Sunday 31 December 2017

Year's End

Another year comes to a close and it is a time of reflection for many, myself included. 2017 didn't get off to a great start for me, but looking back now I know I have so much to be thankful for and, for what it's worth,  it's been a pretty good year.
Our Christmas was lovely. Fairly quiet compared to some, but spent in good company and with good food. On Christmas Eve we went for a rather soggy walk through the woods. A little bit of calm, it was so quiet with no one else around (unsurprising given the weather), but good to get out knowing there wouldn't be an opportunity to do so the following day. Cookies were made, stockings hung and a very excited little girl eventually fell asleep.

Christmas day itself was spent at home with the whole family here, and as often happens it went by in a flurry of present unwrapping, playing with toys, cooking and eating. The subsequent days were a mix of walking, relaxing and enjoying being at home. That wonderful period of time between Christmas day and New Year when days merge into one and there is no real sense of purpose. The weather has been cold but beautiful, and ideal for some gentle rambles, the low light being typical of the time of year. It was the perfect opportunity to put my new Christmas presents of a  bobble hat and woolly socks to some good use, and very cosy they are too.

Today we enjoyed a lovely lunch out at a nearby country pub and tonight we will raise a glass and see in the New Year quietly at home.
Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to read my blog this year. I really appreciate it and have loved reading your comments. 
However you are spending it, I wish everyone a very Happy New Year.
J. X

Friday 22 December 2017

Feeling Festive

There are only three sleeps until Christmas day! How do I know this? Because Lily tells me exactly how many there are left each morning as soon as she wakes up. I remember last year was the first time she became aware of the build up to the big day, but this year she is literally bouncing with excitement.
And I'm really enjoying this special time of year too. Of course, it helps when there is a little one around as you cannot help but get caught up in their delight, and mine is often to be heard singing 'Away in a Manger' somewhere around the house. I also had the absolute joy of seeing the school Nativity this year - Lily was an angel and did an excellent job, even with a slipped halo and wonky wings!
At the beginning of this week we spent a few days in York. It was lovely to see the shop windows all dressed for the season and the Christmas Markets so busy. The aroma of mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and crepes filled the air and the Christmas decorations and lights were all so pretty. We even got to see Santa (from a  safe distance) and the reindeer.

The last few days have been mainly spent on Christmas preparations, although we managed to get out for a rather misty walk on Wednesday afternoon. There weren't any views to be seen but still, it was good to get out and have a break from the chaos for a while.
I still have things to do and I've yet to start wrapping presents! However, I think I've got most things covered and after a quick trip to the shop for a few things tomorrow I should be able to sit back and relax. 
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. 
J. X

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Baby, it's Cold Outside

The temperatures dropped quite suddenly and it's been a challenging week here as our boiler chose to start giving up on us last Tuesday. This has meant no central heating or hot water for six days! Of course, if it was going to happen, it was just our luck for it to coincide with the coldest week of the year. I was initially quite upbeat about our predicament, we were going back to being 'old style' - brushed cotton sheets and lots of blankets on the beds, Lily getting washed and dressed in front of the fire, boiling the kettle for water to wash the pots etc. but as the days dragged on I found my resilience begin to wane.
Thankfully, as of this afternoon we are up and running again and I'm hoping my festive spirit will slowly return along with the feeling in my fingers and toes.
Last Sunday we went walking (possibly in an attempt to keep warm). Just a gentle pootle down by the pond and through the woods. We haven't had any snow on the lower ground here but everything looked lovely following a heavy frost. I've also discovered Lily likes frozen puddles just as much as wet ones, and as a bonus they don't end up with her (or me) splattered with muddy water.

Most of our Christmas decorations are out now and, as promised, here are a few photographs. I'm mindful to use child and cat friendly decorations as much as possible, although so far everything has been left untouched save for some re-arranging of the baubles on the tree (Lily!). The chocolate filled advent stockings are hung safely out of reach above the fireplace.

I'm loving having a real tree once again this year and I made use of some of the straggly lower branches to create a simple wreath for the front door. I carefully added some sprigs of holly from the garden along with some frosted decorations for a bit of colour.
J. X


Tuesday 5 December 2017

December weekend

I can't quite think we're almost a week into December already, and following a hectic couple of weeks, I intend to slow right down and take time to enjoy this magical season. The weather has turned very cold here and we have woken to many frosty mornings, which all helps with getting in the festive mood.
The excitement is gradually building in our house, and last weekend Lily just couldn't wait for us to go in search of our Christmas tree. We went to a local garden nursery and were almost spoiled for choice. We had great fun choosing one and bringing it home in the van. I hope it's going to become a new tradition for us as a family and I'm so happy to be back to having a real tree once again. So far Mog has left it well alone. Let's hope it lasts.
The advent stockings I made are now hung above the mantel and Lily looks forward to her chocolate coin inside each one every morning. My lovely friend also treated Lily to a book advent calendar this year so she unwraps a new book every evening and we read it together at bedtime. It's a really precious time for us both. 

