Saturday, 8 December 2012

From the heart.

Tuesday is our piano lesson day and our Tuesday afternoons go something like this;

3.30pm leave school, walk home at a bit of a pace.

3.50pm arrive home, Annabel 10 minutes piano practice.

4.00pm, Annabel finish, Joseph 10 minutes practice.

4.10pm, Joseph finish, my turn for practice.

4.20pm our piano teacher arrives and Annabel has her lesson first.

4.50pm-ish, Annabel finishes, Joseph's turn.

5.20pm-ish, Joseph finishes, my turn.

Ok, this is where it gets interesting (finally, I hear you gasp).

My piano lesson has, for a couple of years now, been "my" 30 minutes each week, a bit of "me" time, nothing gets in the way of it, kind of thing.

And, on the whole, the kids are very kind and understanding when it comes to this time on a Tuesday. Well, what is important is that I time their meal perfectly so that it is cooling on the table as Joseph finishes his lesson. This is the one and only reason that Tuesday is fish finger and smiley faces night (I'm a good cook and parent, honest!).

In fact, when I'm standing at the sink draining their favourite vegetables as I hear our teacher congratulating Joseph on his good playing, I positively skip down the hallway for my own lesson.

Anyway, as usual, I'm rambling, and what's important here is what happens when they've finished their fish fingers, when they've polished off the dessert I put out for them. More often than not, they play nicely together, or cash in their DS time, or something!

But not this time.

About halfway through my lesson, I was aware of some crashing about, but tried to ignore it. Then laughter, more crashing, more trying to ignore it. But then, an almighty crash and sound of smashing glass ...... then silence.

"Ummm .....?", said my piano teacher.

"Excuse me a moment", says I.

I walked ..... how shall I say ...... with "purpose" to the dining room and told both children to go to their rooms which, to their credit, they did without so much as a 'but'.

Anyway, normal service was restored and I finished my lesson without any further mishaps. When Leonid (for 'tis his name) left and I'd closed the front door behind him, Annabel came down silently down the stairs, handed me a piece of paper and turned without saying a word. This was followed by Joseph doing the same. I read both notes and laughed so hard, both children came back down the stairs to see what was going on, relieved that I was laughing, not mad!

I have typed out what they wrote below. You can see their actual notes below that.

My favourite part is the fact that Annabel clearly changed her original note following some kind of indignation on Joseph's part. Can you see it? From "I didn't do anything " to "I didn’t do much".

Brilliant stuff, the kind of laughs all parents hope to get!

I am so sorry. even though I didn’t do anything. much. Joseph was showing me his karati and axedently tripped me up. I hurt my arm and leg. Then we sat back down but Joseph kicked the glasses.
Before we were SO good until I tripped.

I’m sorry.
Love from Annabel

She then drew a picture with me saying “norty girl”, which I didn’t even say!

Joseph’s turn.

Dear Dad

Me and Annabel were doing karate and we weren’t really that good at it and we kept on stumbling. After a while, I remembered a move and I showed Annabel. I showed her and she really liked it! In the end she picked it up and we tried at the same time. When turning round we clashed and Annabel was sent tumbling to the floor!

That was the first crash you heard.

I figured out that I should show her another move and I demonstrated it to Annabel. She picked it up again and she said she loved it!

After a couple of minutes we tried it together and it went really well! We were really happy we didn’t make a noise and we turned round to eat. I tripped over the chair and tripped over into the wine bottles. I really hurt my bumcheek.

