Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Christmas Chocolates (dairy free, gluten free, egg free)

Have you read the Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton? It recounts the adventures of Fanny, Bess and Jo. When they move to a new house, they discover an enchanted wood nearby, and the enormous Faraway Tree. If you go to the very top of the Faraway Tree there is a cloud with a hole in, and you can climb through into whichever land happens to be there. It might be the land of Hippety Hop - everything has to hop - the land of Take What You Want – the clue is in the name – or the Land of Birthdays. Perhaps best not to visit that last one if you’re the wrong side of 35; I mean who wants to be partying alongside pert young twenty-somethings flashing their gravity-defying mammaries and knocking back alcopops?

I rediscovered The Faraway Tree when it came to bedtime stories for my own children. I managed to procure a copy that still called the children, Fanny, Bess and Jo. Some modern-day reprints have changed some of the names. Fanny is now Susan, and Cousin Dick is now Rick. This is because…well why is that exactly? Is it because 6 year olds up and down the land will be saying,

‘Mummy, Daddy, isn’t Fanny another word for front-bottom?’
Mummy, Daddy, isn’t Dick another word for todger?’

Is it because it would alienate our cousins from across the pond?

‘Jeez Mommy, do all the English name their children after parts of the body?’

I do get a little exasperated with the PC re-writers of literature; do they really have nothing better to do with their time?

Anyway, back to the book. Now whether Enid Blyton was a dreadful mother or not, there’s one thing of which we can be sure; she did have a vivid imagination. I don’t know what’s in those mushrooms in the Enchanted Wood, but they certainly make for a great story. However, it’s a mystery to me that dear Enid didn't mention the ‘La La land of Escape’ in any of the three Faraway Tree books. I feel sure she must have known of its existence.

For those of you not familiar with the La La land of Escape, let me elaborate.

You are faced with a mountain of jobs to do. You do not want to do them. There are lots of other things you would rather be doing, even though perhaps you shouldn’t. It’s time for a trip to the La La land of Escape.

As you approach the tree, keep an eye out for the Brownies that hang around the trunk. I’m sure those long beards aren’t really hiding anything sinister, and the clothes are probably appropriate to their culture, but really, do they have to look so different? I think we’ll make them a bit more mainstream in the next reprint.

As you start to climb the tree, you might bump into Moon Face. I'm going to need some ideas for his new name, because I have a feeling that the 'Moon' in fact refers to the rotundity of his face. I mean this guy could be obese! Let's not call a fat face a fat face, we need to find an excuse for him. How about Roland? That way, we could call him 'Roly' and it would be perfectly clear that the 'Roly' is a diminutive of 'Roland' and that we are in no way causing offence by calling him the other kind of 'roly' which would mean; roly poly, fat git, do a bit of exercise and your face might slim down.

Moving up the tree, keep a close watch out for Dame Washalot; she’s got a horrible form of OCD and she just can’t stop washing her clothes. She’s refusing all medication, won’t let health professionals near her and keeps lobbing the water down the tree. She’s in clear violation of health and safety laws and is an offence to the Kyoto treaty; do you think we can get her to wash at 30 degrees? We may have to airbrush her out of the next print run.

Anyway, once you’re past her, you’re nearly there. Step up through the cloud and ahhhhh. You’ve arrived. Let all the very real worries drop away, and feel that relaxation envelop you.

You see the world stops turning in La La land. All those things that are pulling you down, clogging up your brain and making your heart beat with anxiety; they are not allowed in. Now, what is it you really want to do? Read a book? Look through baby photographs? You can do it all in The La La land of Escape; it exists so that you can forget your worries. It allows you to be kind to yourself and take an hour or so out from your problems.

I had such a lovely time in La La land the other evening. The end of term has just eased into fifth gear and I am being pulled along in a disorganised flurry of nativity costumes, present buying, party organising and Christmas card writing. As the rev counter goes into the red, it is adding to the white noise of the ever-present piles of washing, the untidy bedrooms, unpaid bills and bottle recycling. I may not be far from breaking point.

So I turned my back on it all and wandered off into the Enchanted Forest. Wisha washa wisha washa wisha washa went the trees as I navigated the mossy paths that lead to the foot of the faraway tree. It was getting late so all was quiet. I did bump into Silky - who has hair just like on of my daughters – we had a quick chat, but before long I was at the top of the tree.
I stepped up through the cloud and into La La land.

It was all there waiting for me. The chocolate machine, the cute Christmassy chocolate moulds and the super duper pretty sprinkles that the postman delivered the other day. I spent an hour or two making dairy free chocolates for my littlest girl. December the 1st was looming and Advent Box preparations were underway. After tea in December, the children take it in turns to open the advent drawers (see picture) and dole out the chocolates. I wanted my allergic girlie to enjoy a pretty chocolate like her siblings do. I stirred and sprinkled, smoothed and scraped. It was absorbing, it was soothing, and it was a complete break from stress.

The washing piles are still in situ. The 11 nativity costumes still have to be made.
I opened my big gob and offered to do it. Next year I shall keep my big gob firmly shut.

