THE TIMELESS MAGIC OF ABERYSTWYTH

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‘The doors of the train slide open, and the air, whatever the weather, is a balm, the welcome, always benign. Relief, relaxation, a sense of ‘all is well with the world’ descends. Aberystwyth carries on, enduring and mostly unchanging. I am back in this self- contained world, this parallel universe, this Aslan’s land, beyond the mountains, at the end of the line. Renovation and renewal for the soul and the psyche is at hand. Here is a world where centuries peacefully co-exist. When I look around Aberystwyth I am reminded of a kaleidoscope. A slight twist of the lens and a different pattern appears. One twist, I see an ancient castle, the next, a Victorian seaside town. A third brings the medieval facades of the town into focus and a fourth, up the hill, overlooking their own roots, the university, the Welsh National Library, the hospital, the present and future Aberystwyth. Above and beyond all that, the spirit of the people here prevails. I have met their warmth and generosity, their personability and non-intrusiveness, grace and tact in the best coffee emporium anywhere, the best dress shops, the cook-shop, the Arts Centre, the hospital, the flower shops and more. In a large world, where news is synonymous with trouble, news in Aberystwyth is balanced with acknowledgement, appreciation and celebration of a coherent community in action.’
I wrote these words over 15 years ago, when I made the gruelling train trip weekly from London to Aberystwyth. The Cambrian News, still that bastion of all news local and beyond, kindly published it. Not much has changed. Aberystwyth is about 15 miles from ‘the cottage’ or a half hour by car and when I need anything, a large grocery order or a boost to my spirit, I go to Aber.
No time is more magical than Christmas. From the moment I see those feathered creatures hanging outside Rob Rattray’s butcher shop, I know Christmas is on its way.
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There are Christmas fans and Christmas foes. I am well, truly, firmly in the fan camp. What a glorious feast for the senses-colour, scent, sound, taste, and for the spirit- generosity, humour, fun, joy.  Mecca,  No 21, Columbine, Polly’s and  many more. They capture it all. And so, the timeless magic prevails.

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Most of all, Christmas is a time of connection and it sparks for me an immense sense of gratitude-

  • For my children, Lisa and Kevin -they are truly lovely human beings.
  • For my friend Mary Ann in Los Angeles who brings passion to everything.
  • For Karen Pearce who brings joy to art.
  • For members of the Tuesday group- for being there.
  • For Lina who brings love to action.
  • For Dr. Carl Langley for being a true healer.
  • For my sister Susann for her everlasting wisdom.
  • For my sister-in-law Laurie who brings inspiration and determination.
  • For my dear husband -for his absolute integrity.

Of course, I can’t let you go without a little morsel to sustain you and to share with others.  It does make 60 cookies.

Ina’s Fruitcake Cookies

Ingredients
1/2 pound dried figs
1/4 pound raisins
2 ounces candied cherries, coarsely chopped
2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons (approximately of chopped peel) I think this adds a bit of extra zip.
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces chopped pecans
Kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 extra-large egg
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

Directions
Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don’t over mix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl.
Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart.
art on ungreased sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden.

Another wonder from my sleepless friend Fran

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May you have a peaceful and joy-filled Christmas.

Lots of love,
Anita

How bad can that be?

Oh blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black and thick with juice, and a crust to endear them all, that will go to cream in your mouth, and both passing down with such a taste that will make you close your eyes and wish you might live forever in the wideness of that rich moment. (Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley, p. 85)

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Holy smoke. Autumn is here. How did this happen? I apologize for missing summer, but so did the weather. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the various around the world political machinations went unnoticed. Mostly, a cause for discomfort if not downright despair. The one highlight for me was Obama’s speech. I haven’t cried since 2012 but this speech moved me to tears. One phrase is seared in my memory: The audacity of hope. (Barak Obama, July 27, 2016).
And this is what autumn is for me- the audacity of hope. The freshness of the air, the promise of new beginnings. Look around. What do you see? Kids heading back to school, often decked out in something new. Parents smiling…in the secret joy of liberation. Work is in full gear. After the stops and starts of summer, everyone is back, energized, full speed ahead. My sister once told me that most of the work on the planet is accomplished between September and Christmas. Shops are stocking up on new autumn and winter styles.

What do I see? Warm, bold, burnished colour- the flowers all decked out in oranges, golds, reds.  

