Overstrand Life - Janet's Diaries

December 1st-15th 2010

Friday 3rd December - Cold Winds, Shopping in Norwich and a Snowfall

Strong cold winds built up during the course of Tuesday, continuing through Wednesday. Down on the beach Peter reported, walking back from the Cromer direction required stamina, leaning into the north east wind as it hit him head on. The sea and waves, a steely grey, topped with white hurtled in against the groins and promenade, passers-by remarked – ‘Winter has come early’.

With media reports of heavy snowfalls in the north east of the country with some lesser falls in Norfolk and more to follow; I couldn’t help feeling a little apprehensive when a friend and I caught the bus on Wednesday morning to Norwich; Christmas shopping was our prime objective. As the bus trundled along the main roads we could see snow on the fields through the mud splashed windows and as we neared the city centre, on the pavements too. A good number of passengers alighted at Castle Mall, heading for the abundance of retail outlets in the city centre. Norwich is a wonderful city, compact; not far to walk between places of interest, restaurants, theatres and the shops. The shops themselves offer a good mix of high street nationals, plus smaller individuals in the side streets and malls and of course the inimitable market with coloured avenues, all providing character and a pleasant shopping environment.

By Thursday the winds had dropped and it felt altogether warmer, especially in our bedroom! During the nights the cold winds had reduced our north east facing bedroom to 11°C, the central heating did little to increase this much above 13°C. The drop in the intense winds resulted in more comfortable temperatures; much less of a rush to get dressed in the mornings.

Towards Overstrand

Tuesday 7th December - Busy Saturday, Ice and Gardening Club Lunch

 Late Friday evening we decided, in view of the snow, to abort our plans to drive to Aylsham Farmers Market on Saturday morning. However, just after seven when Peter took out Barney for his morning walk and I was out in the garden seeing to the chickens there were distinct dripping sounds, it was thawing. A hasty change of plans and off we drove, the village roads were still covered with ice and snow but the main roads were clear, just a little slush here and there. It was a very busy market, a good range of stalls, except the one with the attractive door wreaths! Never mind, still plenty of time before Christmas, at least I was not disappointed with the choice of mutton presented by Green Farm Lamb. Arriving early we had a good choice and my freezer is once again well stocked, enough to last until the New Year. They have just launched their website, www.greenfarmlamb.co.uk Jo explained they plan to expand the site further and they have loaded one of my photographs onto their site, I am delighted they have featured my photograph.

On our return to Overstrand there was still plenty of time to walk to the Coffee morning at the Conservative Club as well as the Christmas Fayre at St Martins Church. Presumably due to the weather, both lacked the support we normally see at village events. In the afternoon we stopped off with Barney at the White Horse in the village, to book a table in the restaurant. This was a quiet period and Darren’s daughters were busy helping with decorating the Christmas tree as well as the Barn, in readiness for an 18th Birthday parting that evening. The Barn looked very welcoming in party mode; unfortunately the photographs I took on the mobile phone, failed to do it justice.

Monday, ice and frost but the sunshine made it good to be out. I gingerly worked my way down the zigzag, Peter more confident was ahead with Barney. I had slipped up on the ice in Aylsham on Saturday, nothing damaged, only my ego but I was not keen to repeat the experience. Safely down, we enjoyed our walk on the sands and for the most part we had the beach to ourselves, just a few others with their dogs and a beached buoy. Peter took a couple of photographs to illustrate its enormity; no mere small marker, this giant must have been subjected to some extremely strong seas for it to break its chain, ending up resting on the beach.

A Closer Look

Friday 10th December - Long Weekend in Overstrand or Cromer and Prepartions Commence in Earnest

Before moving to Overstrand, our pre-Christmas treat was a long weekend mid-December, staying either in Overstrand or Cromer. We always looked forward to this break, making sure that only the last minute Christmas preparations were left to do on our return home. Pre-Christmas in Norfolk always seemed laid back and we often wished we could stay on, with our family joining us over the Christmas period. It may sound a bit ‘cheesy’, but our wishes have come true - we are now looking forward to our family joining us over the Christmas and New Year period - that is, weather permitting!

Since Tuesday I have been getting ‘into gear’, buying presents, some Christmas essentials and writing lists. What would I do without my lists, food to buy now and then another for nearer Christmas, one detailing menus, plus a list of ‘things to do’. Others will follow as the 25th draws nearer, in the hope that some sort of semblance of order will follow, enabling us to relax and enjoy the company of our family over the holiday period. Cards have been arriving daily, a sharp reminder that I have yet to write ours but I now have a list (yet another), cards, stamps and a pen ready to make a start. A few meals will be pre-cooked and frozen, starting today by jointing and marinating a chicken (I do hope Beckie and Cate did not see) in wine and brandy with vegetables and herbs, in readiness to make a Coq au Vin tomorrow. At this point in time, with two weeks to Christmas Eve – I feel in control.

Three Old Timers

Tuesday 14th December - Coffee, Mulled Wine and Further Preparations

On Saturday morning whilst enjoying coffee, mulled wine and mince pies, we spent a pleasurable hour chatting in the company of Parish Councillors and fellow villagers. From then on we have concentrated mainly on Christmas preparations.

In the afternoon I cooked the Coq au Vin which had been marinating overnight and we made a start writing Christmas cards, finishing them off on Sunday morning. In addition to written cards we also send e-cards; last year Peter chanced upon Jacquie Lawson’s website, www.jacquielawson.com. Jacquie and her team produce animated cards with accompanying music for events throughout the year, something for everyone, thoroughly recommended. Sunday afternoon, dry and mild; a walk with Barney was followed by dead-heading the pansies, primroses, cyclamen etc.

Monday morning, the chickens appreciated the sunny start but during the course of the morning it clouded over and by the time we returned from shopping in North Walsham and Cromer, it had started raining. A quick walk to the village between the showers in the afternoon and our cards joined others, in a brimming post box; others in the village we will deliver by hand.

In the afternoon, more cooking; cakes for us to eat with our afternoon cup of tea; followed by a Mutton Stifado (see Recipe tab) with an additional vegetarian variation, both for the freezer. Time then for washing up, assisted by Peter who knows I hate this task with a passion, before preparing a Fishermans Pie (see Recipe tab) for our dinner.

Tuesday another sunny start, it has been a mild feel good day; I spent a few minutes watching the shipping pass on the sea, bluer and calmer than of late. Peter has washed the car, cleaning off the accumulated mud, the RAF have been flying overhead taking advantage of the clear skies and on a smaller scale a radio controlled plane flew above the beach from the cliff top path. Following its final ‘feed’ of brandy last week, I have iced our Christmas cake, placing a suitable festive decoration on the top, with a frill, ribbon and bow round the outside. A confession; in the past I made both marzipan and icing; this year I have used shop bought. When our sons were young I spent hours decorating the cake, colouring, piping and modelling. The most memorable for me, was Raymond Briggs’s Snowman ‘floating’ between stars on the top of a night sky blue iced cake, he clutched a bunch of balloons and ice white trees circled the outside. Back in the kitchen this afternoon, probably sounds as though I have spent most of my time there the past few days, this time to cook a Lamb Casserole for dinner tomorrow evening. I prefer to cook casseroles a day in advance, allowing flavours to develop and any fat which sets on the top can easily be removed with a metal spoon. I have included my recipe under the Recipe tab or click on the above link.

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