Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Celebration Time

My article on: Celebrating 20 Years of The Groninger Museum has been published, in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of The Holland Times.
Available both online and in hardcopy, The Holland Times offers Dutch news to anyone who wishes to be kept up to date in English.

© Alison Day 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Eternal Renaissance

In the gravel car park of Wytham Woods, we head for a tall wooden gate. On the way we pass other Christmas walkers, with their hatted heads, booted feet and festive cheer. Unrestrained by its turquoise rope lasso, the gate yields to a light push swinging out into a field of long, tufted grass. The path is slippery with mud, so we follow the long tresses of its edges. The landscape undulates upwards towards a cluster of trees on the horizon.

The air is fresh and clean and I feel my lungs gasping greedily with the effort as my boots slide out from underneath me. Shrubbery, green fields and bare wintery trees surround us. The decorative dots of sheep, barely visible buildings and a white mass—The John Radcliffe Hospital, are part of the patchwork landscape.
Along the way, we greet friendly-faced walkers. Facial contours forgotten, fading almost as instantly as the time in which it takes us to pass by. At the top, through a metal gate that closes automatically behind us and into a tunnel of bare-branched trees connected at their tips. Dark, naked and silent waiting for the Renaissance of Spring.

A path has been cleared through the thick blanket of fallen and browning leaves. Twisted and gnarled limbs cavort around us. Fallen trunks are clothed in rich, green moss and the landscape falls away suddenly into a small valley, only to rise again a little further on, at journey's end. This is marked by a bench, facing a gated view from a raised stone plinth. Growing nearby, a pair of tree trunks like lovers intricately entwined, stretch skywards. It is here, three and 13 years ago, three siblings scattered the ashes of their parents to the winds—with a tear in their eye and pain in their hearts.

Silently, on this cool December morning, we absorb the familiar and favoured view of Oxford once more—a place that was the centre of their world and ours—for a while.

Photos © Alison Day

© Alison Day 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Etoiles d'Apple

Apple Star & Heart Decoratioby Alison Day

1/2 cup applesauce
3/4 cup ground cinnamon
1tsp ground aniseed
1tsp ground nutmeg
Non-edible decorations. Makes roughly 15 assorted shapes.
Mix the applesauce and 1/2 cup of the cinnamon together thoroughly. Then add the rest of the cinnamon, plus the aniseed and nutmeg until a dough is formed. If necessary, extra cinnamon or applesauce can be added if it is too wet or too dry.

Sprinkle a board with ground cinnamon and roll out the dough on it to about 1cm thick.
Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and make holes in them so ribbon can be threaded through to hang them up. Any tiny leftovers can be rolled into rounds, flattened slightly, skewered and become beads.

Arrange all on a tray lined with grease-proof paper or a silicone baking mat. They can be placed quite close together, because as there is no rising agent in them they won't spread.
Oven efficiency can vary and they can become dark quite quickly, so keep an eye on them. I baked them at at 200 degrees for 45 minutes.

Allow to cool and harden overnight before decorating. Store in a cool, dry place and they will keep indefinitely.

Photos by Alison Day

© Alison Day