Fairy Cakes, Iced Buns And Scones – British Style

Our lives have calmed down considerably since our train trip. We’ve settled back into quiet days and nights. Nat, however, has been busy with the Fall weather – clearing leaves from the lawn, eaves and front ditch. He’s facing reality again with the Fall weather now upon us and the Winter snows soon to blow our way. With his back being pretty good of late, I’m especially hoping that clearing the driveway and walkways of snow this Winter won’t lay him up again. The first six months of 2015 are still very vivid in my brain. Neither one of us wish to repeat that scenario.

We had a little excitement this past week. We were notified that new wireless water meters were being installed and our appointment was set up for a week ago. The rep appeared around 7:00 pm Thursday night, installed the meter without any problems and was then on his merry way. Naturally, as soon as he left, Nat was testing the water pipes and discovered the hot water wasn’t running at all. Try as we might we could not get a drip out of any taps or shower head in the house. We allowed the cold water to spit and spurt until it flowed smoothly, but the hot water was staying put. Nat concluded that there must be an air block somewhere but we were having such trouble trying to dislodge it, he called the water meter man back to see what could be done. He, too, had no luck and even had to call his supervisor. Again, a big bejesus air block was the conclusion and our advice was to keep working on the pipes and taps and he would call in the morning to see  how we got on. Well, for another hour and a half, we kept turning the taps off and on allowing them to run for long periods of time to no avail. Nat soon began to bang on the pipes leading to the hot water heater and I started to sing that song by Tony Orlando & Dawn “Knock 3 times on the ceiling if you want me, bang on the pipes if you’re not gonna show… ” That was frustrating to say the least as Nat banged and banged away, while I kept turning the taps off and on, off and on. Then finally, at long last, the hot water began to flow. Just as well, as my head was starting to bang itself!! Another one of those dumb luck situations that only Nat and I could have. So much for that relaxing evening.

Nat and I took one of our “nothing to do” days and wandered around the Outlet Collection of Niagara. Nat was looking for a pair of shoes and I thought maybe I could check out some new winter boots and perhaps a trench coat. I’ve always wanted a nice trench coat but I wasn’t too sure whether I could find the one I wanted at an Outlet Mall, but God knows I was going to give it my best shot.

As luck would have it, Nat found a perfect pair of loafer-style shoes, I just happened to find a gorgeous pair of knee-high scrunchie boots, all within the same store – what were the odds, eh?? We then took a peak at a few stores for the trench coat, and much to my surprise, I did find a couple of perfect ones, just not in my size, and just a wee bit above my price range. But both were gorgeous and I at least had a chance to try a London Fog coat close to my size to make sure what size I really would need. With the help of the clerk I was given the information and would order what I needed online. The exact one I wanted just happened to be available at Macy’s Borderfree and it arrived this past Friday. I love it. I can’t wait for the chance to wear it with my new boots and fold-over neck wrap. God, I feel so good about myself right now and I’m enjoying every minute while I can. I will admit, however, that I have to stop feeling too good or the household budget is going to be blown sky-high with my shopping for new duds!! So far, to date, I’ve lost 15 pounds and I’m determined to keep going. I’d love to get down one more dress size!!

With my renewed energy level, I’ve also gotten back into the mood of baking. For the longest time I’ve been a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show – a baking contest that I catch hosted by Paul Hollywood & Mary Berry (two well-renowned artisan British Bakers) plus comic foils and hosts Sue Perkins & Mel Gledroyc. I can’t get enough and always end up sitting closer to the TV than usual to see better detail of the baking results – Sponge Cakes, Wedding Cakes, Fairy Cakes, Iced Buns, Breads, Scones, Biscuits, Pastries and so much more. There’s so much to learn and watch that I get inspired to want to bake until the cows come home. The only problem I could see was using Castor Sugar. Not really well known in Canada, but after some research I discovered that it’s actually a superfine or special sugar. A lot of people advised you could just grind up regular granulated sugar, but with a bit of looking I found the superfine stuff.

