Friday 30 December 2011

The 2011 collection of photo mosaics/samplers (with a little how-to).

I started this on impulse late last night and ended up not going to bed until the wee small hours. It's the first time I've done a year in pictures round-up and I found it to be time consuming and rather addictive but I greatly enjoyed my trip down memory lane and the results provide a wonderful snapshot of the year.













January:- I crocheted two shawls! The beginning of an addiction. Part of our bedroom was actually tidy enough for a photo of it to be included in a blog post

February:- Another crochet shawl, and my first (and only) crocheted cardigan. I found a good snowdrop spot, I'll be back to visit it in a few weeks.

March:- Some late snow. A fancy cake -I placed a stencil (an old decorating mag freebie) over the cake before dusting with icing sugar. I joined in with the Japanese Flower Shawl mania.

April:- An unusually gorgeously sunny, warm and colourful month. We had icecream on the beach. I finally finished my African flower crochet blanket, it took 11 months altogether.

May:- We had a lots of rain in May 2011. However, there were good days too as these photos show. It's still my favourite month, so green and fresh and full of promise.

June:- Daisies, elderflower champagne, the agricultural show, birthdays. Also a special quilt was completed - a joint effort with friends.

July:- We went on holiday, it was beautiful. I recommend you take the Road to The Isles if you ever get the chance (and good luck with the weather!).

August:- I madly started a hexagon quilt. I madly finished my second crochet blanket, I madly started and finished a crescent moon shawl. I wonder what happened to the housework in August!

September:- It seems I couldn't live without another blanket on the go. Number 3 was begun.

October:- We took a short holiday to gorgeous Robin Hoods Bay. Later, once back home, some Halloween crafting. Wild geese, so evocative of October.

November:- A parliament of felt owls. Beautiful Autumn colours. The lavender mouse survives the addition of a cat to the household.

December:- Mincemeat and mince pies. There are still many left. I'm not fed up of them, yet. Snow, gone before Christmas. I finish the year as I began, with yet another crocheted shawl - I've started giving them away.

I hope you enjoyed this little meander through 2011. I'll take a better look at the ones other bloggers have created now I know how long it takes! I'm a little fussy with my photos though, here's how I do mine...

1. I look at the thumbnail images of my photos for each month and pick the best nine - ones which have a strong feature which stands out in a small image size and which would fit a square size frame.
2. I crop the selected photos so that they are square (I use microsoft photo editor)
3. I upload the photos to flickr. I create a set for each month with nine photos.
4. I use BigHugeLabs (free!) to create the mosaics. I set the mosaic size to be 3x3 and the image source to be the relevant flickr photoset. I do this for each month.
5. I eventually go to bed far too late and feeling too cold after sitting in an unheated room for several hours at the computer in the middle of winter, which means it takes me even longer to fall asleep. Today I feel a little tired!

Here's to many more colourful days to photograph in 2012. Happy New Year to you when it comes!

Thursday 29 December 2011

On The Fifth Day Of Christmas...

Happy Christmas!

Stockings have been hung, filled and emptied. Christmas dinner was devoured and it was delicious. Instead of turkey we had a corn-fed-happy-pampered-chicken. To accompany it there was pancetta and lemon ciabbatta stuffing, pork stuffing balls, lincolnshire chipolatas, streaky bacon rolls, sprouts tossed with bacon and honey, roast potatoes, plain carrots and bread sauce (always packet). Just the four of us. Left overs are lasting well...

On boxing day we had 23 altogether - it was our turn to host my husband's family annual get-together. Everone brings something to eat and I wish I'd taken photos of the food. This year it seemed to be the year of the dessert. From my husband's youngest sister there was (all homemade) lemon meringue pie, passion fruit cheese cake and sticky toffee pudding. I made banoffi pie and key lime pie and hubby made brandy snaps. We were stuffed.

Next Sunday we do almost all of it again when we see my family on New Years Day for another present swap and roast dinner.

(The stuffing recipes were from the Good Food Christmas magazine.)

We've not spent all our time eating. A little family bike ride occurred on Tuesday morning. Before the stormy weather started again.

