Monday 30 November 2009

Easy to Make Festive Tin Tealight Holders.

Ta Da!
Well, this is what I've been eating up my mushy peas for.

I got the idea for the design from this photo taken from a Christmas magazine...
...and the method from this book, plus I've also seen a version in this book.

It's very easy...
1. Collect 4 tins the same size (I used mushy pea tins as I like mushy peas! I also like the fact they're narrower than standard sized tins)
2. Remove the labels. Fill each tin with water and pop them in the freezer till frozen. The frozen water inside the tin maintains its rigidity while you...
3. ...Use a hammer and a large nail/screw to hammer holes into the tin. I drew the pattern on first with a non-permanent pen. I aslo laid the tin on a towel to stop it rolling around while I was working.

The first time I made a tin tealight holder was just before Valentine's day, so I did a heart design (sorry, don't have a photo handy) and found that varying the size of the hole through the design gave a nice effect. You could also turn your tealight holder into a lantern by making two diametrically oppostite holes near the top rim and attaching a looped wire handle.

For something so simple they're quite effective though perhaps a little "rustic" compared to the manufactured version. The room does need to be quite dark for the candle light to show clearly. I think they'd look nice placed outside, perhaps weighed down with some pebbles.

Changing subject completely... we had such lovely blue skies today, a pleasant change from the rescent soggy greyness.

It was cold and frosty all day.

A made a portrait of me using pebbles, so now you know what I look like!

I've quite a busy week coming up. A's nursery fair is on Saturday so I have homebaking (including tablet - will try and remember to take photos!) to make, plus some decorations to sew for selling at one of the stalls. I'm also playing in this concert on Friday so we'll be doing Christmas carols at rehearsal tomorrow night. I think this is the fifith year our orchestra will have been doing this show. It is usually an enjoyable night though I wish the concert was nearer Christmas - it always feels too early for me. Our proper concert is on Sat 12th if anyone fancies a riveting night out!

Sunday 29 November 2009

Saturday Morning Bike Ride

It was a little on the cold side for a cycle ride yesterday morning so I resorted to wearing two pair of leggings (plus several tops!) - drastic measures indeed! Next time I'll also be wearing two pairs of socks.

The weather initially looked promising though. After climbing up my usual hill out the village I was above the low lying mist and it appeared as though the sun was managing to rise above it...

... but the mist won and soon I was surrounded by cold damp cloudy air.

Unusually for me, I'd set off with no route in mind. I just headed out my favourite road till I reached the junction where I needed to decide which way to go.

This was actually a little detour up a farm road to admire the red gate and post you can see on the right of the above photo. Also in the background you can see my favourite wooded mounds.

I made up my mind! After zooming down the lovely long hill, I turn off the main road (a B road so still not too busy though the car's can be a little fast) and head along one of the back roads lying between Kilmacolm and Port Glasgow. I'm out of the mist by this point although the sun still refuses to break through the clouds.

I then turn up a little road I've never been along before. I see a little robin (click to expand the photo above and you should be able to see him too) and catch a glimpse of a weasel or stoat.

The term "road" is a little grand for what is actually a dirt track and a very muddy and wet one at that. On the ascent it's not too bad, but the descent is a little slippy and there are quite a few large stones poking up through the mud. I'd never make it as a mountain biker - I'm such a woose! The brakes are on hard (and they're extremely squeaky so I'm not exactly passing by un-noticed!) and I'm even using my feet to slow me down, though not where it's too muddy - I don't want to get my shoes dirty! Having said all that, it's a beautiful road, very peaceful and I'll be back (in drier weather!)

Picturesque farm houses dot the landscape.

I spot some Highland cows just before I take the road to Quarrier's Village then home by the cycle path where I manage to make a dozy pedestrian literally jump a foot into the air when I gently (but very noisily) brake behind him. The chief mechanic has been informed of the brake situation. I scared away much of the wildlife with the racket I was making - I passed within 10 feet of a rather large bird of prey but was unable to stop for a closer look due to the noise my brakes would have made.

Back home, when I make my way up to the shed to put away my bike I notice the birds are now feasting on the holly berries.

It's time to take a few berried branches for the house before the tree is stripped bare.

And this morning I spot two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. Alright, it's just a pair of collared doves in the cherry tree but it was enough to start me off!

Today was a lovely sunny though cold day...
...we had a rather nice sunset and I also managed to finish making my Christmas items involving mushy pea consumption and the freezer, I'll post the results tomorrow...

Friday 27 November 2009

I don't mind November...

