Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Hogmanay - Cheerio 2014

With the redding almost complete, and the steak pie in the fridge, the porridge oats are soaking in whiskey for the cranachan, I can look towards tonight. Hogmanay round ours is a quiet affair, no ceilidh, no traditional first footing (hubby may be tall, but he's not dark (ginger, therefore considered bad luck...!) nor a stranger, obviously).  We have whiskey ( and rum, and red wine...not all for the same glass!), shortbread, some fruit cake (aka remains of Christmas Cake).  We also have Jools Holland's Hootenanny on the box (we love and always watch Jools).  Kiddo may stay up, he may not - he is a bit poorly today so will have to wait and see.  He stayed up last year with me as Hubby was working, but thankfully he is off tonight.
I used to love Hogmanay when I was a child, especially if I managed to stay up for the bells. I loved that excitment of midnight, the New Year drink that was not allowed to be touched until after the bells, and also the good telly.  The telly is not a patch on what it used to be, especially (as I got older and understood the comedy) Rikki Fulton's Rev IM Jolly

When I was young, a year seemed like an eternity.  When I turned 21, everybody older told me that the years would now fly by. The speed at which 2014 passed was just plain ridiculous!
Thinking back at events that happened and places we have visited this year seem at odds with the time frame for when they actually took place : My Mother's birthday celebrations in May could have been 2 months ago, yet the Referendum seems like a different year ago.
2014 has certainly been a busy and enlightening year with definitely more highs than lows, yet it's not one I'm sorry to see the back of.
The Highs this year include:
*starting this blog (how have I been writing here for almost 8 months already?)
* the birth of my 2nd nephew, and watching the bond between Kiddo and his cousins grow (even though he calls them, brothers)
* my involvement in the #indyref through writing, researching, making friends and meeting people, whose paths I would never have crossed otherwise
* making the final decision to home educate Kiddo, and remove him from nursery.  The difference already is proof in making the right decision.  I am encouraged by the leaps he has made, just through playing and baking
* making new friends through home-ed groups, both online and in person at various meets.  New friends that are now firm friends
* the many trips and outings we had and new places explored with our friends and just the 2 or 3 of us (depending on Hubby's shifts). Many an adventure had
* understanding Kiddo more and his personality as he develops and grows into his own wee person. Not always easy, granted, actually sometimes a bloody nightmare, but the understanding of him is the key, and a privilege
* Kiddo embracing the changing seasons, particularly Autumn (it would appear this is his favourite season too - yay!)
* Hallow'een (Samhain) and Yule were particular special times
* Joining the Scottish Greens political party - the motivation and dedication of the party, their ethics and policies, I am proud to now be a part of
* realising who are the real and the toxic people in my life (definitely a high)
* learning to be more of a honey badger...

The Lows of the year include :
* the referendum result.  Not so much of a low, as complete devastation.  However, I believe fully with while we lost this time, it has only fuelled the fire for the next time - and there will be a next time.
* today I take off my Yes 2014 wristband.  Not to toss aside, but to live in my handbag, as a reminder, not of what we lost, but what we are working towards.

* in this past year I have known 25 ladies to have had babies (17 of whom were expecting at the same time). This may seem like a strange low, but it is a low as, while I am truly happy for them, I am struggling to accept that I am not going to have any more babies.  Selfish, yes, but this is my list...

Leaving 2014, I thought it was time to share my favourite song of the year: Gerry Cinnamon's brilliant, Carpe Diem : Hope Over Fear

The cliche of New Year New Me is one so trite, yet has an irresistible pull.  I love the notion of a clean fresh start.  Sort of like when it was time to get a new jotter at school; that first page was always a pleasure to start, with best handwritting, which quickly went down hill once that page was turned, But regardless, the first new page feeling is the same.

My resolutions are made.  Will I keep them? I'll try my best. They do not include the words : gym, chocolate, wine or organised, so that's a good start.  They do however include the words : simplify, joy, present and focus.
I am looking forward to what 2015 holds. I have no preconceived notions of what will be, but have a feeling it'll be a good one. Not as good as it could have been, should we have been starting the New Year, with the Yes vote, but we make the best of our situation (roll on the General Election), making the most of and enjoying what we have.  There are so many less fortunate than ourselves.

So to 2014, I say "Cheerio"
and welcome 2015, "Hello"

(And it wouldn't be New Year without saying "See you next year" - I know its dead annoying, but hey!)

