Little Sparkles – Christmas 2015

And finally it’s the last Little Sparkles of 2015. As it’s been Christmas week, it’s been a real family week. Mr S has needed to work at home today but has been doing family things for the rest of the week, lots of walks and lots and lots of games, some Wii U but mainly board games such as Mouse Trap, Uno and Operation. It has been really special just being the four of us and I’ll try and summarise the week but I’m sure I’ll miss something, it’s the sparkliest week of the year…

Apologies for the lack of photos in one of the most photographed weeks of the year, our photos all feature us so I’ve had to edit the photos carefully.



My dad recommended and lent me Rick Stein’s autobiography which I am reading. However I am not so crazy about the author, he was born into an affluent family and there is a hint of poor little me about it all, loads of anxiety and angst about being your typical white, middle class male. I’m not warming to him yet but there is still more to read.

I have also been reading lots of annuals, Star Wars and the Beano and discovering the new books which the children received for Christmas.



I have never listened so intently as I did on Christmas Eve, it was so stressful, as every sound seemed to be magnified as I tried to put the presents out. Little Man went to bed late and then Little Miss woke up about 10.30 to ask if Santa had been so I was on edge and jumpy as I tried to make everything as magical as possible without making a sound.

To counter these nerves I got to hear the excited squeals of the children on Christmas morning discovering that Santa had been, nothing can match the joy of children on Christmas morning.


I don’t know if it just me but I thought the Christmas television was poor this year. I suppose the rose tinted memories of childhood and the big films don’t take into account the accessibility we all have to hundreds of tv channels these days where there are plenty of opportunities to watch the big films.  My favourite watch of Christmas week was Julia Donaldson’s Stickman and we did all cuddle up and giggle as we watched it. Apart from Stickman and Strictly we have watched very little television preferring to play with toys.


We have been to the cinema again today (twice in a week!) as Mr S needed some quiet time to work at home so the children and I went to see the Snoopy and Peanuts movie. Our options are limited in this wet and windy weather. Any film coming after Star Wars is going to have a very tough act to follow and I’m afraid my review isn’t great for Snoopy. I don’t think it worked as a film, there were some great scenes but I think it would have worked better as a series of episodes. However there was a nice feel to the film and cute animations. Whilst Little Miss loved it, Little Man and I both said we would have preferred to have seen Star Wars again! One week later and I’m still thinking about Star Wars.


I have so much for this category this week, where to start? I have done lots of cooking and really enjoyed making Christmas Dinner, the Festive Jalousie was delicious but I was really pleased with my sides too, the honey roasted carrots and parsnips were amazing as was the spiced red cabbage and apple. All recipes came from BBC Good Food Christmas vegetarian magazine, an excellent read.

As well as all our festive fare, I’ve been making up toys. Mr S made the Mousetrap game and a Pirate Ship whilst I took responsibility for the Star Wars Lego. I was impressed by my skills at reading and following the pictures.

Little Miss and I have been working on a fabric doll Grandma sent her. I normally use a sewing machine but this is a hand stitched doll so I’ve been revising my sewing stitches and helping Little Miss to make the doll, it’s still a work in progress but we aim to finish it by the return to school.

We have also been making perfume from a set, our perfumes have included our special creation, Five Alive.  It has been a really nice activity and the perfume set was definelty a favourite present.



I couldn’t find anything sparkly or wow to buy for my Christmas day outfit this year, so it was my trusted favourites, a sleeveless cream chiffon top and silky mini skirt. Mr S bought me a beautiful pair of dangly gold and silver earrings so I enjoyed wearing these too. I like to make an effort on Christmas day and even managed to find the time to put on a full face of make up with all the extras and to straighten my hair.  Needless to say it was a very relaxed Christmas morning to find the time to do all this!

Apart from Christmas day, it’s been a wellies and woollies type of week as the storms have hit the country. We are very fortunate to have got away very lightly with the flooding and damage, but my thoughts are with those whom have had a very difficult Christmas.

And finally …

So that’s it for this year’s Little Sparkles. I may have a little change in categories next year to better share all the sparkles in our lives but the theme will continue as I like being able to celebrate the little sparkles which make life special.


