My week … the one with the tier 2 Christmas

Christmas has all blurred this year and I have really missed the anticipation and preparation to the big day, it has all felt so strange. However, its been a Christmas of simple pleasures, long walks ( and a few groans from the children of ‘not another walk!’) family games (we have a family grand games master competition in progress) festive television and some gorgeous home made food.

However, I have become a little fed up with the general misery, portrayed in the media, that Christmas has been ruined for 2020. Mr S and I have both said we’ve had much worse Christmases, the one which we both agreed was our worst was when we booked a beautiful rural cottage in Cornwall. It sounds delightful, but we got snowed in, it was freezing inside and out and we only had limited groceries. It was the only holiday from which we’ve ever come home early, once the thaw began. I remember stopping at the services and buying treats at the M&S shop to make up for the misery! Although it had a happy ending, Christmas 2018 was a very scary time as Grandad who was staying with us was taken very ill and rushed to hospital on Christmas eve, that Christmas put everything into perspective. So, a happy Christmas as our little bubble of 4 doesn’t even come close to being described as a ruined Christmas.

Anyway rant over, here are some of the highlights of Christmas 2020

Christmas Patterns

I embraced Christmas patterns this year, I love my new Christmas skirt and for the first time I bought some Christmas pyjamas for myself. Well, I got the Grinch bottoms as the top was just too much and they look so much better with a plain black t-shirt. I love them and they’re so warm and comfortable. Our Christmas morning photos are great with the 3 of us in our Christmas pjs and Santa hats, although sadly, I still can’t convince Mr S to have pyjamas or a jumper. I also bought a new Christmas cushion made by a small indie business using a Cath Kitson fabric, its very cute and kitsch!

Socially Distanced Christmas Carols.

We had a socially distanced Christmas carol concert with our neighbours and it was so lovely. We all stood in our gardens or on the pavement and sang together by torchlight. We had decorated one tree with lights and stars and it all felt so warm and sparkly. It was simple but beautiful.

Surprise Presents

With all the thought that goes into Christmas, its always nice to see what are the most well received presents, aside from the ‘main’ present. This year it was a pair of goalie gloves and a lava lamp. Little Man asserted that Grandad (again) is the best Christmas present buyer. This makes me smile as Grandad sends us the money early November and we do it all for him. At nearly 90, its the best arrangement for everyone and I’m happy to keep the secret so Grandad gets the kudos.

A Christmas Eve 10K

Christmas eve is my favourite day of the year, I love the buzz of the final preparations, neighbours popping in, the special dessert, new pyjamas etc.. As I knew this year was going to be different, I arranged to run the Virtual Edinburgh 10k to define the day. I started at 6.30am on a beautiful, still and mild morning and listened to a Scottish playlist to complement the run. I have a lot of Scottish family and as I ran I thought about happy times with them, especially my grandparents who have both died. It was a real life affirming run and my fastest 10k of the year, a nice way to mark Christmas eve.

Home Cooking

I love Christmas in the kitchen, my menus are prepared weeks in advance and my kitchen is cosy and filled with the most delicious smells over the season. One of our little traditions is a special dessert on Christmas eve, last year’s Baked Alsaka (or the mountain pudding as Little Man still calls it) was a big hit so I knew it was going to be difficult to top it. I chose a spiced apple cheesecake which was amazing, the ginger base and warm caramel sauce gave the pudding a festive feel. We had a traditional Christmas dinner on Christmas day, Roast Turkey for the children and a home made mushroom and tarragon strudel for Mr S and I whom are vegetarians. I love a rainbow of veggies so there were orange glazed carrots and parsnips, braised red cabbage and apple, creamy brussel sprouts and chestnuts and plain broccoli and boiled carrots for Little Man who likes his food plain and simple. My roasties were definitely the best ever. One of my little pleasures on Christmas day is cooking in the kitchen with my Christmas pinny on listening to the dedications and carols on Classic FM.

