I will say up front that I hate being cold. I also hate being too hot. I’m a Libra – I don’t go for extremes. But being cold, really, I cannot stand it and it makes me quite grumpy. People always say to me “but you’re Canadian, you must be used to the cold.” I generally have two responses to this point:
- I’m from the wet part of Canada, not the cold part. Where I’m from 2 inches of snow causes the whole city to come to a complete standstill and become the laughingstock of the rest of the country!
- Houses in Canada are generally centrally heated & well insulated.
- There was no need to keep food in the fridge as our kitchen (which we affectionately called “the meat locker”) was plenty cold enough
- Furry toilet seat covers helped to combat that uncomfortable yet little known syndrome called “popsicle butt” (we didn’t have one of those posh toilets with heated seats)
- A fun pastime was to make lovely finger drawings on the thin layer of ice that formed inside the windows
- Frostbitten toes hurt like hell
And so now I find myself in the UK living in a slowly crumbling Victorian terraced house with single glazed windows and not the best insulation. Layers and a space heater are necessary when it gets cold, but it’s bearable and only a little bit like camping. That’s until the heating goes on the blink, which happens about once every 2 years. The most recent occurrence being this past weekend.
I arrived home Saturday after a fairly long day at work (in another cold kitchen), happy to be done for the day and looking forward to an evening of mindless TV. The man had made dinner and we were just tucking into it when he mentioned (with some trepidation I might add) that the heating didn’t seem to be working – the boiler appeared to be broken. You could tell he was nervous about telling me, anticipating that the grumpmonster would soon be inhabiting the body of his generally quite mild-mannered partner. And sure enough, once the urge to burst into tears passed, the grumps set in. My relaxing night in front of the telly involved me wearing a hat, several layers, a long bathrobe & a blanket. Trust me, it’s not a good look (and I was too grumpy to really relax). And I was feeling seriously sorry for myself and family.
Sunday we stayed away from the house as much as possible. Called the plumber/gas man who assured us someone would sort it on Monday. This is the same plumber who once left us without a working toilet for 3 weeks (in a house that has only 1 toilet). The same plumber who took 6 weeks to install a shower. You know how this is going to end, don’t you?
Monday came, and the interminable wait for the repair guy began. For some odd reason I was feeling optimistic, almost feeling that someone might actually turn up to fix the boiler. This change of mood brought on a wave of non-work related productivity. I would bake as a means of warming at least part of the house up. Bake for the sake of it. Bake bread, and something festive, Christmassy.
The bread was great (if I may say so myself). Delicious, chewy, holey French country loaves. But I didn’t keep track of how much flour I used so can’t share the recipe. Next time…
Using a well loved, tried and tested Basic Butter Cookie recipe I made delicate, crispy cinnamon & almond Christmas cookies. I added 125g slivered almonds, 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of almond extract to the recipe, which worked a treat. The girl will be giving some of these little morsels to her teachers on Friday if there are any left!
And I made biscotti. I hadn’t made them in years but just felt the need. And because they are double baked, it was a good excuse to keep the oven going for longer. I tend to be a purist with my biscotti and like the simple almond (Tuscan) ones. But I did add dried cherries to them because we happened to have a big bag of dried cherries on hand, because I love them, because sour cherry & almond are a great pairing, and because I had plans to dip some of them in chocolate. That’s a good enough rationale, isn’t it?
Ok, so I never got around to the dipping them in chocolate bit, but despite that the biscotti are disappearing fast. These unassuming humble biscuits are really quite addictive.
So did the plumber/gas man turn up that day? What do you think? Of course he didn’t. My optimism was completely unfounded. But the silver lining to that rather chilly cloud was that the damp, cold house gave me a great reason to spend part of the day baking, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And we now have a warm-ish house again. Tuesday the man called up a squash buddy who happens to be a plumber. He came over on his lunch hour and fixed it in about 10 minutes. And he didn’t charge us. We owe that man a drink or 3.
Thanks for allowing me to rant. I feel better now. It’s time for a cup of tea & a biscotti.