Sunday, 29 December 2013

Festive Countdown 17-24 and Christmas Day

Did you all have a wonderful Christmas? I certainly hope you did.
I'm finally getting round to recording the last week or so of our festive countdown.
This could turn into a long post so you may need a cuppa (or something stronger to get you through it!).

On Tuesday 17th G was doing something special too. He went to London with his brother where they met up with his mum and sister. G's present to his mum was a trip to the Buckingham Palace art gallery and then afternoon tea in a Hilton hotel. They all had a terrific day and it was especially lovely for them to be together as it was the day before the first anniversary of their dad passing away. 
With G away in London my mum came over and collected S from school and then in the early evening the three of us went carol singing.
Unfortunately the drizzle turned to proper rain and we were getting too cold and wet to stay for it all but the one memory which will stay with me was casting surreptitious glances at S as she was singing and signing Away In a Manger.

Our next day needed something which needed little planning and the ideal choice was a round or two of The Snowman board game. We all love this one.

Thursday was an edible treat of snowmen kebabs. S was extremely puzzled by this concept but was more than happy when I presented her with a tub of mini doughnuts and some chocolate chips. I made one, she did the other 3 and then we all ate them!

Everyone had been looking forward to our activity on Friday 20th. We had booked to go and see Frozen at the cinema. And it wasn't just the four of us who were going. My sister, Auntie C, had asked to come along too which made it all the more exciting for T and S. The only showing we could go to was a 3D version of the movie, the first 3D everyone, apart from T, had experienced. We all agreed afterwards it really was a lovely movie and a fab evening out.

The next few days didn't go quite as we had planned, mainly due to the weather, but we kept busy. Saturday afternoon S, G and I sat down for a bit of crafting and painted a set of baubles and here is S's snowman.

Sunday S and G had been invited out with friends to a farm. I was looking forward to them going so I could crack on with all manner of Christmas preparation but when G looked at the farm website he found that the farm itself wouldn't be open, just a barn with a Santa's grotto in the middle and few animals at each end. He spoke with S and she wasn't keen on seeing the man in the red suit and so he rang the friend who had invited them. It turned out he wasn't aware the farm wasn't properly open either and so they decided not to go. I still needed them out so a second trip to the cinema in 3 days was arranged.

No photo of Monday's activity as I forgot. I had bought a couple of those net bags of chocolate snowmen from a supermarket which we stuck them to pieces of card with a note to say they were a random act of Christmas kindness and S placed them on shelves at the library. Apart from the last one which she handed to a chap who was in there using the computer. He looked genuinely shocked and pleased when she handed it over as she wished him a Merry Christmas. I had already asked for permission from the library to do this when I went to book club earlier in the month.

Now we've reached Christmas eve and some baking was in order so we could leave Father Christmas a home made treat. G's mum is a lover of all edible ginger delights and we thought ginger biscuits would be ideal. They were delicious and Father Christmas must have liked his too as it was gone the next morning.

I'm not sure if Father Christmas does this in every household but on Christmas eve he sends some new PJ's down our chimney and when they arrive the children know it's nearly time for bed. This year S unwrapped her parcel and when she found a reindeer patterned onesie she suddenly became Tigger and bounced around the room thanking Father Christmas before launching herself first on my lap for a big hug and then on G's. A reaction which meant she was very happy I think! T wasn't left out and he received a new dressing gown although there was a slightly less energetic response from him!

As I mentioned earlier in this post it was a year ago that G lost his dad and back in the summer his mum had said she didn't want to do anything or see anyone this Christmas. This concerned him and his sister and so it was decided we would invite them both to us for Christmas. 
Our house is only tiny and it would have been a squeeze but a very good friend of mine who lives nearby was going away for Christmas and she offered D and D to stay at her home. Such a kind and generous offer for which everyone was very thankful.  
Our Christmas morning started as normal with the children coming into us, not too early at 7.15, to open their stocking presents from Father Christmas. Then it was downstairs to open the gifts from me and G. 
Because we were expecting Grandma and D at 9.30 we called a halt to the present opening so we could eat breakfast and those of us who were getting dressed could do so.
T requested I not take photos of them opening their gifts this year so I didn't  and instead just sat back and watched.
The camera did make an appearance when we had a short and very sharp hailstorm and T ventured out in it.

