dear diary :: blowin’ a ‘hoolie’….

It’s been a while I know, and one of the reasons I am writing this post is because we are in our safe haven, our little sanctuary in Scotland…far from the pressures of normal daily life at home.

It has been, as usual, a busy few weeks coming and going to see mum and helping out our daughter with childcare in North Yorkshire and our elder daughter at home.  On the last visit to mum and younger daughter we stayed at my sister’s glam home near my mum’s; it is spacious and beautifully decorated and situated in a lovely little village, I could easily live there myself – apart from the fact that we wouldn’t have the money to even buy a one bedroomed cottage there.  The house price difference between West and North Yorkshire is huge.  Still one can dream.

We celebrated little Sweetie’s third birthday – a small family party at her home – she has spent a third of her tiny life so far in lockdown, at home with mum, the local toddler groups being closed, so has few friends. Her cousin little Freddie and his mum and dad joined us for the day and after playing games and opening presents we all went to the local fish and chip restaurant in Thirsk and had the extended side room to ourselves which was nice.  Being vegetarians we had chips, beans and battered mushrooms – veggie burgers are on the menu but we are not keen of them.

I made the cake – it was the usual disaster.  Sprinkles had been requested so it should have been simple enough but the buttercream had far too much air in it so didn’t go on quite as smoothly as I would have liked and the white chocolate dribbles didn’t dribble quite where intended.  Of course I did it in a rush too, but little Sweetie loved it.

As I predicted the dress did not get finished in time so it will be a Christmas present. Since this picture I have finished the knitting and tacked the skirt to the bodice and all is looking good. The sleeves which if you remember I had to try and alter myself did work out perfectly in the end by only decreasing on the knit rows and not every row as the pattern said.

Mum has been taken to Leeds for the weekend by my sister and her husband (he is able to lift her in and out of the car as she doesn’t have the muscle strength herself to get out).  They are staying at a new hotel just outside Leeds ( she will have one of the disabled rooms to help her get about easily) and from there they will go to John Lewis in the centre so she can see all the Christmassy things.  She cannot come down to stay with us any longer because of the stairs so there is a big hole now for her at this time of year that needs to be filled, as we would take her Christmas shopping and have a trip into Derbyshire to Tissington and Ashbourne.

So whilst mum was being attended to we made our escape to Scotland.  We were met with the bad weather – blowin’ a raging ‘hoolie’ all night; our caravan rocking in the frequent strong gusts but luckily no trees down like the gales of 2010 that took ten large pine trees down in our cottage garden.

It is cosy warm in our temporary caravan as we are lucky enough to have double glazing and central heating but yesterday it was a scramble to get Calor Gas – there is a shortage and our usual stockist in Stranraer sold us one that had the wrong connection so we had to drive the 17 miles back to town to return it.  She was apologetic as they didn’t have the one we needed and we had to take back the empty bottle so that we could try elsewhere, as at the moment you can only buy a new Calor gas bottle by returning an empty one.

We were lucky and found the local shop in a village on the way to town had one left.  It was cheaper by a £1 and much more convenient so we will continue to buy the gas there in future.  So at least some good came out of a tricky situation.

It was the same with the major power cut we had on our last visit to the cottage and we were rejoicing that, although unfortunate at the time, it happened back then and the fault repaired because it would surely have gone in this last storm and it would have taken longer for the power team to get to us with so many people being affected with the wind.  The local garden centre had no power because of a fallen tree and they had been plunged into darkness, could only take cash and the café had to be closed.  We had trees down across the main road and for a time would have been captive on the peninsula as there is only one road back to town down here on the Mull, however it was cleared very quickly, probably by local farmers.

We only have a few days here and I have a little pile of ‘bits’ to look at, financial papers, a bit of knitting, making Christmas plans and catching up with some reading.  I finished The Winter Children – not really my kind of read but I persevered not wanting to abandon it. I have just read Christmas at Thrush Green by Miss Read again – always a favourite at this time of year – there is something so calming about her books where the lives of the villagers seemingly have order and sequence to them like the natural world and busyness is not a word that takes over.

I did the live family Not so Secret Santa draw from the caravan – so we all know who is buying for who now.  I am buying for my eldest daughter, whist DH is buying for my mum, my BIL is buying a gift for me and my brother is buying a gift for DH and so it goes on all around the family each person only buying one gift for another. 

We switched to the Secret Santa a few years ago now as the mammoth buying sessions had got out of hand as our family expanded.  No-one knew what to buy for each other and we ended up with a house full of gifts we didn’t really want and opening all those presents from one another meant there was little time to play games and have fun.

Our version is not so secret…hence the title.  Each person can provide a list of up to ten wishes of things they would like as a gift to the person who is to buy for them (which is different each year – hence the draw).  You can be as specific as you like or opt for a surprise gift or a gift token, (tokens are very popular with my brother and mum).  The gift or combination of gifts must only amount to £25 per person – it used to be £50, but has been reduced to £25 now (reflecting the fact more of us are on pensions or lower incomes). 

Because you list ten items the actual gift or gifts you get is still a surprise as you don’t know which one the buyer might choose to get.  If they are lucky and get your gift(s) discounted then to keep it fair they still have to use the whole £25, the difference cannot be pocketed by the buyer.  Everyone buys for the children as normal; they are not included in the Secret Santa.  It has been a great success and we would not go back.  It has cut down on all the tramping around shops looking for ideas and the expense of parking that goes with it.  And it leaves more time to enjoy the Christmas events that are put on everywhere.  This year we are going to the light show at Temple Newsam.

