Christmas Sparkles December 21st 2019

This is my favourite time of Christmas. With the exception of fresh food my shopping is done, cards have been posted, presents wrapped and delivered and we have finished for the Christmas break. Its been a week of Christmas concerts and parties in schools, a much needed night of adult company in a cosy pub and a week of long days and late nights.

Little Man had his Christmas concert on Wednesday morning and his class sang Sparkle and Shine from Nativity with lots of actions and all wearing sunglasses. It was a delight! The concert was at a local church and it was an exceptionally good concert, setting the right tone with a nice variety of carols and songs, mixing modern and traditional, some for the children to perform and others for all to sing. I felt that lovely Christmas magic as I left. Fortunately this continued as I returned to my school (all teachers get time off for Christmas concerts) and we had our Christmas dinner. I was also out with my friends in the evening so it was a lovely day, if not a little tiring.

I do love the special Christmas moments at my school at this time of year. It means a lot of variety and extra work in my role, Co director of our concert, party planner, waitress, lighting rigger, it’s a mad, crazy week and of course one of my favourite weeks. The photos above show our Christmas card design for this year and the wreath made by one of our enterprise groups now sitting proudly on our front gate.

This week I would like to mention our Christmas book for 2019, The Christmas Journey. It was a recommendation on Twitter and has been our perfect read in December. It’s a very clever book, blending the Christmas story of a pilgrimage with a tale backwards through time and a magical advent calendar linking to modern times. It’s much simpler to read than to describe and we are hooked and can’t wait to read how it ends. I love to have a Christmas book and read a chapter aloud to the children each evening in December, it’s a moment of peace and togetherness.

Now all the jobs are done, I like to spend the last few evenings before Christmas by watching some seasonal shows or films. Inspired by Little Man’s class song I watched Nativity for the first time, what a gem of a Christmas movie. Although The Muppet Christmas Carol still is my number 1 Christmas movie. I feel Nativity is a contender for my top 5!

My week of Sparkles ✨

After all the lovely Christmas feels last weekend, this was quite a different week with a General election. Whatever your politics, an election isn’t a festive addition to December. However despite the week we had a special day today which really was full of sparkles.

Whilst we love to do things as a family, we also take time to take the children out individually on a trip of their choice for some special 1:1 time. Today was a SAM (Son and mummy) day and Little Man had chosen to visit the aviation museum by the regional airport. This was a hidden gem of a museum, entry of £3 manned by the most gorgeous and friendly volunteers and a brilliant experience. It’s mainly outdoor and you can explore and sit in the cockpits of a huge variety of aircraft. It was just the most amazing playground for Little Man. We waved as the planes in the airport landed and took off on the runway next to us, listened in to the air traffic communications, tried to land a plane via a simulator, dressed up as pilots and just had the best time. We’ll definitely be returning in the summer with a picnic for more fun.

After the museum, we drove into the nearby town for lunch and to potter around.

One of the features of the town is it’s beautiful priory church and I wanted to pop in to light a candle and take a few minutes to think of someone very special and loved. By a beautiful coincidence a choir was practicing for their concert this evening and the church was filled with the sound of Handel’s Messiah. It was a special moment and gave me an unexpected feeing of peace whilst reflecting.

After our visit to the church we picked up a few Christmas presents and came home to a family curry night. With the Strictly final our viewing tonight, it’s been a really sparkly day.

My Week of Little Sparkles ✨ …

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This was a tough parenting week. After so much effort in trying to get Little Man into a special school we got the official response that whilst they did think he was suitable (yeah, a win) there were no spaces in the Year 7 starting in 2020. We’ve now begun the process of appealing, writing letters to get additional support etc. Every time he needs additional help, an EHCP or a move to a special school it is such a battle with bureaucracy and funding. Also this week Little Miss has been experiencing friendship difficulties which are pretty heartbreaking to see. However, even worse has been the behaviour of parents who are unable to take a balanced view of events and have made the situation even more difficult. Fortunately after this tough week where work has been madly busy too, we ended with a lovely weekend and a very poignant reminder of how important family is.

In writing this I realised that our sparkles are mostly from the weekend. It was a tough week, although I was impressed by the children’s new dentist, so funny and friendly, he even helped Little Miss with her English homework! She also has a new hair cut, the hairdresser totally got her and gave her a rock chick bob which she aces.

1. With Me Now podcast

I love WMN and with a long drive to Uni on Friday I got to listen to it in peace and quiet. OMG this episode had all the feels, tears of laughter and sadness. It also featured contributions from two bloggers whose running blogs I have read for years and have inspired me via the net.