G's mum and sister stayed with us until 6pm on Christmas day and then came back again Boxing day morning before leaving to drive back to Salisbury mid afternoon.  They left us with a card saying thank you for making what could have been a difficult time a very enjoyable one. I think being with the children must have helped enormously.

For those who have been following me for a while you'll know that one of our traditions is to buy silly table presents which must be worn whilst eating Christmas lunch. So to end this festive round up here is this year's selection.

Me wearing a pair of glittery red glasses I reckon Dame Edna would be proud of

G with his pipe (the glasses were in his stocking) and his mum wearing her halo.

D wearing her headband with mistletoe attached and a huge moustache from a set I bought which clip onto a drinking straw so are perfectly placed for photo opportunities.

T's table present was the weirdest. The eyes in these glasses are so starey they make everyone who puts them on look really freaky!

Not everyone got dressed Christmas day, S spent the day in her new cow themed onesie and then morphed into a tiger/cow combo at lunch with her table gift which also included a tail as well as the bow tie and ears. Cute or what?!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Festive Countdown Days 12-16

We've been busy with paper in one form or another during our festive countdown these past few days.
 Day 12 was folding and sticking together an incredibly cute gingerbread house. 
Much tidier and far less sticky than using biscuits and icing sugar as we've done in the past

Friday night was a game of roll a snowman
The different pieces took minutes to cut out and have now been stashed away ready for when excitement levels are heightened and a quietening down activity made be needed.

On Saturday I wrapped presents for one of friends and her 2 boys. I am really pleased with their gifts.
Back in the summer I was in TK Maxx when I spotted this milkshake tin which has my friend's name on it. I knew that Superdrug did a range of strawberries and milkshake toiletries and waited until they were on special offer so I was able to buy her a hand cream, shower gel and lip balm for £5.00 which all fit very neatly inside the tin. I was quite happy with the gift as it was but then when in Primark a little while ago looking for to buy myself new socks I saw these milkshake ones which were just perfect.

Last year I gave her boys a Christmas movie, popcorn and a cola reindeer and this year they both have a t-shirt and some sweets with silly poems attached.
First off is a box of tic tacs relabelled as Snowman Seeds on the front and on the back it says 'OK, you can't really sow them, but 'plant' one on your tongue and if they make you grow a smile then their Christmas job is done.'
The cellophane bag contains chocolate raisins and the rhyme on the tag reads
'I woke up with such a scare when I heard Santa call- dash away, dash away, dash away all!
I ran to the lawn and in the snowy white drifts those cheeky reindeer had left 'little gifts!'
To throw them away seemed such a waste
So I saved them thinking you may like a taste!'
I hope they make them giggle.

Saturday was also the day S made Christmas cards for our family when she got busy with paper, glue and stamps.

We didn't use any paper for our activity for Sunday but we did use ice cream cones. I found this idea on Pinterest and the original used those lovely waffle sugar cones but when I went to the supermarket they didn't have any. So we just used the normal wafery sort and after I had coated them in green icing S decorated them with sprinkles, chocolate shapes, silver balls and holly leaves.
They are incredibly sweet to eat but S loved making them and we thought our little forest of trees looked very sweet too.

Today was S's school Christmas play and with a busy day in store for all I decided taking in presents for the teaching and office staff was probably the best idea for our Monday activity.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Festive Countdown Days 7-11

You'd think that now I'm working each afternoon and so have the mornings free I would have more time to do the things that I want to do, like blogging, but getting used to a new routine is proving to be trickier than I thought it would be. Couple that with all the extra demands on time that December brings explains why I have a few days to catch up on.
So it's back to the weekend and on Saturday we put up our tree. 
S decorated it whilst I sat by and tried not be get too twitchy about the overladen branches and the bare patches! There may have been a little rearranging, but only a little.
I love this vintage bauble

We have quite an assortment of decoraions on the tree, some made from felt, some glass, some plastic and a couple of salt dough ones too.

