Oh my goodness these are good and sweet, perfect with a cup of tea!

My first attempt was somewhat successful…the pralines taste divine but they ain’t real pretty!  But once you’ve tasted one of these delicious pralines that really doesn’t matter.

Here’s a reminder of the recipe from The New Orleans School of Cooking

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup milk

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine all ingredients and bring to a “softball stage” (238-240 degrees F), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

2. Stir until mixture thickens (again stirring constantly), becomes creamy and cloudy, and pecans stay suspended in mixture.

3. Spoon out on to baking paper with plenty of newspaper underneath to stop it going through and marking the work surface.  This was the tricky part…you have to move fast to get the pralines on the baking paper before the sugar starts to get too thick…as you can see the ones at the back were not as pretty as those in the front row!

End Result!

{Next on my list of homemades is some nutty maple syrup granola}

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And I’m back…

September 17, 2012

Almost a year to the date!  There are lots of reasons for going quiet on the blog…the usual family life, school days, holidays, Jubilee celebrations, London 2012 Olympics, the Paralympics, back to school…but mostly due to a lot of behind the scenes development for a brand new site which will air soon, watch this space!

Moving forward as they say…

The nights are drawing in, the autumn colours are starting to appear and my thoughts turn to Christmas!  And yes, I know there are a few hurdles before then…Harvest Festival, the half term break, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Nativity Plays, Carol Services and more.  In an effort to save a few pennies and put a bit more meaning into gifts for family and friends, I am challenging myself to get creative and produce some gorgeous homemade gifts.  Over the next few weeks I will be putting a few ideas to the test and will post the results…fingers crossed there is success ahead and come Christmas homemade hampers will be under the tree.

First up is a praline recipe from The New Orleans School of Cooking, the chefs look like they have loads of fun when sharing top tips on how to prepare the house specials.

Recipe by The New Orleans School of Cooking

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup milk

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine all ingredients and bring to a “softball stage” (238-240 degrees F), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

2. Stir until mixture thickens (again stirring constantly), becomes creamy and cloudy, and pecans stay suspended in mixture. Spoon out on to baking paper with plenty of newspaper underneath to stop it going through and marking the work surface.

Makes 1-50 pralines depending on size

The Food Programme explored the issue of advertising junk food to young children…

‘I went to MacDonalds like i usually do’, said Lauren aged 10.

Am I alone in my dismay at this little girl’s comment?  It really makes me want to pull up the parents and insist they shape up and get tough; learn to resist the temptation of advertising, refuse to succumb to child pressures (often a result of the barrage of advertising), and try your hardest not to allow yourself to be too lazy when it comes to the welfare of your child.

{And, yes I know everyone’s circumstances are different and needs must and all that…believe me I am not claiming to be the provider of all things organic and homemade for my children, but I can happily say they have never stepped foot in a fast-food burger bar.}

Ooh, can you tell this has me all riled up?!

We may well be faced with advertising from every direction (this is one of the main issues at the core of the problem), but I would hope that the basic knowledge of nutrition and the basic desire to care for and nurture our children would override any senseless pressure from the likes of the Ad Men.  No child walks alone into a fast food establishment with money to spend and places their first order for a burger with fries…’responsible’, ‘sensible’, adults take them there by the hand.

This Saturday at the Headmaster’s House (in a spare moment when the rugby highlights were not on) The Composer and The Artist were howling with laughter at  You’ve Been Framed.  Cut to a commercial break and I was a little alarmed by the advertising and even more so by the choice of trailers for other TV shows.  {Now I really am beginning to sound like an old fuddy-duddy with nothing better to do but write and complain to the papers…now there’s an idea!!} But really…showing ‘entertainment’ trailers for shows with a dark theme of murder and downright nastiness during the same time slot as a family focused show just doesn’t fit to me.

The Telegraph featured this letter in the paper on Saturday with a long list of signatures.  If I may I would like to add my name to the list…The Headmaster’s Wife, mother of two offering plenty of goodwill and trying to do her best.

{promise the next Show and Tell will be filled with all things good and cheerful!}

‘She’s so good at playing the violin, she’s practically Asian!’…a line from fiery Gabrielle in an episode of Desperate Housewives where she suffers from competitive mum syndrome!

