Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Cat wrapping, Charlie Brown's Christmas tree and lots of snow

We went to get the Christmas tree on Saturday.  I'd left it a bit late because I was debating whether we should buy a real tree, and whether, in an environmental sense, it was a good idea to buy a real tree.  I was thinking of decorating some twigs instead, but when I went to the allotment I couldn't find anything suitable.  So I decided to buy a real Christmas tree still growing in a pot, which after Christmas we could plant at the allotment and hopefully dig up again each year.  If nothing else it will absorb carbon dioxide throughout the year, and give birds and insects somewhere to live.  But we were snowed in as of Friday night so I couldn't use the car to get a tree so we had to find one on foot.  We went to Asda which is only 10 minutes walk away and they'd sold out.  So I asked a member of staff if they had any more and he said they'd got one left, but it was in the back, and it'd been reduced to £5, and he said he wasn't sure what condition it was in, but would go and get it for me.  So whilst I was waiting I was thinking about the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon where Charlie gets the last Christmas tree and it's a dead looking tree with a few needles on it.  

Luckily, when he brought it out from the back it looked fine, it was just wonky in its pot, so with a careful bit of pot tweaking when we got home I managed to get it to look straight.  Which means we got a bargain tree for only £5, and it’s a living tree so we can replant it after Christmas.  Chris dragged it home through the snow, it was pretty heavy. 

I decorated the tree whilst watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  It's full of lots of birds, wooden ornaments and candy canes.  We've already a few presents underneath it.

We've had this knitted Father Christmas since I was a very little girl.  I love him.  He always sits underneath the Christmas tree and he has tinsel from Christmasses years ago in the sack over his shoulder.  Whoever knitted him did a really good job.

I started my Christmas holidays this week and got all the presents bought and wrapped, the house tidy and the shopping done.  Steve helped with the wrapping. 

Because of the snow and freezing weather there's been a bird feeding frenzy in the back yard.  I made sure I put some fresh food out for them each day, including some Christmas cake, which the blackbirds seemed to enjoy, and some cheese for the robin.

I took a picture of a pied wagtail.

These 2 cats are outside every morning.  The white one likes to sit on the sign.

The town looks very wintery.

The allotment looked lovely and snowy too.

Brian has a huge Christmas tree on his plot.

My leeks look cold.

I got a wool ball for the birds at the allotment.  I thought they might be able to use it to insulate their nests.

The greenhouses were dark inside because they're covered in snow.

So Chris brushed off the snow.

We had a few icicles.

Chris made me a custom built spice rack for inside one of the kitchen cupboards.  I love it!

I made a scrummy macaroni cheese on Monday night.

We had a gathering for the winter solstice on Tuesday night. Four of us got together at my friend Leah's house and she lit her open fire and we had a chat, drank whiskey and ate cheese and biscuits. It was cool to get together.  Leah’s Christmas tree was lovely and big.

On Wednesday night I went to Duckworth Hall with some colleagues from work for a Christmas meal.

Thursday was my big tidy day, and I made sure everything was spick and span.  I made some toffee fudge cookies using the cookie recipe from Nigella Kitchen.  This is now my favourite cookie recipe.

I made some of Nigella's salty peanut and chocolate bars.

I also made a vegetable and lentil shepherds pie which we reheated again on Christmas Eve.

And I finished off knitting people's Christmas presents.  It was a big task knitting 5 pairs of gloves.  Now it’s time to knit some things for me and Chris.  His Freddy Krueger striped style wool hat is next on the list.

Friday was Christmas Eve and I made French Toast for breakfast.

Then I went to see my Grandma with my Mum and we helped her open her presents.

On Christmas Eve in the evening we had quite a few friends round for a drink.  I made the big mistake of making marguerita cocktails and I was foolish enough to have one myself.  We were up till 2am drinking and playing music.  I'm going to make a vow now - never to drink on Christmas Eve!   On Christmas morning I went to the allotment with my Mum to leave a holly wreath on my Dad's memorial garden.  I felt rough on Christmas Day and started with a cold at 2pm ish. I don't know if I felt rough because of the drink or the cold (to be fair I didn't drink that much).  But the cold kind of spoilt Christmas Day, and we stayed at home Christmas Day evening and Boxing Day because of it.  This meant we didn't go to Bolton to see Chris's relatives.  Thankfully the cold was more or less gone by Monday.

Some of my Christmas present haul.

My presents included the Baraka bluray, a slushy maker, the Earth Pathways 2011 diary, lots of socks, loads of goodies off my sister including a cool bag, a gardening calendar mug, a necklace, some arm warmers, Jamie Oliver’s European cookbook (can’t remember the name, and can’t be bothered Googling) and loads of make up. 

I got a dress and too much money off my Mum, as well as the gorgeous ring and necklace off the Christmas markets when we went a few weeks back. 

My friend Andrea got me a cool Yummy Donut keyring.

Our friend Emma made us a cushion with our cat on it.

I also got a pizza stone, a mini chopper and a bird-feeding book off Chris's Mum.  My friend Nina made me some wing earrings and an owl necklace.   Plus loads of other stuff I can't remember right now.

I made Steve a big pom-pom out of my wool stash.  He loved it.  My friend Andrea also bought him a catnip filled mouse which he loves too.  He was playing with his pressies all Christmas.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Allotment casserole and crocheted cacti

It was Chris's 35th birthday on Thursday.  We were both at work during the day, but had a present opening session and a curry and some wine when we got home,  I bought him lots of pressies, including a posh set of chisels, a Leatherman tool, Andy Goldsworthy's Wood book, the new Bill Hicks documentary on Bluray, some liquid latex, a Stringbean CD from America and some wool socks.

