I got 99 First World problems…

‘Tis the season for over-indulgence, as Husband and I were discussing the other day. We’re trying to get ski-fit for our holiday later this month, but Christmas parties keep getting in the way. Which made us think of how lucky we are, because we’re trying not to eat too much, as opposed to scrabbling for food and safety. Gives you pause, doesn’t it?

IMAG0415_1On the ski front, there is no snow yet where we’re going (France). After the freak cold front, we’ve had a freak warm front , and it looks like any hope I have of cross-country skiing are going out the window rather sharpish. So it looks like we’re just going to have to ice-skate and hang out and do family things. Ewwwwwww 😀 Perhaps now is a good time to teach DD to play poker?

And back in London, the Icelandic Yule lads are making their way down the mountain; the first one brought DD a fantastic new helmet – ya know, for all that snowboarding she’s probably not going to be doing? Perhaps she can invent a new sport? Riding the chair lift and coming back downhill on a cafeteria tray?

See what I mean about 99 first world problems?

How’s your holiday season panning out?

24 December

I struggled with the title. I really couldn’t think of a good one to encapsulate everything I wanted to write about.

I’m typing on my phone. Ah, the wonders of modern technology and ubiquitous free WiFi. My husband snores indelicately next to me and DD is sitting on her bed watching The Big Bang theory, also courtesy of free and fast WiFi. We are tuckered out after sightseeing for most of today and a big, late lunch. Belgium, like most of Europe, does its main feasting session on the 24th evening. So come 6pm, it’s pot noodles and some questionable clementines. I jest. The pizza place is open. We’ll be fine.

DD is miffed that we forgot to bring gifts with us, even though we’d opened most of ours already (in London). Enter caustic mother who reminds her kindly that there will be children getting zilch. This season brings out a lovely colour in me.

I get frustrated by the guilt hemming me in from every quarter, exhorting me to do more, give more. Brussels has been a good antidote. Everything seems to be running as normal. No last minute crazed shoppers. No panic buying. Just lots of glühwein and waffles at the markets. Perhaps I’m just a tourist looking in, and there are hordes of people looking for the last minute Belgian equivalent of cranberry sauce or gravy granules. But the general vibe seems to be quite relaxed. (Yes, I’m wilfully ignoring the many armed guards I’ve seen patrolling the streets. I’d like to think their visibility might deter any potential stupidity).

I’ve digressed, haven’t I? I wanted to talk about gifts. The gifts which don’t come wrapped. Like time, and laughter. Focus on the people you want to focus on. Let the other stuff go. When you give a gift, let that go, too. You can’t control the emotions of the receiver, just focus on your emotions when you bought the gift. When you wrapped it. DD gave a homeless man a clementine from her stash the other day. She wasn’t expecting anything in return. She just let the clementine go.

I wish I could be more like that. Just let the clementine go. Not expect things in return. Not base my peace of mind on someone else’s approval or acceptance of my gifts. Whatever they may be.

I’m going to end this by wishing you a happy supermoon tomorrow night, wherever you may be. I hope you enjoy most of the people, most of the food and most of the gifts. Hey, I’m realistic.

Joyeux Noël from Brussels!

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Yule 2015 – mellow sounds

mellowIf you’re needing something less upbeat and my sugar-happy tunes aren’t doing it for ya,  here are some of my favourite songs for darker nights…

  1. Song for a Winter’s Night – Sarah McLachlan
  2. One Little Christmas Tree – Stevie Wonder
  3. Rudy – The Be Good Tanyas
  4. Mistletoe – Colbie Caillat
  5. The Holly & The Ivy – David Francey
  6. O Holy Night – Tracy Chapman
  7. Auld Lang Syne – Mairi Cam
  8. Christmas Must Be Tonight – The Band
  9. Maybe this Christmas – Ron Sexsmith
  10. Christmas Song – Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
  11. Christmas Day – Dido
  12. Long December – Counting Crows
  13. Christmas For Two – Sixpence None The Richer

