Blogmas day 16 – the best Christmas gift for all ages

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Hello my little sleigh bells.

So it is the last week before Christmas. Is all your shopping done? Need a last minute gift? Well there is a one-stop idea for all ages and interests. The best part is that not only is it a fun gift but it also can contribute to better mental health. What is it? Colouring books of course.

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They truly are a gift for all ages from the smallest child to grandma or grandpa. Now it may take some convincing to get a grumpy gus to the table to join the fun, but if you can get them started most people find it relaxing.

Todays adult colouring books are not the ones we had as kids. Everything from detailed fantasy designs, to Harry Potter or Game of Thrones is available. No matter what your special interest or hobby someone is making a colouring book aimed at you. You can’t walk by a news stand without seeing a new selection, and they are for the most part very affordable. There are also general ones small enough to fit in your purse to take along for a spare moment.

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My particular favourites are mandalas,  the designs are balanced so the part of my brain that likes order and symmetry can fall into the  calming repetition of it. On days when I am the most stressed, or when my mind can’t settle to do anything I often pull out one of my colouring books and lose myself in it until I feel better. I have used Coloured pencils, fine makers, and even good old Crayolas, it is really a matter of what you enjoy. I recently bout a box of pencils that are different colours on opposite ends, great for my pencil case to take with me on the go.

Of course there are specialty Christmas books. The one below came free with another magazine.

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A quick search on-line and you can find free pages to download for all occasions. I have linked one below. Great for Family Christmas activities to keep the kids (or adults) entertained.

Relax over the festive season with some pencil crayons and you may find you have found a new hobby. Enjoy

http://www.easypeasyandfun.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Intricate-Christmas-Coloring-Page.pdf

Blogmas day 15 Christmas Q & A

imageHello my little tinsel tree toppers

Today I am going to do 10 Christmas Questions

1 What is your favourite Christmas food?  

A – It is very hard to choose, because I love the whole turkey dinner but I really love the potato casserole made with hash browns and soup and sour cream.  Not very fancy but I only get it once a year and look forward to it.

2  What s your favoutite Christmas song?

A – If I’m being serious I would say “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. Jethro Tull does an amazing version. If I think of pop music I would say Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” – puts me in a good mood. I don’t like the silly songs at all except once a year I love to hear  “I want a hippopotomus for Christmas” – then I have it stuck in my head all day. Now you do too – you’re welcome.

3  White lights or coloured lights?

A –  I have already mentioned this one…white lights inside, multi-coloured outside.

4 Do you send Christmas cards?

A – No but I love the idea of them. I loved seeing all the cards arriving in December when I was a kid. Often I got to open them and that was a treat. Then we hung them up on the wall. It is a tradition I would love to do again….but it is also very expensive (postage!) and time consuming.

5. When do you open presents? 

A – I did not realize this was so varried until I was an adult and found out every culture or family seems to have very firm ideas and traditions about presents. When I was little we had family Christmas with my older brothers and sisters on Christmas Eve so I got lots of presents then. On Christmas morning we always had stockings on our beds as soon as we woke up and then I would get presents from Santa and Mom and Dad (I was the youngest and last at home)  in the morning …we didn’t really do breakfast everyone ate chocolate or leftovers from the night before.

6 Eggnog yes or no?

A – NO

7  Tree real or fake?

A – Fake but only because you can put it up sooner. And I have several. And when we finish the TV room in the basement I will have one down there too. I love the idea of a real tree and have considered getting a potted Norfolk pine….or a little cedar.

8  Favourite Christmas cookie / sweet

A – Shortbread all the way. But there are lots of treats that only get made about now that are great. Love going to a potluck and tasting all the different ones.

9 Fruitcake yes or no?

A – I really, really WANT to like fruit cake but have never found one that really tickled my tinsel. I did make an amazing ginger cake last year that I will be doing again. But no fruit in it.

10  Do you dream of a white Christmas?

A – Yes always want snow on Christmas. This year we may have more than we need. But I also want everyone to travel safely so only overnight and nice fluffy soft white stuff.

