Saturday, 24 December 2011

'Twas the night before Christmas...

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Millie, Posy and Tilly trying to keep the noise down by using sign language to communicate!

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

What's more - a cake had finally been decorated...

...mince pies made and hams baked.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

Though one little one had decided to stay up for the Christmas Eve Feast, hoping to escape notice by disguising herself as Santa's Little Helper!

The grown-ups all feasted on oodles of fish
Carp, salmon and herring in every dish.
 Beetroot and dumplings, potatoes and salad
A feast of such note it deserves its own ballad.

(You knew it was going downhill the moment you realised a word that rhymes with 'salad' was required. Let's see if we can get back on track...)

Then from the upstairs there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from the meal to see what was the matter.
Away to the sitting room we dashed in a crowd,
Then saw a strange man with parcels all round.

He was dressed all in velvet, from his head to his foot,
Though his clothes were not tarnished with ashes and soot.
His face was a strange one, of rubber it seemed
With piercing blue eyes, not quite what we'd dreamed.

Makes himself at home, this chap!

Sophia was not in the least overawed by this strange gentleman's appearance.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

He spoke many a word whilst he dealt with to his work,
Giving out all the presents, then turned with a jerk.
And fled from the room with a merry 'Ho-ho!'
'I've so much to do, now I really must go!'

He must've jumped on his sleigh, to his team given a whistle,
And away they must've flown like the down of a thistle.
We think we heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

(With apologies to Clement Moore, whose wonderful poem I have made merry with this evening!)

{Our Christmas got started early this evening with a traditional Polish meal, wonderfully prepared for us by Ewa, and hosted by Bren and Mags.  Thanks for a great evening - it was so lovely to do something entirely new and different!}

Wishing you all the merriest of Christmases and all the very best for the festive season!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry, Baubly Christmas!

Mr U-t-B finally returned from his little break yesterday evening, a day later than planned.

 HE says the car broke down somewhere just south of Reims, but I think this is just an excuse and that he secretly had an extra day on the slopes...

Never mind all the detail he gave me of phone calls to AA 5 Star, of the hotel he was put up in and the breakfast he enjoyed, I'm still not sure I believe him.  Even if he did drop his sister and brother-in-law off at the airport after a long journey down the mountain because the snow has not stopped falling, I still think he snuck back up to enjoy a bit more powder!  

I said he'd hope these things were done by the time he got back...

a) The Christmas shopping will have been done, lovingly and decoratively wrapped, labelled and arranged oh-so artistically beneath the tree

b) The Christmas cards will have been written, addressed and put in the post (and that a letter will have been written and placed inside the ones that require it)

c)  Food supplies will have been purchased, cakes and biscuits baked, hams boiled and studded, and chutneys and preserves simmered and consigned to well-sterilised jars

...and actually, they pretty much are (there's no proper food in the house, but if all else fails, we can survive on gingerbread!) though I'm not quite sure how we managed, what with the sidetracking cause by music, films and gingerbread houses! 

 I don't in the least mind that he doesn't do much of all this stuff, because I do love it (well, apart from the cards!) and he doesn't, and it's more enjoyable to do it with Miss U-t-B than have a bah-humbug-er reluctantly dragged in!

Yesterday evening I went to my lovely friend's 'Bauble Party'.  

Have you ever been to one?  
It's great fun!

Everyone choses and wraps up a Christmas bauble.  It can be bought or home-made.
As people arrive (there were 10 of us last night) they surreptitiously place their package into a sack (or pillowcase).  Nibbles and drinks ensue (everyone brought a contribution), then the real fun starts.  

The first person choses a package from the sack.  They open it and most likely coo over its loveliness, then sit back and hope they get to keep it if they love it, or that someone 'steals' it from them if they don't!  Subsequent people can either 'steal' a bauble that has already been opened , or chose one from the sack.  Baubles can be stolen three times, but once they've changed hands three times, they can no longer be stolen, and the person who has it can keep it. If your bauble gets stolen by the person whose turn it is, you either open another from the bag, or steal a different one (but you can't steal back what has just been stolen from you).

All the baubles were lovely last night, but apparently at some parties, there is a deliberately duff choice!  Almost every bauble changed hands two or three times.  This is the one that I came home with...

Cute, eh?
He's on a long spring so he's jolly bouncy!

I took an angel (I actually only started making them in order to take one to the party) and had a real sinking feeling seeing all the bought loveliness that was unwrapped, and my package was the very last one to remain, so whoever opened it would be stuck with it!  But luckily, she did seem to go down well.  Phew!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Bah-humbug banisher

I cannot tell you the excitement Miss U-t-B and I have had the last couple of afternoons!

