Saturday 31 December 2011

Looking Forward and Back

Another year has spun past and tomorrow the next opens up, all clean and new. 2011 has been full of great things, a few tricksy problems yes but nothing we couldn't cope with in the end and it's when you look back you can see best what a lot of blessings you had to count isn't it.
I've enjoyed so many things this past year, many are familiar and comforting but there were some new experiences and the joy of watching our little chaps grow bigger (a lot bigger!) and their lives and what they're interested in change and shift. So I thought I might make a list, well two actually because I can't resist a list. One looking back at some of the best things of 2011 and another looking into the year ahead and to get all excited about.

2011 highlights:
Growing in the garden - I grew much more from seed this year and it added another dimension to our little plot. Even though the summer was dreary the garden seemed full to the brim of colour.
A Cornish swim - On the last day of our holiday the sun shone all day and the north coast in the first days of September was utter paradise. While the boys demolished some ice creams I pinched one of their little body boards and had the best fun for half an hour making a prat out of myself in the waves. I handed it back then and spent ages swimming up and down watching the surfers and people enjoying a perfect summer's day back on the beach. I can still feel the water and hear the gulls and my boys laughing in the surf.
Kitchen tales - from somewhere I've learnt this year just to have a bash in the kitchen and see how it turns out and not worry so much. We've had new flavours, been a bit more adventurous and now I can't imagine how I cooked before. For the first time in years I've felt happy to have friends over for something simple to eat and a chance to catch up.
Vintage shop - I never thought I'd get around to it but I did this year and Curlew Vintage has been fantastic. Thank you everyone who's bought something, I really appreciate at it and you should hear the shouts of excitement from my house when a sale comes through!
Baving - a daft Woody phrase but I have completely got into holidaying in our little van. Tootling off to pastures new and setting up on a cheery site for a bit of exploring, cosy evenings under our blankets and tea in a tin mug adventures was fantastic.
That Wedding - oh it was such a great day. The party in my sister's street was just the business. Everything they'd hoped it to be, we had such a great time. There've been street barbeques, firework parties and all sorts since and plans for the Jubilee are coming along nicely. Ace.

For 2012:
  • The Plimps - I've got no idea why this is Woody's names for the Olympic Games but we can't wait to get down the Smoke for the cycling road race. Like everyone else we got zero tickets so this is our best chance to see it up close (and our favourite sport too) but we'll be following everything from the water polo to the shot put at home too.
  • Patio Produce - we're saying goodbye to the allotment now I'll be working full time but now we know what we love to grow I've been planning how to make the best use out of the space outside the kitchen door for beans, peas, salads, soft fruits, courgettes and lots more.
  • Eggs, eggs, eggs - our girls are very at home in the garden these days and bless them they've kept laying all winter so far and don't seem to mind being out in the rain or even snow. Very tough our girls. Easter with our own eggs will be great.
  • New family - best 'til last though...saving up all my good luck for my sister and her family who'll be welcoming a new little one at the end of next month. An auntie x2 - how great is that!
Happy, happy New Year. Hope it brings lots of lovely memories for you. Xxx

Wednesday 28 December 2011

A Green Christmas

No frost or snow this year but wintry brightness, low sun and wind roaring in the chimney.
A true green Christmas
I've been cosyed up with my lovely family for days on end and its been ever so marvellous. There have been Lego marathons, hours spent on the carpet building various things and lots of special time devouring books, having family chats, enjoying favourite films and some championship slumping.
Today we spent the afternoon with good friends, tramping through the woods and up the lanes getting some much needed fresh air. My stinking cold returned the day before Christmas Eve and all the preparations were pretty hard work this year. It was a shame not to have my usual energy for it all so I concentrated on just the really important bits and well, we got there in the end.

Thank goodness for my mum who was a marvellous assistant chef on Christmas Day and we all managed to sit down on time and nothing got burnt, so huge result. Cooking the biggest meal of the year with a raging temperature and a hacking cough wasn't perfect but we were all together and having fun and that's what mattered.
Today was just what I needed and I'm definitely on the mend.
And the mulled wine we had at a favourite cosy pub definitely helped me back up the hill!

