Our Christmas veg were certainly colourful this year, courtesy of the veg box scheme. We collected our local (organic) turkey from the same place and were amazed that true to their word, it cooked in half the time of a normal turkey (and was delicious)! The pudding was a Delia recipe, made in haste only a couple of days before Christmas and with a few changes to the recipe – flamed in brandy, it was delicious (and we have one more still to go!). The days that followed Christmas were far less hectic. We took Mum’s dog out for a long walk where we worked on her recalls and met some really lovely people (dog walking does increase one’s social circle no end!) and we wrapped up for a bitterly-cold walk on the beach, where we struggled to stop the shivers as the icy wind blew. I never really thought much to the whole twelve days of Christmas before – it seemed to be that the magic disappeared after the 25th, but as I get older, I realise that really, the magic and the peace and quiet is only just beginning.
Monday 29 December 2014
Wednesday 24 December 2014
Is it just me, or has Christmas suddenly crept up on us? This year has been a whirlwind anyway and suddenly the end of the year is nigh and it’s Christmas Eve. This last month or so I have struggled with the lack of traditions that I usually adhere to at this time of year. Traditions are something that requires familiarity and given that the house is still a work in progress and we’re still living out of boxes, it is no wonder that decorating the tree and making Christmas puddings have had to take a back-seat to the busyness of life as it is now. That’s not to say that I didn’t make a Christmas cake two days before we were due to move (crazy, I know) or spend a very late night tending to my Christmas puds as they steamed away – but it means that this year is going to have to have a slight change in traditions while we’re adjusting. I’m adamant that we’ll have a nice Christmas – and it will be lovely, because it’ll be family here. After all, isn’t that what Christmas is about?
Today, after a hectic day for Mr VP yesterday as he decorated the dining room in order to make it less building-sitey, we went to one of our favourite places in the whole world. We greeted the icy-cold winds and the rising sun with a gladness that filled me from top to toe. We walked arm-in-arm and revelled in getting to spend a little ‘holiday’ time together alone, as we have both spent every spare moment for the last few months doing things around the house. I lingered in the avenues of beeches, birches and spruces and looking at the different barks, trying to identify the woods that we have on our own log pile. I managed to ‘do a Delia’ and make mince pies (yes, they’re Dala horses!) and sausage rolls as the Nine Lessons and Carols were coming from King’s College Cambridge. We ate cheese and crackers for lunch, with lots of cups of tea and homemade Christmas cake. We had Mum round for a small dinner of sausage rolls, pickles and mince pies. We watched Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Polar Express. I still haven’t wrapped any presents, but there’s at least an hour until midnight, right? It’s one day and it’s not worth stressing out over (I’m getting Zen in my old age!).
I would like to wish all of my blog readers near and far, a very Merry Christmas and an extremely happy New Year. May you all have warmth and happiness and love.
Wednesday 17 December 2014
Oh, how I have missed doing these posts! Each year, the Fenwick’s store in Newcastle puts on an amazing window display. It has been all sorts of literary and themed windows in the past, from the ‘enchanted forest’ to Gulliver’s Travels. This year it was Alice in Wonderland and it was very well done. I particularly liked the spinning room around Alice and the detail that had gone into the whole window. If you’re in Newcastle, do make sure that you pop by and see the whole audio-visual spectacular of the Fenwick’s Window. I also added a couple of photos of Newcastle’s lights, as they have been nice this year and look brilliant against the background of the European Christmas market that was on in November.
Saturday 13 December 2014
Many apologies for this lack of blogging. Usually at this time of year I am positively gushing about all of the wonderful things I have lined up; the tree I have decorated, the lights I have oooohhhed and aaahhhhed at, the Christmas cooking but alas this year everything is a little topsy-turvey. I think this is going to be easier to explain in list-form:
- Mum moved up here, which was stressful and tiring in both camps, but very exciting and lovely too. We no longer have to make epic trips to Lincolnshire and I have her (almost) on my doorstep for a daily cup of tea and a chat. It has been really nice to be able to return the favour, too, and Mum has been round to ours for her evening meals and a nestle in front of the fire.
- After moving back in, we found out that flooring couldn’t be laid (and thus our furniture can’t be put into its rightful places and we can’t unpack) because of a damp problem only discovered when the old flooring was ripped up. I panicked – damp is no laughing matter, especially in an old house like this one.
- Thankfully, after four different damp-proofing specialists looked at it, they said that the problem is likely only a small one. One that can be fixed fairly simply, and according to a couple of the men optimistically, by myself!
- Unfortunately, the flooring man now said that he’s fully booked for Christmas fittings… So even if I get it all done, the chances are that he won’t be able to fit it before the beginning of January anyway. Sigh. Concrete and Edwardian floorboards it is.
