Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christmas Traditions

This year we are spending Christmas Day at my brother's home.  We are taking my mother there and it will be a quiet family occasion.  This will be the first time that we have done this.  My brother and his wife have only been married for a couple of years, and last year my mother was not well enough to make a journey of 60 miles in one 'sitting'.  This year, although very frail, she will manage it, and we had a 'dummy run' of the distance last week just to see how she managed.

When we were children our family home was always filled to overflowing.  My mother loved company, and visits from Grandparents were always top of the list at Christmas.  My uncle and aunt would also visit on Christmas Day and again on Boxing Day.  What fun we had.  Presents under the tree! Delicious food! Always a walk after lunch, probably not as long as necessary to walk off all the excess food, but long enough to build up an appetite for delicious Christmas Cake and Mince Pies......

As my mother grew older the mantle slipped in my direction.  For many years the we had a similar scenario at our home.  But circumstances change, and now there are times when sons and daughters must visit other families!

If you followed the link above you will have read about the arrival of my grandparents.  Very soon after my maternal grandmother arrived it would be time to make 'Yule Bread'.  This is a very special recipe that has been handed down through several generations of our family.  It has the usual ingredients of  flour, eggs, fresh yeast and butter, but also stacks of top quality raisins, glace cherries and crystallised fruits.  Made in advance and allowed to 'mature' (much like a Christmas Cake) it was duly wrapped in waxed paper and stored in tins.  No tasting was allowed as it really did imrove with keeping.  The first loaf was cut on Christmas morning and served buttered for Breakfast.  It has an unusual texture and is truly delicious.  We always knew that it was Christmas when we saw it on the plate.

Regrettably, although we still have the list of ingredients, the method for making this delicious bread died with my grandmother.  We have tried a number of variations but have not yet managed to find the one that makes the perfect loaf.  Sadly it was a failure again this year.  No, I won't share the full list of ingredients, or the quantities, but if we are ever successful I can guarantee that I will post that fact somewhere!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Winter Flowers

Sometimes pictures say more than words! The first two are flowers that traditionally bloom in the winter. The daffodils were the first of the year last year, pictured on a lovely sunny day. The Veronica was a little sparse when I took the picture, but later became a mass of soft pink blossom that is a joy in winter.
This rose never ceases to amaze us. It flowers in profusion from June until early February, this picture was taken in late December.
And this poor Magnolia is flowering in spite of snow in April. Maybe the next question should be 'when does winter end?'