Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Festive Bunting

Just had to share my 'Ta Dah' moment of the bunting finally being finished!  I have just tried it against the fire place and look, doesn't it look amazing?!  I am so proud of this project (thank you for the tutorial Lucy at Attic 24).

It pretty much took over the study last night...

Now to carry on with the festive shopping for a suitable garland to join this lovely little project.

I love 'Ta Dah' moments!  XX

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Festive Shopping Begins

How has your week been?  Eventful?  Fun?  Personally, this has been one of the quickest weeks I have had in a long time.  Extremely busy at work and occasionally infuriating at home when trying to re-vamp my blog.  Thank goodness for Sandra and Meg  who saved me from frustration on how to put icons and links together!!  Thank you so much for your advice...it worked! xx

And now on to what has been happening in my little world.

The Christmas lights have now been switched on in Peterborough, don't they look beautiful?  When you walk under them it is as though you have a cloud of stars above your head.  This photo was taken from the Norman arch that contains the oldest pair of working gates in England (they date back about 800 years to the 13th century).  This is the gateway to Cathedral Square and the Cathedral itself.  

This is the view looking the other way...well I had to didn't I?

Now back to the lights...avenues of light covered trees...

and of course the Christmas tree itself which had the Mayor put the star on the top.

The early evenings here are, as you could just see, now looking very festive.  Crisp, dark evenings envelope the busy shoppers laden with their colourful bags full of exquisite surprises.

My own shopping so far has been the warm and comfortable kind.  A nice cup of sweet Yorkshire Tea, a comfy desk chair, a warm and happy dog pleased to have her owner sitting down with her and a mouse in my hand clicking away for those gifts that will take a slightly longer time to be delivered. 

All done on that front now, received and hidden away so it is time to head to the shops and get the little nick nacks that fill up stockings and boxes.

One of the shops that I have been going to (a little bit too) frequently is Sweet Perfections in Peterborough.  It is a beautiful old fashioned looking sweet shop.  I went in this week to get some aniseed twists for the office (we have a slight addiction to them).  They are weighed out and put into lovely little sweet bags (can you remember the sound of hard boiled sweets being gathered up with the metal scoops and put onto the weighing scales - cosy memories!).  So simple but so lovingly done.  While I was there I noticed little candy canes and home made chocolates wrapped in shiny festive foil.  Well it would be rude not to buy wouldn't it??!  It is truly a beautiful, comforting shop with happy and helpful staff.  It makes me feel like a child again going into a proper hand made sweet shop to get a perfect tooth crumbling sweet!

On the way home a couple of times now, I have taken to a quick rush into Hobbycraft to get some bits and bobs for my Christmas decoration masterpieces.  It's the perfect time to 'pop' in, no crowds!  I plan on putting the decorations up when the children are at school on my day off next Friday and then see what they think.  Watch this space!  We have had the same decorations for a number of years now, so I feel it is time to bring in the new, however I will still bring out some of the older pieces that are full of memories for us.  Such as the 'Christmas Elf' who would sit next to the TV to watch for any bad behaviour and then mysteriously disappear on Christmas Eve to report back!

The bunting is so tantalisingly close to completion, I can't wait to show you...in fact I will!  So close, and as my hubby would say 'we have all the tools' to finish the job.

The baubles have their bells on, Mary Bendy Legs and Robin are getting ready to sit on their nest and the hearts are ready to fill in the gaps...

Just some shiny happy decorations to get and we will be all set to complete...can't wait!!

Have a wonderful, crafty weekend xxx

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Last Leaves

At last, the sun came out today!  The last leaves were clinging on to the last moment and looked so beautiful against the perfectly blue clear sky.

My green lady had been looking rather disapproving of me lately at the lack of gardening that has not been happening.

But she has a hint of a smile now that myself and my Luke collected the leaves together and re-stocked the compost bin with overflowing delicious reds, browns and yellows.

