Monday, 30 January 2012

When the snow won't come to you...

you go in search of the snow! 

The lack of snow this year has been killing us both! You know the last time we saw snow was back in 2009! Last year, when the UK got some of the best snow days ever we were sunning it up in Turks and Caicos! As exotic as it sounds spending Christmas Day on the beach, for me it just wasn't the same.  I seriously missed the snow.  Just before Christmas we both bought brand new sledges in anticipation and waited for the snow...but there was nothing! 

So this past weekend the mountains got their first proper snowfall of the year! and we were not about to let the moment pass us by to check it out. Plus, blue skies + sunshine = MEGA RARE in North Wales so when you wake up and see those two things occurring at the same time you don't want to waste it! 

One of our new years resolutions we made at the start of January was to have regular 'date nights' on Fridays.  The only problem is there's really not much to do in North Wales on a Friday night! so needless to say our date nights have been non existent because staying in and watching a movie accompanied by some home baked treats is pretty much how we spend every evening in the Braithwaite household so for us it doesn't really qualify as a 'date'.  So I decided this could be a date day instead, and if the weather co operates with us (e.g the non stop rain and wind stay away) maybe we can have many more of these! 

We climbed up Carneddau, the highest range of mountains within Snowdon National Park.  I can't tell you which one exactly we climbed up, but it was a high one let me tell you that! We were shedding our layers one by one as we ascended because we were getting so flipping hot with all the hard work! This was a pic we took very near to the top!

After this point the snow started getting thigh deep! It was pretty exciting! 

I decided I just had to make a snow angel...

The snow was just so white you can't actually make it out that well! 

When we got right to the top, we found this pretty cwm (pronounced koom).  I learnt a new word too! It's basically a semi circular basin/valley that is found in high mountains that have been glaciers.  

This lake had frozen right over in the sub zero temperatures!  It was quite picturesque and was a nice reward for the beastly climb! 

You know you've been working hard when your face turns bright red! I was rather disheartened after enquiring half way up if I'd burnt off all the brownies we consumed last night, only to be told that I probably hadn't even worked off the KitKat I had eaten before we started! Great! 

We were beginning to give up hope of ever finding a good sledging spot, there were quite alot of rocks around but By persisted and found this lovely snowy hill that was just calling out to be played on.

It was definitely worth the effort of carrying that sledge the whole way up because who knows when we'll get enough snow in our village to get some proper sledging in! We discovered towards the end that the sledge went much faster when we both went in it together :) unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of that, or of our spectacular crashes! 

Half way down we stopped for a spot of rocky road hot chocolate (which had been kept nice and warm by the good old thermos).  I thought rocky road flavour was especially fitting considering the rocky mountains we had been climbing! 

Snow + sledging + hot chocolate + the one you love = a perfect 'date day'.

Wales, I may just come to like you after all if you keep this up!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Christmas & New Year's Round Up!

If there's 3 things I love in's Jesus, my family and good food! 
So as you can imagine my excitement levels are always pretty high around Christmas time since it's a time to celebrate all 3 of those be prepared for a picture overload!

I started off the festive season by heading back to my hometown of Harpenden to exchange some presents with friends, an annual tradition that we started when we were 15 and still at school and that we have continued every year since.  It was extra special for me this year, since last year was the first I've ever missed due to being in the Caribbean and so I was double-y excited to be joining in the fun this time round!

It was also Caz's birthday on that very same day so we went out for a lovely meal at Strada.

How I love going back to where I grew up, Harpenden will always hold a special place in my heart.

We spent Christmas day with my mother in law Kathy, in the Braithwaite house it is a tradition to open your presents accompanied by a mince pie and cup of tea:

It's also a tradition to get yummy reminders of home like droewors!

and it's sort of a tradition for me to get baking related presents! hello extra KitchenAid bowl and cupcake oven gloves!

After the present opening, we had a delicious feast that begun with camembert and toasted bread...

followed by a turkey and gammon joint roast and the best roast potatoes around...

Once we were all sufficiently stuffed we went on a Christmas day walk to Ampthill Park...

