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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Gloves of love & lucky pigs

For this year's Christmas present swap, my dear friends L & A decided that we should (for creative and budgetary reasons) make the theme 'hand-made'. How fortunate that we are all creative and resourceful individuals ;)

As A is spending much time working to set up her exciting entrepreneurial venture Anna Mae, L and I thought it would only be appropriate to create presents which would tie in with this nicely.

To keep A's hands toasty while she serves up the tastiest, tenderest pulled pork with home-made BBQ sauce at her market stall, I felt that a pair of Andrea's Mitts were in order. Who says you can't look good and stay warm?

Here they are blocking out:

Seems to be a good fit..

Luckily A liked them very much, as we exchanged pressies in a Soho ice-cream shop - it was about -3 outside at the time, so that probably says a lot about our obsession with ice-cream..
L had out-done herself creating a little mascot for Anna Mae's in the form of a very cute fluffy piglet, complete with name tag which I felt was a touch of genius.

A, I hope you don't mind if I nick your photo?

In return we received the most enticing jar of flavour combinations I have seen for a long time:

Having just about made it home before ripping the lid off and sticking a finger in to try, I can say that it tastes amazing! A little blob of this awesomeness is all that's needed to transform my morning porridge from bland to yum. Who knew that salted caramel and rosemary worked together so well?!

In other Christmas gift-giving news.. My Secret Santa target at work happens to love pigs, especially small cute ones. How could I therefore not knit up a trio of Chichesters for her?

Happily she loved them, and I do hope that they will bring her a trough full of good luck for 2011!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sinful Sponge

Some say it's a sin to put it in.. the microwave that is. To be honest I always believed that the combination of baking and microwave could only really lead to disappointment. Even the initial excitement of purchasing a pack of 'microwave mug muffin mix' waned as the rather pallid and wobbly mushroom-like muffins emerged from the microwave.

So it was with some trepidation that tried this recipe for yes, MICROWAVE syrup sponge! Syrup sponge is one of those recipes that I've never really bothered to make before as it seemed to involve complicated things like steaming, so the whole microwave thing actually sounded justified.

Apart from all the syrup migrating over to one side of the sponge during cooking, it actually turned out pretty well and even looked edible:

Might also be worth noting that I didn't bother with risking cling-film (or Saran wrap as they call it in the recipe) in the microwave, favouring just to plonk a small plate on top of the bowl during cooking.

Highly recommended, especially with lashings of custard.

Ice Queen & the Forgotten Cowl

Ah 'tis the season for Secret Santa! I was lucky enough to receive this beautiful lace cowl from T last week at our knitting Christmas dinner.

A beautiful specimen of Ice Queen:

It is already a staple in my wardrobe as the cold snap persists.

In fact I usually wear it underneath this chunky seeded cowl, which I admit I was intending to give away for Christmas. Alas it proved much too snuggly and warm so I decided to be selfish. In fact I started wearing it as soon as it was finished and hence completely forgot to (b)log it..

I have no idea what that piece of rubbish under the chair is either.

Looks almost like chain-mail.

Although it sometimes feels as though I'm wearing a neck-brace with these two around my neck, the warmth is just amazing.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Christmas spirit (finally)

I have to admit that sometimes the spirit of the festive season can pass my by, so I was as shocked as anyone to find myself laying out carefully wrapped presents and sellotaping fairy lights to my bookshelf the other day. How did that happen?

Well, I believe that it may have started last weekend with my parents. Having nabbed a free copy of the new IKEA cookbook I was quite curious to give a couple of the recipes a whirl. Spending a couple of days in Churt gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that.

First up: Jitterbugs. My granny used to make these funny, meriguey, biscuity creations. Chewey, crunchy and *very* tasty. Possibly also the weirdest method of making biscuits I've ever experienced, involving rolling up the dough like a swiss roll with the meringue inside and chopping it into slices. Slightly messy:

Post baking (not that much of a difference appearance-wise, but believe me the texture was *very* different!):

Next up: Cinnamon Buns! These weren't actually from the IKEA book in the end, but from the Swedish domestic cookery bible which is the Rutiga Kokboken. That volume tells you how to cook ANYTHING.

Much more appetising after a short spell in the oven:

Having gotten the creative juices flowing by this stage, I suggested some wreath creating.. After raiding the garden we had neat piles of Holly, Ivy and various ever-greens:

Probably worth noting that I have *no* previous wreath-creation experience, so Lord knows why I suddenly decided to have a go.. Anyway, after some battling with various greenery and lots of metal wire, this was produced:

Not too bad for a first go. My mum made this pretty one:

On returning to the big smoke, the next problem was attaching it to the door.
This seemed like a good solution...

...until I considered the health and safety aspects :/

In the end, this prevailed:

Hope the postman doesn't hurt himself on the holly..