 

And that is the end of my Q & A  Feel free to ask your friends and family and see what answers you get. Or comment below with any of your favourites.

Blogmas day 14 It’s my Birthday!

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Hello my little candy sprinkles.

Since today is my birthday I thought I would use some of my favourite pictures. No they won’t feature me. In fact the one and only picture of me that I have EVER liked was taken by my mom on about my 17th birthday….and that was a damn long time ago. Aside from that – not so photogenic.

mag5My beloved Magnolia tree. And spring. It is a funny thing having a birthday in December. Of all the months this is the one that is most tied up as a whole month dedicated to a single event. I expect I would feel differently about that if I was brought up in a non Christian country where Christmas is not such a big deal. Or maybe it would feel different if I lived in Australia. But for me my birthday is a dark day – I mean that literally as we are just a few days from the shortest day of the year. Is is weird to say my birthDAY feels shorter and smaller because of that?

As a kid the weather was always cold, no picnics or outside games, as an adult I have had to cancel some birthday treats because the weather prevented travel. OK I sound like I am whining about that but a December birthday never feels like a real birthday.

cherry 2If I have one real beef about the day it is that I so often receive birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper. If you know a young person with a December birthday please make the effort to wrap in non Christmas paper.  It is a small thing that makes a huge difference. I used to say I did not like receiving Christmas themed gifts, but I am more OK with that now as I am more practical as I get older. And I do like Christmas stuff. Oh what a rant this has become.

beach2But really after a certain age birthdays are just a reminder that you are getting older…

I truly am grateful to be celebrating another birthday, because the alternative…

And for the most part I don’t mind getting older for one thing I really don’t give a crap what people think of me. For instance I never would have been so public as this blog is when I was in my 20s, I was far too self conscious. I worried about everything I did, or wrote, or wore. It probably kept me from doing some fun things. So now I say what I want, and do what I want, and wear what I want. And that is something to celebrate.

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Blogmas day 13 – Old Christmas

Hello my little festive baubles

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Today I am going to chat about my favourite Christmas story.

While I love the traditional “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens; it is The one above that I return to every year. In fact these stories precede the Dickens tales by many years.

The original Sketch book was a collection of 34 essays published in the early 1800s and included five essays that revolve around Christmas. They are often published separately as Old Christmas.

The five describe a visit the narrator made to an old English estate. Bracebridge Hall is remote and to reach it the narrator must travel by Stage Coach where he is joined by some young members of the Bracebridge family whose joy and anticipation soon rubs off on the traveler. They describe to him the pleasure that await him and squeal with delight as the house appears on the horizon.

Upon arrival he is thrown into the family celebrations that revolve around games, and food, and drink. In the old tradition Bracebridge keeps Christmas as a time to include the people of the entire estate. The locals are not just his neighbours they are dependent upon The Hall to provide them with work, order, and leadership. But in turn, the estimable Bracebridge recognizes the importance of positive relations in an interdependent society and treats his tenants to a large, long and loud celebration.

Unlike the Dickens stories which always have a touch of evil to counter the syrup sweet sentiment these stories have no “bad guy” there is nothing to overcome, they only chronicle the festivities.

I think that is what drew me to the stories when I first found them in my 20s. They are an ode to the “old ways” – even to Irving many of the traditions he describes were outdated in his time. It shows to me that as humans we tend to look to the past with a fond eye and all believe the world was once a better place.

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The wasail bowl, the Yule Log,  the dance, the feast are all lovingly described and it is hard to not want to step back to that time. Tho the realist in me remembers there was limited indoor plumbing and no electricity.

But it is the joy he captures that draws me back to read these stories every year.  I have a lovely reproduction of the 1875 version that includes all of the illustrations by R. Caldecott which are themselves a joy to look at.

