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When the snows are lying deep,
When the field has gone to sleep,
When the blackthorn turns to white,
And frosty stars bejewel the night,
When summer streams are turned to ice,
A Snow Ball warms the heart of mice

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I have really struggled to find a subject for today’s feast. It’s entirely possible that the final afternoon of Christmas shopping may have stunned my imagination and ability to write into shock. All I wanted by the time I returned home was a cup hot chocolate, as thick and rich and chocolatey as possible; the perfect hot chocolate is a feast in itself, with cream and lots of spices.
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Wassail

Wassail, by Leah Palmer Preiss

Today is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. You might already know that. It seems appropriate that I spent the daylight hours stocking up on food and drink for the feasts to come next week. As I said in my Yule-themed blogpost in 2014, I have never really celebrated today on its own, because there is always so much else going on.

Were I able to celebrate today’s Winter Solstice properly, I would currently be sitting with a flagon of wassail.
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Today, the schools in Glasgow broke up for the Christmas holidays. The screams you can hear resounding through the city tonight are a combination of teachers, librarians, technicians, and so on screaming in joy, and parents screaming in horror. It’s been a very busy term, even without the extra problems created by broken bones, and a mostly enjoyable one. I’m very happy to be having two weeks off. The next few days will be dedicated to Christmas preparations – cake decorating, present wrapping (actually, present buying, given I didn’t get everything this evening on the way home, then present wrapping), sending the Christmas cards which will inevitably arrive late (just to let you know, so that you can sit on tenterhooks wondering if you will or will not get one), and a million more tasks which await, but mostly, just trying to keep my ankle rested and not in pain.  But first, an early night tonight, and a lie-in tomorrow morning. I intend to marinade myself in a thick, warm duvet, and heaps of pillows, with books, and chocolate.

Or, as John Keats puts it:

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
      Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
      Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
      In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
      Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
      Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
      Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.

Today’s feast then, is a feast of sleep. Just call me Sleeping Beauty, without the thorny hedge around the old abode.

The_Rose_Bower_Buscot_Park

Edward Burne-Jones, The Rose Bower, the 4th painting in the Briar Rose series, located at Buscot Park, Oxfordshire. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Good night, sweet [readers],
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2,  lines 358-9

Until tomorrow.

Hetty Feather

Hetty Feather, by Nick Sharratt. Source: Jacqueline Wilson Wiki.

This is the blog post that I would have written yesterday had I not been out seeing The Last Jedi until rather late. Do not fear, you can keep reading; there are no spoilers here. I really ought to write another post about said film, but probably won’t be able to get to it until after Christmas, as tomorrow is our last day at school, and then there’s a lot to do before Monday. 6 more sleeps! Eeep. For now, I will say that the film is great, and you should all go and see it. Right now. I will definitely be going to see it again, both because it’s great and because I want to take a closer look at some scenes and characters in particular.

Yesterday was children’s author Jacqueline Wilson‘s 72nd birthday.  Until I began working as a school librarian, I had never read any of her books, but made a particular effort to do so following a campaign by two first years, who couldn’t stop recommending her books, in particular those following the life and times of one Hetty Feather. Continue Reading »

I am heading out to see Star Wars: the Last Jedi very soon, so there is no time for a wordy blog post today. Instead I leave you to contemplate a painting by Sir John Everett Millais, Lorenzo and Isabella.

John Everett Millais, “Lorenzo and Isabella”, 1848-49. Oil on canvas, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The painting illustrates a moment from the story of the secret love affair between Lorenzo and Isabella, as told by the 14th century author Giovanni Boccaccio in his collection of stories Il Decamerone. I do plan to flesh out this post at a later date, but in the meantime, enjoy the painting.

Today, I attended a rather large, and decidedly wonderful, family party. En route, we passed a road sign for “Hansel” **. Curiouser and curiouser, and, despite keeping my eyes peeled, I saw no sign for “Gretel”. Harrumph. Nonetheless, my mind was in a fairytale place, and so I came up with the idea for today’s blogpost. The name “Hansel” being synonymous with the gingerbread house, I decided to use the spices used in the making of gingerbread as the basis for a three-course feast.  Not being able right now to find Grandma’s gingerbread recipe – it’s a school night, and a particularly early start in the morning – I turned to the trusty BBC Recipes website and found the Hairy Bikers’ recipe for Spiced Gingerbread Cake. The spices used in this recipe are ground ginger, cayenne pepper, allspice, mace, and cloves.
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