Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Another Christmas - big surprise for my kids

I've been struggling to keep something from my children for the last few weeks.
I've almost slipped up a few times.
Somehow I've managed to keep a secret.
My brother lives in Majorca in Spain and only manages to get home maybe once a year.
My kids adore my brother.
So tonight these two....

....and this gorgeous little man....

....will be knocking on our door to spend a second Christmas with us.

I can't wait to cuddle Renzo - he is just the cutest.
Lily adores Eugenia (or Auntie Egg as she calls her as Eugenia is too hard for her to say) and Seth will be attached to his super cool Uncle.
Eugenia's parents are also coming to stay and we've never met them before so we are going to have a house full and I'm going to love it!  Her parents don't speak any English so I'm going to have my work cut out - they both speak Spanish and French fluently so I'll be babbling in a really bad mix of both plucked from the recesses of my memories from school.

My sister and her family spent Christmas in Ireland with her husband's family and they will be back on the 2nd so on the 3rd we are having Christmas all over again.  More turkey, more presents, more silly hats and games! 

In between we have a New Year's party with our neighbours.  This year we decided that every house should pick a country to represent and play music, offer food, and dress representing that country.  Everyone has to have a flag of that country.  We will be going from house to house in order of the time zones so the first house we are going to visit will be China.  We are America so will be playing Bruce Springsteen or some country music, offering teeny burgers and meatball sub's and will be wearing cowboy hats.  I've also bought an Argentina flag as Eugenia's mum is apparently a great cook so she will be making empanadas for everyone.

So this year we get to have Christmas, New Year and then Christmas all over again!

Hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. 
Hope 2011 is all you want it to be!


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Waking up to a blanket of white

On Thursday we had a bit of rain and sleet so we didn't expect the snow which had been forecast to stick. 

We woke up to this scene on Friday morning.

It's funny but my kids never seem to jump out of bed as quickly as they do after it's been snowing.

So pretty - the view from my spare bedroom window

The gate into the forest just outside our house - my kids have posed for a photo at this gate every time it has ever snowed here - it's such a pretty sight looking into the forest behind them

The view from the forest back into my street

Seth spend ages rolling a huge snowball.

Snow always means hot chocolate to my children so I've had to make sure we've got plenty of cocoa, marshmallows, cinammon, Cadbury's flake and squirty cream on hand.


The cold weather always makes me crave comfort food.

Today I made cheese scones.  Whenever you think of Britain chances are you think of scones with jam and cream but as much as I love these I make cheese scones far more often.  I'm sure I've mentioned before that I'm useless in the kitchen other than when it comes to organizing cupboards and drawers so unlike so many of you I don't have any amazing recipes to share but if you want something quick and easy (and unhealthy) here you go:

Cheese Scones

Today I ate them with crispy bacon in the middle - gorgeous but very naughty!

My kids love me making these scones.

Hope you enjoy too!

Make your own recipe cards here
(I found these thanks to My Sweet Savannah)


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Our visit with Santa in Lapland

First of all thanks for all the advice on coping with flying.  I hate that I'm such a flying phobic and it's nice to know so many of you have experienced this and learned to manage it.

Well, Lily and I got back from Lapland (eventually) to find a News TV crew waiting for us at the airport!

What an eventful trip we had!

We got up at 4am to go to the airport to board our plane for Enontekio in Northern Finland.  The very North of Finland (and Sweden) is known as Lapland and here in the UK it is where children believe that Santa spends his time when he is not in the North Pole.

My head was pounding and my stomach was churning for the whole flight while I waited to fall out of the sky!  I cried during take of mainly due to nerves but partly due to the fact that Lily couldn't sit next to me for take off or landing as they sat me by the emergency exit and she was too young to sit there.

We had been in the air for over 3 hours of our 3 and a half hour flight when the pilot announced that we couldn't land at Enontekio as there was a plane blocking the runway (these airports are really small and only have one runway) so we had to land at Kittila, which is where Seth and I went to see Santa 6 years (to the day) before.

Lily and her classmate, Tom, whose sister, Molly is one of Seth's oldest friends and came with us on our last trip.

Lily and Tom plunged straight into the snow to make snow angels - it was such a novelty for them to see so much snow.  Just after this photo was taken Lily asked Tom if he had seen Dumb and Dumber (I didn't know she had until then!) when someone stuck their tongue to a lampost.  So.. guess what Tom did?  He licked a lampost and got his tongue stuck - he panicked and pulled his tongue off with his hand then talked really funny for a hour or so due to the bleeding and the swelling.  It was horrible but so hard not to laugh - even he laughed eventually!

