Thursday 31 December 2015

The Colour Collaborative: December: Berry

And not a picture of holly or mistletoe in sight.

Of course, it's only right that this month's Colour Collaborative theme should be 'Berry'. In a dream Yuletide, snow would be on the ground (and branches). Berries would gleam, jewel-bright, from the trees. And yet this year it's been a wet - for some, disastrously so - and grey December. Not at all Christmassy.

We do have a big vase of holly in the house. It was scrumped 'foraged' one dark afternoon from a nearby lane. It looks very nice. And no doubt we'd have mistletoe too if it was easy to procure. There's a hook on the hallway ceiling which was just made for a sprig or two.

For me personally, I love berries (you only need to look back though my archives of photographs for the proof) not just because they're synonymous with Christmas. I love them because certain ones herald the approach of autumn. My favourite season.

I'd prefer the deeper red of hawthorn berries to the bright scarlet of holly, the blue-black of whinberries and blackberries and elderberries.

And although wild and native-growing trees and shrubs always get my vote, I do like spray of oxblood hypericum berries on the table. Once upon a time when I worked as a florist, I relished adding them to arrangements. 

I always try (and for the most part, fail) to capture the loveliness of 'snowberries' nodding on their bare brown stems. As a child I'd drop them onto the ground and listen for the muted 'pop' as they burst under the lightest tap of my toes.

There's something uniquely appealing about an absence of foliage and clusters of berries, little exclamations of colour in an otherwise grey landscape. It's the same with winter-flowering shrubs like wintersweet and hamamelis.

Spherical starbursts of velvety purple-green berries on fruiting ivy. Startling violet Callicarpa. Even those cultivated edibles: glossy blackcurrants with their evocatively-scented leaves which take me back to childhood summers, or the pinky-red wild raspberries which still grow in those secret places near the old railway line. 

Berries are not just for Christmas.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below.

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Merry Christmas

I wish these pictures were of a snowy disposition but sadly not. We have had some glimpses of sunlight here and there though, and have been for the odd little walk. The winter solstice gave us a dry afternoon so we had a jaunt around the village before heading back indoors to the warmth of home.

There have been parties. So many parties...

Joe is still wary of Father Christmas but got close enough to collect his present.

We've had visitors and good food. The tree - despite three (yes, three) sets of lights now having failed - looks very pretty. Cards have been written and dispatched. Presents were wrapped last night.

The food has now all been bought in, much to my relief. No more queuing and struggling to park and getting irritated. The dresser's groaning under the weight of bottles and jars.

This afternoon I need to frame and deliver a couple of prints. It's bright and sunny so we'll go for a wander, then back here to prepare for more visitors. I'm planning on making shortbread too.

It's official: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we're closed for business. This past week has seen us entertaining/attending parties/visiting at least twice a day. So for the next few days we'll be holing up and resting and eating. We may not even bother getting dressed.

That should give me the break I need ready for Phase Two: Boxing Day. Trifle-making, buffet-preparing, visitor-receiving. I can't quite believe we're already at December 23rd. Talk about a festive whirlwind.

Joe's looking forward to Christmas. The advent calendar is almost at its end. We have 'reindeer food' he made at preschool ready to sprinkle on the garden on Christmas Eve. There are good things to eat and (despite there being a lack of the Radio Times to refer to) good things to find on TV. I'm hoping we haven't already missed 'The Snowman'.

Jay and Joe have just arrived home after a present-delivering trip. They've also bought yet another set of fairy lights. I'm hopeful LED ones will have a better life expectancy.

Anyway... I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that you enjoy your own family traditions before thoughts start turning to the New Year.

Thank you for reading throughout 2015. And, of course, for leaving comments. It's been a stressful year in many ways, what with bereavements and house moves and starting a business. But I've been able to share lots of good things too.

I may be back to post between now and January 1st. If not - I'll see you on the other side!

Sarah x

Friday 18 December 2015

Christmas is around the corner...

How did that happen? Is it just me, or have things suddenly crept up on us? Maybe it's the distinctly un-festive weather. Maybe it's the fact that life has been so ridiculously busy lately that I haven't had the chance to stop and take notice.

But yes, it's almost here. The past week has included a funeral, five birthdays, a nativity play and two parties. I'm very nearly at the 'stopping for Christmas' stage - just two more prints to deliver and I'm done.

I was up at 3am on Wednesday, working on a painting someone had ordered. It wasn't weighing that heavily on my mind but I had drank an awful lot of coffee the day before and decided that rather than lying wide awake in bed I may as well get something done. So I did.

Despite the general chaos we have a Christmas tree up (two sets of lights have so far given up the ghost). There are candles and holly and strings of bells hanging from the beams. We've somehow managed to re-paint the bathroom as the previous shade of blue was just all wrong. So now it's white and bright and lovely.

I've managed to indulge some seasonal treats: chocolates (a freebie from one of Jay's customers at work) and Polish cherry liqueur. And I'm reading Christmas poetry in bed.

Somehow, most of our presents have been bought too. Not wrapped but bought. Cards written and (for the most part) sent. We've yet to figure out the food shopping but I know panettone, smoked almonds and trifle components will be going on the list.

Joe's nativity went... Well, let's just say it went. It was held in the little chapel next to his preschool and the place was packed. I think he was overwhelmed by it all and initially just sat with his hands over his eyes. But then he scanned the crowd for us and we waved and he got a bit excited. He was so keen to come over and show us his little lamb stuffed toy (he was a shepherd) that he stood up but was told to stay put. So he ended up crying through the entire performance and being cuddled by one of the nursery staff.

