Tag Archives: Christmas

True Christmas Cheer

I just burst into tears when I saw this.  But then I’m a sentimental, seasonal old Hector….

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Filed under Christmas, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Off we go again – but with heels on

Happy New Year to you all!

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted for a while, but Christmas has been a joyful, but hectic old time and this is the first day that I’ve had a moment to myself for nearly three weeks.  I have also finally caught up with the Lost Sleep that goes hand in hand with the week leading up to Christmas.  Having woken briefly for The Archers, slithered downstairs just long enough to boil an egg and make soldiers, then return to bed to almost finish the Andrew Martin book (Murder at Deviation Junction) I was given for Christmas, I feel thoroughly refreshed and ready for action.

Action, in the immediate sense, meant tidying the midden that was my bedroom and photographing three pairs of shoes.  I need to explain this.

I love shoes. I am not a frivolous woman; my interests in life tend towards the intellectual, the artistic and the practical and I am passionate about many things.  But shoes are one girly fetish to which I submit with joy. Except in extremis, it matters not whether you gain or lose a few pounds,  your shoes still fit.

Oh yes

I have nearly sixty pairs of shoes and boots ranging from a clomping pair of ex-army yompers through sensible black pumps to the sluttiest pair of 5″ red suede stilettos you have ever seen (a gift from Lady Somerset).  In order to enjoy them to the full, I keep them all in boxes, stacked on a bookshelf in my bedroom, each with a photograph carefully pasted on the front for ease of identity. It really speeds up getting dressed, I can tell you!  Practical you see, practical.

Sadly, I don’t get as many opportunities as I would like to wear the really slutty ones, but I know they’re there.  Waiting in their boxes, for the time when, having run an appraising eye over the serried ranks of foot-soldiers waiting for duty, I fix a resolute eye on the perfect pair – perhaps The Pewter Wedges, perhaps the Black PVC Platform Boots – and say “You are the Chosen Ones.  Come forth and dazzle your public!”.

Actually, I may not have had quite enough sleep after all…

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Filed under Christmas, Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Sunday Poem 18

One can never have too much Betjeman…

Christmas by John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine

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Filed under Christmas, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Being Awfully Busy

I’ve kept meaning to put another post on this week, but somehow it just hasn’t happened.  I have two children at different schools and every day there seems to be something else that I either have to do, attend, contribute or pay for; Class Hamper, Secret Santa, Christingle, Carol Service, Own Clothes Day, Decorations Day, Nativity Play, Create A New Organised Religion Day (Key Stage 1), Release a Turkey into The Wild Morning and my personal favourite, Camel Care for the Under Fives.   I also now have choir practices and carol services to go to and I have to make the house habitable in order to be hospitable over the Christmas Season.  Can’t wait for the end of term!

This weekend, I am going to marzipan my Christmas Cakes, so look out for a piece on that, which will be closely followed by instruction on how to do a simple but effective Poinsettia design for the icing.

Tonight, it is Alice’s daughter’s birthday and we are all going to see ‘Nativity’ at the pictures.  Alice and I usually go to the pub while the children are watching some hideous, badly executed, poorly plotted cartoon, and we had found that cinema attendance had become a very expensive sleep – Alice actually snored during ‘Monsters v. Aliens’.  But tonight we are going to ‘sit in’.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tomorrow, having been lent a set of brushes, I am going to clean my chimney.  I’ve been awfully good this year…

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Filed under Children, Christmas, Family and Friends

“A Shop-Bought Mince Pie is a Horrid Surprise!”: So make your own Mincemeat

These are the wise words on my special Christmas mince pie tin that I bring down from the loft with the Christmas decorations and it is absolutely true.  Now is the time to be making it so that it has had time to mature, and mincemeat is tremendously easy to make and is far superior to shop-bought.  It also has a satisfying ‘brag-factor’ when you hand them round to your friends who will immediately worship at your feet.

You will need some sterilized glass jars or some sterilized airtight tupperwares to put the mincemeat in.  A lovely big jar of home made mincemeat with a decorative label and ribbon would also make a very welcome Christmas present.

