Tuesday, 30 September 2014

GBBO 2014 - Advanced Dough Week

I came away from the last episode of the Bake Off completely excited because I knew already that my challenge for the week would be doughnuts. It has always seemed to me that doughnuts would be a bought thing, whether you got your jam filled ones from the supermarket, the expensive glazed ones from specialist shops or the tiny sugar coated ones from the seaside. In short, I had never thought it would be possible to make my own before, until today.

Armed with my trusty recipe, I kneaded and proved my dough to perfection, timing them well to fit in with my PhD interviews (which have started, by the way, and have left me both exhilarated and flummoxed, but that's a post for another day) and other household chores. Two hours into the bake, I wasn't convinced that I had the skills to do this thing because it involved deep fat frying, and I had never done it before. Luckily, I had two pros on hand (mama and papa) to give me instructions and tips and very soon I was frying up some doughnut holes (I didn't want to waste any pastry) and had summoned up enough courage to fry the doughnuts themselves. I will say that I was really nervous but it turned out sooo well I hopped around with joy! Here's how they look:

Here they are! A little naked here because they were still cooling. And of course because the 'rentals needed the no-added-sugar version.

And here they are with their sugar coats on! Look how awesome they are! I made doughnuts!!

They had a lovely texture, unique to doughnuts I guess, and were soft and yummy. Next time I may prove them a little more because they weren't quite light enough, but I think that's all by the by. They looked and tasted like doughnuts and that, in itself, is amazing. The parents were pleased, I was happy, doughnut satisfaction for all!

I'm unbelievably chuffed with these. It had never occurred to me that I, Suzanna Law would be able to make doughnuts. It wasn't even a complicated recipe either, so I'm totally going to be doing this again! I'd like to try filled doughnuts, and even maybe some funky glazed, who knows! Today, doughnuts. Tomorrow, the world.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Hello Peel Tower

My parents and I decided to go and visit the Peel Tower today. Having had an adventure at Burrs Country Park last week, we decided we needed a walk that had a bit more of a challenge to it. We chose a path that went directly up the hill and started to climb:

There's the little sign pointing to our path! I love this because it's engraved into a massive rock! Noone will be stealing this sign in a hurry.

The beginning of our climb - there are some children coming down the path in the distance there. We passed them on the path and asked them how the climb down was and they became really nonchalant about; they had basically half slipped, half fell down the hill but they weren't going give anything away. The lads recommended a path that wasn't so steep but mum wasn't listening and went straight for a challenging road. I could hear them whispering quietly to eachother as we parted - "they'd never make it down later" - which made me laugh. We went down a different way.

Halfway up the climb, Dad takes a breather to look yonderly into the distance on an outcrop of rock.

Here's me! Such a wonderful view!

It was a lovely day, and we could see lots of landmarks that we were familiar with at ground level.

And here it is! Peel Tower! Hello!
People were abseiling down the tower today for charity - there was quite a buzz!

We had a lovely climb up to Peel Tower, and exploring the local pathways. It was a really nice day for it, and unusually warm for a September day in Manchester. When my Dad retires, my parents plan to spend a lot of their time wandering the local pathways and exploring the good old British landscape. It was a nice Sunday afternoon with the 'rentals. :)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Return of the Wheat Sheaf

It's harvest time, and to celebrate this many churches have a service to celebrate the rich produce that God has provided us. My mum asked me to bake a wheat sheaf loaf, similar to last year's, which would compliment her lovely floral tribute to harvest for her church's harvest service tomorrow. I was really excited to make another wheat sheaf actually, so I took advantage of the opportunity, had a little bit of fun and created this:

Yaay, Wheat Sheaf 2014!

It takes around an hour and a half to make a simple bread dough and shape the dough to make the wheat sheaf. It's all down to creative innovation as to how you want to make the loaf in the end - scissors are quite useful for the ears of wheat, but the rest of it involve using those play dough skills we practiced when we were little! The loaf takes about 30 minutes to bake through, and then you want to leave it in the oven for a couple of hours at a low heat to dry out.

I'm really pleased with how this turned out. I wanted it to be a little bit bigger, but meh, this is fine. I love the colour, the shape, and the look. I'm also very glad that it all stayed together, and I hope that the congregation at my parent's church like this year's harvest loaf! :) Yaay! :)

A Walk in the Sun

I had a little walk in the afternoon today after a few hours of furious computering. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze. I have to hear a jumper now because it's definitely a lot cooler outside, but it's still lovely outside for a September in Manchester. Here's what I saw:

This is the view from about 100 yards from my front door. Isn't it lovely? :) If you squint, you'll see our local heron. He's comes to visit sometimes :)

I have no idea what this is, but it's both spikey and fluffy, the beginning of some paradoxical thought.

