Friday, December 19, 2014

Mums Christmas Cake

I have never been much of a baker.  I'm not a bad cook, so say my kids, but baking is not something I do often.  So, for years I have always purchased my Christmas Cake.  This holiday season, we decided to start eating our Christmas cake around Thanksgiving,  Before long we had finished it!  I was tempted to buy another, but upon polling my family on Facebook, I was inspired to make my own.  My aunt sent me my mothers recipe, that she had saved for many years.  I thought it was a lovely idea to make Mum's cake, I have fond memories of Christmases as a kid and my lovely mum was a wonderful cook!

so, Here's the recipe:
8oz Currants
8oz  Sultanas
8oz  Raisins (chopped)
4oz mixed peel
4oz glace cherries halved
2oz chopped almonds
8oz plain flour
pinch salt
1/2 level teaspoon ground mace
1/2 level teaspoon cinnamon
8oz Butter
8oz soft brown sugar
grated rind of one lemon
4 large eggs (size 1)  ( mix these separately in jug or bowl -Trisha's suggestion)
2 Tablespoons Brandy

Use 8oz Cake Tin lined with double grease-proof paper
Tie a band of brown parcel paper round the outside of the tin with string

Mix all fruit together
Sift flour salt & spices
Cream Butter, sugar & lemon rind until pale and fluffy
Add eggs a little at  a time beating well after each addition
(if mix looks like it may curdle - just add a spoon of flour and continue)
Fold in half the flour mix.  Then other half plus Brandy.  Last Fold in fruit. 
Spread in tin making sure no air pockets and make a dip in the center ( this is to ensure a flat cake for icing)

Stand tin on a layer of newspaper in the oven - bake at 150C or 300F for 3+3/4 hours
To stop top over browning cover with double grease-proof after 1 & 1/2 hours

When the cake is cooked, leave in the tin until cold -then turn out
After a few days you can start "feeding"  with brandy - use a skewer or kebab spike -prick all over the base going quite deep and then drizzle brandy all over -turn back upright and repeat this as often as time permits -I used to make the cake end October and then feed it all through November and December - it will be quite boozy, but delicious !! 

Good luck!

I made a few adjustments - I soaked the fruit overnight in a generous amount of brandy, as I was making the cake only three weeks before Christmas and wouldn't have time to "feed" it.  Also, for safety reasons I didn't place the cake on the newspaper or wrap the tin in parcel paper, and I forgot to add the nuts!  As the recipe didn't mention when to put them in, I expect with the fruit.  Maybe next year I will remember!

Also as I was using a convection oven the cooking time was much less.  It was about 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  I started checking on it after 1 1/2 hours then after 1/2 and hour then every ten minutes until the
kebab stick came our of the cake clean.

Ready for the oven.

The bottom, looks fruity!

Next, it was time to cover it with marzipan.  I mixed  one tablespoon of marmalade with two tablespoons of water and heated it to boiling.  I used this mixture to coat the cake To get the marzipan to stick.  I then left the cake for a couple of days.

Rather than using royal icing I decided to use fondant icing, with I found ready made in Michales Crafting Store, they also had ready made decorated icing ribbon to wrap around the cake, for a great finish.


Lowcountry Festive Sights to See

Take a stroll and enjoy the lights at Shelter Cove Towne Centre and in Harbour Town:

The Dove Street Festival of Lights at Shelter Cove Towne Centre
December 1, 2014 - January 4, 2015

The Dove Street Festival of Lights™, an Island holiday tradition for 20 years, is coming back to life at Shelter Cove Towne Centre! With the blessing of founders Paul & Kristi Beckler and Rob Lolik, visitors from across the region will once again be able to experience the magic of the cascading and tastefully tacky display.
 6pm-10pm, Nightly

Harbour Town Lights
In Harbor Town
December 1, 2014 – January 1, 2015

Enjoy the illuminated seasonal figures, with the centerpiece of the display being a towering 30-foot lighted Christmas tree. Harbour Town is the perfect place to be this holiday season, with live entertainment and activities.

Make A Difference. While you’re enjoying the holiday season, you can help Deep Well make a difference in some else’s life, too.  Bring a canned good or two, or a new unwrapped children’s toy and drop them in the "Well" by the Liberty Oak Stage.  Since 1973, the non-profit, volunteer-based Deep Well has been serving the basic needs of the less fortunate on Hilton Head Island. 

Sponsored by: The Sea Pines Resort, the shops at Harbour Town, Hargray, Pepsi, PSAV, and The Greenery. 

