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Thursday 31 December 2015

I repeat

I posted this as my New Year's Resolution last year.  I stand by it.

Sunday 27 December 2015

A Bear in a Chair

When I was a little girl I had my very own throne.  It was a child size Lloyd loom chair in gold.  Then it disappeared and the next time I saw it was in my sister's house  for the benefit of my nephew.  And then it disappeared.  After my sister died my nephew found it in the loft and was going to put it in a skip(!!!) but I claimed it and since then it has been in my sitting room for the benefit of any passing small child.

But now it has a new tenant.  I've been in a Santa Sack Swap this Christmas and this gorgeous bear has claimed the chair.  She is called Linda after my wonderful swap mate whom I've never met.  She's made of upcycled fabrics, predominantly table cloths and she is GORGEOUS!

This is the first year I've taken part in Santa swaps and as always I've gone OTT and joined two, this one and a Twelve Days of Christmas Presents swap which will last until January 5th.  Some of the things from each will be appearing on here.  I had great fun making my two sets of presents to send but I'm having even greater fun unwrapping the things I have been sent.  Thank you, Linda and Marlene!

Thursday 24 December 2015

One more sleep

I don't know how people who are parents survive Christmas Eve.  Every child I know is as high as a kite.

This afternoon I will be taking a Christingle service in a small village a few miles away.  I love this service but this is the first time since 2009 that I have had the opportunity to take one.   Few churches have this service on Christmas Eve but I found that parents really appreciated the chance for their children to have some spiritual input on this very exciting day.   There will probably be only a couple of dozen people there but  I hope I can send them home with some sense of awe and wonder as well as their (at that stage probably sweetless) Christingle 

For all of us Christmas Eve is Just One More Sleep.  For the moment I shall leave you with this lovely nativity set which is currently an Advent set as the woman still strokes her own swollen belly and gives the whole scene a feeling of expectation.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches

I love Christmas trees.  One of the highlights of Christmas when I was a child was the Saturday before Christmas when Daddy would take us to buy The Tree.  We always had a real tree with a fairy on the top and lots of baubles and tinsel and fairy lights and lametta (can one still get lametta?) and home made creations.  The next highlight after buying the tree was seeing if the fairy lights still worked. They never did!
Right up until my retirement I had a real tree.  My vicarage had a small conservatory off the sitting room so I could put the tree in there without risking Fido getting needles in his paws or baubles in his mouth.  When I retired and downsized I reluctantly decided that for his safety it would have to be an artificial tree and although Fido died a couple of years ago I have continued with my fibre optic tree and I have to admit that I love the slow colour changes.  I bought these lovely feather angels a few years ago.  They all play musical instruments ranging from trumpets and brass instruments to lutes and other strings.

This year I splashed out and treated myself to an artificial birch tree.  It seemed very odd but it certainly shows off my homemade decoration.  
And finally the traditional fir tree.  This one is outside as my contribution to the Christmas feel of our little town.

Tuesday 22 December 2015


Nearly Martha over at Nearly Martha Blogspot has said that some people have suggested that it is possible to have too many nativity sets. I am happy to report that she disagrees.

It was a totally new concept to me as I am definitely an addict.  Today's set is more of a tableau but I rather like it as it "lets the light shine through".  The light which looks like a brazier behind Mary is actually a night light and by happy serendipity the reflection on the wall behind could be the light of angels.  (OK I'e got a vivid imagination.)

Monday 21 December 2015

From Russia with love

Today's decoration is very neat and packs away into itself for it is a Russian doll nativity set.  Baby Jesus fits inside a donkey, who fits inside an angel, who fits inside Mary, who fits inside Joseph, who fits in the doll which shows all three kings.

And as an extra for today may I introduce Father Frost?  He's a sort of Russian version of Santa and my late sister brought him back from St Petersburg for me.  Morozko's garments are always decorated with geometric patterns and his tunic is down to his feet.  His hat is always red and he wears mittens.  He carries a pikestaff.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Mary's ponderings

I'm joining in with Pause for Advent hosted by Tracing rainbows.  This year I am looking at the events of Advent through the eyes of four people who saw them all those 2000 years ago.  I have thought about Ann (Jesus's granny, Mary's mum), Joseph and Elizabeth and today Mary is having her two pennorth.

I don’t know whether I’m on my head or my heels but I do know that I am very tired.  I’m so tired that I don’t know what to do with myself.

We’ve been on the road for three days now and it will be another four days at least until we reach Bethlehem.  We’ve got to go to Bethlehem because the emperor wants to count us.  Crazy!

