Sunday, December 26, 2010

Don't hurry past Christmas

"On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me"

We had a lovely start to the Christmas season. Gently we entered into the celebration at Grace Anglican Church in Joondalup for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Then it was champagne, fresh fruit and homemade yoghurt, wonderful fruit toast and coffee for breakfast. Opening presents from under the tree. Lunch of salmon or beef steaks and salads with DH's family including his dad who is in his 91st year.

Yesterday we had lunch in the park with my extended family, now grown by the addition of three lovely new baby girls this year. There is much to celebrate.

Most of us know that song quoted at the beginning of the post here -about the twelve days of Christmas. The Church has a Christmas season, which begins on Christmas day, and then goes on to Epiphany on the 6th January. It is a lovely time of the year. No need to hurry past the one celebration of Christmas Day. We can keep the decorations up until Epiphany, use the time to send those letters we didn't manage to write before Christmas, and catch up with friends and family members. We didn't make it to see the Christmas lights, so I hope to do that very soon.

Both DH and myself have this time away from work as leave, so it means a whole week of relaxing and resting and contemplation. It is traditional for us to use some of the time for tidying up our house-sorting the linen cupboard for example, or the tax documents we need to keep. It is also a time of looking back on what was achieved this year, and what we hope for in the next 12 months.

We will be off to New Norcia for their Ecumenical Carols service next weekend. In the wonderful relaxing times after Christmas Day it is lovely to sing the stories of Christmas and enjoy the traditions with friends and family.

I hope that you too find time to linger with the Christmas season, to find some rest and relaxation and spend time with family and friends.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Home made gift

I have made a gift for a special relative, and I hope she likes it.

There are two parts. One is a large jar of a concoction which is called "Jarrah Coffee" here in Australia -instant coffee with other flavours etc. It is expensive, but I found a recipe to make it at home and the ingredients are easy to come by and not very expensive at all.

The recipe is 2 parts of coffee whitener, 1 part instant coffee powder (I added coffee granules as well), 2 parts powdered milk and one part caster sugar. Just add water, stir and get a creamy and sweet coffee. Not everyone likes this but the person I have in mind for this gift does.

I made some biscotti to go with it. Just found a whole website dedicated to biscotti recipes! I made almond biscotti. They were not hard to make, and taste yummy!

Then I wrapped it all up in some home made wrapping paper, from an idea I got from someone else's blog (sorry, can't remember where). I have some old Vogue magazines with beautiful photographs and glossy paper, so I cut out and taped several pages together. I used a story about cafe's in Vienna which I thought was most appropriate for the gift. The coffee mix is wrapped in pictures of elegant china cups.

I hope that your preparations for Christmas are going well, and that you too, find time for a coffee and a biscuit in the midst of the last week. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Take care of yourself!

In the midst of the Advent season, with Christmas celebrations nearing, many people find that they are getting tired and fractious. Too many parties and end of the year celebrations to attend (parents with school age children know what I mean!) and too much stress about the preparations for Christmas.

Over at Flylady the Challenge of the Month is pampering yourself. Over at the Simple Savings network we have gone one step further and challenged ourselves to find ways to indulge ourselves which cost under $0.50. Lots of people have contributed ideas in what has become a very nurturing and positive thread on how to take care of ourselves and give ourselves a little delight each day.

I thought I would add a few of my own ideas, for feeling calm and relaxed in this season, as prompts for others:

1. Pampering myself is much easier if the basics have been done around the house -the bed is made, the dishes washed, I know what we are having for dinner, and any 'hot spots' which are accumulating junk have been dealt with. Most of this can be done in less than 15 minutes, but it makes such a difference to my feeling of calm it is definitely worth it. This is very much a Flylady habit and I would encourage you to make it your own.

2. Lists! Making a list of what I have got already in the way of Christmas presents, and what I might still need to organise, makes me feel calm and in control. My next step-for this week - is to write down the ingredients I will need for Christmas and Boxing Day foods, and then make sure that I have them ahead of time. I can feel OK about sitting down with a magazine or book if I think everything is organised.

