Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!

What a year it has been!  I think the fastest one I have ever lived through.  Looking back I am so fortunate to have such lovely, happy kids (even though they don't want to admit it as they are teenagers where everything is 'so unfair'). We have laughed so much this year - I love the teenage years.

Along the way we have lost two of our elderly relatives within two months of each other.  The end of that generation in our family.  So sad.  But a baby was born to my cousin and next year we have another baby due to my other cousin and of course, I am going to be an auntie in May.  Life continues.

I have also discovered 'blogland' and some lovely people who are following my ramblings and leaving comments so I don't feel like I am talking to myself!  Thank you so much.

So, may I wish you all a very 'merry' Happy New Year/Hogmany.  I look forward to reading your blogs in 2013.

Take care xxx

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Wrist Warmers, a Windy Evening and a Chocolate River

After a very restless night of strong winds and rain I decided to give up and get up out of bed, put the rubbish out for the bin men, and then subsequently discuss life with the night shift workers returning home!  I should explain...I live on a corner of two cul-de-sacs and there are a couple of health care and policemen that live near me.  I just happened to be putting the rubbish out as they were coming home.  Picture the scene, I'm usually in a suit or smart gear for work, this morning I was wearing mismatched pyjamas, slippers and 'bed hair'...oh the shame!

When I got back inside and started to feel warm again I decided that I was going to be a bit more productive with my day.  I had started a new project, wrist warmers (another Attic 24 idea), and my daughter expressed a wish for black ones to be made.  So, perfect excuse to go shopping in Spalding and along to the haberdashery shop.  Here is my prototype that I made last night to make sure of measurements.  I have seen loads on Google images and have one in mind where the cuff is turned up and buttons are put on the side.  I'll keep you posted on this project.

The road to Spalding was quite treacherous and the constant worry is that the fields, which in the fens are sometimes higher than the road itself, are totally saturated.

The wind was quite terrifying.  It is the one thing that Mother Nature throws at us that I am truly scared of.  I can deal with snow, ice, rain, fog etc but wind can affect us even when we are in our cosy homes.  The damage it produces is so scary.

I managed to take this photo of Moulton Village in the distance with the wind blowing around my ears and myself and my mum gradually sinking into the mud!  You can just make out the windmill that I took a photo of yesterday.

The river that runs through Spalding is very high and so brown and murky, not the perfect picture postcard that it can be for most of the year.  The murkiness is from all the mud coming through from the fields.  However, it does remind me of a certain film to do with a Chocolate Factory and the chocolate river that flows through it!

The bridge that I stood on to take this photo usually has the River Boat Taxi pass underneath in the summer, however it would have some trouble at the moment.

So, now home with black wool, some shiny buttons and a design running through my head.  Lunch was going to be the remainder of a delicious Risotto I made last night with left over gammon and turkey...it would have been nice but my daughter got to it before me!

If you have any leftovers and don't know what to do with them, I made an oven cooked 'Risotto' (sorry to my Italian readers) - this is a version from the Delia Smith Winter Collection Cookbook but I have added quite a bit of other stuff to the mix.

You need:

1 Onion (chopped)
2 Cloves of Garlic (crushed)
1 Pepper (chopped)
Some Mushrooms (chopped)
Risotto Rice (I used 1 very large mug)
2 large mugs of boiling water with Chicken Knorr
Left over Turkey
Left over Gammon (but you could use anything that you need to use up)
Left over Cheese (anything but not too strong - the matured stilton was NOT going in)
Salt and Pepper

Put a large dish in the oven at 150oC to warm through.

Saute the Onion in some butter for 5 minutes.
Add the garlic for another minute
Add the pepper, mushrooms, and left over meats and keep this going until the mushrooms start to ooze some of their juices.
Add the Risotto Rice and stir around to coat in the different flavours.
Add the boiling water mixed with your stock cube.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once this is all bubbling and lovely, get your dish out of the oven and pour the mixture in.  Mix and then put back into the oven for exactly 20 minutes (do not cover).

After 20 minutes take out of the oven, mix, add more water if necessary, and then mix your cheeses into the mixture.

Put back into the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the rice is lovely and creamy.  Then it is ready to serve.

I served this with some cherry tomatoes, cooked in the oven with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar.

