Saturday 31 December 2011

Poetry Saturday . . . My Creed

To live as gently as I can;
To be, no matter where, a man;
To take what comes of good or ill,
And cling to faith and honor still;
To do my best, and let that stand
The record of my brain and hand;
And then, should failure come to me,
Still work and hope for victory.

To have no secret place wherein
I stoop unseen to shame or sin;
To be the same when I'm alone
As when my every deed is known;
To live undaunted, unafraid
Of any step that I have made;
To be without pretence or sham
Exactly what men think I am.

Source: via Marie on Pinterest

To leave some simple work behind
To keep my having lived in mind;
If enmity to aught I show,
To be an honest, generous foe;
To play my little part, nor whine
That greater honors are not mine,
This I believe is all I need
For my philosophy and creed.
~Edgar A Guest

Source: via Marie on Pinterest

Well, here we are on the brink of a new year . . . What will it hold for each of us??? Who knows . . . but I wish for each of you, something good . . . much joy, peace . . . happiness. Good health. Love/ May your cup of 2012 truly runneth over! Happy New Year.

I'll see you . . . next year!

I love anything with lemon in it, which puts me in a bit of a quandary as Todd does not. It’s just like pasta or chocolate cake . . . not his favourite thing. I do make him suffer through the odd lemon delight though . . . because I am mean, haha. This is a lovely lemon tart to start off the new year right.

*The Perfect Lemon Tart*
Serves 6 to 8
Printable recipe

The perfect lemon tart to me has more filling than crust in it and has a delicious full on lemon flavour, sweet but with just enough tartness to let you know you are eating lemons. I also like the crust to be crisp and light. This fit’s the bill on all counts!

6 ounces plain flour (1 3/4 cup)
1 ½ ounces of icing sugar (1/3 cup)
3 ounces softened butter (6 TBS)
Pinch of salt
1 large free range egg, separated
1 TBS water

6 to 8 unwaxed lemons
6 large free range eggs
6 ounces caster sugar (Scant cup)
200 ml of heavy cream (7.2 fluid ounces)
A little icing sugar and crème fraiche to serve

First make the pastry. The easiest way to do this is in the food processor. That way the warmth of your hands can’t interfere with the process. Place the flour, icing sugar, butter, salt and the yolk of the egg (reserving the white for a bit later on) into the bowl of the food processor. Add the 1 TBS of water and process until it forms a firm dough. Remove from the processor and shape into a flat disc on some cling film. Wrap it up and place in the fridge to chill for about half an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ Gas Mark 6. Place a large flat baking tray in the oven to warm as well. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out as thinly as you can on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin to a circle large enough to fit into a 9 inch tart tin with removeable sides. You will want it to come at least ¼ inch above the edges of the tin. Place it into the tin and then prick it all over with a fork. Lightly beat the egg white and then brush the crust all over with this. Place it onto the heated baking tray and then bake in the heated oven on the middle shelf for about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 180*C/350*F now.

Make the filling as follows. Finely grate the zest from 6 of the lemons and squeeze enough juice to give you 10 ounces. Break the eggs into a large bowl and add the sugar, whisking to combine. Don’t over whisk it, just do it until they are well mixed. You don’t want the eggs to start to thicken. Whisk in the lemon juice and the lemon zest. Finally whisk in the cream and pour the whole mixture into a large jug.

I find the easiest way to fill the tart is to place the pastry case back on the baking tray and place it into the oven and then to pour the filling into the tart case while it is in the oven. That way you don’t have to try to carry the case and risk spillage. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the tart is set and feels springy in the centre. Remove from the oven and let it cool for about half an hour if you want to serve it warm. I actually prefer it chilled. Either way you have it, dust it with some icing sugar just before serving. Cut into slices to serve and serve with a nice dollop of crème fraiche on top!

Over in The English Kitchen today we have a delicious round up of the deliciousness that was 2011!! A month by month review of what I think was the most delicious recipe that I posted that month!

"Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely. ... He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Friday 30 December 2011

Thoughts to end a year on . . .

“It’s a valuable exercise to close your eyes every once in a while and think, “What is the most wonderful moment I have lived through during the past year?”

