Friday, 30 December 2016

Happy Holidays

Hello! I hope your Christmas was a very happy one. We spent ours at my in-laws
and it was lovely, jolly and cosy. We ate lots, exchanged presents and enjoyed some
festive telly on the day. The girls played with their cousins and were excited with all
 the gifts Father Christmas had brought them. There was a moment of panic on
Christmas Eve when I realized I forgot to bring Lulu's main present. We were staying
over for a couple of nights and with the millions of things we had to take along with us,
it was inevitable some items would be left behind. Luckily, Granddad came up with
a clever plan. In the morning there was a letter from Father Christmas. Apparently,
he was already miles away when he saw that Lulu's present was still in his sack but,
as he was heading for Sheffield, he decided to drop it off at our house instead.
Lulu, bless her, believed it all and the gift disaster was averted. Phew! Of course,
she couldn't wait for us to get home after that. When we finally did on Boxing Day,
she couldn't get through our front door fast enough. She was about to burst with
excitement! Anyway, after we'd all settled down, we all went for a walk. It was
wonderful to be outdoors. After all the feasting and celebrating the day before,
it was much needed. As always, we're grateful for our family and feel blessed
 to be able to spend this most special time of the year with them.

The rest of this week has been equally full of excitement. We took the girls to London
and we've had three fantastic days there, showing them round and meeting up with
friends. Today, we've had friends over and we all went for a walk after lunch. That was
lovely. We're now looking forward to a quieter, gentler weekend at home. We don't
have much planned. Hopefully the weather will stay crisp, clear and bright and
we can welcome in the New Year with another beautiful walk in Derbyshire.

Have a great New Year's Eve, whatever your plans are. Let's hope 2017 will be
a better, healthier, kinder, more peaceful year for all of us.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Days Before Christmas

I love these last few days before Christmas. School has finished for the holidays,
we're just finishing up our Christmas preparations and we're doing fun things like
going to the cinema, roller skating with friends, or baking and making Christmassy
things at home. In between all the activities, there's time for pottering about, reading,
crochet, even a game of pick-up sticks with the girls. We're feeling more rested and
relaxed and really enjoying spending time together. It's what holidays are about
and it's great.

I love a bit of festive faffing, getting little corners around our house to look a bit more
Christmassy. I also couldn't resist some Christmas crafting with the girls. We all had
a go at cutting out paper snowflakes, even my husband joined in. Fifteen minutes with
paper and scissors and we had these. I think they're festive and just perfect for filling
up the space between the two envelopes left on our Advent calendar branch.

We also made these personalized clay gift tags using leftover clay from tree decorations
 we made last year. It was fun and easy to make and they can be used as decorations,
too.We hope everyone will like them and will put them up on the tree after they've
unwrapped their presents on Christmas Day.

Last Sunday we made chocolate oat treats. These always go down well in our house
and now that the girls are a little older, making them is more fun, quicker and
so much easier.

We also made mixed spice biscuits. This recipe is new to us. Actually a copy was sent
to us by one of my husband's aunts, along with a robin-shaped biscuit cutter. She
knows we like to bake together and, of course, we just had to try both cutter
and biscuits.

The biscuit cutter is lovely to use and the biscuits themselves are nice. We haven't
had time to decorate them but I don't think they really need them. They're a little
crunchy, with that same warmth and hint of spiciness you get in gingerbread biscuits.
I'm also pleased because we've had an unopened little bottle of mixed spice in our
kitchen cupboard for years and it's finally been used! We'll be making these again.

This was our walk in Derbyshire yesterday morning. It was all blue skies,
open spaces, fresh air. Just glorious. And so lovely to get away from all the festive
hustle and bustle, even for just a couple of hours. We went home feeling refreshed and
energised. I think we're all ready for Christmas now. I'm spending this afternoon
wrapping up meaty little parcels for the dumpling soup and the filling for spring rolls
for tomorrow's Noche Buena. We're celebrating it with my husband's parents this year
and we'll be at theirs till Boxing Day.

Thanks to everyone who stop by here - I always appreciate your visits and your
comments. I hope you're all having a wonderful time and wish you a beautiful,
healthy and peaceful Christmas. See you in the New Year!!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Crochet Pom Pom Scarf no.2

This is just a short little post today to show you the scarf I made for Lulu. It's similar
to her sister's with rows of treble stitches and blocks of colours. It's also the same mix
 of leftover Drops yarn - mostly cotton with a bit of merino and alpaca. But it's narrower
and a little bit shorter and, as per her request, it has two smaller pom poms on either
end. She's pleased with it and I am, too. There hasn't been much chance to use it yet -
the weather has been mostly mild here lately. But when it does get very cold again,
she'll have this to help keep her warm and toasty.

