Christmas 2013.

Early morning a week ago last Thursday I drifted home, if you can call drifting racing to the underground escalators to nip between the guard who was closing them so as not to miss my train.  I didn’t give eye contact, I think I am beginning to become a Londoner, I just drifted through – at speed.
 And soon I was here, eagerly watching for my train, eyeing up the best place for a bacon buttie and a strong coffee and wondering just how much Hotel Chocolate my bank account would stand.  (Fortunately I have a very nice friend who bought me my Hotel Chocolate for Christmas, she knows me so well, it was very welcome, thank you.)
All the time I was waiting I was humming the tune to Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel, which almost made me weep and I realised just how long it had been since I came home – I think my subconscious was giving me a sharp dig in the ribs.
 Soon I was home to be greeted by my parents, beautiful son and knitting group, what more could a girl ask.  It was lovely to see everybody,  unfortunately I had a trip to the dentist to attend which went well, if you can call antibiotics which meant a ‘dry’ Christmas going well.  At least I didn’t have to have a filling, the xray was squeaky clean and the antibiotics seem to have done the trick – all praise Alexander Flemming.
And shortly after that hubby gathered his things to come home with me.  And to be honest most of the time I have slept and slept and slept.  Shockingly I’d get up for three hours and then go back to bed for several hours then get up for three hours, etc. which has carried on until today.  I think the infection must have had something to do with it.  On the one day I was awake we ventured to Hamley’s (the largest toy shop in the UK)
Some window displays, as I know you love them. 
 These were cute, they spun around and around.
 And I rather liked this elephant.
 And of course when I wasn’t sleeping I was eating – well it was Christmas.  Tesco’s delivered my shopping mid morning Christmas Eve, I am always going to use them in future, they missed of the Christmas crackers which I could live without and no exchanges.  But to have the pleasure of Christmas being delivered, (how very Margo Leadbetter) with no hassle or exhaustion from fighting the crowds and half a ton of extra’s that seemed like a good idea at the time, was really very wonderful.
I made this ham glazed with orange marmalade, tesco’s super saver £3.50, it was the best ham we’ve had.
 Hubby had already gravalaxed a side of salmon, which we love.
 Its brilliant for Christmas eve.
 We had a very small frozen turkey from Tesco, British, which defrosted over night and it was the tastiest turkey we have had, the brown meat was lovely and tender, not like the big birds that need so much cooking the legs start to suffer.  Parsnips and spuds roasted and the usual carrot and swede mash, brussel sprouts mixed with bacon and chestnuts and sausages and stuffing with peaches and very good gravy, it was gorgeous – says the women that nearly killed Christmas with her idea of chicken fajitas, – I think I was just over tired when I thought of that idea.
And the boys did there Christmas dinner, I can’t tell you just how proud I am of them, especially son no.2 who orchestrated the recipe’s, shopping and cooking, I believe son no.1 was taking valuable notes on how it all came together.  They had if I can remember everything, minted peas which were cooked in the tasty meat juices from the bird which all juices were returned to make gravy, brussel sprouts with stilton and cottage cheese – which was delicious, honey glazed carrotts, pigs in blankets, a large roast chicken and roast potatoes and roast parsnips and yorkie puddings!, all with good gravy.  How impressive is that, I’ve already told him I’m coming to his next year. 
 And there has been a little bit of knitting in between eating and sleeping.
Gnarled Oak in Coastal Knits in Wollmeise Petit Poison No 5 (I think, I’ll check when I write my notes) in DK.
It was looking like this, and now its just about to be pulled back. I can’t quite talk about what happened, I think I lost some stitches at the end in between bedtime and this morning and in trying to fix it, its all become a bit of a tangle, which means I won’t be wearing it for New Years Eve, which was the plan. Its still gorgeous and I think I’ve just got to relax into the last few rows whilst knitting with such beautiful wool.
Happy Festivities everybody, hope you had a wonderful time.

Style, Christopher Kane, Glossy Box and Birchbox.

