Tag Archives: Christmas preparations

Christmas wild food - Yule log cake

Wild food for Christmas

Our Christmas feasting would not be complete without a dash of wild food. Wild fruits, carefully harvested and preserved during Summer and Autumn, bring out memories of warm sunshine in these deep days of Winter.

You may have seen my Wordless Wednesday pic last week, with my son expertly whisking up a Yule log cake. Here is the Yule log cake in all its decorated glory, replete with lashings of home-made blackberry jam and cream … and not forgetting the cherries and chocolate! This is definitely a cream cake to eat with a spoon!

Our Yule log cake 2014
My own MasterChef in the making? The fully decorated Yule log cake!

Another wild food festive treat I like to rustle up is Raspberry Coulis – a delicious fruity sauce topping that turns plain vanilla ice cream into a delightful dessert, especially with a shaking of grated chocolate on top. We prefer this wild food dessert instead of traditional Christmas pudding.

Raspberry Coulis Ice Cream Dessert
Raspberry Coulis Ice Cream Dessert

Raspberry Coulis is easy, though slightly time-consuming to make – here is the recipe I always use:

Raspberry Coulis

Ingredients:
175g / 6 oz of fresh raspberries (washed) or frozen raspberries (thawed)
3 teaspoons of water
3 teaspoons of sugar
(We find this is sufficient quantity to accompany 8 servings of ice cream.)

To make:
1. Blend the raspberries in a blender or food processor with the water and sugar.
2. Sieve the mixture through a metal or nylon sieve. (This is the time-consuming part! I find stirring the mixture carefully in the sieve helps it on its way 😉 )
3. Turn the resulting liquid into a saucepan and boil for one minute. This makes the sauce clear and glossy.
4. Cool and refrigerate until needed. (I find this sauce lasts about four or five days in the fridge … then it tends to have been eaten! 😉 )

If the raspberry harvest has been disappointing and we have none left in the freezer by Christmas, I have also made up the same recipe using blackberries with equally delicious results. We always tend to have many more blackberries. Sometimes the bramble bushes are blooming again before all our blackberry stash has been devoured!

J Peggy Taylor

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Merry Christmas from Oak Trees Studio

Christmas Eve is such a busy day, so it is wonderful to find an hour when we can escape to the woods for a brisk Winter’s walk. There’s no white Christmas for us here in northern England this year, but our little video takes you on a short walk in our woods when they were beautifully snowy. To accompany you on your walk is one of my favourite Winter melodies, Gustav Holst’s setting to Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the Bleak Midwinter”, played on the piano by our son, Will. We hope you enjoy our snowy musical montage.

We wish all our visitors a very Merry Christmas.

Very best wishes from
J Peggy Taylor and all of us at Oak Trees Studio

Our Christmas wreath

Our Christmas wreath 2014
Our Christmas wreath 2014

Most of our Christmas decorations have shared many festive seasons with us. Several of them have their own tales that are retold each year as we retrieve them from their packing boxes for their next seasonal display. Some are items that have been hand crafted by our children over the years.

One such item is the willow base on which each year I craft our Christmas wreath of evergreens with holly, ivy, pine and two ‘ears’ of yew. Collecting the greenery is something of a family ritual, but also a welcome excuse for a woodland wander. I love the woods at all times of year and mid-Winter has its own magic.

When complete, we hang our Christmas wreath outdoors on a wall-hook. We used to hang it on the door but modern uPVC doors don’t seem to lend themselves well to ancient earthy rituals like wreath hanging!

J Peggy Taylor

Run, run, as fast as you can …

… you can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!

Cooking Gingerbread Men for Christmas

A few years ago our youngest son became keenly interested in helping with Christmas cooking. He scoured recipe books deciding on new things we should add to our Christmas feast. When his eyes alighted on pictures of iced gingerbread men he realised this was a Christmas treat he had so far missed out on – a situation he must immediately remedy!

Part 1: Mixing the gingerbread dough,
Part 2: carefully cutting out the gingerbread men shapes and adding the currants for eyes and buttons,
Part 3: baking them
– and then – the ultimate fun part,
Part 4: decorating them with coloured icing
… all have now become part of our Christmas countdown schedule.

Making gingerbread

We’ve tried out a couple of different recipes for our gingerbread dough, but we find this one works out just right.

Ingredients:
350g (12 oz) plain flour
5ml (1 level teaspoon) baking powder
10ml (2 level teaspoons) ground ginger
100g (4 oz) butter or margarine
175g (6oz) sugar (brown sugar is best)
60ml (4 level tablespoons) golden syrup
1 egg beaten
Currants to decorate

To make:
Sift the flour, baking powder and ground ginger into a bowl.
Rub in the butter or margarine and stir in the sugar.
Beat in the syrup and egg.
Knead the dough until smooth.
(TIP: We usually freeze the dough at this point and do the rolling out and cooking part separately. If you do freeze the dough, defrost it in the fridge overnight and then leave it out for about an hour to come to room temperature before rolling.)
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness.
Cut out your gingerbread people or shapes and place well apart on a greased baking sheet (we normally use and reuse baking paper).
Decorate with currants for eyes and buttons.
Bake at 190C (375F) Gas mark 5 for about 10-12 minutes.
Cool slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Further decoration with coloured icing is then essential in our house (guess what we are doing today!), but the gingerbread is equally tasty just as it is after cooling 😉
The gingerbread keeps well enough in air-tight containers … plenty long enough before it’s all been snapped up by your hungry little foxes! 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Crochet snowman greetings card design

Crafty handmade crochet cards ~ make one yourself!

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Crochet is my favourite yarn craft, so I am always looking for new ways to crochet my world. One idea I had earlier this year was to make personalised birthday cards featuring crochet designs for our sons. You can see my two specially created designs in the slideshow above. May I introduce you to Hedgehog and GCF. It’s fairly obvious which one is which! Hedgehog looks quite normal but what, I hear you ask, is a GCF? It looks rather dangerous doesn’t it … but no need to fear! Giant Carnivorous Fly is a personal logo invented by our son, while the tools refer to his woodwork hobby 🙂 For all you keen crocheters, the hedgehog and his grass are crocheted in Astrakhan stitch.

The wonderful people at UK Crochet Patterns recently posted another idea they’d seen for a simple crochet greetings cards. Their post features a simple but stylish crochet flower card.

This got me thinking about the coming holiday season when we all love to send our good wishes to friends and relatives with a card. What better way of sending your love than with a handmade card! I always think handmade gifts and cards make them extra special.

Crochet card tutorial - the completed card
The completed card

To help get your creative imagination in gear, I have created a step-by-step tutorial for this snowman card design using a few simple crochet stitches. You can find my tutorial via this link, but you’ll also see it in my How To … Tutorials menu above.

Go on! Get crafty, and surprise someone with a simple but special handmade card this winter holiday season!

Happy crafting 🙂

J Peggy Taylor