Thursday, 4 December 2008

It wouldn't be Christmas without..............

.......balloons! Or it wouldn't in our house, anyway. My only grumble about them is their environmentally unfriendliness (for want of a better expression). However, I have now discovered balloons made from 100% latex, which is biodegradable, so they can go on the compost heap. However, having thought further, I will tie them with string instead of knotting them, then they can be let down and re-used next year.

I got them from these people, 1.99 for ten:

December garden

These were sown at the end of october (I think) and are looking good and healthy in a sturdy sort of way. I've pinched out the little tops to make them branch out (thus more flowering stems), and given them a good drink this morning.

This little pot sits on the front step - I actually bought one this year, as it turned out cheaper than buying the plants and filling one of my own pots; I love the cheerful colours at this time of the year.

Don't laugh - I took a photo of the washing on the line! Backlit by the winter sun, the colours were lovely, reminding me a bit of Tibetan prayer flags...........

This is what is still left of the apple mountain, but another couple of buckets of cottage cider and a couple of gallons of apple wine should see it off LOL

This stunning bark is on one of the betuals (birch) but I can't remember the rest of its name; a tall and slender tree, lovely in summer when it's in full leaf, and very very beautiful in winter, as this picture demonstrates.

So - that's wahat's happening in my garden today. :)

Christmas pudding!

The traditional ending to the Christmas meal, and I make one every year. I don't make one and keep one, as I think it tastes just as nice with a couple of weeks maturing as it might with a whole year. besides, I would only lose it, or someone would eat it!LOL
Above is my 2008 version; I use the same basic recipe, but add in adn take away according to whim or what's in the larder. For instance, this year, there are no nuts in it, but there were last year. Other additions over the years have been various types of alcohol, both home made and bought, a spoonful of marmalade to add a zing, lime juice, different types of flour. They've all tasted good, although a far cry from the original Christmas puddings which were a type of gruel or broth with fruit and meat in them. One indispensable ingredient for me, though, is a scant teasoopnful of cocoa - just a little, it adds a real richness and rounds out the taste fo the pudding completely. No more than that, or it willt aste a bit chocolatey.
I have an old silver sixpence which goes in it, I think George VI, wrapped in greasproof and slipped in before steaming for the second time. I like a sprig of holly on top too, nice and simple. Lots of cream, though............

The curious medlar

It certainly is a cuiosity these days, which is a real shame. When you see it written about, it's always attached to "long-forgotten" or "not much grown now" or "the forgotten fruit" or somesuch. Not in this house! I always wanted a medlar and a quince when I had room, and I now have both. The two above are, sadly, two thirds of the total crop this year; it wasn't a good eyar for top fruit, including the medlar. We had a good crop last year, and I made medlar jelly. I say jelly, but after reading an article by Linda Luard (great fan of hers here!), turns out I made medlar honey, which is fine by me. Teh Rayburn is difficult to get to a high heat and keep there, so my jelly-making is a bit hit and miss, but if I call them fruit honeys instead, problem sorted! They still taste as good, just a little runny honey-ish.

Back to the medlar - it's a lovely, small, slightly eccentric lokking tree with exquisite blossom in the spring of a pale pinky white. The fruits form over the summer, and are left on the treee to "blett' - turned soft and mushy by the frosts, when they are deemed fit to eat. To me, they taste fig-like.I can't remember teh exact translation, but the French word for them is soemthing to do with a dog's bottom, which I feel is very apt, given their shape! Always makes me laugh.
I'm optimistic that next eyar will be a great eyar for fruit, and I'll get lots of medlar honey made LOL.

Nowhere near as curious, but just as nice in the kitchen is one of my favourite herbs, the rather gorgeous parsley - I use huge amounts of it; this bunch was picked on Tuesday, and it stands well right through the winter before going to seed in the early summer.

There's an old saying that parsley will only thrivve in a house where the wife "wears the "wife wears the trousers". Mine always does very well, can't think why LOL.
Always use fresh seed to sow, and cover the sown seed with a little boiling water before covering over with soil or compost. Prick out in groups of two or three seddlings. If happy, it will self seed, and hoveflies love the flowers. It lsoes a lot of its oomph if it's dried, but freezes well, like I did teh basil, in ice cube trays with a little water.
Parsley makes and excellent wine, crisp and light. There are quite a few varieties available, my favourite is the Moss Curled one, dark green and full of flavour.
Also good in savoury baking - try it in cheese scones, cobblers, vegetable crumbles, etc. Indispensable for teh top of winter soups too, and in white sauce for broad beans or white fish.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

My dream home.................

And the winner is.....................

The winner of the November quilt giveaway is:

Lizziedripping (entered by e-mail)

Congratulations to her, and big thankyou to everyone who took time to enter, and thanks for reading the blog. I enjoy writing it and working on it, and it's nice to see lots of people stopping by to take a look.


Monday, 1 December 2008

New cushion

A new cushion probably isn't high on the excitement list for a lot of people, but I thought you all might understand! This isn't just any cushion, though - it's teh first cushion cover I have ever bought:O LOL. The past twenty years has seen me make them, recycle them, buy from jumbles and car boots, charity shops and the tip. Mostly home made, quite often the pads for the insides too.
However, I saw this one on Friday in a local shop, and it just *had* to come home with me for my rocking chair. :) It turned out to be a bargain, as it was the last on the shelf, it had a cushion pad inside it, so I got that included in the price too. At 8.00, it would have cost at least that much for the fabric alone. It's very pretty I think, and looks lovely in the chair. The dog had better not widdle on that one.............LOL

Moving swiftly on - thought for the week! I read these wise words in an article in the Edcuation Otherwise newsletter:

If you take care of the now, the future takes care of itself.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

St Andrew's Day

Today, 30th November is, ofcourse, St Andrew's Day.

St Andrew the King, three weeks and three days before Christmas comes in - traditional saying

The commencement of the ecclesiastical year is regulated by the feast of St Andrew, the nearest Sunday to which, whether before or after, constitutes the first Sunday of Advent, or the period of four weeks which heralds the approach of Christmas. St Andrew's Day is thus sometimes the first, and sometimes the last festival in the Christian year.

Chambers book of Days, 1864

So, in honour of the Patron Saint of Scotland, we are, in good old Scottish tradition, having curry for supper. My granny would be ashamed of me........LOL :)


O Winter! ruler of th'inverted year,


I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem'st,
And dreaded as thou art! Thou hold'st the sun
A pris'ner in the yet undawning east,
Short'ning his journey between morn and noon,
And hurrying him, impatient of his stay,
Down to the rosy west, but kindly still
Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gath'ring at short notice, in one group
The family dispers'd, and fixing though,
Not less dispers'd by daylight and its cares.
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fireside enjoyments, home born happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturb'd retirement, and teh hours
Of long uninterrupted evening, know.

William Cowper, The Task, "The Winter Evening' 1785

I love that piece; my favourite line is "Fireside enjoyments, home born happiness," -
sums it all up for me. I love winter.