Basic Big and Borrowed Bikes

I have always associated bicycle with freedom. Freedom to choose your way. Freedom to choose your pace. Freedom to feel the air in your lungs and wind in your hair.

Bike Quote: A feminist slogan. Photo: My Mum Ela

I only owned three bicycles in my life:  a kid bike on which I learnt to cycle, the junior bike that I roamed the neighbourhood on, and finally a comfort bike that was found in a rubbish dump and got beautifully upcycled (yes, exactly) by my husband.

My first bicycle was a shiny purple small bike fitted with stabilizers that after a few months were taken off to be replaced – very temporarily – by a wooden pole attached to the back of the saddle. My father would hold on to it while running along me until he finally knew he could let go, stop and see me riding away on my own.

Bike Quote: Emo Philips, US Comedian. Photo: Grandmother Gienia

Fairly quickly I grew out of the kids bike and got upgraded to much cooler model with high head tube, hand brake and back rack that could be used to carry the extra person. It looked like this and was all I wanted and needed. I could cycle around the estates, very often pretending that the bike was my fellow horse and together we explored and conquered not the nearby streets but rather distant kingdoms or wild prairies.

Bike Quote: Albert Einstein. Photo: Grandmother Zosia

As much fun as that was, in a few years this bike too became the thing of the past as it was too small for a young girl. So it was sold yet sadly enough we could never afford the new one so I got no bike to cycle to school or ride to friends’ houses. Luckily, there was always someone I could borrow a bike from to go for a day trip to the lake or to the mountains. I always felt great to get on the bike and feel the air blowing in my face and even though some of the bikes were too big and not so comfortable to ride, surely you don’t look a gifted horse into the mouth.

karta rowerowa, cycling licence
Bike Quote: H.G. Wells, British author. Collage: Ewa, old cycling licences and Sonia in Switzerland

I think I truly discovered the culture of riding a bike once I was on my summer holidays in Switzerland. The green ways led us through the corn fields and woodlands, along the golf courses and away from the roads and traffic. And even in the city centres the cars would always give way to bicycles. And the bicycles would always stop for the pedestrians. I was amazed by the respect shown and I never felt as safe riding a bike.

Amsterdam, on the other hand, proved way too professional for my leisure cyclist skills. Even though cycling in Amsterdam was the first thing on my to-do-list I never ventured to merge into a cycling lane as I was afraid I will be knocked-down or at least pinged for not knowing where I was going and not keeping up with the other’s speed.

Bike Quote: Greg LeMond, US Cyclist. Photo: Natasha

Is it easy to learn to ride a bike? I can still remember going through all the stages of learning and feeling proud and very grown-up while reaching this milestone. I can still remember watching my husband teaching our daughter. I think riding a bike is one of those basic skills that parents, well mostly fathers, teach their children. Or is it? As parents have less time and tend to turn to professionals for solutions I could imagine in a few years from now cycling schools will be as popular as swimming lessons. Surely, the kids will have better skills but will we not miss something important and will we still have the authority if we leave teaching our children to teachers?

Bike Quote: Mark Twain, American author. Photo: Sonia on her UPCYCLED bike

Many years passed until I got my third bike. As with many things in my life I didn’t search for it, it found me. The bike was dumped in a pile of rubbish, broken and wasted. The handlebar was dented and askew. The wheels were flat. The brake cable was cut. The chain was rusted. The shifter was gone. While most saw a wreck, my husband saw the potential. He brought it home and started to fix and to tweak and to add until he made the bike just for me. It had now bright red brake and gear cables and a wicker basket to carry all the essentials.

bike quote

We were now ready for family trips. We explored lots of greenways, cycled in parks and along the canals. We traveled with bikes to France and rode along the coast of Brittany. Sometimes a bike would break. Sometimes we got caught in the rain and once in a tide coming in. We do get dirty and the bikes ever more so. When we cycle we mostly escape the city, the crowds and stay away from urban areas. We try to regularly cycle to school. Occasionally, I cycle to work or town but I still feel insecure to join the rush hour traffic. I never cycled on the city bikes, yet I would love to give it a try. I honestly do not care how the bike looks like, if it is mine or borrowed and if it’s slightly too big or too small. As long as there is time to explore, look around and take in what you see, I enjoy it.

