Sunday, November 28, 2010

A First Pause in Advent 2010

Welcome to our first Pause in Advent for 2010 - the list of the other bloggers taking part is on your left, and if you would like to join us by posting this Sunday or Monday, just leave a comment here and I'll add your blog to the list! Please do go and check out the other bloggers, as it's always fantastic to read what others around the world are doing or thinking in the run-up to Christmas.For me, Advent is a wonderful way of marking and measuring-out my Christmas preparations. The house becomes full of festive decorations and activity, but actual Christmas can be saved for nearer the time, so that everything is really fresh and enjoyable for the 12 Days of Christmas (from December 24th onwards).I blogged quite a bit about this book in 2009, and I know that other bloggers have it too - it is one of those books that will mean different things to different people, because it recognises that we look all for slightly different things from Christmas. But I thought I'd start this Advent season by letting you read a bit from the beginning of the book, accompanied by a few photos of our Advent celebrations from previous years:
"But the one concern that unites virtually all the people we've talked to is a yearning for a simpler, less commercial, more soul-satisfying celebration. There is a universal wish to end the year with a festival of renewal that rekindles our faith, brings us closer to people we care about, and brings light and laughter to the dark days of winter. We want to ward off the commercial excesses of the season and create an authentic, joyful celebration in tune with our unuique needs and desires.
"But is this possible? We've noticed that many people come to our workshops with an air of resignation. Although they're unhappy about holiday commercialism - 'Why do they have to start so early?' 'Why is there so much pressure to buy, buy, buy?' - they don't have much faith in their ability to unplug the Christmas Machine.
"And although they freely admit to feeling hassled in those hectic weeks leading up to Christmas and then let down by the celebration itself, they aren't convinced that they can make any significant changes. That's the way [they feel] Christmas is for adults; stressful and ultimately disappointing."Quick note from me: I don't think I've ever felt that bad about Christmas, but I do recognise the things about stress, commercialisation and expectations!
So, to end this first Advent post, I'm going to use the Christmas Pledge from the beginning of my book:
The Christmas Pledge
Believing in the true spirit of Christmas,
I commit myself to
Remember those people who truly need my gifts
Express my love in more direct ways than gifts
Examine my holiday activities in the light of my deepest values
Be a peacemaker within my circle of family and friends
Rededicate myself to my spiritual growth

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

I bought this book with my birthday money and had a jolly good read - it was written by a fellow blogger - The Queen of Fifty Cents!I'll do a proper review of it one of these days, but if you're in the USA and like a quirky mystery with a believable heroine and loveable dogs, plus some antiques, then head over to the author's blog as she's currently got the book on special offer!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cookie Swap!

I've had the idea for quite some time, and I've decided to bite the bullet and post an invitation on Facebook - I'm going to host a Christmas Cookie Swap!A friend organised one a few years ago, and when I re-read one of my Advent posts and saw it mentioned, I thought I just had to try it myself. So, if you are a local reader, consider yourself invited, and please email me for instructions! If you are not a local reader, I'm really sorry - I wish you could come too! I'll let you know how it goes, and perhaps you could let me know if you're doing anything similar?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"This recipe is over 100 years old..."

Or at least that's what it said on my grandma's original newspaper-cutting! She copied it out for me back in 1990, when the cutting was hardly new. So now my Christmas Pudding recipe (carefully laminated to preserve her writing) must be at least 150 years old! It still makes a jolly good pud, as I intend to prove this afternoon...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Can anyone please explain...

... how a mother with perfectly good intentions about getting homework done before an early night...
... ends up hosting an evening of air guitar playing...

...whilst the family listens to Queen - Greatest Hits?
Frankly, I can't. But the homework did get done, in amongst all the air guitaring. And we all agreed that Brian May looks like Molière, so that was our bit of French culture.
We are the champions, my friends....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Calling Sarah!

Sarah who is making an Advent Calendar for her niece, please get in contact because you have won the Advent Candle! See below for details...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Advent Winners, Advent Pause!

