Advent Calendar 2017 – Christmas Shopping

I have always thought there is something rather nice about the buzz of Christmas shopping, but in recent years the enjoyment has been lost to me and I have been very disorganised in organising gifts etc.

I have tended to do a mixture of store and online shopping, but this year I have done the lot online. It has reduce the stress factor by 100%. Whilst the whole concept of online shopping has effected town centres, so has the increasing use of out-of-town shopping centres.

This year I have used Amazon and yes, I do have concerns about how they treat their staff, but the best advice I can give to any Amazon employee is get into a union and have them fight your corner! I have also used Etsy. Etsy is an online shopping facility where individuals can sell items. The criteria are essentially handmade, items than can be used for making something or vintage. Vintage is classed as over 20 years.

With my husband working shifts this has made the whole present smuggling activity rather easy as I purchase and schedule deliveries if I can when he is not home!

The whole Christmas grocery experience has always been stressful to me – I cannot stand the every man (or woman) for themselves tactic, leaving trolley’s in the middle of counters and grumpy/rude people – manners cost nothing!

Having the packages arrive has meant that I have needed to hide them. I typically use my office and as I have a poor filing system the filing cabinet has been as good as any! Then they need to be wrapped. I am dreadful at wrapping presents and can turn a fairly easy to wrap gift into a wrapping disaster. I wrapped presents earlier today and it is a dreadful task, I am glad that is all over!

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Advent Calendar 2017 – Visiting Santa

courtesy of greenowlcrafts.com


I know I visited Santa as a child because Mum told me. I didn’t think to ask where I saw Santa or how much it cost, because I thought I had plenty of time to ask her.

Mum told me that I was fairly unimpressed and sat there waiting to go back to Mum. It is interesting that is pretty much how I have always felt about Christmas & since Mum’s passing I feel even less enthused. As I said being married to a Christmas baby makes that tricky, but at least of us is excited!

I get my enjoyment from make a list of what I think I will buy for my significant other and managing to keep it a secret! He has been known to get down by the tree and shake all the presents!

Hubby on the other hand was never taken to see Santa and for that I feel quite sad, especially since he would have really enjoyed that.

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Advent Calendar 2017 – Christmas Reading

courtesy of greenowlcrafts.com

I nowhere read as much as I used to due to a variety of drains on my time and the pull of social media, but there are several books that I read every December.

I really like the Elm Creek series of books from Jennifer Chiaverini and even though Jennifer has moved onto a different series I do hope she returns to Elm Creek in the future. The entire Elm Creek series are fabulous, but the ones that I read every December are these:

 

 

The Christmas QuiltThe New Year’s Quilt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book next on my reading list is from Jennifer’s historical fiction series. Christmas Bells is set in the mid 1860’s.

I find when I am in a reading slump that going back to an old favourite helps me start off reading again. There is something very festive and appealing about the Christmas books covers and the Christmas Quilt cover is my favourite.

What’s yours?

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Advent Calendar 2017 – Festive Mugs

courtesy of greenowlcrafts.com

This is a repeat of the original post which I wrote in 2012. Sadly the missing mug of the set is still, well missing!

A few years ago, I stumbled across a rather nice set of mugs made by Spode. Each Christmas, from 1998 until 2004, Spode released one mug featuring a Santa from a different Country.

 

Here they are in more detail –

In 1998 the First of the series was the British Santa

In 1999 Spode released the German Santa.

 

In 2000 Bishop of Myra was released.

 

Then in 2001, The Russian Santa was release, the only one that I am missing from the set.
In 2002 The Norwegian Santa made an appearance

 

In 2003, The French Santa was released

 

And finally, in 2004 to complete the series, the American Santa was released.

 

I think of all the set that I currently, have my favourite is the American Santa, because of the vibrant, festive colours. Which one is your favourite?

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Advent Calendar 2017 – Christmas Music

Courtesy of greenowlcrafts.com

Being married to a Christmas baby, I can not escape the almost weekly viewing of the film Home Alone. Four films were made, we have all four, but films one and two are the favourites.

Anyway, one of the Carol’s sung on the film is simply lovely and I had a real challenge trying to find out what it was called and had to resort to getting the film and playing the credits! Here is the details from YouTube – The Song is Carol of the Bells written by John Williams.

