dear diary :: it’s been a while

Hello there….long time no see.  I thought I would be back sooner than this but recent events have kept me busy and I am not just referring to the dreaded virus.

Thank you for all your lovely comments and well wishes, advice and suggestions on my last post – they were much appreciated and I hope you don’t mind me not answering them individually, it was difficult to sit at the computer until my back recovered.

Although I was housebound for a few days with my bad back I am now fully recovered…..just in time to be housebound once again because of the virus!

I feel as if I am about to journey through a long dark tunnel, not really knowing where the end will be.  Plans we might have made for this year are now well and truly abandoned as are any visits to Scotland to our cottage and caravan.  The garden up there will no doubt become wild over time and all the hard work we have put in over the years will be quickly lost.  It feels like a repeat of what happened when the cottage flooded and 10 years of renovations were wiped out within hours.

We are managing to cope though – in fact we are in a very privileged positon both of us being at home and living on the state pension of DH and mine soon to come in May….we have few of the financial worries that others are facing, although this might come along after when we find many thousands wiped off the value of our private pension pot that we have not, as yet, had to draw on.

My main concern now is for my family and in particular for my dear mum – I am heartbroken for her as she faces weeks of isolation at a time when she cannot really look after herself.  For those readers who do not know my mum is 94 and struggling to walk now because of osteoarthritis in her right hip, added to which she recently caught a sickness bug which completely wiped her out and the main reason for my extended absence in blogland.  We managed to sort out some ‘aids’ for around the home and a walker so that she can get about her flat better and more safely. She is up and down each day, one day not even being able to get out of bed and the next feeling brighter and more able. Luckily a neighbour had been popping in to make her a cup of tea and my sister went every day but she had not fancied eating very much at all and had become quite weak.

I was unable to travel up to see her when she was first ill as I found it too painful to sit in the car because of my back. As soon as I could I was exercising my back each day, but it wasn’t until Mother’s Day that I was able to go up there, just before the travel clamp down came – we went knowing it would be my last chance to see her for the forseeable future. We took the little tin trough of pink carnations to cheer her up and a picnic which we ate indoors with her – she tucked into our home made leek and potato soup and a cheese and pickle sandwich – I expect she was quite ravenous not having eaten much for the past two weeks because of the sickness bug. I had also made her a fresh cream chocolate cake – her favourite – and left some in the fridge for later.

Because she hadn’t been out for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to watch the TV she had no idea how bad things have become in the world because of the coronavirus. We would have liked to take her for a short run in the car to the coast so she could see the outside world but she was not well enough and we would not have wanted to add to the madness that was out there that day.  Instead we watched an old black and white film on TV together and just having some company for the afternoon cheered her up no end.

With the new government rules of no unnecessary travel in place I will not see her again for a long while added to which it is uncertain whether my sister will be allowed into my mum’s apartment block to care for her ….the apartment manager told me that it might be that only official carers will be allowed in soon. The apartments are classed as Independent Living, so if you need carers the management company are saying that you should not be living there.  The only option for any residents that are not able to look after themselves may be to go into a care home but I can tell you these places are already booked up as the NHS are moving recovering patients into them to convalesce and free up hospital beds.

It has been such a worry for me but I have managed to set up one teatime slot for 3 days a week with a carer who will go in and help mum and provide some human contact and this should help if my sister is not allowed access.  All the residents have been told they must stay in their own apartments and not pop in and out to see their friends and must keep their distance from one another. There are no papers being delivered either and as very few have the internet they are becoming more and more isolated.

As you can imagine mum is not happy at having a stranger forced upon her but we will see how she adapts in the next few days and I hope she will accept their help and not send them away.   She also heard last week that her appointment to see the musculoskeletal clinic has now been cancelled – she was devastated – she was only a week away….it seems so cruel when she is in such pain.

In between all the phone calls and dramas I have been baking and trying hard not to waste any food.  I had left over cream to use up from mum’s chocolate cake so I baked a batch of fruit scones….a little indulgent, but quite delicious.

I am trying to visit the supermarket as little as possible – this requires a lot of forward planning with menus to make sure we eat the fruit and veggies that have a shorter life first. Any green stalks and leaves cut off the vegetables go into our green soup. We even sprinkled the left over cous cous over the last batch together with some parmesan cheese as a garnish – it was actually quite nice.

