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.