Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 - A Year In Pictures

1. January - The birth of this blog, cosy suppers with friends, cold weather, weekends spent hibernating at home, mugs of hot tea.

2. February - Snow, a week by the sea back home, my birthday, a day trip to London, cosy lunches with friends, stew and dumplings, 

3. March - An unusually hot month, blossom, trips to the park, gardening, ladybirds, lardy cake.

4. April - A brief snow fall, a day well spent learning to crochet, lots more gardening, Easter, a week spent in Durham with family, tulips.

5. May - Angus turns three, sunshine, a gloriously hot and sunny weekend celebrating my Dad's sixtieth birthday, bunting, ice lollies, birthday cake. 

6. June - John's birthday, Jubilee celebrations, paint, a new sofa, paddling pools, rain showers, union flags.

7. July - A joyful holiday in the Cotswolds, a week of sunshine, fresh air, countryside, day trips, strawberry picking, cream teas.

8. August - The Olympics, long school holidays, rain, my sister came to stay, day trips to local farms and parks with friends, a trip back home to see family, beach huts, ice creams.

9. September - Back to school, Angus starts nursery, the Yorkshire Dales, blackberries and apples.

10. October - Halloween, another day trip to London, another trip to Durham and the Northumberland coast, lavender, crunchy fallen leaves, toffee apples, pumpkins.

11. November - Bonfire night, sparklers, craft fairs, running races, preparing for Christmas, hats and gloves, poppies, parkin.

12. December - Bella turns six, nativity plays, cheerleading performances, parties, new toys, gingerbread, lemsip, poinsettias, fairy lights.


One of the many rewarding aspects of blogging is the way in which you can look back over things, track progress, smile at moments caught on camera, remember things you might otherwise have forgotten.

I've added a few words to accompany the above pictures, but not really included the everyday, the air that I breathe, which is; John, Bella and Angus, family and friends, cooking and baking, crocheting, knitting, sewing, crafting, reading, book group - all the things which bring me endless happiness and keep me sane.

It has not been an easy year, but looking back through this blog I see that it has been a busy one, full of doing and making and eating and laughter. I hope 2013 brings more of the above.


Happy New Year to you all. Thank you so much for being here and reading and sharing this blogging journey with me. Your comments and support are an endless source of joy and inspiration and I treasure you, my blogging friends. I hope 2013 brings you everything you wish for.

Gillian x

Saturday, 29 December 2012

52 Weeks of Happy...11/52

We are being so very lazy today. It's lovely. John took the car to work and it's raining (still) so I can't see the children and I leaving the house all day. Anyway, it's after three now so it will be getting dark soon. We have done a lot of crafting, played with a lot of playmobil and built a huge train track all over the floor. Currently, Bella is writing a story about Barbie going to the pantomime and then to McDonalds, and Angus is playing with the wooden tool kit he was given for Christmas. 

A bit late but here all the same - joining in with Jen at little birdie, here are my simple, happy moments from the last week:

  • Baking gingerbread tree decorations with the children last Sunday, and watching them hang them on the tree. There are none left now.

Making up the bed with my new Christmas pillowcases. It's lovely to get away but even more lovely to come home to your own, comfortable, just-how-you-like-it bed.

Bella's love for the stick-on earrings she found in her Christmas stocking. Remember those? I used to pretend I'd had my ears pierced. Every day the chooses a new pair with great seriousness and ceremony, carefully matching the colour to what she is wearing

I hesitated to include this one - it's not exactly photogenic, is it? But goodness me these plastic storage boxes are making me happy! Anyone who has or had small children and no separate play room will understand why these boxes are included in this week's list.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Merry and Bright

We've just returned from three days spent with John's parents in Durham. On Christmas Eve I gave the children an early tea, packed up the car, then collected John from the station. The children and I made John listen to Christmas music all the way there - we had lots of fun, but John, strangely, does not share our love of festive music - and we arrived around seven. Stockings were hung and sherry and mince pies were left out for Father Christmas (to be consumed later by Grandad).

