Peanut butter and chocolate cookies

I’m sorry, but this is one of those annoying posts where I tell you about something delicious I made and then don’t share the recipe. You can take the librarian out of the library, but you can’t convince her to be less anxious about copyright! I’ll share a link to the cookbook on WorldCat, though, so you can quickly find it at your local library.

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These cookies are AMAZING. I use caps lock very sparingly, so you know I really mean it! It had been a while since I’ve been inspired to bake, but when R gave me the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for our anniversary, I couldn’t wait to make something from it. As with the website, there was a lot to choose from. But a friend had recently given me a jar of peanut butter (which is less random when you know that I love peanut butter) and the idea of peanut butter cookies was already in my head, so these won. They were just the right texture, a nice mixture of crunchy on the outside & soft/light on the inside.

P1080787I was nervous about the idea of making sandwich cookies, to be honest. Chocolate ganache can also be a little tricky to get right. But the recipe was very straightforward and easy to follow, so they turned out just fine. I think what made it work was the fact that I was cutting the cookies from a frozen log of cookie dough – genius. I don’t know why I’ve never done it before. I suppose uniformity in baking/cooking has never been that important to me, but this definitely helped with that aspect (though I stupidly made the two logs different sizes, so they weren’t all identical).P1080786

I brought these cookies to both workplaces, and they went down an absolute storm at both. The one thing I would say about these cookies, though, is that while everyone loved them, I found them a tiny bit salty and also didn’t think they tasted like peanut butter. I think this is down to me thinking of peanut butter as a sweet thing, though, whereas British peanut butter isn’t particularly sweet. If you use British or natural peanut butter, I would suggest you might want to leave the pinch of salt out of this recipe. I’m going to try that next time & see if it makes a difference.

Find out if your local library has the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook here.

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Happy baking! 🙂

5 happy things

Between the General Election, a whole lot of work stress, and a few things happening in my family life, it’s been a stressful couple of weeks, and I’ve definitely found myself feeling overwhelmed. I keep telling myself it will calm down soon, but in reality that’s not due to happen until late July! It’ll be here before I know it, right?

But in the meantime, as always I’ve found it helpful to think about the positive things happening in my life right now.

  • p1080775.jpgPermanent residency

I’m sure I mentioned how nervous I was about applying for permanent residency here in the UK. Though I’m American, I also have a German passport which has allowed me to live and work here for the past 8/9 years. A couple of weeks ago, I received my permanent residency card in the post! It was such a relief with all the uncertainty here at the moment. I do have plans to write a post about the process, so stay tuned if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

  • Organ donation

I also got my provisional licence last week. I’m not classing that as a happy thing just yet as my first lesson didn’t go particularly well. But what is a happy thing is that I also got my organ donation card along with it! It’s such an important thing to do, and I honestly struggle to understand why anyone wouldn’t sign up to do it. At least two people I know directly have benefitted from organ donation – my nearly-stepmother, who’s had a pancreas transplant and is hoping for a kidney transplant, and the little girl I used to look after as an au pair, who needed a liver transplant last year at 14. Now I just need to get over my weird relationship with blood so I can donate that regularly…I do tend to pass out when I have blood taken, so I don’t donate although I feel terribly guilty for not doing it!

  • Strawberries

It’s strawberry season, yay! Seasonal eating is a wonderful thing for many reasons. Of course there are environmental benefits, but I admit my interest in seasonal eating is pure gluttony – everything just tastes so much better when it’s in season. There are a few strawberries at the allotment, but British strawberries are also plentiful in shops at the moment.

  • R’s willingness to pick up my slack in the house

Confession: I am awful at housework. I hate it. I will put it off as long as possible. This is especially true for laundry and dishes. I am so glad R does this kind of stuff for us without ever complaining about it. I dread to think what our house would look like…

  • Springwatch

I don’t always watch Springwatch, but I have been this year, and absolutely loving it! All those cute animals! I particularly loved the pine martens this week. I keep squeeing and sighing. It’s also extra nice this year, because it’s being filmed about 30 miles from where I live.

What are the good things happening in your life at the moment?

