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

 

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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…day 16

A little of my favourite music while you read this…

Hathersage HathersageDay 16 – Sunday – we woke up to an unexpectedly bright and sunny day here – we really had plenty of jobs to do; my Advent task was to make some tiny mince pies to take in for the girls at my old workplace sometime during the week, but instead we left all that at home and drove down into Derbyshire for a bit of a break and the mince pies would just have to wait.  Of course we had been the weekend before with my mum but it was difficult to really do very much or spend any time looking around the shops and there was a couple of gifts I needed to sort out and I knew just the places for some inspiration.

We packed the usual picnic and set off – this time we drove up high above Hathersage to sit and eat our lunch in the car whilst admiring the stunning view – just us and the sheep.  Bliss.

Then on to the David Mellor cutlery factory just outside of Hathersage where they have a shop with the most beautiful (and expensive) kitchen and tableware.  As well as the unusual round building that houses the cutlery factory there is also the museum where you can see all his wonderful design pieces.  Like me he was born in Sheffield and was well-known for his metal work specialising in cutlery.  If I ever had enough money to splash out I would buy a set of his original Pride silver plate cutlery with the white ivory coloured knife handles only £136 per place setting of 6 pieces and the cute little Embassy sterling silver toast rack only £750.  Of course I have made sure DH knows of my desire to own these should he ever find himself with a little spare cash.

David Mellor is also famous for his industrial design of a few recognisable pieces of metal work that you will no doubt see everyday.  Here are a few of them laid out in his outdoor museum in front of the shop.David Mellor designs Sadly he died in 2009 but the work he has left behind still stands the test of time. If you want to see and read more click-through here.

Even though we cannot afford most of his products I just love to browse around the shop, especially as it is all displayed like a piece of artwork.  This is actually the window display from last year which I preferred to this year’s snowman.David MellorAs you might expect the shop only stocks quality linen tea towels and amongst them I found these old-fashioned oven gloves which I bought as they were only £6 – I have been searching for ages to replace mine as they have developed a hole from overuse –  I like them to be quite soft and flexible as I do not get on well with those quilted stiff ones.  These passed the test for flexibility.Oven glovesOn our way to Bakewell we stopped off at the pretty little village of Baslow.  There are a couple of independent shops selling gifts and plants and vintage finds.  In the vintage flower shop we came across a round zinc tub perfect for holding our Christmas tree and at a very reasonable price (photo later when I take one of the finished tree).  We then stopped briefly at the Derbyshire Craft centre looking for a small gift that would be light enough to post, but nothing really fit the bill.

By the time we reached Bakewell most of the shops were closing and it was going dark but it was the best time to have a walk around, see the lights and soak up the Christmas atmosphere – everywhere has that old-fashioned Christmas card feel – streets lined with little stone cottages adorned with wreaths and pretty decorations and curtains left open inviting you to peep inside; all that was lacking was a sprinkling of snow.Bakewell - OldBakewell Nativity The huge Nativity scene outside the church on the hill is certainly something to see – we climbed up through the grave yard to capture this photo – I wasn’t sure it would come out very well but it has.

There is another Nativity scene in a little glass case in the gardens down in the town centre just at the right height for children to be able to see inside easily and it brought back memories of when I was a child and would run up to similar display cases pressing my nose up against the cold glass for a better look.  Bakewell NativityWe had a ‘perfick’ day – I do love doing something impulsive from time to time just as the mood takes us and we chose a good day to do it  – and I did manage to fit in the mince pies the following day – photos tomorrow. x

 

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 5-12

Hello everyone, I know it has been a while, unintentionally of course, and thank you for asking after me – I didn’t mean to raise any concern from my lack of posts – life just gets in the way sometimes and having my mum to look after for a few days took all my time and energy.