My hooky projects have really picked up a pace now!  I think with December about to knock on the door, my panic levels are beginning to rise and the excitement of dreaming how the Christmas tree will look along with the mantelshelf of the fireplace.  It makes me tingle, just like seeing my kid's faces on Christmas morning itself.

The baubles are beginning to take shape.

The hearts still need their bells so I think my hubby can find these this weekend (I think they are with the Christmas decorations in the loft...and I'm not going up there!).

And the bunting, I absolutely love doing these!  So quick and easy.  I thought I would give them a black border so that they stand out more from the paleness of the fireplace and I can't wait to hit the craft shops next week for the felt, bells and more beads.

In between, I am attempting some birds to also sit on the tree.  I'm going to stuff these with lavender so they can be used all year round.  Here are my first attempts, I have nicknamed the one on the left Mary Bendy Legs!!

All in all, it has been a very busy week on the hooky front especially when I settle down in the evenings, and good therapy after quite a slow week.

But, this afternoon the gardening and hooky needed to go to the back of my mind and the good old paper and pen came out along with the books of Saint Delia, Nigella and Jamie and the larder lists began, ready for the 'Christmas shop'.  I love flicking through these books each year and working out what we will have Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day along with the little treats in between.  I usually have Scrooge on the TV when doing this, or Home Alone just to get properly into the spirit of things.  Yes, it's lots of work getting organised but I just love lists!  Once I have the main list, I then visualise myself going up and down the aisles to make sure that the list is in this order to save time (maybe a little OCD??) Knowing me, I'll do it all online anyway to avoid the crowds.

The Nigella way of cooking a turkey is a firm favourite although my first attempt wasn't without its dramas!  We had rather a large bird, so I went out and bought a huge covered bucket, filled it with water and added all the beautiful and wondrous herbs and spices, covered it up and left it overnight on the patio because it was cold, cold, cold outside.  About 4am...as you do...I went out to take it from the bucket.  Easy job??!  No!  The bird was nearly the size of me, the dog felt that it should be her Christmas breakfast and the water that had been absorbed in the turkey made it virtually impossible to get out of the bucket.  It's very hard holding a bird by it's legs (one either side of your head) and trying to knock away a ravenous dog with your foot without tipping over!!  I did it though and what the neighbours made of this sight on an early morning I will never know!...the result though...delicious...but I would recommend a smaller bird!

So, once everything was set up with the books, note book and pen...I decided I'd have lunch first - home made potato and leek soup with crispy bacon and some home made bread.  Yummy!!

The recipe is from Soups.  It is very quick and easy and I usually make a batch and freeze some for when I want it later.

So, you heat some oil in a saucepan and fry about 6 (in our case) peeled and sliced potatoes along with 3 sliced large leeks (don't forget to wash them!).  Fry them until soft but be careful not to colour them.

Att 1 1/4 pint of vegetable stock (I actually used chicken stock for a little bit of extra flavour), some salt and pepper to taste and then cook until the potatoes are tender.

Once done, put everything in a blender and blend this until smooth.  Add this back to the saucepan and add 10 fl oz of milk.

Now, to add a bit of oomph!!  I fried some bacon until crispy.

Once all heated through, put in bowl, add the crispy bacon in the middle and some chopped fresh parsley.

It looks a bit like a witches brew, but on a cold damp day it is absolutely gorgeous and warming.

Have a lovely weekend everyone xxx

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A Weekend of Crafts and Decorating...finally!

Do you realise, I have been so busy with this, that and everything, that I bought my two favourite magazines a few weeks ago and STILL haven't read them!  I've become engrossed in everyone's blogs and the amazing, imaginative talent there is out there that I have neglected the use of my thumbs and fingers to turn the pages of magazines and books!

So, after a weekend of really getting down to it and finally decorating the living room and the dining room, rearranging the furniture and working on my Christmas decorations, it's now time to rectify this with a snuggly blanket, a cosy dark evening and a flick through the mags.

