Christmas traditions

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Where has 2015 gone? It’s December and Christmas is fast approaching. I’m a big fan of Christmas, I love the festivities and pretty lights, mince pies and Christmas music. There are a couple of festive traditions I usually follow and this year has been no exception.

  1. A real tree, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a tree to decorate, and each year Kiwi and I go and buy a real one. It smells great, the kitties love climbing in it and its a tradition that we like to keep up. This year we struggled to find where to buy one from – where are all the tree farms?
  2. Decorations, we now tend to buy a few decorations when we visit places, so then each year when we decorate the tree we also get a whole box of memories and places we have been to. My favourites are some pretty glass ones we brought when visiting the Christmas markets in Cologne. The only downside is that none of our ornaments match or follow a colour scheme.
  3. Mince pies, mulled wine, chocolate, and all the foods. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without weeks of feasting. Whilst we tend to actually eat healthier and stock up on veggies for most of December to counteract all the extra yummy foods we have. I usually make some mince pies, this year I again made my own mincemeat and have been experimenting with different types of pastry to see what works best. I’ll be making a batch of mulled wine or even apple cider next week and I’m currently on the lookout for a great ‘holiday cookie’ aka biscuit recipe.
  4. Advent calendar. I don’t care that these are for children and they aren’t a good breakfast alternative but I still have an advent calendar each year. Next year I’m thinking I may even be organised and make a mini personalised one instead of the chocolate variety!
  5. Tree chocolates. I’m not sure how these haven’t caught on this side of the pond because they are marvellous, but not to be defeated I’ve made my own. A few pieces of string and a gianormous multi-bag of Lindt balls. and voila!! tree chocolates, the best kind! mmm admittedly some didn’t make it to the tree!

What Christmas traditions do you follow to feel all festive? This year I might expand on these traditions and have a Christmas move day – all the old classics that I’m sad to admit I’ve never watched! Carols, and a cheese and mulled wine night.

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Touring Salt lake City

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Kiwi and I have spent quite a lot of time recently exploring the wider gems of our state, but we have found a little bit of time to see some of the sights of the city as well. Our new home certainly is a pretty one, and we appreciate the abundance of ‘sidewalks’, trees and public transport. The city is very green, and we have taken a few rips around the surrounding canyons when we want to ‘escape’ the city. Salt lake is in general a small city, with everything you could need contained in a small area.

Some of the things I’ve found out since moving here are that its home to the worlds first KFC! – Not that I’m a fan, but still. Its home to the ‘Utes’ football team, which is a stones-throw away from our house. I think I’ll be supporting ND though, I mean they have gold shiny helmets!

We’ve already found so far that there are many local breweries, bars and great places to eat, as well as great music, outdoor theatre and a lively community. We were keen to visit some of the local parks and enjoy the outdoor spaces, sadly neither of them have massive lakes, but cute little boating lakes. My favourite so far is liberty park, followed by sugar house park.

One of the main buildings in SLC is the public library. I’ve never known of a famous library but having visited I can now see why. The building is stunning, lots of arcs and glass making cosy spaces to work for the afternoon and so so many books. My favourite sport was the secluded little rooftop garden which gives a good view of the city and a great sunny spot.

I’ve not yet been inside but I’m looking forward to exploring the state capitol building its an exact copy of the White house only smaller, and sitting on top of a large hill over looking the main centre it looks impressive.

We have also visited temple square and wandered around the pretty gardens, to get a really good view we had a mini tour around the convention centre where they have impressive glass ceilings and a huge rooftop garden giving a lovely view of the temple.

The other great thing, we haven’t yet had chance to sample some of the many pop up food vans which are meant to be delicious, but we will.

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Scrumping and pickle

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One thing I would usually look forward to this time of year is the imminent arrival of autumn, complete with beautiful leaves, crunching around parks and hunting for damsons , blackberries and any other hedgerow delights. Since moving to Utah I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled, when the Mormons first settled SLC the soil was either really fertile or they worked incredibly hard to make it so. Along many streets there are fruit trees, and remnants of old orchards. Mostly apples, some plums, and a few peach trees. I’ve seen a few apricots growing in peoples gardens but not too many available for picking.

Whilst consulting the googlewebs for possible fruit locations I first came across this amazing website, falling fruit, which lists free fruit foraging spots all over the world. Awesome! This lead me to find the green urban lunchbox. A local scheme that lists volunteer fruit picking events, often in community veg patches or orchards or peoples excess fruit trees. The idea is that you sign up for an event, go help for a few hours to pick fruit or whatever, then you keep a third – for free! give a third to food banks and a third to the owner. Win win win. I loved the idea of this and signed up for a few events. So far I’ve already picked pears, plums and apples, and am looking forward to some more fresh produce. The picking is interesting and I’ve now learnt some different types of apple trees and how to use an apple picker.

More excitingly I’ve been looking at what to do with my hoards of hard picked fruits. Since seeing a picture on fb the other day of a cheese and Branston pickle sandwich, I’ve wanted one sooooo badly! I am fortunate to have found an English imports shop down the road – twirls, scones, monster munch, clotted cream, proper tea and other awesome delights although the pickle is incredibly pricey. I thought I’d test out some of my chutney recipes and start research pickle ones to try my hand at making some. This weekend is set to be another scorcher but I’ll be spending some time in my kitchen pickling some apples. Any one have any good chutney recipes please do share!

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Wakarusa maple syrup festival

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Despite it being past the maple season, Wakarusa hold a maple syrup festival each year. The festival includes a small fair ground, popcorn, maple syrup tours and lots of exciting food. Its a small town with only two streets that were closed down for the festival. The buildings reminded me of Oamaru in New Zealand. Having recently been to a few sugar days and seeing how maple syrup is tapped from trees we thought this sounded interesting. Continue reading

American snacks

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Its true, snacks here aren’t exactly snack size…

We’ve been working our way through some of the ones we don’t really know, so far the crisps sorry ‘chips’ offer a whole variety of flavours, we like the mixed bags as then you get several types in one. Pretzels also seem popular, they have different stuff inside them, and there are lots of coated ones too, yoghurt and chocolate. We also had to try an iconic American snack… the humble corn stick, along with some other strange delights we’ve spotted out and about.
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