fEAsible, taking stock

fEAsible…doing better next time

Notes to self for next December

Each year I reflect on what worked and what did not both in the run up to and over the Christmas period –  then I make notes.  This is the list I made recently to remind me of things to do better, things I want to do again and things to definitely avoid next year.

 

  • Definitely no decorating beyond end of October – there isn’t time to look for furnishings with all the extra events and general tasks in the run up to Christmas and stocks are low in the shops – we spent a lot of time and petrol money trying to buy the electric blanket for mum – it must have been on everyone’s Christmas list!
  • Buy fancy Nougat for OH stocking early from TKMAX – don’t wait until we are out shopping together or with mum as it gets too tricky to buy it secretly.
  • Negotiate with mum that she plans her visit for November again like she used to – it has crept into middle December now and this leaves me with no time on the busiest weekends and all the Christmas events that we could go to tend to be in November.
  • Make less food for our neighbour / friends get-togethers – our new neighbours just did a selection of crackers, cheese and wine with a little fruit and some dips – it was both simple and ample and you don’t have to cook anything.
  • Make Christmas cards in October –waiting until November and December are too late to experiment with ideas. This year some of the colours of my stamping inks had dried up or gone off and I had to dash to town for new ones.
  • If supplementing with bought cards buy enough of the same design – don’t buy different packs then there are no decisions to be made of who has which card.
  • Plan to draw the names for the family Not So Secret Santa and Not so Secret Santa Stockings by mid-November – to allow plenty of time to buy the gifts and order any online and take advantage of any offers.
  • Stock up on stamps early – buy a book each month to spread the cost.
  • Send an e-card to Australians with the newsletter – to save on postage costs.
  • Collate newsletter for friends and distant family in November  – to save time this year I used my blog photos and posts to remind me of significant events and highlights throughout the year.
  • Update card and address lists in January for next year – remove anyone who has died or doesn’t require a card anymore.
  • Good tip from The Sadie Diaries – take photos and make notes of décor and lighting that works – most important label those fine wire lights with the colour of the white – warm white / bright white etc – they differ quite a lot and is easier to get the right ones in the right place if you know the exact colour.
  • Also like Sadie put outside lights up in warmer November.
  • Reduce décor that is put out in the rooms – less is more – use more natural foliage as décor and simple twinkly lights and candles looked really effective this year.
  • Buy plenty of batteries when on offer – as they are so expensive full price.
  • Make a plan of December menus that are quick and easy and can be frozen – for those extra busy days. Make notes on recipes for next year.
  • Find recipes that use left-over fruit and nut and egg whites and are quick and easy.
  • Buy one roll each of Adult Christmas wrapping paper and don’t forget one roll for Children now we have more in the family.
  • Pre-write gift tags when writing cards –  to save time when wrapping gifts.
  • Put the Saltaire Living Advent event into diary – not to be missed – also check on the one in North Yorkshire.
  • Buy a few sprigs of flowers and leaves from the florist for decoration – they were really good value and you can select exactly which ones you want.

Hopefully with a few adjustments I can make next Christmas run more smoothly and have more fun.

 

 

 

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mEAndering, out and about, sEAsons

sEAsons…a living Advent

Saltaire

As some of you may know I live in a small market town in West Yorkshire, that is really no more than a large village, where the Pennine Moors rise steeply above us and mill chimneys are dotted around the landscape.   Like many similar places that you may be familiar with such as Holmfirth (Last of the Summer Wine country), Hebden Bridge and Halifax these places expanded from nothing more than small hamlets during the Industrial Revolution with the building of the ‘dark satanic’ mills for the woollen, cotton and silk industry.
Titus Salt was one of the many people of this era, often influenced by a religious faith, who not only built mills and factories but also provided decent housing for their workers.  Titus Salt went one step further and created a whole village namely Saltaire which is near the city of Bradford.
When we first married we lived in an old 4 storey terrace of similar mill worker’s houses over the other side of our village and they are now quite rightly listed.  There is a small park called the ‘People’s pleasure grounds’ accessed by the bridge over the stream at the bottom of the gardens – all part of the provision for the mill workers.
I mention all this because yesterday we braved the weather to visit Saltaire Village, we hadn’t been for some years, it is now a world heritage site and I desperately wanted to see the Living Advent windows. Every year 24 of the houses take part and a window is illuminated with a festive scene with one scene being ‘opened’ daily in sequence from 1st of December until 24th December and then remaining to view until 5th January.
As you can see from the first few photos the mill is enormous and no longer used for textiles but houses an Art Gallery including a collection of David Hockney paintings, a large restaurant and three floors of books, homewares, furniture and clothing.  The homewares section has display cabinets of design classics – crockery, cutlery and glasses that most people will remember from the different eras that are now very much collectible.
 The china, dishes, pots and pans on sale are all selected for their design and quality and although some items are very expensive some are much more affordable (especially at the moment whilst certain items are much reduced).  I was in absolute heaven – I could easily have come home with almost everything in the shop but decided that I would make a mental note of anything that I felt might be useful or just plain beautiful to have and plan another trip there another day.
Before going in the mill we had a wander around the streets – there is a stretch of shops along the main road down to the mill with craft shops, restaurants and cafes – beyond this is the tight network of terraced housing built on a grid system and all the streets are named after his wife, sons and daughters, Caroline, William Henry, George, Amelia, Edward, Fanny, Herbert, Whitlam, Mary, Helen and Ada.

