Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year's Eve

We had a lovely, fun-filled Christmas despite the coughs and colds.

Here are a few photos of our Christmas.
The Chocolate Tree
I ran out of time this year so all the goodies were bought.
No mice were harmed in the making of this tree!

The fairy cakes were decorated with snowmen.

The chocolate fruit cake was decorated with icing stars and chocolate covered coffee beans.

Fay and Jay opening their presents.

And Santa Claus dropped by to give my Mum a kiss!

Christmas lunch.

And teatime. Half the cake has already been eaten by Jay!

Hope you all has a good Christmas and wishing you a Very Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Christmas Baking Tradition

A big part of Christmas for myself is baking lots of goodies for my family. I started with Vanilla Snap Biscuits, shaped like snowflakes and encrusted with sugar crystals and a Chocolate Fruit Cake.

The cake is a Nigella-recipe but I alter it by only using a quarter of the orange juice, otherwise I find it is too wet and takes forever to cook. This will be dusted with icing sugar and cocoa powder and decorated with chocolate-coated coffee beans and little, icing stars.

Cheese and Onion Rolls.

With a Delia filling, for the vegetarian (me).

Sausage Rolls.

For the carnivores!

Fairy Cakes (to be decorated) and Gingerbread Angels.

Fig and Walnut Slice.

A new recipe this year.

Cheesy Stars.

And finally, I decorated the cake. This was not the design I intended to do this year. It was supposed to be Santa and his reindeers flying in the sky towards the moon. A little over ambitious! The reindeers were okay but the sleigh looked like something that a toddler would make out of Playdough!! My snowman may have silver, twig arms by the end of today, but it was almost midnight by the time I had finished yesterday so they had to wait.

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Almost Christmas

The presents are wrapped and I have finally finished decorating.
I managed to find a few holly berries that the birds has missed.
My kitchen flower arrangement.
The red curls are kept from year to year and all the greenery is locally sourced.

Table arrangement.
Not sure about this one.

Some mistletoe from the allotment.
Not very many berries on this either. Although it is very mild at the moment, we had a cold snap earlier and the birds seem to have eaten most of the berries around here.
I've gone OTT up the stairs this year! Glam or tacky?

My Nana's vase that I fill each year with baubles.

Just the baking to do now and the decorating of the cake. I roasted and peeled the chestnuts yesterday, ready for the nut ring that we will have on Christmas Eve and then I can have a portion of it on Christmas Day whilst everyone else has turkey.
On the bathroom front, the second bath is also scratched (scream) and another one of the work tops! OH spent the weekend removing the old basin and toilet and putting in new pipes. Hopefully he can fit the new basin and toilet after work this week. We made space in the garage for the damaged bath, so at least the living room is getting back to normal. New bath can't be delivered until January! What fun! Never mind, at least because of the damage to the old bath Fay doesn't spent hours in there and we don't have to keep asking her to hurry up because we all want a bath! There's usually a silver lining!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Getting in the Mood

The festive mood that is! I feel as though I am finally getting organised and getting over the lurgy, only an almost constant cough left. I have done most of my grocery shopping, only fruit, vegetables, bread and dairy produce to purchase next week and the decorations are slowly going up.

Each year I place some fairy lights and holly-shaped tinsel on top of my kitchen cabinets and two twiggy, gold stars on the oven hood. These are my favourite decorations and I feel really festive baking with the fairy lights on.

My husband made this ceramic lamp 20 years ago when we belonged to a ceramic club. The painted coffee jar is waiting to be filled with snowmen-shaped marshmallows. If I put them in the jar too soon they will all be gone before Christmas week!!
I made two of these decorations yesterday, one for the landing and one in the hall, from a circle of garden wire (shaped around the top of a bucket) wrapped in tinsel and decorated with 3 glass hearts purchased from Homebase yesterday. All their decorations are reduced, these were a bargain 97p each and 3 for 2.

This morning is my last time at home, before Christmas, without anyone around so I'm off to wrap presents. Is it too early to play my Christmas songs tape?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Decorating for Christmas

At the weekend I managed to get the Christmas tree decorated. As you can see it is complemented by the items sitting next to it ... a washbasin, toilet and bath!! The new bathroom suite arrived last week but unfortunately, as is often the way nowadays, there is some damage to the bath and cabinet tops, so my OH was unable to fit them at the weekend. Hopefully the new bath and tops will arrive on Thursday so that we fit them and can get the living-room tidied up for Christmas.

This is the beautifully scented, Christmas decoration that I received as part of a forum swap. I can't show the items I made as it is a Secret Santa Swap.

The children have their own small Christmas trees and each year I make them a decoration each, with their name and the year on. Here are a few of the previous years.

I'm hoping to have the rest of the decorations up by the end of the week. I'm very late this year, but at least I have finished my present shopping and only have the groceries to buy. Only 3 more days at work and then I am on holiday for a couple of weeks ... can't wait!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Christmas Puddings and Mince Pies

