Monday, 24 December 2007

Glad Tidings

Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a joyful and peaceful New Year. Thanks so much for all the lovely comments I've received. I apprecite them so much and the effort and thoughts of everyone who's left one. Sorry for getting behind posting replies, time has a habit of completely disappearing in front of your eyes at this time of year!

All is calm, all is bright - well just about at No.25. The boys are tucked up, I've failed to make any jam tarts or sausage rolls but the house is clean and the table is even set. Presents are going under the tree and I might make it to bed before the boys get up again. But amid the hustle and bustle peace reigns and a stillness has settled. Hope everyone enjoys their Christmas and that its full of joy. A merry, merry Christmas and see you next year!


Thursday, 20 December 2007

Festive Cheer

A few pictures of the almost finished decorations (well tons actually!). Why is it so tricky to take pictures of a Christmas tree?! Impossible. And close-up it all looks a bit messy and sorry about the tights drying on the radiator, what a picture of class! Absolutely all the decorations had to go on, Barney hasn't discovered subtlety yet I'm afraid!
My festive dresser and my favourite ilix berries.
Barney keeps asking when we can eat Father Christmas but I can't bear to open him. I've found some sweet miniature versions that will definitely find their way into his stocking though.

Joy! This is the look on Archie's face every night when we turn on the boy's tree lights. It's everything Christmas is about.

I found this angel in a garden centre a few years ago and it was the last one left. It was only a few pounds and is probably my favourite decoration.

Isn't this glass heart pretty. My lovely friend Lucy gave it to me and I love the way the sun shines through it.

The boy's tree
and the decorations

My infamous cards - can you spot the blank ones?! Not too many - honest

Found the perfect thing to display my collection of vintage Christmas postcards but annoyingly I can't actually hang it on a door (it's propped up on the floor here) because our doors turn out to have weird laminate on them and I can't even knock a nail in!
A corner of Christmas in the bedroom. My new bedside table and somewhere finally to put my pretty bits and pieces.

Enjoy the shortest day, hope it leaves everyone enough time!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Downhill to the Big Day

And with fingers crossed we don't crash in a big heap at the bottom! Cripes, where is all the time going? I've finished work though - yippee - I'm feeling festive and have already eaten my own weight in chocolates! Had lots of fun catching up with friends over the last few days, its been so nice to swap news and shopping traumas.

Much to do tomorrow, I've written at least five lists and have a plan of attack for the market and town that Montgomery would be proud of. I'm going to have to have a bit of a showdown with Woolworths though because they're very close to letting Father Christmas down and we can't be having that. Christmas Lesson No 1 - early December is not early enough for massive companies to live up to all their online promises. Next year I'm shopping online before the schools go back. Fingers crossed, we'll see what tomorrow brings.
On the home front nearly all the decorations are up thanks to my littlest man having some huge naps, perfect timing. I still haven't wrapped a thing though but Grandma is stepping into the breach on Friday so I'll be camped out in the sitting room with a pile of presents, pretty papers, festive tunes and plenty of chocolate to keep me going, I'm even looking forward to it. I've really enjoyed reading random thoughts about Christmas on Driftwood's blog and its inspired me too have bit more of a think and indulge in what I like best about it all.

  • Fruits and foliage - I don't buy flowers in November and December. They feel so much like spring and I try to hold it back because the pre-Christmas anticipation zips by so quickly. Admittedly I go a bit bonkers in the New Year for daffs and buy a bunch of flowers a week until October. In midwinter though I love ilix, laurel, fir, holly, mistletoe, snow berries, fir cones and for Christmas we add bowls of satsumas, whole nuts, brightly wrapped sweets and cranberries.
  • The wrist tape dispenser is a thing of beauty - and unbelievabely the one I bought last year has turned up, didn't vanish in the move and I've even remembered to buy a refill! No more snipping tape, tearing my hair out when I can't find the end of it, trying to unpeel it from the cat - aaggh! Someone is smiling on me.
  • I do love Christmas cards - and I put up favourite ones we've been given in the past back up every year. I've got packets and packets and even hang up blank ones because the pictures are so lovely. Blimey, tragic or what, we do get some proper ones honestly!
  • My dad's annual festive joke has passed on to my little family, "So kids, Christmas morning breakfast, what's it to be? Cereal or chocolates? Shall I get the milk?" - We eat lunch early to give the boys chance to play in the afternoon or go for a walk so we never have a big breakfast and treat of the year is choosing a curly-wurly if you really fancy it.

