Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sneezing, Christmas Cake and a Visit to A Castle

The preparations for Christmas continue in the 21st Century Household, as I try to keep my head above the piles of presents to be wrapped, cards to be written and things to be done! I’m definitely getting into the Christmas spirit that is for sure. The only problem is I’ve got yet another cold (my third in eight weeks!). I find it hard to understand how I can be getting so many colds. Up until now I have not had a proper cold for over three years. Yet ever since we got back from Cyprus I have lurched from one to the other. They are all different as well. The first involved a lot of coughing (which I hate), the second a sore throat and this third one is a sneezy cold. I feel like I’ve turned into a cross between Sneezy the Dwarf and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. (Thank goodness for makeup!) But I don’t feel ill with it, so that is a real blessing. It’s just slightly embarrassing sneezing so much. I’m not a quiet sneezer, no matter how hard I try. The other day I was in the grocery store and everyone’s head’s swivelled round when I sneezed three times in a row. Very embarrassing.

The 21st Century Teenager and I have finally decided what Christmas cake to make for Christmas Day. It’s one of Nigella Lawson’s recipes from her book How to Be a Domestic Goddess called Marzipan Fruit Cake. (It’s on page 34 in my copy of the book.) Made with chunks of marzipan and lighter dried fruits soaked in rum, it is absolutely delicious. The only change I made to it was that there was no Orange Flower Water at my local grocery store so I used Grand Mariner liqueur instead. It was a very successful substitution. I don’t even like fruitcake as a rule and I am struggling not to devour this one. We had another piece of it last night and it is definitely improving with age – although I would have argued that it could not get any better when I first tasted it. I had my doubts when I made it as you actually freeze chunks of marzipan overnight and then mix them into the batter which I had never heard of before. Actually it is a fantastic idea as the chunks get quite soft and then hide in the cake – delicious little almond surprises. So now we just have to make the actual cake for Christmas. I’m a bit nervous as folks here often decorate their fruit cakes with marzipan, icing and goodness knows what else and I don’t think I want to do that with this one. It’s a bit too rich for icing of any kind. I’m thinking about sprinkling it with a layer of Demerara sugar before I put it in the oven so it will just have a golden top, but I hope no one will think I’m being lazy!

I am collecting The 21st Century Teenager at school at 2pm as we have been invited to a special private evening tour of Windsor Castle. We are all very excited about it. It is not actually until 5pm but we need to get to Windsor in all the Christmas traffic. We are meeting The 21st Century Husband there as he is already halfway to Windsor at work so it would be pointless for him to come all the way back here to then go again Рnot to mention how much time it would take. I have not been inside Windsor Castle since I went with my parents and The 21st Century Husband (when he was my fiancée) in 1989. Of course, if you go to Windsor (and I have been a number of times), you cannot help but see the Castle as it dominates the town, rising as it does from the hill in the centre and sprawling for acres. It is very beautiful. One time when we stayed in Windsor we were at the hotel immediately opposite and were able to watch the Changing of the Guard from our hotel room window. We had the best view I could imagine and it was incredible. This time, the castle is all decorated for Christmas so it should be even prettier than usual. If this tour is anything like the one we had of Buckingham Palace earlier this year I am sure I will be raving about it tomorrow!

Speaking of which, I had better go and get changed. I wonder what one wears to an evening tour of Windsor Castle….

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