MINCEMEAT

Utensils:
1 x large mixing bowl
1 x chopping board
Jars as above

Ingredients:
4oz / 120g suet
8oz / 240g dark brown sugar
8oz / 240g currants
8oz / 240g raisins
8oz / 240g cooking apple – finely chopped
2 lemons – use the juice and you can add the finely grated rind if you like it
2 oz / 60g almonds – chopped
½ tspn mixed spice
3floz / 90ml brandy

Method:
Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl
Cover and leave overnight to allow the fruit to absorb the liquid and expand
Put into sterilized jars
Leave for at least a week before using and preferably a month.

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Filed under Christmas, Food, Food Presents, Recipes, Seasonal

Presents: incorporating the courteous and judicious use of lists

Presents 1 - 30.07.09 There was a programme on the excellent Radio 4 this morning, in which the presenter discussed the ethics of the growing trend for making lists of the presents one wants for birthdays and Christmas.  I immediately pricked up my ears, as my family have done this for years.  The reason that we started is because we all live apart, we all have very different tastes and, most importantly, we don’t want to waste our money on fripperies that may have no use.  Some of the best presents the Wartime Housewife has ever had have been a glorious set of chisels (in their own box with little covers for the blades) and a cordless screwdriver, but I know that, on receipt of such a gift, many of my female friends would have been on the ‘phone to the family solicitor within the half hour. 

In times of austerity, however, the courteous use of a list is invaluable both to the giver and the recipient.  It is so hard to know what will be useful and appreciated and whilst one should be grateful for any gift, it’s sometimes hard to put on a delighted expression in the face of some ill-conceived monstrosity.   I was once given this handbag …. let’s just say a drag queen in Hackney was delighted to find it on ebay and we’ll say no more about it

Small electrical appliances, such as hand mixers, toasters, kettles etc frequently only last a year or two these days and on a restricted budget, an unexpected £15 or £20 can be hard to find, but the items are very hard to do without.  Books, CD’s and DVD’s bring so much pleasure to our lives and  are undoubtedly a treat but people who don’t live with you are highly unlikely to know what you do or don’t have, or even what your taste might be.  Following the Wartime Housewife’s creed that we should always attempt to repair before we replace, even simple tools can be expensive to buy and there are some lovely basic tool kits for men and women which would make super gifts, whose benefits would last for years.  Cosmetics and cleansing products are a regular expense and always seem to run out at once.  If there is a particular brand of lipstick for example, that you like and can’t quite justify buying for yourself, again it is a gift that could last a whole year. 

If your family and close friends are not in the habit of list writing and you feel it would be beneficial, I would suggest approaching it like this.  As a birthday or Christmas approaches simply tell people that, as we are all having to pull our horns in, you would like to make sure that any gift you buy for them is what they truly need and would be helpful or a treat.  Maybe suggest a rough budget at Christmas time and stick to it.  Christmas in particular can be such an appalling orgy of consumption that I feel it would be rather nice to change the focus from profligate gift giving to a more thoughtful celebration of what we truly have.  The key here is courtesy.  Never present someone with a list unless it has first been discussed or requested.  Keep the list to a reasonable length – too many items are overwhelming and frankly a little greedy – and don’t include anything that is hideously expensive unless it is appropriate to do so.

The other big consideration is whether you give everyone the same list; if you do this, you need to make sure that everyone is communicating with each other in order to avoid getting three sets of chisels or four copies of ‘The Best of the Andrews Sisters’ CD (the modern e-mail system is so handy for this).  One major benefit of the list is the potential for ‘Joint Presents’ and this is particularly useful for children whose accoutrements get ever more expensive.  For my birthday this year I asked my sister and mother to club together and buy me a year’s membership of English Heritage.  This has given me and the boys a whole year of free entertainment which will have the knock-on effect that we will do far more fun and educational things together on a regular basis.  The National Trust also offers excellent value.  My other sister paid for me to have my hair done at my favourite salon which was a lovely treat and gave me tremendous boost.

Do not be afraid of The List.  Simply approach it with courtesy and sensitivity and it will result in less consumption, more appreciation of what you have and significantly more space in the cupboard under the stairs.

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Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Christmas