Monday, 30 December 2013

Christmas time.......

Wow! can't believe a whole week has gone by since my last "advent calender" post.  So much has happened.  Alice came home from Moscow, it was lovely to have her home and we had fun cooking a feast together.  Jared came back from Uni, I think he found it a bit quiet at home after living in a mad student house!

 Nine plus a baby and a dog on Christmas day filled our house with people!  Alice cooked lunch with a little help from my sister!  We had turkey rolled and stuffed for those who don't like beef, rib of beef for those who do and a nut roast for those who don't like either.  This was served with veg from the allotment - brussel sprouts, potatoes (mashed and roast) parsnips and carrots (felt very proud to do this) also swede and peas, Yorkshire puddings, little sausages, stuffing, bread sauce and cranberry sauce!  

The pudding was quite a hit - sticky date and raisin pudding with rum butter (we ran out of brandy!!) ice cream and a great big flaming fountain on top!

It was lovely to spend some time with my sister, here we are on Christmas day!

There were two cakes on my dresser!  this is the rich fruit cake with marzipan and icing that I made and....

The gingerbread house that Alice and Jared made, there were some silver balls left over!  Just to point out that it was made from scratch, not a kit!!

More guests on Boxing day and a buffet for lunch! 

Mr HH and me!

It has been non stop from the beginning of November, making gifts, shopping, writing cards, cleaning and cooking.  Attending parties, meals out and other events, 3 days spent with various family members, I have loved every minute of the planning and organising but then yesterday nothing - oh it was lovely to go to the allotment and do a bit of digging and then come home and knit - what joy! 
Looking forward to a New Years Eve Ceroc party tomorrow night and then two birthdays to prepare for -  more cake! 


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

the very last advent calender

Tuesday 24 December 

Christmas eve!

Well I've done it!  I have posted an advent photo every day!
This is the finished gingerbread house that head chef Alice and assistant Jared made the other evening.  They have reached the grand ages of 24 and 21 and never made a gingerbread house, oh how deprived they have been, what a bad mother I have been to have never suggested this before! Anyway it looks wonderful, a centrepiece for the dresser!

In case you missed any of the other advent posts here they all are

 So off for a glass of Baileys, hang up my stocking and brace myself for the mad house of nine plus a baby for lunch tomorrow...........

Happy Christmas to all my blog friends, hope you all have a lovely day!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Advent calendar

Monday 23 December

And breathe.........

Last day at work for 10 days, I am so looking forward to a break, time to spend with the family, time to cook and maybe time to do a bit of crochet?
Last minute supermarket shop this afternoon, just need to pick up the meat from the butchers tomorrow. Then a quick wizz round with the cleaner and ice the cake and I am done! (well not quite, Alice and I have quite a long cooking list)
The photo is of my mantelpiece, the greenery is precariously wedged and balanced  just don't touch it!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Advent calendar

Sunday 22 December

A quiet day

I have had a fairly quiet following two late nights! Danced all night at the Ceroc Christmas party last night. Today my legs ache, my feet ache and I am worn out!  But what fun it was!
Alice has been busy cooking, the ham is cooked, 3 types of chocolate truffles made and a ginger bread  house baked. Jared and her are decorating it together. I think they are going to use up all the silver balls I had.saved for the cake.
Only one day at work this week - woo!

Advent calendar

Saturday 21 December

Happy winter solstice!

The shortest day of the year and I think probably the darkest, it was very dull here all day and dark even earlier, the chickens went to bed just after 3.30! 
After today the sun will begin it's journey back nearer to us and the days will get longer and longer, those that do a school run will notice it when they go back in January.
It was raining too much to go out and pick any greenery so just lit loads of candles to celebrate.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Advent calendar

Friday 20th December

Happy! To be driving 85 miles in the blustery wind and rain to pick Alice up from Gatwick airport. Happy! To see her after being away for over 3 months. Not happy to pay £2.19 for a bottle of water at the airport!
Home far too late to post this on the right day!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Advent calendar

Thursday 19the December

Tea cosy ta da!

