Wednesday, 28 November 2012

An evening with Gary Barlow

Last week I was lucky enough to see Gary Barlow in Concert at Edinburgh Playhouse, thanks to my wonderful husband who bought them as a Christmas present for me.  As I'm in my (very early!) thirties, the music of Take That has been in my life for many, many years and I was a fan from the early days - I danced to Could it be Magic on repeat and my bedroom walls were covered in Take That posters.  Back then, I had the album Take that and Party on cassette, and now I have it on my iPod along with the greatest hits and all the albums from the years since the group re-formed.  I also have all of Robbie's albums too!

I had an absolutely brilliant night out - Gary sang songs from throughout his career, including Take That songs, his own songs from his solo career, as well as songs he's written for others.  The band were fantastic, and the crowd were on their feet, dancing the night away.  I saw Take That in concert last year and by comparison this was a much smaller show in the more intimate venue of Edinburgh Playhouse.  Even though we had balcony seats, we could still see perfectly and it felt great to be part of something so special.

For me, the song of the night was Rule the World.  Some of you may remember that this was the song that Take That sang at the closing ceremony of the Olympics.  What you won't know, is that this song is also the song I walked down the aisle to at my wedding, and it is very special to us.  I, like millions of others, watched Take That's performance at the closing ceremony - and I had tears streaming down my cheeks.  Not only was this the beautiful song that reminds me of my wedding day, it was also Gary's performance after losing his daughter, Poppy.

The Barlows' daughter, Poppy, was stillborn just a few weeks after our daughter Daisy died.  My heart broke for Gary and his wife when I heard the news - being a celebrity doesn't protect you from the possibility of losing a child and to have to deal with your grief being such a public figure must have been very, very hard for Gary and his family.  On the night of the closing ceremony I couldn't believe that Gary was able to sing that song - the words are so, so moving and I think of Daisy now too whenever I hear it.   Now, I look back and I realise he was probably just doing all he could do - singing with Take That, making his family and his children proud.

Grief is a journey and it is individual and it is unique.  For me, just putting one foot in front of the other, keeping going, was all I could do it those early weeks when the pain was sharp and searing and almost more than I could bear.  I look back on Gary's performance at the Olympics and see that as his way of keeping going - as it's all you can do.  I recognised that haunted, pained look in his eyes - I've seen it in my husband's eyes too.

Listening to Gary sing this song again at the Concert last week reminded me of the journey of grief we are both travelling along.  Our daughters will always be in our hearts and will never be forgotten.  But we are moving forward, taking each day a step at a time, doing what we can for our loved ones around us.

All the stars are coming out tonight, they're lighting up the sky tonight - for you.

Best Wishes
Debbie


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Craft Projects

My absolute worst habit is starting a new craft project before I've finished the last.  At any one time, I've got several cross stitch projects on the go, as well as a quilting project or two (or three).  I've made jewellery, I bake, I like to take photos of pretty things... there's always a new idea for a new project and I'm always keen to jump in and start something new before wrapping up the last one.

I recognise this in myself but I cannot seem to change this habit!  This is only likely to get worse now that I have discovered Pinterest; I keep finding lots of fabulous, creative ideas that I'd love to try.

Despite the fact that Lizzie's quilt remains unfinished, I've started another - my stepson has been asking me to make one for him, too, and I wanted to have made some progress on this before the weekend.  I decided to go for a simple patchwork design to keep it easy and speedy - here's where I'm up to so far!


Are you methodical when it comes to crafting projects - or any projects around the home, for that matter?  Do you manage to finish off one before moving on to another?  Or are you like me - easily tempted by the thought of starting something fresh and new?!

Thanks for reading!

Best Wishes
Debbie

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Mini Naan Breads

Ever since I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease back in 2009, I've spent a lot of time mastering gluten-free cooking and baking.  I make a LOT of gluten-free cake; but of course, everything else I make is gluten-free too - I just don't blog about it as often!  Gluten-free options are available in supermarkets but these tend to be expensive, so I prefer to have a go at making my own.  This week, I've made naan breads (twice!) and I managed to photograph this batch (the last lot were demolished before I could get my camera out!).  These naan breads got the thumbs-up from the non-Coeliac members of my family, too.


