A slow Saturday and a Sunday sprint…

We spent a lovely day just outside Masham on Saturday having a celebratory lunch with my hubby’s sister and her new husband (although they have been together for more than twenty some years)!  Both my daughters and their partners and of course baby L. joined us and we sat and chatted all afternoon then went along to my daughters shop (also in Masham) for a look around.  It changes every time I go – new pieces of furniture and a new selection of goods – at the moment it is all Christmas items.

Birdhouse Interiors

I can’t help thinking that this is how all Saturdays should be spent – just sitting and being and enjoying.

But then on Sunday I had to dash around like a mad thing of course to make up for lost time!

 In the morning I checked over our finances, entering receipts and balancing accounts.

This year I have been trying to simplify our finances as well as our living space but unfortunately I do not feel this is happening as far as the finances are concerned and if anything I am under the impression that they are getting more complicated.

Each time I think I have got the energy accounts sorted and under control again I find that the supplier messes up once more!  Hubby is on the phone now at 8.40pm after waiting 40 minutes already to speak to someone.

Who was it had the brilliant idea of privatising these companies and has it really made our bills any cheaper or our lives just shorter due to the stress experienced dealing with them!!

All year I have been keeping a note of my cash spending – well most of it – once or twice I have been too busy to keep track and I know I have definitely overspent the £10 budget and at times even a £20 a week budget.  This is always due to lack of time – some nights after getting home from work it is either check my finances and record the days spending or cook the tea and eat.   There are no prizes for guessing which of the two jobs wins.

I think it is too late now for this year to get back on track again but I will be in a better starting place next year and I love starting afresh in January.

As far as Xmas plans go – I can say that I haven’t really made many yet – we have most weekends spoken for now and I have managed to send out our Not so Secret Santa wish lists and rules to the family ready for the big name draw on Friday.

Other than that I have not made or even bought any Christmas cards yet or made my Christmas cake and Nut loaf but I am still hopeful that I will have time – I have already been thinking of ideas for the card and I really enjoyed doing the lino cut last year and once done it is so easy to run off any amount.

As we are simplifying the gift giving within the family by choosing to do a Secret Santa the amount of gifts I need to buy for my colleagues at work seems to be growing each year – the group I buy for has now reached six people.  Each year someone else surprises me with a gift and I feel obliged to return the pleasure!

How are your Christmas plans coming along?

 

 

 

 

Please pass the gravy…in the right direction…

Dar from over at An Exacting Life commented on how laden the table was in my picture of the annnual Christmas family get together.

For those who missed it here it is again…

Meet the family

 

It does look rather obscene doesn’t it!!  …but there is a tale to tell…

Each year we take over the restaurant of the Black Swan where my daughter and her hubby work –  pushing all the tables together so we can all fit round comfortably.  This particular year, which I think was actually 2 or 3 years ago, we actually spent Christmas day together and had the full Christmas dinner with all trimmings, cooked for us by my daughters hubby the chef.

Of course being Christmas Day the pub was actually closed to the public and with no staff around my two daughters, the chef and myself posed as waitresses after we got everyone seated and Santa hatted.  For ease of serving everyone on such a large table we mentally divided it into quarters each one of us to serve the people on our alloted quarter.

After everyone was given a plate with Turkey on (or in our case Nutloaf) we nimbly ran round bringing out the vegetable dishes and roast potatoes, gravy boats, extra stuffing, and the many different sauces – bread sauce, white sauce, apple sauce, (you name it we probably had it) until with military precision and some careful manouvering we had the same selection of side dishes placed on each of the four quarters so everything was within easy reach.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

…and all was well until… some of us failed to pass the dishes on in the right direction and as people helped themselves they would pass the dish on to someone in the adjoining quarter rather than the same quarter.  It became a bit like musical side dishes until we ended up with all the gravy in one quarter and all the sauces in another whilst others had nothing other than the stuffing and veg.

Well that’s families for you!!

At least no one had any difficulty passing on the ‘Pass the Pudding’  game afterwards – it was like a hot potato being hurled to anyone daft enough to catch it!

Well I must go now I have some Not so Secret Santa lists to compile and of course Sue over at Our New Life in the Country is waiting for me to get my act together and send her my address – I really don’t know why I thought she needed my email to send the book perhaps I was having a ‘ginger’ moment and thought she could send it as an attachment!  Just put it down to excitement at winning.

 

The Not so Secret Santa…

We had quite a busy weekend – I cleared up the kitchen and laundry room whilst hubby put the first watered down coat of paint on the newly plastered ceiling in the bathroom so that we can fit the downlights soon.  Progress is being made at last.

On Sunday we had a trip to Meadowhall, our local shopping mall – it was horrendously busy and the only reason we went was to take some boots back to Clinkards that I decided didn’t fit that well after all and to buy hubby a much-needed new winter coat.  The busyness of it all reminded me of why we don’t usually go there near Christmas although near Christmas now seems to start in October!

By popular demand our family are going to partake in the ‘Not so Secret Santa’ again this year.  We will spend £50 and buy for one person.  Then that is it …done, shopping over!

