snow day ☆ cake day

Recently, my Number Four needed a self-proclaimed Snow Day. And as I had the day off work, his need dovetailed perfectly with my ability to say YES! He said he’d like to go for a walk in the woods, as this, more than anything else, takes his mind off “stuff”. I told him that’s where I like to go when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to sort things out. So off we went on one of the coldest days yet, in search of solitude and easy, peaceful conversation.

He spied rabbit tracks and a beautifully weathered walking stick. And I found a patch of dogwood glowing crimson in the mid-afternoon light. We walked until the cold stung our cheeks and our toes curled. Carrying an armful of dogwood and pockets full of pine cones and cedar sprigs, we headed back home. ☆

all is calm _all is bright

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I’ve been dithering about whether to have a Christmas tree this year. The scent of a freshly cut tree has always been the most exquisite part of the holiday for me. But this year, we’ll be in Toronto for over a week, house-sitting for Number One and her fella. So it seems a little tree would be sadly neglected and very much under-appreciated whilst we are gone. Instead there are smatterings of Christmas decorations (thank you, dogwood) throughout the house and candles to lend calm to our evenings. ☆

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And how could it be nearly Christmas without the scent of baked goods filling the house? The earthiness of ginger, cloves and molasses. The perfect promise of dark chocolate and the tang of cranberries and lemon zest. The comfort of vanilla and cinnamon. I grew up with the moist, dense gingerbread of Lancashire and Yorkshire known as Parkin. My mother always made two each time she baked. One for wrapping and storing, because it tastes even better two or three days later. And the other to eat immediately because waiting can seem like an eternity when you’re small! I still make Parkin using her recipe, though as the years have gone on, it’s become increasingly difficult to find treacle in our town.

Gingerbread is such a true comfort of Christmas. And when I’m zapped with longing, the Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread recipe, laden with stout and molasses, has been another go-to for years. It delivers a moist crumb and dense flavour unfailingly. I like to bake it a day or two ahead of devouring, wrapping it well (and hiding it!) for increased satisfaction. The recipe adapts well as either a bundt or layer cake. I’m partial to using brown sugar for the full complement of sugar (two cups). Freshly whipped cream is a perfect accompaniment, but this time I filled the layers with a cream cheese frosting spiked with lemon zest, and slathered the naked sides with White Cloud (aka Seven-Minute) frosting. But really, you could eat this cake sans adornment and you’d be laughing!

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