It's Stir Up Sunday! Time to make the Christmas pudding, and NOT to go around winding up people for the hell of it, although judging by some of the blogs I've had a read of this morning there are a lot of antsy folk out there scrambling around on their personal soap boxes and giving it large, as they say in the teen vernacular. It is also St Edmund's Day. St Edmund was King of East Anglia back in the days before centuries progressed to 4 digits, i.e a VERY LONG time ago. He met his end, according to a chronicler of the time, looking like 'a thistle, or a hedgehog', having been shot full of arrows by some Viking invaders. Bloody Vikings, eh? Anyway, somewhere along the line, St Edmund's head became separated from his body, and was later found, still chatting away, between the paws of a grey wolf. The head was reunited with the body (I do not know how the wolf felt about having its luncheon removed - pretty miffed, probably) and the two miraculously stuck themselves together. Anyway, once Edmund had stopped wittering on, he was duly interred and the town that grew around his burial place became known, unimaginatively, as Bury St Edmunds.
In keeping with the pudding theme of the day, it became a tradition to give school children a specially baked St Edmund's Bun on 20th November, presumably to start fattening them up for Christmas, this being in the days when people couldn't afford to have a turkey for Christmas dinner (or goose, if you like to be more traditional. Or Stilton, squash and cranberry pie if you are, like me, a holier than thou vegetarian). It is also National Tree Week. And supposedly the best day of the year to plant your broad beans and garlic - 'Set garlic and beans on St Edmund the King, the moon in the wane thereof hangeth a thing.' Nope, me neither. Although the moon IS currently in the wane. Not sure what 'thing hangeth' though. A bun in a tree?
So, I am up with the lark, gathering my ingredients for the pudding stir up...
I use the recipe from my maternal great-grandmother - vegetable suet, though, and a couple of our home grown eating apples in lieu of the Bramley apple. Eggs supplied by Nellie. I also chuck in a little more mixed spice than suggested because I love nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. And I use my paternal grandmother's wooden spoon and pudding bowl.
I also have a bit of a taste before adding the brandy, because brandy tastes yuck but I appreciate it is needed for its preservatory properties.
And then I discovered an 'issue.' Normally, I would put the mix in the biggest of Gran's pudding bowls. However, at some point between last Stir Up Sunday and this, I have purchased a new steamer. And although the new steamer has 3 levels, none of them are quite tall enough to accommodate the biggest pudding bowl. I blame metrication. Gran's pudding bowls are imperial. The steamer is metric. And ne'er the twain shall fit together properly. So this is what I did...(it wasn't rocket science, to be honest)...
Stand back Big Pudding, step forward Medium Pudding and Baby Pudding! And then another reason to be glad of our move to Damson Cottage became apparent. Assorted outbuildings means that instead of filling the house with 5 hours' worth of steam, I can install the steamer in the garage where it is filling that with steam instead. Actually, I have propped the door open, and it does mean I have to pop in and out every three quarters of an hour or so to top up the water and check for potential pudding explosion issues. But so far, so good!
Mission Stir Up Sunday accomplished! Hope you aren't being buffeted too much by the wind. It's not too bad here, although Andy did decide that this morning would be an excellent time to climb a ladder and pick the remaining apples with a shrimping net. Sigh...🙄
Life has been bobbing along gently here at Damson Cottage. The trees have almost denuded themselves of leaves, and the courtyard and garden are filled with clear Winter light as a result. Fat balls and seed stations have been strategically placed to satisfy the needs of the bird population - blue tits, great tits, dunnocks, wrens, robins and chaffinches, and our Crow, who travels alone but it growing ever bolder as he, or maybe she, becomes confident in our presence. The massive fuchsia by the back door, which attained the size of an elephant, has been pruned back so I don't wack my face on it every time I step outside. I was going to study proper pruning of a fuchsia, but in the end I just went at it with my secateurs in my usual renegade pruning style because a) the weather was drizzling with rain and b) the delivery of the new freezer was imminent and I needed to clear a path for the delivery chaps to the Laundry where the freezer will live.
Yes, we are now a two-freezer family, which is odd given there are only two of us in residence, plus a cat who would never let ANYTHING edible go off and if she did she would not care a single feline jot. His 'n' hers freezers then? Hmmm. Anyway, our other freezer is very pleased about the new addition because it didn't half squeal when I levered my last load of baking into it last week. I am attempting to stay one step ahead of the eggs and fruit that are coming from the garden and it is this battle that brought on 'Freezergate.' I was umming and aahing about it, Andy just got on and ordered it. Mind you, it was me who had to fend off the eager sales chap from AO (which I think stands for Appliance Online, but could be Aarvarks and Ostriches) who was keen to sell me an insurance plan for £3.74 a month against the freezer failing.
