Archive for the 'Christmas & Holidays' Category


Camping in a Van

Last week we took a weeks holiday in a campervan. As a family we’ve never done that before and so it was all new. The children were very, very excited about it. I’m not sure what it was about a campervan that piqued their interest so much.

Maybe, it was the fact that it was a ‘house on wheels’ or that the beds were high up, like bunk beds but with little curtains that you could peep out of. But whatever it was, this was the most excited I’d seen them about anything, ever. Including, the time a policeman stopped and said ‘are you alright mate?’ directly to Jackson.

I was excited about our holiday too. I always look forward to camping-style holidays. I like getting all my camping cookware out and using my red kettle! But mostly, and I think this comes from the gardener in me, I like the fact that camping ‘forces’ you to be out of doors.

We BBQ’d every night. Some nights were lovely and sunny and we sipped wine and read magazines while the food cooked. Other nights were cold and we needed layers and blankets and extra coals on the fire to keep warm. But the fact is we were still out there, cooking. You just don’t do that at home.

I also have a teeny weeny obsession with dusk and the light that it creates. Ask my husband, I will stay out longer than anyone else. He’s freezing and I want to stay, ‘just five minutes longer?’. I want to see what it looks like when the candle flame starts to glow, or what my book looks like when we really do need the lantern to see.

The other thing I love about camping holidays is that you just spend time together, with no schedule. Often we would just ride our bikes around and around the campsite. Or sit and watch as the boys got filthy playing in muddy puddles.

Or when it rained we sat around the kitchenette table and talked and drank tea (and beer), and ate cake, and drew pictures, and read books. For hours. I can’t remember the last time I did that.

I’m starting to think that possibly, just possibly, I fill my time with too much stuff. Always coming and going, and thinking of a trip here or an outing there. And maybe what I need to do is spend some more time doing nothing with the people I love.


Christmas Dresser

There’s very little gardening going on these days. I wander down to the wood shed with my basket in hand and collect the wood for the fire. On the way I might check in on my coldframe Lettuce or peruse the slow progress of my blanching Chicory (it’s painfully slow!). But other than that I’m mostly dreaming of gardening, reading books, checking out seed catalogues. Nearly, signing up for a half plot at the nearby allotments (am I mad?) and then thinking better of it.

It’s the week before Christmas and so we’re hanging out at home with the fairy lights on all day, watching snowy films and drinking coffee. My dresser says it all really. Sinking in a sea of handmade decorations that vaguely resemble Santa, and regretting that I didn’t get my act together earlier and reciprocate all the lovely cards that Jackson got from his school friends (must be more organised next year!).

The kitsch Reindeer lights are a taste of what the rest of the house looks like, my ever present Homemaker collection just waiting for the big day, the Santa jug and mugs also waiting for some eggnog to be made. And of course the gin, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the gin. KitchenAid’s at dawn and champagne glasses twinkling in the light – we only have three but then we only need three since Granny is visiting.

The days before Christmas are my very favourite days of the year and I cherish every second of them. Infact, I have way too many Christmassy things I want to do and not enough hours to do them in.

But I did find some time to snuggle down and do my annual reading of ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales‘ by Dylan Thomas. It’s the most perfect Christmas book in my view, not least because he could be describing all of my childhood Christmas’s rolled into one – remember when you used to go out and play with the other children in the street on Christmas day?


Expanding Snow Village

It’s about this time of year that the snow village appears.

It’s come a long way since I started it back in 2008. Since then I’ve been adding to it every year.

Since the boys were too young to join in I’ve been making the houses myself. I’m not suggesting they are fantastic craftwise. They are really just painted up grocery boxes and glitter and spray snow.

But this year I had a little help, from my three year old. He wanted a house with a ‘snowy garden’ and ‘glittery roof’ the other stipulation was that there was ‘mist’ coming out of the chimney and a wreath on the door. So that’s what we did!


Christmas Mantle Idea


Here’s a little idea for your Christmas mantelpiece. It’s really simple, just some old wine bottles filled with twigs that have been sprayed silver. With alternate silver candlesticks and tea lights to give everything a nice Christmassy twinkle.

And… this idea was totally stolen, as all the best ideas are :)


Our Christmas Tree

In our house, as soon as it turns 1st December it’s pretty much time to put up the Christmas tree. So this being the nearest weekend we brought our tree home. A nice 7ft Norway spruce (the bluish looking ones with thick bushy branches). I tried to get my husband to go for a Scots pine but he dug his Coloradan heels in so we went for the fir tree look.

