Thursday, 27 November 2008

I'm knitting my stress away!

I have picked up my knitting and inspired by Elizabeths post have started on a pair of fingerless mittens to keep my hands warm, this should reduce the pain, which is always worse in the cold, as well! The variegated wool has been hanging around long enough and this seemed to be the ideal way of using it. Anyway doing something positive helps me to de-stress about situations I can do nothing about!

The international and local news is pretty dire isn't it? The unthinkable happening in India and all those poor people suffering makes me want to despair of mankind.

Locally news of MFI (a self build furniture company) and Woolworths (a much loved store, over the years)going into administration and rumours of other stores in trouble is also very depressing. I think very soon there will be more of us affected by this than not. The dreaded redundancy has already hit this family. Soon our daughter will be typing out her updated cv and hoping for something as fulfilling as she had. If only a hug could make it all better!

Instead all we can do is pray/send positive thoughts out into the world, pay down our debts, reduce our outgoings and hunker down, making the most of what we have. What we have is still a lot compared to a lot of the world and I am eternally grateful for that. Sponsoring a child helps to remind us of that and that is one expense that we shall keep on to the last!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Eggless, Fatless Chirstmas Cake!

I was given this recipe by my friends Dad who was diabetic, it is also sugar free but as I add a bit of alcohol mine isn't. It makes a great alternative for the usual richer Christmas cake recipes. It also freezes well.

Here is the recipe:-

6oz Brown flour
3 teaspoons Baking powder
2oz Ground almonds
2 teaspoons Mixed spice
1lb Mixed fruit
4oz Dates
4oz Apricots
Grated rind of an orange or lemon
1/2 pint water (for a Christmas cake, I substitute half the water for Contreau)
2 tablespoons orange juice

Soak the fruit overnight in the liquid. Add the dry ingredients, stirring well, add a little more liquid if needed to give a stiff dropping consistency.

Bake in a lined 2lb loaf tin for approx 1+1/2 hours at 160c, covering with some foil for the last 1/2 hour.

I am going to store mine for a while in greaseproof paper and feed a couple of times with some more contreau. Then I will cover it in marzipan and ice.

Soak the fruit overnight in the liquid

Add the dry ingredients and stir well

Bake in a lined 2lb loaf tin

Leave to cool before wrapping in greaseproof paper, ready to decorate. It looks a bit bumpy but that will soon even out when the marzipan is covering it!

I am trying to do something towards Christmas every day now but have still to make some cards! Most of the presents are bought, thanks mainly to ebay and charity shops/catalogues this year.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Christmas Mincemeat

I finally got around to making my mincemeat! I doubled the recipe and managed to get 7 jars of lovely whisky mincemeat for Christmas. Here is the recipe (which will make about 3-4 jars) if you would like to try it yourself:-

Home made Mincemeat

4oz currants
4oz raisins
2oz glace cherries
2oz candied peel
4oz cooking apples, peeled and cored
2oz walnuts
4oz shredded suet
8oz demerara sugar
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
Brandy, rum or whisky to mix

Mince or finely chop the fruit, peel, apples and nuts, I used the processor. Add the sugar, suet and spice and enough spirit to give a moist mixture. Stir well, leave covered for 2 days. Stir well again and pot into jars. Allow to mature for at least 2 weeks before using.

I can't wait to make those mincemeat pies now!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

I've been tagged!

I have been a bad blogger! Got a bit tied up with all the wedding plans, sounds great as it is going to be in a castle at Christmas, it is a hotel so we can stay there the night as well! Must save more pennies now! lol!

I have been tagged! Thank you SharonJ - never been tagged before! Here's my answers!

A - Z of Homemaking

A is for Aprons - yes/no? If yes, what’s your favourite?
I have several. One with a snowman on for Christmas, 1 vintage hand made pinny , my favorite one though is a little red patterned tabard, bought when my children were small and has so many wonderful memories of baking with my children attached to it.

B is for Baking - favourite thing to bake?
I love baking, most of it is edible! Lol! I guess I enjoy making cookies the most and love my copy of the American Woman’s Cook Book with it’s incredible cookie section.

My Mum had a copy of this (with older sister now) and we used to make refrigerator cookies together.

