Happy Holidays

Dear Sam,

 

Mmm, the roast chestnuts  you were telling me about sound very tempting – I will add them to my Christmas shopping list!  Your post started me thinking about all the delicious aromas that we associate with Christmas and it’s also one of the themes of a book I’ve been reading lately, Nigel Slater’s The Christmas Chronicles.  As I mentioned on Instagram , I first read about it on Nikki Garnett’s blog, midlifechic and then ordered it from my local library.  It offers an inspiring view of winter as a season to be savoured and enjoyed rather than endured and, to help with this, it suggests filling the house with the scents of the season.

Evergreens, bay and hyacinths

christmas evergreens
Evergreens fill the house with the scent of the outdoors at Christmas

As well as the Christmas tree and evergreen garlands, Nigel Slater suggests using bay leaves, bay oil or candles and, my particular favourite, hyacinths.  If you haven’t planned ahead and planted your own to flower at Christmas, they aren’t expensive to buy, ready potted and in bud, and they’ll add colour and scent to the house for several weeks. I think they always seem like a promise of spring, which I can always do with at this dark time of the year.

As this is our last post in 2018, I’d like to wish you and everyone who reads our blog a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for the new year.  I will see you here again on January 18th. Until then,

Much love,

Claire

 

 

Chestnuts and paper chains

Dear Claire

 

I’m roasting chestnuts as I write – no better tradition at this time of year, when December is almost  upon us, the lights are twinkling in the windows and the snow is flurrying. I do miss the chestnut sellers on English street corners and their little blackened paper bags of steaming hot chestnuts. But since I can’t hop across the Atlantic anytime soon, this is my simple go-to recipe at home:

Preheat oven to 200C/400F

Carefully cut an x on the flat side of each nut, using a sharp paring knife

Lay the chestnuts, x-side up, in a single layer on a baking sheet

Roast for about 30 minutes

Cool, peel and enjoy

While I’m reminiscing, I’ve also been browsing through a book called Simply Tradition. It’s written by a friend of mine, Kierste Wade, whose children play violin with J. She writes a wonderful, inspirational blog, too, called Simply Kierste. In both places she has a lovely holiday idea for families – a Christmas Kindness Countdown Chain. I remember making paper chains with my grandmother when I was a child, and Kierste’s idea is all about turning this into a family advent tradition where you write down ideas for helping others on the strips of paper, and then add a strip to the chain each day as you put your ideas into action.

christmas-kindness-chain-3_edited-1-740x1117.jpg

Simple and meaningful. Just what the season should be all about.

Chestnuts are ready! I hope you can enjoy some too this holiday season.

Much love,
Sam

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Claire,

 

We had our first snowfall here a couple of days ago – the perfect moment for your warming, spicy apple cider. Thank you for the recipe!

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving. With everything that’s been going on in the world of late, I think it’s more important than ever for each of us to take a breath, give our time to each other, and remind ourselves of those simple things we’re grateful for.

I love this little children’s poem by Aileen Fisher:

All in a Word

T for time to be together, turkey, talk and tangy weather.
H for harvest stored away, home, hearth and holiday.
A for autumn’s frosty art, and abundance in the heart.
N for neighbors and November, nice things, new things to remember.
K for kitchen, kettle’s croon, kith and kin expected soon.
S for sizzles, sights and sounds, and something special that abounds.

That spells THANKS – for joy in living
And a jolly good Thanksgiving!

♥♥♥

I’m so thankful for our friendship, Claire!

Much love,
Sam

A delicious recipe for hot spiced apple juice

Dear Sam,

 

Hello again! I’m back because I wanted to share a quick recipe with you which I tried at the Neighbours’ Lunch that I was telling you about last time.  It’s perfect for this time of year and I thought it might come in handy during your Thanksgiving celebrations.

Warming mulled apple drink

Pour a 1 litre (1 quart) carton of apple juice (or, in the U.S, cider) into a large saucepan and add a cinnamon stick, broken into pieces, a quarter teaspoon of cloves, 2 star anise and 3 – 4 slices of fresh orange and lemon.

Then add 3 thin slices of fresh ginger root. Cover and heat gently until the mixture starts to steam, then leave for 15 minutes to infuse, tasting regularly until you are happy with the flavour.

If extra sweetness is needed, add brown sugar to taste.  Remove the fruit and spices with a slotted spoon and serve, garnished with slices of apple.

mulled apple juice
Serve in warmed glasses or mugs. You can sprinkle extra cinnamon on top.

If you try it out, do let me know what you think!  As you know, over here, we have Bonfire Night coming up on November 5th, and this would be a good recipe to serve at a firework party as it’s a handy alternative to mulled wine.

Much love,

Claire

 

What a difference a day makes

Dear Sam,

 

Thank you for telling me about World Smile Day and for sharing your tip about thinking of things you are grateful for while brushing your teeth. I’m off to the dentist this week, so it’s not only made me feel happier but will keep me in their good books, too!

I don’t know if it’s because the weather starts to get wintery in October, but it seems to be a month that’s full of special days to help us motivate ourselves. The next one for your diary fits right in with our aim here of suggesting small steps to making a differenceMake a Difference Day.

Different ways to brighten someone’s day

It started in the US about 20 years ago and the idea is to encourage everyone to do something good for someone because small actions add up to big ones. It falls on the last Saturday of October (this year it’s the 27th). You can volunteer or help with a community project;  near me,  a litter collection is taking place and a Neighbours’ Lunch has been organised to help bring people together and tackle loneliness.  If you’re looking for something simpler to do, you could  improve someone’s day by giving them flowers or baking a cake.

We-can-all-make-a-difference-mug
My Alzheimer’s Society mug says it all!*

Of course, I can’t write a post called What a difference a day makes without thinking about the song of the same name, so here it is sung by Tony Bennett – with a glimpse of Kermit the frog to make it even better – enjoy!

Much love,

Claire

* The mug is available from the Alzheimer’s UK shop