Shakespere in love.  Will was a local lad, at some point I hope to enjoy the fact that William Shakespeare  came from about 20 miles away…life interferes with the things you think are important at 20…so different at 38.

A christmas cake they all will eat


By 9.30am today I had had enough. Enough of the dodgy weather. Enough of the arrangements. Enough of the stress. Enough of the cooking. Enough of the making presents and enough of Spider. He is so wound up its untrue. Husband is taking this in his stride as he’s been dealing with over excited children for 20 years now, this is my first year as last year Spider didn’t really understand this christmas thing…now he does…and let me tell you, it’s hell!

I’ve also been feeling bad about letting luscious Lullabelle down. We had arranged for me to pick her Mum up and bring her to the midlands as my journey home from Reading takes me virtually past her door. But although the office was open today, they were advising staff not to drive…it was at 9.30am that I had the phone call with Lullabelle telling her that I was working from home and would her Mum mind getting a taxi to Reading station…I feel rotten, but I’m not a confident driver in bad weather in this new car, it’s so light and skittish, the old one was like a tank !

So at 9.31 I decided that was it. I was going to stop. If it hasn’t been done yet, it’s not happening. Except some mince pies and maybe some small apple ones and…no it stops here. Got some wrapping to do, but otherwise I’m not touching any of the not done presents until after the 25th – fortunately not seeing the majority of friends and relatives until after Christmas.

So as a result we have inherited the gingerbread I made for Lullabelle and I will make something fresh in the new year when I finally venture the 13 miles down to Banbury – so I’m a whimp in bad weather, but I’m an alive whimp…it is not my accident I’m afraid of it’s other people who think they can drive…

Anyway, enough winging, here is our sweet encrusted cottage – all it needs is a witch to lock over excited children up in cages, where they will be fattened up for christmas until their sister pushes the witch in the oven and they both run back through the forest to the safety of their father’s woodcutter’s cottage… hmmm, we never did get around to providing Spider with a little sister…and after today’s behaviour I don’t think we ever will !

Sweet Memories


My boys are ill. Husband and Spider are curled up in the living room on separate sofas under duvets, coughing sniffing and generally feeling very sorry for themselves and watching a lot of Wallace and Gromit. Me ? Well I just left them to it. I’ve been sympathetic, of course I have, but only in between cooking…

I have left the “food as presents” side of things as long as I could, claiming it’s necessary so that it’s fresh for christmas. But the truth is I have been avoiding tackling my Mum’s present. I can talk about it here as she knows what she’s getting. She asked for sweets, homemade old fashioned style sweets.

Sweets ? Easy. We’ve all done sweets as kids right ? Yes, it’s just as a kid I didn’t actually have a good record of succesful sweet making. My brother and I had a free hand in the kitchen. Our parents encouraged us to cook and as long as we cleaned up afterwards and told them if we’d used anything up, we could cook anything.  One thing we made a lot of , although it is really just sugar, was cinder toffee ( take some sugar, heat it up in a pan and then at some point add bicarbonate of soda)… we made it because we liked watching the sugar bubble up like a volcano, the toffee didn’t taste very nice as we overdid the bicarb trying to get it to really fizz up.

Then there was the time I made fudge….but was too scared of burning it to let it boil enough so the resulting mixture didn’t set and had to be poured over ice cream as a sauce  instead of cutting with a knife…in contrast there was the bonfire toffee which was overcooked and shattered like glass…

or the time I assisted a class of 8 year olds to make peppermint creams and the hours spent afterwards cleaning the mixture off taps and surfaces, door handles, tables, toilets, the floor, the teacher…

No, me and sweets do not have a good track record…

Then after you have made them, all the books talk about packaging them in an attractive, imaginative way with ribbons, paper, pretty boxes and such…I stick my head in the sand and pretend that the Christmas fairies will wave a magic wand and transport my wonky efforts into pieces of art…

But now the days cooking is over, it doesn’t seem so bad, and I might even manage to crack the packaging dilemma if I throw myself on the mercies of Flapjack Queen and her bottomless store of make and do goodies

Bethlehem’s Buzzin’ : A tale of slipped halos (a review)


“Bethlehem Buzzin’ is a heart warming story of a scabby-kneed male angel amongst a host of female angels  (a “wise”man at work advises me that angels are actually sexless) and his one boy attempt to make a difference to the lives of poor struggling wood working folk, Mary and Joseph at the birth of their child. It is a tale of his fight against failures of costume, how he carried on despite the collapse of 2 sets of wings and halos and how he triumphed in order to stand on stage and wave his halo at the audience, disco dance in quiet moments and above all give his Mummy the thumbs up whenever he though there was no one amongst the 100 strong audience watching. A “stunning performance” was the verdict from his number one fan.”

