Monday, 31 December 2012

Making the cut

I am (smugly) pleased to report that this year the hand made Christmas present tally came to

2 scarves
1 tiny sweater

1 patchwork quilt
and a new wardrobe for Daphne

I also put together a kit for DD2 to knit a cushion, I'm counting this as a handmade present because the yarn is from a lovely indie dyer, the needles from the Lantern Moon cooperative and instead of a pattern I made a tiny cushion to illustrate what I had in mind.  I also included a promise, that I would finish the cushion myself if it proved too much.  More of the cushion and some mother daughter bonding later (and an explanation of what constitutes Daphne's wardrobe)

The reason for modest ambitions in the hand made present department was, as you may recall, last year despite knitting right up to Christmas Eve there was much that I had left undone.  The UFOs included one pair of socks knitted up to the instep increases and yarn for another pair that never got done.

So as well as being determined not to get into such a frenzy this year I have also resolved to finish some of the many projects I have in hand and make up a large proportion of my stash before buying more yarn (this must be a generic knitters resolution, I wonder how many people reading this have resolved the same?)

So beginning with the socks.  JTH has need of comfy socks so I decided to complete the half finished pair for him, no need to worry about the third pair, I seem to have used the yarn for something else.

But it was not till I began to check how long the leg needed to be that I discovered how long the feet were.  It's a big advantage with toe up two at a time socks is you can try on as you go, it's only a shame I didn't think of doing this before increasing for the instep.  The socks were clearly far too long in the foot.  However JTH suggested I carried on, finish the socks and wash them as 'they are sure to shrink in the wash'.  Well there was little hope that there would be enough shrinkage to make these babies fit (particularly as the yarn is Rowan super-wash wool).  The problem being that when I began these socks I intended them for someone with a shoe size of 13 not 10

If they were to be wearable at all they had to be shortened by nearly two inches and the toe re-knitted .  I could have drawn a thread at roughly the place that the new toe decreasing needed to start but instead I decided to cut off the toe and pull back the cut part till I achieved a complete row of stitches to pick up.  

Quick but messy, scattering poodle clippings of curly black wool all over the place!  But now the re-modelled socks fit quite well

Are these the first pair of Toe Up (and down) 2 at a Time Socks, I wonder?

Happy New Year (do please let me know your knitting resolutions in the comments section, I'd love to know)



Monday, 24 December 2012

The night before Christmas

This year the excitement of a visit from Father Christmas has returned.  I'm not sure who is more excited, the Little Model or her parents



Saturday, 22 December 2012

Missing a beat

I guess it is inevitable, as much as I try not to join in the preparation panic that possesses so many people at this time of year I was so busy yesterday that I had no time to blog.  So today I give you ...

A star for 21st of December and

Bells for the 22nd



Thursday, 20 December 2012

On a journey

I took today's  little addition to the Advent Wreath out with me today.  I felt I was sure to find somewhere interesting to photograph it.


But when I arrived at the place I was visiting I was politely asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and not to take any photographs.  Then on the cold wet journey home with multiple delays and extra changes of very overcrowded trains, a journey which should have taken 2 hours taking 4 1/2 I nearly forgot entirely until I spotted this angle



Wednesday, 19 December 2012

more baking

Today's little knitted object inspired my (rather hasty) Christmas cake decoration



Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Run run as fast as you can...

You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man

Today was baking day, beginning with mince pies - another particularly British Christmas custom.  When I blogged the figgy pudding , Knitrageous reminded me that eating rich fruit pies and pudding made months, even years, before is not a universal way of celebrating Christmas when she said she was not sure what it was.  Of course if you know what I am talking about you can stop reading now!

In brief you lob lots of of mixed dried fruit, brown sugar, suet, grated apple, almonds, spices, zest and juice of oranges and brandy in a big mixing bowl.  Give it a stir every time you pass by the bowl for the next few days, (no need to resist tasting from time to time either).   Put half in jars with good fitting lids.  This is the mince,  and needs to be put to mature in a cool place for at least 2 months.  This year I'm using up the mince I made last year, it still tastes good all I did was liven it up with a little more brandy.  The mince is used to make little pies. I always use puff pastry - I believe Christmas is no time to worry about calorie intake or the condition of my arteries!

Add some flour, breadcrumbs and eggs to the other half of the mixture and fill small pudding bowls about 2/3 full.  Cover with greased grease-proof paper and tie a mob cap of paper on the top.  Put in a pan of water, the water should come about 1/2 way up the bowl and simmer for hours.  I simmer my puddings in my slow pot, 24 hours for each pudding.  Again keep for at least 2 months, longer if possible - the longer you keep them the blacker they get and black is good (like ancient oak).  On Christmas day I heat it up the same way as I cook it and set it alight with warmed brandy (crepes suzette fashion) before carrying it into the dinning room and serving it with cream and brandy butter

There are lots of recipes on line which will give you  measurements for all the ingredients.  Mince is so called because it used to contain actual minced (ground) beef.  I have never tasted mince pies with meat but might try it one day, although I will not be so lax about storage!



