First Snowfall Chocolate Mud Cake.

Made last week, but writing it up now because all cooking has become very simple due to Jon’s dentist appointment.

The icing turned out delicious and quite cute and snow-like with the split between icing sugar and cocoa and the sparkles of plain sugar, though it was far too runny and looks more messy than anything. Need to work on my cake decorating skills!

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 700g flour and raising agents
  • 1 to 2 cups chopped brazils
  • 150g dark chocolate, chopped into chips
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 3tbsp plain cocoa powder
  • 5tbsp sweetened cocoa powder, milk or white
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp each: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, coffee granules

For decorating:

  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate powder
  • water as needed
  • whole brazils
  • white grain sugar

Utensils:

  • mixing bowl and spoon
  • small mixing bowl and whisk
  • greased, nonstick, lined cake tin

Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Mix the dry cake ingredients.
  3. Stir in the egg and honey.
  4. Add water until a batter forms.
  5. Pour into the tin. Bake until a skewer comes out with sticky crumbs on it: not dry, but firm.
  6. Put aside to cool.
  7. Mix the icing sugar and white chocolate powder. Add water a few drops at a time and stir into a thick paste. I’m not too impressed with the melting snowfall look, so just blend it thoroughly and set aside to cool a little.
  8. Pour the cool-ish icing over the cold cake.
  9. Stick whole brazils on it.
  10. Sprinkle with white sugar before it completely sets.

snow-cake

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10 Things I Am Grateful For This Solstice.

Staying up late on the Solstice gives plenty of time for reflection. This will be the longest night of the year. When it’s over, the days begin to draw out and Spring is officially on its way. Life is reborn from here, even if we can’t see it yet. And as life is conceived again, there are many things to cast aside, but many things to give thanks for.

1: My perfect husband.

It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t start with the one thing I genuinely am amazed I have.

I’m grateful to have met such an intelligent, handsome, loyal, dedicated, witty, random, like-minded man. I am a thousand times more grateful he was single, interested in me and happy to wait through all my anxiety and doubt.

2: The roof over my head, the food in my stomach and the fire beyond the hearth.

I am grateful to be alive, safe and sheltered from the elements. I am grateful to be able to eat every day if I want to, to the point of obesity if I ever wanted to. I am grateful to have a home of my own and not share it with anyone I don’t choose to welcome inside. I am grateful that in this chilling cold our house is warm and safe.

3: My art and my writing.

I am grateful that I can paint and write, that I can do it to relax, that I can put my mind to paper with ease and that I can make a small portion of my income on highly creative work.

4: What health and youth I have.

I am grateful that despite my ups and downs, my physical health is incredibly robust. I am grateful to have never broken a bone. I am grateful to have blood tests coming back as perfect. I am grateful to be in the middle of perfect childbearing age and soon to try for my first.

5: My grandmother in law and her help.

I am grateful that my grandmother in law is with us and is so kind, generous and caring. I am grateful that she shares her tips and hints about cooking and gardening with me. I am grateful she is there to help with the dog or just to talk should I need it.

6: Our friends and their support.

I am grateful to have friends as weird and wonderful as Jon and I. I am grateful for the fun things we arrange together, the places we go and the things we do and make. I am grateful to have a few close people in my life, rather than a thousand distant ones.

7: My business, my clients and my students.

I am grateful that I can make money from home. I am grateful that despite my location I am bringing in a comfortable income whilst tending our house, as well as a tidy passive income. I am grateful that the vast majority of my clients and students are polite, well-informed and work with me, rather than having me work for them only.

8: The spaciousness of the British countryside.

However many people I am grateful for, I am also grateful to live so far from most of them. I am grateful for fresh air and long country walks and dead quiet nights. I am grateful for our cheap cottage and its big garden and my potato harvest and the possibility of breeding turkeys.

9: Our pets and their company.

I am grateful to never be home alone. I am grateful to have a quickly growing puppy to motivate me to exercise, to cuddle when I feel down and to make me laugh when I’m struggling to focus on work. I am grateful to have an insane cat that clears the area of rats (and voles, whoops) and purrs like an idling engine whenever he sits next to me.

10: The modern world… and opt-outs.