Ingredients

13oz gluten-free plain flour
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1oz melted butter
80ml warm milk
150ml natural yoghurt
1 egg

Add all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Melt the butter and warm the milk - I add these together in a microwaveable bowl and heat for a few seconds or so until the butter is melted.  Then beat the egg and add this and the butter/milk mixture to the dry ingredients.  Mix with a fork to start with and then use floured hands to bring the mixture together into a dough.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for a few minutes then divide the dough into balls - I aim for around 8-10 balls.  Flatten the balls into teardrop shapes and leave to rest on sheets of tin foil (the size of a baking tray) in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

To cook, simply slide the sheet of foil holding the naan breads onto a baking tray, and cook for a few minutes under the grill on it's highest setting.  Turn over once one side is done and give the naan breads a few minutes on the other side too.  Keep an eye on them the whole time whilst they're cooking - they cook quickly, and you don't want them to burn!


Once cooked, brush the naan breads with melted butter and add a sprinking of salt and pepper, then leave on a wire rack to cool slightly.  Eat whilst still warm, or leave to cool completely then freeze in food bags.  These can be re-heated from frozen under the grill - although I tend to pop mine in the toaster!  These naan breads go great with curry, but are also delicious with homemade soup for lunch.

I make mini naan breads so they are the perfect size for one person, but you could make larger ones to tear and share.  You could add flavours to the naan bread - garlic, mushroom, herbs and spices - please do share the varieties you come up with!

Enjoy these - they are very tasty and so easy to make!

Best Wishes
Debbie


Family Life

I found this quote on my travels and I thought it was so nice, I had to share it.

Family can have so many different meanings; for some, it's the people they are related to, for others, it includes close friends.  Some people have children in their family - be it their own, or nephews, nieces, cousins or children of family friends.  In some families, pets become members of the family too.  It's those that we are close to, that are there for us, and we're there for them.  It's the ones we love, unconditionally.  It's a bond, a close relationship, the ones who are there through thick and thin, the people there through highs and lows.  Every family is different, with a unique set of connections that tie people together.

I love this quote.  How nice to know that you will always be loved.  Sometimes it's worth taking a moment to reflect on how nice it is to be a part of a family, to be part of something special.

Best Wishes
Debbie

Monday, 12 November 2012

Birthday Cupcakes

I love making homemade cakes as a gift.  On Saturday I went to a friend's house to celebrate her 40th, so I made cupcakes to take with me.  Pink sparkly cupcakes, of course!


I used fairy cake cases rather than cupcake cases, to keep the cakes a reasonable size - sometimes I find that cupcakes made in larger papers, although they look impressive, are really too much to eat in one go!


I used a standard vanilla sponge mix to make my cakes, and baked them for around 15 minutes or so until golden.  I only half-filled the cases so I would have a reasonably level surface at the top of the papers.


I made 20 cupcakes in total and spent a lot of time adding sparkles, hearts and stars.


My latest toy is this set of star-shaped cutters!  I used these to stamp out stars from white and pink coloured fondant icing.  I'm sure these cute little stars will be popping up frequently in my baking in the run-up to the festive period!  I'm planning on covering my Christmas cake in red and green stars.

I had great fun making these cupcakes - can you tell?!

Best Wishes
Debbie

Friday, 9 November 2012

Quilting Progress

I've been spending a bit of time at my sewing machine lately, working on a new quilt.  I got the quilt blocks finished and arranged, and spent an afternoon assembling them as carefully as I could.  My technique is far from perfect, but I'm getting better at lining up my blocks and making the squares sit as neatly as possible!


This little quilt will be for Lizzie once it is finished.  I love the girly colours in the fabrics - although they've not shown up as vibrantly in these photographs as I would have liked!


That's the quilt top almost finished - I'll be adding a border around the edges when I have determined what the finished size needs to be.  Next is to find some suitable fabric for the reverse of the quilt!

