Two more sleeps

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[that's me running away with a smug/delighted look on my face not  the child begging at his feet]

Two more sleeps to go  until a strange man breaks into your house and this year will be the most relaxed christmas day yet. I say that not in hope but because it is reality! For the first time ever there is no last minute panic buying of gifts (usually on christmas eve). The food has all been bought and Tomorrow we will prep most of it so that on Sunday minimum effort will be required to put dinner on. There will be no mad rushing about or hours spent slaving over a hot stove. Root vegetables will be chopped and tossed in oil (maybe some fresh herbs and garlic cloves in there too) and left in the fridge overnight, Sauces and gravy will be made in advance and then gently reheated and the something en croute will be sitting in the fridge ready to be launched into the oven. The pudding is already sitting happily waiting to be steamed again and I won't even think about putting it on until the main course is served.

Other than eating slightly more christmas pudding that perhaps necessary there won't be over consumption in this house. We don't go in for the whole over eating from christmas to new year followed by self loathing and denial (dieting, urgh!). Instead of gorging on selection boxes until being sick we're looking forward to a leisurely morning (cups of tea in bed of course), a brisk walk, some unrushed present unwrapping, christmas tunes (mowtown and Sufjan Stevens)  and good food. We'll be taking time to enjoy baby's first christmas.

I hope everyone is ready for christmas and that some/one/any of our festive posts have been useful. All of us at Modern Housewife wish you all a relaxing, fun, peaceful and delicious christmas and we hope to see you all in the new year. 

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What to eat on christmas day!?

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With the cake and pudding now done I know that dessert doesn’t have to be even thought about now and there will now be cake galore to be eaten along with pots of tea. All I need to do is put the pudding on to steam when we’re sitting down to our main course. This gives plenty time to eat, savour, digest and then eat again. I will not make brandy butter to accompany it as there is enough alcohol in it as it stands.

This weekend I’ll be roping my brother into various festive activities ( he doesn’t know this yet right enough) so mincemeat pies (traditional or puff pastry pinwheels?) and gingerbread will be made. I love squishy chocolate gingerbread ( which bakes nicely in jars for gifts) but no doubt I’ll make gingerbread biscuits and because it seems we can no longer call them gingerbread ‘men’ I’ll probably use tree or snowflake pastry cutters because I refuse to make gingerbread persons.

This just leaves the savouries to deal with and the dilemma of what to have as our centrepiece. I know it’s still a way off but I like to know now what we’re having as it’s one less thing to think about. Do we have a simple but tasty nut loaf (cashew and parsnip being our preferred loaf, omit the egg) or something in puff pastry such as red wine pate en croute or my festive loaf (scroll down and i think its called ‘now that’s what I call a christmas dinner) which I’ve made for countless christmases? I’m half tempted to make more of a mock meat type roast complete with stuffing (I’m not a massive fan but my man is) but this would require a run through and I’m not sure I want two Christmas dinners. Perhaps I’ll compromise and make sausages* to accompany our nut loaf (but I’ll make them sage and onion).

We’ll have all the usual trimmings: gravy (mushroom or shallot), cranberry sauce, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, brussel sprouts (stir fried with yellow peppers, chestnuts, sesame seeds and a touch of sesame oil) and kale. Have I missed anything out?

Other non food related things:

Scant would best describe our selection of decorations. Being a previously unfestive pair we own a piece of tinsel, a set of chilli lights and some baubles. We need to try harder. Therefore in the spirit of all things festive I have been planning some ways of cheaply decorating while exhibiting high levels of christmassyness (also great minds think alike and as I was planning what I was going to make earlier this week Lucy updated her site here with free decorating ideas):

