Im Back!!

I do hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!

So, it’s probably not escaped your notice that I havent blogged for a while, okay a few weeks, in fact its been over a month!

Not blogging wasn’t intentional, it just kind of happened. I was stressed out. Christmas was weeks away, I hadn’t prepared or bought anything. The boys’ social lives were taking off with parties and shows. Bruiser was struggling, he went back to not sleeping (despite been on melatonin!!) routines were changing and I was inundated with meetings, hospital or therapy appointments for the boys. In general life was very hard going and anything that wasnt a priority simply fell to the wayside. I didn’t even have the energy to keep up my appearances… I’m sure you are aware of ‘that’ look, unwashed (dry shampoo’d) hair scraped back, un-ironed clothes, bags under eyes, untidy nails! Dont even get me started on the mountain of housework that went days/weeks undone!

Me and Hubby have lived on tenterhooks for the last few weeks with Bruiser. His inability to deal with his emotions and the change of routines has rocked us all. Just been off school has been hell. Not to mention throwing Bruiser in front of the big man several times, when he even struggles to acknowledge his own grandparents, aunts and uncles that he’s known all his life. He doesn’t understand time concepts very well, so the countdown didn’t really happen for him. Its been emotionally draining and that’s putting it mildly! (and now the return to school has been equally as painful) 

I really didn’t think Christmas was going to happen. I still can’t believe that I did it, that I pulled it off… and stayed sane!! Okay so the last bit is probably a lie 😉

The boys have loved it though and its been absolutely magical. I’ve loved spending some quality time with them both and my dear Hubby.

So, we made it, we got through it! I found my mojo, eventually… and im back! 🙂 (woohoo) and we are ready for this year. Bring it on 2014, do your worst!!

Baking our Christmas Cake

The other week me, Wriggler and Bruiser baked this years Christmas cake. This was the second time id baked the cake. In previous years, my Mum had always took great pleasure in baking us our yearly christmas cake but. last year I decided that I would use my Mums Christmas Cake recipe and give it a go for myself. It was a great success.

This year I wanted to get the boys involved just like my Mum did with me and my Brothers when we were children.

Both Wriggler and Bruiser love to bake and help cook so it didn’t surprise me that they were both very eager to get stuck in. In fact they took over, I barely got chance to do any of it myself!

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First of all we got the butter and sugar creamed together. Then the boys took turns to add a little spiced flour then a little egg and other liquid ingredients until they were all mixed in.

Bruiser got stuck in scraping the mixture from the sides of the bowl (taking great care not to get even a tiny bit of mixture on his fingers) before they added the fruit, one spoonful at a time;

Once all the ingredients were added, it was time to each give the mixture a hand-stir while we made our christmas wishes. This was a tradition that my Mum always did. Id always thought it was a lovely idea so this year for the first time we did it too. 

That was it, the mixture was added to the cake tin and left to slowly bake in the oven…. All that was left was to well, clean the utensils 😉

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While the cake matures in the coming weeks, we just need to decide how we want to decorate the cake. Last year we did Snowmen and a Christmas Tree. But, this year Wriggler has some great ideas, so watch this space!

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Christmas 2012 in Pictures

We have had a truly magical Christmas this year. Its been wonderful. The boys got everything they hoped for and more. They’re very lucky little boys!

I too have received some lovely gifts. From Hubby and the boys I got two beautiful Pandora charms and a Sheffield Wednesday Onesie amongst other things 🙂

I hope you all had an equally wonderful Christmas.

The high lights are just too many to mention so, i’ll let the pictures do the talking…

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Christmas Eve with Grandad and Great Nannan

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A Feast for Father Christmas and his Reindeer and then… *whispers* He came!

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Christmas Day

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My Favorite Christmas Stories

Everyone loves a good Christmas Story. They give you a warm excited glow inside that makes you feel Christmassy. You cant beat a cosy winters night in, in front of the box. Watching a Christmas film. The light of the tree the only light in the room. 😉

A lot of people recently have been sharing their favorite Christmas films and stories so I decided that I would share mine too.

