Happy New Years Eve everyone! I hope you are all planning festivities of some kind. I will confess, I am a New Years Eve grinch. This is mostly due to my hatred of enforced fun and this evening is the worst kind of enforced fun. But, I am willing to go out and have a drink and see what happens. I have found over the years, the key to a good evening is to not have any expectations. So I am embracing that.
But I did not want to spend the last post of 2015 lamenting the terror of the evening. Rather, I have become, like almost all bloggers and writers I have read this week, reflective of this year in the past few days. I know that normally people post goals and resolutions for the coming year. I have certainly done so in the past. But then my friend Jen shared a link on Facebook, an article written by her friend, Karen Milford titled ‘You Were Awesome in 2015’. Intrigued, I read it and found an excellent idea – one that I have since chatted to Jen about and agreed is something we should do more often, but acknowledge this reflective period at the years end is probably the best time for it. The idea is to come up with a list of five things you are proud you accomplished in the year just gone. It is a stroke of genius. Instead of looking forward and feeling like a failure for all the goals you haven’t yet reached, the list allows the opportunity to look back and reflect on things you have actually done, however small. I’m calling it the ‘I Did That!’ List.
After much deliberation, here is my ‘I Did That!’ List.
1.) I finished my PhD and graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy. This seemed almost impossible at this precise point last year, when I’d just received comments back on my first draft. But sheer bloody mindedness and determination to get it done won out in the end.
2.) I moved in with Andrés, taking that big leap of faith in a shared life.
3.) I took the plunge and finally attended an education conference. I spent most of my PhD feeling like a really didn’t fit into an Education department, and attended more sociology and food studies conferences as a result. I finally got up the courage to go to BERA’s (British Educational Research Association) annual conference and presented my work. I discovered, with sheer joy, a number of other young researchers working in my field and we are now looking at collaborating on different things. And I discovered I do actually fit into Education, however obscurely, and that I am fascinated by other research in education, particularly that around teaching children the history of contested places.
4.) I travelled to Spain with Andrés, to meet his family. I was nervous and plagued by the usual ‘but what if they don’t like me?’ anxiety. We spent a week there, communicating in two, and sometimes three, languages, and I had a wonderful time. I did find I hated being unable to express myself adequately and so now I am learning Spanish.
5.) I learned to ski. I am often scared (and sometimes secretly thrilled) but I can get myself down a mountain or two on a pair of sticks strapped to boots. Proof that you really can learn to do anything if you set your mind to it.
So that is my list. What is yours?
And to round out the year, here is a final recipe. I made this for Boxing Day – baking it on Christmas Eve so it could mature. It is a supremely fantastic cake and the cookie butter icing will make you swoon. (Don’t be put off by the long ingredient list – it is essentially a melt and whisk cake.) I adapted the recipe for ingredients I had to hand and to make a small, one pan cake that could be sliced in half and iced.
Adapted from BBCgoodfood magazine (November 2015)
1.5 tbsp treacle
200g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60g light brown sugar
130g light muscavado sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
a pinch of ground cloves
115ml sunflower oil
75g plain yoghurt
75g creme fraiche
1 tbsp rum
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 170C and line one 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin with butter and parchment paper (line the base and the sides).
Heat the milk with the treacle until just warm and the treacle emulsifies into the milk. Set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb, spices, and sugars and whisk together, making sure you break up any sugar lumps.
Whisk the oil, yoghurt, creme fraiche, eggs, rum and vanilla together until combined. Then whisk in the milk/treacle mixture.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and whisk in the wet ingredients until smooth. Pour the mixture (it is quite liquid) into the cake tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack for half an hour before unmoulding and cooling completely before icing.
For the cookie butter frosting:
125g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar
150g philadelphia cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g cookie butter (Lotus biscuit spread smooth is good)
Combine the butter and half of the icing sugar. Beat until smooth. Add in the cream cheese and beat again until smooth. Add in the rest of the icing sugar, cookie butter and vanilla. Beat until soft and fluffy.
I found this makes enough for a crumb coat and a generous layer of frosting. I only wanted a crumb coat/naked cake look so I used half and have frozen the other half for use later. To ice the cake, slice it in half and sandwich it together with the frosting. Place the other half on top and cover the top and sides with frosting. If you want a clean finish, ice this layer quite thinly, and don’t worry about crumbs. Place the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes and then completely cover the cake with frosting again, taking care to smooth the sides and top. Decorate as desired.
I hope your 2016 is bright and light and full of wonder.