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There is not a single pear on my once prolific pear tree, but the apple trees are laden.

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I can hardly wait to make Ina’s APPLE CRISP…but we’ll get to that in a moment. I’ve been working on a couple of paintings. Some of you who have been in my kitchen will recognize this one from an earlier version.

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I am calling it Apples Reloaded, because I have doctored it up as a result of reading Carol Marine’s book Daily Painting. I discovered it on Penny German’s website, a well known artist who sends out email alerts of her daily paintings. I learned about Penny’s work a few years ago in Country Living magazine and was so taken with it, that I attended one of her workshops in Northampton back in January. The other painting currently in progress is called  ‘Out to Pasture‘ (Those of you who live around here will recognize it). It will be in the next blog. .
My daily walk is now a contest between getting the heart rate up to the requisite pace, and being waylaid by the bumper crop of blackberries. Not to mention the need to pause in sheer awe as various bushes and trees compete in their lavish displays.

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Slow Gin is definitely on the menu this year!

Well, as you know, I do a lot of thinking on these ‘excursions’ into the countryside. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the power of ‘naming’, the central importance of vocabulary, emotional vocabulary in being able to articulate our deepest feelings and experiences.  I don’t know about you, but for me, when I am having a badly chopped carrots moment,  such as-  Ok, the scene is lovely, but I’ve seen it all before. What’s new? I’m bored- it helps to talk to a friend.  Because boredom is often a signal that something else is going on. Something inside that needs attention.   Most often, it’s my friend in Los Angeles to whom I talk.   What is it she does that helps?  First, I know she cares about me-unconditionally. We’ve known each other 30+ years and seen each other through thick and thin. So I trust her. Second, she listens so deeply that she can hear and name for me what I am feeling, what’s at the core of what’s bothering me.  She gives me words to describe to myself what I haven’t yet been able to name. And then, there is a sense of ‘aha’ -that’s it- and something shifts inside of me, lightens up. The air clears a little.   I can move on.

I’ve been involved for several years in a process called Focusing which helps to do this same thing when I am all alone with my badly chopped carrots roommate.  You can find out more about it at www.focusing.org.uk.

 Of course, it’s also about the power of connection which I want to talk to you more about and get your thoughts on in my next blog  Because that’s really the purpose of the blog- to connect with you and hopefully, you with me.  I have to mention to you right now, two people with whom I do  have contact pretty regularly. They represent for me the essence of autumn -new beginnings, reinvention. They always inspire me to action. One has single-handedly helped me move from potential couch potato to a member of the fully mobile species (mostly). Lina Verseckaite is a coach, personal trainer, zumba teacher, marathan runner and a project worker with Ceredigion County Council.    There is nothing she cannot do.  Check her out on Facebook as her posts have profound messages.  

 For many of us, our ‘badly chopped carrots moments’ often involve health issues. Anthea Wilson, , scholar, nurse, friend and colleague has created a  brief on- line course called: Navigating the Health Information Jungle. Please check it out at: www.udemy.com. Informative, reassuring, empowering.

‘For now, there is very little that a half a pound of butter, three cups of sugar and some fruit won’t cure.  Those of you who know me,  also know that I am crazy about Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, and I know this would be her recommendation.  I love her style, her recipes,  and most of all, her joy.  Oh, and of course….her favourite sayings like: How BAD can that be?

So, in homage to Ina and because I have so little time, due to blackberry harvesting and writing you this blog, I am going to make for dinner, one of her fastest, easiest and supremely delicious chicken dishes. Oh, I know, I promised you the apple crisp too.

Lemon Chicken Breasts (From:The Barefoot Contessa. How easy is that? 2010)

(Serves 4- I divide it in half)

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (this is pretty much the only olive oil I use for cooking)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (she uses three. I like it lighter)

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (two lemons)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

Kosher salt (I use coarse sea salt) and freshly ground pepper

4 boneless chicken breasts (skin on)

(6-8 ounces each)

1 lemon

Directions

Pre-heat a oven to 400F/200C/180Fan

Use baking dish approximately 9×12 that you can also heat on top of the stove (I use  le Creuset)

Warm olive oil over medium low heat, add garlic and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow it to turn brown.  Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Pat chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (I know these are Ina’s instructions, but it is a bit much on the salt so I skip this iteration of salt). Cut the lemon into 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is browned.  (I’ll be really honest with you. I have done these without the skin on and they are still delicious)

Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. (this is one of the most important things I have learned from Ina.  Cover the meat and let rest. It makes such a difference to moistness and dare I say-flavour.)