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Bees and Buzz and Hives

hives

I like to think this recipe is the celebration of bees buzzing around, carrying tiny bits of pollen and making honey to store in their bee hive. I have heard so much about this little sweet treat that I could not wait to try out the recipe. This July we were pleased to host Marysia from Pychotkowo and not only did she bring the forms but also she agreed to share all her know-how with us and she put together the post below.

bumble bee

Bee hives where the bees live

This recipe comes from Southern part of Poland. I always make it for Christmas with my grandma, Baba Kie and there are no Christmas without ”bee hives”. You don’t need the oven to bake them and they are easy to make but its important to have the moulds which are not so easy to find even in Poland. Alternatively, you can try with a really small glass. You can make the dough of walnuts or maybe from cashews.

hives serving

Bee Hives
Makes 12
Walnut Dough

200 g walnuts (powdered, you can easily use a blender to do that)

1 egg white

200 g icing sugar

Chocolate Filling

100 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)

2 tbs dark cocoa powder

50 g icing sugar

Base

wafer or matza crackers

How to make it?

In a large bowl mix powdered walnuts, egg white and icing sugar. You should  not need any mixer,  I always use my hands for that.

To make the filling combine butter with icing sugar and cocoa powder.

See collage below for step by step instruction how to fold the hives.

bee nice hive recipe collageFirst, make a small ball and carefully place it in a bee-hive shaped mould.

Use a spoon to make a small hole in a middle.

Pipe the chocolate filling inside.

Use a round shaped cookie cutter or a glass (2 cm diameter) to cut 12 little bases for your hives.

Carefully take your hive out of the form (don’t worry if the first one will not be perfect)

Seal it with the round wafer.

Continue until you use up all the walnut dough.

Enjoy all year round.

 

 

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A Lucky Magpie

magpie

One rainy evening my husband brought home an injured bird. He found the magpie lying lifeless and miserable in the bushes on his way back from a dog walk and simply scooped her out and took her in. I must say he has a certain knack for rescuing helpless animals as he already brought home a cat, a dog and once he stopped in the middle of a busy road to save a petrified rabbit that got stuck there not able to move out of the way to safety.  So, as with most animals that come around our house, this magpie just happened to us. I had not a clue how to care for an injured bird and I asked myself whether it would be safe to keep a bird in a house where there is already a dog and a cat, but I thought that we were the best chance the poor little magpie got and she would not make it outside on her own. We put her in a shed for the night so that at least she could get warm, rest and not be bothered by cats, foxes or other birds.

The next morning we examined her it and it was clear she must have been hit by a car as all her left side from leg to wing to tail was injured. She could not stand, she could hardly move and surely she must have been very frightened to be handled by human beings. We gave her some water with a syringe and made her a comfortable enclosure out of a see-through toy basket padded with some old sheets. I do not know much about bird care and the first image that came to my mind was the Thumbelina looking after the swallow, keeping it warm and well-fed. And that we did. We gave the magpie some blackberry juice and she seemed to slowly regain her energy. The next morning, as my mother suggested, we fed her some grated cheese. Oh, she did like this and she opened her beak to snatch bit after bit. Even though, she was still very weak, we could see she was getting better and we knew we were doing the right thing.

magpie

I have a thing about magpies. Somehow, always the very sound of the word makes me laugh and puts a smile on my face as if it was some sort of a keyword triggering joy. Now this is weird enough but it is even weirder if you bear in mind that magpies here are thought to bring bad luck. As in the rhyme that my friend from work, Elisa taught me once goes:

magpies rhyme

Did the magpie bring us sorrow? I do not think so.  Magpies are one of the most intelligent birds. They can recognize themselves in a mirror and, importantly, they mate for life. Watching the magpie to get back in shape was definitely a great joy. She gave us a fright once or twice when we heard her screeching noise and rushed outside only to discover she was being attacked by other magpies. Luckily, our great dog accepted her as a part of the herd now and he would lie down at the garden door, keep an eye on her and when needed chased the other birds or cats away.

