Category Archives: Blogmas 2014

Wishing….

…all of my readers a most wonderful, thoroughly lovely, Christmas…

Wishing you peace, love, togetherness, enjoyment….

…all the very best moments life has to offer….

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December 23rd – Favourite Christmas story

Today’s Blogmas prompt asks us to share our favourite Christmas story. My mind wandered, immediately, to Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story from the film Smoke (one of my favourites), written by Paul Auster. Here it is, care of YouTube:

 

 

December 21st – Favourite Christmas poem/story/picture

Today’s Blogmas prompt asks us to share our favourite Christmas poem/image. Mine’s not really directly Christmas-related but I love the poem, as it talks of an ideal, peaceful, world, something I think everyone’s mind floats towards as we open our hearts that little bit more at Christmas time.

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What if 

What if our religion was each other?

If our practice was our life?

If prayer was our words?

What if the temple was Earth?

If forests were our Church?

If holy water – the rivers, lakes and oceans?

What if meditation was our relationships?

If the teacher was life?

If wisdom was self-knowledge?

If love was the centre of our being

– Ganga White

December 19th – Preparing for Christmas

Day 19 of Blogmas and I find I’m saying to myself over and over:

BePrepared

…mostly as an admonishment because I purchased the first of the Christmas presents on the littles’ ‘Santa lists’  just two days ago! 

Blame late payments from clients. Blame whoever you want, Helen….

….but the fact of the matter is that I’ve never done my Christmas shopping so late before….

I’m half way through the lists, with presents being squirrelled away at a rate that’s actually quite alarming (from a ‘Oh my goodness, these all need to be wrapped’ point of view!)…

Wish me luck as I rise early and get to the shops today and tomorrow nice and early to avoid the majority of the crowds!

Then I just need to do a little bit more food shopping and – minus the wrapping (which I’ll do in a mammoth session on Tuesday night) – we’re set to go!!

Christmas will be happening this year! [Insert ‘audible sigh of relief’ and ‘barely concealed tears of joy’ blinkies!]

Wish me luck!

Note to self – be better prepared next year! [aka “You better blooming well make sure you’re earning at full steam, Helen”]

Note to readers and Blogmas buddies: I’ll be back commenting as normal as soon as I’ve finished my Christmas shopping! Have missed visiting your blogs these past few days, but I’ll be doing the rounds over the weekend! Can’t wait!

Note to the Universe/”Him Upstairs” (as my Gran used to say): thank you for allowing Christmas to happen at all this year (it was touch and go at one point)….your collaboration has been noted, gracefully, and infinite thanks have been uttered, at multiple times during the day (and night). I am learning to trust you, to give ourselves up to you and you are showing me the way. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

December 18th – Stocking stuffer ideas

Today’s Blogmas prompt is a juicy one: “Stocking stuffers for the family”…here goes!

For my dearest darling craft-/Princess-/baking-obsessed nearly 5 year old daughter:

ForPanch

Nail polish (the gaudier colours the better); bags (any size, any shape, dog-shaped preferred, however, “preferably with spots like a Dalmation, Mama”); edible glitter (for the endless girly cupcakes we make!); squeezable royal icing pens (for the edgier ‘graffiti-style’ cupcakes aka “Mama has to go to the toilet, you have a go” cupcakes, LOL!!!); glitter craft set (Glitter = Heaven for a nearly 5 year old girl!); Anything FROZEN; lip gloss (in as girly a container as possible); white chocolate mini stars (for cupcake decorating sessions); glitter paint (enough said); Play-Doh; FIMO (“Ooh! Mama! Bake-able Play-Doh!” – how do four year olds have these conversations? I don’t remember talking about brands when I was four! I actually don’t remember anything I spoke about when I was four; they’re definitely The Future!); jewellery box; nail art pens (enough said); stickers (in copious quantities, as they will be stuck on anything that doesn’t move! I did, in all honesty, the other day, wake up with a sticker stuck on my eyelids – how tired must I have been that I didn’t feel her doing that?! And how scared was I when I woke up thinking I had conjunctivitis?!!).