I am grateful to live in a day and age when any item or service I need is a click or a call away, when I can make friends thousands of miles from me, when I can relax and read anything I want whenever I want. I am grateful for this blog, for my followers, for the blogs I read. I am grateful for social media and free tv streams and music downloads. But I am also grateful to be able to turn it all off once in a while and sit by the window watching the snow fall…

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

5 Little Acts Of Holiday Seduction.

Because why not have a bit of fun with your partner whilst you’re both home?

1: Flirty advent.

There are all sorts of fun and quirky advent ideas for people who miss the excitement of the advent calendar but who’ve had enough of strange-tasting milk chocolate of questionable origin. So why not a fun and flirty one?

Maybe they could be redeemable coupons, personal messages or little daily rewards, as naughty or nice as you need them to be, just make sure it’s all about having fun and giving. 🙂

2: Hot cocoa.

If you’re feeling cold, miserable, stressed and bored… chances are your beloved is too! Make two steaming mugs of hot cocoa, pick a film between you and snuggle up on the sofa under the blankets. Try and make some personal time for this, when the kids and pets are in bed.

3: Mistletoe.

Mistletoe, mistletoe everywhere… How about a bunch at the front door, over your partner’s seat in the kitchen and living room, in their office/study/workshop and, of course, over the bed? (Try plastic, paper or fabric mistletoe if you’re worried about allergies or small creatures -two and four legged alike- eating them!)

Then just make sure to point it out whenever you’re both underneath it. 🙂

4: Sexy Santa.

Find yourself a cute Santa apron, a Santa hat and some red slippers. Arrange some cookies/biscuits on a platter with cocoa, coffee or tea, whatever your partner prefers. Then, present them with some edible festive gifts in nothing but that.

5: Big bow.

Feel like you haven’t got enough gifts to show your beloved how important they are to you? Or that they have everything they need, so it’s hard to get something meaningful? If you want to be the icing on the pudding these holidays, then wrap yourself up in a bow on Christmas morning before handing over their presents. Whatever you wear under that is up to you.

And above all, have fun, destress and remember your partner this season.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

12 Days Of Happy Holidays.

It’s 14 days from the Solstice and 17 days from Christmas. Soon kids will be on Holiday and a week or so after adults will be taking seasonal leave as well.

So before the actual countdown begins, here are some ideas for the 12 days of Happy Holidays.

1: First day of the countdown!

Make an advent calendar with your family and friends. Make one for your pet too. And if loved ones are too far away, make yourself a great one to boast about online! :p

2: Last minute presents.

Forgot to get anyone gifts? Packing stockings? Better go out and do some shopping sooner rather than later.

3: Cards for everyone.

Whether they’re traditional cards, ecards or handmade cards, try and get a festive message ready for everyone you love.

4: Seasonal music.

You’re absolutely justified in putting seasonal music on by now! Make a full playlist of your favourite warming, spiritual, Wintery or Christmassy songs and play it until you’re sick of it.

5: Light a fire.

There’s something lovely about a warm fire when it’s cold outside. Or a flaming BBQ when it’s hot outside, for those in the Southern hemisphere! Light a fire, a bbq, a candle, anything. Put a decorative fake fire on if you can’t light one.

6: Decorating time!

Any decorations you haven’t got out yet, get them. Any you haven’t put up, hang them. Any you want, make or buy them. An afternoon crafting and decorating the rooms artfully or as a family can be a peaceful experience.

7: Paper baskets and treats.

An alternative to a stocking for neighbours and dinner party guests. Pick some great seasonal colours and weave paper baskets to fill with candies, trinkets, messages and confetti. Top with a grab big curly ribbon bow.

8: Meal planning.

You almost certainly have a good idea what you’re making, but sit down and work out the prep and cooking times for everything and check the ingredients’ lists.

9: Stock up.

Anything you haven’t already got, go out and get it. Don’t plan anything else today. Take it easy. Enjoy the shopping. Separate yourself from the anxious crowds.

10: Baking day.

Rather than bake and cook on the same day, take a whole day to bake biscuits, pies, tarts, cakes and anything else you fancy. Remember to store everything well so it won’t go stale!

11: Be grateful.

As you welcome friends and family into your home, as someone fusses over their food, as a kid breaks an heirloom, as the roast catches fire… be grateful you can have this time. If you’re on your own, have a good meal and call friends and family. Remind yourself that you are loved and needed, whoever you are.

