Christmas pudding…

Pudding + brandy + fire = Christmas!

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Happy Christmas 2013 / ‘movement of time’…

Here’s to a happy Christmas and New Year!

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Merry Christmas…!

If I don’t get a chance to post anything else until after the festival of over-eating and drinking, here are a couple of festive images…

Lizard over tree light!

Lizard over tree light!

Christmas tree lights blur

Christmas tree lights blur

Happy Christmas everyone!

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Protected: Christmas 2011…

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Christmas lights #5 / New Year #1…

The disappearing of the Christmas tree lights to the left with the main light being from the computer screen, ushering in the new year…

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Christmas lights #4…

A blurred photo of the red and green tree lights with part of the imac screen in the background…

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Apple strudel…

One of the highlights of the Christmas holiday (from my point of view anyway!) was the apple strudel which I made for the pudding on Christmas Day.

Here’s the recipe… you will need:

For the pastry

– 4 filo pastry sheets (frozen or fresh)

– 80g bread crumbs (white)

– 70g sugar

– 1 tsp cinnamon

– 100g melted butter (see text below – I ended up only needing 10-20g)

For the filling

– 110g sugar

– half tbsp cinnamon

– 35g butter

– 50g raisins

– 2 tbsp sliced almonds

– juice and zest of half a lemon

– 7g corn flour

– 5 Granny Smith apples peeled and sliced (I used Braeburn which worked fine)

– Granulated sugar (to sprinkle on top, but icing sugar works well too)

Method

– Start by making the filling by adding butter to pan, add the sliced apples and cook for 10 minutes until soft.

– After 5 minutes of cooking time, add sugar, then raisins, almonds & cinnamon.

– Mix lemon juice, zest and cornflour in separate bowl, then add to main pan once app,e mixture is cooked. This will quickly thicken mixture.

– Tip out filling onto a baking tray to cool down and continue to thicken while working on the pastry stage.

– Mix the bread crumbs, sugar & cinnamon (for the pastry part) together and set aside.

– Place one sheet of filo pastry onto a baking tray with baking sheet already cut to size on the tray. This baking sheet will be very useful at the end!

– Brush the pastry sheet lightly with the melted butter then sprinkle some of the bread crumb and sugar mixture over it.

– Place another pastry sheet directly over the first sheet so the edges all line up. Repeat the butter and sprinkling process. Follow this for the next two pastry sheets. The original recipe said butter all the sheets on both sides, meaning needing to turn each sheet – very messy and over-complicated!

– Tip out the apple mixture along the long edge of the pastry pile, slightly in from the edge (see image). Hold the edge of the baking sheet and use this to help to roll the sheets over the apple filling. The sheets will just overlap over the filling and the join can be placed to the bottom so that the weight of the strudel holds the join together.

– Brush the outer sheet with butter then sprinkle brown sugar lightly over the whole strudel. This will slightly caramelise during cooking to form a lovely crispy outer shell.

– Cook at 200 degrees (Celsius) in a pre-heated oven for 20 mins. Eat and enjoy, with ice cream, custard (my favourite) or cream.

I used maybe 1/6 of the amount of butter given in the original recipe and only lightly smeared only one side of each filo sheet. Last year I followed the recipe and ended up having to coat each side of each sheet, with the result that the strudel (although tasty) was quite fatty and overly saturated with butter.

The result this time was lighter, tastier, healthier and the next day, after it had cooled, the much reduced fat content meant it wasn’t stodgy and claggy, but stayed light – it didn’t stay uneaten for long though! : )

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Christmas colours…

Some detail images of some Christmas colours – crackers and Sharpie pens!

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Jamie & winter…

I was talking to Jamie the other day about the seasons and how it’s coming up to Autumn, which would then turn to winter. I asked what he was looking forward to about Winter (trying to put a positive spin on things!). It took him about a second to say Christmas!

We started to go through all of the reasons why winter is actually a pretty good season.

Log fires: One of my favourites. This year, I worked out how much wood we used from the previous year and ordered that much in early spring. It’s all been chopped and stacked since April and we should have enough to last till March 2012. Log fires are awesome and really raise the spirits on a crap winter day.