The lights

There have been beautiful lights in town this year and as I tend to run in the dark, I get to see their sparkle. Our school decorated our large outdoor tree and it does stand as a beacon of light in the community. This year, my friend commented that the snowballs hanging across the the shopping streets look like the coronavirus. Its an image I can never unsee! As well as the lights, lots of local shops have done spectacular window displays to spread a little festive cheer.

Festive tv

So we could be together and doing family things during the day, I have been working on my uni assignment in the evenings and have watched very little television this festive season. However I did manage to watch the Christmas episodes of All Creatures Great and Small and Call the Midwife which were perfect viewing. I have so much respect and gratitude to the cast and crew of series such as the Bake Off, Strictly and Call the Midwife, whom have been able to produce programmes under the Covid restrictions. They have provided us with the escapism from the pandemic which we have all craved.

And finally

Tonight is New Year’s eve, I’m sure I’ve explained on this blog before that I am not a big fan, so a quiet night in is my ideal arrangement. I’m planning on finishing this and settling down with my book, before an early night, I’m so rock and roll. In fairness, whilst I don’t like tonight and find it all a bit fake and maudlin, I will be over it in the morning and ready for a new year which brings hope and promise (once we’ve got over the next few months)

Take care and happy new year.


Tommy’s Final Visits

December 13th: Marking the date on the advent calendar.

December 14th: The final pieces on the Christmas jigsaw.

December 15th: Reindeer racing with Santa.

December 16th: Magic snow fun.

December 17th: Topping the driftwood tree.

December 18th: Tucked up in bed with Rainbow.

December 19th: Learning the rules of Qwirkle.

December 20th: Raiding the chocolate tin.

December 21st: Hiding in the penny pot.

December 22nd: Curling the ribbon on the flower arranagment.

December 23rd: Bringing the ingredients for gingerbread decorations.

December 24th: Hot chocolate treats for Christmas eve.

My week … the one with the Christmas Jigsaw

Uni work blah, blah, blah … but here are the other things I’ve done this week.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to embrace the festive season as it’s so different. It’s made me cherish all the little things which make up the season, the carol concerts, Christmas tree festival, meeting family, popping into friends’ homes to exchange presents and cards, last minute shopping. I’m trying to make Christmas 2020 as magical as possible and Tommy the elf has really helped by bringing treats and special things to do but sadly it’s simply not the same. With the news of the government changing the original planned 5 days of relaxed restrictions to just one day and even advising against this, there is a sorrow permeating the country. Our plans haven’t need to change as we had already decided to just be the four of us but I’m still missing our parents lots, even when we know we’ve made the safest choice.

But despite the darkness there needs to be sparkles and here’s some highlights from this week.

1. We did a jigsaw! It was the one thing we didn’t do in lockdown and I don’t think I’ve done a jigsaw since I was my children’s ages. I love the modern design and Tommy brought it in the eve of a predicted wet and windy Sunday (spot on forecast) for us to do. It was the perfect activity for the weather as we were warm and cosy indoors, trying to find the pieces, munching on Christmas treats. It was strangely addictive but possibly just a Christmas challenge.

2. Despite the Covid restrictions, I’ve managed to get Christmas nails and a hair cut and colour done. A little bit of colour and sparkle have made me feel more me.

3. Last year I decided I wanted to wear something different for Christmas, something to dress up in for our school events and all those other festive occasions. I have a little gingerbread obsession at Christmas and found a dressmaker on Etsy who was able to make me a skirt with this theme. It sounds expensive but was a very reasonable price and so much nicer than anything I could find in shops. There was no big school events at work this week but I still wore my skirt on the last day, we’ve got to find the joy in the little things.

4. I read the delightful email sent to all staff at my school about a secret santa present and it was mine! I love buying presents and always put in a lot of thought and love. I was especially pleased with this present. It was a charity calendar designed by a local artist for the animal sanctuary and I added an item in my colleague’s name from the sanctuary’s Amazon wish list. My colleague always supports this charity by collecting old towels etc. so I liked the personal link.

5. I watched the Strictly final which was perfect in every way. It was aired following the pretty grim news conference by the PM and was the escapism we all needed. I was delighted with the winner but the real success was being able to air a live show every week within a pandemic. It was different and simpler but has been a highlight of my week.

