Hey everyone! I hope you are all having a great end of December~ post holiday everything. I have been having a rough time to find time to blog, with kiddo being home on break and all the merrymaking that has been happening. We have been having such a great time, spending time with family and also taking some down time to just chill with each other. I had book club last week, which was fun as always to see my friends and touch base about what has been going on in their lives. Today we got together with my entire family, cousins and their kids, and just played and ate and laughed all day. It was just kids and toys everywhere honestly, and it was so fun. Tomorrow for New Years we are planning a pretty slow night – dinner with my brother and his family, maybe a drink, then home to our house for a quiet night in. New Years Day we are hoping to go out for breakfast then take a walk in the woods, depending on the weather.
What I’ve Been Reading:
Over Christmas I reread Farmer Boy – something about Christmas makes me think of Little House. And I also read Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery – it was a treat to check back in with these characters!
Reading This Week:
I’m trying to hurry and finish A Court of Frost and Starlight before the year changes – we shall see how I do! And here I am, back at Anne of Green Gables. I have tried to read this twice and failed. Then I watched the tv show and loved it, and felt terrible I never read it. My husband gave me this beautiful copy for Christmas, knowing that I feel it is unfinished business – therefore, Anne of Green Gables is going to be my first read of 2019!
We are busily watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which I fought against because I knew I wouldn’t like the stand up part too much, but visually, I knew I had to watch it. And it is a gorgeous show. We are also watching Top Chef, Agatha Raisin, Midnight Texas, and Riverdale. We are going to start The Ranch soon too.
What about all of you? What is going on? How are your holidays, if you celebrate? What book are you starting the year with?
Hey all! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, if you celebrate! We were so busy – a very fun busy, but busy! Wyatt had a blast this year, which means that we did too.
As the year draws to a close, I thought back to all the books I read this year. It was definitely a year of Jenny Colgan and Karen White – I found their backlists and just went crazy. Also this year I really found a love of reading nature books. I am really enjoying the different persepectives it has given me, and how they have started shaping my family’s life in a different way, one that has more of an emphasis on the outdoors and nature. We always loved nature and being outside, but I am learning how to incorporate that more – sometimes by letting some other things go. But before I get too philosophical here, that is all talk for another post, let’s take a peek at my favorite books that I read this year, in no particular order.
The Impossible Girl – Lydia Kang never fails to disappoint me. She writes such unique stories that I can’t stop reading.
I read quite a few YA books too – I usually do. These three really stuck out for me.
All the Little Lights – Holy crap, this book blew me away! I wish I could read it all over again without knowing the end just so I can feel that same way.
Truly, Devious – I finished this and it ends on a cliffhanger!! Is the next one out yet?? I need to read it!
Nevernight – My husband wanted me to read this and I fell in love with this crazy world. For me it was like Harry Potter for assassins…
This Fallen Prey – I love this series so much. I love the whole premise of a place where people can go to disappear. I can’t wait for the next installment!
Flight Patterns – Again, hard to choose a favorite but this was the chosen one. Just so much love and tears in this book. I got my mom hooked on reading White too!
The Girl in the Tower – The very first book I read this year, and it was beautiful. I love the beauty and the fairy tale of it all.
And finally, The Nature Fix. This book was kind of life changing, actually. I had my husband read it too, and it shifted our perspective on what is important and how we really want to live our lives. A really cool book, full of so much information. Loved it.
And there you have it!! What books did you read that you loved this year?
It’s December, and everything is crazy. Wrapping, shopping, planning, baking, going, doing, plus the stuff of everyday life too, jobs and school and laundry and doctors appointments. It’s been mad. We had a great family get-together on Saturday, and it was nice just hanging out and laughing and telling stories. And of course, eating. We had some downtime all day that day though, so we were ready to go out for a bit. We made some easy cookies, ran a few quick errands, and watched The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix. We loved it!! I loved Kurt Russell as Santa, and I really loved that movie. Definitely one to include in our yearly round up from now on.
This week my to-do list is a bit smaller, with some projects to finish up around the house. I want to make a dried orange garland for our tree, some of those orange clove pomanders, and finish a few things for our Yule celebration on Friday.
Read Last Week:
This collection of four short stories was perfect for my hectic week! I plan on posting my review Tuesday!
Reading This Week:
This week I will probably read between these two books. I have never read a Rita Mae Brown book before but I couldn’t get over that adorable dapper fox on the cover. Lol.
Riverdale, Reign, The Christmas Chronicles, Charlie Brown Christmas
Last Friday, Wyatt was given an opportunity to “fly to the North Pole.” It was definitely an amazing experience, one that we will never forget.
All week I had been telling him about how we were going to fly to the north pole and see Santa, so he was pretty excited when we arrived. And just like any other flight, we had to check in for our boarding pass. I loved that even the monitors said that we were checking in for the North Pole! And Wyatt looks cute and tiny sitting there waiting for his ticket. Lol.