Some houses had larger gardens, some smaller and some of them open straight onto the pavement – I expect this represented your standing in life and the importance of the work you did at the mill.  Every house was looking very festive and I particularly loved some of the wonderful colour combinations.
What would have been little corner shops and general stores are to be found at the end of many of the streets.  This one has been turned into a Bridal shop and we also discovered the local Spa.

It was so bitterly cold and wet but we walked up and down the streets with me snapping away every time we came upon another Advent window.  As it was only mid afternoon the first few were not yet illuminated but I wanted to capture as many of them as I could.  But scroll further down and you will see they come alive after dark when we went out again after the lights had been switched on.

   

 

Even the ordinary stained glass in the windows and doors of these houses look extremely festive.

And lastly we came upon Victoria Hall, originally named Saltaire Institute, such a grand building for a village I thought it deserved a photo before we came home – apparently it cost £25,000 when it was built between 1867 and 1871 and contained a main hall seating 800, a lecture room, two art rooms, a laboratory, a gymnasium, a library of 8,500 books and a reading room.
It is currently used as a venue for weddings and conferences.

This is now my last post of the Christmas season – tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and then the start of a whole new year stretching ahead of us.  I have a few ideas in mind, a lot of reading still to do and plenty of decisions to make. 
2018 feels like it might be a good year.

Happy New Year to all my readers. x

sEAsons

sEAsons…but the fire is so delightful

It is snowing here and we are snuggled up by the fire all cosy and warm…

The fruit cake is made and being fed daily (or when I remember) with a trickle of brandy – it smells heavenly and almost too good to wait until Christmas to eat it.  I will probably cut it when we have the neighbours round – it won’t get decorated this year but then I don’t like marzipan and icing is too sweet for me so I end up chopping it all off again.  I have in the past decorated it with a glaze over a fruit and nut topping.  Time is too short this year.

I love opening the box of Christmas decorations and rediscovering my little treasure trove.  Each year though I find I am putting fewer and fewer decorations out and maybe after Christmas I will give away the ones that no longer ‘spark joy’ for me.

The Christmas tree is in the garage and will be brought into the house soon for decorating, the majority of my cards are written and posted and the hand delivered ones will follow.  I still hope I might make the ones for my close friends but I will see how next week goes.  I have my daughter’s birthday next week too so will probably call in to see her on our trip North when we take mum home.

Mum arrived today and it will be nothing but none stop shopping now for the weekend – luckily my back, which suddenly ‘went’ on Monday, is a lot better and just in time too.  I don’t have a lot of shopping to do myself but I help my mum with the bits and pieces she likes to buy.  I do enjoy looking in the shops at Christmas there are some lovely things but I have no desire to own them just look like you would if you went to a museum.  I am definitely getting into a more minimalist mindset these days after creating more space in my home – I now crave more but that starts buy not buying more, no matter how much I am tempted.

I buy a present for my young nephew who will have clothes, my niece (who is 20 and will just want the money) and then my granddaughter.  I have bought my one family Secret Santa present and a few of the Secret Stocking gifts for OH.  I often make my close friends a crafty gift – we just give little gifts of about £6 or £7.

I have read a few blogs recently where some people are finding the gift side of Christmas difficult and it seems to be one of the issues that can really spoil Christmas and family relations.  A few years ago we had a family discussion about the present buying as we had the younger generation saving to buy homes of their own and the older generation reaching pensionable age so money was tighter for some of us.  As a family we were also struggling to find gifts for some of us who already had most things and we were spending far too much time at the shops and missing the festive Christmas events – so we agreed to give a Secret Santa a go.

Our limit is £50 per person and one person buys a gift for one other.  In November I send each person their own Wish List and they write down up to 10 items so it is still a surprise on the day what you might get and if anyone genuinely wants a surprise they just tick the box provided.

The surprise is often in what other people wish for on their lists and it can be a bit difficult to disguise a wheelbarrow or ironing board  (yes I would not have thought of buying those as a present before!).   Once the lists are written I put each persons name in a hat and draw them out.  Then we pass our list to the person who will be buying for us.

We still buy as usual for the children so they are not included in the Secret Santa.

Having only one present to buy we now make more of the live name draw night (which we do on Facebook with everyone tuning in at 9pm one Friday night for the grand event) even some of my friends tune in as well because they also like our Not so Secret Santa name draw!

Just before Christmas we get together for the big family present swap as we can’t all be together now on Christmas day, but we don’t open our gifts .  Instead we have a small buffet complete with Christmas hats,  jumpers and crackers.  Afterwards we play lots of games like pass the parcel, hot and cold or the Banana game.

We complete the evening with a musical session using an array of instruments that once came out of previous crackers and this has become the highlight of the evening.  After a few years of practice I can honestly say that we are no better, have no rhythm and sometimes or most times have the wrong notes.  In fact we have only once completed a tune that has sounded remotely like it should and there is nothing difficult about Jingle Bells is there?

