Wednesday 28 November 2018

Getting Prepared

It finally happened at the weekend, I began to think seriously about Christmas. Not so many years ago it would have all been organised by now. Lists would have been made weeks ago, most gifts would have been bought and wrapped and cards written, ready to be posted. I'm glad to say I have a far more relaxed approach these days and enjoy the season all the more for it. And yet, although I favour the more laid back view, there is still quite a bit of organising to be done, with the build up usually far busier than the day itself.

Whilst thinking about food and drink, my thoughts turned to making a Christmas cake. Not unusual, you might think, but I've never really been a fan of fruit cake (don't even get me started on marzipan) and for that reason it's been years since I made one. Maybe my tastes are beginning to change, but I think it was mainly to do with the whole process of making it. It has kind of got the festive season under way for me and lets not forget the wonderful enticing aroma which wafts around the house while it's baking. I'm really pleased with how it's turned out and I can't wait to decorate it now  but, of course, the proof will be in the eating.

It was a pottering kind of a weekend, catching up with chores, a quick trip into town and making Christmas plans but these fell by the wayside slightly and we just had to get out for a walk. We decided on the nearby deer park and our early arrival meant it was lovely and quiet, save for a handful of dog walkers and, of course, the deer. The trees are mostly bare now and the branches made for some impressive silhouettes against the wintry looking sky.

Back on track, I set to and made the Christmas chutney. It's simple to make and tastes so delicious with it's festive flavours. I'm really looking forward to enjoying it with my cheese and biscuits.

So, I've done it. I've made a start. This week I really need to turn my thoughts towards gift buying and I mustn't forget to set up the advent stockings - I often get caught out with this and find myself faffing around at the last minute. 

Christmas Chutney 🎄🎄🎄

Olive oil.
150g shallots, finely chopped.
2 pears, peeled and chopped .
1 large red Gala apple, peeled and chopped.
2cm fresh ginger, finely chopped.
175ml apple cider.
35ml white wine vinegar.
2 tablespoons lemon juice.
125g brown sugar.
1 star anise.
1 cinnamon stick.
1 teaspoon mixed spice.

Gently sauté the shallots in the oil. Add the pears, apple and ginger and stir through, cooking for another couple of minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for approximately 50 minutes. Pour into sterilised jars.

J. X

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Feeling Chilly

Thank you so much for all your good wishes on my last post. I'm relieved to say my sore throat is all but gone and I'm feeling much better.
Since the weekend, the temperature has plummeted here and the damp in the air only adds to the feeling of cold. I've been rummaging at the backs of drawers and cupboards for woolly hats, scarves and mittens and I'm pleased to report that the central heating is holding it's own - for now at least. I hope I haven't just jinxed it as I do not relish a repeat of last year.
The days are becoming darker now and the lack of sunshine is taking it's toll. I'm trying to remember to take care of myself  but it's the time of year when there is so much going on that time for myself is easily overlooked. As usual, it is something I need to prioritise.

This wasn't the situation at the weekend, however. The sun was shining and the weather was glorious - hardly a cloud in the sky. It is always a wonderful feeling when the good weather days and the weekend coincide with one another.
On Saturday we went for a gentle bike ride out towards the nature reserve. It had been a while since our last ride so we didn't cover many miles but we contented ourselves with the sea views and watching the gliders taking off and landing, one swooping so close, right above our heads.

I knew the forecast for Sunday was just as good, so had already planned for an early start to Gowbarrow Fell. The route begins by Aira Force and is a clearly marked, well trodden path, just the thing for a relaxed morning walk. We followed the path up through the waterfalls and around the side of the fell turning up sharply in order to reach the trig point on the summit. On the way back down we walked around the eastern side of the fell and were treated to the spectacular views of the lake opening up before us; the late autumn sunshine warming our faces and allowing for the removal of our jackets.
We found the perfect spot for our picnic - a row of rocks which appeared like a bench, overlooking the lake. However, my day was complete when, on return to the café at the car park, I enjoyed one of the best cups of tea ever! I know, I'm easily pleased. I'm not sure if it had been the fresh air and exercise that increased my satisfaction but it tasted soooo good. Although it had only been a gentle walk, this cup of tea was so welcome as tiredness suddenly overwhelmed me. Lily, on the other hand, managed it with ease and had even skipped most of the way!