Love from Joseph.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cedrus Libani

I’ve done it again haven’t I? I could apologise for my whereabouts but seriously, what would be the point?? When you apologise for something, in this case dropping off the face of the earth, you should go out of your way not to do it again and frankly, I just can’t make you that kind of promise. (I am sorry though, honest injuns!)
‘ several reasons for not being around I s’pose, not least of all the fact that I purchased Photoshop Elements a while back (which is a-MAAA-zing, albeit a massive time-eater) and every chance I got, I’d have my face stuck into my monitor, but fiddling with my pictures, rather than writing about my experiences having taken them.
Let’s start with some pleasantries.
I know my last post ended with the words “how was your spring?” but how are you, how was your summer? Ours was tres busy and quite different. We had a “guest” over from Italy – when I say guest, I mean a 13 year old Italian lad, Davide, who spoke no English and was over on a kind of foreign exchange programme. I say kind of because it was just the bit where he came to us – we didn’t, nor are we, sending a child in return. The full reason for him coming over is too long and drawn out to explain (even for ME!), but suffice to say he had a good time and his parents and family back home in northern Italy were most appreciative.
We enjoyed it too. We got to do real touristy stuff like watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, braving the crowds on Regent Street for some shopping in Hamleys toy store, then the Trocadero between Piccadilly and Leicester Square, not to mention getting River Roamer passes on the Thames Clippers, sitting in the sunshine at the back of those incredibly sleek ‘boats’, speeding up and down the fantastic river Thames from Embankment down to Greenwich and the O2. We ate at Planet Hollywood, did the ‘cellar tour’ at the Hard Rock café, which apparently is big news in Italy (who knew?) and went for lots of walks through London’s wonderful royal parks.
Very nice.

Norfolk was our county of choice in which to holiday this year. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been there yourself but it is quite confusing. First of all, it is a beautiful place to visit, no doubt about it. But many of the people we saw there could quite easily have single-handedly provided the inspiration for some of the, how shall I say, more entertaining characters from Little Britain.
We took a boat trip near Wroxhall, all along the Broads, chugging slowly by the house once owned by George Formby – what a beautiful place that is, seriously – and I had visions of living near the river, taking my little boat into town for my organic groceries and my Fairtrade coffee.
(Just wanna say a quick thanks to my Dad for providing me with his “dreamer” gene. We always made fun of him when he floated off to his “happy place” but now I understand and appreciate just what a marvellous place it is, and how much fun it is to hang out there!! Cheers Pops!)

