Christmas party preparation – recipies

December 3, 2020

Next week is our last class this term so we will be having our party. As I can’t be there in person to mix the drinks you will need to do your own. Hopefully some of you have had a go at making the cranberry liqueur I have and will be using that as the base of the alcoholic options. I have written this recipe to be deliberately vague, I am hoping as many people as possible can get close to it. I will tell you the general shape which is the same with alcohol or not then give you the specific combinations I have tested.

  • 2 parts cranberry
  • 1 part orange
  • pinch of spice
  • lemon juice (optional see below)
  • garnish – slice of orange and cinnamon stick

For the alcoholic version I used the spiced cranberry liqueur and Cointreau as the cranberry and orange. Other orange drinks will work and I have plans to try this with Martini fiero too. I think that will be fantastic in this. As my cranberry liqueur wasn’t as spiced as I wanted I added half a teaspoon of cinnamon honey, cinnamon syrup would work or maybe even a cinnamon vodka. If you add honey or a sugar syrup you will need to add as much lemon juice as sweetness, unless you like very sweet drinks. This is the exact recipe I used,

  • 50ml cranberry liqueur
  • 25ml Cointreau
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

I put all of that into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. If you don’t have a cocktail shaker maybe a sports drink bottle or a tupperware type container would work instead, we are trying to get the drink really cold and add just a small amount of water. Serve in a glass (I think a martini glass or coupe is ideal) with a slice of orange and a cinnamon stick.

For the non alcoholic version I went for an unsweetened cranberry juice and a orange juice. I saw no reason to buy anything fancy just what was cheap we are going to be adding flavour to this so the base is a lot less critical. Again I used the cinnamon honey (it’s just honey mixed with a lot for cinnamon) as I was only making one portion. If I were making a larger batch I would use mulling spices instead and let this sit to infuse for longer. For my one (large) mug I used

  • 1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon honey
  • 2 slices of orange
  • 1 stick of cinnamon

I put all of these into a small saucepan and heated slowly. if patient allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes, I only managed 5 but it was still reasonably infused. I just poured it all into a mug no need for new garnishes :) Lazy I know but waste not want not.

I should say I am not a huge cranberry fan, but I have really enjoyed all these options. I did try the cranberry liqueur in orange juice, it works, not as good in my opinion but works. I suspect orange liqueur with cranberry juice would also work. Having the combination of flavours with the spice is the key element. For those who aren’t fans of cinnamon, try a slice of fresh ginger. Also festive if a different flavour. I hope you will give this a go and let me know if you liked it and what I could try in future. I am enjoying designing drinks and love new ideas.

Monday Mystery Solo Robin

November 30, 2020

After a hectic weekend my festive preparations are well in hand. I am very pleased it is Monday and I am back at work, I need the break. Lol, I say that when I still have the monster stitch in the ditch to work on, and I mean it. Still the weekend was fun as well has hard and I learned some new skills which is always good. I also got an evening of virtual board games in so pretty good really. I also managed to get some knitting done while watching the Grand Prix. following the crash (and yes I know fire in crashes is really rare now) can the medics have better fire suits and maybe an optional full face helmet in their car. I don’t feel we should be singeing the medics, and yes I understand the idea is they wait for fire crews but these guys care about their patients and will get as close as they can. We can fairly easily make that safer for them so why not.

Anyway, you didn’t come here for that you came he for a quilting task to think about. So let us grab the cards and discover our fate. This week our design idea is,

Buttons bows ribbons

Ooooh, I have been looking forward to this one, maybe its a week or two early it would have been a perfect one for the festive season. perhaps the cards feel we should be doing our wrapping now. There are several border patterns that look like folded or interlocked ribbons that I would like to do for this one. Oddly one of my favorite borders yet one I rarely use, nope no idea why. OK, how much of this do I have to play with,

Add a total of 10″ to two opposite sides of your quilt.

Hmm, not quite where I was thinking but could be fun. I could do a couple of different ribbon borders maybe a thick and a thin. Or that would be enough space to make some button quilt blocks for one side and maybe a narrow ribbon on the other. Or maybe I can join the buttons with ribbons. Yup lots of food for thought. Just what I want from this something to keep me out of trouble for a week.

Sorry I am a bit quiet

November 26, 2020

Things are amazingly busy. I have work that HAS to be done before the end of the year and I have decided that making is the way for this festive season. Obviously I can’t advertise what making I am doing, other than I really want to get some sloe gin on the go for next year. Rest assured everyone is well. The girls still run the house and the little lad is not so little now.

Monday Mystery Solo Robin

November 23, 2020

Argh, my helper is helping by hiding the screen. Let’s see how well I can do blind. Ahh I have some screen, excellent. After a weekend of house chores I am quite relieved to have some nice calm quilt related work to do. I have a monster stitch in the ditch job loaded that I really must have finished before Christmas. Sounds a long way off? Not with this much stitch in the ditch and on curves. Still it beats cleaning the path :) Now after a somewhat delayed start to the day, my bathroom party had to move to Monday this week, let’s see what we are designing this week. Ooooh, our technique this week is,


I like this. I have waited  so long for this one to come up. Excited, why yes I am thank you. How much space do we have to play?

