Monday, 31 December 2012

My month in numbers

Not only the end of the month but the end of the year.  2012 has been a real mixed bag for our family with some lovely highs and some awful lows but that old saying 'what doesn't break you makes you stronger' is very apt and I think we must be a very strong family now!

So, December, my old friend, what numbers can I take from you?

A Gazillion and ninety three - number of calories I have consumed, mainly via chocolate and sloe gin.  But I have enjoyed each and every one.
55 - the age my husband became on that memorable date ....12.12.12
730 The number of attendees to the Senior Presentation Evening my colleague and I organised at work
44 special awards presented at the ceremony, 160 GCSE certificates and 108 A Levels presented 
2 left foot boots bought by me as a present for my daughter.  That was as much a surprise for me as it was for her when she unwrapped them ...'Erm, mum, why isn't there a right foot?'
1 trip to Zara in Cambridge on Friday to resolve the 2 left feet issue
5 the model of the new iphone I upgraded to on Saturday.  I loved the iphone 4 I've had for 2 years, and have high hopes for the new one
1 the number of M&S liquid salted caramel chocolates I am trying to restrict myself to every day.
2 the number of times I haven't given in and had a 2nd, or 3rd
1 number of Ugg boots ruined by the dog

Now head on over to Julie's blog and see what December has brought for other people.

Have a good NYE whatever you have planned and see you in 2013!



Friday, 28 December 2012

It's all over bar the shouting

My mum used to use the expression in my title and I'm not sure if it's just a British thing so if I've confused anyone, I apologise now!  Basically, I guess Christmas isn't officially over until 12th Night but it feels like it is well and truly over.
Thanks to JYC I have had a bit of an experiment with Paul's new camera (which I stupidly believed to be a joint ownership when we bought it!) and have come up with these:
A black and white picture that was shot in black and white setting on the camera rather than editing in software once uploaded to computer.  It's not the best picture but it's one that looks better in black and white than colour.  
The dice are kind of appropriate to Christmas as it's the time of year when games HAVE to be played.  We always keep 'Shut the Box' on the coffee table but have to keep the dice out of the way as a small furry creature would find them very tasty.  It's funny how people pick up this game and just get addicted to it.  I'll just try one more time, I'll win next time.  I'll just keep playing until I manage to close all the numbers.  You know the scene.  Another old favourite of ours is Lingo.  It's a word tile game where you make words but people can steal your letters to make new words.  It brings out the competitive streak in us all and is so much fun.  I never win, I build up lots of little words then suddenly hands are shooting out from all around the table grabbing my words, I look down and I only have one three letter word left!

Another picture I took was one capturing bokeh.
I've never managed to do this before and I love it!  Whether or not I could do it again remains to be seen ... I used the new tripod and set it up looking at the Christmas tree lights.  Set the ISO really high so I didn't need a flash, used a small flower punch to cut a shape in a piece of cardstock, positioned it in front of the lens and voilĂ !  Bokeh!  I was stupidly excited to get this effect.

I would love to share some photos of our Christmas Day as we spent it with several cute children but I don't like to put pictures of other people's children on the blog for obvious reasons.  We spent the day at my nephew's house, there were 14 of us including  his son aged 9, daughter aged 6, my niece's daughter aged 2 and son aged 6 months.  They kept us all entertained and really made it a special day.  The highlight for me was when we dressed my brother in law up in a Santa costume and had him knock on the front door with a few extra presents he'd found at the bottom of his sack.  How to silence four excited children in one fell swoop!  But the cutest thing ever was when little Sophie looked up at Santa (her grandad in disguise) and said 'Thank you for my present Farmer Christmas'!  So sweet.  He will always be known as 'Farmer' from now on.
I need to go to the shops today, there are not enough leftovers from Boxing Day left to make a decent meal.  Yes, it really is all over bar the shouting!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas comes early

So I'm cooking lunch yesterday, stir frying a pan of pork stroganoff, when the door bell rings.  'Who on earth is that?' went through my mind, not expecting any more parcel deliveries or visitors. Of course, despite there being two other people in the house - not to mention a dog, no one else seemed inclined to rush to the door.  'Can someone else get that?' gained no replies except a muffled 'wrapping presents' from one room and the final flourish of a guitar tune from another. 
Our kitchen is at the front of the house so I went over to the bay window to see who it was whilst still stirring the pan and standing there was someone who looked like our son.  You know, the one who now lives in Scotland and isn't coming home until late Christmas eve.  Actually it wasn't just someone who looked like him - it WAS him!  A yelp of surprise, pan thrown back onto the cooker, husband opening the front door, daughter running downstairs with sellotape in hand, dog barking ... Son covered in people hugging him and dog getting in on the action with licks and barks.  Extra tagliatelle added to the pasta pan, more veggies chopped and a bottle of wine opened.  He's home!  Back a day early as a surprise.  All the family together for an extra day.  Happy Mum.
So whilst I will be continuing JYC, I don't think I'll have time to post daily until after the big day so will hopefully see you back here for a catch up in a few days.  Have a brilliant Christmas, enjoy quality family time, keep healthy and happy.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Two more sleeps!

