Memories of Christmas 2017

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It is the sixth day of Christmas and the New Year is almost upon us so I thought I would pop in to share a few of our Christmas memories from this year.

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We made it to the cinema on the 22nd to see White Christmas and it was a lovely experience for us all. I have never been so immersed in the film (I am usually knitting or multi-tasking in some way!) and I found it very funny and heartwarming. We had a break half way through too so we could stretch our legs and have a drink and munch on the popcorn we had brought with us. T’was fun!

We had friends over later that afternoon so we spent some time baking and making sweet treats on the 21st December, which was enjoyable – both the baking and sampling 🙂

 

The stars and heart biscuits are a German recipe. The Germans I know bake a wide variety of delicious “Plaetzchen” (in their hundreds) during Advent to offer around at their cosy Advent get togethers. I have memories of looking into the biscuit tin with wide eyes, not knowing what to pick first – you are so spoilt for choice! I imagine I took a fair few! 🙂 Many have ground nuts in them, which mine do too, instead of flour which makes them nice and chewy – yum! We also made more carob sweets ( I shared the recipe here) and date truffles (the recipe is here), which were both suitable for our guests who are gluten intolerant/vegan/avoiding sugar.

 

For us, Christmas really starts on Christmas Eve when we attend a Christingle Service at a local church. The service is geared towards children and there is a lovely storyteller who weaves the story of the Nativity beautifully. We never grow tired of it. Each child is allowed to add a figurine to the Nativity scene at the front of the church and they also each received a Christingle. The service always sets a reverent mood which we appreciate.

Of course the children were also eagerly anticipating Father Christmas’s visit. We follow his journey using the Norad Santa Tracker and we always leave him and Rudolph a snack.  Father Christmas has a penchant for Baileys we think 😉 Before bedtime, we spent a little time sitting by the fire singing all the carols we know and other Christmas songs we enjoy before trying to get the girls to bed – hmmn…needless to say they were rather too excited to have an early night!!

We were up bright and early and the girls ran into the lounge with glee to discover that the magic had happened overnight- I just love to see the wonder in their eyes. With my eldest being eleven, I am very conscious that this could well be the last ‘magical’ year for her, but I think she has a strong wish to believe, so you never know….I think I was over twelve….time will tell.

 

The magic also happened on the Nature Table as we welcomed dear baby Jesus to the stable.

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The shepherds (and sheep!) arrived the next day

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and the Kings started their journey to Bethlehem and will arrive at Epiphany.

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We spent a really peaceful Christmas Day in each others company. It was lovely to have a slow day after a busy Advent. We opened presents, had a delicious breakfast made by Daddy and went out to see a brass band perform Christmas songs at a bandstand half an hours drive from where we live. We do this every year for a change of scene and some fresh air and it is a really fun experience as the conductor gets everyone dancing and interracting with the band in various fun ways. We brought along some coffee and Baileys (for the adults) and mulled apple juice for the girls and some home made biscuits of course 🙂

 

Then we came home to eat lunch, followed by several games of charades – we do love a game of charades 🙂 As it grew dark, we went for a walk around our area to look at the Christmas lights, singing a few carols as we walked.

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And later that evening, we cosied up on the sofa to watch a ballet film performance of the The Nutcracker  (from 1993 with Macauley Culkin) on YouTube. We found it a couple of years ago and it is a really lovely film for children to watch at this time of year, especially if they don’t have access to the Ballet locally. My daughters love the costumes and dancing and the choreography and casting is great. Very magical.

As for homemade presents, I actually managed to finish the Teddy Bears on the 23rd December!!! It did surprise me!  It was a close call and I promised myself I wouldn’t be up late on Christmas Eve finishing them off as I was last year, so I was open to finishing them off by the New Year, but somehow it all fell into place. A little Christmas Miracle 😉

My daughters love them so it was worth redoing them from scratch; starting again just over a week before Christmas – eek! Anyway without further ado, Meet Milly and Molly 🙂

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Milly in the green is a little smaller than Molly due to the green yarn knitting up differently, but no matter.

