Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


Recent doings

There are various versions of this type of post out there. Jane calls hers Mondaying (can you guess which day she posts them?), others take part in a linkup called Currently. Basically, the idea is you take action words ending in -ing and tell people the things you’ve been up to lately that the word describes. A way of updating people on your life and talking about things that aren’t worth a blog post of their own. Here’s my version.


Watching: The Blackadder box set that I bought Jan for his birthday. I had only ever seen bits and pieces of it, mainly from the later episodes (plus the millennium special “Blackadder: Back & Forth). We’re now on series 3 and we’re loving it! And I didn’t even recognise Hugh Laurie!

Reading: My way through the winter book challenge. I’ve completed three categories so far and have just started my second book for the two books with the same title one. At the same time, I’m reading Possession by A.S Byatt for the one-word title category. I will have to read Persuasion eventually, but it won’t be for this challenge!

Cooking: All the pumpkins! We used the muscat pumpkin and the Baby Boos that we bought at the festival, so now I’m back to my usual butternut squash. I love pumpkin season!

Designing: A cross stitch pattern for a Christmas card! I’ll show you it once it’s stitched – which won’t be until I’ve finished the one from the guessing game. *Sigh*

Drinking: Tea. So much tea. I’ve been failing to get to bed when I should lately, which has resulted in tiredness throughout the day. Multiple cups of tea are the only thing getting me through!

Planning: New Year! We’ve decided not to go away this time, since we now live somewhere where it might actually be worth being on New Year’s Eve. Instead, we want to invite some friends to come and visit us here in Basel. I’ve mentioned it to a couple, now all we need to do is invite people properly and discuss a few details (such as what food to provide – raclette is a possibility (when in Switzerland…), plus a non-dairy option).

Buying: Too many books from the Internet. Nothing new there then! Also card making supplies and a few Christmas presents. Can  you believe November is more than half over already?

Wondering: Why WordPress have changed the post publishing screen again? It’s all different and I can’t find half the features – like what happened to the option to insert a link to your own blog without having to type in the URL? And how do I change the size of images now? Grrr! Whatever happened to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

What have you been doing lately?


A Photo An Hour: 17 October 2015

October’s installment of Jane and Louisa‘s Photo an Hour linkup was yesterday, and for the second month in a row I actually remembered to join in despite having nothing particularly exciting planned. Jan was out for the of the day at a practice session for a choir he’s performing a concert with at the end of October and I have no friends here so it was just me, myself and I. Here’s how my day went:

10 a.m. I’m up! To start the day, the obligatory cup of tea and some porridgey stuff I spotted and found intriguing.

11 a.m. I want to go out so I’m taking a shower (hey, that’s almost a line from a song! Not intentional, promise!).

12 noon. Finally made it out. Now it’s cold I have to dry my hair, so getting ready takes ages. Plus I had to go back for my phone so I would actually know when it was time for the next photo!

1 p.m. Leaving the shops (photo actually taken slightly after the hour because I was in Aldi at photo time and I was afraid of getting in trouble for taking photos – lots of staff were hovering around!).

2 p.m. Walking home (I need the exercise). This is actually a side street as it was a bit more interesting than the main road I was walking down.

3 p.m. Just finishing my rather late lunch. Scrambled eggs with courgette (my idea of a healthy meal), a slice of toast with chickpea spread on (not pictured because I’d already eaten it) and of course a cup of tea.

4 p.m. A spot of housework! Not the most exciting photo, but I was hoovering at the time so what else should I have done?

5 p.m. I found a recipe for “healthy” biscuits (cookies) and was determined to bake them. Just a few of the ingredients gathered here – I then had to make my own mixed spice because it doesn’t exist here apparently.

6 p.m. Lining the baking tray with my new permanent baking “parchment” (clearly it’s not parchment, but Teflon).

7 p.m. Jan came home and made us each a cup of tea. Check out the matching mugs!

8 p.m. Cooking tea. Chicken with bulgur and beans.

9 p.m. Jan put the rugby on, so here’s the Haka.

Beer10 p.m. Half time nearly over. Drinking beer.

I went to bed just before 11 and decided not to stay up for the extra ten minutes and take a photo because I was convinced I had an even number. I was wrong. Symmetry ruined, grrr!


A photo an hour: Saturday, 21 March 2015

I managed to quickly upload these photos last night before Jan took the computer apart so that I could spend my lunch break writing up Saturday’s photo an hour. The chosen date happened to be the day of our leaving party, so for once the photos aren’t just drinking tea, cross stitching and doing housework! However, I also forgot to take any more photos after the party started so the day ends at 9 p.m. ;-)

8:30 a.m. Faaar too early to be up on a Saturday, but I have loads to do. But first a cup of tea is needed! (Will there ever be a photo and hour day that doesn’t start with tea? I doubt it!)

