Be Thankful

Thanksgiving.  It’s not a holiday we celebrate on this side of the pond, but I’ve seen enough American films and read enough décor blog posts to know the deal. Pumpkin pie, cinnamon-scented candles, turkey, more pumpkins, and that episode of Friends where Rachel crucially misunderstands the ingredients of a ‘traditional English trifle’ and everyone pretends to like it. Oh, and then there’s the thankfulness part. Taking a moment to reflect on everything that you have to be grateful for in your life – a way to end the year with a focus on the positives.

12116524_1032335476817406_1280986909_o (1)

Although as a British person I am duty-bound to view most US traditions with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned grumpy cynicism (sorry guys!), I really like this one. And in that spirit, I was tagged by the lovely lady over at White Walls and Wanderlust to complete the ‘Be Thankful Challenge’. So here goes.

thankfull

Rules

– Share this image in your blog post.
– Write about 5 people in your life you are thankful for.
– Write about 5 things in 2015 that you are thankful for.
– Spread the love and challenge 5 other blogs to take part.

Five people I am thankful for (in no particular order!)

  • The Boy. My partner in crime, my best friend and the person who makes me laugh most in the world, who seems to be able to fix everything from broken taps to broken hearts and who makes every day better just by being in it. I’m so soppy.
  • My family. Some more of my very favourite people.  Being with them is like being wrapped in a great big blanket and protected from everything that is wrong with the world. They’re quite funny too.  And as my brother once said in one of his more profound moments, “Families aren’t made to be apart.”
  • My friends! All here together because picking one or two favourites wouldn’t seem fair. I love them all for different reasons, and they all mean the world to me. They are the most intelligent, kind and funny bunch of people, and I’m so glad I’ve been lucky enough to collect them along the way.
  • Dan. Perhaps it’s odd to have somebody on your list you’ve never actually met, but I know this person is patient, kind and incredibly good at his job. Dan is the therapist who helped my boyfriend through his serious and very scary struggle with anxiety this year, and I could not be more grateful to him.
  • Everyone reading this. Too clichéd? Sorry. But honestly, I’m truly thankful for everyone who reads my blog, and for the conversations we have in this little corner of the internet about cakes and fairy lights and adventures and everything in between.

Five things I am thankful for

  • My flat. It’s been my first home away from my family, and my first with Matt. It’s warm and cosy and clean and finally feels like home. It’s our safe little nest for the end of the day, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
  • Challenges. My first year after graduating hasn’t been without its fair share of struggles, some of them very big and real and scary. But I’ve faced them all, overcome them, and my life is better as a result. I’m grateful for everything those hard times taught me.
  • My job. I’ve found a job and a team that I absolutely love. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that a terrible job can make you truly miserable. If you hate your job I beg you to leave right now if you can find a way. There is much better out there for you, you just need to find it.
  • Britain. For all of its faults – and there are many – I’m incredibly thankful that this is my home. I’m thankful that I live in a generally peaceful, liberal country where my rights are preserved and protected. I’m thankful that medical care is free and available to everyone who needs it. And I’m also grateful for the wry humour, the conversations about the weather and that wonderful British awkwardness.
  • Language. I love the intricacies of language, discovering new words and unusual sayings, and that feeling of immense satisfaction when you find the right words. I’m also evidently a windbag, given I’ve basically written a paragraph for each of these!

Five nominations

Fuelled by Oats – a lovely positive sunbeam of a blog and blogger

The Thankful Heart – such a fitting blog name, her blog really encapsulates this whole theme perfectly.

Persephone H – a fellow foodie

With all my Affection – one of the prettiest blogs around

A Cornish Mum – this blog has a little bit of everything for everyone

Listening to: Hold my Hand by Jess Glynn, Ashes and Wine by The Civil Wars and Masochist by Ingrid Michaelson.

The words and the images apart from those relating to the challenge are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Flying saucer cakes – honey & vanilla madeleines

The best thing about creating food, as far as I’m concerned, is making it for other people.  It’s one of my favourite ways to show I love somebody.  When I was about ten, that meant trying to make a pink mushroom birthday cake for my mum, and learning the hard way that you cannot ice a cake when it’s hot from the oven.  As I got older and slightly more handy in the kitchen, it has meant pancakes or scrambled eggs or huge plates of pasta for my hungry brother, and impromptu desserts for whoever is coming around for dinner.  Surprise birthday cakes in sixth form and careful research to find out which baking would most cheer up a friend mid essay crisis.

And that’s how I came to make madeleines for the first time.  My boyfriend has been talking for a while about a kind of cake crossed with a biscuit which he remembered from holidays in France.  It took some googling to find out what he was referring to, but it turned out to be these little golden cakes — denser than a sponge, but lighter than a biscuit. And so I set about working out how to make them, then putting two into a tupperware each evening for him to take to work the next day.  What can I say, I love through cake.

11720995_983177795066508_2074283951_o

Traditionally, madeleines are made in a special tin which creates delicate little shell-shaped cakes.  But let’s be honest, I have neither the space nor the money to buy a whole new set of trays.   One day, I will have a kitchen straight out of a Lakeland Plastics catalogue.   Today is not that day: I have two functioning cupboards in my kitchen, so adaptability is the name of the baking game here.  I took a gamble, made my first batch in a cupcake tray, and it worked just fine.  They may not be as refined as their French cousins, but I kind of enjoy their spaceship stylings.  This version is delicately flavoured with vanilla and honey, and although I do ostensibly make these for M, they don’t all make it to his lunchbox…

11733866_983179128399708_886995047_o

Ingredients

  • 100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 1 whole egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions

– Preheat oven to 190c (170c fan oven or gas mark 5).

