Blog

My blog has a new home

Main logoMy blog now has a new home. Please click here to visit and find out more about our life in Suffolk, gluten free recipes and sneak previews of new products.

Thank you for stopping by and hope to see you on my new site!

Jen x

 

Advertisements

FOWL PLAY

We woke up on Monday morning to the sound of someone crunching across our gravel drive and a shaking sound. After listening for a while and not really wanting to get out of bed, as for once my little one had decided to have a lie in (this is as rare as hens teeth!) I peeked through the window. Our lovely neighbour from down the lane was on our drive kitted out in her wellies and shaking a box of something.

 

Gills hens_SqAt first I thought perhaps it was some sort of unique bank holiday ritual, but then I saw one of her hens on the other side of our drive. Ahhh, the the penny dropped. They must have been inspired by the film ‘Chicken Run’ and hatched their escape. (Apologies for the hen-themed references!) At first I thought I should get dressed and go and help her, but by now Mr G had hooked up to our security cameras and was watching it all play out on his phone. So instead of going to help we sat in bed watching the chase commence around our cars, across the drive and in the hedges. It was the best reality telly I’ve seen in ages. So sorry, lovely neighbour but thank you for the entertainment!

A feast fit for a king

Since moving to the pretty Suffolk countryside we have decidedly more wildlife around us. Including a frog in the loo and a big scary wolf hiding behind the bunny hutch!

Deer2We were used to seeing cats and dogs, having pet bunnies and guinea pigs and the odd fox roaming the streets in the evenings. But here we have a family of deer (Mum, Dad and baby) who visit our garden almost on a nightly basis. They squeeze under the gate and stay for a couple of hours before heading off again.

Next door to our garden are very cute Bantam hens, which can be very vocal! We have a wonky-donkey down the lane, as well as a field full of alpacas, which peer at us over the wall on our walk to school. And pheasants! I’ve never seen so many. It’s like they play ‘Frogger’ with you when you drive down the lane. It’s a miracle I haven’t hit one yet.

There are also of course horses, dogs being walked by country folk wearing posh wellies, bunnies and hares bouncing across the fields whilst birds of prey circle above. And badgers snuffling around in the hedgerows after dark – not to mention the owls who decide to become ‘all chatty’ at some ungodly hour of the morning! Oh and bats. Lots of bats in the evenings at certain times of the year. I recently learned that there is such a thing as a ‘bat detector’ which apparently makes a funny noise when there is a bat in close proximity. On hearing this Mr G got all excited and immediately started searching online for one. As we know Mr G loves a gadget! Quite why we need a bat detector is beyond me as we can see perfectly well the bats that fly over our garden. I don’t need a little device to beep at me telling me so. And even if I couldn’t see them, what would be the use of knowing they are in the vicinity? It’s not as if I have a craving for bat pie.

Lane_2Anyway, we also have typical farm animals in the fields too – lots of piggies (oh why do I like bacon so much), cows and sheep. So as you can see, we have a real menagerie here, which is truly lovely. But unfortunately some of the animals do become road kill, which is very sad. On Sunday evening Mr G and I were driving home (after enjoying the sunshine in a beer garden with friends) and spotted a deer, rabbit and a pheasant dead on the side of the lane. I said to Mr G, “There’s a feast fit for a king just lying on the roadside”. Friends be wary when I serve up venison burgers at our next BBQ!

 

 

Cosy Room logo_email sigsmall tag

Knock-a-door-fly!

When I was a child (many moons ago) I used to play ‘knock-a-door-run’ with my friends (much to the delight of our neighbours). I did feel a bit naughty doing it, so didn’t play it that often. But for the record, I’m really sorry, neighbours of old. For those of you who haven’t played this before, you basically sneak up to someone’s front door, knock on it and then run and hide. It’s not the most complex game but it kept us entertained for about ten minutes in the six-week summer holidays.

Here in Suffolk it’s not children who play this game, but birds: Long-tailed tits, to be precise. Mr G and I were sat working when we heard a knocking on the front door. We both looked but nobody was there. It happened a few times and eventually we caught the culprit – a very cute, long-tailed tit, balancing on the edge of the window in the door and tapping on the glass with his beak. He has a couple of friends who now join in and they knock on both the front and back doors. We are now familiar with their ‘knock’ so no longer get up to answer the door. And I have forgiven them for disturbing us, as they are super-cute.