2. A big Christmas tree 🎄

Our Uni course is taught in a 18th century Mansion House, it is a very grand venue, rather different from my undergraduate days! When I arrived on Friday I was greeted by one of the biggest indoor trees I’ve seen. The photo doesn’t really show the true perspective of the tree, it’s huge. The Christmas craft markets and parties started at the house this weekend so I think this was why I thought I’d fast forwarded a month when I arrived.

3. parkrun mud.

Wow, this was the muddiest ( and slowest) parkrun we’ve done so far. We embraced the conditions making it also one of the best!

4. A naming ceremony.

This was my first naming ceremony and it was for my friend’s miracle baby twins. It was such a joyful and happy event. I was so impressed by the ethos and style of the ceremony. The celebrant was fantastic and explained the parents choice for the ceremony and that the value they placed on faith was important but they wanted their children to make their own choices. The ceremony featured aspects of a christening, the lighting of candles, god parents and the audience promising to guide and support the children. However the most beautiful part was the parents promise which they had written to their children, this was emotional and tissues were needed.

After the ceremony, we all enjoyed an afternoon party and it was just perfect. My friend had organised a rainbow theme and the decoration was unbelievable, a totally instagram ‘able flower rainbow wall of colours (and yes we’ve lots of photos of us all standing in front ), a big rainbow of balloons, balloon decorations on each table, the babies initials filled with balloons. Totally stunning. The children loved the party there was a face painter, balloon modeller, magician, doughnut stall , pick n mix stall etc… This entertainment allowed the adults to relax and chat and enjoy the wonderful food and drink available to us. It was such a special and unexpectedly emotional afternoon and one which reminded us all of the importance of family.

I have a final sparkle, not very exciting but one which made me happy. I worked my day off this week and missed my cleaning day. This morning we all worked together to deep clean the house and its lovely tonight to have such a spotless and organised house. I’m one of those people who gets excited by neatly folded colour coordinated towels in my bathroom cupboard! Christmas entertaining starts next week so I now feel I’m in a good place to start.

My fortnight of Little Sparkles ✨ November 15th 2019

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So here we are in November, the wettest , dreariest of months, although thankfully we have the anticipation of the twinkly lights of December. It’s been a fortnight of ordinary but a friend and I whom I met for a coffee recently both decided that ordinary is sometimes a wonderful and comforting feeling.

Time for some little sparkles …

1. A new play park. The play park at our parkrun country park has now been opened and looks great. I love the eco feel to it and there are beautiful animal wood carvings on the structure. Unfortunately the weather was pretty yucky after our parkrun so we came home to dry out and warm up. We’ll be back soon to explore.

2. New nails. Well not quite as these are my real nails, no extensions here but I finally booked in and had my nails done 💅🏼 at a nail bar. I like the colour as I’m not a pink nails type of girl and wanted something more seasonal. I’m so impressed how well they’ve lasted, I’ll be back for more.

3. An art homework. We’re settling into homework routines and this week I think I may have enjoyed Little Miss’ homework more than her. It was a collage of an environment linked to a previous homework. Little Miss needed to recreate a summer meadow and we flicked through magazines for suitable images. Whilst the work is hers and I’ve not done any of the creative task, it was nice to flick through magazines and been reminded of those lovely summer days

4. Bobble Hats. I love a bobble hat in winter and have many variations, grey, pink and purple are among my favourites. What better way to disguise a bad hair day with a bright happy hat.

5. Festive hot chocolates. We love in a town with no coffee chains, yep these towns do exist and we all love our independent coffee shops. However a trip to big town for a little Christmas browsing meant we could try the new Costa festive hot chocolates. I had gingerbread and Little Miss Black Forest hot chocolate. Both were delicious and just the right thing for a crisp November afternoon.

6. Reading a book. After being poorly at half term I have tried to make time to relax at the end of the day. This month I have read every evening in bed and it’s definitely helped me to wind down. The book The last anniversary is by one of my new favourite writers Liane Moriarty and an excellent read. It features family relationships, a little bit of a whodunnit and romance.

A fortnight of Little Sparkles ✨

The autumn half term holiday is one of my favourites of the school year. It’s a much needed rest after the busy start to the academic year, the weather is normally good enough for outdoor adventures and in our family we have two birthdays, Halloween and fireworks night in this period too. Although my children only have one week’s holiday, I get two weeks and it’s my time to get prepared, sort out life admin and catch up with friends. Unfortunately this year in my first week, I had my worst migraine for years and was bed ridden for a few days, I missed an 80s party 😟 and we had to delay our trip to Bristol by a day. Although a little shorter than expected we all had wonderful time in the West Country.

