Our Cornish Christmas – An Open House – Part II

I’m so glad you could stop by for part II of my post about our Cornish Christmas. If you missed part I which was yesterday, you can go here to read it first.

Our Christmas stockings were made by my paternal grandmother years ago. Mine is the largest. I made one of the same size and a similar look in white for my daughter’s first Christmas 23 years ago and while I have it here, I couldn’t bring myself to hang it since seeing it made me miss her even more. I brought it to England with me to make some repairs to it. My version has not weathered the years as well as the one my grandmother made. I’ll take it back to her later when it’s fixed.

This is our Christmas tree. It’s a live one that John used several years ago and has been growing in the garden since that time. I was surprised to see it transfer so nicely to a larger pot and work so well inside the house.  It will stay decorated and in its spot until Twelfth Night when it goes back to a place in the garden. The Christmas angel on the tree top is a special one I made for Miranda’s first Christmas and has been on my Christmas tree for 23 years.

I used to like to think of my angel’s out stretched arms as open and embracing, waiting in a way to envelop one in a big bear hug, but after buying our first Christmas ornament as a couple this year from a local artist, I think of her arms as opening wide to hold the joy that is in my life and in my heart. Instead of hanging the heart embroidered with joy on the tree, I thought it fit perfectly in the arms of the angel.

On Christmas Eve, John’s cousin Mary and I ventured down early in the evening for the children’s Christingle service. I didn’t take any photographs of the service, but the pictures  below give you an idea of what our church looks like from the inside … except it was full of singing children and special christmas decorations and lighting that night.

This is John just inside the door of our village church in a photograph taken almost two years ago. While I have great interior shots of churches all over the UK, I seem to have neglected the one in my own village.

There’s no heat at all in this church so you have a sense of what it must have been like throughout the ages. Of course we have better fabrics for insulating our bodies from the cold, but it was still chilly on Christmas Eve.

After our Christingle service we went to a Christmas open house at my friend Tina’s house, but again I don’t have any pictures to post. John took a few, but she and her husband Henry had a full house and it was difficult to get any that looked very nice.

Because we had icy road conditions on Christmas Eve the vicar canceled the midnight service. I had been looking forward to it so I stayed up late writing my Christmas blog post and watching a midnight mass in the lovely cathedral that you see above. ( I snapped this shot from the television)

This is Mary on Christmas morning. She said later at the end of her five day visit with us that it was the best Christmas she could remember in a long time. I was so pleased since I knew with the recent death of her brother Michael with whom she always spent Christmas, that this was going to be a difficult one for her to get through.

This is John looking cute with a lawn mower razor that was in his stocking. He was quite surprised to see that I still believed adults should hang a stocking for Santa to fill. His was overflowing so he must have been a very good boy this year.

Ah … one of me … holding some spackle, I mean wrinkle filler that my sister Margaret sent me from Alaska. After dabbing on a little, we headed for the pub for a traditional Christmas Day drink.

Mary didn’t let her almost 87 years (she’s a new year baby) keep her from a Christmas morning trip to the pub. In our village, Gary, who owns the pub along with his wife Margaret, opens the pub between 11 and 2:30 on Christmas Day so locals can come in for a drink.

That’s Gary in the Santa hat and Roger in the navy shirt beside him. You can’t tell from this picture, but Gary is wearing shorts. It  was cold outside, but he was still wearing shorts. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Gary in long pants or trousers as they would say here since pants means underwear.

A distance shot of some of our neighbors.

More from behind the bar.

This lovely image was painted by a local artist using Gary, Roger (barman) and Becky (barmaid) along with some pub regulars in her version of the Nativity scene.

After my usual pub drink of diet lemonade, (like a diet sprite) it was back to the house for our first Christmas dinner together. There are a few things on the plate I’ve never had at Christmas before, like the roasted potatoes, parsnips and the bacon wrapped sausages they call pigs in a blanket here.

Here’s a shot of me with Mary wearing a traditional Christmas party hat that fell out of my Christmas cracker.

Burp!  ” Oh, pardon me ”  It turned out to be a lovely mix of my traditional American Christmas favorites along with John’s English dishes.  I almost forgot…

Hello Dolly … anyone?

Our Cornish Christmas – An Open House – Part I

I wanted to throw open our doors and invite you in for a Christmas coffee and some Hello Dollies. I hope you’ll be able to stay a few minutes and say hello. I may even give a house tour if you are interested in seeing what we’ve been up to here.

This is a Christmas decoration I put together using Christmas crackers. I learned that while shopping with John for our Christmas goodies at the grocery store that when I say we need some crackers we are more likely to end up staring at an aisle filled with these than something you serve with a cheese ball. For nibbling with cheese, I now know that I should be asking for cheese biscuits rather than crackers especially at Christmas.