I've also spent a bit of time working on this quilt I started for Lizzie way back earlier on in the year.  At the time, I thought it would be a good idea to make a quilt that was single-bed size; it probably was a good idea, although I underestimated just how long it would take me to finish!  I am so nearly finished it - all that remains is to finish off the corners of the binding and complete some diagonal lines across the quilt - it seems to have taken me an age and I think it will be a while before I attempt a bed-size quilt again!

Assembling the quilt top is definitely the most inspiring part of a quilt project!

Thanks for reading!

Best Wishes
Debbie

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Cherry Bakewell Cake

Recently I have been experimenting with cake flavours (not a banana in sight!) and my latest obsession has turned to almonds and cherries.  I love cherry bakewells, and there is a gluten-free version available to buy in the supermarkets - but £2 for four little bakewell tarts is very expensive and I always prefer to make things at home!  I've yet to try making bakewell tarts (although they're on my list!) so in the meantime here's my adaptation - Cherry Bakewell Cake.


Cherry Bakewell Cake

Ingredients

4oz self-raising flour
4oz butter
4 oz sugar
2 eggs
1tsp baking powder
almond essence
strawberry jam
icing sugar
glace cherries

This is so easy to make!  In a large bowl, beat the flour, butter, sugar, eggs, baking powder and almond essence using a hand mixer until light and smooth.  Add a little milk if necessary.  Pour the mixture into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes (I used 160c fan).  When cooked, transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Slice in half and spread generously with jam.  Re-assemble, and decorate with glace icing and glace cherries.


A delicious cake that has all the flavour of cherry bakewells in a light, fluffy sponge.

Enjoy!

Best Wishes
Debbie

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The beach in November

I love spending time at the beach, particularly out of season when it's quiet.  There's hardly anyone about, and I find listening to the waves and breathing in the fresh sea air very therapeutic.  We're lucky in that we have lots of lovely beaches on our doorstep in our part of the world and this is one of my favourites - Silver Sands in Aberdour.

In the summertime - which usually lasts a matter of days in Scotland! - this beach is always bustling, with loads of families making the most of the sunshine and the warmer weather.  Some days you'll struggle to find a spot on the sand.  After the temperature drops though, it's possible to spend time on the beach without seeing a single other person.  It's idyllic, looking out over the water, watching boats go by, and taking in the view.


An early start, wrapped up warmly, not a breath of wind and we had the beach to ourselves.


Not another soul on the beach.  The children could run around and enjoy the fresh air.


I thought of my darling baby girl who should have been with us.  I wrote her name in the sand.



Unfortunately the stillness was not a great help when it came to kite-flying.  We'll need to go back another time!

Great fun, fresh air and total cost = free!

Thanks for reading.

Best Wishes
Debbie

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Fireworks Display

Last night we took Lizzie to her first fireworks display.  She was so excited about going - she bounced around in the car all the way there, she didn't complain at all about the walk to the Glen from where we managed to park, and she danced about in the half hour we waited on the fireworks starting.  I captured this photograph shortly before the display started - I took this picture with my mobile phone, and although the picture is blurry and too bright, I love Lizzie's grin and obvious excitement!


The local radio station were on hand to provide music and entertainment to the waiting crowds in the run-up to the display, so although we had quite a bit to wait after finding our "spot", the time passed quickly.  We were so lucky with the weather this year, too; although it was really cold, it was a beautiful, still night and there wasn't a cloud in sight.  Perfect for fireworks!


We enjoyed twenty minutes or so of spectacular fireworks that illuminated the sky above us.  Lizzie managed to squeeze right to the front next to the fence, beside some other girls around her age, and she had a perfect view.  She ooh-ed and aah-ed all through the display and beamed from ear to ear!  Needless to say she chirped all the way back to the car about what a great time she'd had - it didn't take us too long to get back to the car, although there were thousands of people so progress was slow!  We made it home via a back road and avoided the traffic through the centre of town, so we were home and had hot drinks on the go in no time at all.


Hot chocolate and marshmallows = one happy little lady!

It was such a lovely evening out and the fact that Lizzie was still raving about the display this morning made it all worthwhile!

Thanks for reading!

Best Wishes
Debbie