I loved the colour gradient of these berries - it really caught my eye just before I crossed a road.

There were so many berries on this one bush, it was crazy! A big pop of colour in an overgrown area of woodland.

Peekaboo sunshine through the woodlands at my Uncle's graveyard. Thought I'd snap a shot just before I started hunting for conkers again.

Here's a conker I found that's not quite ready, so there's a white patch at the top. Sorry for taking you out of your spikey shell before you were quite ready!

Loook! I found a conker shell with 3 conkers in it! You normally only get one, and on the rare occasion you get 2, but I've never seen one with 3 good sized ones in! Yaaay! I gave it to a family that were playing nearby and they were really excited too! Yaaay! :)

A mushroom! This was a pretty mushroom actually and it was pretty big. Didn't know if it was poisonous or not so I didn't touch it, but I really liked the colours on it.

I had a lovely little walk and got home just in time for tea :) Yaay! So glad that I have so much nature on my doorstep for me to explore. I'm getting used to my neighbourhood now, and it's really growing on me :)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Drawing on Conkers

My mum presented with a whole harvest of conkers today, and while they laid on my table, glistening at me as I worked, I kept envisioning myself doodling on them. So as soon as all the work was done, that's what I did:

I decided to draw a sheep, some leaves and a funny star motif. The sheep was harder to see so I picked it up.

Here they are again, a little closer. I like the star motif the best :)

It was so satisfying to draw on the conkers. I used a silver sharpie, but I'm guessing any silver permanent marker would do the trick. I remember last year around this time, I selected some leaves from the garden to draw on with a silver pen and that worked a treat too!

I'm not entirely sure what to do with all these conkers now, but I love having them around me during conker season. Maybe I'll take them on the train for my undercover play research. Oooo. Check back for more!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

GBBO 2014 - Pastry Week

As I sat quietly having my tea last night, I suddenly realised that I hadn't done my Bake Off challenge for the week yet. There was no panic because there was still plenty of time, so today, I got my ingredients together and attempted last week's technical challenge, the Kouign Amann (said a little bit like "queen-a-man") - a French pastry.

Having seen the bakers do it on TV I roughly knew where I was going with this bake, but gosh it was a long process. It's a bit like making puff pastry but with yeast in it and a final sprinkling of sugar before the bake. But I had never made puff pastry before either so it was all quite an adventure. Here's how it turned out:

This is a kouign amann. I'm gonna say that this looks even prettier than the ones Paul Hollywood made.

Aren't they lovely? They're kinda like croissants but even more delightful because it has a crispy and sweet on the outside and millions of light and airy layers inside.

I'm really really pleased with this bake - I had no idea what I was doing except for the initial bread dough mixture so everything else was new. And it took ages because you have to stick it in the fridge every few minutes. The results are a delight, and I'm pretty sure I'll be baking this one again. I reckon this would be an excellent party addition, or just amazing with a cuppa tea half way through the afternoon. Oh my. Heavenly! 

Anyway, it's probably time for me to put those delicacies away and stop thinking about having another. Hmm, my breakfast is going to be amazing! :)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Train Track Adventure

My parents and I went for a wander around The Burrs Country Park today. We had a bit of fun exploring the surroundings and enjoying the sunshine.

This is the River Irwell - the pretty part :)

My parents in the middle of the nature :)

And here they are, messing around :)

We wandered further along and eventually stumbled across a mysterious path that led to a train track! In the middle of the countryside! It was really cool! I was totally taken by the awesomeness of it all!

Yaaay, this is the East Lancs Railway line - we went past here on Lee's birthday!

Standing on a train tack - so cool!

And then moments later - a steam train trundles past! Hello everyone! :)

We had no idea that we would find the train tracks today, so it was a real surprise to stumble across them. Both my parents were super excited (my mum took many photos) and it really gave our adventure a real umph! We live so close to the park, so I think that I will be back to watch the trains go by - how much more leisurely can it get! So wonderful to have such great countryside so close to where we live! I feel very blessed. Hoorah! :)

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A Good Day to Gather

Over the last few weeks or so, I think that my parents have finally settled into our new house. It's taken a long time for them to feel right at home here, especially because there has been building work to complete and a blank canvas to fill. When they started inviting people home to eat with us, it signaled to me that they are finally comfortable with what they have, and so this is the beginning of many gatherings, and great memories.

