Merry Midwinter to you all.
I should really get a new copy. This is one of my favourite children's books. The Dark is Rising Sequence is five separate books written in the 1970s and it is the second book also called The Dark is Rising that is my favourite. I reread it this time every year.
 It is Midwinter's Eve, the young hero Will Stanton celebrates his 11th birthday on Midwinter's Day and is wishing for snow. It never snows so early in winter, not before Christmas, but this year it does. Very heavily. When he wakes on Midwinter's Day the snow lies thick and silent over the Berkshire countryside where Will lives. But the country is not as Will knows it, there is now a wood surrounding his family's house. Will goes out into the snow and his adventures begin. Will discovers that he is an Old One, the last of the Old Ones of The Light and has a quest to complete. The stories mix Arthurian legend, earth magic and adventure and are a thoroughly good read. As you can imagine I am finding the story particularly appropriate at the moment.

Our heating packed up yesterday. How's that for timing? I am waiting for a man to come and look at it and most likely tell me that he can't get the necessary part until after Christmas. If he gets here at all- our road is treacherous. We have a couple of electric heaters but you need to put on your coat to go upstairs and a nip of something warming is advisable before braving the loo and all that involves.
Something like these perhaps?

Time to bottle the damson gin and the quince vodka. After the disaster I had with my damson gin last year (see the damson gin link-bottom of the page) I was careful to let it come to room temperature before bottling it.

The quince vodka tastes like the essence of quince.

The damson gin is like a very grown up ribena.
Delicious with one of these.

I use Delia's quick flaky pastry for my mince pies and my sausage rolls (Christmas Eve tradition). You grate frozen butter into the flour. This means you get lots of little lumps of fat in your dough which melt to make pockets of air and so create the flakiest, shortest, richest pastry ever. I grate the frozen butter in the food processor -much easier.

Despite the cold and inconvenience of the snow I am revelling in the wonderful Christmassyness of it. All those Christmas card scenes, Christmas stories in favourite children's books and Christmassy films are coming true, not to mention my favourite carol.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Christina Rossetti

Thank you all for your concern about my heating. I am pleased to report it has now been fixed. A new controller panel was all that was needed as I suspected and not £2000' worth of new boiler as my father-in-law predicted (always the ray of sunshine). Now I shall hang up my washing and take off a jumper or two.



  1. That is one of my favourite Carols too.
    Julie xxxxxxxx

  2. Oh Sue - what a terrible inconvenience it must be having your heating break down at such a cold time. I really hope the boiler man can get it fixed quickly.
    I've only read the first story in The Dark is Rising - I do own the others, just haven't got around to reading them yet. I'll go and dig the next book out and get reading.
    In the Bleak Mid-Winter is a lovely carol, especially when it's sang so beautifully.
    I love the look of your mince pies - you may have tempted me to make my own pastry now that I've seen how scrummy yours look :0)
    Take care and keep warm.
    Jill x

  3. ooh good luck with the heating. I know what it's like to live without it in cold winters! There's been no heating at my home for well over a year now (it's a bit of a building site) and at my boyfriends place, where I am currently, well, it's a Victorian property with original single glazed windows, rotting frames, a serious damp problem, no insulation and very limited heating! The temperatures outside and in is usually very similar so I'm freezing, can't wait for us to go home on Thursday!

    The mince pies look delicious!

  4. Can we come too, well bring a coat. it looks very Christmassy with you, lots of warming tipples and beautiful mince pies

  5. Good luck with the heating Sue but I wouldn't be too hopeful! Good job you've got your damson gin! I was just thinking of bottling mine and then I was going to dip the damsons in melted chocolate!! what do you think?????
    Happy Christmas

  6. I re-read The Dark is Rising last winter, just before Christmas. It made for rather spooky reading as we were at the time submerged in icy temperatures (even colder than this year so far) and lots of snow (again, deeper than this year), plus I was quite unwell (chest infection, sinusitus, noro virus), I'm not sure I would choose to read it again in the winter!

  7. I have heard about that book one too many times now. I am buying it.

  8. Anonymous3:12 pm GMT

    Those drinks look so festive! That's something to go on my to-do list for next year.
    Hope your heating gets sorted out soon.

  9. Oh no! Are you typing in mittens?
    On the plus side, you have some very classy glasses to cheer you.
    I hope it gets fixed soon.

  10. No heating - eeeekkkk that is no good.

    Then again that was us this time three years ago - the baby boo was well, literally a baby just weeks old and we had no heating all huddled around the fire like something out of A Christmas Carol.

    We all came down with flu that Christmas - apart from the baby boo!

    Fingers (and toes) crossed you get it fixed.

    Happy Winter solstice.

    Nina xxx

  11. Anonymous5:09 pm GMT

    My favourite carol too - have loved it since a child. As I grew up I realised that sometimes it had a different tune to the one I knew - the one in the video is the one I didn't know. I love them both and it's the words I like best of all. Your mince pie looks wonderful, I can see how very good that tastes! My heating works very poorly and periodically packs up, the only warm room is the living room where I have an electric heater too. Costing a fortune, but we are already wearing scarves and hats so it has to be done. I really empathise with you having none at all. Absolutely horrible for you in this weather. Hope the man has all his parts with him! Fingers crossed you will soon be nice and warm again. I have never read that book, it sounds perfectly in season and a very good read. Have treated myself to some good reading over Christmas - can't rely on the telly can you? Siobhan

  12. Brrrr - I am chilly here with heating! Hope it gets fixed soon.

  13. I have been reading your blog for a while - I too love quinces so much that I have just planted a new tree for my new house, having left the old one behind, and I find many parallels between your interests and mine, except that you are much better at photography. I love The Dark is Rising too - best book in a brilliant series - I read and re-read it often. Have a lovely Christmas!

  14. Alice - a new quince tree how marvellous. I am excited for you! Thank you for reading.

  15. Anonymous9:41 pm GMT

    Thanks for the King's link. It's my favourite carol too - I always wish I could sing better at this time of year. That Delia recipe is brilliant isn't - works every time.

  16. Anonymous11:15 pm GMT

    glad to hear that your heating is on again. My mincepies don't look nearly as nice as yours. Iwouldn't mind adrop of that gin. ME.

  17. Sue, your liquors look amazing - Sloe gin seems to have made an appearance in the shops up here this year, but damson gin would be something else...glad you are cosy once more my dear x

  18. Hooray for the heating being fixed!! I was starting to feel very sorry for you! That pastry looks very tasty indeed!

  19. oh and the booze looks rather tasty too - reminds me i need to sort out my blackberry brandy!!

  20. Must try that flaky pastry recipe, thats my favorite carol too, and Silent night.

    Was listening to my Kings cd yesterday, whilst making my 4th batch of mince pies, I am feeling really christmassy too! x

  21. Sorry to hear about your heating breaking down -hope it gets fixed soon. Yummy mincepies. I too use that pastry recipe for my sausage rolls.
    Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Pj x

  22. Coni Tan1:47 am GMT

    Sue, sorry to see your foot. I cut my finger, but a bandaid and glove solved that.
    Your Christmas food looks yummy. I, too, am a fan of the Dark is Rising series. Was on our list to read when I was studying Children's Literature.
    Our Christmas was humid through the day, so different from yours. Do you have a sausage roll recipe up? It is hard to get good sausage meat here - what do you use?
    Take of that foot and keep warm in you fixed heating. Bless you.

  23. Anonymous3:34 am GMT

    Hope your foot is feeling better! That is one of my all time favorite books!! I am eagerly waiting until my oldest turns 11 to share it with him! Have a happy new year!


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