Monthly Archives: December 2014

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Winter Ramble With Real Live Rocking Dog.

Let's Go Walkies!, Rocking Dog

Let’s Go Walkies!

Another frosty day on Tuesday and it was time to get out for a bracing ramble to blow away the Tarantula sized cobwebs! I love the cover of the 1950 walks book on my title picture but i’m sure the routes will have been changed with housing estates, roads and industrial developments so we used a tried and tested guide by Nigel Vile “Pocket Pub Walks Near Bristol And Bath”. Walk 3 in Viles’ pocket sized tome, a 6 1/2 mile walk which starts in Hillesley and skirts the Cotswold escarpment.

As the title of the book suggests you should end up to enjoy a pub at the end of your travels. We often manage the drink but have yet to arrive in time for last orders for food- damn and blast! This walk was no different so we ended up with Walkers Crisps (how very retro) and some rather nasty olives.

As for the walk itself, it was truly lovely with babbling brooks, frosty pasture, cottages and churches worthy of inclusion in some period drama, and lots of icy puddles to shatter. It was gorgeous to hear birdsong and heralded the fact that spring will indeed come in the not too distant future.

Real Live Rocking Dog now plonked contentedly in front of the glowing stove, muddy boots x 3 to clean, ironing not done, house still in need of “Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners”… but we all feel better for blowing away the cobwebs!

PS May just give myself the challenge in 2015 of seeing how changed those walks are since 1950, hope I won’t feel too despondently sad.

Chasing Shadows, Rocking Dog

Chasing Shadows

Winter Hedgerow Garland, Rocking Dog

Winter Hedgerow Garland

Fantastical Icicles, Rocking Dog

Fantastical Icicles

First Frost

frozen bird food, rocking dog

Frozen Bird Food

We awoke on Monday morning to the first savage frost of the winter.
Clothed in white, the garden looked spectacularly inviting. The frost stayed all day and reminded me of my favourite childrens’ book The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. ‘Spring has forgotten this garden,’ they cried, ‘so we will live here all the year round.’ The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots down.” Very thankfully the North Wind didn’t visit our garden, so it was quiet and still, sparkling and cold.

Frosted Wreath, Rocking Dog

Frosted Wreath

Frost Clad Catkins, Rocking Dog

Frost Clad Catkins

Brook At Our Garden's End, Rocking Dog

Brook At Our Garden’s End

Looking Forward to De-Grinching!

christmas lights, Stockholm, rocking dog

Christmas Lights, Stockholm

Am I the only one who is desperate to get de-Grinching? There is a point when I crave the light and space back after a period of chaotic Christmas frou! Thus, I am already thinking of retrieving the boxes from the attic – to stow away the baubles, putz houses, fairy lights, snowflakes and garlands for another year. I’m also thinking of the massive decluttering plan I want to iniate in the new year, i’ll never be minimalist, but I can try tidy! The list includes kitchen cupboards to de-hoard of never used gadgets. What was I thinking when I bought an ice-cream waffle cone maker?! Another project is the scaling down of fabrics and untangling of ribbons. 2015 WILL be the year I tackle the garden- so lots of decluttering there, with dilapidated sheds to dismantle and Ground Elder to eradicate. Oh well these projects are for starters… the list is seemingly never ending. Happy spring cleaning when the New Year comes about!

beautiful baubles, rocking dog

Beautiful Baubles

de-grinching desired, rocking dog

De-Grinching Desired

Hallelujah! The Turkey Is Finished!

beetroot gravadlax in the making, rocking dog

Beetroot Gravadlax In The Making

The turkey is at an end and now it’s time to enjoy my Beetroot Gravadlax. Taken from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie Does..”book this is a family favourite. Served with his Simple Crunchy Salad and creamy dill sauce this makes for lighter eating after all the Christmas excesses. We were planning to eat this together with baked jacket potatoes in the garden today, sat huddled around the chimnea. Alas the rain made an unwelcome appearance- so eating was done in close proximity to the wood burner. Pudding was made with the knowledge we’d need something warming after our alfresco dining. So it was an apple crumble made with some of Sorrel’s salted caramel and baked in white porcelain tea cups. Yum!

