Friday, 21 December 2012

Making Christmas

I will get the other pictures from my weekend away Ooop North posted soon, but at the moment I am busy in the kitchen, mainly, and doing the necessary housework to have everything tidy before our offspring arrive home.  We just have a quiet family Christmas here, as we live so far away from friends and relations.  Hopefully when we move that will change.  When we move . . .

I managed to catch The Wartime Farm Christmas programme the other evening, and recorded it so I can watch it again (probably whilst I am doing the ironing).  One thing that Ruth said really rang true - "You can't BUY Christmas - it's up to you to MAKE it."  How true this was  in war time when there simply WEREN'T any toys on sale for working class pockets (and those that could be found were often shoddy).  So it had, of necessity, to be a home-made Christmas. 

Now we are again in a time of austerity, many people have had to cut their expenditure and we are no exception.  I have made a number of presents again, and I have to say, it is SO satisfying to do so, even when one knitting pattern drove me nearly cross-eyed with concentration and has been much-unpicked. 

Now I have a busy weekend of baking ahead of me, and the usual Christmas traditions for food are being adhered to.  When I suggested to my son that I rang the changes on the usual Chocolate Roulade with raspberry coulis and perhaps did a Lemon Meringue type roulade, he said no!  Chocolate and raspberry it had to be . . .  I make it on Christmas Day and the cook's reward is to have a big slice of it for breakfast on Boxing Day morning : )

I have to say, I have tried to keep away from the shops during the run up to Christmas - especially grocery shopping as it irks me to see instant this and that going in shopping trolleys.  One of my pet hates is seeing people happily spending several pounds on a thick foil tray (throwaway) to cook the turkey in rather than spend a couple of pounds more and have a decent baking tray they can use every year . . . Then there are the jars of  pickled onions which are SO incredibly easy to make, jars of chutney, pickles, sauces etc.  But I dare say there is such a huge gap in the cooking ability between a grandmother in her 70s and a grand-daughter in her 20s and social differences which require people to be in full-time work. A childhood spent in  war-time austerity (when cooking skills were still handed down), then met in the 1960s and 1970s the beginnings of instant this and that and then the "ready meal".   Who would have thought that fish fingers and sliced bread were the thin end of a wedge that would ultimately make such a difference in the kitchen?

But this is starting to sound like a lecture and that wasn't my intention.  Have fun in your kitchen over the next few days and remember that old adage, whatever alcohol you put in your cooking, "one for the cook" is much-recommended too!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Photos of York - I hope!

Right, many thanks to Mac n' Janet for suggesting Flickr to store my photos on.  I see I have limited storage on there each month too, so I may load some on Flickr and some on Photobucket, and see if I can manage that way!

Anyway, here is one of the Fairground rides at York recently - the Gallopers.

York Minster from the front - the best I could do without getting run over!

And in slightly more close-up.  Sorry they aren't very sharp, but that's because I have enlarged them.

The ruins of St Mary's Abbey in the York Castle Museum gardens (the Museum we couldn't afford to go in . . .)

The 14th C Lendal Tower by the River Ouse is a partner to the Barker Tower on the opposite bank, and a chain used to be hung between the two, so that a toll could be extracted by boats wishing to pass.

Our beautiful eldest daughter T, whose birthday treat this outing was.

Part of the market in York.

Above: Barley Hall, York.  Below: Day to day Medieval living inside the Barley Hall   We  visited there for the Medieval Craft Fair, and I bought a present for my husband - a candle holder made using part of old (oak) farm machinery, and some thrifted (!) beach-combed Amber chips (drilled for jewellery) from a Dutch beach, which my clever daughter turned into earrings for me when we got back to her flat.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas

Well, the wreath is done.  I have managed a photograph by wiping some earlier ones.   

As for the new blog, I am not sure how many of you will be able to access me if I go over to Wordpress permanently.  Can we have a headcount?  Morning AJ says it won't let her in.  Are there many more of you?

