Super-duper Hen Do

I’m afraid this post is a little late (sorry Kim!) since my hen do was actually 2 weeks ago now but things have been a bit busy around here. I can’t believe the wedding is next Saturday! A friend at work went to a 3 day wedding last week and the planning that must be involved in that is unimaginable to me.

Fortunately I had zero planning to do for the hen party as my fabulous maid of honour did all of the work and everything was a complete surprise to me. And what a lot of work she did too! Our group convened just before 2pm on Saturday and got home around 2am on Sunday after a four part party! Amazing.

Kim, planner extraordinaire, had been careful to make her hints about the day as cryptic and worrying as possible. For example, when I asked her what sort of clothes I should wear she answered that it would have to something I could bend down in for the daytime event. Hmmm… She did say she wasn’t going to make everyone wear something stupid… except for possibly me. Fortunately I escaped with a main ‘costume’ of a circlet veil and a ‘Bride To Be’ sash. She did make us look stupid though…

So part one of the hen do was bowling! This was not something I would have guessed since I knew we were staying in town and I didn’t know town had a bowling alley. Apparently it’s only been there a month or two. So off we went to All Star Lanes in the Great Northern which was appropriately American themed.

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It’s been a while since most of us had been bowling but we valiantly pressed on with the sides down. I got an impressive 9 on my first roll, only to follow it with 5, 5!, gutterballs. But once we got going the points started pouring in. We like to tell ourselves that anyway.

Kim

Kim

Susie

Susie

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Mom and I

Mom and I

Mom (who will now tell me off for putting up this picture of her.)

Mom (who will now tell me off for putting up this picture of her.)

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Annie

Annie

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Cris

Cris

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Katie

Katie

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She just had to go one better than the rest of us.

She just had to go one better than the rest of us.

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Kim had also prepared a variety of games, challenges and forfeits for the day. None of us were allowed to say the name of my fiance, Chris, which was made all the most amusing by having Cristina (who usually goes by Cris) in our group. We each had a name badge, her’s said ‘She Who Must Not Be Named’. Yes my friends are also geeks.

No one slipped up on this until after we had finished bowling but we didn’t make it out of the centre without me mentioning the cursed name. That was when I got the forfeit:

Possibly not my sexiest look.

Possibly not my sexiest look.

Kim had also arranged a less embarrassing forfeit for anyone who lost a game. I guess that is why she worked so hard to win at the bowling.

Bowling may not be our talent but it sure is fun.

Bowling may not be our talent but it sure is fun.

As the lowest scoring bowler my mother’s ‘Partner In Crime’ Annie had the forfeit:

I think she looks very glamorous.

I think she looks very glamorous.

After the working up an appetite bowling we headed down the road to Opus One for one of my favourite things, High Tea!

Kim and I have been here a couple of times before so we know they do a good spread.

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Most of us went for the traditional afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and a variety of cakes. I think the scones were my favourite part of the meal, light and sweet. Cris had the gentleman’s high tea which has things like pork pie and mini fish and chips instead of sandwiches. It looked good although sadly I didn’t get any pictures of it. It looked so good that Kim commented to me that we should bring Kieran (her partner) and Chris out for one. Ooops…

She actually ended up using the 'C' word more than I did!

She actually ended up using the ‘C’ word more than I did!

To keep the fun flowing Kim also had a game for us to play during our meal and pulled out some post-its and pens from her bag of tricks. We played a hilarious game of couples Guess Who I Am while we waited for our food. I think the winner got theirs within four or five questions but there were several occasions of people using their 20 questions and being none the wiser. Katie got the glasses for this game having the only historical couple in the game. I was the only one who wrote a fictitious couple which I thought was interesting and Kim got the only non-romantic couple whom I had never even heard of.

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We did take the moustaches off to eat after I tried to drink with mine and failed miserably.

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I just thought the glasses would add something.

Since Kim had not made everyone wear something that made it obvious we were a hen do she insisted I came to the ladies’ with her as ‘context’ for her moustache. For the record, it is a very nice bathroom with real towels and everything.

Kim also used her sticky notes to have everyone write down a date for Chris and I, they are secrets and whenever we need a date after the wedding we can draw one at random. We then have to follow the instructions. I hope none of them say ‘Go to Spain’ because that could be tricky for a mid-week date.

