Monday, 9 January 2017

Christmas and New Year build up......

I always think that the most exciting thing about Christmas is the build up.  It is actually a couple of days of feasting and being lazy (for some members of the family) but the build up has all the fun. From Christmas parties to carols at church, silly songs on the radio heard only once a year thank goodness, to wrapping presents. From sorting out accommodation for the family who are coming to stay, to keeping the peace when the games come out.  This, and a lot more, used to mean Christmas for me but now we seem to be a bit more humbled and our fairly quiet Christmas's are a joy and the village spirit serves to remind us about the real reason for Christmas.

That said, I do love a Christmas tree and as I did in England, always liked having a real Christmas tree.  My thought was, that if they have already been cut, then it was my duty to get them into some water as soon as I could to increase their life -  only the one I had selected of course.  Trees are available here in buckets so they may be planted outside after the festive season but I thought about it, and actually this poor tree would be brought into a nice heated living room and then put outside in what is Bulgaria's coldest period.  How do you think that would survive?  So off to Praktica (like B&Q) for an artificial one...
I do like to see more sparkle than tree!
.....and here is another bit of sparkle on the fireplace.

As far as presents go, I decided that the only thing I would do this year was to make traditional Christmas cakes for our immediate neighbours and an extra one for the village Christmas Party. This was easier said than done for various reasons.  1)  I am no good at baking or cake decoration.  2) Raisins are available but currents are not.  3) Impossible to find glace cherries.  However, in October I managed to make 3 cakes that smelt good and even better when I steeped them in brandy.  I kept feeding them every couple of weeks until finally it was time to ice them.  I managed to get some marzipan from Lidl but I had to research the fondant icing.  After lots of hard work and lots of swearing, I managed to cover the marzipan with a nice white frosting.
From Marzipan to Frosting......

Next problem - where can I get some colouring for decorating?  All I could find were tubes of ready made coloured icing which I had to add to the white but I could get the deep colour I wanted.

We had been invited to Radko and Pepa's house for a meal so it was time to take their cake. Here is a picture of Radko photographing it for immediate posting to facebook.

Us with Pepa
Communication was made so much easier with the use of Google Translate.  The meal was lovely as were the wine and rakia.

Cake No. 2 was for Elenor.....

.....and No.3 for the Christmas Party
Oh well, I will try anything once - or three times!

I have also been making pastry.  One of our ex-pat friends gave us some home-made mincemeat and I had also made my own so I had to have a bake-off to compare the two.
Both were very nice. Mmmm....

Our latest project in the house was to repair and refit the fireplace in the kitchen.  When we bought the house, there was and old petchka (oven/fire) in the fireplace and behind that were two bread ovens. Presumably one for the fire and the other one for cooking in.  Anyway, as part of the renovation of the chimney, the back of the ovens actually collapsed so, as I had no intention of using them, we asked Chris (builder friend) to block them off and re-render the wall around where we would be putting our new fire box.  After he had knocked off all the original plaster....

Excuse the naff photo
Before its all painted up.  I will take a picture again when finished.
Very talented man is Chris, we are very pleased with it.

On December 6th the Bulgarians celebrate St Nicholas day.  On this day they traditionally eat Carp (which is eaten a lot here, fished from the river Yantra) and we had been invited to Ivan's house to eat his Carp.  I remember this time last year and we had been invited to Sara and David's neighbours for "fish and chips".  Then we had fish and chips that had been prepared earlier in the day and so we had it cold.  Carp in cold batter must be an acquired taste, one that we don't have.  With this in mind, we made our excuses to Ivan but apparently he served it as a whole fish with a nice stuffing and it was warm.  Oh well maybe next year.  Incidentally, around about this date, I went into our village shop and next to the till was a bucket with a live Carp in it, flapping around.  I felt a bit sorry for the poor dying creature and then GJ reminded me that when all those fish are caught from the sea, they don't put one of the sailors on dispatching duty.  Never thought about that before - don't think I want to eat fish now! 

Just before Christmas was the village party at the village hall.  Its a shame that it wasn't attended by the Bulgarians as much as last year but the price had gone up to 10 leva per person (£5) so that probably didn't help.  However the Brits were out in force and the Mayor came round the room to say cheers and Happy Christmas.   We all had a go at the traditional Bulgarian dance (7 steps to the left and two to the right, whilst holding hands up and forming a circle) but when the beer goggles are on, 
its hard to keep count....
Brits and BulgariansIt seems strange to dance with all the lights on.

Down the far end of the Brits table.....

.....and up at our end.  You will notice that the plate with the Christmas cake on is almost empty!

On Christmas eve we had some friends over in the afternoon for mince pies and mulled wine.  Then Christmas morning started like this............

This was a very pleasant Bulgarian Sparkling Wine which cost us the equivalent of £1.70.  Absolute bargain.  This was accompanied by lightly scrambled eggs (from my girls) inside very light croissants.

And for the main event we had chosen to have goose.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was neither dry nor fatty and it was extremely tasty, almost like a slightly richer duck.

All the usual trimmings, bread sauce, stuffing and chipolatas but the greens were from the garden.  Very small sprouts cut in half and purple sprouting broccoli both sauteed in a little butter
After a walk to settle the food, we came home to light the fire, made liquor coffees, and settle in for a good film.  Bliss.

Between Christmas and New Year, we had our first fall of snow.  We went up to the Hotnitsa waterfall to take some pictures. It was all we could do to keep Bracken out of the water.  If he had any nuts, they would have dropped off, it was that cold.

Not quite frozen but not far off.

Evening view from our bedroom towards Elenor's house

Similar view but during daylight and taken from the ground
Deep enough for Bracken to loose his balls - bouncy ones that is!
Some funny woman walking her dog!
...and here she is walking her chickens!
Seriously though, when ever I go through the gate I feel like the Pied Piper of Hamlin,  they chase after me expecting food - Labradors of the chicken world!
The chubby little cockeral is always at the back!

We decided to invite a few friends over for New Years Eve.  Another fall of snow stopped one friend coming but we managed to bring in the new year with a bottle of bubbly or two, we played a few silly games and I had prepared some canapes.  As usual, I forgot to take pictures until they had nearly all been scoffed....

...but you get the idea.

Bracken tried to join in with the games and when we took no notice of him, he decided to make his presence known....
...normally never allowed on the sofa.

This was a silly game that I had seen on facebook.  Like pass the parcel, whilst one person tried to open a parcel with oven gloves on, the next person threw a dice until he threw a 6, then it was his/her turn to open the parcel with the gloves on.  I tell you what, it brings out the competitiveness in people.

After New Year, we had some more snowfall and it is still coming.  As soon as a path is cleared, its topped up again.  Good job we don't have to go out - except for dog walking!

This is the main road into the village.  This was taken last week but as of today, things are even whiter and you cannot actually see the road - and that's after the snow plough has been through.

Well that's it for now, a lot more has happened but if I forget to take photos, I forget to put it down in the blog.  In some circumstances, it is not appropriate to take photos.  as an example, we went to a funeral of a chap who lives just up the road from us.  Amazing turnout for him because he was well known as the water meter reader man.

I have got GJ working on tiling the kitchen so I will update in the next edition.

Keep warm,
H,GJ & Bracken