Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Instalife: midwinter edition

2014 is almost over and I haven't blogged in ages. Life was busy, busy, busy with Thanksgiving and then Christmas travel and I kept up with my general thought of not feeling pressured to write in this space. The latter half of the year has been relatively quite for me in blogland, and that's cool. I might mix things up a bit in the new year. We'll see what happens!

Autumn gave its last rattle with a lovely Thanksgiving held at our house, filled with a cast of international characters. There was much pie

November wrapped up with a cold-but-dry barbecue at our friends A & M's place, I went to Westminter Abbey to welcome the Advent season, and the large amounts of baking and cooking continued.

Hello, December! There was a lot of making happening in prep for 2 Christmas craft fairs I attended as a vendor. They weren't quite as successful as I'd hoped, but I was so glad to really have some progress with 2014's "One Little Word" make as the year drew to a close. Also, I ended up on tv (Graham Norton) behind One Direction. It was highly amusing.

Christmas crafting, birds both glass & real, oatmeal: the best winter breakfast on Earth, a bit more baking, and Christmas nails (design 2 out of 3 or 4 that I did over the month!)

The mister and I headed to the other side of London to sit in a tiny pub basement "venue" and be part of a live taping of the QI Podcast - that was very excellent. // Anything with a tree background becomes Christmassy, no? // KUMQUATS // Cards went on their merry way (but high international postal rates mean I didn't get to send as many as I would've liked). // More kitchen related goodness: baking gingerbread cookies and cooking rhubarb jam and kumquat marmalade for gifting. Yum

I baked or cooked ALLOFTHETHINGS, it would seem: a home-baked, handmade gingerbread house (because that's the only way to really do it), pomanders for smelling nice, peppermint bark (for gifting and for nibbling on), orange-scented marshmallows dipped in dark chocolate (mostly for gifting {I was surprised at how simple making marshmallows really is. Try it!}), plus I also made salted caramel sauce and put it in little jars for the Scottish relations. Lots of tasty things. Once we arrived in Scotland for the Christmas period, it was important to visit the European market in Edinburgh for a pork steak sandwich (so amazing). On Christmas Eve afternoon, we were very excited that A Muppet Christmas Carol was on tv. The in-laws had never seen it and, apparently generally unaware of the basic plot, gave up. Their loss, says I! ("More cheeses for us meeces!)

Christmas came and it was pretty nice. I do miss being with my family, but that's being planned for next year! Hopefully it'll be at least as nice as this year.

And so now we find ourselves on New Year's Eve. Last night I whipped up another batch of marshmallows (to be cut into pieces and dipped in chocolate before guests arrive tonight) and will be baking Joy The Baker's lovely Gruyere Puffs for nibbles (because that recipe is easy peasy and delicious). A small group of friends, a disproportionate amount of drinks, and some good cheer all around will be a wonderful way to ring in the new year, even if I happen to actually be rather sick!

See you in 2015!

Monday, November 10, 2014

California Redwoods and the Pacific

While we were in California, one of the lovely touristy things we did was of the natural sort. After we travelled up from the Monterey area to the Sonoma area, the whole family ventured out to Muir Woods National Monument just north of San Francisco. It's not really a monument at all. It's a redwood forest. But it was created at a time just prior to the national park system as we think of it today, and by designating the area a monument, it was both saved and preserved for future generations. And I'm so glad it was.

The redwoods here are tall, but more slender than those in other parts of California. It's fascinating how the area quite clearly just ends and becomes a different sort of forest. It's not very large, perhaps a mile or so deep, but it was lovely to breathe in the cool, damp air and observe the near-silence of the woods (as few birds make their home within).

After we left the woods, we drove the windy roads a bit further to the lovely Muir Beach Overlook. The sun was shining a bit low in the sky and it made for some spectacular (if windy!) photo opportunities. The Scot and I walked down the path to the little vista point that felt like you were flying over the ocean. It was a bit scary as I'm not fond of heights, but the view it afforded was magnificent.

If you find yourself in or around San Francisco, I really can't recommend this visit enough. Such beauty so close to an urban area, yet clearly unspoiled by humans. Wonderful.