As The Years Pass

{Via}

This will be my last post of 2012.

It has been a tough year, a very tough year, but I've come out of it knowing that 2013 can only get better.

There will be a lot changes next year in my personal life, and this blog. I'm 100% determined to take everything up a notch.

I'm not going to tell you my hopes and dreams for the coming year just yet. I'm saving that for when the year begins. I'm taking the next 24 hours to reflect on what has happened, what I have discovered about myself and others, and how I am going to move forward.

I thank you all for your support this year, it hasn't gone unnoticed.

For now I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and I leave you in 2012 with the phrase, "it can only get better".

Thyme Oatcakes

Have you all recovered yet?

Whether its too much food, the stress of family or too much booze, this bit in-between Christmas and New Year is always a strange one.

Some people are recovering, some have recovered. If you're like me you'll have re-organized everything so you can start the new year 'afresh'.

I've got a few new ideas for this blog and other projects in 2013. All I know is I want to take this blog in a new and exciting direction. If you have any ideas for me, or projects I could be involved in, please contact me

I also want a job, and another step has been taken towards getting this. I have an interview! I received a letter yesterday and its on the 10th January, so wish me luck.

I took part in another secret Santa, hosted by Paige and Katlyn. Unfortunately I haven't received my gift yet, but if your name is Gia then I am your secret Santa! I hope you liked your gifts and that they got to you in New Zealand safely.

Onto the recipe.

These oatcakes are so yummy. If you are not sure what they are, think of them as a savoury cracker, that is the perfect pairing for cheese.

They keep for ages in an airtight container and you can flavour them with anything really.


Thyme Oatcakes

Yields - 25

Ingredients:
A little oil to grease
200g (7oz) medium oatmeal, plus 100g (3.5oz) to sprinkle
75g (3oz) plain flour
1/2tsp salt
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves
50g (2oz) lard or vegetable fat
25g (1oz) butter
200ml (1/2 pint) water

Method:
Preheat the oven to 180/gas mark 4. Lightly oil two baking sheets.
Mix together the oatmeal, flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and thyme.
Melt the lard/vegetable fat and butter with the water, and then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix with a metal spoon to form the dough.


Sprinkle the surface with the extra oatmeal, then roll out the dough to 5mm (1/4in) thick. Using a 5cm (2in) butter, stamp out circles and put them onto the baking sheets. Re-roll the dough and cut out more circles  Bake for 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Do you have a recipe that would be prefect with cheese?

We have a cheeseboard New Years Eve, so share you recipes in the comments below and I might make them.

When Camera Meets Christmas


 Annie sure did love her Christmas hairpiece.......



 Present opening time!


 My gorgeous Momma and the bird.


 Annie LOVED her squeaky penguin. It reminds me of the one in Toy Story.


 Even my hair was in the Christmas spirit.



 Yummy starter. Grapes and melon.


 Everyone has this face when pulling a cracker, right?



 I was obsessed with that brandy sauce!



Ah what a wonderful day. Now time to sleep!

I hope you guys had an awesome day. I can't wait to see your pictures!

What is it all for anyway?

You all know I'm obsessed by Christmas, and I totally love this time of year, but it seems that the closer we get to the big day itself the less I'm into it.

You have to go shopping and the supermarket is always packed with people, and the queues seem to be snaking all the way around the shop.

Everything seems ridiculously overpriced. £50 for a turkey, seriously!?

Spending time with family suddenly gets stressful and everyone's temper seem to flare quicker, or is that just my family?

Your bank account goes even more into the minus'.

You end up wrapping yourself in paper instead of the presents, and always lose the end of the sticky tape.

What is it for?

I often ask myself this question throughout December and then today comes around, Christmas Eve and I know exactly what we do it for.

We do it for the magic.
The memories.
The celebrations.
The queues.
The frayed tempers.
The charades after lunch.
The smile you get in the morning no matter what age you are, because you know Santa's been.

We do it to be thankful.
To praise.
To give us hope and joy.

When you are wanting to scream at certain members of your family just remember.....

{Via}
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Vanilla and Almond Fudge

It's Christmas Eve Eve! It's getting so close people, I can hardly contain my excitement!

Need a last minute present to give to a neighbour? 
Fancy indulging in a sweet holiday treat?

This recipe is for you.

