A few months ago, my pregnant friend at school was admiring my poncho and we got chatting about crochet. She said how much she'd like a crocheted blanket for her baby. She wasn't hinting, she just mentioned it. I smiled and said something like, if I didn't work all week I'd love to make you one.
I went away and kept thinking about my friend and her soon-to-arrive-baby and how much I love to crochet. About how good it feels to make things for people and give them away as gifts, about how (hopefully) pleased she'd be if I offered to make her something. And so I just started crocheting this blanket one night, working through a bag of acrylic DK scraps in random colours on a 4 mm hook, not really thinking about it too much, just enjoying crocheting the simplest of granny squares, something I hadn't done in a really long time.
I reckoned on about 48 squares being big enough for a baby blanket, ie. big enough to use on a car seat or pram. I love how the colours are soothed and harmonised by the addition of the white border. I used the join as you go method and blocked it before adding a border.
I think I made the whole thing in a couple of weeks. It probably took as long to darn in the ends as it did to crochet. And now my friend has had her baby (a girl, named Luciana, isn't that pretty?) and once she's had time to catch her breath I'll go round with this blanket and hopefully receive some new-baby snuggles in exchange.
So, Christmas Cake. Gosh, so many great comments and suggestions! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me, and making me giggle too.
It seems like a lot of us make it because it's part of our Christmas tradition, rather than for the love of eating it, and we are stuck with lots of leftover cake. I think I need a different tradition and a different cake.
Freezing it in pieces is a good idea, although I think I'd find it two years later and unwrap it, wondering what on earth it was. (Does anyone else play dinner-lottery with the frozen leftovers that they forgot to label? Chilli? Bolognese sauce? Curry? Let's defrost it and find out!)
A few of you said just throw it out, and I get that, but I just can't bring myself to chuck away perfectly good food, and I already have an attack of middle class guilt every time I put a manky broccoli head in the bin. You have to have time to tackle leftovers. Time and inclination. Any leftover cake now will be given to the (lucky) birds.
A few of you asked what's in a Christmas cake: well, it's just what we call a fruit cake, which is a fairly plain cake absolutely filled with dried fruits and sometimes nuts too, baked slowly in a moderate oven or the top burns. A lot of people add alcohol in to keep it moist and for the flavour, which adds to the rich, slightly decadent feel of the cake. Traditionally it's covered in marzipan/almond paste and iced with royal icing (so it looks like snow) but I don't bother with that part. For those who want to make one for the first time and are unfamiliar, then yes, google Christmas Cake and go to someone like Delia Smith for a truly authentic cake. I was thinking that no-one would be wanting to make a fruit cake at this time of year but then Easter is approaching, and I know many people like to bake a Simnel Cake for Easter, so perhaps you will.
Gosh, this cake talk is exhausting. Who knew we all had so much to say on the subject! I declare it closed until next October when I will no doubt be making another Christmas cake, but a very small one, just for me.