And finally … well who knows what this week will bring, it’s Christmas 2020 style. Here hoping for love, hope and belonging to bind us together.

Tommy Part 2

December 7th: Practising on Zoom for Little man’s class virtual coffee morning (he did appear on the live stream)

December 8th: Exploring Great Britain with a beautiful advent calendar gifted by a special friend.

December 9th: Labelled in French to help Little Miss’ vocab test revision.

December 10th: Hiding in a school blazer.

December 11th: Nibbling on a chocolate coin. The children always add these to their Christmas cards.

December 12th: Bringing a Christmas jigsaw for us all to do at the weekend. (Its forecast to be a wet weekend with tier 2 restrictions)

Tommy Part 1

Our favourite little elf is back this year, he is my one of my favourite traditions. Tommy is hidden each night and always writes a little letter to the children. Our library of letters over the past 9 years is a beautiful memento of childhood Christmases.

December 1st: Face mask and sanitiser and a rainbow of hearts, that’s 2020.

December 2nd: A little Christmas tree magic, the tree crystallised and provided gasps on the return from school.

December 3rd: Wind up races.

December 4th: Elf hat and costume ready for Elf day at school.

December 5th: Christmas wreath and a decoration for the tree.

December 6th: Jungle Tommy, hiding in my plant that I’ve managed to keep alive!

My week (or two) … the one with Christmas prep

Another speed writing post, yes the uni project is still hanging over me. , we’re now in December and its Christmas sparkles. Its so strange this year, there are no carols by candlelight, school concerts, Christmas tree festivals, Christmas markets etc.. and its about trying to find 2020 ways to celebrate the season.

Here are some highlights of the past two weeks.

  1. I am organised and ready for Christmas. I have written and sent all my cards, even the ones going abroad and bought all my presents, which are all wrapped and sent as needed. I used the new Royal Mail parcel collection service and it was brilliant. Instead of struggling with my parcels and queuing in the Post Office, I paid a small fee and the parcels were collected from my door step. It was worth every penny. I’m not the only one being efficient this year, I’ve noticed that the Christmas cards are all here earlier and we’ve received our parcels from friends and family.
  2. I’m really pleased with my present choices. I am always careful and take great pride in my presents but this year I feel I have excelled myself! I have used independent sellers where I can. My favourite new Christmas jumper came from Betsy and Bear, where I also bought my daughter’s. Instagram, Etsy and Not on the High Street have been my must goes to for inspiration and the presents are all lovely. One of my favourites to buy has been my work Secret Santa. My colleague is always collecting old blankets for the local animal sanctuary. This year, a local artist has designed a beautiful calendar for the charity, so this is the present she will receive on the day. However, I discovered there is an Amazon wish list for the animal sanctuary so I have also bought a little something from this list in her name.
  3. I will do a post about our decorations but I always make a special window display in our kitchen. This year it has a rainbow theme and its so bright and joyful. As soon as I saw the rainbow lights in the picture above I had my theme, my window is so lovely and so 2020.
  4. I am loving the Chilly Gonzales Christmas album. I read a review in the paper and its been my must listen this year. Its mainly instrumental but so chilled and relaxing.
  5. My daughter and I try to run together a couple of times a week. On Friday night, we were running (avoiding all the teen hang out spots so not to be seen!) and started to hear some Christmas music. Initially I thought it might have been choir practice in a church, but we passed it and it wasn’t originating from there, we continued running and finally found the music, it was Santa on his sleigh as part of the Rotary Sleigh ride. It made my heart skip, it was just so lovely to see the children waving from windows. We then continued on our run with a new idea, to hunt down the best Christmas lights. It was one of those ordinary evenings which unexpectedly became extraordinary.
  6. Its not a Christmassy book, its theme is brushes with death but I’ve enjoyed I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell. In a very busy life, the short stories are a perfect pause. I am hearing rave reviews of Maggie’s new book, Hamnet so I think that’s on my TBR list.