Thursday's Child: Top Five List for the South of England

Thursday, December 25, 2014
We just returned from a trip to England to attend a family wedding. Christmas holiday travel can be a bit intense: my youngest daughter noted that Heathrow Airport was a little more romantic in Love Actually than in real life. Other than that, the trip was great.

Before visiting Oxford for the wedding, we spent some time in the south of England. Here are my five favourite memories of that area:

Rental Car Agencies that give out free mince pies with their cars.


Arundel Castle, home to the Duke of Norfolk.

Although perhaps not this Duke of Norfolk:
"I am disgraced, impeach'd and baffled here,
Pierced to the soul with slander's venom'd spear."

- Thomas Mowbray (Duke of Norfolk), from Richard II


The charming village of Arundel. The emphasis is on the first syllable, so when spoken, it sounds like Frozen's magical kingdom of Arendelle. With a Christmas tree in the middle of town, narrow streets, and cozy shops, Arundel was practically a fairy-tale village of its own.

#2. Driving along a random country road, and coming across a sign for this:

and detouring to visit the home where Jane Austen lived for the last eight years of her life, and did most of her writing:

and having my picture taken beside Jane Austen's writing desk:

and buying this Mr. Darcy wrapping paper: (More on the paper next week.)

"Mr. Darcy sends you all the love in the world that he can spare from me. You are all to come to Pemberley at Christmas."

- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen


Visiting my husband's wonderful Auntie Doreen in her hometown of Ferring-on-Sea.

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere."

- from Love Actually

Thursday's Child: The Churches of Krakow

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas greetings, featuring the churches of Krakow, Poland, and passages from Handel's Messiah:

Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
- Isaiah 9:6
St Andrew's church

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to man."
- Luke 2: 13-14
Dominican church of the Holy Trinity

"The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever."
- Revelation 11:15b
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
Wishing all my readers a wonderful Christmas, and a New Year resplendent with hope, peace, joy and love.


Kris Krinkle cookies

Sunday, December 14, 2014
In our house, we're divided on the flavour of peppermint. I could take it or leave it, but the others love it so much, I try to work it into my repertoire once in a while.

When I saw this recipe on Joanne's blog, I had to try it. Even this mint chocolate agnostic thought it looked terrific. But because it's December, and because peppermint makes me think of candy canes, and because they're Crinkle Cookies, I found myself calling them Kris Krinkles. I have a fondness for celebrity cookie names (see also Ethel Mermans), and so it stuck.

I hope the real Kris Kringle likes mint chocolate too, because we'll be making this recipe again on Christmas Eve to put on our Santa cookie plate. And three four happy Pollocks will be eating whatever he doesn't finish!

Kris Krinkles (a.k.a. Peppermint Crinkle Cookies)
(from Eats Well With Others)


7 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp Nutella
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 egg white
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)


Place the chocolate, butter and Nutella in a double boiler and stir until ingredients are melted. Set aside and let cool slightly.

Place flour and cocoa powder in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Place eggs, egg white and sugar in a bowl and beat for two minutes. Add peppermint extract and beat to combine.

Gently fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until combined.

Gently fold the flour mixture in until fully combined. Chill dough in the freezer for 20 - 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Remove the dough from the freezer. Form the dough into small balls, and drop them into the bowl with the confectioners' sugar one or two at a time. Roll them around until they are coated in sugar, and repeat until all the cookies are made. (Make the cookies fairly small, as they'll expand as they flatten out in the oven.) Place dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet an inch apart, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. After removing from the oven, let them cool for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

A Simple Recipe

Sunday, December 7, 2014
Andrew and I a few months ago, meeting a local celebrity at a charity fundraiser.
Andrew is the one on the right.
Apparently, we're celebrating Andrew's birthday through a series of culinary mishaps.

First, I made some kind of miscalculation when I was baking the cake. Maybe I didn't bake it long enough, maybe I overmeasured the buttermilk or overbeat the batter. Either way, when I pulled the cake out of the oven, it had a thin rim around the edge and a sunken, volcanic middle that wasn't going to hold together long enough to be served.