Serve hot with pan juices.

OK. Here it is. APPLE CRISP!

Old Fashioned Apple Crisp. (from: Barefoot Contessa. Parties! 2001)

Ingredients

(serves 10- I divide it into half and usually freeze some after its cooked. It works.)

5 pounds McIntosh or Macoun apples. (I use Granny Smith)

Grated zest of 1 orange

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice.  (of all  Ina’s ‘innovations’ I think its her use of lemons and oranges in so many cups her recipes that makes all the difference!)

½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the topping

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup oatmeal

½ pound cold unsalted butter, diced (I warned you didn’t I?)

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C/160F/

Butter a 9x14x2-inch oval baking dish

Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar and spices. Pour into dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  (I use my fingers and rub together until crumbly and the butter is the size of peas.) Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for one hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream nestled up in your bowl of crisp and melting slowly into the sauce, does not go amiss!

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 Autumn is a time of ‘hunkering down’, cosying up, lighting the first fires of the season. It is a time of Hygge, a Danish word for all that autumn evokes.  Check out www.hellohygge.com.

Enjoy!

Anitaxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do we do around here?

 

I had this blog all ready to go and then the referendum happened. Overnight, the world had turned upside down. At least that’s what it felt like to me…that sense of vertigo…when you don’t quite know where you are any more.    It took me a few days to get back some semblance of my bearings.  Mainly, I feel sad for the country and the inevitable difficulties it will face.   I feel particularly sad for the most disadvantaged people.  What the whole thing has catalysed in me is a profound desire to do something for someone else.  I was telling my trainer Lina about this as we were doing laps around the field  at the Aberystwyth University Sports Centre and she told me they were in desperate need of of some assistance where she works.  So I decided to volunteer for this local organization that works with learning disabled people.  My application is in process. I will keep you posted. 

Back before it all happened I was checking out one of my favourite websites: www.notsalmon.com and discovered this ‘grounding tool’. Look around you. Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.  What a lovely, light -hearted approach to managing stress and anxiety.

Alternatively, you can move to rural Wales.    The dormer window of the bedroom is fully open. I can hear a rustling in the hedge between the back garden and the field beyond.  A loud rustling.  Or is it munching?  I spot the source behind the hedge. I can just see the white of their coats flashing through the bushes. A small herd of cows enjoying a mid-afternoon snack. I can smell a pot of Beef Bourguignon bubbling gently on the stove- wine, carrots, garlic, thyme.  I can just about touch the soft elusive breeze that wafts through the cottage carrying with it the scent of fresh hay, grasses, earth.

Here is something I wrote when I first came.

Every time my car pulls into the back garden and I switch off the engine, the utter sense of peace, beyond silence descends. The absolute unchanging nature of life here from year to year, no new roads, no new developments brings a reassurance beyond words.

So now I am just starting down the hill from the cottage for my daily walk. My neighbour who owns the farm land around the cottage is sitting on his quad bike in the middle of the road.  He is making some ju ju sounds and is shaking a plastic bag in the direction of the lane to the left. I can hear a few moos and sure enough as I move a few more steps down the hill, I can see a small herd of black cows and calves clustered in the lane-obviously unimpressed with his bidding. I stop for a quick chat.  My neighbour is 88 years old and is now suffering from macular degeneration.  This is on top of the Addison’s disease he has had since his 30’s, the heart condition that emerged later, and of course the inevitable hip replacements.  So he apologises for not recognising me right away. However, he is going for shots on Friday at Bronglais hospital in Aberystwyth or Aber as it is known around here.  The shots may help.

I ask about his wife, who is 80 and had major heart surgery around Christmas.  He asks after my dear husband.  The requisite medical bulletins having been exchanged, we get down to business.  Could I stand guard on the hill while he gets his bike up behind the cows and tries to herd them down the road? He doesn’t want them going up.  So can I stand guard to make sure they go in the right  direction?  Ok… I wait a few minutes. No problem really as it is a glorious summer day, with just a slight breeze.   There are no cars on the road. It’s silent.  Then my neighbour is back. The cows have decided to go into an adjacent field.  ‘Nice to see you.’

