Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'm taking a break from this blogging lark over the festive season so I thought I'd take this opportunity to wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Thanks for taking the time to read ChrisTea And Cakes in 2011 and I look forward to bringing you more cupcapers in 2012. x

Sloe Business

This weekend having finished all our Christmas prep we had a bit of a lazy weekend generally chilling out and avoiding civilization.  There was still a little snow on the ground and we'd also had the first heavy frost of the winter so Mr Right suggested that we take the kids for a hike and go and pick some Sloes as I'd mentioned that I really wanted to make Sloe gin this year.

We pulled on our wellies and wrapped up in hats, scarves and gloves and trudged to the local hedgerow where we've watched the abundant Sloes getting bigger and fatter and juicier throughout the late summer and autumn months.  We knew we were late in the season to be foraging for them but as loads of people had recommended not to pick them until after the first frost we had patiently waited.  When we arrived, on first glance there wasn't a Sloe to be had but after an initial bit of scouting our Super Sloe Spotter Buster found some Blackthorn bushes that still had some berries on.  Thankfully I'd gone on a day when Mr Right was around as his 6ft plus reach was well and truly tested as the only berries that remained were on the upper most branches.
I was a little worried that we wouldn't get enough to make the gin but in the end we gathered a decent amount in my little forager's basket and we headed home
Missy heading home
I sorted and washed the Sloes
and pricked each berry that was going into the gin with a fork
Meanwhile some empty bottles were prepared with 350ml of gin (as you can see not the expensive kind!)
and 150g of sugar
followed by the berries until the bottle was 3/4 full, allowing room for us to shake the ingredients the required amount (every day for a week and then every week for two months - ideally a year but who's gonna wait that long?)
Whilst we were concocting our moonshine we decided to use up some frozen raspberries that were knocking about by bunging them in half a bottle of cheap vodka and adding some sugar, we'll see what happens shall we?  It looks quite pretty and we can always use it as paint stripper if it tastes like meths!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Another Good Wreath

I think I've developed a bit of an obsession for wreaths this Christmas, having made this one a couple of weeks ago I went on a bit of a Pinterest search-fest for new and different executions of the same principle when I stumbled upon what could be the ultimate in Christmas wreaths, it's festive and what's more its EDIBLE!

 How cute is that?!  And it's so simple to make, just prepare some gingerbread dough and roll it out to about a 5mm thickness, cut out your gingerbread men and lay them on a baking sheet in a circular shape, dab the hands and feet with water and overlap them so that it all forms one giant gingerbread ring, bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes and allow to cool.  Thread some gingham ribbon through the gaps and Bob's your gingerbread man!

I had some gingerbread dough left over so had a little play, I'd always wanted to make one of those sweet little gingerbread houses so thought I'd have a bash, it wasn't a bad attempt considering I did it all by eye (it would certainly have benefited from a template if I'd had some forethought) and hastily cobbled it together at the last minute with some Christmas cake decorations and icing sugar snow
I also made some quick and dirty gingerbread button biscuits.  I've been wanting to make these for a while and the remaining dough provided me with the opportunity, although my gingerbread seemed to spread and rise a bit too much so some of the detail of the buttons was lost, I will have to retry with a different type of dough but you get the general idea.
Whilst we're on a gingerbread theme look at the divine little gingerbread man decoration that Mrs B made for me!  Thanks lovely lady. x

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Cakey, Cakey! - Herman The German Friendship Cake

Mrs B sent me a cryptic message informing me that she had a German friend called Herman for me to meet and she knocked on my door one dark, stormy evening and thrust a purple box and a piece of paper into my hands, it was, so I discovered the aforementioned Herman.  Herman it turns out is a German friendship cake and he comes with a set of instructions that it transpired would take ten days to carry out, that's a damn long wait for a cake and in his initial state he didn't look that appetizing 
Buster said it looked like liquidised vomit and I was inclined to agree
Anyway, for the first four days you have to stir well and if Herman stops bubbling he's dead
On day five you feed Herman with sugar and flour and milk and then for the following four days you stir him daily and make sure he's still bubbling.

On day nine you add the same ingredients again but this time you divide Herman into four, pass two on to friends (with a set of the instructions), use one to start another Herman (if you so desire) and turn the fourth part with some additional ingredients into your finished Herman cake.  I flavoured mine with ground almonds, sultanas and cherries and despite his ugly duckling start in life he blossomed into a rather tasty bit of stuff.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Good Wreath

Mrs B and I had another one of our crafty hook ups, this time the venue was her place as she was going to impart some of her considerable floristry knowledge.

Mr Right and I had been on a walk back in October and the evergreens were beginning to shed their pine cones so we collected as many as we could carry between us as I knew they'd be useful for something I just didn't know quite what, so we stashed them in the shed and thought no more about them for a month or so.