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I added little ribbons to their heads so they appear more feminine. I wasn’t sure about the way they looked initially as I was making them so quickly, but I am happy with them now. The main thing is that the girls are smitten 🙂

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The girls sewed and knitted us some little presents. They didn’t have much time, but we were really pleased with what they made.

 

A double sided gingerbread house for Daddy from our youngest daughter, complete with little gingerbread man and lady and a gingerbread lady for me.

 

Our eldest daughter knitted me a hairband and made Daddy a cute felt snowman.

We also spent Boxing Day by ourselves because the girls wanted to spend the whole day in pyjamas and we realised we were craving this sort of family time. We saw a couple of friends on the 27th and 28th, which was a nice contrast. We also took our friends for a walk in our locality to look at the lights including a model village that some people had set up in their front porch in aid of charity.

 

I must say, those model villages do bring out the childhood wonder in me – I could have gazed at all the detail for hours! 🙂

Well, I had better be going as we might be heading to sunnier climes tomorrow. The trip is in  doubt at the moment, despite being all packed, as my husband might be coming down with something and my mother can’t go as she is ill (we have been on several winter holidays where my husband has been ill for the entire time – poor him 😦 – so we won’t risk it if he isn’t well tomorrow morning….) So I am still unsure where we will see the New Year in. I wrote about how we celebrate New Year’s Eve here incase anyone is looking for some nice ideas of how to make it more meaningful.

Well, I shall leave you now and wish you all a wonderful New Year 2018! May it be a blessed year for you all. 

Linking with Ginx Yarn Monthly Link Party and Crafting on at FrontierDreams.

Advent in our family…

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Are you finding that time is moving too fast this December? Maybe it always does, but this year there seems to be less time somehow. It’s probably due to the fourth Advent Sunday falling on Christmas Eve and there only being three weeks this Advent in which to do all the crafts, reading and baking that we enjoy.  I don’t feel we have done as much as I would have liked to and it’s almost Christmas!! Can it be!?! As I mentioned in my last post, I base our activities around the four weeks of Advent and having one week missing feels like a loss, strange as it may sound! I will have to make up for this in the Twelve Days of Christmas, methinks…

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We have just entered the third week of Advent:

“The third light of Advent is the light of beasts,
All await the birth, from the greatest to the least”

We made some bird food today, combining lard and various seeds and grains and pressing them into festive moulds. We plan to hang them up with red ribbons tomorrow once they have properly set.

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We also strung some popcorn and cranberries onto thread to make the bird feeding station more festive and hopefully the birds might like to have a nibble 🙂

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I have a lovely pattern for making felt reindeer that we would like to try from this inspiring Christmas craft book. I think that’s all we will have time for this week as we all still have some Christmas elving to do too!

Last week, we did a couple of super easy crafts based around plants:

The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

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Every Christmas my eldest daughter and I used to make heart shaped ornaments (using cranberries and wire) to hang in the front windows of our previous home, but since moving, we haven’t. As we are properly settled now, we decided that we missed making them, so we made a couple.

 

The girls made some simple pomanders with oranges and cloves, which we have hung up by our back door and make a beautiful addition to our decorations.

 

We also made pretty ornaments for our Christmas tree, using beans, pulses, spices and plenty of glue (!)

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I found the idea in LandLove Magazine and my youngest daughter particularly enjoyed this rather messy, but enjoyable craft. We cut the shapes out of card, punched a hole in the top, so they could be hung up, and glued everything on. My eldest daughter only made one because she really wanted to play by herself, so it was good that my youngest had something to keep her amused for a while and I joined in of course 🙂

 

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My eldest likes to play on her own more now that she is getting older and her sister sometimes feels sad about it….that’s when crafts come in handy! 🙂

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It just happened to be frosty for a couple of nights last week, so we made an ice window. I placed a few flowers and leaves in a bucket of water with some string hanging down into the water and overnight Jack Frost performed his magic 🙂 Sadly they don’t last long here, but we did enjoy the sun shining through it all morning.