Our friend Emma crocheted Chris 3 cacti which are fantastic and so lifelike.  She has an amazing talent of being able to crochet anything that comes into her head.  She's very modest about it too.  You've either got it or you haven't, and Emma's got it!  I'm getting a bit better at patterns and understanding how knitting works, and I'm beginning to feel more confident about making my own designs.

I volunteered at the shop on Friday afternoon - I had to reweigh the bird seed as there are strict rules about labelling.  It also looks like we have a mouse in the back because some of the sunflower heads had been eaten!  One lesson I've learnt - be careful what bright ideas you come up with.  You never know how the simplest thing can suddenly become complex.

My sister and one of my nieces came to visit for the weekend.  It was lovely to see them both.  We went to Duckworth Hall on Sunday afternoon for some food.  But I didn't really feel that well at weekend - I think I might have had a bug or something. 

I'd booked Monday off work, so I had a lie in, then went to have my car tyre looked at because I thought I had a puncture.  It was a bit upsetting going to the garage where my Dad used to work.  Apparently I don't have a puncture just cracked tyres, and 3 of them need replacing.  I'll have to wait until after Christmas now to replace them cos I'm skint.

I nipped to the allotment in the afternoon.  I refilled the bird feeders and watered the fig, peach, passion flowers and strawberries in the greenhouse.  I also picked 3 leeks, 2 cabbages (one for my Mum) and some curly kale. 

When I got home I put all of the allotment veg into a casserole.  I gently cooked the sliced leeks in butter, before adding some veg stock, butter beans, kale, cabbage, allotment potatoes, rosemary from the back garden and a bay leaf.  I cooked this in the pan for a while before transferring it to a casserole dish and placing it in the oven on a low heat.  Half an hour before serving I added some vegetable suet dumplings (4oz self raising flour, 2oz vegetable suet and 5 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt, shaped into 8 balls).  The dumplings almost double in size once cooked and they help to make the casserole more filling.  Because the butter beans were a beige/pink colour they almost looked like chicken.  The casserole was very tasty, perhaps a bit too much rosemary for me, but Chris liked it.  And even better there's more left for tea tonight.  Because I've felt ill, I thought I needed some real food with real energy in it, and I'd grown most of the food in the casserole from seed.  Hopefully it will perk me up a bit and help recharge my batteries.

After the casserole I started writing all my Christmas cards, which took a while, but I was relieved once it was done.  I've bought most of my Christmas presents now, I've just a few more to get.  I'll be glad once everything is finished and I can put my feet up.  I've got lots of films lined up ready to watch over Christmas, including Leaves of Grass, Catfish and A Prophet, all of which have come highly recommended.  We still need to put the tree and the decorations up, then there's the wrapping and the big supermarket shop.  It's a good job I've got next week off!

I finally sewed up the hats I'd made for my nieces, and I wrapped them up and posted them off to the as part of their Christmas presents.

Chris took a cool pic of Steve.  He loves playing with string.

The weather has improved, and the snow and ice has gone, although when I tried to dig up the leeks at the alloment the soil was frozen deeper than 1 inch around the edge of the bed.  Heaven knows how we'll get the parsnips out for Christmas dinner!  There's more snow forecast as of Thursday this week.  Maybe we'll get a white Christmas.  No doubt it will cause travel and shopping chaos if we do.

Monday, 6 December 2010

It's minus 8 and there's snow everywhere

It was -8 degrees centigrade on Friday morning and as a result it's taking us a while to get the car defrosted when we set off for work  In fact, I'm beginning to think I don't like snow and ice after all.  I mean, it's fine when you're inside, warm and cosy, watching big white snowflakes drift down. But when it's freezing, the snow has compacted into ice, and you can't walk anywhere then it kind of loses its appeal.  Unless that means I've officially grown old! 

I volunteered in the shop on Friday afternoon.  I went to the local animal food supplier and bought a 25kg sack of wild bird seed, which I started to bag down into smaller bags for sale in the shop.  I also got a large tub of fat balls too.  Because of the bitterly cold weather I was concerned that the birds would need some extra help with food.  The profit margin on the bird seed is pretty good, so both the shop and the birds benefit.

I also had my hair cut on Friday - it desperately needed a trim as all the ends were getting tangled and I was struggling to get my brush through it.

On Saturday I stayed home and kept warm.  I knitted some cabled fingerless mittens for my friend Andrea's Christmas present using a pattern I got from Ravelry.  I've never knitted cables before but they're so easy to do, I think it may be the start of a cabling addiction.  The gloves turned out a bit too big so I'll wash them in warm water and try to shrink them a little.  I used the Freedom Eco Yarn which is a wool/alpaca mix in a dark grey colour.  The yarn's a bit itchy compared to Patons Eco Wool Chunky, but Patons don't do the Eco Wool Chunky in solid grey or black shades, which is a shame.

We went to the flea market on Sunday morning but I didn't get anything at all.  Afterwards we nipped to the allotment with my Mum and Chris and made sure all the bird feeders were full.  Everywhere down the allotment was white with snow.

Chris's bird feeding station in our back garden is attracting a juvenile male blackbird and a robin and a dunnock.  Chris also managed to film a pied wagtail in the garden - a bird I've never seen before locally.  We've been trying to keep some water out for the birds to drink but it's constantly freezing over again.  Look, it's covered in snow.

I've been busy ordering Christmas presents online.  I've pretty much done everyone now, and no doubt the postman will be fed up of bringing me parcels!

That's all there is to report this week because I've been busy sorting Christmassy things.  My sister and one of my nieces are visiting this weekend, and it's Chris's birthday too, so it's all go at the minute.  I finish work next Thursday for over 2 weeks, so I am really, really looking forward to the break.  I'm going to make the most of the time off and have a rest and watch lots of films and chill out.