Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year, a New Calendar...

Someone once said that the week between Christmas and New Year's is like a week's worth of Sundays, and I have to agree. Each day slips by and, at the end of it, I've done absolutely nothing other than eat and enjoy being around the hubby and my girls. The huge amount of snow we've had here in the Northeast only added to my lethargy... not that I'm complaining. I've managed to flick through my old magazines and get some ideas together for the New Year. I'm almost like a racehorse, chomping at the bit, waiting to spring into 2011 and get all my plans into gear.

Anyhoo, the other day, a magazine landed in my mailbox, all the way from Blighty. My mum sends me the January edition of the 'Sainsbury's Magazine' each year... Sainsbury's is a UK supermarket... so why do I get the magazine when I can only dream of doing my weekly shop there? Well, this is the calendar that becomes our kitchen family calendar. This supermarket freebie has been the diary in my house well before I came to America, and ever since I have been here. I scribble down every event in the little square box, no matter how trivial. And, at the end of the year, I pack away the calendar, with all of the others.... but not before I've flicked through them all. These little 12 page diaries show me when guests have visited, the vacations I've taken, my visits to the UK, events from during my pregnancies, and all manner of both momentous and tedious occasions. I love that they are all in the same format... this supermarket recipe calendar takes me through the year via healthy suppers at the start of the year, to Easter lamb, to sumptuous strawberry dishes and juicy burgers mid-Summer, and onto stodgy warming meals when the nights draw in, and, finally, back to some Christmas offering at the end of the year. I love looking back at all of the years of my life, from when there was just me, to the two of us, and then to the four of us... like a stack of maps, charting the path that my life has taken to get me to the present day...

Who knows what will go down in this year's calendar... what will I be smiling at when I pack away my trusty Sainsbury's calendar at the end of 2011?

Oh, and before I forget... with it being Friday tomorrow, I figured I would share my Christmas roses with you (the hubby gets me two dozen every Christmas)... I know I've done these so many times before, but they're just too beautiful not to show you...


Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year. I'll raise a glass to you all at the stroke of twelve!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Very, Very Merry Christmas to all...

Our little house is filled with anticipation... the levels that can only come from two little girls brimming with excitement, knowing that the visit is just one sleep away... The stockings and Santa sacks are hung... mince pies baked... mulled wine drunk... house cleaned... cold medicine brought in bulk (Santa's entering a sick house tonight)... and now, it's time to sit back and breathe before the cooking marathon tomorrow... So, I'm sat here in my p-jams, with my trusty cup of tea in hand, wanting to take this quiet time to wish one and all a Peaceful and Merry Christmas. You all deserve it! Catch you soon!
With lots and lots of love to you all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A big thank you & a Santa sack...

It was a cold, cold night on Saturday... the Christmas tree lights were twinkling... the hubby and my eldest were cuddling on the couch under the heavy red throw (she, waiting to see if she could see Santa... he, tired from a day of Christmas shopping) while I sat in my faithful red armchair sewing a zillion buttons into the shape of the letter 'E'... you know, it takes a lot of buttons to make the letter 'E'... and, with only the soft light of the lamp, flickering blue hue of the telly, and a glass of wine in me, it sure was hard work... My eyesight is definitely not what it was, and so, by the last button, I couldn't see the needle to thread (not to mention the fact that my poor fingers had had more prickles than a hedgehog handler), so I called it a night and started the next day...

I pulled out my trusty old sewing machine and ran through the pointers my mum had bestowed on me... I even managed to change the shuttle (I gave myself a big pat on the back for that)...
Anyhoo, I had an idea as to how I wanted these to look... the hubby said that, as always, I had lofty aspirations, but I decided to go with the, 'if we don't try, we'll never know what we can achieve' attitude, and  set about making the first of the two Santa sacks... there were a few hiccups along the way, but I treat these as part of the learning process, and, maybe one day, I'll look back at these imperfections and smile at my inexperience at sewing and how it` was outweighed by my willingness to please my little girls...

... and this led me to think of you guys... yes, you ... thinking how I don't think I'd be creating for my little girls if it weren't for the fact that you so very kindly read my blog... forcing me to be creative, to try new things and push the boundaries.... Thank you so much for giving me the umph to do this. Without your kind words, I don't know if I would have tried this sewing malarkey... so, by the very act of reading this blog, you have touched my life and helped me create something that may very well be passed on to future generations (that's if my sewing holds up)...

