A Very Happy New Year!




Listening to a conversation between friends recently, one said "I shouldn't be complaining that my diamond shoes are too tight, I know I am incredibly lucky to have ....."  It doesn't really matter what the conversation was about as it could apply to a lot of "things" we all take for granted in life that may not always be there.

So with a brand New Year just emerging from its cocoon, as usual I find myself taking stock of the last year, what it has given me and what it has taken from me. 

I make no promises for the year ahead, I have many plans, personal and blogging-wise and there are changes afoot in the MLM household.  For me it's all about goals and not too many impossibly unreachable ones!  I wish all my loved ones continued good health and for those in my life with health challenges my wishes go even deeper. 

As for blogging, I resisted starting a blog for many years and now I have 2! both of which I love writing to, both with very different audiences.  Thank you to everyone who has read and commented, I appreciate you all.

Tonight we will raise a glass of the fizzy stuff and watch TC sleep through it all.  We will let off a lone rocket into the night sky as we have done for many years, now we send it up as a tribute to those gone before us with a teary smile. 

Are your diamond shoes too tight?? I like to think mine aren't, like my friend I know how incredibly lucky I too am to have my health and TC,  The days are brighter with her, when we thought we would never smile again, our surprise baby girl, Happy Bright New Year TC and to each and every one of you a very....



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DAXON

Reading through a few blogs this evening I came across an opportunity from Daxon - I have to admit I'd never come across them before but do shop with  Verbaudet and LaRedoute which are also under the same Redcats banner, which is the 3rd largest home shopping organisation in the world.

So off I went to check out the Daxon website so see what they have to offer.  I was quite surprised at the depth of their stock, from lingerie to homewares and a lot in between!

As a new customer you can receive a 10% discount and free delivery over £40, they also have an amazing 70% off sale on at the moment.

This camel double-breasted trench coat is now £29 marked down from £99!



 If you write about the Daxon brand on your blog by the 31st December you could be earning yourself a £50 Amazon voucher too.  All of the information can be found on the Daxon blog.

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Silent Sunday






Beauty-full - NEOM Luxury Organics

I was very lucky to receive the perfect Christmas gift from my lovely daughter, at 2 years and 5 months old she already knows her mummy's tastes well, although I think she must have had some help ordering it off the internet and her wrapping skills are amazing!

NEOM Luxury Organics goodies have been on my wish list for some time and even through the wrapping paper I could smell the wonderful aromas eminating from these potent little bath oils and candle.



The candle is very aptly called Real Luxury -  known as the "cashmere blanket" the fragrance is a blend of Lavender, Jasmine and Brazilian Rosewood and smells divine.  NEOM candles are made from 100% natural vegetable wax and pure aromatherapy oils for a natural clean burn - I love the NEOM promise on the box - no synthetic scents, parafin wax, black smoke or toxins.

The 5 mini bath oils are a heady mix of aromas named:

Complete Bliss, Real Luxury, Refresh, Restore and Tranquility which has my favourite blend of essential oils - Lavender, Orange and Geranium as well as Rosewood, Patchouli, Cedarwood and Basil, all guaranteed to soothe and relax me before bed.

I have no idea where this was purchased from or how much it cost, but it's priceless to me, it will always be the gift my little girl gave me for Christmas.....



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Puff the Magic Pastry!




We've only made our own puff pastry once when we (me & Mr J) signed up for a pastry making night class when we were first married, long, long ago!  That was a great class, we did everything from apple pies to bouche de noel!  Since then it has been store bought puff pastry for hugely quick and easy nibbly offerings.

Mr J's favourite mince pies are mince puffs, years ago I just swapped the shortcrust for the puff and a family Christmas favourite was born.  These are so very fast and easy to make and something you can make with the children as not a lot can go wrong!

Alternatives have been mince pie wheels and open mince puff pies, all equally delicious!

For the Mince Puffs you need only 3 ingredients plus a drop of milk:

  • Take a 411g jar of mincemeat and scoop out about half into a small bowl, splash a tablespoon of brandy onto it and leave for a while to marinate and infuse.  (I used plain mincemeat in TC's mini mince puffs)

  • Take one pack of ready rolled puff pastry, unroll and cut out your bases and tops. Place the bases on a lightly buttered baking tray and brush a little milk around the rims.

  • Drop a small dollop of the infused mincemeat into the centre of the bases, not too much or they may leak and ooze out!

