Tag Archives: Christmas

Baby it’s cold outside

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Lights are going up, the radio is booming out the first of many festive repeats, the aroma of fir is in the air.  I’m resisting the urge to use the ‘C’ word, dear Reader.  I simply can’t even think about all things festive just yet.  With no news on the house front, deadlines, the end of term looming and Poppy’s birthday very firmly on the horizon (she wakes every morning with a countdown of days until the big 5), my mind rather resembles the inside of the Old Curiosity Shop at the moment.  Too much to do and so little time.

Everywhere I turn of late, we seem to be being encouraged to embrace a perfectly Danish feeling of ‘hygge’.  Well…who doesn’t love the idea of curling up in a chair with a good book in front of the fire, dear Reader?  However, I can’t help but wonder if, for me, it’s not so much the cosiness of woollen blankets and steaming mugs of hot chocolate that I need to be encouraged to find, but more a sense of remembering to take time to stop and simply enjoy things.  This will be our last Christmas in the cottage.  That is a strange prospect in itself when the future seems so uncertain.  I hate not having a plan!  Maybe it’s fate’s way of slowing me down, dear Reader.  Maybe it’s alright for life to be on hold?  With the button firmly on pause, once the rush to get ready for Christmas is over, maybe I will stop and appreciate all the things which are really important.

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Long walks drinking in the views, cooking together, roaring fires, good books, reading to my girls, giggly chats over a glass of red with a good friend, holding hands with Jerry and remembering to moan less and appreciate my lot a lot more – all the things which seem to be easily brushed aside in the full steam ahead of Christmas.  Simple pleasures, dear Reader.

I’d better focus otherwise I am in danger of seeping into Boden catalogue territory at this rate.  So now that the weather has finally taking a turn for the frostier and December is on its way, I’ll be trying to find some my own hygge both inside and out.  Once I’ve stopped furiously tidying for viewings, of course.  Amazing what you can shove in the dishwasher when you’re in hurry to hide things, dear Reader.

The following ‘cosy’ finds seem a very good place to start.

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Cold hands, warm heart.  The perfect warm mittens from Hygge and Fur will make sure that the only ice I encounter will be clinking in my G&T.  You can find all sorts to keep you warm this winter on Hygge and Fur‘s site which recently featured in House and Garden, including a rather lovely pom pom bobble hat I’ve got my eye on.

Walking the dogs this time of year always leaves me wondering if I’ve left my toes behind at home.  Enter The Warm Welly Co – a chance find on Twitter which has literally transformed frosty walks for me.  The Warm Welly Co produce neoprene-lined wellies for both adults and children that don’t cost the earth and will keep your feet warm and dry, even when you’re still chasing down a runaway spaniel after an hour in the woods.  FACT.  I love that this fab company was started really by accident by a family of farmers in Cumbria who needed warm wellies to keep the children’s toes warm and toasty during lambing.  Father Christmas will be delivering a couple of pairs for Poppy and Primrose this year too.

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Some of you will know that I’ve been working really hard on a slightly longer project which I hope to be able to share with you soon.  So alongside the obligatory large mug of tea on wintry mornings (and late evenings) at the writing desk, I’ve been donning these beautiful cashmere fingerless gloves (Fagin style) from Turtle Doves. Photo evidence below shows that I have loved them so much that I’ve already covered the label with a leaky pen incident…..literally I’ve slept in them since they arrived, dear Reader. One of the loveliest things about Kate Holbrook’s Shropshire based company, Turtle Doves is that their British design and manufacturing ethos focuses on using textile waste to create beautiful new handmade garments and accessories.  So ALL of their products are made from recycled cashmere and they collect cashmere from charity shops, textile merchants and even offer a ‘free gloves in exchange for your jumper’ service.   What’s not to love about that, dear Reader?  Gorgeous items galore on their site, all fit for under the Christmas tree.