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Happily they are available in many forms as open publications so you can find them online for free. This year I have discovered they are also available at LibriVox read aloud. I plan to listen to the tales of Christmas Eve as I bake, and wrap and clean. For me it is pure Christmas spirit.

 

 

 

 

Blogmas day 12 – Birthday Brunch

Hello my little snowflakes

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Today Mr Murfin took me to a local Inn for the brunch extravaganza. The Benmiller Inn is only 5 minutes from Hedgehog Hill and is the sort of quaint cozy place you might expect to find in Stars Hollow.  The door above leads into a stone floored lobby and bar area. It is a bit dark so I didn’t take any pictures but imagine rustic charm and big beams.

The drive there was a bit snowy as we are on day 3 of snow. It is likely to continue over night into Monday (when you will be reading this) I don’t mind the snow as long as I am warm and cozy. We did drive our big old truck because it has 4 wheel drive and you know Canada….

img_2833It was the parking lot that was the most treacherous The inn is a converted woolen mill originally built about 1877. For generations it produced woolen “basket weave” blankets and was powered by the waters of Sharpe’s Creek.  It was purchased and renovated in the early 1970s into the Inn, spa and dining place it is now.

img_2834Although much changed from it’s hey-day the building in the centre of the picture was once the original mill. The structure to the left side was added for dining rooms. Other out buildings have been built over the years. The whole complex spreads over the tiny village of Benmiller and includes many other converted buildings and houses. It was once bustling village with much small independent industry but sadly like so many little towns not much of that remains. It is naturally beautiful nestled in between Sharpes Creek and the Maitland River. In 2011 a F3 tornado tore through this area and many of the old growth trees were leveled as if a giant hand had just pushed them over. Luckily the building did not recieve any major damage and the landscape is recovering.

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It looks beautiful in all seasons, but I love the snow. I did not take a lot of pictures inside.

img_2837we were shown to a lovely table right next to window directly over Sharpe’s Creek. The food is plentiful and it is impossible to leave without feeling like you may never eat again.

img_2839This is another dining room that was not being used today but I love the lights on the beams. Lovely in the summers as there are gardens out the windows.

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So lovely, and I had a wonderful time.

It is now 12 days until Christmas. I have so much to do and every year I start to panic about now. But it will all get done, I don’t expect perfection I take a deep breath and focus on enjoying the moments. Even the burnt cookie, closed roads, no power moments. Now that I have mentioned those things I hope they don’t actually happen.

Time to get wrapping presents.

 

Blogmas day 11 – Chillin’ with the Christmas movies

Hello my little popcorn elves.

The weather outside is frightful. But the fire is so delightful.

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I’ve got a basket of crochet and a cup of tea. Let’s put on a Christmas movie.

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This is a small selection of the many Christmas movies we have collected over the years. I think most families have favourites that become part of our Christmas rituals and memories.

I thought I would run down some of my top picks for Christmas and tell you what it is that I love about them.

The first one is likely on your  list too, but I am not going to pick a particular version. It really isn’t Christmas until you have watched some version of “A Christmas Carol”. Everyone has done this story from the old classic black and whites to the Muppets and I really don’t have a preference. In fact I will happily watch several versions. It is a story so recognized that it has become an icon of the season. I don’t actually own a copy of the Muppets one and I am thinking I need to get it.

My second choice is also a pair of movies. For me, at some point I have to curl up with –

“The Holiday” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGBl5FxOrUQ               and

“Love Actually” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eCb8w8SRAk

They may be two of the most romantic moves ever; the fact that they are both set at Christmas puts them both over the top for movie enjoyment. Full disclosure I have Love Actually on as I write this. I am glad that both of story lines in The Holiday turn out happy (sorry if that is a spoiler…but seriously why haven’t you watched that movie before?) but I still stop and feel a bit sad for Sarah from Love Actually and I hope she and Karl finally got together in the New Year.

Each of the stories holds a place in my heart. I love how they are intertwined. There are so many great actors in both of these movies. I think I enjoy them more every year. Bill Nighy I bloody love you.

