Christmas is almost upon us and another year is drawing to a close. It is time to send you all my very best wishes for peace and joy this Christmas season. Have a very Merry Christmas!
Friday, 23 December 2016
Thursday, 22 December 2016
I've been as busy as a bee working on an idea for a Christmas gift. This year, the only Christmas gifts are homemade ones and I'm more than a little behind in Santa's workshop.
The inspiration for this came from a picture, or more precisely, a vintage railway poster from the 1940s. I got as far as tracing the design a couple of weeks ago, but then work ground to a halt, so now I'm busy in the sewing room (actually the dining table, but a girl can dream...), trying to get it finished in time.
I spent all day yesterday sticking Bondaweb to fabric and cutting out my design (all of the fabrics used came from my small fabric stash). I then started to assemble it on the fabric backing. Little did I realise that this process would take me the better part of eight hours.
Here, I'm trying to work out exactly what that little scrap of funny-shaped fabric is...a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle.
As the light was fading, I added the final piece. The next stage is to finish all of the raw edges.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016
I have been reading a lot about Hygge in the British press lately ~ there have been articles and book recommendations, but I could not track down any books on the subject here. I find it interesting how ideas take a while to filter through and can only assume that it has something to do with a couple of thousand miles of ocean in between (though one would think that would no longer be an issue in these days of social media).
Imagine my delight when a parcel arrived from my friend at Vintage Pretty and when I opened it, I discovered a parcel of hygge! The Little Book of Hygge had been on my reading list for quite some time and it came with a gorgeously soft hand knitted scarf, English breakfast tea, Scottie dog shortbreads (very cute!), the most delicious salted caramel biscuits and a beautiful card with a scenic view of her home county.
Hygge may best be described as 'the art of living cosily', so now I can create my own hygge with a lovely cup of tea, a biscuit and my book. I've added the essential ingredient ~ a candle for that homely glow.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Saturday, 3 December 2016
I turn the page of the calendar to December and realise that Christmas is fast approaching and also the end of 2016. I completed my personal NaBloPoMo challenge in November ~ posting every day for a month. I don't think that I have that many readers these days, but I do appreciate the comments and support of my blogging friends.
I sometimes find myself wondering why I continue with this blog ~ I think that the reason is a desire to write and be published ~ little more than a dream at present, but I hope to one day make it a reality.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016
One morning, I was trying to study and heard this insistent tapping. For a while I tried to block it out and concentrate on my books, but after it had continued for quite some time, I decided to investigate the source of the noise.
It didn't take me long to discover that we had a woodpecker drilling holes in the wood outside our window. I didn't manage to get a photo until it moved to a nearby tree. I'm informed that it is a Hairy Woodpecker. Similar in appearance to its smaller cousin the Downy Woodpecker, but with a much longer bill. In reading about this woodpecker, I learned that it forages along tree trunks and the main branches of trees, but this one had been busy drilling holes in our balcony!
Tuesday, 29 November 2016
Yes, this was another unfinished project! I started it last year and ran out of time before Christmas arrived, so it was consigned to a bag until I finally got round to getting my knitting needles out again.
As everyone knows, Santa wants to look his best for his big day, so his clothes have to be clean and ready to wear. Nice shiny black buttons and pristine white fur trim on his jacket.
Coordinating trousers with a drawstring waist for the times when he over-indulges in the mince pies!
The whole outfit includes long-johns, striped socks and a wool hat with a fur trim and bobble.
This pattern was for hanging tree ornaments, but I thought that it would look good if I use some bakers' twine in red and white and buy some mini clothes pegs, then I can string Santa's washing up to dry..
Monday, 28 November 2016
One of my favourite tea-time treats is a toasted teacake with butter. I have fond memories of cosy tea shops offering such delicious treats on cold winter days, with a reviving pot of tea.
Sadly, there are no such places here and I have yet to find anything resembling a teacake. I saved a recipe from a magazine and made this batch for a Sunday afternoon treat. They were not quite how I remembered them, but they were still delicious with a cup of tea.
Sunday, 27 November 2016
Saturday, 26 November 2016
I'm not ashamed to admit that I use a breadmaker for most of the bread that I bake. The only dough that I physically handle is pizza dough and dough for breadsticks, but only after it has been kneaded in the stand mixer.
After a neck injury left me with chronic pain, I am not able to knead bread myself and I like the convenience of being able to put everything into the machine and have a perfectly cooked loaf come out at the end of the process.
