Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Granny's Christmas part 3

Interior of Crayke Church

The third and final instalment of Granny's memoirs follows below.

Mother and Father went to church at 8.00 am and we children got up then and were dressed and ready for breakfast at a quarter to 9.00 am. There was church once again at 10.30 am and Christmas Dinner at a quarter to 1.00 pm. The dinner table always looked very gay. We had a brown basket with holly and a robin on it in the middle filled with fruit. There were silver dishes with almonds and raisins and crystallised fruits and sweets. At a party we went to we had each been given a little figure with a nodding head, a man with a wire pigtail, a fluffy dog and a black cat, a plaster puppy with a blue shoe in his mouth and a little fellow called “Billiken”. We liked to see whose figure would keep its head nodding the longest. I think “Billiken” usually won. The same kind friends had also given us a set of huntsmen complete with jumps and hounds and a fox. We used to take care that the fox was well hidden from the hounds. Father carved the turkey and Mother served the plum pudding which was always brought in alight with the brandy. Mother put the little silver charms in at the table. She liked to give Foss the sixpence, Mary often had the thimble and Brooke the bachelor’s button. Margie and I perhaps a 3d piece or a little donkey. Father usually had to go without. 
At 2.00 pm we had a carol service and then home for an early tea. Mrs M and E from the Hall always came to tea. We waited for Foss to ring the bells when everything was ready in the drawing room and then we all rushed in for the great event of the day. There was always a bright fire of logs, the standard lamp stood by the piano, the tree with its shining tinsel and coloured glass ornaments was lit up with its little candles and round the room stood the tables with our presents on them. First we had to sing a carol. We always sang, “Come to the manger in Bethlehem”, which was Mother’s favourite. One year, Father told me to be the page in “Good King Wenceslas” and he was the King. I managed to sing my part quite creditably because I knew it so well. Sometimes the choir boys came round singing carols and were invited in to see the tree. They were given an orange each and pennies. Father kept a bag of pennies to give to the carol singers. Some came on Christmas Eve and some very early on Christmas morning. “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and please will you give us a Christmas Box”, was a familiar cry on Christmas morning.
The celebrations do sound lovely, don't they? Wouldn't it have been nice to have been there?

Monday, 26 December 2011

Granny's Christmas part 2

Granny looking very smart
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day.   Here is a little more from Granny about her Christmas celebrations.

Foss and Mary decorated the Christmas Tree and we little ones were not allowed into the drawing room till after tea on Christmas Day when we had our presents. We went to bed early on Christmas Eve with our empty stockings at the foot of the bed. We each had one of Father’s golf stockings which could hold a lot. We often woke during the night and felt at the bottom of the bed to know if our stockings were filled. Yes, there it was bulging with odd shaped parcels. It was too early too look at it yet so we got under the clothes again and went back to sleep. When Mother heard us talking in the morning she came in with a lamp and then the joyous excitement began. There was always a cracker at the top, an orange in the toe and an apple in the heel with nuts in between. We generally had a small book, perhaps a Beatrix Potter for the young ones, something for our dolls’ house, a fireplace, a little piano or a bird cage. Often we had a game or a pack of cards, crayons and always some sweets or chocolate. Our stocking presents kept us happy till the evening when we had our big presents.
Mother always chose our presents for us. The Aunts and Uncles must have sent money. We girls usually had something for our dolls, a high chair, a cot or a tea set. We were always surprised and delighted with our presents. Mother seemed to know just what would please us most and we never wanted anything that the others had. As a rule, we each had a book, Fairy Tales or an E. Nesbit, or a children’s classic like “The Water Babies”, “Peter Pan” or “Treasure Island” and usually, there was a box of chocolates for each of us. Then perhaps we had hoops or skipping ropes. The boys had trains and soldiers, tools and puzzles. Brooke generally had a wooden box of tangerines. We took our pile of gifts up to bed with us so that we could gloat over them again in the morning.