As I knew mum was coming to stay whilst my sister went on a short holiday I centered days 5 to 10 of my Advent activities around the visit.  She will be 93 in January and I was a bit concerned this time at the change in her and what she is able to do, or should I say what she is not able to do.  She has acquired a few new ailments, a swollen knee and swollen foot, added to her ‘dodgy’ hip that is painful in cold weather (she was knocked down by a five-year old who ran into her from behind with his scooter in the shopping precinct and knocked her to the floor last year – she fell on her hip and although she was lucky and did not break anything she has suffered from a bad hip ever since).  So walking has become difficult.

But my mum is a determined lady and likes to be out and about even at a hobble so we spent Friday shopping in our local town of Huddersfield, followed by tea at Compo’s fish and chip restaurant with my brother – I have the Broccoli and Cheese bake – they have the pensioner’s fish supper.TissingtonOn the Saturday the Advent activity was our traditional annual visit to Tissington in Derbyshire for lunch at Herbert’s Tea Rooms and a browse around the tiny gift shop in the village.  It was heavy rain and with mum’s inability to walk far we skipped the usual walk around the village which we love to do and moved on by car to Ashbourne.  Mum managed a few shops and the little Waitrose and then we came home for tea.

Sunday was much brighter, we hastily packed a picnic of homemade tomato soup, cheese and beetroot sandwiches and Higgedy’s Cheese and chutney sausage rolls. Picnic We ate our little feast in the car parked high above Abney in Derbyshire and watched the hang gliders taking off over Great Hucklow.  Afterwards we visited more of mum’s favourite places – Pilsley farm shop and the Derbyshire Craft Centre.

We had a lovely day and once back home my daughter and SIL joined us for tea and a chat.  It was the perfect time to fulfill day nine’s activity which was to cosy down in the evening with a hot chocolate and watch a Christmas film.  A good laugh did mum the world of good as her lack of mobility has been making her feel upset and frustrated.

On the Monday we took mum home to North Yorkshire and then called at our younger daughter’s house to see Little L and Sweetie.  We were out much longer than planned so the advent activity for this day was abandoned as was the following day mainly due to me being so tired after looking after mum and all the travelling up and down – I just needed some time to get the house straight and my brain back into gear.

Day 12 – I was super excited on Wednesday knowing the Advent activity was our trip to see the Winter Light Festival at Dunham Massey (a National Trust property in Cheshire) with two of our lovely friends.  We were picked up at 3pm for our timed tour at 5pm.  Everything went exceptionally smoothly and although the roads were busy thankfully, we had no hold ups and parked easily.Dunham Massey at Christmas Nutcracker Soldier Dunham Massey at ChristmasThe lights which are accompanied by music were quite spectacular – some are activated by and keep time with the music and were pretty amazing – we followed the trail around; each section just as breathtaking as the last. (Did you spot the picture just for you Sadie if you are reading this!) Dunham Massey at Christmas Dunham Massey at Christmas Dunham Massey at ChristmasDunham Massey at ChristmasSo it has been a few hectic days and I am now having a quieter time of reflection.  Mum is becoming increasingly high maintenance now when she visits and needs a lot more attention to help her do all those little things that she would have done herself at one time – it can be a bit exhausting.  On the other hand though how lucky am I to still have my mum around and that she is still able to look after herself in her little apartment with a little help from my sister.  But I do fear for the future and how she will continue to cope.

During these last few days it was also the anniversary of when my dearest  friend and colleague Helen passed away. I made two tiny posies – one to give to her mum and one for her two daughters in remembrance of Helen.  I just quietly leave them on the doorstep – it is just a little something to let them know we are thinking of them.

Again it made me think of how lucky I am to see my two daughters and granddaughters growing up and that we can be together at Christmas time.  So although I am tired at the moment beyond belief I am certainly counting my blessings.

Must go now I have 25 robins drying in my craft room and needing my attention before bed.