These last nine months have been frightening.  I always thought it would be fantastic to be special to God but sometimes I’ve felt as though I was living through a nightmare.  It was OK all those months ago when that angel came. In fact it was more than OK, it was brilliant!  I suppose I was swept along by the moment but you know, even after everything that’s been happening, I’m still glad I said yes.  I was a bit scared but you can’t say no to God, can you?  But when the angel had gone reality set in.

The mornings were worst.  That’s when I was being sick.  At first I didn’t know why but before long I realised that the angel had been no dream.  I was expecting a baby.

I’ll never forget the day I told my mum about the baby.  It was awful.  She wept and she shouted at me and she pleaded with me to name the father but when I named The Father she wouldn’t believe me.  She hadn’t seen the angel so why should she?  She thought some man had been with me. 

Then she told my dad and that was even worse.  I think I’ve always been special to him and he was stunned.  He couldn’t speak to me or even look at me.  He was just so ashamed of me.

Then he had to tell Joseph.  I think he hoped that Joseph was the father but no-one knew better than Joe that he wasn’t.  My lovely Joe.  How could I hurt him so much?  He was distraught but he loves me so much that although he wouldn’t marry me he wouldn’t make a song and dance about it.

Then he had his dream and that changed everything.  At last someone believed me.  I wasn’t alone any longer.  Someone else was in on God’s plan.

He went to see my mum and dad again and told them he had changed his mind again and he wanted to marry me and he thought it would be a good idea if we were wed as soon as possible before people started to notice me so that’s what we did.  Then we went to see Elizabeth so I could help her while she had her baby.  Aunt Lizzie has always been a bit snooty and I knew she wouldn’t pass by on the opportunity to lord it over me.  Her baby was a special gift from God too as quite honestly she was past it.  Anyway, Joe came with me to hold my hand and help me face the music. 

You could have knocked me down with a feather when she came rushing out of the house shouting, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me?” 

And that changed me too.  When my angel had told me what was going to happen all I could say was, “OK, whatever God wants is fine by me”.  But went Aunt Lizzie was like that it suddenly seemed like it would be all right and I started shouting too,  "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. 

I stayed with Aunt Lizzie for quite a few weeks.  We got really close and maybe when my baby is born he’ll be able to spend time with her boy.  Joe went home but came and fetched me back and we started our married life together.  My mum and dad don’t know what to make of it all but we’re happy, they’re happy.  Sort of.

But now we’ve got to go on this journey to Bethlehem and that’s where my baby will be born.  I’d hoped I could have been at home with my mum to help me but it will have to be with strangers.  Nothing seems to be easy when you are part of God’s plan but maybe he’s got it all worked out.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Another tree

For many years I couldn't afford to buy decorations to hang on my tree so I used to make my own, maybe just wiring a few pine cones and spraying them or doing origami with scraps of paper.

These days money isn't quite so tight but I still prefer the home made sort.  Most I make for myself but this was a gift a couple of years ago.  It's a really simple idea, just a couple of triangles of fabric stitched together and stuffed but the trunk of the tree is a cinnamon stick and the star is a star anise.  Even after several years it smells wonderful

Friday 18 December 2015

One of our kings is missing

During my years of living in a large vicarage I collected quite a few nativity sets.  Some of these I gave away when I retired but many I kept.  Some are on display every Christmas but some come out one year but not the next.  I got one out today which hasn't seen the light of day for several years.

The figures are in dark wood and unfortunately don't photograph very well but I hope you can see Mary, Joseph and the baby, three shepherds, a sheep, a cow and two kings.

Only two kings?  That's right!

This set was the first I ever bought and it was a bargain because one of the kings and the donkey are missing.  I got it for very little and the saleswoman was glad to be rid of it because two models had gone walkabout.  It was only after I had bought it that I pointed out that the Bible makes no mention of three kings, just three gifts brought by Magi.  There is no mention of a donkey for Mary to ride or a stable, just a manger which may have been in a field or a cave.  

This isn't one of my favourite sets but each time I unpack it I am reminded to go and read the gospel anew. (Not that I need much reminding!)

And I am glad knowing the gospel brought me a very unusual opportunity to save a bob or two!

Thursday 17 December 2015

He's been!

No, not Santa. he's not due until the end of next week.  This gent is FAR more important than Santa.  It's Jack.  Jack has been and once again he has transformed my life.

He's put the outside tree in its bracket so anyone coming to the front door gets a welcome.