It might be part of a grand event or a very simple moment, perhaps a brief interaction with another person. The grand or the simple, it doesn’t matter. Just remembering will lift your spirits, and warm feelings will fill your soul.” ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Just a simple thing to do, and no more fitting time to do it than at the end of a year, with the promise of the new year to come sitting before us, full of wonderful experiences waiting to be held.

I have wracked my brains this morning to come up with one wonderful moment during the past year that stood out above the rest. I've had such a wonderful year, filled to overflowing with lots of blessings . . .

I was deeply saddened earlier this year when we lost our Angie, of course . . . that broke my heart . . . and then when Lura was in a near fatal car accident my heart was taken to the brink, yet again. Thankfully she was saved and, although it has been an excruciatingly painful year for her, she is well on the mend now and lives to bring us yet more joy, which is a great blessing to me. I don't think my heart could have borne the loss of another dear friend . . .

Source: via Marie on Pinterest

I suppose it has been a year of small and simple blessings and moments to treasure. Moments spent in the garden with Todd, growing our own veg and fruit. Managing to raise tadpoles into 4 full grown frogs! Our fish having babies. Moments spent playing with Mitzie and enjoying all of her puppyish enthusiasm and vigor. Times spent with good friends . . . those are always sweet. Seeing my stamp designs as actual rubber stamps! Being called onto the Relief Society Presidency . . . a calling that I absolutely love. The birth of my first Granddaughter. Teaching moments with the Missionaries . . . feeding the missionaries! Real time Video visits with my grandsons. My visit to Jimmy's Farm on a sleepover in July with Julie, and being able to spend some quality time with her, and us being able to meet Jimmy and tour his farm together. Getting to go to a fun Craft Workship with Sheilagh and Trish in August, and meeting some lovely talented ladies. Visiting Cumbria in September with Todd, Mitzie and Hurricane Katrina. Celebrating eleven years of wedded bliss together at the Temple in November. Finding out that I did not have cancer! That was a biggie. My dad surviving and having his pacemaker fitted and finding out he didn't have cancer as well, another huge blessing . . . and interspersed between all of these big moments that stand out was hundreds of smaller moments which were equally as special and as blessed.

There is nothing there that is spectacular . . . we didn't win the lottery or anything . . . or did we??? Our year was filled with an abundance of every day joy, the sweet lightly mixed with the bittersweet, with a bit of fear and anxiety thrown in for good measure. The truth is that every day joys are the best joys of all and the things which bring us the happiness and peace that lasts forever. They are the most valuable of all. True joy comes from finding happiness and contentment in simple things, every day things . . . the stuff that lives are built from.

"Contentment is a pearl of great value, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and happy purchase."

I do believe that yesterday I painted the best picture that I have ever painted.

What do you think??? I love the expression on her wee face . . .

Sometimes I surprise even myself. Of course this is available as a card or a print. I think I will frame a print of this myself for in our living room. I am so grateful for the ability to create these little paintings and drawings . . . and I am so grateful for the joy which I feel in having the time and being able to do so. Had I still been working fulltime, I'd never have been able to explore my talents thusly so . . . another silver lining to that cloud. ☺

My mom always cooked us a ham at the New Year. It is hard to break with a tradition that goes back to your childhood, I find. We will have ham too! A butcher over here explained to me that a ham is only a ham once it's been cooked. Before that it's gammon. It doesn't really matter what you call it I think . . . just so long as it takes good and this tastes like a mightly delicious ham to me! No after cooking picture I'm afraid . . . the lighting was just too poor. You'll have to take my word for it when I tell you it was absolutely fabulous darlings!

*Festive Spiced Ham*
Serves 8 to 12 with leftovers
Printable Recipe

This is the perfect ham for your celebratory dinners. It smells incredible when it’s cooking. Once finished, it’s mouth wateringly delicious with it’s spicy crumbed coating being the perfect finishing touch!