Add 6″ to at least 2 adjacent sides of your quilt.

Oh the cards love me this week. With multiple sides that opens up the chance to mirror around corners which could be a lot of fun, and 6″ is a decent amount of space to play in too. lots of ways to play with this one. I think this is the perfect distraction, probably for more than one week truth be told. Now I can head to work with a skip in my step. No actual skipping as my ankle is still healing but metaphorical.

Monday Mystery Solo Robin

November 16, 2020

Here we are again. It is Monday and we need our thought for the week. Well our design challenge I suppose, but for quilters one is much like the other. This week our technique/design prompt is,


Yup that’s it, the whole thing. 2.5″ has always been important in quilting but since the arrival of pre-cuts even more so. I know a lot of quilters also save their scraps in strips, usually including some 2.5″. I also use this size for my binding strips, maybe some leftover binding can go into this one. Our border size this week is,

Add 4″ to at least 2 adjacent sides of your quilt.

Hmm, well I guess anything dividing by 2 is pretty good for this one. I would have liked wider but hey these are supposed to challenge us to think so maybe I should be pleased it is trickier. I will need to do some serious thinking before the group tomorrow afternoon.

Another small milestone

November 12, 2020

Fenrir is sure he is now a professional dog. I am sure it is somewhat like a teenager getting a provisional driving license for their birthday and being sure they are now a professional driver. Both are on the right road, neither are there yet. However we have now installed a stairgate (with cat flap) so Fenrir can have a little more freedom downstairs. We do still have to keep a pretty close eye on him, empty cat food packets apparently have some kind of magnetic attraction to his mouth, he doesn’t take them out of the bin, on no never. So we have to rescue him from those if they attack. Mostly though he is getting the hang of things and is finally almost like owning a dog.

Being floors day today he had a chance to help me clean. He has decided the vacuum cleaner is OK but he needs to be behind it just in case, he saw it eat spilled dog biscuits once and has been careful since. He never leaves unattended food where the vacuum cleaner might get it. I like that he is not too scared of the vacuum cleaner and that he thinks behind me is a safe place to be. I was less thrilled when he offered to eat the dirt out of the cleaner to help, but I think we have resolved that. I am certain he enjoyed being with me a bit longer. I know I did. It is very slow progress but it is progress and I can see that he will work out to a nice civilised member of the family.

Getting ready for the Christmas Party

November 11, 2020

Over the weekend I did manage one fun job. I got started on the Christmas party cocktail recipe. Last year I designed a cocktail for one of my classes and it was a success. This year as my students will be at home and don’t need to worry about driving I decided it made sense to extend it to all of them. I will actually be making two recipes this year. One with and one without alcohol. Both will have a cranberry theme (chosen by a student). If you would like to play along with the alcoholic version you will need to make the cranberry liqueur in advance. I am basing mine on this recipe, . I say basing because I am just infusing the alcohol with the flavours. I will add the sugar syrup at bottling stage. I do this method for other flavours and I think it works quicker for me that way. It also lets me use a slightly smaller container. I plan on giving the alcohol at least a week to work its magic and suck up all the flavour it can. I have made the spiced version, after all this is a Midwinter/Christmas cocktail. You don’t need to make a full batch of this liqueur unless you want to, and it may make good Christmas presents. So do feel free to reduce the quantities. Other than this I am trying to restrict myself to things that are readily available or people may already have. It does make this a bit trickier but I think I will cope. The non alcoholic version will need cranberry juice and yes I suspect if you don’t want to make you own alcohol that may work in the cocktail, but I am not promising. I would suggest freezing the orange and lemon that you have used the peel of, I am expecting to use one or the other sliced with the cocktail. All going well both drinks will be spiced cranberry and orange themed.


Why we won’t be back to normal by spring.

November 10, 2020

I am really sorry to have to be saying this, but we won’t be back to normal by spring. We may be on the way but we wont be there. Let me try to explain why. Please remember I am an astrophysicist not a biologist, I have done my best to check the biology parts of this but mostly this is logic, production and logistics.

Yesterday a vaccine announced it was effective. So far so good, but, this vaccine and several others that look equally promising are still in testing. This article has a nice illustration of the stages of testing and how long they would usually take.

As you can see from that article 11 vaccines are at the same stage of testing. Usually only a very small percentage of vaccines that go into phase 3 testing actually make it into production. The sources I have seen say less than 20% make it, that would be 2 or 3 of those 11. However let us say that this time will be different and these will make it. The companies making the vaccines are taking exactly that gamble and already producing some vaccines to be shipped as soon as they are licensed.

If they are given their license in this country our government has a pre-order in with many companies so should get deliveries pretty soon after approval. At the moment no results have been reviewed and no one is close to a license. The vaccines have to be kept at -70C throughout the shipping and distribution process, so there may be some issues moving them. Hoping some centers will have them ready to use a week after licensing is possible, if a little optimistic, and that won’t be every doctor having some, that will likely be some sort hub with them. Once we reach this stage teams can start to vaccinate people. This will need 2 doses a month apart and immunity takes 2 weeks from the second dose. The first batch will cover 10 million to 30million people depending on which vaccine gets licensed first as we have different size orders with different companies. Assuming of course the immediately supply our full order (if we can store and move the whole order too).