Magpie Children Book Illustration
A Children Book Illustration by J. M. Szancer

After a few days we did not need to use the syringe anymore and we would feed her little pieces of cheese, raw meat, ham and fruit. I really liked the morning feeds when she would pick a piece of food with her beak from my fingers. And when she had enough she would still take the food and hide it away for later.

magpie and strawberry

I did like to watch her bouncing in the garden. At first, she moved really awkwardly in a Quasimodo style dragging her wing to the side but over a few days her leg would become stronger and even though she still could not fly, she was moving quite comfortably around the garden, picking worms, hiding from other birds when she heard them and perching on garden furniture and bikes. Day after day she was getting fitter and it was also more and more difficult to catch her to put in her enclosure for the night.

magpie in the garden

After a week or so she started to practise flying. She flew from the garden table to the shed. She flew from the flower bed to the neighbours’ garden. She flew to another fence. She flew to the roof. And eventually she flew to the nearby trees out of the estate and out of sight. We watched her thinking if she was ready to leave. I was wondering if she was good enough to fly away and survive on her own. But I guess, when you are a bird you do not really wait until you perfect your flying, you just plunge into it and try to manage to land best as you can, even if a bit awkwardly, and then you shake it off and try again and again.

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Sunshine Egg Salad

surinamese egg salad in a bowl

This is so much more than just an egg salad. It is also known as Surinamese Egg Salad and for the last six years I have been making it for Sunday brunches, picnics and camping trips. You spread the salad on a slice of sourdough bread or fill a freshly baked roll and there is honestly nothing more that you need. When I came across the recipe here, I did not expect it will be so good. I was not too keen on the idea of adding potatoes into an egg salad, I worried it might be overwhelmingly spicy and I thought it was a bit too time consuming. Well, I was proved wrong. It is divine and we fell in love with it right away.  The potatoes work great here, make it more delicate and absorb any sogginess. The spices make it tangy and I also add some celery to get the extra crunch. And surely it does not take too long to make, especially if you have the little helpers who could crack, roll and peel the eggs and then chop and mash them. In fact, the only issue there is with Surinamese Egg Salad is that I do not make it often enough.

surinamese egg salad

Surinamese Egg Salad

8 eggs

2 large potatoes – diced into cubes

1 red chili pepper

1/2 onion

1 stick of celery

1 clove of garlic

 

2 tbs curry powder

1 tbs ground turmeric

2 tbs English mustard

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tbs sweet paprika

50 ml milk

 

6 tbs mayonnaise

salt and pepper to taste

2 spring onions

Cook the peeled and diced potatoes until tender. That should not take longer than 15 minutes. Once tender rinse and dry and set aside to cool.

In another pot hard-boil the eggs. Rinse with cold water and roll to crack. That makes them easier to peel. Chop the eggs and then mash with fork. Tip into a large bowl.

surinamese egg salad

Chop chili pepper, garlic, celery and mince the onion. Mash the potatoes and add everything to the eggs.

In a medium bowl combine the curry powder, turmeric, sweet paprika and brown sugar. Add English mustard and milk and whisk well until the sugar is dissolved.

spice list

Add the spices mixture, the eggs and the mayonnaise into the large bowl and stir gently to combine all the ingredients.

Finally chop the spring onions and tip them into the salad as well.

