I really don’t mind January so much any more. Back in my office worker days when there would be weeks when I wouldn’t see my home in daylight, leaving before the first glimmer of dawn and returning along slick wet pavements lit only by the streetlamps, battling through wind and rain to reach my place of employment, I disliked this month intensely. There seemed to be nothing to look forward to – Christmas was in the past, and January was a time not only of darkness and bad weather, but of abstinence and denial after the party season of Christmas and the New Year.
Yet now I am older, and living a different kind of life, I find there is much to enjoy at this time of year. Grandma Daycare reopens, though young Florence is still insisting on wearing her reindeer jumper(!), there is more time to enjoy an afternoon’s sewing in front of the wood burner – no need to worry now whether I’ve made enough sausage rolls or mince pies for everyone – and most of all, the days are growing ever so slowly longer and there are the beginnings of life stirring in the garden and countryside around me. There are hazel catkins (above) in the hedgerows and the birds are becoming more active on the warmer, dryer days, preparing for the spring ahead.
There’s life stirring in my kitchen garden as well. My autumn sowing of garlic is growing away nicely, there are still parsnips to be pulled and the allium (not marrow as the label in the middle photo would seem to indicate!) are at least six inches tall. The final photo on the right shows the clumps of snowdrops I “rescued” last year from where the patio areas for the shepherd’s huts have now been laid. You can see the rhubarb sprouting in this photo too, which makes me a little sad as well as happy as this was where Daisy loved to sit as I gardened – much to my dismay when her large round furry bottom seemed to push the rhubarb shoots back beneath the ground again! We do still miss her very much, though Alfie is a much loved – and extremely comical – new member of the team….
Ted was sitting looking very handsome as I pottered around the garden – for once sitting next to my wallflowers, planted on a blustery day last autumn, rather than on top of them – so I decided to take his photo. Not one to be left out of anything, along came the young pup determined to put a stop to all this nonsense, and herd everyone back up the garden path for tea (me) and dog treats (them). Rufus galloped ahead – can you see him standing at the end of the path on the patio waiting for us all to catch up?
And, thinking of tea, I thought it would be nice to share the recipe below from this month’s Bustle & Sew Magazine. My mum used to make it for me as a child, and I’m still making it today…
Yes, good old toad in the hole! Whilst real amphibians may still be hibernating, this toad makes a regular appearance in our kitchen during the colder months!
To make toad in the hole sift 125g plain flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl, make a well in the middle and break an egg into it. Add 150ml milk and gradually work in the flour with a wooden spoon, beating until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the rest of the milk slowly until the whole is well mixed, then beat until the surface is covered with little bubbles. Leave to stand if time allows, but can be used immediately. Put some dripping or oil into a 18 cm (7”) square baking tin and heat in the oven at 220 C 425 F until the fat is really hot and showing a haze. Arrange the sausages in the tin, pour the batter over and bake near the top of the oven for about 45 minutes. Don’t open the oven door during baking or the batter might sink. Delish!