Monday 24 December 2018

All is Calm, All is Bright

After more than a month with snow on the ground, we have an almost green Christmas.  Heavy rain late last week caused a sudden thaw.

The tree is twinkling in the corner of our living room and there is a certain peace after the hectic weeks at work.  

This reindeer is a new addition to our tree.  I made a set of felt ornaments and they look very festive.  

All that remains is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas.  

Friday 30 November 2018

Winter Storm

The winter storm started on Wednesday night and continued throughout Thursday.  The snow amounted to about 25 centimetres and the winds reached 100 km/hour, bringing down power lines and resulting in the entire island being without power. 

Our power went off shortly after 6 a.m. and we were without power for fourteen plus hours.  The house got very cold and we were not adequately prepared for such an emergency, but at least we had storm chips!

Wednesday 28 November 2018

A Place for Everything

I've had the tidying bug lately, or more particularly, the cleaning bug.  Once the heat goes on at home, the dust starts flying and I decided that it was time to clean the kitchen bookcase and generally tidy up before the Christmas preparations begin in earnest.

There does seem to be a tendency for odds and ends to accumulate too, so they have all been removed and it all looks much better.  This little jar contained a candle which was mostly used up years ago, but I kept it for sentimental reasons.

Tuesday 27 November 2018

It's Never Too Early For A Mince Pie

The cold and snowy weather has had my thoughts turning to Christmas food and I had a sudden craving for a mince pie.

I'm not in the habit of baking mince pies in November, but I felt that we deserved a treat after the awful weather of last week.

I favour Nigella's recipe for mince pies and made the pastry with orange juice, hence the colour.

My mince pies are star-topped, so I cut the stars out of the pastry scraps left over from cutting the cases.

Once filled with mincemeat, the tops were added.

They came out of the oven looking like this.

I would normally add a festive dusting of icing sugar, but I had forgotten that I used it up and hadn't bought any more.  Still, they tasted great with a cup of tea.  I managed to stash a few in the freezer before Mr Candytuft ate them all!

Monday 26 November 2018

The Book of Christmas

It may still be November but the arrival of the snow and the cold weather have had my thoughts turning to Christmas.  What better way to prepare for the festive season than by dipping into The Irish Countrywomen’s Association Book of Christmas?  This delightful book is a treasury of traditions and recipes shared by the lovely ladies of the ICA.  I will be starting my menu planning for December within the next few days and hope to include one or two new recipes from these pages.

In the meantime, I’ve bought the ingredients for our Christmas puddings and will be busy with them tomorrow.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Stir-Up Sunday

Today is Stir-Up Sunday, the day on which tradition dictates that we make our Christmas puddings.

I use the same recipe every year and there is something quite therapeutic about stirring all of the ingredients together and filling the pudding basins.

Once filled, a piece of baking parchment covers each of the puddings and then a foil lid is added.  I use the slow cooker for boiling the puddings, as it generates much less steam in the kitchen than steaming them on a pan.  After two hours, the puddings were cooked and two of them are now tucked away for Christmas...the third didn't last long enough to go into storage!

Saturday 24 November 2018

Thought For The Day - Part IV

‘When snow falls, nature listens.’

Antoinette van Kleef

Friday 23 November 2018


I bought Titus yarn by Baa Ram Ewe a year ago last summer.  I have contemplated what to knit with only one skein and I’ve tried out one or two ideas, but it is definitely still a work in progress.

This gorgeous yarn is a blend of Wensleydale, Bluefaced Leicester and alpaca and the colour is called rose window.  It makes me think of the rose window at York Minster, though I think it was actually named to reflect the colours of the Yorkshire landscape.  Of course, Titus is named after Sir Titus Salt who built the village of Saltaire, a Victorian model village near Bradford, to house the workers of his textile mill.    

You can read more about Saltaire, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site here.

Thursday 22 November 2018


A sunny morning on the boardwalk earlier in the week.  Now that the weather has become so cold further exercise is likely to be indoors, at least until it warms up a bit.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

The View From Here

Some snow last week has left us with a wintry landscape.  This was the view from my kitchen window on Saturday.  

And this was the view early this morning after last night’s winter storm.  Thankfully, the ploughs were out early so we were able to get out and about without any problems.

This is the view looking out from our front window.  Now that we have the snow the cold temperatures are arriving overnight, so we are expecting a severe wind chill tomorrow.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Christmas Kitchen

One of the joys of my preparations for Christmas is baking our Christmas cake.  This year’s cake came out better than ever.  

I find that baking a fruit cake in a new oven can be a case of trial and error, so last year’s cake was a little overcooked.  This year, I used an oven thermometer, set the temperature lower than the recipe recommended (our oven seems to be hotter than it should be) and kept a very close eye on it from about three hours into the baking time.  It was definitely worth the effort.

Our cake is all tucked up in greaseproof paper and comes out weekly for a feed of brandy.  It is the aroma of Christmas.

Monday 19 November 2018


Yesterday dawned sunny and cold.  We braved the chill and headed out for a walk.  We had snow last week and the temperatures have been so low that it is still on the ground with more forecast for tomorrow.  It seems that winter has arrived early this year.

Sunday 18 November 2018

Thought For The Day - Part III

‘Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day
With no mistakes in it yet?’

