This weekend has seen a four day weekend to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee, a reign of 70 years. Its difficult to sum up how I feel about the monarchy, I’m neither a monarchist or republican but somewhere in between. I have respect for our Queen but not so much for the soap opera of the monarchy.
I have seen the Queen once in the early 80s, when I was on a girl guide camp at Windsor castle and we all went to the same church service on the Sunday. We saw a lot of the Royal family at the service, and I think we were all in awe of a young princess Diana. We all curtsied to the Queen and the Queen Mother came to talk to us after church and had her photograph taken with us, she was so lovely and spent lots of time chatting to us.
As we were away for the week, I hadn’t planned to decorate the house. I do have some vintage, floral union jack bunting which I use regularly, so this was in the window and I did change my light box to a jubilee message. On our return from holiday we did find some bunting had been added to our little triangle / cul de sac by our neighbours which did look festive and fun.
Our town loves a big event and held a large street party on Friday which featured prominently in the national press. There were union jacks everywhere in town and the local floral society had organised their members to provide the shops on the main street with themed jubilee floral displays, which were magnificent. There was a huge crown at the station and the theatre had a life size golden coach displayed on its exterior wall.
As we were away we didn’t participate in any of our town’s events ourselves and with the event at the holiday site being on Saturday afternoon, we missed that too. However, I did enjoy our jubilee party at school with the students and parents on the last day of term and then I surprised myself by really enjoying the televised events. The concert on Saturday evening had some amazing moments, the Queen and Paddington sketch was priceless, Diversity’s dance through the decades was brilliant and I’m sure I’m not the only 40 something mum who squealed when Jason Donovan appeared as Joseph! On Sunday, I watched the crazily, beautifully bonkers Jubilee pageant. The themed double deckers were brilliant and the national treasures on them were perfect. There was so much to keep you amused.
I think that whilst this weekend was a celebration of the Queen, it was sadly probably one of the nation’s last opportunities to thank the Queen for all her service, at 96 she looks frail and elderly. She was unable to attend all the planned events due to her health and the final balcony scene of her with Charles, William and their families appeared to symbolise the royal transition. However, it was a joyful weekend with so much fun and British charm.
This weekend we have had family down to our seaside town to celebrate my father in law’s 90th birthday. Its been a really special weekend, the sun has shone, the birthday lunch was superb and the relaxed conversation and laughter in our garden with drinks and birthday cake just finished the celebrations perfectly.
We have been busy prepping up for this weekend, Mr S organising a venue for lunch and the accommodation, there’s been many whats app messages between me and my sister in law finalising the cake, decorations and sparkles and then a final itinerary to please everyone from 12 – 90! However it has been worth every minute of our time to put together such special occasion. My father in law is one of those lovely, old fashioned gentlemen who would never wish to put anyone out to plan his birthday, I have no doubt that for him the highlight was simply seeing his family all together for the first time in many years. The Covid threat really hung over us this week and despite it being the first week of the holidays, I organised lots of outdoor activities, insisted on mask wearing in the shops and other measures to keep us all Covid free, it would have been devastating to have to cancel. I have promised all the big, indoor activities this coming week for the children to compensate for their willingness to sacrifice them in the first week to keep the party plans.
I am so lucky to have the loveliest, kindest father in law. Sadly I never knew my mother in law, as she died many years before I met Mr S in 1998 so Mr S senior is both my parents in law. The relationship between him and his son is very close and strong and they speak daily. Thankfully Mr S senior has always been very welcoming of me into his family. He has always been there for us both, on the most difficult days and on the most joyful too. He was also wonderful on our adoption journey, he attended all the sessions and interviews he was asked to and has truly seen our children as his grandchildren from Day 1, he is the kindest, most generous grandad and I am so pleased that our children will have happy memories of grandad.
It was a pleasure to be able to do something so special this weekend for such a wonderful man. I would love to have a very special centenary celebration in 2032, but for today, I am thankful we celebrated his 90th together and look forward to many more happy times with this lovely man.