'I'm not sure I want a freezer that is likely to go wrong,' said I. 'And in over 30 years I have never bought appliance insurance. And I've never regretted it.' (I realise this is now giving Fate licence to scupper the new freezer exactly one year and a day from now. But I DON'T CARE!!)
The sales chap flurried. 'Oh, it won't,' said he. 'It'll be fine. But just in case. You know, peace of mind.'
I considered the matter and decided a broken freezer would not upset my peace of mind and declined the kind offer. The freezer arrived safely, I read the instruction booklet warning about not leaving it standing out in the rain or allowing children to play in it, left it open overnight to 'freshen up' (??) and plugged it in this morning. As soon as I have finished here I shall start filling it up with fruit and baked goods. And Christmas.
Just over a month until Christmas, folks! Heavens but I am glad I realised it was just around the corner and have started preparations. You'd think we'd get some kind of Government warning, wouldn't you? Wouldn't want it to take me by surprise, would I? Flippin' Christmas, turning up on 25th December every year....sigh...rolls eyes....tuts....
Enough of the sarcasm! It is NOT attractive. Anyway, I am more aware that I am (finally) starting my new job on Monday and I wanted to get as much of Christmas organised as possible before I re-enter the realms of Teacher Zombie Land and become too tired to be arsed. To that end I have almost finished my Christmas shopping, the Advent Candle is on standby, I have stamps, wrapping paper, cards and some lovely Christmas paper ready to make proper paper chains because I am going all traditional this year, in keeping with our new Victorian cottage home. I have also made...
...some gingerbread men - the non-calorific type - and some little hearts and trees for the Christmas tree...
And lots of meeces awaiting some stars and fairy wands because I am making a Chrismouse Tree...
Flora is especially keen on the meeces and keeps relocating them around the house if I don't keep them safely locked away in their zipper bag. She also keeps relocating my pompom robins and pompom snowmen and snowladies. I don't know - you buy expensive toys for these pets and they much prefer a pompom or a knitted mouse. Maybe I should just make her a basket full of pompom kittens.
Anyway, as I said, all is peace and calm here. Life is pottering on. Hope it is the same for you where you are.
I had a FABULOUS birthday yesterday! The weather was crisp, bright and sunny. I received a lovely set of cards and presents along with many good wishes from friends and family on Facebook. Andy had already booked the day as holiday, and he took me Stratford-upon-Avon in the evening for a lovely Italian dinner followed by a visit to the Swan Theatre to see a very energetic, with teeny bits of naughtiness (!) production of 'The Rover' which is a Restoration play by Aphra Behn, and one of my favourites. We rolled home about half past midnight. It was a very good day indeed!
51, eh? It's been an eventful year. New job, new home, new life in the countryside. I wonder where I'll be at 52? Who knows? I'll tell you where I was about midday today - rounding up 5 naughty hens from the garden, that's where. They had escaped their run - loose netting - and were having a high old time kicking up the leaves under the cherry tree in the bottom garden. Nellie was in the courtyard! But because I have trained them well, I just popped on my coat (chilly out) and they all followed me, á la Pied Piper, back up to their own house and garden, and I rewarded them for their obedience with a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds. Job done.
Perhaps this time next year we might have more hens. We might have another cat. We've been umming and ahhing about it - does Flora Bijou Mybug need a companion, maybe, as she has grown up with kitty chums? She was very close to Tybalt - he's been gone almost a year now - and then losing Phoebe just before we moved...well, I think she misses them. Of course, cats are solitary creatures, and actually aren't that bothered about having another cat around, but Flora, because we've had her since she was 2 weeks old, is a different case. Anyway, another cat? Who knows?
Damson Cottage will DEFINITELY be different! Once the New Year arrives we shall be cracking on with alterations and renovations. Making it ours. Erasing the marks of previous owners. And the garden, too, will have earned its keep as the new 'Hedgetable' plot (as Andy now calls it because it will a vegetable garden surrounded by a hedge) comes into its own.
My instinct as each birthday passes by is to treat it as a personal 'New Year' which involves making plans and resolutions about what I am going to do and change and learn before my next birthday. But I'm not doing that this year. This year will flow as it will. I'll drift along with it, a day at a time, still writing and reading, sewing and gardening, and loving the fact that I can step outside my back door and talk to a sheep and the front door and talk to a cow! Today has been a snuggle at home day. The weather has been colder and overcast, I am sleepy after only 5 hours of zzzzzz (because despite the late night, I am incapable of lie-ins!) so I've been reading by the fire, and watching the boxed set of 'Friday Night Dinner' that was a birthday present.
My inspiration is this piece of art that Andy bought me as a birthday gift. We went to an exhibition of work by this artist a few months ago, and Andy remembered how much I loved her paintings. So he got me one! I love the one he chose. I think it is very me...
Rantings, ravings, observations and musings, useful stuff, silly stuff, funny, sad and thoughtful guff!