An action packed blog post this evening. 
Some weeks ago I received an email in my uni account asking if I would like to go to see Style in Conversation with Christopher Kane, a little research ensued because you know I am a country mouse and don’t know who anyone is and then thought, why yes I would and promptly paid my monies over for a half price ticket and set about finding the hotel we were meeting at.  Fortunately for me the Rosewood Hotel was easy enough to find, I was blown away by the grandeur of it, there were coach and horses outside when I went to look and somehow it didn’t look like a wedding party.  I made sure to wear my best bib and tucker and party shoes and set off into the night, having had a small ‘what the heck am I going to wear’ moment on facebook. 
It was fine, the complimentary wine helped and everyone was so friendly as we were ushered into a room dripping with crystal chandeliers and carpet so thick and deep I’ve known thinner mattresses.  This hotel is brand spanking new and to say it sparkles is an understatement, it has a lively bar at the front of the hotel so if you happen to be in this neck of the woods, I’d pop in for a swift one, you won’t be disappointed. 
Getting back to the moment in hand, it was a lovely evening listening to Christopher Kane’s time at Central St Martins and his journey to success but it was all too soon over.  One lucky member of the audience discovered a sticker under their chair which gave them the sum of £1500 to spend on Net-A-Porter goodies, it was quite amusing when the lady next to me, ripped the label from underneath her chair (with considerable force)  to discover it was just the tag from the fabric, not the elusive hidden sticker, we both had a giggle at that. 
And on the way out we got goodies.
 A parker pen, notebook, style magazine and project bag. I gave these to my Dad, he loved them. He’s just about to go into hospital again so I suspect he’ll be waving the Sunday Times Parker Pen under the consultants nose – he has that sort of humour.
And a box full of goodies,  
 from Glossybox.  Strangely I’d been reading about Glossy box the previous evening and had thought I would like to try them. 
 This was the luxury limited edition and it was jolly good fun opening it. 
 A lovely card explaining it all.
And inside I received some beautiful items.  Sadly the two items that were full sized were to do with hair, they would have amounted to £50.00 for the pair in the shops, so Mum has those and I get to play with the perfum, bath salts, sun protection and anti aging daily serum.  The bath salts are currently gently perfuming my bedroom, they smell divine. 
 But in the interest of fairness I thought I would try a Birchbox.  (that and that one hit had meant instant addiction, I’ll never be the same)
 And that was good fun too.
 Again there was a hair product, (Mum’s going to be trying alot of new hair products I feel this year) a full sized lipstick, full sized nail varnish and glitter, good sized trial sizes of body creme souffle, a face masque, hair tie and parcel labels.  Which I thought was cracking for £10.00 plus p & p.
Both Glossybox and Birchbox have very interesting web sites, I thought I would try one for six months and then the other and see how I feel after that. 
And you might think, why are you doing this you old duffer. Well, its fun, I’m in the middle of London with all of these brands surrounding me and this is an inexpensive way of trying new items, but best of all, its like Christmas and birthday presents your best friends gave to you who know you really well all rolled into one.
 So I tried the Nail Rock and glitter, and this gives you the best idea as to how it actually looks. My fingernails are like little sparklers lighting up the room, red glitter at Christmas, whats not to love.
The lipstick is pretty, very smooth and smells delicious and the rest I have yet to try. 

Tea and Sympathy.

Sometimes when living on your own you have to self administer your own TLC
Suffice it to say what promised to be a lovely girly weekend of wine, laughter and shopping trips turned to great disappointment, mainly in myself in that I had been manipulated yet again, and not least left in the middle of central London in Oxford Street,  on my own at 11 p.m., fortunately I managed to get home safely, thank goodness. Rest assured, I have finally learnt my lessons. 
Never, Again. 
So you’ll understand when I say that I’m feeling a bit sore.  
I cooked supper early because having not got in until very late I sort of missed lunch,  so come early evening my mind turns to tea and biscuits. As a rule I don’t have biscuits in the house and I just didn’t fancy trotting to the corner shop, I felt that, that wouldn’t satisfy me, so I conjured up a bit of comfort baking.
I had a couple of lemons that need using up so thought lemon biscuits would be just the ticket and knocked up a batch of biscuit dough.  Fortunately when packing for London I had included a couple of biscuit cutters as treats to play with – you know what us creatives are like.
 And then I played with shapes and it was fun and amusing and everything I had hoped it would be, just what I needed.
 And soon I had a batch of biscuits,
 And then some more came out of the oven,
 And just a few more.
 And I had bought my very old biscuit tin, found in a car boot for 50p which I had used for seeds at the allotment and found it still sealed well, so thought I would bring it back into use as a biscuit barrel.  Its the type you can pop out a metal can that then dries in the oven which keeps your biscuits fresh.  My nan had one, and I loved shaking (without biscuits in of course) the tin as they have the most delightful sound to them.  So a quick lining with greaseproof at the bottom of the tin and hey presto, a tin full of lemon biscuits, ready for Christmas.  (they won’t last that long)
 I do think its lovely and of course I love the greens and citrus colours.
 Sunday evening treats, but whats that I spy, lurking on my plate.
 I had a little lemon curd left and it made a perfect addition.
 And there has been knitting. I finished a tank top, I do like a tank top, they keep your central area warm without you over heating, quite ingenious really.  This yarn was Thick ‘n’ Thin by Rowan and the pattern was Solstice by Sarah Hatton.  I liked the pattern well enough but when I got into knitting the texture at the top, I really didn’t gell with it.  I didn’t like the pattern and it was awkward to knit, not comfortable, lots of tugging of yarn and tight stitches, so I changed it to double moss stitch and it came on a treat then.  I also didn’t knit around the armholes, feeling that the pattern was better without it.  It seemed odd to want to knit around the arms to produce a ribbed fabric and not the neckline, so I left it as it was and I think I made the right decision, not least because…
 I then had enough wool left over to make a bobble hat, and it fits a treat.  This is the pattern called Nova in the same book Thick ‘n’ Thin Collection.  It suggests you only need 1 ball, you do in fact need 2 and I had enough yarn scraps left over to make a bobble for my hat, it wasn’t in the pattern, I just fancied it.
How’s this for a Selfie?  Lol.

