Thursday, 31 December 2009

the end

The end of christmas
The end of the year
The end of the decade (decade? Just writing that word makes me feel old...)

I've had a wonderful time away, gathering together with family and friends. Meals shared, presents given and received, glasses raised, jokes told amidst much laughter, games played....you get the picture. And no doubt you shared your own version, too. Walter especially loved the snowy bits. What is it about snow that makes a dog go nuts?


Now I'm hibernating. I'm tired from two very long journeys, and am enjoying that quiet 'in between' time before life kicks in again for real next week.

both photos taken on my car journeys - I love the light and the bare branches

Tonight there will be a little reflecting on what has been, and a little forward thinking about what is to come. What lies ahead? Who knows? That's what I love, the endless possibilities.

Happy New Year to you !

Thursday, 24 December 2009

happy christmas!

So here we are, christmas eve. Excited? I am - I love christmas, even if this time I'm woefully unprepared. Fortunately my family are a forgiving lot.


I wish you all a peaceful and happy christmas, and the very best for the year ahead. Thank you for visiting me here, for sharing your thoughts and your friendship, and inspiring me along the way. Blogging wouldn't be the same without you.

Diana x

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

nearly there...

By the time you read this I will (fingers crossed) have arrived up country, visiting my family for a few days. Tomorrow, a touch of baking, and the finishing off and wrapping of presents. A christmas family gathering and catching up with old friends, then home for a week off and some serious 'me and Walter time'.


I'm envisaging a spot of reading, a little knitting, lots of sleeping and slow, leisurely starts to my days, indulgences of the food and drink variety, walking and more walking, and snuggling up with my boy.... goodness, that's starting to sound a little busy!

It's been a wonderful December - daily blogging has been an inspiring way to round the year off. And I know I've achieved more handmade goodness than if I'd been as absent as the last few months. One more post planned for tomorrow....

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

this and that

A day of playing catch up. Currently, my 'to do' list and I are not seeing eye to eye. On the other hand there are two days left, but perhaps that's optimistic as I also have a long drive up country to fit in, along with the knitting and the wrapping. The car is ready, along with blankets, a shovel and food supplies. Plan for the worst and all will be well.

I made some gift tags today, so that's another thing ticked off. The twine is from a spool of vintage shoe-mending thread.


It's lovely and fine and slightly nubbly. It's a double-edged sword, things like this - to use, or save and admire?


There's lots of it, so this time I'm opting to use a little.

Some good news - Simone, I have a little package of cards for you. I'm really pleased Simone's name came out of the hat because she has supported my blog all year long, and is a frequent visitor. And she's a Walter fan.

Monday, 21 December 2009

solstice

Today was the shortest day. The sun rose at 8.18am, and set at 4.22pm. This beautifully illustrated book celebrates the winter solstice with stories and things to do (like measuring the length of your shadow at noon, amongst other things).


And it reminds us to celebrate the shortest day because longer days will follow.


And as the light slowly returns it's a time for new beginnings.

And I like that, don't you?

So happy solstice, whether you're celebrating the shortest day or the longest day.

giveaway alert

I have a little pack of five 'peace' christmas cards waiting to be given away. An impromptu gift from me to you. This is what the actual cards look like:


See the uneven printing? Well, as I sat and wrote my cards last night it kind of grew on me. Hey ho! So, if you'd like some too, please leave a comment, and if your email address doesn't show, then leave that too.

I'll draw this tomorrow evening (22 December) - let's say after 7pm.

I have a different kind of giveaway planned too....very soon.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

the christmas card

I've spent most of today faffing about with my christmas card. They're now printed and I'm sitting down with a glass of mulled wine to write cheery messages. I wouldn't recommend making your cards at the last minute, it takes all the fun out of it and just piles on the pressure.

Inspired by Rob Ryan I ended up doing a papercut. It may look simple, but it's a slow, slow process. One slip of the scalpel and the design is instantly changed.


The original was cut on white card, which I then sprayed with matt black paint - I needed to photocopy it so I could print the cards with my gocco.


This is the original. The gocco printing has had mixed results. The charm of gocco is that each print is unique, and the ink coverage is rarely 100% even. However, the irregularities are really highlighted when printing with black (no photos of the actual cards yet, it's late, and too dark), so compared to the original I'm a little disappointed.

