My Turn In The Kitchen

29 December 2011

Yesterday I finally got to spend a bit of time in the kitchen again. It's a comfortable place to be; even more so if preparing a Christmas spread for visiting family. Christmas Day itself was spent with my family and yesterday was David's family day. For those that came early afternoon I made a batch of Beetroot & Apple Soup which I served with Cheddar & Poppy Seed Scones. Afters was a stroll along the beach. Come the early evening there was six of us plus the kids. I did a vegetarian supper that consisted of individual Squash & Sage Pithivier's, a Tahini-dressed Courgette & Green Bean Salad (from my new favourite cook book; River Cottage Veg Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), Roasted Red Peppers with Pomegranate & Capers and to finish An Iced Nougat & Raspberry Terrine. The best thing about it? Apart from the side dishes, I'd made it all before Christmas, so it was just a case of remembering to get things out of the freezer. Easy.

A Happy Christmas

28 December 2011

Well, here we are the other side of the big day. We had a lovely time staying with my parents who live on the Isle of Wight. It was a real chance for David and I to sit back and relax whilst the kids became nanny and grandad's shadows.

Christmas Day was spent indoors, apart from taking the dog for a walk round the village, so come Boxing Day we were ready to head out for some fresh air. It's become a bit of a tradition, that when we're at my parents for Boxing Day we go down to Steephill Cove. I've written posts on this little idyllic place during our visits in the summer months, but I love it in the winter too. The tide was in, so we found a little cafe and drank mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows whilst watching the waves break. 
It's the perfect Boxing Day past time.

Not Long Now ...

21 December 2011

Just four more sleeps to go ... and I think I'm almost ready.

I've already started on the mince pies; I've purchased a bottle of sherry; the presents have been bought, though not yet wrapped and a few homemade presents are 'nearly done'. 

I've sorted the menus for the days I'm 'entertaining at home'. Seasonal goodies and treats have been made over the last few days and now sit happily in the freezer. I love nothing more than a bit of festive baking whilst listening to sentimental Christmas tunes on the radio.

The tree is decorated. It looks lovely. It's embellished with baubles; a combination of family heirlooms and Lily and Arthur's collections that I add to each year. It's not the coordinated style I used to go for, but a beautiful 'real' look that I like all the more.

I love this time of year; the run up to Christmas. It's full of excitement (both mine and the children's) It's a time sprinkled with lots of nostalgia. The Danish have a word 'Hygge'. It doesn't translate easily into English but is used to describe a state of comfort, peace and warmth while in the company of loved ones. It's about creating a cosy atmosphere by lighting a few candles and enjoying good food and something to drink. To me, Hygge is now ... these magical few days before the big one.

Jam Drops & Paper Angels

15 December 2011

Lily loves having her school friend's over for tea. Earlier this week she had four of her friends back after school for a bit of 'festive baking & making.' We baked Jam Drop biscuits and made these sweet paper angels. I came across the angels on this lovely french blog that I recently discovered. It's full of lovely templates that can be downloaded for a crafty afternoon. If you want to have a go at making these angels you can download the template here. They certainly held the attention of a group of six year old girls whilst their Jam Drop's baked in the oven.

A Lesson In How To Do Christmas Decorations

11 December 2011

The Christmas build-up has started in earnest this weekend. Yesterday was Lily's school Christmas Fair. I organised and ran the craft tables: it's been a bit of a 'second job' these past few weeks what with all the prep work involved but it's been what I would call 'busy-fun'.

Today we had our first official Christmas Engagement: a small pre-christmas gathering for some festive drinks at a friend's house. The abode in question belongs to an old friend of ours, affectionately known as Phil Hair (the name came about as we have three good friends all called Phil and this particular Phil is a hairdresser). But it's not only hair he has a way with. No, come December he turns his flat into the most amazing grotto. This is a man not afraid of multi-coloured tree lights and paper-chains. All of the decorations are vintage; some from as far back as the 40's and 50's. There's a fair amount of ones from the 60's and 70's too; some of which felt so very familiar. It's A Wonderful Life played on the TV and Christmas Tunes provided the background music. You couldn't fail to feel festive.

It's great to have a friend who goes through such effort each year (we're talking 2 - 3 days set up here). The kids loved it: it's far better than a trip to the local 'festive spectacular' in the shopping centre. We practically billed it to them as a 'fun afternoon out', and they weren't disappointed. Being the only children at the gathering wasn't a problem for them. They lapped up the festive ambience along with  what they would call a 'good spread'; nibbles in the form of crisps, peanuts, mince pies and chocolate mini rolls. I think we all could have stayed in that snug, comforting, nostalgic environment late into the evening. I left with a warm festive feel-good glow, though feeling a little inadequate in the Christmas decorations department.

A Pre-Christmas Ritual

7 December 2011

I love Christmas. I love a Christmas tradition. Today I bought the Christmas issue of the Radio Times. It is the only time during the whole year that I buy a television guide. I have no need to buy one: such guides come free with the weekend papers and to be honest I don't really watch that much TV.  No, this purchase was purely indulgent on my part. I love nothing better than sitting down on an evening in early December with a warming drink and a highlighter pen. I will read through the listings and highlight all that I would like to watch (though I know I'll barely watch a quarter of what I highlight).

There is something nostalgic about this particular publication: I wouldn't dream of buying any other at this time of year. As a child we always has a Radio Times and a TV Times in the house. I'm not sure why we had two. I'm guessing that back then, the BBC listed only their own channels in the Radio Times whilst ITV, and later channel 4, listed in the TV Times? Sounds rather antiquated now doesn't it?

So now I just need to find a free evening for my yearly ritual. But first, and most importantly, I will remove the 'summer holiday' supplement that is always stapled into the centre. That is just plainly wrong for the Christmas issue. I've always thought that.


1 December 2011

We're lucky enough to have Hove Museum & Art Gallery just a few minutes walk from our house. Every time I visit, I say I must go more often. The other week Arthur and I had the most lovely morning there. The museum hadn't long been open for the day when we arrived so it was quite empty. Empty museums are great when you're with a toddler. 

Our first stop was the tearoom for toasted teacakes with butter. You can't not. Then we wandered around the galleries. The current exhibition that we saw was just perfect. It was all about robots. If I'm honest, I can take or leave a robot: not really my thing. But this exhibition was just lovely. I saw it through a little boys eyes and now I think robots are fantastic! A vast range of robots and space toys from the collection of Sussex artist and illustrator Chris MacEwan make up this exhibition. There is a definite retro feel about many of the designs and on mass they just look something really special. Arthur really enjoyed it, and the morning didn't cost me a penny (other than the teacakes). The exhibition is on until February, so if you find yourself in this neck of the woods with time on your hands it's worth taking a look at, even if you think robots aren't your thing.