Monday, 20 December 2010

Countdown Begins

I bought this cute board for my sister from a wee shop at the weekend. I thought it was very fitting as she gets very excited about how many 'sleeps' are left till Christmas. 

I took a day off last week to take my Grandma Christmas shopping with her niece, Anne. It was a lovely day out but we didn't get much done in the way of shopping. We had a tasty lunch and enjoyed window shopping. We had really good conversations and enjoyed each others company. So now I need to do lots of catch up shopping for my Grandma. 

Nathan and I are pretty much there with our own shopping. I need to get a few things in the next few days... and worryingly there are a few presents that  seem to be stuck in the mail which we ordered online. Due to the weather I am not sure if they will get here before Christmas. 

But putting it in perspective I am thankful that my Mum came up early - she flew up on Wednesday. If she had left it till this past weekend she never would have got here as most of the London airports are closed due to snow and ice. 

And at the end of the day... it's not the presents that matter- it's the people.

New Camera

My new camera arrived last week! Hooray! 

I am still getting used to it and there are a few things that I am not sure about. It is battery run- so lots of AA batteries will have to be purchased. I made a mistake and got the wrong ones so my camera didn't work on Sunday when we went to brunch with the girls. (gutted!)

The zoom is amazing and I think once I get the hang of it I will be happier. 

To read more about it see here.

Surgery all round!

The car isn't well!
2 weeks ago when we had horrendous snow I had a horrid skid and then when I drove into my office car park I went over a large lump of snow and ice. It knocked my steering out so last week I managed to get the car into the garage so they could have a look. Derek, the mechanic is a lovely man who my Dad has used for many years. He was so busy and backed up due to the weather but he made time for me. Sadly it wasn't good news. I had damaged the steering rack on the inside of the passenger wheel and it is going to be a costly job to fix. To buy new it is crazy money so Derek is looking to find a second hand part. Fingers crossed we find one. Even if we do the problem is the weather has now gotten worse again so TNT and other delivery companies are not promising deliveries to Scotland due to the weather... so it looks like it will be January before we can get the part! 

Lesson learned.... next time it snows that bad I am leaving the car at home... it's just not worth it!

Dental Surgery
On Tuesday the 14th I had dental surgery, which wasn't particularly pleasant. I had an abscess 14 years ago and it caused one of my teeth to die. 5 years ago I got the tooth bleached but now it is getting dark again I want to get it veneered... saving me from bleaching it again and again. However when I am run down my gum and the area above the tooth (where the abscess was) gets a bit sore... so we decided to open it up and check the tooth and gum were okay. Thank goodness we did as there was a little bit of infection in it. I have lots of horrid stitches in my gum now and it is pretty sore but I should be on the mend in a couple of weeks.... and in 3 months, as long as it all settles down, I should be able to get the tooth veneered. Not the nest just before Christmas but at was a necessary action. (hey it might even curb the overeating at Christmas- unlikely though!)

The Santa Run

On the 12th of December Hillary and I took part in the Santa Run. I have wanted to do this run for a couple of years but have always realised to late when it was happening. So this year we were organised and booked in. However the weather had other ideas and we weren't allowed to run. Due to the snow and ice and the events health and safety policy we had to walk the whole route... it was still fun to dress up as Santa and also catch up with Hillary.
 Hills and I in our Santa gear! The beards were very itchy!
We weren't the only crazy people who were taking part... there were many families taking part... and lots of cute kids dressed as elves and also mini Santas.
These two little dogs were very cute... dressed in lil' Grinch outfits. Although the salt that had been placed on the ground to help with the ice was hurting their paws- poor things!
Nathan and his parents came down to cheer us on. We then went for coffee and a catch up.

Later on in the afternoon of the 12th we went to lunch with Hillary, Emma G, her husband Sean and Emma B and her new fiance Ollie... it was a great celebration of Emma and Ollie's news. I didn't take any photos- missing my camera lots!! 