So, with much aplomb I proceeded to make Paul Hollywood’s Iced Buns. A hot-dog-style bun but filled down the centre with Whipped Cream and Jam and then a strip of icing laid along the top. I had even seen a demonstration by Mr. Hollywood on the web site and couldn’t believe how easy this whole recipe was. I excitedly proceeded with the bread and it was easy. So easy, in fact, I had a hard time believing it was going to work. I love making bread, but even this one was strange even for me – everything dumped in one big bowl, mixed with your hands, rest, shape, rest and bake. I was so excited when I removed the tray from the oven – gorgeous, slightly browned buns (looking exactly like hot dog buns). Once the buns cooled slightly I had to cut one in half and give it a try. FAB-U-LOUS, with just a hint of sweetness (I’m guessing that’s the Castor Sugar). I wanted to eat the whole thing without finishing them, but I dare not. I would throw my blood sugar levels off. So I decided to freeze the buns and would fill and ice them in time for a family get-together sometime.

I was so inspired by the Iced Buns that I decided to give Mary Berry’s Fairy Cakes a try. Again, another super easy recipe but for me, a tad disappointing. These little cakes are, in fact, just a small cupcake (as Canadians know it) and I had mixed the icing just a tad too watery and it began to drip down the sides before I had a chance to put any candies on top. I had to stick them in the fridge to cool down before I could continue. Nat tried one for his tea that night and said they were pretty good but, yes, a little sweet. This recipe called for a lot of Castor Sugar and had no vanilla, so, along with the icing I kind of knew they had to have some extra sweetness to them. Again, I’ve finished the dozen and have placed in the freezer for that family event later.

Speaking of family events, Nat and I had a great time at Zoe’s 14th birthday party. Naturally, I had saved a cheat day for some cake, and I savoured every bite. Nat and I left a little early but we had gotten caught up on the family news and adventures of the Irwins’ and Piersons’. Stories that get soon get muddled and mixed up with each other but always a laugh to hear the outcome.

I’m going to continue trying out more British recipes and hopefully I’ll come across a permanent one – like the Iced BunsI could even make these as Hot Dog Buns for Nat whenever he feels like having a hot dog for lunch. Not necessarily the best food on anyone’s diet, but he does enjoy one now and again as a breakout treat. As for me, I’d love to just slather that bun with loads of butter and enjoy!! Maybe I can save one as cheat!!

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Have Your Cake And Eat It Two!

With a somewhat busy September behind us, Nat and I quickly returned to our daily routines – exercise (me), relax, discuss lunch, discuss supper, make lunch, eat lunch, errands (if any) and possibly household tasks or chores, make supper, eat supper, watch news, finding something to watch on TV and then bed. It’s a boring and perhaps tedious lifestyle, but it’s ours’.

In amongst our tedious lifestyle, I managed to do something to the back of my right leg while on the treadmill. Naturally, I went to the Doc’s and she concluded I had damaged a ligament – probably by not doing any “warm downs”. It’s taken several weeks for the ligament to loosen up, but I’m at least able to hop back on the treadmill and not just the recumbent bike. I was lucky in that no weight was gained during the healing of that my leg!! I’ve taken the weight off once and I’ll be damned if I have to do it twice!! I even had to miss the Balls Falls Craft Show on Thanksgiving weekend, but I had it on good authority (Claudia) that it was the “same-old-same-old”. So, no misgivings on my part.

Thanksgiving dinner at Claudia’s was wonderful, naturally. The juicy turkey, moist stuffing, crunchy veggies and rolls were delicious and naturally, the desserts even better – Apple Pie, Chocolate Cake, White Cake and Ice Cream were choices everyone had difficulty in choosing just one. I used my “cheat” day to have a slice of white cake and even snuck in a second small slice. I was going to go home happy!!

As my diet is going very well, and I’m managing to maintain my blood sugars for such a long time, I became a bit worried when one day the level had slipped up to 7.2, with the next 5 days thereafter going even higher, as much as 8.1. This soon became extremely worrisome as my Docs had strongly stated to keep my levels in the 6. range. Nat and I soon began to go over what I had been eating on previous days to make the blood sugar rise. We came up with nothing, as our meals have been healthy – a lot of fish, salads, chicken and veggies. I then soon realized, after looking at my prescriptions, that I had mixed up the 2 Diabetes pills. In refilling my weekly container, I switched one to the afternoon and one to the morning – wherein one should have been in the early evening and one at bedtime. I just happen to have 2 different pink pills and if I don’t mark on the containers at what time to take them, I always get them mixed up. When I renewed a couple of prescriptions I forgot to label them “AM or PM” and mixed one up with a Diabetes pill. My hand to brain co-ordination is beginning to fail me!!

