Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Happy Hogmanay everyone!

This year, I have decided not to make just one resolution but twelve! I'm not very good at keeping resolutions - goodness knows why...
Each month, I'm going to attempt to keep a different resolution, and that will stand me in good stead for carrying on for the rest of the year. And of course, I'm telling you them here, so that you can hold me to it! This novel idea I read on the Unclutter blog over the past year - Erin who keeps that blog has had a different resolution every month for 2011 and it seems to have worked for her.

The second part of my plan comes from something I recently read on Lifehacker. The tip come from Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian, who keeps track of his progress on a resolution (his was writing every day) with a wall chart and a red marker pen. If he is successful that day, then he puts a big cross on that day. After a week or so, he gets a run going and this motivates him to keep on going. Sounds good to me anyway :)

What are your resolutions for this year? And what's your plan for ACTUALLY achieving them?

Love and hugs

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Our Christmas

Today's entry is a video post of my family, after we'd opened all our presents.

I'm not a very skilled videographer so you will have to put up with the poor lighting and the wobbly camera (I used my phone!). My sincerest apologies.

Love and hugs

Monday, 26 December 2011

Malawi #4 - Anteloping Around

Disclaimer: All photos were taken on disposable film cameras. Therefore they are pretty crap.

Whilst we were away, although we spent the majority of our time in tents at the site, we did all get a day or two of respite from such "tortuous" conditions. The most significant of these trips was our trip to Mvuu, which is a National Park in the south of Malawi, only couple of hours drive away from the site.

Everyone on site got to spend a night there, with a swimming pool, a real bed, and meals cooked for us, as well as one trip out on a land safari, which I'll show you some pictures from here, and one on a boat safari, which I'll cover in my next post.

Pumba and his family were the first wildlife we saw, from the dining room at the lodge, in fact! Interestingly, warthogs kneel down on their front legs when they are grazing, as their necks aren't long enough to allow them to reach the ground! There were a lot of monkeys and things kicking about the lodge as well, as the scavenge leftovers from the tables whenever possible. The lodge is built with low walls, and a roof held up by wooden pillars, so birds and other wild life could come and go. The park wardens tend to chase the monkeys away with a catapult, however, as they are pests, even if they are rather sweet.

Out on our drive we saw a lot of things I didn't manage to get photos of on my disposable camera, which is a shame, but then, there are lots of good pictures of these things online - far better than any I would take. The list of what I didn't photograph includes sable antelope, roan antelope, duikers, bushpigs, elephants, zebras, sparrow weavers, hartebeest, kudus and guinea fowl. Seeing the zebras in the natural habitat was particularly exciting as I've not seen many before, but they're quite a famous animal.

I did manage to get photos of the impala, but we saw loads of those, so it was easy to wait for some right near the truck.

I also got this one picture of a buffalo which came out alright, although it's still pretty far away. Maybe by the time I go again (which I probably will, you know what I'm like) then I'll have a decent camera with zoom lenses and things!

We also saw a few baobab trees in the park. These are pretty cool - rather esoterically African, so they were nice to see again. We actually went to Mvuu the last time I was in Malawi as well, and there were a few things I saw this time which I didn't see before!

After the game drive, we met up with the other jeeps and went down to the riverside. We wanted to watch the sunset but we didn't actually get there on time, so we just had drinks in the dark before we went back to the lodge for dinner.

Love and hugs

Part 1 - The Epic Journey
Part 2 - The Daily Grind
Part 3 - Not Your Average Sunday Morning

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas!!

Love and hugs from Sprinkles (and family)

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Saturday, 24 December 2011

It's Chriiiistmaaaaaaaaas!

I am 99.9% sure that you cannot be as excited about Christmas as me! Christmas is hands down, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite day of the year. You get to sing carols and eat too much and people give you presents and cards and everyone is cheerful in the shops and everything looks pretty and you can wear nice clothes just because and take pictures all day. Birthdays are pretty good too, but Christmas is more general, and everything everywhere gets decorated. And birthdays don't have all the carols.

Now, I know you have been eagerly awaiting this since the snippet on my last post, but here it is, the grand reveal:
Isn't it spectacular! It was the last tree left at the tree place, and we only just managed to fit it into the room!

This is my dad's favourite decoration - he plays the french horn so we got this for him a few years ago.

And this one is my mum's favourite - she's a big fan of having the baby Jesuses at Christmas time, so she likes this wee nativity that we've had for as long as I can remember!

Here are the presents (you don't get that big a pile when there's only five of you and you're all adults!)