Shades of grey. A good time of year for bird and tree silhouettes. Graffitti and cycling jackets add a splash of colour.

And now... hubby is back at work. The children are being pretty good considering we're stuck indoors much of the time. I wouldn't say it's idyllic, when they argue and squabble it can drive me nuts, but we forget about these things (and the number of times I've cleaned the bathroom floor after toilet incidents!) and remember the fun times. We're particularly enjoying the new lego sets and the marble run N got for Christmas.

I just wish for a little less wind and less rain (and some sunshine would be lovely!)

Tonight I'm looking forward to the final episode of Great Expectations (anyone else been watching it?) and some more holiday crochet. MollyTheCat likes to play with the wool - a little, but not enough to be a nuisance. Which is good!

Friday 23 December 2011

The Best Mince Pie Pastry Recipe Ever (or so I think!) And Some Other Christmassy Things...

Here we have... third Eva's shawl. I managed to finish it in good time for posting. I really like the grey now it's done though it wasn't terribly interesting during the making stage.

The (rather lovely and also free!) pattern is here. You can buy Drops Delight yarn here (though now Drops is in the process of being discontinued from this supplier).

As to the rest of Christmas, I don't think I'm as organised as I was last year but I think we'll be OK. Everything that needs bought has been bought which is always good. I managed a few makes (presents, decorations, baking), not as many as I'd have liked but enough. However, the house is a tip and I'll need to try and sort that tonight and tomorrow morning.

I made our usual Christmas cake - Nigella's chocolate fruit cake. The recipe is in her Feast and Christmas books, and I have found it on line in the past.

The little matchbox nativity is back in front of the clock on the mantlepiece...

...which is looking very festive.

Mince pies. This is how they look when you drop the camera in amongst them while trying to photograph them!

I noticed from my blog last year that I wasn't planning to bother making them again. However, one of my brothers and I had a mince pie contest last Christmas and his tasted delicious, far better than the ones I'd made last year and better than shop bought too. His secret - our Mum's mince pie pastry recipe. It has a small amount of sugar in it which I think makes a difference. Here it is for you:-

Mince Pie Pastry

6 oz marg / butter
2 oz caster sugar
9 oz plain flour
1 egg yolk

Cream sugar & fat. Add egg yolk. Add flour gradually while mixing.
Roll 1/4 " thick
Make up pies
Bake @ 400F / 200C/ Gas mark 6 for approx 10 mins (this leaves them pale for later reheating).

For this number of pies I used a double batch of pastry.

I still had some mincemeat left over, so I just added it to a batch of muffin mixture to make mincemeat muffins.

These dangling snowflakes are my favourite Christmas decoration.

I've made some more since taking this photo (the snow's gone now too). I've seen far more impressive snowflake curtains on flickr but I'll add to our collection for next year. I love how they twirl gently around (perhaps you need a draughty house for this particular effect). I am rather fussy about one aspect of paper snowflakes though - they must have six points as per real snowflakes. Folding your paper circle in half, folding this half by three, then folding in half again before cutting does the trick. Please, no more eight pointed snowflakes!

Fabulous shadows are cast by a Christmas cactus plant on a sunny day.

Hmmm, not seen a bird like that before.

The milk bottles have their Christmas tops on.

I eventually got round to taking the holly inside. There are still berries on the tree, the birds are very late to eat them this year.

Today I made more gingerbread biscuit with some new cutters. I couldn't resist creating this little woodland scene.

My helpers then decorate them before they are baked. I had expected the pack of mini smarties to last the whole batch of dough, I obviously underestimated the decorating density deemed necessary. We had to switch to currants half way through, which actually taste better anyway.

This will probably be my last post before Christmas though I will still be logging in to read other blogs. I hope you all have a lovely time. Good health & good cheer!

Friday 16 December 2011

Getting Festive...

Phew, just had a busy few weeks what with Christmas Fairs and playing in end of season concerts. However, I have managed to fulfill my Pay-It-Forward obligations at last - a big thank you to Suzy @ Rustic Vintage Country, Jacquie @ BunnyMummy and Vicki @ VintageVicki who all volunteered to be my PIF recipients.