Hope everyone has a lovely, busy, but not too hectic week.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Keep Calm & Carry On

From the Met Office
Monday 24th December 2007 to Sunday 6th January 2008
In the change from cold to mild, easterly to southwesterly, high pressure to lower pressure, there is a possibility of snow, briefly. It may well be a short lived event as the trend is for little precipitation of any sort.
If there is snow, it's likely to be on Christmas Eve.

I'm not sure I can contain the excitement. Even the TV weather woman said she might have a fiver on a White Christmas this year. Oh my word!

A lovely handmade card from my colleague Saskia.

Its been a very busy but very festive week. Hasn't the weather been great, bloomin' freezing but fab. In two different shops yesterday I heard people saying;

"Ooh its so cold,"
"I know, but it's very festive"
"Yes it's nice, really Christmassy",

I couldn't agree more and got a bit dewy-eyed and nostalgic!

The frost on our road hasn't melted for three days and the drive to work has been magical. Ice-rimed trees, ghostly looking branches and misty hollows mixed with blinking fairy lights in the distance looks so gorgeous.

Christmas came early this week with the arrival of the most gorgeous present from the very talented Lucy Bloom. I was really lucky to win her fabulous giveaway and the gifts could have been hand picked for me. Wrapped in a festive envelope they were carefully wrapped in snowy tissue paper tied with red string. I wish, wish, wish my infuriating camera batteries hadn't run out because I would have loved to have shared a picture of this work of art and the beautiful gifts. As soon as I get to town to replace them I'll show them off. Thanks so much Lucy! Do have a look at her lovely blog and very tempting shop.

Thank you for the birthday wishes for Woody, his 40th was a great but quiet day, just what he wanted. The voucher for a glider flight went down very well (phew, what else do you buy for the man who wants nothing and hates heights, but tells you often what a fantastic experience it would be?!)

For once he manged to scrape the time together for an afternoon off so we bundled Arch into the car and trundled across the White Peak to our favourite cafe only to find it shut! Trauma of the highest order - days off are rare as hen's teeth for Woody but for once, thankfully, my brain was in gear and I remembered a gorgeous bistro in Bakewell I'd been to before so we popped in there and had a smashing lunch.

It was so lovely spending some proper time with him with the chance to actually chat and have a mooch about together. His real treat is a weekend with his mates in the Lake District in the spring, drinking Guiness in a cosy pub and deciding whether they're quite up to dragging themsleves up Scafell Pike or not. (Have you seen Three Men in Boat with Gryff Rhys Jones - I think its going to be rather a lot like that?!?). Hopefully we'll make it out tonight for a stroll to our new local The Boat. So happy birthday to my lovely bloke who is the world to me and our little boys. Thanks for sharing everything with us, love you very much. Sxxx

Monday, 10 December 2007

Jolly holly

I absolutely love holly. Every year from when I can remember dad has disappeared into the night with a big bag and visited a friend's woodland to bring in the holly. Some years the thrushes got there before him and we had about one berry in the whole house. I managed to resist ransacking the hedgerows for these, but they do look very tempting, 1-0 to the thrushes there quite rightly. I was very chuffed to see these amazing branches at the nursery in mum and dad's village where we bought our Christmas tree. There was tons and I've filled lots of jugs and even managed one for my lovely new bedroom table that I'm putting the finishing touches to, I'll pop up some photos of soon. It looks so jolly and although I have got a poinsettia I like the holly best of all.
The weather here on Saturday was completely foul so the idyllic, family, Christmas tree trip, taking an age to choose exactly the right one, stopping in the cafe for cake etc was pretty much cut short. Luckily the nursery had rigged up some shelter and we could choose the tree without getting completely drenched but it was so cold, poor A wasn't in a happy mood. We quickly chose an old fashioned spruce which I know will drop a lot of needles but it smells absolutely fantastic, reminds me of all my Christmases as a little girl. Its up and absolutely swamped with decorations. Usually we have a 6 footer but with A being rather small and very curious, this year's is a four footer on a table, just out of reach. I did try to hold some decorations back, thinking that less is more but I couldn't bear to and there was no stopping B's flow!
Just like almost every other person in the land I can feel the cry of, "why aren't there enough hours in the day!" beginning to ring in my ears. This is my last week at work before Christmas and the diary is filling up with things to do, including some festive treats -

*** office meal out tomorrow evening
*** Woody's 40th, friend for coffee and dinner out for the birthday boy Wednesday
*** Last day at work and tons of stuff to finish off on Friday
*** Farmer's market with Lucy and collect toy chest from cousin's on Saturday

Decorations to finish, baking to do, school Christmas service, food shopping to get in, carols in a cave (brilliant believe me!) ... and I love it all!

