Getting Christmassy!

This week has been one of those weeks. After a lovely time at the wedding on Sunday we both still felt really poorly and hubs spent all of Monday in bed, which just isn’t like him. Then just lots of things have gone wrong, there’s been spilled drinks, the light bulb in the downstairs loo went & its a funny halogen one and of course we don’t have spares. Then when some lovely friends paid me a surprise visit to cheer me up, one of them hung up her coat and the shelf with all the coathooks on fell off the wall on top of her, sending coats, bags, etc. flying across the hall. Just what we needed! As she rightly said thugh, thank goodness I wasn’t underneath it carrying the baby, as I had been seconds before!

LM has been poorly too meaning sleepless nights for hubs and I (though I have tried to take the lion’s share so he can actually get better!) and it has just felt like one thing after another so if I’m honest I have been pretty mopey. One thing I really haven’t felt, is particularly Christmassy.

But things seem to be looking up. Hubs is on the mend. We’ve changed the bulb in the bathroom loo (though yet to tackle repairing the shelf :() and even LM seems to be getting better so this has all improved my mood no end. With less than a week until Christmas I decided today it was time to get Christmassy. We’ve had the tree up for a while but didn’t have any other decorations up so today I got out some tinsel and with Monkey’s help (?) hung it around the house.

Monkey and I also did some simple Christmas crafting  today, he is sooo excited about Christmas bless him and after watching a Christmas episode of Mister Maker he was desperate to get his Christmas Craft on. I first got the idea for the snowman picture from the lovely Tarana at Sand in my Toes. With Monkey’s own twist because of course the snowman has to have hands (?). Monkey is obsessed with Snowmen, we bought the Raymond Briggs duo fo The Snowman and Father Christmas and they have basically been on on repeat for over a week, he loves them! So if anything I have “Another Blooming Christmas” going round in my head, not particularly cheerful for someone who actually loves Christmas!

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The Christmas tree is as simple as it looks, I cut out a tree shape and invited Monkey to stick a variety of sparkly shiny bits on! And of course the obligatory glitter, which of course ended up in his hair and all over the place, but he loved it :).

I’ve finished the meal plan and shopping order for Christmas week and even started on wrapping the humungous pile of presents that I have been avoiding. I normally love wrapping presents but have struggled to find the enthusiasm for it this year so far. Time for that to change. Though I have barely touched the surface yet have managed to go through 3 rolls of wrapping paper already… that can’t be good!  Anyway, with less than a week to go now until the big day, I am determined to stop moping and embrace the Christmas Spirit!!

Are you feeling Christmassy yet? What is your word of the week?

The Reading Residence

Meeting Father Christmas, and some Reindeer

At 2 1/2 this is the first year Monkey has really understood that Christmas is coming, and therefore been really excited about it. Because of that we are very much enjoying sharing Christmas traditions with him as his enthusiasm is really contagious! He has been asking basically every day this month whether Father Christmas is coming, so we thought he would love going to visit him. As an aside, he is very much Father Christmas in our house rather than Santa Claus, it seems everyone is adopting Santa these days but that feels so American to me, am I alone in this?

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Feeling Festive

WP_20141201_08_09_06_ProWith the arrival of December we are well and truly embracing the Christmas spirit in our house and feeling festive! My mum made Monkey this fab advent calender and he is loving finding the number every day and eating a chocolate. The only trouble is reminding him it is just one a day hehe! We also got a gorgeous Christmas Tree from Pines and Needles last weekend which we had great fun decorating. (You can read our review here and find an offer code too!). We don’t normally put the tree up quite this early but Monkey is really happy we have! He’s actually a little obsessed with Christmas and asks about 50 times a day when Father Christmas is coming. He also wants to read his Christmas storybooks every night! Ooh it may be a long month ;).

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Christmas Toddler Crafts – Snowman Decorations

Our Christmas crafting has begun! Monkey is hugely excited about Christmas this year, he loves seeing all the decorations in the shops and was running round one shopping centre shouting “Merry Christmas” to anyone and everyone!

I wanted to harness this excitement so we have been making some lovely Snowman Christmas Decorations.

Christmas Toddler Crafts - Snowman Decorations

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A Christmas Tree from Pines and Needles

Pines and Needles Christmas TreeI love Christmas and I love getting into the festive spirit. This year we are getting started nice and early with this fabulous Christmas tree from Pines and Needles.