Each year, I do a quick post on our decorations. This year, our decorations are pretty similar to previous years, with my rainbow window being the only new design.
The main tree remains in its spot at the foot of the stairs which leads into our large open plan living room. There is a side window here and that is a polar explorers window with felt animals, white stars and a large snow globe which lights up. On the mantle piece is my favourite tableau, the gingerbread village for which I bought a few additional wooden houses this year. It is lit up with copper lights which adds to the cosy ambiance. Around the foot of the fire place, I have my reindeer and Christmas tree forest. This is one area I would like to develop next year as a few of the decorations are looking a little faded and dated. This year, I did a very simple but surprisingly striking large window display with some large, ornate paper stars, a pre lit Christmas tree also sits in the middle window.
This year I debuted the rainbow tree I got in the Christmas Paperchase sale last year. I love it and have simply adorned it with baubles of the same colour and added a few rainbow decorations too. There is a brightly multi coloured bell star in the window too and the rainbow disco balls are from Tiger. These are amazing and will stay up all year, I love a kitchen disco and now have the disco balls ready.
I love my new angel which sits on our Christmas tree, I’ve been looking for one for ages and never quite found ‘the one.’ I was with my mum when I discovered it and she got one too, our angels now sit on both of our Christmas trees which I think is rather lovely. My daughter and I picked up the globe on our Christmas shopping trip, as a little reminder that we are all in this pandemic together and to encourage dreams of travel. I bought the glass rainbow tree from a local craft fair in late summer. I feel that you can never have enough rainbows, they are such a symbol of hope, something we have all needed at Christmas 2021.
I have had lots of candles burning this Christmas and the candlelight gives a warmth and delicious aroma to a room. I have also added lots of fresh flowers and like my wreath on our gate. Each Christmas, my neighbour and daughter have an afternoon where they make centrepieces for the neighbours and this year’s edition is really fun, the oranges and reds being complemented by real mini veg! The real tree on my door step is a welcome purchase and one which I hope to cultivate for an even bigger doorstep tree in 2022. Outside I have my white lights on the stone wall which complement our neighbours’ houses too, it looks very classy in our little triangle of homes. The projector of snow flakes is also nice on the side of the house.
This afternoon, I completed my Christmas book chapter for 2021 (oh yes this really is a thing, I have 3 books now of past Christmas planning going back many years) It is really helpful to note down thoughts and plans for the next year including decorating ideas to help me feel inspired in the autumn. I also add photos, recipes, family Christmas card etc.. Its also interesting to see the new themes developing over the years, I think rainbows may be a bit 20/21 but I love this theme and intend to use it again for its pure joy and energy. I do think that decorations should reflect your personality and not simply follow a trend.
This year our Halloween decorations are more subdued than in previous years as I am unable to do the decorating, Little Miss has stood in this year, whilst I directed from the sofa. We have our traditional window in the kitchen nook and our ‘tree’ in the lounge. Last year we really went to town and enjoyed decorating the upstairs with a pumpkin themed window as part of the town’s alternative to trick and treating, a pumpkin hunt. It was great fun being creative and I fully intend to go big again next year.
There are some new decorations this year. The black and silver pumpkin was painted in an arts session on our May holiday. It was such a lovely morning sitting with my daughter whilst she painted and chatted that it was special to see the pumpkin to evoke those memories. I love my new Halloween skeleton cushion, I do like a seasonal cushion (and wreath) and when I saw it during the summer holidays, I knew it was just right for the holiday. The final new additions are the boo and spooky metal hanging decorations, a charity shop bargain at 50p each. I like a little mooch around a charity shop, sometimes you find that hidden gem.
Today, May 8th was a bank holiday to celebrate the end of war in Europe, 75 years ago. As we are in lockdown it was a very different day to what we had expected. Our little town had a lovely day planned with a craft market, a big street party in the centre of town and moments to remember the fallen. Instead, we had quiet celebrations at home. Its been such a warm and sunny day today and it was sad to think of what could have been so special, especially given the age of our veterans from World War 2.