Long overdue projects

Over the 2 weeks holiday we have off for Christmas I am looking forward to completing and also starting and finishing projects I have had in mind for a while now. 

On the weekend of the 11th of December I took advantage of some time and put together this wall hanging. I bought this gorgeous wall sticker from my new favourite website- not on the high street. I have been following them for over a year and I LOVE all their different ideas. See the wall sticker here. I didn't really want to stick it directly on the wall so thought it would be a better idea to buy a canvas from this website (I got two in the set so still have another to do something with!) and then paint the canvas the same colour as the wall. 

I am really pleased with how it turned out and feel it really adds something to the space without overpowering it. So now I only have 2 more walls in the room to figure out what to do with!... I am thinking small floating shelves for one of them and a big mirror for the other.... but before I do that I have promised myself I will sort out all the paperwork in the spare room so it is tidy and organised.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

It's Freeeeeezing!

Can you believe this photo above? It was taken by a satellite of the UK this week. We have been completely snow bound. There is no going anywhere without there being a lot of snow. I had thought that it was thawing this past weekend but then on Monday morning the whole of Scotland was gridlocked as there were fresh blizzards of snow. The main motorways were ground to a halt and some people had to spend 12hrs + in their cars.

Thankfully we were lucky and we were safe and sound. I had driven to work at rush hour on the Monday but I had been skidding all over the place so I left the car safe at work Monday night and got the bus home. Some of the buses had been cancelled earlier in the day but my bus was okay... till we got to my stop and they couldn't let us off as health and safety wouldn't allow it due to the mounds of snow! So I had to walk 1/2 mile back from the next stop in the snow.
So with us now in our second week of crazy freezing weather we have a bit of cabin fever. I say we... more me.... Nathan has still been attending rugby training and also taking Clan Fitness... in several feet of snow 4 people still came down to the outdoor class... what lunacy! I however have snuggled up in doors and have been baking away. I made homemade marshmallows for the first time. I had a stock of brambles from Nathan's Mum and Dad in the freezer so this added a nice twist. I was pretty proud of my first attempt. I love that they aren't perfect... it gives them character. I might try and make more but do plain ones this time so we can add them to Hot Chocolate. See the Bramble Marshmallow recipe here.
On Saturday I had a lovely day with Becky and Hills (no photos as my camera is still out of action- although I ordered a new one! hooray!) We had a great time... first we went to get my wedding dress measurements taken (more about that later!- so exciting!) and then we went for Starbucks (yum!) and did some Christmas Shopping. I have missed Hills and Bex loads recently. Work commitments and hectic schedules have meant we haven't seen a lot of each other. We went for lunch to the Scottish Cafe at the National Gallery at the mound. I really enjoyed the food although it is a little pricey for a quick bite- great location though. Afterwards we all went for mulled wine to the German Market. Hills, her other half Connor, their two friends, Becky and I. Nathan also came up later and had a wee glass before we all parted ways. Nathan and I then had a lovely date night.

We walked around the market some more and took this cute picture above. We had one of our first dates on the ice rink behind my left shoulder. (I haven't been able to get him on the ice since!) After the market we went for an early dinner at Tex Mex where I had a lovely frozen Margarita and Taco Salad.

We walked home from the restaurant trying not to skid everywhere. It was so nice to spend a Saturday night the two of us and we were home in time for X factor and then a Michael Buble special... what a great night of entertainment TV (and it made up for all the cricket Nathan has been watching over the last week!)
As the weather got worse our pipes froze! It was -11*C on Tuesday night (which is 12.2 *F) Living in an old building is not good in winter! The pipes freezing happened last week as well and is a total nightmare. Nothing was draining away- not down the sinks or the shower- in fact all water was coming up the shower tray! (yuck!)

