Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Christmas tree

I have lots of decorations – I like to ring the changes with my colour scheme. This year I was going to go for red and white, and bought a few extra white decorations. I also had the bright idea of using ribbon to make some bows. I planned to get the tree done at the weekend, but what with everything, it was yesterday before I managed it.

When I do a two-colour tree, I do one colour first and then the other; that way I don’t end up with it lopsided and with pools of one colour that I notice later and then have to rearrange. So I got all the white stuff on and thought, ‘Actually, I quite like that as it is.’

So here’s my all-white (apart from a little red and white bird which snuck on courtesy of my daughter) tree.

Did I mention my bows? I bought 15 metres of cheap uber-synthetic satin ribbon; I didn’t want to splash out too much until I knew the idea worked. And my goodness, it’s hard to tie that stuff into proper, even bows. I managed it in the end, by devising a two-ribbon and needle and thread loop-loop-stitch-pinch-tie process.

I am very happy with them.

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I’m finding my customary morning listening – Radio 4’s Today programme – to be a bit too much for me the moment, so in the mornings, I tend to find myself listening to this:

Yes, I’ve cracked open the festive music. Mr S&S has stopped complaining since I told him that he was squashing my attempts to be happy and festive and accused him of being a Grinch. Sometimes guilt has its uses. Anyway, no, this is not, despite what it claims, the Best Christmas Album in the World Ever, but it’s pretty good. It has most of the must-have classics (White Christmas, The Christmas Song, an Ella Fitzgerald number), the obligatory Wizzard and Mud and Slade, and some more unusual choices (Mad World and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s The Power of Love, not to mention a bit of Steeleye Span (Gaudete, one of my favourites). It has Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews doing Baby, It’s Cold Outside, which is a marvellous version. I do prefer Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby, but I can live with Kylie’s. There are some fillers – I could live without The Waitresses – and I am fairly sure that the true best album ever would have East 17’s Stay Another Day, which despite being objectively awful, is one of my favourite Christmas songs ever.

But no. The thing that comprehensively ruins this compilations claim to greatness is that while it does contain the marvellous Fairytale of New York, it is not the Pogues version with Kirsty MacColl. No. It is the version with Ronan bloody Keating. Ronan Keating. Yes, him out of the squeaky-clean boyband. And a woman who has a nice voice but who lacks the venom necessary. (‘I could have been someone…’ ‘Well, so could anyone’ , spits Kirsty. Marvellous.)

Whose idea was this travesty? Find them. And … well, what I want to say next may lead to comparisons with Jeremy Clarkson. Let’s just say I skip past that track. In a week or so I’ll be breaking out the Carols from Kings CD, which is my music of choice for baking and decorating and present wrapping. That’s when things get serious.

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On Sunday, Mr S&S was happy because it was the first Sunday in Advent, so he was allowed mince pies. I am a stickler for ‘No Christmas things in the house until Advent’ because I like Christmas to be special and exciting and if you’re surrounded by Christmas things from October, it… isn’t.

But today is the 1st of December and I’m starting to feel, despite all the stuff going on here, enthusiastic about Christmas. I’m feeling festive. And creative. And excited. I also think my blogging mojo has come back, and to encourage it, I’ve decided to use the blog to harness my feelings of Festive Cheer. I’m going to do a post every day about something Christmassy or celebratory or wintery that makes me feel happy and cosy and festive. A sort of advent calendar/journal of Christmas preparations, which, I hope, will get me properly into the blog again, and encourage me to make time to do some of the things in my head.

First up, today’s little indulgence. I love Country Living magazine, but I don’t often manage to justify buying it. But today I was out and about and I thought that I deserved a little treat, and the December edition is just so Christmassy and lovely and inspiring.

Even the cover is scrumptious. The baubles! The ribbon! The candlelight!

I won’t show you all the lovely things as I plan to do some of them, and mine won’t be magazine-quality! But here’s a lovely boiled wool stocking with hand embroidery that I have no plans to make:

This feature, however, has made me want to grab secateurs and go out and denude the local trees and shrubs for winter foliage.

There’s also some glorious recipes and a feature about a man who makes stained glass and the most beautiful pictures of a frost-covered garden that has me thinking about structural plants.

It’s starting to seem as though this was £3.90 well spent!

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So, 2011 dawns and I have – finally – managed to find my way back to my blog. It’s been a busy Christmas, and I’ve spent a week and a half away from home, so blogging took a back seat for a bit. I forgot to take pictures of my Christmas cake (which is a shame as lots of glitter was involved) but can tell you all about my adventures with royal icing and Christmas dinner, update you on my latest knitting endeavours and tell you all about a wonderful shop I visited yesterday. I’ll do it as soon as I sort my photos…

I don’t make new year’s resolutions any more – after years of feeling like a hopeless failure by halfway through January, I gave up. I concluded that the middle of winter, when it’s grey and cold a bit cheerless – and the house is full of chocolate from Christmas – is the worst time to try to break bad habits. Far easier to wait until spring when I don’t need the comfort of my vices. Nonetheless, I have lots of plans for 2011 – if even half of them come to fruition it’ll mean a very busy year.

So, happy new year – I hope 2011 brings good things.

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I have (with permission) borrowed the idea for a ‘Tuesday Ten’ from Sally. She has made some really interesting lists and I fancied having a go.

I love spring and summer. I adore warm weather, the long evenings, all the things that happen in the garden. I love picnics and eating outside. I love going for a walk without taking a cardigan, much less a jacket. I love drying washing on the line. I love salads. So I often look on the end of summer as a sad thing, and watch the days getting shorter with some trepidation.

