Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Final Post for 2008

One of the books I got for Christmas that was missing from the picture in the earlier post was the book The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas as I was reading it at the time. After two nights of reading it before we turned the light out it got to the I have to finish this stage and so yesterday afternoon was spent reading the book to the end. Now I haven't seen the film, as we couldn't get tickets for it at our local cinema (which we like to support) and having read the book I'm glad I didn't as I'm sure I'd have needed a box or two of hankies.

The book looks like it is written with young adults in mind, but it is a fascinating read and is the first book in a long time that, at the end, had me holding my breath and really and truly not wanting to read on because I was dreading what I was going to read next. I'm not going to give the plot away but suffice to say I actually had to go back and read the last two chapters again because I was so caught up with hoping my expectations weren't going to come true that somehow the words skipped in front of my eyes without really being read, although I was taking in what was happening. If this doesn't make sense read the book and then I promise you it will.

Some Goals for 2009

At the start of 2008 I set myself a list of goals that related to walking and getting fitter and up to May I was actually achieving them but then I injured the ligament in my ankle and everything fell apart. Just as I was starting to get back on track with regards to a fitness regime Husband lost his job and priorities changed and once again my fitness regime fell apart. So my primary goal for 2009 is to reduce my weight by 3 stone and to get back to the level of fitness I had achieved when I first knew Husband 5/6 years ago.

Now I know if I can just get myself into the habit of going to the gym etc that I will actually stick at it but I also know that research shows that it takes up to 2 months for something to become so habitual that it is automatically part of your life. So I am hoping that the first two months of 2009 will see me set up the habits fitness-wise that I want to achieve:

Swim - Twice a week
Gym - Visit twice a week
Walking - To get out onto the hills twice a week

2008 has also seen me acquire the very bad habit of letting the posting of walks onto my website become delayed. Until last year the only walks that weren't posted within 24 hours of the walk being completed were the ones from walking holidays. This year I intend to get back into the habit of posting walks within 24 hours of completing them.

Of course 2008 was also the year when I set up my blog after finally getting round to buying myself a magnifying lamp and picking up my needle and thread for the first time in a couple of years. Hopefully the blog and the stitching will continue and this year I am planning on having more than one finish. Stitching wise I hope to finish the two big projects I'm currently working on, take part in the 2 new SALs I've joined as well as complete some smaller projects.

This years sewing will hopefully include work on:

Love Songs - to a finish
Celtic Autumn - to a finish
St Petersburg
Cirque Des Triangles

Weihenburg Christmas Quaker SAL - to a finish
Me Myself & I Round Robin - to a finish
Start another Celtic Lady as part of the Celtic Lady SAL

Complete & finish as many JA Monthly Challenges as possible
Complete and send my PIF to Robin Titan
Stitch several squares for SOLAK
Stitch Xmas gift tags/cards for my family

I am also planning on getting out in my garden far more often than I did last year, although what I actually do in it will depend upon finances so more of an update on that once I get a better idea of where we stand money-wise.

So that should be enough to keep me out of trouble for 2009.

Monday, 29 December 2008


Well I hope everyone had a good Christmas ours was a little mixed, started out well and sadly went downhill for Daughter from early evening onwards.

After a late start to the day we eventually managed to drag Son and Daughter out of bed so as that we could open the presents.

In amongst the many presents under the tree were several books and Cd's for me. One of which was an Osmonds CD which has the two albums Crazy Horses and The Plan, it was a surprise gift from Husband and I'd forgotten just how good they were. Nice to know my first taste in music was actually quite good lol!! My brother had got me a book voucher so I have also ordered The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Nigella's Christmas and the second book in the Martin Edwards Lake District thriller series.

As you can see there were also several cross stitch related presents, including from Husband the Thea Governeur kit St Petersburg, which I'm itching to start. My dad ordered me all of the Celtic Lady charts thinking I'd missed out Celtic Autumn from the list so I'm hoping I can swap that for Cirque Des Triangles when Thread Bear opens next Friday. The Little House Needlework's chart was from Daughter.