I woke around five on Christmas morning and had such a flutter of excitement in my tummy - I could not wait for the children to wake and see that Father Christmas had been. Silly, I know, but I was just desperate to see the expressions on their faces. Thankfully for everyone, I went back to sleep and Bella and Angus woke just after seven. The joyful chaos of unwrapping presents in bed began. It was the first Christmas that Angus was really aware of the notion of Father Christmas, and his expression was priceless. It was as though he couldn't quite believe he'd come, and that he'd remembered what Angus had asked for (a toy car, chocolate, and a torch).

Downstairs, after breakfast, new toys were assembled, examined and played with.

Father Christmas was kind to the adults too...(thank you, John).

Three tables were pushed together to make enough seating for thirteen. Many cakes were eaten and toys admired. I love that Sylvanian Families canal boat Bella is playing with - I want to move into it, with it's hanging baskets of flowers, range cooker and bunk beds.

It was a noisy and crowded affair, and all the more fun for it. I have to confess that I loved not having to host or cook Christmas lunch. It was liberating not to have to think about the planning and organisation, as much as the huge amount of actual cooking on the day. John's mum did a rather fantastic job - she fed eight adults and five children a three course meal, offered a choice of three desserts, and even had a nut roast ready for a vegetarian guest. She excels at feeding everyone and being generally warm, welcoming and accommodating to everyone who visits their house. I left well fed (and quite possibly a few pounds heavier, but lets not dwell on that), laden with lovely gifts and with a new biscuit recipe to try out.

I hope you had a happy Christmas too. What did you do? What did you eat? Was it a huge extended family affair of something a little quieter? I would love to hear all about your Christmases too. 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Thank you for all your kind get well wishes, they were much appreciated. I am pleased to report that I am feeling a lot better. It's half past ten in the morning so nothing mulled or fizzy is being drunk (yet) but I am enjoying a cup of tea and a gingerbread angel while watching The Box of Delights with the children on the sofa.

I've worked hard to find my festive mojo these last few days; we've baked mince pies, made gingerbread stars for gifts and an assortment of Christmassy gingerbread tree decorations. The last few gifts have been bought or completed and wrapped, the Christmas cake is iced (it's a bit runny - my first attempt at royal icing was not a total success) and decorated with baby deer. The Snowman dvd has been watched many, many times.

I do love Christmas Eve. The hard work is done, or almost done, and I can relax and enjoy being with the children. John has to work today but he has a few days off after Christmas, which we are all looking forward to enormously.

I want to wish you all a very, very happy Christmas. I hope that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you enjoy this time with family and friends and have a wonderful break. I'll be back at the end of the week. x

Friday, 21 December 2012


I'll be honest, I'm not really feeling it today. I have a horrible head cold, my throat hurts, my joints ache. I can function just so long as I take cold and flu tablets - when they wear off, I know about it. I had a self-imposed and unusual (but very necessary) quiet day today. My parents are staying till Sunday. This morning, while they were out shopping and Bella was at school and Angus at nursery, I sat down on the sofa in the daytime and watched Downton Abbey and worked on my sister's scarf. Then, this afternoon, I sat down and caught up on three days of blog reading while my Mum (bless her!) did a huge pile of ironing for me. When she offered, instead of putting up the token fight like I always do I just said "Yes please." 

It's better to feel rubbish now than on Christmas day. 


Anyway, oranges. They do seem to crop up a lot at this time of year. Last week John made the most amazing flour-less orange cake from the Polpo Cookbook. The sort of cake that makes you sit up and pay attention. It contains no butter either, just two whole oranges and lots of ground almonds, among other things. The lack of butter made me feel better about eating it with marscapone.