Aw the best
Lang may yur lum reek

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Simplify Simplify

Cabin fever had started to creep into our home since the we have pretty much hunkered down to play and eat since Christmas.  In a moment of "we have to get out of here", I offered Kiddo the choice of going down to the park or coming food shopping (not that we needed shopping, still feasting on leftovers, but knowing which choice he would make).  I figured that we would probably have the park to ourselves as was yesterday's freezin cauld afternoon, with the freezing fog for company.  Oh how wrong was I? The park wasn't mobbed necessarily, but it was certainly busy. It was exactly what he needed, fresh air and the chance to run his energy off.
As we walked from the car park, a wee boy of similar age to Kiddo, pushing his new scooter, walked towards us and said to Kiddo :"It's a nice day, today" to which Kiddo replied, "Yes, its is." Like two wee old men. I looked to the child's mother, and she was struggling not to laugh just like I was.  The boys wandered ahead, talking about Spiderman and who was faster - Kiddo running or the boy on his scooter (we never found out the child's name).  When we reached the play park the boys went their separate ways; one to the climbing frame one to the chute. The park was a blur of colourful winter woollies, and my goodness, were they needed. It was raw.  I couldn't feel my toes or face within 5 minutes.  Kiddo, true to form, was taking off his hat and gloves!!!! In need to kick start my circulation, we decided to go for a walk around the lagoon and see the birds walking on top of its icy surface.  Except when we got there, there was something far more interesting to do - ice skimming. The broken ice from around the edge of the water had been lifted onto the path (someone's Grandfather had used their grandson's scooter to smash the ice and lifted the chunks up onto the path).  All the kids there (including Kiddo) were taking pieces of ice and skimming it across the frozen water.  It made a noise which was both eerie yet pleasing to the ear.  It was fun to see how far different pieces of ice travelled.  We spent most of our time doing this.  No pictures were taken as my hands were too cold to even contemplate removing my gloves, and my stupid smartphone doesn't work when I wear gloves. Round the other side of the lagoon, on the stony beach, people had been playing the same game with the stones, as was evident by the pebble dashed ice. I did managed to take one photo here of some ice on the stones, but it had to be taken with my nose!!! Not ideal for successful photography.... Anyways, back to the park for once more round the chutes and trampolines before the walk back to the car, upon where I had the heating up fu-bung in effort to restore feeling to my fingers and toes.

(Check out my new Christmas gloves)

What stood out today was the simple pleasure from a simple act - the best fun had was the ice skimming. Not play park, no 'toys', no manufactured fun; just pure joy from cold weather and frozen water. 

Its timely that I read this article today, about a mother who has decided to stop making her kid's childhood, magical.  It struck a cord with me, as it perfectly describes the trap that I have fallen into in the past, and again at times, this past Christmas.  It says a lot of what I was thinking when I was writing about the changes we were making between Christmas 2014 and 2015, and my new mantra (loose New Year's resolution) "Simplify Simplify".  

Life has gotten all rather complicated, what with the constant feed of information from our computers, tablets, phones, 24hour tv channels and radio. We have social media where we are forever plugged into what is happening at any given time around the world to friends/family, long-lost friends, 'friends' we haven seen or spoken to since school, and to strangers.  We are being told how live our lives from every aspect (homes, fashion, parenting, dieting, politics, to name but a few). There are labels for everything and everyone - we have to conform to and fit in to something. 
So moving forward, my intention is just to simplify the lot - reduce usage of social media, reduce the amount of screen time (including my phone!!! and tv, not that I watch much telly, but perhaps choose what I do watch more wisely rather than just crap for the sake of it), sloooooooooooooooooooooooowwww down and enjoy each day (watching Kiddo over the past week has reminded me of the satisfaction in just taking our time and enjoying the task in hand), following my instincts rather than others expectations ( a stressful complication at times).
Despite being fairly addicted to the 24hour multi-media information stress-inducing overload, I yearn for a more simpler time (like when I was a teenager and never had a mobile phone for example - what a unknown  luxury that freedom was). I figure life is as only as difficult as we make it, so here's to "Simplify Simplify"and all that that implies.


Friday, 26 December 2014

Done and dusted for another year

After spending nearly 2 months planning and preparing for this week, I am happy that it is almost at a close.
As I sit here on the evening of Boxing Day, watching the Big Fat Quiz of the Year and enjoying a spicy rum, I am desperate to get started clearing away all the Christmas clutter ( not too desperate to want to do it tonight. No no, that's a job for tomorrow). There is Lego everywhere, a glow-in-the dark jigsaw lying on the floor under the hall light, in an effort to make it glow when the lights are turned off, a pile of new clothes on the couch, an even bigger pile of books on the floor next to the couch (Kiddo's not mine - I am extremely jealous), experiment samples 'in progress' from his science set that were trialled last night, various other bits of 'giftages' and I am all cozy in my new dressing gown.

Looking back over the past month (and the planning and lists from November), I can see easily what worked and what didn't; what changes to make for 2015.  Most importantly, I can hand on heart say that this festive period was a success - we (Kiddo, Hubby and I) enjoyed it.  As I mentioned in previous posts, Christmas time has been a bit of a nightmare and at times, a horrible chore to endure over the past 2 years.  This year however, we changed it up and spread out the wole fandango, and it worked.

