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My word for 2017!

So whilst most of the blogging world is over there in the grown up corner planning how you're going to get on in the new year I'm here having a small breakdown about the fact it's nearly 2017. In my brain when someone mentions the 90's I'm 100% sure was about 5 years ago, not half a lifetime ago, so it being 2017 kind of freaks me out! Although I did see a man in a Schott bomber jacket with a velcro logo on it the other day so it could be 1997 still. (Disclaimer - they looked chavvy then, they still do now!)

But one of the things I have been doing to come to terms with the new year is think about my word for 2017. Which might be futile because I realise we might not even make it to the end of January given the current political situation, but we have to think positive don't we!

Last year I chose the word 'Healthy' and lets just have a little chat about how well that one worked out. I mean I've definitely not lost any weight unless you count the lump I had chopped out and, well, #fuckyoucancer! Although, and this might seem a bit strange to say with everything going on, but my mental health is in a much better place than it was at the start of the year so I guess that's one thing I've achieved in relation to the word!

But as it's that time between Christmas and NYE it's the time to bust out my word for 2017. I've been thinking about it quite a bit. I thought maybe I ought to think about a word that's somehow related to my health again but the plan is that this will be a blip that's over by the summer. So, I turned my mind to thinking about what I want to do with the year and what I want to do is gather some new skills and expertise.

So, here is my word for 2017 - Learn
I've already signed up to a silversmithing course for the new year, and I've seen some Instagram friends in Sheffield throwing pottery with looks loads of fun, I've got reading lined up to teach me new skills for work, I've signed up to some free online courses. I'm going to spend 2017 discovering new skills and learning things. 

So what are you planning the achieve in 2017? What will your word be? 

Hair today, gone tomorrow?

I know I said when I got my diagnosis I wouldn't turn this space into a cancer blog but please, indulge me, I need to wallow, I need to vent, I need to rant. Because my hair has started falling out! 
Even with the cold cap and the Simple shampoo that leaves it frizzy and the wide toothed comb that means it never feels brushed and the once a week hair washes. Even with all the money I have lavished on it making it look beautiful in the past, and the cutting inches and inches off it to try and make it last, it's not playing ball! It's REALLY not playing ball! 

So, indulge me whilst I wallow in the injustice of the fact I'm losing my hair! 

I've been on hair watch since the day after my first chemo session. Even knowing that it wouldn't happen that fast I was on watch, keeping a close eye on the amount that came out with every comb, ever wash, on my pillow at night. I'd call Jim into the bathroom post shower and he'd tell me it was less than the normal amount I usually she'd. 

And then, last Sunday, the day before chemo session 2, it started. One innocent combing and at least triple the amount of hair as before came out. Maybe more. Not quite a handful, but a clump. A large clump. More than the amount that I was happy with, and it's only got worse!

I've tried to be all zen about it. I knew some would fall out, of course it would, I mean, there are all these crazy drugs running through my body, but it's gone too far now! I've turned to the ladies in the facebook group I'm in for reassurance. I've tried hair netting at night (it only tangled it more). I tried not brushing it as often  (that too was a bad plan).

But today's weekly hair wash however was the last straw in my ability to be ok with this. I could have made a new dog out of the amount of hair that just came from my head! Now with every brush I'm convinced there'll be none left by Christmas and my measly little ponytail is getting thinner and thinner. Which for the girl with the thickest hair in the world is a terrible thing to witness. I guess the only solace is there was an abnormal amount to begin with!

So now I'm in a place where I'm wondering how long I keep going before I bite the bullet and shave it? I told myself I'd try and keep it so if I shaved after session 3 is that me failing? Giving in too late? Do I buy wigs or just wear hats and scarves? How the he'll do I tie a head scarf? What if i have a weird shaped head? And if i buy wigs, do I buy turquoise ones or sensible ones? So many questions, so few answers until I decide what to do!

(Sorry about the terrible title. I've spent far too much time with my dad lately!)

