creating a simpler Christmas * Christmas eve and Christmas day

On Christmas Eve at 6.30pm we attended the Carols by Candlelight service at Baldersby St James; the church looked absolutely beautiful with hundreds of tiny tea lights flickering in the darkness.

Once back at home in my daughter’s new house we enjoyed a simple evening meal of baked potatoes and salads then gathered around the fireplace for the children to open their Christmas Eve boxes containing new pyjamas, a bedtime book and a small game each. It was time to hang out the stockings and quieten down ready for bedtime.

On Christmas Day we all travelled a few miles up the road to my sister’s house to gather there with all the rest of the family for a mammoth lunch of turkey or nut roast, five different vegetables plus the roasties and every kind of sauce imaginable! The three tables pushed together stretched to a good 15 feet long to accommodate us all this year as there were 13 of us in total.

Afterwards we opened our Not so Secret Santa presents and many others, all beautifully wrapped with homemade tags. My sister had made up a little stocking for each of us containing an orange, some chocolates and a couple of inexpensive gifts appropriate to the recipient. My stocking had a tub of Green and Blacks hot chocolate powder and some tiny baking cases for making sweets. DH got some fancy cheese in the shape of a snowman.

By the end of the day we were all tired out but everyone had a great time, especially my lovely mum.

So that is another Christmas gone by – doesn’t it take ages to get there and then is over so quickly.

I hope all my readers wherever you were for your Christmas and whatever you were doing had a good one. xxx

creating a simpler Christmas * days 18-24

My cold was short lived – in fact barely a cold – I think it just came out in sympathy with those around me who have been stricken quite badly…..but many thanks for the messages and best wishes you sent – a few blog hugs always makes you feel better.

It is hard to believe Christmas Eve is here already – how did that happen so quickly. Now everything has to stop ready or not and the busyness of the last few weeks suddenly ceases and at last we can sit back and just enjoy the time with our family and friends, but also thinking about all those lonely people who will not have anyone to celebrate with.

The good side of having a simpler Christmas means I have had more time to go out and about seeing friends, past colleagues and neighbours and I have been busy too filling my new pantry – only the shelving on the wall remains to be done, but that will be after Christmas now. It has been a challenge trying to organise it and no doubt I will be continuing to move things around and get them into a permanent place as I go along but I can say it is one of the best things I have ever had done in the house, after the airing cupboard refit and my linen cupboard. I will post photos post Christmas.

But….so many things have not been done for Christmas this year, but you know what…… I really don’t mind – it is different to usual, but not awful. The bulk of the decorations are still in the loft – I am not really missing them – I have a few, almost discreet, decorated spots around the house and I am loving the minimalist look.

In the end I didn’t buy a tree and I didn’t make a twig tree either; instead I have filled the house with vases of holly and cream roses, snow sprayed pine cones, lots of candles and twinkly lights.

I quite like it.

My two favourite decorations this year are this little round wooden plaque that lights up from B&M for £2.99 and the shiny red Volkswagon Beetle I found in a lovely flower shop in Baslow for £1.

The cake happened and the mince pies. The lemon curd willl be a job for the day after boxing day. I made more chocolate; some as a small token gift for friends and some for our family gathering – it is eaten quicker than I can make it.

So yesterday was the last of the cooking – a quiche for Christmas tea and a few more mince pies; I can hang up my apron now and begin the packing. We will be heading up to North Yorkshire to attend the local carol service in my daughter’s new village – it will be quite special to be with all the family singing carols together on Christmas Eve and then sitting down afterwards to share a simple meal of baked potatoes and salad and have a good old chat and just relax. Christmas is all about being together so I am hoping my sister and mum can join us too, then it will be perfect for me with all my family and the grandchildren – Little L, Sweetie and little Freddie around me.

This year’s wrapping has been minimal too – brown craft paper and tags, stamped simply in white and a little foliage added here and there.

My friend’s twin daughters are 30 today so I hand stamped two craft bags to put their presents into.

Then set off around the village delivering a basket full of homemade gifts and cards to my friends – so now all is done and all there is left to do is enjoy Christmas.

Have a wonderful and happy Christmas everyone – I will be taking a few days break now to enjoy the festivities.

