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

 

 

crEAting Christmas ~ crafting the Advent days

I have been pondering over the ‘Advent’ part of Christmas in my head for a while now.  Over the years I have done various things including these tiny old-fashioned advent calendars that contained no sweets at all just a different little Christmas picture each day when the window was opened.  Advent CalendarsIt was opening this Advent calendar that reminded me most of the anticipation I felt as a child and the delight of revealing a glowing candle or a decorated Christmas tree picture on peeling back the little doors – I thought they were the most wonderful and magical part of Christmas and I could hardly wait each day to see what the Christmas picture was going to be.

A truly simple pleasure.

Then one sleepless night recently I thought about all I wanted to do in the days before Christmas;  all the things that generated the same excitement for me – which ideally is a mixture of simple Christmas pleasures, a few trips out and about to one or two festive towns and villages, and of course lots of crafts.  To pace myself I hit upon the idea of using the daily advent as a way to ‘timetable’ the things that are both important and pleasurable for me to do.

For the calendar itself I decided upon some simple craft card (from a tiny pad I bought from The Range for £1) and stamped numbers on them in white or gold from 1 to 25.  On the back I stuck a little ‘surprise’ activity of something pleasurable and Christmassy to do or make that day.  Then placed them all on my photo stand. Of course the activities couldn’t be a complete random surprise as I have had to work around days when we are in Scotland and my mum visits and other commitments – I also had to make sure I had all the bits ready to make the crafts – so a little planning had to be done. And so DH doesn’t feel left out I have individually wrapped some Amoretti biscuits as a little daily treat in some greaseproof paper decorated with a gold pen.

With all that in place, but not actually posted on my blog, imagine my surprise when I got home late last night and read Gillian’s post from Tales from a happy house (see my blog list at the side) where she has had an almost identical idea – and her little envelopes are so lovely.  (If you are reading this Gillian I have left you a comment).

We are heading off to Scotland tomorrow and my Advent trail will begin from there on Saturday (I hope we have an internet connection) and each day I will do a quick post revealing the activity for the day and a few photos.

I hope you will join in and let me know of your pleasurable Christmas activities as we go along.  Of course there is a chance that ‘events’ might steer me off course a little – you know how it is with the Christmas build up –  but fingers crossed.

Welcome to my recent new followers – I try to post most days – apologies for lack of post and comments yesterday I went out to the pub last night!  A lovely pre-Christmas gathering of old friends round a warm log fire.

dEAr diary ~ shopping, crafting and more preparing

We set off for our planned date with John Lewis yesterday with a packed lunch and flask, a bit later than intended – not even sure why, I think I had a lot to get ready – vouchers, list of requirements, carrier bags, some bits to drop off at my brothers on the way home – so it took us longer than I thought to get out of the door.   What a surprise when we drove up the road  and onto the moor that takes us over the tops of Saddleworth to Greenfield, Mossley, Ashton, Stockport and finally Cheadle Royal our destination – there was a covering of snow. On the way home it was thick fog too and a bit hairy coming over the winding moor road but at least it was still open as often when there is any snowfall it is soon closed off and we have been stuck getting home a few times, you really have to watch the weather here if you venture far when it snows.

We had a lovely day looking at all the gorgeous things in the John Lewis store – these were my favourite (apologies for the mobile photo) – 4 champagne glasses by Waterford Crystal Mixology a mere £255 for the four!  Obviously they will be on my Christmas list and obviously I won’t be getting them!  But I can admire them.

We bought  a gift for Little L (reduced by 20% in the Black Friday deals), a Magic set for my nephew (which wasn’t reduced but still in budget) and a couple of small gifts for Little L to put in the Christmas Eve box I am filling with her mum.  We won’t see her at Christmas and I have decided to buy a short 3 monthly subscription from Toucan boxes for children starting after Christmas, to see how it goes, rather than a ‘main’ present so the Christmas Eve box will just be a little extra and I quite like the idea that not everything has to be opened on one day.

Her mum has some new flamingo pyjamas which will go in the box, I have bought a 99p pack of plasticine, a small pack of Christmas joke cards (for some reason she loves telling jokes but so far only remembers two), I found a lovely Emma Bridgewater spoon with coloured spots on the handle for her too.  I will add a book and some felt tips etc which I will get from the Works or Sainsbury’s and one or two other inexpensive bits.

With my gift card from leaving work I bought a cosy brushed cotton duvet cover for the colder winter months in large grey check so now I have to decide between this and the Dorma one I bought from Dunelm.  I won’t be keeping both but needed to see them in our bedroom to decide.

Sainsbury’s is attached to the John Lewis in Cheadle and we had a drink in the afternoon in their cafe (really to save a bit of money) – the difference in service between the two shops is notable!  We waited 15 minutes to be served at Sainsburys and we were only second in the queue, we had arrived when they were changing shifts – the person leaving just down tools and left and I can honestly say in no way does it resembles the very precise hand over at the changing of the guard.  We had a look around the small Habitat section on the way out – I loved the old Habitat stores and really miss them now.  This small stand they have in the corner of Sainsburys looks quite pitiful to what Habitat was in its heyday.

