Christmas at the FutureCat house

Happy Boxing Day! (And Happy Christmas to those of you in the Western hemisphere still stuck in the past ;-))

We had a very quiet Christmas, as is our wont. After a hectic few weeks of work (a couple of big last minute projects, plus trying to catch up on all the work I hadn’t been able to do earlier in the year, plus the usual round of end-of-year celebrations (my final count was four lunches, one breakfast, one barbeque, and two morning teas – that’s the trouble with working for such a large organisation: you end up in so many different teams and committees that all want to mark the end of the year – which is fun, but it takes up so much time!)) I finally finished at lunchtime on the 23rd, as is traditional in our workplace. Still a huge pile of work on my desk, but nothing that can’t wait until I get back.

I’d been planning to get all sorts of useful stuff done on Wednesday afternoon, but it had been such a tiring few weeks that I ended up just curling up with a cat and a book. Sometimes you need to just stop for a while.

Christmas Eve saw us up bright and early to get to the supermarket before the hordes, to grab a few last minute things . Even that early it was still crowded, but we managed to get most of what we wanted without too much stress. The only failure was mince pies – the only ones the supermarket had left were their own brand, which we’ve had before, and were pretty horrible.

“Don’t worry,” I told MrPloppy (who is the real mince pie connoisseur – I don’t actually like them that much), “I’ll just buy some fruit mince and pasty and make you some.”

Except they were sold out of fruit mince too. Ah.

I was undaunted though. MrPloppy would still get his mince pies. I grabbed a bag of mixed dried fruit and peel, certain that my trusty Edmonds book must have a recipe for making fruit mince. Surely it couldn’t be too hard.

Back home I settled down with the Edmonds book. No mention of fruit mince. But finally after searching several more books I found a recipe. First ingredient: suet. Suet??? Who has suet??? Ok, keep reading the recipe, maybe you can substitute something else… “put mixture in jar and store in a cool dark place for at least three weeks” Three weeks????? Looks like MrPloppy would have to live without his mince pies after all.

Then I spotted another recipe. This one used fresh fruit, and didn’t have to ferment for three weeks. Of course, I didn’t have any of the fruit they listed, and it didn’t sound like it was going to taste much like traditional fruit mince, but I reckoned if I took some of the things from that recipe, and some from the other, plus a few ideas I had of my own (and a few substitutions because I couldn’t be bothered going back to the supermarket), I’d get something that would taste kind of like mince pies.

And amazingly, it worked! The fruit mince came out a little bit lighter in colour than the bought stuff, but otherwise looked and tasted pretty similar. And MrPloppy approved of the final product.

So here’s the FutureCat version of fruit mince:

400g of mixed dried fruit and peel (of the variety sold for making Christmas cakes)
1 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup brandy

Mix together and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes until almost all the liquid is gone and you’re left with a thick syrupy mixture. Cool, then make mince pies using sweet shortcrust pastry. Makes about 24 pies.

In the evening, we’d been going to have the traditional Christchurch bookcrossing Christmas gathering, followed by an expedition to Jellie Park to create our BC Christmas tree. But in the end all of the usual suspects were busy that night (though the gwilks did pop round for a quick visit earlier in the evening, and lytteltonwitch phoned from London, so we weren’t completely abandoned by our bookcrossing friends :-)), so MrPloppy and I just had a quiet evening eating mince pies and raspberries and playing scrabble, then went and did the tree by ourselves:

I hadn’t managed to collect up quite as many Christmas-themed books as usual (and we definitely missed lytteltonwitch’s contribution!), but we still managed a reasonable display.

The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carré
Her Christmas Fantasy by Penny Jordan
Christmas with a Latin Lover by Lynne Graham, Penny Jordan and Lucy Gordon
Merry Christmas by Emma Darcy
Christmas at His Command by Helen Brooks
Red Carpet Christmas by Patricia Rosemoor and Christmas Ransom by Jenna Ryan
Noël by Romeo Muller
Chimney Witch Christmas by Victoria Whitehead
Santa’s Christmas Joke Book by Katie Wales
Married by Christmas by Diana Palmer, Catherine George and Louise Allan
His Christmas Angel by Michelle Douglas
Christmas Cover-Up by Cassie Miles
Classified Christmas by BJ Daniels
Holly and Mistletoe by Susan Mallery
A Surprise Christmas Proposal by Liz Fielding
Christmas Eve Wedding by Penny Jordan
Their Christmas Wish Come True by Cara Colter
A Christmas Visitor by Anne Perry
The Puffin Book of Christmas Poems compiled by Wes Magee
Horrid Henry’s Christmas Cracker by Francesca Simon
Spot’s Magical Christmas by Eric Hill
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore (which has been caught already!)
Christmas Fun Book by Jean Chapman

Oops, better go. We have to go into town to return some DVDs, and the bus will be here any minute. Part two of the Christmas story will resume after this short break…

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