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First in the list is an old old favorite and probably the 1st Christmas film that I fell in love with.

Its a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart & Donna Reed

Its a Wonderful Life

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Another old favorite…

A Christms Carol, starring Alister Simm.

Wriggler came home from school other night saying ‘they had had a pantomime in school about this horrible man that got turned nice because of these ghosts’. He absolutely loved it!  #atimelessclassic

A Christmas Carol

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I think this next film is the probably a favorite Christmas film of all the adults today, that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s.

Santa Claus The Movie, starring Dudley Moore & John Lithgow

Santa Claus The Movie

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Who doesn’t love this next one…

The Snowman

This story for me is another #timelessclassic. Wriggler equally loves this every year. We’ve even had the book from the library on many occasion.

We cant wait to see the new story on Christmas Eve this year, The Snowman and The Snowdog. A perfect bedtime story me thinks.

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The last film in my list is quite a modern film in comparison. But, equally heart warming and magical.

The Polar Express, starring the voice of Tom Hanks.

I love this film! It makes me want to be a kid again and go on this adventure. Wriggler loved this when he saw it for the first time 2yrs ago. We still had it in the sky planner for months after Christmas!

The Polar Express

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Have I missed any?

What are your favorite Christmas Stories? What are your Children’s?

Share them here.

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I’ve already Sky+’d all these films for next week 😉

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Decorating Our Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

This weekend we enjoyed some quality family time getting creative… we decorated our Christmas Cake.

This was a cake I had made some two months previously. I had left it marinading in the rum, brandy and sherry that I had ‘fed’ it over that period. This has given it more moisture and a rich aroma. ;). To see how I made this cake please see my post Mum’s Christmas Cake.

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To Decorate, you will need.

What you need

1kg of white Royal Icing

500g of natural Marzipan

Royal Icing in various colours (we chose red, blue, green and yellow)

1tbsp of Apricot Jam (boiled in a pan and left to cool)

Icing Sugar

The white of 1 Egg

Your Cake (obviously)

and some tools for the job… rolling pin, icing smoother, sieve, icing piping set, cake base (unfortunately I couldn’t find a square one for love nor money so we had to make do with a round one)

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Start by preparing the cake for the marzipan and icing. Level it off on top to give it a more flatter surface. Then, brush over the cool, boiled apricot jam on all the surface areas.

Leveled off and covered in cool boiled apricot jam

Next, you need to prepare the marzipan. Before rolling it out, its best to knead the marzipan well, warming it up in your hands, this makes the marzipan softer and easier to work with. Use a sprinkling of sieved icing sugar on the work surface as this will stop it sticking to the surface. Then roll it out in to a circle of about 12x12inch with a depth of about 4mm.

Very carefully lift the marzipan onto the cake taking care not to tear it. Using your fingers, smooth it onto the cake along with an icing smoother. At the corners of the cake, nip the marzipan together before trimming it off with a knife. Smooth off again on all surfaces using the smoother.

Next it was time for the icing. Again, the icing needed warming up and kneading in the same way as the marzipan. I used 600g of the icing for this part.

Roll the icing out into a circle of about 12x12inch with a depth of about 6mm. Before putting it onto the cake, brush the marzipan with some boiled water. This helps the icing to stick to the cake. As before lift the icing into the cake, smooth it off round the edges and on top using your fingers and a smoother. Nip the icing at the corners of the cake the same as before with the marzipan and then trim it off with a knife and smooth off again.

Now you are ready for the main decorative part.

To make the icing to pipe onto your cake, you will need, 200g of icing sugar sieved into a bowl. Add the beaten white of 1 large egg and mix this in well. If the icing seems too runny, add more sieved icing sugar, it its too thick, add more egg white. But these quantities created for me, the best consistency. To find out if it is the right consistency, try forming spikes in the icing, if they hold well, then its right.

Slowly does it when it comes to the piping part. If you haven’t done this before, make extra icing and practice on the sideboard. Its also up to you what pattern you make round the edge. I chose a shell but you can use any that you like.