6 to 8 pound smoked or unsmoked boned gammon
1 onion and 1 orange, halved and studded with 12 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
4 bay leaves
6 juniper berries, bruised coarsely
500ml can of sweet cider (2 cups) (I used apple juice quite successfully)
2 oranges quartered

6 TBS clear runny honey
Zest of 1 orange and 2 TBS fresh orange juice

2 ounces fresh white bread crumbs
A large knob of softened butter
A handful of parsley leaves, chopped finely

Put the gammon into a large pan along with the orange and onion halves, the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, juniper berries and the apple cider. Add water to cover and then bring slowly to the boil. Cover loosely and reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes per pound, plus 20 minutes. Keep it topped up with water so that it remains covered at all times.

Pre-heat the oven to 220*C/450*F. Remove the gammon from the cooking water and let cool slightly. (Reserve 4 TBS of the cooking liquid) Taking a sharp knife cut away all the skin, leaving a layer of fat. Put it into a large roasting pan along with the quartered oranges, arranging them around the ham. Drizzle the reserved cooking liquid around. Mix together the honey, orange zest and orange juice. Brush some over the ham and the oranges. Bake for 15 minutes. Brush with some more glaze. Bake for 15 minutes longer, basting two or three times until golden and starting to char in places. Remove from the oven and let sit while you make the topping.

Spread the bread crumbs on a baking sheet and put into the hot oven for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often until golden brown. Remove from the oven and mix together with the softened butter and the parsley. Brush the ham once more with the glaze and then sprinkle the warm crumbs over all, pressing them slightly so as to make them adhere. Serve garnished with the glazed orange wedges.

Over in The English Kitchen today there is a delicious Cranberry Swirl Breakfast Cake baking!

“You can't go through life on "Borrowed light.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Thursday 29 December 2011

And so this was Christmas . . .

Oh but we did have a lovely Christmas this year. I was so glad that it all worked out fine and thatTodd was feeling ever so much better on the day than he had been for the few weeks prior to it!! My mother called first thing and I got to speak to her, which is always nice. It just would not seem like Christmas without having talked to my mum. It was also nice going to church in the morning. One of the bonus's of Christmas actually falling on a Sunday!

My Christmas Lunch turned out beautifully. I had done the Simple Turkey range from Piper's Farm and it was quite delicious, and true to their word it cooked in just 60 minutes! We had Doreen and Billy (remember them from our trip to Llandudno last summer?) come to lunch and the four of us enjoyed the feast together and some quality time with each other.

After they had gone, Todd and I watched the Queen's speech, which is another integral part of Christmas day you know! For as long as I can remember I have always watched the Queen's speech on the television on Christmas Day. I thought she gave a really nice one this year, but then . . . she always does!

I had a text from my eldest son to see if I was free and then we both went onto an MSN Video call and I got to see our Gabriel and Luke in their Christmas jim jams playing with some of their Christmas presents. That was really nice! I loved being a part of their Christmas Day. I am so glad that we live in a day and an age where technology allows this type of thing. What a blessing!

I called my father on the telephone after that and spoke to him for a time. He was pleased to get the call. He was all on his own this year. He lives in Quebec and they do something called Reveillion on Christmas Eve, which is midnight mass and an all night celebration. He just didn't feel up to all the festivities this year, what with just having been fitted with his pacemaker etc. and so he stayed home. He just wasn't up to it and says he tires easily. We were so happy to find out also that he didn't have cancer so double blessing and gift to us that we will have him around for a lot longer!

Then Todd and I spent a quiet evening on our own, just enjoying each other's company along with Mitzie and watching a few things on the telly. I am trying to remember now what they were, but alas . . . I can't! I must be getting old!

This is a picture of little Maryn on Christmas Day with her dad Tom. Doesn't she look sweet enough to eat? I thought so at any rate! It's amazing to me that she looks just like I did at the same age!

This is Jonathan and Joshua wearing the jim jams I sent to them! It is really nice to see my grandsons actually wearing something from me! I was very excited about that. All my grandchildren got matching pajamas and a book and some choccies from us. The boys all got exactly the same ones, printed with circus clowns and animals, and little Maryn got Beatrix Potter pink ones with Flopsie Bunny embroidered on the top and ruffles on the bottoms of the pantlegs. She got a board book as well (Goodnight Moon) along with a little pink sock monkey.

Here's Gabriel and Luke visiting Santa with their mom, Anne. Apparently Luke wasn't going to sit on Santa's lap without mom being there. My daughter in law is such a good sport. I love her to bits and Santa looks like he's enjoying her too!

