Category Archives: daily life

Back to work!

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Back to work!
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Coordinating mask and hair!

I was called back to work last week. Almost all of our staff came in for two solid days and we hung plastic barriers around the till and the cutting tables, taped arrows on the floor, cleaned, tidied and organised our buns off. Sunday was a day of rest and reopening day was Monday (yesterday).

We don’t have to wear masks but I made myself an extra-special one anyway!

The first day back went well, with customers happy to see us open, and OK with waiting if there was already the maximum allowed in the store.

Since my last blog post, I have making, yes you guessed it, more bags. I’m afraid there has been no crochet or knitting. I had a bit of a repetitive strain pain in the base of my left thumb which was irritated by the blanket knitting. Instead I upcycled a couple of jeans pockets and some extra bits and pieces I had lying around.

After I took the photos, I added some turquoise stitching around the seamline, though I don’t think my machine is meant to be embroidering on multiple layers of denim. It doesn’t look as good as it does on thinner fabric.

I am in love with this bag that I made today. I sized it based on what I had of the fabric, bearing in mind the floral and pink fabrics were both left over from sewing garments.

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I added extra features like the detachable wrist strap and the keyring on the side of the inner pocket. It’s a big bag – about 12.5″ tall.

So that’s two more bags for the #dodgybagmal2020 that Ali of Little Drops of Wonderful is running this month.

FOs: sewn and crocheted

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FOs: sewn and crocheted

G’day all! I hope I find you well.

My 4S program is really helping to keep me moving. The Strength part has been a circuit that I’ve set up downstairs, with some music, and various exercises with dumbbells and bands and things. The Stamina is mostly walking, with some gardening thrown in. The Stretch is yoga, and the weather has co-operated so that I could enjoy some Sunbathing, in my swimsuit no less!

Some days, I’ve managed three out of four, though my goal is two.

I just realised Sewing is another S that I enjoy, and I did finish a couple more things today. These shorts…

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…are not something that I would be seen dead in in public! However I had this remnant and thought I’d try the “make a pair of leggings from a pair you already own” as per the Crafty Gemini tutorial. I made them as shorts because (a) it was just an experiment and (b) I only had a small piece of fabric. I must say, I was surprised with how well they worked out. My new sewing machine has a bunch of stitch options and I used a couple of the stretch stitches to put these shorts together. If this fabric was a lot sturdier and held in the <ahem> wobbly bits a bit better they would work as swimshorts and I could make a bikini top to go with them.

At least my old fear of sewing knit fabric is waning!

An old interest has been sparked again recently. I pulled out my quilting books, some of which are full of templates for foundation piecing. What this involves is tracing the outlines onto a sheer fabric, interfacing or tracing paper, or you can photocopy them from the book and use that instead. Then you place small pieces of fabric behind the paper outlines and sew them together, through the paper, in the order of the numbers on the paper. The paper is torn off at the end.

I thought I’d have a play with this rat block, to which I added fabric top and bottom and then turned it into a zippered pouch.

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This is a pretty sloppy effort! I’m not proud of it. The zipper seams are not perfect, the quilting lines didn’t stay in the ditch, and the part on the top of the head where it meets the ear doesn’t match up. I could blame getting used to the new sewing machine but I should probably just suck it up and take responsibility!

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I am happier with this result – the Loops & Threads Barcelona cowl/snood. The colourway is Lapis. It’s very muted but I do like the variations. The circumference is 29″ and the length top to bottom is 21″, which is long enough to be able to wear it as a hood.

And my other crochet FO:

Four little nesting pots or bowls, for which I have no plans at the moment. They could be used as mini yarn bowls, plant pot covers or just catch-alls for random bits and pieces. These used up some of my miscellaneous DK yarn that I’d wound into cakes using odds and ends of different colours. By using two cakes at a time and holding two strands together, the colours seem to work! And I like leaving the ends hanging, trimmed to a uniform length, for added quirkiness.

Well, I think that’s us up to date. I need to get a daylight photo of my knitted blanket to show the progress. Tomorrow, if I remember. Take care!

 

 

So excited!

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Guess what! I have a new sewing machine!

