crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting, sEAsons

sEAsons…Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Well here we are the day before Christmas Eve and on the last leg to the finishing post –  I feel like I am taking part in one of those wind up santa races that you find in a box of crackers, and going off course from time to time in the same way.

Today I have been baking, making, wrapping and packing.

I have a few bits and pieces to take with me to our daughters – a quiche for Boxing Day, some surprise Lemon Curd (I am surprised I actually got to make it this morning!), the new Christmas Monopoly and one or two books for any quiet moments – with a 3-year-old (who am I kidding!)..

I am a big fan of Miss Read and I shall settle down to reread my very battered copy of Miss Clare Remembers, an all time favourite.

I have had some great moments this month but it has been hard work too and I have many ‘notes to self’ to take heed of next year – one of them being to sort out OH’s presents sooner and the other to let some things go.

When we were invited round to our new neighbours for a Cheese and wine evening recently (with our next door but one neighbours that we are already good friends with) I asked if we should bring anything – ‘just bring yourselves’ they said.

I should have taken notice.

But me being me I spent the afternoon making some of my home-made chocolates to take that I usually make for our neighbour get togethers, and gave each of them one of my home-made cards.  Of course they were all delighted and remarked that they didn’t know where I found the time –  and then realised why I am always pushed for time!

But I do love to make things.

So before I go here is the idea I had for my Christmas decoration instead of a wreath – I used the chicken wire cones I made for my daughter’s wedding that we hung on the gateposts of the church and the old gate at the rear entrance filled with Hydrangeas from our cottage garden.

 I thought they might be nice filled with winter foliage so I gathered some moss from the garden (there is plenty with all this damp weather) and packed out the sides of the cones leaving room for the ‘hidden’ jam jar sunk into the centre where I place the stems.  As you can see I am no flower arranger but I like the casual look.  I could have hung it on the door but I quite like it hung on the contrasting paler brickwork as our door is dark brown.

All that is left now is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.

It would be nice if it snowed now to make it a good old White Christmas but I think the most we are going to get is a bit of frost!

I have enjoyed reading along with everyone’s blogs this year – the general ups and downs of everyday life – and I am looking forward to joining you again throughout 2018  – so Happy New Year too (if I don’t get back here before then) xx

 

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crEAting, drEAming, fEAsting

sEAsons…and since we’ve no place to go

Finally I get to sit down and write.

The whole of December has been far too hectic this year, I am not sure why as I did not plan it to be quite so mad.

We closed the front door last night after saying goodbye to our final pre-Christmas visitors who had joined us for a festive drink and a few nibbles and it felt really good to wake up this morning and not be preparing for something or going anywhere – not even work as I have finished now until the New Year. Yeah.

I pottered around this morning doing the last of the washing and ironing, putting the tags and finishing touches on to the wrapped presents, even taking a few photos for my blog.

Gift wrap

After an early lunch we walked down to the village, dropping off a present or two for friends on the way, and collecting a sprig of eucalyptus and Hypericum berries from the local florist for my front door decoration.

The Flower Box

I decided against making a conventional wreath this year and have done something completely different to hang by the door, but you will have to wait until tomorrow for a photo.

It has been a lovely relaxing day and I have been able to sit back and savour Christmas.

Christmas china

mantelpiece

Nativity

Christmas tree

Christmas tree

The Christmas tree is adorned with mostly vintage baubles going back to the fifties, maybe even earlier, I love the fact that they have been part of our family and displayed on many trees down the generations.  Of course our usual tiny twinkly fairy lights failed this year when we got them on the tree so we had to scramble around and make do with some older ones that used to go outside.

I even attempted making my own Christmas card – I only had a couple of hours to come up with a design and make them so it had to be very simple – it turned out to be a bit of a disaster as you can see but I have included a photo of it here because I like to keep a true record – even of my failures!  My friends who have received them won’t mind – I know I always love to receive home-made cards.

Christmas card 2017

Christmas card 2017

 

Anyway to fill you in on the rest of my Christmas so far… last weekend was spent with much joviality at our family gathering on Sunday at the Black Swan in Fearby by courtesy of the owner – my daughter’s boss.