There was an orchestra playing, decorations everywhere, and Wyatt was grinning from ear to ear as we moved to the next phase of our day. We had to check in with the event, where they gave him a sweatshirt, and a name tag, which reminded me of Paddington Bear, that hung around his neck. There was more music being played here, with people in costumes greeting the kids and entertaining everyone until we moved to the security line. We did have to go through security, as we were getting on a real plane and would be in the terminal. This was the only part that gave me some anxiety – because Wyatt was in a wheelchair they moved him to the other side of the gate – without me! I was very nervous about my kiddo being left there without me, and I asked the TSA agent to please make sure he didn’t wheel away. Wyatt didn’t take off but he did try, that little monkey!
Once we were through and I could breathe again, we were zoomed off by an elf to the terminal to wait for our plane. This area had clowns handing out balloons and playing games, and the flight crew was on hand to greet all the children. This, I think, was Wyatt’s favorite. He was in awe of the pilot and co-pilot. They gave him some little wings, which was pretty cool too. Finally, our plane arrived taxied up and we were ready to board our flight!
It is all very choreographed and efficient, so things are kept moving, partly because small children are not usually super patient. So I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted, but I did capture a few moments. Wyatt was also obsessed with the seat belt. I ended up keeping him on my lap, seat belted in. And then, we “took off”! The plane in reality taxied around for about an hour, and even gathered some serious speed to mimic take off. We had to leave the window shades down though, to maintain the illusion for the kids- which was a battle between me and my son, who kept wanting to open it. Lol. On our flight we were served lunch, and the elves sang carols. It was a great time, and Wyatt loved the music, and the actual plane itself. Once we landed, we were whisked away through the North Pole’s airport to “Santa’s castle”, or the hotel. Everything was decked out in Christmas decorations, cookies and candy and most importantly, coffee, lined the tables for us to snack on. Here they also had a show for the kids, of characters dressed up like superheroes who put on a mock battle, and Anna and Elsa were there singing all their songs. The kids were called up one by one to see the big man himself, and then – we went home! But not before we were given, literally, a sack of presents for the kiddo.
The generosity of the donors and volunteers that put this day on was immeasurable. The time, the planning, the gifts, the people from the hotel to the Silverliners who organized it, to Delta Airlines who flew the plane – it was an absolutely perfect, amazing, one of a kind day.
Here is a link to a local news story about it! See if you can spot us!
Last week, Wyatt had an amazing opportunity to “fly to the North Pole”. This was a special event hosted by several groups, and it was such an amazing experience for him. I plan on telling you guys all about it this week! In short, we boarded a plane and flew to the “North Pole” to meet Santa – and were back in just a few hours! Really it was more of a board an airplane, keep up an illusion of flying to the North Pole, and pretend the airport hotel was Santa’s house kind of a deal, but the kids were all like my son’s age, and they went along with it. Then Sunday we had an entirely different version of Santa and Christmas, when we visited Santa at our local metropark. It was a lovely start to our morning, quiet and simple fun and full of nature, our favorite. If you follow me on Instagram, I have a few pics up!
Read Last Week:
Christmas on the Island was amazing. I smiled and cried and laughed throughout. It was a wonderful holiday read and I can’t wait for the next installment in this series! I am almost finished with A Christmas Courting – I love Regency Christmas romances!
Reading This Week:
Stefanie at Stefanie Crafts got me thinking about Harry Potter!! Now I have to pick up where I left off rereading. Then I visited Caffeinated Book Reviewer and had to read Snowed In for Christmas, which sounds really good!
Christmas movies, The Great British Bake Off Holidays, Monty Don’s Big Dreams Small Spaces (love him)
Note: This is a repost from two years ago – it was originally published on my old blog, Quixotic Magpie. But as I recently made Empire Biscuits with my mom and sister-in-law, I thought I would give these tarts some love.
My family is divided into two camps: The Coconut Tart people, and the Empire Biscuit people. Don’t get me wrong, we will gladly eat either/or, but..we have a preference for one or the other. I love a good Empire Biscuit, but Coconut Tarts are my weakness. My grandma made them every Christmas and it was the dessert I looked forward to the most.
My grandmother is gone now, but my Uncle Art has taken up the mantle, and baked the tarts for the holidays. Yesterday I spent some much needed time in the kitchen, learning how to bake these tarts. I have decided to share my love for these with all of you! Just note – I am not a baker, nor am I a food blogger. Lol. My tarts look a little more rustic than professional – I have not managed pretty food yet, just yummy tasting! Because these turned out awesome in flavor, if I do say so myself.
Surprisingly, these are not a health food! 🙂 They are fattening and delicious!
Ingredients for the gooey coconut filling:
3/4 cup sugar 1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk 1 tsp. vanilla 1/4 lb. butter melted 1 egg 3/4 cup coconut, firmly packed
For the pastry : 2 c. flour 2/3 c. butter flavored Crisco + 4 additional TB (my mom uses cold butter but I don’t know how much) a pinch of salt 2/3 c. water
Preheat the oven to 425.
We made the filling first, but I don’t think it matters which you start with. It was easy! Basically, just combine all the above ingredients in a bowl, and whisk until everything is mixed really well. You want to make sure you really incorporate the sugar, it has a tendency to want to sit on the bottom.
