A Warm Christmas

Hello everyone, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas. If there was a word for ours this year it would be: warm. It was warm because we spent  two days with wonderful family eating two incredible Christmas dinners and spending time with such lovely generous people. And, warm because the climate in the UK is ridiculous right now – on Christmas morning, we saw bumblebees feeding on the winter flowering cherry!

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Today we’ve been out for a walk in the rain spotting plant after plant which shouldn’t be in flower, it seems to be this way across the country as observed here and here (but we are very fortunate to be in a location not affected by the flooding.)

So it may not have been anywhere near to a white Christmas, but it was merry and bright!

We each have a Christmas cake this year. Here’s Lucy’s, she’s very attached to these 1980s Father Christmasses which belonged to her grandparents. Brian’s son kindly repainted them a few years ago! The icing and marzipan has proved a bit too much on our cakes this year and is mostly going in the bin so next year we might try something different. Santa will look just as good sleighing across some almonds, surely?

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Brian’s cake is much more classy, with deer footprints:

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We saved newspaper pages with pictures on during the year and these were used for some of our present wrapping. The Spock one worked particularly well! After the wrapping it was time for some yoga, with festive toes.

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We still have a main present to deliver, in the form of us cooking a special meal instead of buying gifts. Everyone has been so generous and we want to make this a very special occasion.

Now we have some time off together to relax and recharge after a year full of changes in our lives. Thank you to everyone who reads our blog, it is such a wonderful way for us to share some of what inspires us and be part of the big, colourful, welcoming world of people online who are trying to do something a bit different. Lets all keep shining our unique and individual lights!

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Winter garden fragrance and this year’s Christmas tree

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Hello from mid-December and thank you to our new readers for following us. This is such a lovely time of year to be blogging!

Today we had a chance to go outside and enjoy our winter fragrance plants. We’ve been adding one each winter over the last couple of years.

Last year we planted a Viburnum Fragrans (syn: Farreri) which is now flowering for the first time. Lucy stops to smell it each morning before getting on her bicycle:

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This year, as Brian couldn’t think of anything he wanted for his birthday, we just treated ourselves to a Mahonia Japonica, which smells like Lily of the Valley:

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Perhaps the most exotic and evocative smell in our winter garden is Wintersweet (Chimonanthus). We like watching each other’s faces as we smell it as it is quite an experience, like the highest quality perfume from Paris! Brian grew this from seed and it took 7 years to flower. Worth the wait!

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Winter Jasmine (Jasminum Nudiflorum) isn’t fragrant, but it’s beautiful yellow trumpets are perfect for colour at this time of year:

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We now have our DIY Christmas tree up, and this year we’ve stayed with alder as it’s budded branches are perfect for hanging baubles.  We took our time and had a lot of fun decorating it this year.

For new readers, the reasons we have this kind of tree are: it’s free, natural, recyclable (we clip it into pieces of firewood kindling in January!), and because we have a very small home there’s no available space in our living room that’s more than 2-3 metres from the open fire, so it’s practical too. Add to that the fact that the end result is more beautiful to us than any other type of tree we’ve ever had…

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One advantage of the fact it has to go next to the TV is that you can watch festive programmes ‘through’ it and they become even more sparkly, as demonstrated here by Nigella.

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Our home and hearts are feeling festive, we’ve enjoyed making chocolate brownies and drinking hot fruit punch this weekend and discovered yet another great Christmas movie, this time with a cat theme for added enjoyment (Nine Lives of Christmas). We are now pondering the possibility of writing a Christmas movie ourselves but it would have to be different in some way…perhaps an idea will form over the holidays!

Whatever you’re doing in these days before Christmas, enjoy it and keep it simple. Everything that’s essential can still get done, but there’s always something you can let go of so that you can spend more time doing what you love with those you love.

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If this owl could talk it would say: Happy Christmas, and keep it fun!

 

 

 

 

 

November Simple Living Review: major works and little pleasures

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Our November was a rhythm of super-busy days, and very slow and spacious evenings. Most of the super-busyness was down to Brian and his launch into many of the biggest projects that our home has been needing, for example:

 

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The concrete path  being smashed up…

 

This can only be done a very small amount at a time as it’s so strenuous, but he’s also been putting up guttering, and doing all the laundry, food shopping, cooking and gardening and firewood provision.

Moments of stillness made themselves possible, however. Coming out of the front door one afternoon to do another task, Brian was stopped in his tracks by a sparrowhawk which had just caught and killed a dove on the lawn! By keeping very still he was able to watch the whole process of it removing the feathers and eating most of the bird.

One little victory was finding a part to fix our fairy lights which had  a frayed wire. For just £1.89 we now have sparkle again!

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Watching ‘Annie Claus is Coming To Town’!

 

Our evenings in the glow of our lights have been pretty restful – partly because they have to be after such busy days, but also because it’s our intention to make them that way. We aren’t ones for going out in the evening (which is lucky as it saves us a lot of money!) and for us a perfect evening at this time of year involves lighting the fire, having dinner together, watching TV shows that we can discuss, and other things one or both of us enjoys like reading, making walking sticks, yoga etc, plus generally being silly and making each other laugh.

We had an expensive month because of buying the tools and materials for the home maintenance we’re doing. The tools are good investments, and there were a few other items like this in the month’s budget.

Food and drink: We were exactly on budget, spending our target of £10 per day and no more.  This is even with having a take-away, and a “home restaurant night” where we had shop-bought pies and a sticky toffee pudding. Wow!
Transport: Bicycle insurance renewal, spray oil, train tickets for a day trip and a bus season ticket, and one fill of petrol
Luxuries: Lucy bought some sparkly nail polish so she could get more into the spirit of Strictly Come Dancing on Saturdays, and for Christmas occasions. Its a lot cheaper than buying a whole party outfit. There were also some CDs borrowed from the library and an MP3 downloaded (Sam Smith’s Bond theme song, if you’re interested!)
Home & Garden: This was our big spend, all things which we needed and had budgeted for: guttering, a pick/mattock, some saws, the fairy light attachment, mower petrol and other DIY bits.
Domestic: Sewing supplies (Brian is fixing up his coat), washing up liquid and a nail brush
Dental and health: Toothbrushes, toothpaste, first aid and medicine cupboard stuff, and an investment of a mooncup
Toiletries: Half price sale stock-up
Clothing: Lucy’s final work cardigan and some tights
Gifts: We spent a bit, but mostly planned ahead so that we can get the most out of our gift budget this year.

Lucy’s now got her Christmas notebook out again, for writing down inspiring festive quotes and ideas. We’re ready for the season!

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