And yesterday was …………. Christmas

No post yesterday as it was time for Christmas!

Yes, Christmas transferred from 25th December due to my being in hospital.

I am pleased to relate that I managed to cope with it all quite easily so I am now officially ‘better’! Of course I did spread preparation out over the weekend and had an enforced rest on Sunday afternoon to watch the Monaco Grand Prix, which was good as I get a bit hyper when planning a big occasion.

It started with a Carol at the door from some visitors! “We wish you a Merry Christmas” of course.

Later I managed to take some photographs of the table all dressed up for the big day while having a sneaky Campari and soda with my daughter and preparing vegetables. My daughter helped with peeling and mashing the parsnips to save my wrists!

table laid

I had finally bought a book on napkin folding a while ago when I found a cheap onenapkin folding bookand had busied myself making different designs for each place setting.

The napkins weren’t perfectly square and were so large that for four of the folds I reduced the napkin size by folding the corners to the centre before following the book. However I was still pleased with the results.

Going round the table, widdershins, here is a close up of each one.

My place-setting a pin wheel windmill. pin-wheelGold chocolate coin, extra.

Son: boot bootGranddaughter: rabbit rabbitSon-in law: shirt shirtDaughter: fleur-de-lis fleur-de-lis I can see from the photo that it got a bit squashed when it fell off the table and I haven’t straightened it properly 😦

Family friend: Clowns hat.clown's hatThe crackers were provided by my son who bought them after Christmas when they were being sold off at a much reduced price!

Goldgold crackerand a sort of brown. brown crackerNow I have to admit that once everyone came in and we had crackers, followed by food and wine, I was much too busy to think of more photographs. However I am having a second Christmas lunch today from the leftovers so I will give you a taster from that,

There was chestnut stuffing and bread stuffing and bread sauce. stuffings and bread sauce

Turkey and sprouts and parsnips together with sausage and bacon rolls (but they ate all the bacon!) and cranberry sauce.meal on plate

(I was fortunate to discover that you can get English parsnips even this late in the year: a bit woody in the middle but tasty. I also found frozen sprouts. So all traditional vegetables!)

[Also roast and boiled potatoes, not shown because I avoid them.] And, of course, gravy. gravyGood thick Welsh gravy! meal with gravy

Afters was cheesecake and or strawberries and, if desired, cream. aftersA bit hot for Christmas pud (and it was a very hot day!) and anyway my son ate it all when there was normal Christmas!

All followed by rest, presents (bought by my daughter), a walk and charades!

I think I can say “A good time was had by all”.


Making marzipan fruits and Christmas baking

One thing I like to do when the occasion arises is to make marzipan fruit.

I don’t think I learnt to make these either from my mother or school; I think it must have been a book or leaflet.

For those of you who have never tried this is what you need. 0539-what-you-needSome marzipan, of course, a grater (the small side), a skewer, some food colouring and cloves.

In this case I used orange colouring to get orange marzipan. I used to use cochineal and yellow colouring but the Asda red and yellow colouring when mixed gave me brown. I would not recommend Asda’s food colouring.

To get the full range of fruits I had in mind I created yellow, orange, green and pink marzipan. 0539-four-colours-of-marzipanBe prepared to wash your hands at frequent intervals, between the different colours and whenever they begin to feel sticky when forming the fruit.

To make an orange: roll a piece of marzipan round and round in your hand as you did as a child with plasticine until you get a perfect ball. Then roll it gently round and round on the small side of the grater to create the texture of rind. The add a clove in the top.0539-stages-of-making-an-orangeThe ball on the right is before and the other is completed.

You make a lemon in the same way but need, obviously to make more of a lemon shape.

I also made a banana, four flattened sides, tapered and curved and here you do need something I didn’t mention before, namely a touch of cocoa for the colouring. 0539-banana-and-lemonI use the green marzipan for apples. Again you make a ball and I like to coat one half with a dab of red colouring (shades of Snow White!). You can stick a thin clove the other way round for a stalk and I like to mark the bottom with a skewer to suggest the part where the flower was attached. Of course a small change in shape and you have a pear!0539-both-sides-of-an-appleI kept a bit of the green for when making a strawberry with the pink.

Here I use the skewer to suggest the seeds and to make a hole to insert some green for the top. 0539-making-a-strawberry(The photographs were taken indoors under artificial light and the green marzipan came out very faded. So I adjusted it in some photos but not here!)

If you are feeling patient you can roll lots and lots of tiny balls and make a raspberry. I had a little green and some pink, so I made a green core (though I would normally use pink) and made one just to show you. raspberryAnd here is a whole plate (or rather saucer!ful) plate-of-fruit

I don’t try and make the fruit sizes proportional to real life. It is more a matter of using a similar amount of marzipan for each and they are normally about the right size to fit in sweet cases (except the banana!).

And here are some other things I have made.

Two Stollen. 0539-two-stollenI think I have become much better at forming them so they don’t open up.

Compare these from 2012 Baked stollenAs you can see this year I made a lot less dough. I made a quarter my original recipe that would make four large ones and used my food processor to do the kneading to save my wrists.

I also made some lavender shortbread snowflakes. 0539-lavender-shortbread-biscuitsI was making some millionaires shortbread for when my daughter came on a present drop and decided that that was the ideal time to make double the amount of shortbread and turn half of it into biscuits. I had been intending to try lavender shortbread ever since I had bought some in Waitrose and really loved them, so I put in plenty of lavender as I had had it a while. (Yes it is edible lavender – some lavender tea I had bought in Winchester.)