Since we got our 'new' breadmaker (second-hand, but in as new condition), I've stuck to the recipe for quick French bread, which gives excellent results in only two and a half hours. I did try a malted loaf, using a recipe from another breadmaker book, but it was not successful, as it came out burnt and crispy. As our machine is a Cuisinart, I suppose that Americans don't bake malt loaf, so there is no recipe supplied.
I fancied a change and decided to try the Rustic Italian loaf. This bread is amazing and it even keeps well for a couple of days. I can't resist the still-warm crust with melted butter, though I usually share it...delicious!
Friday, 25 November 2016
The appearance of The English Home on the newsagent's shelf is a certain sign that Christmas is approaching. The annual ritual of buying the December issue signals that it is time for me to begin my Christmas preparations.
Whilst I can aspire to the perfect English country cottage, beautifully decorated for the Christmas season, the reality is a little different. I think that this year will be a pared-down version of Christmas for various reasons, the least of which is lack of space.
Anyway, I can still dream of curling up in front of a fire in that cottage in the countryside and enjoy a welcoming cup of tea and a seasonal nibble as I daydream...
Thursday, 24 November 2016
I love rhubarb, so when I discovered a recipe for Norwegian rhubarb cake, I decided to try it. As rhubarb is not in season, I used some from the freezer.
The recipe is very quick and easy and the cake baked in minutes (just as well I kept an eye on it, as it cooked in about half the time stated in the recipe).
The cake was delicious warm and is a recipe that I will be keeping for future use. If you would like to try it for yourself, you can find it here.
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
In recent years, I've had very little time to work on many of the projects that I started. I am slowly trying to rectify this situation and I've been busy during the last few weeks working on this sampler. It was a gift from my dear friend Tracy and I believe that I started it about three years ago.
Sanctuary Shells is a counted cross stitch kit from Dimensions' Crafts. It is in really pretty shades of blue, green and creamy beige. I had to down tools to wait for some extra thread to arrive after I ran out of two colours. As these are custom colours, I had to ask the company to supply them and they kindly agreed to send me some.
This soothing still life is a scene of peace and tranquility, which I will have framed and then find a suitable spot to display. I'm thinking that it may inspire a whole new decorating scheme...
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
This has been a year of thrift and I've had to economise in the kitchen. After buying some vegetable stock for a soup, I decided that it would be cheaper to make my own.
I discovered this recipe. What was interesting was the suggestion that perfectly good vegetable stock can be made with the waste vegetable scraps that most people throw away. I didn't have enough scraps to make stock this time, but from now on, I'm going to save them, put them in the freezer and make stock once I have a bag full of scraps.
This stock is the base for a warming winter soup and makes twice the amount required, so I have a bag left over, which I can freeze for another time.
Monday, 21 November 2016
Sunday, 20 November 2016
'Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord.'
The Book of Common Prayer
The opening words of The Book of Common Prayer, read on this Sunday before Advent. Since Victorian times, Stir-Up Sunday has traditionally been the day for the family to get together to make the Christmas pudding. Each family member must take a turn at stirring the pudding and making a wish.
This allows time for the pudding to mature before Christmas Day.
My favourite pudding is a recipe dating from 1845. This recipe is from Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery. It has become a seasonal favourite and its preparation is much anticipated.
I have discovered a modern twist to its preparation, as I now cook it in my slow cooker, rather than filling the kitchen with clouds of steam. This recipe makes two medium size puddings, so they are each steamed in turn after being covered in parchment paper and foil. Once steamed, they are well wrapped in fresh parchment and foil, before storage in a cool place until Christmas.
There is a huge sense of satisfaction in laying down delicacies in preparation for the festivities. I hope to add to my culinary collection in the coming weeks.
There is a huge sense of satisfaction in laying down delicacies in preparation for the festivities. I hope to add to my culinary collection in the coming weeks.
Saturday, 19 November 2016
I really enjoy baking and especially scones. Whilst I like the small individual ones, it is far quicker and less wasteful to make a large round, score it with a knife and bake it as a whole. This first one is a sultana scone recipe, which is a favourite, still warm from the oven with melting butter.
This second scone round is a variation with fresh raspberries. I first had raspberry scones a year or so ago and decided to try my hand at baking them. They can tend to be a bit on the wet side, but I think that the answer is not to be over-generous with the fresh berries and to make sure that they are dry before adding them to the dough.