And here are the dinky trees that we've had since we spent a winter in Taiwan (the millennium, in fact.) Do excuse the naff tinsel hat on the clock. My mum seems to think that this is an appropriate way to treat wee bits of tinsel. Not sure I agree.

These are the cookies which I posted about the other week, which I iced with the royal icing left over from the cake.

And this is the aforementioned cake with its ADORABLE nativity! Isn't it cute? I love the sheep. They're so dinky! We've got a big red ribbon to put around the outside to hide the fact that I can't smooth off royal icing for love nor money, but that has to wait until the icing is much drier.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Love and hugs

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Preparing for Christmas!

I had hoped to be able to share with you a recipe for sweet chilli sauce that I made at the weekend, however, my attempts at making it, or else the recipe itself, were severely flawed. But I will work on it, and then I will share it with you :) I promise!

Instead, just a few photos of recent stuff.

I got a haircut - here's my adorable face :p This vintage effect makes me look like a doll!

The bus journey up to my parents house was very restful. We all slept most of the way! (Andrew has this photo as his profile picture on facebook at the moment, so I'm sure he won't mind me sharing it here as well!)

It was pretty snowy in some places on the way up, but there's not much in Tongue at the moment.

Obviously Mum and Dad were very pleased to see us, although they were only in Edinburgh a few weeks ago! We had lunch in the Tesco cafe, nom nom nom.

If you remember that windy weather we had a week or two ago (nicknamed Hurricane Bawbag by all the Scottish people on twitter), it managed to knock over a big tree in my parents' garden! There was some discussion as to whether or not we could turn it in to a Christmas tree, but we figured it's probably a bit big...

And even the tree we did use was too tall! We had to cut off another four inches to get it to fit in and I literally had to trim the tree to get the angel to fit in as well!

You'll have to wait for my proper Christmas post on Saturday to see the tree in full, and the adorable marzipan nativity I made today for the top of the cake.

Love and hugs

Monday, 19 December 2011

Malawi #3 - Not Your Average Sunday Morning

Disclaimer: All photos were taken on disposable film cameras. Therefore they are pretty crap. Unless they are ones which I nicked from people off Facebook, in which case they will be appropriately credited.

Church in Malawi was a brand new experience for many of the young people on the trip. A lot of them do not regularly attend church at home, and may find the whole experience to be dull and unimaginative. Going to the local church in Malawi was a completely different experience from church at home, and even I found it new and exciting, despite having been to the very same church on more than one occasion, four years previously.

The first time we went it was the final English service of the academic year, as all of the students had finished their exams and were heading home for the holidays. We caused quite a stir as we arrived in full uniform and kilts, with bagpipes and all. I saw more than one person snap a photo on their phone as we paraded past - some things never change.

One of the students from the school did the sermon and she was incredible! It was the kind of passionate straightforward sort of preaching I hadn't heard in a while. No talk of the wider church, nothing to suggest that we're doing it wrong. Just an impassioned plea to people that if they love God, they should express their gratitude and put their money where their mouths are. Their church desperately needs some renovation work. If you love church, you need to help us to fix it.

Needless to say they had a record offering that week. Thanks to a bunch of rich white people who reckoned that 500MK (about £2) was a perfectly reasonable sum to put in. The girl who was preaching suggested that 100MK was the kind of thing people should be putting in, if they could possibly afford it. I was just glad we could help them with their roof!

After the service, the young people from the school showed us around the whole mission site. It's a boarding school, so we saw where they lived, where they ate, where they learned. There is a clinic there as well, although we didn't see inside. The tour around the grounds was something we didn't get to do last time so it was really great to see everything.

The following week, a smaller group of us went along to the church again to the Chichewa service, which local people attend, rather than the school children. They were very accomodating at the church, and gave us bibles and hymn books in English so that we could still join in. Unfortunately the English and Chichewa hymnbooks don't match up, so whilst they were singing, we were struggling to fit the words to the tunes, even when we knew them! A lot of the hymn tunes were familiar because the church was founded by missionaries from the Church of Scotland, who would have taken their own hymns and tunes with them, many of which are still used here in Scotland today.

Interestingly, the offering at the Chichewa service was given in cash, but also in kind - people brought in food that they had grown themselves - it is a farmland area - and collected this for distribution. I didn't catch the full explanation of what it was for, as it was in a different language, but that seemed to be the gist of it anyway.

Both times we were in church we were asked to sing for them. Fortunately I knew about this, and we were prepared, but if you ever happen to be in a church in Africa with a group of people, beware they may ask if you have a choir. And if you say only one song, they will ask you for two.

Love and hugs

Part 1 - The Epic Journey
Part 2 - The Daily Grind

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Festive Fun

I got a new phone! I can take pictures and blog from it :) hopefully this means you'll hear from me a bit more!

