Wednesday 28 December 2011

Another One Bites the Dust!

After days and days of preparation Christmas Day has come and gone in a bit of a blur and was over before we knew it. I had a lovely day with my family that seemed mostly to involve lots of eating and drinking and many hours in the kitchen but as you can see help was at hand from three of my boys.

Boxing Day was a more leisurely relaxed day. Some family members left and others, along with family friends, arrived and we had Christmas dinner pie which is a bit of a tradition... left overs under pastry basically!

As well as some more puddings... a Buche Noel...

and more Christmas Rocky Road.

We manged to speak to the one family member who had been absent from our celebrations... Joe spent Christmas on the beach in Sydney and had a bowl of chips for his Christmas dinner! For many years, another Boxing Day tradition has been a game of Pictionary but Ben bought me a new game this year so eight of us spent the evening on a marathon game of Balderdash that lasted four hours. I don't think we've all laughed so much in ages.

It wasn't the only good present I had either... I seem to have received enough gorgeous bath and skincare products to keep me scented, buffed and polished all year long (Do you think someone's trying to tell me something?) And I've also got some super reading material to keep me busy... not to mention a shiny new Kindle. As someone who has always loved the physicality of books I've had my doubts about an e-book reader but I'm coming round to see its benefits. It won't ever replace books for me but I know I will get good use from it given the number of paperbacks I can get through.

So that's my Christmas... fun... but I'm not sorry it's over. I like the idea of clearing the house and having a fresh new start in January, full of new exciting possiblitites. Roll on 2012!

Saturday 24 December 2011

Day :: Twenty Four

To all my blogging friends...
To those who've sent me Christmas cards, emails and messages, to those who've stuck through all these advent posts (whose idea was that?), to those who've left comments throughout the year and to those who silently read... thank you!

I would like to wish you all a very special Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

Friday 23 December 2011

Day :: Twenty Three

You would think that after the stollen incident I would have learned that this is not the season to experiment and try new recipes... but you'd be wrong! Every year I make Delia's Cranberry and Orange Relish to accompany our Christmas lunch. It is tart, spicy and everyone likes it. But this year I fancied a change and made Nigella's "Redder than Red Cranberry Sauce"

Well it is certainly red... but oh so sweet and sickly! The book says "if you find it too sweet, which is unlikely, just spritz in some lemon". I put in the juice of a whole lemon and it was still far too sweet. I've made cranberry jam! So there was nothing for it but to start again and go back to the tried and trusted recipe, which has more cranberries but less than half the amount of sugar. Much better!

But all was not lost and the cranberry jam came to the rescue. The mince pies have all been eaten and the mincemeat is all used up so instead I used the cranberry jam with the almond mince pie recipe...

And have made cranberry almond pies which have been declared a success.

Although the glitter may have been a step to far.
(My excuse is I get excited this time of year)

I'll be back tomorrow for one last post before Christmas for those of you who have stuck with me throughout December... although I rather suspect there are less of you now than at the beginning of the month!

Thursday 22 December 2011

Day :: Twenty Two

I'm back on list:
  • Food shopping - tick (& feeling very smug!)
  • present wrapping - tick

Although I'm not sure the homemade bags...

with all those paper snowflakes, were ever on my original list.

But I think they were one of my better ideas... unlike the stollen!

My chickens have gobbled up the stollen. However, the wild birds, like my family, have given it a wide berth!

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Day :: Twenty One

I'm working my way down the list:
  • presents bought - tick
  • decorations up - tick
  • puddings steamed - tick
  • cards written and posted - tick
  • christmas cake decorated - tick

There was a lot of marzipan left when I finished decorating the cake so I decided I would make stollen. But something went wrong and instead of the light fluffy cake like dough filled with fruit and a melting marzipan centre I seem to have made a stollen brick... two of them. I made myself eat a slice for breakfast just to see if it tasted okay but wish I'd stuck to porridge! Looks like the birds are in for a treat, although I fear they might be unable to take off after eating this!

Oh well... that will teach me to go off-list.
Back on it today... wrapping presents.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Day :: Twenty

When I first started sewing I would often buy kits to work from. I can't tell you how many half finished projects I have lurking about that started life as a kit and I just don't have the motivation to finish them... or in some cases even start them. This Christmas Angel from Candle House Crafts was one such kit and she has resided in a drawer, bald and unfinished, for many, many years,

But given the state of the angel/fairy that usually resides on my Christmas tree, this year I decided I would finish her... and very pretty she is too.

But as she balances a little precariously on top of the tree I can help feeling a little sad.

Because I'm still rather fond of my little floozy fairy with her broken wing!

Monday 19 December 2011

Day :: Nineteen

It's been quite a few years since I last made my own Christmas pudding. Given that by the time it gets eaten most guests have already had a few glasses of wine and then it gets covered in either brandy butter, cream or custard (I serve all three to cater for all tastes), I'm never entirely convinced anyone can tell the difference between shop bought or home made, so I wonder if it's worth the effort.

But yesterday suddenly I had a whim to make one, so out came my Delia's Christmas Book and I mixed up her traditional Christmas Pudding, which wasn't all that much effort really. I made one or two changes to make it my own.

And even if on Christmas day no-one can tell it's home made it doesn't matter. Because as it is steaming away today the house smells wonderful and very Christmassy!

Sunday 18 December 2011

Day :: Eighteen

Another Christmas Tree...

I actually managed to do some sewing and made this card for my Mum and Dad.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Day :: Seventeen

This morning we braved the crowds in Cambridge but after two hours I'd had enough.

So we came home and decorated the tree instead.

