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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Today is a united day of strikes all over the UK!

So I decided today focus on an image I remember seeing a print of that my art teacher had in the clay room and found again accidentally while researching images. 

I have always loved Alphonse Mucha & Aubrey Beardsley, so it was the just the right image to make my teenage heart flip out over the novel idea that there's a choice, either make Art or make war...a sentiment I appreciated over "Make Love not War".  I grew up watching television news with footage of Viet Nam fighting along side so many other unrests and assassinations and protests.  I think we just forgot what that felt like and got too comfortable; now we're being reminded.  So I wanted to share the memory.  

There is a group on Facebook now:
I think the sentiment is great in this time of social disruption and unease and want to support it.  So I tried to find some others following this tactic, but alas, there was very little going.  What I have found is offered here.  First up is an interesting blog post on "Artivism", with a lot of evocative images to consider:

Then I found a new Ukranian artform "YAKSCHO", and had never thought of using a weapon to make art---but they did:
 I needed to clear my head after viewing that and found an old but still very interesting article from the Guardian on Dada-ism:
 Aside from an awful lot of websites offering copies of the posters and t-shirts of the same I couldn't find one current website following the ideal of "make art not war", so if anyone out there knows of any current artists following this lead, can you let me know?  Tweet me or PM me on FB.

Today we found out that the British government, who has frozen our pay for the last two years, has just announced that they are "generously" going to offer us up to 1% pay rises for the next two years. Cost of living has raised over 5% since our pay is frozen and they are predicting it to rise up to 3% next year.  Tomorrow there is a united union all-out strike because the government are changing all the rules surrounding pensions that were agreed when we were hired.  

Then I found this image circa 1890s, where they were striking for better working conditions and treatment, it seems so familiar in the last year, one protest after another and we still haven't learned---the system doesn't work when only a few have power and money and make the rules 120-ish years later.
It is entirely unfair and I am very angry about it---so I really needed reminding to make art and not war right now. 

Please share at will!---Gabrielle 2011

Monday, 28 November 2011

Xmas ideas 2011---number 2---White Elephant exchange

The white elephant gift exchange can be quite fun and costs so little

WiseGEEK defines it as:

white elephant gift exchange is a popular holiday party game in the United States, with many variations in name and game play. Generally, white elephant parties need a minimum of six participants, although the larger the group, the more entertaining and protracted game play will be. White elephant parties can result in vicious rivalries between players trying to get sought after gifts. The goal of a white elephant party is usually entertainment rather than gain, however.
All attendees of a white elephant party are expected to bring one wrapped gift. Traditionally, a white elephant present is something unusual, somewhat useless, or inconvenient. Trinkets, strange knick knacks, unidentifiable kitchen items, and the like are typical white elephants, and guests are asked to wrap them nicely and to leave no identifying markings on the presents. Part of the white elephant game is often a series of guesses as to who brought which present.
Usually, attendees draw numbers or cards to indicate player order. Strategic white elephant players try to end up somewhere in the middle of the game. The white elephant gifts are piled in a central location, and game play begins when one person opens the first gift. The contents are displayed to the room, and the next player’s turn begins. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-white-elephant-gift-exchange.htm

When I have had these parties before for yuletide it went like this:  Everyone is told to bring an unwanted gift from the previous Xmas.  We always went crazy on the wrapping.  As the people got to the party we'd put a number on each gift.  Later when the party seemed to be going, we'd have everyone pick a number & go and get the gift wearing the corresponding number tag.
Then we'd all gather round the biggest room in the house and send two dice around the "circle" 3 times while the packages were still wrapped. People took turns rolling the dice and if anyone who got doubles on the dice were entitled to exchanged their wrapped gift for one they liked the look of better than the one they already had.
After the three goes we'd all unwrap our presents and then go round the circle telling what you'd got & showing it off like it was the best gift in the room.  [There is always one gift that everyone wants, one year in ours it was a foot spa and in another a yogurt maker]  Once that best gift or two is established you send the dice around again 3 times and if you get doubles you get to choose to swap anyone with the gift they have.  Once that's done, so's the game.  People are then allowed to exchange their gifts privately if they want to.
The best thing about these kind of get-togethers is that you can do it quite cheaply if everyone each brings something and their gift.  
I have been trying to get people in England to appreciate this game for some years now, unfortunately the English do not really care for organised games at their parties.  If you have any variations on this that you can share with me, please contact me on Facebook or Twitter and I will add it to this post.
Please share at will!---Gabrielle 2011

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Xmas ideas 2011---number 1---download a song for someone you love

This post is number one in a series to do Xmas this year by employing the "Spend more time than money" campaign.

I have been lucky enough to have caught a repeat of this story's first episode and went back tonight and watched the last one [3rd].  It is an amazing story of a very emotionally evocative group of military wives who become a choir created by Gareth Malone. 

They start out small and nervous, singing in a local market...

And their confidence grows... http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b017kcj3/The_Choir_Military_Wives_Episode_2/

Then they are given the opportunity to singe before the royal family at the Royal Albert Hall with a song Gareth Malone had written for them:
Even though they are not performers, they rehearse and rehearse and are successful



Then Chris Evans, BBC Radio 2, popular DJ/Host of the Breakfast Show , decides to back the record:

 If you do have few minutes to watch these episodes, I recommend it.  If you like it share with everyone you know.  