Hello everyone, and how lovely to have read your appreciation of the simple traditions of Advent on my last post. Before I draw the giveaway winners, I'm just going to show you Niki's lovely calendar page for November, and my response to it...
French fabric covered box from a Vide Grenier, vintage/antique books gathered over the years, rosebud jug from an Edinburgh charity shop and berries from the garden!
So, on to draw the winners! The winner of the traditional German Advent Calendar is Flossie and Tom! I'm delighted to find this lovely blogger back in action, and am really chuffed that she and her children will be opening these beautiful windows this Advent. And I share her grandmother's name...
And the person who will be burning the candle this Advent is the THIRD Sarah - don't get excited if you are the first or the second Sarah, please, ladies! This is the Sarah who wrote:
"I'm making my niece an advent calendar - it's her birthday at the end of November so we give her a series of small envelopes with different things in. This year she's four and now old enough to understand a bit more about what the season really means.
I'd love to be part of your giveaway for the beautiful candle. "
Well, I think that's rather lovely, and I'm glad she's won the draw, although I'm sorry that there couldn't have been more prizes for the rest of you deserving people.
Congratulations to both of you - please email me with your addresses and I will get posting.
Now, last year many of us joined together on Sundays or Mondays in Advent to post something that helped us to take a break in the rush towards Christmas. This is what I wrote at the beginning of last year's Advent Pause:
"The bloggers represent all sorts of countries (and now four continents, too, which pleases me for some reason). We are getting together to share thoughts, traditions, ideas, crafts and experiences relating to Advent and the preparation for Christmas. Some of us follow very old traditions or have very established beliefs, whilst many of us are combining the old with the new, learning and growing as we go along… "
If you would like to take part in a similarly open-ended Advent blogging event this year, please let me know by commenting here, and then please put the logo above onto your own blog, with a link back to this post! It was great last year, and I've been delighted that several blogging friends have already mentioned this year's. Advent begins on Sunday 28th November this year, so the first posts need to be on that day or on Monday 29th. Do join in - it's great to see what other people are doing and thinking, and good to take a break from what can become a very hectic time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Advent Giveaway

I loved our natter over the last few days - thanks so much! As a way of saying thanks to you all, especially for your kindness and prayers over the last month or so, I have decided to have a Giveaway. When I was in an Edinburgh card shop I spotted this beautiful German Advent Calendar - it is very long and is intended to be set in front of a light source, so that the pictures in the windows glow as you open them up. I remembered my mum buying us one of these when we were children, and the wonder of the glittery scene, and the fact that we were opening real windows on actual buildings most of the time.
I like the way that it tells the Christmas story but in a rather mystical way - a child would get as much wonder from it as they would get education, I think. So this lovely calendar, which holds so many memories for me, will be one giveaway prize. If you have children or grandchildren and would like to win this calendar for the family, please mention that in your comment below.
Having bought that, I headed off to Past Times, and bought TWO Advent Candles - one for our family, and one for a second lucky winner!
In our family, the Advent Candle tradition comes from Ben's side. It's great to have festive traditions that merge the best of two families' memories! This fantastic candle has the words of a Christmas Carol on it and I can't wait to post it off to one of you - if you don't have children and would like this possibly more sophisticated Advent counter, please let me know in your comment. This size of candle burns fairly quickly - you can get through one date over one evening meal, which is perfect, I think.
So that's it - no complicated rules, but please do decide which you would rather have a chance to win, and let me know in your comment below.

I can't wait to celebrate Advent with you - it's one of my favourite seasons. Jen from The Mad House has already kindly mentioned that she's keen to join A Pause in Advent again. I'll do another post soon, perhaps when I announce the winners, to let you know more about the Advent Pause and how you can join in. If you'd like to find out more right now, last year's explanation is here.

Anyone from around the world is welcome to enter this giveaway, so I'll have to close it fairly shortly in order to get posting! Let's say I'll close the draw and announce the winners on Monday November 15th. Please do feel free to spread the word and post about the giveaway - the more the merrier, as I always seem to meet some great new people through my giveaways! Have fun and best of luck!

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed and I am about to draw the winners!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Any chance of a good natter?

