Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Boxing Day

On Boxing day DD1 and family went to her in-laws and we went to have a grown up day with DD2. George says this is a silly photograph. Well yes, but it was Boxing Day and you are allowed to be silly. We had a very light and elegant lunch - these are balls of prawn risotto deep fried with a caper sauce - I think they were called ancini - does that sound right? Anyway, this was followed by smoked salmon steaks and asparagus with a whole bottle of wine in the sauce and then mulled wine jelly with crystallised ginger cream - another bottle of wine in that! Delicious. DD2 is an exceptionally good cook.

She has a large collection of Dutch candle houses mostly collected from the antique market in Rotterdam (I have got about a dozen) and here she is lighting some of them

and this is what they look like when they are lit.
After lunch we sat and watched Mamma Mia because George had not seen it and they have a huge TV set so it was almost like being at the cinema. It is a real feel-good film and ideal for postprandial viewing. Then we always play cards BUT Pim decided that we wouldn't play the traditional game we would learn an old Dutch game called Klaverjas which was SO complicated! If a suit is trumps then Jack is highest followed by 9, then Ace, 10,King, Queen , 8, 7. But if it is a non-trump suit then the ranking is Ace, 10, King, Queen, Jack, 9,8,7. As if THAT isn't hard enough to handle the scoring is totally illogical - trump jack scores 20, the 9 is 14 and the Ace 11. But - oh no, I cannot go on it is just too difficult. We never did get on to bonus points or points for runs etc but we did play until long past midnight and I think if we play again soon it just might begin to sink in. Pim was very gratified by our progress. He started playing as a schoolboy and it is played in every Dutch brown bar. Well, what can I say.
The day after Boxing Day DD2 always drives me down to Brent Cross where we hit the sales, we just love Fenwicks and we both manage to find something which is a bargain. We are leaving the men in charge of an 8lb piece of topside which hopefully will be ready to eat when we get back at 7. We have to keep on ringing to tell them what to do next!
(DD stands for Dirty Daughter - don't ask me why!)

Well, Christmas is over and all the family dispersed today. DD1 and the boys declared last night that they would leave soon after 8.30. They left at 10 past 12. The house was so quiet when they had gone and I was left with a very dirty pale gold carpet and piles of washing . Will gave me a great big bear hug when he went - lovely! DD2 has gone over to Holland as they always do to spend New Year with Pim's sister. So we are Derby & Joan now. Bliss!

Every year Christmas Eve is a busy day for me and George. At 3 we have the Crib Service which is the MOST popular service of the year and the church is PACKED, standing room only. And the reason is this..... We have a living Crib. People now start arriving at 1.45 to get a good seat. The Christmas story is enacted with the Innkeeper (George with a lantern and the church keys on a big ring round his waist) coming down from the vestry and being interviewed by the vicar - no room at the inn tonight! Then we sing Little Donkey and Noah our donkey, followed by Mary and Joseph, walks all round the church to the delight of the children. I wonder if we are the only church in England which has its own donkey? Last year we had to buy up yards of old carpeting to put round the aisles as Noah doesn't like walking on the flagstones! Then the shepherds (carrying toy sheep - we used to have a real sheep until Health and Safety said it was dangerous)come out and an angel pops up from the pulpit and delivers the Good News. All of them in turn process down to the bell tower where they are eventually joined by Baby Jesus and all the congregation file past to have a look. That is my job, to try and keep the crowd moving on! The children are funny as they wait to see the tableau, every year some little boy says to me it was a good thing the donkey didn't mess on the carpet. I have a feeling there would be great delight if one day he did! George has been organising this event for many years and says that it is a wonderful and moving experience to see the look on the faces as people gaze at the scene. But the responsibility rather goes to his head and he becomes very lovey, demanding equity cards and auditions etc!
The Vicar was telling me that for the first year in memory we didn't have a baby lined up - but nothing fazes our Andrew. He went down to the surgery and hung around until a suitable young mother turned up with a small baby and he accosted her -and as no one can resist our Andrew two days later they were starring in our show!

On trips to the middle east we have bought up djellabayas and head coverings etc. so no teatowels round the heads of OUR shepherds ! Anyway, the day doesn't end there because at some time or other all our family have arrived and have to be fed and then at 10 George and I go back to church to 'sidle' and to read the lessons at the Midnight Mass. This again has been George's job for some 30 years ever since the then vicar decided he needed a strong young man on the door to deal with any drunks or disruptive elements coming in when the pubs closed. For a number of years we did have trouble but not nowadays, the worst that happens is that a group of youngsters come in and after about 10 minutes make a noisy exit. But at least they come. Then we go home and fall into bed at about one o'clock - at least the grandchildren don't wake us at the crack of dawn any more.
This is one of the flower arrangements I did - all the flowers were white and gold this year and the church looked beautiful. I do like the thought that villagers have been celebrating Christmas there for centuries.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree.