Still, I feel renewed and I can now go forth and do battle with the end of term, and Christmas.

This is because I’ve had my R & R in La La. You really should pay a visit.

Christmas Chocolates

I was so excited when I found Carnival Sprinkelz available from the wonderful Dietary Needs Direct. Psychadelic, e-number enhanced sprinkles can trigger asthma in my eldest girl, and are usually full of something my youngest girl can't eat. These sprinkles though are great. Dairy free and gluten free, and they look so pretty! You have to put a good layer of them into the mould before pouring on the chocolate, otherwise the chocolate seeps through.

I got some fab chocolate moulds from Home Chocolate Factory, but if you don't want to buy chocolate moulds, fear not. A very, very clever lady who reads my blog emailed me with her A1 idea. She had very selflessly eaten the entire contents of a milk chocolate advent calendar; Mother love is second to none. This was so that she could thoroughly scrub, rinse, scrub and scrub the advent calendar moulds so that they were chocolate free. She then melted some chocolate her child could eat and poured it into the moulds. Et voila, one happy child, one amazing mother. (Wish I'd thought of it)

100-150g dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids or more (dairy free, gluten free) You might need more or less depending on how many chocolates you wish to make
A box or two of sprinkles (optional), buy them here

  • If you have a chocolate machine, turn it on. If not put a little water into a small saucepan and set a heatproof bowl on top. The water shouldn't touch the base of the bowl. Put the saucepan on to a low heat
  • Break the chocolate into the chocolate machine or the heatproof bowl
  • Stir it frequently as it melts to prevent it from sticking. Take it off the heat when all the chocolate has just melted; you don't want it too runny
  • If you are using sprinkles, cover the base of the chocolate mould with them. Make sure you get a good thick layer
  • Using a teaspoon, spoon the chocolate into the moulds. Put in one spoonful and gently 'push' the chocolate to the edge of the moulds. Add more spoonfuls if necessary, push to the edges and fill the mould to the top
  • Put the moulds into the fridge and leave to harden, it should take about 40 minutes
  • Turn out the moulds onto a cooling tray or plate. Aren't your chocolates pretty?!
  • I wrapped mine in tin foil and put them in the advent box, you must do as you see fit with yours.
  • I tell you what, it's miserable having a child with allergies, it's a lot of saying 'no'. So it's just lovely when you put something pretty and gorgeous in front of them and they gasp with delight and their siblings yell that they want one too...this was one of those times.

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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elizabethm said...

Oh, had not thought about The Faraway Tree for about a million years! Now I am feeling all strange and little. Still think Enid Blyton is both fabulous and crap (with the fabulous just winning!). Hope your children enjoy your particular magic. They are lucky.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

You really are a great mummy! Making special chocolates so everybody gets to be the same.
You're also insane - 11 costumes!!
As for PC names, my eldest has obviously misheard bad words at school because when his little brother caught him in the privates the other week, he said 'Ow, you hit me in the dink.'! Bet you wont see that in a new edition of Enid Blyton.

Amber said...

I am so glad to have found your site. We're already dairy-free, but heading to gluten-free and vegan territory. Scary places to go alone!

Frog in the Field said...

Good morning Pig,
Thanks for your morale-booster, I feel better now.

This is your best ever post. I LOVE the Faraway Tree.
You're spot on, as usual, and very, very funny.
Perfect Pig, always my favourite animal!
ps. mine are having babies in a few weeks...I'm So excited.

Potty Mummy said...

11? Eleven? I said, ELEVEN? Good grief.
I had forgotten all about the Faraway Tree, but you just took me back and it was delightful. Can't stop - I'm off to Amazon to order a copy. And if they don't sell the old-fashioned names I shall go through it with Tipp-ex and alter the lot...

Suffolkmum said...

I just loved the Faraway Tree. Can't wait until my girl is old enough to read them - funnily enough I was telling her about the stories the other day and she looked at me as if I'd gone mad. Loved you PC take on them - and agree the 'new' versions are awful.You do sound like a fab Mum. am insanely jeaous.

Lucy said...

LOL - loved your PC faraway tree though am disturbed to hear it has actually happened... am very inspired by chocolates. have moulds, off to dietary needs direct :) All the best for the eleven costumes - I remember a week of 30 ballet skirts in the past - not pretty (well they were, buy ykwim!).

Iota said...

La la land? Don't you mean blogland? I frequently escape to exotic Africa (Reluctant Memsahib), or glamorous city life (First Paris Then Rome), or a cattle ranch (Confessions of a Pioneer Woman). Or I sometimes think things to myself like "oh, if only I had the right role model, I'm sure I could be the kind of mother who makes home-made chocolates for Christmas and volunteers to sew eleven costumes for the nativity play", as I return from Wal-Mart with my shop-bought fare.

Stay at home dad said...

Hadn't come across that! Do drugs play a part? You are turning into a combination of Murakami and Calvino - great stuff...

Mrs Steinway said...

Lovely, lovely blog bringing back many happy memories. Saucepan Man was a favourite and we still bring up his name whenever anyone mis-hears anything! We are now working our way through the Famous Five and all the queer (or should I say "strange?")adventures they get up to. Not sure about dodgy Uncle Quentin, the mad scientist...

dulwichmum said...