Recipe: festive winter wonderland drip cake

I'm pretty light on Christmas do's this year what with trying to stay away from people in general at the mo because they are all sick and infected with illnesses I don't want, but on Friday night i had my Christmas get together with some of my favourite ladies. I've not baked anything in ages so i said I'd take a cake along and as traditional fruit cakes are revolting (and take about 6 weeks to make) I went with something I've been spying on Pinterest and Instagram for, well, forever - the drip cake. See, I eventually jump on bandwagons. I mean, I even bought some rose gold shoes in the summer! 

I mostly made it because I am a bit obsessed with making meringue kisses at the moment. They are so cute and so easy to do but look awesome and I saw so many cakes with them on on Pinterest I knew I had to do the same! 

But because I spent too much time on Pinterest looking at drippy cakes I also discovered watercolour frosting and well, not content with trying just one new thing I thought I'd try that too! I think what might have made it easier would have been having a proper cake edge scraper rather than a flat knife as it wasn't the smoothest icing in the world, but if I'm honest I thought most of it would be covered with ganache anyway! 

I wasn't going to blog it because it wasn't  pinterest perfect but I figured if I waited for my life to be pinterest perfect nothing would ever happen and I'd never write a blog post again - plus you know, I like to think the imperfections make it a bit more accessible. Right? Please say they do!  

Meringue Kisses
What you'll need; 
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 150g cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2  teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • food colouring for the stripes
  • piping bag 

What you need to do;
  1. Heat oven to 95 degrees C and line bake sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Put the egg whites in mixing bowl. Make sure the bowl doesn't have any residue grease in it or the meringues won't work!) and whip until they form stiff peaks (I use a kitchenaid stand mixer with a balloon whisk on it)
  3. You know the eggs are done when you can hold the bowl upside down doesn't fall on your head.
  4. Slowly add in sugar, the vanilla and vinegar. Increase the speed of your mixer (I was at 7-8 at this stage) and whip until the mixture is glossy, and hold its peaks. You shouldn't be able to feel any sugar grit if you rub it between your fingers! 
  5. Turn a piping bag inside out and draw stripes of your food colouring on it. Then turn it the right way round, fit your piping bag tip and fill with the meringue mixture. 
  6. Pipe out little kisses until you fill the sheet. 
  7. Bake for about 90minutes until they peel away from the paper easily. They'll still be a bit chewy at this stage. cook for longer iof you don't want them chewy.  
  8. Leave to cool and store in an air tight container if not using immediately. 

3 Layer Cake 
What you'll need; 
  • 375g soft butter
  • 375g sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence 
  • 375g self-raising flour
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • Red food colouring

What you need to do;
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease and line three 7in cake tins with baking paper.
  2. Mix the butter and sugar together in a bowl until they are pale and fluffy. 
  3. Add in the eggs gradually and then mix in the vanilla essence. (If you want to make your own vanilla I have a recipe for it here!)  
  4. Gently beat in the flour (I went down to speed 1 on the mixer and still ended up with a mushroom cloud of flower everywhere) and pour in a little milk if you think it looks like it needs it. 
  5. Spoon out 5 tablespoons of cake mix into a small bowl and colour red it red. I used Wilton's 'Christmas Red' gel for all my red colouring needs!
  6. Divide the rest of the cake batter between the 3 cake tins and level out. 
  7. Spoon the red mixture equally into the 3 cake and use a tooth pick to swirl it through the cake (this way when you cut it open it'll be marbled red)
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  9. Leave to cool fully before decorating 
Buttercream Frosting 
What you'll need; 

  • upto 500g icing sugar
  • 225g soft butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence 
  • 3 tablespoons cream. 

