Saturday, 20 December 2014

All dressed up

And nowhere to go – thank goodness – we are staying at home this Christmas, which I always love. The family are coming and having a new granddaughter to spoil is going to be wonderful.   I have always loved Christmas but it is so much more magical with young children around.     In our family we have like most, our own little traditions that we enjoy every year which make the festivities extra special. 

I think my favourite is ‘Christmas tree presents’.  We have our main presents when we get up in the morning and then have ‘tree presents’ after lunch.  My mum started this tradition when we were little because in those days we only had a couple of presents – normally one from Father Christmas and a few from family.  The anticipation for the big day was just as exciting as it is now but having opened our presents very quickly, my mum always felt a bit flat – all that planning and preparation for just a few minutes of fun.

So she started ‘tree presents’;  just a small, normally silly gift, worth only a few shillings then and even now only a couple of pounds (although some naughty members of the family spend more).  The sillier the gift the better for added fun. Everyone buys a ‘tree present’ for everyone in the family and they are all piled onto the dining table after lunch.  This year we will be eight so that means there will be a minimum of 64 presents just from us but as all the family buy tree presents I make that about  290  'tree presents’ to be opened!!  Little did my Mum know back then what a tradition ‘tree presents’ would become in our family and how it would grow into such an important part of our Christmas Day?
Merry Christmas everyone and a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.  

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A magical moment


On Tuesday I had the privilege of watching my first grandchild being born.  Little Florence arrived just before 5.30pm very happily into the world.

Needless to say Les and I are on cloud nine and are already in love with her.  The excitement we felt during all the months of knitting, sewing and helping her parents prepare is nothing compared to how excited we are now.  I am sure it is the same for all new grandparents – but to us she really is the most beautiful girl in the world.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Drawing with my sewing machine

My 'drawn' Robin
On Friday I spent the day at Abakhan, a craft centre close by that sells all types of sewing, knitting and craft goodies. They also run craft courses and this is the second one I have attended.  I so loved it I want to do some more.  I have spent the past few months or so  knitting baby clothes for my first grandchild that is expected any day now so it was lovely to do something different.  

I have always loved crafts of all sorts and was lucky enough to learn at both my grandmothers and my mother’s knees: Knitting, crochet, dressmaking and embroidery as well as at school. In fact anything to do with crafts. In recent years I have been more interested in painting, mainly because for years nobody wanted 'home made' stuff.

Well now that we have a complete renascence for all things ‘crafty’,  it was great to go along with a group of like minded people and spend the day learning a new skill.

Just started this one at home
Combining drawing and sewing seems obvious –although the process isn’t quite as simple. Getting to the actual drawing takes a while. You must find a suitable subject in this case it was birds. Find the right scraps of fabric and stick them onto calico with bonding web prior to adding the 'drawing' with thread on your sewing machine.  With a special  craft foot you can 'draw' in any direction making up the picture with lines of tread. Fabric paints can then be added for more details.

It was a great course and has opened up a whole new world of creativity for me. I shall certainly be doing some more. Abakhan’s new brochure will be out in November so I am told but check out their website for more information. I know I will be adding to my range of crafts next year.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

What did you do in the war granddad?

Yesterday we commemorated 100th anniversary of the First World War.  Such a long time ago in one way but only yesterday in another.
Last night we sat by candle light watching the service from Westminster abbey at 10pm on the TV.
It was a moving service as had the coverage been recently of those momentous years of horrible war.
For us to sit and watch TV by candle light it tended to romanticise it.  However it did make us think about how dreadful it must have been to live through those times, never knowing if  your loved ones would live or die.  The light of the candle was just a gesture but with all the trappings of the 21st century around us it did seem a little insignificant in comparison to what really happened 100 years ago.
Nevertheless the centenary has meant that Les and I have revisited our own family’s involvement in the war, talking about it quite a lot.
My Grandfather with my father and uncle at the beginning of World War II
Personally I know very little apart from the fact that my grandfather (paternal) was in the Cavalry – something I only learnt when our daughter took up horse riding as a young child. My father just mentioned it in passing at the time.  The recent film War Horse certainly made me think a bit more about his time in the war and for the first time the impact it had on the horses and there owners.   My maternal grandfather was a farmer which was a reserved occupation and as he was also deaf he wouldn’t have been allowed to go anyway.

Les's Grandfather Ellis on his wedding day in uniform
However Les’s paternal grandfather had a much more dramatic story.  He was in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was deployed to Gallipoli, one of the worst events of the First World War. He lay on the battle field left for dead for three days.  Whilst collecting bodies he was found to be alive and was sent to the field hospital and then on to St Thomas’s in London. He had lost a lung and the other one was seriously damaged.  However he went on to live a full and happy life; married and had three children. He died aged 83.

 Some years ago whilst on a cycling holiday we found the grave of Les’s great Uncle John who died on his 18th birthday during the battle of the Somme. We had been the first, and as far as we know, the only family to visit his grave.  It was in Abbeville and we went back a few years later with our daughter who was about 2 at the time.  In fact Les’s mother and one of his cousins were both christened with the middle name of Abbeville – shortening it to Abbey in both cases.

