Monday, 19 December 2011

there was a sale, right?

The Range is moving. Our branch of the Range. At present they are over on the east side of the city but on Boxing Day they open their new store on the West side and it is a lot huger than the present store.
To save having to cart all the stock over to the new store they have a sale. 25% off everything. They have a lot of craft stuff and art supplies and............. well they were bound to have something I desperately needed weren't they?
YES, the answer to that question is yes. Mr M took me over there and I spent a happy hour rummaging through the shelves. I am not going to tell you how much I spent but my birthday money did not survive long and a lot more besides. Card blanks and brads and papers and glitter papers and some glittery matt cards and some fabulous metallic pens and white paper flowers because you can colour them with... fabulous metallic pens. I kind of wanted to get some double sided tape and some glue but others had got there before me - sigh.
I am happy with my new stash and will pet it for a while before putting it away and using it.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Best ever Christmas Present

Now here's a funny thing. Last night I sat at my table and did a layout. That's not the thing, no. The thing is that I found, amongst my father's papers that I am just being able to sort through even though he died in 2003, the receipt for the ten driving lessons he bought for me, for Christmas, in 1968. I was so pleased to find this little piece of paper and I knew if I didn't put it onto a page it would be lost very soon.
I haven't taken a picture of the page because the journalling became far too personal for internet exposure.
That Christmas present was the best ever. I passed my driving test the following February and I could put my children into the car and take them to visit my parents without having to wait for anyone else.
Being able to drive gave me back my freedom.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

In the Bleak Midwinter......

My favourite carol has to be In the Bleak Midwinter. I have fond memories of standing under a street lamp with the church choir, in the village where we used to live, and singing at the tops of our voices for the residents who came to their doors and windows to listen. We would also go to the sheltered housing complex - with prior permission, of course - and the carers would wrap up their residents in warm coats and blankets and we would sing several carols for them. Any money raised would go to a shelter for the homeless or a refuge for women.
Just singing the first line or two brings back the happiness those cold December evenings brought to me and my children.
In the bleak midwinter,
Frosty wind made moan.
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone.
Snow was falling snow on snow,
snow on snow.
In the bleak midwinter,
Lo o ong ago.

For the last few years I haven't been able to go into town to listen to the Salvation Army band so I have missed them playing this carol. If  my daughter is going into town this weekend I will try to go with her, It would be a big step forward if I could manage promises though.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas Remembered

I don't have any pictures from this time so I will try to paint one with words.

December 1981. We were living here, in this same house, having moved in on 7th November. So, we had no money, again. It was time to put up the Christmas decorations and the tree. I like the tree to go up on Christmas Eve but Mr M likes it there where we can see it as early in December as is possible. We didn't have an artificial tree and no money to buy one. The house had carpets that came with it but.......... If I say that it had been let in rooms to students before we bought it you can have some idea of the quality and colour of the carpets can't you? There were lots of things that needed doing to the house and the tiny patch of what we laughingly referred to as "the Front Garden", one of which was to remove the Leylandii trees that were growing next to the front path. The path is only 12 feet long and there were five of these darned trees growing along it, each one was around 15 feet tall and as we all know the Leylandii is a hybrid thing that grows around a metre a year and can reach more than 10 metres (that's more than 30 feet) if not severely cut back and controlled.

While I was in work, I was a Tupperware manager then and was out every day doing parties, Mr M decided that one of those leylandii would be perfect as our Christmas tree so without thinking of the height of the ceiling and the height of the tree he cut down the one nearest to the front door and dragged it into the front room He had the help of my sons while doing this
"Oh dear,"  he thought, "It's a little too tall, I'll cut some off the bottom." they lifted it up, laid it horizontally across the back of the sofa and cut three feet off the bottom with the saw used to cut it down. they didn't cut the sofa, they were very careful. they tried to stand it up but it was still too tall.

OH, OH you have to keep in mind that Mr M had put the fairy on the top as this was easier before you put up the tree.

He laid it across the sofa again and cut off another substantial length. He tried to stand it up again and once more the fairy had her head battered against the ceiling. Still too tall. Once more the fairy swooped across the room and waggled about as he sawed another couple of feet off the bottom of the tree.