For my explorer/scientist/crazily creative and curious, dearest darling 8.5 year old boy:

ForSonSon

A crystal radio set (“Will keep him busy for hours” – famous last thought words!); crystal growing kit; Stencil 101 book (he’s a budding artist, loves Banksy); silly putty man (scarily fluid/solid putty type stuff that he was fascinated by when we saw it in the Science Museum); a 3-D mirascope; a compass; Optical Illusions book (he’s obsessed with 3D street art at the moment – thank heavens for youtube – and so he’d love this book); insect collector/magnifier (he fancies himself as a 21st century Alfred Russell Wallace and does amazing drawings of insects he collects. Mama thinks she’d rather have the insects he collects contained because some of them look like mini aliens – it’s one of those win-win sort of presents!); Spy Pens; 3-D drawing kit (I’d love to have a try of this one!).

For me. 40 year old, at times weary, longing-to-be-glamorous-but never-quite-making-it, scrapbook-loving Mama:

ForMe

Dear Lizzy Serendipity paper pad (Oh Lizzy, I love your papers so!); earrings (It’s official! I have my appointment to pierce my ears on Saturday!!!!!!! Yay!); Mr and Mrs Gingerbread cutters; more earrings (slightly more Glam!); gold striped washi tape (need I say more?!!); Do one thing every day that scares you journal; nail polish in delicious colours; Earl Grey Tea (oh how I miss thee!); earrings (sooooo yummy!); Lapsang Souchong Tea (now you’re just taunting me Twinings, taunting me, I tell you….and, YES….I *am* open to receiving any number of free samples in return for promoting your delicious teas on my blog, LOL!!!!!); Project Life album (gold stripes; need I say more???!!); Chanel red lipstick (I’ve decided 2015 is going to be a Red Lipstick Kind Of A Year); 3-D dinosaur cookie cutters (my boys friends would flip!); earrings (glam and delicious. Yum. Double yum); Princess dress cookie cutters (one has to think of one’s Little Girl Guests, darlings!); earrings (just because they’re yummy!!!! look at them! Mint green, crystals, delicate little yellow flower. Yum!).

And that’s that. Three fantasy stocking filler lists for three decidedly real people!

Can’t wait to see everyone else’s suggestions!!!

December 17th – Christmas in the UK

Today’s Blogmas prompt, from Sandra, asks us to share traditions and pictures from our home countries.

Here goes!

BritishChristmas

Many things make up a typical, traditional, British Christmas:

1. A visit to see Santa. Perhaps he’d come in to school or we’d have to go to him in a Department Store but Christmas wouldn’t have been Christmas, as a child, without the visit to see Santa regardless of whether or not you were scared to death of him! “The Impostor! How DARE he?” I always used to think, between screams, as I squirmed my way out of sitting on his knee!

2. Christmas crackers. Amazing just how much fun can be had from a bit of paper, a banger, a cheesy (usually rubbish) joke, a generally useless little toy and a paper hat! [Expect a ‘Banger-less’ DIY cracker tutorial – coming in the next few days – for those Brits abroad with no cracker supply and those readers who fancy seeing what all the fuss is about!].

3. Christmas pantomime [A play loosely based on a fairy tale including topical dialogue (more information here)]. Men dressed up as buxom ladies, racy Buttons, innuendoes galore, two hours of non-stop laughter: a little slice of Britain on stage! My littles still talk about the one we saw together last year: it made a big impression on them! [There’s nothing quite so fun as Panto! “Oh no there isn’t! Oh yes there is!”…..love it!!].

4. Mulled wine. Red wine with lots of spices. Heated up. Delicious. Warms your cockles if nothing else will! As Jamie Oliver says in his recipe here: “Christmas in a glass”.