It's getting closer!  Today is the day for trying to get the things needed for our traditional routine organised.  Final touches made to wrapped gifts for closest family is one of the things I am supposed to be doing this morning.  My niece is very arty.  An interior designer by profession, an Art degree to her name and just an amazing knack of turning something ordinary into something absolutely amazing.  (She's just started her own on-line business selling beautiful party bags. Check it out here. (Because that's the kind of thing you do when you have two children under the age of 2 and a half isn't it?) She takes so much time and trouble over her wrapping that I always try to follow her example for those 'special gifts'.  So I am taking a break from adding little red shiny bells to some of my wrapping - partly because I feel sure that a certain dog will soon be trying to eat them ...
Then I need to put my family's gifts into Santa sacks.  Traditionally we have a present opening time around the tree, each person has a bag and we take it in turns to open a gift.  This of course adds added stress to Santa, as he/she has to ensure that both children have the same amount of presents so one doesn't run out of things to open before the other!  They also have a small sack that goes into their bedrooms that they open in bed before we all go downstairs.  Santa has a reputation for being so tired by the time he/she gets round to those stockings that often the wrong gift gets put in the wrong stocking.  And seeing that traditionally the kind of things in those stockings are Christmassy undies, socks/tights, pyjamas etc, getting the wrong one can cause much amusement!
But my next job of the day is to empty the fridge in preparation for the meat for Boxing Day.  My sister always gets the turkey for Christmas Day and the beef for the day after from her butcher.  The meat from that place is amazing.  So I am about to take delivery of a rib of beef joint, large enough for 16.  That'll be about half a cow I reckon.  And my fridge is already full.  Major redistribution is about to take place!
Right, I can procrastinate no longer, time to step away from the computer and string up a few more jingle bells.  Ho ho ho.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Counting down

I am officially into the countdown to Christmas now, school's broken up so no more work for me until January 8th!  Woo hoo!
The last parcel that I was waiting for to be delivered arrived at 6pm last night and all wrapping is now done.  I've done the first of my 'last shops', we all know there will inevitably be more trips to Sainsburys for things I've forgotten!  If it wasn't for the fact that the supermarket is just 10 minutes walk away, I am sure I would be more organised.  I finally made a fruit cake this morning.  There's only one person in my house that eats Christmas cake so this is the first year that I have not baked a 'proper' one.  I was only going to have a sponge cake here but relented and made a light fruit cake this morning.
So today Shimelle asked us to think about what has contributed to our Christmas spirit and for me I think it has been the phone calls, texts and emails from my son saying how much he was looking forward to coming home and spending Christmas with the family. Although he's enjoying living in Edinburgh, I think he is a little bit homesick.  I've had some lovely messages from him and I think it's proved that absence really does make the heart grow fonder!  I really wish he could travel down earlier but his girlfriend in working until 2pm on Christmas Eve so they can't even start their 7 hour journey until then.
On a different note and one which I am sure that all crafting mothers can relate to, my daughter sent me a photo of a pair of socks that she had bought.  They are those 'slipper socks' and have knitted, slightly padded comical reindeers stitched onto them. The message read:  'Can you help me turn these into a Christmas jumper, Mum?'  It made me think of the expression 'The impossible we can do immediately, miracles take a little longer'.  Wish me luck - I have until Monday!

Friday, 21 December 2012

JYC catch up

Dec 17 Now. let's see, what's left to do?  We seem to have plenty of gifts, food and drink in the house, but there's something missing ...

Coco covered her ideas of Christmas dinner for Day 18 on Wednesday!  I was trying to think of something to add for Day 19 and then I remembered a dim and distant memory from being a very little girl.  One year, my absolute favourite Auntie, Babs, sent me a Christmas card that was more of a small book and in it was a poem that I absolutely loved.  So much so that I refused to let Mum & Dad throw the card away in the new year, and it had to be brought out every year for a good few years afterwards.  I'm sure you all know the poem I mean, it starts:


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
Santa and his sleigh on the new-fallen snow
"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONDER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"


Whenever I see that poem, it really reminds me of Christmas when I was little and sitting in an armchair with my parents having them read it out loud to me.  


So, Day 20 prompt suggests a photo opportunity with a pet.  Ladies, I bring you Santa Paws


Then today's offering is a picture taken in my house, right here, right now.  Do you smell the spices cooking in the oven?  Do you see the crisp buttery pastry?  That's right, it's mince pie time!

School term finished today, with the excitement of Years 12 & 13 running entertainment for the younger students.  Nothing says Christmas more than the sight of the Upper 6th boys dressed up in Santa dresses (yes you did read that correctly) dancing to 'It's raining men'!  It was good fun with a take off of X Factor and various other tv shows.  Times like this, I really enjoy working in a school, there's such a fun atmosphere at end of terms.  A good time was had by all, the bell rang and we all escaped!  It's officially Christmas holidays.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A very barky Christmas

Greeting fellow blog-puppies.  It's been a while since I did a guest post so here I am, just in time for Christmas.  
Firstly, I would like to say that in my defence, I did not know they were Ugg boots.  And apparently Ugg boots cost a lot of money.  You see, I was told that yesterday's prompt for JYC was about Christmas dinner and this morning I've been giving it a bit of thought.  Testing out new foods, sampling new flavours.  So I would say that this year I would like a main course of Ugg boot
Followed by a dessert of birthday card
Followed by a little nap in my favourite armchair

PS Apparently I'm in BIG trouble when my mum gets home from work.  

Monday, 17 December 2012

JYC Days 14,15 and 16

The great thing about JYC this year is that there are two prompts a day, one journaling and one photography so I am taking that as a hint that if I have time on my hands, I can do a blog post and if I don't, I will take a photo.  Time has not been on my side for the last few days so guess which prompt I've followed? 
I offer no apologies for the state of my mittens in the first picture for day 14.
The tales these gloves could tell, the places they've been and the number of times I've thought I've lost them.  I bought them on a whim before we went to Cologne for the Christmas Markets in 2010.  It was freezing cold over there and they were so useful.  The snowflake bit of them is a flap which turns them from gloves to mittens when you flip it over your fingers.  This means that you can easily get your fingers free for buying gifts/holding mugs of Gluhwein/shelling chestnuts straight from the coals of a market stall.  If not in Germany, they are equally useful!  Especially so now I have dog walking duties to attend to, it's impossible to activate a retractable lead in mittens and I cannot go for walkies in the cold with only one hand covered from the elements.  So excuse the pulls in the knitting and the ends of the wool starting to unravel, these things add to the history of my gloves!
Day 15 saw me borrowing the husband's camera to do some close up photography.
Let's just say that I almost broke his new tripod (birthday present just 4 days old), and things got very tense when he continually  tried to give me unasked for advice. 
Day 16
The joyful faces of children opening presents, the 50 small pieces that need to be fitted together to make a 'flat pack' toy, the 300 stickers to make a Playmobil pirate ship look authentic.  Oh yes, we have been there.  But somewhere in between buying those presents and the excited ripping open of the packaging comes this
wrappingMetres of wrapping, spools of ribbon, rolls of sellotape, sharp scissors and one rather frazzled woman trying to make a neat tidy present out of something of random shape or texture.  So frazzled that she couldn’t take Shimelle’s suggestion of photographing herself wrapping up as the thought of setting the auto-timer and running a brush through her hair so she looked presentable was too much!
Bring on Day 17!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Simply a moment - December 2012

