Wednesday, 12 December 2012

White Beauty

It's been bitterly cold here the last few days. And yesterday brought clouds of freezing fog to add a bone-chilling dampness to everything. I know freezing fog is hazardous for driving etc but I feel a frisson of delight when it occurs because it is such an amazing artist. Wait for a few hours after its arrival and then go out for a walk and prepare to be ambushed by beauty at every turn. The tiny freezing droplets cling to the most delicate structures - threads of cobweb, veins on leaves, stamens and calyxes on drooping flower-heads. Where a few hours before, there was nothing much to delight the eye, now intricate engraving, like that on Indian silver, adorns the drab piles of dead leaves and there is exquisite chasing on the miserable stems of decaying rosehips. Wire fences, hardly things of beauty in everyday life, become frames for filigree portraits; an old telegraph pole has new function as a trellis for fragile spider-lace; and spider-streamers, spun so fine they tremble in the still air, hang like fairy tinsel from its sturdy trunk.

Beatrix Potter wrote once that in her work as an artist she had cultivated a "seeing eye". A tautology you might think, for surely all eyes are seeing eyes. But it's amazing how much we look at and do not see. Freezing fog comes, cold-coated and seemingly inhospitably-minded, and shows us what we so often miss in the world around us. It lends us a "seeing eye" for a space. I love that and although I shall be grateful not to have to drive down country lanes in freezing swirls of mist, I shall be sorry to see it disappear. As it will, as silently and imperceptibly as it came, leaving only the faint, chill memory of evanescent beauty hovering over the most ordinary and unlovely of objects. It's fanciful, I know, but I wonder whether secretly those objects now rejoice, knowing that they have had these moments of heart-stopping beauty given them.

I am obviously rather suggestible because inside, I have been adding whiteness, rather less beautifully, to chocolate cupcakes. These are Nigella Lawson's Christmas Cupcakes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, reworked slightly. I omit the coffee and replace it with a teaspoonful of orange oil - somehow the mixture of spices, dark chocolate and aromatic orange is very Christmassy indeed. If you haven't got any orange oil, use the grated zest of an orange instead. 

Despite my normal aversion to frosting things, the freezing fog has influenced me to top the dark little cakes with a thick, muffling blanket of royal icing and white sugar snowflakes ...

..... and to light pale candles in these white fretwork ceramic candleholders.

White beauty outside
and, to a lesser extent,
white beauty inside!


  1. Your photos far surpass ours! Those rosehips are so pretty, and the spiders web are magical. x

  2. Dear E
    Your photographs are absolutely stunning. The cakes look delicious as well - I bet they won't last long!
    Best wishes

  3. Really lovely photos today. What a frost! I drove down to Sheffield today to see a friend and it was such an enjoyable drive - white fields, watery sun, mist - everything looked unusually beautiful considering I was on the M1. Even the cranes and pylons looked magical. x

  4. Beautiful winter images, I too find this December weather hauntingly wonderful to come back from such a winter walk and find frosty topped cupcakes to enjoy.
    kim x

  5. You write so eloquently about the whiteness. How funny that we were both out taking such similar photos!
    I thought I'd had enough of cupcakes as they seem to be everywhere and I vowed to go back to baking proper cakes, but your ones look very enticing. Maybe just one batch.

  6. What lovely photos - and a thought provoking post. Too often we moan about the weather (too hot...too cold..too snowy...) without looking at the extraordinary beauty that it brings. Thank you for this timely reminder.

  7. I can't decide what is more beautiful--your photos or your poetic prose. Your visual and written imagery brought the snowfall to life for me. I hope we get some cold weather here in NC this year.

  8. Especially love your photos of the spiderwebs!

  9. Such loveliness over here, Mrs. TT!
    I love the icy photographs very much!


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