Back home, it was time for dessert - a peanut butter & brownie 9 layer trifle By and I had made!

and fitted in a skype with Cam who's in South Africa:

and then we played By's new board game pointless followed by some Christmas movies and then bed!

Boxing day was spent at By's dads house.

Even Obie joined in with the festivities!

We had a nice meal and then the boys competitive side came out through some olympic event playing on the Wii.

After they were all played out, we headed north to Shropshire to spend some time with my family.

We had a giant present opening session upon our arrival - check out the size of my stocking!

By got some fajita and taco kits for lots of Mexican fun...

and I got tons of baking goodies plus this giant lindor chocolate ball! how cool! 

I also loved going round the house and snapping all the decorations! 

I really should have taken a photo of the tree whilst all the presents were still underneath! 

and thanks to Mara's Bon Appetit, Martha Stewart magazine and new dessert book we were treated to tons of yummy bakes over the next few days like taco pie, sweet potato slow cooker soup, butternut and mushroom risotto, emperor's pancakes, banoffee pie and magic bars to name just a few!

Of course the highlight of the whole of Christmas had to be pointless! I've lost count of the number of times it was played in Shropshire but inevitably it would be the first thing my mom would ask to do daily!  and it's such a fun game that it never got old! 
She won the first night we played it...

and spent the rest of the time trying to regain her champion title and the coveted pointless trophy, to no avail! There were SO many laughs during the many games we played of rubbish answers that people gave so that made it even more entertaining! like when Dad was going to pick 'Richard Beckham' as a member of the Beckham family or when he tried to talk Mom out of picking Buzz Lightyear as a character from Toy Story because 'why would a space man be in a film about toys'! or when Mom was delighted with picking 'Highbury' as an answer for a premiership football ground (since she's not really up on her sports) only to discover it's called Emirates these days! and Mara had too many for me even to know where to start! haha

When Mel and Arne arrived from Bruges a few days later we introduced it to them too...

and with their arrival they also brought us some yummy Belgian treats!

and it was time for another round of present opening! By added to his ever expanding hot chocolate collection with some real Belgian hot chocolate sticks - he was pretty pleased with them!

and Mel stuck to her annual tradition of seeing how many bows would fit on her head...

Usually we hit the shops alot when we all get together but fortunately for the boys it didn't happen too much this time around although we did make a special trip to Chester & Cheshire Oaks one day to check out the sales...with uggs and hats at the ready (it was a chilly day!)

...and to have lunch at this amazing place:

I was so desperate to eat there that undeterred by there not being a free table available for 3 hours when we stopped by, we opted to sit outside! Yes - it was a freezing cold day...and it may have also been raining but when Root Beer Floats, Milkshakes and Pulled Pork are involved then compromises have to be made!

It did not are Mom and Mel showing off their Root Beer Float and Triple Mint Oreo shake!

and then the food came...and it was definitely worth it! A chili dog with the cutest little bucket of fries for the veggie in the family...check the irony!

and the most amazing American meatfeast platter! with pulled pork, brisket, bbq sauce smothered ribs, dry ribs and of course some fries and slaw!

It certainly kept us going, even after all the sales shopping through the crowds at Cheshire oaks, we managed to muster up enough energy to put a tannoy out for Mel and Mara when we temporarily lost them!!

You may have observed that Dad was missing out on the American BBQ fun...well don't you worry because he was having his own fun at home with a jack hammer and our back garden!

For New Year's Eve, we got some fireworks - I made some cupcakes and me and the girls dressed up in dresses, fancy tights and colour co-ordinated our crazy patterned nails too!

Apparently the boys didn't know what all the fuss was about, so it was t-shirts and jeans for them! (as they entertained themselves rubbing balloons against their heads and sticking them to the ceiling...good times!)

Of course what were we doing just before the clock struck 12? playing another game of pointless! but we made it out in time for a little disco on the drive as the countdown began...

and By and Arne put on quite the display.  The highlight was when the grand finale firework fell over and started shooting out everywhere and even heading towards us at alarming speed! We were laughing pretty hard at that point...some of us a little too hard! but what better way to bring in the New Year!

so I'll leave you with some sparkler fun that we had! here's wishing all of you a Happy New Year too! Hope 2012 is a great one!

Well done for getting to the end of this post!