A while back, I dried some oranges. I cut them about 1cm thick and put them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Put them your oven on the lowest setting you can. You want to dry them, not cook them. It may take anything up to 12 hours. If you have a warm, dry place like an airing cupboard or next to a range cooker, that would work just as well. They smell wonderful as they dry out. I fully intended to make a wreath or some tree decorations with them, but totally ran out of time. So I have used them to adorn Christmas presents. I like the simple effect with the brown paper and leftover wool. 


I am desperate for some sunshine, I don't know about you. We've had the most dismal, grey weather the last few days. It doesn't ever seem to get properly light. Even at 1pm it is gloomy and all the lights are turned on. Thank goodness for fairy lights to add some sparkle and cheer to the house. And today is the shortest day of the year, so things can only get better.

I'll be back again before Christmas, hopefully germ free and full of good cheer, with a glass of either something mulled or something fizzy in my hand. Maybe both.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

52 Weeks of Happy...10/52

Joining in with Jen at little birdie, here are my happy moments from the last week:

Mini glitter balls on the Christmas tree are, on their own, a reason to be happy. But when they bounce the sunlight all around my living room, scattering hundreds of little spots of light all over the walls and ceiling, well that makes me even happier. It's like a little winter disco.

John is much better than I at reading the children their stories at bedtime. He does different voices and everything. I love seeing them enjoy books I loved as a child, like this one.

Small people at play (Bella did a good job of sharing her new birthday toy, and only got a bit cross when Angus knocked the tables over).

I finished wrapping my presents last night. But I can't feel to smug as there is just the small matter of completing a scarf for my sister by Sunday. I feel some crochet late nights coming up...

I am wishing you all a happy week. I hope you are enjoying the Christmas preparations and are not feeling overwhelmed by them. I still need to ice my Christmas cake, and do some more festive baking. Gingerbread tree decorations I think. And some mince pies, of course!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Happy Birthday Bella

It was old fashioned, the sort of party I remember from my own childhood. Ten girls and one boy came to join in the fun. There was an abundance of sequins and bows and sparkly shoes. They played musical statues and pass-the-parcel. The food consisted of sandwiches (plastic white bread, crusts cut off), crisps, cocktail sausages, cakes. Carrot sticks and grapes to tick the healthy box. I didn't know where to seat thirteen children so we moved the dining room table out of the way and put a disposable tablecloth on the floor and called it an "indoor birthday picnic", which they thought was great fun.

When I asked Bella what kind of cake she would like, she asked for a round, chocolate cake covered in Smarties. Yes, very specific, but I have to say I nearly cried with relief and thought - I can do that! Previous birthday cakes have included a train, a princess castle and a butterfly. (The castle had seven layers of rainbow layered sponge - what was I thinking??). I used my mother-in-law's recipe and made a chocolate buttercream icing. Arranging the Smarties was very soothing, I enjoyed that part enormously. We enjoyed eating it too.

I have to be honest, a part of me did worry that it wasn't enough of a party, not big or fancy enough. One parent asked me what the theme was. I replied that the theme was that is was a sixth birthday party. But when I asked Bella what her favourite part of the day was she said "playing pass-the-parcel". Children are amazingly traditional in their tastes.

Tomorrow is her actual birthday. This time sixth years ago I think I was screaming for an epidural, all thoughts of natural, intervention-free birth long gone. We will open a couple of presents before school - naturally she has chosen those already. After school we will go out for tea; when I asked her where she would like to go she said "McDonalds", quick as a flash. 

Bella - Happy Birthday my beautiful girl! You bring us more joy and happiness than you can possibly imagine and we love you to the moon and back.


Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments on my last post. My Grandma died last week. It has not quite sunk in yet, and I don't know that it will until I go back home and see my family. She was quite a character and I'd like to tell you more about her one day. We are very sad but taking a lot of comfort from the fact that she lived to be eighty nine and died peacefully with family her side, and there is a lot to be said for that.

