Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Wishes

Dear Friends,

May this Christmas be full of...

lovely gifts...

cosy sweaters...



 and fun in said snow...


great friends (thanks Sarah - I love it!) and wonderful memories of good times past...


gorgeous edible treats...


 and childhood nostalgia (this one is Rob's).


May Santa bring all you ask for...


may all your Christmas wishes be granted...


may we all stay safe...


and whatever faith you have - or none - may this season bring blessings, peace, joy and goodwill.

 Love from Kate x

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas Approaches... bring on the snow and cake!

"Let it Snow!" I pronounced in my last blog post, and...  sure enough, it has!  You might think I'd be immune to the charms of snow having lived through two Canadian winters, but I still find something magical in it.  I suppose it's that it's always quite unexpected here in England.  I just love how the snow brings so much excitement - on our walk yesterday we saw so many people having fun on sledges. 

The snow has also made everyone so cheerful.  Practically everyone we have passed whilst walking this weekend has greeted us with a cheery 'hello!' and one even offered us a go on their sledge!

Of course, it's only lovely if you have nowhere you need to go.  We haven't really had to drive anywhere this weekend so it's not been a problem.  I didn't much enjoy my snowy commute to work on Friday though... 

So, what better to do on a snowy weekend after a long walk than to enjoy some festive food?  Wherever we are spending Christmas Day itself, Rob and I always like to cook our own early Christmas Dinner, so that's what we did last night.  Turkey, stuffing, bacon-wrapped chipolatas, lots of sprouts - even a Christmas Pudding.  It was gorgeous!

My Christmas baking has also been done.  Having salivated over Nigella's Chocolate Christmas Cake recipe and heard excellent reports of it from my online foodie friends, I decided to go with the version in Feast (very similar to the version in Nigella's Christmas).  As ever the contents of my cupboards necessitated a little tweaking of the recipe (no Tia Maria?  Mix up some Rum and Camp Coffee instead!), and I left out the candied peel because, well, it's gross. 

The recipe made one 20cm cake, as stated, but I had quite a lot of mixture left over so managed to also make 4 cute mini loaf-cakes as well.  These were very handy for giving as Christmas presents, especially when adorned with edible glitter and chocolate stars.

And the cake itself?  Amazing.  Gorgeous.  Better than I ever expected!  Even Rob, who really didn't like the idea of it, and even grimaced in disgust when he tasted the uncooked mixture, is a convert.  You can't really taste the chocolate in it, but the cocoa and the coffee add a deep rich smokiness to the cake.  The texture is not as dense as a traditional fruit cake, but it's heavy with moist fruit, spongy and sticky.  In short, perfect. 

The recipe can be found in many places online, but here's a link on the BBC Food website.  I can't recommend it enough.  I had a large slab of it with a cup of tea this afternoon... and now I'm a little worried about how I'll fit in my 'Boxing Day' supper of cold turkey and fried stuffing!  I'm sure I'll manage.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Weather Outside is Frightful...

But the scene in front of the fire has been delightful.  What could be nicer than sitting on the sofa, warming up after a brisk walk with a cup of tea and a toasted crumpet, and surrounded by recipe books?   I'm thinking of making the Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit Cake, as pictured in Nigella's Christmas book.  It's the phrase 'incredibly easy' that's tempting me... oh yes, and the word 'chocolate'.  I'm also keen to find an excuse to use my 'Hologram Gold Disco Glitter' once again - it looks stunning on top of a dark cake such as this one.

The Jane Asher book is from the local library.  I'm glad I didn't buy it, her writing style really irritates me, although there are some nice-looking recipes that I might just take note of before returning the book.

A little later on and the tea and crumpets are replaced by wine...  and the Christmas socks have emerged!  Ho ho ho.   It's still a little early for us to be decorating the house, although we nearly went to buy the Christmas tree this last weekend - we've decided to go next Saturday instead.  We did however collect some lovely holly.  Last year it was almost impossible to find any with berries on it, so this year we were keen to grab some as soon as we saw it.  We put some behind every picture in the sitting room, and I'll add some ivy too soon.  I like to use as much natural greenery as I can... but leaving plenty of room for some tasteless kitch decorations too!

Talking of kitch, we've also started playing our extensive collection of Christmas music.  Before we went to Canada we had a very tasteful selection of classic Christmas carols and festive choral music.  Now we have a broad range of other 'classics' such as Elvis' Christmas Album and The Beach Boys sing Christmas (thanks to a crazy moment in the cut-price music section of Walmart!).  My favourite album is a double CD I bought - rather oddly - at a Bath and Body Works shop in Las Vegas, entitled Glitter and Glow.  It has a fantastic selection of Christmas hits, some classics, some new recordings.  One of my very favourite tracks is this one from Bing Crosby:

Now if only the rain would stop... let it snow!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Wondering Around...

Spelling mistakes on printed or published materials really irritate me...  but sometimes they're just quite amusing.  Today we enjoyed a local walk and were pleased to see that we were free to 'wonder around' the area:

Here's Rob wondering.  I was wondering whether he could possibly have found a more embarrassing hat.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Advent Thoughts

I've never been one of those people who gets organised for Christmas months in advance.  I shudder when I hear Christmas carols in November, and I couldn't entertain the thought of having a Christmas tree in the house until the middle of December at the very latest (although I know from my 2 years in Canada that for many people Christmas starts as soon as Hallowe'en ends!).  It's all down to personal preference.

But having said that, I couldn't help feeling a little bit excited when Rob got this box down from the loft last weekend...  I can't quite believe we have enough 'Xmas Decs' to fill a box that big, but no doubt there'll be lots of things I've forgotten about since last year.

As it's now December 1st I'm off to put on a Christmas CD.  We have a self-imposed house-rule that we don't listen to them before now and consequently I'm really looking forward to hearing some festive music.  We went to a lovely Advent Carol service last Sunday and enjoyed singing lots of Advent hymns, which reminded me why I really do love this time of year.

I opened the first door of the Advent Calender with my class this morning and was delighted that - for the first time in the 11 years I have been doing this job - no child moaned about the fact that there was no chocolate inside it!  I also lit an Advent Candle with them; something I had never tried due to an irrational fear of the combination of flames and overly-interested small children.  They were fascinated by it, and we even managed to get in a bit of Science by observing the change from solid to liquid wax, and then liquid to solid as it cooled.  (Fortunately there was no chance to observe the combustibility of exercise books, furniture, thatched roof, etc...)

May your Advent be full of little excitements too!