Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year from France!

Here's a French tradition to wish you all a Happy New Year: I know mistletoe is a Christmas tradition in the UK, but some gangly teenagers were dropped off outside our gate this morning and greeted me with charming perception of my foreign origins:

« Bonjour, Madame, nous sommes les Lycéens et on vend le gui, tradition française pour le nouvel an. »

How could I not buy it? It goes with my wintery necklace...
Bonnes fêtes de fin d'année !

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in three countries

Happy 6th Day of Christmas, friends! I've set myself the challenge of recording our Christmas using three photos from each country - so here goes... We started Christmas week at home in France. Père Noël travels by horse and carriage here! The smoke is from a barbeque (of course).

The lights in our town are the most tasteful for kilometres around... and the church was lit up by wonderful fireworks from a storytelling event in the town centre.

More lights when we arrived in England - my parents in law regularly go to visit a local street which is decorated for charity at Christmas. This year they took me, Ben and the boys - it was incredible!The theme for this part of the holidays was family - we had a great meet-up with the cousins for a visit to Bristol aquarium.We also met up with some friends - I finally got to visit Niki at her shop Nostalgia at No. 1 - she and her lovely shop are all I had imagined and more! Later in the visit I met up with "Josie Crafter" and we had such a good, long chat about the homemade, happy life and our various children. Ben and I also took the boys over to visit his old schoolfriend Bill (no, I'm not making up that name-combo) and we had an enjoyable late night with him and his family.Finally we arrived in Edinburgh, at 8.15am on Christmas Eve. It was fantastic to see my dad doing well, and to decorate the beautiful Christmas tree he'd put up in his hallway.

There was a LOT of food preparation over the next two days. Ben and the boys decorated the Christmas cake I'd made back in October, using the pieces of marzipan wreath the boys had made with Ben's mum. Then Ben prepared most of the Christmas dinner, and later the boys and I worked hard to prepare a buffet for Boxing Day evening, when my sister and her husband arrived.Hard work in the kitchen was a lot of fun, shared out as it was, and we were well-rewarded with a fantastic Christmas meal and truly magical Boxing Day spread! It was a relaxed and happy family Christmas.

The festivities in Edinburgh are never complete without a trip to the Winter Wonderland fair. This year we went with Aunty and Uncle, and shared out the rides between adults and teenagers - Son 1 went up the Scott Monument with his uncle and I later braved the Big Wheel. I feel I've spent too long not doing things, and the Big Wheel was a good Thing to Do!

Thanks for all your Christmas wishes - I'm off to read some of your own Christmas posts now...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas!

"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine."

Isaiah 9 verse 2.

Have a wonderful Christmas, friends!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Childlike Christmas - Superstars!

I've had a lovely time sorting through some decorations (handmade by the boys or other crafters, bought Fair Trade or secondhand, or given by my pupils in past years) to illustrate my final question for our Childlike Christmas. I asked my pupils (aged from 5 - 9): 'Who is the most important person at Christmas?'

I was a bit wary about asking a loaded question - I've been Sunday School teacher to some of these children's older siblings, and others are from families where Christmas is a largely secular event, so I wanted to try to ask the question without implying that I'd like to hear any particular answer!I think I probably got to hear what they really thought - see for yourself from their answers!"Father Christmas!"



... otherwise they wouldn't be able to travel!"

"Jesus!""Jesus... ... and NOT ME!"

Very definite words from a very definite little girl, that last one. She's not backwards in coming forwards, but she's not putting herself ahead of the baby in the manger. Well done her.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Final Pause in Advent 2011

At the end of October, a friend wrote a little status update on Facebook. She wrote: ‘Dear Christmas. Please go away and come back in about four weeks. Love, everyone'.
It was just a little bon mot from her, but I liked it, mentioned it to the boys, and the rest is history – it’s kind of summed up our thinking about Christmas for November and much of December! I asked her permission to quote her here, as now, we think (and she agrees), that Christmas is very welcome indeed! Here is my own letter to Christmas, now that its time has come. It’s a letter very much from me, and not much in the style of my friend’s earlier witty note, but she’s the one who started me thinking – thanks!
Dear Christmas,

It’s good to finally meet up with you, at just the right time! We’re ready for you now, I think – the weather is almost wintery, and it certainly will be by the time we get to the UK for our hols. We’re more or less ready in terms of presents too, and Christmas cards, music, parties and decorations are getting us in the mood.

What do I hope for you this year, Christmas? I hope for safe travels and happy arrivals. I hope for good connections within our families – time spent among the different generations which builds up strong bonds of affection and understanding. I hope that the understanding we have of each other will lead to times of peace, avoiding the sort of pressure which can build up from unrealistic expectations of a dream Christmas. I hope for the creation of memories that will glow in each one of us after we’ve returned to our separate worlds of work, school and home.

What do I pray for this year, Christmas? I pray for our families. I pray for our friends and neighbours – several are facing Christmas at a time of sudden mourning or frightening illness - and I place them in God’s loving hands. I pray for our world, which is moving towards Christmas at a time of uncertainty, fear, ongoing poverty and war. I pray that I will remember, in the midst of the winter revelry, that the true centre of my Christmas, the true centre of my life, is the baby who was born into uncertainty, fear, poverty and war; the baby who is my Certainty, my Hope, my Wealth and my Peace.I pray I will remember that. I pray I will remember.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Clay - Part 2

At the beginning of December I set you the (rather obvious) challenge: what was Son 2 making out of the clay which had been dug out of some nearby earthworks? Of course most of you guessed right - here is the fired result!

