Sunday 30 December 2012

Review and Reflection

Thinking back over 2012 my first reaction would be to say that it has been a tough year for our family, filled with difficult and sad times. But as I've looked back over my blog posts of the past twelve months I've seen that there have been lots of good times too. The year started with plans for an exhibition which we launched in February with a wonderful vintage style tea party... with posh china and masses of cake. A great success for Spectrum, the group that I mentor.
In March, Mum and I went on a trip of a lifetime, to New Zealand to visit Joe. At the time I wasn't sure when I would be seeing him again... little did I know! We had the most unforgettable experience in this wonderful country. We surfed down sand dunes, walked through rain forests, ate food cooked in hot springs, abseiled into caves, squeezed through tiny gaps to see glow worms and climbed back out again. Three generations on a road trip, having the time of their lives.

On my return it was back to work and the focus of much of my effort was on getting this phone box into the Mall Galleries in London to display my work. The exhibition ran at the end of May, although my excitement at seeing my work displayed in such a prestigious location was tinged with worry as Stewart discovered he was without a job and faced a summer of unemployment.

Despite the worry, like the rest of the nation we braved the awful wet weather at the beginning of June and joined in the celebrations for the Queen's jubilee, although more bad news was to come as we learned later that month that my Dad had cancer.

 Through the sadness of the summer, I stitched some bunting for a lovely commission for the Cambridge Folk museum. Filled with memories of street parties and other celebrations, it was displayed at the museum to coincide with the Olympic torch arriving in Cambridge.

I was especially pleased to see this flag with my Dad's memories of the Coronation in 1953 displayed in the middle of the window.

This was my Dad in 1953 in his Royal Fusiliers Coronation uniform. He also remembered how much it rained that day too.
Sadly my Dad lost his battle with cancer on 28th August, the day after his 79th birthday and just four days after Joe arrived home to see him. But just over a week later Gill and I walked a ten mile starlight walk in support of the Garden House Hospice which felt like a positive thing to do, especially knowing Dad had sponsored me before he died.
And of course life goes on and there were more celebrations and happy times too. Sam achieved a distinction in his MA making me a very proud Mum at his graduation in October. I should probably also mention that James, my stepson also gained his PhD this year too but his graduation isn't until next May... so there will be photos then. Proud of them both.

There were milestone birthdays too as my eldest, Ben turned thirty and Jacob, my youngest, celebrated leaving his teens behind. Of course it goes without saying there was cake. There's always cake. And also by the end of October, Stewart was back in work which was a great relief.

Then there was more sadness last month as quite suddenly and unexpectedly our lovely old lab, Barley died, creating yet another huge gap in our lives.

So yes, a year tinged with sadness but it is good to remember the happy times too. Chistmas has been different this year without Dad, but we laughed and enjoyed ourselves... and it has come and gone quickly as it always does. I've been tring to use this 'limbo' period between Chistmas and New Year to tidy my space, gather my thoughts and mentally prepare for new challenges as I prepare to make 2013 a happy and postive year. I feel ready for change.
And so in my last post for 2012 I say out with the old... and in with the new... as I wish you all a very happy, healthy and positive New Year.

Monday 24 December 2012

Day Twenty Four

To all my blog followers and readers, I would like to wish you a happy, calm, peaceful and creative Christmas... with much love from me to you.
And to those of you who have stuck with me over the past twenty four days, thank you.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Day Twenty Three

A bit of last minute baking today... in between making beds, cleaning etc.
This will be the last batch of mince pies for this year... when they're gone that's it! I'm not making any more.

And they're already disappearing fast!

Saturday 22 December 2012

Day Twenty Two

I was aiming for understated simplicity and elegance...
In other words... what is the least amount of time and effort I can expend on decorating the Christmas cake.

I don't mind which version you believe...I was just happy to have got it done before Christmas Eve. Must go now... wine and dancing beckon... Louis and a show dance... I can't wait!

