dear diary >> all is calm, all is bright

We are slowly getting back to normal here and like the words of the carol – we are back to calm. Christmas was perhaps a little more hectic than I would have preferred, but with three very excited young children in the house you cannot expect that it would be restful!

We spent the week before Christmas chasing our tails. On the Saturday we had our family ‘Not so Secret Santa’ get together at my sister’s house in North Yorkshire to swap presents, play games and hold our musical interlude after a delicious buffet lunch; I am always the conductor and hold the baton.

Even though our music sheets have both coloured and numbered notes that match the colour and notes of the handbells and xylophones we still, after all these years, do not get any better at making a recognisable tune as no-one ever comes in on cue! But that is the fun of it.

After Sunday at home to put up the tree and a few decorations, my daughter came on Monday with Little L and Sweetie who hung all the baubles on the tree for us…and it looked magnificent, even though we had two, sometimes three, baubles on one branch…and yes I did manage not to rearrange it all when they had done unless a bauble was in severe distress.

We then went back up to North Yorkshire with the girls and stayed overnight to look after them at their house whilst mum went to work (who thought it was a good idea to have the children off school for the whole week before Christmas??).

We came home late on Tuesday night quite worn out and slept well…too well, and was rather late up on Wednesday morning. We decided we had better get the food shopping done in the supermarket in town and a good job too as it was crowded out and by Thursday many of the shelves had been stripped of certain items like eggs.

On Thursday while DH made a large pan of curry for Christmas Eve, I finished off the little desk calendars I had made for my friends who live locally.

I bought the original desk top calendars for about 50p each in a sale after Christmas at Sainsbury’s before the pandemic with the idea of making my own calendar sheets and re-using the metal stands. All year I have been taking photos around the village of some well known and and not so well known spots.

To make them look more special I slipped them into a cellophane bag and then wrapped them in festive tissue. Nothing goes to waste in this house as I re-used some of the brown paper bags I saved over the years from the sandwich shop when I was working – stamping them with a festive stamp – they made a handy carrier to hold the presents.

On Thursday evening we wrapped all the presents while watching some TV (our only nights’ viewing) and on Friday I cleaned and tidied with a mad dash around with the hoover.

Finally on Christmas Eve morning there was only the trifle and a jelly to make before my daughter arrived with little L and Sweetie. At 4pm after putting some potatoes in the oven to bake we went to church for the Crib Service which is the start of my Christmas. The point where everything is done and I can sit back and enjoy. My elder daughter and Freddie joined us for tea after the service and we all tucked in to a hot meal of baked potatoes and lentil curry.

Afterwards the children decorated the Christmas cake with snowmen, penguins and santa…and lots of little icing decorations – it was a very serious job taking a lot of concentration….

…and is probably a little crowded but I think they do so well and I love it.

I especially love the look on Santa’s face!

Once it was finished to their satisfaction the three of them opened their Christmas Eve boxes which contain new pyjamas, a Christmas craft to keep them busy and a story book to read at bedtime. With all three changed into their new Christmas pyjamas they settled down to make the craft item – a string of Christmas pictures to colour in and hang up.

When the doorbell went everyone went quiet waiting to see who it was….it was a wrapped present left on our front doorstep saying ‘To open on Christmas Eve’. (DH had sneaked out the back door, put the present on the doorstep, rung the bell and quickly run round the back again and into the living room without the children even realising he had gone). As you can imagine they were so excited as to who could have left the surprise present – we said it might have been the elf – it was a game of Peppa Pig Monopoly suitable for all ages to finish off the evening before bedtime.

Then some very tired children listened to a story, put out the mince pie and carrot for Santa and Rudolph and went to bed followed not long after by some very weary adults.

After today DH and I will be on our own and able to make new plans for the new year. I am always excited at this point – it is like a fresh start and I am looking forward to a good year.

How did your Christmas go?

creating Christmas * Christmas Day

A Happy Christmas to everyone – I can’t believe I have actually managed to get everything done in time as it was looking a bit shaky a few days ago. I have not had any spare time to blog; mum had a few difficult days and the grandchildren have also been a bit poorly with viruses and needed us to look after them so I have been almost last minute for everything to do with Christmas but I did make my own cards and a few gifts for friends (I made calendars this year – but more on that another time).

After Christmas dinner is over today it will be my time to relax a bit….can’t wait.

I am so looking forward now to the new year and am hoping that I can get back to blogging very soon.

Until then……

I hope Santa brings you all you desire and that you have a wonderful time. xx

creating Christmas * day 2

One of the most pleasurable tasks on my Christmas list is making the cake. We are not a fan of the very dark rich and sticky fruit cakes but much prefer a rather more mellow cake with plenty of ‘cake’ around the fruit. The recipe that I have used for years called the ‘Virtualy Organic Christmas cake’ just fits the bill – it has equal amounts of currants, raisins and sultanas and chopped dried unsulphured apricots instead of candied peel.

And plenty of brandy.

Last year was the first year using my new oven and I felt the cake was a tad overdone but this year with a bit of fine tuning with the temperature and using the circotherm setting it turned out much better. We have unintentionally started a new tradition with the grandchildren – I put marzipan and white roll out icing on top of the cake ready for the three grandchildren to add the decorations of their choice on Christmas Eve.