I have always been a huge fan of real Christmas trees. I love the smell and there’s just something nice about having a real tree rather than an artificial one. There is also something really nice about going to choose a tree yourself. But, I have to be honest, that part has become more of a challenge now we have small children. Fitting the tree in the car along with said children is a bit interesting for one thing and then there is carving out the time to go and get the tree.

Pines and Needles, with their delivery service, take that hassle factor out of choosing a tree as they deliver them right to your doorstep. We chose a Nordman Fir, as the needles are softer than a “traditional” Christmas tree, and they drop less, which means less hoovering, a huge plus.

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Monkey’s Christmas List – 2 1/2 yrs old

This year is flying by and it is really not long til Christmas now, eek! Have you started buying presents yet? I have been quite organised and bought a lot of presents already. In January we started putting a bit of money away every month to budget for it, and it has been lovely this year to have a pot ready to use. No paying it off in January, woohoo!

Anyway I digress, Monkey is really excited about Christmas this year. He is loving all of the decorations in the shops and I know we are going to have so much fun with him! So I am really excited to see his excitement on Christmas day and while I am sure he will be happy with pretty much anything he gets, I think we have come up with some lovely idea for him. So if you are stuck for ideas of what to get a toddler in your life, here are some of the things on Monkey’s Christmas List this year! :)

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A very lovely Family Christmas, and a very happy Monkey :)

What a lovely week we have had! I hope all of you have had a very lovely Christmas too? Monkey has been a very lucky boy and got to spend a lot of time with lots of his favourite people, and got lots of lovely toys! He’s obviously a bit young yet to really understand what was going on or why we were all together giving each other presents, but he loved it nonetheless!

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Christmas Day was at our house, it’s our second year hosting Christmas and we’ve got the Christmas Dinner routine down now I think! Before our first shot last year we had lots of practice roasts to make sure we had the timings right, and this year just had one or two alterations/improvements and it all went pretty much perfectly (except that we forgot to buy any bread for Christmas Day teatime, and didn’t have any metal skewers to keep the stuffing in the turkey… luckily a couple of dough hooks worked just as well!! :)) We are perhaps a bit OTT with planning, and have our Christmas Day Plan stuck on the cupboard door, but it works for us and keeps the stress on the day down to an absolute minimum.

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Lots of fun was had by all and it was a lovely day with my side of the family

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Boxing day was at Hubby’s brother’s house with all of their side of the family and was another lovely day. Much more relaxed as no roast to cook and less presents to be opened, but Monkey still had lots and he loves all of his relatives so he had loads of fun again there.

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Not much else to say really, we are enjoying a quiet few days with hubby off work and Monkey playing with all of his new toys! New Year’s Eve will be a quiet affair in our house with a take-away curry and a movie I think, need a rest after the busy week we have had :)

Happy New Year’s to you all and all the best for 2014!

Christmas Baking has begun! Nigella’s White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

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Baking is a big part of Christmas don’t you think? It’s a good opportunity to indulge in some of your favourite sweet treats, and a good excuse to make them for others. That’s one of the things I love most about baking, watching others enjoy something I made. Not sure what that says about me! I know some people have whole baking days and I would love to, but with Monkey around there’s no way to do that at the moment, and he’s not quite at an age to help me bake, so this year baking is confined to his nap times.

We are baking a couple of our faves this Christmas, the Red Velvet, and the Chocolate Roulade, some chocolate brownie (recipe to follow), and we are also trying a new recipe! I know there is a lot about Nigella in the media at the moment and I am not going to weigh in on that minefield! Whatever went on in her home and marriage, there is no denying she is one heck of a cook and has some great recipes. This is no exception.

WP_20131221_13_57_16_ProIngredients
150g Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
75g Rolled Oats
125g Soft Butter
75g Dark Brown Sugar
100g Caster Sugar
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
75g Dried Cranberries
50g Pecans (The recipe says roughly chopped but we whizzed in a processor to get them as small as possible! :))
150g White Chocolate Chips

Method

Preheat oven to 180C and line two big baking sheets with baking parchment (makes approx. 30 cookies)

Measure the Flour, Baking Powder, Salt and Oats into a bowl

In another bowl, beat together the Butter and both types of Sugar until creamy, then beat in the Egg and Vanilla Extract

Beat in the Flour, Baking Powder, Salt and Oats mixture, then fold in the Cranberries, Pecans and Chocolate Chips.

Roll tablespoons of dough into balls with your hands and place them on the prepared trays. Squish the dough balls down with a fork.

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Cook for 13-15 minutes. When ready the cookies will be tinged a pale gold. They will still be soft so leave to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes. Then move to a wire rack to cool fully.

