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 Designs
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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Eternal Renaissance


In the gravel carpark 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.


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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Winter Wonderland

Christmas in London makes the early darkness of the afternoons bearable. Houses, streets and trees are all lit by a myriad of silver, gold and coloured lights. Christmas trees stand—belle of the ball with their bejewelled skirts, aglow and pride of place in living rooms. There is a light tension in the air, of shopping list items still needing to be purchased and that oh-so-elusive, last present.
Taking a pause, my sister, niece, nephew and I decide to pay a visit to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Like moles, we hurtle through the tunnels of the London Underground, in brightly lit, crowded carriages. Eye contact is to be avoided at all costs and compared to twenty years ago, is made all the easier by the accompanying modern technology that we all feel obliged to carry.
At Hyde Park, standing at the bottom of the elevators to the surface, the underground staff cheerily goad the surge of passengers from each new train, through loud speakers:
Go on, take the stairs! It's the healthier option—you might even get to the top first. Try and beat the current record of 19 seconds!
No thanks! We opt for one of the two elevators to the surface, either side of the marathon stairs with their 121 steps. As we glide effortlessly to the top, we watch the valiant few who having only reached half way, are struggling with their choice and becoming red-faced and wobble-legged in the process.
Bursting forth into the muddle of people above ground, we head for the arced entrance to Winter Wonderland and the festive throng. Luckily, being spread over a vast area of Hyde Park, it means that the enormity of the crowds doesn't feel oppressive.


There are stalls selling Christmas gifts, decorations, craft ideas, snow globes filled with Santa in his gift filled sleigh and snowmen. English pubs with live music, a German beer house with a view of the ice rink, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, fast food and candies. The stalls in turn, are replaced by a large sprawling fair, where enormous stuffed bears and cartoon characters can be won. Rides for little people, rotate and sway gently in contrast to the hurling, dropping, and swinging motions of the bigger rides. Around these the air is filled with shrieks of delight, horror and in some cases tears.
Soaking up the atmosphere, we shop for treasures. Beer is drunk, the Roller Coaster is ridden and brains are scrambled in the neon blue and red lights of the spinning Waltzers. We stay until daylight fades and the intensity of the Christmas lights increase against a backdrop of a darkening sky, with black-branched trees.







Sunday, 21 December 2014

Etoiles d'Apple

Apple Star & Heart Decoration by 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 greaseproof 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.



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