So whats the plan for next year?
1. No Elf - kindess or otherwise! We lasted 3 days with our Kindess Elf and her pet mouse.  The ideas I had for her to suggest were all things I had already planned. It just seemed really disingenuous and I would rather Kiddo learned to be kind from observing us (his parents and family) rather than taking instruction from a cutesy doll.  That may seem a bit bahumbug and over thinking of the fun wee elf, but I think its important to go with feelings rather than just going along with something because its a new trend, or such like. Plus, Kiddo wasn't really all that into the whole Kindness Elf anyway, so why bother? It then becomes something of a chore and enforced merry-making fun, which is anything but fun.
2. Craft projects - the only person in this house who enjoys a craft project is ME! This includes making Christmas cards - Hubby was the only one to receive a homemade card from Kiddo this year. His Grandparents are still waiting for their glittery creation (they are in for a long wait...)
3. Baking - We (Kiddo and I ) had so much fun this year baking treats for gifts.  The successes were mainly from the Goddess that is Nigella - Sticky Gingerbread (had to bake a second batch as we ate the entire first batch), mini-mince pies with cranberry mincemeat (even I like these and I ordinarily hate mince pies), Christmas Rocky Road (made Christmassy with the use of Amaretto biscuits) and Christmas cake. We also made chocolate peppermint creams, chocolate fruit'n'nut drops and that disaster that was the fudge.  Next year will be all about baking.  The only thing we didn't attempt was a gingerbread house.  Just stuck to my tealight ceramic gingerbread house instead...

4. Family trips and days out - Edinburgh was great, we all enjoyed it, although next year, I would like another day through, just Hubby and I, so that we can actually get a good look round the stalls (very boring for a wee boy) and enjoy the city (read : dinner and drinks).  The Santa cruise at the wheel was fun, but done.  We won't be going again next year, especially as Kiddo has been checking the authenticity of their Santa...
5. Food - Part of what makes this time of year so memorable, bedding in the tradtions and 'heart-warming' is the food.  I love cooking and eating good food.  This week I have made our Yule meal ( a glazed ham was the main dish, followed by festive spiced cheesecake.  I have never made cheesecake before, but this was lush - had to tweaked the recipe and quantities of spices, but oh so good),  Christmas Eve was the full works  with Turkey and trifle, while the actual day itself was a smorgasbord of leftovers and cheese'n'biscuits, which also carried over into today.  My fridge earned its keep this week!
The only downside to having so many meals to prep for this year was the amount of space I have in the fridge/freezer; something had to give.  Unfortunately it was the breakfast stratta.  I have made stratta every Xmas Eve for the breakfast the following morning for 8 years (since watching the Family Stone - it sounded lovey, and having tweaked that recipe too, it is lovely).  No word of a lie there was nothing else getting in that fridge.  Both Hubby and I missed our traditional breakfast this year - next year there will be stratta!
6. Spreading it out.  Part of the problem we have had in the past is that everything all in one day : Santa, presents, relatives, lots of people coming and going in our home, taking Kiddo away from his toys to go to dinner at his grandparent's home, par-taking in a big dinner where Kiddo doesn't like any of it apart from the chipolatas and the trifle, to the expectations of 'being a good boy' are just too much! Yes, most children (who's families celebrate Christmas) get excited at this time of year, but its not fun when your child isn't coping with that amount of pressure.  Hence why this year we spread it out.  Kiddo, Hubby and I celebrated Solstice/Yule on 22nd (21st wasn't an option as both of us were working) with, amongst other things, a lovely meal and exchange of our gifts. Just the 3 of us - no pressure, just relaxed. It was a beautiful evening.  Christmas Eve we had my parents over for the full dinner, as Kiddo had received his gift prior to dinner from them (I had put a 1 toy limit on gift givers this year as too many toys, again, just took the fun away) he happily played away whilst we ate.  Again it was a fairly relaxed affair which felt like Christmas (not the previous 2, but the Christmases of old).  Every year, our very good friend, Scunnerred, comes round in the evening and shares Xmas Eve and we exchange gifts.  It is a tradition I hold dear.  He noticed the lack of stratta being prepared (what I am usually doing when he arrives).  This will not be the case in 2015!
On the 'big day' itself, neither Kiddo nor Hubby changed out of their jammies, and pretty much played all morning with the toys from Santa (we had a stocking each, and I put Kiddo's presents into 1 box and wrapped it before putting it by the tree.) My in-laws came by for a couple of hours and enjoyed a simple lunch.
It was the most chilled Christmas I think I have ever had.  Kiddo and I did the experiments in his science set, built his jigsaws, he and hubby made Lego things and we had no timetable, no pressures no rules, no Queen's speech.  The day ended watching a dvd snuggled on the sofa - Hubby and Kiddo that was, I bugged out early to bed feeling a little nauseas - too much cheese!
Boxing Day was nice but easily the most tense for Kiddo. However, now that all the gift giving and heightened excitement has passed, we can get on with playing and enjoying the fun and interesting gifts he received. Thank you cards will be written over the next few days, although I doubt very much they will be handmade this year....
Next year we will still have our tree up on the 1st, but everything else will very much be simplified and spread out again. But before all that, we still have a few days left of 2014.

This coming week is all about the redding - getting our home ready to bring in the New Year,including taking down the tree and all the decorations and starting 2015 afresh and clean (its considered bad luck to bring the new year into an unclean house). Traditionally the redding took place on Hogmanay, but I haven't the workforce (children) to gut an entire home in 1 day, so it takes me a bit longer.

(enjoying a little spicy rum tipple this evening - love this bottle)

As much fun as it has been, it is also satisfying knowing that its done for another year.  I am looking forward to January.  The bleakness of the month is refreshing against the hoo-ha of December, a time to clear ones head and enjoy the fact that I don't do diets - especially in the middle of winter. Comfort and calories are a necessity.