I went on the school trip on Friday with B and although it was a very long way away for 3, 4 and 5 year olds on a coach, we did enjoy it and it was all very festive. It was basically a woodland walk with nursery tale tableaux and a winter village complete with elf workshop, Father Christmas and even snow! I'd been a bit dubious but it wasn't too commercial, once you'd paid all the rides were free and it was just right for the children's age group. I remember going to the grotto in the big department store when I was little and being absolutely mesmerised. Looking at it all through the little one's eyes I saw a glimpse of how Christmas used to feel a long time. Magic!

Early start tomorrow as I'm collecting my friend Lucy ahead of our office do and the forecast is for a thick frost and a sparkling morning. Christmas is definitely coming!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Delights of December

The festive feeling is beginning to tingle in my toes so I've been faffing around with my blog to make it feel a bit more wintry. This weekend is "deck the halls" etc at No.25. Really I'd rather hang on until the next one but Woody (he who usually thinks celebrations are far too much fuss) prefers to get them up early. Its his birthday next week (a big one!) so who am I to deny the birthday boy his wish. So to satisfy myself, this is my December delights list, a monthly tradition I've let slip lately but am going to revive especially for the festive season:
Bare trees - I adore the stark skeletons of a stand of trees against a pale sky, so dramatic.

Dusk - there's something extra special about it at this time of year, with people scurrying home laden with bags, twinkling fairy lights in cottage windows, Christmas trees lit up on the village green. (Gosh I'm a sucker for anything twee aren't I?!)

Traditions - "we always...", everyone has them don' t they and I'm enjoying so much having the chance to pass some onto our little family and create some of our own. The best bit for me is cosying up with the family and sharing happy times but there are also the little, ordinary things that make Christmas extra special and some of my favourites are:

*** having fresh sheets and pyjamas on Christmas Eve

*** making jam tarts

*** fetching the turkey from the wonderful butcher in a gorgeous estate village and calling in at the cafe for a nice, warm drink

*** the carol service (my sisters and I did a lot of singing at school and college and Christmas was a round of concerts and services that were such fun and the perfect build up to the big day. The festive season is a lot about singing for me!)

*** peeling and chopping the veg to Carols From King's

*** pouring over the Christmas Radio Times, even though Woody is a TV reviewer and knows weeks ahead what'll be on. He's very good though and just tells me a few snippets

*** watching The Snowman

*** a walk around the lanes and appreciating the peace and quiet

*** having to have chocolate oranges, Elizabeth Shaw mints and a box of Roses in

*** a large Bailey's on Christmas Eve (hopefully in the bath when everything is finished!)

Bookshop catalogues - so many books I'll never read but browsing with a cup of hot coffee is a proper treat.

Farmer's Market Scrum - the veg shop a few days before Christmas is always a bit mad but the stall holders at our local one are really friendly and full of festive cheer - (goodness, my Christmas sounds like something out of Dickens!)

Not long to go now, and I've already got the chocolates in. Wonder if I can last?

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The advent of Advent

I love this advent calendar. I bought in the tourist information centre in Hebden Bridge ages ago and its such a find, a beautiful German calendar with windows that light up if you put candles behind it. Its a three-fold design and is delighting the boys. I love advent calendars and the wonderful mixture of panic and anticipation they help to build that's the same every year and I revel in it. Much to do yet but the present buying is almost done - phew!

Yesterday was my longed for trip to York and it was marvellous. Busy, but marvellous and exactly the day me and my lovely friend Lucy were hoping for. Crisp, festive and tons of shopping. I rolled up at Lucy's gorgeous new cottage in the Peak District a bit late and we headed off north fuelled with bacon rolls and incredibly we were strolling down Stonegate full of festive sprirt by 11 o'clock!

We had a whole heap of interiors shops to get around as well as the St Nicholas Fayre and somehow we managed it a very calm and relaxed fashion. I must admit the market was pretty disappointing, no chalet-style stalls and only one or two had anything I fancied buying but in the I didn't bother. To be honest York has enough delights to empty my purse and we bought some lovely things, some of which I've already put away so can't show you, how silly.