The selection bags were all ready to be delivered today  – I had quite a production line going so in the end they didn’t take very long to finish.

I intended to get back to making my cards this morning but I ran out of time so it will be tomorrow; I saw some lovely cards yesterday on display but homemade are fun to do and so much cheaper as I already have a stack of blanks and all the printing gear.

Because I ran out of time to soak my fruit for the cake yesterday it was the first task on the list this morning.  I just love that smell of brandy mixed in the dried fruit with the peel from the citrus fruit.  I wil bake it on Sunday and make Lemon Curd at the same time to use up the lemons.

Saturday morning is the Crisis coffee morning at church – I am going with a friend for a coffee, a chat and a look at the Xmas goodies to buy on the stalls.

Back soon x

 

plEAsurable ~ wedding celebrations

What a gorgeous day it has been today (Wednesday) – sunny, dry and with a chill in the air –  it was identical weather on this same date November 14th ten years ago in 2008 for my younger daughter’s wedding day.

She married at St Mary’s Church just off the main square in the small market town of Masham, North Yorkshire.

This is me on the left with my mum and sister – all of us lookng a bit younger!

The wedding bouquets were made by a florist in a tiny shop in Bedale and were absolutely beautiful – deep, rich Autumn colours.To save on costs we added in a few bunches of our own courtesy of the cheap bouquets sold at the local Co-op the day before, together with a bunch of Hypericum and eucalyptus from our local market stall!  These were used to fill the jars we hung on the railings and Shepherd’s hooks in the Church grounds.Luckily my daughter wanted a home-made country look for her wedding so we were able to work to quite a tight budget.

We made the confetti from a mix of honesty seed pods, hydrangea petals and pressed montbretia petals, this gave us the vibrant oranges and the honesty is so light it makes wonderful confetti.  The mixture was then put into cellophane bags (collected from those used to package birthday cards) and decorated with a natural raffia bow.We used a professional photographer that was both fun and willing to take a mix of formal and more informal shots.  He certainly kept all our guests entertained with his humour and he took us all for a wander around Masham capturing some very unusual scenes – these are two of my favourite – in the telephone box on the left and outside the Bah Humbugs shop.The reception was held in the local town hall and once the formal pictures had been taken outside the church we all walked round in procession to the venue led by the bride and groom – no need to hire any cars.  Local friends, neighbours and shopkeepers from Masham came out to cheer the happy couple.As the town hall is not considered a normal wedding venue these days we had to hire in tables and white linen cloths from a local caterers and we added the plain orange napkins.  The chairs were supplied with the room but were rather shabby so one of biggest expenses was the hire of the Lycra chair covers and organza bows but this made all the difference to the room and the locals said they had never seen the town hall looking so good!

We had to lay all this out ourselves the evening before the wedding – we had loads of helpers and whilst we were busy moving and laying and tying and draping the local amateur dramatics society were rehearsing their muder mystery play on the stage.  It was a bit bizarre!

The centre pieces we made ourselves too – we bought some inexpensive large hurricane vases from Ikea and filled them with tiny dried pumpkins and a pillar candle.  Around the base we placed a ring of twigs picked up on a few country walks then soaked and twisted into shape.The favours were in plain calico bags decorated with pine cones and dried ferns with hand written craft labels.For the pew ends we bought rustic twig hearts and added a natural raffia bow.We had a wonderful and fun day finishing with a rousing Ceilidh with music by The Applejacks.

This weekend the whole family will be gathering for a celebration to mark both their tenth wedding anniversary and the birth of their second daughter.  We are a family blessed.

 

 

dEAr diary ~ a week of domesticity

I have been busy……….domestically so………….bliss.

There is nothing to beat the satisfaction of a few days of cleaning, clearing and crafting at the homestead

First of all I had to tackle a mountain of washing and ironing after a fortnight at the cottage.  With no easy means of washing clothing or bedding in the caravan it has to be brought home for laundering.  Once that was all line dried, ironed, aired and put away there was…Laundry

Laundrythe  apples… and yet more apples to deal with – they are now peeled, chopped, cooked and in the freezer.  I kept a few apples back to make individual crumbles (together with the last ‘use up’ jar of apricot puree from the kitchen cupboard clear out) – they are also in the freezer.  Apple and apricot crumblesAnd finally I baked an old favourite from the basic Good Housekeeping cookbook –  a mouth-watering apple and sultana cake.  This didn’t even make it as far as the freezer.

Apple cake

One of my intentions this October is to make a new recipe each week – last week I made a delicious mushroom soup for lunch – so quick and easy – topped with some left over grated cheese but it would have been equally good with croutons and a swirl of cream.

Mushroom soup

This week we have had a green soup using up the spinach, lettuce, leek and some frozen peas.  I added a small potato for thickening, some vegetable stock and a handful of fresh parsley.  It was gone before I could photograph it!

With all this housekeeping I think I might be turning into a Stepford wife – just give me a little frilly pinny!