The darkness in the room tells me that it is early.  And yet I am wide awake.  I strain my ears to try and hear any signs that the boiler may have fired up and hot water has started to pump through the radiators.  Silence.  It's earlier than 6.30am then.  I reach my arm out of the warmth of the bed to press down on my bedside clock.  The illuminated face tell me that it is 5.15am. 
I know that sleep will now evade me.  
Next to me, my husband is fast asleep and snoring loudly.  Sleep is definitely not an option now.  The regular snores are enough to ensure that I will not be able to doze.  Every now and again, through the crack in the blinds I see a light come through and shine a slice of brightness onto our bedroom ceiling.  It is from the house diagonally across from us, they have a motion sensor light on their garage and obviously something is activating it.  Is it the milkman making his early morning deliveries?  Too late for him.  Probably a cat, or possibly a fox heading home towards the cricket field which is at the end of our cul-de-sac.
My mind cannot settle.  Mentally I am making lists; shopping for meals for the coming week, Christmas presents that still need to be bought, work related things. 
I am thirsty.  This makes my mind up.  I will carefully get myself out of bed, wrap myself in the warmth of my fleece dressing gown, put on my slippers and creep out of the bedroom.  Carefully going downstairs to turn off the burglar alarm and enter the kitchen where a sleepy dog yawns, stretches and comes to greet me.  The day has begun.

Pop over to Alexa to read more moments ...

Saturday, 15 December 2012

In sympathy

It seems wrong to write a post celebrating a time of joy today when our news is full of the tragedy that unfolded  in America yesterday.  I can't put into words how much sympathy I feel for those parents who have lost their children.  It is a totally unnecessary loss and one which they will never recover from.  Those children have been denied their futures.  To those who feel the relief of having a child who survived, they too will be touched by this forever.  Their children's innocence and carefree ways will be tainted by what they experienced.  Not to mention the emergency teams who had to deal with the scene.  And it may be that we never learn what prompted this man to take such drastic action.  His family too has to live with the knowledge of what a member of their family has done.  This is a true tragedy.

I am sure that everyone with school children will have hugged them extra tight last night.  My thoughts and prayers go out to those who will never know the feel of a that kind of hug again.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

JYC Day 13 - Dreaming of the white stuff

I'm sure there have been white Christmases during my lifetime but not many where we have actually woken to snow on the ground on Christmas Day.  I do remember one year where we were at my sister's house on Boxing Day.  It must have been in about 1995 or so as my son had taken all his new toys over there and the boot of our car was crammed full of stuff that both children couldn't bear to leave at home.  The snow started falling once we had got to her house and continued all day.  We left for home early evening as we knew that the journey which normally took 25 minutes was going to take much longer.  Our route was mainly country roads and there was bound to be little traffic around to help melt the snow on the roads. 
We started our crawl home, driving into the large snowflakes.  Caught in the headlights they were mesmerising and the drive was hazardous to say the least.  About 5 miles into our journey, both children were fast asleep in the back seat and we heard the sirens of a police car.  But no sign of blue flashing lights to suggest that we were being followed by any of the emergency services.  Around a corner and all went quiet.  A little while further on, the siren started again and it seemed closer now.  Visibility was poor but there seemed to be no sign of any other vehicles.  We stopped in a layby to let whatever was following us go past.  The siren stopped.  We cautiously edged out onto the road again, but when we reached a set of traffic lights where we had to stop at the red signal, the siren started up again.  At this point, my husband had a brainwave.  At the next safe place, he pulled to the side of the road and got out to look in the boot.  There was the cause of the trouble.  The culprit was a model police squad car from our son's favourite TV series 'Space Precinct' which of course this had been the most important thing to take with him.  It was at the top of the pile of toys in the boot, and every time we went over a bump, the lamp on its roof hit against the underside of the boot lid and set off the siren.  After a minute it would stop until we went over another bump and it started again!  Mystery solved.
I can't imagine having a hot Christmas, and especially can't imagine cooking a full Christmas dinner in the heat.  Friends of ours who emigrated to Australia a few years back say it still seems weird putting up a tree in the height of summer.  Do those in hot climates still send cards with snow scenes on them?  or barbecues on the beach?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

JYC Day 12 - This the season to be jolly

Ah, the happy smiley faces, everyone together and everyone getting along perfectly.  No stress, no squabbles, peace and goodwill to all.  Only it's not always like that is it?  There are times when we all feel a little bit 'Christmased out'.  Christmas is not always the happiest time of the year for everyone, believe me I know that for a fact. 

I lost my mum to cancer just 7 days before Christmas one year and it took every last bit of energy to put my happy smiley face on for that Christmas Day. 
But I did it and you know what helped me through?  The fact that my mum loved Christmas.  She cooked and planned and shopped weeks in advance to make sure that everything was just right and nothing made her happier than having her family all around her.  She definitely gained more pleasure from giving someone a gift that she had put so much thought into rather than receiving something herself.   I knew that she would not have wanted her passing to result in a horrible time for us all.  So whenever I feel that feeling of stress creeping up on me, I think of her and know that she would be rallying me round to think of what I had done and not concentrate on what was still left to do!  Shimelle asked us to think of a role model for Christmas today and my mum fits that description perfectly.  We still carry on her family traditions and that helps to make us feel like she is still sharing the day with us.  
On another note, it's 12.12.12 today!  Not only that but it is my husband's birthday.  Plus my son had the results of his Masters degree and he has passed with a high 2:1.  He worked so hard for it, he deserves to have done well.  
Today we woke to what I believe they call a hoar frost.  The countryside looks absolutely beautiful.  We've just taken Coco out for a lunchtime walk in the fields around us and I shall share some pictures to help anyone out there who needs to be put in a Christmas frame of mind ...





