Friday, 30 November 2012

November Happy Things

Using up scraps of Yarn

Seeing the most beautiful Christmas Trees at Blackthorpe Barn

Making a enormous Toad in the Hole

Late night shopping with my husband - holding hands and 
drinking hot chocolate as we wandered around 

 Norwich Christmas Lights switch on

Preparing for Christmas

Going to the theatre again

Date, Sultana and Prune Flapjack

Hail - I really do love it

Fireworks and Sparklers!

A trip to Margate for shopping and art viewing at the Turner Gallery

Yummy buttery sugary Cherry Vanilla and Coffee Fudge

Monday, 26 November 2012

Christmas Stockings

I have been preparing for Christmas and beavering away in the evenings making something for each of my loved ones by hand. I have a real thing for Christmas Stockings - they evoke such strong childhood memories. Hearing the rustle of the stocking and the presents being placed at the foot of your bed by Santa. Waiting for Santa to visit the next house before creeping oh so silently to the end of your bed to feel the Stocking without making a sound, but invariably making a lot of noise! Scrambling back under the Duvet and squishing your eyes shut to hope for daylight to come soon. So this year, for my Cousins I have been making Felt Stockings, jazzed up with some Ribbon, Sequins, Buttons and Pom Poms. I love the clashing colours, it makes me smile - who knew how much I would love Hot Pink and Orange together quite so much. 

I plan to fill them with Chocolate Coins, Sugar Mice, Candy Canes and some Chocolates. All things naughty and nice! It makes quite a cheap present as I used stuff in my crafty stash and I've spent only about £10 on the sugary treats to fill all five of the sparkly Stockings. We might all be grown up now, but I still love a Christmas Stocking and hope my Cousins will too.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The best night of November

This evening is my favourite in November, the Christmas Lights switch on. After work I met my Husband and we ventured through the City to the lovely Department Store Jarrolds. We spent some time wandering around their Christmas decorations, choosing a few beauties to come home with us. By this time our friends had made it into the City and we went to get some Hot Chocolate to keep us warm. We then made our way  up to City Hall to watch the entertainment before the big event. 

This year the proceedings were hosted by David Webster from BBC Radio Norfolk and we also got to see the Chermond Gymnastics Club, The Norwich Ukulele Society and Demi Semitone and Swank’s Frolicking Fairies. There was Carols a plenty and giant snowballs thrown into the crowd. There was singing and dancing amongst the 5000 strong crowd. The lights were switched on by silver medal winner at the London Paralympics for Archery, Mel Clarke. There were lots of Fireworks. Oh how I love these! Then Norwich glowed in it's Christmas finest. Plus there was the Confetti Canons which always make me feel like a little kid trying to grab the ornate paper shapes from the air. We wandered around the city marvelling in the festive delight and generally prettiness of the sparkling lights. I particularly liked the snow machine near the Cath K shop - it was the warmest 'snow' I had ever experienced!  But boy did it look magical. Seriously, it really is the best night of November.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Adventures in Soap Making

About six months ago we tried making Soap. It was a complete and utter disaster. After 24 hours the mixture separated and we had a hard bit at the bottom and then a very oily bit at the top. That mixture stayed there for weeks, with a little hope it might do something, but it didn't. After lots of reading, watching videos and doing the maths, we thought we'd give it another go.

Out came the ingredients and after a lot of careful measuring we were off in our second attempt. Lots of golden yellow oil and the lye water that we scorchingly hot!

Then there was the mixing. Lots and lots of mixing. I started it off by hand for half an hour and then got the big guns of the electric mixture out for another twenty. Fortunately we this time the colour change, it thickened and then the elusive trace happened. Hurrah - we might have just made it work this time!

Then there was the fun bit of added the sweetly scented oils. We made four different scents - Sweet Orange, Cinnamon, Lavender and English Rose. The kitchen smelled a treat! We sprinkled pretty things on top, Blue Lavender, Rose Petals, Cinnamon and Orange Zest. We then decanted the Soap into the containers, clamped on the lids and hid underneath a blanket for twenty four hours. I was very good and didn't peak once, honest! After the time had elapsed, we released the Soap from their containers and it had worked! We had Soap. We left it to cure for 4 weeks before chopping it up into bars.

We're going to give this away as Christmas presents this year so wrapped them individually in baking paper and Twine. I can't wait to give these beauties away - they smell divine and the bar I have used so far is quite alright!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Christmas Decorations

I love love love Christmas decorations. I will confess that even in October I am waiting for the shops to put up their festive displays. There cannot be a decent Christmas decoration shop within 50 miles that I haven't got on my radar! If there is please tell me!!! Anyway, some people collect Stamps, others Comic Books or Autographs - mine is Christmas decorations. So I thought I'd share some of my favourite local haunts for the best festive shopping around.

