In praise of advent

I wanted to bring you a little advent project and share with you why advent is so important to me.  So in this season of business, of sparkle, of mince pie making, present wrapping, card writing and nativity costume making may I invite you to make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a moment of quiet and reflection with me.

Advent seems to be  forgotten season/tradition the first of December arrives and its up with the decorations, out with the Christmas jumpers and boom Christmas is here. As a Christian advent is one of my favourite seasons, the waiting, the anticipation, the savouring, the preparation. I enjoy all these things … dare I say it…more than he big day itself. I hope what I write doesn’t sound like a sermon, that’s not my intention.  I simply wish to share a few of he things that help us as a family to savour this precious season each year. I do an advent calendar for my children. We have one of those cloth advent calendars with the pockets.  I do include the occasional sweet treat but I’ve always tried to make it a little more meaningful too.  One year we had a calendar of random acts of kindness I included thing like donating toys to charity, writing a letter to a friend, holding a door open for someone and we had a lot of fun doing it. In fact my children got quite competitive about who could complete their act first, or be most generous.  When my girls were very young they had a snippet of the Christmas story and a wooden nativity piece to add to the stable each day. In other years we’ve had  bible verse or Christmas activity each day  We’ve had a lot of fun and I have found these traditions bring meaning, joy and anticipation to the season of advent.  This year however, Granny showed up with a chocolate Frozen themed advent calendar and a Thomas the tank engine one for my son – I was frankly horrified. My children where amazed such things existed (7 years I’ve kept it a secret that other children get chocolate for breakfast during December)  and of course absolutely ecstatic. Once I reigned in my slightly over the top reaction to the chocolate advent calendars & accepted that my beautiful cloth advent calendar would just have to stay in the loft this year I set about trying to think of a simple way to  capture the true meaning of advent in our home this December.

My plans (and this post) were delayed when I spent most of the first week of December in hospital with my son, Beau who had just turned 2 and has Asthma.  That first night in hospital my son was absolutely buzzing with all the medication he had needed and at 8pm (way past his usual bedtime) I was feeling tired and emotional after what had been a difficult and long day. I’d read him every book in that place. Feeling unable to face yet ANOTHER tale of Apple Tree Farm or round of Dig, Dig Digging I got out the Gideon’s bible that the Gideon society place by every hospital bed. I began reading  the story of the birth of Jesus from Mathews gospel. I got no further than 5 versus in and Beau was asleep, at that moment it felt like a miracle – definitely an act of God, I was so relieved. I continued reading and took in all that wondrous story with a very grateful heart. So familiar is that story and yet I so rarely find the time to stop and read it in the busyness of December the words seemed new to me.  They stayed with me that week. My son now asleep I tired to make myself as comfortable as possible (not easy in a hospital) I watched Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas (I love that program) and flicked through a Christmas copy of Country living magazine – oh comfort and joy! Stuck in hospital away from all the distractions of home although not where I wished to be actually gave me a unique opportunity to just be.  To savour and slow down. Both the magazine and the television program full of beautiful images and lovely ideas for Christmas reminded me of the words from the Christmas song “Joy to the world”

“Let every heart prepare him room

And Heaven and nature sing…”

 Over the following few days as we left hospital and we continued to nurse my son back to health and make sense of that strange other worldly experience that is staying in hospital. Gradually an idea for making advent meaningful for all in our home came to me. It is wonderfully simple (well it needed to be with a very poorly tot to care for), not in any way original or new but it has given us pause for reflection this year.

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4 candles, some black paper and chalk, some raffia string, foraged foliage and some clementine’s and apples I sliced and baked in a very low oven for a few hours. I created this advent centre piece for our dining table.

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We have marked the Sundays of advent (Peace, Hope, Joy and Love) we have lit our candles at our evening meal every day and included a simple prayer on the theme in our usual mealtime grace. Next Sunday when we light the final candle we will put our decorations up.  AND eat gingerbread and Christmas will really be here but only once we have reflected on the meaning of Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.

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November Styling the seasons

Its been a while since I’ve shared a styling the seasons post on here. Its a monthly photography challenge hosted by Katy & lotts. I have enjoyed the opportunity to slow down & notice the subtle changes from month to month that this challenge affords.  It has inspired our nature tray that I have posted about and which the children always help with.

