Saturday, 29 December 2012

Family traditions

I'll never forget something my husband said last year... I was complaining that despite my family tradition being a lunchtime Christmas dinner with nibbles in the evening, I was forced to produce a huge meat fest of a breakfast on Christmas day and then have a late dinner which basically means cooking ALL day as that was HIS family tradition. When I finally shushed, my husband looked at me and said calmly "what's your last name?" ....
I was left speechless! Then I didn't know whether to scream and sock him one, or to laugh!

It's funny how traditions start, and just how long they can carry on.  My family on my darling dads side all used to get together the last Sunday before Christmas for a big brunch.  All the kids would be there, and their partners as we got older, and the table would be covered with disposable paper cloth so that the felt pens and crayons would come out along with the silly games after the first round of food was done and we would all doodle and scribble for hours! I think we all looked forward to this - even as sullen teenagers!  Things changed the year my dad died though, and although we promised him we'd go ahead (it was our familys turn to host and cook the brunch) and I promised that I'd cook, it was a really strange day. No one said it, but it just wasn't right without dad. It was him that was the centre of it all without a shadow of a doubt.  The next couple of years my lovely uncles and their families took their turns but I'm pretty sure it was our turn this year. My mum never mentioned it, and no one else did, and it didn't happen. I talked about it with my husband and we kept the day free just in case but I didn't dare mention it to my mum. I think it would have been too hard.  So I guess that's a tradition that lived and passed with my dad.  It will always be really special, and we have fantastic giggle filled memories, but it's done.

Me and my dad at mine and Mr LFCC's wedding in 2008
I think I've inadvertantly started a few traditions of my own with my lovely husband and the teenager as my family are big on Christmas in a way that their family just aren't.  Stockings MUST have a sugar mouse, chocolate coins, and a Terry's Chocolate Orange (it's not Terry's, it's mine) and a stupid toy of some sort that you can either shoot, make an annoying noise with, or race, and there should be bubbles!  When I talked about stockings this year and gave the usual options for Christmas (1) just cash, nothing to open 2) stocking with small pressies plus some cash or 3) stocking with small pressies and one more substantial pressie our teenager was horrified at the idea of not having a stocking. We were in a lucky position to be able to give her some pennies to buy things for her impending move out of her little boat, Loki, into a shared house along with her boyfriend but when we said that we could do this, her little face feel for a moment, she went quiet, and then almost whispered "but I will still have my stocking, won't I?"...!

For us it's always been about the sentiments and thought behind things than spending a lot of money - my mum used to spend months creating our Christmas presents and she made the most amazing things. My Barbie doll had a huge and luxurious four poster bed she made, I sat upon the most stunning burgundy velvet tub chair she made, and I dressed up in a full sized clown suit from the clown she made that was the same height I was. She never disappointed, and I am glad to say that I can honestly tell you that even as a kid when we can be rather more shallow than we'd rather probably admit to, I was so happy to have those things rather than store bought alternatives.  I can only hope that the  people who found Christmas presents for their loved ones here in my little floating boutique on the riverbank were met with the same love when the paper was torn away!  I would love to know how they went down if anyone feels like sharing?

So now my thoughts turn to the New Year, and I wonder what it will bring. I'm genuinely curious. I never imagined this time last year, how busy LFCC would be by now, and how many times my crafty words would have been published, or the kind words I've received from generous floaty people all over the world.  I'm sat here, with the knowledge that my family are happy (for the most part) and that I do all I can for those around me, so I think I can head towards the New Year with a smile! That is, if Kevin the cat stops scratching me in his attempts to ge fussed! lol!

Monday, 10 December 2012

A floating palace of om-nommy-ness!

With as many food allergies as me you get used to cooking from scratch quite quickly, although this was something I was used to it meant a little adjusting from those who cook for me on occassion.  As onion is now my biggest enemy it's more important than ever as pretty much every sauce or every filling has a base of onion or at the least includes onion powder.

So I came up with a few pie recipes that my family love that go down pretty well with "the regular folks" too!

