I'll be home for Christmas


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 The Christmases of my childhood seem bathed in that vintage glow that comes with looking at old photographs. The time I went sledgeriding with my Dad down the hill before they built the houses on it, my parents and their Christmas Day walk, my Grandmother who sat in the living room with the heating on full watching It's A Wonderful Life until James Stewart became suicidal and she decided the film was much too depressing, the Boxing Day lunch we used to have at the pub. The 80s simply seem much quieter, even though I know I'm seeing things through rose tinted glasses. The past few weeks have been quite chaotic with many things to finish and deal with and through all of the most difficult times I've dreamed of my trip back to Derbyshire, free at last of all the pressure. The moment to lock the front door and head to the airport has almost arrived but I find myself overwhelmed by a mixture of emotions in anticipation of everything still to come and even sad after saying goodbye to friends I see almost every day here. I know that it will get easier the moment the plane takes off, knowing that it's my favourite time of the year with Christmas just a week away and the build up I so love. So as we're changing countries it seems appropriate to finish with some photos from another Christmas market, this time in Potsdam and a recipe for something traditionally found on the festive dinner table, red cabbage. Thank you so much for all your comments and support, especially the last week. They mean a lot to me and help keep me going. I'm headed for London next week for a couple of days to enjoy the special atmosphere and decorations. I look forward to sharing my experiences there with you and in the meantime, enjoy the last week before Christmas and take care.

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Dramatic sky over Potsdam
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In the Dutch quarter
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Not soap but marzipan
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A lot of Lebkuchen hearts
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Braised red cabbage with chestnuts (adapted from the New York Times cookbook)

1 large red cabbage
12 chestnuts
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 sharp flavoured cooking apples, peeled and cut into thin slices

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Strip away any marked leaves from the cabbage and cut into quarters, removing the tough central core. Finely shred each quarter and leave to one side.
2. With a sharp knife, make an incision in each chestnut, beginning and finishing on either side of the "topknot". Place the chestnuts in a small baking dish and place them in the oven for around 10 minutes or until they've split. Remove and let them cool a little before peeling them.

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 3. Heat the vinegar and apple slices together in a large ovenproof saucepan and when everything begins to simmer, tip in the peeled chestnuts and shredded cabbage. Cover, turn the heat down and leave to cook for around 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
4. Place the saucepan in the oven, cover the with tinfoil so the cabbage doesn't burn  and bake for half an hour.

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