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Adventures in Christmas Land

Since my last post, we have in no particular order, finally been to Edinburgh, taken a boat ride to Santa's Secret Village, made mince pies, still not made cards for the grandparents, started getting anxious about the upcoming excitement, been to a coffee morning and met new people and caught up with friends, received some lovely cards in the post both hand made and ones with lovely personal messages, reserved my turkey at the 11th hour, greeted the Solstice and welcomed the returning light, got our Viking groove on, although I play more of a dragon part in the role playing activities, including wearing Hubbie's backpack as a saddle to allow Kiddo to 'fly' ...walking into the livingroom to find Kiddo trying to fashion a set of stirrups from one of my bras nicked from the clothes dryer was interesting and entertaining, but I was pleased with his resourcefulness, eaten approximately half of the goodies we baked for gifts...guess what we're (read: I'm) doing tomorrow?

View over my shoulder of the Scott Monument on Princes St in Edinburgh, taken from the top of the big wheel.

This year's jaunt to Edinburgh was great fun - the weather played nice - it was mild (unusually so, we were roasting under our layers) and dry. Kiddo went on all the rides in Santa Land, we ate sausages and waffles (not at the same time, that would be weird), we did NOT go on the Star Flyer (the ride that is the height of the monument that spins at high speed as your legs dangle *shuddering at the thought*), drank warming drinks and perused the market stalls. I really wanted to have my fortune told, but by that time Kiddo was getting tired and it was time for heading back. Next year I will first in line to enter the vardo and cross a palm with silver ( probably paper over silver, but you know...semantics).

Kiddo and I took a trip in a boat round the Falkirk Wheel with my sister and nephew to visit Santa's Secret Village.  He had a blast - singing in the 'boat choir' telling Baubles (Elf Tour Guide, and his sidekick Tinsel-Toes) jokes into the microphone as well as practicing his very own Ho Ho Ho's.  The boat lift and the surroundings were all decked out with fairy lights and decorations. He thought it was magical, although questioned whether the Santa who came aboard the boat and gave all the children a gift (lovely books) was infact the Real Santa or "just a man with a fat tummy in a costume"?  One of the reasons I am relishing this year so much is because we are not going to get many Christmases with Kiddo believing in Santa, that kid is too logical and questionning to go along with it for long.  

Kiddo is starting to get a little anxious about the actualities of Christmas now, from Friday he has been not 100% himself, preferring to want to stay at home, not mix or play with anyone other than me or Hubby (including his cousin or pals).  We were in the supermarket on Friday when the checkout operator asked him if he was being good because Santa was watching him. She was a little taken aback when Kiddo told her that "No he isn't, and Santa gives presents to all children". She was informed by me that there is no creepy old man watching over my son and we don't 'do' bribery. I hate all the you have to be good or else Santa won't bring you presents / nice or naughty list / general surveillance of children enforcing good behaviour.

We now have nothing else planned or places to go, just chilling at home and cooking/re-baking/eating and playing. So hopefully he will relax and enjoy the calmer spread of the festive over the week ahead. Monday evening we (Hubs Kiddo and I) will have our own little family meal, for Yule and exchange our gifts. No big hoo-ha, no stress just lots of candles and a gentle start to the Christmas week.


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Glitter, Guilt and Gratitude

I love this time of the year (not that anyone would have noticed...ahem..). Its the feeling of something magical. Its the cold weather outside and the snug warmth inside. The good food (both made and enjoyed and watched on TV, thank you Jamie and Nigella), the sentimental feel good movies, its the nostalgic music, the traditions, the twinkly lights, hopeful for snow, the family trips, its the decorating of home, its of spending time at home, creating memories, taking time to slow down for a bit to enjoy and share in the company of those we love. Its a celebration of life and love in the dark depths of winter. Its that warm fuzzy feeling, that I can only describe as 'magical'. If December were a colour, it'd be glitter.
In my opinion, it is not about rushing about, worrying about buying this or that, running up silly debts on tat no-one needs, stressing that everything is 'perfect', telling the kids to "be good or Santa won't come", its not about getting and wanting.
I have been, and am, working hard at trying to make special memories for Kiddo and establish and cement the traditions that Hubby and I have carried on from our own childhoods and those we have cultivated for ourselves. I find myself throwing everything I have at Christmas this year - going all out. I am posting what we're doing yet fear that it looks all "Ooh, look at me, see what wonderful things we are doing, tra-la-la-la-la-la", which is not the intention!  Everything is deliberately being spread out through the entire month, as I mentioned in a previous post, the lessen the intensity of CHRISTMAS on Kiddo. The last 2 Christmases have, to be honest, been pretty hellish and stressful as it has been an overload on his sensory function.  We have calmed it right down (which it may not look like from my blog posts, but its little bits at a time), and relatives have been prepped with our 1 toy policy for gifts this year. Previously Christmas day has just been too much, and has taken the fun right out of the festive period.  This time of year, it is said, "is all about the kids", well, we're putting our child first and fully intend on enjoying our celebrations this year, rather than stressing to the hilt and having the worst time of all.  Even the giving of gifts and the turkey dinner is being spread over the course of 3-4 days. By which, I mean we have different activities on different days, not the turkey one day and the trifle on another, although depending on the the size of the trifle, that may still be the case...
So far, our plan is working. Kiddo is excited for Christmas but not hyper. He is taking it in his stride, and enjoying making presents to give his Grandparents (the cards as still under construction however... he is more cook than crafter though).  He is not wound up by the whole 'Santa' issue, he knows Santa will bring presents to the boys and girls round the world, and that's cool. He would like to meet Santa and his reindeer (which is lucky as he is going to next week).