We had our best Santa hats and jumpers on, plenty of fun and games and our musical interlude…

and quite a few selfies.

Christmas Selfie

I have mentioned before that OH and I have been busy producing a Family Album photo book for my mum and it arrived just in time from the printers to give it to her on Sunday whilst all the family were in one place.  There are over 400 photos in the book covering almost 9 decades from when my mum and dad were children, through to their wedding and our appearance.  There were plenty of family holiday snaps, family weddings and christenings, first cars, Christmas get-togethers and of course many memories of our dear dad, in fact everyone who is connected to our family is in it.

This is the moment we surprised her in a true ‘This is your Life’ style…

Photo Book

Mum was so pleased she shed a tear or two and then at the end of the evening stood up and made a lovely little speech to thank us all and tell us how much these family gatherings mean to her.  In jest someone handed her the selfie frame and here she is holding it while she delivered her thank you speech.  I think this could start a new trend for the Queen’s speech.

Speech

At this same event we were also celebrating my younger daughter and niece’s birthdays and I made them a chocolate cake to share.

I bought some of those candles that spell ‘Happy Birthday’ in silver and gold to go on top but instead of putting them on the cake I wrapped each letter in random order between the layers of the pass the parcel together with a ‘Trivia’ type question and a Celebration sweet.

Chocolate Cake

When the music stopped and a layer unwrapped to reveal another candle letter they had to stick into the cake.  When the pass the parcel finished all the letters were in the cake and ready to be lit…however not necessarily in the right order!!  But it was good fun.

Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday

After all the hard work I have put in to making Christmas so far I decided I needed a bit of a treat – Neal’s Yard have opened a new shop in Meadowhall – absolute joy for me as I love their Frankincense Intense concentrated serum.  So appropriate for the season – I can certainly feel the love and the assistant dropped a couple of free sachets into the carrier bag – I will skip the price on this one – you can guess it is not cheap.

Neal's yard

The golden pear was something I spotted whilst rushing through Next with my mum on her shopping bonanza – £2 for a bit of Christmas sparkle.

I was also lucky enough to find a copy of L’art de la Simplicite – How to live more with less – a book I read a while ago from the library and decided that it is one to keep should I find it – not only did I find it but it was free at Waterstones with my reward stamps.

So I am truly a happy bunny.

I will be posting one more time before the big day but I would like to say a big happy Christmas to all my readers and to all the other bloggers and friends whose blogs have kept me entertained all year.  I apologise for my lack of comments in the last couple of weeks – I have been reading along with everyone’s Christmas preparations but it has been so difficult to comment on everyone I read.

Thank you also to Simone at Linden Grove for the lovely card I received this morning – what a wonderful surprise – I promise I will be writing to you soon – just be thankful I didn’t send you one of my dreadful home-made cards!!

baking, fEAsting, recipes

fEAsting…baking cookies and comfort food

The aroma coming from my kitchen was gorgeous today after an afternoon of baking.  I wanted to try a new cookie recipe I cut out of a magazine and I wasn’t disappointed they are so yummy, just right with a cup of tea – if you like nuts and chocolate then I can certainly recommend them – the recipe is below.  I had to make a few slight changes to use ingredients I had in my cupboard in place of ones I didn’t have but I don’t think it has affected the taste or texture in any way.

 

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

75g (3oz) butter, softened

125g (4 1/2oz) plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g (2oz) light brown soft sugar  – (I used dark brown as it is all I had in the cupboard)

50g (2oz) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract – (I only put 3 drops in)

1 large egg – (I used a medium egg and there was plenty of liquid)

50g (2oz) hazelnuts, chopped – (I used an organic chopped nut mix by Crazy Jack from Sainsbury’s – almonds, cashew and hazelnuts)

100g (31/2) plain chocolate, roughly chopped – (I used dark chocolate chips and a chopped up left over fun sized fudge bar)

 

Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets (I put a layer of greaseproof on mine brushed with a little oil)

Combine the butter, flour, bi-carb, sugar and vanilla extract in a food processor and blend for a few seconds.