Between Wednesday & Friday, I organised and managed the wrapping, packing and despatch of over 400 copies of the January edition of the magazine. It came down to the wire but we made it with ten minutes to spare. Lovely blogger friends, if I have a crazy idea like this next year, please remind me AND STOP ME! 🙂

Yule 2015 – upbeat sounds

IMAG0421_BURST002_1My fabulously wonderful friend Jillian lives all the way across the ocean in Canada. It sucks. However, we manage to keep in touch and stay friends across the miles using many, many methods. Notes, FB messages, Instagram, and music. Ya heard me. Music.

From 2006 to 2012, Jill made us four Christmas CDs – she’s slacked off in recent years citing the fact that we’ve run out of good music. Possibly true.

So I am going to give you my favourites across two posts, ranging from happy to sombre, and if we’ve missed any good ones, please let me know so I can add them to the next compilation!

UPBEAT:

  1. Sleigh Ride – KT Tunstall
  2. I Saw Three Ships – Sting
  3. Santa’s Lost His Mojo – Jeremy Lister
  4. Shimmy Down The Chimney – Alison Krauss
  5. O Holy Night – Chantal Kreviazuk
  6. Silent Night – Sixpence None The Richer
  7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan
  8. Baby, it’s cold outside – Dean Martin
  9. The Fairytale of New York – The Pogues
  10. Mary Had a Baby – Bruce Cockburn
  11. Christmas Time – Smashing Pumpkins
  12. Merry Christmas Everyone! – Shakin’ Stevens
  13. Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
  14. Run Run Rudolph – Chuck Berry
  15. Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses

BLUESY:

  1. Go Tell it On the Mountain – The Blind Boys of Alabama with Tom Waits
  2. The River – Indigo Girls
  3. Cool Yule – Louis Armstrong
  4. White Christmas – Otis Redding
  5. Blue Christmas – Lady Antebellum

 

 

 

 

Feeling the joy!

It is a fact universally acknowledged (within my circle of friends & family) that I love Yuletide. I love the lights, I love the music, I love the food. There is something indescribable which swoops over me every year, and calms the frenetic beating of my anxious heart. It infuses my baking. It makes me sing. It makes the crap grey London weather bearable. I don’t think I’d like to live in a world without ‘jól’.

This week included one fun work party (such good food!) and one Christingle concert. DD did some singing with some schoolmates – it was pretty amazing. Husband only slightly killed the mood by whispering, “Huh, give ’em pitchforks and they could stand in for the KKK,” when they held their lit candles in a circle round the congregation. Of course, I giggled. 

The rest of the time away from here I’ve spent crafting, knitting, baking, and showing admirable restraint when decorating the house.

What are you up to? What are your go-to holiday favourites?

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I recycled magazines into wrapping and gift envelopes!

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Husband made a tree! Every julepynt on it has a story.

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Sugar cookies with icing sugar say YULE

‘Tis the season of conflict

Sorry, folks. I’ve had enough. Every which way I turn, I’m being bombarded with another message or update of some disaster, man-made or otherwise. There are children freezing and IMAG0397starving, waiting to be allowed in to Europe, having left behind everything in the homelands. There are children freezing and starving in the UK, because the current party in power has made the poor, poorer and the
rich, richer. The shootings in Paris. The shootings in America. The floods in India. I’ve had to take a break from almost all media, social or otherwise, to not fall down a crazy panic-anxiety-depression spiral. I’ve been knitting myself calm. I’ve worked on my Pinterest Christmas board. I have drunk a LOT of herbal teas.

But I still get requests for aid in my inbox and by snail mail. And I feel guilt. So much guilt. For being able to afford a decent Christmas. For being able to afford to have a holiday at Christmas. For being safe. And warm. And I’ve had just about enough guilt now.

I love this time of year. I love the lights, and the silver and gold, and just the wonderful slow-down (in my family). We’ve never been big on the gift-giving tradition as a family, but when it comes to food and vegging out with movies, we do that like champs for the two weeks between 18 December and New Year’s Day. I cannot and will not give up my joy in these moments.