SOBA's Holiday Boutique
Through December 30 • This is an All Day Event
About the Event
The Society of Bluffton Artists presents “A Holiday Boutique,” a collection of hand made treasures, art-sy crafts, cards and 

small paintings on display and available from November 22 through December 30. Look for holiday decorations, perfect hostess gifts and extra special presents for extra special people.

Gallery and Center are located at the corner of Church and Calhoun Streets in Old Town Bluffton. Call 757-6586 or visit for more information.

Family Fun

Outdoor Movie
 'Polar Express'
in Harbour Town
Sat, December 20, 
7pm – 9pm

Get into the holiday spirit by watching this magical movie under the Liberty Oak. Bench seating will be provided and admission is complimentary with the donation of a canned good for Deep Well. A fire pit and s’mores will also be available.  For additional information, please contact The Sea Pines Resort Recreation Department at (843) 842-1979.

Gregg Russell Christmas Concert
in Harbor Town
Tue, December 23, 
7:30pm – 9:00pm

Relish the spirit of the holidays with an evening in Harbour Town.  Listen as Gregg Russell plays his guitar and sings songs of the season for children and adults.  Following the concert, enjoy a special visit from Santa Claus. Complimentary.

Holiday Fun in Harbour Town
Sat, December 27,

Join us around the Liberty Oak Tree in Harbour Town to watch classic holiday movies, roast marshmallows over a fire pit, and enjoy festive games and activities for the whole family. Games and activities start at 4pm and the movie and fire pit start a 6pm. This is a complimentary activity however donations for Deep Well are appreciated.  For additional information, please contact The Sea Pines Resort Recreation Department at (843) 842-1979.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Making Christmas Your Own

While for many Christmas is a time of great joy and excitement, for some it is a difficult time.  The picture that is presented to us on our televisions, radio and through advertising is that it's a time of plenty, bottomless wallets, abundance of food, and good cheer.  This is not the reality for many.  From those who feel the stress of financial burdens to those who have suffered a loss in their lives, the holidays can be a difficult time.  It is possible to make the season special in our own way, without getting caught up in the commercial hype that we are constantly bombarded with.  You can create your own family traditions to enjoy at this time that make the season special that do not revolve around parties, presents and elaborate spending. 

Simple decorations, homemade bows and items purchased in thrift shops can bring in the seasons cheer.  A poinsettia placed on the porch in memory of a loved one you miss.  A home cooked favorite dish modified to make it Christmasy will fill a child's heart.  The holiday season can be a time for reflection, family bonding, and a time to reach out to others less fortunate than ourselves, in fact all of these together.  Add a little candle light and some music to make your holiday a very special time.  

Nigella Lawson has a lovely recipe called Rudolph Pie that she makes for her children on Christmas Eve, it's basically shepherds pie, tweaked.  She uses ground venison and pork, but you could substitute this with meat loaf meat (beef, pork and veal). The mashed potato topping also includes mashed parsnips, which makes it sweeter and a little different.  The meat can be cooked in advance and frozen, leaving just the topping to make on Christmas Eve.  Top the pie with a cherry tomato when cooked and change the name to Rudolph Pie and your done.  

For Nigella's recipie click on the link.

Mashed potatoes make great snowmen with peas for buttons, a baby carrot for a nose, parsley arms, and a carrot wheel for a hat. 

Here's a clever idea using mashed potato 
snowmen to top a beef stew ... Another inexpensive, hearty, low key meal with a festive touch.

The financial burden of gift buying can be reduced by introducing a "Yankee Swap". This is a lot of fun!

The most popular version of the White Elephant or Yankee Swap Rules say any number of people may participate, including children. However, the minimum number of participants should be at least six or else the game is not much fun. Each participant is asked to bring along a gift worth no more than a pre-agreed amount, generally around $25.

Participants draw numbers from a hat to determine their swap order from one up to the total number of participants. 
Each person gets a crack at choosing a gift. The person who picks the first gift opens it and shows it to the rest of the company. Then the number two participant picks a gift and chooses to either unwrap it or swap it for an unwrapped gift. If the gift is swapped, the person who had their gift taken from them gets to unwrap the chosen gift and the turn passes.
When all the gifts have been opened, the game is over. Afterward, some trading should be expected and is perfectly acceptable so that, as much as possible, everyone goes home with a gift they are happy with.

Since items can be stolen, the item in your possession is not yours until the game is over. However, this is often amended with a rule declaring a gift "dead" or "safe" after it has been stolen a certain number of times (usually three). This helps the process go more smoothly (avoiding, for example, the hypothetical scenario of the same gift being stolen by every successive participant) and limits the disadvantage of being among the first to choose gifts.

for more details and variations visit

Maya Angelou once said “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wrap or Stash?