Tuesday, 11 December 2012

JYC Day 11 - It's a wrap

Up in the deep dark recesses of our loft is a magical place.  No one goes up there very often and venturing up in to the furthest point happens about once a year.  It's a strange area, you always feel like with one slip of the foot you will go plunging down into the depths.  Truth is, if your foot slips off the joists, you're going to end up dangling through the ceiling of the bedrooms underneath.  You have to time your visit well, because the deep insulation means that no heat gets up there and if it's freezing outside, it's freezing up there.  
So what's magical about this place?  Well it's the place that wrapping paper goes into hiding.  And it multiplies.  But you only find that out when you go up there in January to put the decorations back in storage.  You go up there, and you find a large bag full of leftover wrapping papers from years gone by.  Every year, when all presents are wrapped, there is always paper left on the rolls that is too good to throw away.  So you put it up in the loft.  For next year.  But when next year comes you forget about the paper - out of sight really is out of mind.  And the collection grows.  And grows.
So, this year I have only bought three rolls of wrapping, one traditional Father Christmas one, one reindeer one, and one foil, graphic one.  Oh and a few packs of tissue paper in red, silver and gold.
 Because let's face it, there's plenty more up in the loft to supplement it.  But it's freezing today.  And the forecast for tomorrow is freezing too.  And as soon as you get the loft ladder down, the dog thinks that she's coming up there too.  Not to mention the fact that it's dark up there.  Dark and cold.  And I'm always convinced I can hear animal noises up there.  Birds nesting in the eaves.  Once I was convinced there was a squirrel up there.  Apparently squirrels don't often go up to lofts in houses to live.  But I'm not sure ...
Do you think that I will actually remember to go up to the loft to get the previous years' rolls out or will I take advantage of the the special 2 for 1 offers going on in all the shops?  

Monday, 10 December 2012

JYC Day 10 - Where to begin?

There's such a lot to do at this time of year that sometimes it's hard to know where to start.  I wake in the morning with so many thoughts going on about things that need doing and I never really feel organised until I start my lists.  And not just one list, in fact maybe I need to start a list of lists that I need to make!

  • Christmas cards to be written and sent
  • A menu for whichever day I am having visitors
  • Food that needs to be bought in advance
  • Perishable food that can't be bought until nearer the day
  • People I need to buy presents for
  • Ideas for what to buy those people
  • Cards and parcels that need to be sent overseas
It's funny though, that the simple process of writing something down and organising your thoughts on paper makes you feel a little more in control.  Provided of course that you can start ticking things off!  In fact a wise work colleague of mine once gave me good advice when we were sorting out our performance management paperwork ready for appraisals at work.  Always put at least one thing on your 'to do' list that you have either already started or have almost finished.  That way you quickly get to tick one thing off which starts the ball rolling!

So with my lists I have cards written, I know what I'm cooking on boxing day, I've already got some non-perishables in my spare bedroom out of sight, I know who I'm buying for, I've got most of the presents bought or at least know what I am looking for, and today I've sent off all my overseas mail.  Anyone would think it's only 14 days and 6 hours away! 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

JYC Day 9 - treats

If Santa is ever looking for a new little helper, my daughter is the perfect candidate.  She loves Christmas, and every year it surprises me how much our family traditions mean to her.  You don't always realise when you are starting a new tradition.  One minute it's something off the cuff that you decide to do, then it's a success so you do it again the following year and then it's all part of the Christmas routine.
Four years ago I decided to buy my little Christmas elf a special Christmas glass.  Something to use over the Christmas period.  I bought it as a little bit of fun, it was cheap and cheerful and I think it was from somewhere like Woolworths.
The following year, whilst shopping in Tesco, I saw another Christmassy themed glass and, on a whim, bought it
Last year, I was shopping in Next and saw this pretty mug in the homeware department, I liked the way the Christmas graphics were shaped into a heart
You'll notice that each year we are going a little bit more up market, so this year whilst shopping in Cath Kidston I saw this ...
The strange thing is, that these glasses and mugs are in the same place in the same cupboard all year round, but she only brings them out to use at Christmas time!  I kind of like this little traditional treat, but having gone up to bone china, Cath Kidston, I'm not sure where I'm going to end up shopping next year!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

JYC Day 8 - Oh Christmas Tree

Today we've been 'Deck(ing) the halls with boughs of holly, tra la la la la, la la la la'.
The festive mood has hit today, the official weekend when we put up the Christmas Tree.  Husband has a birthday on Wednesday. 12.12.12 quite an unusual date line this year!  Tradition dictates that the tree is put up on the weekend before his birthday.
We went to Cambridge this morning - making up for the trip we missed due to snow on Wednesday - and the Salvation Army Brass Band were playing carols in the entrance to the shopping mall.
There's something about that sound that really gets me humming carols for the rest of the day (apologies to the family).
Cambridge is not only a beautiful university city, full of prestigious colleges and historic buildings, but it is a great place to shop.  A real mix of the normal shopping mall stores, but with loads of individual shops and quirky little gift shops. So after a successful morning's shopping, with a brief stop for a hot cheese and ham croissant and a 'flat white' coffee from Pret a Manger, we returned home for the annual decorating the tree event.  Overseen by Santa's most particular tree decorator (also known as The Daughter).  She insists that it is a family event, but woe betide anyone who puts anything that doesn't go with the colour scheme or worse still, puts it on the tree in a place where it doesn't look right.  Helping normally ends up being me sitting on the floor handing up decorations for her to put in the 'proper' place.  With a stern look being received if I hand up something inappropriate.  The only slightly uncoordinated thing allowed is the fairy.   
My dad gave R this to put on the tree the Christmas before he died so no matter what else goes on the tree each year, this slightly battered young fairy HAS to go on the top of the tree.
So what else is allowed on?
 
