Friday, December 28, 2012

Rubik's Cube and Cold Sheeping

One of the good things about the Rubik's Cube tissue box holder is that it is using up some of my stash of yarn.  Work is coming on a-pace now.  However, I don't have a suitable green yarn.  It will now need to be set aside until tomorrow when I can get to Joan's of Onchan to buy new yarn.

Over the last few years I have tried to decrease my stash of yarn, but quite frankly, it doesn't appear to be working too well.  One possible way of going about it is to 'cold sheep'.  This is a semi-humorous take on 'cold turkey'; the person with the yarn problem simply stops buying yarn.  

Can I discipline myself in the ways of stash reduction, or is it really time to go 'cold sheep'?    Perhaps I need to give serious consideration to including yarn-based craft supplies in my New Year's Resolutions.  Perhaps.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Crafting List

The list of ideas is getting longer and longer.  A list is the answer!

  • Rubik's Cube tissue box holder for Number 1 Daughter (done)
  • TARDIS tissue box holder for Number 2 Daughter
  • Dead Fish hat for Number 2 Daughter
  • Lace hat and scarf for Number 1 Daughter
  • Sweater for the Beloved
  • Sleep masks for Juan

Hand-made Christmas Presents

There are times when hand-made Christmas presents are wonderful things, and other times when they are just wonderful ideas.

This year I managed to make a grand total of three Christmas gifts, and that is only if you count a pair of slipper socks as two items!

I decided around the 20th of December that I was not about to knock myself out trying to get all of my ideas into the realms of reality.  Instead, the days between Christmas and my return to work on the 7th of January would be crafting days.

Today, I am working on a Rubik's Cube tissue box holder for Number 1 Daughter. I looked at various pictures of the tissue box on-line and did not feel comfortable with any of them.  I could not be sure the puzzle could be solved.  Yes, that does sound a bit odd, but I wasn't about to make a Rubik's Cube tissue box holder that wasn't solvable.  :o)

After borrowing a cube I decided on this particular organisation of colours.  I can assure everyone that this pattern is definitely solvable. 

These are the six faces of the cube.  The letters show how to join the faces.  As join with As and Bs join to Bs, etc.  The middle orange square on the fifth face has been greyed.  This is to indicate where the opening for the tissue should be made.

I have included all six faces, but I will only be using five of them.  There will be no bottom to the tissue box holder.  Instead, the tissue box will be held in place by a couple of strands of elastic.

Christmas in Hospital

I was too emotional to post anything about this earlier.

My Dad was admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve with breathing difficulties. He has asthma and has just had a chest infection. He was not able to get enough oxygen into his system. I knew that the only place he should be was in the hospital.

He was responding well to treatment and when she went to visit him on the evening of Christmas Eve, one of he patients opposite came over and told her that Dad had looked absolutely awful when he had arrived in hospital 6 hours ago, but was looking so much better now. My Mam thought he looked utterly awful, but was very much reassured that he was looking better than before.

Each time Mam went to hospital she saw a marked improvement in him, and he was discharged early yesterday evening. There is a huge list of the drugs he has to take, and which ones he must not take, the things he has to do, and the things he must not do.

In the midst of Dad's illness, I was also worried about my Mam being alone at Christmas. My Dad has had way more than his fair share of illness of the years, but this is the first time he has been in hospital for Christmas.

Mam received at least two calls saying "You must come and spend Christmas with us." There would be lots of people at both celebrations, and she felt she just could not cope being amongst so many. She did pop in on her sister, and her family for 30 minutes after evening visiting at the hospital.

It is times like this when having the Irish Sea separating me from my parents feels like such a bad thing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Juan's Christmas Stocking in Braille

I have been making cross stitch Christmas stocking for people, and the latest one made has been for Juan.  'Juan' is a Manx name, pronounced 'Jew-an' with the stress fairly balanced, but with a smidge more on the first syllable.  It is another variation on the name 'John'.

The particular Juan this stocking was made for is blind.  Whilst I was in the local craft shop (Joan's of Onchan), I saw some beautiful 6mm glass beads.  Inspiration struck, and I realised that instead of embroidering his name onto the stocking, I could instead used the beads to write his name in Braille!

Et voila...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Preparation - part 5

On Sunday morning I made a list (I checked it twice); it had three items on it, eggs, cream and mushrooms. No need to take a shopping list of just three items! Um…
There was a queue of cars waiting to get into the shop’s car park, and this made me a trifle worried. However, when we got inside it was busy, not crazy. People were not in a frenzy, and were being polite to each other. It wasn’t an unpleasant shopping experience. When we got to the tills, all of them were open. At each one a person was being served and a second person’s shopping was being loaded onto the conveyor belt, and that was it! They were getting through the customers quickly and efficiently. (One year, I went to a different shop. It is double the size, and it was bad. Thankfully I had taken my knitting with me. I needed it. The queues were about 10 people deep for each and every till.)
I went with the idea that we would buy anything that we needed/wanted for the store cupboard and freezer, but that there were those three things needed for Christmas dinner. 
It's rather fortunate that there is a convenience shop just around the corner, and my husband has just popped out to it, to buy eggs and mushrooms. :o)  
As Meatloaf almost sang, "One out of three ain't bad!"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Preparation - part 4

This morning I woke at 4am in a panic thinking I had forgotten something.  Now, at 8am, I am ready to go back to bed and sleep for a few hours.  If only that feeling had flitted over me about 3 and a half hours ago!

