December dithering

There’s a mild tightening in my chest which often occurs at this time of year. The first cards that arrive in the post always throw me off balance. It makes me wonder whether I’ve missed a memo or skipped a week. It’s exacerbated by all the posts I see on social media of beautiful Christmas trees up and decorated, presents bought and already wrapped. Fair play to everyone who is ahead of the game and organised for the festive season but I am not. It seems too early to be in full-Christmas mode. I don’t want to be sick of it before it’s here but neither do I want to slide into a proper panic because I’ve left it too late to order the turkey or an important gift. It’s a fine line.

We won’t get our tree until after my son comes home from uni at the end of next week. Gift-wise, I plan to do most of my shopping online with a trip into Canterbury on a weekday when it won’t be as chokka as it is at the weekends. Fitting this in will be a challenge, though, as there isn’t a day between now and Christmas Eve when I don’t have at least one thing happening. (There’s that feeling again…) It would help if I knew what everyone would like. In years gone by, detailed lists would have been drawn up by now, but at 14, 17 and 19, there’s less excitement among my brood, less anticipation. To be fair, there’s less build-up. There aren’t the endless Christmas events that happened when they were in primary school – there are no school events at all that I’m aware of. (That’s not to say that there aren’t any, just none that I’ve been told about.)

Although we do have our family traditions, the stockings that we (actually, mostly David) made when the children were small, each one with a different coloured ribbon, our much-loved decorations, our favourite films like ‘Polar Express’, ‘Arthur Christmas’ and ‘Muppet’s Christmas Carol’ (just typing that makes me smile), our Christmases are definitely evolving now that the children are all teenagers. There’s no more waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning, for one thing! This year, I’m planning to get them all more involved, to give them all jobs to do and I’ll try to not micro-manage every detail. Once the gift and food shopping is done, I intend to be relaxed about it, to enjoy the things that matter and not fret about things that don’t. This year, more than ever, I am acutely conscious of all that we have, of what’s important and how precious our time together is. My mother-in-law will be with us but my parents are going to my brother’s, so it’ll just be the six of us. I’m sure the teenagers will have plans and we’ve been invited to a few parties but I am looking forward to the times when we’re all here, when the curtains are drawn against the dark outside, the fire and candles are lit and we are safe and cosy together.

I took my daughter and a couple of her friends to the pantomime in Canterbury on Wednesday evening. It’s Cinderella this year and the ugly sisters were outrageous and hilarious, as were the puns, the costumes were amazing and fake snow fell all over the audience which was quite magical. And today was a gift of a day. I was due to attend a meeting in London but it was cancelled (I heard after I’d speed-walked the dog in the pouring rain but luckily before I left the house for the station), so I slowed right down, had another mug of tea and contemplated the kitchen. I spied the bowl of dried fruit in brandy for the Christmas cake covered with a tea towel which has been sitting on the side for a couple of weeks. It was meant to be soaking overnight but life got in the way.

Before I made the cake, though, I discovered that treacle had leaked out into the bottom of one of our big drawers where we keep all our baking ingredients, so I cleaned it out and threw away a load of out-of-date half-used packets. In full tidying mode, I cleared out the other food drawer and reorganised everything into similar products. THEN I made the Christmas cake. I always follow Delia Smith’s rich fruit cake recipe because it’s straightforward and always works and it tastes delicious. She says in no uncertain terms that you must NOT open the oven door for at least four hours. Meanwhile, the delicious smell is wafting through the house and David is complaining that we won’t be able to eat it for 18 days.

I hope all is well with you. Have a lovely weekend. I’m off to guard the cake.

 

Christmas Wishes

Hello! How’s it going? I hope your festive preparations (if you are celebrating Christmas) are coming together smoothly with minimal pre-holiday panic.

My children all finished school last Friday and they are busy catching up on sleep and socialising. Our tree is up and decorated – bickering teenagers don’t create the same magical atmosphere as excited little children, but it happened and only one set of lights didn’t work. I’ll bring more greenery indoors this week and enjoy doing that quietly before anyone else is up. I think I’m there with the present-buying and card-writing but there is still plenty to do (wrapping, food-shopping and making, cleaning, tidying…). You know how it is. I am feeling calmer than I usually do at this point, though!

This is the time of year when I stop and remember people – those I have loved and do love, people I know and don’t know personally. It is important for me to appreciate them and all that I have, and to try to spread the love a little. If you have a few spare moments, I highly recommend reading these blog posts that capture the spirit of the season for me – CJ’s moving post about her late aunt, Lynda’s post about a Christmas book (gorgeously festive) and Jane’s post about her Christmas spirit in the outback.

