Friday, 14 December 2012

Humiliating Christmas Cards to Make: a Tutorial

Nothing like a bit of humiliation at Christmas.  It's a fantastic time to dig out all the photos from Christmasses gone by and the crappy decorations the kids made at school 30 years ago.  I am not spared this humiliation as every year, the creepy looking shepherd collage with shifty eyes that I made when I was nine makes a sinister appearance, as does this photo of me winning a colouring competition at 4 years old, which is affectionately known as 'Lisa and Wrong-un Santa':
"May I congratulate you on your excellent comb-over Father Christmas? And no, I don't want to see your kittens."
Rory is 3 years old now and I haven't got enough Christmas themed dirt on him yet to put aside for years to come, so what better opportunity than Christmas card making to create some?  Cue this tutorial which I gave a test run several years ago on my Year 3 class, who are now about 14 years old and will be overjoyed that I assisted them in making this priceless piece of embarrassing nostalgia by now.

You will need:
Photos of your child's face (do be creative with these - try and get one of them of them pulling a supremely gippy expression), card, glue, doilies (white and gold) and silver or gold pipecleaners.

Step 1:
Cut out child's face.  Obviously if they're older and less cack handed than my child they can do this themselves.  As it is, I didn't fancy clearing up blood and severed limbs so I did it.  Why has it uploaded to blogger sideways? Sorry.


Step 2:
Cut out 1 triangle shape from a white doily and two triangles from a gold doily.  Again with the sideways uploading - WHY?


Step 3:
 Glue the two gold triangles to the back of the white one like so:


Step 4:
Stick to the card right side up and top with child's disembodied head.  Curse Blogger for uploading 50% of photos in this post sideways. 


Step 5:
Cut a piece of pipecleaner to make a halo and attach with glue.


Job done.  Send out to deserving relatives and save one to bring out ceremoniously each year for comedy value and general bashing of self esteem.

Disclaimer:  I would like to point out that Rory did actually make this card - he made 3 in fact - but every photo I took of him doing the different steps came out as a blur of flashing glue stick and wild eyes, so I had to set some of them up afterwards.  Proof below that he was involved:


Tots100 Experience Days Competition

Monday, 10 December 2012

Slow Cooker Review - Morphy Richards 48718

I have a confession: I am a very lazy cook.  You've got to wonder how someone who used to work as the head chef in a brasserie restaurant 10 years ago can now not even manage to heat fish fingers up without burning them, but somehow it has happened.  I used to have visions of myself as a Nigella/Jamie Oliver hybrid, whipping up delicious feasts for my family and incorporating all sorts of exotic ingredients.  My children would have adventurous tastes and would play happily on the floor while I slaved happily over a hot stove, Italian mama style.

But the sad truth is that my child likes...ummm...ham sandwiches, that's about it, and I simply cannot be arsed to spend more than the absolute minimum of my time cooking, especially when my son is prone to climbing high things and throwing himself off them onto his head while I'm busy in the kitchen.

Maybe the nice people at Littlewoods found out about this.  All I know is that they sent me a rather snazzy slow cooker to test out and review.

Here it is - a smart little Morphy Richards number:

I'd heard good things about slow cookers and their wondrous time saving benefits and couldn't wait to try it out, so last week I had a go at a sort of beef casseroley thing in it.  I could have used one of the recipes in the booklet that comes with it, but I was being all "I was a chef once, you know" about it, so did what I usually do and made it up as I went along.  For reference purposes, I browned some chopped steak and onions and threw them in the slow cooker with carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, rosemary, garlic, red wine and beef stock then put the lid on, set it to 'medium' and left it for 8 hours.

Soon the air was full of the best sort of mouthwatering smells and I couldn't wait for dinner time.  It really does make one feel like a smug domestic goddess when ones husband gets in from football to the scent of beef stew wafting out of the house (open the window slightly so the neighbours can smell it for extra smug points).  The only problem I encountered was that I'd forgotten that as the lid stays on all the way through cooking, liquid can't escape as steam and reduce, so I'd used way too much wine and stock (ahem, should have used a recipe perhaps).  This can apparently be fixed by removing the lid and putting the heat up to 'high' an hour before serving.
It was delicious though, if a bit, err, liquid, and - best of all - as I didn't have to spend half an hour cooking at the usual time in the evening, I managed to knock up a quick syrup sponge pudding, thus hitting epic new heights on the smug-o-meter.
A resounding success.  So why haven't I used it since?  I have chicken sitting in the fridge just begging to be slow cooked, yet somehow it hasn't happened.  I think it's the amount of preparation needed first thing in the morning - a time which I usually spend showering with my eyes still shut and running around trying to locate small gloves and packed lunch boxes.  I think I need to get the hang of chopping everything up the night before and throwing it all in with one hand in the morning whilst making dinosaur shaped ham sandwiches with the other.  Or maybe slow cooking is only good at saving time for people who are organised and efficient to start with.  I'll keep you posted.
I would definitely recommend trying one though, and if you use a buy now pay later catalogue, you can afford to get one now to help with the Christmas cooking without eating into your Christmas budget - worth thinking about anyway.  Now, do you think I can slow cook a ham sandwich?
Disclaimer: I was sent a slow cooker free of charge in exchange for a review.  All views are my own and I was not paid for the review.

Season of mists and...whatever.

Way back in the time I like to refer to as BC (Before Child), autumn and the run-up to Christmas was my favourite time of year.  The crisp golden leaves, frosted grass, cheeks rosy with the cold and mulled wine.  I'd start willing it to hurry up at some point in July.  Now (AC: After Child), this time of year is referred to as the season of sick and yellow snotfulness in my household.  I don't know if there were any crisp golden leaves outside because I was busy being ill and looking after a poorly child, and you can't drink mulled wine on top of Lemsip and Codeine. 

I used to imagine autumn and winter with a child being a time of wonder and joy; all nativity plays and frolicking with friends and their children in the snow.  Sadly, the reality of small children at Christmas time is a lot of mucus and not seeing your friends for months on end because you tag team each other with illness from about mid September until...well...March.  And even then there's chickenpox to contend with.  Chickenpox loves to sneak in in March or April just when you think poorly season is over.

In addition, I am ridiculously busy at the moment trying to salvage some of the work that had to be ignored in favour of Dealing With The Sick and haven't even had time to go Christmas shopping.  There have been no carols or festive films.  There have been no mince pies.  The only signs that Christmas is coming are:

a) Rory keeps waking up at night because he's too excited about opening his Advent calendar every morning to sleep.  I shit you not.  This did not appear in my Christmas-with-a-small-child dream sequence.

b) He is a shepherd in the pre-school nativity play and keeps breaking into song with bizarre Jive Bunny style mixes of Away in a Manger, Jingle Bells and Personal Jesus, at least one of which he cannot possibly have learnt at pre-school.

c) Richard is having his annual Q4 Christmas work related breakdown.  Spare a thought for all of those who work in retail at the moment.  And their spouses.  Especially their spouses.  Seriously people, your Christmas has NOT been ruined because the gift you ordered hasn't turned up yet.  However, my Christmas is being ruined already because my husband keeps having funny turns of the heart variety because of the stress you don't realise you're putting him under (which isn't even his fault - it should be down to I.T. and customer services to sort it, but as the highest up person in the team, he ends up dealing with it).  Last year our nice family trip out to buy the Christmas tree from the farm mainly consisted of him lying down in the car looking grey and clutching his heart.  Please try not to finish him off entirely this year.

d) There has been a glitter shitting incident.

I'm off to catch up on some work now.  Please send mince pies and sloe gin.