Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Winter Picnic

Well, I've reached my half century ..... aren't I the lucky one! R tends to get a bit maudlin around his birthday, whereas I try to look on the positive side - it's an awful lot better than the alternative! I was really lucky with the weather; the 28th dawned sunny but very cold.
My family had asked what I wanted to do for my birthday; it's always an awkward one being so close to Christmas. We all have our birthdays around this time of year, within 6 weeks of each other, so it tends to feel as if we're all celebrated out. I didn't even want a birthday cake this year! Given the lovely weather, I thought a walk and a picnic would be nice, so we dug out the circular walk book, packed a rucksack with food and flasks of hot chocolate and tea and off we went.
It was a bit crunchy underfoot:
 An early sign of Spring?
Over the stile:
 The oak tree where we enjoyed our lunch:
 Enjoying the view:
 Quiche and salady bits:

 E borrowed the camera and took some photos. I like this one because of the rainbow effect:
 ...... and the reflections in this one: 
 The walk took us back via the towpath which was incredibly muddy. There are no photos of this bit as we were concentrating hard on not falling over!
It wasn't too long a walk as R had managed to catch 'the lurgy' at work and E and I were beginning to come down with it. Back home, I played with some of my presents:

A new veggie cook book - I can heartily recommend the caramelized garlic tart!
Birthday lilies:
A new apron - this photo took me a while. I tried taking a selfie without the aid of a mirror, but there was some horrible crepey neck/double chin thing going on - well, I am 50 you know!
.... and, my new toy - who's a lucky girl then?!
A Thai meal in the evening completed a really lovely day. Sore throats abound at the moment, so I'm just off for some more hot mulled apple juice - it's surprisingly soothing. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Festive Eggnog

Well, here we are, safely on the other side; I hope you had a good one! Ours was a quiet family affair, with just the 4 of us. I had 1 more 'new thing' to do on my list and Christmas Eve found me in the kitchen making eggnog. I have never even tried eggnog before, let alone made any, but it turned out to be easy and delicious. Even L liked it - she thought it was a bit like a pudding in a cup. I used this recipe here, using Bourbon and eggs from our girls.
Gathering the ingredients:
Serving with a grating of nutmeg:

We had it cold initially, but there was some left over which we had warm with croissants for breakfast (!) on Christmas Day and I think I prefer it warm. I will definitely be making this one again.

So, there you have it, 50 new things to celebrate my 50th year, completed 4 days ahead of the deadline. Some I will be keeping up, others I'm glad to have tried but won't feel the need to do them again. It was quite a modest list - no skydiving or bungee jumping for me, but I have enjoyed making myself do them and it was a nice way to celebrate. Here they are:

1) Start a blog! 2) Learn to meditate. 3) Make a quilt. 4) Learn to swim front crawl. 5) Try Zumba. 6) Try Pilates. 7) Visit Newbury Antiques Fayre. 8) Give blood (I tried and failed 3 times!). 9) Make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. 10) Try pottery. 11) Make proper custard. 12) Make marmalade. 13) Make lavender bags. 14) Learn more bird songs. 15) Try golf. 16) Sign up with the National Donor Registry. 17) Try hooking. 18) Learn 'The Elements' Song. 19) Make Elderflower Cordial. 20) Make Elderberry jelly. 21) Try lino cutting. 22) Make lemon curd. 23) Do a textile workshop. 24) Visit Ruby's Vintage and Retro Fair. 25) Try Batik. 26) Make washi tape cards. 27) Try Bubble Tea. 28) Ride on a Segway. 29) Try Tai Chi. 30) Do a Turkish Mezze workshop. 31)Make something useful (peg bag). 32) Make bunting. 33) Learn to use Picmonkey. 34) Visit an auction. 35) Try hair chalks. 36) Make a lampshade. 37) Try aquarobics. 38) Make a Christmas wreath. 39) Visit Kefalonia. 40) Visit Ithaka. 41) Try sea kayaking. 42) Try ouzo! 43) Make sourdough bread. 44) Make pompoms. 45) Make yoghurt. 46) Make dried orange rings. 47) Make a crocheted poppy for Remembrance Sunday. 48) Make limoncello. 49) Make a crocheted blanket (I made 4!) 50) Make eggnog. Ta-Dah!

Christmas Day was beautiful hereabouts and after the girls had opened their stockings and we had eaten breakfast, we went for a walk. Here are the photos:
New mittens, from L, and a Christmas chocolate!
Really LONG shadows:
This is the River Lambourn that runs at the bottom of our garden; it's a bit wider here as we have the island in our section:
A rather sweet folly:

Donnington Castle - look at that blue sky!

Views from the top:

Walking home through the woods:
... and passing an aptly named cottage:
Then home again for Christmas 'Dunch'. Boxing Day found me straining my limoncello and decanting it into bottles. It is rather nice - more lemony that the bought stuff, but a lot less alcoholic. You could always jazz it up with more vodka though, if you prefer!

How was your Christmas? Was the weather kind to you or were you cut off by the snow that I've been hearing about on the radio? However you spent it, I hope it brought you joy. That's all for now. By my next post, I'll have reached my half century - yikes, pass the limoncello!

Toodle Pip for now. x

Friday, 19 December 2014


'Tis the season to be jolly, so this week I thought I'd do an alcoholic 'new thing' and make my own Limoncello. I first tasted this in Italy, many years ago and after initially thinking it was far too sweet, I soon got the hang of it and now love the stuff. I hadn't realized how easy it is to make though, until I came across the recipe in my 'Kirstie's Homemade Christmas' library book.

