Saturday, 18 December 2010

The best laid plans

So, I'm all ready. Family lunch on Sunday to celebrate Christmas, the menu's set, the shopping's done and been delivered. I took Friday off so I could cook and tidy at my leisure and today the heavens opened and it snowed. And it snowed. And then it snowed some more. The roads round me are treacherous but we've only had about 5 cm, where my brother lives they've had more like 18". So, lunch tomorrow is postponed and the freezer is now bulging with things intended for tomorrow. Never mind, worse things happen at sea!

The good news is a stay of execution on the job front. My department has been taken out of the general restructure and a decision on redundancies will be made in 30 days. Given that my post was marked to be 'disestablished' things can't get worse for me, better possibly though. At least now I can chill about it over Christmas. Yay.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Post musings

Well, the cards are in the post. This year I did two main designs. The first one is more complex, the second is much smaller and simpler.

I started off with this one, embossing some blue cardstock with a white core through the cuttlebug which I then exposed using a large emery board. The trees were cut using the cricut and decorated with globs of glossy accents and glamour dust, and Woodware's fluffy stuff. I stamped and punched the greeting - this one is all white but others I did mounted on a scalloped blue glitter disk for more emphasis. Then I put it all together with some silver ribbon and more glamour dust round the edges.

The second is a gorgeous Christmas tree stamp made up of ornaments, which I then embossed with silver. I finished them off with a stamped greeting and tied with a little stretchy silver cord. The overall design was inspired by card we made in one of Marion Emberson's Sugar and Spice classes. I'm hoping it gives a 'less is more' effect rather than a 'I'm too lazy to bother' one :)

I'm still waiting though for the delivery companies to catch up with the changing market. With people now ordering more and more from the web they still don't appear to have grasped that most people work, and aren't there during the day to accept delivery. Especially when you add in that normally people don't know what the date or time of delivery is for small value items. This either means the companies wasting resources (and therefore increasing the prices we pay) or compelling people to collect their parcels from depots.

Depots, I have found, don't tend to be located in easy to reach, central locations. So even with a car they're a pain to get to, and if you don't have one (which is a good reason for using the net to do your Christmas shopping) a real inconvenience.

When are they going to realise they have to focus on evening/weekend deliveries as standard? Minor rant over...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Holidays are coming

Afternoon all. Well last Sunday I put a big batch of braised red cabbage in the oven for a slow, 2 hour cook. This is my first bit of Christmas cooking. it's based on a recipe my friend Lynne shared with me after a dinner at her house. It was fabulous, and I've cooked it every Christmas since, as well as for a few general roasts. It's really good, and freezes brilliantly which makes it an ace side dish for your big celebrations. All you have to do for the day is get it out of the freezer and allow it to defrost, then either reheat in a pan for 10 mins or stick it in the microwave.
The recipe is here and it's easy to adjust to your taste, more sweetness, less, more spices etc.

Friday night was the office do, and it was fabulous. Huge laughs, and you always know if a night was good when you get to the end and wonder how that went so quickly. Saturday then was a bit of a right off - and was spent on the sofa with some comfort bolognese courtesy of some previous batch cooking. Today I've managed a little more oompf, and the stuffing for the stuffed pork loin is done and in the freezer, and a batch of brownies is just cooling on top of the hob. Plan is to wrap and freeze those too so I can bring them out one at a time for desserts etc.

Had meant to do lots more, the sponge for the trifle, some fudge for gifts but it seems that's going to have to wait :)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Stuff.... and some things

Well I didn't do too badly last weekend. The granola got made, as did the stuffing but the pate fell by the wayside as I realised I didn't have any cream. I did make roasted root vegetable soup though and roasted the pork loin though it was stuffingless, as I didn't have the nerve to hack it up. Sometimes I'm really useless at trying new things.

I need to make space in my freezer for Christmas stuff, and basically just to use things I've squirreled away in there. There's a lot of stuff. So this weekend I'm going to experiment. I've got some venison steaks which I'm going to put in the slow cooker with shallots, button mushrooms, stock, port, bay leaves and some thyme. Sounds good, at least in theory.