Although it seems like a lifetime ago now, we were all gripped by Olympic fever and Joseph and Annabel went to a ‘one day try out’ at our local athletics track. It was a boiling hot day, with very little shade and there was quite a crowd of youngsters taking part. They all got to try the 100m, the 400m relay, the high jump and the long jump. It all seemed to be going fairly well, but I do want to digress, slightly, and focus on Annabel for a second.
Over the years, I have often mistaken her stubbornness for confidence, her sometimes difficult nature for an air of indifference, for being comfortable in her surroundings. But watching her in this group of mostly older children damn near broke my heart.
I’d say that in total there were about 35 children ranging in age from 7 to roughly 13 years old. The guy in charge chose four captains who in turn set about choosing their teams, one by one. Naturally, being athletics and all, the taller kids were chosen first and pretty soon, the only ones left were the youngest girls. When it got down to the final handful, I sat up and started whispering under my breath not to let Annabel be the last one chosen, not the very last one. I could see her hands wringing behind her back, her head dropping, her left foot kicking at the dirt like she didn’t mind.
But I could see she did mind.
She was plum last and she trudged to the very back of her much taller team-mates who had begrudgingly chosen her, looking across at the last minute to see if I was watching. I caught her eye, gave a nod and a smile and showed her a clenched fist in a sort of “wahey, you’re part of a team, go for it”, kind of way.
She wasn’t all that convinced.
In fact, she was even less convinced when the first event was the 100m. I winced as I saw her get away from the starting line in last place. To her immense credit, she kept on pumping her (relatively) little arms and legs, catching up with the only other small-ish girl out there.
Hurrah, second to last place, a result. She gave a brief look over her shoulder as she crossed the line, taking a healthy dollop of satisfaction that she wasn’t last.
Anyway, the day progressed, the sun got hotter, the water intake higher, and eventually they were on the last event of the day; the long jump. At least now she could sit with Joseph while they waited for their turn. And although the sand-pit for the long jump was on the other side of the track from where I was sitting, my heart still gave a little squeeze when I saw how hard she was trying, how fast she was running.
Annabel gives the illusion of someone who is confident beyond her years but it is just that; an illusion. I knew how much extra effort she was putting in to running up to the sand-pit and doing her little jump, with that ‘huge’ crowd stood around where she was landing.
But anyway, the day ended and of course, during the walk home she regaled to Joseph and I with how her day had gone. Joseph has reached the mental maturity now whereby, rather than immediately counter her comments with “no you didn’t” or “you liar”, he now looks at me, let’s me know that his sister may be bending the truth somewhat, and allows her to continue with her version of events.
Well, he sometimes allows her this luxury.
The nice thing is that she recalled her day as one of fun and enjoyment, as being chosen to be with the “big children”, as helping score points for the leader board, rather than anything negative.
Speaking of Olympics, after many attempts to order tickets online to see something, anything, we secured tickets to see Team GB play …….. handball. Ok, none of us actually knew what handball was but the important point was we were going to the Olympic village, we were off to be a part of history.
Handball (in case you don’t know), is fast and furious – and very physical – and it is quite literally football but, ahem, you use your hands instead of your feet. Still, the game is extremely popular across the rest of Europe, with the UK still finding their feet, so to speak, and Team GB it has to be said, got annihilated by France, the final score being something like 14 million goals to 6. Great fun though.
We also saw, weeks later, the football finals and semi-finals at the Paralympic games, watching Russia crowned champions, with Ukraine in second and Iran for the final medal place. It was great watching Iran celebrate beating Brazil (Brazil??!?); they couldn’t have looked more surprised if they’d tried. I seem to remember Iran getting the biggest cheer too; so little seems known about their society, everyone seemed genuinely chuffed for them.
After a couple of weeks of days melting seamlessly and wonderfully into each other, we were lucky enough to have a long weekend in one of our favourite places – the good old Isle of Wight. M has been wanting to take her Mum (a big fan of the Royal family) to Osbourne House for ages and so, after talking to me nicely for several months and ensuring I had plenty of calm-me-down medicine and yoga moves for combatting the stress that would undoubtedly follow, I agreed that yes, it would be a nice idea to take her Mum to see it.
(I did comment for her to give me a call when they got there safely but M flashed me one of her rarely used “don’t you dare” looks, so I packed a bag for myself too).
To be entirely fair, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be.
No, really.
I love the IOW so much, my companions would have to be pretty bloody-minded to spoil it for me. Ok, so she can be bloody-minded I s’pose, but it seemed she had been “spoken to” by M as well. We were all on our best behaviour and as we always do, enjoyed walking up to the National Trust’s Old and New Batterys at Alum Bay, visiting Warren Farm for our must-have scones with home-made jam, fossil hunting on glorious sandy beaches, eating out every day on slightly too-rich food and generally relaxing wonderfully.

I want to write something else, a million miles away from the sunshine and happiness of our holiday. I was going to put it in another post but thought, no, hang on, it’s all part of your summer, get it in there.
Another reason for being absent, apart from my new Photoshop addiction, is this. At the same time as we were sitting in our seats at the Paralympics, a couple of hundred miles away in north Wales, our very good friend Ian – Joseph’s godfather – was competing in a road cycling race. About 90 miles of road had been cordoned off to traffic, but that didn’t stop one obviously confused woman careering onto the road, barely a hundred metres from the finishing line, oblivious to the waving spectators and marshalls waving their flags at her. Unfortunately for Ian, she was also entirely oblivious to him and knocked him from his bicycle, both of them travelling at speed. Exactly what happened next is not entirely clear but the result was Ian being taken, in an ambulance, to the Royal Liverpool University hospital where they specialise in spinal injuries, and being operated on within a very short space of arriving.
To cut a long story short, and following transfers from Royal Liverpool to King’s College hospital in south east London, and more recently a transfer to a private hospital with a fantastic view (Ian’s words) of north west London, seven weeks on and he is still flat on his back. He has got some limited movement back in his upper arms, some very limited movement in his right leg as well as a general return of sensation in various other places below his neck. His incredibly positive outlook had started to waver during his time at King’s, primarily because he wasn’t doing anything. Today however, marks the start of a rigorous rehabilitation programme in his current plush hotel-like surroundings. Hopefully, as they prescribe him fewer drugs, as his days are filled with exercise and exertion, as he naps less throughout the day and sleeps better throughout the night, as he regains his day-night balance, his outlook will once again become sunny, his goals seemingly achievable once more.
And hopefully with that, his wife (M’s work colleague), will also see a bright future, as will his two girls (one of whom celebrated their 9th birthday yesterday, with us, in the confines of her Dad’s small, triple-glazed new home for the immediate future).
Chin up Ian, stay strong. We’re all rooting for you.
That was our busy, fun, testing, difficult summer in one post.
I said it before, I’ll say it again; how was your summer?