Meanwhile I was catching up on blogging, internet banking and emails dicking around on Pinterest and came across a beautiful front door wreath made out of pine cones and I mentioned it in passing to Mrs B adding that I didn't have the slightest clue of how to begin such an undertaking.  She informed me that she knew just how to do it and indeed she did, here's how it went down
First up we had to construct our hoop and we did this using some sturdy garden wire formed into two separate loops one slightly smaller than the other, we filled in the gap using some brown paper and moss and twisted some thinner wire around the whole thing not only to keep the two hoops and the filling in place but to give us something more to attach our cones to
Mrs B's finished hoop
My hoop
Then we used some florists wire twisted into the bottoms of the cones to prepare our them for fixing onto the hoops
Then it was a case of using the florists wire to attach each pine cone to the hoop and although they didn't look that great at first as we added more and more cones of varying sizes and types our wreaths began to take shape
It was all too much for Macy and she was forced to retire to her bed
Anyway after a bit of jiggery pokery and a lot of swearing here are our finished wreaths
Mrs B went all professional on my ass with the
addition of some ivy foliage, three silver baubles and
some tartan ribbon - gorgeous
I opted to keep mine simple as it was my first attempt
I think it was a wonderful way to spend a December evening and will certainly make my own door wreath in future, it's so simple when someone shows you how, thanks Mrs B you're a Christmas angel. x

Monday, 19 December 2011

Cupcapers - Christmas Cinnamon Cupcakes

I was supposed to be meeting up with some girlfriends and our various little ones on Friday morning in order to exchange gifts and generally catch up before Christmas so I decided to knock up some Christmas Cinnamon Cupcakes to take along, basically a vanilla sponge cake recipe but instead substituting the vanilla for one and a half teaspoons of ground cinnamon.  

The house took on the distinctive aroma of cinnamon that immediately makes me feel festive.  I had used holly leaf muffin cases and decided to continue the theme and made icing holly decorations for the top and added a little sprinkling of edible glitter to give them that magical Christmas sparkle, just like the snowflakes that were now beginning to fall outside.

Alas the snow didn't stop falling and as I'm a complete pussy when it comes to driving in the snow I opted to stay at home and unfortunately we had to eat all the cupcakes ourselves, Christmas may be coming but it won't just be the goose that's getting fat!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Farewell My Fabulous Feline Friend

Well our disastrous December continues apace, sadly we had to have our beloved cat Sampson put down on Friday evening.  

We took him for his booster jabs in September and the vet gave him the once over and instead of issuing him with the usual clean bill of health he informed us that he had found a mass in his stomach and what did we want to do about it?  Our dog (Boo-Boo) had suffered a similar diagnosis three years previous and we put her through a battery of tests which all came out inconclusive and ended up putting her through unnecessary discomfort, costing us a small fortune and ultimately resulted in us having to have her put down not long afterwards anyway, so we opted, given his advancing age, to let nature take its course and so long as he wasn't suffering we'd carry on as normal.

Sampson was his usual happy self for a few months, yes he was losing weight but he was still eating and drinking normally and still going out and about on the prowl but this last week he hadn't been himself, he barely left his seat let alone the house and we were forced to get the litter tray out for him, which he hated but as he actually started using it I knew the end was in sight.  Anyway on Friday evening he started vomiting and panting and just sat on the floor in the corner of the dining room so we decided that we should make an emergency appointment and let the vet take a look at him.  My folks kindly did a mercy dash to sit with the kids as Buster had decided he didn't want to come and Missy is a bit too young for it all and off we went.

After what seemed like an emotionally charged eternity in a packed waiting room we were seen and the vet examined him and agreed that the kindest thing to do would be to let him go, so tearfully that's what we did. We gave him as much fuss as those final minutes would allow and he was purring even with his last breath.

I know that people who don't have pets won't understand what they bring to your life but Sampson was the most wonderful cat in the world and it was a privilege to be his owner mum.  On the journey home Mr Right and I were talking about our memories of him and what a great temperament he had, he'd never scratched or bitten anyone in malice, in fact quite the opposite, he was super friendly.  He once went missing for three months and just as we had resigned ourselves to never seeing him again we received a phone call asking us if our cat was missing, we said he was and the caller said that he was in the car park of the pub opposite our home, across a busy dual carriage way and that as he was being so friendly it was as if he was asking her to send him home again and we were elated that she had.

His friendliness only increased over the years he would approach the kids that passed our house on the school run for cuddles and tickles and loved to sit on the roof of the car parked in the driveway and meow at passers by (and tease the massive dog that lives opposite).  He'd always walk out to greet us when we pulled up in our car, he sometimes tried to follow us on walks round the park and tolerated both our children as heavy-handed toddlers with their obsession with chasing him for hugs or a stroke pulling out clumps of his fur and grabbing his tail.

