Thursday, 27 December 2012

Befores and Afters

So, did you have some nice surprises on Christmas morning? This was one of mine. And this was another:

I've had a few little dips into each of them, but am looking forward to having some serious reading time later on. Books always figure prominently among our Christmas and birthday presents in our family.

Apart from a few mince pies, our Chrismas food was largely home made. And somewhat last minute too, as I hadn't been on the mood or in a fit state for preparing much in advance this year.

Here's the before photo of the spiced fruit compote I made for Boxing Day lunch. I forgot to take one when it had finished cooking! And it has all gone now so you'll have to imagine it. Gorgeous meltingly soft fruits bathed in a sauce of the juices, butter, sherry, brown sugar and spices. Yummy!

This is the suasage meat and stuffing pie which I now make every Christmas following my mum's tradition; it was always served to the crowd who were there Christmas evening, for the dancing, the pie, the (home) cooked ham sandwiches and the mince pies and Christmas cake. Sadly we don't have the big family get-togethers of my younger years any more, but some little pieces of the ritual remain.

I was so pleased with this ham, I simmered it first with some herbs, a carrot and onion and celery leaves. Then I removed the rind, scored the fat and made a glaze, studded it with cloves, and roasted it. Timed it just right - more by good luck than anything else! It was quite succulent and has been providing cold cuts since Christmas Eve, and still plenty to go. The stock I made into a veggie and lentil soup, and we have just had the first helping with this:

A wholemeal spelt loaf, freshly made this morning.  Delish! I just fancied some breadmaking today.

Christmas Day we were at Number One son's home and managed to grab a photo or two of our younger granddaughter Morgan who was providing cuddles between courses!

Being a good party-goer I have retained my paper hat, as you can see, though the rest of them have been discarded. Party-poopers!

Can't remember what was entertaining Morgan and Jim so much....I suspect it was the contents of someone's cracker. They were good 'uns!

Even my mum got in on the act! She had a lovely day out and was on top form. I hope you had equally good times over the two days and managed to see something of your extended families. We don't seem to have the huge family 'do's' that we used to years ago, there seemed to be hundreds of us, and despite not having large houses we all managed to find somewhere to sleep, often several branches of the family had journeyed quite some distance to be together - usually by British Rail, which ran on much better oiled wheels AND TO TIME in those days! But enough of looking back, the next Event for most folks will be New Year, so I hope you are all hale and hearty in readiness for it, resisting the Bug, or getting well over it, if, like me, you unfortunately succumbed!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Bloggy Christmas!

Well, folks, this is my first Bloggy Christmas, and I'd like to wish all of you - whether you comment or not - a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Those of you who've experienced the Lurgy I hope you've fully recovered and feel up to tackling the event, and my commiserations to any of you who aren't quite there yet!

It took me a while to get going this year, what with one thing and another, but the tree is up and I suddenly feel a bit festive! Though we have gone for minimal decoration this year.

Had time to do some last minute stitchery - just a sneaky peek as it hasn't reached its new owner yet!

Eating out on Christmas Day so no turkey basting for me! Roast beef on Boxing day for a few of us. The ham is simmering away as I type and the veggies and lentils are waiting to go into the stock when the ham is having its finish off in the oven to crisp the skin.

So, tomorrow a sausage-meat pie to make and a spiced fruit compote to start...instead of Christmas pud, for dessert on Boxing Day. And that's me done. I've actually wrapped my presents BEFORE 1am on Christmas morning! A record for me.

It just remains for me to say how lovely it has been to 'meet' those of you who regularly leave comments for me - I thoroughly enjoy reading them and you know I reply to each and every one; it's what keeps me blogging! To you, and everyone who takes the time to pop in and have a read,friends that I know, and those of you who haven't yet introduced yourselves, I hope you all have a happy and peaceful Christmas and enjoy the 'time -out'  . Catch up with you sometime next week. xxx

Monday, 17 December 2012

Stitching and Sniffing

Isn't this a glorious card? It was designed by a lady called Karen Cater, wife of a melodeon player . She trades under the name of Hedingham Fair, and this is just one of her lovely, detailed, colourful cards depicting traditional musical instruments. This one will be heading off to the young man who teaches me melodeon.

Well now, show me someone who hasn't had one or the other or both of these darned bugs going around and I'll show you a very fortunate person indeed. No household, it seems, has escaped.So hopefully we will all get the bugs out of the way in time to be on good form for the festivites. This year for the first time in I don't know how long, we are having Christmas Dinner at  Someone Elses! There are SO many things I am not having to buy or make that it seems like a huge weight off my mind. Which is ridiculous, because I actually quite enjoy having people here for meals. This year...well, this year I am just jolly pleased not to be doing it. Though Boxing Day we will be entertaining to a small degree. But that somehow doesn't seem to be such a big deal.

