gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Birthday Celebrations

Gillyboy number 3 celebrated his birthday with a Ugandan themed birthday party. He is heading there as part of a Fields of Life project in the summer.

 

  

 I had fun making a striped cake copying the bright colours of the Ugandan flag, complete with the national bird of Uganda – the grey crowned crane.  The flag of Uganda was adopted in 1962 with six horizontal bands of black yellow and red.  The black is for the African peoples, the yellow for the Afrocan sunshine, the red for the blood uniting all Africans as brothers. The grey crane was adopted as it is known for its gentle nature  and it’s leg is raised to symbolise the forward movement of the country.

Any resemblance of the grey crane on the cake to a chicken is purely to my own poor sugar craft skills. The cake was striped inside and out, thanks to the fabulous colouring Pastes made by Wiltons and was consumed with gusto by hungry teenagers.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Keeping Christmas Traditions

Red cabbage on our table is one of the changes that have occurred in my house at Christmas since we married 24 years ago.
Every family has its own traditions for this special time of year. Family traditions are all part of the build up to Christmas Day. Christmas traditions are important. Children need to feel they belong and shared memories help reinforce that and helps them to develop their own sense of identity says psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, an expert in play and parenting and Director of The Good Toy Guide. She acknowledges however that when two people come together to form their own family, they both bring with them their own traditions that might not be compatible with each other.
Mr Gs family had stockings for gifts, we always had pillow cases! We always got a shiny red apple and a mandarin orange as well as other treats in our pillow cases.
Some trees have white lights, others prefer coloured.
We had a Gene Autry Christmas LP that was always playing as we decorated the tree. A few years ago my brother found it on the Internet and I still play it, though I do prefer Michael Bublė!
Our family put up their tree really early in December, Mr Gs waited to the very last minute! We now love to put the tree up early, but once Boxing Day is over I can’t wait to take it all down again.
Though I do prefer a real tree, they have got so expensive that we invested in a really good fake tree, and I burn lots of tree scented candles and rejoice that come July I won’t still be vacuuming pine needles from the carpets.
Some homes must be seen from space they have so many outdoor lights and decorations. This year we have no outdoor lights, must to Mr Gs disappointment, and as a compromise to our boys delight I have put the coloured lights on the tree, with my one remaining working set of white LEDs.
On the Festive table we always had a jar of pickled onions and a jar of those yellow-green mixed pickles. And my dad’s awesome brandy butter.
On Mr Gs family table they had bread sauce, red cabbage, sprouts with bacon and hazel nuts, brandy cream.
Over the years we have combined all that we loved from our two families at Christmas, and added some traditions of our own that we hope our boys will take with them when they have homes of their own.
My mother faithfully stocks to recipes she has used for many years for the Christmas pudding, the brandy butter, the Christmas cake, the stuffing for the turkey. Yes, always has to be Turkey.
I roasted a goose one year and was very disappointed with the results. It was very expensive, and gave very little meat in return. I do find Turkey meat boring and tasteless. But am overruled every year when I suggest any alternatives!
The one thing I do adore is Turkey broth made with the bones.
Although Mr G and I are celebrating our 24th Christmas our own family traditions are still evolving. And as the Gillyboys get older, change is in the air as we no longer have that frenzy of excitement and anticipation of a visit from the red suited gentleman.
A chilled glass of prosecco goes nicely with the Queen’s Speech and some canapés before serving the main course I’ve found, now that we are not inserting batteries into noisy toys and hiding the contents of selection boxes lest some child spoils their appetite.
It’s all very civilised.
A few years ago I made Nigella Lawson’s chocolate Christmas cake. It had prunes in it. It was vile.
This is now the third year I have used Paul Hollywood’s White Christmas cake recipe. Mr G is very partial to Christmas cake and we may well cut into it in the next few days. He hates marzipan. I love it. I compromise with a very thin layer under the delicious pure white icing. However much he insists though I will not leave out the cherries in the cake batter. No way. I am the only one in our house who eats cherries, but part of my Christmas tradition is eating the cherries all the others leave on the side of their plates! Yum.
Christmas cards are becoming much less of a thing. Just as well as I have lost my Christmas card address book faithfully kept up to date since about 2002. Never Mind. There is alway the Internet for keeping in touch quickly and less expensively than posting a card. But I do miss cards for adding further festive decor to our home.
This year though I’m thinking- it’s less about giving presents, more about being present.
Less about wrapping the gifts, more wrapping those we love in a hug.
Less about shopping for food, more about donating food to those whose cupboards are bare.
Less about seeing the Christmas lights, more about being the Light.
In these dark times, when daily there is news of terrible evil across the globe, let’s choose to be present, to show love, to reach out, to be the Light.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a5e/35330741/files/2014/12/img_0445.jpg
I’ve just realised you can spot me in this photo of our hall decorations!