I managed to get my blood sugar levels back to the 6’s in time for the annual Rangers’ Golf Banquet. Each year I struggle with what to wear, as a lot of the wives get all gussied up in their finery and I’m always in pants and (somewhat) fancy blouse. This year I swore to myself to at least get something “sparkly” but for some reason I left shopping to the very last minute. I did a lot of thinking, but never had the ambition to actually go out and look for something. With a sudden spurt of energy on the morning of the Banquet, I drove to my usual store, TanJay-Alia, in Niagara Square and within 20 minutes found a sparkly top which was just the ticket. At least I would match the other ladies in their dressy clothes from the top up at the dinner table. Nat and I had a great time and as usual the food was delicious. The evening was even better when Nat discovered he had won a draw prize – a year’s membership to Queenston Golf Club – which was about to be renewed by us, and were now relieved we were going to save the $300.00. The rest of the evening was left to the younger crowd as they danced their hearts out to the DJ playing everything from pop, rock and soul. Nat and I left by 10:30 PM somewhat tired and deaf from talking to our friends over the music.

Nat was hoarse Sunday morning, and after a Saturday night of fun and frivolity, we decided to stay put and do nothing. The entire day was spent in our recliners doing crosswords or iPad games, only jumping out of them for lunch, supper and bedtime.

When Monday morning arrived, Nat was off to a golf game, trying to get in as many games as possible before the snow flies. I decided to clear out summer clothes and bring up my winter duds from downstairs. I managed to vet quite a few items that I felt were going to look a bit “dowdy” on me, now that I’m feeling better about my weight. I’ve been doing so well, that I’ve picked up a few new, up-to-date pieces of clothing from the Van Heusen Outlet Store at the Outlet Collection of NiagaraWith a bit more confidence in my step I’ve purchased a few pairs of slimmer-style pants and tops without a lot of fancy patterns seen on the “more mature” blouses for women. My closet is starting to look a bit fresher and is making me feel even better about myself.

Having said all of this, even Nat has gotten bit by the “new up-to-date” look and has found quite a few new sweaters at the Van Heusen Outlet Store for himself. I must admit he’s found a couple of really great looks and I’m especially pleased to see him finally toss out some of his older style sweaters and shirts, which is very difficult for him to do, trust me! He’s even bough a fabulous sweater that I would love to see for women – but to date, I’ve seen none. They’re a sweater worn by the Canadian Armed Forces (Navy) and have patch strips on the shoulders with a ribbing pattern. I’ll keep looking or else I’m going to have to buy a mans one. We had decided to hit the Outlet Mall again as Nat wanted to buy some new shoes. We drove in yesterday and it goes without saying came home with more than we went for. Nat found his shoes and I managed to find a new pair of winter boots – knee length, squashed look with chain detailing around the boot. With my “new attitude” I was looking for something to wear with the new leggings and these fit the bill perfectly. We wandered back into the Van Heusen store before leaving and came away with that (Navy-style) sweater for Nat and a good white blouse for me. Like I said, it doesn’t take much for either of us any more. I’m now beginning to think I’m a bad influence on Nat as he’s now getting the shopping bug, which has really never left me!! What the hell, it’s our time!!

Outlet Collection of Niagara – A Great Change for Niagara Residents

With each and every trip into St. Catharines, Nat and I slowly watched the construction of the new Outlet Mall in Niagara-on-the-Lake with great anticipation. We literally watched (over time) as these massive open-air buildings were erected steel beam by steel beam. The curiosity was killing the “shopper” in me and I knew I would have to take a walk-about as soon as it was done. That time finally arrived this past Thursday, when Nat suggested we should go for a look see now that the first curiosity seekers had dissipated. I was excited to say the least and we both were not disappointed.

We meandered to the outskirts of St. Catharines where the Mall was located, right after lunch, and found a pretty good parking spot within minutes. I had already copied a list of the stores and where they were located from the Outlet Collections of Niagara’s web site. I had also circled which stores Nat and I wanted to check out first. We had no trouble finding where we had to go and were really pleased with the selections available for men. Nat has such a limited choice of where he can go (for a reasonable price) in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls and as a result he hates shopping for shirts, shorts, pants, etc. Even though we’re both retired, we both like to “casually” dress up whenever visiting family and friends, and even shopping sometimes depending on where we’re going.