November certainly is a month of chance. It begins in Autumn but by its end there I no denying winter I here. There’s bonfire night & pumpkins galore at its start & now its almost over the hustle and bustle of Christmas is all around. I wanted to reflect this in my pictures & tried a floral flat lay in a wreath arrangement. I included glitter to reflect both Christmas and fireworks night & the last of my munchkin pumpkins was tucked in there. November is a tricky month for taking photos and the light was all wrong.  So I went back to the drawing board & decided to channel a little more Hygge in my flat lay. (Have you heard of hygge? f not read about this fabulous Danish ideal here) My favourite cosy blanket, a candle & pumpkins provide just the right amount of cosy.  The foraged berries give a nod to Christmas, without being over the top. I like its pale subtle Christmas vibe & for me it captures November pretty well.

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Blackberrying Dress

I realise its been AGES since I shared anything I’ve sewn with you on here.  Sewing write ups tend to be quite time consuming.  So I thought I would take the pressure off and keep it simple. This was dress I made back in the early autumn (look at that gorgeous low autumn light streaming through this photo, how I miss it).

I used a free pattern from an old copy of Prima magazine that a friend always saves for me.  In hindsight I wish I’d drafted my own like I usually do for my children’s clothes.  I used the pattern as I hoped it would save me time but I ended up having to use a small bodice size according to my daughters measurements, adding length to it and adding length to the skirt, its still a little short and I’m not sure it saved me any time.

The fabric was a lovely cotton lawn (I’m guessing) salvaged from a vintage ladies dress.  The dress was a proper 1980s Laura Ashley style number with a long and full skirt and it was a fairly large size so there was LOTS of fabric to work with.  the dress was fully lined and I managed to use the lining as well to line this dress.  The dress was also given to me to use for the fabric and so the total cost of this dress was £0.

We have dubbed this dress the Blackberrying dress because of the time of year I made it and also the lovely green and purple bramble type design of the fabric. With a t-shirt and a war pair of tights underneath this dress is still getting a lot of wear.

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In case your wondering about those boots, aren’t they gorgeous! They are a metallic leather with velvet ribbon laces. I got them on e-bay and they’d hardy been worn they were originally from Marks and Spencer and they go so perfectly with this very thrifty dress.

 

 

Gluten Free Pumpkin Doughnuts

Those of you who follow me on social media will know pumpkins have slightly taken over my life (and my kitchen) lately.  I do think pumpkins are the most magical vegetables and I enjoy collecting them in all shapes, colours and sizes throughout October.  Come November they need eating though and this year I had quite a collection, thanks to some kind neighbours who gave us a couple of whoppers! I’ve always been fascinated by the American “pumpkin patch” and infamous pumpkin pie, a favourite at Thanksgiving.  I confess that until this year I had never eaten it and hadn’t understood that pumpkin pie was a sweet, not savoury affair. Well now that we are better acquainted pumpkin pie and I are firm friends and I’ve been experimenting with this magical vegetable and pumpkin pie spice A LOT!  So without further ramblings from me I bring you my recipe for pumpkin spiced doughnuts.  Oh, and because I’m gluten intolerant these little nuggets of gorgeousness are gluten free too, yay!

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This recipe uses my own pumpkin spice mix, which I have devised from reading various recipes online and adapted to suit my own tastes. Mix all the spices together and store in a Tupperware or jam jar and add to all your pumpkin recipes. 4tsp ground cinnamon, 2tsp ground ginger, 2tsp ground nutmeg, 1tsp ground all spice, 1/2tsp ground cloves

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For the Pumpkin Doughnuts

  • 100g Doves Farm plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp of pumpkin spice mix (see above)
  • pinch of salt
  • 60g very soft butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 4tbsp sour cream
  • 9 table spoon of pumpkin puree (either make your own or buy it canned)
For the coating
  • 50g sugar
  • 2tsp pumpkin spice mix
Measure all the dry ingredients and place in a large bowl.  Add the butter, eggs, sour cream and pumpkin puree & mix until you have a smooth batter.
Lightly butter your doughnut tin (ah yes should have mentioned this before you’ll need to make a small investment in a doughnut tin to make doughnuts, but trust me worth every penny.  I have this adorable mini doughnut tin  and this recipe makes 3 dozen mini doughnuts). Using a teaspoon place the mixture into the tin, fill about two thirds full. Avoid covering the little divet so you get a nice doughnut shape. Bake at 180’C for 10mins.
Whilst your pumpkin doughnuts are cooking put the sugar and spice mix for the coating onto a plate or shallow oven dish and mix to combine.
As soon as your doughnuts are cooked, remove them from the tin and toss them in the coating.  Serve immediately.

