Sunday, 30 December 2012

In between...

I love these Emma Bridgewater mugs
Now we've recovered from nasty coughs and viruses we are enjoying these leisurely in-between days before New Year celebrations.  Little S must have felt much better as she was up brightly this morning and in baking mode. Red velvet cupcakes looked very festive but her first attempt at mixing purple (yes, purple!) buttercream icing was not successful and it came out grey! A little more experimentation and she managed to transform it into blue.  These colourful offerings were certainly very cheering and delicious, especially with a nice mug of Christmas coffee.

Poor Luna hasn't had as many walks as she would normally over the festive period and so we wrapped up warmly and took her down to the beach. The tide was almost completely in but we still had a long strip of sand for her to really run along and play, chasing the waves in and out and teasing us with long strands of seaweed in her mouth.

Later S and I got absorbed in some crafts; she in paper snowflakes and me with kite paper window stars.

The Wonderful Man is busy planning the menu for Hogmany and New Year's Day but he still managed to produce a super Saturday supper.  I bought some proper Garofalo pasta from the deli and he made my favourite tomato sauce with wild rocket and vodka - bellissimo!

I've also had time to look again at the beautiful presents we've received.  One of my favourites is this Christmas Matryoshka nesting doll that I originally bought for L's mum from the Russian shop in Edinburgh.  She's enjoyed it for the last 10 years but her house is practically groaning under the weight of many, many decorations and so she thought it would be nice to pass it on to H.  Aren't they wonderful!
Appropriately in the background  is a photo of L's mum holding H as a baby

My other most treasured gift is from my mum.  I can't believe she made such a beautiful cross stitch  for me and it was a complete surprise.  She managed to get L to hide it until Christmas morning and I had no idea that she had been working for years to create such a beauty.  I got L to hang it by the stairs so I can admire it every time I go up or down. Thank you Mum!

The words at the bottom read, 'Over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house we  go'

Friday, 28 December 2012

This music...

In place of This Moment I thought I would share 'This music' instead - a seasonal and an inspirational moment.  I am never quite sure what I think about contemporary choral music but this is a masterpiece.  Whatever your religious persuasion you cannot help but feel spiritually enriched by this work.

If you don't know him already then Jonathan Dove is a modern British composer. 'Seek Him That Maketh the Seven Stars' was first performed in 1995 and inspiration comes from Psalm 139. It begins with what can only be described as a musical equivalent of an image of thousands of twinkling stars. I was very privileged to hear this being rehearsed in Wells Cathedral one time and at its peak it was as though the music blew the roof of the cathedral away and gave a glimpse of the magnificence of the heavens.  At the end I left feeling thoroughly uplifted and as light as air itself. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


Christmas has arrived in the Little House and despite feeling wretched with horrible cough, and the distinct lack of snow, I have managed to conjure up some Christmas cheer!

We just had time to put the finishing touches to our homemade gifts for friends in the village.  S helped me to re-purpose some jam jars and we tried our creative best to fashion them into  pretty night light holders, complete with wire handles, ready for the Christmas Eve nativity service.

The middle one has been decorated with the sheet music for Silent Night
In the kitchen the oven was in constant use with cranberries being the ingredient of choice:

Sticky cranberry sausages - yum

Cranberry scones with egg glaze (from eggs laid that morning of course)
There was such a storm the night before Christmas Eve that the hen house took off in the high winds in Wizard of Oz fashion and we very nearly had no eggs at all for baking and I wondered whether the hens had been blown across the North Sea.  It took L and our very handy neighbour most of the morning to put things back together and secure the coop with ropes.  

Gone with the wind!
Along with the wind came the rain and then more rain and we were forced to stay indoors and cosy up and enjoy what the Danish call 'hygge'.  There really isn't an English translation for this interesting word; it's more of a feeling of good company, friendship and warmth. 