Where to keep the Christmas gifts you buy? Wrap them and put them under the tree or stash them away from inquisitive eyes?

Keep track of your purchases using a master list, either in paper form or by using Google docs or a similar app. Have your list with you at all times, to jot down ideas, or check before impulse buying when you are out shopping. 

Tips to Keep Them Guessing

    If you like to keep your secrets until The Big Day consider using a different wrapping paper for each person.  Don't label them, only you know which pattern goes to whom.  Cut out the gift recipients initial from the wrapping paper you used for them and hang it on the tree Christmas morning.  

    If you have lots of small gifts for someone, who is not a kid, place them in a pillowcase, unwrapped. Tie the case with a ribbon and place it in a box and wrap the box. The recipient with once again have the joy of rummaging in the Christmas Stocking upon opening the gift box.

    With gifts too big to wrap or put under the tree, create a treasure hunt with a few clues.  Start with clue one in a gift box under the tree. Take the recipient to unlikely places to look for the surprise, like under seat cushions, the pocket of a coat, and other easily accessible places, before sending them to the correct location.  

    With small gifts, like a ring, attach it to a plush toy with a ribbon and wrap the toy. This works for most jewelry items and will keep your recipient guessing until the last minute!

    With giving a gift of money, place your check in a box with a themed gift for the recipient, depending on what they need the money for. For example: for a new home owner; place a check in with a couple of tea towels or oven mitts.  Paying for your kids Spring Break; place the check in with a pair of flip flops and some sun tan lotion. Giving money to a student; place the check in with a post it pad and pens.  Write "Call Mom & Dad" on the top post it.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    Holiday Traditions

    It's the Holiday Season .... To avoid disappointment, make all your reservations early: restaurants, taxi, hair salon, nail salon.  

    Holiday Traditions are what make the season joyous, how do you and your family celebrate?  

    For some Christmas Eve is the main event, with a traditional dinner and opening of gifts at midnight.  For others, it's the dawn frenzy watching the kids unwrap their gifts in their Pj's.  

    For my family, we have always savored Christmas Day with early morning stockings, opened with Mum and Dad.  Then everyone gets dressed and the sherry is poured and we exchange gifts from under the tree.  In the background the turkey is cooking and items are popped into the oven on a timeline.  When all the gifts are opened, while kids play, read instructions, assemble gadgets and all the other fun stuff, the finishing touches are made to the dinner and we all enjoy a mid afternoon feast.

    The rest of the day is given over to grazing on all the holiday treats, playing games, watching movies, maybe a stroll with the dogs and an early night!  

    Thursday, November 27, 2014

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip 10

    We made it!  All that's left to do is pop your turkey in the oven as early as you like, it will keep warm for a while once removed from the oven and its a great way to wake your household with the delicious smell coming from the kitchen.  Depending on how much prep you did yesterday, plan a timeline for popping other items into the oven or cooking on the stove top.  Time to open the eggnog, or  Sherry, you are ready to receive your guests!

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip 9

    The night/day before Thanksgiving add the finishing touches to your preparation.

    • Set your dining table.
    • Run the dishwasher and empty it. 
    • Freshen up the bathrooms.
    • Chill beverages
    • Prepare side dishes, sauces, stuffing, gravy and desserts.

    Dishes that can be made the day before:

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    Organize Your Handbag

    As a professional organizer, the most common complaint I hear from women with pocket books sitting on their closet shelves, is that they seldom use them all because they don't have the time to transfer the contents from one bag to another.  In addition to the fact that they hate doing so because their purse is usually a disaster area to begin with.  I have found a product that solves this problem.

    It's called a Pouchee TM - it's a super smart purse organizer.  Once you have placed all your frequently used and important items in it, you simply switch it out from purse to purse.  It also comes in two sizes. 

    In additional to the Pouchee, I also recommend using a separate cosmetic bag and wallet.

    Useful items to keep in the Pouchee are:
    Check book
    Credit cards
    ID & Health insurance cards
    Business cards
    A pen & note pad 
    Travel size pain killers
    Lip balm
    4 quarters
    A hair tie
    Purse hanger
    $5 ( it will get you a coffee or a gallon of gas)
    Eye glass case

    It's no surprise this item is on my Pinterest board Gifts for Mum

    Sunday, November 23, 2014

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip 8

    We're gearing up to the big day now, if you followed Tips 1 - 7 your home is ready, your pantry has been stocked and your refrigerator is clean and organized!  Today or tomorrow shop for the fresh foods items on the grocery list and pick up your ordered items.  If you are going to brine your turkey, don't leave it to much longer. Frozen turkeys can be put it in the refrigerator to start thawing.