Last night, a group of us went to Bar Italia for our Christmas meal. Although we didn't have any Christmas food...

Love and hugs

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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Delicious Sugar Cookie Recipe

What's that you say? A sugar cookie recipe? At Christmas time? Original, I know, but I had to share this one with you, it's super delicious. Buttery and and flavoured with lemon, almond and vanilla. I could eat them all day, except that I keep eating everything else and then I'm always full. Nom nom nom. I love Christmas.

This particular recipe I got from The Kitchn, and made these Melted Snowman cookies.

They were so good, I had to make the recipe again, so I could share with you. And so I could eat some more cookies.

Put a cup of sugar in a bowl and add a cup (or 9oz - who measures butter in cups anyway) of softened butter.

Cream them together until they are light and fluffy.

Then add an egg.

Mix it up again then add 2 oz cream cheese. Yes, I did say cream cheese.

Mix it up and add some flavouring.

Then mix that in and add three cups of flour (one at a time), some salt and some baking powder. By the time you get to the last cup you may have to get your hands dirty.

You should get some nice lovely dough.

Wrap it up in cling film (plastic wrap) and put it in the fridge for an hour, while you go to work, or over-night, depending on your time scale and life style etc.

When you take it out, it may be as Hard As A Rock. Mine was, so I had to slice the dough into smaller chunks for the next bit.

Place the dough on a floured surface.

Roll it out to about a quarter inch thick, then get your lovely dinky scalloped circle cutter and cut out an even number of circles - then you can stick these together to make little empire biscuits. Nom nom nom.

OR get your favourite gingerbread man/teddy. Cut out some teddies, and then use your scalloped circle cutter to take bites out of them. Your very own Already Been Chewed Cookies. What a treat!

This made three and a bit trays of cookies for me (45 in total) so I had to do them in batches. Cook at gas mark 5/350F for 8-12 minutes, depending on how pale or golden you want them to be. Mine are somewhat variable as I was not paying full attention. But they are good if they are soft or if they are crisp, so don't worry about it.

Cool them on a wire rack and then ice them as you prefer. If you can wait that long.

Store them in the fridge if you need them to last more than a few days.

Here's the proper recipe :)

Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies between 36 and 48, depending on size
1 cup OR 9oz unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
zest and juice of half a lemon
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add in the egg, cream cheese and flavourings, beating after each.
Add the baking powder and the salt, and the flour one cup at a time.
Mix together to make a firm dough.
Wrap it in cling film (shrink wrap) and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Place the dough on a flour surface roll out to 1/4 inch thick.
Heat the oven to 350F or gas mark 5.
Cut the cookies with cookie cutters and place onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.
Bake for 8-12 minutes, until pale or golden, as suits your preference.
Cool on a wire rack and ice when cold.
Store in an air-tight container, in the fridge if for more than a few days.

Love and Hugs.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

My New Flat (With the Occasional Christmas Decoration)

You haven't seen my new flat yet! Well, I will do you a tour!

Welcome to Your Pants. We decided to call it that a long time ago. It's not funny any more. Although occasionally someone will come up with some daft pun and we will all giggle again.

This is my bedroom. It's the best one. It's also chilly. But to make up for that, I put awesome stuff on the walls.

Like this ticket to We Will Rock You, which I went to see on Wednesday.

Or these pictures from Malawi which are some of my favourites.

This is my fireplace. It's the best bit. The fairy lights are a year-round feature but they look particularly festive underneath the paper chain. I made paper chains this year because I am cool.

This is the view from my window :D

This is the bathroom. It's a funny shape.

This is the den. It's where we keep our retro Magic Roundabout lampshade-turned-ornament. And our not-old-enough-to-be-retro telly. And my not-old-enough-to-be-retro parents, when the come to stay.

This is Andrew's room. There's Andrew.

This is the kitchen. It's huge. And also chilly, like my room.

This is the other end of the kitchen. I told you it was huge.

This is Peter's room. He calls it a cave. Usually it's dark in here but he's out and I opened the blind, so it actually looks quite bright and not cave like. Sorry about the mess. My brother is a boy.

And this is the hallway. With our Christmas tree. And our mountain moving boxes which have been here since October. The removal company claim they are coming back to get them but so far have failed to do so. But don't worry, I like them. They make an excellent fire hazard.

Obviously, these photos are all crap because I took them on my phone in the winter. Its half two and its already starting to get gloomy!

When I have a decent quality camera to work with, then you can complain about the poor quality of my photos. For now, you shall hold your peace. Thanks.

Merry Christmas!