Bird_2 PortraitThe birds have been ‘playing’ this game for over a fortnight now and don’t seem to be getting bored of it. So I can at least be assured that my brain is slightly larger than that of a bird as I played this for about ten minutes before running into Mum declaring that I was “Boooooooored” for the millionth time that summer holiday.

I am now fully aware of how irritating it is to hear those words from your child when you know they have a bedroom full of toys, not to mention the stack in the shed!

And so I find myself sounding just like my Mum all those years ago, repeating to Amelie exactly what Mum used to say to me and my brother “How can you be bored when you have all of those toys”. And then I go on to say how we didn’t have game consoles, only had four TV channels (what!?), tablets were a solid form of medicine and ‘Mr Google’ hadn’t been born! My goodness, no wonder I was playing knock-a-door-run to help fill the holidays.

 

Cosy Room logo_email sigsmall tag

Postbox shortage!

I didn’t realise how much ‘fun’ there was to be had with posting and receiving letters and parcels here in the Suffolk countryside.

It all started just before last Christmas. As we were new to the area we wanted to share Christmas wishes to our neighbours by sending them a Christmas card. So one December evening Amelie and I went off down the lane with our stack of cards feeling both Christmassy and neighbourly.

What I didn’t anticipate was to have to play ‘hunt the letterbox’. Amelie and I stood outside most of the houses in much confusion, as we couldn’t see a post box or indeed a letterbox. We would scour the front gate area for a post box and when we couldn’t find one we would walk up the drive and through gardens to the front door to find that there wasn’t a letterbox either. Hmmm…

We scoured one particular house in great detail, to the point where we must have looked as if we were casing the joint! We stood totally bewildered, wondering how on earth the occupants of this house received their post. So we walked back home feeling very deflated as we’d only managed to post two of our Christmas cards.

Amelie and I even went back the next day in the daylight and we still couldn’t find any more post boxes. How do these people receive their post? Is there a secret system I don’t yet know about?

Anyway, I’d forgotten all about it until last weekend when I’d volunteered to do a leaflet drop down my lane and the next road to advertise a school event. So off Amelie and I went with our leaflets only to be stumped yet again by the seemingly lack of places to post letters. I lost count of how many houses we went to and stood in their garden or on their driveway trying to spot the post box. And when we walked up to the front door there wasn’t a letterbox either. However on the odd occurrence when there was a letterbox (after doing a little celebratory dance) I’d pop the leaflet through, but some letterboxes were so heavy I almost lost my fingers! (We have a lovely cheery postie and now I have even more respect for him for the task he has on a daily basis to hunt out the post boxes and risk his fingers in the ridiculously heavy letterboxes).

When we came to the house, which we scoured many times at Christmas, we made it our mission to find where this house accepted post. At last after many minutes walking around we spotted a letterbox type shape cut out in the wall of the house. It’s literally just a flap in the wall of the house. No frame around it or ‘Letters’ printed on the flap. But it was letterbox shaped and it was the closest thing this house has to a post box so I went with it. I grabbed the leaflet and shoved it in this random hole in the side of their house. I’ve no idea where this hole goes or if the leaflet will ever see the light of day again, but I felt a small sense of achievement. It could be in years to come when the house is undergoing renovations that a leaflet from 2017 advertising a ‘Ladies Night’ at the local school may be found. By this time it will look like parchment and the ink will have faded and the finders will chuckle at the quaintness of how in the ‘old days’ we used to advertise on paper instead of by some sort of digital noticeboard that everyone now has in their homes. Oh those were the days…

Receiving post is just as fun as trying to send it. As it’s a bit of a trek to the nearest shops (I mean proper shops, not a village store) we do a lot of our shopping online. We must receive parcels and post from every delivery service going and they all have their own unique way to deliver parcels to us. We have three doors, which they can potentially deliver to and each delivery service uses a different one. So it’s always a guessing game as to which door they will come to.