Hello friends. This is my first full post since my mum's death, and I hope you're not expecting anything deep and meaningful from me today - I'm just longing for a good old natter about anything and everything. Will you join me?
November Country Living, which I eschewed whenever I saw it on Scottish shelves, knowing that my own copy of it was waiting for me at home, is what I'd love a good chat about. It's such a lovely mag - let me know what gets you thinking!
First of all, I've spotted this fantastic canvas shopper which turns out to be designed expecially for the Museum of Rural Life in Reading. I don't think you know that I met Ben when we were both at Reading University, so this on-campus museum was the scene of one of our first dates. Romantic? It seems so to me!
Skipping a few pages, here's a treeehouse dweller.
This wonderful recycled pendant of mine was made by a (similarly easy-on-the-eye) treehouse resident. His treehouse is on a collective farm, on the outskirts of Edinburgh! His stall was full of jewellery made from 'found' items - china, shells, butterfly wings etc. It was also surrounded by women... Was it his jewellery or his angelic blonde curls?
Ah, interesting. Kate Humble is looking good in a French brand of outdoor wear. Sadly, the only Aigle products I ever owned were some super-looking garden slippers, which fell apart after just one year. I'm pretty sure that was a blip on an otherwise great product-range, though.
Country in the City is fun. It always reminds me of my brother in law, who is a wannabe bee keeper and waiting-list allotment gardener in Soho. My sister is less keen, but she did join him on a fungi foray like the one described here.
Yum, swoon, drool.
Ah, plans, plans... yes, I want to make some button jewellery for Christmas this year... Which blogger was it who posted instructions for a simple button crochet necklace last month, does anyone know?
Anyone remember my 'Country Living' autumn photoshoot from last year? I like this year's too - we've got one of those soil-sieves! And looking at the way the lovely Raja graced some of last year's photos, I need to tell you that that she's doing really well on her medication and looking like an elegant hound again, instead of a miserable stray. Such a relief. I'll tell you more about her illness when I'm feeling strong some time...
So, is anyone going to pen them a poem? Go on... I bet there are some bloggers out there who could write a great one! Ah, wool, Cumbrian shepherdess, tweed clothes. We lived in the Lakes when we first got married, and I was training at Charlotte Mason College of Education, Ambleside. Sadly, I can't wear wool next to my skin. (How's that for a non sequitur?)But I did own the most fantastic BIBA tweed jacket when I was in my late teens. I think I must have sent it back to the charity shop when it stopped doing up around me...Ooh, I think I've already seen these fantastic fair trade socks in my favourite online store, Ethical Superstore. Anyone who wanted to buy me a new Christmas present could just go and click randomly in their web catalogue - I think I would be happy with anything!
OK, Living with Wildlife. While we were away in Scotland and the pets were living with kind colleagues and neighbours, the mice took over our sideboard. That's one living with wildlife that we stopped pretty sharpish when we got back... But this was an example I would happily live with! They were nesting on the balcony of our gite this summer. We don't have them here, but we do have bats roosting in our roof. Very pleasing.
Oh, very lovely. But sadly for me, written by Christopher Somerville, with whom for some reason my Inner English Teacher just doesn't get on. It's unfair, I know, as he obviously writes about a million times better than I do, but he's just too self-consciously lyrical for me.
My favourite writer is fast becoming Ros Byam Shaw, who penned the superb text for Perfect English Cottage. It's got to the point where I'll buy a magazine if I see she's written for it - or at least I did with Period Living when I was in Scotland, and I wasn't disappointed.
A Thriving Country Town. We are just too close to Toulouse to really thrive, but we are pretty good compared to a lot of British towns, in terms of still having all the basic traders on the High Street. I've been following Niki's Nostalgia shop with great interest, including all her links to 'Turn Back Time: The High Street' programme. Have any of you been watching it? What do you think? We have no UK TV here...
Ah-ha, someone else who likes decorating with autumn colours...
Too lovely.
This one looks interesting. And very well written, too. Love the sentence: 'The house sits in the middle of an informal garden, parts of which have clambered up its walls, as snug as a red brick chicken in a nest of greenery'. Hang on - it's by... Ros Byam Shaw! Well there you go...
And I could very likely do that with our oriental rugs, too...
Drawing to a close...Getting to the cookery pages with some very-Flossie one pot recipes from Clarissa Dickson Wright. I'm going to try this one.There we go! I'll finish off the rest of the magazine with some Bacon and Eggs in a Mug!And they were very good, too.
Thanks so much for putting up with my natter. Please do natter back, on anything here that took your fancy!