1. Old friends

Whilst in Bristol I arranged to meet my old mentor, friend and all round gorgeous person for a catch up. We go back a long, long way (30 years!) as she was originally my French teacher at secondary school, we then kept in touch as I studied French at university and then I returned to my old secondary school as a French teacher in her department. She is one of life’s kindest and shiny people and just a pleasure to be around. I felt uplifted to be in her company and to catch up on all the news about her family, and shared friends and colleagues.

2. Seven Worlds, One Planet

There are not many programmes which can entertain and educate 3 generations at the same time, but the start of Seven Worlds, One Planet by David Attenborough on Sunday had us all transfixed and in awe of the filmography. The series started with Antarctica , cue penguins, sharks and seals. It really focused on climate change and as well as being inspiring there was a strong message to us all of our responsibilities to our planet.

3. Ice Skating ⛸

We moved from Bristol to Weston Super Mare when Mr S returned home for work. The highlight of our stay at my parents was ice skating at the iconic Tropicana. When I was a child the Tropicana was the place to go in WSM, a fun swimming pool with a huge pineapple 🍍 slide that could be easily seen along the prom. It’s had various guises since and is now a pop up ice rink for the winter season. It has been created beautifully and has amazing Christmas models decorating the area and a cafe with a real alpine lodge feel. I imagine it would feel rather magical as a Christmas venue later in the season. The rink is large and sparkly and the children and I all had lots of fun on the ice. We were joined for the day by my cousin who unfortunately was in a cast so unable to skate but a real cheerleader for us all. It’s always lovely to see her, again such a kind and gentle person.

4. Birthday tables.

I do like to celebrate a birthday and as I was at my mum’s the night before hers, I decorated the kitchen ready to surprise her on her birthday morning. I love these balloons, they’re not helium, you just blow up with a straw. Little Miss’ similar balloons from early summer are still inflated and are decorating her room! We went to a lovely, stylish cafe for a birthday breakfast, the children loved their pancake stacks and the avocado on toast was delicious. I think breakfast is an underrated meal to go out for, it was a delightful, relaxed way to start a special day.

5. Halloween

Our Halloween was a quiet celebration this year, we had just returned home so hadn’t done all the prep we normally do and the awful weather meant there were very few people trick or treating. We decorated the house, ( I love my new ghost lights, a bargain buy in a summer sale) did a spooky nature walk, dressed up and did some pumpkin carving on the day. Whilst it felt right this year given our holiday plans, I did miss my spooky baking. What’s a Halloween without a ghost or bat biscuit!

6. More birthday celebrations.

On Friday we organised a family day to celebrate Mr S’ birthday. It is tomorrow but with England in the rugby world cup final, he’ll be cheering them on, so today seemed a better day for us all. As the weather is so poor again, we went to the cinema to see our family favourite Shaun the Sheep in Farmegeddon and then out for a meal. The film was cleverly done and played to both a child and adult audience with lots of nice touches.

My week of Little Sparkles

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A little cheat this week as I’ve included Sunday too as my week was seriously lacking in Sparkles this week.  I’m not sure that arriving safely at my destination after a horrendous drive in atrocious conditions can count as a sparkle, although I was very relieved and thankful.  Most of my Sparkles are from the weekend which was relaxing and quiet.

  1.  A lovely comment on my blog. I received a lovely compliment on my blog this week, from a gentleman with whom I exchanged emails following a post on some old war photographs of my Gramps.  It meant a lot and was a beautiful surprise.
  2. Conkers.  It was cookers night at cubs so after a conker walk the previous day, Little Man learnt the art of conkers and has been keen to challenge us all at home.
  3. Break up!  Unlike the children I have a two week half term and finished on Friday.  I really need this break and am looking forward to ‘my’ week.  I wasn’t at school on Friday as it was a uni day so didn’t get the full excitement but it was still a great feeling to close my laptop on Thursday afternoon.
  4. Cows on the road.  Little Miss and I were in the car on Saturday and paused for the cows to cross the road after milking.  It made me smile and is just a little reminder that we live in a farming community.
  5. Dawn.  Little Miss was feeling really tired on Friday evening, so we decided to let her sleep in and skip parkrun. I got up early to fit in a run before the boys went swimming.  It was tough to start in the dark but I got rewarded with a delightful dawn.  It’s been a really wet week so to run in the dry and in the sun was great.
  6. Harry Connick Junior.  There was an article about HCJ in the Times magazine on Saturday.  I loved him in the 90s and found We are in Love on Spotify.  I’ve been playing it again and it’s still as fabulous as I remember.  I can’t believe the album is nearly 30 years old!
  7. Nature Reserve.  As Sunday was another bright and dry day we went to a local nature reserve.  We collected some chestnuts to roast at home and the children used their nature book to search for different trees, plants and birds.  There was lots of fungi and we found a toadstool which thanks to their book the children discovered was very dangerous.  It’s a great book, there are pictures of different things for you to find and the space to draw or add a photo from your walk.

