My baby sister got married in Croatia a couple of months ago. I can honestly say it was the joint happiest day of my life so far. (The other, for avoidance of doubt, was my wedding to Pete, exactly 20 years ago today). It made my heart so happy to see my sister and her fine fiancé tie the knot, surrounded by friends and family – utterly magical.

I thought I’d cry during my speech but breeze through my reading. In the end, my emotions (and voice) caught during the reading, which was part way through the ceremony and caused my sister to cry as well, oops sorry about that! But I managed the speech without sobbing, though it caused a few (good) tears amongst some of the wedding party, I think!

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The setting for the ceremony was breath-taking, in the truest sense of the word – a hotel’s outdoor terrace overlooking the old town harbour, city walls and red tiled roofs – a view that made us gasp. The weather was searingly hot and we sat (or stood in the case of the bridesmaids, best man and groom) wilting in the heat, but still all of us grinned at her beauty when we saw her arriving on my dad’s arm. The ceremony was lovely and soon they were married. Such an adorable couple.

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After the ceremony, the entire wedding party walked down to the harbour for a champagne reception on an old-style sightseeing boat. As the group walked through the old town, local buskers spontaneously switched to playing Here Comes The Bride, and fellow tourists stopped to watch and applaud. Boat trip around the city walls and nearby Lokrum island over, we walked back to the hotel where tables had been set up on the terrace for the evening meal, speeches and dancing.

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The entire day was glorious!

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Pete and I travelled to Dubrovnik a few days before the wedding and also booked to stay on another 4 days afterwards. We spent the first few days in a beautiful villa with pool with my sister and brother-in-law-to-be and the bridesmaids, best man and partners. For our last few days, we were very pleased with our choice of the Hilton Dubrovnik, with an enviable location right by Pile Gate and a very enjoyable breakfast buffet to boot.

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We had plans to do lots of sightseeing locally in Dubrovnik and take day trips to nearby islands.

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In the end, the weather in late June/ early July was so hot and humid that I was zapped of what little energy I can ever summon within minutes of stepping outside. I’ve certainly endured hotter but Dubrovnik’s summer heat was astonishingly oppressive. We hoped that early starts in the morning might allow us to evade the heat but discovered that it was already hotter than Hades by 8 o’clock in the morning!

All of which is why we did little more than eat out and walk the city walls for the entire week of our visit!

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… and we only managed to get half way around the city walls walk before my abject terror of heights (and the resultant need to scale most of the stairs sideways like a crab, clinging to the railings for dear life) combined with the excessive heat (even though we started the circuit the moment the gates opened at 8 a.m.) saw us admit defeat after an hour. Presciently, we began with the half that afforded us views of Dubrovnik old town with a backdrop of indigo blue sea and the island of Lokrum behind.

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But we did fall for the beautiful old town and quickly came to understand why my sister and brother-in-law chose this pretty place in which to tie the knot.

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We had many delicious lunches and dinners but here are my top picks; all three are located in the old town, inside or just outside the city walls.

Pizzeria Tabasco (Cavtatska ulica 11)

The company from whom we rented the villa gave us some excellent restaurant recommendations, including this lovely pizzeria located just outside the city walls, near the lower entrance to the cable car.

Enormous, wood-fire oven-baked pizzas with really delicious toppings, these were not only top quality but incredibly good value too. One of the toppings on mine was a local fresh cheese which quickly melted into puddles a minute or so after it was served to the table. One of the best Italian-style pizzas I’ve had, anywhere.

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Restoran Dubrovnik (Marojice Kaboge 5)

In the maze of narrow streets within the old town walls, this elegant restaurant is a little out of the way of the busiest thoroughfares and feels a little more peaceful as a result. The tables are on an open rooftop, with sliding roofing panels available to provide protection should the weather require. We loved this outdoor seating with its surround view of the beautiful stone buildings of the old town.

The menu is modern European with a focus on local ingredients and we enjoyed our first meal so much we booked to go back on our last evening.

Pricier than the other two, but (from our Londoner perspective) still reasonable for the quality – and much less expensive than other high end restaurants in town.

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Taj Mahal (Ulica Nikole Gučetića 2,

In spite of the Indian name, this is actually a Bosnian restaurant and the tables are tucked along one edge of a narrow old town alley.

By far the most popular dish amongst customers was cevapi – little grilled minced meat kebabs. They were simply served inside soft warm bread with raw red onions and the most amazing butter and fresh cheese condiment that I devoured (and then asked for more of).

