Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Day tripping August 28, 2011

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 1:18 pm

The last Bank Holiday weekend until, gulp, Christmas. Yikes.

So we decided that if the weather was reasonable, we would go on a day trip to the nearby town of Southwell. It rained all day long on Friday, but by Saturday morning things had improved a lot and so the day trip was go.

I’d not been to Southwell before, and now I’ve been there, I think I’ll be going back. It’s a pretty little town, with a few interesting shops and nice cafes. The first order of business was to visit Southwell Minster, and we were fortunate in that our visit coincided with a photography exhibition. Amongst the pictures I was happy to find a few of Second Beach in the Olympic National Park, a park we’d visited a few years ago on our travels.

We enjoyed exploring the Minster itself – it’s a big building and you can’t really take it in all in one go. There are patterns all over the place – I really enjoyed looking at those around the doorways and columns.

The other appealing thing about the town was the architecture of the smaller buildings – there are a lot of nice-looking houses to see. As soon as we got home, I had a peek to see what sort of homes are for sale there at the moment. The answer is that there are quite a few nice ones, but they’re not cheap. Oh well. However, I have noticed they do an open gardens tour in the summer, so at least if we go to that we can get a closer look.

Hope you’re enjoying the long weekend!


He’s OK! August 24, 2011

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 8:22 pm

I just wanted to let you know that our little hedgehog is clearly some sort of super-hedgehog: late last night he appeared on our patio, in his usual spot. We don’t know for sure how he escaped from the lower part of the garden – maybe he used the little ramp we set up, or perhaps he went under the fence to get next door using the little secret tunnel we dug.

Whatever he did, he’s clearly very clever. On the two nights following the incident with the fox, we went and sat out in the garden in the dark to listen and watch out for him, but there was no sign of him. And then he just turned up as though nothing had happened. Hedgehogs, eh!

I’m still going to worry about him of course, but I am dialling it back a bit. Which is good news for everyone.


Hedgehog update August 22, 2011

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 9:38 am

Just before midnight last night, I was out in the garden, wearing my pyjamas, carrying a torch, and looking for the hedgehog.

I think he has been visiting our garden most nights, not always seen by us. Unfortunately for him, his arrival last night coincided with a visit from a local fox.

Our garden is on two levels – a raised patio near the house, with steps down to the main part of the garden, which is a lawn surrounded by flowerbeds. The hedgehog always visits the top part of the garden – he arrives from next door, and goes back the same way. But last night, he ended up on the lawn. I didn’t see exactly how he got there, but I am confident the fox had something to do with it.

I had looked out a few minutes earlier and seen both the fox and the hedgehog on the patio, which was an unusual sight. It didn’t occur to me that the hedgehog was in danger – I would have thought with their spikes they could defend themselves very well against a fox. But a few minutes later I looked out again and saw the hedgehog was now on the lawn – somewhere he could not easily reach under his own steam. And the fox was running around the garden. The fox left, and I went out to check on the hedgehog, expecting the worst. But he didn’t seem to be injured – he stayed still for a few minutes, and then quickly disappeared into the flowerbed.

But this means he is now most likely stuck in the lower part of our garden. It’s not a bad place for a hedgehog – with plenty of vegetation, places to hide, and slugs. But it’s not really big enough to be his entire world, and he seemed to have such a set routine that I expect the change in environment will be a bit of a shock. So this evening we’ll be seeing what we can do in terms of providing him with an escape route. We already have a little ramp of sorts, which we set up when we first saw him. If he finds that, it will take him back up to the patio, and from there he can get back to his usual route.

And so it seems that having a hedgehog visit our garden has turned into a full time job – but we’re certainly willing to do whatever we can to help keep him safe and happy.

(By the way, I didn’t take any pictures of the events last night, so this photo shows a fox detail on the side of a building from a recent open gardens event I attended.)


With nuts August 16, 2011

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 6:11 pm

As I mentioned in my last post, I went a bit over the top and bought a bottle of hazelnut liqueur. It wasn’t cheap, and there are other, more essential things that I probably should have spent that £23 on. So now I need to make sure I use every last drop of it, so that I don’t feel like I wasted my money.

Strangely, for someone who just spent £23 on liqueur, I don’t drink much these days. But I’m not tee-total or anything, so a certain amount of it will be drunk. I’ve been looking online for recipes and found some that sound quite appealing.