My week of Little Sparkles ✨

As I sit here on a very wet Saturday afternoon, it’s easy to forget the little autumn sunshine we’ve had between all the rain. It’s been another week of school, work, clubs, there is a comfort in the ordinary.

Here are my sparkles of the week.

1. Assignment 1 done ✅

I have finished my first uni assignment and submitted it two days early! This never happened when I was an undergraduate when I would pull an all nighter to get the work in on time. This time I recognised that I needed a plan to ensure that i could do my course properly without it impacting on our family life and so far it seems to be working. I’m being creative with my study, I used the 2 hour wait at the doctors to review my work and have my set texts with me to read whenever I can, so today that was at the indoor skate park. Fingers crossed for the feedback.

2. Sunny Sunday

It was so bright and sunny on Sunday morning that we quickly got onto the beach in a nearby village. It’s a wild beach with beautiful white sand but further back you can walk through heathers. We walked for a couple of hours, enjoyed a drink in the cafe and played outdoor table tennis. These are the autumn days I love the bright sunshine and some beautiful colours in nature.

3. Mum points

Little Miss has a new drinks bottle since I managed to warp her last plastic bottle! She leaves early to walk to school and as this week it’s been chilly we had an idea to use her new hot for a hot drink at break time. She loved it and I earn a few bonus points for the inspiration!

4. Muddles

Muddles was a mixed up phrase which has become our new little shout at parkrun, a muddle is a muddy puddle of which there were plenty of on today’s run. Now muddles are a little metaphor for life you can either tiptoe around or run through and as you can see from my running tights we ran through them squealing and laughing.

5. Skate Park Life!

Well with some careful planning, the boys who had been to swimming lessons and the girls who had been running managed to meet at the indoor skate park together for a couple of hours of scootering followed by lunch out. A simple but nice way to spend a wet morning.

6. Technology

I was a little bold this week and phoned my mobile phone company to negotiate a new deal as there were a couple of offers I could have taken using my student discount with rival companies. As a consequence I have a free iPhone 11 and a cheaper contract, result. The device is great, the quality of photos is stunning and I’m amazed by the face recognition. I also have finally got Chrome on my work’s laptop, and it’s made things so much easier. I love how technology is facilitating life, although I’m conscious that it’s here to help not enslave us and I recognise that it’s important to put our devices down sometimes.

My Week of Little Sparkles ✨

Its difficult finding the sparkles in tough weeks. The combination of some challenging and emotional times at work, reading lots of academic journals and then drafting assignments for my studies and the whole caboodle of family life, my life feels pretty full on. But hidden in the melee are the sparkles, the little things which brighten the week.

1. A dressing gown.

I forgot to take a photo of my new dressing gown. Not simply a new dressing gown but a dressing gown! I haven’t had one for years, however with these chillier mornings I needed something to wear. It’s so comfy and warm and I can’t believe I haven’t had one for years, so much better than an old jumper!

2. The NHS

I had to go and see my consultant this week for another cortisone pain killing injection in my foot. Unfortunately it’s looking likely that for long term benefits I’ll need an operation . My consultant is the most consummate professional, always on time, polite, informative etc.. and shows the amazing talent in our NHS. The NHS is always a sparkle in our lives.

3. Christmas shopping

I was early to my NHS appointment so quickly nipped into M&S for a look which is next door to the clinic. Whilst I hadn’t intended to start my Christmas shopping, I saw this bobbing Santa biscuit tin and thought it perfect for a present. For some friends I often buy a family present, maybe a book, hot chocolate and biscuits for them to enjoy together. I really like this and may pop back for some more, at £5 each it was great value. I’m now feeling great for starting my list. I love getting organised for Christmas and will buy a magazine or two over half term to start planning and getting excited for the coming season.

4. Trail running shoes

I know I sneak running in most weeks, but it’s so important to my health. These new trainers are now muddy and dirty just as they should be. The parkrun we do is mixed trails and after the recent poor weather it was time for a seasonal change to trail shoes for parkrun. Parkrun was celebrating its 15th birthday and there were lots of celebrations and emotional moments during the morning. Little Miss had another personal best, she’s getting much closer to my PB by the week, so a very successful and happy parkrun.

5. Army games

Whilst the girls were at parkrun, the boys went to big town after swimming to do a few jobs. Little Man spent his pocket money on some new army figures and spent the afternoon creating an amazing scene. He loves everything military and spends hours making his battle scenes and talking about strategy and tactics. Anything which makes him so happy and focused is definitely a sparkle for me.

