Thursday, 11 December 2014

...a Secret Santa again (Recipe post - Mince Pie Tiffin)

As I mentioned in my last post, part of Blogging Six Christmas (yup, that's what we call it!) is a Secret Santa swap. Each person buys a gift and also makes something. When it comes to making presents food is my go-to thing.

My gift recipient was Becca, and I made her spiced caramel sauce (basically Nigella's salted caramel sauce, with booze and spices in instead of salt), Black Forest Truffles, and this festive take on a traditional tiffin -Mince Pie Tiffin. I used shortbread to give the sweet pastry flavour and keep a bit of crunch, and mincemeat instead of raisins. Its easy, mostly stirring, and it is ready to go in about three hours. It is also friggin delicious.

for the base

225g good quality milk chocolate
2tbsp butter
2tsp golden syrup
200g shortbread, crushed
150g mincemeat

for the topping

100g milk chocolate
2tbsp golden syrup
sprinkles to decorate (optional)

  • Line a loaf tin with grease proof paper
  • to make the base, put the chocolate, syrup and butter in a pot, heat over a low heat till melted, stirring frequently to combine
  • add crushed shortbread
  • add mincemeat is 1/2tsp sized blobs
  • stir to combine
  • tip into loaf tin and spread till the top is even.
  • Put in the fridge to chill for two hours
  • it will firm up and hold shape, but be a little squidgy (like soft fudge).
  • melt the chocolate and syrup for the topping in a pot, and pour over the base, spreading to coat evenly.
  • Add sprinkles if you wish
  • chill for an hour

This can be sliced with a sharp knife, and will keep for about a week if wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight tin. It wont last a week though!

Monday, 8 December 2014

... feeling festive - Christmas Trees and Afternoon Tea.

Sideboard - The Christmas Edition.
As of last year, with the sad collapse of our trusty John Lewis Christmas tree , Dave and I have started getting a small, potted tree. My mum's tradition, which I've continued, is to put the tree and decorations up on December 1st, but with a real tree that's pushing it a bit. The compromise is that now, I decorate the house on the 1st, and we get a tree the Saturday or Sunday after. This past week, I decorated on the morning of the first, and up went our advent calendar, which is now in it's 20th year of use, and then i spent every night finishing off my last college assessment before Christmas so that I could enjoy the weekend, my weekend off, college work free.
Festive Afternoon Tea  - tier 1 of 3!!
The festivities began on Saturday, when I met four of the other Blogging Six girls (Zoe was in London, but there very much in spirit, and in gift, though that's a story for Gaynor to tell if she wishes!), and we spent the afternoon in Glasgow, first in Tinderbox  and then in Cup Tea Lounge, having their amazing Festive afternoon tea. D'you know what improves and already pretty spectacular afternoon tea (rolls, scones, ganache, fruitcake, shortbread and cupcakes are the 'standard' tea)? Mince pies and mulled cider. There was so much we all went home with cakes in boxes. We had our traditional Secret Santa gift swap, and I received a new teapot with the most beautiful hand knitted cover from R. We had such a good catchup, and I headed home full of food and cheer, and fuzzy feelings, where Dave and I watched the first two Back to the Futures (not your transitional Christmas films, but quite nostalgic!)
My teapot, with it's lovely cover
On Sunday after a now (almost non existent) lie-in (having a dog has scuppered those), Dave and I went to get our Christmas Tree. In case people have images of us going somewhere quaint, I feel I should point out it's from B&Q. We brought it home, I fashioned a stand for it from a crate, and after letting Oscar sniff it for a bit (he wees on the one outside so I was a tad worried we'd have an issue there), I put the fairy lights on, and waited for darkness to decorate the tree.
The Boys in my life.
My Dickens Print from G, alnongside some new paperchains
The only bit of tree decorating Dave really likes doing is putting the star on the top, so while he and Oscar has a Sunday afternoon snooze, I put on a Christmas episode of Frasier, and decorated the tree. This is my very favourite bit of decorating, finding just the right space for each decoration. We've amassed a lovely collection. All have sentimental value - my mum's decorations, gifts from Dave's parents and my sister, ones from friends. After Dave had done his yearly duty of adding the star to the tree, we ordered takeaway, and watched Back to the Future 3, and Home Alone, stretching my weekend off as long as possible.


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

...wintering (November)

November has passed in a blur of work, college assignments,dog walks, and the odd gig or job interview (unfortunately unsuccessful, but there you go). I can almost see the finish line with regards to college - I have an assignment due in a little over a week, and then on to my last two modules.

