Sunday, 31 January 2021

Frost and Oranges

The appearance of Seville oranges in the shops in January lifts my spirits like not a lot else - especially during this never ending month - heralding as it does Marmalade Making Time. We love marmalade in this household and eat quite a lot of it (just as well, really) and it has become one of the preserves I make every year. Filling your kitchen with the warmth and scent of boiling oranges is one of the best antidotes to the bleakest, greyest, wettest of midwinter days. 

I follow a recipe in the wonderful book Notes from the Jam Cupboard, which was given to me years ago and who's pages are now splattered and sticky with regular use, but this one is very similar. I make a double batch and even in my biggest stock pot the boiling situation has to be closely monitored otherwise you have burnt oranges and sugar stuck to your hob like glue. I know this from experience. But the sight of twelve jars of golden orange preserve, lined up and glowing on the kitchen windowsill, makes me very happy and always feels like a promise of future sunshine in a jam jar.

Labeling them with gold Dymo tape just adds to the fun.

Imagine, then, my excitement when I spotted paper-wrapped Seville oranges in Waitrose yesterday! Like giant boiled sweets, waiting to be unpeeled. I'd already made my marmalade last weekend, but bought a few for their juice and zest so that I could make Nigel Slater's marmalade cake, another January tradition.

We woke to "snow" last Sunday morning.

Not very impressive. Despite the snow flurries it didn't settle and soon turned to icy sleet, and then rain, which stayed for the rest of the week.

We have, however, had some spectacular hard frosts, where everything is crunchy underfoot and my waterlogged succulent bowl on the outside table froze completely solid.

When it's this frosty, you can often see the sun melting the ice crystals on the fence and watch the steam rising from it.

Those crisp blue skied winter days are wonderful though - they make such a huge difference to my mood, energy levels and productivity. 

Sourdough bread making continues weekly. I am trying to improve my scoring, so that the pattern I draw with a razor before the bread goes into the oven is still there when I take it out. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes it just just creates its own as it rises in the oven. It's always fun to see what it looks like. I use this recipe for my sourdough. 

There is some creativity outside of the kitchen, although not much time for it at the moment. I have been between crochet projects for a while so have picked up my patchwork quilt and been working on this in the evenings in front of the TV.  
I have created a corner and feel like I'm starting to get a sense of how it will look, although I don't think it's even a quarter big enough yet. Angus asked me this week when it would be finished. In a couple of years, I told him. I think it's important to be realistic.....


I have just received delivery of the yarn I need to make this jumper, in mustard yellow and I'm looking forward to starting that. I've also discovered this crochet designer and really want to make this jumper or perhaps this one, which is very similar but with a more slouchy, oversized fit. Finally it feels like designers are producing patterns for crochet clothes that aren't overly fussy and lacy, but are actually wearable and it seems that handmade woolen clothes are no longer the domain of the knitter. 

There is just one more thing I've started, perhaps a little ambitiously - a stitch a day project. This 12 " embroidery hoop has been divided into the months of the year and will filled as the year goes by. 

Sometimes I sew it on the day but more often I keep a list of things I want to rememeber on my phone and sew seven at the weekend. It is a mixture of seasonal, topical and personal, just things that are happening in my life at the moment. I remembered how good some daily crafting was for my mental health in the first lockdown, and so tried to find something more achievable that I could do on a regular basis. 

The biggest challenge with the sewing is the size of each motif. They are mostly under 1 cm in length and so quite fiddly and it is hard to very precise or tidy with the stitches sometimes. I am also following a gentle colour wheel as the months progress, so that the first two months of the year will be purple, the next two blue, then green etc.



School has been extremely busy for the last four weeks and now I have two weeks "off". When I say off, I mean two weeks of university lectures and seminars, which all have to be delivered via Zoom and Teams and recorded powerpoint sessions, and then for fun I have a 4000 assignment to write which is due in over half term. It's all go here. I'll leave you with a picture of a rainbow: sometimes, with the vaccinations and knowledge that spring will come, I think it is ok to allow in some feelings of hope. 


