Thursday, December 31, 2009


The frosty fair is in the centre of Edinburgh. Torchlight processions are held every night.Tonight we will celebrate the Scotts New Year - Hogmanay! Have a wonderful celebration, wherever you are.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Charity Shopping in the Snow

I'm afraid you'll have to put up with the normal graininess of my photos when I'm away from home, but I've found a great source of natural light on a dark day - snow reflections! Yesterday afternoon and this morning, I nipped off through increasing amounts of snow to do a bit of charity shopping. Yesterday I went to the local, and probably best, area of Edinburgh Charity Shops, which is the 'village' of Stockbridge. They have a new 'Mary's Gift and Thrift Shop' for Save the Children, which seemed to me to be Charity Shopping Lite, but certainly was attractive.
It was in the more traditonal, but still superbly-presented, shops that I found my treasures. Do you spot a hint of crinoline? If you know me and my irrational prejudce against crinolines, you'll know that this is one I'm going to be prepared to sell in the Troc and Broc Vintage Shop. I also picked up this fine handbag, which needs some repair, and the lovely vintage tin. I may need some help with my vintage tin problem...
What is CERTAINLY not going in the shop is the mauve daisy tablecloth, which is under all the other finds. That one's going on our table when spring comes!Today, when there was snow in the air as well as underfoot, I went down towards Leith and found a great haul of books.This one is a beautiful coffee table book and, whilst I've seen plenty of good magazines of French homes, I don't have any books as source material.I've been avoiding 1990s decorating books, as the styles suddenly look so, I don't know, kind of coarse and lumpy, but I think this one, from 1995, is a classic and I will get a lot of use from it.And finally this one, 10 years newer, really fits the bill for what I've been looking for. Frankly, as I begin to read it, it seems to be one third nonsense, one third stuff I could find somewhere else, and one third just what I want.I'm very visual but I identify with the author's plea for homes that satisfy all of our senses and, indeed, for a life that rediscovers peace and contentment as priorities above novelty, change and materialism. I'm looking forward to reading on...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Somerset

We had a great Christmas with Ben's parents. We decorated on Christmas Eve, which you probably know is a tradition we've carried on in our own home too. It really makes for such a special Christmas season. The vintage glass bauble above was my downfall this year. Ben's mum was just telling us how she'd kept the tree very tasteful in white and gold over the last few years when I found this bright pink bauble and several of its matching fellows in her box. Isn't it supposted to be the children who spoil the colour-scheme on a Christmas tree? Anyway, no one minded, and I found several wonderful decorations from my MIL's wartime childhood.Ben and I gave his mum these hand painted babules years ago. (We didn't paint them!)
Over the years Ben's mum has made a number of lovely Christmas garlands, which she described as, 'very dated now, of course'... I hastened to reassure her!
We had these super-drippy candles on the table for our delicious Christmas meal.On Boxing Day Son 2 cooked - it was his Christmas present for his dad. Awwww.So yesterday I flew up, from to
I've joined my parents in Edinburgh, following their romantic, cosy and well-fed Christmas for Two! It's good to be here with them. My mum is frail but cheerful, and so glad of this blog, and for all you friendly bloggers!
Tomorrow Ben is bringing the boys up on the train - no excess carbon footprints for his sons! Of course they love a good train ride, so no one is complaining! It will be so good to celebrate the New Year together.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas!

" He is born - the divine child." This is one version of the translation:
"Born on earth the divine Christ child
Oboes rejoice with bagpipes vying
Born on earth the divine Christ child
Sing to welcome the savior mild
Ah such beauty and charm adore!
Ah such perfection of grace undying
Ah such beauty and charm adore!
Promised us of days of yore."

Have a blessed Christmas, everyone, and enjoy this French carol here if you have time.

Thanks for all your good wishes - we are indeed safely in Somerset, and four generations will be sharing the Christmas meal together tomorrow! I can't share photos from this borrowed computer, but will blog a bit more once I get to Edinburgh after Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Broken Ornaments

Thanks to all of you who have joined together in the Pause for Advent. It has been a wonderful experience to read and see all your Advent thoughts.I can't think of a better way to sum up my Advent thoughts than with the play that Son 2 was part of in church this morning, so I shall tell you the story, to go with some sadly grainy pictures - no faces of the children, of course. It's the story of some Christmas Tree ornaments. Are you sitting comfortably?...
The Christmas Tree ornaments were very excited to be taken out of their box, ready for the decoration of the tree.
But some ornaments found that they had been broken in storage over the year, and were very worried about what would happen to them.
They talked to each other about what might happen to ornaments which were not good enough any more.
Their worst fears came true and, without any attempt to mend them, the broken ornaments were thrown in the big rubbish bag outside the house.After a terrible night, during which the bin bags were attacked by cats, the broken ornaments were very surprised when a young man came by and spoke to them. He knocked on the door of the house and asked for permission to take the broken ornaments to his workshop.The inhabitants of the smart house were very surprised to hear that anyone wanted their discarded rubbish, but they let him take the ornaments away.So the young man, who was a master craftsman, got to work. He removed the broken pieces and scrappy bits from the ornaments, and added new pieces where they were needed.One of the ornaments had lost heart, and asked what could possibly be done to mend him.
The master crafstman amazed him by spending time and care on him, finally turning him into one of the most beautiful ornaments of all. He was put on the tree in the craftsman's home, and it was the most beautiful tree the ornaments had ever adorned!We were left to reflect on the meanings of this sweet little play. For me, I thought about how our societies reject people who seem 'wrong' or 'broken' in some way. I also thought about how our obsession with perfection leads to us throwing away wonderful things that could be mended - are the Sunday Club teachers doing the Challenge of the Utmost Kind? I also reflected on how we consider ourselves broken or unworthy at times, like Max the red bauble.The master craftsman is of course, an essential character in the play. The ornaments couldn't make themselves clean and tidy on their own - they needed someone to see their potential, who had the unique skills to perfect them.And this sums up the reason for my faith, I think. The two extremes of human nature are for us to think that we're rubbish and, paradoxically, for us to feel superior to others and worthy in our own right. It's very odd that we're able to hold those two views of ourselves at the same time, but that's me, for sure! Jesus is the bridge between the two for me - the master craftsman who sees my potential instead of my faults, and has done what it takes to make me genuinely fit for use!
So for me, preparing for Christmas is preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I love to do this with food and ornaments, and it's right to do it with family and friends. But the centre of it all is Jesus.
Thanks for taking the time to read this little ramble about my faith - I don't often talk about the reasons for it, but if not now, when?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meet Wallace

