creating a simpler Christmas * days 18-24

My cold was short lived – in fact barely a cold – I think it just came out in sympathy with those around me who have been stricken quite badly…..but many thanks for the messages and best wishes you sent – a few blog hugs always makes you feel better.

It is hard to believe Christmas Eve is here already – how did that happen so quickly. Now everything has to stop ready or not and the busyness of the last few weeks suddenly ceases and at last we can sit back and just enjoy the time with our family and friends, but also thinking about all those lonely people who will not have anyone to celebrate with.

The good side of having a simpler Christmas means I have had more time to go out and about seeing friends, past colleagues and neighbours and I have been busy too filling my new pantry – only the shelving on the wall remains to be done, but that will be after Christmas now. It has been a challenge trying to organise it and no doubt I will be continuing to move things around and get them into a permanent place as I go along but I can say it is one of the best things I have ever had done in the house, after the airing cupboard refit and my linen cupboard. I will post photos post Christmas.

But….so many things have not been done for Christmas this year, but you know what…… I really don’t mind – it is different to usual, but not awful. The bulk of the decorations are still in the loft – I am not really missing them – I have a few, almost discreet, decorated spots around the house and I am loving the minimalist look.

In the end I didn’t buy a tree and I didn’t make a twig tree either; instead I have filled the house with vases of holly and cream roses, snow sprayed pine cones, lots of candles and twinkly lights.

I quite like it.

My two favourite decorations this year are this little round wooden plaque that lights up from B&M for £2.99 and the shiny red Volkswagon Beetle I found in a lovely flower shop in Baslow for £1.

The cake happened and the mince pies. The lemon curd willl be a job for the day after boxing day. I made more chocolate; some as a small token gift for friends and some for our family gathering – it is eaten quicker than I can make it.

So yesterday was the last of the cooking – a quiche for Christmas tea and a few more mince pies; I can hang up my apron now and begin the packing. We will be heading up to North Yorkshire to attend the local carol service in my daughter’s new village – it will be quite special to be with all the family singing carols together on Christmas Eve and then sitting down afterwards to share a simple meal of baked potatoes and salad and have a good old chat and just relax. Christmas is all about being together so I am hoping my sister and mum can join us too, then it will be perfect for me with all my family and the grandchildren – Little L, Sweetie and little Freddie around me.

This year’s wrapping has been minimal too – brown craft paper and tags, stamped simply in white and a little foliage added here and there.

My friend’s twin daughters are 30 today so I hand stamped two craft bags to put their presents into.

Then set off around the village delivering a basket full of homemade gifts and cards to my friends – so now all is done and all there is left to do is enjoy Christmas.

Have a wonderful and happy Christmas everyone – I will be taking a few days break now to enjoy the festivities.

Happy Christmas

xxx

creating a simpler Christmas * days 10-16

Doesn’t time seem to evaporate during December? One moment you are ahead and the next lagging behind. I am definitely behind. Most of our Christmas decorations are stored in the loft and as yet we have not brought them down but during the last week I have been slowly decorating parts of the house with posies of Christmas foliage and flowers and a very few special decorations that I keep in a box downstairs. But I am loving the minimality and I might not bring down the rest of the decor at all. Well I did say I was going for a simpler Christmas.

Christmas would not be Christmas though without an appearance from my knitted Christmas pudding tea cosy, my red china cup and plate and the handmade robin print napkins designed by my daughter and kept in an old Christmas tin from Crabtree and Evelyn.

In the last few days I have been making a few gifts. Starting with the chocolates. I always take a tray full round with me to our neighbours get together – they positively drool with delight; they are rather more…ish.

Homemade chocolates

Once the dark and milk chocolate are combined in a swirl I throw in handfuls of Christmas delights such as nuts, raisins and glace cherries in one half and pieces of fudge, honeycomb and glace ginger in the other. Anything goes. Sprinkle on a few tiny Christmas sugar beads, stars or meringues and decoratively lace all over with melted white chocolate. Leave to set and cut into small squares.

Any left over chocolate can be made into lollypops and decorated.

I made enough chocolates to give a box to a dear friend of mine together with the table decoration of hypericum berries, eucalyptus, euonymus and tiny cream roses arranged in……you guessed it one of those vintage style plant pots!

We have also been on a shopping frenzy – well it felt like it for us – we had one or two gifts to buy for the grandchildren and some temporary flooring for the pantry.

We have been particularly mindful this year with presents to buy items that are as ecologically sustainable as possible or make little impact on the environment. The grandchildren have got mostly wooden toys – the two babies have a little trike each and a smaller educational toy, they are far more expensive than plastic but are so much nicer. Little L has a new leotard (knitted cotton jersey) and ballet shoes (leather) for when she returns to her classes in January and my friends will receive the table decorations and either chocolates or florentines. So minimal plastic in any of our gifts.

