Hope everybody had a good time over the Holidays! As some of you had still not received their recipes after Christmas, we just wanted to let you know that there will be another chance to link up your cooking adventures in the new year, so that nobody needs to miss out due to slow mail. Please, please let us know if you are still waiting, we'd love to sort the situation out for you!
All you recipe senders: if you have not heard back from your partners, would you do us a terribly nice favour and follow up with them? In case anybody's mail got lost in a flurry of Christmas deliveries, maybe you could email your recipe instead, so that there is at least something to work with? That would be fab! Thanks for being great and so patient!
All the non-swappers who come hear to read: sorry it's been quiet, but I've been busy Christmassing... I'll be back for your enjoyment in the new year, okay?
Just one more sleep (for us Germans) and maybe two more for a few of you other people, and then it's going to be Christmas! Wahey! Marco and I are staying home this year, just the two of us and the cats.
That means mushroom lasagna, one present, and calls to my family on Christmas Eve; a good breakfast, more presents, Beef Wellington, and calls to Marco's family on Christmas Day; and just generally spending a lot of time on the sofa, getting drunk on mulled wine & cocktails in front of the fire, consuming mountains of cheese & mince pies, reading & watching movies, and maybe going for a nice walk if the weather allows.
I love this time between the years, it's my favourite! December always is so busy, and time just rushes by. Having these few days off now, with a license to be completely lazy, and the time to contemplate the past months, will help me slow down and take stock, and to prepare myself for a new year full of promise.
I am leaving you with one of my favourite new Christmas songs and the warning that I might just be too full/tipsy/snoozy to blog for the next few days. But I am sure you will understand, as I have a feeling that you may be somewhat busy yourselves!
For me, the Holidays are irrevocably linked with cocktails. Gets the spirit of Christmas in you like nothing else! Get it?! Spirit?! I'm so funny!
I have a big book of drinks recipes, and Marco and I try a few new ones every year. Happy days! The recipe for these candy cane Martinis came from my head, though. My non-inebriated head, mind you! They are really a natural follow-up to the candy cane hot chocolate I like to drink.
CANDY CANE MARTINIS
1 candy cane
20 ml sugar syrup (plus more for the rim)
100 ml vanilla vodka
10 drops peppermint flavouring
Pulverize the candy cane in a small food processor or spice grinder. Tip out onto a small, flat plate. Pour a little bit of sugar syrup onto another small, flat plate. Take two Martini glasses and dip them first in the syrup and then in the candy cane dust to ice the rims.
Put a small handful of ice into a cocktail shaker. Add the sugar syrup, the vanilla vodka and the peppermint flavouring. (I use flavouring instead of essence intentionally, to get a real, sugary sweet candy cane taste. You can substitute essence, if you like, maybe just use a little less).
Shake it all up and strain into your glasses. Serve with a candy cane in each for show.
Ta-da! Our Christmas tree. Marco & I were quite late getting one this year, and went to 3 nurseries and one Homebase on Sunday, just to be confronted with the leftover trees that nobody else had wanted. I was ready to give up when we took one last look at a roadside stall and chanced upon the perfectly bushy, lush green tree. We decorated it last night. Yay.
There's always carols, there's always tipple, there's always an argument about arranging the lights. The cats are always surprised by finding greenery in the living room, but are then forever fascinated by the low-hanging baubles.
We do not yet own very many really meaningful decorations. Some are festive gift toppers or little trinkets that have accumulated over the years, most of what hangs on the tree are cheap-and-cheerful pound store finds and IKEA bargains, but I do try and buy a new bauble every year. The Red Cup is this year's investment. High class, I know... I get so excited whenever the Christmas coffees hit Starbucks that I had to buy it when I saw it. The gold maple leaf was our first new bauble on our first Christmas tree together, and I bought the robin at a local craft fair last year.
After the baubles comes the tinsel and at the very last, Marco places the topper on the tree. And after that, we sit on the sofa for a while, marvelling at our decorating skills and sipping alcohol. Even though I still feel completely disorganized in all other festive areas, in my mind the tree officially starts the countdown to the relaxation and sofa-time that I will get over the holidays.
Do you guys have a tree? Does everybody around here even do Christmas, or do you celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah or nothing at all? If you do have a tree, do you go real or fake? And do you decorate it the same every year or do you have different themes? My Mama does different colours every year, for example. Do you have white lights or coloured? Do your lights flash? When does your tree go up? Let me in on it!
I got my swap recipe last week! It came all the way from Canada, from Jessi, who is one half of Sparrows & Arrows. I have been following Jessi's blog for a while, and she even guest-posted here in September, so I was very happy to be paired up with her!
Jessi sent me a recipe for sugar tarts that has been in her family for a long time and are a staple at Christmas. I loved the little lace trim on the recipe card, that was such a cute touch.
Aunt Vera was Jessi's great-grandfather's sister, in case you were wondering. I made her tarts on Sunday.
I could not find any frozen tart shells here in Britain, so I just bought some ready-rolled dessert pastry and cut out rounds with the scalloped side of a cookie cutter.
I placed them in a muffin tin and pricked them with a fork before I poured in the filling. In the end I had 12 tarts and a bit of leftover filling. Because I also had some pastry left, I made one big tart out of the remains.
Marco and I had the tarts for Kaffee & Kuchen and liked them a lot. They had formed a lovely sugary crust on top of the sweet gooey filling, which reminded me of crème brûlée. Marco said they tasted almost like the butter tarts he used to buy when he still lived in Vancouver. He got fairly excited!
Thank you, Jessi! I would call these tarts a definite success and they will be made again!
P.S.: Swappers! Don't forget to link up your recipe posts HERE or HERE! It would be lovely for everybody to see what you've been up to and Fiona and I will do a round-up some time after Christmas to showcase your creations.
The new season of The Big Bang Theory has just started over here. Which means that I finally have new episodes to watch. Once, or twice. Maybe three times if I have nothing better to do. I like this show!
When I first tuned into it, I knew I would enjoy the show even before the opening credits were done. The theme song is by Barenaked Ladies! They just published a video for it this year, which was filmed on set.
When Marco and I were visiting with his family in Canada this fall, he took me to a small town called Fort Langley, just outside Vancouver. It was a lovely sunny day and we spent a whole afternoon exploring.
We first visited the Fort Langley National Historic Site. This is an open air museum on the exact spot where the Hudson's Bay Company created a trading post in 1827, which lead to the exploration of the area and finally to the creation of the province of British Columbia in 1858. You can read more on the fort's history here, if you are interested.
The museum is really well curated, with many items that conjure up the lives and times of the first European settlers and their interactions with the native First Nations people. The buildings are even staffed with people who get into character for demonstrations and talks. They were also really helpful in case you had questions.
After leaving the museum grounds, we went for a look around the historic town, which has some beautiful old wooden buildings and a few cute stores and eateries.
To wrap up the day, we went for a spot of antiquing at the treasure trove which is The Village Antiques Mall. I could have bought so much, I think Marco was glad there would be restrictions on our luggage on the way home. There were vintage pyrex, crockery, fabrics, kitchen paraphernalia, books, clothes, magazines, knick-knacks galore! At a fraction of the price that you would pay for the same things in London.
This was only one of the antique stores I visited, in addition to a few thrift stores, and now that I know what I am missing I am even more jealous when our North American blogger friends post about their thrifting trips!