Friday, 28 October 2016

Christmas Craftiness

Two books from the library this week.  Halfyard Christmas wasn't very inspiring.  It was a bit too much burlap and bunting for me. 
Handmade Christmas was a lot more fun.  Many of the crafts are by Clare Youngs.  I read her "Christmas Crafting in no time"  last  October.  Some of the crafts are repeats from that book,  but it did give me a few ideas.  
We're having a Craft Fair at UCF in December  and I want to make some bits to sell. 
But I was also given a book this week  by a friend.  She said it has been on her bookshelf for years and she didn't think she'd ever get round to using it. 

I've had fun knitting a mini jumper and pair of mittens from patterns in the book as a thank you gift  for her. I made a little coathanger for the jumper from a pipe cleaner wrapped in tape. 

I really enjoy autumn evenings when I can sit and do festive knitting and stitching 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Yes, Prime Minister?

I am dreadful at the cinema - we are intently watching the film and I'll whisper to Bob "Oooh look, its what-is-name!" - or worse "I know that actress, who is she?" 
When we went to see "Inferno" this week [an early birthday treat for Bob] I saw two actors who have played Prime Ministers in the past - Paul Ritter, who was a brilliant John Major, in 'The Audience' with Helen Mirren, and Sidse Babett Knudsen, who played the fictional Birgitte, the Danish PM in Borgen.
I won't say too much about the film, as I don't want to give any spoilers. Bob had just read Dan Brown's book.
He says it is fairly close to the book, but some plot details have been changed or omitted to simplify it for the screen. As well as spotting favourite actors, I really enjoyed seeing the parts of the film shot in Florence - I went there with Steph about 15 years ago. It is a truly beautiful city, and shots of the Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio, and Boboli Gardens brought back many happy memories. 
I think I'd give this **** - but I admit to enjoying most of Tom Hanks' films. I think he is definitely the 'Jimmy Stewart' of his generation, and comes across in interviews as an all-round nice guy [with a surprising fondness for old fashioned manual typewriters] It is 10 years since The Da Vinci Code hit the screens. Here's the official trailer

And one final thing, whilst we are on the subject of Prime Ministers - I am not making any political statement here, but it does amuse me that the current occupant of Number 10 shares her name with a well known manufacturer of hair products!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

It Must Be Half Term...

...because I have just made my Christmas Cake and Puds. I've made them in the October half term week for almost 40 years now, using a modified form of the recipe in my ancIent, food spattered, Good Housekeeping Cookbook. The best years were the ones when the girls were at home, and we all took a turn to stir the mixture. We each wrote down 4 hopes and prayers for the coming year - 
  1. a gift we would like for ourselves
  2. a gift we would like for someone else we knew
  3. something we would like to happen in our family, our church or our community
  4. something we would like to happen in the world.
The notes would go in my notebook and then the following year we would check them. I wish I hadn't mislaid that little book, it would be good to look back and realise just how many of those things had come to pass.
A few helpful tips I have learned in all these years of Christmas Cake & Pud Making
  • a grated carrot or too adds extra sweetness and moisture to your pud [my Gran's tip - and recommended by Marguerite Patten too. It was a popular during WW2 rationing]
  • if you are teetotal - and thrifty, you can always use cold tea instead of brandy in both pud and cake
  • tying a cloth over the pudding bowl with string is the traditional method - 2 layers of greaseproof paper and an outer one of foil can be held on just as well with a rubber band, and it is less fiddly to put on. But don't forget to put in a pleat to allow for expansion. 
  • if you are steaming your puds, use a steamer - or a stack them in a pressure cooker [balance the lid on top, rather than fixing it right down] or, if you are making a lot of little puds, you can use a fish kettle - like the one Bob bought in a CS last year
  • you can save time by cooking puds under pressure in a PC - I was making a load this year and decided to use the trad steaming method. Some years I have steamed them all by standing them in a roasting tray in the oven but I have never cooked them in the microwave
  • if the hob is covered with steaming puds and there is a cake in the oven, plan your evening meal carefully. I put a tray of jacket spuds in the bottom of the oven - served up with microwaved baked beans, grated cheese and cold ham. The spare cooked spuds will go into the fridge and be used in tomorrows meal.
  • keep a kitchen timer about your person, so you get regular reminders to go and check the pans have not boiled dry. 
Do you make your own Christmas puds and cakes?

Or do you usually buy them?

If you make them, do you have any special tips?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Feeling Blue

Not in a negative way, you understand - I just seem to have done a lot of blue sewing this month. I turned a cheap tarpaulin into covers for the BBQ and Bob's trolley.
I finally finished the blue lounge curtains - seaming them into 2 pairs, and hemming them. 
And on Saturday I made some curtains for Rosie's Nursery.
This is a lovely fabric which Liz found in The Range in Norwich. I have put a good lining on the back, to help keep the room dark. Much as we love the sunshine, it is good if it doesn't wake the babe too soon in the mornings!
Here they are over the back of my sofa. The print is not babyish, so should last a good few years. Liz's first curtains were made from a remnant of red Habitat alphabet print. [Now repurposed into a dustcover for my Cornerstones sewing machine]

I have been doing a lot of hand sewing in the past week too - my knee has been playing up again, so I have sat with it propped up on the sofa, while I stitch away happily.