I have been cleaning too.  This virus makes me feel quite grubby every time we have been out for our essentials so I have been giving the bathroom and kitchen an extra dose of elbow grease and detox spray.

When the sun was out last week we had a lovely walk up towards the moors above where we live – there were people about but not too many and when we passed it was at a safe distance.  Looking across the valley everything seemed so deceivingly normal and like the cat and the sheep, basking in the warmth of the sunshine, we felt relieved that spring had finally made an appearance.

Of course it was short lived and this week we have been plunged back into a cold spell with hail falling occasionally and a bitterly cold wind. So what better way of keeping warm than doing a spot of cooking in the kitchen. I had eggs to use up and a few pieces of cauliflower so made these little cheesy savouries in a muffin tin to have with some fresh salad.

I then used up the last of the mushrooms and leeks by making these individual pies topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

We are managing to eek out all our groceries so that our visits to the supermarket are as few as possible. I have spent some time this week reorganising my recipe folders and searching out new recipes to try. I will spend the rest of the week with a long overdue task of reorganising a box full of photos. I will at the same time be looking for one or two of my elder daughter to make a photo book of her life so far for her 40th birthday which is coming up soon. There will be no big party or celebration for her – everything is cancelled – we will have to have a party by internet connection of some kind. I am not sure how you can play party games via Skype or Zoom but we will find a way!

I have a great deal of catch up to do in blogland so will be hopping over to my favourite places and hopefully will not leave it as long next time to write another post.

Hoping all is well with you too. Many safe distance hugs to everyone. x

sEAsons ~ celebrating Easter

Hi there – just dropping by to say I am still around but for some reason still very busy – this is not what I expected when I gave up working, I feel I am working twice as hard now as then.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter enjoying the glorious weather we couldn’t have timed our party better and of course it ended up as a real garden party (I needn’t have cleaned the living room quite so thoroughly after all!).Many of the plants had started to grow quickly in the warm sunshine  – we are usually quite late in this area being high up and I was willing my pretty Aquilegia plants, which have self seeded all over the garden, to open in time for the party….. but sadly they didn’t.  But no matter there were plenty of the bulbs and Primula still blooming and the blossom….hasn’t it just been delightful?

The party took some preparing in the end – for new readers this was a party for my son-in-law’s 40th birthday combined with an Easter party as it fell on Easter Sunday, we held it at my house because my daughter’s house is so much smaller.

We had Easter eggs and decorations amongst the party decor.  I spent some time covering polystyrene eggs with tissue paper which I hung from twiggy branches supported in a pot of sand hidden with a topping of moss, then added a few fluttery butterflies with my glue gun. I also had fun making these Easter food ‘flags’ to help guests identify the different sandwiches, salads and quiches. And of course we planned an Easter hunt around the garden for the children though the eggs had to be hidden well in the shade so they did not melt in the heat.

We had a day or two in the garden beforehand – setting out all the pots that had been in winter hibernation and adding a few inexpensive pansies and primulas for a touch of colour.

We removed the covers from our garden tables and chairs and brought out the large parasol, then hung out the white solar lanterns from my daughter’s wedding a few years ago – they had been stored in the loft and I was quite surprised they still worked. We also bought some Festoon lighting and DH made a great job of stringing it across the garden using the clothes prop and an old piece of aluminium tubing he found in the garage.At night it looked so magical……Our guests were handed nibbles and cocktails on arrival….. I had spent four days making a mountain of ice cubes in readiness – and ice-cold drinks were very much in demand.

The table was laden with food – sandwiches, mini wraps and four different salads all ordered from M&S by my daughter.   For the true meat eaters her MIL bought a selection of pies, sausage rolls and scotch eggs from a local award-winning butchers and my contribution was some small quiches and of course the cake.

The cake was certainly one project too many – it nearly didn’t happen when twice the ready rolled icing stuck to the kitchen work top despite the oodles of icing sugar I had sifted beneath.  I am no cake decorator and it was very rushed so this is extremely wobbly and the icing a bit cracked in my desperation to get it onto the cake!   And exactly what is it you may ask……a circuit board of course – as son-in-law is an electrician come electrical engineer and is always playing about with circuit boards.  I had to have precise instruction for this from DH as I had no idea what I was doing.For desserts we kept it simple with profiteroles, a huge bowl of mixed berries with crushed meringue and double cream to make Eton mess and some tiny party cheesecakes and chocolate bites.

