I know this is stating the obvious but it's amazing how much a day of doing things you enjoy, and can afford, will cheer a person up. I've been feeling a little low recently but after spending last night watching utter rubbish on television, and today doing Christmas cooking and catching up with friends I feel like a new woman.
The baking consisted of mince pies (pastry somewhat too short as some of them disintegrated) two kinds of fudge, and the final dipping of candied oranges in chocolate - basically my favourites from the last couple of Christmases. I'm particularly pleased with the fudge as I find it all too easy to burn and this lot didn't even come close to catching. I had meant to make some sort of biscuit as well but didn't get up early enough to organise that so they'll have to wait. The second batch of fudge was the chocolate and walnut from 'Sugar and Spice' the first lot was a universal hit, second time round I like the recipe even more which fills me with enthusiasm for further experimentation with this book.
There has also been a gathering together of all the other things I've made over the last few months with Christmas in mind. The Russian Plum Liquor, and Apricots preserved in Muscat (though I've used a fortified moscatel - same grape, Spanish name - partly because it's unfashionable enough to be slightly cheaper, partly because I think the extra alcohol will be good for the preservation process. It's a luscious and lovely wine anyway with clean grapey flavours that will be perfect for apricots) are from Diana Henry's 'Salt Sugar Smoke' - still my book of the year for it's wonderful combination of the unusual and brilliantly simple. There are also all the jams and jellies from the same book - the shelves will look bare when they've gone but it will be licence to start again and I'm obviously looking forward to that...
Other reasons to be cheerful this week have been bumping into Fiona Cairns at work - she shops with us semi regularly but whenever I've spotted her before I've been far to busy or she's looked far to harassed for me to be able to buttonhole her - not this time, and so I got to hear a little bit about her new book (coming out in September) it's about seasonal baking and is apparently the book she's always wanted to write. I especially loved 'Bake and Decorate' and am really looking forward to this one.
Finally Reading Matters has posted a round up of bloggers books of the year (including mine - the excellent 'Island Years Island Farm') I've just spent a happy half hour browsing through titles, adding both to my wish list and blog list - the latter certainly fits my criteria of enjoyable and affordable occupations.