Here are the lyrics:
Hark! how the bells
sweet silver bells
All seem to say
throw cares away.

Christmas is here
bringing good cheer
To young and old
meek and the bold

Ding, dong, ding, dong
that is their song,
With joyful ring
all caroling

One seems to hear
words of good cheer
From everywhere
filling the air

O, how they pound
raising the sound
Oer hill and dale
telling their tale

Gaily they ring
while people sing
Songs of good cheer
christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry christmas!

On, on they send
on without end
Their joyful tone
to every home

Hark! how the bells
sweet silver bells
All seem to say
throw cares away.

Christmas is here
bringing good cheer
To young and old
meek and the bold

Ding, dong, ding, dong
that is their song
With joyful ring
all caroling.

One seems to hear
words of good cheer
From everywhere
filling the air

O, how they pound
raising the sound
Oer hill and dale
telling their tale

Gaily they ring
while people sing
Songs of good cheer
christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry christmas!

On, on they send
on without end
Their joyful tone
to every home.

On, on they send
on without end
Their joyful tone
to every home.
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Advent Calendar 2017 – Christmas Tree Ornaments

Courtesy of greenowlcrafts.com

The collection of tree ornaments we have are ones that we bought from our first Christmas together.

There are others that were given to us by my Mum and each year Stuart and I buy at least one ornament to keep the tradition going. We tend to go for the reds and golds but there are some others that have special meanings to us.


A Spode china Millennium bauble which always has pride of place, and a gold bell which has a picture of a Border Terrier on the side,which we bought the first Christmas we lost our lovely Monty in 2008.

We also have a lovely set of the Lilliput Lane tree decorations as Stuart collections the lovely houses, and especially the snowy and wintry ones.

The decorations that we had when I was a child are still in the family, making their way to my home after Mum died. The original fairy that was on the trees I recall from my childhood is part of those decorations.

As a child we used to have chocolate ornaments on the tree which I was never allowed to have until Christmas Eve, and then not all in one go!

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Advent Calendar 2017 – Christmas Tree

As a child we always had an artificial Christmas tree I think, usually a traditional styled green one with pretty coloured fairy lights and the fairy that my Grandparents used to put on their tree.

When I married we purchased a lovely and different artificial white tree which we got from the department store here in the UK called Alders, they have since gone under, but the tree lives on with another family.

 

Tree Christmas 2011 – copyright J Goucher

We then upgraded to the tree you see here. Which was lovely and looked very real, with a hint of snow and pine cones. It was about 6 foot and came pre-lit. My hubby is the usual tree decorator in this house, personally I find the whole thing a bit of a performance!

I would really love a real tree, but we don’t mainly because of mess and because they are not terribly pet friendly and we have to remember Alfie’s paws!

Sadly our lovely tree here had a malfunction in 2015 and in 2016 I splashed out on a lovely and expensive tree from Balsam Hill. As I inserted my card number into their website, I could hear my Grandma saying, “more money than brains!”

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Advent Calendar 2017 – Christmas Cards

4

Image courtesy of greenowlcrafts.com

A version of this post appeared back in 2010. I have repeated it here, with minor tweaks!

I remember both my Mum and Grandmother sending cards, but not how many or what happened to them. I have a few old cards, perhaps the last one received from a particular relative, or those with a photograph or letter. Any that my Grandmother received I now have. I always keep the card given to me by family members and special friends and mark on the back the year received. I have every card my husband has given me.

Currently they are in a box packed away in a box awaiting scanning and archiving. I can’t really remember where they were displayed, I suspect the mantle piece as that is where I have mine and on the dresser and other furniture in our lounge.

I probably started sending cards when I as about 12 or 13. Mainly to school friends, but when I left home and then subsequently married, to family members. In many cases a Christmas card is the only contact we have, which is a shame.

When we first set up home together and started sending cards as a couple I asked for Stuart’s card list. He looked at me blankly and said he only sent about 6 cards, I was amazed, that meant the other 60 or so were mine! Since then I have written all the cards and letters and Stuart’s list has not really got any bigger. My list has reduced substantially in the last eight years or so. I keep the email letters and file these with letters I receive, along with any letters and cards that arrive in the mail.