While collecting Lily from school this evening, I noticed the roads through the village had been gritted,  most of the autumn colour has gone and the tree behind the house is now completely bare. This week I could really do to have a last tidy  up of the garden before winter and put away the outdoor table and chairs. I can't think that in a little over a week we will be entering the last month of the year but I'm getting ready to look forward to Christmas and all the excitement it will bring.


Edit. The gate in the second photograph holds cast iron British birds in military camouflage. It forms part of an art installation which is a war memorial on the site of former practice trenches used for training soldiers and cadets during the first and second world wars.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Picking Up

It felt a while since I'd hung out in this little space, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, in reality, it was only just over a week ago. I've been a bit under the weather, you see and feeling generally meh! One of the 'perks' of my job is that I am susceptible to any germs which may be flying around at any given moment  and a cold which had been threatening for a couple of weeks turned into full blown laryngitis almost overnight. My cough lasted only a day or so, leaving me with a sore throat, then my voice, which was initially just a bit hoarse, all but disappeared. It became more of a squeak, much to the amusement of some of my colleagues. I have been drinking plenty of fluids and easing my symptoms with some hot lemon and honey with a generous kick of ginger and turmeric and now, thankfully, I am slowly recovering. I may have also partaken of the occasional brandy in an evening - medicinal, of course.

Life has been quiet this week and aside from the usual work, school and home routine we haven't really been up to much. A walk on Sunday was much welcome. Fresh air and intermittent sunshine took my mind off my sore throat for a while as we experienced all kinds of weather in one afternoon. As we walked along, the rainfall looked quite dramatic in the valley, briefly allowing for a beautiful rainbow. Most of the trees are looking quite bare now, with the exception being this one, which was such a beautiful shade of gold I just had to take a photograph.

Recently, my thoughts have begun to turn towards the end of the year. Christmas (yes I've said it!) is only 40 days off now and although I don't like to start planning too early, I confess to treating myself to a festive magazine and feeling a little bit of excitement stir within. With the increasingly dark days I can't help but feel a little gleeful at the prospect of fairy lights, sparkle and glitter, although I've yet to start writing any lists or thinking about food. I'm going to try my very best to strike a balance between peaking too soon and leaving things until last minute. Maybe this will be the year I will crack it.

For anyone else who is suffering like I was.

Lemon and Honey Remedy

The juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons of honey
1 large pinch of turmeric
1 inch of freshly grated ginger
Put it all in a mug and pour in hot water. Stir well. Add a shot of brandy or whisky if necessary.


Tuesday 6 November 2018

Kicking Through the Leaves

It doesn't feel like it's been a whole week since I last posted. As usual, time escapes me and with Hallowe'en, family visitors and Bonfire Night all within the last seven days, I've been scurrying around trying to keep on top of it all.
Our Hallowe'en was quiet. We didn't receive as many visitors as we thought we might, so there was a substantial amount of chocolates and sweets left over. Although, having been stored in an easily accessible position on the kitchen worktop, there are not many remaining now :) 

Last Saturday was very wet and windy and we did something we haven't done for a while, we stayed home......all day! It was unusual for us, but if we had ventured out, we would have ended up cold, wet and miserable. It was a good excuse to spend some time in the kitchen, however, and it resulted in some delicious butternut squash and sweet potato soup, garnished with  toasted pumpkin seeds and the obligatory ginger cake was made in time for Bonfire Night. The soup was hearty and delicious and really warmed us through. The ginger cake was tasty, light and just the right amount of sticky that is necessary at this time of year. It  just has to stick to your fingers. The recipe can be found here.

The following day, we went for a short walk through the fields and into the woods. I'm enjoying the colour of the leaves just now, as in no time at all the trees will be bare, and until the festive decorations appear, we will be left with the sudden greyness of days which is November. The woodland floor is a carpet of golden leaves and I'd defy anyone to walk along without kicking them. I don't think I will ever tire of it. In the afternoon I went for a short run and on leaving the village, the sides of the lane held  drifts of leaves at least two feet deep. Very tempting, but at the time I was concentrating hard on just being able to run. It has been far too long since I did any kind of exercise and it is telling on me.

This tree overlooks the back of our house and is the most gorgeous shade of burnt orange. It's not the best photograph but you get the idea.

Monday was Bonfire Night and we went to a bonfire and firework display a short walk away, up the hill from our house. The pathway was really dark and at times it was almost impossible  to see where we were walking, not helped by the amount of leaves beneath our feet. And yes, there was some more leaf kicking going on. It was a great evening and very well supported by the local community. Back home we lit our sparklers and our last remaining pumpkin in the garden.
J. X