Spruce up

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Last weekend Thom and I took Duchess for a walk around the madness that is Columbia Road on Sunday morning. I’ve never been there in the throes of Christmas before (even though we’ve lived in the neighbourhood for nearly four years). Sprigs of mistletoe, holy holly wreaths, clementines, and huge stacks of fir trees. Suddenly I’m feeling Christmassy after all.

Dreary, beautiful December

Festive nudity

Merry Christmas! I’m sitting next to a fire in a country house, in my pajamas, surrounded by a pile of presents and listening to rock-dinosaur Rod Stewart croon Christmas tunes. It’s lovely, but I felt like giving Code For Something a little love. December has been so busy! A whirlwind of drinks with friends, working my butt off, dealing with house drama… It’s nice to be sitting down.

East London Walk

The weather this month has been all over the place, arctic earlier, but lately it’s been mild, around 10°C. Here are two photos I took walking to work; one day was cold and clear with ice on the canal, the next humid and rainy.

Festive treats

Festive treats, one from Secret Santa at work, the other a lemon curd and raspberry trifle – adapted from this recipe. Cheating with trifle is winning at life.

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Secret Swedish passwords, beer on the train home, a glass of Veuve and a sunset… I love that December’s festive spirit means it’s acceptable to drink booze at any time of the day. Mulled cherry beer is the tastiest thing ever invented!

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I’m now busy making plans for 2013, and dreaming up resolutions. Looking into the crystal ball it looks like there’s a lot of travel ahead… NYC or Istanbul at Easter? My mum is flying over in the summer and we’re heading to Italy with my aunts, which will be amazing. And of course flying back to New Zealand in 35 days (not that I’m counting, squeak).

Everything is going to be glorious! Hope all is well with you and yours in the world.

Christmas Time, Mistletoe, Wine, Russian Fudge

making fudge

This Christmas I was feeling rather lonely and discombobulated, without my favourite people. It’s all a bit strange to me, you see, the cold weather, the piping hot fruit mince pies, the grey skies and the duck boots. Plus Thom and I moved into a big empty flat on December 21st, and I was busy finishing up at work. So no tinsel or trees for us. I was almost sniffling when I thought about what I’d be missing out on. Summer. Crickets and cicadas. A cool strawberry daiquiri or five. Sandy beach towels. Endless sunshine. Fudge.

You see, every year in late December, I team up with my siblings or my mum to spend a day making fudge. It’s one of my family’s holiday traditions to make mountains of sugary treats, and distribute them to call our friends and whanau. Sometimes there’s pink and white coconut ice, and sometimes there’s chocolate slices, but there is always Russian Fudge, delicious and golden.

But here I was, stuck on the other-side of the planet. What I wouldn’t I have given to sit in the kitchen at Omaha, listening to it on repeat and argue with my sister?  I would have happily listened to the awful Christmas CD my mum has been thrashing since 1992. Usually the cloying renditions of Feliz Navidad! et al makes my right eye twitch, but even the thought of it was making me dreadfully homesick.

On Christmas Eve Eve, on a last-minute trip to a department store to pick up more presents, we stopped by the kitchen-department. After extensive consultation and comparison, Thom decided to buy me a hand mixer. And after he left for work that night, I found myself on a mission.

Despite never making it alone, nor having my family was not here to gorge on the results, I decided to give myself a pep talk and make some Russian Fudge. For tradition’s sake. In our tiny local Tesco, I spent half an hour scanning the aisles for Golden Syrup and wondering if England even had it. Eventually I found it, and rushed home, gleefully. Soon enough, I had toffee boiling on stove and was sneaking a spoonful of sickly condensed milk. Then I started beating the fudge into reluctant submission, and the smell of a straining motor filled the kitchen… and  it finally felt like Christmas!

Russian Fudge

{from the Edmonds Cookery Book}

3 1/2 cups sugar
125g butter
3 Tbsp Golden Syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
200g sweetened condensed milk (half a standard tin)
2 tsp vanilla essence 

Put all ingredients, apart from vanilla essence, in a pot and bring to the boil stirring all the time. Boil for roughly 20 minutes, still stirring all the time. In a bowl of cold water drop a little of the fudge mixture (test throughout the 20 mins of boiling), when it is at the soft ball stage (your drop forms a small ball on contact with water) remove from heat. Add vanilla essence and beat with an electric beater for about 10 minutes until you can see it starting to set. Pour into greased tin and place in fridge to cool and set.

It’s funny how scent triggers the heart of our memory system. I found the “Christmas Spirit”, courtesy of burning sugar and electrics. I also realised that while I may not have all my loved ones around me, I certainly am not alone (buying your girlfriend a beater = A+++), and that while I may not have sun, sand and warm temperatures, I can still bring a bit of my tradition to the Northern Hemisphere.

I hope you had a lovely holiday, and will enjoy a fantastic New Year, wherever you are.

The Perfect Christmas Sweater

I have found this year’s Christmas sweater at River Island. With its little velveteen ears, this fantastic fox sequin sweater would look just peachy in a sea of Crimbo horrors. It’ll make your all your friends jealous to boot…

Sequin Fox JumperSequin Fox Jumper

Want some more options? Creative Review has showcased a range of alternative Christmas jumpers by Andrew Salomone featuring designs by the likes of Anthony Burrill, Geneviève Gauckler and Siggi Eggertsson