This is our dining area off the kitchen. I prefer the table the other way, but it makes it hard for people to sit when they have to scrunch in next to the wall. We’re planning to redo the kitchen next year once we recover from having built the extension and by “we ” I mean mostly John so this area which is part of the kitchen will look different (bigger) by next Christmas.

This was a Christmas floral arrangement I made for the table. The batik on the wall was the largest “art piece” I shipped over and I was so glad to see it arrive in great condition. I bought the batik on a trip to Bali in 2002 and it was something several people wanted me to leave behind so they could have it. The crystal candlestick holders are very special because they belonged to my good friend Patrice’s mom, Marilyn and Patrice gave them to me when Marilyn died a few years ago.

Here is a slightly better shot of the batik.

You can see my Angel bowl that my daughter painted years ago looking down over our table. I hand carried it on my last flight from America. As good as my shippers were, I didn’t want to risk this special gift from her.

Here’s the other side of the space above … where my ingredients wait on the counter (work top) to create our Christmas dinner.

John made all these cabinets and built some more to hold my good china that made across the ocean in perfect condition. If you look at the countertop you can see a large bread bowl and a rolling pin. Both were made by my great grandfather Harper who was a blacksmith and a carpenter. I used the rolling pin when I made these yummy cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning and made a few extra for some of my neighbors. It was only my second experience baking with yeast and it held a few surprises.

The bubbling over piece was not one I’d anticipated would keep happening.

But the yield was marvelous as you can see below and this is just what I gave away. We which really means, I ate a bunch of them as well. I forgot to photograph the finished product, but you can go here to see Pioneer Woman’s rolls and her recipe which I followed.

Additionally, I made a sweet potato dish that once you’ve had it, all others pale in comparison. I even brought back the same canned yams I normally use from America, carrying them over in my suitcase. I thought this two pound can would be enough. Hah!  The measuring cup was only half full …

… which left me doing what you see below … cooking more sweet potatoes.

What you see here is me using my computer to follow Pioneer Woman’s cornbread recipe so I can use it in my cornbread dressing which came from her website too. That’s my grandmother’s mixing bowl you see there and if you look back by the computer you can see Miranda in a photograph taken in Paris when we were there for the millennium new year … a whole different story to come later.

My daughter Miranda is the child in the leather coat with the bag over her shoulder queuing for the her first visit to the Louvre.

Next on my list was a recipe we make at Christmas which needed raspberry gelatin and this looked like the Jello gelatin boxes back in America with the exception of being a different brand name. Plus, I knew that what I know as Jello they called Jelly so I thought this one be one familiar thing to work with even if the packaging was different. I set the water to boil and opened the box expecting to find a package of powder to dissolve and was surprised to find …

this … I had about a half second where I thought, what am I supposed to do with this? As John would say when I say something a little different because it’s an American thing, ” I worked it out.”

This is the first deep dish pumpkin pecan pie I ever made. I was so proud of it and it tasted as good as it looked. Well, …

… for a slice or two until it slipped from my hands and fell onto the floor making a nasty mix of broken glass and pie. I was so sad and slightly angry that I had not had a chance to fully enjoy my pie made with pumpkin mix brought from America. You can’t buy it here and I was really bothered by the fact that it was all wasted. So taking my last can of pumpkin and what remained of my pecans, I made …

… this!

Which looked like this when it was done and …

… like this just before I had the first piece. Mmm!

Maybe you remember John’s cousin Mary… she was visiting this past summer with her brother Michael when he suddenly had a heart attack and died. It was a sad time for us all. I wrote about it here, here, and here, if you’d like to learn more about her sweet brother.

This is what our guest room looks like now. I still need to build the padded headboard, but since Mary was staying with us for Christmas I had to save that piece for the new year. Do you remember back when I was reworking the curtains and the duvet and making the pillow shams and the bedskirt or dust ruffle … if not you can go here to read about it.


That’s all for now, have another cup of coffee and I be back with another plate of Hello Dollies and some more pictures in part II.

My Room Of One’s Own Is Almost Ready

In the middle of all the baking, cleaning, and gift wrapping that goes with getting a house ready for Christmas guests, this house has had a great deal of renovation work happening at the same time. As some of you know, John has been working to finish up my studio space and while it’s not quite ready for its grand unveiling I wanted to give you a sneak peak at how it’s beginning to look. I’ve been picking out fabrics and painting the walls and you’ll see some of that in the preview pictures below.

This is my 11 ft or 340 cm closet/wardrobe. It is a pretty big closet by UK standards and I feel so lucky to have it all to myself. Since my studio has its own bath,I will  be able to use this mirrored area as a large dressing room in addition to a lovely space to do my creative work. (The garden/backyard is not as it will be … we’ll be moving a few things like the compost bin.)