As a side note – this year of all years I think Billy Bob Thornton as the American President is going to seem extra creepy.

The next choice is my favourite animated Christmas film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tk-WZSqIGQ

Arthur Christmas, You might notice a strong leaning towards British films and themes here. I am an unapologetic Anglophile. This is a lovely story about family and duty and tradition. Made by the Aardman Animations who also make the Wallace and Gromit movies (also my favourites) The Elf Bryony is one of the many high points of this story. The animation is beautiful, there is a scene with Toronto in it, and of course Bill Nighy is in it…and sings again.

Honourable mention to the short films by Raymond Briggs. We first fell in love with his stories in book form but the little moives bring them to life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhRc6JhpZhw

My final choice (though this is not a complete list) is our all time favourite Christmas movie – Bernard and the Genie.

Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. it was a British made for TV movie that came out in 1991 and we discovered it a few years later and taped it off TV. That was our only copy until Young Murfin found a VHS copy in a junk store. We have lived in fear of it breaking or wearing out until I finally ordered a DVD copy last year.

But I just found the whole thing on You tube! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8qwZcycfoI

Go watch it now!

This movie is a huge portion of our Christmas traditions. We all watch together a day or two  before Christmas and we say key lines out loud together. It is a quirky story of a guy (the wonderful – but very young Alan Cumming) who has a run of very bad luck but then discovers a lamp with a Genie (Lenny Henry) and their adventures together tun his life around. Great story, quirky characters and Rowan Atkinson is spectacular as the bad guy. I can’t tell you how much I love this movie.

Well I’m off to enjoy the rest of Love Actually don’t forget the popcorn!

 

 

Blogmas day 10 – Quick Washi tape crafts

imageHello my little Christmas Crafters.

I may have a tiny washi tape addiction. Like felt it is an easy product to work with, and can give you great results with a minimum or tools or artistic talent.  And if you shop around for sales, or use your coupons it is inexpensive too.

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So I had a bunch of ideas about how I could turn some bits and bobs into useful Christmas goodies. Lots of stores like Sephora, or Bath and Body Works, give you nice paper bags with your purchases. I hate to throw them out and I had saved up quite a few. I also had a old Altoids tin, a package on nice little black note books, and a couple of pencils.

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I was really pleased with how the Sephora bag turned out. I had some Christmas washi that has a black background so I iused it to blend in on with the stripes. The picture may not show it clearly, but the centre stripe has little deer heads and holly leaves which (was just wide enough to cover the Sephora logo) and there is a thin black washi that says Merry Christmas  or Happy Holidays on the stripes above and below. It looks really classy. Remember to check both sides of the bag for additional logos.

img_1809I have quite a few of these Bath & Body Works Bags and I found some Christmas cards that matched well.

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I cut the picture from the card and I used a red and white polka dot for the frame on this one. The washi is strong enough to hold the card, but as you are figuring out your placement you can re position it without ripping the paper underneath. Once I am happy with the position I run my finger back and forth pressing it down firmly.

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This black bag had a scuff on one side and I was able to cover it with a few strips of coordinating tape. I layered some of the narrow tapes over the over others and added a couple of printed phrases. The red foil makes a great frame.

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Boy do I love this stuff!

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As soon as I saw the package of these little notebooks I knew I could embellish them.  The one on the left I was attempting a tree shape…It may have worked better if I had a bunch of green tapes.  I love the thin foil tapes they are great for edges and borders. These little note books are great for creative people as the pages are in graph paper and they are small enough to keep in a pocket or purse.

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And how about some pencils to match? Again the thin tapes worked great here. One stripe down each side. This would be great as a kids craft or for in treat bags at a birthday party.

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The little tin could store a few Christmas candies or maybe for a gift card?

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I even transformed one of my hair clips for the season. The great thing about this is I can just peel it off after the season is done.img_1818

All of this only took an hour or so to make, I can’t wait to do more washi crafts. I have even asked Santa for a washi tape storage system…..