Dad’s 60th


"60" is very hard to make as a cake. But tastes good. 30 candles.

 

My Dad’s birthday was actually in October but he decided to have a joint party with a friend of his who’s 60th birthday is also coming up.

Therefore, the day after Thanksgiving, it was back on the baking and cleaning trail. Mom did most of the baking, putting in a heroic effort and making brownies, pear and almond slices, coconut bars and 2 cakes in the shape of a 6 and a 0. It also happened that the morning of the party was also the St. Christopher’s Christmas fete, because we weren’t busy enough! That being said we had fun both at the fete and at the party.

Lots of Daddy’s friends we able to come, including four of his friends that he lived with at University. It has been several years since he’d seen some of them and certainly a very long time since they had been together as a group so we were all really glad they could come, I know Dad was over the moon.

For food we served a buffet and learned that meat, pork pies and desserts go well but salad and carrot sticks do not. We had six bags of salad. We used less than one. Enough said.

The other birthday boy was Mike, who has been a friend of the family for as long as I can remember and who used to teach with Dad. His wife also brought a birthday cake as well as lots of food for the buffet, some chocolate mint cakes and some mini millionaire shortcakes. Since Mike also had a lot of people come to see him we had around 50-60 people in the house during the course of the party!

Mike and Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut bars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brownies

 

Chocolate mint slices

 

We all had a lot of fun but after Thanksgiving and a big party we are all completely worn out!

 

Pear and Almond Slices

I think the pear and almond slices were the best thing that was baked. They are moist and flavourful. And healthy *cough* well, more than chocolate anyways.

Ingredients

150g butter
75g caster sugar
2 large eggs
50g ground almonds
175g self-raising flour
6 tbsp milk
A few generous drops of almond essence
411g of pears, sliced or 2-3 fresh pears pealed, sliced and turned in lemon
Almond flakes to decorate

Directions

Preheat oven to gas mark 4 and grease a baking tin 28cm by 17.5cm

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy

Beat the eggs and add to the mixture with ground almonds

Sift and fold in the flour

Add the milk and almond essence

Turn into tin and smooth the surface

Places the pear slices evenly into the mixture then sprinkle with almonds

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Leave in tin until almost cool then sift a little icing sugar over the top and slice.

Makes aprox. 16 slices.

 

We got this recipe from a really cute book called ‘Tea and Chat’

 

 

 

 

It’s full of cute quotes too:

 

 

 

Lastly…pretzels now come in flower shapes. How cool is that?

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Thanksgiving

 

Being bi-national is a great thing. I love the fact that I get an extra set of holidays (namely July 4th and Thanksgiving from my American side or alternatively Guy Fawkes and the various patron saints from my British side). My favourite of all of these, indeed my favourite of all holidays after Christmas, is Thanksgiving. This is mostly due to pie.

Actually, in fairness, I also think Thanksgiving has an important message: it is necessary to occasionally set some time aside and really appreciate all the wonderful things we have. So I would like to take this opportunity to do just that. And then we’ll discuss pie. Promise.

Firstly I am thankful for my boyfriend Chris. He is currently proving just what a perfect boyfriend he is by making me a cup of tea then cuddling up on the couch to watch Stargate with me. I love him greatly and I cannot begin to describe how happy I am to have him. I cannot imagine being without him now, he is literally my other half.

Then of course there is my family: my parents and my sister in particular though also my larger family. I could not have managed without all their love and support over the years, plus I just really enjoy spending time with them!

I am also thankful for my friends, particularly Kim who gives me some much needed girl time in my life in which to discuss shoes, baking and shopping. She’s also always been there when I needed a friend to talk to or to go to for advise and I appreciate her friendship greatly. She also has very good taste in books, DVDs and enjoys high tea as much as I do.

On top of that I am always grateful to have a job that I enjoy and that is in a building with a front door; a lovely house (with lots and lots of books in it); the beautiful things in my house (again, my books!) and of course health, education and all those things.

