Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pom Pom's Childlike Christmas

Pom Pom says that this was their tree last year. It really got me thinking about trees for her Christmas blog party.

This time last year I was getting ready to fly off to Paris with Cooking Catherine to stand awed beneath this beauty in Galeries Lafayette. But actually, my clearest memory from my own childhood Christmases is of sitting under our tree with my brother. I was telling him Christmas stories; I may even have been telling him The Christmas Story, such a serious little thing was I!
What I most remember is the very real awe that the lights could be so beautiful, that such a varied range of decorations, from ancient and gleaming and spinning Santa to peacock in some authentic feeling down, could become festive characters in whatever tale you wanted to invent.

So my first ingredient for a childlike Christmas is any tree, with any lights, and an assorted range of hanging things, preferably with a story, real or imagined!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

First Sunday in Advent: Hope

This Advent the strawberries are hoping for: snow, happiness, answers and inspiration, and kneeling places...

In Search of our Kneeling Places

In each heart lies a Bethlehem
an inn where we must ultimately answer
whether there is room or not.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we experience our own advent in his.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we can no longer look the other way
conveniently not seeing stars
not hearing angel voices
We can no longer excuse ourselves by busily
tending our sheep or our kingdoms.

This Advent let's go to Bethlehem
And see this thing that the Lord has made known to us.
In the midst of shopping sprees
let's ponder in our hearts the Gift of Gifts.
Through the tinsel
let's look for the gold of the Christmas Star.
In the excitement and confusion, in the merry chaos,
let's listen for the brush of angels' wings
This Advent, let's go to Bethlehem
and find our kneeling places.

Ann Weems Kneeling in Bethlehem

Pause in Advent chez Floss

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Home from Preparing for Advent

I brought my globes home from our third annual Preparing for Advent morning for mums. I have my Advent words written in the one on the bottom left, and will therefore fear no stress!

I brought my craft home, although actually Ingrid made mine- I was having too much fun with the wire clippers.

I brought this year's Christmas recipe booklet home.

I brought my berry branches home,

and our wedding candle.

Coping with Christmas by G. R. Collins

And there were in that same country, children keeping watch over their socks by firelight. And lo, Santa Claus came upon them: and the glory of his presence shone 'round about them, and they were sore enthralled. And Santa said to them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great gifts which shall be unto all people (with money to afford them). For unto you is cooked this day in the oven of your kitchen a turkey, which is surrounded by pudding and cakes and presents: and this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the gifts wrapped in sparkling paper and lying in a pile under the tree.

And suddenly there was with the children a multitude of earthly relatives, praising each other and saying, "Thank you, this is just what I wanted." And it came to pass as Santa and the relatives were gone away into their own homes, the parents said to one another, "Let us now go even unto bed to avoid this mess which the kids and guests have made known unto us." And they came with haste and found peace, quiet and rest lying in a bed until morning.

Pause in Advent starts tomorrow!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Thrifty Thursday's Top Tips for Christmas

Thrifty highly recommends that you get your hands on a copy of this book before next Thursday. A certain Internet auction place has 65 copies ranging in price from 99p to £24.99, and some even have this cover, which is by far the most satisfying edition because of the embossed cover and the gorgeous pictures inside.

Thrifty bought this in December 1997, and bought copies for all her friends that year. She spent the whole of Christmas Day devouring it, and was consequently late for dinner at her fiance's family gathering. Thankfully he still married her.

Last year these two read it in installments for the first time to their children who raced to bed all month to be ready for the next chapter. Even on Christmas Eve was this the main reason for bedtime!

It is the story of a magical advent calendar told in 24 chapters so that the book itself becomes a magical advent calendar. You can read little bits here and here and here.