5. The Nativity Play. Obligatory for all school children. The highlight of the Christmas season for all Mamas.

6. Christmas coal. Beware any naughty British children: you might get nothing but coal in your stocking!

7. Christmas pudding. Has already featured heavily in my Blogmas posts but it’s such a stalwart of any British Christmas, I couldn’t not mention it!

8. The turning on of the Oxford Street Christmas lights and the tree in Trafalgar Square. Christmas doesn’t officially begin until both have happened.

9. The letter to Santa. Every child has to write their letter to Santa. My brothers used to pore over the Argos catalogue for weeks, honing and perfecting their lists! Had to laugh at some of the ones highlighted here! (Do click through if you have time: it’s so heart warming!).

10. The Queens Speech. We aren’t a very Royalist family but we always make sure we listen to the Queen on Christmas Day.

And I’m sure there are many, many more traditions that I’ve missed…..like putting stockings at the end of the bed so Santa can fill them with presents (offering a tantalising hope to children Britain-wide that they might get to see Santa!); kissing under the mistletoe (the stuff of dreams for teenage girls! Sales of mistletoe used to sky rocket in our village fruit shop as the sixth form Christmas party loomed!); first footing on New Years (not Christmassy, but of the Christmas period); carol singing; lantern parades (a relatively recent tradition but one that seems to have caught on across Britain)….phew! I’m sure there are many, many more!

Can’t wait to read all about the traditions from all my lovely Blogmas buddies!

December 16th – Christmas tree reveal!

Hah! I’ve been trying and trying to take a decent photo of all of our tree but it’s too big and won’t let me! So, here’s a little snapshot…

Tree

It looks kind of a mess in the photo! A rumble jumble of raggedy tagged mis-matched baubles, a riot of disorganisation, tinsel pulled awry as the littles ogle the baubles, red streamers alighting on some branches, from dances around and around in the twinkly fairy lights. It’s a mess. A loved-up mess of history and happiness and laughter and a few tears. I love it. We love it. It’s so us: a mess but getting there. Slowly but surely. What’s important is that its loved, its played with, its enjoyed. And it’s certainly that!

December 15th – Christmas decorations

Another lovely Blogmas prompt: to talk about Christmas decorations. In England, we understand ‘Christmas decorations’ as the tree and it’s baubles (the items we use to adorn the tree). So, that’s what I’m going to talk about.

Our tree is a bit of a free-for-all: it’s got baubles that the children have made, baubles the children have purchased each year since they were very little, baubles from my Gran and Grandad (that are around 85 years old!), baubles we’ve picked up from different places over the years….a little bit of everything. It wouldn’t ever win any prizes for design but it’s ours, all ours, and we love it!

There’s nothing quite beats the feeling of unpacking all the baubles, from their special boxes, and seeing them all again a year after they’d been packed away with such love. My daughter shares my love of this and, this year, she could barely contain her excitement as she unwrapped them all. It was such a beautiful moment.

Here are some of our special baubles:

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My daughter’s handprint when she was one (there are three for my son, too, and another couple for my daughter); one of my Gran and Grandad’s glass baubles from when they were married; a silver triangle my daughter made at nursery; a felt Post Box from Oxford (my son’s choice last year); knitted ornaments from one of my best friends; a wool felted ornament I saw on Etsy and had to have (special reasons); a tree my son made; a snowman my son made; Santa envelopes (they write notes to him and he sends them notes back!); from a German Christmas market; a snowman they made last year; a whisk from my brother’s tree (bit of an argument over this one, as my daughter doesn’t like it at all and keeps taking it off the tree and hiding it!); an ornament from a local craftsman; a star from my son when he was four; a salt dough ornament from my daughter when she was younger; a horse my son chose when he was three.

And more….!

