August-in-a-blog-post …

… or something that attempts to sum up what’s happened in my month!

My August got overtaken with illness. Yup, it’s me that’s ill. It’s a long-term thing – been around for too long and not going away anytime in the near future. Some days are better than others and August has been a collection of mostly bad days. Life has been a struggle and finding the energy for the every-day essentials has been flakey, so my blog has sort of slipped …

I wanted to tell you because my blog and the blogging community I’ve found online has become very important to me. I love sharing my photos and life with whoever is reading these pages and getting to “meet” some of you fellow-bloggers and share my passions with you has been an amazing experience! Even though I have not been commenting on your blogs, I’ve been keeping in touch with what is going on in your lives, praying for you when you’ve had tough times and loving all the photos, recipes and fun! So I guess it’s my turn to ask for the prayers and/or thoughts. Not something that comes easily to me, but even though I don’t post as regularly as I want to, I’m not giving up!

Here are a few other things that happened in August …

I cooked a fish meal for the first time! I baked salmon in foil parcels with a sauce of chilli, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and oyster sauce, and lots of spring onion, red pepper and fresh coriander (cilantro). I served it with rice and green vegetables and it seemed to be a success! πŸ™‚

One of L’s cousins got married in a country manor house in Shropshire! The staircase used for the bride’s entrance was amazing! They handed out homemade dried-rose confetti and had a beautifully done afternoon tea for the first part of the reception! The couple was obviously happy, despite it pouring with rain most of the day and the bride’s vintage-style lace dress was pretty. There were some photos of L and I taken, but my father-in-law still has these! πŸ˜‰

My youngest sister had her 21st birthday!! Eeeek! Makes me feel old … πŸ˜‰ I had a lot of fun planning and creating a special gift for her. T has quite a number of pen-friends and writing letters and keeping in touch with them is important to her. I found a Jane Austen-style writing desk which I painted with her favourite flower – daisys! I also covered a box with old stamps from around the world (I love Ebay! πŸ˜› ) and filled it with notepaper and cards. My other two sisters had informed me that T was very set on having cards with 21 on them … so the card, some of the wrapping paper and a key-ring made sure she wouldn’t forget how old she was turning!! πŸ˜‰ My sisters and I have had this tradition of giving each other number badges for big birthdays and this year I got to buy the badge – I’ve been assured it will be pinned on her bag for a while! πŸ™‚

Just this past week we had some good friends of ours round for supper. E and S got married just 7 months after L and I did and L and E had lived in the same houses for 6 years and have been in a prayer-triplet together with another guy for nearly as long … so yeah, they go way back. They have had us round for dinner twice and we really wanted to have them round to our house – once we could find a date that worked for both couples, that is! πŸ˜‰

I kind of went a bit over-board on the cooking front … not at all common forΒ  me πŸ˜‰ I like to cook something which is ready ahead of time and just needs putting in the oven, so I baked Chicken, Leek and Cider Pie. It comes from this amazing pie recipe book that my sisters gave me for my birthday last year. I decided to replace the whole chicken and homemade stock with chicken pieces and chicken stock cubes and made a classic mistake – the recipe called for a chicken weighing 1.5kg so, of course, I bought 1.5kg of thigh fillets … let’s just say that not counting in the weight difference for a whole chicken made a massive quantity of filling! πŸ˜‰

Apart from that little slip-up, everyone seemed to enjoy the individual pies, sweet potato wedges and vegetables. For pudding we had lemon-curd biscuits, fresh fruit and homemade ice-cream. I’d been wanting to have a go at making my own ice-cream in ages and I found this recipe that just need me to whip up condensed milk, double cream and vanilla, then put it in the freezer and forget about it … until pudding time! πŸ™‚ So simple!

A few weeks ago L surprised me with this gorgeous bouquet of flowers – he knows how to make me smile! πŸ˜€

I hope to be writing again soon!

What has happened in your August?

The day I cooked a chicken

I’ve missed you guys!

Life has been really busy, with many big changes going on, which have affected all areas of L and I’s life. Some good changes, some not-so-good changes.

You know those times when you have so much to handle all at once that something has to be put down? Sadly my little corner of the internet was one of those things that had to be temporarily abandoned. 😦

But hey, we’re still here, God is still faithful and L completed his first week in his first “proper” job! Oh yeah, I survived a week where I did more ironing in seven days then I have done in the last 4 years … πŸ˜‰

Today, I cooked a chicken!