Since we were on a hen do I also got a special present from the management.

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The chocolates were a rich fudge-like treat and I adore strawberries with melted chocolate.

We found this in the restaurant/hotel lobby. After all, what would a hen party be without one?

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After lunch it was time for a quick trip home to change into evening wear before heading out again (5 women, 1 bathroom, you do the maths!). Sadly Katie had to go home at this point but were joined by my lovely soon to be mother- and sister-in-law.

For our evening festivities we went to Manchester 235, the casino in the Great Northern. I think this was a great choice as it is a very glitzy, hen partyish thing to do. Also I have never been to a casino so it was very exciting!

When we arrived there we were ushered into the VIP lounge for our own private cocktail making class. Those of you who have read previous posts will know that Chris and I both enjoy making, and drinking, cocktails so this was particularly cool. Since Kim enjoys drinking the cocktails we make I guess it wasn’t an entirely self-choice of activity :p.

Anyone who has ever been out with me knows I am a complete lightweight so when they started me off on a shot of something strong and strawberry I was already well on my way. It may help explain the following pictures if I point out that Mom is as bad as I am and also that we made A LOT of cocktails so that even the hardiest drinker was giggling.

We started off with a cocktail everyone made.

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The first cocktail was strawberry vodka and amaretto topped up with bubbly and garnish with a strawberry. Yum yum. So good in fact that when Annie wasn’t looking Mom started drinking her’s as well!

For the other cocktails the guys teaching us would make a sample one and pass it round then ask for a couple of volunteers to try it themselves.

Firstly we had a cosmopolitan. As the bride (and someone who likes cosmopolitans) I thought I should be first to volunteer. This round was a straight up contest between Sandra (Chris’ Mom) and myself. She won and got to have a shot as her reward. I got to light a piece of orange peel though which was quite exciting.

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See the cosmopolitan in the front? I'm sure we took pictures of the cocktails up close but I don't seem to have them, they must have been on someone else's camera.

See the cosmopolitan in the front? I’m sure we took pictures of the cocktails up close but I don’t seem to have them, they must have been on someone else’s camera.

The next cocktail on the list was Kim’s favourite: the Mojito! My Mom and Susie took on this challenge as Kim wanted to taste both and be the judge.

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I'm not 100% sure how it got a moustache.

I’m not 100% sure how it got a moustache.

After this the challenges got more tricky with Sandra and Cris competing with Annie and Kim to make a coffee cocktail… only using one hand each!

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Next up was a Hudson/Hardman duo competition with Sandra and I competing against my Mom and Sandra’s daughter Vicky. To make it more interesting Mom and Mum were both blindfolded and Vicky and I had to guide them. They couldn’t decide which Sex on the Beach was best so we all got shots.

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They also made a personalised cocktail for me after asking my hens for some of my characteristics.

It was passionfruit, spiced rum and strawberry puree muddled together then chipped ice was added and the cocktail was topped up with champagne. While they were making it the manager came through and told them to use the good Crystal champagne which we later found out was £365 a bottle! This was definitely the most expensive drink I’ve ever had. It was good too. To top it off the hollowed out passionfruit skin was filled with 65% proof rum and set on fire and a strawberry was added to garnish. And, if that’s not enough pizzazz for you, cinnamon and sugar was sprinkled on top causing a whoosh!

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You can't see the flames as well here but Annie and I's reaction should speak volumes.

You can’t see the flames as well here but Annie and I’s reaction should speak volumes.

As well as the one they made Annie and I also made this cocktails. Annie put the correct 1 measure of rum in her’s. I couldn’t remember how much went in so I asked and was told ‘whatever you want’ so I put in two O:-).

There were so many names suggested that I couldn’t pick so I amalgamated them into one: Raunchy Rachel’s Fairy Cup of Tea on Fire! Delicious.

But the alcohol didn’t end there (sorry liver).

I believe this is called a Jaeger train? You lift the end cup and...

I believe this is called a Jaeger train? You lift the end cup and…

... the shot glasses end up in the larger cups, how clever is that! And I could even do it decidedly tipsy.

… the shot glasses end up in the larger cups, how clever is that! And I could even do it decidedly tipsy.

Many thanks to our good natured teacher, one of whom even ended up wearing a ‘I said Chris’ moustache over his real moustache.

