Back to Baking

We’ve been fighting off the plague in this house, unfortunately. First we had two weekends of coughs and colds, and this last weekend I was flattened by a miserable tummy bug. Such a shame, too, because we had a 3-day weekend for Halloween here, and our festivities were much curtailed by my illness.

Yuck.

But now, touch wood, we are back on track. The days are getting colder and darker and most of the leaves are gone from the trees. The Christmas lights are being hung – already! – in town and our thoughts are turning more and more towards upcoming yuletide traditions.

This is going to be a Christmas of restraint for me. I won’t say “cutting back,” because we always say that and we never do. The truth is, if you set me free in Dublin City Centre with €100, I will spend all of it, even if I dont’ need to! I keep looking at presents for Evelyn’s birthday and Christmas, and I’m definitley inclined to buy her all the cool things I can find, when she would really be just as happy with a colouring book and some blocks. She’s not to the age yet where she wants all the fancy stuff, and I should take advantage of this! So I will have to coach myself (and Frank) as we set off to do our shopping this year.

I wish I was better about homemade gifts.

I have also been warning myself that I may not get to do as much baking as I’d like. It’s just a fact that with Evelyn running around I get half as much done in a given day as I would have before she came along. I get myself all worked up that I NEED to make all this stuff or it just won’t be a good Christmas. Silly! It’s more important that I enjoy what I get to do and – even MORE importantly – that I stay in good form to help my family enjoy the time together as well. So I’ll try to choose a few favourites to make on days when she’s with her Nana or when Frank can help me kid-wrangle. It is still undecided whether or not I’ll attempt a Thanksgiving dinner.

No stress.

One thing I have decided to attempt is a traditional Christmas Cake. This is something I can make ahead of time (hopefully this weekend, actually), “feed” with a bit of brandy in the upcoming weeks, and finish off a day or so before Christmas. It’s very much like the infamous American fruit cake, but I think they’re nicer, especially with a bit of Marzipan smoothed on top! Definitely more of an old-world treat, but one I’ve grown to enjoy more each year here.

Delia's "Magic" Box

Since I’ve never actually made one of these, I was delighted to find that this year veteran British TV cook Delia Smith has a kit on sale, one of which I bought at Dunnes yesterday. Since my weighing scales are not the most accurate (or maybe I’m just not the most accurate, heehee), I’m glad to have all the main ingredients pre-measured for me while I just have to add the fresh stuff – eggs, butter, etc.  Sure, why not, I’ll give it a go!?

Meanwhile, I’m also giddily devouring the Christmas catalogues coming out in some of the local shops. I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved a good catalogue – call me old fashioned! I still remember being a kid about this time of year and spending hours pouring over the Sears Wish Book (check out ’85), carefully noting all the things I’d ask Santa for. I’m nearly as bad now when I’m flipping through the pages of the Marks & Spencers Gift or Food catalogues. So many pretty things!

What projects are you working on these days, or what are you most looking forward to creating for the Holidays?

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