Jamie and Jac were loving coming down from having a bath and standing in front of the stove while getting dry. Jamie even asked me about getting the fire lit in the middle of summer so he could do that.

Insulated render: Now we’ve got the whole side and most of the rear of the house insulated, as well as the loft hatch re-done, the heat we do make by the radiators and stove should be kept in the house for longer. We’ve also had new windows front and back which has already made a difference. This should make the cold weather easier to live with.

The boys birthdays: Jamie’s 5th at the end of October then Jac’s 3rd at the end of January. Always lots of fun and breaks up the season each side of Christmas.

Halloween: Lots of potential for fun and excitement, as well as creative ideas for making things. Walking around with spooky lanterns and torches in the garden. Pumpkin pie (using pumpkins from the allotment – not this year but hopefully next!) and ales. Yum.

Claire’s birthday: Last but certainly not least. The middle of February signals the approach of Spring and brighter and warmer times. A good way to finish off the season!

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Christmas 2010…

So,we had a bit of a random Christmas this year, with most of the normal Christmas Day stuff happening on Christmas Eve!

We had my Mum and Sister + her partner around on the eve and had most of the presents then, plus the main meal, which was curry! Since we’ve been vegetarian, the whole traditional dinner thing hasn’t had as much appeal, so we thought just go for something different. Indian food is a lot more versatile in terms of the selection of vegetarian dishes. My Mum and Sister’s partner are also vegetarian (and sister 95% veggie), so this seemed to work well.

So, we had some good wine and beer, which my Mum brought with her + a selection of starters. Claire made the rice and a chickpea curry for the main part, which turned out well. There was enough of it left over to freeze a load of portions! Mulled wine made by Sisters partner and a brilliant note from Santa to the boys!

The next day we set off just after lunch for the snow-covered ‘North’ (West Brom, west of Birmingham) to spend some time with Claire’s family (parents, g.parents etc). e were at one place to start with then over to Claire’s other nan’s nursing home for the next group! We drove back fairly late and managed to get the kids ready for bed and asleep in the car on the way back.

Boxing Day was over to my Dad’s in Batheaston for more festive fun. Another nice meal but this time didn’t get the boys ready for bed before we left but it all worked out ok.

Overall fairly tiring few days but worth it as well. The boys have received so many amazing presents from everyone, they should be kept busy for a while.

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Christmas list and the urge to spend…

We’ve recently been updating Christmas lists on Amazon and this led me to thinking about various things. Claire has just sent out our list details to various people for Christmas and meant we have to get a few things on the site.

I would say on the whole, it’s better to receive something you actually want, rather than an interesting surprise, which even though may be well meaning and thoughtful, might not be something you’ll appreciate. Having said this, it’s always amazing to receive any presents, partly because of the thought involved, but also surprises can be cool. Let’s face it, anyone reading this, or receiving presents, is in a pretty privilaged position in the world hierarchy.

I’ve just got out of the habit of even looking in shops, let along buying things, such as new clothes or records etc. Thinking about what I want to put on there, and indirectly what I would like to receive is a strange idea now. We’ve just had to be more tight with money since having kids and making things work with one job.

The way we’re spending has also changed a lot – much more on good food and the kids + some big house investment.

In a way it feels good to not actually want to spend money, because that leaves more for doing the house up and going places with the kids. But this doesn’t help with the old wishlist thing! I used to spend loads on vinyl records for mixing but now the spare time is seriously limited, but i’m still into the music. I want to get more into drawing and sketching + other artistic styles, but again, the time issue is still there.

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Bathroom progress…

Mucho progress on the bathroom tiling this weekend, well, maybe not mucho, but i’m over halfway through the shower tiling and now have a smoother, dare I say it, semi-prfessional cutting and grouting system in operation!

Ok, maybe not semi-professional, and it’s getting done sloooooooowly.

Also just went to my favourite shop and bought a Christmas tree, which we just decorated today and which looks really good. The stockings are also up and ready for the fat, drunk man in red and white to deposit the goods.

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