We had great fun last year just with the lists.  Each person had to make a list of up to 10 items they would like as a gift this is to help the person buying it and that is where the Not so Secret bit comes in or you can opt for a gift card or if you are really brave a complete surprise.   Last year the lists consisted of anything from a meal for two at the Hilton to an extra wide ironing board!

The live draw of names of who is buying for who took place courtesy of Facebook one evening as most of our family are on Facebook  – a bit like the live football draws.  Technology can be useful sometimes although some of our friends on Facebook thought we had gone mad and some wanted to join in!

Meet the family

We will then meet for the big present swap one weekend before Christmas and have our usual family party with crackers and games and of course we have a new addition to the family this year with baby L.

 

Before I go just thought I would mention that I have won a book about the Minimalists from Sue over at  Our New Life in the Country

I know I couldn’t believe it either especially since I have been away from blogging for a while and had only just got back to having a read around my favourite blogs and left Sue a comment.  I can’t wait to start reading – hope you have got it wrapped and ready to post Sue!

I must also say welcome to all my new followers – I hope you realise this will be a bumpy journey you have signed up for – I might come and go a bit over the next few months as we are trying to get our little cottage back to being habitable once more.  At the moment we are awaiting the strip out but once the reinstatement begins I imagine we will have to go up to Scotland quite frequently to supervise and my posts might be a bit thin once again.

 

 

 

 

 

Adding up the cost of Christmas…

Christmas Presents

Last year more than ever was quite tight financially especially at Christmas and I know, through lack of time, I let a lot of money slip by that with a little more care would still be in our pocket – but such is life.  I can only try to do better in the future.

I was lucky with one or two Christmas purchases that had been reduced and we managed to get quite a few items in Scotland where there are more independent shops and I do like to help the local economy as we have a house there.  I also eeked out the budget by making a few little gifts for friends and colleagues.   Ideally I should have made more but time was not on my side!

 

This is a list of my purchases

I won’t divulge the exact price of the gifts as the recipients may be reading this but we spend about £20 a person on average for relatives, a bit more for our mums and a lot more for our daughters and partners.  We agree to only buy small gifts between some of our friends and colleagues and others we agree not to swap presents.

For my better half – who didn’t have very much the previous Christmas and works extremely hard – I surprised him with a Kindle Fire – needless to say he is well suited and has played with it every day since we opened our presents!

For my mum – who loves to go back in the past I gave her an interesting book on the Loxley Valley in Sheffield where she comes from which has photos of then and now.  I found a lovely necklace in Wallis which just happened to be reduced and I also bought her a gift card from House of Fraser.

For my mum-in-law – it had to be clothes so we chose a M&S coffee and cream Jacquard cardigan which will mix and match with other things she has.

My brother – a guaranteed frost proof earthenware garden planter that is a tall cylindrical pot almost like a chimney pot.  He has been doing a lot in his garden this year and he really loved it.

For his Russian wife – an ethnic style bag with embroidery for the summer and a gift set of travel body lotions etc as she was about to go abroad for Christmas.

For my Russian niece and her husband I gave a joint Gift card for Debenhams as they are true shoppers and like to hit the sales after Christmas and for their new baby – we joined together with our daughters to buy the cutest little Rocking Horse (actually a brightly coloured cow) by Mamas and Papas.  They all loved this present (the baby included!) and we got a good deal reduced by almost half.

For my other Russian niece and her partner it was definitely a gift card as they have gone to live in Australia.

For my sister and her new husband I bought a Patio Garden Voucher from Jamia Olivers Fifteen charity  link here http://www.fifteencornwall.co.uk/shop/patio-container-garden.html   When the planting season begins Fifteen will deliver a pack of tiny plug plants to my sister who will then put them into a planting box and grow them on.

For my sister’s daughter another gift card – she is at ‘that’ age when buying her something would be too difficult – I would be bound to get the wrong ‘in’ fashion!

For my sister in law and her partner I found a beautiful hand-made silk purse in Scotland that we put a Waterstones voucher inside and was light enough to post.

For my friends – we buy very small token presents – this year I made jars of fresh flowers and foliage and a bag of homemade chocolates.

For the girls at work – I bought a beautifully packaged homemade soap and bath bomb and I made chocolates and gingerbread houses as well.

For my male colleague – a china mug with a Westie dog on it which is just like the one he had from the animal rescue last year. Plus the chocs and gingerbread.

For my son-in-law and my future son-in-law I  bought jumpers from Next and they had some money.

So that just leaves our two daughters, they had mostly money and a stocking full of unusual little bits and pieces, oh and of course an Angel.  I did indulge and get them an all in one Santa style sleep suit each from New Look in bright red with a white snowflake print complete with hood and pom-pom, and I let them open these on Christmas Eve as they were both staying with their respective in-laws and future in-laws.  We are known to laze around a bit on Christmas morning and these are just perfect for that in fact I really wanted one so that we could have a mother and (two) daughters set!

Everyone seemed very pleased with their gifts but next year we are thinking of doing something different as a family and perhaps introducing a secret Santa where each person only buys one substantial gift of £50 to £100 or we continue to buy separately and cap the price at £5, so it is a notional gift.  We all agree it is getting harder to think of suitable gifts and more expensive to buy them especially for the younger end who are struggling just to buy a home.

