Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Feeling Festive

The circles under my eyes are getting darker, post-work naps are becoming essential, and almost every evening is filled with some Christmassy do or other. 

But it's okay, because on Saturday I'll be heading back to Devon for two weeks of open fires, kitty cuddles, mulled wine, carols, and family time. I cannot wait. 

I love Christmas. I love all the festivities, and the food, and the music, and the drinks, and the food. (Yes, I'm aware I said food twice. But it really is my favourite bit. Mince pie, anyone?)

I wrote a little guest post for Charlotte all about my Christmas traditions- and you can find it over on her blog! Just writing it gave me the warm-and-squishies, and made me even more excited for the next couple of weeks. I'm a real traditionalist at heart, and love the familiarity of my family Christmas. I love that it runs more-or-less the same way every year, and I love having all of my family around.

If you want to know more about my family Christmas (and see a brilliant picture of us all wearing ridiculous Christmas hats), then you should definitely pop on over!

Do you have any festive traditions?

Monday, 8 December 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 90)

Just three more weeks (and a handful of days) are left of 2014. Every now and then, I go "where the hell did this year go?!" and then I kind of remind myself of most of the things I wrote in this post and go "Oh. That's where it went". 

I'm writing this after an afternoon spent entirely in the living room, watching films and trashy TV, writing Christmas cards and browsing for Christmas party dresses online (help me. I can't do clothes shopping at the moment, I don't like myself enough). I feel antsy and lazy and guilty- I'm not good at relaxing, I always feel like I should be doing- which at least is partially responsible for the enormous dark circles under my eyes.

I've spent the last few days being looked after by Mama CupandSaucer. She came to stay, wrapped me up in love, treated me to theatre trips and cups of tea, groceries and a listening ear. It was so lovely to have her here, and I feel slightly bereft now she's gone. But it's less than a fortnight until I'm home for Christmas (and I'm getting daily updates from Mama telling me how many "sleeps" are left), so I'm sure I'll make it, even if I feel like The Little Engine That Could at the moment.

Anyway. I'll stop whinging soon, I promise. I know I'm a bore at the moment, so we'll get back to regularly scheduled programming now. This week, happiness is...

... writing Christmas cards. Firstly, this makes me feel like such an adult- I mean, I know we all wrote the whole class Christmas cards in primary school (didn't we?), but writing proper Christmas cards with notes such as "Hope to see you in 2014!" feels terribly grown up. And secondly, making references to the awesome things my friends are doing feels so exciting. I got to address three cards to "Dr..." and I made references to weddings. Add that to all the cards that are going to homes that my friends actually own, and I'm left feeling like I could burst with pride. I have some superstars for friends.

... doing good deeds. Last weekend, I went to play with Charlotte, and she told Jenny and I all about the coat she desperately wanted for Christmas, but that had sold out online. When out with Mama CupandSaucer on Saturday, I popped into Petit Bateau and found the coat. So I picked it up for her, and I'm popping it in the post today. It's the least I could do for such a gorgeous human, and I hope it makes her very happy on Christmas morning.

... the return of my knitted Christmas tree. Yes, Mama CupandSaucer squashed Noel the Christmas Tree into her suitcase and brought him up to London for me. He's now going to adorn my desk at work for the next two weeks, and I couldn't be happier about it. We've also put up the Christmas tree in my flat, and it has chocolate decorations on it. I haven't had one of those since I was six.

... finally sorting my eyebrows out. Oh my god. I can't even remember the last time I plucked my eyebrows. Finally got around to it last night, and I must admit, I do feel better for it. 

... winning the best offspring/ sibling award. Apologies siblings, I get the prize this week. I trekked out to Toys R Us on a Saturday morning in December, just to pick up the one toy Little L wanted for Christmas this year. It's hideous, and I'm sure she'll be bored with it by February, but for now, I WIN.

What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 5 December 2014

Christmas Biscuits

I'm not really a biscuit baker. A cake maker, yes. But biscuits? Not so much.

I've never been able to find or create the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I make excellent shortbread, but will only make it if I have access to Guernsey butter- it's so much more delicious that way. Viennese whirls are a firm favourite- but, admittedly, a little faffy. Oat and raisin cookies are a bit too healthy for a bake, as far as I'm concerned. Which kind of leaves me in the situation where I don't want to make biscuits, because I can't work out what I want to put in them. 

I think it's because I'm a perfectionist. Cakes I can do. I can make them pretty, uniform, artfully messy, covered in chocolate... They're my comfort zone. And while I'm not exactly uncomfortable making biscuits... I just don't. 

However. I now work in an enormous open plan office, and making biscuits is suddenly a much better idea. You can make an enormous batch of biscuits so much more easily than making a huge batch of cupcakes. They're far more portable. And even those on perpetual diets will often nibble on a biscuit. 

