Sunday, 13 January 2008

Bramble and Clover

Here's a photo I took today of my two beautiful rabbits - aren't they lovely? That's Bramble on the left and Clover on the right.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to anyone who drops by here. I don't know if I have many readers, (probably not) but apologies for the long silence. I find December a bit stressful with family birthdays and Christmas preparations, but that's all behind us now (though the credit card bills will be rolling in shortly!).

My main aim for 2008 is to declutter and simplify both my home and my life. I have made a really good start - in fact I started before Christmas. While we were putting up the Christmas tree and a few other decorations I was amazed at how much Christmas stuff we have accumulated over the years. I'm not particularly fashion conscious about colours etc, but our excess was mainly due to the transition over the years from Christmas decorations for young children (the unbreakable type) to more fragile items. I sorted out everything that I couldn't bear to part with (some things have a sentimental value, such as some pieces my Dad bought us the year before he died). The rest I boxed up and posted on Freecycle and I am happy to say everything found a new home.

That got me started and over the past couple of weeks I have been Freecycling and Charity Shopping everything in sight! I even put up some old games and toys etc on EBay and amazingly almost everything sold. I am in the process of clearing out my attic and hope to have everything organised and sorted by next weekend. It's cold up there and space is limited so I can only manage brief sessions, but I have been bringing down assorted boxes of accumulated junk and finding new homes for most of it. I am trying really hard not to send anything to landfill and equally resisting the urge to keep things for sentimental reasons, but it's very difficult. I used to watch the TV series "The Life Laundry" and although I'm not as obsessive as most of the people they helped, I do have a problem with throwing things away. I always think "someone else could use this" but invariably it gets stuffed in a cupboard, in the attic or out in the shed and gets forgotten about until things are rediscovered when I'm looking for something else.

I don't have a list of new year resolutions as resolutions are notoriously hard to keep but these are the main issues I want to concentrate on in 2008:

- Finish clearing all the junk out of the attic.

- Dejunk the shed and the garage.

- Reorganise the way I clean my house so I spend less time doing housework and more time relaxing.

- I want to change the way I shop for food so as to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging and also buying only the amount of food we need so I never end up throwing away any food at all. I'd also like to change the way I cook to include making extra portions that can be frozen or refridgerated to be eaten on another day so I use less fuel for cooking.

Speaking of extra portions, I have used this recipe for Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne several times, but I have adapted it by using fresh spinach (stirfried for a minute in a little olive oil) and topped it with bechamel sauce with a little strong flavoured grated cheese stirred in instead of the parmesan. I also substituted pine nuts for the walnuts. When I made this recipe I found I had too much to fill our dish and made two individual portions as well which were popped in the freezer for another day.

I didn't take a photo of the lasagne, but I did take some of my mincemeat and mince pies. I used Delia Smith's recipe for mincemeat that I cut out of a magazine about 15 years ago, but I split it into two batches. One has suet in (I use the vegetarian sort) and one has no suet. The suet batch keeps for a few months but the non suet batch was used straight away (and has slightly fewer calories!). A couple of extra tablespoons of brandy in the no-suet batch made up for the lack of maturing time! I haven't given the recipe for the mincemeat as it's really a Christmas thing, but if anyone reading this wants the recipe I could type it up for you. PS: For any non-UK readers, mincemeat doesn't contain meat, it's just dried fruit, apples, sugar and spices - though originally the recipes did contain ground up meat and animal fat.

This is how the mincemeat looks before it goes into the oven for three hours

If you look closely you can see the suet mincemeat at the back and the "fat free" version at the front.

Here's the first batch just out of the oven - I think I made about 5 dozen all together, some with "open" lids cut out with different shaped cookie cutters; we had stars and Christmas trees as well as these playing card cut outs. There's nothing like a homemade mince pie!