the finished article, rocking dog

The Finished Article

simple crunchy salad, rocking dog

Simple Crunchy Salad

salted caramel apple crumble cups, rocking dog

Salted Caramel Apple Crumble Cups

The Night Before Christmas…….

diamond star, rocking dog

Diamond Star

Can you believe just how quickly Christmas comes and goes after all the weeks of present shopping, supermarket trawls, card writing etc… etc..?! I hope your days of festivities have been enjoyable and that you have loved spending time with friends and family, together with vegging in front of “Call the Midwife” and “Downton Abbey”!

This post celebrates an all together different occasion. Our son Alex’ is now a fiancee. On Christmas Eve he proposed to Kylie at Ashton Court and we are delighted she said yes! For the last month I have been biting my lip knowing that a proposal was imminent, and if I say so myself my level of discretion surprised even me! Though I do have to apologise to random strangers (mostly shop staff) that I imparted the news to, and I thank them for nodding politely.

Alex like Black Adder’s Baldrick came up with a cunning plan, and needed a little bit of help to execute it. One of the priorities was to involve Kylie’s very lovely dog, a big chocolate labrador. Alex ordered a glass star for Cass’ to wear around her neck with THE ring. First rule Alex get your tape measure out, for the star did indeed arrive but was of a weight and size that would have strangled Kylie’s faithful canine companion. The plan had to be quickly rethought. Alex decided Ashton Court would make a lovely place to propose and a good ruse was to get out walking with Cass’ and Real Live Rocking Dog.

Sorry for all the white lies Kylie. The car mysteriously needed to be collected from the garage on the 23rd December and Alex was needed to go and helpfully collect it with Andyman. The actual mission was to do a quick recognisance mission to choose a spot for a proposal and a picnic.

My allocated mission was to try and make the spot just a little bit romantic- we are talking grey winter in Bristol and not Venetian Gondola’s or palm tree’d silver sand beach! Ikea… the list… lanterns, tea lights, chairs, Christmas tree panels, throws, and M & S….. the list….chocolates, strawberries, antipasti..Percy Pigs (!)…

There followed a secretive strategic planning offensive to sort out the detail of carrying out Code -name Diamond Star! Although I wanted to set up the picnic etc.. for Alex I absolutely did not want to be caught there… the pushy prospective Mother in Law and all that!

Thankfully on the afternoon itself I had recruited a willing infantryman -my lovely neighbour Symon to help with carrying and frou’ing, (frou’ing is my word for styling). Symon and I are good frou’ers! In between texts from Alex we had a VERY short time to set up and we didn’t even have time to put up the lovely 6ft Christmas Tree panels – but then the aged brick wall was rather gorgeous. We legged it up to near the house itself, spying from a distance and just wanted to ensure that Alex and Kylie arrived there rather than an opportunist wanting to steal a ring suspended in a glass, moss lined star! We didn’t see the boy and girl but we did see the two dogs snaffling mince pies and olive ciabatta! It was our cue to sneak away and leave the couple to their wintry picnic and their words of commitment to each other.

Congratulations Kylie and Alex. You are truly loved by your family and friends.

slightly Narnia, rocking dog

Slightly Narnia!

champagne picnic, rocking dog

Champagne Picnic

lantern light, rocking dog

Lantern Light

Enough, Enough Now!

crappy but pretty crackers, rocking dog

Crappy But Pretty Crackers

As I came out of the supermarket this evening the words in my title are what I said out loud, “Enough, Enough Now!” Yes, those words are so recognisable from the smaltzy “Love Actually”. I have to admit I love some of the scenes in the film particularly Emma Thompson’s scene where she is patting the bed to try and gain control of her emotions. But back to Enough… I really have had enough of everything retail and I am now in a shop free zone for at least two weeks. If all else fails I have enough beans and pulses of all descriptions to keep us going for half the year. Yum!

