christmas: making and baking

baking plansTime to dust off a favourite cookery book – Linda Collister’s Christmas Treats to Make and GiveThe girls are still in full baking mode (both Martha and Bea have been to GB Bake-off themed birthday parties in the last fortnight, and their cousin is threatening Matilda with something similar along the lines of Come Dine With Me), so I thought it would be a good idea to channel their enthusiasm and get them to bake some Christmas presents.

For my part, I am planning to make a few treats from Diana Henry’s excellent Salt Sugar Smoke. I have already raided Ikea’s kitchen department and have a large stash of jars at the ready, along with some really lovely labels (also from the Swedish giant). Just need to brave the high street in search of the ingredients…

christmas: paper scissors stone

P1190170So, December is upon us. Time, I think, for a little shopping tour of Bristol. And where better to start than Paper Scissors Stone, a pop-up art and craft emporium which shows every sign of having become semi-permanent.

Volume 5 – the Christmas issue, as it were – has just thrown open its doors…

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Curated by Bryony Morgan, director of Made in Bristol, Paper Scissors Stone is filled with an eclectic selection of works by some of Bristol’s most interesting artists and designers.

There are works to suit all tastes and all budgets and the many highlights include: Christina de la Mare’s quirky doorstops; jolly bags, tea towels and prints bearing bold typography by Susan Taylor; prints by Simon Tozer, Peskimo, and Lou Archell; exquisite dolls and brooches by Jess Quinn; leather purses by Kay Morgan and ceramics by Hanne Rysgaard. All in all, Paper Scissors Stone offers a refreshing alternative to the slightly hellish, often depressing, experience that is Christmas shopping. Only 20 more days to go!

Paper Scissors Stone                                                                                             Quakers Friars, Cabot Circus, Mon-Sun, 10am – 6pm until Dec 31st

funny valentines

My RHS Level 2 exams really did take over my life last week. But at 3pm this afternoon they left my life… until the next lot in June, that is. As planned, I managed to make a little something for the girls. A very little something in the end. But the girls were delighted, and trundled off to school with these little hearts in their hands. You can find the pattern here, it’s fun and pretty quick to knit up. I managed to do all three whilst ‘revising’, aka watching Carol Klein’s Life in a Cottage Garden on i-player. Joking aside, the series was incredibly informative regarding propagation, and seemed to chime with various parts of the RHS course so perfectly that I found myself checking at the end to see if there was a sponsorship deal. This morning, half way through my propagation paper, the sight of Carol crushing Ilex aquifolium berries, before putting them in the fridge, came back to me quite vividly as I answered a question on breaking seed dormancy.

love tokens

My mind keeps turning to all the large projects I have planned for this year (the garden once big earth works finished, quilts for the kids’ beds and so on), but the increasing pressure of revision means I really can’t allow myself to be distracted in that way. Valentine’s day, however, presents me with a perfect excuse for bit of a small-scale creativity, as I always make something for the girls. These felt brooches are two of the three I made for them last year.

The third is attached to something I can’t lay my hands on. As you can see, they are pretty basic. The felt was left over from some Christmas decorations and it took around half an hour to make all three. I cut the hearts freehand, stuck them together with Copydex and then quickly stitched here and there, using the buttons and brooch fixings to hold everything firmly in case the glue gave out later. I’d forgotten all about making them until this morning, even though I see them everyday on my daughters’ coats and hats. So the challenge is to come up with something just as simple and that will also prove as popular. I have a couple of ideas, and I’ll post something later when I know what I am doing.


I love all the little rituals that combine to make Christmas what it is. We are not a religious family, so I think the rituals are particularly important as they give the celebration a meaning and a focus beyond frenzied present buying. For me, as for most people, the 25th is about spending time with my family, and showing them how much I love them – which is a good thing, as I have to admit that it’s not always evident.

Without the ritual of the cake, the tree, the decorations, the cards and the carols, a secular Christmas could be a little dull really. That’s not to say that the presents aren’t pretty key to the whole shebang. They certainly are – I love present-buying, and I know the parcels above will be gleefully received. But it’s more that the ritual helps to balance things. And just in case that all sounds far too measured and calm and reasonable, I also find that Christmas is the single most unbloodybelievably stressful time of the year too: there is a clock ticking, there is an immovable deadline, and there are high expectations (oh, and a very naughty puppy). But nothing that a ridiculous drink, such Warnick’s Advocaat (alcoholic custard in a bottle!?) – something that I simply wouldn’t contemplate drinking at any other time of year, won’t fix.

For more Christmas love check out Tara’s gallery, where this week’s theme, the last of the year, was LOVE in all its forms. I’m a day late, so you may have to scroll down to find the links to everyone else.