When you have finished piping and are happy with the results, put the cake to one side. By the time you have made the decorations for the top the piped icing will have set.

You are now ready to make your decorations for the top. We chose to do snowmen and a tree. You can choose any decoration, go wherever your creativity takes you. To connect the bits the of the snowman together ie the head to body, hat to head etc use the left over icing from the piping, it acts like a glue and sets hard holding everything together. For the eyes and buttons, we used the silver pearls that you can get on most bakery aisles in the supermarket.

Once the Snowmen are done, you need to make them their accessories.. hats, scarfs, gloves not forgetting their eyes, nose and buttons. Wriggler thought it would be good to have snowmen that resembled each of us using our favorite colours. So for us, Daddy was in Red; Mummy (me), Blue; Wriggler, red and Bruiser, Green!

For the carrot nose, mix some red and yellow icing together to create an orange colour. For the base of the tree mix red with green to create brown.

Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the tree as we made it. It was very simple though. Make 4 different sized triangles (starting large-ish going slightly smaller) with the green icing and a cube for the base in brown. Not forgetting a star for the top. Connect them all together using cocktail sticks. We used the silver pearls again, this time for baubles.

Once all the snowmen and tree are complete, arrange them on the cake. We used the left over icing from the piping earlier to stick the figures onto the cake. For the tree, we used a couple more cocktail sticks through the center of the tree and stuck them into the cake.

For a finishing touch, we sprinkled sieved icing sugar on top to give the effect of snow that has fallen.

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Ta-da!

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Homemade Christmas Snow Globe

Angel Snow Globe

Angel Snow Globe

Snow Globes are one of my favorite Christmas Decorations. I could watch them all day. Wriggler it seems, shares my love of them and always picks up and plays with them in shops. As much as he actually wants me to buy one for him for Christmas, I thought that given his creative streak, he’d like to make one of his own so much more.

They are quick and easy so perfect for children of any age.

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What you will need

A Christmassy model ie a Father Christmas, Snowman, Reindeer or anything that says ‘Christmas’. We chose an Angel!

An empty jar (remove label), jam size is ideal but remember it needs to house your chosen model

Glitter. We chose gold and silver and a hint of red (Wriggler’s favorite colour) but you can choose any colour that your little one would like to use

Strong glue. (We used super-glue)

Glycerine. (This thickens the water so when you shake the globe, the glitter snow falls slower and gives a better effect)

Jug of water

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How To Make It

In the jar, pour in the glycerine and then add the water (1 part glycerine to 2 parts water).

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Stir well.

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Add the glitter. We used about half a tube of silver glitter with a sprinkling of gold and red.

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Stir well and leave to one side for later.

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Next, glue your model to the inside of the jar lid. (We also used a little tin to stand the Angel on so it could be seen properly as it was a little short)

***It is recommended that an adult does the gluing bit***

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Leave it to dry for a good hour.

Once the model is stuck securely on the lid of the jar, put glue round the inside edge of the lid.

Put the jar lid on the jar and screw it tightly shut. Leave to dry again for another hour.

DO NOT TURN THE JAR UPSIDE DOWN AS THE GLUE WILL STILL BE WET!!

Once all the glue has dried, tip the jar upright and give it a little shake and watch your glitter snow globe come to life

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Give it a go with your children, they’ll love it, mine did!

🙂

Tots100 Experience Days Competition

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Happy Months (Mince Pies)

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Christmas preparations are well under way now. Think its time I made my first lot of Mince Pie’s… or Happy Months as they were called when I was growing up.

(There is a tradition that says for each mince pie eaten over the festive period one will get a happy month in the following year)… best get eating 🙂

Last year, I used my Mum’s last ever jar of homemade Mincemeat. My Brother has carried on that tradition so this years, will made using my Brothers Mincemeat.

Happy Month Mince Pie’s

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Ingredients

(makes 8oz of pastry which makes approx 12-15 mince pies… want more, simply double the ingredients!)