Right, back to writing those messages....

Saturday, 19 December 2009

a twig and a felted bauble

I have a confession to make. I haven't got a christmas tree. Instead I've got a twig in a glass bottle. It's a rather nice twig, covered in lichen and little feathery fronds. A minimalist tree, if you will. And it has just one decoration.


I was given this sweet little felted bauble by a friend. I love it. Simple, colourful and handmade. It reminds me a of those christmas pebbles I made last year.


And I love the silvery wood of this chunky little stool (made using reclaimed wood, by the same friend who made these). Especially when paired with my twig, the bauble, the bottle and some sunlight.


I haven't got a tree because I'm away over christmas, and I know when I come home I shall have had enough of it all.

Last night it snowed. I was visiting a little hamlet up on the moor, and it was transformed by a gentle dusting of magical white. We even had a few flurries down by the sea today. It's a rare thing, this far south west, and without fail I feel a childlike excitement.

I'm wishing for more!

Friday, 18 December 2009

festive firelighters

Today a certain peace has descended as I've pretty much finished work now until the New Year (which seems like a long way away). I still have a few loose ends to tie up, but don't have to go anywhere. All can be done from home. Bliss!

This afternoon I made some more fragrant firelighters - easily done in half an hour.


You need:

pinecones - you have a liitle stash, don't you?
wax granules, old candle remains, or ordinary household candles
essential oils of your choice - I used sweet orange and clove
greaseproof paper
a double boiler, or glass or metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water

Method:

Note: wax and essential oils are flammable. Take care! If you're a messy worker, protect your work surface with old newspaper

Put the wax in the double boiler or bowl over pan of water, and slowly bring the water up to a simmer. The wax will melt slowly. No need to stir. Once melted, fish out any old wicks if you're using candles. Take off the heat.

While the wax is melting, shake the pinecones so any loose debris falls out. It's best to use pinecones that have really opened out. If you have closed ones, put them in a warm place for a few days and they'll open. I've had a pile of wet, closed pinecones sitting on top of the boiler for a week - they've slowly 'blossomed', making little cracking and creaking sounds as they've dried out.

Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on a wire rack.

Choose your essential oils and put about 15 drops of each in the melted wax, and swirl round a bit to mix in.

Now test your wax with your first pinecone: hold at the tip (top) and dip in to the wax, then gently shake off the excess. If the wax is at the right temperature the pinecone will look slightly 'frosted'. Too hot, and you can't see the wax on the pinecones, too cool and the wax goes all gloopy. It takes a bit of trial and error.


Line up your pinecones on the greaseproof paper as you go. They'll harden in seconds.

And there you have it! Fragrant firelighters, ready to scent an open fire or to get the woodburner going. Pile into an old terracotta pot and wrap with brown paper and string, and you have a quick present.

And talking of fires, I'm off to an outdoor christmas barbequeue. It's freezing out there. Lots of layers are required I think! And mulled wine...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

rising panic

Today I had a sinking feeling that I might not quite catch up with myself before the big day. As so often happens with me, I seem to be floating around in a little dream world entirely of my own making. My grasp of reality, and the fact that there are only seven days left, is clearly a little 'off'.

Still, the thing with being in a dream world is that I still believe that all will unfold perfectly. My knitting will fly off the needles, cards will be made, witty and warm messages written inside, they will all arrive in time (despite missing the last post), and the little incidental, fun presents will get made as well. And there will be time for some creative wrapping.

I delayed going to work this morning so I could walk on the beach instead, taking calming deep breaths of fresh salty air, paddling in the sea in my wellies, and enjoying just being in the moment. Because let's face it, the world won't fall apart if I don't get everything done.

I also made the time to step outside as the light was fading, to catch the gulls.


It's these little moments that help the big ones flow.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

tick!

At last, I have ticked the first present off my list. A cowl knitted for my aunt in this lovely wool. It feels quite luxurious and has a subtle sheen from the silk content. So, progress has been made, and that's a relief.

The socks (actually, let's be honest, sock one) are coming along. A touch of indecision about the heel has been replaced by the start of an afterthought heel, after all. This has helped me on my way. And I'm rubbing my hands with glee to think I don't have to turn the heel in quite the same way as before.

