Category Archives: Christmas

Donald Trump: the Grinch who turned Christmas into a political battleground

Pre-Trump, when someone wished me a Merry Christmas I was pleased – now I wonder if they’re making some sort of passive-aggressive statement

I celebrate Christmas, but the cards I send out every year say “Happy Holidays”. I never considered this a political statement, just a statement of fact – the people I’v mailed well-wishes to celebrate all sorts of different things, and so my greetings reflect that.

Any controversy over Christmas always felt like a Fox News conspiracy theory; but this year the president of the United States is claiming some sort of victory in an imaginary war against the most popular and well-represented holiday in the country. And it left me feeling a bit bah-humbug-ish.

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Source: gad

After a fire, many of my possessions are ruined. Suddenly, I feel so lucky | Gaby Hinsliff

We spend our lives hoarding things we believe to be precious. Now I realise they were only ever prompts

Nothing good generally comes of a conversation that starts with the words, “I think you should probably sit down before I tell you this”.

And so it came to pass. Away for Christmas, we got a call from kind friends at home; our neighbour’s house had caught fire on Boxing Day, mercifully while they were out. The fire didn’t spread to our house but the smoke very much did. I’ve always wondered what people meant by “smoke damaged”, and now I know.

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Source: gad

Amazon Echo, Google Home or Sonos One: which smart speaker should I buy?

Voice-control devices that can play music, answer questions and buy goods are one of the hottest gifts this Christmas. Here’s what they can do – and our pick of the best buys

Smart speakers are set to be the hottest Christmas gift this year. On Black Friday, Amazon dropped the price of its core Echo product to £79 (it is back up to £90 now), while Google slashed the cost of its Home device from £129 to £77.50 at most outlets (it is also back up now). Meanwhile, Apple is promising to launch its version, HomePod, although the price point is rumoured to be significantly higher.

With the pre-Christmas launch of the Echo Show, which ups Alexa’s game with a built-in screen, are they the next must-have device? A simple voice command can fill your room with music – and change tunes whenever you wish. They will answer questions on a vast range of topics, set alarms, tell you the weather and what your commute holds in store. Some can order almost any goods over the internet for delivery within hours or days. Hooked up with other devices, they turn lights on and off and control the heating. But they have also been accused of making fake purchases and snooping on your conversations.

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Source: gad2

Gift Ideas for Gardeners – Enamel Mug Cosy


I do love being in our garden in Winter. In the long dark days we often end up leaving the house before the sun rises and returning in the inky dark of the evening. At the weekends I get the opportunity to see what is changing. To view the shrubs, see what is dying back, glimpse those promising wee shoots of new life.

There can be nothing better than standing, in the frosty morning, mug in hand, dreaming, planning and appreciating the stillness of a winter morning. When I have been fertling in the flower beds for a few hours a coffee brought to me is heaven sent. You can of course use old ‘unfavourite’ mugs which you don’t mind chipping or getting very dirty. But many gardeners like to rely on an old fashioned enamel mug for its robust utility.

I find the shape nostalgically pleasing. But let’s be practical, its metal nature can make the mug way too hot to handle with a piping hot brew. The best idea is to make a lovely cosy. This small addition not only protects your fingers but also keeps your coffee warmer for longer.


If you would like to make one of these cosies for a gardening friend, the recipe is below:

Enamel Mug Cosy

To fit: One standard enamel mug

You will need: Some chunky weight yarn, 4mm crochet hook, 2 shell buttons.

Foundation Row: Chain 41 stitches.

Row 1: 1 htr in the second ch from the hook, 1 htr in each chain stitch to end. (40 sts).

Row 2: Ch 2 sts, 1 htr in the back loop of each st to end. (40 sts).

Repeat row 2 five times. Fasten off.

Loops: Attach yarn to the top side edge of the crochet, make 10 ch sts, fasten off. Sew the tail of the chain stitch to the edge, to form a loop. Repeat at the bottom edge. Sew two buttons to the other side edge of the crochet to correspond to the loops. Weave in all ends.

(Abbreviations: St(s) – Stitch(es), Ch – Chain, htr – half treble stitch)


For an ideal present buy a new mug for your friend. I have found a good range of enamelware in my local hardware shop and market. However I have also found some great examples on line from Dot Com Gift Shop – some even with candles inside. An alternative can also be found at Garden Trading – lots of lovely ideas for gardeners.

If you want more ideas for your gardening friends why not pop over the the wonderful Middle Sized Garden Blog, my first place to visit for gardening hints and tips.



The post Gift Ideas for Gardeners – Enamel Mug Cosy appeared first on Emma Varnam's blog.

Source: em

Yarn-lovers Gift List 2017

Here I am like a woolly Fairy Godmother to help you out with your Christmas list, essentially you could just waft this blog post under the nose of a loved one and say; ‘Have a look! Hint, Hint and top tips – get out your online wallet!’