I bring you Vanilla and Almond Fudge. Before you start running around and panicking about buying candy thermometers, don't. You won't need one.
This is the simplest recipe I've ever come across for fudge. Trust me when I say you could make it. You can't really go wrong. The only thing you have to make sure you do is dissolve the sugar properly, otherwise your fudge won't be smooth.


Vanilla and Almond Fudge

Ingredients:
50g butter, plus extra, for greasing
1 x 397g can of condensed milk
500g granulated sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
40g blanched almonds, chopped
125ml water

Method:
Line and grease a 20cm square cake tin.  Put the condensed milk in a heavy pan with the sugar, butter, vanilla and 125ml water. Cook over a very low heat, stirring all the time, for 10 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved.

Turn up the heat and boil for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and making sure it doesn't burn. After 7 minutes, drop a little mixture into cold water - if it forms a soft ball when rolled between your thumb and finger, it is ready. Take off the heat and put the pan on a cold surface for 3-4 minutes.
Tip the almonds into the mixture. Beat, pour into tin and leave to set for 3-4 hours.
Cute into bite-size pieces and wrap in baking paper to ensure they don't stick together.


What do you think? Are you going to try this one?

Your Journey {Nicole}

A while back I asked some fellow bloggers to write about their journey with God for a series I was planning to host.

Well things didn't turn into a serious, but I still received a few amazing posts.

You all know that my journey with God has been a long awaited and sometimes difficult one. I wanted to know what others experiences were, how they found the Lord in the everyday, and how this might help me. Really it started as a selfish project, I needed the help, I needed guidance. 
I'm sure there is someone out their who is in the same situation as me though, and I hope these posts help you.

First up its Nicole from Three 31.


Experiencing God in Unlikely Places

If you are looking for a story of miraculous healing or amazing transformation, this is going to be a disappointment.

My faith is constantly developing and my relationship with God is continuously progressing. I grew up in The United Methodist Church and I’m currently an active member of First United Methodist Church in Joshua, Texas. Unfortunately, for many years, I went through the motions of what I thought a Christian should do: attend worship service, go to Sunday school, and put money in an envelope. I assumed these gestures were prerequisites on an imaginary checklist. It was not until 2010 that I realized what it meant to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ and put my faith into action. After a single mission trip, my perspective on Christian discipleship changed drastically. 

To date, I’ve participated on five mission teams travelling to multiple domestic and international locations and currently serve as a laity volunteer for mission outreach and church development. I also assist in coordinating local mission efforts including the church’s food pantry and Great Day of Service projects in Fort Worth, Texas.


For a brief time, I served as youth director at FUMC Joshua and led a group of adults and high school students to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in June 2010. It was my first mission trip experience and it planted the seed that continues to produce faith-filled fruits today.

In August 2011, 20 months after the devastating earthquake, I participated on my first international mission team and traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The team, comprised of 10 adults from FUMC Joshua, helped reconstruct a Methodist School, led Bible school activities with Haitian youth, and delivered medical supplies to a children’s hospital. It was, without a doubt, the most demanding (physically, emotionally and spiritually) and life-changing experience I’ve had in 28 years.

2012 was a monumental year for my faith development through mission outreach. In March, I went to my home state and served at Henderson Settlement in Frakes, Kentucky. Not only was it a blessing to work and worship in Appalachia, my mom was also on the team. It was her first mission trip experience.

In October, I returned to Haiti as co-leader of an adult mission team to the coastal community of Leveque, Haiti. Due to our remote location, the team and I lived, worked, and worshipped alongside Haitians and quickly became a family unit. In fact, the site foreman and his family lived in a cinder-block structure next to the school and church’s pastor lived across the street. Every morning, while the team ate breakfast, 100 Haitian children lined up in the school’s courtyard to sing Haiti’s national anthem, recite the pledge, and pray.
  

My life is not perfect or without challenges, but I am intentional about mission outreach because putting my faith into action is important to me. As a member of The United Methodist Church, I promised to support my local congregation with my prayers, presence, gifts, witness and service. One of the ways I uphold this commitment is through mission outreach. 

Mum and I

I acknowledge it is not a spiritual gift everyone possesses, but it is something I can do with a willing spirit and contrite heart. Find your place to be a blessing, you might be surprised how blessed you are in return.

