Thursday, 29 December 2011

Fabric Stash

Look what I got for Christmas! (thanks mum...) Some lovely fat quarters to add to the stash and a handy ruler specially for patchwork. What to make with it though... I have a few ideas.

I am really pleased with all my presents this year, some of the consumables have already been consumed - can't leave chocolate around for long (oops), but have a few nice bottles of wine, plus my brother gave me The Help which I have been flying through. Best of all my husband gave me the gift of warm feet, some sheepskin slippers - bliss. But of course he'll get the benefit of my not plastering my icy cold feet on him...

What was your favourite present?


Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve

So I made it - twenty-four posts in twenty-four days. This is our Christmas tree, as decorated by the children. I played no part in it as I was busy cooking the world's biggest fish pie for our Christmas Eve lunch.

In fact the day has had quite a lot of cooking in it what with vast quantities of extra mince pies and ginger biscuits, but I did get a lovely little nap this afternoon (and a sneaky gin at lunch...).

I'll be quite relieved to go back to blogging when I feel like it. Once or twice a week is about enough for me I think. But I have enjoyed the challenge of writing everyday, and I think a bit more of 'me' has come over. Although looking back over my posts, there has been not so much sewing. Looking forward to getting back to that in the New Year and starting some new projects.

I'm off to make some mulled wine and hopefully do some knitting/dozing in front of the box. See you in 2012, and wherever you are, have wonderful Christmas...

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Home Birth

Today is my daughter's birthday. This time three years ago we were in that hazy newborn blur where you spend a lot of time staring at tiny fingers and amazingly long eyelashes. Very conveniently I managed to go into labour just after midnight and she was born at 5.50am, while her older brother slept upstairs.

Whilst I'm sure my daughter won't thank me for her very nearly Christmas birthday as she gets older, that Christmas was one of the happiest I've ever spent.

Happy Birthday Tiny Girl!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Birthday Cake

This time three years ago I was watching Dirty Dancing  (I know, I know!) and trying to ignore the fact that I appeared to be having Braxton Hicks every ten minutes. I then headed off to get some sleep as I thought it might be a long night...

Fast forward three years and my daughter has fairly strong opinions on what makes a good birthday cake. She has been definite in her requests for 'Raa Raa the Noisy Little Lion' for months, despite me trying to change her mind in favour of something that I'm good at, but to no avail.

The cake is a Victoria sponge, and I have to say there was a bit of collapsing, so judicious amounts of buttercream were applied and I think we got away with it. The acid test will be tomorrow morning when the birthday girl gets sight of it...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Happy Solstice!

Well before the whole business of the baby in the manger, people living in countries with cold dark winters have had some kind of shindig at this time of year. Today was the shortest day, tonight is the longest night, which means that from tomorrow things will be getting just that bit brighter. Can't wait!

Family are starting to arrive at around lunchtime tomorrow, meaning we've been busy trying to get the house in order. Today we went to the Farmers Market and bought a mahoosive piece of beef for Christmas dinner. I've come a long way from that strict vegetarian I was once upon a time - who knew that cows were so delicious!

We also had a internet shop delivered (quite a few clinking bags) and tomorrow will be heading off to the local greengrocers to pick up our fruit and veg order. We will have nine people round the table for Christmas dinner, many of whom have sizeable appetites (not me of course...)

Also tomorrow I have to decorate the Christmas cake, bake and decorate a cake for youngest's birthday on Friday - she has requested 'Ra Ra the Noisy Lion'. There are also still some presents to be wrapped, both for the birthday and for Christmas. Oh and I really should make some mince pies, finish the crackers and make some more gingerbread to hang on the tree.

I do love all this stuff really though, it's just clearing up the mess afterwards that's not so great. Now, where did I put that bottle of gin...

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Out After Dark

On day 20 of my blog challenge there was more Christmas cracker making and repeat viewings of The Snowman. Lego and crayons were strewn liberally about the house by 4pm so I invoked the Tiger Who Came To Tea defence and we went down the road to a café.

For those of you who don't know Judith Kerr's classic 1968 picture book, the Tiger comes to tea and eats everything in the house, leaving the place in a right mess and nothing for Daddy's supper. So the family goes out after dark when all the street lamps are lit and all the cars have their lights on, to have sausage and chips in their local caff. Sounds to me like Mummy had her feet up reading a novel and neglected her housewifely duties so had to come up with an excuse...