He got on superbly with our Jack Russell too, they used to play fight and she would even allow Sampson to 'attack' her by lying on the ground and let him (lightly) clamp his jaws around her throat.  I think at times he thought he actually was a dog.  In our old house we used to be able to sit in bed and throw a plastic cat ball out of our bedroom so it hit the bathroom door and bounced off down the stairs and he would have a wail of a time fetching it and bringing it back up to us for another go, often by the end panting just like a dog!

We once gave him some leftover Christmas turkey, although a rogue Brussel sprout must've found its way into his bowl and he showed his disgust by putting it in Mr Right's shoe, a fact only discovered after Mr Right had put his foot into said shoe.

Anyway, it's all these little things that I'll miss and it's now struck me that after almost two decades I am no longer a pet owner.  As much as I'd like another pet it just doesn't feel right as no cat or dog could live up to the memory of Sampson (or Boo-Boo for that matter).

RIP Sampson, the friendliest cat in the world

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Faith Hope And Charity Shopping Christmas Blog Swap

The lovely and very brave Lakota hosted a Christmas blog swap over on her fabulous blog Faith, Hope and Charity Shopping which I signed up for this year having jealously read post after post from last year's lucky swappers.

The premise is you sign up, Lakota pairs you up with someone from your country and you send your partner a parcel of goodies in time for Christmas, there are some rules; between 3 and 5 gifts, no more than a £12 spend, at least one item must be sourced from a chazza shop (or similar), at least one item should be handmade and one of the items must be a Christmas decoration.

Anyway I was randomly partnered with Lucy from the blog Tete en l'Air but I don't think Lakota could have got it more right if she'd tried, we have both been learning the art of crochet and love, love, love to make stuff.

Right, so here's what I sent to her, firstly I made a greetings card from a felt tree decoration and the addition of some beads
and a wishing star at the top

Hey presto!
HANDMADE ITEM - I did a spot of crochet in the form of this tried and tested cherry brooch which I love to make
CHARITY SHOP ITEM - This pretty white trio with pink roses (I'm sure a trio counts as one item, yes?!)
CHRISTMAS DECORATION - Glitzy silver birds, I have similar in lots of colours that are perched around my home all year round
MYSTERY ITEM - I decided to include a mystery item, some do-it-yourself paper stars as I know that Lucy likes to make things, I purchased a packet for myself and had a bash, the instructions are not very easy to follow and I had to look on YouTube to find out how to make them properly (sorry Lucy, they may drive you nuts!)
HANDMADE/CHARITY SHOP ITEM - I bought a word card game from a charity shop a while back and decided to frame up an 'L' for Lucy
And finally I thought that although I'd reached the gift limit that there was nothing in the rules to say the packaging couldn't be reused so I covered a shoe box in some cherub wrapping paper thinking that Lucy could use it for something in her home afterwards.
Here's all my stuff ready to be wrapped for the off
and here's what I got in return...

A huge box arrive for me and this is what was in it.

I unwrapped the biggest item first and from its squashy nature I could tell right away it was a cushion and what a cushion, a handmade bunting cushion
Gorgeous and just the thing as I am amassing a collection of pretty cushions for Missy's big girl bed, her room is too small for a bed and a comfy chair so I'm going to get her a day bed and fill it with bolsters and patchwork cushions and this will fit in perfectly!
Next I opened the Christmas decoration, which appealed not only to my arts and craft side but to my sense of humour, it's a turkey dressed for an ice skating session, too cute
In her card Lucy had said that the charity shop item would look ideal on my festive table and she's not wrong
Just look at the little snowflake design
Inside the parcel where a LOT of chocolates, who knew that there were so many festive kinds around at this time of year, I'm so glad that I opted to open my parcel when my kids were asleep as I know I wouldn't have had a look in, yum!
Last and by no means least were these two fabulous crochet granny squares lavender bags
I am sooooo gonna make me some of these little babies, what a marvellous idea!

Huge thanks to Lucy for being such a fab and generous swap partner and to Lakota for organising, Merry Christmas to you both!
You might like to take a visit to Lucy's blog and see the flip side of this swap here or do as I did last year and jealously take a peek at all the other swappers on Lakota's blog here

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Disastrous December

I've been a bit preoccupied this week as everything that can go wrong has.  Firstly my washing machine started leaking, thankfully nothing major and only on a couple of occasions but enough to knock my confidence in leaving the house when it's on as I'd quite like a house to come back to, I really don't want to find my appliances halfway down the street after a mini tsuniami in the kitchen.

Then it was the toaster's turn, it decided it was bored just toasting bread and thought it might be nice to play Russian roulette with my breakfast.  It's a four slice toaster with two sides that work independently, or they're supposed to.  I insert the four slices of bread for my and Mr Right's breakfast and push the levers down and they stay down for about 10 seconds, then the left side will pop causing the right side to pop too, then the levers won't stay down so you have to try lots of different methods to make them stay down (I favour either the surprise attack approach or the brute force with lots of swearing technique), anyway by the time you've fart-arsed about with it the bread's half toasted and then it decides to function normally but you forget that it's already half toasted the bread and end up running late with a burnt offering so it had to go.