Was beginning to think that I would never get this finished. Had a bit of trouble with the frilled edge, still not sure that I followed the instructions properly. And then in no time last night I did the holly and sewed it up.
Mr Hh was a bit unsure and asked what it was exactly
A Christmas pudding tea cosy!!!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Advent calendar

Wednesday 18th December

Wrapping presents.  Each year I am surprised at how long this takes me, two evenings and still not finished. Have to finish tomorrow as need to get Alices room ready.  She is coming home for Christmas!

This year I have used brown parcel paper, red Kraft paper from Ikea, bakers twine and parcel tape from Dots and Spots.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Advent calendar

Monday 16th December

Christmas dresser!
The mugs are from the German Christmas markets they we went to a few years ago. Cake tins from Ikea. Twinkling lights on the top'! Think that's enough? Don't want to go over the top!!!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Advent calendar

Sunday 15th December

As usual we have a real tree and today it was bought in and decorated. Lots of glass angels and sparkly bronze baubles. Looks so pretty!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Advent calendar

Saturday 14th December

He's behind you! Oh no he isn't! Oh yes he is!

Tonight we have been to our little theatre, The Manifest, to see the Christmas panto. Ali Baba and the Faulty Thieves. It wad great fun, an old friend played the dame, he was very funny. We hissed and booed in all the right places! 
Had an ice cream in the interval- What a treat!

Advent. Calendar

Friday 13th December

Breakfast of porridge sprinkled with demerrera sugar eaten from this reindeer bowl! Hmmmm.......

Friday, 13 December 2013

Advent Calender

Thursday 13 December
(woops a day late, but got home far too late to post it)

 My Mum is the chairman of Braintree district Council this year, her role is one of attending civic events and representing the council and the people of the district.  She has been very busy opening things, giving speeches and attending all sorts of events.  Last night was her Civic Carol Service.  It was held in Castle Hedingham church, which must be one of the coldest churches in Braintree.  Thick fog all the way there, 20 mile drive along the A12 and then some very narrow county lanes, thank goodness it cleared by the time we left.
I was allocated a seat in the front row, next to the Christmas tree, and everytime I moved the whole tree shook!

This event was attended by all the "important" people of Braintree and Essex!
Lots of chairman and mayors of different councils all wearing their chains of office (you could almost hear them all rattling!)  The leader of Essex County Council, the MP and a lady in a very impressive hat. She is the High Sherrif of Essex.  I had to look this up when I got home, but it would seem that this is a royal appointment and her role is to be present when royals visit the county, support the judges, police and charities.

The collection was in aid of the charitees that Mum has chosen to support this year: AlcoHELP, Safer places and the Scouts.  Representatives of these groups read the lessons.
It was all quite rousing with all the usual familiar carols, I am not sure why anyone needed the words!  Once in Royal David's City. It came upon the midnight clear. Silent Night. O little town of Bethlehem. Hark! the herald angels sing. In the bleak mid-winter. The first Nowell and finishing with O come all ye faithfully.  Thankfully the vicar was wise enough to zip through it all with out any faffing around. He must know how cold his church is, I did wonder how many layers he had on under his robes!
After we had mince pies, cups of tea and a chance to stand near the radiator!
It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Advent calendar

Wednesday 11th December

Planned the menus for Christmas day, Boxing Day and other meals and cakes. I have a collection if Christmas issues of Good Food magazine that I dig out each year and browse for inspiration,
Menus planned and then 4 shopping lists created! 1.heavy items, tins packets and everyday things for an online shop. 2. Market and local shop. 3, supermarket shop for things I need to look at 4. Last minute shop for cream and milk ( this one will probably be added to as I start to cook!) 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Advent Calender

Tuesday 10 December

 Mince pie making!  I make a sweet almond pastry and fill them with the plum mincemeat (without nuts or peel) that I made a few weeks ago.
 Some to take to my friends tomorrow night, froze some and only one left!