We also went on a couple of excursions – Tis the season :-).

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We attended the Glow Wild Festival at Wakehurst Place on Thursday evening. Friends had recommended it to us and we were not disappointed! It was gorgeous! Totally magical, enchanting, wonderful! We arrived at 5pm and you have a half hour slot in which to start the magical journey around the garden.

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Each family receives a lantern at the beginning – the girls chose purple – and you are led around the garden by a myriad of beautiful willow lanterns and sculptures.

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We also walked around a river lit by fiery torches with Indian style music playing in the background. It would have felt like India, but for the cold weather!

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It was an extraordinary sight and must have taken a great deal or time and effort to organise and set up. The photos cannot do it justice, but I wanted to share them anyway.

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The lake was full of glowing water lilies and we cooed at all the animal sculptures.

 

It certainly brought out the child in me – I felt so excited and transported back to childhood wonder. That is something very special 🙂

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Trees and snowflakes were also projected onto the Mansion house -it was so magical!

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And at the end, there was a lovely little spot for sharing hot chocolates, roasted chestnuts and toasting the best marshmallows ever 🙂 A delight for all the senses.

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We loved it so much, we went back with my mother on Saturday to revisit it. I think we shall bring my mother next year as she was visibly impressed and could do with a bit of wonder in her life 🙂

 

On Sunday, we met up with our dear friends at Polesden Lacey in Surrey. We meet up every year on the third weekend of Advent and always enjoy a lovely day out.

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The house was decorated for Christmas and we enjoyed exploring it and imagining how the sociable Mrs Greville would have lived and entertained there.

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The girls especially enjoyed looking at the servants quarters and dressing up 🙂  My youngest particularly loved the housekeeper outfit, complete with key chain! (reminscent of Mrs Medlock’s uniform in The Secret Garden)

 

We were fascinated by the old gadgets including an old Singer sewing machine and the rather antiquated and heavy vacuum cleaner!

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We put up both of our Christmas trees  (we have two artificial trees – one from when the children were little – that is now in our family area at the back with all our home made ornaments on it – and this taller one, which we treated ourselves to last year and is much more realistic. We rarely have a real tree as we often go away before the New Year and it doesn’t seem worth sacrificing a tree for such a short time) and spent some time decorating them and adding the lights (never my favourite part!!!), It feels so festive now with all the twinkling lights filling the house.

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On the Nature Table, things are filling up. Joseph and the donkey have joined Mary. Plants abound and animals are arriving this week and will soon be followed by the shepherds and inn keeper, in time for Christmas Eve.

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My daughters’ Nature Tables in their rooms are also filling up and they delight in the ‘elves’ bringing them a new addition every night.

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On both, Mary looks like she is laying on the donkey – but she is perfectly comfortable I am told! 😉

We are going to have a little pre-Christmas gathering of friends here on Friday afternoon – a mulled apple juice, spicy biscuit kind of thing with womenfolk and their children – craft group members present and past 🙂 Everyone is bringing something, so the catering should be minimal. I feel grateful to have the space to host a gathering of this sort. We shall no doubt make a few biscuits, mince pies and sweet treats 🙂

We are also taking our first trip to the cinema on Friday morning to see White Christmas. My eldest has wanted to go to the cinema for a little while now and I have been finding it difficult to find a film that will suit both my daughters. They watch some DVD’s at home – ones I know will be suitable – but going to see a film in the cinema (where there is no escape from the noise and action) is another thing altogether. My youngest particularly takes things in very deeply and can get nightmares from the wrong sort of film (my eldest was the same, but has outgrown it  somewhat), so I am very wary about taking them to see a film that I don’t know. They know this film well, so I think it will be the best start we can make to our cinema-going. It is a dementia friendly viewing, so we will no doubt be the youngest there, but that suits us fine. We are looking forward to it!

Well that’s my round up of the past week or so. I am still working on the little teddy bears….I decided to remake them from scratch as I wasn’t able to keep a tight enough tension on 2mm needles, but I think I have got the hang of it now (more or less!) I have been enjoying some cosy late-night knitting. watching Christmas DVD’s and they should be ready for the New Year, if not before. Wish me luck!!