Over the last couple of weeks, autumn has gradually crept upon us. Even on warm, sunny days there’s been a crispness in the air. We’ve had misty mornings and dew on the spiders’ webs. Haws and rosehips have appeared in the hedgerows. And our cat Trixie, who spends every fine day and warm night outside, has started appearing in the house.

So, to make myself more reconciled to the passing of summer, I am going to think of ten things I like about autumn.

1. Making chutney. I like making jam, too – but making autumn preserves is nicer than boiling up jam in a hot kitchen that’s full of flies and wasps. There’s something really warming and autumnal about the smell of onions, apples, spices and vinegar that makes the kitchen smell really cosy.

2. Misty mornings. The effects of the light are more subtle in spring and autumn, and the weaker sunlight shining through early morning mist (and the catch I get in my throat when I go outside) is beautiful.

3. Buying bulbs. We have lots of plans for the garden over the next year or so (basically, we’re going to dig everything up and start again) so there’s not much scope for planting bulbs in the beds. But there are still pots and tubs. And there are still bulbs to force for Christmas. Our local supermarket had lots of bulbs on special offer, so I have species tulips, standard tulips, grape hyacinths, daffs and narcissus, anemones and crocuses. The daffs and narcissus are going to be planted in a drift by the path. The tulips and grape hyacinths are destined for tubs by the kitchen door. And the anemones and crocuses will be forced for Christmas. This week, I shall also order some of the big scented hyacinths (which I adore) and some Paperwhite narcissus. There is something lovely about planning for spring, and also about having pools of scented spring brightness in the house in the depth of winter.

4. Scarves. I like scarves and I have lots of them, and it’s nice to be able to get them out and wear them again. One of the things I like about knitting is being able to have scarves exactly as I want them. The first thing I ever knitted was a ribbed scarf that was quite narrow, but over six feet long, so it could wrap round and round my neck (so it wouldn’t slip off) without stifling me. I also have a very cute sparkly scarf I knitted last winter, and of course I have my new Wicked Witch scarf for this winter.

5. Butternut squash are in season. Yummy. I love butternut squash, especially roasted with chilli and garlic and made into soup.

6. I love the long summer evenings outside, but winter means evenings in front of the fire, and a chance to catch up on some knitting and make a dent in the stack of unwatched DVDs.

7. It’s the Little Girl’s birthday soon, which is quite exciting. The rest of the family have our birthdays in the first third of the year, so I’m quite looking forward having an excuse for an autumn celebration.

8. Looking through my books to decide what I’m going to make and cook for Christmas. I know it seems mad but you need to force bulbs early, and collect pine cones before they get wet (pine cones make fantastic kindling and smell divine). I also like borrowing Christmas craft books from the library – you know, the ones with instructions on how to make your own everything and loads of totally over the top bonkersness which would have you committed by your suffering family if you did it all – and weeding out the really good, simple ideas.

9. In a similar vein, I also enjoy the Christmas knitting magazines, and in particular, threatening to knit a festive sweater for Mr SowandSew and making him wear it. I never would actually knit one (I have precious little knitting time and I wouldn’t waste it). But waving the pictures of reindeer jumpers at him and watching the resulting horrified facial expression is an annual joy.

10. Satsumas. Both the children adore satsumas, and will choose them over any other treat. (We know, we’ve offered them a choice of satsumas or biscuits and the satsumas win every time.) I love them too, and can eat piles of them. And then I dry the skins on top of the woodburner, which makes the living room smell all warm and citrussy. And the skins make great firelighters.

And having written all that, I feel the need for a cup of hot chocolate.

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I promised I’d post about my Christmas knitting once the gifts had been given.

So, here’s the first instalment.

I actually knitted three of these – as well as the pinks, there was one in blue, and one in creams and golds – but forgot to photograph them before I posted them off.

Anyway, each scarf is knitted from one skein of Colinette Giotto. I don’t know the shades because they were discontinued ones I bought from their factory shop. Anyway, they are satisfyingly easy and quick to knit. You need 15mm needles, which for those who haven’t used them, feels a bit like knitting using telegraph poles.

You cast on a multiple of 4 stitches plus 2. For the pictured scarf, I cast on 18 stitches. For a wider, shorter scarf, try 22. (Any wider than that and you’ll need 2 skeins. Unless you want a square scarf, I suppose.)

Then it’s *K2, yrn, p2tog* to last 2 st, K2 (the multiple of 4 plus 2 thing should mean that you’re ending each row with K2) until you run out of yarn. Cast off, weave in ends (I suggest weaving in quite a long tail because this stuff unravels really easily).

I love Colinette and I love Giotto. The shininess doesn’t show so well in the picture, but it has a lovely shimmeryness. And the colours are heaven.

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Well, that was a longer than anticipated posting hiatus – caused by a combination of Christmas (expected) and a family outbreak of norovirus (not expected), and in the ‘Most Worrying Things About Being A Parent’ hit parade, we have a new entry at Number One: ‘Eight Month Old Baby Has Temperature of 107F. At Midnight. On A Bank Holiday’. (He’s fine now, by the way.)

From high temperatures to low temperatures – the snow. We had snow before Christmas and we have snow now. These photos were taken before Christmas and the effect of the morning sun, the cloud and the snow had me dashing outside in my pyjamas to capture it. I absolutely promise that these photos have not been altered at all – I wouldn’t have a clue how, for one thing. It really did look like this, and it was extraordinary.

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