They also do some delicious local meat and cheese platters and a range of other Bosnian dishes. Various others in the wedding party visited during the week and enjoyed the Taj Mahal as much as we did.

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As for ice cream (or gelato, as it’s mostly in the Italian style), there are many excellent ice cream vendors to choose from and I suggest you go for the nearest when the mood for ice cream strikes!

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Our plan is to head back to Dubrovnik (and the rest of Croatia too) in the next year or two for a spring or autumn break, when the weather is a little more conducive to more active exploration.

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Message on a bottle – words from Croatian natural water brand

 

P.s. Happy 20th wedding anniversary, Pete. I love you!

Feb 272014
 

A random set of images from Japan:

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A friend of bread is a friend of mine

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Cupola Sanjo, the covered segment of Sanjo Dori (and its delightful chicken logo)

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Waiting at a tram stop, Osaka

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Details, Pontocho, Kyoto

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Children’s book, Kyoto Coffee Shop – rather surreal to try and understand it from the pictures alone

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Osaka Marathon support crew; Peeking into an Osaka games parlour

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Takoyaki stall octopus dressed for Halloween, Osaka

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Ice cream twins, Kyoto

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Fortune slips and berries, Kyoto

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My sweet and malty near-namesake

Feb 242014
 

More images from our last trip to Japan – these ones have a shopping theme.

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Cat and dog purses

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Trouser mannequins; Hello Kitty Pez dispenser

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Giant wasp or bee in honey; Mentaiko

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Kumamon charms; Maneki-neko (beckoning cat) ornaments

Feb 152014
 

A few more images from Japan:

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Cats of Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

 

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Pampered Dogs, Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto

 

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Model of a biting dog outside a restaurant in Gion, Kyoto

 

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Cat in a hat, Sumiyoshitaisha Shrine, Osaka

 

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Cuddly Dominion, Kyushu

 

Grammarly is a writing tool that checks spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary usage. It also provides a plagiarism checker which offers suggested citations if references to existing material are found within the text. Please note that this is a sponsored link and I have received payment for sharing this link with you.

 

A photo album of Pete and I enjoying Japan.

 

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Pete loved his vending machine coffee and got antsy if he couldn’t find his favourite brands; Pete buying ramen

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Pete feasting on gyoza, katsu don, beef don and yakinuku

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Us enjoying okonimiyaki in Kyoto

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Us, feasting again

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Pete with coffee and beer

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Pete on the bus, local train, tram and shinkansen

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Pete enjoying ice cream; Pete buying doughnuts

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Kavey in the tower; Kavey with Kumamoto Castle

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Kavey with Hello Kitty, zebra and giraffe, Tanuki-san, Snoopy, Daruma-san and as a Samurai

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Pete as a Samurai (with amused schoolboys) at Kumamoto Castle; Pete with tiger bag, in a Tokyo shop

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Pete with Kumamon, with his hand up a pink sheep, behind a stone pagoda and with another Kumamon

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Pete trying (and failing) to win chocolate in an arcade; Pete in front of street art shutters

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Pete at various temples and shrines

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Pete placing a stone on a torii, throwing a coin and admiring lilies at Umi Jigoku

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Us at Umi Jigoku

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Pete ringing the large bell at a temple in Usuki; Pete admiring Takachiho Gorge

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Views of Kyushu, as Pete drives

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Pete outside the entrance and Kavey in our private outdoor onsen at Sanga ryokan

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Us at Mount Aso

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Pete being a chicken, Us outside a Kyoto coffee shop

Jan 292013
 

A picture post today.

I came across these Scandinavian biscuit photos whilst sorting through my photo drive. They are vanilla cookies from Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Christmas book. I formed all the dough into rings but then sprinkled half with some cinnamon sugar from a different recipe. These were baked last November, during a visit to my friend’s place, Orchard Cottage. I love the bright sunlight and the happy feel of the images, so I’m sharing them with you today.

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Ready to go into the oven, above.

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Fresh out of the oven.

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Ready to eat!

 

I made the switch from film to digital photography many years ago, and swiftly taught myself how to use simple image processing to make the best of my images. Whilst a few folk still like to suggest that all digital processing is fakery, they are often just woefully ignorant of how significantly one can adjust a printed image in a traditional darkroom. It’s for good reason that image processing is often called the digital darkroom, allowing for similar adjustments in exposure, contrast, shadows and highlights as well as cropping, colour balance and saturation. Having used both, I don’t miss the back ache and slow progress of a traditional darkroom, though I used to enjoy it at the time!