He tried the tree upright and as long as she kept her knees bent the fairy just brushed the ceiling with her wand. At this point I arrived home from work and as I came in through the front door Mr M was there helping me to take off my coat so he could show me what a brilliant idea he had and how they had done this as a lovely surprise for me.

It was a lovely surprise, as I waded through the sawdust to the tree I could see that he had saved us lots of money and the delight on their faces outweighed any crossness about the marks all over the sofa and the sackful of sawdust on the floor. We all shovelled it into a plastic sack and put it in the cellar to use for the rabbits we had then - see more money saved. I used the vacuum cleaner to clean up what was left. Well, I tried. We had that carpet for 12 years before we could afford to replace it and every time I used the vacuum cleaner I sucked more sawdust out of the carpet.

So there you are, a Christmas remembered

Friday, 9 December 2011

10 on the Tenth - December

I am a bookcrosser, you can see more about bookcrossing here if you want to. The idea of releasing books into the wild and catching books appeals to me and I thought it would reduce the number of books stacked in my house... it hasn't. This is because there is a list that all obsessive dedicated readers and bookcrossers should have hanging somewhere in their house, preferably where your partner/husband/wife can see it. I did not make these rules they came to me through the bookcrossing UK group on Yahoo. So for my 10 on the tenth I give you
Rules that apply to Bringing Books Home:-
The Books Don't Count as Extra if....
1.  I am doing him/her a favour by taking the book. So It Doesn't Count.

2.  I am only buying this book by way of a donation to charity. So It Doesn't Count.

3.  He/she would have been offended if I didn't accept the book. S.I.D.C.

4.  I needed it to complete the set. S.I.D.C.

5.  I have been wanting to read this book for ages. S.I.D.C.

6.  It's a classic that everyone ought to read. S.I.D.C.

7.  It would have been wasteful not to use the Waterstone's/Smiths/Booktoken vouchers S.I.D.C.

8.  It was a present from a non bookcrossing friend. S.I.D.C.

9.  The Not So Secret Santa organiser wanted me to join the group. S.I.D.C.

10. I am a bookaholic, so I can't help it.

This list has come to you through the 10 on the tenth, a fun thing devised by Shimelle go take a look at the other players.


From the time I read Shimelle's prompt today I have been singing "Tradition" from Fiddler on the Roof. As that's the only word I know it has been fortunate that I have been on my own all day.
Hearing me sing out TRADITION! and then follow it with that growly uh, uh, uh, uh, da, dee, da da. and then again with the TRADITION! would surely have driven anyone mad. It drove me mad and I was doing it. Apparently that's called an earworm, when a song gets you in the memory and won't let go.
However, that's not the tradition I want to tell you about. We have quite a few things that can be called traditions although I was in denial about this last month and told someone that we don't have any! Gosh they could probably see my nose growing couldn't they?
Until we came to live with Mr M our Christmas tree was put up on Christmas Eve. That was how I grew up and my children were learning that this was how it happened. The tree would be brought in and set in its bucket in the hall. They could then spend the day decorating it, arguing, fighting, sitting on the naughty chair, saying sorry and taking their turn in Granny's kitchen or out in the barn with Grandad. I would be in my kitchen cooking the mincepies and sausage rolls and preparing all the stuff for the dinner the next day.
By the end of the day all three children would have worked themselves into a state of high excitement so they would be taken out to do the evening check of the animals and fences and then into the bath and pyjamas and a cup of cocoa the reading of the story of the Nativity and off to bed.
These days the tree goes up around two weeks before Christmas, just to keep Mr M quiet. I like the anticipation and having everything else up except the tree but he doesn't. He likes to be able to see it in the bay window when he comes home from work. He never makes a fuss about anything so the fact that he said anything at all about having the tree up shows how much it means. So, tomorrow we will get son-in-law to lift the boxes off the top of the cupboard on the landing and when we have recovered from the dust we shall put up the flashing lights and the tree and decorate the porch with flashing icicles and then Santa will have no excuse about finding us.

OH, OH I have just realised that every decoration on our tree is part of a tradition because some of them belonged to my grandmother, some to my parents and the rest have been collected over 47 years since I first had my own home. I still have a string of tinsel that belonged to Granny and the fairy at the top is on her third dress and wings but my Mum's relatives in America sent her  for the tree the year I was born - 65 years ago. So she has to be a tradition.
Now I have a lot of singing and growling to do while I pack the presents.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

feeling Christmassy?