  • Take your tops and place over the bases and press down the edges to seal.  Brush over with beaten egg. You can sprinkle the tops with caster sugar before baking if you wish, I prefer them without.

  • Bake at 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4 for about 15 minutes.




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Lebkuchen Christmas Biscuits

Lebkuchen, a traditional soft German biscuit, has been a part of my Christmas from long before I can even remember.  My Oma would send over packets of Chocolate Lebkuchen and Pffernussen, they were so very moreish and my favourite Christmas treat.

I have been buying Bahlsen Lebkuchen for years but for the last couple of years I have found it increasingly difficult to find them so have decided to try my hand at making my own.  The recipe from Woman and Home looks the most authentic one looking at the list of ingredients, except I am leaving out the mixed peel & crystallised ginger.  I am most looking forward to dipping them in chocolate!


Lebkuchen - adapted from and inspired by Woman and Home Recipe.

Ingredients

250g plain flour
75g ground almonds
2 tsp ground ginger
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g honey
75g butter
150g plain chocolate

Method

1.  Combine the flour, almonds, spices, cocoa powder, baking powder and
     bicarbonate of soda into a medium sized bowl.





2.  Melt the butter and honey in a pan over a low heat, stirring until the
     butter melts.


3.  Pour the honey butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well to
     make a stiff dough.  Chill if the mixture is a touch sticky to work with.




Heat your oven now to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.

4.  Shape the dough into small golf ball sized balls.  Place on a lined
     baking tray, well spaced apart, I used my macaron pans, I love my 
     macaron pans!  Flatten each one to make a round biscuit.



5.  Bake for about 15 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.




6.  Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl of simmering
     water, heat gently.  Dip the biscuits into the chocolate then leave to
     cool again on a wire rack. 







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Stollen Pastries

My lovely Oma, who TC is named after, would make many Stollen every Christmas and send out to all of her family.  Even when I left home to live the single city girl life and then the married coastal life, she still sent me one every year.  She was the best baker I knew and her recipes live on with us. 

Stollen, pronounced Sch-toe-len, is a traditional German rich yeasted bread made with dried fruits, mixed peel and almonds usually in a loaf shape, this year I'm making Stollen pastries for munching with gallons of tea in the run up to Christmas.

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour
7g sachet easy bake yeast
3 tablespoons light muscovado sugar
2 rounded tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp salt
90g unsalted butter - softened
200ml semi-skimmed milk
1 tablespoon black treacle
1 large free range organic egg
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
250g mix raisins/sultanas/mixed peel/
              chopped glace cherries
zest of 1-2 clemantines and 1 lemon
250g golden marzipan
flaked almonds to decorate to your taste

Glaze
1 medium free range organic egg
1 tablespoon milk

Icing Wash
50g icing sugar
4 tablespoons hot water

Method

1.  Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, spice and salt together in a large bowl,
     then rub in the butter.

2.  Warm the black treacle with the milk then beat in the egg and oil.  Add
     this to the flour/butter mix and stir in well moulding into a ball.  Leave for
     about 10-15 minutes.  Then knead the dough before covering and leaving
     to rise until it has doubled in size.



3.  Roll the dough out to a large rectangular size and scatter with the dried
     fruit and zests.  Knead the dough again until the ingredients are well
     combined.


Pre-heat your oven now to 200°C/180°C/Gas 6.

4.  Roll the dough out to a large rectangular shape, about 18" x 6" (or
     thereabouts), dampen the edges to help the dough stick together when
     rolled. 



5.  Place the marzipan on one edge of the dough and roll the dough
     around it.  Pinch the edges to seal.


6.  Slice the dough into 15 or so rounds and place on a couple of lined 
     baking trays, well spaced out.    
 

7.  Beat the medium egg with the milk and glaze the tops of the pastries.
     Sprinkle with the flaked almonds generously.


8.  Bake for around 15-20 minutes.  Whilst still warm brush over with the
     icing wash as desired, I do some with and some without (for me & TC).






It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas around here!

Jingle Bells!

Miss TC and myself were very kindly sent a copy of Jingle Bells! - the ultimate collection of festive songs for all the family from Music Room.


What a fabulous little book, crammed with 18 mostly traditional tunes, words and music.  The Jingle Bells pack is ideal to encourage your child to sing, with fun backing tracks on the CD featuring sing-along versions of all the songs.  The tunes have melody lines and chord symbols, ideal for older children learning the guitar or recorder.  I learnt to read music at school Mr J was a musician for many years so we're hoping the TC will want to learn too.


