Sunday, 8 December 2013

Christmas Senses

Touching: sticky glace cherries.



and the fake but still quite prickly branches of our Christmas tree.


Reading: Nigella Christmas because, well, I like it, and I read it every year. My copy falls open on certain pages now (Christmas cake, gingerbread) and flicking through this book has become one of my own little traditions. I'm also enjoying David Sedaris's excellent Santaland Diaries.


Smelling: Mulled wine, simmering in the pan. Then drinking it throughout the afternoon. I love how Christmas makes daytime drinking acceptable.


Listening: to a lot of Christmas music. We had the whole of one of those Now That's What I Call Christmas albums playing while we decorated the tree. John shuddered and retreated to another room while Bella and I sang along loudly. I can't sing but festive pop music makes me happy.


Tasting: mince pies. The kids and I made 48 of these mini star-topped ones and quite a lot more larger (but less photogenic) ones. Then we made jam tarts when we'd run out of mincemeat. We used this recipe for the pastry and Aldi mincemeat. They are really tasty and very moreish. So far, everything Christmassy I've bought from Aldi has been really good.


I also enjoyed hanging my favourite Cath Kidston baubles on the tree...


and lamented the fact that the kids broke one for the second year in a row. This is a Christmas tradition I want to stop right now.


We've been admiring our beautiful new advent calendar (it's so pretty - thank you Jooles!) all week and enjoying popping a couple of silver chocolate coins in the pockets each night. Sometimes we forget and one of us races down first thing in the morning, so that they are there ready for the children. Bella and Angus know perfectly well that we put the coins in there but we all maintain this pretence that they magically appear overnight. The hall was the only place where I could find room to hang this calendar but I love how it looks against the stairs.


This time last week, I feared that my Christmas mojo had well and truly upped and left me. We'd been away for the weekend and came home late to a cold, dark house; the advent calenders were not up, the house was a tip and nothing was done. Instagram and blogland was full of image after image of perfect handmade advent calenders consisting of hand-wrapped gifts hung from evergreen boughs, minimally and elegantly done, tastefully decorated trees, shining baubles...I felt unprepared and inadequate. But I feel more festive today. Much happier.

It's been a weekend of quiet activity and spending time with friends, things that restore my humour and make me feel peaceful. Yesterday we dragged the tree from the loft and the children and I decorated it. We baked (a little shouty and stressful at times but we pulled it back round and are now calling A Success), we shopped and cooked and ate. We did the traditional furniture shuffle to make room for the tree. Does anyone else have to do this? Who really has a home large enough to just be able to put something the size of an armchair slap bang in the middle of their hall, or any other room? You can see here how I have squashed everything into a corner so that the tree can take centre stage in front of the window.


And today I sat in my dressing gown until half past ten, drinking tea and writing Christmas cards. I do them all except the one to John's parents, where I give him the card and pen, stand over him while I wait for him to write it, take it from him and then carry on with my list. Is it always the women in a family who write the Christmas cards I wonder? I don't mind all that much, if I'm honest, I like to receive them so it seems only fair that I send some. Then we had a really lovely afternoon at Harlow Carr with some friends and their son, exploring the grounds and doing nice festive things like following the Christmas Trail and decorating gingerbread men. 

A long post - sorry! I am very behind with blog reading and visiting but will endeavour to catch up over the next few days. And thank you for your comments, each and every one of them gladdens my heart, and also - hello new followers and readers, it is lovely to have you here.



44 comments:

  1. I always write the cards myself. Birthday, anniversary and otherwise too. But I don't mind. I actually like it. I even did my mother's for her when I was a kid. We always have to move one chair to put up our tree. We like it in front of the window so it's visible from the street, but we like our chair there the rest of the year because the light is great for reading and handcrafts. Your Christmas cake looks beautiful, as does everything else.

