Sunday, 30 December 2012

Christmas Star


The top of our Christmas tree was lacking a star until I came across this one just before Christmas.  It added the finishing touch to our tree and when the lights are lit; it shines out in the darkness; just as the Christmas Star shone in the East thousands of years ago, guiding the pilgrims to Bethlehem.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Merry Christmas!


I am rather late in wishing you all a Merry Christmas!  I hope that your festivities are going well and that you are with those whom you love. This year's Christmas cake has a slightly different look after I bought this cute cake ornament during my trip home in October.

 
Rudolph (described by my husband as looking like a bulldog with antlers!) is pulling his sleigh through the snowy icing and I'm glad to see that he is bringing lots of presents.  I'm not certain what happened to Santa, but I hope that he was good to you this year!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Memories Are Made of This...

 
On my recent trip home to the UK to visit my family, I visited the National Trust shop in York.  I was browsing through their displays when I spotted these two tree ornaments. 



What better reminder than an English telephone box and postbox, complete with robins!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Secret Santa


We had our departmental Christmas party recently and as part of the festivities, there was a Secret Santa.  I didn't know the person whose name I was given very well, so I played safe and bought her a pretty Christmas bauble for her tree.  Whoever got my name had certainly been paying attention and knew that I was taking cake decorting classes....just look at what Santa delivered!

Joy

 
Emma Bridgewater has produced some fabric which is aptly named 'Joy'.  How could I not feel joyful looking at these beauties?  Mince pies are a favourite of mine at Christmas so I was drawn to this beautiful heart, which now adorns the handle of the pantry.

 
This sweet Christmas themed fabric has been fashioned into a delightful tree complete with presents.  I found these two on eBay and I just couldn't resist adding them to my Christmas collection.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The View From Here

It's interesting that whenever we put our Christmas tree up and decorate, it always seems to end up in a corner, so we only see one side of it.  This year, although it is in a corner, it is close to the door, which is divided by a low wall/shelf.  I was cleaning the hallway up after our recent painting when I looked up and saw this view: a completely different perspective of our tree and living room.

On the shelf there are tea lights in pretty gold holders, two of which were a gift from my friend Tracy at Prana Light and Christmas stocking holders.  In the absence of a chimney, we have no mantelpiece on which to hang our stockings.  I just hope that Santa approves!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Oh Christmas Tree


Our Christmas tree arrived on Saturday and we brought it indoors on Sunday afternoon.  It sat rather forlornly for a couple of days until I strung a few lights on it yesterday.  I don't seem to be in the Christmas spirit this year, as there is a lot of stress at work.  Anyway, I thought that it was time to decorate it, so I spent this morning doing so.  I must say that I am pleased with the results.

My absence from the blogging world is due to the aforementioned stress.  I can't go into details, but it has been one of the most stressful periods of my life.  All that I can say is that I miss visiting everyone and hope that you understand when my visits are so infrequent.  I also hope that your Christmas preparations are coming along faster than mine!  Ready or not, Christmas will be here in less than two weeks....

Friday, 30 November 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012

 
For the final post of NaBloPoMo 2012, I thought that I would share this cake with you.  This has been a very stressful month at work and two things have helped to maintain my sanity.  The first was sitting down and writing about my recent trip to Yorkshire and the second was my cake decorating class.


Monday was the last night of my class and we were asked to decorate a cake demonstrating some of the techniques that we had learned working with fondant and gum paste.  I adapted a design from the Wilton book and this was the result.  I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and I hope to have more time in the future to try out some of my new skills.

As for visiting and commenting on your blogs, I can only apologise and say that  I have not had time to visit, but I do appreciate those of you who have commented during NaBloPoMo 2012. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Kirkby Malham

 
The original Church of St Michael the Archangel dated from around the 9th Century, though it is thought that it could have been even older. The present church was rebuilt in the 15th Century. 
 

 Inside, there is another example of box pews, dating from the 17th and early 18th Centuries.