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A glass home from my Gran and Grandad; my son’s Santa envelope; my son’s horse from when he was four; an angel my daughter made at nursery last year; an angel that somehow has always reminded me of my Gran!; a Santa a friend made for us; lace ornaments from my Great Aunt; a dove (purchased this year; it speaks ‘peace’ to me when I see it); an angel I made when I was little; a teddy bear my son made; a penguin that’s a source of discussion (my son bought it, and my daughter doesn’t like it!); glass ornaments from my Grans home…and the others are repeated photos…

I love looking at our tree when the children are in bed and the house is quiet. Each and every bauble brings me so many beautiful memories, of people who have passed away but who left me so much, of my children when they were younger, of good Christmas times. I take all these memories and re-fill myself with love, feeling that little bit stronger as I feel the connection to my family, my home, my roots.

December 14th: Sian’s Christmas Club

Christmas Club2

Joining in with both Sian’s Christmas Club and Blogmas today, the Blogmas prompt being, “What’s your favourite Christmas memory” and Sian suggesting we start our piece with, “At Christmas we…”. Here goes…

ChristmasDresses

At Christmas we would always, without fail, buy a new dress for me. A special dress. One from Loreen’s, the poshest shop in the village. I remember the excitement building as the Designated Day grew closer, my Mum more excited than I was, always, her excitement barely containable on the actual day itself. It’d be a special trip, just me and my Mum. My Dad would hand her an envelope and we’d be instructed, kindly and with a smile, to spend no more (I don’t know, looking back, how they were able to spare any money for a dress that was obviously so expensive, as money was very tight in those days).

We’d get ready, me and Mum, for the long walk in to the village. Pulling on socks, then carrier bags (so we didn’t get wet feet), then wellies, then gloves and scarves and bobbly hats, we’d head out, in to the darkening afternoon, snow beneath our feet. The prospect of entering Loreen’s brimming in our minds, the crunch crunch crunch of the snow under our feet hypnotising us, hardly talking to each other as we imagined what we’d find there. Loreen’s. The very name causing hushed silence in anticipation of special attention, an array of beautiful, handmade dresses and kindnesses I’ve still, to this day, not forgotten.

We’d get to the main square and suddenly we’d start to talk. What colour would I like? “Perhaps we’d be able to get a cardigan too. Or shoes?”, I’d venture. (I laugh, now, as I remember how wonderful I felt when Loreen let me try the girls high heeled shoes on, as my daughter doesn’t stop asking me to tell Santa that she, this year, wants a pair of high heeled shoes, “…with a bow on the front, Mama”).

We’d cross the main square, bidding Merry Christmas to everyone we’d meet and then we’d grip our hands a little tighter and I’d hold my breath the last few steps. We’d say hello to Dave the Barber (next door) and then there we’d be! At Loreen’s. She’d always have a marvellous display in the window, and we’d stop and stare, mouths agape, as we took in all the delights: embroidered tulle, thick pleated silks, taffeta, pearls stitched on finest, smoothest cotton, socks with little bows…a little girl’s dream shop.

The moment before we’d enter. Whenever I remember it, I always feel like I was holding my breath, like time slowed down, as I imagined myself crossing in to the shop. The window in the door full of condensation, from the warmth inside, little drops of water running down the window, meeting the ledge, it’s Victorian flaws catching them, a perfect little drop of water forming, glistening…some frozen in action. The lights inside would be welcoming, glowing. There’d be a smell of rich, new, cloths emanating from inside, and then, click – dingaling – Mum would open the door and the little bell on a wire, that hung over the door, would ring. We’d step in to the shop and Loreen would step in from out back and there we’d all be! With only one task in hand: to find the most beautiful Christmas dress (at the right price).

I remember she’d always fuss over me, but not in a fussy way. In a way that felt perfectly comfortable. Like a perfectly human, real, Mary Poppins. Immaculately dressed herself, she’d add a spot of glamour to our village wherever she went. She popped in to the Post Office, all the ladies would discuss her outfit as she left. In the bakery, they’d spend an age discussing her shoes (and be baffled by her choice of chocolate eclairs, “But she’s so thin!”, they’d sigh). She was a swathe of elegance in a village without much of it, and we all loved her for it.