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Saturday 17 November 2018

Scandinavian Christmas

One of the joys of the Christmas season is baking.  I love this book, which I received as a Christmas gift last year. I didn't have an opportunity to try any of the recipes at the time, so I decided to get a head-start this year and try a simple cake recipe.

I chose Nana's Apricot Cake, which is the sort of recipe my own Nana might have made.  I produced two apricot loaves, one of which is now safely tucked up in the freezer as one of our Christmas teatime treats.  This is one of those recipes which improves with age, if you can manage to keep the cake for a day or two.

If you fancy trying it for yourself, you can read the recipe if you enlarge the photo.  I did tweak it a little, as I added vanilla essence to what would have otherwise been a plain cake.  I can highly recommend it.

Friday 16 November 2018

Country Moments

Look what arrived in the post last week.  I haven't bought this magazine in almost three years so I was delighted to find that I could order it online and have it delivered (I can't find it here).  I also ordered Country Living, so have this to look forward to.  I'm looking forward to a quiet winter's afternoon with a pot of tea and a chance to dream of my home in the country.

An unexpected bonus came in the form of a calendar of country moments for 2019.

As it celebrates mindful moments and simple pleasures throughout the coming year, I'm looking forward to seeing what delights are in store.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Handmade Christmas

I can hardly believe that I bought this book in 2012 and it sat on my bookshelf for years.  It was one of those projects which I intended to start, but I couldn't seem to find the time to get underway.

Last year, I got as far as tracing all of the pattern pieces and the mammoth task of cutting out all of the felt.  By the time this was completed, I had no time left for the more creative part of the project. I started the Christmas pudding, then laid it aside, carefully placing all of the pieces in a tin.

Who would have thought that a few simple felt decorations could be so time-consuming?

Last week, I came across this project in my craft room and decided to make a start.

The reindeer one isn't in the photo, but is almost completed, apart from a missing piece of felt for the bow.  I'm certain that I cut this out, but it seems to have vanished.

The Christmas pudding is finally completed and here is the collection of the other finished pieces.  I have five left to sew and then I will have my Christmas dozen, finished in time for decorating the tree next month.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Autumn turns to Winter

This is the last colour in our garden for this year.  It is sedum Autumn Joy and it has been a joy to behold for the last few weeks.  I've watched as the colour changed from a pale pinkish-green to the deep pink of its last flush before it goes into winter hibernation.

The temperature dropped dramatically on Sunday and it felt like winter had arrived as we headed out to the Remembrance Day service.  With a temperature of minus 1 C, but a strong wind, it felt like minus 9 C.  The water in our birdbath has frozen, so we need to rescue it before it cracks.  The poor birds are left to fend for themselves - they have been visiting for water, but have left disappointed.  We had hoped to put our winter bird bath outdoors, but we don't have anywhere to run an electric cable.  I've seen birds massing and a huge flock of geese flew overhead, so I think most of them are now migrating.  Winter has definitely arrived.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

The English Home

One of the joys of the season is the arrival of The English Home, which appears in the shops long before any other Christmas magazine.  

There is nothing nicer than dipping into a bit of Christmas cheer and delighting in the prospect of the coming festivities.

Monday 12 November 2018

Book News

As I mentioned in a recent post, my book is completed and I was anticipating my proofreader beginning work within the next few weeks.  I got some unexpected news last week when she contacted me to say that she had had a couple of postponements and was able to start earlier than scheduled.  I’m trying not to be a nuisance and leaving her to get on with her job, but eagerly anticipating her feedback.  

She has promised to have my manuscript finished by the end of the month.  In the meantime, I’m thinking about all of the work that I will have to complete in order to move forward to publication.

I will share more news about this soon.

Sunday 11 November 2018

Armistice Centenary: 1918-2018

Today marks the centenary of Armistice Day, when the guns finally fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  I look at images of the First World War today and can barely imagine the horrors of this war which was supposed to end all wars.

Millions died so that we could live in freedom and peace.  The Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission maintains military cemeteries throughout the world, like this one in Ypres, Belgium.

As I reflect on the sacrifice made by millions of men and women, many of whom were barely of age to go to war, I have shared in some of their stories through the BBC Radio broadcasts of Home Front.  I have spent the past four years listening to every episode and it has given me an insight into the daily lives of those who lived through this period of history.

I have always felt that it is important to mark Remembrance Day.  In this centenary year, the survivors of the First World War are no longer with us, but we can carry their torch and ensure that future generations know their story.


Since drafting this post, I have learned of a personal connection to the First World War.  My great-uncle, Thomas Duffin died on 29th November 1915.  He had contracted dysentery while serving at Gallipoli.  He was 18 years of age.

We will remember them.

Saturday 10 November 2018

Thought For The Day - Part II

‘Happiness sneaks in through a door you 
Didn’t know you left open.’

John Barrymore

Cleaning up the garden at the end of the season when this rainbow appeared.

Friday 9 November 2018

Flower Corsage

This was a quick knitting project, which I made in an evening.  A pretty flower corsage made with leftover yarn from my stash (used for the vintage jacket).  A sweet button adds the finishing touch.

If you fancy knitting your own corsage, the pattern is free and available here.