CHRISTMAS AT HOME
irst the biscuits! Get your mixing bowl and follow this simple recipe for a medieval biscuit. Biscuits began life essentially at the many Feast Day Fairs which were held around Europe in the middle ages. Brandy Snaps is particular to the Hull Fair. Hull is a Fishing port on the East Coast of England, and got its Charter (permission to hold a Fair) in 1279. This fair, being on the coast was one which sold many goods from overseas, especially spices, so it is to be expected that a spicy biscuit would be the popular 'Fairing' to be made at this Fair. You will need the following ingredients:
- 2oz plain flour
- 2oz sugar
- 2oz butter
- 2tablespoons syrup or treacle (light molasses)
- 1 level teaspoon dried ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon brandy
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grated lemon peel.
Melt the butter, sugar and treacle or syrup over a low light . Remove from heat and mix in the other ingredients. Prepare a baking tray with baking parchment, and drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the tray, at least three inches apart, as they will spread in cooking. Bake in a moderate oven for 7-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove the baking tray from the oven and allow to stand for a moment on the stove top, or where it is warm, until the biscuits can be lifted easily with a flat knife. Then roll the flat biscuit around the wooden handle of a spoon, into a curl shape, and slide gently off onto another piece of baking parchment. Leave to set for a few minutes before serving.
These go well with coffee, Hot chocolate - or my favourite evening drink, Horlicks, hot malted milk.
So now you have your biscuits and milk. Now what is it to be - a nostalgic radio programme with the Prairie Home Companion? Or perhaps you prefer a concert of early English carols in real audio by the Baltimore Renaissance Consort. Or singalong round the computer (remember when it used to be the piano?) with lots of carols.
For something a little special, especially if you enjoy early music or Polish music, go to Adam Jarczyk's Christmas Carols from Early Music from Poland page. When you have listened to all the carols here, you can go to Adam's other music pages for a veritable concert of Early Music. And, he tells me, he has some 70 more carols to put on his site when time permits! Definitely worth a visit!
My idea of a really enjoyable evening is to browse through my library of books and music. It is VERY extensive! However, now the internet has opened up a whole world of books and music to me, I enjoy an indulgence looking at the music and book sites - and at Christmas and Birthdays, why not a little gift for ones-self. You already have the facility on these pages of accessing the books and music at Amazon and IBS bookshops on the net. Here is an unusual site which might interest you. POLart is essentially another Polish site, but you can buy the most beautiful books, CD's and Videos there, all about Christmas.
How about a christmas murder mystery? The following are some of my special favourites which I have enjoyed over the past year, and all of which you can buy from Amazon.
Mistletoe Mysteries a collection of seasonal mysteries from the great writers such as Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle, edited by Charlotte MacLeod, whose other seasonal gem is called Xmas Stalkings which lives up to its title. A very unusual title for us over here is from a series in which our own Queen Elizabeth and her housemaid investigate! The Christmas title is Death at Sandringham House and is by CC Benison! Lee Harris has The Christmas Night Murder set in a Parish where the local priest fails to turn up and murder is suspected.... While Thomas Godfrey, with a good old English name, has several anthologies of seasonal tales to collect and curl up with - Murder for Christmas; Murder for Christmas Vol1; Murder for Christmas vol2. Altogether they add up to around 70 tales of mystery and murder.
If this lot is not enough for you, try the seasonal story from the author of the Sister Mary Helen series of mysteries - Advent of Dying by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie. These tales about a spry elderly nun who is the Church's answer to Miss Marple, are very well written and accurate in convent life detail. And finally, If you go down to the Christmas Tree Farm, , don't read Barbara D'Amato's book, Hard Christmas, before you go - there's murder afoot at the farm!
Romance and fantasy more your line? Well it is not usually mine, but I found this book from Amazon which combines all th charm of a knight coming from the 13th century to help the attractive young owner of his castle (in the present day) save his ancestral home from being sold to developers. There is a parrot which quotes Shakespeare, fairy godmothers, a search for a priceless manuscript, a ghost and his cat and fantasy and mystery galore - with a good smattering of romance (fairly explicit)for those who like it! Set to be a best seller this one by Christina Skye Christmas Knight is one to buy and one to give. Personally I would have loved this story without the sexy bits, but thats just my opinion!
How to Photograph Holiday Lights
(Reprinted with permission from the New York Institute of Photography website)
'Tis the season to be jolly! The season of lights - from Christmas trees to Hanukkah candles to decorative house lighting. Lights...lights...lights to cheer up the long dark nights of winter. According to the New York Institute of Photography (NYI), the world's largest photography school, your pictures can capture the magic of this lighting if you apply just one simple professional "trick."
For example, how can your pictures capture the colorful glow of the lights on a Christmas tree? The "trick", according to NYI, is to turn off your camera's flash! That's the key: Turn off that handy built-in flash. Because otherwise the bright light will overwhelm the subtle tree lights in your picture. Similarly, NYI recommends that you turn off your flash whenever you want to capture any subtle light source - from Christmas trees to Menorah candles to decorative house lighting to those wonderful tree outlines produced by tiny white bulbs.
Of course, certain things follow from this: When you turn off your flash, you won't have enough light for split-second exposure. Your automatic camera will compensate by opening the shutter for a longer time - maybe a second or longer. Let your camera's built-in meter decide automatically.
But a very long exposure will become blurry if either the camera moves or the tree lights move, or both. To minimize this risk, NYI recommends two further steps: First, use fast film - for example, ISO 800. This will cut down the duration of the exposure. Second, steady your camera. Handholding just won't do. Use a tripod if possible. If not, place the camera on a solid surface, such as a tabletop, or brace it against a wall.
For complete details and an array of great holiday photos, see the article on Holiday Lights in this month's website of the New York Institute of Photography at
So, what else does one do for an at home Christmas? If I have not covered your favourite cosy Christmas activity, drop me a line, and I will see what I can put in here for you!