Two chickens, if I going to be absolutely exact about it! πŸ˜›

In the last four years I’ve gone from cooking entirely vegetarian food to cooking meat-eating-man-food – quite a journey! πŸ˜‰

The Big Thing was a roast chicken! I’m not sure exactly why, but it seemed like a very scary undertaking. Roast beef, sure. Just about any kind of chicken joint, fine. But roast chicken? A big, squidgy, cold, pink thing that I’d have to touch … this dead bird with a big hole in the middle … slimy skin and pointy bones … shudder!

I was shopping for a week’s worth of my hubby’s lunches and these little chickens had just been reduced … somehow they found their way into my basket and into my kitchen … by the way, for those of you who don’t have to carry their food shopping for a 20 minute walk, dead birds are pretty heavy! πŸ˜‰

I got these two girls in a roasting tin, rubbed olive oil, lemon juice and a mix of herbs and salt and pepper over their skin and put them in the oven for an hour. Oh alright, so yes, I did do this with the help of latex gloves … I needed all the help I could get, alright?! πŸ˜‰

I used my meat thermometer for the first time and got clear-running-juice, crispy-skinned roast chicken!

Yay! So what was all the fuss about Mrs M?! Easy, right? Worst part over and it really wasn’t that bad, right?

Wrong!

By the time I had this massive bowl of shredded chicken, I learned that it’s better to start with the legs than the breast and that I’m still a lot more squeamish then I hoped … I didn’t feel quite right in my stomach after picking meat off the skeletons of two whole chickens, trying not to think what the brown gunk inside the carcass was and tearing the sockets of legs and wings apart … sorry if I’m being too graphic here! πŸ˜›

It’s done. I did it. I cooked a roast chicken!

This amount of chicken is rather too much to expect one boy to get through in one week, so I see curries and pilaf coming our way … πŸ˜‰

Have you roasted a chicken? Do you have a “dreaded food” you’ve never been able to cook yet?!

He did it!!!

My husband has got a job!! πŸ˜€

After the hard work of the PhD, graduation, countless application forms, interviews and rejections, so many prayers and hopes from us, our family and friends …

And today L got offered an associate research fellow post at an institution where he really wants to work!!

He “stood out” from the other candidates and has received the best recognition for all his hard work and enthusiasm – the job!

I’ve only just stopped dancing around the room and jumping up and down from excitement!! πŸ˜›

I am such a proud, proud wife!!! πŸ˜€

Winning in inches

I’ve missed being around and posting here. I’ve missed sharing my photos, thoughts and laughs. I’ve missed you guys.

Right now I don’t have the head space for a full post, so here’s some thoughts that I’ve been finding helpful.

Victory is won not in miles bit in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.

Louis L’Amour

Jesus will keep you strong until the end so that there will be no wrong in you on the day our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.

1 Corinthians 1 v 8

God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure He will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again.

Philippians 1 v 6


Seeing Good Things

Sometimes life can look pretty bleak.

Sometimes the “sometimes” seems to last for what seems like forever.

During those times, seeing good things … God at work … a slightly brighter side to your day … a bit of hope for the future … seems impossible … but we have a gracious God who doesn’t just leave us in the pile of gunk … at least, not permanently and not without some hope! πŸ˜‰

Right now, these are the good things I see.

Who could not love that blue?!

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve taken an evening walk down to my beautiful cathedral to find some minutes of peace and stillness.

I have always loved trees – bigger than me, touching the sky, spreading branches, solid.

These photos speak for themselves really! πŸ™‚

This evening my best friend R and I had pudding/desert at Giraffe cafe. Friends are amazing. These puddings were pretty good too! πŸ˜‰

I went to Scotland!!!

I’ve been kinda silent for a week or so …but with good reason!

The hubby and I have been to Edinburgh!

I have long wanted to visit Scotland (although not as much as my lovely sister N, who adores Scotland, Scottish history and has a calender of Scottish countryside every year – sorry you couldn’t come too 😦 ) and have read about Edinburgh (the capital city of Scotland), Arthur’s Seat and The Royal Mile in books.

L is workingΒ  a few hours a week as his PhD supervisor’s research assistant and very much wants to get into full-time academic research/medical research. He submitted the findings from his PhD (on Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to the Ninth World Brain Injury Congress and was accepted to present them – in Edinburgh! In academic circles being published, seen presenting at conferences and being introduced to influential people is pretty important in getting jobs and moving on in your career, so for L, this was pretty important.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here before (forgive me if I’m being super-boring and repeating myself! πŸ˜‰ ) that my husband is partially sighted. He is registered as blind, but has 10% of normal vision and is so capable that you’d have to study him for a long while to realise he can’t see just as much as the rest of us can. New places are a bit of a curve-ball though, as he can’t read the signs, doesn’t know the area and can’t see enough to get around without a lot of stress.

