Thursday, 31 December 2015

Tuesday 29th Dec: An Early Start For Devon

 
Part two of our Christmas festivities started rather early....we left the house as planned ( which was a miracle!) at just after 5.30am
 
 
 
 
 
After an hour on the road, we were all in the mood for some breakfast, so treated ourselves to a McDonalds...I can vouch for their very yummy pancakes with warm syrup!
 

 
After another couple of hours on the road the sun finally made an appearance!
 
 
 
Before we knew it, we were back in the rolling hills of Devon....
 
 
 
...and back to the village that has given our Teens so many wonderful memories and become our second home.
 
 
 
Our rooms always have little treats awaiting us.
Every year we find the latest M&S  musical biscuit tin...always a highlight...
 
 
 
 
...Teen One had this delightful array of goodies awaiting her...including a hand knitted "Minion Sister" which was perfect for her Minion loving brother...
 
 
 
 
...who found all sorts of Minion themed goodies in his room....
 
 
 
...much to his delight....
 
 
 
...including shower gel in the bathroom!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This year, even the landing was decorated for us!
 
 
As well as catching up with family...it was lovely to meet "The Story Telling Mouse" from  www.houseofzandra.co.uk
who I have seen come to life on FQ2FF
 
 
Family Christmas's in Devon, usually entail some homemade presents...of which we have been the recipients of some amazing ones this year!
Tomorrow I will share those treats with you, but to end today's catch up ( didn't manage to get internet access down there!) I can now show you what Teen One was working on as her contribution.
Above are Doggie Treats which we had seen on "Kirstie's Homemade Christmas" TV programme.
They were fun to make and all the doggie recipients appear to have enjoyed their treats.
 
 
She also made a last minute present for Grandad.
It was a rather rushed present as we had been waiting to hear what his favourite Bible verse was...with Grandma being ill, it wasn't possible to find out until a few hours before we started to pack up the car for Devon.
Next year we have promised ourselves to be more organised, to avoid last minute rushes!
I wonder if we will succeed!
 
 
 
 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Chilling...Baking and Packing



 
Today has been a stay at home day, enjoying not having to clock watch and do what we want when we want.
I did of course have some objectives....such as packing up all the presents ready for visiting family tomorrow.
It's rather pleasing to see what was littered all over the house, in various stages of completion...now neat and tidy in just two bags!
Teen Two seems to have suddenly turned into a typical teen and didn't rouse until around 9am!
Usually he is first up and doesn't like to lay in bed..this morning when I returned to bed with a cuppa for hubby and I, I took Teen Two a cuppa in ( around 7.15am) and he was fast asleep!
I thought I heard movement around 9am so took him one up...he is beginning to really love that little treat.
Teen One would not thank me for taking her one in when she was still dozing...and I remember being like that myself...bed was for sleeping and nothing else... now its a place of retreat, a place to chill and start the morning slowly, with the news on, a cuppa and the lappy...but of course those mornings are usually only on Saturday's...which is why these days at home, with no work, school, college or Recycled Teens to visit, are so special.
 
 
I had a butternut squash to use up, so made Teen Two's favourite soup, along with a *cheese and chive soda bread.*
I haven't made soda bread in years and was delighted with how light it turned out. Having said that, it was very filling!
 
 
 
It made for a healthy, hearty lunch, so much so, none of us are ready for dinner now!
 
 
Teen One has  been creative this afternoon, with a last minute present
 
Hubby has been doing a spot of plumbing...like everything DIY...looked like a half hour job, but with the various trips to Screwfix and inevitable problems, has taken most of the day.
In between he has been trying to fix a problem with the laptop.
Whilst it has been partly successful...it has created new problems...which seems to be affecting everything I do on here!
Hopefully a bit of tweaking and e-life will be back to normal!
 
*Cheese and Chive Soda Bread Recipe
 
200g plain flour (half and half with wholemeal works fine)
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2teaspoon salt
2teaspoons dried chives
50gmarg or butter
100-150g grated mature cheese ( I used red Leicester)
1 egg beaten
150ml milk  ...save some to glaze
 
 
Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
Rub in marg then add cheese (save some for topping)
Stir in egg and milk to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured board and knead lightly and quickly.
Shape into a large bun shape and place on greased baking tray.
Brush with milk, add grated cheese.
With a sharp knife slash the top into four triangles  (think I should have done 8 as a 1/4 was very filling!)
Bake in preheated oven 200 c Gas 6 35-50 mins until well risen and golden.
Test with a skewer, which will come out clean when the loaf is cooked.
 
