A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

Nutella Viennese Biscuits


I’ve been putting the gorgeous stripy retro enamel bowls and biscuit tin from Prestige to the test this month, it is such a happy range that makes you want to bake and create yummy memories in the kitchen. There is still time to win the entire Prestige Vintage kitchenware set. These Viennese Biscuits were a lovely little find in a 30 Yummy Things to Bake cookery card set from Usborne.

I think they were a great match for our kitchen, they also come in blue too, which reminds me of some stripy bowls my Gran had. Bonus points for spotting where the gin is kept, and the biscuit tin!


There is a proper recipe for the chocolate ganache, but when we realised we had nutella in the house, we decided that was so much simpler and just as tasty. You can make them as big, or as little as you like, a small but perfectly formed mini indulgence.

Nutella Viennese Biscuits


175g unsalted butter softened
40g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
175g plain flour
40g cornflour


Heat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas Mark 5.  Grease and line two trays with greaseproof paper

Add the butter to a large bowl and sift in the icing sugar. Beat together with a wooden spoon.

Mix in the vanilla essence

Sift in the cornflour and flour.

The recipe says to put a teaspoonful of mixture onto the tray, this was a bit misleading as the mixture isn’t spoonable, so I would say take a heaped teaspoon sized lump of mixture and form a rough ball. Flatten each ball with the back of a spoon.

The recipe makes 12 sandwiched biscuits, so you need about 24 at this stage.

Bake the biscuits for 12-14 minutes, let them cool for five minutes, before lifting them onto a cooling wrack with a spatula.

Sandwich with Nutella.




Tomato and Lentil Soup with Parsley Dumplings


These Parsley Dumplings are so easy to make and liven up any soup or stew. Parsley Dumplings have always been the way to anyone’s heart, and is a much loved family recipe and one of my favourites when I found myself cooking for myself at university. If you want further proof of it’s excellence, a chef friend asked my Mum for the recipe, served parsley dumplings in the 5 star hotel he worked in, and shared the recipe in a magazine article.

The Tomato and Lentil Soup recipe I am indebted to Crumbs for, who in turn found the recipe via Gordon Ramsey. My mum always served the dumplings with a bean and root vegetable stew, and while I love it, my kids are not  yet convinced, so when I saw a tomato based stew with dumplings in, I was sold. I have to tone down the cayenne pepper heat in this recipe, but you could add more if it is for grown ups.

It’s a great dish to make on the hob, but I always fancied browning and crisping the dumplings so when Prestige sent me a Vintage casserole to test, I decided to give it a try in the oven. Baking in the casserole with the lid off for the last 10-15 minutes browns the dumplings beautifully.

I would make double of this and put half in the freezer for another day. At the stage you add the dumplings, take half the mixture out to cool and then freeze. Defrost it in the fridge, put it in a casserole, add some uncooked dumplings, and bake it.


Tomato and Lentil Soup


Knob of butter
1 large onion
2 celery sticks chopped
2 garlic cloves
2tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (less for little kids)
140g red lentils
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
850g vegetable stock

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions, garlic and celery and cook over a low heat until soft.

Add the cayenne pepper and cumin, and cook for 1-2 mins, stirring.

Add the lentils and stir, I think this stage helps a bit to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan later. Keep an eye on lentils, they do have a tendency to stick if left unstirred.

Add the tomato and stock, turn up the heat and cook on a high heat for 10 minutes, this stage is important to soften the lentils enough.

Meanwhile prepare the dumplings!

Once the dumplings are ready transfer to a casserole and bake at Gas 6 for 20-30 minutes, removing the lid for the last 10-15 minutes to brown.

Parsley Dumplings

100g plain flour
25g unsalted butter or margarine
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
1 egg
1 tbs chopped parsley

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Rub the fat into the flour mix until it is like breadcrumbs.

Beat the egg in a cup and stir in the parsley.

Stir the egg mix into the flour mix and form into a stiff dough, add more flour or milk if needed.

Form into marble shapes.

Drop into souls, sets about 20 minutes before you want to eat, they should be twice the size and fluffy inside.


Natural Christmas Garlands


Anything that gets me outdoors as November races by, is a very good thing indeed. My husband will probably tell you different, but I haven’t suffered badly with SAD for years, not since I taught drama in blacked out room all day.  This year though, I feel like I am fighting harder than usual to keep happy, despite all my efforts to get ahead. Something creative, that involves a walk to collect the materials, is normally just the thing to pull me through black clouds.