I stand in the middle of the house trying to second-guess which door they will go to so I can get there in time before they decide to try a different door. There are times when I’m literally running around the house with a bunch of keys trying to keep up with the delivery person who is running around the outside of my house. It’s ridiculous! But on the upside I increase my daily step count. Do ‘steps’ count if they are steps to the fridge for cake..?

Chocolate brownie heaven

A brilliant reason to have kids is ‘Mother’s Day’. (Kidding!) I love Mother’s Day. It’s basically like a Birthday but without getting a year older. Brilliant! Bring it on.

I am lucky enough to receive a lovely card, (usually made by my little girl), gifts and I am spoilt all day long which of course I relish. And I’m sure as she gets older I will be able to milk this occasion even more by demanding things like breakfast in bed, hourly cups of tea and of course, chocolate brownies. She isn’t quite old enough to boil a kettle yet, but as soon as she is…

CD100198.04.13_IMG_7135Mother’s Day has been my focus these past few weeks as I’ve been designing products for my shop. There is now a collection of pretty cards and I’ve even remembered Nanna’s and Grandma’s as they are lucky enough to be able to Celebrate both Mother’s Day AND the new ‘Grandparents’ day!

And for those of us who want to give our Mum a little something other than flowers then I’ve got the perfect personalised gift with my new ‘Ring for service bell’. A great way to make your Mum smile and to receive a beautiful gift totally personalised for her.

BEL00001.31.08_IMG_7126My daughter’s school is also embracing Mother’s Day by inviting Mums to join their children for lunch, which is a lovely idea. Well, apart from having to sit on those itty-bitty chairs. And with my long legs it means I will have to eat my lunch with my knees level with my face. That and having to sit with other little ones, with table manners not exactly being their strong point.

Both Amelie and I have very delicate tums so it doesn’t take much to make us heave. There was the time when my brother’s Boxer dog stood in their lounge with dribble coming from his mouth which is usual for Boxer dogs. I turned to find Amelie stood there retching! She has told me on several occasions that she has almost been sick during lunch at school due to other kids table manners (or lack of). So you can understand my nervousness about this lunch. I’m hoping it will be incident-free and it’s not like feeding time at the zoo with Amelie and I taking it in turns to share the sick bag!

Choc brownie smallNow, onto much nicer things! I mentioned chocolate brownies earlier. I LOVE brownies and I have THE best recipe. They have a nice flaky top but they are lovely and soft in the middle. I know there are brownies out there that are classed as ‘healthy brownies’ as they include avocado and beetroot in their ingredients. But my brownies do not even pretend to be even the slightest bit healthy. They do not contain any ingredients that you would normally find in a salad. In my opinion, that is just wrong.  They are full-on chocolate, full-fat chocolate brownies, which I bake as a treat for special occasions. I’d have to eat chocolate brownies on a daily basis to want to make a ‘healthy version’. Bake and eat them on a special occasion such as Mother’s Day as a treat and we’ll be fine. And yes I love them that much I don’t even mind baking them myself, for myself!

Amelie won’t be able to eat them, as they’re not gluten-free. BUT, before you start to think I’m the worst Mummy ever, Amelie doesn’t like brownies! “WHAT!?” I hear you cry. I know – it’s just not right is it? How can a daughter of mine not like brownies? But on the upside it means there are more for me to scoff. (And then whine that I’ve put on weight afterwards).

So, as my little gift to you I’m going to share my brownie recipe in honour of Mother’s Day. They make the perfect gift cut into squares and wrapped prettily in cellophane tied with a ribbon. Hopefully you will have these baked for you, but if like me you’ll have to bake them yourself then it just means you get to eat the first one as that is the number one rule of baking.

The best-ever chocolate brownies

Ingredients

200g (7oz) unsalted butter
200g (7oz) good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
3 medium eggs
300g (10.5oz) caster sugar
175g (6oz) plain flour, sifted
100g (3.5oz) dark chocolate drops (70% cocoa)

