’ve been wearing socks and slippers since it turned cold this past weekend.

They have hard composite soles so I can run out to get the mail or hop across the driveway to have coffee with Sug.  Hoping they last me awhile.

Do you sleep in old clothes or fancy night gear?

Travel Plans

I had already started to research a trip to Iceland when my Serbian friend told me she would be in her homeland for 6 months next year and invited us to visit.

My friend has a house on the Sava River near Obrenovac.

Since Sug missed traveling with Charlie and me to London we’re hoping the three of us can do a European tour in 2019.  My preference would be to travel in September.

Venice would be the start of a great adventure.

My preliminary plan is to start in Venice then head to Serbia.

We can fly (7 hrs), drive (11 hrs), or take the train (23 hrs) from Belgrade to Athens.

My friend says it’s only about a 10-hour drive to Greece which I’d also like to visit. The nice thing about driving is that we can stop at interesting places along the way.

Can’t go to Greece and not visit the ancient ruins in Athens.

Venice to Serbia to Greece seems like a big order so I might have to whittle down the details since I don’t care to make any part of the trip rushed.

Booking the airline might be tricky and expensive.

Any suggestions for any of these destinations?