Thursday, 30 December 2010

A family tradition

Its’ the same every year the weeks and weeks of preparation and build up to Christmas are at times hectic, at times frustrating but mostly enjoyable to me. The big day comes and goes so quickly that I always feel a little flat on Christmas morning. The anticipation of the presents, the preparation for the big lunch are swept up in the excitement of the day and it all speeds by so quickly. Because of this I think my Mother came up with the idea of ‘Tree presents’. I can’t remember when it was – sometime during my childhood, she used to keep some of the presents back for us to open later in the day so that the excitement lasted a little longer than the 5am early rise to see if ‘He had been’! These presents then became ‘Tree Presents’, just a little extra thing to open after lunch was finished, but before we settled down to watch the Queen and start the usual round of Monopoly and Charades. Well needless to say the ‘Tree presents’ are now a well established family tradition which any new member of the immediate family is introduced to as well as anyone coming for Christmas.

So when we have opened all the presents around the tree in the morning we still have the ‘Tree Presents ‘to look forward to. There always seems to be far more of them and they are usually something silly or rude and cause much extended mirth as (mellowed with a few drinks) we gather our not so little pile on the table and open them with glee.

Well we are back to normal again now with a house full of guests expected today for the New Year break. Christmas has gone and the next will come round far too quickly – but during the year if I see any little thing that takes my fancy – I will probably buy it and put it away for a ‘Tree present’ .
Happy New Year Everyone.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

All dressed up with nowhere to go!

The tree is dressed, the lights are up and shopping is done. Well of course being so organised just means you end up being ready too early. Because no matter when you get the Christmas shopping done, the cake made and the cards written – when you are faced with bad weather and you don’t know if any of your visitors will arrive for Christmas you feel a bit like that : ‘All dressed up with nowhere to go’. The frustrating thing is that here in Carmel we haven’t had masses of snow, the roads are clear and traffic is flowing. We have got off lightly again - apart from the freezing temperatures - 10° last night, oh and a bit more snow forecast tonight.

Let’s hope that everyone gets to where they want to be for Christmas, that the snow thaws enough for the roads to be clear, the planes fly and that Father Christmas (please note that I am still don’t want to say the S word) brings everyone what they want for Christmas – providing they have been good of course. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Walk Round the Block

With the recent cold weather is had been hard to take the dogs out - but we have been braving the freezing cold and continued with our usual walk 'around the block'. This walk is about two miles long and is the one that many of our B&B guest enjoy when they stay with us. It is fair to say though that it is beautiful on a sunny summer’s day but is equally breathtaking on a bright and sunny snowy day.

From our gate you turn right and walk up to the Church at Gorsedd - we stopped en route to chat to the sheep and they always come to look at our Poodle Sam as they must think he is another sheep -

today we stopped in the churchyard to say hello to Les's parents who are both buried there. Turning left at the Church you then walk up a slight incline and walking a short distance until the next left turn into Monastery Road.

Walking along this straight piece of road to your right you can just see the A55 and the traffic racing through to Conwy etc. But beyond that you can see the Clwydian Hills majestically undulating and the top of Moel Famau just making out the Jubilee tower at the top.

A bit further on and you take the next left turn passing Pantasaph Friary and start making the steep climb to the top of the hill - the views are breathtaking here. And what a relief when you reach the top of this short but steep stretch. Follow the road along the top and you can see the sea and just make out the wind farm off the coast of Rhyl. We stopped to chat to a lady scraping her drive as she was off out at lunch time and was dreading the journey, we were able to assure her that the roads were clear - one of the things we really appreciate about living where we do.

Down the hill for the final left turn and you get a fantastic view of the Wirral Peninsula and the Dee Estuary, before returning back to Celyn Villa for a nice cup of hot chocolate.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

One month to go

With four weeks to go till Christmas I was only thinking yesterday that I seem to be so organised this year - it’s a bit scary. Not one to want to tempt fate - I don’t really like to mention it because something is bound to go wrong. I am an optimistic person normally and have always been of the glass half full persuasion but being so organised so early is rare. Some presents are bought and wrapped, as mentioned before cake and puddings are made, and the turkey is ordered.

And of course today we woke up to snow – so my well planned day went out the window and my organised mind had to re-jig the things I was going to do today. There is nothing like a bit of snow to cause chaos – but luckily we are on a bus route so our road is always gritted, 99.9% of the time we can get out. We are expecting new guests today – we just hope they have a snow free journey.

Earlier in the week we went to Chester and did a bit of that Christmas shopping it was already looking Christmassy.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Sunny Skies and Christmas Pudding

Well it has been a weekend of real contrasts. Saturday was an absolutely beautiful day and with the B&B a bit quieter, and no evening meal to cook, Les and I took the opportunity to go out for the day. Firstly we went up to Moel Famau to look at the work they have been doing to the top car park – although not quite finished it already looks so much better. The views from the top are always breathtaking but on a bright sunny day like Saturday it was wonderful and we could see for miles. We braved the steep, single track road down the other side and drove on via Ruthin to the top of the Horseshoe pass. By this time the dogs needed a walk so we had a stroll with them. The car park was full with others enjoying a wonderful day with the usual amount of bikers taking advantage of the good Welsh roads. A quick cup of hot chocolate and off we went again to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Thomas Telford's marvellous crossing over the river Dee, 100’s of feet below. 24 years ago we went over the Aqueduct in a narrow boat. We hadn’t long moved to Wales and two friends came with us on a week’s holiday along the Shropshire Union Canal – it was a great holiday – we both had Springer spaniels then and they loved jumping on and off the boat and running along the tow path as we chugged along. We walked over this time with Sam and Willis holding onto their leads tightly for fear of them jumping in the water.