The labels are done for Christmas card writing though I have a fairly busy Saturday with an early hair appointment then lunch with a friend on the far side of London. This is dependant of course on not getting a vast amount of snow between now and then. I confess to a certain childlike excitement at the prospect, even though it's not at all practical. The weather is only predicting a smattering though tonight so there's only a 30% chance of waking up to a winter wonderland. Here's hoping though!

And finally a quick 'Happy Thanksgiving' greeting to anyone reading from the US of A, especially my cousins David and Kathleen and their lovely children, David and Isla.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A busy day ... or not?

I have big plans for today. Making granola, dishes, laundry, bins, making pate, stuffing and then a trial run of a stuffed pork loin roast which I'm planning for the family Christmas lunch. I should point out though, it's already 2pm here and so far all I've managed is mixing the granola, the bins and unloading/reloading the dishwasher, the granola is not even in the oven yet. Hmm. It doesn't bode very well for the rest of the list.

What I have also promised myself to do this weekend is start writing the Christmas cards, that's looking fairly promising as I've recovered the labels from the conservatory. You might wonder what they were doing in there... well. After the decorating spurt in my office and the new carpet everything from those two rooms got moved into there. It's taking a fair bit of time to put everything back where it should be but I am getting there. Honest.

As an aside on the work front. I did get my comments in on the removal of my post in the proposed new structure before the closing deadline. I feel very good about that, even if it has no effect it was the right thing to do. Now we wait for the Exec to read through everyone's responses, come up with the final structures and then get the line managers to tell people individually whether they are now formally at risk. From the documentation it seems that the formal letters won't go out for people at my level until the beginning of January. At that point there will be 3 months for me to be redeployed or at the end of that I'll be redundant, so around April.

Fingers crossed my post will stay, or I'll be redeployed, it's not a good job market out there right now.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Catching up

Hello all

It's been a while. Life's been a bit busy, but the most fun news is I've finally taken the plunge and replaced the carpet in the front room (it was SO grotty), the laminate in the office (completely knackered where my chair went over it) and in the kitchen. Whilst that was being done I had the office space decorated and new Expedit units built and installed with a new desk. I love it, and I finally have somewhere to properly put my scrapbooking stash. This will not only mean I know what I have and where it is, but that the front room will be reclaimed from the clutter. It's fantastic. Photos to follow soon.

I'll also be posting this year's main Christmas card designs on Saturday too. By then I hope to have broken the back of the stash stashing and tidying and having all my computer kit back in place after the decant. I have to tell you, the kitty cats were not at all happy with the disruption or the decorators being around, I think they've just about forgiven me now though.

Spent today with the lovely Lynne Lidster at Nirvana Spa. Oh it was heaven. Lots of lovely pools, a full facial, a bit of Clarins treat shopping and a great lunch. I feel all chilled and relaxed now and looking forward to that lovely feeling of falling into bed sleepy, warm and contented.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

My first exploding box

Ok well, technically the title is in some way a bit of a fib. This isn't the first one I've made but it is the first one I've managed to finish, the other is nearly there just needs it's photos putting in which should happen fairly soon I hope.

I made this for my Dad for a belated fathers day gift, or card, depending on your perspective.

The design is deliberately kept simple, my Dad's not one for fuss so I wanted to keep it feeling uncluttered.

Hope you like it....

Saturday, 19 June 2010

And finally... the pictures

I've finally gotten around to finishing off the album from the party. I struggled to get started on this, I knew the colour scheme that would work but it's not in my normal comfAdd Imageort zone and I had difficulty finding papers that were just right. In the end I di
scovered Lime Rickey from the Basic Grey range. The album is actually made from two different precut sets, I had the chipboard version from ages ago, thought, house party, excellent, that
'll be perfect. But there weren't nearly enough pages for the number of great photos my friend Jane had taken. Another bout of serious googling brought forth an acrylic album, exactly the same shape and size but from a completely different manufacturer and it was full steam ahead.

So, sorry, there are lots of photos here but I hope you like it.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Party Planning

Not much going on in the way of crafting right now as my focus is on getting the house ready for the Fabulous Forty Fiesta. I did manage to have a go at making Granola this weekend though. Coeliacs really struggle with breakfast cereals, almost everything but Cornflakes and Rice crispies are wheat based, and those that are oat based contain gluten from the oats being grown and processed in the neighbourhood of wheat.