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After the cocktail class we stayed at Manchester 235 for a 2 course dinner (with wine of course, we had free drinks vouchers after all).

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The food was very good as was the dinner time game of ‘I have never’. Amusing the ‘loser’ at this game was Chris’ Mum and the ‘winner’ was mine! My mother really is a child of the 60s and 70s.

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During dinner several other people had to wear the moustache (thank heavens, Kim and I were getting tired of our monopoly after several failures each).

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Adventurous moustache!

Adventurous moustache!

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But the evening wasn’t over yet!

Kim had also booked us in for a gambling lesson plus we had vouchers for a £5 bet each. As I said I had never been to a casino so this was a new and fun experience. The guy teaching us how to play was also excellent so I would highly recommend the casino.

First we learned blackjack, at which I was doing alright. Unfortunately finding a £2 in table after the lesson was hard, most of them were £5 in.

He even gamely wore our glasses.

Then we had a lesson in Roulette.

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I played a few real games of roulette as well and managed to turn my free £5 into £15 so I was pretty chuffed. Mom did significantly better at the fake game unfortunately, winning a fake fortune.

My winnings.

My winnings.

Susie won a pound but it was a fortuitous pound since on the way back from cashing it a random man playing blackjack bought each of us a drink. Win. Thank you random man.

So overall we had a great and hilarious night. Thank you to all my hens, you are so much fun! I hope you had as good a time as I did. And mostly a huge thank you to Kim who orchestrated everything perfectly.

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Bridal Shower

Being a child of two nations I have always gotten to celebrate both American and British traditions (or, where conflicting, pick the best one!). For example I celebrate July 4th and St. George’s Day although I have learned that the British just aren’t as good at celebrating things as Americans are. I think I probably celebrate the British things in a very American way.

Last weekend was another example of this as my mother threw my an American style bridal shower. Next weekend my maid of honour is throwing me a hen party (I have no idea what style this will be since it is a surprise, all I know is that I need to wear clothes I can bend over in :s concerning).

Last year when we were in the States we were going through a box of pictures and newspaper clippings my Grandma had and found a delightful article talking about a bridal shower she had been to which listed the ladies present, the games played and which lady won which game. It was beautifully quaint. The article also listed when the bride and groom would be honeymooning and their address… where all of their wedding presents would be… unattended. Different era. I think those clippings were from the late 1920s maybe early 30s.

Mom decided to throw a 1950s style bridal shower for me but other than some foods and fashion changes it appears to be very similar. Certainly more civilised and pretty than a British Hen Party (or American Bachelorette party, I told my American aunt I was having a hen do and had to repeat it several times and explain before she stopped giving me a confused look).

The first fun part was of course trying on lots and lots of clothes to find a suitable 1950s outfit. I ended up going with a dress I already had but the trying on is always a must. Chris got me the below a couple of years ago because the shape really suits me.

And here comes Chloe in the background. Isn't the bunting on the gate cute? This is the closest dress I had to a 1950s shape plus it is just plain cute. From Sohos in Afflecks if you want to know.

And here comes Chloe in the background. Isn’t the bunting on the gate cute? This is the closest dress I had to a 1950s shape plus it is just plain cute. From Sohos in Afflecks if you want to know.

My maid of honour Kim came across from Manchester with me and, as a guest in our house for the first time, helped make lunch. She had a genuinely vintage dress which was black lace over a bright pink, very cute. My sister also had pink and black so the three of us were unintentionally co-ordinated.

Also in this picture our friend Annie, who also came as a guest, who also helped make lunch, bless them both!

Also in this picture our friend Annie, who also came as a guest, who also helped make lunch, bless them both!

Kim and my sister, Chloe

Kim and my sister, Chloe

The prize for best outfit definitely goes to my Aunt though who went to great efforts with the below:

She also had a scarf in her hair and little bows on her socks, so cute!

She also had a scarf in her hair and little bows on her socks, so cute!

The house was decorated with lots of bunting and a pink and grey set of shower things that Mom had bought, it looked great.

We got this bunting at the church Christmas fair. My mother thinks ahead! I had pink cup cake and teapots. I am sure we can use this again.

We got this bunting at the church Christmas fair. My mother thinks ahead! I had pink cup cake and teapots. I am sure we can use this again.

This took some work to get it to stay up.

This took some work to get it to stay up.

