Saturday, 29 December 2018

Giving and Receiving

Ah, hello friends! Everyone ok? I am emerging, blinking, from a lovely few days where we've done a lot and nothing all at once. Christmas was joyfully noisy and chaotic, Boxing Day the same, and no-one seemed to mind lunch being served an hour late. Our days have fallen into that delicious rhythm that only happens between Christmas and New Year and every year I think I appreciate this time a little more. Lots of reading, watching films, doing jigsaws, playing games and crafting, punctuated with long walks either on the beach or in the woods. Thank goodness we have Ziggy to force us off the sofa and out into the fresh air. Our diet is mainly leftover turkey, ham and smoked salmon, served with anything that resembles a pickle or chutney. It's heaven. Every now and then I make everyone eat a few clementines, just so we don't get scurvy. 

People moan about the leftover Christmas food but I love it. I love that every last scrap of meat will get used up and that, after the mammoth pre-Christmas meal planning and food shop, I don't really have to think about cooking or shopping for a week. For Boxing Day, John made this pie, omitting the chestnuts and adding some roasted ham to the filling. There are leftover portions of pie in the freezer, and lots of the turkey and leek filling too, which I'm thinking could easily be stirred through pasta or eaten on top of a baked potato. On the 27th I made homemade leftover pizzas, using some goats cheese and tomatoes on one, and shredded turkey with dollops of basil pesto on the other. Both were delicious. Last night I made pasta with ham and peas and tonight we're having turkey and spinach curry. Tomorrow, ham, eggs, homemade chips and beans. I can't think beyond then. Lunch today will be a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese and maybe a little fresh dill snipped from the bunch I bought for the Christmas Day canapes, and I might even have that tomorrow, too! I told you, I am in heaven. Do I think about food too much? Thinking about and talking about what to eat, then eating it, is genuinely one of my favourite past times.

It occurs to me that I didn't show you any of the gifts I made friends and family before Christmas, probably because they were finished at the eleventh hour as usual and then hastily wrapped at midnight. 

Bella, who didn't want a homemade toy this year, requested a bag like mine, but in blue. 

The buckle was added at her request and I think it's a great idea.*

She squealed when she unwrapped it which totally made my day, as you can imagine.

Angus this year requested a raven, from the excellent Edward's Menagerie: Birds. I ran out of black yarn and so this raven is more dark grey and brown than black (and that white beak makes him look disconcertingly like one of those Venetian masks for the plague doctor, if you know what I mean?) but Angus loves him so it's all good.

For my friend Charlotte, a wall hanging woven on my little lap loom.

Sorry about the photos, hopefully you get the gist. It's a bit wonky but she really loved it.

Charlotte gave me the loveliest little dish to keep my rings in on my dressing table,  made by a local ceramicist

I received some new books, always a favourite gift.

And John surprised me with a couple of truly wonderful gifts including this necklace...

...and a print by the talented Brie Harrison. I love her work and just need to find a frame and the right place to hang this. 

I ordered myself this scarf from Seasalt when I spotted it in the sale before Christmas, then gave it to John to wrap up. I know that sounds mad, but I totally forgot about it then was delighted when I unwrapped it on Christmas Day. You see, I have a method!

The winter Craftpod was another lovely surprise, and one that I deliberately kept to one side until all the hubbub was over and I could open it quietly and savour all the treats inside. 


Today I braved the shops for fresh fruit and vegetables, and I need to take Ziggy for a walk soon. John is now back at work but the kids and I are happily pottering around the place. I might do some crochet later.

Thank you so much for your Christmas wishes. It was especially lovely to hear from those of you who read but don't usually comment - thank you for taking the time to write a quick message, it was much appreciated. I hope you all had a happy Christmas and are enjoying these gentle, relaxed days.

 *Pattern here, yarn here, strap here and buckle here

Monday, 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas!

It's a hive of activity here today. I've been to collect the turkey and ham, prepared the tiramisu for Boxing Day, decorated the Christmas cake, made canapes for the big day tomorrow. The turkey is roasting and the ham is boiling, ready to be glazed and put in the oven to brown off. I think all that sounds like a lot more effort than it really is because I've had a lovely morning pottering in the kitchen, drinking coffee, Christmas songs playing on the radio in the background.

The Christmas holidays started well with a fixed boiler and a fantastic Christmas night out with my work colleagues on Friday night. So much dancing and laughing, what a fun bunch they are. The weekend was a nice balance of jobs and fun; I blitzed the house and caught up on the washing, but we also went to the panto at the King's Theatre in Southsea, had fish and chips for dinner, went for a long, muddy walk in the woods and watched our favourite festive film, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. 

There has also been time for a little festive crafting. Bella wanted to make crackers this year for when we host Boxing Day lunch, so we had fun yesterday morning doing that. They're a bit messy and very definitely homemade but we stuffed as many chocolates as we could fit inside each one so I think they will be well received. 

I also made an advent candle, based on a tutorial I saw recently on Jen's blog Mum in the Madhouse. I've always coveted the beautiful Ferm Living advent candle but could never justify the price, and this was so easy to make. 

I did my usual Christmas mantel faffing this year, using off cuts from the tree and some wooden trees I got from Sainsburys a year ago to create a sort-of woodland feel. I like it. The tree cuttings are holding up remarkably well. We chose a Nordmann Fir this year and it has hardly faded or dropped needles at all, I'm so impressed with it. 