Serve on a slice of sourdough bread or freshly baked roll with some rocket leaves, coriander or any other green leaves of your choice.

surinamese egg salad in a bowl

surinamese egg salad open sandwich

The salad can be stored in the fridge for up to two days and it is a great treat at a picnic.

Enjoy at home or outside.

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Storing and restoring

vintage storage trunk

Once upon a time in the furthest and darkest corner of a warehouse there was a chest. Once full of fine costumes, filled with glamour and soaking in the spotlight from behind the stage, now dusted and forgotten. Rather than storing pretty things – it was taking up space. Rather than preserving keepsakes – it was kept just in case. Rather than being brought forward – it was pushed away.

trunk collage 

The trunk was made of solid hardwood. It had brass edge clamps and forged shamrock-shaped corner bumpers fastened with six stubs. On each side there was a thick leather handle for lifting, moving and shipping. It was strengthened with three vertical metal slats and labelled with a bright yellow army stamp font. A brass central lock and two side draw-bolts secured its content. Once blue, the top layer was now tarnished and its metal finishes corroded and distorted in places. Dust and dirt covered the lid and damp and mildew was damaging the bottom.

trunk

One day it was found by a friend of mine. Was it the bright yellow imprint that caught his eye? Or was he lured by its mysterious content and curious to explore the inside? Anyway, he decided to find a new home for this bulky neglected trunk and knowing how much I love all things old he offered it to me. My eyes sparkled when I first saw it. It was a rare found. It was perfect.

vintage chest side

The trunk was still in a very good shape clearly showing good craftsmanship and quality of materials. Yet, there were a few bits and bobs that needed to be taken care of. I gave the trunk a careful wash and scrub with the good old bicarbonate soda. I fixed the hinges and secured any sharp or jugged metal edges. I polished the locks and drawbolts – not too much though, as I wanted to keep the aged look and feel. All that was quite easy and went smoothly. The biggest challenge was to get rid of the trunks content. As it did, in fact, store something for all these years. A strong musty smell that reminded me of granny’s wardrobe full of winter coats and of an unaired attic in an old house. The stench was overwhelming and had to go. I sprinkled the inside generously with, yes again, bicarbonate soda, closed the lid and let it do the magic. Two days later I thoroughly vacuumed the top, sides and bottom of the chest and the smell was almost gone. As ‘almost’ does make the difference I let it air in the garden for another two days and this time the smell was gone.

vintage scissors

Now all the trunk needed was a new wallpaper. There was no point trying to restore the old one that was stained, faded and torn in places. However, as I quite liked the floral pattern of the original lining I decided to match it as close as possible and picked a cream one with sage green flowers.

I used a trowel to remove the old lining and evened the surface with sandpaper. I measured each of the trunk’s walls and cut the stripes of the wallpaper. Than I used a brush to apply a regular PVC glue and fixed my cut to measure pieces of the new lining. I finally smoothed it out with a pastry roller, tightly wrapped the paper around the edges and cut off any extra bits. The trunk was now restored and ready to store.

vintage chest open

The trunk is about 90 x 58 x 53 cm and offers an ample storage especially for all things that cannot be folded, squeezed or bent. Sure, as Winnie the Pooh would say it is ” a useful trunk to keep things in” but it is also a stand alone piece that fits our living room just right. Apart from storage I use it as a coffee table, a prop and background for photos not to mention the good old hide-and-seek game. Can you think of a better place to hide than in an old trunk? It will instantly and magically transport you into your childhood adventures and the world of pirates, wizards and voyagers.

I am so happy I have my own treasure chest now. I am as proud as could be for how it turned out. I am extremely grateful to Wiola and Tomek who gifted it to me. I know this trunk will have many more stories to tell.