C is for Clothesline - do you have one?
Yes, one of those pull-out ones that I keep forgetting to pull back and put away afterwards. I also have a couple of indoor airers in regular use.

D is for Donuts - have you ever made them?
No never tried this, I try to avoid fried food as much as I can. I did hear that you could make them in the oven though!

E is for Every Day - one homemaking task you do every day.
I cook everyday,, very rarely get a day off from that one!

F is for Freezer - do you have a separate deep freeze?
Yes, in fact I have a fridge freezer and 2 deep freezers! One was given to us by our lovely neighbour. It mostly has produce from the garden in it.

G is for Garbage Disposal Unit - do you have one?
No, not really although Penny would love to apply for the vacancy. I compost as much as I can.

H is for Handbook - what’s your favourite homemaking resource?
The internet! Other than that the Dairy Book of Home management is very useful, my copy must be about 20years old now!

I is for Ironing - love or hate it?
Strangely I don’t mind it! I have bad circulation and ironing often warms me up. Different matter in the summer though! I love watching someone else do it though! Rare treat though that is!

J is for Junk Draw - yes/no? If yes, where is it?
Oh dear! Better make that plural! Mainly in the kitchen! Must get back to de-cluttering!

K is for Kitchen - colour and decorating scheme?
Buttermilk paint on walls, green, peach and cream tiles on wall and terracotta tile effect laminate on the floor. Light wood effect units with dark green worktops. My kitchen is very dark and needed warm colours.

L is for Love - what’s your favourite part of homemaking?
Sitting in a newly tidy living room with a freshly made tea tray (home made cake or cookies on a plate) on the coffee table.

M is for Mop - do you have one?
Yes it is the kind you pull a lever to squeeze out the water.

N is for Nylons - machine or hand wash?
Machine wash, I hate having them dripping all over the bathroom.

O is for Oven - do you use a window or open the oven door to check?
Although mine has a window, I do tend to open the door to check properly.

P is for Pizza - what do you put on yours?
Tomato pizza sauce, grated cheese and then anything that needs using up. Favourite would be ham and mushroom.

Q is for quiet - what do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
Surf (the net) or blog, read, craft work, make lists and talk to Penny!

R is for Recipe Card Box - yes/no? If yes, what does it look like?
I have the Marguerite Patten recipe card collection, bought many years ago on a monthly basis, when I was engaged. My daughter has bought me a recipe file book which I am trying to get all my favorite recipes into, it is bulging a bit now though!

S is Style of House - what style is your house?
Cluttered! But homely and cosy!

T is for Tableclothes - do you use them?
Yes I love them, I have a couple of vintage ones and one I won in a competition 10 years ago! Also a lovely Christmas one, with a holly print all over, bought in the Salvation Army charity shop!

U is for Under The Kitchen Sink - organised or toxic wasteland?
Fairly well organized, although a tad cluttered. It is where I keep my pyrex and mixing bowls. My cleaning stuff is kept in another cupboard.

V is for Vacuum - how many times a week?
If I had the energy I would vacumn every day but I don’t, so beware the dust bunnies!

It is as and when I can.

W is for Wash - how many loads of washing do you do each week?
I seem to average 1 a day! I am trying to keep it down by

doing some hand washing of delicates.

X’s - Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off?
Yes I love lists!

Y is for Yard - who does what?
Y is for garden here, Mr C cuts the grass and digs where I ask and I plan, potter and weed etc.,

Zzzz’s - what’s the last homemaking task you do before bed in the evening?
Washing up and making sure the dog has enough water.

The meaning is to keep the chain going by sending this along to a few other bloggers to complete. If you’re on the following list, enjoy ;)

Elizabeth at Making Good Use
Jennifer at Home Matters Most
Arkonite at Arkonitebabe
Sharie at Sharies view to the Hill

Caroline at What's happening at my house

Please don't feel obliged to take up the tag. It's just for fun, after all.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Backward thinking!

The photo, at the top of the blog, was the view of the end of our garden, taken this summer, before the wanton destruction of those lovely trees! All for 2 huge half a million houses to be built on the land with tiny little gardens.

Am I alone in thinking that this is backward thinking? Surely as we approach peak oil (or are we there now?) we should be building smaller, more economical to heat, houses with larger gardens, so we can grow as much of our own food as possible! This would make so much more sense but people don't seem to see the signs, they want to live in the past with all it's wasteful, unpractical ways. Crazy world we live in!