Give it a go and the advantage of this really delicious meal is that I now have some room in the fridge!!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone xx

Friday, 28 December 2012

Post Christmas

So, how was your Christmas?  I hope that everything went to plan, the turkey wasn't dry and everyone was suitably grateful for all your hard work.  For us it was a quieter affair than usual which was very welcome.  Christmas day itself went by in a flash of tin foil, turkey, brussel sprouts (oh I do love them but my children call them 'the devil's grapes'!) and a tonne of crinkled wrapping paper ready to be recycled.  Christmas dinner always makes me proud of us 'dinner makers', the concentration, preparation, timing and being able to serve up something that our loved ones thoroughly enjoy.  Also I have discovered a new addition to future Christmas dinners...disposable foil trays!!  This saved the laborious scrubbing of the roasting tins.  Wonderful!!

Boxing Day was pretty similar with our usual 'pick tea' which is a mega buffet of all sorts of delicious treats that we pick at during the day and evening.  However, this year as it was a quieter Christmas, we continued the 'pick tea' yesterday too!  I am determined to be rid of the remainder of the turkey...and this cheese!!  Wow this was strong!!

I hadn't ventured outside since Monday (where had the week gone?), so decided to make my daughter get up early and drive down to my parents in the next village.  I had heard that the weather was pretty bad outside and it was really dark and dismal but hadn't seen the real effects on the deeply dug ditches surrounding the Lincolnshire fens.  I have never seen them so high!

The ditches (or dykes as they call them around here) are in place to stop flooding so it is always comforting to see them only half full.  Today some of them have overfilled and started running onto the roads and we have some awful weather coming.

The fields are sodden with water too which is a danger as these soak into the ditches which will add to the problem.

The planes at the Fenland Airfield have been grounded as its airstrip is a grass field, so they wouldn't get too far in this mud.

It feels unusually warm for the depths of winter, which as my daughter said, 'it doesn't feel like Christmas time'.  Well, the good thing about all this water is that we won't get a hose pipe ban next year!!

We took a detour to see the sails on Moulton Windmill that have finally been restored but I very much doubt they will have these turning when the wind starts to blow through later today and Saturday.  I took this picture while visiting the Moulton fish and chip shop...which was closed!!

Here is a better picture taken in the Autumn (when the chip shop was open!).

I REALLY needed to taste normal food again.  So we took a detour into Holbeach and found a shop open.  Lovely and hot, salt and vinegar and eaten straight out of the paper.  Good, honest food - how I have missed you!!

So, back home again, our mini adventure over and back to our gadgets once more.  Now what shall I cook for tea??!...and what's more what hooky project shall I do next???!

I hope you have all had a good week so far.  xxx

Monday, 24 December 2012

Time for a Christmas Eve Rest

Here I am, snuggled under my hooky blanket looking at some of my hard work.

To say I have been stressed this week is an understatement.





My children are REALLY not helping.  Never ask a teenager to make a list, they ask for the impossible.  I feel like I did a few years ago when the one top toy was the one that you just couldn't find anywhere.  So, their punishment for giving me extra stress was to come Christmas shopping with their parents...I can be so cruel.  The sweetener was lunch at Jimmys which they absolutely loved.  At one point during the eating of ice cream I asked them if they were alright as the silence was deafening, to be answered with "this is really great".  Yay, I've done something right for once.  Doesn't it warm your heart when that happens and you know your planning has worked?

When we finally got home I realised that a major part of my stress was the fact that the house was not how I wanted it for Christmas.  Cards were in a pile instead of adorning the walls and the fire place.  My fridge and cupboards were not groaning under the strain of Christmassy treats.  The washing was overflowing out of the linen basket.  The place needed its 'Christmas Spring Clean'.  So, glutton for punishment that I am, I set about the housework from top to bottom, crisp laundered sheets, fresh fluffy towels, bathroom cupboards full of new toiletries, everything rightfully in its place.  Once finished I felt a lot more at one with myself and that the house was feeling like a home again rather than somewhere we just come to rest during the evenings.

My living room is now ready...

The dining table is very nearly there...

My kitchen cupboards are now filled with exciting things and my favorite kitchen windowsill is festive and beautiful.  I can't wait to start the preparation for the feasts I will cook over the holidays.

At the end of the shopping, cleaning and general panicking, I took some time out with my family to go to Peterborough Cathedral's Carol Service.  So beautiful and traditional, and the Cathedral was full to bursting.

And now, under my snuggly blanket, egg nog in hand, cheese and biscuits, calm thoughts running through my head and Scrooge on the TV, it is time to start really enjoying this wonderful time with my family.

I hope all your preparations have gone well and you can now rest...ready for the battle with the turkey tomorrow.