Friday 16 December 2011

Day :: Sixteen

Despite all the manic activity it has been good to find time to spend with friends this week... special friends who have given me some special gifts. This beautiful beaded snowflake came from Val when we met for a quick cuppa on Tuesday.

And today I've had time out for a making day with Susan, Sandra, Selena and Ricki. I forgot my camera so no photos but I can show this lovely wire ornament made for me by Sandra.

And these sort of presents are extra special because every year when I hang them on my tree, I'll remember the friends who gave them to me.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Day :: Fifteen

My day of Christmas shopping yesterday didn't quite turn out as planned and instead I spent several hours at the fracture clinic of the Lister Hospital in Stevenage... my brother came off his motor bike at the weekend.

After much waiting and another x ray, they are still not convinced he has broken his leg so have replaced the back slab he's had on since Monday with a rigid support and he's to wait two weeks before they x ray again and decide whether to plaster. I can't tell you how much I wanted to draw a smiley face on that little bit of knee sticking out but the spoilsport wouldn't let me.

But all was not lost and much progress was made on the knitting. At this rate there might even be a pair ready for Christmas which would make a change from the usual single sock!

And I even got some of these written while I was waiting.

Oh yes, I'm totally in control of all my Christmas preparations. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm just off to shake my snow globes again....

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Day :: Fourteen

I think my excitement has reached an all time high.

In the hour between Stewart leaving for work and me dragging myself out of bed to walk the dog, I was browsing the internet and came across an episode of Kirstie's Handmade Britain where she was making these snow globes from jam jars. Not a new idea but one I'd never tried before.

So simple... but so much fun!

Fill the jar with cold water, a teaspoon of glycerine and a teaspoon of glitter. Using a hot glue gun, stick Christmas cake decorations to the inside of the jar lid. Screw the lid securely onto the jar... and shake...

and shake... and shake... dance around the kitchen and shake some more, shouting "Look, look" to one's bemused offspring!

It's true... I'm very easily amused!

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Day :: Thirteen

Another train journey, another book, the same knitting...

This time for a much awaited visit to the British Museum, not only because it meant a day out with my very special friend Jude (no trouble recognising her because she was wearing a zombie)...

But also because we were going to see this exhibition.

I've read so much about it, seen the wonderful "Imagine" programme about it, heard so many good things about it,  I really did wonder if it would live up to expectations. I was already excited just being inside the British Museum and this amazing courtyard... it is so long since I was last there.

At the entrance to the exhibition is the amazing motorbike, on which Grayson Perry took his teddy, Alan Measles, on a pilgrimage to Germany. I feel there is so much I could say about this exhibition, but so much has already been written that I'm not sure where to start. Perry has taken artifacts from the BM's collection and they are displayed in juxtaposition with his own work. He addresses themes such as shamanism, journeys, relics, shrines, sexuality and contemporary culture all connected with ideas of craftsmanship... and it is wonderful. The transistion between modern and ancient object is seamless, the captions on the labels are insightful, intelligent and to the point.

Most of all it is such a clever exhibition... and funny.

For me it really struck a chord about some of the things I felt about doing the MA. Primarily I withdrew because I was struggling to juggle the studying with other aspects of my life, but that was not the only reason. I probably would have struggled on but I wasn't enjoying it either. I had the overwhelming feeling that everyone was so serious, constantly trying to justify the work with deep inner meanings that smacked more than a little of the Emperor's New Clothes. I don't have a problem with work having meaning or concepts but I do think there is a danger of taking everything too seriously and that is just not for me. One of the captions at the exhibition summed this up: "Sometimes our human desire for meaning can get in the way of having a good experience of the world" I think Grayson Perry knows exactly how I feel!

A brilliant exhibition, a brilliant day out with a friend... and of course a brilliant lunch at our favourite haunt.

Monday 12 December 2011

Day :: Twelve

The chair in Jacob's bedroom collapsed, beyond repair. So he borrowed one from the dining room. But we needed the dining room chair when friends came for dinner so we took it back and instead he took the chair from the study. Needing to work on the computer, I then took a chair from the kitchen. It was obvious that our little game of musical chairs couldn't continue so I took a trip to the local DIY store and invested in a new study chair.

As these things invariably do, it came as a flat pack, but I am one of those weird people who actually enjoys putting together self assembly furniture. I like the challenge of interpreting the badly translated instructions ("can't use hammer" was a good one... I can, watch me!) 

Making sure all the components are there and following the instructions step by step... I failed on the first one that said work on a carpet because we don't have carpets downstairs. I wasn't going to carry the finished item around the house.

Nearly there... (note to self... must clean that floor)

Ta Dah! My finished chair. After all, when you're writing a blog post every day you do need a comfy chair. Although between you and me, I'm currently sat up in bed with my laptop waiting for it to be light enough to walk the dog!

Sunday 11 December 2011

Day :: Eleven

Joe has been away travelling for over 18 months now. Since February 2010 he has been in New Zealand where he had first hand experience of the Christchurch earthquake, has worked for several months in an orchard where he was allowed to wield a chain saw, (I can't tell you how much that terrified me), has jumped out of an aeroplane, (less scary than the chain saw) has seen several rugby world cup matches and has now finally settled in Auckland.

Although this photograph was taken in our summer it seems a suitably wintery photo for December, although of course he is currently enjoying the sunshine. He's planning to spend Christmas and New Year in Sydney, before returning to New Zealand. After that... who knows... he mentioned going back to Asia. But what ever he decides it seems unlikely that I'll see him soon.

I miss him every day... but some days more than others. Today was one of those days.