- I got a horrible cold that left me shivering, snotty and unable to unblock 3/4 of my nasal passages. Thankfully, it wasn’t too bad (who am I kidding, it felt horrid) and it has long since passed, but it did make me feel pretty ghastly for a while (colds really are dreadful, aren’t they?).
- I had my first eggnog latté (minus the coffee) of the season and it was heavenly.
- We now have a small tree (I picked one in a record three minutes!) which has lights but no decorations. I feel so overwhelmed by a lot of things going on that I don’t really feel able to do much at all in the way of decorating it – I do not feel in the Christmassy mood at all, which is both very sad and very unlike me. :-/
- I’m really proud of Mr VP who won an array of awards from his new company at their annual Christmas party/ awards ceremony. I am unbelievably chuffed for him. He also came home with two hampers filled to the brim with wonderful foodstuffs, which was an added bonus!
- We finished our raku pottery ornaments and I will eventually get around to sharing them with you!
- Winton Marsalis’ version of O Come All Ye Faithful. It makes me well up (video below).
- I have also fallen head-over-heels in love with Over the Rhine’s new LP Blood Oranges in The Snow. The title track is achingly beautiful (video also below).
- Everything’s a bit strange at the moment, but I know that once we can unpack properly, all will feel much better and I will return to feeling like my usual self and will be able to move from one room to the next without
taking on a full assault coursetripping over.
Thursday 6 November 2014
It’s that time of year again, when adverts, supermarket aisles and just about everywhere else, don a thick mantle of tinsel and Christmas cheer. Each year, I await the John Lewis Christmas advert because they’re usually exceptionally made and have a lovely soundtrack. This year’s is no exception, using one of my favourite Beatles songs (‘Real Love’) and a bird that I find exceptionally cute: the Adélie penguin (or pengling/pengwing if you’re Benedict Cumberbatch). I shouldn’t tear up over an advert, but I do, each time!
Friday 27 December 2013
These days after Christmas always used to seem a bit dull. After all, the best bit – the run up to the Big Day – was over, the best things on TV had come and gone and the food was a little lacklustre after the glory of the Christmas dinner. But now, I can really appreciate the necessity of these days of rest and enjoy them to their fullest. It turns out in the end that neither of us really felt very Christmassy, not until about 10pm on Christmas Eve when we’d watched a surfeit of Christmas films and had enjoyed our glazed ham and a little tipple. We have since been trying to finish the – absolutely enormous – turkey and enjoying little festive treats like Mum’s handmade marzipan fruits.
These days have been a very welcome time of rest and relaxation. A chance to get out and spend time doing something other than eating and a chance to enjoy ethe relatively nice weather we’ve had. Mr VP and I went out for what was meant to be a short Boxing Day walk, but we got rather into the whole walk and decided that as we’d gone so far, we might as well make it a proper long walk. The woods were magical, filled with that kind of slanted sunlight and a cold, frozen fog (there was ice when we got there). The walk carried on, we walked all the way through the woods and out again, onto farmland and around the farm, before heading back into the woods and looping back. We hadn’t seen this bit of the woods before – it’s a relatively-new woodland to us – but we found such wonderful sights and sounds within that we are eager to go back and do it all again. We found badger sets (abandoned, we think), tears of pine resin, hollowed-out trees with the remains of an old wasps nest within, a resplendent green holly bush, a perfect little spiders web and more oak apples than I think I’ve ever seen before.
The best bit, though, was that we were going on an adventure. A proper, exciting adventure. We didn’t know where the paths would take us, and we didn’t much care, we knew only that we had a couple of hours until sunset and that we had nowhere else to be and nowhere else we wanted to be. In the end, it was over three miles of really glorious walk and I felt immensely grateful to have found this wonderful place. A place of Georgian farms, long, flat fields, bright sunshine and endless horizons. It was a long walk indeed, but we came back with rosy cheeks from the cold (I think it was one of the coldest days we’ve had, as the mercury barely got above freezing all day).
Tuesday 24 December 2013
All of the last-minute preparations are done. Shopping has been done and the – rather large – turkey collected; cranberry sauce has been made; sausages have been wrapped in bacon; the tree has been enjoyed, candles have been lit and our festive favourite films have been watched. Now things are winding down and we’re in that quiet bit: the calm before the storm of commotion and busyness of cooking Christmas dinner tomorrow. It has been the sweetest, softest day of preparation and family time, cuddled on the sofa under the blanket I’m still rippling (!) and enjoying the simplest pleasures. I feel deeply lucky for days and moments like these. Now, as I am beginning to yawn, it will not be long before we all head to bed.
I would like to wish all of my blog friends and readers the very merriest Christmas and a happy, safe New Year. I hope that you enjoy and savour all of the little pleasures and find peace on this most magical of festivals. I hope that you are all safe and warm and I would encourage you to send thoughts out to those who will not be spending this day in as much luxury. Most of all, I hope that you find a little bit of Christmas magic (watching this helps no end!) too.