Yearly Archives: 2017

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Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

This will definitely be my last post till maybe New Year so am here to wish you a Happy Christmas.

I am somewhat worn out from the work that has gone into this last week but relieved it is finished. The end result is so worth the mess and the cleaning up. Mr T’s finger didn’t drop off and is healing well.

My living room now looks like Christmas is welcome!

I had always wanted somewhere to hang up our stockings. His is full. Mine is empty…. Just saying! (lol)

The angel isn’t a traditional stocking, she’s more of a drawstring bag. I love her. I have a silver one very similar that I kept for my mum. She spent most Christmasses with us – even though she did pinch the chocolates off the tree! I honour her every year by making sure there are plenty of robin decorations – her favourites.

The tree has room to breathe now that the tools are out of the way. I usually put up a big tree but this year there just wasn’t room but this one looks pretty. I would love a real tree but Mr T breaks out in hives if he goes near one. We still have a few small decorations to put out and cards to put up but not chores. Happy things to do with some little bits of tidying up to do. Nothing intense.

The sofa is dressed up in a Christmassy throw.

And we popped up some net lights on the window.

The Poang up the corner (with a plushy cat cushion on) will be moved. There is still a mission to find some big, fat candles and some holly. I want to dress the table up a bit. I’m hoping that The Flying Tiger will have the candles. The idea is to use twine to wrap around each candle with a sprig of holly tucked in. And get some nice crackers in the sales. Most shops round here have loads of Christmas stuff on 50% marked price so bargain hunting already.

I want everything done by early afternoon. Tonight I want to be feet up on the sofa watching Scrooge (the Alastair Simms version) followed by The Shining (Stanley Kubrick version) for some spooky Christmas Eve atmosphere. Spirit of Christmas will simply be Baileys with ice.

So, once again, I wish you all a very happy, healthy, loving, peaceful and wonderful Christmas. x x x x

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Dashing through the snow

Ok. There’s no snow. But I’m trying to dash as best as I can but we have so much to do. We are in the middle of ripping up the orange living room carpet – yes, the one I’ve been complaining about for nearly 4 years!  It has been down some 40 years, we think. Before carpet gripper was invented (tongue-in-cheek). It’s actually nailed down into the floorboards. This did not come as any major surprise to us.

On moving in we were both ‘wtf’ about many things but we came to accept some of the foibles of the builders (a near neighbour explained that the builders were still ‘learning’ as they built these houses some 50 years ago…) and the eccentricities of some of the electrical work such as the most unconventional wiring colours that worked despite defying standard electrical codes anywhere in the world.  However, the exposed live wire behind a kitchen unit we pulled out to make room for a dishwasher was still something of a surprise. Luckily, not a shock.

So why shouldn’t a carpet be nailed down? It’s as practical as the mattress protector that was hung like a curtain behind the front door as a draught excluder. I kid you not. In fact, waterproof mattress protectors had been utilised in so many ways not obvious to the ordinary person. Quite creative, actually. Luckily, their  availability saved buying dropcloths so not complaining.

The carpet has a thick felted underlay, a bit like horsehair and looks as old as dirt (the underlay). We have a big skip bag on the drive so as each section gets pulled up (we’re slicing through it in sections with a Stanley knife) it get chucked out. It feels tremendously cleansing and cathartic. It’s a detox-your-dining-room kind of exercise. We had already put the tree up because we had visitors with a little one earlier this month and wanted to have some Christmas spirit. In fact, we also had a proper Christmas dinner with crackers and and champagne. All for the fun of it. But now, it’s down to work and I want the room properly straight for Christmas! The robot tree decoration is this year’s acquisition. He was 30% off in Paperchase but I would have probably bought him anyway; I’m a big fan of robots.

We’re putting laminate flooring down, and, my goodness, it looks good even though only half the room is done. And we have yet to put the edging on which will finish it off b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l-l-y! We also have a Mexican pine TV stand with inlaid iron work in the doors. It was the true baked bean colour that Heinz has perfected so well. Great for beans but not TV stands. I sanded it down and gave it a black wax staining. It looks great. Toot, toot. Not down to me though, the wax did the job, really.

