Monday 28 December 2009

It's a cracker...

One of the songs A sang at her nursery show (on the theme of Christmas around the world) was Kling Glockchen Klingeling. I looked it up on YouTube, as you do, and came across this version by Marianne and Michael. I have to say that I find it absolutely fascintating and have watched it so many times though can't quite understand why! Is it the costumes, the naff musical arrangement, what they're doing with their hands, the audience... it led me on a YouTube journey following Marianne & Michael - what an enjoyable waste of time that was!

A's show was on the 16th Dec which was when the "worst cold I've ever had" started. Since then I've not been able to taste or smell anything which is perhaps just as well as it means I can't taste the yucky green stuff I am exuding - I've never experienced so much snot/phlegm during a cold! To top it all, we all succumbed to a vomiting bug the weekend before Christmas - N managed to cover his bedroom floor and A the sofa (we had to cancel the big family get together we'd planned for the Sunday). Then I developed sinusitus. Today I'm now finally feeling human again though still unable to small or taste and also my ears are now blocked. Thankfully the sinusitus seems to have cleared up as although I'm still bunged up it's no longer painful. Ahhh woe is me! Not a Christmas I'd like to repeat. We've had lots of lovely snow but I can't wait for it to go as I hate the horrible cold damp air that comes with it - just sets my coughing off again.

I've pretty much been hibernating over the Christmas period. Hubby kindly did the Christmas food shop. I'd put crackers on the list as it's not Christmas without crackers, except he bought biscuit crackers! There was also no fresh poultry left so he bough a frozen turkey which is fine except we left it out in the snow as we didn't have any room in the fridge/freezer and didn't read the label till the morning of Christmas eve when we realised it took 48 hrs to defrost. Fortunately he was able to get back to the shops & buy some proper crackers and a ham. We've still the trukey in the freezer - I'm looking forward to eating it once my sense of taste returns.

His family have a big "do" on boxing day where we all take something to eat. I didn't go this year but I had made a key lime pie when I was feeling better which I'd frozen. Hubby took it and the children along. It was in a springform tin. He didn't know that you had to support the base when you released the spring...

Hope you're having a better Christmas than we are!


Wednesday 16 December 2009

Christmas Preparations

Well! I'm a little bit busy and a big bit disorganised but I wanted to post some photos from the last week. After seeing Chritsmas trees up and decorated on other people's blogs at the weekend I was motivated to get a move on with ours, it looks and smelled nice (I can't actually smell it at the moment due to a completely blocked up nose!)

At the last minute I now have family descending on the 20th for a meal and a present swap so Christmas has suddenly moved forward 5 days. Added to that, aside from baking, writing cards, present buying and wrapping, I still have a mirrror order to complete... (help!)

We had freezing fog the day we collected the Christmas tree.

Earlier that morning I did manage to get a Christmas cake made. It's this one - Nigella's chocolate fruit cake though I added Pimms No3 instead of coffee liquer.

I'm not that keen on rich fruit cakes, this one was suggested to me as an alternative which I might like.

It still looked & smelled pretty rich and fruity to me though so I'll wait till I actually taste it before recommending/condeming it! I've not decorated it yet either, so the final ta-da photo is yet to come.

Festive mantlepiece.

A close-up of the little nativity scene in front of the clock on the mantlepiece. It's so small that all the pieces fit into one matchbox.

The crafty books shelf.

My favourite Christmas card received so far.


A little sprig of holly with berries rescued from the holly tree in the garden which is now bare, the blackbirds and thrushes having taken their fill.

Fairycakes for N's toddlers Christmas party.

I had some icing left over so iced these gingerbread hearts from Ikea. They've not been hung up, just eaten!

I thought this fairycake was really pretty, I kept it back for A.

Some pelargoniums still flowering in a frost-free spot.

One morning we awoke to fantastic frosty scenes though by the time I'd dropped A at nursery a warm front had moved over. I took this photo when I got back from nursery not long before the frosty spider's web on the gate disappeared completely.

A long distance shot of a bluetit enjoying the fat ball. I like to think the out of focus quality makes it look more like a painting than a photo.

A's robin. I love the colours.

So, a bit of a photo collection with not many words I'm afraid. I hope your Christmas preparations are going better than mine! Have fun...

Thursday 10 December 2009

Tablet Recipe

OK, I'm about to reveal my tablet recipe. Such things are not done lightly! In the past, when asked for the recipe I've been rather coy - I wanted to be the only one who could make such yummy tablet!

If you don't have a sweet tooth though you won't like it! When you measure out the ingredients you will appreciate just how unhealthy it's going to be, I remember being quite shocked in that respect the first time I made it. Also, it is quite a buttery soft tablet so if that's not the way you like it then it's not for you either! But I like it best out of the many that I have tried over the years.