So, enough of the mushy stuff and on to food before you get too bored of me!

Thanksgiving involves a lot of work for my mother, a lot of helping from me and lots of staying out of the way for everyone else. Mom made the pumpkin pie the night before I got there and we made the apple pie on Thanksgiving morning. Thanksgiving is also the first day on which is acceptable to play Christmas music so we always play some to get in the right mood. Traditionally we play this album first since the final high note on ‘Joy to the World’ is divine.

Mom and I play this LP first every year, it has some great songs on I cannot find anywhere else.

Before everyone arrives we also do a lot of decorating (I believe this is an American must: decorate, decorate some more and then, just in case, decorate again!).

The Hutch

 

 

 

 

 

The Table

 

 

 

 

Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner in our house centres around a HUGE turkey.

TURKEY!

We make bread stuffing for our Turkey which is really very simple but the bread really absorbs the Turkey juices so it’s delicious. It is just dried bread, sage, salt and butter, nothing to it!

We have a variety of side dishes with this including green beans in mushroom soup (condensed mushroom soup works best) with breadcrumbs on top; cranberry sauce;

 

 

 

cranberries in strawberry jelly;

 

 

 

 

Sweet potatoes topped with white marshmallows;

 

 

 

bread rolls, gravy and mashed potatoes.

 

 

Note the lovely blue dishes. My Mom got 3 bowls and a platter for £4 last year at the church fete!

Altogether you get this:

Yummy!

 

Dessert

PIE! Apple pie and pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is one of my favourite desserts ever and we only get it once a year! Mom uses the Libby’s recipe for her pumpkin pie. I took this one from the internet so she will have to verify if it’s right and I will update it if not.

Mix together 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, and 1/2 tsp ground cloves.

Beat together two eggs then stir in the dry mix and 1 tin of pumpkin.

Gradually add 1 can of evaporated milk.

Pour into your pie base and cook at gas mark 4 for 40-50 minutes.

Serve with cream!

I will also get Mom to send me her pie crust recipe as it is the best pie crust in existance. It is light, flaky and tastes delicious. This is largely due to the use of Crisco I believe, which can now be bought in Britain thanks to Amazon. I believe they also sell cans of pumpkin for those of you who, like me, are squeemish of pumpkins or just don’t have time to make it from scratch.

We also made an one of the apples a crumble. I like our crumble because I feel it has more texture to it than more crumble I’ve had on bought pies. We use oats as well as brown sugar, flour and butter as normal. I can eat it by the spoonful, no pie required.

Apple Crumble and Apple Pie

 

Pumpkin pie and cream

 

 

 

 

 

After dinner the men had planned on watching a game of American football whilst we women sat in the front room and had tea and chatted. Sadly the game had not taped so the men joined us in the end (sad the game did not tape, not sad that we had to see the menfolk). Then we simply enjoyed hanging out with family and friends and relaxing after a very busy day.

Especial thanks to Mom again for making all of this wonderful food!

Pork chops and potatoes

Yesterday was my traditional weekly dinner with Kim, we had it on Tuesday this week because I’m heading to my parents tonight for Thanksgiving. Kim’s boyfriend, Kieran, is not very keen on pork so she does not have it very often at home. For this reason I decided to make pork chops for dinner, also because I really like pork chops and also because there will be a chicken overload tomorrow! I baked the pork chops in the oven with a little salt and pepper. To serve with them I boiled new potatoes which I served with a cheese and leak sauce. For the greens we had al dente green beans. To finish the whole thing off I decided to try a slice of apple, slightly boiled, on top of the pork. I think the apple tasted good but next time I will try and bake the apple of the top pork so the pork can absorb a bit more of the juice, I didn’t have my timing quite right this time.

Dinner. Doesn't photograph well but tastes yummy (I think anyways).

 

The above was written on Wednesday but I did not have time to finish. So…

Since, as noted previously, Kim and I finished Buffy last week. Therefore, for a complete change of scene after 20 months of watching the Buffyverse, we have moved onto….Angel. I know. We’re sad.

