31 December 2010

c is for crockery

C is for Collins. C is for Christmas. And C is for Crockery, as spelled out in my much-longed-for present from G: Emily Sutton's latest alphabet print!

And while my present from G was virtual crockery, my present to G was actual crockery, thanks to a well-timed hint from The Coffee Lady:

This winter we've rediscovered our love of porridge, topping it with demerara sugar, maple sugar, maple syrup, or golden syrup, depending on what's to hand. But flipping through Home Cooking, I see Rachel Allen recommends whisky and cream--woo hoo! Though after a bowlful, I probably best keep away from the crockery...

30 December 2010

reading resolutions

Though I'll never be as rapid a reader as any of the book bloggers, one of my resolutions this year was to read 50 books. I came just short with 46. But undeterred, I've made not one but two reading resolutions for 2011: to read 50 books and to finish half my Persephones.

Luckily, I have a jump start on the Persephone project. There were two duds this year (It's Hard to Be Hip Over Thirty and Daddy's Gone A-Hunting) but these were more than made up for by a shelf-ful of fabulous reads:

Other highlights this year included Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín,

The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, and My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

I'd love any suggestions for the coming year, Persephone or otherwise, though at 590 pages I think I better leave Few Eggs and No Oranges till 2012!

24 December 2010

christmas café, take two

This morning, G and I nipped into Petersham for the ornament sale, hoping to find some shiny silver maple leaves. While there were a few decorations left,

including a spectacular pinecone sadly much too big for our table or tree,

there were no leaves to be seen.

But we soon found solace in free Christmas coffees and a slice of lemon and poppy seed cake, which was so deliciously more-ish I forgot to snap a picture till we were nearly halfway through!

And because the Café had already closed for the season, we were able to carry our Teahouse tray into the Café proper and sit in its elegant and exotically warm surrounds.

There were big buckets of mistletoe for sticky Christmas kisses:

And on the way out, we passed tray after tray of bright green bulbs and flocks of little golden birds,

a heartening change from the gray, slush-crusted fields outside, and a reminder that spring really is just round the corner.

But before I get ahead of myself, as I so often do, we wish you a very merry holiday filled with love and happiness...

...and maybe a few mistletoe kisses, too!

22 December 2010

christmas café

G had to dig the Seed Store Café out of a snowdrift, but we still managed to open on Sunday for our annual holiday party.

The café was sparkly with both tinsel and ice. Even with two kettles on the boil, it was a frosty affair.

The polar conditions didn't deter the customers, though, who came in for coffee and cake, then headed back out to stand round the brazier, where the chestnuts were a-popping and wine was a-mulling.

Anticipating the cold, I'd bundled up with three pairs of socks (over-the-knee, cashmere, and ski) inside my snow boots, five layers beneath my coat (I could barely do the buttons up!), and my toasty new cowl.

But after four hours, I was feeling an awful lot like this guy:

Do you think it's too late to add thermals to my Christmas list?!

15 December 2010

home sweet home

When I do finally get round to making gingerbread men, at least they'll have someplace to live: their very own gingerbread cottage, complete with winter garden and sanding sugar snow!

Hannah and I baked the pieces last week, then decorated and assembled them on Tuesday.

It may look conservative here, but the house really glistens. We brushed the sugar paste leaves and roses with luster dust, sprinkled the roof with sugar crystals, and inset the shingles and window frames with shimmery pale green sugar pearls. Not normally a glitter girl, I found my enthusiasm for the sparkly stuff nearly equal to that of Kirstie! Who knew?

And it has the most divine gingery aroma. Now if only I could escape the holiday hubbub and move in myself...

14 December 2010

festive fare

London at the holidays may be manic, but at least there's Fernandez & Wells for a quiet break from the madding crowd. And even better, their sandwiches have gone festive! Here's the turkey and rocket with an extra big dollop of homemade cranberry sauce:

We've had festive food at home, too, with Rachel Allen's Cardamom Sour Cream Cake. The recipe gives the option to use crème fraîche, but don't be tempted (and you will be tempted, because it comes in just the right size pot for the recipe). Definitely use sour cream for the tastiest cake:

Cardamom is my very favorite winter spice, followed by ginger. Which reminds me, I have yet to start our annual gingerbread cookie production. Where does the time go? Better go look for the cutters!

09 December 2010

jolly hockey socks, take three

More Jolly Hockey Socks, this time in sKNITches' signature sKNITch colorway:

Purple and green, these socks definitely deviate from my usual beige and gray, but they do coordinate (more so in person than in the photo) with our new Angie Lewin print, By Green Bank:

I fell in love with this print last year but assumed it had since sold out. So I was over the moon to see it at St Jude's in the City at the Bankside Gallery a few weeks ago.

Even better, on the day we visited, Angie was on hand signing copies of her new book, Plants and Places. She was just lovely--so warm and friendly and down-to-earth.

image: Castor + Pollux

And while I wish I'd asked her about her work, or even about where she'd found her beautiful retro blouse, I instead opened with the rather odd 'We've stayed in your house!' Will I ever learn?

04 December 2010

bloomsbury books, part two

Before Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season set in, Bee and I rendezvoused at the London Review Bookshop:

The London Review Cake Shop inside is the perfect meeting place, serving super strong cups of Monmouth coffee at its big wooden table. But even under the influence of caffeine, I managed to leave without any new books.