But, with this 'dead of night' thing happening I now have my last minute shopping list (eggs, cream and mushrooms), two marzipan-ed cakes and many yawns. :o)

A couple of Christmases ago one of our Christmas stockings disappeared.  Our four-person family was forced to survive with only 3 stockings.   I must admit that this does not rate highly on the world's stage of politically or culturally significant events.  It didn't even rate highly in our home!  

This year, H's boyfriend (J) will be with us for Christmas, and 3 stockings amongst 5 seemed to stretch 'odd' into 'weird'.  Therefore, yesterday I made a couple of new stockings.  Normally I would embroider the person's name across the top, but for J, who is blind, an other idea presented itself whilst I was buying some of the materials.  There were beautiful little red glass beads and would make a great set of 'dots' for a Braille Christmas stocking.

H and J were delighted with the result, J's name spelt out in Braille using glass beads.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Preparation - Part 3

I was given a couple of chenille cushion covers in a beautiful red.  Unfortunately, they almost match the sofas, but not quite.    

This afternoon, I unpicked the cushions and used the fabric to make a lovely thick cloth for the coffee table.  It is now being used to prevent the Christmas tree stand from scratching the table.  

Christmas Preparation - Part 2

Another day off, and the day is mine to with as I choose.  Today's choice is a 'spring clean' of the sitting room in preparation for the installation of the Christmas tree.

Various bits of furniture are being moved around.  There's cleaning and polishing to do, and the moving of stuff.

Whilst this is a-happening, I will put on a Christmas DVD or some carols and get myself a bit festived-up.

Today's kitchen tasks will be making a really thick, chunky chicken and vegetable soup, and cranberry sauce.  The cranberry sauce is simply made by heating cranberries with some orange juice, and then adding sugar to taste.  My plan is to make some for Christmas, and some for the freezer.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Seagulls dancing on the roof

Have you ever seen birds 'dancing' on grass?  The idea is that the vibrations they cause on the grass are transmitted through the soil to worms.  The worms think that there is heavy rain and come to the surface in an effort not to drown.  At this point the gulls eat the worms.

My office has a green roof.  Gulls come and tap dance on it, making a great deal of noise.  I can honestly say it doesn't sound much like rain to me.  But it amuses me to think of Fred and Ginger on to roof, dancing for their lunch (or not).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Rich, Dark Fruit Cake

175g (6oz) butter 
175g (6oz) sugar 
225g (8oz) plain flour (Dove Farm gluten-free flour is the one I used) 
1 rounded teaspoon of mixed spice 
1/2 rounded teaspoon of baking powder 
4 eggs 
700g (1.5lb) mixed dried fruit 
1 rounded tablespoon ground almonds 
1 rounded tablespoon black treacle 
100g (4oz) glace cherries 
50g (2oz) mixed candied peel

Cream the butter and sugar.  Sieve the flour, baking powder and mixed spice together. Beat the eggs.  Alternate between adding a little of the flour and then eggs to the mixture. Add the almonds and the treacle.  Add the fruit.  Bake in a lined tin (inside and out) for  180C for 1 hour, then turn down the temperature to 150C and cook for a further 2 hours.
The tin I use is a circular on that is about 23cm/9” in diameter, and the cake fills it to about 10-13cm/4-5” high. Decrease the cooking time for smaller cakes.
Some ingredients you might not be familiar to everyone: 
mixed spice - is a commercially available (in Britain) blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Wiki tells me that the closest equivalent in the US is pumpkin pie spice. 

dried mixed fruit - we can buy bags of ‘mixed fruit’ and this is normally different types of dried grapes - currents, raisins and sultanas. If you stick to dried grape fruits you will not go wrong, but you might like to add some other dried fruit to your taste. If using other fruit, then chop them up well, so they are the same size as the dried grapes. 

black treacle - this is an incredibly viscous sweet syrup made in the process of refining sugar. The American substitute recommended at is ‘blackstrap molasses’. The black treacle gives the cake some of its flavour. 

glace cherries - candied cherries 

tablespoon - in Scotland a tablespoon is not a spoon you eat with at the table, it is spoon that is used to serve things at the table. It is about 18ml.  But it isn't 18ml of treacle that is require.  Put am 18ml spoon into the treacle and take out a good dollop!

To feed a cake: prick the bottom of the cake with a fork. Pour whisky into a tablespoon, and then slowly dribble it over the surface of the cake. It will sink into the cake. Do the same with a second tablespoon of whisky. Then wrap the cake in two layers of greaseproof paper, wrap in aluminium foil and store in a tin with a tight fitting lid. Repeat this feeding on a weekly basis. The paper and foil do not need to be changed unless they are damaged whilst opening the cake.

Christmas Preparation - part 1

The Beloved loves Christmas cake. Many years ago whilst my Mam was in college, she was give a recipe for a rich, dark fruitcake. When my beloved ate this cake he fell in love all over again.

My health has been bad in recent years and all the little extras got left by the side. This year, for the first time in about 5 years, I have made a Christmas cake. My beloved is in heaven - well, almost he has to wait until Christmas day for the cake!

Being well puts a new light on things, and I am able to plan far better. The plan for the next week is to do a few Christmas related things each day.

Today's Christmas food prep was meant to be par-boiling carrots and parsnips. These would then be frozen and be brought out on Christmas day to be roasted. Unfortunately, I was distracted and they ended up being boiled. Now, there's carrots in the freezer and some mashed parsnips. Ah well, not quite what I had in mind, but it will taste good.

At lunch time I bought stamps for the cards. I am hoping to write some cards tonight and then send them tomorrow along with a couple of gifts going to Scotland.