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip 7

    Using the shopping list you made earlier this month, (Tip #2 posted 11/6/14) shop for the non perishable items this week, leaving a smaller shop for fresh foods the day before Thanksgiving.

    Clean and organize the fridge to make room for that bird!

    Empty the fridge completely, checking expiration dates and for spoilage. Clean the interior with hot soapy water.  Organize the fridge with food safety in mind.  The golden rule is to place items from top to bottom in accordance with the temperature the foods need to be cooked at.

    • Upper Shelves: Prepared food, leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-eat foods (like yogurt, cheese, and deli meats).
    • Lower Shelves: Raw ingredients slated for cooked dishes.
    • Bottom Shelf or Bottom Drawer: Raw meats
    • Door: The refrigerator door is the warmest part of the fridge, place condiments here.
    • Drawers:  Fruits and veggies
    When organized this way, any cross contamination that occurs won't be a problem because the food that's contaminated has to be cooked to a higher temperature than the food sitting above it that dripped down.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip 6

    Expecting Guests for Thanksgiving?  After the Festive Feast is a great time for families to put down their electronic gadgets and gather around the kitchen table to play a board game, hand of cards or work on a jigsaw puzzle together. 

    Check your board games have all their parts and your card decks are complete. Buy a fun jigsaw puzzle!

    Choose games according to how much time you want to spend on the activity.
    Quick games - up to an hour
    Card games like Rummy 500, Hearts or UNO
    Scattergories by Hasbro/Parker Brothers
    Yatzy by Bradley
    Not so quick - up to two hours
    Game of Life by MB
    Sorry! by Hasbro/Parker Brothers
    Clue by  Hasbro/Parker Brothers
    Much longer - need food breaks
    Monopoly by Hasbro
    Scrabble by  Hasbro/Parker Brothers
    Risk by  Hasbro/Parker Brothers
    Family Interaction
    Jigsaw puzzle - to be completed over the holiday, at anytime, by anyone.  A great opportunity to just chill one on one or take 5 minutes for yourself.  

    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip 5

    Organize your hall closet.  Make space for guest coats and have plenty of sturdy hangers.  Around this time of year you might hear about coat drives in your area, now is a great time to thin out your closet and consider donating coats and other unwanted items to those in need.

    Here in the Low country, Furniture Warehouse Design Gallery in Beaufort are holding their 24th Annual Coat Drive now until December 31st 2014. All coats collected will be dry cleaned and distributed to area charities.  If you would like to help by donating a gently used coat, jacket or sweater, you can drop them off at FWDG at 745 Robert Smalls Parkway in Beaufort or at the following locations;
    Carolina Stamper, 203 Carteret Street, Beaufort
    Coldwell Banker, 1211 Boundary Street, Beaufort
    Coldwell Banker, 29 Plantation Park Drive, Suite 106, Bluffton

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip 4

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip 4
    Prepare bedrooms and bathrooms for guests.

    Sunday, November 9, 2014

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip #3

    Order festive foods and items such as your turkey, desserts, firewood and flowers in advance. If you plan on eating out around the holiday, book the restaurant.  Make any hair or nail salon appointments now.

    If your kids are coming home from college you might want to make plans for their haircut, dental check up and flu shot while they are home!

    Thursday, November 6, 2014

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip #2

    Plan a menu for Thanksgiving Week with its own grocery shopping list.  Include snacks and nibbles. Figure on easy meals and lunches for the days before and after the holiday, if you are having guests to stay.  

    Wednesday, November 5, 2014


     Remember, remember!  
        The fifth of November, 
        The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
        I know of no reason 
        Why the Gunpowder treason 
        Should ever be forgot! 
        Guy Fawkes and his companions 
        Did the scheme contrive, 
        To blow the King and Parliament 
        All up alive. 
        Threescore barrels, laid below, 
        To prove old England's overthrow. 
        But, by God's providence, him they catch, 
        With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 

    I am a descendant of Sir Thomas Knevitt - the 17th century noble who caught out Guy Fawkes and stopped him from blowing up the houses of parliament. When authorities learned of the plot, on November 1, they appointed Knevitt to investigate - who allowed the plot to continue, so he and his men could catch the conspirators in the act.

    Sunday, November 2, 2014

    Thanksgiving in Ten Easy Steps!

    My top 10 tips to tackle America's Favorite Holiday, with minimal stress!  I will add to the post twice a week, so you can take your sweet time or catch up ... Which is easy to do too!