The dishwasher came down with rabies, the main symptom was acute hydrophobia i.e. it refused to fill with enough water to clean the dishes, surely it's raison d'etre?  It would take on board about an egg cup of water and try to wash the dishes but as they came out as filthy as they went in I got the distinct impression it was just phoning it in so it had to go.  I have ordered a new one and it arrives next week but I'm ashamed to say that in a decade of owning a dishwasher I've forgotten how to wash up.  I'm always dumping the dirty dishes in the sink and then having to empty them out before running the water, oh and I'm always drying up too soon so my tea towel is sodden, not to mention what it's doing to my hands and nails and how untidy all the dishes look as they hang about waiting for someone me to wash them.

Next on the fuck-up list was the Sky HD remote, we have another for upstairs but it's becoming tiresome having to remember to take it with you to whichever room you're watching tv in and it harks back to the bad old days of television with manual controls when you had to actually get off your arse and change channel, how Neanderthal!  I've ordered a shiny new one and will pounce on it as soon as it arrives, although the way my luck has been this week it will probably get lost in the post!

I was forced to use the iron this week (I know!) and hadn't realized what a potential death trap it had actually become.  As you know I don't iron but we relinquished the blinds and their MANY draughts in our 14ft bay window in favour of some cosy lined curtains that were languishing in our loft, so I washed them and set about ironing them, to say it was a nightmare was an understatement, so much fabric!!!  Anyway Mr Right and I have had the iron since we set up home together in 1995, it stopped steaming approximately a decade ago, the cable frayed and was held together by electrical tape which has now also frayed (!!!) and this week it started oozing rusty gunk, not great when you're ironing cream curtains so it also had to go.

Whilst I was rushing hither and thither trying to get some Christmas shopping done I stopped off at home to dump a load of bags and headed out on yet another mission when I noticed that my front tyre was making a clicking sound, this is not unusual as we have a gravel driveway and often get the odd pebble caught in the tread but it usually sorts itself out by the time I reach the main road, this time it didn't.  So I stopped the car, got out and took a look.  Sure enough there was the offending stone stuck in the tread, so I tried to gouge it out with a key but it was tightly wedged.  I tried again and did manage to move it sideways then heard a little hiss and I knew the game was up so I high tailed it down the hill to the local tyre fitters all the time praying that the stone would stay put so enough air would remain in the tyre to allow me to get there without damaging the wheel rim.  To cut a very long story short I had to have the tyre replaced and the mechanic noticed that another tyre was below the legal limit and surprise, surprise my tracking was also out.

Last (hopefully, December's not over yet!) and by no means least Mr Right's trusty hair clippers went to the hairdressers in the sky although I won't breath a sigh of relief that my nightmare is over quite yet as Mr Right's car's starter motor was a little reluctant to do its thang yesterday morning and I still need some dental work doing, when will it ever end?!

I was teetering on the verge of a mini breakdown over all of this last week but just as I was wallowing in self-pity the local hospice Santa float, making it's annual pilgrimage around the local area, passed by our house and really put things in to perspective, thankfully we all have our health and this year Missy was mesmerized by it, waving to Santa as he went by.  The same evening the gallant Mr Right arrived home with flowers to cheer me up and I also received a surprise phone call from the ever-thoughtful Mrs Z who, on seeing my despairing Facebook status, decided to give me a call to cheer me up and that she did.  So in the midst of disaster I have taken solace in the the little things, flowers, friends and floats.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

I Am A Crafty Fox

Here is my latest crochet project, it's an homage to my late Great Grandmother who I always remember wearing a real fox stole (please bear in mind she was born in 1901 with Queen Victoria on the throne, when fur was an acceptable, nay desirable fashion accessory and I am in NO WAY condoning wearing such an item today, hence mine being made of wool).

I purchased the pattern from a seller on Etsy and found a suitably foxy shade of wool and set to work, four evenings later this is what I ended up with and I love it.

Now available to purchase from my Etsy shop

And I'm sure my Great Grandmother would love it too, here she is sporting the aforementioned fox with my sister (left) and me (hiding behind the leaves on the right).  I love this photo of us, I think it was taken by a photographer for The Scotsman in Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden, my first and last modeling assignment.  He must've spotted my sister and I in our matching kilts with our eccentric looking Great Grandmother and thought there's a photo opportunity if ever I saw one, although he must have been lurking with intent as I remember he had a rake and kept piling the leaves up for us to kick.  My Great Grandmother must have been a game old bird as she was about 80 at the time!
Linking up with Handmade Thursday over on White Lily Green

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