I would like to thank you for visiting this tiny space in the ether and for sharing it with me. I wish you and your loved-ones a wonderful Christmas and may 2018 be healthy, happy and fulfilling.

Sam x

Felicitations

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I woke up at 4.30am this morning, my brain fizzing and whirring. It’s that time of year when it all feels a little chaotic and I need the security blanket of a detailed list. You know the one – the long list, with ‘things to do’ written chronologically, possibly even colour-coordinated. (Just me?) Most of my things to do are enjoyable (wrap presents, make mince pies, cook the ham, ice the cake) but there are a lot of them to fit into a shrinking amount of time. I also pile pressure on myself by wanting to make sure the house is clean and tidy, laundry up-to-date. This isn’t all to do with having visitors; it’s because I want to buy myself some time so I can fully switch-off and relax for a few days. My daughter says I shouldn’t wear my reading glasses, then I won’t notice the dust. Maybe I should have a gin and tonic and not worry about it!

It’s not all been ticking jobs off the list, though. We’ve just returned from ice-skating at the magnificent Victorian cruise terminal in Dover. It’s all decked out in Christmas trees, sparkly lights, Christmas market stalls, with an ice-rink as the main attraction. This is not the Dover you may know – nose-to-tail lorries queueing to get on the ferry, depressing post-war architecture and a slight air of neglect. This is the new Dover – optimistic and confident, and it’s a joy to see. There was a Michael Buble-style crooner serenading us as we stumbled and skidded around the ice. It took me a while to find my ice-skating feet (the last time I went skating was 20 ago!) while David channelled his inner ice-dancer, much to our children’s mortification. It was hilarious. Afterwards we had mulled cider and giggled. We’re definitely starting to get into the spirit.

Before I get back to my list and sign off here for the year, I would like to thank you for visiting, for reading my blog and commenting. I wish you the most wonderful Christmas (or whatever you are celebrating). Here’s to you. See you in 2017.

Sam x

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Sparkle and shine

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Our not-so-sweet little black cat brought two small rodents into the house earlier today. Two, a few hours apart, both still alive and fast on their feet. This is very much the down-side of cat ownership. I managed to catch both with the help of my eldest boy who was home from school early. We’re quite the mouse-catching team. Each mouse/vole/small brown rodent was carefully transported down the road and set free. I always worry that I’m inadvertently taking them far from their homes and they won’t find their way back but at least it beats being the cat’s dinner.

How are you?! Feeling festive yet? Or totally fed-up with the whole thing? I’m ok – neither overly stressed nor zen-like, sort of in-between. The children break-up from school on Friday but, as there will still be over a week to go before Christmas day, there is plenty of time to get organised. It is a lot easier now they’re older and there isn’t that pressure to have everything ready before the end of term when all free time used to go out of the window. My three are all so tired and ready for a break that I suspect I’ll have at least the mornings to myself next week.

There is still decorating to do – greenery, garlands, etc – but our tree is up. It was chosen en-famile and, as a result, we ended up buying one that was too large to fit into the car, so it was strapped precariously to the roof and driven slowly home (sorry if you were following a tailback on the A2 on Saturday afternoon). David had to saw it down to size (twice) and we managed to squeeze it into position with a little accompanying cussing. It is ridiculously big for the space, but it does look gorgeous festooned with Christmas loveliness. All five of us took part in the decorating without too much agro and I don’t have the urge to rearrange all the decorations. I also agreed to the use of coloured lights instead of the usual white. I must be mellowing.

Present-buying is what usually tips me over the edge at this time of year. I am trying to remain calm and focused, and keep track of what I’ve bought for whom and how much I’ve spent. Ordering gifts online helps but it is nice to have a wander around shops for inspiration. I found this lovely shop in Canterbury last week and managed to tick a few gifts off my list. Nothing is wrapped yet, of course; that’s another job for next week.

Whether you’re all set or still have loads to do, I hope this finds you full of cheer. I’ll leave you with a clip from the film Nativity, which was on tv at the weekend. It’s one of the Christmas films that we all enjoy. I warn you, though, it’s a bit of an ear-worm and you might find yourself belting out the song whenever you come over all Christmassy 🙂

PS Thank you so much for your comments on my recent posts – I don’t often get round to responding but I read and appreciate each one  x