Saturday, 10 January 2009

Winter's Magic Gift . . .

Jack Frost

A pretty brook was running at play
With little Jack Frost on a cold winter's day.
It stopped to rest at the foot of a hill
Making a pond all quiet and still.
"Aha!" said Jack Frost, "Now isn't that nice?"
And quickly he turned the water to ice.
~author unknown

On Thursday evening as we drove home from the church, the fog was so thick that we could barely see our way. We drove as slowly as we could through the winding lanes that lead to our cottage, up hill and down and around, the hedgerows hugging our car and the dense fog weaving a spell about us. I don't think I have ever seen the fog this thick in the eight odd years I have been over here. We were very glad to finally arrive home safe and sound. It had seemed like a perilous journey, fraught with mystery and the fear of the unknown . . .

Yesterday morning I awoke to find that Jack Frost had arrived during the night and painted the world around me in a magic fairyland of crystal.

Every single leaf, every branch, every blade of grass was covered in sparkles, built upon sparkles, the most magical frost of all . . . a hoar frost.

What a beautiful fairyland!! As the sun slowly wove it's way up into the sky, I looked out over the orchards behind us from one of our upstairs windows and the rows of trees twinkled as if made of glass. Walking about the garden the air was filled with magic, each tender leaf caught in a tiny glass case . . . each branch too, caught in a tiny prison of crystalline glass.

A spiders web hanging against the gate, each slender thread etched as if in glass, magically woven as by the winter fairies and hanging there so dainty and beautiful . . .

As I walked to work I could not help but stop and stare at the wonderland surrounding me. The air was filled with the sound of the tinkling of a million crystal bells as the crystalline beauty of my surroundings wove their magic spell around me. I was walking to work in a fairyland . . . winter's gift to me.

Another bit of magic wove it's way into my heart yesterday as well . . . my third grandson Joshua Ramsay made his debut in the world. Weighing in at 6 pounds 3 1/2 ounces, with a full head of beautiful red hair, he arrived last evening at 9:44 pm. Imagine . . . in years to come I will be able to tell him about how the winter fairies ushered in his welcome . . .

Brrrr . . . It was so cold yesterday I made us a nice pot of soup from a ham hock that I had in the freezer. This will warm any innards on a cold winters day. My mother always used whole peas to make this delicious soup. I prefer to use split peas myself. She always put a carrot in and a potato, I expect to help absorb any excess salt that the ham might have held. Personally, that salty potato was always my favourite bit, and I confess . . . it still is!

*Ham and Split Pea Soup*
Serves 4 to 6
This was always my favourite soup when I was growing up and remains so to this day. It requires very little effort and more or less makes itself. It also freezes very well.

1 ham hock, or leftover bone from a roasted ham
(make sure there are lots of meaty bits still clinging to the bone)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot peeled, sliced in half lengthwise
and then cut in half again, so that you have four pieces
1 large potato, peeled and cut into four large chunks
1 bay leaf, broken in half
1 tsp of summer savoury
(if you cannot find summer savoury,
use a combination of marjoram and thyme)
Freshly ground black pepper
8 cups of boiling water
2 cups split peas (I prefer the yellow ones myself,
but you could also use green ones if you prefer)

Put all the ingredients into a large pot on top of the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, skim off any scum that may rise to the top and then partially cover and simmer for an hour or so, until the peas are quite soft and the meat is falling off of the bone.

Remove the ham hock from the pot. Discard the skin, any fat and the bone. Cut the meat into large chunks and put it back into the pot. Skim any fat off the top of the soup that you can. Fish out the bay leaf and discard. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. You may need salt, but I more often find that I don’t. I do like to give it a healthy grinding of black pepper though.
Spoon the hot soup into heated bowls, trying to give each person a piece of potato, carrot and some meat. Serve immediately.


  1. Your pictures surely do look like a winter wonderland.

    Congrats on the arrival of little Joshua. I am so thrilled that he has arrived well and mom and babe are doing fine. What a blessing. Have you seen pictures of him yet? I bet he is a darling.

    It has been a hard and sad day for me. Nothing far as things that really matter... but hard just the same. I went to the fabric store to get material to start making Loni's birthday dress. I was in a rush because John had to get the post office before it closed. The store was almost empty. I put my purse in the basket with my material... and left it there unattended... I never ever do that... I don't know why I did it today. When I realized I left my purse in the cart I was not worried because the store was so empty...but...alas, my purse was stolen. After hours of making a police report, cancelling credit cards and my cell phone, etc. the store called that they found my purse stuck behind some fabric bolts. What a blessing to have my driver's license and temple recommend back... and my phone and my house and car keys... but my lovely camera Erin and Pat gave me with my memory card and pictures, my cash and all the gift cards I'd been given were gone. I am sad about that and so mad at myself...but I am thankful for what I did get back. A new smart key for my Prius cost $300. I am so glad that we did not buy one when we went toyota tonight. We decided to wait until morning because the service dept was closed and they could not install it until morning. I'm also thankful not to have to change all of the locks on the house...etc. So, I feel blessed and sad at the same time. Why oh why was I so carelesss??? Mostly moms and nice people shop at fabric stores...I just hope that who ever grabbed my purse and took my money and gift cards and lovely expensive camera needed it more than I do...because if they don't it makes me even more sad.

    I will look on the bright side and be thankful for getting back what I did. I will think about how nice it is that your Joshua is here safe and sound. I will think about my many blessings and not fret about what I can not change.

    Thanks for letting me unload on you. I send love as always. Lura

  2. Your soup looks delicious, a wonderful meal for a chilly day! Yum, i hope it kept you nice nad warm

  3. Many warm congratulations on the birth of your dear little grandson. What a joy they are and I'm so happy to hear that mum and baby are doing well.