On Sunday we went to the Tudor House museum as they were having a Victorian Christmas event. I'm not sure what the Victorian event was apart from the fact a few members of staff were dressed in Victorian costume. I was expecting some kind of information about Christmas Victorian style as I like finding out how Christmas was celebrated in the past. 

Opposite the Tudor House is St Michael's Church which was built in the 1070's and is the only surviving medieval parish church in Southampton.

One of the current exhibitions inside the Tudor House is a selection of paper dresses and shoes by artist Violese Lunn. They are so delicate and intricate, especially the shoes.

Another work of art, this time one created inside the museum by S, a reindeer made from a wooden spoon. We thought he looked like he had grown an impressive moustache and was perhaps wearing a polo neck?!

Mondays's activity was making paper chains. A nice and calm sitting down activity. They have been hung from the dresser, the food storage cupboard

and the framed Ladybird book pictures making our dining room look very festive.

Tuesday was all about giving to others when we made a donation to the local food bank, not much but hopefully it'll all be useful.

Today should have been another food donation, this time for a local animal charity. There is a collection box for donations at our library and when I went to book club this evening I was supposed to take the items we have bought with me but I forgot, so for now they are sat on our kitchen work top and instead we'll drop them in at the weekend.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Festive Countdown Day 5 and 6

Before I write about our festive activities, one turned out to be very special, I wanted to show a present idea I had for one of my teenage cousins.
The idea came to me way back in April when I saw a pack of tissues (4) which were decorated just like the packaging on the Love Heart sweets (1). One a theme had been established I kept my eye out for things wherever I went. I saw the address book next(3) and then during the summer I was in Wilkinsons chekcing out their stationery and picked up a set of mini erasers (6). I really wanted to get some kind of cosmetic/smellies set with the same packaging and although they are available they didn't fit into my budget. That may sound mean as they were only £5.00 but the agreed present budget between me and my aunt is £5.00, otherwise costs just spiral.
I was able to find a set of nail varnish in Love Heart shades which was labelled as Nail Candy (2) and a set of 3 lip gloss flavours in a box (5) labelled as Sweet Crush, so they were along the same kind of lines.

Now to Day 5. This was a great day in our festive countdown.
In the morning we left a box of cards on the table so when S came home from school she could sit down and write out all the cards she wanted to send to friends and teachers.
When I came home from work I asked her to write out a couple like the one below.

I had to go shopping that evening and the plan was that whilst we were having our shopping scanned through we would ask our cashier what their favourite bar of chocolate was, S would pop off to the confectionery aisle and get it, then once we had paid for it hand it over and wish the person serving us a Merry Christmas. S was excited about this Random Act of Kindness.
We struck up a conversation with our cashier and S asked her (she was called Melissa) 'what's your favourite chocolate bar?' only to be told she didn't eat chocolate as she didn't like it!
So I asked what she liked as a treat instead and she said her most favourite thing was a bag of Roast Beef flavour Monster Munch. S went off to find it. The cashier looked at me and asked what was happening, I said just wait and see and she asked with a big smile 'Is it Christmas?' When S came back with the crisps the cashier sent her off again to find some sweets she would like.
We paid for the shopping, S handed over the card and crisps and then the cashier asked us to wait whilst she paid for the sweets and then handed them over to S and wished her a Happy Christmas.
The grin on S's face as we left was so huge. Not only had she enjoyed carrying out a random act of kindness and in doing so made the cashier happy, she was genuinely surprised and delighted when she was given something in return. I thanked the cashier as well and said it hadn't been necessary as we were doing this to teach the children the importance and pleasure in giving but she said she wanted to return the gesture.
We plan on doing it again somewhere else before the countdown ends.