Chris had to walk through Grimsby town centre carrying this and a bunch of purple stocks. He got some comments.

Chris had to walk through Grimsby town centre carrying this and a bunch of purple stocks. He got some comments. The plates and cups also had this design.

Mom even co-ordinated the toilet paper.

Mom even co-ordinated the toilet paper.

Overall we had 12 ladies plus my mother and I. Since Mom and I were not allowed to win prizes that left the other 12 potentially lucky women the chance at these:

The lilac are the winners' prizes with pink booby prizes.

The lilac are the winners’ prizes with pink booby prizes.

We just about all fit into our front room but I enjoyed the coziness, it meant you could see and speak to everyone.

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Mom had arranged several games for us to play, some just fun and others with a wedding theme.

The first game was not bridal specific but fun, we had to match the pseudonym (wow I got the spelling correct first time!) with the real name. I discovered that I am better at men’s names than women’s and we had a laugh trying to pronounce some of the original names, no wonder celebrities change them sometimes!

Next we had a wordsearch of wedding related words. This was ongoing during gaps between the other games. Overall I did ok at this but did manage to find some words that were not on the list but should have been such as ‘Wed’. I also think most brides will agree that ‘Fat’ is something that preoccupies them for months before the wedding!

Next was a game that was definitely biased towards the happily already married as it involved matching wedding anniversaries to the present for it e.g. 1st paper, 25th silver, 50th gold etc… Apparently electrical appliances is now an anniversary thing. I want to know what got bumped off the list to make way for that! As unwed ladies Kim and I were hopelessly confused by this but now I know what Chris needs to be buying me each year!

The next would be a fun game for any party: a list of things such as ‘types of flower’ or ‘cities’ down the left hand side and a name across the top (you may use your own, you don’t have to use mine like we did). People then have to try and think of an example from the left hand column which starts with the letter from the top. So for RACHEL you could have Rhododendron, Apple blossom, Carnations, Heliotrope, Evening primrose and Lilac for flowers. If no one else in the room has the same item in any given box you get a point. Of course I can think of them now, at the time I had a mind blank!

Lastly we had a brief game of Mr and Mrs. Everyone got a number and whoever had the number correlating my final score won. Chris and I got 9/15 which isn’t bad. One question neither of us knew the answer to so I don’t count that one! I got a couple wrong and he got a couple wrong *cough* date he proposed *cough*. He’ll never live that one down! But it was a laugh.

Following the playing of games and the winning of prizes we had a lovely buffet prepared by my Mom, Kim and Annie.

Mom made red velvet cupcakes and lemon cupcakes. The lemon were a trial run for the weddng cake. Both were fantastic!

Mom made red velvet cupcakes and lemon cupcakes. The lemon were a trial run for the weddng cake. Both were fantastic!

How cute.

How cute.

All the food!

All the food!

One of our guests made some truly delicious bakewell cupcakes, yummy!

One of our guests made some truly delicious bakewell cupcakes, yummy!

The lemon cupcakes are pink, the red velvet are purple.

The lemon cupcakes are pink, the red velvet are purple.

Egg and cress, ham salad or cheese and mango chutney sandwiches.

Egg and cress, ham salad or cheese and mango chutney sandwiches.

Devilled eggs. Apparently a must for this era's parties.

Devilled eggs. Apparently a must for this era’s parties.

Celery with cream cheese. Can you tell my foodie best friend had the camera?

Celery with cream cheese. Can you tell my foodie best friend had the camera?

Pretzels are of course and American favourite.

Pretzels are of course and American favourite.

I learned that Doritos were the new big thing in the 50s-60s.

I learned that Doritos were the new big thing in the 50s-60s.

Look at that delicious feast. We also had a fruit (non-alcoholic) punch.

Look at that delicious feast. We also had a fruit (non-alcoholic) punch.

After much eating and much chatting I opened my gifts.

Mom displayed my gifts in an umbrella in the entrance hall. A great idea especially when you have run out of table space.

Mom displayed my gifts in an umbrella in the entrance hall. A great idea especially when you have run out of table space.

Mom said they used to have three showers, one from the Mother of the Bride, one from the Mother of the Groom and one from the Maid of Honour. There would be different kinds of showers such as personal showers or showers where people bought specifically kitchen or house gifts.

