Saturday, December 21, 2013

First Christmas in our own house

This feels like a really special Christmas for us. It's our first in our own home, and my first 'hosting' it for my mum, her partner and my sister who are all coming to stay from Christmas Eve. No hours of travelling! Waking up on Christmas morning on our own beds!

I have bought a ham and a box of crackers. I have ordered a turkey. I have a big list and just the right amount of stress to make it exciting. I am really looking forward to it!

Here's what the past couple of weeks have entailed:

Lots of time spent sitting in the car while Mostyn naps.. he refuses to sleep in the pushchair now...

 Re-arranging the teeny dining room to make room for Christmas.

 Serious 'gingerman' decorating.

Making crackers!

Admiring my finished advent calendar.

Decorations close up. I made the polar bear, star, tree, bauble, candle, dove, yule log and Father Christmas. My mum made the holly, robin, pudding, gingerbread man and snowman. My sister made the stocking, owl and reindeer. One of my amazing IG friends sent me the crochet snowflake. My sister in common law, the sewing genius, made the parcel, cracker and 'festive heart'. Huw's mum made the bell, wreath and Huw's dad made the penguin! A true family effort and I am really proud of it! I am hoping we can use it every year for decades!

Endless trips to the garden centre to admire the hideously addictive display of plastic flashing faux Swiss/American festive buildings.

Our first full size tree filled with cheap handmade decorations including salt dough hearts and bears and glitter glued pine cones!

Cobbling together a wreath that has already been battered to death by the rain and winds.

Winter walks to see this incredible old yew at the Devil's Pulpit.

Meeting Santa at the local library storytime.

.....and buying locally made presents at a craft fair held in one of my favourite locations near us, Wyndcliffe Court.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Winter in the Wye

The other day I went 5 minutes down the road to Tintern - it was only about 10.30-11 in the morning so not that early but a large cloud of mist was still hanging over the valley across the river, frost was still on the ground and I vowed never to take for granted this beautiful place I find myself living in.

 The abbey. I worked here for a few days over the summer.
The ruined church up the opposite Tintern Abbey. It was burned down in 1977.

I've been teaching Mostyn about Christmas. He likes to go to the garden centre and see the lights, point at 'father cripmas' and 'cripmas trees'. It's so exciting that he finally has a clue what is going on and he can talk to me and tell me what he thinks.

Speaking of mist - I took this picture on my last full day at the castle. It only hung around for a few minutes and then it was gone.

Dusky Brockweir photo from an exploration day last weekend. I love Brockweir - I aspire to live there.... the smoke from the chimney fires floated down the river

I got all these for £1 from the 50p veg basket at the farm shop! I made vegan parsnip soup and I'm going to make beetroot, cheese and potato pie today!

Crank the heating up (we can because we have had to install a brand new energy efficient boiler and the newly discovered damp parts of our house must be destroyed..), have a cup of tea, make a stew and enjoy this magical season everyone.

Winter creating: chronicling my first sewing experiences

My lovely mother-in-common-law lent me her sewing machine so I could alter some curtains that had been draped all over our bedroom floor for months. I bought some pins from Wilkinsons and after an evening of toiling, swearing and one desperate phonecall when the bobbin thread ran out unexpectedly I managed to achieve this goal, if rather haphazardly. Luckily all the mashed up bits of thread and tangles are on the inside of the curtains hidden against the wall...

Feeling very proud of myself and fueled by the success that was only my second sewing machine experience I decided to make some Christmas bunting, as I knew how to do it from the bunting workshop hen party I attended in August.

Note fortifying glass of red wine
My friend had given me a small stack of Christmas fabric for my birthday, I went to a sewing shop (having had to ask my friend what the name of the foldy strip bunting joiny together bit was called - 'bias binding' if you were wondering) and in one evening I made this double sided mini Christmas bunting!:

I have never been a sewing type person so this is all very new to me and I never thought it would be so fun and satisfying. To be honest I never thought I could do it!

I have been wanting to make Mostyn an advent calender he can use every year and after some Googling I came across this.

The numbered pockets hold 24 tiny decorations and every day in December you put a new one on the tree! Those ones are really American (ice skates? rabbits?) and mine are going to be more traditional English (excuse me. 'British') - also, every one is going to be different.

I used the sewing machine to make the cream background from one of a pair of cheap Tesco curtains I mistakenly bought the wrong size of. With the other curtain I'm going to make a makeshift blind for the kitchen window so it won't go to waste. I have left the top open to machine sew across later with some ribbon loops to hold the stick (a garden bamboo cane I had already).

Each pocket now made, this was before sewing the numbers on and the pockets down.
So far I have hand-sewed each pocket, cut out and sewed felt numbers on each one and then hand sewed them onto the background. I have cut out and hand sewed the Christmas tree too. It's taken me a few evenings of solid work in front of Netflix.

Next I have to make tiny fabric tree decorations 4cm across. I have made a list of the ones I want to make (my mum is going to make five of them) and I am starting that tonight. My list is as follows: star, gingerbread man, holly, christmas tree, christmas pudding, robin, father christmas head, reindeer head, snowflake, bauble, snowman, festive heart, train, candy cane, bell, wrapped present, candle in holder, wreath, mince pie, cracker, christmas cake, mistletoe, ivy, yule log.