Day trips to Lapland from the UK are very popular these days as although it's quite far away it's do-able in a day and a real treat for children.

You end up having around 7 and a half hours there to go on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, another pulled by huskies, a snowmobile ride and a visit with Santa.  When I went with Seth the trip was magical.  Unfortunately for everyone on our trip it was disastrous!

From the airport we were taken by bus to Enontekio - the trip took just under two and a half hours.  It was very pretty but basically it was just driving on a road through forest as this area is very remote.  We did pass a stunning ski resort called Levi which I fell in love with but that was about it besides the bus slowing down to show us some reindeer.

When we got to our destination we were told by our rep that she would be with us all day and that we would have two extra hours there to make sure we did everything.  Then she disappeared and left us all standing around in -35degrees not knowing where to go.  We found another rep who told us that we couldn't have another two hours there but we would get to do everything then she disappeared.  My friend and I registered for the sleigh for the Santa Safari and while we were waiting for that queued for 40 minutes to go on the husky ride.  As we had got there so late it was now night and absolutely baltic so loads of kids were crying and saying they wanted to go home.  Luckily Lily and Tom are old enough that we could let them go off just behind us and play with sledges while we waited.

We then went on our Santa Safari which started out beautifully.  We were pulled by a skidoo on a sleigh over a frozen lake and through snow covered forest for quite a way until we reached a very picturesque log cabin with a huge carving of a grizzly bear outside.  Just beyond that Santa had parked his car!!!!  This went unnoticed by Lily and Tom but my friend Tina and I were so disappointed that Santa hadn't had the sense to park his sleigh there instead or just park his car behind his cabin.

I sneaked Lily's Christmas list in to Santa's 6 foot elf (!) and Lily was delighted when he produced the letter she had written a month ago and left on the fireplace to be collected by Santa when he next flew over our house.

We returned to the main area to go on a reindeer ride only to be told that we had to get on the bus to go back to the airport.  People were very unhappy to say the least.  Children were in tears.  Lily tried to be very brave but cried when she found out she couldn't see the reindeer.  Some children didn't even get to see Santa which is just awful.

We got back to the airport with everyone agreeing to write in to the travel company to complain.  You pay a lot of money for this trip and most people have to save for some time to afford it.  It was such a disappointment for everyone for it to be such a let down.

We got back to the aiport and after boarding found out that one of the engines was faulty.  After the first officer went out and tried to start the engine manually (can you imagine how relaxed I was about that !!) they realised that there was a realy problem so in complete contrast to how inefficient the travel company had been the airline immediately arranged hotel rooms for everyone.

I phoned my husband from the plane to tell him and he couldn't stop laughing - he said your day started with Dumb and Dumber, in the middle it was Planes, Trains and Automobiles - let's just hope that when you get to the hotel it doesn't end with The Shining!  I do love his warped sense of humour!

I was delighted as we got to stay in the beautiful ski resort called Levi that we had passed earlier.

The hotel was gorgeous and looked like lots of log cabins at the foot of a hill with illuminated ski slopes behind the buildings.  After a good nights sleep which we all really needed we had the day at the ski resort to do as we pleased with meals provided.

I was in my element here.  There were sledges everywhere so all the children had a fab time running around and sliding down hills.

Lily and I went for a stroll (well I strolled and she sat in a sledge pulled by me) around the village which was just beautiful.

I was still a bit upset that she hadn't been on the reindeer ride or the snow mobiles like her brother had and felt I'd let her down a bit so decided to take her on the cable car up to the top of the ski slope just for fun!

By pure chance there were two newspaper journalists (from different newspapers) with their families so as soon as we got back the BBC news TV crew met us at the airport and were interviewing people coming off the plane.  The story has been in loads of newspapers and I had a phonecall from ITV news yesterday asking to interview me and they came to my house yesterday and I was then on the news at 6! 

What a weekend we had!

It was only saved thanks to the airline (Thomson).

The Travel company Transun unfortunately now have to deal with horrendous publicity and complaint letters from 188 passengers - I hope they have as good a time dealing with them as we did standing around on our own in minus 35degree temperatures!

At least the stress of the weekend made me forget about my fear of flying on the way home!!