Happy Christmas

xxx

creating a simpler Christmas * day 17

My days do not often go to plan and today was no exception. I intended to do the small pile of ironing, then a spot of wrapping, weigh out the fruit for my Christmas cake and then a little crafting.

I managed most of the things on my list – ironing (done), present wrapping (more or less done), weighing out the fruit to soak in the alcohol ready for making the cake (this is when I discovered that…shock horror…the brandy bottle was almost empty). I was getting on well with my tasks but then from this point on we had a visit from a very dear friend who had called round with his gift and Christmas card – I swear he can smell my chocolates from the other side of the village. He was in luck only four pieces left – we had one each and he had the spare one. He went away happy.

We had a late lunch of soup and then let it digest whilst watching a little Columbo on the TV. I say a little as I promptly fell asleep…but then awoke with a sore throat…where did that come from…and tonight a runny nose.

Mum and my sister are doing a flying visit here tomorrow; coming down by train as mum wants her old hairdresser to do her perm. The young ones don’t seem to have the training now in perms and mum’s new hairdresser where she lives is very young. I will pick them up from the station and deliver her at the hairdressers while sis and I will go for lunch somewhere and I will try not to sneeze all over her.

Only a little crafting got done this afternoon – it may even warrant a photo.

Meanwhile DH has just about finished the pantry. The flooring went down today – it is only temporary sticky back vinyl until we do the kitchen and whatever we choose for this will run all the way through both. There are shelves to cut down to fit into the wall cupboard and a little sealant to go around the edge of the worktop. I can then start to arrange things on the shelves.

I will of course take some photos to show you the finished result but right now I am off to snuggle down in bed with a hot water bottle and a drink of vitamin C. x

creating a simpler Christmas * days 10-16

Doesn’t time seem to evaporate during December? One moment you are ahead and the next lagging behind. I am definitely behind. Most of our Christmas decorations are stored in the loft and as yet we have not brought them down but during the last week I have been slowly decorating parts of the house with posies of Christmas foliage and flowers and a very few special decorations that I keep in a box downstairs. But I am loving the minimality and I might not bring down the rest of the decor at all. Well I did say I was going for a simpler Christmas.

Christmas would not be Christmas though without an appearance from my knitted Christmas pudding tea cosy, my red china cup and plate and the handmade robin print napkins designed by my daughter and kept in an old Christmas tin from Crabtree and Evelyn.

In the last few days I have been making a few gifts. Starting with the chocolates. I always take a tray full round with me to our neighbours get together – they positively drool with delight; they are rather more…ish.

Homemade chocolates

Once the dark and milk chocolate are combined in a swirl I throw in handfuls of Christmas delights such as nuts, raisins and glace cherries in one half and pieces of fudge, honeycomb and glace ginger in the other. Anything goes. Sprinkle on a few tiny Christmas sugar beads, stars or meringues and decoratively lace all over with melted white chocolate. Leave to set and cut into small squares.

Any left over chocolate can be made into lollypops and decorated.

I made enough chocolates to give a box to a dear friend of mine together with the table decoration of hypericum berries, eucalyptus, euonymus and tiny cream roses arranged in……you guessed it one of those vintage style plant pots!

We have also been on a shopping frenzy – well it felt like it for us – we had one or two gifts to buy for the grandchildren and some temporary flooring for the pantry.

We have been particularly mindful this year with presents to buy items that are as ecologically sustainable as possible or make little impact on the environment. The grandchildren have got mostly wooden toys – the two babies have a little trike each and a smaller educational toy, they are far more expensive than plastic but are so much nicer. Little L has a new leotard (knitted cotton jersey) and ballet shoes (leather) for when she returns to her classes in January and my friends will receive the table decorations and either chocolates or florentines. So minimal plastic in any of our gifts.

I have bought one or two new decorations that again are wooden or of natural materials like hessian and pine cones. I did relent though and buy the little LED pink glittery stars which are £3 from The Works.

The cards and newsletters are all written and posted but I do need to deliver a few now and make arrangements to go and see my old work colleagues one day this week.