Add the egg, blend briefly, and then stir in the nuts and chocolate.

Place 9 teaspoonfuls of cookie mixture on each baking sheet making sure they are well spaced.  Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until golden brown then leave to cool on the baking sheets.

Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Comfort food

Whilst the oven was on I put in some jacket potatoes to be baking for supper and we had these with a mixed vegetable bake in a cheese sauce sprinkled with parmesan and breadcrumbs for a crispy topping, followed by an apple crumble.  This is one of my favourite suppers for this time of year – definitely comfort food and we can settle down to a bit of ‘telly’ afterwards.

 

 

baking, fEAsting, recipes

fEAsting…gathering ingredients

I am starting to feel a sense of urgency now October is over as if I am suddenly hurtling towards Christmas and I need to get a move on as I know in my head that I have far more to do than I will have time to do it in.

In the past I have always had a rule that we would never decorate beyond the end of October after finding ourselves once or twice still decorating on Christmas Eve to finish a room (ah we were young and foolish) but now we are just old and foolish and what are we doing – still decorating –  but I need to get the guest room done no matter what so that we can buy the bed and my mum can come to stay before Christmas.

Decorating aside, I thought it would be a good idea to start checking over the store cupboards and stock up on ingredients for THE cake (you know the one I am referring to), the Nut loaf and any other baking I might do for gifts.  So with list in hand I went to town on Saturday to my favourite little whole food shop that I buy from as it is the only place I can find organic short grain brown rice for puddings, organic lemon juice and organic currants, raisins and sultanas for the Christmas cake – I find each year that currants are so hard to get hold of, maybe some recipes don’t use them.  My recipe has equal amounts of currants, raisins and sultanas – I use the same recipe each year and it is totally organic and totally yummy (despite my attempts to burn it!).

I know for all you ‘frugaliers’ out there that organic is more expensive but I made this commitment years ago to support natural farming (otherwise known as environmentally sustainable way of growing food) and I am well prepared to pay the price and cut back in other ways.  Baking ingredients are not cheap even in the supermarkets, I noticed how much the dried apricots have risen in price, I always get the non-sulphured variety – the ones that look more like wrinkly dried brown prunes – I cut these up into small pieces to put in the cake in place of candied peel which we are none too keen on but even if we did like it I would still prefer to use the apricots as I think they keep the cake moist and add to the flavour.

I always look forward to making the cake and even more to eating it but at the moment I am just gathering ingredients so they will be ready when I am.  I don’t usually make it until the last weekend in November, it seems too early at the moment – I am holding off getting too involved in doing things just for Christmas as I do not want it to take over my life so much that I don’t even notice November – so to start with I have plans to do a bit of general baking to try out one or two new recipes I have torn from the stack of magazines I decluttered.

I found a recipe for Toffee Apple Flapjacks and also on my list is Chocolate Hazelnut cookies – I have stopped buying biscuits recently so OH will be pleased to see the biscuit jar with something inside it for a change.

As we have an overabundance of cooking apples again this year in the freezer I will be using some up in a well-tried and tested recipe for Apple Cake, that uses stewed apple rather than chunks, from my Good Housekeeping Basic Cookery book.  This was one of the best wedding presents we received when we married in 1976 and I still use many of the recipes today – as you can see from the title it was the revised version which included metric weights (I hate to say I still use the ounces!).  I’ll post the recipe and photos later this week, however, you will have to take my word that it tastes just heavenly.

Of course the book cover is anything but vegetarian but I love the old-fashioned basic recipes it is a bit like using an old much loved Bero book.

Have a great week x

 

cleaning, drEAming, fEAsting, general chit chat, nEAtening, rEArranging

good wine, good food, good company and a good clean up…

As you may have noticed there has been a short break in transmission recently – for no other reason than I have been a little busy.  We had friends round for supper the weekend before last and of course that generated a bit of a mad tidy up downstairs. Actually it was more than a tidy up and I was quite shocked at the number of cobwebs I found hiding in corners, it must have been longer than I thought since I last had a good clean.