Friday 21 December 2012

Day Twenty One

I woke this morning feeling exhausted with all the planning and preparation and wishing it was this time next week. But a few hours sitting knitting with friends over coffee and brunch was just what I needed. Perfect time out.
At the very last minute we decided to have a Secret Santa and I got lucky. A tea towel edged with some fabulous pompoms and a journal for jotting down my knitting inspirations. It also has pages of tips for knitters including "Yoga poses for knitters". The others were relieved that I decided not to demonstrate "The Downward Dog" over my coffee. Thank you Santa!

It was also a chance to add a few more rows to a Christmas present that despite my optimism, will not be finished by Christmas Day. But then why spoil what has become something of a tradition. He only ever gets one sock!

Thursday 20 December 2012

Day Twenty

It was our book group Christmas party yesterday evening, which we hosted. I thought it would be fun to serve cocktails. That was after I gave up on the idea of literary themed food & drink... I only got as far as a "What the Dickens is in this Punch"... but I digress...
My cocktails were in the form of mini cupcakes... Strawberry Daiquiris and Pina Coladas, both recipes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days again.
In my mind they were going to be very grown up, sophisticated, little bite sized morsels.

And although they looked quite beautiful, and I followed the recipes to the letter, the reality was little soggy, overly sweet and sickly, bite sized morsels! Well, the pineapple and coconut ones weren't that bad but there was room for improvement.

But I do still like the idea of cocktail inspired cakes... so I'll be working on this to perfect my own recipe... and when I find it, I'll let you know!

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Day Nineteen

...setting myself up for disappointment?
I'm ever the optimist!

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Day Eighteen

As there are gradually less days to go until Christmas Day I'm finding I have have less time to think about blogging and less things I can think to blog about... but there also seem to be less people reading judging by diminishing comments so I assume the pressure is on for everyone. Either that or I'm boring the pants off you! But I don't like to stop something once I've started so I'm here for the next week!
But all is still calm here and I thought I'd make a start on the present wrapping. I actually love wrapping presents and making the parcels look pretty but usually find I run out of time and they are sellotaped together with lack of finesse at the last minute... but not this year. I've even been making my own labels...

I knew I'd kept all the cards from last year for a reason... Although I may have made enough to last me for the next ten years.

It does remind me of a story about my Nan. When we were children the entire family... aunties, uncles, and numerous cousins all congregated at my Nan and Grandad's each Christmas for tea and exchange of gifts. Nan would have a big pile of wrapped presents, none of them labelled and we would have an annual ritual of her having to feel all the parcels in turn to try and guess what was inside and then remember who she had bought the item for... often with hilarious consequences and a quick swapping of parcels once the contents were revealed. Eventually she solved the problem by buying all the men socks and all the women hankies every year. She was a truely 'one off' my Nan... a wonderful lady. I hadn't thought about telling that story when I started to write this post... but I'm glad I did... Happy Christmas memories.

Monday 17 December 2012

Day Seventeen

The rest of the decorations have gone up today.
Every year I think I might do something different but once the boxes come out of the loft and all the old favourite things come out, I decorate the house the same way as I always do.

Occasionally there is a new bauble or two... and this year I seem to have lots more lights around the house. Just simple white lights in every room... but you can never have enough fairy lights! Or candles!

But mostly it looks the same as always does.
And that feels comfortable and good!

Sunday 16 December 2012

Day Sixteen

I've been out all day so just a quick one today...
The tree is up and my old fairy has been re-instated.
Beautiful though she is, the new one just didn't make the grade.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Day Fifteen

Joe: Are those sticky toffee cupcakes? My favourite!
Me: Not for you, I'm taking them to stitching with me tomorrow.
Joe: What! You can't take them out of the house... they won't travel well you know.
Jacob: Are those sticky toffee cupcakes for us?
Me: No, they are for my friends.
Jacob: *sigh*

Stewart: Oooh... are they sticky toffee?
Me: They are but they're not for you, I'm making them for tomorrow.
Stewart: Oh...