Frangelico and lime
Frangelico mule – I love things that have ginger ale in!
Frangelico Nutty Irishman – which seems to just be Frangelico mixed with Bailey’s and served over ice. Good call.


Hazelnut cheesecake
Chocolate hazelnut rice pudding – this one is being marketed as a somewhat healthy option, and yet it sounds delicious.
Late night parfaits

So I have plenty of options when it comes to working my way through that bottle.

(In case you’re wondering, I’ve not been sponsored by Frangelico – the bottle of hazelnut liqueur I bought was actually a different brand. And they’re not paying me either!)


Hazelnut Madeira Tiramisu August 15, 2011

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 12:55 pm

I may have mentioned before that I rather like tiramisu. I don’t want you to get the impression that it’s all I eat or anything, but yes, I am fond of it, in all its guises. If you offer me some, I will not turn it down.

I have recently started making a new tiramisu-based creation, which is a combination of a few different recipes and ideas. Introducing Hazelnut Madeira Tiramisu. (If you are Italian, or have any Italian background whatsoever, please accept my apologies for altering one of your national dishes so much.)

This came about a few weeks ago, when I wanted to make tiramisu but could not find any sponge finger biscuits for sale in our local shops. I decided instead to buy the plainest looking cake I could find and use that instead, and so picked up a loaf of Madeira cake. Of course if time is on your side, you could make a Madeira cake and use that. But I was hungry!

Hazelnut Madeira Tiramisu

I used a smallish madeira loaf cake, and sliced it up quite thinly. I used the layers to line a dish with a flat bottom (I had some left over, and so also made a couple of small tiramisus in the bowls pictured in this photo, but flat-based dishes work best in terms of getting the liquid to absorb into the cake).

Then I made 300ml of strong black coffee, mixed with a tablespoon of sugar, and around 75ml of hazelnut liqueur*. I poured this over the cakes, and then grated a little bit of dark chocolate over everything.

Next, I used an electric whisk to beat 200ml of double cream, until it became thick and started to hold its shape. In a separate bowl, I beat 2 tablespoons of sugar with 250g of mascarpone cheese. I folded the cream into the mascarpone mix, and used the resulting mixture to top the cakes. I then grated some more chocolate over the top of everything.

Now, I must tell you that it tastes better after it’s spent a night sitting in the fridge. But if you can stick the whole thing in the fridge without eating any of it, you are a much stronger person than me.

*If you don’t want to splash out on a full bottle of hazelnut liqueur, you can buy miniatures of Frangelico, which are the perfect size for this recipe. That’s what I used first, but since then I’ve bought a bottle of Briottet Creme de Noisette. It was not cheap, so I’m doing some research on recipes for food and coctails that I can use it in – I’ll post my findings here once I get myself organised.


Return of the hedgehog August 1, 2011

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 12:02 pm

I’m excited to report that our little hedgehog visitor has been visiting us again this week.

We first saw him in April, and then hadn’t seen him since. But this week, I was in the kitchen at dusk and saw a little shadowy creature shuffle across the patio.

He didn’t set the security light off (I think he’s too small for that), but I watched him for a while in the dark (I wish my night vision was better!). After his last visit, I’d done some reading on what hedgehogs like to eat (and what’s good for them), and had bought a little tin of rather fancy chicken flavoured cat food as a result. The tin has been sitting in our cupboards for months, just in case he came back, and I was really pleased to get the chance to put some on a plate and sneak out there to leave it for him to find.

We saw him walk around for a good while, going back and forth around the patio, but mostly staying close to the edges (for safety, I assume). I didn’t actually see him eat the food – in the morning, it was all gone, but there are a lot of cats round here, in addition to the occasional fox, so it could have been any of them.

On Saturday night he visited again, and I watched him carefully to see what he got up to. Armed with that information, just before it got dark last night, I put out a saucer of water and another of cat food, in the spot he’d spent the most time in. Sure enough, just before 10pm, he walked across the patio and went straight to the saucer with water in. He had a drink, and then a little of the food, and then as he moved on he walked over the saucers and spilled the water.

Shortly after that, the cat from next door arrived, and the light came on. I opened the door to shoo the cat away, and since the patio was now illuminated, I snapped a few pictures of the hedgehog as he sat quietly in the corner (larger version on Flickr).

In all, he was in our garden for about 40 minutes – he headed off in the same direction from which he’d arrived. I’m already looking forward to this evening, to see if he’ll be visiting us again.