Thursday, 20 December 2007

Christmas countdown draws to a close

This is where we are headed to spend Christmas, the quiet village my folks live in.

Here Christmas is a small affair, closeknit and communal.

Here little children still sing christmas carols and people don't shop on Boxing day.

It's peaceful and it's importance is not measured in gifts.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Hopefully you can experience some joy and goodwill somewhere peaceful so you can remember what it's all about after all.

'But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good-night'

"Night before Christmas" - Clement Clarke Moore

Friday, 14 December 2007

Mr Greedy and the Gingerbread house

Another week ends... I cant believe it. Next weekend is Mans birthday and then ta daaa its christmas.... ouch... where does the time go??? As you can see above, Mr Greedy and his salt dough counterpart..... it turned out well and my little student was really excited when he saw I made it for him (it was all dry for his arrival thank goodness)

Below you can see the dough decorations we made. These are my students ones, which we threaded and got ready to hang before he left. We also watched the muppet christmas carol and I gave him the 'Mr Men christmas carol' to read for next year.

And here was our second christmas activity last night... A gingerbread house, complete with snowy icing and sparkly jellies. Was great fun.

Ok, I'm off for the weekend. Take care and keep warm.... it snowed here today!! I am hoping that (as usual) my folks had more snow as we are off to visit them.

See you monday folks.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Christmas dough

I promised my little english student that in the last few lessons before christmas we would do conversational english for the last half of each class, over a fun christmas activity.

Last week we made paper chains.

Today we made dough ornaments for the tree. This is the last batch going in...

The big blobby thing that looks remarkably un-christmas like is in actual fact this fellow here.,...

Sorry about the picture quality, glossy books are hard to photograph. My english student hasnt really shown much enthusiasm towards anything we have read till I found one of these old books and thought I may as well give it a go. Last week we read Mr Rush and he loved it. So for this week.... Mr greedy. Student even did extra unrequested homework... pics of mr greedy with a little blurb about him in english below. I'm so impressed.

so. I am making the squiggly dough monster tonight (instead of going to bed like i should), while student is gone to surprise him tomoro when he comes. Hopefully it will be painted and dry by then.

Oh yes... and extra stars for good measure.

Opera season commences

Sunday night started here....

In our favourite restaurant, which was all festive and cheerful while still being exceptionally tasteful.... check it out....

Man had Beciul Domnesc - feteasca neagra... superb (though I avoided) a wonderful romanian grape. In general romanian wine is vastly underestimated and underappreciated. People don't realise romania has been making wine far longer than france and has a really rich variety and an interesting classification system.

Then, on to the Opera, we've been waiting months to go and we couldn't make the first showing of this when it opened the opera season, but we finally made it....

We collect the programs and this one is a beauty..

I thought it would be nice to post some pics of the actual opera house interior

The chandelier...

The stalls....

The boxes..

Where we sat....

This is the frieze in the intermission recess

here, is the square, at night, with christmas lights, from the balcony at the front of the opera house.

Can you tell how much we love it?

Madame Butterfly was superb and the finale was magnificent. The walk home afterwards was chilly but really lovelly.

I realise it's wednesday and we went to the opera on sunday, however, i have been moving furniture and de-junking for 2 days..... no crafting either. Bit of knitting... finished my tam-o-shanter.... although... it's a disaster... hideously large for me and completely unsuitable.

I'm off to do something useful...

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Operations and Opera

The other day as we walked up the little path to our block I commented on how much I hated the state of the pavement and wondered if they were ever going to do anything about it.

The following morning I had to laugh when I woke up to this.....

Clearly, the intention to make a path ... woo hoo!!

we're going to the opera tonight, madame butterfly. I have been waiting to see it for ages and it will be my first time tonight. It will also give me a chance to model my opera gloves. Though I am sad I wont be able to have champagne or coffee in the interval.

I was very productive so far this weekend so I think it merits the treat. I listed my new needle roll and 2 bags. Very pleased and sunday mornings are easy to list on as we are awake over here before america :).... very sneaky huh?

enjoy your sundays...

Pay it forwards

Ok... so not many people were interested... free gifts obviously just wern't appealing enough.... maybe next time I should offer free pints of blood with the free gifts, however.... 3 lucky (term used losely) ladies did respond. So... sewvain, Tracey and Rani, Please send me an address so that I may rain handmade gifts upon you :)

In other news... I'm trying to upload the new items into etsy which takes an age. I love making the stuff, it's relaxing.

Almost finished (halfway through) my EZ tam-o-shanter.... I got this gorgeous soft wool to knit with and mmmmmmm I love it in a lovely smokey grey.

Anyway, I had better get on.

more to post tomoro (hopefully) sorry this was a bit on the boring side.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Christmas at Christmas : : Mos Nicolae

I took this picture last night as the sun set and brought the eve of christmas festivities.

Today was Mos Nicolae. This means that last night, before all the children went to bed, they cleaned their shoes and laid them on the doorstep so that Mos Nicolae (Old Man Nicolaus) would leave them sweets.