Yes, I have been making crackers but dear old trusted Tom Smith has nothing to fear- my efforts are pretty feeble but have a certain charm! I also very much enjoyed handwriting the jokes (using the internet) and I had quite a chuckle to myself! Here is a little sample- Why won’t Santa visit Nigel Farage? Because he only comes if you sleep, not if Ukip! and… What will be missing from Take That’s Christmas Stocking this year? An Orange! There is just one cracker to be filled and if my husband is reading this there is a very lovely bespoke ring on the Toast website composed of five gold rings- a trifle under £2,000! No a Haribo jelly one will suffice. I don’t need gold- and my fingers certainly don’t deserve precious metals and stones.

Happy Christmas Eve, I hope you enjoy it and that you too are able to say out loud “Enough, Enough Now!” It’s honestly quite therapeutic!

12 days of christmas place setting, rocking dog

12 Days Of Christmas Place Setting

embellishments cut from an  old calendar, rocking dog

Embellishments cut from an old calendar

Circle Of Life.

lovely horse, rocking dog

Lovely Horse

This is the lovely horse Real Live Rocking Dog and I encounter most mornings when we head out on our ambles. We call it the Mr Badger walk as there is an old, long deserted badger sett as we travel through this ferny tract. I particularly love it when there is a frost or the snow which brings with it such unfathomable stillness as we walk. On occasions Dog and I have met deer, a startled fox and large birds (i’m not very knowledgable on my birds of prey I’m afraid!) In the summer the track is impassable with chest high lancing brambles, whilst autumn brings Sloes, Cob nuts and an array of exotic looking mushrooms. With sparse pickings in the depths of winter, spring along the track brings bowers of purple and white Lilac, Catkins, Pussy Willow and May blossoms.

This horse with its adorable pink velvety muzzle is very friendly, and though i’m not a “horsey” person i’m very fond of greeting this equine beauty. Until recently another horse shared the field….. alas it is a still in the field but now covered by red earth and a gentle covering of grass. I hope in the spring wild flowers will germinate and adorn this final resting place. Happily, another horse has come to the field, another equine loner, and hopefully life feels better.

resting place, rocking dog

Resting Place

ferny tract, rocking dog

Ferny Tract

Rocking Dog Christmas Cake Quick Fix!

snow dome cake, rocking dog

Snow Dome Cake

Good morning! Hope everyone is feeling cool, calm and collected. I hope presents are deliciously wrapped, fridge decadently stashed, Christmas frock selected, and coiffure and manicure booked! Yes it does sound as if i’m stuck in a 1950’s Hollywood time warp and no no no, apart from the wrapped presents I haven’t scored highly on any of the other counts!

However, I did manage to get cakes made a little while ago. We try to get down to the beach for a barbecue (Sand Bay near Weston Super Mare) between Christmas and New Year to blow away the cobwebs and to be generally very silly. We usually take salmon and good sausages to burn on the disposable barbecues, a freshly made Greek salad some French stick, homemade soup and nibbles. Pudding is usually a hunk of Christmas cake which we eat through chattering teeth! When the BBQ’s have done the business we fill them with sand and use them as foot warmers. Some of us go in search of the sea (a rare sight) whilst others play with Real Life Rocking Dog and other doggy friends. Like Zac Efron who incidentally still hasn’t been found, the beach barbecue is fast becoming a Ferguson tradition.

Back to the cakes! for a good last minute cake Nigella Lawson’s Easy Action Cake is foolproof. The majority of the ingredients are heated up in a pan, fruits don’t need days of soaking and the baking time is pretty respectable. Pictured is the way I cook my cakes – tips from my lovely Mum. So it’s lining the tin with baking parchment and then with the mixture poured in, wrap the cake in a double layer of brown paper, held in place by non-plastic string. The top of the cake also has a layer of brown paper stapled in place with a hole to let steam escape. Finally I put the cake into the oven with a thinnish layer of newspaper under it. All these papery tricks ensure the cakes do not burn or dry out. To me the smell of baking newspaper really makes me feel Christmassy. Admittedly a candle from Jo Malone is a more attractive proposition … but the newspaper reminds me of home and my mum.