Since Chris and I already have a house which is pretty well equipped I had a personal shower. Gifts are supposed to just be very small, inexpensive things but I have to say that some of our guests did go a little overboard. I’m not complaining, I got some wonderful things. Some designed to help a stressful bride relax such as bubblebath, cream soaks and even a book ‘keep calm for brides’. Also a book ‘don’ts for wives’ which was a very short volume!

I also received some very personal gifts such as night dresses and underwear, I’m sure Chris will enjoy those on the honeymoon as well 😉

Kim gave me a very thoughtful gift of a memory box into which I promptly put some of things from my shower.

All of the gifts had to have a ribbon on it. This had a dual purpose. The idea is that however many ribbons break as I remove them is how many children Chris and I will have. My Mom had wrapped her gifts oddly tightly! In the unwrapping process I ripped one ribbon and one broke completely in half so I guess that is two kids for us. We then took the ribbons and pulled them through a paper plate to make a ‘bouquet’ that I can use for our rehearsal.

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I also got the gift of advice. Each lady wrote a piece of advise on a slip of white material which was then attached to a pillow which said ‘love’ via a heart shaped button.

Before everyone left we had a little favour for them as well which my mother had hung on a tree in the hallway.

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I want to thank Mom for throwing me such a beautiful and fun bridal shower, you’re the best. I also wish to thank Kim and Annie for helping us pull it off! Also all of the wonderful family and friends who came: thank you for the presents and thank you even more for coming over and making it such a lovely afternoon.

So on a closing note, if you are a bride-to-be, have a shower and a hen do. Two very different entertainments and both very worthwhile having!

P.S. Always say ‘at the shower’ never ‘in the shower’. We learned this the difficult way.

November/December

So I have been a very poor poster recently but it has been incredibly busy between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I almost ran out of time to breathe. So here is a few of the highlights. And a New Year’s Resolution to do better.

This was slightly before Thanksgiving but…

Emma and I went for high tea at Sugar Junction since I had a voucher and Emma has not had high tea before. I had a beef and horseradish sandwich and an egg mayo sandwich. The fillings were yummy but it was served in a bun which is not a good amendment to the high tea formula. The scones were very good but the choices of sweets were strange with something pink and some kind of crumbly fudge. I did enjoy my Victoria Sponge and Bakewell slice though. The tea itself was, as always, delicious and I do love a china tea cup. Overall mixed reviews for Sugar Junction as always, another good for the price but not worth full price I think! Still, I hope Emma enjoyed it. One day she will have to come to mine and I will make her a traditional high tea.

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Then it was Thanksgiving. I forgot to take photos this year but it was much the same, foodwise, as last year so please look HERE.

This year we had Chris’ parents over for Thanksgiving so that they could see the wedding venues. There was a Christmas fair in the church so Mom, Annie and I did a little shopping. While we were at it Mom and I practiced walking down the aisle.

Mom and Annie at the church standing in the aisle.

Mom and Annie at the church standing in the aisle.

While we were home Chris and I also had a few wedding things to attend to. We had a meeting at the church to do the formal booking and form-filling-out after which Chris treated me to breakfast.

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And we also had a meeting with our Minister and another one with our photographer. After which Chris and I got venison burgers for lunch… see a pattern? There used to be a man who had a stall next to our house which sold venison, boar etc… until he closed down, so when we saw it at the Grimsby markets we could not resist.

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We also went for lunch at the reception venue, Laceby Manor Golf Club. Just as before the food was of a very high quality and in generous portions, this bodes well for my reception food!

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I had a chicken, leak and mushroom pie and Mom had chicken and mushroom stroganov.

So you can see even just the Thanksgiving period was busy before we even got into Christmas stuff!

Shortly after Thanksgiving my parents came over to Manchester to do a bit of Christmas shopping. We spent the day hitting the Manchester Christmas Markets. I got a few ideas of presents for Mom but sadly by the time I went back to get them for her one place had sold out and the second had disappeared entirely! Odd.

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After shopping the four of us went to Grinch for dinner. The food here was ok but not great. Mom had to send hers back to be reheated and they only had Pepsi, not coke. I also found the décor weird: some really awful modern art and a painting of a naked woman being the worst. So overall not a bad meal but not somewhere I would go again or recommend. A pity since I love the name.