6. Family game of Monopoly

With us being in different places all day we made sure that we had family time together on Saturday evening and played a game of Monopoly. We’re competitive but fair, Little Man is a keen property owner, Little Miss prefers money and myself and Mr S both play to win! It’s nice to have a couple of hours with no distraction just to play.

My week of Little Sparkles ✨

It’s been a long, wet week, the first part of the week was hard but fortunately my week ended happily as I started my Uni course and enjoyed a new parkrun.

1. Cubs helper

It was my turn on the parent rota for cubs this week and unlike last time when I was totally out of my depth on knots, I enjoyed a great session making apple crumbles.

2. Paddington 50p

A few weeks ago I received a 50p coin in my change featuring Paddington bear at Paddington station. I loved it and kept it as a simple thing to make me smile. I was delighted this week to get a second Paddington 50p with him at the Tower of London. I haven’t checked if there’s a whole series to collect but like the excitement of checking my change carefully now!

3. Homework

Little Miss is getting into the swing of homework and this week had to create a shield for her family with a motto. She chose Together Forever which meant a lot to us as a family created through adoption. We’re always telling her that we’re here for her forever and ever and to see it as her motto was very special.

4. Uni day

I had a strange mix of excitement and apprehension on starting my Uni course this week. When the course materials came through I did start to question my academic skills, as it’s now 23 years since I wrote my last PGCE essay and to go straight back in at Masters level made me a little anxious. I was well prepared and had done all the day 1 prep work as well as buying new stationery and choosing an outfit carefully as I needed to feel confident. It was a fantastic day, a beautiful setting and lots of lovely people on the course too. It’s going to be very hard work but I’m ready for it and am so pleased to be given the opportunity to do this course. There was a stunning rainbow 🌈 on my journey over and it seemed perfect symbolism for a new start.

5. parkrun

I know parkrun often gets a mention but today’s was run in warm sunshine, T-shirt weather and given the week this was a real Brucie bonus. Little Miss and I also travelled to our NENDY (parkrun abbreviation for nearest event not done yet) so we could go shopping after in the nearby shopping centre. I’m quite impressed that I’ve managed 4 different venues in my first 10 runs. This parkrun is big, far bigger than any we’ve attended before and very well organised to cope with the numbers. There are a lot of fast runners who do the run regularly and I even spotted a running ‘celebrity’ whom has inspired me over the years. It was the flattest parkrun I’ve done and again Little Miss got a PB, she’s quickly catching up with me, she’s knocked off nearly 3 minutes in just 5 parkruns.

My week of Little Sparkles ✨

It’s been an ordinary week but even during ordinary times there are always those little things which brighten up your day!

1. Hay Bales!

We’re definitely enjoying an Indian summer and it’s been such a hot and sunny week. On Sunday, the four of us walked up to the country park and were enthralled by the tractors making the hay bales! It’s a great little process and we were amused by the bale rolling out of the machine.

2. An evening walk.

Little Miss and I often walk in the evening to help talk things through. Wednesday night was such a warm evening that on our stroll Little Miss enjoyed a paddle. It helped lift her mood, whilst I simply enjoyed the last rays of the day’s sunshine and the view.

3. Baby cuddles.

Whilst my and our friends’ children are growing up quickly I’ve had an unexpected treat in the last year with 3 very special babies being born to friends. There’s been no little ones in my life for the past few years so it’s lovely to have baby cuddles again. I got lots of cuddles on Thursday when I met a friend for lunch (al fresco ☀️) and as well as cuddles I got to sing all my favourite action songs and rhymes too! Nothing can beat the smiles, gurgles and giggles of a baby and with twins, I got double the pleasure and joy.

4. Saturday afternoon shopping.

On Saturday with Little Man at a party on the outskirts of the county town and it being too far to drive back home I had a little shopping trip on my own, what a luxury. It was a lovely afternoon to potter around in the sunshine (such a theme this week) One of my favourite shops is the tea emporium and I have a few new loose tea blends to enjoy.

5. Bohemian Rhapsody

I was disappointed to have missed Bohemian Rhapsody at the cinema but finally got to watch it this week and what a film, I loved it, a great soundtrack and a strong storyline. As a consequence a few Queen songs made it to my running playlist this week!

6. Strictly Come Dancing

Strictly returned this week and my weekly dose of glitter and sparkle is back. This is my happy show and the perfect antidote to the autumn evenings. My favourites last night were Kelvin, Karim, Dev and Will, fingers crossed for another amazing series!