Christmas Eve Sparkles

This may be an odd time to write a blog post, but it is the quiet time on Christmas Eve just waiting for everyone to be sound asleep before we can start the magic. Everything is ready and there really isn’t anything else to do but sit and relax, I love these moments. It’s been a really busy week with lots of sparkles in it, some won’t make the set categories so here are some extra sparkles that made the run up to Christmas special.


Sparkle 1: My lovely friend who offered to look after the children so I could go to ‘big town’ to do the big Christmas food shop. Not only did she look after them she made them gingerbread houses to decorate with her and took them for a long, fresh walk along the beach to burn off the sugar rush from the said activity. She is amazing and has inspired me to pass the kindness on.

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Sparkle 2: On Christmas Eve, we emailed Santa at NORAD (which is itself a heart-warming story) and got a personal response, the children were made up by their email and went to bed very happy. We also loved and got very excited tracking Santa on the NORAD website.



I read one of the Christmas books I discovered through social media, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. It is an American book so possibly why it is not so well known over here, however it certainly deserved its excellent reviews. The book is a story with a very strong Christmas message and whilst it’s a children’s book there were deeper themes running through it too. It’s a book which I will definitely recommend to friends next year, a classic to be reread every year. I read it one sitting and shed a little tear.



After much worrying and research over whether it was appropriate to take the children to see Star Wars (certificate 12a) at the cinema we made the decision for them to see the film this afternoon, Christmas Eve. It was brilliant and they loved the film. It was such a perfect trip, it will be a truly wonderful memory for us all, a full cinema and cheering and clapping throughout the film. Everything just felt so right. The film itself is wonderful, so true to the original trilogy and it all neatly fits together. I got goose bumps as the music started, I thought it was a nice touch to start with silence and a black screen for a few seconds and then the iconic music and logo appeared, I cheered when I saw Han Solo and Chewwie, cried a little tear at the sad part (no spoilers here) and clapped at the end. It was also so refreshing to see a strong female lead and a heroine to aspire to. It was so good in so many ways, an epic film.


I also treated myself to watching Love Actually this week. It had been a few years since I saw the film and I had forgotten just how good it was, some of the performances are heartbreaking, Emma Thompson is often cited for her role but I thought Laura Linney was superb in her sad role too.


As I’m still waiting for the children to be sound asleep (its now 10.45pm) I’m tuned in to radio 4 for their festive short stories by Rachel Joyce, in the book at bedtime slot. I’ve managed to hear a few this week and its been nice to listen to some original stories with a Christmassy feel.


Its simple makes this week as I’m gearing up to cook my festive menu over the next few days. I love cooking so this is not a chore and I’m looking forward to some new recipes. One of our family traditions is to make gingerbread tree decorations so this was done on Wednesday, the recipe from BBC Good Food is excellent and the decorating is always fun if not a bit messy. The decorations are hanging on the kitchen tree for present but I have seen Little Man trying to sneak a little nibble!



This week it’s any excuse and I’ll don a festive hat, I have a new Rudolph one for outdoor activities and a Santa hat for inside.  I’ve only got a few more days wear until they’ll be packed away for next Christmas.

That’s all for Christmas Eve, as I sit here still waiting for little people to be fast asleep, I feel the contentment and excitement that cannot be matched at any other time of the year.  I’ve just opened the back door to look at the full moon and heard the church bells ringing ( its now 11pm ) life is pretty perfect.

Tommy’s last few visits of 2015

So here are the final few days of Tommy’s mission to our house this year.  I always feel rather sad when it’s time to say good bye for the year, he is a special tradition which really makes the run up to Christmas special.  

  December 21st : Wishing us a Merry Little Christmas  

December 22nd 2015 : Movie afternoon with Tommy. 

December 23rd : Christmas cookie baking day. 

December 24th : Bye bye and the Christmas Eve tea treat. 

Christmas Songs

I am a list person and in listening to my Christmas songs this month, I’ve been trying to create my top Christmas songs. I get the frisson of excitement when I start playing my Christmas songs and have a genuine love for these songs as they bring back happy memories and help to create a festive ambiance. To choose one as my all time favourite is impossible, but it would probably come from one of these four songs.

Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?