So Nathan's Mum thankfully came to the rescue and let us shower at their home on Wednesday morning. (I had a client drinks reception that night so didn't fancy going unclean!) We had lots of kind offers from friends and family to stay with them too (thank you!)... for now the pipes are okay as it has thawed a little today but the plumber comes on Saturday.... that is the first slot they could give us!!  We think there is a blockage which is stopping the flow of water and causing the water to be prone to freezing so hopefully the plumber can advise us.
I took these lovely photos on my blackberry camera of the view from Nathan's Mum and Dad's house when we went on Wednesday morning. You can see the Pentland Hills in the background all covered in snow.
Don't these trees look stunning in the early morning sunlight with all the snow and frost on their branches. It does look so pretty I just wish the weather didn't make travelling and life in general so difficult!

Seasons Greetings from the Landels Pike Household!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow!

This was the view outside our bedroom window on Sunday morning. The snow now is much much more... it just isn't stopping.
 The beautiful view from Princes Street of the castle. I love Edinburgh. It look wonderful in the snow.
Looking up the mound. At nightime this is really picteresque with all the twinkly fairy lights and the Christmas tree at the top of the mound.
 The Castle with more of Princes Street Gardens in the front of the picture.
I used my Dad's car on the Monday in all the snow and I was so proud of getting it to the office. However on the way home it broke down and I had to get rescued by Green Flag. Nathan also came to my rescue with a Fish Supper to warm me up! Thankfully Green Flag got the car going again and there was no costly parts to fix.
Nathan has been helping me most mornings with the car. Passers by have also been really helpful and there has been a good sense of community. Our street is not cleared by the council. It is only the main streets which have been snowploughed and gritted, which makes getting out of our street really difficult. I used the car on Tuesday and then have left it yesterday and today as it is getting crazy out there. I have just been getting the bus which has been fine as the main roads are clear.

Stir Up Sunday



I borrowed the photos above from the blogs Apple and Spice,  Pea Soup. and from the Billington's website as my camera is still not working.  

What is Stir Up Sunday?
The Sunday before Advent, which this year fell on 28th November 2010, is known as Stir Up Sunday. This day is traditionally the time to make your Christmas Pudding, Christmas Cake or your Mincemeat for Mince Pies.
Making your pud or cake early means it really does benefit from all this maturing. The flavour of the spices mellow and deepen, the fruits plump up and soften.
Family Sharing
Once you’ve got all your ingredients together, and as you are creating your masterpiece, get each member of your family to take turns in stirring the mixture. As they do, they can each make a wish. Don’t forget to add your old six pence or a silver charm (wrapped in a piece of greaseproof paper)

Nathan and I have done this tradition for the last few years. Although last year we were a little delayed as we were in New York this time last year. So we made sure we didn't miss it this year and we made both our puddings and have now tucked them away ready to take to my sister's on Christmas Day.

Nigella Lawson's Star-topped mince pies

For the last couple of years my sister has made this recipe and it is delicious. I thought that since it was snowing so heavily outside and we were not planning on going anywhere all afternoon on Sunday I would indulge and try to make the mince pies. (The trick however was that once I made them I couldn't eat anymore than one wee mince pie! I kind of broke that and had 3... with custard!- see above!) 

I really should have rolled my pastry thinner as the pie's pastry was too thick.... next time.

Recipe: Star-topped mince pies


Serves: 36

Ingredients

1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons vegetable shortening, such as Crisco

½ stick (4 tablespoons) cold butter

Juice of 1 orange

Pinch of salt

Approximately 2/3 cup mincemeat

Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Instructions

1. Get out your 12-hole mini-muffin pans along with a 2¼-inch fluted, round cookie cutter and a 1¾-inch star cutter.

2. Measure the flour into a shallow bowl or dish and, with a teaspoon, dollop little mounds of vegetable shortening into the bowl. Add the butter, diced small, shake to cover it, then put in the freezer for 20 minutes. This is what will make the pastry so tender and flaky later.