So on Sunday afternoon, after I got back from visiting Charlotte and Jenny, I are myself to making some Christmas biscuits to take to work. Seriously- a monkey could make these. Or a small child, so if you have one (or a monkey) if suggest making these this weekend. And if you aren't a fan of spiced biscuits? Leave them out. Add lemon zest. Or almond extract. Or anything, really. You could sandwich these with Nutella or jam and buttercream. Or you can do as I did and turn them into a festive feast (or cut them into animal shapes/ letters/ hearts/ flowers/ boats/ cars, and make them appropriate for any occasion).

They're also super popular- I've been asked to make them again so many times, and been told they're a sign I'll be a great wife. Not sure what baking has to do with being a great materfamilias but hey ho. I'll take it is a compliment. 

Christmas Biscuits
Makes enough to feed my office. Which means "a lot". 

175g butter
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp mixed spice 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Splash vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of a clementine (or tangerine/ satsuma/ orange)
275g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder 

Icing sugar
Red fondant/ smarties/ m&ms/ skittles

Festive shaped cookie cutters- I used stars, trees, and a gingerbread man 
A piping bag

Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the remaining ingredients.  

Place your bowl into the fridge until your dough is firm and stiff enough to roll out. If it isn't cold and firm, the shapes will spread in the oven and be a huge disappointment. Be patient. And preheat the oven to 170C

When your dough has firmed up, lightly flour a work surface. Grab a handful of your dough, and roll it out thinly. Cut out shapes and bake on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 10 minutes or until golden. You'll need to batch bake, so get a little assembly line going here- while one batch cools, get another in the oven and roll out a third. Leave any unbaked dough in the fridge for as long as possible. 

When your biscuits are baked and cooled, decorate using white icing. Mix icing sugar with a small amount of water until a VERY thick paste forms. Spoon into a disposable piping bag, snip the tiniest hole in the end, and let your imagination run wild! Star biscuits make pretty snowflakes, gingerbread men are a classic, and trees can be done by zigzagging the bag down the length of the tree and plonking a star shaped sprinkle at the top. 

To make a rudolf though... Turn your gingerbread man upside down. Pipe antlers on the "legs" turn the "arms" into ears, and dot eyes and a big red nose on to the head. Et voila! Reindeer, without a reindeer cutter. Genius. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Happiness Is... (Vol. 89)

I'm on complete Christmas countdown now. I am completely and utterly exhausted, and I am so unbelievably exciting to head back to Devon for TWO WHOLE WEEKS in just nineteen days time. I have the deepest love of Devon- though I don't currently want to live there. It's hard- I constantly feel the pull of Home, with the rolling hills, thick mist, star filled nights, and deep peaceful silence; but I know it really isn't the right place for me right now. I don't have PEOPLE there, and the people who are there are not my type of people. It's hard. 

I don't know exactly where I do want to end up, but I know I want to be close to the people I love. Currently, these people are scattered across the whole of The South, so I know I won't be going north anytime soon. I don't want to settle down yet though, so I have some time to think more carefully about where I want to be, who I want to be near, and what is really important to me. 

It's funny though, that the thing pulling me through these next few weeks is the idea of leaving the place I currently am. Maybe it's itchy feet? Maybe it's just a general feeling of "unsettled"? Who knows. All I know is that I am so hoping that I WANT to come back after two weeks at home. I'm scared about how I might feel at that point.

Anyway. This week, happiness is...

... Feeling festive. I had such a festive weekend, and it's left me feeling so excited for Christmas! I'm all about the Christmas songs, mince pies, panettone, and Christmas cards. It's lovely. Christmas biscuits help too- recipe will follow at some point...

... Short weeks. I'm only in work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week. I'm delirious about it. I'm utterly exhausted and utterly in need of a cuddle from Mama. I'm fully prepared for her to tell me I look exhausted and unwell, so I'm hoping the extra time will restore me a little. 

... Jenny and Charlotte. Oh, these girls are my absolute soul sisters. A lovely Christmassy weekend with them, full of girly giggles, Christmas songs, and cups of tea was so good for me this weekend. I wish they lived closer and we could play more often!

... Exciting porridge toppings. Mr TTDER (aka Sebastian) made the four of us delicious caramelised banana porridge on Sunday morning. It was INCREDIBLE- properly indulgent, absolutely perfect for a Sunday morning. Thank you S!!!

... My enormous cashmere jumper. I may or may not have kept an XL Uniqlo cashmere jumper a boy gave me about six years ago. It's dark grey and incredibly soft, and I wear it at every opportunity. 

What's making you happy this week?