This was Christmas 2020 when Little L decorated the cake for us with these lovely decorations from B&M ….

And Christmas 2021 when Sweetie and Freddie were old enough to join in and they added the Christmas tree candles.

This year I found some snowmen and penguins in the same range to add to the collection – I can’t wait to see their finished effort.

We had Freddie all day today from 8.15 this morning until 6.30 tonight to give mum and dad a bit of free time. As you can imagine we are totally exhausted and will spend the rest of the evening doing some relaxing TV viewing if we can find anything we want to watch. To say there are more channels than ever there is often little on that we want to watch and we find ourselves switching over to BBC iplayer to watch Inspector Montalbano and are currently wading through all 37 episodes. They do require concentration though to keep up with the subtitles but if I fall asleep I can wind it back.

I thought I felt a cold coming on this morning – I had bouts of sneezing and a sore throat and quickly reach for the high strength Vitamin C. There seems to be a bit of a pattern to all this at the moment – I am not well and out of action for a while….I then recover and life suddenly becomes hectic….perhaps too hectic as we try to catch up on things that got left when I was under the weather. We then become overtired and stressed trying to fit too much in and then before I know it I start to feel poorly again. Tomorrow will be a busy day I have cards to make and will need a quick trip into town then a 30th birthday party to get ready for (my friend’s daughter) with an early start of 5.30pm for a chocolate surprise and mocktails.

Sunday we will be visiting my mum who is not good at the moment – she seems to be confused (though she won’t admit it is her) and a bit more agressive towards the people helping her. She asked her hairdresser to perm her hair and cut it much shorter. Mum is now claiming the perm hasn’t taken and that the hairdresser didn’t cut her hair at all. The hairdresser is naturally upset at the accusation.

The community nurses going in to dress the ulcer on her leg are now at their wits end because she keeps removing the dressings and bandages and sticking an ordinary plaster on the wound. It is now infected. The doctor made a home visit this week to look at her leg and ran a few memory type tests while she was there. She has concern over two of the tests that mum failed but she was OK on many of them. She thinks she may have a urine infection that can cause confusion in the elderly. My sister is so stressed with it all and is going away for a few days.

Once we have seen mum we will be staying over with my daughter so we can wait in for a delivery and possibly meeting up for an hour or two with my SIL who will be up in the area visiting one of her relations. Then it will be back home for my hospital appointment, the ultra sound scan on my shoulder and a delivery of our own (the TV stand).

It will be Thursday before we will be able to draw breath! I am beginning to think that we might not be ready in time for Christmas! How are you doing?

creating Christmas * day 1

December 1st – the day my Christmas preparations begin. It will be a simple Christmas for us this year but already most days on my calendar up to the 25th are spoken for….not sure how that happened!

I have started my Christmas countdown, not with an advent calendar – (we are sparse on those here this year – so I will find my little homemade one from years ago to put out on the mantelpiece), but with a Christmas treat – a day out. We actually went yesterday because we had a free entry voucher and it was the last day to use it. Many of the properties are closed now for the winter season but we found that Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, Cheshire was still open and not too far away.

We took homemade mushroom soup in a flask with chunks of bread and cheese. It was a very cold day so this made a good warming start to the visit. It is a fascinating place showcasing what life was like for the cotton mill workers in contrast to the affluent mill owner and his family. Styal village cottages were built for the mill workers and are still lived in today. The family home was originally a holiday home that they then lived in full time when the mill was built next to it. The complex is in a wonderful setting and quite different to many of the mills set up in grimy Manchester at that time.

The family were Unitarian so the house itself was very plain and simple compared to most National Trust houses where wealth is most certainly on display. I just adored this beautiful little writing desk.

We spent a pleasurable four hours there wandering around the house, the mill, the gardens and the village and afterwards dived into the cafe to warm up with a large cup of hot chocolate. As they close quite early we had to skip the Apprentice House but we have been round there before – I remember it was very bleak and cold inside and was set up to house orphaned children that worked in the mill and many ran away.

As we had a free entry voucher it seemed only right to donate something by buying a few things from the National Trust shop. It was hard to decide on just what as there were some lovely things on sale. In the end I chose a pack of National Trust Christmas cards and two fat quarters of the cotton fabric woven at the mill and printed locally. I intend to make a Christmas stocking with it – maybe not this year – time is feeling a bit on the short side already.

On our way home we called at John Lewis in Cheadle to order the TV table that we had decided on. We have quite a few vouchers for John Lewis so it cost us nothing. We bought the TV quite a while ago – it was bigger than our old one and has been balancing on the IKEA children’s table we bought for the grandchildren to play on when they come. Delivery will be next week. I am trying to persuade DH to also buy the little cabinet that I saw and is part of the same range….watch this space.

Today we have to go to town to pick up a few parcels from Next. We have been invited to a party on Saturday night and I really don’t have anything to wear. We have very few dress shops in our town now so to save having a trip out to Meadowhall, our nearest shopping mall, I ordered a selection of garments online which I have never done before for myself. I am keeping my fingers crossed that something will look OK and fit.

I have a present to buy too – it is a 30th birthday and I am not sure what to get – I am hoping for some inspiration when we get into town.

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