Watching While You Work

It’s amazing (or not) how much stitching can be done in a week of curling up on the sofa re-watching things.

The re-watching part of that is the important part. Much easier to concentrate when you’re not caught up in the drama quite so much. And yes, I am re-watching Buffy immediately after watching it for the first time. What can I say, I like it.

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It’s nice to have finished this. It’s strange how some things can become almost an obsession which need finishing ASAP, and how others don’t, and just seem to drag.

This one, for some reason, was one of the latter. Not sure why.

But now that this is done and almost dusted, I’m looking for some nice, quick, simple, single-episode, Christmas card designs. Could do with quick patterns. Things which don’t require a heavy investment of time and energy.

(Almost) According to Mary Berry: Mincemeat

Sometimes it happens that not all of one’s careful preparation can defeat the Real World.

My NaNo attempt continues to fail apace, and this week my careful planning for this blog also fell apart. Instead, I have Christmas plans afoot, starting with mincemeat, which I admittedly made a few weeks ago. The stitching of Christmas cards, though, has yet to begin. What’s that saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions?

Anyway, because of Mark’s aversion to dried grapes of any variety, normal mincemeat and mince-pies are out of the question. So this year I thought I’d make my own and dug up a recipe from Mary Berry.

And substituted the 525g of raisins, sultanas, and currants for blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and pears.

Mincemeat: Mary Berry

Really, a very simple recipe.

Put: 700g of various dried fruit (those above plus cranberries and some glace ginger), 100g mixed peel, 1 cooking apple, 125g butter/suet/cacao butter, 50g chopped almonds, 225g brown sugar, spices to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, mixed spices), and the juice and rind of a lemon or lime in a big saucepan and heat gently until the butter/suet is melted. Simmer very gently for about 10 minutes.

Allow to cool completely, then stir in 200ml of your preferred alcohol: brandy, rum, sherry, mead. I used some Jack Daniels Winter Spice stuff.

Spoon into sterilised jars and keep in a cool place for up to 6 months. The sort of Christmas preparation you can do well in advance.

You should get about 4-5 normal sized sorts of jars out of this recipe.

Quick Novels

‘Anyone can write a novel, given six weeks, pen, paper, and no telephone or wife.’

Evelyn Waugh

With the first week of NaNoWriMo behind us, I thought a quick round-up of some famous novels written in under six might help to encourage all those whose pens have stilled for various reason.

First up, Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, written in six weeks while convalescing for a war-injury in the spring of 1944. I really enjoyed Brideshead. I like the language and the imagery, I like the way it deals with Catholicism (Waugh was a Catholic), and I like the bittersweet ending.

A childhood favourite, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was written in just three weeks. I always liked Jo – I think there’s something about the name in fiction whereby she has to be feisty and a writer (Jo in The Chalet School, anyone?) – and Beth’s near-death was always emotional, no matter how many times I read it.

For people who think mysteries are all about obsessive plotting, A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story, was also written in just three weeks, while Arthur Conan Doyle ran a medical practice.

And Robert Louis Stephenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in about two weeks. I found that one strange. I don’t remember it being particularly horrifying, perhaps because of already sort-of knowing the story.

To be fair, none of these are particularly long books, all quite reasonable lengths but not door-stoppers, but I do think that Evelyn Waugh has a point about the lack of distractions. Would be nice not to have to worry about the Real World and such pesky things as bills and so on. Would make it much easier to write a novel.

In Uncharted Territory

I had a plan for NaNoWriMo. I decided all my blog posts in advance, making a note of what would happen when in a diary, pencilling in the cross-stitch projects because I wasn’t sure what or if I’d have to share.

I had planned to write them all in advance and schedule them to upload themselves, but I think the nature of this post makes it quite clear that that didn’t happen.

You see, I was knocked off-guard by quite how much I’ve been enjoying a new-to-me TV show – and yes, I do know how silly it was of me to have begun one so close to the beginning of November.

I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never saw this as a child – to be fair, I think I was probably too young when it was first aired – and anyone who knows me will tell you that I jump at the slightest thing. Even if I know it’s coming.

And yet here I am watching something with lots of jumpy (obvious or otherwise) bits.

Although, saying that, I did read a couple of the books – I particularly remember the praying mantis story (and was quite pleased that I saw that one coming from the woman’s first entrance) – and let me tell you, the books are much scarier than the series.

Or maybe it’s the ten to fifteen years since I last read one. I didn’t read all that many: far too scary for my imagination. The series is still jumpy, but far fewer nightmares.