I am well aware of the fact that while I am posting all the things we have been doing, there are many people, for whom this festive period will be anything but jolly.  The number of people who are relying on the local food bank to feed them and their families throughout the month and over the festive period is increasing at an unprecedented rate. We are a first world country with unacceptable levels of people living either below the poverty line or just surviving on it. Families are choosing food or fuel this winter. Poverty knows no differences and does not discriminate. It affects the young, the old, singletons, families, the healthy, the disabled. Even more shocking is the number of people who are working hard and yet their pay packet does not stretch far enough to fed and nourish them.  I feel guilty that while I am warm and having fun making baking and eating delicious food, others are not. I have donated to the local food bank and will continue to do so, but it doesn't take away that guilt.  While I am wrap up gifts for my family, there are many who are not, never mind even thinking about Santa.  What child wants to discover the truth about Santa, the year that their parent(s) can't afford him?
I feel guilty that I'm not doing more to help those in need.  My household is by no means a flush one, and I give what I can, in terms of donations and of my time, trying to find the balance between my family and helping others. Its a difficult balance to find, as I will always put the needs of my boys first, and Kiddo has specific needs, but I have that feeling of guilt when I see others people doing so much to help the community/charities etc.  One of our friends is opening his business on Christmas day to offer dinner to local homeless people.  I think this is a wonderful thing to do, and would love to have helped out. Instead we will donate food to the meal.
Its not just those living in poverty, other people such as those whose loved ones are away from home serving in the armed forces, or are in hospital, or have suffered a bereavement/loss - they may not exactly be feeling merry and bright.  This time of year can make for a very lonely and sad time, especially when all around everyone else appears to be in full celebratory swing and joy.
The guilt is something that I think will always be there - there is always more we can do, its just the level of what we are prepared to give depends on our individual priorities and circumstances.

In thinking about others, I can appreciate how lucky I am.
I am ever so grateful for my family. There are no 2 people more important to me in this world than Hubby and Kiddo. My extended family too, my sister, parents, nephews, in-laws. My son is growing up surrounded by people who love him and each other (no matter how much we all annoy each other at times).
I am grateful:
for our health,
for our happiness,
for the fact that every night I can lock my front door and keep our roof over our heads. Truth is in the words of John Howard Payne " Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home",
that I can cook, and am able to keep our tummies full and bodies nourished,
for my frugalness and ability to save (to allow for the trip to Edinburgh and Santa visit - I have saved long and hard for this festive fun)
to Morrisons for introducing their loyalty card as I have been able to save up my points (through savvi shopping) and now have £40 of money off vouchers, plus my £25 Xmas Bonus voucher, so my Christmas food shopping won't cost me a penny,
that Hubby's job allows for me to work part time and home-educate Kiddo. This despite the fact he is under redundancy conditions at present, but should he not have a job at the end of the process, we have until June 2015 to find something else,
for the time that I spend with Kiddo, watching and learning with him as he grows, and seeing his character develop (especially yesterday when he saw the Salvation Army advert on the TV and asked if that was the food bank he donated to, (no it wasn't), and said "well, we need to help them too then")
that I am able to provide the opportunity to create the magical festive period for my family,
for my friends - I don't have lots of friends, but I do have good friends and new friends, and some I have never actually met in person.  Each one valuable in their own way,
for the love of my darling Hubby.

I am lucky.
I hope everyone who participates in winter celebrations find some joy and love, no matter how little or much they have.

Found here on Pinterest

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The past week...

December seems to be disappearing at top speed. How can it only be 2 weeks to Christmas, and only 3 weeks left of 2014?
In the past week we have chilled a bit with all the dizzying creative buzz of the first week of the month, partly through choice, partly through being unwell.
Its been a complete mixed bag of a week: we had a particularly chilly day at the park with friends, getting muddy and numb toes, but the kids had a ball (and evidently didn't feel the cold as they sooked on ice lollies!!). Our local park has the usual chutes and swings,but also walled garden, known to the kids as "the secret garden" which has been enchantingly decorated in a theme of Snow White and the 7 Dwarves for December.  The shelter at the rear of the garden had 7 little beds, 7 pairs of wellies on the shelf, a Christmas tree and decorations and a couple of Christmas tree shaped mug-trees with 7 mugs.  Kiddo and his pal decided to set the mugs and teapots up as a tea-shop and served us Mum's tea, hot chocolate and smoothies. We were their customers and they thoroughly enjoyed being 'servers'. I can honesty say I enjoyed their beverages despite their extortionate prices... I was even more impressed by the sweeping up and tidying up of the shop before he closed for the night - he doesn't do this at home!

The front door wreath was made. I started out with baubles and candy canes and fabric, but in the end I decided that less is more and paired down my wreath this year.