As we entered the shop, she’d ask how we were, ask me how school was, slip me a few chocolates and ask me to warm myself by the heater (an electric heater screwed to the wall a little way above my head). Then we’d set to, to find it. She knew what I liked, what called to my heart. [I guess that’s why she was so successful, why people came from all over the county to find their Christmas dresses there].

I’d be welcome to try them all on, all the ones we selected, as many as I liked. Her patience was infinite. I’d take delight in the trying on – thankful that the heater did it’s job – and I’d step out to sighs and ‘Oh my, she’s so beautiful!’ from my Mum, Loreen and her assistant. I remember feeling so special in those moments. Not that I was showing off, at all, but because I was being spoilt – on one of the days of the year my parents decided they could spoil me – and, because of that, I had to enjoy every moment of it because it was most definitely special.

It was expected, it was part of the delight, part of the special attention from Loreen, from my Mum, from my Dad. It was a day, an experience, to treasure (and treasure the memories I do). I’d be allowed to try on not just the dress but, also, the socks (with bows) and the high heeled shoes and the matching embroidered cardigan. The whole set. A little girl’s dream, so many frills and details and so much love. 

As I’d be trying them on, I’d hear my Mum and Loreen whispering. Some negotiations about payment. Loreen touching my Mum’s arm and telling her not to worry. It was her pleasure. Then I’d come out, feeling like every little girl should feel at Christmas time. My heart fit to burst (it was all a bit too much). Their faces a picture. Me ducking back inside before they’d see my tears of happiness (because they might think I was upset, not happy, and I wouldn’t want to spoil their enjoyment).

I’d hand Loreen the one and, as I was changing, she’d pack it for me. The works. Tissue paper, thick cream- coloured paper bag with a thick satin ribbon handle. A shiny glittery pom-pom bow (rarely seen decorating even Santa’s presents in our home). It’d be wrapped with such love, such care. Then I’d emerge from the changing room, dressed, again, for the cold and she’d give me more chocolate and a kiss on the cheek and bid us a Merry Christmas with the sweetest smile and we’d be on our way home, in the dark. The snow a little bit deeper, the cold that little bit more chilling, but all of it bearable because my Christmas dress – the one – was in the exquisitely wrapped bag.

We’d get home and de-bulk, Dad handing us an Ovaltine or Horlicks to warm us up. The bag’d be placed in Mum and Dad’s wardrobe until ChristmasAnd I’d spend the next few days dreaming of the dress, literally dreaming of it. It’d be handed to me on Christmas Eve (I’d always try to imagine Mum’s face as she opened the bag). I’d hang it on the side of my wardrobe, facing me as I fell asleep, on its own cushioned coat hanger, embroidered by my Mum. Ready for the next morning. I’d stare and stare at it as I fell asleep, memorising every glorious detail of it.

As I woke, I remember, I’d look over to the dress – even before I scrambled to see if my stocking had been filled – and – magically – the dress would have been joined by some high heeled shoes, some socks with bows and an embroidered cardigan. All of them there, shining with happiness and joy, waiting for me to bring them to life, to bring them to life on the sweetest, most joyous, of all days.

My Christmas Day outfit completed.

Magically.

Somehow.

A little girl’s wildest dream come true.

[Photos  from here]

December 13th – Christmas countdown

Today’s Blogmas prompt asks, “How are you counting down to Christmas?”. I wrote a little about this in an earlier post. In England, we have Advent calendars, but they’re hard to come by where we live so, a few years ago, I made one from my children’s old baby socks…

Stockings

…it hangs over my bed and has 24 socks, one for each day from December 1st until Christmas Eve. In each sock, I pop a few sweets/chocolates and a little paper with a suggested Christmas activity for the day (today’s is to “Have a picnic under the Christmas tree”). The children love that they get a bit of chocolate to eat before breakfast (it is Christmas, after all!) and the suggestions for activities makes our afternoons very Christmassy. It’s a tradition that’s definitely taken off in our home: the littles were asking me about the “sock calendar, Mama?” about a week before December started, so eager they were definitely eager to see it again! So sweet!