Instagrammers Anonymous: Tied to the Kitchen & Boxes

Whilst the weather outside isn’t frightening it is a touch on the bloody freezing side. Monday’s ice managed to partially melt by Thursday it was back this morning with a vengeance; the number of Christmas trees is also rising almost exponentially. As they say in the song: it’s winter time, in the city.

Although whilst I have encountered my fair share of the ice whilst walking the dog, I have spent a lot of this week in my warm kitchen, going on various baking adventures. So here is this week’s quick round up of festive fever – Instagrammers Anonymous.

Last weekend I went up to Perthshire and took lots of photos of the frost. I also took advantage of Historic Scotland’s offer of a free trip to Edinburgh Castle.Edinburgh Castle from the Esplanade

I bit the bullet and finally made good on my pledge to attempt to make macarons. Sure, they weren’t even in the slightest bit successful, however, the newly-branded dark chocolate and almond bites taste lovely, and go really well with the white ganache. This is what they looked like, before they didn’t quite rise in the oven.Chocolate macaron ready to go into the oven

And finally this week I have the excuse for not writing a post for Monday.The key to my new flat!

Yes, this is my new front door key! I’m (finally) moving house this weekend and consequently don’t think I’ll have much time for anything that doesn’t involve lots of cardboard boxes. On the plus side, my new flat is less than two minutes walk from a cheese shop; that can surely only be a good thing.

Enjoy the weekend!

Cr

Instagrammers Anonymous: A Moral Christmas Jam

After last week’s Bond-tastic, Christmas-decoration-busting Instagrammers Anonymous, this week’s edition is back to the good old ‘honestly, I’m not actually middle aged’ stance. Yup, I’ve spent a large chunk of the week in the kitchen.

First off, I started the Christmas Cake! Yes, I am aware that Christmas is still seven-or-so weeks away, but I’m making the actual cake this weekend (it needs to be ‘fed’ at least 5 times before Christmas), so I started prep-ing early. Most recipes say that your fruit needs to steep in the brandy for ‘a couple of hours’ or (in some audacious recipes) ‘over night’. This is clearly nonsense – mine are going to have 6 days. I call this Winning at Life (and most certainly not casual alcoholism).Soaking fruit for the Christmas cake

As if that wasn’t a middle-aged enough start, this week also saw my mum and I’s annual jam making session. We came across loads of wild fruit whilst walking the dog over the last few month, so we helped ourselves to some raspberries, brambles/blackberries (whatever you care to call them) and redcurrants, chucked them in the freezer, and the other night made jam. It’s pretty darn good, even if I do say so myself – just don’t look at the ingredients too closely.Raspberry, bramble and redcurrant jam

And finally, another little bit of ‘It’s too early for Christmas‘ moaning. From today a certain coffee chain (beginning with ‘star’ and ending in ‘bucks’ – I’ll leave you to guess who it is) started selling their Christmas flavours. At least, I suppose, they had the ‘decency’ to wait until November (unlike The Dome), but it’s still too early! Although in saying that, they do have a ‘buy one get one free’ offer on at the moment, so I might have caved and cheered my Friday afternoon up with a cheeky gingerbread latte. My morals are flexible, what can I say?Christmas Drinks (Gingerbread Latte) from Starbucks

My weekend is going to be taken up by Christmas-y things (too early, I know, but we’ve already established the flexibility of my morals), but no doubt there’ll be plenty of photos for Monday. Whatever you’re up to, have a great weekend.

Cr

Swedish Cinnamon Buns – Easy Like A Sunday Morning

A couple of weeks ago I made several references to the fact that I’d spent a (very domestic) Sunday morning doing a spot of baking and – the dreaded – ironing. Now that all the blog-birthday frivolities are over it’s time to share the better half of that morning’s labours – Swedish Cinnamon Buns.

Swedish Cinnamon BunsI’ve always been slightly scared of baking with yeast. No other ingredient has ever stopped me in my kitchen exploits (although granted, the octopus was an unmitigated, rubbery disaster), except yeast. It’s a bit pathetic really. It means I’ve never made a loaf of bread – I think we can all agree that using the breadmaker doesn’t count as baking, delicious as its produce is – not even a measly Chelsea Bun! But these times are a changing, and I’ve done a little manning up.

The Swedish (whose tourist board provided this recipe), it would seem, are quite into their buns. Take that as you will, but they would have it with a healthy dose of cinnamon – none of this icing nonsense that the Belgians and the Americans are in to – and use it as a snack to accompany coffee when they’ve guests about. In fact they like their kanelbullar so much that they even have a national day of celebration for it! Kanelbullar Dag – 4th October, if you’re interested – has been marked for the last few years by bakers up and down Sweden, and I think I might start joining them.