Yesterday I made the usual Christmas pilgrimage to Hebden Bridge for presents and an amble around. I went alone. The traffic was painful, parking was almost impossible (I eventually parked out of town up a very steep hill and walked in) and I just wasn't feeling it somehow.

Yes, there were lots of beautiful things. I made a few purchases: cards, bobble trim for my muslin curtains, stocking fillers for Joe, soaps and potions, ahem - a Cornish pasty and a cake. But I was left with the feeling I don't want to stray far from home again this side of Christmas. I want to hibernate. To stay warm, rest, eat and drink, be with friends and family.

This evening we have visitors so we're having a buffet-type dinner with lots of cheeses and bread and cured meats, olives and artichokes and hummus. Tomorrow's going to be an early start to conquer the outdoor market. Sunday we're at another birthday party then we have visitors again in the afternoon. And on Tuesday Joe's meeting Father Christmas (who bears a striking resemblance to the owner's husband) at his preschool party.

I'm going to go to my mum's grave too, to put some flowers there. 

So once the flurry of visitors and parties and final bits of work are done we'll close the door, draw the curtains and have a well-deserved rest.

I hope your Christmas preparations are coming together. And I really hope we get some snow...

Sunday 6 December 2015

On the home front...

After my Yorkshire adventure, a week at home. A kind of enforced staying indoors. The weather has been atrocious with little let-up from the howling gales and driving rain. At least the chimney's now sealed up but we still have a mysterious damp spot in the bedroom which comes and goes.

The weather and constant gloom haven't - alas - resulted in hibernation. I long for a period of dormancy but instead I've been stuck in a maelstrom of making (Christmas fairs) and preparation for festivities, of list-writing and socialising and family commitments. Joe continues to get up in the night and play very loudly in his room. He was 'Just sorting out some tea towels' (in his toy kitchen) at 2.10 this morning. I'm hoping this little phase of adjusting to the new house passes quickly as we're all exhausted.

So my last craft fair of the year came and went. It was, of course, a horribly wet and windy night. The turnout wasn't up to much but I left having made a modest profit and some new contacts. I now only have a few commissions to deal with before Christmas and I'm keeping it that way.

Compromises have been made in terms of the house being finished prior to the Big Day. The joiner (a reliable one this time) will be back next weekend and the bathroom floor should have been fitted by then too. The rest can wait. Small, niggly jobs that aren't vital. And with the state of the world right now I'm definitely of the opinion that we should count our blessings; we have a home and warm beds and food to eat. Complaining about a bit of woodwork seems so trivial.

The weather eased a little today so we went and bought a Christmas tree: a living one, in a pot, which is currently still netted and awaiting Joe's bedtime so we can put it in the alcove by the chimney. It seems as good a place as any and we don't actually use the fire so it shouldn't dry out and drop its needles. I hope.

There's a party at playgroup tomorrow. I'm supposed to be taking the crisps. We don't have any, unless you count the fancy root vegetable ones I treated myself to yesterday. And I doubt a room full of two-and-three-year-olds would go for those. So procuring Wotsits is on my morning to-do list.

I haven't written my cards out yet, or thought about Christmas food, or even what we'll be having for Christmas dinner. It'll be just the three of us I think, as the rest of the family are all spending the day with other extended family. And I quite like the idea of a quiet, relaxed time. My brother brought his eldest (aged five) over this afternoon. It was mayhem. No, really. I thought Jay was going to blow a fuse and that's something he never does.

I've been looking for little moments of brightness during these gloomy, grey days. And wondering whether we should have painted the house white after all. But we don't want to paint anything ever again. Or at least, not until spring. Not even my dining table and chairs, which is irritatingly 'shabby chic'.

There have been some good things on TV, like Detectorists and The Middle. I know, the latter's hardly high-brow but it's something we enjoy watching.

I'm reading PG Wodehouse. Again, silly but light and his writing makes me laugh. Laughter is very important in this house.

We've been to the garden centre a few times lately. Any port in a storm (quite literally) as all this indoor time with Joe is enough to give me serious cabin fever. Finding something to do undercover which doesn't involve trailing around shopping centres - one of my pet hates - is difficult. He's enchanted by all the cut trees and sparkly lights and polar bears. And going midweek means it's not overly crowded.

We currently have some nice festive things in the house: the aforementioned tree, fragrancing the air as only a real tree can. Mounds of satsumas and pomegranates. A new discovery: salted caramel-coated nuts (so very good).

Not so good - imitation Baileys, bought yesterday. At £4 a bottle I didn't expect much but it's really not very nice at all. Watery, overly sweet and a strange artificial vanilla flavour to it. Even in coffee it's pretty undrinkable. Elegant economy, in this case, does not apply. 

Finally: I'm slowly working my way through all the lovely blogs I've missed out on reading these past weeks. It seems it's just one thing after another what with moving house and squeezing in work around Joe.

On Monday, my grandmother died. My mum's mum. She was ninety four so, as many are telling me, she had a 'good innings'. Although she died in her sleep she had been ill for a short time. She was a strong character, formidable after a colourful life which included much hardship during the War. The family name will go with her (although I've often considered taking it), along with many memories and stories. It's hard not to think about the fact that, since last year, three women  - each from a different generation - have gone from our family.

The funeral is on the 15th. A service at the Polish church followed by a gathering at the Polish club, somewhere I haven't been since I was a child. The prospect of another funeral is not a good one but I have to go and say goodbye.

I didn't mean this to be a depressing post so apologies if it seems to have ended that way. In fact if anything it's made me realise the importance of keeping our history and traditions alive, both by writing about them and passing them on to Joe. Christmas has always been a 'Polish' time of year for me, and this year will be no different.

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