'Frankentree' seems to be surviving the weight of all the decorations.  Almost all have their own story.  My favourites are the cable car bought back in 1994 during a visit to San Francisco and the rather garish dragonfly bought to remember the time we lived on the Somerset Levels and our garden was visited constantly by them.

The three wise men have begun their journey down the stairs though I think we'll let them arrive before Epiphany on the 6th January. My nisse dolls are waiting patiently on the mantlepiece; another Danish decoration I'm very fond of.

I love her stripes and long felt hat
Luna sneakily managed to wolf down the Christmas cookies left for Santa the minute our backs were turned; she was less interested in the carrot for Rudolph.  Having spent last Christmas traumatised and hiding under H's bed this is the first time she's had any 'involvement' in the festivities.

Someone also seems to have eaten all the nuts, though this time I suspect L!

Little squirrel dish is empty
Finally, Christmas Eve preparations were complete and we sat down to a traditional Danish supper.  L has perfected the handed-down recipe for the special Risalamande (Christmas rice pudding). This is mixed with whipped cream, vanilla and chopped almonds and served with a warm cherry sauce. Traditionally, one almond is left whole and whoever finds this in their portion wins the marzipan pig!  Ironically, this was The Wonderful Man himself.  He hates marzipan!

and the winner is...

Friday, 21 December 2012

This moment...

Inspired by Soulemama's {this moment} - a Friday ritual. A single photo - no some words, capturing an image from the week. A simple but thankful moment that I would like to pause and remember.

S might have been a poorly girl this week but, after such unimaginable horror in Connecticut, I found myself watching her sleep peacefully and was truly thankful to have both my girls safe at home. My thoughts and prayers go out to the broken hearted whose children did not return home from school that day.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Oh, Christmas tree...

Christmas never feels quite like Christmas until you have a tree.  I've often admired artificial trees and their perfect symmetry, let alone their distinct lack of needle drop, but for me there's nothing quite like a real evergreen brought indoors to start yuletide good and proper.  Just a whiff of cut pine and I'm instantly transported back to my childhood. I can remember vividly my father tying the tree to the roof of the car and then struggling to find something to stand it in and then to keep it straight.  It was before the days of special stands and I seem to remember that generally he resorted to using a bright orange plastic bucket heavily disguised with green crepe paper and filled with heavy stones.  He would then go about untangling the fairy lights and attempt to drape them around the tree. He was very exacting about this and the end result was perfectly placed lights but on a now leaning Tower of Pisa tree with half the needles on the floor.

The Frankentree
In the Little House we've been a little slow getting into Christmas mode this year and, keen to keep the expense of Christmas down, we decided to just buy one of the cheap ready-netted trees from our local supermarket rather than selecting one of the more extortionate varieties from the garden centre. The resulting purchase I have begun to refer to as 'Frankentree' (reminiscent of Frankenstein's monster rather than anything to do with frankincense). There is nothing standard about it and it appears as if it has been grafted together from random off-cuts.  Clearly from the outsize section, it has a very fat bottom that bulges out and hangs down at the back (I know how it feels!) The middle is completely disproportionate; there are disconcerting gaps whichever way you turn it and there are odd stunted sprigs. The top half has bare patches on the trunk with completely different triffid-like branches that come out at odd right angles more like some weird coat stand than tree.

Once fixed in the stand and not looking a whole lot better 'we' had to work out where it should go (that's the royal 'we' where I direct, L does what he is told and I take the credit) .  'We' had thought that the most likely position would be in the front window and so I had L move the tall and awkward wooden cabinet and glass lamp in order to put it there.  But no, in that spot no one would be able to get in and out of the room without having to brush past it and so out it came again and back went the cabinet and the lamp.  Next 'we' decided that it might be better placed next to the sofa.  L moved the other small, but surprisingly heavy, coffee table out of the way and upstairs along with yet another lamp. Once in situ it became obvious that the door would bash against it and it would probably dry out as it was opposite the wood burning stove. So, the coffee table came back downstairs and the lamp was connected once again. 'We' decided that the corner of the room by the other window might be better and so S's keyboard was moved out and went upstairs.  L searched high and low for an extension lead so she would still be able to do her daily practice. Eventually, he managed to find one and get everything working again. He informed me that the football had started. But, now you could not really see the television or get to the cupboard with the control for the central heating.  Not very practical so out it came again and stood in the middle of the room for quite some time while L muttered...and sighed ...deeply.  Finally, 'we' decided that the corner really was the only position for it to go and so the TV and the the other even heavier cabinet would have to move along and the Sky box and DVD player unplugged and then reconnected to the side.  'We' needed another extension cable but that was alright because it was half time anyway. At last 'we' managed to make it fit and I can see why L thought to suggest this position in the first place. He can still make the remote work if he walks over to the other side of the room and kneels down.