We have now watched the first three episodes of Angel which ran concurrent to season four of Buffy. Angel appears to have restored the humour that was becoming rarer in Buffy but does appear to have continued with the slightly darker bent. Overall I enjoyed and am looking forward to seeing some more. Although I somehow think there will be less fashion commentary with series. Angel has clearly overcompensated for having dated Miss Five-thousand Coats by only owning one outfit. On the plus side, at least his clothes match unlike many of Buffy outfits. I will miss Willow!

Lunch with Kim

Usually my friend Kim and I have dinner after work one night a week. Unfortunately some weeks there just isn’t a night when we are both free and this week was one of them. Fortunately Kim did not have any plans this Sunday and since I end up alone all day Sunday usually I jumped at the idea of going to her house for lunch. It also meant that Kim would make me lunch and as her food is always delicious… Today was no exception! Kim was making baked bean and cheese pasties for herself and her boyfriend but since she knows I don’t like baked beans (I know, I’m a terrible American) she made me some bacon, brie and cranberry ones, which was very, very kind of her. Apparently they were a new experiment but I can only say that it worked because they were really yummy. I thought the salty/smokyness of the bacon was nicely set off but just a little bit of sweetness from the cranberry and the cheese added a lovely tangy background. We had them fresh from the oven and, literally, steaming hot.

Pasty

Innards of a bacon, brie and cranberry pasty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kim and I also usually watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer with our dinners. Today we finally watched the last episode of the very last season! Since we have been watching it since, oooooh, March 2010 roughly? I feel quite accomplished. In fairness we have also watched a few other things in that time and had several weeks where we didn’t see each other due to holidays, illness or general busyness. This is probably countered by the fact that when we started watching it Kim was my flatmate and I saw her almost every day. In comparison to this epic 20 month viewing Chris and I have watched M*A*S*H, 6 seasons of Stargate, the Unit and The West Wing to name but a few, and that was only this year.

Now Kim and I will move on to watching Angel, so not really that much difference I suppose but I still feel I should mention the final finishing of Buffy. Kim and I both got teary during the last episode but at least I think it was (mostly) a good episode. Mind you Kim and I do cry at almost anything, an ongoing test of our boyfriends’ patience.

Although we have watched all 7 season (!) we both feel that the highschool seasons were the best in terms of humour, badguys and plot lines but it was nice to finally see it all the way through and I’m glad to say there is a definite ending (everyone knows how much I hate cliffhangers or, even worse, endings that don’t actually finish the story). Overall I have enjoyed watching Buffy which has some very good episodes and some other subplots that are fun to complain about in disbelief with a friend. So on to Angel…who seems to own significantly less coats than Buffy does.

The Bunker, Grand Opening

So this one is definitely for my geeky friends.

Chris’s friend Sam has been spending most of his free time converting the basement at his house into a gaming room. Last night was the first time any of us had seen it and I have to say it was looking pretty good. Of course I am biased towards any room that contains antique rapiers, especially when no one seems to mind if I wear one of them ^_^. I figure I had to wear one, in spite of Sam assuring me that all the spiders were gone I was definitely keeping a sharp eye out, although I’m more likely to have screamed and hidden behind Chris than actually attempted to stab one had there been any spiders!

In order to celebrate the fact that ‘The Bunker’ (as Sam’s basement has now been christened) is officially open we reinforced a few stereotypes and had a game of Dungeons and Dragons with myself as the Dungeon Mistress. Sam has set up a large table in the middle of the room and I had one side of it to set up all my books and shiny dice and Chris, Tom, Sam and Martin sat facing me with their characters and the actual dungeon in middle. I felt like I was being interviewed. As far as the dungeon goes Sam had also cast some stairs, a vortex and a door, with more to come, plus some standard floor tiles. The Bunker is set to be a cracking gaming room (I’m being very nice so I’ll be invited back).