So without too much frenetic preparation to take care of, and because I've been 'gentling' myself through these bugs, I actually sat down and did some stitching  - long overdue!

This is the beginning of a Kindle cover. I'm making it for 'our' Kindle but am doing a spare one - I'll see how they go and maybe make a few more . I've used some fine pink linen, wadding and old sheeting to line, and some vintage fabric strips and Suffolk Puffs from A Mermaid's Tale to embellish. I'm going to lightly quilt the main body, and then bind the whole thing.

I also got off my backside and finally layered up one of the smaller quilt tops I made earlier this year. I sat and tacked it last night whilst watching the Unthank Sisters and A Very English Winter. I MAY take it to New Zealand with me....but then again it might be just TOO DARNED HOT to think of quilting out there!

I also stitched a little more applique on my basket quilt blocks...this quilt is going to be a 'work in progress' for some time to come, I can tell you!

Well I hope those of you who are interested in these things enjoyed the Unthank Sisters' film last night; I thought they did a good job of showing some of the diverse and highly entertaining winter traditions that take place in towns and villages all over England. They cut a lot out of the filming they did with us (The Ouse Washe Molly Dancers) we were the penultimate segment. And yes, I was there with my black face, black and red dress, trilby and fiddle! However I was left feeling a little irritated that as well as folks themselves being partly to blame for not supporting events like these, the British media consistently ignores or at best ridicules the rich seam of history and tradition, until the myth endures that the English HAVE no tradition, HAVE no music or dance' instead the media makes a big thing about say, the Nottinghill Carnival, or St Patrick's Day, while totally ignoring what is going on under their noses. OK rant over.

You will all be revving up towards the Big Day, and if you have little ones in your home the excitement may well be approaching fever pitch - I hope you are up to the mark and able to take it in your strides! I shall glide gently towards it myself, the past two weeks having been more than strenuous enough thank you very much!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Floods, bugs and ribstickers

No, this is not a garage sale, it's our rugs drying off in the garage after Jim got up in the night to find the landing radiator had burst, drenching the landing carpet, dripping through the ceiling and flooding out the living/dining room.. The radiator was a write off. We rescued the rugs, but are waiting the insurance assessors to view the landing carpet. Two days later the bathroom radiator went. So now we await the plumber to come and overhaul the system and put in five new radiators.

Just what you need before Christmas, eh? Of course the radiators don't come under the various insurances we hobble ourselves with. Do you ever feel you are being royally ripped off on all sides these days?

The one good thing about it is that it has happened now while we can deal with it, not while we are away. Imagine coming home after a 27 hour flight across the world, to find house contents bobbing about in six inches of water? It'd certainly cure your jet lag, at any rate! And, let's face it, this was an entirely manageable situation, not like the awful floods some folk have been victim of.

While all this was going on I was working my way through a little bug. Or rather a little bug was working its way through me. And it took its time. Just as it appeared to be vacating its host, another little blighter moved in, a simple head cold. Except I don't do simple. So within hours it was setting up a satellite division in my chesterly area, which annoyed the heck out of the resident asthma, causing it to become positively exacerbated. Oh, they were all throwing their rattles out of the pram, were these fiendish little bugs. More excellent timing. Nine days later (gosh is it only 9 days?) the steroids have just kicked in and I can lie down without wheezing - hurrah! I shall sleep tonight! And the head cold has abated to the odd cough and sniffle. Hey hey! We're on our way!

Now I can eat with impunity, I decided to do something with a brace of poussin found on offer at Mr Sainsburys.  I browned them off, removed, and sauteed off the veggies.

Simmered the poussin in stock with the veggies, and voila, a meltingly tender, meaty, veggie, brothy meal - just what we needed to cheer us up! It was a bit hit and miss with the flavouring as my sense of taste was a bit off. (Now there's a great opportunity for a chortle from all my friends who know exactly how much 'off' my sense of taste is!) However, there were no complaints, just lots of little satisfied murmurs from himself, and actually I enjoyed it too. So good to eat and know you were going to hang on to it for the requisite time!

I wouldn't like you to think it has all been doom and gloom here abouts. We had a lovely dash down to Kent for my cousin's 60 th birthday bash, combining it with her daughter's 40th. Lovely to see the fextended family if ony for a short spell. On the way home next day we detoured through Norwich and booked our flights to New Zealand for the New Year! And to round it off, despite not having booked, we bagged a table at Jamies Italian and had a lovely lunch. (Not having had breakfast we pushed the boat out!) So now I've been twice and it did not disappoint. (My friend Sue K, it transpires, has done a sneaky re-visit herself, without telling me!)