    The first few tips you can do with a glass on wine in your hand ... Do you like how I roll?

    Thanksgiving in 10 Easy Moves - Tip One
    As early as possible confirm this years plans, who's coming? where you are going? who's bringing what? Will you have and special dietary needs with any guest? Determine whether you will need extra; tables, chairs, a highchair or other items such as beds?  Wash and press your linens. Decide on your table theme .. It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, check Pinterest or simply Google!

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    Duvets/Comforters explained

    Temperatures are dropping, it’s time to put my winter weight duvet/comforter on the bed.  Why change from summer to winter weights?  It’s a personal preference which takes into account the ambient temperature in the bedroom (I run it cool), our mattress (memory foam tends to be on the warm side) and preference for having a lighter covering in the summer and denser, fluffier cover in the winter.  

    Duvet Buying Guide

    The perfect duvet weight and filling will keep you at the best temperature to enjoy deep and restorative sleep.

    There are two main things to decide on:
    1. Type of filling - natural or non-allergenic
    2. Tog rating - high or low

    Natural duvets are filled with feathers and/or down. They're generally regarded to have the most luxurious feel of cover, although their weight can massively vary.

    Non-allergenic duvets contain fillings made of synthetic fibers, like hollowfiber and microfiber, or silk, which is naturally free of dust mites.

    Synthetic duvets
    These days, synthetic duvets aren't necessarily made of stiff and clunky foam. Many on the market are silky soft, cozy warm and beautifully lightweight with a wonderful drape. Just beware of cheaper versions, which will soon become lumpy and uncomfortable.
    Synthetic duvets are inherently dust mite free, but make sure you choose one with a mite proof cotton cover. You can machine wash synthetic duvets at 30°C.

    Silk duvets
    Silk or silk blend duvets are ideal if you suffer from allergies but want the luxury of a natural fiber
    filling. They're filled with silk floss, with mulberry silk floss being the most premium due to its fine
    long yarn for a softer feel and silkier drape.
    Silk is wonderfully lightweight and naturally hypo-allergenic. It also helps to regulate your body temperature by trapping warm air next to your skin in winter and drawing it away from your skin in summer.  Silk duvets rarely need cleaning, though you can machine wash them at 30°C. More often than not, you should simply freshen them up by airing outside on a sunny day.

    Tog rating
    A tog rating tells you how warm a duvet is. The higher the tog rating, the warmer the duvet. Tog rating is based on a duvet's ability to trap warm air. Natural duvets have better thermal properties than synthetic duvets, so they need less filling to achieve the same warmth.
    A tog rating is given irrespective of filling. So a 9 tog natural duvet will be just as warm as a 9 tog synthetic duvet. It might just feel a little lighter.
    Silk duvets can't be measured by tog rating because the fill is made of floss. Instead, their warmth is shown by weight in gsm (grams per square meter), but we'll always give you a comparable tog value too.

    Summer Lightweight
    Spring/Autumn Warm
    Winter Toasty
    3 to 4.5 tog
    7.5 to 9 tog
    10.5 to 13.5 tog

    Duvet casing
    Duvets are filled, or quilted, and then stitched with box or diamond casing to ensure an even spread of filling. More premium duvets also have 'baffle walls', which improve loftiness by saving feathers and down from getting trapped in the seams.

    While in theory you can wash and dry your duvets at home, we strongly recommend professional laundering because you need a very big machine to properly tumble dry them.
    Dust mites are killed at around 57°C

    What's best for children?

    Babies under 12 months
    Children under 10 years
    Children over 10 years
    Shouldn't sleep with duvets, quilts or pillows.
    Instead, we advise using a baby sleeping bag, which is difficult to kick off or slide down over their head.
    Young children should use a lightweight tog rating as their small bodies trap more air, making them much warmer than adults would be under the same duvet.
    Older children may want a toasty warm 10.5 tog duvet, especially if their room is quite cold.
    Help your child to regulate their own temperature by choosing a lower tog duvet and leaving a quilt or blanket, folded concertina style, at the bottom of the bed. That way, they can easily pull it up for extra warmth when they need it. In high summer, switch the duvet to a cool top sheet with a quilt or blanket
    Choose 1 tog in summer and 2.5 tog in winter.
    A first duvet should be the lightest 3 or 4.5 tog. As a child grows, they may want a warmer 7.5 or 9 tog.

    Child may want a toasty warm 10.5 tog duvet,

    Small bodies get hotter in bed than adult bodies

     With thanks to The White Company, London for this excellent buying guide.