On a happier note, hello new followers! It's very nice to have you here and you are most welcome. Thank you as ever for being here and for reading. x

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Some Thoughts And A Box of Play Patisserie

I don't think I can really say anything today without talking about two sad things - one private, one public. We had some very sad family news a couple of days ago, which I'll talk more about later. And I am shocked and appalled (like everyone, I imagine) by the tragic events in America yesterday. The youngest victim was five years old. Five. Schools should be a place a safety, and thank goodness they usually are. I send my two off to school and nursery every day without a second thought. My heart breaks for those parents, and the families of the adults involved too.


But I wanted to post something today and I really need to find my "happy", and that is usually to be found in things involving the children. So I will share some felt play food I made a couple of weeks ago. 

I made two little boxes of assorted play cakes for craft fairs - neither sold which I was very happy about as one will be given to Bella on her birthday next week, and the other to another little girl we know who turns six today. 

I especially like the little gingerbread star. This would be a sweet tree decoration. Next year, maybe. Sorry there is no tutorial - I forgot to take photos during the making.

I never told you how the craft fairs went, did I? The first was a total disaster, the second and third were respectable and the fourth was very successful. I am quite realistic about these fairs now - you rarely make much money and you have to enjoy the making and selling process. All the little things like jam, lavender and mulled wine sachets, brooches, small bags and tea towels went. I sold all the girl's t-shirts bar one and a couple a boy's t-shirts. Anything that didn't sell is being "re-purposed" as Christmas gifts. I did the stalls with my friend Gemma and it was very nice to stand chatting and laughing with her, especially during the disastrous first fair. Gemma is a fellow crafty soul and a very talented artist, and she made the beautiful wooden boxes in the photo below, among other things.

Tune out the breeze block background, the horrible flourescent lighting and the general sports hall ambience, and focus instead on our lovely handmade wares...

I wish you all a happy and peaceful weekend. Today I have to take the kids to two birthday parties, make a birthday cake for Bella, wrap the pass-the-parcel and stuff fourteen party bags in preparation for her birthday party tomorrow. I'd better get cracking then! 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

52 Weeks of Happy...9/52

Joining in with Jen at little birdie, here are my current happy things. It's a bit of a festive edition, this one.

1. Homemade tree decorations, made by Bella's fair hands and shedding glitter all over the floor as I type.

2. Mince pies. Mmm.

3. The Christmas edition of the Radio Times. It's a bit of a tradition in this house to sit down with a cup of tea and a marker pen and highlight all the things we want to watch over the next few weeks. Of course we wont have time to watch much of anything, and when we do we'll discover that we didn't record it or it's not avaiilable on catch-up tv any longer...but that's not the point. It's traditional!

4. The best Christmas song ever. I wish it was played all year round.

Wishing you all a splendid week. It's very cold here and we've had the most magical, thick frost all day making everything look enchanting.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Granny Chic Tea-light Holders

Reading back through my recent posts, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I never left the house. There is a definite making and baking feel to this space lately, and that's just fine. But I have been outside, I promise, it's just that family days out are less frequent at this time of year. John works every weekend during December and so it's often just the kids and I. We potter and play, we visit the park, we go to birthday parties (Bella has three this week!) During the week we do the endless to-ing and fro-ing to school and nursery and back, we see friends. After school I provide a taxi service to and from Rainbows, cheerleaders, play dates... It's busy. The last family "outing" we tried to have was a total disaster. We thought we'd go into Leeds a couple of weeks ago on a spontaneous trip to the German Christmas Market. It poured with rain and was very cold. We did not have hats or umbrellas. We had no cash with us. While John was queuing at the cash point Angus had a massive tantrum because he wanted to go on a fair ground ride. I let him get on and suddenly, after a couple of minutes, he started to scream. I had to stand and watch him go round and round, sobbing, until the ride stopped. When I lifted him off, I saw that he'd wet himself (this was why he was crying - he was so excited by the ride he forgot to tell me he needed a wee) and he proceeded to wee all over me too. We didn't have spare clothes for him - we were being spontaneous! So we went home, got changed, then went out for fish and chips.