For a cheese and bacon soda bread, replace chives with 100g streaky bacon pieces that have been cooked until crisp.
 
 
 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Hooked on Word Brain!



 
Being Sunday, this morning started with church as usual, followed by lunch...which for a change was not a roast...but leftovers.
 
 
 
Over Christmas a friend introduced us to a downloadable game called "Wordbrain"
I am not one that plays online games very often...partly due to not have a smart phone or tablet I guess, but last night, tired of knitting and slightly bored with the TV, I downloaded Wordbrain onto the laptop...and was hooked for an hour or so!
During the evening Hubby also downloaded the game and then today Teen One did the same.
 
 
 
Knowing Grandma's love of crosswords and Scrabble I suggested Teen One show Grandma the game.
Grandma, it must be said has no interest in online activities at all...but was instantly hooked!
 
 
The week leading up to Christmas, Teen One and I were watching Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood discuss Pandoro versus Panettone...both of which are traditional Italian Christmas enriched breads.
 
 
I clearly have led a sheltered life as up until the programme, I had never realised the bread should be cut into "stars" and then layered to look like a Christmas tree!
 
 
 
 
 
It also resembled a fir cone we thought!
It was very tasty and so attractive, we will definitely be buying one again next year.
 
 
 
It was double Scrabble this afternoon and somehow I managed to win both games.
All the wordbraining must be paying off!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Boxing Day

 
 
 
 
 
 
Today started the ideal way...waking up naturally...then coming down to make a pot of tea to then return to bed with!
I did nip in next door whilst the kettle was boiling, ( throwing some clothes over my PJ's!) to check he was ok...then crept back upstairs, as everyone else, unusually was still asleep.
 
 
 
After the lovely relaxing start to the day, it was on with the big clear up after yesterday!
It was much easier to face, fresh and wide awake and was done in no time...but a few hours later it looked exactly the same again...oh the life of a housewife!
 
 
 
Whilst the roast beef was slowly cooking away in the oven, I enjoyed one of my favourite past times...sitting in the living room, with the Teens enjoying themselves watching a Disney film (The Sword in the Stone today) whilst I had a cuppa and busied myself with some knitting.
I bought these two new Stylecraft shades last week, not really sure what I was going to do with them...I just loved the two vintage colours together...Pistachio and Boysenberry.
 
 
 
Hubby and I hadn't got to opening our presents from under the tree yesterday, so that was our goal today!
 
 
 
For the first time in my life I now own a Christmas sweater!
Also a Christmas nightshirt!
My friend knows how cute I think gingerbread men are...for the last three years my gifts from her have been on that theme!
 
 
A slate cake dome...very handy...came from another friend...
 
 
...two lovely books...looking forward in particularly to the daily devotions book.
 
 
 
Hubby and I don't usually exchange pressies these days...but he sneakily went back to a craft stall at the Pumpkin Festival ( how organised is that!) and bought this glass scene I had admired!
 
 
 
Today's roast beef was being shared with next door again...with the son still staying over, he too was of course included in the offer of a meal.
The Yorkshires once again rose to the occasion! This triumph is usually reserved for days when its just the four of us eating...you can guarantee that if visitors are here they are nowhere near passable!
I should really have taken the picture from lower down...as they were really HIGH! The middle ones especially!
"Pride comes before a fall" and all that... so please don't think I'm bragging...just sharing a "happy housewife" moment!
 
 
Milly has once again been Teen One's shadow...
 
 
 
..throughout the peaceful afternoon...
 
 
...whenever I looked over...
 
 
 
...there she was, a picture of contentment!
 
 
Today has been one of just chilling, enjoying some TV, with no clock watching...my perfect kind of day.
Hubby hasn't had quite such a chilling day...he spent the morning trying to find a Post Office open to return the iPhone...none open today...but one is regularly open on Sundays...who knew!
 
 
 

Friday, 25 December 2015

It's Christmas!