Sonia-signature

 

 

Shamrocks for St Patrick’s Day

shamrock biscuits

Every year I like to prepare a special treat for St Patrick’s Day so that apart from the must-have Shamrock Shake, Irish breakfast, Guinness stew and a proper pint at the pub there’s a home-made sweet to bite into to complete the celebrations. So far I have quite a nice selection of recipes such as rainbow muffins,  Nigella’s grasshopper pie or Irish flag jelly. This year I am making shamrocks that seem as obvious as perfect choice as it doesn’t really get more Irish than the little three-leaf plant that Patrick used as a symbol to explain about the Holy Trinity. These little shamrocks are completely edible, naturally green and irresistibly crunchy. Unlike many other St Patrick’s Day treats they do not need any food colouring and simply combine 3 ingredients.

I came across this recipe in an old Polish cookbook published back in 1978 when, I believe, no one heard of macaroons or celebrated St Patrick’s Day. At least not in Poland. And yet, there is was – a recipe for shamrocks – and I knew instantly I will baking them this March. The original recipe called for walnuts but I decided to use pistachios instead as their natural green pigment adds just the right colour.

pistachios

Pistachio Shamrocks

2 egg whites

240 g icing sugar

240 g ground∗ pistachios plus 30 whole nuts for decorating

∗ I used shop-bought packages of pistachios in shells and needed about 550 g so that after removing shell and skin I got 240 g of pure nuts.

3 ingredients dough

First, remove the shells and skins of the pistachios. Measure 240 g and blend them into a soft powder. Keep the rest of the nuts for using as stems of your shamrocks.

Beat the eggs until peaks start to appear then gradually add sugar.

Gently stir in ground pistachios. Leave the mixture to settle for a while.

Preheat the oven to 100°C and line baking tray with baking paper.

Roll the mixture into 3 little balls or beans that are more or less the size of a Malteser, place them on the baking tray and press with your fingers to shape them into little leaves of shamrock. Stick a whole pistachio nut as a stem.

The mixture will make about 30 shamrocks.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes so that they will rise but won’t get brown and ideally will have crunchy outside and soft inside (just as macaroons).

shamrock biscuits

I want to include special thanks to my friend, Wiola, who helped me to translate the old cook book instructions to bake slowly in a moderately hot oven into modern terms of time and temperature, and to my lovely 7-year-old neighbour, Isabel, who volunteered to taste the treats and decided: “They are nice.” Hope you will enjoy them too.

Happy St Patrick’s Day

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In the meantime

Watch Collection

There is a huge number of things, and chores I do in the meantime.  I wash the sink while brushing teeth. I polish my nails when watching a film. I plan blog posts while walking the dog. A lot of my projects also seem to be done in the meantime. I plan them for certain week or month and simply make myself find the time. A few minutes here, a half an hour there not to mention all the surprisingly expandable late evenings. I can’t help but smirk when I think how much time I can actually steal. Obviously, as life goes on and priorities kick in, my feel-good, me-time projects often get delayed but if I pencil them in the diary they eventually come about and turn out well. The project that I present below also had to be postponed, mostly due to the self-inflicted, do-it-yourself living space renovation but the time has come and I am very happy to share it today.

Old Watch Poljot

Watches that tell a story

The whole project was inspired by the man who loved to repair the watches. Bogdan had a great precision and appreciation of fine things and loved to bring watches back to their shiny ticking life. With a set of tiny watchmaker screwdrivers and a polishing cloth, he mended the clockwork mechanisms, put the springs back in place and buffed the cases. Those watches may have gone out of fashion and their past owners may have forgotten them, yet once you wind every single one of them , it will still tell you the time as it would decades ago.

In Search of Time

Telling time

I like to look at the watch and think of all the routines, events and occasions it once reminded of. Time to start work. Time to go to church for Sunday mass. Time to tune in to the TV news in the evening. Time to attend the parent teaching meeting. Time to leave for the post office and pay the bills before closing. Time to catch a train. A quick glance at your wrist and you know where you should be.

The love for watches must come from the respect of time.

Not wasting time.

Being on time.

Making time for important things.