  1. You are really a big, comfy sweater girl, are you? Have you tried Drops yarn yet? I am an absolute fan of their brand, eco and animal cruelty free. I bet Wool warehouse has it in stock. It was minus 10 degrees Celsius here, so darn cold. The frotst layer is gorgeous though. Oh yes, the endless amount of words in essays. You can do it, sit and work, just another labor to learn.I Love the smell of oranges thrrough the house, though I don't eat the marmalade. XD Thanks for the lovely post, again. ;>*

    1. Yes I am a huge fan of Drops yarn - I almost always use it now. :-)

  2. Years ago I made a patchwork quilt like yours.When the children were small I made lots of their clothes.For the quilt I used the leftover bits so it is memory quilt as well.

  3. a lovely post gillian. thank you for keeping us up to date with your life and family. your pictures are always a treat and i can smell the marmalade. take care dear lady

  4. I agree, another lovely post with lovely pictures. What a difference wrapping an orange in tissue does - if my local Waitrose was nearer I'd be tempted too.The marmalade looks great - it is a lovely calming activity - before Christmas I made piccalilli and chutney and I really enjoyed myself. I've made the Nigel Slater cake a few times, it never lasts long. What a good idea for your embroidery project. My 12 year old took up embroidery in the first lockdown and she is addicted to it. Good luck with all your uni work.

  5. Your 'stitch a day'project looks fantastic Gillian, so intricate and personal.
    Hope you enjoy your marmalade. I agree the smell of it cooking cheers the soul on a cold January day x

  6. Lovely post Gillian & while you've been making marmalade I've been making blueberry jam. Love your new embroidery & your hexi quilt is progressing nicely. You sure are a busy girl what with studies, work, kids & crafting. Your succulent bowl looks better than mine (envious) & that big bottle in the hall is gorgeous. Well done & my word for this year is HOPE, so hopefully all goes to plan eventually this year. Take care, stay safe & huggles.

  7. I absolutely love your months of the year stitching project! It's adorable!

  8. You know how much I love your stitching; your framed works based on your family holidays are always great, and the sampler of course. Now this project is fabulous!! If it was me, I'd probably never finish it, but I am looking forward to seeing more of it here on your blog as the year progresses.
    January has been extremely busy here work-wise, too, and I can't see things slowing down anytime soon. Isn't it scary to want another holiday so soon after the Christmas break?

  9. Marmalade, an absolute pleasure to make, and eat. I've seen the stitch a day projects on instagram, I would like to do one but I'm not sure that I do anything every day to stitch! Will keep thinking about it. CN x

  10. Patchwork items are treasure...
    I can smell the sourdough bread, reminds me of grandma's kitchen..
    And homemade marmalade!! Yum!!

  11. All,that jam and fresh bread and cake looks wonderful. Your sewing looks pretty too and I look forward to seeing how your stitch a day challenge goes along through the year.

  12. Good luck with the essay. Hopefully you will find a little time over half term to rest too. Xxx

  13. It has a corner! Looking good. We made lemon curd this week and it was super tasty not like the sweet bright yellow stuff from the shops. Yummy. I am struggling with blogging at the moment because the devices are being used by the girls and I end up with the arse end of the day. I read blogs on my phone but can never really coherently comment on such a small keypad but please know I am listening to you. Stay safe

  14. Love your stitch a day embroidery. It really is amazing that you manage to fit all the fiddly images into that one section. Curious, do you look up images to copy or do you do them from your head/imagination?

  15. I've never tried marmalade but I'll look it up next time I'm shopping. I am working my way through the peach jam I made last year. It didn't set up very well so it's more of a sauce than a jam. :)
    Also, thanks for sharing your sweater pattern. I found a cardigan pattern that looks easy enough for me to try.
    Stay well.


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