Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Homemade sweets

We always make homemade sweets just before Christmas. We were a little short for time this year so ended up making peppermint creams, fudge and chocolate truffles. The girls made them and they are very yummy- I am finding it very hard not to eat one every time I pass the dish! Friends gave us a bonbon dish for a present this year. I think we will fill the dish tomorrow.

Weighing the ham!

I bought the ham without a) thinking how I was going to cook it
b) without asking what the weight was!
It was too heavy for my electric and also for my old fashioned scales! So we had to resort to the bathroom scales!!It was also to large to cook in my pan. As it was a smoked ham I decided to use my jam pan and to bring it up to the boil and turned it over and brought it back up o the boil again. We then oven cooked it in the style of delia. It turned out really well and was very tasty. We have plenty for he rest of the week!

Christmas gift bags

These were the bags I made for the homemade gifts. After a number of different options ,these seemed to be the best in terms of time and design- I think I will make these again!

We got there!

So Christmas arrived at last. How did it go for you? My parents arrived on Christmas eve in the afternoon when most of the preparations wre finished. The neighbours loved their gifts. We gave some of the jam and chutneys with a vintage saucer filled eith our homemade sweets. We usually give homemade gifts of one type or another. One year we planted crocus bulbs in teacups! One of the neighbours rang to say how lovely the present was and how much they look forward to their gifts each year.It was so lovely to receive the call as you never know whether the homemade gifts are wanted or indeed appreciated.
Christmas day went well, now the children are almost grownup it was a late start-a far cry from a few years ago when a three o'clock start was the norm! The day was organised with lunch on time which my parents greatly appreciated and then a walk into the local countryside to blow away the cobwebs. I dearly wanted to watch Downton Abbey but that's not to everyone else's taste so I will have to catch up on that as soon as possible.
More family arrived on Boxing day and we had atypical boxing day supper of cold turkey, roast ham, cheeses, coleslaw and new potatoes.
All guests disappeared at different times today and so this afternoon was spent recovering in front of the tv watching films and some comedy. Bliss..........

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gingerbread house! One day to go!

Only one day to go! We have had a very busy day starting with other half collecting the turkey at 7 am this morning. The girls have been brilliant finally getting her Christmas pudding made (I know I just didn't get it done for various reasons. Then the Christmas cake was made and iced tonight by younger daughter. The lovely gingerbread was assembled by my eldest daughter having made the components yesterday. Chocolate truffles were made and the sweet presents assembled. The ham was cooked 14lbs in old money so a bit of a beast! I think we are there now . I will post done other photos over the next few days. In the meantime have a lovely Christmas. See you soon .....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas cat and two days to go!

On a lighter note this picture of our cat always make me smile !


Sadly Mabel passed away last night. She was a favourite. She was the chicken that wanted to live indoors with us and watch tv in the evening! We will miss her greatly. We took her out of the run yesterday when she was poorly and after that the other two kept looking for her. She passed away peacefully .

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Damson gin etc

Three days to go!

Its been a difficult day here so far with stressed teenage children and a very poorly chicken!.  We finally got the christmas pudding mix weighed out and hope fully will get it cooked tomorrow.  Peppermint creams on the go, fudge made yesterday and christmas cake partly made.We've delivered some of the presents and did a little christmas shopping. Further shopping will be done tomorrow and food shopping early Saturday morning. So we've sort of got a plan made!
My mother surprised me this morning by sending me a text to ask what time tomorrow my parents should arrive for Christmas. This sent me into panic mode thinking I had lost a day somewhere- but all's well, she had got her days mixed up! Hoping tomorrow is calmer in Mrs H's household!
On a happier note I hope to post a picture of the damson gin- see if you can spot the deliberate mistake?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Four days to go !