Down at the plot – May

P1080734There’s big news on the allotment front for May – I moved plots! I won’t bore you with the details of why. Suffice it to say, it was a complicated and stressful (VERY stressful) decision that I’m still not quite thrilled about. At least, I’m less than happy with the timing; overall it’s a positive move. The upsides are that I’ll now be sharing with two people rather than one, which means there’s less worry if one of us can’t go for a few weeks in a row; the new plot still has raspberries but also has an apple tree; it’s a bit quieter and wilder where the new plot is, so it’ll feel more like a retreat; and it has a fully functioning shed. The downside is that we still have responsibility for our plot this year, we haven’t had time to go and cover it over so it doesn’t get even more overgrown, and I’ve got to go tend to the potatoes that are planted there as well as looking after the new plot. It’s going to be a complicated summer, especially because the tons of stuff I need to do at work mean I won’t be able to take any lazy annual leave days to spend down at the allotment.

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You can also imagine that this means I haven’t actually gotten much done in May, and you’d mostly be right. I hilled up the potatoes a few times, and at the plot itself that’s about it.

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More got done behind the scenes at home. I sowed a few trays – beans and cauliflower – which got blown over and ruined not once, but twice. About 5 beans and no cauliflower have survived. 😦 Devastating! I’m going to try sowing some more cauliflower now and hope I can still catch up. I also planted some patty pan squash, which is coming up beautifully. I’m hoping to get them in the allotment before my rubbish greenhouse ruins them, too.

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Finally, I’ve planted some tomatoes in grow bags. I am growing Tumbling Toms, Golden Currants, and Green Zebra (I think) this year. Hopefully they’ll all do well and I can make some beautiful tomato salad in the next couple of months.

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I’d love to hear what your garden’s up to this month!

Geeky Gift Swap – wrapping it up

I know I’ve mentioned the Geeky Gift Swap before, talking about deciding what to make. Today Jenny shared her reaction, and I’m so pleased that she liked everything. I haven’t shared what my gifts were, though, mainly because I only got them today! They got lost in the post, and I’m so grateful my swap partner Amanda contacted me to resend them.

The theme for the swap was superheroes, but I didn’t make it easy for my swap partner. My favorite superhero is actually Luna Moth, a character in The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Klay. She’s an archivist by day & kicks butt by night; what could be better? Let’s be honest, though, that’s a bit esoteric! I also mentioned Thor in my list. And unfortunately my lists of likes and dislikes weren’t in the email when I reread it. I’m not sure what happened, but it couldn’t have been fun for her.

Anyway, she did really well, and I’m thrilled with her choices! There was a Thor PEZ dispenser, a hammer of Thor keychain (awesome, because I love Thor’s hammer), some comic strip fabric, and this gorgeous purple and green yarn – chosen, I assume, because those are the colors of Luna Moth’s costume!

Thanks again to Jenny at the Geeky Knitter for organizing this!

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A day of Shakespeare

I know we’re all thinking about the bank holiday now, but as I’ve finally got a bit of time off, I’m hoping to catch up on some blogging. I’ve had a few lovely days out in the past couple of months & have also been planning some projects that I’d like to share.

I’ll start with the most recent. R & I had our 3 year wedding anniversary this week, so last weekend we decided to go away. Stratford-upon-Avon is somewhere we’ve always said we’ll go, and it’s only a 50 minute drive. That said, it’s a little over 2 hours by train, which is why we haven’t been yet! I’m not really keen to spend 4 hours on a train in one day, so we knew it’d have to be a weekend trip. Obviously I used this as an opportunity to make sure we also went to the theatre.

P1080714We started the trip off right with tea. R had been told about a tearoom that had giant scones, so of course we headed there. It’s Hobsons, if you happen to make it to Stratford. R had the giant scone (which was less a giant scone than a normal size scone filled with about 7 inches of whipped cream and strawberry jam) while I had a cream tea. The rest of their cakes looked amazing as well, and it was quite reasonably priced.

P1080625P1080619We then went around a few of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties – the Birthplace, New Place, and Hall’s Croft. They were all lovely, though I definitely took the most pictures in New Place. The gardens at all of them were excellent, too. I’m sure I took more pictures of the gardens than anything else. This seems appropriate, as I used the Gardener’s World 2-for-1

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I loved this planting combination in the Birthplace garden.

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Hall’s Croft was owned by Shakespeare’s daughter and his son-in-law, who was a physician. At the moment they’re installing a new medicinal garden. I think it’ll be beautiful when it’s finished.

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New Place is a bit different, as the building no longer exists. There is a partial building with an exhibition, and the rest of the site is a garden-cum-art exhibit. The weather was a bit iffy while we were there, but we did get to enjoy a bit of it. I was really impressed with the exhibition as well; it’s hard to make a house that was destroyed in the 19th century come to life, but they did a really good job. Plus, there were dress-up opportunities which are always a winner.