Nicole Hutchison
Three 31
http://nicoleandkevin.wordpress.com/


If you want to contribute to this mini 'series' I'd love to have you, contact me.

For The Dogs

I've already shared a present tutorial for the cats in your life, now its time for the dogs.


Home-made dog treats are perfect. There are no added chemicals, they are lower in calories for the pup on a diet, the only thing you have to be careful of is wheat. These do contain wheat flour, which some dogs are sensitive too. If you know your dog is, just replace the wholemeal flour with potato or rice flour, the biscuits will turn out the same.

There are two added bonuses to these biscuits.
The parsley is good for bad doggie breath, and the carrot calms their stomach.

They are also super easy and one batch makes loads. I got 50 out of a single batch using a 6 cm cutter.
They will keep for several weeks in a airtight container too.

Parsley and Carrot Dog Treats

Ingredients:
1 bunch of fresh curly parsley, minced
1 carrot, finely grated
60g cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbsp vegetable oil
320g wholemeal flour (or substitute)
2 tbsp oatmeal
2 tsp baking powder
240ml water

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4. Have 2 baking sheets ready, you don't need to grease them.
Combine all the ingredients and mix together. If the mixture is too dry, add a couple more tablespoons of water.


You don't need to roll out the dough, just press it flat with your hands. Using a bone shaped cutter cut out the biscuits and place on the baking sheets. You can place them close together as they won't spread.


Cook for 30 minutes. Then take the biscuits out of the oven and turn each one over. Turn the oven off and place the biscuits back in the oven. This will help them to go hard.
Once the 30 minutes is up you can put them in an airtight container and they will keep for several weeks.


I had one happy pups after these had baked.



Have you ever made dog treats before?

Secret Santa


Back in October I signed up for my first ever blogger secret Santa. In fact I signed up for two.
This one was hosted by 3 very lovely ladies who I would like to say Thank You too. They coordinated the swap brilliantly and were always available to answer questions when I wasn't sure what was going on. Good work  ladies!

I was secret Santa to Jen over at Its a Blondes Life. After reading her blog several times I just knew I had to get her something pink, girlie and oh so cute! I actually got all my gifts from Italy, when I was over there recently, I thought this would be a lovely touch to the secret Santa experience.

This morning I found out who my secret Santa was, Rebecca from Taylor Made Happiness.
She sent me the sweetest e-mail:

"Hi Helen, 
How are you? I am Rebecca and I blog over at Happiness is Taylor Made and I am your Secret Santa!!
I hope your presents arrived safe and sound and you like the gifts that I chose for you. I love your blog and have been reading along quietly over the past few weeks, now that you know I am your Secret Santa I will start to follow properly and comment away. 
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and new year, 
take gentle care
PS - although I live in London now I am a Yorkshire lass too ;) "

Her gifts just confirmed what I believe, that our blogs are the true representations of ourselves. She bought me gifts that I don't even think my best friends would have got me.
Thank You Rebecca. There may have been several squeals of delight whilst I was opening the package.


Lots of pretty packaging and candy canes! I actually received this the morning of an interview and saved it until I got back. I didn't get the job, so opening the package was a lovely thing to do.


You all know about my obsession with books. Well I adore a company called the Literary Gift Company. Rebecca just happened to get me a brooch with my favourite ever Virginia Woolf quote on, "books are the mirrors to our soul."
I was also lucky enough to get some nosewarmer punch, which is like a pre-made spice mix for apple cider. It tastes great with apple juice, but somehow even better with Jack (Daniels that is).
Then a cheesecake recipe book. In love! I haven't actually made anything out of it yet, but I will do over the Christmas period.

Thank You once again Rebecca, I couldn't have been a happier recipient.

I'm off to reveal myself to Jen, in a non-nudity way!

Literary Junkies

I know there's been so much going on recently what with Sandy Hook and everything, and I feel so selfish saying this, but man I feel rubbish.

I don't know if I have the flu, or a virus or just a common cold but I really wish it would go away. I don't think my lungs can take any-more coughing. 
I shouldn't be blogging, as I'm doing it out of boredom, but I need something else to focus on.

Sorry for the self-pitying rant. I feel much better now!

By the Porchlight
It's month 2 of literary junkies. Here are the questions are in bold if you want to join in.

1. What are you currently reading? Tell us about it.

I'm reading 'Redbird Christmas' by Fannie Flagg. 