 Christmas Roses

 A Joyeux Noel
Butterflies

 Snowflakes
And because the song says a partridge sat in this kind of tree ... a pear
And the finished article?
I bet I know what you are thinking.  That little puppy dog, I bet she's going mad and getting overexcited about that tree.  I bet she's jumping around in the boxes of decorations and tangled up in the wires of the lights.  Suspiciously not ...
Although I suspect that behind that calm exterior she is plotting her best course of action to wreak havoc when she's next left alone in the lounge!

Friday, 7 December 2012

JYC - Sensory Overload

For me that should read Underload, not Overload.  For there is one sense that I am missing.  I have no sense of smell.  When I read people's posts about all the things that make people think of Christmas, it's the smell of things that I can't join in with.  I can waffle on about the sight of the lights on the trees, I can discuss my enjoyment of the tasty festive foods, I can talk about the touch of the tinsel and I can reminisce about the sounds of Christmas music.  But when it comes to smells, I have to rely on my memory!  I only lost my sense of smell in about 1998  and it came back after an operation 10 years ago but went again a couple of years ago.  So today I will just list the smells that I miss at this time of year

  • The pine smell of the Christmas tree
  • All the festive spices in things like Christmas cake,mulled wine and mince pies
  • The smell of turkey cooking on Christmas day
  • Sampling perfumes for Christmas presents
  • The smell of a new shower gel, when you open a gift and unscrew the cap and inhale
  • Burning logs on my sister's open fire when we visit
  • The warm waxy smell of candles
What smells would you miss the most if you lost your sense of smell?

Thursday, 6 December 2012

JYC Day 6 - Keep Calm - it's only one day of the year!

Don't we all drive ourselves mad for what is, in reality only a couple of days of the year?  Every magazine you see gives you the perfect menu for Christmas, the perfect way to decorate, the perfect mince pie recipe ... and so on.  The thing is, I don't lead a perfect life for 363 days of the year so why should I feel like I have to live 2 perfect days?  Come to think of it, my idea of perfect is my own idea.  Just because Nigella Lawson is dipping her fingers into sublime, perfect brandy sauce with her Christmas pud, and Jamie Oliver is dishing up a 'pukka' roast turkey with meat piled high on a platter for everyone to help themselves doesn't mean that this will work at our house.  In fact, any dipping of fingers is bound to lead to me dripping sauce right down the front of my best Christmas dress.  We have 14 round the table at Christmas, ages ranging from 85 to 9 months, can you imagine all those arms diving in to help themselves?  (I make one exception here, Queen Delia Smith really does know how to make perfect crunchy roast potatoes, so if I can borrow one person's idea of perfection, that's the one I will be taking on board!)
So I reckon that with the hindsight of Christmases past, the thing to do is make two lists.  One reality check, things that I need to do and one called 'it probably won't happen but if it is does it would be a bonus'. The days go past in a blur and I always end up going to the supermarket far too often in the days leading up to Christmas buying impulse things that seemed essential at the time but were so non-essential, they are still in the fridge two days after Christmas.
The real essentials for a Happy Christmas for me are having those closest and dearest to me around me, everyone keeping healthy, and enough food in the cupboards to keep us going until the shops reopen.  
Keep Calm - It's only Christmas!!!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

JYC Day 5 - Communication

I wonder if there is any psychology involved in choice of Christmas cards?  Does our choice of card show some deep seated character trait? I do hope not, as I'm not sure what someone would make of our son's choice of card to us this year
It's a take on the French expression 'Joyeux Noel' (Happy Christmas) and a smiling Noel Edmonds (he was addicted to Deal or No Deal when at university).  He's a true individual is my son and there is no way he would ever send a traditional card! 
When sorting out the grotto spare bedroom today I found that I have stocked up on far too many Christmas cards - this is what happens when I find 'buy 3 for 2’ offers -
P1040202
This is on top of a handful of hand made cards that I will be sending this year.  Not to mention the individual daughter, son, husband, sister cards that I choose specially.  I'm trying hard to cut down on the amount that are actually sent through the post this year and plan to incorporate a bit of extra dog walking into hand delivering as many local ones as I can.
So can I ask what your opinion is on the 'family newsletters' that some people include with their cards?  I quite like seeing and hearing what people have been up to in the last year, especially people with whom we don't have regular contact throughout the year.  The husband, however, really doesn't like them and makes his feeling known whenever an extra sheet of paper falls from a Christmas envelope!
Today is feeling particularly festive.  I'll give you a clue ...
paws
Yes we were woken early this morning by the excited shouts of joy from a little girl 26 year old daughter exclaiming that it had snowed in the night and we had an inch or so in the garden.  We all went downstairs, drew across the curtains in the lounge and the dog just sat there whimpering.  What had happened to her garden?  What was all that white stuff?  There was no peace until she was allowed out.  I can remember when the kids were young and they both wanted to be the first one to step into the newly fallen snow.  Now it’s Coco …

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

JYC Day 4 - Pointing at the Pointsettia

There are some things that you immediately associate with Christmas and it was one of those things that gave me the inspiration for Shimelle's photo prompt for today.  A photo that makes red the centre of attention.  
I decided to use the husband's new digital SLR for this one and was trying hard to think of something red that would make a good focal point.  The red on the advent calendar, maybe.  The red foil of the Lindt chocolate Father Christmas which is a compulsory part of the Christmas stocking contents in our house?  Perhaps.  
Then I suddenly remembered two things: 1 - that the new camera has a clever little special effect mode where you can isolate one particular colour in a photo and turn the rest of it black and white and 2 -  I had bought a pointsettia at the weekend to brighten up the hall table.  Mission accomplished:

Monday, 3 December 2012

JYC day 3 - Flavour of the month

Some things can't be changed around here at Christmas.  Christmas Day lunch has to be turkey with all the trimmings (no Brussels for me thank you) followed by Christmas Pud with all the creams, butters and custard choices.  Unless you are under 13 and then you're allowed ice cream.  But Boxing Day is a whole other thing.
Let me explain our Christmas routine.  Normally either my sister or me host Christmas Day and whoever does that, the other one does Boxing Day.  We're up to about 14 people around the table nowadays.  So whoever gets to do the BIG day doesn't have to think about what to cook but Boxing Day is different.  We used to do the 'leftovers' thing but with 14 for Christmas lunch, there's not so much left over now!  So then we started doing a lovely rib of beef with roasted root vegetables with mashed potatoes.  But for 14 people, that's a pretty big joint of beef that is needed.  So this year it's my turn to host Boxing Day and I think I'm going to do a nice big casserole instead.  I can even make it in advance and freeze it so I am super organised.  Quite unlike my normal routine in the kitchen - ahem!
There'll be a few desserts to choose from, banoffee pie always goes down well and I love chilled lemon flan. Both easy to put together quickly in the morning.  But I am now going to share with you my latest discovery that I will be presenting with a flourish.  Salted caramel chocolate pavlova.  Oh. my. goodness.  It is so tasty.  We had it at friends a few weeks ago and it was so delicious, I googled the recipe and tried it for myself yesterday.  If I had known this prompt was coming today, I would have photographed it in its entirety but am afraid that I can only show you the leftovers today

pav
Obviously when serving it for guests it will be put together on a serving dish, with a big mound of the caramel infused cream in the middle and drizzles of salted caramel sauce artistically decorating the top.  It’s a break with the normal menu, let’s hope it all goes according to plan!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

JYC Day 2 Clearing out Santa's grotto

We believe in a magical Christmas in our family.  The reality of Father Christmas has to be believed in for as long as possible.  Because he only visits those who truly believe right?
Since my children were born I have been asked by Father Christmas to be one of his official helpers.  Not actually an elf because although I'm the right height I'm not actually very good at making toys.  Father Christmas would get all the gifts for our children and ask me to hide them away for him in our house so that his sack wasn't too heavy on Christmas Eve.  This was a bit of a tricky one for me because I happened to have two very inquisitive children and there was nowhere in the house that would have been a safe refuge for Santa's gifts to be hidden away.
Well, nowhere IN the house, but the loft was definitely out of bounds.  In those days we didn't have a loft ladder attached to the loft hatch so to get up there would have involved them in dragging a step ladder up the stairs from the garage and I think I would have noticed if they had been trying that!  Now this was all fine and dandy for Father Christmas, his sack was nice and light for his big night out with Rudolf, but I then had to somehow get his presents down out of the loft and into sacks after the children had gone to sleep.  And we all know how long it takes to get to sleep on Christmas Eve don't we?
About this time, it started to become popular for people to decorate the outside of their houses.  It hadn't been that big a thing in the UK until then, we did the inside beautifully but the outside was left more or less untouched.  So when people started adding coloured lights outside, and sparkly icicles from guttering, and illuminated statues in the garden it was very exciting.
So we came up with a cunning plan.  On Christmas Eve we would go to the Nativity service at the church to sing carols and come home, have tea, bath and get into pyjamas and then I (being Chief Elf) would put the children in the car and drive around the local streets, checking out the external decorations and voting for which street had the prettiest houses.  Meanwhile, back at home Deputy Chief Elf would be up in the loft, sorting out gifts and bringing them down to the spare bedroom to be hidden away until Father Christmas visited during the night to arrange them by bedsides.  These were the days before mobile phones and Chief Elf had to stay out as long as possible to give Deputy Elf time to get everything organised because she had no way of knowing how things were going back at home!
When I drive past decorated houses I still remember those long drives in the dark, with two excited, tired children in the back and how we managed to help Santa prolong the magic as long as possible.

Sounds like Storytelling Sunday!

All of our senses are involved in making memories throughout the year but for Storytelling Sunday this month I'm going to ignore the sights of Christmas lights and Christmas trees, the smells of Christmas cakes cooking in the oven, the tastes of a freshly baked mince pie, fresh out of the oven or the touch of tinsel and wrapping paper.  My story this time is thinking about the sounds of Christmas.
Certain songs or tunes that bring back so many memories, the tunes you hear in the background at the shops while you are shopping, adverts on the tv, the songs you find yourself singing under your breath while you are cooking dinner and the old favourites that get played every year on the radio.  This is a post about musical memories and is an unashamed excuse for me adding lots of my favourites to my blog!
When I was growing up I loved the way that my favourite shows would always have a special Christmas episode, it felt like I was sharing their Christmases with them.  And who wouldn't have wanted to share Christmas with David Cassidy back in the day?


Then skip to 1973.  I was 15 in the year that my next clip relates to.  It was a catchy little tune and even though the appearance of the group on Top of the Pops prompted much 'Look at the state of him' comments from my parents, I just thought it was fun and a great happy song that went down a storm at the end of year school disco.  Little did we know how often we would hear this song in years to come!

I was married by the time my next memory was released, but it didn't stop me appreciating the sight of George Michael in the snow



But wait, Sian's suggestion for this month was along the theme of Coming Home.  So my last offering will be a memory of our daughter coming home for Christmas after her first semester at University.  She absolutely loves Christmas and it didn't feel like Christmas until she was back at home.  At the time, my husband was working for a property development company that owned some office premises in Harrogate so he was able to coincide a trip up there to detour to Sheffield to pick her up.  One of the songs that kept coming on the radio during their 3 hour drive back was this one, although it was originally released in the late 80s it's still played a lot at this time of year and whenever it comes on the TV or radio at home, they both give a shared smile of happy memories of that year, bringing her home to make our family Christmas complete -

Do any of these hold memories for you?  What are your own special songs that remind you of Christmas?  Maybe we could organised a Bloggers Special Compilation Album to compete for the Christmas Number One this year!
Now please hurry over to Sian's to see what other stories are waiting to be read this Storytelling Sunday!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

JYC Day 1 'You better watch out ...'