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We did get some great cupcakes from the markets which we had for dessert. One was ‘cherry bakewell’ and the other was cinnamon.

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Chris and I both had staff dos. His was at Bluu Bar, a place which annoys me no end by being RED! With some diligent searching I found 2 things that were blue. We also had canapes that were not canapés but I have to say were very tasty. Meeting Chris’s staff was interesting… most of them seemed very nice… one or two of them seemed very drunk :p.

Then there was the weekend of the 2 Christmas dinners. I have had 4 Christmas dinners altogether (not as many as Chloe who even packed 2 into one day!).

We had our work do at Bella Italia in the Arndale which is a place Kim and I often go to when we want something quick and close. I love Italian food. I had mushrooms for starters, Cannelloni for my main and a cheesecake for dessert. They were all delicious and I had a really good time out with my team.

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The next Christmas dinner was at Kim’s house. As you can see from the various Come Dine With Me posts (which we are starting again in the New Year… watch out for Chris’ curry coming up next!) we try and have sit down dinners with our partners when we can. As you may also notice we are terrible at arranging them!

Kim went American style for her starter and main with buffalo wings for a starter (which I could eat a whole bowl full of), with homemade blue cheese sauce and pulled pork with jacket potatoes and red cabbage for the main. She did the pork as maple flavour which I personally prefer to the smoked type. For dessert we had a chocolate fondant with a salted caramel centre. Fondants are hard to get right but Kim’s came out perfectly, all hot and melty in the middle. Delicious! Please check out the recipes for these treats on her blog Full As An Egg.

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The next weekend was another weekend at my parents doing last minute Christmas organisation and baking (the second baking period this season). I stayed until Christmas Eve so that on the Sunday I could go to the Christmas Carol service at church where Mom and I did some excellent harmonising. On Christmas Eve morning we got up very early and went to the butchers which is a tradition for Dad and I.

I returned to Manchester on Christmas Eve and went straight to Chris’ parents where I spent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing day. I had a great time hanging out with my soon to be in-laws who were all very welcoming. They also gave me some very cool gifts. We got up early on Christmas, opened presents and had bacon butties followed by Chris and I rushing out for Church. The church we went to was the same one that his parents got married in which was very cool and the sermon was interesting which was a bonus! Unfortunately we had to sing ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’, the only Christmas carol I really can’t stand. The only Christmas carol sung at every Christmas thing I have been to this year. After church we visited the Grandparents then went home for Christmas dinner. Steve, Chris’ Dad, cooked a great Christmas turkey with all the trimmings! Yum yum.

I will put up some pictures of presents later 🙂

Since Christmas things have not quieted down!

This weekend my parents came over to give us our presents and we went out for a 4th Christmas dinner!

Chris and I had passed a new restaurant near the Town Hall recently so we decided to go there. Avalanche I would recommend. The service was exemplary, the food hot and tasty and the setting was very classy. While drinks were quite expensive the food itself was reasonably priced so Chris and I will definitely be going there again.

Lasagna

Lasagna

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Salmon and anchovy

Salmon and anchovy

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These 'icicles' looked amazing and really reflected the light well.

These ‘icicles’ looked amazing and really reflected the light well.

While Mom and Dad were over we also took Chloe bridesmaid dress shopping… but that’s another post…

Did I mention I also did a lot of overtime in December? *falls asleep* zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Opus One (and shopping)

It is definitely wedding season. A few days after I got engaged a friend’s boyfriend also popped the question to her.  Then there are the two weddings that are actually taking place this September. Yesterday Kim went to her boyfriend’s brother’s wedding and next weekend is my cousin’s wedding (yes there will be plenty of pictures!).

All of this means wedding shopping!

A few weeks ago I got a lovely black dress with pink and white flowers specifically to wear to Laurence’s wedding. Kim has a lovely grey dress she was going to wear to Kieran’s brother’s wedding. Dresses sorted accessory shopping  was the order of the day. In TK Maxx we found two great handbags and I bought a lovely pair of shoes that go with my dress perfectly. You can see the pictures of them next week!

We spent the rest of our shopping trip searching for fascinators and boy are they hard to find! We did find some but they were always in limited colour schemes or really, really expensive. In the end we gave up and went to lunch.

Kim and I do love a high tea and in celebration of my engagement (see how I worked that in there again?) she took me to lunch at Opus One in the Raddisson Hotel on Peter Street.

