Taking Stock – December

Making : oat cakes to go with the cheese mountain

Cooking : marzipan fruit cake

Drinking : Taittinger

Reading: One Day in December by Josie Silver

Wanting: another long walk, after an extended lunch with family yesterday

Taken at Upton house, a National Trust property

Playing: with my new iPad!

Deciding: To eat lots of fruit and veg today

Wishing: that you all have a lovely Crimbo limbo

Enjoying: time with family

Waiting: for a few new series to start on Netflix and Prime: Grace & Frankie, The Grand Tour

Liking: Our Christmassy house; lots of twinkly white lights

Wondering: which case to buy for my iPad (it’s 6th generation 2018, any recommendations?)

Loving: the Corinne Lapierre felt embroidery kits which I’ve been given for Christmas

Pondering: whether to try a little crochet (I know, it’s banned)

Considering: feeding my sourdough starter. I think I’ve made three loaves in four days, but it has been appreciated

Buying: nothing at the moment, after all the Christmas shopping – presents and food – if we haven’t got it, we can’t have it!

Watching: The last episode of The Kominsky Method on Netflix. Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas are funny together

Hoping: they commission a second series, there’s only six episodes

Marvelling: how I have lost my capacity to drink anything other than a couple of glasses; having done dry October and then nothing alcoholic again since the last weekend in November, until Christmas Eve

Cringing: at loud drunken people

Needing: a tissue, I’ve got the sneezes

Questioning: my mind is a relaxed blank

Smelling: Nothing, see above!

Wearing: sleepwear as I’m dictating this to my iPhone first thing in the morning, still in bed

Following: nothing particularly, screen time has been minimal this week

Knowing: I think about going back to a text-only phone then remember I’ve just been given a lovely new iPad!

Blenheim Palace at Christmas

Thinking: about putting an audiobook on next

Admiring: this father

Sorting: things to go to the charity shops

Getting: rounder! That’s the power of Christmas

Bookmarking: actual books

Coveting: some Simple facial wipes, used my last one

Opening: kitchen cupboards and finding chocolate and nuts everywhere

Giggling: at Albert Finney in Scrooge

Feeling: happy

Snacking: “Please take it away, I’ve eaten enough!”

Helping: with the washing up

Hearing: birds tweeting

Mixing: socially

Worrying: –

Slicing: vegetables, later, for a stir fry

Celebrating: Christmas, with family

Forgetting: nothing, I think I covered it all

Winning: at Christmas, It’s been a really lovely relaxed week

Pretending: I did cool auntie dancing yesterday

Sneaking: Rocky Road last night while watching TV

Embracing: my nieces, even though they were aghast at my auntie dancing

~

I hope you’ve had a really nice Christmas and things are going well with you

~

And that’s a year of Taking Stock:

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

Twixmas

I really like the week between Christmas and New Year. If approached properly it has a mixture of planned and unplanned days. You need activity and people, but also days where you can lounge around reading, crafting, eating chocolates and nibbles and catching up on Christmas films and tv. This year we’ve got it just right.

Just before Sewing Club ended for the year another sewer told me she couldn’t see the point of wasting time and energy on making bottle bags; as they wouldn’t be appreciated for the amount of effort that goes into making them. Well, happily I’m glad to report that definitely wasn’t the case. I gave them to members of my family who sew and who totally got the point. They made my (Christmas) day by saying how impressed they were with the quality of the sewing etc etc. Every year we pass around card gift bags and bottle bags, saved from previous Christmases, and last year a few lamented that they had to buy new bags. The horror! I knew that these would be used again and again. It will be quite fun seeing them reappear. Am I revealing my sad nerdiness? Ah well! They’re fully lined with contrast fabric and reversible. Now perhaps I need to make Birthday bottle bags…We all seemed to arrive at Mum’s with presents for Barty the powder puff tail. My cousin and my nieces all did and I took him a set of jingle mice. But this one was the clear winner: my friend and her dog George sent him a crocheted pillow filled with catnip (bought in Asda, it’s fab.) After I took this photo he got a bit manic. It was so funny to see this laid back ‘I can sleep for England’ young cat so excited. The pillow is already all tatty and with ends sticking out! It was so lovely to see this ornament again when we decorated the tree on 23rd. I remembered that one of my nieces bought it for me last year, with her pocket money.My Dry October turned into Dry November and Dry December (bar 3 occasions where I’d finished in November but then decided to carry on.) All I really fancied was a glass of champagne and so on Christmas Eve I had my first drink in weeks. And my second. And on Christmas morning felt so very ropey that in the middle of drying my hair had to turn off the drier, sit on the bed and take deep breaths! Oh this was not the plan! How pathetic. Seeing a line of just-filled glasses on Christmas morning I apologised to my brother and declined one. During the toast I tasted a sip from Someone’s glass, just to try, and decided it was really rather nice, that perhaps that old chestnut, the hair of the dog thing would be worth a try. My brother said it was the fastest turn around he’s ever seen! I stuck to a single glass all day and it did the trick marvellously. I had another glass on Boxing Day evening with family too. There is a champagne diet, apparently good for weight loss (perhaps not for the liver.) Maybe that will be the one for me in January?On Boxing Day morning we were so glad to see a crisp and bright morning. We headed out for some exercise. It was a great walk, albeit 7 1/2 miles, not the planned 5. I think it was a combination of a lot of chatter, passing a big group of walkers at a crucial moment and wishing them a Good Morning that meant we missed the intended turning. We ended up in open countryside surrounded by grazing sheep. I turned to my iPhone for our location and saw on a satellite map that we had walked in the opposite direction and were approaching an unexplored village in the west. Oh well, new public footpaths have been discovered and it was a great yomp. Very good for walking off some of the mince pies and Christmas pudding. We took ourselves off to the sales on Wednesday and popped into a new-to-me coffee shop, where we sat on wooden boxes and spooned our Demerara from a communal jar with a wooden spoon. How very hipster!