I’ve been using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom to process my images for years; these days I mostly use Lightroom and open my older version of Photoshop more rarely. Lightroom is currently priced at around £100 for the full version or £60 if upgrading from an earlier version, which I think is a fair price. However, Photoshop pricing has gone through the roof with a full version currently priced at £660 and the upgrade from earlier versions still £188. Both tools are focused on photo editing, and do not offer any graphic design features. For that, you’d need yet another programme, such as Adobe Illustrator. And if you need to throw some professional documents together, there’s a separate desktop publishing programme, InDesign.

When it comes to video editing, I used to struggle along with Windows Movie Editor, but gave up on that some time ago, when it suddenly became incapable of handling multiple clips in one file. As one would expect from a free tool, it was very short on features anyway.

I was recently approached by Magix with the offer of trialling some of their photo editing and video editing tools. To that end, I’ve installed Xara Photo and Graphic Designer (£70) and Movie Edit Pro Plus (£80).

One of the first things to notice about Xara is that it offers photo editing, graphic design functionality, and desktop publishing. I’ve spent just a few hours playing with Xara so far. I will say that, with so much functionality, you will need to invest a fair amount of time in learning how to use it. The help pages are not ideally arranged, and it took me a fair bit of searching through the Help Index and jumping from section to section, to work out even the rudimentary functions. However, this is true of any complex software tool used for similar purposes. There are also a number of tutorials available in the online magazine and video tutorials are often shared over at their Facebook page.

The photo editing offers reasonable functionality, though would not replace something like Lightroom for a serious photographer – one example is the temperature (white balance) control which offers only one slider to cool or warm the image, rather than the usual pair of yellow/ blue and red/ green sliders. It also doesn’t offer batch processing of images, which is essential for large volume processing.

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The graphic design tools look good, and there are also lots of design templates which you can use as they are, replacing the holding images with your own. It took me only a few minutes to create the collage above, using a template, pulling in my own images and replacing the text. I’d like a wider range of collage templates, but that’s probably because this is one functionality that doesn’t exist in my Adobe tools. I’ve been using Picasa to create collages but am unhappy with the way Picasa handles files and file locations, so have been looking for an alternative.

I’ve never really used graphic design software, though a clever friend of mine used Xara to transcribe my hand-drawn logo for Mamta’s Kitchen into the image file we currently use as the header for the website. This is an area of Xara I need to explore further going forward, though I’m not very talented in this area.

That leaves Movie Edit Pro, and I’m afraid I’ve been rather lax in this area, and not yet had time to play around with it. However, Pete has some video footage from a recent trip to edit, and he’s going to give Movie Edit Pro a go. The features list looks promising so I’m confident it’ll be a big improvement over the tools we’ve tried before.

 

COMPETITION

Magix are offering both the above products as prizes for a Kavey Eats competition.

  • The first winner picked will receive a code to download a copy of Xara Photo and Graphic Designer.
  • The second winner picked will receive a code to download a copy of and Movie Edit Pro Plus.

Please note that these programmes are suitable for Windows users only. Full systems requirements can be found at the Magix.com.

 

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 2 ways:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, answering the following question:
How do you currently edit your photos or videos?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @KaveyF on twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below:
I’d love to win @Magix_UK photo or video editing software from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/EIPmn #KaveyEatsMagix

 

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 26th October 2012.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • Prize 1 is a digital download of Magix Xara Photo and Graphic Designer. Prize 2 is a digital download of Magix Movie Edit Pro Plus. Prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered by Magix.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You do not have to enter both ways for your entries to be valid.
  • For twitter entries, winners must be following @KaveyF at the time of notification, as this will be sent by Direct Message.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email or twitter (for twitter entries). If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received review copies of Xara Photo and Graphic Designer and Movie Edit Pro Plus courtesy of Magix.

This competition is now closed. Winners are MarklesUK (via twitter) and Tori.

Rhubarb

14 Mar 2012  8 Responses »
Mar 142012
 

First of the year’s rhubarb, harvested from the allotment on Sunday morning.

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Every time I eat some of Nidal Rayess’ apricot jam, which I’ve eked out with unusual willpower, I chide myself for not having shared the experience of our day visiting Nidal at his factory in Lebanon, last spring.

So, extremely late though it is, I am finally sharing another Lebanon highlight.

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Nidal Rayess is the manager of Rayess Trading, a family business established by his grandfather Nemer Rayess in 1920, during the French occupation of Lebanon.

The business makes top quality cheese and dairy products such as labneh (strained yoghurt), halloumi and several local cheeses as well as a wide selection of mouneh, a catch-all term which describes preserves made during the harvest season and stored in the larder to be enjoyed throughout the year. Mouneh includes jams, pickles, fruits in syrup and even dried balls of labneh preserved in oil.

