Thursday, 31 December 2015

My last meal .. of the year!

We decided to stay at home on New Year's Eve and supper was pate with home made chutney, chicken, ham and leek pie and crème caramel (although Dave had apple crumble)! When midnight came we sat in the huge bathroom to watch for fireworks and I treated myself to the luxury of hot chocolate with whipped cream. Happy New Year and best wishes for 2016.

End of 2015

As the old year ends it is time to think about all that we've achieved. Sometimes progress feels slow but then I look back over my photos and see that we are really making steady progress. Now Dave has to hunt around for tasks on the 'to do' list and the reality of the B&B comes ever nearer!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Turkey curry

Almost Tom's favourite meal at Christmas time is our turkey curry. Throughout the year I cook quite a lot of curry, carefully roasting and grinding the spices and creating my own curry pastes. Our Christmas version though comes from Delia and is very old fashioned using curry powder, ground ginger and chicken stock and it gets followed to the letter!

Sunrise and sunset

We have two pretty skies today as the sun rises in a pink glow and sets with golden streaks. It has been a still day and wonderful to see something other than fog, rain and gales.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Dark rum and cheese footballs

For me the bottle of dark rum and the cheese footballs are a special treat which only arrive here at Christmas and as they say on the ads 'when they're gone, they're gone'. They are also the only kind of football I can get really excited by (sorry Burton Albion)!


Although the weather has been so mild it has also been extremely windy. I've lost count of the number of times that my festive bunch of holly has had to be re-tied by the front door and escaped branches tucked back in. It definitely lacks the volume it started off with!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas pudding

Christmas pudding is one of Joe's favourite things about Christmas. Our tradition is that we always eat it on Boxing Day as I reckon we are too full to do it justice after lunch on Christmas Day. Somehow I feel it works much better following a plate of cold turkey. Dave lights it by warming the brandy over our candle flames. The pudding is served on our 'special' Christmas pudding plate, painted by me years ago. I use a recipe from 'Atora' suet which I've had for years as unusually it contains no sugar (just a little black treacle) and so it tastes deliciously of the mixed fruit and nuts.

Early morning and a full moon

This morning I wake at 3am which isn't a good idea, especially as I come down and find, when I turn on the Christmas lights, that they aren't working! Fortunately I have inherited a spare set which I manage to put amongst the branches without having to remove the decorations. Outside it is bright with an almost full moon, I see that yesterday's full moon was the first to appear on a Christmas Day in 38 years - and it won't happen again until 2034.

Friday, 25 December 2015


Happy days ... Tom wrapped in his new extra cosy dressing gown (which managed to moult all over his black jeans!) Fortunately I was able to hoover them later!

Christmas cake

This year we've a herd of reindeer on our Christmas cake! The only problem is that their paint finish leaves little red hoof prints in the icing (which I carefully remove in case I poison anyone!)

Christmas lunch

Right on time we sit down to enjoy our Christmas lunch. The weather isn't very seasonal (an extraordinary 13 degrees at 9pm yesterday) but we still light a fire. This year I'm not leaving the photo taking to chance so I grab this one before we eat!
Melon and Parma Ham. Orange and Grapefruit (for Tom!)Turkey with goose fat roast potatoes, roast parsnips (from the garden), sprouts (also from the garden), carrots, broccoli, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, gravy, sausages, bacon rolls and sage, onion and chestnut stuffing.Meringue with raspberries, cream and blueberries. Chocolate cake and ice cream for Tom!

Turkey and festive lists

Life wouldn't work for me without lists! There was one for Christmas Eve (everything finally ticked off by 5pm) and now we are onto the one for Christmas day. I've prepared our turkey crown but Joe has the responsibility of putting it in the oven while Dave and I are at church. This is the first time in years that our main meal has been at lunch time as it is also the first time in years that Joe hasn't been working on Christmas day.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Almost ready

We've added the extra leaf to our dining table and rearranged the sofa's and now we are just about ready for the big day. Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas from Hill Farm.

The visit

On Christmas Eve we finally got our long awaited visit from 'the wise man from the east', the open reach engineer from Derby! He spent the whole afternoon trying to sort out our internet and phone problems and ended up promising to return on Tuesday. I plied him with chocolate cake!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A rainbow

We got caught in a heavy shower but the reward was a rainbow which arced right across the sky, but quickly faded leaving just this section for me to photograph.

Sunshine finally

Today we saw the first sunshine in ages (and little is forecast over the coming days). We decided to walk to The Crown in Marston Montgomery for some lunch. As we left for our walk home some heavy drops of rain fell but fortunately for us this was short lived. We ended up sharing a huge club sandwich, chips and salad - yum. We also met this rather festive bear ...


As I walked today there were lots of field-fares on the ground and this one calling from the top of the hedge. It has a very quiet, almost musical call. It is such a change to have some blue sky.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Hill Farm

Our view today of the lane and the farm presents a very different picture from the frosty and snowy one of a year ago. Walking along we noticed that the honeysuckle in the hedge is all in bud and in our kitchen garden the rhubarb is trying to grow.