8oz Self Raising Flour

4oz Butter

1oz Sugar

75ml of cold water

(my Mum always insisted on SF flour and not plain. She said it made a softer thicker pastry that melted in your mouth… she was right :))

What else

A jar of Mincemeat

1 egg beaten with a splash of milk to coat the top of the pies

A sprinkling of sugar

A little water to stick the tops on the pies

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Rub together the butter and flour and sugar in a bowl to make fine crumbs.

pastry crumbs

pastry crumbs

Add the water and sir in with a knife until you have a dough that isn’t too sticky or too crumbly.

Pastry dough

Pastry dough

Roll out the pastry on a flat surface and using the pastry cutter (i use the largest one). You will need 12-15 of the largest circles and 12-15 of the medium sized ones to top your pies.

Rolled and cut pastry cases

Rolled and cut pastry cases

Add the pastry circles to your baking tray, then add a generous amount of mincemeat to each of the pastry cases.

generously filled pastry cases

generously filled pastry cases

Next, use a little water and using your fingers cover one side of the pastry case tops and then stick them down onto the mincemeat filled pastry cases. Be sure to press down round the edge to make sure they stick together well.  Then, using your fingers again, dip them into the egg and milk mix and cover the tops of the pies evenly and sprinkle with sugar. Im quite generous with the sugar as it makes the tops of the bun quite crunchy. Once done, use some baking scissors and snip twice on the tops of the pies.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Bake in the center of a pre-heated oven for 15-20 mins or until golden on top! Then leave to cool on a wire rack.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

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Give them a go, they’re quick and simple to make and they taste delicious!

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Getting Ready for Christmas

I love this time of year. Everyone is getting ready for Christmas. Christmas songs are playing in the shops, the Coca Cola Christmas Truck has been on TV, the little ones are enjoying their advent chocolate in a morning. Nativity plays are imminent, if you haven’t already seen them.

It’s safe to say that the excitement is most definitely building in our house.

This weekend we will be getting ready for Christmas. For our family, the main decorating and big tree is done by the ‘Christmas Fairies and Elves’ while we sleep in the night 😉 and the little trees are for the boys to decorate as they wish. They usually keep the little ones in their bedroom.

All these preparations though are making me look back at our ‘getting ready for Christmas’ photos from years gone by.

Wriggler in his 1st Santa hat

Wriggler in his 1st Santa hat

King Wriggler in his 1st Nativity

King Wriggler in his 1st Nativity

1st time Wriggler decorated his own little Christmas Tree

1st time Wriggler decorated his own little Christmas Tree

Wriggler loves wrapping himself up in all the Tinsel

Wriggler loves wrapping himself up in all the Tinsel

Baking 'Happy Months'

Baking ‘Happy Months’

Bruiser in his 1st Santa hat

Bruiser in his 1st Santa hat

Bruiser's 1st Advent Calendar

Bruiser’s 1st Advent Calendar

Meeting Father Christmas

Meeting Father Christmas

Wriggler getting Christmas Crafty

Wriggler getting Christmas Crafty

Wriggler decorating his tree

Wriggler decorating his tree

Angel Bruiser in his 1st Nativity

Angel Bruiser in his 1st Nativity

Watching their personal messages from Father Christmas

Watching their personal messages from Father Christmas

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How do you get ready for Christmas? Do you have any little traditions?

I can’t wait now 🙂

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Makaton Monday ~ Christmas Special

Christmas Bells

Its now December, time to start practicing Christmas themed signs with Bruiser.

CHRISTMAS

CHRISTMAS TREE

CHRISTMAS CARD

CHRISTMAS CARD

SLEIGH

REINDEER

PRESENTS

TOYS

TURKEY

CHRISTMAS PUDDING

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Try them with your children.

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Christmas Bells

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You can download your own Christmas Sign Symbols from the Makaton website under their free resources by following this link.

Sign/Symbol used with the kind permission of the © The Makaton Charity 2012

For any help or advice in respect of Makaton, please contact the Makaton Charity directly.

Mums Christmas Cake

When I think of all the amazing calorie rich indulgent Christmas treats i’ve tucked into over the years, my Mum’s Christmas cake comes to mind every time.