Another Tracing Rainbows production!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Preparing for Advent

Next Saturday morning Cooking Catherine and I will be running our now third annual Preparing for Advent, which is exciting! I can't even pretend to be nervous, though I should be, because it has become my main point of reference for the "whole Christmas season"- Grinch semi-quote there. And Angela is running her Top Tips again, thank goodness, as well as sharing a very fine cake. And Pom Pom is doing Child-Like Christmas starting this week, and Floss is wonderfully hosting Pause in Advent again. It's an exciting time to read blogs! But I also like to keep in step Advent Conspiracy, because it pretty much sums the whole thing up for us here.

Friday, 18 November 2011

This week's Sorry

Goes to Royal Mail. Last Thursday they delivered a package, but I wasn't in. Who knows why? They took it away again and left the standard note- too large for letter box; collect at Mallusk.

Well, obviously we've been busy with exciting things. I go to Mallusk on Wednesday. It's cold up on that hill! I wait and wait and wait for nice, young man to look in package room. It's not there. He looks in other package room. Not there either. I remain calm. I tell him it is a Jamie Oliver cookbook ordered as part of a wedding present. Sympathetic noises. Ring back tomorow or Friday.

I ring today. Same nice, young man. No package has turned up. Given number to ring. Automatated answer machine. Only result will be claim form sent out for compensation. Mags rings nice, young man back. Lengthy, frank and open discussion on how hard it would be to get guys further up hill to look under bench in the van. Passed on- which transpires to mean note on yellow sticky on office window for next shift. None of whom work further up hill with vans. We discuss emotive nature of missing wedding present.

Drive PC to town. PC answers Mags's mobile. Nice, young man has found missing package. Nice, young man has taken on mission of salvaging wedding present on feeling the shame of no-one being available to check under bench in van.

And if Margaret wants to come up and collect the Kelloggs free cereal bowl that her children collected vouchers for all summer then it's here at the desk for her now...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

More from Oregon

Apologies to No Spring Chicken for blatantly poaching this picture, but she has the most delightful Willows post today, so do nip over!!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Reflections on actually meeting a bloggiste

I have had a most interesting and fabulous weekend! There wasn't the slightest trace of apprehension beforehand, and not even the daunting task of making room for an esteemed guest could diminish the excitement. I think because Ang gives so much of herself in what she writes, and because she is so generous of her time with emails, meeting her was like picking up a thread of conversation that had been but momentarily on hold!

At the start all was just so deeply, deeply interesting- being able to hear more, learn more, share more, laugh more. It is blogging at its pinnacle, I think, to move from a friendship that happens in sporadic episodes into a face to face encounter that joins the dots and fills the whole with colour.

Then it struck me! I was no longer composing little vignettes from a nearly fictionalised land. These were my real boys, this was my very real house, that was my altogether real and fallible cooking! And so I felt humbled, not in a negative way, but certainly the weekend gave me a new perspective on what I put down here in fraise.

So thank you, Angela Almond, for visiting us in the Land of the (sometimes as you now know tearful) Strawberries! Thak you for all that amazing treasure pouring forth from your suitcase for us! Thank you for the just as amazing treasure of words and encouragement and wisdom that poured forth on me! Thank you for letting me see us through your kind eyes! It is good to visit the edges of your land in safe company!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Keeping Ang out of trouble

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge crossed.

Giant's Causeway admired.

Corrymeela experienced.

Crochet mastered.

But there will be a prize for the one who can most accurately guess what on earth she is doing here!!

Friday, 11 November 2011

We're tracing rainbows

The angel has landed! We have done St George's Market, City Hall, the Spinning Wheel, Avoca. We have been soaked to the skin and beyond at the school gates and taken refuge in the Cosy Chair. We have made Egyptian bowls, eaten beef and Guinness stew, because Guinness is good for you, and drunk more tea than even I thought possible. And we have been to the Lyric to see not one but two plays, one of which turned out to be a school reunion. And now we are most definitely going to bed! It has been a day fabulous beyond expressing.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


About the Advent in August thing. I have a lot on my mind! Cleaning the bathroom mostly. I shall do that now. Forthwith. Tout de suite (see Frances, French is terribly useful...)I wonder where the spare duvet is?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Greatitudes 442 - 450

There is very muchly a lot to be thankful for this week. The Willows have arrived in Minnesota. They are snuggling in front of a wood fire drinking precious tea, when not out in ancient Willows, photos of which I find thrilling! Thank you, Lisa, for taking them so much to your heart!