We managed to get the boxes of Ikea wardrobes out of the living room (they had been there since earlier in the year) and up to the new bedroom and at last they have been assembled and put in place – but more on that in a future post when the ‘new’ room will be revealed.

Whilst giving the living room a thorough clean I not only vacuumed all the books but decluttered all the cupboards, shelves and knick-knacks.

We don’t have a lot of DVD’s as we have little time for watching them but we did have one or two that we once bought for £1 or so and won’t watch again so into the charity bag along with one or two CD’s that have over stayed their welcome.  I am aiming to keep only those items that I feel earn their keep – or in Kondo terms the ones that spark joy.

Our DVD collection is probably less than 20 films and the ones that remain are all those that I will watch again and again from time to time.  Amongst the keepers are the feel good films – Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice, the funny films – Mr Hulots Holiday and Playtime by Jaques Tatti – and the thriller ones (well as thrilled as I am prepared to be) – Premonition and Before I go to Sleep and not forgetting my favourite box sets – The Good Life and Darling Buds of May.

Whilst sorting through the pile I came across this DVD with Doris Day and have put it to one side to watch one evening as I really cannot remember if I have seen it or not but it looks like a bit of light entertainment for a cosy Friday evening.

 

Anyway back to the cleaning – I have a lot of glassware in the living room – I am not sure why I am attracted to glassware but it is always useful for holding things such as shells…

 

 

and pebbles from the beach…

 

and ‘arty’ creations made by one of my daughters at Art College …this is a small square of glass with interesting textures and colours and I have slotted it into this vase as a means of displaying it…

 

and the latest addition to my collection (a gift for my birthday) are these two vases, also bookends and perfect for displaying my favourite books.  I just love them – the books and the vases – one side has my tiny shell collection from Lady Bay near our cottage and the other I will fill with a stem or two of flowers from the garden.

I wash the glassware in hot soapy water and then dry and polish until gleaming – it instantly makes a room look cleaner.

By the time I had finished the whole room looked and felt so much fresher and neater and I was quite pleased at the transformation.

At the end of the first day I had managed to fill a bag with bits and pieces for the charity shop.

The next day I was up early and started on the kitchen and dining room – not as thorough a clean this time but passable.  I left just enough time to make myself presentable, lay the table and start on the supper before my friends arrived at a quarter to eight.

We were not eating until 8.30 and I had decided to keep the buffet supper fairly simple due to a shortage of time –  the choice was between a homemade feast in a dirty house or a simple ready-made affair in a clean one!

I baked some small new potatoes in the oven which I simply served topped with butter and heated through a selection of buffet style food of pulled pork pasties, greek filo spinach and ricotta parcels and Higgedy veggie rolls  – added a mixed side salad, a few tomatoes and a dish of beetroot.

For afters we had a selection of cheeses and chutney with crackers and finished off with profiteroles and cream.

After all this food on the Saturday evening I had a light breakfast on Sunday morning just yoghurt and fruit – not that I ever have a cooked breakfast anyway but I did skip my usual bowl of Muesli.

 

It was so nice to get up to a tidy house – it is well worth asking friends round to get things done!

 

celebrations, drEAming, fEAsting, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about

on safari…

How lucky were we today with the weather.

We had arranged to meet at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster to celebrate Little L’s third birthday (which is actually Tuesday) and of course my elder daughter and partner’s 1st Wedding Anniversary with as many of the family that could make it – my sister, hubby and daughter, my brother and mum, younger daughter and her partner – twelve of us in all – I think.

If you remember a year ago our elder daughter was married in Scotland near to our cottage on the Castle Kennedy estate where her granddad was once head gardener.  We had a lovely sunny day then and it stayed fine for us today –

Castle Kennedy Gardens

see more pictures here.

I cannot believe it is a year since we were celebrating their marriage and putting on such a big event – at least todays event was more manageable once we had all the family in one place!

We eventually found each other in the Lion car park (thank goodness for mobiles – though I mistakenly rang my sister-in-laws number instead of my brothers – she is in Spain – costly mistake!) and headed for the picnic area taking up 3 picnic tables to have our lunch.  Of course isn’t it always the case that everyone else’s picnic always looks inviting!  My brother had taken a full Sunday lunch for himself (not a roast but an individual Quiche with new potatoes and salad) his cool bag was larger than anyones!