Before I go (because I doubt I will make it here before then), I would like to wish you ALL a very Merry Christmas!!! Wishing you a peaceful, joy filled time with a generous sprinkling of magic! 🙂 

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Joining the crafty folks at Frontier Dreams Crafting On

December already!

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It’s Wednesday evening, my daughters have broken up from school and I finally have time to reflect on what we’ve been up to since I last wrote…in November!….Goodness, how can it be that we are already in mid-December! The last week passed in a bit of a blur with a sickness bug affecting all our family in turn. I became sick on Monday (missing my usual spot for writing here) and by the time I was feeling better on Wednesday, my youngest took over and we spent a whole long night in and out of the bathroom 😦 This weekend it was the turn of my eldest. I think we are all on the mend now and are hoping to stay well for the rest of December!!!

Somehow we have still been keeping up with our Advent traditions. This period is so precious to us, we wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂  I wrote at length about these traditions here, but here are a few glimpses:

We have been reading our Christmas books– we found a use for the failed papier mache lantern – it’s now a beautiful bowl to hold our Christmas book ‘lucky dip’ 🙂

All the different ways we mark the passing days of December/Advent.

Mary is travelling on her Star path towards the stable. Due to illness, we have had a few false starts (!) and she has remained on a particular star for a couple of nights…but we help her catch up 🙂 We dim the lights before bedtime, light the candles (according to the weeks of Advent) and sing “Mary’s Starpath” as one of my daughters moves Mary forward to the next star.  It creates such a beautiful reverent mood, I really appreciate it.  As you can see, the path is filling up slowly; with crytals and golden shells (placed in the  first week of Advent) and pinecones, little trees and golden hazelnuts this week. Toadstools are on their way 🙂 These are added by the “elves” overnight, both to our main Nature Table in the lounge and to my daughters’ own Nature Tables in their rooms. The elves have been known to forget (especially when they don’t want to disturb sick children!) but generally they know how important their job is 😉

Steiner attributed each week of Advent to a different Kingdom and I base my Advent activities and additions to the Nature table around this:

The first light of Advent is the light of stones,
Stones that live in crystals, seashells and bones.

The second light of Advent is the light of plants,
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts,
All await the birth, from the greatest to the least.

The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind,
The light of hope, that we may learn to love and understand.

This Advent, there are only three weeks in total due to the fourth Sunday in Advent falling on Christmas Eve, so we will start the arrival of the animals to the Nature Table a little earlier so there is enough time to add the humans too!

In the week of stones, I don’t usually do too much craft-wise as the children are still at school and there are a lot of things to organise and events to attend at this time. I do always give the girls a rock to crack (with a hammer) on one of the mornings and they each receive a lovely crystal (I cover the crystal in white clay and leave it to harden).

We sometimes make clay or saltdough ornaments, but due to illness, we had to forgo that this year. No matter…

This week I have a couple of crafts in mind based around plants. I will report back in  my next post. I feel this post is going to be long enough!!!

So to rewind, we had our Gnomes Bonfire on the evening of 30th November to bid farewell to autumn and decay and make way for a peaceful light-filled Advent. We let go of all the dry leaves, acorns and conkers we had collected on our autumn walks and warmed ourselves by the fire accompanied by warm drinks and spicy biscuits 🙂  The girls set the gnomes up and took over  most of the procedure this year. These traditions are so deeply ingrained they always know what to do 🙂

I  felt a strong urge to tidy and clean the house thoroughly in preparation for Advent: It helps to set the mood to one of anticipation when the decks are cleared and the energy is lifted. Things can get quite tired looking at the end of a season, I find.  It is always a joy to set the Nature table up for a new season and there is no season I love more than Advent 🙂

The girls wrote their letters to Father Christmas which the ‘elves’ took during the night. The elves also filled our angel Advent Calendar with ornaments to adorn the bare branches over our Nature Table.

