Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

Christmas stuff

nativity scene figuresThere was family.wrapping paperThere were gifts.candle and preservesVisiting turned into sitting around.slippersAnd baking.bread baking in the ovenAnd a little too much time on my own.


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Happy Christmas!

Christmas tree bauble

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In London this morning, on my way to the supermarket – a five-minute cycle ride – I spotted so many pretty festive wreaths.


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Grr, blurry above. I just can’t tell when the stupid viewfinderless camera isn’t focusing where I want it to.


There’s a fine selection of wreaths at Not on the High Street. Too late for this Christmas, of course, but plenty of ideas there for do-it-yourself wreaths for next year, if you’re that way inclined.

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And there is a link to how to make a felted ball wreath rather nicer than those being sold online, on the Pickles website, which you can read about it an old post.



This last one reminds me of one I used to have. But on my door this year is a very simple, cheap wreath from Sainsbury’s because last year, on Christmas Eve, ours was stolen. At least at Spring Cottage, that’s not so likely to happen. At least I hope not, so here it is – made from holly and berries from the garden.


Postscript: it turns out that I’m not the only one with a thing for wreaths at this time of year. There are some lovely ones over at Charlotte’s Plot as well.

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This is my favourite week of the year – between Christmas and New Year, before everything cranks up to full pitch again. Nothing coming into my inbox. Time to do mending and baking. Children where they ‘should’ be – asleep in their beds. Daily life muted. I feel like I want time to stand still. I don’t really – I’d get cabin fever and be bored, restless and irritable. But for the moment, this quiet is wonderful. Savouring how great life is, how lucky I am, is wonderful. So I’m preserving it here.

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Christmas memories

It always takes me ages to decorate the tree, as it involves a trip back through Christmas memories. We have many ornaments that were my parents’, including a couple of bent and yellowing wax candles in clip-on holders that must date from the early sixties (the last time they were brave enough to have real candles on the tree). I can remember this vaguely – the tree looking enormous from my perspective as a tiny girl. A candle snuffer sellotaped to a long pole so that they could be put out added to the excitement. And the smell of warming pine needles.


I only use a few of our really ancient decorations but have to feel them and look at them all every year, so getting on with the tree takes far longer than it should.


Then there is all the tissue paper that the baubles are wrapped in. I threw some of it away this year as it really was in shreds. But for me, there is a special magic connection in knowing that some of it was first used by my mother to wrap these silvery balls, as she has been dead these 34 years.

There are new things too like this huge fox; the brainchild of my daughter when she was around ten. And so we move on into the future.



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This year’s bumper crop of berries in the hedgerows meant that I picked loads of blackberries and sloes to preserve. I’ve made sloe gin and vodka, as well as blackberry jam. I was rather random about how much sugar I added, rather than dedicatedly following a recipe this year, so we will see how it all works out. Or not. Some of it is going as Christmas gifts, and people may be too polite to tell me if it’s revolting…

Bottles from Lakeland.

Cheap gin and vodka from wherever.

Strain through muslin. (Just worked out why it’s also known as cheesecloth. Duh.)

Ta daaaa!

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I’ve finally got around to ordering the curtains that I wrote about almost nine months ago. I’ve gone for this:

which will look very nice – actually a lot bluer and brighter than the picture makes it appear – with the other things in the living room. But now the fabric is out of stock. As it comes from France, where they’re on holiday for the whole of August, it will be ages until they are made and finally arrive. Typical. Now that I’ve made up my mind, I want them immediately! I’ve ordered them from Tinsmiths in Herefordshire, which is a wonderful source of beautiful household objects and natural fabrics.

While I’m on the subject of opportunities for financial leakage, I came across Cox and Cox this week, who have a nice range of gift wrapping materials, amongst other things. Thanks to a certain London department store, I have already been reminded that Christmas is just around the corner (doesn’t life feel it’s passing quickly enough, as it is? Really!), so this discovery is quite appropriate. I love having wrapping paper that stands out from the crowd and this rather Scandinavian design, which also evokes the herds of red deer close to Spring Cottage, is making my ‘order now’ finger itch.

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I have just found this wonderful wreath to make; completely unique in its design and wholly frustrating to find it now, after Christmas. But actually, this is the best time to find this because I’ve got almost a whole year to make it!

There are so many wonderful projects on the Pickles website, that I can barely contain myself. My work basket is already overflowing with half finished things, but that doesn’t stop me dreaming about having the time to do all the things I’d like to make. I’m going to be working fewer days soon, so I hope I will have time to get down to all kinds of practical things, including throwing pots again. But more of that, once I’ve actually achieved something!