And here is my traditional Christmas cake. Just for me, so I added what dried fruit I had including some crystallised ginger! christmas-cakeAnd here is my first attempt at a tunis cake. 0539-my-tunis-cakeMy son had said that he would be interested to try one and having been introduced to tunis cake years ago, when I first knew my husband, but then forgotten about them, I thought I would see if you could still buy them.

I found a few in supermarkets and a couple of recipes but they all seemed to be covered with ganache, or worse still fondant icing, when I remembered them as covered with a layer of solid chocolate.

So I decided that just for fun I would try to make one.

I wanted a rounded top to the cake but it rose a bit more than expected and so the chocolate I had bought was not enough to give a perfectly flat top but I decided to leave it as it is and see how it looks when cut. Then if I make one again I will adapt with either a flatter cake or more chocolate.zzz


Happy Christmas to all my readers!

This is just to wish you all

Happy ChristmasCrib

Unfortunately I can’t send you all a piece but these are the Stollen I made this year. I was quite pleased that they didn’t split open showing the marzipan!

My son who has tried a piece says it is even better than last year!

The only other Christmas baking I have done this year is to make some well-filled mince pies Well-filled mince pieswhich is how my son likes them.

And here they are finished, all ready for freezing. Mince pies ready to freezeI had just enough mincemeat left to make a little mince pasty for me. Mince pasty for meJust to check, you know!

What did I do over Christmas?

Well not as much as I might have hoped as I have been suffering from a cold. “The cold that thinks it’s flu” as I have dubbed it.

It started with a cough! Now what cold STARTS with a cough?

Moved onto fever and then when the fever broke and you felt much better and felt maybe you were going to get better quicker than normal, and with all of Christmas ahead, the cold really starts – streaming nose, productive cough, the lot.

Nine days after it started, you are feeling wobbly walking round the sitting room and wondering if you will ever get better!

Well my son helped by putting up the Christmas tree but I had to add the decorations I had shared with you.

My son comes to stay over Christmas as the buses are so bad and normally we play games but this year all we did was watch TV and do the Radio Times cryptic crossword, which, much to my delight, we managed to finish between us.

Of course my son also caught the cold and was feeling pretty bad by the time he left on Saturday.

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And I put the cards on the bookcase but didn’t try to cover up what lay behind! The one of the candle was made by a creative friend and it is the third year she has made her cards using a special paper folding system.

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My granddaughter and family came on the Monday for a present swop and a meal of which I ate only a tiny, tiny portion but they did insist on doing the washing up which helped, and I made sure the crib was up. Again in a bookcase.

My son insisted that two of the kings should be having a chat.

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Snowflakes on coffee tableNo streamers, no tinsel, and I spread my snowflakes on the coffee table since I wasn’t up to turning them into a garland. These were moved to the mantle piece on Christmas day as my grandsons, daughter and son-in-law came to lunch. They had all had the cold before me and Alfred, the younger, was suffering from Chicken Pox that he had caught from his brother, so we were a sick household and no one ate as much as they might have done.

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Kitchen snowflakesBut the gel snowflakes on the kitchen windows

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Snowflake wreath on doorand the wreath on the inside of the front door kept my spirits up.

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I didn’t feel up to starting on the outstanding CAL squares but did manage some more of my granny ripple blanket.0094-blanket

Decorations children can make, favourites and some ideas.

When my children were at school someone came home with this as an idea for making Christmas decorations for the tree. They were really easy to make so I thought I would share them with you.

Now if you are older and a bit more dexterous and love snowflakes and hexagons and all six-fold things as my elder daughter does, since she shares many of my enthusiasms, then you decide to make them like this.

These are all left from the ones we made years ago.

You can maybe see how to make them but I will include some instructions anyway.

All you need are cocktails sticks and some spare yarn. It’s a good way to use up those tiny oddments that are too small to do anything with.

You cross the two (or three) cocktail sticks together, tie the yarn to one of them near the crossing point then wind round and round going over and under each of the arms in turn and keeping the yarn taut but not so much that it distorts the shape. When you want to change colour, just tie on a new piece and pull the knot to the back so it gets hidden.

I hope this shows how to wind the yarn round.

And how it looks on the reverse. I have wound round the initial tail and then cut off what shows.

Tie the yarn through itself round one of the arms to finish. Tying it twice probably makes it more secure.

If you have some gold yarn left from making stars for Christmas cards 🙂 you can include that.

And this is the reverse before the ends have been trimmed.

I made this fairly quickly. With a little more time it can be even neater. It is easier if you cut off the ends as you go.

And here are a few more samples. I think the rainbow one is a bit irregular because I undid some bits I had crocheted to use the thread.

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I thought I would also share with you some of my favourite tree decorations.

There are these that my eldest daughter bought me at different times.

As you can see the one on the left is larger than the normal tree ornament. It is an imitation snowball covered with down and is getting a little past its best but I love it.

The other is a tiny glass angel. and I decided to give you a closer look as it doesn’t show up very well in the other photograph.

Here are some wooden decorations. The one on the left was a present from a friend but the others were carefully chosen by me. The middle two come from a Christmas Market in Aachen, Germany and the one on the right from Bethlehem.

I am also very fond of these.

The ball I have had a long time and I think it came from John Lewis in London, and I love it for the rainbow colours that shimmer inside but don’t show very well in the photograph. The other I bought in Southampton a year or two ago from a stall in the precinct. They had lots and lots of similar ones and I bought this one because blue is my favourite colour.

Now we move on to some that I think have creative possibilities.


These are both made from wire but offer possibilities for being copied. The one on the right could maybe be made with a wire star shape and yarn wound round it with added beads or buttons. I might try something next year.

And these I bought on Saturday in Paperchase for £6.

I thought I could use them to work out some suitable crochet patterns and make some for next year.