My North American Geography is transformed by this Extremely Grand Tour! And I will post the Itinerary soon; I'm just so afraid of getting it wrong!

Our aeronautically clever Prince Charming informed us this week that the MTV A-Listers would have paid £30,000 per day for parking their private jets at the city's airports. Just one, very big, reason among other very big recession-beating reasons to be excited that such a big show came to such a small place! But we here in the Land of the (sometimes tearful)Strawberries have another visitor reason to be thankful...

On Friday VIV arrives, the Very Important Visitor for whom I may have to resort to doing some cleaning, tomorrow! Yes, we do actually really have Angela coming to stay in the Frozen North! Expect rainbows!

Cooking Catherine was drinking coffee here this afternoon (always something to thankful for at around four in the afternoon), and we were discussing this impending treat. And we marvelled at how bloggisme creates a very real community- of stimulation, encouragement, humour, thought, and ultimately friendship that would just never have been possible in any other way. This is very special, and thank you to all who share a part of their journey here in the shifting air of Broadband.

The reason why CC was here this afternoon comes down to the joyous fact that it's that time of year again. The one we all look forward to. The morning filled with meaning and laughs and food. This year's Preparing for Advent is just 17 sleeps away! (OH!) So, if anyone will be in the Greater Belfast area on Saturady 26th August, let me know and I shall email you an invitation- and that includes you, Lovely LE from the school gates- I haven't managed to see you yet! More delicious cooking with CC, another two Christmas crafts with this year's resident expert, and fraise, doing all the little bits inbetween!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Friday Cake Bake

When I got in from work at 10.10pm on Thursday night PC had made two apple crumbles and the aroma on coming through the front door was very ood. (That's good really.) I am quite sure that they qualify as Friday Cake Bakes since it would have been breakfast time in Australia.

We're having a very quiet and mellow weekend here in the suburbs of Belfast, during which I have given in and started my Christmas shopping. One drive across the City required, and the traffic was strangely busy.

Today PC and Mattman cycled up and round and down through our local wood, while Jo and I continued the leaf raking process. It's good to keep energetic young men gainfully employed, I am discovering.

We're cosily ensconced this evening, with candles lit and a warming curry on the hob.

And no doubt we'll do the usual round of Sunday things tomorrow, with school back after the half-term break on Monday. All very homely and ordinary.

The soft voice of the radio weather lady said earlier that tonight will be cold, but with star-filled skies. Well, that will be nice for Belfast!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

I knew that bloggisme was a truly fabulous thing! All that sense of something brewing and there you all were! In November Philosophy of Lists will be sitting outside EVERY day drinking tea. Angela has discovered that A Frugal Mrs is decluttering three things EVERY day. And to crown it all the (should be bottled for the mental health of the universe) Left-handed Housewife will be blogging EVERY day.

I am inspired. All will be well. By the end of the month, with all this new energy, I will own a pair of stripey tights, have started a ripple blanket and run our third Preparing for Advent Day. I will, I will! And I will have thought of something appropriate to send to Frances as her prize!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

1st November 2011

I typed "portentious" into Google Images because I have been thinking all day that today had a most portentious feel about it. Significant in a muchly important but inexplicable way. However, 'twould appear that portentious is all broody and bad. So I typed in "potential" instead.

Now this is a word that I am coming to Despise, and will happily correspond thereon with anyone who has absolutely nothing else to do, even ironing. But the above made me Laugh Outrageously (if silently because I think they're all in bed now- why? Don't they know how portentious it all is today?)

So then I thought I'd try "Blessings" because that's what Angela always finishes with and she's so great. I think I'll just go to bed now too!

Time stands still

 Hello! Sending you all lots of love from Northern Ireland, where nothing much changes just as everything changes, as usual. Time has stood ...