This whole thing is costing me just a few pounds for two reels of thread, some cheap felt from a local shop and a few new buttons to complement the ones I found around the house so as I am not working this winter it fulfills my thrifty requirement too. I have quite a lot of random fabric now from the rug making for the decorations. My aforementioned amazing friend of wedding/bunting workshop fame posted me some of her craft/button/ribbon stash so that will help too. (I love you friend!)


I have also made another multicoloured rug out of Huw's old t-shirts for a Christmas present for some friends.

Will post my advent calender again when it's finished!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

For my own reference - I asked my facebook friends for easy quick recipes they use all the time and here is the result:

So bored with the food I'm making recently - we need to cut out food spend down as much as possible for the winter so I'm putting these here to remind me when I get bored of what we eat.

I am meal planning main meals for the week - I managed to do this week only needing to get a few ingredients, (including flour for making own bread) and for lunches we can have home made soup, sandwiches and pasta.

Here are the new ideas:
  1. Chicken a la king - chicken with garlicy white sauce and peas
  2. Chickpea ketchup curry
  3. Kedgeree - smoked mackerel (no separate cooking) rice, boiled eggs, curry paste and lots of coriander and dollop of creme fraiche at the end
  4. Some kind of delicious scrambled eggs: scramble the eggs and 75% fry them then put them in a bowl. fry quartered tomatoes then when they're nice and soft, bung the eggs back in squirt on some ketchup and stir. put the lid on and take off the heat and leave to stand for a couple of minutes. serve with rice. a side of bacon is nice. 2-3 eggs and 3-4 tomatoes per person.
  5. Cullen skink is good requires one piece of smoked haddock (good when on reduced at supermarket) onions and potatoes. 
  6. One pan, fry chopped bacon and onion, add potatoes and carrots and sweat, then throw in red lentils, a bit of veg stock and chopped tomatoes and simmer for a while.
  7. Fajitas: fry chicken + fajita seasoning, also sliced peppers, onions, and other veg if you want (like courgette or mushroom - all works), then eat with tortillas and sour-cream, guacamole, mayo, or grated cheese (ideally all of the above).
  8. Mince in gravy all in Yorkshire puddings (literal genius idea here!)
  9. Quick prawn korma
  10. Panhaggerty - bacon, potatoes, onions, carrots all fried in a pan
  11. Soup and cheese scones 
  12. Root veg casserole with chive dumplings 
  13. Chicken basque 
  14. Fishcakes - I have a tin of tuna in the cupboard so must do this 
  15. A page of nice christmassy recipes including salads 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A few last weeks of summer pictures

Moss opening a birthday present
 I think this summer has been one of the busiest of my life. What with working far more hours than I had ever anticipated, the aftermath of buying our first house and a manic toddler I have never felt more stretched. September has seen Mostyn turn two, one of my oldest friends getting married and a fantastic week in Cornwall which was our first family holiday as three.

At my mums at the morning of the wedding. I was a bridesmaid and I was veeery nervous.
Here is the rug I made for part of their wedding present. It took, well, the entire time it took for The Walking Dead season 3 and Mad Men season 6 to pass by my eyes - so, quite a while, and I even had to stop early because I totally underestimated the amount of fabric required and ran out of matching tableclothes, shirts and pillow cases. I really loved making it though, I am thinking of making more of these and selling them, it's just they take so long and I don't think people would pay more than about £30 for one. Maybe I will..

Photographing things around my mum's house to take my mind of impending bridesmaid stress.

The wedding!

Cornwall. We went to Mousehole, St Michael's Mount, St Ives, Falmouth and the maritime museum, Trerice House, Mutton Cove and Godrevy, and the Eden Project.

The castle at St Michael's Mount

 The view of it from the beach was so spectacular. We went out on a tiny little boat!

 The kitchen garden at Trerice House. We saved about £56 on National Trust properties with our membership cards.... seeing as each card is £55 this isn't as good as it sounds....

The seals on the beach at Mutton Cove. This was amazing! I could have watched them all day.

From Godrevy back along the coast,. Here we saw a kestrel hovering dead still in the air.

Falmouth habour was very atmospheric. I have no connection to the sea really, despite its omnipresence on the South East coast where I grew up, so to experience Cornwall properly (as an adult, I have been before but a long time ago) where everything is influenced by the sea, fishing and boats was really interesting for me. Cornwall blue, the artists, the fresh fish, the boats and inlets, the white painted houses ranged along the coasts... it was all so charming.

Hayle beaches from St Ives

The biomes at the incredible Eden Project

Jungle plants in the rain forest

We walked around the Eden Project until our feet were sore. It was a hugely inspiring place for me, and I hope to take with me some of the things I learned.

Autumn and winter beckons. I need to sort out our curtains and get draft excluders ready for our first full winter in an almost 100 year old house.

I feel enthused and terrified at the prospect of joblessness after the end of October. A job I thought might work out now won't, and I've no idea what will happen. If I'm jobless, at least I will have more time to work on music, learning about making things and sorting out the house...... maybe more blog posts too? Feeling of terror swing back and fore with feelings that everything will work out like it all did before in March.