For Jay…

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Small boy enjoying chocolate cake…it seems even decorating it girlie style with flowers and stuff doesn’t put them off…

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Cake

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I had a need to make cake today. It struck at lunch time and I’ve spent most of the day dreaming of a damp moist chocolate cake with flowers on it.

Oddly I have no desire to eat it, just to make it which is why it’s still sitting in the kitchen whole and intact…despite the rugby result.

Fin de siecle

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I love my job. No I mean I really really LOVE my job…I love what I do, I love being a lawyer, I love the area of work I deal with and I really love the fact I never know what the day will hold.  It also helps that I have fabulous colleagues and my internal clients are wonderful too…it really makes a difference to know that most of us believe that what we do is making a difference – ok the outside world might not share our view, but mostly we do it because in one way or another we believe we can help.

I’m lucky. I know I am. I have had 10 years doing something that makes me happy…and I suspect I would fail to count more than 6 people that I know who are in this same position.

BUT…it’s unlikely that things will continue in this manner, because I’m a public servant and life as I know it will change and even if I still have a job this time next year it is unlikely to be the one I know and love as even if I stay with the same organisation it is likely that we will have been restructured…so tonight I am raising a glass of champagne to the life I’ve had and tomorrow I will face change with hope for what is to come, hope that I can make something positive out of it.

Tonight there is cake. Fin de Siecle cake – also known in this house as Leftover Chocolate Cake as the recipe changes depending on what chocolate and nuts there are left in the house  – this one is made with chili chocolate, coffee and walnuts…and it’s fabulous, and if they are lucky then my fabulous colleagues might get to share what is left tomorrow because I think we all need a bit of cheering up this week.

Birthdaysaurus

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Apologies for the lack of posts here of late. I lost interest in food, food in general including cake.  Cooking was happening here, mainly by Husband but I did my fair share (I don’t think its fair in a relationship for it to always be one partner who ends up having to do a particular thing – although we do both agree that it’s pointless asking me to map read !) but I just had no desire to write about it, because my heart wasn’t in it.

I did make an effort for special occasions such as Spider’s 5th birthday, but there were so many other things going on that I forgot to take a picture – fortunately my Mum turned up complete with camera and managed to capture the gigantic beast in the kitchen, shortly after having his neck stuck back on (with water !) and some time before it was consumed by a hoard of hungry party goers…

I still have no interest in food – but that may be about to change. We have spent most of today reclaiming our back garden and filling a skip with builders waste (old wood, broken doors and windows etc) – We kept some wood for making raised beds and I have a big box full of seeds, Nigel Slater’s “Tender v1” (which incidently is currently half  price at Amazon) and a sneaking feeling that if I want to shift his next stone of weight I probably should major on the vegetables this summer as well as the exercise (4 mile walk last night and 5 hours of shifting builders rubbish today).

Tonight though I’m feeling too tired to do anything but collapse…

A christmas cake they all will eat

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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 !

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

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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 ?

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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.

Yay !

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Yay ! I have contact lenses…I feel like me again…but more of that another time…

I love this time of the year. I think I mentioned last year that I like Halloween, but not for the trick and treat, for the food. And Bonfire night ! I love Bonfire night but not for the fireworks but for sausages and baked potatoes and toffee…planning on going to a party weekend of the 7th purely because they are offering a hog roast…but back to Halloween.

I did not this year make the Ghoul Graveyard cake as Halloween clashed with my Dad’s birthday party. So instead I borrowed an idea from Domesticali and made some ghostie lollipops for nearest and dearest and closest small people. We had a wonderful scary pumpkin carved by Husband and I have a fridge full of pumpkin carvings waiting to become soup…but they will have to wait as I also have a fridge full of leftovers due to overbuying for half term (Teenager came to stay for most of it).

My Dad is a very lucky boy as due to a diary clash he gets to celebrate both this weekend (31st) and again on the 7th. My brother couldn’t make the 31st as he had another party to go to, whereas we couldn’t make the 7th as we were hoping to go to a Mercedez day at Brooklands (shhshh, don’t tell Spider but Lewis Hamilton might be there).

Tried to make a cake that might keep the week and still be nice…and that always means gingerbread but as a concession to the fact most people eating it will be under 7 he has Nigella’s chocolate gingerbread, which is nice but not as nice as liberkuchen…but that is an obsession to talk about another day…as is my liking for gingerbread in general (the only Starbucks coffee I have been known to drink is their gingerbread latte…I love the autumn !).

So yes I can see and all is well in my little corner of the world… oh and a picture of a very very brown cake to follow when I can find the camera which has gone walk about again – SPIDER !!!

Lovely lovely lovely friends in the north

Yesterday instead of the usual bills and junk mail dropping through the letter box I got  a parcel. An unexpected parcel from north of the border.

The lovely Padmae (aka Emma) from Aberdeen had sent me some tea cake – for the details check out her blog here. She says its Nigalla’s Fruit Tea Loaf – I don’t care whose it is – its lovely and so unexpected.

I’ve never been to Durham

I have been pretty low recently, so low that a number of friends expressed stated that they had been worried about me. Things have been getting me down, but it is thanks to these friends (and family) that I am not sinking. I owe a lot to my friends and weirdly it’s been my “new” friends who have been there for me when I’ve needed them.

The weekend was full of lovely hi points. It was Teenager’s birthday and we had made a cake. I say “we” as Spider was helping with the icing, primarily by eating the cola bottles bought for decorationjuly 2009 002. The cake was Nigella’s Coca Cola Cake (How to be  Domestic Goddess) – which was very very nice and incredibly easy to make…it is however quite a flat low cake, and it stuck to the foil which lines the tin to stop the mixture seeping out and all over the oven…so I iced it on a plate and used the icing to hide the fact that the cake was in several pieces!

We were visited by the Fairy Gothmother, who is always happy to talk cake and has now a page on Facebook called “Cake District” she was bearing lovely gifts, late birthday presents for me and presents for her goth son…she also waved her fairy gothmother’s wand in the direction of Amazon, sprinkled fairy dust and lo and behold they delivered a copy of Economy Gastronomy to our address…or at least they will do as soon as it gets released!

On Sunday we invaded Flapjack Queen’s house to ask them to come for a walk and ended up spending most of the day there – when we did finally get out we discovered a hedge of “wild” plums in the allotments out back and introduced the children to the delights of pick your own fruit grinning conspiratorially at each other as the sticky juices ran down our chins and on our fingers.

Back at FQ’s palace we made plum crumble (plum and pecan (HtbaDG), a big one for the family and a small one for a lady up the road who no doubt picked the plums in the 1930’s when she was a teenager…I love the continuation of  history you get in a village. FQ made a banana and blueberry muffin cake and sent me away with half of it in return for my plum crumble.

So thank you friends, and in particular Fairy Gothmother, Flapjack Queen and Wingnut (who introduced me to geocaching which gets me out of the house) – all of whom it turns out are graduates of Durham university…