The news on my rainbow baby blanket has been restarted :o(  I went a bit wrong with my counting and I had dips where there should have been waves and a side that was jutting in and out.  I must have been very tired when I started it.  So, all unpicked and we have a new creation beginning.  I love this pattern that I am using from Attic 24 and once you get the initial couple of rows it becomes so easy and gratifying.  The different colours of the rainbow are beginning to take shape and I am so happy and content with each stitch that it will surround my niece/nephew next May.  YES!!  I am FINALLY going to be an Auntie!!  I never ever thought this would happen but we all received the official news last week and I am so so so happy I could burst!

My mum went to Kings Lynn last week, and bought me some beautiful pastel coloured ribbon, perfect for my gorgeous hearts that will be decorating my Christmas tree this year.  Another tick off my list!

But then, I remembered Attic 24's bauble decorations, so decided to have a little go with these.

Well at 12:30 last night I thought best put the hook down as my hands were tired (they did have a paintbrush in them all day!) and I still had the dining room to do on Sunday.  These are so quick to do, so effective and beautiful.  I am so excited and I can't wait to hit the shops to buy some beautiful beads and bells to go on these amazing little decorations.  What would we do without Lucy at Attic 24!  Her tutorials are so easy to follow and her ideas are down to earth and achievable with the most fantastic results.  Once I've made enough, I think I will have enough time to make the bunting too for the fire place.  Creative juices are really flowing now I have a bit of a blank canvas to work to in the living room (a good clear out is always a good thing).

So, with the living and dining room now painted and ready for oodles and strudels of colour to be injected, I can now settle down to get serious on the hooky front.

P.S/  Coco decided to be helpful and be a paintbrush today!  Sigh......

Have a good week everyone. XX

Saturday, 10 November 2012

First Frost and Homecoming

After a full week off it was a shock to the system with the dark early mornings and car lights being on when it came to come home.  However, so lovely to see the cosiness returning to the streets.  The Christmas lights are beginning to take shape in Peterborough ready for the switch on in a week's time.

Santa's lists have been given to me (after all, I am the real Mother Christmas!), so the Christmas shopping can now well and truly begin.

(I just love this advert: Isn't it great.  Parent's out there, do you relate to this??!!  I certainly do.  Especially when she finally sits down.)

We have had our first frost so I feel winter has taken her first breath.  Our plum tree is just hanging on to it's last leaves while the frost clings on tightly to our neighbour's roof.

The grass was beautifully crunchy under my feet that morning!

And the sedum looked like a raspberry ice cream.

Along with the frost comes the clear early mornings and evenings which means the redness of the first and last rays of sun fill the limited clouds with its warm redness.  On my way and back from work I spend as much time looking to the sky as I do on the road (I take the quieter roads...safer that way!).  The views across the fens are so beautiful at these times of day and night and I try to capture the perfectness of it all, but I really do need a better camera (a possible Christmas present - if my hubby is reading this!!).

The Cathedral now has the spotlights on early evening so I have a beautiful vision to look out onto as I leave work.  And, this tree!  Look at how beautiful this now looks.  After speaking to the gardener this is a purple beech, each season it takes on a completely different appearance, all as equally beautiful, but the redness of it at the moment is breathtaking.

It was also the Homecoming Parade of the Royal Anglian Regiment to Peterborough today.  There were hundreds cheering and clapping our lads home.  The great and the good were there and tributes were said for the 16 that never returned home.

It was lovely to see the Union Jack being flown.

The Regiment proudly marching through Peterborough to the Cathedral Square.  Myself and other work colleagues stood proudly receiving them back to safety.

And to hear the ceremonious speeches at the Guildhall was a fitting tribute.

So, that is my first week at work over.  A strange sort of week with some catering, dealing with contractors to do all manner of work in the wonderful building I work in...and a new Archbishop just announced.  I wonder what next week will bring?