A little earthernware snowman - isn't he cute? Son 2 is planning to add some stick arms and give him as a Christmas present.

He now has a big brother too. Don't you love the way the clay (fired in our wood fire) comes out looking like brick or tile? Of course it is brick clay - we have an old tileworks just down the road.Son 2 was back out there at the weekend, making some secret Christmas presents. Ben popped out to show him how to roll clay - Ben did pottery classes at school.

The results of this session are drying out in our spare room. Once they're fired I'll try to take a few photos, although I'd better not show them until after Christmas Day!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

ça y est!*

Phew! Finished the embroidery for my Christmas presents... Now it's time to clear the table for sorting and wrapping...

*That's it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Childlike Christmas - Christmas Every Day?

I was inspired by the immortal words of Wizzard's Christmas hit ;) to ask my child-interviewees what they thought it would be like if it was Christmas every day. Here are some of their responses:"Presents every day?!!!"

"I would have presents every day and I would like it very much."

"I would sit in the morning, have a rest, and then have a good dinner and be ready for the presents."
"You would get too many presents. You wouldn't know which toy to play with and the house wouldn't be big enough for all the stuff."

"Then Christmas would be boring! It would be all boring and you'd get presents every day and you wouldn't have room to store them. And Santa wouldn't have any time!"

"It wouldn't be like a surprise any more..."

I do like listening to children. For more Childlike Christmas posts, of all sorts, do go and see Pom Pom's list of everyone taking part!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Pause in Advent 3 - Just a Pause

On Thursday I took time out for a walk (a rare activity over the last few weeks) and I was in a position to simply Pause.Life isn't crazy-busy - we're celebrating Christmas away from home and in a fairly non-materialistic sort of way, and you know I have the food prepared already!
But work for both me and Ben is thriving, which is good, the boys and the dog have been taking it in turns to be ill, which is par for the course in December, and all in all, pausing doesn't seem as natural as it did in the summer, or in September for that matter.
So I forced myself out on a walk and was rewarded with a Pause.
I headed down the track to the lake, noticing how the trees had become more bare since my last outing there.
Suddenly there was an increase in bird calls, and small shapes flitted from tree to tree. I had walked into a group of long-tailed tits, communicating with constant little peeps which began to sound like a series of water droplets falling from the branches all around me.
I stood still and let them dart around above my head. There was a jay nearby, calling occasionally, and perhaps they were agitated by the threatening presence. It's possible that they were just communicating between themselves though, as they certainly didn't try to move on. Great tits and marsh tits joined in, and towards the end I watched a treecreeper living up to its name as it scaled an ivy-covered trunk. There have been times when my mind has been incredibly active when watching birds or looking at plants. What is this? Why can't I remember its name? What is it doing? Where has it gone now?

But over the last few years I've discovered that, while my mind seeks information, my soul craves a Pause. I need to be out in the open, living in nature rather than analysing it. And it was good to discover that it is possible to get out and Pause, even in Advent.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Somerset - 20th December - Any chance of a meet-up?

Well, friends, I've had a bit of a think and done a bit of planning, and the result is that I'm going to have a free day in Somerset on Tuesday December 20th.The boys and I will be at Ben's parents' farm, and my generous parents in law have told me that I can have their car and they will take the boys and I can escape (weather permitting) for a day! So where am I going? Nostalgia calls - specifically Niki's Nostalgia at Number 1, in Shepton Mallet. Niki is an incredibly popular blogger, crafter and shop-owner, yet she is also one of the kind bloggers who first started replying to my comments, and commenting on my own posts, when I started blogging nearly 3 years ago. I will check with her nearer the time that she'll be in the shop that day, but all being well in terms of weather she'll be open and I intend to visit!

What else will I get up to that day? Well, it depends if any of you other bloggers would like to meet up. I realise that it's very close to Christmas and might not work out for people, but I just thought I'd leave it open and see if anyone in the area will be free. Let me know!

Advent Round-up

Hi, I'm just popping in to say that the Pause in Advent is spreading itself deliciously across the week, and that I'm still getting my blog list just right! Therefore, there are some lovely blogs or bloggers taking part whom you might just have missed if you were looking at my list earlier. Please do go and visit:
Jude at Simplicity is the New Black
Sheila at Homemaking Heaven
Mommy en France at Two Little Cabbages & CieHappy Advent!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Childlike Christmas - Food

I've been playing with cake tins and cookie cutters in the run-up to Christmas...They seem to be provide a good set of illustrations for my second Childlike Christmas Question: "What is your favourite Christmas food?"

Here are the answers given by some of the children I teach:

"Cake.""Chocolate cake." "Cake. What kind? The kind with raisins... I don't think she knows how to... um..."

"Cake with raisins and icing. Mmm."

"Pigs in Blankets!"

"Lasagne as my main course. I also like gravy and turkey. And chocolate cake."

"You know that Christmas pudding when you put alcohol onto it and you set fire to it? Mmm. I love that."

So do I, readers!

Don't forget to visit the other Childlike Christmas bloggers! You'll find the full list of us over at Pom Pom's Ponderings.