The parcels have been posted, I can't show you what's in them though as they've not all been delivered yet.

Now that that's out the way(!) I've been getting on with a few more Christmas preparations. All rather haphazard so far - decorations gradually appearing, rooms (very) gradually being tidied.

The tree is up. For the first time we have gone for a fake tree. Much less hassle. No lovely smell. The "needles" are staying put. Not as pretty. It'll go back in it's box for next year instead of lying round the garden till June. Too small.

I had fun with my camera after reading this post at BunnyMummy. The photo above was achived by waving the camera around while taking a shot on the firework setting. One of many.
This seemed like a good idea. I started crocheting an Eva's shawl in lovely Drops Delight wool. It's for a Christmas present and has to be ready in time for posting. It uses three balls of wool - that's nearly 600 yards of yarn. What was I thinking! Since taking the above photo I'm now about 2/3 of the way through, my left hand is getting sore, but I think I'll make it in time.

We've been enjoying the school and nursery Christmas shows. This year hubby has taken holidays from work to come along and see them too. Yesterday was the school show. It was a lovely sunny winter's day (such a nice change from the very wet windy stormy weather we've been having for the past few weeks - even to the extent of the school being closed for a day due to high winds, something I've never known happen before).

The boys spend some time cleaning bikes together before the show. The show itself was excellent, A was a dancing cow and did a great job!

I decided it was time to pick some holly for the house.

The birds are just starting to eat the berries, usually there are none left on the tree by Christmas.

I looked out my cookbooks for some Christmas baking. From Feast I intend to make the chocolate fruit cake for our Christmas cake, as I've done for the last two years, it's yummy and we prefer it to a more traditional Christmas cake. From Bake I'll be making more gingerbread biscuits. The other two books I was using for mincemeat reference. I had thought this year that I would just buy mine pies rather than make them. However, while at Morrisons I noticed that a pack of six rather unappealing looking pies cost £2 - expensive I thought, I'll buy a jar of mincemeat and make my own. Next I look at the mincemeat, again, it doesn't really look appealing, and on checking the ingredients it would appear to be about 50% sugar - way too high. So...

...I now have a big bowl of this maturing.

The good housekeeping recipe recomends leaving it in the bowl for 2 days then putting in jars and make no mention of the weeks of maturing other recips seem to require, so that'll do for me.

I have to say that in the past I've very much liked the Co-op Truly Irresistible brand of mince pies, definitely my favourite shop bought option.

This morning it was the nursery show. N was a star, one of about 8. He didn't sing any of the songs as he only wanted to sing Robot Robot Robot - a made up song which, unsurprisingly, wasn't part of the show. Still, he sat well, though did look rather bored, and yawned a lot.

Hubby and I had planned to go on a bike ride as he was to be in nursery all day, but this morning we woke to snow. Most unexpected - I love a snowy surprise on opening the bedroom curtains in the morning (so long as I'm not needing to take the car anywhere though).

I took another visit up to the holly tree for a snowy holly berry photo.

Snow on the whirlygig wires.

So instead of a bike ride, hubby and I went for a lovely snowy walk.

Up out the village past fields and trees.

I like how each fence post has a little hat of snow.

The tree at the corner. I have photos of this tree for all types of weather and seasons, but until today, I didn't have one of it with snow.

Under the troll bridge.

Snowy hogweed and straw bales.

Birds on wires and a straw bale.

Trees and straw bales.

Lines in the snow (no straw bales)

If you look closely there's a straw bale between the fence posts!

A lovely walk of about 4-5 miles. It felt like a good old Christmas day walk even though we didn't have bellies full of turkey and weren't returning home to relax on the sofa with a Bond film and Christmas sweeties.

Ahhh, home. Just wish it was a little better insulated!

After school we went sledging in the dark. It ended in tears as it often does - N didn't like going too fast on the sledge and needs better gloves. A, though, had a great time.

Lastly, an update on our orchestra's appearance with the BBCSSO a few weekends ago -it was a fantastic morning, you can hear the results here.


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