He's repaired the fence.
He's harvested some vegetables from the garden.
He's sorted my garage so I can find things.  
He's brought in my Christmas decorations.
He's cleaned my sitting room and I am especially grateful that he has cleaned the window
He's erected not one but two trees inside.

And now I am exhausted.

Getting creative 3

I was quite a busy girl when I went sewing on Monday and I made a tree!  You might think that is a feat reserved for the Almighty but Jane  is truly inspirational.  Here's how the mighty deed was accomplished.

First cut three triangles in each of two fabrics.  I chose green for one set of three and gold for the others.  My triangle have a two sides measuring aprox 9 inches and a base of 8 inches.

Put the triangles together in pairs of one of each colour, right sides together and stitch around each pair leaving a gap in the base to enable you to turn them right side out. Clip the corners and turn them right side out.  Press.   (If you have an overlocker you could be as big a cheat as me and overlock them wrong sides together but still leave a gap even though you will not need to turn them.)

Stack the three pairs so that in each case the colours face another triangle of the same colour.  Hard to explain but in my case I laid a gold triangle on the table so that there was a green triangle facing me.  I then laid the next triangle on top of that with the green side face down and the gold side upwards.  Finally I laid the third triangle on top of that with the gold side down and the green side uppermost.  (The order is thus gold, green, green gold, gold green.)

Pin this stack together then mark the central perpendicular line with tailors chalk and machine sew along it.  Stuff each of the six sections then slip stitch the gap on the bottom of each.  You will now have made a stylised tree.  

The tree can now be decorated as you want.  I used a few sequins including some rather nice star sequins for the top but I worked on the principle that less is more.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Memories of Christmas past 2

No-one who has been reading this blog for any length of time can have any doubt that my grandma was (and still is) one of my great heroines.  She was a woman who radiated goodness and common sense.  This story of her kindness was from before I was born and I was told it by the father of a friend.

This gentleman was called John Broadhurst and when he was a little boy his family lived in the same village as my grandparents.  My grandparents had a hard life but the Broadhurst family was in abject poverty.  Their father had walked out on his family of six children and their mother struggled to bring them up.  Just keeping them fed and clothed was a struggle.

One Christmas morning John was out in the village and he saw my grandmother who asked him if Father Christmas had been.  No, said John.  Father Christmas didn't come to their house.

My dear, sweet grandmother said, "Well, John,  You've just solved a mystery for me.  He came to our house and he left an extra stocking and I really didn't know who it was for.  It must have been meant for you."  So saying she went into the house and came out with a stocking containing an orange, a ball, some chocolate, a sugar mouse and a threepenny bit and John said his thank you and dashed home with his precious stocking.

None of those things was commonplace in households like my grandparents.  There would have been no extra stocking.  My grandmother looked at a small boy who had no Christmas stocking and gave him her own.

Memories of Christmas past 1

When I was a little girl my parents were not church-goers so my memories of childhood Christmas are not very holy.  I was usually involved in a nativity play at school but that was about as far as it went!

At my infant school there was, of course, a Christmas party and Santa would come along.  All we children would be gathered together in the school hall having our tea and there would be a great bang on the roof.  Santa had landed with his sleigh!  All eyes would be raised to the high windows of the big room because Santa would walk along the roof of the adjoining corridor and we could see him through the high windows.  Within minutes he would be with us and each child would receive a book from him.

He would actually have arrived in town a few days before that.  He always arrived by train at the local station and would be met by his special transport which might be a sleigh or a rocket or a train.  What ever it was would actually be on a co-op milk lorry and he would then make his way from the railway station into town.  The route would be lined by cheering children and their long suffering parents.  He would go to the local co-op where he would take up residence for about three weeks before Christmas.

One year Auntie Hettie took me to see Santa and for some reason I was given a parasol.  Parasols have never been very relevant to English Decembers but I insisted in putting it up and carrying it thus all the way home.  Scarcely had I got inside the house but Auntie Hettie sat on it!  In view of that terrible thing I think it is amazing how much I love my Auntie Hettie.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Getting creative 2

Yesterday I was sewing type crafty things.  Today I've been to Mandy's to make cards and we made some lovely ones.   The one on the right is quite a complex kind of card with flaps opening and bits to tuck in and this 'ere blogger proved herself a rather cack handed crafter!  (I suspect I have used Lincolnshire dialect there but maybe you can guess its meaning!)  

Fortunately, Mandy is very patient.  By this time in December any Christmas cards which haven't been made aren't going to be made and it was nice to get back to a birthday theme.

And in other news JACK IS COMING THURSDAY I hope!