I am making slow progress with the baby blanket but I am hopeful that I can get it
finished on time. I just have to knuckle down at some point over the next few days
 and crochet for as long and as much as I can. Wish me luck!

Have a lovely weekend with your nearest and dearest.
See you soon!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Counting the Days

With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, our Advent calendar is starting
to look a bit sparse. Nearly half of the envelopes have been opened, the treats inside
long gone. It is exciting to be getting closer to the big day but also a little bit alarming
that the days, especially this Advent, seem to just whizz by. Maybe it will all slow down
a bit when school breaks up and the holidays start. We don't have much planned for
next week and I'm really looking forward to having quiet, easy days at home with the
girls.There might even be a chance of a lie-in in the mornings - I am counting the days!

We are getting our tree this Saturday. Putting it up and getting out all the decorations
will be a whole afternoon affair. I'll make sure I have a g&t ready at the end of it.
For now, though, the only festive decorations we have are these red dala horses and our
Advent calendar. I'm not sure if dala horses are Christmas things but their colours are
festive so I'm counting them in. They were gifts from my mother-in-law and the girls
and I really, really love the small ones with the wooden dolls. I might make tiny
Christmassy garlands for them. They are so sweet.

It was grey and rainy throughout the weekend then at around four o'clock
on Sunday we had these spectacular colours in the sky. We see lots of brilliant
sunsets but this was something else. Fireballs at sundown. Amazing.

Then it was back to grey and wet from the start of the week plus thick,
heavy fog in hilly areas around the city. This was the park near school on Monday
morning. A short walk down the path is a duck pond and a line of trees but we couldn't
see anything. It was quite spooky, really. It made me think of gothic novels and the
ghastly 10 Rillington Place. I'm sure glad I wasn't walking on my own that morning.

I wasn't going to make any presents this Christmas but last week I decided
I'll make a blanket for a friend's baby. With barely a couple of weeks to go,
it's not a very clever idea but it's only a small blanket, something for the car seat
or buggy. I should get it finished on time, hopefully. I've got fingers, toes
and everything crossed.

We made mince pies for the first time last weekend. We used large mince pie
cases, much bigger than regular-sized mince pies that Lulu laughed and called them
'giant star pies'. She refused to try any but the rest of us rather liked them so I'm going
to make some more but smaller this time. She might give them a tasting chance if
they're a little bit more dainty. And find them less funny.

Thanks for the lovely things you said about our Christmas cards. I hope you're
all keeping well. I'll be back next time with Lulu's finished scarf.

Have a lovely, restful and healthy week!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Snowmen Christmas Cards

The girls and I like to make our own Christmas cards. It is always great fun.
We made reindeer Christmas cards  back in 2014 and last year's had cute
 little red robins. For 2016 we have some merry-looking, fun loving snowmen.

We made the previous years' cards with finger prints and finger painting but to create
the round shapes for the snowmen's bodies, we decided to try using wine corks.
We dipped them in acrylic paint and used them like stamps. A smaller cork was for the
head, the bigger one for the body. They didn't make perfect circles but they were
 near enough and that was fine.

Once the paint have dried - we had to leave them overnight - it was time to draw
and decorate. This was the bit we enjoyed most. We took turns drawing faces and
carrot noses, and various accessories and headgear. We drew neck ties, bow ties,
scarves and necklaces; bobble hats, ear muffs, summer hats with flowers and
panama hats. To our delight, they're not all snow men - there are snow ladies, too!

To finish off, I used alphabet stamps with black and red ink. 

We are mighty pleased with these. Every snowman and snow lady look different
and they all have so much personality with their big smiles and cheeky grins. And this
  was a real team effort. I helped Lulu a bit but she did her fair share of decorating and
she drew the most flamboyant hats. Markie was happy to do everything by herself.
Both of them did a fantastic job.

We're looking forward to giving our cards to family as well as to friends and
teachers at school. As always, I love crafting and making with my girls and I love
that our card making is now becoming a little festive tradition in our family.
I wonder what funny little design we'll have in our Christmas cards next year!

I hope you're all well. Have a lovely weekend!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Our Advent Calendar

This is our Advent calendar this year, my own take on the rustic calendar
featured in last month's Mollie Makes. I've also seen similar calendars online,
some using little envelopes like ours, some with small gift-wrapped parcels,
some using muslin bags with stamped or stencilled numbers. I like ours very much.
It is a chocolate-filled calendar for the girls that's also a Christmas decoration.
I think it's suitably festive in a simple, un-sparkly way, a lovely starting point
to most of our Christmas preparations.