We worked towards it for what seemed like forever . . . baking, planning, decorating . . . and then in just a few short days it was over. The best part of Christmas it seems happens in the planning and the run up to Christmas, or at least that is how it works for me. There is this huge build up, and not enough hours in the day . . . and then, like a sneeze, all of a sudden it is finished and all we're left with are a few Christmas goodies and some happy memories. It always makes me a bit sad when I have to take the decorations down and put them away. Kind of like saying goodbye to a few old friends, and the kitchen here in our cottage always seems a little bit empty for a few days . . . like something big is missing.

And then, all of a sudden, like a breath of fresh air, a forgotten gift arrives and it's Christmas all over again. A lovely brown paper bag decorated with Santa Claus's and full of little surprises, each one pretty and daintily wrapped and decorated, not the least of which was this beautiful little gold box tied up with a pretty pink ribbon.

Deep inside it's recesses, hidden under some pretty parchment paper folds lays a beautiful sweet Christmas surprise. What pretty colours these chocolates are . . . a wonder to behold and I am a child again . . . I don't want to eat them they are so lovely. I want to hoard them like the Easter Bunny I hid in the book case headboard of my bed for a whole day when I was eleven, only to discover the morning after, that my cousin's had been and eaten it when I wasn't looking. The only evidence of it's having been there a few telltale chocolate crumbs and some crumbled foil . . . Dare I take that chance again?

Oh look!!! A lovely Santa's hat and stocking, even a cute little snowman and a Christmas pudding . . . almost too cute to eat, but who am I to resist temptation. I must nibble . . . before someone else does . . . and we all know who that someone is!

Just another little painting I did yesterday afternoon. I got my Sunday talk all written and so I wanted to play for a bit and I had seen a photograph of two little girls posed just like this . . . it so tempted me to want to replicate it with some of my characters and so I did. As usual it is available as a print or a card. I need to post some of these newest creations in my Etsy shop I think!

After all the excesses of Christmas can I . . . dare I . . . tempt myself into eating just one more?? There is still a tin of Celebrations Chocolates on the counter that beckons to me, making it very hard to resist it's sweet treasures hidden inside. Whoever invented these was surely a genius, imagine all your favourite Chocolate bar temptations tucked into small packages, each one just a tiny bite . . . Mars . . . Maltesers . . . Bounty . . . Milky Way . . . they are too lovely to stay away from for very long. What could possibly be any better than these ???

Why Celebrations Brownies of course! This is a recipe adapted from the Green and Black's Chocolate cookbook, and yes . . . it was impossible to eat just one . . .

*Celebrations Brownies*
Makes 15
Printable Recipe

Imagine a brownie so rich and gooey that you can’t help gasping with pleasure when you sink your teeth into one . . . now add the hidden surprise of your favourite chocolate candy bar deep inside it’s decadently rich, chocolaty depth . . . Yes, you have died and gone to heaven.

7 ounces butter (13.8 TBS)
3 ½ ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces (use really good quality, no less than 60% chocolate solids)
12 ounces dark soft brown sugar (1.69 cups)
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 ounces self raising flour (2 cups)
Pinch of salt
10 ¼ ounce box of Celebration** chocolates, or other chocolates of your choice (Imagine Maltesers dotting the middle or a lovely layer of thin chocolate After Eight mints)

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Brush an 11 X 7 inch tin with melted butter and then life with greaseproof paper. Set aside.

Put the butter and the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering, but not boiling water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. Allow to melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Stir in the chocolate, mixing it in well.

Beat the eggs together with the vanilla and the pinch of salt. Stir this into the chocolate mixture, mixing it in well. Sift the flour and stir in until well combined.

Un wrap the chocolates.

Pour half of the chocolate batter into the prepared tin. Lay the chocolates evenly spaced carefully over the top of the batter, making sure that there will be at least one in each portion that is cut. Pour the remaining batter over top, ensuring that all the chocolates are completely covered.

