Plage du Sillon, St-Malo

Following the sea wall along the golden Plage du Sillon takes you from the Paramé quarter to Intra-Muros (the old city fortress). The beach is bounded by the Digue (dyke), which was built between 1883 and 1913, and along the Digue stand the most beautiful villas, mostly built at the end of the 19th century. All these photographs were taken on my morning walk, when I was hoping to run across the sea rescue teams in training. All those buff, bronzed bodies….swoon….

Portals

Anyone who dares quibble that portals are really doors won’t get the recipe for koign aman, or butter cake!

The Plage du Sillon is 3km long, very family-friendly, safe for swimming and also popular with kite surfers, sand yachters and wind surfers. Both the Digue & the Plage make wonderful running tracks. Who wouldn’t want to huff & puff at this view? Just remember, if you come over all faint in the heat, those lovely sea rescue people are at hand all summer long 😉

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Plage du Sillon, overcast… still gorgeous!

Peanut Butter Cookies

The easiest instant-gratification peanut butter cookies with maximum flavour!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Whole Earth Smooth)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted (or the same in self-raising flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (skip this if using self-raising flour)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar for rolling

Instructions

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Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Cream peanut butter & butter in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add sugar; beat to combine. Add egg & vanilla, and beat until creamy. Add flour, combine till batter looks like this.

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Line tray with parchment paper. Place granulated sugar on a plate. Roll cookie dough into balls & roll balls in sugar to coat them completely.

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Place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake until cookies begin to puff up slightly, about 12 minutes, until they are just brown around the edges.

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Remove from oven and let the cookies cool at least 10 minutes on baking sheet before transferring cookies to rack to cool completely.

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Serve with coffee & enjoy!

Potato, leek & pancetta mini-pies (GF, DF, SF, SyF, NF, PF)

Mini-pies, rosti, muffins…the jury’s out on the name, but it’s unanimous: these are delicious! You can use sweet potatoes & red onions, *skip the cheese … the variations are endless.

Prep: about 20 mins /  Cook: 30-40 mins / Total time: 50-60 mins
Makes 9-12 mini-pies

Ingredients

2 medium sized potatoes – grated
1 leek – finely chopped (I like leek, you can use less)
A handful of pancetta, lardons or chopped bacon
1 medium egg, beaten
½ cup grated cheese*
Any herbs – mint, thyme, sage and chives – finely chopped, if fresh
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or a squidge of garlic paste

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

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Preheat the oven to 180C. Grate potatoes & pat & squeeze them dry.

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Brown the pancetta & add the leeks. Add in the garlic, herbs & season to taste.

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Cool the pancetta & leek mix before adding to the potatoes. Add the grated cheese & mix. Add the egg & mix. Put the mix into muffin tin (do not fill to top, press down to bind ingredients together) & pop in the oven.

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Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven.

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Serve with mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise or brown sauce!

Domesticated Momster

French knitting & scrap fabric necklaces

We’re on half term this week, catching a much-needed breath, and we’re doing lots of fun, easy projects. I am a very basic knitter, and Little Miss was keen to learn, so we bought a Galt kit, which was well-stocked with needles and wool, but the knitter had hooks, which was tricky for little fingers, so we bought a Prym knitting dolly with round ends. Much easier! There is also a smaller version: Prym 4-loop Knitting Dolly.

We made some takeaway coffee cup holders (from this nice, simple pattern from Social Knitworking), a French knit necklace, a bracelet, and a fabric necklace with scraps of fabric from other projects (instructions here).

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Buns, biscuits & scones

My daughter & I have had a lively discussion about buns, biscuits & scones this morning. She has never set foot in the USA, but thanks to me, has that special Mid-Atlantic twang and a penchant for American holidays & treats. However, she draws the line at biscuits/scones/buns. To her, they’re all interchangeable and she won’t touch them. So I tried to change her mind this morning with The Country Cook’s easy two-ingredient biscuits. You read that right. TWO.

We made them together (easy recipe for little hands), smothered them in butter and marmalade (hey, it’s Mardi Gras, y’all), and she thinks they’re OK (it’s a win!).

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That’s right, we have doilies!