I have bought one or two new decorations that again are wooden or of natural materials like hessian and pine cones. I did relent though and buy the little LED pink glittery stars which are £3 from The Works.

The cards and newsletters are all written and posted but I do need to deliver a few now and make arrangements to go and see my old work colleagues one day this week.

There still seems to be a lot on my list to do – lemon curd for the girls (can’t disappoint them), a cot duvet cover for Sweetie, the Christmas cake (yes you did read that correctly) and the mince pies. So it is a week of making and baking again – I had better get a move on.

dear diary :: capturing a little colour

It was wet, wet, wet here yesterday – certainly a day for staying inside – but I did sneak out to take some photos as I love to capture those tiny glistening raindrops balancing on the leaves and dripping slowly from the berries. There is still some highlights of colour around the garden to brighten up these grey days. Even the little Violas under our open porch are hanging in there and continue to flower.

And inside too thanks to those many jars of posies I made for the tables at the christening buffet and which are now scattered around the house.

I came across this little gem yesterday in Wilkos – the rose gold ridged jam jar. It came with 3 silk peonies but I have removed and replaced them with fresh flowers. I am not normally a ‘sparkle’ person, prefering a minimalist Scandinavian look, but a few touches here and there add something to our guest room….

…which is a very calming grey with just a hint of soft blush pink (thanks to Sadie who introduced me to pink and for which I now find I have a bit of a crush on it).

I also bought these Christmas foam stamps and glitter stickers for £1 each in The Works. I thought Little L would love to make something Christmassy with them – secretly I do too.

And what is this…….DH’s workbench in operation and that means….

….the pantry is now well underway and has units installed. He still has the wall cupboard to go up on the wall to the left of the window but first he has to do a major Ikea hack and cut down the depth of the cupboard so it is much shallower. To the right of the window and running along the wall on the right to the tall cupboard will be open shelving for storage jars.

The left hand floor cabinet will have a series of five drawers of different sizes to take extra utensils and tea towels and the other cabinets will have open shelving. We are now waiting for the man to come and fit the worktop as it is ‘L’ shaped and will need an expert join at the corner – as most workmen at the moment he has a lot on and will ‘fit us in’ – before Christmas I hope.

I have been busy too – remember the tablemats I made recently – well I have at last finished the remaining two using the other pattern of tea towels in the pack. The reverse is just a plain white honeycomb cotton.

This fabric was not as easy to sew as it is a looser weave but once I had started there seemed little point in stopping and now they are finished I do like how clean and simple they look.

DH decided that as it is beetroot season he would try his hand at making Beetroot and Ginger soup. It is such a lovely Christmas colour and a sprinkling of green chopped chives on top of the swirl of yoghurt would have been a nice touch. It didn’t quite have enough beetroot flavour for me – I much prefer it raw and grated in a salad – or roasted with root vegetables….but if you don’t try you don’t know. Having said that I would make it again but maybe not that often.

I need to turn my attentions now to focus on Christmas – December will be here on Sunday and there will be little time left for anything too creative so it will definitely be a simple affair this year and in my book that is no bad thing. I am already thinking of what will be necessary to do and what I can leave out. More on this another day.

So that was my day…how was yours? x

dear dairy :: more celebrations

Hello everyone, I thought I would be back sooner than this but I have had no time to even switch on the computer in the last week or so. I moved from the 1st birthday event to preparing for the christening, the Crisis Christmas coffee morning at my local church, and my daughter’s move to her new house. Phew!

After spending two years in the middle of nowhere, other than a few isolated farms in the distance, my daughter moved to a nearby tiny village with people and neighbours around her. We will all miss these stunning views she had from her house across the valley and over the resevoir but it really is far more covenient where she is now and for the first time little L will have playmates around. These might be my last pictures of Leighton resevoir – the reflection of the bridge in the water was just superb.

So the weekend before last saw me scrubbing out her new rental property ready for the move last Thursday and for most of that time I had my head in the oven – never have I seen one that was so bad on the inside – even a bottle full of cleaner could not shift the welded on grease and grime on the roof of the oven. After all that cleaning the oven does not appear to work and there is a missing rubber seal round the top oven door. So the appliance man has been called for by the landlord, but I have said to push for a new oven as I would condemn that one as not fit for purpose.

With our part in the move completed I turned my attention to creating something to sell at the Crisis coffee morning which took place last Saturday morning…the day before the christening. Time was quite tight with so much to do so it had to be something quick and easy and that I could make within an hour.

Remember the free pots I got from the lady in the village where our cottage is? I used six of these and a bag of 18 mixed tulip bulbs from Sainsbury’s for £3 to fill them. I stuffed each pot with a little crumpled newspaper and made up a cellophane bag (those that birthday cards are wrapped in) containing three bulbs – added a hand stamped label and nestled the pack of bulbs on the top……tied a piece of raffia around and …voila.

