Wednesday, 24 December 2008

'Twas the Night before Christmas...

...and a busy one in the HenHouse.  Hen's den is looking a little bit festive...






And the Munchkin has made me this picture showing our three kittys in Christmas mode...





I've been wrapping presents...




But I think it's fair to say, there won't be any more Christmas sewing so I can put this little lot away...




Quite an assortment of Christmassy baskets are cluttering up my den...





This evening, we took the Munchkin to the Christingle service which was lovely, you can't beat a spot of Away in a Manger and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. We've returned home so that the Munchkin could get down to the real important stuff that Christmas Eve is made of, well, when you're aged seven, that is...






I do hope that should the Munchkin's dream come true, Father Christmas can find some room under the tree!




All that remains is for all of us at the HenHouse to wish you a




very...


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Cottagey Christmas

Our poor little cottage in the West Country is all alone and uninhabited at the moment but we have been there two of the first three weekends of December and we're looking forward to an extended break there after Christmas until New Year's Day.  We bought a few decorations last year which I really enjoyed getting down from the loft again this year; don't you love that, rediscovering all those decorations you'd forgotten you had.  We don't put up a tree at the cottage because for a start, there isn't a lot of room in the sitting room and also because for me, trees are really synonymous with finding your pressies under them on Christmas morning and hopefully, Father Christmas will be coming down the chimney here in town this year!

Anyway, welcome to Christmas at the cottage...






Go on, have a peek through the windows first, then. We're always very receptive to spot of carol singing, too...








Would you rather come in and warm up by the log fire in the inglenook?




The garland over that centuries old beam came from the craft sale in the village hall last year and is adorned with the obligatory fairy lights and a few rustic tin and wooden decorations from "Cilla and Camilla" in nearby Beaminster. How do you like our original bread oven embedded in the side of the inglenook?




Through in our country kitchen, the dresser has had a little seasonal uplift...











The dining room has its Christmas holly cloth and a new (new to us that is, via a charity shop in Wells) embroidered cloth on the table with a few bits and pieces on top and the Munchkin happily provided some paper chains for the pictures.






I was thrilled to discover a jolly Father Christmas when I unwrapped all the decorations.  I had completely forgotten him (sorry!); we found him in a charity shop in Bridport last year.  My nan (now 86) has for as long as I can remember, always had an old Father Christmas figure under her tree.  I have always loved him and here at the HenHouse, we have a modern version (bought on my working travels in Singapore a good few years back), so it was great to discover one for the cottage, too.




Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, cottage-style!



Sunday, 21 December 2008

Yum Yum!

Today we have "entertained" (top phrase!) my in-laws here at the HenHouse.  The hard work is over and I am now relaxing with my laptop (well, I was until Blogger started playing up).  

We increasingly find it difficult to know what to buy for our parents for Christmas, they're of an age where they either already have everything they want or are in a position to be able to buy it themselves if not.  So last year, I gave hampers as gifts.  I make lots of preserves in the Summer months when all the lovely English soft fruits are in season, I make chutneys in the Autumn and Seville Orange marmalade in the New Year, so a lot of the hard work is done before Christmas. And of course, in the run-up to Christmas, I can be found baking various goodies.  Mr HenHouse's parents are very grateful recipients of all my little efforts and I thought I'd take a few snaps to show you this year's gift.  (I should have remembered to take them in daylight, sorry about that!)








There are 3 types of marmalade, 3 types of chutney and 4 types of jam.  There are also some elderflower cordial and some mince pies with homemade mincemeat and some Christmas pudding truffles.  I've popped the baked goodies into little boxes wrapped in Christmas paper, the treats nestled inside in starry tissue paper with some cellophane and a pretty ribbon on top.  I also bought a jar of gorgeous honey from Bridport Farmer's Market, a big flagon of cider and the Munchkin has made a little paper Christmas tree and I've popped in his class calendar for next year.  Note to self: need to start making cider and honey!


I also packaged up a mini hamper for my chutney-loving brother-in-law. There are six different varieties this year.




In the background, you might have spotted our little tree in the dining room.  This is a pretend tree which I used to have in my flat back when I was a single girl.  You'd be able to tell this if you looked at it close-up because there are lots of decorations in the shape of shoes and handbags and feathery ones, too!




The Munchkin certainly enjoyed himself today, having his grandparents visit and tucking into some yummy stuff, too!




Talking of yummy things, this week I received my parcel for the "Cosy Night In" swap organised by Mel and Lesley.  My gifts came from Andrea in Devon.  Oooh, the excitement (something for me amidst all this present buying and preparing for everyone else).

I'm rather liking that retro-looking paper label the P.O. have affixed...


 


Getting very excited now, serious damage has been done to the box...






Pretty wrapping.  Almost too good to open (almost, I said!)  I've saved all the ribbons and the dinky painted hearts.




At last!




I am the lucky recipient of an embroidered cushion, a lovely-smelling candle, some heart-shaped bath bombs (these also smell yummy), a heart-shaped keyring and a lovely china cup and saucer which was filled with Roses choccies.  They lasted all of ten minutes, I can tell you!  Thank you very much Andrea, for putting such a lot of thought into your parcel and your own time and effort in finding and making several of the items, too.  Andrea was also kind enough to get me the CK Christmas bag from Tesco as I hadn't found any of them myself.  Andrea is somehow managing to wait until Christmas to open her goodies; she's a woman of stronger willpower than I!  Thanks also to Mel and Lesley for organising the swap.  

