Monday, 11 November 2013

10 Things to love about Winter

The leaves are done falling, the temperature is dropping and everything feels a little different. It can only mean one thing. Winter is here!

Let's face it. Living in a country with such a spontaneously varied climate (*cough* RAIN! *cough*) like Ireland can make the simplest thing like deciding what to wear when venturing outdoors a task in itself. But let's turn this on its head and focus on what wonderful things Winter has to offer and why we should embrace the season:

1. An excuse to stay in and put your feet up.

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Long gone are the Summer days when you felt guilty about playing around on your laptop indoors when the sun was splitting the stones. Now that the weather has taken a turn you've the perfect excuse to stay in and just relax! Catch up on a boxset, play a board game or video game or catch up on books you've been meaning to read. You've got the time!

2. Halloween
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It's one of those holidays where there's something for everyone. Sweets for the kids (and big kids!), Halloween parties and horror movies for the grown ups and Irish folklore about our links to Samhain for everyone in the audience. Plus, who doesn't like to dress up once in a while? Each year brings new and innovative costumes.

3. Being cosy
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Onesies. Fluffy socks. Blankets. Hot water bottles. Electric blankets. Winter duvets. Hot chocolate. Need I say more?

4. Christmas
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Every year the adverts seem to get closer and closer to Halloween, but the commercialism of modern day Christmas has been noted. When you get to the core of it, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, exchanging gifts and watching the odd cheesy Christmas movie whilst vowing to never eat Brussels sprouts again.

5. The Late Late Toy Show
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One can't talk about commercialism and Christmas without talking about the Toy Show.. I jest!

The Late Late Toy Show is an institution at this point, where children and adults alike tune in each year to see the must have toys, talented Irish children (be it dancing, singing, or being a mini Culchie), or even what festive sweater Tubs dons. It's part of our cultural heritage, and I for one am a fan.

6. Happy New Year!
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Bubbly! Parties! Ringing in the New Year with loved ones and making resolutions. Gotta love that optimism!

7. January Sales
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After all the celebrating that comes with Christmas and New Years, it's time to treat yourself. It's a great feeling when you find something you want.. In your size.. In the sale.. For at least 50% off. Victory!

8. Snow
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Every now and again, it makes an appearance in Ireland in varying abundance. And admittedly it can cause chaos, but there is an ethereal beauty to watching snow fall and wondering if there'll be enough for building a snow man or at least gathering enough snow to make a snowball or two. Snowball fight!

9. Sitting in front of a roaring fire
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There's nothing to make you feel quite as snug and festive as watching a roaring fire, even if the wind and rain are howling outside. And the ambitious marshmallow roasting if the mood is right.
(Also as someone who loves open fires but isn't skilled at building them, a huge thank you to whoever invented firelogs!)

10. Feelgood festive ads
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It's at this magical time of the year that the feel good vibes wiggle across broadcasting systems and make us go "Aw!" Whether it's 'the' Coca Cola ad which puts the smile on your face or something more touchy feely like this year's nostalgic Tesco ad or tales of Friendships from the formidable advertising which is John Lewis. Embrace it. Everybody has one.

These are my top things to love about Winter. What are yours? :)

Friday, 1 November 2013

Lisa Bakes: Gnarly witches fingers

After I'd made the Spooky Pumpkin and walnut bread, I still had lots of pumpkin and baking supplies. So I decided to try my hand at some more baking.

All in all I made three batches and found that speed when moulding the fingers into shape was key. The first batch expanded the most, whereas the next two batches came out much better as I hadn't handled them as much. Mr. Ree and a few friends were more than happy to provide some quality control.

I'd also made pumpkin and cinnamon cookies which were really yummy. Nothing beats a fresh squidgy cookie!

We went out to a Halloween party last night and brought both cookies along with us. They seemed to go down well and it wasn't long before they started disappearing! (Which is the best compliment in my book!) If you'd like to try making your own witch finger biscuits, I've attached the recipe below. Happy baking! :)

The fruits of my labour!

Gnarly Witches Fingers

  • 225g (8 oz) butter, softened
  • 125g (4 1/2 oz) icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 350g (12 oz) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100g (4 oz) whole almonds
  1. Combine the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat together with an electric mixer. Then gradually add the flour, baking powder and salt, continually beating; chill for 20 to 30 minutes. (The longer the better really!)
  2. Preheat oven to 160C. 
  3. Lightly grease baking trays.
  4. Remove dough from fridge in small amounts. Scoop 1 heaping teaspoon at a time onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Use the paper to roll the dough into a thin finger-shaped biscuit. Press one almond into one end of each biscuit to give the appearance of a long fingernail. 
  5. Squeeze biscuit near the tip and again near the centre of each to give the impression of knuckles. You can also cut into the dough with a sharp knife at the same points to help give a more finger-like appearance. Arrange the shaped biscuits on the baking trays.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until the biscuits are slightly golden in colour, 20 to 25 minutes.