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We also stopped off at Holy Trinity, where Shakespeare’s grave is. We didn’t actually go see the grave, but the church itself was really beautiful. I was particularly impressed with the wood beams that formed the roof.

And then we walked along the river, went back to the hotel and changed for the play. Antony & Cleopatra was on, and it was an excellent production. I don’t think it’s become one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, but I would definitely love to go see another play there. Really, it was just a reminder that I should go to the theatre more often.

Have you been to Stratford before? What Shakespeare-related places would you like to see?

 

Wonderwool Wales

Wonderwool is a massive wool and fibre festival held at the Royal Welsh Showgrounds in Builth Wells (Powys). My friend has been going with her mum & her mum’s friends for a few years now. They rent a caravan and spend the day ogling yarn. It’s always an annual highlight for her. This year my friend very kindly invited me, too. It really was amazing!

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This was the view across from our cabin. It was so beautiful. I went for an early morning stroll as I had trouble sleeping. Perhaps it was the excitement. 🙂

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There was a lovely little stream with lots of ducks and a single, sleepy swan.

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And a rope bridge, leading across to a fancy hotel. I didn’t dare go into the grounds, but I couldn’t resist walking across the bridge. I do love a swingy bridge!

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The Showgrounds are massive, with 3 gigantic exhibitions halls. In spite of all the people, though, it didn’t feel claustrophic. It was quite an impressive feat.

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I thought this wool & embroidered village was incredible. It represents the village from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. It was put together by a large number of artists, but I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken.

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There were also some very sweet sheep and lambs around. I did think it was terrible that they were inside, though, particularly at an agricultural showground where there must have been plenty of other options for places to have them.

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This little felt owl (and the pumpkin you can see in the background) were made by one of the women we went with. It is so adorable, and I think when she makes more I will try to buy one! The festival was particularly full of wooltops this year, so ideal for needlefelters and spinners.

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I, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky this year. There were so many stalls with beautiful yarn, dyed and undyed. I had a brilliant time ogling & stroking. However, I went with a plan in mind. I was looking for a very specific shade of green in a 4 ply yarn for a sweater I’ve been wanting to make. I was convinced I was going to find it – 3 halls full of yarn! But unfortunately I think the yarn I want might not exist. 😦 I think I’ll have to have it custom dyed.

Instead I bought 5 hanks of undyed yarn for £20. Bargain! I know what I’m doing with 3 of the skeins, but have 2 more to find small projects for. Ideas gratefully received!

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I also bought this 4 ply green yarn. £10 for 8 balls – also a bargain. I’ve got some nice vintage sweater patterns I’ll probably use it for. My friend bought the same yarn and only used 3 balls for an entire cardigan, so I’m hopeful I’ll get a couple of nice pieces out of it.

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All in all, in spite of failing to get what I went for, it was a fantastic weekend! I hope I get to go again, and I would certainly encourage you to go.

5 happy things – the one with a bike basket

Well, this week has flown by! I had every intention of writing a post about Wonderwool, but that hasn’t happened just yet as I unexpectedly ended up working a couple of late shifts at work. I will get around to it soon, though.

In the meantime, here’s a recap of a few of the little happy things that are going on in my life at the moment.

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  • Finally attaching my new bike basket

I know this isn’t the most beautiful of bike baskets, but I’m nothing if not practical, and this one looked easier to manage than a pretty wicker basket. It was a birthday present (that I asked for!) from R, and I’m really happy with it so far. I usually do our weekly shop using a shopping trolley as the nearest store is really too far to carry a decent amount of groceries back from comfortably. Last week I was finally able to do it on the bike, though! It was very exciting, and I’m looking forward to continuing to do so.

  • My reserved book arriving at the library

I reserved Lincoln in the Bardo as soon as I heard about it, but I was still fourth in the queue, so have had to wait ages for it. I can’t wait to get started!

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  • Time outside with PippaP1080592P1080585
  • A provisional driving licence (almost)

It looks like I’m on track to get my provisional driving licence. I had to send in my passport and it’s now been returned with a letter say the licence should arrive in a couple of weeks. Driving is really not my thing, and we’ve no plans to buy a car yet, but for a whole host of reasons (both personal and professional) it makes sense for me to be able to drive here if necessary. I’m apprehensive about lessons, but excited to find out how it feels to be behind the wheel in the UK.

 

  • Elderflower

I spotted the first elderflower blossom of the year this week! Somehow that makes it feel more like summer is coming.

Edit:

This post is linked up with Suzy’s Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week and also partially inspired by Miss Pond’s Five Happy Things, if you’d like to go read other people’s happy stuff.