Sunday, 24 February 2013

It's A Spring Thing

As the hours of daylight grow longer and the ground begins to thaw, there is but one thing on my mind... the highly anticipated arrival of spring! The warmth of the sun will soon grace us with its presence and the scent of freshly mown grass will intoxicate us. Oh how I have sorely missed it. 

I can't wait to get my hands dirty! For me, the arrival of spring is a time of great productivity in the garden and with that, comes great planning. Last year, I managed to plant 200 bulbs before spring's end and the array of colours and fragrances that filled my garden were well worth every turn of the soil. A little hand-drawn map of the garden plotted with each bulb's location was of great help in determining which bulbs did best and which failed to establish themselves. I am anxiously awaiting this year's first growth and seeing which bulbs have the most success during their second season.

I never thought I would find myself living in a city environment, but residing just moments away from the most beautiful scenery, cottages and farmland in the whole of England is of great consolation. Despite our neighbourhood's urban aesthetic, our home maintains a traditional English theme with old world Victorian, Georgian and Elizabethan elements. I strive to maintain a classic, English cottage-style garden with a plentitude of roses, bluebells, herbs, ivy and trailing flowers in subtle hues. I find my American roots influence some of my gardening ideas and I make a strong attempt at growing my own pumpkins every year, although they don't usually result in the jaw-droppingly impressive pumpkins of Connecticut. I suppose they are more sentimentally rewarding though as they remind me that my days in England over these past two years haven't made me lose my American touch!

For the next month I will have to try to keep my spring aspirations at bay, but the cold of winter can't keep me from dreaming. Wishing all of my readers an enjoyable last few days of frosty wonder and as always, I'm here for any ideas you want to send my way!

Warm regards,

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Sweet Saturdays

Sweet thoughts for a wonderful weekend!

Best wishes,

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, 21 February 2013

No Rest for the Weary

Although I never intended on adopting this nocturnal lifestyle, I must admit that after the day's chaos I am completely at peace in this fine hour. It matters none to me that the rest of the world may be sleeping; and morning's first light is a sight sorely missed, otherwise. These hours are some of the most important to me. They are a time of true reflection and I find that I possess an actual need for them on most days. I can almost feel my restless mind unwinding and everything seems so simple and pleasant. 

If my day were a painting, it would be very large, with seemingly no end of fresh, juicy colours -oils, perhaps, just out of the sheer inconvenience of having to wait so long for them to dry. The painting would be elaborate, yet organized... not quite to the point of overwhelming in some areas but well structured and satisfying. It would be somewhat loose in style -impressionistic maybe. One day's time would not allow for every detail to be perfected, yet overall the painting would be a work of beauty. True art in its own way, despite its artistic imperfections. Something to be appreciated, if not treasured.

It is during these moonlit hours, while my infant sleeps and the movements throughout the house slow to a halt, that I can think this clearly. There are nights when I think back to life before mommyhood and remember how easy and fun the days were. But mostly, there are nights when I think about how boring and selfish they were and how much more valuable my time in life has become now that I have a perfect, miracle of a son. Every moment with him is a blessing and although at times it can be overwhelming, I am mindful of how lucky I am. How quickly one recovers from the stress of a teething six-month old when there is nothing better to do than sit in the quiet. Sometimes I actually miss him during these hours, despite his being only upstairs. In fact, I admit that on one occasion I couldn't help but make just enough noise in the house to cause him to stir so I could cuddle him with justification. 

I know the morning will bring the usual household madness... keeping William constantly entertained to help distract him from his budding baby teeth, helping my husband find all of the things that he has put down that I have since picked back up and put away, driving to the grocery store only to struggle with what we should have for dinner at a time that is far too early to even begin to crave solid food, continuing to help plan the addition we are about to build on our house to accommodate our growing family and hopefully ending the day with a quality snuggle with the husband I deeply love. On days when I wonder what life would have been like if I had finished my Master's degree and spent my days teaching, it is easy to remember all I would miss out on and how much I would miss my little family. It wouldn't be enough for me to catch up with my husband during dinnertime chit-chat. It wouldn't be enough for me to cuddle my son just long enough for him to fall asleep for the night. It wouldn't be enough for me to treat our warm family home like a hotel for the night.

I love my life and in the quiet darkness of the night, it rings truer than ever. I am thankful for the clarity these hours bring and the feelings they inspire. I wish this time for everyone, if only now and again, and I would love to know what the night hours bring for others if they wished to share.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Sleepless in the Kitchen -A love story.

Well it's twenty past one in the morning and although my six month old is fast asleep, I'm restless at best! While technically it's already Valentine's Day and I'm overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of what Cupid might have in store, I'm trying to keep my enthusiasm at bay. 

I'm still somewhat settling into new mommyhood and although any time I have to myself is usually now spent juggling cleaning the house, having a power shower, grabbing a few groceries and catching up on countless hours of missed sleep, tonight is different. Tonight, the kitchen is my sanctuary and I have been looking forward to this moment all day! 

My husband and I celebrated our first anniversary on Monday, so it's beginning to feel more like love week than day. We had a fabulous candle-lit dinner at home, complete with red roses and the music from our wedding ceremony playing in the background. We re-lived the memory of our  beautiful wedding day -the pictures, the stories and our favourite moments. It was truly romantic -a much appreciated moment just for the two of us and we enjoyed sharing every minute of it. I'm really grateful for that night and I know I will remember it forever.

For Valentine's Day I plan on keeping things a bit simpler, but equally blissful, and my nocturnal escape to the kitchen is where it all begins! While heart-shaped boxes of chocolates tied with pink ribbon are always appreciated, I'm going to keep this day as homemade as possible, beginning with decadent red velvet cupcakes. After all, who doesn't love red velvet cupcakes? I know no matter what mid-week chaos tomorrow brings, these little delights -seemingly delivered by Cupid, himself, will make the day special. 

The recipe is yours for the baking! Happy Valentine's Day!

Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe
Courtesy of Hummingbird Bakery, London

Makes: 12

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 25 minutes

You will need

60g unsalted butter at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 egg
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
½ tsp vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk
150g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp white vinegar
For the frosting:
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 x 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases
125g cream cheese, cold

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
2. Put the butter and the sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk.
4. Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl again. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the frosting by beating the icing sugar the remaining 20g of the unsalted butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat it until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least five minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.
6. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the cream cheese frosting on top.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Two Little Words

“The power of finding beauty
 in the humblest things makes 
home happy and life lovely.”
 -Louisa May Alcott

Has a truer statement ever been made? My husband and I are about to celebrate our first wedding anniversary on 11th February and I can say with great honesty that it has been the most wonderful year of my life. There is definitely something to be said for finding your one true love and binding that love with the two simple words, "I do." It is at that very instant that the feelings you have for each other become beyond real and your life together truly begins.

The past year has brought us many things -the beginning of a new life together, the joining of our families and friends -despite the oceans separating them, and our first little miracle, William Aidan. We have been blessed with overwhelming love and support from everyone and our lives have truly become one. Not a day has passed that where the words "I love you" weren't spoken at least thirty times. I feel so lucky to have such a wonderful man in my life and if the rest of our life together is anything like the past year then I am quite possibly the luckiest woman in the world. I can't wait to see what lies ahead for us and our growing family and I look forward to enjoying it all one day at a time.

Our Wedding Day
11 February, 2012
York, England