Today, we had another one of these gatherings where I was able to meet and chat with people from Mum and Dad's church. Over lunch consisting of mostly British finger food, we laughed and chatted and it was very nice:

I made a nice cheese and broccoli quiche - very thin pastry and no soggy bottom, hoorah!

I also made some raisin scones - they were also a hit, especially with the clotted cream.

A lovely little spread here - fruit, crisps, sandwiches, and oh - we hadn't got the vol au vents out yet!

There was a lot of different people at my house today, but most striking of all, an inwardly-young but outwardly-old lady called Clare. She took a particular shine to me and told me a lot of things about herself, and there was a brief moment where I was reminded of repetitive conversations I used to have with my Uncle. Clare is going through bereavement so when talking to her, I talked about Uncle too. I could see that her uncomplicated mind was trying to wrap around the complexity of death, but knowing that she believes in heaven made me happy. She told me that her mum has sent angels down to look after. I can totally believe that too.

Day 5 - I have to be thankful for:
  • My family - for Mum and Dad, and what they have done for me, and for my siblings.
  • My extended family - all of the brothers and sisters in Christ that I have, that I have met, and I have yet to meet.
  • My peeps - people around me that I know and love, that enrich my life, and who are closer to me than just a friend: they're my people.
And that concludes my thankfulness challenge. (I'll just carry on being thankful on here without needing to be told to! ;) ) And now, time for a bit of knitting, and a bit of TV. Hoorah!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Doodle Me Brollies

The last couple of days of muggy weather has culminated in a rather miserable drippy today. I spent the day indoors, doing some baking and PhDing today. I was a bit too engrossed in my work so I hadn't noticed the turn in the weather until I opened the front door to go for my evening stroll: I needed a coat. Ah well, the good weather can't last forever. To commemorate the change in weather, a set of brollies for you all:

Brolly Zoodle. You can't have too many umbrellas. :)

On the subject of my doodles, I've decided to fire up my Etsy shop. It's been a long time since I've sold anything on there, but I've finally found myself with the right combination of time and stock so now, I have doodles on sale for your buying pleasure. Yaay! :)

Day 4 - I have to be thankful for:
  • Being blessed with a little creativity, and patience to see most projects through
  • All of the weather - sun, rain, snow, wind, all of it.
  • Indoor days, also known and PJ days.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sushi and Conkers

I was invited to my friend Angel's house for tea today but in my rush around today, I didn't quite manage to fit a proper walk. So I parked up near Angel's house and walked around the block. It was a lovely warm evening, with hazy sunshine and a nice warm breeze. It almost felt like I was in a memory, like they do in the movies, where your past memories are slightly fuzzy around the edges, and everything is misty. In my state of reverie, it took me a moment to realise that I was surrounded by the unmistakable evidence of  there being conkers about! And so I started hunting:

Hoorah for conkers - they were sooo big and so many! It was very clear to me that no children lived in this neighbourhood at all!

Clutching my Autumn harvest, I arrived at Angel's house to be greeted with a spectacular array - we were spoiled tonight! (I may have abandoned my conkers somewhere.)

So much sushi, so much deliciousness!

She helpfully provided us with a blowtorch, in case you know, we wanted to set fire to our sushi. It was possibly a mistake because we just started setting fire to everything. And I absolutely did. The house is still in one piece by the way, so don't worry.

Here's Fiona with the blowtorch. Some of you might find this hilarious, because I did.

I had a lovely evening in great company. We talked about everything under the sun, and laughed with eachother. Full to the brim with food and filled completely with laughter and enjoyment, we went home. What a lovely evening, hoorah!

Day 3 - I have to be thankful for:

  • The friendships I have made which have stood the test of time.
  • All of my senses - sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing, and that abstract one, feeling
  • The joy of discovery, and the beauty of little things.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Leeds and Back

Crossing over the Pennines this morning on the train made me feel pretty glum. I was already a little worried about what Fraser might say about the PhD work that I'd handed in, so as sunshine turned into clouds across the hills, I just got progressively more anxious about today's supervisory meeting.