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Floodtime:  We had a pipe burst in the loft over the kitchen and I learned to leave the heating on and turn off the water at the mains when I leave.



Repairtime: So many things wrong with the house all of a sudden that it became rather depressing to be here but we got through it.


In which my neighbour brought me some eggs from the farm, Spring Cottage had lots of visitors and I was reimbursed for the flood by the insurance.


When Spring arrived at the cottage, as did a lorryload of logs, and the house was painted. We also celebrated our first year here.



Started with a bang. On the day I collected my new car, I had a crash. Racing, double-barrelled cow driving the other car, who then lied about what happened. I’m still annoyed…



We settled into enjoying the cottage this month, with visitors and summer times in the garden. Nice that the pace slowed down a little.


During which nothing much happened and blogging really almost stopped, only to be followed by…



During which the blog went public. I had a holiday down here, and blogged like a woman possessed. I also journeyed to the beautiful Montacute House, south of here, and did lots of gardening.

riding clothesSeptember

Brought the discovery that what I thought was mainly an ornamental vine in the garden, actually had grapes on it. I also celebrated the first comment on the blog and went riding for the first time.

autumn leavesOctober

October arrived with the cheque from the insurers for the car accident in May. It took five months for them to settle the claim, because they are a pile of idiots. I started having riding lessons.


In which Spring Cottage had eight lads to stay and there was the first snow before Christmas for many years.


Was cold and frosty, with snow covering everything for the best part of a fortnight. It was frustrating not to be able to get to the cottage despite the Tank – although this was mostly cowardice rather than practicality.

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 brings all the things everyone wishes for, combined with good health and happiness.

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I knew it would happen as soon as I’d got over the massive hump that is Christmas and all one has to achieve during that time and before. I am ill. Gripped by a sore throat and lethargy, I have slept the morning away to find a huge thaw under way, which has saved me from carving a path out of the front garden.

Forcing myself out of bed, I almost fled straight back to London. But the Children are taking Little Sister to the Natural History Museum today, so all that I would gain is the looming clearing up, which is best ignored for the time being. Instead, I decided to tackle the chores I brought with me, head on. I have put up Mr and Mrs Hangup from RE (they are actually called that):

I also put up the mirror I picked up on my trip to Langport, so that you can actually see yourself in the bathroom. Rather a shame really, as one of the luxuries of being down here is not having to worry about appearances and not having a mirror helped.

Then, I discovered the wonderful, surreal world of the Clerkenwell Kid and the sounds of the Real Tuesday Weld. But aside from this, I’m afraid I’m not very inspired today. I have no idea why I am showing you pictures of my flannel and tea towels… Time to go.

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Now that I am here in Somerset again, it feels strange to be somewhere so quiet and isolated; to be sitting on my own listening to the crackling of the fire and the roaring of the boiler, instead of having Family Guy and “some guy who’s, like, a DJ, only not” in the background and fretting about the mess.

Arriving at lunchtime, I found Spring Cottage hale and hearty, having survived everything that’s been thrown at it in the last few, chilly weeks. There’s a slight thaw going on, but the snow is between five and eight inches deep, so it won’t be quick.

This is a relief, as I had worried that, despite my precautions, the pipes would have sprung a leak or some other calamity might have befallen us. Outside, there is a snowdrift in the road about 10-15 inches deep, where the tankers that collect the milk from the farm down the lane, have ploughed through the snow day after day. I wade through this in my new wellies and, tomorrow, there will be a path to shovel through the snow from the front and back doors into the garden, so that the house is more accessible, but, for today, extracting the tools and drill from the car is all I plan to do in the great outdoors.

The pond is so frozen that it has half disappeared in the snow but, when I stand on it, the ice sheet snaps in two and lots of tiny, aquatic insects rise to the surface. I hope it brings them some oxygen and that the frogs are safely hibernating down below.

While eating, I read through the community newspaper, photocopied in small numbers and hand delivered by one of my neighbours to the wooden box with the hinged lid that serves as my letterbox. There’s trouble down in the village, with footballing children breaking windows in the village hall, and the shop and post office threatened with closure. Despite trading in the same spot for well over a century, it no longer makes the owners a living and they are selling up. Sadly, no-one is buying and it has been on the market now for over a year. The plan is for a community shop, like they have in The Archers, staffed by volunteers, to replace it but in a different, more central, location. Apparently there are over 250 community shops in the UK, with 17 in Somerset alone. As it is a remote and properly rural county, this does not surprise me. I would like to support the shop, so I hope that its opening times will suit me, as I’d like to do something to help the community, even if it’s just buying a few things there when I can.