This was my favourite treat though - only a pair of knee-socks but they're from my most favourite clothes shop, Noa Noa. Well favourite for browsing in as I've never stretched to buying anything before but I love everything they stock. Beautifully wrapped and boxed, just for little me, heaven knows what they do for gift-wrapping. They're just gorgeous and will be lovely with my brown suede Mary Jane's. I know, I'm getting a bit over-excited about a pair of socks but they really are lovely (despite the awful photo - no zoom - aagggggghhh!)

I've got another shop I've fallen in love with. The White Verandah sells divine vintage treasures from kitchenalia, pictures, eiderdowns, glass and jewellery, alongside handmade bags, cushions and other beautifully designed gifts by the lovely and very talented Jess. Do visit and I defy you to come away empty-handed - I didn't!

These are some pictures I've been wittering on about and wanted to share, our wonderful new view. The first is down the road from our bedroom window, across the rooftops, over the Churnet Valley. A close-up would be wonderful but I hope this gives a good impression of what a lucky thing I am to see this every morning. The other is up the road from the same window and I am not getting a lot done because I'm spending just too long gazing at them!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Fewer words, more pictures

Finally one room at least is sorted! The dining room, with new white dresser (which needs another coat yet so please ignore the streaky paint) is pretty much done. It's lovely to have some of my nice things out at last and No.25 is beginning to feel like our home not someone else's.
So, here are the before and after shots.

This is the winter look, lots of red, white, cream and twinkly glass. The plan is to put my floral china, green and yellowey pieces out in the spring along with some beautiful flowery curtains I have too. The conservatory is still a mess as you can see but soon will be full of twinkly fairy lights and the Christmas table of my dreams (she says confidently!)

I'm really enjoying my new cushions although plainly I'm the only one as they end up on the floor as soon as we sit down - life as the only female in the house I suppose. Bless Barney though, he came in from school and said, "Wow mummy, the new dresser looks very fine." Not quite sure where he picked up the Victorian compliment from but it was so sweet.

This is the pile of festive inspiration I'm working my way through.

House Beautiful has been my favourite this year (I don't buy it usually though so lucky me), this picture makes me feel very festive. I love the paper on the top two presents and bought some really similar a few years ago but I've got no idea where it comes from - similar at Ikea apparently but our nearest is Birmingham! Can't go to Ikea just for wrapping paper can you - it'd be madness! Would it?

Country Living triumphed as ever and I have a daft plan in my head that I can make some crackers just like these (in what spare second I don't know - perhaps during the sitting down parts of the Christingle service?!)

Perhaps I could squeeze in making some marzipan fruits too - who am I kidding? If I keep my fingers crossed I can maybe stretch to sausage rolls - with a fair wind!

Friday, 23 November 2007

Treats - because its Friday!

A bit naughty I know but I just couldn't resist treating myself this fabulous CK cushion I saw on ebay. Its a lot more expensive than anything else I usually buy, but, but... oh I'm so weak but I'm sure you'll understand why.

I'm having a bit of a cushion week this week and have made some for new ones for the dining room chairs from these beautiful Greengate tea towels, an idea I admit I blatantly poached from Jane's wonderful Posy blog. Do go and have a look at her archives with some amazing winter and summer cushions that make you want to immediately curl up with them. Mine aren't too bad even though my handstitching leaves a lot to be desired. I haven't got a sewing machine so I limit myself to making mostly square and rectangular things so cushions are a perfect project for me. Stitching the braid on was a great, therapeutic treat over the past couple of evenings, work's been a bit trying and the long dark drive home is hard work but soooooo very worth it.

This isn't my picture but is one of the views I'm treated to on my way over the Staffs/Derbys border at Hartington and is from the fabulous Lower Hurst Farm who sell amazing organic beef and I noticed this morning are having a Christmas fair in December...hmmmm, definitely another date for the diary!

We're supposed to be having broadband installed today (thanks for all the crossed fingers!) so I'm going to finish sorting the dining room this weekend and post some pictures next week. Everything seems to be getting messier throughout the new place rather than on the way to becoming straighter, so I'm determined to enforce a bit of order on the boxes/piles/empty bookcases etc. etc. I've decided to finally tackle painting my dresser because the varnished pine doesn't do my vintagey bits and bobs any justice. This is my latest find which I'm sure you'll agree would clash wildly with orange pine so it's going ivory - and I just can't wait to sip my coffee from this lovely cappuccino cup.

