For years I've adopted a distinctly Scrooge-ish attitude to elaborate displays of outdoor Christmas lights, but this year it's different. This year they seem to have taken on a sort of brave defiance. If we're all going to hell in a handcart, why not do it with lots of twinkly lights? Haven't actually gone as far as putting any out myself. We lurk behind great swathes of unclipped shrubbery and trees, the sort of thing that any new person moving in would lay waste to within seconds. Any lights we put up would be completely invisible. The house itself is dour and louring, and splashing it with Christmas lights would be a bit like swathing a black clad Victorian matron with tinsel. Or worse.

We don't have a tree yet either. Well, we do, but it's stowed away in the barn, waiting for end of term when daughter and I (and her boyfriend this year) will decorate the tree. This will not take us long, the size of the tree reflecting the falling fortunes of the House of Badger. I spent some time wondering what I could do as a tree substitute, but decided that wrestling a dead elder out of the field and daubing it with decorations was an ironic statement too far, even for me.

So, we went and got a tree. It will need to be stood on a blanket box. If we carry on this way, next year's will be on a chest of drawers.

Anyway, I have been spending my evenings in a whirl of crafting activity, which is most unlike me, as any crafting I do generally goes wrong. If I have time off, I read. Or walk round in a dream. However, this year, I've started reading Cherry Menlove's blog, fully expecting that I was going to do lots of ironic and superior sniggering, but no. She's great, Cherry. She does craft and also cooking, and writes about her life brilliantly, and inspired purely by her (really, I would never have done this if I hadn't read the recipe on her blog) I made mincemeat. Now my version of doing this was not Cherry's because she doesn't have dogs and I do.

What you need when you do any sort of cooking is the very close and supportive attention only a Sprocker can give you. (This is Tarka, who we have for six months or so while my sister-in-law's away).

Perhaps I might drop something over this side. (The shoe was left there earlier by the labrador. I don't keep them in the middle of the floor.)

Labrador now back from  re-arranging shoes and ready to lend her support.

Daughter stirring the mix. Note the speed of her whirling spatula. Who says teenagers are lazy?

I couldn't photograph both dogs at this point, but the labrador is behind me, willing me to drop something. I am about to deal with a lemon. What dog would not sell its soul for a lemon?

Here's the mix. It smelled beyond amazing, but I haven't actually cooked with it yet, which might be an idea before I give the results to my unsuspecting friends.

Here's a link to the recipe. I didn't have Amaretto, and when I went to buy ingredients and found out the price of Amaretto, I still didn't. I plundered the drinks cupboard, and substituted Marsala. Not quite sure why we have Marsala, but there you go.


What a fun post. Makes me want to get into the Christmas spirit, much delayed this busy December. So far tree is standing in living room guzzling water and wondering why it has only one string of lights and 2 ornaments. Cats think it is a glorified drinking bowl, as usual.

Love the dogs. They *will* sell their souls for the most awful scraps, won't they? My lab gratefully licked off the floor one of those stringy fibers that you pick off a banana after taking off its outer peel. Ugh.
MmeLindor said…
I could not concentrate on the mincemeat, so distracted was I by the dogs, "giving me the sad eye" as my daughter would say.

We had a Springer when I was growing up and there was NOTHING she would not eat. Nothing.
Anonymous said…
You should try Lidl for the Amaretto, they do a good one.
Jane Badger said…
Because you are chanelling minimalist Christina, that's why. You are letting the materialist, excessive tide of Christmas pass you by, diverted by the minimalist bulwark that is your tree.

MmeLindor, yes, you are right. The sprocker almost has the edge on the labrador. Lettuce, salad stuff, tomatoes. Nut shells. Vomit (their own or someone else's). It all goes down both of them. The Sprocker has now convinced the labrador that the cooking apple windfalls she used not to bother with are delicacies.

Afrogatlarge - excellent tip, thank you. You will now have to show me the way to some recipes that use Amaretto!
Charlie said…
Lovely dogs :-)

All blogs are enhanced by pictures of pets!
madwippitt said…
Homemade mincemeat - lovely! For years Christmas day was blighted by the endless boiling-and-checking-it-hasn't-boiled-dry of my MiL's Xmas pud. Tasted lovely, but what a faff. Then I discovered you can cook the beasts in a slow cooker. So much easier on Christmas Day and it's not hogging a much needed spot on the hob ... And it was actually really good fun to make (although possibly part of that was the sheer relief at escaping the endless boiling process)
Enjoy your pies!
Janet Rising said…
Disappointed you don't store your shoes in the middle of the floor - thought for a minute there I wasn't the only one.
I knew a lab who actually punctured and sucked out dog food from the unopened cans if she could get hold of them. Another made short work of an entire cake one Easter when backs were turned during an unguarded moment. Didn't even sick it up again. Respect!
Jane Badger said…
Thank you Charlie!

Madwippit - I shall remember that tip. It is just us on Christmas Day, and no one has a yen for Christmas pudding (or in fact any pudding at all, it would seem). I wonder if the slow oven of the Aga would do the same thing? Cook puddings I mean, not decide whether or not it wants them.

Janet - serious respect to the labrador who punctured food tins. Ours doesn't get tinned food, but she and a labrador mate we were looking after broke into the kibble bin. That was an interesting experience for all of us, particularly the aftermath. A labrador can be over-full.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!
Jane Badger said…
Merry Christmas to all of you too!

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