Right now, though, I have to start sewing that letter 'M'... my poor, poor eyes...

Take care all!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas yarn & a Friday Flower

So, it's almost here... am I ready? Not at all, but there are seven days left to do just about everything that needs to be done! After writing this post, I'm zooming off to the fabric store (well, zooming is perhaps and exaggeration, as I don't think you can zoom anywhere in a Nissan Versa)... anyhow, I'm picking up fabric to make the girls Santa sacks. I'd spied some in a swanky store and remembered how I would put out pillowcases as a child. Ahhh, waking up on Christmas morn, to the sight of those pillowcases bulging with gifts... One year, I was terribly sick on Christmas Eve (my mum said it was brought upon by sheer excitement.... I wish I could get that excited about life again!)... I managed to empty my stomach in practically every room in the house (sorry to share this, but there is a point)... as my poor mum set about cleaning up the mess, I sat bleary-eyed on the couch and declared, 'but, look, Mummy, Santa came'... and everything was made better (well, for me anyway)... Where am I going with this post?... Oh yeah, the Santa sacks... I'll share them with you next week... I just wanted to share a little Christmas tale with you today... showing that the magic of Christmas can be a cure for many ailments... 

Anyhoo, sorry to start reminiscing... this time of year really has that effect on me. Back to the Friday Flower. Lovely white roses, with a dash of rosemary, a sprinkle of holly, and a smattering of ivy. What a lovely combination! This week my Friday Flower is dedicated to a very talented writer. Her blog, Vintch, is like an oasis in a desert. When I see that she has posted, I steal away into my kitchen (away from the kids), turn off the radio and savour her words. Her posts are so beautifully written and descriptive... so easy to lose myself in... you know the feeling when you stumble across a well-written book and you want to share... well, that's how I feel about this blog. I don't know her name, but I promise you that if you pop over and see her, you'll surely recognize the very special talent this person has.

Wishing you all an amazing weekend. Take care.

If you would like to join in with this weeks Friday Flower, simply use the linky widget below, to link to your Friday Flower Post. You've got to love a flower!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about home over the past few weeks... Now, I have two versions of home... there's the home where I currently live... my little run down Cape Cod in New Jersey... and then, there's 'Home', as in 'I'm going home'... and that home is England. I don't know when I'll stop referring to England as home or if I ever will... perhaps England is so ingrained into me, that it is at the very core of my existence... I live and breathe it, and when the plane touches the tarmac at Heathrow, the only thought going through my mind is, ' I'm home'...

During the holidays, I may be, physically, here in the States, but my heart and mind are well and truly 3,000 miles away... reliving past Christmases... my Christmases as a child... I close my eyes and remember the decorations, the smells, the excitement, the food, and even the TV shows (right down to the excitement of getting the Radio Times and flipping through to see what was on the Christmas telly line up)... Lost in a sea of nostalgia, I then set about thinking how I can recreate that here in America for my girls. Now, I have a pretty blank slate to start with, as my husband is Jewish... so, as the girls experience all their firsts at Christmas, so does he... I am the seasoned veteran in this house.

I get to pick and choose what Christmas traditions I want to carry on, and, along the way, even throw in some new ones.... Unfortunately, some of the traditions from England I've had to leave behind, due to my geographical location... bye bye, Queen's Speech and Top of the Pops...

... some of them, I manage to keep going, even though it becomes a little pricier when paying import prices... case in point, Quality Streets... to anyone from the UK, these chocolates are synonymous with Christmas (well, they were in my house). The opening of the Quality Street tin of chocolates on Christmas Eve signalled the start of the festivities... now, they're not particularly tasty, but I'm sure most people don't get them because of their deliciousness, but simply, because that is just the way it is... I still manage to get these in for the season, but, instead of a generic chocolate price tag, they now cost the same as a swanky Belgian number! Is it worth it? Yes... to watch my girls oohh and ahh and pick out their favourite colour... just like I did many moons ago...