Red sky in the morning

This December has been crazily warm with temperatures in the day up to the mid teens and even at night it's been around 8 or 9 degrees. This morning there was a brilliantly pink dawn but quickly the rain, that has caused such terrible flooding elsewhere in the country, returned.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Early morning

I came downstairs this morning just as there was a little brightness in the eastern sky. The planet visible (Venus) was so bright that at first I thought I was watching a helicopter travelling straight towards me (a fairly common sight). To its left I could see Mars but this was too feint for the camera to pick up. The other night I woke at 3.30 and knew I wouldn't get back to sleep so I came downstairs and was amazed at the brilliance of the stars. I took my (very) early morning tea outside and watched in wonder, thinking of all the generations of people who had also stood here and watched the night sky. Suddenly there was a single, bright and amazing shooting star which went right across my field of view ... magic and memorable.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

All set to party

I've hung the mistletoe, done loads of cooking and decorating and Dave's done loads of cleaning. Now all we need are some guests ...

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Our Christmas tree

Now you see why I needed to lock the door behind the tree. Last year it was in the other living room and I barely saw it, now it's visible from the kitchen and when I come down early in the morning (too early often) I can just turn on the lights and enjoy looking at all my special ornaments. I think the tree this year has one of the prettiest arrangements of branches. Although rather out of favour these days, my tree always has silver tinsel as it reminds me of the trees we had as a child.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Eating out

We escape duties at home for a festive shop and meal in Chester. I'm told I can only photograph the food!! We ate in the Istanbul BBQ and later wandered around the Christmas market.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Ah yes ..

Another issue being that in order to have my Christmas tree where I want (and I LOVE it here) I've had to lock the door between the two living rooms ... but when you see how good it looks you'll agree it's worth it!

Festive impediment!

I have been busy decorating the house for Christmas ahead of our drinks party, however not all my embellishments have had a positive reception ... the health and safety issue of the decorated banister being one such issue!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Flowers on the mantlepiece

I am really happy with my Christmas arrangement of flowers and foliage. Using just three red flowers (two gerbera and a carnation from a Tesco's mixed bunch) I added two sprigs of berried holly and three sprigs of plain. It's made a lovely and long lived decoration with tea lights in between.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Mothers on the move

It's time for the sheep from the field opposite us to head back to their farm as they are due to lamb over Christmas. For once they were reluctant to get going and spent a while dithering around our frontage!

A Jay

I watched a bird at the end of the garden by our apple trees. I couldn't work out what it was until I picked up the camera and zoomed in to see that it was a jay. I had earlier chopped up a rotten fruit and thrown it outside so hopefully it will find that too.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

A chicken lunch

Because we are going to the Carol Service tonight I decided to cook our main meal at lunchtime. Puss sat and waited sniffing the air while the chicken roasted. She was determined to be first in the queue to be fed and yes she was demolishing her portion while I was still serving our potatoes!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The hunt

The hunt are meeting at the top of our lane and ride down across our fields. It is an awful morning with heavy drizzle and incredibly wet everywhere, however they seem in good spirits and both riders and horses look immaculate. I do wonder about the state of white jodhpurs on their return! We are glad to leave them to it and go to a friends house warming instead.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Orange slices

Inspired by my 'Christmas Star' I plan to make a holly wreath this year. Horrified by the price of orange slices spotted in a shop I looked on the internet and made my own. Just two (slightly past their best) oranges gave me lots of slices and I was impressed at how easy they were to do. Slice, blot dry with kitchen towel and put on a cooling tray in the oven at 100 degrees C or less for 3 hours, turning every hour. Leave in oven once you've turned it off to cool.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A Christmas star

Our WI competition this month is: 'a Christmas star'. I make mine from fennel stems bound into a star shape and filled with an amazing range of flowers from my winter garden: tobacco flowers, cornflowers, quince, primroses, plus fennel, rosemary, thyme, holly and ivy.

Solar power

The zoom lens on the camera picks up work that has started in a field near the A50 between Somersal and Doveridge. They are putting up solar panels in awfully wet conditions. Hopefully once all the panels are out of their boxes it won't look quite so visible.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Pretty sky

The sky this afternoon is clear and the clouds capture the setting sun throwing a pretty pink light that is gone in minutes. I walked round to our 'over the hill' neighbours and had to nip back swiftly before it got dark.

A winter garden

The weather has been so mild that the garden looks very green for this time of year. Clear days like this have been a rarity though, mainly it's been wet and foggy but we are so lucky not to be suffering the awful floods that have happened in the north of the country.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Church cleaning

We clean our church monthly with a small group of us meeting there to wield the vacuum cleaner and the dusters. Today there is less to do than normal as the church is decorated in it's advent greenery. We also add the 'glittery bits' ready for Sunday's carol service.

Winter wine

Today I've been labelling our most recent batch of wine with a snowy view of Hill Farm (taken last year), just right for the festive season. I've also been hunting out my recipes for mulled wine.

Our lane

Walking down to church I go past the most beautiful mature oak trees which are catching the welcome morning sunshine. It's still very wet and muddy underfoot, not helped by a lorry that drove up onto our bank and despite Dave's repair work with a shovel it's still a bit of a mess.