  • I’ve been out gathering hawthorn branches, ivy and holly for putting in vases and decorating anywhere high up and out of reach of little hands. Just sort of throwing bits and pieces around until it looks decorative. Holly berries are poisonous and while hawthorn berries aren’t they can certainly give little ones sore tummies when eaten raw. Plus they have crazy spikes all over them.
  •  I’m going to attempt some simple wreaths either using florists wire (to add some structure) or just interweave a lot of ivy to form the circle.
  • I’ll also be trying out Lucy’s ice lanterns and have visions of making really tall ones although I can’t work out what I could use to do that.
  •  I’m going to dig out my paper stash to try and make these and get out the crepe paper to make streamers. If I feel I still have a spare moment or two then it’s tissue paper pom pom time!
  • Finally, slices of orange will get dried out and thrown in a bowl with some huge chunks of cassia bark.

*in the UK wheat gluten for making seitan and sausages can be bought from The Flour Bin.

presents and mincemeat

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(me and the best present ever…the tree house)

This will probably be mainly about mincemeat though.

I bought my presents back in October. I don't really know why, I just felt that for once organisation was important. I did not go mad with gifts even though it's baby's first christmas because, well,  there's not a whole lot you can buy a not quite one year old. I have a bit of a list of ideas but it is mainly baby specific I'm afraid so feel free to scroll down to talk of mincemeat. They're also not brash plasticy disposable toys…most aren't toys at all.

I wanted books that weren't too…normal. So one was Andy Warhol's Colors . Purple horses? But of course! I also bought Daddies . This book makes me laugh because of it's ridiculous stereotyped jobs that the daddies do but I adore the illustrations.

Nic Nac Noo do fabulous toys. I love them, all wooden and bright and gorgeous. Oh and Myriad, love their wooden toys too especially this rainbow.  

Etsy is a great place to find the unusual and the handmade. Artwork by The Black Apple was bought but who is it really for? Um, me just now but I like to think it will become a treasured item.

What I desperately want are these blocks or these ones! The benefit of a wooden toy like this is that a) child gets to use imagination b) they will last as a play thing for years and c) child gets to build towers and then knock them down ferociously while chuckling. Fun!

And, not for baby, but I got this as a gift for mothers day and, well, I love it…The Kindle . I don't think it is an appropriate format for all books but for a basic novel it is excellent. It has turned out to be the best thing for this breast feeding mummy. I can hold it and turn the pages with one hand and baby doesn't try and grab it. Well at least not as much as a normal book. Plus, as I'm impatient when it comes to books, I can download them instantly. Hurrah!

On to mincemeat!
Ok, so as a child I had a deep distrust of a mincemeat pie. 1) I thought they were meat pies 2) when someone explained they were sweet I then thought they were meat pies with sugar in them and 3) when I was finally convinced to try one it was despoiled with chunks of peel.

I've moved on since then and love some homemade mincemeat and like the cake and pudding its best if made in advance. Last year i made the mincemeat recipe from this book . It doesn't have suet in it for those not keen on saturated fats (or, it now occurs to me, palm oil. There are environmental reasons not to use palm oil). Previously I used to always use this recipe (scroll down) which is more traditional. We have also been gifted about 8 jars of it and I'm now desperately trying to think of ways of using it all up. A normal mincemeat pie is all well and good but there must be other ways. 

If you don't want to make it most supermarkets will sell a vegan option (in the UK anyway) and Goodness Direct sell a sugar free mincemeat (sweetened with apple juice and all the dried fruits)

Another  thing:
The cake turned out great. I ended up using a general cake recipe and just left out the eggs and added a splash or two of soya milk. I made up the mix and put it in the lined tin the day before I baked it. I have been told that it can be left like this for up to 3 days. Apparently it produces a flatter topped cake which is easier to ice. I don't ice my cake but i found it easier to do it this way. I also baked it at 140C rather than 160C as my oven is fierce and I despise burnt cake.