Enter stage left … er, right:

Dr L’s assistant!

And yes, I do look pretty exhausted! Let’s just say that getting anxious about the trip for a week in advance, followed by flying, map-reading, hours of sitting through nearly incomprehensible lectures (Thank God for a kind friend who lent me her Kindle!!), hours of standing around at a drink’s-reception-come-meet-inportant-people, loads of walking each day, disturbed sleep, meeting and charming (of course! πŸ˜‰ ) so many new people … you get the picture!! πŸ™‚

We stayed in a lovely B&B (Bed and Breakfast) just 10 minutes walk from the conference centre, but far enough removed from the centre of the city that it was wonderful quiet and peaceful – we actually heard more birds than we do here at home!

We were on the other side of the road from this stately place called Donaldson’s College. It’s up for sale and I think we should buy it, don’t you?! πŸ˜‰ Oh, think of all those stairs to vacuum … um, maybe not! πŸ˜›

L has been really ill with a cold/flu since we got back and I’m starting to go down with it too, so I’m going to end this post for now and update you with Part 2 tomorrow! You see, I thought I’d been really good and not taken too many photos while we were away … it turns out I took 90 photos in 4 days … πŸ˜›

Bargains!

Today I bought a massive chicken (meant to serve about 7 people), for the bargain price of .90p (about $1.41)!!!

I snagged a second bargain too … a large duck for Β£1.60 (about $2 .51)!!

I mean, come on, what’s not to find attractive about this stunning bird?!? πŸ˜‰

And stunning is about the right word too!! I’m positive that if I’d been able to get up enough strength to swing my shopping bag with a good amount of power, (providing, of course, I’d found myself in a situation – in the ten minute walk home from the grocery store – that warranted such drastic measures …) I could easily have stunned someone with these two fine gals!! πŸ˜›

My first big worry was weather or not I was actually going to be able to fit these two fine birds in my freezer, which I filled up just last week with a huge batch of Spicy Sausage Pasta, Chicken Curry and reduced bread rolls … thankfully I discovered some utterly redundant items that made space for my latest trophies … phew!

My second, and much larger, worry is really a long-standing fear of mine …

… cooking a roast chicken dinner!

If I’m honest, I have a bit of a thing about all raw meat … due partly to growing up mostly as a vegetarian (from age 2 my Mum cooked meat from time to time but more often pre-processed as I got older, but not much and then after 12 there was no meat at all) … due also to a life-long paranoia of being sick/throwing up, which led at 14 to me refusing to eat any fish or eggs or anything else which had much of a potential to lead to food poisoning …

… Although now I eat pretty much eat anything except courgettes (zucchini), aubergines (eggplants) and any organ-related part of an animal, I’m still pretty fussy about kitchen hygiene (depending on who you ask: L and most friends put me in the paranoid category!! πŸ˜‰ ) … if I can do it without too much extra cost, I always buy pre-chopped meat, that way I have to handle that slimy raw substance as little as possible and don’t get ny chopping boards or knives “contaminated”!! πŸ˜› (and yes, I am laughing at myself and yes, you may laugh at me too!! πŸ˜‰ )

I have now cooked a roast belly of pork and two roast beef dinners, so progress has definitely been made … I don’t have any major issues with the timings or any of the other trimmings to go along side … nope, it’s just the raw joint itself … and for some reason, chicken is The Big Deal … the idea of a big, pink, cold, slimy, raw chicken just sitting there waiting for me to handle it … ‘nough said!! *Shudder*

I am, however determined, determined, to conquer this most fearsome and traditional of roasts!!! I am not going to let myself be beaten by a dead bird! No siree!! Not this girl! If at some point in the next couple of months you hear in the news about a crazed woman who has become the first person in history to take the precise study of roasting chickens to degree-level standards … that’ll be me!! πŸ˜‰

The duck in my freezer would like to be cooked in the yummiest way possible so, as I have no idea how to go about cooking a duck and no particularly firm notions about good duck/flavour combinations …

What recipes/suggestions do you have for cooking duck?!?

My apologies for the photos … right now I can’t access my own photos or take any new photos off of my camera … so here we have internet photos … !