Leave a comment »

Spotted on Paul Hollywood’s tour blog!

IMG_0327.PNG
Every night Paul or one of his minions takes a photo of the audience. It has just been posted on his blog, and lo and behold, there we are, me and CC in all our glory.

IMG_0325.JPG
We are sitting upstairs in the second row of the balcony. I’ve got a green scarf on, and CC wearing a turquoise scarf is in the spotlight!
See if you can find us!

Leave a comment »

An Evening with Paul Hollywood

IMG_0321.JPG
Last night my dear friend CC and I spent two hours with Paul Hollywood – you know-the one with the piercing blue eyes and silver grey beard from Great British Bake Off that isn’t Mary Berry.
It was £32 per ticket. If Mr H had got his way with us we would have spent a shed load more on his recipe book, aprons, tea towels, calendars, t shirts, fridge magnets…
Fortunately I only had my bus money home, and CC kindly bought and shared a minute bottle of white wine which we had to drink in the foyer before the show even started.
Others were not so restrained. At the interval and the end of the show there was a bit of a scrum and a scramble round the merchandise table.
It was a cooking show. However to take home the recipes you had to buy the programme. Oh wait. We spent all CCs cash on a thimble full of wine. So no recipes then. Oops.
Sure we could always buy his new book. Did he mention he had a new book out? Yes. About every sixty seconds.

IMG_0322.PNG
On the way to the theatre CC casually mentioned that Paul brings people up from the audience to assist him with the baking. Well, dear reader, my blood ran cold. On a previous night out with CC I ended up on stage as a magician’s assistant for the fabulous David Meade. (There are photos to prove it.) So the thought of donning a PH apron and massaging his dough made me feel quite faint. We were sitting in the balcony so I thought we were probably a safe enough distance not to be chosen.
With a nod to Christmas PH demonstrated four recipes. Chocolate roulade, baked brie, mince pies and Stilton, walnut and pear bread.
They looked easy to prepare, and smelt delicious even from where we were sitting. I’m not giving you the recipes. You’ll have to buy the book.
The audience, mostly ladies, were salivating. We were encourage to tweet and instagram (ask your grandchildren) live directly to PH himself on stage. He read out the ones he was able to. It was a family show after all.
At one point Paul accidentally dusted his immaculate black shirt with flour. “Get your shirt off” come a shout from somewhere behind us. I rolled my eyes. This was a baking show, not the Chippendales. But PH gives as good as it gets when it comes to banter from the adoring ladies in the audience. He strode about the stage wagging his rolling pin and those blue eyes looking menacing. The heat wasn’t just from the ovens.
Audience members also had an opportunity to ask baking related questions directly. The giggling ladies brought on stage managed their tasks well. And got to keep their PH aprons as a reward. The winner of the bread dough shaping competition even got a signed copy of…well, you guessed it, his latest book.
Paul spent most of the night telling us anecdotes about his side kick, the fabulous Mary Berry- or Maz Bez- as he calls her. And he encouraged more entries from our fair land for the next series of Great British Bake Off. Provided we didn’t throw our baking in the bin, referring to our local bake off contestant Ian who “lost the bap” as we say in these parts, and chucked his melted Baked Alaska into the trash.
When the bread was baked, Paul cut it into chunks and threw it into the crowd. There was an undignified scramble for a taste in the front five rows.
Us ladies sitting upstairs even got to sample the baked brie. This for me was the highlight of the evening. Made by PH himself. Even eating it with our bare hands off a paper plate it was delicious. Brie cheese, with Parma ham and cranberry sauce wrapped in pastry and baked for 20 minutes. Yum. It would have gone very well with the toothful of crisp white wine we had imbibed in the foyer before the show.
It was all great fun. Not perhaps the amazing baking demonstration I had been anticipating, but an interesting study of how Mrs Joe Public behaves when face to face with a TV baker oozing with charm just like his baked brie.
CC and I are booked for an evening with Michael McIntyre in Nov 2015. I wonder if he will have a book out too?