Anyway, I am quite happy with this year's wreath which is a variation on the standard hedgerow-garnered wreath we always make.  T and I that is, but as she is not here until next Sunday, I had to make it alone this time.  I only had to walk as far as our front gate for the ingredients - bendy Pussy Willow wands, long ribbons of ivy which scramble over the front wall, and then I dived into the Christmas decoration boxes and came up with some lovely clear-glass faceted baubles on a silver wire, and for contrast, a long length of gold balls.  The Willow made the interwoven frame, covered with festoons of ivy strands, then the baubles and gold balls.  Underneath hangs a weather-proof silver tree decoration like a star-shaped snowflake.  It looks really pretty (says she modestly).

Today we got 3 bottles of wine for the Christmas meals (our offspring have promised more) and we drove down to Eynons at St Clears (an award-winning butcher) for the meaty part of the Christmas feast - salt-marsh lamb for Christmas Day, casserole venison and  pheasant breast to go towards the Boxing Day Game Pie, and two lovely thick succulent venison steaks to go between three of us when T arrives next weekend.  I have 2 brace of partridges already in the freezer, and a goose which is going in the oven on Christmas Eve and just need to get a game pack from our more local butcher.

Theo'dorable is on the mend and now that his tummy is better, he was allowed out of the kitchen today and chose to snuggle up next to me on the sofa.

Off for a hot bath now, as my fingers are dropping off with cold.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Moving blog to WordPress. . .

HERE is the link to my new blog, which will be a work in progress for some time to come, by the look of things, but I will gradually move across there.  Here it is again in case you want to cut and paste:

I haven't the foggiest how to get my side bar friends across, but I dare say I will find out in the fullness of time . . .

Bear with me, as I shall probably post on both blogs until I have the hang of WordPress, but at least you will see my photos.

December gloom

I am trying to get myself organized for Christmas, but am fast running out of time.  I shall breath a sigh of relief when I have all the cards and letters written and the last present posted . . .  I'm nearly there.

I have already had my Christmas present from my husband, as we just happened to be looking round The Works on Saturday (a remaindered mainly-books shop, for those of you not in UK).  I had been very good and stayed my hand over various craft magazines earlier - mainly because at £5 a time, they don't represent very good value for money unless there is more than one thing in them that I want to make!  So even though I keep them forever and a day, I put them back on the shelf.  Imagine my delight when I found a good book on Christmas projects for just £2.99 in The Works, and then when I was rummaging amongst the Kirstie's Homemade books, trying not to get drawn in, I found a different one on Granny Chic which I picked up.  I have to say, not all Granny Chic style appeals to me.  Some of the projects I've seen just look a mess!  However, this particular book had enough appeal and fresh ideas, and it DID have how to make a particular sort of circular cushion cover which I had just seen in the Liberty Vintage book, and at £5.99 was cheap enough, so my OH bought me Granny Chic for Christmas and I have to confess, I am enjoying it NOW and not waiting until Christmas Day!

Now that winter has really arrived (and apparently it is going to REALLY get cold this week), I finally took down the summer curtains and hung the winter ones, which I added wool linings to last year.  I have decided that the summer curtains which are Laura Ashley material, but SO faded after nearly 25 years use, need upgrading, and that I am going to use some of my fabric stash to make up patchwork "fronts" for them, so I have been looking out lengths of material to do this with, though I probably won't start until the New Year now.  I need to finish my Christmas gift crafting first . . .  But at least I have started looking out for suitable material at the Car Boot Sale and came home with a pretty cotton skirt yesterday which I am currently unpicking (takes forever!).  No point looking in Charity Shops as they only have expensive clothing on their racks - I want things which are deemed suitable for the rag bag.  I may ask in one of them . . .

Little poorly Theo is slowly mending from his nasty cold and chest infection, but had to go back to the Vet's on Friday for a long-lasting anti-biotic jab AND an anti-inflammatory for his tummy as the oral anti- biotics I was having to give him just turned him inside out, poor little chap.  The kitchen was not a pleasant place to be if you had any sense of smell and I had to cover everywhere with newspaper.  He looks brighter now and his tummy is mending too, but he's still a bit sniffly.

