There is always a drama at this time of year involving some daft item that simply must be sourced or the world will possibly end or, at the very least, Christmas will be ruined. One year, it was a very particular Lego set with a Darth Vader mini-figure. Another year, it was a Barbie and Ken wedding. There was the time I set my heart on a pair of burgundy patent shoes for my then two year old eldest daughter. You wouldn’t believe the distance I drove for those shoes but, oh my, she was a picture in her little wool coat and beret. My excuse is that these are the things that give us a sense of having kept Christmas well, that it’s not just a case of buying and wrapping the cheapest or random gifts and receiving the same in return with fingers crossed that the tags are attached. You have to put an effort in; that’s the whole point.
This year, it’s a donkey outfit. Small Girl is to play a donkey in Seó na Nollaig (nativity play). I was all set to make one, had a hat half crocheted, when Middle Daughter informed me, in the kindest terms, that EVERYONE ELSE is buying one from the shops and poor Small Girl will be a laughing stock in a homemade outfit. Sigh. (I’m clearly alone in my views about putting an effort in.)
And so, bowing to peer pressure, I spent this morning trawling the recommended shops for the recommended donkey onesie. I found a very cute dragon onesie, and two different unicorn onesies. I stood stock still in the shop and put serious thought into attaching donkey ears to a unicorn but wasn’t sure how much of a sense of humour the Senior Infants teacher has, or my daughter for that matter. I’ve come home with a pair of grey leggings and a grey hoody and a sinking feeling that I’m getting this one wrong.
I have a few ongoing crafty projects which are Top Secret and Highly Classified. I’ve had to do some very stealthy crocheting. I’ve learned that I can really only get away with giving handmade gifts to my own offspring which is trickier, of course, since they are here all the time.
I’m working on a set of the elf characters from Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas, all of my own imagining and purely for my own satisfaction. They posed for some photos this morning. Here’s a sneak preview:
Aside from under-cover crocheting, I have done a terrifying amount of credit card tapping, a reassuring amount of list-making, including the ultimately comforting booklist-making, and a properly scandalous amount of steeping things in brandy. I blame Nigel Slater.
I’ve got vanilla pods in brandy, apricots in brandy and prunes in a mixture of muscat and brandy. I’m seriously considering dunking the last Jerusalem artichokes in brandy – with a label attached saying “Nobody light a match.”
Segueing neatly to another root vegetable, we harvested our first Oca. We were prepared for something that tasted like potato dipped in lemon juice.
The first attempt to cook them, by boiling, went poorly. They turned out, those that didn’t simply dissolve into the cooking water, as thin-skinned balls of watery, lemony, mush.
The second batch had a big weight on their little knobbly shoulders. If the kids didn’t like them I would be facing a heck of a lot of lemony lunches. What to do?
I applied the same method that I used to convince my kids they likes Brussels sprouts and turnips- I roasted them in the juices of a leg of lamb. Oh yes, that worked. They may not have been crispy but they tasted like very good new potatoes that had been roasted in lamb fat, and dipped in lemon juice. Yum.
However, a leg of lamb is pretty expensive method of flavouring your homegrown (read, free) vegetables. Anyone have any suggestions for less indulgent (read, cheaper) alternatives?
I am, once again, endeavouring to lose a little blubber – if only enough to make room in my jeans for mince pies. To that end, I am comfort-eating in lieu of puddings.
Jenny Colgan’s The Bookshop on the Corner is as sweet and light as that strawberry pavlova Nigella made last night (is anyone else irritated by the way she abbreviates it to “Pav” ? Sorry, grumpy, hungry woman syndrome).
This book will do you no good whatsoever but you’ll feel marvelous as you devour it, and pleasantly guilty afterwards.
I have one major gripe: I made a list, as I read, of all the books Colgan mentions. There was one children’s book in particular, a magical classic adventure that plays a big role in the story and seemed like just the thing for my Small Girl. Wondering how on Earth I’d missed this one, but you know, it happens, I searched the great bookshop in the sky and came up with…exactly nothing.
She made it up. And I wasn’t alone in my foolish hopefulness; in the reviews of an unrelated book of the same title, two other disappointed souls wrote, “this is not the book from Jenny Colgan’s book!”
That’s not fair! Authors: You can’t be making up books that don’t exist and then telling us they are brilliant, for flip’s sake.
Did you notice the quince there, in the book photo? They have nothing to do with the story at all but happened to match the cover. Or they would, if I could only figure out how to photograph yellow things. Why is yellow so difficult?
My quince tree remains barren. I bought these for a Nigel Slater recipe. There’s something very evocative about quince.
They make me think of owls and pussycats…
…and make me long for a runcible spoon.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to take photographs in the scant light available. My family completely ignore me as I wander about the house taking shots of light switches and fruit bowls. This was supposed to be a picture of the chillies, a failure obviously, but I think it is an honest snap shot of my kitchen at dinner time, six o’clock, with the plates laid out and tea towels draped willy-nilly, and me pottering about with the camera when I should be dishing up.
Here’s a nice one:
And here is my little reindeer keeping guard over those apricots in brandy.
One last thing…I threw my cap in the ring for this incredible prize. It’s a competition for a writer’s retreat, open until tomorrow night, and all you have to do is convince the judges that you deserve it. If you are tempted, I wish you luck but, for God’s sake, don’t come back here to tell me that you won!
Right, I’m off to see what can be done about the donkey’s ears and, failing that, to see what else I could possibly steep in brandy. Cheese? Figs? Sultanas?! Oh! Only imagine the brandy-soaked-sultana buns…