Although not everyone was very impressed!!!

….but all in all it was such a wonderful day.

And the best bit…..Libbie (Little L) had made me an Easter present from some DAS clay a beautiful little pink heart – of course I will treasure it.It has taken me a while to straighten the house up again after the party – putting dishes back and packing bits and pieces away – I am feeling quite exhausted now – I could barely drag myself to Yoga on Tuesday morning and somehow I need to gather up a little more energy to start on the Christening dress….we need to do a bit of fabric hunting in the next day or two and celebrate yet another birthday, but on a much smaller scale this time, before we can finally escape up to Scotland for a well earned rest.

crEAting ~ simple Easter cards

Before I begin apologies for the photo quality – I was losing the light by the time I took the pictures.

If you remember from one of my previous posts (click here) I had covered a number of blank cards in a variety of pretty papers from my craft pile to try to use them up.   I set aside one or two to finish as Easter cards.  This time, rather than buy the preprinted ‘greetings’ labels, I made my own on the computer and printed them out onto some card.

If you want to make your own I use a Microsoft word document where you can select a text box, a font design and a suitable size of type for the card.  I then add a border around the greeting and once printed cut the labels out carefully, almost but not quite, to the border line leaving a small white edging.

I selected colours to match in with the prints and used different typefaces.  I also added a ribbon decoration to some of the cards to finish them. Extremely simple and easy to make but I quite like the simplicity.I was then left with these little card motifs in my craft box of embellishments… Cute little cut out Easter pictures… I am not even sure where they came from but I have had them for years now and they have escaped going into the give away box once or twice.  So this time it was either use them or lose them.

I stuck the rabbit, chicken and sheep onto the Easter egg shapes and then placed them onto a small square card blank.  There was no room to add a printed greeting so I decided to use my little alphabet stamps and just stamp straight onto the card.  There was no need to be too exact  – I actually like the lettering more when it is a bit wonky!Once dry I stuck the little motif in place and voila….…these little bits have now made four delightful little Easter cards for the children –  Libbie, Sweetie, Freddie and my great-nephew.On the back of each card I make I have a little stamp to say it is home-made.  This one is my favourite from Vista print and given to me by my daughter one birthday, but I do have some rubber stamps too.Remember the birthday card made from a piece of decorative packaging I found – it may have been an old Panettone box from Christmas or something – I followed the design and embellished it with some of those stick on jewels in golds and rich purple colours. As well as stamping on the back of the card I often make a printed slip for the inside with a message.  I think it gives a more finished look to a card and although I didn’t have time for this one, as I had to get it in the post, they do look lovely if you add a print too using a rubber stamp.So even if you do not have any expensive equipment you can make some really simple cards using any decorative paper or card, a Pritt stick, some double-sided tape and a sharp knife.  If you do not have a printer you can buy sheets of greetings labels; but equally you could get a rubber stamp and stamp onto some plain card and then add a border and cut out.

I am enjoying doing a few more creative things when I have the time and it does reduce the mountain of crafty bits and pieces I have been storing all these years  – I was thinking of getting rid of some of it but that seemed a shame when in an afternoon I can make something useful.  I like the challenge of creating something from very little so I think my next project will be using up scraps from junk mail, magazines and even the decorative parts of the inside of an envelope to make some cards.

 

A day spent creatively sticking and stamping.  x

 

 

 

 

 

 

crEAting ~ turning scraps and off cuts into cards

I must be on a bit of a roll creating things.  On Sunday afternoon I sat down with a box of card blanks and a pile of decorative papers of one sort or another to make some cards.

Normally, I would make cards from some of my own paintings and sketches. This is one I often make for friends and family celebrating a special milestone birthday.  It is a concertina card with a verse running through it and folds up into a little keepsake book.  You could easily make something similar using some of those ready printed pictures on sale in craft shops. …but I wanted to use up the some of lovely scraps of papers I have collected over time and do something rather different.

I especially like the fact that I am saving money at the same time as saving the planet by recycling pieces of old wrapping paper (you know those little bits that are too small to wrap a present) and cards that are given to me, and even nice pieces of printed cardboard from packaging items.

Anyone can make these cards it only takes some card blanks and a roll of the double-sided tape, a Pritt stick and scissors (though I would strongly recommend a ruler and a scalpel for a sharper clean-cut).  You do not need any specialist equipment or any expensive craft papers.