If you Tweet, follow them:

The profits of the single will go towards several military charities, so if you purchase a copy for yourself or someone else the money will be going to a good cause.

Please share at will!---Gabrielle 2011

Saturday, 26 November 2011

I promised cake and here's some more:

REPOSTED---Today I am mostly making Xmas Cakes, part I
First posted 5th December 2010

Here's another look at the Christmas cake in case you were thinking of making one this year, better get a move on!  I will be blogging other Christmas goodies in an effort to help people think of things they can make for Christmas---SPEND MORE TIME THAN MONEY CHRISTMAS 2011---so, here's how it goes again:

This post is especially for my Americano friends and relatives who have asked about the kind of food I have learned to cook since I have been over here, so here's one tradition I have learned and been a practitioner of since 1995...the Xmas cake.

In the US, fruit cakes are not well-loved...but in England, Xmas just isn't Xmas without the Xmas cake.

My step-daughter's Aunt Blanche is who wrote the original recipe for the cake my family loves best but over the years I have adapted it somewhat, in particular to make it just a little bit more "drunk".

I actually get all of the fruit together and soak them in Brandy, brown sugar, cinnamon & powdered ginger. This causes the fruit to make a syrup and makes the fruit very juicy too.

My family don't like the mixed peel [that's in the original recipe] but LOVE ginger, so I use:

a whole bag of dark raisins
a bag of extra-large golden raisins
a pot of candied ginger
a big tub of candied cherries.
I use brandy to soak the fruit in...you will see many photos of the bottle in a moment, this year I started on November 15th, so the fruit's been soaking a good, long time.

It's usually a good idea to drain the fruit a couple of hours before you begin making the cake.

That means adapt to your taste, I reckon Maker's Mark would make a good soaking liquid [I'd like to try with Southern Comfort (what do you think?) but wonder if it would be too sweet] and so pick what you like...add nuts or different dried fruit to suit your family's taste.

As in most cakes, You gotta put the unwaxed paper in the pans before beginning anything. They call this baking paper over here, but it is vey much like waxed paper without the sheen, this is so the cake will come out quickly. I find buttering the inside of the pan quickly will help the paper stay in place. I make cakes for friends of ours too, so I have to double the recipe.

Then get the butter out so it will soften! [or nuke it 20 seconds, just as good]

I assemble the ingredients by type, all the dry in one bowl and all the "wet" in a larger one.

4 ounces of ground almonds
7 ounces of caster [granulated] sugar

2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1Tablespoon Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Cloves
A pinch of salt

set aside.

Then break 4 eggs in the bowl, whisk until smooth

Cream the butter, eggs mix, plus:

2 Tablespoons golden syrup [use dark Karo or maple syrup]

teaspoon vanilla

cream together until you get them smooth as possible

set aside and return to the dry ingredients

Then sift together:

Add it little by little to the creamed ingredients

Now it's very possible that the batter will get quite stiff and so if you need to, use a bit more brandy [you can use the leavings liquid from the drained fruit if there is any] and a bit of milk alternatively to soften the batter a bit and make it easier to mix.

Then comes the fun bit, we always stick a pound coin in the cake, whoever gets it in their piece is meant to have a very good year. Originally it was a silver sixpence in the Xmas [a Victorian tradition] pudding but as my lot don't like pudding & love cake & sixpences are out of circulation we do the pound. Just have to remember to tell people before they bite it to look out for the money. I wrap them in tinfoil so as not to get dirty coins on the cake. Reckon a silver dollar could work just as good.

Once that's done, it's time to add the drained fruit to the cake batter---

The batter with the fruit in it is meant to be stirred by every member of the family to bring it good luck in cooking it. So my husband helps stir it up.

Now it's time to fill the pans with the batter--- Oh, and if you cannot stand the spoon upright in the cake batter then it is not quite thick enough

Don't forget the coin! Put the pans on a baking sheet [cookie sheet] so if it raises over the top of the pan, you don't also have the task of cleaning the oven.

Now bake for 1/2 hour at gas mark 6, that's 220 C or 400 F

After a half hour is up, turn down the heat to gas mark 2, that's 150 C or 300 F and check it every 20 minutes until it's done...springs back to the touch on the top & a toothpick inserted in it comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let set for a good half hour in the tin...OK mine look a bit burnt but DON'T WORRY I'll be cutting that crust off later in part 2 when they get decorated. [Actually I was putting the Christmas tree up upstairs & didn't hear the timer---but they are all right really]

See, the bottoms are perfect...anyway, then turn them out of the pan and place on the cooling rack upside down to cool entirely

Once cooled, peel off all the baking paper & using a large cocktail toothpick poke holes in the bottoms of the cakes

Using a TEAspoon, sprinkle a small amount of brandy over the bottoms of the cakes, and then put them in cake boxes and every other day feed them with the brandy again until you finish the cakes just before Xmas day.

This year I had some cake mix left over after making 5 cakes.  We have someone in our office who is wheat allergic so I used spelt flour instead and made them in cup cakes...we'll see how they go down in the office on Monday...fingers crossed they're as nice as the cakes

I'll do another post later on so you can see how they are finished...look out for it! 

Planned the decorations for this year's cake, so will show those later in December when I get them ready!

Happy Holidays!

Please share at will!---Gabrielle 2010/2011