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Note We had a debate over how big a table spoon sized ball should be and hubby went for a very literal size, and they came out a little smaller than we imagined, and didn’t quite look how they looked in the piccy in Nigella’s book. We only cooked them for 13 minutes, rather than the suggested 15 minutes and they turned out lovely. I was initially worried they were a little overdone, but they taste absolutely fine! We ended up with 36 I think, so could have made them slightly bigger!

The other good thing with Nigella’s recipes is that she gives tips about freezing them! She says these can be frozen for about 3 months, which is very handy as we are planning to take these to my brother in law’s house on boxing day. So they have been baked and are now in the freezer ready to get out the night before… fingers crossed we remember!

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WP_20131223_15_01_19_ProI just made the yummy roulade too, and tomorrow will be making the Red Velvet, amongst  a whole load of other Christmas Preparations! I am finally getting into the spirit of it all, can’t believe it is Christmas Eve Eve already! How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

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Christmas preparations and child-proofing the tree!

Our tree

Our tree

Well it’s that time of year again! But I have to say I have been surprisingly organised this year. Compared to most years where we are buying pressies on credit cards and getting presents and wrapping paper last minute, this year we have put aside some money each month,  and bought all of our presents and wrapping paper etc. pretty far in advance! Not sure what has got into me!

It’s quite nice being pretty organised, much less stressful, but there’s something about the stress and last minute shopping that gets you in the christmassy mood, and I haven’t got that feeling yet to be honest. But I haven’t wrapped any presents yet so this week my task is to use Monkey’s afternoon naps for Christmas films and present wrapping, hopefully that will get me more in the mood! I’ve just finished writing all of the Christmas Cards (today’s job) so need to deliver those.

We are also all decorated, and we were slightly worried about how Monkey would get on with the tree.  Apparently when his uncle was his age he kept pulling the tree over and pulling all the decorations off! Monkey is generally pretty good but still we wanted to try and make things as safe as possible, but we still wanted to have a big real Christmas tree, because we just love them!

For me, one of the most important things at home is that we have a safe enough environment for our main living area, so that a) Monkey can have a bit of a free reign without being told off all the time and b) I can leave him alone for a few minutes at a time without having to worry about what he is up to. There is door-gates on the kitchen and hall doors so that he can’t get up to any mischief if I have to pop upstairs or to the loo etc. So it is important to me that Christmas is no different, and while he needs to learn that certain things are off limits or shouldn’t be touched/pulled etc. I also want it to be safe for him so I don’t have to worry about him being on his own for a few minutes.

So we took a few precautions. We  have tied the top of the tree to the curtain pole with some tinsel, just in case, and we made sure that all the decorations at his level are soft, home-made, or polystyrene inside so that there is no broken glass baubles to worry about! To be honest though he has been pretty good. Occasionally he stops and stares at it and he has tried to pull a few of the decorations off, but after a few remonstrations he is leaving pretty much alone, which is good! Some bits get knocked off sometimes but they are all soft ones so it doesn’t matter.

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Last year was a different ballgame entirely, seeing as he was only 6/7 months old at the time and was spending most of his time careering round the house in his walker, we had to get creative in order to protect the tree! After weighing up lots of different options, we decided to make a sort of tree guard, using a big old cardboard box. We obviously wanted it to look nice so I got a bit crafty and made a nice wintry scene. It was slightly odd I’ll admit, and looked like we had a tree in a box, but it did the job and made sure that the tree was safe. For Christmas Day we took it off as he was never going to be in the living room by himself and there was too many bodies for him to be running about in his walker.

Last year's tree and tree guard!

Last year’s tree and tree guard!

Monkey in his walker last year

Monkey in his walker last year

 

How are your Christmas Preparations? Do you childproof your decorations or Christmas trees?

Cute Crochet Christmas Decoration

As part of keeping myself busy, I have been doing some very lovely and cute Christmas Crochet. Only small things that give me a lot of satisfaction for not too many man hours. I wanted to do a lovely decoration for our Christmas tree, my mother in law makes lovely decorations every year and as I have got into crochet this year I have been inspired to make one or two of my own. On browsing the internet for inspiration, I came across these very cute decorations, but I could not find the pattern for them anywhere.

Cute Crochet Father Christmas

Cute Crochet Father Christmas

First attempt

First attempt

I was a bit disappointed but carried on looking for other options, but really couldn’t find anything I liked as much. So, after making the lovely reindeer and penguin that I did find patterns for, I decided to be brave and have a go at making a pattern up. My first attempt went ok but wasn’t great and not really the look I was going for, so I had another go and Eureka! I love him, and am really proud of the way he turned out :) So I decided to share this cute pattern with the rest of the world. So any crocheters out there that fancy having a go at making this cutey Santa, the pattern is below.