The cards below are made from some lovely wrapping paper I had with delightful paintings of china teacups.  These off cuts were too nice to throw away so I made each of the cups into a card.  The two smaller cards are firstly covered in a piece of decorative backing paper that come in packs or pads from craft shops as it is a good weight to stick thinner wrapping paper onto; then the teacup picture is stuck on top of this in the centre and finally I cut some striped paper into thin strips and made a simple border to complete.  The larger one is made by using one of those blank cards with a pre-cut window – so you mount the picture behind the window – very useful for cross stitched panels –  in this case it nicely frames the teacup. The two below are actually made from some lightweight card packaging – I can’t even remember now what the packaging came with but again I saved it thinking it would come in handy for something.  I was able to make matching tags too and I will add a greeting or other embellishment when I find something suitable.The next two are made by recycling cards that were given to me.  I cut the front off the card on the left and placed some pearl pink paper behind before sticking it down on a card blank.  The one on the right is a card front stuck onto one of those accordion card blanks and I will decorate the inside of this too by adding some suitable prose.   For these and the ones above I used the double-sided tape here rather than Pritt stick to stick one onto the other as the old cards and packaging I am sticking down are a heavier weight than the papers I used on some of the smaller cards.Once I began there was no stopping me and it was one of those afternoons when you really feel you are ‘in the flow’ if you are familiar with the expression.

Whilst in The Range I bought a packet of those ready printed messages that say – Happy Birthday or Thank you just to embellish them a little.

So I added a little greeting to some of them – but some I will leave blank and then when I need a card I can add the most appropriate greeting at the time.  Others I will make into Easter cards if I can find some Easter greetings in town. Most of these are just the tiny Papermania cards – just less than 4″ square – and although very simple I think they are quite effective and a good way of using up old papers.  So far I have made about twenty-five but I have card blanks and papers to do many more.

A day of creating canny crafty cards. x

Sooze at Her in Him out 2 – I hope you might find this post useful.

 

crEAting ~ a knit in time

After twenty some years I have started knitting again – sometimes I frighten myself – I first began knitting one day back in 1980 with a little help from my mum, who was an avid knitter both by hand and machine.  I was expecting my first daughter at the time and continued when my second daughter came along and beyond until they reached secondary school and then I just stopped.  Knitting two garments each time took some doing.  At first my knitting was knit one drop one but after a while I was mastering cables and yokes and without the advantage of You Tube.

Now it all feels a long time ago but I am starting to remember quite a bit as I go along and with the help of You Tube –  although I have had to pull out a few rows when I dropped two stitches accidentally on a decrease row and didn’t notice.I chose this pattern by Sirdar as it said easy knit (I might question that!) and I like the fact the yarn called Baby Crofter, although random, looks a bit like Fair Isle as you knit.

I took the time to wind off some of the wool so I could begin the second sleeve at the same point in the yarn as the first so they match and also match up with the pattern of the front and back.I have finished the main body of the jumper and need to press and stitch it together so I can pick up around the neck to continue and knit the hood – that will be fun!

I need to practice the start and end of my rows and make a better job – there are it appears many ways to make it neater including adding an extra stitch at each end – does this really work?

This attempt is for Sweetie to grow into – I deliberately chose a 6-12 months size (she is presently 5 months old) in case it took me a long time to make but the knitting part has been surprisingly quick.  It might take me longer to do the sewing part.

I have already chosen the yarn for my next project – this time a plain colour, a lovely soft cotton in pale grey and ecru called Cottonsoft by King Cole to make a summer cardigan or jumper.  I found it in Boyes which is a wonderful northern store full of cut price goodies like an old Woolworths.  Finding patterns seems harder than finding the wool.  I am hoping I will find a pattern for little Freddie but if not it will be another one for Sweetie.I am not sure if Sweetie will want to wear granny’s knitted effort when I have finished it but she is still young enough not to bother too much whereas Libbie (Little L) will be much more fussy I think so I need more practice before I make something for her.  I am thinking of one of those summer dresses with a little knitted bodice and fabric skirt.