A few more days snuggled up in my cosy new pyjamas and some Christmas reads will definitely see it off.
Its been a really extra special Christmas so far with some lovely memories made to treasure. And lots more to look forward to with visits to friends and mum's birthday celebrations on New Year's Eve. Time to squeeze in a little more slumping yet though I think. Pass the Roses!

Thursday 22 December 2011


To mark the solstice yesterday I went into the garden and gathered up all the greenery I could find to hang from our doors and celebrate the turning of the year and the coming of Christmas.

My patch was looking pretty dreary and very muddy after the snow and I wasn't sure there'd be much at all but in amongst the stalks of dissolving perennials I found ribbons of ivy, glossy holly, fir and lots of laurel so there was plenty for a huge front door bough and some for the kitchen door too.
I decided against wrestling with it all to make a wreath and gathered it all together in a great big swag which to be honest would look more at home on a big wooden farmhouse door (in my dreams!) or a lovely door with stained glass panels and painted in some gorgeous chalky Farrow & Ball shade, but even on our 70s glass panelled thingy it really does cheer me up and makes me sing the holly and the ivy over and over again!
And one last decoration decks the halls, not made by me but something I bought at the craft market in the next village a few weeks ago. I love it's bright cheery colours and patterns so much!
Almost there now. Still plenty to do (more cleaning, baking, still  more wrapping - does it ever end!) but we're all at home now and really looking forward to happy cosy days with precious family, time for fun, sitting back and enjoying it all - and an industrial amount of chocolates I think.

Wishing everyone a joyous and happy, happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year for you and all your loved ones. Xxxx

Saturday 17 December 2011

Cosy Snow Days

Ooh my Christmas wish came true! Every year I hope and keep just about everything crossed for a little of the white stuff in the build up to the big day. We've had a few flakes already but yesterday and today it has snowed and snowed and snowed! We've had it all from spitting hail to feather like flakes that have drifted across the village in lacy veils.

There's not so much of it lying about but I suppose that was a good job really because I've been a busy bee flitting to town and back, stocking up on essentials for our little feast (you know, vital things like Elizabeth Shaw mints and greaseproof paper).
All the orders are in now with the butcher, greengrocer, fishmonger and delicatessen and I can hardly wait to pick up my treasures on Christmas Eve. I had little man with me as we dashed about before an appointment to get his bunged up ears sorted out. Poor love has an ear infection but the antibiotics are doing their thing now and he was the most fantastic company, enchanted by the lights and fabulously dressed windows all over the town. I love seeing the festivities through their eyes.
While daddy was out doing some last minute shopping this afternoon, we three holed up at home and got busy baking. I've been determined this year to overcome my mince pie nightmares - I've never managed to make a decent one. Ever. Always too heavy and doughy. So this year I turned to Nigella and blimey I think it might have worked!

Well, we'll see wait and see how they go down with the family tomorrow when we all catch up. B really got into the pastry making side of things. Took it very seriously!
Little man has devoured three already, I didn't think they'd be his sort of thing at all but turns out we've got a new favourite. Well, bit more of this wrapping lark to do yet so I'd better get to it. Xxx

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Christmas Home

I can't wait to hit the downhill run - can you? Next week the holidays start, there are only a couple more school and office days to do and the nice things like a family lunch, cocktails with my sister, carol services and lots of baking are all stacking up nicely.
I'll admit to feeling a little bit martyrish about the festivities today, but only for about five minutes. As a rule I avoid this sensation like the plague because I'm a firm believer in making the Christmas you'd like to have. No one (least of all the man in the house) makes me do anything but most years I have a little wobble during the build up when I feel I'm trying to single handedly deliver Christmas on a plate for everyone.
But actually no ones' asking me to. Only me. Stupid isn't it. Woody is under the cosh with work and really all I want is to share the wrapping and the fetching and carrying etc and get a bit of Christmas spirit going with him. But he's a bloke and most I know don't have a clue what I'm talking about. They'd be fine with Christmas dinner at the local curry house to be honest. Which all in all is how it should be isn't it - a celebration, not hassle. But I love to pull out all the stops (very simple stops) for the boys and therefore, I guess I'll have to pull them.

