Monthly Archives: December 2014

Have a lovely Christmas

Hi there, the weather has finally come together and the menu is more or less organised. We had a pre Christmas Christmas with Sam’s grandmother and aunty which was lovely.

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Really enjoyed the above movie, perfect for a couple of hours of escapism French-style.

I have a few books to read over the break and they are all very large!

I am thoroughly enjoying “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki and when that’s finished I am going to read Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch, which everyone else seems to have read already.

I have done any shopping for presents I need to and am just finishing off a few homemade things. I have just finished and gifted my first Christmas dishcloth (does that make me sound a bit sad??). In case you don’t recognise her she is an angel and was given to a friend who is a bit of an angel herself.

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And finally, this is possibly a little bit mean but a mother’s privilege, a then and now pic of my Sam, cute at any age…love you Sam.

 

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Happy Christmas everyone what ever stage you are at and may 2015 bring you good times. See you in the new year. Fluffy George

Remembrance cake and other baking experiments

Earlier this week my lovely neighbours’ dad died. I was wondering what I could do and a friend suggested Nigella Lawson’s remembrance cake. It is a simple but fragrant cake made with lemon, apples and rosemary of course, for remembrance.

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Nigella made it as a loaf but I used a ring tin as I think it is prettier.

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/rosemary-remembrance-cake-129

Yesterday and today I continued with my Christmas pudding. The orange got its washing and soaking treatment then boiled in sugar and Cointreau and marinated etc. and today I made the fruit mix part and did the steaming for 7 hours.

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I accidentally put in 3 tablespoons of Cointreau in the mix instead of 3 teaspoons (no, I really did!) and then it was fun pouring on the brandy when I took it out of the steamer. I hope it passes the new alcohol/driving limit. Now it gets wrapped in muslin and put in the fridge until Christmas day where it again gets steamed for three hours.

I am making progress with my Secret Santa gift as it has been terrible weather with thunderstorms, torrential rain and so on.

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I hope you are having fun in the lead up to Christmas and it isn’t too stressful. My tuppence worth- don’t over spend, the paper will be ripped off and the presents mostly forgotten in a few days. FG

Home and Away

The Sydney hostage situation is being reported as I sit here typing. My quiet little life continues as I cross of items on my list and looking forward to some tasks but for them, there will terror so I really hope it resolves quickly.

On Christmas Day we are all having a secret Santa game and the item needs to be homemade. As there are a few blokes and often they’re a bit trickier I thought I would knit a scarf. I know it’s summer but hey, they can put it away for winter.

We are each being given a number and we are allowed to take another person’s present rather than from the pile if you choose to. I hope mine isn’t the dud present that no-one wants!

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This is a simple four row pattern that helps to make it look more blokey I think.

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My scarf is going to be in this deep green shade. Also in this photo is the bowl for the Christmas pud.

I have never made a Christmas pudding before let alone one with the orange in the middle but that’s what I’m going to attempt.

Ingredients
Makes: 1 hidden orange Christmas pudding
For the confit l’orange
1 large orange
1L water
1kg caster sugar
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons Cointreau® liqueur
For the pudding
175g butter
225g brown sugar
2 eggs
225g sultanas
125g dried cranberries
125g glacé cherries
125g chopped mixed peel
75ml stout
225g fresh breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 teaspoons Cointreau® liqueur
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
150ml brandy
Method
Prep:20min  ›  Cook:1hr  ›  Extra time:12hr marinating  ›  Ready in:13hr20min
For the confit l’orange:
With a long pin (such as a hat pin), prick the orange all over to ensure that it is very porous. In a saucepan of boiling water, blanch the orange for 2 minutes then remove and place in cold water for 4 minutes. Repeat three times using clean water each time. This process will help to remove any bitterness from the orange.
Once the blanching step is completed, immerse the orange in a saucepan containing the 1L water, 1kg caster sugar, cinnamon stick and the 2 tablespoons Cointreau®. Bring the contents to the boil then reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the orange from the syrup with a slotted spoon and prick again thoroughly all over with a long pin. Return the orange to the syrup, discard the cinnamon stick and leave covered for 12 hours.
The next day, remove the orange from the syrup and set aside.
For the pudding:
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add all remaining ingredients, except the brandy, and mix well.
Grease a large pudding basin then spoon in two thirds of the pudding mixture. Take the orange and push it firmly into the centre of the mould, taking care to make sure that the orange will be completely hidden in the pudding when turned out. Add the remaining pudding mixture on top taking care not to compact the orange too much, it needs to hold its shape.
Cover with baking parchment and tin foil and secure with string. Wrap in muslin and secure with string. Place in a large heavy bottomed pan for steaming. Add boiling water up to half the depth of the pudding mould and steam the pudding for 7 hours, topping up with water when necessary. (You can also make a water bath in a slow cooker and steam on high for 7 hours.)
Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly then slice and serve. Or if you are making in advance, you can pour brandy over the pudding, wrap in fresh muslin and store in the fridge for a month. On Christmas day, steam in the same way for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
Tip
If you are a traditionalist and add in a silver threepence or a sixpence to your puddings always warn your guests in advance to avoid Christmas Day dental emergencies!