It’s a Janome 4120QDC and I bought it after a fair amount of research of brands and prices based on the features I wanted in a new machine. My basic machine that I’ve had for over 20 years is a Janome, and I’ve been thinking of upgrading for a couple of years. Of course, with most stores closed, I didn’t get to play with different machines before I bought one. I ordered this from a local quilt shop, e-transferred the money, and they called me a week later.

I have read the manual, watched the DVD (how old-fashioned!) and tomorrow I will test it out.

One of the things people are finding out right now is how high maintenance they are! Do you usually go to the hair salon every 6 weeks, do you get your nails done every month, get waxed, tanned, massaged, whatever? Well, with all this social distancing, we are having to be more self-sufficient. Luckily I have been cutting my own hair since Christmas. We have clippers, scissors and combs, and that’s all I need to give myself a short back and sides, a bit longer on top. In fact, after I’d done the 23mm job the other day, I went back over it with the 15mm. It’s SO tempting to just keep going and do the lot but I didn’t!

My nails are natural – they grow really well when I’m not working, though I still break one now and then, so they aren’t all even lengths.

And my hair, well, that hasn’t been a natural colour for a long time! When I cut it, the old colour was gone. And I actually quite liked it brown with a bit of grey. So I left it for a few days. But I had bought some more Manic Panic Flash Lightning and some Atomic Turquoise and Hot Hot Pink (thank you, Sally Beauty, for doing curbside pickup) so today I took the plunge and did my whole head!

It’s kind of a tie dye look, isn’t it!?

Yesterday I had a big sewing jag. I was going to make a bag, but instead got sidetracked looking through bits and pieces in my stash. And I’ve had these thin knits for years, bought when I was quite new to working at the fabric store and this stuff was $3 a metre and I bought far too much of it in three or four colours.

I finally feel like I made something worthwhile out of it.

The skirts are simple rectangles with elasticated waists, with a half lining inside in the same fabric. I didn’t even neaten the hems. And the PJs are from a self-made pattern from an old pair.

The tie dye skirt is a rayon fabric that I recently brought home.

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I used the fabric sideways because I needed the extra length to fit around me with enough to spare, and that also meant I could use the selvage as the hem without sewing. (Can you tell I’m a lazy ass sewist?)

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This is my batik stash. I had them all in one drawer. The small messy pile is made up of leftover scraps but the other pieces are good sizes. The turtle ones, second from left, are half-yard cuts from a quilt shop in Maui. After I laid them out, I washed them on cold, hung them to get mostly dry and ironed them. They are now neatly folded and back in the drawer. Yes, the untouchable part of my stash! You know that feeling, saving it for ‘best’, like precious yarn, or the good china!!

And finally (at last, I hear you say) here’s my finished Cakes Two to Tango shawl. It took almost two complete cakes of Lion Brand Mandala.

I love it and want to make another someday.

Counting my blessings

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I’m feeling grateful today. I choose to be happy about this time off. How many of us complain about ‘having’ to go to work when we’d rather be doing something else? Now we have all this time – Google Calendar says I have no events, or it tells me about a shift I would be working, IF the store wasn’t closed! I am sleeping in late in the mornings. In the evenings, I think, what am I doing tomorrow? And I remember, oh yes, I have zero commitments. It’s very freeing, though I do understand that most of us do benefit from a little structure to our days and weeks to keep us on track.

I baked bread today. I don’t have a meal plan. I have the time every afternoon to decide what’s for dinner, based on the fresh food we need to use up, or what I have on hand. I have the time to pop down to my sewing room and spend some time creating something. I can take a walk or do yoga.

Today I clicked the video icon on a group chat on Facebook and got to talk to three friends, all at once, while we were all in our own homes. How brilliant is that?!

The two little purse/pouches above were made from two of Lizzy Curtis’s YouTube tutorials. Have you heard of her? She’s a Brit who sews, obviously, and she has some  nifty designs. These were both free tutorials. The fabric is from the pile I showed you on the 21st, some of my more recent acquisitions. And I got to use my new snaps and pliers set.

This is what they look like inside:

Quick and easy!

Today I made a less exciting, less pretty item. I was sitting outside with my cup of tea, a little chilly because the sun was barely out, so the sweater and socks stayed firmly on this time. I was looking across at the neighbour’s deck and a lightbulb went on in my head. I had this fugly fabric that Mr Fixit brought home not long ago, thinking I might be able to use it for something. In my recent clearout of my sewing room, I had decided to dispose of it. But wait! It is strong and durable and I can use it!