Another tradition was reintroduced this Christmas... after discovering a holly bush by chance... and so, the other day, I nipped down to the waterfront (secateurs in hand) and liberated some holly from said bush... it was laden with berries and perfect for trimming up the house... the very act of carrying bushels of holly into the house reminded me of walking across the fields with my father as a child... the hazy sun low in the sky, frosty ground under foot, seeking out the bright red berries amongst the hawthorn hedges... old rickety wooden stiles and cattle gathered around the feeding trough, piled high with food... we would bring our bounty into the house and trim the old mirror over the fire, and it would stay there, 'til the leaves went brittle and the plump berries would wrinkle... so, even though this experience was so very different from my English holly gathering days, the simple sight of holly in my little home will always keep my memory alive...

So, this year, I'll be pulling a Christmas cracker, eating Christmas pudding, while drinking a glass of port... bringing a little bit of 'home' Christmas, into my new home...

It's been good catching up with you all today... I've missed writing this little old blog and sharing my thoughts with you!
Take care.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A festive Friday Flower

We're well into the month of December now... counting down the sleeps 'til the big day... Well, that's how it used to be when I was a kid... but now, I want to hold onto the build-up for as long as possible... savouring the season and all the wondrous sights it brings... Evening drives around my neighbourhood are heavenly... almost all the houses are decorated in an array of beautiful twinkling lights. Lighting up the cold winter's night and rivalling any Summer floral display. This festive season really brings so much joy and beauty into a month than would normally be cold and bleak... but, instead, we are bombarded with rich images... colours of red, gold, and green bringing a much welcomed warmth to our world... allowing us to forget the cold winter months that are ahead of us... that's why I love this season!

I wanted my Friday Flower to capture this feeling... and so, I picked all the colours that encapsulate this time of year... I threw in some rosemary, too, because, lets face it, Christmas definitely has a smell... and this herb certainly lends itself very well to the season... it's a pity you can't get 'smelly-vision,' as you would be able to enjoy the heady fragrance of this week's Friday Flower, too...

Anyhoo, I dedicate my Friday Flower to a lovely gal named Beth. Originally from the UK (beautiful Wales to be exact), she now lives in Brisbane, Australia. Her blog, A Welsh Girl in Australia, documents her new life Down Under... a life where cold winter nights have been replaced by all the warmth that an Australian summer has to offer...  I personally remember seeing the familiar Santa image (complete with thick red suit) out and about on the streets of Sydney and thinking 'Strewth, I bet he's hot'...  but, hey, to get a better depiction of life in Australia, head over to Beth's and say hi.

Wishing you all a fantastic weekend... keep warm or cool (depending where you are).

If you want to join in with this weeks Friday Flower, link to your page below... the more the merrier!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A pickle jar snow globe

I don't know about anyone else, but I have a zillion catalogues delivered each week... Now, I'm guessing that this is somehow linked to my penchant for online buying... brochures selling the weird and the wonderful land in my mailbox and, given that I'm always on the hunt for that next idea, I always give them a quick flick through... I mean, you never know when you'll need a life size reindeer...

Anyhoo, I was flicking through one of the said catalogues the other day, when I came across a mason snow globe... apparently, in days gone by, mason jars where used to create homemade snow globes...  Even though this had all the appeal of homemade Christmassy loveliness, it certainly didn't have a homemade price tag... so I decided to set about making one of my own. I've been stashing jars away for a while... a blogger once wrote that 'they'll always come in handy' and so, following her lead, I began saving all the pretty jars... in fact, I'd go as far to say that the jar housing the product has become the clincher when picking out my jam! I am a marketer's dream...

Anyways, a Branston Pickle jar was recycled, a (waterproof) Santa tree ornament was ripped off the tree and glued to the lid using waterproof craft cement, the jar was filled with cooled boiled water and a spot of glycerin was added... voila, a homemade snow globe! I think I'll make another with one of my vintage mason jars next year, but, for now, this will do!

I'm linking up with one of my favourite blogs Hooked on Houses. Julia is holding a holiday house tour, giving all us bloggers the opportunity to share our festive posts... pop over and prepare to be dazzled...

... I'm also linking up for the first time with Frugal Friday at the Shabby Nest. I've been trying to do this for an age and finally got my act together, and produced something to link up with! It's a great round-up of all the creative ideas that are floating out there in Blogland!

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas is... a mince pie...

There's a chill in the air, but home sure looks cozy... the twinkle of the white lights on the Christmas tree...

