“Blow, blow thou winter wind… Then heigh ho, the holly!”

I have taken this moment to break my own rules in favour of festivities. Although Shakespeare does not seem to ever spend long pondering Christmas in his plays, these lines from a poem in As You Like It are suitably seasonal and definitely topical wintry-weather wise.

Today’s post is short and merely features some recent Christmas crafting activities: candle table decorations,  home-baked gifts from the kitchen and a selection of my favourite red and gold themed tree decorations.

“Now is the Winter of Our Discontent…”

Mm. Melodramatic much? Perchance. But the evenings are drawing in, the clocks are going back this weekend, the Autumn leaves are falling, I find myself shivering and throwing on extra layers, and yesterday I even resorted to snuggling up in my Christmas cardigan (adorned with knitted reindeer). The bright, crisp Autumn colours may make me want to wax lyrical like Keats (“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/ Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun”) but the dreary grey of Winter merely makes me reluctant to shake off my duvet in the mornings and prompts me to pile on calories by “warming my hands” on cups of hot cocoa in the afternoons.

But surely, you cry, there’s much to be joyful about in these colder months? Crunching in bright piles of jewel- coloured leaves? (I live in one of the “best kept villages in all Sussex” – a man with a street sweeping machine comes and “tidies” the leaves away every other day.) Fireworks? Snuggling up in layers of warm clothes? (Yesterday I remembered why I don’t normally buy woollen cardigans… adorably adorned with reindeer or not… I came out in a rash where it had been in contact with my skin.) Home-baked apple pies? Christmas?!

Ah yes… I am certainly not all bah humbug. Recently I have been pondering with friends and family when, if ever, it is too early to be planning for Christmas. Surely never? And definitely not after it’s become cold enough to drag the Christmas cardigans out of the wardrobe. Therefore, here are some action shots of our ritual “Christmas cake baking” day (alongside some sneaky glimpses of the aforementioned cardigan), footnoted by the fact that we usually do this on August Bank-Holiday Monday. So surely that makes me the very opposite of humbug?! (And I’ve even included some recently- made Christmas cards. Yey.)

“O, for a Muse of Fire”

I walk the same routes without even thinking: up by the common, round the village pond, to the corner shop, the bakery on the high street, back via the cricket pavilion, the old horse-chestnut tree to look for conkers, down behind the tennis courts… I feel like a ghostwalker in my own home- loving the paths I know like the back of my own hand for their nostalgia and childhood memories, but tired of their innocent familiarity, longing for change and new challenges…

Today was my little sister’s 16th birthday, which makes me feel old. It also makes me feel like wrapping her up in cotton wool and locking her in the cupboard under the stairs (my baby sister, 16?!).

To celebrate the occasion, as well as it being National Cupcake Week (http://bakeryinfo.co.uk/) and Roald Dahl Day on Monday (http://www.roalddahlday.info/), I transformed our kitchen into a Willy Wonka- meets George’s Marvellous Medicine- meets Matilda’s Bruce Bogtrotter stealing- chocolate fudge cake making factory. I.e. a mess! See evidence below. However, they say that the proof is in the pudding, and as we haven’t eaten any yet I can only say that it smells and looks highly calorific!

Update: I can indeed confirm that the chocolate fudge cake IS as calorific in taste as in smell and sight. We have all put on a combined weight of about three stone from consuming it (totally worth it!)