After pondering where our Christmas style comes from earlier this week, and sharing some Scandinavian home ideas, I was quite struck by how much all that came together in these pictures I took of the Christmas garlands we made.


I love the simplicity, these were a real pleasure to collect for and so easy to make. Our house is Victorian, we have high ceilings, nooks and crannies and lots of hallway, so our house drowns out decorations fast, but these are a really quick and thrifty way to decorate.


We collected them on a walk very locally, along the river, behind the back of the leisure centre, past local schools, we didn’t have to wander far to find some great things to include. The whole family helped, and we soon collected a mix of red and black berries, dried out seed pods, tiny pine cones, thistle heads and evergreens. A great mix of colours and shapes.

To attach them simply make a slip knot, as you would to start crochet or knitting, slip something into the knot and tighten, this makes it easy to add on without tangling and the bunches hang neatly.

I used straw coloured raffia in the den which goes well against the black surround and tiles. I kept to quite simple shapes in this room. The red raffia looked good against the white fireplace in the living room and the green of the kitchen units. I used bigger bundles here, you can play around for a different look. In the book I found this craft in, My First Nature Activity Book  – they also suggest using these outdoors, or when camping, which I loved the sound of too. You can also tie little bows in different colour raffia around each bundle, but I like them simple best.


Lots more little crafts to come, but I couldn’t wait to share these as they are so cheap, easy, involve getting outdoors too.

Come back tomorrow for a Nutella Viennese biscuit?

House Fantasy: Scandinavian Christmas


My latest house fantasy is ‘Scandinavian Christmas’, to inject some warmth and hygge this winter. Scandinavian means lots of things to me, from candles, to birch wood, to using nature in the home, to simple geometric shapes, stars, reindeers, to warmth and simplicity. But mainly simplicity. It means having a house – quite unlike mine I should add – that isn’t cluttered, that has a place for everything, no matter how big or small it is. I think we all dream of simplifying life around this time of year, of cutting back to what is really important don’t we?

I can dream…

I loved the soft grey, white and red of the Kilburn and Scott products by Gallery pictured above, but I also I really like the idea of black, white and red in the image below, also Kilburn and Scott by Gallery. It’s a really easy combination to put together and make an impact with.

Scandinavian Home

The intricate geometric patterns on this Bloomingville Candle Holder captured my attention. They would look great on a mantlepiece combined with some pillars candles, lanterns, fir cones.  Or a really great centrepiece for a more minimal Christmas table.

The Ragged Rose Bunting is such a quick and lively way to add a splash of colour to a room, or cheer up a staircase or hallway.

This Fjorde and Co Bench bench is an effective way to create a cosy corner at a table, and perhaps encourage people to sit for longer too, I love the idea of having the back and sides to keep some cushions (and wriggly kids) in place.

I’ve had my eye on this Etol Design Fisherman’s Blanket for some time now, at last I finally have a whole decor scheme to fit it in.

Tomorrow I have a lovely nature garlands, perfect for a Scandinavian Christmas home. Closely cropped – my house is a mess – but a wonderful homage to the colours and aesthetics of Scandinavia don’t you think? More lovely, and slightly less tightly cropped pictures, tomorrow.


At Home: Where does your Christmas style come from?

My house smells of oranges, chocolate and glue gun, a sure fire sign that Christmas isn’t far away. I can’t wait to share the fruits of our Christmas crafting labours, but what I was pondering while making was: where does your Christmas style come from?

When I was a child my family travelled to Scandinavia several times. My parents were definitely heavily influenced by Scandinavian design and I grew up amongst birchwood chairs and tables, with pictures like Carl Larsson’s Breakfast Under the Big Birch Tree on the walls, and piles of books by Swedish children’s authors

Breakfast under the Birch Tree

While we never went to Scandinavia in Winter, we always picked up simple decorations on our travels to bring home for our Christmas tree. We had a tiny reindeer made of straw, simple wooden stars. Our tree was always a fairly modest real tree with simple decorations and white fairy lights. By the mirror in the living room for years we had a little wooden instrument bought in Sweden, you pulled back the wooden balls on strings and they hit into strings and made a lovely sound.

Dad always led the tree decorating when we were at home, a gentle sprinkling of lametta to add sparkle, but tinsel was and still is banned.

So when I think of Christmas, I think of quite a minimalist Scandinavian style – I’ll be sharing some lovely ideas on that this week, do check them out.