If you ever need to get in the Christmas spirit (and I'm not talking about drowning the chaos and stress out with a bottle of whiskey!) I can highly recommend what we got up to together.

Here is the result...

Our first ever Gingerbread House!

We used pretty much this recipe, from a Good Housekeeping magazine.  I have never found a Good Housekeeping recipe that didn't work out well.    Our recipe had two tablespoons of ginger (which sounds like way too much)  instead of 10mls, which I think is two teaspoons, but it tastes great!  We changed the house dimensions from what was suggested, because we wanted a tall house with lofty gables, something nestled deep into the snow, like all our favourites when we go skiing.

I have signed up to Pinterest (thanks Lakota for the suggestion and the invitation - my life is definitely the richer for it, though I do seem to be short of time these days...) and you can find oodles of inspirational pictures on there.  We were going to heap colourful sweets on our house (and were looking forward to shopping for these, and polishing off any leftovers) but once we were under way with the royal icing Miss U-t-B decided that it might spoil it.  She said it reminded her of every arty thing she ever did when she was young, where it looked great at a point along the way, and then she overdid it and spoilt it!

At the front of the house is a little gingerbread lady talking to her rocking horse (as you do).  She looks like she's related to the gingerbread boy from Shrek with that leer!

At the back we've gone a bit alternative, with a dalek!  If you have a cookie cutter, I say use it - never mind the theme!

The icicles were fun to do, but they do have a habit of dropping off!

Miss U-t-B cut the little heart shaped biscuits in half to make cute shutters for the windows.

And, inspired by Holly Bell (from 'The Great British Bake Off')'s video...

...we had to do stained glass windows!

Miss U-t-B had the forethought to put a candle inside before we built the house, placing it just near enough the front door to be lit with a candle in a pair of tweezers...

Looks like gingerbread lady has somewhere nice and toasty to warm her poor frozen tootsies when she goes inside!

Miss U-t-B has now abandoned all other career ideas and is planning on life as Gingerbread House Maker to the Stars (and Anyone Else Who Wants One).  She recognises that the opportunities for money-making will be somewhat limited - a couple of weeks in the year to make enough money to get her through the year, but hey-ho...

So if you're still waiting for 'the' mood to hit you, I can't recommend anything more powerfully bah-humbug banishing than to get together with someone nice, put on some Christmas tunes, fill the house with the smell of gingerbread, whip up some royal icing and get merry with the icing bag!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mood Enhancers

With Mr U-t-B away, Miss U-t-B and I are trying to get in the mood.

We've been playing the mix CDs she made last year of all my favourite Christmas songs.

There's a bit of this...

...and a bit of this (have to have the HMS Ocean version)...

...and then there has to be this, which makes me happy and sad in equal measures...

Christmas-mood film watching has been planned.  First up was...

{Watched the night before last, as I stayed up late-ish to pick Miss U-t-B up from her dance school Christmas party.  Much smiley dabbing of eyes.}

Next in line is...

Because the pics don't always appear this should show 'The Holiday ' with Cameron, Kate, Jack and Jude 

{We planned to watch it last night but then got 'sold' 'Just Henry' by an ITV trailer.  We wished we'd gone with our earlier plan...}

To be followed by this...

{To watch alone, when Miss U-t-B goes for a sleepover with her best friends.  Might have to follow-up with the completely un-festive...

And because this is another of the pics doing a disappearing act, this is 'Pride and Prejudice' with Matthew and Keira., though that does feel a little like being unfaithful to the true Mr Darcy (ie Colin) as not to overdose on the mood.}

And then the build-up will be complete and I will wallow in this...

{Please note - NOT this for me...

I think this is a step too far.  
It's a Wonderful Life is meant to be enjoyed in 
black and white.}

As for preparations, well, I did learn to make a hot toddy (last night - not this morning!) and I managed to line several cake tins, but have now run out of steam.

 It'll happen.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Getting in the Christmas Mood?

Mr U-t-B has upped and left me. 

(But only temporarily, I hasten to add.) 

He's headed off to the seriously snowy slopes of the 
Haute-Savoie for a few days, to help his brother-in-law (along with his wife, Mr U-t-B's sister) celebrate his retirement from teaching.  Two weeks ago, there was no snow where they have gone, but it finally got started about a week ago and has scarcely stopped since!