    ReplyDelete
  2. what a lovely tree!!! I have to rearrange half the house to fit Christmas in!! your cake is fab!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your mulled wine glass is very sweet.
    Sounds like a lovely weekend, except for the breakage.
    We were given some pretty cupcake decorations last Christmas and within a day my daughter had broken one!
    And yes one of our chairs has been moved to make way for the tree, it's tradition the house is a mess at Christmas isn't it?!
    Lisa x

    ReplyDelete
  4. So many of your comments rang true with me. I think your house is looking beautiful now and I would love that cake in my tin. Enjoy the best of the festive season and make memories for your lovely family. I write the cards and my other half addresses the envelopes. Pretty good division of labour! But that's because we are retired and he can't ignore it. We always wait for a rainy day though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a wonderful post. I recognised so much - a little shoutiness while baking, the inadequate feeling of seeing all of those perfect and amazing Advent calendars, writing all the cards except one, which has to be closely supervised, the great furniture shuffle. Oh yes, it's not just you. Your window does look beautiful with your tree there. Your hall looks lovely too - your house is really pretty. A fantastic cake and mince pies as well. All in all it's beginning to look a lot like, oh, you know.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's just the same here in our house too. I write the cards except my in laws and we have to move furniture to fit the Christmas tree in but saying that it wouldn't feel like Christmas any other way. Your Christmas cake and mince pies look delicious. X

    ReplyDelete
  7. Christmas furniture shuffle? We have to send my electric piano to my parents every Christmas to make way for the tree. Sadly it prevents Christmas sing-a-longs from occurring but does mean we can enjoy a big tree. I'm hoping to find my Christmas mojo this week. I'm longing to put up the decorations and get festive but we need to have a big tidy up and clean before then. I'm going to try to do a couple of hours of housework each evening and then on Friday spend the evening drinking mulled wine, listening to Christmas music and making the house look festive! x

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Gillian
    Your house looks lovely and your tree is so pretty. You're ahead of me n the baking front - your mince pies make me want to head off to the kitchen right now to start baking.
    Have a good week,
    Kate x

    ReplyDelete
  9. My, My we are on the same Christmas clock! We put our tree up today, we made Christmas cake on Saturday, one of my favourite tartan baubles got broken by small people and I love aldi mincemeat which we do like yours with stars because we are not mad on too much pastry - it's scary Gillian!! Great post. Jo x

    ReplyDelete
  10. Complete rearrangement of the furniture every year to get the tree in.

    ReplyDelete
  11. We have been doing the furniture shuffle all year, so yes, we have done a little more for the tree, but, I actually think that thanks to all of the other shuffling it is in the best place it has ever been - time will tell once it actually has lights and decorations of course! Your tree looks beautiful, and your mince pies look very tasty. I have been too preoccupied to feel Christmassy yet, but hoping that "the spirit" will kick in this week! xx

    ReplyDelete
  12. Gillian, I read this tonight and it made me so happy ! I love the way you write! It was brilliant to hear what you have been up to and to see your beautiful home. Look forward to hearing more about your festive season - and I did get my Nigella 'easy action' Christmas cake made last week! Just in the nick of time!! Jo xx

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Gillian! Loving the red baubles on your tree! And you're definitely not the only one who writes all of the holiday cards, and with us there's also birthdays and thank yous as well! When it came to writing the thank you cards after our wedding, it took me months and months, but finally we got them all out. In waves, but they were sent! The more I'm doing them the better the result, I feel. There's something intrinsically wonderful about sending and receiving a card, especially when you have one with a beautiful design. It's an important tradition I think, one that I want to keep doing, especially in this digital age when we can just pop a quick "Merry Christmas" on Facebook or via e-mail. It can be a long process, but the value is can't be replaced!!

    Always,
    Kimberly

    www.jandkalways.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your Christmas cake is gorgeous… almost too pretty to eat. Nigella Christmas looks like a cookbook I would love. I miss her television show, it's no longer on here. I love where you hung the advent calendar… it's just perfect there. I think your tree is so pretty! Everything looks so festive for the holidays. Yes, I always write the Christmas cards, and I do enjoy it. I also love receiving them in the mail. Have a great week!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I enjoyed your post very much and share how we (females), write the Xmas cards, juggle to fit in the tree and do most of the festive cooking. Hope you enjoyed Harlow Carr as I loved it so much when we went and have stacks of photos of it. Your house is certainly looking the part. Take care.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Gillian - I've been missing everyone's posts in the last few weeks, but have been busy catching up, and I loved your latest. The advent calendar is gorgeous and looks perfect on the wall by the stairs. I def want to try those Mars bars rice crispy bars. Yes, women usually do the Christmas cards. I enjoy them, tho. I take a few days to do them so it's not too much at once. That cake looks fabulous! I've never made one like that. Have fun with your Christmas preparations. Xxoo. JO