Nope, feeling decidedly flat today. I had kind of imagined that the anticipation was building nicely and I would be able to do so much more this year than last. Then Mr M rang and said we should go to Farm Foods to get the frozen food and I said that would be good. He would pause briefly when he came home from work at 2pm and we would go then. Sounds fine doesn't it?
Peckingham Palace
I thought I had better go down in the garden and check on my chickens before we went, as it would be dark by the time I came back and it was then that I realised just how windy it really was. As I went down the steps I was caught by a powerful gust of wind and slammed against the wall. I didn't fall but it knocked the breath out of me for a moment or two. My girls were cowering in their covered run even though they have the whole of the garden to be in. They hate the wind. The flap of plastic you can see in the picture is secured behind the door now so their palace is quite snug.
I collected the eggs and went back into the house and when Mr M came in I realised that there was no way I could get into a car in weather like this. He didn't mind at all and promptly lay down on the settee and went to sleep. I feel decidedly flat because of it so I am going to bed soon and tomorrow we will have a new start.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Making a List and checking it twice...

Actually I am not making a list. I am clean out of lists. I have my Costco list, and my Farmfoods' list, and my Morrison's list (which starts with "as many of their 1.99 Panetonne as they have on the shelf) but this year I am not going down the "to do" list aisle, not at any price. I can feel the OCD (really that should be CDO because it should be in alphabetical order to be right) juices just waiting to flow the minute I start another list so.
This year I am not making any more lists than I normally make in a week.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Christmas Memories

One of my favourite Christmas memories is of the year the Bluefunnels came to stay. They had been having a little trouble with their mothers. Both of them wanted the Bluefunnels to go to them for Christmas dinner and going to one would most definitely cause the other to feel slighted and snubbed and just about any other guilt making emotion.
My mother (goodness me how I miss her so) said "come to us, that way they can both hate me for a while. They'll soon forget" So they came to us. That meant nine of us around the table for dinner and my children had their beloved 'Uncle' to play with. So it was really good a couple of years ago when Mrs Bluefunnel rang us early on Christmas morning and, during the course of our chat, asked how many we were feeding that year. "Just us" I said, "The kids are all having their own Christmas this year so we can have our dinner in front of the TV" "No you can't," she said "You can get your coats on and get yourselves up here, as long as you don't mind just sleazing in front of the telly after dinner" So we went to them and had a marvellous dinner and a great afternoon and we cooked our dinner on Boxing day.

I spent a while trying to think of a Christmas that wasn't perfect and went back year by year and suddenly realised that Christmas 2006 was the one that I totally do not remember. I will need to go and look at the album  for that year. OK so my daughter and her family were here for Christmas and then they went home to pack up all their stuff so they could move down here and live with us. Even knowing that I just don't remember much of the actual day and that's because my Mum died in the April of that year and I remember the ache I felt through every special day and every anniversary. I look at the pages I did for the holiday and I feel again the sense of detachment I felt while everyone was laughing and watching Miss M open presents I felt as though I was watching through a gauze curtain. I suppose my children will all feel that to a degree this year because my ex husband died in February. Sometimes life can be a b*st*rd can't it?

Counting down to Christmas

I never did it, count down the days to Christmas. I used to get excited that Christmas was on its way but never conciously counted down. Isn't that strange? I never had an Advent calendar when I was small either, in fact I have never had an Advent calendar EVER! My children did once ore twice when they were very small but it was always used as an extra form of punishment - as in "you've been naughty so no advent calendar for you tomorrow" and then the chocolate would go to their father. I soon learnt not to give him extra weapons.
When we set up home with Mr M they had an Advent calendar each! and to their surprise it was never used for anything other than counting down to Christmas.
Sleeps until Christmas
I suppose it is because my ex died at the beginning of this year and watching my daughter coping with her grief has unleashed a lot of memories so I am allowing the shutters on that part of our lives to come down a little. Now that Miss M is 6 she counts the sleeps until Christmas and I made a wall hanging a couple of years ago that does just that. So now she has an Advent calendar, a snowman clock in the garden and the sleeps until Christmas wall hanging.
The pocket at the bottom holds the numbers and I embroidered the numbers and text with my brother embroidery machine.