Basically, it's lemon zest and juice, sugar, water and vodka. The lemon zest, water and sugar go into a pan and are heated until the sugar dissolves and then simmered for 15 minutes.
Whilst it is simmering, juice the lemons, then, when the 15 minutes are up, add the juice, along with the vodka, cover and leave for 1 week to infuse.
Then strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth and decant into a pretty bottle. It apparently lasts for 6 months, but I'm not sure it will last that long around here.
I made mine this morning, so it should be ready for straining on Boxing Day - all ready for a nice little tipple after our walk maybe?

Other happies this week include:
Putting up the tree:

It's a bit of a mishmash of items the girls have made at home or school over the years and a few shop bought decorations - the girls sometimes get a new one in their stockings. We only realized this year that there are only 2 actual 'baubles' on our tree - one which was a present for L from a school friend, and one of ice-skating choristers, which we bought at Winchester Cathedral a few years ago, after we were fortunate enough to see the boys in their red surplices (not sure if this is the right word!) zooming around the rink.

Also this week:
Celebrating L's 21st birthday (a little late, as we had to wait for the end of term) with a trip to London. We started off with Afternoon Tea at The Langham:

Champagne and non-alcoholic cocktails to start, followed by a red pepper brulee amuse bouche (my bouche was very amused!), a selection of yummy veggie sandwiches and then more scones and cake than you could shake a stick at. I had tipped them off beforehand about it being L's birthday and they presented her with a birthday cupcake whilst the pianist played 'Happy Birthday'.

We then saw this in the evening:

It was brilliant - what you initially thought was quite a basic set turned out to be quite spectacular and the acting was excellent.

Walking to the theatre, we passed a bit of  Banksy graffiti. I normally hate graffiti with a passion but this little rat was rather sweet. The council had tried to protect it by covering the wall in perspex. Unfortunately, they hadn't sealed it at the top and rain water is now seeping down the gap and damaging the paintwork!

Doing a festive jigsaw puzzle or 2. We had Lucy's boyfriend, J, staying with us this week. It turns out that he is VERY good at puzzles. What I thought would take a few days in the run up to Christmas, he managed to complete in about an hour!

Getting my hooked picture framed. Now I just need to find a suitable place to hang it:

Finally, a trip into Winchester to visit the Christmas market:

We had hoped to go ice-skating but it had rained overnight and the rink had enormous puddles on the surface. People who fell over were getting soaked, so, sadly, we decided to give it a miss this year.

Anyway, that's all for this week. I'm hoping to fit in my last 'new thing' before the 28th. I have a feeling that it may be another alcoholic one!
In the meantime have a truly wonderful Christmas week. Toodle Pip for now. x

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Wreath

Greetings! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas round these parts. This weekend I made my first ever Christmas wreath! I feel I ought to hang my head in shame whilst admitting that, until now, the wreath which has adorned our front door each year has been .............. artificial. There, I've said it. I'm not judging anyone - artificial wreaths are easy, cheap and long-lived, which is why we had one for so long, but making your own is so satisfying. From foraging for greenery, cones, berries etc., to wrapping the moss around the ring and then finally doing the artistic bits - it's all so much fun. No more plastic wreaths for me - from now on, every December I shall be out there in the garden, secateurs in hand, chopping at the foliage. My only wish is that I had a nicer front door to put it on. You know the sort - either a beautiful old wooden one or a gaily painted (in my mind's eye I'm seeing pillar box red or duck egg blue) one. Tragically, ours in the one we inherited with the house: a 1950s glass one. In its defense, it does make for a very light hallway, which is why it's still with us.
Anyway, here are some photos of my wreath:
Gathering my bits and bobs:

A sink full of greenery:

and .........Ta-Dah!

See, hideous front door isn't it?! I know, I should be grateful to have a front door at all, but it doesn't exactly fill my heart with joy. Anyway, I'm really rather proud of my first attempt at a wreath. It's a bit asymmetrical, I admit, but I do love it, and everyone is made to stop and admire it on entering or leaving the house!

There are a few other happies this week, although the biggest happy is that L is home from uni for the holidays! Here are some of the others:

Finishing my hooked picture (the missing colour finally arrived through the post on the second attempt at posting it!). Now it just needs a frame:

Borrowing some festive books from the library:

After a really mild November, we are now getting frosts in the morning. It's really quite chilly and the de-icer is much in evidence first thing.

Lots of hot soup is being consumed. This one is carrot and squash:

Now that L is home she has opened her birthday presents, so I can show you the home made ones that had been kept secret. The coastal ripple blankie has already featured here, as she had seen it in progress. I also made her:
some birthday bunting:

A 'Happy 21st Birthday' tea light holder:

... and a crocheted owl; pattern courtesy of BunnyMummy.

E  made her a fancy Pusheen cake (yes, there seems to be a bit of a theme going on with cakes at the moment!):

 One final happy - seeing this at the cinema on Sunday:

It was very good but exceedingly long - 3 and a half hours! I seem to remember that it was quite a short play to read, so I'm not sure how they managed to spin it out for so long.

Anyway, I must dash - the school run and a trip to the dentist await! Wishing you a lovely week, with maybe a mince pie or two!

Toodle Pip for now. x