I have a bit of catching up to do in blog land and I will be back and commenting in the next few days and hopefully posting pictures of my Advent crafting. xx

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…day 2

Today my Advent card reads…

‘fill the house with the scent of Christmas and make pomanders and dried fruit slices’

At home I would do these in the oven to savour the wonderful smell it produces but here in the caravan to save on the gas I used the microwave to dry out the slices and I wasn’t sure if it would work. I stuck a few cloves into the end slices and the smell was really nice.  I wasn’t very impressed with this microwave method – one or two of them scorched a bit but this won’t be that noticeable when the colour darkens with age.  I will take them back home and put them in the airing cupboard for a while.  I decided not to continue with them here and wait until I get home and can use my oven.

As promised in my last post a few pictures from the Stranraer Christmas parade and switching on of lights.  The town has a population of about 13,000 and is around 70 miles from the larger towns of Dumfries and Ayr so the people here have to provide a lot of their own entertainment and they do it so well.  There are few national chain shops – a recent but small New Look, Argos and Peacocks and a WH Smiths, Boots, Superdrug, Mac & Co and a Subway; the rest are all little privately run businesses.

Most of the outlying community had come into town eager to see this event – the cafes were full and the shops very busy.  Eventually you could hear the distant pipes as the procession arrived in the town centre… …with the Three Wise Men on camels who were awesome (as Sybil would say) though it was hard to get a good photo without all the police escorts and minders getting in the way of taking pictures. They were like big cuddly teddy bears and didn’t seem the least bit phased by the noisy crowd, the bagpipes and the loud speakers on the castle belting out Christmas music; and were very amenable to the children stroking them.

Santa made an appearance too in his chimney …As it is quite a small town the parade circulated a couple of times and as it became dark everyone gathered in the square by St John’s castle (which had become Santa’s grotto for the day) for the countdown to the switching on of the lights by the winner of the Primary Schools competition.  There was such a sense of excitement in the air.Once the lights came on a big cheer went up and it was quite spectacular but not something easily caught on camera.  It felt so nice to be part of this community spirit here. All the shop windows around the town have been dressed with a Christmas theme and lit up too – it was a wonderful sight that you don’t see very much now on most high streets (well not in Huddersfield) since the national chain shops seem to have taken over and don’t really go in for window dressing in this way;  but up here in Stranraer the majority of shops are mainly small family concerns and whether they are bakers or hairdressers they all join in to make their little town look delightful.  Here is a quick tour of the shop displays and haven’t they done well.

…even the man at the antique shop has done a lovely old-fashioned display…

…and this one with the Nutcracker soldier is for Sadie if you are reading this!

Tomorrow we will be travelling down home again – it has been a very mixed emotional time for us this visit – I think for once I might be glad to be home for a while.  I may have to delay tomorrow’s post until Tuesday – but I already know that my Advent activity for day 3 is a very simple one.

crEAting Christmas…Day 1

I flipped my first Advent card over today – the activity read:-

‘a walk along the beach looking for treasure to bring home ‘

Knowing we would be in Scotland today one of the things I love to do at this time of year is to walk along the beach.  I am drawn to the shore during these winter months when it is rather grey and bleak looking it has a natural wild beauty of its own and I look forward to finding all those small treasures amongst the pebbles and rocks to bring home; pieces of sea weathered glass, shells and bits of driftwood – this was a perfect Advent activity for day one.

But not today – in fact the very reason I love going down on the beach at this time of year suddenly feels rather foreboding due to the sad, sad incident that has happened here and you will understand why I am not going to fulfil this Advent task at the moment.

I think you will all have heard on the news by now that the two bodies of the missing couple have been found washed up on the shore across the bay at Port William early this morning (which must be close on 15 miles across the water) and our little beach here, where the incident happened, is no place to be at the moment.  It has been a very subdued empty place apart from the Coastguard team  – not even a dog walker has put a foot on there even though it has not been closed off to the public it just hasn’t felt right to go down there – it would seem an intrusion.  The whole village (a small population of just over 300) is extremely shocked but as a community will pull together to help the family and friends of the couple that died in any way they can.