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That February holiday

I’ve been with Mr. Petal & Mortar for  almost 11 years now. Apart from the first year when we exchanged home-made gifts (because we were buying a house AND getting married), we haven’t really done the February 14th thing. He does really awesome stuff for me all year round, which I value far more than trinkets one day a year. In the same vein, my shopping is sort of an all-year hunt for novelty goodies, which I spring on him when he’s not expecting them. Here’s some of the fun stuff I’ve found, the photos link to the relevant websites:

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Lights for all the bottles my husband collects

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New photo display for holiday pictures

The Bubble

The Bubble from Grays & Feather is the world’s smallest bottle of sparkling wine – OK, this is for me!

Chili

Invented in the East End of London, a great gift for a chilli lover!

Bloom mojito

Mojito Matcha – tea with a kick!

macaron wreath

Macarons from Pierre Hermé, Ladurée or L´Orchidée…a Petal & Mortar staple!

But if you’re keen to go home-made & Valentine’sy, check out some fun ideas on my Pinterest board: That February holiday

Communicating with my child

It is widely acknowledged that good communication skills help us to solve problems successfully and maintain good interpersonal relationships.

Communication with others begins at birth, through verbal and non-verbal output. I remember my baby girl used to stick her finger in her ear to tell us she was tired and due a nap. Our communication skills continue to develop through childhood and into adulthood, and as a mother, I want to make sure my child is equipped to express her needs, wants and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully.

As an only child, her frame of reference has not including sibling banter, and she’s had to pit herself against two fairly outspoken parents. Knowing this, I took the time to get down to her level when talking to her, I would sit her on my lap when I was correcting her, or discussing her behaviour, and try to make it as safe as I could to say what she needed to say. None of this came easy. As a full-time employee that commuted long hours, my nerves and patience were pretty stretched when I had to tackle these issues. Yeah, I yelled a few times (and felt wretched afterwards, as all parents do!). But for the most part, I truly attempt to keep our chats calm and open – I’m playing the long game and I need to know she’ll still be talking to me when she’s a teenager!

I usually let her know how I’m feeling about a situation, and then let her respond. Something like,”When you did this, it made me feel/made me wonder…” and she has a chance to explain why she did or said something. Sometimes she’ll say,”I’m going to tell you something, but you can’t act on it”. I respect that boundary (unless someone is in danger, when all bets are off).

Recently, we instituted a journal (we got the idea from here). We write notes back and forth to each other. Sometimes, if she’s too mad to talk, she’ll write, and it calms her down. She leaves it by my bedside, and then I’ll read and respond. It works for us. It teaches her that communication is a two-way street and you have to listen to be heard.

We’ve stuck to a few simple rules to help us:

  • Think before you speak
  • Don’t shout or speak in anger
  • Speak clearly
  • Tell the other person how you feel – use “I feel” instead of “You did/said…”
  • Say all you want to say, but take turns
  • Listen carefully
  • Hug it out!

And of course, we make time for dates, where we hang out, drink tea & eat cake. Mmmmm – we cake!

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Winter Squash Soup

Remember I said there would be adjusting of recipes? Well, here’s a Jamie Oliver recipe I’ve reworked for my laziness, I mean, busy life!

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NOTES:

Regardless of the type of squash you use, to get the best quality, select ones that are blemish- and bruise-free, with an intact stem and heavy feeling for their size. You could also use kabocha (nutty, earthy) or harlequin squash (sweet) for this recipe. I usually use sweet white onions, but red onions add a nice flavour, too.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Olive oil or chilli oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (I used garlic paste out of a tube)
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked (I used dried)
  • ½ – 1 fresh red chilli, to taste, deseeded and finely chopped (depends on personal taste)
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 kg butternut squash, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

METHOD:

Put a very large saucepan on a medium heat and pour in some olive or chilli oil. Heat gently so it’s not smoking! Put in your onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary, chilli and a good pinch of salt and pepper. If I’m using garlic paste, I put it in last, so it doesn’t burn, and mixes well with the veggies.

Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the squash and the stock to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour. I stick a lid on my pot, it seems to work better this way.

When the squash is soft and cooked through, whiz the soup with a hand blender or pour it into a liquidizer and pulse until you have a smooth purée (this is the only way my daughter will eat it). Most importantly, remember to taste and season it again, if needed.

I like a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper on the top, or sometimes a dollop of crème fraiche. My daughter loves a bit of grated Parmesan and croutons.

Enjoy!