Rustic and simple

We made a start on Christmas cards - 1 was made before the penguin got a glitter bath... the rest are still waiting to be made (thankfully its only the cards for the Grandparents that are 'in progress').  I have mine all written, must remember to get stamps!!! I don't send many cards to be honest, just to family and some friends (generally those that I don't see very often), Hubby and I don't give each other cards, we have sent e-cards for the past 6 years since I got my eco groove on (but I have kept all the cards he gave me prior).

The foodie gifts are now under way.  We made chocolate disks with fruit (cranberries) and nuts (pistachio) and choc starts.  We made more than required, of course, and have now completed the quality checking of all the spares....

We made no-cook fudge, covered in festive holly sprinkles. Sadly, it did not go to plan. The only way to describe this tray of festive looking butter, is "gantin", or possibly, "howlin" or "bowffin" and most definitely "boggin".  Despite 800g of icing sugar, and 200g of condensed milk, ALL we could taste was the 200g of butter...UGH! Dislike! Upside, there was half a can of condensed milk was delicious off the spoon, My dentist awaits me....

Kiddo and I have been in cahoots with my sister and my nephews creating our gift for our parents, which has been interesting, fun, slightly chaotic and so cute. Can't wait to see the end result.

We had our family trip through to Edinburgh planned for Monday.  It was a perfect day weather wise: sunny, cold, dry and no wind. Hubby was on his day off, but unfortunately, Kiddo was loaded with the cold and running a temperature.  Most people would probably wrap their child up warm and go anyway, but experience has taught us that this is not the approach to take with Kiddo. Despite perfect weather, had we gone it would have been an utter disaster and a thoroughly miserable experience for all - not quite the family day we had in mind. The best thing was to hunker down and postpone. So we are now going next week and hoping that Mother Nature gives us a break in the weather to take my child ice skating.
In lieu of our family day to Auld Reekie, I took the opportunity to nip into town to get some bits and pieces whilst Kiddo was snuggling on the couch with Hubby.  I hardly go into town anymore, its in quite a depressing state.  Our town used to be vibrant and busy, filled with lots of independent shops, selling unique and interesting wares. Over the years it has become a 'clone' town; the same homogenised High Street  as much of the rest of the UK - High St banks, bookies, amusements, charity shops, pound stores and To Let boards.  The shopping centre is filled with the usual stores : Boots, Argos, Marks, River Island, Claire's Accessories etc etc, but I took a wander off the High Street and found 3 new places - a clothing and jewellery shop with really original pieces not at crazy prices, a gift shop (which was closed on a Monday but keeked through the window and have since been on their Facebok page) and a waffle cafe with waffles and pancakes and crepes.  That was just one street. My town has many streets off the High Street that have little gems of tea or coffee shops, indy retailers, artisan bakers and proper grocers selling local produce.  It was actually a pleasure for a change to go shopping.

With all the hustle and bustle surrounding December as a whole, there is something special at this time of year, with the dark afternoons and mornings, that when its just candles and twinkly lights. There is a sense of peace and little bit of magic in the air.

The tea lights we got at the Edinburgh Christmas Market circa 2006

Early one morning, just me and coffee.

This morning it finally snowed, but it didn't lie.  Keeping fingers crossed for more snow, building snowmen, snowball fights and sledging. Hey, a girl can dream!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

We haven't finished yet...

Still got decorating and making to do.
Last year I found a fun 'activity' on pinterest  for growing 'Magice Elf Seeds' into candy canes using Tic Tac sweeties. I thought this was brilliant and a must do for us. I used jelly beans instead of Tic Tacs, and only red and white ones (the colour of the candy canes). Kiddo had fun and loved the candy canes the following morning, but he was only 3 and his enthusiasm quickly waned.  This year, I prepared the tray with the growing bowl (icing sugar) and the bowl of 'Magical Beans'. Kiddo clocked it straight away : "Ooh, are we growing candy canes again?" He remembered doing it last year. This year however, he took a different approach : he counted out how many "Candy Cane Beans" he had - 10 red and 10 white - "20 Candy Canes <massive grin>" I asked what colour candy canes were and suggested that maybe 2 beans were needed? <much smaller grin> "Only 10 then". I decided not to burst this festive bubble by going on to tell him that the cane were for the tree...
The actual planting was fairly precise, with the added note to me that he would do all the planting because I "kill plants" (referring to the unfortunate demise of numerous spider plants in my care).  Once all planted, re counted and covered over with 'snow soil', he was satisfied that his gardening efforts were to his satisfaction, he went to bed.
Once I was satisfied that he was sound asleep and in no danger of getting back up, I set about retrieving the jelly beans - the white are tricky to find at times (thats why it is always useful to know exactly how many you start with!). Red jelly beans covered in icing sugar are sooo good.... Anyway, jelly beans harvested, candy canes planted and a dusting of silver glitter and we were good to go for the morning.  Not really thinking at the time, had to do some quick thinking before my coffee had kicked in, when Kiddo announced with a hint of a squeal, that there were 12 canes in the bowl!!! 12!! Not 10, no no 12!!  Wow, they really were magic - the 2 I meant to keep back for my wreath ended up in the bowl..... oh well at least he now had 2 spare that he could eat and the rest could on the tree without any bursting of festive bubbles.  I got strawberry flavoured ones as opposed to mint, as he was thoroughly disappointed last year to discover they were minty (he hates mint).