I love using nature to decorate our home too. Later this week I have garlands made from nature to share, a really beautiful, cheery and thrifty way to decorate your home, and they are so simple to make.

I also spent quite a few Christmas holidays in Munich as a teenager, I love characterful wooden decorations and the German House style advent calendar I featured a couple of weeks ago.

Overall our tree is always pretty eclectic, it is more about the sentiment behind the objects than the overall look, just like when I was little, things the kids make take pride of place. Each member of the family has different ideas about it’s style of course, and I don’t know about you, but I find things are forever being tinkered with and moved round the tree.


How about you? What inspires your Christmas style?

I had a little look at the inspirations at Wayfair.

Glamour? Kimberley at Swoonworthy has curated a glam Christmas over at Wayfair.


Traditional? I am loving the stag head coat hook in this collection.


Modern? I love the idea of foxes, simple throws and giant paper lantern stars in this collection.


If you missed out last week, I shared my gift guide, lots of lovely Christmas ideas there. There’s also a lovely Cauliflower Cheese Soup, perfect for quick and tasty dinners.

Have a lovely week!



Image Credits – 1 Shutterstock Two little Santa Decorations, 2, Carl Larsson, 3,4,5 via Wayfair.

Roasted Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup

On a cold and rainy October day I went to Eden Hall Spa last month, to review the new Clarins’ treatments and tasted this amazing Roasted Cauliflower Cheese Soup.

It was a day of blissful Clarins’ treatments; of warming body and relaxing minds in the sauna, steam and jacuzzi; of toasted tea cakes and coffee snuggled in the lounge under fluffy throws and cushions. This was followed by a three course feast which started with this warming Cauliflower and Cheddar Cheese Soup. Ian the chef came out to talk to us and generously offered to share the recipe.

It’s like the best cauliflower cheese, but a million times yummier in soup format.

Roasted Cauliflower Cheese Soup


  • 3 Cauliflower heads
  • 3 large baking potatoes
  • 2 litres of vegetable stock
  • ½ litre of Cream
  • Salt & Pepper as required
  • 50g Extra Mature Cheddar (grated)


  1. Roast Cauliflower in the oven at 180˚C for 40 minutes
  2. Boil Potatoes until soft
  3. Add Cauliflower and potatoes into blender, with vegetable stock, & blend until smooth
  4. Pour contents into a saucepan, add cream & cheese. Season with Salt & Pepper and reheat gently.

The A Residence Christmas Gift Guide

This week, having committed to doing all my own gift buying and organising this month (read more about simplifying Christmas in this post) I thought it only fair to share a Christmas gift guide. Shopping at Wayfair is often surprising, I am forever stumbling on new product lines and items I didn’t know they sold.

From those tricky people you will only know what to buy when you see it, to presents for kids, gardeners and foodies, there’s something in this Christmas Gift Guide for all. Plus find the best bargains, by following the links to the relevant Wayfair Daily Sales, some of the items featured came from current sales.

A Residence Blog Gift guide - from I know it when I see it, to foodies, gardeners, kids, friends and families, there is something for everyone at Wayfair.co.uk

I’ll know just the thing when I see it…

With some people it’s a case of browsing until something totally unique or completely them jumps out at you, (that’s why I love flicking through a Christmas gift guide or two with a cup of tea and some peace and quiet).

Moroccan Lantern, Pentagon MirrorMap wall ClockCow HeadFloral Suitcase TidysPsycho Wall ArtBeetle mugretro camera tin

View the full range of gifts for him and gifts for her.

A Residence Blog Gift guide - from I know it when I see it, to foodies, gardeners, kids, friends and families, there is something for everyone at Wayfair.co.uk

Gifts for Kids

Wayfair is especially great for play tents and kitchens, but don’t overlook the little bits and pieces too.

Photo Wash bagChildren’s Swim Bag, Little Prince Stars Mug SetNativity StatuetteChildren’s Cooking SetPintoy KitchenWild West Play Tent

View the full range of gifts for kids.

A Residence Blog Gift guide - from I know it when I see it, to foodies, gardeners, kids, friends and families, there is something for everyone at Wayfair.co.uk

Gifts for foodies

Wayfair has everything from practical sets to stylish modern gadgets and vintage and retro style classics. For family friendly foodie gifts I love the pancake pan and the retro waffle maker. Check out the newly launched Prestige Vintage Kitchenware collection, I love the Blue Striped casserole, there is a competition to win the full set here.