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Work had been done to a good enough standard that I was greeted with a tiny symphony of agreeable oooh and ahhs. That's felt good: I think I'm doing it right at last!

So as the train trundled back across the Pennines and into the sunshine, I felt a lot more positive. It was nice to end the day on a high, and now the sun was shining too - added bonus!

This is the Manchester Wheel that's currently in Piccadilly Gardens while The Triangle is being renovated. It's pretty big actually. Ooo.

Day 2 - I have to be thankful for:
  • My PhD opportunity with a great supervisory team
  • Blue skies and sunshine
  • Food - the enjoyment and comfort of it which fills me with much happiness

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Walk Art

So I've been going on evening walks. It's a bid to get my little self out of the computer chair and out into the great wide world for a) a bit of exercise, b) a bit of fresh air and c) get to know my local area. I decided to also give it another reason, which ultimately has become the actual reason I go on my walks:

d) to fill out my map
This is my local neighbourhood mapped out in walks. 
Probably not the best photo, but you get the gist.

Every day, when I go on my walk (or when I have to walk home from somewhere nearby) I add my journey to my map. Don't worry, I'm not some map genius, this piece of paper is currently attached to a googlemap image of my local area which sits underneath and I trace my routes using a lightbox (aka my window). I'm planning on many more walks to fill out the map and produce a multi-coloured piece of artwork with a bit of a story. Hoorah!


I'd just like to change the pace here a little. Recently, there has been a new *thing* perpetuated by social media where people write down 3 things they have to be thankful for for 5 days in a row (there are many variations of this too). When they started happening, it reminded me very much of those forwarded emails you used to get when emails first became popular, and I didn't like them then either. The thing is, I personally don't feel like I need a reason, like this chain, to tell everyone what I am thankful for every day. I basically talk about this kinda stuff on my blog anyway!

So I'm not gonna lie, I rolled my eyes a little when Angel nominated me to also take part in this chain, but then I couldn't ignore it any more when my cousin Karen, then my friend Tracey also pointed to me to announce my thankful things openly to everyone. But rather than inflict them on everyone on my social media, I'm going to write it here, on my blog, so that those who really do want to know can have a little read:

Day 1 - I have to be thankful for:
  1. Having shelter above my head, and clothes on my back.
  2. Having health, full use of all my faculties, and the ability to improve my own well-being
  3. Having faith in God that sustains me, and accepting love from God that keeps me whole.
It's a Fraser day tomorrow, so I should have plenty to talk about. More photos, and more thoughts. But right now, more sleep! Til tomorrow! :)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Knittin' is Happenin'

A couple of days after I had my hair cut, I realised that my neck was going to be really cold this winter. So a bundled my mum into the car and went to buy some new wool: what a great reason to knit something new!

I already have a purple scarf, two types of teal scarves, and a black pashmina, so I think I have my favourite colours covered. I also knitted a stripey teal and black scarf last year (which I will use on my lonely neck this year) so I already explored the limits of my pattern tolerance (I'm not keen on colourful patterns. So this time, I thought I'd try a new colour: blue!

Isn't it a lovely colour? It's going to be an infinity scarf! Yaaay! :)

This scarf is happening quite quickly for me. I think mostly because I've gotten used to the the motions of this particular pattern (it's my favourite) and can now go on auto-pilot, but also because I've been using knitting to unwind after my PhDing. It's very therapeutic you know, I highly recommend it. It's also excellent for whiling away the after dark hours, of which there will be many more, very soon. Anyway, maybe a finished product soon, who knows!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

GBBO 2014 - European Bake Week

The Great British Bake Off competition went all European this week with bakes inspired by our neighbouring countries. There were a few very interesting, and very sweet looking bakes for each challenge, which looked absolutely stunning but I knew would be too much for my diabetic friendly household to manage. So I settled with a yeast leavened cake which I've never tried before and gave it a good shot using the cake tin that my lovely friend Nancy got me for my birthday.

Ladies and gentlemen, a kugelhopf. Its roots are in Austria!
(This photo looks way too similar to the one in this post. I'll try a different angle)

It came out really well - nice crisp exterior with an oh so soft inside. 

There's my mum, contemplating another slice.

I'm really pleased with this bake. There aren't as many steps in it as other recipes, but there is a long wait for the mix to prove. I thought that it would come out all bready - it certainly felt quite bready when I was making it, but when I came out so cake-like I was just genuinely impressed! I made a basic kugelhopf this time, but I hear you can add fruit to it, or even a fun glaze, all of which will be an experiment for another time, but definitely again!

