Monday, 28 December 2015

It's all over - Part 1

How quickly the Christmas holiday went and what a brilliant time I have had.  This year I was in Kent with Eldest Son (ES) and his family.  We were joined by Younger Son (YS) who came from Cambridge with his family and what a happy group we were.  I love these family get togethers.
So many presents

On Christmas Eve we all went to the Crib Service at the town church and stockings were laid out for Father Christmas, as he was tracked over the sky, and I cooked the supper for everyone; children earlier and adults later.

Christmas Day went by in a blur of church in the morning, food, drink, presents, more food and drink and finally an excellent board game called Logo which was huge fun to play and even the children took part.

On Boxing Day YS and family were leaving to go and spend time with his mother in law and I went into town with ES to see the Ashford Valley Hunt ride down the High Street.  You may or may not approve of hunting with dogs, but it is a spectacular sight.  They rode into town and stopped at one of the pubs where the hounds were taken away to keep them quiet and the riders had a 'dram'. 

Then off down the High Street at great speed -
One of the huntsmen

The 'followers'
At the end they turn round and come back at a fast trot with everyone turning out to watch -
A small pack of Basset Hounds who were loving it.
I have no idea where they go after this but I assume hunting!

After lunch we went out for a walk around Appledore which is a really delightful town with some lovely old houses.  We walked beside the Royal Military Canal -

and the children enjoyed themselves getting wet and muddy.

Inspecting the mile post - 13 miles to Hythe
We climbed a small hill and enjoyed the view - 
A new vineyard on the left

and then back over the fields to Appledore, as the sun was beginning to set behind the houses on the skyline.

I have to say at this point that I had caused consternation when I fell off climbing a stile and landed in the mud.  I have never done this before but it was very muddy and slippery; I much prefer the more friendly kissing gate where we all kissed each other as we passed through and which the children love and can manage on their own.

So Boxing Day came to an end, with slightly less food and drink and a resolution by me to try and reduce my waistline!! 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The dress!!

This week has been the final preparations for Christmas and Ellie's 6th birthday.  I helped ice her birthday cake with the two colours of blue and the green for the top, apparently it is Neverland as the figures show!  Someone pointed out a dolphin swimming at the base -
Can you see the dolphin - an accident I assure you!

Ellie had lots of presents but she did love her dress and I managed to get a chance to take a quick photo -

It is a little large for her as I made it size 7, but I didn't want her to grow out of it too quickly, though my other daughter-in-law did say she would love it for her youngest who is only 4, nearly 5!!

Friday morning saw me out with the Nordic walking group for our Christmas walk and lunch afterwards.  We set off from the Bell Inn at Odell and walked through woods that in the spring are full of bluebells -

through Harrold Country Park, the village of Harrold and detoured down to edge of the river to see the mill race.
As you can see the river is running very fast and was quite high.

Back through the Country Park -
and a short walk back to the pub for lunch which was most enjoyable.  That was my last social get together before Christmas.

I have spent this weekend wrapping parcels (which I hate!!) that all seem to be unusual sizes and difficult to wrap, and with the final jobs to do; making mince pies (cancel Christmas if we don't have some of Mum's mince pies) and the icing of the cake tomorrow.

This will be my last post before Christmas as I am going away over the festive period to spend the holiday with all my family in Kent.  Can I wish everyone a happy Christmas wherever you are and have a lovely time.  I will report back before the New Year.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

More Christmas preparations

After last week's constant feeling bloated after all the food eating, I have been catching up with various things that need doing and getting back onto an even keel with meals.

The first job that needed doing, and I almost forgot it, was to put almond paste on my Christmas cake.  I am old fashioned enough that I have always made my own cake from start to finish so about a week before hand the marzipan goes on.  Like the Christmas cake the recipe is ancient from a Marguerite Patten cookbook that I bought years ago and only keep for this recipe!!