Husband's speciality is wrapping presents up in strange ways and this 'spade' was for me but it had absolutely nothing to do with gardening and most certainly wasn't a spade. In fact it was an add-on for my digital mapping and only the bit at the bottom was the present the rest was cardboard.

Once the presents were all opened it was time to start thinking about the dinner, which went without a hitch, a big relief after Monday when my oven had packed up.

In the evening I was meant to be picking up Daughter's boyfriend put he then decided not to come over, so of course we had tears and then the next day he very kindly broke up with her.

Then as if she wasn't having things tough enough yesterday somebody broke into the 'crew-room' at MacDonalds, where she works, and stole her (favourite) bag with her I-pod, Blackberry, purse, keys and favourite make-up bag with her (naturally) expensive lip-stick in it, think Chanel and Dior. Whilst her purse, keys and cards were found and later handed into a local police station we have still had to stop all of her cards, lock her phone and replace the front door lock. Tomorrow we are going shopping for a new Blackberry for her and I think after the rough deal she has had I might even stretch to replacing one of her lipsticks for her and a new handbag. You may of course recall that I hate shopping and shopping during the sales is definitely not how I want to spend my time but in these circumstances I'll try my hardest not to moan when Daughter, who's number one favourite past-time is shopping, is dragging me all over Derby tomorrow.

What I haven't yet mentioned is that the week before Daughter came home she had a more expensive I-pod pinched from her handbag whilst she was Christmas shopping on Oxford Street and of course her friend died a couple of months ago. I really wish I could stop all of this happening to her, I feel so completely useless at the moment. She is feeling so low that last night she opted to spend the evening with Husband and I watching TV in the living room rather than be in her bedroom!! Thankfully she has plenty of friends who are also supporting her and keeping her company so hopefully the smile will back on her face soon.

Today in an attempt to stop me putting anymore weight on during Christmas I dragged myself out of bed early and headed for the pool and managed 50 lengths. I haven't been for a while due to the fact my swimming costume had become very, very baggy and needed replacing, which I finally got around to doing yesterday. One of my goals for 2009 is too reduce my weight by at least 3 stone and to get much fitter, so not gaining any over Christmas is a good start, I think.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

My Oven Blew Up

Yesterday (Monday) when I had 8 people for dinner my oven packed up. Having put the pork in the oven to cook I went and sat down to talk to my guests for an hour. I returned to the kitchen around 5:30 pm to put the potatoes in and thought; "This oven isn't very warm!" Felt the pork, which was warmish and got a little worried, removed it from the oven, cut it in half to find it was still raw and that yes my oven had stopped working. The pork was hurriedly moved to the top oven to cook and Husband was dispatched across town to his Fathers with instructions on how to cook both lots of potatoes.

Now no doubt you, like me, are now thinking; "What about the Christmas Dinner because there is no way the turkey will fit in the small oven?" This is one of those times when having a Husband who knows everyone comes in useful. Before disappearing across town Husband rang his cousin who immediately diagnosed the problem as the element having gone and confirmed that he would be round first thing tomorrow morning (today) with the replacement part. Not sure who was meant to be first on his list for visits that day but I suspect he was very late for them. I'd apologise but it wouldn't be in any way sincere as I was more than a little worried I'd have no oven for Christmas Day.

Thankfully I now have an oven that is working. I'm sure you can imagine my relief.

Dinner, although an hour or so later than planned, was enjoyed by all and my guests eventually departed at 10:30 p.m. to drive home. Husband and I finally sat down at 11:00 p.m. having just finished the washing up.

My parents, who were 2 of the guests, having dropped my aunt off, called into Tesco in Coventry on their way home to find that it was very busy at MIDNIGHT!! They only called in to get the last minute bits for Christmas Day because they were passing and it would save them getting up early today mind they did expect it to be quiet, but no, apparently they were queuing at the tills. How mad is that!!

Well I doubt I'll be posting on the blog tomorrow,as there is plenty to do in preparation for the big day so I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas.