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On the 2nd December we had our school Christmas Fayre. We helped set the Fayre up on Friday and my husband did the cooking, as he has done for many years now.

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The school looked really fabulous, all decked out in homemade goodness. I always feel so proud of our school at this time of year, when everyone pulls together to make it happen.

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We baked some cakes for the cafe as every family does. My daughters were keen to be involved.

I love that my youngest felt she needed to wear high heels for this 🙂

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As I mentioned, my eldest daughter had a stall in the Children’s Market.

She sold most of her doll skirts and paper angels and all of her needle felted baubles and window stars and made a grand total of £75! She paid a percentage to the school, paid me back for the materials and gave her sister some money to treat herself with and there was still £55 left for her. She was delighted as you can imagine. The needle felted Christmas pudding my youngest made was one of the first things to sell, so she is considering making more for next year….plans are afoot already 🙂

St Nicholas paid us a visit on 6th December. The girls put their boots out by the back door and were richly rewarded.

“Our” St Nicholas always brings nuts and clementines and a little present. This year he brought a festive glass and a special coin, which the girls were intrigued by.

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We like to read this book about dear St Nicholas and his helper Ruprecht. It is in German – it’s a shame it isn’t translated yet.

The girls have also been making presents for their teachers and “secret santa” presents for a particular classmate. They both decided to needle felt something as they were already in the rhythm.

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When my youngest started to feel better, but was still too weak to go to school, she sat on the sofa and felted this very cute Christmas elf for her classmate!

Her teacher is receiving another Christmas pudding that she made a little while ago.

For her “secret santa” gift, my eldest needle felted a snowman, with a felt top hat.

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She cut a circle of felt out and cut a smaller circle out of the middle. She used the ring of felt for the brim so it fits snuggly over the snowman’s head and used the  small circle for the top of the hat. I helped her cut out a rectangle to create a tube for the middle section. It came out really well I think.

Both of these were made by attaching two polystyrene balls to each other using a cocktail stick – my eldest daughter’s idea. I do feel proud of how they come up with these lovely ideas. They need very little help and what they make is of a really good standard – I am always impressed.

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My eldest needle felted her teacher a bauble for her Christmas tree and also gave her one of the beautiful paper angels, that her teacher admired when she popped in to see the children’s work at the Fayre. She was pleased.

I am glad my eldest managed to make these on Saturday morning before she became ill as there was no time between then and now, with all the end of term festivities, carol service, plays etc. It has been a full time and is good to have a little outbreath now from all the activity and errands and take our (favourite) place at home; doing crafts;  baking and enjoying lots of cosy reading by the fire. My kind of happy 🙂

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I have been writing my Christmas cards when possible.  Somehow I made an error when I took my letter to the photocopy shop to be copied. I asked for 20 copies of the 4 double sided A4 pages I had written, which would have been 80 pages in all. I agreed a price and the chap said it would take a little while, so I went for a walk. When I returned, I noticed a huge pile of coloured paper collecting on the tray next to the photocopier – he had thought I wanted 80 copies!!! Eeek!! I don’t have 80 friends to send this too – it really is only for my friends abroad. Ooops! What a waste of paper. Of course I paid him as I had agreed the price. I think we shall be using the paper to keep warm this winter 😉

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In between illness, the girls have been helping me with packing presents for a couple of friends abroad and for our relatives.They have been busy little elves with the wrapping paper, cellotape and lots of stickers!! 🙂

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Well that’s some of my news from the last couple of weeks. To finish, I just wanted to share these fab handmade socks that my daughter came home with from school today!

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Rainbow socks – a girl after my own heart 🙂

As for my own makings, things aren’t going too well. I am having second thoughts about the teddy bear making for Christmas. I chose some yarn for the dress and shoes, but knitting it up, it just doesn’t suit the teddy’s colouring 😦 Sob! I have ordered some more yarn to see if I can find a more suitable colourway. Fingers crossed! Not long to go…may have to be a New Year’s present….

Hope you have had a peaceful and joyful Advent so far. Enjoy all that the season has to offer. Many blessings.