It’s hard going. We have to move the furniture from one half of the room to the other, lay the floor, then will have to move it back with the other half and finish it.  And clean in between. And, for some real crime scene drama, Mr T just sliced into his thumb with the Stanley knife. Plasters didn’t absorb all the bleeding… we ended up wrapping it in kitchen roll and sticking it down with duct tape. I promise you, I’d take him to ER in a heartbeat  but he insists he’s fine so until his finger drops off, he’s soldiering on.

We are both in our swampy gear and look as though we’ve been up and down the inside of an industrial chimney. My hair hasn’t been brushed since I got up and neither of us has had a wash or brushed our teeth yet. Seriously swampy and probably smelly, too. I can’t wait for a a tooth scrubbing, a hot shower and hairwash, then clean pyjamas and bed with a mug of Ovaltine. Please don’t call round until I’m presentable!

Amid all this mayhem and mess, the postie rang the doorbell with parcels. I was over the moon to receive an order for some wool from Pink Milk on Etsy. It’s the second order I’ve placed with Pink Milk (Heather) and both times she has got it in the post super quick. Even in this frantic run up to Christmas, when I’m sure she’s up to her eyeballs in everything like all of us, she got the order posted out to me unbelievably fast. See the pink floral wrapping? That’s the bag it came in- it’s really pretty and so nice to receive after the plain brown Amazon packaging. I opened it and literally gasped at the loveliness of the colours, even better in real life than the pictures on the website. The balls are squidgy and soft with a gorgeous texture – they’re 50% baby alpaca and 50% merino. If you have a wooly G spot, this wool will have you in raptures. You want to see for yourself? Here’s the link –  Am giving her a shout out for her brilliant customer service and going beyond the necessary. Thank You Heather!

Etsy  Pink Milk

So, six sleeps to Christmas Day. All the pressies have been bought and wrapped. Most of the food and drink is stuffed in the pantry, fridge and freezer. Tablecloth, runner and festive placemats are at the ready (bought some gold beady ones for a steal in last year’s sales, thank you Mr Dunnes). Cards delivered. Cleared washing and got things all over the house freshened up. Am pretty much set. So long as the room gets sorted out in time.

Anyway, I think I’m needed to help with the flooring, or maybe his finger really has dropped off, so will probably have one last post before Christmas. Until then, don’t wear yourselves out!

****Update:  one section of orange carpet to go!!! Then to lay the laminate down on that section, go round with the edging and tidy up!!!!!!!! Coming Home For Christmas!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!****

***Update 2: The mitre saw died. Bah. So best laid floorplans and all that… a dash to B & Qto get a new one and a stand as well. Ouch. But, it will be finished today. And the new curtain pole and curtains can go up!***

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Use up dried fruits left over from Christmas pudding and cake making

You’re probably in the same boat – lots of small amounts of dried fruits and almonds left over from making your Christmas cakes and puddings and you don’t want to keep them sitting around for months going stale.  What to make with them? These scrummy little bakes called Fat Rascals.

The last few days have been so bitterly cold that even with the heating and the fire on, the house has been chilly. Inspiration was borne out of a desire to light the oven and warm the kitchen up making a batch of Fat Rascals.

As you know, I like to pop over to the UK , particularly the north, and at least look into Betty’s windows in Ilkely, when I can. Many times I’ve popped in and bought a few tasty Fat Rascals.

I’ve heard that there’s a small cafe in Whitby that also sells them, though, apparently Bettys forced them to change the name but how they were able to do that as the name has been around long before Bettys, I can’t imagine. The threat of legal action helped.  Anyway, good luck to the Sandgate Cafe in Whitby who now sells them as Whitby Fatties. I’ve heard they are even nicer than Bettys! Whitby is great and when my boys were small we went many, many times and enjoyed pork and stuffing batches from a little shop there and of course, fish and chips from the Magpie. Happy Days! If I’m lucky enough to go again, I’ll look out for the cafe and try theirs.

Anyway, I have tried lots of recipes for these and adapted them to get the flavour as close to my taste and Bettys as I could. So have a go – see what you think. They’re sort of Christmassy; they have those cinnamon and nutmeg Christmassy spices and they use up the bits of dried fruit that would otherwise sit there till Easter. I like them best with clotted cream and a little strawberry jam but slice them and butter them or eat them plain – up to you. They’re scrummy.