 
 
This morning started with Teen Two creeping in some time after 6am whispering "Happy Christmas"
No matter their age...they like to come and sit on our bed as they open their stocking presents.
This year was no exception.
With those presents opened...as he went downstairs we asked him to put the kettle on for a cuppa.
Shortly afterwards, he returned with a tray of tea for us all...ahh!
Teen One had by this time woken and come in with her stocking...so it was time to go downstairs for the main event.
 
 
It's always as exciting for us parents, watching them open their presents...seeing something they have longed for appear in their hands..as it is for them receiving it I am sure!
The bible verse "it is better to give than receive" is certainly true.
 
 
Teen Two was thrilled with the games he had on his wish list and Teen One ...well...when she saw an "Apple" symbol on the box she had unwrapped...she stopped and looked in unbelief!
Having had a second hand old style phone for some time now, after much debate between Hubby and I about the justification of paying out for an Apple product...we ultimately plumped for an iPhone 5, figuring she really did deserve something more up to date and had never asked for anything so grand.. but we knew she would appreciate the quality.
So...imagine our huge disappointment when, having unwrapped the cellophane and taken the phone out of the box...she said " I think it's cracked!"
We couldn't believe it at first... surely it's just a mark...surely its a crease in the protective film...surely its....nope....it had a crack!
Just a small one on the top right hand side...but a crack none the less.
This was not what we had expected from this high quality and expensive product...it was not what we had expected for our Teen One.
Now, lets get this  into perspective...we are healthy....we have our little peaceful home...we had the knowledge of a good dinner ahead of us...we have so much to be thankful for....so a cracked screen is not the end of the world...it is merely a disappointment....but one I was feeling keenly...more so for my Teen than myself of course...but as usual....not a word of disappointment from her.
Bless her, she just accepted the situation
As I am typing this, hubby has just commented...all sorts of kids will have received a perfect iPhone today...but their household is in turmoil....that's something to remember isn't it.
Hubby has spent sometime emailing Giff Gaff and they have got back straight away...thankfully we are still within the 30days return promise...just!
We have been sent a return form via email...tomorrow we will return the phone.
Of course we didn't actually realise the phone was going to be returned rather than repaired...so Teen One has spent some time today uploading info on it...we hope we can work out how to delete it now!
 
 
Teen Two spent some time getting to grips with his new game...
 
 
...whilst I retreated to the kitchen.
I made three different sorts of stuffing...all with Paxo as the base.
I made one as per the pack , then a second adding some chestnuts we had roasted last night, together with dried cranberries.
The pack doesn't call for an egg...but my grandmother always added an egg to her stuffing so I have always done so too.
 
 
For the final batch...it was the family favourite...adding sausage meat.
I  was surprised to find the supermarket out of sausage meat on Wednesday  (makes a mental note to by ahead next year) so I bought sausages instead and just squeezed the meat out of the casing.
 
 
My trusty casserole holder  came in handy...as a turkey warmer!
 
 
I was relieved that the Yorkshires rose to the occasion!
I even made some without fat that rose as well!
One of our visitors has to have a fat free diet as she has gallbladder problems...so I used baking parchment to line the tins with and aside from the fact they didn't have holes at the top, they came out pretty good....shame I forgot to take a piccie!
 
 
The dinner was a success...and of course I was relieved when it was over ( and must confess to having abandoned the clearing up until tomorrow...aside from what fitted into the dishwasher!)
After dinner, our guests...an 83 year old lady from church who is extremely unwell, and her nephew who came down from Manchester to be with her...joined us in a game of "what's in the bag."
My mother in law made these bags on her old treadle sewing machine...about 60 years ago...so they have really stood the test of time!
 
 
With the guests back home...it was time to see Hubby's family for tea.
It's just a short walk away... and it was good to walk!
My sister in law had made this cornflake wreath for the kids....it was great fun and tasty too!
My salads went down a treat, as did the panettone Christmas tree I had bought in Morrisons.
 
 
We are now back home...and for the first time all day...the TV is on!
Teen One and I have been eagerly awaiting tonight's Downton Abbey...although sad it's the final one!
It's been an unusual Christmas day for several reasons....but we are thankful for the many blessings we can easily take for granted...not least for the fact Grandma down south has started to make some progress with her health issues.