So cheers to you all and a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah to you and your loved ones and a very Happy New Yearxx

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Peterborough Christmas Fayre

I am being enveloped by all the different sensory experiences of Christmas.  The sights, sounds, tastes and smells of Christmas are all around now.  The busy, rushed appearance on everyone's faces as you go around the shopping centres, streets and small alleyways of shops.  The childrens faces as they are being pulled along with their loved ones trying to capture all the wonder and excitement around them.  It is a wonderful time of year.  The sense of expentancy of what is to come.  To make everything perfect.  And, as a mum, making sure everything is perfect!!

I absolutely love with all my heart the Victorian era.  Christmas as it should be I feel.  Not the materialistic frantic shopping and stress for one day.  Rather the looking forward to spending time with family, having 'time out' to reflect on those who are the most important to us and showing this with all our love and affection.  To raise a glass to those loved ones who are no longer with us and looking forward to spending time who have now come to join us. 

Usually on Christmas Eve when the shops have closed, the presents are wrapped, the food preparation for the next day is done, the children have settled down and a sense of calm is restored, I like to put anything to do with the Christmas Carol on the TV.  This year it will be the one with Jim Carrey in.  The detail in that film blew me away last year, and I will sit with some egg nog and start to think of my January/February crafting...namely the Old Curiosity Shop (my dolls house).  My thoughts are always very much into the Victorian era with that project.  I think I mainly do this project during the winter months because it is cold and dark and I feel with the dolls house this is how I want it to reflect.  It's personality is an old this and that shop set in the back streets of the Victorian East End of London.  It has to be a bit rough around the edges!

My hands (as I feel probably are yours) are sore from all the crafting I am doing along with gift wrapping, christmas card writing and tapping on the computer keyboard trying to find unusual gifts. So it was lovely to step out of my office and walk across the precincts to the Cathedral to see their wonderful Christmas fayre.  Such sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Yes, Christmas has finally arrived, and in a Medieval/Victorian theme!!  My camera could have burst with the amount of photos I took.  I wanted to capture every sight and smell and all I can think of is that you need to have a stick of cinnamon, a nutmeg and some star anise nearby  along with a log fire to try and capture the smell of this walk around (also some mulled wine and mulled cider of course!).

Where do I start?  Well let's start with day time.  The fair is being held over four days so I have started with the light of day and then how this looked at night.  The backdrop of the Cathedral is such a perfect and majestical setting.  I love this place and I am very privileged to be working in close proximity to this.

How can it be Christmas without the hot roast chestnuts...(this picture made me laugh when I put this on, it looks as though there is a tinsel adorned sack having a crafty cigarette!!)

The costumes were wonderful, and I was so pleased when I captured this marvelous jolly stall holder.  Isn't he FANTASTICl!

There were costumes everywhere!

This Victorian lady was lovely...

The blacksmiths were hard at work.

And different eras merged together.

This lady was extremely knowledgeable and had made real ginger bread from a bygone era.  It was very sticky and extremely yummy.  She also had quince jam which is like a clear jelly, but equally as good.

Next to her were two stew pots slowly bubbling away with some very appetising contents.

The items that were being sold were not your usual 'run of the mill' stock.  There were fantastic helmets...

And some very sinister swords...

Beautifully colourful masks...

Exquisite pots and jugs...


and, look what I found...hearts...

As well as what was going on in the precincts was a Morrocan market.  Just look at the beautiful colours and array of goods.

This pot pourri bowl was probably the largest I have ever seen!!

Just by the side of Cathedral square was an angel statue.  Very very still until a child put money in her pot and then she would slowly blow them a kiss, beckon them over to have their picture taken by a very happy parent.

And then we go to night.  I love the Cathedral in the cold, dark evenings.  It is such as beautiful and comforting place, and looks so warm and welcoming compared to some Cathedrals that I have seen.

This very knowledgeable 'soldier' walked with me while I took in the lights, felt the warmth of the little fires and feasted my eyes on all the wares in the tents.  It turned out that he lives near where I used to live in Essex!  It's a small world!!

This was one of the tents at night with it's lovely welcoming fire outside and it's tent still containing an array or pots and jugs.

And then through the arch to the Cathedral Square where the Moroccon Market was still trading.  The lights above are spectacular.

So much information was taken in.  So many ideas and plans to make and get for next year.

So, why are my fingers so sore?...well here is my front door wreath creation.  It started with creating fabric parcels, crochet stars, hearts and flowers.  And to keep the wreath warm, a nice crocheted cover. I am so pleased with this but my hands really feel as though they have been tightened in a vice.  So a little breather over the festivities I think.

and, now in its place on my front door...

Ta dah!!

Have a lovely week everyone...don't get too stressed!! xx

Ooops...forgot the Carol Singers....

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