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Let’s do the time warp again …...

Where am I? What happened there? Who …. why ….when …..???

*checks date*

Goodness me, is that the time? So much has happened, so much to tell, so little time to tell it in. Well, I’ve got all the time in the world I s’pose, but at the moment, the times when I could sit and waffle on to you all, I’m absolutely knackered and have developed an unhealthy habit of falling asleep before I’ve even powered up my trusty notebook.

Ok, so as much as I hate to skim over recent happenings, I will have to sunmmarise the past two months events – crikey, has it been that long? – in a single post.

I will dispense this information …………… now.

I very recently made baba ghanoush, courtesy of the recipe from my current fave cookbook Whispers From A Lebanese Kitchen (t’was a pressie from Annabel). As is often the case, something you avoid tackloing for ages through fear of failure (or similar), turns out to be a complete doddle. I must admit to being slightly less impressed by my monster-in-law’s long drawn out preparation of it.

Having said that, I also made a tabbouleh salad, and that was another story altogether! I purchased two large bunches of parsley, it was nowhere near enough. I chopped the parsley by hand, it wasn’t small enough. I didn’t add enough bourghul, I didn’t add enough salt ……………….. it wasn’t great.

This made me cast my mind back to Easter Sunday when, as always, we spent it at said monster-in-law’s house, when we ate heartily and I had my first sip of alcohol in 50 days.

Truth time – things I’ve given up for Lent in the past has often been something that I would miss but wouldn’t be heartbroken over; chocolate one year, for example. Coffee another year. Red wine the next (but not a cold beer). Cold beer the next (but not red wine).

Sneaky eh?

Anyway, this year I gave up ALL booze and wasn’t looking forward to it, to be honest. It’s not that I drink too much (not anymore anyway), but I will drink at the weekend, for sure.

In truth, it was no trouble at all. When the first Friday evening rolled around, psychologically I thought I’d be moaning, but no; no problems to report.


As I’m being honest, I might as well tell you that it was the longest I’ve been without alcohol since my early teens, which isn’t really a statistic to be all that proud of.

Moving on from early April and it’s half term; off to the garden of England for a short break. Yes, Kent, and what a beautiful place it is. I couldn’t possibly guess at the times we were driven through Kent as kids (my Dad loved to drive his Mini Cooper S 1275GT along country lanes at speed) but naturally, as a kid your job is to merely spend the entire trip asking “are we nearly there yet?”, rather than admire the scenery and greenery flashing past your window.

(It is for this very reason that we invested in a cheap-but-cheerful twin-screen DVD player for long journeys. The agreement is that the kids can watch a film while we travel from home to our destination, then they can damn well look out the window at the scenery for the duration of our stay, then watch more films when we travel back home. It works).

Various highlights of our trip were (in visited order), Charles Darwin’s house – very lovely place – delicious fish and chips near a typically pebbley beach, a climb up a disused lighthouse at Dungeness (located in the shadow of a huge nuclear power station, on a very bizarre and strange beach). The climb to the top of the lighthouse confirmed that Joseph is very, very scared of heights. If he could’ve gotten himself any closer to the wall as we climbed down the long metal spiral staircase, he would’ve technically been classed as ‘rust’.

He took my ribbing in good humour so I can comfortably say it was very funny.