Monday, 5 November 2012

Rainy Sunday and Home Cooking Comforts

Sunday was so dark and dismal.  It was cold, windy and the rain felt like ice although I'm not really complaining.  It felt so cosy in this house, washing on, dryer on, lights on and to top it all good old fashioned comfort cooking that will be simmering and baking away until the evening.  I'm feeling very domesticated I can tell you!

I didn't really have the time to continue with my rainbow baby blanket until the evening...

...after I had made sure homework is done, uniforms were laid out, bags were packed and my work things were ready for the very early start in the morning.  We have been very lazy this week in the getting up malarkey  so me getting up at 6:30 in the morning was going to be a sharp wake up call!!

As I started writing this post I could smell gorgeous comforting aromas coming from the kitchen.  It was very productive in there yesterday.  I made slow cooked braised beef, dumplings and fresh vegetables, along with some home made bread.  I attempted my first 'bloomer' today using my bread maker to make the dough and then finish off in the oven.  Oooo the smell of this wafted through the house beckoning us to eat it straight away!

For the braised beef, I asked one of the caterers I use at work for his recipe as we used this for a function recently and it was delish!  I have adapted it slightly but this is what you need to do (this will serve us four - but with a second helping if needed!):

1lb Braising Steak
Black Dog Beer or other strong stout
3 Chopped onions
2 Diced carrots and 4 sticks of celery chopped
100g Mushrooms
Beef Bouillon
A few sprigs of Thyme
A couple of bay leaves
Salt and Pepper

Marinade the steak overnight in the stout.

Take the meat out of the stout, but keep the stout (don’t drink it!)

Seal the meat and then remove from the pan.

Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pan and sauté making sure you get all the colour and flavour from the meat that has been left behind on the bottom of the pan.

Add the meat, mushrooms and the stout along with the bouillion and let it come to a boil and then transfer to  a moderate oven for a couple of hours, or put in a slow cooker for the day.

If you want a thicker sauce add some flour with water and also if you want this a bit darker add gravy browning.

Now then, I also love love love dumplings, so here is my recipe for these:
100g self raising flour
A large pinch of mixed herbs
Salt and Pepper
Some water to bind.

If they become too gooey, add some plain flour.  I like mine to feel quite dry but still binded so that they become crispy on the top when they come out of the oven.

Yesterday I served this with Brussels Sprouts (or the devils grapes as my son calls them!) and mashed potatoes.  But along with this the lovely fresh bread was served as I love to soak up the juices with this.
For the bread, I used my bread maker to make the dough:

I then took this out, knocked it back and then rolled it into an oblong shape and let it prove for another hour, then made some slits in the top.

I added some poppy seeds to the top of the loaf after I had given it an egg and water wash and then cooked it for 25 minutes at 2OO oC.

Well, after all that cooking it took just 15 minutes to eat and savor.   Very warming and well worth the wait.

And how about this for an accompaniment...HP Sauce, Guiness (or as my daughter calls it Harry Potter sauce!)

I love seeing the kids after a good meal, all rosy cheeked!

So now on with the week...


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Friday, 2 November 2012

Let's Catch up on Projects...and Christmas

There is a blue sky today.  I just couldn't resist taking this photo from my garden.  The clouds were so crystal white and fluffy and the sky so blue.  A bit chilly though and I soon returned to the warmth of my kitchen.

So, while decorating, getting ready for my daughter's birthday, going out for lovely walks and generally enjoying my week off to refresh myself (along with the decorating), I have been thinking about my hooky projects and where I am with them.

I have become an addict to Ravelry!  There are so many ideas and creative people out there that it feels every time I go onto that website that I am in a toy shop at Christmas and just don't know which way to turn and the time, oh the time just flies by!

There are ripple blankets, afghans, granny squares, CAL's galore - I just don't know which way to turn and my head is all a whirl.  But, I have completed a very quick granny square cushion in the colours of my newly decorated bedroom - done in a couple of days!  I was that determined to get this one out of the way to start on other things but my mind is becoming a bit like Hurricane Sandy and ideas are swirling, crashing and going full force!