We have been very busy here at Mrs H's humble abode in preparation for the big day. My youngest daughter made these gingerbread men using a Swedish recipe . The recipe originally came from my best friend who lived in Sweden for some years. We now make them every year and the house smells of the spices as we make it .
Today I have to finish putting the muslin and ribbons on the jams and chutneys and then wrap them up for our friends and neighbours. What started out as a few parcels has rapidly grown as we remember more people we would like to give to.
I also have to finish wrapping the other gifts for friends and their families. I hope to post pictures at a later date of some other things I have been busy making but this may have to wait until after Christmas .
So job list for today :
1. Put finishing touches on craft presents.
2. Finish putting muslin and ribbon on jars and pack into bags and decorated.
3. Finish wrapping presents for friends and family.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas tree farm

Last Sunday we went with the inlaws to help pick their tree. They are very lucky to live nearby the Christmas tree farm at Stoke Goldington, where you are able to wonder through their field and choose your Christmas tree. Once chosen your tree us cut down by one of the farm hands . Mulled wine is on offer to help keep you warm whilst choosing your tree and once finished with the cup is over turned and placed on top of the tree to denote your chosen tree. The small shop also offers slow gin, and other fruit liqueurs for sale as well as Christmas wreaths! We had a lovely time choosing . I wish this farm was nearer to us. I think I will have to do a search for one closer to home ! I forgot to add the farm was used in this winters photo shoot for 'Urban Outfitters' the fashion shop.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Visiting family

Last weekend I went to visit family who live near near Milton Keynes . My daughter and I had a lovely time being looked after . We went to finish the shopping for that side of the family and to swop pressies. Shopping is always better when done with like minded people. We laughed a lot and stopped frequently for refreshments and were able to relax a bit from away from the relentless pressure on the run up to Christmas
We went shopping in the lovely small town Olney. It is a very pretty place full of honey coloured old and quaint buildings. There are a several thrift shops ( I think that's the trendy name for charity shops!). One of them was of particular note as it is extremely clean well layed out with very reasonably priced pieces of vintage style bric a brac. The other shop that took my fancy was a new one called "Chic Boutique" . This sells new and used designer and high street fashion and shabby chic and vintage homeware- according to the blurb. In the changing room the cutest little girls dress was hanging up . It was so lovely I had to take a picture . I bought a lovely red lined jigsaw cardigan for £ 10 . It really is very festive- and I know I will wear it a lot over the holidays. Again the china pieces were very reasonable , I cannot wait for a return visit !

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finished jars!

Jams and chutneys

Over the last few years the jam chutney making bug has gone from strength to strength in this household. In fact so much so my other half usually suggests that's it about time I gave some away as presents. So now each Christmas that's exactly what I do. Last year I made little baskets up lined with tea towels and brown shredding and three jars of my finest together with a couple of Ikea gingerbread nightlights and possibly a small bottle of home made fruit liqueur ( limoncello or cranberry vodka ). The cranberry vodka tasted very festive.
This year I have sorted my jars but haven't quite decided on the packaging but am thinking along a small christmas tote. I will let you know when I have decided. Any  other suggestions would be gratefully received ! This year I have made damson gin and crab apple brandy which I am bottling tonight. Pictures of these are to follow . But in the meantime I attach photos of my chutneys before and after dressing!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas tree

We thought we would get our tree this week , which is early for us. In the
past we have had difficulty finding the right one. So an earlier trip was planned. My other half and the girls went to choose and spent along time looking for the right shape and height. There was much discussion about which type of tree it would be. In the end cost was a major factor and we went for the traditional Norwegian spruce . Some of the other types were about £ 70 each!
We are so glad we collected the tree on Wednesday afternoon instead of the weekend as there was a fire at the hospital near the garden centre and the road was shut for access . I do hope everyone at the hospital was ok.
These days I leave the girls to decorate the tree and here is a picture of this year's tree. The house smells very Christmassy . Now we just have to remember to water the tree...,,,

Friday, December 9, 2011

My lovely chickens

My lovely chickens called Isla mai and Mabel are here catching the last of the winter sun on Wednesday. They were also waiting for their afternoon treats of either corn or warm boiled up peelings. They much prefer cooked peelings as opposed to uncooked which gets distributed all around the run. Edna our black chicken isn't in view but is lurking nearby. She's the black sheep of the trio. I think she believes she is a cockerel shouting early in the morning and jumping on the back of the others and giving them a good peck when we are not looking , she is also the least friendly of my chickens.More photos another day....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Festive preparations

Yesterday when chatting to my youngest daughter she let slip that the schools would see breaking up at the end next week,which panicked me, but thinking about it I have more time this year than I have had previously so I'm sure we will be ok but old habits die hard! Anyway I got to thinking that I haven't even made the Christmas pudding yet so I think that is what I should make today. The recipe I have used the last few years is one I have adapted a little from Phil Vickery the chef who appears on Good Morning tv show. The recipe is light , suitable for vegetarians, I can use our homegrown carrots, apples and eggs but more importantly I like to use it as my daughter met the chef when she was smaller. So here is the recipe I use:

Golden Christmas pudding serves 4-6

110g raisins
75g sultanas
1 small apple grated
1 small carrot grated (use a fine grater otherwise you will see largish orange specks in the finished product)
175ml cider
50g runny honey
50g fresh breadcrumbs
50g soft brown sugar
50g chopped dried figs
50g pine nuts ( we leave this out and use more dried fruit instead)
50g chopped dates
50g currants
50g olive oil
50g candied fruit chopped (optional)
35g flaked almonds( again we leave this out and add some different dried fruit)
2 tsp mixed spice
3 medium eggs beaten
Pinch of salt
Soak all the fruit and carrot in cider overnight (or for over 8 hours) Next day mix well and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and pack into a 2lb pudding basin. Cover with grease proof paper and foil and secure well using string, making a handle to ease removal from the steamer. Steam for 4 hours. Remove and leave to cool. Take off foil and leave somewhere cool until Christmas day. When it should be recovered in foil and steamed again for four hours.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Student Christmas decorations

My elder daughter is a student away at university and as neither she or her flat mates are flush with money they decided to decorate their flat on the cheap, I thought I would share this with you. She made the snowflakes from paper , folding a circle shape into half and half again until you a flat cone shape. She then cut out shapes along the side. The paper was then unfolded and voila she had a snowflake. All her flat mates had ago but as my daughter was the fastest she was elected to make the most!!! Her snowman was made from cotton wool pulled into ball shapes and built up to form a body and a head and bits of paper were coloured with feltpen to make the hat, eyes, buttons etc and orange string for his scarf. The candy cane Is one of her favourites and is a must for the tree!
I've also attached a picture of the snowflakes too!

Student snowflake decorations

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Buttonhole and button

My hand stitched buttonhole

Retro cushions

I just loved this retro type fabric . It's shiny in lovely rich colours of turquoise, purples, orange, green and brown. These were my first attempt at cushion covers. They have an envelope backing with hand stitched buttonhole and large brown button. The buttonholes aren't perfect but not a bad attempt seeing as it was a very long time ago when I last had a go at buttonholes! What do you think are they any good? Do you have any tips how to do a neat buttonhole?

Christmas lights

Last night my other half and I had our first evening out together in months (all offspring being otherwise occupied). We had a simple supper out in a local town. Lots of the shops and buildings were decorated with small Christmas trees with pretty lights . I thought you might like to see

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cushions and all that !

Just been surfing the net with regards to cushions etc and found this....http://yougogirl.typepad.com/you_go_girl/2010/03/crochet-like-crazy.html

What a lovely edging to the pillow casing , I love it and may well be having a go at this very soon! What do you think?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas fragranced bags

Christmas is on its way!

The chilly mornings this week have made me feel quite Christmassy ! I have recently been collecting seasonal type fabrics and spices to make fraganced bags and have made a couple of different types today. The first batch took quite a lot of time to make and by the end of the evening I managed to shorten the whole process - funny that! I think my favourite are the rectangular ones. The whole house smelt of festive spices , I think everyone was hoping I was make gingerbread men. Perhaps tomorrow. Until the next time..........

Christmas scented bags

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Allotment November 2011

So this is the start!

Well this is the beginning of my blog and how nervous am I? I have been so scared of starting to write in case I make a complete fool of myself! I hope to record my triumphs and failures of all my efforts to lead a more fulfilled home life whether it be down the allotment, at home cooking, making things and above all spending time with my almost grown up children and last but certainly not least with my patient husband who supports me in all my madcap projects! I also want to share with you the things that give me inspiration and enjoyment whether it be a link to another blog or something I have read or seen - so lets get going!
I made my first visit today to the allotment since the summer and how the weeds have grown! I shall post a picture as soon as I can so that this can be the baseline as it can only improve. Unfortunately last year I had very little time to achieve as much as I had wanted . I always enjoy my time there and usually want to spend more time than I intended as it really is a calm oasis away from the phone, computer and hectic lives! An hour can help lift my spirits and give more poor brain something to mull over in the small hours of the night when sleep can be all so elusive.
I think that's not a bad start so I will sign off -until the next time!