– Use a tiny amount of the melted butter to grease a 12-hole cupcake tray (or a madeleine tray if you have one) and use a sieve to dust lightly with flour.

– Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Put the butter, egg yolk, honey and vanilla into a separate bowl and whisk together.

– Using a hand held whisk, whisk the two egg whites until stiff.

– Fold the butter mixture into the dry ingredients until evenly mixed, then gently fold in the egg whites until thoroughly combined.  Be careful not over mix (you want to keep the volume in the egg whites).

– Divide between the moulds and bake for 10-12 mins until golden brown and firm to the touch.

– Leave to cool in the moulds for a few minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

– Dust with icing sugar before serving, if you like.

I haven’t tried it, but I feel like these would be really fun to decorate with smarties, chocolate chips, coloured icing and strawberry laces, to make them look like actual spaceships. That would definitely be a legitimate use of time for a twenty-something, right?

11137843_934854323232189_1037145517_o

Listening to: Overwhelmed by Rachel Platten, Stutter by Marianas Trench and Girl by Beck.

Edit: 10th July 2016

My mum bought us madeleine trays! These ones are kind of prettier – I even dusted them with icing sugar…

20160709_181446

This recipe is from the BBC Good Food website.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Friday Frame {17} Monkey Nuts

On a recent visit to Oxford — almost a year to the day since I finished finals — we rapidly found our way back to our favourite pub in Jericho, the part of town near college. They have a huge barrel of monkey nuts that you can help yourself to, and tall plastic cups to carry them back to your table.  Cracking the husks and shaking out the nuts is a great way to pass the time, merrily showering yourself, your companions and the gingham tablecloths with flakes of dusty shell.

11248864_962698970447724_1752316454_o

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Blenheim, Burgers and General Bumbling

Once we’d finished our exams, we found ourselves in the unfamiliar situation of being in Oxford with two weeks to go before the end of term and nothing in particular to do. Being in college with no essays to write and no exams to revise for was very weird, but with every intention of making the most of it, we set out to enjoy our last few days of university in the sunshine. I love a good list, so here are my three favourite things that I got up to in those last few weeks, with lots of photographs.

1. Blenheim Palace

I’ve loved visiting historic homes since I was little, and Blenheim was really interesting: it’s the birthplace of William Churchill so that’s a big focus of the exhibitions, but the guided tour also included lots about other residents of the house. There were collections of Churchill’s letters and diaries, giving an insight into his personal life and not just his well- known wartime persona. I was especially taken with the story of his life long love affair with his wife Clementine, including how he was so nervous about proposing to her that she had to be taken on a ride around the palace grounds by another member of his family while Winston worked up the courage to ask. Given that the main image I’ve always had of the wartime leader was of a rather gruff, forceful man, it was nice to see a different side to him. It made me like him more.

His iconic World War Two speeches were also playing throughout the exhibition, and although I don’t tend to think of myself as especially patriotic, his speeches, and the amazing sense of unity which they inspired, really get to me every time. The grounds were also amazing, complete with their own lake, a huge stone bridge, a chapel and a rose garden.

2.  Burgers

One of the places I’ve wanted to visit since I got to Oxford is Atomic Burger on Cowley Road, a burger place famous for its American style burgers, fries and milkshakes. I’ll admit that things like ‘Diners, Drive- Ins and Dives’ on the Food Channel may have contributed to me wanting to try it! So when my brother came to visit for a few days we headed down there, and we definitely weren’t disappointed.

My brother had ‘The Garfield’, which was basically a burger with lasagna on top: the menu describes it as ‘so wrong but oh so right’, which just about sums it up! I had the ‘Audrey Hepburn’, which was topped with a fried egg, bacon and an onion ring, plus fries and the BEST strawberry milkshake I’ve ever had. My boyfriend had the ‘Dead Elvis’, which was topped with Swiss cheese, American cheese, bacon and onions. He also went for the ‘Dirty Fries’, which were loaded with beef chilli, aged cheddar sauce & jalapenoes: he was pretty much in heaven with those.

So lunch was awesome, and the surroundings made it even better: the menu describes those behind Atomic Burger as pop culture junkies, and that sums up the place. A TV plays loads of old music videos, the cornier the better, and the walls are filled with geeky sci- fi memorabilia. My brother said that eating there was like being in ‘Pulp Fiction’, which he reliably informs me was a positive thing. They also had cool ketchup/ mustard bottles: tick, tick, tick.

3. General Bumbling

What do students do when they finish their exams? Go to pubs. Lots of pubs. Well we did anyway. One of my friends has a pub crawl poster with about fifty pubs on which she’d been ticking off gradually throughout our degree, but in the last two weeks she went on a one woman mission in a bid to visit every single one. We also spent a lot of time lying on the quad in the sunshine, sleeping, and going to formal dinners. At times it was quite emotional, since we knew this was the last time that we’d all be in Oxford together, but I really tried not to let it all get too much. I knew that once I let the emotion overwhelm me I’d be useless, and I really wanted to make the most of my last few days. The photographs below are from a lunch I had with two of my best friends in a beautiful pub by a meadow just outside Oxford. It was quite a long walk there, which we spent setting the world to rights and laughing a lot: exactly what friends are for.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.