Thursday, 9 December 2010

Fear of flying

On Saturday I'm hoping to take Lily to Lapland (which is at the very top of Finland) to see the 'real' Father Christmas.

I took Seth a few years ago and it was amazing - he had such a great time and I got to see the Northern Lights which was just incredible.  We both had certificates for Crossing the Arctic Circle which Seth thought was really cool!

My only problem is I hate flying.  I'm terrified and have already got a headache and an upset stomach. 

I know I'm a fool to put myself through this but if I didn't I'd never get to go anywhere plus Saturday is all about Lily and her having a truly magical and memorable day.  I know this may seem an extravagant trip so I'm keen to point out that we are not 'flashy' people at all - as I've left it til last minute to book there's a big discount and it's such a fantastic experience for children that I'm willing to make sacrifices elsewhere - beans on toast for me for the next few weeks!

I never used to be scared of flying but since I've had the children my anxiety levels are through the roof.

Anyone else out there with an age induced fear of flying (or just anyone with a ton of common sense) who can offer me some advice  to help ease my churning belly??!!

This is no joke - I need some serious shaking and a good slap to sort myself out!


Friday, 3 December 2010

Lily's bedroom decorated for Christmas

Lily has been really keen to decorate her bedroom for Christmas.

She loves crafting so has been drawing pictures of snowflakes and Santa and has stuck them all over her bedroom door - they have been banned from the walls!

She really wanted a small tree in her room and had pointed out a white tinsel tree which I did consider but decided to have a go at making her a white 'twig tree' instead.

My husband never complains when I rope him in to help me with a little project.

He cut some straightish branches off a tree in our garden for me.  We laid them out on the floor and he cut them to size for me - one long one for the 'stem' then four more each decreasing in width to go across the tree.

I glued them into place first with my hot glue gun and then tied them in place with string.

After it was all nice and secure I painted the whole thing white and Lily gave it the finishing coat.

I cut a piece of white linen and left the edges raw to make a sort of snowy table runner.

I love my black(ish) florist bucket which I've had for years.  I have a smaller zinc pot which I had planned on using but it looked better in the florist bucket.  We wrote Ho Ho Ho down the front in chalk.

The Christmas stocking is made from vintage French fabric - I bought it at a Christmas Market in Bath (historic city in England) a few years ago.  It's used just for decoration as we use Christmas sacks I made years ago for their stocking fillers.

This picture is one of a few which normally hang above her drawers but I took them down as it all looked too busy with the tree in front.  I kept this one out though as it's of a child praying and I just love it.

I also kept the little china shoes out as I think they are adorable and they fit with the red and white colour scheme.

We also put her Maileg bunnies on the other side (mainly to fill up the blank space) but also because we thought they looked cute.

We then had fun going through our many decorations picking out ones which were small and either red or white. 

To finish it off I bought some battery operated tiny flashing lights which we wound around the central stem.  The battery pack is hidden behind the bucket.

Lily is delighted with her tree.
I think it turned out quite cute too!

I'm really sorry about the terrible photos - she wanted me to take them tonight!
She inherited my ability to be patient obviously!


Thursday, 2 December 2010

A bit more Christmas decorating

Either side of my fireplace we have white open shelved units.

Today I decorated the one on the right.

I used my little fake tree that I bought last year.
I love the zinc pot it sits in.
I decorated it with mercury glass hearts which I've been selling at parties and fairs this year - I have a few of these left so if anyone wants to buy one just let me know (they are £3.50 each).  I also used some favourite white wooden birds and metal snowflakes and a few other little white decorations.

Some large pine cones which I have had for years and years.  I never tire of them.

Some Pottery Barn reindeer candlesticks (I have 4 of these as I bought some in Canada a few years ago and my sister went to America a couple of years later and bought me two back not knowing I already had some).  The other two are on the other unit facing these two!

And even more mercury glass of course - some baubles in a hurricane lamp and some more candle holders.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our house!

Lily and I started a new Christmas project (involving branches off a tree in our garden) for her bedroom last night.  Hopefully we'll get that finished tomorrow and she can proudly reveal her 'new' Christmas tree.

Linking this up to:
Christmas vignette party at Southern Hospitality


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Nest giveaway over at Another Manic Mom Day

Amy over at Just Another Manic Mom Day blog is having a 12 days of Christmas giveaway which I'm participating in.

For a chance to win one of my Moose pillows (plus a ton of other stuff) head over to Amy's to enter.

Good luck