Yummy!  Think I will have to make some more...............

Advent Calender

Monday 9th December

Christmas cards

 All my cards are written.  Work ones have been given out.  Local ones will be hand delivered and some need posting.

I ordered my cards from Dots and Spots  The very talented Becky from Somerset designs and sells them.  She runs the small business from her home and there are some lovely photos of her home and studio on her Blog  I was lucky to take advantage of one of her Friday offers and got them half price and free postage.  She also has some lovely birthday cards and gift wrap, I am sure I will be placing another order soon!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Advent calendar

Sunday 8th December 

Can you just put the outsid lights up? I asked this morning.  Little did I know......
I had to get some new ones this year but. the cable was shorter and the box thing was nearer the end and we couldn't thread it through the vent so the cable had to be cut and soldered together!!!! Then we realised that it will have to be cut when we take them down.  Anyway after all that the lights soon went up, with a few paperclip used as hooks. 

Switched them on as soon as it got dark and they looked very pretty twinkling away,
Made some mince pies and wrote ALL the cards.  More jobs ticked off the list!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advent calendar

Saturday 7th December

London Christmas lights

Another outing today, this time to London. Got the train and then the tube to Notting Hill where I met my sister who had come from Birmingham.  We arranged to meet in the first cafe we came outside the station and thank goodness it was Jamie Oliver's!!  We had tea and hand made bread and jam, delicious, but we did think the raspberry jam had not set!
We strolled along the Portobello road market and treated ourselves to one or two things including a pair of boots each for just £5. Lunch was brushetta and cheesecake from the stalls.
Took the bus along to Oxford street to see the lights, have never seen so many people, it was heaving! The light were wonderful hundreds and hundreds of sparkly lampshades were strung up across the street from Marble Arch all the way down past Oxford Circus.  The shops were covered in lights - John Lewis, Debenhams, Boots and Selfridges.  I would have liked to have had a closer look at the shop windows but ut was just too busy to get off the bus and walk 

Another bus to the Southbank Christmas market and a glass of Gluhwein to warm us up.  A German plate of fried potatoes and garlic mushrooms filled us up!
We have had a lovely day out,  looking forward to next time!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Advent calendar

Friday 6th December.

My third and final day off work today, two weeks and one days work until the Christmas break - hurray!
Spent the morning finishing my handmade presents.  This involved a bit of sewing and making lots of labels.  I bought this rubber stamp which says "handmade with love" used it lots.  can't show or tell you what the gifts are as I know who reads my blog!!!!
Wrapped up the gifts to take into work on Monday, as it will also be our staff do.
Later I had my nails done. One silver nail and the rest red with white snow flakes. Done with gel polish so should last for three weeks so long as I remember to put the rubber gloves on!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Advent calendar

Thursday 5th December

Second day off work, so up and out early to catch the train to Cambridge. Absolutely freezing waiting at the station, a frost over night and 1c this morning.
Lovely to meet up with Jared and do some Christmas shopping. Got back to the train to realise that they didn't put his new shoes in the bag with the other clothes,  now he will have to go back and complain. Such a nucience, why don't people concentrate on what they are doing?
The photo is of Jared in John Lewis's one of my favourite shops.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Advent calendar

Wednesday 4 December

Bring a plate of food to share and a secret Santa gift to the value of £3 was the request for tonight's WIGS (WI) meeting. 
I saw these lovely Santa hat biscuits in the Waitrose magazine.  Spicy biscuits topped with a strawberry and some cream piped around the edge and a blob on top - looked quite impressive!
My secret Santa gift was some scented candles and I was given a blue bird brooch, which I actually liked! I have not had much luck with these lucky dip gifts in the past and have had to put them in the raffle! I hope that doesn't sound too ungrateful but you can't help not liking something!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Advent calendar

Tuesday 3rd December

This is the only Christmas decoration that I have put up so far. A rustic wicker star with little lights around the edge. I think it looks lovely on my red front door.
Oh the joy of a 2 day week! I have 3 days annual leave and am so looking forward to some time to myself and to two special days out.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Advent calendar

Monday 2nd December
Enjoying a cup of tea from my Emma Bridgewater Robin in a snowstorm mug

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Advent calendar

Sunday 1st DDECEMBER

I light my advent candle every evening.

