My Most Obscure Christmas Tradition: Christmas Cake

Fruitcake is the butt of many jokes in the United States. One of my earliest memories of TV was of an episode of a show that was making fun of fruitcake. But I’ve discovered that properly made fruitcake is not only delicious, it’s one of my mother’s favorite things. So for years now, I’ve endeavored to make her a Christmas cake.

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Proper Christmas cake does not involve any dyed cherries. And it involves a lot of brandy. And time. I make my Christmas cake the weekend after Thanksgiving and mature it for a month before consumption, at least. Some years, I’m remiss and forget to make the cake until closer to Christmas, in which case it becomes more of a mid-to-late January cake, rather than a Christmas cake.

But one thing is always the same: no raisins. And no dyed fruit.

I often use the recipe in Nigella Lawson’s fabulous book How to Be a Domestic Goddess, but this year I decided to try something different. I used this recipe from the BBC, and used my own blend of dried fruit. I used mostly currants, with some dried cherries, apricots, and bits of minced candied ginger. I often include dried sugared pineapple, but I forgot it this year.

The house smelled like Christmas as I simmered the fruit, brandy, butter, sugar, and spices, and then baked the cake for two hours. Then, I fed the cake with a bit more brandy and wrapped it tightly with paper and string. That whole thing went into a sealed zipper bag, although an airtight, decorative tin would be more aesthetically pleasing. Every so often, two or three times before Christmas, I would unwrap it, feed it a bit more brandy, and rewrap it until the big day.

One thing I’ve learned is to eat homemade fruitcake in very thin slices. The flavors are strong and the brandy is potent. But it makes a lovely addition to a tray of holiday sweets, either on Christmas Eve, or as friends and relatives pop by throughout the season.

Cozy Winter Style

As you can tell by the title of my blog, I love to wrap up in warm fabrics and drink hot tea. I really do like tweed, in all its scratchy woolen glory. And this time of year, my collection of tweeds and knits and scarves really gets to shine.

Monday, I was thrilled to receive my new winter coat, a brown herringbone tweed overcoat from a vintage seller on Etsy. It has nubs of blue and orange in it, and a subtle tartan pattern. Not only did the photographs on Etsy not do it justice at all, it fit perfectly, with just enough room that I might layer it over sweaters. It makes me glad the weather has started to taken on more of a chill.

Holiday Weekend Shopping

Underneath my coat, my cold-weather staples are long trousers and blue jeans, cabled sweaters, scarves, and my wonderful knee-length black riding boots. A pair of leather boots zipped up over a pair of slim-fitting straight-leg jeans, with a cabled sweater and a squishy scarf is the quintessential winter style to me. On the rare occasion I venture out into the cold air in a skirt, I wear a pair of thick tights or leggings, with socks over top, all tucked into my riding boots.

Cozy Workday Outfit

My favorite sweater is a fisherman-cabled sweater in a mottled oatmeal color that I wear most weekends, but it lacks the necessary elan for the office. To that end, I have a cream-colored cabled sweater in a butter-soft wool blend, a collection of cardigans, and two cowl-necked merino wool sweaters. Paired with a pair of jeans on the weekend, or a pair of vintage tweed trousers for work, my sweaters are vital for keeping warm while I walk from place to place. Whether I’m taking a stroll around the lake, or a hurried walk from my car, parked ages away from my building, I need to keep from suffering the bite of winter air.

I’ve put together some sets in Polyvore to show what I mean. Of course, I chose items mostly based on looks, so some are quite expensive, but it is the look of the thing I mean to convey. Hopefully, they will help inspire your cozy winter wardrobe!

A Little Bit of Christmas

This past weekend, I made a decision. I’ve put up my first Christmas tree of my own. I should say, “of our own,” as Boyfriend helped me pick it out and decorate it. We decided on a fake tree to appease our housemate, and reduce the maintenance a real tree can require. We found this little guy, really an outdoor tree, at the Home Depot. He’s just big enough to hold a few of my favorite keepsake ornaments.

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Then, Boyfriend and I went to my mother’s house to pick through her Christmas box and take the ornaments with particular sentimental value, mostly ones that I was given as gifts over the years. There are the stuffed animals, such as the cat a good friend in grammar school made me, and the little bear I shoplifted when I was 2. And there are the animals, mostly cats for me and reptiles for my sister. There are my ballet slippers, from the few years I danced ballet, badly, as a young child. It has “To our best ballerina” written on the back, but that was before my sister came along and bested me in all forms of rhythmic movement.