It was very easy and didn't take very long to make. I used the envelopes left
over from making last year's calendar, a red pen and number stencils, a hole punch,
bakers twine, a branch and bit of foliage. Once all envelopes were numbered and
 we've made star-shaped holes on each of them, they were filled with little treats.
Then it was on to tying and hanging them all up on this tree branch I picked up
on one of my walks in Carr Wood.

I added a sprig of holly and that finished it off - our Advent calendar for 2016 is finished!

The girls know the envelopes have chocolates but they don't know whether
they're in the shape of Father Christmas, coins or other ornaments, and their
excitement is the same everyday. I enjoy watching them; it all adds to my own
anticipation and enjoyment of the festive season.

How about you, how are your festive preparations going? I'll start writing cards today
 and wrap up parcels for friends who live abroad. We have two separate nativity plays
from the girls this week and we're really looking forward to them. Lulu is one of the
Wise Men in hers and Markie is Mary in year two's play. First time ever in my
husband's family and mine that someone's got one of the bigger roles and this year
we have two! We're certainly very proud and we are going to enjoy.

Have a lovely, cosy week. See you soon!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Winter Woollies

Hello and a lovely Tuesday to you. It's very cold here today. It was -2.5 C when
we were driving to school and even now at midday with clear skies and full
sunshine there is still frost on the ground. I think it's the coldest weather we've had
for this November - just the day for wearing my newly made winter wollies:
my Mollies Makes scarf and matching hat. I had them on earlier when I went for
my morning walk and I was comfortably cosy the whole time.

The pattern is in the magazine's November issue (number 72). I used the recommended
yarn for both hat and scarf which is Stylecraft Special Chunky. They are worked in
suzette stitch (1dc,1tr in each alternating stitch) to create this thick, lovely texture
which was what first drew me to this project. I really like this stitch;
I think it will make a gorgeous, plush, snuggly blanket.

I've made some changes, though, to both patterns. As you can see, the original
scarf tapers off on the last few rows with a different coloured yarn and there are
big pom poms on either ends. I decided to skip those rows and continue with
the same colour yarn and finished off with a row of suzette stitches and double
crochets in fuchsia. I think that's a bit more my style, a little more subtle, and
I'm pretty happy with that.

I decided to have a go at making the hat, too. I've never crocheted one before
but the pattern looked straightforward enough and actually it was. It's worked
in double strands of yarn so it's much chunkier and made up really quickly.
I finished it in one evening and was really chuffed that it fits!

Again, I changed the yarn colour and finished the edge with a round of double
crochets but I didn't skip the pom pom this time. It makes the hat, don't you think?
 I certainly couldn't leave it out. 

I am not fond of the winter season but I'll be a little bit more toasty and a little
less cold in the coming days and weeks, thanks to these chunky scarf and hat.
What I need now are mittens and wrist warmers to match. I have a lot of leftover
yarn for those but they will have to wait. I have to get cracking with our festive
preparations. We've already made our Christmas cards and the girls' advent
calendar is nearly ready. I'll share them here next time.

Have a great week. See you soon!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A Walk in the Woods

This was our walk in nearby Carr Wood last Sunday. It was a bit of fresh air and
exercise for us four and also a little bit of exploring. We live just a short walk away but
we haven't known or seen much of this area until recently. We usually go uphill towards
the playgrounds when we're with the girls or we drive to one of the local parks or
to Derbyshire. So it's been a lovely surprise to discover what's right on our doorstep,
 and even more when we read up about its history and heritage.

Carr Wood is an ancient woodland, one of many dotted all over Sheffield
that have been around since or before the 1600's. Meers Brook, which you can see
in the bottom photo, flows through part of it and once formed the boundary
between two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. It later formed part of the county boundary
between Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Of course, that has all changed now but it's all
very good and interesting to know. And so we are going to make up for our ignorance
and years of neglect and lack of appreciation with regular walks along its many
well trodden paths from now on. There are so much more to see and discover,
mushrooms and fallen logs to investigate, leaves to pick up and play with, things
to poke and inspect, games to play. Us grown ups fancy giving the Round Walk a go,
or even just a section of it. The girls reckon Meers Brook will be all right to paddle in
at summertime. Well, the only way they will find out is to get their feet wet and
come summer, they'll have the chance to know whether that's true or not.
How about you, do you like to go for walks, too? And where do you like to go?
I'd love to know.

Thanks for your lovely comments on all my latest projects. I have just finished
making a scarf and a hat. I'll show you next time. Till then, take care and
have a good rest of the week!