So I had to improvise slightly today and we went into Stranraer (our nearest town) for the afternoon to join in watching the parade with the camels and see the switching on of the lights.  When we planned to come up here I hadn’t realised it was the switching on of the lights and we had not seen it before but it was a lovely place to be – the sense of community here is so special it made a lovely first day of Christmas and I will post about this tomorrow with pictures.

Tonight my thoughts are with the Kenneavy family and their tragic loss. 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

 

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

 

 

 

fEAsible…plans for October

October

October –  the beginning of the fourth and final quarter of the year.  So much colour and texture about this month and I had great fun foraging about in the hedgerows collecting foliage.

For me it is a bit of the lull before the storm, the storm being the ‘frenzy’ that sets in around November with the countdown to Christmas.  I want to make the most of this month to prepare for the ‘frenzy’ or at least try to keep the frenzy at bay by putting plans in place early.

Like most people now I am drawing the blinds and curtains early against the darker evenings and struggling with the darker mornings but at least I can look forward to some cosy evenings watching one or two of the new Autumn dramas on TV and a black and white film or two on the Talking Pictures channel.

As the garden will be demanding less and less of my attention once the tidying up is done I am going to use my time indoors to carry on with the major decluttering and creating a better run, more spacious household.

I will be pulling out a few new seasonal recipes to try, and hopefully finding lots of inspiration and ideas to fill both my sketchbook and Christmas notebook, and planning, planning, planning.

It is only 31 days so I will have to work fast on my intentions for this month as there is so much I would like to do. This is the list:-

appEArance

I have been so busy during the summer I feel I have neglected myself . So I have booked a reflexology session and back massage with a voucher I have been given,  a hair appointment and I will treat myself to a DIY home facial, pedicure and manicure

Put the finishing touches to my new streamlined winter wardrobe.

crEAting

Now I am no longer working I want to use some of my new-found time filling my sketchbook with ideas and drawings and creating a lino cut for my Christmas card as well as making my Christmas gifts

mEAandering

The Artists book fair in Manchester is back at a new venue – a brilliant event.

I also intend getting out and about locally exploring nearby places closer to home

fEAsting

Meal planning using seasonal vegetables and trying some new supper recipes.  Baking with the last of our home grown apples and buying the ingredients for my Christmas cake in readiness for next month

homestEAd

completing the house exterior, putting new shed in place and planting bulbs

rEAarranging and nEAtening

decluttering the kitchen – the final touches

recycle, reuse, reduce, recover, repair

trEAsury

Dealing with the limited cash flow, maintaining plenty of no spend days and finding free events and outings

managEAble

Starting a new notebook specifically for my Xmas plans and ideas

(thanks to Slamseys Journal for the idea of using the foliage I had collected for my October picture).

 

 

 

 

 

fEAsible…September review

Well September seemed a short month I cannot believe it is over so quickly.  I set my intentions at the beginning of the month – (I find it helps to make a list of what I would like to do in the coming month) – not everything gets done and I don’t always do what I intended – the review helps me to realise that I did actually do something!

sEAsons

As summer moved briskly into autumn it was time to switch over my clothes.  I carefully laundered and packed away the lightweight garments for next year discarding anything that was very worn or in some cases hardly worn at all because they were those inevitable mistake purchases.

I completely emptied and cleaned out the wardrobe and drawers to reorganise the space.   A lot of old favourites put back out on the rail and a few more items relegated to the charity bag – the mistakes from last year!