I bought a huge bag of oats from Spoff, who seem now to have been taken over and the new link for products isn't available. Hopefully this will be sorted soon. Their oats are grown too far north for wheat to grow, and processed in a completely wheat free plant.

So, anyway. Granola is one of those fantastic things to make that you don't really need a recipe for, and you can completely customise it to suit your own tastes. I made mine with oats, some honey, maple syrup, a little sunflower oil, almonds, pecans and a handful of mixed seeds that I've used in the past to top bread. Mix it all together and bake in a low oven, stirring a couple of times til it's fairly uniformly golden brown. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. You can then mix it in with dried fruits to taste, like raisins, apricot, mango, anything really but be aware that these aren't completely dry and will reduce the storage life of your granola if you store it mixed.

Ah, but the party. Mexican theme, shopping is going well, the housework less so. I have three days off and some lovely people who've offered to assist so hopefully it won't be too bad.

The menu:

Nachos with tomato salsa, corn salsa, guacamole, grated cheese, jalapenos, sour cream
Beef chili made with braising steak, ancho and poblano chilis and 100% pure chocolate
Three been chili as above
Chicken fajita strips
Corn tortillas
Basmati and wild basmati rice
Giant Cupcake and regular cupcakes (flavours yet to be decided)

Just working on the playlists, getting a mix of some latin themed numbers but mostly really fun dance stuff from the 80s/90s.

Have a friend who's going to do the photography for me..... there will be comedy moustaches involved!

Right, best get on, Monday looms, bleugh!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

It's the season of love...

This week I have volunteered to provide the UKScrappers Weekly Challenge and my theme, not surprisingly given the time of year, is Love. If you get a chance, have a look, or even better, have a go.

That's my layout, which was originally created for the Sugar and Spice blog. My next posting will be on Thursday if you're interested, it's always a good source of inspiration anyway.

The party plans for my 40th are well under way. Thought, to be fair, this mostly consists of shopping for fun stuff and a very small amount of tidying up. I do have three days off before the party and some willing helpers which is ace.

Wishing you all the best, and hoping you have a lovely valentines day, and remember, even if you're a Bridget Jones like me and don't have anyone to share the day with - take the time to pamper yourself. Be lovely to you, you're worth it! And if you are fortunate enough to have someone in your life, I hope you take the time to make them feel special.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Giant Cupcake

Hello people

I brought back a giant cupcake silicon mould from my trip to the USA recently. I'm having a party in March for my 40th birthday and thought it would be great to serve a couple of these up as dessert. The recipes that came with it talked about american boxes of cake mix, not available here and certainly not available gluten free so it was time to experiment.

Using a recipe given to me by the lovely Debs at Homerton Hospital, I tried a four egg sponge with the addition of a little coconut. I've made this before with a straight swap of Doves Farm GF plain for the wheat flour, adding in baking powder to 'self raisingise' it. Yeah, that's not really a word but I'm fairly sure it makes sense.

So the recipe:

Debs Sponge

8oz Doves Farm GF flour
8oz of softened butter or marg
8oz caster sugar
2oz dessicated coconut
4 eggs
1 tblsp milk
3 tsps GF baking powder (generous ones)

Cream the butter and sugar together.
Add the eggs in one at a time until well incorporated
Sift the flour and baking powder into the mix
Add in the coconut and enough milk to get a soft dropping consistency.

Then I sprayed the insides of the mould with lots of PAM (it's a buttery flavoured non sticking spray - alternatives would be to brush the interior with a flavourless oil or melted butter). It's worth taking some time doing this because of all the nooks and crannies.

I estimated the fill levels and also got four muffin sized buns out of this mix. In the end, it wasn't quite enough to fill the mould when it baked and I'd up it to a 5 egg ratio next time but I think it looks ok. It certainly tasted good and didn't last long when I took it into work.

I filled the cavity with a low sugar strawberry jam and a basic vanilla butter cream.

Please note the dip in the base is created with a sort of lid on the base of the mould rather than it sinking :) Honest.

So, this is what it looks like before it's iced. I'm not an experienced cake decorator but if you're so inclined, you can do all sorts of things with this including make it look like a cat, pig or dog.

This link has some good instructions and ideas. You can now buy the metal version of this mould in Lakeland, it's by a company called Wilton.