Our lodge was on the edge of an enormous forest – very, very quiet, very, very dark, very, very peaceful. Thanks to being on the edge of somewhere so dark, the night sky was amazing. The stars were so bright, so clear, not to mention Venus and Jupiter being a breeze to pick out each evening.

Similarly lovely was Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill, where we stopped off at on our way home. It was, as you might expect, rather grand, but not in a pretentious way. It is a National Trust property and it is definitely worth a trip to see it, member or non-member. The grounds are large, not overly extensive – I particularly liked the walled vegetable and herb garden, with the nicely sized play house at one end.

To May, and Annabel celebrated a birthday – another one. She is now the ripe old age of seven (SEVEN??) years old, looking more beautiful than ever. When–oh–when are the years going to slow down?  We got her an (almost) brand new bicycle which she loved (thanks ebay) and a party that I think she really enjoyed.

Also, although it wasn’t exactly for her, we acquired a tortoise as a pet. M has wanted one forever, and it tied in with the time around Missy’s birthday so “Tilly” the tortoise now lives in her incredibly unattractive vivarium, situated in the corner of what we call our TV room. It really is bloody ‘orrible (the vivarium, not the tortoise). But M is happy, the kids are delighted, so what do I know??!?

Actually, while M was feeling ‘happy’, she whisked her Mum off to Switzerland for four days, to celebrate her 70th birthday (her Mum, not M obviously. I mean, I’ve always liked a mature woman but give me some credit!). M rang to say that the hotel was “ok”, not quite what she was expecting, given the price of the place. But then she texted me a picture of the view from their balcony. I won’t tell you my response, but it was along the lines of “that’s where your money went!”

By the time they’d gotten back, the whole country had quite rightly gone Jubilee crazy, us included, and we waved lots of flags, cooked various “English” meals (would you Adam ‘n’ Eve it, salmon en croute is English!), and Annabel knocked up a couple of belting drawings. M went bunting crackers and we had shop bought union jacks, we had home-made bunting of various triangular scraps of material, we had flags on bits of dowelling – all very tasteful, like.

Finally, to bring me more or less up to date, Annabel received the result from her grade 1 ballet exam. Her teacher made a big fuss of lining the girls up, calling their names out and announcing their pass mark, before handing over their certificates.

It went something like this;

“Emma, pass. Well done Emma. (applause)

Charlotte, pass. Well done to you. (applause)

Kate, merit, well done Kate. (applause)

Annabel. Well well well Annabel, look at this. Distinction! Very well done, super job”. (applause, and extra from me!)

She wasn’t entirely sure what the word distinction meant until I told her, showing her the scoring brackets on the back of her certificate. The only thing was that Annabel went on to explain that her friend Emily (who competes in Irish dancing at a very high level), always receives a trophy, cup or statuette when she wins.

I tried to explain that it was a bit different, that Emily went in for competitions, not examinations, and that trophies were for competitions.

I watched Annabel look into the distance, digesting my words, before looking up at me and asking, “so when do I get to choose a trophy then?”

Several further attempts at explanining followed over several days, all to no avail. And so I eventually tracked down a reasonably priced statuette, admittedly in a bordering-on-cheap-looking material, but the plinth was classy and solid looking.

Hey, one outta two ain’t bad!
Bless her. She was delighted with it, and, what with a splendid but even more affordable frame courtesy of IKEA, there you have it – an entire show and tell in one hit!

How was YOUR spring?

Monday, 23 April 2012

Happy St.George's Day (for two weeks ago!!!)

Man, oh man, dem peeps at Blogger is messin' wiv me. well, either that or I'm just losing the knack of things that I was previously alright at! I appear to have messed up the "posting date" for this post but, in true stiff upper lip style, I am pressing on ahead and posting it anyway.

A fortnight late!

Hmmm .............

What could be more English than jam coconut sponge, eh?

Well, apart from roast beef, roast potatoes and all the trimmings of course.

And a full English breakfast.

And fish and chips.

And pie and mash.

Ok, apart from all those things, what could be more English than jam coconut sponge???

Egg-sactly!! And, as is usually the case whenever something sweet is placed in the staff room, it didn't last very long at all. very well received it was, with a dollop of healthy (well, half fat) creme fraiche.