The finished result is so much better – filled with nice warm snuggly clothes to see me through the winter season – a much simplified collection with space to breathe.  One or two items are still held in that state of temporary pondering whether they stay or go.

homestEAd

Do you have projects  that just seem to rumble on and on  – dealing with the exterior of our house has been one of them and it has taken up most of this year but at last I think we are looking at being watertight this winter.  The rendering of the top half of our house was quite a major job and although the men worked hard and have done a good job there was such a lot of tidying up to do, much more than we anticipated.  The pebble gravel round the house needs taking up, cleaning and putting back down again to get rid of the bits of render that fell into it despite the protective sheet the contractor put down.

Before our trip to Scotland DH was busy washing down the remaining brickwork beneath to remove the tiny splashes of render and re-staining all the windows.  Then he put back the burglar alarm and outside light.  The shed is on order at last, as space is a bit restricted we cannot have one more than 4 feet wide but we have ordered one that is an extra foot long – seven feet instead of the usual six.  It is only an extra foot but sometimes that can make all the difference.

Once the gravel is cleaned the shed should be ready for delivery and by then the compost bins will be back in place (I have so much missed using my compost bins).  All that is left on the exterior list then is to get a new front door and garage door and hire a contractor to redo the driveway.

Then the outside of our house will have had a complete makeover.

mEAndering

I could have spent the whole of September meandering – so many events to choose from and by chance we happened to be in Scotland for the Wigtown Book Fair (post about this to come) some very creative artists on show at the fringe events and an exhibition of miniature books.

Over the Heritage weekend we visited the little chapel in Matlock Dale (you can read about it here) – one of the best days, we really enjoyed it and especially finding the surprise tea room in the woods afterwards.

nEAtening

I love a good declutter, the planning, the cleaning, the clearing and creating more space so I started this job in the kitchen with a burst of enthusiasm.  I have been reordering and moving around, trying to simplify the cupboards so everything is within easy reach and flows better.  I often find that once you start the clearing process and letting things go it is easier to let more go.

I have been using up a lot of the food from the clear out and my food cupboards will soon look like Mother Hubbards.  I don’t plan to restock with any ‘just in case’ food as it was obvious we weren’t using it, maybe keep a tin of beans and a tin of fruit in case of emergencies other than that it will be the usual pantry goods to make a meal or drink; dried pasta, flour, sugar, cereal, coffee and teabags and jars of jam,  sauce, chutney and oil for dressing and cooking etc.

crEAting

In terms of crafting I have ideas but not produced anything substantial yet.  I plan to earmark a day a week to do nothing else and build on that. Autumn is a great time for inspiration and I have collected a few nature bits to sketch and maybe use these to turn into a lino cut.

fEAsting

Sadly my home-grown courgettes are just about finished – completely organic – we really enjoyed them.  This year I grew them from seed rather than buying plants – I had forgotten just how easy they are.

As the weather has become colder we are definitely on warmer meals.  I have been introducing a few more adventurous hot sandwich lunches and also made a start on reducing my recipe clippings – even thrown away a number from my folders that I know I won’t make or I have duplicates of.

rEAding

Plenty of bedtime reading this month.  Mainly on the theme of living simply and discarding.  I particularly love the little book called A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind – it is pure domestic simplicity. Another interesting book which I have had for years is Swimming with Piranha makes you Hungry by Colin Turner – a strange title maybe but full of valuable advice on simplifying. It is good to have a re-read of a book from time to time.

trEAsury

I had the intention during September that I would set out a new budget for our new circumstances.  The budget did not materialise even though it was a high priority on my list – some how I managed to ignore it as sorting out the house inside and out seemed to take over and I just never found the time.  But as you know I have plans for getting down to this and already I am implementing the daily task of recording our finances in the hope that little and often will stop it mounting up.

bEAching

The recent trip to Scotland to our cottage (caravan) was such a rejuvenating time.

We spent time on the beach…time in the garden…

and time out and about in Dunoon, Portpatrick and Wigtown and loved every minute.

In all September was a success for me – perhaps not doing exactly what I had planned and never doing enough, but I look back on the month with a feeling of satisfaction.

I am now working on my October intentions.

Back soon x