Hope you've all had a great weekend.  Come back soon if you fancy a gander at our Christmassy cottage...

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Christmas Decorating Marathon

It's feeling very Christmassy indeed here at the HenHouse now.  The Munchkin had his school play this morning and looked quite cute as Joseph, with the obligatory teatowel-type garment on his head!  




Meanwhile, I have been keeping myself busy with a spot of sewing. A few weeks back, I ordered a pack of Christmassy fat quarters via Etsy and they duly arrived all the way from America. I like these fabrics because they are so much fresher and funkier than the fairly boring and rather traditional Christmas fabrics you generally find in your average sewing shop (I reserve those for jam jar covers). They're not overtly Christmas fabrics but the colours and jolly patterns when combined do look pretty festive indeed.

Have a peek to see what you think...




A bit closer now...








Err, excuse me!






They look so much better than the boring ones that are usually there, most of which came with the sofa so are fairly nondescript.  I think I need to order another stash of fabrics so I can make a replacement, non-Christmassy set for the New Year when I have to put this little lot sadly away.

This morning before we went off to the school play, I finally got round to finishing the decorations, something I've been psyching myself up to do for the last week. I don't tend to go too mad with decorations around the rest of the house, other than the tree, but I do manage the odd garland and fairy lights. So, the fireplace in our sitting room has had a bit of a sparkly revamp...






I've also put up a small tree in the dining room; I'll show you that when that room is all ready for our guests coming for lunch at the weekend.

It's been a lovely bright day here, today, but the Christmas decorations do tend to look even better once the sun starts to go down (although it makes photographing them a bit of a challenge).  Mr HenHouse is out on a jolly tonight so I'm looking forward to hunkering down in front of the fire and enjoying my surroundings (with the tin of Quality Street to keep me company!)









Happy Evening to you all.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Almost Christmas in the West

Car problems recurring along the way, we nonetheless made our way to our little slice of the West Country on Friday evening in the pouring rain and howling gales, what fun!  Saturday was the last Farmers' Market in Bridport before Christmas and indeed, there we went when it was still virtually dark on Saturday morning, part by taxi, part by bus; my, we are dedicated!  (Or mad?)

We waited for the bus in Beaminster a lovely little village with a thriving gaggle of shops at its heart, and at this time of year, several gorgeous Christmas trees and lots of eye-catching lights. Despite the miserable weather, this little village was doing its best to look attractive.




First stop on a Saturday morning in Bridport has to be here, before all the delicious homemade scones and other goodies sell out.  I do love baking but when I'm only at the cottage for a few days, I'm happy to have a rest, knowing this fabulous home baking is at hand.  Just don't get me started on why it now has to be called a "Country" market rather than the W.I. market...





On to the first of many charity shops and look at this fabulous window display, sadly not for sale.




I did strike gold in a different charity shop. One gorgeous pink pure new wool blanket with satin edging and 3 smaller wool blankets, just right for my first foray into felting sometime soon. (And a candlewick blanket, a tablecloth, a flower power duvet cover for chopping up and sewing into who knows what, and 2 cushions!)

On to the Arts Centre, home to the Farmers' Market each second Saturday of the month. I have to say, it was very quiet last Saturday, perhaps some were put off by the weather. It is a very attractive building and there is currently a campaign under way to raise funds for its maintenance, with the backing of local celebs Bill Oddie, Billy Bragg and others (sorry, forgotten them but quite a lot of well known people live in these parts).




Much more exciting was the presence of this fellow outside. Do you recognise him? The Munchkin certainly did (especially when he started dishing out the Quality Street, strawberry cremes, my fave no less).






Bizarrely enough, further down the street, it seemed Father Christmas had got into a speedboat (in an attempt to try to persuade some truly mad people to go for a swim on Boxing Day, a local tradition)!




Naturally, I had to stop by Girls' Own Store and I snapped the window display for you...




I was a bit disappointed by this; I mean, I get the red and green theme but I wanted it to be more overtly, well, christmassy.

Back in Beaminster, I had major luck in finding the most wonderful vintage lampshade in a divine shade of pink.  I'll have to take a photo another time, for example when I've actually sorted out what I'm going to do with it...  I was less than pleased that the woman in front of me bought all (and I mean about 30) of the vintage glass Christmas decorations at 10p each. Grrrrrr.

Back at the cottage, the decorating began and the Munchkin got stuck into the paper chains; he has discovered a new love.




I took the opportunity to get on with some crochet...





..but not before I'd redressed the table for Christmas with its colourful big holly table cloth, charity shop-find embroidered cloth and a few other entirely essential bits and pieces...





The following day dawned bright and clear and afforded Mr HenHouse some perfect bird watching opportunities. We have lots of different feeders hanging from the trees in the garden and have lots of visitors at this time of year; on Sunday morning, 7 of my favourite, goldfinches, all at once, vying over the prized niger seeds.




The Munchkin pleasingly showed quite an interest in the birds and got out his trusty book to help...




He was, however, even more excited at taking out his scooter which we had bought at the car boot sale the week before, a fabby vintage find!  I promise the co-ordinating cardi was not intentional; what do you take me for?!




Our village has a lovely church and the Christmas tree was adorned with lights, though they were not switched on. I do hope razzing round the churchyard on a scooter is permissible!




A good weekend was had by all (and I hope, by you too).