I cut out a strip of greaseproof the same height and circumference of the cake and roll the marzipan out to fit, then after covering the cake with melted jam I lift this strip and place it around the cake - on the board - and join it up, tidy the top edges and get ready to apply the top (in the above photo you can see the piece of marzipan sitting on the round of greaseproof waiting to be rolled).

Once that has been put on the cake I use a straight sided cup to smooth the sides and the rolling pin to do the top.  This will now be left for a week to dry out to ensure that no almond oil seeps into the Royal Icing.

Remember this from last year -

I made three of these in different fabrics for my three grand-daughters. This is Dalmatian dog and has come back to me for mending in the dog hospital!!

He has come apart at the seams and this is a lesson when making stuffed toys; use a good quality, high thread count fabric and strong thread to sew it.  Anyway I have spent this morning mending him which has meant rather large and ugly stitches so I decided to finish him off like this -

A little tartan coat!!
and this hides a multitude of untidiness!
As regular readers may know I look after my great-nephew Will, on a Tuesday, and we now go to Rhyme Time at the library for stories and singing.  After everyone leaves we usually read a book or two, but yesterday Will 'tidied up' the children's section at NO instigation from me!!
Yesterday was also granddaughter, Ellie's, sixth birthday and I have spent months working on this -
I have shown this smocking before but could not say what I was working on, so here are a few photos of my WIP (Work In Progress).
The blocked smocking

Nearly ready for making into this -
and the finished dress -
The buttonholes were difficult;  I tried to use the machine but after unpicking about three times I sewed all seven of them by hand in one go!!  It took me five hours but I am so pleased with the result. 

I hope she liked it - I have heard nothing which worries me a little!!

One more to make for my youngest little girl and they will each have a smocked dress.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Food, glorious food....

This week I seem to have spent all week at various eating events!!

Last Sunday was the final event of the year for the 50+ Adventure Club when we get together to play Indoor Bowls, followed by Christmas lunch and then back to our chairman's house for mince pies and mulled wine.
Pretty impressive technique!!
I have been going to this activity for many years and members of the bowls club always help us and yet I cannot get the hang of rolling the ball.  It is either too hard or too soft, but this year I did manage to stay in my lane, for the first time!  However it was a great get together.

Monday was all day embroidery with lunch in the middle and I did manage to do some more sewing.  It is coming on - honest!!
Finished the 4 leafed clover near my needle.

Everyone had been asked to take different items and we enjoyed a very good lunch.  I especially liked the mackerel pâté and did have second helpings.

Tuesday evening was the Christmas meal for the 50+ Committee and though I did not choose the venue, I had to organise it.  Excellent meal here - meal three!!

Nothing on Wednesday and Thursday thank goodness.

Yesterday was crochet group and we were meeting at L's house and she provided yummy fruit cake and sausage rolls - so here I go again, more food.  I had to leave early as I was entertaining in my own home in the evening, when my brother and sister and their spouses were coming.

For the first time ever I made a timing list because I had two new recipes to cook plus some Irish Soda Bread to bake.  This recipe is so easy to make and I always add some mixed seeds to give it a nutty flavour.  Small downside is that the only buttermilk I can get is only 250ml but add a little extra milk.  I also do a slightly larger cut on the top as it seems to rise better.  This bread does not keep longer than a day unless you toast it, so there is your excuse to eat it all up!!

The two new recipes were excellent and both came from Waitrose. Main course was Waitrose Sautéed Chicken with Cider and Lovage, except I could not get any lovage so had to substitute tarragon instead.  Martha's Mint Chocolate Christmas pudding was steamed and went down very well but was quite fattening I think!! 

BUT I had a panic when I realised that both of these dishes are cooked on the hotplate and I didn't have enough burners as I also had veggies to cook, so the chicken had to go in the oven on a low heat.

And now I am about to go and celebrate my grand-daughter's 6th birthday with a meal out in Cambridge.  I will show her present next week after the actual day.