Most of last week was spent baking for the christening on Sunday. I made batches of fruit scones and cheese scones and three different quiches. Most of the other food was bought from M&S or local farm shops.

All was going well until we had a phone call from the vicar to say that the church boiler had broken down…is irreparable and warned us the church would be very cold during the christening and we might want to warn people to wrap up well.

It could only happen to us!!

And this was no understatement – it was freezing even though we were huddled together wearing thick coats, goves and scarfs (and in some cases with blankets over our knees and a hot water bottle for my poor mum). You could visibly see the congregation’s breath in the air as anyone spoke, and never have I seen steam coming off the water in the baptism font! A kettle of hot water had been added to warm it up a bit before ladelling over the baby’s head…..but little Freddie was so good and hardly flinched.

We had him wrapped up cosily in a warm shawl – here are the proud parents and Little L holding the baptism candle for her cousin.

The church ladies had baked our little party a few buns and made us a welcome cup of tea after the service which was such a nice guesture and helped to stave off the cold for a while. Once we were all in the heated village hall for the christening buffet we all began to thaw out a bit.

I was too busy on the day organising and laying out the food for our guests to take any photos of the hall with all the tables laid out – shame as it did look lovely – but I have a few pictures taken whilst I was making up the little jam jars of posies for the table settings and having a practice run at home the day before.

I used more of the ‘free’ pots for each of the five tables as centre pieces and filled them with dried hydrangea heads, carefully hiding the battery pack of the string of fairy lights in each pot.

We deliberately decided against the traditonal baby blue colours and instead chose muted autumnal heather colours of the dried hydrangeas. The posies of fresh flowers, hypericum berries, eucalyptus and thistle gave us the rich dark purple tones highlighted with a few cream roses and lisianthus.

The effect was just what we wanted and the warm glow from the candle votives and dotted fairy lights surrounding each centre piece really gave the whole room a lovely cosy autumn feel.

Everyone enjoyed the day – it is always lovely when all the family from both sides can come together for a catch up – we even had a cousin come all the way from Somerset.

So now it is time for a rest for a day or two and get my house back in order – then it is back up to North Yorkshire again next weekend to my sister’s to attend the talent show in her local village hall. My sister is taking part with her ‘secret’ talent but has also volunteered to replace a person who cannot make it – she is not sure what this person’s talent is yet but I hope that person is not the knife thrower….even worse…. the knife thrower’s assistant!!!

I have a lot of catching up to do in blogland as I have no idea what all of you have been up to – normal commenting from me should be resuming shortly!

Have a lovely week and welcome to my new followers. x

dear diary :: accomplishment

I was up early yesterday – washed, dressed, breakfast eaten and dishes washed before making my way to the craft room. I was determined that I was going to finish the tablemats – well two of them – as I need to buy more interfacing for the other two. For new readers these mats are made from a tea towel pack from Sainsbury’s. The striped tea towel was cut in half and is backed by the plain grey with a heavy weight firm interfacing between the two layers.

Of course no sooner had I started than the first interruption arrived in the form of my daughter, son in law and baby Freddie. Although I am always delighted to see them I also wanted to get my sewing done while the light was good and it was not exactly a social visit – she wanted to go over the Christening arrangements with me.

Now, my daughter (who is probably just like me) never does anything by halves so we spent the best part of seven hours, with a small interlude for lunch and a cuddle or two with Freddie, going over the food to order, the food to make ourselves, the quantities we would need, the invitations, the decorations and the size of the tables and how we would cover them.

Did we forget anything?

In and amongst the discussions I finally managed to finish the tablemats and here is the photo to prove it.

I am quite pleased with how they turned out and they are a big improvement on our old ones. This is part of my drive to ‘beautify’ little areas in my house.

I had such a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment I only hope today is just as productive then I will be happy.

On today’s list is more sewing – I am going to attempt to finish the little jumper for Sweetie. I think it will be too small for her now so I will have to see if it is any use for little Freddie and if not I will donate it to one of the stalls at our Crisis coffee morning.

If there is any time left over I am also going to sew together this lovely snuggly cushion cover that my dear old mum knitted for me about two years ago and it has sat in my project basket ever since. I think it is moss stitch (you knitters out there will know better than me) and it will be a great addition to my winter cushion collection.

She has even stopped asking me if I have got it finished so she will be delighted if she sees it completed and on our sofa when she comes for her pre Christmas visit in a few weeks time, and I will be delighted to have another task crossed off the list.

I often wonder to myself why it is that so many projects in this house fail to reach completion – is it poor time management, taking on too much or maybe I need to push myself more.