This recipe is really straightforward and whilst that nightmare ingredient might put some off as it initially did me, I would thoroughly recommend using this as the perfect excuse to get over the baking fear. I took the end result into work with me the day after I’d made them; I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that they didn’t last long.Swedish Cinnamon Buns

Swedish Cinnamon Buns

Ingredients

For the dough:
25g yeast
75g butter
250ml milk
50g granulated sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
600g plain flour

 For the filling:
100g butter
100g caster sugar
4 tsp cinnamon

For the Glaze:
1 egg
2 tbsp water
Pearl sugar/demerara sugar to decorateSwedish Cinnamon Buns

Directions

1. Crumble the yeast into a bowl and mix with a few tablespoons of the milk. Melt the butter and pour the yeast/milk mix on top. Add in the other dough ingredients and knead for 10-15 mins (I cheated and got the dough hooks for my mixer out of the cupboard).

2. Put the dough mix into a lightly-oiled dish (it makes it easier to get out), cover in clingfilm and allow it to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. Roll out the dough – it should be about 3mm thick and 30cm wide. Spread the butter over the dough, then make a mixture of the cinnamon and sugar before scattering it evenly over the dough.

4. Roll the dough up (the long way, like a Swiss Roll) and then chop into equal slices – the mix should make about 25.

5. Place the bun dough into muffin cases on a tray*, cover with a tea towel and allow it to rise for about an hour (or the buns have doubled in size).

6. Beat together the egg and water before brushing over the buns. Sprinkle with sugar and bake in the centre of the oven for around 10 minutes at 225ºC, or until they are golden.

Enjoy,

Cr

*The original recipe told me to put them in muffin cases, but if I did this again I would probably place them side-by-side on a baking sheet, then tear them apart when I wanted to eat them. I would have put this in the recipe, but since the photos show them in bun cases I thought I’d go for a little bit of continuity.

A Second Year of Contemplating

Picture the scene: It’s Monday evening after a long day in the office. I’m sitting on the sofa  slurping my way through a bowl of my roasted tomato and red chilli soup, mopping up as I go with a big hunk of crusty bread; the dog is, as ever, lying at my feet trying to soften my heart of ice with those big brown eyes. It was then that I had a thought. I dismissed it as a little ridiculous to begin with, but as I was finishing off my follow-up ‘course’ of a glass of lovely red wine left over from Sunday night’s dinner the thought came back to me and this time I couldn’t shake it – tomorrow is the 16th October. Contemplating the Clouds is two years old.

Yes, in the disorganised chaos of my daily life – it’s my preferred choice for organisation, it would seem – I almost forgot the blog’s birthday. This wasn’t the case last year – oh no – then I was so organised that I even went out and bought it a cup cake and a number 1 candle (have a look over here, if you don’t believe me). This year, the dog and I are sitting staring at the screen, wondering what to write (or in the dog’s case, why there isn’t cake involved this year).

The first year of Contemplating the Clouds was my first foray into the blogging world. It started with just photos, then was transformed by the addition of words. This time last year I thought that perhaps I was getting better at both the photos and the words; now I feel – I hope – that they have improved again – I know there are certainly fewer typos (and thanks to the friend that has no qualms about calling me out on them if they do appear; I do appreciate it, even if I don’t always sound grateful). But what of the theme and overall purpose of Contemplating? Well, that too has solidified a bit. This is a blog about a 20-something living, working, procrastinating, eat and drinking in Edinburgh. Oh, and about the adventures I run off on every so often.Edinburgh, Carlton Hill, Old Town, Lent, 40 Days of photos

I said last year I had no idea what the coming year would hold, and whilst it hasn’t been without its share of appearances from the drama-llama, I think it’s been a fairly settled one. At birthday numero uno I was three weeks into a temporary job that could end with virtually no notice in a company that had less than six months before it ceased trading  to say it was a little uncertain is a bit of an understatement, and the fact that I had no idea what ‘proper’ job I was ever going to get (if I would get one at all) was weighing pretty heavily on my mind. As it transpired I temped at the exporters for five months, and only left because I found gainful employment in the real – or perhaps that should be the surreal – world. I’ve now worked in internet marketing for the last seven months. It’s a massive jump from the world of academic biology that my university days in St Andrews were filled with, but I really enjoy it. Of course it’s tough at times and after seven months I feel I have only just begun scratching the surface of all there is to know – but that is part of the fun of it. Working mainly with the travel industry is also something I really enjoy – even if I do get pretty severe travel envy at least once a week – but perhaps what’s surprised me the most is how much I love writing. That may sound rather stupid from someone who writes an often fairly word-y blog, but when this started it was all about photos. My writing still has some way to come, I think, but we’ll see what the future holds on that front (although I wouldn’t hold your breath for a novel, quite yet).Defender of the Nation, Edinburgh Castle