Thank goodness for a food break before Christmas so I can slim down a little!!!!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Wreaths and reveals

Last weekend I had a very instructive workshop to make a holly wreath tutored by Glenys .  I cannot say it was the first time I had made one, but the previous ones were a very long time ago and I couldn't remember anything about them - yes I did two.  One year was a holly wreath, but the second year it was a dried one, using cinnamon sticks, dried mushrooms, dried orange and lemon slices, dried foliage etc and I have used it every year since; so it was definitely time for a change.

First we started with the ring
Note the essential cup of coffee!  Cold by the time I drank it.
We bound the ring with florist wire to give some backing for the moss that went on next and was again bound with wire to keep it in place.
Then turn over the ring and cover up the back with tape to ensure that it doesn't scratch the front door when it is hanging up.  How thoughtful!
Tape held in place with wire hooks and then turned back on itself
Now to start adding all the greenery and we had mountains of it; holly, ivy, yew, pyracantha, cotoneaster, sprigs of rosemary, fir tree, rose hips etc.  I did have some foraged items of my own.

At this point I went to pieces and hadn't a clue what to do and it wasn't until Glenys lent a helping hand that I managed to get going.  However after much pushing and pulling, sore fingers and a great deal of thought I got my wreath finished and proudly took it home and hung it on the front door.  I could have added a bow but decided that less is more and apart from some small glittery baubles of my own, I kept it simple.
I love it
I did take the wreath down after photographing it because I don't decorate until next week so my wreath is now in the garden shed waiting, waiting .... 

At the end of November the mini mania challenge for the month was unveiled.  We were to use the 'Churn Dash' block however we wanted but the finished mini must not be bigger than 20" (51cms) square.  In my last blog I showed you a close up of it but here is the finished article.
Each square was 4.5" finished (3.5" square in the middle)

The finished size is 18" (46cm) square, but please do not look at it too closely as not all the points are exact.  However it shows what interesting patterns you can get when repeating a block like this.

We have two months to undertake the next challenge as Christmas gets in the way.  We are to make a 9-block sampler quilt with a finished size of 20" (51cms) square when bound.  I have ideas buzzing around but no time at present to put them onto paper.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Secrets and finishes

So near to Christmas and still working hard to get items ready.  I have worked hard on my smocking and this is all I can show you as it is a secret!!
Blocked smocking
Took this to show teacher Jo and was told that I had not blocked it properly so I have had a retry but cannot show more at this stage, so watch this space!!

Mini mania Churn Dash block is finished and this is all I can show you because the big reveal is not until the end of November.

I can show you my embroidery that is progressing slowly.  I go to two classes a month and we all do our own 'thing' and after all the delicate sewing I have done in the past I thought I would have a go at Mountmellick but I am not enjoying it very much.  However I am learning new stitches which is interesting.

In July 2015  ....

and now in November!

I am getting there slowly and my latest 'new' stitch is Wheatear Stitch that you can see on the extreme right and also where I am outlining with chain stitch in the centre.  I have also done Coral Stitch, Bullion Knots that look like little maggots, French Knots, Whipped Chain Stitch and Herringbone Stitch.  A long way to go but I will make progress over Christmas!!

This weekend I am going on a proper Christmas wreath making workshop using all sorts of evergreens and anything else I fancy using so I will be able to let you see it next week.  Very excited about this.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Victories and disasters!!

This week has been mixed with highs and lows.  I have finished two items and am having a disaster with something else.

However first let me show my Apple Chutney which is absolutely delicious. 
This recipe came from a friend's Parish Newsletter and has raisins and dates in it and I cannot officially start eating it until Christmas as it has to mature.  This will be difficult because it looks so good.

In my last post I was working on a fabric Christmas Wreath and I have now finished mine.  I have enjoyed making it and have adapted it to my personal taste.  If you go to the Higham Piecemaker's blog there are plenty of photos from the group with so many different ideas.
Hanging inside the front door
I have used different ribbons folded into prairie points round the edge and my Dorset buttons in the centre as I wanted something to fill the space.  I did think of crocheting a Robin but didn't think it would fit in with the design because I wanted it plain and simple.