Often in hindsight I would do things differently. The marathon last week going to Scotland, then to see mum and then taking out the grandchildren – one obligation after another was a bit much. It was so tiring with all the long journey’s that it has taken me the best part of this week to recover.

I have everything unpacked now and the washing done ready to repack for our visit back to North Yorkshire at the end of next week for Sweetie’s birthday celebration. It must have been so much easier years ago when families lived closer to one another.

Anyway, enough of my moaning I need to get on with the sewing and before that I have mushroom soup to make and prep the winter salad for tea which we will be having with those old favourites….baked potatoes.

Looking outside this morning it is glorious sunshine and so I might get a chance to plant the cyclamens and I still have a few mixed tulip bulbs to go in.

DH cut the holes in the pantry ceiling yesterday for the downlights (which was another reason for daughter’s visit as our SIL brought the hole cutter). He managed a mist coat on the ceiling to seal the new plaster and hopefully today will get another coat or two done.

Things are moving on here at last. x

dear diary :: rainy days and Sundays

Yes, I know it is really rainy days and Mondays in the lyrics of the song but today suits the song very well. What else do you do on such a wet weekend but grab your camera and go outside and take photos. Such an abundance of raindrops, dripping from every leaf and berry and glistening like tiny jewels.

Inside, is a different story – dry and cosy but oh so dismal. I spent an hour or so switching over beach pebbles and shells for a few discreet pieces of autumn decor. One or two pine cones, a few little dried pumpkins, my favourite seasonal cushions and pictures and before I finished I replenished all the tea lights and candles in the holders. I have some lovely wooden candle holders which add a nice warmth to the room this time of year.

Whilst taking these pictures I smile to myself …. just out of shot is absolute chaos in our house – we may be doing the pantry conversion from the smallest room in the house, the downstairs cloakroom, but every room in the house is now upset. To get more lighting and sockets fitted DH had to pull back the carpet in the bedroom above….I could have guessed…have been here before – so all the furniture had to be taken out and temporarily put where we can.

Despite all the mess – I made more, and have been crafting over the weekend – remember this knitting….

With the help of this book I found called Simple Knitting by Erika Knight I finally manage to finish the knitting part of this little hooded jumper and have only to sew the seams together now. Whether it will fit little Sweetie is another matter – I rather think it might be passed straight on to little Freddie – do you think the colours too girly? I can’t decide.

The four teatowels below came in a pack from Sainsbury’s in the sale. They are a good weight of cotton with a slight linen slub or waffle and my idea is to turn them into place mats. Two tea towels will cut down to make 2 place mats. So the striped grey will be backed with the plain grey and the dashed white backed with the plain white. We only need two mats most of the time being on our own now, so they will do us fine. I will need to buy some heavier vilene interfacing to sandwich between the two layers so they keep a good shape – but it is shopping day tomorrow so I can get some in town. Next time you see these I hope they will be made and on my table.

I have also been having a bit of a play around with ideas for Christmas presents and cards. So out came the sketch pad and pencil – had to dust it off a bit! In April I bought 5 of these calendars on stands for around £2 each, from Sainsbury’s clearance sale, with the intention of designing and printing my own calendar pages for 2020 and switching them over.

The original calendars had some quite nice little line drawings so I had thought about doing a simple lino cut print reflecting each of the months but time might be short now and twelve is a lot of designs to work on and print.

Calendar

– so I decided to look through my sketch book for drawings that could be adapted.

This is still an idea in the making and I will have to do a few mock ups first to see what might work. I am no artist but some of the sketches will pass….I think. Whilst I had the sketch book handy I scanned in a few pages of drawings – these were mostly done in the days when we had more time and well before the grandchildren arrived on the scene!!

I keep intending to try to get in the habit of doing a sketch each day so that I might improve, but am not sure how I would fit it in.

And what better to occupy my time on a cold and miserable day than trying out a new recipe. I have been wanting to try this recipe for a long time – I think it is from Good Housekeeping magazine. I didn’t quite have all the right ingredients so had to improvise.

I just happened to have chestnut and ordinary mushrooms but no dried ones and I used a vegetable stock cube rather than the yeast extract, but it still tasted fine – in fact it was really delicious – but be warned I made two strudels from the mixture – the second one was much smaller but there is ample filling.

Mine doesn’t look quite as good as their picture – the cooking time seemed rather long and the crumpled filo pastry that you lay on top caught a bit whilst in the oven…. and the sesame seeds didn’t seem to want to stay on top. I might do this bit slightly differently next time or even use a different pastry, puff pastry perhaps.

I will add the recipe to the list in a day or two. For now I will have to close – it is my brother’s birthday today and I need to go and surprise him with a card – then I have a big mess to clean up.

Hope you all had a brilliant weekend despite the rain. x