Hoping you are well ahead with your festive plans, and enjoying the build-up without getting too stressed. We are very low key these days, most of my stress has come about trying to make sure my mum's life carries on serenely in every aspect despite the floods and bugs - all her cards are written and sent, presents bought and wrapped, her weekly shopping is done, meals planned, pharmacy organised, doctors visits organised and arrangements and plans put in place for when we are away. She of course, has no idea what all this entails, but if her life carries on free from pain, free from fear and free from lonliness that's all I ask. I can't do anything about her general physical and mental infirmities, but we can keep her cheerful and comfortable. And why wouldn't we? Catch you next time!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Unthank Sisters

                                             Ouse Washes Molly Dancers Musicians

STOP PRESS! Not a proper post, but I know lots of you have an interest in folk music and traditional dance, and I'd hate you to miss this!

 Earlier this year the Ouse Washes Mollies took part inthe Ramsay Plough Monday celebrations, and we were joined for part of the day by the lovely Unthank Sisters, Rachel and Becky, and their film crew. The girls were putting together segments for their second film 'A very English Winter', which continues their journey into Englands' customs and dance traditions and winter celebrations. They filmed us dancing outside the pub, just as the light was fading, and interviewed Andrew and Jason our Broom Dance officionados. The rest of us sat at the pub benches not looking to camera, and muttering 'rhubarb, rhubarb', while Jason and Andrew taught the girls how to do the Broom Dance. It was all great fun, they even roped the crew members in!

Now given the very nature of filming, we don't know how much of the film shot ended up on the cutting room floor - although that is a redundant term nowadays - but I'm sure the film will be both entertaining and informative.

You can watch or record it on BBC4 Sunday 16th December at 9pm.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

HandEye Magazine

Some months ago I blogged about magazines, about the cost, and the frequency with which I buy one, seduced by the eye candy on the front, only to be disappointed by the content within. I mentioned two in particular, Mollie Makes, which I know is a favourite of many of you out there in Blogland, but which I find irritatingly lacking in substance, considering its cost. The photos are very good, plenty of colour, but the content always leaves me feeling unsatisfied. The other magazine I mentioned is Selvedge - a publication I feel is so self regarding it probably prefers to be called 'a slim volume' or something similar! Like Mollie Makes it is beautifully presented but I seldom find more than two articles  of real interest to me, and it promotes one or two favoured makers at the expense of the many other up and coming young crafts people. I burst out laughing at the V&A when I saw the price of some pin cushions and cloth dolls. Ludicrous. I asked how many had been sold and the pained expression on the assistant's face spoke volumes! For all its pretensions, Selvedge is merely an upmarket Mollie Makes, at double the price.

                                                                   Atis Fanm Matenwa

Had quite few comments in the same vein, and I think it was Annie who asked whether I'd read Hand Eye magazine. I hadn't, so whisked off to check it out. A few days ago my first issue arrived, and Annie, you are quite right. A very colourful, informative and interesting publication, well worth the price (cheaper than Selvedge!) And to my delight the fifth article was all about one of my favourite people - Jude Hill, who writes the excellent Spirit Cloth blog. I was totally entranced, and I have hours of enjoyable reading ahead of me. Thanks for the tip-off, Annie!

So many sumptuous photgraphs, and great writing. I also deeply admire the whole vibe of the magazine. I can do no better than the reproduce the final words in the editorial, by Keith Recker, Editor and Founder:

-  "Cratf is powerful. Craft is good. Craft is deeply human. We are eager to have you celebrate it with us."  - Keith Recker. Winter 2012

                                                                       Beading in Kenya

                                                      Embroidery in Bangaladesh

Now I do realise that there are different levels of craft, the 'getting the kids together at the kitchen table' kind, the hobbyist, the happy amateur who does a few craft fairs, sells a few items on -line, the semi-professional, and the professional. No one publication can hope to meet the needs of all these groups, but I feel that the 'bottom' end if you like are being sold short. When you consider the huge amount of advertising in these magazines, you might expect there to be better content; pages and pages of misty dreamy photographs loosely connected by  a 'theme' do not cut the mustard.

I also realise that we all, at times, splash out impulsively on a magazine as a treat to ourselves, and perhaps we aren't as discrimminating as we are when we make a considered purchase. Nevertheless, we deserve to get value for money. Hand Eye magazine certainly fits the bill.

This is a bit of a quickie post as I have been away (again!) and am now struck down by this so-called 24 hour bug, washed out, achey, and worst of all D&V. In fact I reckon I could give the Duchess of Cambridge a run for her money! (And no, I am definitely NOT pregnant!!) I have spent 4 hours gingerly sipping my way through half a glass of sparkling water. Hopefully this will result in the loss of a few pounds before Christmas!! There has to be a positive outcome, surely!!