Anyone for tea and scones? I'll put the kettle on...
Friday, 18 November 2016
A recent trip to a British shop yielded some treasure. With Christmas in mind, I needed to buy suet for the Christmas pudding. Atora can be difficult to track down, but fortunately it was in stock.
Heinz beans are a favourite from home. I know that they sell the brand here, but they don't taste anything like these, so we generally stock-pile a few tins.
It was quite a small shop this time - usually, I'm stocking up on the British chocolate, but I'm trying to be good in the weeks leading up to Christmas!
Thursday, 17 November 2016
in case one day she should find herself unable to get back.
The spell might break, the atmosphere be impossible to recapture.'
The opening paragraph of Mrs Miniver captures her zest for living and her delight in everyday objects and situations. On arriving home after the summer holidays, she enters the drawing room where tea is laid and a fire burns brightly; sun floods through the windows and she arranges chrysanthemums in a vase, so that the sun shines through them.
We are immediately transported to her world: she shares her insights as she describes the people and situations she comes across with warmth and wisdom. But her contented existence is threatened by the prospect of war.
Jan Struther's book was published in October 1939, shortly after the outbreak of war. Winston Churchill said that Mrs Miniver had done more for the Allies in hastening the United States' entry into the war than a flotilla of battleships.
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
On a visit to our local charity shop earlier in the summer, I discovered a scarf tied to a rail. The colours had caught my eye, as they were so vibrant. I thought that it was silk and when I gave it a closer inspection, I found that it was.
What came as a bigger surprise was the information on the label, which stated that it was 'Made in Occupied Japan'.
Not only is it vintage, but it must be more than 70 years old. It is in perfect condition and I think that it will add some much-needed colour to winter.
Tuesday, 15 November 2016
Baking a Christmas cake is part of my seasonal preparations at this time of year. I actually baked it a couple of weeks ago, but I've only just got round to posting about it. The first stage is washing and preparing the fruit, with the addition of brandy to allow it to soak overnight.
After preparing the cake tin, I mix the butter, sugar and spices in a large bowl, before beating in the eggs. I then fold in the flour and finally add the fruit mixture, stirring well to combine. The cake mixture is then placed into the prepared tin.
As cooking is long and slow, the cake needs lots of protection, for which I use newspaper tied in place with string. The cake is then ready for the oven.
I kept a close eye on this cake as I was baking it in an unfamiliar oven. I haven't baked a fruit cake in it before and I was concerned about overcooking, as the oven tends to cook a lot faster than recipes suggest (I suspect that the temperature is inaccurate).
The result of my efforts. The cake will be fed with brandy on a weekly basis over the coming weeks, so that it is moist and mature by Christmas. It will then be ready for icing.
Monday, 14 November 2016
I have to admit to yet another unfinished project. Those of you who regularly read my blog may remember that I posted about this a year ago. I had thought that it would be fairly quick and easy to sew these, but life got in the way.
Still, as they say, better late than never. I love Liberty prints and I think that these will make beautiful gifts which will be treasured.
This final photo shows the reverse side with the main piece of Liberty print. The flower details on the front were all done by hand with off-cuts of fabric.
Sunday, 13 November 2016
Saturday, 12 November 2016
I have been reading two books by Amanda Owen, who is known as the Yorkshire shepherdess. Amanda grew up in Huddersfield, but shunned the idea of a regular job and decided that she wanted to be a farmer.
Her first book The Yorkshire Shepherdess follows her early efforts at farming, working for farmers around the country and finally settling in the Yorkshire Dales. Meeting Clive Owen, a farmer, changed her life when she fell in love and moved to Ravenseat, at the top of Swaledale. This book is the story of those early days and is full of anecdotes and typical Yorkshire characters.
The second book A Year In The Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess was published in the spring. It continues Amanda and Clive's story as their family has grown to include nine children (eight at the time of the book). They farm in a remote part of Yorkshire and breed the traditional Swaledale sheep.
If you enjoyed the stories of James Herriot, you will enjoy these books, with their stories of everyday life on the farm and caring for their family, including a flock of 1,000 sheep, horses, dogs, hens and a goat.
Amanda may have started out as a city girl, but she has clearly given her heart and soul to rural Yorkshire and her farming life and family. Should you ever decide to walk the Coast to Coast, you may be interested to know that you can call at Ravenseat for a cream tea to refresh you after your long trek across the heather moorland.
Friday, 11 November 2016
'They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.'