Friday, 19 December 2008

My First Exchange

I took part in the Stitched Christmas Card Exchange on Jayne's Attic and today was the day for opening our cards. As I know Ursh has opened hers I'll post the pictures of the two cards.
This is the card I stitched for Ursh and its the only card I actually got around to stitching this year. Try as I might I couldn't get all four sides of the border to line up with the edges of the card. Next year I'm setting myself the target of one Christmas card and gift tag a month.

Prairie Stars
Prairie Schooler
Linen 32 ct

This is the card I received from Angi whom as far as I know hasn't got a blog. Isn't it pretty and I picked up a few tips from her as well. I shall be on the look out for all the gold bits she has used inside the card and on the front of it for any cards I do in the future. It also has lots of beading on it which is extra useful as I've got to start the beading on Celtic Autumn soon and as you may know I've not done any beading before so now I have an example to follow. Thank you Angi it's lovely as are the two little pins you sent with the card.

No sewing today. Husband and I were at Sainsburys for 8:30 to do the big Christmas shop and that was after a night when I had less than 4 hours sleep, no reason for it, just one of those nights!! We have also put the tree up this afternoon which involved an interruption to buy new lights as the old ones had finally given up the ghost. Fortunately I'd made the meat pie before we started so it was then just a case of putting the pie, croquet potatoes and jam tarts (spare pastry always turns into jam tarts) in the oven before I collapsed onto the settee to watch Strictly Take Two. Later we will be watching the original terminator on Sky although I suspect I'll actually be asleep on the settee long before it finishes.

Go Tom Go.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

One Day of Stitching

As planned yesterday afternoon was spent working on Celtic Autumn and as you can see I've made quite good progress.

As there is so much gold braid stitching to do I always try to start by doing some of that and then moving onto some other stitching. At the moment I'm trying to fill in as many of the gaps as possible so as that I can avoid having to fix her to my roller frame for as long as possible. I'll also have to pluck up the courage to start adding the beads to the dress, something I've never worked with before, so that should be fun.

Not quite sure how I've managed this but I have another free day today so hopefully I'll get some more stitching done this afternoon, although I might let Husband drag me down to the pool this afternoon. Before then I think I feel the need to go and bake some chocolate chip muffins and maybe do a tiny bit of ironing so as that I don't feel like I've done nothing but stitch all day.

Edited: Here they all are before Husband gets home and has one with his lunch.
Click on the link above for the menu

P.S. It's very quiet here today. Son's telly is down very low in his room (next door) as he has a hangover after his works Christmas Party last night. To be fair to him he very rarely drinks so Husband and I are finding it quite amusing. Does that make me a bad parent?

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

At Last Some Stitching

Over the last few weeks I have managed to do some work on Celtic Autumn. Each session has been quite short so it didn't seem worth posting pictures but when I looked back at the last picture I posted I realised I have actually made quite good progress with her.

Most of the stitching has been on the swirls on her dress, which means lots of short bits of stitching, so progress seems quite slow at times, but I'm still enjoying her. In fact I'm off to do some more work on her now as the housework is done, Husband is cooking tonight so I have the whole afternoon to stitch, what luxury!!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Christmas Preparations

There has been very little time over the last few weeks for any sewing, although I have made some progress with both Love Songs and Celtic Autumn. As you might expect my time has been taken up with Christmas stuff. Most of my shopping this year has been done over the Internet with a massive order to HMV, several orders to Amazon and others to the clothes shops Daughter's presents are coming from. I actually got away with only spending half a day in town shopping. Apart from one parcel, which is on its way from the US, everything has arrived safely. Last week our poor postman had to knock on the door every day because he had too many parcels to get through the letterbox easily!! In amongst those parcels were two for me, two small additions to my stash.

Some 28 count even weave and two threads that I need for Love Songs from Country Designs and a chart from Thread Bear. The linen was bought using my £5.00 voucher, which expires at the end of the month, so I don't feel too guilty about getting it.

I have been busy doing or planning all of my Christmas baking. The cake was made a couple of weeks ago, it's a Chocolate Fruit/Christmas cake based on a Nigella recipe. Her recipe uses prunes which I replace with mixed fruit as the thought of eating prunes fills me with horror. For years I made a traditional Christmas cake which would still be here at Easter but since I've made this one it's gone by New Year. You can't taste the chocolate and it tastes just like a Christmas cake but is just that bit lighter. You can find the recipe for the cake here.