I was initially hesitant in decorating our house. Brexit has meant that our Union Jack seems to have been highjacked by a politics I don’t agree with. However I carefully thought about what today meant to me and its a personal link to the story behind the old photos album I found at my parents’ house which had belonged to my Gramps. I wrote about the album here and some of the stories I discovered https://seasidesparkles.net/2018/04/16/a-world-war-2-photo-album/ I wanted to fly the flag to honour and remember the pilots of Squadron 609, pilots of all nationalities, united by a desire to defeat Nazism.
The window became part of my son’s home learning this week, we chose some of the old photos to first look at and discuss and then printed them for our display. He then drew the spitfires and brought some of his fighter planes down from his bedroom. Hidden in the flower box is one of the ceramic poppies from the Tower of London’s 2014 installation. The large Union Jack has been hidden away since the Olympics, its actually a scarf with a tiger print. I’m not sure why I ever chose it but its been a great flag on a few occasions now, whilst the bunting is part of my country chic accessories! With lockdown, I had to make do and adapt the resources I had at home, a little bit of the spirit of the 1940s in 2020.
Whilst we didn’t have the planned community events, we all found little ways to make today special respecting social distancing. There was a community singalong, I have no idea who set up the sound system but with the natural design of the bay, 1940s music could be heard across the town, We’ll meet again was surprisingly moving. Our neighbour dropped round cupcakes decorated with mini flags to all the local houses so we could celebrate ‘together.’
For me, today has not been a day of celebration but one to remember and respect the values and sacrifice of our grandparents and their generation who fought to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today.
Easter 2020 is one which will always be remembered, our Easter in lockdown. It was a celebration which needed to be adapted to the new rules and as I write this on Easter Sunday evening I am feeling thankful and blessed that we were able to have a special day. I am relieved that I am an organised person, so the treats for Easter were all bought well in advance of social distancing and lockdown.
If this weekend were to have a theme it would be ‘nurture’ , this was not by design but happy accident. This weekend we’ve spent time in the garden, Mr S and Little Miss have been busy with our vegetable patch and getting the garden as ready as possible for the spring. We’ve walked together everyday and just taken in the beauty of where we live, walks through fields and along the beach (all v close to our home, we’ve not used cars) I’ve baked and cooked in the kitchen, creating nourishing meals and Easter treats. All simple things that bring us all together.
My highlight today was the Easter egg hunt, planned for this afternoon after our lunchtime Easter roast dinner. I always include a few craft activities and after finding the chocolate, all four of us were sat on the grass in the sun, talking, making models and having egg and spoon races. We FaceTimed my parents and chatted happily, there was a real sense of togetherness. It was so simple but perfect. After we came in for tea and Nigella’s Simnel cake recipe was superb, the best way to end our Easter Day.
I’m sure next year we’ll all be encouraged to celebrate big for Easter. However I don’t feel I’ve missed out this year, it was simple but I was with my family who are all healthy and safe and that is all that matters.
One of my delights in being mum is in planning, baking and decorating celebration cakes throughout the year. The children are both summer babies so its been a busy time in the kitchen getting ready for birthdays. My cakes are not the picture perfect images of those on Pinterest but real cakes made by an amateur baker who stirs in love, happy memories and positive thoughts into every cake.
This year, the children were both very decisive in what they wanted for their cake, Little Man wanted a Minecraft cake and Little Miss a watermelon cake. I took my inspiration from Pinterest whilst being realistic about what I could manage. My cakes are not simply about decoration, as I choose their flavour very carefully too.
For Little Man’s Minecraft cake, I chose to make a citrus cake, choosing an orange cake with a lime cream cheese filling. It was a very refreshing cake and helped to counter the sweetness of the icing and decoration. Although I had several ideas on how to decorate the cake, I ended up with a very simple ‘Creeper’ picture surrounded by random Minecraft tiles. His name and age were made from black icing and created by using alphabet cutters.