In and amongst the domestic chores I have continued with the decluttering to reduce our stuff and being mindful of the 5 R’s –

recycle, reuse, reduce, recover (or repurpose) and repair. 

I intend to find a new home, a new purpose, a way to recycle or repair so that nothing leaves here in the bin unless there is no other way.  This is my progress this week:-

Repairs

Just before we left for Scotland our under counter fridge in the kitchen suddenly stopped working.  It is about 32 years old – in fridge years that makes it a pensioner like us!   I thought that was it. Curtains for the fridge.  I panicked because we hope to have a new kitchen put in sometime soon and we will be looking at an integrated fridge so didn’t want to have to buy a new one, not now.  Luckily SIL (who is an electrician) stepped in and thought it was the thermostat – ordered one whilst we were away, fitted it and voila it works again.  Don’t you just love being able to repair things.  Cost – £12.

DH is betting (hoping) it lasts another 32 years!

I have a battery operated bedside alarm clock in retro style where the alarm stopped working (ironically the day before I stopped working) – so after the success with the fridge I went to see the clock man in town to enquire about a repair.  Unfortunately, I was told it was a sealed unit made as non-repairable, so nothing they could do.  I came home disappointed – so with nothing to lose DH unscrewed the back off the clock to find there is in fact a sealed electronic unit inside.  He just jiggled any accessible components about a bit and then screwed the back plate on again and what do you know it is working again.  Cost – nothing.

Mending

I have a flannelette pillowcase we use at the caravan, part of our cosy winter set, and as I was ironing it I noticed a small hole had appeared in the weave.  A small amount of Stayflex (a fabric Vylene) ironed onto the back should stop it getting any bigger and make it last longer. Cost – just my time.

Like most of you we have a lot of electrical items that need maintaining to keep them in good order and working well – it is a task that is very much neglected but one I am going to pay more attention to as it should keep them running longer and in some cases more efficiently and most of all reduce the need to replace.

I made a list of all the things this applies to and will work my way down.  First on the list I gave my iron a good self-clean to flush all the build up of limescale out and stop it landing on my clothes as I iron.  I was surprised how easy it was to do although it took me several goes until the black specks stopped coming out as it must be over 18 months since I did it if not longer.  I also cleaned the stainless steel sole plate with a tube of special cleaner and an old towel (I never have non-stick plates – I always find they do stick!).  So now it gleams and glides and I intend to put it on my monthly task list so it will be a much quicker job next time.

Reduce

Yesterday we took 4 bags of clothes, shoes, and handbags to a local charity shop so my wardrobe is looking so much sleeker now and holds no clothes  that itch or fidget me, do not fit well, do not make me feel good or are well past their best.  I still have my mother of the bride outfits to deal with but other than that it is a great feeling each morning to go to my wardrobe and know that whatever I choose will be things that I want to wear and feel good to wear even my gardening clothes.

I have also made a start on reducing my box of blank card stock.  I had little time this week so only did some quite basic stamping. 

After a bit of playing about with ideas I settled on this cute little bird card using a box of french DJECO stamps my daughter bought me.  I thought about colouring the birds but I quite liked the bold black and white.

I know my friend likes hand-made cards and also anything made of wood.  We only buy small gifts for each other so when I saw this lovely hand carved wooden bookmark in Scotland it was the perfect present.  I added a box of luxury chocolate Raisin and Hazelnut biscuits by Elizabeth Shaw (they were reduced to £1 in Sainsbury’s shhh don’t tell).

Repurpose

This is perhaps a harder challenge than the others finding a new use for something you no longer want but with a bit of sideways thinking it is possible.

I have a set of herb and spice jars with chrome lids that I bought a few years ago from Habitat.  Unfortunately the plastic jar reacts badly with the spices over time (not so much the herbs) and leaves a coating that is like a crust on the inside of the jar that cannot be cleaned off.  So gradually I am replacing them with glass ones from the Sainsbury’s new herb and spices range.

I have had to bin most of the old spice jars but one or two that had herbs in are OK and had been put in the charity pile.  I was looking around the house the other day for a container to hold a few cotton buds that I can leave at the caravan and spotted the empty herb jars on the pile…………result a perfect fit and looks quite stylish. repurpose

A busy week so far but I am getting into a routine at last,  keeping up with the finances and laundry and doing a bit of ‘stuff’ clearing each day.

DH has been making progress on the clear up outside now that the rendering is complete and refreshing the stain on the windows (ours are wooden – environmentally sound but they do need lots of maintenance).

His next task is to dig out and lay new concrete to extend the old concrete base by a couple of feet so that it will accommodate the new longer shed.  This is the side that had all the trouble with water getting in but seems bone dry and water tight now it has been rendered and repointed.

I spent most of the day on Wednesday in the front garden which looks much better – it was rather neglected this year.  The shrubs are a bit on the big side and need a good prune next year but I managed to weed and dig over the borders ready to put in the new bulbs I have bought – but guess what it has rained each day since.

Have a lovely weekend. x