Monday 14 December 2015

Getting creative 1

I've been out today to The Ropewalk at Barton on Humber to the studio of Jane White who runs Jane White Couture Tuition.  I've done dressmaking on and off all my life and I can honestly say that Jane is the best teacher EVER that I have had.

Just before Christmas every year she runs a special sewing day in preparation for Christmas, not making a special outfit but rather sewing things to decorate ones home or use as presents.  Today  I decided to make some decorations to hang on my tree and with great trepidation I'm writing my first ever tutorial.

Picture 1
Cut two squares of contrasting fabric.  I used 12cm squares.  if you have an overlocker put the two squares wrong sides together and overlock around.  (If you don't have an overlocker put the squares right side together, sew around leaving a small gap.  Trim the corners then turn the square right side out and slip stitch the gap closed.)  

Fold two sides of the square to the middle and catch them together in the middle with a few small stitches.  Do not cut the thread.  (Picture 1)  

Picture 2b
Picture 2a
Then fold the other sides to the middle, pushing the corners out.  Attach a button or sequin over your hand stitching.  (Pictures 2a and 2b)

Picture 3
Now poke the corners through to reveal the inner fabric.  (Picture 3)

Attach a ribbon et voila!  A small decoration to hang on your tree!  (Picture 4)
Picture 4

I don't think writing tutorials is my "thing" but maybe I'll learn!

Sunday 13 December 2015

Getting it wrong

I'm joining in  with "A Pause in Advent" which being hosted by Tracing Rainbows and I am looking at the time of waiting for Jesus's birth through the eyes of four different people.  This week it's Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist and you can read about her and Zechariah (her husband) in Luke 1.

It was a good job that Zechariah had been struck dumb before I told him that young Mary was coming to stay.  We’ve always been good godly people but ever since I got pregnant he’s had a bee in his bonnet about an angel telling him that our baby will be something a bit special.  It’s a miracle that I’m expecting at my age and that’s special enough for me but he’s gone a bit OTT.

Anyway when I said that Ann had suggested that Mary could come and give me a hand in my last few weeks before our baby is born you could see he was torn two ways.  On the one hand he thought that I needed a bit of help from another woman but he wasn’t happy about it being Mary.  She has persuaded Joseph to marry her but she was in the family way before that and the gossip is that it’s not Joe’s kid so our Mary isn’t the most respectable company a woman could have.  Fortunately, whilst I’ve been expecting Zechariah can’t say no to me, (in fact he can’t say anything) so Mary came.

Now I’ve got to be honest.  I’m not proud of this but I thought Mary would be easy to boss around a bit.  She always was an obliging sort of girl and I thought that she should be very grateful to me for taking her in.  After all, by the time she goes back to Nazareth the gossip will have died down and she can get on with married life with Joe, so really I’d be doing her a favour.  Or so I thought.  I thought she could do all the cleaning, washing and heavy stuff.  She could fetch the water.  She could wait on any guests who came to visit our baby.  She wouldn’t need paying and she should be grateful that we took her in.  The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea and you could see Zechariah coming round to my way of thinking.

So I was looking forward to her coming and kept watching out for her so the easier times could start.  Joseph was coming with her to make sure she was OK and I kept looking down the road for the first sight of them.  Eventually there she was, looking dusty and a bit dishevelled so I sat down ready to queen it over her.

I could never have expected what would come next.  The baby gave me an almighty kick like I’ve never known and suddenly I was filled with a huge sense that I’d been getting it wrong.  Somehow the baby let me know that he was excited and happy that Mary had come and even more he was over the moon about her baby.  Zechariah was struck dumb when he got his message from God but all I could do was shout out, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord has come to me?”  I couldn’t believe that I was saying that but I knew it was true.  He is Lord and who am I?   I’m excited about my baby but now I’m excited about Mary’s too.  Somehow I knew that it didn’t matter who I have been - her baby is extra-special and he's going to make me different.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Joe's dream

This year in Pause for Advent I'm looking at those few months before Jesus was born through the eyes of four people.  Unlike last weeks "observer", my thoughts are from a character who is in the Bible - Joseph.  

Dear Mary

I never thought I would ever write a letter like this but, will you marry me?  I know it looks as though I’ve just blurted that out, which I have, but I’ve never been more sure of anything than that I want to marry you.

These last few days have been a real roller coaster.  When I first heard your news I couldn’t believe it.  I thought I was the first in your heart, just as you are in mine and when you told me that you are pregnant I was beside myself but I knew I didn’t want you to have to face public shame  like Miriam did when Elihu found out she was going to have a baby.  I felt so hurt when you told me and then when you told me that crazy story about an angel all I could feel for you was contempt.  It seemed as though you wouldn’t trust me with the truth and you would just tell me fairy stories.

