Birthday Treats

Well, yes, it is in fact my birthday and yes, I love having my birthday so close to Christmas.

As one gets (ahem, whisper it) older, one requires much less from a birthday celebration.

My only requirement these days is Breakfast In Bed.

As you can see from the picture, it doesn’t have to be gourmet. Tea, toast and orange juice are perfect as far as I’m concerned. I’m not sure why Son Number One thought I would like a cream cracker. May I say I don’t normally drink out of plastic lidded beakers or camping mugs. Husband deemed it wise, for son number one was intent on carrying the breakfast tray in to me. I think I may have spent the day in the burns unit if it hadn’t been for Husband’s foresight. Son Number One was soooo excited about organising my breakfast in bed. He had also been at great pains to create a specially decorated box. Grandma had helped with the gift inside. He has obviously been having lessons from his father because the box was big and the gift was…small (but appreciated).

It was probably lucky that the Middle Miss slept in while he did it. Sharing such responsibilities can be tricky for all concerned.  Luckily for me, they took their turns at giving me birthday cuddles. Even Babykins stayed asleep a little longer than usual so I could get in the shower in peace.

Do you want to see what was inside those two packages?

Lovely things. Made by mmum. There was something else too. A very cleverly made, large, paper bauble. MadebyMum’s Mum is big into paper craft at the moment of which, more evidence later…

How about my cards, would you like a peek a those?

Slushy eh?

We made a hasty exit to my Mum’s place because our hairdresser was coming to give us our pre Christmas trim. There was another present and card to open. Here is what was inside.

Isn’t my Mum clever? I told you she was into paper craft in a big way. If you are local and you want to get into this kind of thing, there is a lovely lady called Angela Dawes who runs classes from her home in Ingleby Barwick. You can find her blog, Sparkly Cards and Paper Crafts here. It’s worth a look.

It felt like there were a million things going on at Mum’s. The hairdresser was chop chopping, there was a team of men outside mending the roof who kept shouting for cups of tea and three children needed breakfast. It felt hectic because every couple of seconds we were looking out to see where babykins was. He is practically running already despite being not quite one (eight more days).

Finally, the activity subsided and some quiet crafting occurred.

Would you like to see ‘The Workshop’?

See the organisation. It’s taken years.

Middle Miss drawing a Christmas Tree

What are we cutting out here?

More of Mum’s clever papery things

Remember I said there was another gift from my Mum? A big, paper bauble? Well, the flowery things being cut out in the photos above are the start of another one. We downloaded the pattern from How About Orange. I haven’t had time to browse this blog but what I have seen looks FAB. The finished bauble looks like this (top left).

Sorry it’s not a great picture (try and ignore the background). The light was fading. It is the solstice you know, shortest day and all that.

Isnt’ that clever? The person who designed it must be really good at thinking in 3D. It really was easy to make, occasionally a bit fiddly but really, not that bad. There are next to no instructions other than ‘cut out the shapes’ and ‘slide them together’. My only complaint was that I couldn’t seem to avoid having two adjacent colours the same. I’m not mathematically minded enough to work out how many different shades I need to cut out in order to avoid  that. There are 12 ‘flowers’ all together so let me know if you are good at that kind of thing. I tried three and that wasn’t enough either. Maybe I should try 12!

So now I am having another little bit of quiet time. Babykins asleep, bigger children still with Grandma. What should I do?


Birthdays don’t come everyday. You’ve got to make the most of them.

Happy Solstice.



In a Pickle

Yes, Yes, it’s a cliched title. I never claimed to be original.

My Mother decided that pickled onions were in order the other day. “I thought I’d make some” she declared. “Home made ones make good Christmas presents”. Since it was Sunday and our local market garden was closed, she toddled off to Tesco to purchase the onions. Now, Tesco is a very useful store but it doesn’t always deal in specialities. The nearest thing she could get to a pickling onion was shallots at £1 for a 300g bag. I already had all the vinegar and spices that I needed but that didn’t stop Mum buying a rather large  jar of Sarsons ‘ready spiced’ pickling vinegar. She brought everything back to my place and then the usual chaos of Sunday night took over. Dinner was cooked and eaten, children were bathed and put to bed, washing up was done and packed lunches prepared. Of course, the shallots and vinegar were put to one side and Mum went home without them, secretly hoping I would peel and brine them ready for the next day. It was wishful thinking on her part for that had also been the day when I measured out the ingredients for the fruit cake.

Monday came and Mum was back on her onion mission with me tagging along. We decided to try and get some more onions of the proper pickling kind. The market garden was still shut but we found a nice little fruit and veg shop that had a good supply. This time I think I paid about £1.60 for 1.2kg, about a third of the price of Tesco. Back at my place, we got going on with the peeling process.

I got out my trusty copy of River Cottage Preserves, knowing its pickled onion recipe also had an optional shallot version. It suggests getting the skins off by first snipping off the top and bottom of the onions with scissors, pouring boiling water over them and counting ‘evenly’ to twenty and then plunging them into cold water. I had to hold Mum back as she was already busy attacking the onions with a knife. “Try it like the book says” I suggested. I suspect Mum slightly rolled her eyes. We differ a great deal in our approach to instructions: I like them, she does her own thing. However, she indulged me and did agree that the skins came of quite easily.

As we peeled the onions we started  reminiscing about when our other Aunty Betty (not my Grandmas sister who I mentioned in the fruit cake post, but her sister-in-law) used to join in with pickled onion making. No one seems to quite know how Aunty Betty (I’ll call her Betty Mac because that’s how she was referred to in the family, to distinguish between the two Aunty Bettys) came to be associated with peeling onions but she always got called in if there was a pickling project on the go. We all seem to remember her working away wearing diving goggles to try to stop the onion fumes making her cry. It was quite a comical sight, let me tell you. Fortunately for us, the River Cottage peeling method seemed to reduce the fume effect and neither of us was particularly teary.

Look at those colours. Beautiful. Mother Nature never gets it wrong.

Once the onions were all peeled and covered in salt I prepared the vinegar. Again, Mum and I differ here. She likes her ready made Sarsons vinegar. I like the extra depth of flavour that comes with spicing your own vinegar. I’ve made the River Cottage version a few times and it suits me. I like a bit of sugar in (I used half the amount stated in the recipe) and I use a few chilli flakes in standard onions. This was the first time I’d done shallots. There wasn’t much difference in the recipe except it suggested using half red wine and half white wine vinegar and adding a mint leaf at the end. Alas, I couldn’t get hold of mint. I’m afraid I got a bit carried away with the macro setting of my camera while I was getting the spices ready:

A macro lens can reveal a lot! It certainly makes you appreciate the beauty of everyday things. Logos on food containers are so iconic. No wonder Andy Warhol found them interesting. Anyway, I digress. Here are a few pictures of the end results:

The pot covers were made by my Mum on her fancy sewing machine. Don’t they look pretty? Hopefully they will make a nice little Christmas gift for somebody. I suspect my children’s teachers may be getting a jar to liven up their Boxing Day spread. Happy Pickling!