Monthly Archives: December 2011

Merry Christmas Message 2011

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As 2011 draws to a close and we all get ready, or panic, for the holiday festivities, I would just like to pause and reflect.  There are many people who will not be enjoying the holiday celebrations and I would like you to send some kind thoughts to them.  And I am not talking about people who are just grumpy and don’t like Christmas or don’t get along with their families.

Take a minute of your time and tell someone out there that they are not forgotten.  (You can say it in your head)  It doesn’t have to be anyone specific, but I am sure that we all know someone who could benefit from some kind thought.   There are a lot of conflicts and injustices taking place out there in this big world of ours and many people are suffering.  A lot of them probably live near you.  Suffering doesn’t stop for the holidays.  What good will a thought do?  Well, thoughts become things as they are made of energy.  It is not a coincidence when you think about someone and you bump into them on the street or they call you.  If how you think can change your life, then what can your positive thought do for a complete and utter stranger?  Just something to think about.

Because others may be suffering, does this mean than I am not going to enjoy myself over the holidays or for the rest of my life?  Heck no.  Right now I feel particularly grateful that I am in good health and have loving people around me.  We can do a lot for others around us just by being pleasant and kind and having a smile on our face.  Try and be the kind of person that you would want to hang out with.  A brief, positive interaction with a stranger can make a world of difference, for you and/or for them.  Happiness and the pursuit of it is our right.  It is even written into the American Constitution. 🙂  Suffering is not a virtue.  It is a sure sign that something is not right in our world.

And for those of you who think that I don’t get grumpy, or angry or a little bit down sometimes, well, just ask my exes, or my kids.  I’m only human.  However, once I start listing all that I am grateful for, it cheers me right up as I realise how much I have in my life already.  This allows me to be more generous, maybe not so much with my money as I am not working full-time, but I can be generous with my time and a kind word if needed, and by taking stuff to the charity shop (they made a lot of money off of me in gift aid last year!).  And that is how I plan on making things better in my world.  It works for me.

I will be having a quiet Christmas and hopefully a boisterous New Year with a loved one.  My kids are with their Dad, so I might get to see them with Skype.  My parents really don’t do technology, so it will be a phone call, which is the next best thing to being there, but that was before Skype. 🙂

I want to thank all of you who have been reading my blog and hope you all have a wonderful holiday, whichever one you are celebrating.  And for all of you who are having difficulties, I hope that love and joy will find you.  All the best. xx

Spiced Pumpkin Cake

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I made some Pumpkin Bread for Thanksgiving.  I looked online for some recipes and they all pretty much had the same ingredients, all with a lot of sugar and vegetable oil.  I varied the recipe a bit, and although tasty and moist (a bit heavy), I still wasn’t entirely happy with the outcome.  So I decided to vary the ingredients and this is what I came up with.  Enjoy!

Spiced Pumpkin Cake (for Christmas!)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup golden granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar (soft)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 100 g melted butter, lightly salted
  • 3 duck eggs (or 3 large hen eggs)
  • 1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 ½ cups white spelt flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon mace
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)
  • some chopped crystallised ginger pieces (optional)

Topping

  • Glacé Cherries or Orange Slices, Nuts (Almonds, Pecans, Brazil), Crystallised Ginger, Stem Ginger in Syrup – whatever you want to decorate with
  • Clear Honey

Pre-heat oven to 350°F (180°C, gas mark 4).  Butter and flour (optional), or line bottom of two 16cm non-stick round cake tins with greaseproof paper (I used tins with removable base).  Beat sugar, eggs, butter and oil in large bowl to blend. Stir in pumpkin.  Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, mace, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in several additions to avoid lumps. Stir in pecans, raisins and ginger pieces, if desired.

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 1 hour in a fan assisted oven.  Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of cakes (this wasn’t necessary with my non-stick tins).  Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.  When cakes are cool, brush tops of cakes with honey and decorate with fruit and nuts.   (Here is an interesting tidbit on Glacé Fruit!)

Your cake should look like these when done.  When they are cooled, it might be a good idea to slice the tops off a bit to make them more level for decorating.  However, being me, I thought of that at the last-minute, but carried on regardless.  I cut my Glacé Cherries in half, quartered some stem ginger in syrup, and used almonds and pecans.  It was what I had.  I put them all together in a bowl with a bit of the stem ginger syrup.  I took a whole piece of stem ginger and pushed it into the centre of the top of the cake.  Then I just put the fruit and nuts on top.  Ta da!

Because of the uneven surface of the cake, I had to poke some almonds into the cake to act as support for the fruit so they wouldn’t fall off.  I can’t guarantee that the whole thing won’t fall apart once I start slicing the cake, but by then who will care!   Once all of the fruit was on the cake, I used some more honey and ginger syrup as an extra glaze.

This is what it looks like when you cut the first slice…

Well, I did have to try it out to make sure my new-improved recipe was ok.  This is one spicy cake, not too sweet (except for the fruit on top), and very moist without being heavy!  I think I hit on a winner here.  If you want to tone down the spiciness, you can do it in the recipe and reduce the quantity of the spices – or you can do what they do here in England, serve with heavy cream!  Personally, I think it would go nicely with some vanilla ice-cream, but that is just me. 🙂

Note:  I used spelt flour because normal whole wheat no longer agrees with me.  You can use any baking flour that you wish.  If you don’t want to use butter, use one cup of light olive or vegetable oil instead.  It really isn’t too much.  Have fun with it.  Might be nice to add dried cranberries to it next time.  I just used what I had in the house.  I would be interested to know how this turned out for you if you try it!

A Walk Along the Oxford Canal – Off the Beaten Path

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What started off as a grim, cold and snowy morning turned into a glorious afternoon.  I was prepared to walk in all weather.  I donned my waterproofs, hat, scarf and gloves, and off we went in search of something different.

I have done several walks along the Oxford/Grand Union Canal and no two walks have been alike.  This time we picked up the towpath from Rugby.

You can tell from the ice on the canal how cold it was!  There was an interesting mural under the canal bridge – children playing…Rugby!

The path was a bit wet and muddy, nothing unusual for this time of year.  The air was crisp and the sky was clearing up.  We eventually came to a sign telling us about The Newbold Quarry Park.  From where we were standing, it was difficult to imagine any kind of nature park in the middle of a housing area.  However, this is what we saw…

There is a huge quarry lake that you can fish in (you have to throw them back though).  The swans were lovely and just seemed to love posing for the camera.  It was a lovely little walk around a lake that you would never know was there if you didn’t take that first step off the beaten track.

On the way back we came across this…Green Man!

We came across him sideways, where he looks like a soldier, but coming round full frontal we saw this amazing carving.

He is advertising the Swift Valley Country Park.  Another walk for another day and something we didn’t know about before! 🙂