The lighting was not good for photographs of the exterior of this ancient church, as much of the building was in shadow.  Like many rural parish churches, they are in need of a new vicar.  It seems that there is no income attached to this Anglican parish, so it is difficult to attract someone to the job.

I was fortunate to be driving past the church one evening during bell-ringing practice.  There is nothing quite like the sound of bells ringing across an English village.   

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Over The Garden Wall


What could be finer than a view of sheep grazing on the other side of the garden wall?  Admittedly, I had to scale the children's climbing fort to capture this view, but it was worth the effort!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

York

 
The medieval city of York is a place to which I have always felt drawn.  Walking along its ancient streets and imagining the sights, sounds and smells of  people who we know so much about.  For a taste of the city as it was in Viking times, travel through time at the Jorvik Viking Centre in Coppergate, which is a journey I remember taking some years ago. 

 
The streets follow their original layout and little has changed through the centuries. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Aysgarth Falls


Our journey began past the Mill Race Tea Shop at the Lower Falls.  Over the stone bridge and up the road to the carpark.  From there, we walked down to the Upper Falls, made even more famous in the fight scene in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.  I can just picture Kevin Costner in the water!

 
As we had two young children with us, we did not venture further than the Middle Falls, as to walk all the way down to the Lower Falls would have involved a long slog back up the hill.


It is still an impressive sight with the roaring waters of the River Ure tumbling over those rocks.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Stir-Up Sunday



Traditionally, Christmas puddings are made on the last Sunday before Advent.  Each member of the family takes a turn at stirring the pudding and make a wish.

Last year, I made two Christmas puddings, experiementing with different recipes.  This year, time is short and so I've cheated.  I bought a Christmas pudding in Marks and Spencer during my recent trip home.

The best Christmas pudding I can remember was Wilkin & Sons Tiptree Christmas Pudding, which I bought a couple of years ago.  It was delicious.  Sadly, like so many good things that I find here, it disappeared from the shops and I haven't been able to find it since. 

I'm still on the look-out for a really tasty store-bought version and will continue my search until Christmas.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Settle

 

A drive across the Yorkshire Dales on a Saturday morning found us in Settle and passing the famous Olde Naked Man Cafe.  Located in Ribblesdale and the Three Peaks of Yorkshire, it is a favourite haunt of walkers.
 
The scenery around the vicinity of this market town is stunning.  I love the rugged peaks and the rough terrain.  It reminds me of many happy hours spent hiking in this area.
 

This short trip home did not allow much time for serious hiking, though we did do a couple of shorter walks during my stay.
 
I love the sense of space and the vastness of the sky and the clouds.  The sounds of the curlews and the sense of peace which I experience when in this wild country.
 

And what beter place to go to school than in a village?  My nieces and nephew attend the village school at the centre of the photograph below.  Their classroom windows look out on fields and sheep.





Friday, 23 November 2012

Whitby ~ Part Two

 
The ruined remains of St Hilda's Abbey were on my list of places to visit, so I was a little disappointed when I climbed to the top of the cliff and discovered that the Abbey is closed on Mondays in October.
 
 
Still, the climb was worth the effort for the view across the harbour to West Cliff and a chance to pay a return visit to St Mary's Church.
 
 
The church is undergoing some restoration work on the roof, so it was not quite the haven of tranquility that I recall, but the sense of history is palpable and it has that smell that is so often found in churches of its age.


Standing firm against the worst that the elements can throw at it, the building has a somewhat squat appearance and I can imagine it being battered by winter gales through the centuries.  The oldest part of the church is Norman, built around 1110.


Inside, there is a rare example of boxed pews and a three-tier pulpit.  The interior is mainly pre-Victorian.

 
The view across the harbour towards the quay where the fishermen land their catch and the famous pantile roof which is seen throughout this fishing town.


This last photograph is taken from the top of the 199 steps up to the church from the old town.  The steps are worn with age from the footsteps of generations of townsfolk and tourists alike who have made the climb.