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5. Line two 28cm x 19cm (7.5” x 11”) baking tins with grease-proof paper and set aside. I sometimes use one large tin to make a chunkier brownie, but that’s me being a piggy!
  2. Melt the butter (slice into chunks) and chocolate (snapped into small pieces) together in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Set aside and allow to cool completely. Or if you are in a rush, you can cheat and put the mixture in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. (I’ve done this a couple of times and the brownies have turned out just fine. Just give it a mix with a spoon after taking it out of the fridge).
  3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until pale and creamy. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the chocolate mixture, then the flour and three-quarters of the chocolate drops.
  4. Divide the brownie mixture evenly between the two prepared tins (or one larger tin), then scatter with the remaining chocolate drops. Bake for 25 minutes, until set and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  5. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, cut each ‘cake’ into eight brownies (or more if you have used one large tin). Best eaten on the day of baking, but they do last for a few days if kept in an airtight tin.
  6. If you are being kind and making these as a gift for Mother’s Day then wrap a couple of the brownies in pretty cellophane and tie with a ribbon or string.

Now make a cup of tea, turn the phone off, grab a book or a magazine and enjoy your delicious chocolate brownie in peace.

To all the Mums out there, I hope you have a really lovely Mother’s Day on Sunday 26 March 2017! xx

Doris the destroyer

I am not at all happy with Doris! She arrived without an invite, caused a lot of devastation and destruction and then left without even a “thank you for having me”. She was like an unwanted guest at a party who had a few too many Proseccos.

Doris is the name the Met office gave to the storm that whipped through the UK yesterday. The Met office decided to give names to those “storms that deem potentially able to have a substantial impact on the UK or Ireland”.

Is the intention to make the general public think that because the storms have a cute name they will whizz on by without so much as blowing a hair out-of-place? Therefore, stopping us from going into full-on ‘panic mode’?

Personally I think the cute names lull us into a false sense of security. Surely a storm with the same name as your Grandma or Great Aunt won’t be horrible and create havoc? They will just bring enough of a weather system to make us either stay indoors and snuggle up by the fire with a cup of tea, or to wrap up warm, go outside and fly a kite in the ‘playful’ winds?

But there was nothing playful or snuggly about Doris! She blustered into our little country, caused all sorts of chaos and destruction and then grabbed her passport and went off to poor unsuspecting Poland to do the exact same thing there. Batten down the hatches lovely Polish people!

bay-tree_1I am truly thankful that Doris didn’t do anything too serious to our property here in Suffolk. But I am angry that she knocked my lovely Bay tree over and smashed the pot to pieces, blew down a tree in the wood (log burner for you my friend), smashed a garden lantern and even decided to move Muffin’s house for him. (Muffin is our pet bunny who lives in a big and heavy hutch outside). And ‘she’ covered my car in so many leaves and twigs it looks as if it’s dressed in army camouflage fatigues!

This is basically the equivalent of her gate-crashing our party, drinking far too much, spilling red wine on the white sofa, treading food into the carpet and falling back into the TV whilst trying to dance to Gangnam style in the lounge!

Time to get your coat, and go home Doris.

Any excuse for cake!

I really don’t need much of an ‘event’ for it to demand cake! So we are embracing Valentines Day and baking THE BEST gluten-free Victoria Sponge cake.

I’ve tried many a gluten-free cake recipe and after much cursing and many of them going straight into the bin I’ve found the easiest and yummiest gluten free cake to bake. Found on the Doves Farm website. Thank you! I think the secret is to use baking margarine rather than butter as it makes the sponge so much lighter.

So as today is all about lovey-stuff I’m going to share my love of cake with you here:

Ingredients

3 eggs (weighed)
Gluten-free self-raising flour (same weight as the eggs)
Margarine (same weight as the eggs)
Caster sugar (same weight as the eggs)
4 Tbsp Jam (I’ve gone for no added sugar strawberry jam to try and cancel-out the whipped cream I’ve also added in the middle)

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170°C
Weigh your eggs (out of the shells)
Measure exactly the same weight in gluten-free self-raising flour, caster sugar and margarine.
Put all ingredients into a bowl.
Mix on medium speed until lump free and you have a creamy consistency.
Grease and line two 7″ cake tins.
Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Take sponges out of tins and allow to cool.
Spread jam (and cream) on the top of one of the cakes and then add the other cake on top.
I then used sifted icing sugar around a heart shape on top to create a Valentine theme.
Cut yourself a huge slice and enjoy with a cup of tea!

img_3085Happy Valentines Day! xx

A cough, a car and a chef!