On Sunday I had every intention of baking some Christmas cookies, but the day was too good to be spent indoors and we went out walking. There were some beautiful views and while we sat on a bench for a short rest I heard Lily say 'This is the life'. I sometimes think she is four going on sixty four! I know what she meant though, because even though we were still suffering with some horrible coughs and colds, it was a really lovely day out.
In the evening we decorated our tree and over the next few days I will add the finishing touches to the house, which I will share with you towards the end of the week. I do love to see how other people decorate their houses for Christmas don't you?
And, if I'm really lucky, I might even get around to finally baking those cookies!
J. X

Saturday 25 November 2017

Cosy v-stitch blanket

On this cold and icy morning I thought I would take a moment and share with you my v-stitch blanket which I finally finished this week. Although I say 'finally,' it has probably been the easiest and fastest blanket I have worked so far. I had never tried working the v-stitch before so I am really quite happy with how it turned out.
The yarn I used is a wool/acrylic blend which is a perfect compromise for me as it makes for a very cosy blanket and yet can be thrown in the washing machine with little worry.
Instead of a border I finished it off with some fringing.

The finished blanket measures 100x135cm and I used DK yarn and a 4mm hook.
I made my foundation chain with 184 stitches. 
Work 1treble, 1chain, 1treble into the 4th chain from the hook. Skip two stitches then repeat until the end of the row, finishing with 1treble into the last stitch. Break yarn.
Join the contrasting yarn at the start of the row, chain three then work across the row working 1treble, 1chain, 1treble into the gaps created by the V's in the previous row. I worked 151 rows altogether.

The 'arty' shot........

and the out-take........

I give up!

J. X

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Bright November days

November days can often be grey, dull and gloomy but recently we have been fortunate enough to enjoy some beautiful sunshine. Even better is that these sunny days have fallen on the weekends when we have been able to seize the opportunity to get out.
Last week we walked up Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. As it was a beautifully clear day there were amazing views right out towards the sea. There were a few fell runners on the mountain and one even challenged Lily to a short race! Of course she was up for it and gave it her all.
It was a long but (fairly) easy climb to the summit but we didn't spend very long up there as it was sooo windy! We hastily ate our lunch in the wind shelter and retraced our steps back down the mountain.

This weekend's walk was closer to home. We went through the fields and up towards one of our favourite viewpoints overlooking the mountains. It was a beautiful frosty morning and named 'ice day' by Lily who was fascinated by the frozen puddles. There are now more leaves on the ground than on the trees, their dark silhouettes contrasting against the brightness of the sky.
Wintry weather is creeping in now and I'm wearing my woolly jumpers on a daily basis with scarves and mittens within easy reach for those colder mornings. I'm not good with cold weather and always have to wrap up well.
Yesterday I treated myself to my first mince pie of the season and this week, once I've finished making my sofa throw, I will begin my festive planning. Yes! It's getting close to that time of year again. Who's ready?
J. X

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Fresh air and Fireworks

Last Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. A light frost, blue sky and a sharp chill in the air. My favourite kind of Autumn day.
We had an early start as we were headed for an easily accessible, and therefore, very popular part of the Lakes which is far better enjoyed before the crowds descend. Having packed a rucksack and prepared a packed lunch the evening before, we were out of the house nice and early, delayed slightly only in order to defrost the car.

The early start was definitely worthwhile, however, and we enjoyed the first half of our walk in peaceful surroundings. Having initially walked up a steep incline, we soon warmed up and  were rewarded with stunning views of the landscape awash with Autumn colour. Lily was fascinated by the wishing tree to the edge of the path. Coins are wedged into the bark of the fallen trunk by passers by in the belief it will bring them good fortune. They are becoming a common sight on many walks. Our pathway continued along the hillside, parallel to the road down below, eventually dropping down once again to pass along the lake shore.

After a brief stop to eat our lunch - it was far too cold to sit around for very long - we made our way to a favourite cafĂ© for a much needed warming drink. My choice at this time of year is hot apple and cinnamon cordial - delicious!

Following the morning's activities, we spent the afternoon pottering and relaxing at home before going back out again in the evening to watch the fireworks. Lily doesn't really like loud noises so we watched from a 'safe' distance. Blimey! It was cold. I was glad we were well wrapped up and thankfully, as the display was quite small we were not out for very long.
Returning home we enjoyed some Sticky Ginger Cake (I always have to make this for Bonfire Night) and lit some sparklers in the garden. Lily was too wary to hold hers so I put them in one of the garden pots!

Recipe for Sticky Ginger Cake:

225g Self Raising flour
1 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tspn Ground Ginger
1 tspn Mixed Spice
1 tspn Ground Cinnamon
115g Butter
115g Dark Brown Sugar
115g Black Treacle
115g Golden Syrup
275 mls Milk
1 beaten egg

Sieve the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter.
Melt together the syrup, treacle, sugar and milk.
Mix together and add the beaten egg. Pour into a loaf tin (the mixture is quite runny) and bake at 140 for around 50 minutes.

J. X