Some things don't seem to change that much.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Granny's Memoirs - Christmas

Granny and Margie

Granny wrote a lovely description of a typical Christmas for her and the family, so, over the next few blog posts, I'll add her Christmas celebrations to my blog.

The few days before Christmas were a very exciting time for us. We children never sent cards or presents to friends and relations as children do now, but we were very busy decorating the house, fetching the Christmas tree and making chains of holly leaves for the church. We threaded the separate holly leaves on to a fine string which was threaded through a needle with a very big eye. It was painful work and damaging to the fingers but there was a great satisfaction in seeing the prickly snake grow and it looked very handsome twined round one of the pillars in church.
The morning of Christmas Eve was taken up with decorating the church, some of the children from the village used to come and help. We collected baskets of moss and trails of ivy, fetched cans of water, handed up scissors and wire and put little bunches of red flowers amongst the holly and blobs of cotton wool to look like snow. There were two big placards hung on the wall at Christmas and Easter. The Christmas one, “Christ is born” on a red ground and the Easter one, “Christ is risen” on a blue ground. We made a good deal of mess with the moss and the evergreens and tried to tidy up when all was finished, but the Church cleaner must still have spent a busy afternoon in the church. All the decorators came over to the Rectory for a cup of coffee and a mince pie. The children had cocoa and biscuits. We were always very tired and dirty and were glad to get clean and tidy for dinner.
I am sure that everyone is busy with all the things that need to be done and that in some ways, things haven't changed very much since Granny wrote this. However, the over-dependence on materialism that we seem to suffer from these days has left its mark on current Christmas preparations.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas Baking (part two)

 I shall redeem myself a bit with this post as the baking really is Christmassy!  These are iced star biscuits, made for a vegan friend, and they are yumptious.  It is a very simple recipe where all the ingredients go into the bowl and are kneaded together (even the golden syrup), rolled out like squishy pastry and cut into whatever shapes you would like (or have the cutters for).  The recipe is reasonably economical too as you can get lots of biscuits (depending how big the cutter is) out one one batch.
The end result is crunchy on the edges and chewy-ish in the middle, with a flavour of ginger, so perfect for this time of year.  I added an icing outline on the top but how you decorate them is up to you.  When I worked in schools, this recipe was a great one for the children to make and the toppings they put on the biscuits were quite a sight to see. More was quite definitely more!  The only limit to decorating them is your imagination and possibly your budget.
Here is the recipe:
4 oz butter (or vegan margarine - this gives a much stickier end mixture)
4 oz light brown sugar
4 level tablespoons golden syrup
8oz plain flour (you will need more than this if using margarine - add at kneading and rolling out stages as necessary)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Gas 5, 190 degrees C, 375 degrees F

1. Put all ingredients into a bowl and knead.
2. Roll out mixture onto well floured surface and cut into shapes. (The thicker you have the dough, the chewier the biscuits will be)
3. Place on greased baking sheets/trays and bake for 10-15 mins max, or until golden brown.  They are really easy to overcook.
4. Take them off the tray while still hot - they will be very floppy but will harden as they cool.
5. Decorate if required when cold.
6.  Enjoy!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas baking (part one)

Having called this post 'Christmas baking', I know these little butterfly cakes don't look particularly Christmassy.  However, they were baked as a Christmas thank you for the Porters, Maintenance and Gardeners team at work, to let them know that what they do is appreciated.  I was going to give them a box of chocolates, but Chris suggested that they would like these cakes much more, so I undertook a baking session yesterday.  They are a simple sponge recipe and the icing is butter cream (in my book, it has to be butter - margarine just doesn't taste anywhere near as nice). 
They do look quite appetising but I didn't even taste one - usually I have to test everything I bake to ensure that they are up to standard, but I forgot.  No doubt Chris will let me know!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas Holiday (and into 2012) reading and my thoughts on Kindles