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I can’t take the credit for this next find but it is probably my favourite ‘hygge’ item this winter. Anyone who knows me well, knows that when I’m not writing (or chasing after small children and/or spaniels), I can usually be found reading.  My marvellous friend Florence introduced me to this one – Florence has an amazing knack for always being able to source the perfect gift.  Her site, Blue Bowl, is an utter treasure trove of present heaven, ideal if you’re in search of something for that ‘hard to buy for’ person on your Christmas list. (Florence recently shared new children’s subscription, Scoop with Primrose, a monthly magazine aimed at little book worms aged 8 and up which is SOOOOO much better than what the newsagent has to offer for this age group – needless to say it was right up Primrose’s street). Margot’s bookish find this winter?  Slightly Foxed, a beautifully put together literary quarterly publication which marries great writing from celebrated authors and passionate book lovers in equal measure.  Having recently devoured all five books in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet chronicles, I have been in dire need of new reading material and I love that Slightly Foxed’s issues reveal a whole host of titles, interesting and sometimes long forgotten just waiting to be discovered or reread in an age of pulp fiction.  This is the London Review of Books for fireside book worms – unadulterated bookish pleasure on every page and almost certain joy for those of us who love the gems to be found in the hallowed spaces of independent bookshops old and new and cosy libraries.  The specially commissioned covers on each issue are a delight in themselves.  A subscription to Slightly Foxed is definitely top of my Christmas list, dear Reader.  Thank you to Jennie for the bountiful bookish ‘hygge’ delivered by the postman – it is not often he gets a whoop!

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Their collection of Slightly Foxed Editions make wonderful gifts too – utterly unique.  Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s Terms and Conditions, recently reviewed in the hallowed pages of Country Life, had me in stitches.  A must for those who have experienced life as a boarder.

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Last but by no means least, the perfect accompaniment to simple pleasures.  Gin.  Of course, I’ll be needing something to sip as I read by the fire, dear Reader and I think I’ve stumbled upon just the thing.  Thank you to the lovely Jane Devonshire for introducing me to Andy from Hampshire’s Gorilla Spirits whose Silverback Gin with No9 Cardamon tonic is simply perfect for a large G&T. With a base of British wheat spirit and warm spices and notes of sweet orange, coriander, acacia blossom and lemongrass, it is a remarkably moreish number.  £1 from each bottle also goes towards supporting The Gorilla Organization which works at the very forefront of gorilla conservation in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo.  I am hoping that Father Christmas remembers to leave a bottle of Silverback Gin under the tree this year.

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Now it’s over to you, dear Reader.  There’s a frost on the ground, a jingle of bells in the air and smoke wisps curling from the chimney pot.  What will your simple pleasures be this winter?

Margot’s 12 Faves of Christmas

With Poppy’s 4th birthday out of the way and a week of cards and cake dutifully observed, Christmas has finally entered the cottage.  A huge succession of large parcels have descended (thank goodness for next day delivery) and in true last minute Margot form, all food bar the main event arrived by the back door in time too.  The postman and I are on first name terms and he brings Monty biscuits.  Keep it between us, dear Reader…..I have panic bought pretty much everything for Christmas.  Every year I promise myself that I will have everything ready by the beginning of December so that I can actually enjoy the lead up to the big festive day and apart from the year that Poppy was born, I haven’t managed to be even vaguely organised!  However, I’ve decided that the best way to combat all the Christmas rush and stress is to take a leaf out of the Danes’ book and embrace ‘hygge’.  Everything else can wait.

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From what I can gather, Hygge (pronounced hooga) is all about the art of cosiness – enjoying good things with good people, creating a magical glow with candelight, making time to stop and think, appreciating what we have, rather than wanting more……  The perfect winter antidote.  So this Christmas, I shall making like a Dane, feasting with the people I love, taking a moment to stop and stare at the roaring fire in the grate (whilst sipping sloe gin obviously, dear Reader), remembering that cooking Christmas lunch is only like cooking a Sunday roast and switching off from the world outside to make Lego farms with Poppy and Primrose, sip hot tea, eat crumpets, savour long muddy walks in the woods, scoff Quality Street, finally watch the end of Mad Men and dive into my latest haul of Raffaela Barker novels.

Before I sign off until the New Year though, dear Reader, I thought I’d share my 2015 Christmas favourites with you – my 12 ‘faves’ of Christmas….

  1. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a pheasant wreath so here is this year’s homemade effort.  Thanks so much to Phil the pheasant who was trapped in the dog proof fencing and as I went to rescue him, decided to fly off, leaving me with all his tail feathers in my hand!  Phil, I do hope you haven’t been the butt of numerous jokes – pop back and I’ll find you a jumper.

Christmas wreath

2. Despite the ridiculously unseasonal weather, I will STILL be snuggling down on the sofa with my favourite people by the fire, even if it means we will be wearing t-shirts and drinking pina coladas in the sitting room.  Letters written to the Big Man have already been laid on the fire and we watched as the smoke curled up the chimney, hoping they reach him in time.