 

christmas pudding, christmas cake

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(My grandparents having a wonderful sixties/seventies christmas)

I'm kicking off the festivities with cake and pudding which should both, in theory, be prepared well in advance. My mum always started her christmas cake preparation in October so for no other reason I do too. I think we always bought a christmas pudding when I was a child as my mum had had her fill of dried fruits after making about 12 christmas cakes every year as gifts. Craziness! I make one, and then wish I had made twelve. It tastes so good!

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(it is impossible to make dried fruit look attractive)

 I always make my own cake and pudding because as far as I'm concerned currants, mixed peel and glacé cherries are evil and do not belong anywhere near my happy festive time (.and for the record the same goes for mince pies. Many a mince pie experience has been ruined by a chunk of hard, bitter peel. Don't do it! Just no). I use a combination of sultanas, apricots, prunes and on occasions dried cherries and blueberries.  I've had my dried fruits soaking in a selection of alcohols for about a month now (but even a few days will do and I once left them soaking for a year by accident and very good they were too). It doesn't have to be alcohol some sort of tart fruit juice will work. I've used a fresh cherry and red grape juice before and that was very good. try and make sure it's something a bit tart though as otherwise it will all be disgustingly sweet. Me? I tend to use a lot of sherry because that's what my mum used…in everything festive now I come to think of it. Cake, pudding AND the trifle. Maybe that's why christmas was so jolly when I was a child?

(The fruit cake recipe I use comes from The Vegan Cookbook (found under celebration cake) but really i've found that any fruit cake recipe works just leave out the eggs and make usual substitutions. For the pudding i use this recipe (scroll down)  for quantities only and change the fruit.)

Introducing our festive countdown


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(A seventies christmas  with excellent photo composition. This was the best christmas ever)

Mid November, a sensible time to start thinking about winter festivities. Too early to start putting up decorations and playing christmas music (do you hear me retailers?!) but just right for mince pies, gingerbread, mixed spice and mulled wine. It's the perfect time to start thinking of (if not planning) all the festive edibles (unless you live in the USA as you'll probably want to get Thanksgiving out of the way) and maybe try and remember where you put the decorations.

What, I think, we plan to attempt over the next few weeks is to provide some information on being a vegan at a time of year where meat ( turkey, goose & ham) and dairy (all those selection boxes!) seem to take over. However, if you're not vegan a) you can still eat vegan food y'know. It is delicious after all and b) it will all end up being more than just about food.

I hope you'll all join in with your own ideas, recipes and traditions.

(a bonus  first day post will be up later this afternoon)

vegan mofo – fairy cakes

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little chocolate ones dusted with icing sugar… with a good book, what bliss…

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vanilla ones topped with chocolate and photographed with retro camera app…

Those were recent, now we delve into faery of the past…

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raspberry nipples

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with fresh blackcurrants smooshed into icing sugar

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and finally with rosewater icing at the bottom of a mountain which we had climbed three times that day (really!!) and made by a friend 🙂

Does ‘toyless’ equate to ‘soul-less’?

A worry I had about my house recently. Not a huge worry, I didn't lose sleep. But for a few moments, anticipating the arrival of a friend with her eighteen month old, I looked around and wondered. The small child was going to be bored here, in the abode of adults and teenagers who now play with ipods more than playmobil (a strange and sudden metamorphosis that was). A swift march to younger teen's wardrobe, a frustrated dig and pull later (more project action babe press ups needed) and toyboxes had been unearthed.

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Ring Wraith Horse – why was this ever put away??? The keeness with which we set about arranging and playing with miniture equines was quite heartwarming…

I looked around and found other ensouled objects sitting about anyway:

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John Lennon and the Beatles within were actually the most favoured toy of the day by visiting little person 🙂

And then I looked out and blew up this:

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Wow. So many years since I've been on one of these, what a workout! It's amazing the difference a pair of antenna make to a gym ball… however a sports bra is essential here too. Leaping across the dining room on it in a Tesco balcony bra causes VERY BAD THINGS to happen and these words to be said: "there was no point you turning away to fix yourself, we all saw you in the mirror anyway". I have lovely friends 😀