Monthly Archives: October 2011

Making Christmas Cake

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I know!  It isn’t even the end of October yet!  They have had Christmas things in the shops since the beginning of the month!  I was told that October was the best month to sell Christmas items.  I told the salesperson that if everybody waited until November, then that would be the best month to sell Christmas items.  I swear it gets earlier and earlier each year.

However, when it comes to making a Christmas cake, you need to make it at least six weeks ahead of time.  I will tell you why later.  The English seem to like a very dark fruitcake with lots of raisins, sultanas, glacé cherries and candied peel.  They also like to cover it with marzipan and royal icing.  Being of Hungarian descent, I don’t mind marzipan, but I really dislike royal icing or any other form of icing.  I find it too sweet.  I prefer the more fattening and delicious buttercream frosting.  In any event, the marzipan and icing help to keep the cake moist, which is why it can be made many weeks in advance.

An English Christmas Cake

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Many Americans, such as myself, seem to like a lighter cake with nuts and fruit like figs, apricots and dates.  I remember that one of our relatives would sometimes order a Texas fruitcake for Christmas.  I always loved this cake because of the nuts and cherries.  You can now order these cakes in the UK from Collin Street Bakery. 🙂

Having been a vegetarian on and off for many years, I have acquired some excellent vegetarian cookbooks over the years.  Even though I am not a vegetarian, I still use these books as I don’t eat much meat and I have a few recipes I am really partial to.  One of them is the Christmas Fruit Cake by Anna Thomas in her book The Vegetarian Epicure. (I also have book two!)  I have had to adapt the recipe slightly as wheat flour no longer seems to agree with me and so I used spelt flour instead.  You can find whole meal spelt flour in the supermarket.  It is more difficult to find the white version even though it is made by the same company, but I found it in my local health food store.  I also used Marsala wine instead of Sauterne.  I also varied the fruit around this year.  I bought a tropical fruit mix and used dried cranberries and crystallized ginger pieces for one batch.  I also made a batch of the more traditional version as in the book.  I have made this cake a few times now and have varied it every time for one reason or another.  It comes out great regardless!  My daughter and I spent the afternoon making and decorating 7 cakes today!

Chopped fruit:  Tropical mix on the left and more traditional version on the right.  We chopped these up the night before!  There was a lot of fruit to chop up.

The batch with traditional fruits made four 6 inch diameter (medium) cakes.  The recipe says it will make 6 medium to small rectangular cakes.  We decorated the cakes with pecans, almonds, glacé cherries and crystallized ginger.

The tropical mix made 2 medium cakes and one 9 inch long loaf.  Decorated as above.

Now, the reason you need to make the cakes about six weeks in advance is because you need to ‘feed’ the cakes regularly with alcohol.  One batch is being fed with brandy and one batch with rum.  Can you guess which batch is being fed with rum?

By the time Christmas arrives, you will have one well-fed cake.  Be careful though, you mustn’t drive after eating this cake! 😉

The Sky Where I Live

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I love clouds.  When I was a kid, I used to love lying on the ground and looking up at the clouds and watch them blow by and try to work out what they looked like.  Some things in my life haven’t changed much.  However, these days I can lie on the beach and do the same thing.

Although a cloud can be the bearer of rain, clouds do make the sky look more interesting.  We all love clear cloudless skies.  It usually means that we will have a sunny and warm day.  Relatively speaking.  We can have snow on the ground, but it won’t feel so cold if the sun is shining.  I entered a photo in a contest at The Photographic Society of a wreck in The Red Sea.  What stopped me from getting the top mark was that the judge thought it would have looked better if there were clouds in the sky!  Ha! Fat chance!

Clouds can make a difference to a photo or a painting.  Just think what Titian’s paintings would look like without his dramatic cloud formations.

Since I have lived in Eastbourne these last couple of years, I have learned that a cloudy sky doesn’t always bring rain.  It can be overcast all week and not a drop of rain will fall.  It has been like that a few times this summer.  You think it is going to rain so you don’t water the plants, but nothing happens.  It can be very strange.  We have been having some unusually warm weather here.  Eastbourne seems to have its own micro climate.  It can be sunny here on the coast and cloudy and damp a few miles inland.  It can be boiling hot one moment, and if a cloud does happen to appear and covers the sun it is freezing cold the next.  Some days I really don’t know what I should be wearing.

This past week, we have had some amazing clouds and skies.

From the train - on the way to work

I took this from the train on the way to work on Tuesday.  My car was being serviced.   It was dark when I left the house and the sun was coming up over the sea.

On the way home

After collecting my car, I drove home along the seafront as there were some amazing cloud formations and colours.  It looked like a huge storm would break, but it never did.  There was a ‘tornado’ in Bexhill that afternoon.  It happened just before I got on the train to collect my car.

From my bedroom window

This was the view from my bedroom window on Wednesday morning.  I wish I could say that I always know what the day is going to be like by looking out of my window, but the weather can change.   This morning it was dull and grey and turned into a wonderfully warm and sunny day.  Wednesday was lovely.  Forget that old saying:  ‘Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning, red sky at night, sailor’s delight.’  It never rained where I was.  I did see three different layers of clouds all moving at various speed with pockets of blue skies and sunshine throughout the day.  It was breezy and mild.

On the way to work

This was the sky on the way to work on Thursday morning.

The Eastbourne Pier, with fog

Friday was dull and overcast.  Totally grey and quite depressing, but it didn’t rain.  This was the sky on the way home from work.  It was foggy and the sea was eerily calm.

 This photo would not be nearly as interesting with only blue skies.

The Pier always looks good, regardless of what the sky looks like.   Even when the sky is grey and stormy looking.

It doesn’t stop the surfers from going out though!

I feel really blessed to have a lovely drive to and from work at the moment.  I get to watch the sun come up and go down, most of the time.  I am sure that will all change soon once the clocks go back this weekend.

Why I Love My Town

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It is October and we are still having amazing weather.  Although it was a bit windy on the seafront, the sky was clear and the temperature was mild.  I took both of my cameras out with me – a Canon PowerShot SX200 IS and a Canon EOS 450D.  I took the 80-200mm lens with me, when I should have taken the wide-angle lens.  Next time!  I love walking along the seafront, it is one of my favourite things that I like to do. 🙂

These pictures were taken with the PowerShot on Sunset mode and Landscape mode.

 

These were taken with the EOS using the polarizing Filter.

This one is a detail of the columns on the bandstand.  They are still beautiful even though they are showing some cracks.  They still have the Christmas lights on them!

 

The starlings were doing their magic and the young gulls were hovering over The Pier while an older gull was keeping watch.

The gardens by The Pier have flowers all year round!  How wonderful is that!  We even have a train that will take you from one end of town at Holywell to the other end towards Sovereign Harbour.  If you have mobility issues it is a great way to see the promenade.  The kids seem to love it too.

That’s it for now!