Twixtmas Greetings

I’ve been reminiscing about Christmas’s past lately, from one very cosy Christmas when I was little that was just me and mum to the year there were so many extended family members that the grandkids and cousins needed their own kids’ table; the early years of marriage when we’d spend the morning with my husband’s family and the rest of the day with mine; and visiting my nanna at the care home for our last Christmas with her before she passed away… For the last couple of years my husband and I have hosted Christmas, and the benefit of having had so many different festive experiences over the years means we’re free to make our own traditions instead of trying to fit in with everyone else’s.

On Christmas Eve, we spent most of the day outside hoping our nearly 3 year old would tire herself out enough to sleep (it worked and we got a rare lie-in on Christmas morning!). We had takeaway for dinner, a little tradition that started when my husband and I used to finish work, rush home to load the car with presents before driving down to spend Christmas with our families. Afterwards we put out a mince pie for Santa and an oddly-shaped apple for Rudolph that our toddler chose instead of a carrot, and read The Night Before Christmas before settling the little ones into bed.

There was absolute chaos on Christmas morning opening presents, before gathering around the table for our Christmas Dinner, then a leisurely afternoon of adults chatting, the little one playing with all her new toys and our six week old daughter wide awake and taking everything in, before a buffet supper and an early night for all. It was a simple, lovely day of togetherness celebrating the return of the light after the shortest day, followed by more of the same on Boxing Day and a visit from my in-laws the day after.

Christmas isn’t always a joyous or peaceful time though and within my family there have been deaths and divorce around the festive period, a sobering reminder never to take the people we love and care about for granted.

The remainder of the week has been busy and we’ve had an unexpected run of bad luck from our car breaking down, my husband and kids getting conjunctivitis, and a cracked phone screen, so I’m hoping for a quieter, calmer January.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year when it comes. X

Counting Down to Christmas

We’ve been gradually getting into the festive spirit over the last few weeks, decorating our home, shopping for gifts and counting down the days with a selection of Advent calendars. As an adult I think I enjoy the build up as much as Christmas Day itself.

Over the last few years, I’ve been gathering a collection of decorations, baubles and trinkets that remind me of people, places and moments. This year I bought a candy cane heart but I also attempted to make a few new decorations by painting slices of wood, which I did the day before our second daughter’s birth in November, and I’m planning to make more from wood slices saved from our daughters’ first Christmas trees.

We have Advent well and truly covered with four different calendars – including one for the cat. As mornings are often a rush in our house, we’ve been saving our Advent Calendars til the evening, which has become a lovely family ritual. We’ve eaten dinner while the candle burns down with the treat of a chocolate afterwards and reading a new bedtime story from the book calendar.

Our oldest daughter is nearly three and she’s starting to understand Christmas a bit more than previous years. We’ve snuggled under blankets to watch Rise of the Guardians and Arthur Christmas together; danced to Christmas songs (she’s been learning Spanish at nursery so Feliz Navidad has become the unexpected theme song to Christmas this year along with my favourite Winter tunes by Ingrid Michaelson), and read festive stories before bed. The Usborne book advent calendar has been a real hit with a mix of fairytales and Christmas stories, and a surprise highlight was the evening my husband and I sang the Twelve Days of Christmas as loud and fast as we could much to our daughter’s amusement and delight.

Our oldest asked for a tree in her room, and we let her choose some of her own decorations (including a felt unicorn and polar bears), decorated it together and then danced around her room by the light of the tree afterwards – though having her own tree hasn’t stopped her interfering with the tree in our living room. Our youngest is just six weeks old and oblivious to the festivities but her smiley, easy-going disposition has given me some downtime between the Christmas preparations.

We went to Elfingrove last week, where we enjoyed a bird’s eye view from the Ferris Wheel, then fueled by candy floss and marshmallows we took to the ice with our older daughter on the toddler’s rink, which she loved and didn’t want to leave, while the youngest slept peacefully in her carrier.

We’ve reached the shortest day of the year, Christmas is nearly here and I still have presents to wrap and a cake to ice. Wishing everyone a peaceful Winter Solstice and a very Merry Christmas when it comes too. X

November Reading Wrapup

Dark and stormy November nights are perfect for snuggling up under a blanket with a book but I struggled to commit to anything at the start of the month while waiting for our second child’s arrival, and then once she was here I stuck to shorter books that were easy to dip in to during late nights up with a newborn and the sleepy days that followed…

She and Her Cat – Makoto Shinkai

This quirky little story follows four loosely connected and socially isolated individuals who all adopt cats from abandoned kittens to feral strays, and the narrative switches between the human and feline perspectives. In each of the stories the cats inspire and motivate their humans to change their life in some way. She and Her Cat is an easy to read, heartwarming novella.

Gallant – V.E. Schwab

A strange and haunting children’s story about life and death, and the people caught in between. Gallant follows the voiceless orphan, Olivia, raised in an school orphanage until one day she receives a letter from an unknown uncle inviting her home where Olivia starts to learn the secrets and mysteries of the Prior family and their home, Gallant. This is a tense, mysterious and macabre story but one that gripped me.

The Haunting of Aveline Jones – Phil Hickes

As a child I loved Goosebumps and the Point Horror series, and over the last few years I’ve really enjoyed finding a few new creepy children’s stories. The Haunting of Aveline Jones follows the title character who is staying with her aunt in Malmouth, Cornwall when she finds a book of ghost stories and discovers clues to the mysterious disappearance of a local child 30 years before. Set during a dark and stormy Halloween with some very creepy local folklore and traditions, this was a really atmospheric and thrilling children’s ghost story that really drew me in and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Greenglass House – Kate Milford

This is such a strange children’s story, yet one that is thoroughly captivating and charming. The story is set in Greenglass House, an old hotel frequented by smugglers most of the year, when five unexpected guests arrive during the festive break. Milo, the adopted son of the hotel owners, becomes involved in a mystery surrounding the five guests and the hotel, and learns so much about his home and identity over the story. This was such a lovely, gentle adventure and mystery, so easy to dip in and out often while up in the wee hours of the night with a newborn or in snatches during her daytime naps.