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3. Hot steaming mugs of tea and good books with my beautiful cashmere bed socks before everyone else gets up – Yawn London you have made my Christmas this year so a huge thank you to you.

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4. Finding out who’s been naughty or nice with Primrose and Poppy at the Long Barn in Alresford – really magical and so much fun. FC Long Barn

5. Our very own handmade pigs in blankets from our first pig, Cumberland.

Pigs in blankets6. How could I forget the Christmas tree?  Ours doesn’t go up until after Poppy’s birthday but I adore it when it is finally in situ – you can’t beat the smell of fir in the house.  I even managed to embrace the tree decoration free for all…….

Christmas tree

7. We always have a new book for Christmas and Christmas week, we read our favourite Chistmas bedtime stories including an Oxford Annual of Christmas I’ve had since I was 6!  Poppy and Primrose love the stories of Victorian Christmases and Mummers.  However, the book that is asked for time and time again has to be The Jolly Christmas Postman.

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8. Christmas Monty – I promise he hasn’t eaten Father Christmas but he IS terribly suspicious of men in red suits falling down the chimney….

Christmas Monty

9.  We’ve been so busy with one and thing another, that I forgot to tell you about a new four legged friend of ours.  Introducing Willow, the 28 year old Welsh Mountain pony.  A very sweet farmer’s daughter who lives nearby asked us if we could fuss over her old pony, groom her and take her out for hacks.  As you can imagine, it was like all Poppy and Primrose’s Christmases had come at once and now it’s Willow this and Willow that.  Christmas Eve will see us taking carrots to her and her horsey companion.  A complete wish come true for 2 pony mad girls and 1 pony mad Mummy, dear Reader.  Jerry has taken to frowning at the number of riding hats and paraphernalia in the hallway……

Willow

10.  Cheese.  Need I say more.  I have a fridge full and it makes me rather happy, dear Reader.  Oh that and the Christmas Double Issue of Country Life!  I shall be sneaking down the stairs in the dark, Nigella style, to midnight feast on Stilton and Tunworth cheese whilst reading a page or two of this country Christmas treat.

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11.  Winter walks – in between all the feasting and present giving, there’s nothing like trudging up to the woods and blowing away the cobwebs. Can’t wait for a crisp frost to coat our little corner of countryside.

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12.  Perhaps the best thing under the Christmas tree this year will be our newest addition….  Meet Isadora, dear Reader.  Dora for short.  All black velvet and gorgeous puppyness.  Arriving on an early Christmas delivery, we’ve already been enjoying plenty of cuddles.  Jerry certainly knows how to get a Christmas present right!  However, Monty is still not too sure if it is love at first sight.  He will be taking a view on the whole puppy pulling his ears and sleeping on his bed situation, post Christmas.

Dora

SO that takes us to 2 cats, 2 dogs, 5 hens, 1 pony and a pig in the freeezer……wonder what else we can find a home for in 2016?!!  I would say that we were mad but if you’ve been reading this since the very beginning, then you already know that, dear Reader!  Wishing a very Happy Christmas to you and yours – may your Christmas be filled with feasting, plenty of cosiness and most importantly, love, peace and a little gin.  See you on the other side x

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Stamp revolution

The cottage is in need of some serious love.  So far our list of to-dos include a broken loo, broken shower, fraying carpet, new curtains, damp in the hallway….. I could go on, dear Reader.  After water poured through the ceiling during last year’s storms, we set about sprucing things up a bit but the novelty of decorating every weekend quickly wore off!  Now as we hurtle towards Christmas, I keep thinking that I must declutter, paint and sort out the broken spindles on the staircase after the great indoor sledging competition of 2015.  Sadly, we lost 3 to that game one afternoon!

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With colour charts and wallpaper samples littering the dining room table, I marvelled at the haul from my latest little find, the English Stamp Company .  A family business through and through, the English Stamp Company has specialised in making high-quality, bespoke rubber stamps for over 20 years in their workshop in Dorset.  Choosing just the one stamp is pretty much an impossible task as all the designs are unique, beautifully drawn and cut and utterly irresistible to me.  I came away with a few….  These fabulous stamps can be used for almost anything from stationery to crafting, wrapping paper and lampshades to tablecloths and walls.  I hadn’t thought about using a stamp to decorate the cottage with but the lovely Sasha from the English Stamp Company explained to me that when they first started making stamps, they were used to create bespoke wall patterns – a cracking alternative to wallpaper.