I've shared my cheesy chicken and bacon pie but I make a Sunday Pie too which I think you might like;

Pastry: a suet pastry is fabulous for winter. For this I use 100g of original suet (vegetarians can use the veggie one but there are too many veggies I can't eat so it's a big dangerous for me) and 200g of plain flour with a sprinkling of salt.  Just sift the flour over the suet, salt lightly, and stir in enough water to bind it all just by a couple of tablespoons at a time at the most so you don't over do it.  Bring into a ball shape, cover and pop in the fridge (or if like me your fridge is full, I put it on the roof of the boat now it's chilly outside!) for about half an hour. That gives you long enough to make the fillings.

Stuffing:  I use roughly a large table spoon of fresh finely chopped sage, 1 free range farm egg (they have so much more egg-osity) and two and a half slices of good bread blitzed down into breadcrumbs.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and just mix it all up together. Leave to one side for now.

Chicken: I often make this using left over roast chicken but if you're cooking from raw today then chop into fairly big chunks, season, seal, and cook through in a frying pan with a little oil for around ten minutes on a medium heat.

Making: Leave the chicken on a really low heat at the end and then get your pastry out.  Grease a 6" tin with sides at least 1" deep and then roll out three quarters of your pastry.  Wind it around your rolling pin to transfer to your tin and push into the corners leaving the excess pastry hanging over the edge.

Brickwork chicken: Start building up layers of the chicken and the stuffing, using the stuffing as grout like you're building a patio in layers in there! Squidge it in to all the gaps!  Keep building til you run out of either space or filling. Then roll out the remainder of your pastry. 
Lightly milk the edges of the base with a pastry brush and drop the lid on. Trim with scissors leaving no more than an inch over the edge of the tin then just roll it in towards the centre so you've folded and sealed all the goodness in.  Lightly brush the top with more milk.

Cook: Put your pie in the centre of an oven preheated to gas 7 (fairly hot) and cook for 40 minutes til your pastry is golden and crispy.

Fend everyone off and get in there with your fork!!  If there's any left over, this is fantastic eaten cold too...

I'll be sharing my super special mince pie cheat recipe soon so keep an eye out!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

An early start, and a long haul...

We had an awful scare in the wee hours of the morning today; having had a kitten disappear last New Years we were so anxious when we heard a cat really squealing at about 5.30am.  Something was definately wrong! We had one of the kitties, Kevin, laying on the end of the bed but N'Eville, the little one, wasn't there. I instantly panicked and had visions of him having been hurt and not be able to come in to us, or having fallen in the marina and not been able to get out! 

I threw my dressing gown on and ran out into the frozen marina, calling his name as loud as I dared.  I could hear the plaintive meowing but couldn't work out where it was coming from as the water does funny things to how the sound travels.
I got so cold I had to come back in, just in time to do a swap with Mr LFCC who'd thrown on clothes and boots and was heading out the door with our German Shepherd, Joseph, who is N'Evilles bestest mate.
Literally as he walked out onto the back deck N'Eville came running in, bright and breezy, but had obviously been up to something as his eyes were all freaky and wide and his tail was all fluffed up.  I was so relieved that he'd come back in and he was ok that I gave him treats to reward him for coming when called, but I was so cross too that he'd worried us so much!

Cats... far more worrying that teenagers!

So after a really tough start to the day, we went back to bed for a while but sleep didn't come easily.  My brain had started ticking about the Christmas market I needed to prepare for (it's on tomorrow!) and all I needed to get done, and in addition we were moving marinas.  Quite a big day all in all!

But I got some gorgeous new projects created, a special custom jewellery commission made, and boxed, tagged and priced all my other creations ready for tomorrow. I made a huge slab of chocolate biscuit cake to share with all the visitors to my stand at the market too!  I might have accidently sampled a bit... just to be sure it was safe.. you know...!

This is some made for a fund raiser a little while ago! Tomorrow's are chunky blocks in muffin cases, nice and easy to eat!
Well, wish me luck - and I'll let you know how tomorrows market goes! Can't wait for my first real taste of Christmas for 2012 though!