My children had a great time being out after dark tonight. On the way to the café we were busy spotting Christmas lights and Christmas trees. Great excitement all round. That's the true meaning of a winter festival for  me, twinkling lights in the dark, a little reminder to the sun that he'd better come back soon...

Photo thanks to wikimedia commons as I didn't get chance to take any photos (too busy making sure my two didn't hare off into the road in thrall to fairylights)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Crackers

Today was the first proper day of the holidays (weekends somehow don't count as I'm not on my own...) Not too many fights, but quite a lot of telly watched this afternoon, whoops! But I did make some Christmas crackers with the Boy, who is five. The Toddler mainly contented herself with putting stickers in unexpected places. I put a stop to it before she reached the good bits of furniture.

I'm fed up of paying £££ for crackers that are landfill-in-waiting, so it made sense this year to make our own. Inside the Boy's personal cracker were a made-to-measure paper hat, a chocolate coin and a joke: What do you get if you cross an apple with a Christmas Tree? A Pineapple (yes he did make that one up himself, and apparently has 'loads' more...). It was looking fairly tasteful when I took this picture but then when my back was turned he got hold of the really tacky stickers and now it's looking properly bling. Pimp my cracker if you will...

If you'd like to make these top-quality items at home, you will need:

cardboard tubes (i.e. inside of a loo roll or half the inside of a kitchen roll)
crepe paper in festive colours
ribbon
stickers to decorate
bits to put inside such as hats, sweets, jokes or other novelty items

There is no snap in these crackers, so when you pull them you just have to do that bit by yourself and shout bang, as in the classic Christmas episode of The Good Life.

To make simply cut a piece of crepe paper that's about twice the length of your cardboard tube and wide enough to wrap around the tube twice.  Roll up your tube in the crepe paper, then use a bit of pritt stick to secure the loose end. Tie the up the ends with ribbon, but not before you've added in your groan-worthy pun and hat/sweets etc. Liberally apply stickers to decorate and tada! Home-made Christmas crackers.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

RedFestive

I spent the afternoon in a disused carpet showroom hawking my wares (the stitchy kind, I haven't taken to a life of vice).  All part of RedFestive, a Christmassy fundraiser for our local arts festival. It got a bit parky at times as there was no heating, but wearing woolly socks and 24-hole Doc Martens at least kept my feet warm.

The unit looked really cool, decked out in shiny stuff and fairy lights. There was a Narnia-themed grotto for the children, which you entered through a wardrobe. And in keeping with the theme a bare-chested Mr Tumnus, on stilts. He was bravely battling the elements, and hordes of small children.

I sold some robins, some purses and a few other bits. My retro-style aprons were picked up, admired, tried on, but no sales - boo! But I chatted to loads of people I know, some of whom I haven't seen for ages, so a good afternoon all round. And now only a week until Christmas, eek!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mince Pies

Today I gave in to the badgering from my son, who wanted to help make some mince pies. Now it is a truth universally acknowledged that having a five-year-old assist during baking must double the time spent making the baked goods.

But, hey that's what the school holidays are about, actually interacting a bit with the little blighters. As it happened he got bored half-way through and wandered off to chat with his Nana on the phone, having only filled about half the pies. Slack!

These pies were made with home-made pastry (mmmm buttery) and shop-bought mincemeat, as I'm not that much of a domestic goddess. I do like the little stars on top, and a brush of beaten egg before they go in the oven gives then a lovely golden shine.

I have a jar and a half of mincemeat left, but am going to hold off on making more pies until about Friday as they don't hang around long in this house...

Friday, 16 December 2011

It's Friday, I'm in Love

Day 16 of my self-imposed challenge and I've had a lazy day. Until recently on Fridays I was volunteering for Studio Upstairs so had arranged for the Toddler to go to a childminder whilst the Boy was at school. My husband finishes at lunchtimes on Friday so he then picks them up from childminder/school, giving me a whole working day.  Sadly, because Studio Upstairs has had to reduce its opening hours due to limited funds, they are no longer open on Fridays.

And as Fridays are the only days where my husband has any flexibility, I can't really afford any more childcare than the five hours for the Toddler that we already pay for, not for an unpaid job. But for the moment I'm keeping up the Friday arrangement, mostly because in the back of my mind I'm aware that I will need to start job-hunting again in the new year and having a relationship with a good childminder will come in handy. But also there is the (slightly luxurious) aspect that I get to have at least five hours to myself in a week.

Today I could have used the time to blitz the house before the school holidays. I could have sat up in the workroom furiously making more bits to sell on Sunday. I could have gone into town and picked up the last bits of Christmas shopping.

