Christmas Greetings and New Year thoughts….

It’s been a little while since my last post – I am not catholic but that sounded quite like a confession to me! Between recovering from my operation, hubby having an operation and Christmas looming fast there just didn’t seem to be enough time to think let alone bake! I can finally reveal my Christmas cake decorations. I have never made decorations like these before and they are a bit lumpy but for my first exploration into the world of sugar craft figures I was fairly pleased with them.

Kim s Christmas Cake 1

I made four cakes from Mary Berry‘s fast mincemeat recipe. One cake for hubby and I, one for his mum and dad, one for my mum and one for good friends Bet & Ian who also bred  our two beautiful dogs. I decorated 2 with an eskimo sitting up fishing and 2 with an eskimo laying in his igloo fishing. I then put them in cake boxes and made big labels with a picture of Father Christmas and words to the effect of made by L&K Bakery at Santa’s Workshop…a bit of fun.

Kim's Christmas Cake 2

It’s this time of year when everything and everyone seem to go mad and rush out spending. This year, I didn’t do that, I just watched those around me dashing back and forth. The only rush I had was to get presents wrapped for family in Somerset and do the present run down there in the middle of that dreadful weather. Whether you get lots of presents or none, whether you feast on turkey and all the trimmings or have a sandwich, I think that Christmas feeling begins and ends within you and you do not need to spend a lot of money or stress out cooking loads of stuff to enjoy this time of year. My favourite times are just curling up on the sofa with hubby and the dogs watching a Christmas feel good movie such as Miracle of 34th Street- either version , or The Santa Clause, or a variety of other old favourites.

New year is looming and people always ask what you are doing to mark this. I personally think that you are made to feel like a no body or a kill joy if you are not invited to a party or a celebration. The best new year‘s Eve’s I have had have been with either my other half or just a few friends or family.

I hope that 2014 brings you peace and happiness. I hope for hubby and I that it will bring a more settled year……and that I get to finish this challenge before the year is out!

P.S. Hubby here :0)

Well it’s certainly been another interesting year and have to admit at times, incredibly stressful… Sadly some of that stress will continue at least into the beginning of 2014, but by always supporting each other, we both hope that a whole heap of sh*te can be put behind us.

As for me, well by the middle of the year I find that my shoulder isn’t sorted and that further surgery would result in a 50% chance of losing the use of my arm!!! Let’s just say any further arm surgery is, funnily enough, on hold LOL. If it’s not one joint, then it’s another; Suppose that’s the joy of having a bone disease, but further hip surgery just before Christmas appears to have been a great success thank god.

I can’t say I’ve done much photography at all this year, for some reason time just seemed to run away from us, although I have spent a lot of time this year enhancing my PhotoShop skills, especially in areas of HDR (High Dynamic Range).

So what does 2014 hold in store for the two of us? God only knows, but as long as we have the two hairy hooligans with us, we’ll be fine and face it head on. I just pray that 2014 is far less stressful than the past 12 months and that Kim and I can focus more on the things that we both love doing.

Well that’s all from me for now, at least until 12 months time. I too would just like to wish you all a very happy New Year and a peaceful and fulfilling 2014.

We would both like to thank you for reading and following our blog, mainly Kim’s baking challenge of course, and we hope that you enjoy the future posts to come :0)

Week Sixty Two – Mary Berry’s Bakewell Slices ( and some sugarcraft too!)

Week Sixty two and only a week’s gap, not so bad. I’ve had my operation, let’s just say all that should have been done, was not and I will have to back again..sigh. The general anaesthetic and procedure has had me feeling tired and generally under the weather, hence no bake until this weekend and only one.

Mary Berry's Bakewell Slices

So I delved as ever into Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible and decided to do her Bakewell Slices. They looked easy enough. Mary asks you to make a shortbread type of base , I made this and rolled it out and as ever, Mary’s quantities don’t go as far as she seems to be able to make them. I struggled to get the pastry to cover the bottom of my ever faithful Lakeland tray bake tin. Eventually with a lot of prodding and poking, I covered the base.

Mary then asks you to use 4 tablespoons of raspberry jam to cover the pastry and then proceeds to tell you to be generous with it as the jam makes all the difference. Again, four tablespoons over a tray bake tin didn’t go very far, by the time I had added an even layer, pretty much the whole jar of jam had gone- well she did say it made the difference! Finally the sponge topping, one of Mary’s throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix instructions and spread over the jam. Not easy and took a while to get it all even. Finally I sprinkled flaked almonds over the top and popped it in the oven for 25 minutes.

The final product looked nicely browned and when cool, sliced well. I am not overly keen on cakes with almond in but I must say, I didn’t mind it at all!

Kim's Bakewell Slices

A Bakewell SliceA quick update from the Christmas cakes made. They are all marzipaned and iced now and had a little bit of port to “feed” them.

Kim's Christmas Cakes

I have begun to make some of the decorations, here is one I made earlier, I am not going to reveal much more as some of the cakes are going to friends and family and I don’t want to reveal too much! Spoilers……..