We were getting ready for the school run. It had frozen overnight so I had to spend ten minutes or so to defrost the car. Somehow my car has moisture on the inside so I have to spend time defrosting both the outside and the inside of the windows!

I love my car. It’s very pretty and hasn’t let me down (I’ve probably just jinxed this). However, there are two things that I don’t like about it. One is how it freezes on the inside and the other is that it doesn’t have a cup-holder. My daughter’s child seat was £25 and has TWO cup-holders and yet my (much more) expensive car doesn’t have one. Perhaps it’s because it’s a French car and they believe coffee should be served in a proper cup and enjoyed in a café beside the River Seine rather than on the move in a paper cup? Fair enough, but when you’re a working Mum and rushing to drop the kids off at nursery or school before starting your day a portable cup of coffee is a must!

car-seatOn one such morning I was in desperate need of a coffee. I bought one and then sat in my car pondering where the heck I was going to put the bucket of latte without it spilling. The only place was one (of the two) cup-holder’s in my daughter’s car seat. I jammed it in there and drove very slowly and carefully. One of the times I checked my rear-view mirror I noticed that the coffee cup had flipped out of the holder and turned upside down and was now sat in my daughter’s car seat!

Thankfully by the time I came to pick it up (with the delicacy of a bomb disposal unit) I managed to do so with just a small leak of coffee out of the little hole you sip from. It was a miracle.

Anyway, I’d defrosted the car and about to pile Amelie into it, along with her many school bags when I realised I couldn’t shut the driver’s door. The lock had slipped down and wouldn’t shut. Brilliant!

I’m already running late due to the double defrosting task and now we must walk to school. It’s a good 25-minute walk at Amelie’s pace. Poor Amelie had a very bad cough and almost coughed up a lung on the way and was beginning to look decidedly ‘peeky’ by the time we reached school. I thought she would probably be fine after she had settled down after the walk and had some water. So off I trekked back home again. Got home and was about to call a ‘man who can’ to fix my car when the school called me to say Amelie had “gone a funny colour” and wasn’t well.

So on with my coat and boots again and I set off to walk down the road for a third time. I’m now worried that the walk back home with Amelie will probably wipe her out. But as my car is broken there isn’t anything else I can do. I did think about riding her electric scooter to school so she could sit on it and ride back, but figured the battery probably wouldn’t last and I’d look truly ridiculous!

Thankfully the lovely school chef took pity on us and offered to drive us home again which we were both truly thankful for. But then I felt really bad as she managed to get her car stuck on our drive. We’ve all done it – totally misjudged a space and them messed up the manoeuvre. Bless her; she managed to drive right over the rock that props the gate open and then didn’t have enough room to swing round without hitting the patio. She really was stuck between a rock and a hard place! It quickly turned into a comedy moment that reminded me of the clip out of ‘Austin Powers’ when he tries to do a three-point turn. And all of this happened before 9.30am. On mornings like this I actually don’t need a portable cup of coffee, I need a portable cup of Prosecco!

I’m jumping up and down…

…with excitement, as I’ve just opened my online shop on Etsy! Those of you who have been dutifully following my blog, will know I’ve been busy working in my lovely new office, often battling the freezing cold temperatures in the morning and then sweating in the afternoons.

As Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I’ve concentrated on products specifically for saying ‘I love you’. And in these times we all need a little lovin’.

cd100188-24-08_6920There is a large range of cards available including cute, funny and elegant designs. I’ve also designed a number of prints, which can be personalised, to create that extra special gift and perhaps earn you some brownie points from your ‘better’ half!

I’ve had to fully embrace social media in the past couple of days, which has had me totally out of my comfort zone. Can you be a private and shy person and still conquer social media? I hope so!!! I’ll be honest with you – this is a huge learning curve for me, which is both daunting and exciting.

So you can now hear updates from me here:

Website: Cosyroomdesigns.com
Twitter: @cosyroomdesigns
Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CosyRoomDesigns

I’ll also share new product photographs and all things related to Cosy Room Designs on Pinterest very soon!

cd100154-24-02_6129Please have a browse and as I’ve mentioned, this is a learning curve, so if you have any suggestions or pointers I’m all ears!

Thank you x