I really MUST try and get some Christmas baking done (and in the freezer) and I realize I have not even made any Mincemeat this year (still have some from last year though) and I really MUST get the onions pickled . . .  I am finding it hard to motivate myself though - so fed up with winter already and it's only just started.

I am thoroughly fed up with Blogger and seriously thinking of changing - probably to Wordpress.  I know it will take a big chunk of my day to get it sorted out, but bear with me.  I shall make sure I have a good link across, and bring all my favourite friends with me in the sidebar.  So - watch this space.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Safely home again

I am glad to report that I am home safely from my travels, although the coach back from Birmingham was delayed an hour overall because of traffic problems on the roads (I believe both the bridges across the River Severn were closed) - we had to go via Ross-on-Wye to get to Newport.

I had an absolutely wonderful time up with my daughter, celebrating her birthday.  We went to York, and visited the Quilt Museum and the Medieval Christmas Market at the Barley Hall where I made some purchases - a present for my husband which is a candle holder made from recycled oak from a defunct piece of farm machinery (which will please him as he hates waste and we always try to recycle old things here).  It has a cast iron holder set into the oak.  I also bought some beach-combed-in-Holland chips of amber, which T made up into earrings for me, bless her.  Unfortunately, it was too expensive to go into the York Museum (£7.50 a head) so we turned around and came back out, and it would have been £9 and £8 for us to go into York Minster, so we had to forgo our visit there too.   I feel that you should not have to pay to go into a place of worship (although I did pay several years ago to go into the Minster), even if it does help with restoration and running costs.  In fact, the whole "York experience" seemed to be out to make a maximum profit from tourists and visitors, and we looked long and hard before we found somewhere for lunch which offered value for money, and had soup and sandwiches for £5.95.  Elsewhere they were charging that for sandwiches alone, or even a pound or more again.  Greggs and the pasty shop were doing a roaring trade . . .

In the evening we had her birthday meal with friends, and I had my first-ever cocktails: a Lemon Sherbet, and then a Lavender Haze (mostly rum and pineapple juice).  We both chose the partridge with bramble and beetroot sauce, on a bed of crushed new potatoes.  Scrummy!  We had a lovely evening, although the music was SO loud no-one could carry on a conversation, even if we shouted!

T had to work the middle part of the next day, so I did the rounds of the local charity shops, taking my time and thoroughly enjoying myself.  I bought two books: Alison Weir's "Innocent Traitor" about Lady Jane Grey, and Michel Faber's "The Crimson Petal and the White" about prostitution in Victorian England. Both were read once and only 50p each.  In the same charity shop I also found a lovely old brown Victorian stoneware jar (pre-1892) with "Cadbury" on it and a beautiful tree design in white.  It has a slight chip on the pouring lip, but I can live with that.

After work, we walked across the city to the old steelworks quarter at Kelham island.  T wanted to show me a vintage and collectables outlet (various sellers) and we bought a couple of things for presents, once again.  I even found another piece for my Torquay pottery collection - a little scent bottle which had once held lavender scent.  Then we went to the Fat Cat pub (one of T's favourites) but it was choc-a-bloc with people who had been to the nearby Christmas market.  Around the corner, the Kelham island tavern had a bit more room and we took advantage of its CAMRA listing and had some Herefordshire perry from the keg.  Supper for us was an M&S dine in for £10 offer and very good it was too!  Moroccan chicken and potato rosti, then tart au citron, washed down with a good white wine.

Sunday saw us heading for the Peak District in Derbyshire, Castleton to be precise.  It was a bright and sunny day, though cold.  We took lots of photographs, both on the bus and once we arrived, and the scenery was wonderful.  LOTS of walkers out, and hang-gliders, rock-climbers - all sorts of folk enjoying the countryside.  We went in just about every shop, greatly enjoyed the Christmas Tree Festival in the church, had chips for lunch, and a swift half of cider in one of the pubs before heading home.

I took about 66 photos, but some weren't up to much.  As soon as I have wiped some more off my old blog posts and made room, I'll post as many as I can.

Back soon.