These are my personal choices but are based on my experience of what knitting and crochet enthusiasts like and what I know will be helpful for beginners. If you are a long suffering partner or a thoughtful friend there should be something in this list which will delight any yarn addict.  I have put in links for you which should make your shopping easier.


Good equipment is a joy for a crafter. When I knit I enjoy the KnitPro range of needles. My particular favourite would be the colourful Zing Needles. If you are clever you could ask your knitting friend; ‘Which size needles do you use the most?’ However if you are not keen to blow your cover then a pair of 3.5mm needles and 4mm needles are alway very very helpful. You can get a swanky set of KnitPro Zing Deluxe or if you prefer a lovely KnitPro Symfonie Wood Interchangeable Needle Deluxe Set

When it comes to crochet hooks I always use Clover Soft Touch – I have used and tried many different types over the years, but these are my preferred make. If you are thinking about being generous and buying a couple for the stocking I would suggest at 3.5mm, 4mm, 5mm and 6mm. That will make an excellent start for you.


Now my top top tip is a fabulous online shop I found recently – Beyond Measure. They sell quality items for all crafters. I couldn’t resist buying myself a leather wrist ruler in powder blue. It comes in a lovely metal case and would make an exquisite Secret Santa present.  Also on my list will be  magnetic pin block is very, very useful.

But also have a look at the beautiful heirloom pieces like the wooden turned pin cushions and tape measure. A real luxury are the beautiful leather covers for scissors. I do believe I am getting a small scissor obsession, so I quite fancy a red leather cover for my sharp merchant and mills mini scissors.

Subscription Boxes

Now this is a wonderful idea for a year long present. You can purchase a monthly subscription for a new crochet project to be posted to your yarn enthusiast. Obviously this project will be a surprise. But I think it is a great idea to build up skills and to provide a new and achievable project each month. My top tip would be the utterly delightful Little Box of Crochet.

Inside you get the yarn and the all the necessary equipment you need for the project. The box is so beautifully put together. Last years Christmas box had a super cute wrist warmer pattern. The box also included fabulous scissors, some tea, a hook and a lovely stitch marker. The mini magazine that comes with the box is also brilliant. This year they are also doing Hygge Box which provides you with all the equipment to make this fab cap. A top gift tip.


I do have a small magazine vice. I find it very, very difficult not buy the latest issue when browsing the supermarket aisles. If you ask me what one of my favourite Christmas gifts would be, I would have to say, ‘Get me a subscription!’.

For beginners then a subscription to either Simply Crochet or Crochet Now magazine would go down a treat.

I am a huge fan of Inside Crochet Magazine and would suggest this for intermediate crocheters.


Ok, I admit it, I am being a bit naughty here. But if you are buying for a beginner, then I will highly recommend this book How to Crochet. Yes, I did write it… I know, I know. However I have used it to teach quite a few people and lovely readers do send me emails to say how useful they have found it.

I’m also going to have to mention Cute Crocheted Animals because it is so dear to my heart and I love those cute toys so so much.

My new book Granny Squares Home seems to be going down very very well, so I will recommend it to you. The patterns are classic British vintage and the essence of all that is good in crafty boho chic

New books this year I love include Tunisian Crochet Workshop by Michelle Robinson so many projects on my to-do list here. I must also recommend the fabulous book Hooked by Claire Montgomerie – lovely modern pattern in this.



Another great idea would be to book your loved one on a workshop day. I have been on several this year and love expanding my skills with great tutors. You also meet new friends. Local to me are Black Sheep Wools based near Warrington. I know a lot of people travel across the country to attend one of their events. The facilities and the retail therapy makes it an excellent trip. But I must say the lunch is always fabulous and the cake is to die for. Pop over to their workshop listing to see what is suitable.

On my list this year I really want to go up to Kirby Lonsdale in the Lake District and visit the fabulous Cool Crafting. I really do fancy attending one of their sewing classes and get back into making my own clothes.

Kits and Yarn


torshavn -emma-varnam-juliet-bernard

Kits provide an excellent go-to gift for someone. Recently I made this beautiful hat Torshavn with kit by Juliet Bernard. The kit is available here and it comes with the pattern and the yarn included.

For toymakers you can’t go wrong visiting the Toft Alpaca website and choosing one of their delightful animal kits. They have a fabulous cracker gift set which would make a lovely pressie for knitters and crocheters alike.

Finally why not buy a lovely gift card which will you know your yarn obsessed friend will happily spend on all their much desired wool. I do hope you have found some of these suggestions useful. You will just have to wait until Christmas Day morning to see if you get a great big woolly hug!










The post Yarn-lovers Gift List 2017 appeared first on Emma Varnam's blog.

Source: em