From the far distance, amplified by the chimney, I can just hear the shouts of brightly dressed people, who’ve driven out to toboggan down Broomfield Hill, as I sit on the hearth and lay a fire, making the cottage cosy and warm for the night. As the light starts to fade and the temperature falls again, we are even slightly festive.

Tomorrow is another day, I think, as I sneak onto the internet, and connect myself with my real world once again. But for this evening, it’s an Icelandic thriller and uneaten Christmas cocktail sausages for me.

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Going to take a break now for a few days to get on with Christmas things. Work finishes today and then I have to blitz wrapping presents and buying food before we celebrate with extended family on Christmas Eve and friends and family on Christmas Day. But undoubtedly my new-found Twitter twitch will keep going despite festive jollity.

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Mini-crampons Since the cold weather hit I have been wanting to have a whole cupboard full of these, so that I can give them out to whoever needs them to feel steady on their feet on their way home. They are the best thing, apart from claws, that you could have to trudge the treacherous pavements of our ungritted side streets.

map of uk

Don't believe everything online...

Telescopic road miles I would like Windsor to be brought about 20 miles closer to London, so that the poor Boy doesn’t have so far to commute every day. But at least he has a job, for which I am truly grateful. When I was trying to look up the distance between London and Windsor, Google maps came up with the map on the left, which made me laugh!

Essay titles I would like Up North University’s English Department to set their students essay titles once a term, so that they can have a break from thinking them up for themselves. Perhaps they’ll also ask them to set their own exam questions? Well, why not? Ahh, because they don’t have any exams. No, none at all. Who’d have thought it?

Le De Givenchy This is definitely for me – a scent that I first bought when I was about 20. In those days it was only available as a parfum, so I used it very sparingly and the bottle lasted for years. I still have the empty bottle in my underwear drawer in the hope that it could still impart a lingering whiff of loveliness. The sad thing was that for years, Le De wasn’t manufactured, so all I could do was dream about it. But now Givenchy have brought out a whole range of vintage smells, one of which is Le De, albeit in Eau de Toilette form. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. I will be very happy if Father Christmas could land on the roof of Harrods, one of its few stockists, and bring some back for me.

Bembo My dog, Bembo. I know he exists somewhere in the new year but for now he (or she) is just on my wish list.

Oh, and, of course, peace and love, good health and all that… and by the way, what does one give a 12-year-old, not very girly, girl?

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Not feeling at all reassured by repeated emails this week from Schofields, my wonderful insurance brokers, telling me to check my property for frozen pipes and other severe weather damage. After January’s deluge, I have taken so many precautions that leaving Spring Cottage for a few days has turned into a major event, with a ‘To Do’ list many lines long.

The view from the back of Spring Cottage.

All I can do at the moment is hope that Sunday’s flash visit to Somerset won’t be scuppered by the snow that is currently engulfing the area and London as well. While I was out for lunch, we had about half an inch and I was only gone about 45 minutes. Luckily it’s a bit too warm in central parts for it to stick around. However, I’ve just heard from Sally at Manor Farm, that conditions down there are terrible and getting worse. So, fingers crossed. Lady-Gardener has just called to say that it snowed all night in Taunton.

Blurry GirlMy fingers are also crossed that the Girl will be able to get back from Up North tomorrow. I am dying to see her after many weeks away at university. It is her birthday on Tuesday, after which I will no longer have any teenagers. How time passes – it is all quite strange.

Also quite strange, was my boss at yesterday’s Christmas party, encouraging me to get a dog and bring it to work. Hard to work out if he was serious. He was definitely not drunk!

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I have to say that I’m not a fan of emails from suppliers offering me their services. If they are asking whether we need design or marketing support, it shows that they haven’t read our website or bothered to find out anything about the organisation I work for. I usually bin the email.

Today, in the spirit of generosity that this time of year engenders in me, I read the email to the end and noted that this company’s registered office is near my home. My interest piqued, I visited their website and discovered some things that might fill a hole, if you still have some Christmas presents to get and are out of ideas.

Designers Anonymous have simple mugs and T-shirts, featuring ironic text, and a whole range of greetings cards for sale, as well as the weirdest mirror I’ve ever seen – impossible to describe, you’ll have to have a look for yourself.

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