Bake in the heated oven for 15 to 30 minutes until the top is crispy and glazed looking but the insides are still soft. Remove from the oven and to a rack to cool. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

**Celebration chocolates are a mixture we can get over here of small miniature chocolate bars such as Milky Way, Bounty, Mars, Snickers, etc. If you can’t get those use any favourite chocolate of yours. Malted milk balls sprinkled over the layer work quite well, as do thin chocolate mints. Chunks of caramel bar work equally as well. Let your decadent foodie imagination run free!

And over in The English Kitchen today, a genius and most delicious way to use up some of all those parsnips you got in for the holidays, scrummy Parsnip Patties with a Cranberry Mustard!

“Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely. ... He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Wednesday Ramblings . . .

It is hard to believe that 2011 is now winding down rapidly towards it's end . . . it seems like just yesterday it was a year that was young and full of promise , which we all greeted with joy when it was all fresh and new!

I cannot let it pass away without a thankful thought . . . of all the happy times and all the blessings it lay at my door. I will not dwell on any of the disappointments or hopes that missed the mark . . . for what would that change?

Nothing at all . . .

I think that is the secret to a happy life . . . to dwell on the good rather than the bad . . . on the things we have the power to change rather than on the ones we cannot . . . on the simple pleasures each day brings to us in a myriad of beautiful ways . . . on blessings found, rather than on treasures lost . . .

We've had a very enjoyable couple of days. We got caught up with the Christmas Special from Downton Abby that we had recorded on Sunday Evening! Oh my but it was some good!! Just brilliant in fact! I love Downton Abby. If you're never watched it you really must get yourself the DVD's and get caught up. It's probably one of the best television series that has come out in recent years!

Yesterday we were privileged to have a young woman come to our home and be taught by the missionaries. We've had her at our home many times before. She's such a lovely young woman and brings such a special spirit with her. I'm really excited as she is going to be Baptised this Friday evening. That is such a special time and I've been asked to give a talk at her Baptism as well, so guess what I am doing today? Yep! Writing a talk and you know that old saying "It never Rains but what it Pours???" Well, I've also been asked to give a talk in church on New Years day, fifteen minutes! Soooo . . . I shall have to put on my writer's hat over these next few days and get cracking!

I was thrilled and excited on Christmas Eve to have been featured over on my friend Miranda's page, A Duck In Her Pond! I've known Duckie for a long time now, since my days over on AOL Journals way back when! If you would like to go and read what she wrote about me, do hop on over HERE to see. While you're there, I do hope you'll also take a gander at her brilliant writing! Why she is not a famous author already I do not know, as she certainly should be!!

I also won a brilliant prize in a Giveaway over on Random Thoughts of a Great-Grannie Grandma! A fabulous MyMemories Suite V3 Digital Scrapbooking Software set! I can't wait to get started on using it! Many thanks to Sandy for hosting such a fab giveaway. I was so chuffed to win!! It is not often that happens! In fact this was pretty much a first and a great way to end the year, feeling a winner!

I am not one to make a lot of year end resolutions . . . I just strive each year to be a better me. This next year though I want to be more creative. I used to do a lot more creating when I was younger . . . oh, I know . . . I paint almost every day, but I want to do even more. There is this yearning in my soul that I can't quite put my finger on . . . I just want to make some things for our home . . . I don't know what though . . . quilts, wall hangings, etc. I am always seeing new ideas and thinking to myself I would love that . . . so why not??? I think 2012 will be the year I create even more!

I'm just rambling now and so I'll leave you with a thought . . .

Life offers compensations for our troubles and our care.
Consolations shed their light around us everywhere.
Things that make life worth the living;
Blessings great and small.
The things through which God speaks to us . . .
Take comfort from them all.
~Patience Strong

After all that baking I've been doing lately, I felt the need last night to eat something that at least appeared on the surface to be good for me. We all need to get more fish into our diet and not the kind that is covered with batter and deep fried either. I have been preparing this delicious dish for years. It is easy and always turns out lovely. You can decrease or expand the amounts very easily according to how many people you want to feed.

*Tomato & Herb Crusted Haddock*
Serves 2
Printable recipe

Haddock is such a mild and sweet fish. It is one of my favourite types. Cheese and tomatoes go very well with it. Just be careful not to overcook your fish. It should just barely flake beneath the tines of your fork and still be moist. You can have this lovely meal on your table in less than half an hour depending on what you serve it with.