Monday, 17 December 2012

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Let it snow

Cold and frosty this morning but no snow so resorted to a little trickery for this shot

16 December



Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sending love to the people of Newtown Connecticut

Making christmas star and angel cookies  for the grandchildren this morning my thoughts were with those bereaved families whose children did not come home yesterday.  And that I have never seen a president cry before

15th December



Friday, 14 December 2012

So give us some figgy pudding

We all want figgy pudding, we all want figgy pudding

How tastes change, in our household we always have an alternative to Christmas pudding as the rich fruity pudding (with or without figs) is not to everyone's taste.



Thursday, 13 December 2012

On the 13th day of Advent...

I just happened to be

On Westminster Bridge (with the 13th piece of the advent wreath in my pocket)



Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Santa arrives in the homes of all good children during the night before Christmas

So they say...



Tuesday, 11 December 2012

11th day

A tiny shopping basket

So very appropriate as I set off to meet a very good friend for lunch, curtain hand-over (more of that later) and some serious shopping. My friend lives near a lovely Cotswold market town, an ideal place for Christmas shopping when you have No Idea What To Buy Anyone



Monday, 10 December 2012

10 December

Who first decided that the candy cane should join the Christmas decoration lexicon?

Who knows, but last year when asked by Father Christmas what she would like for Christmas The Little Model (aged 2 1/2) said 'a candy cane'. A modest request that is going to become a tradition



Sunday, 9 December 2012

Second Sunday in Advent

An angel to remind us of the old stories. The angel who appeared to Mary telling her she would, in nine months, give birth to the Messiah and later the heavenly host appearing to shepherds announcing the Messiah's birth

... conjuring up the sight and sounds of the service of nine lessons and carols, the candle-light, voices intoning the familiar words and the smell of a pine tree.

Comfort and joy



Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sixteen days to go

Do you remember making paper chains? Buying packs of coloured paper strips, glued on one edge? As a small child the simple task seemed huge, fraught with problems, choose the colour carefully, don't lick all the glue off, line the edges up neatly... Oh I forgot to loop the strip through the last link!

I love the knitters take on these decorations



Friday, 7 December 2012

Advent 7


                   Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
                         Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

( a little early perhaps)



Thursday, 6 December 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


The Fifth of December

We had our first snowfall of the winter in the South of England last night.  We woke to lightest sprinkling of white, blades of grass still visible and a bright cold sun



Tuesday, 4 December 2012

O Tannenbaum

O Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree

It may have been the first Christmas song I learned at school.  I loved the tune though puzzling a little at the line 'I love your shining branches' wondering how a tree's branches could shine, imagining a dark tree deep in a German pine forest, not the one glittering with decorations in my house

But today looking up the lyrics I think my childhood self may have conflated the words a little

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
In beauty green will always grow
Through summer sun and winter snow.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!
How often you give us delight
In brightly shining Christmas light!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me
That hope and love will ever be
The way to joy and peace for me.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me.



Monday, 3 December 2012

Gingerbread House

Easily recognisable, it's the witch's house from the Hansel and Gretel story, the model for all those booths at German frost markets and  many Christmas decorations.

But, why? What have snow covered forest cabins got to do with Christmas?  Where did the tradition originate?  Googling did not help this time.  I know they came from Germany, but how did gingerbread houses become part of their Christmas traditions?

I have a feeling I am going to ask that question quite a lot as I think about the meaning and origins of many items on the Advent wreath



Sunday, 2 December 2012

2 December

I love the cold crispy mornings of winter, the sparkly frost on the roofs and icy blue skies but would never venture out without a few layers of woolly clothes.

A tiny mitten added to the advent wreath today



Saturday, 1 December 2012


Apart from the over ambitious annual knitting plans  I am very relaxed about Christmas this year. That's despite it being December 1st, my having bought just one present (a beautiful wooden lorry with a magnetic crane to lift the blocks off for the Little Model's Little Brother) and finished only one handmade present.  No baking done for the freezer, no mincemeat or cake make, not even wrapping paper or cards bought because I have decided to make my own this year.

Why so chilled? Why no frenzied list making? I'm not sure really but I like this new relaxed me and perhaps it has something to do with having booked a Whole Three Weeks off work beginning on the 13th December .

But I have knitted an advent garland and today we prepared to hang the first item in the little tree in the hallway.  

A candle

Waking this morning at 5.30 and lying awake in the dark for half an hour before putting on all the lights and making coffee it was not hard to understand why many winter festivals are celebrated with candles.  There is no need for a candle early in a summers morning, watching the dawn in russet mantle clad creeping over your personal battlement or on a warm balmy night as you sit in the garden at nearly ten enjoying the twilight.  But in the winter evening's dusk there is something especially comforting about candle light (to say nothing about how it enhances the complexion)

So it pleases me that the instructions for the knitted advent calendar begin with a candle