I still buy little things for my friends or make them as they very much like the homemade craft items.

In normal times and because not all of us could be together on Christmas Day we would have a big family gathering just before Christmas to swap our Secret Santa presents (but not open them).  You try disguising the fact you have bought an ironing board or wheelbarrow in wrapping paper!  We would often use the pub/restaurant where my daughter worked to meet and have sandwiches and home-made chips laid on with mince pies for afters and wear our best santa hats and jumpers of course.

We would play games (this is some of us below playing the guess who I am game)…

and have our musical interlude (whistle blowing and handbell ringing) …..and generally have a fun time. 

Because of Covid we had to have a Zoom party last year and pass presents on as best we could.  This year most of us are going to my sisters for Christmas Day, Covid allowing, so we won’t be meeting beforehand.

I am just starting now on crafting our Christmas – a simpler Christmas like last year, maybe even more so. I will try and keep you all updated as, throughout the run up to Christmas, I make cards and goodies, decorate the house and attend events.

Hope all is well with everyone – time allowing I keep dibbing in and out of the blogs I read to keep up with your news and occasionally I might even get to leave a comment.

Back soon x

16 Replies to “dear diary :: blowin’ a ‘hoolie’….”

  1. I bet it all felt a bit hairy up there this last few days, it sounds like you managed to avoid any major mishap as a result of the storm. It sounds like you’ve had a well earned break 😃


    1. Some of the village have lost power and have been offered empty vans on the site beside us. I think we had our dose when we came up last time so glad we didn’t have to suffer this time around as it is quite cold. Our biggest problem now is getting more gas as the bottle we managed to get is being used at the moment😃


  2. Sounds like you have plans well in hand for the holiday season. Sweetie’s birthday cake looks perfect to me!


  3. Hundreds and thousands (sprinkles) plus smarties….wonderful easy toppings for little ones birthday cakes. And that’s a great idea for a candle rather than a numeral….useful for any age.

    Even though you weren’t impressed with the book I’ve taken a note of the title to add to next year’s ‘suggestions/recommendations’ list. I’m looking for new to me authors and don’t remember hearing Lulu Taylor’s name before.


  4. Your ‘Nit So Secret Santa’ is a brilliant idea, and I love the rules to it 😃

    Now come on … it’s time that gorgeous little dress was finished, you know you can do it 💕


    1. I didn’t even pack it to bring up to the cottage to finish – I have struggled getting the buttons for the back (of all things) I only need 5 and a lot of the canisters of suitable size and colour had only one or 2 in them (another Brexit / Covid stock shortage – I don’t know). I will get it finished for Christmas as I cannot pass it on to little Freddie who is a few months younger – don’t think dresses are his style!! I need you to keep pestering me about it so I don’t keep putting it off! x

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  5. I love your idea for the ‘not so’ secret santa. I think your rules make it all the more exciting, knowing you’re going to get something you actually want, but not knowing exactly what. I’m glad you managed to find a way around not being together last year, fingers crossed that we can all celebrate with our families in person this year. We looked at visiting Temple Newsam for the light show (we live nearby) and I couldn’t believe the price. They certainly know how to make their money. I’ve been visiting Temple Newsam all my life but I doubt we’ll be visiting over Christmas. You’ll have to let us know if you think it is worth the price.


    1. It certainly will be a treat for the family and grandchildren and will be part of their Christmas presents from us. We had decided pre-pandemic that as the grandchildren all get enough toys that we would treat them each year to the pantomime instead but of course that is temporarily on hold at the moment. The Temple Newsam visit is also to celebrate my younger daughter’s 40th birthday as it is still not so safe for a party but meeting outdoors is a good option. I am hoping it will be as good as the Dunham Massey one we went to with some friends a few years ago.
      They are mightily expensive – a cheaper alternative and very good in my mind are the Saltaire and Askrigg living Advents. My daughter has been trying to find a low cost Santa for the children to visit and not having much luck with that either!


  6. It is great catching up with you. You will miss your own holiday traditions with your mom. So glad your family can get together, though! And a peaceful if stormy trip to Scotland!


  7. The Not So Secret Santa is a great idea! We are out of surprises for our 20/30 something children as it’s no use buying something that they don’t need/won’t use.So glad you survived the storm. We were at the house in Edinburgh during it, and we’re very sheltered from the north and east there, but driving back up to Speyside we saw trees down everywhere. Two out of the three roads out of our village were blocked by fallen trees. The village did have power, but all round about power and water were off. Glenfiddich Distillery opened its visitor centre for people to have free hot drinks and soup and charge phones, and generally to enjoy the warmth and the open fire. Some coastal villages were still without power as of yesterday. The only damage we found was that our taller brassica cage was bent out of shape, the net off but still attached to the ground at one point, and all the kale, broccoli and sprouts lying almost horizontal. But the greenhouse is intact!!!


    1. This storm was not as bad for us as the 2010 gales when we had 10 pine trees down and it completely mangled the greenhouse – I am still finding glass everwhere in the garden 11 years on. The lack of power was sporadic in the village and on the peninsula – we were lucky and I was grateful after the loss of power we had at the previous visit, which was only about 24 hours and a few degrees warmer. How some of those people have managed now for over a week Goodness knows. Glad you are safe and almost unaffected by the storm. We just give our daughter’s and their partners a cheque now. Until the pandemic we did an additional Secret Santa stocking draw just between us, our daughters and their partners. Each one of us drew a name and then made up a stocking of suitable little bits and pieces, chocs and often a magazine up to £20. This also worked really well. x


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