I hope that it won't be too long before I am able to return to this, my favourite seaside town on the North Yorkshire coast.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Sweet Memories


I don't think that I have ever seen as many sweet shops as I did during my day in Whitby.  There is something about a window display like the one above which evokes childhood memories of trips to the sweet shop with a few old pennies (yes, I am old enough to remember!) and the array of sweeties in glass jars. 

One of my favourite selections was Tom Thumb Drops because a quarter of an ounce seemed like a lot of sweets for my money ~ tiny little fruit flavoured pips, which would last a long time (or not!)  Happy days!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Whitby ~ Part One

 
Top of my list of places to visit during my trip home last month was Whitby.  The hours I have spent dreaming of a bracing walk on the pier and breathing that fresh sea air!  I took my Mum along for the drive and we had a spectacular day.  The weather was perfect: the sky blue with fluffy white clouds.

 
Down on the beach, a few people enjoyed the sand or walked their dogs.

 
The waves rolled in and all was right with the world.


The old lighthouse still stands strong against the elements, though it could use a coat of paint.  I remember climbing the spiral staircase years ago to stand at the top and gaze out to sea.




The remains of St Hilda's Abbey stand on the East Cliff alongside the parish church of St Mary.

 
The topography seems to have changed quite a bit since I last walked along this shore: the rocky outcrops appear more jagged.


The harbour entrance must be a welcome sight to those who venture out on the North Sea.  Even on a perfect autumn day, those waves outside the harbour looked quite choppy.  It was wonderful to be there again and to enjoy a few precious hours by the coast. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Advanced Cake Decorating

 
I approached the advanced class with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  My only previous experience of working with sugar paste had been a frustrating experience, with holes in my icing and sticky sugar everywhere.  Would I be able to improve on my technique?
 
The cake I chose to make this time was an orange one ~ basically another Victoria Sponge, but with grated orange instead of vanilla and an orange icing.  The iced cake was then covered in sugar paste, which we coloured ourselves.  I don't have a large selection of colours, so I chose pink and ended up with a pink thumb from all that kneading!  I discovered that the secret to covering a cake in one attempt is to use a roll and cut mat, which allows accurate sizing and makes transfer to the cake so easy.  I thought that the result looked like a floppy hat.
 


Once the sugar paste was applied to the cake, there followed a careful process of smoothing and trimming.  Yes, this is the same icing (I know that the colour looks different, but it was the lighting) and the cake is now ready for the next stage of the process.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Plain Truth


Those of you who followed my old blog may remember that I spent some time during 2010 working with the Amish and Mennonite communities in Ontario.  This was an opportunity to experience a different culture amongst people who choose to live according to their beliefs without the conveniences of modern society.  I was privileged to spend time with them and to be welcomed into their homes.

This experience left me with an interest in Old Order communities, which is what attracted me to Jodi Picoult's book Plain Truth.  Set in Pennsylvania's Amish community, Plain Truth tells the story of Katie and her concealed pregnancy.  I don't want to give the plot away, but it is a gripping read: a mixture of mystery and court-room drama.  I didn't want to put it down and took every opportunity available to read a few pages.  It takes until the final pages to get to the bottom of this mystery and it is one of those books that had me thinking about the plot even when I was not reading it.  Highly recommended!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Thought For The Day

 
 
Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.

William Shakespeare Measure for Measure


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Chocolate Bourbons

 
Inspired by The Primrose Bakery Book, I decided to bake some chocolate bourbons.  These proved to be a little fiddly in preparation, but they worth the effort.  Filled with chocolate buttercream and dusted with icing sugar: delicious fresh from the oven with a cup of tea.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Sweet Peas


By helpful fingers taught to twine
  Around its trellis, grew
A delicate and dainty vine;
The bursting bud, its blossom sign,
  Inlaid with honeyed-dew.
 
From Sweet Peas by Hattie Howard
 
I couldn't put it better myself.  The aroma of these late flowering sweet peas filled the kitchen.  All the more unexpected because I thought that they had finished flowering and was considering pulling them out of their planter.