I am aware that November is not a popular month with many. However, though I wouldn't wish for a year full of Novembers I don't think it is the most unbearable of months (I award that accolade to January & February!).

I never have any high expectations of November and therefore am never disappointed. I expect it to be cold, wet and dark, but Christmas is on it's way! I do like Christmas, and perhaps enjoy the preparations more than the actual day itself. In November Christmas is sufficiently distant that I can delude myself into thinking that this is the year I will be organised, thus it remains something to look forward to.

November is still a colourful month, the grass still looks green and some feisty flowers remain, even in our sodden, waterlogged garden...

... daisies, fuschias, geraniums, roses and amongst them all a last little ladybird.

I must admit that the November light is not good for indoor photography as the shockingly bad photos to follow show. It's rather a random collection, we've not really been up to much. For example, a recent highlight is the purchase (finally!) of a vinyl tablecloth. I've been humming and hawing over which design to buy and in the meantime the table has been getting more and more scratched and worn.


After...I think I was probably influenced by this post in my tablecloth choice though I've gone for the matt version. Hmmm, must work on improving my photograph styling!

Here is a photo of the gingerbread from the recent cake night, just to prove it did indeed exist. The recipe is from Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess. It uses fresh ginger and produces a deliciously moist, rich cake. I make 2 x 2lb loaves from the recipe - I did previously make the one huge tray as recommended (to be cut into squares) but have found that the two loaves suit better - one for icing & eating and one for freezing for later.

While on the subject of the cake night, the following is the recipe I used for the chocolate fudge cake.

Overall, I would say I prefer it to the Nigella recipe I used to use (so Nigella doesn't come out tops all the time!) It is very rich and I think it is best served with cream. We also heated our slices in the microwave for 10 seconds. As it's from a Nestle promotional leaflet I think it's acceptable to post the recipe, it's all geared towards getting you to buy Nestle Caramel after all.

I have been making more charity shop dashes with N (my impatient shopping companion). Still no vintage finds, but some excellent book bargains for A:-

I didn't realise till I got home that the Dear Mermaid book is illustrated by Vanessa Cabban, well known in blogging circles for asking "Do You Mind If I Knit?" The illustrations are beautiful and the book is in excellent condition so a great find.

And at this stage I've run out of photographs, there are dishes waiting, and I must get on with some Christmas decorations I'm making to sell at A's Nursery Christmas Fair, not to mention the frozen things referred to in this post. More photos to follow...

Monday 23 November 2009

Cake Night with Winter Pimms (and my mosaic blogger avatar)

On Saturday evening I had some friends round to eat cake. Just before my cake party guests arrived I took some photos of the living room. I've been trying to tidy the house for about three weeks in preparation for the evening and it was the tidiest it's been since N was born, It hasn't lasted long though and is already back to its usual slightly shambolic (but homely!) state.

So here's what the living room is like dressed up for a November evening's entertainment...

No, it's not going to make it into Ideal Home or whatever, but we like it!

Taking a closer look at the little picture above our big old telly...

... you can see the mosaic I use for my blog avatar.

I made it just after A was born (I seemed to have more time back then) and took some photos of it's progress. It's made using the indirect method so the image is first drawn in reverse on brown paper.

The tiles are cut and glued down with wallpaper paste (or some other water soluble glue).

The photo above shows the mosaic after the cutting has been completed but the tiles are still attached to the brown paper. I think it looked best at this stage - this is the actual photo I cropped for my avatar, hence why it's the opposite way round to the finished mosaic.

It's then placed on a plywood base (I'd framed mine) on a bed of adhesive (I also pre-grouted it and did a little buttering where I'd used some rather thin tiles) then the brown paper is soaked off and the mosaic is grouted and cleaned once the grout is set.

Ta da! Next time I'd make the tiles more closely spaced as I think the grout lines are too wide and have the effect of fracturing the design.

Anyway, back to the cake night...

I made Winter Pimms as described on the bottle (1 part Pimms #3 to 3 parts apple juice, add slices of apple & orange, heat for about 10 mines, serve) and it was delicious - much nicer than mulled wine for a warm alcoholic winter drink. I'll be buying another bottle for Christmas.

The cakes weren't bad either. There were 10 of us, so fortunately not much was left. I have such a sweet tooth I find it hard to stop eating cakes!

The next morning we went on a restorative family cycle to Castle Semple Loch.

The weather wasn't too bad on the way there...

... but as this view from the cafe window shows, it started raining and we got a little wet on the way home. Fortunately there was a little bit of cake left to look forward to!