I measured the space at the top of the deck steps. It was about 36″ square. I cut a 40″ square, turned a two-inch hem, reinforced the corners, and cut a slit inside the stitching. Cut strips from the remaining fabric. Tied it to the deck railings and Voilà! A privacy shield and a little bit of a windbreak too.

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I do have a lovely view from my deck though this iPad photo came out really dark.

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Mr Fixit and I went for another walk this evening. Even though we’ve had some lovely sunny days, the air has been cool, and we still have to wrap up to walk in the evenings. Tonight I had my winter jacket on and a beanie, and for the first part (until I warmed up from the uphill striding) I was zipped up to the chin!

Looks like it’s time for a hot drink and another episode of Hinterland on Netflix. Keep calm and crochet on (or knit, or sew, or…)

 

Saying goodbye to an old friend

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(Have you entered my giveaway yet? It’s here and is open until January 21st, 2020.)

I had a call on Tuesday morning from a friend’s husband. She was in hospital, and knowing that she hadn’t been in good health or spirits for some time I called Mr Fixit and we arranged to go and see her in the afternoon. I almost waited until Thursday, my next day off, but I’m very glad I didn’t. We didn’t stay long – it was basically a Hello and an I Love You and a Goodbye – but I am grateful for the opportunity to have said Goodbye as she died that night.

We are, of course, sad to see her go. We will miss her terribly. But she was ready. She had made her plans, dictated her obituary, given her husband her computer password, etc. Much as we hated to lose our friend, an outspoken, encouraging, flamboyant artist and writer who was generous and grandparental with my boys, we knew it was time.

And life goes on. Specifically, the crafting goes on.

I finished this…

 

On my Ravelry project page, I called this Sunseeker on Maui. The yarn is Cascade Sunseeker, a cotton/acrylic with a teeny bit of sparkle (a multi, with pink and grey, and a solid). I made it up as I went along, using half doubles, singles and double crochets, and I ran out of yarn after single crocheting along the bottom edge. I did at least get to cover a few yarn carries where I striped the pink and grey for a few inches, but ideally I would have liked to have gone around the whole thing.

I’m now down to two WIPs, the knitted tube blanket (the colour options for which are boring me and I may let it languish for a while) and the Moe of Change crochet blanket, which I really need to persevere with as a friend is having a baby in the summer and it would make a great gift.

I have an idea for a good fundraiser for a local farm sanctuary and I bought a panel of fabric on Wednesday and some coordinating cotton so that I can make more project bags.

The plan is to use my collection of old jeans for the bag bases. With that in mind I made a trial bag today. I had to use a certain size square because the fabric has 9″ squares with pictures of cute animals on. I started out with two pieces of  camper van fabric from my stash, 9.5″ square, and the same size of denim for the bottom.

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I’m not particularly happy with how it turned out. It’s pretty and perfectly usable, but it’s disproportionate. It’s too tall, or too narrow, depending on your perspective. I boxed the bottom corners too deeply as well. I should have cut out a 1″ square instead of 1.5″.

I may have to see if I can make the animal squares rectangular (shorter vertically) without losing any of the words,  and boxing the denim corners more frugally should make the base look better.

Maybe I’ll make another tonight with different measurements. Glad I didn’t cut into the good stuff yet.

Mr Fixit had a nasty fall this morning when he went out to clear the snow off the driveway because of ice hidden under the new snow. Hurt his elbow and hip. The arm was numb for a while, then painful. So I cleared the drive this morning (in my Hello Kitty onesie for the amusement of any neighbours who may have seen me). Then I cleared the neighbour’s drive across the road. Thankfully it’s below freezing so the snow is light. It persevered most of the day, so after I returned from grocery shopping ds2 and I went out and cleared ours again. Then we cleared two more neighbours’ drives. So that’s five driveways, which are not small, and they are sloping, so I had a lot of exercise today. No need to go to the gym. My left rotator cuff hates me now. It was bad enough when I woke up this morning – I had probably been sleeping on it – and while I tried to remember to wield the shovel with my right hand in front it was still a challenge.

The Greek Potatoes have been baking for nearly two hours now so I need to go and throw together a Greek salad to go with it. This blog post got long, didn’t it!