A few days of painstaking persistence but a very pleasing pastime. x

crEAting Christmas ~ days 19 to 24

Christmas Eve has arrived.  There was still a lot of hustle and bustle in the village earlier – the last-minute dash to the Co-op and Post Office for those forgotten items; but in the main people are settling down at home now and soon calm will descend on the village again.  We were out this afternoon completing my final Advent task.  This is how my Advent days 19 to 24 panned out…

Day 19 my task read ‘make lemon curd for gifts and save a jar to keep’.Lemon Curd Lemon Curd Lemon CurdI had just four organic lemons to make some lemon curd – there was enough for 3 jars – one jar went to my younger daughter yesterday and another into a home made hamper for my elder daughter and of course one saved just for me for my toast tomorrow.

Day 20 was set aside to make a gift for three of my closest friends.  I  bought some of those wall calendars that you can put your own photos in.  I needed 3 and was lucky to find that Boots did three for the price of two so they only cost me £5.33 each plus printing costs.For each friend we chose a selection of photos some months included pictures of themselves (unseen footage) and we also found photos of places they might recognise.

Day 21 this advent task was the grand wrapping day.  I always like to make my gifts more individual by wrapping each of them differently – I think it makes a gift mean so much more. 

I filled a bag with a few goodies for my mum to enjoy…

You may remember the gift envelopes I made from last years Christmas cards in January (see here).  For the smaller gifts I often use printed tissue paper – I absolutely loved this old-fashioned Christmas design with the holly.  The little clay dove tag I made in a previous year. With difficult presents I wrap them in tissue paper and then put them into plain craft bags that have been stamped or you could stick a Christmas picture onto the bag from an old Christmas card.The calendars were wrapped in plain brown paper and then stamped with snow flakes.I also keep a roll of wrapping paper when I want something just a bit special and try to tie in the colours of the paper with a tag made from …you guessed it…an old Christmas card.

Day 22  – ‘set some time aside to read a favourite Christmas book’

Who can avoid reading Miss Read at Christmas time – tales of village folk and their country ways.  I wanted to get the Village Christmas but could not find it to buy and the library do not seem to stock her anymore.  So I settled for rereading an old copy of Battles at Thrush Green and after tea watched another episode of Poirot.Miss Read

Day 23 – ‘a birthday party celebration’

For this we made our way once again up to North Yorkshire on the A1(M) putting the car onto automatic (Ha ha!) to go to my sister’s house where we were celebrating my niece’s 21st birthday with family and friends.  It was a lovely do and I got to see Little L and Sweetie once again and also exchange any gifts.  My sister now has the largest house and it is a perfect entertaining space (not that I am deeply envious or anything!).  The draw back is I cannot even make a cuppa tea as there is no kettle, only one of those strange taps, and I have to guess which cupboard houses the fridge from a bank of cabinets and I always choose the wrong one.

Day 24 – Christmas Eve…delivering the remainder of our presents to our friends.  This is so enjoyable as most people have done all they are going to do by now and we can go from house to house enjoying a drink, a biscuit and a natter.  This year took rather longer than expected so I over ran and have missed the Crib Service which was included in my Advent task so I might go to the Midnight Mass later.

So that is the end of my Advent activities – I switched a couple of tasks as I was running out of time.  The little tea cosy and napkins are half started but will have to wait until later in the week before I get the sewing machine out again.

And just before I go you might remember a picture of some little tissue wrapped parcels I had after our recent visit to Scotland see here.   They were inexpensive items of one pound or just over.  This is what was inside.Two glass owls, 5 baubles in the shape of pine cones and a tiny red father Christmas.

I am not sure when I will post again – a few days rest perhaps – but I wish you all a very

   Happy Christmas and New Year

xxx

 

crEAting Christmas ~ day 18

So much to do and so little time  – maybe that is better than so little to do and so much time?   I often find if I have time I will fill it with something and Christmas is no different.  Just when I think oh yes I am nearly done you can guarantee I will be off on another project – just fitting one more thing in.  I can’t say it has been any different this year but I do get carried away with all the Christmas making and baking and never feel I have done enough.

Anyway to the Advent task on day 18 – this was one of my favourites a bit of repurposing.

Christmas stocking

A while ago I sorted through a bag of vintage table linens and crotched doyleys that I acquired when my mum moved out of our family home a few years ago.  They had been passed on to her from my grandma.   I washed and pressed the ones I wanted to keep and took some to charity, but there was one or two that had bad stains on them that I couldn’t remove.  I kept them and began thinking of what I might do with them as I loved the fabric.