My father-in-law loved watches and I honestly do not think I have ever seen him without a watch on his wrist. Honestly, just look at the pictures. What makes the story extraordinary is that, for some reason, Bogdan mended and  kept watches of all sizes, of various makes, of steel, silver and platinum, of great and no value. Why would he collect watches all his life? Was it the appreciation of the past time that the watches once measured? Was it the fact that a watch is a perfect symbol of being well-organized? Or was it the sheer belief that time is precious? What we know is that he was proud of his collection and when we inherited a rather large storage tin full of old watches I wanted to find just the right way to pay tribute and I knew exactly what I had to do.

TimeLess

Vintage Watch Wall Display

This collection could not be kept in a box. It needed a proper display. It had to be framed. As much as I wanted to use every single watch, I realized that the composition needed to be symmetrical, systematic and structured and finally after hours of debate and rearranging I chose the 16 watches to be mounted onto a multi frame.

Then I tried a few different backgrounds – yellowish book pages, a vintage map, a patterned shirt. Again, the opinions were divided but eventually we agreed to go with the most memorable choice of all, mainly one of Bogdan’s striped shirts.

Old Watch

Once all the big decisions were made all that was left was a bit of crafty DIY. I stretched, smoothened and secured the background fabric to the back of the frame with some staples. Then I aligned the watches and used the hot glue gun to fix them. The glue gun works just perfect here as it sets in minutes, gives a really strong hold and, if there is a need, can be easily removed with no damage to any of the watches.

old watch displayWatch Display

We hung the watch display in the living room and it reminds us of the good times and to use our time well every day.

Do you have the memorable keepsakes that you do or would like to display?

Wishing you lots of meantime for all the projects you have in mind.

 

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Christmas stored

Christmas decorations storage boxes 1

It is always hard to pinpoint this very moment when Christmas time is over. For some it’s literally the next day, for some it’s the start of the New Year, for many the Epiphany and for some it lasts as long as the carnival. I am not usually eager to declare Christmas over and put away the Christmas decorations so I tend to hang on to them through the first week of January slowly putting away bits and pieces, sorting through the keepers and the scraps and getting the storage boxes filled.Christmas decorations storage boxes 2

As I love Christmas cards and appreciate their beautiful and detailed festive design I always felt bad to be getting rid of them after Christmas. Then again, I did not want to keep a box filled with old cards just for the sake of it and this is how the idea to make the Christmas decorations storage boxes came about. A perfect way to store all (and ever growing) Christmas bits and bobs and keep the cards received over the years.

christmas decorations storage boxes

All it takes is a medium size cardboard box, lots of Christmas cards in various sizes, paintbrush, scissors, PVA glue and sellotape. It is a family friendly type of arts and crafts and a great way to get creative and finish off your Christmas season.

We use different cardboard boxes – the archive boxes that come with a lid, the ordinary manila shipping boxes and the festive gift boxes as well. We start with cutting the front pages of the cards. Then we get crafty and try to spread the cards on all sides of the boxes so that they fit and cover the entire space. We do a quick preview and a little swap here an there and then start gluing the cards. It works best if you prime the side of the box first, then brush the back of the card, stick them together and press to make sure all is well bonded. I finish the boxes off by putting a strip of sellotape on the edges. You can hardly see it and it will make your box sturdy.

Christmas decorations storage boxes 3

Now all there is to do is to fill the boxes with all those baubles, stars, reindeer, and angels, not to mention the fairy lights, and store them safely till December.

Hope you will enjoy making your Christmas storage boxes. Let me know how are you getting on.

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Irish Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake decorating

The recommendation for this cake came in one of the most unusual and unexpected way. Yet, it was so authentic and heart-warming that I ventured to make, for the first time in my life, a typical Irish Christmas cake this year.

I have quite a good collection of the recipes I got at work including the Christmas recipes here but this time it was not taste or look that inspired me but simply a phone call.