Kerri's Farmhouse Pine
The Old Railway Station, Reepham, NR10 4LJ

Kerri's offer an exceptionally eclectic and beautiful range of Christmas decorations; stuff that I've never seen anywhere else.  From jewelled coloured glass owls to Mallard Ducks and traditional glass baubles to Toy Soldiers. I never fail to get excited when we visit and I carefully fill my basket with shiny pretty things. I love the uniqueness of their items, I can image each one is chosen with care. We often go back a few times running up to Christmas just for the sheer love of it.

Blackthorpe Barn
Rougham, Bury St Edmunds, IP30 9HZ

This is the first year that we went to Blackthorpe Barn. I just happen across it on the Internet one weekend and within the hour we were on our way there. Boy was it worth the trip - it was amazing! It has a serious amount of decorations. So many types, colours, shapes, textures. I filled a whole basket with lovely things including a Willow Reindeer and Stars. They also had the most vibrantly green Christmas trees which looked amazing against the black painted wood of the outside of the barn. We will definitely  be making Blackthorpe Barn part of our annual Christmas decoration shopping.

Elveden Estate*
London Road, Elevden, IP24 3TQ

Back to an annual haunt are the shops are the Eleveden Estate. They are great for their Christmas Decorations but also for a little gift shopping. The quality of their products is amazing. It always feels a bit of a treat going to the Elevden Estate and you can pick up something yummy in their food hall. Their decorations are a little more on the tradition side and they are wonderfully displayed. It feels really cosy inside and I love that they display their goods as you would at home. So very pretty.

Red House Christmas Barn*
IP17 1NG

My Sister took me to Red House Christmas Barn for the first time last year and boy it was a treat. So beautifully put together with lots of display trees. They also have two Reindeer which was amazing - I had never seen one before! It was a bit like walking into Narnia. They were served Mulled Apple Juice which was exceptionally tasty. We are going back this weekend and I can't wait.

*Photos from their website

Thursday, 8 November 2012


Now autumn is in full swing, my mind turns to Christmas and making something colourful pretty and sparkly. Sometimes you just need a little colour! Just getting these four boxes out makes me happy. I can quite happily while away a pleasant evening sewing buttons, sequins and pom poms (don't you just love that word?!) onto Fabric or Felt. I'm currently make Christmas Stockings to fill with sweet treats to give as gifts. I am aiming to make everyone I love something I've made this year - so these little boxes of pretties will get a hammering, but that means some shopping in the new year! It's a bit of a win win.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Halloween and Fireworks

We had a rather lovely weekend. We decided to combine both Halloween and Fireworks together in one lovely gathering. Our friends had decorated their house in some of the cutest Halloween decorations; Pumpkins, Cob Webs, Bats hanging from the ceilings, Ghosts the lot. They had changed their light bulbs to green ones so it did look rather spooky. We ate Autumn worthy comforting food like slow cooked Chilli, Soup and Jacket Potatoes. Then then was S'mores Cake - oh my, it was so delicious! Chocolate and Marshmallow - how can you go wrong?! I think I will be making this forever more on Bonfire night.

There was a little fancy dress too. There was a Zombie, a Witch, a Fox and a Rabbit. I adore the effort my friends go to with Fancy dress. They always do such a fantastic job! Plus it makes me giggle seeing us all dressed up.

My Husband and I went as Morticia and Gomez Addams - it's really weird looking at this photo as we just quite simply don't look like ourselves! We even freaked my Sister out a little when she saw us.

Then there were the Fireworks! They were amazing, there were so many and we had Sparklers too. We saved this big one until last and we really had saved the best to last. We finished off the evening with a scary movie which was interspersed with many shrieks! It was such a lovely, silly, yummy and fun evening.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Apple Season

I love Apples, but what I love more is visiting the Orchard, Perry Court Farm, near my Mum's house in the beautiful Stour Valley. I love September and October for the sheer abundance of Apples - knowing I can stock up on natures finest and put them to all sorts of uses. So far this year I have made lots of Apple based cakes such as the perennial favourite Apple and Cinnamon and Apple Muffins but I have also thrown Apple into other Muffins like a Gingerbread Muffin. We've also made lots of warming crumbles. But soon it will be the turn of Chutneys and Sauces so I can have the Apple goodness in the depth of Winter. 

They've been growing fruit and vegetables in a responsible way for three generations and they really do produce good food. None of this perfect fruit malarkey, just as it should be - all different shapes and sizes. I love this Orchard for their sheer variety of Apples. Our favourites so far have been Katy, Windsor and Lord Lambourne. They have a tasting table so you can try before you buy, selecting the tastiest Apple variety. They also do exceptionally reasonably priced Apple Juice, just perfect cold or warmed with some Orange zest and a Cinnamon Stick.

What I wasn't expecting on our last visit to the Orchard was these little fellows...They were quite happily sat in the Car Park and it was quite amusing seeing the Cars parked all over the place to avoid them! And boy were they noisy!