Use up dried fruits left over from Christmas pudding and cake making

You’re probably in the same boat – lots of small amounts of dried fruits and almonds left over from making your Christmas cakes and puddings and you don’t want to keep them sitting around for months going stale.  What to make with them? These scrummy little bakes called Fat Rascals.

The last few days have been so bitterly cold that even with the heating and the fire on, the house has been chilly. Inspiration was borne out of a desire to light the oven and warm the kitchen up making a batch of Fat Rascals.

As you know, I like to pop over to the UK , particularly the north, and at least look into Betty’s windows in Ilkely, when I can. Many times I’ve popped in and bought a few tasty Fat Rascals.

I’ve heard that there’s a small cafe in Whitby that also sells them, though, apparently Bettys forced them to change the name but how they were able to do that as the name has been around long before Bettys, I can’t imagine. The threat of legal action helped.  Anyway, good luck to the Sandgate Cafe in Whitby who now sells them as Whitby Fatties. I’ve heard they are even nicer than Bettys! Whitby is great and when my boys were small we went many, many times and enjoyed pork and stuffing batches from a little shop there and of course, fish and chips from the Magpie. Happy Days! If I’m lucky enough to go again, I’ll look out for the cafe and try theirs.

Anyway, I have tried lots of recipes for these and adapted them to get the flavour as close to my taste and Bettys as I could. So have a go – see what you think. They’re sort of Christmassy; they have those cinnamon and nutmeg Christmassy spices and they use up the bits of dried fruit that would otherwise sit there till Easter. I like them best with clotted cream and a little strawberry jam but slice them and butter them or eat them plain – up to you. They’re scrummy.

Trentham Gardens

I was recently in the UK and a bunch of us went to Trentham Gardens for the day. The weather was bright and dry but bitterly cold. We had hoped to visit the Monkey Forest but it was closed for the winter. The site is huge and we saw only a very small part of it and would love to go again in the summer and take more of it in. Anyway, we braved the cold and followed one of the garden walks around the lake. There were lots of interesting statues, sculptures and artistic installations to capture the eye. I really enjoyed it. In no particular order I’ll show you some of the unusual and lovely things we met, like the golden hare above.  Isn’t it fabulous?

The lake was covered in swans and ducks – these are just a small bevy amongst a huge colony of them.

Perseus and the Medusa’s head.

Some natural foliage. Look like empty seedheads to me but I’m no botanist. I think they’re very pretty in a wabi sabi kind of way.

There were fairies everywhere!

And wonderful dandelions.

And wonderful dandelions with fairies on!

Despite being well into November, some bright flower faces still looking up at the sun. What are they? Haven’t got a clue but they were so cheery.

Again, I have no clue what this plant is, but aren’t the leaves pretty?

And strange magic mushrooms (not that sort of magic mushroom!).

There were statues of deer running through the trees.

This photo was a little blurred but I posted it to show you the gorgeous green moss on the fallen tree trunk.

Look at the colour of the autumn leaves!

I had to up the exposure enormously to show you this wonderful carved stag beetle. It was far too dark to see otherwise.

Another lovely fairy.

And what about this handsome chap? Isn’t he magnificent?

Strange pods hanging from the trees were among the more unusual of installations!

Another fairy!

Steel fish caught in reeds – amazing.

Look at the marvellous carvings of otters running down the tree trunk. Just awesome.

A fairy on a roof top.

By this time, we’d got half way around the lake and come upon a cafe so we piled in for a good, hot cup of coffee. After that, the cold was really biting and we abandoned the rest of the trail and made for the shopping village, which was also quite lovely.

Great day but for the wind and the cold. Definitely want to go back again and see the rest so roll on next summer.

Photoshop inspiration – USB stick tutorial

I made these USB sticks in Illustrator  – they look pretty sensational. The credit is down to the tutorial I followed: ‘How to draw a USB Flashdrive. The link to it is here: Noupe.

So much amazing talent out there.

When I get a chance, I’ll write up the tutorial to make the glowing orb scene above. If you’re fairly familiar with Illustrator and Photoshop you can probably deconstruct the images and work out the technique. The orb is a simple ellipse with a gradient mesh applied and given a colour around the perimeter (Illustrator ). It was taken into Photoshop, given a dark background and highlighted with a Lens Flare and a few layer effects. There’s not much more to it.

As we get closer to Christmas, I start looking for Christmas Photoshop tutorials. I Google and check the images for something to inspire me and will, if the end result looks worth it, will spend the time and effort to recreate the effect. This is where I am at the moment…. searching and falling down bloody awful wormholes in Pinterest…

I found out recently that there is a way to exclude Pinterest from searches : type in the search term and append with -site:pinterest.com. It’s that easy. A pain in the bottom to do it every search but better than losing the will to live in Pinterest. If only people would include their URL or other contact information on images…

The weather is getting damper and chillier. The heating is on regularly and the living room is gorgeously cosy since we had a new fire put in a while ago. Both cats have large fluffy, padded catbeds in front of it and can often be found on their backs, feet up, sprawling across them. We even bought them an advent calendar from Lidl (for cats – filled with little cat treats).

Soup is becoming a staple as the weather gets colder. Made a big pot of chicken and vegetable soup yesterday. Some for tea and some to freeze for another day. The scents and smells of it while stirring with a long spoon (to let the devil come out of the steam)  was mouth watering. It didn’t disappoint. We ate it with chunky wedges of granary bread – my absolute favourite is the low GI bread from Lidl, and that’s what we had.

Today is wetter and colder than yesterday so might have soup again for tea. There’s a nice thought.

Create a reflective bubble: Photoshop tutorial

I’m not one for lengthy tutorials if I can avoid it. I have followed many a tutorial in the past and slavishly followed every subtle colour change, every minor layer palette setting, etc, and spent hours striving to achieve the same result as the OP. I prefer quick results which can be customised to your heart’s content, to the nth degree… at your leisure.

I’ve pared the steps down to their bare minimum and still achieved a good looking reflective bubble. What do you think?

You can find my tutorial on how to create reflective bubbles in Photoshop here. Reflective PS Bubbles Tutorial

Quick Illustrator Pathfinder Reference

Here’s a quick reminder of what each of the Pathfinder options in Illustrator does. It saves the bother of trying each one out. (Note that the Exclude, Divide and Trim options have to be Ungrouped (Option>Ungroup) to separate the shapes).

Hope it’s useful.

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