12: Festivities!

Enjoy yourself. Cleanup starts tomorrow. Eat, drink, be merry. Pray. Play games. Get drunk. Sing carols. Eat too much. Dance. Read. Do whatever makes you happiest.

What are your plans for the twelve days leading up to your holiday, then?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

I’m going to be happy this month.

A lot of the things I write are critical, negative or generally pessimistic. I like to think that the majority of what I write is useful, but that doesn’t change the fact that a month never goes by without something with a negative tone popping up on the blog.

So my first two posts of the month were constructive and all the following posts, until December 31st, are going to be constructive, positive and happy.

Because this isn’t the time of year to be stressed, angry, sad or pessimistic.

Hope everyone has a beautiful December!

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

How Our Solstice Celebrations Went.

Seeing as I am happy to read all religious texts and can see a lot of spiritual and social truths in all of them, many people may be unaware I am not actually as religious as I am spiritual. I believe in a God. Especially the earliest version of the Abrahamic God concept, or that of Eastern Nirvana, where God is not one person or one identity, but the very life and energy that composes the entire universe, a living consciousness that is both the creator of the universe and the universe itself. However my own spiritual experiences have led me to doubt anything men say about God, about higher, lower or simply different beings, about alternate dimensions, split dimensions, parallel dimensions and the space-time continuum. Humans may be a small, cell-like unit of the universe. But that doesn’t mean we know anything about it. That doesn’t mean we can understand what anything else in it may be wanting to tell us, let alone what the entire universe may or may not be saying. And I’d rather experience existence than fret about what one man tells me to do and another tells me not to do. Philosophical debate aside, I’m pretty certain we won’t know about death until we die, about existence until we transcend it (if ever) about God until (if ever) we meet It.

That said, I celebrate the Solstice, Christmas, New Year, Epiphany and Imbolc. Festivals of birth, rebirth  and renewal are always welcome. However the Solstice is of particular importance because it follows the pulse of life in our little corner of the universe. Every year it’s held on the longest night of the year, almost as though everything stops for a little bit longer in the middle of the night before the gears start turning and everything begins to rewind.

But, without getting too poetic and frilly about it: the longest night of the year is often seen as a bridge between spiritual worlds and our world, or between dimensions, a time when the dark reigns for a short while and gives us a chance to wonder about everything. Whether, the wonder is at a specific God, at the universe itself, at science, at the spirits and life and energy in everything, there’s something quite eerie and beautiful about the Winter Solstice, the time when the light is reborn.

We were planning to spend the Solstice with a few friends, but sadly they couldn’t make it. Instead, we focused on enjoying the day and the night.

The food we prepared.

Just for eating, well, feasting.

Unshockingly, whilst all meat, eggs and greens makes me look awesome, adding overt carbs back in causes water retention and general lethargy. I look so much fatter for potatoes and fruit than I did on steak and salad. But for a day it won’t kill.

Elderberry and Brandy Pudding.

Ingredients:

-250g flour

-300g elderberry jam

-100g sugar

-300g dried fruit

-100ml brandy

-cold water as needed

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-greased loaf tin

Recipe:

1: Mix the dry ingredients.

2: Incorporate the jam.

3: Mix the brandy in.

4: Add water as needed.

5: Bake at 160C until spongy, but crisp on top.

6: Serve with custard or cream.

Quick Raw Custard.

Ingredients:

-5 egg yolks

-1/4-1/2 cup sugar

-200-300ml double cream

Utensils:

-jug

-fork/whisk/blender

Recipe:

1: Whisk the yolks and sugar together.

2: Stir in the cream.

3: Stir before pouring.

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BBQ Pulled Chicken.

Ingredients:

-1 roast chicken

-chicken fat

-browned onions and potatoes

-softened brussels sprouts and courgette

-4tbsp ketchup

-bbq mix

-chili powder

-salt

Utensils:

-fork

-scissors

-frying pan

Recipe:

1: Shred the chicken. Cut the skin up with the scissors.

2: Place in a pan with the vegetables and cook until the fat and water has been reduced.

3: Add the seasonings.

4: Fry until crisp.

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Curry.

Ingredients:

-brussels sprouts leaves

-cabbage leaves

-1 small courgette

-small handful chopped pumpkin

-200g chicken

-3tbsp curry mix

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife.