I was reading in Which? this month that there is a shortage of big trees (some sort of planting error eight years ago!). And therefore large trees are at a premium this year. They reckon you should be paying no more than £35 for a 6ft Norway. Umm… but hey, we got free delivery and a fancy net…

The vegetable ornaments are in there, somewhere. Top middle is my London bus ornament, and on the left is a new crown one that says Bath 2011. My favourite is still the empire state building one which is just below the bus and the banana split always makes me laugh. While the most quirky one is still the little red fire hydrant. I love my Christmas tree!


Getting Excited!


This ornament was a present from a friend but I’ve decided to make it the basis for a Scandinavian theme tree made from a fallen branch that I found in the woods near my house. Once it’s all done I’ll post a photo here.


Thanksgiving 2011

Believe it or not this weekend saw our first Thanksgiving celebration at home. Despite 50 per cent of our family being American. Umm…

Usually if we celebrate it’s because we happen to be visiting family on one of our very well timed visits.

But this year we thought it was high time that we bit the bullet and admitted that actually we should really do something. So we did.

And here is evidence of Parsnip peeling.

We even brought in the wood, invited friends around and assembled the cheese board. The boat was pushed out.

We also thought it was high time that the children started to learn about American history, those pilgrims and native Americans, that feast and naturally how to make silly hats.

Candles were lit.

And the smelly one too.

The children were allowed to watch football. And we ate and drank and were thankful for every last minute of it. Happy (belated) Thanksgiving.


Vegetable Christmas Ornaments

If I’m obsessed with two things it’s vegetables and Christmas, in that order. So, to be given a gift that is both wrapped up in one is well… my new favourite thing.

It was my birthday last week and these little, let’s call them Christmas trinkets, popped through the letterbox having travelled all the way from sunny Denver (thanks Jess and Marta).

Now I do love a bauble or two and I have been known to erm… collect unusual Christmas ornaments, collaring anyone I know to be travelling through, or near, New York to visit Saks 5th Avenue Christmas department and buy me something for the tree! But, strange as it may seem, I do not own any vegetable tree ornaments. Until now that is.

Now I’m now the proud owner of three culinary tree hangings, one Tomato, one floret of Broccoli and one, probably chantenay, Carrot.

With a little research I found that Inge-Glas of Germany are the makers of many more miniature glass vegetables. Infact, they have the market somewhat covered. And you can get all kinds of vegetables for your tree from Onions, Asparagus to the plain but functional Potato ornament.

Oh dear, I can feel a collecting obsession coming on.


Our Street Party

Just a few photos from our Royal Wedding Street party yesterday.

Here is the table before the guests arrived. We did a pot-luck style food arrangement where everyone brought a dish.

We cooked some Pie Minister Wills & Kate pies! They were yum.

We had Strawberries, lots of Strawberries!

And the children waved their flags like crazy. And yes, this mummy cried at least once during the wedding. It’s simply not a wedding without tears.

What did you do for the Royal Wedding?


Christmas Potatoes in January

Today, I finally dug up my Christmas Potatoes! I know, I’m a bit late but unfortunately I fell into the very trap that I warned against when I planted them back in August. Back then I said, “Just remember to dig up your Potatoes ‘before’ Christmas Day if there is frost forecast. You wouldn’t want to put in all that effort only to be foiled by a solid, unworkable soil on the big day!”

What with the snows the week before Christmas and the freezing temperatures to keep the snow on the ground, when the big day did come around there was no chance of home-grown Potatoes for us.

But today, I thought, I wonder what the crop is like under there and so I dug them up. The yield and size of Potatoes was disappointing. Only a tiny trough-full from a row about 2.5 metres long. And about a third of them were invaded by wire-worm or rotten. But the ones that did make it onto the plate were, if I might say so, rather yummy.

It may have been that tasting something out of season made me feel like I was indulging in some kind of forbidden luxury, or that they actually did taste amazing! I don’t know. All I know is that I couldn’t eat them quickly enough.

That said, I’m not sure I’ll be growing them again. The time, effort, garden space and brain space that they took up for what were meagre pickings at the end of it was not worth it. Maybe, if I had a larger garden, or a greenhouse… but until then these will be my last Christmas Potatoes.

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