Friday, 15 January 2016

Pockets of sunshine: Winter Honey



I'm a big fan of summer, sunshine, warmth and long days. Any of you who know me or who have read BLF will know just that. So it comes as no surprise to know just how much I dislike winter. Or at least I thought I did. Until this winter. It snowed last night and I bounded out of bed like a six year old, opened the curtains and beamed a smile across my face at the delight of roofs covered in heavy snow coats. Little sis' front windscreen of her car was iced over with magical bouquets of frosted flowers before she drove me home. As I dog sat yesterday, Rodger (honorary doggie nephew) and I sat on the floor and looked out the sliding glass door at the snowflakes falling, heavier and heavier. I love blue skies, crisp air, seeing my breath fog up, hot chocolate, baking, cold hands, warm hearts and days of watching movies and coloring in coloring books.

There are two slight problems with this outlook of winter. One, this is hardly ever the reality we are presented with in Ireland and two, most of these activities happen when my nieces, Little Miss Seven and Little Miss Four and Three Quarters, are home from where they live in Spain. I've always hated winters when it never stops raining, a grey dome of ominous cloud descends onto the horizon and fixes itself there for months on end. Apart from Christmas, everyone is giving out about the rain, the cold, the news, the government, the gym, anything really. It's pretty grim. It takes concerted effort to be cheery and positive with such a short amount of quality daylight hours or decent conversation. Then everyone gets the flu.



I wish I could be more charitable, more optimistic but I don't want to sugarcoat the situation either. It's when my nieces come to visit that everything changes. I change. Being positive, fun, creative and free spirited is just a natural way of living around them. When they're around for those few precious days, suddenly I'm filled with all these idea of things to do and crafts to make and colors to paint with and seeds to plant. It feels natural. I feel like myself and better yet, I feel valued. I've never been the Auntie that's been flush with cash. I don't bring them on shopping trips or buy them treats and their birthday and Christmas presents are never lavish or expensive. I simply want to spend time with them, listen to them, play and have fun. We make paper snowflakes and plant sunflower seeds.


Then last year, I started making food with them and they became my little kitchen and garden assistants. They would pick nasturtium flowers from the garden for salads or help me dig up some potatoes for dinner. We would pick elderflowers and we made elderflower cordial, raspberry smoothies and chocolate rice crispie buns. I do these things because it's a joy to spend time with them and because I want them to see the value of love, passion in what you do and sharing an experience. I often think they have such busy, active lives that even though they enjoy it, they forget once they go back to Spain. I was wrong.

In April last year I think (I can't even remember fully), Little Miss Seven was sick with a bad cold. She was had a bad case of the sniffles and just not feeling great. I made her a honey and lemon drink I swear by and she latched onto it and said she wanted to make it next time she was home. I said sure, she got better and I didn't think of it. Just after Christmas, they were back visiting and we were doing coloring in and having a relaxing day after the madness of Santa and birthdays and cousin overload. "I don't feel good", said Little Miss Seven. "Can we make some of that magic honey, the one we made the last time with the lemon?". "Do you really remember making that?" I asked. Then Little Miss Seven spent the next five minutes telling me every detail of the drink and how great it was and how it tasted magic and...and...and.

It's almost two months since I wrote my post about Portugal and feeling lost and needing to reach out. There are times in our lives when we doubt ourselves, our value, our role. Sometimes I think about how when Big Sis was my age she was already married with a house. I'm nowhere near that but these last two months have taught me an immense amount about myself and finding my place. I understand myself so much more, see the relationships in my life and value myself, my personality and what I have to give. In among this journey I've been on the knowing myself and believing in myself and my dreams, I have, like I'm sure everyone does, stumbled a few times. Enthusiasm and love and valuing memories of 'Magic Honey' from Little Miss Seven and Little Miss Four and Three Quarters bursts my heart wide open anytime I'm becoming shy or unsure. Their love and bare-faced, honest understanding of me makes everything better.



The three of us sat and made the magic honey until Little Miss Seven thought it would be better to rename it 'Winter Honey' because that's the real time you should use it. Little Miss Seven a.k.a Little Miss Practical. She thinks of everything. We got sticky fingers, let lemon juice run down the side of the chopping board, tried peeling ginger, stuck fingers into jars, smashed lemon pieces, smelled the winter honey, put about ten teaspoons into our mouths and collectively said 'mmmmmmmmmmmm' about a million times.



These nieces of mine are one in a million. They are my pockets of sunshine on a rainy day and their last trip to see us over Christmas was the magic in the winter honey. They got me dreaming again after my two month rest and now I've got some big dreams coming up that are about to become reality. Because just like they know I believe they can do anything in the world, they think I can too.

Winter Honey: Makes 2 small jars

Ingredients:
3 Organic unwaxed lemons
250 ml runny honey
50-70 g fresh ginger root-depending on your taste buds

2 small jars (this isn't an exact science so don't worry too much)
Optional: Cardamom seeds, cinnamon,

Method:
Make sure your jars and lids are clean and sterilized. Peel ginger and slice into thin circles, then again into thin strips. Slice lemons into thin circles and then into small wedges (about the size of a finger nail). Layer the lemon and ginger alternately, packing tightly into the jar. When you reach the half way point, fill to that point with honey. Using a small spoon, move the ginger and lemon pieces slightly to fill any air gaps with honey. Repeat the layering until almost to the top then fill with honey. Make sure to leave about an inch or more at the top of the mixture. (If you're adding cardamom or cinnamon, add that in a little after each layer)

Seal with a lid and let rest for at least 24 hours. The honey pushed all the air out, which pressures the awesome vitamin C from the lemon and anti-inflammatory properties from the ginger out into the honey. To serve, boil a cup of water, add a heaped tablespoon of the mix into the cup and stir. Winter Honey! Magic!



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