What you need to do; 
  1. Put your soft butter to your mixer bowl and mix the butter on a low to medium speed (I use 5 on the kitchen aid) until it's smooth
  2. Add your icing sugar to the butter gently. (If you do it too fast you'll end up with another mushroom cloud of white and your kitchen will start to resemble a coke den!) Keep adding the icing sugar until it's all mixed in.
  3. Add the vanilla essence and mix until well combined. 
  4. Slowly pour the cream into the frosting until you're happy with the consistancy. More cream = softer frosting. Obvz! 
  5. Half the frosting now - half for filling the cake. Half for covering. Take a couple of spoons of the covering frosting and add to a smaller bowl and mix with food colouring of your choice if you want to try watercolouring. 

For the Ganache
What you'll need; 
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 100ml cream
  • Red food colouring 

What you need to do; 
  1. Heat the cream in a jug in the microwave or in a small pan on the hob
  2. When it's hot but not boiling mix in the white chocolate and stir until it's all melted. 
  3. Add your food colouring - be careful with some colours though as white chocolate isn't exactly white so might make some colours look strange! 

How to assemble your cake; 

  1. Place your cake on your cake board/cake stand and secure with a little frosting. 
  2. Fill and stack the cake with your filling frosting. 
  3. Cover your cake with the remaining frosting and smooth out as much as you can. 
  4. Once you are nearly done smoothing out the cake, randomly swipe on the coloured frosting, red in my case. Work round the cake, smoothing out the coloured frosting and integrating the coloured frosting in to the white, but not blending it in fully. 
  5. Put the cake in the fridge and make your ganache. The ganache dripping works better if the cake is cold as it stops the drips from melting the frosting or running too much! The ganache also wants to be about room temperature rather than being too hot! 
  6. Drip the ganache round the top edge of the cake with a small spoon - slowly. Doing it slowly and with a spoon allows you to control down much of a drip you get, you can always add more if you want longer drips. 
  7. Spoon the rest of the ganache into the middle of the cake and smooth it out. If the ganache isn't smoothing because it's cooled, head the back of a spoon and use that to help melt it. 
  8. Decorate with your meringue kisses, festive sprinkles, candy canes, snow like glitter. The works! Go mad! Do. 

Tell me, do we think it's festive enough? 

A look back on November and some goals for December

November was pretty quiet round here and I'm sorry about that. I had plans to write all sorts of posts during my time off after chemo but in reality, when it might have been possible to write, I found myself staring into space thinking about nothing. Really productive I know. 

But November wasn't all about the chemo. It's kind of felt like it has lately but its hasn't been. It started with a bit of IVF egg harvesting (such a gross phrase and I will get round to telling you about that at some point), there was some Christmas decoration making with the WI, lots of fun puppy walks, one sick puppy after he ate a mobile phone, a lovely evening with old friends in Harrogate, an awesome trip to Manchester with Toni, a fun overnight trip back to my old party home town of Leeds with Jim to see Brian Fallon. There were dinners with friends and cronuts and grilled cheese and french toast (not all at once you understand)

Now, onto December! 
We're having a bad Christmas jumper photoshoot with Flash and Melle and their people puppy cousin, Daniel, in a few weeks so new festive jumpers seem to be in order. 
I've inexplicably got myself 3 puppy swap packages to post out - 1 to Australia, 1 to Canada and 1 to the UK and then I'm taking part in Janet's Thrifty swap too. I love swaps, but the postal times are bothering me. 
We're hosting a festive wine and cheese evening over Christmas but I've spent too much time on Pinterest and now I have dreams of grandeur. 
I had plans for a Christmas diy gift and then I went and did a dry run and it was a disaster. A huge disaster. And a bit costly. So I have abandoned that plan and I'm diy-ing something little instead. 
I've got one treatment this month and I'm refusing to let it interfere with my plans for the month! That's the best way I can think to handle this whole thing! 
With the dark nights finding fun weekend spots to walk the dogs is important because they love going on adventures and I love taking them on them!
With our ever increasing bar, it seems like we ought to have a festive house cocktail to enjoy this Christmas - have you got any suggestions? 

And obviously I'll be christmassy-fying the house but that goes without saying! Right? And now tell me what are your plans for this wonderful festive month?