Some of my favourite things ♥

I’ll let you into a secret (and please don’t mention this to anyone) I’m absolutely desperate to take down the Christmas decorations and give the house a really good clean! Can you believe it? I’m a cross between Mary Poppins and The Grinch! There have been little festive garlands and ornaments disappearing since yesterday and today the Christmas mugs came out of the dishwasher and were promptly wrapped in tissue paper instead of being put into the mug cupboard. My hubby wants to keep the decs up for a while longer but how on earth can I stop the House Elf from tidying up when our backs are turned? He’s a crafty little fellow (the elf, not my husband) who just loves the feeling of….. S P A C E ….. that happens when all the decorations come down. I can see his point.

Xmas Decorations

We visited Chatsworth House in October and bought the metal reindeer (above) to add to our Christmas display. We’ve fallen in love with him so he may escape being put into a box and be kept out all year. As much as I have the urge to pack Christmas away early every year I have a strange habit of also keeping something out on display. I have fairy lights over the fireplace all year (too pretty to take down), a purple berry wreath on the kitchen door (the door looks sad without it), a large star made out of twigs in the garden room (I love stars as much as hearts!) and quite possibly a metal reindeer on the bureau in the hall 🙂
However, I will miss all the greenery in the house the – the tree smells wonderful and I’m looking forward to making an Easter wreath already.

Christmas 2012

It’s been such a nice Christmas and I feel relaxed, refreshed and looking forward to the New Year. The housework has slipped, the garden has been sorely neglected (although the weather is even too soggy for wellies) and there has been way too much drinking and eating naughty food… simply wonderful!

Christmas Presents

Some of my favourite things are (1) a lovely cotton Owl bag to help with the grocery shopping – the design on this is great and I’d love to have this as a cushion… maybe I’ll have a go at making one next year! (2) I love books more than anything else and usually have three on the go at once so these stocking fillers will keep me quiet for a while. (3) My husband bought me the sparkly heart shaped necklace ♥ (4) This is actually a paper pot maker for my seedlings so I can make my own little pots. (5) A new diary always makes me smile… it’s completely empty at the moment and yet is so full of possibilities. Roll on 2013!

Happy New Year

Wishing you all a very happy New Year and fortunate 2013 x

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The Eve of Christmas Eve

I have always loved the magic of Christmas and look forward to the traditions that we undertake each year such as choosing and collecting the tree, untangling the fairy lights and making the cake. Each year also brings the opportunity to start new traditions such as making gingerbread houses and producing homemade gifts such as candles or soap but I always seem to have more pressing things to do…. so I’ve asked Father Christmas for a little more free time in 2013 🙂

Source - Pinterest

Source – Pinterest

Isn’t it funny, I realised that I had finally grown up one Christmas when the things I wished for were not things at all… I wished for good health, peace of mind, happiness, security and a loving family and friends. A cliche it may be but it’s oh so true. I used to have a job that required me to work all sorts of shifts including on Christmas Day and I used to be so envious of people who could be at home. I am really lucky that my work is now Monday to Friday  and I don’t have to work main holidays so I can be at home – I will never take this for granted.

Garlic Planted

I really wanted to plant the garlic on Friday but due to the persistent rain (and the fact that the end of the world was predicted so it would have been a waste of time) the planting was postponed until today. It was soooo good to get back into the garden! I feel like I’ve been very neglectful of it lately as the rain has stopped play for weeks. As the gate creaked closed behind me I could almost hear it squeak “there you are”.

Source - pinterest

Source – pinterest

So as the final ribbon is carefully wrapped around the presents and the stockings are waiting to be filled I’m going to put on my christmas pyjamas and get the party started! Christmas Eve is so exciting around here that we even have an Eve of Christmas Eve celebration! I’ve always loved the anticipation of Christmas as much as the day itself (if not more) and I still go to bed hoping to hear sleigh bells overhead….

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas – let’s share a virtual glass of cold champagne and toast the spirit of Christmas! x x x

Cheep Treats

Tweet Treats

I enjoy feeding the feathered Winter visitors in the garden particularly when the ground is frozen and trees are bare. I’m really looking forward to Christmas so I decided to make some festive tree decorations that the birds will love – and if they don’t enjoy them  at least the tree looks pretty!

Fresh Cranberries
The empty ribbon spool was threaded with ribbon and covered in peanut butter. This was a messy job and despite wearing gloves I managed to get it everywhere (including my slippers)! The spool was then rolled in mixed wild bird seed, and apple was added and finally hung on the tree. I collected a few pine cones from the garden and these were also smeared in peanut butter and seeds. Unfortunately, the only variety of pine cones I have are the long ones (and I really wanted the short, round type but as every good child knows “I want doesn’t get!”)  so I’m not too pleased with the results…..
….especially as it appears that I’ve hung seed-covered dog poo in the tree!! LOL – honestly, have another look at the first picture!! You’d never see this in Country Living magazine!

Apple and CranberriesThe good news is that the novelty tree is attracting all sorts of creatures, and if you listen really carefully, they can be heard giggling at the sight 🙂

Pheasants and Squirrels

Mrs Beeton Would Not Approve

The Christmas cake is finally decorated and although I made the cake  myself I decided against home made marzipan and Royal icing. Time is precious and there have been too many  other things to do so I used ready-made varieties instead (at least this way knives won’t be damaged cutting through the cake this year!).