-pot

Recipe:

1: Chop all veg and chicken.

2: Roll in curry.

3: Seal in bottom of pot.

4: Add water and remaining curry. Boil until cooked.

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And we also had a roast chicken and veg from our garden.

Spiritual elements.

Things that help me reflect on the meanings and meaninglessness of existence.

I prepared basic cinnamon sugar cookies to leave out for the ancestors/spirits. Just sugar, flour, eggs and cinnamon. I hung them as garlands about the house.

The fire was lit around 7pm. It was a large fire in the hearth, involving two large split halves of a log as our Yuletide log. It was still hot in the morning when the sun came up.

We offered some red wine to the gear spirits of Jon’s Renault 5. We concluded it had to have spirits as that hunk-o-rust go-kart can’t possibly be running mechanically and, therefore, must be kept alive by either Jon’s or its own willpower.

Dreams were intense as usual, even though we only slept from 1am to 6.30am.

Gifts.

Jon got me new pajamas which I needed and really liked. He was under no obligation to get me anything (although he didn’t want anything for his birthday, for mine he got me a brilliant genuine Bandai post-timeskip Zoro figurine, or, for you non-animetards, a nice dolly of my favourite cartoon character in his latest getup), but he felt he had to get me something else once he heard I was getting him a surprise on top of the backpack I’m making him for his security work.

And the surprise? I prepared Jon a traditional Christmas stocking, which he’d never had before.

 

Hand-made the stocking, too!

Hand-made the stocking, too!

This is how I decided to fill it.

Things he likes to eat. Treats and snacks he really enjoys. Winter is a time of cold and scarcity. That’s why feasts were so important to our forefathers. Therefore, giving him a small supply of treats to last him through the cold nights was important.

-10 Rocky bars. A favourite of his from his childhood.

-4 Nakd bars from my stash. His stash is oat-bars, which I can’t eat. This usually means he only eats the oat bars and leaves me with my Paleo-approved raw fruit and nut bars. It’s only fair to give him some of his own.

-Chocolate orange segments. When we lived apart, he used to love snacking on orange-flavoured chocolate in the car on his way from my place. Sometimes he would be collecting me and we’d have them together, sometimes he would be returning from a weekend together.

-White chocolate bar. Used to be his favourite sort of chocolate.

-Leibniz biscuits. Another childhood favourite.

-Relentless cherry drink. We used to get through so many of these together. Now, due to cleaner eating and cutting back on costs, he usually has one or two a week. But I know he still loves them, especially the cherry flavoured ones, which are lower in sugar and make a difference from the plain ones.

Things he could use for his security work. Rebirth, new move, new identity. It felt relevant to celebrate the changes in Jon as the Seasons changed.

-Hand-held crystal heat water bottle. You break it, get 30 minutes of intense heat and then need to boil it to dissolve the crystals. But he has damaged nerve endings in his fingers and sometimes needs something to kick-start blood flow when they get so cold they go white, as they may do when he’s out in the cold.

-Thermal gripper socks. Again, poor blood flow. Not as bad as in his hands, but having thermal socks that stick to the soles of his work boots may be welcome.

-Quality tie. For non-uniformed work and interviews. Solid, heavy silk.

-High-viz leg and arm bands. For situations where being invisible may be dangerous.

-Under-clothes belt. To keep his emergency money, his phone and other personals in.

– 2015 agenda. For notes on jobs, incidents, tax returns, interviews, etc.

Assorted things he would appreciate. Things that make life that little bit nicer, that you don’t just eat or use up, that may continue to bring him happiness until they are completely destroyed from use.

-Sticker for his laptop. It has a snake-print pattern and he loves snakes.

-Scented aftershave for delicate skin. For a nice finish after his hot-lather shaves.

-South Park videos. We have a video playing TV now, so I’m starting to buy us any fun videos we may want to watch.

-A little book of quotes. Hand-written poems, song lyrics, excerpts and quotes he would enjoy in a nicely designed notebook.

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The day in general went well. We rose late having exchanged gifts at midnight the night before, had a nice big lunch at Jon’s mother’s house, got home, had some hot drinks and relaxed. At sundown we feasted some more and at 7pm I lit the fire. Jon was away with his security work, so we’re making up for the loss of drinking and cake a little tonight.