Tally ho, pip pip and Bob's your auntie!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

"You've missed a bit"

I took the car for a wash yesterday. I normally do this myself but I thought I'd 'mix it up' a bit. Whereas I normally pay between three and six pounds, the wash yesterday came to a grand total of £266 and some pennies. I was shocked, to say the least. Two hundred and sixty six pounds??

Still, they did give it the annual service it needed, so I guess it wasn't all bad. I didn't even know it was due a service to be honest. I received a letter from Kia the other day. It started thus;

"As I'm sure you're aware, your car is now due it's annual service ..."

Well, funny enough, I wasn't aware actually. I thought that I'd have the car for a whole year befre I needed to worry about that. But, a 'phone call later confirmed that it was indeed due to be put up on the ramps and tinkered with.

Still, never mind - pay day is in ............. a fortnight.


I'm delighted!

Sunday, 25 March 2012


I cooked a gammon ham the other week, and in a bid to try something new (I was following a recipe I'd printed from the BBC Good Food website - Hairy Bikers, I think), I glazed it with marmalade and studded it with cloves. The outcome?

Bloomin' 'orrible!

It merely reinforced the fact that I really do not like cloves, not one little bit. As I was eating it, I was reminded of some of the toothaches and dentists I'd encountered in my (much) younger years.


Are there any food stuffs that you don't like? Foods that you can either take or leave, or absolutely hate with a passion? Well, I was going to say there really isn't anything I hate, but as you can see, cloves is defnitely on the list. I'm not a big fan of ketchup either, but I admit to liking a small squiggly squirt on hot dogs. Cheese, I s'pose, is a recurring dislike. I would LOVE to like cheese - I've realised that, in a similar vein to wine and coffee, cheese is not just about taste, but about ceremony; choosing a wine, opening, pouring, smelling, tasting, swallowing, tasting again and .... well, you know.

Watching people at a cheeseboard is similar - what would go nicely with this, half a date with that, some chutney with this little bit etc – it looks intriguing, and I'm on the outside looking in. I guess I do like Wensleydale - is that the one with cranberries in? - and mild cheddar too, but they're not exactly the most adventurous of cheeses are they?

Before I met the lovely M, I’d never met anyone who was allergic to certain foods, the main culprit for her (amongst many) being egg. Egg is one of those things that’s in a LOT of foods – some you might expect, many that you do not expect! For me it was quite interesting, watching her enquire in restaurants as to whether or not this starter or that main course contained egg. The waiting staff rarely knew, and would go running off to find out. Nowadays of course, eating establishments are far more ‘up’ on that kind of question so it’s not nearly as much fun!

Because of her allergy to les ouefs, we rarely had eggs in our home. The chances of cross contamination with me in the kitchen – a clumsy budding chef, imagine – were too great; it was easier to ditch them. It’s funny, cos it made me appreciate them all the more when we ate out.

Not having eggs indoors carried over into our early parenthood, and eggs were something which we never really introduced to the kids in the same way we did their vegetables and meats. The kids aren’t allergic to eggs, thankfully, but they don’t really enjoy a nice poached egg, or a fried egg with a breakfast, although they watch me eat mine and say every time, ooh, can I have an egg next time, can I Dad, please?!?

Of course, one way they will eat eggs is in cakes and cookies – I suppose most kids will, right? Now that I mention it, I’m not averse to a cake or half a dozen cookies myself. And the more time I’ve spent in the kitchen over recent years, the more I’ve realised the effort that goes in to making certain sweet treats. Obviously I’m not talking about your supermarket giants here; rather the plethora of patisseries and tea shops that have become the trend in recent years. Only last weekend, we enjoyed a Saturday afternoon at a ‘vintage tea shop’ in St.Reatham (SW16) and, although the proprietor wasn’t the friendliest person in the world (considering we were giving her our money), the experience was a very enjoyable one.