Keen to get a move on with the next phase of cottage interior design, Jerry and I armed ourselves with Little Greene paint (perfect for old houses and the colours are simply stunning too) and set to work transforming our tired old bedroom.  With Slaked Lime Deep as the base note colour on the walls, we used French Grey Mid as the accent colour for the design.  Our choice of stamp?  A rather natty pheasant feather.  Perfectly ‘country’.

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Working with the stamp was much easier than I imagined it would be.  Paint can be applied to the stamp with a sponge and I worked from top to bottom evenly spacing the stamp in a pattern of five, just like the face of a dice as it gave me a bit more of a guide.  Some of the feathers have a fainter appearance than others too as the stamp started to run out of paint before being reapplied but I think that it adds a bit more interest to the wall.  When finished with stamping, simpy wash the stamp in warm soapy water and leave to dry.  All the beauty of wallpaper and none of the sticky mess and mismatched patterns!

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After dyeing the curtains a soft grey too to blend in, our bedroom feels so wonderfully cosy and I am now a complete stamp convert, dear Reader.  The room almost resembles one of those fabulous double page spreads on period properties from Country Homes and Interiors – all 17th century wooden beams and shades of grey (not 50, steady on dear Reader).  I have already bought a fabric inkpad in gold and intend to go mad with an acorn stamp and some lampshades for the guest bedroom, the girls have been badgering Jerry and I to cover their bedroom top to toe with stamped woodland creatures and best of all, both my mother and my mother in law thought that we had used hand printed wallpaper – the effect is so stunning.  I would have shown you the whole room in its glory but it was its usual chaotic state and I thought I might just spare you a glimpse into our life of untidiness, dear Reader – piles of books by the bed, pens scattered on every surface, rogue Lego, clothes draped on an armchair and a cat, trying to look inconspicuous, curled up on the fur bedspread.  Another time.

With Christmas a few weeks away now, I shall be making some hand printed wrapping paper too.  You MUST go and take a look at the Christmas Collection from the English Stamp Company – perfect for cards, wrapping, hand printed napkins and tablecloths.  It’s a wonderful way to put your own stamp on things, so to speak!  I might even get my own Margot stamp drawn up….now there’s an idea, dear Reader.

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A countryside Christmas

church flowersIt seems so fitting to be sitting here writing this post in the first days of January after our first countryside Christmas, dear Reader.  2013 was such an eventful year: swapping kaftans for tweed and heels for wellies, leaving behind the Big Smoke for rural Hampshire, getting a gundog pup, Primrose learning to live with mud, Poppy learning not to eat it, Jerry living out his dream of driving his own Lanny, CHICKENS……I could go on.  Not to mention the beginnings of Margot Tries the Good Life world domination in written form.  So one couldn’t blame me dear Reader, for half expecting Christmas to be a bit of let down after all that!  Amazingly, it wasn’t.  However, most of December was rather bumpy with Poppy succumbing to a hideous bout of the hand, foot and mouth virus and the four of us having to live in quarantine with the sign of the plague daubed on the door.  After two weeks of illness, followed by Poppy turning 2 and then the mad dash to prepare for Christmas, we were all looking forward to a bit of festive peace and quiet.

Luckily for us, the week of Christmas proved less fraught.  Never have we felt more at home than here in our little old country cottage.  Rather spectacularly, the village seems to have well and truly embraced us and the whole of the festive period felt as if it had been stolen from The Archers’ airwaves.  My contribution to the church flowers was infinitely better than my first attempt at Harvest time, Poppy and Primrose dressed as angels to form part of a tableau around the crib with some dear little village shepherds and everyone roared with laughter when a grumpy Poppy yelled (rather loudly I might add) in the middle of the prayers “I don’t love you Mummy” when I ran out of sweeties to bribe her silence.  I turned my hand to Christmas wreaths and even managed a bit of countryside recycling when my dear Pa turned up with this……

Roadkill

Roadkill

and I fashioned it into one of these!

A bit of countryside recycling!

A triomphe de plumes!

Jerry’s family – I do promise (truly) that I did not feed you what was left of the pheasant when you came to lunch….thought I had better declare that……just in case, anyone was worried….!

Our dear little tree!

Our dear little tree!