What do you mean there were other children involved ?  I didn’t see anyone else, there was only one boy on the stage…

Auto pilot


I make sandwiches most days for Spider, usually in the morning having forgotten the night before. I don’t usually remember to make them for me. Today I remembered.

I have just reached in my bag and found a small clingfilmed wrapped plastic which I remember from the foggy haze that grips me during my early morning tea making trips to the kitchen. The sandwiches inside are peanut butter, delicately sliced into quarters with their crusts cut off…exactly the same as I make for Spider !

(note I tend to cut mine into halves – and I promise you i have not picked up the wrong lunch by mistake, he doesn’t eat crunchy peanut butter)

The Woodcutter’s Tale or a bad workman blames his tools…


I have been delaying starting the christmas cooking as long as possible, because I’ve committed myself to a number of things that scare me, my Mum’s christmas present will have to wait for a later date as it’s not unknown for her to drop in on these pages from time to time (“Hello Mum” waves frantically in an interweb direction) the friend I have been cooking for this afternoon does not…so…

I have been making a lot of gingerbread lately, it’s easy to do and you can freeze the dough until you are ready to use it. When it’s cooked it will store until you are ready to decorate it and turn it into iced biscuits, christmas tree decorations or a gingerbread house.

I’d chosen to start with a very simple house. Since its made by rolling lots of “sausages of dough together which then spread on the tray and give you something resembling a log cabin I thought Spider would be interested – he also might enjoy the fact that chocolate gingerbread when uncooked looks a lot like “poo”, a substance that 4yo find hillarious…but no, ITV2 had decided to put “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on and I couldn’t entice him into the kitchen.

So I set to alone….things I have learned

  • trees consisting of 5 parts each are fiddly and time consuming to cut out and to put together
  • sheets of gingerbread made up of rolls of dough joined together have a habit of coming to pieces in your hands
  • I was right to be scared of having to play with icing…

Confession time:  I do not like icing things. Mainly because my icing set has a habit of coming to bits when faced with anything harder than cream or butter icing…today was no exception, royal icing was a step too far, I squeezed too hard and ended up with icing everywhere except on the gingerbread.

I scraped out the icing into a bowl and then dumped the icing set in the bin…should have done it years ago…

Continuing with a palate knife and some hot water I just about managed to get the house to stick together and disguised a lot of the crumb that now littered the plate by sprinkling the lot with icing sugar snow – ahhh, finished, but wait, wasn’t the cottage meant to be surrounded by trees ? How on earth can I stick the trees together when i can’t pipe a thin line of icing ?

Fortunately there was a teenager around, a teenager who likes playing with food…Teenager introduced me to the joy of microwaved sweet sugar glue which we smeared over as many of the tree pieces we could and bunged them on the plate – covering our bodging with even more sugar snow…Teenager was pleased to accept the remains of the gingerbread and the flakes in payment for his inspiration and went away happy…I collapsed with a pint of tea !

It looks very much as if Spider made it with my help…if people assume that I won’t tell them otherwise…tomorrow I’m shopping for icing equipment I can rely on as the next 2 cakes involve much more icing.

Favourite Cake ?


I started making a christmas cake at the start of the week. I wasn’t going to, as the “traditional” christmas cake doesn’t play very well in this house, or at my parents. However the sainsbury’s magazine had a yule log on the front and a “mulled wine fruit cake” which apparently freezes well, and I quite liked the idea of having a fruit cake in the freezer ready to go if needed….

It was too early in the month to do the yule log, that’s a “cooking with children” activity for when the school holidays start, but since we had a jar of mincemeat in the cupboard not used last year, and some wine left over from the night before (plus some port lurking in the kitchen somewhere) the mulled wine cake was calling out to be done. BUT, this week has been one of trips to London and illness and being just too damned tired…so after getting as far as melting the butter, adding sugar, warming the alcohol and adding sultanas, I stopped, and stayed stopped.

The cake in fact has been in the fridge for a week now waiting for me to finish it off, and although I will (because not too would be a waste) my heart really isn’t in it – if you are to make cake then I think it has to be something you want to make… and this isn’t.

So the yule log is yet to come. I’ve also promised French Frank I would do him a fruit cake (if he remembers to send me his current address) but I’m open to suggestions as to what cake to do for Christmas that doesn’t involve icing, marzipan and alcohol soaked fruits…preferably something that is not going to still be there in February waiting to be eaten.