So my total for all the presents was less than last year because we had cut down a bit but we should really have spent even less than we did but it is hard unless everyone does the same.

So now it is the big squeeze and we are on a ‘hardly’ no spend for the rest of this month.  At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that Christmas is all paid for and I won’t be getting a hefty credit card bill at the end of the month.

How did your present buying go did you come in on budget?

I think generally a lot of people are spending less although I do have a couple of friends who buy a phenomenal amount and love the whole shopping / spending experience thing.  I heard today on the news that Morrisons did not do as well as expected and this may be the same for the other shops.  I don’t feel I want to spend though just to keep the shops in profit but how much does this harm the economy, both ours and the developing countries that we buy from?

Fast away the old year passes…

Fa la la la la la la la la…

We are back home now after our visit to my mum in law in the care home in Shrewsbury where we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together.

At midday on Christmas Eve the Care home hosted their usual Christmas party for residents and their families – we had a lovely meal and Santa came along too.

 

Old Rectory Wem

We stayed over on Christmas Eve in this gorgeous old Georgian Rectory hotel in Wem (minus the snow – it is a picture from 2 years ago).  Our younger daughter used to be assistant manager here and helped set up and open the hotel when the owner had renovated it.

Christmas Day was quite an unusual day for us.  For practical reasons (being vegetarian and not eating Turkey) we decided to visit my mum in law in the Care home after her Christmas Dinner.  Meanwhile we had our own very special 3 course meal in the Car park at the Battlefields just outside the town.  We were quite undisturbed until a few doggy walkers arrived in cars and we did get one or two odd looks.

Battlefields car park

And this is probably why…

Camping Stove

…we had our camping stove out boiling the water for our starter…

Making Christmas Lunch

Christmas Lunch - starter

Ainsley’s New England Vegetable Chowder Cup a Soup and we can honestly say it is one of the worst things I have ever had to eat.  We have never had cup a soup before and never again.  I expect it isn’t particularly this brand I presume they are all much of a muchness.

For the main course we had Wensleydale Cheese sandwiches with coleslaw, lettuce and pickle with a few hand-baked crisps, followed by a dessert selection of tiny Mince Pies, Chocolate Brownies and Caramel Shortcakes and a cup of tea.  I was a bit upset that I had forgotten to pack the crackers.

Christmas dessert

As you can imagine we felt quite stuffed after such a large feast and decided to drive back into Shrewsbury and go for a stroll around the park to walk it off.

    Shrewsbury Park

Because there had been quite a lot of water falling here the River had flooded the paths.

Shrewsbury Park 2

So we climbed to higher ground and had a walk around the town walls.  There is a lot of Georgian architecture here and almost every door had a polished brass letterbox and a wreath displayed.

Wreaths 3

Wreaths 2

Wreaths

Wreath 13

Wreath 12

Wreath 11

Wreath 10

Wreath 9

Wreath 8

Wreath 7

Wreath 6

Wreath 5

At 2 o’clock we went to visit my mum in law and spent the afternoon in the Care home opening presents and cards and reading newsletters from relatives to her.  We said our tearful goodbyes at tea time and headed home.  The roads were pretty quiet and it wasn’t long before we arrived back, but too tired to make a proper meal so we opted for poached eggs on toast for our Christmas Supper!

Wreaths 4

Our Christmas Day No 3 will be today with the girls and their partners.  This has been quite a long drawn out Christmas for us this year but we are enjoying it.

Shock and horror…

I heard the news last night…the sad story of the mother who lost her two little boys in a crash on the M6 on Christmas Day.  My heart goes out to the family.

I also heard the unbelievable story of how 4 million shoppers have managed to spend a total of almost 3 billion pounds on Boxing Day at the sales.

Madness or what?

I cannot even find the words to express how I feel about this but I do know I don’t want to be part of it and it makes me even more determined to pull out of this consumer society.

I am at present using this free time to think carefully about my goals for next year and the life I want to lead in the future and will no doubt be posting about both shortly.

Hope you have all had a good Christmas – I will tell you the story of mine in my next post although we still have another Christmas Day to celebrate on Friday with our two girls and their partners.

Follow me in merry measure…

Fa la la la la la la la la…

While I tell of Yule Tide treasure…

Christmas Flowers

Little posies of fresh flowers and foliage in empty decorated jam jars are presents to my friends this year

Homemade Chocolates

together with a few homemade chocolates

Gingerbread Houses

and some decorated Gingerbread

Gingerbread Houses 2

all packaged in cellophane

Handmade Chocolates

to give them a bit of Christmas sparkle

Christmas Presents

So my making and baking has come to an end now.

Christmas Cards

The Christmas cards are displayed

Christmas Mantle

The Mantlepiece decorated

Christmas Tree Baubles

and the tree is laden with vintage baubles passed on to me from my mum and grandma reminders of wonderful Christmases past at home in the fifties and sixties.  Underneath are the presents all wrapped and waiting…

…and finally there is just time to wish all my readers and new friends I have made this year

a very

Happy Christmas

Fa la la la la la la la la…