Also today I am going to try growing basil and coriander from seed. Ours always goes to seed and someone told me it is better to grow it from seed to prevent this.

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I had some fun today wrapping some individual tiles for friends that I made. One is a philosopher who had a quote on a scrappy piece of paper in his den so I asked his wife to send it to me and I have put it on a tile for him. Another friend wants photos of her children done which will be fun too. I like the idea of making person-specific tiles.

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I really want to get on to some writing as well but it is already 3:30. Oh well, there is always tomorrow. Have a good week, FG

 

Summer Lovin’

Just a quick post to remind myself of the joys of summer.

The perfect salad

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The perfect peach

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The perfect avocado and persimmon

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and then a kind friend drops by with the perfect grandson and the perfect angel.

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Here’s how to make a flasher version but I prefer mine.

http://www.gracegritsgarden.com/2013/11/how-to-make-paperback-book-angel.html

I am having a lot of fun today making tile presents for friends. I can really personalise these but won’t be posting them until after Christmas but think favourite activities, obscure but beloved quotes and poems.

Now going to put my thinking cap on for a yummy morning tea for our inaugural poetry meet at my place tomorrow.

Have a good day, FG

 

Christmas Lists

Many years ago I read the above short story by Fay Weldon and remembered loving it. so I went on to the three free book sites to find it. I looked at Borrow Box, Bluefire Reader and finally found it in Overdrive. It is an interesting read just before Christmas! If you don’t have the above apps on your table (if you have one) I strongly recommend them as they are completely free and immediate gratification.

You can get them on PC as well. There are thousands of ebooks and audiobooks. Thanks to my young friend Josie who introduced these to me over a year ago. I love free books.

I have been to my second market on Saturday, ably assisted by my partner in crime, Deb. There were not that many people about but I am pleased to report I am finally in the black in terms of actually making a profit. (Just..)

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The real fluffy George comes with me.

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These are my favourites but no one bought them. These can be hung by their little ribbons.

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My invaluable companion and chief supporter.

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I hope you like our FG tee shirts.

I intend going to the Devonport market on Sunday, 10 am – 2 pm but am upstairs and a bit out of the way so if you are going please seek me out 🙂 opposite the children’s market.

 

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I made a little Christmas banner from the left over felt.

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I am getting into the spirit of things at home by getting all my little fairies out.

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I know I shouldn’t have favourites but bought this one in Amersfoort in Holland a long time ago and I just love her.

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This is my driftwood tree. I was going to pain the wood but though tit was nice and beachy just the way it was. Cat making an exit.

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I have yet to fully decorate this but might just stick to lights.

I get anxious on a regular basis about money but also want to give the whole thing a proper test. I will have to do some work next year but really want to get back into writing everyday. There is always an excuse. I am having my newly formed poetry group here this week so that will galvanise me into writing as we did some free writing last time about our childhoods. This is what I have come up with so far but it is far from ready. It’s all too preachy so i will have to revise it ruthlessly.

Penned in
My mother in her faded dressing gown cried, bullied by the shit and toothpaste father.
She put herself in the playpen to sew the six kids’ clothes
While we wild things played outside around her, unpenned and protected from pins.

The budgie escaped from its cage once and narrowly missed the coal range
only to die plunging into the hot tomato soup on the table, made a helluva mess.
Second chances aren’t always second chances and sometimes the only peace you get
is inside the pen.

The small joys to be had- the first sign of a tomato!

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Wishing you a calm pre-Christmas week, FG

 

 

 

Jingle bells

I’m not that great in malls at the best of times but at Christmas I get quite panic-stricken. The parking can be very stressful and the crowds claustrophobic and then there are the January sales! I used to be a very good shopper, or perhaps a very bad one. A visa card and time and I was out there.

These days, as I don’t have the money I find it better to work with cash, make a list and really think about needs and wants. My philosophy of, “Thanks, I ‘ll think about it”, is effective because the novelty wears off once I’ve left the shop and unless it is really telling me I want/need it I’m gone for good.

A coffee a day keeps the mortgage payoff at bay. How easy it is to spend $10 per day on a coffee and a something. I allow myself $50.00 trivia spending per week but am working hard at not spending it all the time. Those old cliches really are true about how much more you enjoy it when it’s a treat.

