Thursday, 23 December 2010

You nearly lost me

I nearly died this morning.

It was more tense than this.

And worse than this.

And even scarier than this.

Yes my friends, I braved the Marks and Spencer's food hall.

Every year my dear Mutti and I tackle the big Christmas shop at Marks and, just to blow our own trumpets, we rock at it. We are fast, efficient and are able to duck and weave through people to snap up the last of the pigs in blankets.

But today was insane - I don't know if people have just got some extra crazy this year but it was just manic. People everywhere, randomly snatching things of shelves, I had a woman tell me that I was 'a selfish, unChristmassy bitch of a girl' as I got the last remaining two extra thick double creams (why don't you order more of these every year M&S - there are never enough!), indeed the woman then tried to snatch one from my trolley. Full of Christmas spirit.

There was a woman crying in the Christmas pudding aisle as they were out of the super luxury ones and 'she just couldn't serve the classic one' and, of course, it wouldn't be Marks and Spencer's if, amidst all this, there weren't lots of little old people who have come out especially, just two days before Christmas, to buy a loaf of bread and Hello magazine* - why do they do that, why not go to their corner shop?

After queuing for an hour and realising that we had forgotten our two £5 off vouchers, we finally escaped. Did we get more than we needed? Probably. Did we not get things that we really should have? Possibly (I wanted those mini roast beef Yorkshire puddings more than anything!).

So now, I am finally at home, making some last minute chocolate and mint bark and some cinnamon and apple vodka and looking forward to a nice glass of my favourite white wine (3pm to early) and watching a couple of my favourite Christmas films before the madness starts.

My to do list is already as long as my arm and I am convinced I am going to forget something but fingers crossed.


*incidentally, have you seen Nicole Ritchie's wedding in Hello? It is an.... interesting dress choice).

Double Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies

Oh yes.... these are goooooooood!

Now there are two ways of making them, to start with, I am going to tell you the 'proper way':

350g bittersweet chocolate chips
225g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
110g unsalted butter, room temperature
110g caster sugar
110g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 large eggs
4 candy canes, coarsely crushed
1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Stir in about 300g chocolate chips in medium bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Take about 3-4tbsps of the melted chocolate; transfer to small metal bowl and reserve for drizzling.
2. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.
3. Beat butter in large bowl until creamy, you can use an electric mix for this but a wooden spoon will do it just as well, elbow grease it up!
4. To the butter add sugar and both extracts; beat until smooth. Add eggs; beat to blend. Beat in melted chocolate chips. Add in all the dry ingredients from step 2; beat just to blend. Stir in remaining unmelted chocolate chips.
5. Scoop up a small amount of dough and then roll into a ball (if you are being super specific then it is about a tablespoon amount of dough). Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing cookies 1 1/2 inches apart.
6. Bake cookies for about 8 to 9 minutes. They will be soft looking - as long as a knife tip comes out clean then they are done, don't make the mistake I made years ago when I was convinced they weren't done so put them back in over and over again - not good.
7. Cool cookies on baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment paper to racks to cool completely.
8. Rewarm the remaining already melted chocolate over small saucepan of simmering water. Using fork, drizzle chocolate over cookies. Sprinkle crushed candy canes over, arranging some pieces with red parts showing. Chill just until chocolate sets, about 20 minutes.

These are sooooo good and also freezable. Just defrost at room temperature and enjoy!

Now the naughty but easy way:

Double chocolate cookie mix from any supermarket
Whatever other ingredients it says you need on the cookie packet (usually butter and water)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
About 50g chocolate
4 candy canes, coarsely crushed

1.Make the cookies from the supermarket mix as instructed
2. When you add the water into the mix, also add in the peppermint extract
3. Once the cookies have been cooled, melt the chocolate (as above) and then drizzle over the cookies, decorate with the candy canes, chill and serve!

Now, the second way is the cheat's way but they taste just as good, leave less mess, use less ingredients and take up less time. Plus, with the decoration they will look homemade anyway!

And they should look something like this:

Image shamelessly nicked from the Goddess that is Prudence Pennywise!

Mince Pie Ice Cream

As promised, my delicious Christmas Mince Pie Ice Cream. Last year this got devoured by everyone, even me and I don't like mince pies!

All you need is some sort of blender/food processor (yep - this isn't a technical recipe, think easy and tasty).

9 mince pies
1 litre of soft scoop vanilla ice cream
Things for toppings - sprinkles, sherry, cherries

1. Leave the ice cream out of the freezer until quite soft.
2. Transfer to a blender or food processor, then crumble in the mince pies (I was told without lids but it works fine with them) and blend until smooth - this took me and my super brilliant button pressing finger about five minutes.

3. Return the mixture to a plastic container and freeze for 2-3 hours until firm.
4. Serve with yummy toppings like sprinkles, crushed nuts and even a bit of sherry if you are feeling naughty. You can even serve with a mince pie on the side if you want to super indulge.

This year I am attempting the same thing with Christmas pudding and an extra gag one of sprouts, mainly to torture my brothers.

Come back at 1pm for my Peppermint Chocolate Cookie recipe - YAHUMMY!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Tis the season to save money

Christmas is my season. I love everything about it. It is the time of year I look forward to the most, it is the time of year I plan for, it is all about the event for me; family, togetherness, food, drink, laughter - you know the drill. And every year I go a little crazy. Think Martha Stewart but without any of the creative talent - I totally think I can make homemade decorations and at least eleven types of Christmas themed baked goods (FYI, this year Christmas Pudding Ice Cream is on the 'to make' list after last year's Mince Pie Ice Cream success - recipe will appear tomorrow after tonight's hopeful success!).