And when you think what many families have to deal with, grumbles about who's done all the wrapping etc get firmly put away. So they are. (Woody interviewed the amazing team here last week and we're hoping the publicity will help to raise lots more funds).
So I've taken a step back this afternoon just to enjoy how Chrsitmas has crept into the house. The dresser is pretty much groaning with decorations now and our lovely friends dropped around a beautiful gift for us on Sunday. Ginourmous bunches of holly, smothered in berries. Perfect
With the heating on full blast and a warm fire in the living room I've crowned just a couple of the pictures with sprigs because otherswise they'll be dry and dull by the big day, so instead I've filled jugs for the table and the mantlepiece instead. I think I prefer it.
Some very beautiful cards are going up too, most are treats to myself I've collected over the years which is quite embarrassing if anyone looks inside them but they're so lovely I couldn't resist!
(this one's genuine honest - a birthday card from me to Woody)
Time now to sort out party clothes for a day of fun at school tomorrow and find that wrapping paper I've stashed somewhere! Hope the festivities aren't too hectic with you. Xxx
P.S. Almost forgot - thanks for all your warm wishes on our good news. I've got a new job! From the New Year I'm moving to a different part of the NHS locally and doing a smiliar role (but much more straightforward) and thankfully with more hours and working with a lovely team. Keeping the wolf from the door has been really hard this year after my hours were reduced so the relief at home is absolutely huge! Happy Christmas!

Sunday 11 December 2011

Jolly and Joyful

We reckoned we'd earned a treat, Woody and me, after several week of really hard work and a fair bit of stress too. But on Friday everything changed. We got some fantastic news that changes things so brilliantly for our family and our fortunes too. I can't really say what until tomorrow but you know that miserable post I wrote a few weeks ago, well all that's behind me if you see what I mean!
We haven't been to Oxford in a long, long time and have really fond memories of a special weekend there before we were married, on a tourist board press trip where we were treated fabulously and were lucky enough to stay at the marvellous Randolph Hotel, opposite the Ashmolean Museum.

So with some help from the grandparents we tootled off for a day away yesterday and before 11 o'clock we were strolling down Broad Street, muffled up against the cold and enjoying a pretty fantastic saunter.
We lingered around the stunning quads and courtyards of the Bodliean Library for ages, admiring the soaring architecture and a beautifully simple Christmas Tree.
Our Christmas shopping is done and safely stashed away so yesterday we had nothing better to do than have a good old explore of the city's alleys and lanes, cosying up in an ancient inn or two with a mug of mulled wine and good old window shop.
We discovered Oxford's incredible covered market too. Oh my word. You all know how I love our little market in town but goodness me, this place was utter paradise! Stalls with the most amazing produce, quirky little boutiques and so many fabulous places to eat you could choose a different one for each day of the week. The fishmonger especially was out of this world. We had a lovely hour in here and stopped for lunch in a cosy cafe with scrubbed tables and read the papers while we watched the world go by.
Coming from a small town it was a real treat to browse in some really wonderful shops. I adored the maps and prints on display in this window and I finally got to set foot in Brora, Toast and Fat Face having only ever seen their catalogues before. Some very special pyjamas came home with me from Fat Face too (I can't remember the last time I bought any new clothes just for me). A treat to myself for my good news - roll on Christmas Eve when I shall be most definitely snuggled up in them by the fire.
And then there were to colleges too of course. I'm full of admiration for those who study here. I'm fascinated by the cloistered atmosphere and the mysterious staircases leading to the world of study. My university days in London are long behind me but there's a little part of me that wishes I'd worked harder and I'd aimed for here.
But we had a fabulous visit. A very happy, festive day and time to share it together. First class.