This was the first single I ever bought at the age of 11 and I remember the purchase vividly. I bought it in Boots on Broad Street in Reading, upstairs in the little record department. I’m quite proud that this was my first single, Band Aid did make me realise about the inequalities in the world and I was quite a political teenager, perhaps this was the trigger. As well as the charity aspect, I love this song, I can name the pop stars singing the lines and happily sing along to it. It’s one of those songs you sing in pubs and clubs swinging on your friends and all singing into an imaginary microphone.

Kirsty McCall and the Pogues – Fairy Tale of New York.


I loved Kirsty McCall, she was an inspiration when I was growing up in the 1980s, her look, attitude and music were perfect for angst ridden me. I remember my sadness on learning of her tragic early death and this song seems even more poignant now. In contrast, I also like the madness of the Pogues so for me this song was a match made in heaven, coupled with my obsession for New York, what could I not like? The lyrics are brilliant and perfect for singing your insults loud and pride. But this song is more than a few insults and rude words, it’s a tale of anticipation and a fairy tale which sours. It sounds depressing but is beautiful

Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody.


This isn’t just a Christmas song it’s an anthem which everyone knows the words to. My little ones love it with its simple lyrics of Christmas traditions and not only can I sing along I also know all the Makaton signs to it too as it’s a firm favourite at my school too. It’s the most ridiculously happy song which puts me in a cheerful mood whenever I hear it. It’s also the same age as me as both made our debuts in 1973.

Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You .


This is the most modern song of my selection and so sparkly and poppy.  I was 21 when it came out and it became the soundtrack of happy, Christmas nights out.  My favourite night out of the year was never New Year but Christmas Eve and this was always played in the pubs and clubs.    Its a song that I just have to dance to as soon as I hear the bells in  the intro, another feel good song.


In addition to my top songs above, I also created another ‘award’ so I could include Wham’s Last Christmas as Best Christmas Video. The snowy mountains, log cabin, roaring log fire, this song of heartbreak is brilliant. I also love the song for trivia as it’s the bestselling number 2 single ever, being held off the no 1 by Band Aid.

As you can see I love the cheesy Christmas songs, they add to the Christmas atmosphere and quite simply make me happy and sparkly about the excitement  of the season.  These songs and many more  will always be on my Christmas playlist.




Tommy Week 3

I have set myself the challenge of hiding Tommy in new places and scenarios everyday. However as this is the third year of Tommy this is becoming a very creative activity, by the end of this year he’ll have had 72 tableaux, I’m not sure for how many years I can continue this challenge but it’ll be fun trying.  I have an app this year which has been helpful for inspiration.  Here are the past week’s Tommy pictures.

December 14th : Bringing the Christmas Jumpers for the week’s parties.  It took the children ages to find him, who else but me looks in a clean laundry basket?

December 15th : After an evening wrapping presents, Tommy was found wrapped up in my Christmas box.  Another tricky one!

December 16th : Dressed up as the wise man bringing gold to baby Jesus.

December 17th :There are times when  you just need to stop and smell the flowers …


December 18th : Friday night is Wii U night in our household so Tommy was getting some early practice.  l

December 19th : Tommy the red nosed reindelf.  One of my favourites.

December 20th : Peekaboo Tommy. I love this vintage tree from my cousin, the lower baubles do have the children’s names on I just turned them around for the photo. The top cutout was a perfect fit for Tommy .

Christmas chez Sparkles

I feel I’ve been quiet on the Christmas posts this year on this blog. Please be assured that I am loving Christmas and have been busy making sparkles for my little family.  Some of our decorations have been featured in this year’s Tommy posts.

Last year I wrote about our trees and special decorations and these posts would be pretty similar this year. I do like to add to my decorations each year, you can never have enough sparkle!


My purchases this year have included these beautiful hand crafted glass decorations by a local artist. I bought these in a local craft fair and hope to add a few more next year too. These decorations are my sophisticated and tasteful choice.


As you can see from the other picture I’ve gone quite cuddly too with Santa cushions and plush toys. I do like the reindeer whom I bought from Hobbycraft in order to make free delivery, so really he was a freebie!


My other notable purchase was the Russian Doll Nativity set from John Lewis which I love. It’s really important for me to remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas and I like the bright fun feel to these decorations reminding us that Christmas is a joyful religious celebration. We have also enjoyed making our own decorations, the button models were simple and look very pretty in the trees.