{Via}

Its another charity shop buy. I couldn't resist it with Christmas in the title. Its about a man who lives in Chicago and is told by a Doctor that he won't last out this Christmas unless he moves to a warmer climate. This Christmas will also be his last. Happy sounding isn't it?!
I'm only 1 chapter in, as I've only just started it after finished 'Book of Souls' recently.

{Via}

It seems to be about people helping each other around Christmas with love and companionship. Something I think the world could do with right now..

2. If you could choose any author in the world to write a story based on your life, who would you choose to be the author? Why?

It would have to be a mix of Shakespeare, Dickens, Emily Bronte, Michael Faber and Scarlett Thomas. They could write a chapter each. 

3. Tell us about your favourite place to read.

There's a tree in my local park that I love to sit under the in the summer. Right now I like reading curled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate.

4. What books would you buy for lovers of a) suspense/mystery, b) chick-lit  c) comedy, d) literary fiction, e) non-fiction, f) classics? (You can choose how many of those subcategories you want to talk about.)

Suspense/mystery - 'The Last Dickens'
Classics - Anything Shakespeare, 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Great Expectations'. You know I'm a classics girl!

I hope your all having a great Christmas period so far. I'm determined to get rid of this cough by tomorrow!
Any getting rid of cough tips?

Blog Angels Mid-way Link-up

Craftbotic

I love helping people, and after doing one round of blog angels I was 100% up for another. This time its been harder, much harder.

First time around we were paired up with bloggers we were going to help out. This time, and a lovely touch that Rosie added, is we got to choose our own blogs. Blogs we'd personally like to help.
In the end I choose two. Who I can't reveal just yet, but I can tell you what I've been doing to help them.

Commenting, and big time, all the time, every. single. post.
Pinning images to Pinterest.
Giving some social media lovin'.
Both their buttons are also on my sidebar. I know you're looking right now and trying to guess!

In the final two weeks I want to contact my blogger a little more via e-mail I think. I'm trying to come up with new projects for the coming year, and I would love for them to be involved.

Have you ever been a part of blog angels? What is your favourite bit?

For the cats of the world

How cute is this mouse?


OK it has no eyes, because I accidentally skipped that step.
They are the easiest things to make your cat for Christmas.
They will love them too, because they're filled with catnip. I don't know about your cat, but mine gets violent when its high on that stuff!

Catnip's so easy to get hold of, try you local pet store, garden centre, or even Ebay, which is where I got mine.

You will need:
Scraps of strong cotton fabric.
String or ribbon, for the tail.
Hollow fibre fill toy stuffing.
2 tsp of dried catnip for each mouse.
Scraps of felt for the ears.
Needle and thread/sewing machine.

How-to:
Cut out a square of fabric. Fold this is half and draw half a heart where the fold is, like your making paper dolls. Cut the heart out, and then but it in half. These are now the two halves of your mouse.


Place the right sides of the fabric together and tuck the tail into position so that you catch it as you sew.
Stitch together, leaving a gap of about 3cm at the base of the mouse. Turn the mouse right-side out.
Fill with hollow fill fibre and a couple of teaspoons of dried catnip. Then sew up the hole.
Cut small triangles of felt for the ears and stitch them on. Embroider small crosses on for eyes.

The sent of catnip will remain strong for several months.


Do you have any pets?
Do you always buy/make them something for Christmas?

Cookie Countdown - Squares Edition

If you'd been to visit Margot's blog over the past week you'll have noticed that she is hosting a cookie countdown throughout December.  This week was the turn of squares, OK strictly not cookies, but they taste so good they had to be included!

I contributed my recipe for Millionaires Shortbread, but some other lovely ladies have shared goodies with jam, peanut butter, chocolate....I'm sure you'll find something you want to try.



As the end of the week is approaching its time for the weekly link-up.

Link-up any recipes you've tried or want to try, particularly from the cookie countdown.

I can't wait to see what ideas you come up with this Christmas season. 

Update: I went to a job interview yesterday (Friday). The job is now between me and one other person and its all down to references. I'll find out early next week. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

A little different than before

I was so inspired by Erin's post on the subject that I've decided to write my own. This is how blogging has changed me.

I've been blogging for 14 months now and I've grown so much. I even think my personality has shifted slightly, in a better way of course.