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Our Christmas Tree

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Some the patterns I have been using lately have been in American terms so this one is too, but basically all you need to know for this pattern is that an SC is a UK DC.

HAT and HEAD
With White, ch 2
Rnd 1: Work 6 sc in first chain.
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each sc around – 12 sc.
Rnds 3-4: Sc in each sc around.
Rnd 5: Sc2tog around – 6 sc. STUFF BOBBLE OF HAT
Rnd 6: With Red, sc in each sc around – 6 sc.
Rnd 7: *2 sc in next sc, sc in next sc; rep from * around – 9 sc.
Rnd 8: Sc in each sc around – 9 sc.
Rnd 9: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 2 sc; rep from * around – 12 sc.
Rnd 10: Sc in each sc around – 12 sc.
Rnd 11: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 3 sc; rep from * around – 15 sc.
Rnd 12:  sc in each sc around – 15 sc.
Rnd 13: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 4 sc; rep from * around – 18 sc.
Rnd 14:  sc in each sc around – 18 sc.
Rnd 15: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 5 sc; rep from * around – 21 sc.
Rnd 16:  sc in each sc around – 21 sc.
Rnd 17: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 6 sc; rep from * around – 24 sc.
Rnd 18:  sc in each sc around – 24 sc.
Rnd 19: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 7 sc; rep from * around – 27 sc.
Rnd 20:  sc in each sc around – 27 sc.
Rnd 21: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 8 sc; rep from * around – 30 sc.
Rnd 22: In White, in back loops only *2sc in next sc, sc in next sc; rep from * around – 44 sc.
Rnd 23: *2sc in next sc, sc in each of next 10 sc; rep from * around – 48sc.
Rnd 24:  sc in each sc around – 48 sc.
Rnd 25: sc2tog around – 24 sc.
Rnd 26:  sc in each sc around – 24 sc. PARTIALLY STUFF HAT

 

Rnd 27: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 3 sc; rep from * around – 30 sc.
Rnd 28: *2 sc in next sc, sc in each of next 4 sc; rep from * around – 36 sc.
Rnds 29-33: Sc in each sc around. Fasten off A.
Rnd 34: With B, sc in each sc around – 36 sc.
Rnd 35: *Sc2tog, sc in each of next 4 sc; rep from * around – 30 sc.
Rnd 36: *Sc2tog, sc in each of next 3 sc; rep from * around – 24 sc. FULLY STUFF ENTIRE DECORATION
Rnd 37: *Sc2tog, sc in each of next 2 sc; rep from * around – 18 sc.
Rnd 38: *Sc2tog, sc in next sc; rep from * around – 9 sc.
Rnd 37: Sc2tog, around until near enough to close.

 

Beard
Row 1: With White, ch 15
Row 2:  Starting in first ch from hook, Sc in every chain, at the end, ch 2, turn then
Row 3: Sc in every sc, at the end, ch 2 then turn
Row 4: Sc in every sc, at the end, ch 2 then turn
Row 5: Sc in every sc but skip the last sc, slip stitch into chain at end, ch 1 then turn
Row 6: Skip first Sc, sc in every sc but skip the last sc, slip stitch into chain at end, ch 1 then turn
Row 7: Skip first Sc, sc in every sc but skip the last sc, slip stitch into chain at end, Sign off

 

Hair
Row 1: With White, ch 15
Row 2:  Starting in first ch from hook, Sc in every chain, at the end, ch 2, turn then
Row 3: Sc in every sc, at the end, ch 2 then turn
Row 4: Sc in every sc, at the end, ch 2 then turn
Row 5: Sc in every sc, at the end, ch 2 then turn
Row 6: Sc in every sc but skip the last sc, slip stitch into chain at end, ch 1 then turn
Row 7: Skip first Sc, sc in every sc but skip the last sc, slip stitch into chain at end, sign off

 

Nose
With Red, ch 2

Rnd 1: Work 4 sc in first chain.
Rnd 2: sc in each sc around – 4 sc.
Rnd 3: Sc in each sc around. Sign off

Sew it all together! I Sewed on the hair first, then when I sewed on the beard, I tried to give it a bit of a peak in the middle so that it looks like he is smiling! Then sew on the nose and finally use a bit of black yarn to sew some smiling eyes. Enjoy!

If you do have a go yourself, please share a picture or a link so I can see them too!