Friday 26 December 2014

My peace I give to you

This time last year I wrote about 'celebrating a future that had yet come to pass', it was busy time and I was running here and there, looking after my parents, travelling to see my loved one in Yorkshire, working in a busy school - but, amidst all of this, there was peace. My reflections revolved around a quote from All This Life and Heaven TooFaith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. I was rejoicing, quietly, in anticipation of a time to come..

This year I am fortunate, peace has been easy to find - not in the past, or the future - but present here and now. 
In January of 2014 Mr Cloister proposed marriage. There have been many Christmas' when he and I have been unable to be together but, this year we have been resting in each others love. And, I was grateful for it. On December 21st we made a short journey to the local village of Fingest, where, in the 12th Century Church we sang traditional carols with the congregation before retiring to the The Chequers pub for free mince pies and mulled wine. So began our first Christmas.   

Christmas Day Mass was at Stonor Park House. The chapel of Holy Trinity, Stonor, is currently being restored, but for the last few weeks Lord and Lady Camoys have been kind enough to invite the congregation into their home. I love turning into the long driveway leading to the house, there are deer in the parkland that surrounds the property, and most specially at the moment, a white hart grazes distinctively amongst the herd. Mass is celebrated in their Hall, a space large enough for 40 people to sit comfortably beside a great roaring fire. It is an historic setting for the celebration on Mass: Edmund Campion hid there, and had his printing press in the attic in 1581, from where he printed his 'Ten Reasons' why people should keep to the faith. Mass has been celebrated here every Sunday, without exception, for 800 years.In contrast to last year, instead of sitting on hospital wards with my parents, we invited them to dinner for Christmas Day. Roast Goose with damson jelly, spiced braised red cabbage, brussel sprouts and  bacon, honey roast carrots and parsnips, roast potatoes, bread sauce and lashings of gravy donned our table; Christmas pudding I prepared in October, served with brandy butter and cream; Irish Coffee; wine, sherry, brandy - all were taken and enjoyed. Red striped candles, homemade napkins, and paper crackers decorated the table. It was beautiful.

The crib took pride of place in our sitting room, two candles lit before it to show the faces of the holy family, the shepherds and their animals; the wise men travelled on the high road, on top of the bookcase. Sometime ago I wrote about a moment, kneeling next to the crib in church I had wondered, as the Christ child reached out a tiny hand, what would happen if I had the courage to hold on? Well, I have an answer now. My peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.

This year, with a mind to pass on that peace to those I love, I got creative in the kitchen. Not, this time, to make tasty treats, but to indulge in another luxury - the hot, bubble bath! Mixing together essential oils from those herbs which had graced my wedding bouquet I made white solid bubble bath, decorated with rosemary from the garden, and lavender seeds from a hen party gift. Rosemary oil is excellent for beautiful skin, curing headaches, healing bruises, cuts and scratches; thyme oil appeases chesty coughs and helps you to breathe easy and lavender oil cleanses, eases tired muscles and restores. By crumbling a little bar of this deliciousness under hot running water a fragrant heaven in which to contemplate the season was conjured up, and a compulsory hour of solitude and heaven was prescribed. Happy Christmas to everyone!
7ml Rosemary Essential Oil
7ml Thyme Essential Oil
7ml Lavender Essential Oil
50ml Castor Oil
210ml Liquid Glycerin
285g Bicarbornate of Soda
210g Cream of Tartar
75g Cornflour
20g Tapioca Flour
165g Sodium Laurel Sulfoacetate
Dried Lavender Seeds
Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
Rubber gloves 
Greaseproof paper

Pour all the liquid ingredients into a bowl and mix them carefully until they are thoroughly blended (this can take a little while). Sieve each of the dry ingredients into a large bowl, in order. End with the Sodium Laurel Sulfoacetate - this is very fine, and very light, it easily gets down your throat. I did not sieve it, but place the measured amount on top of the other dry ingredients all at once. Put on your rubber gloves, lay out a large sheet of greaseproof paper and dust it with bicarbonate of soda, as you would dust a surface if you were making a pastry. Gently mix the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour the liquid into the centre. Gradually, and gently bring together the dry and wet ingredients until they form a soft dough. This does take a little while, use your gloved hands to knead the dough. Turn out the dough onto the greaseproof and continue with your kneading. Use the greaseproof paper to roll the dough, as if it were sushi. Keep rolling it tighter and tighter, until you have a compact sausage shape approximately 8cms round and 40cms long. When you are happy with the shape, use a sharp knife to cut the roll into attractive slices. Place each slice on a greaseproof paper covered baking tray. Decorate each slice with dried lavender seeds and a sprig of fresh lavender. Place the tray of solid bubble bath bars into the 'hotpress' (airing cupboard) for 4 - 5 days. Once they are dry they are ready to use. Crumble them under running warm water to create a bath of fluffy bubbles. Light some candles. 

My peace I give to you. Happy Christmas!