Next we made the pastry- this was a little bit more complex but not too terribly difficult. I just really hate getting my hands dirty. Bleh. You start by adding all the ingredients together in a medium to large size bowl- we used a vintage Pyrex one which I am sure was not bought vintage like mine were. Then I cut it in the Crisco using a pastry cutter. Once this was all cut in well, my uncle showed me the next technique, of making the dough all crumbly. I am not sure of the technical terms, but we called it making it crumbly.
This technique involved running it between his hands, using the friction to combine it and make it all crumbled into little balls. Once the mixture was all crumbly, we could easily roll it all together into a ball.
Once we had this nice round ball of dough, we split it into two balls. Next, we placed one of the halves onto a floured piece of wax paper to roll out. We also put another piece of wax paper over the top of the dough, so it was sandwiched between two floured sheets of wax paper. Then I commenced rolling. You want it nice and thin, but not too thin. Maybe 1/4 inch thick.
We had some little helping hands too. My cousin’s three year old daughter assisted me. Once it is rolled out, you can cut circles to place into the muffin tray. I would say the one my uncle used was about 4″ across. He said this was not perfect but it worked for him. So maybe the size of a wide mouth water glass.
Once you roll out all the dough and have cut the circles, you can start slowly placing them into the muffin tin. This part is the slowest, most laborious part in my opinion.
Mine were a bit messy but looked like this when I was done. A bit of a trick – instead of using your fingers to press the dough down into the tins and onto the sides, once you have it set in loosely, you can use a small lump of dough as a little press instead of your fingers. Once you have everything ready to go, you are ready to fill! Give that filling a good whisking again to stir up any sugar that may have settled while you did all this stuff with the dough. When finished, add about 2 TB filling to each tart. This is entirely up to you, how much is added. I just wouldn’t suggest all the way to the top, because then they will overflow during cooking. Pop them into the oven for about 15 minutes (12-17, but we did 15) until the dough is a nice golden brown, and the filling has a nice golden color as well. My uncle then covers his with a dish towel for a few minutes to trap the heat a little longer without baking.
Once they cool, enjoy! Perfect with a milky, sugary cup of tea. Yum!
And that is all there is to it! I hope I did an ok job explaining this – I didn’t realize how difficult it was to write down a recipe that is mostly conveyed by look and feel in our family. If you try to make them, let me know how it goes!
I think most of us will admit that watching a good holiday movie is one of the little indulgences in a season that can be chaotic as well, with all the running and shopping and wrapping and all the bits and bobs that we do in December. But curling up with a favorite feel-good movie with loved ones is an easy way to just let it all go for a while, and get sucked into some magical world where all ends well and brings a smile to your face.
When we kick back with our hot chocolate or wine, depending on the day and mood, these are some of the movies we must watch every December. Some are traditions that began when we were just little, some have been added in over the years. Maybe some of them are on your list too!
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Our whole family can pretty much recite this movie word for word. It’s a comedic look at the holiday but also has its poignant moments too. I remember watching this with my dad one year when I was in high school, and he was laughing so hard at the “Squirrel!” scene he was silent laughing with tears rolling down his face, rolling on the floor. Like really ROFL!
Love Actually: Ok, this is not just my favorite Christmas movie, it is my all time favorite movie. I can watch it anytime. It never fails to make me shed some tears, and I just really, actually, love it. (Quick – whose story is your favorite? It’s such a tough call, but personally, I love Hugh Grant’s)
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas: I adore this movie. We just watched it with Wyatt the other night for the first time, and he did too. I was so happy that he liked it!
The Muppet Christmas Carol: Another family favorite. I am a huge Muppet fan, have been since I was a little girl, and I love this version of a Christmas Carol. And Michael Caine is as always amazing. I am looking forward to watching this one with Wyatt too this year.
White Christmas: Oh, how I love this movie. I used to watch it every year with my mom and brother, and now Billy and I and Wyatt watch it. Wyatt actually loves musicals, he is a musical kid. And Bing’s voice – Christmas isn’t Christmas until you hear a carol crooned by him.
A Charlie Brown Christmas: An oldie but goodie.
A Claymation Christmas and A Garfield Christmas: I’m putting these on here together because we watch them together on the same night, back to back. Much to my husband’s chagrin, Wyatt also likes these movies. Lol. Billy is not a fan, especially of Claymation Christmas. It’s just such a part of my youth, watching these while drinking wassail with my brother and stepsisters, that I keep the tradition alive. And now Wyatt enjoys them, so a whole new tradition has begun!
So, there you have it! Our must watch Christmas movies. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch other ones – I watched Chrismas Prince on Netflix last year at least every other day for a while. And now, I am gearing up to watch the Wedding! (The Royal Wedding! Lol) I randomly watched The Christmas Bunny last year and loved it, although my heart broke a little bit a few times. And Carol Brady is in it! Well, not as Carol Brady, but as a curmudgeonly rabbit rescuer! I loved it and of course wanted a rabbit after watching. We didn’t get one, but I still wanted one. And one year I watched a movie called The March Sisters and loved that one too – and I have been looking for it to watch it again ever since.
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 16 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk