Wednesday, 31 December 2008
And so a year ends . . .
Well, here I am sitting in my little cottage at this final day of the year, 2008. Year's end is a chance for us to reflect on all that has been good in the past year and all the ways we have grown . . . perhaps things we might be able to improve on in the coming year, happy memories made and the achievements, both big and small of the past year. It's a time to look forward with hope and a time to look back with nostalgia. I thought this morning I would do a review of my past year here at Oak Cottage and that I'd take you along with me . . .
January saw me enjoying a sunny day after weeks of rain and waxing on about Fairies . . .
"The sight of a fairy ring of toadstools on the mossy floor of a forest has always fueled my deepest imaginations, and indeed if you were to look across the rolling fields behind our cottage on a warm summer's day, the air will be filled with little fairy wings dancing in the soft breeze. Some would say seed pods on their airborne journey, but I say differently . . . "
In February, I did my first giveaway here at Oak Cottage, a Valentines one, discovered the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group, started my Make Me Bake feature and discovered snowdrops in the garden . . . a sure sign that spring was on it's way.
"As I walked home to the cottage on my afternoon break, I chanced to see some little snowdrops blooming at the edge of our soggy garden, their dainty little white heads dancing in the soft breeze that was blowing. They are hope to me, a promise that spring is just around the corner. Can the bluebells be very far behind? What a difference a day makes . . ."
March saw me relishing the spring time and taking a fairy on a walk around our garden. I did an Easter Giveaway, and took a bunny on a walk through the Orchard to greet her friend, her arms filled with a delicious basket containing a lovely cinnamon loaf. I baked cookies and Hot cross Scones and spoke of empty holes . . .
"I guess I am a kind of a fanciful person at heart. There is this big tree down at the edge of our property that has a hollow right at it's base. It's not just any hole though . . . it's a very intriguing hole . . . deep and dark, and full of lots of scraps of earth and leaves and rotting bark.
Every time I walk by it on my way to work, I look at the hole . . . just laying there empty and I long to fill it with something, with some piece of my heart. I want to take a big rock and paint it up like a fairy house and plant it right between the roots, tucked into the hollow heartbeat of the tree. Tis only lack of time, and the fear of someone stealing it that prevents me from doing just that. If I had my way, there would be little fairy houses tucked in here and there all throughout our cottage garden . . . "
April saw me baking Gingerbreads, enjoying the antics of the squirrels in my back garden, wondering about small and simple things, forgiveness and lessons learned in life, and vapour trails . . .
"Vapour trails often decorate the sky where we live and at any given time we are able to look up and see at least two or three, maybe even more, sometimes trailing behind the actual planes . . . but more often than not, just the tell tail white streak in the sky that lets me know they have been there, the residue simply being the evidence left behind which tells me they were here . . .
We are all a bit like planes in that respect. Everything we do in life leaves a trail behind it. The good things . . . the bad things . . . the special things . . . the ordinary things . . . We wander through life doing this and doing that, most of the time not really giving much thought to what we are leaving behind in our wake . . . every action producing a consequence, and leaving it behind, however big or small . . ."
During the month of May, the lovely month of May, I took stock of simple pleasures, and precious truths. I dug for diamonds and talked about making my life count, mothers, and finding contentment in who we are . . .
"I have come to the conclusion that I just cannot do everything, and do it all well. I can do some of the things I do really well, and some not so well, and that’s ok. I have learned to prioritize and decide which are the things in my life that are the most important and which really deserve my fullest attention. God and family come tops of my list and then comes my job, ( which is very important obviously, as I am the main breadwinner) and finally everything else. If some things don’t get done today, then I don’t panic. It’s not really all that important. I dress neatly and tidily, and I keep myself clean. I do wear a bit of makeup, but I don’t obsess on any of it. I have learned to be content with how I look and what I have. If Todd is happy, and I am happy, then nothing else matters, and that’s as it should be. I take great joy in the simple things of life and I have them in great abundance. I am a simple woman, and very content to be such . . ."
June brought me Sunday visitors and front porch days. The roses were all in bloom and we could sit in the back garden listening to the bees buzz about the lavender. We were busy enjoying the warmer days and the sunshine and stars . . .
" If we sit under the umbrella at the picnic table on the back patio, we can hear bumble bees humming as they go about their work gathering pollen from the lavender, which grows beneath my kitchen window. On a hot June evening, it's serene scent lulls us into lazy feelings and peaceful thoughts and quiet dreams . . ."
July was the month when I got to finally meet my dear friend Tracy from Pink Pearl in person for the first time! Oh what an exciting day that was. Although we also went on holidays up to Cumbria that month, meeting Tracy was the highlight of the month, and indeed year for me . . .
