J Peggy Taylor
Most of our Christmas decorations have shared many festive seasons with us. Several of them have their own tales that are retold each year as we retrieve them from their packing boxes for their next seasonal display. Some are items that have been hand crafted by our children over the years.
One such item is the willow base on which each year I craft our Christmas wreath of evergreens with holly, ivy, pine and two ‘ears’ of yew. Collecting the greenery is something of a family ritual, but also a welcome excuse for a woodland wander. I love the woods at all times of year and mid-Winter has its own magic.
When complete, we hang our Christmas wreath outdoors on a wall-hook. We used to hang it on the door but modern uPVC doors don’t seem to lend themselves well to ancient earthy rituals like wreath hanging!
J Peggy Taylor
… you can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!
A few years ago our youngest son became keenly interested in helping with Christmas cooking. He scoured recipe books deciding on new things we should add to our Christmas feast. When his eyes alighted on pictures of iced gingerbread men he realised this was a Christmas treat he had so far missed out on – a situation he must immediately remedy!
Part 1: Mixing the gingerbread dough,
Part 2: carefully cutting out the gingerbread men shapes and adding the currants for eyes and buttons,
Part 3: baking them
– and then – the ultimate fun part,
Part 4: decorating them with coloured icing
… all have now become part of our Christmas countdown schedule.
We’ve tried out a couple of different recipes for our gingerbread dough, but we find this one works out just right.
350g (12 oz) plain flour
5ml (1 level teaspoon) baking powder
10ml (2 level teaspoons) ground ginger
100g (4 oz) butter or margarine
175g (6oz) sugar (brown sugar is best)
60ml (4 level tablespoons) golden syrup
1 egg beaten
Currants to decorate
Sift the flour, baking powder and ground ginger into a bowl.
Rub in the butter or margarine and stir in the sugar.
Beat in the syrup and egg.
Knead the dough until smooth.
(TIP: We usually freeze the dough at this point and do the rolling out and cooking part separately. If you do freeze the dough, defrost it in the fridge overnight and then leave it out for about an hour to come to room temperature before rolling.)
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness.
Cut out your gingerbread people or shapes and place well apart on a greased baking sheet (we normally use and reuse baking paper).
Decorate with currants for eyes and buttons.
Bake at 190C (375F) Gas mark 5 for about 10-12 minutes.
Cool slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Further decoration with coloured icing is then essential in our house (guess what we are doing today!), but the gingerbread is equally tasty just as it is after cooling 😉
The gingerbread keeps well enough in air-tight containers … plenty long enough before it’s all been snapped up by your hungry little foxes! 🙂
J Peggy Taylor
Crochet is my favourite yarn craft, so I am always looking for new ways to crochet my world. One idea I had earlier this year was to make personalised birthday cards featuring crochet designs for our sons. You can see my two specially created designs in the slideshow above. May I introduce you to Hedgehog and GCF. It’s fairly obvious which one is which! Hedgehog looks quite normal but what, I hear you ask, is a GCF? It looks rather dangerous doesn’t it … but no need to fear! Giant Carnivorous Fly is a personal logo invented by our son, while the tools refer to his woodwork hobby 🙂 For all you keen crocheters, the hedgehog and his grass are crocheted in Astrakhan stitch.
The wonderful people at UK Crochet Patterns recently posted another idea they’d seen for a simple crochet greetings cards. Their post features a simple but stylish crochet flower card.
This got me thinking about the coming holiday season when we all love to send our good wishes to friends and relatives with a card. What better way of sending your love than with a handmade card! I always think handmade gifts and cards make them extra special.
To help get your creative imagination in gear, I have created a step-by-step tutorial for this snowman card design using a few simple crochet stitches. You can find my tutorial via this link, but you’ll also see it in my How To … Tutorials menu above.
Go on! Get crafty, and surprise someone with a simple but special handmade card this winter holiday season!
Happy crafting 🙂
J Peggy Taylor
As a yarn crafter myself I find I notice yarn crafting either in its regular forms or in more unusual guises when I am out and about. The recent festive period has brought me something of a flurry of yarn-craft-spotting opportunities.
On a cold day in early December I found inspiration for a new hat design as I casually observed well-wrapped Christmas shoppers on a shopping centre escalator in Newcastle. A wool hat in a warming shade of mustard would be just the thing for a winter’s day. A hastily scribbled sketch was duly added to my shopping list.
While hurrying our youngest son to his lunchtime optician’s appointment a week before Christmas, I spotted a young woman knitting as she sat alone in a crowded cafe. I couldn’t help wondering if she were frantically finishing a hand-crafted gift. Whatever her creation was, it was a beautiful shade of jade green.
My third seasonal yarn craft observation was a curious one, in my local village supermarket. For a few days leading up to Christmas the staff swopped their normal uniform garb for some rather garish festive jumpers. I was served by a Christmas elf, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and a Christmas pudding!
As Twelfth Night approached and the end of the festive season, like many other families we were taking down our Christmas decorations and tidying up. I was clearing out the clutter and I spotted another festive yarn – on this year’s Cadbury’s Festive Friends carton. These small chocolate biscuits are a firm family favourite in our house and this year the box had been designed as a knitted cover complete with snowman, Santa and reindeer. I found it quite interesting to see a yarn craft being chosen as a marketing tool by big business – an association of ideas with winter warmth and homeliness.
J Peggy Taylor