Boxing Day

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And in the blink of an eye, Christmas is over!

After our big lunch out on Sunday, we had a very simple dinner on Monday. Tuesday was Christmas Eve and I had decided that that was going to be our main Christmas meal. So I cooked a lentil chestnut loaf, potatoes oreganata (sliced potatoes with oregano, sundried tomatoes and olives) and lots of roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower! We had apple crumble for dessert with vegan ice cream. And then the boys, Tai Chi Man and I played Cards Against Humanity. I know, very non-PC, but very funny, once you get over the fact you’re all mentioning body parts and unnatural acts in front of your parents/children. Our children ARE in their 20s now!!

Christmas Day was lovely and easy. I rustled up some blueberry pancakes around lunchtime, of which most of us partook. And Tai Chi Man and I went out for a neighbourhood walk in the afternoon. It’s been very mild around here, hovering around zero for some time, and there’s snow on the ground but no new precipitation for a few days. Dinner was equally simple, as I made a large fruit salad, which we ate with more vegan ice cream, and there was fruit cake for those who wanted it.

I baked a gluten free mince tart in the evening as I had a friend coming over for tea the next day. It seemed to work out okay.

And Boxing Day…another day at home. My friend came over for a cuppa and a piece of aforesaid mince tart, which was nice. I did a bit of tidying up, and some sewing on another project bag (#11 in the series). Dinner was shepherd’s pie and salad.

With the end of the year approaching, I am aware of my need to review. And the big pile of WIPs in the living room was begging for attention. So today I picked up the crochet granny blanket and added a couple of rounds of black and called it done. I needed a Finished Object and this is about 700 grams out of the stash. YAY!

It’s about 41″ square, and a good size for a lap blanket.

The centre is mostly different colours from the outer rounds because they were small scraps of yarn which I had to use up early or they wouldn’t have been enough to complete a full round. For the first time, I switched direction each round to avoid the skewing that happens in the centre of large grannies, and it worked well.

Now I am at the end of a five day stretch of no shifts, and I have work tomorrow. New sale, so my brain will have to be on full alert! And then Saturday, lots more cooking, as we’re hosting a potluck. Whew!

Christmas is imminent

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The 22nd, eh! Nearly there. The lead up to Christmas is always so long and drawn out, and then BAM! it’s all over. What with going away for a week earlier in the month, I am not feeling very organised as far as Christmassy things are concerned.

I did sew more bags – a total of ten so far – and gave two of them away. The tenth one is for me (and I spent a little extra time on it and added internal pockets). I have also invested in a big pack of batting from work so I am well set for bag padding for a while.

Today was our first “big meal” of the season, rather appropriately right on the Solstice. I spent the morning cooking cashew nut roast, sweet potato casserole, roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts, gravy, a large mince tart and a jam tart (to please the kid who doesn’t eat dried fruit) with coconut cream. I packed it up and we drove to our friends’ house and had lunch with sparkling apple juice and soy nog (which I am now calling Neggnog because there’s no egg in it)!!

We got the tree set up yesterday (there are benefits to buying it late; it was half price). It is beautiful and I will leave it up probably until mid-January!

My plan is to go all out on Christmas Eve, and on the 28th when we have friends over for a potluck, but the other days will be kept simple, because I don’t want to spend my entire days off cooking. I do still need to bake fruit cakes though, so that will probably happen tomorrow, after I’ve been to the gym.

I recently participated in a secret Christmas cracker swap in a British group on Ravelry. There was lots of amusing chatter about the relative size of different brands of toilet roll tubes. The instructions were to stuff a loo roll tube with a knitted or crocheted item, some treats, and  a cheesy joke, decorate it, and send it to your swap partner. The person who sent me a cracker was not the same person to whom I sent one.

I had a lot of fun thinking about what I would stuff into the cracker, and because my swapee likes owls I made sure to include a crocheted owl in the package. The joke above was one I found online (you may have to click to make the pic bigger to read it).

You’ll see from the photo at the very top that I wrapped my cracker in a piece of sequinned fabric which can be reused. I crocheted a gingerbread heart and a mini stocking, made some stitch markers and a beaded bracelet, and added some other little things that I managed to squeeze into the tube.