November scavenger hunt

Well, November has flown by, but at least I remembered to take a few photos so that I could join in with Made with Love's Scavenger Hunt. Some of the pictures were taken in Cambridge as I recently spent a day there visiting my lad who is at uni there.


This is The Corpus Clock in Cambridge designed by John C Taylor and inaugurated in 2008 by Stephen Hawking.  It is quite big and very, very gold!


 Cambridge has a lovely market open every day and I like to buy some bread from this lovely here when I visit


This is in the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge.

this  mosaic was in the entrance to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

some boxes in a shop window in Cambridge.  One could buy ones top hat here!!


5 Demi johns full of homemade wine waiting to be bottled


My  wellies! 


We don't really have parks in the countryside they are more often just playing fields, but this one in Colchester is known at "The Rec" short for recreation ground 


driving home from work on Friday afternoon took ages, held up at these traffic lights. 

We have had plenty of rain this month, this was taken from INSIDE the car!


Taken from my bedroom window.  Not many evenings like this recently as it has been foggy and cloudy. 


Well you can't see how happy I am from this photo, but I had a big smile on my face as I took this.  worked on this blanket for nearly a year and now it is making my bed nice and cosy

That is it for this month!  Hopefully I will be able to some for December, the list looks promising

Sunday, 24 November 2013

On the 5th weekend before Christmas

I bottled some wine.  24 bottles to be exact.

You may notice one empty bottle at the front - well you do have to test it!
Making wine is quite a long job but fun.  I make two sort, the first is what I call tinned wine. This is the kit wine where I buy a kit which contains a tin of concentrate, this makes 6 bottles of wine in about 6 weeks.
The other sort is made from scratch using fruit and vegetables.  These are either given to me, grown by me or foraged.
I bottled some elderberry kit wine, elderflower and apple and plain elderflower which was started in June this year, not quite ready to drink yet. The apple and elderflower started in June last year would not clear, properly, so have given up and bottled it anyway.  Not one to put in a show, but fine to drink.


I also needed to "rack" some other wine.  This is a technical term for syphoning the wine from one demijohn to another to take away the sediment that forms in the bottom.
Bottling the wine is a bit of a faff.  Firstly I collect the bottles from the storage bin behind the shed and give them a good scrub.  Pour in the steriliser and leave for a bit.  Then with some help syphon with a plastic tube into the bottles.  Push the corks in with a special corking tool, write a label and transfer to my "wine cellar". Haha- I mean the garage.
This whole palaver of bottling 24 bottles and racking 3 jars took me all afternoon!

I make wine for a few reasons

It is nice to drink!
It is much cheaper than bought wine.  The kit wine works out at about £1.50 a bottle and the homemade is the price of a bag of sugar and some yeast, sometimes a carton of fruit juice too. Maybe 30 p a bottle.
There are less chemicals in homemade.
It is better for the environment on two counts.  Firstly my wine hasn't been shipped across the world.  sometimes we buy wine from Chile and Australia and I wonder how much energy it takes to get it here. then there is all the  travelling to the shop to buy it and bringing it home. Wine bottles are quite heavy.  Secondly I constantly re-use my bottles, I have been making wine for around 5 years and keep using the same ones, so don't have to take loads of empty bottles to the recycling bank.

Anyway job done- until next time.  

I also managed to tick some other jobs off the list including defrosting the outside freezer, doing some shopping, getting my tickets for the pantomime and cleaning out the chicken hutch.  Phew!