If I had that sort of money to spend (sadly I don't) I would be buying in the countryside, an older property maybe, with open fires, a multi fuel range, insulation, solar panels, out houses and a big but managable garden with established fruit trees and room for a large vegetable garden and greenhouses!

Anyway I don't want to speak too soon but things have been quiet on the building site recently! One can only hope! Too late for the poor birds though!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Ahhhh! Hot Chocolate!

This was possibly the very best hot chocolate drink I have ever had! It even had cherry sauce poured over the cream! :) and a little Lindt chocolate on the saucer! Almost a year ago we visited the Cologne Christmas Markets with our family. It was very, very cold (like today in the uk) and we had just visited the Lindt Museum of chocolate (yum) and after braving the heat of the rush in the museum shop, had sat outside, not as bad as it sounds though!

- we had lovely red wool blankets over our knees and some heaters if required (I know not very green) we chose hot chocolate to drink as, after all, we were in Lindt chocolate heaven!

Today it's cold and very wet here in the uk, Penny and I were soaking wet when we came in from our walk. It's a worrying day as well as my friend is very poorly so I've been feeling a tad down. What is a soaking wet, cold and down in the dumps girl (well all right middle aged lass) to do? Towel down the dog, get changed into dry clothes and make an old fashioned lovely hot mug of chocolate! (Hot chocolate Horlicks made with Soya milk in my case) Warms your hands and comforts the soul! Highly recommended! I didn't have any posh choc to hand but found some chocolate scrapings, from when I last melted some chocolate, to sprinkle on the top! I save everything! lol!

Hope you are all managing to stay warm and dry!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

New beginnings mean new challenges!

It's been an exciting week at Catz's Corner! Our son and his lovely girlfriend have become engaged! He even (in a cold and frosty London park) got down on one knee with the ring, who would have thought our lad could be so romantic? A winter wedding, in the north, next year is planned.

It is all very exciting but also means the budget will have to be pulled in a notch, so that we can have a worry free celebration. We will have to travel north and book into a hotel etc., and we would like to contribute something towards the costs but not sure really these days what the grooms family are responsible for. We will have to do some research and then diplomatically offer if we can.

We nabbed a bit back from our savings this week to cover the cost of some amazing lovers (they cuddle!) lead cystal decanters, as an engagement present, so that has contributed to their bottom draw collection.

To kick off the new tighter budget I have started a store cupboard challenge for this month, still getting the organic deliveries and any fresh needs (not wants) to the total of £50 only for 2.5 of us! Miss C is only really with us for a few days of the week and Penny's food lasts a long time, so unusual for a spaniel type dog!

I have plenty of flour, oil, butter in freezer, lentils, oats, sugar, chickpeas, beans, tinned tomatoes, potatoes, 1 froz joint pork, 1froz med chicken, some froz pollack, salmon, loads of frozen vegetables from the garden, powdered milk, rice, pasta, tuna and tinned fruit.

Yesterday I made the first "storecupboard" meal which was very tasty and would suit vegetarians and vegans but still kept my meat eating hubby happy:-

Curried Red Lentil Soup

1/2 medium peeled and chopped onion (from veg box)
2 tablespoons oil (used olive oil)
1 chopped garlic clove (from neighbours home grown supply)
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger (I used a tsp of lazy ginger from larder)
1 + 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup of rinsed red lentils (from big bag in larder)
1 + 1/4 cups water
3 cups of stock (I used home made chicken stock but vegetable would be good too)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used some tinned plum ones)
Fresh lemon juice to taste (jif bottled juice worked)
seasoning to taste

In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the oil stirring until golden brown

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds, stirring the whole time

Add the rinsed lentils (I also soaked them for 1 hour) with the measured water and stock

Bring the liquid to the boil and simmer, covered for 25 minutes - once ready to simmer I transferred all to the slow cooker and left it to it's own devices for the afternoon.

Stir in the tomatoes and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the lemon juice and seasoning and serve with lovely thick slices of home made bread.

This makes a lovely thick and spicy soup, loads left for today as well :)

Now I must find some chickpea recipes!