Now that everyone has opened their crackers, I can show you these pics, which have been lurking on my phone for a few weeks. In return, I received a cracker with a little knitted beaded sweater inside which I now have hanging on my tree.

It came with a joke and some stitch markers. Apparently there were supposed to be chocolates inside but they wouldn’t fit in the tube so my sender ate them herself! I was a bit disappointed about that. When I sent my cracker, I included some chocolate but just put it in the padded envelope alongside the cracker. Ah well! It’s not like I need the extra calories.

Some more fun mail arrived this week. I won a prize from Hannah of The Cozy Cottage Crochet. She has giveaways on her podcast all the time and I received these lovely cotton pastels from Paintbox Yarns. They are 50 gram balls, DK/#3 weight.

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Not great light at this time of the year, even right in the window facing south!

The cracker thing has inspired me to make one for each of my immediate family – there are five of us – and yes, I know I have left it to the last minute yet again. I need jokes (easy to find online), cash for the boys, and some small gifts which will fit inside loo roll tubes. And maybe some nice pieces of Christmassy fabric to wrap them in.

Those are my festivities so far. I hope you are enjoying this time of year, whether you celebrate the Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah or nothing. Stay warm, stay safe.

 

 

Projects and productivity

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Despite the fact that I had only a crappy few hours of “airplane sleep” Saturday night, I felt OK on Sunday and was even motivated to clean my house. I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be, and I couldn’t face just spending the whole day on the couch, so I vacuumed, cleaned bathrooms, watered plants, and did three loads of laundry.

I also started sewing another drawstring bag. (See above)

After a very refreshing 11 hour sleep, I was ready to tackle the grocery shopping today. The meal plan was made, the shopping lists prepared, and after a cup of tea at our favourite tea shop (to settle back into our home groove) we hit four different stores to stock up on food. Bulk foods, health food store, Costco and the supermarket. All have their strengths and we did ’em all today. It took all afternoon, and it was dark by the time we made our way home with a car full of food, but it felt good to restock the fridge and pantry.

After a simple dinner of soup and biscuits (scones to you Brits) I went back to the sewing room and finished sewing the bag, just in time to go to the gym with Tai Chi Man.

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This is the same tutorial by Erica Arndt that I’ve made three times before. This time, I used three coordinating quilt cottons from the store where I work. This range is called Knit Happy and came in two years ago and has been on clearance for some time. It still wasn’t cheap but I decided to go for it anyway. I had a Christmas gift certificate to spend.

The strap is made using the selvedge, because it was too nice to throw out. It has little sheep in all the colours that were used to print the fabric. The lining is a yarn ball print that I’ve had for some time and, while it isn’t designed to coordinate with the outer fabric, the theme is the same.

Of course I took yarn and hooks on holiday with me, and I completed this market bag while I was there.

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Of course I had to pose it on some lava rock and sand! This is made from a hand-dyed cotton. I didn’t use a pattern though I was inspired by someone’s design on Ravelry. I started out with a circle for the base, then just did a mesh for the body of the bag, and some solid rounds for the top.

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After I finished the bag, I started crocheting this shawl. I’m using some stash yarn – Cascade Sunseeker – one of which is a pink/grey multi, and the other a solid grey, both with some sparkle. I took this photo at Kahului (Maui) airport the night we were leaving, including my Skechers in the picture because they went well with the yarn! Both have pink and sparkly bits!!

I wanted to keep it simple, so I started with 3 stitches and am increasing on one side every other row. It’s all half double crochets. The idea is to start incorporating the grey in stripes once I’ve used about three-quarters of the multi. And then keep going with just the grey for the last bit.

Well, I see it’s 10pm and I have work tomorrow, so I’d better be going. Hope you have a great week.

 

 

Warm fuzzy weekend

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A whole weekend off – what fun! Saturday evening we had a potluck at a friend’s house with a group of lovely people. SO much food, we were nearly bursting! And of course we played our traditional Mexican Train Dominoes. Awesome!

My contribution to the food was apple pie and cashew-based vanilla ice cream (the big pie in foreground was the one I took with me, the smaller one and the jam tart made from the leftover pastry were left at home for the boys to eat). I rarely make pastry these days because of the fat content but OMG it came out so well – I used Melt Buttery Sticks for the first time.