Cook Book StandPasta Factory Gift SetKitchen blow torch setEclectic Liqueur glass setUlster Weavers ApronCheese SlicerMorphy Richards Blender

View all gifts for foodies.

A Residence Blog Gift guide - from I know it when I see it, to foodies, gardeners, kids, friends and families, there is something for everyone at Wayfair.co.uk

Gifts for Gardeners

Wayfair has a huge garden department with everything you need for a stylish garden.

Landhaus Birdfeeder, Sophia Laurhen garden hen sculptureFallen Fruits Deer hookFallen Fruits boot stand, Garden tool apron, Ceramic Planter Set, Pinecone Bird Feeder

View the full range of gifts for gardeners.

Have you spotted anything I missed? Any great present ideas this year? I’m looking forward to making some too, I will be sharing some crafts and recipes.

At Home: A quiet weekend of reflection

Christmas giving

It’s been a quiet weekend of reflection. I heard about Paris as I was about to go to bed on Friday night, both my kids seemed extra clingy and fell asleep on me on the sofa – a pattern that continued throughout the weekend, although we only briefly touched on discussing world events. Immediately I messaged my family who live in Paris, and who we visited this Summer, they were disgusted and angry, but all safe.

Saturday morning passed in a haze of news reading. The things I planned to share this week on the blog seem inconsequential now, small victories over the home to do list. We pottered, I don’t know about you, but I struggled to settle to anything. We watched as social media imploded with people trying to make sense of recent attacks all across the world.

Thanks to all those who let me know my post resonated about embracing Christmas early – it’s good to know I am not the only one trying to slow life down and get to grips with life.  If anything I have realised I am making more time to be able to do more charity things, but that makes me happy. It’s hard to think about Christmas preparation isn’t it, when there seem to be so many people in the world who need support. There are so many ways to give, and if we all do something, it makes a huge difference, here are a couple of ideas:

This morning I ploughed on with organising my Faux Ho Ho for ActionAid,  I am hosting a fake Christmas, ahead of the big day to raise money for millions of children round the world who are homeless. It;s a simple idea, so many of us have pre Christmas gatherings with friends and family, so why not use it as an opportunity to raise some funds for a charity? I am opening my doors to Nottingham bloggers, a lovely bunch who I don’t get to see in real life often enough. We will swap blog tips, make our virtual office real for an afternoon and eat some Christmas goodies. We’ll donate towards ActionAid’s campaigns to change lives across the world. I am looking forward to sharing some snaps on the blog.

I am also excited to share Wayfair’s plans to further support their chosen charity Habitat for Humanity, more news on that coming very soon. Habitat for Humanity Great Britain helps the poorest and most vulnerable people lift themselves out of poverty by partnering with them to build their homes and communities. There’s lots of scope for bloggers to help too. I don’t know about you but I feel now is the time to really come together and help others.

While pottering in a book shop I picked up a fascinating book Happiness by Design, and learnt so much about happiness being not about what we have or do, but what we give our focus to. It’s hard to know what to do when the world seems full of fear, but I need to focus on bringing some happiness to it.

My daughter and I popped into our local craft emporium and stocked up with some things to do and make. I’m looking forward to sharing lots of those ideas on the blog and have a new crafty hobby I can’t wait to share. We also baked some chocolate marzipan heart shaped biscuits, something else the world needs more of now – love. I will share the recipe very soon.

Another surprise this weekend was discovering one of my posts had gone viral. How to make bath bombs, a lovely idea for Christmas gifts, and so easy the stunning ones in the post were made by eight year olds.

Then there was a long walk and the collecting of bits and pieces for some gorgeous decorations. I love bringing nature into my home, it’s not just summer flowers and Autumn leaves, Winter is a great time for shapes and colour. More on that to share soon too.

Have a good week whatever you are up to, and come and check back for some heart warming recipes, crafty ideas and seasonal ideas.

One last thing, as I drove home from my running group earlier, John Lennon’s Imagine came on the radio, I wound down my window and turned up the volume and let the words spill out into the world.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is a great winter warmer, and with cheese topped toast it's a meal in itself. Find out how to make the vegetarian version.

Last week I tested out Vegetarian French Onion Soup, the perfect soup for Bonfire Night, but such a lovely winter warmer that I will keep making it, now I have rediscovered it. French Onion Soup is traditionally made with beef stock, but I have some great ideas for how to get the same deep colour and taste as a vegetarian.

My Dad and I were making Treacle Toffee at the same time, so decided to throw some treacle in, I’m not including that tweak in the recipe here, but by all means try it if that flavour appeals, or use more sugar, onions have a lovely sweetness and this dish works well with both sweet and savoury flavours.