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Walking a little further down the hill I reach a T junction.   The little sign with the arrows points right to Llangeitho, straight ahead to Lampeter and backwards to Aberystwyth.   My neighbour’s oldest son and his family live in the white house on the corner. A former school teacher, he and his wife have a building business which also allows them to help me out with various and sundry things around the cottage from time to time.

A few minutes later, having passed some of the most glorious scenery anywhere on the planet, I head down another hill.

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This one is a 10% gradient and it feels like 45%. At the bottom sits the home of three brothers. There was an incident a few years ago when the county council sent an officer out to insist they move the fence adjacent to the road. One brother was having none of it.  He got out his cross bow and the officer left in short order.   I understand the brother spent some time away after one or two further incidents. Invariably one or other of them is out busying himself on a piece of machinery or in the shed. We always extend to each other very brief cordial greetings about the weather conditions as I continue without pause on the three  mile trek. 

The next leg involves the navigation of a very small, deeply rutted lane. Always the source of some seasonal harvest, branches for kindling in winter and early spring, wild roses in summer, rose hips in autumn.  I pass the home of my artisan neighbour and her husband, the one who makes in felt the gorgeously whimsical local scenes. In spring, summer and autumn they are busy in their pristine garden, built on a slope, lavishly filled with every imaginable flower and shrub.  Most of what I know about local floribunda, I have learned from their garden. 

Then a right turn, and I am about to embark on the dreaded 11% incline-upwards.  But not before I pass another neighbour’s dwelling.  A retired policeman from the former Rhodesia, his ‘compound’ hosts a menagerie of the wild and wonderful- guinea fowl, runner ducks, geese, alpaca sheep, and a three legged dog.   Many displaced and some thriving. Such is west Wales. 

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Right across the road from the house is a holly tree which partially overhangs the road and a field. It’s the only berried bush in the area that I have been able to find, so I always help myself to a few branches around Christmas.  And, right in front of the house, is a lilac tree and again, my neighbour has graciously invited me to help myself ‘as long as I don’t load up the back of a pick- up truck as some have been known to do.’

Then….and there is no escaping it…The real work of the walk begins.  I have tested out an infinite number of ways to ease the inevitable pain.  Here are a few: stopping every few minutes to ‘admire the view’; focusing only on the next step; focusing only on the middle distance; weaving from right to left and left to right; following the curves.  You get the picture.  What seems to be most distracting from the anguish is if I am in the middle of resolving a particularly intense current or possibly even past issue, usually an interpersonal one.  Then I have a tendency to keep going, resolutely straight ahead, perhaps even a bit too fast. Of course, being a consummate hypochondriac, I’ve been known to be so breathless as to become quite terrified that I am going to expire on this luscious but deserted hill top.  So far- as you can see- it hasn’t happened.  And there are absolutely incredible rewards. The banks in spring form a bluebell ‘carpet’, followed shortly thereafter by stalwart, upright foxgloves, lining up like lavender sentinels along the way, not to mention red campions, little yellow butter cups, white daisies, tiny violets.

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And today has been a ‘mid -range’ day.  I’ve been considering what finishing touches I might put on my latest painting.  A ‘painting’ colleague found the picture in an art magazine and brought it into the studio where we paint a couple of times a month. We each did our own version.  I find it really really helps to work alongside someone.  I have learned a lot from her.

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 I have been thinking hard too about a book I’ve been reading -‘Capital’ by Thomas Piketty and wondering what, if anything, the individual can contribute to resolving the age old tendency that Piketty identifies: wealth accumulates wealth. ‘How can we reach a fairer distribution of resource?’ is the central focus of Piketty’s work.

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   I haven’t quite reached the solution when I am back at the T junction. I turn left, up what now feels like a very small hill, and, after about 5 minutes I arrive.  There- silently, benignly waiting, sits the cottage.  The Beef Bourguignon has bubbled its way to perfection.  It’s time to taste!  All is well in west Wales. 

I am not going to keep you waiting another minute for the recipe:

This comes from one of my all time favourite cookbooks: Long Nights, Log Fires. Not just a whole range of terrific recipes but wonderfully evocative pictures that  envelope you with warmth and welcome.