    You are so right - winter has a stunning beauty all of its own. I've come to love the white blanket of snow and frost each year and to look for beauty in something as simple as a spider's web. There really is so much there if you just open your eyes and see.

    Soup is wonderful in this weather. We enjoyed your Seafood Chowder last night and this one will be added to my list. If I can find split peas, that is. It's amazing the things you CAN'T get in Sweden - there's no caster sugar, vanilla essence, self raising flour, custard powder... but hey, I adapt.

  4. What a special gift to be welcomed into the world on such a beautiful day. Congratulations on your new grandson. Everything is white here but not frost, just lots and lots of snow. Soup is the thing for winter. I put a recipe for some in my newsletter today too.

  5. What wonderful pictures Marie ,something to look back on when we are moaning about the heat ,come the summer hee hee ,Congratulations on the birth of you dear little Grandson how wonderful ,Looking at your pics agian and thinking the spiders web cant be as fragile as it looks to suport that frost, truly magic dont you think ? Jan xx

  6. I praise the Lord that Joshua has finally arrived, and sounds like he arrived perfect and healthy; which is what we have all been praying for.

    You had the blessings of real winter weather, and here in Alabama we had 50 degree weather. Although I fear what the people here would do if it would ice, snow and frost here. The totally freek out when we have a few flakes. I miss the winter weather of North Carolina but that is ok. To be in the Lord's will is more important. The rain has returned overnight here. Would you believe it had not rained but very little in 3 yrs so we are still appreciating it. However, when it made the river to rise above flood stage we all got a bit nervous last week.

    Your mother's soup sounds very good and nothing like mine except the name. That is very interesting. I am going to try it the next time I want split pea soup.

    Blessings and hugs,
    Ruthanne ox ox

  7. Thank you for reminding me how beautiful nature is. Your pictures are wonderful - and this is for the last 3/4 posts.

    Oh, and the recipes ain't bad either.

  8. Congratulations, Grandma!! So thrilled that Joshua has arrived at long last--so happy for you & your family's new little blessing! Hope all is well with new mom and little one. :o) And what delight winter fairies ushering in his fitting for a sweet new baby. Your glittery frost looks very much like it does here--a real fairyland outdoors just now. Your photos here are exquisite. And your soup is perfect to warm up on a frosty day. So great to finally catch up with you yesterday with a chat--hooray! Hope you & Todd have a lovely weekend rejoicing in Joshua's arrival! LOVE YOU BOTH ((BIG HUGS))

  9. Marie, Congratulations on the birth of your Grandson how wonderful...I love his name.:)

  10. Wonderful news of the new arrival congraulations to you. Great frosty pictures just love doing them too but our frost is all gone now. Love Joan

  11. I'm so happy for you with the arrival of Joshua!! A full head of red hair sounds so cute....hope to see a picture soon.

    Your pictures of the frost were very neat! Seems like everyone in the US has had colder than normal temps this winter, too.

    Take care!

  12. I've got a ham bone in my freezer just waiting for this recipe!

  13. I hate driving in fog. The visibility thing terrifies me. We had a small snow storm last night and thank God Hubby was driving and not me! :)

    Congrats on the newest member of your family!

  14. Congrats to the birth of your little grandson and lovely herad they are OK!!!!! yippppp!!!
    I love your pictures are absolutely beautiful and wonderful how a dream!!!! have a lovely weekend!!!!Gloria

    Love the name:Joshua

  15. oh my goodness, that is gorgeous! i will have to show my girls your fairyland:)

    and congratulations on the birth of your new grandson! that is wonderful!

  16. Ham and spit pea soup would be perfect on a cold day like today. Nice shot of the frosted spiderweb!

  17. How did YOU know I just bought a small package of ham hocks! And I already have all the ingredients too! LOL! I am doing to use your recipe and also a navy bean recipe of my nephews so I will have plenty of comforting soup in the freezer. Great timing, Marie! Thanks for giving us a new taste experience!

    Ohhh, little Joshua arrived safe and sound! How nice that he and Mamma and DaDa are all doing well!

    Winter's Magic Gift was lovely to read; almost made me feel I was walking to work beside you!

    I haven't been on for awhile as my 93 year old Mom has had a light stroke and I've been taking her for tests and to the doctors. Her memory was affected as was her mobility and ability to swallow. It pains me to see her decline.

    On a happy note, I've lost 4 pounds since the holidays! But that is just a drop in the bucket! Your soup will be great for us to begin each evening meal with and it will enable us to eat less meaning not going back for seconds!

    I have to catch up on your blog now. How I missed it, dear friend!

  18. Marie -
    What beautiful pictures! love the spider web. Everything looks so magical.

    Your soup looks wonderful and would take the chill off such a cold, cold day. I love soup and make it two or three times a week. I will give your recipe a try. Also, I am so excited to try out the recipes from your new cookbook. Yay!

    Have a happy day!

  19. I have to say those wonderful muffins from yesterday were fantastic!

  20. how beautiful! and a new baby with red hair!! I LOVE red hair especially on babies.
    take care and have a wonderful weekend.

  21. Welcome to the world Joshua! There is a whole lot of love waiting for you!

    Congratulations Marie! I'm so glad that he was born healthy and that your son and daughter-in-law are well.

    We are looking at a chilly week next week for us, so I plan on making some soups and hearty foods. Maybe this pea soup will be on the menu so I can finally use the ham bone that is frozen in the fridge!

  22. Congratulations and Welcome Joshua!



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