Since we don’t yet have a topper, my mom tucked a roll of repurposed red ribbon into the box with the ornaments and I used it to fashion a makeshift tree topper. And my nutcracker, given to me not by Santa, but by Godpapa Drosselmeyer when I was a girl, stood watch over the whole thing. With cocoa and port and Christmas music, it made for a lovely holiday evening.

A Full Breakfast

Weekends are for errands and long walks and lounging with a pot of tea. And for big breakfasts. This weekend, I decided I’d make myself and Boyfriend a full English breakfast.

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An English breakfast consists of bacon and eggs and toast, but also grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, and a pool of baked beans. And it is washed down with copious amounts of strong black tea. I had mine with a little milk. Often, it includes sausage links as well as bacon, but I decided to limit myself to one breakfast meat.

Our Saturday morning was wonderful. I dragged him out of bed a little after 8 a.m., to bundle up for a walk around the lake near our house. I wrapped up in fleece leggings, a long skirt, a thick cabled wool sweater, my vest, a scarf, my boots, and my crocheted ear warmer and found myself toasty warm, other than a bit of nip at my nose. It was chilly and clear and very quiet. There were a few runners out. Even some of the geese were still sleeping. Boyfriend was not too pleased to be up and about at that hour, but it was a lovely start to the day. And I knew he would appreciate what we had in store for us when we got home.

When I got home, I threw the rashers of bacon in the oven to bake. I got a pack of nice thick-cut bacon from a local farmer. Eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, butter, and milk were all also from nearby farmers, and I had a loaf of homemade bread in the freezer. I tipped the tin of beans into a small saucepan and put it on a low flame to warm up while the bacon cooked, and washed up the veggies. When the bacon started getting sizzly, I started frying up the mushrooms and then tomatoes, and turned the beans up a touch so they started to bubble. I toasted the bread and spread it with plenty of butter. And lastly, the eggs went in the pan to cook gently in some butter.

While all this went on, I boiled the electric kettle and made a pot of Assam tea and laid out my tea tray. Everything came together beautifully, and by shortly after 10, we had our plates. I poured some tiny glasses of orange juice because Boyfriend likes it, and I thought a small glass could do me some good in the dead of winter. We devoured our breakfasts, some of us faster than others, and I sat and sipped tea and finished The Secret Adversary, which I’d started the day before. By the time it hit noon, I felt invigorated with the walk and sustained with food and tea and was ready to run some holiday errands!

A Cozy Start to the Weekend

Yesterday, I came home from work chilled. It was cold and blustery, and I had chosen too light a jacket for the day. I needed to snuggle up, so I made myself a cup of tea,  put on some fleece leggings and a wool sweater, and snuggled up with my favorite cashmere shawl and an Agatha Christie book on my Kindle.

My cashmere shawl is actually my boyfriend’s shawl. He got it for Christmas from a family friend who didn’t quite understand why it was too big to be a scarf. It’s very soft cashmere in a grey-black-white plaid pattern and it’s the coziest thing.

After maybe an hour snuggled up, Boyfriend got home and we considered dinner. I had thawed two fish fillets, which I wrapped up with lemon and olive oil and salt and pepper into little packets. These nestled in the oven along with some cubed butternut squash and potatoes tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The veggies roasted and the fish steamed. When it was all done, I steamed some kale quickly and dished the whole thing up. It was both light and hearty at the same time. I find potatoes have a kind of comforting solidness to them that makes any meal more warming.

After dinner, we continued to relax, he with a scotch and myself with a glass of port. It was just the perfect beginning to the weekend.

Have a Cup of Tea

Hello, world. I do enjoy a nice cup of tea. I’ve decided to start this space where I can share my personal style, which is a mix of vintage, Anglophilia, and eclecticism. I’m rather bohemian.

I tend to start my day with a nice cup of tea. I continue my day with another cup of tea. I pick myself up in the afternoon and wind down in the evenings with still more tea. Tea is a large part of my way of life.

Today’s it’s quite cold out, and I need to zip my coat up against the wind and the occasional flurries of snow. The perfect day for a nice cup of tea.

I hope you’ll come back to see what I can do with this space. I hope to share my little bit of crafting, maybe some recipes, photos when I take walks, and just general musings over a cup of tea.