Night Skies and Apple Pies

I remember the same thing happening last January - following crisp and sunny winter days, the clear night sky gives amazing sunsets.  The photo above captures the evening lights coming on in the town, whilst looking out towards the horizon at sea (the strange light in the middle about a quarter of the way in from the left is something to do with the new wind farm currently being built off the coast).  The image is a bit blurry as I should have used a tripod, but I was once again hanging out of the top window trying to capture the image in the precious moments before the sun set - but I like the effect anyway, its a little dreamy ...

Although I'm no astronomer, so don't know what I'm looking at most of the time, I do have a real fascination with the night sky, the moon and the stars and just find the whole thing mind-boggling (it is all so vast - and are we alone?).  I also love the very clever night sky photography that is out there and have a lot of admiration for those who can get to grips with the technicalities of getting amazing shots in the dark.  But there is one spectacle in the sky at the moment that is well worth looking out for and that's for roughly the next month, 5 planets are going to be visible in the sky at the same time (mercury, venus, mars, jupiter and saturn) with the best view likely to be on the morning of February 5th.  If you're outside and the sky's clear, look up and prepare to be amazed (or is that just me?).

On to more practical matters, I've been busy making jewellery again and looking for some new outlets this year so building up a little stock before listing anything.  I love working with semi-precious gemstones and find it very therapeutic and relaxing.

I've been a bit behind in mentioning The Slow Cooker Challenge recently but that doesn't mean I haven't been trying - I just wasn't ready to post anything that didn't quite work (such as the macaroni cheese that came out a bit solid!).

However, I did make some rather tasty baked apples recently.  It helps if you've got a crock pot wide enough to place them together in the base (mine didn't quite fit so I had to shape the edges of the apples a little to fit!).  Here's the recipe:

Baked Cranberry Apples

3 large cooking apples
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup crushed, chopped or coarsely ground nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup cranberry juice

1.  Core the apples to about 3/4 of the way down, leaving enough base to hold the filling inside the apple.  Peel a 1/2 band around the top of the apples and rub exposed apple with lemon juice if you want to avoid discolouration.

2.  In a small bowl, combine sugar, cranberries, nuts and cinnamon. Stuff the mixture into the apple centres, trying to get in as much as you can!

3.  Lightly oil the slow cooker and place the apples inside.  Pour the cranberry juice into the slow cooker to surround the apples.

4.  Cover and cook on low until the apples are soft but not collapsing.  Cooking time varies with slow cookers - mine took about 3 hours but they did overcook a little.

5.  Remove the lid to allow apples to cool slightly and serve warm drizzled with the cooking liquid (yogurt or vanilla ice-cream also goes well with this too).


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