The dog walks are increasingly done almost always in the dark, though today I was off work and have taken Oscar for a giant walk and game of fetch despite it being 1c outside. Speaking of Oscar, I am very please to say he's been featured in The Simple Things December issue, as one of their Dogs in Blankets. He really is just the cutest wee dog!
My wee pooch!

A cold, wintery day at Westferry

Not that Oscar minds. He loves jumping.

Interview ready.
Dave has a new recording majig, there've been a lot of new songs this month!

Cold morning walk, skeletal trees

Vinyl from a recent gig.

Currently reading these short stories one or two at a time..

Looking forward, I cant wait to get my assignment handed in and get properly into the festive spirit. There has been a small Christmas craft, a couple of mince pies and a Christmas episode of Frasier today. So it begins...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


My mum died 11 years ago today, on her second favourite day of the year.

This morning, my aunt Ina wrote about her relationship with my mum - as a sister and as her best friend. And it made me think about memories, and how people come with us. I'm an atheist, so I don't believe my mum is with us in a spiritual sense, but what I do believe is that people are carried on in how they impact on other people's lives, and how they are remembered.

Our mum, along with Ina, gave Hazel and I an example of how our relationship should be, and I am greatful for it, because I could not ask for a better sister.

She was our champion. Other than if I'd done something particularly bad, I can't remember her ever saying anything negative to me. I was supported in everything I set my mind to and told firmly I could do anything. I think a large bit of the successes in life Hazel and I have had comes from this encouragement.

She loved us, and our family and our friends fiercely. When I say I was 21 when mum died, people tend to say it's a shame, I was young. But while I'd love to still have her and I miss her every day, I feel lucky for having her for those years, because I was loved for every minute of them.

She saw the best in everyone and was intellegent and kind and warm and funny.
Being honest, she was also bloody stubborn, which is a trait I got. But it also meant she did not give up, and I don't generally either.

That, I think is my mum's legacy; a family who adored and miss her, children who support each other, have self-belief and try to live by her example, and lots of people who have memories and tell stories of a warm, funny, compassionate person.

Friday, 10 October 2014

...catching up - August.

August is my favourite non-Autumn/Winter month. August has our wedding anniversary AND my birthday in it. And this August also included theatre trips and nights out the wedding of our friends Gareth and Lynne. AND it was sunny and glorious for the whole month. Pretty perfect really.

...catching up - September.

...and suddenly Autumn is in full swing. The end of September has been filled with work, college, a wee bit of crafting, loads of reading, soup and stew, and dog walks where I indulge my inner five year old and collect conkers. Temperature have dropped suddenly, and the jumpers, scarves and thick tights are out.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

... A political animal

I am really struggling to get back to blogging. I've missed August, full of weddings and anniversaries and birthdays.

And until today I couldn't begin to write about the referendum, campaigning, the feeling of actually doing something that affected change and then being crushed.

For me, late August and September was pretty much a cycle of Work-college-campaign-sleep-repeat. I took part in rallies, manned stalls, folded and delivered hundreds of leaflets, and basically did anything I could turn my hand to to help. In campaigning I think I found a bit of faith in myself that I've not really had before. It has become such a big part of who I am. I guess when you believe in something, and you are working with amazing, driven people who also do, wholeheartedly, it rubs off.

The result was heart breaking, soul destroying.  More so because when ours was announced, I'd been standing up since 7am on Thursday, as a polling agent all day and as counting agent overnight. I was distraught, like most others. To work that hard and care that much and have it fail is horrific. I was heartbroken for my campaign team, some of whom had been working on this for most of their lives. For the old man who lives on my street who at the polling station told me he wouldn't see independence if we won it, and was voting yes so we have a better future. For the people living in the worst conditions in the poorest areas who are demonised, who had the courage to hope, to vote Yes. I am furious for them.

Now, with a small bit of time to think about it, I see the amazing gain that I was a small bit of, despite the government and the mainstream media being against us. I see all my amazing Yes activist colleagues, who were gutted by the result, say we won't give up, we will galvanise and move forward. And I see every horrendous thing that we were warned about being thrown at the people of Scotland, punishing us for daring to raise our voices, and I think, we promised them something and despite the set back, we must strive to get it.

And when I say 'it', initially I mean something as close to Devo Max as possible. But I also mean independence. The 45% has grown, is growing. There's this strange idea that the referendum was the end of the independence movement. It was not, it is not. The dream will never die.

I am one of the 45% and I am forever Yes.