He matches my shopping bag!
Serenata made him for me and popped him into my prize parcel for naming Arthur the bear. He is very much at home on top of our piano...
Thanks so much, Serenata!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Untie the ribbons - there are gifts to be found today!

Today does not feel like a day of gifts. The boys and I has our Swine Flu vaccinations yesterday night and are all feeling a bit under the weather today. That weather is another thing - this photo was taken at 8am when Son 1 and I trudged (with Raja) to school to see if it was open. You can see the un-gritted roads and the slow traffic which shortly afterwards started backing up. After half an hour hanging around the College, the general conclusion amongst parents was that with no school buses running, few teachers in and no formal word from the staff, there was no point in leaving their children there! So we trudged back to Ben, recently returned from Italy, and Son 2 with his swollen arm and miserable expression. So, where are the gifts that today brings?
Before untying some literal ribbons, I decided to take the advice of yesterday's quotation and consider the less tangible gifts the day has brought me. So, the dangerous roads and grotty children mean that I will miss a Christmas Dinner I was invited to today, and one end of term lesson. Where are the gifts? Well, I will have a day of hugs from my boys (carefully avoiding a sore arm apiece) and more time to sort out the mountain of presents waiting to be wrapped on the dining room table. As we have two tables we can also get going on a game of Monopoly this afternoon!
The weather is as much a gift as a bother, of course. Our 'live outdoors' Christmas tree, which has no need to come indoors this year as we'll be in the UK, has been decorated for free.
And the town's Christmas Lights, always the most tasteful around our area, look particularly good in the snow!
So now let's untie the literal ribbons of my Handmade Christmas Swap, from Maria of Me and Ma. She's fairly new to blogging, but I bet some of you have spotted her clever numerical Advent posts! Do pop over and see her, and visit her etsy shop. You'll want to when you see what she made me!
Firstly these two beautiful angels. These angels are not just charming and hand made, they are also totally thrifted, with my Ultimate Challenge in mind. All the fabric in the swap came from offcuts from shirts belonging to an uncle in Ireland!
I am in awe. Irish shirts - just too cool on the trendy/thrifty circuit! I liked the angels before I knew this, but now I adore them! (Is this normal?)
The angels were joined at the next untying of ribbons by some heart decorations.
Love the beads. Can't wait to put these up.But there was more!Was this package really from the same Maria who commented, when she saw Karen's gifts to me: 'I feel under pressure now!'??? Oh no, Maria, both you and Karen really outdid yourselves. I'm the one who needs to be feeling the swap parania now! (Michela and I have discussed swap paranoia before.)
All these super tree decorations, so beautifully packaged. I love your tags and packaging, Maria. The presentation must really enhance things on your market stall. And then the decorations themselves - stockings and hearts! Oh, I am happy indeed.
Now, there WAS something for my boys as well, but I want that to wait for them on Christmas day, so forgive me for not featuring it here! And finally a handmade card. Spot the fantastic fabric on the pot at the base of the tree! What an atractive way of using up tiny scraps. Must remember it for next year. Thank you so much, Maria, for that very generous and creative and above all delightful swap parcel! If any of you readers have not yet been tempted by my links to Maria's beautiful crafts, let me just tell you that she makes utterly superb aprons, cushions, clothes, bunting and bags for children, in very colourful and original styles, including things for boys as well as girls, which is often hard to find. Visit now!And the final gift which I might never have remembered if it weren't for the snow, is this wood and what it represents. In January we had a terrible storm across the whole of southern France and Spain, and a huge percentage of trees came down - it changed the face of some of France's more wooded regions.
Ben has been observing the wood which fell in the municipal areas of our town, being piled up in the municipal depot not far from school. On Saturday he passed the depot and they were selling it - he'd been waiting for this opportunity!
But it transpired that this was no ordinary sale - it was being held by mairie workers, who'd given up their free time to chop the wood as it came in, and were now selling the wood for charity - the huge French annual collection via the Téléthon. Ben and I were both really moved by this example of how ordinary people have used their time and local opportunities to do something good.
There are actually a lot of gifts when you look for them!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.'

Quote by Ruth Ann Schabacker
I like that quote. It has been lovely to untie some ribbons recently! This is a wonderful parcel from California Shelley, whom you may remember from back in the summer, when we made some connections via the French light opera singer, Marie Desclauzas. Shelley has been emptying some more cupboards, and very kindly thought of me.
She sent this exquisite lace collar,
and a present to save for Christmas Day!
Some lace which went all the way from France to the USA, and then came back.
She also gave me a lovely selection of magazine articles, and information about one of her local celebreties, who happens to be one of my favourite authors! I am saving these to read on the plane to Somerset, where we will be spending Christmas with Ben's parents.
Thanks you so much, Shelley - it was a lovely parcel to open!
Tomorrow - more parcels! Ribbons to untie, both literal and figurative...