I will be adding the marzipan this week and icing it earlier next week.

The Christmas puddings were also made last weekend, although the second one had to wait as I needed to order a part for my pressure cooker after it boiled dry when I made the first one!! I didn't turn the gas down low enough - oops. I did the same thing last year and it didn't effect the taste and the pudding looked moist enough when I but fresh baking paper and foil on it so I think I've got away with it. These are based on Delia's recipe and for years now I have always made two, the second gets eaten on Easter Sunday.

I love Christmas pudding and Christmas cake and even made them when I was a single parent and Son and Daughter didn't really eat them. I can't wait for my Christmas dinner. Or even better Boxing Day breakfast, toast and turkey dripping mmmmmmmmmm.

I'm just about at the stage where I can really start to look forward to Christmas and all the get-togethers that we have planned. The presents are all wrapped, the cards are written and posted and all the food for the Christmas fortnight is planned. I spent Saturday afternoon surrounded by recipe books planning the various meals and putting together my big Christmas shopping list which I will be doing on Friday with husband. Once that is done Christmas will officially start. I'm so far ahead that I've even given the oven its pre-Christmas clean and already washed all my crystal, a job that is normally done on Christmas Eve. I'm feeling very virtuous at the moment.

On Friday evening we will put up the tree, Saturday will see Husband and I doing our traditional pre-Christmas walk and on Sunday daughter returns from uni for the holidays. On Monday my parents are visiting along with an aunt and I'm planning a special meal, pork in fennel sauce (Jamie Oliver) with all the trimmings, Chestnut Cheesecake and Bakewell Tart (both Nigella). I've even been able to purchase some gold sugar stars to go on the Bakewell Tart from a new shop in town. On Boxing Day we will make a return visit to my mums where hopefully I'll get to meet up with one of my sisters and my brother. The following Sunday Husband's dad is joining us for dinner as he is spending Christmas Day with Husband's sister. So lots to look forward to and lots of baking to come.

Of course all of this organisation could come to nothing if we should win the lottery next weekend or even the jackpot (£500.00) at the pub quiz tonight as then I'll be out shopping for presents for all the relatives that aren't getting any this year due to Husband's lack of employment. Keep your fingers crossed for the jackpot at the quiz as nothing would make me happier this year than to have to do some last minute shopping.

Being so far ahead with Christmas I'm now hoping to catch up on some sewing so maybe I'll have pictures to post tomorrow. I had planned on doing some sewing yesterday but woke up with the most horrendous sore throat and earache which preceded to get worse throughout the day. By the end of the day I felt quite achy and this morning felt even worse but strangely have felt a lot better as the day has progressed, maybe it was some weird 24 hour thing. I hope so as I haven't really been visiting the gym or swimming pool recently, it was so cold last week that I couldn't drag myself out of bed to go and if I don't go in the morning I never seem to get round to it later in the day!! I really would like to get back into it before Christmas and all that eating starts.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Spiced Butter Cake

I've been waiting to try out this recipe for over a week now and have finally got around to it today. I should have been doing my Christmas baking but I forgot to add the list of ingredients to my shopping list last week so that will have to wait until this weekend.
This butter cake is so easy to make, that the most awkward bit is lining the cake tin.

The recipe comes from Donna Hay's book Modern Classics Book 2

125g /4 0z very soft butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour - sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 cup / 4 fl oz milk


Put everything in the bowl and mix it together until it is smooth. If like me you use an electric mixer start of slowly and then speed up until the mixture is nice and smooth.

Line an 8 inch cake tin with baking paper and cook at 150 C for 1 hour 5 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave in the tin for 5 minutes to cool and then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.
For a plain cake you can omit the mixed spice or indeed add any flavouring of your choice.

You can ice it but with Christmas just around the corner I'll leave it plain.

Next time I think I'll make it as a lemon flavoured cake and try it in a loaf tin instead of a round cake tin.