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Before meeting Nidal, we stopped for a brief snack in his small traditional store in Chtaura, shelves stacked high with mouneh and deli counter well-stocked with fresh dairy products.

(One thing you learn very quickly is that you never go long without eating, on a Taste Lebanon tour!)

But the highlight of our day was heading to Nidal’s home and factory, where he showed us around the manufacturing premises and processes. First, we watched his staff making and branding halloumi and preserving candied orange peels.

During the First World War, Nidal’s grandfather Nemer was working in concrete construction for the French Army. Also working for the army was a Greek chef from whom Nemer learned the traditional recipe and methods for making Greek halloumi, as well as fresh and pressed ricotta.

Nidal still makes halloumi in exactly the same way, with milk from the business’ own herd of cows, pastured in the North of the country.

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The halloumi is cooked in huge copper vats, which were hand made in Turkey in 1870 and formerly used to cook wheat in the Taanayel kitchens of Ottoman governors (who ruled Lebanon until the close of the First World War). Whilst many modern producers use stainless steel vats, Nidal says that copper handles a higher temperature, allowing the heat to better penetrate the halloumi during the cooking time, resulting in a difference in taste in the finished product.

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Hot out of the pans, squares of halloumi are folded in half and arranged on a metal table between large wooden planks, which help them to set into the right shape.

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After they’ve all been shaped, they are branded with a logo.

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And then turned over to flatten the other side.

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Labneh is traditionally made by straining yoghurt. Modern industrial manufacturers have switched to using centrifuges to spin out excess liquid, but the resulting labneh doesn’t have the incredibly rich and creamy texture of Nidal’s, which is still made the old-fashioned way. Nidal makes both cow and goat milk labneh, the cow milk coming from his own herd, as above.

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Don’t assume that the factory is without any modern technology. Nidal doesn’t stick with the old ways unthinkingly but follows tradition where it creates a superior product. The factory uses modern equipment where and when it’s needed, such as this vacuum-packaging machine, above.

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Orange peels are first prepped, then added to a hot sugar syrup, stirred regularly as they cook. They smell wonderful!

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No jams are being made during our visit, but Nidal does share some of his tips for the astonishingly special apricot jam that both Aiofe and I fall head over heels for.

First, of course, is the selection of the fruit. As most jam makers know, the better the quality of the fruit you start with, the better the finished jam. But Nidal takes this to another level; for his apricot jam, he uses only the ripest half of each fruit, the half that was most bathed in sunlight, as it grew. I daren’t ask what happens to the discarded halves, though I’m sure they are used by someone to make a less magical product! There are also improvements to be made elsewhere in the recipe; Nidal uses three different types of sugar, balanced to contribute just the right flavour and consistency to the jam.

In our tasting of cheeses, labneh and jams we are blown away by the warm, fresh halloumi (better than any I’ve tasted), and the wonderfully creamy labneh (which really brings home why Nidal’s products are a favourite of the Jordanian royal family, no less). But it’s the jam that steals our hearts, and which we happily bring home with us. In fact, Pete and I bought a brand new suitcase, just to ensure we had space for our precious cargo!

Just as in the UK, the Lebanese enthusiasm for top quality artisan food continues to grow. After our day with Nidal and our visit to Abu Kassem’s za’atar farm, it’s not hard to see why.

Lebanon is a beautiful country to visit – striking landscapes, ancient history, a warm and welcoming people and some really fantastic food. Go! See you for yourself!

 

When I was sixteen I had my wisdom teeth taken out.

Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

My best friend’s mum gave me a brown paper bag of clementines as a ‘get well soon’ gesture. They were the tiniest clementines I’d ever seen, little more than an inch in diameter. I loved these adorable miniature citrus fruits and have always bought them whenever I’ve come across them since, which hasn’t been often…

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But I looked for them last winter, and again over the last few months, and couldn’t find them anywhere. Worse still, more than one fruit stall vendor looked at me like I was asking for oranges grown on Mars! Occasional sightings by friends (in non-local shops) convinced me I wasn’t going crazy.

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Finally, I found these baby tangerines in my local Waitrose and had to put them in my basket. (I didn’t have a choice, they were calling to me, “Eat me, Kavey, eat me!” they squeaked).

I candied them, using the same recipe I first tried for Christmas day, and made again a few days later.

No alcohol this time, just sugar, water and the little oranges. Delicious!

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These oranges are so cute, I can’t resist sharing photos, even though I blogged the recipe so recently.

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