It hangs on the sitting room door so that Miss M can pop in on her way home from school, or she can see it when I collect her, and she can change the numbers every day.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Journal My Christmas

My perfect Christmas is.................this one. The one we are going to have. It doesn't matter what happens on the day or in the days leading up to it, I just know it will be perfect. Does that mean I don't care? I don't think so. I think it means that I don't have any expectations although I no longer dread the arrival of Christmas day as I used to when my children were small.
Those days ended with my divorce and were swept away when we - my three children and me - set up home with Mr M.
Look, I'm wearing my hat. Now can I eat my dinner?
Somehow he made everything right, from the sneaking outside to shake the reindeer bells below the bedroom window and then rushing inside to open the sitting room window and shout "I don't care what your name is, you can't park those reindeer on my roof!".
He took away the tension that we had all associated with Christmas, he made us believe in magic again and he gave us the space to laugh.
That's something we have become used to, laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Scrap books being opened and stories remembered, but mostly of the years since Mr M came into our lives.
So that's why every Christmas is the perfect Christmas. We have Mr M and he loves us - perfect.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas Cards and when to post

I have posted all my Christmas cards. So has my cousin. We have this arrangement. It was thrashed out in the car on the way to Croft Castle in October. Mrs Bluefunnel thinks we should post so that the cards arrive on December 1st because she loves Christmas and, as far as she is concerned, it begins on December 1st. I think we should post on December 1st because that's when christmas starts and....... well you get the idea.
bah humbug
This year I made all the cards. I started in January. I am not a card maker, I am just not into all that work for something that will probably be shredded and used as compost in the following year. It was the photograph. I took a picture of my daughter's cat sitting under the Christmas tree with a very Bah Humbug expression on his face and a piece of lametta dangling down his nose. I thought it would make a good card and then I had an offer from snapfish for loads of 6x4 prints at 4pence each. I just couldn't refuse. It was a simple task to round off the corners and then stick the pictures to the card blanks - amazon 7.99 per 100 - and I had everything ready. I also made a few cards for charity. I have supported TENOVUS a cancer charity for many years now so I used the fronts of old cards and made new ones cutting out the pictures and matting and layering onto the card blanks. a peel off greeting and the job was done. I counted up how many I made and my total was 230. I was stunned. I also made gift tags from recycled cards and there were 50 packs of ten tags each with a coloured string and some embellishment - like a snowflake or tiny christmas tree. the cards I sold for £1 each and the tags for £1 per pack. I took 130 cards to the charity shop for them to sell and gave them the money from the stuff I had already sold.
My own cards were written by the middle of October, I just like to be organised ok? I am not OCD just organised. Actually my son in law says that my daughter and I could never be OCD we would have to be CDO because we need it to be in alphabetical order. I am reluctant to admit that he could be right. Anyway, I digress.
I have a special notebook that goes into the box where I keep the christmas cards. Yes I have a different box for birthday cards. The notebook has the list of names and addresses together with details of what else goes into the card. Some people get a family newsletter - the Gibbon Gazette  if they aren't on this here intarwebby and some get money because they are grandchildren that I won't see at Christmas and some get a different letter, a personal one because they are dear friends who live too far away to visit.
When we get cards I hang them on a bit of yellow string across the front of the mantlepiece. I used to be able to pin them to the cork tiles that covered the chimneybreast but since we had the "new" fire five years ago the tiles have nearly gone. One day we might decorate the room again...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Today has definitely been a stay-in-and-watch-the-weather-through-the-window type of day. Little Miss M popped in with her daddy, to drop off her play clothes before she went to school. As soon as she had gone I unwrapped the wreath, put the new batteries in the lights and secured it to the door knocker.
It was quite chilly with the door open while I did it so I was glad it didn't take long. I popped down the garden to check on the chickens and found that one of them (I only have two) had again laid a soft shelled egg so we will be trekking off to Monmouth to get some oyster shell on Saturday. Will that be before or after I have been to the post office to send all my overseas cards? I also have to take a pile of books to the Official Bookcrossing Zone in Coffee #1
As the person who is supposed to be in charge of it I should go regularly but that is dictated by Mr M's shifts.
I don't want to talk about that I was talking about the weather, although it is not a subject I pay much attention to unless I am going out. I have been trying to remember what December weather was like when I was a child and the only thing I really remember is that as the end of term came ever closer I prayed for snow. I would watch the sky when I should have been doing boring maths and hope that it would turn the distinctive colour that meant snow. It never did.
I loved the snow when I was a child. Probably because our bungalow was next to a field that sloped perfectly. My father made steel gates and railings and things. One of the things was linepoles for washing lines and another thing was sledges. Boy! could they go fast! I still have my sledge in the basement. I was about six or seven when I first had it and it was used every year until I was around 20 when I was married and living in a street in town with a husband who regarded fun as something to be prevented. The sledge stayed with my parents and when we moved to live with them I was delighted to be able to use it again when the snow fell. I didn't slide down hills on it I used it to carry bales of hay out to the cattle and goats.
I think my dislike of snow is a recent thing and stems from a fear of falling. I just don't like the idea of that one little bit. Apart from the indignity my age and size mean that it wouldn't be a gentle landing and the last time I fell over, a couple of years ago when we visited a castle ruin and the sheep had eaten the grass so short it was slippery, The shock of suddenly feeling my feet go out from under me took ages to wear off. Not something I would go out of my way to repeat.
My ideal Christmas weather is crisp and clear and dry. This was how it always seemed to be when we lived at the mill. The children would get up really early and open their presents. I would go and milk the cow or the goats or both and then feed the steers and the chickens. Then we would have breakfast and get dinner on the go while the children played and their father sat in his chair and read a paper. Dinner always began with a row half an hour before the food was to go on the table. This would be smoothed over and then after dinner my Dad would look out the window and tell everyone to "Get your coats on, Mr Powell's cattle are in the garden". We would all grab coats and boots and troop out into the clear crisp day to herd the cattle back to their own field and then fix Mr Powell's fence - again. I don't remember it raining or anything else. Isn't that marvellous.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Journal MY Christmas

