Monday, 31 December 2012
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
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 voilà! 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
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
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
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
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;
|"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
Monday, 17 December 2012
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
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
Metres 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
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
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
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
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
- 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
Sunday, 9 December 2012
Saturday, 8 December 2012
Friday, 7 December 2012
- 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
Thursday, 6 December 2012
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
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
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 ...
Yes we were woken early this morning by the excited shouts of joy from a
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Monday, 3 December 2012
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
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
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.
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
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!