For what seems like months (it was actually!) I have been making Attic 24's Cosy Stripe blanket and at last it is finished.  I did change the edging because I didn't think I had enough wool to concentrate on one colour per round so I used it all and I love it. 
Lucy has such an eye for colour and they all blend so well. I can do this with patchwork because I have been sewing for so long, but cannot always get the toning right with knitting wools.  It is soooo warm!!  It will keep my poor old bones warm in the winter months.

Before I mention the disaster I must show you a photo of my very clever grandson -

He has TWO, yes two Blue Peter badges.  Apologies to anyone not in the UK, you will not have a clue why this is so important but everyone here was brought up with Blue Peter.  He was awarded one badge for writing a review of the programme and suggesting someone who should be invited onto the programme.  The other one was for doing a drawing.  He was so proud and even wore them to bed!!

And so to the disaster!  It is the medlar jelly and what has really upset me is that I had picked over 2kgs of the fruit.  I made it on Sunday according to the recipe I used last  year and when I looked at it on Monday morning it had not set.  So back into the pan with some pectin, that has always worked in the past and it had still not set when it was cold on Wednesday.  What to do - more pectin?  So I bought some more today and tried again.  I have only got four jars now from all that fruit and it is runny and I don't know what to do.
Looks good but it will pour out of the jar.
Any ideas??  On this sorry note I close the blog and may take up drink to compensate for this failure!!!!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

More Christmasey things

As the month of November approached I looked at my calendar and was quite pleased that it was fairly empty.  What has happened?

Really busy until the end of the month and then only about three weeks to Christmas!!  HELP.

However I am really pleased with my Studio as I have four WIPs (Works in Progress, not UFOs; they are at the bottom of the wardrobe) and I am able to leave them out and just work on them as and when I feel like it.  Of those four I have two that I cannot 'show and tell' yet as they are presents but I will give you a sneaky peak of November's Mini Mania.

This is a group that I joined on Flickr in September and I have shown you in previous posts.  November's is Churn Dash and to be no bigger than 20" (51cm) which I think is quite large.
Sorry LB, copied your idea of sepia!
Anyway this is progressing and will be finished in time but I cannot show you until the end of the month.

However, I can show you the next stage in making the Christmas Wreath, but as I discovered at group on Wednesday evening I was only given half the instructions so I have absolutely no idea where the original design came from and I am making a public apology if this is your design.

We have received two florists' rings and taped them together to make them rigid and this weekend I will put a small amount of toy stuffing on top and bind it in place with thin wadding.  It must not be too thick otherwise the fabric will not cover it.
The rings are 12" (30cm) and 14" (36cm) in diameter

In the last post I showed the prairie points being sewn into place and here is my finished ring of fabric -

I will finish it off tomorrow and must decide what to put round the edge and in the middle.  Decisions, decisions, but all should be revealed in the next post.

I can always tell that Christmas is approaching because my decrepit, neglected and very elderly Christmas Cacti always flowers.  I have had it years, forget to water it even though it is the bathroom and yet it struggles on.  How forgiving of it and this photo does not do it justice as the flowers have been brilliant this year.
Old ad gnarled but it still has some buds on it
BUT this year I was given one in January that has eclipsed the one upstairs -
It sits on the kitchen window sill and is absolutely brilliant.  It is entwined with an orchid that I was given a year ago and which has flowered continuously since;  I must be doing something right as I am not very good with houseplants.

At embroidery lesson (yes, I am still going and still doing my Mountmellick) I picked up a recipe for Apple Chutney and have now made two huge batches from the windfalls in my garden.  I did have a taste and it was delicious but should be kept for a month to mature - can't wait.

My Medlars have bletted at last and tomorrow I shall be making Medlar Jelly so the next post will have some finishes and I will show the latest photo of my embroidery so watch this space ........  BUSY, BUSY, BUSY.