Last year we introduced selfie props and a picture frame and snapped some wonderful photos.

In addition to the Not so Secret Santa my very immediate family (our two daughters and partners, myself and OH) do a Secret Santa Stocking in the same way with a £20 limit.  This year I am doing a stocking for my OH.

So I can only say have a go at something different you can always change back – we all agree though that we would not go back to the old way of shopping for everyone but equally we would not like to not buy anything either.  This has the best of both worlds for us. Our only problem is agreeing a venue and date for all 16 of us.  It took nearly 100 messages this time with our busy schedules but even that became a fun afternoon in itself.

beach cottage, bEAching, general chit chat

bEAching…a weekend escape

We escaped to our cottage in Scotland for a few days this last weekend – for those of you who are new readers we are camping out now in a static caravan in the garden of our cottage since the flood in 2014 made it impossible for us to use the cottage.

We had already been warned of bad weather up and down the country so went with no expectations of getting in the garden and instead I went prepared with a few indoor jobs and a pile of books and magazines to read.   I actually like this time of year – the place is deserted and kind of bleak looking but it has a beauty of its own in the greyness.

Unexpectedly Friday was dry and sunny, although bitterly cold, and we decided to make the best of the weather and have lunch out and then drive over to Portpatrick and Stranraer and have a wander around before the weather turned.  The shops are well stocked with Christmas gifts and trimmings so much so that I actually wondered who will buy it all.  Many of the smaller gift shops and cafes in the area are only opening at the weekend even over the Christmas season as trade appears to be very slow this year – it is such a shame for these small businesses who rely very much on the extra boost to trade that tourism brings.  We always try to support these shops where we can buying locally and not buying goods down here to take up there.

We stayed indoors on Saturday as the heavy rain forecasted had set in and continued through the night so it was like sleeping in a tin box and because we are so close to the sea the constant roar of the waves crashing around made it even harder to sleep through the noise.

I filled my time trawling through old family photos that, once edited, will be part of a photo book we are compiling to have printed by Blurb books for my mum’s Christmas present.  We did the same for my mum in law some years ago capturing a snapshot of her life and she was really pleased with it.

With hundreds of photos I found it quite hard deciding what to put in or leave out – some of the older photos bring back very happy memories for me as we had so much fun as a family especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s when I was growing up so it was quite a slow job.  I can even remember all the dresses that I am wearing as they were made by my grandma and the cardigans and jumpers knitted by my mum.  Here are just a few of my favourites –

1954 – This is me with my family when I was only a week or two old – note the old-fashioned dustbin and air raid shelter in the background – granddad had turned it into a garden shed…

1957 – Does anyone out there recognise this Lion – could it be in Skegness or Scarborough?

1957 – somewhere in Torquay – Dad (on the right of the picture) used the automatic setting on the camera and we are all laughing as he only just made it into the picture – an early form of selfie!  Wonderful bathing costumes though…

Great Gran (back left) always had her Sunday best hat on even on a picnic – mum in the centre looking glamorous as ever…

1958 – The Promenade at Blackpool – mum and my Aunt in their very fashionable headscarves and me in my knitted Pixie hat!

1958 – One of my favourite pictures my Aunt and Uncle improvising when camping by washing up in the cake tin – we went everywhere with that tent – hardly a deluxe model it looks like it is about to collapse and I think it often did but all added to the fun…

1958 – me again with Spot the dog picking wild flowers (certainly not allowed now) – always into mischief, we did everything together…

1964 – I am 10 years old here and we are collecting the tiny four berth caravan that was going to be our home for over 6 months on the site where Dad built his own house…

and this is the house – quite an achievement – dad had the help of  3 brickies / joiners and laid all the drains himself – whenever we wondered where dad was he would be mixing concrete or digging trenches.  During this time mum fell unexpectedly pregnant with my sister and she was born just after we managed to move in…

1966 – me with my mum and little sister – anyone remember these pushchairs? – pre buggy days – you could sit either way round but it was hard work heaving them on and off a bus.

Ah well enough of the ‘Good old days’ and back to the Christmas preparations – I also began the Advent calendars on Saturday but found they are not as quick to do as I thought and getting the photos for mum sorted has to take priority so we can meet the Blurb book deadline.  I am thinking now that I may have to abandon the calendars until next year.

 

On the positive side we now have our family get together date fixed and it only took about 100 messages to one another via Messenger (what did we do before Facebook) until at last everyone is able to agree on a time, a date and a place which is just as well because there is very few weekends left and I now have only one free weekend to get everything done – the cake, the nut roast and the cards and gifts.

On the decorating side the new bed arrived Monday and the wardrobe doors Tuesday, so now it is just the finishing touches.  The old bed that is to go to my daughter’s house is proving difficult to transport – too big for our estate and the little van my daughter can have loan of is just that…too little!  So we have to find a creative way of squeezing it into our estate – I will leave that job to OH.  If we cannot move it I have visions of it being part of our living room decorations over Christmas so I will just drape some tinsel over it!

This week I am looking to bake the cake and start the Christmas cards.  How are your plans going?

Back soon x