The fabric you see laid across what will be a comfy daybed is some that I chose with the help of my friend Patrice when I was in Atlanta for Thanksgiving. I brought it all back in my suitcase. I love the colors and they are exactly what I had in mind. The framed artwork was made by my daughter Miranda when she was a little girl and it provided the color guide. For a closer look, you can see her sweet design here.

While the patten is bolder than I would normally choose and the green and oranges brighter, I have basically chosen what Patrice would refer to as “E colors” even though I was trying for a new look.

The orange striped fabric is intended for curtains on either side of the sliding glass doors. This shade of orange was my favorite color when I was thirteen and of course there’s a story for later in how I found my way back to it. Perhaps you can guess … if you’ve been reading my blog for very long.

I once had a deep purple bathroom, but in my last house I found I preferred a periwinkle blue that looked a good bit like purple, but didn’t feel overpowering or too Easter eggish. I love the design on the main fabric …. it reminds me of the artist Gustav Klimt.

(The Kiss by Klimt )

The lighting is throwing the color off slightly, but the green is still pretty green. I am recovering a chair with it and the orange bit is intended for pillows. I’m so excited by my fabric choices and think it will be such a great space to write. I wanted to find a shade of green like below in the photograph I took yesterday. You see this green everywhere here and I wanted to bring it inside. My choice is actually pretty close when seen in good light.

You can see the door below which is one of three that I painted. This is the entrance to my space from a hallway that was added for access. It will have a drop shade for privacy, but I doubt it will get much use.

John has done a great job on this hallway /corridor. The art is temporary. This space will be a photo gallery with same sized images lining the wall and lighting to highlight it.

This floor will continue into my space and bathroom. John put it down a few days ago along with the baseboards/skirting boards. I love the contrast of dark and light.

You can’t really tell the wall color as it was getting late in the afternoon when I took the photographs and I had limited light. It’s called Devon Cream and it is a soft creamy color that tends to pick up the color of all the fabrics. It mutes the stark white a bit and has a tiny hint of yellow to it. All of the fabric colors work well with it. (Thanks again to Patrice for being my sounding board and looking at endless swatches.)

I didn’t photograph the bathroom, but it’s coming along too. John has my bathtub in place as well as the sink and toilet. He’s been working so hard and doing a lovely job. The other day I told him that giving me this space was so special that I really didn’t need anything else for Christmas to which he replied with a quick smile, ” All right then, that’s sorted. “

That said, every time I go up into the attic or loft as he calls it, he does say, ” careful … don’t look around too much.”  I wonder if he’s keeping something safe for Santa. I’ll be back later with some Christmas pictures. I’ve been making wreaths and Hello Dollies and a million other things.

Hello Dollies – The Taste Of Christmas

If we are friends on Facebook, you probably know I have been in a modest panic over the last few days because I could not find pecans, a key ingredient in four of the must have treats for my Christmas dinner. Okay…maybe the Hello Dollies aren’t exactly required to make dinner complete, but I had to have pecans for my sweet potato casserole in addition to a special cranberry salad, a cheese ball, and a pumpkin pecan pie all of which must have pecans to make them properly. So you can see why I was beginning to send out SOS messages to the community. Tina, my running buddy answered the call with a shop that still had them and John picked up a couple of bags yesterday just in time for me to make some of the tasty sweets to send off to Jersey to his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, Jersey Girl.

After Judy Harper asked for the recipe and Cindy a friend from high school expressed an interest, I thought I would share both the recipe and a view of my putting it to all together this morning. I have to say that while I finally got my hands on some pecans, there were no graham cracker crumbs to be found and I had to substitute something used for crumbles here. I was skeptical at first, but I think it really adds to the overall taste of the Hello Dollies so it gets my vote for a positive change to an old favorite.

This recipe is part of a collection of family favorites that my step-mom Cullene put together for me on recipe cards a few years ago.

As you can see by the picture above, I have a bag of honey roasted cashew nuts and peanuts that I tried in this recipe too. I made one half with pecans and the other with the mix above. The slightly salty sweet taste of the honey roast made for a taste change I liked.

A problem with cooking here and using local ingredients for my recipes from home is the need to translate measurements. Take the Jersey butter above. That butter package is 250 grams. My recipe calls for 1/2 cup. See what I mean. These cookies should take about 10 minutes to put together, but making a special dish here for the first time can take a bit longer than normal and it can require an extra kitchen aid to help with the conversions. ( note my laptop bottom right )

Butter and crumble mix and molded into bottom of dish to form a base crust.

Then you add chocolate chips and nuts. I prefer a little less chocolate in mine.

The sweet glue that makes it all one chewy mixture goes on after the coconut flakes.

Pop it in the oven until it looks like the picture below. Some people prefer it a bit lighter in color with less oven time, but I like mine chewy. Just be careful not to burn the bottom. I would watch them when they start to get close to being done.

The finished product.

Ready for taste testing … Mmm.