On our cycling holiday in France
Uncle Johns Grave in Abbeville
So these are just our tales of heroic family members and if every family with such memories thought about them yesterday then I hope it reinforces our determination never to go to war again.  However we are still living in a world of wars and conflict and it seems that due to greed, selfishness, land, religion and what can only be described as madness wars will never be a thing of the past.   Back then 100 years ago men and women gave their lives selflessly and they still are in many parts of the world today.  I for one don’t want them to have to do it anymore.

Newspaper cutting

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Holywell - full of history

St Winefreds Well
Old Cottages at Greenfield Herritage Park
Les and I have spent the day learning more about the history of Holywell - having lived close by in Carmel for nearly 30 years it is true to say that we do know a lot about the town and the area.  But as you would expect there is so much more to learn.  Today not only have we gained more knowledge about the 7th century shine St Winefrides Well – where Holywell gets its name: Holy Well, we have also found out more about the town itself. At one time Holywell was the most important town in North Wales and because of the profusion of lead mines at that time, the ‘World’ price of lead was set in Holywell.  The industrial heritage of the Greenfield Valley and Docks is fascinating and as well as copper goods for the slave trade and a cotton mill there are fascinating stories about the ruins of Basingwerk Abbey. Prior to the dissolution (thanks to Henry V111’s ) Cistercian Monks lived and worshiped there for 400 years.  If you are planning a stay with us in the future there are free guided walks around Holywell, Greenfield and Basingwerk Abbey.  Let us know if you would like any more information or you can contact the Holywell Town Manager via their website which has a lot more local information.

Ruins of Basingwerk Abbey

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Getting Ready for Easter


Is it really time again for Hot Cross Buns and Chocolate eggs?  It’s such a lovely time of year and the garden is looking bright and cheerful with the yellow daffodils bobbing about and the contrasting blue of the grape hyacinths. We are looking forward to a lovely Easter weekend and hopefully the weather will stay fair - as it is today.

The first real break of the year for many people; longer than Christmas with nicer weather and the promise of lots of chocolate – what could be better. 

On Good Friday along with our normal offerings at breakfast time I shall be serving Hot Cross Buns.

There are many myths around why we serve Hot Cross Buns at Easter.   One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will keep for a year – don’t think so, more like 2 minutes (the time it takes to eat it!). Another encourages keeping the buns for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is unwell is said to help them recover.

Sharing a hot cross bun with someone is supposed to keep friendships throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time. Because there is a cross on the buns, some say you should be kissed before you eat it. If you hang it in the kitchen, it supposed to protect against fires and ensures that bread turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year. (Don’t think I will adopt this one as our bread turns out OK every time!). I always thought it was to do with Jesus and the Cross - but who knows the real reason. It seems unimportant when you are eating one, hot, toasted and dripping in butter.

Happy Easter everyone.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

February nearly already

Here we are nearly in February already and I haven't Blogged since before Christmas.  Having spent a lovely, if somewhat wet and windy family Christmas we hosted our annual New Year’s Eve Murder Mystery evening, this year based on a 1960’s theme.   

So out came the beehive wigs, mini dresses and floral shirts (it seemsed a good idea at the time).  The menu for the evening was Prawn Cocktail, Coq au Vin followed by Trifle, Lemon Meringue Pie and Cheese.  It may have been typical 60’s food but we all enjoyed it and realised that although we have had bad press in the past about British food, if a dish is cooked well it still stands the test of time.   I still wasn't the murderer though - we have been holding these every New Year for about eight years and I still remain innocent!

I always like to start the year with a positive frame of mind and believe that the coming year will always be better than the last. But  sadly we lost a dear neighbour of ours who passed away on January 4th. He had been a constant in our lives since we moved to Celyn Villa 28 years ago and he will be greatly missed. A true gentleman.

Also the weather continues to be challenging in many parts of the country with more and more rain and I have never been more thankful that we live on a hill. We seem to have been lucky in our little part of Wales; it must be dreadful to have your home flooded and face the prospect of having to deal with the aftermath when the water has subsided.  I hope that things get sorted soon for those that have been affected.

January is usually a quiet month business wise and gives us the opportunity to catch up on a few jobs around the house.  For Les it is the DIY stuff and for me it is to replenish the crafts that I have sold during the year and making enough marmalade to last for 12 months. The Seville oranges are now available and so far I have made three batches and hope that will be enough.  I always enjoy making marmalade, although time consuming it is so well worth it as the finished result is delicious.

We have also been developing our new website which is now live, although there are still a few bits we need to ‘tweak’.  If you have any comments on it we would be interested to hear them.

We are now well into 2014 and although it seems a bit late to wish you all a Happy New Year, but I can say 'Xin Nian Kuai Le' as it is Chinese New Year tomorrow.  So I hope you have a healthy and peaceful 2014.