 

We had all the trimmings as one should for a little girls 3rd birthday with a wild life theme – a pretty flamingo dress, raspberry jelly, a jungle table-cloth, animal paper hats, animal paper plates,

pink flamingo straws,

a monkey and

a monkey chocolate cake with 3 candles.

Given the windy conditions it is a miracle we ever got them alight!

With my family it is difficult snapping a photo of us all together at one time so as usual some of us are missing on this photo and so are the paper hats that everyone was made to wear!

After lunch we followed the trail around the park to see the Leemar…

Tigers…

and my favourites – the Giraffes…

 

 

Finally a much needed cup of tea in the Masai cafe to revive our feet and a final wave goodbye to the animals.

And all too soon the end of a perfect day (isn’t life just so exciting when you are only 3!) – after a quick head count to make sure that no-one had been left behind or eaten by a wild animal and a few Polaroid selfie shots with all the family this time – elder daughter and partner then drove off into the sunset to spend their anniversary night in a more romantic setting of a hotel in the dales – needless to say the family will not be joining them – though I did suggest it LOL!

 

decorating, drEAming, fEAsting, food shopping, general chit chat, homestEAding

the end of another day…

What a lovely day today after all the rain we have had recently.  My peonies are blooming at last and the garden is looking more colourful again now with the summer flowers appearing – there has been a bit of a gap lately between the spring flowers fading and the summer ones coming out.

I decided not to work tomorrow – Thursday is a bit of a flexi day at the moment until I can cut it out all together and leave my new team to get on with it by themselves, but presently they still need my input to keep on top of the workload with year-end now only 2 weeks away and the promise of reaching a higher target than last year and therefore a higher bonus is well in reach.

So I have opted to go in on Saturday instead – mainly because I want to make the best of the good weather and perhaps have a couple of hours in the garden tomorrow and to be honest I feel like I have exhausted myself this week and that I would be dragging myself in to work if I went in.  I will get twice as much work done with no one about on Saturday – there will be no interruptions and my brain will concentrate more in the quiet.

On the home front what can I say but the new fascia boards and soffits look very new  – but also quite streamlined – we have a fairly modern house only 30 years old – so it has improved the appearance to get rid of the rotting wooden barge boards.  We have had the ridge tiles re-pointed and an outlet put in the roof for the fan that removes the steam from the newly refurbished bathroom so now I can have a bath at long last – I am looking forward to that.

Next week it is the turn of the window people who will come and renew the double glazing units in the older of the windows we have – then the builder will return to do the re-pointing.  Meanwhile the indoor decorating continues alongside with hubby putting primer on the staircase in the bedroom – no going back now!

After work I did the weekly shop at Sainsbury’s.  Even I was shocked at the amount at the checkout – prices are certainly rising and unfortunately I have been so short of time to sit and write menus or look for bargains.

I bought a can of Brasso to clean up some copper rings I found in the shed and the little brass mister spray.  I should have known better and perhaps have waited to look in Wilkos or even a pound shop for a cheaper can but I have not really had a lunch hour this week to pop to the shops and I didn’t want an extra trip into town on my days off or to pay for parking –  that would defeat the object of getting a bargain!

When I finally got home and was fed and watered I rang my mum who lives up in North Yorkshire.  Unusually she was not in and I could not think where she might be – so how handy is Facebook – I put out a message ‘Has anyone seen Grandma?’ and within minutes I had a message back from my niece to say she was out shopping with them!

Tonight I have had a little catch up in blogland, relaxing with my cup of cocoa and pondering on the world.  Waking up today to the news of the latest tragedy of the London fire was shocking and has been uppermost in most people’s thoughts and conversations, another sad loss of life but even more stories emerging of people of all race, colour and creed pulling together and helping one another with offers of accomodation and donations of food, clothes and money  – such a staggering amount collected in such a short time.

Well enough of my witterings…bedtime beckons.