Thursday, 24 December 2020

Christmas isn't cancelled

Hello! Merry Christmas. Gosh, what a lot has happened since I was last here and that was only ten days ago. I hope everyone is well and looking forward to Christmas, even if it will be different to anything we could have hoped for. I've heard a lot of people say that Christmas is cancelled: it's not, it's just different, and I am doing my utmost to make it as lovely as possible for myself and the children.

Bella turned fourteen last week. We managed to celebrate it the day before our local area went into tier 3 by going shopping in Chichester after school on the last day of term. Bella was able to spend her birthday money and do that most normal of things that fourteen year old girls want to do: browse shops like H&M and Paperchase. John met us when he finished work and we went to Wagamama for dinner. It was so nice, wandering around the shops as it grew dark - almost normal.

The next day wasn't the best; we found out that we would shortly be going into Tier 4, meaning that we could not see any friends or family on Christmas day, which was hard. We'd actually planned to spend Christmas day just the four of us anyway, but were going to see family on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. It was a blow. Then Angus fell off his bike and fractured his arm and we had to go to A&E. He is absolutely fine - it's a tiny fracture and he's not in any pain, just annoyed with the cast, and I saw him play fighting with Bella yesterday so I think it's safe to say he's ok. But it was a rubbish start to the Christmas holidays.

My strategy for this whole week has been to throw myself into all festivities possible and enjoy every Christmassy moment. We were supposed to host Christmas Eve mulled wine and mince pies at our house today, but instead we have just had a family Zoom where we all wore Christmas jumpers and drank mulled wine in our own living rooms. 

I have enjoyed every Christmas card that has come through our letterbox. I always love sending and receiving these, but this year they felt extra special and we've had some beautiful handmade ones.

I have baked and baked this week. 

Mince pies again, and I think these were my best batch yet.

I decided to ice our Christmas cake this year and had a go at making royal icing for the first time. It was surprisingly easy and gave me the kitsch, over the top snow scene I wanted. I also made a Yule Log, as I do every year now, for tonight and tomorrow. No-one really likes Christmas pudding as much as I do. 

We had to make peppermint bark. Out of all the festive baking I do each year I did not expect peppermint bark to be the thing that the children insist on making each year. I can take it or leave it, but Bella and Angus absolutely love it and feel that it's as important as mince pies or gingerbread.

I think I've covered every surface possible in Christmas decorations now.

I made some quick festive garlands by threading together wooden beads and felt balls. I love the simplicity of the colours and making them was a very happy hour or two sat at the kitchen table while I listened to The Christmas Chronicles podcast.

We have walked every day, whatever the weather. Much of this week has been drizzly and grey, and our walks have mostly been short and local.

The temperature dropped and the sun came out today though, and it felt perfectly wintry and just right for Christmas Eve. Everywhere is so muddy but we still enjoyed being out in the sunshine, even if the wind was cold.

And now here we are at that beautiful moment on Christmas Eve, full of anticipation. Gifts are wrapped and delivered, food has been bought and prepared, new pyjamas delivered by the elves. Nearly everything that needs to be done has been. John is cooking, Angus is watching TV, Bella is most likely face-timing her cousins and I am drinking rose prosecco. I will wish you all a very happy Christmas. I hope that despite everything, despite the rules and restrictions and not being able to see family or do any of the usual, you have a safe, healthy and joyful Christmas. 

Monday, 14 December 2020

Christmas House

Christmas is in the house and I could not be happier to see it. I welcome the glitter, the sparkle, the unbridled joy, to be able say "well, it's Christmas" as an excuse for practically anything; we need it now more than ever before. We've had a rough couple of weeks here with illness and various other life pressures, but things are looking up. Essays have been submitted, teaching observations endured, illness recovered from - now we just cling on for the next few days until we can collapse at the weekend. 

I have enjoyed decorating the house for Christmas. It is the usual things in the usual places but it makes me so happy to potter around with a duster in one hand and decoration in the other, deciding where to put things.

We bought our tree from our usual local garden centre. John chose it and it's a beauty. Decorating the tree was as stressful as ever, especially as there was a Minor Issue with the lights when I put them on the tree. I had painstakingly wrapped the lights around the tree, the kids had hung all the decorations, I had surreptitiously rearranged all the decorations in a pleasing fashion, and then John broke the lights. He was, in fairness, just trying to replace some broken bulbs but it was a step to far for these ancient white fairy lights and they stopped working - not even changing the fuse helped. Our tree was looking sad. John hot-footed it round to Wilkos while I took a deep breath and slowly removed all the baubles from the tree and then just snipped the broken lights off the tree with scissors. One hour later the tree was lit, with new, safer and much prettier fairy lights, and re-decorated. And then something amazing happens when you take a step back from the tree, when you've vacuumed up the needles and put the boxes back into the loft.  Something magical occurs. The air just hums with the smell of pine and the glow of the fairy lights and the previous stresses seem to evaporate. 

The obsession with dried oranges continues and they are liable to be hung from any surface at this point. I especially like them here above the cooker where, should they get greasy, they can just be put straight into the recycling bin after Christmas. I will let you know if anyone finds a pine needle or soggy orange slice in their dinner.

Other Christmas crafts include this little crochet star garland I made over a couple of evenings following this pattern. I used some leftover super chunky yarn and a 9mm hook and I love how it turned out.

I made a couple more stars than I needed and so I sewed them together, leaving an opening at the base, and have a new star topper for the tree.

I also made this very quick and easy embroidery hoop art with a Christmas tree made from tassels. It took about an hour and was very pleasing indeed. I saw the idea on Instagram - mine is a lot messier. 

The Christmas reading pile is firmly in place. Some are old favourites I re-read every year (The Christmas Chronicles), others are new. 

I have just finished and loved Christmas Days. It is a collection of twelve short stories, some love stories, some ghost stories, some just stories, but all about Christmas, interspersed with recipes. I really recommend it if, like me, you like some seasonal writing during December.

Mincemeat porridge is back on the menu and I have finally started writing some Christmas cards.

We met my parents at the beach for a walk at the weekend (we are in Tier 2). It was so lovely to see them and to be outside on a glorious day. There was mulled wine and mince pies too, a little outdoor winter picnic. Yes, I do like December.