Moving on…  We enjoyed the hospitality of several villagers and settled in to the swing of all things Christmas.  I was accosted to form an impromptu choir for the service – only to find that there were quite a number of villagers who have been hiding their musical lights under a bushel.  One even turned out to be a recorded artist and entered the choir practice in full voice, trilling vocal warm ups.  Amazing, the things one doesn’t know about one’s neighbours.  Christmas Eve proved to be a wonderful evening with Ma and Pa in tow, children snug in their beds, stockings hung by the fire and a magical walk along the starlit lanes to Midnight Mass.  A goose from our local farm shop went without hitch and I even managed to churn out a cake with the girls.

Edible glitter and edible spray in the hands of a 5 year old!

Edible glitter and edible gold spray in the hands of a 5 year old!

Say nothing about Robin Pinkbreast, dear Reader – Primrose was utterly delighted and I spent the whole time telling Christmas guests that it was all the children’s work…
With 2014 ushered through the cottage door, I have had time to think on resolutions and wishes for the new year.  More tweed is certainly on the agenda, learning to shoot a gamebird is well and truly up there and tackling the awful jungle of a garden has to be priority number one.  Meeting one of the organisers of the New Forest Show over lunch, I was almost persuaded to enter and ‘show’ my chickens.  Oh and the vicar already tried to twist my arm to join the Parish Council to represent the young people.  Not quite sure that I am ready for the challenges of either of those yet!!  Apparently, Jerry says we have to start sorting out the cottage and redecorating too.  Perhaps now would be a good time to lock myself away in the study and pretend to pen a little chapter of a book or two?  Sounds like 2014 is going to be just as hectic as 2013….  Dear Reader, I do wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous 2014.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, supporting and telling others about my little blog.  Without you, 2013 really wouldn’t have been half as brilliant!

Happy New Year from the countryside!

Happy New Year from the countryside!

Getting in the mood…

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Delicious Christmas goodies…we wanted to buy them all!

I have to say, dear Reader, that I have been really suffering from Christmas malaise this year.  Our first countryside Christmas and I am not quite ready to be Christmassy just yet!  I AM excited but there just seems so much to get through before the 25th that pretty soon, I shall be ready to flop by the fire with a bottle of sloe gin and not surface until New Year’s eve!

Desperately trying to be organised, I did manage to get to our local farm shop’s ‘Christmas Fayre’ and it didn’t disappoint!  Hung turkeys, oodles of Christmas gifts, mulled wine and mince pies…..Christmas on a platter!  Newlyns Farm Shop did a jolly good job of twisting my Christmas arm and I stocked up on the essentials: meat, wine, panettone and Gentleman’s Relish!  There were gifts a plenty to buy too so no family member will be without something foodie in their stocking this year.   A wonderful way to start the festive season.  Jerry and I enjoyed being plied with mulled wine and mince pies immensely!  The Christmas feast on the day itself has its festive centrepiece as Jerry and I finally persuaded Primrose that Christmas goose is much like ‘posh chicken’.  (She stills remembers me tricking her into eating Jemima Puddleduck).  Rather nonchalantly, she did ask if we would be slaughtering one of our own chickens for lunch – frightening how she has become more ‘countrified’ than the rest of us so quickly!  So with Primrose’s help, I shall trek over to the farm shop on Christmas Eve to pick up our bird and try to hide it from Monty’s ravenous jaws when I get home.

No turkey for us this year!

AMAZING to see all these oven ready birdies on show!

Don’t worry, Monty certainly won’t be going without – thanks to the lovely farm shop butchers!  He will have his own Christmas gnawfest with this little number…

Fit for a Great Dane!

Fit for a Great Dane!

With festive fayre in the bag so to speak, I could turn my attentions to the buying of presents.  Don’t tell anyone, dear Reader but I am afraid that I might not be able to give some of the presents I have bought to their intended recipients as they are simply too fabulous to give away.  I know, I know……Christmas is ALL about the giving of presents and not the receiving part.  However, I might have to sneak this little kindling set at the very back under the tree and hope that no one notices it.  I would so dearly like to keep it!

Might just forget to wrap this one!

Ever so tempting to forget to wrap this one! (Garden Trading)

With a huge dent made into the long list of preparations, surely dear Reader, it wouldn’t be amiss to treat myself to an early festive tipple or two?!  I have been a good Margot after all…..promise.

A little Christmas punch, anyone?

A little Christmas punch, anyone?