I based this on a BBC Good Food recipe, but made some veggie tweaks.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

50g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1kg onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar (we used dark brown sugar but whatever you have is fine)
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp plain flour
250ml dry white wine
1.3 litre hot vegetable stock
2 tsps of Miso or Marmite.
1 baguette
Vegetarian cheese grated. Traditionally this is served with Gruyere, but it isn’t usually vegetarian, so Cheddar, Mozzerella and Parmesan cheeses that are vegetarian are all good substitutes.

  1. Melt the oil and butter and gently fry the onions for 10 mins with the lid on the pan. Then add the sugar and fry until caramelised. You need to be brave here, the onions need to caramelise a golden brown colour to get the soup the right colour, so keep a close eye and keep stirring, don’t let them burn.
  2. Add the garlic towards the end of the onions cooking
  3. Add the flour and stir
  4. Increase the heat and add the wine
  5. Add the stock and Miso or Marmite.
  6. Simmer for 15-20 minutes
  7. Check the flavourings, at this point you can add more Marmite or Miso if you think it needs it. Season with salt (if it needs it, Marmite is salty) and pepper.
  8. Slice the baguette, toast one side and then turn over, add cheese and toast the other.
  9. Serve the cheese on toast in the dish or by the side, depending what your guest prefer.

These mini casseroles from Prestige would be fabulous to cook this in, do check out the amazing give-away we have this month, you could win the whole Prestige Vintage collection.

I was too busy having fun with fireworks and family, and the kitchen was dark by the time we had made ours, so no photos today, but the gorgeous image of Homemade French Onion Soup is from Shutterstock.

At Home: Why I am embracing Christmas early this year

Embracing Christmas Early

I’m realising the secret to really loving life and living more slowly is organisation. This dawned on me as I was reading Good Housekeeping magazine on a train home from London. Bear with me, I can’t stand that title either, it seems so wrong in this day and age, but, in my defence a good blogging friend was in it and it has some great articles. The more I read, the more I realised, if you want to have a great house, eat amazing food and enjoy some creative time, then you have to be organised.

For years I have resisted that, routine can also feel like such a burden, but I am at long last coming to the conclusion it’s the only way to be in control, and make space for the little things, which are the big things.

When my son was born, seven years ago at the end of November, we organised everything for Christmas before his arrival. Although a newborn sends everything upside down, it was the most wonderful month of enjoying being together at home, slowly letting Christmas traditions unfold and gradually venturing out to enjoy December unravelling with others. I’ve never forgotten that feeling.

Normally I stubbornly refuse to have anything to do with Christmas until December – I have no space in my head for it – but something changed with this year’s Autumn festivities. I threw myself into Halloween with my kids and we had an amazing time, running through the misty local streets dressed up and hunting houses with pumpkins made us all feel so alive.

Bonfire night came and I really felt something change in myself as I watched Mr A launching rockets at the bottom of the garden, the kids shouting out with excitement, my Dad launching cheeky banter at Mr A.  Rather than feeling like a chore and something extra to arrange, as festivities do when you are stressed, it felt like the most important thing in the world. By the time the sparklers came I had tears in my eyes, happy ones. These are the magic moments you never want to forget.

I decided right there that I want to really enjoy December, no tearing around madly trying to tie up work and organise Christmas at the same time.  I don’t want to be heading just for one big day, I want December to be savoured. Even before the holidays, there are so many lovely things to do in December, so many people to catch up with, so many things I could do for others – I always mean to donate to my local food bank for example. If I free up some time next month by organising as much as possible this month, I think December could feel quite different.

Here’s the plan:

Do all my Christmas shopping this month
Get it all wrapped this month
Make all the plans with family this month
Have another clear out, we’re doing really well on this, just a few more corners of the house to go and a trip to the charity shop in time for what we donate to be sold before Christmas.
Write my Christmas cards, meaningful ones, with letters.

Last night my daughter begged to play with the Christmas craft kit Baker Ross sent us to try out. It felt a little strange to be making Christmas decorations in November, but having the time to actually enjoy it with her was wonderful. Suddenly we realised it was past her bedtime and we were surrounded in glitter and paper, we’d been chatting about so many things. I can’t imagine having the headspace for that in an over packed December.

It might seem ambitious, but I have a good feeling about this, I think I am on to something. What do you reckon?

Image – Presents on a white chair, Shutterstock

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