The other thing I mentioned last year was that I’d like to go on holiday again. It was very much a passing remark, however, I am pretty sure it wouldn’t have made it in at all, had it not been something I really wanted to happen. And happen it did. With friends scattered across the country – and indeed the globe – I have been lucky to go away several times over the past twelve months, in fact travels have come to rather define the year. There was a little trip to London last Christmas time, followed Buxton, Peak District, Millers Dale, Wriggly Tin, quarry, hiking, viewpointvery quickly by another to St Andrews, the early new year was a bit dull, but the end of February saw the adventure of the Wriggly Tin (a long weekend to the Peak district, partying it up the likes of which Buxton has never seen before…). It took a while after that, but as the season that held the somewhat misleading title of ‘summer’ rolled around I put those accumulating holidays into use: first was my trip to Yorkshire for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and less that eight weeks later I was heading south again – this time bound for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the Olympic Games in my capital city: London 2012. For anyone that was reading the blog around then, you’ll know that I had an absolutely fantastic trip, I didn’t shut up about the Olympics for weeks. But as the Jub-Olympic summer was drawing to a close I had other travels on my mind – my whirlwind trip to Moscow, Vienna and Bratislava. Let’s be honest, my summer’s travelling has dominated the last twelve months, it was utterly extraordinary, and something I doubt I will ever get the chance to repeat.My tickets for the Olympic Tennis - so excited!

Icing dribbling over the side of the cakeAnd that neatly brings me to the present day. Whilst I have no idea what the coming twelve months will hold I am pretty safe in suggesting that it will certainly hold more of three things that have filled the blog with lots and lots of images this year (away from all my gallivanting). They are, of course, dog walking (Keira isn’t going anywhere, after all), my attachment/addiction to a single app on my phone, Instagram, which has spawned the weekly round-up of Instagrammers Anonymous, and my other huge and overriding passion – food and drink. These three things have kept me busy over the last twelve months and I have no doubt that they will continue to flourish – who knows where they might take me.

To celebrate one year of Contemplating the Clouds I ran a week-long series called A Year In Photos, which involved me picking out my favourite 12 photos from the year (plus perhaps a bonus one on the side). Whilst the connections between the paired up photos were sometimes pretty tenuous, we all struggled through and seemed to quite enjoy them, so to advance on that it’s my self-promoting pleasure to follow this long-winded essay by seven days of (considerably shorter) posts – A Second Year in Photos.Monument to Peter the Great, the Moscow river and the cathedral of christ the saviour

All that’s left now is to say thank you. There would be very little point in me writing this blog if I didn’t think there were others out there reading it, so I’d like to extend a thank you to each and every one of your who reads the blog; much as it is an enormous cliché to say, it does mean a lot to me. It doesn’t matter whether you read every post, or just the odd one or two; if you’re the person in Edinburgh or Auckland that visits virtually every time I write a post, or you’re the person in Singapore, the Bahamas or Kazakstan who has visited just a handful of times, the very fact that you read it makes me happy.

And here is the perfect time to raise a glass of whatever is you happen to have handy (mine’ll be a G&T, please) and say here’s to a fantastic year of Contemplating the Clouds and procrastinating to our hearts’ content; and here’s to the future, whatever it may bring.

Cr

Instagrammers Anonymous: Baking and Long Weekends

If you’re feeling that last weekend seems a rather long time ago then you’ll probably be quite glad it’s Friday. And Friday means -as we all know – that it’s time for Instagrammers Anonymous.

Last weekend saw a lot of dog walking in the distinctly non-autumnal sun. More of the photos can be viewed over here, but this is what the river looks like at the narrow point where it goes under the old bridge.River Almond

On Sunday I – as I’ve mentioned before (it’s been a slow news week) – I attempted to bake with yeast for the first time. I made Swedish cinnamon buns, since it was National Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden last Thursday (didn’t you know?). They were quite a handy treat to take into the office to cheer up everyone’s Monday morning.Swedish Cinnamon Buns!

As this publishes I’m actually on a train. I decided to use up some of my remaining annual leave and go visit a friend who’s about to go to Australia for a few months; so I’m having an impromptu long weekend. It also made me realise that my railcard had expired which wasn’t too handy for my thus-invalid tickets, but after a quick bit of online shopping my new one arrived in the post in the nick of time. It was then that I discovered that I have five years worth of them with a photo taken when I was 17. Oops. Thankfully I looked like a 12 year old then, and have only since progressed to 14, so I doubt anyone will notice.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, enjoy, and I will bring back tales of Yorkshire next week.

Cr