So what’s the alternative? I will continue to give to charity via my bank account every month, but this holiday season, DD & I have hatched more immediate & productive plan. DD gets a visit from the Icelandic Yule lads every night beginning on 12 December. They always leave her something little in her sock, like fun stickers, or a lip balm, or a bookmark. This year, we’re going to imitate the Yule lads. We’re going fill a box (or maybe boxes) with seasonal goodies (they have to be dried or canned, so we’ll have to get creative), and take it to our local food bank so another family can enjoy a good Christmas, too. I show my love by feeding people, so this idea makes perfect sense to me. Doesn’t charity begin at home?

How are you handling all the dire news? Do you ever feel completely helpless and hopeless about the state of the world? How do you put things in perspective for yourself? For your children?

One Week On…

It’s been a week since Friday 13 November. What a day, what a week. I have taken the last week off from most social media and news updates, and even took a break from reading blog posts from friends.

I just needed to re-group, pull myself together, and not fall down the spiral of thinking the world is a pretty horrific place. Yes, as humans, we do some pretty darn awful things to each other. But I have seen enough examples of goodness, kindness and humanity to resist tarring everyone with the same brush, and for my own sanity, needed to avoid seeing anything to the contrary. 

IMAG0337_2Naive? Perhaps. But it’s worked. I’m still a bit jumpy about leaving the house and acknowledging the possibility that London may be next, but on the whole, I’m OK. 

I’m facing forward to Thanksgiving/husband’s birthday and the start of Yuletide (which means baking goodies like these edible ornaments). And catching up on all the posts I’ve missed. Expect some seriously delayed comments!

Where’d I go? NaNoWriMo!

I’ve got the Dixie Chicks in my ears and I’ve plugged away for the last three nights to pull out 2050 words for NaNoWriMo. Nowhere near the 1667 per day recommendation, but 2050 more than I had three days ago, so I’m winning. 

It’s been a whirlwind week and I had to take yesterday off to rest myself and get over a serious case of tired-and-achey.

Thursday was a day off to do our dental and eye checks, and then DD and I had a delicious dim sum lunch before heading home to vegetate. By the time I woke up Friday morning, every bone in my body ached like I had been slammed into concrete. My toes felt broken. Not a good sign, as I was due to go to the long-anticipated U2 concert with BB, who was over from Paris. Soldiering on through the day, I was wiped by the time I got home to get ready to go out again. But go out we did, after a mini-meltdown. (Are you sensing my meltdowns seem to be occurring with almost precise regularity?)

#U2 #U2ietour2015U2 was nothing short of spectacular. Emotional. I found myself laughing and crying. Raw and exhilarated. Young and oh so very old. I was spent by the time I got home later that night (well, technically, VERY early the next morning).

Saturday was a day packed with errands and the annual greed-fest known as Halloween. DD went as the ghost of a Pink Lady from Grease. Don’t ask. It was creative of her; she tries so hard to be girly but she has a definite Goth edge. We walked around for over two hours before I lost the will to live and begged to go home. When do they get too old to trick or treat, or old enough to go by themselves?

I cannot for the life of me remember what we did on Sunday, other than troop out with half of London to see the Oxford Street lights go on that evening. It’s officially OK to talk about Christmas now. Just in time! I need something to look forward to, and distract me from waiting to hear about MBA applications. 

It feels like it’s going to be a rough month and I have no idea why. It could be because I am messing around with my eating habits, which triggers my other auto-immune condition. It’s just stupid, I know. I am learning to accept that some days, just getting out of bed is a victory. Some days I can fly and some days I have concrete blocks on my feet. I haven’t got the energy to do a root cause analysis. Perhaps NaNoWriMo will get me through the month?

How are you feeling? Are you doing NaNoWriMo or NaNoBloPo? Have you planned out and scheduled your posts?