The tradition says that good girls and boys will have sweets in their shoes in the morning, whereas bad little girls and boys will have onions and turnips (winter veg) and birch rods in their shoes (the birch is to beat them)

These are our birch rods and mistletoe. The birch rods we use as part of our christmas decoration and the mistletoe hangs on our front door.

However, as time has progressed, so have birch rods, which are now thousands of varieties of decorated sticks (of various materials) and everyone gets one...and sweets.

We also went to see the nativity which was still being set up....

Much to our joy, the sheep are indeed real. Munching happily away on some hay, watching over Jesus and the gathering.

Of course, as you will have noticed (maybe) this also signifies the end of my 'no christmas til christmas' protest. We have also put up our decorations (most of)

I just love these hanging lights and modelling modestly in the foreground is Pickwick, my ring necked parrot. He will be moved the warmer room now as it is too cold for him there.

So here it is.... Advent and the christmas countdown.

Christmas is coming
The goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man's hat
If you havn't got a penny, a ha'penny will do
If you havn't got a ha'penny then God Bless You

Monday, 3 December 2007

Rest and Recovery

This weekend we went to visit my folks. Well, my mother at least, my father is away atm. We also happened to visit the huge second hand market with everything from car bits to jumpers. I did my usual raid. I found a jumper stall and had a rummage. I emerged with 4, but trained myself down to 2, and that was only 5 mins of looking. Anyway, one of my finds was this...

A mens XXL stipey, 100% shetland wool jumper. I absolutely love it, the colours are perfect for me , the length was good and the neck is nice. So, with a bit of this....

And some of this...

I got this...

a long wooly, striped (I love stripes) jumper for a curvey lady, so pleased.

And now for something completely different.

I have 2 sisters and a brother. One sister is 'grown up' as is my brother, and my littlest sister (I am the eldest) was adopted recently, once we had all 'grown up'

My grown-up sister 1 was playing with a bead set that belonged to littlest sister 2 and produced this....

It made me smile (giggle a little too) but it's true, we get on well and we can have a good laugh together.

Sister 2 also gave me a gift this weekend...

Items : Hello Kitty purse with handy clip for belt attachment
Hair bands for my long hair
Melty love heart hand made herself (with a little help at the ironing stage)
Letter with a picture.

If you look at the letter you will see two people, the little one is her and the big one is me. Personally I think it's a keen likeness ....especially the hair. The letter says :

'I love you lots and please come to visit us more often so I can see you I love you lots'

She's such a little monkey but we do love her so much.

So, as you can see, I have had a great weekend. Hope you all did as well.

Dont forget 'pay it forward' for friday. I think that the point of pay it forward is not to force people to do such, merely for you to do your bit, and hope that others will do theirs. Feel free to leave your comments without worrying about the other end (paying it forward yourself), these are supposed to be 'random acts of kindness' so everyone has the same rights to them in my opinion and I would love to send any 3 of you a handmade gift from me.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Is it the weekend yet?

I have two very important things to do in this post, so bear with me and make sure you read it all.

Firstly, Pay it Forward

I recently participated in a 'Pay it forward'. In the next year from this post, the 3 of you who participate will receive a handmade gift from me. All that is required is that you promise to 'Pay it forward' yourselves, to 3 people. You have a year to do it and a year to send the gifts from the date you make the post.

If you would like to join in, and you think you can 'pay it forward' then please leave a comment before Friday (7th December) and I will draw out 3 names at random. (of course that is if there are more than 3 comments)

OK... secondly, There was one idea I thought I would ask an opinion about. What would you think of doing a sort of sock collection for the poor kids in Arad (where I work with a charity). It would involve, for one year, the collection of handknitted socks to give out next winter to very poor kids and poor families. I was thinking about starting a ravelry group and trying to get people involved ( i think I would wait till after christmas though) and then over the year, collect up socks and keep a note up of how many pairs we have. People would only need to knit one pair, but if several people knitted one pair we could give socks to really desperate people who have really cold feet. Like these kids....

It gets really cold here, the kids we work with don't live in what you can call houses, many in shacks that don't have doors or even proper walls. Most of them don't have winter shoes and the majority of them don't have socks.

Its just a really tiny way that lots of people can help to make a difference.

I hope you all have a lovely, warm weekend. See you on Monday.

EDIT: Dont forget 'pay it forward' for friday. I think that the point of pay it forward is not to force people to do such, merely for you to do your bit, and hope that others will do theirs. Feel free to leave your comments without worrying about the other end (paying it forward yourself), these are supposed to be 'random acts of kindness' so everyone has the same rights to them in my opinion and I would love to send any 3 of you a handmade gift from me.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

As promised

finally, and a little late perhaps......
This is the lovelly fabric that I recieved recenly

And these,... well, these were a first attempt without a pattern. I am surprised they stay on his feet. I am now working through the kinks for my pair (wink). They were made with lovelly thick wool fabric, with an insulated sole.... very toasty

Man has big feet as you can see. He likes them and they keep his tootsies warm.