I now look back at pictures from University and I don't even recognise the person staring back at me. I feel guilty that the friends I made there never knew me, because this girl wasn't me.


Well she was, but she wasn't
I was never myself, never felt I could be myself; which is a reflection on me, not the people around me.
Blogging has enabled me to finally understand who I am and carve out a future for my true self.

I've become less selfish. Thanks to bloggers like Ashley. I realise that no matter how little you help, its the fact that you do that makes it so special.

I've realised the importance of family.

I've sorted myself out financially. Well to the point where I am paying things off and not spending more.

I've become more creative, which lets be honest, is mostly down to Pinterest. My projects rarely go 100% to plan, but I'll still keep sticking my fingers together with a glue gun, as long as there are projects to try.

I've started to accept myself. This is an on going project with me and I can't ever say that I am fully going to love myself, but I'm trying. I know I need to lose weight, and get fitter, but I also know that is going to a long road; one with many trails.

I've learnt the importance and awesomeness of human kindness. In a world of wars and hate you have shown me this. I can't even begin to count the amount of times you've lifted my spirit just before it falls, and I hope I have done the same for you.

I see the little things. I see the sparkle in the snow, that if you squint hard enough can be mistaken for the most beautiful diamond. I see the smile on your face as you walk past me on the street. I see the beauty in every single day.

I'm more excepting of people. I'm less judgemental and sometimes, just sometimes I keep my opinions to myself.

I never used to be much of a picture taker and now I document everything.

I've changed my mind about wanting children. Damn all you mummy bloggers out there.

I re-connected with God. I needed and wanted this to happen even before I start blogging. Its thanks to lovelies like Laura, Julie and Erin that I've been given guidance.

There are so many other ways that blogging and being part of this community has changed me. Ways that I may not even have discovered yet.

How has it changed you?

DIY Party Feet

Who wants to think about budgeting at Christmas? Not me that's for sure. The annoying thing is that if you plan now and manage to save a little you'll reap the rewards later.

Saving on clothes is important and achievable over the holiday season. We all have parties to go to, and people to see, but it really doesn't mean you have to spend a fortunate.

I've never been great with money, in fact I got myself into loads of debt that I'm still paying off. Luckily I learnt my lesson early on, and although I'll always struggle where money is concerned, I now truly appreciate its value.

So back to clothes.

Charity shops. I completely love them! Some people are scared to go in them. OK sometimes clothes can smell a little musty, but a quick wash is nothing when you can grab some bargains.

Something else I've been trying lately is customising. I'm sure you've all seen the glittered toed shoes on Pinterest, well I had a go.

They went from this.


To this.


Toe close up.

What do you think?

Personally I love them (well I would!) I feel like I'm got a brand new pair of shoes and its cost me nothing. 

The I tried something I haven't yet seen.

Sequin straps.

An old pair of black pumps, get an upgrade.

Before.


After.


Close-up!


What do you think?
Which pair is your favourite?

I think mine has to be the sequin straps. 

Are you going to update an old outfit for Christmas?

The Ultimate UK Sugar Cookie

Did you have a good weekend?

Saturday seemed to fly by for me and although we had gotten all the decorations down from the loft they didn't make it up until Sunday.
Christmas really started on Sunday for me. Music was playing whilst the decorations were going up. Then we all had dinner together whilst watching 'Elf'. I can't believe that film will be 10 years old next year!

Earlier in the week I made my ultimate sugar cookies, but they didn't last until the weekend.

There are so many recipes for sugar cookies out there, and especially at this time of year.
They vary from family to family and country to country.

I'm going to share my ultimate sugar cookie recipe. It has just the right balance of ingredients for UK measurements. UK bakers, have you ever tried an American sugar cookie recipe or vice versa? It just never comes out right.


Here is my tried and tested UK version of the classic American sugar cookie, and only 82 calories a serving!

Classic Sugar Cookies

Makes - 24

Ingredients:
200g butter
150g caster sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
300g plain flour

Method:
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla, egg and flour. Mix until well combined.
Halve the dough and shape into discs. Cover in cling film and chill for 40 minutes in the fridge.


Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4.
Roll out the dough onto a floured surface and cut your cookies into whatever shape you desire. Chill for another 10 minutes. Bake for 10-12 minutes.


Cool on a wire rack.


I decorated mine with icing, but you can do whatever you like.


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