It also has some great fun-filled activity pages with beautifully illustrated Christmas scenes and.... stickers!!! 



TC is a lover of music, she will stomp and bop to any music including adverts but she absolutely adores stickers, the more the better, usually stuck to herself or the dog.  





TC loved this book, she was enthralled by the pictures and really enjoyed singing and dancing to the CD.  Jingle Bells! will come out every year for a festive sing song, it's a brilliant learning tool, the stickers will be long gone but the music will remain.





*Jingle Bells! was sent to TC and myself, it was an absolute pleasure to review - all thoughts and comments are our own.

Mini Quiches

I usually make quite a few mini quiches as part of a "nibbles" buffet table for our festive and new year gatherings, they are never on the plate for long!  But I also like to make them for TC as a finger food snack, they are easy for small hands to hold, don't fall apart and are soft to eat.  Perfect.

We've always got some crème fraîche in the fridge and I'd just made Annabel Karmel's Popeye Pasta for TC and had some Gruyère left, I usually use cream and Cheddar but I came across a recipe in a Tesco magazine that used both so decided to give it a whirl. 

I used ready rolled shortcrust pastry this time for speed but we usually make our own, well Mr J does, I prefer to bake, he's a maker of pies from scratch and very good at it he is!



Ingredients

375g ready rolled shortcrust pastry
90g back bacon, chopped into small squares
5 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 whole organic egg
1 organic egg yolk
3 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk
50g Gruyère cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 190°C/170°C/Gas 5.

1.  Cut 12 rounds of pastry to line a 12 hole tin, I use a glass that makes the
     perfect size round for my tin, around 7.5cm.  Refrigerate while you make
     the filling.
2.  Dry fry the bacon until lightly golden.  Drain on a paper towel and let cool.
3.  Combine the crème fraîche, semi-skimmed milk, whole egg and egg yolk in
     a bowl, season to taste.
4.  Divide the bacon and grated Gruyère between the pastry cases, then
     spoon the crème fraîche, egg mixture carefully and evenly over.
5.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and the filling has risen.  Leave to
     cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin.




Delicious warm or cold!




Nursery Schooling

TC and myself have been visiting a few nurseries locally in the last few weeks.  I had hoped one would jump out at me and say "pick me!" but so far there has been a downside to every one.  Some have too rigid rules or unsuitable times for us or a very long waiting list or just very expensive.  Having a friend who owns a nursery in another part of the country I do understand that if your child is unwell they still have to staff the nursery so cannot refund or carry over that missed day, but it's still a huge tug on the purse strings especially if you have to miss a day's pay too.

I have to admit to being a fussy mummy, having done this before albeit a long time ago, I am keen to find the right place for her and us as a family.  By that I mean somewhere she will be happy and well cared for with a good learning structure to her day.  For me it also means being able to tick off all the things I want her to have access to like languages and sport which is where I excel.  Daddy will have to do the science and maths bits again, not my forte!

Flicking through yet another local magazine for some inspiration I came across a piece on a local infant and nursery school, they had just been awarded their 3rd Green Flag in recognition of the work the school does to promote healthy lifestyles and to raise awareness of sustainability by making sure that Eco-related projects and initiatives run right through the cirruculum and daily routines.  They also had recently been judged by Ofsted to be outstanding overall with the inspectors describing it as "exceptional".


As luck or fate would have it, there was an open day a mere 2 days later, so off we went today for a tour by the headmaster, who is very personable and charming, with a philosophy of "I can - We can".  The more he talked the more I liked the sound of this school and his/its philosophies.

When he first became headmaster he replaced all the school rules (hearing this I nearly did a huge YAY!, I'm not good with rules) with a values system which has resulted in the pupils' good behaviour and outcomes.  I am looking to be involved in any school TC attends and here parent involvement is greatly encouraged. 

We reached the nursery class, where the children were all sitting in a circle, TC ran over to them seemingly knowing this was her peer group and wanted to join in at once, she is a confident, outgoing child with a sweet charm about her, yes I am pretty biased here.

So, name down and fingers crossed for a very long wait to see if TC secures a place in September 2013, until then I'm still keeping my eyes peeled for other such great little schools just in case and enjoying my time with TC.  Our days now are full and I know I will miss my daily jaunts and activities with my girl.  I am very much of a "what will be, will be" mentality these days but can't help hoping very hard that this is to be.


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