Oh darling Pig!

You make me laugh, my midwife used the expression "Front Bottom" - and I loved her for it!

Miss Thistle said...

Have to say dipped into 'Faraway' land recently and was not quite as I remembered it, but my daughter enjoyed it. We have had the 'fanny' discussion including it's different meaning in the U S.

Best swear word conversation has to be my boy at 5 - saw the 'F' word written on a wall.

Son: 'Oh Mummy! look what someone's written on the wall.

Me: Yes dear, how terrible (or something like that)

Son: Yes and they've spelt it wrong, it should be 'F O O K'.

How about that for synthetic phonics?|!

Love Miss T

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on the cookies! Thanks for sharing.

Sheltie Girl @ Gluten A Go Go

Mya said...

Lovely post. Sprog's teacher is called Fanny. He's only four and didn't raise an eyebrow. His father on the other hand...I'm not sure which one is the kid sometimes!

Mya x

Marianne said...

How I loved the Magic Faraway Tree and The Enchanted Wood and how my sons loved them too. I have fond memories of listening to them at Story Time - 3.30pm - just before home time, in Reception and Infants 1 aged 4 and 5, thumb firmly stuck in mouth, imagination running riot. I credit Enid Blyton with turning me and my children on to reading, but apparently she has been out of favour for some time in PC land.

Just making plans to go and see The Golden Compass when school breaks up. More for me than anyone else I think!

Casdok said...

Great post!

@themill said...

Thank you for reminding me about The Faraway Tree, I'd completely forgotten.
Eleven??? I think I'd have stayed in La La.
Very amusing post

Elsie Button said...

all this PC nonsense is such boll**ks. I can't believe the names have been changed!

I loved the idea that we might be 'alienating our cousins from across the pond' though!

i have to get my hands on some of these faraway tree books now!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

ElizabethM, Enid Blyton is where reading started for me; I love reading her archaic observations on life. I'm not sure my children enjoy my exhausted end of term irritability, it should calm down next week tho!

A@LF, I'm only lovely sometimes, please don't have me on a pedestal! Thank god the costumes are done, this week is a breeze compared to last week. 'Dink' is a good word for it, but he might want to avoid adding a 'y' to that as he gets older; male pride and all that

Amber, I'm so glad that you've found my site...I will happily accompany you on your scary journey!

FITF, Oh you are a love, thank-you very much! I REALLY want one of your baby pigs!

PottyM, I have rued the day I agreed to do the costumes, but it's all over and done with now!I hope you manage to get an authentic DicK and Fanny copy!

SuffolkMum, the Faraway tree is iconic! I'm only fab sometimes, 'just about occasionally good enough' all the other times...

Lucy, perhaps we should start a 'bring back The Faraway Tree as we knew it' petition. Have fun playing with melted choc, and the sprinkles look so pretty! I fold in the face of your 30 ballet skirts...

Iota, lovely to see you're still out there lurking! Good point, blogland is the new La La. I REALLY want the address of your Walmart, all this home madey stuff is mostly by necessity!

SAHD, do you know, I think she really did try the mushrooms in the forest, it's a truly fantastical trilogy; your little girl would like them! And bless you for kind compliment. I am a literary durr-brain, i had to google your impressive authors!

Mrs S, oh how we love the Faraway Tree! I have to say I found Saucepan man a little tedious; he would need state of the art hearing aids in my new version. Or perhaps everyone could learn basic signing to ease the conversations. I have grave doubts about Uncle Quentin. I think he would be on some sort of register nowadays, and probably would have restricted access to his children. Not that I want to start any rumours...

DulwichMum, a health professional used that term? Wow. I bet she read Enid Blyton.

Miss T, I am refraining from making some crude allusion to your use of the words dip and Fanny. Especially as we've been talking about Dick. I think your son is ace! Isn't it about time you moved back down south? Everyone knows it's spelt 'F A C K'.

Sheltie Girl, why thank-you!

MYA, you see? If we all called our children things like Fanny, Dick and Willy we could raise a pure-minded generation that didn't go 'ppffffff!' and snigger behind their hands at such names! I shall not be leading the charge though, perhaps you'd like to volunteer?!

Marianne, ahh, a fellow Tree hugger. I'm so impressed that you can remember hearing them when you were 4, I only have a very hazy memory of being handed a dolly mixture. That's something that wouldn't happen nowadays. I do hope you enjoy the Golden Compass!

Casdok, thank-you!

@theMill, you are very welcome. I think i was IN La La when I agreed to do it. Think I'll keep quiet next year.

ElsieB, it is a sad but true fact; the names have been changed. Make sure you get an old version!

Elissa - Managing Autism said...

Mmm... I'd love a ticket to La La Land right now - express please!?!

PS - thanks for stopping by my blog, and what a delight to find yours!!!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Elissa, selcome. An express ticket, what a great idea! Do you think we could go first class too? They might serve champagne...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Elissa, I meant 'welcome'. Just in case you thought 'selcome' was some form of La La land Patois.