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Trentham Gardens

I was recently in the UK and a bunch of us went to Trentham Gardens for the day. The weather was bright and dry but bitterly cold. We had hoped to visit the Monkey Forest but it was closed for the winter. The site is huge and we saw only a very small part of it and would love to go again in the summer and take more of it in. Anyway, we braved the cold and followed one of the garden walks around the lake. There were lots of interesting statues, sculptures and artistic installations to capture the eye. I really enjoyed it. In no particular order I’ll show you some of the unusual and lovely things we met, like the golden hare above.  Isn’t it fabulous?

The lake was covered in swans and ducks – these are just a small bevy amongst a huge colony of them.

Perseus and the Medusa’s head.

Some natural foliage. Look like empty seedheads to me but I’m no botanist. I think they’re very pretty in a wabi sabi kind of way.

There were fairies everywhere!

And wonderful dandelions.

And wonderful dandelions with fairies on!

Despite being well into November, some bright flower faces still looking up at the sun. What are they? Haven’t got a clue but they were so cheery.

Again, I have no clue what this plant is, but aren’t the leaves pretty?

And strange magic mushrooms (not that sort of magic mushroom!).

There were statues of deer running through the trees.

This photo was a little blurred but I posted it to show you the gorgeous green moss on the fallen tree trunk.

Look at the colour of the autumn leaves!

I had to up the exposure enormously to show you this wonderful carved stag beetle. It was far too dark to see otherwise.

Another lovely fairy.

And what about this handsome chap? Isn’t he magnificent?

Strange pods hanging from the trees were among the more unusual of installations!

Another fairy!

Steel fish caught in reeds – amazing.

Look at the marvellous carvings of otters running down the tree trunk. Just awesome.

A fairy on a roof top.

By this time, we’d got half way around the lake and come upon a cafe so we piled in for a good, hot cup of coffee. After that, the cold was really biting and we abandoned the rest of the trail and made for the shopping village, which was also quite lovely.

Great day but for the wind and the cold. Definitely want to go back again and see the rest so roll on next summer.

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Photoshop inspiration – USB stick tutorial

I made these USB sticks in Illustrator  – they look pretty sensational. The credit is down to the tutorial I followed: ‘How to draw a USB Flashdrive. The link to it is here: Noupe.

So much amazing talent out there.

When I get a chance, I’ll write up the tutorial to make the glowing orb scene above. If you’re fairly familiar with Illustrator and Photoshop you can probably deconstruct the images and work out the technique. The orb is a simple ellipse with a gradient mesh applied and given a colour around the perimeter (Illustrator ). It was taken into Photoshop, given a dark background and highlighted with a Lens Flare and a few layer effects. There’s not much more to it.

As we get closer to Christmas, I start looking for Christmas Photoshop tutorials. I Google and check the images for something to inspire me and will, if the end result looks worth it, will spend the time and effort to recreate the effect. This is where I am at the moment…. searching and falling down bloody awful wormholes in Pinterest…

I found out recently that there is a way to exclude Pinterest from searches : type in the search term and append with -site:pinterest.com. It’s that easy. A pain in the bottom to do it every search but better than losing the will to live in Pinterest. If only people would include their URL or other contact information on images…

The weather is getting damper and chillier. The heating is on regularly and the living room is gorgeously cosy since we had a new fire put in a while ago. Both cats have large fluffy, padded catbeds in front of it and can often be found on their backs, feet up, sprawling across them. We even bought them an advent calendar from Lidl (for cats – filled with little cat treats).

Soup is becoming a staple as the weather gets colder. Made a big pot of chicken and vegetable soup yesterday. Some for tea and some to freeze for another day. The scents and smells of it while stirring with a long spoon (to let the devil come out of the steam)  was mouth watering. It didn’t disappoint. We ate it with chunky wedges of granary bread – my absolute favourite is the low GI bread from Lidl, and that’s what we had.

Today is wetter and colder than yesterday so might have soup again for tea. There’s a nice thought.

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