There still seems to be a lot on my list to do – lemon curd for the girls (can’t disappoint them), a cot duvet cover for Sweetie, the Christmas cake (yes you did read that correctly) and the mince pies. So it is a week of making and baking again – I had better get a move on.

creating a simpler Christmas * day 9

Today was definitely a slow day of getting my head back into gear. We took mum home yesterday with many carrier bags so I think she had a good time and bought everything she wanted. She is finding it difficult to accept her limitations now and we had to abandon our usual trip to Tissington and Ashbourne this year as her feet and legs had swollen up so much with the travelling that we felt it would be a step too far and decided to stay a little closer to home, only venturing as far as the Chatsworth Estate near Bakewell to visit the farm shop and The Derbyshire Craft Centre nearby. I packed up a car picnic for us so she didn’t have to wait in a queue for lunch and a good job I did as it was so very busy everywhere.

I only managed to take the one photo during the weekend – mum kept me too busy – she managed to leave her stick in every shop and cafe we went in and sometimes her gloves too. Her handbag was safe as I carried it most of the time. Manouvering her in the crowds is not easy these days and people were trying to push her out of the way in their hurry – I was worried she would over balance. None of the shops have a seat for the elderly anymore so I didn’t get much of a chance to look for anything myself – as soon as she had what she wanted she was off back to the car for a sit down!

The scenery and Christmas lights on the journey into Derbyshire did not disappoint, though on the whole I felt there were less decorations around this year in everyone’s gardens – maybe a lot of people are feeling quite behind as far as Christmas goes – neither of my neighbours have their lights up yet.

I have been feeling pretty exhausted today and rather than do any of the Christmas things on my list I made a start with a little clearing up and cleaning – I had the beds to change and washing to do and then some hoovering and dusting so that the house is ship shape and ready to decorate when I get round to it.

I am still dithering over the indoor tree – we are away for Christmas and not really hosting anything so I may even go for a simple decorated branch or a £10 potted tree. At this very moment I feel too worn out to even think about it.

For lunch we had a simple winter salad of grated beetroot, grated carrot and cucumber with a drizzle of olive oil dressing – apparently it is one of the healthiest meals you can eat – packed with vitamins and minerals; we had ours with some egg mayonnaise sandwiches and it was nice to have a meal at home after living on a lot of cafe meals in the last few days where they serve you a garnish of limp lettuce and an unripe tomato.

For the rest of the day I printed down my Christmas card list and tomorrow I will make a start on writing them and finishing our yearly newsletter. We have to stay in as the worktop man comes at 9.30am so we will need to have everything ready for him. DH has been working on cutting the wall cupboard down to size so hopefully by the end of tomorrow I should see some advances in the pantry.

Thank you for all your lovely comments wishing me a good weekend – I am not sure how much longer these Christmas visits will be possible for my mum so it was especially nice to be able to take her out so she could still get some of her Christmas bits and bobs.

creating a simpler Christmas * day 6

What could be simpler than taking some time out during the Christmas frenzy we often find ourselves in when we are running around going from completing one important task to another. Stepping back to really absorb the Christmas spirit and watching the festive season unfold rather than rushing through it is much more desirable, although not always possible.

Having my mum to stay for a few days gives me this opportunity…..it forces me to stop and just enjoy the time and I try not to think about the 101 jobs I should be attending to. We browse around the shops looking for nothing in particular, stopping frequently now for a sit down and a coffee or a leisurely lunch. Today we went down to our local town centre and then round to Sainsbury’s.

We bought the tins of biscuits for the family and a bottle of whisky for DH; I bought a few fresh rolls to have with some homemade mushroom soup tomorrow – the cafe we usually go to for lunch are unable to reserve a table and mum cannot stand in a queue for long so we are opting to take a picnic instead and then go to the cafe for afternoon tea when it is quieter.

Finally this evening, we met my brother for a fish and chip tea and a natter, keeping everything relaxed – well as relaxed as it can be when I am looking after mum.

There have been moments of frustration. Her memory is not what it used to be and asking shop assistants for some of that ‘ buferon’ cream doesn’t get her very far and they look as bewildered as I am. Of course it was Ibuprofen gel for her knee and Boots will not sell it to her because she takes blood pressure tablets and it needs to be prescribed by the doctor. Trying to explain this to her….well you can imagine…she is having none of it.

Tomorrow we have our trip down into Derbyshire – it is always the highlight of my Christmas and I will immerse myself in all the delights of the beautiful decorations, twinkly lights and Christmas windows.