Iced Christmas Cake

The tradition of eating dried fruit and spices go back to the middle ages where it was custom for a cake to be baked for 12th night celebrations. But due to too much Pagan merriment this celebration was banned during Puritan times although fruit puddings remained popular at Christmas. We can thank Queen Victoria for the cake’s revival (as well as many other christmas traditions) and the popularity of the fruit cake recipe by Mrs Beeton.
I had visions of me dropping the cake out of the tin and it breaking into a hundred pieces. You see, I’m clumsy. Not just “oops a daisy, steady on!” clumsy but the whole “Ronald MacDonald feet, custard pie in the mush!” clumsy!! I regularly trip over fresh air, accidently drop most things that I shouldn’t and if the situation arose I could NEVER be trusted to cut the correct wire on a ticking bomb!

Christmas Cake 1

1. Amazingly the cake survived… probably due to the alcohol fumes allowing it levitate out of the tin!
2. Apricot jam was warmed and spread over the cake to allow the marzipan to stick.
3. The marzipan was thinly rolled out and lifted onto the cake. This layer was then gently moistened with boiling water and a thin layer of fondant icing was added.

Christmas Cake 2

4. Goodness knows where picture 4 went LOL (Mrs Beeton probably had something to do with it as I can hear her spinning her grave as I type!). Such a shame as No.4 was amazing 😉 and showed the excess icing and marzipan being trimmed off the cake.
5. A cookie cutter star was used to punch out the decorations.
6. The stars were stuck onto the cake with a little more boiling water.
7. A ribbon was tied around the cake and the whole thing was put onto the lid of a cake tin with the actual tin used as the lid. I reminded my husband not to turn it around the other way in his quest to look for biscuits!

You’re welcome to pop round for a cup of tea (or something stronger) and a slice of cake. In fact I insist that you go home with some… and here is the first glimpse of the magic at Christmas. No matter how many slices of Christmas cake are cut, the cake seems to last forever!

What’s in a name?

There are certain years when I go mad with the decorations and every spare surface in the house is festooned with sparkly delights. Other years I am quite restrained and understated in my approach… and I never have a plan before I begin. I obviously channel Dolly Parton in my more colourful years (oooh, and I do love a bit of Dolly) but this year was more subdued like Grace Kelly so most of the bling has gone back to the attic.

Noel

The Christmas tree and hearth are pretty traditional but the rest of the house is decorated with muted gold and silver.

Wreath

The Garden Room has neutral furnishings so it’s easy to decorate it with any colour scheme possible. This year it’s simply twinkle lights and a seasonal display on the sideboard. The tree is situated at the other end of the room and I’ll post some more photos of that next weekend.

Garden Room

The kittens are doing really well and are so cute. There are little paw prints everywhere… and I don’t mind a bit! I’ve registered them with a vet and have booked them in for their vaccinations next week. We’ve finally decided to KEEP the names that they were given at birth – mainly because we couldn’t agree on any other names (what’s wrong with Arthur??).

Milo

So, finally (drum roll please….) the brown tabby boy is called Milo which means soldier.

Bella

… and the beautiful little grey tabby girl is appropriately called Bella.

They play really well together and curl up entwined, all paws and whiskers, to go to sleep. So this really is the start of another happy chapter but there is one thing that I need to get off my chest. My little sister visited last weekend and fussed over the kittens. She thought the names were great and said that they really suited them…. especially as they were obviously named after two of The Tweenies! Aaarrggghhh!!! LOL!

We love you anyway Milo & Bella x x

Tweenies

Christmas is coming!

TreesThe first weekend of December is usually when we fetch Christmas tree from the local farm shop… and we also would probably win the award for fastest chosen tree! We seem to have a talent for quickly spotting and buying a good tree within a minute and leaving the other customers to argue over the type of tree to buy! It’s all part of our Christmas traditions now…

When we arrive home the cheesy christmas music is turned on and I eagerly look forward to unwrapping the decorations and smiling at the happy memories that emerge with each one. There’s no colour scheme or fancy theme for the tree but simply the familiar act of pinning little tokens of happiness to the branches that  remind us of Christmas Past.

Christmas Decorations

For some reason this year has been especially busy and the Christmas cake, which is usually made shortly after Halloween, just hasn’t been made so I decided to try a different recipe. I wanted something simple and quick to make and found a great  Christmas Cake Recipe on the BBC Good Food website. As much as I love all-things-Delia I felt like a bit of a change in 2012 and I hope that the final proof will be in the pudding 🙂

Christmas Cake Ingredients

The fruit, butter, sugar, zest, spices and roasted macadamia nuts were slowly heated in a large pan on the stove until combined. The flour was then sifted and gently mixed into the batter until no further trace of flour could be seen. The trickiest part of this process was lining the cake tin!

Cake mixture

As the cake slowly baked the house filled with the delicious smell of Christmas…

Christmas Cake

It’s going to be an extra special christmas this year as we have two special furry friends to share it with. They make us smile each day and are so adorable! This morning they were curled up in the egg basket… and had even removed the inner tray to make it more comfortable. Luckily the eggs are no longer stored in the utility room!

Kittens in egg basket