I haven't told them yet but I have made some extra just for them.

Sticky Toffee Cupcakes by special request from Iz for our meeting tomorrow. 

Friday 14 December 2012

Day Fourteen

Yesterday I chopped up lots of dried fruit and left it steeping overnight in copious amounts of alcohol.
Today I mixed up some other ingredients...

Combined the two together and there are now two large and two individual puddings steaming away as I type.

I know... I'm a few weeks late with this particular task but I really don't think anyone will notice as they tuck into their pudding on Christmas Day. And it is making the house smell rather lovely and Christmassy today. I could almost be tempted to put on some Christmas music... but no... a step too far I think.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Day Thirteen

You know how it is when you are on holiday... and the waiter brings you a little tipple of something sweet and delicious to try after dinner. And because it is warm and balmy and you are sitting overlooking a Tuscan hillside feeling relaxed and happy, that little tipple tastes like nectar. So of course you pick up a bottle of the said tipple at the Duty Free shop on the way home. But under grey British skies in the middle of winter it tastes... well... nothing like it did on holiday. I always feel like that about Limoncello. So on seeing a recipe for Clemencello you would think I would be wary... but no!
I had to make it if only for the wonderful pun on the name. A clementine infused liqueur called Clemencello... what's not to like. And it does actually taste quite good... if you shut your eyes and imagine that Tuscan hillside!

But then one thing led to another, mostly because having used the zest from 18 clementines I needed to do something with the juice. And so I had a rummage through my recipes having vaguely recalled making something in the past and the result was several jars of clementine curd.

Which of course meant I was left with the dilemma of what to do with the clementine curd... aside from giving it away or eating it straight from the jar which does seem perfectly acceptable given how wonderful it tastes.

And so I made a Clementine Meringue Pie...

A very summery dessert in the middle of one complained and it vanished pretty quickly.

I rather like it when one good thing leads to another... don't you?

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Day Twelve

Yesterday's make was not a Christmas present... well it was, but not one that I will be giving, as a friend had commissioned me to make it for her to give to her sister for Christmas.
My inspiration was this wonderful spotty teapot so I went for a bit of a spotty theme.

And whilst I was making one I thought I may as well make another, so there is one very similar in my Etsy shop... which could still be ordered in time for Christmas if you are short of a present idea.

I could even tell you where you can buy the teapot!

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Day Eleven

I finished another Christmas present last night.
Don't be fooled... there are still plenty more to finish off... or even start for that matter. I find the nearer I get to Christmas the more hand made presents and decorations I seem to think I'll have time to make. I'm still at that optimistic stage where I think I can do it all!
A scarf knitted in Sirdar Big Bamboo which is very soft and snuggly.  The pattern was the one printed on the yarn label but the two balls required were not enough. I used three and it is still fairly short... although long enough. 

When it was finished I stitched it together along its length to make a long tube, turned it through to the right side and added some oversized pompoms at each end. I thought they might make it look a bit more contemporary... young and modern. Then I wasn't so sure.

But I quite like them so I think they will stay.
Hope the recipient likes them too!

Monday 10 December 2012

Day Ten

The other piece of furniture that has been given the make-over treatment is the sofa that lives in the conservatory at the end of our kitchen. When Stewart and I combined households we also combined items of furniture and the sofa came from his house. Between you and me I was never very keen on the colour or the fabric but in the interest of fairness it came to live with us... although it wasn't me that ripped it... honest! The combination of sun in the conservatory and apparently boys sitting with their feet up (I'm not even going there) caused the fabric to rot and tear.
We lived with it as you do, covered with a large throw but it was never ideal and always looked a mess. Stewart was all for getting rid of it but I rather liked the shape and felt the basic sofa was sound. So when someone recommended a good local upholsterer, I had it recovered.

It arrived back home last week and look how beautiful it looks now!

Complete with two new cushions from Ikea!