    ReplyDelete
  17. Snap! I do exactly the same with the Christmas cards - write them all then hover over Mr J while he writes the one to his parents. Those mince pies look tasty x

    ReplyDelete
  18. Beautiful post Gillian as always, gosh you packed such a lot into your last weekend!
    Your tree looks so pretty and that cake ..... beautiful, Nigella Christmas and Delia Christmas are my traditions too, just wouldn't be Christmas without them.
    So glad your little ones are enjoying the advent x
    I write all cards all year ...grrrrr ..... but i generally like it.
    We are not Christmassy here at all yet, too much has sadness has been going on and also Sweet B would not be happy if we didn't wait for her to return from uni! next weekend for us.
    love jooles xxx

    ReplyDelete
  19. Lovely post mmmmmm those mince pies look delicious!!! My decorations are up but my festive feeling is lurking somewhere not sure where though - need a kick up the bum!

    ReplyDelete
  20. The Cath Kidston baubles are gorgeous, I so wish we had a shop here in Australia. Lovely seeing all your wintery Christmas goodness in this post. My lounge is full of a mermaid grotto as well as the furniture ( well except we have no lounge at all in there) and there is not even a whiff of Chrismas yet. Actually there is a whiff, the kindy craft just started coming home so we need to get that tree up. mel x

    ReplyDelete
  21. Well My Lovely, you've certainly pulled out all the stops, it's all looking very festive over at yours! I've half decorated the mantle, put up my lampshade tree but our real one will wait until next weekend, we have however managed to squeeze in a few Christmas movies this weekend.....oh and I've finally started to crochet my Christmas pressies......have a lovely week! :) x

    ReplyDelete
  22. Dear Gillian
    I felt exactly as you did - with my Christmas and crafting mojo nowhere to be seen. Christmas doesn't arrive with us until next weekend! I am the one who writes all the cards in this house too (job for today). Hope all is well now - the decorations look lovely!
    Best wishes
    Ellie

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oooh this post has made me feel all festive Gillian. You really are embracing the season. We hope to put our tree up sometime this week, it's difficult on the weekends because Andy works then.
    I also get to write all the cards and leave Andy's family ones for him to write with me waiting otherwise they will be put on the side and forgotten about! I want to get my wreath sorted for our front door this week too. Have a wonderful week ahead and enjoy all your cosiness in your home xox Penny

    ReplyDelete
  24. Your not alone Gillian, I had a mad dash to find (bought) advent calendars on the 30th Nov despite my eldest reminding me lots the week before! I too write all the Christmas cards and make them, I also buy all the presents often including mine, but I do get what I want that way! I am pondering on the Christmas tree this year as we really don't have any room for it at all. Was thinking of going foraging for some greenery and draping it artistically around the place with a few baubles dangling for good measure, it needs to stop raining first or it will be a damp soggy mess.....

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi Gillian, You sure have your Christmas mojo back!!! Your tree looks lovely!!!! And it sounds like you are having a lot of festive fun with friends and family!!! Have a wonderful week!!!
    Love
    AMarie

    ReplyDelete
  26. Lovely, lovely, lovely posttt.......... ! I think that your Christmas will be great! Hugs from Spain :D

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Gillian! Love your Christmas cake and mince pies!I bet they're delicious! And your Christmas tree is gorgeous!We also move around our furniture to accommodate the tree and I write all our Christmas cards too.
    Marion x

    ReplyDelete
  28. So pretty, every single thing! I love the Advent Calendar where it is hung along the stairs! :)

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love your Christmasy post. And why is it the women do most everything when it comes to the Holiday's?
    Hugs,
    Meredith

    ReplyDelete
  30. Yep I write all the Christmas cards and we have to squash the dining table up to the patio doors to make way for the Christmas tree to go in the corner as that is the only place it can really go! Lovely pictures Gillian no must make some mince pies soon.....I have the mincemeat just need to do the pastry.