My Sewing Space

I have a little desk in the corner of our living room where I sew.  I find it helps so much to have my machine out all the time, it means any time I have a spare 5minutes I am ready to sew.  My family are very tollerant to allow me such a luxury in what is quite a small house.  I like my space to be tidy and well organised but pretty too with all I need at hand.

I keep my spools of thread on my desk in a beautiful glass jar that I bought in Dunelm’s bathroom department, it wasn’t expensive but I think it looks a million dollars.

Because I sew in our living room I need to be very tidy I keep a vintage tea cup cup on my desk for all the threads I’ve clipped.  I love old crockery and it’s lovely to find a way I can use this cup and have it out on display. My thread snips rest perfectly on the saucer and are always to hand.

I’d love to hear where you find space to sew and what little finishing touches make your sewing space special?

Rose Hip Syrup Recipe

Rose Hips are packed full of vitamin C and other amazing vital-mins.  Forget Baobab berries or what ever the latest trendy fruit is rose hips have been used for centuries to help ward off colds and flu during the winter.  Around this time of year I try to make a batch and frequently give a spoonful of it to each of the children (& myself) through autumn and winter.  I have found the years where I take the time to make it we have far fewer coughs, colds and illness over the winter.  Further more its delicious and can be added to cakes, drizzled over ice cream or just taken as is – hooray!

Rose Hip Syrup

Recipe

Makes approx. 2.5 litres

  • 3 litters of water
  • 1kg rose hips
  • 450g granulated white sugar
First you will need to clean and sterilize some jars or bottles although if you plan on keeping your syrup in the freezer you don’t need to sterilize the jars.
Boil 2 litres of water in a large pan.  Remove the stalks and any dead flower heads from the rose hips and mince them in a food processor.  Add the rose hips to the boiling water, return to the boil and then take off the heat.  Leave to infuse for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes strain the mixture through a jelly bag and set aside the juice.  Return the pulp to the pan with 1 litre of boiling water.  Bring back to the boil, leave for 15 minutes and the strain through a jelly bag again. The pulp can now be discarded.

Pour the juice you have collected into a clean pan (I find a preserving pan with measures up the side very useful for this next stage.  If your preserving pan doesn’t have measures pour 1 litre of water into your pan before you begin and take note of the water mark) reduce the liquid until you have 1 litre left in the pan.  Now add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved.  Using a funnel pour your syrup into your jars or bottles and seal.  If you are storing in the freezer you may want to use Tupperware, freezer bags (in which case wait for your mixture to cool) or ice cube trays.

Elderflower Cordial

I always feel the preserving season is really underway when the elderflower come out & I make Cordial.  I use this same recipe, below, every year.  I am afraid I don’t know it’s original source as it was given to me but it is a good recipe and makes a fragrant and delectable syrup which you dilute to drink or that you can pour over ice cream for a wonderful summer treat.  It keeps for months and months as long as your bottles are well sterilised but can also be frozen.  This recipe makes about 1.5litres.
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You will need…
20 large elderflower heads
1.8kg Granulated sugar
1 Litre of water
75g Citric acid (you will need to buy this from a chemist – tell them you want it for cordial)
2 lemons
Place the elderflowers in a large bowl.  In a pan mix the sugar and water and bring to a gentle boil, stir until all the sugar is dissolved.  Pour this mixture over the elderflower and stir in the citric acid.  Grate in the zest of both lemons and then slice the lemons and add the slices to the bowl.  Cover and leave for 24 hours before straining through a double muslin.  Decant into sterilised bottles and store in a cool dark place.
You can drink this cordial almost instantly once it has been decanted however after a couple of weeks the flavour develops a little more.  I can never resist a little taste when it’s first made – it has a lovely freshness at this stage.
Please be careful Elderflower is a tree or large shrub with sprays of white flowers that later turn to deep purple berries, it has a distinctive smell.  Be certain that what you are picking is Elderflower!  Some people have mistakenly picked cow parsley as the flowers are similar but this grows up from the ground on tall stems.  Cow parsley is poisonous!  However, after a little familiarisation elderflower is very easy to identify so don’t be put off, give it a go!