... the rich colours of red, gold, and green dotted around this tiny place... Our home was made for this season... I think I've mentioned before that red features heavily in this place, and so, during this festive season, it really comes into it's own...

The radio is continuously set on the Madeleine Peyroux station and I'm feeling all 50's-housewife... I even donned my frilly pinny (apron)... the girls are playing nicely in the living room (okay, I'm starting to weave a little yarn here... they're actually watching Phineas and Ferb)... and what would complete this perfect Christmas image?

Yes, the smell of freshly baked mince pies... Now, the hubby thinks they're a hideous creation, but, for an English gal like me, they are Christmas on a plate. It's all down to the mincemeat, though... in particular, the alcohol used to give it that special je ne sais quoi... luckily for me, my mum left me with a jar of Marks and Spencers mincemeat, laden with liquor (I'm not quite up to making my own mincemeat... but maybe next year)... And so, to further propel me into this festive season, I set about making this boozy, fruity pie... and it was just the ticket... Christmas is in every corner of this house... including my tummy ;-) I popped the recipe on the bottom, just in case you wanted to give this festive treat a try... I recommend serving them warm with a dollop of fresh cream.. you can even try pepping up the cream by adding some freshly grated orange zest and a sprinkle of sugar (vanilla sugar, if you have it)... if it's later in the day, you can always wash it down with a tot of something strong... to warm your cockles...

Take care all!

Easy Peasy Mince Pies

2 cups of plain flour
2/3 cup of icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
1 stick of cold butter (cut into small cubes)
3 tablespoons iced water (approx)
Icing sugar to dust
1 jar of quality mincemeat 

Preheat the oven to 350F (180c). Brush a shallow muffin tin with melted butter. 

Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl, add the butter, and rub in with your fingertips until fine and crumbly (my mum always taught me to have cold hands when handling pastry, so I always run them under the cold tap to cool them off before starting this step).
Add almost all the water and mix with a round ended knife, until the mixture comes together. Try not to add too much water, otherwise your end up with a hard pastry.

Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Roll out two thirds of the pastry and cut rounds with a pastry cutter. Fit the rounds into the tins.

Put a good sized heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry case.
Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out slightly smaller rounds and place on top of the mincemeat. Press the edges to seal.
Brush with either a spot of milk or egg (egg will give more of a glaze).

Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes or until golden.
Remove from the oven, but leave in the tins for 5 minutes... The mincemeat is super hot, so you don't want to burn your pinkies!
After 5 minutes, lift them out with a knife and cool on wire racks.

Dust slightly with icing sugar... just like a little snow flurry has been going off in the kitchen!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Friday Flower for Robynne

Sorry I'm late posting a Friday Flower today, but yesterday was a bit of a sad one for me... My mum returned to Blighty... leaving behind her poorly, sick, broken-hearted daughter... Why do colds come along at the most inopportune times? I guess you could say that my nose is looking pretty festive at the moment... to put it another way, if Rudolph finds himself otherwise engaged on Christmas Eve, I could certainly fill his shoes... make that hooves!

Anyhoo, my mum is returning to some Christmassy weather herself (that's if you're from the northern hemisphere), as the UK has been hit with a pretty hefty amount of snow... oohh, how I wish I was there to experience the beautiful English countryside covered in a white blanket... as it is, I have had to make do with the snapshots of those living in my beautiful homeland...

Which leads me nicely to my Friday Flower... this week, I dedicate my flower to a lady with a name that compliments this glorious season... her name is Robynne  and she has just moved to the UK from another favourite place of mine, Australia. She has just started her blog, Robynne's Nest,  which documents her life in rural England and her travels across Europe. Today, my mum and I oohhed and ahhed at her pictures of an English robin and the beautiful English countryside... now that's my kind of eye candy...  So, Robynne, here's my Friday Flower for you... I picked them because they reminded me of snowflakes... something that I imagine, you are just loving at the moment... Anyhoo, if you get a chance, pop over to Robynne and catch up on life in Blighty. I'm sure you will get a warm welcome...

Wishing you all a fantastic weekend, wherever you are and whatever you're doing!
Take care.

If you would like to join in with this week's Friday Flower, there's a Linky widget below where you can add a link to your page... then pop over to miss sew and so and do the same there... the more the merrier!

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