One of the items I kept was a small round tablecloth that you would put over a little side table.  The fabric is a white Jacquard linen – the type you will have seen old-fashioned napkins made of – edged with some cotton lace which may or may not be hand-made.  Because of the stain it was no use as a cloth anymore so I thought about what I might do with it.

Then recently I saw it in the drawer with my sewing bits and had an idea.  I decided to make little Sweetie, my new granddaughter, a little Christmas stocking for her first Christmas.  I only had a few hours to make it so it is not my best sewing and the beading is a bit wobbly but my daughter likes things to look homemade so it won’t be a problem.

So now little Sweetie has something that once belonged to her great, great grandma to keep.Christmas stockingBut you will need to keep it a secret until Christmas Eve (and her real name too!)

Only a few more days to go now so I hope I can complete my Advent activities posts in time.  Apologies again that I am out of sync with the actual days – but you can’t have everything – life has a way of taking over sometimes.  x

 

 

crEAting Christmas ~ day 17

Mince pies Mince piesDay 17 – I swapped my Advent task today to make the mince pies  – after all Christmas would not be Christmas without them even though I can only eat one or two as they don’t really agree with me now.  I often bake these tiny ones as they make a lovely token gift and this batch was to take in to my old workplace for my former colleagues.

I was eager to try out the new kitchen tool I found at the local hardware store when we were in Scotland.  It is a wooden pastry tamper – it cost about £5 and is double ended for pressing the pastry of small or large circles into the trays.

I was impressed – it works a treat and gives the pies a professional look.  To save time I used the ready-made roll of all butter short crust pastry – I like the fact it has all natural ingredients.  I was a bit disappointed that the finished pastry case is a little on the thick side; if I used it again I would put the rolling-pin over it to make it slightly thinner.

Mince piesThe thickness didn’t affect the taste though, the pastry was ‘melt in the mouth’ with no soggy bottoms.  After a dusting of icing sugar I packaged them up onto these little white trays (I collected during the year from Chocolate Mini Rolls) lined with a doyley and added a sprinkling of confetti – green metallic holly leaves. Mince piesI also took in a tray of the chocolates.  Well it is Christmas.

It is getting very close now to the big day – most of my list has been ticked off and just a few bits and pieces left to do but if they don’t get done I wouldn’t be worried. The traffic in town and the village is building up and the shops getting busier so it is taking longer to do anything that requires leaving the house.  I expect it will get worse over the weekend.

There still seems to be an awful lot of stock to shift in the shops and the prices are steadily dropping but there is nothing now that I need to buy.  We have all the gifts ready and a spare emergency one just in case.  My family Not so Secret Santa gift was for my younger daughter and she needed a coat that fit her now she has had the baby.  I bought part of it for her birthday too (as it is in December) and suggested she start wearing it now rather than wait for Christmas.  We wouldn’t normally do that but there was no point in her being cold until Christmas Day.

We have a family 21st party on Sunday at my sisters and then I am looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home.

 

crEAting Christmas ~ days 14 and 15

Homemade chocolatesDay 14 – on Friday my Advent task was to make a tray of my now famous chocolate for the neighbour’s get together that evening.  This year I found a tub of miniature meringues reduced to 30p in Waitrose and these were sprinkled on the half with tiny fudge and honeycomb pieces.  The other half of the chocolate had fruit, nuts and ginger pieces.  The whole slab is laced like a spider’s web with white chocolate and when it is set chopped or broken into square pieces.  It is as my friends say ‘just far too moreish’.Homemade ChocolatesI kept some of the chocolates to take a packet in to my old work place for my colleagues to share.Homemade ChocolatesDay 15 – Saturday – after getting home at 2am in the morning (it was a good night!) I didn’t have a very early start and it took a while to come round and eventually I had another go at printing my lino cut Christmas card.  Robin Lino cutThis year I tried creating a more stylised robin and nothing has gone well with it.  The black ink has taken ages to dry and I swear some of the cards were still sticky when I put them into the envelopes – even after being in the airing cupboard all weekend.  Robin Lino cutRobin Lino cutAll I can say is that it is ‘different’ and I certainly need more practice but I had fun doing them and I shall miss my ’round’ of robins now they are gone to new homes.  Each one was so individual I could have given them names!