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Boeuf Bourguignon (attributed to Fiona Beckett)

Serves 6
Ingredients

900 g braising beef or steak
3 tablespoons olive oil
130 g cubed pancetta (I use smoked back bacon)
3 white onions finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
450 ml full-bodied red wine
4 carrots chopped into one inch chunks (my addition)
1/2 cup beef broth (this is also my addition)
a bouquet garni made from a few sprigs of thyme,
parsley, and fresh or dried bay leaf
25 g butter
250 g chestnut mushrooms cleaned and halved or quartered if large.
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

a large flameproof casserole

Directions
Pat beef dry. Trim off any excess fat and cut into large cubes. Put one tablespoon oil into the casserole, set over medium heat, fry pancetta or bacon until lightly browned. Remove from pan with slotted spoon. Add beef in 2 batches and brown in fat that remains in casserole. Remove. Add remaining oil to pan and fry onion gently for 25 minutes until caramelised. Add garlic at the end. Cook one minute then add flour and cook for another minute. Add wine, and broth and bring to a boil. Return the beef, pancetta, and bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer over lowest heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the meat is just tender. The instructions suggest leaving the casserole over night but I hardly ever do this.

Next saute the mushrooms in butter until lightly browned (about 5 minutes) Add to casserole and simmer another 10-15 minutes. Salt, pepper, chopped parsley. Served with mashed potatoes or boiled new potatoes.

 

Enjoy!

Anitaxx

Boeuf-Bourguignon

 

 

 

Where am I anyway?

Llanglinhangel y Creuddyn.

Don’t worry. I can hardly pronounce it myself.  What’s important about this idyllic little village nestled in a valley about 7 miles east of  Aberystwyth is Yffarmers.  You can take a peak here:http://yffarmers.co.uk/

I was having a Badly Chopped Carrots health moment, but it wasn’t entirely in my head as my poor husband confirmed a slightly ‘odd’ feeling himself around midnight.  Several nights ago, he had made a reservation for Ffarmers, one of our four favourite neighborhood eateries. However now, one of the ‘roommates’ in my head said: ‘Oh, you’d better not go. You’d better go back to bed’. But how could I let my kind hearted husband down? After applying the usual accoutrements-face cream, make-up, perfume that cost most of my monthly income, I didn’t actually look sick.  Another ‘roommate’ said: ‘Well, give it a try. You can always turn around if you start feeling really poorly.’

We arrived.  The pub/restaurant, all wooden tables, shiny plank floors, candles lit on every table, is ready for a Saturday night in the Welsh countryside. In fact, a birthday party is already in progress in the room at the back.  A couple of rosy cheeked children chase each other around some of the tables. A family sits at the bar, with a stuffed spotty dog flopped on the counter.  On the wall behind the bar, the orange painting of a hare in full run, ears flying back, still presides over all.  Books about Aberystwyth, local churches, rivers and streams sit on their shelves beside our little table.  

The waitress arrived. Why not have a small glass of Chardonnay while we select from April’s menu? ‘A few sips won’t hurt’ says one of the roommates. Pork rillettes with apricot salsa, guinea fowl supreme  with a reduced , shallot sauce, small perfectly browned potato coins, crisp , cool, cucumber slices in a nestled amongst a few fresh leaves tossed in a light vinaigrette. A warm slab of chocolate brownie with a drizzle of caramel, a sprinkle of sea salt and a ball of home made vanilla ice cream.  The place filled. Smiling waitresses swung through the kitchen doors, circling each other in a Welsh gavotte, as they ferried armloads of delectable treasures from table to table. Life had miraculously shifted from clenched discomfort, grinding worries about mortality, to a soaring and all pervasive sense of well-being.  The dessert lady would be happy to write out the recipe for the brownies. ‘Industrial portions, you understand. You’re American?’ she asked. ‘The measurements might be different’  Well, actually, I am Canadian, by birth and passport at least.

You have to bake it until a crust forms on the top but it’s still wobbly. 

Do you remember your gooseberry almond cake with the ginger ice cream?’ I asked. She smiled and nodded with surprise.  ‘Well, I’ve been making it ever since you gave me the recipe two years ago.’

By the way, the clocks moved forward last weekend. (Ok. I am a little late with this post but bear with me…  I wanted you to see the best of springtime in Wales…or if you live here…be reminded of what has just passed through). The countryside is lavishly strewn with daffodils and gorse making our 45 minute sunset drive to Ffarmers one of shimmering gold.  