Other things today - a burst of the midday sun. Always so uplifting.


Can you see that little wired decoration just catching the light? That was the finishing touch on my present from Pipany. Just beautiful.

Card stock and envelopes have arrived. Tick!

My daily blogging seems to be going more smoothly than my christmas preparations....

And now to make you smile.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

christmas notes

Last December when I gocco-printed my christmas cards, I also printed myself a moleskine cahier. Not surprisingly, I'm a moleskine addict. I get a little thrill each winter when it's time to buy next year's diary. Those clean, unblemished pages just waiting to be filled with birthdays, to-dos, important things, the mundane everyday, and the joy of time off.

The idea of my christmas cahier was to keep track of all things festive, from inspiration and ideas, lists, to-dos and to-makes. And to keep me on track and organised. The thing is, I couldn't remember where I'd put it for safe keeping from last year. Over the last few weeks I've searched and searched...and today I found it in the most unexpected place.


So now I can focus on all that needs to be done. Lists are being made, and slowly each item will be checked off. Much knitting needs to be finished (and in some cases started and finished) and cards need to be made (card stock arriving tomorrow I think!). And in order to make cards, I need to do a paper-cut. I've had a few ideas bobbing around in my head, but so far they've got no further than that. And then there will be the joy of present wrapping. One of my favourite parts of the whole process.

So, a few lists and a lot of focus is a step forward, isn't it?

Monday, 14 December 2009

painterly skies

I've had a mad dashing-about-kind-of-day, chasing my tail all the way.

A quick snap of the amazing light as I crossed from one coast to the other over the moor. It's true what everyone says, the light in Cornwall has a special quality.



So I must get back to those socks. Time to turn the heel. I was wondering, has anyone knitted socks with 'afterthought heels'? It looks like it could be worth trying sometime (but not this time, not when the pressure's on).

I think it's time for a list. And a little more focus on all things festive.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

sunday notes

+ Today has been pretty blissful.

+ More blue skies, more sunshine, a nip in the air.

+ Drove over to Pipany's.

+ Squeals of excitement when I knocked on the door, and this loud voice coming from the smallest person of the house, shouts "Walter's here! Walter's here!" (I think he rates more highly as an interesting guest than me when you're Isabella, age 3).

+ Sat down with a glass of mulled wine.

+ Non-stop chatter and laughter.

+ Remembered the last time we got together (why did we leave it so long?).

+ Ginny, we missed you.

+ Much discussion about blogs and blogland.

+ We all got our knitting out - that's me, Pipany, Davey and Lucy. Enough to form our own knitting group, don't you think?

+ Isabella and Elias dipped in and out, keeping an eye on the proceedings.

+ We sat down to a delicious roast pork with perfect crackling (and everything else that makes up a perfect lunch).

+ We discussed the merits of brussels sprouts.

+ We retired to the sofa and continued knitting and chatting and laughing.

+ The fire crackled and glowed in the background.

+ Davey had to go out for two and a half hours. I said I'd definitely be gone by the time he got back. Not true....I was still firmly planted on the sofa. Who wants to go home when they're having such a wonderful time?

+ Presents were exchanged. Pipany gave me one of her beautiful notebooks. She knows I have an absolute passion for stationery and paper. Even if sometimes I just arrange it all in pretty little still lifes, just so I can admire it.

+ I wasn't as organised as Pipany, but I did make some pinecone firelighters which I scented with clove and sweet orange. Piled up in an old terracotta pot and wrapped with brown paper and string.


(these were easy to make - I'll try and do a how-to in the week)

+ Eventually, Walter and I left that warm, cosy, welcoming house and drove home.

+ By comparison, my own house was dark and cold, and lacking the laughter, warmth and friendship that that lingers in the air when you've been spending time with friends you really connect with.

+ Thank you, Pipany (and family). It was a great day!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

christmas socks

Yesterday's glorious sunset gave rise to blue skies and sunshine today, along with an energizing crispness in the air. My perfect kind of weather. So, chores out the way, in odd moments I have been going round and round with a pair of socks. These are for my Father, and if they're finished in time they'll be a christmas present.