Which is just as well, since I already have plenty to read, including several titles in the The Bloomsbury Group series. After starting the series back in 2009, I somehow lost my momentum. But not too long ago, I picked up where I'd left off, with Love's Shadow by Ada Leverson, the first in her Little Ottleys trilogy:

The plot is complex, involving a slew of romantic entanglements enacted by a host of characters, all deftly drawn, especially the ridiculously pompous Bruce Ottley and willfully unconventional Anne.

Ada Leverson was a close friend of Oscar Wilde, and the writing is very Wilde-like, the quips flying thick and fast. While the barrage of witticisms seemed overwhelming at first, I soon settled into the rhythm and was completely engaged from then on.

Henrietta Sees It Through by Joyce Dennys is the sequel to Henrietta's War, an earlier read in The Bloomsbury Group:

Henrietta, a Devonshire doctor's wife, continues to document daily life on the Homefront in letters to her childhood friend Robert. As the war enters its third year, the residents of the village push on in their various projects, contributing to the war effort in sincere but often muddled ways.

Laugh-out-loud funny, I was in stitches from page one, though there are serious and sad moments, too. The perfect combination of sublime humor and quiet sentiment, the pages just flew by. Definitely rates among my favorite books of this year, or indeed of any year!

Looking back, I can't fathom how I gave such an unflattering review to the first book. Guess I'll just have to reread Henrietta's War to see.

03 December 2010

cowls for the cold, part four

After envying our northern neighbors for the past week, we finally have snow!

Of course it's not nearly as much, but it's something. At least it makes a good excuse for a new cowl: the Chunky Cowl from Purls of Wisdom in Blue Sky Alpacas' Bulky.

I love the way the cowl reduces in circumference toward the chin, making it extra warm and cosy. And the yarn is sooo thick and soft. It does shed like the dickens, though, so thank goodness my winter coat is light gray not black!

My only change to the pattern was to cast off on the purl side rather than the knit side for a nicer top edge.

Such a quick knit (only an hour or so). But the blocking did take a full day, as I blocked it twice to reduce edge curl and keep it standing tall. Because at -2°C, the taller the better!

25 November 2010

more jolly hockey socks

I think Jane of At Upper Pond and I must have a psychic knitting connection.

I happened upon At Upper Pond just as I was finishing the first of my Jolly Hockey Socks, only to discover Jane had knit the same socks in the same yarn in the same colorway and likewise christened them Hockey Socks!

Then, the very day I completed my second pair of sKNITches socks,

I logged on to find Jane had just finished a second pair, too! This time we used different colorways--Handsome Devil for Jane and Collegiate for me--but it still felt a wee bit spooky!

11 November 2010

jolly hockey socks

I enrolled in a sock knitting class many, many moons ago. But because the yarn we used was so hideous--really and truly--I could never bring myself to knit the second sock once the class was through. And then, of course, I forgot how to knit socks at all.

But a recent visit from Jordan, who handily knits socks between drafts of her dissertation, prompted me to try again. And aided by advice from Jordan and Purls of Wisdom, I now have a complete pair of hand-knitted socks!

The yarn was custom-dyed by sKNITches in the Mint Mocha Latte colorway on a merino-cashmere-nylon base: cashmere for softness and nylon for that little bit of stretch and strength.

Chuffed with my latte leggings, I already have another pair on the go, this time in sKNITches' Collegiate colorway. Though considering the time of year, perhaps I should have cast on in Caramel Apples!

09 November 2010

wet and windy woodbridge

It was a wet and windy weekend in Woodbridge, but there were some sunny spells, during which we walked along the River Deben to see the Tide Mill

and the boats

and drove over to Snape Maltings for a tramp through the reed beds:

Luckily Lilla Cottage was cosy,

with comfy reading and knitting nooks,

and it was just off Market Hill, where we happened upon the highlights of our visit: the Wild Strawberry Cafe and Twist.

The Wild Strawberry Cafe has been voted the best coffee shop in Suffolk and for good reason. G and I agreed our sandwiches were the best we'd ever had, hands down.

And Twist was an equally exciting discovery. When we arrived Friday night, the doors were locked, but we could see people moving inside, busily assembling shelves and unpacking boxes. I went to bed with my fingers crossed, and sure enough the next morning they opened for their first day of business!

The staff were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, happy to discuss everything from lace life-lines to toe-up socks. There was a spacious room in back fitted out for classes and groups, a couch and newspapers for waiting partners, and a complete selection of Sublime yarns--hooray! I picked up some Sublime (of course) and this book,

because if I can't live in Woodbridge, I think Little Cake would have to be my next choice!

02 November 2010

petersham in pink

Petersham wasn't all grays and greens this weekend. There were plenty of pinks, too: in the Murano glass,

in the mercury glass,

and in my cheeks, when, in the narrow passageway between the Nurseries and River Lane, we ran into Valentine Warner.

image © Martin Pope (Telegraph.co.uk)

I was struck dumb and just smiled inanely. But silence was probably better than any of the silly and embarrassing things I could--and probably would--have said!

01 November 2010

pottering in petersham, take four

The rain was streaming down the greenhouse windows at Petersham on Sunday.

But other than the insistent patter on the roofs, the Nurseries were eerily quiet. Suitable, I suppose, considering the day. There were a few nods to Halloween, with ghostly gray wreaths

and acid green books:

But there were also grays and greens of the Christmas variety:

Petersham is one of my best sources for mercury glass ornaments. We used to make a special trip every December just to see the decorations, but now I guess that would be leaving it too late!

I was soon on the search for a silver pinecone, to match a favorite I bought two years ago. No pinecones this time, but there were some fabby maple leaves

and maple-colored balls,

which I really should have bought at the time. This (as usual) means a trip back, which means G will likely be reaching for that little green book!