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…and…I couldn’t resist bringing some of this exuberance inside. (I don’t think anyone will notice these are missing!)                                                                          
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Meanwhile my neighbor who lives just down the road, is using her light filled and sleepless nights to conjure up with felt on slate, these luscious and whimsical depictions of our small world.  She’s called this one ‘under the rainbow’ 

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I’ve just finished my latest pear painting which now hangs over the kitchen sink. I know some of you will recognize it…again.

 

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I’m reading ‘At the Existentialist Cafe’ by Sara Bakewell. This is a superbly readable gallop through the lives, loves and liberties of existential philosophy’s formidable crew of creators. An exacting approach to  life. But oh, so liberating. 

The idea of my ‘room mates’ in the head is borrowed from ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael Singer. A life-changing book.

And finally….I won’t keep you waiting another minute. Here is my adaptation of:

GOOSEBERRY ALMOND CAKE WITH GINGER ICE CREAM 

Ingredients

125 g butter softened

200 g caster sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

75g plain flour sifted

75 g ground almonds

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

350g dessert gooseberries, topped and tailed

35g flaked almonds

1 tablespoon icing sugar for dusting

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/170fan. Beat the butter and 125g sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a tablespoon of flour. Fold in the rest of the flour, the almonds, and the baking powder using a large metal spoon. Scrape into a buttered 20cm spring-form tin.

Toss the gooseberries with the remaining 75g sugar and spread them over the top of the cake. Bake 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle on the almonds and bake for another 10 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted its centre comes out clean. Leave it to cool in the tin and then carefully remove the ring and the base. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

I always serve this with an improvised ginger ice cream. I use Cornish Honeycomb Ice Cream (but frankly any good vanilla ice cream will be fine). Dice some ginger from a jar of ginger in syrup and scatter over the ice cream. Pour a little syrup on top.

Can you believe these innocuous little berries can turn into something so delicious. These are just starting to appear in my garden…but truthfully…they are everywhere…Help yourself.

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and…

 

 

Enjoy!

Anitaxx

 

WE HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE

I came from southern California to a cottage in Wales for three months to mend a broken heart. That was sixteen years ago.  Two months ago, I started to work out at the local university gym. Here I received my first introduction to the world of cross trainers, stationary bikes, treadmills, and rowing machines….and…oh yes…40 pound weights.  Last month I turned 70. Two years ago, I left full time work and took up painting. 

This potted history may give you the impression that anyone can change their life…anytime…and that certainly, I am in control of mine.  But when I realized that I was more preoccupied with my badly chopped carrots, than the gorgeous dinner of tender, medium rare lamb chops served on a bed of golden crusty potato cake that I had prepared- in which those badly chopped carrots played a teeny weeny minor role-well…I knew I had to do something. When ironing became my default hobby, it was clear that something had to be very very different -right now. 

This blog is my way of taking stock of my life, how I got here, what has helped me, and where I’m going.  Even I can see, when I am not having a badly chopped carrots moment, that my life has been, still is, pretty interesting. If you decide to take this journey with me, I hope some  of what I share will give you a boost too. 

So who am I? It’s the big question isn’t it, for most of us.  I am a counselling psychologist by training, with a doctorate in leadership. Of course, I now know a lot less about leadership than practically anyone else on the planet. As you can see from this very choppy backstory, I am a dilettante, or is that a renaissance person with a very strong neurotic streak? I have a penchant for focusing on badly chopped carrots.  I also have a lifelong passion for the domestic arts, interior design, ( have survived two major renovations), home decor, and most of all, anything to do with cooking. I have a deep and abiding longing to be creative. Most of all, I yearn to develop and enhance a real lightness of being in myself and in others.  If you stick with me, as I hope you will, prepare  yourself for a melange of life story, daily living in rural Wales, home decor,  words of wisdom (maybe), psychological insights (for sure), paintings, photographs, social commentary, favorite websites, influential books, new discoveries of all kinds. Above all,  you will find here, recipes and menus, not just for today, but for life. 

Here’s a preview:

Summer rising

Chicken Chianti

Salmon with avocado sauce

French new potato salad

Char grilled courgettes and aubergines

Gooseberry almond cake with ginger drizzle ice cream

MOST IMPORTANT: I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU-WHAT HAS HELPED YOU, SPARKED YOU, LIFTED YOUR SPIRITS!

SEE BELOW,  THE VIEW FROM THE COTTAGE.  THIS IS RURAL WALES.

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