Sunday, 30 December 2012

#amonthof a-z

I have really enjoyed taking part in an a-z photo challenge for December as part of #amonthof and was about to spend the evening creating a collage of all my Christmassy photos when I realised that I had missed the letter Y and letter Z. For inspiration I turned to the Facebook page for the group and there was a very sad post from someone who had lost their mother over the Christmas period.
The holidays can be a very difficult period for a number of people and every family has someone that they miss. This is the first Christmas without my mother-in-law and despite my father having been gone for nearly 20 years, knowing and hearing of other people's losses just reminds me of how every second we spend with our loved ones is precious.
And so to finish off my month of a - z, y is for Yvonne, the name of the mother who died over Christmas and z is for zinnia.

With love to all those who have been loved and lost.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

R is for river overflowing from rain

 This year looks set to be a wet Christmas. Over the past weeks the river at the back of our house has been running very high but today it had flooded the path, road and coach park. There is nothing more fun than jumping in puddles and as I am not really the kind of mother to worry too much about whether my little ones get soaked, we went to have a look.

This is the higher side of the river, across the bridge, the water covered a large section of the coach park.

And this is usually are duck feeding bench.

Not surprisingly, the visitor's centre was closed today.

Charlie pretending to be out of his depth

This is normally the road to the coach park.

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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Q is for quick catch up

 The run up to Christmas is so busy, what with the shopping and wrapping, the children's hectic schedule of parties, trips and performances and all number of Christmassy things that we want to fit into the days before the big day. We have been keeping up with our #amonthof a-z activities but I just don't seem to be finding the time to post about them so here is a quick catch up of what we have done and where we have got to.

M is for Movie and N is for North Pole. These two letters were done in the same day in one spectacular stop motion movie of our frozen North Pole which has been setting in the freezer since we made it on the I is for ice day of the challenge.

Josie was in charge of Rudolph, Santa and the word Merry.

Charlie  worked with the polar bear, elf slippers that we made on the E for Ebenezer's elf slipper day and the letters for Christmas.

O is for oranges and whilst Charlie was at a party, Josie and I got to work with the oranges. We made a delicious smelling pomander and dried, sprayed and glittered some orange slices.

 The whole kitchen smelt so wonderfully fragrant.

Josie did so much of the task herself. She went to the supermarket to buy the oranges completely by herself and I let her slices the oranges with my super sharp knife.

Finally on our Q is for quick catch up, P is for pretty paper. I have been known to save pretty paper and Paperchase is one of my favourite shops. Each January when we take down the cards and decorations and our house appears sparse and empty in comparison, I can't bear to throw away all the beautiful Christmas cards. So I save them and pack them away with the Christmas decorations ready to be transformed into weird and wonderful recycled Christmas creations the following year.

My little ones love searching out parts of the cards they want to use, chopping them up and then placing them together in new and original designs. This year we made upcycled Christmas cards for their school friends.

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Friday, 14 December 2012

K is for keeping secrets and L is for loving and learning

K is for keeping secrets about homemade presents. We can't quite say what we made as the recipient sometimes reads my blog and we wouldn't want to give too much away other than it smelt a lot like Christmas.

It involved a bit of fruit

Some spices

And some stirring.

K is also for Butterfly Kiwi (which was just for fun and not involved in the secret present making)

L is for liquorice slice which is a fabulous recipe I picked up on the #amonthof facebook page and copied. All credit for the recipe goes to Jenny Jury and I hope that she doesn't mind me sharing.

 Ingredients (serves 24)
• Melted butter, to grease
• 125g butter, chopped
• 160ml (2/3 cup) sweetened condensed milk
• 1 tbs golden syrup
• 1 x 250g pkt plain sweet biscuits (such as Marie), crushed
• 45g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut
• 1 x 375g pkt licorice allsorts, coarsely chopped
• 200g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
• 30g copha (I used butter and it turned out fine)

1. Brush a 19 x 29cm (base measurement) lamington pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper, allowing it to overhang slightly.
2. Combine the butter, condensed milk and golden syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl. Add the biscuits, coconut and licorice allsorts and stir until just combined. Press the mixture into the base of the prepared pan and set aside for 30 minutes to set.
3. Place the chocolate and copha in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water). Use a metal spoon to stir over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture over the slice in the pan. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to set. Cut into squares to serve.

