celebrations, drEAming, fEAsting, general chit chat, sEAsons

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.


celebrations, fEAsting, mEAndering, out and about, sEAsons

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


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.

drEAming, random thoughts, sEAsons

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.


See the blazing Yule before us…

Yule Log Fire

…Fa la la la la la la la la…

It is certainly cold tonight and we are hugging the fire wrapped in cosy blankets to keep out any draughts.  Luckily the left over Lasagne made freshly last night by my better half has made a good quick meal for us tonight as we were both home quite late, my better half because the M62 was a complete nightmare and me because I decided on a whim to stay over in town after work and indulge in some late night shopping.  I wish I could say that I have now cracked the present list  – but not quite.  I have now a long weekend to look forward to, having booked a day off work on Monday.

On 13th December 31 years ago our beautiful younger daughter was born, it was a Sunday and during the day so much snow fell that we had to remain in hospital together for 5 long days because the midwives struggled to get to the new mums who had made it home.  We named her Lucy, not knowing then that the 13th December is St Lucy’s day, the Saint of light and she is our little beaming ray of light.  Happy Birthday Lucy x



This is Lucy’s Angel on the right  – you might not guess that it is a toilet roll centre and a doyle!  She ran out of school one day before Christmas many years ago clutching this in her little hands and could hardly wait to hand it to me, obviously delighted with her creation.  The Angel is 26 years old now and becoming a little shabby around the edges and each year I have to keep gluing bits back together but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without this decoration on the mantlepiece.  We are rather mad on Angels in our house and each year the girls find a new one on the top of their stockings, they have been made out of wire, fabric, wood, plaster, glass and even chocolate.  The Angel hunt begins early for us and choosing a new one is a very serious business.  This years Angels are all ready in a secret hiding place waiting to make an appearance on Christmas Eve…shhh

Paper Angels

Meet the family

Meet the family

On Sunday our Christmas family get together is beginning to take shape – we have a time we can all agree on, a venue, a menu and some extra new Santa style hats courtesy of the Pound shop or was it Pound Land or even Pound World?  My daughter managed to get hold of a Pass the Pud game, last one in Yorkshire I think, but hopefully it will provide some of the entertainment.  I am just hoping for good weather so we can all journey up or down to Masham for the day and not worry about getting stranded.

drEAming, random thoughts, sEAsons

Troll the ancient Yule tide carol…

…Fa la la la la la la la la…

I love the old English word Yule or Yuletide which originates from the religious festival observed by the Germanic people and has been absorbed into the Christian festival of Christmas.  The haunting medieval Carols are my favourite and the one playing is Ecco quod natura – ‘Behold nature changes’.

This is certainly true at the moment when I wake in a morning to a blanket of white frost fallen on the world outside.  As the sun rises and warms the frozen earth the frost glistens and ice melts.  When I return home in the evening the sky is inky black lit not only by natures twinkling stars but a host of man-made Christmas lights all competing for attention; flashing, twinkling, strobing…

Our new lights outside seem to have a mind of their own and each night when the timer kicks in it seems to reset itself to a different pattern of which there are eight to choose.  I prefer the ‘Steady on’ mode to which it is set, but on arriving home tonight to my horror they were on ‘strobing flash’ and last night it was ‘slow fade in and out’.  Must be made in China!

Sitting here in the warmth with a glow from the fire sipping hot cocoa and looking forward to snuggling down in bed tonight with a good book while outside the cold night air is transforming the landscape once again.  It is such a magical time of year.

Not everyone has the luxury or privilege of this warmth and protection our homes offer us and  the video below playing O Holy Night has images of a different side of life. My thoughts reach out to all the homeless people out there in this weather – I pass them in our subway in a morning and I could never walk past without giving some change and I always feel I should be doing more to help.

Last night I wrote my yearly newsletter to insert into the cards for certain friends who like to receive an update (I don’t impose them on everyone!)  It is amazing how quickly the year has gone and I thought at first that nothing much had happened until I started to write, and then I found that in fact we had done quite a lot and been incredibly busy.  So I think to myself that crafting a simpler life is going to be harder than I first imagined.