Have a wonderful weekend. x

creating a simpler Christmas * day 5

Day 5 to 8 is all about creating simple enjoyment and Christmas traditions

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and hoorah, the car is back – fully recovered and repaired and it has also had a good wash (it needed it too). It did cost us just short of £400 for the pleasure – and it probably did breakdown from having a spray of grit, from passing the grit spreader on the motorway, thrown up under the car and into the ball bearing that is part of the hydraulics that snapped – but we are mobile again and we can carry on with plan (A) today which is to drive up to North Yorkshire to collect my mum who is coming to stay for a few days on her annual Christmas shopping visit.

We do very little Christmas shopping these days as mum cannot walk as well as she could but she loves to go to the same places we have always been – they have become a tradition and are quite enjoyable if not a little tiring.

So it will be a trip down to town on Friday, then round to Sainsbury’s to check out their clothes and buy all the family a tin of biscuits each – something my dad started when he was alive; finishing with a fish and chip supper at Compo’s restaurant (broccoli bake for me) where my brother will join us.

Saturday will be a trip out to Derbyshire for lunch – we usually go to the little village of Tissington but as it gets quite busy there now I am wondering whether to reserve a table. Afterwards we will go down to Ashbourne or over to the Chatsworth farm shop or maybe even Bakewell to visit the pudding shop.

On Sunday we will have a leisurely drive back up North to take her home, possibly stopping in Thirsk to browse in the White Rose book shop and see what is on display outside the greengrocers where they sell very reasonable flowers and plants.

The next few days of meandering will form part of my creating Christmas after all it is not all about the ‘making’ but also about enjoying the festivities out there. I love to see all the villages and market towns in Derbyshire dressed and decorated for Christmas – it has that ‘olde worlde’ feeling that is so typically English.

And it is surprising what you can find over a garden wall.

The photos above are all from our previous Christmas trips but I am hoping I will get chance to take a few new photos….. but don’t hold your breath as just getting mum in and out of the car and on her feet and then keeping her there takes a lot of effort -trying to take pictures on top is almost impossible!

At least I hope there will not be any guitar players where we intend to go.

We were given an early Christmas present at the christening with instructions to open on 1st December; I promptly forgot but remembered this morning and what a lovely surprise – a Pukka Advent calendar (though not for DH he doesn’t drink tea – so they are all for me!) and I have a few days to catch up on.

I have no idea what the tea ‘tulsi clarity’ will taste like but no doubt all will become clear on the 7th. Today I have mint refresh – just right with a chocolate mint if I had one….do you think a packet of Maltesers a good substitute?

I hope to pop in over the next few days with tales of our meanderings and a few photos -but you know how it is! x

creating a simpler Christmas * day 4

Today I have made a start on the Christmas card.

I have been working on a lino cut wreath design but in case I don’t get the time to finish it I decided on these little hand stamped ones too. I like the idea of sending out love and peace to everyone.

They were very simple to make and I love the simplicity of the design and the crumbliness of the texture from using wooden rather than rubber stamps. I chose the message ‘Peace on Earth’; it seemed to fit with the candle theme quite well.

I used small cream cards from a selection of the blank card stocks I have accumulated over the years and a tiny wooden candle stamp I bought from Oxfam a long time ago for £1.49. I tried out the copper coloured ink pad I bought the other day from the Range. So very minimal cost.

The key to making cards is those little finishing touches that really help to personalise them. I usually print out an inner leaf paper, stamp the back of the card with a ‘homemade’ stamp and add a further tiny stamped motif on the envelope flap.

The message inside is one of my favourites from the book of John ‘ the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’ – such an appropriate bible reading for our world at the present time.

I also thought a touch of glitter would be nice to add to the flame.

I have made a quick mock up of the lino cut print too – this year a simple wreath overstamped with a little copper ink using fir tree branch motif. The red berries will be added afterwards by hand.

This is just the first ideas roughly sketched in felt tip pen. I am not sure if I prefer the scroll writing of the second stamp or maybe I will have a look out in a craft shop for a Season’s Greetings message.

Anyway this might end up being next year’s card so I will have plenty of time to play about with the design.

On the home front we have now heard back from the garage, they assessed the car yesterday and got the parts and today it is ready for collection. Let’s hope we can pay the bill – I think it wil be a sit down job.