Kim's icing igloo

Week Sixty – Mary Berry’s Bara Brith & Iced Animal Biscuits

Another landmark week, I can’t believe I have been blogging and more importantly baking regularly for SIXTY weeks! This week’s selection was a tribute to the welsh part of my family with a Bara Brith. I had to soak the dried fruit and sugar in half a pint of strong tea overnight. I must admit that I didn’t think the amount of liquid would be absorbed but Mary Berry‘s instructions were spot on. Once the fruit mix was done, I added the flour and an egg and mix it all together.

Mary Berry's Bara Brith

I lined my loaf tin and poured the mixture in and levelled it. Into the oven it went and the timer set. Soon enough the pinger sounded and I tested the loaf with my trusty skewer, not quite ready so it had a few minutes more. Then out of the oven and cooling in the tin for a few minutes before removing from the tin and placing on a cooling rack. A Bara Brith loaf in memory of my Auntie Shirley and Uncle Bill.

Kim's Bara Brith

Mary’s Baking Bible has a children’s recipe section which I have done quite a few of already. I chose her iced animal biscuits this time around, they sounded like fun for a big kid like me.

Mary Berry's Iced Animal Biscuits

I mixed the dough together as per Mary’s instructions and looked in my box of cutters to see what I had in the way of animal cutters. What did I find- a present from last Christmas from my mum – a Gromit cutter, what better for a dog lover than making some dog inspired iced animal biscuits!

Gromit Cutter

I rolled out the dough and cut out as many Gromit heads as I could. I wondered what they would look like iced and decided to use some circle cutters on half the biscuits to mark out Gromit’s nose and eyes as an experiment. Into the oven the biscuits went in batches. They didn’t take long to bake or cool.

Kim's Gromit biscuits

I mixed up some various colours of icing and used an artist’s brush to paint the icing onto the biscuits. I still don’t know which ones I preferred.

Kim's Iced Animal Biscuits

 

I’m a Celebrity is now on and has been extremely entertaining from the first episode. I will reserve judgement until the next blog on who I think will or should be King or Queen of the Jungle! On a final note, the Fiftieth Celebration of Doctor Who is on this Saturday, I have reserved my sofa seat with the obligatory cushion to hide behind and won’t be answering the phone until I watched every last minute!

Tis the Season to be Jolly !!!!

So where do we start about the last 12 months?

It’s certainly been an interesting time.  Lewis had every intention of posting far more blogs about photography, but since completing his photography qualification he hasn’t actually taken that many photographs.  This MUST change for 2013!!!

Kim sat and watched The Great British Bake Off, oh god what a mistake that was!!!  After watching a few episodes, Kim thought it would be an excellent idea to buy Mary Berry’s baking bible and then choose one recipie a week.  Well what’s the point in setting yourself a challenge if nobody knows about it? This is where Lewis came up with the idea that Kim should blog about her baking experiences and share it with those who were interested and wished to read or follow the blog.  Hence Kim’s account on WordPress was created…….

Has it been a success?  Well we certainly think so and we would both like to thank our new followers, not forgetting our existing ones, this year and hope that this blog has bought some interesting reading as well as enjoyment.

So what about Lewis?  Well in January he required surgery on his right shoulder and even now it’s still not fully resolved.  It was such a re-assurance when the Consultant said to him “oh it can take up to 18 months for a shoulder to fully heal….”   Oh cheers, thanks for telling me after the surgery!!!! :0)

Due to having a lack of function in his arm, Lewis hasn’t really done much, but hopes to be far more active in 2013.  Lewis hopes without a doubt that not only will he be able to take plenty of beauitful images, but that people may even wish to purchase the images created by Lullingstone Photography, better known as Lewis & Kim….

So what else has happened?  Oh yes, we nearly forgot.  Lewis’ parents decided to downsize from what had been his childhood home and so where do they move to?  Well of course it has to be next door to us!!!!

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “You can’t choose your parents….”,  well guess what, you can’t choose where they live either !!!!   LOL  :0)

Joking apart after a 16 week re-development project, we both hope they have many happy years in their new home, although we’re still waiting for them to actually move in……

Then of course we have the Olympics and Paralympics!!!  WOW is basically all one can say about that.  Whether you like sport or not, no one can deny that we have had the most incredible year of sport.  The achievements of our various sports men and women in their respective disciplines has been absolutely incredible.  The Olympics seemed to be over in a heartbeat which is something we can’t say about the build up to it.  How many years did we have the media bombarding us with Olympic gems?  Far too long would have been the answer.

BUT….. then the Paralympics Opening ceremony began and slowly people were amazed at how a legless man could run, or how someone with one leg could actually ride a bicycle and STILL whip the butts of your average able bodied person!!!  Sure there were plenty of jokes going around; Some were tasteless and some were just down right hilarious…    On that note, we really have to praise the Australian Adam Hills who presented the programme “The Last Leg” which was incredibly funny.  One can only applaud Channel 4 for allowing such a programme that really did break down barriers between disabled and abled body.  We would urge anyone who missed it to try and download it.  It must be on the Internet somewhere :0)

So the whole of the UK were in awe of the competitors and for very good reason.  They were ALL truly inspirational, whether they were winners or losers…  In our eyes, they were ALL WINNERS !!!!