(The lovely Countrywives have very kindly invited me into their country coven and I shall be adding my favourite Christmas recipes over on their website each week – do come over and take a look if you have a mo)

Margot’s Twelve Days of Christmas

Look at that darling little boot!

Look at the darling little boot!

On the first day of Christmas, my dear Jerry gave to me……some truly wonderful presents to kit me out for the countryside in 2013: the most delicious cashmere welly socks complete with tiny silver welly, an AMAZING box set of River Cottage handbooks and a very uncamouflaged green and white spotty bag from Cath Kidston!  Dear Reader, I can assure that I was most certainly one of the nine ladies dancing!  Presents done and dusted by 7:30am!  That’s what I call efficient or rather very impatient!  We even managed to make the wonderful nativity service where Primrose stood angelic as one of the angels by a real baby ‘Jesus’ whilst Poppy screamed for most of the service and could only be silenced by a packet of rice cakes.  Crib service completed, we trudged off on our Christmas travels with our two little ‘angels’ who had been awake since 4:47am, desperate to see what St Nicholas had left under the tree.  Even industrial amounts of coffee could not keep me awake on Christmas morning and there was rain of biblical proportions sloshing down as we left the Big Smoke, ruining my straightened hair and making me question whether or not the Mayans might have been on to something!Journey finally at an end, we turned our attentions to the business of Christmas lunch.  Day one of the Twelve Days of Christmas and  not a partridge in sight.  However, I did try my first ‘turducken’.  Yes that’s right, a ‘turducken’ (turkey, duck and chicken), also known as a three bird roast.  A modern take on an olden day feasting dish when one served a bird in a bird in a bird (you get the idea) all neatly packaged up inside a swan, feathers, beak et al.  I can see where jeggings might have evolved from.  They must be the modern day equivalent of hose!  Thank goodness we only had 2 days of feasting to get through rather than the full Twelve Days of Christmas.  I am not sure I could have managed the swan roast or the 12 pies for a lucky 12 months that nursery rhyme Jack Horner is alleged to have consumed!

Boxing Day arrived with its post Christmas lunch slump and mad sale spendathons.  Traditionally the feast of St Stephen (the patron saint of horses), farmers and horse owners alike used to take their horses to their country parishes to be blessed.  It is also well known as the biggest day in the hunting calendar.  The Boxing Day hunt – a time honoured country Christmas tradition which is so rarely cheered in villages these days.  Dear Minty took her little babe to his inaugural Boxing Day hunt to watch riders and hounds depart from a sleepy village in Gloucestershire for the frost-covered fences and hedges of the surrounding countryside.  If Minty’s husband has anything to do with it, that dear little boy will be riding, hunting, shooting and fishing before he even takes his first steps.  I applaude that sentiment entirely!  No local hunts around our parts so I made do with a little dress with horse and hound pattern!  Embarking on the second day of our gluttonous feasting, I started to feel like the Vicar of Dibley in the episode where she is invited to all the villagers’ Christmas lunches.  I wasn’t sure how much more I could fit in and wished I had saved a pair of maternity jeans!  Following a considerably over indulgent lunch, I fell into a dream of turtledoves and dovecotes on my country estate and was woken somewhere around 2am by the ‘twit twoo’ of a pair of owls .  I say owls…..it could merely have been the whistling of darling Jerry’s drunken snoring.  Difficult to tell….

Hunting horns at the ready!

Hunting horns at the ready!

Well dear Reader, day three of Margot’s Twelve Days of Christmas and all was looking rosy as we finally returned to the familiar surroundings of our dear little cottage.  Presents unpacked, fire lit and pyjamas on, I was delighted to be back.  I will admit to be being a very poor house guest.  I like to be in my own home.  Tragic as that sounds.  I also felt a little twinge of loyalty to the cottage as after all, this will be the last Christmas spent in its tiny embrace.  Three French hens were not on offer….you can see I was not fully prepared for the full twelve days at all…BUT Primrose and I did make a rather charming bereted French snowman (if I do say so myself) for the top of my Christmas cake this year.  Rustique.

C'est chic non?!

C’est chic, non?!