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Monday, 10 December 2012

J is for the Jesus Set

Every family has there own special dialect, a collection of vocabulary which is particular to them. These words or phrases are often part of the language acquisition process of children, words your little ones have mispronounced, invented and misused.  The Jesus Set  is a perfect example and was totally logical to a pre-school Josie. She had a farm set, a zoo set so it was obvious that  the Nativity was the Jesus set.

Today's clue was the scrabble letters in a harlequin crochet stitch stocking along with my Cathedral Precincts pass. This is our original Jesus Set and it has seen better days. This year I had to glue the trees back on, Joseph's staff has lost its crook and the donkey only has one ear, but it's our Jesus Set and is irreplaceable.

Every year at Christmas we head out after dark to see the Christmas lights in the city and our other favourite Jesus Sets. This one is set up every year in the window of the house we lived next door to when we first moved to Canterbury. It is totally vintage and completely fabulous with the most bizarre looking dollies. It is definitely something I aspire to should we ever upgrade.

The ultimate Jesus Set though and the highlight of our Christmas lights expedition is the one outside Canterbury Cathedral. There is something rather special about this life size Nativity set against the back drop of a spectacular Cathedral that we never tire of visiting.

This year the figures appear even more life like, they may have had a bit of a make over. I did like Charlie's comment about the figure in white being an angel with a rat on it's shoulder and of course there's his slightly distorted theory that Father Christmas is the grown up Jesus.

Do you have any family traditions or quirky phrases that are particular to your Christmas?

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

I is for ice

Feeling so unwell is giving me plenty of time to lie around in bed and make tiny stockings. It's pretty much all I feel well enough to do as I can make them propped up or lying down.

This was today's, a hand quilted one made with some left over fabric from the apron I made my niece last year. It didn't take Charlie long to rearrange the old scrabble tiles to make the word "ice" and then off they went to the freezer to discover our activity beginning with "i".

I had frozen some bowls of water and made plenty of ice cubes and the children went about making their own ice sculptures of the North pole.

They discovered that if you held the ice cubes in place for 12 seconds they froze together. This is a super cheap activity (free), loads of fun and very festive.

We recruited a couple of tree decorations and some of Charlie's animals.

There was a fair amount of sculpting, which wasn't too messy, as it is only water and had the added bonus for Charlie, of being edible.

The children's fantastic creations have been placed in the freezer to set. We also need to make / find a few props before our own North Pole is finished so watch this space for more photos. Apologies for the poor quality of these photos. This is my first attempt at shooting ice and I wasn't feeling too good.

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Saturday, 8 December 2012

H is for Ho Ho Ho

There is a little bit of Christmas magic that only lasts for a moment and then in a blink of an eye, it's faded and lost its sparkle. The spark never completely dies and when you have your own children, you see it again lit up in their eyes and the innocence of believe.

These are such precious moments, the ones that I know will remain with me forever, happy memories woven into the rich tapestry of life.

My Charlie is a believer. The proof for him is in the real beard and the sincerity in their conversation about his hand written was heart warming.

I adore Charlie's look of hope as Father Christmas considers his list and reminds him to be good. I know that this is a busy time of year for the old guy and he does need to get helpers to take over at some of the hundreds and thousands of grottos around the world, but when your child gets to meet the real deal, the magic of Christmas lives on.



G is for gingerbread

Gingerbread smells just like Christmas to me. We usually make gingerbread men, stars, hearts and mini house shaped biscuits but I have never made a full sized gingerbread house. The Hansel and Gretel style houses look fantastic but I just can't imagine what effect that amount of sugar and sweets would have on my little kiddies.

These are our mini gingerbread men, approximately 5cm in height and that grumpy looking guy in the middle is our very own gingerbread Ebenezer Scrooge. The recipe makes tons of these miniature biscuits, so we have a chunk of the mixture in the fridge for later in the week and some in the freezer.

And what could be more appropriate for such tiny little gingerbread men? ....a completely enormous mixing bowl, big enough for three pairs of hands. The bowl belonged to my grandma so holds a very special place in my heart as it is the bowl in which I learnt to cook with her when I was tiny.