I have more returns to Sainsbury’s so we will pop round there and I will try not to buy anything. When we get home I do need to have a good tidy up – crafting can be a very spread out untidy job.

Now I have the cards I need to get on with the yearly news letter – I send a lot of them out by email but still have to enclose some in with the card. It is often quite therapeutic looking back over the year and you can see a balance of the good things that happened along with the ‘lesser’ good or in our case, this particular year, the pretty awful.

I will be back creating more for my simpler Christmas tomorrow. Have a good day x

creating a simpler Christmas * day 3

I am feeling less muddle headed today after our problematic weekend. The car has been taken away on a low loader to a nearby Citroën specialist and we await their assessment in a day or two.

A nice man came yesterday to give us a quote for doing the pantry worktop – on the face of it he seems to be someone who produces accurate work – I like that as I have a very keen straight eye and like things done ‘proper’- but we shall see. I also persuaded DH to ask him to cut down the wall cabinet for us as he will most likely have a circular saw that will power through the melamine faced carcass of the cupboard in no time.

In the afternoon we went down to town in my little car – I had two internet orders to collect; one from Bodyshop (Vitamin E cream, 30% off) and Boots (a Liz Earle skin repair cream, 20% off). I also bobbed into the Range for some thin card for a Christmas activity (to be revealed) and whilst I was there picked up a lovely bronze coloured stamping ink and some tiny white jingle bells.

Then round to Sainsbury’s with some returns and to pick up a few groceries and fresh fruit and veg for the week. I also noticed at the checkout that some Christmas items (reduced of course) had found their way into my trolley….can’t think how that happened ……….DH is never impressed with anything Christmas, I just have to ignore him.

My total spend on such frippery was a mere £10 – although in state pension terms that is quite a lot – maybe it will have to come out of our winter fuel payment – just as well that I cosied up under a throw last night instead of putting any heat on. Keeping the house warm on a budget in these freezing temperatures is quite difficult and I can understand how some elderly people simply cannot afford to heat anything other than the one room.

The bits and pieces I bought will be making an appearance as I work through creating my simpler Christmas.

For my task today I have decorated last year’s rooted Christmas tree that is outdoors in a pot using a string of outdoor lights and these pretty little bulb shaped baubles that I bought -I am not overly convinced they look that wonderful on the tree but it was far too cold out there today to be spending a long time trying out different things so they will stay put for the moment.

Another quick and simple task off my list.

I have also been having a look on the internet for a Christmas event that we can go to with our friends. Last year we went to Dunham Massey and their light extravaganza which was quite awesome. This year we are looking at Hardwick Hall or Haddon Hall in Derbyshire.

I also want to go and see the Alan Ayckbourn play, Absurd Person Singular at the Bingley Little Theatre – it is an observation of three different couples Christmases and should be quite funny – has anyone seen it?

Back tomorrow with more creating. x

creating a simpler Christmas * days 1 and 2

This year I wil be creating a much simpler Christmas for those readers who are following along.

There will be simpler decorations, simpler food and a few simple activities and crafts.

As you will notice I missed starting yesterday but I am not fretting about that (much) and I am beginning today with a clean sheet of paper and time to gather my thoughts. It is exceptionally cold outdoors today and the areas of my garden that were tinged with frost earlier have surprisingly now thawed. Inside I can sit near the fire warm and snug and make a few plans – not the daily planned activities of last year; rather my run up to Christmas this year will just evolve like a mystery journey, even to me, over the next few days.

The whole point this year is to relax and enjoy the season.

Presently I am in recovery mode. We had another hectic weekend. Of course it wasn’t intended as hectic. Things just happen – well at least to me.

We drove up to North Yorkshire again on Saturday morning, making a flask of soup before we went; homemade tomato and a round of sandwiches. It was a pleasant, if not busy drive, but no hold ups. We pulled off the road at Boroughbridge and parked by the wier over the bridge whilst we ate.

After calling in at my daughter’s new house with our overnight bags we went up the A19 to Yarm to collect my mum. We had planned to have a toastie and hot chocolate for teatime in Costa at Northallerton and look around a few shops with mum until it was time to go to the talent show in my sister’s village nearby.

