Saturday 18 September 2010

Planning Ahead

Yes, it's that time of year already for me. Time to get the books out for ideas and inspiration and begin to makes notes. The odd little present or pack of cards has already come home with me and I feel no shame. I have learned my lesson the hard way several times. Preparation is the key.

I know - the leaves have hardly begun to turn yet have they? But I realised a few years ago, being the only female in the house, that if we (and me) are going to have the festive season we all enjoy then I just can't leave things until the advent calendars are opened.

As a working mum time is very short and although we have a small family and we like a pretty simple, traditional Christmas, there is still plenty to do and September marks the beginning of the preparations. And I enjoy it. I refuse to be a martyr to it. No one makes me do it and as my lovely dad has always said "Christmas is what you choose to make it" and for our family we like to be happy, joyful and relaxed.
I do find the whinging and moaning about Christmas quite tiring, especially as for most of us it's the only time of the year we truly stop and celebrate. I do appreciate it can be a difficult time of year for some, but I have noticed that it's often men who moan. Is it just me who wonders if there would be Christmas at all if women didn't get organised?

Yes the department stores are selling decorations already and it seems earlier every year, but there's a choice isn't there? (especially for those who don't actually have to do anything!) I just steer clear and don't go into these shops often and I choose not to be bothered by it. In our little town it's actually just the charity and card shops who have a few things out.

I might buy a tin of chocolates to stash away and begin to buy presents because spreading the cost has changed how I look at Christmas. I save a small amount of money over the year and I pick up a few things as the weeks roll by,  but the supermarket mince pies can definitely stay where they are!.

Everyone is different, some people enjoy the thrill of the last minute frenzy but I find that quite hard, so I do a little bit here and there so that come December I can enjoy, enjoying it when the time comes. I'm no domestic goddess though and there's always last minute things to do but I like to feel in control of it - if I can!
So this is my little stash of inspiration and ideas and I like to find a new festive book each year around now.  This one is on its way to me but I'd love to know if you have some favourite Christmas books, especially any vintage/interiors ones that make you anticipate the season to come. What are your favourites?

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Through the Kitchen Window

It is a dank and dreary autumn day in the Moorlands. The leaden sky is racing and the rooks, jackdaws and the last few housemartins are tumbling through the air, blown up and down on a blustery gale. Just my sort of day. The best day for staying cosy in the kitchen and cooking up something for the cold months ahead and, along with a comforting risotto, I have apple jelly on my mind.
From my kitchen window I can see gardens up and down the road with apple trees laden with ripe fruit. When I was growing up we had the run of our elderly neighbour's beautiful orchard and in the autumn we joined in the harvest of apples, pears and damsons.

Later, my parents had a garden with three huge apple trees that are still producing cookers every autumn but they ripen very late. So it's difficult to watch the fruit from my neighbours' trees ripen and fall to the ground, simply to rot and feed the fieldfares when they come.
Typically these gardens belong to the neighbours whose gardens back onto other neighbours (who I'm afraid we don't know) and I am simply not brazen enough to bowl up and ask if I can help myself to their apples seeing as they don't appear to want them!
In the West Country there are cider clubs who collect unwanted apples from village and town gardens to press for apple juice and the headier brew, but we're not big cider makers up here so there aren't any gatherers either. We do have a community orchard that recently started at the allotments in town but those trees are a way off fruiting too.
Now I know I could just go and buy some but that seems madness, to settle for imported fruit when there are so many native varieties fruiting all around me.
But as you can see, Mother Nature has smiled on me and my need for apples.  On my way home from work yesterday I came across a whole crop of crab apples blown to ground by the gale. A little bumped and bruised they may be but for jelly making they are ideal. Gathering them up required a few minutes scrabbling about in the hedgerow but gosh it was worth it.
After an evening spent peeling, cooking and dripping I enjoyed a cosy time in the kitchen today, boiling and straining with Susan Hill for company and now I have a few jewel coloured jars of deliciousness to brighten the dark nights ahead. Hurrah for apple season.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Home Alone

It's Wednesday. Quite late on acutally but the house is silent. So quiet I can even hear the kitchen clock ticking. I'm the only person in the house and there is peace and quiet. And it feels very, very odd.
Woody is off interviewing for the magazine, the poor kittens are at the vets for an appointment which will sadly bring an end to their blood lines and my two little boys are both now up at the school - all day.

Little A has started the next stage of growing up. It has gone so wonderfully smoothly I can hardly believe it. Thankfully his classroom is next door to the nursery where's he's spent his mornings this past year, so the jump wasn't too much of a leap.

Long days have led to some big late afternoon grumps but a voracious appetite which is brilliant to see! I did feel as if my right arm was missing for most of the day though.
So there I found myself, patrolling the house looking for something to keep me busy on my day off. Obviously I have a list of housework as long as my arm but I'm quite dertermined that this midweek pocket of precious time is put to very productive use.

After some garden pottering and picking a few posies for the house I eventually settled to winter curtain making which had been started on mum's ancient Merritt. For some reason it gave up the ghost halfway through so I spent a sunny couple of hours stitching seams and header tape. Might tackle some long neglected decorating next week!
And after lunch Woody and I spied the chance for a stroll along the canal. Such a glorious afternoon so we strolled past the lock, along by the flood meadows and onto the restored bridge, before turning for home and it was such a lovely, simple thing to do as just us two.
Everyone is home again now, included two jaded little furries but they're doing fine. All in all a pretty smooth start and I might just get used to my mid-week home alones.