Week thirty five: this week’s post is brought to you by the letter C

Stir Up Sunday is when families get together to prepare the Christmas pudding, and it’s the last Sunday before Advent*. I first heard about it from my original boss at the Museum of London Docklands – I don’t remember this being something we did when I was a child. I have a vague recollection that my grandma used to make the Christmas puddings and when she got too old we either had shop-bought ones (that were usually still in the cupboard in May – who has room for Christmas pud if dinner is done properly?) or no pudding at all. I confess to not liking Christmas pudding anyway.

There was always a Christmas cake though, mum-made and usually with a disaster story attached – my dad is partial to a fruit cake so she made them throughout the year, but the Christmas one always went a bit wrong. This year London sister has made one for the parents and sent it in the post to France, and all they have to do is feed and decorate it.

I didn’t like Christmas cake, either – I still don’t like shop-bought ones. I’m not a lover of candied peel, glace cherries in anything, or unexpected bits of nut. When I became a proper grown up, however, I decided that along with being able to stuff a turkey without wincing (I usually remember to take the neck and giblets out…) I ought to make Christmas cake too. I’d won a Mary Berry recipe book in a Christmas party raffle a few years earlier and found the Classic Victorian Christmas Cake, so thought I’d give that a go – OK, it was the only Christmas cake recipe in any of my books, so it was an easy choice! I think it’s also the only thing I have ever made from the book.

Mary Berry’s cake. Not mine.

I left out the glace cherries and almonds, replaced the cherries with more dried fruit, and rather than soaking the fruit in sherry I used rum. Then I fed the cake with more rum. Mary wasn’t clear on how often you should feed the cake, or on how much you should be feeding it, so I erred on the side of caution and that first cake was a) very moist and b) capable of putting you over the driving limit. So that’s been my go-to recipe since then – I didn’t make one last year, as I usually end up eating far too much of it myself, but this year my budding Heston Blumenthal (aka Thing 2) has been putting pressure on me to make one.

So yesterday Thing 2 and I set the fruit to soak (in the last of the cherry gin, due to a lack of rum in the house) and on Tuesday afternoon we will stir up and bake our 2020 cake. Just before Christmas we’ll decorate it – madam has very strong opinions on cake decorating so I may leave her in charge of that.

*Yes, I know Stir-Up Sunday is technically next weekend, but never mind. I’m sure there will come a time when Thing 2 doesn’t want to cook with me, so until then I’ll make the most of it.

Work is the curse of the crafting classes

This week I have been working from home – an online symposium on Monday about Creativity in Education Now, run by Creative Schools and Creative Colleges. Interesting stuff: the keynote speaker was Bill Lucas, author of Teaching Creative Thinking and my new hero. There was a poor OFSTED rep there, who was trying really hard to say that there were lots of opportunities for teaching creativity in schools as part of the new(ish) inspection framework, but she kept hammering home that everything had to start with knowledge acquisition. She wasn’t open to ‘split screen’ teaching, where creative skills are developed at the same time: as she was an ex-art teacher that surprised me.

The rest of the week was spent on meetings, and on developing a set of learning outcomes for one of the new galleries in the museum. It’s going to be an amazing space – as with the rest of the museum, focused on building creativity in children, young people and their families – and the deep dive back into our thinking over the past year or so has made me excited about the transformation project all over again. It’s been hard at times this year to remember what a brilliant thing we’re doing – losing six months to furlough meant it’s taken a while to get back to this point – but this task has reminded me.

On the subject of creativity – I love what the Natural History Museum have been doing to support audiences. This lovely free Dodo cross stitch pattern is available to download, and you can also make a giant squid or a whole set of nudibranches. The patterns come with really simple instructions, too, and are part of a suite of equally brilliant craft activities. Nice job, NHM.

You can find the V&A’s own offer here – less for kids but some gorgeous Mary Quant patterns remade by Alice and Co Patterns, as well as other projects inspired by exhibitions. You could also check out the #LetsMakeWednesdays posts on the V&A Blog.

Where was I? Oh yes, working at home – that means no progress at all has been made on the portable sock project, which has the heel flap done on sock 1 and is ready to turn when I get back on the tube tomorrow.

Sock bristling with stitch markers

The Hydrangea blanket has a few more stripes, and I have also been working on rainbow jewellery which will hopefully find their way into an experience hamper at some point. The rainbow pattern is by Ever Laughter and you can find it here. She used aran yarn to make her applique, I have used Perle no 8 for the necklace and Scheepjes Cotton 8 for the brooches. I like the pastel one just for a change up! The pile of squares is the Zoom blanket underway in Stylecraft Special DK.

I’ve managed to sew up both the dresses I cut out last weekend, too. Both were pretty quick makes and came together in just a couple of hours each, and both have proper pockets to put things in. You can’t underestimate the value of pockets!

Being at home all week – with Lulu on downstairs cat duty – has reminded me how much that cat loves my beloved. The first picture is when she heard him come through the back door – Thing 3 is currently complaining that she jumped off him as soon as her human came downstairs. She’s not a lap cat like the other two, but will lean on you or cuddle up if you’re sitting down and if my beloved is not in the room. If he is, you haven’t got a look-in….

I’ll leave you this week with a picture of a clematis in the garden still bravely struggling on. I love the colours of this one.

See you at the end of week 36, when we can see how the cake turns out! This week’s cover photo is the woods on Stonards Hill in Epping looking very autumnal.

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading

The Penguin Killer – Ste Sharp

Enemies at Home/Deadly Election (Flavia Albia) – Lindsey Davis (Audible)

The Law of Innocence (Mickey Haller) – Michael Connelly

Gobbelino London and a Scourge of Pleasantries – Kim M. Watt

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