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.

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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.

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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.

Lemon and elderflower biscuits

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Monday was a big (ish) day – it was the first time I baked for my colleagues.  I will admit that I do pride myself on being a half-decent baker, so I really wanted to make a good impression! I thought for ages about what to make, bearing in mind one colleague’s nut allergy and another’s aversion to raisins, and also the fact that it’s pretty hot in England at the moment.

Then I remembered that we’d recently had some rather disappointing lemon biscuits in the office, which had led to an impassioned discussion about how a good lemon biscuit should be. It needed to have a crunch, but most of all, it needed to be completely and utterly, blow your socks off, lemony. There is little worse than a less than lemony baked good. It’s particularly insipid. (Can you tell I feel strongly about this…?)

So I settled on creating the most lemony of lemon biscuits to raise spirits on a Monday morning. I found these on Bake then Eat after rather a long time trawling the blogosphere for something that sounded like it could work, and after a few tweaks I ended up with rather a lot of perfect lemon biscuits. They are a little like shortbread in their texture – with a crunch, but also with a crumble. And best of all, they are incredibly lemony (even more lemony than the original recipe, I was insatiable).  The elderflower cordial in the icing was a last minute thing, but it gave the icing a glorious tang – it’s completely optional, and you can just use more lemon juice in its place.

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Ingredients

  • 250 grams butter
  • 140 grams Icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 375-400 grams plain flour
For the icing
  • 70 grams icing sugar
  • Enough lemon juice to make a dripping consistency
  • A decent dash of undiluted elderflower cordial (optional)

DirectionS

– Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, using a stand mixer or handheld whisk.

– Add in the icing sugar and mix until well combined.

– Beat in the vanilla extract and the egg yolk until the mixture is pale and creamy.

– Add the zest and the juice of two lemons, and use a wooden spoon to distribute evenly.

– Fold in 375g of the flour to bring it all together.  This will firm up a little while chilling, but at this point mine was still very wet, so I gradually added about 25g more flour until I had a biscuit dough consistency.

– Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

– Preheat your oven to 190C / 170 fan / gas mark 5 and take your dough out of the fridge. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

– Roll the dough out until it is about 5 mm thick, and cut out 2 inch (5 cm) rounds.  Place them on your baking trays with a little space between them.

– Pop them in your oven.  Mine took about 10 mins to be evenly cooked and beginning to brown very slightly, but I’d recommend watching very closely as they’ll get very brown very quickly

– Transfer to wire baking racks to cool.

– In a small bowl place your icing sugar, a little lemon juice and a dash of elderflower if using and mix all together. Add more lemon juice a little at a time to get the right drizzling consistency.

– Drizzle over your cooled cookies however you like.*

– Kept in an airtight tin these cookies will stay fresh for… well… 5 days so far and mine are still fine.

*Tip: I got the effect on mine by placing greased proof paper under my wire cooling racks and then drizzling from left to right across the whole row of biscuits. I kept going back and forth until I had an effect i liked, with the greased proof paper catching all of the drips!

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Listening to Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, My baby just cares for me by Nina Simone, Fever by Ray Charles and Natalie Cole.

This original recipe is from Bake then Eat.  I’ve made a few changes, mainly adding way more lemon juice/elderflower. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Carrot Cake on the Underground

Twice this week, I’ve found myself on packed commuter trains clutching a gigantic Tupperware box containing varying amounts of carrot cake. On Thursday, the cake was complete in all of its cream- cheese frosted glory. Children gazed longingly up at it, adults looked quizzically down at it. The guy giving out the free Metro newspaper asked wryly if it was for him. At one point a very friendly man asked if I’d like to put it in the overhead luggage rack. I tried hard to hide my horror, fending off the visions of the cake splattering onto the train floor as I politely declined, preferring to clutch the box protectively to my chest. When I arrived at work and complained about my aching arms, serious discussion ensued about how I could transport cakes to the office more efficiently in future: Tupperware on wheels, a Tupperware rucksack, and a Tupperware headdress were all suggested.

On Friday, I brought about a quarter of the carrot cake home. Again, everybody stared. Less admiration this time, more confusion. And as my friend pointed out, I looked like I’d taken a very indulgent packed lunch to work, and hadn’t quite managed to finish it. But personally, I think more people need to open-carry cake on the Underground. People love it when unusual things happen ‘down there’: there’s even a Buzzfeed article dedicated to it (!) London work days very often seem to begin with something along the lines of ‘You’ll never guess what I saw on the Tube’ –  it gives us something to talk about. And to complain about, of course: ‘Who the hell takes a carrot cake in such a massive box on the Tube in rush hour?’

But all the staring (and honestly, people really did stare very intently) made me realise that we begin and end our days surrounded by complete strangers. And we sit, on the whole, in silence. But we must all be wondering about each other. We spend this limited amount of time glancing at each other, apologising to each other every time we bump elbows, getting annoyed at each other for not standing clear of the doors, and then as soon as the Tube stops we all pour out, and never see each other again. I find that strange, somehow. But maybe that’s just me.

In any case, back to cake. In case you too want to make a super- duper fabulous carrot cake for your colleagues and then get it to them using the mode of transport of your choice (no cars please, people, that will not brighten anyone’s day, or give anybody something to grumble about) then here’s the recipe that I used from Sally’s Baking Addiction… Super Moist Carrot Cake.

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I even won the ‘Stab Baker’ congratulations spoon. Yes, it’s meant to say ‘Star Baker’, ala The Great British Bake Off, but my friend struggled with the ‘R’ and this version is a lot funnier.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014