It was time to 'festify' the broom that sits at the front door (not really much to be said here) :

The best fun of the day had to be making edible gingerbread biscuit decorations (using Nigella's recipe, substituting honey for golden syrup). The smell was making me more impatient for them to be ready, than it was Kiddo, he was having so much fun rolling cutting out the shapes and rolling again.  The ones that worked out the best were the ones deemed suitable for the tree, the rest we would eat - almost half of each (handy that as they turned out to be extremely tasty!)

Once cooked and cooled, it turned out we didn't have as many as we thought we would for the tree - our quality control measures are very thorough....

Kiddo decided that icing was boring, and that I could just ice them myself (I'm not complaining, I was secretly delighted, but shh, don't tell him that).

And so now, our tree has more decorations on it here's Kiddo's home grown candy cane and our home baked gingerbread man (the smell of the biscuits on the tree are incredible)


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Digs to Grotto

Little pockets of decorations are popping up all round our home.  So far the livingroom, the hall and the kitchen are feeling festive :

 Dishes by candlelight

 More candles

 Fairylights and baubles

 The garland I made last year

Kiddo's stocking I made a couple of years ago - looks more like a welly boot than a sock, but hey...

Next up is the wreath for the front door and the broom that sits by the front door. Craft projects and photos  for another day.


Its beginning to look a lot like...


(My favourite photo of my tree last year)

That overly commercialised capitalist high day (season) of the year is finally upon us...and I love it (not the overly commercialised capitalist bit, but the merriment, the food, the drinks, the giving & sharing, the festive feeling and making - be it crafting, food, and of course, memories).
Once November has commenced, so too do my preparations for December.  The 'Christmas' festivities are a month in preparation and list making/ticking, and a month of enjoying, not just 1 day, in this house.  We follow some traditions and have some of our own that are just that - ours.  It has not always been this way, however.
When I was growing up and even after I left home, the tree went up a couple of weeks prior to Christmas.  No set date, just around the 13-16th, roughly. Sometimes my sister and I would help decorate, some years it would be decorated for us coming home from school.  When I left home and had my first flat, I took great delight and care in decorating my tree (treated myself to a big 6ft tree from B&Q which was decorated every year in purple and gold. Only the tree was decorated, and there were a great many candles spread around.  It was, to my mind, tasteful and elegant.).
When Hubby and I moved in together and our first co-habiting Christmas came around, out went his wee tree and mine took pride of place ( I loved that tree) a couple of weeks before the 25th.
But there was more to my Christmas past than a £15 B&Q fake fir. There were also advent calendars, Xmas Eve new jammies/dressing gown and slippers, gifts galore, day with family and turkey dinner and chilling out on Boxing Day.
Fast forward to the end of 2007, just after we got married and I started researching Christmas - not in the religious sense or the nativity story etc, but traditions in Scotland, the British Isles as a whole, proper 'olden days'. I wanted a simpler Christmas. A less consumer driven time. A shift of focus and return to what the time of year meant, before all the crazy madness that it has become today. I discovered the Winter Solstice, Yule, the traditions associated with those celebrations. the Christianisation of the country and how the old ways were converted to the new and how it has evolved.
Come December 2008, my beloved tree found a new home via Stathcarron Hospice shop, along with all  our decorations (apart from the one we bought for our first married Christmas, and the set of Snow White's 7 Dwarves that my in-laws bought for our first Christmas together - I came home from work one day to find a card on the table with a in-laws had been in and scattered all 7 round the flat and we had to do a treasure hunt to find them ). I only had natural handmade decorations: cloved oranges, dried fruit, cinnamon sticks, popcorn and cranberry garlands, gingerbread decorations and tartan ribbon (and the dwarves) and our first ever real tree.
(This photo was from Christmas 2009)

A 6ft (more like 6'8") Douglas Fir, which was not only stunning to look at, but smelled beautiful.  My new tradition was born, one whereby the tree didn't go up until December 20th, but was not lit until 21st (Solstice - the longest day of the year, looking towards the returning light).  Inspired by watching Little Women on dvd, with their tree illuminated by candles and watching Nigella on the food channel with her candle lit tree, I didn't want fairy lights. Unfortunately I failed in finding those baubles inwhich to place a tealight and hang from the tree. Without my candles on the tree, we didn't 'light' our tree on the 21st, but I had plenty of candles around our home. Incidently, we went back to fairy lights from 2009 - a tree just insn't the same if it's not lit.
That particular tree will live on forever in the hearts and memory banks of those who knew us at the time.  This was the year that, "My tree broke his telly". I still get reminded of this by work colleagues.  You see, I had never had a real tree before. My Aunt had one every year and I remember her tree being in a plant pot. With our tree being fairly sizable (as well as incredibly heavy) I decided in my infinite wisdom that a plant pot wouldn't cut it, so used a large plastic tub...filled with was I supposed to know that if I watered the soil the tree would just go TIIIIIMMMBEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR and land on top of the recently purchased flat screen tv????  How was I supposed to know that my Uncle used to fill the plant pot with BRICKS?  We have had a real tree ever since, although not one quite so large, and the replacement telly is now hung on the wall...
I made a new 'advent' style of calender - the 12 nights of Yuletide - which is now a tradition we have made our own. Our calendar runs from 20th December to 31st December, when our tree comes down.  All decorations are removed before Midnight on Hogmanay, allowing us to bring in the new year, fresh.