Our first unexpected problem was that Costa on the high street had a completely empty fridge – no food whatsoever. Not to worry I said they have another branch in Tesco. We returned to the car parked a few yards away just in time to see a lady reversing out of her parking spot and into the rear end of our car, but not in time to stop her before she drove away – either oblivious to what she had done or with the intention of ignoring it and DH who was running after her. She was too quick in her get away for us to get her number as it was quite dark and her plate very dirty. There is scraping on the rear end beyond the back door but luckily no dent.

A bit upset by this incident we managed to shrug it off so it didn’t spoil the day and drove round to the Costa at Tesco and yes glory be….there was food….but the coffee machine was out of order so no coffee or hot chocolate – we had to make do with tea.

After getting warm and fed we then drove to my sister’s village and settled ourselves down at one of the reserved tables in the village hall where my mum had a good view. The show was amateur but brilliant and my sister and her husband did a dance routine fom Laurel and Hardy and a spoof Red Barrows performance amongst a few other things. The whole village is great at coming together to put on these kind of events and even we are starting to feel like part of their community.

During the interval they served us with delicious hot pie and peas (we had a green ticket for the vegetarian option – cheese and onion pasties) and there was wine or soft drinks. I won a raffle prize that I passed onto my sister as it was some kind of cocktail maker and would be lost on me as I rarely drink.

All sounds fun so far but then during the second half the trouble started – two men came on and played Country and Western music and some of the audience got up and started line dancing – then another man joined in and they played ballards. We were all enjoying them but mum not so much and got fidgety, kept checking her watch every few seconds like she does when she is anxious and then moaning in a loud voice. She dislikes guitar music…….apparently (in all my life I never knew that) she didn’t know the songs (Achy Breaky Heart, Moondance and similar) and to put it plainly just wanted to go at this point as she felt they had played far too long by this time and was making quite a scene about it.

They were very good and we were all enjoying ourselves save my mother and I felt so bad having to cause a commotion trying to get her into her coat and walk out during their performance. It turns out they were only another song away from the end but mum being mum could not sit and be polite – age has turned her into a very demanding and self-centred old lady at times. It was one of those embarrassing moments when you wish the earth would swallow you up.

In the car she said she hoped she hadn’t stopped us from enjoying the evening but really she couldn’t have listened to that any longer!!! After taking my mum home we went back to stay with my daughter and on the Sunday we took her and the two girls down to Ikea in Leeds to look for a wardrobe for her new house. You can imagine the scenes at Ikea – an overload of people and queues that resembled a rugby scrum – but we managed to choose something that she will order online this week and have delivered. We are giving her some money towards them for her birthday and Christmas….and maybe next birthday and Christmas, depending on how much they turn out to be!

On the way home the fun started again -only 10 miles from my daughter’s house we pulled off the A1M at the Boroughbridge junction to fill up with petrol at Morrisons but just at this point something was obviously not right with the car. We initially though we had a flat tyre as the car was beginning to bump along quite badly and we were forced to stop on the roundabout bridge over the motorway. I got out of the car to look and realised the back end of the car was almost sitting on the ground.

We called our breakdown service and because we had the baby and Little L with us we did get priority but we still had to wait an hour. They would recover the car either to our daughter’s house up the road or back to ours. A minor problem was that all our bags and my medication was at my daughter’s and we needed to collect that first. Would the recovery vehicle please take my daughter and children home first and then take us home. No they could not. They could organise a taxi to take us to our daughter’s house and the recovery vehicle to take DH home with the car. It could not be recovered to a garage because it was Sunday and they are all closed.

There was no other option forthcoming – so we had to take the taxi on offer which would leave me stuck up in North Yorkshire and DH was taken first to Morley in Leeds then transferred onto a second recovery vehicle that took him home. Once at my daughter’s house I had to ask my son-in-law who lives near us in Huddersfield to drive up to collect me and our bags and bring me home. What a farce.

We now have an undriveable car on our drive and DH is trying to get someone to come and recover it to take it to a Citroen specialist to be fixed. It is the hydraulic suspension that has gone – it sounds like an expensive problem to me and will be more so if we have a bill for the second recovery to a garage.

So not only is the car being recovered but we are too! You will forgive me if I am not able to think about Christmas very much today but I am grateful that we are home safe and sound and warm. I might even speak to my mum later and be pleasant now I have had time to cool off from that little ordeal.

Keep safe and warm x