Day 6 being Friday we needed something relaxing so it was decided we would watch a Christmas movie we had never seen before and Arthur Christmas was chosen.
It's a really lovely movie, Bill Nighy as the voice of Grand Santa was outstanding, it certainly made me look forward to Christmas eve all the more.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Festive Countdown Day 4

With S's help a handful of presents have been wrapped and tagged.
One for the neighbours, some destined for friends much further afield.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Festive Countdown Day 2 & 3 and the Weekend

One photo to represent day 2 and 3.
S went to a friend's house after school on Monday so Day 2 had to be something quick and simple. When she came home finding and putting up her pink Christmas tree in her bedroom seemed the most likely thing to fit the bill.
For Day 3 we popped popcorn and then strung it on thread to make garlands. Some were used for decorating the tree and some are destined for the back garden for the birds.

Now for a very condensed version of the weekend.
T doesn't feature in this very much because he was away in London. He and Grandma went and stayed with Auntie D and all three of them went to see War Horse. He said it was very good.
S had her friend L come to tea on Friday and she ended up staying over too. In the morning they asked if they could do a taste test.
I blindfolded the pair of them and gave them little samples of the items below. It was G who dipped the tip of ice cream cones into sweet chilli sauce!

After lunch we took L back home and made our way to a local pub which was holding a craft fair and although it was only small we bought another 3 presents and so a few more things were ticked from the list.
The pub is next door to a park which we haven't been to for a while so it was an ideal place to go and stretch our legs for an hour.

Then come the evening G's god-daughter came round to sit babysit whilst we went to the theatre. 
We went to see the Welsh National Opera's production of Tosca. 
G suggested a while back we should try and get out together a bit more and as I had never been to an opera before we thought not only would a night out be good fun, doing something different would be good too.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I was blown away by the power of their voices and how they can be belting out one note and then in a second change to something so much more subtle.
We've booked to go again next year and see La Traviata.

Sunday was another craft fair and another park.
This fair was far less successful but the walk was pretty and we got to see this very friendly robin who quite happily posed for photos.

Someone else quite happily posing!

Love the way this photo makes S look like she has a leaf beard!

Sunday afternoon was when we started our festive countdown with the making of the non edible dough gift tags but we also made something which was hightly edible. Mars bar crispies courtesy of Gillian at Tales from a Happy House and very popular they were too.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Festive Countdown Day 1

Our festive activity countdown has begun.
Whilst listening to the fabulous Puppini Sisters S and I made gift tags with a dough made from cornflour and baking soda.
Apparently they can either be dried in the oven or left to air dry which is the method we are going for.

Friday, 29 November 2013

First Week

Although it's early Friday morning I have already finished the first week in my new job. 
Today is an inset day and we are going in for staff training so it won't be a normal day.
But just what is a normal work day for me now?
 Incredibly busy for a start!
My head has been spinning all week and even though I am tired I haven't been sleeping well. There is so much to take in, as there always is with a new job.
It's very different to my old job, although that was busy too, this is a different kind of busy.
If I'm being honest I have to admit I'm not coping well with being the new person who knows nothing. In my last job I was the one people asked when they needed help. 
G says I am a bit of a control freak (tell me something I didn't know!) and I need to try and relax over the not knowing and just accept I will make mistakes and I can't learn a whole new job in one week.

I haven't been near my camera since Sunday and so the only photos I have to share whist I update my week are from our little walk around the park after we had been to a craft fair in search of Christmas presents.
I'm so glad G came with me as he was able to choose the gifts we are giving his mum and sister this year.

The park looked beautiful, lots of browns and golds.

As well as busy afternoons at work most evenings have had something happening too.
Monday was my sister's birthday so there was a visit to her for chatting, cake and presents.
Tuesday G and I went to see Russell Brand.
He does like to roam around the audience and I was only four people away from him at one point.
He is completely outrageous at times.
 He is incredibly articulate at times.
He is utterly mesmerising all the time.

Wednesday was quieter and a bit of this months book club book was read.
Last night G was at T's school for parents evening whilst I went to S's school for a meeting about a residential school trip she is going on early next year.
G heard the same things about T as we have heard before, if he pushed himself a bit more he could accomplish so much more. They all say he is polite (and quick to apologise if he isn't!) but with his options coming up he needs to step it up a bit.
S's trip sounds like it's going to be huge fun. A three day WW2 evacuee themed trip away in the middle of the Dorset countryside, exciting stuff.

