Posts Tagged ‘Festive’

Day 27: How Not to Go Insane Over Household Spending (Part 2)

December 14, 2009

It’s 10.53pm, I’m utterly knackered, and all I want to do is get everything ready for the morning and crawl under the covers of my warm, ever-so-slightly cat-haired duvet.  Bliss.

But there’s something that’s been looming over me for the last few days: something that simply won’t be shooed away by sighs of weariness and attempts to ‘’think about it tomorrow”.

Ah, household accounts.  How I love thee.  When they’re done, that is.

As it’s been nearly a month since my renewed flush of enthusiasm, and with Saint Nick-related spending emptying one’s pockets, I realize it’s vital to keep on top of our end-of-year spending.  At the same time, a flicker of trepidation at just how much that might be at this stage contributed to a reluctance to do the accounts each day as vowed.  Catch 22.

With a glass of wine to fortify the effort, and playful cats gleefully darting after the scrunched-up paper balls, I set to work on the small mound of receipts, IOUs and mental notes that awaited attention.

The new system, as suggested by Isabella Beeton, breaks spending down into specific categories (Fruit & Vegetables, Meat, etc.).  At the top of each column is its monthly limit.  Entries are (or should be) regularly made with a running total calculated every few days to help keep a tab on things.

In spite of added festive spending for the kitchen and Beeton-inspired experiments, I exhaled with relief when each column’s current month-to-date total came in well under the limit I’d set.

So, by keeping a close eye on the accounts and trying to register everything on a daily basis, I’m sure I can continue to achieve this.

Moral of the story:  A close eye on your budget = a tight rein on your spending.

Likely outcome of the story: I’m afraid that I’m no fiscal saint, try as I might.  I’ll commit to updating it at least twice a week and see how it goes.  So far, the results are much more encouraging compared to my previous way of managing things.

Day 25: Heavenly, Buttery Shortbread

December 13, 2009

I must say, it’s terrific fun to try so many new recipes.

At this time of year, I’m thinking of what end-of-year gesture I can make to colleagues.  The idea of baking some cakes and biscuits for everyone to share is the most appealing – it’s fun for me, enjoyable for them, and does away with the overly-commercial (and superficial) pressure to buy and give a zillion unwanted gifts.

Isabella Beeton provides a simple recipe for shortbread (see bottom of page).  I’ve never thought of making this before (I mean, doesn’t it just come in a Walker’s box?).  But, as it’s so tastily festive, I added it to my little list of goodies to bake this weekend (I’m going on holiday after this week).

Step 1: Cream the butter (by-the-by, have you ever noticed just how heavenly the smell of butter really is?  Usually I use it at fridge temperature and in small quantities but, as a lot is required for shortbread, I found myself beating a larger-than-usual quantity.  The scent is creamy, sweet paradise.

Step 2: Gradually incorporate the flour and other ingredients.  Isabella describes the result as a ‘paste’, but I ended up with a clingy, crumbly mixture.  Unfortunately I don’t have kitchen scales, so measurements were converted into cups (1 cup of flour = 120 grams and so on…).   However, the mixture stuck together when I pressed it into a square tray and pricked it all over before baking.

Step 3: Slide the tray into the oven and drool in anticipation for 25 minutes.  The recipe calls for ‘a good oven’ temperature; so I opted for 190 °C, which worked out just fine.

Despite nearly winding myself and losing an eye when cracking open the almonds (I bought them market-fresh, then crushed them in a pestle-and-mortar – those hardy shells make for determined missiles if cracked too energetically), all-in-all this was a supremely simple recipe to follow.

The shortbread, once it had cooled down, was really delicious – delicately buttery and crumble-creamily–in-your-mouth in texture.  It  was, perhaps, slightly under-sweet for modern tastes, so next time I’d probably add an extra spoon or two of sugar.  Otherwise, absolutely perfect.


Scotch Shortbread Recipe: (Recipe 1780)