I've been hit by the dreaded lurgy, but as they say "there's no rest for the wicked", what with Christmas just around the corner, so I have made some individual Christmas puddings and mince pies this week and put them in the freezer. I like to bake as many items as possible in advance so that I at least feel slightly organised!
Individual Christmas Puddings
150g/5oz SR flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground mixed spice
50g/2oz softened butter
2 eggs, size 2
75ml/3floz molasses or treacle
110ml/4floz Irish stout
2 tbsp dark rum
411g jar of luxury or homemade mincemeat
75g/3oz Bramley apple - peeled, cored and finely chopped
175g/6oz currants
25g/1oz roasted hazelnuts, chopped
Grated zest of an orange and a lemon
8 individual pudding basins plus paper and foil
1. Place dry ingredients, butter, eggs, molasses, stout and rum into a processor and beat together. Alternatively place ingredients into a large bowl and use a hand-held electric whisk.
2. Stir in mincemeat, apple, currants, nuts and zests.
3. Grease 8 small pudding basins and divide mixture equally into the basins.
4. Cover each with a circle of buttered greaseproof paper and a square of foil, using a pleating motion to seal edges.
5. Place in a roasting tin and pour 1cm of boiling water around the basins.
6. Bake in a preheated oven at 180'C for approximately 45 minutes.
7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from basins by running a knife around the pudding before turning onto a serving plate.
These can also be cooled, individually wrapped in greaseproof paper and placed in a container in the freezer until Christmas. Defrost before cooking and bake on a tray, covered with a foil tent at 180'C for 25 minutes or reheat in a microwave.
Orange Pastry for Mince pies
500g/1lb plain flour
175g/6oz icing sugar
375g/12oz softened butter
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Sift flour into a bowl and rub in butter until mixture is crumbled. Stir in zest and sugar. Using a knife stir in orange juice until dough just begins to stick together. Gather up dough and pat into a disk, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Makes approximately 24 mince pies. The pastry is light, crumbly and rich so leave the mince pies to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.
They are very rich so I make mine in mini muffin tins, which then makes 55 smaller pies.

That's two items off the to-do-list ... lots more left!

Friday, 28 November 2008


Pretty in Pink ... Whilst Ella was sleeping underneath a radiator (snoring for England!), Maurice crept onto her blanket. He knew he shouldn't really be there, as he jumped down the first time I tried to take a photo of him, but soon got back up again.
Tickled Pink ... At finding this book in the library and at finding this Rowan Ribbon Twist at a bargain £1 per ball. I am secretly knitting a scarf for Fay for Christmas.
I am also knitting another beaded bag, this time as a gift for Rachael. Pink again.
In the pink ... my bling Crocs that I wear indoors.
I seem to have gone overboard with pink recently, even the garden hasn't escaped!

I have also bought a taupe/cerise skirt and cerise bolero to wear at Christmas. A departure from my usual blue - I'm obviously not feeling myself and had better go and have a lie down!! I think I need to - only four weeks to Christmas and I am feeling very disorganised. Is it only me, or has Christmas crept up on anyone else?

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Another New Recipe ...

... Mushroom Burgers
I have adapted a recipe from a recent Vegetarian magazine and stuffed 4 large mushrooms with a spinach mixture. To make, fill a processor bowl 2/3 full of baby spinach leaves. Add a clove of garlic, 1 tsp of lemon juice, 1 slice of wholemeal bread, some mature cheddar and the stalks of the large mushrooms plus a couple of smaller mushrooms. Season and process. Fill 4 large mushrooms with the mixture and top with a few slices of cheese. Bake at 190'C for 15 minutes. Toast seeded burger buns and place one cooked mushroom in the centre of each bun. The quantities are not crucial and cheese can be changed to use whatever is to hand.
Please excuse the blurred photo.
Ready to eat.
Be warned, like all good burgers some of the filling is likely to slip out!

Craft wise I have completed the items for the two secret santa swaps on the CL forum, but I can't show them, so here is something I made earlier this year.

My pine hand-mirror was looking a little sad so I painted, distressed and silver-leafed it.

Nothing much has been happening here, apart from my husband cracking our bath the other night!! Just what we need in the run up to Christmas!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Cats in the Kitchen

Trying to cook in our kitchen is like swimming in a shark-infested sea as I am constantly being circled by two cats!

So I filled up their mouse toy with dried food to keep them occupied (not for long) whilst I cooked our evening meal.

This is the finished tart.
Butternut Squash,Caramelised Onion and Goat's Cheese Galette adapted from the Smitten Kitchen's butternut squash and caramelised onion galette
Maurice is also making a nuisance of himself elsewhere in the house. At night time he likes to stretch out on a middle stair. Being a cat he doesn't move, but expects you to step over him. A bit of a problem when he is black and you can't see him in the dark. I'm thinking of renaming him Mort as he is going to be the death of someone!
On the craft front, I have finished painting these wooden stars for a friend to sell in her shop and I am cracking on with the cross-stitch decoration. I am taking part in two forum Christmas swaps and I have some family Christmas presents to make, so please forgive me is the blogging isn't as frequent as usual.

Monday, 10 November 2008

A Weekend of Remembering

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

We managed to watch a firework display before the wind and rain reached us.

Remembrance Sunday

Jay looking very smart in his uniform.

One very proud Mum, but a Mum who is also hoping that he doesn't follow his Dad into the Forces. Whatever you chose please keep safe.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Kisses & Crochet

Chocolate Kisses that is! In a previous post I mentioned that my husband had brought home some Kisses and I made these Peanut Butter Blossoms from a recipe in a magazine.
I have finished another stash-buster. I taught myself to ripple!! (Jay says I have ripples ... he usually spoils a hug by squeezing them!!) The yarns I used were leftover acrylics from knitting baby clothes for Jay. Now he has a cushion for his bedroom floor. He has just grown-out of a pair of much loved, skull patterned jeans and likes the idea of them being made into a patchwork cushion for his room - another item on my "to do" list.

On the craft front, I have been painting wooden stars for my friend to sell in her shop as Christmas decorations, taken part in a Halloween swap and postcard swap. I still haven't finished the cross-stitch decoration for Fay, so I intend to finish that before I start anything else!
Feel free to nag me about it until I post a photo of the completed item ;)