Over the past few years, I have collected new/old baubles for the tree ( got a set from my mum that I loved as a child, so delighted with those), some that Kiddo has made, including his Santa tree topper that he and I made  2 years ago.  Sadly, Santa has not survived for a 3rd Christmas, and Kiddo wants a gold star - its on the 'to-do' list

Last year was the first time that we changed things up a little and decided to put the tree up on 1st December, and spend the rest of the month making and creating decorations for the tree, and for our home, as well as the usual making of gifts.  I have to say, I loved the tree being up early (early for me), it made the whole Christmas hype, less intense, as Kiddo got used to it being there and some of the initial intense excitement had cooled (at ours, this is a good thing).

So, 2014, what does this look like?
So far, apart from the cake that Kiddo and I made in November and some other foodie things that are now in the freezer, I have tried my hand at making a decorative vase using candy canes.  I think my one of new years resolutions may be planning before doing when it comes to crafting...

What I learned from this project was that before gluing, decided what the vase it to be used for and make sure the baubles fit in the way imagined. Also awareness of just how much glue a hot glue gun uses and that candy canes (regardless of coming from the same box) are all different sizes.

For this years tree, the 3 of us took a trip to Aberfoyle to pick our tree.  I had notions of mulled wine (non alcoholic for the driver - me), mince pies and obviously. picking our tree. The reality was picking the tree, admiring the views and enjoying watching Kiddo spending about an hour in the visitor centre looking at and being thoroughly engrossed in all the wildlife info. Weatherwise, it was wonderfully winterish - cold and misty, with intermitant drizzly rain. Just perfect

Back home and the tree was decorated (and securely fitted in its stand)  to the soundtrack of my previously set playlist.   Now, I would love to say that we had oodles of family fun dressing the tree, singing along to Slade, drinking hot chocolate or mulled wine, in a happy Christmas-time-movie stylie, but alas this was not how it panned out...
Hubby had come home off his nightshift, and stayed up to come with us to get our tree. When we got back home from Aberfoyle, he went to bed for some much needed zzz's and I set about the tree. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the ball and screw thingy into the bast of the trunk - it was solid! So there was no decorating of the tree until Hubby woke up. This somewhat delighted Kiddo as the horizontal tree lying on the livingroom rug, still in its netting, was apparently a "perfect" new home for his dragons!!! Eh, no its not. It was here that I lost my footing and began my descent down the slippery slope to Crabbitdom.  Undeterred by the delay in decorating the tree, I started getting the decorations out in preparation for decorating later.  Some of the baubles we have are old, some are fairly precious (sentimental), some very delicate. Kiddo is his endearing hashybashy style just wanted to get to the snow globe. (The snow globe which he has not seen since last year, but is his only memory of last Christmas - his long term memory is ridiculously long and accurate. He takes after me here).

Cue me getting twitchy about broken baubles and huffs starting to bubble under his surface. This was the point that Kiddo decided the music was rubbish and turned it off. I was no longer twitchy just plained annoyed. This was not going how I had planned it in my head! Bored and frustrated that "baubles are not toys" Kiddo took himself off to the kitchen with his dragons to play in the tub of flour (this is a new thing; moved on from playing in the bag of potting soil). The flour can be all manner of things: snow, avalanche, food, lava, etc etc. He played quite happily for about an hour, and I played quite happily too, decorating the livingroom, accompanied by my festive choones.  Hubby woke up and sorted the tree (he used brute force and a hammer.  I stupidly was trying to use a screw driver to fix the screw in place...). Tree up and in need of decoration.  Again with the warm fuzzy imagery in my head of my wee family trimming the tree was playing on a show reel in my imagination.  And in my imagination it will remain.  I was still crabbit and the boys just wanted to play their own game.  Really I should've been pleased, getting peace to decorate the tree (this was Hubby's thinking too) but I wasn't.  What did make me stop and laugh though, was the very first decoration I picked up and hung on the branch.  I picked it up without looking.  It was obviously a sign to remember that a Christmas tree is just a tree and not worth getting all up in a stooshy about.


Now our tree is all dressed, bits and pieces have been added around the house, and will continue to appear over the next couple of weeks.  And I will do my level best to "keep the heid".  This is probably going to be the first Christmas that will form any proper lasting memories for Kiddo (I know it was for me when I was his age), and I don't want those memories to be of me nagging and stressing over baubles. We have a couple of trips planned this month ( our annual trip to market and fair in Edinburgh, and trying the Falkirk Wheel Santa boat ride for the first time) as well as plenty 'down-time' to chill and relax, and we had already had chats about what December means, both to us and to others.  We would like Kiddo to associate with this time of year with family traditions just the 3 of us, and in the wider extended family. Happy, festive, merry times of fun.

*EDITED*  Wrote a post about the tree and  forgot to post a picture of said tree!! So here is this years tree