It's known in our family as "Mum's Tablet" my Dad also having a recipe he uses but which I'm not quite as keen on. At Christmas my Mum and Dad used to make a batch of tablet each plus my Mum would also make fudge (not to mention all the mince pies, cakes, biscuits, etc - no wonder I and my three brothers all love sweet things!)

Here we go...

Above is the recipe as I use it. If you've made table before this is probably all you need. If this is your first tablet experience then I've taken a few photos and have explained the steps in a little more detail below...

1lb white caster sugar
1/2 lb butter (not marg, I usually use salted as that's what was always to hand in the old days!)
1 tin condensed milk (397g)
dash vanilla extract

Large pan (the mixture expands by 2x or so when boiling)
Wooden spoon.
Tray, size 7"x11" or equivalent, greased.


Put the sugar, butter and condensed milk in a large pan and melt them together over as low a heat as possible. Give the mixture the occasional stir, especially towards the later stages as it can burn easily. If you've been a little lax in your stirring efforts and some brown lumps start appearing I've found you can break them up by stirring vigorously with a whisk.

Once it's all melted it's time to bring it to the boil. I transfer it over to a larger ring for this and turn the heat up a little. Before starting this stage make sure you have your vanilla extract and greased tray ready!

Keep stirring! After about 5-10 minutes small bubbles start to appear - the tablet is starting to boil. Definitely do not stop stirring now! From when the bubbles start appearing and until the tablet is ready takes approximately 10 minutes, but this can vary a little so it helps to know what to look for when it's ready to pour...

After about 10 minutes of boiling it will have darkened in colour and thickened in consistency...

... and the tacky mixture will leave the sides of the pan.

5. Remove from the heat, add a dash of vanilla extract (approx 1/2 tsp) and beat the mixture...

... before pouring into the prepared tray.

It's best to undercook than overcook. If it's underdone you can always put it all back in the pan and boil it again for a few minutes (which is what I had to do here and though it actually ended up a little overdone it wasn't a disaster), if it's too overdone there's not really anything you can do about it.

Allow to cool for a few hours before cutting into squares. I find it best not to leave it sitting in the tray too long otherwise it seems to absorb the taste of the metal, so I remove it as soon as it's cool.

You'd be ill if you tried to eat it all yourself! Best to give some away, this batch was made to sell at A's nursery fair. I did make sure that there were an odd number of columns so that one column of squares would be left over for sampling just to make sure it tasted OK you understand!

Mmmmmmm! Talking of secret tablet recipes, anyone remember this?

Sunday 6 December 2009

Nice Things!

I'm quite glad that last week's now over - nothing wrong with it at all, just busy. Fortunately, most of the time was spent on enjoyable tasks...

One evening last week, six of the mums got together to make Christmas felt decorations to sell at the local nursery's Christmas Fair which was held yesterday. I had meant to photograph all the ones we'd made but forgot. They included hearts, stars, Christmas trees, snowmen, gingerbread men and penguins. I took rather a fancy to two I'd made and they didn't actually make it to the fair (they are the Christmas tree and the snowlady shown above) and last night I finished making the robin and the Christmas pudding - it's a shame I didn't have these two designs ready earlier, but there's always next year...

Some homebaking activity was also scheduled, including...

...making tablet, yum! I took some photos while I was making it so will publish the hitherto top secret recipe next post.

At the fair I was one of the volunteers manning the homebaking stall and so got first choice of all the goodies on sale. I came home with rather a lot, most of which has now been devoured including two other tablet offerings - must keep track of the competition!

I was recently the lucky winner of a giveaway hosted by Beth of The Linen Cat and last week I received my prize.

First out the box were these three lovely hanging bird ornaments. I was thinking of making a feature of purple and gold in my Christmas decorations this year so these are perfect! Not that I'm waiting till I've got my tree up before displaying them - they're currently dangling from our standard lamp (on the scrolls visible here - my Lucy crochet bird has been relegated to my daughter's bedroom as she liked it better than I did in the end!)

...was this beautiful sugar plum fairy. She's going to look fabulous on top of the tree (replacing the rather wonky star we've been using for about ten years).

I was delighted to win the giveaway as I do like Beth's work a lot.

We've been having some rather dramatic skies here recently. I managed to ge a photo of this one just before collecting A from nursery one day.

And the sky was mostly blue earlier today when I photographed some of the snowflakes we've made and which are now hanging at the window.

I wasn't able to make my usual Saturday morning bike ride this weekend due to the Christmas fair. After all the homebaking I've scoffed in the last 24 hours I could really do with some exercise! I did work quite hard at the concert on Friday night, there being only two of us in the bass section. The concert was pretty much sold out as usual, I think the audience quoted was 2300 people. £7500 was raised in the collection during the interval and overall (with ticket fees, sponsorship etc) the concert typically raises £35000 for CLIC Sargent so it's time well spent on the part of the orchestra.

