Baby Hedgehogs

Hedgehog 1

The tiniest little hedgehog ever

I’ve had one of those weeks full of appointments and places to be, all of which have taken far longer than I’d hoped they would. This means that none of my week has gone according to my own personal plan, my “to-do” list remains largely unfinished and my house more of a wreck than usual. (Sigh.) Friday afternoon I thought I might finally get around to finishing up some of those onerous tasks when, as I pulled in from work, I saw my neighbor looking grim in her daughter’s pony’s stall. They’d discovered 3 baby hedgehogs the evening before and, being wise people, did the right thing and left the babies there.

Yesterday afternoon my neighbor discovered that one of the hedgehogs had died and the other two were looking pretty poor, so I, the veterinarian’s daughter (and having a very soft heart as a child and the belief that I could save every abandoned baby animal I found), hopped the fence to have a look. I quickly grabbed my gardening gloves and a box to put the two living hedgehogs in and we took them inside her house to give them a bit of sugar water while she phoned hedgehog rescue groups—as hedgehogs are endangered animals in England we wanted to ensure we did all we could to aid their survival.

Now, I must say, as a good country girl who was taught well by her parents: you should never disturb baby animals in the wild, as it’s very likely their mother is coming back for them. We made a judgment call to collect these two, as it didn’t look like their mother had been back to tend them and the two who were still alive weren’t going to be for long. As we live on a farm with multiple dogs and cats, and as the litter had been born in the pony’s stall, we felt fairly sure that the mother had either abandoned them because she was upset by all the animals around, or something had happened to her.

This little guy curled up into a ball as soon as I picked him up--he was adorable.

This little guy curled up into a ball as soon as I picked him up–he was adorable.

I fed them the best I could and tried to clean them up a little, but mostly we kept them warm with a hot water bottle and a towel in a box and took photos. Eventually I took them to a veterinarian’s office where they were going to be tended to until a rescue organization could pick them up.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a hedgehog in the wild, and certainly not a baby, and oh my goodness were they ever cute. So while I didn’t get to eat lunch until after 3:00 or do any of the things I had planned, I really had fun. Fingers crossed these two will make it.

Two baby hedgehogs curled up close

Two baby hedgehogs curled up close

Things I Don’t Understand About the British, Part 5.1

The heated towel rail. Totally pointless and very expensive.

The heated towel rail. Totally pointless and very expensive.

Last week I posted about my confusion with bathroom fixtures: the sink with separate hot and cold water taps, the cord to pull the light switch, and the lack of electrical outlets except for the plug for an electric razor. I’ve had some good comments about these things on Facebook and here, and thought they necessitated an update.

So. That thing about not having “mixer” taps? As it turns out, they exist! Some of my friends even have them, including my own sister-in-law, who also has an actual switch to turn on the light in her bathroom instead of a cord. Why do I not have these things?

One of our friends in America, who happens to be British, very helpfully posted a link to the equivalent of the British Home Depot where I discovered you can buy mixer taps for installation in your very own home! When I own a home again I will be installing these. Apparently such things weren’t common 20 or so years ago but are more common now, but I still don’t think I’ve seen them out in the real world.

Another of my readers commented here about the glass shower door that only encloses about half of the bath or shower, allowing you to splash water all over your bathroom floor. These I have seen and can’t make any sense of. You’ll have to take my word for it as I can’t find any photographic evidence of these online. The same reader also pointed out that there’s always the heated towel rail to make up for other bathroom failings—though I think he was in agreement with me that heated towel rails are pointless—in my experience they only heat a tiny portion of towel, and they don’t heat that portion very well. There might be a dearth of radiators in many British homes, but hey! We’ll install a heated towel rail to do a pretty poor job of heating your towel, and that’s it! For the rest of the day you can freeze.

Madeira Cake

I really like this #TastyTuesday thing—though my focus on cake could perhaps be re-directed to traditional English vegetables, like tatties & neeps (potatoes & parsnips), or swede (I don’t really get swede . . . kind of like a parsnip, kind of like a radish?). My midriff might thank me for the change in focus, but I do love a good cake. And cookie. And pie . . . .

This week I’m serving up Madeira Cake. I can’t recall ever eating it anywhere and I’m not sure how popular it is for home bakers to make. It’s similar to what Americans would know as pound cake, and equally delicious. The origins of Madeira cake stem back to the 19th century; it would’ve been fairly customary to offer guests to your home a slice of this cake and a glass of sweet dessert wine known as Madeira. Fear not, if you don’t have a glass of Madeira to accompany this cake, it is perfectly lovely with coffee or tea.

Madeira Cake

8 ounces/1 cup/2 sticks butter
1 cup/225 grams sugar
4 eggs
2 cups/220 grams flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C.

2. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and set aisde. Cream the butter and sugar.

3. Beat the eggs in a bowl over a pan of hot water and add them to the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and fold them into the mix. Add the lemon peel and pour the batter into the loaf pan.

4. Smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes before removing it from the pan, then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

This recipe called for the addition of 3 strips of citron peel—now I don’t know what citron is, so I Googled it and discovered it’s a type of citrus fruit. Obviously, I omitted it from the recipe though I would suggest, in addition to the lemon peel, adding in the juice of the lemon too for extra flavor. If you have citron and use it for this cake, send me a photo, will you? And tell me what the taste is like.

This recipe was taken from Great British Cooking.

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Things I Don’t Understand About the British, Part 5

This. I don’t understand this:

Why do I have separate hot and cold water taps? Why can’t I mix the water together from one tap and combine the two temperatures to the degree of warmth I want? Why? (I have never found a single place in Britain where this is possible—if anyone can show me photographic evidence that there is, please send it on.)

Also, carrying on with the bathroom theme, I don’t understand this:

Bathroom CordThis is the cord I have to pull to turn on the bathroom light—again, you will find this in every residential bathroom in the kingdom, probably even in the Queen’s multiple abodes as well. This drives me a little batty.

Right. My last thing I don’t understand from the bathroom is this:

This is the only outlet plug you are allowed to have in your bathroom in Britain. It’s for an electric razor. Because British voltage is 220 volts, and the powers that be are convinced its citizenry will electrocute themselves if provided with anything convenient like, say, a place to plug in a hairdryer in the bathroom. So, this is your only outlet option and you are left drying your hair staring into a mirror eight feet away on the other side of your bedroom. This is also why we have a cord to pull to turn our lights on, because, I imagine, if we had a switch on the wall we would touch it with damp fingers and electrocute ourselves.

It does make me wonder just how stupid the politicians and regulators think British citizens are (don’t answer that). My amusement with these regulations mirrors that of my in-laws when they learned that all American children are taught to “stop, drop, and roll” as part of fire safety. “What happens?” they have asked me, “Do American children regularly burst into flame?”

No, no more than British citizens routinely electrocute themselves by turning on a light switch. Go figure.

Scottish Shortbread

P1050121Everybody knows shortbread, right? Not many surprises to be had here, though quite a variety of recipes and additions, if you search through cookbooks and online. Shortbread is a recipe that you can make your own, if you like to experiment. Take a good basic shortbread recipe and add in a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract, perhaps some lemon or orange zest, maybe some chocolate chips and dried cranberries. You can even add some cocoa powder for chocolate shortbread.

Scotland is the home to shortbread, and until today, I didn’t know that there is a “National Shortbread Day” on January 6 in that fine nation. The first shortbread was made with bits of leftover bread dough, which was placed in a low-temperature oven and baked until hard, making it easy for farm workers and shepherds to put a piece in their pocket to have later in the day. Butter eventually replaced yeast in this confection, which led to it becoming quite crumbly—and no longer suitable for placing in one’s pocket! Once upon a time shortbread was a luxury few could afford and it became a traditional treat to offer to “first footers”—the first people who crossed your threshold on New Year’s Day in Scotland—and was otherwise a treat had at Christmas and weddings.

Traditional shortbread is decorated with a thistle pattern, which represents Scotland. For those of us who aren’t so art-y, it’s also quite acceptable to prick it with a fork around the edge, or crimp the edges with your thumb. There are 3 ways to make the shortbread: as round biscuits (cookies), in a round cake pan with each piece scored before baking, aka “Petticoat Tails” as they looked like the fabric pieces of a petticoat before it was sewn together, or into “fingers”—rectangular slabs.

This week, I took a basic shortbread recipe and didn’t get fancy: I simply added in a teaspoon of vanilla. Try this recipe out and let me know if you make any additions to it in the comments below!


1-3/4 cups/195 grams flour
4 tablespoons sugar
4 ounces/1 stick/.5 cup butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk (I found I needed 3 tablespoons)
sugar to decorate

1. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the sugar and rub the butter in with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the egg yolk and milk. Work into a smooth dough.

2. Transfer the dough to a cake pan 8 inches in diameter and press it out to the sides with your fingers. Crimp the edges with a fork and mark into slices. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3. Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C and bake the shortbread for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to 300°F/150°C and bake for another 30 minutes or until the shortbread begins to turn a light golden color. It should not brown!

4. Remove it from the oven and cut into slices while still warm. Don’t take it out of the pan until it is fully cooled. Sprinkle with a little sugar before serving.

Recipe taken from Great British Cooking.

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