... you better not cry, you better not pout I'm telling you why.  Santa Claus is coming to town ...'
Oh yes he is boys and girls, and he's already in Hertfordshire checking to see who is on the 'good' list !  Shimelle asked us to think about what signs we have seen to show that Christmas is on its way.  Well I can't think of a bigger hint than a sight of Santa himself.  I thought I was being quite clever and unobtrusive from photographing him behind my car in Waitrose car park, right up until the point at which he pointed to me and gave me a wave!

Hmm so what else is proof that we are on the countdown to Christmas ... 
The first window on my daughter's advent calendar being opened.  And yes she is 26 and still likes an advent calendar - Christmas brings out the inner child in all of us!

So what about a manifesto?  What do I hope this Christmas brings?  I've put a few ideas into this picture I created with Tagxedo
Happy December 1st everybody!

Friday, 30 November 2012

My month in numbers


When I see Julie's blog show up in my blog list at the end of the month I suddenly realise that it's time for me to do my own number count.  So a quick look on my phone tells me this:
MINUS TWO.  Yes, MINUS 2.  The temperature outside at this actual moment in time.  7.10pm in case you were wondering.  Minus two.  I don't like it when we get into minus figures.  
OK so let's start with the beginning of the month.
2 - the number of times I have been on an aeroplane this month.  Good old Easyjet.  Cheaper to fly up to Edinburgh than it would have cost us to buy the petrol we would have needed to drive up there.  And let's not forget the 50 minutes to get up there, compared to the 7 hours that it would have taken by car.
3 - number of days spent up in Scotland visiting our son

Onto medical matters:
1 - eye test ( have I ever shared the story of the time I accidentally tried to exit the opticians via a cupboard after mistaking the exit door?  Glasses?  Who said I needed glasses?)  anyhow, the eye test led to ... 
1 - pair of new glasses.

We've done ok for meals this month
2 - Saturday nights having dinner cooked for us by friends and
2 - meals out in restaurants

Exercise?  Of course I've had a month of exercise:
30 - number of dog walks (at least) one of which led to ...
1 - number of times I had to single handedly bath the dog.  Anyone who has tried to bath an overexcited puppy dog on their own will know that this ends up with both dog and human being equally wet. One shaking themselves to spray as much bath water as far as possible and the other screaming 'Stop that now and let me put this towel over you'.  And then one of them running up and down the stairs afterwards like a thing possessed trying to escape the hair dryer.  That's the dog, not me. 

Television:
4 - number of Strictly Come Dancing episodes.  Our friends know that any invitations to go out at this time of year have the proviso that we cannot possibly leave our house before 8pm on a Saturday night.  So book that table for 8.30pm or we will have to be fashionably late.

Entertaining:
10 - number of people I've invited for Boxing Day lunch.  Which means that I will be cooking for 14 again.  Am I mad or what?

Shopping:
3 - numbers of pairs of shoes I have had to buy this month.  That's right.  HAD to buy.  Coco managed to destroy my best work shoes by chewing the heel off one of them.  Whilst shopping for replacements I noticed how tatty my old faithful ballet flats had become.  And then I saw some lovely new ones.  Whoops!  And walking the dog required me to buy a proper pair of walking shoes.  Waterproof, good grip and comfy.  None of the qualities I normally look for.  Well apart from the comfy bit, I mean, who knowingly buys a pair of uncomfortable shoes?  We all know that if they don't fit well in the shop, they certainly aren't going to fit well after wearing them to work for 8 hours.  This knowledge is obviously something that comes with age, my daughter definitely doesn't have comfy on her radar when shoe shopping!  
And finally ...
6 - numbers of bottles of wine I had to buy today.  Oh come on, Sainsburys have offers on loads of their wine and if you buy 6 you get a further 25% off as well.
£8.88 - the amount of money I saved by buying my six bottles. It's almost buy 4 get 2 free! 
Handy that, because all this blogging by numbers is thirsty work ;-)



Monday, 26 November 2012

Hello Monday

Last week should have been entitled 'I used to be apathetic, but now I just can't be bothered' but this week I have given myself a shake and a stern talking to and I'm back on track.
Hello Monday - And hello to those crafty bits I've started 
are they the beginnings of Christmas cards I see?  And that home made card envelope containing the Theatre Tokens I gave to my friend for her birthday?
Hello Monday - And what's that in the spare bedroom?
Has someone started her Christmas shopping?
Hello Monday - That lamb casserole with Orzo pasta we had on Wednesday, that wouldn't have been a new recipe I'd been meaning to try would it?
Hello Monday - That post I received on Thursday, it couldn't possibly have been those photos that we took while we were in Scotland could it?


