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