Various criteria must be met:- machine washable, not too tight round the ankle/leg, ample room for toes to wiggle, and not skimping on the foot length. This is perhaps the most daunting bit from a time perspective. We're looking at shoe size 12 (european 47, which sounds even worse). Given that my first pair of socks took the better part of this year from start to finish (admittedly with a long gap between sock one and sock two) what do you think the odds are for finishing in time?

I like using tiny circulars for the main bit of the sock, switching to dpns for turning the heel and the toe decreases. It means no ladders and speedier knitting. These are 20cm addi turbos and the wool is Rico Superba Mexico (both online stores offer excellent mail order). I thought it would be a bit brighter, but in fact it's a great choice for my Father. As you can see, I favour bits of coloured string for stitch markers. I've never got round to buying 'proper' stitch markers, and these work just fine. If you need help knitting socks this book is spot on.

Tomorrow I have a very important date. Lunch over here........ I'm excited!

Friday, 11 December 2009

on fire

Unscheduled :: the most beautiful sunset I've seen in years :: this is how it unfolded:


The beauty was enhanced by the kite-surfers - those enormous kites swooping across the firey skies like huge birds.

It was stunning. I was speechless.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

this is for you

A little thank you for dropping by and joining in with my daily posts. Rather than being a chore, blogging daily has been an energizing experience, and has opened my eyes again to all the little things going on around me. And it's also renewed my zest for taking photographs and fitting in a little crafting on the way.

So I'm sending love and hugs to you all - thanks for finding the time in your day to say hello (or not - silent visitors and lurkers are very welcome). I'd love to reply to all your comments too, but I can't squeeze everything in. I hope you understand.


You're probably thinking this is a strange image, and you'd be right. There's a car park not far from my house where the surface is covered in these little crosses. I like to think of it as the hugs and kisses car park, and every time I walk through it it makes me smile to see row upon row of kisses as far as the eye can see. I thought it might make you smile, too.

:: Other snippets from today ::

I woke this morning to find not only Walter snuggled up on my bed (a daily joy as far as I'm concerned, and note on it, not in it. A subtle but important difference). There were also four tennis balls and crumbs from last night's biscuits at bedtime (his, not mine). That boy.

I have two books on the go at the moment - this one and this one. Very different, but I'm loving them both. Either would make a great present.

I visited an elderly friend this afternoon. Inevitably we talked about christmas plans and preparations. She's very organised and has christmas wrapped up by October, quite literally. On asking about my progress, I said that I hadn't actually made a single present yet, though several were 'on the go'. She looked at me and said: "Are you in denial?" I hadn't really thought of it like that. I know it'll all happen, so there's no point in stressing about it. I must order some card stock for making the christmas cards....

I've been out at a meeting this evening and walked home via the inner harbour. After standing derelict for many years the old warehouse which looks out across the water has been gutted and refurbished. I thought it looked rather beautiful with the lights shimmering in the dark.


I hope you've had a happy day, too.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

love them or hate them?

I'm talking about the humble brussels sprout. Personally, I love them. One of the joys of winter, I would happily eat them day in, day out. I can't say I go for the soggy, overcooked variety so reminiscent of school dinners, but there are other more inspiring ways to cook them.


Have you ever had them roasted? They're quite delicious and will convert the most ardent sprout-hater. Prepare as usual by peeling off the outer leaves and trimming the stalk. Put in a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil. Toss them so each sprout is well-coated then add a grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt scattered over the top. Roast in a moderately hot oven, GM6/200C/400F, for about 40 -50 minutes, depending on the size of the sprouts. The outsides will be deliciously charred, and the insides will be melt-in-the-mouth sprout. Yum!

I've also had a few sprout risottos lately, the first one quite by chance. One of those 'what an earth can I have for supper moments?' that proved to be a hit. (Sautee an onion until soft, add risotto rice, stir until it glistens, add finely sliced sprouts, then proceed in usual way with a glass of white wine followed by hot stock. At the end, stir in a tablespoon of cream for good measure, and a handful of parmesan. Season well).

For other great ideas, this book is where it's at. How about 'A rich dish of sprouts and cheese for a very cold night' or 'Mashed brussels with parmesan and cream'? In fact, the whole book is an inspiration. I got it when it first came out in September, and for the first few weeks I couldn't put it down. Yes, I went to bed with Nigel every night. He was required bedtime reading.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

walter, winter white


Walter fits in with a 'winter white' theme perfectly. When clean, he's the colour of clotted cream.