As for the rest of the Twelve Days of Christmas, not really sure how I am going to manage four colly birds (apparently these are blackbirds, who would have thought?), five gold rings (oh God nothing Olympic related I promise), six geese-a-laying (might have to make do with chickens for this one and book myself on a hen-keeping course), seven swans-a-swimming (could a few trips to The Swan pub count?), eight maids-a-milking (dairy farm, perhaps?).  Still it all looks promising for a good old New Year/early Twelfth Night shindig.  A little visit to see Tom and Barbara in the offing and no doubt, I shall definitely see at least one of the ten lords a leaping on New Year’s Eve (can’t wait to see Tom strutting his stuff with his energetic version of Britney’s Toxic) and might even manage to do some piping for the eleven pipers piping.  As for the drummers, dearest Poppy got a drum from Father Christmas so when New Year’s Day comes and inevitably, Jerry and I have sore heads, it will feel like twelve drummers drumming.  Might have to hide that one…… Here’s to 2013 and Margot FINALLY making it to the countryside.  Happy New Year to you, Dear Reader!

Wine and a little ‘Wes Hael’!

Wine!  Wassailing to follow...

Wine! Wassailing to follow…

I write this week’s installment, Dear Reader, with a slightly (understatement of the year) sore head.  Christmas party season arrived and Margot’s Christmas simply wouldn’t be complete without a little glug of wine or two.  In the case of Margot’s more recent past, rather a few too many gin fizzes and a smoking bishop!  More on that in a mo….. This year, I threw in some wassailing for good measure too!  An old custom associated with Christmas and in particular Twelfth Night, wassailing has been around since the 15th century.  ‘Wes Hael’ (‘be well’ or ‘be healthy’ in Anglo Saxon I believe) is a way of wishing good health to family and friends.  Definitely something Margot would be interested  in at this time of year!  It is also an ancient ritual that includes a good old shout at some trees (usually apple trees to be a touch more precise).  It was believed that wassailing the trees in one’s orchard thanked the trees for the year’s crop and ensured a bountiful crop for the year to come.  A ceremonial slosh of mulled cider was poured on to the roots of the tree and a wassailing song was sung to keep evil spirits from harming the tree until a good harvest was brought in the following year. In the spirit of old things country, I did my bit and wassailed my ‘orchard’ of 1 pear, 1 cherry (this year’s crop was used in a new gin recipe) and 1 fig tree.  I donned a green scarf (a nod to the Greene man, usually the master of wassailing ceremonies) and enjoyed a little sing song of a few Cole Porter numbers.  Goodness only knows what the neighbours thought of the crazy woman singing in the garden, dousing a libation of sloe gin fizz on a piddly tree with a green scarf over her head (it was raining, Dear Reader, and I had just had my hair blow dried).  Let’s hope I get a good crop of cherries and pears next year.  I fancy trying my hand at making some perry!  I love the thought that all over  the cider making countiesof England, country folk are still keeping this amazing tradition alive!  I shall continue to do my bit and ‘wassail’ throughout the 12 days of Christmas…what a fabulous excuse for a little tipple!  If you should manage a little wassailing of your own, do have a go at one of my sloe gin fizzes.  Wassailing won’t seem silly at all once you have had a few of these!

Sloe Gin Fizz

1 part sloe gin (homemade of course)

3 parts Prosecco or English Sparkling wine (no need to use your best Bolly for this one)

a handful of pomegranate seeds

Gin in first, then top up with fizz.  Sprinkle in the seeds.  Delish!

or perhaps an old fashioned take on Mulled Wine found in Anne Cobbett’s The English Housekeeper (1842)

‘Boil cinnamon, grated nutmeg, cloves or mace in a quarter of a pint of water.  Add a pint of port and some sugar to taste.’ Boil for a few minutes.

Until Christmas Day itself, I have imposed prohibition on myself as I imbibed rather a lot with some dear festive chums, Holly and Ivy.  It must have been a good party as my head still hurts days later.  Apparently, the hostess was on top form dishing out cocktails, donning a fur coat, having a little dance before an awful incident with the kitchen sink, going up to bed (very worse for wear) leaving guests to fend for themselves, blow out candles, turn off lights etc before letting themselves out……. Most certainly NOT Margot’s finest hour I don’t mind telling you, Dear Reader!  Dearest Holly and lovely Ivy, a BIG thank you to you for saving the cottage from fire and for very generously forgiving a drunken old Christmas bird for seriously bad hostessing!  I promise to be the last man standing on our next ‘Wes Hael’ jaunt.  In the meantime dear Reader, I shall stick to a festive cuppa until my aching head subsides!  Have a wonderfully fabulous Christmas and ‘Wes Hael’ to all of you and yours!

Dear Barbara's festive pot - I just couldn't resist!

Dear Barbara’s festive pot – exceptionally restorative!