2 thickish haddock filets, about 4 ounces each
1 slice of bread, crumbed into soft crumbs (I use my blender for this)
2 ounces of cheddar cheese, finely grated
2 TBS finely chopped flat leaf parsley
4 sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a drizzle of olive oil

Pre-heat your oven to 200*C/400*F. Lightly butter a shallow gratin dish.

Wipe your haddock fillets and place them, right side up in the prepared dish. Season with some salt and pepper.

Place the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and sun dried tomatoes in a small bowl and toss them together until they are well combined. Divide them between the two fish filets, piling it lightly on top of each. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and then bang them into the pre-heated oven.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and you can gently flake the fish with the tines of a fork. Remove from the oven and serve. I like to serve them with some oven roasted greek potatoes and some lightly steamed green beans on the side.

In The English Kitchen today I'm preparing a Salad of Baby Gems with a Blue Cheese Dressing!

“What we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are — and who we will become.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Tuesday 27 December 2011

The Simple Woman's Day book . . .

FOR TODAY, December 27th, 2011...

Outside My Window...

It is damp and dark . . . it's been unseasonably mild though, which is good. That will save a bit on the heating bill for sure! It is hard to believe that this is the last Woman's Day Book entry of 2011. Where has the year gone???

I am thinking...
We have had a really good Christmas. It started off with our attending a beautiful concert of Christmas Music at the Runcorn chapel and ended with our preparing a feast for all four missionaries yesterday. In all we have had a lovely few weeks, filled to overflowing with love and joy. You can't ask for much more than that!

The Elders yesterday after dinner! They are a nice group of lads. We are losing two on Wednesday as they are changing areas. (Insert sad face here.) We will get two new ones and we will love them as much as the ones that are leaving, but it is always sad to see any of them leave.

I am thankful for...
The love of family and friends, the reality of the Gospel in my life, the Gift of the Saviour, Peace in my heart, Joy in my life . . . my cup runneth over for sure.

From the kitchen...
There are leftover mince pies, Christmas pudding, Christmas Cake . . . the usual after Christmas goodies!

I am wearing...
Blue long sleeved nightie (M&S), Pink jim jam bottoms, pink slippers, aqua robe. Layering for warmth and comfort . . . again! I enjoyed seeing my daughter in law and grandsons wearing matching jim jams via web cam on Christmas day. Perhaps I should get Todd and myself matching jim jams . . . naaaahhh!! He would look better in them than I would. That might make me jealous!

I am creating...
I just did this one yesterday afternoon:

I had sketched her before Christmas and then yesterday I finished her off. I think it turned out quite nice. What do you think? As always she is available as a card or a print!

I am going...
We don't have a lot planned this week. I have a lot of things to do for my calling in Relief Society and we are teaching someone here in our home this morning. Then, there is a Baptism on Friday evening at the chapel. Todd and I have done a lot with this girl who's being Baptised and so it will be quite special to us. She is a sweet girl and we are so happy for her. ☺

I am reading...

Cross Stitch, by Diane Gabaldon (first in the Outlander series)

It has been a very long time since I have read anything deemed to be historical romance, although at one time I read a lot of them. I was particularly drawn to stories with either vikings or scotsmen wearing kilts in them.

The novel is not easily classified by a single genre. On one level, the work is a romance novel with a focus on the romantic relationship between the two main characters. The book could be described as a work of historical fiction with a detailed account of 18th century Scottish clan life. The novel could also be considered fantasy with a plot propelled by magical time travel as the main character, a woman named Claire, journeys from 1945 to the 18th century.

Cross Stitch(published in the US as Outlander) is the first novel in a series of seven by Diana Gabaldon. The book focuses on two main characters, Claire Randall (née Beauchamp) and James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, and takes place in 18th- and 20th-century Scotland. It was awarded the RITA Award for "Best romance novel" of 1992, so it's not a really recent novel.

So far, whilst it isn't what I would consider to be "great" literature, I am finding it to be somewhat of a page turner and quite entertaining. I think we all need to read something light once in a while. I just skim over the mushy parts . . . where they would have held my interest when I was younger, I just find them boring now. Funny how that goes . . .