I usually aim to send my cards out early December, but each year I seem to get later and later. The overseas ones always go first and eventually the rest as the final posting date looms. As I write this the first of our 2017 cards has arrived today, from the husband of my cousin who passed away two years ago.

At the end of the 1980’s I bought a card booklet, with the details of card and present and address. The book was set up for about 10 years. At the end of the 10 years I looked around for another book similar but no one seems to sell them any more. For years I had a bit of paper in my Christmas card box and each year tick or highlight in a pen to say that I sent the card. The scrappy piece of paper was likeable, but I now just put the list in my notebook which I index and check the previous year’s list so I can check I have not missed anyone from the list by accident. I usually buy Charity cards apart from ones that I send to close relatives. I tend to go for the Charities whose good cause has touched our family life, mainly Cancer Research as many of my family have suffered in this way, but also I support the British Polio Fellowship in memory of my late Mum.

Annie Prudience Butcher nee Harris 1955

This photograph is of my Great Grandmother, Annie Prudence Butcher nee Harris,which was sent as her Christmas Card in 1955. The picture was taken in Guildford Surrey England in the prefab house the family lived in after the War. Judging by the clothes APH, as she is affectionately known, had this taken during September to October, probably of that year.

The photo was certainly sent to her children, I have my Grandfather’s copy George Butcher (1908-1974) and I know of at least one cousin who has his father’s copy.

Do you have a copy in your photo collection? If so please get in touch.

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Advent Calendar 2017 – Christmas Cake

Image courtesy of greenowlcrafts.com

A version of this post appeared back in 2010 originally. I have repeated it here with a few tweaks!

My Grandmother spotted this Christmas Cake recipe in a copy of Woman Magazine, and since then both my Mum and I  have used it.

The photograph is of the actual page from the magazine, which does look in rather a sorry state! The actual date is gleaned from a book review on the reverse of the recipe – 1983!

Since Mum has passed away I have not made a Christmas Cake. I have either bought a small one or we have not had one. It is one of the tasks that I cannot quite bring myself to do yet. Mum used to come over and we would make them together. I don’t know what we would talk about, just those random chats we would have about a variety of topics. One of which would be a prompt to write my Christmas cards!

Do you make a Christmas cake?

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Advent Calendar 2017 – Holiday Foods

Image from greenowlcrafts.com

This post was originally posted in 2010 and is repeated here, with a few tweaks!

My Grandmother always used to buy hamper coupons from the Unigate milkman, I don’t know if she received any special discount as my Grandfather had worked for them up until he retired, but she always had the coupons and then exchanged them a week or so before Christmas for a hamper. There was always lovely boxes of chocolates, biscuits, tins of ham and deserts and a shop made Christmas pudding. I am sure that there may have been a bottle of Sherry in the hamper, even though my Grandmother was not able to drink alcohol. There was also some lemonade and dilutable juices – like Robinsons, and some fruit.

Even though we had the hamper there was also other bits bought or made. The Christmas cake, and Christmas Puddings were both homemade, a delicious joint of gammon that was cooked on the stove on Christmas Eve to be consumed for Christmas Day tea time, a tin of Victoria biscuits made by McVitie’s. The biscuits no longer sold in a tin but are still available. I still buy a box each year and as I put them in the supermarket trolley I have a festive flashback to years past.

We always had Turkey for Christmas Day along with the trimmings. On Boxing Day the usual lunch meal was bubble and Squeak with either the Turkey cold or made into Rissoles. I still have the mincer that my Grandmother used and I still do some of the things that we did when I was a child, and those special moments live on for another generation.

Mum used to make the most lovely rum truffles, with the proper stuff, not the cheap essence. Since Mum is longer here we no longer have the truffles. I have the original recipe and lots of happy memories.

Every year, this rather tatty extract from a Woman’s Realm Mag would appear. I had chance to have a proper glance at it. The recipe is from The Archer’s Country Cookbook by Martha Woodford published in 1977.

I can certainly vouch for the truffles!

4oz dark cooking chocolate
4oz icing sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons ground almonds
2 tablespoons double cream
2 tablespoons rum
chocolate vermicelli

Melt the chocolate over a basin of hot water. Beat in the icing sugar,egg yolk, almonds,cream and rum and pound altogether until mixture is smooth, and form into little balls. Roll each truffle in a little vermicelli and coat it.

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