But none of those things seemed that important, so instead I did not very much at all. I read a trashy novel, did some knitting while listening to the radio. I flicked through Twitter. I drank coffee while it was hot and munched some biscuits without having to share them with anyone.

It was lovely...

And I'm pleased to say that one part of my normal Friday routine is still in place. I'm typing this as the delicious smell of home-cooked curry wafts out of the kitchen, and my other half is hard at work making chapatis.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Craft Night

Sneaking in late to post today as I've been too busy enjoying myself. Tonight was craft night at my house. There's a small group of us who meet up regularly to chat and work on our latest projects. Usually it's strictly a tea and biscuits affair, but it being Christmas meant time to mull some wine, and eat a mince pie or three.

And I made this much of a sock...

...well it's a start!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lovely Lentils

I stashed a few more things away in the Christmas cupboard today. The corner cupboard in my kitchen is currently playing host to lots of wine, beer, fancy chocolate biscuits, and many many snack products from ALDI. Then of course there's the cake, the pudding and mincemeat, plus sweeties and a selection of chutney and pickles.

And today was the toddler group Christmas party so more nibbling on mince pies and cake. Shame they don't have a 5-a-day guideline for confectionery really... But sometimes, just sometimes, all this festive food and drink feels a bit much. Over Christmas week I find myself craving fresh fruit and veg (as I plough through the tin of Celebrations - no self-control). Probably my favourite meal is on Boxing Day where it's all leftovers with a bit of salad and some good bread. Oh and pickles of course...

Also I was a vegetarian for many years and the amount of meat I end up consuming often makes me feel a bit queasy (although it is very tasty at the time.) So sometimes it's a relief to eat something a bit more basic, and Lentil Soup was on the menu tonight. It's also a helpful store-cupboard recipe for me, and is cheap. I tend to keep the cayenne pepper to a low background hum as the children are gradually building up their spice tolerance, but you can add more if you like it hotter.

Ingredients:
400g dried red lentils
1 large onion
a couple of carrots
1 red pepper, roasted
several large cloves of garlic (depending on how garlicky you like things - for me VERY)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 - 2 litres of cold water
salt and pepper

How to make:
1. The roasted red pepper is optional, but does add a bit more interest. I usually chop it up into big pieces and roast it in the oven for about 20 minutes while I'm cooking the soup
2. Finely chop the onion and fry in a little oil in a large pan until soft
3. Chop the garlic and add to the onions. Then chuck in the spices and mix well
4. Add the lentils to the pan along with at least 1 litre of cold water. Mix again and turn the heat up to bring the pan up to the boil
5. Let the lentils bubble vigorously for 10 minutes with the lid off. Keep an eye and give it the occasional stir to stop it burning on the bottom. You may need to add more water.
6. While the lentils are bubbling, peel and chop the carrots. When the 10 minutes are up, add the carrots to the pan.
7. Turn the heat down until the soup is just simmering and cook with the pan covered for another 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
8. Throw the red pepper pieces into the pan and blend the soup until fairly smooth
9. Season well with salt and pepper
10. Serve with chunks of bread and butter

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Home-made Christmas Cards

And breathe....

Yesterday was Not A Good Day. It was one of those ridiculous days where everything seems to go awry, to the extent that you expect someone to pop out with a camera crew announcing that it was all an elaborate hoax.

I'm going to try not to moan about it, but it did start with some yelling at the children, followed swiftly by the realisation that I must have left my purse on the bus on Saturday and so had to scrabble around for dinner money. Most of the rest of the day was taken up by retrieving said purse from the bus station (cue more scrabbling to find the bus fare into town). Finally, and most pathetically, I sliced a chunk out of my middle finger whilst preparing the tea. Oh, and on a day when my other half was working late so didn't get home until after I'd put the children to bed (after a little more shouting). Crack out the tiny violins!

So by the evening I just couldn't be arsed with doing anything, creative or otherwise. So instead I sprawled on the sofa watching other people cook (Hugh Fearnley-Whatsit and Jamie Oliver's mate Jimmy).

And drinking gin...

But, today is a new day yada yada and I took advantage of my daughter falling asleep in the buggy this morning. Did I do housework? Of course not, I got out the glitter and made some Christmas cards. After all, why should the children have all the fun?  It was very soothing...

