This ain’t a Mickey Mouse tale…

This year, no matter how much I try, I just can’t get in to the Christmas Spirit.

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It’s like it’s not even December.

It’s cold outside, and our heating is on.  I have a beautiful new pair of winter boots that hubby has bought for me (early birthday present).  I’ve been wearing my lovely, grey, winter coat and scarf.  Homemade, paper decorations are sprawled across our house – paper snowflakes, stars and chains.  There are several Christmas cards on our window-ledge, and we’ve got a beautiful, wooden winter scene on display, that my dad made…

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However, we didn’t have the tree up.

It’s become a tradition, in our house, that our tree and decorations go up on 1 December; but it wasn’t possible, as there was just too much to do in the house.  There was still cleaning to be done, mainly due to a couple of mishaps in the boys room a few weeks ago (long story).

A couple of days came and went, and Gning was questioning why we haven’t got our tree up.  So on 4 December, hubby got the step-ladder out, and up in to the attic he went.

He passed the attic door to me, and then I heard him say, “looks like we’ve got mice…  There’s droppings everywhere”.

He passed the large, red bag, containing the tree down to me…  “Be careful,” he said to me, “looks like they’ve eaten this…”  Hubby then handed me a couple of our Christmas stockings, which also had decorations in them, but it looks like the mice had got to them too.

Everything was either chewed, or had droppings on.  The tree bag was slightly damp, and had fresh droppings on it.  It made me worried to open it in the house, so we carefully carried everything out to the driveway, where we keep our wheelie-bins.

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Not actually our tree, but this is what we had to do 😦

Very little was salvageable.  Thankfully, I managed to save a few of my special decorations that I had been collecting over the years.  They needed a bloody good wash, but were still able to be used.  So this left us with a handful of baubles, and a single set of fairy lights.

So it was decided.  We had no choice but to buy a new tree and decorations, and we found them in our local Asda (otherwise known as Wal-mart).

As soon as we got home, we unpacked everything and started to decorate.  Gning and Donut helped the hubby with the new baubles, and they had a great time in doing so.

Granted, our new 5ft tree wasn’t the 7ft tree we were used to, but it is still lovely all the same.  I love it!  It’s super cute, and fits in to the corner nicely.

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We’ve still got a few things that we need to buy, but at least we have our tree up!

As for the mice, well, I’m afraid there’s not going to be any good news for them.

Normally I’m tolerant of mice.  I like them.  They’re so small, and they need to live freely, but I have a different rule when they’re in the house.  And they are.  They’re living comfortably, up in my attic, and I don’t want to take the chance of them coming down, actually in to the house.  I’m currently pricing up traps…  Not the old ones, that snap and kill (I couldn’t cope with that), but one of the box things…

Sorry Mickey, Minnie, Mighty and Jerry – you’re about to be evicted.

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Homemade Country Vegetable Soup

I’ve had some mixed vegetables in the fridge for quite some time, not knowing what to do with half of them.  I’ve never eaten a parsnip, let alone use one for cooking, but all the veg was going off, and so I thought it was about time that they get used.

Ingredients

1l vegetable stock

4-5 carrots

1 medium sized onion

1 parsnip

1/2 swede

4-5 medium sized potatoes

Some of your favourite herbs

Method

1.  Mix your vegetable stock together in a large pan.  I used 2 veg OXO cubes and 1 litre of water.  Bring to the boil.

2.  Whilst waiting for the stock to boil, prepare your veg.  Peel and dice all your vegetables into approx 1/2 inch cubes.

3.  When the stock is boiling, add the prepared veg.

4.  Bring back to the boil, and then turn the heat down to a simmer.

5.  Allow the stock & cubed veg to simmer for 20-30 minutes.  When you are able to insert a sharp knife easily into some of the cubes, you’re ready for the next part…

6.  Remove from the heat completely.  If you are going to add some of your favourite herbs, now is the time to do it.

7.  Using a hand-held blender (or any alternative you have), blitz away the veg until it becomes really thick and creamy looking.

8.  Ta-da!  You’re done.  For serving, I just put some in a bowl and wolfed the whole lot down, but for that added extra, why not garnish with a small sprig of parsley?

**Once completely cooled down, if you are not going to eat any more within the next two days, you can pour the soup into an airtight sealable freezer bag.  This will keep nicely for up to 3 months…  Just ensure that you reheat the soup until it is piping hot.

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Frugal Christmas – Homemade Hand Warmers

Christmas is magical.  I love getting in to the Christmas Spirit, and I have to admit that I am one of the sad people who will play a Christmas songs CD in my car almost right the way through December.

Well, it’s fast approaching, and although it’s still only November, I can officially say I’m almost completely done with the Christmas present shopping.  I only have to buy one more thing for my father, and then I have to buy my (1 year old) son his presents.  There’s still plenty of time.

A lot of people have lost the true meaning of Christmas.  Yes, gift giving has become the norm, but too many people are expecting lavish gifts that will break the bank, and will melt your credit card…  And that’s just one person out of the twenty or so you have to buy for.

I love homemade gifts.  Some items are really useful, some are really yummy, and some make you look at them and wonder what on earth you’re going to do with them…  Afterall, where I’m from, it’s still the thought that counts, and I’m easily pleased with anything I’m given.

A while ago, I found a webpage that teaches you how to make rice-bag hand warmers.  I can’t find the original post, but thankfully, there are plenty of pages that teach you this if you google it.

Here’s my take on the idea, and I will be making them for a few people on my gift list.

What you need…

Material (cotton, muslin or flannel – Any colour and design that you like!)

Matching thread

Sewing needles or a sewing machine

Long grain rice (I’ll be using white)

Dried herbs (rosemary / lavender / peppermint / etc.)

OR

Essential oils (whatever you like!)

What to do…

1.  Cut your material into squares.  You’ll need two squares for each bag…  You need to cut them approximately 4″x4″.

2.  Turn the patterned sides towards each other (so it’s plain side out) and stitch all sides, but leave about an inch on the fourth side.

3.  Turn the bag the ‘right way out’.

4.  For oil scented rice, you need to mix approximately 1-teaspoon of essential oil to 1lb of rice.  I find the easiest way to cover all the rice here would be to put it all in a large food bag, seal it and shake, shake, shake!

5.  For herb scented rice, I use approximately 3-tablespoons of dried herbs to 1lb of rice.  Ensure you mix it all together!

6.  Use a small funnel, and pour your rice mixture into the bag until it’s about 3/4 full.

7.  Carefully turn the remaining open sides of the bag over, and sew them shut.  Check the perimeter of the bag to make sure there are no small holes where the rice would escape…

There you go!!  With a little practice, making these bags would take you about 5 minutes each.

To use…

Place the bag in the microwave, on medium high, for 2 minutes (adjust time accordingly for your microwave).  Your hand warmer should stay warm for approximately 30 minutes!