My final touches to the house decorations will be some fresh flowers and foliage from the florist this week. Nothing beats the smell and sight of fresh flowers to brighten any room.

Little Sparkles, Christmas anticipation…

I think this is probably the craziest, manic week of the year, double the Christmas school events for me and the children, parties and viewing classes for after school clubs and just the general busyness of daily life, school, work and home making. It was fun but I am relieved that its holidays now and we can have a few lazy, quiet (ish) days before the true festivities begin.


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On Saturday we did a un Christmassy activity by going to the Dinosaur museum as part of our day out.  Following the Good Dinosaur, dinosaurs are pick of the pops in our household again, with Little Man particularly keen to learn more.  This meant that I was reading aloud lots of information plaques at the museum.  Its a brilliant interactive  museum and well worth a visit.

This year I felt that our Christmas books were a little young for the children, we have had great fun over the past 5 years reading our much loved favourites but it was time for some new age appropriate ( check out the teacher speak there! ) books. I have ordered a couple but the only one to arrive so far has been Michael Morpurgo’s Christmas Stories so we have been reading this every evening. What could be more special than reading a story under the twinkling Christmas lights?


On Wednesday afternoon, I watched the children at the local theatre performing their Christmas school play. It’s a great idea to have it at the theatre, nice tiered seating helps everyone to see well and there’s no queuing as we all have allocated seats. It’s a great experience for the children too with the excitement of a stage, professional lighting and sound and it’s always a sell-out, appreciative audience. As Mr S is away my parents came this year and they were really excited and proud to be there. The play was amazing in all aspects, beautiful scenery, costumes and the children were brilliant. Little Miss is confident and had a humorous role, she can play this so well and really did light up the stage when she came on in different scenes. Little Man looked comfortable and confident for the first time in a school performance, he sang so well and knew all the actions for the songs. He was at the end of a row so that he could nip into the wings if it was a little bit too much. Whilst lots of people have congratulated me about Little Miss I really am equally proud of both of the children’s performances. I know Little Man and his TA worked really hard to get him on stage relaxed and happy and it’s that sort of thing that makes me teary at school plays, I don’t really do cutsie.

As well as my children’s school performance I also watched our school’s Christmas production. It gives me goose bumps to see all our special needs children perform. Our secret is to record a video in class of their song and play it on our big screen in the performance which means everyone participates.

I also watched Little Miss in her gymnastics viewing class. From her dancing and gymnastics she has so much grace, poise and suppleness. She got her first badge, it seems gymnastic badges starts at 8 now, I remember passing my badges 4 to 1. Little Miss was quite unbelieving that I got to Badge 1.

Given my busy schedule the only other things I have watched have been Strictly at the weekend and the interview episode of the Apprentice which is always amusing as the candidates squirm at the questioning and the posturing gets blown away.


My Christmas playlists have been played repeatedly with the added extra of MTV Xmas too to provide a few videos. The children are now singing all the Christmas pop classics. It’s fabulous.


I’ve made very little food wise this week, just a few soups and simple, quick meals. Fortunately one of my work day’s coincided with my school’s Christmas dinner and it was fantastic. Our kitchen cooks everything from scratch and the quality rivals the best kitchens. There have also been some amazing flakey mince pies, often straight out of the oven in the staff room throughout the week, they certainly help to create a Christmassy atmosphere.

I suppose the best make I can come up with this week is making space in the play room. I have been quite ruthless in binning broken toys and recycling those grown out of toys. It took time as there was a lot of reminiscing with the realisation that the children are growing up quickly.


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I am a teacher so it’s pretty much compulsory to wear Santa hats and Christmas jumpers all this week. Christmas can be very jolly for some but it can be difficult for others and at our school we really make this week special in all sorts of ways. If dressing up, singing and dancing helps to makes someone’s Christmas then I’m up for it.

And finally

After a very hectic last week, I try and make the first few days of holidays calm and simple. On one evening we’ll do the Christmas lights tour driving around with our Christmas music playing and there’s the Rudolph Ramble at the local country park too. Mr S is away until Wednesday evening and then Christmas can really begin for the Sparkles family.

Tommy week 2

Week 2 of Tommy the Elf and the children are still as excited and enchanted by him every morning.  Here’s week 2 at the Sparkles home….