Tiger Mother was the hot topic at the latest Book Club meeting (I know I say it each time, but it was another great get together with good people).  Parenting is so very personal and once shared with a wide audience can be contentious and critique comes easy…we all have our own style, traditions, beliefs, etc. and any attempt to coerse parents to take on your methods is dangerous ground.  But I don’t think this was essentially Amy Chua’s purpose when she wrote her journal of family life.  I must say I admire her devotion and determination, but can’t help wondering if this came at a price.  Her willingness to share so openly her ‘tiger’ parenting, and as such to invite readers to form an opinion about her family life is awfully brave.

Look out for the next Book Club read…The Help by Kathryn Stockett (already made into a movie due out this summer).

The Artist and I recently had the opportunity to see The Tiger Who Came to Tea live on stage before it runs in London during the summer and I urge you to book tickets now!  The book (first published in 1968) is a firm favourite at the Headmaster’s House and Judith Kerr’s illustrations are delightful.  This article from The Telegraph provides great insight into the life of a most fascinating lady and I can’t wait to see her new books about The Great Granny Gang!

Congratulations to Julia Donaldson, the new children’s laureate!

We had the great pleasure of meeting Julia Donaldson at a recent performance of the Gruffalo when she and her husband Malcolm invited the children to join them on stage to act out some of her brilliant books and songs.  She was absolutely charming and dealt with the somewhat rowdy young crowd with expert grace and patience.  I found it quite emotional when all the parents and children were singing along to a Squash and a Squeeze…I have enjoyed reading aloud from any of the Julia Donaldson books from day one of our family life and am in awe of her generosity when sharing her gift for rhyme and writing.

Julia Donaldson is a hero of literature, aha oho…we are in for a treat as she takes up the role of children’s laureate!

Once The Composer’s birthday celebrations were almost over we embarked on our first family ski trip.  It was so much more than we could have wished for…a surprisingly easy journey, stunning views, bright sunshine, just enough snow…oh and great skiing!

I proposed that our trip to France be ‘lent-free’ and the whole family swiftly played a ‘get out of lent free card’ for the week…which for me meant plenty of bread, very tasty french cheese and the occasional glass of vin rouge.  The freshly baked baguettes were irresistible and Reblochon is my new favourite fromage with Beaufort and Tomme de Savoie both close runners up.  The children indulged in countless chocolat chauds and we all dipped into après ski pomme frites.

From the resort we skied over to Italy and the views were stunning…

Back at the Headmaster’s House we are preparing for the busy Summer term, but still with our minds on Easter celebrations and the Royal Wedding…the Artist is designing red, white and blue cake decorations (click here for some inspiration) and of course there will be plenty of bunting!

{Just finished reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and can’t wait to hear your thoughts…I’m guessing May’s book club is going to be quite opinionated!}

March Book Club

March 15, 2011

Last night’s meeting was a great success. We were low on numbers but this didn’t matter a bit. That’s not to say we didn’t miss our regular dear readers! Really looking forward to catching up in May (see the reading list below). We delved deep into the book and our discussion raised lots of strong opinions and thoughts about Room by Emma Donoghue. The book was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize last year and has featured on many book club reading lists…have a listen to the author discussing Room on the Radio 4 Front Row programme.

What a book! An incredibly disturbing and desperate subject matter; a small boy and his mother trapped in a room with no access to the outside world and all this is set in the mind of a five year old. The narration is unique and the grammar takes some getting used to. Some readers raced through parts of the book to see how the story unfolded and then other times found themselves tempted to skip through pages to avoid the horror of their confinement. The author, Emma Donoghue suggests that Jack’s innocence filters the horror and he sets the terms of the story.

Despite the confinement this book is ‘uplifting’; as the story develops you get to know Jack and Ma and their unique mother-son relationship. Ma is intensely protective of Jack; the author brings to your attention the powerful force of nature that exists to protect your child no matter what the circumstances. A few readers felt the author’s message was somewhat forced at times and I think we all agreed we were not entirely certain we would recommend Room to a friend. But as a reader reminded us last night…one of the features of our book club is to read titles we may not normally pick up at the bookstore!

Personally, I put off reading Room purely because of the subject matter, then I toughened up and read the book in two days…grabbing any free moments during a weekend to get to the end! I am fascinated by books and stories that push our imagination and how real some can seem…in this instance my protective nature rose up and stopped me imagining what it would be like to be in the place of Jack and Ma. Room was both easy and difficult to read, as ever I am impressed by an author’s achievements and grateful that Room lead to a brilliant book group discussion!

Readers are asked to choose one Classic and one Biography from our May Book Club Reading List…

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Dreams of My Father by Barack Obama

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Oh, and this one is a must read…Happy Reading! xx