Friday 20 November 2009

I've been shopping and baking again...

Earlier this week we went to Ikea. Although we are fortunate to have lots of lovely countryside on our doorstep we're also not far from Glasgow and it's many amenities so we have the best of both worlds (just a shame about the weather!). Ikea is only about 10 miles away.

I've had my eye on the birdie tray having spotted it in various other blogs but it was out of stock last time I visited Ikea. This week I was in luck.

A few other things managed to find their way into the trolley; napkins and storage boxes and an orange throw to brighten up the purple sofa (hmmm, sounds hideous). I also bought a set of cups and saucers for serving warmed Winter Pimms. I'm having friends round on Saturday night and the plan is to eat lots of cakes and try out some Pimms #3, the brandy based version (as opposed to the gin based Pimms #1). It dounds delicious; we'll be having it mixed with apple juice and warmed and served with apple slices. Apparently it also tastes good cold with ginger beer too, mmm!

I've been busy baking in preparation. Last night I made a chocolate fudge cake...'s a new recipe for me and uses a tin of Nestles caramel (dolce latte) so it will be interesting to see what it tastess like. Normally I make the fudge cake from Nigella Bites but this one seemed more straightforward though not as generous with the icing quantities.

I've also made some tablet. A few pieces of this have already been eaten, if you've got a sweet tooth it's quite irresistable until you reach the stage where you start to feel rather ill!

I have promised to post the recipe I use for tablet and will do so soon. I didn't have my camera handy when I was making it and it's useful to see what it looks like in the pan when it's ready. I'll be making at least two more lots before Christmas (not all for us to eat I hasten to add!)

In addition, I've made some iced ginger bread and chocolate caramel shortbread. Both are Nigella recipes and I've made them before so I know I like them. The chocolate caramel shortbread is safely stored in the freezer and the gingerbread is maturing nicely in a sealed food bag on the dresser! I made the icing a little to runny so it's not very photogenic, this is as close as you'll see it for now!

I picked up my TraidCraft order from the nursery when I dropped A off this afternoon. It came in this attractive bag made from newspaper.

Inside are more Chirtmas gifts...

... though I will be keeping at least one of the paper garland sets for myself.

Prior to nursery I actually took some things to the charity shop. I am trying to de-clutter at the moment, although I did buy a few more things while I was there; a green woolly jumper for felting, two books, a little wicker shelf and a jug. One of the books is by Hilary Mantel who I've been interested to read since she won the Booker prize, I confess to never having heard of her before then. The shelf is alreday up on the wall in the kitchen and the jug is already in the new pile of things to take to the charity shop - I decided I didn't really like it after all but fortunately it was only 75p

I'm rather nosey when it comes to other people's houses and like it when I get a peek of other bloggers' homes. Our home is too untidy for me to feel comfortable to show too much of it at the moment. However, half of the bedroom didn't look too bad...

Can you see the little face in the doorway...

...up they get for a bounce!

And finally... some sweet peas rescued from the garden before yesterday's storms. It's rather nice to have sweet peas in November!

By the way, I apologise for the quality of the photos, the lighting at this time of year being a little gloomy. I bought the camera I have because it was supposed to take good photos in poor lighting situations, I'm not convinced.

Sunday 15 November 2009

Sunday Morning Bike Ride

No bike ride yesterday as we were away visiting family. The weather was awful anyway with torrential rain and bad flooding on the roads, not at all pleasant.

Today, however, was much better - dry with the odd patch of sunlight.

I'm off up the hill on the other side of the valley this morning. The climb is longer than it seemed last time I took this route. Too many packets of these recently I think (umm, three last week alone!)

Can you see the rainbow.

The last time I came through this avenue of trees they were still in leaf and it was dark and shady passing underneath. I knew once the leaves were away that they'd make quite an impressive photo.

Some evidence of the recent rain.

Just round the corner after the cottage I pass two walkers, one of them is wearing shorts and quite short ones at that! It's November, we're up on top of a hill, a cold wind is blowing, he's plain daft!

It's quite bleak up here but very peaceful (aside from the odd short clad walker). Once the big climb to get here is out the way it's fairly flat. I take my time and admire the November landscapes while gently freewheeling along.

It does start to feel quite cold and I'm glad I've put several layers on and have remembered my gloves which I eventually have to put on. My toes don't warm up though till I get home again.

Look, a little patch of blue sky!

Some colour still in the hedgerows.

I have to wait to let this flock of sheep pass, quite exciting(!)

A last patch of colour. I take the long way home as I like to finish up on a downhill!


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