We sat in the more open part by the big windows so that we could people watch. Dressing up was of course a must for such a posh hotel. I love the vaulted ceiling and red globe lights.

Image from the Raddisson Hotel website.

 

We ordered the classic high tea. They also do a champaign high tea and a gentleman’s high tea. The gentleman’s high tea features things like pie and real ale, I think it’s a cute idea and hopefully means more men will take their ladies out for something fancy.
The classic high tea comes with finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and little cakes, plus of course tea and plenty of it. Kim had Earl Grey and I had Ceylon

The sandwiches were very good, I particularly enjoyed the beef which was very flavoursome and fresh. The selection also included cheese, egg mayo, ham & mustard, prawn, tuna and salmon.

The scones were delicious although Kim and I both agreed they were on the small side. We also felt that one curl of cream between two people was very stingy.  We each had one sultana scone and one plain.

The first ‘dessert’ that we tried was the strange shot glass fruit jelly thing. This is my official name for it. We weren’t terribly keen on this dessert because the jelly was very hard and lacked flavour. We think it was supposed to be champaign flavoured but the flavour did not go all way down and I find it odd that they were serve something with alcohol in it without telling people. It would have been nicer with more fruit and wibblier jelly. (Wibblier is Chris’ contribution to my question of “What is another way of saying ‘less hard’ in relation to jelly?”)

The creamy pie dessert which Kim and I initially thought would be a meringue turned out to be banoffee with a lot of cream on it. Since I love banoffee I really enjoyed this dessert although it was incredibly rich and I had to take it slowly!

The third dessert was a chocolate cupcake with a Betty Crocker style icing top. Again it was very sweet, although a little dry. I just ate each bite with some icing and it was very good, who doesn’t love chocolate?!

My favourite of the desserts was the strawberry tart. The blend of sweetness with the slightly tarter strawberries worked perfectly and the pastry was crumbly and sweet, excellent!

The tea was, of course, delicious…it was tea! While we would have preferred the white tea pots and tea strainers we had previously at Opus One it was still loose tea which I approve of.

Overall I had a lovely day out with Kim discussing weddings, politics and shoes. Thanks for lunch Kim!

Fourth of July (and pie)

One of the advantages to being bi-national is that you get two sets of holidays! Maybe it isn’t politic to have a party celebrating American Independence in Britain and invite my British friends but we have fun and everyone gets pie!

Actually since I missed the Jubilee due to my boyfriend being in hospital we put up the British flags as well as American.

Kim and I made an eclectic mix of American style foods that you can actually make in England. She and her boyfriend brought over biscuits with gravy and pulled pork, which was delicious! Check out Kim’s site for her entry on the pulled pork. I think  The biscuits were whole-wheat which was new to me but definitely works. I love how my half English, half Scotish/Irish best friend and her completely Irish boyfriend will not only come over for an American party but will even contribute.

I made hamburgers, potato salad and green beans in mushroom soup.

My potato salad is an odd thing since Chris and Kim both love it but neither of them actually likes potato salad :s This either means my potato salad is very good or not very much like potato salad. I have had people who do like potato salad also enjoy it in fairness.

This potato salad consists of cooking up some new potatoes and hard boiling some eggs and then chilling them. Water down some mayonnaise and mix into it the chunked potatoes and eggs along with some chopped spring onion and red pepper. Chill again and eat!

Since last Saturday (yes we had July 4th on July 7th) was one of the few sunny days we have had this month we decided to take a blanket and head to the park for dessert. It wasn’t actually warm and as soon as we got there the sun went behind a cloud but, in true English style, we made the best of it! We discussed Star Wars, teenagers and late-20s then read our books and enjoyed the lack of rain! We also had apple pie and cream (which I promptly managed to tip off of my pathetic paper plate).

Mom said cherry is traditional but since Kim doesn’t like cherries, I prefer apples and, moreover, I have a recipe for this one, Apple Pie it was!

This is the apple pie my Mom always makes for Thanksgiving, which was made by her mother as well. I love baking but I always particularly enjoy making Grandma’s recipes. I feel close to both my Mom and my Grandma even though they may be very far away. Mom’s aim with her pie is always to see if it tastes like Grandma’s. Mine is to see if it tastes like Mom’s. I hope both of them would approve of this pie! The biggest baking compliment I have ever had was when Mom told me I make candy cane cookies as well as Grandma.