I started some new crochet that evening. I’m not totally sure this is going to be continued. But look at the difference going up half a hook size makes. The fabric is now beautifully drapey and soft. Plus it’s far easier to find the 1 chain spaces. I’m going to play around a bit and might undo it, or might carry on. Just don’t ask me about the Hitchhiker, I actually might cry. Disaster struck. And I can’t blame it on Barty either.

On Thursday I met a friend in Hoxton, London at The Geffrye Museum of the Home to catch their Christmas Past exhibition. This features rooms decorated (or not) for Christmas from 1700 to 1990. Did you know that the Puritans banned Christmas for around 15 years? People disobeyed and still brought greenery into the home for decoration.

It’s a good exhibition and interesting overhearing others’ memories of past Christmases when you come to the various twentieth century rooms. My friend and I liked this early 1960s room best. It’s just after the children have opened their presents, when they’ve gone off to open their chocolate selection boxes and spoil their appetites for lunch. Sounds a familiar scenario, doesn’t it?

Why the toothbrush in the cafe, the eagle eyed among you might have spotted? I text her from the train and asked if she had an old one she could bring. I reckon it’s the mark of a good friend (or one who’s used to your ways) who responds with “I’ll see if I can find one” and not a single question about why.

After five miles of walking we went for a very late lunch and obviously chose the low calorie option….

And back to a superb mixture of laziness and activity yesterday; I tried out my new dumbbells that my father in law gave me. It’s become a thing every year; I really like to add practical presents to my wish list, things I need and will use. He laughs, but is usually the one to buy them. Over the years I’ve asked for a car valet, garden shears, secateurs, loaf tins and so on. This year it was dumbbells so I can work my triceps which are a little wobbly after a mere 4 months of a power shower and no hair-washing with a jug over the bath. (I miss my jug. I could also touch my toes and the floor without a problem. Probably that’s a no-go now too.) I started my daily routine yesterday. I will begin challenging people to arm wrestle by February. Actually, I’m having a day off today as I think my left elbow feels a bit sore. Ha! I’ve broken my resolution even before New Year.

How was your Christmas? Did your homemade gifts go down well? What’s the most bizarre present you received? Are you feasting still or dining on water and crackers now?

What larks!

Argh! A game of yarn chicken and I lost! I think I’ve still got about 7 ‘teeth’ to knit so Mum’s Christmas Hitchhiker is the same size as mine (fewer than 42 as per the pattern, but just right.) But actually I should, of course, have done the sensible thing and ordered more yarn than I thought I needed in the first place, to ‘make the most of the postage’ as someone from my knit group sensibly pointed out to me at the time. But this year I’ve been trying to not buy any more yarn, instead aiming to use up what I already have at home. This has been successful to a degree (ie: not very.) It’s pretty tricky when you’re making a stash bushing blanket, which turns into a gift for a brand new little one. So, naturally I ended up having to stock up on some colours. (Winnie is very sweet and after staring at me intently for a while on Thursday, decided I was very boring and popped off to sleep for the rest of the visit. She’s only nine weeks old though, it’s what they do eh? She definitely loved her Wave Blanket though, I know that.) So, with only days left of postal delivery before we all get snowed under drifts of Twiglets and iced gingerbread, I ordered TWO more balls of wool. Oh dear. I’m only going need about a tenth of one so I haven’t helped the stash situation much. Then it’s inevitable that you start a new project and run out and have to buy more, but with extra again to ‘make the most of the postage’ and so on and so on! I have a feeling that my yarn pile will start as a hill and end as a mountain.

