Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas bake off

Little Man took this picture - it's better than anything I could do!

Well, it's all over and I'm missing it already. For the first time ever we had most of it by ourselves. Usually, my parents come to stay for at least a week and after a while things get a bit fraught. But in the summer, we took a selfish stand and said we wanted it on our own. This didn't go down very well, but they were good enough not to say anything, and stayed with my brother instead, hee, hee, hee!
Anyway, we had Husband's parents for lunch on Christmas day, and my parents came for afternoon tea on boxing day(yesterday). We are all feeling festive, happy and relaxed, it's been the best Christmas ever!
With the lack of house guests, the children and I got down to some serious Christmas preparation. We got busy gingerbread decorations for the tree (they never did make it to the tree!). We used the recipe we use every year, and I honestly can't remember where I got it from, but it's good, so here it is:

Ginger Bread Tree Decorations
12oz plain white four
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp ground ginger
1tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground cloves
4oz butter
6oz light brown soft sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celcius.
Sift the spices, bicarbonate of soda and flour into a bowl.
Rub the butter into the flour mixture, until it forms fine breadcrumbs.
Warm the syrup (I put it in the microwave for 20 seconds).
Beat the egg into the warm syrup (wait for the syrup to cool slightly, so it doesn't cook the egg!)
Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix with hands or a wooden spoon.
Roll the dough out into a 1/4 inch thick layer (if you roll it too thinly the biscuits will be very crunchy. I like my gingerbread soft and chewy, so I roll it out a bit more thickly).

Then use a selection of cutters to make Christmassy shapes. Line some baking sheets with greaseproof paper, ready for the cut out gingerbread.

Pierce each shape with a large hole and pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Let them cool on a rack and then get busy with the icing. This year I opened my baking cuboard and got all the cake decorations that I've collected over the year, and the kids had a ball! Here are the results, Christmas bling:

We also decorated the Christmas cake I made three weeks ago. I love bloggy before and after shots, so here's mine:


Merry Christmas!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Our upside down Christmas tree

It all started so well. I packed the Little People into the car (Husband was too bah humbug to come, so stayed at home with his paper!)and off we went. We headed up to Whittenham Clumps, the highest hills around, to the place we get our Chrismas trees. It's quite hard to find, because it's in someone's back garden. About thirty years ago, the man who owns the garden planted a tree which has self seeded again and again. He's turned it into a truly magical place.

Snow was still on the ground, and a the Little People ran through the trees and disappeared, all I could hear was laughter breaking the freezing silence. I was getting all nostalgic, until Little Lady ran towards me saying 'Mummy, I need a wee'.

We had to find a 'Den' in amongst the trees and she got to melt some snow.
Any way, we couldn't find a beautiful small tree, so the owner said he'd chop the top six foot off a twenty foot tree for us - they needed to be thined out. Little Man shouted 'Timber',and we got our tree! I got it into the car - just!

And when we got the tree home, Husband pointed out it was too big for the house. He rushed off excitedly to get his electric. He sawed and chopped a bit off the top, a bit off the bottom, a bit more off the top, a bit more off the bottom, until we could get it into the house...
The problem was there was a bit too much taken off the bottom, so we ended up with an amazing upside down Christmas tree!

It still looks beautiful to me though... the dark!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

My Favorite Books of all Time

I've been fiddling with my blog today, tweeking this, deleting that, and I realised I want to start lists of things. I'm a messy organiser - I love to get one thing organised, even if everything else is falling apart around me! Anyway here goes with my list of best books (the ones with a (C) are children's books!):

The Tiger who Came to Tea - Judith Kerr (C)
Fix-it- Duck - Jez Alborough (C)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (C)
Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
Dreams of my Father - Barack Obama
Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
Madame Bovary - Flaubert
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Animal Farm - George Orwell
How to Eat - Nigella Lawson
Mort - Terry Pratchett
Driving Over Lemons - Chris Stewart
Vanilla Beans and Brodo - Isabella Dusi
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
Wild Swans - Jung Chang
Bound Feet and Western Dress - Pang-Mei Chang
American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Homemade Secret Santa

I had a rare two seconds to think at work about two weeks ago, and I put it to great use. We do Secret Santa every year, but it's got a bit tired, so I took the initiative and sent an email. It read 'This year, in honor of the credit crunch, it's homemade Secret Santa, the budget is limited to £5.' A frisson of excitement went through the office and then everything went quiet.

Once I'd set the ball in motion, I had creators' block, great! So I did some blog stalking (I will leave a comment one of these days!), and then typed crochet into You Tube. I love seeing what people make films about, and I can't believe how much you can learn about crafting from the tutorials people make and upload. Anyway, I found these two VERY easy tutorials:
Simple hat
Threadbanger hat
I sort of combined the two, got some wool that's been hanging around for ages and made a hat. When it was finished, it looked a bit dull, so I went back to You Tube for a flower tutorial. This one was great:
Crochet flower
The end result is my first ever crochet hat:

The crochet bug had me in its grip, so I bought some cotton yarn and followed no particular pattern to make up this hat. It looked a bit plain, so I went back to You Tube and found out how to crochet a heart and some leaves, and voila - a strawberry hat:

I loved it so much I sent it to a friend's two year old daughter for Christmas. Now I have to make a pink one for Little Lady, I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Cosy for Christmas

I have a great friend who forces me out most evenings for power walks, gym sessions, aerobics classes and we never stop talking! I'm fitter than I've ever been and I've got to know a really lovely person. Now Christmas is round the corner, I've been trying to think of something to give her.
Earlier in the year, (or was it last year?)I crocheted a blanket in a little over a week. Every time my friend babysits for us, we find her snuggled under the blanket at the end of the evening. She's also mentioned the blanket several times, so it occured to me that she might like one of her own.
I've labelled this post as a tutorial, but I feel like a bit of a fraud! I'm sorry if you were expecting more detail, I'm not proficient enough with crochet (yet!) to do any better than this! Anyway, it was really easy, I just bought two types of wool, got out two sizes of crochet hook(8mm and 5mm)and started making a chain, then I just double crocheted(I think it's triple crochet in the UK, but I'm no expert)for four nights and Voila:

I got carried away with the camera, so I took a few arty shots, as you can see I'm no professional!