For Little Miss with a brief of watermelon I wanted to do all I could to make her cake look and taste like the fruit. I was able to find watermelon essence online and it was a quality product. I added it to a simple sponge mix, with some red food dye to make it look like the watermelon fruit and also added some chocolate chips to the mix as ‘seeds’ This was definitely a cake with an impressive wow factor when you cut it open (although I managed to forget to take a photo of the inside of the cake!) The sponge was filled with a water melon cream cheese filling. Again I was considering different ways to decorate the cake with icing but chose simplicity; a bright pink icing base with more choc chips as seeds. I really liked the unusual flavour of this cake, it felt like a taste of summer. I’ve since tried cupcake variations of this cake for a cake sale which were well received.
It is one of my simple pleasures to bake my children a birthday cake, its just one of those little things I do, along with the birthday breakfast table (think balloons, lights, banners etc..) to make them feel very special on their big days.
I’ve written in previous years, more detailed posts about Easter, our traditions, memories and it’s importance to me for spiritual and religious reasons. This year, it seems Easter was a long time coming … It’s the last weekend of our two week holiday, so we did lots of Easter activities at school in the last week of term and then had a long wait for the festival.
In the last week of term we made Easter bonnets for the school parade. This is a big local tradition going back more than a century and as it was Little Miss’ last parade we wanted to do something special. Little Miss has always wanted chocolate to feature on her bonnet and upto this year I’ve always refused, however with the promise that she would share the chocolates with her friends, I allowed her some eggs, We came up with a nest on a fascinator, with the nest full of small chocolate eggs. It worked well. Little Man went for a farmer theme, we used his straw hat from last year and glued on fake grass and carrots.
Around our home I have used many of my favourite decorations, the fireplace and side window of the lounge are decorated, whilst I also have a feature window in the kitchen with my beautiful Easter wreath. I did treat myself to a few new pieces which were presented on a table in the lounge. I love my new table cloth, it’s hand embroidered and I picked it up in a vintage shop at a very reasonable price. I’ve been looking for something similar for years so am delighted with my find. The other new decorations are from a local store in town, it seems that there’s a rabbit theme to my designs this year. The rabbits with the creme eggs are labelled with the children’s names and from a little shop on Etsy. I thought this was a more lasting gift than a bigger egg and it’s safe to say they’ve both had lots of chocolate today.
As it’s been a late Easter, we have also celebrated my Father in Law’s 87th birthday this weekend. We met up with him and other family members on Saturday, enjoying a meal in a country pub and then having a little potter around Lyme Regis, in the most gorgeous sunshine. We all wore our new Easter outfits yesterday, I love the look Little Miss was wearing an embroidered blue skirt and simple white daisy top with some fabulous rainbow pumps. Little Man was really pleased with his sequin skull tshirt, though I’m not sure if it was quite in keeping with the joyful celebrations.
After such a long day for Easter Saturday, we did a lot of travelling, we were all a little tired and we kept things simple at home today. The children enjoyed the sunshine playing in the garden and paddling pool, our neighbours popped over and we had our traditional Easter egg hunt. For the first time we had to be careful with the hiding of the chocolate as it was so hot and shady spots were needed. I created my hand drawn instructions again this year. I’m not an artist but it’s just something I’ve been doing every year and it wouldn’t be Easter without my sheet. I also created a playlist of suitable songs for the hunt and dinner, I love having the music to complement the celebration. Our day finished with an Easter dinner, a red onion and goats cheese filo tart accompanied by seasonal Spring vegetables, I enjoy planning a special menu for special days. For me Easter is about celebrating with good company, delicious food and treats and this year it has been a lovely weekend of family and simple pleasures.
As I was looking back on this blog, I noticed how little I have posted this year about Christmas. So here is my Christmas post for 2018 to be a little record of our Christmas celebrations. Reflecting now, I realise the big emotional impact on what happened to my Father in law late last Christmas eve when he was taken very poorly at our house and was rushed to hospital, it was an incredibly scary 24 hours. I now understand that I needed this Christmas to be a happy, peaceful time to stop the feeling of dread, worry and panic from last year. Fortunately, we achieved this and I also got a new happy memory for late Christmas eve, the news of my friend’s new baby boy. We are off to visit Grandad tomorrow for a few days as although recovered he is frailer and its easier for us to go to him than vice versa.