So in theory our first batch of people might have immunity about 8 weeks after the first vaccine has been licensed, 2 weeks to get set and then 6 weeks to have completed the course and gained immunity.  Current gossip is suggesting first vaccinations around Christmas so that would give immunity around the middle of February. These people are likely to be the most vulnerable. They are likely to get the vaccine first as there is no evidence the vaccine stops the spread of the disease only the manifestation of it. It can stop people getting sick but not stop them spreading it. This is not ideal, we would usually want to stop the people most likely to spread the virus from spreading it but as this vaccine may not do that we have to take the slower approach of reducing how many it kills or leaves with long term health problems.  Unfortunately we can’t predict which young healthy people will get long covid so initially they will be unprotected and will need to maintain all precautions.

During the weeks our first batch of vaccinated people are developing immunity hopefully more vaccines will be being delivered. The companies are talking about producing billions of doses a year. That sounds great but even with every company in the running producing a billion doses (which is unlikely remember most vaccines fail final trials) the world population is 7.8billion, to cover everyone would need about 16billion doses. That is flat out for all 11 vaccines. It will take time to get enough doses to have a significant impact on case numbers. Realistically I can’t see most of us getting our first dose before March or April. I think that may be wildly optimistic even allowing for the probability that the wealthier countries will get them first (the ethics of that may be another discussion). If we did all get a first dose in March we would not be safe until May at the earliest. When I say safe, I mean we would know Covid wouldn’t kill us, it doesn’t mean we couldn’t spread Covid to someone who hadn’t been vaccinated yet, or for medical reasons can’t be. The fact we can still spread it may mean we will still need masks and distancing by the summer.

I really don’t want to depress people. These vaccines are amazing. The work that has gone into getting them so soon is incredible. Really a lot of people have worked their socks off to make this happen. It is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet. Things will not magically be all fixed in the next few weeks.

Here is another article which might give you some more information on what this does and doesn’t mean for us now.

Please do celebrate the progress, celebrate the doctors, the scientists, the lab workers, the data analysts and the people who have risked their bodies to test these vaccines. They are doing amazing work. Please also stay aware of the real timelines here. Don’t assume it will all be over by Christmas, especially not this Christmas. Please also remember time never goes back, we are going forward to normal, it may always be a little different but different can be good. If you know me, you know how much I hate change but even I can see some good things have come from this pandemic and I am still hopeful there is more good to come.


So why are weekends so hard

Well not all are, and usually I have a lot of fun things I plan for the weekend. Then it happens. I am pretty sure this happens to a lot of people, especially those who work for a living. Yet somehow the common view is weekends are restful. Before we even get to what happens to mine, there are a LOT of people who work weekends and see no difference between the days of the week, and I appreciate that they do it makes our lives a lot easier and safer. My weekends are where optimism and reality meet. I had planned to make rosemary salted caramel and finish my quilt. However, I had a mission on the back burner, when the weather allows clear the leaves in the garden. Yup you guessed it, the weather allowed.

I love where I live, and I am very very glad we moved before covid. However, we have LEAVES. Yup in capitals. This weekend we cleared (ish) the front garden. I thought last year ti was about 6 man hours. I was wrong, or there were more leaves this year. We spent all of Saturday clearing and then another couple of hours on Sunday. We still have the back garden to deal with too, that is a lot smaller at least. I am hoping the leaves will eventually break down and become compost. We didn’t want to burn them as even waiting for a break in the weather the leaves were very wet. Yes we could have piled them up to dry, but wind. Instead we went for the leaf sucker which chews them up to little pieces and hopefully breaks them down faster. While sucking up leaves I also managed to get bitten on my finger. What sort of insect bites a finger, its just not professional. My fingers is very angry with this lack of professionalism, or of course whatever got in my finger from the bite. I am just please it is my left hand and much less critical for quilting.

Couple this mission with a very early shopping delivery and a nice sensible work week looks fantastic. I have plenty of quilting to do (some urgent) I have classes and discussion groups, lunch is on a schedule all nice simple and planned. With that I really should stop playing here and get quilting.

Monday Mystery Solo Robin

November 9, 2020

Another Monday and another step in our quilts. I would love to say after a relaxing weekend back to work, but I am thinking thank goodness I am back to work weekends are too tiring :) I may be doing it wrong. Still that is a story for another day. Now we want to know what we are planning this week. This weeks technique is,

Nine patch

Now, I suspect most of you have a very specific block in mind, but do bear in mind this is also a family of blocks. Not that the specific block isn’t a lot of fun in its own right. Ooooh and lots of ways to fiddle with it. Oh dear I think I may have fallen down another rabbit hole. I suppose the border size my constrain said rabbit hole a little,

Add 6″ to one side of your quilt.

Yup that does probably blow one of the ideas I was having of a slightly fractal block, it is doable but that would be awfully fiddly. Which I admit wouldn’t always stop me but this will be a large border so I should probably be sensible. maybe some sort of on point chain, because 1″ square pieces are perfectly sensible.