Now while I do succeed on some of these superwoman tasks, there is one area that I never fail on:


Yep, I try and compensate for my complete uncreativeness with lots of bought items! I am sure some of can sympathise?

There was the year I bought a four foot cracker that I carried back from London on a train and ended up never getting pulled (2005). The year I popped out on Christmas Eve to pick up some last minute bits and pieces only to come home £200 worse off as I spotted an extra gift for two people and therefore had to get extras for everyone else (2008). And, my personal favourite, there was the year that I spent three evenings straight working out how to rig the shoebox version of Deal or No Deal that I had made, so that my brothers (aged six and eight) would win the new Disney Cars DVD, no matter which box they picked (2006).

This is the time of year where my poor little purse gets the most battering (approaching the £2k mark last year - shhhhhhh!). Now this has left me in quite a quandary this year - due to the wedding (9 weeks on Saturday people....) I simply don't have the extra cash that I save throughout the year so spending has had to curbed and cut. Boo.

So instead of throwing money at the season, this year will follow the theme of fun and frugal.... fungal if you will - wait, that doesn't quite work does it?!

I am collecting some cheap but season of goodwilly (hee hee hee) ideas. Do you have any?

So far I have written a super fun Christmas quiz for all the family and, as a lovely Christmas gift to you all, I will happily email it to you with answers if you like - perfect look-how-much-effort-I-have-put-in-for-a-fun-filled-family-day activity.

Tomorrow I will also be posting some cost effective Christmas recipes including Mince Pie Ice Cream and Peppermint Double Chocolate Cookies - all super easy and super tasty.

Anyone got any other fun, cost effective Christmas tips?

You can have my autograph later

This weekend, Steve and I went to Manchester. We shopped (more on that in this afternoon's post) and ate and were generally merry.

After a busy last day, wearily we made it to the station and, with an hour to kill and a temperature of -13, we made it to the slightly chavvy pub at the top of the station.

As soon as we got in there I could tell something was weird... the staff were all whispery and super smiley. We ordered drinks (to celebrate our just remembered sixth anniversary), ate some food and enjoyed ourselves, all the time with pub staff nudging each other and smiling at us manically.

About 15 minutes before our train, we started to get our stuff together (Steve is one of those people who feels the need to wait by the train for at least ten minutes), Steve went off to the bathroom.

While he was gone, one of the bar people came over to clear the glasses, she glanced up at me:

Nice Bar Lady: I hope you have a good journey.

Me: Thank you, you too! Merry Christmas! (Don't ask me where I thought she was journeying to.... although she probably doesn't live in the pub in Piccadilly station. That would be weird).

Nice Bar Lady: (Glancing around) I just wanted to say as well, we all really love you and your husband here.

Me: (Unsure of what to do): Oh.... thank you.

Then the Nice Bar Lady looked over at the other staff who were all gathered together smiling like insane people, she did a big thumbs up accompanied by a little excited dance. All the other staff waved at me, bouncing about as they did so.

Steve returned from the loos and we very quickly left.

The Steve and I, when we were a little younger and cuter

Now, apart from the Boaz Myhill incidents, there is no-one we look like. At all. Especially not as a couple.

Who on earth did they think we were?

Friday, 10 December 2010

OK.... lets clear something up

Before I start - this is certainly not aimed at you, you lot always get my name right. However....

my name is spelt LIVY.

That is L - I - V - Y

It is not Livvy, Livi, Livvi, Livie, Lyvvy, Lyvi, Leevy or Levi. It is also not Libby, Lizzie or Lyddy.

It is short for Olivia.

That is O - L - I - V - I - A

It is not Oliver, Olivier or, my personal favourite, Alyvia.

Now we are hitting card season, please try and get it right, it is my name!

Just to be clear - I have no issue with you getting it wrong first time, 'Livy' is an unusual name and unless you have been told then it is all guess work.


when I have already sent you a card, with my name clearly at the bottom or if I have spelt it out to you in the past or if you have known me for 26 years and are related to me (oh yes....) then please, I beg you, respect the fact that it is my name and spelt a certain way and that, by not getting it right, you are basically just showing that you really couldn't give a monkeys.

Thank you.

Livy xxxxx

ps I met another Livy last week but her name was short for..... Sullivan! x

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Is something ever so beautiful to you that you feel like you want to cry?

My Christmas tree is.

Every year since I have had my own flat, I have insisted on a real Christmas tree. It's something I just can't compromise on. And Steve always complained. Always said a pretend one would do. But he always gave in and I always bought a beautiful real tree.

Today my 2010 tree arrived. And it is just gorgeous.

I arrived home at 8.30, after a long, 12 hour day, to find that my Steve had managed to get my tree in the stand, angling it perfectly so that it branched out all evenly and strongly. He had carefully wound the lights round, making sure that there wasn't an inch that didn't have a brilliant white light peaking through.

And then he watched quietly as I painstakingly unpacked all of the decorations that I have collected over time and carefully picked, and slowly decorated the tree, stopping every few minutes to ensure that there were no gaps.

Excuse the blurry picture. It truely is beautiful, I wish you could all come and see it for real.

Now I am sitting here, at the bottom of my tree, our tree, gazing up at it, marvelling in its beauty and wonder and loveliness.