Yes, yes, of course I’d forgotten my camera so of course we’ll have to go back, but we had a very tasty afternoon tea / late lunch. M was on the peppermint tea, I had a large pot of English tea all to myself (had the shakes for an hour afterwards, dammit), and the kiddy-winks had freshly made milkshakes. I ate possibly the best BLT I’ve ever had, followed by a slice of carrot cake.

(I can never eat carrot cake without thinking of a guy I used to work with. When someone brought in a beautifully made carrot cake to mark their own birthday, said chap took a bite and said, in all seriousness, “what the heck’s all this orange stuff?” referring to the carrot. I’ve changed his actual comment!).


Anyway, back to my dessert, and I got to thinking about cakes and biscuits, how they are universally liked, generally speaking. Have you ever opened a packet of cookies in company and people have ended up severing all ties with you? Have you ever offered around a box of freshly baked coconut macaroons or Florentines and your colleagues have reported you to HR, saying they simply can’t stand to be in the same room as you any more?

No, of course you haven’t.


Because everybody loves a cookie, a Madeleine, a biscotti, or a nice generous slice of still-warm-from-the-oven Brownie.

This universal law comes as no surprise to Stacy Adimando, the author of The Cookiepedia, a truly lovely looking kitchen companion (the book that is, not Stacy, although having said that, her picture on the back is rather lovely ……), a book which would definitely catch my eye, nestled among the many, many books jostling for prime position on the shelves of your local book store.

It’s hardback, naturally, and is an appealing shade of wrapping paper brown – and no, I’m not being sarcastic, I really do like it – there’s something …..… recycled about the look, in a good way. Open the cover and you’re greeted by, wait for it, a spiral binder! Yeah, I know; for use in the kitchen, it’s PERFECT! No more propping up books against the kettle with a rolling pin across the bottom to wedge it open, only to have it slide slowly down, straight through your carefully flour-dusted worktop. A genius idea!

The book starts out with some helpful ‘A,B,C’s of Cookie Baking’ and include a list of kitchen tools (more useful than you might imagine, as it deals with mostly American terms. You find yourself going, “oh, that’s what that is, is it?), a couple of pages of ‘Cookie Speak’, explaining the meaning of words such as chilling, greasing or melting chocolate (ok, that list isn’t as useful as the first one, granted), and a ‘Fun With Decorating’ section, subtitled as ‘show off your skills with these cool tricks, which will enable you to do “cool” stuff’. This ‘stuff’ consists of things like pipe using a pastry bag, or stick your cookie on a lolly stick to turn it into a cookie lolly.

That might not sound like much but for someone like me who’s always wanted an excuse to pipe icing onto a cake or biscuit, I love it.

On a more helpful note, the book is split into five colour coded sections, which are; buttery, chocolatey, fancy, fruity and finally, spicy. The fact that butter gets its own section is a teensy bit confusing as pretty much every edible thing in the book consists of at least half a cup of butter! In conjunction with this, the cookies in the book are constantly referred to as American “classics” – certainly the image of the all-American household portrayed in films is of cookies being batch baked for a school event, as a snack for after the baseball game, as a travelling companion for the offspring that’s driving across state to start a new term at their high school. Cookies are happiness, cookies are ‘togetherness’, cookies are America.

I have to write a very telling comment at the start of the recipe for Butter Balls. It reads;

“Even though holiday meals with my family are so huge we rarely have room for dessert, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Grandma Stella’s Butter Balls”.

Now, if you’ll forgive me for ambling away from the ‘review’ of this book to make a comment, I can’t help but notice two things from this one sentence.

1. Meals in the USA are enormous and
2. Even if you’re stuffed, you make sure you force down some ‘butter’.

It seems that ‘overeating’ and ‘classic’ foods consisting of butter are synonymous with life in America.

Or not?

I know when I was there, I couldn’t believe how much food you got when you ate out; not just how much in the first place, but how much you were able to go back and help yourself to. Is it so surprising that the US leads the world in adult obesity, closely followed, it has to be said, by the UK!!

Perhaps we shouldn’t fall too far in love with the cookie then.

