Monday 30 December 2013

Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon, and another walk - boys really do need a huge amount of exercise.  Mine seem to anyway.  Otherwise they resort to wrestling in the middle of the living room floor.

Sunday was a lovely day, with clear skies and winter sunshine.

We walked along the seafront and did some scrambling about on rocks, which is one of their favourite things.  The tide was in, which we haven't seen for ages, so it was quite novel to see some little waves breaking over the rocks.

The temperature was maybe eight degrees.  And the water temperature, who knows?  Maybe ten degrees.  Certainly not warm enough for this...

Oh my.  Onlookers stood open-mouthed as this group of swimmers stripped and took the plunge.

You will note the woman on the beach in the coat and the woolly hat.  That was the appropriate thing to be wearing.  I imagine you feel quite amazing after a dip in water that cold, but honestly, I struggle to get into a heated indoor swimming pool unless it's about twenty-five degrees outside.

To the boys' delight, one of the swimmers climbed out on the slipway where they were stood.  I think they asked him if it was cold.  He certainly wasn't in for long.

The boys spent some time running away from the waves, just until their feet were well and truly soaked.  Then we walked up to the community bookshop.

I love the piles of books on the mantelpiece and the cosy alcoves and beanbags for the children.  It's easy to spend an hour there browsing.

Back at home we're doing all the happy post-Christmas things, like staying in pjs until lunch-time (mostly the littlest boy, he's very resistant to getting dressed and only really does it willingly when there's a persuasive reason to), making delicious things with leftovers, working our way through the gingerbread house and playing Christmas board games.  We had three this year.

The first one was a little confusing, but we quite enjoyed it in the end when we worked out how to work as a pack to stop a player from winning.  A little shouting was involved, but only of the excited kind.  So far no-one's tipped a board over.

The second game was given to the oldest boy who is an avid bird watcher.

There are twelve boards and sixty-four different birds to match, from all over the world.  It's really nicely made, and includes a booklet with information about each bird.  My favourite - the blue-footed booby.  How wonderful.

And finally, there've been hours of Monopoly.

I quite enjoyed it for the first few days, although I've got to the point where I can see the street names when I close my eyes.  But really, sitting in a lovely warm home with my three favourite people, watching them have fun.  There is nowhere I'd rather be.

Hope you are enjoying these slow post-Christmas days too.

Friday 27 December 2013

Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and a bit in between

On Christmas Eve we took advantage of the beautiful weather and went for a walk at Frampton-on-Severn, a little way up the road from us.

It's a very old village, with the largest village green in England - some 22 acres.  Along the edges are Tudor and Georgian houses and cottages.  It's a beautiful place for a walk at any time, but on Christmas Eve it was magical to see twinkling lights in the windows.  Christmas Eve is one of my favourite days.  All that anticipation and excitement.  Everything just looks perfect.  I took lots of photos as we wandered along.

Love this one, it's amazing.  Above and below are shots from a slightly different angle to give an idea of the size and spread of it.  I believe it dates from the 15th century.

The village is low lying and close to two rivers, the Severn and the Frome.  After all the rain there was a lot of water in the fields.

We walked the length of the village, until the edge was taken off of the little people.  They all declared their legs to be tired by the time we returned.  Mission accomplished.

Christmas Day was quiet but good.  We made a hospital visit in the afternoon, and on the way back we stopped to see a nearby house that's lit up every year for charity.

Visitors are welcome to walk into the garden and up to the door.  It really is quite astonishing.  I'm guessing their electricity bill is too.

After Christmas we have a little tradition of going to Weston-super-Mare to walk along the beach.  We do this on Boxing Day or New Year's Day, depending on the weather.  As Boxing Day was fine, we went while we could.  The beach is vast, a huge space for running in the cold fresh air after being cooped up inside on Christmas Day.  There are always lots of other people with dogs and boys doing exactly the same thing.

Back at home we're enjoying our Christmas presents, especially Monopoly and a complicated train board game.  We're managing not to squabble (too much) over them.  And we're working our way through the gingerbread house.

And yes, I know it doesn't look exactly like Mary Berry's...  There's a big gap in the roof, the icing dropped into the candle inside and the tree fell down.  I was tempted to try lighting the candle anyway, but I thought that it might result in clouds of black smoke billowing out of the door.  Might have made for a good shot.  Anyway, I've been doing my bit to help eat it.  It's surprisingly delicious.  And surprisingly vast.  I'll press on.

Monday 23 December 2013

Recipes on the backs of envelopes

Every December I make a little album with a photo or two from each day, and a few words.  I love getting them out every year and putting them in a basket in the living room.  Everyone likes to look through them, and remember some of our favourite moments.

I put in all sorts of things from our everyday life, as well as special events.  A handful of favourite festive recipes are included, and I've been searching them out, as well as others.  It occurred to me this year that it would be lovely to have a book with just the recipes in them - it occurred to me after I spent ages hunting down each recipe that I wanted - they are all dotted around in different places.

I'm a real hoarder when it comes to recipes.  I have a box, a file and a plastic wallet, all stuffed with all manner of recipes, from magazines, library books, blogs and websites, from friends and relatives.  In fact, I really treasure the odd one or two that have been handwritten by special people.  I think that inherited recipes are wonderful.  To cook the same food as someone else keeps them close and carries on tradition.

But how to store recipes in the long term?  I'd like to be organised about it.  An exercise book?  A ringbinder?  A special notebook?  Oh how I love notebooks.  I'm giving it consideration.  And I'd love to hear how you keep your favourite recipes.  In the meantime, I have my envelopes and my stuffed plastic wallet.

The kitchen has been busy today.  A lovely way to spend a cold, wet, wild day.  I lit a candle, took a deep breath and started making a gingerbread house with the children.  We've got all of the pieces baked.  Tomorrow we'll be moving on to icing and construction.  And then I'll be washing the floor.  Wish me luck.  While the gingerbread was cooling I made the Christmas cake.

This is the recipe I always use.  It can be made just before it's needed, and it isn't soaked in brandy, which is a plus in my book.

On the tree today we have cranberry decorations, made at Slimbridge by the little people.

Very simple to make, even the smallest person can poke the wires through the cranberries and thread on the odd silver bead or two.  I love the decorations that are made with natural things.  And the decorations that are made by the little people.  After Christmas Slimbridge will be doing bird feeders with cranberries, and no doubt we'll be going back for that.  We're never away for more than two or three weeks.

Tomorrow I'm aiming to make a nut roast and maybe a yule log.  And then I think I'll be done.  Ready.  Ish.  So it only remains for me to wish you all the loveliest of Christmases and a very happy New Year.  See you on the other side.