So here is the apple pie recipe as sent to me by my Mom.

Pastry
3 Cups of Sifted Flour
1 Cup of Shortening (crisco, butter or marg)
1 tsp Salt
6 Tbl of Water  (aproximately) (I always seem to use more than this)
Mix the ingredients together. The dough should form into a fairly solid ball.
Roll out on a pastry board. Use additional flour to cover the board and the rolling pin.
Apple Part
6 Cups Sliced Apples
1 Cup Sugar
Cinnamon (no amount was ever given. I guess just 1tsp is about right.)
1 Tbl Flour
A few pats of Butter
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl and place into the raw shell. Put the pats of butter on the top.
Add the top crust if doing so.
Using a fork, prick the top to allow steam to escape. (Mom always did it in a shape if possible, like an apple with leaf.)
Bake at 425F Gas Mark 7 for 50-60 minutes (or longer if the apples till feel too crunchy if a knife is inserted inside)
(I often find it necessary to cover the crust so that it doesn’t burn and then take it off for the last 10 minutes or so to allow the crust to get a nice golden brown.
I have to say, I think it turned out well! Especially the crust, I brought Crisco back from the States 2 months ago so I could make it properly. There are a lot of things that they should definitely sell in England! Mom and I always stock up on baking goods when we go home.
So that’s how we celebrated 4th of July in England with only 1/8 of the group being American! And 3 days late! But with a lot of fun and a great appreciations for the freedoms we have, which ever country we’re in.

Beef Stew

Here’s a quick and easy one but really good if you have a slow cooker.

I wanted to have something that would be ready soon after I got home tonight because I was cooking for a friend and didn’t want dinner to be ready too late so I thought I’d get out the slow cooker and make some beef stew.

I served it mashed potatoes, again fairly easy but yummy. The tiny casserole dishes I got from Wilkinsons for only £1 each. The equivalent Le Creuset dishes that my boyfriend wants are £15 each. I think I got a bargin! Of course the Le Creuset ones are cast iron and beautiful but for a £14 different I really like my knock off Wilkinson ones.

A Le Creuset version taken from the Lakeland website.

The beef stew took about 15 minutes to prepare:

– Mix together about 1/2 cup of corn flour with 1 tbl parsley, 1 tbl sage, 1 tbl oregano and pepper to taste.
– Coat 1 pound of stewing beef chunks in the flour and herb mixture.
– Sear the beef in a hot frying pan to seal the juices in.
– While the meat is cooking cut your vegetables into large chunks (I used carrots, onions and red pepper).
– Put the vegetables in the crockpot and add 3 stock cubes and 1.2l of hot water.
– Add the beef and leave to cook. I had mine on high for 4.5  houra and on low for the last 30-40 minutes while I made the potatoes.
– Check the seasoning and add a dash of port. If the gravy needs it thicken with a little more cornflour but mine was just the right consistency :).

The little casserole dishes kept the stew lovely and hot as well as looking tidy on the plate.

Red Pepper Pasta Sauce and Daffodils

So it’s been a while since I made a post, mostly because not much has been happening in the last month. This will all change soon since I’m going on holiday so there will be lots to post. In the mean time this sauce was so good I had to share.

Taken from SimplyRecipes I came across it while looking for something new to make for my friend Kim but which could be made easily after work.

We used fresh red peppers, chopped fine and roasted until soft, we didn’t add any vinegar and I don’t think it needed it. I also substituted 1/4 tsp of chilli flakes instead of cayenne and left out the anchovies because I don’t like them. Using wheat free spaghetti also made it a good meal for my gluten-intolerant friend and there is no difference in taste. Altogether this sweet yet slightly spicy sauce was a success. We also reckon it would work well as a tomato sauce substitute in meals like meatballs, I’ll have to let Kim get back to you on that one since her boyfriend is the one who does not like tomatoes.

 

In other news it was a very good Easter, my Dad made a delicious lamb roast and we went out in the Lincolnshire Wolds to view the daffodils and lambs. I did not take my camera on this trip but here are a couple pictures from previous years, just whatever was on my computer already. Nickerson Seed planted hundreds of daffodils around the area where their plant was in Rothwell. I think the plant is now gone but the daffodils remain in force.