    ReplyDelete
  31. love Nigella. is that Dundee cake? looks divine

    ReplyDelete
  32. What a lovely weekend, and a gorgeous post. I love your CK baubles...I think I would have been gutted if about the broken ones though. Your mince pies look fab and Miss M are planning to bake some mince pies together this weekend. I do almost all the Christmas prep in this house, although I won't be making the dinner on Christmas Day as I am working and I hope it will be all done when I get home! Have a great week.
    Marianne xx

    ReplyDelete
  33. You've made me feel a bit more Christmassy, thanks. I haven't really been feeling the love! Too tired, and don't know if dan will even be at home for Christmas. I have managed to eat quite a few mince pies though. Xx

    ReplyDelete
  34. You're so far ahead of me! Present shopping is nearly done, ordered the Christmas meat today, but there's not a decoration up or a card ready yet......oops!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Ooh such a lovely post. It made me feel very Christmassy indeed! I LOVE the Cath Kidston baubles and the advent calendar. We're not doing our tree until Saturday and the wait is killing me! Especially seeing all of these lovely pictures xxx

    ReplyDelete
  36. Such a wonderful post, it looks so pretty , gosh those mince pies look very tempting. Your home looks so inviting and I'm imagining it smells divine.

    ReplyDelete
  37. It is looking very festive indeed. Those mince pies look delicious and yes I think something might need to be done about precious baubles disappearing every year, not a good trend to get started. Your tree look really lovely Gillian and I love the fact that you can put it in front of the window, you can't do that with a real tree as there is usually a radiator. Yes we had to do much the same to fit out tree in. Enjoy your week xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  38. You're certainly very christmassy and your decorations look lovely. My tree is enormous, it hasn't made it indoors yet as I've got to rearrange the whole room to ft it in! Mmm, why do I do that every year?

    ReplyDelete
  39. I think you've captured the best of the season with one blog post. Well, except for the broken ornament bit, but that's always a part of it isn't it? I started hanging my prettiest ones at the top, with folded over branch tips. The kids think I'm a Grinch, but hey, they don't get broken anymore!
    Have a wonderful season!

    Jenn@JennsCraftyWorld

    ReplyDelete
  40. We also have a fake tree... We put it around St Nicolas and so a real one never survive through the beginning of January. And yes, we also have to shuffle the furniture around to make room for the tree. It is also me who write the cards, and every year I am behind. Traditionally in France, we write them between Xmas and New Year... I have hard time to send them reasonably before Xmas. I know what you mean when saying you feel unprepared after browsing the web, IG and Pinterest... But in the end, I think the content is more important than the container... In our home made calendar, we have few treats and many "thoughts" and "live experience", like one day we will go in town to see the Xmas lights, one day we will read a Xmas story, another one we will watch a Xmas movie... Things we tend to forget in the rush of December...

    ReplyDelete
  41. I think I need your mulled wine receipe...just saying... YUM I need something for these pre-christmas evenings! And the Aldi christmas stuff...well, we'are off to Aldi on saturday and will be picking up lots of Stollen and other goodies to put me at least in the merriment mood.

    As for the rest of it, you are yet another of these northern hemisphere people giving me a hankering for a real northern hemisphere christmas. There's a hunkering down at xmas which you just can't do in 40degree heat with 90% humidity (YUCK).

    ReplyDelete
  42. Your tree looks fab...we put ours up 2 weeks ago now (an over excited 4 year old pleaded!!) and had to have a huge rearrangement of furniture and stuff to accommodate it in a way which is pleasing to look at and safe for an intrepid 11 month old! I'm hoping to do some Christmas baking this week...some mince pies and some festive jam tarts I think!!

    ReplyDelete
  43. As you can no doubt tell, I'm having a lovely time reading back through your archives - what a very charming blog! I will now try and stop hijacking it and shut up… ;) But I will be following from now on!
    (and yes, we do the furniture shuffle, too, and I am the only one to even think of cards for the English side of the family!!)

    ReplyDelete

Hello there! Thank you for leaving a comment. I read them all and I always try to answer questions, although sometimes it takes me a while.