It did irritate me though that the picture above the TV was no longer central and so I suggested to L that 'we' re-hang it.  He went outside. I thought it was to find the hammer and picture hooks but when after half an hour he still hadn't returned I went to find him.  He was sat on the wood pile in the barn wearing two coats and listening to the post-match discussion on his portable radio.  Two empty beer cans were lined up beside him.  'I've found the lights,' I said enthusiastically.  He managed a weak smile.  At least I think it was a smile, it was quite dark by then so it was difficult to tell.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Adventures in Advent

I love Christmas time and have never lost that feeling of childlike anticipation that accompanies advent. All our Christmas decorations are stored in boxes high up in the loft, but each year one box is held back and put safely under our bed.  This is the advent box and the first precious item retrieved from it is our advent wreath.  These are traditionally meant to be a handmade circular garland of evergreens but long ago, realising my creative incompetence, I acquired a pretty Swedish-made crystal one.  We light one more of the four candles each Sunday in the run-up to Christmas.

I'm sure L enjoys the season too but each December he complains with Scrooge-type mutterings about some aspect or other of the preparations.  This year he was most unseasonable about my choice of 'stupid' gold candles and in his frustration, which manifested as constant rubbing of his face and much sighing, he ended up with gold-speckled chin and highlighted eyebrows. I decided not to inform him about his unintentional 'make-up' even when he went off to the village committee meeting where I'm sure the elderly members must have been surprised at his 'brilliant' appearance. 

My mother-in-law, who is Danish and far more tuned in to yuletide traditions, used to bring us a beautifully illustrated advent candle from Copenhagen every year with the numbers 1 to 24 marked down the side.  This year though she has been unable to travel and I was forced to find one myself.  I turned to the trusty internet and felt sure that such an item would be in stock but I had no joy.  L suggested, unsympathetically, that I 'just make one' from a normal white household candle and use a black Sharpie pen to write on the numbers!  Clearly, he has not inherited his mother's Scandinavian genes so, undeterred, and ignoring his ugly suggestion, I set off on my advent journey to that beacon of hope - John Lewis. There amongst the December chaos of celebrant shoppers I found a simple but attractive candle more in keeping with my  aesthetics.  I was thrilled with my minor commercialism and smugly made my way to the heaving queue at the checkout where I paid the grand total of £3.50.  The lady at the till seemed thoroughly bewildered by the appearance of real money, let alone actual coinage, and her expression seemed to suggest that I was not materialisitic enough to shop at such a debt-inspiring establishment.  My smile though faded when I went to leave the car park and paid £4.80 to do so; I'd only been in there for 20 minutes! Nevermind, I think it was worth it.  Each evening at supper time we light the candle and admire its glow. We watch the numbers slowly melt away and we are mindful of the season and its meaning. 

Light the Advent candle one
Now the waiting has begun
We have started on our way
Time to think of Christmas day.

Candle, candle burning bright
Shining in the winter night
Candle, candle burning bright
Fill our hearts with Christmas light.

Friday, 7 December 2012

This moment...

Inspired by Soulemama's {this moment} - a Friday ritual. Photos - no words, capturing a favourite moment from the week. A special and treasured moment that I would like to pause and remember.

Taken by H - thank you!