Generally speaking it has actually been a rather quiet year, until we got to December.  Kim had been having some pain and so goes to see the GP. After some investigations, she finds herself with a rapid referral to the hospital and told that surgery is needed…..

So we’re waiting for a date for surgery on the NHS….  Well that’s likely to be a few months then right?  WRONG !!!!

A letter came through from the hospital a few days ago and the date is…….  Yep, it’s New Year’s Eve!!!!  We certainly won’t forget this year in a hurry.

This obviously means that Kim’s baking blog is going to suffer a hiatus for a few weeks whilst she fully recovers.  We both hope that 2013 brings a better year for the both of us in many different ways……

Bailey & Michka - Christmas 2012There are two things that keep us relaxed and relieve any stress and those of course are our two hairy hooligans Bailey and Michka.  It’s wonderful to say that they have both managed to stay in good health.  Without a doubt they will provide Kim with plenty of comfort and love when she comes out of hospital in the New Year…. :0)

We wish you all a very joyous and Happy Christmas and hope that you have a prosperous New Year.  We hope that 2013 is good to you all and is even better than 2012.

Lewis, Kim, Bailey & Michka  :0)

Week Seventeen – decorating the Christmas cakes

Week seventeen and this week is devoted to the endless task of decorating the Christmas cakes made last week.

These are going to be gifts for friends and family and it’s so close to Christmas that if they read this and see the photos it won’t matter too much.

Kim's Christmas Cake 1Kim's Christmas Cake 2 Kim's Christmas Cake 3 Kim's Christmas Cake 4 Kim's Christmas Cake 5

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank family and friends for the endless support in the last two weeks when I have been to hell and back with a health scare. The news is better than I feared and now I am looking forward to spending the Chriatmas period in the company of those I love and cherish- after all , that is the underlying spirit of christmas.

To all who read this, I wish you a Happy Christmas where ever you are and a peaceful New Year.

Week Sixteen – Mary Berry’s Classic Rich Christmas Cake

As promised, this week is Mary Berry‘s Christmas Cake and I make a few christmas cakes as gifts and usually look for a different recipe each year so this fitted in well. I don’t usually leave making my cakes until the middle of December but I just don’t know where the time has gone!

Mary Berry's Classic Rich Christmas Cake

Anyhow, I wrote a shopping list of all the ingredients that Mary’s recipe calls for and I Lakeland dividing tinhad a good work out carrying all the bags needed for the sizes of cakes I needed to make. I used the chart on the other page of Mary’s Bible to see what size tin I was using and the quantity needed. I had purchased an amazing tin from Lakeland last year ( yes, I just love Lakeland!) which is a massive tin on its own but has dividers so it can make varying size cakes. I used my tin divided into four to make four smaller cakes.

My next workout was weighing out all the ingredients and then mixing them by hand- I found muscles I didn’t know I had! I also had the fun of lining each of the tin sections individually. ( I had left the fruit to soak in the brandy as Mary recommended by the time I did this.)

Finally, after a huge amount of mixing , the cake mix was divided and the cakes went into the oven………for FOUR hours! They have come out a very rich dark brown, and now need to be wrapped in foil and “fed” for the next few days before decorating. As they will be gifts, and some of the people they are intended for read this, I will take photos and post after they are in receipt of their present!

Kim's christmas cakes

Week Eleven – Gingerbread Traybake

My hubby actually asked last week if Mary Berry’s Bible had any gingerbread recipes in it as he fancied some gingerbread……well when I looked, there are several gingerbread recipes so I read each one carefully as my thumb is still out of action and I needed a recipe that I could manage with one hand.

So, most of this recipe involved weighing most of the ingredients into a large saucepan, heating gently, to melt them all together, adding the flour and spices and finally beating in four eggs and some milk. The last part was bit tricky but I managed it without needing hubby’s help and only dropped one egg on the floor and the dogs thought their luck had changed!

This recipe calls for quite a lot of each ingredient and I found at the end of the mix that the tray I used, (the size that Mary Berry recommends in her recipe) there was too much to fit in this so I dug out a smaller round tin and lined that and ended up with a tray bake AND a round bake too………

The gingerbread seemed easy enough to make, loads of treacle in it though so it’s going to be very sweet. It baked well and was ready at the recommended time. I took both tins out and let them stand for a while before turning them out onto the cooling rack.

 

Once they were both totally cool, I made the topping, Mary recommends using icing sugar, a small amount of water and some finely chopped crystallised ginger. This is when my hubby made me laugh, he asked what the topping was made of and when I told him about the crystallised ginger, he said “BLEUGHHHHHH!!” I was highly amused that he asked me to make a GINGERBREAD cake but didn’t want TINY amounts of GINGER on the topping……..MEN!!!!!