Anyway, I took my new ball of yarn to the Knit Group’s Christmas meet on Tuesday night. This was at one of their houses and I endeavoured to knit another tooth in between delicious courses. The house turned out to be a large black and white timbered Tudor style from the eighteenth century (perhaps before) with floors of huge smooth flagstones, an industrial sized fireplace complete with log burner, beams and creaky staircases. Essentially I felt as if I had stepped into Christmas past. As a history lover with a vivid imagination it was hard to concentrate on the talk swirling around me and not drift into revelries about roast goose, pennies in stockings and merry gatherings. I’m currently reading Charles Dickens Great Expectations which only added fuel to the fire! If you’re casting around for something different to read, hopefully you’ll find it’s also a free classic on Kindle wherever you are too. It’s extremely readable and surprisingly funny, especially considering it was first published in 1861.

We all received a little Christmas emergency first aid tin from J (the Lego mitt knitter.) The row counter is gong to be so useful and the key ring hooks will be good for picking up dropped stitches. Someone has already said the little scissors would make excellent snips when fishing. NO THEY WOULDN’T!

If you’re like me you’ll be curious to know what we ate, won’t you? We started with nibbles and drinks, followed by squash soup (home-grown squash and onions) with a selection of breads, then a baked chicken, chorizo and rice dish, roasted vegetables with chickpeas, sun-dried tomato and olive pasta, then a really light and delicious homemade sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. I took a tin of Rocky Road that unsurprisingly everyone was far too full to touch, so I wrapped pieces up and gave it out for people to take home.

It was a lovely evening and I managed to knit another tooth too….hurray!

What are you making and reading at the moment? Are you still eating proper meals or grazing on all the Christmas naughties?

If this makes no sense at all and is full of mistakes; I have to say that I wrote the first half while sitting in the car this morning while waiting to collects omeone. The other half at four o’clock the following morning (now) as annoyingly I’m wide awake while the rest of the house/street/universe is asleep!

Merry Christmas

We’ve had a lovely stay in festive Brussels, Belgium. Twinkling lights all over the city, decorated trees and Santa signs, mussels, frites, Belgium beer, a waffle with Nutella, strawberry and banana, lots of tastes of fine chocolate and treats from the Christmas Market, shopping, wandering, goosebumps at the evening time light and music show at the Grand Place.

In a delightfully hushed carriage there on Eurostar, which was only a third full, served an unexpected meal and wine I wondered if perhaps most people were travelling to Paris? Later I was reminded we were in a Premium carriage. It was wonderful. All the hassle and stress from blaring Christmas songs in busy shops just melted away. Two hours from St Pancras, through the tunnel under the English Channel (to my now not-so-little niece on her birthday: “We’re going on a train under the sea later.” “That’s weird. Really weird!”) across France, past little houses with white tiled roofs, arriving at a station in Brussels with comfort and ease, and slightly red cheeks.
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The tree in Grand Place was given by Riga, Latvia as a gift. Riga is the current capital of culture. Apparently they started the tradition of decorating Christmas trees 500 years ago.
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We got home late last night and someone has already cracked open the twiglets. The Snowman has been watched as it’s a Christmas Eve tradition in this house. I’ve picked up a crochet hook for the first time in a week, while the advent candle burns down to a stub. It’s feeling a lot like Christmas.

I hope you are in a similarly relaxed state wherever you are. A very Merry Christmas to you all, have a lovely time. XX

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Eurostar Yule log!

Woolly jumpers on!

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It was such a lovely day on Sunday; 17 deg and no need for a warm jacket. We sat on a bench and I was just saying how perfect it was to put your head back and feel the warm rays on your face, when I clonked my head on the back of the bench. I’d like to say this is a rare kind of clonk, but sadly it’s not. At a friend’s housewarming I apparently threw myself down onto her sofa, after unpacking lots of boxes, and hit my head on the bookcase which had been placed behind. I don’t really remember that one. Maybe I concussed myself!

Anyway. the walk, weather and sight of the trees, berries and wild fungi were beautiful. I really LOVE autumn. Always have.

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This is the first one I’d seen this season, on Sunday, but then I stumbled into full-on Christmas yesterday in a ‘room’ in Homebase. I like it in October, that’s when I begin to get little tingles about Christmas, the colourful lights and decorations to come. By December the relentlessness of it has worn me down somewhat, then on the actual few days it’s all fun again. Until the next year…

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The weather’s gone back to typically autumn temps with wind and rain featuring quite a bit this week. But the advantage of autumn and winter blanket making is being able to cosy under them while you crochet! The ripple is over half-way now and I’ve come up with a really cunning plan about the design. More on that another day.

Shotgun Lovesongs - Picador I’m really enjoying my Shotgun Lovesongs audio book. It’s perfect for rippling along to. The four main characters: Henry, Beth, Lee and Ronnie are dramatised by different narrators/actors. I’m loving the the way a couple of them pronounce words like ‘orange’ and ‘mirror’! I’m not sure if that’s due to them aiming to sound like authentic Wisconsinsites, but I likey.

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Tonight I’m making fish chowder for dinner. It’s a Lesley Waters recipe and you can find it here.

 

What are you cooking, eating, making, reading?