Hello Monday - It seems like putting my faults out in blogland was what I needed to get myself going.  Should I do the same this week?
Hello Monday - Focussing on negatives really affected my mood last week, this week I intend to be awesomely and amazingly positive in a happy, smiley kind of way and see what that brings.
Hello Monday - and goodbye to November at the end of this week!  I can't believe we are this close to December.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Hello Monday

Hello Monday - Have you seen my crafting mojo?  I seem to have left it somewhere and can't find it.  I'm sure it'll turn up soon but it's definitely nowhere to be found at the moment.
Hello Monday - I have plans to try and get myself a bit organised re Christmas presents this year.  Maybe today I'll start by making a list of the people for whom I need to buy presents.  
Hello Monday - I need to give myself a big shake up and stop thinking and start doing. 
Hello Monday - Please remind me that browsing Pinterest does not constitute Christmas shopping.
Hello Monday - Those photos we took in Edinburgh are still on the computer and not being printed.  They will not upload themselves to Photobox.  Let's make today the day that I do that small job which may, in turn, help with Hello Monday #1
Hello Monday - Instead of browsing Pinterest this week, maybe I'll actually take a trip into town with the list I made in Hello Monday #2 and buy something!
Hello Monday - And what about all those new recipes I have been cutting out of magazines, downloading from the internet etc?  Should this be the week that I actually start cooking some of them?  This may help with Hello Monday #3
Hello Monday - I have a week of good intentions.  Do you think I'm likely to follow them?
Tune in next week to find out!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Simply a moment in November

It's 8pm.  We are all feeling full after a dinner of roast chicken, chipolata sausages, mashed potatoes, carrots, baby broad beans and gravy.  For some unknown, but universally agreed reason, a bottle of white wine which was laying chilled on its side in the bottle holder section of the fridge, waiting to be drunk, was opened.  I think we had all had 'one of those days'.  It is now empty and ready to be put into the recycling box outside the front door.
I am browsing through blogs on the laptop in the dining room and through the double doors leading to the lounge, I can hear a recorded Jules Holland TV programme being played.  My husband is sitting in the brown leather armchair watching it, although I suspect that if I got up and went into the room, I would find him 'listening with his eyes closed' (asleep!) 
The dog has obviously been up to no good in amongst the curtains at the patio doors that lead to the conservatory.  I just looked across the room to see what she was doing and she is fast asleep with the voile fabric draped around her.  All that is visible is her shaggy haired face.  From time to time I can see a slight move of the curtain as she twitches her paw - obviously dreaming.  She, too, enjoyed an extra supper of mashed potato and chicken, despite having already tucked into her own food at 6pm.
My daughter is upstairs, removing and replacing nail varnish and washing her hair as she is meeting up with friends after work tomorrow.  I can hear the swishing noise of the shower as the water hits the tiled walls of the bathroom.
It is pitch black outside.  The fog that we woke to this morning never really cleared and it has been a miserable, damp day.  The street lights are casting an eery yellow glow in the misty cold night air. Winter is really upon us. This is my moment in November.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Hello Monday

Hello Monday - and hello back to work after a week of half term holiday
Hello Monday - and hello aching muscles in my legs - we must have walked MILES in our three days in Edinburgh
Hello Monday - and hello bath for the dog who ran through every single muddy puddle on our hour long walk in the countryside this afternoon
Hello Monday - and hello to employment for our son.  This time last week he had no job up in Scotland, today he has two!  A part time job with John Lewis until Christmas and a full time 'proper' job that he was interviewed for on Thursday, starting in December.
Hello Monday - and hello to seeing the new James Bond film on Wednesday
Hello Monday - and hello to firework night tonight.  Hope the noise doesn't upset little Coco too much, we will have to keep the tv turned up loud!

Hello Monday

Hello Monday - We have Children in Need at the end of the week,we need to think about what choose for the office theme for 'non uniform day'
Hello Monday -  I can upgrade my phone this week, I really hope that it is going to also be hello to an iphone 5 (I've loved my iphone 4 and have high hopes for the 5) 
Hello Monday - and hello to picking up the new Portmeiron pasta bowls that I ordered
Hello Monday -  and hello to having an excuse to try out lots of new pasta based recipes
Hello Monday - will the weather co-operate and let me continue my new Monday routine of a keep fit 30 minute long power dog-walk with my friend Lynda after I finish work?
Hello Monday - only two more days until the 2nd episode of the new season of Grey's Anatomy.  Last week's episode left me in tears, what more surprises do you have in store?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

It was a dark and stormy night ...

... from inside the building they could hear the torrential rain lashing against the windows and the wind howling outside.  It had been dark for some time and the temperatures had dropped considerably.  Even so, it was far, far warmer inside than out and just the sounds of the horrific weather was enough to chill you to the bone.  The trees in the area just outside of where they were sheltering creaked as the force of the gale hit them and when the noise of the gusts dropped they could hear branches snapping and falling to the ground.  Even without looking outside, they knew that there was much debris accumulating around them and in the morning the landscape would look quite different to when they had last seen it in daylight. 
A rumble of thunder in the distance was becoming noisier as the storm travelled ever closer.  The lightening increased in intensity as the storm approached.  A flicker of the lights brought a scream from the youngest of them and sent the older woman into another room to search for candles and a lighter in anticipation of an inevitable power cut.  It was bad enough being inside listening to the storm with lights on; to be plunged into darkness would heighten their anxiety and preparation was key to survival.
As the minutes clicked by on the clock, they knew that soon a decision would have to be made.  They had a mission to complete and failure would lead to consequences which none of them wished to contemplate.  Things could get very messy indeed.
But who would take responsibility for the mission?  Each had their strengths and each had their weaknesses.  This was going to have to be a stealth mission.  The deed needed to be done and then they had to return to the sanctuary of their current safe place.  They looked from one to another, each hoping that someone else would offer to take the role of leader.  They looked at the unwilling participant without whose co-operation the mission could not be completed successfully.  Their look of trepidation was mirrored in her eyes.  Was she ready for such activity?  Could she complete the mission and return unscathed?  Only time would tell.
All eyes fell on the elder man.  He knew it was time to step forward and be a hero.  He locked eyes with their co-conspirator.  They moved to the hallway where they found the protective clothing they had prepared earlier.  The man knew that his safety depended on this, without it he would be exposed to the elements and make his task much, much harder.  When he was completely covered, he turned his attention to the person responsible for this mission.  Without whom he would be comfortably seated in his armchair at home.
Yes, there are times when NO ONE wants to be responsible for the last dog walk of the day and pre-bedtime 'comfort breaks' have to be made. Neither do they want to have to be the one to clean and dry her on her return ...


Now pop on over to Sian's blog for some more Storytelling Sunday entries!