I meant to pop these on my last post, aren't they beautiful! Snowflake stickers for the patio doors between the dining room and the conservatory, or maybe for the conservatory windows I can't decide. And the best bit is they peel off and you can use them again. They arrived so quickly from the lovely Amanda at Decorative Country Living and are my best Christmas bargain so far.

And obviously I'm must have a Christmas book to immerse myself even further in the season so today I bought this ...

which sounds just lovely, an anthology of Christmas tales which from the Amazon description reads...

Taken from the original omnibus CHRISTMAS AT FAIRACRE, Miss Read's wonderfully festive collection of Christmas stories is packed with entertaining characters and enchanting stories. From the rural festivities in Village Christmas and Jingle Bells to the pre-war story Christmas At Caxley 1913, the intriguing The Fairacre Ghost and the poignant tale of The White Robin, Miss Read's wry wit and light touch is the perfect antidote to the long winter evenings.


Monday, 19 November 2007

Hello Winter!

Well I wasn't really expecting it for a few more weeks yet but autumn has come to a pretty abrupt end in the Moorlands. Winter has well and truly arrived. I knew the snow was falling when I went to bed last night but this morning the view was as green and brown as ever so I thought we'd missed it. Oh silly me, I forget were living down in the hollow so it was a bit of a surprise a mile up the hill out of the village when I hit the white stuff. Yippee!
I get very silly about snow. I absolutely love it and even though I'm now the ripe old age of 33 I still act like a 7 year old when it comes. This morning over the tops it was lying thick as a blanket covering the fields with not a blade of grass to be seen, just how I like it. The views weren't up to much because the fog came too, quite a murky, dreary old day but this is what I really love on a winter's day. I know most people like the bright, sunny, crisp winter days but I'm the opposite and long for snowy days when the sky stays low, heavy with snow-laden clouds and the promise of more to come (like the picture above). Its the type of dark day that makes me want to run home and light the fire, butter up some toast, curl up with a fabulous book in a pair of comfy socks and every now and again stare up at the window to watch the curtain of snowflakes drifting silently to earth.

Ok, admittedly today was more of a pea-souper than misty and romantic and it'll all have melted by the time I head home because it's not that cold, but its has got me feeling really rather festive. It's so soon isn't it? Where did October go and how come we're over halfway through November already ? A slight panic is gripping me which I resent because I love Christmas so much I can't bear the idea of it being tarnished by stress. But I've only got a few presents in my hidey hole and we're having the family over this year but the amount of sorting out to do is a bit of worry. I just have to have everything right for Christmas. Its my favourite time and I look forward all year to getting home feeling so cosy and pretty for the celebrations.

It's exciting having a new place to "do" though so tonight I'll be sitting down with The List and planning my attack (mostly online now I've discovered all the wonderful things my blogging friends create) to get the shopping but done by the end the month so I can concentrate on my favourite bit - decorating! I do enjoy shopping at Christmas but not Christmas shopping if you know what I mean and for once I've properly planned ahead for a fantastic treat. On 1st December I'm heading up to York with my dear friend Lucy for a trip to the St Nicholas Fayre with nothing more on our agenda than lunch, coffee, treasure hunting, mooching around the Minster and Barley Hall and some serious widow shopping. I've always wanted to go and as my proper shopping should all be squirreled away by then I can thoroughly immerse myself in the spirit of it all. Merry Christmas!

Still no housey pictures yet but so I thought I'd share some pics of things gorgeous things I had for my birthday. It was just before we moved so all my beautiful presents were packed straight away. I was so lucky, people were really kind and I had a lovey day pottering about Ashbourne with mum and went out for the most amazing meal I've ever eaten with Eechie and Lucy at Den Engel, the Belgian bar in Leek (sounds mad but its a wonderful continental bar and restaurant) . Still daydreaming about the food now...

Mum and dad bought me this most fantastic hat that I've been day-dreaming about for ages.

A lovely robin mug for my Christmas hot chocolate and a Matthew Rice biscuit tin from my darling hubby who really knows what I like. The boys gave mummy these smashing EB oven gloves and I had and the most beautiful, blue spotty mugs and a jug (perfect for a bunch of spring daffodils) from my wonderful m-in-law who also knows my sort of thing very thing very well.

My lovely sisters came up trumps as ever, Eechie gave me a wonderful Greengate apron and tea towels in this fresh, springy green and Susie sent a Hugh Fearney-Whittingstall (my celebrity crush!) book to add to my collection. People worry about getting things housey things like tea towels and aprons but for me they're perfect. I can spend hours cooing over a jug.
What a lucky spud I am!