3. Mix together the orange juice and salt in a separate small bowl, cover and leave in the refrigerator to chill.

4. After the 20-minute pause, empty the flour and fat into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until you've got a pale pile of cakelike crumbs. Pour the salted juice down the funnel, pulsing until it looks as if the dough is about to cohere; you want to stop just before it does (even if some orange juice is left). If all your juice is used up and you need more liquid, add some iced water.

5. If you prefer to use a freestanding mixer to make the pastry, cut the fats into the flour with the paddle, leaving the bowl in the refrigerator to chill down for the 20-minute flour-and-fat-freezer session. Add liquid as above. I often find the pastry uses more liquid in the mixer than the processor.

6. Turn the mixture out of the processor or mixing bowl onto a pastry board or work surface and, using your hands, combine to a dough. Then form into 3 disks (you'll need to make these in 3 batches, unless you've got enough mini-muffin pans to make all 36 pies at once).

7. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

8. Roll out the disks, one at a time, as thinly as you can without exaggerating. In other words, you want a light pastry case, but one sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat. This is an easy-going dough, so you don't have to pander to it; just get rolling and patch up as you need.

9. Out of each rolled-out disk, cut out circles a little wider than the indentations in the tart tins. I use a fluted cookie cutter for this. Press these circles gently into the molds and dollop in a scant teaspoon of mincemeat.

10. Next, cut out your stars with your little star cutter - re-rolling the pastry as necessary - and place the tops lightly on the mincemeat.

11. Put in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they really don't take long and ovens do vary.

12. Remove from the oven, prying out the little pies right away and letting the empty tin cool down before you start putting in the pastry for the next batch. Carry on until they're all done.

13. Dust over some confectioners' sugar by pushing it through a tea strainer, and serve the pies with one of the butters.

MAKE-AHEAD TIP: Make the mince pies up to 1 week ahead and leave to cool. Store in an airtight container layered between sheets of parchment paper. Pop into a warm oven for 3-4 minutes before serving, dusted with confectioners' sugar.

FREEZE-AHEAD TIP: Make and pack the pies as above and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight on a cooling rack and reheat as above.

Starbucks

Back in 2000 I went down to stay with my Mum in London for Christmas. My Dad joined us just before Christmas but my sister stayed up in Edinburgh. The weeks in the lead up to Christmas my Mum and I would go to Starbucks most days and get a Christmas Cup of Coffee. We always tended to have the Gingerbread lattes. I have really fond memories of getting the red London bus into Tottenham Court Road with my Mum drinking Starbucks Christmas coffee. 

So every year since then we have always text each other when we have had our first Christmas coffee as a sign that Christmas is near. We usually try and race to see who can get there first. I can't believe that it is 10 years since our Christmas in London. How time flies... I feel very old! 

 The photo that I text to my Mum earlier in November.

Thanksgiving dinner

I invited Becky, Dougie, Wendy, Ed and baby Katie around for Thanksgiving dinner last week. We made our living room into a little autumnal snug with lots of candles, pumpkins, leaves and made sure the fire made everything nice and cosy.
I love when we have lots of candles on. I used some of the decorations I had bought last year when we were in the States just before Thanksgiving. I bought the candle decorations in Cape Cod 2 years ago.
I was very pleased with my Thanksgiving table as I had purchased the slate table mats and coasters in a wee cheap £1 shop in Alloa the week before. They were £1 (surprise) per mat and a £1 for 4 coasters. I saw them in John Lewis the weekend after I bought them for £21 for 2 table mats and £15 for 4 coasters... now that is a bargain!! ....and John Lewis is meant to be 'Never Knowingly Undersold.' The photo doesn't look great but they were taken on my Blackberry as my camera is still broken.
We had Spicy Thai Pumpkin Soup but I made it way to spicy as I used chili paste from the Thai Supermarket rather than just Supermarket bought- Nathan loved it though! So I also made Carrot and Coriander Soup, which I had never made before and loved. So easy and I used Lily and Neil's carrots from their allotment... so tasty. We had 2 x  whole chickens... turkey was too much work as I was working that day and to accompany we had more carrots, parsnips, potatoes and cabbage and leek.