I need to walk the dog and do a few other chores before I can relax. We are going over to my sister's for mulled wine and mince pies later which will be lovely, but I don't really switch off until John gets in from work, usually around seven, and we can have a few drinks and watch something together on TV. The children will hang their stockings (Angus still believes!) and the elves will deliver Christmas Eve pyjamas, as is traditional. I hope they never outgrow this kind of stuff, I love it. We're at my parents' house for lunch tomorrow, then hosting ten on Boxing Day. We're doing turkey, ham and leek pie. Then comes my favourite part, that delicious few days between Christmas and New Year when you can stop and relax a little, read a book, do a jigsaw, a little crochet. 

Wishing you all a wonderful, happy and peaceful Christmas. Thank you for always being here and reading and saying hello. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 19 December 2018


Bella turned twelve this week. This birthday felt different to others - more relaxed, less stressful. She was still excited for weeks beforehand, counting down the days, but there was no party with friends this year, no balloons or party bags. Instead, we had a small family get together at the weekend which was just lovely, very easy going, and her cake this year was the easiest one I've made yet: a stack of peppermint Oreo brownies piled onto a cake stand and decorated with candles and a little banner I bought last year. (Sadly we won't be using it again as it got a bit too close to the candles....)

On her birthday, she chose to go shopping after school and spend some of her birthday money. Her purchases were researched beforehand, planned and considered; a sweet little silver ring (so grown up!) and a new jacket. Then we went to eat at Five Guys, her choice, and had burgers and shakes. It was all really nice and very definitely Not Stressful. Gifts included books, some new bedding for her room, clothes, a new school bag, craft and art supplies. Toys are not featuring much any more, but that's ok. She just leads the way, this child, forging her own path ahead. We are a bit blown away by how well she's doing in secondary school, by what she has the potential to achieve. Right now, she, Angus and John are at a science lecture at her school, at her request. She got a special merit badge for achievements in English, has just joined gym club and wants to join politics clubs but it clashes with swimming lessons. I don't know where she got her independence, motivation and work ethic from but I am extremely proud of her, if at times my head spins at the busyness of it all

Thank you so much for your nice comments and words of support. Things are looking up: the washing machine and roof are both sorted, and the boiler is nearly there. We are just waiting for a part. I feel a bit like we're clinging on till the end of the week here, I don't know about you.  A combination of tiredness and a lingering sore throat/cold that won't amount to anything or go away is sapping my energy, but there are still presents to be made and wrapped. I've just written a huge shopping list and am about to order all my food for the Christmas week. I wonder what I will forget?

Sunday, 16 December 2018

In Search of Christmas Cheer

It's been a bit of a week. On top of all the usual seasonal craziness, work, family life and everything, our washing machine died on Tuesday night. It's been playing up for some time. (It probably died from overuse, poor thing.) This is annoying and inconvenient, but my lovely mum has been doing washing for me, even returning it dried and ironed. She's a star. Then, on Wednesday night, our boiler stopped working. It's old and we feared the worst, and have known since we bought this house that it would need replacing soon. But a Christmas without heating? Not very cosy. Luckily a gas fitter was able to come out quickly and it's ok, it just needs a new part and, fingers crossed, should be fixed on Tuesday, the same day as the new washing machine is delivered. Things happened in threes, we joked, what would be next? Well, yesterday afternoon, as the rain hammered down outside, I heard a funny, irregular tapping noise in the dining room. What could that be I wondered, and looked up to find water coming in through the roof and slowly dripping onto the floor. Buckets were fetched. I left a message on the roofer's voicemail - we had a new roof only a year ago - and rang John, although he was at work so I don't know what I thought he could do about any of this. At this point I may have thrown all my toys out of the pram and had a bit of a cry. Anyway, the roofer called me back that evening, bless him, and is coming round first thing Monday morning. We think some lead flashing has come loose around the chimney as that's where the water is coming in. It's all fixable. Stressful, yes, but ultimately it will be fine. 

Anyway, what with all that I've really had to dig deep to find any kind of Christmas cheer, normally something I am brimming with. I usually love Christmas. We went to the garden centre last weekend and chose a tree. I always engineer visits to this particular place because I know they stock pink poinsettias, which I really do love. The pink petals with those dark, almost blue-green leaves are so pretty. I wrestled lights onto the tree and then the children hung decorations. So far we've only lost three to the dog, a huge improvement on last year. Bella commented that our ramshackle, mismatched collection of tree ornaments is starting to look a bit worn out, and I think she's right. I might have to invest in more. I enjoyed hanging my striped crochet stockings on the peg rail though, and gave the round shelf in the dining room a little wintry change of display.

Our Christmas activity advent calendar has given us a steady stream of festive things to do: make paper chains, make and write Christmas cards, bake mince pies, dry orange slices for garlands, stamp our wrapping paper. I'm thankful for this actually, because rather than send me into a spin of things to do, they are small, easily achieved tasks that ground me in this season, which is just what I need at the moment. 

We have just five more days at work and school before we break up for the holidays. It's going to be an exceptionally busy week as we'll be celebrating Bella's birthday along with all the usual end of term busyness, plus my usual panic over handmade gifts and whether or not they will be ready in time. But I think we're going to be okay; most of the shopping is done, cards have been posted, gifts for teachers, colleagues etc sorted. There's just the small matter of a washing machine, boiler and roof to be sorted and we're all good.