Anyway, back to safer territory. Do you like a crafting project that can be done in ten minutes? And which only requires a handful of things lying about the house? And one that costs nothing? Yay, me too! I give you my pretty lace tea-light jam jars.

I'll be honest, I have mixed feelings about the whole granny chic look. Sometimes I think it's genius but other times it looks like the home of a crazy person who never threw anything away. John detests this sort of decorating so he is tolerating these tea-light holders since it's Christmas. But I LOVE them. My mother-in-law, Jean, gave me this length of lace when we last stayed with them. She bought it years and years ago from travelers who were selling things door to door, and she never knew what to use it for. I am happy to have found a use for it and there is still absolutely metres of it left. The lace is dreamy and delicate - pure white in daylight, opal and glowing in candlelight. 

You will need:

  • Jam jars.
  • Lace trim, ideally wide enough to cover the jars (or paper doilies would work too).
  • PVA glue.
  • An old paintbrush.

To make:

  • Paint the outside of the jam jar with glue - you want a thin, even coating.
  • Cut a piece of lace long enough to go around the circumference of your jam jar and place it around the jar over the glue.
  • Trim the lace so that there is not much overlap.
  • Paint over the place where the two edges meet with more glue so that any loose ends stay stuck down.

See, easy! Then simply wait for it to dry and put your tea-light inside. The base of my jam jars was slightly raised and curved so I used a small piece of blu-tack to keep the tea-light in place.

Angus made one too with scraps of lace:

Gorgeous, no?

Monday, 10 December 2012

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

Number of beautiful organic fir trees purchased from local farm: 0

Number of old, fake fir trees dragged down from the loft: 1

Number of slightly hungover adults: 2

Number of very excitable and noisy children: 2

Sets of fairy lights found to be not working: 2

Number of emergency trips made to very crowded supermarket: 1

Quantity of baubles smashed: 3


Many, many thanks for the abundance of kind and generous comments lately - I would really like to have you all over for some mulled wine and mince pies sometime. Hello new followers, you are ever so welcome! I will be back tomorrow with crafty jam jars. (Apologies to those of you suffering from craft fatigue.)

Saturday, 8 December 2012


We've been a busy house recently, elving away, making and baking and scurrying around in a mouse-like fashion. Experience has taught me that if I want to have a reasonably peaceful and stress free Christmas, and really relax into those last few moments before the big day, then I have to put the hours in now. I can't be one of those people who wrap their gifts on Christmas Eve, I just can't. I want to be enjoying a glass of something sparkly while watching Carols at Kings, not running around panicking because I've run out of sellotape. 

Gifts are being furiously made. I have just discovered Downton Abbey (why did I never watch this before?? It's wonderful!) and watched the first three episodes in a row last night snuggled under a blanket, happily crocheting away.

Cards have been written and are piled up ready to post. Is it me or are stamps really expensive now?

Gifts for my god-daughter and her new baby sister were finished, packed up and taken to the post office.

A little present wrapping is taking place here and there.

I gave my cake it's marzipan layer. I don't really know why I do this as I detest marzipan and fondant icing, and always peel it from my cake and just eat the plain cake underneath (with crumbly, mature cheese - it's a Yorkshire thing) but I like the look of the iced cake, and I like traditions, so the cake is iced.

And we've made some pretty little tea-light holders, just jam jars covered in lace. I'll post more on these in a couple of days.

The gingerbread house is just about holding up. The door had to be mended when a friend of Angus's refused to believe that the door did not open and pulled and pulled at it. The paper trees are trashed. It is currently being invaded by a group of curious animals. I fear it may only last one Christmas at this rate...


How about you? Are you feeling festive? Organised or panicked? Tired? Excited? All of the above? What elving is afoot in your home?