Anyway, none of that is Ms Adimando’s fault of course and again, judging by her picture on the back of the book, all that butter has affected neither her flawless skin nor her waistline (ok, I can’t see her waist – I’m just guessing, even taking into account the large woollen shawl she’s wearing!!)

I must mention the inside back cover, for it gives a lovely conversion table, from US teaspoons and cups to British millilitres and grams. Better even than that is the clearly laid out Fahrenheit to Centigrade conversion; it’s essential, and although I don’t own so many American cook books that I could confidently comment on whether or not they all do or don’t have this chart, I would like to big up the fact that this one definitely does. It’s inclusive, it’s friendly, it says, “hey, this book is from the US but just in case you Brits wanna buy a copy, well here y’all are, a conversion chart”.

On behalf of all (wannabe) bakers on this side of ‘the pond’, thank you.

I’ve come to realise with cook books, that the recipes are only half the appeal – this may very well be stating the obvious, but the photographs of whatever it is you are making are oh-so important , and with this in mind, special mention must go to photographer Tara Striano; beautiful, artfully taken pictures, doing their job perfectly – they make you want to eat them (all) and even more importantly, want to make them.

Ok, so I haven’t actually gotten round to making any as yet, but I’ve promised myself that’s going to change. With the Easter holidays looming, I see it as the perfect opportunity to get in the kitchen ‘avec mes enfants’ and get busy with a few packs of butter.

Choosing one item from each section (as mentioned earlier), I think we’ll tackle Blondies (from buttery). Oh, and Stella’s butter balls, to see what all the fuss is about! Mint thins (from chocolatey), Black and white cookies (from Fancy), Coconut Macaroons (or fig Bars – can’t decide – from Fruity) and Snickerdoodles (from Spicy – because I like cinnamon but mostly because I like saying the word Snickerdoodle!)

As I’ve done with other books I’ve received, I took this one to school and left it lying around in various places for other staff to see, including my own desk. This had the added advantage of lots of the Year 6 children I work with commenting on it, asking if they could look at it and mulled over it through the course of their packed lunches, letting out lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’, which, coming from 10 and 11 year olds, is definitely a firm seal of approval.

So, crunch time (ha ha, geddit? Cookies? Crunch??) - would I buy this book?

I think it will come as no surprise whatsoever, that I would buy this book, without question. I’d be delighted though, if someone had the foresight to buy it for me; Christmas, birthday, Father’s Day, whenever. It’s original looking, not only for the lovely cover I’ve described (and you can see below), but also the size. It’s almost perfectly square at 22cm by 21cm (or just under 9” by just over 8”), so even that helps it stand out amongst other books.

The price is in US and Canadian dollars, the US kind being $18.95 which, according to right now, comes in at £11 and 83p. As always, the goodness of my heart refuses to let me leave it there - I had a quick check on Amazon UK for you and you can bag yourself a copy of Cookiepedia for £8.15 which is a bargain – no question.

Do you know someone who wants to join the baking world and doesn’t know where to start? Do you know someone who has started in the baking world but isn’t all that great and is feeling a tad deflated? Or do you just know someone who would appreciate a lovely looking book which focuses on cookies and cakes, and would forever be knocking on your door saying, “check these out, don’t they smell amazing? Go on, try one, I made them for you”.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Cookiepedia is a lovely looking book with some beautiful photographs, some very easy sounding recipes and …. AND … a picture of the author on the back.

Final thought; when I find old cook books and recipe books at boot sales and charity shops, more often than not, they’re in very good condition, very clean, almost unused. I think that for a cook book, this is rather sad; kitchen books should show signs of plenty of use.

In however many years time, when my children are going through my stuff, wondering what to keep and what to chuck out, I reckon they’ll find my copy of Cookiepedia and it will be covered in splodges of sugar, chocolate sauce dried hard on some of the pages, and whichever one of the kids finds it, they’ll smile to themselves and remember the fun we had making Almond Crescents, Brownies and those wonderful sounding Snickerdoodles.

And then they’ll put the book in the ‘To Keep’ box.

Perhaps they’ll make some of Grandma Stella’s butter balls with their kids.