Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Colours of Christmas

Christmas colours in sunshine country! You no longer have to stick to the traditional red and green of mid-winter Christmases, but a new scheme of bright yellow, orange and red comes together all on its own. Sunflowers picked from the veggie garden, nasturtiums likewise, our everyday bright and cheerful plates seamlessly blending in.

Christmas Day was hot and sultry, so cold turkey, bacon wrapped sausages, gammon and salads were the order of the day. Followed by summer pudding, ice cream and a little tiny Christmas pudding just for tradition.

We still managed to be completely stuffed afterwards with barely any room for our traditional stripey jellies!

Now all the leftovers are finished, so I'm cooking a second gammon to eat cold for New Year's Day lunch - just to keep those Christmas flavours flowing.
And tonight we're celebrating with fillet on the braai. What about you?
Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Preparations

I haven’t been feeling very Christmassey so far. The press of work to be completed before Christmas, the usual self-employed person’s dread of the financial dead season casting a shadow over the delights of Christmas shopping, have rather left me lacking in the Christmas spirit.

But now our tree is is up – a beautiful one that my sister-in-law has had her eye on all year for it’s beautiful rounded and bushy shape. We cut it on Sunday, with a cluster of cousins visiting from the US to join in the fun.

It just fits into the house, talking up almost half the width of our sitting room, smelling of pine and twinkling with lights, two sets at least, the third one gave up after one day and we haven’t managed to find the guilty bulb!

Youngest helping bake the Christmas cakes

I’ve just made the marzipan for the Christmas cakes (baked a couple of weeks ago) – seemingly vast quantities of almonds, sugar and eggs, that underline how much of a festive celebratory excess Christmas cake really is.

I always use Delia’s recipe and just leave out the almond essence, adding extra lemon juice instead, and it makes a lovely mild marzipan, that all but the most ardent marzipan haters (my husband for one!) like.

Talking of marzipan I rather love the old English word for it – marchpane. It reminds me of a favourite children’s book by Alison Uttley, A Traveller in Time, where a little girl slips back to the 16th century in the time of Mary Queen of Scots. In between plots to rescue the sad queen from captivity, she fashions an elaborate model of the family farmhouse out of marchpane, an image that has stayed with me to this day. I could never work out how she made such intricate models and detailing from marzipan, which in my experience crumbles to pieces so easily... she must have had a different recipe!

Middle Daughter with papier mache goo hands

Middle Daughter has completed and wrapped an impressive stack of home-made presents, including papier mache masterpieces, our son has made his cards and has decided to make origami figures as presents this year, Youngest has written a story as one of her presents, that she was laboriously typing out on the computer, painful letter by painful letter. I stepped in and typed it for her, to her dictation, and just need to work out how to get it printed off to form a real book!

I on the other hand have purchased a total of two presents and am relying on last minute inspiration and the fact that the large family will anyway swamp our children with presents, so the tree will look suitably abundant on Christmas Eve!

How are your Christmas preparations going?