Good grief I’m sounding both sanctimonious and parsimonious!

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I have been working madly on my tiles this week but am a bit despondent when I tally up what I have earned compared with what I have paid in materials. I’m still in the red by about $200. Still, I am going to a proper Christmas market this weekend at Browns Bay where I hope to sell quite a few.

Browns Bay Christmas Family & Market Day

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I’ve started doing tiles with quotes on them now

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These are my first tiles made specifically to hang up with a little ribbon attached.

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The Christmas tree is in its body bag on the deck ready to undo and I’ve slowly started to get a few things out for decorating. I am a total nostalgia freak so I love looking at the beautifully embroidered stocking my sister-in-law made for Sam when he was little. It is now a family heirloom. Thanks Dawn!

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Equally, my BFF’S mum was a super-experienced craft maker so I have loads of little handmade things from her. She died this year so they are all the more special.

 

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This photo has my London bus bought in Harrods when I was living in London., my BFF’s mum’s Christmas wreath and scotty dog. The fairy I bought  had a pink identical twin. This went to my friend Jean when she was in a dementia unit and I always think of her when I get the white fairy out.

And then there’s the photos. I love looking at Sam with Santa over the years. The very first year he wasn’t keen but we got the photo, the second year he is just sitting by himself in the “snow” as he wasn’t having any of that sitting on a creepy old man’s knee business. After that though, all was well.

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I also have a collection of books I only get out at Christmas. My very favourite is Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas present and the best line in the book is at the very end, “I wonder what it was…”

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Last year I left for France on Dec 16 and as it was just my two chaps at home it was hard to get excited about decorating at all but this year we are having lots of people over so my 52 Angels will get an airing.

So far I just have my paper ones out.

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When Sammy and I lived in Christchurch we always made a driftwood tree after we had made the ritual excursion to the best driftwood beach in NZ. The wood is bleached a bone white and there is lots of it. It is Taumutu beach beside Lake  Ellesmere and I knew about it as I lived at Irwell once upon a time. It is a very spiritual place with a wild, dangerous sea. I even brought the wood to Auckland but it turned a disappointing grey under the house. Eventually I bought a white one but as the wood is still under the house and I have a couple of test pots of paint I am going to get the driftwood out as well.

I will post if it looks okayish. While working on tiles this week I worried about perfection but my friend Deb, says they are hand made and allowed to be a little imperfect. So I am letting the words of  Leonard Cohen ring in my ears. I hope you do too, nothing had to be perfect. As my dear friend Jean said in a moment of clarity amidst dementia, “Suz, it’s not the quality of the couch it’s the people who sit on it.”

So on that note

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in,

That’s how the light gets in.

Wishing you a smooth run up to Christmas. FG

Waiheke Cycle

We had a Grabone voucher for cheap fares on the Waiheke ferry, Explorer, that we needed to use up so we parked over the bridge and cycled (madly as we were late) to the ferry terminal and arrived with no minutes to spare. Explorer have opened up in competition with Fullers. They were very cheerful and extremely helpful with the bikes.

http://www.explorewaiheke.co.nz

 

01499da01ff9775c4cd11636787736987c93fbc757 014261a72a5394a3a763eff9ee4bb2aef947f67059Mine is the pink bike and you may notice it has a handy battery on the back… I need assistance with the hills sometimes. It is a killer though, when the juice runs out as it is always at the end of the trip so both the bike and I are exhausted.

It was a perfect day though and it is sometimes easy to take our beautiful coastline for granted. We stopped at a lovely French coffee house called FrenchOt and had a wee pick-me-up of coffee and pastries.

http://www.frenchot.com/

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French pastries

We continued on around the coast. At about the half way point we again “rested” with a bag of cherries, first for the season. It’s a tough life.

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We are pretty sure these birds are godwits and they put me in mind of Robin Hyde’s The Godwits Fly, a book on my book sheIf would like to revisit.

Robyn Hyde can be found represented on the Wellington waterfront.

I also like her poetry. This the last verse from Half Moon

Go quietly. The tall gods here
Would wear your beauty like a flower,
To crush with jests and cast aside
In one unpitying, splendid hour.

 

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I loved reading the local newspaper; how wonderful that news is when a child’s scooter and gumboots have been left at the park.

Our last stop for the day was the expensive Oyster Inn. I hear Mick Jagger was there last week.

We had limited time and money so we just had some drinks and the olives and bread dipped in their own olive oil. It was delicious and I wish I had bought a bottle. We sat on the verandah and looked out to sea.

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The Oyster Inn Press ShotsThe Oyster Inn Press Shots

http://www.theoysterinn.co.nz

So we arrived home “tired but happy”, a little sunburned but otherwise in good spirits.