Here is a lovely pile of books, just waiting for me to dive into them.  This is the plan over the next two weeks!  There's an interesting mixture of fiction (mainly Elizabeth von Arnim, but also including Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel) and non fiction, such as The Lady's Maid (servant to Lady Astor), A History of English Food (which looks fascinating) and Roy Strong's Visions of England (which will hopefully be a positive view of things to be proud of).  I am hoping that Chris is going to buy me a Kindle for Christmas, as there are lots of free classics which I haven't got, but are downloadable, and e-books which aren't available any other way.  My friend in the Netherlands has just epublished her second novel so I am looking forward to getting hold of that too.
I would just like to add that there is no way at all that the Kindle will usurp my precious real books.  I love the feeling of a real book and being able to dive into it and escape totally.  There is also the physical-ness of books (not sure that is actually a word, but I like it - it probably should be physicality) with the feeling of being able to turn proper pages and hold the book. These books are like old friends who it is a joy to meet again, no matter how long it is since you last saw them. Then there is the art, craft, children's books etc. issue - a Kindle would be absolutely useless for any of these, not to mention the large glossy books filled with good quality photos, and... you get the picture?  My Kindle will just be an additional tool to help me enjoy reading even more.  For that reason, I am really looking forward to receiving it.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Jewellery design

This is my latest jewellery design, made as a commission for the friend of a friend.  I tried several different versions before arriving at this one.  It has an amethyst pendant and the necklace itself is made from fluorite, amethyst and labradorite.  The greens and purples of the fluorite complement the amethyst very well and I have used various sizes of stones to add some interest.  I also used a weave technique as the necklace was too heavy with the beads threaded on singly.  I think it is quite eye-catching and am going to make myself some fluorite jewellery next. ( Incidentally, I do like the way that the fluorite reacts to the light - I have only seen this effect in photos so far.)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

I was on TV (and a lovely cat picture)

Well, what a surprise!  I was watching a regional news programme last night, called 'Look North', as I usually do and they were showing a film about the Christmas Market and saying how it was one of the best years ever.  There were shots of the Cathedral, the Castle, some stalls and then the Carousel/Roundabout/Gallopers.  Who was there, on the horse, smiling away!  Now I think about it, I did spot a large camera but hadn't really taken much notice of it really.  What are the chances of it being focused on me at the very time I was there, on the roundabout? It was a 'blink and you miss it' appearance, but it was great fun!
On the way back from the market, we stopped at a gallery on Steep Hill  called Harding House, which is an artists' co-operative and always has a wide selection of art and craft work for sale.  We were looking at various prints when one in particular made us both say, "Scruffy!"

It is a print by Alison Read, who creates very quirky printed animals.  Scruffy really isn't that thin, but there is just something about the image that reminded us of him.  She doesn't appear to have her own website, but here are a couple of links to other galleries if you'd like to see more of her work.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Lincoln Christmas Market

 Chris and I have just got back having been to the Christmas Market here.  It is the last day today and we usually go on the last day as the crowds have eased and things are a little quieter.  However, not so today!  We were jostled, joggled and squashed.  I think this was because we went a little earlier than we normally do, so the crowds were still there.  Last year, the Market was cancelled due to being up to the knees in snow, so people have definitely made the most of this year's event.
 I was happy as I had a ride on the Gallopers which took me back to my childhood.  This was my very favourite fairground ride - and still is!  I sat on the middle one of these three horses.  It really made the visit for me.
The Cathedral looked lovely in the floodlights, despite the building and conservation work currently going on.
 The Bishop's Palace had a Medieval Market in the grounds, but there was a massive queue to get in, so we gave that a miss.  We enjoyed the changing lights projected on the building though.
Looking back towards the Cathedral...
 ...and over to the Castle.  Busy, busy, busy!  I bought a present for my friend in Canada and a little Scandinavian fretwork snowflake for our Christmas tree.
The best thing about getting home - a lovely milky hot chocolate (in a very appropriate mug!) with some chocolate finger biscuits.  Mmm!