P.S - this is now day 13 of my advent blog challenge, I'm over half way (small whoop)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Potatoes and Glitter

Spuds and glitter, a natural partnership don't you think? Well they are if you have small children in the house and you have a hankering for glittery potato prints.  On day eleven of my Advent blog challenge I was feeling a bit guilty about spending so much time making my own stuff and felt I should be doing something crafty with the children. Something involving paint and glitter, the messier the better. Oh and I should do this activity whilst simultaneously cooking Sunday lunch. And while my husband dismantled and deep cleaned the dishwasher...

I have had more restful mornings.

I probably should have prepared the potatoes in advance, using a technique I discovered a few years ago which makes great shapes for printing. Basically you cut a large potato in half and press a biscuit cutter into the cut surface. Then simply cut away the potato outside the line of the shape (easiest if you leave the cutter in place while you do it - stops you slicing the 'stamp' part away by mistake). We had some Christmassy shapes including a star, tree, bell and erm... gingerbread man.

But of course I didn't prepare them in advance so things got a little short-tempered as I carved potatoes whilst two children clamoured to get their hands on the glitter.  We did get there in the end though, and they had a great time.  I should have remembered my first rule of craft activities with children: Have Low Expectations. Although I may be itching to 'help' them make it 'look right' I just have to give them the materials and let them get on with it. Why shouldn't a Christmas tree be blue? And of course there is no such thing as Too Much glitter or paint.

We also discovered you can get a lovely effect by using the biscuit cutter dipped in paint to make a print. If you then shake glitter over it while the paint is still wet, you get a glittery outline of a tree or star etc. Would look good on the front of a card...

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mini Stockings Again

Day 10 of my advent blog challenge and it's a full moon <insert wolf howl noise here> I managed to get a couple of hours sewing in this afternoon and started work on a batch of mini stockings. This is the first one completed and ready to be filled with sweeties.

The top hem is stitched with a zig-zag stitch just because I think it looks nice. Once I'd sewn the rest of the seams in straight stitch I trimmed the edges with pinking shears before turning the stocking inside out. Pinking shears help to reduce fraying of raw edges and I've also found it helps to reduce bulk in the seams and makes for a smoother curve. The stocking is finished off with a loop of gold ribbon and a button.

I did all the machine stitching this afternoon, and hope to handstitch the rest of the ribbon loops in front of the TV tonight.

See you tomorrow...

Friday, 9 December 2011

Soap House

I'm now on day nine of my advent posting challenge.  The Last Slayer who inspired me to start this is much nearer the end of her challenge, and you can read all about it on her blog, A Hell of a Woman. Although there may not appear to be a connection between blogging about Buffy the Vampire Slayer as opposed to faffing about with fabric, we're both women trying to establish our identity post-children.

The title of this post refers to the Gingerbread House that I bought at Lush today, as named by my nearly three year old. I was hopelessly optimistic today and planned to pop in to town to pick up some Christmas presents, visit the craft shop for supplies, then head back home for lunch and an afternoon of sewing...

What actually happened is that the retail element of my day expanded massively leaving not much time for other stuff. I also decided to get wrapping the presents I'd bought (mainly to hide them away from curious little eyes). But I did pick up some more felt, so more little puddings will soon be underway.

It being a Friday less than three weeks before Christmas, Bristol city centre was heaving with pasty-eating hordes. (One of them turned out to be my husband as he felt a little peckish and we stopped at the fab Royce Rolls in St Nicks Market for him to buy a spicy veg pasty).

Now I really like giving presents to people, and thinking about what they would like, making a list etc (love a good list). But the actual buying of them is not so much fun - why on earth do some people refer to 'retail therapy' as something you might do for fun? And however much on-line shopping I do I always seem to end up on the high street at some point.

But I did it, and now I have some lovely presents for my family. And the Soap House? Well, that's for... well it's for me, I admit it. I'm a sucker for a nice tin...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Nice buns

No time for sewing today as that's pretty much impossible to do with the toddler around. Sadly we're reaching the stage when she doesn't have an afternoon nap <sob>, so less time for craft during the day. However, we're also reaching the age when the government says we can have up to 15 hours of free preschool provision. After Christmas the toddler, or preschooler I should say, will be attending preschool for two mornings a week. Hurrah!

But one thing she does approve of is baking, so today we made rock buns, from a recipe from my trusty 'Grub on a Grant'. This title was a bit of an anachronism even when I was (briefly) a student as maintenance grants went out in about 1995. I'd just like to explain for any younger readers that once upon a time most students were eligible to have their fees paid by a grant from the LEA, and some (including my husband) received a maintenance grant towards living costs on top of that! What a crazy system eh?