Finishing of this collection of bits and pieces from last week...

... some holly offcuts left on the picnic table made even more beautiful by the frost one morning.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Oh, and by the way, the tablet recipe I use is still the nicest I've tasted so far...

Monday 30 November 2009

Easy to Make Festive Tin Tealight Holders.

Ta Da!
Well, this is what I've been eating up my mushy peas for.

I got the idea for the design from this photo taken from a Christmas magazine...
...and the method from this book, plus I've also seen a version in this book.

It's very easy...
1. Collect 4 tins the same size (I used mushy pea tins as I like mushy peas! I also like the fact they're narrower than standard sized tins)
2. Remove the labels. Fill each tin with water and pop them in the freezer till frozen. The frozen water inside the tin maintains its rigidity while you...
3. ...Use a hammer and a large nail/screw to hammer holes into the tin. I drew the pattern on first with a non-permanent pen. I aslo laid the tin on a towel to stop it rolling around while I was working.

The first time I made a tin tealight holder was just before Valentine's day, so I did a heart design (sorry, don't have a photo handy) and found that varying the size of the hole through the design gave a nice effect. You could also turn your tealight holder into a lantern by making two diametrically oppostite holes near the top rim and attaching a looped wire handle.

For something so simple they're quite effective though perhaps a little "rustic" compared to the manufactured version. The room does need to be quite dark for the candle light to show clearly. I think they'd look nice placed outside, perhaps weighed down with some pebbles.

Changing subject completely... we had such lovely blue skies today, a pleasant change from the rescent soggy greyness.

It was cold and frosty all day.

A made a portrait of me using pebbles, so now you know what I look like!

I've quite a busy week coming up. A's nursery fair is on Saturday so I have homebaking (including tablet - will try and remember to take photos!) to make, plus some decorations to sew for selling at one of the stalls. I'm also playing in this concert on Friday so we'll be doing Christmas carols at rehearsal tomorrow night. I think this is the fifith year our orchestra will have been doing this show. It is usually an enjoyable night though I wish the concert was nearer Christmas - it always feels too early for me. Our proper concert is on Sat 12th if anyone fancies a riveting night out!

Sunday 29 November 2009

Saturday Morning Bike Ride

It was a little on the cold side for a cycle ride yesterday morning so I resorted to wearing two pair of leggings (plus several tops!) - drastic measures indeed! Next time I'll also be wearing two pairs of socks.

The weather initially looked promising though. After climbing up my usual hill out the village I was above the low lying mist and it appeared as though the sun was managing to rise above it...

... but the mist won and soon I was surrounded by cold damp cloudy air.

Unusually for me, I'd set off with no route in mind. I just headed out my favourite road till I reached the junction where I needed to decide which way to go.

This was actually a little detour up a farm road to admire the red gate and post you can see on the right of the above photo. Also in the background you can see my favourite wooded mounds.

I made up my mind! After zooming down the lovely long hill, I turn off the main road (a B road so still not too busy though the car's can be a little fast) and head along one of the back roads lying between Kilmacolm and Port Glasgow. I'm out of the mist by this point although the sun still refuses to break through the clouds.

I then turn up a little road I've never been along before. I see a little robin (click to expand the photo above and you should be able to see him too) and catch a glimpse of a weasel or stoat.

The term "road" is a little grand for what is actually a dirt track and a very muddy and wet one at that. On the ascent it's not too bad, but the descent is a little slippy and there are quite a few large stones poking up through the mud. I'd never make it as a mountain biker - I'm such a woose! The brakes are on hard (and they're extremely squeaky so I'm not exactly passing by un-noticed!) and I'm even using my feet to slow me down, though not where it's too muddy - I don't want to get my shoes dirty! Having said all that, it's a beautiful road, very peaceful and I'll be back (in drier weather!)

Picturesque farm houses dot the landscape.

I spot some Highland cows just before I take the road to Quarrier's Village then home by the cycle path where I manage to make a dozy pedestrian literally jump a foot into the air when I gently (but very noisily) brake behind him. The chief mechanic has been informed of the brake situation. I scared away much of the wildlife with the racket I was making - I passed within 10 feet of a rather large bird of prey but was unable to stop for a closer look due to the noise my brakes would have made.

Back home, when I make my way up to the shed to put away my bike I notice the birds are now feasting on the holly berries.

It's time to take a few berried branches for the house before the tree is stripped bare.

And this morning I spot two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. Alright, it's just a pair of collared doves in the cherry tree but it was enough to start me off!

Today was a lovely sunny though cold day...
...we had a rather nice sunset and I also managed to finish making my Christmas items involving mushy pea consumption and the freezer, I'll post the results tomorrow...


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