To finish off I made this delicious pudding that I got from my friend Heidi's blog. It was delicious. I did cheat slighty and I didn't make the brownies- I just bought them from Sainsburys but it looked lovely and tasted really good. I was also delighted I got to use my new Pampered Chef trifle bowl! 

I never got any snaps of people as my blackberry wasn't really playing ball... but we had a lovely time and it was so nice to enjoy every one's company and to eat tasty food. Happy Thanksgiving!

Book Launch

Our friend Pete Burns launched the book that he has written with David Barnes earlier this month. Nathan had Clan Fitness so wasn't able to attend the launch but I went with Becky and Dougie. Pete and David were good enough to sign a copy of their book so I could give it to Nathan. There was a good group of Pete's friend's there along with his wife, Annabelle and their families.

Nathan has really been enjoying the book which tells the stories behind Scottish Rugby since the War. It is all from the players themselves and is full of great tales which give you a brilliant insight into the goings on behind the scenes of great rugby moments. Nathan has read a few of the stories out loud and they are brilliant. They had me laughing out loud as the players the guys interviewed (especially the older boys) are such characters. 

You can read more on the book and buy it here.

Girls night out- too much Vodka, Champagne and Redbull

Becky's friend's Ali and Tori were up from London for the weekend so Becky planned a girls night with Hills, myself, Tori and Ali. The drink of choice was Vodka, Fizz and Red Bull (mmm... in hindsight not the most sensible idea we've ever had!) It was a great night and I loved getting to spend time with the girls.... I felt like I hadn't had girl time in a while and with work stresses I needed some down time.
Hillary and I getting ready.... there is photos of us both in our rollers earlier on but with no makeup on we really do look like a before shot!
I love this part of girls night, when everyone is getting ready and doing their make up and hair.
Becky getting the party started.
 Ali, Hillary and Becky tucking into our drinks.
 Hillary, Ali, Tori, Becky and I.
 Some one commented on facebook that we look like a girl back... all styled in variations of black!
We then headed into George Street- which is when my night went down hill!- a bit too much overexcitment meant I needed to head home... but not before I ensured the girls know how much I loved them!! ;-)

Miserable November

This past month has been tough.

Work has been crazy. I have been working 12 hour days and anything that could go wrong seems to have headed that way, despite my best efforts.

I have to say being 31 has been no picnic thus far!

I am also missing my camera loads.... but my lovely Mum gave me money to buy a new one so I am on the hunt at the moment and can't wait to make my purchase in advance of Christmas.

There have still been some good (non work related) highlights- Lunch with the girls in Tempus, Catch up afternoon with Hannah, Xfactor night with Wendy and Katie, fun girls night with Hills, Becky, Ali and Tori. A haircut and colour... and booking my wedding hair appointment at my hairdresser, Cheynes (with only 6 months to go it is getting very exciting!), Hog the Stage- a work event we attended with Arnie and Loreen. It was a Battle of the Bands for the chance for the winning band to play at the New Years party in Edinburgh. My favourites- Kitty the Lion won, which I was pleased about. Thanksgiving dinner with Wendy, Ed, Katie, Becky, Dougie and Nathan. Mother of the Groom dress shopping with Nathan's Mum in Auchterarder at the well known, Bear Necessities Fashion shop followed by lunch with Nathan's parent's and Nathan at Corrieri's Cafe in Stirling near to where Nathan's Mum grew up. Accies Curry night and then last night I had a lovely evening with a few of the Accies girls in the local pub in Cannonmills, The Orchard. Warm Soup, lovely wine and good chats... which were much needed after a difficult few weeks.

The biggest news however is the SNOW.... the piles and piles of snow that we have received since Friday night.. it isn't stopping. 

It feels a bit like groundhog day... but on the plus side it is only 21 days till my Christmas holidays start and I will be off for 2 whole weeks!! I will be found sleeping, reading, relaxing, eating, exercising, spending time with family and NOT working!