In common with just about every other woman in the country I have been busy, busy, busy lately. And cold! But this is my beautiful Christmas tree - or part of it - it is lovely to get all the boxes out and greet old friends, like the nutcracker prince and Socks the White House cat and a Black Pete from Holland, the green St Nickolas from Russia, the star from Krakow etc. I usually buy one or two new ormanents (not a typo, that is what my daughter used to call them) every year but last year I decided that the tree is now officially full. But then on Sunday we had our usual party after the Carol Service and a dear friend who is a lace maker brought me a very delicate little lace decoration. Always room for one more!

I worked like mad for the party - 60 people invited but one or two fell by the wayside because of the weather. We have been doing this now for more years than I can remember - 30 or 40 - and people very kindly say it wouldn't be Christmas without the Howard's party to start it off. Mind you, that puts a certain pressure on doing it all again the next year. Anyway, dear Sandra came up from London to help and the minute she walked in the kitchen she started making smoked salmon blinis. When most people had left at around 10 o'clock about half a dozen friends lingered and we had baked potatoes and chili con carne. Then we fell into bed exhausted.

On Monday after Sandra had gone home George and I drove to Milton Keynes to find Ikea. I LOVE Ikea and George hates it. We really are not suited. But William wants a bedside cabinet for his room at Uni and asked for it to be flat packed so that he could have the fun of making it so I siezed the opportunity of a visit. The weather was bad and the traffic slow and Milton Keynes is an enigma but eventually we found it. So that is now accomplished and we had a very nice Scandinavian lunch for about a tenner.

This is part of my back garden looking wonderful
and this is the front garden. Isn't it magical the way the snow transforms everything and you see it in a new light!

Sadly DD2 has just telephoned me to say a young boy bashed into her lovely new apple green VW convertible this evening - it was parked outside the house and he just slid into it. Her personalised numberplate is in pieces but I think that the big rubber eyelashes (YES, I am not kidding) are still intact on the headlights. She has daisies all over the boot - you cannot miss her and quite obviously this young man did not. Poor Sarah. But she said she felt really sorry for him because he was as white as a sheet and had to ring his mother and tell her what he had done! Fortunately he was insured but it is still a big nuisance.

I went out in my car today to deliver the Christmas presents to our Almshouse ladies and the side roads are lethal. I was glad to get home and light the fire, spending the evening wrapping presents whilst George is out at Rotary with DD2's husband.

Tomorrow morning I shall be arranging the flowers in church - wrapped up very warmly! Although we had a jolly MESCH meeting last week with a delicious lunch and I was all fired up to get on with the work for the exhibition at Cottenham in February, circumstances are just against me at the moment - but just watch me fly when all the celebrations are over!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Wearing Purple - Party time

Well, I told you you would see me coming ! I had some very strange looks as we walked across Cambridge to the University Centre today, with my bright purple tights and red shoes, not to mention the red hat! The beaded handbag I got at the Church Bazaar last week for 50p - I thought it was worth that for the beads alone, but it was a very eccentric addition to my outfit.

We had a nice lunch at my friend's 70th birthday party - I had been asked to read a VERY long piece about growing older and seeing this other woman in the mirror who wasn't you at all, but looked suspiciously like you. It went down very well - largely because most of us there knew the feeling only too well of glimpsing an elderly lady in a shop window and realising that it IS YOU!. At the end gave her the picture of the plump lady in purple which I stitched a few weeks ago and I think she was pleased with it. Practically all the guests had made the effort to dress up and the whole thing was great fun.

We have just got home and George has made me a nice cup of tea and we will sit with our feet up & look at the papers before going off to a party this evening with our local MP Andrew Landsley. I shall NOT be wearing red and purple!
(Actually, the really scary thing is that I quite like the purple tights.....)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I have had a LOVELY day today at Art Van Go with Clare Bullock making a hat ! This is the first stage, layering up the wool and underneath is the whole class wearing their hats
Not a bad day's work! I have previously made hats with Lizzie Houghton and this was a similar method - of course, I REALLY need a new hat! That is me in the red jacket.

This is my hat being blocked and then it was steamed and now it is just waiting to be worn to the 'Purple Party' on Saturday.
Must dash now as we are going to a Rotary Ladies Night and George is champing at the bit, but just had to show off the hats. We all had such fun.