So tomorrow they will be hoping to draw back the curtains to this view, with the sun just creeping into the sky...

...and be able to venture out onto empty slopes...

...and get stuck into some deep powder...

 ...whilst managing to keep upright...

...before returning 'home'... suitable post-retirement apres-ski...



I know they'll probably be reading this to find out whether I'm doing anything useful with my time whilst they're away.  I could have gone with them, but it's always a wee bit busy around now, isn't it?

Mr U-t-B will be crossing his fingers and hoping that when he returns on Tuesday or Wednesday:

a) The Christmas shopping will have been done, lovingly and decoratively wrapped, labelled and arranged oh-so artistically beneath the tree

b) The Christmas cards will have been written, addressed and put in the post (and that a letter will have been written and placed inside the ones that require it)

c)  Food supplies will have been purchased, cakes and biscuits baked, hams boiled and studded, and chutneys and preserves simmered and consigned to well-sterilised jars 

We'll see!

I'm not yet feeling any sense of urgency, and I am still busy 
de-cluttering, and rather enjoying the new orderliness around the place.  I may be too busy to do Christmas this year...

Friday, 16 December 2011

Faff Mode Selected

Oh my goodness, it's been a while!  Sometime shortly after calmly poring over all those recipes,  a little switch flicked inside my head and have been faffing, flitting and fiddling ever since.

I faffed happily over the baking of lots of mini-morsels for our party, none of which I remembered to take a picture of.  I can, however, declare that Peking Cups and Coronation Chicken Filo Baskets went down enormously well, along with Sticky Sausages, Middle Eastern Lamb Parcels AND Beef Empanadas (well, I couldn't decide between the two), but that Pork and Cranberry Patties were under-seasoned (my fault) and did not fare well being kept warm in the oven as was suggested in the recipe.  I also made Sweetcorn and Chilli Fritters with Avocado Cream, and they were the surprise savoury hit of the evening, far nicer than I had imagined.

The mini-muffin sized Prune and Armagnac Tarts were definitely worth the fiddle.  I had secretly thought them a bit risky as so many people declare a dislike of prunes, but they disappeared swiftly, with many an appreciative comment.   I even remembered to top some of them with the lovely cocktail stick decorations I got from 'Cox and Cox'.

The evening of the party passed happily flitting around offering food and catching up with friends we don't often see.  It was a really nice evening, and I love it as a way of getting in the Christmas mood and as the perfect excuse to get the house properly tidy, dusted and decorated!

I also did a fair bit of faffing topping up supplies for my last Christmas Fair (which actually was the only official Christmas Fair I did this year).  At November and December's Markets, needlecases were flying off the table at a rate of knots, so I made quite a few more for Tuesday's Fair.

Beach Huts...

Quirky Cottages...

Hedgehog and Toadstools...

Felt Flowers...

I did get a bit bored of making them (plus I was running out of felt for the pages) so, having done the applique and embroidery, some got turned into phone cases instead...

Faffing continued as I perused my fabric stash and chose designs to combine for more phone cases and a couple of Kindle cases...

Phone Case

When in doubt, chose polka dots!
Phone case

Kindle Case

And then I faffily delved into the vintage fabrics to make some covers for small diaries...

Needless to say, some fiddling was required setting out my stall on Tuesday afternoon...

The Christmas Fair went well - I sold lots which means I am now looking forward to the New Year and to making some new stock!  I have some new ideas I want to try out, but over the holidays I am really going to concentrate on finishing those works-in-progress. 

Another of the faffy things I got up to whilst neglecting my blog was packaging and posting  the things from the de-clutter I managed to sell on ebay.   I made about £75 - not a huge amount, but I know it will be appreciated by Crisis.  I spent an entire morning wrestling with brown paper and the murderous-looking parcel tape dispenser that Mr  U-t-B used to use in his days as A level examiner...

It is a miracle I survived!

Other than all that, I have been flitting from one website to another, choosing Christmas presents.  I won't share what I have bought here, in case any of the planned recipients drop by, but I can say that I found soooo many lovely things at and  DotComGiftShop that, combined with a bit of making, I might not have to venture to the shops at all!  

The Regency Teacups and Saucers from DotComGiftShop are lovely... is the Vintage Doiley Storage Tin...

..and other things too many to count.

At NotontheHighStreet I have been particularly taken with lots of typographical items...

From 'More than Words' on

From 'More than Words' on

...which follow on from my love of the Aardvark-on-Sea prints, such as this one...

Enough, before I faff the morning away with more internet window-shopping!