IMG_0324.PNG
Mr Paul Hollywood. To misquote Meghan Trainor for me “it’s all about the bake”.

Leave a comment »

The Eclair Stair

It seems remiss of me not to have mentioned series five of the Great British Bake Off yet, since we have just had the quarter final! No spoilers for those still to catch up, but I couldn’t let another day go past without referring to Richard’s Eclair Stair, which he constructed for his choux pastry yummies.
Richard is a builder, a family man, and a most excellent baker! and it would appear, a hen keeper!
“I was bored” said Richard, when quizzed about his home made mini wooden staircase, ” we can use it as a chicken ladder when all this is over”.
Chicken ladder? Really?
When I imagine a chicken ladder these images come to mind –

IMG_0155.PNG

IMG_0156.PNG

IMG_0157.PNG

I’d love to see the a Gillybirds faces if I presented them with this beautiful, practical, delicious stairway to choux pastry heaven!

IMG_0158.PNG

IMG_0153.PNG

And the flavours?
Lavender and Blueberry, Rose and Raspberry. Yum! What more could a hen ask for.

IMG_0159.PNG

Photos from BBC website, Daily Mail and Hello Magazine website

Leave a comment »

A Mary Berry Christmas

20131224-114518.jpg

So inspired by Mary Berry (perfect Christmas name) and Paul Holywood’s Christmas bake Off special that we jumped up from the settee, threw on our aprons and got to work designing, baking and decorating our very own gingerbread hen house.
Now, our creation won’t be winning any prizes, either for beauty, finesse, or architectural design but we had a lot of fun.

20131224-114500.jpg

20131224-114509.jpg
And a wee sneaky nibble confirms that it tastes good too.

3 Comments »

Festive Treats

20131219-091452.jpg
Way back at the beginning of November our Christmas cake was made and carefully wrapped and hidden away. This week it reappeared and I had some fun decorating it with the traditional family pets -two dogs and three hens, doesn’t everyone? All my mummy skills of playing with playdoh over the years have paid off don’t you think?
Even Gillyboy number four who is very partial to a bit of fondant icing can’t bring himself to eat them.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2063967/How–Bake-Christmas-cake.html
The cake, our second year using Paul Hollywood’s recipe, is fabulous! As well as unusual dried fruits such as pineapple and prunes, I add crystallised ginger and dried mango. Most recipes recommend that you feed the cake with brandy over the weeks between baking and eating, but I find this is so moist it doesn’t require any further assistance in its fruity deliciousness.
I know fruit cake isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but here at Gillybirds Manor we love it!
It has been lovely to cut and share with family members after various carol services.
And today I get the fun of decorating my very own birthday cake for tomorrow.

1 Comment »

So what was inside the Secret Squirrel Cake?

20131030-232429.jpg
http://thegreatbritishbakeoff.co.uk/frances-secret-squirrel/
Just for you, Campari Girl 🙂

2 Comments »

A worthy winner

20131027-091614.jpg

20131027-091621.jpg
Just to bring you completely up to date, the great British Bake Off was worthily own by Frances Quinn. Often accused of “style over substance” during the ten weeks of high pressure baking, Frances excelled in the final which included the technical challenge of a layered pastry picnic basket pie, making pretzels from scratch (really who does that?) and a three tier wedding cake. Frances for me has always stood out for her original presentation of cakes and breads, particularly her “secret squirrel” cake, which when you cut into it had the shape (in sponge) of a squirrel. I can’t work out how she did it. Anyone who makes biscuits that look like buttons is worth watching.
Well done Frances! But what am I going to do on Tuesday nights now?
PS I wish I could get a photo of me looking as good as that with my baking implements! 🙂

4 Comments »

#Team Kimberley

20131022-084239.jpg
So excited that tonight is the final of the Great British Bake Off!
With only “style over substance”Frances, “I’m a disaster” Ruby and the cool calm and collected Kimberley left, my money has been on Kimberley since Week One.
It was our Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday and just as last year the Gillybirds little daily eggy harvest was polished and brought along for display. This year in tribute to the Bake Off I made a hopefully artistic display of the ingredients we use for baking – flour, sugar and eggs and some baking utensils etc alongside the flowers in a big rustic jug.
Go Kimberley!

1 Comment »