Monday, 27 December 2010

White Christmas

 A wonderful white Christmas! I caught a virus Christmas shopping and was offline for over a week. What with the snow, camp fever set in and by the 23rd I was painting skirting boards and door frames!
Having voraciously read The Other Queen by Phillippa Gregory - I was swept away by the enigma that was Mary Queen of Scots - and The Help by Kathryn Stockett - paradoxical relationships in 1960s southern states - I am now catching up with Jackson Brodie in Kate Atkinson's 4th genre bending crime novel. The snow has become a regular feature of the landscape now and I will be sad if it melts away tomorrow as predicted. Lots of long, gluteus enhancing walks and today sledging in the Golden Valley. Yesterday I glanced up from my book to check the clock at 4 ish and I swear it is getting noticeably lighter in the evenings. A bit of internet research tells me that this close to the winter solstice it is only by seconds a day but that the rate speeds up as we near the spring equinox due to Earth's elliptical orbit of the sun. However it has been good to emerge from the grey fog, have some bright days and, I still swear, lighter afternoons. We have had some beautiful Blakeian light with pink skies and snows, see my pics, and though not captured on camera I was rewarded on my way to midnight mass on Christmas eve by the sight of a beautiful fox rolling in the snow on the roadside as I drove past totally unfazed by the headlights as I slowed down for a better look!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas Hoo Ha and New Year resolutions

I know already what my New Years resolutions will be - at least two of them anyway. I must chill out more by making more quiet time and doing more active stuff. I hate being cold and sometimes confuse that with being out in the cold which of course does really warm you up. And I hate aching muscles and joints so sometimes forget how much I enjoy the swimming, sailing, cycling, walking that can make me achey and I forget that sitting at the keyboard just makes different bits of me stiff and sore. One thing I haven't done enough of this year is riding out on the bike and the one thing that causes me to pause before a long ride is, well, it's a sensitive subject really. So the product on the right, the aptly named Hoo Ha Ride Glide from my friends at caught my interest, is on my Christmas list to myself and will hopefully encourage the start of an active New Year! Top of my published list is this fab Iceguard coat from Jack Wolfskin which I happen to know I will get even though it is out of stock everywhere - I can't wait to check it out in the snow! Talking of which it is falling again in big soft clumps so I am hoping for a freeze overnight and a winter wonderland in the morning for the last day of school. Looking forward to relaxing next week, most cards are sent, though I missed the last U.S. posting date again,  the presents that have arrived are wrapped and I hope the rest are in the post, and I am looking forward to cooking, watching movies and playing with grandsons.That's as active and chilled as it gets until after holidays. Happy Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Winter on the Ridgeway

The respite from the cold lasted barely two days, since when the frost has been bitter and beautiful. I was determined to walk in the daylight and managed to be on the Ridgeway west of Aldbury to capture these pictures as the light faded. As the sun set the utter beauty of the empty landscape shining under the hoar was total. Lights winked on in the distance as I headed home.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

lemon curd

I waited all week for a daylight walk in the snow but last night the rains came and it was all but washed away. Today being warmer we did a tidy up in the garden instead and even put in a few last minute bulbs - lots of narcissus to look forward to from February and alliums for later on - I can't wait! The bulbs I planted in October are already peeping through so I'm hoping that a week of minus temperatures has put them on hold rather than finished them off completely.
Putting up 'the lights' was as traumatic as every year and now they are on hold for a few days too. Then I had the good idea of putting an extra layer of insulation in the loft which mysteriously led to a damaged pipe, fused lights and a damp patch on the landing ceiling, so no money saved there. Serves me right for not doing it myself........
So, some cooking for the soul. Lemon curd -  smelling of summer at Christmas, glossy after an hour of stirring, infusing the house (and my hair) with citrus, the shining jars cooling on the kitchen window sill. As I stirred I listened to the fabulous 'I Claudius' on Radio 4.

my lemon curd recipe
put 8oz butter in a preserving pan and melt gently.
add 24 oz caster sugar (I keep a vanilla pod in the jar)
and the zest and juice of 9 lemons.
Stir for ages until the sugar is completely dissolved, then cool until you can leave your finger in it comfortably.
Meanwhile whisk 8 eggs in a bowl and when the mixture is comfortable whisk them in.
Then stir constantly as you raise the temperature. It should still never get too hot for your finger.
As you gradually raise the heat the curd will thicken like custard and when it coats the back of a spoon quite stickily it is ready to ladle into warmed jars.
Pop a wax disc on top and tighten the lid. Store in a cool place and try not to eat all at once!
I always feel a little queasy after lemon curd making as it is hard not to taste it often. Some people strain it but I like to nibble on the zest. This made 4 jars and a little one and it is Yummy!