I am hoping...
That 2012 will be a year that brings lots of good things and blessings for everyone.

I am hearing...
Early morning sounds as the world
wakes up around me. Every day sounds. Peaceable and comforting. The odd sound of a car as it passes . . . the clock ticking . . . Mitzie chewing on her bone . . . the keys tap-tapping. Home Sweet Home.

Around the house...

Source: via Tori on Pinterest

If money and space were no object I would love to have a kitchen like this, with lots of room to work in. I only have about 2 feet of counter space in my kitchen to work on. It's very limiting and when it comes to having to prepare and serve a large meal I am frequently frustrated by the lack of space. I need to work on finding out a way of getting more coounter space into that room!!!

I am looking forward to ...
The Baptism on Friday evening. The new year. Ohh, and this year we are studying the Book of Mormon again in Sunday School. I am really looking forward to that. The more I read this book, but more convinced I become that it is inspired of God. I am grateful for those feelings, I truly am.

If I could change one thing it would be ...
That my family would be united more. That there would be only good feelings amongst us and amongst the stepmom and myself. I had always hoped that we would be able to have a pleasant and co-operative relationship. That is what would have been best for the children. I do not know what I have ever done to make her hate me so, but she's hated me since the beginning. I just wish we could all get along, if only for the children's sakes . . .

One of my favourite things...
Is teaching with the missionaries. I really enjoy that and I enjoy sharing my love of the Gospel with any one who is willing to listen. I would love dearly to be able to go on a mission with Todd, but I can't see that ever happening.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
A bit of work . . . a bit of play . . . and everything in between!!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

To try is to risk failure. But risk must be taken, as the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing . . . does nothing, has nothing and is nothing.
~Author unknown

I think the fear of failure often prevents us from achieving our full potential. My goal for 2012 is to try to be fearless, or as fearless as I can be. Obviously I won't be walking in front of a bus or anything!

As a closing thought I would like to leave you with this:

"Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Virtue is doing it."
~David Starr Jordan (1851-1931)

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!

Here's a delicious way to prepare green beans that would be a fabulous side dish for your New Year's Celebrations. They are wonderful with Lamb, or Beef! In fact, I can't think of anything they would be great with!

*Haricots Verts with Pancetta and Pine Nuts*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

Haricots Verts is a fancy name for those lovely little French green beans. I suppose you could term this as a wonderful example of European fusion cooking, for it combines a truly French Ingredient with an Italian twist! These tasty morsels would add a delicious accent to your New Year's dinner celebrations this year.

1 pound haricots vert
1 TBS salt
½ cup pine nuts
2 ounces of pancetta, finely chopped
Basil infused olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 TBS minced fresh rosemary
¼ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim the stem ends off of the haricot verts and wash. Add the salt to a saucepan of water and bring it to the boil. Add the haricots vert and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, just until crispy tender. (they will begin to give off their delicious aroma when they are ready) Drain well, rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking any further, and then drain them again. Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a slow oven for about 10 minutes, or until light brown. Set aside.

Heat a very large skillet and add a drizzle of the basil infused olive oil. Add the pancetta and fry until crisp. Add the shallots, garlic and rosemary, and sauté over medium high heat for one to two minutes until tender. Add the vinegar and cook for minute or so to redice and then stir in the butter. Add the beans and pine nuts and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Baking in The English Kitchen today a delicious Maraschino Cherry Cake!

Monday 26 December 2011

Boxing Day Lore . . .

Happy Boxing Day everyone! Boxing Day is a holiday that is celebrated in Canada as well as tbroughout the Commonwealth, but I am not sure it is a day that is celebrated in the United States. Nowadays it is a day that generates a great deal of retail shopping, ie. The Boxing Day Sales, but it has a long history that goes back quite a ways.

Generally speaking Boxing day is the day that follows Christmas, or the 26th of December, and it is always a public holiday, or “Bank Holiday” as we call them over here, although a lot of those working in the retail trade will most certainly have to work today. Traditionally it was the day to open the Christmas Box to share with the poor. This was usually a wooden or clay container that contained money and gifts which had been gathered up and saved for those unfortunate souls.