I'm really enjoying my Great British Bake Off challenge! More next week! :)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Productivity Smile :)

I woke up this morning, put on my Totoro t-shirt, and deemed myself armed and ready for the day. Today was going to be a productive day.

Big Totoro smile! :)

I spent the day doing PhD work - some big thinking and some vigorous typing - and also went food shopping with my mum. I put out the laundry, brought in the laundry, and cooked my own lunch and tea. After my evening walk, I also watched Project Wild Thing, and was thoroughly inspired to do more work and now we're here!

Apart from the film selection, today was very similar to the yesterday, and also the day before, and many days before that in a row now. Days all seem the same so to me and it's seemed like it's been Friday for the last two weeks or so. If it's not for my blog, I don't actually think I'd remember what I do on a day to day basis that's different from the next. It's not so much of a worry because I have very little in a way of a schedule to follow. So sunny Autumn days can merge into eachother as much as I like as long as I remember to see Fraser! Haha! Anyway, more soon :)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Leaves are Falling

No matter how much the sun is shining, there's no holding back the coming of Autumn. The trees know it's happening, and they're beginning to shed their cheerful green leaves. On my daily evening walks I have been watching solitary leaves fall and swirl around me in dance that only they know the steps to. Inspired by the colours, I doodled away:

Early Autumn leaf zoodle - not all the leaves are brown yet so there's a lot of colour to play with. :)

I'm sure that in a few weeks time there will be more red, orange and yellow leaves and another doodle. For now, I'm going to enjoy the mild sunny days as much as I can before the cold sets in. I'm a little excited about getting winter clothes out again but shh, don't tell anyone :)

Monday, 8 September 2014

Panda Bread!

A couple of days ago, while re-organising my pinterest boards, I found an awesome idea - panda bread! I liked the idea soooo much that I've been thinking about it at every opportunity since I discovered it, so today, after re-organising the house, I set to work. I few excitable hours later, I was super chuffed with the results:

Before slicing, it just looks like a normal loaf with a suspicious green glow. I got quite a nice rise on it, so I'm pretty pleased.

Inside the loaf is so much awesomeness - panda bread! Look at how amazing it looks!
It's slightly evil looking - some might even say it looks a little Chinese! Hahaa!

Here I am with a slice of panda bread. Gosh, sandwiches will never be the same again!

This is a normal white loaf, made with strong white flour. The green dough is made with a splash of pandan (which smells really nice, but I can't explain to you what it's like. It is conveniently green too) and the brown colour is made with half a teaspoon of cocoa powder. You can't really taste the flavours in the end, but they are natural colourings so I'm happy with that.

This is undoubtedly the happiest bread I have ever baked! It has never crossed my mind that you could just add stuff to bread dough to make coloured bread, and I certainly had never thought about making it into a panda. It's so easy, but so awesome! I'm going to add the end result to my completed pin board, and look forward to breakfast tomorrow - hmmm panda toast :)

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Let's Go to the Park

A lot of people came to my house today. About a bajillion. In a bid to escape the onset chaos, I rounded up the few young people that turned up with their parents and invited them to come to the park with me. They said yes! Hoorah! This is what we did:

We climbed things

We span around very quickly on things

We pulled some painful looking faces while we were spinning and bouncing on things
(This is, by the way, an amazing photo)

We climbed more things

We ran on things

We found things (my first conker of the year, courtesy of Yolanda!)

We climbed yet more things

And we pretended to be superman on things.

I didn't get to play much myself, but was able be a playworker today, quite briefly. I encouraged from a distance and provided assistance when requested. I allowed the children to dictate the things we did while also supplying some ideas too, happily backing down if the children didn't like the idea. I watched negotiations, listened in to conversations and quietly allowed myself to reflect on why I wasn't going to interfere with conflict. I allowed the kids to take risks to the level at which they were comfortable with, which surprisingly wasn't very risky, but that's okay too. It's not often that a person that isn't your parent takes you to the park, so you don't really get to test your limits.

I had a lot of fun engaging with this little group of young people today. I'm sure I'll have more reflections to make once I've digested the day a little. It was a glorious day to be at the park so it would have been a waste if we were stuck inside. I'm all worn out from our little excursion now (and also playing host to the bajillion people who came to visit) so I think a little TV and some knitting and it'll be lights out for Zan! Goodnight! :)