This Christmas has been my daughter’s last at primary school. I’ve been warned that the secondary school does not have as many parent events so I’ve been enjoying every opportunity to share Christmas with her. She sings (beautifully) in the school choir so I managed through a few favours at work to see every public performance. There was a private performance at the old people’s home and I got a special message on how kind she had been to the residents, I was very proud. There is one song which really stands out this year, a new carol, Love Shone Down, its got an encore every time and within the song, Little Miss and a friend sang a verse together that made everyone tingle.
As well as lots of carol services, I’ve also done a couple of Christingle services, one was where the school choir performed, the second for the cubs. One of my special memories is everyone making a circle around one of the churches and in darkness, holding our lit candles, it was a moment of reflection and peace. The cubs service was also a candlelit service, there were around 200 real candles burning and it looked so beautiful in the church. I do believe that the religious and spiritual message should always be part of our celebrations. The childrens school carol service was another joyful celebration, it started with the story of the nativity and then developed into some of our Christmas customs. Little Miss’ class sang ‘Starry Night’ and Little Man’s ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’
We did two new events this year. The first, we went to a big town for their winter wonderland where in the central park they had one hundred trees all lit and decorated. It was stunning and awe inspiring, I have so many amazing photos and really they still don’t reflect the beauty and atmosphere from the evening. I really hope that the town does it again next year as it was definitely the most Christmassy and fun thing we did this year (and free!!) I also got tickets to see the Snowman with a live orchestra. The first half wasn’t so suitable for my two as it was a musical version of Little Red Riding Hood and a bit young for them. However the Snowman was brilliant, we were all transfixed by it, the live orchestra make it something special and the soloist was perfect for Walking on the Air, I had all the festive feels when we left. I would definitely try to see it again with the live orchestra (although I might skip act 1)
We have also done our old favourite activities this December. The Christmas tree festival is the perfect way to start Christmas and as usual the church was full with other 40 trees. Whilst I am proud of our school’s tree, my favourite was so simple and beautiful, a tree dressed in red with handmade poppies and the name of the 99 local soldiers who died in World War 1. After the solemnness of the commemoration of November, it just felt really right that they were at the centre of this joyful celebration. The children enjoyed spending their pocket money at the town’s Christmas market which is so festive and a real community event, although incredibly windy this year. The school where I work had a stall this year and we sold some delightfully crafted wooden plaques the students had made. As from previous posts, Tommy the elf returned and showed once again that he is one of our favourite new traditions. We made our gingerbread decorations and again, this is something which started off as just a fun activity to do on our first Christmas but on the children’s insistence has become an integral part of our Christmas. Its also one of those Christmas photos I have from every year to chart the passing years. On Christmas eve we tracked Santa on Norad, this is so emotional and magical for me, the children in new pyjamas, showered and cuddly, talking about their hopes and wishes, its one of those emotions you want to bottle for those tough days. Whilst Little Miss is beginning to question Santa she still believes and I think that this was our final Christmas of such magic as she’ll be at secondary school next Christmas. I am grateful that it lasted this long and we got 9 Santa Christmases. Personally, I still believe.
At home, I decorated the house throughout. I concluded that I prefer making the little tableaux around the house than the main tree. I’m not sure what it was about our tree this year, new position, fake rather than real, the childrens’ paper chains but I didn’t get the wow factor from it as I like. I think its time to sort out the decorations for next year and perhaps a new fresh tree. I loved the wreath, again another make from my students at school.
This has been a Christmas to create new memories to counter the scary ones from last year. Christmas day was just the four of us, with our neighbours popping over to see the children and exchanging gifts, a delicious meal, family games and then when everyone had gone to bed Call the Midwife which I sobbed through! On Boxing day, we walked down to the prom to watch the Boxing day swim and then welcomed my cousin in the afternoon whilst Mr S followed the boxing day football. It was just perfect for us.