There was also cake.

A slice of cake. Made by Sam. It originally had an Aquila on it. It is yummy.

And for the men, whiskey. I’m not sure they should have been allowed whiskey…the less said the better…

This was Martin’s first ever game of D&D (so we bought him a d20). He also dislocated his knee about 6 weeks ago so we were all very happy that he could come and join us and we could teach him to be even more of a geek.

In our story so far…

A gladiator from a notable family had been kidnapped from the gladiatorial halls themselves, leaving behind nothing but some scratch marks on the floor, some burn marks and a mysterious vortex. His brother, who is himself a gladiator (and played by Sam) has requested the aid of some adventurers in finding and retrieving the lost Dragonborn gladiator. There was also the promise of quite a bit of gold.

Answering this call to arms and riches were a human paladin (Chris), a tiefling mage (Tom) and the dwarf fighter (Martin).

A hardy group. Real pictures to follow when I remember to take my camera.

In short, because I’m sleepy and may flesh it out later so that I actually remember what happened, the adventuring party managed to follow the kidnapped gladiator through the portal. Beyond the portal they found a room full of zombies (Zombie hulks with AC 20 and zombie chillborns [which are smaller and lower level] with AC 22. I find this funny but could not tell anyone at the time) which very nearly managed to wipe them out! Yet the adventurer’s prevailed, largely due to the healing powers of the Paladin and the DM’s generosity in not making the zombies come back to life. At the back of the room a shadowy figure watched the fight and then disappeared into another room. When the adventurer’s followed this figure they found a room with an alter that had an odd looking dragonborn creature on it. It was surrounded by 4 human lackeys (minions) and at the far end was a very large green dragon. Behind the dragon was another dragonborn that appeared to be being held by some sort of magic. On either side of the dragon were more of the almost dragonborn looking creatures. After attempting to barter with the dragon for their friend back (the paladin even nobly offered to swop places with the kidnaped dragonborn) the party eventually lost control of their gladiator who felt it a matter of honour to kill everything in the room. A fight insued in which the lackeys were quickly killed but the dragonborn creatures are still holding their own. One of them has been hacked apart by the gladiator and the paladin (with some help from the mage) and they discovered that the creatures appear to be an imitation of dragonborn made using clockwork and blood, presumably from the kidnap victim. Also that when they reach 0 hp they explode. Fun times. We left our gallant heroes fighting…

We also had pizza 😀

Mencap Cupcakes

Every year my work sponsors a different charity, this year it’s MENCAP. To support this cause my group at work is doing a payday bakesale. To this end I have made some cupcakes! I used the same recipe I used for Chris’s birthday cake in September but it works as a cupcake as well. It’s listed in Mom’s cookbook as “Quick 1 Bowl Chocolate Cake” and it is very easy to make.

Quick One Bowl Chocolate Cake

6 tb of cocoa

2 cups of flour

1.5 cups of sugar

1 tsp soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup of melted butter

1 cup of cold water

Mix together the dry ingredients then add the eggs, butter and water together. Beat well on low for one minute and on high for a futher two.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes for cupcakes or 40 minutes for a cake. Ice and eat!

I always use butter icing as I don’t like royal icing. It’s just icing sugar, butter, milk and vanilla (or maple!). These ones were vanilla.

Cupcake with icing

 

 

Lots of cupcakes!

 

 

 

 

The rest of Artemis 10 also bought yummy treats including some delicious looking coffee cake (I wish I liked coffee!), brownies with marshmallows in them (delicious, I couldn’t resist one), rocky road and rice krispy chocolate treats, always a fun one. Our manager’s son also made some cupcakes with silly faces so everyone really pitched in! We also got to pitch in on selling them which meant that I spent an hour and a half of work today walking around tempting people with chocolaty goodness :D. I’m not sure what our total raised was but I think it was around £50-£60 which isn’t bad when most of your cakes are 50p (a few, like the cupcakes were £1 because they were bigger).