It was the middle of December and it was feeling very much festive around the office. I was working at television and happened to answer a random call from the viewer. The lady was calling just to say how grateful she was for the recipe for the Christmas cake by Catherine Leyden that she had seen on Ireland AM. She was a typical thoughtful and caring Irish mummy and told me a lovely story of her baking the cake well in advance, as you would, and sending it to her son in the States. She told me what a great success the cake turned out to be at the Christmas table overseas and noted that her son insisted on her making this exquisite cake for him every year.

Christmas Cake

Indeed, there are many things you can love about the cake – rich almond flavour, brandy infused moisture, scrumptious cherries and nutty texture. I have made two Christmas tree shaped tins of the cake this year and with one gone already I can only hope the other will keep till Christmas.

Christmas Cake
by Catherine Leyden (as seen on TV)

225 g flour

175 g butter

225 g dark Muscovado sugar

350 g sultanas

350 g dried fruit (dates, figs, cranberries, apricots)

1 jar of cherries in syrup

100 g chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts)

100 g ground almonds

3 eggs

zest and juice of of 1 orange

1 tsp gingerbread spice or mixed spice

150 ml brandy

Icing

a pack of almond paste or marzipan

325 g icing sugar

2 egg whites

1 tbs lemon juice

Put butter, icing sugar, sultanas and other dried fruit, orange zest and juice and half of the brandy into the large saucepan. On a low heat bring it to boil stirring every now and then to mix the ingredients and make sure the butter is melted. Take off the heat and leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 140°C.

Once the mixture has cooled down, beat in the eggs and add nuts, ground almonds, flour and spices.

Pour the mixture into greased loaf tins (or Christmas tree shaped tins) and put in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Check on the cake after an hour and if too brown cover with the baking paper. Check with the skewer – if the cake is ready it will come out clean.

Take out of the oven and leave for at 5 -10 minutes. Then – with the same skewer – make little holes in the cake and pour over the remaining brandy. The cake will literally soak it in.

Leave the cake (or cakes) to cool and then take out of the tin and wrap in the layer of baking paper followed by a layer of foil. Store in a cool and dry place until you are ready to decorate.

You can also watch how to make the cake here.

The cake can, and should, be stored for a few weeks to get rich and flavoursome. To decorate roll out the almond paste and cover the top and sides of the cake. Leave to settle, once you are making the icing.

Beat the egg whites with lemon juice until foamy. Then gradually sieve in the icing sugar. The mixture will look very much like meringue and will be stiff yet quite plastic and shapable. Spread the icing as evenly as possible and smooth with a spatula. Add little sprinkles or chocolate shapes to make it festive and leave to set for about 2-3 hours.

Place on the platter or cake stand and serve to your guests.

Christmas Cake

Happy and delicious Christmas

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The smell of orange

Christmas Oranges

Orange might not be the most Christmassy colour, yet to me oranges are very much part of the festive season. Many Christmases ago when they were still very exotic and unique, not to say scarce, we were very lucky to get a few from Santa. I think they make a great December treat – they are sweet and tangy, they are fresh and in season. I love the smell of oranges around the house at Christmas and this year we used oranges to decorate as well. It does not take a lot of time at all and it fairness does not cost much either.

Christmas Orange with cloves

Firstly, we stubbed a few oranges with cloves and spread them around the house. They look really nice and as they dry out they slowly release the zesty smell infused with cloves. A perfect Christmas scent.

Christmas Orange Slices

Then we made some orange rings to hang on the Christmas tree. You simply slice the oranges rather finely, place the rings on a baking tray and pop those into a warm oven set to 80°C – 100°C for two up three hours. The exact time depends on how thin and juicy the slices are so you will need to keep checking on them. Once out of the oven it it good to give them some extra time to cool and get firm. They will have a lovely semi-transparent mosaic-like inside contrasting with the deep orange citric outside.

Christmas Orange Decorations

All you need now is a piece of string to hang them on your Christmas tree.

Happy decorating.

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