I have started a granny square blanket as many others have also done.  I'm trying to do at least one square per day if time allows, but have made the mistake of using different types of wool that I needed to use up.  I am hoping that once finished the smaller squares will meet the bigger squares - oh well it's 'experimental'!!

I have started on a 'splash of colour' granny square blanket (inspired by DorsetKnitwit).  This has multicoloured granny squares surrounded by black to give a real impact.

And just started on a rainbow ripple baby blanket,  (inspired by TillyK).

And I am just waiting for the tutorial on Attic 24 for the French Bower Bird, but might just make a few birds for my collection of lavender heads that I collected over the 'summer' (??!!)

So much I want to do, can I really fit a full time job into my life?!!

This morning I decided that I would calm my creative juices down a tad and take my wonderful daughter out for a pre-birthday shopping day (she turns 13 tomorrow).  She has inherited the artsy side of me and creates beautiful art work, so this shopping day was not be the usual shoes, clothes and make up shop, but more canvases, pencils, paint etc.

Of course, the Christmas temptations are out in force now.  The smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and spices fill the air - oh, that smell brings back memories of a store in Brighton called Pecksniffs who trade in the charming Lanes.  We were lucky enough to visit many years ago just before the previous perfumer retired and the shop at the time looked like an old Victorian store where you could see him busy in his back room preparing all the fragrances.  To me, there is nothing like visiting an old store at Christmas and seeing the crafter at work, it makes me smile both inwardly and outwardly with a lovely warm glow inside...priceless! At the time he had produced the most amazing oil called Chuzzlewit but said that as he was leaving, this would no longer be available.  We still have the old 'dog eared'  dropper bottle to this day and it is only on very special occasions that we will use this.

However!  near us we have an amazing garden centre called Baytree and I have just found this:

It is the closest I have got to the Chuzzlewit smell and I am so excited, warmed and heartened by it's delicious fragrance.  It was one of those Eureka moments when I picked it up to smell the fragrance and the memories it resurfaced of those many days to Brighton especially around Christmas time.  The easiest purchase I have ever made.

While I was there today, I thought I would take some photos to show you of their well thought out displays and their amazing finds and buys that dot this huge site.

Of course there were pumpkins by the entrance, the last of the vibrant orange of October...

One of the many walk throughs which also contain so much wildlife...

The Alpine garden which gives so much inspiration for these beautiful little plants...

I love the bird house...

The displayed 'finds'.  This is an old Victorian paper cutter...

An old Trabbant (I think it is anyway!), reminds of the Harry Potter car...

Men flying through the air...

and of course Mickey and Minnie Mouse...

If you are ever in the Spalding area, this is an absolute MUST to visit.  You won't be disappointed!!

While we were there we noticed that the latest circus to hit town have asked Baytree to take care of their animals, camels, llamas, ponies and reindeer.  They have put these next to the HUGE Christmas display...Santa comes to town tomorrow.

And now on to the Christmas displays.  If there is one thing that Baytree do very well it's this.  I have included some photos for you to enjoy...

It is always a big thing when Baytree has Santa coming to the grotto.  They have won awards on their grotto which includes a train ride to see Santa through a snowy woodland, enormous displays with full grown, snow covered trees and when you get to see Santa in his large log cabin your child receives a free rooted Christmas tree to plant in the garden (this comes down the chimney with their present) - the owner is a genius!  The best time to go is after school during a weekday, otherwise there is usually a couple of hours wait at other times, even though the waiting is not so bad as there is lots for the children to see and do while they wind their way to the grotto, and of course feed Baytree's own reindeer.

So now at the end of my week away from work and the kids' half term, I still have some last minute things to do, such as finishing painting...this is sounding like a broken record!  However, tonight I plan on putting on some cosy socks and sitting in my favourite chair with one of my 'whirring' projects and once all in bed, the preparation of secret presents, cards, balloons and cake for my baby's 13th birthday.

I hope you have a lovely weekend and a good week. xx

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