I'm sure today's students are too busy working two jobs to supplement their student loans, but if not, here's the recipe:

200g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
100g margarine (but I prefer butter)
grated rind of 1/2 lemon (I never remember to put this in)
100g demerera sugar
100g mixed dried fruit
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 200 (conventional) / 180 (fan)
2. Rub together fat, flour and mixed spice with your fingertips until you have a crumb-like mixture
3. Stir in the other ingredients thoroughly
4. Place small dollops into bun-cases and bake for 15-20 mins until golden

I find this makes 12 buns, and it's a good one for getting children involved in as you don't have to worry about being too delicate with the mix.

See you all tomorrow, as it's Friday I'm hoping to get some sewing done...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mini stockings... (maybe)

I thought I'd try for a second post today to make up for yesterday. Of course, the problem with posting everyday is that I have to find something interesting to say everyday. Preferably something about something crafty I've made...

Today I started having a muse about preparing for my stall at Redfestive. As it's the weekend before Christmas I think little bits and pieces would be best. I'm planning to make some more felt puds and robins and also thought I'd have a go at a mini stocking decoration. I thought I could fill them with chocolate coins or other appropriately festive sugar bombs.

I'm not entirely happy with the prototype but I'll work on it and post a better picture soon. I also want to get back to the 12 Days of Christmas bunting and am working on some sketches for the next flag. At this rate I may have it finished by about 2022... Oh and I'm supposed to be knitting some socks for a present in early January. Better get off the internet and start doing some work!

Sick Day

It was all going so well yesterday, I woke up brimming with energy after an unprecedented eight hours uninterrupted sleep (a rarity in this house). The morning was taken up doing errands, taking plastic bottles to the the recycling bank, a quick trip to ALDI, all the glamorous SAHM stuff. I even managed to put the finishing touches to a bobble hat and wrap a couple of presents.

Then I started feeling really queasy while cooking tea. I sat with the children while they ate and then caved and put them in front of a DVD while I waited for my husband to get home from work and hoped that I wouldn't puke in front of the kids before he got there. Luckily he was home by 6.30 and I was able to go to bed with my sick bucket (sorry!) while he sorted them out.

So instead of writing a tutorial about pom-poms I'm taking the easy way out and directing you to another site  with a pom-pom tutorial here  And the photo isn't mine but from a blog called Inspiration for Home, alongside lots of other creative ideas for wrapping presents. I was making my pom-pom for the top of a bobble hat, but I thought this was quite a cool idea...

Hopefully normal service will be resumed tomorrow - see you then.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas Traditions

Day 5 of my advent blogging challenge and I'm on a bit of a post-event comedown. All that planning and preparing and fretting and now it's all over. So in an effort to cheer myself up I've been reading blogs and have seen lost of posts today about getting the decorations up, but in our house the tree won't be in the house until Christmas Eve.

There are a couple of reasons for this, it's not that I'm all bah humbug and purist. One is that this was always our tradition at home, we would buy a living tree a couple of weeks before Christmas and it would be dragged into the house with great ceremony on Christmas Eve. Very early on I bagged the bossy boots role of arranging the decorations, assisted more or less willingly by my two younger brothers. It's only recently that my mum has revealed the more prosaic reason behind our family tradition - mainly that putting the tree up so late gave it the greatest chance of surviving unscathed until the Big Day with three hyperactive children in the house.

The other reason is that our youngest child has a birthday on 23 December and it feels right to keep her birthday festivities separate. The year she was born we put up the tree a few days before my due date as it was unlikely that we would get round to it once we had a newborn in the house. She was pretty much born by the light of the Christmas tree, but that's a post for another day...

This little tree is part of a set of felt decorations that I made last year. This year I'll be adding a fabric robin to the branches too.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Aftermath...

I am completely knackered due to a busy afternoon at our local Christmas Fayre, but due to my self-imposed Advent blogging challenge I am typing this before hitting the gin.  The photo on the left shows my last lonely Christmas cupcake, I'm sure I can find a home for it soon...

This afternoon I was there with two hats on (not literally, and anyway I'm not really a hat person - what looks jaunty on a born hat wearer looks a little odd on me, but I digress...) Firstly I was there in my capacity as part of the management committee of the community centre, and one of the main organisers of the event. And secondly I was sharing a stall with the lovely Anna and Jo from my craft group with a selection of festive stitchy wares.