Don we now our gay apparel…


… Fa la la, la la la, la la la…

I captured these pictures last year when Santa and his little Elf helpers visited the village of Masham in North Yorkshire.  I remember as a child dressing up as an angel in a white silk floor length nightdress with silver wings edged in feathery duck down for the school Nativity play, singing Hark the Herald Angels sing (and probably off key) to an audience of adoring mums.  Even now I love to dress up and stored away in our loft is a whole wardrobe of fancy dress costumes that I have made over the years from Donald Duck to Miss Elizabeth Bennett just waiting for another party to go to.  My younger daughter has inherited my passion and has the whole village joining in on Christmas Eve at her local pub including her boss.

My actual Christmas Day outfit for our Care Home Christmas will be a little more sober but I might just have a Christmas Santa hat or halo to finish it off!

As I have spent nearly all evening on the phone arranging and rearranging our Christmas get together on Sunday I am beginning to think that booking a conference call with all of us would have been a much quicker way to finalise the details – and how is it I have become the ‘organiser’ anyway?  My better half is away tonight in Hemel Hempstead and will be sitting in his hotel room by the phone wondering why he cannot get through all night.

I will hopefully have time to write a few more cards including my daughter’s birthday card for posting tomorrow and then it is definitely cocoa and bed.


Little Elves

I will have to make up lost time tomorrow night – only 14 more days to go and I have more than 14 jobs left to do!




managEAble, sEAsons, to do list

Tis the season to be jolly…

christmas lights a

…Fa la la Fa la la Fa la la…

When our girls were younger we would jump into the car one evening just before Christmas and have a tour of the neighbourhood lights.  It became quite a tradition and we would secretly award a First, Second, and Highly Commended prize to the efforts of the unsuspecting contestants.  The girls thought it was such great fun and even now they have flown the nest we still tend to have that neighbourhood tour wherever we happen to be.  The picture above was captured in a little Shropshire town called Wem where we stay over at Christmas when visiting my mum in law.   I love this fun part of Christmas especially all the over the top displays you come across in peoples gardens, I would never have a giant blow up Santa or a flashing neon reindeer but I love the people who do.

I expect like me you have all been very busy this weekend trying to put ticks against those never ending Christmas lists.  If you haven’t please let me know your secret of how you can be so close to Christmas and not have an endless to do list!   Yesterday the lights finally went up outside after the first lot didn’t work and we had to return them.  We also bought the tree and delivered a few cards on the way home to save on postage.

Today I made the cake which is one of my favourite jobs as nothing beats that heavenly smell of the Christmas cake cooking all afternoon. The recipe I use is a virtually organic cake and the dried fruit is marinated in Brandy with the zest of an orange and lemon for 3 days before mixing the cake. The recipe suggest that you stir the fruit occasionally over the three days and add a little more Brandy if the fruit seems a little dry – I suspect sometimes we overdo the Brandy bit as we both tend to have a stir and add a tablespoon more each time we pass the bowl whether or not the fruit is seems a little dry!!

Christmas Cake

The cards are beginning to drop through the door thick and fast now – I received my first on the 1st and then the odd one or two over the last week and now suddenly we arrive home to a little pile on the doormat.

During this coming week it will be my younger daughters birthday on the 13th December and on the Sunday our family get together for my side of the family for the big present swap.  Each alternate year we spend Christmas with my family and in-between with our respective partners families.  This year my daughters go to their partners families for Christmas Day, my mum and sister to her new partners mums and we go to my mum in  laws Care Home. So we meet before Christmas to get together and swap presents then next year we will all be together again for Christmas Day.   We find this arrangement works quite well for us and we are perfectly synchronized!

So what do I need to do this coming week

  • Make a few special cards to post
  • Finalise the newsletters to enclose or email
  • Get ready for our family get together
  • It will also be a celebration of my daughters birthday as she was born on the 13th December so I need to fit in a birthday cake as well
  • Buy a few more presents
  • Begin wrapping the gifts as this can always take longer than I allow for
  • Buy present for daughters birthday
  • Get decorations down from the loft
  • Put up the greenery along the Banister rails

How are your plans going everyone?