Monday, December 31, 2012

Wreck of the Gingerbread House

Poor house - that's what happens when people nibble on it... Not sure we ever posted a photo of it when it was whole and pretty - I'll have to see if the girls took one!

Friday, December 28, 2012

An Afternoon at Hampton Court

Originally, when we planned to have Uncle John visiting for the day, we were going to go to the Wetland Centre in Barnes, but the weather has been so unreliable, we decided we'd be better off somewhere at least mostly indoors, so we headed over to Hampton Court Palace instead. 

We parked across the road in Bushey Park, and couldn't help but notice that the trees were completely full of mistletoe - I've seen lots of trees with a little bit of mistletoe before, but nothing like this - remarkable!

I really like Hampton Court Palace - I have been a number of times before, both with visitors and on school trips, and there is always something interesting to see. 

It does, of course, have amazing chimneys. 

But there are also interesting little bits of architecture squirrelled away in passageways and around corners, which I really enjoy ferreting out (hmm, not sure what's with all the rodent metaphors...).

The Tudor kitchens are always good fun as well - today Alex got to have a go at turning the spit - despite popular mythology, not a job for children as they were heavy and it was very hot by the fire.

The Palace was decked out in holiday finery, including lots of small trees decorated in what I imagine were traditional decorations of the time - lots of dried fruit and ribbons and little organza bags with fruits and spices in them. Really lovely - and it smelled fantastic when you got near them. 

We didn't have a stroll around the gardens, due to time constraints and dodgy weather, but we had a nice view from the window. 

And here's a rare appearance of the photographer herself - ok, you can't really see my face, but I thought this was a fun shot nonetheless. 

And that's the end of the tour - then it was off to the cafe for tea and cakes (or, as it happened, coffee). 

Dec 28th: Selection of Salads

My brother in law came down to London today from Leicester - he visits us several times a year - and although we had originally planned to have lunch out, the weather changed our plans a little and I decided it made more sense to eat lunch at the house first, before we went anywhere.  He unfortunately can't tolerate wheat, so I was cooking gluten free today - a selection of salads seemed to fit the bill for a lunch which wasn't too heavy, particularly after the continuing excesses of Christmas...

We had a couple of old favourites, Roast butternut squash salad with Soy Balsamic Dressing

and Spicy Cucumber salad.

Then we had Cold Chicken with Potatoes and anchovies (only it had turkey in it - go figure!)

and broad bean and courgette salad.

The broad bean and courgette salad was great, and the walnuts really added a nice texture. It would never have occurred to me to put walnuts in a salad of this sort, but they worked well. 

And this was great - a super way to use up cold chicken (or turkey, as it happens). And in fact, when I had the end of it later for supper, it was even nicer...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dec 27th: Turkey Curry

A great British tradition, to help use up the turkey...  Geoff cooked (another nice tradition in my house!)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

It began with the opening of stockings - the kids have traditionally been allowed to do this at whatever time they got up, even if no grownups were up. This year, the kids all slept later than the grownups, so we opened them together...

Alex is looking quite grownup himself these days. Where does the time go?

Here's a little bird perched in the Christmas tree.  A lot of our ornaments seem to be birds - not intentionally necessarily, though I do like birds, so perhaps I tend toward them subconsciously...

As for our Christmas, well, there was a gathering of small chocolate characters,

there were presents from Santa for the whole family, 

there was a huge massive downpour of rain, which made us glad we needn't go outside all day.

There was silly jumper wearing

and there were silly bows in hair.

And of course, there was eating and drinking. Starting with cranberry bellinis

and a roast turkey with trimmings - sage and onion stuffing, chipolatas, roast potatoes, chantenay carrots.

Time to dig in!

\With lemon syllabub for dessert (Christmas pudding being too heavy for Christmas - we'll have that on Boxing Day).

Hope yours was happy!

Monday, December 24, 2012

It was Christmas Eve, Babe...

So we did our annual going up to town to look at the lights and windows.  We don't usually do it on Christmas Eve, but this year, there wasn't much extra time before the end of school and Christmas, and if you wait until after Christmas, they cover all the windows with big sale signs and you can't see the decorations.

This year, Harrods had a Disney princess theme, which was fairly good - not the best I've seen, but by no means the worst.   I took tons of photos as I am trying to break in my new camera - still getting the hang of it - but I will only share a few here.  The scene above was obviously from the Cinderella window.

This little frog was from the window called Tiana, who I understand is from The Princess and the Frog, which I've not seen. 

This was Pochahontas, whose dress was made of feathers and whatnot - very cool. 

I can't remember whose window had the Chihuly glass sculpture - perhaps Ariel (Little Mermaid). 

Of course, we went inside Harrods as well - we always like to have a brief look around the food hall, which is fairly magnificent at any time, but even more so at Christmas. 

We don't usually buy anything, as it's very expensive, but I did like this display of pomegranates.

Then we usually get a bus up to Oxford Street (sometimes stopping in Hyde Park for the Winter Wonderland, but not this year, as the girls were still a bit under the weather from having been sick yesterday) and check out Selfridges - this photo is one of those I really wish was in focus, as we'd be reflected in the silver bauble straight ahead... Oh well.

We then made our way down to Regent Street  - can't remember what street this was in, but I really  liked the juxtaposition of these two signs - not Christmassy, just amusing!

Here are the decorations in Regent Street - we checked out Hamleys and then went through Carnaby Street and on through Soho to get back to the tube at Picadilly Circus - we were hoping to get an ice cream at Scoop, but they were closed...

Oh well, maybe next year!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ta da!

Neighbour plates & teacher boxes spread out on the counter, ready to go - here's a closeup!

Fudge Meltaways 
Peanut Butter No Bakes 
Amaretto Truffles (yellow cases) 
Cointreau and White Chocolate Truffles (red cases) 
Jam Thumbprints 
Butterscotch Shortbread 
Joe Froggers (Molasses spice cookies) 
Pretzel and Popcorn Bites
Peppermint Creams 
Christmas Fruit Biscotti 
Snickerdoodles (Cinnamon cookies) 

Nearly at the finish

Here are the second lot of truffles, with white chocolate on the outside. 

Olivia is drizzling chocolate on the Florentines - 

dark and white.

Sarah is rolling out and cutting out the last of the biscuits - spicy ginger ones.  And Geoff has spent quite a bit of time washing and drying up, bless him.

A lunch break in the bake...

The finished biscotti - Alex packs it into a tin. 

Olivia adds jam to the jam thumbprints; the truffles are ready to roll. 

And here's another treat being cut up and packed into a tin.