Apologies that the Advent days are running out of sync, I have been so busy I am finding it difficult to photograph and write a daily update.

Welcome to my new followers – I hope you are enjoying the advent period.

crEAting Christmas ~ days 3 & 4

As we left for home yesterday we drove past the sad little bay just round the corner from our cottage where the recent tragedy happened, all was completely calm and peaceful now as if nothing had happened and at that moment a rainbow appeared.It is a community in mourning, feeling the loss of a friend and neighbour – many of the locals are calling for a road barrier to be put in place now so this loss of life does not happen again in the future when the sea is at high tide.  The sea that I love so much has suddenly become quite a fearful place but even so now I am back in landlocked Yorkshire I miss going to sleep with the roar of the waves in the background.

As we were on the road yesterday I had a really simple Advent activity – something only available to ‘us northerners’ and something I look forward to getting each year…

…the Booths Christmas Book and for you southerners (and any readers from other parts of the world) Booths is a family run grocers business founded in 1847 and now a chain of supermarkets across the North of England and often refered to as the Waitrose of the North.  It trades on quality, local produce and great customer service.   Their release each Christmas of their hardback, bound book is always eagerly awaited by all their shoppers and followers.Our nearest store is – a bit too far away for a our weekly shopping but we always call in on our way to or back from Scotland at the Penrith or Kendal branch.  It is packed with photographs of deliciously tempting Christmas fayre to order or buy in store interspersed with a few recipes to make.

So I collected mine yesterday and spent my elevenses this morning pouring over all the Christmas food on offer and a quick look at the recipes in the back.  I find it remarkable that Booths can produce such a lovely little book and give it away free – I was a truly happy bunny.

Todays activity…As you may remember from last year I decided to do something different to the usual wreath on our front door so I hung my chicken wire cone see post here (a left over from my daughter’s wedding that hung on the Church gateposts full of flowers) and this time filled it Christmas foliage.  I quite liked it so have done it again this year.  If you don’t find wreaths easy to make this is a simple alternative…

…first bend some chicken wire to form a cone shape – making a hanging loop at the point on the back.  Pack the front and sides with moss (I had collected a small heap in the summer in readiness).  Find an empty jam jar and push down into the cone as far as it will fit and so it is not visible. Remove the jar again and push some chicken wire into the jar to hold the stems steady when filling with foliage.  Fill the jar with cold water and start arranging pieces of foliage. Hold the cone steady in a small bucket then lower the jar into the cone making sure it is a snug fit. At the moment I am using some dried red hydrangea heads and a dried white one, some ivy and a few holly stems.  As we get closer to Christmas I will swap these for eucalyptus, holly and Hypericum like last years.

I have hung mine to the side of our main door but they are quite light and will hang on a door.As you can see I am no florist but it is not too difficult to get a pleasing arrangement.  You could add sprayed leaves, ribbon or pretty much anything.  Just remember to keep topping up the jar of water.

We have placed a small rooted Christmas tree by the front door (only £10 at Wilko) and put a few lights on it.  DH has still to do the rest of the lights in the front garden and paint the front door – I will take a few photos when it is all finished.

Whilst in Scotland we went over to Portpatrick for a stroll by the harbour and found they were having their annual Christmas craft fair in the village hall so went for a look around.  There was some lovely things to buy – after much deliberation and bearing in mind I had to limit my spending I chose these……a pack of watercolour notelets (right) painted by a local artist to support the Aldouran Wetland Garden and these two pretty little felted Christmas tree cards for each of my daughters – made by a local crafter.

I also bought a few other bits and pieces whilst we were out and about – goodies that I never see down here in Yorkshire.The frilly cake band takes me back to my childhood and reminds me of Christmases past – they would appear each Christmas round our Christmas cake – at 99p I just had to have one.  The packet contains an iced ginger cake – we always buy one when we are at the cottage but usually we get the un-iced version – these too are only £1 from Tesco or Morrisons but I have never seen them south of the border.  I thought the iced one would be a nice treat for Christmas. And on the way home a few small inexpensive things for Christmas from Tebay services of all places – each of these little tissue parcels were a £1 – you will have to wait a while until I unwrap them to find out what is in them.

Welcome to my new followers too.  Christmas is a lovely time in Blogland – everyone is so busy making and baking.

Back tomorrow for Day 5 of Advent. x