Even though I love the golden tones of the autumn trees I do like the stark look of the bird and the sky in this photo.

Happy days.

There was also an extra nice surprise in the middle of the week when I had a visit from Clare. It was so lovely to see her again. 
And look what she bought with her. 
A present for me.
Made by her own fair hand.
The prettiest star garland to adorn the dresser in the dining room.
Clare makes the most gorgeous quilts and if you haven't discovered her blog then pop over and prepare for a feast for the eyes.
Thank you for my garland Clare, you are a star and I love it.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Bottom Half

One day last week I loaded up my shopping trolley with another batch of items from our home we no longer needed and trundled off to the charity shop.
I very nearly got out without making a purchase but the colours in this Marks and Spencer skirt caught my attention as I cast my eye over the clothes racks as I was leaving.
I liked it even more when I looked at the price tag and saw that it had been reduced to £2.00.
When I was little we always had a new outfit to wear Christmas day and it's still something I like to do.
I particularly like the velvet green ribbon and would love to find a top this shade to go with it.

I've been lucky enough to have a couple of little jaunts out Christmas shopping during my time off and am very nearly finished with my gift buying. I am planning on sharing a couple of my favourite present ideas soon, but now I'm off to have a cuppa and enjoy my first festive bakewell tart. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


It's time for another one of those catch up posts.
 All the things we've been doing recently, big and small, in a round up to bring this online diary up to date, starting with S.
During the first week back after half term S went to a Halloween disco at school. Fancy dress was optional and S decided to combine her spider web head dress with her favourite black and white party dress. Best of all she loved her star patterned tights.

S was nominated as Super Star of the week on Friday. Her teacher wrote this about her.
S has been a wonderfully kind, thoughtful and grown up member of 4HM since day one. She always works hard and is often finishing quickly, ready to challenge herself with the next task. She listens to every instruction and carries it out without a fuss to the best of her ability. Sge tries her best to include everything that has been taught in her work, even when it is a little bit tricky. S is an example to all and a lovely person to have around. Well done S for being wonderful:)
We are so very proud of her.

The same day S had her disco T had an off timetable day at school and the activities included baking cakes which he shared with us and were quite delish.

He was invited round to a friend's house to watch a Halloween light display, five or six songs were linked to a light show featuring singing skulls. Apparently the family do this each day to raise money for charity. 

It's not often T finds anything with his name on, so when he spotted this on a recent shopping trip I bought it for him. It was such a happy coincidence his birth family chose the same name as my dad, I love that they share that.
The biggest event for T is his recent two day school trip to Ypres.
The coach left at 5.30 on Thursday morning and they arrived home again at 7.30 Friday evening. It was a full on two days with visits to two cemeteries, museums, the Menin Gate and a chocolate shop. He was so tired but when he said to me in the car on the way home 'mum, it was really, really good' I could hear how much he had enjoyed it in those few words.

Last week flew by for me. I met friends in town for coffee and a catch up, I did some Christmas shopping, G and I had a day off together and I went into the school where I'll be working for a tour around the building and an introduction to the staff.
On Thursday evening me, G  and S went into town as the Christmas lights in one of the shopping centres were being switched on. In a very happy coincidence we bumped into friends of ours who have recently become adoptive parents and whilst we sat and chatted with tea and mince pies the girls sat together watching a Punch and Judy show.

It was lovely watching their faces when the lights went on and thousands of pieces of foil paper was released to shower down on us.

Saturday S and I went to a Christmas fair held at the City College. It's situated right next door to St. Mary's church, which is where our City's football team got it's name from.
There was a lovely festive feeling at the fair as we shopped to a local music society singing I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. I will show what I bought another time.

And last but by no means least, here we have G's mum on Sunday opening her birthday card from G and finding out he is taking her to the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace and then on for afternoon tea at the Hilton. Well it had to be a special present as it was her 80th birthday.
Grandma was wonderfully generous and took 17 close family and friends out for a delicious 4 course meal at the Grasmere Hotel. She wanted to celebrate her day with those important to her and those who have helped her through a very hard year since she Grandad passed away last December.It was truly a day to remember with good food and very good company.