He subtly suggested that it might be time to finish sewing up the nativity as we might want to use it soon. And of course I have to finsih christmas presents for family. Busy busy busy.

Will be doing a pay it forward soon so if you are interested keep an eye open....

Sunday, 25 November 2007


I survived the weekend. Helped distribute christmas parcels in one of the Roma communities (yes I did say christmas parcels, but there are 3000, we have to start now or we dont get them all out)

There was ZERO creativity, however, I did discuss logistics of the re-usable shopping bags to sell on etsy so that I can raise funds for the charity.

My kindly mother and father brought oodles of fabulous fabric back from their trip for me. Very lovelly. I will (promise) post pics tommorow.

Right now I am going to bed. Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend and thanksgiving.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Unfinished business

Well, Man was complaining that he couldn't keep up with what I was knitting these days. I rolled my eyes and pretended I had no idea what he was talking about, but... um.... well

I havn't finished stitching up the nativity

I havn't finished the second drops jacket (it's hibernating)

I havn't finished my autumn colours top (knitted)

I havn't finished autumn colours top (crocheted)

I havn't started second first-timer sock

I havn't finished Mans jumper (I frogged it last night, infuriated with the pattern and yarn)

and well..... don't tell, but I cast on another jumper. It's going really quick though. The yarn was just sitting there and I thought it's just messy not being used. So... um....

I suppose I should go and hang my head in shame....or knit...

Oh yeah, and this is only my unfinished yarn related items.... there are thousands of unfinished shop products and christmas gifts. Ouch.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Special request : : Christmas Pudding

Well..... Rani asked about Christmas pudding...

To begin with, I'm not crazy and I realize we still have a way to go till Christmas, however, the best Christmas puddings are made at least 4-5 weeks before Christmas allowing them to almost mature. The best puddings have a while to get themselves right before Christmas day.

We make ours according to British traditions (man is Aussie... at some stage that was the same thing). The style we have made, the round pudding is traditional style, for most of the twentieth century, particularly later on, the Christmas puddings have been made in bowls so they did lose their round shape. To make them in a round you have to first make the mix, then cut a piece of cloth and make sure there is a layer of flour all around the pudding. , wrap it up tight and tie it with string (once more, Jute to the rescue) and then boil them, the time varies by weight but ours was mammoth, so it took 6 hours.

When they finish, you dry them, and hang them (all still in the cloth and the seal made by the flour) in your pantry till Christmas.

Traditionally, everyone was allowed to help stir the pudding and you also threw a sixpence into the mix for luck.

Our recipe was from mother-in-law.

250 g flour
250 g breadcrumbs
pinch salt
500 g of butter
500 g of brown sugar
500 g of currants
500 g of sultanas
250 g of citrus peel
250 g of raisins.
9 eggs
1 gill brandy
half nutmeg (grated)
125 g slivered almonds
1 level dessertspoon mixed spice
1 level teaspoon carb soda.

As you can see, its SOOOOOO rich, but was also SOOOOO huge. You only actually eat little servings at Christmas. This will easily serve everyone at Christmas dinner about twice. (on different days) We also modified somewhat.... no currents, we used dates and apricots instead and used fresh citrus zest instead of dried citrus peel.

Serving it on Christmas day is great fun.

You put it on a big plate, you pour brandy over it and you set it on fire (obviously not for long) and trim it with a sprig of Holly on top. Then you either put some icing on it (we've never done this), or you have it with brandy butter (which is like really rich alcoholic icing, a favourite of Man's grandmother), you can have it with custard, or, my personal favourite, or you have it piping hot with cold whipped cream *drool*.

Hope this helped understand the strange hanging bundle in the previous post.

Another similarly strange custom is that of the Christmas cake, which is made months before Christmas too (the longer the better).

One of the best Christmas puddings I ever had was 3 years old. It was marvelous. I don't think I will ever have one like it again.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

He cooks......

Satuday morning brought this.....

Our first snow this year. Was so cold outside but was perfect for our christmas pudding plans.

Meanwhile, my sock was progressing nicely

I picked up extra stitches along the heel flap, and I knitted them so they would twist, resulting in this....
A distinct lack of holes along the heel. Very neat. Much happier to knit socks now they come out like that. I was begining to wonder if i had finally encountered my nemesis in the form of a multicoloured sock.... but it turns out that is and adventure for another day.

So this is my end product. Photographed in the icey blue morning light on the balcony

We (and by 'we' I mean the man) had a late start on the christmas pudding. But once it got going it was so much fun. Not to mention yummy (snacking on spare ingredients)

Lots of dried fruit... Apricots and dates here

Smashed almonds... we coulndt get flakes, but anyway having bigger chunks seemed more appealing...
Hamish was really helpful as you can see...

A huge square of cloth and some flour served as our 'seal'

And this is the pudding.... Did I mention that it was huge.... the little almont on top was to give some proportion. So yummy, I cant believe we arnt allowed to eat it till christmas

'Plop' into the water to boil for a delightful 6 hours (this meant we were up tll 2am)

So all in all, a slight increase in productivity.

Hope you are having a great weekend.