Stick-ey…Wherefore Art Thou?

We have now bid adieu to our final pre-Christmas guest and the preparations for the festive season are ramping up.

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I’ve soaked the fruit ready for the Christmas pudding to be made tomorrow – I’ve made my own for the last six or seven years, prior to that I was never a huge fan of Christmas pudding as had always found them a bit too dark and sickly (probably because we always bought cheap ones) but I use James Martin’s (grannies) recipe that was in Good Food in 2009 and have never looked back.

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One of the highlights will be peeling back the clingfilm from the bowl of fruit soaked in brandy tomorrow morning, and the smell of Christmas will fill the kitchen – before the hours of boiling and condensation commence.

Whilst it boils away we’ll take advantage of the pudding-imposed time at home, to put up the decorations, and make some gingerbread men with the kids (I’m dreading the crowd control aspect of this “No! We don’t EAT the flour now”, “Leave some jelly tots for the buttons”, “A gingerbread man only has TWO eyes” etc etc).  This year I’m going to attempt to make a gingerbread house with a mould I was given a few years ago that has so far remained unopened – so the gingerbread men will be my tester of the recipe – though admittedly I won’t be making them into some sort of Bake Off human pyramid.

Yesterday we took advantage of the recent spell of mild weather and took Grandad R off to Tarn Hows near Hawkshead in the Lake District.  We’ve never been before and had chosen it for the relatively easy and short walks on offer – although of course with small children relatively short walks are rarely that.  There are some amazing views of the surrounding fells from Tarn Hows, as well as the lovely lake itself, and we all enjoyed an unhurried saunter around the lake.

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The kids were obviously fixated on when the picnic would take place, as it meant they’d get the promised hot chocolate, and once we’d passed what we thought was the halfway point we settled down on a bench to have lunch.  We were greeted by passing walkers, one declaring us to be “Very colourful people”, although Grandad R and J let the side down a bit in their rather dull coats (although J did hasten to point out his hat is pretty colourful).

Our band, a cacophony of colour, continued on its merry way after lunch where MUCH hot chocolate had been drunk, and fought over.  It seems no matter how hot, hot chocolate is they can pretty much down it if the other is waiting for a drink (as once more we’d forgotten the extra cups) despite the fact that any food above lukewarm temperature is pushed away at mealtime as it’s “TOO hot!!”.

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The boy then started on his stick collecting.  Without fail, every walk we go out on, he manages to find sticks which he declares MUST be brought home with us.  However, since the time when the boy did bring a rather large stick home and then smack me, totally unawares, across the back of the legs with it (which resulted in me snapping the stick and the boy wandering forlornly crying “Stick-ey!!!  Stick-ey…ooohh stick-ey” like a little lost Romeo), I usually dump the sticks “For another boy or girl to find” before we get to the car.  As this time I picked up a few things to bedeck our homemade wreath (which will no doubt look like a bunch of dead sticks hanging off the door by Christmas day) J pointed out to the boy, and myself, it would be churlish for me to deny him his stick.  Repeatedly.  To get him back I found a huge branch of pine which had come down from a tree and told J that would be needed for the wreath, and left him to carry it back to the car.  Along with the boy, who by that time had decided he couldn’t POSSIBLY walk another step as he was SOOO tired.

We returned home with a car boot laden with sticks and smelling of pine – making a change from the usual eau du walking boot et travel potty.  Over the next few days we’re going to have to venture out to gather holly for the wreath, meaning the battle of the sticks will continue at the barn for a while, and no doubt over the coming weeks the yard will ring with the cries of “Stick-ey???  Stick-ey….SSSTTIIIICCCKKKK-EEYYY!!”

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