I went to see your dad.  He was so ashamed that he didn’t know what to say to me.  He understood completely that we wouldn’t be getting married and he was so grateful that I didn’t want to disgrace you.  He even thought I was the generous one!  Let’s face it; I thought I was the generous one.  Big hearted me, making things easier for sluttish you - Oh Mary, I’m sorry, how could I ever have thought that?

But last night I had a dream.  I’ve never been one for dreams.  I’ve always thought they were just indigestion but this one was amazing.  You had told me about your angel and I hadn’t believed you, but there was no disbelieving this one.  I can’t describe it but when I woke up I knew that what you had said about your angel was true.  I knew that I had to marry you.  In fact I knew there was nothing in the world I wanted more than to marry you.  Mary, will you marry me?  I’m sorry that I disbelieved you, that I said those terrible things to you.  My heart is filled with love like I’ve never known before.   All I want is to marry you.

I don’t know what will become of this.  The angel told me to call the child Jesus because he will save his people like Joshua did.  I’m not sure yet if I can believe that but let's call him Jesus anyway.  I thought your baby had brought the end to our love but he’s making me love like never before.  I’ll go and see your dad again today and see if we can get married really quickly.  People might still snigger about the shortest pregnancy on record but let them snigger: love is more important than that.  This baby is teaching me a new way of loving.

Mary, will you marry me?

Thursday 3 December 2015

Not turkey

Christmas preparations include a lot of work - but they include even more pleasure!

Not for the faint hearted
Today I met up with my friend Doreen.  I've written about her before for we have been friends since I was in my twenties and we have never lost touch.  Another friend, Jane, also joined us and I have to say I pitied the poor waitress when we went out for lunch.  Now I have to emphasise that this was not Christmas lunch:  it was a birthday lunch eaten shortly before Christmas.  My birthday was actually six weeks ago but who's counting?  Anyway, the three of us went to a favourite eatery, favourite for me at least because they do the best fried eggs and I always have their gammon, egg and chips but seeing as it was my birthday treat I had two eggs.  As I say, who's counting?  When it comes to calories, certainly not me!

And I have continued to sew and think about the intended recipients.  I do like Christmas!

Job Done! I hope!

Don't get me wrong - I love Christmas preparations!  However, I have to admit that there a few jobs whose completion causes me incredible relief.

Take card writing.  For me it's one of the most stressful Christmas jobs.  I love writing each individual card.  As I write I remember the men and women with whom I trained for the ministry, the old school friends, the people whom I haven't seen for ages but who still have a place in my heart.  For each of them I add a note, a do-you-remember or an inquiry after their children or grandchildren.

Then there are the cards to people who show me great kindness and Christmas is a time to reflect and say thank-you.  Although scarcely a day goes by without my saying thank you for an act of kindness, Christmas is the time to thank people for just being so kind.  One neighbour pushes my wheely bin to the kerb each week, someone else does occasional shopping, And of course Jack gets a very special card.

There are family members whom I see once on a blue moon.  I always choose a family photo from my collection dating back nearly eighty years and send copies to my various cousins.  

And so on.  Few cards leave the house without some sort of a personal note and each note is a joy to write.  I don't have to write the note, I could just sign the card, but each individual card is a joy.  The stress is in the sheer size of the whole job.  I know I could make it easier for myself but I really don't want to!  It's just that although each card is a joy, the overall task is mammoth.

But yesterday the cards went into the post and now i can sit back and wait for cards to arrive.

And then remember the people I have forgotten to send to.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

December dawns!

December is unmistakable!  June and July can look pretty similar but December is so dominated by Christmas with its glitz and excitement that it is like no other.  Yes, there have been decorations and Christmas music in the shops for weeks but the shops aren't everything - the people we love are far more important and they make Christmas for us.

And each of us has our own little things which we always do, the trimmings which are carefully put away each January and lovingly taken out each December, the cards and letters from a list which was written years ago and has so many crossings out and additions, the recipes we have always made.  Each year brings its own variations which may or may not become our tradition, but basically December involves treading a well-worn path.

I've been making cards and presents since last January I think but still December is busy and joyful.  On this blog I shall record my preparations - the Sunday Pauses in Advent are a very important part of getting ready - and on my other blog I shall bring out my decorations, sometimes with memories, sometimes with a "how to".  It would be lovely if you joined me.