During the Age of Exploration when great sailing ships were setting off to explore new lands, “A Christmas Box” was used as a good luck device. It consisted of a small box that was placed on each ship while it was still in port, prior to sailing. It was placed there by a priest and any sailors that wanted to ensure the safely of their journey and return home would place coins in it. It would then be sealed off by the Priest and kept on board during the whole voyage.

If the ship returned home safely the box would be handed back to the Priest, it’s contents intact, and a mass would be said to give thanks for the safety of the voyage. The Priest would then save the box and hand it’s contents out to the poor on the day after Christmas, which then became known as Boxing Day.

Many poorly paid workers were also required to work on Christmas Day, most notably those in Domestic employ. They were then given the day after Christmas Day off to go and visit their families. As they prepared to leave their employers gave them Christmas Boxes, which were always well looked forward to and most welcome to both their employees and their families.

During the 18th century , the Lords and Ladies of the Manor, would box up their leftover food, and sometimes gifts and distribute them to the tenants who lived and worked on their lands. This is a custom that continues still today only now more often than not it is customary for householders to gift small gifts or monetary sumsto the trades people that service them throughout the year, such as paper boys, milk men and dust bin collectors, and also in some work places for employers to give their employees Christmas Bonus’s.

Boxing Day is also known as St Stephen’s Day. (the day when Good King Wenceslas looked out!) St Stephen was one of Christ’s disciples and was the first man killed for believing in the teachings of Jesus Christ. As he was being stoned to death he looked up into the Heavens and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. You can read all about him in Acts 6:1 to Acts 8: 2.

Some people claim he shares this day with another St Stephen who hails from Sweden, St Stephen the patron saint of horses. It makes sense in a way as boxing day is also a day commonly associated with outdoor sports, in particular horse riding and hunting.

Traditionally Boxing Day has been the day for Fox Hunting in particular. Horse riders dressed in red and white, accompanied with packs of hounds, chase foxes through the countryside in hopes of tiring it out enough so that the dogs will be able to catch it and kill it.

Thankfully the practice of hunting with dogs was banned in 2004 and has been a criminal offence since 2005, although it is still legal to exercise dogs, chase out a scent and flush out foxes to be shot.

Boxing day is the day that families traditionally get together and watch sports or play board games, go for long walks in the countryside and enjoy a feast of all the Christmas leftovers. That is if they are not waiting in long queues for the shop doors to open their way into the sales racks!

We will not be doing any of that on this day! We are blessed to be able to have all FOUR missionaries over to our home for supper tonight, so I am really excited about that! We often have two over for supper, but this will be a first to be able to have all four at once! I have a big ham I am cooking with all the trimmings and plans to cook a chocolate cake! (Todd will quite happily have leftover Christmas pud instead!)

I hope that you are all continuing to enjoy your Christmas Celebrations, and that you are, each of you, surrounded with love!

Here's a tasty gratin that I will be baking later today to go along with our ham. It uses a delicious combination of root vegetables. I just know the lads will love it!

*Root Vegetable Gratin with Blue Cheese*
Serves 10
Printable Recipe

This recipe makes a large portion, but can very easily cut down to serve fewer. It’s also a great make ahead, as you can prepare it a day ahead and then just reheat it, covered when you are ready to serve it. You get a delicious sweetness from the various root vegetables in a deliciously savoury sauce. It’s a great way of making some pretty humble vegetables into something that is quite special and most delicious!

1 ½ pounds of parsnips
1 ½ pounds carrots
1 ½ pounds of rutabagas (Swedes)
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp minced fresh thyme or ¼ tsp dried, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese (about 3 ounces)

Pre-heat the oven to 205*C/425*F. Lightly butter a deep 9 X 13 inch baking dish and set aside.

Peel the parsnips and carrots and slice them into ¼ inch thick slices. Peel the swede and cut it in half, then cut each half into ¼ inch thick half rounds.

Mix the cream, stock , garlic and thyme together in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then add the swede. Place a cover on top and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the carrots and parsnips, cover again and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Transfer the vegetables and the cream mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake, uncovered, until thick and bubbly, and the vegetables are quite tender, about 35 minutes. Crumble the blue cheese evenly over top and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Delicious!

Over in The English Kitchen today we are doing leftovers!