So how did it go? Well, from an event organiser perspective we noticed that numbers were definitely down on last year, and this did have an impact on our fundraising. Final figures are still being hammered out, but rough estimate is about £250 profit.  But that's better than a poke in the eye, and the Community Centre was full of families enjoying themselves, which is a good thing in itself. And I was working with a lovely team of (mostly) women who it is always a pleasure to spend time with.

On our stall we took nearly £70 between us. My top sellers were my fabric robins and the little pudding badges which I was pleased with as they were new products. I'm sharing a stall again with Anna at on 18 December at RedFestive, a Christmas pop-up happening on our local high street in an old carpet show-room, which sounds intriguing...

Anyway, I'm off to sink a G&T. I'll sort out all the unpacking in the morning.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Last Minute Bunting

I'm going to admit something, inspired by A Hell of a Woman's blog, I'm trying my own challenge. Basically I'm trying to post for every day of the advent calendar. Every year I mean to make a fabric calendar for my children and this year, as always, I haven't managed it. So this is my advent calendar this year.

So far we've had spiced apple chutney and ginger biscuits, and today was more frantic activity ahead of tomorrow's Christmas Fayre. I baked and iced a marmalade cake and some Christmas cupcakes and of course decided that what my stall was missing was some festive bunting.

This was the opportunity to get the pinking shears out, which is always a good thing. The triangular flags are zig-zagged stitched onto some simple woven tape. Another trip to the Nylon Shop yielded some lovely festive fabric.

Tomorrow morning I'll be busy getting everything ready for the Fayre. Lists will be made... Wish me luck and I'll try and keep up the challenge by posting when the dust has settled tomorrow evening.


Friday, 2 December 2011

Ginger Biscuits

I'm in the middle of a baking frenzy at the moment, preparing for the Christmas Fayre on Sunday. Posts about sewing will resume when I actually get time to make something (also my mum is staying for a few days and is sleeping in my sewing room - otherwise known as the Spare Room). 

Today it was the turn of ginger biscuits, as one of the craft activities for children will be biscuit decorating. I say decorating, it's more dowsing liberally in runny icing, releasing an avalanche of sprinkles and then consuming immediately.

I had a recipe which always produced perfectly good biscuits, but the dough was really crumbly and tricky to work with. Given that I like to make these with my children I decided to do a bit of tweaking. So I added more butter (the original recipe asks for 50g), and to my mind more butter = better. It also helps if you rest the dough in the fridge for ten minutes or so before rolling out.  If you make a little hole in the top of the biscuit you can make them into tree decorations, not that they will hang there for long...

Ingredients:
25g dark brown sugar
75g butter
1 tsp ground ginger
1 rounded tbsp of golden syrup
150g plain flour

How to make:
1. Preheat oven to 170 (fan) or 190 (conventional)
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth
3. Add the ginger and golden syrup and mix well
4. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms - this is sometimes easier to do with your hands.
5. Rest dough in fridge for 10 mins (optional)
6. Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut out biscuits in suitably festive shapes.
7. Put on a greased baking tray and bake for about 10 mins or until just slightly browned at the edges.
8. Cool on a rack and then ice them if you fancy it or just scoff as they are...

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gran's Spare Hand

My Gran kept her spare hand in the bread bin...

When I was small I didn't question the fact that one of my grandmothers had a right arm that ended just above her elbow and so wore a prosthetic arm to which various hands could be attached. She had an everyday hand, one for best, a driving hand (that worked with the adapted steering wheel in her car) and odd-looking claw thing which she could hold a knife in - or a crochet hook.

She had bone cancer in her hand when she was in her early fifties and the treatment included amputation of the affected hand and part of her arm. Being a right-hander she then had to relearn how to do everything with her left hand. She was a great cook and baker, and used to have a store cupboard brimming with home-made chutneys, jams and jellies. She also made many of her own clothes and was skilled at embroidery and crochet. She never managed to master one-handed knitting, but could crochet very effectively by using wedging the hook in her 'claw'.

Sadly she died when I was ten, and there are many things that I didn't get chance ask her about. I spent a wonderful few days staying with her on my own in what turned out to be her last summer (although we didn't realise that at the time). I was actually a little scared of her as she stood no nonsense and certainly wasn't given to gushing displays of affection.

So I was thinking of her today as I stood in front of nearly three kilograms of apples preparing to make a batch of spiced apple chutney. I wish I could say that it is an old family recipe that she passed down to me, but it's actually from the BBC Good Food website. I'm sure she didn't end up with quite so much chutney slopped onto the worktop, cooker and over herself but I like to think she would be pleased to see the chutney-making tradition upheld...