The selection for Nat was wonderful and he agreed he would certainly shop at this Mall as opposed to the Pen Centre where you can walk for miles and not find a decent Mens store for guys Nat’s age, except for the usual same-old, same-old – Sears, which is becoming outdated, even in Nat’s opinion. My hubby is stepping up his fashion sense and appreciates a bit more quality. Old fashioned as it may sound Nat still enjoys a nice pair of slacks paired with a crisp co-ordinated shirt and a pair of good loafers for a decent and reasonable price. The Van Heusen, Haggar, IZOD and Rockport stores were all stores Nat said he would revisit. The selections were great, the styles and colours much more modern and up-dated and the prices were right on!! The one store he liked advised they had a small tailor shop in back if he wanted any shorts or pants hemmed!! Great idea, great service!! He knew he loved the Van Heusen and IZOD stores from our winter holidays in Destin, Florida where we would go to the Silver Sands Outlet Mall on a regular basis. Now there’s a great Outlet Mall!!!!

With no intentions of buying anything this trip, we continued to wander in and out of air-conditioned stores browsing around and checking out the merchandise. We both pretty much knew which stores to miss – not our thing, not our style or just of no interest. I, naturally, had to check out the Think Kitchen store and, again, no disappointment there. Different brands than what Nat and I were use to in Florida, but no complaints on inventory and selection. It goes without saying, too, that despite the fact we were not going to buy anything, I had to!! I found a great pair of flip flops from the SoftMoc outlet store and was pleased as punch at how great they felt on my feet – supportive, yet ever so comfy for a pair of flips flops – which I wear every day of the year indoors and on warm weather days outdoors.

With purchase in hand and after looking around as much as we could, we then meandered over to The Eatery where you could find a great selection of food joints, including a Deli-Meat shop, with plenty of seating areas inside and out. I had to check out The Frosted Cupcake as I’ve never been to any of their other stores in St. Catharines or Niagara-on-the-Lake village. I bought 6 Vanilla cupcakes with pink buttercream frosting but at a somewhat more expensive price than I anticipated – $15.00!! The sweet tooth had gotten the better of me on this occasion.

All in all, Nat and I were really impressed with the layout of the entire place, walked bare foot on the soft green turf installed in small areas, and walked in and out of large shaded or sunny areas while browsing through some very modern and more up-dated shops from what we’ve been use to in the St. Catharines and Niagara Falls areas. You have choices – you have huge varieties – you have fresh air and sunshine or shade whenever you want – you have plenty of benches for resting your weary bones or just to sit and watch the world go by (literally). There were plenty of tourists from all parts of this earth and you could walk past quite a few people and listen to a different language being spoken as they walked down the shaded strips carrying their shopping bags full of bargains and other goodies.

Nat and I also found the organization of the store locations well laid out. It seemed most of the shoe stores were in one area, while the clothing shops were in an adjoining area and mixed in-between were a few selective stores for a bit of variety. Variety is the buzz word here – lots of it and in modern shops with huge selection and (at least in the shops we visited) great “outlet” prices. No more need for Nat and I to drive over that busy Canada-US bridge to visit the land down-under (USA) unless it’s for something we definitely can’t get in our neck of the woods – e.g. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Apple, Pottery Barn.

We may not have seen the whole shebang, but we certainly have plenty of reasons to go back again, and again, and again. We both agreed that we would probably do most of our personal shopping there with one or two exceptions.

So, after a slow and breezy walk-about we headed back home in time to put a gorgeous piece of trout on the BBQ. After a great afternoon and a great meal we settled in for the night – NOW, what are we going to watch on television – it’s that same-old, same-old scenario again!!!

By way of a P.S. to those cupcakes: I have to admit I have a great sister who could bake a much moister cake with a creamier buttercream. I realize The Frosted Cupcake is only a kiosk and not stocked with cakes fresh from the oven, but I did find the cake portion drier than I’ve had in the past and a bit smaller in size for the price I paid. I think I’ll stick with my sister’s whenever I can get my hands on one!!