Then, when my older daughter was baking a replacement cake, we reminisced about the story I related a couple of weeks ago, about how proud she was the first time I let her crack an egg by herself. It seems we were sufficiently awestruck by the story, that this time she cracked the egg over the floor instead of the bowl.

Finally, when we tried to pour Andrew's orange juice for his breakfast, we managed to spill it. Twice.

So will you forgive me if I want to keep the recipe simple today?

In fact, I'm posting one of the simplest I've made, and the tastiest. I loved this cauliflower when I made it, and can't wait to make it again. I know I post a lot of roasted vegetable recipes, and it's because I rarely come across a vegetable that I don't prefer roasted. This recipe is a perfect example. Cauliflower is fine when boiled, but roasted and served with an orange dressing, it is sublime.

In the meantime, we have one more meal to prepare before Andrew's birthday is over. Pray for us.

Quick-Roasted Cauliflower with Zesty Orange-Olive Dressing
(from Fast, Fresh and Green by Susie Middleton)

Roasted Cauliflower:
1 small head of cauliflower, trimmed into halved florets
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Orange-Olive Dressing
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and halved
2 pinches of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp red-wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
salt, sugar and pepper to taste

Toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil and salt, and arrange cut side down on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Roast in a 475 degree oven until the sides begin to brown, about twenty minutes.

To make the orange-olive dressing, warm the garlic in the olive oil in a small saucepan until very fragrant, about five minutes. Your goal is to flavour the oil, not to brown the garlic. Remove the garlic and stir in the red pepper, zest and olives. Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the remaining dressing ingredients.

Pour the dressing over the slightly cooled cauliflower in a bowl, and stir gently.

Thursday's Child: Stories of the Nicaraguan Revolution and Contra War

Thursday, December 4, 2014
City square in Granada
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: one of the privileges of travelling is meeting the people who live in the places we visit. and hearing about their lives. It helps me understand a country in a way I never could if I was staying in an all-inclusive, or an anonymous chain hotel that I rarely left.

One of the highlights of our trip to Nicaragua was hearing our guide, Julio, talk about the Revolution and Contra War. He was in kindergarten when it began. His teacher signed up to fight with the Sandinistas. The following year Julio remembered attending his funeral.

One of his uncles fought with the Sandinistas. Sometimes the soldiers ran short on rations and relied on help from civilians for survival. On one occasion, Julio and his father drove to the highlands in the north of the country to deliver supplies.
Nicaragua's beautiful Apoyo Lagoon
During the war, trade with the US was banned, so Nicaraguan imports came only from Russia and Cuba. This meant there was a dearth of products, and grocery store shelves were often empty. Julio remembered there being only one brand of toothpaste, in a stark white tube with no brand name or expiration date displayed.

Scenes from a boat trip along Granada's beautiful archipelago
Because he was a young child, he didn't particularly notice the lack of products or change in political climate. That was just life for him. He did mention that there weren't a lot of toys available for sale. He remembered making a baseball from a rock (which he wrapped in strips of cloth and inserted in a sock) and playing ball with his friends all day. All this practice served him well, since Julio later played at the semi-pro level. Perhaps he was inspired by his countryman, Dennis Martinez, the first Nicaraguan who played in Major League Baseball.

Nicaraguan businessman, taking chickens to town by horse and wagon
Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario lived many years before the Revolution and Contra War, but his words might also describe what it was like to live in Nicaragua during those years:

"You that have heard the heartbeat of the night,
you that have heard, in the long, sleepless hours,
a closing door, the rumble of distant wheels,
a vague echo, a wandering sound from somewhere:

you, in the moments of mysterious silence,
when the forgotten ones issue from their prison --
in the hour of the dead, In the hour of repose --
will know how to read the bitterness in my verses.
I fill them, as one would fill a glass, with all
my grief for remote memories and black misfortunes,
the nostalgia of my flower-intoxicated soul
and the pain of a heart grown sorrowful with fetes;

with the burden of not being what I might have been,
the loss of the kingdom that was awaiting me,
the thought of the instant when I might not have been born
and the dream my life has been ever since I was!

All this has come in the midst of that boundless silence
in which the night develops earthly illusions,
and I feel as if an echo of the world's heart
had penetrated and disturbed my own."

- "Nocturne", by Ruben Dario

The girls with our amazing guide, Julio