December 7th : Footballing Tommy

December 8th : Horse riding with Barbie

December 9th : Sitting in the wreath.

December 10th : Morning everyone

December 11th : Strumming the Guitar

December 12th : The Simple Things

December 13th : Planning the Christmas Cake

Little Sparkles

This week has been all about preparations and getting organised. It’s that funny week before everything really starts to get going so I’ve used the time to wrap presents, write cards, buy a few foodie items for the season etc.. I really want to enjoy the events next week and not to be thinking that I should be doing things on my to do list. I’m feeling pretty relaxed about Christmas, I’m organised (hey that’s just me) but to me Christmas is simple it’s about being together and as long as I have my little family it’ll be perfect.



Oh the tradition of the season, this week not only have I read The Christmas Radio Times but I’ve highlighted my favourites too. I’m already looking forward to cuddling up on the sofa with the children after Christmas lunch and watching Julia Donaldson’s Stickman.

I also helped the children read some rather special Santa letters. My mum has always taken the responsibility for organising the Santa letters and normally has them done through charities as a means of fundraising. However this year she wrote and printed them herself and they are amazing. The letters showed how much she listens to the children and their little adventures. Their personalities shone through the letters and they were truly magical. I was so touched and proud of my Mum’s gesture, as the Grinch says



I’m still addicted to my Christmas songs playlists and have used music to enhance the mood whilst I did some of the less exciting Christmas jobs this week.


When Mr S left to go travel up to work on Sunday afternoon, the children and I cuddled up to watch The Magic Reindeer, a beautiful animated film with a lovely Christmas story.

I also got to watch the children’s excitement at the Christmas tree festival as they went from tree to tree guessing the theme and choosing their favourites.


Mummy bonus pints for remembering the cakes I promised to make for the ballet Christmas fair, Nigella’s Raspberry and Lemon muffins. However I couldn’t find frozen raspberries in town so they became strawberry and lemon which worked perfectly with my strawberry cake cases.


Whilst I didn’t make my wreath I watched it being made by some of our brilliant students at school as part of their enterprise work. Our students all have complex special needs so for each to have played a little part in making this wreath is very special to me.


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So maybe a little late and I’m sure they would have meant that my hand injury would not have been so severe but I wore my running gloves out on my first tentative runs since my accident. I am only running in the light and have taken a ridiculous interest in the state of pavements and roads but I am out. As I’ve said before I need to run, it’s my thing to keep me sane and happy.

I’m also wearing my old Fat Face brown boots I’ve had them for years and with the demise of my black Clarkes boots they’re back to number 1. I’m hoping to pick up a new pair of boots in the New Year sales, I did try some on in Fat Face a few weeks ago so fingers crossed they’ll be reduced.

And …

Next week is Christmas fun at schools for me and the children. The week is a whirlwind of Christmas lunches, parties, concerts, fairs and Christmas jumpers. I love the week its madness and sparkle is just part of the build up to Christmas.

The Christmas Tree Festival

We live in a small rural town so we don’t have the razzle and dazzle of the big cities’ Christmas celebrations.  However I like to think that our Christmas reflects some of the simpler traditions of the season which still bring that lovely sparkly festive feel.

Tonight I took the children to a beautiful event, The Christmas Tree Festival.  The idea is simple, local businesses sponsor a Christmas tree and local groups and schools decorate the trees for display.  It used to take place in the tiny church of a local village but the event has got much bigger and has moved to the newly built town church.  This makes it accessible to more people and allows for more activities on the site too, there was a café, children’s craft tables and an inspired manger scene where you could dress up and have your photo taken in the most authentic Christmas story tableau.

However the highlight was the 38 trees.  The themes and decorations were so creative and original.  The badminton club had covered shuttlecocks in foil and made them into daleks with the tardis as the tree topper.  For the Knifty Knitters each decoration was hand crafted.  A local chef had decorated hers with edible decorations and it was humbling to read wishes for the world from local school children.  In addition to the trees there is a programme of events during the festival, bell ringing, toddlers sing song, carols, craft activities, readings and a very poignant lights of love service.

I loved the festival, it is a simple idea but beautifully creative with a real sense of community and anticipation of Christmas.