Micky Flanagan O2

If your reading this because your thinking about going to see Micky Flanagan, GO, you won’t regret it, it was an amazing evening, he’s a wonderful comic who really knows how to capture the essence of human behaviour. 
I happened to notice that Micky Flanagan was on at the O2, I discovered Micky a while ago now and am always entertained when he pops up on tele, so thought this was an opportunity too good to miss.  Of course by the time I discovered this, I wasn’t able to buy seats together, but what I did manage to do was to get seats on the same row, twenty seats apart, to be honest I’m getting so used to my own company that it didn’t affect our enjoyment, it was quite nice meeting up for interval drinks and meeting up again afterwards, hubby looking attentive, waiting for me, always makes my heart leap just a little, even after all these years. 
And we’d never been to the dome before, that blew us away as we came out of the train station, its huge, I knew it would be huge, but its huge…

 Inside, its like a mini village of restaurants and bars, it really nicely appointed, an excellent place for an evening out.
 Waiting for Micky,
And just to give you an idea of the venue, I believe the Dome takes 20 thousand people and as this was a sell out tour, I don’t think there was a spare seat in the house.  Considering the amount of people, the temperature remained perfect and it wasn’t a problem to come in or to get out, it was all really well executed, and there was enough leg room, for me with my 33″ inside leg, so I was a very happy girl.  
As I said previously, Micky Flanagan had us rocking in our seats, his detail is exquisite when story telling, his punch lines unexpected and his honesty about life is a beautiful thing.

They are on there way !!!

Whilst chatting to son no. 2 via the wonders of video calling he made comment that he was very cold in his student digs and was wearing my first knitted jumper, which was big enough and thick enough to keep Santa and all his little helpers warm (he refuses to go out in it, but gladly snuggles up in it when he’s in his room) and really needed some fingerless gloves.  (it was only after the knitting was in full swing that he wanted fingerless gloves with fingers on – I’ve told him that these are much better) 
So, then the chat about what colour he would like, this took nearly three quarters of an hour, which involved sending photographs and shoving yarn in front of my camera and that it would indeed be a very bad thing (for me) to break into a jumpers worth of stash for mitts when I had some kitten soft, very warm, hand dyed, beautiful yarn that would make perfect mitts.  He referred to it as baby sick with blue spots on, I’m not sure I have convinced him.  But they are gorgeously soft, very warm and in real life much darker and I think quite manly.  I’ve had to say I will knit him a second pair if these are okay fit wise, in a colour he would like – I didn’t say when though!  There is a lot of stretch in the rib, don’t be mislead that they fit my dainty little hands, compared to his.

I’ve completely forgotten what the yarn is called, as its been wound into a cake for quite a while and during my time at college I didn’t updated my Ravelry account as often as perhaps I would have liked, so the jumper that is knit from it is nowhere to be seen on Rav, therefore no notes. 
The pattern was free called Comfort Zone by Erica Jackofsky and did what it said on the tin. I didn’t vary the needle sizes as suggested and I made the wrist longer for extra warmth and I knit them in a manly size large. 
Lets hope he likes them and they keep him warm!

John Lewis spectacular Christmas window displays.

Its Christmas!
Well its nearly Christmas, well, okay, its December, but at least we are in the month of Christmas.  
And Christmassy things start to happen, which in my eyes is wonderful, even if we are doing things very simply this year.  And I’ve never spent Christmas in London before, just the odd day to shop, now at least I notice the details just a little more.
And the details that hit me square between the eyes yesterday was John Lewis’s window display.  
I shall let it speak for itself, apart from to say, its wonderful.