But my final bit of blue needlework was to make two cushion covers from a pair of tapestries I stitched in1976.  They were 21st birthday gifts.  Both Norwich scenes- Elm  Hill and Pull's Ferry.  The Ferry was framed and hung on the walls of my various homes for nearly 40 years.  The glass cracked when we moved here . The other one has sadly been rolled up in a box all that time!  So I took both canvasses and some blue tweed and made these cushions.  Much nicer,  and they are back in  Norfolk again! 

Monday, 24 October 2016


So this is Day 11 of the Capsule Wardrobe Experiment. What I have learned thus far is that I am not very good at taking selfies. I have worn all my trousers, dresses, and outer tops - but still have a few teeshirts, a skirt and a jumper as yet unworn. They will be in play very soon. Here are the first 10 days
Click on the picture for close ups. You can't see clearly that Day 2 is my tweedy suit, but Day 10 is suit jacket and plain black trousers. Day 8 I didn't get dressed till the afternoon [not feeling well] so wore the same stuff on Day 9 sans cardi. 
I am beginning to realise I possess altogether too many clothes which I do not really need, and suspect the CS will be getting another bag soon, of the Pile 1 clothes which are currently on one side.[Luke 3;11 and all that]
However, I am now fully signed on with a Supply Agency - so may have to supplement these items with some out of the Pile 1 store.
These pictures also show how much I am in need of a haircut and a diet!!

Sunday, 23 October 2016


I'm really enjoying Bob's current sermon series, as he preaches through the Lord's Prayer [sermon podcasts are being uploaded to UCF website] Recently I have come across a hymn by a Filipino [Daniel Thambyrajah Niles 1908-1970] He said it was inspired by the Lord's Prayer.
Father in heaven, grant to your children
Mercy and blessing, songs ever ceasing;
Love to unite us, grace to redeem us,
Loving Creator, parent and God.

Jesus, Redeemer, help us remember
Your gracious passion, your resurrection:
Your call to follow, your love tomorrow,
Jesus, Redeemer, our friend and Lord

Spirit descending, your light unending,
Brings hope and healing, is truth revealing:
Dispel our blindness, inspire our kindness,

Spirit descending, Spirit adored.

It was composed in 1961, and the tune Halad [which means 'offering'] was written by another Filipino, Elena Maquiso. Click here to listen to the tune - I think all offering tunes should be joyful - in too many churches, people sit there glumly putting their pennies in the plate as if they were doing their Tax Returns!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Oops-a-Daisy, I Missed Michaelmas

Close to the autumnal equinoxes, Michaelmas is one of the old ‘quarter days’. These were the four significant dates in the agricultural, legal and university calendars. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. Consequently Harvest Festival is usually marked at the end of September. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. This is how it came to be for Michaelmas to be the time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms. Michaelmas Day is 29th September.
Folklore in the British Isles suggests that Michaelmas day is the last day that blackberries can be picked. It is said that when St. Michael expelled Lucifer, the devil, from heaven, he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush. Satan cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, and stamped and spat on them, so that they would be unfit for eating. As it is considered ill-advised to eat them after 29 September, a Michaelmas pie is made from the last berries of the season.
We did celebrate Harvest at UCF on the nearest Sunday - I think that was just how it worked out. I haven't picked any berries since either [although there's one small box left in the freezer] But to my delight, I have noticed we have a small clump of Michaelmas Daisies bringing a splash of purple to the garden since our return from Sicily.[picture 4 below]

Other unexpected delights in the garden this week - I found some lemon balm [picture 1] growing behind the shed [I love lemon balm] Somebody please advice me - if I dig it up and replant it with my other herbs in the raised bed now,  will it die? Should I just leave it, and transplant it in the spring, or what?
Picture 2 is the fuchsia planted last summer, which I thought had died. It has suddenly burst forth into glorious pink blossom. Very happy about that - I hated leaving my lovely big pink fuchsia bush back in Kirby [a gift from our late friends George and Ellen]
Pictures 3 and 6 are my geraniums from the little tub on the patio. Margaret said that if I picked off the dead blooms, more would grow. So I did - and they have! Picture 5 - being optimistic here - we were given some bulbs on our Wedding Anniversary in August. Hoping for a pretty display in the spring.

“The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds, 
Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.”

The Feast of St. Simon and Jude is 28 October. The act of giving a Michaelmas Daisy symbolises saying farewell, perhaps in the same way as Michaelmas Day is seen to say farewell to the productive year and welcome in the new cycle.
Bob and I have noticed that it is significantly warmer down here in Dorset, and Autumn seems to be arriving a little later. What's the weather like where you are?