Sunday was wet, cold windy and horrible. If an Alien had landed in Wales on Saturday he would have thought he was on another planet by Sunday, such was the contrast in the weather. Still not one to be idol I decided I would use the time to get on with a bit of Christmas preparation, so I got the Christmas pudding mix ready and made my Christmas cake. I always used Delia’s pudding recipe although double it up and find I get 2 x 1lb and 1 x l.5lb puddings from it. My Christmas cake recipe is one I have used for over 30 years and is always a success. Or it might just be the amount of booze I feed it with. Two things to tick off my ever increasing ‘To do list’.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Farmers Market - Carmel School

As this blog is about Living in Carmel I thought I should include a bit more local news. Today, a windy, wet and dull Autumn day - which also happens to be Armistice day 11th November our local primary school Ysgol Bro Carmel held a Farmers Market. I hope the first of many such occasions. Carmel School must have one of the most fantastic views from its classrooms of any school. Looking over the Dee estuary to the Wirral peninsula and beyond even on a dull day is a fantastic setting.

Sadly Carmel like many small villages no longer has a post office or shop so the opportunity to meet your neighbours particularly this time of year when no one wants to linger outside in the cold, is minimal. So it was with much enthusiasm my husband Les and I went along to Ysgol Bro Carmel today to support their new venture.
We arrived just after it opened and the hall was crowded with children, parents and many local people. The place was buzzing. I saw several people I knew and stopped to chat with them - even bumping into a lady who looked after my daughter at Nursery School 20 year ago.

There were a combination of 'school stalls' as well as the local buffalo farm selling their meat, a local cheese producer selling killer lime and chili cheese amongst others - although I brought the ginger cheddar and some apricot and ginger chutney (a bit of a ginger theme going on here).

They also had the usual cakes and crafts stalls and some lovely knitted toys which were beautifully made. The cotton bags with Ysgol Bro Carmel on were great and I brought three (someone might get one in their stocking this year).

I really hope that people appreciate how hard everyone worked to get the day off the ground and hope that it proves to be a regular event.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

British Sausage Week

It just so happened that the main course for last nights evening meal for guests was Leek and Pork (award winning from local butcher of course) sausages with mash and onion gravy. I didn't realise when I planned this week’s menus that it was British Sausage Week but needless to say it was a happy coincidence. Not that I am planning on sausages every night this week. Sometimes I think we get caught up in the variety of food available to us in this country and forget about the humble sausage, but the quality of this much malinged product is these days exceptional.

So let’s hear it for the humble sausage. I have added my onion gravy recipe to 'Some of my recipes' – its great with sausage and mash. Happy Sausage Week.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Eating shrubs

It’s been a funny few weeks when real life has had to take priority over blogging and other forms of social media. But this week with the weather so lovely (most of the time cold, but sunny) Les and I have been busy in the garden.

Willis (our Border terrier), named so my husband can say' Willis is barking' (apologies to Charles Dickens Great Expectations and any reference to ‘Barkers is willing’) is now 10 months old. He is a really sweet chap and full of fun - however he has some very bad habits - he is a dog after all. He likes digging up Les's lovely lawn, obviously not looking for buried treasure more likely bones, but also has found my lovely new shrubs.
I hated taking down the window boxes and putting all the trailing geraniums on the compost heap. They don’t over winter well and we have given up trying, although we do have more success with the standard geraniums in the greenhouse. Normally we go the winter pansy route and have for the hanging baskets but this year we opted for miniature cyclamens and little shrubs for the window boxes and tubs. They do look lovely – clean and fresh.
Willis obviously thinks so too as he has taken to eating the shrubs out of the tubs – the little beast. I must put something on them that will deter him. We have heard that Lions urine works but as there aren’t many in Carmel I hope the local pet shop has something suitable.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Apples and more apples

I am all appled out. Eating apples, cooking apples, freezing apples and making apple jelly. If that wasn’t enough Les and I went to the Apple Festival at Erddig yesterday. What a glorious sunny day it was(unlike last night’s deluge) perfect for a wonder around this annual event which attracts 100’s of people every year. It was lovely to see families enjoying a good old fashioned day out. The Morris Dancers were fantastic and Les particularly enjoyed the CAMRA Cider Tent. Lots of wood work and handmade crafts for sale. I particularly love the renewed interest of handmade crafts and there were some lovely things. The Owls from North Wales Owl Sanctuary were incredible and I got the chance to hold one (with the big glove). There was a cider press demonstration, storytelling, jazz as well as cookery demonstrations with local produce. Oh I also had a go at the longest apple peel competition and failed miserably. Erddig is lovely any time but with the Autumn colours and the smell of apples is very special. My favourite though was the chocolate brownie from Veggie Fayre – would love the recipe for the chilli ones – think I need to practice a bit.