"On the computer Tracy has always seemed larger than life to me, but I was so surprised and thrilled to find that she was as tiny as a little doll when we met. I felt like the friendly giant next to her. I totally dwarfed her! This was proof that the best things come in small packages. We hugged and tears were shed, because . . . we are both a couple of softies and so very tender hearted. Spirit speaks to spirit, and our spirits had been speaking to each other for a long time. The opportunity to finally see each other in the flesh was just so overwhelmingly special . . . "
In August I shared the tale of my summer holiday with you all and discovered the Simple Woman's Day book. It was also my Birthday month and so I was able to celebrate along with each of you. We had ever so much rain last summer. It seemed that the sun hardly shone, and it rained the whole month through . . .
" What a nasty weekend we have had here at Oak Cottage weather wise. It had cleared yesterday morning and so we thought to go to the beach at Eastbourne for the day, but then the dark clouds rolled in again just as we went to leave and so we decided not to take a chance. Good thing too as it turned out to be a horrible day with rain and wind and everything that goes right along with it. It would not have been nice at the beach at all, and today is much the same! "
September brought me thoughts of artists and flowers, small and simple things, and Todd's 70th Birthday celebration. The wild flowers in the orchard surrounding us began to go to seed and the hedgerows filled up with blackberries and hips and haws. The apple pickers arrived and the children went back to school. The orchards around us rang with the sounds of laughter and children at play during their break . . .
"My mama always told me that any job worth doing, was worth doing well. I try to do my best at whatever I set my hands to, and I try hard to be pleasant when I am doing it. It's ever so much easier to get through the worst things in life, if you do them with a song in your heart . . ."
October brought about cooler days and cooler nights. The days were beginning to become noticeably shorter and I thought about making your days count, and every day epiphanies, having a humble home and my hands . . .
"As a very small child my mother taught me how to put my hands together, bow my head and pray, so they have been instrumental in helping me to commune with my Lord, and even now when I listen to a very spiritual piece of music that touches my heart I like to raise them in the air and somehow feel as if I am able to touch the hem of His garment. They have helped me throughout my life to feel closer to my God . . ."
November brought spectacular fall colours this past year, more spectacular than in years past. Todd and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary and I thought about things like love and magic and finding joy . . .
"It is easy to find joy in small things . . . a baby's sigh . . . a sunset . . . the feeling of warm sand between our toes. These are things that will never change, for joy is constant . . ."
December has been a lovely month, if ever so cold. I cannot recollect a December in my brief time over here that has been colder. It's been a wonderful time of getting ready for Christmas and enjoying the company of friends and reflection on all that is good about life and the blessings it brings us.
"I am so thankful for a heart that has passion enough and the will to take the time to soak it all in, the wonder of life and the joy that it brings, blessings both great and small . . . sometimes I think that the smallest joys are the greatest blessings of all . . ."
It is hard to believe that here we are at the end of the year. It has gone by ever so quickly. It seems it has hardly begun and now . . . it is over. What will the new year bring? Only God knows for sure. I know what I hope it brings, but we shall see. In any case, life is what you make of it and life is good . I look at the coming year as if looking at a clean new page in my notebook . . . what will I choose to write on it, how will the story come out. It's really up to me . I look forward to another year of the journey, and I hope you'll all enjoy coming along with me on it!
I cooked ever so many things over this past year and showed you a few hundred of them. I was trying to think this morning of which thing that I cooked over this past year that was my very favourite thing. It was really hard to come up with one but I think this is it . . . my chosen recipe of the year, 2008. It was the winner of my Make Me Bake Challenge during the second week of July. It was delicious!!
*Strawberry Toffee Tart*
A crispy, buttery and oaty crust covered with a tangy cream and a plethora of sliced strawberries, this is truly moreish. A final drizzle of toffee sauce is it's crowning glory. Easy, quick and pleasing on all levels this is a true winner!
6 ounces of hobnob biscuits (a buttery oatmeal cookie)
3 ounces of butter, melted
14 ounces of double cream
5 soft toffees (such as Werther's original soft toffees)
200g tub of Greek Yoghurt
icing sugar for dusting
Line an 8 inch tart tin with baking parchment. Crush the biscuits to fine crumbs either in your food processor, blender or by bashing them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Tip them into a bowl and mix together with the melted butter. Press this mixture evenly in the base of the tart tin. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so until it feels firm. Once firm, remove the biscuit base from the tin and carefully slide it onto a flat serving plate.
Slice the strawberries and set aside.
Take 2 TBS of the cream and put it into a small bowl. Whip the rest of the cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold in the yoghurt and then spoon this mixture over the top of the biscuit base and cover with the sliced strawberries.
Add the toffees to the cream and place in the microwave. Cook on medium heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir until they form a sauce. Drizzle this sauce over the berries. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.
PS - I posted a new piece of art over on Blossom Time Creations. Pop on over and have a gander, and tell me what you think!