3. Non-Screen Time! Now, I love blogs and Facebook and such as much as anyone, but I do find myself more relaxed if I ensure some non-screen time -and especially with some old fashioned reading. Recently I scored 45 craft magazines on Freecycle -just the kind of thing to enjoy with a cuppa and my feet up-and as they were free they were definitely an indulgence under $0.50! Maybe you could swap a book or set of magazines with a friend as a way of getting in some non-screen time.

4. Looking at things with new eyes can bring a little indulgence.
I started using a scented cream I found in the cupboard -with the title "leg rub" I guess I thought of it as something I might use when I strained a muscle. Actually it is a lovely moisturizer scented with rosemary, and it makes my legs feel refreshed when I use it. The perfume is quite pleasant and particularly nice to put on at bed time. I may as well use it up -rather than leave it in the cupboard where eventually it will go stale or dry up or something.

In the same vein, I was given a brown candle recently, by someone who didn't like it. I lit it and found it has a lovely vanilla scent which I am enjoying very much. I have it on the dining room in one of those chimney type candle holders and it is perfuming the whole place quite nicely.

Today I put together a silk flower arrangement and put it on my bedside table, where it will be in all its glory until after I put the Christmas decorations away. In its new home I get to see it every night and every morning, and it feels quite special to have it there.

Making a cup of real leaf tea and sipping it in a china cup can do the same thing -make us feel special.

I would love to have your comments here about other ideas you have for keeping calm and relaxed and feeling pampered. Please write!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Simplifiying Christmas -what we are doing here

1. We tell each other what we want as a present. In fact, we make lists with cheap and not-quite-so cheap ideas so that we can avoid spending money on things no-one wants or needs. We do not believe that "if you love someone you can read their mind and so know what they want"!

2. We are giving experiences instead of things to some people. There are some people in everyone's life who don't really need anything much -but who would really enjoy going to a movie, a concert or going out to a dinner somewhere. In the case of my DH and I we are giving each other a season subscription to the WA Symphony Orchestra. Usually we would hesitate to just add the concerts to our entertainment budget, but as a Christmas gift it has its own budget! We will enjoy these concerts all year.

3. We have planned a simple Christmas celebration schedule, which spreads the festivities out over two days -Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We had found that our extended family was getting exhausted trying to see both of their families on Christmas Day. Children were getting toys on Christmas morning yet did not have time to play with them because they spent so much time in the car. My extended family meets on Boxing Day, which is much more relaxed and enjoyable. This year we are going to have a picnic in the park -there are 28 adults and 14 children on the invitation list!

4. We have got used to a simple style of Christmas menu,
which allows most of the work to be done the day before. It is usually very hot in Western Australia on December 25th so we enjoy lots of salads and fruit. This year we are just adding to these a grilled salmon steak or beef steak -grilled on the barbecue, served with a special sauce. So everyone enjoys it -even the cook. The point of the meal is to be with our family and friends, not about trying to win the culinary Olympics. You will note that I am not a traditionalist at all when it comes to Christmas -we don't like turkey for example, and I personally detest plum pudding, especially on a hot day. You can do what ever you like at Christmas -there is no Christmas Police force who will check up on what you do!

5. We select several charities and give donations on behalf of all of us. This year I am going to choose Caritas for overseas aid, and Bartholemew's House (local homeless shelter) but you might think of Oxfam and the Salvation Army, or any charity of your choice. Giving to others makes Christmas meaningful.

6. We make time to enjoy the experiences which make up a Christmas season.
  • My DH is singing in the UWACS performance of Handel's Messiah on the 19th December for example. What would Christmas be without Handel's Messiah?
  • We are marking the Advent season with our Advent Calendar and our Advent Wreath.
  • We are writing cards and letters to old friends.
  • We will go out to look at those gardens nearby which have decorated with lights for Christmas. ( not something we choose to do, for the sake of the planet) but we can still appreciate the efforts of others.
  • We always watch the Carols by Candlelight (an Australian tradition) from Melbourne's Myer Music Bowl on Christmas eve, then go out to Midnight Mass.
There are some great resources to help make Christmas special and simple. Here is one I ejnoy enjoy.

The Advent Conspiracy