I am Journalling My Christmas again. I think this is the 4th time for me and it is becoming a tradition. I like the idea of combining my memories of Christmas past with the preparations for Christmas present. I like making lists, I hate shopping but I have reached the age where I can give money to my children and the older grandchildren and they don't feel cheated. They like that they get jars of Damson and apple chutney and home made boxes with home made cookies as well as a crisp banknote that they can add to the iPad fund or whatever piece of electronic wizardry they must have this year. For the little ones I am still happy to shop, and in the real grandmotherly tradition I buy them clothes and books. This year I have a great granddaughter that I can now see and have visit me. She is 2years old and just right for her own copies of the Very Hungry Caterpillar and We're going on a Bear Hunt.
A copy of "Bear Hunt" will be going to the youngest grandson too. Our complete family gathering was last weekend so now I can coast towards Christmas knowing that we will be cooking for only five for Christmas day and then several more people on the following days.

I have posted my Christmas cards. Now this is a tradition. I recently had a long discussion with Mrs Bluefunnel about when cards should be posted. She feels that they should arrive on December 1st while I was brought up to send them after December 1st. We spent twenty minutes on the journey to Croft Castle discussing when we would post and finally agreed that this year it would be ON the first. Mr M was all for going to the sorting office last night and waiting until the stroke of midnight before putting the cards into the post box. It was tipping down with rain so we went to bed instead and he posted them on his way to work, because we live just around the corner from the sorting office.

I love that the wreath is ready to go on the door, just as soon as I can wire it to the door-knocker and put the batteries into the LED lights. Oh and as an aside here. When I brought Miss M home from school yesterday she pointed out that the front door needs repainting. "Do you thinks so?" I asked "it was only just painted.... um, in 1991"

She could be right. So there's another job for my children to do as part of their 30 hours gift to us for our anniversary.

I love the stepping Santa that Mr M insisted on buying last year. The only place he fits is on the mantelpiece and he kind of looks lost against the collection of spoons in this picture, but when he is climbing up and down the ladder he gets everyone's attention and if we allow the volume to be raised slightly we can drive everyone mad with the Bon Tempi type organ music playing Christmas tunes.

So, Journalling my Christmas is something I am getting used to doing. I love the prompts from Shimelle, so exciting to see the examples from previous years, and the new ways that she finds to give us ideas and get the excitement mounting are just fantastic.

Journalling my Christmas has brought back the magic; has brought out my inner child; has allowed me to enjoy once again when I thought I had lost the spark
I'm ready so let Christmas commence