Given that we are now less than 90 sleeps away, I think it’s definitely time to get my cake on the go so its ready in time for Christmas AND I’m going to share it with you all.

This cake goes back to my great grandma and she in turn passed it on to my Mum.

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Ingredients:

8 oz of butter
8 oz natural dark muscovado sugar
1 (level) tsp black treacle
4 medium eggs
10 oz plain flour
¼ tsp salt
1 (level) tsp soluble coffee powder or essence
1 & ½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp of ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp rum
1 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp of sherry
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz currents
8 oz sultanas
4 oz chopped mixed peel
4 oz chopped glazed cherries
8 oz raisins
4 oz flaked almonds

All good to go!

All good to go!

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The day before you make your cake, mix all the fruit together in a bowl and add 4 tbsp of brandy, 4 tbsp of rum and 4 tbsp of sherry, more if you’d prefer 😉 Mix well and keep covered with some cling film.  Keep giving it the odd shake to keep mixing it up and leave overnight.

all the dried fruit mixed together and soaked over night in 5 tbsp of brandy, 5 tbsp of rum and 5tbsp of sherry and covered in clingfilm.

all the dried fruit mixed together and soaked over night in 5 tbsp of brandy, 5 tbsp of rum and 5 tbsp of sherry and cover in cling film.

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Prepare

Grease and line a 7-8in cake tin (square or round, your choice) with grease-proof paper.

lined and greased cake tin

(that cake tin was my Mum’s and her Nan’s!!)

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, coffee powder, mixed spice and ginger into a large bowl (this is the spiced flour).

Beat the eggs in a jug and add to it; the vanilla extract, brandy, rum and almond extract.

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Cream the fat and sugar together well and add the treacle.

Add a small amount of the egg mixture to the fat, beat well.

Add a tbsp of the spiced flour to the mixture and mix well.

Add some more egg, beat well and add a 2nd tbsp of spiced flour.

Add the rest of the egg gradually and beat well between each addition.

Add the remaining spiced flour.

Lastly add the dried fruits and almonds and mix well.

ready to add the fruit

ready to add the fruit

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Pour the mixture into the pre-prepared cake tin.

After adding the mixture to the cake tin, make a dip in the center of the mixture of about an inch. this stops the cake rising too much in the middle and thus cracking and burning.

use the spatula to create the dip

use the spatula to create the dip

Bake in the middle of a (preheated) warm oven (gas 3/325F/160C) for 1 hour.

Reduce heat to very cool (gas 1/275F/140C) for the last 2 hours checking it after one hour and every 15 minutes thereafter.

To check to see if the cake is done, you will need a fine instrument to check that it is cooked in the middle, (i use a kebab skewer) by inserting it diagonally around the center of the cake. Leave it in for a second and withdraw. If the skewer is clean then it’s cooked. If there is still some cake stuck to the skewer then return it to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes. Keep doing this until the skewer is removed clean.

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Leave to cool on a wire rack in the tin until it is cold.

Cooked and Cooling

Cooked and Cooling

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When it is cold, remove from tin and remove the grease-proof paper. Re-wrap in fresh grease-proof paper.

Cake 'fed' and ready to be wrapped up

Cake ‘fed’ and ready to be wrapped up

At this point my Mum would use the skewer and make lots of insertions all over the top of the cake going almost all the way through and then ‘feed the cake’ some brandy by pouring little amounts over the surface of the cake making sure it goes down the tiny holes and rubbing any remaining brandy over the surface to make sure it all gets absorbed. She would then repeat this process for the bottom of the cake 24-hours later. You can repeat this process as many times as you like.

Always be sure to wrap the cake in grease-proof paper well followed by foil and store in a tin for a few months until you are ready to decorate. Do not wrap in foil on its own as the alcohol reacts with the alcohol.

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Fancy decorating the cake??

Christmas Cake

check out my post on decorating your cake by clicking this link

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Then sit back and relax with a slice….

slice of cake

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Don’t forget to wear your Santa Hat while you make it 🙂

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