To decorate or not to decorate that is the question. I like my cake served nude of almond paste and icing, personally I love it with some Farmhouse Cheddar. My snow dome cake was executed VERY quickly. I am ashamed to say I bought ready rolled almond paste and icing, gummed onto the cake with apricot glaze. Decoration… crudely piped “Oh Christmas Tree”, Indian blingy braid and some bottle brush Christmas trees….Simple!

Oh well just to get through Christmas Day to get the much loved day on the beach and the wedge of cake! PS. the nude cake is safely stashed in a tin ready to be paired with some yummy cheese.

beach cake, rocking dog

Beach Cake

brown paper packages tied  up with string , rocking dog

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String

snow domed, rocking dog

Snow Domed

I’m Dreaming Of a White Christmas!

snowy real live rocking dog, rocking dog

Snowy Real Live Rocking Dog

Yes, Real Live Rocking Dog is dreaming of a white Christmas. However, the lovely Carol Kirkwood doesn’t think it’s going to be, that’s unless you are hiking on some godforsaken Scottish peak. RLR Dog comes over a bit silly when there’s been a snowfall- he doesn’t quite know whether to eat the snow, roll in it or dash around in mad circles!

Two of the photo’s here were taken in the mid sixties when snow somehow seemed deeper, whiter, crisper, gathered in huge drifts and seemingly hung around for the entire winter! My dad Doug, adored the snow, or rather sledging, and would be so excited to bring out the sledge for its first voyage on unchartered freshly fallen snow. Our infamous childhood sledge was constructed by Doug, and consisted of basically a door on huge copper tubing runners, you could seat about four on it. How it didn’t seriously maim anyone heaven’s knows! We sledged on Frenchay Moor a.k.a. The Hilly Fields and we’d keep on going until we could not feel our fingers or toes any more! Heinz Tomato Soup would revive feeling to our extremities and then we’d possibly head out into the garden to build a snowman to get cold all over again!

The Putz House folk have snow already, lucky things. I love the old 60’s kitsch village buildings, but this one is a contemporary version from Rachel Ashwell’s shop in NY. It came back with me a few years ago in my hand luggage.

Well, if snow doesn’t look likely we can  spray snow 1970’s Dickensian style into the corners of the window panes. The thought of washing windows so early in the new year  (in fact anytime!) really does make that idea so completely and utterly unappealing! I really am no domestic goddess.

Have a truly wonderful weekend- it will soon be the time to scrabble around for the last Brussels Sprout on the shelf, perish the thought!

doug clearing snow 1960's, rocking dog

Doug Clearing Snow 1960’s

snowman building 1967 isn, rocking dog

Snowman Building 1967 ish

smug putz house folk, rocking dog

Smug Putz House Folk

Wrapped Up Well And Truly!

all that glitters is not gold rocking dog

All That Glitters Is Not Gold!

Trying to get ahead with things- I have spent far too many Christmas Eves wrapping presents at 3am! I haven’t bought any paper this year-instead, I have been using up my stocks of tissue paper, wallpaper, luggage labels and embellishing frou!

Exhibit A- A glittery box with numbered tags from Ikea, Petersham type ribbon from a market stall and plastic gold fern that I bought in post Christmas sales in a long forgotten department store.

Exhibit B- Parcels wrapped in a Designers Guild brochure, Christmas decorations, and market stall braids and ribbons. Christmas wrapping doesn’t need to be red gold and green! Although if that floats your boat that’s great.

Exhibit C- A parcel wrapped in a whizzy orange wrapper, silver thread, and label written on the back of a Mexican match box.

Exhibit D- Brown paper, candy cane, bottle brush tree from a cake decorating store, mushrooms from TX Maxx. Lovely cotton spot ribbon market stall find, cone a dog walk find and bakers twine bought in NY. Tag made from a letter left over from scrapbooking (HobbyCraft).

These are all inexpensive ideas to create- you just need a little time and imagination together with a lovely big glass of wine! Happy Wrapping!!

cheapskate wrapping rocking dog

Cheapskate Wrapping!

orange wrapper wrapping, rocking dog

Orange Wrapper Wrapping

kitsch wrap, rocking dog

Kitsch Wrap