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Friday, 7 December 2012

F is for fair isle

I am notoriously bad at knitting but still that doesn't stop me having a go at those intermediate level patterns for fair isle stockings. For my first attempt I researched how to hold the yarn and that's about it, so really there is no surprise that it turned out to be a bit of a disaster.

There are two very important things that I learnt from this first attempt:

  • When knitting in fair isle you read the chart from right to left on the right side (knit side) and from left to right when you are knitting back across on the purl side. I did not do this but worked it out and then confirmed my suspensions on the internet when my pattern turned out looking very strange.
  • It is very easy to knit fair isle too tight and for it to look terrible just like my knitting 

The children however had a great deal of fun designing their own fair isle patterns on graph paper which kept them quiet and occupied for quite some time which has got to be a bit of a winner.

 So despite my bad knitting, the fair isle theme challenge entertained Josie and Charlie and I learnt a bit more about knitting.

E is for embroidery and Ebenezer's elf slippers

I'm still feeling really unwell so it has not been so easy to post about our a-z of advent. Yesterday we did a couple of letters and a couple of clues. It seems that after watching The Muppet Christmas Carol, the children are pretty much convinced that our cold and lonely figure is Ebenezer Scrooge and Charlie even earnt a chocolate coin learning to spell Ebenezer's name.

This is the little reindeer stocking I made and embroidered and I put two miniature sewing kits inside for the children. 

 They sat there carefully sewing the felt pieces together and both Josie and Charlie did an excellent job in making the most adorable little elf slippers that even Ebenezer Scrooge would smile at.

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Thursday, 6 December 2012

D is for decoration

The day that D featured in our advent mystery challenge was also my birthday. I would love to say that I did not post on that day because I was far too busy doing fabulous birthday related treats but this was sadly not the case. I went to work was sick and then spent the rest of the day feeling very unwell. I managed to drag myself out of bed to decorate the tree, which is also a favourite birthday treat. The longer you spend together as a family, the more delightful decorations you gather. It is such a trip down memory lane opening them all up. I love decorations, and putting up the tree and making the house look Christmassy. I may have to post again about decorations when I am feeling better.

Monday, 3 December 2012

C is for Christmas Carol

 I had to leave a little note in the stocking this morning to tell the children that I had gone in search of the clue and they would have to wait until after work and school to find out the next part of our advent mystery challenge.

I bought a copy of The Muppets Christmas Carol which I hid in amongst our DVDs before giving the children a stocking filled with corn (they had no trouble with the popcorn association) and the clue above. They squealed with delight when they discovered this Christmas classic movie (it was on Josie's Christmas list) and made notes throughout the film about possible clues.

Could it be Ebenezer Scrooge in that cold dark room? Is he the lonely figure? What have the spirits got to do with the mystery and how can Bob Cratchit help? The plot thickens .......

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Sunday, 2 December 2012

B is for booty, buried beneath Broadstairs beach

Today was the second day of our advent mystery challenge and the letter B as part of #amonthof A-Z.
The children are already excited about what will happen next in the mystery, what the activity will involve and how the story will develop. I am really enjoying designing a new mini-stocking each day and inventing the clues.

The clue came in two parts: a roughly drawn map of Viking Bay, Broadstairs and the written clue.

The angel's glow has lit the gloom
Just take a look around the room
It now is possible to see
a list of words that start with "B"
 To discover the clue, you must be
Somewhere breezy by the sea
Think of pirates and you'll see
How many words begin with "B"

B---- b------ B---------- b----

It didn't take them long to work out the words - Booty beneath Broadstairs beach and to start to formulate the ideas and the need to go to Broadstairs. So we headed off and arrived at twilight and whilst the children and I watched waves crashing over the harbour wall and looked out to sea for pirate ships, my husband discovered the "X marks the spot" on the beach.

They dug up a box filled with chocolate coins and a bauble with a note attached "Help" it read on one side and "Rescue me" on the other.

What could this possibly mean? Who needed to be rescued? Had pirates really kidnapped someone? And why Broadstairs with it's Bleak House and strong connections with Charles Dickens? Much speculation followed whilst we walked around the Christmas Fair looking for further clues and mulled things over in Morelli's Ice Cream Palour.

Bleak House over looking the bay.
I wonder what secrets we will discover over the next few days. Is there a sad and lonely figure inside?


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