9 a.m. (switching back to on the hour because I prefer it). Trying to find a recipe for the evening’s vegetarian option. It shall be curry, but which one?

10 a.m. Showered and dressed. How amazing are these tights?! I fully expected them to be ripped by the end of the evening, but they lived to see another wearing. Woo hoo!

11 a.m. Crushing biscuits, a.k.a wishing I owned a food processor!

12 noon. Melt chocolate, melt!

1 p.m. Taking a break from the kitchen to put together another box to be filled with things from the spare room.

2 p.m. Back to baking. Mixing flour and cocoa powder together.

3 p.m. The dairy-free chocolate and coconut cupcakes are out of the oven. Now they just need to cool so they can be frosted. Also, look at my fabulous new cupcake holders!

4 p.m. Switching to savoury food. Time to make cheese scones. (And immediately after taking that photo came the thought “Aaargh, it’s 4 p.m. and I haven’t even started peeling the potatoes for the curry yet!)

5 p.m. The potatoes are peeled and chopped, so I’ve decided to make a start on the chilli while I wait for Jan to return from the shops with the remaining curry ingredients.

6 p.m. Curry and chilli coming along nicely. (Please ignore the stack of dirty bowls in the background that I hadn’t got round to washing yet.)

7 p.m. First batch of sausage rolls done!

8 p.m. Moving things over to the table.

9 p.m. Finally everything’s ready (ages after our guests arrived)… let’s eat!

Aaaand that was it as far as photos are concerned. I didn’t get to bed until 3 a.m., but a photo an hour ended there. A very busy day, but the food was yummy! (I’m just glad the chosen date wasn’t the next day, otherwise this post would have consisted of 12 photos of half-packed boxes with different contents!)

You can see who else joined in this time on Jane’s and Louisa’s posts. Thanks for hosting, you two!


Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

DSCN0692At this time of year, all I want to eat are hearty, warming, comforting foods, like cottage pie, stews, pasta bakes and chilli. (This “phase” usually lasts from October until around Easter). This particular dish combines three of my favourite things: leek, potatoes (in the form of gnocchi) and cheese. It was actually supposed to be a recipe for gnocchi with vegetables in a creamy cheese sauce, but somewhere between doing the shopping and starting to cook, I managed to lose my courgette! It’s on the receipt, but it’s not in my kitchen. How on earth does one lose a courgette?! So I had a rummage in my fridge and improvised with a packet of Wiener-type sausages instead. Sorry vegetarians – my original recipe would have been for you!

Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

Ingredients (serves 2)
Butter (for frying)
400 g gnocchi
1 garlic clove
1 leek
4 Wiener (or Frankfurter, if that’s what you want to call them) sausages OR one large courgette/zucchini
1 pot of cream
Cheddar or other strong cheese (I used Swiss mountain cheese this time, because that’s what I had)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper


1. Heat some butter in a frying pan. While it’s heating, chop your garlic into smallish pieces then fry it in the butter.


2. Put some water on to boil in a pan. Chop the leek – I usually cut off fairly thick slices then quarter the slices – then place the it in the frying pan with the garlic. (If using courgette/zucchini, you should also dice that it this point and put it in the pan at the same time as the leek).


3. Chop the sausages into bite-sized pieces.

4. Once the water has boiled, pour in the gnocchi and boil it for as long as the instructions for your brand say to (usually until bits start to float)

5. Drain the gnocchi then add it to the frying pan along with the sausages. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


6. Pour the cream into the frying pan, stir it in and heat for a bit until it and the sausages are warmed though. Grate the cheese over the mixture, pausing every once in a while to stir it in. Keep adding cheese until the cream/cheese mixture forms a thick sauce/you think there’s enough (personally, I like a lot of cheese!). Stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper. Also add more salt/black pepper if you think it needs it.

7. Enjoy carbs covered in melty, cheesy goodness (see photo of the final product at the top).


Sausage and fennel pasta bake

Pasta bakeRecently I’ve been experimenting with adding fennel to my dishes. I’d seen it in the shops countless times, but never really knew what to do with it. Finally, I decided to just buy some and find out what happened. This is a nice, comforting dish for autumn/winter and has the added bonus of being quick and easy enough to make in the evening after a long day at work. This amount serves 3-4 (me, Jan plus some leftovers for me to take to work for lunch, but Jan eats more than I do – it would be enough for 4 of me).

Olive oil for frying
1 clove garlic
500g pork sausages (Germany residents: I would normally buy “grobe Bratwurst” but the supermarket didn’t have those this time)
1 fennel bulb
Any small pasta (I like penne, but fusilli or farfalle would also work)
1 400g tin of tomatoes
Cheese (one with a fairly strong taste, like Cheddar or Bergkäse)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (roughly 390°F). Heat some olive oil in a pan.