Monday, 7 December 2009

christmas pinecones

I've mentioned before how much I love pinecones, and now christmas is nudging ever closer, I've made some christmas-edition cones.


I like to keep things very simple and am not a fan of too much fake-anything, so I guess this is my take on the snowy look! Using a very fine brush I've painted the insides of the cones with white liquid acrylic ink. It's fiddly and time-consuming, but I like the subtle effect. I might string some together and make a garland.

Knowing I would receive a cheque from my Father for christmas, I've treated myself to a few things in the last couple of weeks. I love Stephanie's pinecones, and now I have one of my own.


Can you see the detail, and imagine the time and effort that goes into creating one of these beauties? It's a work of art.


It's hanging well out of a certain boy's reach. I know it's just the sort of thing he'd love to chew.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

notes from today

+ woke to see sunshine filtering through the curtains (it's been a while)
+ blue skies and no rain (to start with)
+ morning tea, with knitting, sitting on the sofa
+ coffee and toast
+ windswept walk to the beach, dodged the rain showers
+ it was an abundant day for sea glass


+ this haul was from one hour on the beach
+ lots of playing ball with Walter. He paddled, I didn't
+ almost too sunny for photographs


+ roast chicken with friends, profiteroles for pudding. Yum!
+ early evening concert - what a treat
+ home :: chores :: chats :: blog :: relax
+ pretty blissful really!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

on the prom


One of the joys of living in a seaside town is walking on the prom - always included if I'm doing a 'town beach' walk with Walter. This was a couple of weeks ago, when dusk was pink and the sky was clear.

Tonight the winds are howling, the sea is raging, and the rain is drumming on the rooftops. I'm settling in with my knitting. Last night I started this pattern, but I've never done a yarn over before, let alone lace. All was going well, and then for mysterious unfathomable reasons, it wasn't. So I've ripped it, and will start again.

Friday, 4 December 2009

something old

I was rummaging in a drawer this morning, trying to locate a few vital documents, when I came across a small pile of old photographs. Old in that they were taken with a film camera, not digitally. It was lovely to be reminded of the quality of film. There's a softness and richness which is so often lacking in digital photos.

This was taken in one of the cottages at Prussia Cove, in the days when I still lived in London but Cornwall had seduced me and I visited as often as possible, dreaming of escaping permanently.


I love that soft autumn light and the way it just brushes over the fruit on the window seat. Makes me think of getting out my old Nikon and taking a roll of film or two. Maybe I'll get round to that in the next few weeks.

Have a happy weekend. I hope your christmas preparations are progressing gently.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

something small

An unexpected find today. A tiny treasure, made by a friend. This little wooden card is just two inches high and one and a half inches wide, with a hand-cut and hand-painted lighthouse.


Made from wood offcuts, there's space inside to write a little message in pencil straight onto the wood. The two panels are bound together by twine, and it comes with a tiny brown envelope for posting. All for £2. Seems like a bargain to me. I have a couple more with different images, saved for presents. But they're secret (and very cute).

Have you found any tiny treasures lately?

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

a touch of madness

It felt so good to get back here last night, and more to the point, to be made to feel so welcome, that I had a crazy thought. Over-the-top-crazy. Why not post every day up until the christmas break? I'm serious. Okay, I know it's unlikely I'll pull it off, especially as I've been averaging about three posts a month. But I did feel a frisson of excitement at the thought...and I do like a challenge. Maybe this way madness lies, but it would be a fun way to round off the year.

Have you come across Malabrigo yarn? The worsted is handspun and hand dyed and is so squishy and soft you can't help but love it. There's an extraordinary selection of colours to choose from. This is Tuareg. I have just one skein and I think it's destined to be a neckwarmer. Pattern to be decided. Perfect for keeping the drafts at bay.


I also have three skeins of Stone Blue and I fancy one of these. I think I'd have some left over, too. I should add that this has nothing to do with christmas presents. This is self-indulgent knitting, just for me.

Did you know Julia's back? She's doing her wonderful advent event again. Go and say hello!