Misti’s flower diary; “Milk?! Father Christmas doesn’t drink milk. He drinks port.”

Christmas at Fortnums & Masons

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth

My daughter has her second wobbly tooth. This has raised many questions like what happens if you accidentally swallow it? Or what happens if it falls out on Christmas Eve? Are Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy allowed to come on the same night? Honestly, I don’t remember having so many questions. I was just excited by the prospect of getting 50p to buy sweets. I suppose she is a deeper thinker than I was at that age. Granted, she is rather mature what with her most recent birthday and all.

Birthday Ballerina
Birthday Ballerina

Now we are six

We celebrated her golden birthday when she turned six on the sixth of December. I finally got to give her a copy of A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six. I’d been holding on to it since I discovered it at a local bookshop when she was three. It’s a third edition from 1927 and she spent the whole evening reading it to her friends, Kanga and Roo.

A Nutcracker
The Nutcracker

Other than the tales from the Hundred Acre Wood, my daughter is also obsessed with The Nutcracker. We have three editions. My personal favourite is the one illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Hers is the one with buttons to push that play Tchaikovsky’s music. For her birthday, she didn’t have a party but she did have a few friends round for tea. The theme? You guessed it. It was perfect because the fresh flowers from Freddie’s that week were fit for the Sugarplum Fairy–Pale pink and purple lilies and lisianthuses that filled our flat with a scent sweeter than candyfloss. The accompanying solidago added a bit of warmth and made it feel as if we were in sunnier climes.

Pale pink and purple lilies
Sugarplum Fairy–Pale pink and purple lilies

Here comes the sun

A few weeks ago, I received a box of Spanish sunshine via the post. It came from the kind women of Ave Maria Farm who sent me their first kilo of this season’s organic Seville oranges. When I opened the box I couldn’t believe how beautiful its contents were. The paper wrapped oranges were so fragrant, I almost cried. Though London is my home, Southern California is where I was raised and when I was young, there were citrus trees all over our garden. The scent of orange blossoms makes me nostalgic. It reminds me of how my mother always pinned those small, white, fresh flowers in our hair or placed them about the house. It makes me remember the way our garden smelled on warm summer evenings and it conjures up memories of my last family trip to California where I got to pick oranges with my daughter at my childhood home.

Homemade marmalade
Marmalade madness

Obviously, I had to make marmalade. That’s not all I’ve been cooking up though. I’ve also been making blinis which my daughter says are just Russian pancakes. But she is wrong. They are not just Russian pancakes. They are made with yeast and are ever so slightly sour. It’s a flavour note that’s delicate but noticeable and necessary.

Cooking blinis
Russian pancakes

Sour has been the flavour of the month here in our home. Not only because I’ve stocked the pantry with marmalade or because I’ve frozen bags full of blinis but because I have discovered the joys of sourdough.

Bellini mixture
The Queen Mother

In the beginning . . .

I made a starter that was equal parts flour and water. I fed it each day and waited for the wild yeasts to start fermenting. After twenty-four hours, I saw bubbles in my mixture but only at the top and there they stayed. Patience is not a virtue I have so I interfered and tried to expedite science. I added a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar one day, then a pinch of acidophilus on another. On day nine, it happened. Bubbles were all throughout my starter and I knew it was ready. I have baked several boules since then and I continue feeding my starter that I have affectionately named The Queen Mother.    

The Velveteen Rabbit

In April, we saw this quintessential Christmas story on stage at The Unicorn Theatre. Last weekend we saw it again per my daughter’s request. We even had the privilege of having tea with Dora who plays the rabbit once he becomes real. Dora is spectacular and deserves an Olivier Award.  When we came home, Helena noted that the white roses and other fresh flowers from Freddie had opened. “Dora did it with her magic.”

Photo of a strawberry flower
Strawberry flower for Christmas

Speaking of magic, my strawberry plant has flowers on it. Fruit too. Never mind that it’s December and it’s been snowing, my plant is thriving.

Photo of Misti's daughter
Concentrating on carols

Last Saturday, we attended a carol service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Until that day, I had never been inside. Sir Christopher Wren’s architecture is really something to behold. I couldn’t believe how gilded and glorious it was. Even Helena was in awe of the splendour. As the congregation passed a gently flickering light between their candles, the cathedral filled with a heavenly glow. It was the perfect way to ring in the holiday.  

Later that afternoon, my daughter watched a special on Cbeebies about different families and how they celebrate Christmas. One family put out mince pies and milk on Christmas Eve. Helena laughed. “Milk?! Father Christmas doesn’t drink milk. He drinks port.” I wonder what the Tooth Fairy drinks.

Helena meets Father Christmas
Helena meets Father Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!  


Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009.  After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.

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