2. While the olive oil is heating, chop the sausages into bite-sized chunks. Once the oil is hot, crush in the garlic clove and fry for about a minute before adding the sausages.

Sausages and garlic

Sausages and garlic

3. While the sausages are cooking (stir them once in a while so they cook on all sides), chop the fennel into chunks. Once the sausages are mostly brown, add the fennel to the pan. Stir occasionally.

Add the fennel

Add the fennel

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it’s just short of being ready (with mine, that took 8 minutes). Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan with the sausages/fennel.

5. Add a tin of tomatoes to the frying pan, stir everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the entire mixture into an oven-proof bowl.

6. Grate cheese all over the top – how much is up to you – and place in the oven until the cheese has all melted. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and exactly how melted you like your cheese.

And there you have it – meaty, cheesy, comforting goodness… and it’s even pretty healthy (as long as you didn’t go too overboard on the cheese). If you wanted, you could add extra vegetables (leek might be nice), replace the sausages with a tin of tuna or, for a vegetarian version, use aubergine or tofu in place of the sausages. It’s entirely up to you!


A photo an hour: 14 December 2014

This month, Jane’s photo an hour took place on a Sunday. The day before, I had been out and about, but on photo an hour day I didn’t actually do a great deal, so it’s another boring one I’m afraid ;-) I didn’t even go grocery shopping because everything’s closed on a Sunday in Germany!

11 a.m. We were out watching a friend’s band the night before, so my day got off to a late start. First things first, must make a cuppa!

12 noon. Turning a cross stitched design into a Christmas card.

1 p.m. Back stitching.

2 p.m. Another card finished!

3 p.m.(ish) Out of the shower, time to get dressed.

4 p.m. Time to clean the kitchen.

5 p.m. Starting to cook tea. This is the second month in a row that this picture has shown a pumpkin – I swear we do eat other things!

6 p.m. Time to eat.

7 p.m. Second attempt at reading a book by a local author for the winter reading challenge. This time it actually does have enough pages.. I checked!

8 p.m. “If I’m going to post these cards tomorrow I should probably actually address the envelopes…”

9 p.m. I’ll just try and get one more card finished before I go to sleep…

10 p.m. Bed time! (Except I forgot to actually take a photo so here’s a bonus one of another completed card to avoid ruining my symmetry…)


Carrot and ginger soup with coconut milk

soupAs regular readers will know, I have recently been having some problems with my stomach. For over a week, the only foods I could eat without immediately being in pain were plain porridge made with water (yuk!) and plain couscous with a bit of spinach stirred in. Exciting, no? Towards the middle of week two, I started to feel able to introduce slightly more flavourful foods to my diet, so I decided to make some soup. Being already blended, I thought it would be easy enough to digest while allowing my taste buds to get some action again! I enjoyed the soup so much that I knew I would have to make it again. So  when my stomach started playing up again yesterday (apparantly greasy fish and chips at the Irish pub weren’t its friend), I did, and this time remembered to record it for my blog. So here is my recipe for Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk (completely made up by me – if there are similar soups already on the internet it’s entirely coincidence!). I apologise in advance for the crappy photos (even more crappy than usual that is). My camera is in the process of dying a slow and painful death…

Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk

Step 1: Gather your ingredients

Step 1: Gather your ingredients

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main meal with bread)
5 or 6 carrots (750g)
1 medium potato (200g)
Fresh ginger
1 tin of coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Put some water in a pan and set it on to boil (or boil some water in the kettle and pour it into a pan)
2. Peel the potato and all but one carrot (two if they’re small ones) and dice them into small pieces, then place them in the boiling water and cook until soft.


3. Drain out the water then place the potatoes and carrots in a blender (or back in the pan if using a hand blender) and blend to a purree.


4. Return the purree to the pan and grate in about a teaspoon of fresh ginger – sorry I can’t be more precise with the measurement. I just chopped a chunk off and grated it! – (or stir in some powdered ginger if that’s all you’ve got – I won’t tell anyone), then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
5. Place the pan back on the hob on a low heat and stir in the tin of coconut milk
6. While the mixture is heating, peel the remaining carrots then grate them into the pan. Once all the carrot is grated, stir it in and immediately remove the pan from the heat.

Grate in the remaining carrot

7. Check the seasoning, add more if required, then serve the soup along with some bread.

The step with the grated carrot is optional – if you prefer, you can purree all the carrots. Personally, I like the texture the grated carrot adds and I like to kid myself that it makes the soup more healthy because it ends up practically raw so none of the vitamins can have been cooked out yet ;-)

This soup is gluten free, dairy free and both vegetarian and vegan, so basically perfect for almost everyone.


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