And just to let you see what Oxford Street is looking like at the moment. 
Every time I see the Christmas lights, they make my heart jump just a little – don’t they know that in my perceived imagination that is what a swarm of martians would look like when they come to land on and take over the Earth!  And when they are lit and its dark, you can barely see the wires and they hover right above, its spooky and glorious all at the same time

A feast for one.

Its sometimes just a little boring when cooking for one.  And you do tend to resort to simple things, like cooking off a chicken at the weekend and living off the meat in various forms ending with a chicken and vegetable soup.  But man or mandy cannot live by meat alone and as I was trundling around John Lewis earlier today I did duck down to the basement to have a wander around at what Waitrose had to offer when I spied these lovely treats.  
 Just over a kilogram of mussels for less than four quid, fresh that day. A quick calculation led me to believe that a) there was an R in the month and b) I had a spot of white wine left over in the fridge.  My heart quickened. 
Another two rules to remember, if its open before you cook it and doesn’t close sharply when tapped, throw it away and if its closed after cooking throw it away and remember to trim the beards away. (usually involving a sharp pull)  And the only other golden rule on mussels is to empty your bin before you go to bed, should you not want a fishy pong in the morning.
 A kg seems alot, but actually it works out to be about 8 oz of meat which is the same as a jolly good steak.  
There are lots of ways to cook mussels, I favour the chop a small amount of onion or a shallot, whichever is to hand, a couple of slivers of garlic, that is all, bubble in butter until softened and just coloured around the edges, throw in a small half a glass of white wine and then the mussels and then clamp the lid on top.  Leave at a full blistering heat, steaming vigorously for 1 minute, stir them around, then do the same for another minute, and thats all they need, you can add 30 seconds if your really not sure, but no more, you do not want bullets of protein, you want gorgeously soft, smelling of the sea treats to the tastebuds.  It really is the simplest of meals. 
Serve with bread, or french fries or even pasta and finish the wine of course, whilst not forgetting to sip some of the gorgeous liquor at the bottom of your bowl. 
et voila, supper is finished.  

Days Out !!

Having hubby around this weekend and no homework!, we decided to venture out for the day on Saturday.  We started off at Borough Market with the intention of going where our noses led us.
As you know there is far too much to photograph and I must apologise, I left my camera at home, so these are just snaps from my phone. 
I love the colours of all the fresh juices on display, 
 And the choices of fish are wonderful.

 Seasonal apples are just a joy, such variety,
 and so many tomatoes to choose from.
 We bought muffins for breakfast to go with softly poached eggs, (and they were very nice)
 But the one thing that caught my attention (and my sense of smell) is the Oranges and Clementines straight from Valencia, with leaves still green and fresh in the box.  We bought a box and they are lovely, fresh with a tang and so delicate and full of juice, an absolute treat at this time of year.
 And there are lots more citrus offerings to try before the best of the season is over.
 We had coffee at our favourite turkish coffee bar, with lemon and rose turkish delight, which was just dreamy.
 And I met up with A, remember A it was so lovely to meet up with him again.  We had such a lovely chat about all things Alopcia and I am most jealous, as he’s grown eyebrows in the last couple of months.  We worked out we are alopecia twins, we both lost our hair at about the same time, just over six years ago, how spooky is that.  A treated us to the turkish delight (again!) I’ve told him we must buy our own next time, but at least with me living in London these days it won’t be so long until I see him.  I must say, he’s really growing into a fine young man, I wish him well for the future.  (And I don’t think I have seen any Alopecian’s since I last saw him – I almost feel normal looking at this piccie with us two together)
 We then trotted on to the South Bank to wander around the German Market, its nicely stretched out by the Thames and gives you a good walk as you wander around the 80 or so little huts.
There were whole sides of salmon being roasted,
 and the whirl of the carousel,
 Big Ben keeping watch from a distance,
 And the smell of the salt and the sound of the waves lapping the stony beach from the Thames.
 There were gingerbread houses of all proportions.
 And gorgeous stars made from paper.
 My favourite German marshmallows.
 And at the end there is this huge area selling second hand books, but it was getting just a bit nippy.
So a little something to keep out the cold, red wine and a ‘pint’ of sausage rolls, which were very good.
 We went travelling and were met by pirates,
 and came on shore at Soho, to eat at our favourite Chinese, I  thought this window was wonderful as we walked past. 
Tired and happy we went home, talking about wonderful times past and more to come.