This morning there was a vegan market downtown so we splurged on vegan baked treats, which we shared with the boys because they were far too rich for just two people to eat. We also bought some cool hand-made soaps again, and I also finally bought myself a vegan T shirt. Guess I need to get a photo of that sometime.

Afterwards it was tea at our favourite tea shop and a bit of crochet. I have made three of these gnomes (Gnomes of the Gnorth) now. Two of them were made following the pattern pretty closely, one wasn’t, and I shouldn’t have gone ‘off piste’ because I don’t like my version as much (the one with the white beard).

The pattern is on a blog, Mr Micawber’s Recipe for Happiness, and the designer is Sue Perez whose Ravelry name is MrsMicawber.

I have two new dishcloths made from a random ball of dishcloth cotton that I acquired recently. It never went into stash – I just used it up quickly, making up different stitch patterns as I went.

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And there has been sewing. Between tea in town and going to the gym, I spent a couple of hours making this bag.

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It was made with scraps left over from the snowman quilt/bag I made recently, with a lining from some other stash cotton. I think I need to buy a new walking foot – the one I have keeps slipping, the screw holding it on the machine is loosening so it moves as I sew (and I break needles as a result) and the whole thing is either too loose or too tight.

I am pretty happy with the bag, except for a little uneven quilting across the front. This is the same video tutorial as the other bag, and I pieced a patchwork section just like the original in the video. It’s a good way to use up small pieces.

After the gym I went out for a meal with friends, so all in all it was a very calorific weekend and I should probably not eat anything for the next five days! Yeah, right!!

 

Sunday comforts

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Saturday was a work day, with an incredible amount of rain. It was so dark outside the store, it felt like a really long day, because it felt later than it actually was.

Today it looked like it was going to be another wet and windy day, but the sun came out and it ended up being bright most of the day, which was lovely. I had a bit of a lie in, and called my mum and sister on Facetime. Tai Chi Man and I went out for a cuppa at our favourite tea shop, and of course I took some knitting.

This afternoon, we did some shopping at our favourite health food store (oops, some special Christmassy chocolate jumped into my basket, Zazubean’s Dasher (white vegan chocolate with cranberries and cocoa nibs OMG) and also I found an essential oil diffuser on clearance. I’ve been wanting one of those for ages so I snatched it up. I have it going right now with orange and lemon oils in it. Smells divine!

Before the sun set and we got too relaxed, we went off to the gym for a 45 minute workout. I did treadmill and legs today. I’m being careful  not to overdo things with the left shoulder, for which I’m getting physio, and for which I have special daily exercises.

Once we’d had dinner, it was time to make mincemeat. Mince pies, aaaaah, one of my favourite things about December. Whether we’re celebrating the Solstice, Christmas or whatever, it’s just not the same without mince pies. I like to make my own, which means it’s vegan and fat-free. No need for suet. I can’t remember where I found this recipe, but I’ve been using it for years.

I’ll give you the recipe too in case you want to try it out. It’s supposed to sit in airtight jars in the fridge for 4 – 6 weeks. When you fancy a nice mince pie, you can whip up a batch of pastry (or buy it frozen if that’s what you prefer) and make little tarts, with or without lids, or large ones.

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I like to use a mixture of dried fruit. This is a combination of raisins, golden raisins, cranberries and currants.

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Then you add in your sugar and spices (I used a combination of organic sugar and coconut sugar, plus cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).

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And then you add your wet ingredients – lemon juice, apples and apple juice. If you have organic lemons with no icky coating, you can put in the zest as well. Give it a good stir, leave it covered in the fridge overnight, stir it up again, and then put it into airtight jars. I use mason jars with the two part lids, but you don’t can it, you just put the jars into the fridge and forget about them until Christmas.

This quantity makes about four medium mason jars full. But this year I doubled the quantity as I may give some away to friends.

Let me know if you try it out.

Vegan Mincemeat Recipe

6 cups mixed dried fruit (eg currants, raisins, golden raisins, sultanas, cranberries)

1lb (about 4, depending on size) chopped apples

2.5 cups sugar (ideally not bleached white sugar)

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

juice of 2 lemons

¾ cup fruit juice

Mix all in large bowl, leave covered overnight in fridge. The next day, mix it again, pack into sterilised jars with airtight lids. Leave in fridge 4 – 6 weeks.